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.)

Monday, July 21, 2008

Failure really should be an option

Jim and I recently watched "The Pursuit of Happyness." The only thing more stunning than the number of bottoms this man, Chris Gardner, had was the how many times he picked himself up, thought of a solution and moved on. Even more interesting was that his ultimate triumph was not overly celebrated in the film. (WARNING: Spoiler alert.) The final scenes showed Gardner stoically accepting a job offer, calmly walking out onto a busy city sidewalk and tearfully clapping his hands. He didn't tell his internship supervisors that he was living in a homeless shelter with his son, that his wife had left him, that he could barely make ends meet; he just showed up to work each day, did his job and tried mightily to keep his head above water in the hopes of winning a job at the end of an unpaid internship. He didn't look for approval or validation of his struggle from his peers. His motivation was all internal. Given the institutional schooling he surely was brought up in, his reaction to adversity is extraordinary.

In school, learning is a race against the clock, failure is stigmatized and avoided while success is narrowly defined, rewarded and expected. Part of my objection to institutional schooling is the intense focus on success, especially in this No Child Left Behind era. We're forgetting that failure is just as instructive, maybe even more so, than success.

Every day, my son tries and fails at a dozen small tasks. Fast forward a few days and he's mastered a skill that once frustrated him. What would happen if I insisted that he succeed at, say, shape sorting after a prescribed number of "lessons"? Would he learn any more completely, quickly or easily than if I had simply let him keep trying until he figured it out?

Lately, instead of showing him how to do something, I simply say, "Try it a different way" or "Turn [the object]" or "It's getting hard to walk around all those toys. Maybe we should pick some up." He doesn't usually get a "Good job" from us when he complies, either. I usually just describe what he's doing, saying something like, "You're helping Mommy pick up your toys" or "You got the triangle in the triangle hole." And I feel like it's working. He claps for himself when he knows he's done something well or accomplished a task. I loathe using praise with young children. It sets them up to expect external praise instead of experiencing the internal pride that comes from completing an act, such as cleaning up toys under their feet or seeing for themselves how an object fits, that is meaningful to their environment.

Don't get me wrong. I don't want my children to suffer needlessly. I want my children to be successful. But I also want them to fail so that they learn to pick themselves up, try again and be satisfied with whatever level of achievement they decide suits them. They don't have to be perfect. They don't have to be rich. They don't have to meet federal standards or anyone else's. They just have to be human.

No belt? No problem.

Finding a toddler-sized belt has proven nearly impossible. Seems the only ones to be had are in Texas, where Jim found one while stuck in the Dallas airport complex in April. And since same-sized bottoms of different brands vary wildly, poor Dan is in need of a belt for much of the time. Mostly, we just roll down the waistband since not all shorts have belt loops that fit the Texas-sized toddler belt.

Today, Jim was in the kitchen twirling plastic wrap into an inch wide, about two-foot long strip. Curiosity got the better of me.
"What's that for?" I ask.

"It's a belt."

"For who?"


"Um, that's a little redneck."

"No way ... it's a gourmet belt."

"A gourmet belt?"
Apparently, this is what chefs do when the drawstring on their pants breaks.
(Here Dan was experimenting with drinking from an adult cup.)

Friday, July 18, 2008

The week so far ...

It's been a few days since my last post, so here are the highlights:
  • Dan's new words: (at least the ones I can decipher) boat, nose, sock. He said boat after we went to the lake on Monday and saw sailboats. Two days later, while he and Jim were in the swimming pool on our back porch, he climbed on Jim's back and said "boat." It's interesting that he gets the concept of a boat being something that can float on the water and decided that being on top of daddy's back was like being on a boat. As for "sock," I have no idea how he came up with that one. He hasn't worn socks since April, maybe late March. No need down here in the Carolinas. Tonight in the tub, as he and I were going over body parts, he said nose. He can also say feet, toes, teeth and penis (I'm just so proud of that last one!).

