Thursday, December 2, 2010

In search of the perfect toy

I don't know about you, but lately I've been reading a lot of Amazon toy reviews. I think these reviews are pretty helpful when it comes to choosing which toys you might want to purchase for your kids, but I also like reading them for entertainment. They say so much about human nature to me. One person's "ADORABLE FOR LITTLE HELPERS!!!!" five-star review is another person's "DISAPPOINTED" one-star review. Isn't this how it is with everything in life? There are always those people who will get excited to the point of bursting about a talking vacuum cleaner and then there are the people who say, "meh, I thought it would talk more. Why doesn't it say more things?"

And to the people who are surprised when a two-thousand piece play kitchen with laundry, ironing board, microwave and refrigerator is hard to put together, I want to say, really?

Every year I get suckered into believing the hype about a certain toy. All I have to read is, "my son played with this for hours," and into the virtual shopping cart it goes. Because really, let's be honest here, I'm not buying toys, I'm buying myself time.

So, I'm dying to know. Does anyone have any toy recommendations out there for a 7-year-old girl, a 5-year-old boy, and a 2-year-old boy? Preferably, the toy should take up no room, should not require batteries, be made in the U.S. out of sustainable materials and should keep them occupied for hours. That's not too much to ask, right?

I actually do know of a toy that fits this description. Would you like to read my review?


I wasn't sure how my son would react when he opened up the Charmin toilet paper tube I had been saving for him for Christmas. I'd seen him playing with a friend's toilet paper tube at playgroup, and noticed he was having a ball pretending it was a telescope, a microphone, and a even a periscope! Well, my worries were completely unfounded, because as soon as he opened up his gift, he squealed with glee! Now, I can make dinner, talk to my husband, even take a shower and all I have to do is make sure he has his toilet paper tube handy. He even sleeps with it snuggled up next to him at night. We are working on getting him another tube soon. He says he wants to make binoculars! This is a toy I can really feel good about giving--it's sustainable and made right here in the U.S. and not that awful China. If you're thinking of getting this for the child on your list, don't hesitate! You won't regret it!!!!

Happy shopping, everyone!

Monday, November 8, 2010

A funny thing happened on the way to the bus stop

Picture this: I'm walking to the bus stop with one kid in a stroller and two kids on scooters. Charlie, as usual, is completely oblivious and is barreling down the middle of the street on his Spiderman scooter, despite the fact that a car is right behind him. I'm yelling, "Charlie! Charlie!!!" like a crazy person while the crowd waiting at the bus stop stares at the lunatic running down the street screaming her head off.

At the bus stop, I give Charlie a stern talking to, you know the kind that is almost as much for the benefit of the other parents who are eavesdropping as it is for your child? Have you ever had one of those moments where you're scolding your kid in front of other parents and you can hear yourself sounding all weird and phony, like you're playing the part of a parent scolding a kid in a high school play? I actually asked Charlie to call me ma'am at some point during this little harangue at the bus stop, like we were filming an episode of the Andy Griffith Show all of the sudden.

So, Emma gets on the bus and we wave goodbye to her as though her battalion is shipping out for war. Do battalions ship out? Hmmm...will probably have to rethink that simile at some point. Anyway, we wave goodbye to Emma and then Teddy, Charlie and I turn around to scooter and stroller back home.

I'm talking to one of my neighbors while Charlie scooters a few yards ahead of me. "How was your trip to Illinois?" I ask. "Was it colder there than it is here?"

"Oh, Illinois is always about ten degrees colder than it is here," she says.

"I went to graduate school in Chicago," I say. "But I can't really remember how cold it was in relation to here."

"Oh, well, if you lived in Chicago, then you know how cold it is," she says. "You know, because of the--"


I look up and Charlie has just body-slammed a parked BMW. I was too deep into my is-Illinois-colder-than-here discussion and missed the fact that Charlie was scootering and looking at the ground instead of ahead of him (as he is wont to do) and smacked right into a parked car. And the most ridiculous part is that he was going UPHILL.

Is it bad that my first reaction was to laugh? Then my second reaction was to inspect the BMW. Then I asked Charlie "Are you kidding me?"

You'll be glad to know that Charlie emerged from the incident unscathed and is happily punching holes in paper next to me as I write this (don't ask me why he's doing this). However, Charlie will not be riding a scooter or anything else to the bus stop for a long time. And he will never be allowed to drive a car. Ever.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Mammalingo and NaNoWriMo

I'm taking a break from bleaching my house free of vomit germs to tell you some exciting news! Have you heard of the hilarious blog mammalingo? You know the one that was featured in the New York Times recently? Well, if you haven't heard of it, you're in for a treat! Mammalingo is a website that attempts to "define motherhood one random thought at a time." Take a dash of online dictionary, a pinch of parenting blog and a big handful of funny and you've got mammalingo.

Here are a few of my favorite mammalingo definitions:

TIPSY CUP n. [Fr. sippy cup and tipsy]: Mommy’s reward at the end of a very, very long day with naughty Baby.
(Submitted by Gail from Minneapolis.)
Gail is a mother of three whose little kids have grown – and are certainly no longer using sippy cups. Her email reminded me – yet again – that children grow up in the blink of an eye. I’ll try to remember that the next time my younger son gets into a jar of Vaseline. (Does anyone have any great Vaseline removal tips? And, wouldn’t it be funny if the answer was white wine?)

or one of my favorites, "nestinct:"

NESTINCT n. [Fr. nesting +instinct]: Instinct a pregnant woman may have to “nest” in the months, weeks and days before her due date by preparing the home for the arrival of a new baby. Projects may include cleaning out one’s closets, painting the nursery, mopping the floors, re-grouting the shower tiles and beginning construction on a new home. There are researchers who say that nesting is triggered by a surge in oxytocin – a hormone that helps promote infant-mother bonding as well as the need to lick your finger and wipe the schmutz off someone’s face. Of course, not all mothers-to-be experience nestinct. Some women, instead of spending their final stretches of pregnancy readying their homes for baby, prefer to sit on the couch, eat fried chicken and watch marathons of “Law & Order.”

Hahaha. Love that one! So, I attempted to add to the mammalingo lexicon and Melissa Sher, author and creator of mammalingo, posted my humble offering today. I won't ruin the surprise, you'll have to click on over to read for yourself. If you've got an idea for a word that should be part of mammalingo, feel free to email it to Melissa. Her info is on her blog.

In other news, I'm participating in National Novel Writing Month again this year. We're only three days in, but so far I'm keeping up with my daily word count goal of 1,667 words. This year feels a lot easier because I'm starting a new novel. Last year I was already about 100 pages into a novel and my goal was to write the last 200 pages for NaNoWriMo, a strict violation of the NaNoWriMo rules, which stipulate that you should not try to finish an already-started project in one month. Their reasoning is that once you've already started something, you'll take everything way too seriously and be too rigid with things. The point of NaNoWriMo is to cut loose and write crazy stuff really quickly. I did have a really hard time writing the 50,000 words last year, but I did finish that novel and now it's being read by a few potential agents. So, suck it, NaNoWriMo, rule makers!

