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Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Turning Four

At 11:19 tonight, my little BJ will officially be four years old. Perhaps he has a sense that he was an evening baby, though I don't believe we've mentioned it to him before.

When he woke up this morning, I told him, "Happy Birthday! You're four years old!"

He immediately corrected me: "No! I'm turning four years old today. I'm still three!" And he repeatedly emphasized this.

I have to agree, it hardly feels possible that an entire year has passed since I wrote about him turning three......

And yet, here he is, not so little anymore!
I wanted to be sure to get a picture today, so I snapped some as he was headed off to preschool. When I asked him to smile, he gave me his typical overbite-with-eyesquint attempt:

And then he relaxed and gave me a nice smile.
Happy birthday, my beloved boy. I love you so: your joy, your wonder, your intelligence, your tenderness, your quirky enthusiasms, your adorable smile. All those things that make you you. Many, many happy returns of the day!

Monday, March 30, 2009

The Elusive Off Switch

I was finishing my breakfast this morning when BJ walked into the dining room, elbows up, hands to each side of his head, and fists full of his own hair.

"Are you okay?" I asked. "What are you doing?"

"I'm trying to stop my mind," he said in all seriousness. "I want to turn off my thinking."

(I tried to get a picture -- it was totally priceless. But he didn't want me to, so I didn't press the issue.)

Backyard Bliss

Few things are more pleasant these days than hanging out in the backyard with the kids. It's a bounty of simple joys and basic blessings -- blowing bubbles, pushing the kids on the swings, making sand castles in the sand box, tending the garden, sitting in the shade and listening to the windchimes.... Not that I get much sitting time, but there's a wee bit now and then!

Spring is a lovely time of year in our backyard. The jasmine is coming into bloom, and the pansies are in full glory. It's too bad I can't digitally capture the scent.

Yesterday, we had an especially nice morning in the yard. BJ opened his birthday packages from Giki and Pop-Pop and from Auntie B and family. The binoculars were a hit -- thank you Giki and Pop-Pop!

And both kids had a fantastic time playing with the toy boats sent by Auntie B, Uncle R, and cousin B. They were the perfect size for our water table. Well done, Auntie!

The water play soon led to their creation of a sort of primordial soup/ocean, adding sand and floating flowers. They both love picking Giki's pansies.
I was having a great time taking lots of pictures. (As you can probably tell!) BJ then wanted me to take some video. In particular, he wanted me to take a video of the flowers. So here ya go:


Today in the backyard, we got to hang out with Nana J for most of the morning. She was a good sport about pushing the kids in the swing, and they especially had fun blowing bubbles.

Gotta love those dollar store wands -- they have certainly contributed their fair share towards our own bit of backyard bliss.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

March Featured Etsyblogger -- Design by Nora

I'm very happy to post about this month's featured Etsyblogger -- Design By Nora. Congratulations!
She has the cutest little flower earrings, handcrafted from polymer clay. Aren't these sapphire ones charming?

I also like the handbags that she lists for her uncle, Naz. She says he "has been making leather purses for 30 years for companies such as Isabella Fiore and Goldenbleu."

This one is Mabel's Purse and I have to say that I like Mabel's style! Especially that big purple flower. Perfect for spring and summer!

And of course, being an Etsyblogger, she has a great blog here:

She's currently offering $1 off every item in her shop, and free shipping on the earrings! See the shop announcement for details.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Washington D.C. Road Trip?

It ain't gonna happen for me, not all the way from California with two small kids, but if I was still living in Delaware I would definitely be finding a way to attend the Amend the CPSIA Rally on Capitol Hill. It's scheduled for April 1st (not an April Fool's Joke!) so please consider attending if you're in the area and you care about the future of handmade goods for American children (or, for that matter, if you care about children at all, or small businesses, or the creative spirit....)

Mama's Magic readers won't be surprised to learn that I'm 100% in favor of this rally and of changes to the CPSIA legislation, so I'll spare y'all the soapbox. (If you're new to this blog and would like more, click here or here or here.)

Here's a copy of the email I received from Amend the CPSIA, which has lots of useful information:

Dear Supporter,

I am sure you are aware of the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act (CPSIA) and the unintended and disastrous consequences this ill written law has on our National economy. Businesses large to small have been working to Amend this Law and so far, without success. However, I am very pleased to announce that Amend the CPSIA is organizing a Rally on Capitol Hill, April 1st from 10am EST to 11:30am EST.

For complete information regarding this historic event please visit our website at We will have congressional representation, industry leaders and businesses owners, affected and outraged by this law, there to speak on behalf of all of our businesses that are currently in jeopardy. I urge you to participate and there are many ways to do so via the website.

You can:
Join us at the Rally! Click here for more information.
Submit your personal story online about how this law has affected you and your business.
Get Involved with our organization and let your voice be heard! Click here for more information.

We have a large list of Sponsors including Goodwill Industries, Handmade Toy Alliance, Motorcycle Industry Council, and the Alliance for Children’s Product Safety, just to name a few. The list showcases the broad impact this law has on so many vital organizations in our communities.

We invite you to join us at the Rally. Please submit a Registration form* (*not required to attend) so that we can keep track of attendees at the event. We also ask that you subscribe to the site so that you can receive email updates as they are posted.

At the Rally there will be a check in table with information about the impacts of the CPSIA, samples of products affected, and great souvenirs to buy to help defer the costs of the event. We truly appreciate your ongoing support to Amend the CPSIA.

Participate and be heard! Let's keep children's products safe, and American businesses in business!

Dawn Michelle LaPolla
Amend the CPSIA

Partied Out!

Whew! We all survived BJ's birthday party -- had a good time, in fact. He turns 4 on Tuesday, and today we had a bunch of folks over in the backyard for a "Safari Party." A dozen kids and their parents. Thank goodness we have a big backyard and cooperative weather, 70's and sunshine! Couldn't have asked for better.

Just finished the more urgent clean up, finding spots in the fridge for the perishable food, mostly -- and I'm such my mother's daughter; we had WAY too much food. Both kids are resting. BB zonked right out, since it was well past her nap time, BJ is happily reading new books on the futon, and S is taking a well-deserved nap. I'd rest too, but BJ is a bit too excited from the morning to reliably stay in "rest time" and will likely need some supervision to help keep him resting for the customary hour. Only thing worse than feeling exhausted is trying to take a nap and getting interrupted repeatedly! (Wouldn't you know it, but 45 minutes into his rest time, he ended up snoring on the couch!!! This is the kid who never naps anymore -- he really must have been tuckered out! Alas, he'd also set the timer for his hour, and it woke him up when it started beeping. Oops.)

All told, I was quite pleased with how the party came together. The blog has been on the quiet side this week because I've been spending nearly every spare moment of the last few days getting everything ready. Lots of clean-up in the yard (including finding two areas infested with black widows -- shudder!!!), cleaning the house, shopping, and planning.

I have to say that I had a lot of fun with the planning part. Even wrote a little ditty in honor of the party (including a cautionary note for the parents about the widows):

It’s "BJ’s" Birthday Party – and we’re going On Safari!

When you are on safari, look around and have some fun!
The game is in the looking, even if you find just one.

Giraffes and snakes and zebras will be hiding in the yard,
And other creatures, too – for some, you’ll have to look quite hard!
And when you find an animal, it will be yours to keep,
So put them in your bag, or pile them up into a heap.

(But if you find a spider, tell a parent right away!
Some spiders here are poisonous, so you should stay away!)

Be sure when you are looking that you stay inside the gate,
And while you’re on safari, there are things you could create!
Sometimes it helps to make a mask to wear as a disguise,
Or you could make binoculars to help your searching eyes.

