Wednesday, June 30, 2010

An ode to a Ladybug

When you came downstairs this morning, all dressed for the day, I had to stifle a laugh.

You were wearing a pretty, summer-weight cotton frock your auntie had given you and ladybug antenna.

I didn't want to laugh because I didn't want to discourage you.

I am not really looking forward to the day when you are more Lady than Bug.

Monday, June 28, 2010

The secret of a happy marriage ...


Separate blankets.

Friday, June 25, 2010

No good deed goes unpunished

Kindergarten is over and the yellow bus that beckoned at 8:12 each morning has been parked for the summer. There is no longer a pressing reason to leave on time.

Except, perhaps, my temper.

If it's true that no good deed goes unpunished, it may also be true that no frustrated tirade by persons over the age of 12 will ever be understood as having redeeming grounds.

That was me this morning, in the driver's seat, a half-hour after we SHOULD have left the house. I was lecturing the kids on how disappointed I was in the screaming, whining, repetitive demands for one. thing. after. another. when we should have been getting ready for the long day ahead.

They sat stonefaced and angry in their carseats as I backed out of the carport.

Candy for breakfast ... one more television program ... stop at the store for Silly Bandz ... apple cider doughnuts.

No, no, no, no, NO! THATS IT!

I am going to drop you off at the sitter's house and go back home and put all your stuff in the trash.

You are not grateful.
You are not happy with what you have.
All you want is more.

As they sit there, now quiet, with tears streaming down their faces I feel guilty.

The "YOU-ARE-SO-LUCKY ... THERE-ARE-KIDS-WHO-HAVE-NOTHING" rant that is so popular with parents prone to overindulgence.

Parents just like me, who, after the outburst -- no matter how late they are already -- steer the car to the apple farm to get coffee ... and cider ... and two doughnuts.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Just like riding a bike

standing ride 167/365

Truth be told, I've been feeling guilty as a parent.

She's half-past six and she's never really ridden a trike, let alone a two (plus two) wheeler.

When she'd learned her cousin, a full year younger, had just graduated from training wheels she was distraught.

It was our laziness that was to blame.

Not only hadn't we pushed her in the direction of kidley arts, we hadn't introduced her to many either. Oh we had the stuff ... much of it handed down from people whose kids were well beyond the tyke bike years ... but we hadn't made time for testing them out.

Lord knows, last thing I wanted to do on a weekend was figure out how to restore an old bike.

As I watched other kids in the neighborhood master their bikes, I worried my lack of motivation would hold keep her from every being motivated. Still, I shrugged my shoulders and pushed it all out of my mind.

It wasn't until she helped her dad pick out a bike for her BABY BROTHER that the desire to ride really ignighted.

And ... off she went.

As it turns out, when kids are ready there's no stopping them.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Worth the wait

Three, baby

"I hate the doctor," The Champ says only a few minutes after he'd happily left the waiting room toys and greeted the nurse who'd called his name with a resounding "HI."

He'd been skeptical of removing his shoes for the big weigh-in but he cooperated. He hopped on the wiggly scale and tried to be still. He stood quietly and allowed me to move his heels closer to the measuring wall. He even squinted his trademark smile when the nurse with the file folder directed him to "look up at mommy." He giggled about the blood pressure cuff and laughed at the butterfly that leapt out of the eye test as soon as he put on the funny glasses.

But the directive to remove all but "whatever's under there," meaning his "jammas," ended his amusement and his further willingness to comply.

I don't like the doctors. ... I don't want to take my clothes off! I want my shoes ON!

But ... He let me take off his shirt and pants, and he curled up in my lap to wait for the doctor.

While we waited, he told me about all the things he hated beside the doctor and the room and listening to me sing songs meant for the car ... "NOT THE DOCTOR'S OFFICE!"

It seemed to take forever until the doctor's gentle tap-tap sounded on the door and she peeked inside. I wished we could wait like that forever.

For the record: He's 25 pounds and 33 3/4 inches tall.
Still growing.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Slippery slope

Testing out the waterslide

Dear Champ,

You push her hand away as she tries to help you up the slide.


Your sister barely remembers life without you.

I think about this as I watch you play together in the water.

You are six months younger than she was three years ago Saturday.

She seemed so much bigger then than you are now.

Strange how I size you in measures of her, though you two are distinct in almost every way.

Except in terms of Three.

That year comes in like a lion: angry and loud, with a fearful roar. I started telling people you were three months ago ... and then correcting myself ... "Ah, he's nearly three."

I can't lie and say it doesn't matter; the storm cloud stares and the "I frink I hate yous."

These are the best years, or so I'm told. "Cherish them."

Adolescents is biding its time. Soon it will be here with its need for freedom, fair-weather friends and car keys.

There I go, getting ahead of you again. Ticking up your age.

Thankfully, you are a stickler for precision: You are not a baby, or a big boy, or my Buddy. You are just a little boy who, for the moment, still needs help on the way down the slide.

