Wednesday, November 30, 2011

swimming against the current

Vivi starts swimming lessons next week. We've periodically gotten lessons for her over the years because I have an urgent need for my children to know how to swim before kindergarten. The reason for this desire is as of yet unidentified, but when the flood comes, I will be redeemed (that goes for my capri pants too, to all of you geezers who asked me if I was waiting for a flood. Yes I was. But not really.)

The initial swim lessons took place when she was six months old, and I will never forget that first time because I had to drag both a whiny baby and a whiny husband to the rec center pool. With my frizzy hair, pajama pants, and crying duo in tow, I must have been the picture of new motherhood. Do not go up against my determination, readers. It is resolute. I am the crazy, nasty-ass honey badger. You may complain, but I simply don't care.

Notice how I am really selling it. This WILL be fun!
Looking back, I kind of wonder why I was so insanely admirably purposeful, and I think there were two main reasons. First, I had heard about babies holding their breath under water (remember the Nirvana baby?), and I wanted to discover if it was true. I ultimately didn't find out because even I, the wild-eyed mother on the brink of insanity who had been living for four months with a colicky baby who cried all the livelong day, could not force myself to plunge my baby under the water.

Also, I had a hunch that since it took twenty times introducing any activity for baby Vivi to like it, swimming would be no different. This guess turned out to be true because that first day, she screamed and cried pretty much the entire lesson. And ever since then, if I go too long between trips to the pool, I endure the same screaming and crying all over again.

Ever the patient mama, I endure the drama because I know how proud she will feel when she finally masters swimming. And there's a little bit of me who knows she probably inherited this fear from me. Fear of what, I'm not even sure, but I remember it well. Even with lessons at summer camp every year, it took me until I was in high school to feel confident about diving and swimming strokes in front of my peers. I even faked the monthly visitor a time or three to get out of swimming. TMI? Anyway.

Part of me wants to think it could be as simple as some people have a natural love of the water, and others don't, but anyone who has seen Vivi at the lake or ocean knows this isn't true.

The girl adores the water; it's the pool where her issues bubble to the surface.

Mothering two children has taught me my children come on this Earth with a full package, and it's up to me to decipher it and enjoy the ride. Nothing could provide a better example than swimming, since Charlie took to water like a chubby little fish. She practically flung herself into the ocean the first time she saw it.

Conversely to Vivi, I decided not to give Charlie lessons, figuring I knew enough about it at this point to teach her myself, and it has been so fun. I took her to the pool recently, and she let me lay her on her back, while she lounged as cool as a cucumber, smiling up at the ceiling. On her back! To this day Vivi acts as though you're trying to drown her if you even suggest she roll over onto her back.

Ah well, all in good time. That phrase has become my mantra. If I feel myself swimming against the current, I know it's time to let go of my preconceived notions about how parenthood would or should be and go with the flow. I'm amazed by how true it is; you can try to force your kid into a new milestone, or you can just let it happen. The results will be the same, but your memory of the experience will be completely different.

Today is one of those moments when the patience is paying off. One day Vivi wasn't interested in dressing herself or jumping off the side of the pool or quitting the thumb-sucking, and today she suddenly is. IN ALL THREE, on the same day. I relished in our hour at the pool together, giggling as she ran-jumped off the side into my arms, while the ladies who aerobicize clucked and cheered from the other side of the pool. Then, as we ate our celebratory post-swim grilled cheese sandwiches and tomato soup, I beamed when she said she wanted to put band-aids on her thumbs to help her quick sucking. Behold the proud mother bear.

And so, I am experiencing one of those times in my life as a parent that everything comes together perfectly. I get to sit back and pretend that I planned it this way. Does this phenomenon ever happen to you? Believe me, it is a rare occasion in my household, and I am grateful...and gloating. What better day to gloat than on the last day of my month of daily blogging? Thanks for reading. I hope you'll stay with me as I take a day or twelve off from blogging to rest.


Tuesday, November 29, 2011

teaching the meaning of Christmas

With Christmas approaching, there are lots of new lessons for Vivi to learn. We are telling stories about Santa and his elves and reindeer, and of course there are some corresponding questions to answer.

Where is the North Pole?

Why does he come down the chimney?

How can he fly?

As for explaining the meaning of Christmas, I found some nice books from the library to help me teach her about Jesus' birth.

How Many Miles To Bethlehem?How Many Miles To Bethlehem? by Kevin Crossley-Holland

It can be challenging to discuss the nativity with a three-year-old, and this story beautifully assists in describing the various characters present.

Room for a Little One: A Christmas Tale
Room for a Little One: A Christmas Tale by Martin Waddell

Vivi particularly appreciates the discussion of the animals, so I got another story focused on their perspective. The pictures are lovely.

But how to bridge the gap from the nativity to Santa Claus? For most of my life I have taken it with a grain of salt that this jolly fat man is part of our American heritage, but I hadn't considered why or how it came to be that way until now. I stumbled upon an interesting essay written in the 1940's by Booth Tarkington about the transformation of St. Nicholas into Santa Claus. It's short and worth a read.

Knowing that St. Nicholas gave all his wealth to the poor is just the sort of meaningful message I was seeking behind the simple "Santa gives to children who have been good" rote dialogue I grew up reciting. Along with joyful holiday traditions like Santa, I also strive to impart my kids with a deeper meaning behind the exchanging of gifts. But funny enough, for all my pondering and explaining, Charlie Brown's Christmas movie is turning out to be our best resource for teaching the meaning of Christmas. If it ain't broke...

Monday, November 28, 2011

tomfoolery abounds

It's that time again when I report to you the horrible daytime TV shows I am catching while at the gym. Well, this will actually be the first report, but let's make it a regular thing, shall we? I have been catching more TV at the gym than usual lately because I can't seem to remember to charge my iPod shuffle. My routine has become music for a week, TV for a month, and so on.

I don't think I ever watched a moment of Regis and Blondie until last week, when it wasn't even Regis any more. But I've caught enough clips on The Soup over the years that I feel I have the gist. Have you seen it since Jerry Seinfeld has been filling in? Don't. Unwatchable! He is palpably uncomfortable in the roll and holds his cue cards like they are a pile of junk mail. "Nothing in here could possibly be interesting, but here goes!" Ick.

