Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Don't tell me why

You'd think for all my protests that I'd just stop tuning in to this hideous show, Super Why. At this point, it's like stopping to watch a car accident ... you just can't look away. And besides, it's interesting to divine the subtle socialist messages from a mere kids' show.

Maybe you're familiar with the tale of the little red hen. LRH wants her farm "friends" to help her make corn bread for her chicks. Who will help her? "Not I" is the refrain from her "friends." By the way, I don't know why she calls them her friends. Friends are usually happy to help. I can only assume that these are just random barnyard acquaintances that she's mistaken for creatures who give a crap about her.

The Super Readers change the story so that instead of saying "Not I," her "friends" listen to LRH. Now why would they suddenly want to listen to her? Well, because she told them why she needed help. Oh, well, that solves everything. Maybe our soon-to-be leader should just go over to countries like Iran and explain why they should be good boys and girls and not annihilate their neighbor, Israel. That must be why Iran is still hell bent on destroying the Jewish nation; no one's really explained the situation to them properly. See what happens when children are fed a steady diet of socialist ideals? You get naive, self-important leaders who have more of a sense of entitlement than diplomacy. I digress ... back to the land of unicorns and fairy tales.

In the end, however, LRH offers them some cornbread to thank them for helping her.

My question is why didn't LRH just offer them some cornbread in the first place? Honestly, this self-centered, something-for-nothing attitude really irritates me. It's not the first time that I've detected it in this show, either. Remember this post?

Something tells me that the lack of a reason is not really why her friends wouldn't help. Here in the real world, people are naturally selfish. That's not necessarily a bad thing. Selfishness is about self-preservation and survival. As with any thing in life, taken to extremes, it's unhealthy and stands in the way another human need for survival - community. But, here's the secret: there can be no community if people ignore their own survival instincts. So, yes, as odious as this might seem to some of you, the world works on a "you scratch my back, I'll scratch yours" basis a lot of the time. When bonds between humans are weak or tenuous, this concept of mutual benefit helps build trust. When that trust makes the bond stronger, then you can enjoy a more free flowing give and take that is a building block for communities.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Monday, December 15, 2008

Random thoughts on a sleepless night

Why do UAW members get to collect 95 percent of their pay when they're not working in a program called a "job bank," but I get no pay for taking maternity leave? Why do I have to be labeled "disabled" just to take time off for maternity leave? And if I'm "disabled," can I at least get a good parking spot out of the deal? Maybe I should apply for a handicapped placard just to prove a point.

I turned in my forms this past week for maternity leave. Incidentally, they ask if the "disability" occurred on the job. Ahem, considering my condition, that's a rather personal question, don't you think?

And here's a little tidbit to chew on: The U.S. is one of only four countries out of 173 in a recent survey that doesn't guarantee some form of paid maternity leave; the others are Liberia, Swaziland and Papua New Guinea.

You know me, I'm not all that keen on paying people not to work. But it's a sad day indeed when the U.S. is in the company of three small, obscure, practically third world nations in its family/work policies.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

The alien invasion

This is too funny not to share and much needed comic relief after a multiple tantrum, 100-decibel whining day. Oh, and by the way, I finally found the four missing shapes from Danny's Magna Doodle. And it didn't even require searching on my hands and knees. All it took was to think like a toddler and, bam, there they were in the diaper basket that he's been dropping his plastic coins in every day.

Enjoy the video.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

The opposite of nothing

A new photo album here.

Though it's rather late in the pregnancy, we decided to go ahead and have an ultrasound done. I might as well spill it ... I'm not being cared for in the traditional manner and we're not having this baby the traditional way. If all goes well, she'll be born at home. Yes, that's right, I said "she." It's a girl, a rarity in a clan of boisterous Meehan boys. With her arrival, there will be twice as many boys as girls among the Meehan grandchildren.

It's taken a day or two for the shock to wear off and the reality to set in ... as in, "You mean I have to learn how to fix hair, do nails and like all things pink and princessy?" and "Oh, yeah, we'll have to pay for a wedding." Also, Danny and Jim need to have a meeting to decide whether girls will be allowed in the clubhouse.

That said, the moment it dawned on us that she was a girl was priceless. I had just told the ultrasound technician about the eight boys and three girls, then turned to look at the screen.

I asked, "What am I looking at here?"

"This is between the legs."

Jim: "There's nothing there." (apparently the opposite of penis is nothing)

I'm thinking, "Where's the penis? Maybe it's floating around behind his stomach."

As the ultrasound technician types "It's a girl" onto the screen, she answers my husband: "That's because it's a girl."

Her name is Fiona Grace or as Danny calls her, Baby Ona.

Monday, December 08, 2008

On a (misguided) wing and a prayer

The hysteria surrounding the automaker saga is getting more bizarre by the day. Now we hear that churches in Detroit prayed Sunday, with SUVs on the altar, that Congress would save them. Do they know how utterly ridiculous this appears to the rest of the country? Actually, they unwittingly put the two things people in this country worship most on a pedestal: Washington and status symbols. Read more here.

This is disturbing on so many levels, I hardly know where to start. For starters, they might as well have been praying to Congress, not for Congress to bail them out. It seems a majority of people or at least the most vocal people in this country increasingly look to Washington for salvation. Last I checked with the big guy, prayers should ask for God's will, not tell God the acceptable course of events. I also seem to recall a bit about worshiping false idols.

How do these auto workers (and executives for that matter) know that saving their jobs is what's best? Maybe they're suppose to lose their jobs, move on with their lives, move to a different state, meet new people, make new connections. Life is a very complex web and banking on one, and only one, outcome seems short-sighted. As for false idols, they will only let you down. The automakers will accept what their god offers, be indentured for life and have a very limited future. I'll accept whatever my God offers, have a greater sense of freedom and an endless possibilities. Seems like a much better deal to me.

In the past few months, a local newspaper has run a feature on the Monday business page about what area CEOs, mostly the successful ones, are reading. More often than not, religious or spiritual material is on their list. My sense is that relying more on God than man is partly, if not totally, responsible for their success.

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Learning has no set shape

For those who have followed this blog, you'll recall my mild anxiety over Danny's progress with the shape sorter. If not, here's an excerpt from May:
I've been a little worried that he can identify shapes, but can't seem to place the square in the square hole without a whole lot of frustration and some direction from mommy. Each day, he picks up a square, circle, star or triangle and tries mightily for like 3 seconds to put it in a non-matching hole before hyperventilating, screaming and hurling the shape across the room.
He still can't get the shapes in the right hole. It still frustrates him. Well, Danny's 50-cent MagnaDoodle came with four magnetic shapes and a magnetic pen. He can correctly put all four shapes in the holes. The difference, I think, is that the shape sorter has one purpose - and that purpose frustrates him. The MagnaDoodle is an activity he enjoys.

This seems to square with my educational philosophy that people learn what they need to know when it's a part of their life, not part of a formal curriculum. Danny quickly tires of an activity that is meant to teach a certain skill, but quickly picks up that same skills when it's secondary to an activity he enjoys. He's not big on puzzles either, by the way, nor is he very interested in reading books; but he is interested in letters and in how certain objects fit into certain spaces. His (and my) favorite activity is our computer time when we "do letters" as he says. For months, we've enjoyed Starfall.com, which uses a phonics-based approach. I suspect he enjoys the one-on-one time and the physical closeness more than the letters. That doesn't mean he isn't learning. He definitely is - the letter M happens to be his favorite one. But when we started out, learning wasn't my primary focus. I was mainly looking for an activity that he might sit still for and that would fit nicely into our daily routine. As for puzzles, I've given up. The other day, in the back yard, with as intense concentration as I've ever seen, Danny repeatedly slipped a thin stick into a tiny hole on our grill. For him, that's a puzzle.

Back to the MagnaDoodle ... unfortunately, the shapes are all now missing and while my OCD tendencies are kicking in, being eight-months pregnant has thus far prevented an all-out, hands and knees scouring. Incidentally, I had my husband take the feet off the sofa and chair in the living room so that toys (and dust and dog hair) wouldn't get swallowed. The downside? Now the sofa and chair are about two inches shorter and, for me, sitting down and getting up is a little more difficult.

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

No respect

If you ever needed a more blatant display of government contempt for its constituents, here it is:

At a city recreation center, the five closest parking spots, other than the handicapped spaces, are designated for staff.

Really? Maybe it's just me, but seems that the people who pay the staff's salaries, keep the lights on and even pay an entry fee on top of city taxes should get better parking spaces than the staff (especially if a person happens to be 8 months pregnant with a toddler in tow).

To be fair, this attitude permeates society. I've seen employees of restaurants and grocery stores take the best parking spots. I once saw a store employee park in the last spot designated for customers with children and stroll in to work while I hauled my pregnant butt and a toddler into the store. To be sure, I had some words with the manager and never darkened the store's door again.