The animals are hiding, they are waiting to be found –
It’s up to you find them! Have some fun and look around!

Of course BJ found the lion's share of animals (including one of the lions).
He's been looking forward to this hunt ever since he saw the cache of plastic animals I'd collected for this purpose. "What if I find the gorillas? What if I find both gorillas? What if I find all the snakes?" He's been asking these sorts of questions all week.

He didn't find all the snakes, but he did find two gorillas, which delighted him immensely. (Prior to the party, he didn't have any gorillas in his stash of safari animals, so it was very exciting to him to be able to add a new type of animal to the collection.) I realized about 10 minutes into the party that I hadn't entirely thought through the logistics of the hunt, since not all the kids showed up exactly at the party's start time, and since it was impossible to postpone the hunt itself for very long -- simply playing around in the yard, the kids started finding animals. BJ especially.
Both S and I ended up pilfering a handful of snakes from BJ's stash and hiding them again so that some of the latecomers would be able to find something. And BJ ended up with so many, he didn't notice. (Luckily, he wasn't counting them as he found them -- if he'd been doing so, we would have been SOL!)

As soon as rest time was over, he wanted to show me all the animals he'd found, and (not surprisingly) at that point he did want to count them. Turns out he found 26 animals. "The same number as the alphabet!" he said with great satisfaction. Nice little moment of synchronicity for my little guy!
After all the animals had been found, some of the kids did a few crafts, though the craft table wasn't as popular as I'd thought it might be, probably because I'd ended up putting it in a spot that had no shade. Oh well. That's one of the many lessons I learned planning this party, along with the realization that I should have stashed extra animals to hide for latecomers. But the biggest lesson learned had to do with the cake.

For posterity, I'll note it here: it is NOT a good idea to use strawberry preserves as a shortcut for cake filling between the layers, especially if it happens to be low sugar strawberry preserves and therefore not particularly sticky. I discovered this about 10 p.m. last night, when I assembled the cake and it immediately began to slide apart. Strawberry filling oozed everywhere..... it was quite a disaster.

Happily, extra frosting hides a whole host of sins, including that one. I scraped off the filling, used frosting to glue together the cake, and tried not to be too frustrated.

I was already frustrated with the cake because the animal cookies I'd hoped to use to decorate it had been discontinued less than a week before I needed to buy them, a fact I only discovered on Thursday when I went to purchase them. It had already involved quite a search to find the "perfect" cookies for the cake, so it was upsetting to have to figure out a plan B two days before the party. But we managed, and it turned out fine as you can see. I especially liked the zebras.

We'll do more celebrating on Tuesday, when we bring cupcakes to BJ's preschool. Until then, we'll be scarfing down leftover cake and cupcakes here! So hard to believe my boy is turning four years old....

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Elephant Dancing

The wonderful Tia M kindly sent the kids a surprise package last week: a kids' music CD called Wild Anamalz, Animal Songs by Beau Young. I don't exaggerate when I say that this gift has been a wild success. Especially with BJ.

Don't get me wrong -- BB loves it, too. Both kids are totally into pretending to be elephants, gorillas, and giraffes, as the soundtrack dictates. (And it's an enjoyable soundtrack, too! That's not always the case, alas. So, bonus for the parents!) But while BB is content to dance to almost anything, BJ has specifically asked for us to play this music many times since we received the gift. This is the first time I've seen him get so excited about dancing and imaginative movement. He also loves sitting on the couch and reading the little booklet of lyrics that came with the CD. He's clearly trying to memorize the whole thing, which is pretty durned adorable; he's already got the playlist down pat.

I managed to get some of their dancing on video, so here are the kids dancing to Elephant Swing:


As an unexpected bonus, I think the music is also helping BB process her nightmare about the lion. She has had the "tairy lion" (scary lion) nightmare at least twice now -- apparently, the lion "roars reawwy loud!" -- and she talks about it frequently. I believe that's what she's referring to when she says to be "brave about the lion," psyching herself up to be okay with the lion song on the CD.

Today, BJ wanted to bring the CD to preschool, which of course we allowed. He was thrilled to share it with his friends and to show them how to pretend to be all the animals. He also wants to play it at his birthday party, which is entirely appropriate given the "safari" theme that we're planning. Kudos to Tia M for such a fantastic gift! You're the best, my dear!

Monday, March 23, 2009

No Tubes Needed!

Great news today at BJ's doctor appointment: saw the ENT specialist, and he does not need tubes put in his ears. Yay!

The doctor said that BJ's left ear had entirely cleared of fluid, and the right ear was about 50%. The vasomotor rhinitis is still mostly under control, but he remains intermittently congested, so I'm not too surprised. When we were there last, both of his ears were entirely blocked and full of fluid. According to the doctor, there's some hope that the right ear will continue to drain, but whatever hearing impairment is happening with the right ear should be compensated for sufficiently by the clear left ear. So there are no worries about speech impairment or effects on learning and development at this point.

What a relief! I know it isn't a huge deal to get tubes put in, but of course we'd are very glad it isn't necessary. Guess we can go ahead with summer plans to teach BJ how to swim! (Finally!)

Friday, March 20, 2009

Happy Equinox!

I hope your day of balanced light was as lovely as mine. We spent most of the day on a family outing to the Monterey Bay Aquarium with our friends A & C -- and Dad P was able to join us, too, along with S! Lots of fun. I'll post more about the day when I have a chance to download some pics.

Today, I wanted to post about the equinox. As I mentioned here, Spring is a big time of rediscovery for me. (Quite fittingly, given the seasonal vibe.) In the midst of cleanings and organizings, I often find things I'd all but forgotten about. This year, I rediscovered several old poems that were deep in the files. Among them, a poem written the year before my son was born (almost to the day). Interesting, given the poem's focus on memory, that I'd forgotten even writing it!

It's a rough draft, but I figured it would be appropriate to share today:

Vernal Equinox

Mid-March, and I have breathed in too much
memory, too many smells, too many potent grains
imbued with fertile power. It’s like this
every Equinox — memory thick in the air,
like perfume, like powder, like pollen.
Today I breathed it in and held it in my chest,
Today I breathed it in and held so much
I almost choked — I held it in
the small cave of my mouth; I held it in
the hollow of my throat; I held it in
the dark spongy secrets of my lungs;
I held it too long around my heart.
I held it much too long, and now
I want to stretch, and sigh, and with one breath,
I’ll let it all go — a big belly exhalation,
one wild whoosh of recollections
blown from my body, like making a wish
over the candles on a birthday cake.
One breath eddying from between my lips —
one breath, invisible as memory always is,
invisible yet right before my eyes.

Mid-March, and after today I will no longer remember
the wisdom of magnolia trees, the arrogance of roses,
the hill of sleepy daffodills in Tulsa, Oklahoma.
Mid-march, and I will no longer remember
standing on the trestle bridge that spans the Arkansas river,
dazzled and dizzied by the current thrashing below,
glinting waves, beckoning, a vertigo of vection,
seeming to make the bridge move
while the water stayed still. Mid-march
and I will no longer remember kneeling
in a field of thawing footprints, damp weeds
clinging to my thighs, handfuls of mud as I dug
looking for something I knew I’d never find.
Mid-march, the Vernal Equinox, the fulcrum
in the yearly shift from dark to light, and today I say
my breath becomes a laughter of forgetting.

