Sunday, January 29, 2006

Finished At Last

I did it. That's right. The novel is done, man. It might rotten eggs but it's done. It's 65,764 -- 8,554 of those words were written in the last 36 hours, and approximately 11,000 of them will probably be thrown in the trash heap before I deem it readable by anyone other than myself. But anyway. It's done, and I'm feeling pretty damn happy about that right about now.

My Strategy Is Working

I wrote almost 6,000 words yesterday and passed the 60,000 mark. That's great, because it means this novel will end up being as long as the other two in the series -- with both of them, I wrote over 60,000 words and then editted them down to around 55,000. I knew there's a lot of stuff that will need to be cut out of this latest work, and I was really afraid that it would be so short that cutting it down would turn it into a really long short story.

I basically need to write one more short chapter to wrap it up, and then the arduous editing process begins. Amazing.

Saturday, January 28, 2006

I'm Hoping If I Tell Enough People, Maybe I'll Actually Follow Through

This weekend I am going to finish my novel. I have two major scenes left and I have them more or less mapped out in my head -- enough of running through them mentally -- time to get them into the computer and be done with it already. The Princess of Whatever shall be completed, if in rough form, by the time I go to bed tomorrow night.

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Adventures in Parenting #1377

Enthusio is having a rough week. Monday he came home from school, and when I asked him how his day had gone, he said it was fine, just like he always does. When he came closer to tell me about something else (probably about a video game -- I hear a lot about video games lately), I noticed his little face was looking tear-stained, so I asked him if he'd been crying. He said he'd had a tough day, so I hugged him and told him I knew he probably didn't want to talk about it, but that I was there if he did. He said he didn't, and within a few minutes he was playing the Gameboy and enjoying himself. He was kind of obnoxious throughout the afternoon and evening, which isn't unusual when he's stressed out.

Yesterday, I collected him and Mermaid outside his afterschool Spanish class, and he was tearstained again. When I asked him what was wrong, he dissolved into tears and said he just hates it when he gets out in Musical Chairs, which they'd evidently been playing in Spanish class. Later on, he fell completely apart when he discovered the show he'd been saving on the TV hadn't gotten saved, and generally the emotions were hanging out pretty close to the surface the whole afternoon and evening.

I feel like dealing with everything that's going on with him is like a great big knot that I'm slowly unravelling. I have a basic scenario in my head of the way things work at school. Something about being there makes him very anxious. Sometimes he copes and is himself -- other times, for whatever reason, work is put in front of him or some kind of minor frustration with another kids comes up and he just loses it. These outbursts happen often enough so as to alienate the other kids in the class, and I think they also inspire some of the more mean-spirited kids to push his buttons when they get the chance, in order to provoke another outburst, which I guess is fun for them to watch.

Of course I want to think that if all the other kids would just be nicer and more accepting, some of his anxiety would dissipate, and he would make friends and just have an easier time at school. But there are other issues too. This is going to sound pretty harsh, coming from his own mom, but he's annoying. Seriously. He asks questions constantly, and if you answer one, he will keep asking them until you tell him to stop. He's also impulsive, and it seems like once he follows an impulse to do something, it's hard for him to stop even if someone is yelling at him to do so. One of his teachers told me that a week or two ago, a boy in the class was telling everyone that he'd gotten hurt the day before and had stitches in his head. Enthusio's response was to start rifling through the poor kid's hair, looking for the stitches, and even with the boy crying out in pain, it still took the teacher telling Enthusio to stop several times before he did. It was pretty eye-opening to hear that story, to say the least. I mean, if he has a reputation for doing things like that, no wonder kids don't like him.

Again, I think the pressure of school aggravates his tendency to be impulsive and highly emotional. Still, there are obviously things going on within Enthusio himself that need to be addressed and dealt with. School is going to be there, and he needs to learn to cope. That's going to make life better for everyone. Today I will be working in his classroom for the first time, so I'll get a chance to see how things are going firsthand. We will continue with his psychotherapy, and we will probably pursue getting him some occupational therapy. We will be pretty aggressive about having a hand in his classroom placement for next year as well.

