How much is the tooth fairy giving?

Natalie lost her tooth today! It has been wobbly for a couple of weeks but I didn't expect it to fall out so soon. Neither did she; she lost it sometime at school and didn't even realize it. They searched the classroom but could not find it. She was very concerned that she had nothing for the tooth fairy's first visit. So I suggested that instead of a tooth, she leave a note:

She is convinced that the tooth fairy gives a toy for each tooth; we have been trying to convince her that a dollar would be generous. After all, Graham got a sixpence (worth almost a nickel at today's exchange rates) for every tooth and I got a two-peso coin (worth about 4 US cents). After punching some numbers into, I found out that Graham's sixpence in 1964 (which I assume was around the time he lost his first tooth) would be roughly the equivalent of $1 today. My 4 cents in 1978, however, would be at most 22 cents today. So if anyone should complain to the tooth fairy, it ought to be me.

Virtual Cocktail Party: Five things about me

Over a month ago, Glennia, author of The Silent I and my fellow contributor over at the Silicon Valley Moms Blog, tagged me for this virtual cocktail party, "Five things about me". It has taken me ages to write this post, mainly because I couldn't think of one thing about me, let alone five, that would be interesting or new to anyone other than family or friends. So here goes:

1) I am addicted to American Idol. I started watching in in the first season, hit the ceiling when Tamyra Gray was voted off, and haven't stopped watching. I'm shamelessly addicted to that feeling of shock/horror/satisfaction I get when America's votes agree or disagree with my own opinion. There is just something about the singers, Paula's weird antics, and Simon's snarky British humor that keep me hooked. However, I have never picked up the phone to vote for anyone -- oh, no, that would mark me as a true AI addict and I'm not that bad (am I?).

2) As a child, I was allergic to chocolate. It was truly unfair. My sister could eat all she wanted, but every time I ate chocolate, my eyes would swell up, becoming all watery and red and itchy. When this happened, my mother would make me go to school anyway, so I was forced to hide out in the bathroom, bathing my eyes in water, hoping against hope that I could get to class without looking like Rocky Balboa after a fight. Fortunately, I've outgrown the allergy, probably because I built an immunity to it by sneaking bits of chocolate here and there and to heck with the consequences.

3) I have always wanted to ski. Whenever we go to Tahoe and play in the snow, I cannot look at the skiers and snowboarders, gracefully swishing down the hill, without ski envy. I see the little kids with their goggles and helmets and wish my kids could do that too. I have three factors working against me. I come from the Philippines. I'm afraid of heights. And I hate going downhill fast. Skiing is like rock climbing for me: it's my idea of cool, but I don't think I'm cool enough to do it. Believe me, I've tried. I've taken lessons and worked my way up to a blue (for non-skiers like me, that stands for intermediate) slope, but never spent enough time in the snow to get comfortable. Then a whole year passes and I'm back to square one. This is definitely on my list of things to do before I die: get back on the slopes again and ski/snowboard down without falling.

4) I do not know how to close a Ziploc bag. This is one of my husband's biggest pet peeves. I swear, I really do close the bags, I pinch them tight and slide my finger along the ziploc line. But I cannot deny the fact that whenever my husband takes out the bag of cheese or ham or ravioli or whatever from the fridge, that darn zipper is just not closed. Same goes for screw-on tops for milk, soda or juice. The fizz always goes out of our sodas because the covers aren't screwed on properly. Once Graham took out a bottle of juice out, holding it by the top, and the whole thing fell out from under him and splashed to the floor.

5) I wear a size 10 shoe. (There, I've said it. That is like admitting I'm a compulsive eater!). I've always hated my big, boat-like feet. When I was 7, I could fit into my mothers shoes. When I was in 6th or 7th grade, I had to have shoes specially made for me because there were no ladies sizes big enough in the Philippines. The shoes they made for me were huge and clunky and awful. To me, big feet symbolizes all that is unsexy and mannish about me. Fortunately now I live in the US, where size 10 is large but not unheard of. I can buy any kind of shoe that I want. And my husband (yes, I did land a husband even with my man-feet!) still has larger feet than mine (but not by much). So I'm over it. Almost.