Love and catches,


Thursday, June 17, 2010

Visions of Hoffman's past

Oh ... the pestering ...

It has begun.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Vacations on the horizon

I found this picture today as I was searching for a travel photograph to call my favorite.

It was Ittybit's first plane ride. We were going to Boulder, Co. to meet her new cousin. The young man in the picture was traveling alone and had what some might think of as the misfortune of sitting next to a baby on the plane. I don't think he minded.

People can surprise you if you let them.

I have to admit, even to myself, travel photography isn't my favorite. No matter where I go or what I do, the pictures I take might have been taken anywhere: A street scene in New Zealand could be one in New York City for all the details my lens leaves out.

There are brief moments of awe, of course, just as there is an infinite number of interesting places we can go, and people we can meet once we get there.

But once we get our photos printed and organized, they're never seem as brilliant as the memories we were intending to capture.

Trees aren't as lush. Mountains aren't as majestic. Oceans aren't as deep.

For me family always ends up the focus, while the travel becomes a prop or a blurry backdrop. Places, I think, need people.

Monday, June 14, 2010

How we each feel about World Cup

world cup

ITTYBIT: Do you like this, mom?

ME: Not really.

ITTYBIT: Then why are you watching?

ME: Your dad likes it.

ITTYBIT: But why are YOU watching?

ME: Because I don't like princess movies either ...


ME: ... but I watch them because YOU like them.

ITTYBIT: Well, you like the Electric Company.

ME: That's true. I do.

ITTYBIT: Too bad they don't play soccer.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

(Not so random) Random Request Thursday

As some of you may know, The Record newspaper in Troy, NY (where I work) is embarking on an interesting exercise to create a paper - both in print and online - that is meaningful to the community but that uses little or no proprietary software.

The initiative, which our parent company has dubbed "The Ben Franklin Project," is set to run company-wide on July 4 - Independence Day.

My component of the effort (beside my usual column) is something I've dubbed "The Wedding Project." *I know ... committing to a union of two humans is technically anti-independence, but I think the power of togtherness is really the key factor here ...


Simply put, what I hope to do is gather a collection of your photos and stories for publication.

* A single photograph - jpeg format, 200 dpi (although I will scan and return photographs if you send SASEs).

* A paragraph describing a memorable moment from your wedding (it doesn't have to be the one pictured).

Send your submissions to


Does the moment have to be from the wedding itself?

No, it can be a moment that took place any time from the proposal, planning, or honeymoon. The cake smash? The bouquet toss? What you
thought when you saw your soon-to-be-spouse at the end of the aisle. It can be romantic, poignant, funny or funny a decade later. It's totally your call.

What will happen to the information?

*Text will be edited (lightly) and embedded in photographs for use in an online slideshow
*Selected submissions will (hopefully) appear in print on July 4th

What is the deadline?
June 25 (I am hoping I will need a lot of time to format your submissions for the Independence Day publication).

Where do I send my stuff?

Thank You . Thank You . Thank You . Thank You.

In advance.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Formula for a birthday bash

"Hey Champ, who do you want to invite to your birthday party?"

"Papa ...

Amah ...

Mimi ...

Ah-bel ...

Daddy ...

Mama ...

and Mama's car."

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Now we are 'Six'


The notion that everyday life should be easy is such a crock of

... super chunky peanut butter.

Getting past the everyday is the challenge.

As I was driving to work today I thought about the people living a particular street I'll call "Anywhere, USA."

You might live on this street, or you may know someone who lives on this street.

It's not particularly fancy, but most of the houses on this tree-lined drive are well maintained and the yards are wide and lush.

Homeowners include retirees and single women, families with young children and families with teens and families whose children have recently flown the coop. Most people know their neighbors by sight, if not by name.

There's a family with an incessantly barky dog in the middle of the block, and one with the roaming cat a few houses down. There's the house on the end where the lawn is unlikely to be mowed and is therefore slowly being swallowed up by the overgrowth.

I blindly stare out of my car window at the stop sign at the end of the block, wondering how they do it.

Most mornings I manage to get the kids breakfast, bribe them into getting dressed in fresh clothes, brushing hair, washing faces, lunches packed, homework ready. But there's always something missing; a smudge of peanut butter, a snarl where the pillow rests.

The spring plantings - mostly lettuce in pots on the porch - have already been eaten by brave rabbits. The trappings of life with youngsters -- sports equipment, bikes, brightly colored toys -- piles up in the carport.

Everything in life accumulates in increments.

Some you keep on top of, some topple you.

This morning, when Ittybit got dressed for the Letter of the Day - "N" for number - she was sad. She wouldn't participate today. She has no clothes with numbers on them. Numbers are on sports jerseys, she believes, and those are for boys.

I'm sure my husband was more than a little perturbed when he heard the whirr of the sewing machine as he was trying to move the morning toward its daily appointments.

But when I handed her a sweatshirt with a number crudely cut from scrap fabric and awkwardly stitched to the front, he took a deeper breath.