In the last few weeks I've spent some time exploring the issue of whether he's being bullied. The conclusion I've come to is that yeah, sometimes he is. When kids zero in on the fact that it's easy to get a strong reaction out of someone and say mean things to elicit that reaction, that's bullying, and when Enthusio tells me about these incidents, you better believe I report them to his teachers immediately. Last week I had a long talk with the school psychologist about my concerns, and we may go to the principal as well. Sadly, I suspect parents of the victims spend a lot more energy dealing with the issue of bullying than the parents of the bullies themselves. It makes sense -- your kid is being pushed around? You're pissed off and getting in people's faces to get it stopped. Your kid is the one being mean? Well, he has lots of friends, and he told me he didn't mean it to be mean. Right? Who wants to deal with the idea that their kid is the problem? I've sat and watched more than one good friend of mine see her child treat another child badly with a look of helpless exasperation on her face, as though she is somehow not empowered to jump in and use that moment as an opportunity to teach her kid how to be a better human being. I'd love to do a poll of parents to find out the correllation between the opinion that kids should be allowed to "work things out themselves" and how likely one's kid is to be a bully or a victim.

That said -- Enthusio has issues, it's our job to deal with them, and I am back to my original opinion that we can't change other kids -- we can only help Enthusio learn to react to them differently. I won't deny there is a certain bitterness to my acceptance of the fact that Reasonable Man and I carry most of the burden for making school a happier place for Enthusio to learn and grow. Still, I'd rather have him for my son and have his issues to deal with than have some mean little asshole with dozens of friends as my child. If that sounds like a harsh thing to say about a second grader -- well, I can make a list for you of some of the things that have been said to my son this year and last, and you can think about whether you'd want to hear that your kid had said them. I'm doing everything I can to work on my child's issues -- shouldn't everyone else be doing the same?

Speaking Up

I wanted to post a link to this column by Mark Morford in the San Francisco Chronicle about "Brokeback Mountain" and the Samuel Alito Supreme Court confirmation hearings. I really liked what it had to say.

I am also adding a link on the right side of the screen to a blog I really enjoy, Yeah, But Houdini Didn't Have These Hips. I came across it several months ago, lost the link, and then started reading it again when its author, Sarahlynn, responded to a comment I made in her guestbook. Sarahlynn is a mom as well as liberal and a feminist who posts a lot of interesting stuff about current events pertaining to women's rights and lots of other pertinent issues, and she has inspired me to do more of the same in this space. God knows I've got opinions! It's easy to get caught up in my own dramas and it's fun to rant about movies and celebrity doings and whatnot, but it's also important to speak up about the issues that matter to me, and how lucky am I to be living in the age of blogs, where I have my own little forum to say whatever I want?

Monday, January 23, 2006

Tracie Reviews a bunch of movies that weren't as good as "Brokeback Mountain"

Before I left for the theater on Saturday, I was dreaming up a post about all the movies I've seen lately. In it, I was going to mention the three movies I've seen in the theater in the past month that most people have some familiarity with, giving a brief comment on each, and knowing that I was going to like "Brokeback Mountain" the best even though I hadn't seen it yet. Then I was going to go on and write about the movies I've watched on DVD lately, which are mostly those indie types that 99% of the population hasn't even heard of. This post was going to be called "Tracie Reviews Movies You've Never Heard Of," and I had the thing half-written in my head (along with about 50 other posts that never end up getting written).

Then I went to see "Brokeback Mountain" and was moved by it beyond all reason and I had to give it its very own post. I hate it when the actual experience of life disrupts my plans for a blog entry!

Anyway, I'm still going to write about all the other movies I've seen recently, because some of them were pretty good, even if they didn't deserve their very own gushing post like "Brokeback Mountain" did.