But this year I am following the rules and letting myself write with abandon. The Swiss Miss is flowing and things are going well. Hopefully, I'll be feeling this good come day 20. Probably not. Especially not if this stomach bug keeps causing me to spend all my free time disinfecting things.

Well, Teddy is screaming his head off. He who was last to vomit gets top priority in this house, so I'm off to my nurse/orderly duties.

I just want to say one last thing before I go. If you've ever thought you had a story to tell or dreamed of writing a novel, then go for it. NaNoWriMo is a completely no-risk way to achieve your writing goals. Challenging myself in this way has completely changed my writing life and is helping me get my work done even in the midst of kids being sick, soccer practice, and making dinner. I'll go ahead and toss in one of my favorite Anne Lamott quotes here: “I used to not be able to work if there were dishes in the sink. Then I had a child and now I can work if there is a corpse in the sink."

Teddy has miraculously stopped crying. Maybe I have a few extra minutes to write after all.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Hints from Heloise, a parody

Have you ever read the "Hints from Heloise" column in the newspaper and thought to yourself, that is the most obvious thing I've ever heard in my entire life? Maybe it's just me.

Dear Heloise,

I thought your readers might be interested to know that sometimes after we've eaten some beans that come in a can, I wash the can out and then use it for other things like pencils or even pens. Be sure to take lid off and dispose of it first. That is important.

Dear Heloise,
When my family of four can't finish the dinner I've made for them, I wrap it up in some Saran Wrap and put it in the refrigerator. The refrigerator keeps it cold and the Saran Wrap keeps the food from drying out and tasting like the other food in the refrigerator. Then we eat it the next day at another meal time. We have a silly name for meals like this at our house: "leftovers."

Dear Heloise,
In case your readers are wondering what to do with yesterday's newspaper, I have a great tip! I like to take a newspaper that has already been read and crumple it up into a little ball. Once you set a match to it, this ball of newspaper becomes very flammable. It is a great way to start a fire! Fire is good for heating your skin or your home on a cold night. And it provides light! (Light helps you to see things in the dark.)

Dear Heloise,
I have a helpful hint for readers who are always finding they are without something important when they are out and about. I realized I was always needing glasses to read a menu in a dimly lit restaurant, but I would often forget them at home. When it came time to pay the bill, I was completely useless without the wallet I use for my dollar bills, coins and credit cards. Then there was the set of keys I needed to get into my house, my car and office. Well, I have forgotten these things for the last time and here's how: I now care a small leather bag with me everywhere I go. It is just the right size for carrying my glasses, my wallet, keys and maybe a few other essentials with me when I go out. It even has a thin leather strap so that I can hook it on my shoulder and be hands-free! No more getting locked out of my house or stranded in parking lots for me!

Dear Heloise,
A few months ago you printed a recipe for boiled water. Can you please share that with us again?

Mary Smith
Columbus, OH

Dear Mary,
Here is the recipe for boiled water you requested. This classic may be one of our most requested recipes!

Fill a metal pot with water. Water from the tap is best. Do not use toilet water.
Put the pot on the stove and turn the stove to HIGH.
Walk away and do something else. A watched pot never boils.
When you see bubbles and steam, you'll know your water is boiling.

Boiling water can be used for making Easter eggs, cleaning metal blinds, sterilizing baby bottles, making tea...the list is endless!

Haha...happy Friday!


Monday, October 4, 2010

Curious George, shin guards, and rainbows

The soundtrack from the movie version of Curious George is pumping in the boys' room right now. Charlie is in love with this CD and with Curious George in general these days. I never knew Jack Johnson could be so very LOUD. These mellow numbers are not meant to be heard at volumes that hurt your brain. Ahhhhhg....Jack Johnson, stop freaking screaming at me about friendship and recycling!
Life is moving at a breakneck speed lately. We are now a two-soccer-game-per-weekend family. How in the world did that happen. It's nuts. Charlie is a hilarious soccer player. He claims to be playing defense, but really what he does is stay about ten feet from the ball at all times and kind of hustle around while cheering for other people to kick the ball. I couldn't make the most recent game, but Brandon said Charlie totally ran out of gas about halfway through. At one point during the game he actually leaned on the coach and started moaning. If only someone had thought to play some Curious George, then he would've gotten pumped!

Speaking of soccer...what's up with the oranges? I had no idea this was such a thing.

This past Saturday, we had two soccer games and two birthday parties, one of which we were hosting. Sometimes I have to remind myself that this is really my life, and not a commercial for a minivan.

So without further ado....

Rainbow birthday party pictures!

First we painted watercolor rainbows. Mellow songs from my rainbow mix CD played quietly in the background. This was a nice, calm way to start the party. Ahhhh...don't you just love little girls and how they will serenely paint rainbows on command?

We had a lego table for the boys just in case they didn't want to paint watercolor rainbows. And they didn't.

Decorations: We TPed our own tree in rainbow colors. Awesome! We also had balloons in rainbow colors. Joy!

We had a "rainbow walk." This was sort of like a cake walk. Kids walked in a circle to music. Whoever was on a special rainbow square when the music stopped could pick a few silly bands from a basket. DJ Teddy made this a little bit challenging, but still fun. The silly bands were a hit!

Rainbow silly bands!!

Rainbow scavenger hunt: We pretended like a leprechaun had left clues to finding the pot of gold he hid in our yard. Each clue led the kids to find a color of the rainbow. The first clue was "What rolls on the ground and holds something that cries? In it you'll find a red surprise." Then we hid a red ball in our stroller, along with the clue for the next object: an orange pumpkin hidden in our swing. The clue for that one was, "what flies through the air, but doesn't have wings? In it you'll find a little orange thing." Leprechaun poets we are not, but we had fun with it. Once they found all the colors of the rainbow, the leprechaun left them a clue to find the pot of gold. Each child got their own little bag of chocolate coins. Hooray! This was a big hit!

Then we ate pizza and hung out in the backyard for a little bit. After that we went inside to decorate the cake using tons of candy every color of the rainbow! Woo!

Teddy calls this cake "happy cake." I agree. Didn't the kids do a great job decorating? I may never decorate another cake again. They LOVED decorating it and they saved me lots of work!

Our party favor was the aforementioned CD of rainbow songs, a rainbow lollipop and the gold coins that the leprechaun left in our yard. I also let the kids help themselves to our gumball machine at various times throughout the party. Just call me Willy Wonka!

We had lots of fun. It was a very simple party, but a lot of love went into it. Those are the best parties in my opinion!

