Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Think 'Positive'

letter man

On my way into work the other day I caught a bit of WAMC's interview with Goldie Hawn about her charitable foundation and its MindUP™ program, which is essentially a neural-based curriculum for students in kindergarten through seventh grade that stresses positive emotional support to enhance educational outcomes.

Think "Positive."

Think "Joy."

Think "Brain Chemistry."

Think "So much for dumb blond stereotypes."

Because in so much as I wish I could despise ideas that come from celebrity noggins, I can't really disagree with the principles of brain-based theories of education.

Teaching for the brain rather than the test seems like a pretty good way to do it.

Of course parents such as myself will have to get past what Hawn said to what she means.

For instance, in her interview Hawn commented that schools aren't really broken, our children are.

They feel more stress, less stability and are lacking in hope for the future. The reasons for this are numerous, and include technology (which she thinks is wonderful), the fact that both parents are often working and not available to children (though she'd never advocate mom stay at home), and that our culture isn't really kid-centric (despite the coining of terms such as "helicopter parents").

There really are no simple solutions to problems that fan out over the expanse of a society, but I think realizing the types of stress kids have, and then trying to reduce stress in general so that kids can focus on not only academic but social development, is a very good place to start.

We may not be able to eliminate the causes of stress (as we so often try to do with new rules and laws) but we should be able to teach ourselves and our kids better coping mechanisms.

We have nothing really to lose ... except maybe some angst.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Phoning it in ...

taking the boy for a walk

"Faster, faster faster."


Monday, March 29, 2010

Soft moments


Sometimes it's the soft moments, and not all the sharply focused ones, that hold all the promise.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Friday Craftacular pulls a rabbit out of its hat

bunny "finishished"

So here we are a couple-a few days away from Easter and The Bunny's assistant is running around like ... well ... a chocolate bunny with her head bitten off. (Doh! That would have been a better Craftacular Friday project that this one. Rats!)

I came up with this idea while I was in the drugstore, looking at candy. For some reason seeing all the chocolate rabbits lined up in rows, some in gold tinfoil, made me think of making a bunny ornament for our Christmas, January, Valentine, Leprechaun, Easter Tree.

As you may notice from the photo, the project is only "finish-ished." I need to do more work on the egg bit.

So here's what you need:

Felted sweaters (or craft felt)
Small scraps of fabric for ear elements.
Stuffing material (I used cotton balls I bought from the same drugstore where the idea came from because I never seem to be able to get to a craft store to by fiberfill.)
Some embroidery floss
A hankering for chocolate

*First I bought the dang chocolate rabbit and tried to draw its outline on a piece of paper to make a pattern. (I added feet because I think rabbits should have them). I also drew an egg shape and cut out both shapes.

*Next I ate the rabbit. (sorry kids).

*Cut out and pin your patterns to the fabric and make two of each shape.

*I sewed each set of shapes around the edges using a blanketstich. I started at the base of the bunny's neck and went around the lower body first then stopped at the top of the ears. Notice my fine craftsmanship. (Go ahead, scroll back up and look at the picture closely.) I swear I wasn't imbibing any adult beverages.

*Before I closer-on-up, I sewed on the ear elements with a few stitches and then a few more stitches for the eyes. (I don't recommend XXs ... unless the bunny's been in your garden).

*Stuffed with stuffing.

*Snipped a length of grosgrain ribbon, folded into a loop and inserted into the neck opening.

*Stitched it shut. (Use remaining cotton balls to mop your brow if you like.)

*Do the same kinda thing with the egg.

When I started the project I had envisioned two separate ornaments, but I think sewing the egg into the bunny's paws would be possible.

If you make this project I'd love to see your results, especially if you improvise.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Random Question Thursday is moving over to accommodate Pointed Question Thursday

What do you think of the Health Care Reform bill?

I don't really think of this as health care reform so much as I think of it as a multi-approach attempt at insurance regulation. And since the Grand Old Party put its fingers in its ears and shouted I'm not listening through the whole process, I really wish the Democrats would have put the public option back in and passed the sucker.

