Tuesday, March 31, 2009

At least one of us got a gold star today

Dear Ittybit,

You slipped into the shower with me this morning, wanting your first kindergarten experience to be clean of preschool dirt, no doubt.

You dug through your dresser looking for the shirt a friend had given you because you'd decided to wear it to the big interview: kindergarten registration day.

You were sure the bright yellow hand-me-down was a "Kindegarten" shirt, since it was bequeathed to you by a kindergartener. But when you pointed to a word and I read it as "Preschool," you put it back and selected an alternate.

"I want to wear jeans, mama," you said to my surprise. "Big girls wear jeans," you explained.

But you didn't have any jeans; I'd long ago stopped buying them since you prefer soft, stretchy pants. You settled for a pair of purple corduroys with riveted pockets that were wadded up in the back of a lower drawer, one of last children's apparel purchases I made without your approval.

We were just about ready.

Your father had left the paperwork up to me. I'd collected the information - immunization records, birth certificate, registration forms, proof of residence - the previous night.

We were all excited.

You were going to be great. We all knew it. Lori even told you you'd be the best kid in the whole world, and everyone would see it.

Of course, when we arrived in the office and met the principal's assistant you were all hello and how-do-you-do ... "Will I meet my teacher today?"

When a woman came to get you and bring you to your screening, where you would play some games that would decide your placement, you never looked back. You are not so much brave as you are confident.

As you were reciting numbers and letters (and getting gold stars for showing the nice ladies with the clipboards how you could cut with scissors and catch a ball) we were afraid of getting sent to remedial parenting school.

I'd missed half of the forms that needed to be turned in, and had to quickly scribble them out as your dad tried to cover by cracking jokes and asking questions.

We look sheepishly back as the mother behind us got praise for getting all the forms filled out properly. Our shoulders slump just a little bit.

When we are brought together to meet the principal, we become THOSE parents; the one's who are afraid you won't be seen for who you are; the one who will be molded into student who repeats information by rote.

I admitted to the smiling woman behind the desk that we have no doubt that you are ready for school and that you will do well. We are not worried about your abilities at all. I tell her we are the ones who are scared. We are the one's who will have trouble fitting in.

She nods her head with something in her face that says she knows us better that we know ourselves.

With love, and promises to work on getting more gold stars,


Monday, March 30, 2009

Alone by Myself on an Island Cookies

best cookies I've ever made, originally uploaded by toyfoto.

I didn't really use a recipe ... so chances are I won't be able to recreate them but maybe you can ...

Preheat oven to 350 degrees

Ingredients (all thrown unceremoniously into the Kitchen Aid without the use of measuring devices):

* A small food processor bowl full of oatmeal (ground)
* A few shakes of enriched white flour (maybe a 3/4 of a cup)
* About two tablespoons of butter, softened
* Nearly two tablespoons (guessing) of canola oil
* Two eggs
* Half a box of dark brown sugar
* About half a cup of granulated sugar
* Two pours of vanilla extract
* A pinch of salt
* A spoon-tip of baking soda (couldn't find the baking powder but I would have put in an equal amount of that).

Mix until blended and then add in:

* About a cup of chocolate chunks
* 3/4 of a bag of shredded, sweetened coconut (well, I put in half of the bag, but Silas - in his infinite wisdom of such things - decided it really needed more and added the rest while I was hunting for ...
* Three dried pineapple rings, chopped

The experiment is almost over: Place heaping teaspoons of batter on a parchment lined baking sheet and bake for 10 minutes.

Friday, March 27, 2009

Breathe in, breathe out

Yesterday was a super chitty, stress-filled byotch of a day.

The day before it was worse.

The cumulative effect of which spiked a headache that became a crown of tension wrapped around my skull.

When I arrived home from work the house was in an uproar. The cookies that she and her dad were making had dried cranberries. She didn't want them in hers.

No one is happy. Mama, least of all.

Fighting was everywhere. From every angle. No one can disengage.

"I'm making these cookies the way I want to and you'll try it or you'll have none."

"Well I'm NOT eating them."
"She's got to learn," he yelled at me, "that things don't always go her way."

"Like it or lump it," he told her.

She didn't understand. Neither did I really. How hard is it to hold out some batter to be cooked plain?

But I did understand it was his kitchen. His rules. To go against it wouldn't be in anyone's best interest when he'd already made the decision.

She told me her tummy hurt.

I told her it was a likely result of tension she was holding from being upset, just like my headache.

I told her yoga might help.

