Sunday, December 12, 2010

happy birthday, joshua

I hope no one's offended by two birthday posts in a row, but I couldn't ignore (again) acknowledging one of my favorite brothers and the anniversary of his birth.

For the past ten years or more, we've celebrated Joshua's birthday at Thanksgiving, usually on Saturday night with beef stew and apple pie or apple dumplings and early presents.  It's a tradition of which I approve heartily.  It's always more fun to celebrate a birthday in person instead of mailing a present (or forgetting to mail a present) or just handing it over the next time we see each other.  But sometimes the result of celebrating his birthday so early is that the day itself flies under the radar for me.  I remembered the date several times yesterday and made mental notes all over the place to call today.  Since Joshua is the lone facebook holdout in our immediate family, I knew I couldn't count on the internet to remind me either.  The good news is that all those mental notes paid off, and I thought to call early enough in the day that Jess was here to sing with me.  My voice is shot right now, so I really needed someone strong on lead vocals.  For the first time all year, I didn't get screened when I called their house for a birthday song.  I was starting to get a complex.  I had a nice little chat with Joshua, and now I continue the birthday love with my five favorite things about my old, old brother:

5.  Joshua is the black sheep in our family.  Just ask him, he'll tell you.  I'm so thankful that he's taken the black sheep role, so that I can be everyone's favorite.  (Or maybe I'm just thankful that he's so good at making funny black sheep jokes that crack me up.)

4.  Eleven and a half years ago, Joshua added another sister into our family.  Susan fits into our noisy, stubborn family as well as anyone ever could.  Either she's a phenomenal actress, or she actually loves us too.  I've said before that I feel like we won the in-law lottery with Susan.  I know enough people who just tolerate or exist alongside their in-laws, so I feel blessed that Joshua brought someone into our family who I can call a friend.  And the team that the two of them make is a lovely thing to behold.

3. Ring, Pinkie, & Thumb.  Without Joshua, I wouldn't have these precious little brats in my life, and that would be a tragedy of epic proportions. 

2.  Separate from his making me an aunt to his three adorable kiddos, Joshua as a daddy is one of my favorite things.  I never gave much thought to him as a father before he became one (for obvious reasons), but his talent for it was a revelation, if not necessarily a surprise.  He is crazy about his kids, and they are just as enamored of him.  His protectiveness and love is so fierce and intense that I know those kids will grow up never doubting for a second their specialness and value in this world.  Good parenting is a beautiful gift, and my dear brother is blessing his children in this way and receiving heaps of blessings in return.

1.  Joshua is my first and best example that people can get better with age.  Joshua earned his reputation in our family as a high-energy, aggressive kid.  Because of our closeness in age and size and our vastly different temperaments when we were young, he and I were not exactly friends.  In most of our childhood stories, he comes across as the bad guy, and because I couldn't hit as hard and could cry on command, I'm the heroic victim.  But whether or not he deserves the notoriety for his past, Joshua has long since grown from my occasional tormentor into a protective and loyal friend.  I think he was probably always better than I gave him credit for, but I'm so thankful that I finally grew up enough to see all of his good qualities like his tenacity and kindness and humor.  Knowing Joshua gives me hope that someday I can grow into a better person too, and I could look around for a long time and not find a more admirable example to follow.

Happy Birthday, Bub!  Love.

Friday, December 10, 2010

happy birthday, blog o' mine

Has it really only been a year since my extreme hubris got the better of me, convincing me that people cared about reading my opinions?  Some days it feels like I've been doing this--or not doing this--forever.

And I know it's only been seven or eight posts since I took my imaginary readers down memory lane in my 100th post haikus, but milestones are important.  I'm a girl who loves traditions and nostalgia, and I'm not sure if the term nostalgia can really be applied to such recent events, but it's my party and I'll cry if I want to.

Fans of the blog may be aware that I occasionally post birthday blogs in honor of a random sampling of my friends and family.  There's very little rhyme or reason to who gets picked and who doesn't, which is a pretty shoddy way to do business.  Sorry about that, people who feel left out.

But in true birthday fashion, I'm going to tell you my five favorite things about the blog.  I considered doing my five favorite posts or something commemorating favorite comments, but the five general favorite things fits the birthday blog tradition more fully.  So here you go.

5.  I love the little monetary surprise that comes along with the blog's participation in the amazon associates program.  Faithful fans (or anyone who follows that link) will recall that I enrolled in the program in March, just because I'm greedy, and I think it's been fairly painless for us all.  Several of you, who I assume were going to shop at amazon anyway, follow links from my blog to the amazon site to place your orders.  When you do that, I get anywhere from 4-15% of your purchase price, just for referring you there.  Plus it's one more statistical report for me to pore over on a monthly basis.  In the seven months or so since I put the ads up on my site, I've probably made between $30 and $40 dollars, which seems ridiculously wonderful to me for the tiny amount of work that went into setting it up.  I'm banned from looking at my full Associate report right now because word on the street is that someone bought me a Christmas present from amazon through my site, but I can still go to the general account page to check on my balance for the month.  So far in December alone, I've earned $72 in referral fees.  Thank you!  I'm blown away by that amount, and I promise to do something ever so nice with my windfall in your honor.

4.  And since I mentioned statistics, I'll proclaim Google Analytics and its various measures of site traffic as another blogging favorite.  I know I've said this before, but it's insane how much satisfaction I get from knowing how many people come to the site and where they're from, what pages bring in the most visitors, the methods that folks use to find me, and the keywords searched that lead people to the opinions.  In the past few months, the keyword stats have been compromised because after I mentioned things that people googled to find me in a conversation, a couple of avid readers started testing what they could search to bring up the blog.  But Google Analytics fills up a very nerdy place in my heart.

3.  I love how the blog has often given me a sense of purpose and direction this year.  There have been countless ways in which I've come up short from the big resolutions to missed deadlines to time wasted on frivolities to the general disorganization of my life, but there have also been moments and instances when I've followed through and gotten some crap done just so I could share it here.  In a life severely lacking in motivation, I never guessed that this forum would provide a sense of accountability.  But it has.  I hope that this unexpected blessing continues to push me in the next year as well.  Feel free to help in that regard, imaginary readers.  Speaking of which . . .

