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Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Straight Talk about Swine Flu

We interrupt the usual Mama's Magic broadcast on family fun and creativity for the following PSA interview. Like most folks, I've been worrying about swine flu, so when I had the opportunity to chat with someone who knows something about all this, I jumped at the chance.

Connie Goldsmith is a fellow member of the SCBWI (Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators) and the author of Influenza: The Next Pandemic?
Connie writes for adults and children, and is a practicing RN. Most of her adult writing is for a nursing journal. Most of her juvenile writing consists of “disease books” for Lerner Publishing’s school and library imprint: Twenty-First Century Books. She also has reviewed children’s books for California Kids, a Sacramento regional parenting publication, for the past ten years. Connie has been too busy (or, she says, too lazy) to get around to making her own website, but hopes to do so in the next few months. Until then, you can see her books on or find them at

Enjoy the interview!

Jen @ Mama's Magic: On 4/29 the World Health Organization (WHO) raised the level of worldwide pandemic alert to Phase 5. We’re seeing evidence that the situation is becoming more serious. Just how worried do you think the average American person should be about swine flu?

Connie Goldsmith: First, thanks for giving me this chance to speak with your readers, Jen. As a writer and an RN, I’m especially appreciative of the opportunity to pass on reliable information about this frightening flu situation. The average American should be concerned, and should keep abreast of breaking news in their communities, as well as the country.

You’re correct in that WHO increased the threat of pandemic from level 3 to 5 in just a few days. According to their website: “Phase 5 is characterized by human-to-human spread of the virus into at least two countries in one WHO region. While most countries will not be affected at this stage, the declaration of Phase 5 is a strong signal that a pandemic is imminent and that the time to finalize the organization, communication, and implementation of the planned mitigation measures is short.”

Influenza pandemics tend to occur when the following three conditions are met: 1) There must be a new influenza virus that is highly pathogenic for humans; 2) the virus must be genetically unique — one for which the human population has no pre-existing immunity; and 3) the virus must be easily transmitted from human to human. We’ve clearly met conditions 2 and 3. We don’t yet know about condition 1 – we don’t yet know how deadly this new flu is.

MM: Most of us are familiar with the common-sense precautions for reducing the spread of illness: washing hands properly; trying not to touch hands to mouth, eyes, or nose; covering mouth and nose when sneezing or coughing; avoiding contact with sick people when possible; staying home ourselves if we are sick. Are there other things we should be doing to lessen the likelihood of getting sick and to prepare for the possibility of a flu pandemic?

CG: It looks like you’ve hit most of them, Jen. I’d begin to think about avoiding crowds and not shaking hands with people. I’d highly recommend that people begin to think about stockpiling food, water, and necessary household items in case stores close down or there are interruptions in the nation’s delivery systems due to flu (i.e., truck drivers, warehouses, manufacturing facilities). Since I completed my flu book, I’ve maintained a four to six week supply of food, water, pet food, medical supplies, etc. I’m presently checking it over and adding additional items.

MM: Many Mama’s Magic readers are mothers with small children. Do you have any specific tips for a household with kids?

CG: We’re beginning to see school closures around the country. Parents who must work need to think about alternative child-care arrangements if their own schools close. Those who send their children to day-care centers will want to ensure the caregivers are well-versed in hygiene measures.

Watch your family for signs of illness. Flu is a respiratory illness. Symptoms include high fever, headaches, muscle aches, and cough. Gastrointestinal symptoms such as nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea are generally not related to the flu virus, although it is possible for a child with flu to have those symptoms as well.

Many hospitals, medical groups, and health insurance companies (for example, Kaiser), offer free nurse advice lines. Check to see if you have access to these services, and if you do, use them. I worked on a nurse advice line for three years and most callers were mothers of young children.

(Note from Jen: I second this advice -- I call the Kaiser nurse line often, and they are always extremely helpful!)

MM: Can you share one or two interesting things you learned while writing your book, Influenza, the Next Pandemic? (Either about the flu itself and/or about the writing/ research process, since many of my readers are also writers themselves.)