My second report comes from this new talk show called "The Chew," in which famous chefs and minor celebrities discuss and make food. Heard of it? I watched about 45 seconds of it last week, and I'm not exaggerating when I say that I want that minute of my life back. Melodrama aside, it's got an even bigger ick factor than Reeg-cum-Jerry. It stars Mario Batali, another chef I usually like, that Clinton guy from What Not To Wear, and a few others. The moment I witnessed was filmed from inside a refrigerator, with the hosts on the other side trying to decide what they were planning to cook. It was beyond patronizing, like something out of a twisted adult version of Sesame Street, only with no possible chance of learning anything new.

I was going to talk about the Rachael Ray show, but I really have nothing spectacular to say, and I don't want to become one of those mean, snarky girls who doesn't create anything but pokes fun of those who try. But seriously, try harder! Okay, on to some better video content: my kids! (Did that segue work? Let's pretend it did).

I'm sorry to say our Flip video camera, which has given us such great videos since Vivi was born, is on its last legs. You can hear its sad swan song (crackling noise, aka the "phlegm rattle") in some of these videos.

The first was supposed to be of Charlie being cute, but Vivi quickly stole the show as usual.

The next two are of the girls reading and playing in the tent we got forever ago at a sale and forgot all about. Great score!



The last video is of the kids dancing to "Rockin' Around the Christmas Tree." Cuteness overload!


Sunday, November 27, 2011

on getting Christmas-ey (and sick)

This was our first Thanksgiving with friends instead of just us or with family, and it was a blast. We had fantastic hosts, and our favorite moment was when all four children were playing quietly with each other in the next room. A whispered "It's happening" was the only mention we made of that magical moment. They ended the fabulous evening by handing us the best holiday gift one could receive. Behold the yummy goodness:

Have you ever seen a more delectable tray of leftovers? They looked even more scrumptious when reheated the following night.

Vivi brought a cold home with her from preschool on Tuesday, and we've been dropping like flies one by one. I am always the last to fall--due to good immunity or stubbornness, not sure which. Last night I went to bed at 7:30pm. I felt ready, so why fight it? I've never been one to stay up past the moment my body's ready to succumb to sleep.

Lest I become that blogger/Facebooker who tells you the minutiae of being sick, I'll move on to cheerier topics. As promised, we decorated for Christmas on Friday, and it was a day of pure joy all around! Our "Bing Crosby" and "Charlie Brown Christmas" stations on Pandora rounded out the event nicely. Vivi relished every moment of hanging ornaments on the fake tree, especially when she was able to flaunt the breakable ones in front of Charlie and then hang them just out of her reach.

We grabbed some garland, berries, and a tiny real tree from the local farm up the street, and I must say they added that special finishing touch to make it feel like the holidays.

My favorite part of the decorating by far was bringing out a gift we received from friends last year. Have you heard of the Elf on the Shelf yet? He comes with a story to explain the tradition. Basically, Santa sends the elf to your house to watch over the children. The kids tell the elf what they want for Christmas, and every evening he flies back to the North Pole to report whether they've been good and what presents were requested.

I noticed on the side of the box that you can actually order him with specific eye, hair, and skin color requests, which reminds me of a story I heard a while back on NPR's This American Life. Elna Baker, a Mormon comedian I love, told a story about working at FAO Schwarz in NY City one Christmas shopping season.

At three and a half, Vivi must be at the prime age to begin family traditions, as she stared with wonder while I read the accompanying story. The best part is that every morning our elf flies back from the North Pole to sit in a new location in the house, so the kids can have fun searching for him every day. I love the mischievious look on his face.

Here's a shot of our elf at his first location on the mantel:

Naming the elf is part of the fun, and my vote for "Dinky" got overruled by Vivi, who chose to call him "Robert." Most puzzling about this name is that we are not aware that she knows anyone by that name. Anyway, Bob the elf it is. Here's where good ol' Bobby sat this morning:

I am looking forward to putting up the nativity scene with Vivi tonight and teaching her about Advent. What holiday traditions are your favorites? Do tell.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

baby mine

There is something kind of funny about pictures of babies crying. Okay, not all babies. Maybe I should have said there's something funny about pictures of first-world babies crying. Because you can relax in the knowledge they have their basic needs met and just laugh at their ridiculousness, you know? I love how even situations as intense as childbirth can seem comical later on.

I wrote recently about the dinosaur CD Nate and I are so sick of hearing. Nate walked into the living room this morning saying "If I keep singing that 'Footprints' song to myself, I'm gonna go nuts." Clearly it's time for that item to take a little nap in the closet of missing/broken things. Do you have a closet like this in your house? It's the one that you keep the stuff you plan to fix some day but haven't gotten round to yet; it also houses the parts that you can't figure out but don't want to throw away. For us parents, it additionally includes the toys you can't stand to see for one more second.

And so, back into the music rotation is an oldie but a goodie, called 'Mary had a Little Amp.' I got it for Vivi when she was a baby, and interestingly it was just about the only music she would fall asleep to in a long car trip. The wonderful thing about this album is that even after listening to it on a continuous three-hour loop while driving to Birmingham, I still didn't want to throw it out the window.

One of my favorites on it is Bonnie Raitt's rendition of "Baby Mine." Remember that song from Dumbo? It's in the scene everyone gets choked up watching when the mommy elephant rocks her baby from inside the jail cell. I can't even write that without becoming verklempt! Talk amongst yourselves; I'll give you a topic. Cheez whiz is neither a cheese nor a wizard. Discuss.

Baby mine, don't you cry.
Baby mine, dry your eyes.
Rest your head close to my heart,
Never to part,
Baby of mine.

Little one when you play,
Don't you mind what they say.
Let those eyes sparkle and shine,
Never a tear,
Baby of mine.

Friday, November 25, 2011

and where, pray tell, ARE the missing heads?

Occasionally, I'll walk into a room filled with toys that look like this...

Marie Antoinette and her little sister
These ladies used to be Cinderella and Jasmine. I think Vivi improved them, don't you? The most fun times are when I am sweeping the floor and notice a head in my dustpan. Just one of the many sentences I never uttered, nor dreamed of saying, before having children.