(Before I start, a quick refresher of my patented Film-Movie-Flick rating system. Films are great, Movies are okay to mediocre, and Flicks are just bad. "Brokeback Mountain" blew me away so much that I forgot to give it a grade -- hopefully it goes without saying that I give it the coveted and rare Film +.)

I've been to the theater two other times in the past month. The first was over Christmas vacation. Let me explain that, while Enthusio tells us he wants to see virtually every movie aimed at kids he sees advertised, Mermaid only gets it in her head that she wants to see a particular movie maybe once a year. Since it's so rare, I like to honor her requests, but unfortunately, the movie she picks is almost always something really awful-looking. This year was no different -- she really wanted to see the remake of "Yours, Mine and Ours," because there was a girl who plays the saxophone in it. Fine -- she and Enthusio and I trooped to the theater to see it one day. Even with extremely low expectations, it was hard to sit through. I groaned out loud at least three times. And of course it didn't help that Renee Russo scores really high on my Jennifer Love Hewitt Scale of Actresses Who Annoy the Crap Out of Me. She's always tossing her head back to laugh, which is bad enough, but in this movie, she was playing the "free spirit" parent, so she did it more often than usual. Also, what is with her mouth? I'd say she's had a lot of work done, but since when is having your mouth sink further and further back into your face something you would have done? Grade: Flick

The other movie I saw in the theater was "The Family Stone." I didn't have high hopes for this one either, having read bad reviews and heard from at least one friend it was pretty bad, so it was a pleasant surprise when it turned out to be interesting and watchable. It still wasn't good, but it was never boring, and I definitely wanted to see how it would come out. Generally, I think the actors did a good job fleshing out interesting, three-dimensional characters, but the script had all of them behaving in ways that they just wouldn't. The climactic scene had the whole family getting all distraught and offended at something that just wouldn't have caused that reaction, and the resolution of the story was ridiculous. Some really interesting performances, though. Grade: Movie

I've been watching lots of movies on DVD lately. One of the better ones, which Reasonable Man and I watched together, was "Spellbound," a documentary about seven or eight kids who participated in the national spelling bee in Washington D.C. a few years ago. We have some friends whose son went last year, so after seeing them and hearing about their experience (including the dad's observation that a lot of the kids participating were a little scary), we finally got around to renting this one. I really enjoyed it, though it was hard not to feel bad for some of the kids, both the ones who were eliminated early and the ones who seemed to have no life outside studying the dictionary in the months leading up to the bee. Overall, the kids were more normal than I expected, although some of the parents were awfully intense. Grade: Movie +

I picked up "A Slipping Down Life" for several reasons. One: it's based on a book by Anne Tyler, one of my favorite authors, two: it stars Lili Taylor, one of my favorite actresses, and three: it's exactly the kind of quirky little independent film I tend to enjoy. It's been a long time since I read the book, but I remember liking it, even though it was sad. It was written in the 60s, and the movie updates it to the present. Between that and the fact that, while I remember the characters as being quite young in the book, the actors who play them are in their thirties, I didn't think the movie really worked. Lili Taylor was wonderful as always, and Guy Pearce, playing the local musician/heartthrob, was also very good, but I didn't think the tone was ever quite right, and they switched the sad ending from the book for a happier, more Hollywood finish, and that didn't really work either. Overall, this was a disappointment. I say read the book instead. Grade: Movie -

