Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Yes, Virginia, There Is a Santa Claus

From the Washington Post on Sunday:

Tysons Mall Not a Grinch Anymore: Protests Lead to a Deal for Longtime Santa

Tysons Corner Center and Santa -- a.k.a. Michael Graham -- reached agreement in principle to return him to the Santaland in the Fairfax County mall where he has dazzled tens of thousands of children for 18 years, both sides said. After an angry and impassioned outcry that included thousands of e-mails, phone calls, an online petition and the threat of a boycott, the mall reversed course, giving the drama a happy ending that seemed to have been snatched from the screenplay of "Miracle on 34th Street."

So we'll be there, red dresses and black patent leather shoes and all! Of course, all this means that we're probably looking at even longer lines than usual...

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Cause one at a time doesn't always cut it

I joined Army of Women today. Army of Women is a national organizational movement designed to bring more women into the breast cancer research fold. From their FAQ's:

"Like many women, Dr. Susan Love was becoming increasingly frustrated by our not having made more progress in figuring out what causes breast cancer and how to prevent it. Scientists told her that they did not know how to find the women who would be interested in taking part in the studies that were needed to end this disease. Dr. Love realized the problem wasn’t that women didn’t want to participate in these studies, but that they didn’t know that they were needed. In short order, the idea was born of an Army of Women ready to serve science."

"Women who are interested register on the Love/Avon Army of Women website, providing very basic information such as name, age, city, and state of residence. Army staff notify volunteers via email about studies that need volunteers. These emails describe the study, criteria to participate, and what is involved. Women who fit the criteria respond to the email to express their interest. Army staff then contact these women to let them know how to take part."

Before you guys get all up in my grill:

"We are starting with women since breast cancer is more common in women. After the initiative gets underway, we will consider adding men. Meanwhile men can support the initiative by donating to the Army of Women, purchasing a pendant, and encouraging women they know to take part."

I have no family history of breast cancer. With any luck, I'll never have breast cancer. With more than luck - with full-speed-ahead research and innovative work on prevention and cures - maybe my daughters will never have to worry about getting breast cancer. I think it's safe - and sad - to say that we all know someone (or more than one someone) who's been affected by breast cancer. This is another way to get involved, and I'm all over it. If you have two X chromosomes, please think about signing up.


Say it ain't so, Santa!

Anna and Tessa have never visited any Santa but this one, and he's the best Santa I've ever encountered. It's a silly thing, probably, but I've been more than happy to drive the extra few miles to visit this guy over the one in our closer-to-home mall. I was already looking forward to this year's visit, as Mr. Graham is a delight with the kids. I tried to call Tysons this morning to register displeasure, but the lines are busy. Go figure.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Powerful Stuff.

Look, I know that by letting a few of my political rantings and ravings slip through here, I'm going against my intention for what this blog would be - basically, a chronicle of the girls' lives seen through the filter of their mom. But as this election approaches, I have realized something.

I voted in the last Presidential election when Anna was a mere 6 weeks old. We walked over to our polling location and waited in line for a long time, but my vote was important to me. Four years and another beautiful daughter later, there's more going on in my head this time around. My vote isn't just for me anymore. It's for Anna and Tessa, too. With every attempt not to be cliched about this, I honestly feel that I'm voting for their future, their well-being, their prosperity. I'm not so naive as to think that one change in the administration will bring all this about, but I do believe that we're on the cusp of something huge here. I also believe that the fork in the road offers two pretty distinct choices.

Something I read today nailed it for me. I'm probably preaching to the choir for most of the people who read my ramblings, and no-one reading this will be surprised to hear that I support Barack Obama over John McCain for a whole host of reasons. But this, by way of Dooce, put one of those reasons into perfect focus. I couldn't have said it any better myself, I'm glad I don't have the personal experience of this writer to need to say it, and I hope with every fiber of my being that my girls never have the need for this argument.

That's enough out of me. Be well.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Dear Anna: Four Years

Dear Anna,

Last month, you turned four years old. Four years old! In all likelihood, you'll be in kindergarten this time next year, a fact that comes pretty close to blowing my mind. But I'm not writing to tell you how the last four years have gone faster than I'd ever have imagined. Or to elaborate on your many developments - new skills, new understandings. These things will all likely become evident as I write, instead, about your birthday celebrations.