This picture is evidence of why I am fond of used toys. In fact, I've Santa has already completed the Christmas shopping, and all of this year's gifts (the three: something to read, wear, and play with) come from my favorite resale shop. All that's left for Santa to bring is the candy and cheese.

Are you one of the crazy people out shopping today? It's ominous enough to me that they call it "Black Friday," so I choose to snuggle in my with little family, decorate our Christmas tree, and eat left-over pie instead. Of course we'll also watch lots of football.

Please share your stories of the battlefield! I love a good tale of lady-on-lady 'bowing for the last Williams-Sonoma holiday hand towel.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

In November

I hope you're having a wonderful day! At about this time we are probably already on the road driving to our friends' house in the country. Because I knew I'd be cooking, traveling, and eating today, I am actually wrote this message yesterday. Sneaky Pete!

Vivi and I have been enjoying another fantastic library book. I love that our children's library puts out seasonal books on display; sometimes I'll grab a book about Halloween or Thanksgiving in the hopes that it can help me enlighten my child on our strange American traditions. We have also gotten in the habit of having a special activity in each month for which we can gather decorations and celebrate, so I decided to get this book about the month of November to liven the mood of this occasionally dreary month.

In NovemberIn November by Cynthia Rylant

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

In November has such gorgeous illustrations. The author chooses her few words wisely and paints a picture with the vivid descriptions. Here are a few of my favorite passages:

In November, the smell of food is different. It is an orange smell. A squash and a pumpkin smell. It tastes like cinnamon and can fill up a house in the morning, can pull everyone from bed in a fog. Food is better in November than any other time of the year.

In November, at winter's gate, the stars are brittle. The sun is a sometime friend. And the world has tucked her children in, with a kiss on their heads, till spring.

We have much to be thankful for around here. If the crummy economy has taught us anything positive, it's that we are grateful not for our possessions but for the other real gifts we have. We are every one of us happy and healthy, which is such a blessing. Happy Thanksgiving!

Hugs and smooches,

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

a goat rodeo

Lots going on here today. Cooking and gyming and buying groceries, but in reverse order. Boston has opted to grace us with its winter fugliness today, so we're having low 40's and drizzle while I try to get the bookoo tasks accomplished. But I'm doing it all with a smile anyway. What can I say? It's my southern charm, I guess.

I'm getting most of my cooking tasks done yesterday and today so I can enjoy the company and football tomorrow with the gang. I'm doing roasted root veggies, spinach salad, cranberry sauce, and two desserts. I've eaten both desserts before, louise cake by a Kiwi friend and chocolate pecan chess pie from my youthful days of yore, but this will be my inaugural attempt at making them myself.

My big cooking dilemmas today are whether to have thyme or sage with the veggies and what kind of dressing to make for the salad (spinach, spicy pecans, dried cranberries, shallots, and gorgonzola). Any thoughts from the peanut gallery? What've you got cookin'?

Let's see, what else is new around here? My new eye doctor scared talked me into letting him dilate my pupils so he could examine my retinas a few days ago. Have you had this done recently? It's been at least five years for me, maybe more, and I distinctly remember last time the doctor made sure Nate was there to give me a ride home afterward. Not this time, though. Oh sure, you can drive at night, you just can't read very well for a couple of hours.

Whoa baby. I don't know what it feels like to be on acid, but if movies are any indication, it must be a lot like having dilated pupils. Every light had a huge halo around it, and I couldn't read a thing, including street signs! It was not far out, dude.

While I was blindly and psychedelically trying to find my way home in the dark, I was also listening to NPR's interview with a new musical group formed by Yo-Yo Ma. They are calling their sessions a "goat rodeo," which is an aviation term kind of like FUBAR but a little less scary military acronym-ish and a little more "Make it work" Tim Gunn-ish. It got me thinking that the term befits my own household. We are a regular goat rodeo, full of missteps, difficulties, and chaos. I might not always have my favorite choice of animal, and it sho nuff ain't gonna be pretty, but I'm gonna ride that sucker, dammit.

Today marks the 1-week home stretch on my month of daily blogging. It's been fun and random, pretty much like I thought it would be. Thanks for keeping it interesting with your comments! I can't say I would have been as gungho without y'all spicing it up a bit.

Gobble gobble,

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

you just need a little dip

Don't you just love holiday weeks? Vivi's joy for every milestone and event is unparalleled and makes me happy to know her. She routinely gasps at the neighbors' festive decorations and pines for the day when we'll decorate our Christmas tree (Friday...T minus 2 days).

We had a nice conversation on the living room rug while getting her dressed about what it means to be thankful and all the things on her list for which she wants to give thanks. Her Sunday school class helped me out by introducing the topic to her, but I like to pretend it was all my own teaching. When I asked, she promptly replied she is most thankful for "reading." Alrighty then. Later in the day, the teachers gave us leaf cut-outs on which the kids had written what they were thankful for, and Vivi's said "Genevieve is thankful that her mommy and daddy love her all the time." What a kid.

I'm telling you all this as a lead-in to a moment I had with her today. Her preschool had a party in honor of Thanksgiving, and the parents were invited to come a half-hour early to celebrate. All the moms signed up to bring a special snack, but I didn't notice the sign-up sheet until Laid-back Mom asked me what I was bringing. Uh oh.

Sure enough, waiting until the last minute meant the only empty row on the list was for "veggie stix."

Yes, with an X.

I dreaded the snack hand-off because I knew how disappointed she'd be, but I was unprepared for the level of doom & gloom written on her face. She tossed the bag of carrots and celery onto the buffet table, where they solemnly stated their healthy presence amid a sea of cookie goodness.

All you childless peeps out there beware. Parental guilt is the pits.

Then I got a dose of perspective from Laid-back Mom when we arrived to the party. True to form, when I told her what I brought for snack, she shrugged and said "You just need a little dip." Of course! Why didn't I think of that?

Here is Vivi with her best friend in class, Laid-back Mom's daughter:

The party included a recital, which was pretty cute. During the second song on my shaky video, you get the idea that Vivi isn't going on Star Search any time soon, which reminds me. Did you catch the 60 Minutes interview with Taylor Swift? Nate and I were majorly impressed, particularly by the fact that her parents produced such an intelligent, talented beauty at so young an age.