Now that I'm done, I'm tagging five other bloggers to continue the party:


You guys, I hope you play along. I'd love to find out five more things about you, so when you're done, leave the link to your post in the comments section!

J is for Pumpkin

James and I are looking at an alphabet picture book. One letter he knows by heart is J, the first letter of his name.

me: What letter is this?

James: That's a J!

me: Yes, that's J.

James: "J" says what, mama?

me: "J" says Juh--Juh--Juh--Juh.

James (pointing to Jack-in-the-Box) : Juh--Juh--Juh--Jack in the Box!

me (pleased): Good!

James (jumping up and down): J is for Juh--Juh--Juh--Jump!

me (surprised he got two in a row): Wow, very good!

James (pointing to a jar of jellybeans): Juh--Juh--Juh--Jellybeans!

me (convinced my genius son will start reading tomorrow): Good boy, Jamie, good boy!

James (pointing to Jack-O-Lantern): Juh--Juh--Juh--Pumpkin!

Photo Hunters: Soft

I've decided to joint the Photo Hunter's scavenger hunt so I have an excuse to post photos from our photo archives for family and friends and visitors to enjoy. This week's theme is soft. For my first Photo Hunters entry, I went down memory lane to a Tahoe trip, two years ago. I'm not sure which is softer, the dog, Philip's velour jumpsuit or Philip himself.

For more Photo Hunters, click here.

Is A Puzzlement

I've just finished reading Phil Done's book, 32 Third Graders and One Class Bunny: Life Lessons From Teaching. His characterizations of his eight year old students are so spot on, I laughed aloud several times while reading the book. One of the funniest chapters, Why? was especially delicious. Here are selected "why's" from this chapter:

Why is the gumball machine in the museum lobby more interesting than the Van Gogh on loan from the Met?

Why don't we grade A, B, C, D, and E?

Why do kids know precisely how many days, hours, and minutes are left till their birthdays but still ask, "When's lunch?"

Why do all the animals decide it's time to make babies when we visit the zoo?

I have my own list of questions cannot answer. Here is a sample:

Why does my daughter have blond hair (when I'm a brown-haird, brown-eyed Filipina)?

Why do my boys have longer eyelashes than me, my husband or their sister?

Why, in my twins' preschool, do they have to share one photo of themselves together on the class bulletin board, when all the other kids get photos of their own?

Why, when I leave the kids with my husband on a Saturday morning, will he say, when I get back, "The kids were good as gold, I don't know why you always say they exhaust you"?

Why do DVD's have a region code programmed into them so that we can only watch DVD's purchased in the US and need to buy another DVD player to watch DVD's we've purchased in England?

Why does my son ask to go potty three times during a half-hour swimming class but goes only once in three hours at home?

Why can't I ever get rid of the jiggly flab around my belly button?

Why can't my husband get himself ready in the mornings in the same time it takes me to get myself and my three kids ready?

Why can my kids go out in subzero temperatures with just a tshirt or frolic in the ice-cold waters of Northern California beaches when their parents and all other grownups are standing by shivering in overcoats?

Why, even though they are identical twins, does Philip have eczema and a birthmark on his left shoulder while James doesn't?

Why are we still occupying Iraq?

Danged if I know. Someone, help me out here. Maybe no-one can answer these questions for me. As Yul Brynner, playing King Chulalongkorn, says in The King and I..... Is....A....Puzzlement!

for more puzzles, click here.

I'm up on YouTube!

I thought Google was crazy to spend $1.65 billion to acquire YouTube . Sure, Google gains access to over 70 million users and 100 million eyeballs that view their videos each day. But can all the ads in the world and all the $1.99 music video downloads justify that amount? Time will tell. I suppose Google is uber-rich anyway and that $1.65 billion is just a tiny fraction of its own market valuation.

I stopped trying to figure out the stock market when I lost all that money in 2000. So I'm not going to waste my brain cells figuring out why they paid so much (and why I couldn't have been a YouTube employee when this happened!). But if you can't beat'em, join'em. And so I did. I have signed up with YouTube and now have my very own YouTube channel:

I have several of our family videos up on this channel, so follow the link to watch our videos! I'll be posting many more, so stay tuned. Also please leave comments on the site so I'll know who's watching.