Okay, I'm just going to say it: I love Topher Grace. I always thought he was the best thing about "That 70s Show," cuter and funnier that Ashton What's-His-Face, and I'm glad to see him doing movies. I was excited to watch "In Good Company" on DVD a few months ago, and while I ultimately didn't think it was all that good a movie, Topher Grace's performance? Oh my God -- put him in a bowl and give me a spoon. I mean it. So you can imagine how much I looked forward to watching "P.S.", in which Laura Linney plays a lonely, divorced college admissions director who believes an applicant, played by my crush, might be the reincarnation of her late high school boyfriend. As with "In Good Company," the movie wasn't very good, but Topher was adorable in it. He has an ability to play cocky and arrogant that we didn't see during all his years playing more of an Everyman on a sitcom. The plot of this movie unfortunately gets bogged down with all kinds of unnecessary subplots involving Linney's character's brother, ex-husband, and crazy best friend/adversary from high school, and ultimately the relationship between her character and Topher's gets short-changed. The movie ends with us having no idea what it means that this man has come into her life, or what may come of it. Disappointing. Grade: P.S.: Movie - Topher Grace: Film -

Finally, there's "Camp," about a group of kids who attend a theater camp one summer. I really enjoyed it, though, as with a lot of movies with ensemble casts, I felt that there wasn't enough of each character for us to get to know any of them. But it was adorable, and I loved the scenes where they were performing. The best scene was one where some of the students just got together, informally, and performed a song written by their washed-up playwright teacher -- I loved the song, "Century Plant," so much that I immediately downloaded it and put it on my iPod. The cast of unknowns was a lot of fun, and I loved how they all worshipped Stephen Sondheim (I was so glad it wasn't Andrew Lloyd Webber!). Grade: Movie +

Sunday, January 22, 2006

Brokeback Mountain

Yesterday, I went to see "Brokeback Mountain" with a friend. Reasonable Man and I have been wanting to see it, but hadn't made plans to do so, so when Jacki invited me the other day, I jumped at the chance. Truthfully, I could go to the movies a lot more than I do -- we could go to the movies a lot more than we do. The kids aren't little anymore and we know plenty of babysitters who are more than happy to stay with our kids and make some dough. I don't know why we don't make plans to do it more often. In any case, Reasonable Man and I will be going to see "Brokeback Mountain" soon -- sometime this week if we can swing it -- because I know he would like it and I'm dying to see it again.

It was absolutely wonderful. It was heartbreakingly sad, and I spent the last half hour tearing up again and again. I can't remember the last time I watched a movie that affected me so deeply.

I'm not embarrassed to say that there is nothing I enjoy more than a good passionate romantic story, whether I'm watching it, reading it, or writing it. On screen, the combination of good writing, well-drawn characters, and hot chemistry between the actors is sadly in short supply. I can think of only a handful of movies that I've seen that get it just right. Most of your typical romantic comedies don't really hit the mark for me, although I'm occasionally surprised ("Notting Hill" nailed it). In any case, I wasn't sure, going into the theater yesterday, whether a romance between two men could affect me the way some of my favorite romantic movies have. I was open-minded about it being a love story, but I didn't have any idea how amazing I would find it.

One review I read said the supporting cast deserved equal credit, and I did think both Randy Quaid and Michelle Williams were very good, but I don't think there was anything to compare to the performances two lead actors. They make the movie. The moment Heath Ledger speaks for the first time, you know his performance is transformative. Not that he doesn't make it look effortless -- it's just that he inhabits the character so completely -- it's not just a voice but a whole unique appearance and posture he uses to show us who Ennis is. Jake Gyllenhaal hasn't gotten nearly the same buzz, but I found his performance equally remarkable. He is the more open and talkative of the two characters by a lot, but he ages more effectively. In his final scene, the way he held his body alone convinced me that he was an unhappy, frustrated middle-aged man.

The script and direction are very good, but the chemistry between the two actors takes center stage. Those who know definitively that they're uncomfortable with the whole idea of a sexual affair between two men should stay away, but I recommend this movie wholeheartedly to anyone else. There is really just one sex scene, Ennis' and Jack's first encounter, and after that, it's mostly just a few kisses. We're definitely not talking gay porn here -- the vast majority of the scenes between the two characters only involve talking by a campfire. But it's done so effectively, and if you're open to the story, the longing between these two men, who really know true acceptance and intimacy only the few times a year they are together, and who know that to live together might get them killed, is devastating.

