Monday, September 29, 2008

Irrational fears,constant reassurance and other fun weekend games.

Michaela has been all over me like white on rice this past weekend because she's afraid her epiglottis, that little thingy that dangles in the back of her mouth, is going to fall off. On its own. For no reason.
So from mid-Saturday afternoon until this morning, she has approached me every half hour to an hour (except for sleeping time, thank goodness) with an open mouth so I can check to see if it's still there. In between these checks, she asks me the following questions:
"What if it falls off?"
"Will it hurt?"
"How will I know it has fallen off?"
"Will I swallow it?"
"Will it bleed?"
"Will I die?"

And so forth. It all falls into the same line of questioning she's had for the last five days or so: "Will pencils poison me?" "What if I wake up tomorrow morning and my skin is orange?" and my personal favorite, "What if my heart stops beating? Will I know it has stopped?"

So we're handling all this anxiety the best we can with lots of reassurance, and some 2nd-grade level anatomy and physiology and I think that once she's off this fixation, she'll be fine.
I hope.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Flashback Friday: Hazy Shade of Winter

So I am listening to my iPod while I'm emptying out the dishwasher (one of, if not the most hated jobs I do as a homemaker) and on comes Hazy Shade of Winter remade by the Bangles in 1987. Well, actually first came on Vanessa Hudgens' Sneakernight which is what Michaela was listening to last... pure fluff pop but it is not really offensive and Michaela loves anything with a connection, however tenuous, with High School Musical.

Hazy Shade of Winter is one of my favorite songs of all time. Most people know that it originally was recorded by Simon and Garfunkel, who I love so much I could write a WHOLE BLOG about them, and re-recorded and sped up by the all-girl '80s band the Bangles of Walk Like an Egyptian fame. The song was featured on the soundtrack to the film Less than Zero, starring a very young Andrew McCarthy , Jami Gertz and a pre-drug-addicted Robert Downey Jr. The video for it was awesome, just AWESOME, and played numerous times when MTV still played videos.

The movie and the slightly harrowing book it is based on follows these three young adults as they reconnect during a winter semester break from college in LA and live life waaaaay to fast. Robert Downey Jr.'s character actually is a drug user, totally devoid of morals and soul, and the two friends make an attempt to save him and of course end up falling in love. Or lust.

Anyway, I think it made such an impression on me for several reasons:
1. The song starts out kind of slow and then a grinding guitar kicks in and the rest of the song features a swirling sense of spinning out of control, slowing down and spinning up. I'm a real sucker for tempo variation.

2. There's a real sadness to the lyrics, about fall coming to an end, winter approaching and things transitioning and/or dying. What an upper.

Look around, leaves are brown, and the sky...
there's a hazy shade of winter.

Seasons change with the scenery, weaving time in a tapestry...
won't you stop and remember me?

3. The video is BRILLIANT. It features scenes from the movie, which soundtrack songs usually did back then, and shows the descent into a hellish out-of-control-life for the main characters, including scenes from a rave-type dance club, music pounding, lights all around them, and, in my favorite scene of all, Jami Gertz and Andrew McCarthy kissing while in a convertible stopped in the middle of the road, motorcycles passing by them and they are totally oblivious to anything but each other. There is also a scene in which it appears that Jami and Robert are in bed together that lends an arc of betrayal over the whole thing. Jami and Andrew are trying desperately pull Robert out of from this free fall, and since I was too young to see the movie, being 13 and in 8th grade in 1987, I never knew how it ended.

Ohhhhh, how I wanted to be Jami Gertz and kiss Andrew! To hear that music and see those lights all around and have him just focused on me! Such excitement! Such drama! Such urgency!Every time I saw the video I was transported, just briefly, into this grownup world with real problems and dire consequences and lust and betrayal and clubbing and lights and great music.

SOOO much better than studying for a social studies test on the Ancient Mesopotamians.

4. Andrew McCarthy. Oh, Andrew. You were a thinking girl's dreamboy. Not really conventionally handsome, you had that glimmer of inner angst, that spark of intelligence and sensitivity that sucked me in so hard I could hardly breathe. Everyone knew that though Robert Downey Jr was sort of hotter, he was trouble with a capital T and would certainly never call you the next day. He was a conquest, a bold, brash, hot guy that loved you and forgot you. But Andrew... he would talk to you, show interest in you, go on a leisurely ride on a top-down convertible with you, and was juuuust hot enough in that adorable '80s way that he was THE ONE. Sigh.