Basically what we have is two businesses -- Doctors and Insurance Companies -- battling over the dollars that consumers -- The Patients -- are putting into the system.

Since a few consumers put up all the money that's in the system, (which is a for-profit model) that money covers all the people who are outside the system but in need of treatment -- The Uninsured.

Now the cost of that is spread out and bolstered by The government (WE THE PEOPLE) through taxes. Since WE THE PEOPLE need services we can not always pay for, and since WE THE PEOPLE have made commitments to the poor and the elderly, WE THE PEOPLE who are in the middle are stuck with sticker shock.

But since WE THE PEOPLE haven't made enough provisions for The Uninsured, the cost for their care is usually passed along to the consumer through inflated prices for services and an increase in premiums. Never. Ending. Cycle.

Now, because the for-profit model benefits the shareholders, WE THE PEOPLE need to take care of the consumers and make sure they get what they pay for.

The mandate to buy insurance isn't the BIG G government telling people how to spend their money so much as it is spreading out the costs for the services WE THE PEOPLE need to afford.

I like to think of it as planning ahead.

We know we need to care for people, we ought to start caring.

Making insurance companies pony up is a first step in the process.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Steady as she goes

She held the egg in her dye-stained hands. A crack, like a spider web, marred its surface. She'd been running with her handiwork when it slipped from her grasp and rolled under the table. I heard the tell-tale crunching of hardboiled against hardwood. She didn't realize it was damaged until she retrieved it.

I felt her suffering immediately.

She'd waited weeks for me to give the approval for the messy rite of Spring. She endured my stern looks as she overfilled the cups with colored water. She said a thousand "I'm sorrys" as splashes of blue and green and red and orange stain the floor.

She did her best to clean them up.

When she was finished she couldn't have been more proud of the pastel orbs if she'd laid them herself.

But as she held her precious mistake, her face took on an ambivalence I've never seen before. Her eyes were large and red-rimmed but stayed dry. Her lips were downturned, yet tight and unwavering. It was an emotion balanced on a razor thin moment. Everything in jeopardy of crashing down. It was sad mixed with study.

She steadied herself and the moment was over. She was solid and happy again.

"It's ok. ... It's still beautiful."

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Already a master of reverse psychology

"Mom? I not want to help make waffles. I not want to do that."

"Do you want to help make waffles?"


"OK ... Come on then, we'll make waffles."

"Thanks, mom.

"... I not want to kiss you."

"I don't want to kiss you either."

"You want to kiss me?"


"Ok ... Thanks, mom."

Monday, March 22, 2010

Why do they listen to me? They know I know not of what I speak


ME: "What's going on."

HIM: "I'm finally getting around to putting the knocker on the door. ... the only problem is it's going to have to go to the left or the right because the center panel isn't wide enough for the bolts. ... Which do you like better?"

ME: "Uh ... neither really. What about centering it on the lower panel?"

HIM: "I suppose it would look stately ... but it's a knocker. Knockers shouldn't be so low."

ME: "Hey, gravity affects everyone. This is an old house. ... My vote is for symetry."

HIM: "OK ... Gravity it is."


ITTYBIT: "Hey ... what are you doing?

HIM: "Installing a knocker."

"It looks weird."

HIM: "Talk to your mother."

Saturday, March 20, 2010

I just hope I'm this calm in ten years ...

calling 76/365

I got a phone call last night at 9:30 from a woman who identified herself as So-And-So-I-never-heard-of's mom.

I say: "Oh Hi," as if So-And-So was someone I should know but don't.

Then she says in the most pleasant voice you can imagine: "Do you know where So-And-So is? I'm trying to track him down."

I hesitate for a moment before admitting "I've never heard of So-And-So. ... I thought my six-year-old was being invited to another birthday party."