Tuesday, September 7, 2010


Weeks ago I went on a rare solo shopping trip for fall clothes for the kids. I sold a lot of their outgrown stuff at a consignment store and was able to get tons of "new" stuff for them for about $60. I had saved so much that I thought it was kind of my duty to go shopping at Nordstrom's and buy some more stuff. Are you with me?

I found the sweetest little Tea dress that Emma and I had seen a few weeks earlier in the Tea catalog. At the time, we had both agreed that it would be a good pick for school. I found another dress that looked perfect for Emma. It was teal corduroy with little patchwork flowers on the front and adorable pockets with pleats and buttons. This was a dress designed for the first day of school. I couldn't wait to see her wear it. When I brought the new stuff home, she was really excited. She wanted to wear the corduroy dress right away, but I told her she had to wait until the first day of school. Oh, I could barely wait myself!

Finally, the first day of school eve arrived and we were getting around to the business of laying out clothes. Emma wanted to wear the green shirt that she had been wearing all summer long. I liked that shirt when we bought it, but like most things from Target, it was beginning to lose its charm after about the 100th washing. It needed to be put out of its misery. It didn't need to be paraded out on the first day of school like some kind of showpiece. Am I making too big a deal out of this. Probably!

So, then I turned into kind of a crazy person. I freaked out a little on poor Emma. She proudly showed me her outfit. And I, taking a page from the Kate Gosslyn school of mothering, was like, "You are not wearing that shirt. You are wearing the corduroy dress or the Tea dress or the plaid dress with the ruffle on the front. Those are first day of school dresses. EVERYONE WEARS A DRESS ON THE FIRST DAY OF SCHOOL!" I shouted in a really insane way.

We went round and round, fighting over what was "fashion" and what wasn't. As we were arguing, I kept having sudden bursts of clarity and thinking: am I really arguing with my daughter about what she wants to wear? Who was I turning into? There was part of me that could see how ridiculous it was that I cared so much, and then there was part of me that was so upset that she was being so stubborn. She loved the dress when I had brought it home. It was like she just wanted to make me crazy by not wearing it. Or maybe she was just in the mood to wear something comfy and familiar on her first day at a new school?

Then she decided a good compromise would be to wear a new white t-shirt (the one I had bought to wear under the corduroy dress) with her jeans and sketchers. Apparently she wanted to look like Pony Boy from The Outsiders on her first day of school.

Thankfully, Brandon intervened, and over a nice toothbrushing, convinced Emma that most girls do wear dresses on the first day of school and that it might be nice to humor her crazy mother just this once. She came back to her room, where I was painstakingly lacing her Sketchers, and told me that she had changed her mind. She wanted to wear the corduroy dress.

So, score one for Mommy. It was a hollow victory, though. She seemed really happy to be wearing the dress today, but how much of a toll did it take on her spunky, stubborn little spirit and on my relationship with her? She's wearing the green Target shirt and jeans tomorrow. She will look fabulous. She will look like herself.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Party Down

Hi there. Sorry I've been such a bad blogger lately. We are moving soon and my life has been consumed by the details of getting out of this house and getting into a new one. Plus, all the parties. Parties for the end of t-ball, parties for the end of kindergarten, birthday parties, end-of-preschool parties, Mother's day, Father's day... I'm about to puke from all the celebrating. Could we just not have a party and say we did?

I'm being a bit of a party pooper, I know. I will admit that I had a lot of fun planning Charlie's campfire birthday party. We rented a campfire ring at our local nature center and roasted marshmallows and hot dogs (not in that order) and threw rocks in the nearby creek. If your five-year-old boy ever complains of boredom, just take him to a creek and instruct him to throw rocks at it. You will be amazed at the amount of time your son can do something that doesn't involve a cape, or wheels, or a guy named Mario.

And my time for blogging may just be up because Teddy does not stand for people being on the computer these days. Or people playing with toys or people eating in big-kid chairs while he is stuck in a booster seat or people drinking out of regular cups while he is drinking from a sippy cup. He thinks he is so big-time. In the pro-Teddy category I have to include the fact that he is basically potty-training himself. (!!!!) I noticed he was dry when I was changing him after long periods of not changing him, so I started putting him on the potty and voila, pee pee! Now, I just put him on the potty every so often and he pretty much always goes. He even wears underwear around the house. Seeing as I thought Charlie would go to college with pull-ups, I'm pretty much in awe of Teddy's potty giftedness. I chalk it up to the cloth diapers. Even if you don't believe in global warming, I still recommend you use cloth diapers (and check out the movie An Inconvenient Truth). They have proven to be very economical, pretty easy, and a means to facilitate early potty training.

I just had to take a Teddy potty break...He went #2!!! Could I be any prouder of my boy? No, I could not!!!! I realize I sound like one of those annoying braggy mom bloggers right now. Sorry, can't help it. And I realize I just wrote #2 in a post. I am just shameless today.

Back to parties....I'm curious about something....what do people think about the whole "no gifts" trend at kids' b-day parties. I'm an old-school birthday party thrower. I think there should be gifts and sweets and candles blown out while guests sing happy birthday. I even think it's okay for the b-day boy or girl to open the gifts in front of people. Am I totally behind the times? I recently went to a party that I could've sworn was a no-gifts party and didn't bring a gift. Then sat in horror as gifts were opened and one of the kids asked, "what did you bring?" Oops!

In my opinion, requesting "no gifts" is totally confusing and not helping anyone. I know people think they're being kind when they say "no gifts," but really all they're doing is playing this b-day party mind game. Does "no gifts" really mean no gifts? Or does it mean contribute to a charity in the name of the birthday boy? Does it mean bring a card with sticker sheets in lieu of gifts? Does it mean bring a big, showy gift to show you are really just too generous and lousy with free time and money to go to a party without a nerf blaster in hand?

I tend to agree with Miss Manners who says that no mention of gifts should be made on an invitation, period. It's tacky to presume that someone would bring a gift in the first place, so to instruct them not to bring a gift is arguably equally tacky. Plus, it's actually fun to pick out a gift for someone you care about. Why deny our children this pleasure? It's also instructive for the child being celebrated to learn how to open and appreciate gifts graciously. Plus, getting gifts on your birthday is pretty much the whole point of having a birthday. I still wake up on my birthday full of anticipation and excitement. And that's not because I love turning another year older; it's because of the gifts!

Teddy is not at all pleased at how long I've been on the computer. Gotta run!

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Resistance Training

Brandon has just left to go running. Outside it's the greenish purple of evening in the late spring. Everything is so lush right now. When you go running on the trail behind our house, you smell honeysuckle and see cardinals and lizards flying and darting around. The kids are in their beds. All three are still awake, having their conversations. It's precious to listen to them. Or, it would be precious if, say, I were a stranger just hearing them for the first time. I'm not a stranger, though. I'm the opposite of a stranger to them. I am the person they know so well and are so close to, that they can barely untangle their own identities from mine. And I'm pretty much the same way with them. So, I don't find them so precious at the moment. They sound like birds tweeting or the white noise of crickets that you don't really notice until someone says, "listen to those crickets."