  • Is this kid deaf???? I'm sure this won't be the last time I utter that phrase. Dan is so intent on whatever he's doing it renders him oblivious. Of course, when I do get his attention and he knows I need him to come or change directions, he runs away - which prompts a nice little Vulcan squeeze on the shoulder that he hates.
So that's the latest. The pregnancy is going well so far. I have an appointment with my midwife tomorrow and we should be able to hear the heartbeat. I'm still getting sick in the morning and Dan still finds mommy's funny gagging sounds hilarious.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

The Biggest Hit

My readers may not realize this, but I have a nifty little counter at the bottom of the page. It tells me who has visited me, where they are, where the clicked in from, how many pages they viewed and how long they stayed. I check it once a day, but almost feel like I'm spying on people. Unfortunately, it doesn't track all the people who likely read my live feed on my Facebook profile. What can I say? I'm naturally nosy; after all, my name rhymes with the word. And I am a journalist at heart.

My visitors are mostly friends, family and friends of family members. I do, however, get quite a few hits from google searches. An extraordinary number of people click in from searches on how to make a brick hearth cover. I'm on the first page, ranked number five.

Today, I discovered that a message board for mothers in the Dallas-Fort Worth area cited my post on the subject and passed the link on to other moms. The funny thing is that I'm nowhere near as crafty as my sister, yet my little instructions on how to find inexpensive materials to build a hearth cover are apparently very popular.

Here's the post. Is this my fifteen minutes of fame?

Friday, July 11, 2008

Are you kidding me??

The shocking thing about this news clip is not that a 7-year-old stole his grandmother's SUV, took it for a joyride, hit several cars before crashing into a sign. His reason isn't even that shocking. He said he wanted to do "hood rat things with his friends." The kid thinks he should just get his video games taken away for a weekend. Yeah, that's a good start. How much you want to be this kid has Grand Theft Auto in his collection?

Do you think this kid will be punished in any meaningful way? Of course not. His grandmother says, "If I thought they wouldn't take me to jail, I'd whip his behind right now." How 'bout later, grandma, when the cops aren't there?

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Dinner at the farm

(Uncle Tim came to dinner a week ago and I'm just now getting to finish this post)

Sometimes it takes having dinner with a childless person to see what a barnyard our dinner table has become. Dan has eaten dinner with us since he started eating solid food, even before. When he was little, he sat in his swing on the floor while we ate at the table. He fussed a bit, but was generally happy to be with us. Then, when he was big enough to sit in his highchair, we moved him up there so he could watch us eat. He loved being able to see what we were doing up there at the table.

Now, he's a part of mealtime. He feeds himself, uses a fork and when he's done either pushes his plate away or calls for Bob the dog. He used to throw his food on the floor when he was done, so his current behavior is a mighty improvement. He's even used a napkin to wipe his face. But, lately, dinner with him is liking eating with a goat. He shrieks, bangs his fork on the table, moves his food from the dish to the table and back, chews his cud like a cow, then takes the food out (and hands it to me! Yummy!). He's even tried to eat like the dog (told you he's copying everything!).

Considering what a good start Dan had with food, I didn't think we'd be here so soon ... he eats like a bird and only a select few items. Mostly he likes fruit, pizza, cheese, lasagna, corn on the cob and pasta. A new favorite is beets from the garden. Luckily the pasta has always been the whole wheat variety. Sometimes to get him to eat we have to make animal growling sounds. He then growls and devours whatever's in front of him like a starving animal. Think Randy in "A Christmas Story" ... "show mommy how the piggies eat."

And we've found that he eats better when he doesn't have an audience. So we leave him at the table, and he gets quiet and gets down to business.

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

Our little monkey

Dan tries to copy everything we do and say. I can't really keep tabs on everything he says or tries to say. But lately, he's really trying to say new words. Tonight he said soap while we were in the tub. And he says George, referring to Curious George, which is his favorite. He watches Curious George every night before bed while he drinks his banana smoothie. (Oh shut up, I still can't get the kid to sit and read a book, okay?)