2.  You.  Of course, I'm thankful, for you, not-so-imaginary readers, from the loyal fans to the casual readers who pass this way.  Without you, I'd have no Google Analytics to study.  I'd have no comments to read and enjoy and hold to my heart.  Without you, I'd just be talking to myself, and as much as I have and will continue to profess all sorts of self-love, if you weren't here reading what I'm writing, I'd be every kind of a loser.  I love that you're here reading these words, and I love that several of you will post a comment and encourage me to keep doing this.  I can say without hesitation that if my precious family and several close friends hadn't come along and created my little fan-base, I would have hung up my blogging hat months ago.  (Hmmm . . . now I want a blogging hat--maybe I'll use my $72 on that.)  And though I don't really think that any of my repeat readers are strangers, it's been nice for those who don't know me in real life to stop by and stay for a while too.  I feel like most of the time the ellen portrayed here in the blog falls into a neighborhood several miles south of likeable, so the fact that anyone sticks around is amazing and special to me.  My cup is full and running over from the blessing that is your presence here, dear readers.  Thank you.

1.  I love having a collection of my writing from the past year.  I know I've been spotty at times in keeping up with things, and in some ways, I thought that I'd have done something more or different.  But overall, I'm just thrilled that I've stuck around at all--that there are at least a few posts from each of the past twelve months.  I should be embarrassed to admit how often I got back and read older posts, but I feel no shame.  I love having a way to go back and review what's been going on in my life.  Often when I need to find an old post to link to something new I'm doing, I get caught up in reading old favorites.  I know it's painfully and ashamedly obvious that I'm completely self-absorbed already, so I'll go ahead and admit to you, that I think I'm a pretty great writer.  I don't love everything I've written here, and occasionally I'm shocked at how mundane the writing can be, but when I'm firing on all cylinders, I'm witty and eloquent and, dare I say, readable.  I never gave any thought to reading my own blog, but as it turns out, it's kind of a lot of fun.

Happy Birthday, ellen has an opinion!  Your name is still ridiculous, but I love you anyway.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

an open letter to flying burrito

Dear Flying Burrito,

I can still remember our first encounter back in May of 2007.  It was a Wednesday, and Lisa bought my lunch as a bribe for doing something I wanted to do anyway.  Even on our first meeting, I was wise enough to choose the chicken nachos, and it was the beginning of a beautiful relationship.

Do you remember those early days when Lisa liked to go and flirt with "the burrito boys" none of whom were actually flirt-worthy?  Remember the nicknames we had for the boys?  I still miss JT and Original Hat, and though I love Normal Guy, he still can't make up for the loss of them.  Remember how Mouth-Breather used to be such a dud then turned fun for about a week and then went right back to his old dud ways?  Why did he have to be the one who worked there the whole time I've been in love with you?

Flying Burrito, you ruined me for any other pick-your-toppings type Mexican food.  Whenever anyone starts singing the praises of Moe's, I gag.  I still believe that anyone who truly likes Moe's has never been to the Burrito.  There's just no way you could experience the perfection of you and ever be content with Moe and his nasty cheese dip.

I always loved that I could come for a visit anytime of day.  On Mondays when I like to eat lunch late, the River Market vendors are always closed, but you're there for me.  I'll never forget that about you.  Your presence in my life enriched my relationships with coworkers.  Imagine my surprise when I discovered that Mattie and Amelia had an entirely different set of nicknames for the boys.  Our Burrito-love and friendly debate over the best foods there brought us closer together.  Mattie's in London this semester, and I know she's devastated that she'll never get one last burrito when she gets home.

Over the years I've shared our love with countless friends.  Jess and I had our first date there back in August of 2008.  I took Justin there.  Sam the page and I have lunched there together.  I think I introduced Shane to your delightfulness.  You were the setting for a short-lived run of weekly lunches with a few downtown-working church friends.  When Martha moved back and we instated downtown lunches, you were the first place I took her.  And that doesn't even take into account all the lunches I've had there with Lisa or Bob and Philip and lately with the babies Beck.  So many memories with folks from all over my life.  Thank you for those memories.

Sometimes I've tried to stay away, bring my lunch, and save my pennies, but even when I was being sensible, you were my splurge place.  If I was going to go eat anywhere, I would come to you, especially on Tuesdays.  Your double-punch lunch card special ensured that though I was paying for lunch then, there was a free treat in my future.  Thanks for all those double-punches.  And thanks to Normal Guy who on a few occasions gave me extra punches after I lost my punch card.  I'm going to miss that Normal Guy.

I had heard mutterings that you were closing, but I refused to believe them until that Thursday a few weeks ago when I read your closing signs for myself.  I couldn't believe it.  I resolved then to make the most of our time together.  I even had a punch-card schedule worked out so that I could fill my card one last time before you were gone forever.  When I fell a bit off-schedule, Normal Guy came to my rescue again and finished my card for me on Monday, so it was free-lunch ready on Tuesday, our last day together.  I actually made plans over the weekend to introduce one more person to you before you were gone for good.  Lacey was going to meet me after work on Tuesday night for one last hurrah.  I still came to see you for lunch on Tuesday though--and waited in line for over thirty minutes.  I'm not sure how you're not managing to stay in business with crowds like that.  I'll never regret coming at lunch-time that day because when Lacey and I walked over after work, you were already closed for good.  It hurt. 

There's still an ache there.  Never again will one of the burrito boys know I want nachos to go before I even say it.  Never again will I taste the joy of all my favorites piled just the way I want them.  I've tasted my last chipotle sour cream.  I'll never have to explain the recycling system to Bob again or find myself involved in random line conversations.  No matter what other Mexican restaurant reopens there in the spring, it will never be the same.  It won't be you, and without you, we won't be us.  I'm sorry for all the times that I took you for granted, for all the times I didn't ask for guacamole just because it cost extra.  I'm sorry for not savoring each lunch with the knowledge that they would someday end.  I've seen some cheery, feel-good quotation somewhere that advises, "Don't cry because it's over.  Smile because it happened."  I think I'll get there someday, Flying Burrito.  Someday I'll look back with nostalgia and fondness for all the good times you provided, but for today, I'm still going to cry.

You'll always be in my heart.



Thursday, November 25, 2010

silent gratitude isn't much use to anyone

I'd like to take credit for the title of this post, but I stole it from G.B. Stern.  Thanks, Gladys, for letting me borrow your words.