At least with a business, I can vote with my wallet (or what's left of it after Uncle Sam picks my pocket). With a so-called government service, there is no incentive to offer quality because the agency gets paid with stolen money no matter what.

Addendum: Not five minutes after I wrote this, I found this lovely article. Sen. Harry Reid is grateful that the Capitol Visitor Center is now air conditioned because in the summer, he says, "you could literally smell the tourists coming into the Capitol." Wonder if those tourists got crappy parking spaces and had a nice, hot concrete hike to the Capitol.

Monday, December 01, 2008

What can 2-year-olds do?

A photo album from his birthday party yesterday.

Apparently, 2-year-olds can get out of their bed at 2 a.m., go downstairs and play with the trains they just got for their birthday.

At around midnight, Dan started crying and I went in to his room at least three times to calm him down. First visit: retuck him in, rearrange his stuffed menagerie. Second visit: New diaper. Third visit: Ibuprofen for teeth? Just a wild guess. After that, I decided there was nothing more I could do and just let him cry it out. And, no, that's not cruel at his age. He's learned to try crying at different frequencies, pitches and lengths to see which one will bring a warm body.

It was around 1:45 a.m. and I had just wondered aloud to Jim why Danny hadn't just gotten out of bed by now if he was so unhappy. Fifteen minutes later, Jim says: "I think he's downstairs."

Sure enough, there he was, wide awake, playing on the floor with his trains in the living room. Caught in the act, he didn't even flinch when I told him to come back upstairs with me. He slept until 7:30. I guess he just needed a little train fix.

Next time, I'll remember to latch the gate at the top of the stairs.

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Do I feel lucky?

By Sunday night, I usually have a game plan for the week. Monday is usually a stay home and play day, Tuesday is swimming or some other strenuous activity, Wednesday is a play date with his BFF Louie, Thursday is play group and Friday is Parents Morning Out. Weekends are as spontaneous as you can get with a toddler. On those mornings and others when I contemplate deviating from the plan, an assessment of the little man's mood is in order. The thought process reminds me of the classic line from Dirty Harry, with a slight modification:
Did he have five or six tantrums this morning? Well, to tell you the truth, in all the chaos, I kind of lost track. But being as this is a toddler, the most willful human being in the world, and could blow your sanity to shreds at any given moment, you've got to ask yourself one question: Do I feel lucky?

Well, do ya, punk?
Usually not.

But Saturday morning we braved it out of necessity. We are celebrating Danny's 2nd birthday today and had just gotten back from the beach the night before. Nothing had been purchased so a massive, multi-store assault was in order. To tell you the truth, the invitation wasn't even sent out until Monday night. The only advanced planning on my part was to get the night off of work months ago and order his trains on eBay.

It was cold and rainy and at our first stop, we decided to split up to make better time. Time is a big factor in our outings. As soon as we hit the store, we're on Danny's timer. Splitting up wasn't a good choice this time. He was screaming right out of the gate because he had to leave his beloved 50 cent, thrift-shop MagnaDoodle in the van. Horrors. At our next stop, MagnaDoodle came with us. Jim gave me a wide-eyed look and said, "We can't split up." When I get that look from my husband, it's serious business. It's amazing that even with a well-ordered list, we still forgot items in a mad rush to get in and out before total meltdown.

Jim just returned from a solo trip for the forgotten items. Danny is sleeping. I'm ready for a nap myself.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Newish toys

Check out the November photo album.

There are a few toys I've been wanting to get for Dan. Thanks to my sister, we have scads of Little People of various professions ... Noah and his cadre of zoo animals, fire and rescue personnel, farmers and their farm animals and crops, construction workers. Every time I spot a Little Person, the insane urge to collect and group them according to their lots in life takes over. (I know, I'm sick, I twitch every time my husband chucks all the Little People into one container.) We have Noah's ark and the fire station along with some construction vehicles, but we didn't have the farm ... until tonight when it turned up on a trip to our favorite thrift shop. There it was ... for 50 cents. No kidding people. 50 cents. This lovely piece of molded, animal-sound making plastic usually costs more than $30. The other toy we stumbled upon was a Magna Doodle which usually costs about $15 or so. We got it also for the bargain basement price of 50 cents. After our new acquisitions got a Clorox wipe down, Dan played for about 90 minutes with his two new toys which cost us a total of $1.00.

Language: I can't keep track of everything Danny says these days. He's become quite the parrot, repeating everything we say. He picks up bits and pieces of our conversations and repeats them randomly. This evening, he ranted about turkey for a few minutes. On Sunday I called up to Jim in the attic only to hear this little voice behind me calling, "Jim, Jim, Jim." We're getting lots of phrases, too, like "pick up toys." Too bad he doesn't actually pick up his toys, but rather tosses them around the living room. Although this evening, Jim started corralling toys using Danny's remote control car. That really freaked Danny out and he started grabbing up his toys before Jim could get them.

Also this week, I've been talking to him about the beach since that's where we're headed for Thanksgiving. So I'll let you use your imagination as to how that word sounds coming out of my two year old's mouth.

Monday, November 24, 2008

What liberal bias?

I've been good lately at biting my tongue ... but now it's starting to hurt. The current fawning over and refusal to publicly vet every Obama appointment should put to rest any doubt about the media's loyalties.

Lawrence Summers. The name has been bandied about for days and now confirmed as Obama's pick to head the National Economic Council. And it's been bugging me for days ... where have I heard that name before? Oh, now I remember ... here's where:
The president of Harvard University, Lawrence H. Summers, sparked an uproar at an academic conference Friday when he said that innate differences between men and women might be one reason fewer women succeed in science and math careers. Summers also questioned how much of a role discrimination plays in the dearth of female professors in science and engineering at elite universities.
Honestly, people, if any Republican had pulled an appointment like this, there would be blood in the streets. The only reference I've found to this brouhaha in recent articles is limited to one meager paragraph. And the National Organization for (Liberal) Women supports him by saying, "One good thing about Larry Summers is that he has written and spoken fairly extensively on the issue of women’s wage inequality and the impact that has on the country."


Thursday, November 13, 2008

At the cookie and cloud factory

This afternoon, as Jim turned his key in the door, I asked, "Who do you think that is?"

Danny replied hopefully, "Cookie?"

Let me explain. Jim, a chef, often brings cookies home from work and he tells Danny that he works in a cookie and cloud factory.

When I told Jim what Danny had said, he looked at Danny and said, "Hi, poopy pants."

Jim figures if Danny can associate him with cookies, it's only fair that he associate Danny with poop.

From the toddler trickery department

Dan is getting good at asking for what he wants. For most of the morning, he lingers by the fridge trying to con me into giving him more juice. I give him watered down orange juice at breakfast and that's it. The rest of the time, I say, "How about some cold water? Water with ice?" He seems satisfied with this as he then repeats "cold water" several times.

Is there an echo in here?

He's coming out with whole phrases now. "Pile of leaves," "down the drain," "whole phrases" (that last one I managed to elicit from him at dinner as I recounted our day for Jim). He reads catalogues with Jim in the evenings, points to every item he recognizes and says the word and also repeats back everything Jim says.

I asked, "Is there an echo in here?"

His eyes lit up and he clapped a few times. Then I remembered that on Sunday, he learned about echo as we sat on the porch to Jim's workshop outside, clapped and heard the sound bounce off the house. Pretty neat that he remembers something from five days ago.

Sunday, November 09, 2008

Do all little boys love trains?

Dan plays with toy trains at Nana and PopPop's house.
Shhhh ... don't tell Danny, but today, I bought his birthday present: a set of train tracks and trains. Jim made a train table for it all to go on. This is the most focused he ever is and I hope I can hold out until his birthday to bust out the train set!

A confession: I love playing with the trains, too.

Friday, November 07, 2008

Why my child will never go to public school

Reason #4

Yesterday, my husband and I had a discussion about whether to let Danny attend preschool and/or school. My husband thinks that we should let it depend on Danny and his personality. He may very well be the kind of child who does well in a structured setting (although, it's not looking that way so far, I must say). I tend to agree. After a rough week with Dan, I'm often left wondering whether my undivided attention is the best thing for him. Every few months or so, I revisit the idea of a two-day preschool. It's a bit expensive and I sometimes think it's just glorified child care since he learns quite a bit from Jim and I and the family routine. He knows numbers and the alphabet (reading, math); we read to him when we can (reading); he plays outdoors (fitness), learns about animals, plants, physics (science); he has at least three play dates a week (socialization). With the new baby coming in a two months, I don't want to shuttle him off for preschool then lest he feel abandoned.

We are interested in homeschooling, but have decided to take a wait-and-see approach. Some kids start out in school and wind up being homeschooled later or start out homeschooled and take classes in high school. Any damage is reversible in the former scenario and fortified against from a more stable start in the latter scenario. (When I say school, I mean public school. Currently, there is no way we could afford private school. So for families like us, there really is only one choice. And we have teacher's unions and Democrats to thank for that.)