Am I gushing? Do I sound overwrought? Sorry. But seriously, it's that good. Go see it.

Friday, January 20, 2006

"Sick Day"

Once upon a time when I was in junior high, I asked my dad to write me a note to get me out of participating in P.E. that day, and he wrote the following: Dear (Whoever the hell was my gym teacher at the time): Please excuse Tracie from P.E. today. She is "ill." I conveyed to him that I found his use of quotation marks to describe my ailment inconvenient, probably in the shrill, eye-rolling manner that 13-year-old girls all over the world use to let their dad know they are the lamest creatures on the face of the earth. My dad rewrote the note without the "s, even though I obviously didn't deserve it and he clearly didn't believe there was anything wrong with me. Thanks for that, Daddy!

And so today, Enthusio is home "sick." He's had a little cough and a bit of a snuffly nose for the past few days, not that it's been enough to slow him down. This morning when I woke him up to get ready for school, he was eager to draw my attention to the dried bits of snot that had encrusted the outer parts of his nostrils, and the fact that he was kind of stuffed up. I have no doubt that if I'd sympathized and then told him to get dressed for school, he would have done so without any arguing. But instead, I asked him if he wanted to stay home, and he said he did. And so here he is. He's dressed and has watched a Harry Potter movie and now he's playing the Gameboy, so it's not like we're doing any particular bonding or anything like that. I know he's well enough that if I decide there are errands that need to be run, he's not to sick to go out and do them with me.

Still, I don't mind. Probably for the same reason my dad didn't care about rewriting that note for me -- because everyone can use an extra day off every once in a while. Think about it -- haven't you ever called in sick to work when you actually just couldn't stand the idea of letting that place feed on your soul on that particular day? I know I used to do that sometimes. Well, kids don't really have that option, do they? I guess what I'm saying is that a little bit of crusty mucous about the nostrils seemed like as good an excuse as any to give the kid a mental health day.

Besides -- it got me out of goingt to the gym. Score!

Monday, January 09, 2006

Television is a Dangerous Thing

Item # 1: Over New Year's weekend, I watched so many episodes of "Law & Order: Criminal Intent" that last week I had a romantic dream about Vincent D'Onofrio. Sure, his quirky performance as Detective Robert Goren is slammin', but I still think that this cannot be healthy.

Item #2: I've been getting way too worked up over commercials. When they show ads for that horrible looking movie "Hostel," I go all Moral Majority and start ranting about how they shouldn't be showing those things before 9 pm. And every time I see that Weight Watchers commercial with the Cher song playing in the background, I start composing a letter to WW in my head, demanding to know what they think they're doing, using a song sung by a woman who's had ribs removed to be thinner to advertise a healthy method of weight loss?

Item #3: I have a new reality TV addiction: "Project Runway." I've never watched any of the "profession" reality shows (Apprentice, American Idol, Top Model, etc.) but I watched 5 minutes of this show about bitchy wannabe designers and I was hooked. Anyone know how I can get a hold of season one?

Item #4: I've gotten myself sucked into another season of "Real World/Road Rule Challenge," and that's never a good thing.

Item #5: I keep ordering DVDs of "Little House on the Prairie" from Netflix. Season 6, where Almanzo Wilder came on the scene, if you want to know. I knew that season had lots of kissing, but who knew it also had the episode where Mary's husband Adam got pinned underneath a stagecoach, and Mary had to go wandering around blind in the wilderness, trying to get help? The drama!

Item #6: After 3 or 4 weeks or reruns, they are showing new episodes of "Starting Over" everyday again, starting this week. There's an hour of productivity every week day gone once again. Oh well....