CG: I learned two interesting things about flu while writing this book. First, that the terrible Spanish Flu pandemic of 1918-1919 killed at least 100 million people around the world. Because it occurred during the First World War, newspapers were pretty much censored and people knew little about what was going on outside their own communities. The horror of the war seemed to exceed the horror of the pandemic, and it was largely forgotten until the past decade or so.

The second thing I learned about the flu was how archaic the vaccine-making process is. It involves raising hens in hygienic conditions, gathering eggs in nearly sterile conditions, and then taking months to manufacture the vaccine in labs. Viruses are injected into the eggs and then incubated. The fluid is withdrawn and purified and turned into vaccine. It takes 3 eggs to make one dose of vaccine. I believe the flu vaccine is the only vaccine that requires eggs for manufacture. It will take five or six months, or even more, to develop a vaccine for H1N1 swine flu. And of course, those with bad egg allergies cannot take flu vaccine in any event.

As far as writing the book, as a nonfiction writer, luckily I enjoy research. I also write continuing education articles for nurses for a major publisher and that keeps me current on a lot of topics. I try to utilize my research for more than one purpose. For example, when I completed my Lerner book about meningitis, I wrote an article for nurses about bacterial meningitis, and when I wrote my Lerner book about malaria (coming out Spring 2010), I also wrote an article about malaria for nurses. An important writing tip for anyone, is to make your research do double duty for you whenever possible.

Thank you so much, Connie, for taking the time to share your unique perspective with us. Wash your hands everybody, and stay healthy!

Closer and Closer to Home...

OK, so I'm trying really hard not to add yet one more worry to my already overloaded plate (my eyes are always bigger than my stomach when it comes to finding things to fret about) but this whole swine flu thing is pushing all my big, red panic buttons.

(Mix enough metaphors for ya, there? Add imagery and blend -- mmmmm, better than a simile smoothie.)

One of my facebook friends posted that the media is descending upon the University of Delaware, thanks to four "probable" swine flu cases. U of D is my alma mater, and where my mom works, so that amped up the anxiety for sure.

Then, I read that a local high school has been closed because of a student who contracted swine flu.

(This was not the best week to join Twitter, I think. All the breaking news tweets are enough to make anybody nervous -- if not outright paranoid. I'm severely curtailing my online time for the rest of the day. As soon as I finish this post!)

So what am I doing about all this? Well, going full out into Mama's Magic mode, I'm trying to fight off the fretting by turning creative.

I made up a hand washing song.

After all, washing your hands -- properly washing your hands -- is the best defense against getting sick. But do either one of my kids scrub adequately with soap, for 30 seconds or so, getting all areas of their hands? Not even close. BJ's new favorite way to scrub up is to dash into the bathroom, turn on the faucet full-blast, wet his hands for about two seconds, then run back to whatever he was doing.

So I wrote a song to help them remember what to do. It is sung to the tune of "Twinkle Twinkle Little Star" (aka the alphabet tune, and yes, I was fully grown before I realized they are the same tune!) It's hardly the pinnacle of poetic complexity, but it works. Feel free to use it with your own kids..... Wash up and stay healthy!

The Hand Washing Song

Now it’s time to scrub a dub,
Water, soap, then rub and rub!

Spread those bubbles
All around –
Front and back,
And round and round.

Thumbs and fingers,
In between,
Rinse and dry
And now they’re clean!

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Drinkers, Walkers, and Other Definitions

Today BJ started redefining his little world. Starting with his sippy straw cups. We were driving to dinner, and he asked for something. After much back and forth (at one point, I was convinced he was asking for sprinkles, which he found very amusing) I finally realized he was asking for his "drinker."

"Do you mean your cup?"

"Yes. I call it a drinker."

S and I exchanged a look. "That's very interesting!" I said. S asked him about a few other items (I confess I no longer recall what they were) and then asked, "What would you call a Daddy?"

"A walker," BJ replied, completely serious.

"What would you call a Mommy?" I asked.

"A walker, too."

"Really! What about your sister?"

"A walker."

"Are you a walker too?"