Yet it never fails ... just as I begin to wonder anew about whether I've judged school too harshly, the news intervenes for a reality check. My biggest problems, and this came up in our discussion yesterday, are the inane focus on testing and the likelihood of indoctrination.
  • This week, the state of North Carolina released its reading test scores. Sixty percent of students passed. According to our outgoing governor, this is a good thing. Apparently, too many students were passing under the old standards. Huh? So, they're snatching success from students because they did too well on tests?
  • I should just let this video speak for itself, but where's the fun in that? The point is that there is no guarantee that our children won't face this kind of ridicule and indoctrination at the hands of a teacher. It's just not a risk that we're willing to take.

Uh, no thanks. These two items alone are enough to drive me away from the idea for another few months.

So far this morning ...

I've had four, maybe five hours of sleep, which has been broken up by night sweats, one crying tot and one shuffling dog. My son is at church playgroup this morning. After dropping him off, I realized I forgot my credit card. Yesterday, I put it in my back pocket on a trip to the bakery. Tot plus purse plus pregnant mommy equals BIG HASSLE. (The poor kid has been beaned in the head more times by my purse as I try to steer him around.) That's a whole other story ... why do mothers' purses become so unwieldy? I currently have wipes, two diapers, a golf ball, a sticky lemon bar from the bakery, my work badge, an envelope of coupons, a wallet and a few Little People in my purse.

So ... after my ritual trip to Burger King for my one guilty pleasure (sausage croissant, no egg, large diet coke ... oh, shut up, I don't want to hear how unhealthy this is for a pregnant woman), I ride back home to get the credit card, switch laundry, savor my junk food ... now back to the mommy mobile to go shopping ALONE with my envelope of coupons and very anal retentive list ... if someone from playgroup calls me to pick up my son, I'll be LIVID. Overzealous mommy is working in the 2-year-old room today ... she has been the one to call me the past few times. I'm keeping my fingers crossed.

Thursday, November 06, 2008

The sleepwalker

We discovered last night that Dan, like his father was, may be a sleepwalker. Around 9 p.m. last night we hear a pitiful cry from the hallway. I found him standing there, blanket in hand, looking upset and confused. After a few soothing words, he and I walked back to his bed, he climbed right in, laid his head down, and closed his eyes immediately.

Poor kid.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008


"When the people find that they can vote themselves money, that will herald the end of the republic." - Benjamin Franklin
And that's just what some Americans did tonight. Now the rest of us will suffer under the tyranny of a slight majority.

Ah, well, at least we won't have to worry about paying our mortgage or filling up our cars with gas. The Great O is picking up the tab for that now, right?

Good night and good luck.

Friday, October 31, 2008

Did I speak too soon?

Today at naptime, Dan chattered and bumbled around his bedroom for an hour before falling asleep on a body pillow on the floor, a book open right next to him. He's having a language explosion this week. He repeats everything we say. The other night, he repeated "boil water" when Jim asked whether he should boil water after I winced loudly in pregnancy-related back pain.

Well, this evening, Jim reported that he left Bob the dog upstairs behind the gate so he could go in Dan's room. Bob did. Minutes later, Dan and Bob were found in the hallway outside our bedroom door. Dan was pointing to our bedroom door, telling Bob, "locked," which is Dan code for, "Open the door."

And, no, I don't think I spoke too soon with my last post! Bob was definitely the instigator this evening.

My little bed-sleepin' boy

Dan has been sleeping in his own twin-sized bed for nap and bedtime for about a week now! Jim and I both check on him more often now because we're just so incredulous that the little guy actually stays in his bed or in his bedroom. We've had no midnight or early morning visits. He has fallen out once. I comforted him and put him back in bed where he went right back to sleep. Yesterday, he was a bit out of sorts and we found him lying on the floor, his legs under the bed and his body hugging Dennis the monkey. I'm just floored that he is such a good sport about the whole thing. Not to toot our own horn here, but Jim and I agree that he seems to handle big changes pretty well because we've never really babied him. (The everyday transitions from one activity to the next are a bit harder for him, as they are with most toddlers, I have learned.)

The crib is still in his room with his mobile from Aunt Suzy hanging on the outside so he can see it. He's still quite attached to it; the new baby is just going to have to get her own. Before nap, he asks for Bach, just one of the musical selections (Mozart and Beethoven are the others ... much to my dismay, he's lukewarm to Mozart, but nuts about Bach). This weekend, Jim plans to disassemble the crib and move it to the guest room.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

A big fat super WHY?

"Super Why" ... Dan seems to like this show and I let him watch it because it involves letters that he often points out and repeats. It also allows me to get breakfast ready for us, then read the paper. Most of the time, it's pretty innocuous, but once in a while, a story line runs so counter to what my husband and I believe that the hairs on my neck stand up.

This morning, Red Riding Hood's "super big problem" was this: She didn't want to share her apples with her friend. The friend walked up and asked her to share some of her apples. When RRH refused, the friend said, "But you have so many and I don't have any."

My first thought was "Well, then climb a tree and pick some yourself, you little mooch." My second: "What a demanding little brat." And third: "Why does this little girl think she should get something for nothing?" First of all, when someone asks a question, they should be prepared to hear an answer they don't want to hear, like "No, I don't want to share these apples with you." Maybe RRH had plans for those apples, maybe she was going to make apple butter and sell it for a little extra dough, maybe she was going to feed her hogs or her family. Whatever the reason, the questioner should accept the answer and move on. Arguing with the person makes no sense. Why ask the question if you were going to accept only one answer? Secondly, sharing should be initiated by the sharer, not the receiver. Period. And third, why didn't the girl offer something in return for those apples?

This "Super Why" scenario, incidentally, is very similar to our government's philosophy. They're polite. They ask us to "voluntarily" pay our taxes (yes, they actually do use the word "voluntary" in reference to income tax collection). But noncompliance brings the full force of the federal government to bear. And why do they not accept no for an answer? Because they want to give your money to others they think are more deserving, needier or have a better use for your money. (Before you write me off as a heartless witch, let me just say, I have no objection to charity. My husband and I give to the charities of our choice, charities we think are well run and do good work. The Salvation Army, the Durham Rescue Mission and Habitat for Humanity are a few of our favorites.)

This, of course, brings me around to the present. There's been some talk about "sharing" on the campaign trail lately. A certain candidate doesn't seem to understand the word's definition. So let's go over this again ...
Share means to divide something equally or give out a portion. What does "give" mean? It means to make a gift. What's a "gift"? It's something given to another in a show of friendship or affection.
Sure, you may have shared your toys in elementary school. But if someone forced you, it wasn't born of friendship or affection, but out of a fear of authority. I'd rather my son learn to share out friendship and affection than fear of authority. I also want him to understand that when others share with him, he should accept with gratitude and return the favor in some small way.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Take another look

This is not really meant to be a political post, so if you take it that way, well, it's on you.

Last night I somehow managed to take in two PBS documentaries in two hours as I worked on a knitting project. One was a Frontline documentary about the Afghan front and the complicated role that Pakistan is playing right now. The other was on Saddam Hussein's trial and execution. It was very sobering, to say the least, watching our troops taking fire, seeing people who live in small huts in freezing temperatures in the Afghan mountains, hearing about families tortured by Saddam's regime or gunned down accidentally in a war zone, and even witnessing the entire execution of Saddam Hussein (yes, they showed it on television).

Today I sit typing this missive on a home computer hooked up to the Internet in my warm home while a batch of turkey meatballs is cooking in the oven, my son sleeps in his own bedroom and I have choices and opportunities in my life that others can only imagine. I can work part time to help support my family and still be the primary caretaker for our son. We can save our money to purchase whatever we want or save it for a rainy day. We own two or three televisions and appliances that are less than a year old, have decent furnishings throughout our home, can afford food, running water and electricity, and have three working, paid-for vehicles. And I can go to the polls to vote my conscience without fear of retribution.

With the picture of America that some state and national candidates paint, one can easily forget how fortunate we are. And while I personally find Phil Gramm rather odious, there really is a grain of truth to his assessment that the recession is mental and we've "sort of become a nation of whiners." (I agree with the comment, but not the delivery. The PR professional in me knows there is a much better way to get that point across.)

And I know there are people in this country who can't pay their mortgage or don't have health insurance or are going bankrupt from medical bills or have lost their jobs. All I'm trying to say here is that we're more fortunate than we believe because when Americans hit rock bottom, at least there's a ladder.

Mommy the diplomat

Motherhood is often called the toughest job you'll ever love. And most days that's true. Other days, I'm ashamed to admit, I wonder how anyone can see far enough past the tantrums and the teething, the pee pee on the floor, the sleepless nights, the barnyard ambiance of our dinner table and so on to express an affection for the job. At the end of the day, I love my son, but often hate the kind of parent I've become.