Monday, November 21, 2011

ode to nap time

Remember when you were a kid, and you stayed home from school for a day - maybe you were really sick or maybe just playing hookie - and as you lounged on the couch, your most challenging decision was whether to watch Gilligan's Island or The Price is Right? Remember that carefree feeling of having nothing to do?

That's kind of how nap time feels for me, except that I have plenty to do. The plenty is draped over every couch and chair and threatening to take up the majority of square footage on every floor of every room; in fact, I think I'm sitting on a plastic animal right now.

I am, however, not going to attend to the mess and will pretend it doesn't exist for a whole hour. I am instead turning my attention to the bag of pumpkin muffins, stick of butter, and stack of books that are sitting in front of me.

The only question I will ask this hour is "Will I pick fiction or nonfiction to read?" I will eat nothing that is good for me. I will not answer the phone.

I am mother, hear me zone out.

Just as quickly as it starts, Vivi's stomps on the stairs signify the end to my hour of peace. Her plaintive request to listen to her "Wee Sing and Learn Dinosaurs" CD for the katrillionth time sends shivers up my spine. I will spare you the assault of my imitation of this music, but here is a sample line from one of the songs: "Deinonychus...with his powerful jaw. Deinonychus....with his terrible claw!" It's a Grammy-winner for sure.

So long nap time, until we meet again tomorrow.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

I'm all analytical and stuff

I took a gander at the list of my blog posts to see which ones get more hits. Here are three things I've learned about my blog readers:

1) No one cares about the farm bill,

2) everyone hates Brussels sprouts, and

3) I need to post more baby stories.

I need to produce more babies to accomplish number three. I'm off to tell Nate my new angle on why we should have another child. My dedication to you, dear readers, is fierce.

Another part of my life that I am prone to (over) analyze is the amount of stuff we own. I do this activity on a regular basis in which I wander around the house, shaking my head at the build-up. The toys, the tschotchkes, the random keys, the remaining lined three-hole-punched paper from grammar school. Where does it come from, this load of absolute crap? As someone who loves to purge, I find it maddening that I still seem to own SO MUCH STUFF.

A tip I learned from my dad about the children's toys is to adopt a three-month toy rotation. This concept is likely self-explanatory, but I will briefly enlighten you on the process. I take a box, gather up a bunch of stuff they don't play with on a daily basis, and cart it down to the basement, where it sits until Vivi asks for it or until she's bored with the toys upstairs. Not rocket science, right?

There is an additional wrinkle to this shell game. If the kids never ask about it in three months, and it's a toy we hate, it goes into the Goodwill box. Sayonara, cat piano. It's been real.

Oh, also, don't let your kids see you boxing up the stuff, or you'll inevitably have a drama on your hands, starring your poor little orphan child who really waaaannnnnts that particular toy even though they haven't played with it in a month.

I had just completed two boxes worth of toy rotation when the mailman came with a special delivery of Nate's childhood stuff, courtesy of his parents' purging. I'm 100% in favor of everyone cutting down on the accumulation of things, so I support their mission. But GAWD it is a bunch o' boxes.

There are some wonderful treasures in the bunch! Do you love old wooden toys as much as I do?

I was thrilled to discover that Nate's Uncle Frank had hand-crafted a giant train set for him, and Vivi was as joyful to receive it as I was to open it. Just in time for the holidays. Train sets create a festive mood, don't they? Check out the perfect little details.

Thanks Uncle Frank!

Saturday, November 19, 2011

a journey to another time

We saw Midnight in Paris a week ago. Have you seen it? I love the romantic notion of being able to travel back in time and interact with great authors and artists, especially those with great passion like Ernest Hemingway.

The film got me thinking of what period I would like to experience, if only for a few nights, and in whose company I would choose to be. I have always loved the idea of visiting the Georgian and Victorian eras; the Gothic Revival architecture, the World's Fair, the music, the theater, the dancing. The DANCING. Oh, I would adore the dancing. 

I would love to know what Jane Austen was like. Emma, Sense and Sensibility and Pride and Prejudice are three of my favorite, oft-read novels. And how about William Blake, John Keats, Lewis Carroll, and of course Mark Twain would have been there on a trip to London. How heavenly!

Have you ever noticed all the childhood nursery rhymes seem to have been created in that era? Every time I read them to the girls I am whisked away in time, and I enjoy the temporary mental travel.

The book I picked up last week at my favorite resale shop has some great old rhymes in it, and the illustrations add depth to the short tales.

After enjoying Midnight in Paris, I finally got Vicky Cristina Barcelona from the library, and I also liked it very much. I might have liked it even better because of the fabulous acting and music. I can't say I agree with Woody Allen's transient view of love, but I can appreciate his artistry.

What's your take? Yea or nay on Woody Allen movies?

Meet you back here tomorrow for some more randomness.

Friday, November 18, 2011

approaching the discontent of my winter

The unceremonious end to autumn has arrived and brought with it the arm-crossing, hurried pace of moms across Massachusetts trying to pick up their kids from school as quickly as possible. Gone already are the days of standing in the warm sun and lazily chatting with each other as one of us (maybe) keeps half an eye on the kids running amok in the parking lot or on the playground.

Oh, and Charlie has slunk off to a corner to eat wood chips in peace.

I miss those days acutely!

Although I whinge constantly about the upcoming weather, I can't pretend that we haven't had a divine--and even prolonged--fall. The girls and I have eaten up every moment of it, all the while gluttonously begging for more.

As the days and my patience grow shorter, I am adding new ways to entertain the kids to my repertoire. You know, so I don't go nuts during the impending abominable snowdump. Temporarily, raking and jumping in leaves is providing some good laughs. Eventually, I'll actually move the leaves to the compost bin. I got a great idea from the Interwebs to request coffee grounds from a local coffee shop to add nitrogen to the mix.

Museums are another newly introduced diversion. I would call my first jaunt into the city (to the Isabella Stewart Gardner museum) only mildly successful, due to illegal picture-taking on the part of Triathlete Mom, followed by constant supervision of the uptight guards. Relax, man! Undaunted, we plan to try again, this time at more kid-friendly options like the Children's Museum and Aquarium.