But in the spirit of being useful and because I complain way too much, it seems like an appropriate moment to proclaim some thankfulness.  Lots of my facebook friends have been doing daily thankfulness statuses for the whole month.  I didn't, not because I'm ungrateful but because I'm lazy.  I did quite by accident mention something for which I was thankful on Monday morning, so I've followed up with that the past couple of days. Let's start there, shall we?  Please pardon the third person pronouns.  It's facebook's fault.

Ellen is thankful  . . .

" . . .for her Monday mornings which ease her back into work mode as gently as possible."  I don't have to go to work until 11 on Mondays because it's my late night.  I love that schedule of getting to sleep a bit late or having time to get some other things done in the mornings.  Plus it gets my late night out of the way early in the week, so it's not hanging over my head.  Of course, I'm usually so grouchy about having to go back to work, I don't fully appreciate these benefits, but this week I did.  

" . . . that the zombies in her dream weren't too aggressive."  Okay, that one's just silly, but when I woke up from a rather unsettling dream Tuesday morning and hopped right on the internet as is my custom, the lingering creepiness of the dream was soon overshadowed by the relief that it hadn't been grosser or more horrifying.  

" . . . that she gets to spend a few nights away from the yippy dog next door."  Poor yippy dog next door.  How I hate her.  Apparently Mr. Next Door rescued her from some terrible treatment, and he had her for months before she could make sound.  I felt all sorts of sadness for her when she was an abused dog who couldn't bark.  Such a tragic little figure, she was.  And then her comfort and confidence grew, and she was healed enough to bark. every. morning.of. my. life.  Now I feel all sorts of sadness for myself.  But I'll be spending the next four nights at Shane's, so her yippiness will be someone else's Thanksgiving blessing.

And now for some previously unpublished thoughts on gratitude:

I'm thankful . . .

 . . . for a ten day free preview of the HBO channels going on now.  I've filled our DVR with movies, watched a couple on demand, and have done a bit of work to catch up on all the past year or more of not watching movies.  For the holiday weekend, we are actually getting a free preview of the top tier package which includes access to all the premium channels, but the DVR is full, and I'll be a bit too busy basking in the warm bosom of my family to worry about it.  

 . . . for the interwebs.  I will proclaim, with no concern for how lame it makes me, that the internet makes my life better in countless ways.  And since my infrequent and often unreadable posts come to you via internet, imaginary readers, I'm sure you join me in my gratitude.

 . . . for my four-year-old Bible class.  My little children are precious and funny and even the ones who don't listen and make me work up a sweat are so sweet and charming.  I could tell you loads of stories that seem hilarious and special to me but would probably just bore you and go nowhere.  But trust me that the dozen and a half or so preschoolers who hang out with me on Sundays are the best part of most of my weeks.

 . . . for pajama pants.  I'm thankful for the rest of my clothes too, most of the time, but I'm always overwhelmed with gratitude when I can put on my pajama pants.

 . . . for Peeps and Meeps and Weeps.  Friends so precious and dear that miles and years cannot ease the hold they have on my heart.

 . . . for cell-phone alarm clock capabilities that allow me to never have to wake up to a blaring alarm again.  Nothing ruins a morning like a startlingly loud honking noise.  "Linus and Lucy" is ever so much nicer.

. . .  for chocolate-covered pretzels.  How they complete my life.
 . . . for her.  And him.
Seriously.  Don't they look like the sweetest, best parents anywhere ever?  They so are.

  . . . and for her (and her again) and her and her and her and her
. . . and for him and him and him (and him again even with that face) and her
. . . and for him and him and him and her and him and him and him
  . . . and for him and her and her and her and him and her (and for the her inside that striped sweater that we wouldn't meet for another five months) and him and her and him and her and him.
. . . for traditions that hold on even when they become crowded and noisy and logistically unsound.  And for the love and understanding that allow those traditions to be reevaluated and adapted into ever more good times.  For last times and first times.  For nostalgia and anticipation.  For family and every special thing that the word evokes.

 . . . for you, dear readers.  For being here and reading this and making all my Google Analytics dreams come true.

Love & stuff,

Friday, November 19, 2010

soulmates #3

It's been common knowledge around these parts for a while now that I've found my soulmate, but it has been a while since I shared one of the many reasons that FHDM and I belong together.  Let's fix that today, shall we?

Over at FHDM's blog, he averages 50-100 comments on most of his posts. It's a good thing I'm not competitive or the fact that his blog is slightly more popular than mine might derail us before we ever get started.  Lucky for both of us, my humility and lack of conceit and months of therapy have helped me come to terms with the fact that a best-selling author is going to get more blog traffic than a nobody from nowhere like me.

Anyway, early last week, FHDM wrote a post that garnered more than his usual amount of response.  In the post, titled "To Kill a Blog," FHDM explores the idea of no longer writing for the blog so that he can focus his talents on his books.  I, along with four hundred sixty-nine other fans, had something to say about that.  I only read a sampling of the comments, but most everyone was supportive in one way or another.  Two days later, FHDM posted a clarification, explaining that he hadn't meant to alarm anyone and was not going to immediately kill the blog.  He was just thinking out loud and trying to gain some perspective on what effects blogging was having on his other work. 

It reminded me, dear friends, of a post I did several months back in which I explored the unexpected challenges that had arisen in my blogging life.  The responses, though fewer in number than FHDM's, were of a similar nature.  Everyone loved me.  Everyone wanted me to be happy.  I shouldn't keep blogging if it made me miserable, but I should keep blogging because everyone loved me and my words so much.  Really good, affirming, encouraging remarks that made me feel completely guilty because I had never intended for anyone to think I was standing on a ledge about to hurl my blog to the unforgiving concrete below.  I didn't post a clarification exactly, but I did add a comment assuring the faithful that they were indeed stuck with me for a bit longer. 

It struck me, imaginary readers, how fortunate FHDM and I are to have this in common.  Well, perhaps it's not fortunate that we both seem to have been unclear enough in our original similarly-themed posts that we stirred up a misunderstanding.  But I felt blessed and humbled indeed that people cared enough to be concerned, and it seemed to me that FHDM experienced a similar blessing.  How encouraging to experience an outpouring of affection, an affirmation that the words that we're sending out here on the interweb are being received and enjoyed and occasionally treasured. 

Sometimes when I think about my future with FHDM, I wonder if the lack of commonality in our pasts will be a problem for us, so these moments of shared experience are important.  We are soulmates, after all.  I wonder how much longer I have to wait before he realizes that too.