Mid-March, and it feels as though the world
is standing right alongside me, yawning,
doing her seasonal yoga session, waking up
from a dream she thinks she has already forgotten
to take a nice, long stretch. She breathes in — prana sukha,
the breath of joy. She holds her breath, then laughs
it out and everything is jasmine, citrus, sweet alyssum,
languid wisteria, and rich, damp earth — the smells
of spring. Mid-March, and the sky arches overhead
like a big, blue sigh. The exhalation
of all the world’s wintry worries
becomes the breeze that weaves
among the blossoming acacia trees,
the breeze that blows my hair
out of its braid and in my eyes,
the breeze that I breathe in, let out, let go.

Thursday, March 19, 2009


Some tidbits for the record:

BJ asked yesterday, "Mommy, did you know there is an even alphabet?"
"There is?"
"Yes. It goes B... D... F... H..." and he proceeded to recite in alternating fashion all the way to Z. Then he told me, "And there's an odd one, too. It starts with A." But apparently didn't feel the need to illustrate further, because he ran off to do something else.

In other alphabet related news, BJ continues to practice writing his letters, both upper and lowercase. (I posted here about his efforts earlier this month.) A few days ago, he had a great time writing out "Chicka Chicka 1 2 3" in chalk on the wooden fence in the backyard. He's also been covering the sidewalks with his scrawlings. As you can imagine, I'm loving this!

We've been having lots of backyard fun, now that the days have turned balmy and pleasant. (Until the next rainy bout!) We put up the new play tent for an afternoon:

Also hit the dollar store a few days ago for our seasonal bubble purchase -- can't beat a buck for those big wands that are so easy for the kids to use! Good times.

Other random bits worth noting:
BB is still on a Peanuts kick. For some random reason, she has fixated on the Frieda character. (Even though my girl's hair is as straight as her mother's!) She frequently declares, "I'm tending to be Frieda!" And the other day when we were at the park, she tripped and fell, and as she got up and dusted herself off (without much fuss at all) she said, "It's OK, Frieda!" We borrowed a video from the library, "A Peanuts Celebration," which it turns out is animated versions of many of the strips from one of the Peanuts collections the kids got for Christmas. We watched it once together, and BB's head just about exploded with joy.

BJ has also discovered a new pop-culture focus: The Raggs. S started showing the kids some weekend morning cartoons a while ago, and this one has really struck a chord with BJ. It's about a bunch of dog characters who are in a band, and BJ is fascinated with Pido, the surfing drummer of the bunch.

"I'm Pido!" he now declares, several times a day. "I'm wearing my glasses on my head! Why am I wearing my glasses on my head???" This particular detail puzzles and amuses him quite a bit. (I was especially entertained when he made the entirely accurate observation, "Giki also wears her glasses on her head. Why does she wear her glasses on her head???")

He's also interested in B. Max, and in particular the character's wheelchair.

B. Max is the "smart one" of the bunch, as best I can tell -- he's an inventor. In fact, when BJ is "being" Pido, I'm often cast as B. Max. Go figure. "Are you getting around OK in your wheelchair?" he'll ask. He also wants to know why B. Max is in the wheelchair. "Why don't your legs really work right, Mommy? I mean B. Max?"

This particular question has led to further evidence that I am, indeed, one of "those" parents. After he'd asked this question a good dozen times, it was clear he was simply not content by my replies ("It's just how he is, honey," or "Why do you think he is?" or "Some people are like that, and it's nothing to be upset about...." though he never seems especially upset, I confess). So what did I do? I got on the computer, looked up the website for the show, and looked to see if they had an explanation or any backstory on the character.

BJ was thrilled that his inquisitiveness was being taken so seriously. And very disappointed to discover that there is no mention of why the character is in the wheelchair. So, being who I am, I decided to email, using their "contact us!" form. BJ watched me write the email, and he waited for their reply with great anticipation.

A few days later, I got a very PC reply, basically saying they deliberately do not have an explanation for B. Max's wheelchair, they want to focus on ability not disability, it's just part of who he is and he's never treated differently from the other dogs.

Well, yeah, except this is a kids' show, and isn't it to be expected that the kids will want to know why? I can't believe my son is the only child to ask this, and it feels disingenuous as a parent to keep ducking the question. The more I thought about this, the more it bothered me.

So, naturally, I wrote them back, thanking them for the reply but saying, more or less that I was a little disappointed. And implying that their refusal to give any backstory basically left it up to me to create one.

At which point, fearing I was taking all this a bit too seriously, I asked S to read over my reply. "Should I send it?" I asked. "Do I sound like, you know, one of those moms?"

"Well, it's not like they are going to suddenly change their mind, you know," S replied as he glanced over the email. "What do you really think you're going to achieve?"

"I dunno. Make me feel better, I guess," I said, as I sat down and pressed send.

"You go, honey," he said, laughing. "Embrace your inner maniac."

So far, I've received no reply from them. BJ continues to "be" Pido, I'm B. Max (pretending to wheel my way around the house), and BB is Frieda. If you ask me, given the effort it takes to keep that cast of characters straight, I ought to be allowed a little mania now and then!

Luckily, I know S was only kidding. If anybody understands the juggling involved, it's him -- he witnesses it daily! (Though for some reason, he's not been cast as anybody other than Daddy, not in a serious fashion. Hmmmm.)

But really, there's very little question that we're both on the same parenting page. Maybe not exactly the same paragraph on that page, not the identical sentence, but pretty darn close. Last night, we I had a pseudo-date night. Paid for a sitter so that we could go to a parenting lecture over at SJSU: Alfie Kohn was talking about "Unconditional Parenting." The very fact that we were willing to spend sitter money on such an event says a great deal about us as parents, I'm sure. Yes, it was my idea, but S went along very cheerfully.

It was a good talk -- more entertaining than we'd expected -- and I suppose it's a good thing that we were already onboard with almost everything he discussed. Even so, it didn't feel like a waste of time to me. Good to be on the same page with my partner about these sorts of things, and good to have reminders. Most everything he discussed came down to how important it is to keep the long view in mind as a parent, rather than focusing merely on the short term behavior. Definitely wisdom there, difficult as it can be to implement at all times. Keeps you out of the extreme mania and more on an even keel, when it's working well. And I'll betcha money that Alfie Kohn would have emailed the Raggs too, if one of his kids wanted desperately to know why B. Max is in a wheelchair. And he might just have replied in a simliar fashion, too....

Tuesday, March 17, 2009


A very nice green day, all told -- in spite of a horrid beginning. When BJ woke up, I made the tactical error of cheerfully informing him that it was St. Patrick's Day, so he'd get to wear a green shirt to preschool! Well, let me tell ya, I wouldn't have said a thing if I'd know this would set off an immediate and intense protest which endured for almost an hour. "But I like RED! Red is my FAVORITE COLOR! I only like RED!!!"

If he was going to be hanging out with us all day, I wouldn't have thought twice about it. A red shirt it would have been, no doubt! No green at all, if it mattered that much to him! But since he was going to be at preschool, and since I knew they'd be doing St. Patty's stuff, I figured it was only fair to encourage him to wear something green. And thus the battle was begun.

If he had a pair of green pants, or red pants for that matter, it wouldn't have been such an issue. He himself first came up with the idea of wearing red and green. But all his red clothes are tops. And the only green clothes he owns (all two pieces) are tops. So we were in a bit of a bind. I hate using "peer pressure" sorts of persuasions, but there I was, hearing myself say, "Honey, please calm down! Everybody else is going to be wearing green!" And then, I'm embarassed to admit, raising my voice in exasperation, "You are being SILLY! If you're going to be that upset about all this, you will Go Back to Bed Until You Calm Down!" (Not my best parenting moment to date. Too bad mama couldn't heed her own advice there, alas.)