I have to admit, it is really easy to upload the videos and even feature them on this site. And though I haven't watched too many of the videos on the site, I have to admit the ones I watched are hilarious. In our celebrity-reality-self-obsessed society, no wonder this site is so popular. Hey, those Google folks are smarter than I thought.

Love in the Snow

There was a lotta love last weekend on our winter trip. We try to go to the Tahoe/Reno area at least once a year so the kids get to play in the snow. They absolutely LOVED it. Graham and I are exhausted from helping them enjoy the snow, but we loved watching them. Check it out:

Love is working hard to build the biggest snowman ever....

..... then building a baby snowman so that the daddy snowman won't get lonely.

Love is tubing down the bunny hill again and again and again and again. Love is pulling your child up the bunny hill again and again and again.

Love is going out on the ice with your son even though you haven't skated in twenty years. Love is willing your legs to stay upright when your sons slips on the ice so you don't fall and he doesn't fall. Love is wanting to skate and being a little bit scared at first but trusting that your daddy won't let you fall.

As I said, love was ALL around!

For more expressions of love, click here.

Summer Camp Anxiety

I'm starting to feel the summer camp pressure. It's that time of the year when parents start figuring out which camps they want their kids to go to. The Bay Area Kid Fun website has a great section on summer camps in the area, and I've got summer camp information from three cities as well as three other places (soccer, ballet, YMCA and our local afterschool care center) and I'm still confused as to which ones my kids should attend.

It's even more difficult this year because Philip and James are living, breathing, thinking people who might actually notice that Natalie gets to take all kinds of cool lessons while they don't. So now I'm trying to look for interesting, inexpensive camps suited to their ages that happen to be going on at the same time. Oh, and Natalie wants to go to all the camps her friends are going to, so I have to factor that in, too. The biggest stumbling block, of course, is the "inexpensive" part. All the camps look so interesting but they cost anywhere from $100 to $350 per week. We're going to have to limit their camps to one or two plus swimming lessons. But which camps? Silly, but I'm all stressed out about it.

Still haven't had enough of my ranting and raving? Read my other post about summer camps on Silicon Valley Moms Blog.

32 Third Graders and One Class Bunny

I'm currently reading this book about life as a third-grade teacher. It is hilarious! The author, Phil Done, happens to be a third-grade teacher at my daughter's school. I know a mom with a child in his class, and he seems to be much beloved by his students. I know I would love for my kids to attend his class one day, in particular for Philip and James. There are so few male elementary school teachers, I just think he would be a great role model for the boys.

My First Ski Run

Here are Philip and James' first-ever attempts at skiing!

Philip Skiing

James Skiing

Sparkly Girls

We just got back from our President's Day Weekend vacation at Circus Circus Reno. The kids got to see several circus acts, including a dog show, juggling, and some amazing acrobatics. When I asked them which one they liked best, Natalie was unsure; she liked all of them. But Philip and James were quite clear: they liked the acrobats. Why? Because they were "sparkly girls".

Philip and James have always had a crush on sparkly girls. I'm not sure who coined the term, Philip or Graham, but every time they see a showgirl in a glittery costume, they shout "Sparkly Girls!!", and sit with goofy grins on their faces. They will sit through any show on tv featuring beautiful girls: So You Think You Can Dance, Miss Universe. The girls actually don't even need to be wearing sparkles; after the Victoria's Secret fashion show aired, they watched it on TiVo several times. At last fall's Arthritis Expo, a troupe of retired ladies performed a tap dance routine. Age didn't matter, only costumes: the boys acted as though they were Victoria's Secret models themselves.

Boys have been making sheep's eyes at sparkly girls since the beginning of time, so I guess I shouldn't be surprised. But at such a young age? Is this 3-year-old puppy love genuine? Is there somthing innate in little boys that they find these girls so interesting, or could they just as easily been attracted to unicorns? Whatever the cause, it is easy to guess how long this crush will last; their dad enjoys looking at sparkly girls as much as they do!

For more crushes, click here.

Sibling love, past and present

Today Natalie brought home a heart-shaped drawing book filled with pictures of the things she loves. I was struck by this one; how carefully she had drawn her brothers in this picture, down to their favorite shirts and skin tones. So for Love Thursday, I decided to search around for a photo that shows a big sister's love.