Monday, November 15, 2010

finer than frog hair

The Southern sayin' backstory:
I know the overriding characteristic of my writing here is sophistication, so this may come as a surprise to friends of the blog, but I come from a rural background.  I grew up living eight miles outside of a town of roughly 1700 people.  We had one county school, and I graduated in a class of about fifty-two.  Not only is my hometown as podunk as they come, I come from an ancestry that is a mixture of Kentucky hill people and Tennessee dirt farmers.  Because education has been a fairly high priority in my family for two or three generations now, I can largely pass for a mostly normal, non-hick person.  Most of the time I'm even allowed to forget about this ridiculously country accent I have.  But every so often, I find myself in a situation that can only be summed up in the dialect of my youth; some quaint, down home saying comes out of my mouth, and I embrace my true self.  Today was one of those days:

I don't want to turn this site into a cataloging of my dental adventures, but I felt called to update friends of the blog about what's going on in my mouth today.  In addition, last week, thanks to the most harrowing dental experience of my life, I instructed my faithful readers on a quaint sayin' from my rural past, so I thought I could do the same today.

I'm finer than frog hair.

I know you may be thinking to yourself right now that frogs don't have hair, and of course, you're right about that.  I'm only speculating here, but I believe the idea behind this expression is that since frog hair is so fine as to be nonexistent, it is quite fine indeed.  I've also heard "finer than frog hair split four ways," which takes this concept of ultra-fineness and intensifies it.  But I'm not that fine.

I believe I mentioned that I had one more cavity to fill before my dental saga could end, and I went to get that done this morning.  All week I'd been rehearsing a little speech for my dentist about walking out with the job half-finished if he hurt me again, but I ended up not using it.  The assistant who took me back today was not the same girl as last week, so when she asked me how I was doing and I said I was scared, I got to fill her in on how badly things went last week.  She acted properly horrified, which got her on my good side and then she cemented her place in my heart by suggesting that I might want to try the laughing gas.  She offered it to me, free of charge, and after a few deep breaths, I was already much more relaxed.  By the time Dr. Lee came in to give me my shots, I felt right on the edge of falling asleep, but I could still open my eyes and talk to him normally without feeling groggy at all.  He had planned a different plan of attack in the numbing department already, and whatever he did worked great.  I should have asked about what he did differently, but I was so relaxed, I really didn't care.  He did say that he definitely had my numbing procedure figured out for next time, though we both agreed we don't want to have a next time anytime soon.

My one regret is that no one said anything funny while I was on the gas--I really wanted to see if I would laugh more than usual.  I did feel like my default facial expression was a smile instead of my usual furrowed brow, droopy-mouthed frown.

When I called my moma (because of course I called my moma) and described how much better the world was with nitrous oxide, she suggested I might check on the pricing by the tankful.  She thinks my coworkers might want to chip in for a Christmas present.  And that would be fine with me--finer than frog hair, in fact.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

trying to have a come apart

I know the overriding characteristic of my writing here is sophistication, so this may come as a surprise to friends of the blog, but I come from a rural background.  I grew up living eight miles outside of a town of roughly 1700 people.  We had one county school, and I graduated in a class of about fifty-two.  Not only is my hometown as podunk as they come, I come from an ancestry that is a mixture of Kentucky hill people and Tennessee dirt farmers.  Because education has been a fairly high priority in my family for two or three generations now, I can largely pass for a mostly normal, non-hick person.  Most of the time I'm even allowed to forget about this ridiculously country accent I have.  But every so often, I find myself in a situation that can only be summed up in the dialect of my youth; some quaint, down home saying comes out of my mouth, and I embrace my true self.  Yesterday was one of those days:

I'm trying to have a come apart.

My moma says this, and I have no idea where she learned it, but it basically means that someone is losing it or falling all to pieces.  Typically when she says it, she means that the person is overreacting to whatever particular circumstances are causing the "come apart."  It's the sort of behavior that Jess would describe as being dramatic.  One who is "trying to have a come apart" is upset or frustrated or tired or sick or feeling put upon and wants everyone to know about it and feel sorry.  There is nothing shy or retiring or unassuming about trying to have a come apart.  In short, I was made for trying to have a come apart.

But yesterday's come apart was so big that it was in my head all day.  I've been completely aware through the whole ordeal that I'm overreacting, but that seemed to have absolutely no bearing on the come apart.  And now I want to relive the whole mess so you all can sympathize with me, imaginary readers.  It's just the sort of thing we come-aparters like to do.  Bear with me in my attention-starved, persecuted existence.

You know those people who have managed to make it to adulthood with no major dental work:  they get their check-ups every six months, have never had a cavity, never wore braces, and can leap tall buildings in a single bound?  Well, I'm not one of those people.  The six to eight teeth you can see when I smile are the best I've got and worth at least half of what my long-suffering moma paid my orthodontist, but the rest of my mouth is big ol' mess.  My bottom teeth stayed straight until I lost my second set of retainers at about the same time my lower wisdom teeth began pushing diagonally through my gums.  I've got fillings galore, and one crown that replaced a cracked tooth.  I've never had a root canal, but I suspect it's just a matter of time.  So going to the dentist to have two small cavities filled as I did first thing Monday morning is barely a blip on my radar.  A couple of weeks ago, I had to go to the dentist to get a filling replaced because I had an old one that just fell out.  They discovered these two new cavities then and a third on the other side that we'll deal with next week.  (Apparently I hadn't been to the dentist in nearly three years.  Oops).  When I was there for that, he had to drill just a tiny bit to smooth things out where he was going to put the new filling.  He gave me the shot, which is always a little unpleasant and left me to go numb for a few minutes.  When he came back to drill, I wasn't deadened enough, but by the time I could communicate that, he was done with the drilling.

So fast forward to today when he gives me one shot on top and one on bottom that makes my eyes water like a faucet.  He goes away for a few minutes, and comes back to start drilling.  Again, I can feel what's going on, and it's not pleasant.  He stops pretty quickly this time and remembers that he's had to give me extra shots before and gives me another shot up top and another in the bottom for good measure.  Then he starts back to drilling immediately without giving them any time to take affect.  I'm no expert, so maybe that's not necessary for everyone, but I think it would have helped because I could still feel it.  By the time I get him stopped the second time, he's done drilling on top.  So I take a deep breath and get myself under control while he does the filling up top.