"Are all people walkers?"


I'm thinking, hey, that's not too bad, given that whole bipedalism thing! At which point (I couldn't help myself) I started explaining excitedly that he was defining things by their functionality. (Yes, I used the term "functionality" in a conversation with my four-year-old. Whatchagonnado.) He went on to inform us that a plate is an "eater," a car is a "driver," a street is a "car driver" and a sidewalk is a "people walker."

I love these little glimpses into the busy mind of my son! I sometimes think I should start carrying around a little notebook, as I did when I was writing poetry on a regular basis, just to capture those moments and phrases as they happen. Because I am that kind of a mom -- a poet and a perfectionist, someone who believes that exact wording matters.

Problem is, being a mom with two little ones, it's rare to have one hand free, let alone two for jotting notes!

Grandma and Grandpa are Here!

Both the kids were very excited to get a visit from Grandma C and Grandpa D today. We don't see them very often -- they live in Atlanta, and that coast to coast trip makes it difficult. But there's a new member in the extended family, since S's brother is now a father of two (welcome, little K!) so they had traveled out our way to meet the baby.

(We haven't met her yet, because S still has a lingering cough and wants to be sure he's completely well. She's not even a week old yet, so we certainly don't want to expose her or the family to anything! Even if we are all obsessively washing our hands, thanks to all the swine flu news....)

They spent today with us, then will head over the hill to visit with other family before going up to spend some time with the new baby and family. BJ came home early from preschool this morning to make the most of what little time we would have together. We hung out at the house, played in the backyard, visited the pet store (where we purchased a much-needed collar for the escape artist cat!) and had dinner at Sweet Tomatoes.

Plus we got some really cute pictures of everybody together -- bonus! This one is the best of the bunch, I think:

It's a minor miracle to get everybody looking at the camera and smiling! But definitely worth the effort. BB especially loves having the pictures of everybody. When she learned that they would be here to visit, she immediately wanted to carry around the picture we took from their last visit, which was two years old. It will be very nice to have something more recent! We're very glad we got to spend some time together, however short.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Featured Esyblogger for April -- Two Zany Zebras!

I had such fun exploring the shop of this month's featured Etsyblogger! Two Zany Zebras is full of whimsy and (you guessed it!) zaniness -- as explained in the shop announcement, Two Zany Zebras is "home of the Zarkles. Wondering what in the world is a Zarkle? They are whimsical creatures that are part of the Zarkle family. Each Zarkle has their own unique name, personality, and Zany Pocket Blankie to sleep in. They can also be a comfort at night and help keep all the scary things at bay."

I especially liked Socrates Zarkle:

(Which is hardly surprising given that I'm married to a guy who specializes in ancient philosophy!) And aren't his pals just too much fun?

Ginger Zarkle with her blankie is pretty cute, too -- love the color combination!

Having now tried my hand at doll making and plushies, I have a particular appreciation for the work that must go into making these wonderful, one of a kind creatures.

You'll also find their faces adorning onesies and tees, like the Bootsey Monster Onesie:

And of course, being an Etsyblogger, there's a Zany Blog as well! She also celebrated her one year Etsy anniversary this month, on April 4th. So happy anniversary, Two Zany Zebras, and congrats on being chosen as the Featured Etsyblogger for April! Hope you've had a great month!

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Letting the Ladybugs Go

Today we let the ladybugs go. What fun!

BJ sweet friend E gave him Ladybug Land for his birthday, and it captivated the entire family: waiting for the larvae to arrive in the mail, watching them grow, wondering how long it would take for the pupaes to become beetles, then finally witnessing the ladybugs as they emerged. It was a fascinating few weeks!

Who knew that newborn ladybugs were pale yellow? Or that they will happily eat a waterlogged raisin if aphids aren't available? For that matter, it was news to all of us that their larvae were striped rather like zebras!

(Only one design flaw: the lid comes off very easily, which is an impossible situation for a household with two little kids. We quickly realized we'd need to tape the whole thing together for the duration, which worked out okay.)