Finally, he settled down long enough to consent to a green shirt, blue pants, red shoes (thank goodness for his new red shoes, which he adores) and red socks. And then, having had his hissy fit, he didn't seem to think further about any of it. While I was still stewing about the whole power struggle, forcing myself to Let It GO. But that's what motherhood is about sometimes, I suppose. Sigh.

In spite of all that, he apparently had a great day at preschool. The leprechauns visited and left shiny shamrock confetti and chocolate coin candy "gold" for the kids to collect -- always a hit. He came home in a great mood. And by then, I was in a great mood as well, having spent a lovely morning with BB. We went to the park, enjoyed the sunshine, ran some errands, came home and had leftover pizza for lunch. Of course it helped that she remained steadfastly cheerful throughout: "We are habbing such a great time, Mommy!" That's my girl.

Then this afternoon, S was home from campus and able to hang out with us. Yay! We finally got things together to use the kids' bike trailer for a bit of a ride. We'd purchased this trailer for Father's Day back in 2006 (it was the companion gift to my beautiful bike which I received for Mother's Day that year) but since I'd ended up pregnant with BB that summer, it ended up in garage storage with my bike. Now that both the kids are big enough to give it a go, we got everybody set up with helmets and dusted off everything.

With a bit of trepidation, I admit. Especially on my part. We don't live in the most bike-friendly part of town. All along I'd envisioned using the trailer only on park trails, without having to deal with traffic. But we'd have to drive ourselves and the bikes to every place where this would be possible, we don't have bike racks for the van, and it adds an extra layer of hassle to the whole experience. (A large part of why we've not done this sooner!)

But once you cross the big thoroughfare a block from our house, there's a nice quiet neighborhood with very wide streets. That neighborhood is also the one with our local library. So we walked our bikes across the busy street and then rode over to the library. (With me on super alert, trying not to be too paranoid about the possibility of an accident.... that's me the worrywart....)

I'm happy to report that the kids LOVED being in the trailer. We'd laid down the law at the start: Rule #1, you leave on your helmets and do NOT try to get out of the trailer until Mommy or Daddy say it is OK! Rule #2, you be friendly! (The trailer seats one or two kids, but for two it's pretty close quarters.) You can talk about what you see, sing songs together, whatever, just so long as you're nice and stay seated and helmeted.

Made this mama feel really good to see the kids take both to heart immediately. No protests about the helmets or being strapped in, and as we left the house, BJ was telling his sister, "And that's an oxalis flower!" And when we started riding, they were singing the ABC song together. Very warmfuzzy indeed.

We arrived at the library in short order, had a nice time looking at books and playing at the little nearby park, then rode back home. A fitting "green" moment for a beautifully sunny afternoon. Then this evening, we ran a few errands and had a family dinner out at Sweet Tomatoes (with a BOGO coupon which saved us some green!) and the kids were very, very good. It's these kinds of things that really help keep the family vibe in a good place.

I hope your St. Patrick's Day was as pleasant as mine ended up being!

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Privacy (What's That?)

There isn't much in the way of privacy around here, not in a house with two bedrooms, one bathroom, and two small kids -- one of whom is potty training, and the other as yet unable to "hold it" for very long. Thank goodness for the Baby Bjorn potty, which gives us something in the way of a second facility during those times of urgent need.

Several months ago, we had to physically remove the lock on the bathroom door, because the kids were getting a little too interested in it. If they'd managed to lock themselves in, the only way to get them out would have been battering down the door itself. So we've simply had to become pretty casual about things like using the restroom, because the usual acts of modesty -- such as closing the bathroom door -- can be difficult if not impossible to achieve. Good thing we weren't all that uptight about it before!

Today, S was "using the potty" (you know you're a parent of small children when you universally refer to the toilet as the potty) when both BJ and BB went into the bathroom to join him. BJ then announced, "We need some privacy!" And shut the bathroom door with great aplomb, closing himself in with his dad and his sister.

A little unclear on the concept here, wouldn't you say?

S's laughing reply: "Mama's the only one with any privacy right now!"

I was in the kitchen doing dishes. Too bad I didn't fully know what was going on while it was happening. I would have made the most of my few moments alone!

Happy Stuff

In this post, I mused (at length; probably longer than necessary, really) about why I need to smile a little more. I thought it would help if I worked up a list of stuff that makes me happy. (Thank you again to Cathy for the idea!)

Caveat: this is a list of this moment (OK, of the last few days, done in spurts). It is a list of large and small, and it is not meant to be comprehensive. Neither is it written with any particular order of importance.

  1. jitterbugging with S
  2. witnessing my daughter's absolute confidence in the competence of her sturdy little body
  3. reading to and with my son (who now wants to read to me, too!)
  4. children's books (especially those by Kevin Henkes, Margaret Wise Brown, Maurice Sendak, Lois Ehlert, A. A. Milne...)
  5. used bookstores
  6. thrift store shopping (especially with Miri -- I miss you, girl!)
  7. hula hoops
  8. campfires
  9. Trader Joe's Dark Chocolate Almonds (the ones with sea salt and turbinado sugar -- you were right, A, these are divine! and dangerous!)
  10. going grocery shopping with my mom
  11. looking at my dad's photos
  12. talking girly stuff with my sister
  13. OK, spending time with my parents and sister doing almost anything, whether on the East Coast or the West Coast
  14. watching my kids play with their cousins
  15. swingsets
  16. riding my bike
  17. the Stanford Theater
  18. watching MST3K with S (the ones with Joel especially)
  19. discovering a new song to love and having it sing in my head for days -- like this one (thank you, Miranda at Creative Construction!)

  20. The little X button that lets you close annoying ads, popups, etc...
  21. Kris Delmhorst (thank you, M!)
  22. Hayao Miyazaki (thank you, S!)
  23. Patrick O'Brian (thank you for that one too, S!)
  24. having people to thank for sharing their excellent taste with me!

  25. parenthesis (amen!)
  26. beach glass
  27. the end of the spectrum including blue, indigo, violet, purple
  28. prisms
  29. rainbows (especially remembering the ones in Martinique)
  30. roller skates

  31. Renaissance Faires
  32. fountain pens
  33. hair "pretties"
  34. scarves
  35. digital photography
  36. re-reading favorite books
  37. discovering new favorite books
  38. having a quiet hour just for reading (or even 15 minutes, in a pinch)
  39. a really hot mug of black tea, with honey and milk
  40. Chai.
  41. lavender plants
  42. lemons right off the tree
  43. tomatoes fresh from the garden
  44. picking strawberries
  45. planting seeds
  46. pansies

  47. ladybugs
  48. dragonflies
  49. farmer's markets
  50. kettle corn
  51. naps
  52. Paul Simon
  53. yoga
  54. beads
  55. baskets
  56. that new baby smell
  57. that sweaty "I've been playing all day in the sunshine!" kid smell
  58. playing "pickle foot" with the kids -- actually, my kids' feet in general
  59. fingerpainting
  60. playing ant and anteater with the kids
  61. the "ding" of the neighborhood ice cream truck (it sells soft serve!)

