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Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Happy Halloween!

Happy Halloween, or Samhain, if your inclinations lie that way ;-) Our angel and devil had a pretty good time tonight, even if Mommy was a little frazzled. In spite of my best attempts to plan otherwise, we ended up trick 0r treating right at 6:30, which is when we start BB's bedtime ritual stuff. So she wasn't really at her best. Even so, she was adorable in her devil costume and waved at everybody she saw. BJ was excited to dress up as an angel (Yay!) and was painfully cute, insisting on carrying a yellow oxalis blossom as we went house to house. He loved seeing all the other kids in their costumes, and I think he had an even better time handing out candy than he did going door to door. Though for the first time, he really seemed to understand the allure of candy. (Alas.)

I wish I'd gotten a pic of S in costume. He wore his toga and looked pretty good. I also wish I'd had the time and resources to put together a decent costume for myself. As it was, I barely managed to keep my $2 witch's hat on my head.

While trick or treating, BJ was particularly intrigued to be outdoors, at night. He kept commenting on how we were outside in the dark, even though it was only twilight. I was relieved that we didn't have any scary experiences -- no weirdness about masks or anxiety about decorations.

Two of our dear friends joined us tonight -- "Auntie L" and "Tia M." I made a big crockpot of black bean soup and an enormous pan of cornbread, in a small attempt to do something "special" to mark the day. I wish I'd been able to manage more in the way of ritual or reverence, but there just doesn't seem to be room or energy for that sort of magic in my life right now. It makes me a little sad, but I've (mostly) made my peace with that for the time being.

Oh, and apparently there was a fairly strong aftershock this afternoon. A 3-something. I think I felt it -- but then again, I was still jumping at car stereos all day, so it might have been a false alarm. It was a jumpy sort of day, all told. Which is, perhaps, to be expected.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007


It's been a full day. Just as I was sitting down to write this entry (about half an hour ago), I experienced my second earthquake ever. Preliminary reports have it as a 5.6, located 9 miles northeast of San Jose. My heart is still racing. I tell ya, the fight or flight response hits pretty hard when you're a mommy.

At first it sounded like an oncoming train, or like a really bumpin' car coming down the street. (So now, of course, my heart is leaping at every car stereo that goes by, convinced it's an aftershock. Four so far, in case you're wondering.) Then stuff started rattling, and there was that seasick sensation of the floor moving unnaturally. Of course these things always seem to last longer while they are happening, but it went on long enough for me to:

-- bolt from my chair
-- run instinctively to a doorway
-- get there and think, "Oh, crap!!! The kids!!!"
-- dart into our bedroom where BB was sleeping. The shaking was strong enough that it had woken her (either that or my panicked entry into the room.... ya think?) At any rate, she was crying, so I scooped her up and ran down the hall to check on BJ. He was still snoring.

By then, it was over. Just this weekend, I was gripped with a conviction that the area around BB's pack and play where she sleeps in our room was not adequately earthquake-proofed -- too many things on high shelves, etc. Couldn't entirely empty out the bookcase next to her, but I improved the situation significantly. Glad I did so, now!!!

I turned on the radio to hear what had happened, rocked with BB to calm her down (and myself as well) and stayed that way for about 20 minutes. Soon enough, she was utterly relaxed, and she helped me come down a few notches. Right after I settled her back in the pack and play, S called from campus where he's working late tonight. (Figures this would happen without him around.) I assured him that I was okay and so were the kids. And we are, and I am. But in truth my heart is still skipping a bit.

So anyway, what I'd originally planned to post about was how awesome BJ was today. He had his second dental appointment, and he was as wonderful as a kid could be. Let them mess around in his mouth, no problem and no fussing. Got his teeth polished and everything checked out fine. Took maybe 10 minutes, tops.

And then, since it had been so quick with his appointment, they offered to squeeze in the cleaning I needed. (I'd had to cancel it when we were all sick recently.) I was nervous about saying yes, but I figured I might as well give it a try. I'm delighted (amazed, astonished) to report that BJ sat for a good half an hour in the corner of the dentist's office while they cleaned my teeth. He entertained himself with an electronic letter toy the whole time, just working his way through the alphabet and playing around with the various buttons and settings. I was SO proud.

Then, this afternoon, S took the kids to the grocery store so I could get a bit of a break. According to S, on the way home BJ announced, unprompted, that I was his "favorite friend."

Talk about a heart-squeeze! (I think S was a little jealous, in truth. He and BJ have been locking horns recently.)

So the next time that I'm completely frustrated with BJ and the inevitable terrible toddler stuff that will happen, I promise to do my best to remember today. To remember being so proud of BJ, so totally touched by his sweetness. And feeling so incredibly grateful that all of us were ok in the face of nature's amazing power.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Housework from the Heart

This week, I've been continuing my research into Waldorf education. I've been reading Rahima Baldwin Dancy's You Are Your Child's First Teacher, which was recommended by my friend Cara at Green Bean Boutique. (Cara has experience as a Waldorf teacher, and she makes wonderful Waldorf toys. Her dolls are particularly charming. I finally got around to ordering a customized doll for BB from her shop, and I can't wait to see her in person!)

Some of Dancy's book has had a fairly high skim-factor -- I find I don't have a lot of patience for the anthroposophic aspects of Waldorf thinking; in particular, the convictions about spirituality and biology don't ring entirely true to me. But I've been quite interested in what she has to say about housework, and the relationship between housework and play. As a feminist and a women's studies major, I'm intrigued by how she ultimately spins a new sense of importance around so-called "women's work."