In the realm of outdoorsy activities, I am fully committed to relying on locals to teach my kids how to ice skate. I've already recruited a friend to the cause. Remember Laid-back Mom, from Vivi's school? She's Canadian, so of course her kid has been skating since she started walking. She gave me a lesson today on the difference between figure skates and hockey skates. Mine are figure, Nate's are hockey, but I really had no idea there was a difference beyond that girls use figure and boys use hockey. Apparently, she has hockey skates because they are warmer, and something else I can't remember. You see? I'm already a wealth of information on winter sports.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

a tale of two moms

I encounter two moms in my weekly rounds who remind me of this crazy/lonely lady. Remember Will Farrell's SNL skit about the guy with voice immodulation syndrome? They're like that character, only less funny.

The first mom is at our neighborhood park, and she chooses not to engage with the other moms in conversation but rather LOUDLY narrates her two-year-old's every movement. "H____, you're going to the slide! Oh, not the slide, the swings! Wow! Now you're sharing your toy. Good job! Oh, you're not sharing your toy. That's ok, you're a good boy!" It is off-putting to say the least.

[Note: Boy's name left out due to unnecessary protection of my blogging anonymity. As if anyone in my city even knows I blog. They don't. Yet.]

Then there's the dad, who sometimes meets them after he gets off work. His behavior is perhaps even more odd. First I must mention he has the same bowl haircut as his son. Starting at the far end of the park, he briskly bounds across a ball field on his way toward the playground, gripping a backpack and all the while loudly talking to H_____, who has not even noticed him yet. The hair, backpack and loud voice give him the appearance of a giant toddler coming to play. Once, I kid not, he was wearing OVERALLS.

Okay, I kid, I kid! But boy, I have stifled a cough-laugh many a time. They are a pair, these two.

Charlie at the park. Loving her new curls.

The other momzilla hangs out at the children's library resale shop, which is my little-known quiet rainy-day haven where I can find gently used snow boots and children's books for a quarter. Usually I go there after dropping off Vivi at school to kill time until Charlotte's little tumbling tots class (the epitome of cuteness, by the way). The other moms are almost always interesting and funny, and the only thing missing is a coffee shop on the corner. I don't think I would ever leave if it had that.

I picked up the most wonderful book of old nursery rhymes the other day, and each and every picture looks like it ought to be framed. It has been bringing up all kinds of warm feelings that probably deserve their own post.

But for now:

See what I mean?

So ok, there's a strange mom at the library shop. She appears to live there, although I'm sure I am mistaken about that. But she could use a shower and a mirror. She carts her kid around in a stroller (a much-too-old-to-be-in-a-stroller kid, I might add) and almost always ignores the kid except occasionally saying "No, you can't get out yet."

But that is not all. Oh how I wish it were all. She wanders about shouting to no one in particular "OOOOOHHH look at this! This is made by a company in Belgium, I didn't know they sold these in America, I wonder who brought it to the store and how they got it, I just can't imagine how it got here, isn't that weird, and it's from Belgium, very rare, very very rare."

I want to put my arm on her shoulder to steady her stream of words, but I have seen many a woman get sucked into her vortex so I politely ignore her and avoid eye contact. There is an unspoken rule among us ladies who shop at the library store: if you are sucked in by this lady, you are on your own. Folks, it is dog-eat-dog out there in the world of motherhood.

Am I being hypercritical? I try to maintain a distant approach to gawking at other families, but I admit to passing judgment on occasion. I guess parents should be allowed to be as excited about their kids' every breath or article of clothing as much as they like, but they detract from my intentional delusion that stay-at-home moms are all fun and cool. And most of them are. But this mental trickery is how I make the internal decision to initiate conversation with the unknown moms in my surroundings.

What about nutty moms in your neck of the woods?

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

on the bellies of grown-ups, and other observations

Vivi was watching me put my hair in a ponytail yesterday morning, and while I had my arms raised over my head, she said "Mommy, your tummy is getting small so you will have another baby now." I'll let you chew on that one.

An hour or so later, I was driving her to school, and all was quiet in the car except the radio. Out of the blue, Vivi says "I don't want to be a grown-up." This statement is a bit easier to understand if you consider the fact that at the time I was listening to the BBC World News instead of the pop music she prefers.

When I was about Vivi's age, I remember asking my mom to come watch cartoons with me. She politely declined and when pressed further told me she really didn't like cartoons very much. This admission was a revelation for me. Peeling the layers away, you've got the lesson that Mom and Dad might not love everything I love, and then there's the dawning realization that not everyone adores cartoons. Oh the horror! As a kid, I made the leap that if adults don't like cartoons, I don't wanna grow up.

Looking back in the rearview mirror, I recognized that same look of awakening on Vivi's face. And so begins her Piagetian sociocentristic view of the world. I'll say it again, our baby is all grows up.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

meet Vladimir and his collection of ceramic unicorns

Yesterday I purged the office of nonessential paperwork like our 2003 taxes--evidence of our distinguished careers in telemarketing and the retail industry. I came across a couple of large maps I had gotten for free over the years via support of non-profits like Sierra Club and Doctors without Borders. I originally hung onto them thinking one day I might hang them in my kids' room and hope somehow geography knowledge would seep into their brains via osmosis.

I revived the idea of hanging them on the wall, but my hope for Vivi's education has evolved into a dialogue I want to start with her about academic subjects I was uninterested in as a kid, like geography and science. When Vivi saw the maps, she immediately laid them out on the floor and stared for a good three minutes without saying a word. The wondrous look on her face was priceless. Then began the barrage of questions about mountains and great lakes and oceans and "C level."

I am thrilled over her enthusiasm for learning. She almost doesn't care what the subject is, although she does reserve special joy for reading, writing, and music. And now geography! I wonder how much of her is actually just like her Daddy, or whether she just looks and acts so much like him that we have started attributing minor preferences as major persuasions of personality.

Whatever the reason for her zeal, I love the thought that my children are a clean state upon which I can assist in molding a love of education. Like mothers before me, I hope they will shrug off the 'girls are bad at math and science' myth that continues to lurk in the school system. I hope they won't be pigeon-holed into activities and education 'befitting their gender.' I want for them to be challenged in a way that maintains their drive to succeed academically.