Lately, my favorite times of day are before nap and before bedtime. And for this, I feel supremely guilty and wonder why I can't enjoy my son in between. Even nice treats like a trip to Locopops or a stop to watch the diggers and bulldozers at a nearby construction site or a trip to the park must end eventually. When they do, Dan devolves into a monster-sized tantrum that makes me wonder why we ever left the house at all. This morning, we went to the park as we always do on Tuesdays. I both love and dread this activity. It's fun while we're there, but when it's time to go, no amount of warning, waving bye-bye to the slide and the sandbox, hugging his friend good-bye and other activities helps ease the transition.

When Dan resists, I'm more likely to be authoritarian than understanding. I'm a "my way or the highway" mommy some days, but I don't want to be. Distraction and diplomacy, empathy and ego-massage does not come naturally in my interaction with him. And that is a surprise considering that these are traits I have practiced professionally with success. I've been a reporter, an editor and a public relations professional at various times over the past 15 years. I can easily cajole sensitive information out of sources, gently convince a reporter to reword a few paragraphs and spin any issue in an organization's favor, yet I can't convince a 2-year-old to get dressed or leave the playground without drama.

The diaper and dressing drama has gotten easier in the past few days only because I've been dragged kicking and screaming into the subtle art of toddler diplomacy. Playing games and singing have replaced begging and strong arming. Since I've acquiesced, it's gotten better. The playground drama is another story altogether.

Yet after learning to practice even a little diplomacy with a toddler, it seems that any mom could easily gain ground with the world's most stubborn tyrants.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

The 8:03 a.m. boy

Danny has slept in his new big boy bed three nights in a row now. Naps are a different story. It's hard to get him to stay probably because it's still light out. Friday morning I totally expected him to come find me or be roaming around the hallway. He didn't. But, just in case, we have the bathroom and guest room door closed and the gate locked at the top of the stairs. I found him on his bedroom floor snuggling with Dennis the monkey.

Saturday morning he came to find us in bed. The clock said 8:03 a.m., normal wake up time for him. This morning, he again came to find us at ... guess what time? 8:03 a.m.

By the way, we do now have a twin sized mattress on the bed. You didn't think we'd make our son sleep on a bunky board, did you???

Monday, October 20, 2008

Day one with Dan's new "bed"

I put a few blankets and a down comforter atop the bunky board today to see if he'd sleep there for nap. But it's too much of a novelty right now. He climbed up, laid his head down, fake snored, grinned, wriggled, humped Dennis the monkey, looked out the window, got down, got back up and repeated. And since Jim recently taught him how to, um, dismount head first from stairs, sofas, chairs, or whatever, he gets off his bed head first.

Fantastic. The bed is less than a foot off the ground, but still ...

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Halfway to a big boy room

We're approaching the 90 day countdown to baby number two and there's a lot of work to be done. Rooms need rearranging, clothes, diapers and other supplies need corralling, the car seat needs installing, preparations for the birth need attention.

At least one task was started this weekend. Literally overnight Dan's room has gone from a baby's room to a little boy's room. My husband started moving Dan's "new" furniture into his room. Notice the quotes ... nothing in this house is really new. His "new" bookshelf was made for me by my father when I was a teenager. His "new" dresser is really mommy's old dresser from her bachelorette-hood. His "new" bed is actually an old metal frame with the lid from a blanket chest my father made for me years ago serving as the headboard. All the furniture matches, oddly enough; it's all This End Up style. The blanket chest will become a toy box with a new lid that Jim will fashion into a train table. We have a twin-size bunky board that we bought new (literally, still in the plastic) from a second-hand store for $10, but no mattress yet. The twin mattress will come later, free from my parents who happen to have an extra one. So far, the only money we've spent is the $10 for the bunky board. (Normally, I would have photos, but our camera's rechargable battery is, um, unrevivable.)

Dan's crib is still in his bedroom, but Jim's idea was to move the new furniture in and let him get used to it at his own pace. Dan will have his pick of beds for a while since, as I've mentioned before, the new baby will likely sleep nestled in my armpit for the first few months. We're not really in a hurry.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Why so cruel?

Pardon my recent spiteful streak. Few things anger me more than having my time (and money) usurped by an entity that I can't literally reach out and strangle (the cell phone company). If you've guessed by now that I have a bit of a temper, give yourself a cookie. I'm not usually this mean, really, I'm just six months pregnant, miserable, not sleeping because of hot flashes and realizing I have three more months of this blessed condition.

That said, the streak continues ...

I recently went to purchase some leggings from a local maternity shop, knowing full well that my local drugstore would not carry anything in my current size. Leggings/stockings for the non-pregnant come in sizes A, B and Q (also known as Queen). Maternity leggings/stockings come in these sizes A/B (a bit thick), C/D (considerably distorted) and E (elephant). No, it doesn't say those words exactly on the packaging, but it might as well.

Here's a little clue for maternity marketers: It's not nice (or safe) to annoy pregnant women. I'd much rather associate my size right now with a queen than an elephant. Can you do something about this??

Monday, October 13, 2008

Don't call us. We'll call you.

My plan to make an end run around the cell phone company had to be shelved. Friday morning, I tried to use my cell phone to call a friend while en route to her house only to get an infuriating message: "Your phone is no longer activated or has been deactivated."

Great. A planned weekend road trip made action necessary. Normally, I would have just ignored this little setback and dealt with it later.

Another wasted morning on a day when I could scarce afford and a barely tolerate it. My son was at Parent's Morning Out; I needed to get the dog to a friend's house for the weekend; I needed to pack and fold laundry; and I'd had about five hours of severely broken sleep the night before thanks to pregnancy hormones and a shrieking toddler.

I spent 45 minutes trying to get my phone deactivated and reactivated with a new phone number. I was reassured that the process was complete and my new phone number should show up in my phone in about an hour.

Two hours later nothing has changed - no new phone number, no restored access - except now, my son is home, eating his lunch, being ignored by his mother who is struggling to rectify the situation, crying from sheer exhaustion and frustration. I am forced to put him down for his nap with the bare minimum of routine as I'm still on the line with the most ineffective customer no-service person on the planet. At this point, I don't care if the worthless piece of shit on the other end hears me saying "Danny, sit on your potty. Time to go pee pee" or hears my son squawking loudly. Serves them right for not fixing the friggin' problem the first 100 times I called.

This is why very few people, if anyone, will have our new cell phone number. I already resent practically being forced to own this digital leash because we are all now expected to be available to anyone at any time. But, of course, with caller ID, people will feel perfectly free to save my cell phone number in their own phones and use it any time they like. Go right ahead. We aren't likely to answer.

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

A major disconnect

I really am not a phone person. I hate paying money for someone else's "right" to have unfettered access to us. It seems that some technology is more of an inconvenience and I feel that way about cell phones. It's like a leash that anyone can tug, if you let them. We have Vonage and we recently switched to a pay-as-you-go cell phone. (That's right, one cell phone.) We tried to keep the same phone number by porting it over to the new phone. But, as it turns out, it's just not worth the hassle it's become.

We've had the new phone for a month now. I can make calls and my cell phone number shows up on other's caller ids. The only problem is that I can't receive calls. Normally, this wouldn't pose much of a problem for me except that a few weekends ago when my husband was out of town and I was at work. I wanted to call to make sure he arrived safely. No deal.

So far, I've had at least two conversations with the new cell phone company and two with the old company with no resolution, each blaming the other for the incomplete porting process. One person actually dropped the call while I was on hold, forcing me to start over. Two hours of my life later, the only appealing option is to drain my minutes on the new phone before the expiration date without adding more. I can then reactivate my phone with a new number thereby doing an end run around the customer no-service departments at both companies. I don't want to talk to one more surly, obnoxious American or a way-too-polite yet incoherent Indian.

This just confirms my belief that some technology can be a huge waste of time. My own private island is looking really good right now.

Monday, October 06, 2008

More cheap, green neck entertainment

Dan has a new toy. No, we didn't go out and buy it (sorry GW, can't help boost your economy right now). The game started with one of Jim's fishing pole holders which I propped up on the back steps. Dan and I would then take turns dropping small rocks and acorns into the top and watching them come out the bottom. We'd experiment with different size items and different levels of incline.

Soon, Jim got wind of our little game and out came the 24 volt drill. Now, the two fishing pole holders are drilled to the side of our potting bench. Dan can rearrange the tubes and experiment with the different angles to his heart's content without Mommy having to hold the tube. Rocks now go down one tube, meet the other and come hurtling out onto his little rock pile. Today we pointed the tubes, one higher than the other, toward a little metal bucket to collect the rocks. Very exciting stuff for a 2-year-old.