I am tired from doing resistance training all day. I'm not referring to some new workout regime. Well, it is sort of a workout. I'm talking about toddler resistance training. The muscles in my arms are aching from keeping Teddy out of harm's way--from falling down the stairs, falling out of the computer chair and onto the sharp-edge of the desk drawer that holds the keyboard. I have imagined him hitting his head just so and piercing his eye with the edge of the drawer. It's my weird way of steeling myself for the worst-case scenario. I think it helps me to feel better about the rest of my day.

Teddy is almost 19 months-old now, and he is in full-blown toddler mode. It's like he watched some documentary about how to be a toddler and is now practicing his new skills. I don't think I have sat down all day. If he is awake, he is testing the limits of everything. If I try to send an email, he is hitting the shift key over and over again, so that my computer has to be rebooted in order to work properly. At lunch he hurls his food over the banister into the sunken living room, where it lands on the white couch. At the library he pulls the books off the shelf, runs with abandon through the fiction section. He is happiest at the playground. But any second he could step off the ten-foot drop-off next to the slide. Why do they put these drop-offs on playgrounds??? Can we just have one place where we mothers of toddlers can rest for a second? I follow him around the play scape, hitting my head on the entryway to the slide.

I know this part of childhood is relatively short-lived. In just six months from now, he'll be less of a handful. In a year, he'll be scaling the climbing structures at the playground while I stifle a yawn, seated at a nearby bench. I'm in the thick of this toddler thing and I know that this too shall pass. But it's still exhausting.

I'm looking forward to the kids finally getting quiet upstairs, to Brandon coming home from his run in the almost-dark. I want to sit and read a book in peace for as long as I can. Until I can't possibly hold my eyes open another second.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Holding Boys Back from Kindergarten

I've been listening to the book Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell this week. We have it on CD. I don't normally "read" books this way, but I have been amazed at how much I've enjoyed listening to it. I'm not sure I would feel that way about every book, but I plan to listen to more books this way in the future. I just started it on Tuesday and I finished it today. All that "reading" took place while I was making blueberry muffins and folding laundry and driving around in my minivan. Pretty efficient.

I highly recommend this book. It will really make you think about the ways in which our background and culture inform who we are. The book looks at success and tries to figure out if there is some kind of pattern that success follows. Guess what, there is! There's not necessarily a recipe for success that you can follow, but there are certain circumstances that breed success.

One section of the book is about hockey players in Canada. It turns out that, almost without exception, the best hockey players in Canada are all born in the first half of the year. That seems pretty weird, until you realize that January 1st is the arbitrary cutoff birthday for signing up for hockey. Gladwell explains that the players who were born closest to the cutoff date of January 1, are the best players because they are the oldest players on the team. Because they are the best players, they get picked for special travel teams, practice and play more, and get the best coaches. By the time they have gone through many years in the hockey system, they have been groomed to be best players, and therefore are the best players.

Gladwell then explains that this is the case in most school systems as well. In kindergarten, the oldest kids generally do the best and are put in the advanced reading and math groups where they get special attention and praise for their work. They continue to be tracked in these advanced groups and over the years, the gap between them and their peers grows larger, rather than smaller. They are being groomed to be the best and they live up to that expectation.

Of course, you have to take all this with a grain of salt because this theory of Gladwell's cannot be applied in every case. I'm sure there are plenty of cases of younger kids in a classroom being in the advanced groups. But, I think it is safe to assume that if your child is the oldest in their class, then you are definitely stacking the odds in their favor. Can't hurt, right?

Another book that informed our decision to hold Charlie (our boy who will be five in June) back from kindergarten next year was It's a Boy by Michael Thompson. We have been really questioning whether or not to hold Charlie back. He's ready for kindergarten in so many ways, but he's admittedly not the most mature child on the block either. He doesn't always follow instructions. He struggles to do things like put his socks on (or acts like it's a struggle so you will come help him). He's emotional in good and bad ways and I could see him getting frustrated to the point of tears if something in school didn't come easily to him.

With Emma in kindergarten already, I have a pretty good idea what goes on academically. I have no doubt that Charlie could rise to the occasion and be just fine academically. He wouldn't be one of the top students most likely, but he would be somewhere in the middle. Charlie is very smart, don't get me wrong. But so far he's not exceptional in the things that count in kindergarten (reading, writing and sitting still). If you need a robot built out of stuff found in the recycling bin, then Charlie's your guy.

So, I turned to the It's a Boy book to find out if Michael Thompson had some helpful info on boys and kindergarten. Turns out he did! He's pretty opinionated about this subject, in fact:
"The age at which a boy starts kindergarten, his developmental readiness and the experiences he has there will affect him for the rest of his school career, and perhaps for the rest of his life. In the first three years of formal schooling--kindergarten through second grade--he forms a view of himself as a successful boy or a failure. Research confirms what most parents and educators see every day: that how well a boy performs in these earliest years of school affects his self-image and later performance."

Wow. So, I wasn't crazy for giving this so much thought. The age at which a boy starts kindergarten will affect him for the rest of his life?? This is serious business. To me, Thompson is effectively saying the same thing as Gladwell. Whether it's hockey or school, those who have the advantage at the very beginning will continue to have an advantage their entire career. And according to Gladwell, the advantage doesn't stay the same, it grows over time.

Thompson also goes on to say that kindergarten, in it's current academics-focused form, plays more to a typical girl's strengths than a boy's. (Notice I'm saying "typical" here.) In his book, Thompson quotes Jane Katch, a teacher and author of books about kindergarten. Katch says that kindergarten
"doesn't work for boys. What happens is that they come into school thinking they are okay and they immediately discover that the things that are valued by the teacher are the things they are worst at: fine motor coordination, word/sound discrimination skills, hearing the beginning, middle, and end of words. They can't come up with them or recognize them. They will in six months, but they can't now. They aren't as good at coming up quickly with answers to questions, so they don't raise their hands. It is much harder for them to sit still, so they're told they're restless...And we've cut out everything they are good at. Boys at this age have terrific skills at making big things happen together, as a group--cooperating, communicating, being a constructive group together to make exciting things work."

Later, Thompson says this about the difference between girls and boys in kindergarten:
"Because reading, sitting still, and taking school seriously are so strongly developmental, the boys on the younger end of the development arc are most at risk for difficulty or failure in an academic kindergarten, although all children are shortchanged by a curriculum that pressures them to move forward too quickly."
So, there you have it. Our case for holding Charlie back. This has been a decision I have agonized over. It's hard to buck the system and do something a little different from what other people are doing. I think it will turn out great for Charlie, though. It certainly can't hurt him.