Then he starts drilling on the bottom, and surprise!  I can feel it too.  So he gives me shot #3 on the bottom (#5 overall).  I try to toughen up a little, but by this point my whole body is clenched, and once he starts drilling, the ongoing pain causes me to start sobbing, not crying.  The fact that I've got tears streaming down my face and I'm snubbing like a newborn doesn't get him to stop all at once, but when I start kicking my feet against the chair, he finally realizes that I'm serious.  I can't guarantee that I didn't reflexively bite him during this part either.  We had to stop for a minute while I mopped myself up with a tissue, and that's when I actually apologize for falling apart.  I was so embarrassed by myself.  So then he assures me that we're almost done, gives me shot #4 on the bottom and starts right back to drilling.  It was better at that point, but I could still feel way more than I think I should have.  Luckily, we were almost finished with drilling by that point, and I was able to keep my breathing under control though I continued to cry mostly silently until he was almost finished putting in the filling.  And of course, with six doses of numbing medicine in me, I had serious stroke victim face going on for several hours after.

Of course, as soon as I left I called my moma because I'm a giant baby--and because she too is no stranger to needing time for dental numbing shots to take effect.  When I'm trying to explain to her what happened, the horror of it comes back on me, and I cry like the giant baby I am in the Kroger parking lot (where I'd gone to buy ponytail holders because I left the house without one, and there was no way I was going to make it until eight p.m. with my hair just hanging around being annoying).  So I let Kroger soothe me until I realized that it was making me hungry, and I was afraid if I ate anything I'd bit my tongue off and not feel it because of how numb I finally was.  So after an errand at the bank, I went to work.  I gave Lisa only the very briefest summation of my dental trauma (you're jealous that she got the short version, aren't ya?) and went to my desk to start work and take my mind off the whole ordeal.

And that's when I had my third meltdown of the day.  I had an email waiting on me where a person in another department chastised me for something that I still maintain wasn't wrong, and she copied the email to my entire department, my two most immediate supervisors and two other unrelated departments, in effect scolding me in front of a couple dozen colleagues and blowing a very minor joke out of proportion.  Now on a normal day this might have been worthy of a couple minutes stewing and complaining about the misunderstanding to my lovely supportive coworkers who were all mad on my behalf, but if you'll recall, I'm trying to have a come apart.  So I was completely mortified.  I'm still embarrassed when I think about it these many hours later.  And thanks to the remaining built-up dental tension, I called a work friend, cussed at him a little for the stupidity of the whole mess, and had my third crying jag.

The remainder of the day was tear-free, but it was still touch and go at a few odd moments along the way.  For those keeping score, my mouth started aching as soon as feeling started coming back, and it's still store on Tuesday morning as I put the finishing touches on my completely self-indulgent rant.

But that, my friends, is what's known as trying to have a come apart.  While I don't wish a similar situation on you, I hope you get the chance to use it in a sentence one day soon.

Monday, October 25, 2010

why i did it

Starting about a month ago, FHDM has been regularly asking a favor of me. 

On September 16, he blogged that due to a lack of funding, Blue Like Jazz the movie wouldn't be getting made.  I thought this was sad.  Since I'd heard that it was going to become a movie, I've had mixed emotions about it, but having heard FHDM talk about it so much for the past several months that I've been following his blog, I knew it was important to him and to lots of people, and I was sorry that it wasn't going to happen.

Then a couple of guys decided that they wouldn't let it die--and that the fans of the book would want to help out.  They set up a page on Kickstarter to raise the bare minimum that would get the film made and asked people to help.  They and FHDM and the movie's director Steve Taylor set up all sort of rewards and incentives for giving at various levels.  FHDM blogged about the campaign to save the movie on September 29 and asked for my help.  So I did what any responsible soulmate would do.  I followed the link and looked at the details of the campaign, and I thought about it. 

I've said that I have mixed emotions about the movie.  Most of that is worry that a book I love that ranks as one of the most important in my life might not translate well to the silver screen.  I've seen many a beloved book ruined by a movie version.  I'm picky about things like that.  Additionally, while BLJ is a sort of memoir, it's still basically nonfiction exposition, not a story.  I know that the process of turning it into a story has been a huge part of FHDM's life for a few years now, but it still makes me nervous.

So while I didn't jump right on the bandwagon, I kept a close eye on the progress of the little movie that could, and I was impressed and proud when the project became fully funded in less than two weeks of fundraising.  People care about this movie and did something about it.  But they haven't stopped.  Those involved said that while the $125,000 initially set as the goal was the bare minimum needed, anything given over that amount would just go towards making the movie better. 

In the meantime, FHDM's blog has been updated regularly with videos of people involved saying thanks and tracking the progress as the numbers on kickstarter kept growing.  For the past week, I've been fairly certain that I wanted in.  I wanted to be a part of something that's never been done before, a movie that was funded by a few thousand fans.  I won't say I'm not still a bit nervous about the movie itself, but somewhere in this process, I became thoroughly convinced that it deserved a chance.  Story is a big deal to FHDM, pretty much everything he writes about these days is influenced by the idea of living a story, and I've been amazed at the story of how this movie came to be.  In a way, I think it raises the stakes for the movie to be something great.  So many people have supported this effort that it may be difficult for a movie to live up to all that expectation, but suddenly I just want it to succeed.

And with that in mind, I can tell you that I am now officially an investor in Blue Like Jazz.  And if you read this by midnight on Monday, imaginary reader, you can be too.  It's what any good soulmate would do.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

happy birthday to some of my favorite folks

Eleven years ago today, I became an aunt.  Anyone who's very familiar with me and the important things in my life will know that this was and is a big deal.  In the years since, I've added a couple more nieces and nephews to the Handful, but it all started with a cone-headed, broken-winged, sleepy little Pointer on October 20, 1999. 

These days it's a very popular birthday in my life.  I have a high school friend born on this day as well as Peep Kelly and a friend I go to church with right now.  And this morning, Peep Martha added two more birthdays to celebrate on 10/20.  My two newest little weeps put off making their appearance in the world just long enough to ensure that I'll probably always be gone celebrating Pointer when they're having their birthday party.  They're not the first weeps to be uncooperative in this way, so I guess I'll love them anyway.  Right now I've got some possibly contagious congestion and cough to get over before I can go and meet the tweeps, so I'll have to occupy my time with giving Pointer the birthday recognition she deserves. 