  62. having my hair brushed
  63. brushing other people's hair and then braiding it up (BB's is almost long enough for a french braid!)
  64. french fries (especially made from sweet potatoes)
  65. french toast
  66. breakfast for dinner
  67. Thai food (especially Thom Kha soup. YUM!)
  68. pink grapefruit salad with frozen pecans, gorgonzola cheese, and dried cranberries
  69. mom's chicken & dumplings
  70. cream of wheat with butter, brown sugar, and cinnamon
  71. Skittles

  72. Etsy
  73. IKEA
  74. NPR
  75. Obama
  76. state quarters
  77. pinball
  78. playing old style arcade games with S
  79. watching S try to beat my high scores on said games (until he inevitably does....)
  80. e. e. cummings
  81. Rumi
  82. Annie Dillard
  83. Terry Pratchett
  84. Jack Gilbert
  85. Emily Dickinson
  86. Jane Austen
  87. I'm tempted to start looking through the bookshelves and list from there, but that would be a bit ridiculous, so instead I'll say -- having VERY full bookshelves and sharing a life with someone who appreciates this fact!
  88. watching the A & E Pride & Prejudice DVD with S

  89. wearing hats
  90. petting cats
  91. remembering my canvas bags at the grocery store
  92. getting footrubs
  93. pedicures
  94. rainboots
  95. mint chocolate chip ice cream (but not if it's the green colored kind)
  96. honey
  97. libraries
  99. rhyming dictionaries
  100. handmade paper
  101. handcrafted soap
  102. almost anything made by hand
  103. book clubs
  104. librarians
  105. Longwood Gardens
  106. hiking
  107. oak trees
  108. dogwood trees
  109. fields full of daffodills
  110. colorful umbrellas
  111. amethyst
  112. hematite
  113. tigers eye
  114. rose quartz
  115. Rehoboth Beach
  116. writing poetry (sestinas, sonnets, villanelles, pantoums, free verse... you name it!)
  117. blogging
  118. having hair long enough to put it in a ponytail
  119. Las Madres
  120. mommy friends
  121. playdates
  122. making playdough
  123. kneading bread dough
  124. blowing bubbles
  125. bubble wrap
  126. karaoke
  127. velvet
  128. old flannel shirts (especially ones that used to belong to S)
  129. knitting scarves
  130. learning new handcrafts
  131. DIY (except when DIY leads to $$$ for Others To Fix)
  132. the OED
  133. the New Yorker
  134. ReadyMade Magazine
  135. Wikipedia
  136. Skype

  137. S's fuzzy slippers
  138. the way BB says "tending" for pretending
  139. the way S will come home from work and tell me, "I said something really funny today" and proceed to replay the moment for me
  140. BJ's little habitats that he sets up all over the house
  141. playing Legos with the kids
  142. yellow painted walls
  143. lemongrass incense
  144. a well made bed with freshly cleaned sheets (especially if somebody else made it up and washed the sheets)

  145. cinnamon bread (especially from Greenlee's bakery)
  146. mom's sourdough cinnamon twists
  147. Red Hot Cinnamon Imperials
  148. Hot Tamales cinnamon candy
  149. almost anything with a cinnamon flavor, when it comes to it
  150. my crock pot
  151. the full moon
  152. Beltane
  153. the purple frames of my eyeglasses
  154. the fact that S thinks girls in glasses are sexy
  155. 11 years of marriage (going on 12) and 18 years of friendship (going on 19)
  156. anniversaries
  157. being able to wear my wedding rings again

  158. birthday cake candles
  159. clover chains
  160. seashells
  161. my mother's "AAC" bag
  162. the 20 year old shirts my father still wears
  163. his appreciation for the 20 year old shirts that I still wear
  164. sharing the experience of motherhood with my sister
  165. the way my brother-in-law thinks I can follow highly technical scientific talk based on my freshman year in college spent as a biotech major (not to mention the fact that sometimes he's right in thinking so!)
  166. flower pens at the post office
  167. colorful socks
  168. public art
  169. tossing pennies into fountains
  170. rolling pennies with S
  171. watching my son learn to write
  172. seeing how my daughter is learning to read

  173. crayons
  174. handmade quilts
  175. a husband who likes folding laundry
  176. chopsticks
  177. Freecycle
  178. cooking for the folks I love
  179. family recipes
  180. picnics
  181. lilacs
  182. the Santa Cruz boardwalk
  183. holding hands
  184. a to-do list with everything crossed off
  185. an empty sink AND an empty dishwasher
  186. watching finches at the birdfeeder
  187. a full pantry
  188. cable knit tights on my little girl's legs
  189. my son's new red shoes, and his adoration for them
  190. shopping for shoes with my daughter (especially her joy in trying on all the grown up girls' shoes, All By Herself)
  191. bandaids with patterns and colors
  192. stickers
  193. sunshine
  194. sunflowers
  195. sidewalk chalk
  196. alliteration
  197. dichroic glass
  198. oversized pottery mugs
  199. weed bouquets picked just for me
  200. butter
  201. cloth napkins
  202. lists....

Smile! Seriously!

I guess I have spent much of my life "less than fully dressed" -- because I don't smile a whole lot. (Though when considering this trope, my time spent working as an artist's model should probably be noted as well.) My natural, relaxed facial expression is simply closer to a frown than to a grin. It's how I am, how I've been since I can remember.

(Exhibit A: one of my favorite childhood pictures. It's dated on the back October 1973, which would make me about 16 months old. Not a grin in sight.)

I used to buy into the idea that one must suffer for one's art. Like so many, I believed there could be no poetry without pain, no creativity without angst, no fully realized personality without an array of agonies to show for it. (This is perhaps what happens when you discover a poetic inclination at a very early, impressionable age; I started writing, seriously writing, when I was in junior high, and for my last three years of high school, I was the editor of the school literary magazine and a frequent contributor.) After all, how many authors grinned like fools for their jacket portraits? Life was Serious Stuff. Happiness was for the shallow, surface dwellers. If one wanted to be truly alive -- especially deeply, creatively alive -- I believed that one Must Be Serious.

This is an unfortunate perspective, to say the least. Especially when combined with a depressive biochemistry. There's enough suffering in this life without giving it a halo of artistic merit. I was well into my twenties before I realized that joy is indeed "sorrow's little sister" (thank you Kris Delmhorst). And while we're quoting lyrics, I'll freely admit that Ani Difranco's little insight probably also had something to do with my "a-HA!" moment about all this: "I think shy is boring. I think depressed is too."

Sylvia Plath, rest her soul, claimed a suicide attempt for every decade of her life. My timeline so far has been rather the reverse -- aside from a dip in the adolescent years, with each decade I've grown happier. (And I hate to say it, but I wonder how much of my rough road to joy was made rougher still by a double major in English and Women's Studies, with an emphasis on women poets? Was I depressed because I was interested in Lady Lazarus and her friends, or was I interested in all that because I was depressed?) Thank God I long ago left behind whatever pretensions I had to that sort of poetic existence. (It really is too bad that I didn't come to appreciate e. e. cummings earlier, isn't it?)

But even though I'm much happier these days, I'm still not much of a smiler. You know those people who decide it's their mission in life to inflict a grin on every individual they meet? The deputies of the Smiling Police? These are the folks who are always insisting, "It takes fewer muscles to smile than to frown! So Smile!"

I'm the kind of person they love to encounter.

Putting aside their dubious claims, which have no scientific basis (thank you, Snopes) and giving them the benefit of the doubt, it still infuriates me to have complete strangers claim jurisdiction over my facial expressions. Yes, I know that there are many reasons, literal as well as metaphorical, that life might go by more smoothly if I smiled more often. But please, it's not your place to tell me what to do.

Of course I'm too polite to tell it to their faces, but many's the time I've bitten my face into a smirk while thinking, "I will smile when I have cause, not because you think I should. Go take your rictus and bug somebody else. Thankyouverymuch."

By now, most of my friends and family are used to my habitual expression, and I'd become pretty comfortable with my less-than-smiley self. But then, oh then. The many ways in which motherhood slaps you upside the head.... during the last week, it seems my son has become a junior member of The Smiling Police.