Of course, Ittybit wanted to know why she wasn't consulted on the number selected. Six may have been her, but did it really need to define her?

Her father set her straight.

"One day you'll look back on this and you'll see how awesome 6 really was."

Friday, June 4, 2010

Bed, Beach and Beyond


It's hard to believe summer is nearly upon us.

I mention this because summer and reading go together like peanut butter and chocolate, yet I am STILL trying to get through Augusten Burroughs' Christmas-themed book of essays, "You Better Not Cry." This inability to finish the volume should in no way reflect on the man's talents. He's brilliant. I have the attention span of a gnat.

Which is probably why the books I've been reading at bedtime reflect my children's tastes. It is after all, their bedtime.

So ... without further ado, here are some of our picks for summer:


"Atlantic," is a beautifully made picture book written and illustrated by G. Brian Karas (G.P Putnam's Sons, Penguin Group, 2002. $16.) is a poetic description of the sea by the sea itself. His words roll off the tongue with the same calming lull of quiet waves. His illustrations, fleshed out in various media, are charmingly childlike, yet give the overall impression of an effortless sophistication. It's the perfect book to gear up for your seaside escape this summer.

"Wave," by Korean-born author/illustrator Suzy Lee (Chronical Books, 2008. $16) wordlessly personifies the sea and our relationship with the natural world. The story takes readers on an afternoon outing with a curious girl and a playful wave to witness a universal tale. Like the sea, "Wave" is magnificant in its simple grace.


For most of us, reaching an ocean isn't a simple journey. It often requires some forethought as to timing, travel routes and accommodations. For parents of younger children, this usually means managing multiple distractions. When I was a kid, managing distraction was synonymous with getting hollered at for punching my sister in the arm every time I noticed a Volkswagon Beetle (usually when I hadn't). Today's parent, however, has it easier. They only need to juggle a DVD library and dole out snacks on regular intervals.

Unless their kids are weird (like mine are) and tire of the movie before the battery power plummets.

For us, I'm happy to say, there is hope ... sticky, sticky hope.

"Stickers!," "Incredible Stickers!" "Holes!" and "Squiggles!" activity books (published by Seven Footer Kids, $8) are the perfect companion books for carseat travelers. Although the activities are somewhat scripted (In the sticker books kids dress up birthday cakes with sticker candles or turn photographs of bread slices into apartment houses with sticker windows) the activities also encourage creative improvisation. The books are clever, well made and take time and thought to complete.

Although not an activity book, "My Heart is Like a Zoo" by Michael Hall (Harper Collins, 2010. $17) is just few sheets of construction paper and scissor slices away. A stunningly elegant concept, all the zoo animals in this book are made with hearts. Once you're done visiting the animals in the story, you can use the book as reference for drawing or creating your own heart-shaped friends.


I was recently introduced to Suzy Lee's work (above) by a publishing friend who gifted me "Mirror" (Seven Footer Kids, 2003. $16), a wordless story about a girl playing with her reflection in a mirror. More art book that story book, "Mirror" is atypical of most children's literature in that its story, while not macabre, doesn't end with mirth and joy. Its theme - that every action has a consequence - is emotional, psychological, frightening and hopeful, just not always in that order. The illustrations - charcoal drawings - perfectly match the story as they alternate between wisp and weight. "Mirror" is well worth owning, even if your child has to grow into adulthood to appreciate it.

One might think ABCs are purely elementary, but as artful elements they can literally stand out. Two recent alaphabet books have captured our fancy for this reason. The first is "LMNO Peas" by Keith Baker (Simon and Schuster, 2010. $17). It's a playfully charming book for preschoolers and begining readers that features the the roly-poly legumes exploring letters and the words they make. I love this book, in part, because it doesn't concern itself with the simple words or sounds, but opens the door to more complicated concepts that parents can discuss.

Romero Britto's "My Alphabet Playbook," (Simon and Schuster, 2010. $13) is perhaps the most amazing book with the least impressive title. Britto, a young Brazilian pop artist, has created a book that plays hide and seek and turns into sculpture as well as helping youngsters master letter sounds. It's truly a remarkable book that promises hours of fun.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

I mean ...

nananananananana na BATMANS!

You know?

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Today is for the letter "J"

At school that means it's Jewelry Day.

Which means there are only 16 school days left until summer.

J is gor jewelry day

It is also Day #148 of 365.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

You're doing it all wrong

Family Nail Salon Sunday 145/365

Of course there's no Right Way to do anything because whatever you do will be wrong anyway.

I know this thing called life is all about perception, but dang it if it doesn't feel like no matter what we do it's destined to be all wrong.

Share, don't share; work, don't work; little things matter, don't sweat the small stuff. ...

It goes on and on and even if you weren't there to hear the bratty, insufferable thing your kids did or said all you have to do is wait ... someone is more than happy to tell you about it.

You take a deep breath, and you try harder to succeed or you try to stop worrying about failures.

You are what you are. You do what you do. Priorities have to have priorities.

All you can do is fail to the best of your ability.