An oft-repeated theme in her book (and in Waldorf as a whole, I find) is how the context of our modern world has resulted in less than ideal situations for childrearing. Dancy finds much to regret about the contemporary situation: the pernicious influence of television, the tendency to spend too much time indoors, the sharply curtailed influence of extended family.... She also believes that, once upon a time, raising a child was much easier.

"One of the reasons raising children used to be simpler was that parents were doing work that involved movement -- washing the clothes by hand, making butter, working in the fields. Toddlers played nearby or were watched by an older sibling or relative, and began to imitate and help as soon as they were able. The idea of a thirty-seven-year-old professional being home all day with nothing but a baby to put her energy into is a uniquely modern situation. Our children do need us for the heart connection, but they don't need constant adult input and intellectual stimulation. Allowing children to be children today means recognizing their need to be in movement, their need to imitate actions, and their need for creative play, which is the work of childhood." (p. 156)

"One of the reasons that children [today] can't play [as well as they used to] is that they don't very often see the adults around them engaged in meaningful activity. Why is this? There are two main reasons. The first is that frequently the adult is spending all her time relating directly to the child....The other part of the problem is that most of the 'work' we do around the house these days more often involves pushing a button than rhythmically moving. The dishes need washing? We push the button on the dishwasher. The clothes need washing? We push the button on the washing machine.... Because young children involved in movement, they discount all these activities as meaningless." (p. 183-184)

According to Dancy, imitation is hugely important in play. Without clear, repeated, rhythmic movement to imitate (which traditional, labor-intensive housework would naturally provide) children today are left to act out scenes from television or movies. Imagination is stunted, and by implication so is the child's development. But the significance of housework goes even deeper, it seems:

"Because rhythmical activity speaks so strongly to children, it is helpful to bring conscious gestures into our household tasks such as folding clothes, sweeping floors....The children will watch, join in to help, or simply take it all in as they go about their work of playing. As busy parents, we need to realize the value of the things we do in the home and do them as conscious activities around the young child -- this could involve something as simple as peeling an apple for the child down on her little table instead of up on the counter....

Are you beginning to get a feeling for what I'm saying? It sounds like we're back at the same old stuff -- housework -- but there are two differences. One is we're doing these activities with awareness of how we move, with awareness of their beneficial effect on the young child, and with caring. The other is that we might be doing things we wouldn't ordinarily do, like sweeping, washing placemats on a scrub board, ironing, grinding grain with a hand mill.... It may sound 'quaint' but let me assure you that it beats having a whiny two-year-old or plugging another kid vid into the VCR to get her out of your hair. It's kind of like the Zen saying of "Before enlightenment, chopping wood and carrying water. After enlightenment, chopping wood and carrying water." By becoming conscious of our own activities, by regulating our daily lives in a harmonious, rhythmical way -- by valuing what we do around our children -- we are....helping their physical bodies to develop in as healthy a way as possible. In return, our children give us the gift of slowing down, of becoming aware of our movements and our emotions, and of appreciating the uniqueness of each moment." (p. 185)

I think there is a real danger in romanticizing the world of the past -- glorifying idyllic images of women doing things like hanging the laundry out to dry, grinding grain, making bread from scratch, or what have you. Such scenes tend to ignore the physical difficulties and realities of this work. The woman's sore back. The baby who cries longer than one would like because the task at hand could not be left unattended once begun.

Even so, Dancy has a point. I find myself thinking of when I was in college and got a notion that I should learn how to bake bread. Soon thereafter, I bought a bread machine. The bread was yummy, but it was ultimately unsatisfying to dump everything in and push a button. I wanted to know how to do it by hand, how to knead, how to judge when the mass of dough had been adequately worked, how to recognize the springy feel it develops. It was extraordinary to experience the satisfaction of punching down the dough after it rises. No machine could match it.

And yet, nice as all this sounds, no way on earth am I going to attempt making bread from scratch right now. Not while watching both the kids. BB would end up eating the cat food on the kitchen floor, BJ would be coated in flour from his enthusiastic attempts to "help," and I'd be a frazzled mess. Maybe in a few years.

I feel like a lot of the reading I've been doing lately is going to come in handy at this unspecified point in the future, this time when life as a parent of two children (who are 22 months apart) will become less crazy. Everybody I talk to about this assures me that it all gets easier after the first year. Well, we have three months left to go. I just hope they're right.

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Halloween Preview

I breathed a huge sigh of relief today -- after all the weeks of hoopla, BJ consented to wear his costume to BB's playgroup's Halloween party. Not only that, but he had great fun darting around, informing people that he was an angel, and shedding silver glitter in his wake. (The wings are painted with silver glitter, and for the life of me I can NOT get them to stop leaving tiny gleaming bits of sparkly dandruff wherever he goes.)

The party itself was somewhat overwhelming -- it was for all the 2007 playgroups, which meant lots and lots of babies in adorable costumes but little to interest BJ. Still, he got to eat some cookies, BB got out of the house for a bit (always a plus), and I found it gratifying to see so many families out with their little ones. Plus, I partnered up with one of the grandmas in our group to play the "Wrap the Mummy" game (where you have to "wrap" a partner in 2 rolls worth of toilet paper; the first to use up both rolls win) and we won a $75 gift certificate for a pizza outing for our playgroup. Not too shabby!