For the next post, I'm hoping to divulge our plan for next year! I'm very excited about Charlie's "gap year." What a gift to have an extra year with my sweet boy! :)

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Rocket Birthday Party

With a kids ages 6, 4, and 17 months, birthday parties are quite the hot topic at our house. I thought it would be fun to post about birthday parties we've either had or have thought about having or would like to have in the future. Please feel free to share your own party ideas. I'm almost as birthday-party obsessed as my kids are and I would love to hear your ideas!
For Charlie's 4th birthday, we had a rocket/space-themed birthday party. It was a blast! (ha ha)
Here's what we did:

Decorations: I displayed space books around the kids' playroom (where most of the party took place). Books are a fun (and cheap) way to decorate and they double as a quiet party activity. I also had little astronaut figurines and any other toys having to do with space out on the playroom shelves for kids to play with at their leisure. The big centerpiece of the party was the cardboard rocket playhouse my parents gave Charlie as a birthday present. We let the kids color it with crayons and play inside it during the party.

  • Activities: For parties, I always set up different centers for the kids to pick from when they arrive. I know I can feel uncomfortable when I go to parties...and I'm a grown up. I figure kids feel this way sometimes too, so it's nice to give them a choice of activities to get them feeling comfortable and in the party mood. Plus, when you're talking about young children, you can never make them all do the same activity at the same time. It's too hard. Giving them options is the way to go. For this party we had a playdough table, a craft table, books and space toys scattered around the playroom and the playhouse rocket. I was also brave and put the computer on a kids' space website for tech savvy kids to explore. Our computer is in the middle of the kids' playroom, so it was easy to monitor their use of the computer while the party was going on. I made sure to expand the screen on the computer so that no other toolbars/windows would be accessible to a preschoolers' wandering mouse. To do this, just go to your browser's toolbar and click "view" and then click "full screen."

Playdough table!


We made planets by coloring round coffee filters with water-soluble markers and then spraying them with water. After our planets dried, we glued them to black paper and added star stickers. Too bad this picture is so bad, because this craft turned out really cool. Using blue and green markers makes the planets look like Earth, using red and orange can make them look like Jupiter? Mars? Who knows...the point is, they look planety and that's what you're going for.


Rocket sandwiches with baby carrot rocket boosters, stars and planets cheese and crackers.


Your basic chocolate cake decorated to look like space. Adding plastic space guys and a space shuttle hopefully distracted from my less than professional cake decorating skills.

Grand Finale: We walked to a field near our house (one without lots of power lines or low-flying planes) and blasted off a real rocket! I had no idea these rockets even existed until one day when I was at Michaels getting supplies for the party and saw an aisle there labeled "Rockets." I was giddy with excitement to go down that aisle, let me tell you. These rockets are serious business and not for people like me who are afraid to open up a can of biscuits. Thankfully my husband was not scared to light the tiny little sticks of dynamite that are required to launch one of these babies.

Here's a video of our rocket launch:

Party Favors: Astronaut ice cream, of course! And I made a mix CD of songs about space using iTunes' "genius" feature. Just go on the iTunes website and it's pretty self-explanatory how you can find music that is about certain themes. I had fun picking the music for our "Space Jams" CD and it was great background music for our party as well. Here are a list of the songs on our CD if you're interested:

  1. Rocketship Run by The Laurie Berkner Band

  2. Nine Planets by Justin Roberts

  3. Backyard Spaceship by Justin Roberts

  4. Rocketship by Justin Roberts

  5. Great Big Sun by Justin Roberts

  6. Blast Off by Mikey's Band

  7. The Solar System by Joel Media & Crew

  8. Blast Off! by Rocknocerous

  9. Pluto by Rocknocerous

  10. Fly Me to the Moon by The Laurie Berkner Band

  11. You Are My Sunshine by Elizabeth Mitchell

  12. Twinkle Twinkle Little Star by Elizabeth Mitchell

  13. Down to Earth by Peter Gabriel

  14. Outer Space by Relax Kids

Did I mention that this is when my secret music crush on Justin Roberts began? Sigh...

Here's a picture of the actual Space Jams CD. I took a picture of some of Charlie's space toys and made a cool personalized label. Can you tell I live for this stuff?

Here's a video taken during the party when one of the space jams was really pumping. This will give you an idea of the space party milieu, if you will. That's me with the baby and the wet hair.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Query Letters

So, I finally finished editing my manuscript and it's in the in-boxes of my fabulous writing group ladies. By the way, if you are a writer and you don't have a writing group, let me urge you to run out and get one as soon as possible. I don't know what I would do without mine. They are such a source of strength, encouragement and laughs.

So, now the time has finally come to start researching literary agents. Yippee! I started by looking at the Agent Query web site, typed in "women's fiction" in the search bar and then that gave me a whole database of agents who are accepting submissions for women's fiction. Woo hoo! I think I have spent about two hours looking at this stuff and so far I've made it through three agents' web sites. One agent had a really helpful blog with "must read" posts about writing query letters, submitting, etc. I found it really helpful. Here it is if you're interested.

So, the first thing I need to do is write a query letter. All agents pretty much require that you send them that first. And then they ask to see your manuscript if they like your query. Here is the definition of a query letter from the afforementioned Book Ends Literary Agency's blog:

Query: A one-page letter sent to agents or editors in an attempt to attain representation. A query letter should include all of the author’s contact information—name, address, phone, email, and Web site—as well as the title of the book, genre, author bio if applicable, and a short, enticing blurb of the book. A query letter is your introduction and sometimes only contact with an agent and should not be taken lightly.

Basically, a query is your one-page pitch that will entice a literary agent to want to see more of your manuscript. It should read like the blurb on the back of a paperback book.

SO, this week I'm going to write a query letter. And make a list of agents that I want to send said query letter to. There is even this cool little query letter tracking device that you can use to track all of queries! Can't wait to start filling this baby in!

Anybody out there have any tips on finding an agent? I'd love to hear them! Right now it feels a little needle-in-a-haystacky trying to find the right person to send to.

I'd love to spend all morning on the internet reading up on literary agents, but, alas, we are out of milk. Gotta run!

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Fairy Houses

Trying to write with kids in the room is like trying to french braid hair in the middle of a hurricane. You need these precise words and images to do what you want them to do. You almost lay your hands on them and fit them into a sentence. The image or line of dialogue you want is just within reach. You are about to pluck it out of thin air, when you hear "Mooooommmmyyyyyy?????" Everything you had in your hands is blown away and scattered, not to be retrieved until after bedtime, if you're lucky.

Don't you love a good french braiding simile?

I feel like I'm in a daze half of the time these days. That's nothing new, you're thinking. You're always writing about feeling that way. You may have a point, but I think I accidentally called the director of Charlie's preschool my main character's first name the other day by mistake. I feel foggy and removed from real life a lot. These are either by-products of the writing life or it's the prescription adult acne medication I'm taking.