Friday, March 19, 2010

Friday craftacular has bacon, eggs and toast ... just not enough caffeine

We started with these ingredients …

breakfast (in bed pillow) colors

and these …

toast and butter

Then we did a little slicing … a little dicing … a touch of toasting (not to mention basting, gluing and sewing). Even one of Jed’s favorite jerseys took one for the team.

bacon strips breakfast in bed pillow - ala carte toast 'n butter

And we wound up with a pillow almost good enough to eat.


It's all in Betz White's book "Warm Fuzzies" (that we borrowed from, and is probably overdue at, the library).

It wasn't a difficult project, but it did take time to collect the materials and assemble them. Normally I have enough sweaters my husband has accidentally shrunk to feed beds across America. But I had *just* sent a load off to charity rather than have a weepy reminder of the beautiful white wool cardigan that now wasn't big enough to fit the cat. (It would have been perfect for the eggs).

Where was I? Oh yes. Easy. ... The book offers templates, but the shapes are so basic I just cut them out by hand.

I even figured out the pattern for the strawberry was just a uppercase "B" without the holes.

B for strawberry

Too bad I forgot to sew them to the pillow.

Still, Ittybit declared the Breakfast in Bed pillow good enough to eat.

And I swear it really wasn't that difficult. She even helped sew and snip.

Truly the hardest part was listening to her tell the woman at the cash register in Goodwill that all the sweaters we were buying were for a project ...

All execpt the red striped one. ...

"Mom thinks that one is pretty. She's going to wear it so she can look like bacon."

**Also ... a winner has been chosen to receive my copy of The Handmade Marketplace. Mamma Pie you are the winner. e-mail me your mailing info and expect a parcel in a few days.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Random Question Thursday has no taste

What food would you be happy never to eat again?


That's right, my answer is goat.

I had it once (not this one, of course) in a soup, and I'm still trying to get the taste out of my mouth.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Casting stones

I walked out of high school one day with about 100 other students, and followed 99 of them for a mile to a home I'd never visited before.

I didn't even know who owned it, though I could guess it was someone who never suspected their kids would invite a few friends over while they were at work, let alone a guest list that avalanched through word-of-mouth. (I can't imagine what kind of numbers cell phones and texting would have drawn.)

I stayed for a few minutes and then kept on walking. It wasn't my scene. Illicit parties with teens puking on lawns from illegally procured alcohol wasn't a rite of passage for me so much as a strange backdrop I stood in front of, smiling uncomfortably.

I didn't want to seem alien, but I didn't want to actually take part. I wasn't a bad kid, but I wasn't a perfect one, either.

I would estimate that such scenes of negligent judgement and sheepish behavior play out on a weekly if not daily basis with most teens. Underaged drinking bashes weren't invented by texting-friendly friends. IParty existed long before iPhone. Usually groups gather deep in some wooded place, where a friend of a friend of somebody's brother's fourth cousin brings a case or a six pack and kids going steady hold tightly to each other and to brightly colored SOLO cups.

Perhaps more infrequently a teenage opportunist knew of a house that was empty. A place that was secluded. A place that was easy to get into ... they may even have keys. Maybe they said their parents wouldn't mind a few friends.

Before you know it the party takes on a life of its own. ... The 80s were filled with house party movies, where arrogant adolescents wrecked stately homes, and yet somehow hapless hosts became heroes. No parent was ever the wiser.

Life rarely has a hollywood ending, though. In real life, by the time police reports are filed and the news cameras roll, scores of kids will end up with records and a hefty debt to pay, often one that money can't always fix.

What were they thinking?

They probably weren't.

Something similar happened in North Greenbush last month when more than 80 students attended a party in a vacant but up-scale house, causing damage estimated in the hundreds of thousands. Windows smashed, cabinets bashed, urine in carpets. In that case all who were said to be in attendance are being charged with criminal trespass for walking into the house regardless of how long they stayed.

Predictably people reading and watching the news are outraged. They are quick to blame not only the students, but the parents as well. Not only do they want the kids an their families to pay, they want them shamed. They want retribution.

But on the price I find myself ambivalent.

I don't for an instant think there are 80 horrible, degenerate teens out there breaking into homes as a first step to a life of violent crime. I don't believe their parents are terrible people who are apathetic to their adolescents. If I did think that way, I
know I would be throwing stones at a glass house.