Anyway, I am sad to report that I actually have never seen the movie, but probably should. At this point I'm scared of being disappointed in some way and would rather just hold on to the fantasy of what I think it's about.


Thursday, September 25, 2008

Good luck wishes.

Yet another reason why having children is a source of endless entertainment:

My mom is having planned foot surgery today to fix a tearing Achilles' tendon and remove a bone spur. Michaela has been quite caught up in the drama of poor Gammie and her non-weightbearing status for the next six weeks. Apparently Mimi made a broad announcement to her class on the first day of school about the surgery which makes me cringe a little because it's a little more white trash/needy/dramatic than our family usually likes to be.
Anyway, Mimi made a card for my mom a few weeks ago and this is the content:

Front: Break a leg on your surgery!
Inside: No, serious, don't break your leg.
Love, Michaela

Michaela was pleased as punch about the little joke she made and told me, "Gammie is going to laugh soooo humidly at this card!! I can hear her laughing now!!"

I think she was going for a form of the word "hilarious" that would fit but couldn't quite make it work so she used "humid" instead.

I couldn't make this stuff up.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

A story about parts we don't even have.

Some of you have heard this story already, but it's such a good one that I wanted to share with all my readers and record it for eternity.

Michaela came home on Thursday of last week with this story:
"Mommy, do you want to hear the meanest story you've ever heard?"
"Sure," I answer.
"We were running laps today at school and Ryan and Andrew were racing each other. Ryan was winning and Andrew didn't like that so guess what he did?"
"What?" I ask.
"He punched him as hard as he could down there (pointing to her own private area for purposes of illustration)... you know... in the NUTS!"

I did everything I could not to laugh right out loud. The idea of my sweet princess saying the words NUTS and know what that means absolutely cracked me up. We have never, ever used the word nuts in the house and I don't think she has any idea what boy parts are. We later came to understand that poor Ryan, in his agony, was yelling out, "My nuts! My nuts!" post-strike from Andrew.

"But then guess what I did? I rubbed Ryan's back when he got up so he would feel better."
"Well, that was very nice, Mimi... very compassionate." I launch into a whole discussion about what compassion is and finish it up by saying that it hurt Ryan so bad because boy private parts are on the outside of their body and girls are on the inside (throwin' in a little education while we're at it.)

Michaela's response:"That's the most disgusting thing I've ever heard."

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

And it's Only Tuesday!!

Breaking News from Jenna's Imaginary Friend Family: Bianna's Mommy is having a baby! Jenna herself confirmed this info just a few minutes ago, while talking on the cellphone to Bianna after preschool today. Details were a little sketchy, ranging from: "The baby is already in the trib (crib)" to "The baby is in her Mommy's belly." Also troubling was the rumor, cited by Jenna, that Bianna's mom seems to be suffering from some pregnancy depression: "She's sad that her tummy is so big." We can certainly all relate to that.
This baby is yet another addition to the ever-increasing Imaginary Friends Family which includes Bianna, her sisters Tianna, Nianna, Tianna's little sister Willa, and Boy. Also talked about last Thursday was a made-up boy named John who was thoroughly exasperating to Jenna.

Jenna was a bit lukewarm about returning to "stool" today, but was greatly cheered by Michaela, who sweetly asked,"What do you think your job at school will be today?" and other encouraging things, so she went without too much resistance. I think it's all about the fantasy of school being replaced by the reality: it's a little more scary to actually be away from your mom for 2 and a half hours than it is just to talk about it. She did great last Thursday, held it all together until the moment we stepped into the car to come home, when she immediately started melting down, yelling, "I wanna have a donut at church!" She got herself all wound up and I knew she was just letting off steam from the newness and excitement and anxiety of the morning so when we pulled into the garage, I opened the car door, unbuckled her, and told her that I was going into the house and when she was ready, she can come in. Which she did about three minutes later and then took a three hour nap.

You're just soooo much smarter with the second child than with the first.

In other Jenna news, she has transitioned pretty successfully out of her crib and into a bed. She sleeps now in Michaela's room on Mimi's bottom bunk. Both girls seem thrilled with this arrangement. Jenna even wanted to put herself to bed last night: no tucking in, no goodnight kiss, just "I'm going to bed! Goodnight!" after brushing her teeth and that was it.