It didn't take me long to find this one. She's 2 years and 9 months old (younger than the boys are now), and the boys are about a week old. I love how happy and proud she looks. Three years later, they fight a lot more than they hug, but the drawing she made today is a cute little reminder of how much she still loves them.

For more expressions of love, click here.

How do I love thee? Let me count the ways

Today, Valentine's Day, Graham and I did not exchange chocolates or flowers. We are not booking a babysitter and going out on a date. We're having spending the evening with our kids, checking out the valentines they got from their friends and making chocolate-covered strawberries. After they go to bed we're getting some Indian takeout and probably watching American Idol. Are the kids cramping our style? Nah. After all, if Valentine's Day is about love, what greater love is there than the love of a parent for a child?
I've already written on SV Moms Blog about why I love Graham. But Valentine's Day wouldn't be complete for me without saying something about the love I have for my kids.

14 Reasons I love Natalie:
Because she's my oldest;
Because she's my only girl;
Because I never dreamed I would have a girl with green eyes and golden curls;
Because she looks so cute with her tongue sticking out whenever she's concentrating really hard;
Because she cries at every full-length movie, from Cinderella to Cars;
Because brushes her teeth and washes her face in the morning without being told;
Because she's a wonderful big sister to her brothers;
Because she can spend hours and hours drawing picture after picture, just like I used to;
Because she never complains that her friends have more toys than she does;
Because she genuinely wants to make us happy;
Because she still likes sitting on my lap;
Because she says she wants to live with me for ever and ever;
Because she never gives up at anything she does;
Just because.

14 Reasons I love James:
Because he's my middle child;
Because he looks so cute when he sucks his thumb;
Because his cheeks are so soft and smooth and round;
Because he looks so funny with his one grey tooth (from his accident on the concrete last year);
Because I never dreamed I would have a boy with such thick, long lashes;
Because he has such an inquisitive/curious/nosy mind;
Because he always looks out for his twin brother;
Because he can sit for hours on end looking through a book;
Because he cries real tears when he thinks I'm angry at him;
Because he insists on dressing himself, no matter how long it takes him;
Because he likes to cuddle with his daddy while watching soccer on tv;
Because he's the only one who always greets his daddy when daddy comes home from work;
Because he would kiss my feet if I asked him to (and sometimes when I don't);
Just because.

14 Reasons I love Philip:
Because he's my youngest and last;
Because he's so cheerful;
Because he looks so cute with his cheeky little grin;
Because I never dreamed I would have TWO beautiful boys, so alike and so different;
Because he adores his big sister;
Because he stops biting his lip every time I ask him to (even though he goes back to biting it a second later);
Because he doesn't care that his toy motorcycle doesn't have a front wheel or handlebars, he loves it anyway;
Because he doesn't care that his beloved blanket is pink, a "girl's color", he loves it anyway;
Because he will eat almost anything I put on his plate;
Because he jumps into the swimming pool with a smile on his face;
Because he wants to give a hug to every dog he sees;
Because his eyes light up when he smiles;
Because he loves to snuggle in the mornings with his mama and daddy;
Just because.

Happy Valentines Day!

Ice skating

I don't know how to ice skate. That's not surprising, considering I grew up in the Philippines, where the only ice you see is in freezers. I was in my late teens when the first ice skating rink went up, and I never got the urge to try it. To date, I have been ice-skating only twice in my life. The first time was ten minutes in Tahoe that ended with me and my husband bruised and cold and miserable. The second time was yesterday.

Yesterday afternoon we went to a skating party at the Palo Alto Winter Lodge. It was the first time for all the kids. I was hoping the boys would be content playing with some toys and watching everyone else skate so that Graham could take Natalie on the ice. Not a chance; they wanted to skate like everyone else. Fortunately, another adult offered to help Natalie out so Graham and I only had one boy each.

So there I was, out on the ice, only my second time ever, fighting desperately to keep my balance while one little boy was gripping my hand tightly, counting on me to be steady as he struggled to stay upright. Natalie was valiantly trying to keep up with her friends, refusing our help, wanting to do it by herself. The poor kid was slipping and sliding all over the place while her friends just glided by. I honestly expected my kids to give up within five minutes and watch from the sidelines the rest of the time. Honestly, I was hoping they would stop so I could stop as well.