I'd meant to document the entire process, but I forgot. (Not surprising given how things have been around here lately.) At least I managed to get a few decent pics of their release.

The kids were so excited to have the ladybugs crawling on their hands -- even S got in on the fun.

This one is my favorite:

After having them hang around for so long, I worried it might be a bit traumatic to have them all fly away. I fully anticipated that one or the other of the kids would end up in tears at some point in the process. But I'm happy to report that I was dead wrong. Whew!

We'll probably do another round of larvae at some point in the future, and hopefully that time around I'll be better about getting more pics. Until then, we'll be greeting every ladybug in the yard as though it is one of "ours," from Ladybug Land.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Zoo Pics!

We had a lovely time at the Oakland Zoo today, in spite of pushing our outing well into the usual naptime. The highlight for me was watching the Sun Bear scale a tree, climbing about 40 feet up in a matter of minutes! I didn't manage to snag some video, alas, but I did get a few pics. It was truly a remarkable thing to witness!

BJ was in fine form, sporting his safari hat and navigating the map for us. BB, as usual, wanted to climb everything in sight.

Here's proof that some of the baby sign language stuck around -- the kids doing their frog signs in unison (atop a frog sculpture, though you can't really tell from the picture).

We were very curious to know who these lucky people might be -- obviously, they were hooked in pretty well, to be able to feed the giraffes!

The ducklings in the giraffe enclosure looked pretty cute, if a bit out of place.

Here's the lion, being his majestic self.

BJ enjoyed showing us how the elephants swing their trunks.

After we visited the animals, we headed over to the ride area. BJ loved the rollercoaster. Once again, BB refused to ride on any of the rides, though this time she made a serious attempt at the carousel, to the point of actually allowing me to buckle her in atop a giraffe before starting to wail, "Noooo! I changed my miiiiind!" Ah well, maybe one of these days my girl will decide she's ready for such carnie thrills. Guess she gets enough daring and adventure in the normal course of one of her typical days.

Thanks again to Pop-Pop and Giki for the zoo membership!

Friday, April 24, 2009

Happy Etsy Day!

Today is Etsy Day, with lots of buzz to go along with it. (If this is news to you, you can read more about it here.) Alas, I'm not able to go bonkers with guerrilla marketing -- though I did briefly consider the notion of dressing the kids all in orange and parading through the mall, leafleting as we went.

The idea behind Etsy Day is to promote which is something I wholeheartedly endorse. But I figured it would be fun to also mark the day by offering a special sale of 25% off everything in Mama's Magic Studio!

Just mention "Etsy Day" in the message to seller, and I'll refund your discount to Paypal. This offer is only good through midnight 4/24/2009, and it cannot be combined with other coupons or discounts.

Oh, and if you happen to sign up for Etsy for the first time, be sure to mention that "mamasmagicstudio" sent ya!

Happy Shopping! And Happy Etsy Day!

Update: apparently, the buzz was quite impressive! I don't tweet, but it was all over twitter. Even got noticed by the Wall Street Journal!

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Once A Time...

BB has been doing this utterly charming thing where she "reads" a book and tells the story, beginning "Once A Time..." (for once upon a time) and letting her imagination go. I finally got some video of it to share. Bonus for the footage of the two siblings having such a good time together with the coloring books! And of BJ doing more writing... not to mention the solid proof that S does, in fact, do dishes -- and refill ice trays -- sorry for the background noise.

BB also taken to the phrase "Here We Go!" (as evidenced in the video) and is having fun making up songs. However brief, as with her "Crayon Song" towards the end of the video.


Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Earth Day, Exterminators, and Tree Trash Park

It was seeing a black widow spider INSIDE THE HOUSE earlier this week that finally pushed us to call the bug guy. I hated having to put in the call, but the critter wasn't even hiding -- she was out in the open, crawling on the counter by the kitchen sink!!! After seeing many widows in the garage, in places in the yard, and then inside our cellar, this was just too much to bear.

Still and all, I wish we hadn't had to have the guy come out on Earth Day of all days....