She did, however, show up 40 minutes later, walked down the hall and said to me, with no context or introduction or anything, with obvious relief in her voice, "Here's my booger!!" and handed me an enormous, hard booger. And then turned around and went right back to bed. And then slept through the night.

Amazing progress from the same girl who just several months ago, SCREAMED from her crib: "GET ME OUT!! Mommy!! Daddy!! MiMi!! IT'S BORING IN HERE!!!!!!! (clap, clap) GET ME OUT!!! (clap, clap) I AM ANGRY AT YOOOOOOOU!!!"

One last Jenna tidbit: The mailman came by to deliver the mail yesterday while we were getting in the car, so it was hand-delivered to us. I exchanged pleasantries with the guy and after he left, Jenna said to me, "The mailman sure is handsome."

Friday, September 19, 2008


I had a dream last night. Here's a rundown of the basic content, all of which made PERFECT sense to me in the dream:

1. My parents had a huge house on the water somewhere that was a separate house but was on a resort-type property and there was a clubhouse/meeting room building.
2. I was unmarried, about 10-12 years younger, and still lived at home as did my college-aged brother.
3. The band REM, whom I have loved since high school, was playing at the clubhouse.
4. Michael Stipe, the singer of the band, wanted me to pretend for the night that I was his girlfriend. We made out. It was GREAT.
5. Michael Stipe was heterosexual.
6. My parents were hosting a huge dinner party the following night (the concert/make out session was on Saturday) for our extended family at the house.
7. I was searching all morning on Sunday for an empty 2 liter soda bottle in the house.
8. My brother Brian was a Division 1 college basketball star and a fan of his was staying at the resort and wanted my dad to get a note to him that was somehow filled with his playing statistics. I saw the note in the dream.
9. Michael Stipe wanted to see me again after their Sunday concert at the clubhouse.
10. At 2pm on Sunday, I asked my mom if I could go to the clubhouse and hang out with the band (and hopefully suck face again with Michael) until 6pm when the dinner started.

Now here's where the dream gets improbable: my mom says to me, "Sure, go ahead, honey... just be back by this time tomorrow."

THAT is the part I can't believe. I'm even incredulous (No 'you have to stay and help me out'? No 'The whole family is going to be here... don't you want to see them' ? No 'I don't know who this Michael Stipe is'?" I can go? Overnight? No questions asked?) in the dream and can't believe my good luck. I gather up my empty soda bottle, start heading out, absolutely relishing the idea of another make out session with my new- pretend boyfriend, and a little hand taps me on my hip and I hear a little voice say, "Mommy... I wanna nursie. Get up."

Ohhh... the cold, hard slap of reality.

Until we meet again, Michael Stipe. Until we meet again.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Wishful Thinking

Michaela, wishfully: I hope Santa brings me a Nintendo Wii this Christmas.

Mommy, hestitant: Well, that's kind of an expensive gift. We'll have to see.

Michaela, confidently: I think he'll give it to me. Remember, he brought me an Easy Bake Oven last year! So I think he'll bring the Wii this year.

Mommy: (Speechless)

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

First Day of School: Preschool Edition

Today was Jenna's first day of Preschool, or what I have called "The Happiest Day of My Adult Life" for the last two years. The bottom line is that she did awesome, waved goodbye to me with not a glimmer of anxiety or worry or clingy-ness, and jumped right into an arts and crafts project.

I was the one who lingered at the door and thought, "Really? It's going to be that easy?" and it was and it was good.

I was exactly one month pregnant with her when I dropped Michaela off for her first day of Preschool. (I am not, however, pregnant for this one.) It was a real circle of life moment for me. And I was a little more sad than I thought I'd be to see my baby move into this fun new stage of life... but oh, she is so ready and willing and able to make friends, play well and learn all the world has to offer.

And, with a new haircut courtesy of her sister, who WOULDN'T be ready to take Preschool by storm??

This happened yesterday afternoon. The two obvious signs that I should have intervened were:
1. The girls went into Michaela's room and closed the door. They were then very quiet.
2. After about 20 minutes, I heard the dustbuster running in Michaela's room.

Jenna showed me the haircut and was pleased as punch. I had to lean on the bed for support as I murmured, "Ohh, no...oh, no..." over and over. Michaela was very happy with her work until she realized I was upset and then she started to cry. After telling them quite calmly that no one should ever, ever, ever cut hair again I called Dan to tell him what happened. When he came home, Jenna offered this version of events: "Mimi gave me a hairtut. I yikedt it but Mommy is berry sad."