Several times a day, he tells me, "Mommy! Smile!" Depending on where I am at that moment, it either melts me into giggles or pushes me right over the edge into a scowl so severe that it hurts my face. And the latter reaction really bothers me -- after all, this is my son we're talking about, not some stranger who has no real investment or interest in my happiness. Why, then, should his telling me to smile push all the same buttons?

Of course I have daily reasons to look less than pleased, simply because I'm the primary caregiver of two small kids (a 2 yr old and a 3 yr old, for a few more weeks until BJ turns 4!) Wonderful kids, of course, but in the life of a SAHM there is sufficient cause for exasperation (and worse) when most of your waking hours are spent with a potty-training toddler who wakes up at 5:30 a.m. and her boisterous brother. Especially when you are, like me, more of a Serious Mother than a playful mommy.

After all, Motherhood is Serious Stuff! The work! The sleep deprivation! The responsibility of protecting, nurturing, and shaping a malleable individual from the moment of birth! Of course it is serious!!! To think otherwise would be grossly irresponsible. Besides, if motherhood isn't serious work, what the hell have I been worrying about for the last four years?

(Hmmm. Do I detect an echo in here?)

I had a big "a-HA!" moment about my mommy identity a few months ago: I realized that some part of me was emphasizing my irritation and frustration in order to illustrate just how hard I was working every day. If I was having fun, or if I even looked like I was having fun, then I'd be giving off the dreadful impression that all this was easy.

Of course it isn't easy -- but who said that hard work can't be fun?

Granted, it's not all grins and giggles around here. To say otherwise would be disingenuous. (In spite of the fact that S says he likes to read my blog because "it shows the Happy Jen." So there you go.) However, much as I do my best not to overreact and to keep a positive spin on things, I will admit to glowering as one of my parental tools. I long ago perfected "The Look" when I was a high school teacher. Yes, it's not exactly Positive Discipline -- but it works, both with teenagers and with the shorter set! And sometimes you gotta go with what works.

My habitually neutral expression, borderline frown, has worked for me for a long time. A very long time. But it seems that is no longer the case. This has been kicking around in my head for days now, but I hadn't realized how much all this was bothering me until the other morning.

I was operating in lowgrade irritated mode, mostly due to lack of sleep. (Curse that daylight savings!) BJ was refusing to eat breakfast, even though he obviously needed to eat. S was late for work, and BB was whining about something or other. As I was going about my morning business, trying to get everyone taken care of, BJ pleaded, "Mommy, smile at me!" And something in me snapped.

I remember reading somewhere that kids are exquisitely attuned to body language. If your mouth is saying one thing but your expression indicates something else entirely, they will "hear" your body language much more loudly than whatever words you speak. I try to keep this in mind. I really, really do. But the reality of it didn't hit home fully until that morning, I guess. When my little guy is telling me to smile, he's really saying, "Mommy, I want you to be happy. I want to be able to see that you are happy. With me, with the world, with yourself."

And am I happy? For years, this has been a dicey question to ask. It has taken me a good three days to write out this post, mostly because of my issues with this question. (OK, a good part of taking that long is simply due to the schedule's difficulties, caring for the kids full time... though, granted, that same schedule also impacts how happy I am!) I'm much more comfortable saying I'm happier than I used to be. For all the cultural currency that is given to happiness, it still feels too easy to say, Yup. I am happy. After all, those founding fathers of ours emphasized the pursuit of happiness, right?

I guess for me, there seems to be something more acceptable in that pursuit, in the attempt, than in actually admitting to attaining the goal. It seems pretty sad to write it out like that, but there you go. Even now, a simple affirmative reply is somehow less to my mind, in that it invalidates the many, many inadequacies and shortfalls and complexities that are undeniably part of life. (There's all that serious stuff again....)

But you know what? I am happy. Not giddy, not goofy, not flighty (all words that I've tended to associate with "happy") but happy. Yes. Happy like a well that runs deep, instead of the giddy gurgling of a stream; joy that is sorrow's little sister; a happy stillness instead of exuberance, much of the time. But yes, happiness. I am still pursuing it, moment by moment, but I am also in that moment, so I am there. With enough to quench the spirit for the rest of the road ahead.

I'm reminded of one of my favorite quotes, from Rumi. "But listen to me: for one moment quit being sad. Hear blessings dropping their blossoms around you."

(And I wonder now, would I have liked this quote so much, for so many years, if it was phrased -- "start being happy" instead of "quit being sad"?)

I can tell my son over and over that I love him, that I'm happy, that he's wonderful. But if my face reflects something else, will he believe me?

I was near tears that morning as I gave S his goodbye hug and wished him a good day. Poor man didn't know quite what to think, I'm sure. I assured him that I was fine, and as he left I knelt down to give my son a hug. Smiling as I did so.

Motherhood is hard. I never knew how hard (nobody does until she wears the mantle herself, of course). And I take it VERY seriously. But in ways large and small, I'm realizing that it is indeed possible to take something seriously and to have fun with it at the same time. That's true of life, of motherhood, of artistic creativity. It's all happy stuff. Seriously happy. And worth smiling about.

With that in mind, I find myself reflecting on my friend Cathy's list of 100 Happies which she posted last month. I'm working on my own list and will post it very soon. Thinking about things to add has led to more than one grin. I hope it makes you smile a little, too. (Update: you can find my happy list here.)

Friday, March 13, 2009

Spring! (Almost!)

This round of the Etsybloggers Carnival has "Spring" as a topic. According to the calendar, it's a wee bit early, but you wouldn't know that from the weather around here. It's been vacillating between the typical winter rains and gorgeous 60 degree sunshine. In other words, it might as well be spring.

The host for this carnival, Panoptica, asks: "Spring: Tell us what you like about it, what you hate about it. Do you look forward to it? What are your favorite spring activities?"

Favorite spring activities: gardening, puddle jumping, visiting parks with the kids, hunting for eggs on Easter, spring cleaning (everything from the yearly purging of the wardrobe and the workspaces to scouring the floors).

Yes, I look forward to it very much!

I don't like doing taxes -- who does? I don't like daylight savings time (to be specific, I don't like the effect it has on the kids schedules!) or the yearly war against the weeds, which has its most intense battles during the spring.
I like so much about spring.... here are a few of my favorite things: the return of the sunshine, the buds on the trees, and the sprouts emerging from the earth. I like the blossoming trees. Here's our plum tree:

I like the springtime itch I always have to head back into the garden and get dirt underneath my fingernails. I really like the way in which this time of year prompts me to go through the old stuff, rediscovering things I'd forgotten. This happens as I put away winter clothes and pull out the togs for warmer weather, it happens as I clean the house and rearrange the workspaces, and it happens as I go through computer files. This week, in fact, just as I was organizing stuff, I found an old scrap of a beginning of a poem that I'd totally forgotten about.


Spring is the giggling girl in a plastic raincoat
and orange galoshes, the orphan who skips through puddles
alongside the road. Her coat is caution-tape yellow
and has a matching floppy hat too big for her head.
(Everything she wears is much too big
for her, like Pippi Longstocking’s shoes.)
Spring is the changeable child who charms strangers
with her guileless smile and runs away, crying,
the moment they pay her too much attention.
She hates to wait in line but loves the way that people
stand so close together in an elevator, almost touching,
staring straight ahead and ignoring gravity.
She opens windows, spits on asphalt, kisses clouds;
She hides in sidewalk cracks and closed umbrellas,
knows each weed’s first name, and makes up songs
for every single second of the day....

Thursday, March 12, 2009

The 'Tairy Lion

BB has now had a major nightmare. This is the first one whose effects have lingered, the first one that she's talked about with us. And boy, has she talked about it.