I'm so tired.

The times I have to write are the times when normal people would be watching TV or taking showers. I feel like I'm trying to fit this thing into my life that just won't fit. It's frustrating, like trying to stuff Charlie's extra-wide feet into a pair of Chuck Taylors. Brandon knows what I'm talking about.

There's this new fad going on in the hipster mom world. Have you heard of it? No, it's not bento boxes, but those seem like lots of fun too. It's fairy houses. All the cool moms are encouraging their kids to get outside and make little houses for fairies out of sticks, leaves, rocks, pine cones, etc. You can get as elaborate as you want to. You can turn your fairy houses into some kind of Ikea showroom floor for fairies by making furniture, wall decor, little acorn sconces, peacock feather throws...the sky's the limit.

I love the idea of these fairy houses. I will have to get out there and start making some with the kids now that the weather is nice. I like the conceit of creating this miniature world for people that presumably don't really exist. (Sorry, I may be a weirdo in other ways, but I'm not a believer in fairies.) Unlike playing transformers or slogging through a game of Chutes and Ladders, this is the kind of play I can get into.

On good days, writing feels like how I imagine building fairy houses feels. It's just that instead of bark and feathers, I'm using words to build homes for my fairies to live in and get messy.

I used to feel like a fraud when I told people I was a writer. Similarly, I would've felt like a fraud if I went around telling people I was an ice skater. I would write the way I'd ice skate: shakily and infrequently, but with moments of glee. Now, I don't feel like a fraud telling people that I write. I do write. I fit it in even though it is almost impossible with three small children. I do it almost daily. A lot of times I do it badly, but I still do it.

I'm looking forward to the time when I can write without the distraction of children. Does that sound terrible to say? I'm not wishing their childhood away or anything. Teddy does this thing right now where he walks backwards when he gets really excited. He looks like a tiny Michael Jackson in Robeez. I don't want to lose all of that. But maybe a nice long writing retreat...a whole weekend to write without someone hurtling grapes at me or asking me to make them a sandwich. That sounds pretty great.

Sorry to those of you who thought this post was going to be a how-to on fairy houses or that it was going to have something to do with bento boxes. Maybe next time.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Shhh honey, Mommy's blogging about that funny thing you said yesterday.

This article is exactly what bugs me about mom blogs these days and why I rarely go cruising the internet looking for mom blogs to read. I've always had an "if-you-build-it-they-will-come" philosophy about my blog. I don't have a tracker that counts how many people visit my blog. I have no idea who's reading this thing. I keep meaning to get one, but then there are other pressing things to do, like, oh, I don't know hang out with my kids.

I feel like if the writing is decent and strikes a nerve, people will read this. All this crazy marketing of oneself makes me very uncomfortable. I have been trying to give Twitter the old college try. It is a good way to connect with other writers, especially other moms who are writing. I really like that about it. But I hate the narcissism that it breeds. Every time I get a new follower (and it is not often), I actually am fooled into believing that it means something, that my stock has just gone up a tiny bit.

This kind of thinking is dangerous. I recently got a new follower and they even put my Twitter "handle," "mommytown" in the line of one of their tweets. They said something like, "mommytown, you'll love this." I was blushing from head to toe. I had a secret admirer! And they were basically shouting their devotion to me from the rooftops! Alas, they were just trying to sell me on their ad agency specializing in social media. Of course. That old trick.

How many minutes of my life did I waste on that stupid tweet? What did that emotional roller coaster ride do to my psyche? What fun kid activity and how many loads of laundry could I have done with that precious time? I'm all for moms doing creative work and getting paid for it, but when that work involves turning the hilarious shenanigans of your kids into a brand that you try to sell to the highest bidder, then that sort of makes me want to puke a little. Go sell it somewhere else, sister, because this mommy isn't buying it.

Harsh? Read the article and see what you think. First five commenters get a brand new Fleurville diaper bag and will be entered for a chance to win a trip to Disney!!!!!!*

*; )

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Revising looks a lot like writing

I am starting to revise the novel now. I am acting like I know how to do this, but I'm pretty clueless. First I read the whole thing and took notes on stuff that jumped out at me that needed to be changed. Then, I organized/cleaned out my closet. Because you can't possibly revise a novel when you have a messy closet (duh). Then I bought a cute notebook to put my novel in. It matches my desk chair and everything. And finally, I bought a big box of my drug of choice while writing/editing: Swiss Miss (marshmallow lovers).

So, I have a list of things I need to fix, but I don't feel like I can just go back to those sections and fix things and be done. For some reason, I feel like I have to literally rewrite the whole book. So, that's what I'm doing. I'm retyping the whole thing and adding and deleting stuff as I go. I feel like I know my characters so much better now, so it's easier to add things about them that never would've occurred to me to add in the first draft.

When I was writing the first draft, it felt like I was sculpting something, like I was forming a story out of a big blob of nothing. Now, this time around, I feel like I am painting a picture from a sketch. Like, the general outline is there, but now I have to fill in with shadows and color and give it dimension so that it feels like these people are living and breathing and their story is real. I don't know any other way to approach it other than just taking it one word at a time. So, that's what I'm doing.

To help me finish this revision as quickly as possible, I'm participating in National Novel Editing Month. Jealous? It's not nearly as hype as National Novel Writing Month. It's hard to get that excited about editing. But, for me, it's pretty exciting to think that if I do the 50 hours of editing that I've pledged to do this month, I will hopefully be done editing my book and ready to send it out into the world finally. So far this month I've logged four hours of editing time. Only 46 more hours to go! Hopefully, by the end of this month, I'll have more than just a full-blown Swiss Miss addiction. Ugh, I hope so. I'm ready to send this story out and have other people read it for a change.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Whole Mama

I have to confess...I don't read a lot of mom blogs. I used to, but then they made me a little crazy and I had to stop. Do they make you crazy too? Is it just me? It's true that I am teetering on the edge of an abyss of self-doubt and insecurity for most of my waking hours. All I need is that little nudge of someone honking at me in traffic or reading an especially perky mom blog post and I'm free-falling into a state of paralyzing mom guilt and low mom-esteem. So, I've taken to not reading the mom blogs so much anymore. I keep thinking that it would be fun to do a parody of a mom blog that captures the essence of what drives me crazy about this genre.

So here goes...I'm about to bust out a parody. Hold on tight.