Somewhere along the way my own motivation took a steep dive, and I still am not positive of the cause. Even when watching Kyle, my college boyfriend, challenge himself with pre-med courses like organic chemistry, I was still content to take classes like "Fungi: Friends or Foes?" and "The Psychology of Human Sexuality" (incidentally, a class we all signed up for because we heard the prof showed pornos on Fridays).

I want to grab and shake that girl who is so complacent and just looking for a good time and tell her what a great opportunity she's wasting. Don't get me wrong; I have great memories of college and had some wonderful professors. I will never forget the aha moment I achieved in Cognitive Anthropology. But still!

Alas, I didn't intend for this post to become a whiny diatribe of my unsuccessful undergraduate education. On a positive note, I have been enthralled with a few NPR segments in the last week; the first with an economist explaining Greece's collapse, and the second with a Harvard physicist discussing particles in the universe. I enjoyed the learning I obtained and also the fact that both interviewees were women. So you see, young ladies? The sky really is the limit.

Monday, November 14, 2011

lying in wait

In our household, we are just beginning on the turkey craft projects and making the Thanksgiving grocery list, but all around us Christmas is attempting to steal the November limelight. I never used to understand why folks got so upset about the early celebrating; I mean, who doesn't love pretty lights?

But now, I have a three-year-old, and disadvantages to this practice are rearing their ugly heads. Let's see, how best to describe my predicament? Vivi's style of dialogue about a topic she's fond of is a mixture of Chuck Norris and J Edgar Hoover. She doesn't sleep, she waits. If we have friends or family visiting soon, she will wake me by walking to my side of the bed, leaning down, and whispering an inch from my face, "Guess what Mommy? _______ is coming soon. How many days again?"

Much as I keep Vivi in the dark about visitors until a few hours before they arrive, I like to hide the next holiday around the corner until I feel like talking to her about it twenty five times a day. And so, when I walked into Walgreen's today to find a full-on in-your-face loud display of Christmas paraphernalia and doohickies, I imagined what it would be like to march Vivi over to the manager and tell the SOB, "Here, you take my kid for the rest of the day and answer her questions about when she can have candy and Santa." 

Personally, I am a planner so love contemplating the holidays months before they are here. I love imagining the traditions we'll start and the ones we'll revive, what we'll eat and do and play with. Did y'all read Design Mom's post? I'm enacting the brilliant three-gift idea immediately.

With winter just around the corner up here in Beantown, I am ready to begin the holiday invasion. Bring it on, bitches!

Sunday, November 13, 2011

occupie my kitchen

Now this is a movement I can get behind. 

Mmmmmmm, pie. I love all pie. If I had to choose one pie for eternity, it would be tough to choose between blackberry (specifically, blackberry pie from Greenwood's Restaurant in Roswell, Georgia), peach, and chocolate pecan. The Kitchn has a chess pie I'm itching to try out, even though I'm what you'd call a cook, not a baker. What's your favorite pie?

Saturday, November 12, 2011

the sibling effect

When I was growing up, I always wished I had a sister close in age to me with whom I could share secrets, make up games and worlds, and have fights but then make up later. I am thrilled to have two girls of my own, and it's important to me that as they mature, they know how special and unique their bond with each other is. I want to do what I can to ensure my girls have a close relationship based on love and mutual respect.

I may be especially in tune to this aspect of parenting because I often wonder whether it will matter that I didn't grow up with a sibling close in age to me. I have no personal experience from which to draw when helping my children fight their battles with each other. And while I have several girlfriends who are close with their sisters, I also have a few who are not. They typically chalk it up to personality differences, but I have to wonder if it's more complicated--if the rift runs deeper than it seems. How could quirks in personality type be the sole divider between two people with such an intense relationship?

One of my favorite courses in college was developmental psychology. I love watching children learn and grow, and it was fascinating to me to learn the science to accompany my years of experience as a camp counselor. I finally knew what those kids were thinking! I've gotten another huge dose of knowledge in the past few weeks from a book I'm reading.

NurtureShock: New Thinking About Children
NurtureShock: New Thinking About Children by Po Bronson

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I found Nurture Shock to be as eye-opening as Malcolm Gladwell's books and Freakonomics. In particular, I enjoyed the chapter on siblings. I find it interesting that the authors point to research showing children fight over their belongings, not over the affection of their parents. How egocentric of us to think otherwise! Then, at the end of the chapter they note the children who got along best with their siblings started out having good relationships with friends.

What frustrates me is that they don't provide specifics as to why these children had good relationships with friends; did their parents do something special or different to teach them to share toys or show respect? Perhaps they are gearing up to write a sequel or a workbook for parents. I hope so. I would snap it up in a heartbeat!

One of the mom bloggers I follow posted recently about the experience of actively managing her children's relationship. I hope parenting will come as naturally to me as it seems to for her.

I'll leave you with a video I took of the girls the other day. I turned away to read something on the computer for somewhere between 10 and 40 seconds, and this is how I found them when I looked back. Watching it again, I notice Charlie can't seem to get comfortable. Ever the naturalist filmmaker, I opted not to jump in and help. The best videos are the ones taken incognito.


Friday, November 11, 2011

day of three elevens

I have decided to make birthday resolutions instead of waiting until New Year's. Mostly, it's that I'm tired of all the d-bags crowding up my gym at the start of the year, which makes me loathe the entire premise of NY's resolutions; conversely, birthday resolutions give me something positive to associate with my birthday and are more fun than a bucket list, in that my list has nothing to do with contemplating the moment someday down the road when I'll croak. Longest sentence evah. Moving on.

I will digress for a moment to say all this date-of-the-same-number thing is disappointing to me in the same way as Y2K. Ditto for the Sex and the City movie. I wanna be all excited and interested like everyone else, but I'm just not. So I'm voted snobby or curmudgeonly. And then when it finally comes, and it turns out I was right that it is as lame as I thought, nobody gives me any credit. *Big Sigh*

So when I was realizing I didn't have a blog post idea yet for today (Did you catch that I'm doing the Nablopomo thing?), I decided what better time than on this ridiculously hyped up day of straight ones and dashes to present my resolutions?