There was a lion. "A 'tairy lion, Mommy!" What did it do? It roared, apparently. And was scary ("tairy") not friendly ("frenny"). It really freaked her out when she had the dream two nights ago, poor dear.

I remember having nightmares as a child. I can still bring up a single image from one of the most vivid ones. I think I was about 6 or 7 years old when I had this nightmare. (So we're talking 30 years ago now. Yikes.) It seems a bit ludicrous, writing it out now, but I confess that the image itself still makes me shudder just a bit: a painfully green Kermit the Frog surrounded by bloody red vampire creatures. Trust me, it wasn't silly at the time.

I remember thinking it grossly unfair that the world was made such that my mind could play these terrible tricks on me at night, when I was asleep, when I was most vulnerable. I remember being paralyzed with fear in the middle of the night, waking from yet another nightmare. So I can definitely relate to BB's distress -- and I pray that this does not signal a trend for her.

I have to say, much as I tend to mock the licensed character books for their lack of literary qualities, she has taken great comfort from Blue's Bad Dream, which we have checked out from the library multiple times. (God bless the library.) In the book, Blue has a nightmare about a scary dragon. When she wakes, she goes to get help from Mr. Salt and Mrs. Pepper. (I will admit, I always smile a bit at the parental stand-ins here -- it is inspired to have a Mr. Salt and Mrs. Pepper pairing, not to mention the feminist angle of mismatched last names.) They get Blue back to sleep by telling her a story about a friendly dragon, and so Blue dozes off and dreams about the same dragon as the one in her nightmare, except this time they play together and have a great time.

My mom always swore she could do that -- control her dreams. I never did get the hang of it. But it's a good message. And around here, almost anything having to do with Blue and her companions will get the kids' attention. I have mixed feelings about that. (Though on the whole I will say that IMHO Blue's Clues is a sight better than much of the licensed character stuff.)

Anyway, as you have probably guessed, BB keeps telling us that maybe she'll dream about a "frenny lion." It hasn't happened yet, that I know about, but it's clear that she finds great reassurance in the possibility. (She also hasn't had a repeat of the nightmare, thank goodness.) The idea came up immediately after her bad dream, and she's clung to it since. And when you're dealing with a terrified toddler at 2 a.m., you'll take what reassurance you can get; this is no time for literary snobbery.

Wish us luck that the 'tairy lion stays away from her dreamscape tonight!


A big thank you to Athena of Miss Millificent's World (you may recall her Friday Feature interview). She gave giving Mama's Magic the Lemonade Award! She says, "The award is given to blogs that show great attitude and/or gratitude." All together now: awwwwww! Thank you, Athena!

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Fast-ee Ant and the Automatic Pickle

Lots of laughter in the house, in spite of exhaustion from the inevitable sleep issues as daylight savings time wreaks havoc on the kids' schedules (and therefore ours as well). BB is discovering new words and the idea of "nonsense" -- this morning, her favorite word was "automatic." As in, "I'm a automatic kid! Dis a automatic sink!" Or, my favorite, while we were making lunch: "Want a automatic pickle!"

Another favorite word game of hers is making up nonsense descriptors, based on a single repeated word. "Dis is 'bing-bing'!" Or, "Mommy is 'vrum-vrum'!" And then she grins at us, knowing full well that she's being amusing.

BJ is full of funny phrases these days, too. When the kettle was boiling yesterday, he informed me, "Mommy, your tea is yelling!" Another recent observation: "Divers have perpetual bandaids." (I'm not sure what he meant by this, exactly, but I found it very funny. Who knew that my kid knew the word "perpetual"??? I asked him if he knew what it meant, and he said, "Forever." So there you go. I do know that he was talking about scuba divers. Perhaps a reference to their wetsuits?)

Of course random questions are always entertaining. While we were talking about "sailing around the world" (which is referred to in one of his books) he asked, "Would they have to go through Connecticut?" This week, he has also asked, "Can God walk?" and "Do houses die?" and many more that I forgot to write down as they were asked.

And just in case we didn't have enough excitement in our lives, the kids have taken it upon themselves to institute a nightly nudie time, right before they go into the bath. They'd been doing this for quite some time, and recently BJ added another element to the game: he has decided that I am an anteater, and he and BB are ants. Or, to be specific, he is "Fast-ee Ant!" Because, of course, he runs really fast.

The result is shrieking chaos as the kids dash through the house in their birthday suits, wanting me to stop doing the dishes so I can run around with them and pretend to gobble them up. All the while, BJ is yelling, "Don't eat me up, Mommy! Don't eat me up!" and BB is chasing me, hollering, "Eat me up, Mommy! Eat me up!"

After a while, BJ collapses on his bed, declaring it his anthill and therefore safe territory. But the game isn't over yet: he gets on his "phone" (made from duplo Legos) and calls me to tell me that he wants to be friends and to inform me that I should be "an anteater who doesn't eat ants." (At least not until tomorrow night, when the game starts all over again.)

I have to say, exhausting as this game can be at the end of a long day, it feels really good to be reliably playful with my kids. I spend lots of time having fun with them, of course, and most of our time is spent playing. But much of our day is also spent in the quotidien details of keeping everybody fed, clothed, clean, and rested so we can stay on something of an even keel, and that takes some managing.

Sheer physical goofball stuff is not my specialty. Not as part of my general personality, and not as part of my parenting style. (I'm working on this, though, having learned that motherhood is both more fun and more efficient when Mom Isn't Always So Serious!) The game started last week on a night when S was working late and I was doing bedtime solo with the kids, and I had the good sense to run with it (literally) instead of try to squash it in favor of Staying On Task. And I'm glad that I've allowed it to continue, to include a time for us to be utterly silly together. It's good for me, and it's good for them.

And here's an unexpected bonus: I know for a fact that at least one door-to-door solicitor has peeked through our front window, witnessed this mayhem, and turned around without even bothering to ring the doorbell. Score!

Monday, March 9, 2009

My Little Self-Starter

As the followers of "Mama's Magic" are aware, BJ has been reading for quite some time now. He'll be turning four at the end of the month, and he's been really reading (not just reciting from memory) for more than a year.

The truly remarkable thing is that we did very little to make this happen, very little to "teach" him to read. We simply read all the time, make sure he has lots of books, and share our own love of all things literary.

Now it seems that my little self-starter reader is also determined to teach himself how to write. On Friday, he set up his beloved magnet letter board, found Ed Emberley's ABC book on the shelf, and plunked himself down on the carpet. "This is a good book to learn how to write letters," he announced. (Which is absolutely true: the book has charming illustrations outlining step by step exactly how to construct each letter.)

BJ then proceeded to take each magnet letter, turn to the appropriate page in the book, and use the letter to draw the letter in question. I watched for a while, quite astonished, and by the time I managed to get the camera, he was on "F":

He didn't make it all the way to Z -- or at least I don't think he did. I confess that I got distracted chasing BB out of something or other, wasn't gone all that long, and by the time I returned he had moved on to other things.

I find it so interesting that he wanted to write with the letters themselves instead of the magnet pen that is also attached to the board! Also that he took it upon himself to write the upper and lowercase versions of the letters, even though the book he was following only has the uppercase. Neat eh? I'm one proud mama, as you can imagine!

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Spring's A Comin! Sunny Days!

So nice to get some sunshine after so much rain. Makes one believe that spring is really on its way.

It was much needed rain, I agree, but still challenging to deal with. It's been a week of some serious cabin fever. Here's Cabin Fever Exhibit A, the smile that says, "I know I'm still in my pajamas, but I really want to go outside and ride around on this thing! I want it so badly, I even found my rain boots and managed to put them on All By Myself!"