We'll call my fake mom blog: "Whole Mama"

Today was an especially chaotic day. First little Thelonius decided today was the day that he simply had to go potty on his own for the first time. I know it seems kind of early seeing as he's only three months old and everything, but we've been practicing Elimination Communication since the week of his all natural, unattended home birth in the river behind our farmhouse and I think he is really starting to get the hang of things. He had been lying on his back staring at some French flash cards that I had knitted for him out of some old organic hemp I had laying around. Then Thelonius started to kind of stretch his legs out and scrunch up his face, which is one of his cues that tells me he needs to eliminate. I made the sign for potty for him and he made it back to me and then he made the sign for "thank you." I don't know about you, but I was pretty impressed with my little man. Such manners! I removed his cloth diaper and positioned him on the potty. He made the sign for "sit up" and then proceeded to take care of business sitting up all by himself!!!! WOW!!!!!!

Then Zooey comes in and wants to know why I'm clapping and cheering so much. "Thelonius just went potty all by himself!" I cried. Sweet Zooey went straight to her art studio and started to sketch a picture of Thelonius on his potty. Some people say three-year-olds can be a pain, but I don't know, I'm pretty head-over-heels for my little Zooey. I'm teaching her to knit and we're planning on opening our own etsy store soon. More on that to come in future posts!!! Zooey has the cutest design sense. She was making a new sweater for her Waldorf doll "Antoinette," her only toy apart from a basket of pine cones we bring out for playdates. Antoinette is like a member of our family! Zooey has sewn her so many dresses and knit her so many sweaters, she is going to need her own closet soon! Anyway, Zooey was knitting her sweater and she was trying to decide if the sweater should have cables or not. I try not to be too over-bearing and so I asked Zooey what she thought Antoinette would like best. After giving it a lot of thought, Zooey decided that Antoinette wasn't really a cable-knit sweater kind of girl. She decided to knit the alphabet in rainbow colors instead! What a fashionista!!

Meanwhile, I was wondering what Laertes was up to. I hadn't heard much from the backyard where he had been playing this whole time. It was a little too quiet out there if you know what I mean. I decided to put Thelonius in the sling and go see what was going on out there. You'll never believe what I found! I nearly freaked out!!! Laertes had gotten into Whole Papa's tools and was working away on a pretty amazing project. I asked him what he was building in my most non-judgmental voice, despite the fact that his little five-year-old hands contained a jigsaw and a nail gun. Do you know what my sweet Laertes told me? "I'm building you a yurt, Mama. For your yoga." Is that not the sweetest thing you ever heard in your life? I told him that Mama was very proud of her handy man, very proud indeed. I'm going to love that yurt. Not just because I'm a whiz at yoga either, but because every time I go in there to meditate, I'll think, this is the yurt that Laertes built. I get misty-eyed just thinking about it. I'm going to have to nurse my little builder extra long tonight as a special treat!

So, wow, that has been my day so far and it's only nap time. Whew! I have a lot of work to do while the kids are resting, so I'd better not waste any more time on the computer. I've got to go feed the chickens and our maple trees aren't going to tap themselves now are they? As I've been typing this I've been kneading the bread for tonight's dinner with my elbows, so at least that's one thing I can check off of my ever-growing to-do list! Geez!

In my next post I hope to share my latest locavore recipes broken down by city, state and continent... I've almost finished the northern hemisphere! We''ll see if I can get that done and hang the clothes out to dry this afternoon! A mama's work is never done!

Thursday, February 11, 2010

The Perfect Storm

Today was the first time I had left the house in six days...or was it seven? I've really lost track of how many days we have been snowed in. The kids haven't been to school since last Thursday. School is canceled tomorrow (Friday) and I really wouldn't be surprised if it were canceled this coming Monday because, guess what, more snow is in the forecast. President Obama has made fun of D.C. for its lack of grit when it comes to dealing with snow, and he has a point. School is canceled here if there is even a threat of a snowstorm. But this past week, we were legitimately snowed in. Huge drifts have piled up wherever there is room for a drift to pile up. Most are taller than I am. The kids have been using them as slides. Icicles hang from our roof and the roofs of our neighbors like stalactites, stalactites that could fall at any moment and stab you in the eye. The icicles worry me a little.

Despite the potential for major cabin fever, being snowed in was surprisingly awesome. I have to say, I would do it all over again in a heartbeat. Life has been so chaotic lately. I feel like everyday is a barrage of scheduled drop-offs, pick-ups, playdates, lessons, and doctor's appointments. I still haven't really adjusted to life as a mom of a school-aged child. And Emma has the tardy slips to prove it. In my defence it is really hard to get three children bundled up and out of the house in the morning before 8:20. Or at least it's really hard for me. Some people are really good at this sort of thing. I am not one of them. Time management has never been my strength. I keep thinking I should read a book about time management, but then I think, is that really the best use of my time? Maybe I should listen to a book on time management on my iPod? Maybe while I'm working out or cooking dinner? Now, that would be really efficient.

Anyway, I digress. Where was I? Oh yeah, the snowstorm. It was just so wonderful not to have to be anywhere for a whole week, to be told, don't go anywhere. Stay where you are, please. was bliss.

It was also really nice to just hang out with my family and realize how much I love them. It's so easy to love them when I'm not yelling about lost mittens or complaining that someone left a shoe four flights of stairs up when we only have five minutes to get to school. They aren't nearly as lovable then. And neither am I.

I loved them so much this past week that I cooked them all kinds of delicious carbohydrates. We feasted on chocolate chip cookies, pancakes, breakfast tacos, pasta, chili, macaroni and cheese, carrot oatmeal muffins...the list goes on. This past week I made bread for the first time ever. It's not something I could see myself making when I wasn't snowed in. It takes a lot of coddling and tucking in and being handled just right. It's sort of like babysitting someone else's infant, making your first loaf of bread. But with the snow falling serenely outside my kitchen window and the kids drawing at their art table, baking bread was just the most obvious, natural thing I could do. It felt so luxurious to have the time to devote to bread.

I'm kind of sad for the storm to be over. This past week, we fed ourselves well and then sat around and read books, did crafts, talked, had tea parties, played in the snow and watched movies. Would it be so terrible if life were like that all the time? I'm not ready for real life to return. I like the idea of our house being its own little island, our family the only inhabitants, with nothing but time on our hands.
The snowstorm has made me think a lot about homeschooling and whether or not this is how it would be if we homeschooled. I'm pretty sure it wouldn't be like being snowed in. We'd still have to go places even if we homeschooled. I'd still have to yell about mittens, etc. And it's not like we officially learned much this past week, so I don't know how good of a teacher I'd really be to my own children. In a perfect world, I wish my kids could go to school for a few days a week. They'd learn stuff from some other people for a while and then they'd come home to me and we'd bake bread and talk and read some books and learn stuff that way.

Being snowed in taught me that I like life at a slower pace, preferably a bread-making pace. I want to try to achieve that as much as possible once school starts again. I hope we can do it.

Emma, standing in front of a huge pile of snow in front of our townhouse

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

False Tooth

Last week Charlie knocked out his front tooth while playing on the alligator teeter-totter at school. Now, he looks a little like the guy from The Hangover. I'm trying to like his new look, but seeing a scabbed-over gum where his perfect little tooth used to be is just not doing it for me. The whole tooth came out, root and all. It looks like a little shark tooth is sitting on my breakfast bar right now. I'm saving the freakishly long thing for posterity, along with the accident report his teacher wrote. Weird? Maybe.