You can never underestimate a toddler's attention span. He played with it on and off for about an hour and half this morning (an eternity for toddlers). He toddled off to hit golf balls a few times (he's getting pretty good at it, too), then to dig some dirt with shovel (a new skill for him). But he always came back to the rocks and tubes.


I know it's not Halloween yet, but if you want a real fright, keep reading. Apparently, the IRS has had, off and on during the past decade, the authority to essentially entrap citizens by posing as undercover agents and to turn over our tax returns to federal authorities investigating terrorists.

From CNet News:

IRS undercover operations: Privacy invasion?
The bailout bill also gives the Internal Revenue Service new authority to conduct undercover operations. It would immunize the IRS from a passel of federal laws, including permitting IRS agents to run businesses for an extended sting operation, to open their own personal bank accounts with U.S. tax dollars, and so on. (Think IRS agents posing as accountants or tax preparers and saying, "I'm not sure if that deduction is entirely legal, but it'll save you $1,000. Want to take it?") That section had expired as of January 1, 2008, and would now be renewed. This is the first time that such undercover authority would be made permanent.

... There's another section of the bailout bill worth noting. It lets the IRS give information from individual tax returns to any federal law enforcement agency investigating suspected "terrorist" activity, which can, in turn, share it with local and state police. Intelligence agencies such as the CIA and the National Security Agency can also receive that information.

The information that can be shared includes "a taxpayer's identity, the nature, source, or amount of his income, payments, receipts, deductions, exemptions, credits, assets, liabilities, net worth, tax liability, tax withheld, deficiencies, overassessments, or tax payments, whether the taxpayer's return was, is being, or will be examined or subject to other investigation or processing, or any other data received by, recorded by, prepared by, furnished to, or collected by the Secretary with respect to a return." That provision had already existed in federal law and automatically expired on January 1, 2008.
What ever happened to being secure in our papers? Fourth amendment anyone? The fact that this has been going on for years doesn't curb my outrage. It makes me wonder how such a provision could be slipped into law so quietly.

Apparently we were all too busy shopping till we dropped with other people's money to pay attention to the gradual creep of the police state brought to us by the Internal Terror Service.

Friday, October 03, 2008

Being a grown up

If a steady job, a mortgage, an IRA, a 401K and almost two children won't make you feel like an adult, then this will: In the past week I've picked up two slugs inside my house with a wet wipe without screaming, whimpering, standing on furniture or waking up my husband in the middle of the night. The fear of what my toddler will do with the slug is greater than my disgust and fear of slugs at this point.

Here's a new photo album from the past week.
Dan in the yard

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

Up in flames

I may have finally stumbled upon a "cure" for the incessant heartburn. Last night, I downed a Pepcid, three Tums and an 8 ounce glass of baking soda and water quickly. Voila. Little to no heartburn for at least an hour. Hey, I didn't say it was perfect.

The heartburn is so much worse this time than with Dan. Shortly after Dan was born, the New York Times had an article confirming the old wives tale that if you had a lot of heartburn while pregnant then the baby would have lots of hair. Dan had quite a bit of hair at birth. In fact, he had sideburns and backhair. If the myth hold true this time around, I expect to be giving birth to a gorilla.

Monday, September 29, 2008

Toddler theater

When my husband returned from his annual family fishing trip Sunday, he noticed our son had a few new tricks. Really, the new tricks had been building for a few days now - hurling his little body onto the floor, falling on purpose, beating on the refrigerator. But it takes one of us being away for a few days for the change to be obvious.

Our son has turned into a drama king. On Sunday afternoon, Dan squealed and squirmed in a fit on the floor while my husband ignored him. Dan sat up about the same time Jim leaned forward in his recliner. Realizing he'd caught Daddy's attention, he quickly resumed the squeal and squirm routine. Tonight, his balloon floated to the ceiling, but the generous length of string ensured he could reach it. He knew this, but squawked nonetheless, clawing at the string right in front of his face and looking to see if we were watching. We were, but he didn't know it.

He's apparently figured out he can sometimes get attention when he fusses. I say sometimes because we don't always come to his rescue. It's just not in our nature. If he's physically in danger, we will. If he's just trying to fit through a space too small or trying to figure out how to get up on his chair (which he does just fine every third try), we let him sort it out.

Another change my husband noticed is Dan's gesticulation and facial expressions have become more sophisticated. It's like watching a monkey communicate. And communicating with him day in and day out makes me certain I could survive in a foreign country with just a few days of full immersion. Dan shrugs his shoulders and gives a quizzical look when the buttons on his mobile won't work or when I ask where his blanket is. He listens intently and the look on his face tells us that he understands exactly what we're saying.

But the funniest thing he's done recently was on Sunday. He was beating on the refrigerator. So Jim opened the door and Dan surveyed the contents while pointing his little finger. Finally, he spotted it. The object of his desire ... it was the pitcher of juice. Knowing that we would say no to juice so close to dinner, he wouldn't ask for it directly. He's getting very crafty.

New words and phrases: Dan instructed me today to "hold" his blanket while he walked down the stairs. Uh, yes sir. He's also been saying "have it," which we just figured out late last week. Whenever he has toddler contraband, I ask him "Can mommy have it?" So I guess he feels turnabout is fair play. We figured it out when Jim came in with a broom and Dan pointed and said "have it." He then happily toddled off to sweep the back porch with his new acquisition.
This video is old but cute ... Dan's been fascinated with brooms for quite some time.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Green is the new redneck

Little did I know that the word "greenneck" already had a definition - and that definition is the opposite of my intent in using the word in my last post.

The Urban Dictionary defines it as follows:
A person who has "gone green," and is now highly judgmental of all others who they feel are not "green enough."
Make no mistake, I haven't "gone green." I've been green for years. Maybe it's my rural upbringing (my mother gardened, canned food and made bread; my father built our passive -solar house) or my French Canadian, Depression-era heritage (my grandmother raised 19 kids and used to can 1,600 quarts of vegetables every winter). We buy foods as close to whole as possible; buy local meat, eggs and vegetables; reuse many old containers that would normally be recycled or wasted; shop at thrift shops; don't throw out old utensils; and limit and combine car trips. A lot of these things have been born out of efficiency and limited financial means, not a desire to be "green." Here are a few other things that our "green" regimen does NOT include:
  • Ditching a working, paid-for vehicle in favor of a $20,000 hybrid vehicle.
  • Buying expensive "green" brands of cleaning products when a simple mixture of bleach and water or vinegar and water will suffice
  • Buying expensive "green" brands of diapers when cloth works just fine.
  • Buying expensive "green" brands of air fresheners when a sprinkle of baking soda in the diaper pail and opening the windows every once in a while works just fine.
  • Spending $30,000 to outfit our house with solar panels when adjusting the thermostat a few degrees and insulating the house properly uses less energy, too.
  • Buying carbon credits because someone made me feel guilty about my carbon footprint.
Here's a news flash: Every product uses energy at every point in its life cycle, from creation to distribution to acquisition by the consumer to its eventual discard at which point energy is used to haul it off to a landfill or recycling plant. Keep that in mind the next time some green-snot turns his nose up at your paid-for 25 mpg vehicle as he glides by in his hybrid filled with "green" groceries on the way to his highly mortgaged solar-paneled home. He's likely in debt up to his eyeballs (which, oddly enough, brings us around to the present). Only in America could conservation become a marketing campaign that encourages people to spend more, even if they don't actually have the money. The real reason American can't truly conserve is because it would wreck the economy, which is apparently built on a house of cards called credit.

Meanwhile, I'll be at the playground with my son using old measuring cups and spoons, an old ice cream scoop and an old plastic meat container as a shovel and pail.

Monday, September 22, 2008

How redneck toddlers play

Dan loves to play in the water (it's his favorite word right now), but alas, he can't spend all day in the bathtub. This morning, after discovering the mother of all diaper rashes on his little bum, I stripped him. Well, let me back up here. I found him downstairs, naked with his diaper sitting nearby on the floor. Crafty little guy figured out how to take his diaper off. I knew it was just a matter of time. As I approached, I said to myself, "No poopy, no poopy, no poopy." Wishful thinking. A diaper full of poo and a naked toddler. No sudden moves here or we'd have a very messy situation on our hands. So, instead of the bath, he got a good wipe down. And then I did something I've been wanting to do for months (and probably should have done more of this summer).

I took a rectangular plastic storage container about eight inches deep, filled it halfway with water, put some cups, a funnel, an empty antacid bottle, a clean sponge and some straws in the water. I set it all up on a little plastic end table on the screened in porch and let my naked, red-bummed toddler splash, pour, funnel, scoop and squeeze water for about an hour and a half. Do you know how much they charge for these water and sand table toys? I've seen anywhere from $50 to $120 for a large piece of molded, made-in-China plastic. Jim had the idea of using the same type of plastic storage tote for sand as well. I could cover it up and store it in his playhouse, taking it out only when he wants to play with it. No need to buy more stuff, even though GW thinks it's the patriotic thing to do. (Can't we just call ourselves "greennecks"? Actually, I may have to deal with this in another post. Stay tuned.)