Here are my five favorite things about my entirely-too-old niece:

5.  She's a reader.  This weekend when were together, she told me, full of excitement, that she'd started reading the Anne of Green Gables series, which careful readers will recall as a big deal in my life.  She loves them, of course, but they're just the latest in a long, long line of books that she's devoured and loved.  She's been a lover of books since she was a tiny little girl.  The first time that Will ever deployed after Pointer was born, he made videos of himself reading board books to her because even at ten months, reading was that important in her life.  As she's progressed from Sandra Boynton to Eric Carle to Skippyjon Jones to Ramona to Dragonslayer's Academy to Nancy Drew to Anne, books have always been our thing.  I guess that comes with the territory of being in the book business in one manner or another for most of her little life, but Pointer always wants to tell me about her reading.  I love that it's a thing that we share.

4.  Pointer is all about fashion.  From the time she was old enough to mispronounce "uncomfortable" in the most hilarious way, my girl's been concerned with her clothes.  She's been vocal in her clothing choices for as long as she's been vocal.  Now sometimes her opinions on fashion haven't been lined up with mine, but lately anyway she's really been showing good taste.  When we're all together, she plans out her outfits so that we can any new outfits she's gotten, and she will routinely take polls of anyone who'll stand still long enough to vote about clothing or accessory choices.  Getting dressed is an event with Pointer.  That sentence is sort of true on two levels because she also loves to wear her pajamas all day.  On the first day of homeschool this year, Michelle took pictures of the girls.  Bird was wearing a cute outfit that she probably would have worn to actual school.  Pointer still had on her gown and some pigtails from the day before.  But I'm sure at some point later in that day, she went through at least a couple more costume changes.  And I'm sure she looked adorable the entire time.

3.  She's hilarious.  Pointer's been serving as comic relief in our family for most of her eleven years, and as she's grown from the funny tricks and things we used to make her say to entertaining with jokes of her own, she's gotten even funnier.  Sometimes her goofiness gets overshadowed by Bird, who's always been a different kind of funny, but Pointer definitely holds her own these days.  My favorite funny thing about her these days is that she's not just doing little-kid humor anymore.  She does this thing where she says funny stuff about the little kids, without being mean about them, that makes her seem like she's much older than her years.  That doesn't exactly sound like knee-slapping humor, but she does this very dry, adult delivery sometimes that is just sort of perfect.  Her humor alone is the main reason I'm letting her grow up.  And if she'll ever stop doing those funny voices, I'll let her be in my top five funniest people in the family list.

2.  Pointer may look like her daddy's family, but inside she's 98% Michelle.  She came by her older child/big sister bossiness and protectiveness all too naturally.  She's a perfectionist and loves having things done in just the right way.  She loves mothering her little sister and younger cousins and takes the lead in most all of their games.  And every bit of that is just like her moma.  And since I've devoted posts before to how much I love those traits in my bossy, protective older sister, it's no wonder that I cherish those same qualities in Michelle 2.0.

1.  My girl loves and loves and loves.  She's tender-hearted and kind and a fairly phenomenal cuddler--if you can get past her bony knees and elbows.  I love that even at eleven, she's as affectionate as she was as a preschooler.  She's easily moved to tears for others.  She cherishes our family and loves when we can all be together.  She is mostly patient with the little people in her life, and when no one's around to notice, she and Bird are the second sweetest sister duo I know.  I'm always surprised and warmed and blessed by her heart.

Happy birthday, grown-up baby girl.  Love and love and more love from your Aunt Ellio.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

100 haikus (but not really)

Today's poems mark
my centennial blog post.
Let's celebrate me!

 Faithful fans have hit
almost fourteen thousand times
in less than ten months.

Lots of time wasted
on my rambling. Thank you for
stroking my ego.

 No more numbers talk.
Statistics aren't poetry 
though I love them so.

You keep coming back
even when I don't post much
because you love me.

You are good for me.
I need this validation--
whiny narcissist.

I'd hoped to make this
 post one hundred syllables
but I had more words.

I did consider
a hundred lines instead, but
can't divide by three.

A hundred haikus
seems beyond my skills which are

But I will forge on
and see how many it takes
'til I've had enough.

I like the sound of
my own voice (or typing hands).
This could be a while.

Topics covered here
seem varied for your pleasure;
but in truth, for mine.

to boring diaries,

the open letters
that led to my short-lived brush
with internet fame,

tv obsessions
to vacations with the fam
to crafty projects

to blogging soulmates,
the famous FHDM--
we're getting married.

I cry when I write
my five favorite things in
random birthday posts,

probably because
I devote valuable space
to another soul.

I haven't mentioned
my chocolate-covered pretzel
love lately.  My bad.

They're still my main squeeze,
but they haven't been on sale
since last December.

A little known fact:
I think I'm more interesting
than I truly am.

Maybe you'd learned that
in our time together here.
You're humoring me?

Now here's a shout-out
to some special faithful fans
who keep me going.

To cousin, scholar,
theologian, number one
blog fan, a thank you.

You've been telling me
to write more for years, and I
am glad I listened.

To my sweet moma,
who thinks everything I do
is perfect, thank you.

Because of your faith,
I'm the over-confident
braggart writing here.

For my siblings three
and the in-laws too, a thanks
for laughing with me,

for cheering me on,
and giving me the Handful.
They photograph well.

And to the Handful,
Pointer, Bird, Ring, Pinkie, Thumb,
thanks for being cute.

I know you don't read
the blog--and you still should not.
 I might use bad words.

And to the Popster,
who I once accused of not
reading my blog, thanks.

I'm touched that I rate
with Netflix watch it now and
your other dot coms.

For Rob-Bob, thank you
for pithy comments that make
my favorite lists.

To peeps like Hailey,
Mo and Beck and Martha too
your presence pleases.

Maybe other peeps
read the blog too, but they don't
leave me comments.

So, Peeps, if you are
among my faithful readers
I thank you as well.

To Cory the page,
who thinks I'm hilarious
in person or print,

I appreciate
your laughter though I know that
it is very cheap.

For Lacey who does not
comment but reads avidly,
you should drop a line.

To Bill, who comments
as himself now instead of
some celebrity,

thanks for stopping that.
Now learn to spell opinion.
Google will thank you.

And to Jess, who reads
on her phone and makes no comment
but talks to me live,

you listen to me
when I need a sounding board
and keep me writing.

I know there are more
(thanks, Google Analytics)
who read in silence.

Thank you for coming,
imaginary readers,
blogging for you thrills.

Here's to hundreds more!
I'll keep having opinions
if you'll keep reading.