Well put.

So here are the photographic highlights of the day (you may notice a headband strategically placed in her hair for today and for the next 3-4 weeks):

Standing in front of her cubby (hers is the green train)

Working on her project

Learning her job of the day: Snack helper

(which is, according to a seasoned second grader in the know, the best job in preschool)

Posing with her teacher

Yay for preschool!! Yay for Jenna!!

Monday, September 15, 2008

"Will you take a nickel for this?"...

... was how our garage sale started on Friday and wrapped up Saturday afternoon.
Here are the highlights:

1. Total profits for the Libutti Family: about $180, all of which is going towards our new camera. (See post about our vacation to see why a new camera is needed.) Not bad for getting rid of stuff I didn't need anymore in 25 cent to 2 dollar increments.

2. Michaela and Jenna were less than thrilled about giving up some of their 6,785,537,931 stuffed animals that are scattered all over the house. Even though we had spent an entire evening the night before Michaela's first day of school going through all of them, separating them into "Sell" and "Keep" piles, and everyone was on board with the plan to ACTUALLY NOT KEEP THE ONES MARKED "SELL", when they saw me unpacking the 67 bags of stuffed animals THEY WANTED TO SELL, they screamed in disbelief:"Why is THIS HERE?!?... This is my SPECIAL (fill in the blank with doggy, kitty, rabbit, bear, froggy)!!!" and then somehow attached a special event to each one: "This is the bear that Daddy got me when he went to (fill in the blank here with Texas, Michigan, Chicago, Hartford)!!! I can't get rid of THIS!!"
My dad, who dislikes getting rid of things in general and often shops at his own garage sales, took much mercy on the girls and literally BOUGHT BACK some of the stuffed animals for the girls.

3. The funniest thing from the garage sale was watching my parents' neighbors watching us. The garage sale was at their house and the neighbors are mostly non-English speaking Chinese who actually run a Chinese restaurant in town. They have a bit of a staring problem in general, as if we are just fascinating creatures to behold, and often during the summer would stand on their back deck and just stare at us swimming. For like 10 minutes at a time. Barely blinking.

Well, you can imagine the curious stares we got when the driveway was set up like a storefront and all these people were milling around. They looked at us with incredible bemusement and wonder, like "How did you get all this stuff? What are you doing with it? And how did these people know to COME HERE??" They wandered over to our driveway several times, nodding at us and smiling- they really couldn't be more pleasant- and at one point stood about three feet in front of the card table where my mom was sitting, taking the money, and stared at her. For like five minutes. So my mom just smiled and waved and they seemed kind of startled, like "OOOOHHH! You CAN see me here! I guess I'm NOT invisible!!"

4. Some of my more longtime readers will remember that last year at our garage sale, a woman asked to use our bathroom-"It's an emergency!" she said- and when she emerged from the bathroom announced, "I stunk up your bathroom! Your house is real nice!"

We didn't have anyone like that but did have a guy who walked around the sale for about 45 minutes, asked for a bathroom scale and when I brought one out he told me the scale doesn't work, which in fact it does. It turns out he was trying to weigh some silverplate serving trays which actually were kind of pretty and certainly useful but my mom didn't want anymore.

He brings about five trays up to the card table checkout area and says, "How much do you want for these? They're junk and nobody wants them."

Wow. There's really no need to insult the merchandise.

Friday, September 12, 2008


After I put the girls to sleep last night, I walked into our bedroom where Dan was watching television. He had on a program on History Channel about the World Trade Centers falling- all shot by amateur videographers. The show was raw, haunting footage of the day. There was no narration and little background music, just a running clock telling you when the footage was shot and where it was ... two blocks east of the Towers, one mile south, three blocks west. It was mesmerizing: I stood in front of the screen at least ten minutes, just watching, transfixed.

When I am watching footage of the day, I am filled with an overwhelming urge to have someone pick up some of the pieces of paper that were everywhere on the ground and read them. What did all the papers say? Did they have names? Account numbers? Balances of investment accounts? Are those papers meaningful? Mundane? One of a kind? For how long will people say, We had that information but it was lost in the Trade Center? All that information spread all over the street and no one gives it a second thought. I think it shows how disconnected I am, watching from my living room, to think about such matters when horror is all around.

I was lucky to be two degrees separated from the event: I did not know anyone who died, but knew many people who knew people who had died.