But amazingly, they didn't want to stop. Natalie and the boys kept going. They loved it! James kept shouting, "I'm skating, I'm skating!". By the end of the session Natalie was skating on her own, with her friends, not falling once. By the end of the session, James was still holding my hand, but he was pulling me along. By the end of the session, even I was less shaky, more confident and more cheerful. And I was actually enjoying myself. Since then, all I've heard from them is, "I want to go skating, when are we going skating?".

I underestimated my children, and I am humbled. Seeing them yesterday made me realize that the difficulty and hardship were all in my mind, not theirs. All this time, we've lived within a mile of the Winter Lodge and have never taken them there; we've flirted with the idea of skating lessons but let it pass. I guess I just didn't think they were old enough, thought they would fall too often and get discouraged too soon. How silly of me to assume they wouldn't be interested. Why should my experiences and attitudes dictate theirs? Looks like I'll be signing them up for lessons soon.

I don't know how to ice skate, but that doesn't mean my kids can't learn. And that doesn't mean that I can't learn too.

Sign up for Natalie's Tell-A-Tthon!

Once Natalie entered kindergarten I knew it would only be a matter of time before I came knocking on people's doors with requests for money or something to sell. From my own schooldays and my experiences from the BC (Before Children) era, it seems fundraising is a part of both public and private school life. I have bought many a Sees' or M&M's candy bar from a co-worker, friend or cousin raising funds for her daughter or son's school. Our neighbor's children knock on our door once or twice a year, without fail, to sell us giftwrap or magazine subscriptions or Girl Scout cookies. Natalie's school has alreay held giftwrap sales and booksales and auctions and pledge drives.

We fully support our schools and understand that, for our kids' sakes, volunteerism and donations are necessary to supplement the paltry stipends given to them by the government. So we do try to help out in various ways, volunteering time and goods and money. We've attended and supported the various fundraisers, but so far I haven't asked anyone else to buy something in support of Natalie's school. Forgive me, but that's about to change.

Natalie's kindergarten class is holding a Kindergarten Tell-A-Thon to raise money for the Family Center at Palo Alto's Opportunity Center, an organization helping homeless and impoverished families. For the Tell-A-Thon, she and her classmates will be learning the answers to the following:

1) Name
2) Mother's name
3) Father's name
4) Birthday (dd/mm/yy)
5) Street address
6) City
7) Zip code
8) State
9) Country
10) Home phone number
11) Bonus question: What are the three colors in the USA flag?

She'll be reciting the above facts to her teachers on Thursday, March 8th. Family and friends can sponsor her for every fact she remembers. For everything on the list that Natalie answers correctly, you can donate 15 cents, for a total of just $1.50 per sponsor. What is $1.50 worth? Not even a tall Starbucks latte ($3). Here's what you can get for $1.50 these days:

A bottle of Diet Coke.
530 calories (from a Taco Bell Beef-and-Potato burrito).
2 packs of Reese's Peanut Butter Cups (with 2 pieces each).

I don't feel so bad asking family and friends to give up that Taco Bell burrito. For our English relatives, with the US-GBP exchange rate solidly in their favor, it's even better, only 77p. That 77p buys you:

1 song download from 7Digital.
200g bottle of Johnsons' Baby Powder from ASDA.
2 cups of Weight Watchers Chocolate Mousse.

It's just a small fundraiser but it's the one I wanted to speak out for. Why? Well, it's for a good cause, of course. But I also like the fact that Natalie has to make a little bit of an effort to raise the money. And I like the fact that the fundraiser benefits her as well -- it's a great way to encourage her to learn these important pieces of information, which instills confidence in herself and helps keep her safe. Last but not least, I think it's a great way to get her started on a lifetime habit of helping others in her community.

So friends and family, if you are willing to give up your Starbucks fix for just half a day (or whatever your $.150 buys you) in support of Natalie's fundraiser, please let me know! Send me an email or leave a comment on this post.

A new take on Yummy says that "yummy" can refer to:

Yummy Bingham, an American R&B singer.
"Yummy", a song by Gwen Stefani.
"Yummy", a song by Puerto Rican singer Chelo.
Yummy Yummy, a Singaporean film.