Does it help that the exterminator we use is about as eco-friendly as you can be, when you're talking about killing off insects? From their website, they say they use:

"EcoSMART Technologies. These "Green" products are botanical based, using the following natural active ingredients: wintergreen oil, mineral oils, vanillin oil, rosemary oil, and peppermint oil. These plant oils work within USDA NOP (National Organic Program) guidelines, are "Generally Recognized as Safe" (GRAS), and/or are approved for food consumption by the U.S. FDA. The insecticide is only toxic to bugs, targeting a key neurotransmitter receptor for octopamine, which is only found in invertebrates. It is not harmful to people or pets, but is highly effective on common household insects."

So that's a comfort. And the guy who came out was very sweet about the kids. Tossed BJ the football while we toured the back yard together to talk about where we'd spotted the spiders and reassured the kids that he would neither spray the ladybugs nor endanger the vermicomposting bin. Which seems to have been the case, since the ladybugs in our Ladybug Land seem none the worse for it, and when we checked on the bin this afternoon the new worms were wiggling merrily away. (BJ is so proud of these new worms, having harvested them himself from his preschool's worm bin! We visit them every day now.)

He sprayed specific areas in the yard, fogged the garage, and sprayed the cellar. We decided not to do anything inside the living areas of the house unless we found another one inside, on the hopes that the one we saw in the kitchen was a random occurrence, having wandered up from the cellar. (Which is indeed possible given the layout of our house.) Fingers crossed that this takes care of the problem.

Happily, not all our Earth Day activities were of this level of irony. BJ had made it known yesterday that he had Very Specific Ideas about what one should do to celebrate Earth Day -- PICK UP TRASH!!!

I think he's been talking about Earth Day at preschool. But wherever he got the idea, he had it all planned out: first you make a map of where the trash is, then you use the map to go visit a park to clean up the park.

Here is the map he made, which clearly shows "Our House" (in the upper left corner, above the ladybugs, a square containing two circles -- which are windows, I'm told -- and topped with a triangle "roof") as well as "Tree Trash Park" (the green scribble in the center top, to the left of the appropriate label). He colored the map brown to show the places where there's trash.
Not surprisingly, he indicates that there is trash at Tree Trash Park. So we set out to find it and clean it up!

On the way there, we had to stop and admire the gladiolus in the front yard. I'd say it's a pretty happy plant, wouldn't you?

And then we headed down the street, walking to the park with maps in hand.

We filled most of a plastic shopping bag with trash that we found along the sidewalk while walking to the park and finished off the bag at the park. BJ was simply delighted to be doing his good deed -- took to it with the same enthusiasm as he did our recent egg hunt! (And thankfully didn't discover any rubbish too disgusting!)

I'd like to think our little clean-up outing did a little bit to offset the bug killing karma on Earth Day! Hope your day was green!

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

New Window

If the eyes are the window to the soul, then the front of our house no longer looks like somebody punched it in the face. Or something like that.

Delighted to have a new piece of glass in place of the one with the big 'ol Mama-inflicted hole. And very glad to have gotten off easy with a relatively cheap repair bill.

(Wave drum? $15. Glass repair? $126. Not having a constant, razor-edged reminder of one of my worst mommy moments to date? Priceless. Too bad they don't make a credit card with which you can pay off the parenting guilt debt....)

By request, and for posterity, here's what it looked like before the repair.
The hole is to my left (the right of the window in the picture) covered with plastic. Yes, that is the drum that did the damage there in my hand. (And yes, we need to paint the trim on our house!)

Really, we got off easy: no blood, no permanent damage to anything (including the drum!) and a story that will be funny in about fifty years. I'm considering myself very lucky, and lesson learned.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Springtime in the Studio!

Spring is in the air, and the birdies are nesting in Mama's side yard. Watching them at work inspired me to make these fun Bird's Nest Pendants.

Each "nest" is hand woven from more than four feet of silver coated copper wire, and the "eggs" are genuine freshwater pearls. Pendants can be customized with one, two, three, or more eggs, with the number of eggs symbolizing the number of children.