I was a teen once. I am a parent now.

Some of these kids made huge mistakes and some of them made common errors in judgement.

However, fingerprinting every single soul who went to a party, hauling them into police stations for processing and courtrooms and eventually someone who will oversee punishments, seems an excessive response that puts an incredible burden on a system that should be for justice and not just retribution.

And yet I can't bring myself to say making the teens face such a consequence is unfair.

Fairness isn't something anyone can achieve in situations such as this ... not the homeowners, certainly.

Kids are kids, and mistakes are mistakes and crime is crime. In the end the letter of the law is the letter of the law. Owning up to all of it is part of the process of becoming an adult. The realities of raising incomplete humans often means having to help clean up their messes.

But if our kids get through it without a dreaded phone call, we should thank our lucky stars instead of throwing stones.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Major Rock Star

First dental appointment: No fuss, no muss. Just 20 clean teeth.

... Ok .. there was a little muss.

The Champ has some surface decay on his front teeth, likely from night nursing. The doctor suggests we stop nursing cold turkey and gave us some medication to fortify the teeth.

I smiled and nodded. ... And died a little inside.

A part of me feels relieved that The Champ is FINALLY sleeping through the night and therefore nursing much less. But still. Died. Inside.

My baby. ... My last baby.

A baby who is also not interested in weaning.

She read my face. "Whenever you are ready as a family."

My daughter, the best parent of all, filled the doctor in a few minutes later when the topic had changed to orthodonture. (Yes, both kids will need braces.)

"She's not going to do it, you know."

"Do what, honey?"

"Stop nursing. She's not going to do it."

Monday, March 15, 2010

I give up

You nailed me.

I’m a mommy blogger. I can’t pass by a computer without checking my e-mail or browsing the internet looking for updates on a growing number of social clubs wherein I *talk-write-tweet* about life in no particular order and with no particular agenda.

My regular haunts include flickr, twitter, facebook and a couple of private forums, too. I also read the newspaper and magazines online whenever possible. I'd rather surf the net than watch television.

This network of random computer connections has lead to some extra income for me. So in that way I also fit the stereotype Jennifer Mendelsohn has teased out of her story on a blogging conference she wrote about for the New York Times, "Honey, don't bother mommy. I'm too busy building my brand.".

I can identify with the headline, too. I know how to tune out the dog barking and the television blaring. Worst of all, I know I tune out the kids.

My husband takes no pleasure in telling me how often the kids are unhappy that I’m not paying attention to their needs. I don’t even bother telling him how many phone calls have taken him away from the family.

It's a fight we don't need. We are imperfect, we readily admit. We are beta parents. Parent who just want their kids to go and play.

Our kids will likely have the memory of their parents always on our computers, always wanting just a few minutes to finish whatever it was we were doing. Whatever it was that wasn't them.

I hope they will also remember the crafts and the beach and the showing up at school unannounced. I hope they will remember the trips to places far and near. I hope they remember some of the "specials" we gave them. Most of all I hope they will one day find this little place and realize I was human, and that I had a mind that wasn't contained in only one place ... and that I loved them.

A lot of people are fired up about the snark and the headline of the Mendelsohn piece, not to mention the photos and graphics that ran with the article in the style section. They are digging in their heels and commenting in the hundreds taking the paper to task for sending more incendiary words into the mommy wars.

While I, too, wonder if the story would have taken the initial tone of distain had the conference been for self-employed men looking to brush up on IT, I don’t believe for a second it is worth as much consideration as it has gotten.

The story itself broke no ground. It’s the anger that it unleashed that’s what’s provocative.

Anger is something that doesn't seem in short supply anywhere these days.

As an employee of a newspaper, my very existence at this moment is focused on the internet and on getting readers anyway we can. On a personal level I disagree vehemently with the direction we are heading. It feels very much like an "If you can’t beat 'em, join 'em" kind of move.

But I'm done being angry.