When Jim gets home, Dan follows him upstairs while Jim shaves, brushes his teeth, gargles and takes a shower. Dan also brushes his teeth and hair while he's up there. Today, he puffed out his cheeks to mimic Jim's gargling.

When Jim was changing the air filters, Dan followed him around. Jim gave him a drill (without the power source and the drill bit ... come on, people, we're not that laid back around here). He went straight for the air duct return with the drill. And he knows exactly how the whole assembly works, too. He took it apart when he was eight months old.

We were at the store the other day getting monkey food - bananas and yogurt for his smoothies - when he heard another child let out a wail that sounded very much like his own. He called back to the kid. It was very primitive.

A sidebar:

As I was editing this post, I inadvertently pressed a combination of keys that turned the monitor 90 degrees. My picture had turned sideways on me and I had only a vague idea of what keys I had pushed. (Turns out, it was control+alt+the right arrow key.) My question? Why is this even an option? Who needs the option of turning their monitor 90 degrees or even upside down? Did the software jockeys say, "Hey, what if someone's head is on sideways?" Or "What if they want to rotate their photos?" Thank goodness Bill Gates thinks of everything.

Monday, July 07, 2008

Wednesday, July 02, 2008

Happy Birthday to me!

Sunday was my birthday. I'm a lucky woman. My boys treated me to flowers, some candy and a card signed by Danny, plus a little project that they worked on together. Very cute. Here's a video I put together of their efforts, plus a few photos. I get all teary whenever I watch the video (darn pregnancy hormones!).

And some photos:

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

Prohibited by law?

Sometimes it astounds me just long the arm of the law is.

Earlier this month I had an appointment with the eye doctor. I arrived 10 minutes early. She was short-staffed that day, her receptionist was a surly witch and I was on borrowed time as Dan was at Parent's Morning Out. To make matters more annoying, a man who arrived after me was called in before me. Ugh. So I told the receptionist to forget about it and left. But I did need new contact lenses, so I ordered new ones this week despite my prescription having run out. Maybe I could get away with it?

I get this email back a few days after I order:
To keep your eyes healthy, please contact your doctor to schedule an eye exam and renew your prescription. Please note that you'll need a new prescription for future orders as a current prescription is required by law.
Luckily, my eye doctor isn't an idiot and allowed the purchase anyway. She probably figured it's better I have my contact lenses than not.

Now, in the past 10 years, my prescription has changed ever so slightly, not dramatically. Yet, I am forced by law to take time out of my schedule, find child care, wait, get an exam, have gunk that affects my immediate vision put in my eyes, get my eyes measured (I'm 34, I don't think they're still growing) and pay $200 just to get my contact lens prescription refilled. Then, of course, I spend at least $200 a year on my contact lenses. Basically, I pay twice what I feel is necessary, plus spend my precious time and energy, all because of a law.

Why am I not trusted to see the doctor on my own if I feel I'm having trouble seeing? And since when is it the government's job to make sure I keep my eyes healthy? I suspect it's because our government is so easily swayed by lobbyists who likely convinced them that it's a public safety issue and it's in the public's best interest.

And here's the big hole in the law: If you wear glasses or have never worn glasses, you're not required to go to the eye doctor every year. So, if you want to throw the safety argument out there, how exactly am I protected from bozos who don't get their eye glass prescription renewed or never get their eyes checked? Honestly, though, I'm not worried about that. If someone takes a driving test, their eye sight is checked. If it's poor, they get no license. That's all the protection I feel is necessary.

It's very annoying to have a government mandate intrude on my life in this manner. Can't the politicians in Washington please stop trying to make everyone's life better? Please stop trying to save us from ourselves. Please stop looking out for my best interest. My parents stopped doing that when I was 18 and so should the government.