So she and I rolled out our mats and started doing the Alphabet with Marcia Wenig.

She told me, during Moo and Meow, she wasn't feeling any better.

I told her to breathe. Just breathe.

By the time we got to V - for volcano - we were both feeling better.

By Z, it was time for dinner.

And later, she even tried the dessert.

There was calm.

She picked around the cranberries, and declared it ...

"Not so good."

But she didn't make a face.

When she asked for a popsicle.

He gave it to her.

Nobody really won. Nobody really lost. But we were able to make peace.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Letting her babies grow up to be cowboys

When I was growing up kids (in my age-group anyway) didn't play with guns. It was a mindset that most of our parents held: guns were not toys; there was nothing of value to be gained from leveling the barrel of a plastic peashooter in any direction, even at an imaginary foe.

Had we hailed from a family of hunters, maybe we'd have a different take on the subject. But no, we, and nearly everyone we knew, were doggedly anti-gun.

My assumption has always been that the war in Vietnam - which had recently ended - was the main factor behind the boycott. Too many young men our parents had known just never came home, or they'd come home so affected by the horrors they'd seen or participated in that they weren't the same people when they did come home.

I was quite a bit older than most kids' (I think) when I finally saw a child playing with a toy gun. I must admit the sight shocked me.

But then again, I was a girl. A tomboy, perhaps, but a girl all the same. The boy stuff I was interested in wasn't playing cops and robbers or war games; it was going fishing or climbing trees or catching snakes. It was scaling walls and getting dirty.

I have come to think of it as a testament to my lack of imagination. I wasn't interested in thinking and role play as much as I was fixated on getting things done. I wanted to be the Engine Who Could. I wanted to be as high as I could get. I wanted to face fear and stare it down.

Guns didn't frighten me; they weren't even on my radar.

It didn't occur to me until much later, though, that guns were all around as I grew up. They didn't much look like what they were supposed to be, however, a red button on a rectangular hunk of plastic, tethered by a chord to the television screen. The explosive blasts sounded more digital than mechanical, and the targets were little men from outer space.

Few could work up much opposition to something so fanciful.

Shooting aliens, after all, would be a desired skill in the unlikely event of an interstellar invasion.

Of course, my interest in such things never lasted long; again I blame my gender. Even with the advent of Charlie's Angels, I was more interested in the caliber of their coiffs than the caliber of their side arms.

But boys will be boys.

Jed's mom was not much different than my parents. She was another mother who forbade games depicting mortal combat. Of course she herself fell victim when her only son - unhappy with the edict - chewed his toast into the shape of a revolver and brazenly shot her over breakfast one morning.

"Where do they get this from," I recall was her recollection.

I have to admit, I had the same degree of wonderment when The Champ, a few months ago, picked up a roll of wrapping paper, aimed it at the dog and said: "Psssshoooooo!"

I shook it off. He's only 17 months old. It didn't mean what I think it means.

Then a month or so later I found him quietly stalking our furry, incontinent beast with the core of a toilet paper roll. One eye shut. BOOM!

I sent out the APB: "Silas has a gun," but I didn't bother asking where he got one.

"Bond. James Bond." Has been his dad's nightly routine for falling asleep since Santa brought him the complete boxed set.

"We don't family pets," I say ... wondering if it's possible rabies (and not age and a lack of estrogen) is causing the pee puddles around the places she's been, in which case it might not be so inappropr...

NO! It is not OK to shoot the dog, Silas. OW. The dog would get hurt."

"No. Pshooooo?"

"No Pshooooo."

Since the all-out bans haven't really changed society's view on guns, a number of social scientists have found that toy guns and violent play acting might actually have an important role in motivating the later academic learning in boys, as well as allowing kids to explore weighty life issues such as fear, death and violence in a safe manner.

To me it makes sense. Not only do we learn through play, but it doesn’t seem as if outright bans instill knowledge as much as they reinforce fear. And looking back, I can honestly say that none of the kids I knew who played cops and robbers ever became either. Although it's possible one or two are still shooting at aliens.

I suppose the argument over whether children should play with guns is going to be a moot point in our house.

The kid's already found his dad's "potato gun."

And he's got his trusty steed, Butterscotch, to take him Home on the Range whenever he squeezes her ear.

I suppose the only thing missing is the cowboy hat -- although not if you consider his recent finding of a plastic fire helmet in the back of his sister’s closet that he now wears as he rides off into the sunset on the PlasmaCar.