Oh, and an added bonus? He peed twice on the back porch. I know, you wonder how in the world this is a bonus. First, it wasn't on the floor inside and it wasn't poop. Second, he got all excited about it, pointing and saying "pee pee, momma, pee pee."

Later today, at the lake (which Dan calls the "lakey"), Dan stopped what he was doing, reached down and, um, grabbed himself as he realized that he was peeing in his diaper. This is a good sign.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

A return to common sense

This morning I read a surprisingly balanced article on the current financial crisis from The Washington Post. I nearly choked on my bacon. How can you write an article about the Wall Street meltdown without painting thousands of indebted consumers as the victims of greedy corporate barons? Aren't we all just helplessly having consumer credit stuffed down our throats? Didn't we all have risky mortgages forced upon us and now we can't pay them, what with our two car payments and maxed out credit cards?

Apparently, consumers are just as greedy as corporate executives when it comes to abusing credit. Imagine that. The article's headline was what grabbed me: "Crisis signals end to cheap credit." More display text explained: With foreigners no longer willing to back lavish U.S. lifestyle, American households may finally have to stop spending. That would mean recession."

The article explains, according to an economist, that absent a total U.S. government bailout to keep the system afloat, the only other choice is for Americans to finally put their spending in line with their incomes and their need for long-term savings.

Wow. Let that sink in.

Seems so simple. Spend less than you earn, save what you can. Sounds boring, I know. But really, it's afforded my husband and I a peace of mind that no amount of money can buy. Even staring down possible unemployment or eight to 10 weeks away from work after a new baby, we're not worried. (Of course, I'm wondering when we should grab our money from the banks and start stuffing it under the mattress.)

Now I don't expect our fine politicians running for office to hand voters this same line. God forbid they insult the voter.

New photos

It's rather ironic that these most recent photos catch Dan in the act of eating. I really have no idea where he gets his energy. Lately, he's been eating like a bird.

Monday, September 15, 2008

The Argument to Nowhere

It never fails. Every four years, politicians pick a bogey man to distract the American voter. If I have to read one more story dissecting who requested how much in earmarks and what for, I think my brain will turn to mush. So why am I even writing about this? Good question. I have no answer; my brain is already half mush.

Here's the deal: Earmarks represent money already set aside by Congress for projects to be carried out by federal agencies. If lawmakers didn't claim the money for their own districts, the federal bureaucracy would decide, behind closed doors, how to spend that money. Cutting the number of earmarks does not, I repeat, DOES NOT, cut spending.

Of course, I would love that money to never have been turned over to Washington. But the money's in Washington's bank account, not ours. So how better to ensure it is returned to its constituents in some form than for lawmakers to grab it in the form of earmarks, which, by the way, represents about 2 percent of the total federal budget.

The problem isn't earmarks, though. It's much bigger than that. 98 percent bigger, to be exact. And the focus on who asked for how much and for what is a tidy little diversion. (Oh, how I wish my own colleagues would DO THEIR JOB and stop letting politicians lead them around by the nose.)

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Dan update

Jim has been cutting Dan's hair. I think this is only his third haircut since February. Click here for some photos.

Sorry I can't be more creative with my headline. Things are better this week than they were at my last post. Dan seems to have gotten over a hump and is as pleasant as toddlers can get.(I just love this photo ... he and Jim read the comics every day.)

We did have a bad night Monday. Dan woke up screaming hysterically and we couldn't calm him down. I brought him downstairs to watch a little football and have some water. He started to putting his head down on a big pillow on the floor after a few minutes, so I took him back up where he screamed and cried off and on for about an hour. No consoling him, at all. I was beginning to fear that he had swallowed something and it was stuck in his intestines. But listening to the rhythm of his screams and wails, we quickly realized he was just trying different frequencies to see if one would work. Even Jim went in and tried to calm him down to no avail. He eventually settled down and then was up again for a few minutes at 1:30 and 3:45. I had hoped he would sleep in after a night like that, but no such luck. Oh well. At least he's been napping better.

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

The whine festival

Danny is turning into a 2 year old faster than the calendar can turn. To say it's been a bad couple of days is an understatement.

One recent day began at 12:30 a.m. with pitiful cries from his crib. Tooth pain. Molars are arriving. Tylenol. A few strokes of the forehead - a trick I learned from my mother-in-law, God bless her. Turn on the Bach. Drift back to sleep. Luckily, he slept in until 8:00. Get up, change diaper, clothes, shoes, wash face.

"Dan, time to go down for breakfast." Dan runs the other way, grabs a few toys for the five minute trek down the stairs, if he's walking. "Time to go down. Mommy carry or Danny do it?" Runs off, fakes me out at least three more times, insists "Light on. Light on. Light on." I sit atop the stairs, waiting, nauseous, debating whether to revisit the bathroom.

Downstairs, finally!

In the kitchen ... "apple, apple, apple. juice, juice, juice." Whine, whine, whine. Yogurt and apples and cinnamon toast, which he calls a cookie, bacon, a few scraps of whatever I'm having.

Run around, smack the dog on the butt, fall on his own butt, whine, whine, whine while I try to read the paper ... yeah, I know, I can't believe I still try this. Go to the post office. Go to the park where he plays with everything but the playground equipment. He climbs up on the picnic table, climbs back down, repeats, insists on holding the snack cup, spills the snack cup, tries to eat the goldfish crackers off the ground. Whine, whine, whine. Go home, "eat" lunch, and by that I mean suck the tomato sauce and cheese off the English muffin pizza before handing the rest off to the dog. Whine, whine, whine. Arch back in the high chair while I try to wipe tomato sauce and dirt off his face.

Nap time? Maybe, maybe not. He's trying to give up his nap, I think. Either that or the molar pain is too much. Or maybe he's going to start speaking in complete sentences soon and he needs the extra time in the afternoon to work on it. Then maybe the whining will lessen? I think on this particular day he fell asleep only after a dose of Tylenol and a stern warning, after which he hid his little face behind Dennis the monkey and went to sleep as instructed. Poor kid. Mommy is losing her mind ...

By 5 o'clock, I called my mother and asked if I could sell her a toddler, cheap. She replied that she'd pay a lot for this particular toddler. And with that money, maybe I could buy my sanity back.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Book 'em Danno

I used to really worry that Dan would never be interested in books. Because I didn't read to him while he in the womb, I figured he was born behind in this area. His bedtime routine once consisted of nestling next to Jim to watch This Old House. Now, he settles down with his banana smoothie and watches Curious George and part of Clifford the Big Red Dog. On very rare occasions I could get him to sit with me and read a book. I used to babysit my best friend's little girl when she was about 11 months old and part of her nap time routine was reading several books. She was interested in books from such an early age that I used her as my benchmark. Of course, it doesn't work that way, I've learned. Dan is ready when he's ready and not a minute sooner. And he's unlike any other child in the way he learns and grows.

A friend once told me that I'd know when Dan was ready for books when he started bringing them to me. And she was right. Dan is all about books right now. He brings me several in the morning after breakfast and sits with me or stands next to me while I read on the sofa. His favorites right now are "Pat the Bunny," "Yellow and Yummy," "Ducky Bath time" and sometimes "The Foot Book." And, of course, the Home Depot circular which Jim reads to him when it comes out on Thursdays.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Diaper update

Yes, I'm writing a post solely about diapers. This is just for my other mommy readers who might be interested in the cloth diapering experience. Feel free to skip this one.
We've been doing a mix of cloth and disposable diapers for a week and a half now. And over the weekend I managed to stick Danny with a diaper pin twice. Poor kid. Most of the time when we go out I put the disposables on him just for convenience and because we still have a large stash. We'll probably stick with this formula.

On Monday, I finally got the diaper covers I've been waiting for. They work much better than pins and rubber pants. The only problem seems to be that the cloth diapers are very thick and keeping the diaper cover around them is a bit tricky. It works better when he has shorts on over the diaper. I also got my Diaper Duck in the same package. Pretty nifty little invention. It holds the dirty diaper (DD) while it soaks in the toilet and then I can use it to wring it out. The rinsed off, wrung out DD goes in the diaper pail with baking powder sprinkled over it. Then they get washed every few days. It's not as icky or labor intensive as I thought. You just need a lot of the right supplies on hand so that you don't wind up using a disposable when you can't find any clean rubber pants or covers.