Heaven forbid you have just one - no! We began with a party with your class at school on your actual birthday. The in-house cook pulled together brownies, ice cream, and lemonade for your class (and Tessa, who was delighted by the ice cream cup). Your school has a strict nut-free policy, and, rather than ban parents from bringing in various treats that may or may not have bumped into a peanut at some point, they've instituted a party-planning service of sorts within the school's kitchen. It's great and makes planning a low-key celebration for 30 preschoolers - dare I say? - manageable.

So Daddy and I added on party hats and pinwheel favors and - voila! - instant birthday party. You, as the fortunate birthday girl, were the recipient of - not a brownie (although you ate one of those anyway) - but a giant cookie with sprinkles! Even you couldn't finish it.

A few days later, with Grandma C. in town, we went to your party at the local bounce house. You were joined by some friends (a few from school, a few not) and spent a very happy couple of hours bouncing and sliding and wearing yourself out before being ushered into the Party Room for pizza and cake. The cake design was a closely-guarded secret, and you were delighted to see Ariel smiling coyly up at you, complete with a few candles sticking out of her hair.

The Party Room is quite the scene. There's a long table where the kids congregate for their pizza and cake, and every child seems magnetically drawn there when they get into the room, despite the large throne also in the room. Yes, the throne. It's the seat of honor for the birthday child at various points during the party, and it dwarfs most honorees, no matter how much cake they eat.

That same evening, we corralled your gifts so you could bury yourself in a frenzy of wrapping paper and celebrated once more, at home, with just the 'rents, Tessa, and Grandma C. I think your favorite gift was the stuffed Dumbo - and his pal Timothy T. Mouse - the first present you specifically requested when quizzed ahead of time about your birthday gift desires. After the Great Present Unveiling, we had a (relatively) quiet dinner together. And, yes, I made the homemade cake for that dinner.

I love this cake, and there remains something meaningful and important to me in baking you a birthday cake. I wouldn't want to bake one for a bazillion screaming 4-year-olds. I wouldn't want to transport one from home to the location of your party and risk its destruction at the hands of one hard stop.

But I do love the mechanics of this project - starting up the mixer, pulling out the cake pans, enjoying the cake smell that pervades the house while it's in the oven, whipping up the frosting, and icing the cooled product. All this is truly done out of immense love for you. It's been so since your first birthday, and I imagine it will be so for many birthdays to come, certainly well past the point when it's cool to have your mom make your birthday cake, pink sprinkles or not.


Friday, October 10, 2008

Dear Tessa: Unbirthday

Dear Tessa,

Your big sister turned four years old a few weeks ago. You're just old enough to get involved with celebrations and just young enough not to care that you aren't the center of the party and the one getting all the presents. My best guess is that this will last approximately another two months, just in time for you to share in the Christmas explosion of wrapping paper and your second birthday less than two months later.

You attended Anna's birthday parties at school (brownies, ice cream, and party hats - hooray!) and at the local bounce place, where we entertained a smaller group of sugar-fed four-year-olds for a few hours. You were the consummate guest - riding the slide with Daddy or me, not planting your sweet little fist into the Ariel cake we procured for Anna's delight, and then shoveling cake and frosting in like a pro.

In other news, you started coming home from day care with fine little geysers of ponytails on your head. Two, with an immaculate part between them. I'll admit this hit me where my mommy inadequacy resides, so I took up the task as well. Your hair grew in very differently than your sister's; you both had fine, silky baby hair that came in blonde with just a hint of strawberry. Anna's came in over her face, rendering her a tiny Cousin It by the time she was 14 months old. We've been on regular haircuts ever since. Your hair grew down the back, leaving your face unobscured, and I will resist your first haircut as long as humanly possible.

I've since learned that the perfect part produced at day care is the result of your hairdresser getting your hair damp first - it's just too fine to actually part cleanly otherwise - which makes me feel a little better. There was that one morning when I got your little fountains installed while you were fully on the move. I was so proud of myself but was dismayed to learn later that, when Daddy picked you up at day care, the teachers asked him with raised eyebrows whether he had done your hair that morning. Now I try to catch you when you're having breakfast in your high chair.

You're almost 20 months old. You'll be two before I know what happened, and the last vestiges of this baby stage will be gone. I feel every day like I'm trying to grasp onto a stream of water in wishing I could make this last longer. Even though I know how much fun stuff is yet to come - Anna is walking, talking, singing proof of that - I am so afraid of forgetting what a joy it has been to raise you even just to this point in your life. I know the finer details will inevitably slip away over time, but I don't think I'll ever have to reach very far to remember the absolute delight.