I'm hoping to get better pics on Wednesday, but here's a preview of the kids en costume. Keep fingers crossed that the costumes are as much of a hit on Halloween night as they were today!


Last night, BJ and I made snickerdoodles cookies to take to our playgroup's Halloween party today. He gets more and more capable every time we do this kind of thing.

His job was to take the dough balls and roll them around in the cinnamon and sugar mix, which worked out really well. He always does better when I can find a specific task for him to perform, preferably one that is well within his ability. Dough-rolling was right up his alley.

For some reason, he decided that he should pretend to be a cow the entire time. He informed me that his cow name was "Cinnamon 'BJ'" and he accompanied our cookie making with a catchy little ditty that went somethig like this:

Moo! Moo! Cinnamon BJ! Moo! Moo! Moooo! (Repeat.)

The cookies were quite yummy. (With all that butter, one would hope so.) Here's the recipe I use:

1/2 c butter
1 1/2 c all-purpose flour
1 c sugar
1 egg
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar

about 2 tablespoons sugar (I combined white sugar with colored sugar crystals in purple and orange, to give it a bit of holiday color)
1 teaspoon cinnamon (or to taste... I like it heavy on the cinnamon and double this or more)

375 oven

Beat butter with electric mixer until softened. Add about half the flour. Then add 1 c sugar, egg, vanilla, baking soda, cream of tartar. Beat until combined, scraping bowl as needed. Beat in remaining flour. Cover and chill until firm (1 hour or so).

In small bowl, combine 2 tablespoons sugar and cinnamon. Shape dough into 1 inch balls. Roll balls in sugar/cinnamon to coat. Place 2 inches apart on greased cookie sheets.

Bake at 375 for about 12 min (until edges are lightly browned). Remove and cool. Makes about 30.

Oh, and you might be wondering -- why is BJ shirtless? He'd removed his polo, and when I asked him why, he told me it was wet with "mouth water." He'd been sucking on the collar and soaked it with spit. Mouth-watering, indeed! (Blech!!!)

Friday, October 26, 2007

Friday Feature -- MadeByMelissa

This week's featured Etsy artist is Made By Melissa. I especially like her kids' jewelry. These bracelets are adorable, and at $2.50 for a set of three they are quite the bargain!

Tell me two (or more!) interesting things about you.

Hobbies - beading, crocheting, baking, internetting. Family situation - I have a newborn, a puppy and a hubby that handles the 3:30 AM baby feeding and puppy potty time. Job - My "real" job is as an environmental engineer. Collections - aside from crafting supplies, I collect postcards and novelty socks.

What do you sell in your Etsy shop? Mostly beaded jewelry for grown-ups and kids with a few crocheted items ranging from baby to adult.

What inspires your creations? I get inspiration from everywhere - things that I like, things that I know friends and family will like, things I see in the store, online, on other people. Sometimes I see supplies in the store and automatically picture the finished product.

Tell me a bit about your creative process and/or how you learned to do what you do. I just really picked up the jewelry thing from a really young age starting with friendship bracelets and I gradually started making more advanced things. I taught myself based on examining store bought items and looking for parts that I needed to make mine look like theirs. Crochet I learned the basics from two family friends after years of trying to get knitting down pat (my grandma taught me when I was 10). Once I picked it up again, I taught myself the more "complex" stuff from online patterns and books.

To which Etsy Street Teams do you belong? EtsyKids, EtsyMom, EtsyNJ and EtsyBloggers

What is your favorite item in your shop (currently for sale or previously sold)? Why is it your favorite? I love everything in my shop! If I don't like it, then I take it apart and try again until I get something I like. Currently I have two items that really knock my socks off! I have a Mommy & Me matching pink crystal bracelet set and my super-duper cute ice cream charm necklaces

What 3 words would you use to describe yourself? dedicated, smart and sensitive

What do you like about Etsy? Its a great place for crafters to come together and showcase their talents. A place for shoppers to know that they are getting something that someone put love and dedication into making.

What makes your shop unique? The variety in my items - they range from simple and classic, to shiny and fun.

What advice do you have for other folks selling or buying on Etsy? For sellers - promote yourself in forums, blogs and street teams and be patient sales come in bunches and often times there are long dry spells in between. For buyers - check your seller's feedback, feel free to contact sellers and ask questions and ask for custom items, most of us love to hear from you.

Where else can we find out more about you and/or your creations?Check out my blogs - &

For more posts like this, click here.

Thursday, October 25, 2007


Today at lunchtime, BJ announced he was "entertaining" BB. I looked over, and he was sharing her teether rings. Sure enough, she thought this was quite entertaining.

But, fun as it is to share germs with your siblings, BB's favorite form of entertainment these days is a game that she and S have. Daddy makes a stack of colored plastic cups, takes a little firefighter figurine and climbs the stack (along with the requisite "doot-doot-doot" climbing noises), and then BB gleefully knocks the whole thing over. (As you might imagine, she doesn't always wait until the firewoman is at the top.)

I didn't even know this game existed until this evening, when S happened to mention it. Apparently, she and S have been doing it for days. This now explains, I think, why BB dug out that specific firewoman figurine and brought it to me several times today. She wanted me to play the game! Now that I think about it, she did have that expectant "Entertain Me, Mommy!" look about her. Though that expression on her face is hardly a rarity around here these days.