By doing a mix of cloth and disposable, I estimate that we can save about $1000 a year. I'm counting the diapers we would have to buy for the new baby. I don't have to feel guilty about clogging the landfill with the few disposable diapers I'm using now. I'm doing only two extra loads of laundry a week. However, those loads are more like four loads in terms of water usage because I have to do a cold water wash with baking soda and then a hot water wash with detergent and borax. The best part? I don't t have to fold the diapers, which is my least favorite chore. Just lay them flat and put them in the drawer.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

The benefits of school

Ever notice how everything revolves around the idea of "school." Whenever someone sees a child out in public, the only topic they can even think to speak to them about is school ... Are you going to kindergarten soon? Do you like school? Are you excited for school to start? Where does your child go to school? What's your favorite subject? Retailers see school as a huge cash cow, which is, of course, a boon to a government that takes a pound of flesh for every transaction we make. Pools close down or adjust their hours as soon as kids go back to school, regardless of the temperature. Public places such as parks and the lake all seem to lock the bathroom doors as soon as school starts.

As much as I dislike the idea of institutional schooling, I will concede that the first week of school is cause for a wee celebration. All our favorite haunts are abandoned. It's almost like the rapture occurred. The parks are nearly empty, the playground at the mall is much less crowded, the lake is practically a private country club.

Last week, Dan and I took our usual Wednesday trip to the indoor playground at Southpoint. When we arrived, only five other kids were running around. The week before, it was standing-room only. This morning, Dan and I went to the park and were alone there until two other mommies joined us. A little boy of about three rode his training-wheeled bike around the sidewalk. Dan was ecstatic and curious. The little boy let him get on and I pushed the bike around. Later we went to the lake, as is our Monday custom. Usually we pay $5 to get in. Today, the gatehouse was empty. Good thing we didn't have to pay ... it started to rain. We found a shelter, ate our picnic dinner and then, when it cleared up, we took Dan for his first hike. Dan, clad in just a pair of shoes and a diaper, walked along the shore, picked up shells, threw rocks in the water, got muddy and generally had a good time hanging out with his family. Not a soul was in sight except for the occasional park ranger on patrol.

So, even though I detest the idea of warehousing children, I do enjoy the uncrowded public experience it affords us. Selfish on my part? Yes. Completely at odds with my beliefs about institutional schooling? Absolutely.

But, then again, I have chosen to stay home and be with our kids, now and when they're older. I'm not counting the days, months and years until they go to school. And it's a decision that I will likely doubt on several occasions. Hell, just last week I saw a flier for a preschool posted at one of the parks we frequent and checked out the Web site. I have to remind myself often that the thoughtful attention that Jim and I give our son is vastly superior to the one-size-fits-all experience he would get in school, no matter how well-meaning the teachers or how highly recommended the school.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Miss Daisy was right

Last night, I caught a few minutes of "Driving Miss Daisy." In the scene I stumbled into, Hoke, the driver, and Miss Daisy are talking about how he can't read.
Daisy Werthan: You know your letters don't you?
Hoke Colburn: Oh yeah, yeah I know my ABC's pretty good, just can't read.
Daisy Werthan: Stop saying that you're making me mad! If you know your letters you can read. You just don't know you can read.
Hoke Colburn: Maam?
Daisy Werthan: I taught some of the stupidest children God ever put on the face of this earth and all of them could read well enough to find a name on a tombstone.
She goes on to coach him, asking if he knows what the letters B and R sound like. He does and he wanders off to find the name that starts with a B and ends with an R on a tombstone.

Can it really be that simple, I thought? Apparently, yes.

Today, Danny and Jim were playing with a set of wooden alphabet blocks while I fixed dinner. Jim would ask for a certain letter and Dan would find the block with that letter. He was able to identify about 75 percent of them, if I had to guess. And for some of them, he even used the sound that the letter makes. He made the sound for P after he picked up the letter. Then got this funny look on recognition on his face and said the word "pocketbook." (An aside: I have no idea where he got that word. I don't say pocketbook, I say purse.) Amazing.

Jim declared, "The boy can read." And he can. He just doesn't know it yet.

A coffee drinker? Already?

This evening, Jim was drinking coffee from his Starbuck's mug and Dan pointed straight at it and said, "Starbuck's." Of course, we don't think he really read the coffee mug. He's probably been to Starbuck's a hundred times in his short life. It's where he and Jim hang out while I'm at work. I'm just thrilled he doesn't recognize those Golden Arches like most toddlers!

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Going retro

The last time I bought diapers the price had gone up from $35 for 160 diapers to $40 for same. An extra $5 a month doesn't seem so bad, but couple that with the impending two-in-diapers scenario and we're facing up to $80 a month for diapers. I don't know about anyone else, but $80 is a lot of money (especially when you're looking at unpaid maternity leave or even unemployment).

Given my penchant for simplicity and distaste for waste, I decided to give cloth diapers a try. You knew that had to be coming, right? And, no, I'm not using a diaper service. I do own a washer and dryer and even have a clothes line, you know. My only reservation has the ick factor, as in, poopy and soaking wet diapers, leaky rubber pants, etc.

Well, we had our first poopy cloth diaper yesterday. If it wasn't for the leaking toilet I had to fix while rinsing the dirty diaper, it wouldn't have been so bad. A hose in the tank had become dislodged and was spraying water. Of course, I made the mistake of lifting the lid while the toilet was flushing and got soaked. Lovely. So, after that experience, future poopy diapers should be no problem!

I decided to start out with the pin and rubber pants method. We borrowed a set of cloth pre-fold diapers from my mom and I ordered rubber pants and diaper pins from Amazon. If this becomes a habit, the shipping of supplies is going to be the most expensive part. Seemed to be the cheapest way to see if this is something we could tolerate. Luckily, cloth diapering has come along way from my mother's day. She didn't have the Internet to research her options like I do. There's a fantastic site for supplies called BabyBestBuy.com. They have the lowest prices I've seen and the best shipping deal. It's $5.95 for UPS up to $100; $100 or more, shipping is free. How fantastic is that? I found some inexpensive but well-recommended diaper covers (1 dozen for $31) and ordered the Diaper Duck. The Diaper Duck is a nifty little plastic tool that you hang on the toilet seat and grips the diaper while it's soaking or rinsing. Then, the tool wrings the diaper out without you having to touch it, theoretically. The items should arrive on Wednesday.

I've got myself a nice little setup in the bathroom with all the supplies. Dan enjoys being changed now that the table is in front of the mirror. No more wrestling diapers on him! So far, there's been no icky smell, either. Right now, I'm washing my first batch of dirty cloth diapers. We'll see how this goes.

Pregnancy update

The midwife stopped by today. The baby and I are doing well. The heart rate is at 140 beats per minute. Danny heard the heartbeat and started mimicking the Doppler's sound as he points at my belly. Today he tried to put a toy under my shirt. I was confused at first, but then realized he was trying to give the toy to the baby. It was so sweet I almost cried.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Freedom ... for 10 weeks a year

The back to school propaganda machine is in full swing from news media to advertisers. It's a pretty fair microcosm of our society in general. The news media makes light of the collective groan from children, mourning the loss of summer freedom, and cheers from adults, anticipating the return of "free" day care in the form of compulsory public education. Advertisers swoop in with the diversion of back to school shopping. New clothes, fresh supplies, the latest electronics - all to distract parents and children alike from the scary reality of ever-increasing government control over our children, our time, our entire lives.

Children's instincts are right, but not for reasons that they are even conscious of. Learning is about making sense of the world around you, but too many children are cut off from that world. They're stuffed in a classroom for eight hours a day after a too-early bus ride, spending even more time away from family on homework or extracurricular activities. Caged like animals, cut off from their natural instincts to explore, observer and learn, they turn into adults who can't make sense of the world around them. Their survival instincts were shut off at an early age. They know it isn't right or natural, and I suspect, deep down, parents know this, too. But, just as in school, they are blinded by the status quo. They go along. They shut up and put up, perhaps because they've forgotten how to think for themselves. They accept, essentially, government-mandated control over how their family spends its time.

Here in North Carolina, it's still over 90 degrees outside, hurricanes are churning in the Atlantic, summer thunderstorms wash away the day's heat, the ocean water is the perfect temperature, the cool air of the mountains still beckon, not a single leaf has turned color, tomatoes are still ripening on the vine, mosquitoes and fireflies still flutter in my backyard. Yet students are returning to school next week, unnaturally ending a season that naturally meanders into late September. Every year, I feel excitement with a twinge of sadness as seasons pass. But as a child, returning to school in late summer was met with unspeakable sadness and anxiety. It unnaturally cut short time with family, time to play enjoy summer, to read, sew, garden, swim, be with friends or be alone, even doing nothing at all.

The language of the back-to-school blitz makes me flinch. A "Kickoff to Kindergarten" event at a local museum was described as boot camp for 5-year-olds; a lifeguard described the change in demeanor among children in the past week saying "It's just like they put their heads down and look at their feet. They know what's coming."