But to me, "yummy" is all about food. Sure, I know yummy is also about the chubby toes of a sweet little baby and the perfect pair of Christian Loubotin heels and that dreamy, hot Latin singer's muscular bod. But nothing says "yummy" to me like

  • A juicy, tender burger will sauteed onions and mushrooms, gooey swiss cheese, crisp lettuce and sweet, succulent tomatoes, with salty fries and ketchup and mayonnaise;
  • A chewy, moist, dense, rich, dark, chocolatey brownie topped with rich, creamy, sweet vanilla ice cream with rich, thick, creamy caramel syrup rolling off the sides and crunchy, salty slivers of almonds and a rich, sweet, red cherry on the top;
  • A truffle from Annette's Chocolates, with dark, silky-smooth heavenly chocolate enrobing a bubbly, tart, pungent, champagne center;

Can you tell that I've had issues with overeating, weight, and healthy eating? I grew up having ice cream every day. The only vegetable I ever ate was potatoes and the only fish I ever had was breaded and fried. I'll always think foods like that are yummy. If that's yummy, yummy can also mean deadly. Over the years I've had to rethink what yummy is. Yummy doesn't have to mean fatty, salty, processed, heavy. Yummy is also fresh, light, healthy, natural. Yummy is also

  • A juicy, tender veggie burger will sauteed onions and mushrooms on whole-wheat bread, no cheese, crisp lettuce and sweet, succulent tomatoes and ketchup and mustard;
  • Crisp, crunchy, sweet, colorful red and yellow peppers and carrots with a hearty, creamy, tangy ranch or hummus dip;
  • Sweet, crusty, bread dipped into thick, creamy, smoky, sweet, split green pea and ham soup;
  • A hot, steaming, bubbling baked dish of succulent, dark, colorful raspberries and blueberries and cherries, a touch of orange juice, a sprinkle of Splenda, with light whipped cream.

I'm happy to say that my kids, who love pizza, chicken nuggets and hotdogs, also think these foods are yummy, and will happily gobble them up any day. They are growing up with a much better idea of what yummy is -- yummy for the tastebuds and the body at the same time.

Preparations for V-Day

Valentine merchandise has been displayed in stores since they took down the Christmas decorations in January. Valentine Love is already all over the place, so for Love Thursday I've decided to decorate this site with some valentines. My kids have been creating valentine cards and crafts all week, which I infinitely prefer to anything I could buy from a store:

This first one is Jamie's valentine. Very minimalist and somber, other than the golden blob. James basically squeezed the entire contents of the golden glitter-glue-pen onto that spot, and it took over a day to completely dry. He only put those two stickers on because I asked him to; all that interested him was the glue.

Philip's valentine is the complete opposite of Jamie's. An explosion of hearts and flowers! He just kept piling sticker after sticker onto his valentine, even covering half of his glitter glue. He only stopped when I gave him another big heart for him to put more stickers on.

Natalie's valentine is neat and well-thought-out, from sticker placement (she placed one foam heart sticker over another for a 3-D effect) to the message. While squeezing the glue stick to make the words, she was practically biting her tongue off in her determination to keep them even and neat.

Three valentines, all saying a little something about each child. I love all three works of art just as I love the three works of art that created them!

For more Love Thursday posts, click here.

100th Day of School

Today is Natalie's 100th day of kindergarten! Here she is wearing the 100th-day hat that Graham and I slaved over till midnight doing prep work on. You can read more of my thoughts on her 100th day over at the Silicon Valley Moms Blog.

Vote for me at Maya's Mom!

Maya's Mom

There's a really cute Valentine's Day contest going on over at Maya's Mom. You basically have to get your kid to answer the following questions:

1) How Can You Tell if Two People Love Each Other?
2) What is Love?
3) How Do You Decide Whom to Marry?
4) Can You Sing Me a Love Song?

Philip and James just responded, "I don't know" to all the questions except to #1: "Daddy kisses Mama!" (by James). Click here to view Natalie's responses, and please vote by leaving a comment on my post! Also view other kids' responses; they are hilarious!

Hello Technorati

OK, now that I'm blogging, I've just signed up with Technorati. It's supposed to help me track references to this blog as well as help drive targeted traffic to this blog (I'm not yet sure how to do this or whether I want to do this...)