Other entertaining news: BJ has started making up songs. On the way home from story time at the library today, it was:

Good bye, bye, bye, bye, bye, bye-bye
Good bye, bye, bye, bye, bye, bye, bye, bye-bye...
(repeat this theme for about five minutes)

When he was finished, he informed me quite seriously that the song was called "Bye-bye Good." And that it was "By 'BJ'." Actually, he used his full first and last name, which tickled me extremely. It always cracks me up when he says his last name, because his toddlerese pronunciation gives it a remarkable resemblance to an 80's band that shall not be named.

Saturday, October 20, 2007


Like all good parents, I want the best for my kids. So I strive to learn as much as I can, in an effort to know more about what that "best" might look like. I learn best from reading, but I also get great insight from talking with S and my mommy friends and from trying to be fully present and aware in the time I spend with my children. These days, almost all of my reading is related in one way or another to kids, babies, and parenting. Sometimes I feel like I'm studying for the Mommy Midterm. I'd probably do well to read some fluffy fantasy or silly sci-fi.

But no. There never seems to be the time for such diversions these days. Recently, I've been working my way through a stack of books about Waldorf education, potty training, and "gifted children." This week, it's titles like Hothouse Kids by Alissa Quart and Enjoying Your Gifted Child by Carol Takacs.

The reading has been both enlightening and infuriating. Both S and I were "gifted" kids, as well as being fairly sensible parents (though I say it myself) so it's not like we're totally clueless about all this. And long before reading Quart's book, I was absolutely convinced that I do not want to "hothouse" my children. We have yet to enroll BJ in any classes, we're holding off on preschool, and we certainly don't force him towards intellectual achievements. Sure, he's seen his share of Baby Einstein videos, but we harbored no illusions about their impact on his intelligence. Watching them was merely a way to gain the occasional 20 minutes of relative quiet. (It's interesting to note that, unlike her brother, BB wants nothing to do with these videos. They will interest her for a few moments, but that's all, whereas BJ was mesmerized.) It might be hard to believe if you don't know our family, but all the fascination with language, letters, and numbers really does come from him. We've surrounded our kids with books, and we read to them all the time, but we don't push things. Of course we encourage his interests, but they are his interests, and we'll do the same with BB.

Some of the stories that Quart tells made me shudder. I'd hate to think of myself as the sort of parent who schedules her child's every last moment. Though I have to say, for somebody who hasn't had children of her own, Quart is pretty harsh with some of the judgments she makes against parents. As a hothoused kid herself, she obviously has her own axe to grind. More than once I found myself wondering if she might have been more sympathetic if she'd had kids of her own.

It's always interesting when parenting books directly contradict each other. The best example from this week is advice about boredom. Here are some of Takacs' thoughts on boredom from Enjoy your Gifted Child :

The condition most intolerable to human beings is boredom! Children and adults will go to great lengths to escape boredom, reading the labels on bathroom cleanser containers or seeking a numerical sequence of license plate numbers to add interest to routine drives. Just as children have a right to sufficient food to nurture bodily development, they have a right to sufficient stimulation to nurture mental development. Children have a right not to be bored! (p. 40)

Sounds good, right? But contrast this with what Quart has to say in Hothouse Kids, as she is discussing the "Baby Genius Edutainment Complex," which is her term for the trend of supposedly educational items such as baby videos, flash cards, toys, etc.

It seems to me that the Baby Genius Edutainment Complex exists, in part, out of a deeper fear than that of infants losing their learning opportunities. It responds to adults' fear of children's boredom. The edutainment products are, at bottom, meant to reduce unproductive boredom.

But what exactly is boredom, especially in infancy and childhood?....One specialist in gifted education suggests that an adult finger can be just as stimulating for an infant as the whirling dervish of rainbows on a Baby Einstein DVD.... parents who aren't sold on the need for stimulating DVDs can see that the perfect educational baby toys are everywhere: keys on a chain. They jingle. Babies get excited....

Such simple pleasures, which adults find boring -- and this is part of it: our inability, as adults, to remember how easily we were entertained during our infancies -- are often just what infants need. Their systems are ready for simplicity, not for a deluge of diffuse stimuli. (p. 43)

Granted, Takacs is writing nearly 20 years earlier, well before this "edutainment" phenomenon came fully into being. But the contrast -- and the absolute conviction with which each author makes her case -- really got my attention.

One has to wonder if these two authors are actually talking about the same thing. Quart is quite persuasive in her argument that boredom is the necessary fuel for imagination, that it provides the necessary space from which genuine interests will arise. She's writing within the context of overstimulation, of parents who will fill the void with anything and everything in an attempt to make their kid smarter, better, sooner. Tacaks, on the other hand, seems more concerned with the parents who want to downplay or even deny the intellectual potential of their children. In this sense, her plea for stimulation makes sense. One would be hard pressed to imagine the 'hothoused' child forced to fill her days by reading the labels on bathroom cleaners. (Of course, it's a moot point, since those containers would be safely locked away in a childproofed cabinet. But that's another issue.)

So I've been thinking about boredom a lot lately. Note that I said thinking about -- not experiencing. I can't remember the last time I was bored, really bored. Granted, it has been some time since I had an intellectually challenging conversation that wasn't about children.... where kids are concerned, there's lots to learn, ponder, and debate, no doubt about it. But hanging out most of the time with a baby and a toddler naturally results in more talk about playdough and the alphabet, and fewer discussions of a philosophical nature. (Though perhaps that will change when BJ hits the "Why?" stage.)