A headline declared "Last week of freedom." I'm afraid that's old news. Our freedom was lost a long time ago.

Friday, August 15, 2008

The little school on the lawn

Last night, Jim, Danny and I were enjoying a cool and pleasant evening on the lawn. We spoke with some neighbors, who are fellow gardeners, as they passed on their evening walk. Danny made quick friends with Mr. Jerry and invented a game where he put a leaf in Mr. Jerry's hand, then slapped his hand. Mr. Jerry would stumble backward as if Danny's slap was so hard. What a kick for Danny.

Danny also learned to do a somersault, going down hill. He got a lesson in how to hold a golf club and putt from Jim. He pulled up handfuls of grass and "helped" me write numbers in the dirt with a stick. He ran down to the peach tree and said "Peach," looking for the peaches that have since been harvested and eaten by us and by squirrels. He followed and studied a baby frog that came along.

Just then, Jim got Dan in a bear hug and said, "Now this is school. I'm going to hold you down and tell you about everything that you see." Danny wasn't pleased, but was mildly amused as he wriggled from Jim's grasp to continue pursuing the baby frog.

Even in jest, it's amazing how spot on Jim is. I've been reading a book called "Learning All the Time" by John Holt. One passage that's stuck with me these past few days is his description of the two messages that active and uninvited teaching conveys to little children. One is distrust, as in "You're not smart enough to learn this without me teaching you." And the other is contempt, as in "You'd never be inclined to learn this if I didn't teach you."

What a horrible message to send children or anyone that you care about. And make no mistake, children are sensitive and smart enough to get the message.
Yes, it's that time of year again. Preseason NFL football is upon us. Dan gets into the spirit here.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Missing pieces

Yesterday I may have solved a mystery.

I asked Dan to put his breakfast plate in the kitchen. He picked up his plate and toddled into the kitchen. I was impressed, until I heard the trash can opening. Lately, to harness Dan's curiosity about the trash can, we give him pieces of trash to put in there. He gets immense satisfaction from this little task. So I guess it's not surprising that he would put the breakfast plate in the trash. I should be more specific next time. Dirty dishes go on the kitchen counter, Dan.

And now I know where two of his missing plates and perhaps the missing green ball may have gone -- the trash can, along with pieces of my sanity.

In other news:

Jim and Dan are right now looking at pictures. Dan names the picture, if he can say the word. Dan just identified an ice cream cone as "cream" and then he said "mmmm." We wonder how he knows about ice cream since he hasn't ever had any. (I know, we're so cruel.) The ice cream comes out only after he goes to bed. He's learning despite our efforts to prevent him from knowing about ice cream. Scary. And to think, the education gestapo in this country truly believe that children don't learn unless they're taught. Amazing.

Monday, August 11, 2008

And the kitchen walls came down

Don't worry, it was on purpose. Jim renovated a corner of the kitchen that was a poorly designed waste of space. He transformed it from a closed off pantry to an open area with built-in book shelves. Here are the photos:

Friday, August 08, 2008

The fruit strategy

I have one boy who wants to eat only fruit and another who couldn't find the fruit unless it jumped into his hands as he passed the bowl, maybe.

Dan is, well, bananas about bananas. If he sees a Target bag he assumes bananas are in there and the banana mantra begins. Buying bananas in Dan's presence is like undertaking a covert operation. I either have to hide the bananas in the cart or, if Jim is along, Dan is whisked to another corner of the store (preferably a corner with ample balls). Once home, the bananas go in the fruit bowl atop the microwave and must be hidden beneath a dark cloth napkin. Out of sight, out of mind, for now. The day he remember that the bananas are under the napkin we'll have to find a special banana vault.

So, I have to hide the fruit from one while ensuring that the other finds the fruit. Tricky, but I think I did okay here. What do you think?

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

Alphabet soup

I found Dan on the kitchen table one morning and couldn't resist a photo. It's his new favorite place since he's figured out how to get up there. This morning I heard him saying "Fly, fly, fly" and found him on the kitchen table peering into my glass of milk at a fly. I also have a new video.

I knew it wouldn't be long before Dan discovered the removable nature of the letters in his foam play mat. Now he removes the letters, brings them to Jim or I and we name the letter and the sound. Sometimes I make words or combinations with the letters and sound them out. I often just say what the two or three letters sound like together, even if it's not a defined word - WMN, for example. And, yes, the word freak in me is, well, freaking a little bit. Learning what letters sound like is more important than meaning right now, I tell my inner word freak. I'll probably also have similar (inner) remonstrations when he starts putting words together in sentences.

He really seems to be getting it. Today he came at me with the letter W and shouted, "Wuh." Later he held up two letters, shook them up and down and began screeching, "Letters, letters, letters."

So now, each night, I chase down little balls and foam letters to put back in their respective places. One day he'll learn to put the letters back in the correct spot, right?

The next frontier

The past few days I've been sifting through boxes of baby clothes, sorting them into sizes, gender, categories. And once they are sorted, I put each category in a little Ziploc bag with an index card saying what size, type and season the clothes are. Yes, I know, I'm a little OCD. But at least when the baby comes I can just go into my boxes and grab a few bags instead of fishing through mountains of clothes. There is a method to my madness, you know.

The next thing on our agenda is to make a nursery out of my beloved guest room. It's one of my favorite rooms. The bed is comfortable with my sateen sheets and light down comforter, my sewing and knitting supplies are all neatly organized, there are little glow-in-the-dark stars on the ceiling. Initially we were going to move Dan to this room. But I really didn't want to uproot my special little guy. It would give him a reason to resent the new addition and add a layer of stress when the new baby comes. And besides, the baby will be with us for the first few months. Dan slept nestled under my arm pit for the first four months, so we do have some time.

Friday, August 01, 2008

All my balls are in a row now

I have a little boy who dearly loves balls. He speaks the word about a hundred times a day. He has several toys that involve balls, balls to pound through holes with a hammer, balls to put in the top of a tower and watch bounce and clack loudly through a maze, a basketball and a hoop. Every night, I go through the house gathering up balls from under tables and couches and wherever else they may end up.

I'm borderline obsessed with keeping the balls with the proper toy and keeping them from going under the sofa. If the toys aren't kept together with all their various parts, then it's no fun to play with them. Right? Of course, Josee, you're not obsessive compulsive at all.

Anyhow, tonight I watched Jim and Danny play with the ball tower and cringed every time a newly flushed out ball headed toward my nemesis, the ball-swallowing sofa. Danny thought my reaction was hilarious. Then, Jim started putting the balls for the ball tower with the balls for the hammer-pounding toy. Then he used the hammer that didn't go with that toy to pound the balls. Cringe. Twitch. All I could think was "Where is the hammer that goes with that toy?" Next, I noticed that one ball was missing from the set. Jim started telling me that he cracked the ball while playing golf in the backyard. I started getting a little edgy, not sure whether he was joking . I figured he was, you know ... Irish eyes were smiling. When I finally found the ball about an hour ago, I actually got excited. It's not like I was looking for it that whole time; I'm not that crazy. Well, I think you were, subconsciously, Josee.

I guess I just need to feel in control of something, you know? Does that make me crazy? No, no, of course not. You're fine, just fine. Go to bed, Josee. All the balls are in the right place, even that last white one you just found. Shhhhh. Everything is okay.

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Where do you put your milk?

This morning, my husband greeted me in the kitchen with a question.
"What's this?" he asks, holding up a carton of milk.

"It's milk (on the inside: you big dummy)," I say.

"Where does milk go?" he asks.

"In the fridge (on the inside: you big dummy)," I say.

"Then why was it in the pantry?" he asks.
Oh. I'm the big pregnant dummy who can't even remember putting the milk in the pantry. I remember this. It's called pregnancy brain.

My new favorite quote

Found in a book I'm reading called "The Underground History of American Education."

"If you're not making it up as you go along, you're not doing it right."
- The Albany Free School

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

It's the simple things, really

It's one of those 100-degrees in the shade days here. Taking Dan outside in this heat is really out of the question - poor air quality plus pregnant mommy equals a mostly inside day. What to do with a very active toddler on a day like today without resorting to the boob tube??

Luckily, everything is a toy when your a toddler. As I began a phone call with my sister, Dan got up on the dining room table, sat down and began playing with a glass vase and some marbles. The vase is decorative, the marbles are the decoration and a silk flower is an accent. The marbles came out of the vase by the handful and landed on the table and on a ceramic oval serving platter with a satisfying clatter. Then the marbles go back into the vase, a handful at a time, clatter, clatter, clatter. Take a break and stack various small glass jars of food. Repeat ... for almost an hour.

Sounds dangerous, I know. But I was right there as my son was perched on the dining room table playing with glassware while his toys sat idly in the next room. (He's watching Sesame Street now, of course, which is why I can type this post.)