*****Insecure blogger's
question:  Did I go too far?
Are haikus played out?

This blogger hopes not,
or I've just ruined it all.
Tell me I'm funny.*****

I have done my best
to remind you of the great
moments on the blog.

If I omitted
one of your favorite bits,
please chime in below.

 More talk about me
in the comment section here:
icing on the cake!

For those who don't count,
I made it to fifty-three
including this one.

Friday, October 8, 2010

little known fact #1

I'm 98% certain that everyone who regularly reads this blog actually knows me.  But sometimes I like to dream of a time when I'm famous for these ramblings and folks will flock here and pore over the archives of my early days.  So I'm starting a new series (maybe) that will help those future fans (who truly are the imaginary readers I reference so often) get to know the real ellen--because you know, I've been doing such a first-rate job of not talking about myself up until now.  And perhaps, some of you who are actually acquainted with me will still learn something from these "little known facts."

LKF1:  It makes me crazy when speakers, writers, preachers, etc. define a word as a part of their speech/essay/sermon.  Serious pet peeve. (Also I hate the term pet peeve--you can consider that a little known fact bonus.)

You know what I"m talking about, don't you, imaginary readers?  Someone starts with a line such as
"Webster's Dictionary defines dog as 'a highly variable domestic mammal closely related to the gray wolf ' . . ." and then spends the next twenty minutes explaining that there's so much more to dogs than that.  Of course, there's more to a dog--or any thing, concept, idea, emotion, or action--than a definition can contain.  Words and what they represent don't exist in a vacuum.  Everything exists in context--every word, or every important word has a connotation.

And no one ever defines words that actually need a definition.  No one's out there giving speeches that begin with the definition of propinquity (in fact, I find the lack of use of propinquity to be a real tragedy). Unless one's central point revolves around a word which is outside the regular vocabulary of one's listeners/readers, defining a word is patronizing. 

This device just seems like a cop-out to me, as though the writer/speaker doesn't know how to begin.  When that's due to inexperience, I am much more forgiving than when it's someone who should know better.  It feels so formulaic--like a example introduction that someone picked off a list in the fifth-grade and has been using ever since.  It might work for an eleven-year-old, but it's just not okay for an adult. 

I have a blog post in me right now that I can't get started.  I've worked with a few different openings, and I haven't found a smooth transition yet, so yesterday I decided I could do that defining the word thing that people sometimes do.  I got as far as looking up the word, and that's when I realized how pompous and annoying I find it.  So you won't see that type of intro around here any time soon.

******Possibly offensive and definitely insecure blogger's note:  If any of my faithful friends/fellow bloggers have done this before, I promise I haven't judged you as harshly as it may seem.  I didn't have anyone in mind when I wrote this, and I still love you, even if you do this.  Additionally, I'll make sure that my next little known fact is not so negative.******

So . . . did you know that about me?

Monday, October 4, 2010

four months later

I could have let this go.  But they were nice pictures.  And once a couple of months ago, Cory the page told me he was really looking forward to this post.  So, imaginary readers, blame Cory the page.

Way back in May on the lovely whole family vacation, we went to the National Zoo.  It was sweltering, but we saw lots of animals, and Ring got her stuff naked mole rat.  And I got a panda magnet and a Christmas ornament.

 The last time I was at the National Zoo I think there was a baby panda.  I can remember that the panda was inside and there were lines to wait and see them.  We had to work a little harder this time to get to the right spot to see this guy in his habitat, and we didn't see him (or maybe her) too up-close, but I got some good shots anyway.
 I don't know which of the pandas this was though.

 The elephant house is being remodeled right now, but you can still see the elephants when they go out for their exercise.  They had just gotten to their pool to cool off when we got to see them.  This guy was very entertaining.
 He splashed and floated around and played with his toys.
 Then a friend came to play.
 He was a little more hesitant about plunging right in.
 But eventually the heat won him over.
 They have lowland gorillas which are much smaller (and less impressive) than the mountain gorillas that we have in Little Rock, but this guy did pose nicely.
 The daddy was sitting up on top.
 Mommy and baby were hanging out below.
 Then in a move that seemed choreographed, they switched places.  Look at that baby!
 There was also an incident involving the gorillas drinking urine that grossed out everyone and sent us on to the next set of animals.
 I love the big turtles.  Always.
 The orangutans at the National Zoo take the O-line from their house to another area where they spend time during the day.  None of them were in the house when we were there, so we were hoping to see them climbing across the line at some point.  I went in search of a bench in the shade while everyone else went through the reptile house, so my moma and I were the only ones who got to see this guy.
 Lions are so lazy.
 I really wanted him to hold his head up, but no luck.
 The tigers were super-lazy too.

 But the cheetah was ready to perform.
 Pacing . . .
  . . . prancing . . . 
  . . . and making a certain three-year-old cheetah-loving boy's day.
Some hot but cute girls.

There were lots more animals that we saw, but I didn't get pictures of everything.  I was probably busy talking animal business with one of the kiddos or doing continual head counts.  It was so crowded for most of the day, and I discovered that I'm more paranoid than I realized I would be about losing one of the Handful.

Speaking of the Handful: 
Man, I like those kids.

And I am officially finished blogging our DC trip.  Thanks for reliving the journey with me.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

an open letter to martha

Dear Martha,

Have you had those babies yet?  Seriously, I fully expect to hear that you're headed to the hospital any second now.  I'm excited about their arrival.  And while I worry that they maybe won't have names when they're born, I know they'll be well taken care of in every other respect.

Do you remember, Martha, back when these twins were much, much tinier, you asked me about children's books?  You told me that you have loads of the books that you grew up reading that your librarian mother has saved, but that there were a couple of decades worth of children's lit that about which you knew little.  So you came to the expert, or perhaps more accurately, to the slacker who promised to put a list together for you and then prompty forgot and put it off and generally dropped the ball.  Sorry, Martha. (If it helps, you're not the first parent/person choosing books for a young child whom I've let down in this way.  I fail.  Often.)

I'm trying to catch up with lots of my failings lately, so just in time for the arrival of Baby A and Baby B, I'm going to give a partially annotated list of some children's books that bear mentioning.  And since I know many of my loyal readers are parents and educators, I fully expect the comment section to light up with better suggestions than I offer here.