Some folks claim that spending time with kids is boring. As Quart points out, adults often have little tolerance for the repetition on which kids thrive, for the simplicity of children's pursuits. I see their point. (Of course I do -- I've only been at this parenting thing for 2 1/2 years, and already I've read and re-read and ultimately memorized too much horrible 'poetry' posing as kids books.) But I can't help but wonder: have those same folks taken the time to look at the world on a child's level?

It's much like prayer, or meditation. Kneel down, and allow yourself to watch -- really watch -- or talk, or play with a child. Be in the moment; this is key. Open yourself to the excitement and satisfaction a child feels when a beloved book is read for the hundredth time. Let yourself be a little silly. Laugh. Tickle. Roll around together on the floor. Above all, avoid the urge to watch the clock. Allow yourself to be with a child, especially your own child, and you won't be bored.

Friday, October 19, 2007


Today, BJ discovered gravel. We were on a walk this morning, and he was collecting "treasures" for our nature table. We've walked past this driveway many a time, but today was the first time BJ noticed it. (He's also noticing water meter covers, and pointing them out everywhere. He especially likes the oval holes in the cement, which he insists are "zeros.")

As he put his four or five little bits of rock into the stroller basket, he kept saying something that I couldn't catch. Finally, I realized he was saying "gravity."

"Do you mean 'gravel,' honey?" I asked.
He nodded. "Gravel."

But when we got home and he was announcing each object as he put it in its proper place, he was quite clear. "Flower, leaf, flower, dandelion, gravity."

I'm an Auntie!!!

Welcome, welcome to my little niece! She was born earrrrrly this morning. I'm over the moon, and I'm sure my sister and brother-in-law are as well. BJ had declared more than once that the baby would be a girl (they didn't find out beforehand), so it was neat for his prediction to come true. He was certainly proud of himself.

He's been talking all day about his new cousin, and when he saw the picture that they'd emailed, BJ did a little dance of joy and excitement. He then insisted that he needed to show his new cousin the number zero, so he ran and got one of his number cards and held it up to the computer screen so she could "see" it:

It's neat to think that BB now has a cousin born in the same year. I hope we're able to travel enough in years to come so that all the kids get to know each other. All day, I've been wishing and wishing that I was closer to the east coast. I'd love to be able to meet this newest member of our family!

Friday Feature -- ODannysGirl

This week's featured Etsy Artist is ODannysGirl. You'll find lots of great items in her shop, including these adorable hair "pretties" -- almost enough to make me want to grow out my hair again!

I also really like the idea behind her reusable diaper wipes. So cheerful in color, and so clever in design!

Tell me two (or more!) interesting things about you.
I am left handed and have red hair. A guy at CVS the other day told me I am an anomaly. Not sure if that was a compliment or not.
What do you sell in your Etsy shop? Dining Out Travel Bibs (patent pending), taggie burp cloths, taggie bibs, handbags, headbands, hair ponies, wallets.

What inspires your creations?
My children and the world around me.

Tell me a bit about your creative process and/or how you learned to do what you do.
I have been creating since I can remember. My mom and grandmother taught me at a very young age how to sew, crochet, cross stitch. Drawing and art developed naturally on there own. I was voted most talented out of my high school graduating class.

To which Etsy Street Teams do you belong? EtsyKids, EtsyMoms & Military Brats at Etsy (a new one up and coming)

What is your favorite item in your shop (currently for sale or previously sold)? Why is it your favorite?

I love my Dining Out Travel Bibs because they are my very own and I am proud to have something that is unique and useful.

What 3 words would you use to describe yourself?
Creative, Honest, Hardworking
What do you like about Etsy? The community and the diversity

What makes your shop unique?
What advice do you have for other folks selling or buying on Etsy? Take your time to look and fall in love with what your buying or selling. It's so worth it and you will be a happier person for it.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Table Talk

I love sitting and talking with BJ when we're at the table for snacks or meals. There's something about the "table talk" that makes for memorable exchanges.

Today, at morning snack:

BJ -- "Lemons are quiet."
Me -- "Really?"
BJ -- "Yes. Lemons don't talk. People talk."

He also informed me that he wanted to "bubble out" the lit candle on the table. Confused, I tried to get him to clarify. He was happy to show me; apparently, he meant blow out, in a long gentle blow like blowing bubbles.

Unfortunately, that was about all the fun and games we had today. I'm feeling really lousy, and both BB and BJ are sick as well. Thank heaven S has avoided it so far and was able to be home for much of the day today.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Sick. And Tired.

BB has a virus, one of those nasty ones that get you going "from both ends" as my Mom would say. Poor boo has been so good natured about it. We were up at least a half-dozen times last night with her vomiting, and each time she'd cry a wee bit, as though to say, "Mom, that's yucky! I don't like!!!" But then she'd settle right down. She seemed to understand we were doing our best to make her feel better.

Co-sleeping with a vomiting baby certainly makes things interesting. Luckily, we had the foresight to put down beach towel layers underneath her, and breastmilk vomit is fairly low on the repulsion scale, so cleaning up was much less of a hassle than it might have been. Even so, neither S nor I got much in the way of sleep last night.