New Year's Resolutions

2005 was the first year I have ever gone about thoughtfully setting resolutions that were important to me and then working hard throughout the year to keep them. First, I resolved to be more assertive. This one I feel was largely sucessful. On the one hand, there are still many times when I want to speak up and don't, but on the other hand, I can think of at least two times this year when I've spoken up about things that were really bothering me, in situations when I was really upset and intimidated, and that was major. What I learned was that being assertive will probably always be hard for me and not what I naturally tend toward, but that it's definitely worth it to make the effort. It will continue to be a goal for me.

My other resolution for this year was to stop living my friends' problems. This one was fairly successful too. I did get into the middle of a fairly major issue between two close friends this year, which would seem to violate the spirit of the resolution, but looking back, I did what I felt I had to do, I think the result was positive, and I preserved my friendship with both people. Other than that, I think I've been able to worry and stress less about the things going on in the lives of my friends this year, and that's a good thing. It doesn't mean that I care about them less than I used to, just that I am no longer carrying their problems around with me the way I used to.

For the coming year, I will continue with my goals from last year and add a few more. In 2006, I resolve to get healthier and more fit. In the past, to the extent I've made body-related resolutions, it's always been about shedding pounds, and that hasn't worked for me. Stepping on the scale has gotten confusing -- one the one hand, currently I am the heaviest I have ever been without being pregnant. On the other, I wear the same size I did when I weighed 20 pounds less than I do. That and the fact that I can do things I couldn't used to do, like going for an hour-long run without stopping, indicate to me that a) I've been doing something right in the exercise department for the last year or two, and b) the scale is no longer an accurate measure of my fitness. Yes, I would like to be considerably slimmer than I am now, but dieting to lose weight hasn't been successful for me the numerous times I've tried it in the past three years. Therefore, my goal for the year is to become healthier and more fit, and to hope that becoming slimmer will follow. I want to develop better eating habits rather than to diet, and I have signed up with a personal trainer to help me learn to make the most of my workouts. I am also resolving to run more. It's something I enjoy and know is good for me, but something I talk myself out of doing whenever conditions aren't absolutely perfect (it's too hot out, it's too cold out, I didn't get a solid night of sleep, I don't have time to do my usual 3+ miles, etc). I've already done pretty well with this this past week, and I'm going to keep working on it, because I think it can make a huge difference in my level of fitness if I do it enough.

My other resolution, that I hesitate to utter in a public place because I'm so intimidated by it, is to work on becoming a published novelist this year. Once my Nano novel is done, and it's close, I will be the author of 5 completed novels, including a series of three young adult novels. It's time to get to work on this.

Sunday, January 08, 2006

2005: All the other stuff besides books

I know, I've been a bad blogger. Like you all even care what all I read last year. I'm not especially motivated to post at the moment (or write at all, which would account for the fact that I still haven't finished my Nano novel from November -- argh), but I thought I would randomly recap the rest of my year -- you know, just for shits and giggles. Or whatever. To actually post something. So here goes...

Most Unexpected Development of the Year: I became one of those moms who is frequently seen marching around my kids' school in a self-important way, doing stuff. I always swore I would not become a PTA mom, and I maintain that I have yet to set foot in a PTA meeting since the inaugural one at the school when it first opened more than 4 years ago. Nevertheless, this year I am a co-chair of the Scholastic Book Fair, a committee chair for the Parents Night Out auction fundraiser (though that title is a bit misleading since my entire committee is made up of me), and I will have my own event at the end-of-the-year carnival. These things all came about as a result of my becoming friends with people who run things and my either being asked to do things or just being volunteered for them (thank you, Crazy Karin!). For the most part, I actually kind of enjoy it, so far (we'll see how I feel about running that event by myself though!). Anyway, like I said, unexpected.

Lowest Moment of the Year: I don't even having to think about this one. Throwing up and having to be taken back to my room in a wheelchair on the Bachelorette Cruise, by a landslide. This is a situation I did not expect to find myself in a month after my 35th birthday. It is something I hope to never repeat.