Perhaps I should think about getting the poor old dog an orange vest, just incase this particular mother's son does indeed grow up to be a cowboy. ... We wouldn't want him mistaking her for a wolf, anyway.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Five bucks

The other portion of last week's stimulus money, which is $11 if you're keeping track, went for a cup of coffee for me, and some candy and trinkets for the Easter baskets.

Getting out of the house by myself to browse at the used bookstore was priceless.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Five things

A tiny map of southern Maine where my husband grew up, and where his mother, and someday, we, may retire. I decoupaged it to a small canvas and plan to hang four of them - different places in the world that have meaning to us - somewhere in our new house.

A block. The Letter I. Iguana. Ink. Ink is a fluid that I believe must mingle in my life's blood along with the black coffee.

A clothespin doll. One of the first Christmas ornament/playthings I ever made with Annabel.

An elephant. For some symbolizes luck, dilligence, strength, memory and wisdom. It usually watches Annabel as she sleeps

A double-decker "matchbox" bus my dad bought me when I was a wee squirt. Silas loves it; the doors still open and the bell still works. We have both dropped it on our toes. Silas' was unharmed. The nail on mine turned black as I recall.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Random Question Thursday

What is your favorite AND least favorite bored board games?

Annabel dug up these old boards (but not the game pieces) from the back of her closet recently. And although I am familiar with the game "Parcheesi" (the board barely visible on the bottom of the pile) since my parents had a set, I'm almost certain these didn't come from their house. I have never heard of "Camelot" the game, nor do I recognize the colorful cat fancy number with the playing card motif.

It's been a while since I've played a board game that didn't contain a licensed character (Dora! Candyland and Chutes and Ladders; Little Pest Pet Shop - though on that last one, I'm still not sure of the game's object.)

I think I enjoy word games best; though I'm not sure these technically count as board games. Last night I got sucked in to play Apples to Apples and it was a simple word comprehension game based on card prompts from cards. It's nothing like Boggle, but it's just as fun and not nearly as noisy.

Mmmmm. ... and tactile games. Backgammon. To me playing it was always a bit of a zen experience. The roll of the dice, the feel of the round tiles under my fingers as I dragged them over the velvet board, and the satisfying click when stacked together. Yeah, I like backgammon.

Of course the games I like least are ones that take eight years to play (Monotony Monopoly) resulting in the financial bankrupsy of some players and the moral bankrupsy of the filthy, conniving player who ALWAYS wins. (I'm not bitter, though).

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

How to make a Magic Hat

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

I can't hear you when you're screaming at me

I strode out of my lukewarm shower Monday morning (thanks to a the shenannigans of an impish little toddler I know who kept opening and closing the door) to the sounds of The Today Show talkingheads discussing A Case Against Breastfeeding.

I shuddered.

And not from the cold air in the kitchen (thanks to a thermostat perpetually set below 60 degrees), and not from the work that went into the Atlantic journal story. I shuttered at backlash that would result from such an inflamatory headline as "A Case Against Breastfeeding." Why does it always seem that in order to get to the truth of an emotional topic we have to have raze everything to the ground?

I knew what was coming next: Tweets. Twitters. Angry, thoughtful, painful blog posts.

Women who choose not to breastfeed, striking out because they believe the medical community and upper-income women have shamed them into feeling they've done irreperable harm to their children by giving them formula when in their heart of hearts they know they haven't.

There would also be women pushing back, feeling attacked by the magazine's message; women who chose to breastfeed and who feel strongly enough about it that they join groups to help others do it, too. And those who just plain disagreed with its conclusions.

Many have already told painful tales of being confronted by people -- some of them total strangers -- who thought it their place to inquire as to what substance these mothers' babies were guzzling from the bottles tilted into their mouths, so intent were they on setting errant moms straight if it were anything other than breastmilk.

They feel judged, shamed and unfairly villified.

What worries me about this new declaration ... another slogan, if you will ... is that it doesn't even speak to the information contained in the piece. It seems to seek vindication for those who have felt the hurt and guilt of NOT breastfeeding. It seems to bring one down to raise one up - A never-ending see-saw ride.

Perhaps in order to make everyone sit up and take notice we feel the need to bash heads. To work up a good lather of righteous indignation to wash off the debris of feeling wronged.

We seem to forget that the most important part about feeding a baby is making sure the baby is getting proper nutrition, whichever choice is made. That the baby is growing and healthy and thriving is everyone's desire.

We also seem to forget that we only have control over ourselves. When we become parents it almost seems as if our lives get put into a glass box that some giant inserts into the center of shark-infested waters. No matter where we swim we can't get away.