Let's begin at the beginning:

Board books:
Board books are for babies.  They're much less likely to be ripped, and they can withstand a certain amount of drool, gumming, and chewing--more than paper pages at least.  They're also shorter and smaller (usually).  There are loads of picture books that are also available in board book format--though they are sometimes shortened, so beware.  I have mixed feelings about the shortened board book versions.  If you read them over and over and over again--and you will--you'll soon have them memorized, and if you later graduate to the full version, it can really throw off your reading rhythm.  I can't ever quite handle There's a Wocket in My Pocket because Pointer had the board book, and that's the way I know it.  Even if it's not shortened, you'll eventually have to deal with the situation of owning two copies of the same books.  It's dangerous ground.  Be careful.

Fortunately, there are loads of books that are published strictly as board books.  You already own some, and based on what I've seen of your growing collection, you're headed in the right direction.  There's really only one name you need to know when it comes to board books:

But Not the HippopotamusSandra Boynton.  She's the best.  My all-time favorite is probably But Not the Hippopotamus.  It's cute and funny and has a great cadence to it.  And those selling points are true in most everything of hers I've ever read.  Other titles that bear special mention are Doggies (a counting book where you get to do ten different dog sounds), The Going to Bed Book, Horns to Toes and in Between, Moo Baa LaLaLa, and Barnyard Dance.  Those are the best ones, I think.  But you really can't go wrong with anything she's done.

My First Animal Board BookI will give DK board books an honorable mention here.  They're not story books, but they have colorful photographs.  They're good for short attention spans because if little hands turn pages before you're done reading, it doesn't really matter.  You can just start pointing out the photos on the next page.  They have them for loads of topics:  animals, colors, toys, vehicles.  You need a couple.  They'll come in handy.

Urban Babies Wear Black (An Urban Babies Wear Black Book)There's a series of board books that's only come to my attention lately.  None of my babies ever had them, but we've got them at the library, and they're very cute.  The first in the series is called Urban Babies Wear Black, but there are lots of other babies:  Winter Babies Wear Layers, Rocker Babies Wear Jeans, Country Babies Wear Plaid, Sporty Babies Wear Sweats, Beach Babies Wear Shades, Foodie Babies Wear Bibs.  You get the idea.  I recommend them conditionally in that I've never actually tried them out on kids.

Picture books:
Here's the secret to children's books.  Don't read books that you don't like.  Until your kids are capable of sustained, silent reading, you'll be reading every book they do.  (And I'd suggest sticking with that even after they read to themselves.)  Don't buy things or check things out unless you enjoy them.  Choose illustrators who appeal to you.  Don't put up with substandard writing.  There's plenty of great stuff out there, so don't waste your time on the junk.

So here are some things I consider the good stuff:

Who Says Woof? (Picture Puffin)
John Butler draws very cute animals, and he's got a couple of great books with very few words.  Who Says Woof? has animal sounds and precious little baby animals.  If You See a Kitten is similar is style.  They're both really good for wee ones.  Back when I did baby storytime, I used both of these a ton.

Chester's WayKevin Henkes is probably my favorite picture book author.  He won the Caldecott for Kitten's First Full Moon a few years ago, but it's probably my least favorite of his.  He's written several books with mice for characters.  Lily, the star of Lily's Purple Plastic Purse, gets the most attention, but she got her start in Chester's Way, which is maybe my favorite.  Lots of them have storylines that deal with anxiety or making friends or teasing or people who are different or sibling rivalry, but they're not preachy.  They've got a very subtle wit about them.  They're not great for big group storytimes because the illustrations are smallish and have details that are better up close.  Wemberley Worried and Owen are probably my other two favorites.  They're quite nice.

Diary of a SpiderDoreen Cronin is another author  I like.  Her farm books are cute, though a typewriter factors heavily into the first one, and while that's charmingly outdated to adult readers, it's completely lost on kiddos.  I know kids that still like it, but it is definitely one of those deals where you choosing the book for your enjoyment just as much as your kids.  Click Clack Moo, Giggle Giggle Quack, and Duck for President have been around for a while, and there are a couple more recent ones about the same farm.  She also has done three books that are diaries of various animals.  Diary of a Worm came first, I think, but Spider is my favorite.  Harry Bliss, who illustrated the diary books did the SRC illustrations the year we had the bug theme.  I love all the little details in these books.  They're funny and very well done.

Don't Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus!
Mo Willems is another funny author of picture books.  The Pigeon books are his best.  It started with Don't Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus.  The illustrations are very simple, and they're not too wordy, but they convey a lot of silliness in their simplicity. Willems is capable of being wordier.  Leonardo the Terrible Monster is a good one, and Knuffle BunnyA Cautionary Tale and its sequel are both great.  I'm pretty sure one of them is a Caldecott Honor book too.

I'll declare those my top picture book authors, but I have a few more books I want to list if you'll allow me:

Bear Snores On by Karma Wilson.  Bear and his friends have some sequels, but none are as good as this one with it's sing-song refrain.

The Napping House by Audrey Wood.  It's a cumulative tale, and I've just always liked it.

The Quiet Book by Deborah Underwood. This is a fairly new book, that talks about all the different kinds of quiet.  I love the illustrations.

There Was an Old Lady by Pam Adams.  There are so many versions of this nursery rhyme, but this one has a die cut hole in the pages that expands as she swallows more and more.  It's my favorite version.
Go Away, Big Green Monster by Ed Emberley.  Speaking of die-cuts, this book builds and then unbuilds a monster, talks about colors and some shapes, and is a great non-scary monster book.

The Story of Ferdinand by Munro Leaf.  I can remember loving this book as a kid, and it's still one I really love.  The pictures are pretty much all black and white, in case that's a deal breaker for you.

Good Night, Gorilla by Peggy Rathmann.  Another old book, but I love this little gorilla and his night-time zoo hijinks.

Scaredy Squirrel and sequels by Melanie Watt.  Scaredy is this hilarious OCD squirrel.  They're probably better for bigger kids, but they're a hoot.

I could continue listing books all day, but since I'm working on a deadline, I'll save more picture book recommendations for another day.

I'm tempted to start a discussion of chapter book read-alouds, because that is all the rage among preschoolers I know, but we've got a few years to work our way up to that, and I'll be better at making those recommendations once I've met the little circumstances. 

I'm sure you've been sternly telling those twin babies that they couldn't be born until you had their library all fixed up, so now that I've finally held up my end of the bargain, you can go ahead and have our two newest weeps.  I'm ready to meet them!

Your book-loving peep,