Her diarrhea started in this morning, and she spent much of the day wanting to be cuddled, trying to sleep. She's not usually much of a cuddler. (Whether by nature or nurture, it's hard to tell; with BJ on the scene, it just isn't possible to have hours of uninterrupted rocking chair time.) So part of me really enjoyed the chance to snuggle with her, even as I felt horrible for what she was going through. She hasn't run a fever, and she's been producing wet diapers, so it seems we avoided the dehydration issues. Turns out she despises Pedialyte, though.

By the afternoon she was managing to keep down what she'd nurse. So hopefully it's one of those 24 hour buggers and tomorrow will be much better.

Really, we've been lucky. This is the first really yucky illness I've had to deal with since becoming a mother. BJ has had a few snorky colds, and BB has had one cold to date, but nothing really terrible for either of them. (Touching wood.) And of course if this is as bad as it gets, I'll count our blessings many times over.

Still, it isn't fun. Keep fingers crossed that BJ, S, and I don't catch it. Though I feel pretty lousy at the moment, so it may be too late. Hard to tell if I'm getting sick, or if I'm simply exhausted. Sigh. Probably both.

Friday, October 12, 2007

Proud Momma

For some time now, we've been trying to figure out just how much BJ is able to read. He's been reciting many of his books for months, as I've noted. Earlier this week, S took the kids to the bookstore and came home to report that BJ was reading words out of books that he'd never seen before. Not just little three-letter words, either -- big words, like "breakfast."

Then, today, BJ was bringing me the mail, which included the latest Trader Joe's Fearless Flyer. He handed me the brochure, and as he did he read "Trader Joes" on the cover easy as kiss my hand. Of course I wondered, did he recognize the logo, or did he read the words? It's so hard to tell.

He then looked over my shoulder as I flipped through, and he read one of the headlines:

"Baby Sweet Potatoes and Yams They're Organic!"

He got the whole thing with the exception of "they're" (though he was able to sound that out a bit, saying "the" before asking me what the word was). And his actual decoding of the sentence read the word "organic" as "organic applesauce," so it's clear he's going more by sight words than by phonics.

Even so. He's just over 2 1/2 and he's reading sentences. Yay, BJ!!!

In other news, BB is really starting to use her baby signs. Tonight at dinner, she signed "all done" clear as could be. She's waving hello and goodbye, and I think she might be signing "milk" while she nurses. So exciting! (Ok, exciting for me. Not necessarily for you, dear reader. But thanks for bearing with a proud momma anyway!)

Friday Feature -- LittleGiggles

This week's featured Etsy Artist is LittleGiggles. She has the cutest stroller ribbon toys, and right now they are free with a $20 order!

Tell me two (or more!) interesting things about you.

I went to college for 5 years and then gave birth to my two cuties 13 months apart and decided to be a SAHM. I love baby items and love making custom items for my children and other's children. On each of my pinky toes I have nails that are split down the middle.

What do you sell in your Etsy shop? My items are always evolving but I sell jewelry, pacifier holders, sippi markers, hair bows, and other items.

What inspires your creations? My children mosty as well as things I can't afford.

To which Etsy Street Teams do you belong? ETSY Kids and LIZARDSANDLOLLIPOP

Tell me a bit about your creative process and/or how you learned to do what you do.
Almost 99% of my items come from experimentation. I sit, after the kids and my husband are asleep and just make things until I figure out a design I actually love. If I wouldn't use it, I won't sell it.

What is your favorite item in your shop (currently for sale or previously sold)? Why is it your favorite? My favorite item? That's tough. It's a tie really. Function wise I love my Call Mommy bracelets because they've helped me stop worrying.

That said, I really love my heart onesie. It's so very girly with the ruffled bottoms. I can't wait until I have time to create more with even different appliques!

What 3 words would you use to describe yourself? loving, perfectionist, talkative

What do you like about Etsy? I am able to use my built up creative energy to make items that someone else is going to love while bringing in some extra cash for my family.

What makes your shop unique? I make most of my items custom for each person. Because of this each person is able to have an item that they are sure to love.

What advice do you have for other folks selling or buying on Etsy? Talk up your site to everyone you meet. Pictures that are of great quality and angles. I am constantly updating mine to attract buyers to my shop. Once you have them there you have to make sure you have great communication and service!

For more Friday Feature interviews, click here.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Children's Discovery Museum

On Tuesday, we made our first family-of-four visit to the Children's Discovery Museum. Before BB was born, this was a favorite hangout for me and BJ. Naturally, BJ made a beeline for the alphabet area and started working his way through, letter by letter. He did this a good half-dozen times, simply delighted. He even managed to share, so long as no other kids were trying to do it out of alphabetical order (horror of horrors).
I'd been wanting to take BB for some time, now that she's crawling. They have a fantastic room designed just for crawlers and pre-crawlers, full of wonderful stuff at a baby's eye-level. Since they don't allow older kids in that room, I'd been waiting for a day when S could accompany us, so that we could each take charge of one of the kids. It worked out well, and BB was fascinated, particularly with the windows at her cruising level and with the fluid-filled blocks.
Afterwards, we had a picnic in front of the museum and enjoyed the lovely fall day. BJ went leaf collecting and tree hugging, and BB did some leaf collecting (and ingesting) of her own. (I swear, babies think the world is their salad bar.)
They certainly kept us busy, but it was a lot of fun and we're looking forward to returning very soon!