Here's my list:
1. Volunteer
2. Learn the special features my camera
3. Become a doula
4. Finally read Finnegan's Wake

Nate and I have this frequent cliche experience in which one of us turns to the other and bemusedly queries, "What did we do before we had kids?" Taken off guard, I admit it can be tough to remember. Upon further reflection, I always eventually remember we both loved volunteering. Sadly, I haven't volunteered since the kids were born, except for three hours once at a H1N1 mass vaccination clinic.

In the interest of eudaimonia, and now that Charlotte is at a more manageable age, I want to begin volunteering again. But where to begin? I've considered rejoining the Medical Reserve Corps, but that membership will only require a few hours every so often. I could do Meals on Wheels or help an organization serving homeless individuals. Those both sound rewarding, but I have some other ideas I'm mulling over. I'll report back when I think of something.

Numbers two and three on my list are pretty self-explanatory. Three is a bit harder because it requires a financial commitment. I've been considering becoming a doula ever since Vivi was born. I loved my childbirth experiences, and I have a burning desire to help other women achieve the births they want. Get it? Burning desire? Yuk yuk.

I'm still tooling around with the idea of number four because my last few "I have to read blah blah blah finally," i.e. Love in the Time of Cholera, The Unbearable Lightness of Being, and Wuthering Heights, have all been abysmal failures. It could be that I'm just not sophisticated enough to get the subtlety (or to spell 'subtlety' for that matter). But I may press on, as my favorite teacher considered it Joyce's masterpiece.

Have you ever made resolutions and stuck to them? Considered what you'll resolve to do yet in 2012? Given the Mayans' prediction, perhaps a bucket list is more appropriate after all. Hmmm.

Update: I wrote this message before turning on NPR or even looking at Heck, even Facebook would have done the trick. Alas, I didn't remember it was Veteran's Day today (downside to a homemade calendar). I am grateful for all of our members of service, especially for my mother and father-in-law, and for my cousin who is currently in Iraq. Thank you!

Thursday, November 10, 2011


Time change + hubster's snoring = early rising mama. May as well get crackin' on the blog. And I have much to discuss about the world's best day that was yesterday.

Continuing the streak of birthday week awesomeness, it was a glorious day in Boston. The kind of day they pretend happens continuously in movies about New England in the fall but which I hadn't seen the likes of yet. It was a perfect combination of 68 degF and fantastic leaf peeping.

I may have officially become a farm groupie, as visiting a farm was the first idea that came to mind when I was pondering what to do on this beautiful day. Then I remembered the great Audubon farm in Lincoln that I took Vivi to on her birthday, which I, in classic idiot-baby-brain fashion, had forgotten about all summer and fall (that's even after paying for a membership last spring. I have no words).

Boy was I glad to have remembered! Because I had the foresight to pack our lunch, we had plenty of time to stroll and explore. We hit up the animals and hayride first--I had little choice with all the gleeful squealing and jumping around Vivi was doing upon first glimpse.

I played with my camera's settings a bit more than usual, and I focused my five brain cells on finding the right light. Once I had it all figured out, I realized I may need to do a bit of model-coaching of my primary subject. I don't mean to toot my own horn (really, I don't), but she just may have inherited my photogenicity. Fingers crossed! Here are my two favorites of the day:

Check out the wasted composition and great back-lighting. Oh well. I added some more to flickr below if you're interested.

Wednesday, November 09, 2011

Vivisms, vol 30

Vivi: What did Daddy say on the phone to you?
Me: He wants me to tell you he misses you.
Vivi: Oh. I misses him too.

Oh, the irony of cows in costume...
Vivi: Why is that cow wearing that?
Nate: It's ironic.
Vivi: No it's not. It's a handkerchief.

Remind me, who's making the rules around here?
Vivi: Mommy, I want a chipmunk with a stick to go on your cake.
Me: Haha, I have no idea what that means, but I think I'll get cookies instead of cake, okay?
Vivi: NO! (look of exasperation) I told you that you are going to have a cake, Mommy.

Vivi: It's bright outside today! I can't believe my eyes!

And so it begins...
Vivi: Are we there yet? Are we there yet? [times a million]
Me: Quiet please, so I can follow these directions.
Vivi: Okay.
 [A few minutes go by, then I notice her quietly amusing herself]
Vivi: Pee pee on your shoes. Hee hee hee. Pee pee on your pants. Hee hee hee. Pee pee on your face. HA!

Tuesday, November 08, 2011

the thirty-second birthday

Hello friends! Prepare for some grade-A stream-of-consciousness writing today. If you can't be uninhibited in your writing on your birthday, then when can you, amirite?

I noticed when I typed out "thirty-second" instead of the number 32nd, it looks the same as 30-second as in the amount of time. This is a fitting accident, as it really feels that my birthdays are already flying by. I have nothing more substantial or profound to add to this observation, but I want you all to know that I am aware of it. Of the speed-of-light birthday thing. Older people are always trying to tell me this fact of life as though I am not yet in the know. But I am! Which brings me to my next random point.

I looked up the word "Methuselan" the other day (thanks to Sub'n Matron's use of it on her blog). Basically, you might say it's a nicer, more creative way of saying 'old person.' So anyway, I'm looking it up when I stumble upon a reference on the D&D (that's Dungeons & Dragons for those of you like me who aren't in the know) Wiki.

This find brings me to two thoughts. The first is that I'm going to start keeping a list of words I want to use more often. Methuselan is a great-sounding word and is totally better than just saying 'she's an old lady.'

The second thought is "Who are these people?" Who are these people who are interested in knowing how to create a virtual undead humanoid? This fact is in no way related to the remainder of my post. But did you know that, about the existence of a D&D Wiki? There's a whole 'nother world of peeps out there, y'all.

My birthday journal entries are always fun ones to go back and read. Unfortunately I haven't been as good about blogging on my birthday as I have at journaling. Here's a post I wrote the year I turned 30. Here's another post I wrote three days before my 29th birthday, and in which I inexplicably do not mention my birthday. No wait, it is explicable, because birthdays in your twenties flit in and out of your life like snowflakes; even the bad ones aren't bad because, cripes, you're in your twenties!