I remember my mom pulling out a big jar of my hair from the top of her closet one time. I thought that was really strange at the time, but now I sort of get it. I cried over Charlie's crazy long shark tooth the day it got knocked out. What a weird thing to mourn. Baby teeth are supposed to fall out. Big enormous ones come back in their place. Wasn't I just singing the praises of this process in my last post? But this baby tooth wasn't supposed to come out yet. I feel like Charlie's mouth was robbed. It wasn't this tooth's time yet.

I googled "knocked out tooth with root." Apparently this happens quite a bit. I read about babies getting two, sometimes four of their brand new teeth knocked out after an especially bad fall. That would be too much for me to bear, I think. I would be online purchasing those dentures that little girls in beauty pageants wear if that happened to my baby.

I'm thinking about getting Charlie a false tooth. According to the dentist, he won't get a permanent tooth until he's seven, maybe eight....that's three, maybe four years. He's already starting to lisp. On the plus side, he can now whistle.

When we picked up Emma from school on the day of the alligator teeter-totter incident, I told Emma to look back at Charlie, that he had a surprise for her. I'm sure she was expecting candy or a balloon or something. I was doing my best to act like Charlie's new "big boy mouth" was an exciting right of passage, rather than the desecration of my sweet boy's smile that I secretly saw it as.

Emma congratulated Charlie and was excited for his impending visit from the tooth fairy (she has not yet lost any teeth, so it took a lot of maturity for her to be excited for him to be the first). But then she looked worried and said, "Mommy, I feel like it's my fault. I feel like I did something wrong."

Even though it didn't make any sense for her to feel this way, I understood completely. That was exactly how I felt. I told her I knew exactly what she meant--that it wasn't our fault that Charlie lost a tooth, but it felt like somehow we should've kept it from happening. I look at that hole in his mouth and see my own deficiencies as a mother. I see what I lack, rather than what Charlie's gums lack. I see what I should have prevented from happening. Maybe a false tooth would give me a false sense of security, but that would be better than staring at a gaping hole.

I do know that it wasn't my fault or Charlie's fault or Emma's fault. Stuff just happens. Alligator teeter-totters can be unpredictable. You never know when you drop your child off at preschool, if he will come back to you with all his teeth in his head. What if it had been a finger...or an arm? I would not be saving either of those in a Ziploc bag on my breakfast bar, you'll be glad to know. A tooth is insignificant enough, bloodless enough, to be saved in a scrapbook (or a jar). But that doesn't mean I didn't mourn it, and wish I could stick it back in Charlie's mouth with my glue gun.

I love every hair on my children's head. Every tooth in their mouths is my favorite one and will be missed when it is gone. I'm thankful that Charlie is otherwise unharmed. I'm thankful that I have seen his big teeth on the x rays and they are waiting to make their grand appearance eventually. I'm thankful that my children are safe and healthy and that the most they have to fear is an alligator teeter-totter.

While we drove home from Emma's school, NPR was playing in the background. They were describing pulling people out from under collapsed buildings in Haiti. One man had been looking for his fiance for eleven days and hadn't given up hope. And I'm worried about a little tooth? I did cry about the tooth, but then I soon realized that it is nothing, a little sliver of bone. It changes nothing essential about the Charlie I love. There is real loss in this world and the tooth that sits behind me on the breakfast bar is like a cartoon version of it, not the real thing at all.

Monday, January 4, 2010

Um, you have something up your nose

This morning, Teddy sneezed and the tail end of a spaghetti noodle came out of his nose. I tried to grab it, but he sniffed, and back up the shoot it went. This happened several more times and then finally I decided to get the tweezers. I waited for him to sneeze or snort or at least exhale strongly through his nostrils, my tweezers at the ready. He laughed and snorted at the same time and there was the little worm of a noodle again. I grabbed the noodle with my tweezers, feeling not unlike Mr. Miyagi when he kills those flies with chopsticks in Karate Kid. Then I pulled down on the noodle. And kept pulling down. And down. For what felt like a really long time. Finally the noodle was out. Gagging and shivering with total grossed outness, I tried to play it off to Charlie like it was a teachable moment. "Let's measure it!" I said, doing my best imitation of an extremely enthusiastic science teacher. Two inches. Teddy's nose is only like one centimeter long. Forget that I'm mixing my metric and non-metric units of measurement. That noodle was way too long to be in his nose. Did I mention that we ate spaghetti last night?? What kind of a mom lets her baby go to bed with a noodle the size of a boa constrictor up his nose? This one right here.

After the noodle incident, I took Charlie to his "consultation" at the dentist's office. He was referred to a pediatric dentist when our family dentist discovered two cavities in his upper back teeth. Those would be the teeth that I'm always encouraging him to brush, but clearly not in a very effective way. From my non-scientific observations of other moms, it seems like most moms pick their battles. Some are nutrition nazis who freak out if their kids haven't eaten every last bit of kale and tempeh on their plate. Some are all about banning things: screen time, processed foods, BPA-laced sippy cups. Then there are the dental care moms who lay down the dental hygiene law twice a day, sometimes three times. Needless to say, I am a little more mellow in the dental care department. Some might say, too mellow. : (

I remember a few years ago going to see some pediatric dentist speak at a moms' group. He and a volunteer from the audience demonstrated the proper way to best restrain a child in order to brush their teeth thoroughly. The take away from that session was that proper dental care involved some crazy WWF-style maneuvers. I think I'd rather my kid get cavities than grow up with a mom who has to routinely sit on him morning and night while prying his mouth open with my elbows. And, hence, the "consultation" today.

I wonder if there are any moms out there who have perfectly nourished children, who never watch TV or sip BPA-infused apple juice and whose teeth shine like diamonds? My kids have noodles up their noses and holes in their teeth. Life goes on, though, right? Baby teeth fall out, and new, ginormous ones take their place that are strong enough for a horse. God gives moms that much grace. A lot more than we give ourselves.

Charlie couldn't be more excited about getting fillings. He was beaming today when he got x-rays taken and then got to see the lovely holes in his teeth on the computer screen. Maybe this experience will lead to him becoming a dentist one day. Or a radiologist?

I'm not sure how to spin the noodle up Teddy's nose into a future lucrative career. When I told my mom about it on the phone she was laughing in a way I haven't heard her laugh in a long time. I hadn't even gotten to the part about measuring it yet, and she was practically in tears. I always knew having kids would bring me joy, but I never expected it would be the noodle-up-the-nose kind of joy.

I wonder what tomorrow will bring? Every day in Mommy Town is rife with potentially humbling, yet joyful experiences!