The money is still the question mark for all types of media, and in the end it will determine what happens.

We can all be voices in the wilderness for only so long.

At some point we have to do something with our voices that has lasting value.

Eventually we all have to simmer down.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Everyone and Their Mother is making crafts


Handcrafts are hip, there's no denying it. So hip, in fact, we are all spending small fortunes trying to save money by Doing It Ourselves.

Naturally, the trend to make homemade leads to the desire to sell it, too. It's like a gateway drug. You start by repairing a hem or sewing a button and before you know it your house is filled with felt gnomes or knitted coffee cup cozies.

Now it's not likely that any of my handiwork is ever going to be featured on Cool Mom Picks or in the Etsy Showcase. That would be crazier than Amy Sedaris quitting her comedy gigs to sell google-eyed peanuts at craft fairs.

Must I remind you that I am the person who made this?

However, if I WERE going to attempt to monetize my insanity I'd take some tips from Kari Chapin's recently published book "The Handmade Marketplace." ($15, Storey Publishing)

Chapin, a professional in marketing and community relations, offers practical tips for crafters that runs the gamut from sourcing materials and optimising work spaces to getting the attention of buyers and shipping out the finished product.

The advice in the book gleans tips from professional crafters and discusses potential marketing draws, such as getting the word out on your amazing one-of-a-kind thing-a-ma-whats via everything from social networking, asking a local shop to see if they can sell one or two, to buying ads in national publications.

While there's nothing earth shattering in the advice -- one section on attending craft fairs and swaps reminds readers to "look welcoming," "start conversations" and say "thank you" -- the brief, headlined entries are easy to read and collectively offer a firm basis for ensuring new entrepreneurs aren't stepping on their own toes as they join the marketplace dance.

NOTE: Since I'm not going to be one of Everyone's Mothers who unleash felt flops on the world, leave a comment here if you want my copy of the guide. If there are more than one of you out there, a winner will be fairly and scientifically picked at random by a kid with popsicle-sticky hands. ... I won't let them lick the pages. Promise.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Laughing at our own jokes

I was messing with filters in Photoshop during the processing of this photo, when my curser highlighted "Polor Coordinates" in the distortion category.

shadow polar coordinates

I'd almost forgotten about that little widget. I used that a lot when I first started learning digital darkroom. I suppose I liked making circles out of straight lines.

Of course overusing something like this (or probably using it at all) is the grammatical equivalent of using too many capital letters or exclamation points ... that of laughing at your own joke: A joke no one else really "gets."

The Champ thought this picture was worth interpretation.

"Oh, look! Ahbel is a space monkey."

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Random Question Thursday hijacks Wednesday and takes it for a joyride

How do you know spring has sprung in your little corner of the universe?

First plasma car of spring

We know it by the first Plasma Car sighting.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Something tells me we better start saving ...

for bail.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Going for the gold


It just now occurs to me that when it comes to parenting failures, I don't just get to the brink of bad and teeter on the edge, or even fall over its cliff unable to stop forward momentum. I sense impending doom and plunder right ahead as if getting to the other side will redeem me.

Case in point:

Sunday afternoon Ittybit wanted to watch a movie. So we HBO Anytimed "Coraline."

Now, I had previously watched about two-thirds of the film and thought it was tame enough for Ittybit, who, as a fan of The Nightmare Before Christmas, LOVES all things scary. ... How scary could the ending be?

Turns out the answer is: Pretty friggin' scary.

So when her hands came up to her eyes and she tells me she's ready to move on to watching grass grow or paint dry, instead of turning off the TV then and there as a sane parent would have - I convinced her to just hold out to the end.

The twisted hunk of matter that passes for my brain rationalized she'd already seen the worst part. When she'd seen Coraline become the heroine of her own story, the color would return to the Pink Palace and all would be right with the world again. The End.

"I'll be right here. I promise nothing bad will happen to Coraline. ... It's just a movie. She is an amazingly brave girl, and amazingly brave children always prevail in movies."