Only these people aren't really sharks. They are merely passersby looking in through a window. They are unwise to think they know more than we do about what's inside the glass, and we are imprudent if we allow it to be their business.

Monday, March 16, 2009

And all along I thought I had a knack for science


Two pounds of granulated sugar

A glass jar

Some cotton string -- measured to reach the bottom of the jar.

"Seed" string by soaking in water, rolling in sugar and allowing to dry for an hour

Tie seeded strings to a piece of cardboard that will fit over the jar

Heat 1 cup of water over medium heat, until boiling

Add 2 cups granulated sugar, stirring until clear

Add another cup of sugar until disolved

Remove from heat and pour into jar

Suspend strings into jar

The next step is suppose to be "Watch the crystals grow over the course of a week ..." NOT over the course of 12 hours.

I am so getting an "F" in this project.

Friday, March 13, 2009

Just an idea ...

ME: "Annabel, I have so much work to do it's not even funny."

HER: "I'm not laughing."

ME: "I know. Thanks."

HER: "You know, if you had become a veterinarian you would have SO MUCH FUN. Classes would come to visit you at work. And you know what else? If you worked at a school DOGS would come to visit you there!"

*** Looking for this week's stimulus spending update? Click on THIS.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Random Question Thursday

Do you have a favorite shower setting?

Nebulizing mist
Power rain
Full rain with massage
Directed pattern spray
Random pattern spray
Aeration spray
Twirling spray
Pulsating jet spray

Here's a bit of too-much-information for your Thursday reading enjoyment:

My husband and I were perfectly happy with our single-setting, no fuss no muss fixed shower head. It was roughly the diameter of a half-dollar and probably cost the same way back when it was initially installed during the late 70s.

But then someone - a houseguest (I'm not naming names) - decided that we needed something more exciting. This houseguest disappeared to the hardware store and reappeared with a super-duper 12-setting shower head that (for a time) did everything but change the light bulb above the sink.


After that (and this was a while ago, hence the note about the time) my husband and I started having the hassle of having to change the other's selected preference of water-dropping-pattern-ratio spray whenever we were scrubbing up.

I had the added problem of having to turn the shower head towards the wall so as to keep the water in the tub, something my husband can't really do because he'd never be able to get all the soap of his body. But I'm not going to quibble about that. I figure the fact that the shower head is the size of a salad plate and our shower is the size of a gym locker is the cause of that added adjustment.

Of course time and minerals conspired against us, and eventually, no matter what setting we wrestled the shower head into, what we got for our trouble was Do-it-Yourself Carwash (Patent pending).

We stopped adjusting the spray and just adjusted its direction. No one needs exfoliation to the bone.

Lately though, the shower head has been providing a rather pleasant effect: big, soft, fat droplets fall everso lightly now. It's quite pleasant, not to mention refreshing. The effect isn't really comparable to nature yet still I equate the sensation to that of being caught in a summer rain shower.

Soon, the spray wars begin anew. The spray hits me like a sandblaster until I strong arm the head to my simple rain.

I mentioned this revelation to my husband as deuling settings dance begins once again.

He likes his shower to be injected with tiny needle pricks of water whereas I'd be fine if mine were dumped over my head in a sudden rush as if it were coming from the spigot of a hand pump.

I want to mention it, but complain I shant. The whole point of adjustible showers is to ADJUST.

"You know, I kind of like the way the shower isn't all scrub-your-skin-off anymore."

"Oh, that," he replied. "You didn't notice? I just wiped the crust off with my thumb a few days ago."

"Now that's class-ay."

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

How to make the perfect cup of coffee ...

even more perfect.

Coffee-talk amongst yourselves.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009


impressed, originally uploaded by toyfoto.

Dear Ittybit,

I know what this look meant. I was there, listening.

The girl - a stranger you'd met on the playground - was telling you about how fun it was to play just the very way you two had been playing.

You were in emphatic agreement and slightly star-struck.

She was a bit older but nevertheless impressed that you'd already lost two teeth.

She also liked your name. And you liked hers.

The crinkle at the top of your nose is always there when you are listening intently. Your closed smile tightens your eyes.

I look at this picture and I see its ambiguity ... the face of a girl who's smelled something just a tiny bit off or saw something with a touch of derision.

But neither was a part of this moment when I snapped the shutter.

What was there, a few feet away, was another girl: A taller, blonde girl not so very different in age or appearance than either of you. Yet, I noticed your conversation -- even if she didn't hear -- soon made her so.