One of the most harrowing scenes of the program was when the first Tower fell and the huge, engulfing cloud of debris arose. Someone had filmed a profile view of hundreds of people running away from the cloud and the cloud, moving, swirling, seemingly alive, full of bits of pulverized metal and concrete and plastic and people, chasing after them. All I could think of was, I am seeing Death itself.

I thought back to that day seven years ago and remember the so many details: I was pregnant with Michaela, due on the 23rd of September; it was the Tuesday of my last week of work before my maternity leave started; my boss at the time had died in her sleep three days earlier over the weekend and my department was reeling from this sudden, unexplained loss; I was wearing a green maternity top and tan pants... the top had a matching pair of pants that I had grown out of months ago; Dan called me at about 9:10am to ask if I had seen any television that morning and when I answered no, he told me a plane had hit the World Trade Center and I remember profoundly callously asking him, Oh, did it fall down? in sort of an offhand tone because at that point I had enough on my plate to worry about and just was not able to take on more tragedy.

I had my swollen feet up in my department head's office, listening to the radio when the towers fell.
We went to church that night to pray.
We met Michael Strauss, our Mikey, the first of the fabulous Strauss Boys Three, born two weeks earlier, for the first time that night. Such joy tempered with such grief.
We invaded Afghanistan on the day I gave birth to Michaela. CNN was on in my Labor and Delivery room, video clips of Osama bin Laden playing over and over again, until a nurse briskly said, That's enough of THAT and turned it off.

I always thought that the day was especially meaningful to me because I was just about to bring a life into the world and I honestly was not sure that my child would live in the same world and enjoy the same freedom that I grew up in. I mourned extra hard for the pregnant widows of the traders would died, imagining their joy and sorrow all mushed together in a messy bundle as their fatherless babies were born. I could not imagine facing caring for an infant and raising a child without my husband.

But now, seven years later, it is all softer now. It turns out Michaela and Jenna, too, are living the same way I am. I am starting to tell Michaela about what happened that day and she is sad about it.

Life is going on.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

It was a dark and stormy Tuesday.

It's thunderstorming out today... it's dark and cool and rumbly and wet outside and cozy and warm inside. Jenna was a bit distressed that Michaela had to go out to the bus in this weather. Michaela was unfazed.
Jenna and I are going out shopping to Walmart in a few minutes.
Her outfit?
Turquoise and white halter top, denim jean shorts, her Dora the Explorer winter hat and gloves (to keep her dry) and her recently repaired flip flops. A strap came loose and we had to glue it together. She is thrilled with the fix. So thrilled that she is now giving me a rock concert of High School Musical 2 songs being sung into a microphone. She's really, really into singing songs- both real and made up - into microphones the last few days.
I wish I had a working camera... I'd post a photo.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

First Day- 2nd Grade Edition.

Ah, the rite of passage for fall... today is the first day of school for the Miminator, and she was very excited and a little nervous. She has Miss Hajeck this year, who is the teacher she wanted, and one of her best friends, Fiona, is in her class.

She got to bed early last night, took a shower this morning, wanted a quick bangs trim ("so I don't have to spend the whole day pushing them out of my face") and put on the outfit she picked out last night. Her backpack (recycled from last year) was filled with her school supplies, all lovingly labelled by Mommy, along with her lunch in her brand-new High School Musical lunch bag.
Hot, hot stuff.
And check out these new Nike kicks. And how gorgeously tan her legs are.

The bus came on time and she jumped right on like it was nothin'.

Meanwhile, Jenna stood on guard just in case the bus wanted to pick her up, too, and then she could finally go to school. We have another two weeks until preschool starts and she asks me every day if today is the day she gets to go to "stool". In the picture below, Jenna is standing next to our pumpkin plant, started as a seed by Michaela at the end of 1st grade and has taken on a life of its own. If my posts suddenly stop in another week or two, it's because we have all been eaten alive by this plant. Hopefully we'll get a pumpkin out of it(right now it just flowers and grows, flowers and grows) in time for Halloween.

And here is one last picture of Michaela, taken last night before she and Dan went out to dinner for Chinese food to celebrate the start of school. She got these clogs yesterday on a last-minute shopping trip, and they have an animal/cheetah-type print on the top. She is highly impressed with them. She also wanted to put her hair back and put on a little makeup to look nice for the dinner.

I think we're in trouble deep.