Exhibit B: breaking out the paints, trying to drive away the rainy day blues with a serious dose of reds and greens....

So it felt wonderful to spend some time outdoors this weekend, weeding and reveling in the spring blossoms. Our plum tree is just gorgeous right now.

And the lemon tree is also just starting to bloom -- this tree is amazing; it has delicious fruit year round! (Mostly because we never fully harvest the fruit, I think.) But the spring flowering is my favorite. In another few weeks, it will smell simply divine right outside our bedroom window.
And in other happy springtime news, S took advantage of the nice weather to very kindly fix the flat tire on my bike. I loooove my bike!
Isn't she snazzy?

It's an Electra Hawaii bike (which BJ pronounces, charmingly, "Hawigh," as rhyming with "sigh.") I got it as a Mother's Day gift in 2006, when it turned out I was pregnant with BB but didn't know it yet. The pregnancy and then inevitable aftermath of life with two small kids meant that I haven't yet had much of a chance to ride it. I think I've been on it maybe a dozen times to date! And when I finally did get some time recently, it turned out to have a flat. Boo!

But now it's repaired -- thank you, S! He even put on the bell that M gave me for Christmas. (Thank you, M! I love it!) So as soon as it was fixed up, I took it on a spin to the post office to mail a Mama's Magic Studio order. (Yay for orders!) It felt wonderful to break a little sweat and catch some jealous glances. I've not ridden it much, like I said, but I always get noticed on this bike. This time, as I was getting ready to leave the post office, a big African American man stopped next to me as I was unlocking the bike from the rack. Our local post office is next door to a Harley Davidson dealership, so it gets some interesting passers by. And he was no exception. He looked us over, appraisingly, then he met my eye. "It's you," he said, nodding.

Maybe it was the sunshine, maybe it was my approval for his obvious good taste, but I had to grin back at him. I doubt I'll ever get on a Harley (or any other motorcycle, for that matter) but I'm content to be zipping around on my little cycle in its froot loop hues. Hopefully this spring will see me on it more frequently than last year!

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Le Choix du Roi

Since BB's birth, S has taken great satisfaction in telling all and sundry that our children represent "le choix du Roi" -- the choice of the king. The idea being: have a firstborn son, as heir, and then have a daughter to marry off.

Not that we had any choice in this matter, and not that we are exactly royalty over here. (Though S does do a clever imitation of Steve impersonating Elvis, playing "The King" in the Blue's Clues Story Time episode.) But it's exactly the kind of quirky fact S revels in. And if you didn't follow the Blue's Clues reference, don't worry. Just another reference, thanks to S. After all, he's the one who introduced Blue's Clues to the household -- not to mention dressing up as Steve for Halloween. (S might not be Le Roi, but he would probably qualify as the Dauphin of Obscure References. One more reason I love the guy so much.)

While I neither need an heir nor plan to secure my kingdom through arranged marriage, I do often find myself thinking about the specifics of having a boy followed by a girl. Among these, the fact that we are able to make much better use of hand-me-downs than we would be if the situation were reversed. I'm all about gender equity, but if I'd had a girl and then a boy, I doubt I'd have done what I did this morning.

With the exception of her socks, BB was dressed entirely in her brother's secondhand clothes. (Not that she hasn't worn his socks before!) Her shoes, jacket, shirt, and jeans were all his. The jeans were a thrift store buy to begin with, and of unclear gender provenance. (One of the wonderful things about kids' jeans!) She'd seen his old shoes on the shelf for some time now, and this morning she insisted on wearing them. She was almost as pleased as she gets when she wears her "fancy shoes" (black mary janes).

Her wearing his clothes is hardly huge deal, but I did find it amusing -- I didn't even realize I'd done it until I looked more closely at the pictures!

I do wonder, though, if society will ever get to the point where boys can wear girl's clothes with the same sort of ease. Jill in blue? No problem. Little Johnny in pink? Not so much. Really. Why should that be? (And how many of you knew that pink used to be the preferred color for boys, because it was closer to the supposedly masculine color of red?) Well, same reason that you might also know a little girl named Johnny, but you probably don't know a boy named Jill. In these cases, it's OK for girls to appropriate some "masculine" traits and characteristics. But the reverse is not true. Homophobia? Probably, at least in part. Likely it's also the simple, sad fact that the "feminine" is still devalued in our culture....

But I'll step off my women's studies soapbox now. I'm probably not telling you anything you haven't heard before!

In spite of her attire, I don't think anybody would have been mistaking BB for a little boy, not with that adorable ponytail that she's sporting. First time we'd managed to make it out of the house with her hair like that. "Just like Mommy!" she said. Seems our long "bad hair year" (which turned out to be closer to two!) might be coming to a close, at long last, since we've both grown out our hair long enough to coax it into ponytails.

Ah, the intricacies of gender difference. I doubt I'd be rambling about hairdos if I hadn't had a daughter. But it's good clean fun. And if you start thinking too much about all this stuff, it will drive ya crazy.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

No Cavities!

This morning I had the dubious honor of toting a 2 year old and a 3 year old to the dentist. February and March are the two months of the year that I can truthfully say that -- the kids are 22 months apart, which is close enough in all honesty, but it's fun to make it sound even crazier than it actually is. Such are the silly pleasures of motherhood sometimes.

Actually, it was nice to get out of the house. It's been raining and raining, so we're all feeling a bit housebound. I guess you know it's serious when going to the dentist feels like a field trip....

We go to a family dentist instead of a pediatric practice, but Dr. H is very good with the kids. As usual BJ was great for her and her assistants. Opened his mouth wide as anything, no fussing at all, not a smidge of trouble. They were all duly impressed. He also brought along his friend alligator, and they were very patient with his request that they also count alligator's teeth and check for "sugarbugs." Too cute.

BB was tagging along at Dr. H's recommendation so that she could get a sense for what it is all about, and even BB was very well behaved. (I'd had some qualms about her ability to sit more or less quietly in my lap while they did what was necessary for BJ.) I couldn't have asked for better from both of them, actually. Mornings like that I feel like a very lucky mom.

Happy too to hear that BJ didn't have any cavities! Apparently 50% of kids in California have at least one cavity before age 5. Wow. Dr. H said it's the lack of fluoridated water, which makes sense. But we make sure the kids get their fluoride drops, and they are both very cooperative about brushing and flossing, so it seems to be paying off.

Next time we go, in 6 months, both the kids will get checkups, so hopefully it will go as smoothly then!

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Weekend Recap

A very fun weekend, all around. Good family time when we hung out at a new park with our friends A and J and their kids E and T. BJ hadn't seen E in a while, and E is one of his oldest and bestest friends, so he especially enjoyed playing with his buddy.

Neat to see BJ and BB continuing to play well together, too.

Even if there's still a fair amount of that "No, that's not what I want to do!" factor -- here, BJ was trying to line up all the pinecones, and BB was trying to push them off the ledge. Ah well, that's kids for ya.

BB had fun as well -- and not just with annoying her brother! Lots of new stuff to climb on at this new park, so she was very pleased.

And BJ figured out he could make letters from sticks. Which letter? "S" of course. For "stick."

Also got some Adult Time at my friend A's shower. Granted, it was a baby shower, so I was still very much in mommy mode. But I got to wear a dress AND pantyhose, and even dried my hair all the way! So I felt pretty fab. (BJ didn't like my stockings, though: "Mommy, why are your legs all colored black???") Had a yummy lunch, excellent company, and a good half hour each way in my own head while driving there and back. Exactly what I needed!