When you asked her to join you on the swing and she refused, you decided your games were better anyway. Without any meanness, you just moved her into another category. A different category than the one you were currently filing yourself and your new friend.

Is this how it begins? Where playground politics get their platforms? Their lobbyists? Their stranglehold on the developing child? There must be a natural order to growing up: A Darwinian struggle resembling survival of the fittest.

I remind you about all the times you didn't want to climb to the top, or slide on the curly slide. I remind you about how you sometimes like to play by yourself.

You agreed ... and then you told your friend "moms are always reminding you about stuff like that."

Perhaps it's because I remember this look. I understand it as sure as I know my own face. I know it has so many meanings beside the one that was behind it.

Love and observations,


Monday, March 9, 2009

We're rethinking any future trips to the zoo

Lest they think he belongs in the cage with the big cats.

Friday, March 6, 2009


I found a few extra dollars in my paycheck this week, thanks to the economic stimulus plan, and spent it on a few things I didn't need: the Juno soundtrack and orange-flavored Tic Tacs.

I blame HBO programming honchos, a longing for my youth and product placement for this particular impulse purchase.

I know the money probably could have been better spent; perhaps on groceries or other necessities. But at least I was smiling and singing happily on my way to work this morning.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Random Question Thursday

I'm really NOT this silly, originally uploaded by toyfoto.

Is your favorite news outlet Tweeting you?

I'm not really as silly as the photo suggests. *Hush up you who know different.*

But I think the explosion of local media outlets trying to get hip - and potential hype - by signing themselves up on Twitter is pretty silly.

In fact - gulp - I kind of think the whole "Let's-adopt-social-networking-as-a-potential-new-business-model because-it-seems-to-be-all-the-rage ... not-to-mention-getting-a-whole-boatload-of-bucks-right-now" IS downright laughable.

It may sound a lot like the pot calling the kettle black, here, seeing as how my personal blog is getting some linky love from the Home Office ... but really, I don't see how moves like this will save the industry.

I've been blogging for about five years now and I've made a total of $80 (although the people at Google haven't sent me that check yet ... so really I shouldn't count those eggs until they're hatched). My guess is there's no gold at the end of this rainbow.


Wednesday, March 4, 2009

An empty room

The Champ’s room is empty save for a trundle bed bought for a handful of dollars at a yard sale and a corner dresser filled with clothes he’s still months away from fitting.

A beige towel – remaindered and untouched from the last overnight guest - lays folded on the chest’s blonde-colored top. It serves as a rough terry mattress for a smattering of keepsake toys with which he’s never played.

The corner boudoir – more extension of hallway than bedroom – has been a concern since the moment the ultrasound technician detected his wand with hers.

Thus he’s never spent a night in his room. He rarely spends the night in his crib.

His clothes – the ones that do fit him - are straining a cheap chest of drawers pushed into the back of my closet. The ones he’s outgrown make their way to a bag tucked in beside it, presumably to be left, like an orphan, on the steps of a charity in a moment of eyes-closed-shut resolve.

My husband wonders if we’ll have to wait until he goes to college before we get our room back. His jokes have sharp teeth that he wraps in humor to dull the effect on my soft flesh.

I refuse to talk about it.

I don’t want to give voice to all that I am thinking.

... That we are showing a kind of deep seated favoritism to our boy as we shuffled our girl off a room of her own when she was barely a year old.

... That he is my last child, and losing his baby-ness with each passing day.

... That things are progressing in the other house - the house that is not the home we brought them into but the one in which they will grow up - and that means more change.

... And that he will finally have a room that rivals his sister’s.

I don’t want to be reminded that my babies are growing up even though the fact of it confronts me each day at breakfast. Each day they get taller and taller, able to reach previously unattainable objects as they perch on tippy-toes.

Such happiness I feel in their accomplishment, and yet a somber tone sounds in my head '... soon they won't need me.'

The day is coming when we will have our room back. When we look at each other and have to figure out how to be alone again. How to just be us.

I don’t want think about that day if it means it will be missing the equivalent of the children’s weight in joy.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Could we really be this lazy?

The answer to that would be a resounding "YES!"

Last year you may recall the annual tree toss took place on February 3rd. This year ... well, you are looking at images taken just last evening.

For our official End Of Christmas Tree Toss next year, I'd say check in around Mothers' Day.

Monday, March 2, 2009

Did you know you can waste candy on children?

In our house this phenomenon is known as "Choc-yech."