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

"Cat Life" and Children's Books

I recently finished reading Awakened By The Moon, Leonard Marcus' biography of Margaret Wise Brown, and it was fascinating to learn about the early days of the children's book publishing industry. Since BJ was quite little, we've read Goodnight Moon every night before bed, but I had no idea that the author was such an icon in the field of children's literature.

In fact, I confess that before becoming a parent I hadn't really thought much at all about the history behind the books written for children, nor about their authors. At first I felt a little guilty about this (not a surprising reaction, I suppose, for someone who was an English and Women's Studies major). That guilt was assuaged a bit when I read what Marcus had to say about Brown's own recollections: "Of her own childhood memories of books, Margaret once remarked that it had not then occurred to her that books were written by people; what mattered was whether or not they rang true" (2). I could absolutely relate.

The biography was full of compelling tidbits. I hadn't imagined Brown as someone who never had children of her own. Nor would I have guessed that she had a complicated love life, being involved in a tumultuous dramatic relationship with the (female) poet Michael Strange, and late in life falling in love with a much younger man -- and a Rockefeller to boot. How wonderful that such a complex and intelligent woman wrote these stories that we have come to love, these books that play such a central role in the ritual of our lives.

I was also gratified to discover that the modernists (such as Virginia Woolf and Gertrude Stein) had such influence on Brown, Lucy Sprague Mitchell, and their compatriots at the Bank Street Writers Laboratory -- though it makes a lot of sense. As Marcus puts it, "The modernist aesthetic of recreating in art the immediacy of sensory impressions seemed to coincide with young children's natural reliance on their senses as the primary means of both experiencing and expressing themselves about the world" (86). I'd had no idea that Stein herself wrote books for children, nor that Brown had been involved in their publication.

For some time now, the ex-English major in me has been ruminating on a comparative analysis of The Runaway Bunny and Guess How Much I Love You. It was neat to learn that Brown's inspiration for The Runaway Bunny was a medieval Provencal love ballad, quoted by Marcus thus:

If you pursue me I shall become a fish in the water
And I shall escape you
If you become a fish I shall become an eel

If you become an eel I shall become a fox
And I shall escape you
If you become a fox I shall become a hunter
And I shall hunt you... (149)

Almost enough to get me thinking about graduate school again, imagining the paper I could pull out of all of this.


I was also delighted to read that Brown once answered a publisher's questionnaire about hobbies with the following quote:

"Cat Life -- which means doing nothing and just watching." (146)

Once upon a time, I could have counted "Cat Life" as one of my favorite hobbies. It's largely why I found satisfaction in being an artist's model, and I think a little "Cat Life" is part of every writer's existence. I keep reminding myself that, someday, I will again have time to pursue such a hobby.

Saturday, October 6, 2007


Recently, BJ has been developing several strong dislikes. Some are approaching the level of full-blown fears, though all are labeled "Not So Good." It's his physical reaction that differentiates the phobias from mere preferences; if he's really scared, he'll run to be picked up, often screeching as he comes.

For some time now, we've been dealing with the fear of the farmer's market. Now he's also scared of the information kiosk at the mall, ever since finding out they no longer give out balloons -- a discovery that caused severe emotional trauma. He's afraid of a local Mexican restaurant chain called Aqui's, ever since freaking out at a mural on the restaurant wall which depicts the Garden of Eden.... What's especially weird is this phobia extends even to the other restaurant location that does not have the mural and is decorated very differently. Beats me how he knows it's the same restaurant. Perhaps it's something about the smell, or maybe he can read the sign over the door. Wouldn't put it past him.

Other new additions include house flies (which I can understand, given how emphatically I insisted he not touch them, after I found him nearly putting a dead fly in his mouth) and the letter Q page of his Underwater Alphabet book (which puzzles me extremely, since this used to be his favorite page of the book).

Today, he added the oddest one yet: dust motes.

Yes, today he came running to me in a panic after breakfast, shrieking about dust motes. It took me several minutes to figure out what he was hollering about. (Who told him what they are called, I wonder? Wasn't me.) After picking him up and reassuring him, I tried some reverse psychology, acting fascinated by the way they danced about in the air. I told him they reminded me of tiny fairies, flying around doing magic and granting wishes.

He seemed to buy it, at least a bit. But if he suddenly decides that fairies are Not So Good, we will know why.

I just pray that the Era of the Terrifying Dust Motes does not last long. Given my housekeeping habits (or lack thereof), it could be a significant problem if it does.

Friday, October 5, 2007

Friday Feature -- World of Whimm

This week's featured Etsy artist is Kayce, whose "whimmsical" creations can be found at her two Etsy shops: World of Whimm and On a Whimm. If you're looking for amazing,one-of-a-kind costumes this Halloween season, be sure to check out her shop!

Tell me two (or more!) interesting things about you.

I live in Everett, Washington with my husband and two children (5 year old Robbie and 19 month old Alyssa). About 8 years ago, I was diagnosed with Fibromyalgia. Up until a year ago, I was still trying to hold a job and raise two kids. It finally became too much for my body and I had to quit working. It’s one of the best things that could have happened to me! I have finally had a little time to work out all the ideas that have been building up in my head! And I get to spend all day with my kids who provide me inspiration.

What do you sell in your Etsy shop?