However, such thinking only works until the lights go out at bedtime and the shadows of innocuous things dance across her own pink bedchamber in threating ways.

The only thing you can do after that is settle in beside her under the covers and wait for her breathing to deepen and become steady. Then slip out and cross your fingers the shadows stay at bay until sunrise.

Friday, March 5, 2010

Friday Craftacular has an easy way to get a little more fiber into your kids' pretend diet

finished cupcake pin cushion


Ok ... so I snuck away from the craft books in the children's section of the library because the instructions were confusing me and I found THIS wedged between cooking and gardening.

I started salivating. I checked out the book by Betz White (and paid the $28 in fines we owed from the prior week) before I even read the instructions.

Turns out it's all about crafting with felted SWEATERS, which would have been perfect for me since I end up donating all the sweaters Jed accidentally washes and dries to Goodwill. But my color choices lean toward bland. So I'm already forced to improvise.

* a couple of sheets of craft felt
* a scrap of wide wale corduroy
* Some thread or embroidery floss
* and some glue.

* a pom-pom
* tiny buttons
* rick rack
* beads
* a bakery cupcake to keep you from overindulging in felt


1. Fold felt rectangle lengthwise

Cut a length of felt twice as wide as you envision the height of your cupcake. Cut another strip in a different color.

2. Layer two folded felts ....

Fold the felt in half, sandwich together.

Next project .... 56/365

Roll tightly and baste stitch the end flap.


Cut a strip of the scrap corduroy so that it will fit around the rolled felt. (You can also use the cuff of a felted sweater.) Fold right-side in and sew the end. Fit the sleeve over the cupcake. Trim to fit the bottom edge if it doesn't already. I salvaged my piece of corduroy from a skirt that already had a frayed edge.


Slather glue on the bottom of the cake.


Press a square of felt (or corduroy) to the bottom and trim around the edge. I also blanket stiched around the edge with embroidery floss of a matching color.


Then the kid gussied it up with pom-poms, rick rack and straight pins.

"fiber" cupcake

Make a few more, leave out the straight pins and your kids can really play with their food.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Random Question Thursday

Does your face always give you away or are you hard to read?

I think my face ALWAYS gives me away, but most folks tell me I'm hard to read. (I can only assume that means I always looked ticked off and they're trying to be diplomatic).

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

To be filed under sub-category: 'Children Are Strange'

Yesterday I learned my children are actually constellations of condiment consumption.

Here you will see ...


The Little Sipper

and ...


The Big Sipper

Hard to believe that only a few days ago I had accepted that their stomachs were merely black holes where all the snack food in the house just seems to disappear.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

It's just one small thing

That leads to another small thing.

And another.

Until your house is filled to the rafters with an army of small things.

That's how I feel about school fund raisers.

I probably wouldn't care in the least if I didn't have enough trouble suppressing the urge to buy things I want but don't need.

Feeling as if I HAVE to buy things that we don't need AND don't want is just painful.

But when the school hands my kid a slick sheet of paper with the picture of a furry mechanical gerbil she will "WIN" for selling 25 to 34 buckets of cookie dough (at $12 or $13 bucks a pop) it just makes me wonder about this "team work" stuff.

I mean, I believe in public education. I know things are tough and schools need money, I just really think this type of "incentive" marketing to children can only have the effect of pitting parents against schools.

That's what I'm thinking as she tells me "You are not going to like what I have to show you," just before bedtime. She's holding the sales packet in a bearhug.

I open my mouth to protest.

"BUT LOOK! IT'S SOOOOO CUTE, MOM," she croons as I squint at the picture of a toy gerbil on a pink wheel.

"Isn't that the same toy you decided AGAINST at the shop in Maine last summer?"

"People change their minds don't they?"

And then I realize ... she's right.

Here I am, saying one thing at the grocery store -- "No, we are not buying Dora the Explorer yogurt" -- and feeling I have to swallow the over-priced cookie dough at school because it's "for the kids."

Monday, March 1, 2010

What rollerskating means to toddler set:


"I did that Rolderting! I wear big boots and fall a lot."