Another by-product of my thirties is that I now always pay attention to someone's age when I'm reading an article about them. I suppose it's so I can properly judge them for whatever accolade they've achieved or ludicrous behavior I'm reading about. Note: Chelsea Clinton and Jessica Simpson are both my age, as are Kate Hudson, Elin Nordagren, Drew Brees, Alicia Keys, Venus Williams, Gisele Bundchen, and John Krasinski. Kim Kardashian is a year younger than me and has two divorces more than me. Yet again, nothing enlightening to say, just passing along the deets. Judge away.

Since it's been over a year since Charlotte was born, I think I might have surpassed the period of time in which I can blame my stupidity on "baby brain" and start accepting that this is the new me. In light of that revelation, I am happy to have discovered a site that lets you determine whether you are about to share old news. Just in case some day I, like many of my elders, cease to be hip and with it. Oh, who am I kidding, that day has arrived.

I'm not sure how old I was when I first saw "When Harry Met Sally," but I do have one memory of its impression on me. Well, two memories. This first is that I marched right over to my friend's house who I knew wore days-of-the-week underpants to find out if it's true they don't make Sunday (It is! or was, circa 1991). The second was that I completely understood why Sally had a meltdown over her age. Or, I thought I understood. To me, she was old, even if Harry tries to convince her she's not. And so, because it was burned in my brain that day, I remember how old she was. Care to guess? Thirty two, of course!

I've already had a wonderful birthday so far, and it's only 8am. Bring on the Facebook onslaught of well wishers I haven't had a real conversation with since 1998! My birthday week doesn't end today, either. Nate and I are getting a babysitter on Friday night so we can finally see the newest Harry Potter film. Our party trick used to be to announce the last movie we saw in the the theater; the point was to shock and horrify our childless friends. But at this point neither one of us can even remember what that last movie was. Are you shocked and horrified?

I got an early birthday present from Charlie yesterday. She simultaneously began walking unsupported around the living room and began climbing on the couch (evidence of her escapades is below). Happy birthday to me!


Monday, November 07, 2011

the gift of time

It was a great weekend all around. On Friday night, my Aunt Justine, cousin Jill and I journeyed into Boston to The Beehive, a restaurant with a bar and hip live music. What a great place! It was quite crowded already when we arrived at 9pm. We began our evening with libations at the bar. Jill ordered a round of champagne cocktails called a Tokyo Rose--a bubbly drink that goes down smooth and instantly dissolves the remaining cares of the day. After a few giggly toasts, we headed to our table.

I ogled the menu before finally settling on fall-off-the-bone baby back ribs and a bibb lettuce salad with blue cheese vinaigrette and beets. Delicious doesn't begin to cover it. "The fat is the best part!" is just one of my many blissful exclamations throughout the meal. The bossa nova band was wonderful, in particular the lovely singer. Do you ever watch someone swaying to music with their eyes closed and think they are enjoying the music on another level? That was her. And would I dance, on stage, with strangers watching, with my eyes closed? Let's just say, it would take quite a few baby aspirin to get me to do that.*

Saturday mornings are typically spent catching up on the kind of stuff I can't get done when I'm the only one around the house, like making a giant curbside mound out of the fallen tree branches sprinkled throughout the yard and hooking up our newish carriage for the kids onto Nate's bike. The hook-up became a curse fest for Nate as he first blew a tire trying to pump it with air, and then after returning with a new tube and fixing it, discovered his bike chain is rusted so badly it won't move. So yet again, no biking this weekend.

Saturday afternoon I took Vivi to Harvard to participate in another research project, this time a memory study. She enjoys the attention of a "special trip," and I like showing her new places we don't usually see when I have to cart a toddler around with us. Who knows, maybe she'll absorb some of the brilliance bouncing around campus? Oh, and of course there's the prize she gets at the end. It was fun walking around Cambridge and pretending we belonged, even as I snapped photos of her at Harvard, her future alma mater (not that I'm proud, or anything, but she is acing the challenging finger-painting of preschool).

Yesterday we started early with church. Vivi left talking about how she learned about sharing in her class, and she talked even more about the sweet snack of pirate's booty she scored. After church we headed to Acton for brunch with friends at their house. It was such a pleasant morning. Can I tell you how awesome it is to walk into someone's house and have your three-year-old run off to play so you can have twenty minutes of uninterrupted adult conversation? And so what if your one-year-old is around the corner eating legos off the floor? Nobody's perfect.

We left brunch feeling optimistic; their kids are 6 and 9, and they were able to have friends over to their beautiful home, serve the best homemade quiche and pumpkin bread we've ever had, and appear at ease. There's hope for our future! When you have a one-year-old, it feels like the end of sophistication for eternity. I was happy to be proved wrong. We were also happy to get a good tip from fellow parents who aren't in a hurry to give their kids furry pets; they have a grasshopper and a gecko for pets! I think, "I can handle that." But then, last night I have this dream that I'm saving my family from a killer praying mantis that is trying to eat my children; Tom Cruise plays the part of my Dad. Any ideas there?

Sunday afternoon we took a stroll around a pond at our local Audubon habitat. Always a beautiful spot, it was particularly spectacular today with the falling leaves and afternoon sun.

We spent our evening yelling at the TV during the most intense second half of any NFL game I can remember watching. Unfortunately the Pats lost their first home game since 2008. But at least I have something to discuss with the locals tomorrow! And P.S., I don't get why everyone goes on all the time about Tom Brady being hot. He licks his fingers constantly during the game--who wants to kiss that mouth? Ick.

This post is so long! Wish there was more of a story arc to this narrative, but sometimes I just get going and can't stop. So here's a little more...

One of the best parts about my birthday weekend is that it happened to occur during the daylight savings clock switch this year. My actual birthday isn't until Tuesday, but as this is one of the only times of year that is all about me, I start celebrating when I'm good and ready. Like I was saying, the clock switch. A favorite aspect of autumn has always been the "fall back." More time! Best gift I could ask for. I like it that they moved it to November both because of my birthday and because it gets dark so early here after the time change. I spent my hour sleeping; a mother who is given extra sleep with no consequences does not question, does not blink, she takes it. How did y'all spend yours?

*Note: If you don't watch "Modern Family," you're going to miss an occasional reference. Get with the program, people!


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