I sell kid’s dress up clothes as well as quilts, bibs and burp rags for babies.

Imagination… that’s what my shop is about! I’ve also started another shop (On a Whimm) for all the other things I create.

To which Etsy Street Teams do you belong? EtsyKids and EtsyRain (Seattle Street Team)

What inspires your creations?

Kids are my inspiration. I love the fresh and uncorrupted minds and I love to give them vehicles for exploring new things, ideas and dreams.

Tell me a bit about your creative process and/or how you learned to do what you do.

My husband gives me a hard time about my creative process. It’s random! I just go with the flow… I could be sewing a lobster costume one minute, then he’ll return five minutes later and I’ll be embellishing a dress for our daughter, then five minutes later, I’m making a collage. You never know what will pop into my head next… and I just let it happen. It’s a wonder I get anything done!

Like everything else, I am self taught in sewing and designing. I like to dissect things and figure out how their done. I’ll find an interest and study it for a long time before I jump in. It took me about two years of designing on paper and working it out in my head before I actually made a costume.

What is your favorite item in your shop (currently for sale or previously sold)? Why is it your favorite?

My favorite item was my Peacock costume .

I have to admit I was a little disappointed when it sold. I posted it the night before it sold and really didn’t have a lot of time to enjoy it. Sounds silly, but every item I make is unique and one of a kind (I rarely make patterns) and they feel like little bits of me.

What 3 words would you use to describe yourself?
Reserved, creative and motivated.

What do you like about Etsy?
I love Etsy! I love the community feel that they have built and I love that they have created a place for talented individuals to share their art with others.

What makes your shop unique?
Everything I make is made with kids in mind. I use bright colored fabrics, soft and shiny fabrics. I design everything myself and most importantly, I design things that can be washed!

What advice do you have for other folks selling or buying on Etsy?

Enjoy what you are making. If you love what you are making, it’ll show in the end product and someone else will love it just as much.

Where else can we find out more about you and/or your creations?
For more Friday Feature interviews, click here!

Thursday, October 4, 2007

Angels and Devils

The saga of choosing Halloween costumes continues. For weeks, BJ had been saying he wanted to be an angel for Halloween. (He also said he wants to eat a candy cane while being an angel. Think we have some holiday confusion going on here.) So I took advantage of my mom's superior sewing abilities to make a white tunic while they were here visiting.

Unfortunately, BJ took one look at the tunic, and he started howling, "No Ghost! No Ghost! Ghost is Not So Good!!!"

After investing the time and money to make the tunic, not to mention already purchasing wings, a halo, and a silver belt to complete the outfit, I wasn't about to give up on the costume. So I started a serious propaganda onslaught.

Spearheading this campaign is a story written by yours truly, called Counting Angels. For some time, I'd been kicking around this children's book idea, alliterative and rhyming of course. I looked at the draft I had, and added stanzas for zero and ten. (Because according to BJ all counting books must include zero and ten. If it doesn't, he will add it. Literally. He will insist on keeping the puzzle pieces for zero and ten with the book while we read it.) With these alterations, in spite of its rough draft status, I decided it was good enough to use in my attempt to salvage the angel costume. I put together a mock-up on construction paper -- and do you have any idea hard it is to draw athletic angels? Good lord, what was I thinking? -- and ended up doing a late-night glitter glue run to finish the thing.

Anyway, BJ likes it, and we've made considerable progress. He's not yet consented to try on the angel costume (I've not pushed, because I don't want to fight an outright no) but we've talked about it and he seems excited again.

Next step: BB's costume. She's going to be a Devil baby, naturally.

Some friends were talking about family costumes. And I wondered.... if my son is an angel and my daughter is a devil.... what does that make me?

God? (dess?)

Or merely Everywoman, and they're the classic conscience opposites, each sitting on my shoulder?

Or perhaps S could be God (he's already got the beard) and this could be my opportunity to dress up as Lilith, something that has significant symbolic appeal. Hmmm. (She says, ducking a bit in anticipation of an incoming lightning strike......)

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

Out of the Mouths of Babes

I want to start a list of the quirky phrases BJ tends to use. Top of the list, right now, would be:

"Mommy is not so pregnant."

I hear this several times a day, at least. Sometimes he refines it to "Mommy's belly is not so pregnant." And then follows this up by lifting my shirt and giving me one of his resounding raspberries right on my stomach. Trust me, this kid gives a heckuva zurburt.

Granted, I still have between 5 and 10 pounds to go before I'm at my pre-BJ-pregnancy weight, but his comments are a stark reminder that the abs ain't all they once were. Then again, consider that I put on 60+ pounds with each of the kids: ~60 pounds on with BJ, all but 5 off before conceiving BB, then ~60 back on while pregnant with her. 30 of those pounds came off in the first 3 days after BB was born, so they were obviously water weight. (And believe me, I swelled enough in those last gravid days to carry every ounce, every drop.) Given that, perhaps being "not so pregnant" isn't so terrible.

And for public announcements of biological fact, it's not as bad as it might be. At least he's stopped telling me that my belly button is my penis.

Instead, now that he's grasped the gendered difference in genitalia, he takes great pride in delineating which members of our acquaintance would have what equipment.

As in, "Auntie J is a girl. She has a ba-GI-nah. Uncle M is a boy. He has a penis!"

So, if BJ knows you, rest assured you've most likely been duly categorized. Probably repeatedly, loudly, and in public.