Here's my
Technorati Profile

Lights, Camera, Action!

What do you get when you combine face paints, pillowcase capes and my kids? Three superheroes for a Gymboree activity book, that's what! Yesterday we went up to San Francisco to shoot some layouts for Weldon Owen Publishing. I told them the Gymboree people wanted to take some pictures of them, so James was quite surprised to see a photography studio. He kept demanding to see the Gymboree play area, but was silenced when they started painting superhero masks on their faces.

The kids were placed in front of a Gotham-like cityscape and told to jump around and strike superhero poses while the photographer took picture after picture. They had a great time! My kids are not the best at smiling when asked, but the crew did a great job of relaxing them and getting some spontaneous smiles.

Occasionally I felt compelled to help, calling to the kids to smile or stop biting their lips or flex their arm muscles. And of course I had my camera with me, snapping away proudly whenever I was allowed -- not while actual photos being taken because they didn't want my flash messing up their lighting. I'll admit I cheated, taking some photos without a flash. I wondered whether other moms were as "involved" (read: stage mom-ish) as I, or more laid-back, or worse. Hey, it isn't every day my kids do this kind of thing!

Here are a couple of photos that I took while they were having a break:

On the train ride home, the kids were still excited and quite in character. Their masks caused quite a stir with the commuters! After such a long day, it was no wonder my little superheroes fell asleep.

When bedtime came and we had to scrub the face paint off, all three protested vigorously. James wailed, "Now I'm not a superhero anymore!". I promised them I would paint their faces myself, but they don't have as much faith in my face-painting abilities.

The book comes out in September 2007. We're very excited and will be watching out for it in bookstores.

Goodbye, healthy me?

I finally know what is wrong with me. After six months of fatigue, rapid heartbeat, arrhythmia, mood swings, and the agony of uncertainty, my disease has a name.

I'm happy that I know what's wrong with me, but I'm also sad, because now I have to say goodbye to "healthy me". I've had outstanding health until now, and I guess I've just assumed that if I take moderately good care of myself, nothing would ever go wrong with me. So goodbye to that. Goodbye to saying "none" when asked by doctors of any known conditions or current medications. Goodbye to being able to put anything into my body without knowing how it reacts with my medications. Goodbye to being placed in the healthiest, lowest-premium brackets for health and life insurance; thank goodness I have both, because getting either policy now would be ridiculously expensive or impossible.

I know I'm sounding melodramatic. As diseases go, I suppose I'm lucky. While not curable, it is at least manageable (though the choices aren't too pretty: lifetime medication that suppresses my immune system, surgery or swallow a radioactive pill that renders me toxic to humans for two weeks). There's even a tiny chance I could go into remission. Many, many others have it far, far worse.

Rather than wallow in self-pity, I'm going to take positive steps to live with my condition (a better word than disease!). First, I am saying goodbye to complacency. I can no longer take my well-being for granted and assume that my body can withstand the combined effects of genetics, environment, time and the choices I make. I need to be more vigilant about what I put into my body and how I treat it. Second, I am saying goodbye to stress. It turns out that stress can trigger the initial onset, flare-up or recurrence of this condition. I need to reduce my exposure to stressful situations and learn techniques to deal with it, or stress could, literally, kill me.

According to the bean counters at the insurance companies, I'll always be sick. And whether I go into remission or not, it will always be inside me. But I can still live like "healthy me". Who knows, after saying goodbye to some of my bad habits, I might even end up being healthier than when I was diagnosed!

This week's Sunday Scribblings theme is Goodbye. For more goodbyes, click here.

Big boy pants!

For this week's Love Thursday photo, I really wanted to show how much my sons love their new big boy underwear. They finished toilet training in early January and putting underpants on still gives them a thrill. The ones in the photo are their very favorites.

But as I was about to post the photo, I thought, hang on, this is a photo of two cute little boys, naked except for their underwear. Prime material for pedophiles. This photo could possibly find its way into websites that contain all sorts of sick perversions of love. So I decided to cut their faces out. But I had to leave their smile, because their smile says it all.

I love my boys, and I'm very proud of them, but I also want to protect them. Did I do the right thing, should I not have posted this at all, or am I overreacting?