Best Moment of the Year: Lots of good stuff this year! Watching my BLB and the Bride get married, and being part of their wedding. Watching Mermaid sing in the school talent show, swim 60 laps in 60 minutes in a swim-a-thon this summer, and perform as the Witch of the East in "The Wizard of Oz," also this summer. Listening to her "get" playing the saxophone and get better and better. Watching Enthusio perform in "Winnie the Pooh" in the summer and "The Polar Express" in the winter, and seeing him make friends with the kids who moved in across the street. Frolicking in the ocean waves in Maui with Reasonable Man and the kids. Seeing Enthusio sitting with a book, reading to himself. Spending lots of time with friends, having dinner, shopping, playing Bunko, discussing books at book club, and just hanging out. Going running and feeling that peace of mind wash over me. Hitting 50K words before the end of November.

The Year in Parenting: As any regular reader of this space knows, with regard to my primary vocation as a stay-at-home mom, it's been kind of an up-and-down year. My daughter Mermaid is living a normal life as an 11-year-old girl in spite of her autism. She goes to school, plays the saxophone, swims on a swim team, does homework, rides her scooter around the neighborhood, has friends, goes to Girl Scout meetings and participates in life in a way I never would have imagined for her back when she was in preschool and things like toilet training and basic language skills were huge hurdles for us. I'm so thrilled to see the person she is becoming, especially knowing how far she's come.

Enthusio has had a rougher time of it. School has been a difficult and stressful place for him, in spite of his being very bright and doing well in academics. This year I had to face the fact that knowing what he was going through and loving him as much as I do weren't enough to fix the problems he was having with peers at school, and we got him a therapist. I feel good about the progress we're making, but it's so hard to see him struggling with feeling accepted and valued by kids his age. Still, I feel good about the person he is. I know if we keep working, we can find a way make things better for him. I'm as proud to be his mom as I am to be Mermaid's.

The Homefront, Literally: This year, we finally managed to plant a tree in front of the house that will eventually provide some shade and make summers more bearable in the west-facing side of the house. It only took us six years --way to go, us!

The Homefront, Less Literally: Other items accomplished around the house include having a gas line installed to the fireplace so we can have a gas-powered fire; new vinyl flooring in the upstairs bathrooms (that means the last of the pink-accented linoleum is gone!), and painting and redecorating the kids' bathroom. On a more depressing note, I've had the paint and most of the new decorative items for the master bathroom since the summer, but have yet to do anything with them. Boo!

Best Movie I Saw This Year: "The 40-Year-Old Virgin." "Sideways" was a very close second.

Best Family-Friendly Movie I Saw This Year: "March of the Penguins."

Favorite Celebrity Gossip/Event of the Year: You know it's Tom Cruise going batshit crazy. Isn't that everyone's favorite? Oh, how the mighty have fallen. I didn't see his stupid "War of the Worlds" movie either. Really, I just feel sorry for Katie and the crazy-spawn.

Second Favorite: Nick and Jessica split up. Only because I just want them to be over all ready.

Technology I Embraced in 2005: A jump drive to go on my keychain.

Technology I Rejected in 2005: A PDA. When I realized my little 2-year calendar wasn't going to cut it anymore, everyone told me to just get a Palm Pilot or something like that. You know, I wasn't even tempted. Well, maybe a little bit. But I said no! The list of pieces of technology on which I'm already stupidly dependent (DSL, laptop, wi-fi, satellite TV, DVR, mp3s, iPod, etc.) is long enough, and guess what? I'm a housewife. I'll get a Palm Pilot when I get a career. I searched high and low for one of those "bigger than a wallet/smaller than a Trapper Keeper" organizer-type things that you used to see everywhere, and guess what? They don't make quite as many of them as they used to. But I found one for ten bucks, and three months later, it's still working fine for me. It even has a handy little zipper pouch for loose items -- I've never seen one of those in a PDA!

I can't think of anything else right now, so I guess that's it....