Perfect for Mother's Day or for expecting mommies-to-be .... I'm reminded of George Bailey asking Mary, "Are you on the nest?" in It's a Wonderful Life.

I think my very favorite one so far is the one I made for my own mother for Mother's Day. It has two larger pearl "eggs" to symbolize her two daughters, and three smaller pearls, one for each of her grandchildren. (Hope you like it, Giki!)

Bird's Nest Pendants are available in my Etsy Shop.

If you don't see what you'd like in terms of custom options, let me know -- I love special orders. Mention that you saw them on the Mama's Magic blog, and I'll even give you 10% off any Bird's Nest Pendant! (Discount refunded to your Paypal account; offer good until Mother's Day, May 10, 2009.)

If I Could Turn Back Time....

Granted, at the moment in question what ran through my head was a suppressed series of very foul four letter words, rather than a dated Cher song. But boy, how I wish I could have been granted a do-over for ten seconds of my life on Friday afternoon.

Turns out that the kids' wave drum flies remarkably like a frisbee, which perhaps shouldn't be too surprising given its design.

(Image courtesy of

In fact, it flies so well it went straight through the front window.

Yes, the same very large plate glass window that has (ahem.... had) lovely wavy glass that was original to the house, dating back to 1926.

Now it has a big hole the size of said wave drum. And a piece of plastic taped over that as a temporary patch. (Still working on the quote to get it repaired, and I'm sure not looking forward to that.)

The worst part?

Can't even blame it on the kids. It was Mama who blew it. Meant to toss it over on to the couch, but I missed. Hoo boy, did I miss.

At least the kids got a vivid object lesson in what happens when one doesn't respond appropriately to anger. And no, I'm not talking about the cursing which I thankfully managed not to utter. I was mad even before I threw the danged thing, because BJ was tormenting his sister with it, which was why I needed to take it away and do so firmly. Now we know where the line is between firm and oh f*ck!

Not my best parenting moment to date.

>We keep talking about how we're chockablock, busting at the seams in this charming but tiny California bungalow that we call home. Now I've provided an apt symbol for just how true that is. Alas.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

New Words

I'm thrilled to share the news that BJ has been doing exceptionally well at preschool (knock wood!) and has now stayed through rest time four times in a row, without signifcant fussing. In fact, we were told on Tuesday that he fell asleep, sound snoring asleep, for 40 minutes! (Which confirms my suspicion that if our schedules allowed it, and if we had another bedroom for napping, he might indeed be still taking naps if we could let him rest later in the afternoon instead of at 1 p.m. while BB is napping!)

And two of those four times, when S has gone to pick him up, he's said he isn't ready to leave yet! Granted, today there were cupcakes involved, since one of his pals had a birthday and they do afternoon cupcakes at 4 p.m. But still, this is excellent progress!

He didn't sleep today, but he did rest quietly on his mat until the end of rest time, 3 p.m. Apparently, his teacher has been more flexible than "The School Rules" had suggested, in terms of allowing him to lie on his mat and read a book instead of insisting that he just stare at the ceiling. This has made a huge difference, I think. We've been sending him in with a different book every day, one that he chooses, and twice now he has chosen to bring in one of his kids' dictionaries. That's my boy, loving to read the dictionary....

S reported that on the way home today, they talked about BJ reading the dictionary and enjoying it so much. S asked him, "Are you learning any new words?"

BJ replied, "What's a new word?"

S explained, and BJ told him that in fact he did know some new words. "Let me tell them to you, Daddy!"

The new words are pesagus and coagulus. And he defined them thus: "pesagus" is a synonym for alphabet, and "coagulus" is a type of dinosaur who eats fruit and has spikes all over.

Chicka Chicka ...

We've been trying to get a video of BJ reciting his favorite book for quite some time now -- best one to date!

Return of the 'Tairy Lion

Remember the nightmare that BB had a while ago, the one about the "tairy lion"? She tell us that she has had several recurrences of this bad dream. But she's apparently doing a pretty good job of processing it without getting too traumatized. As you can see in this little clip, in which she is the 'tairy lion (who then turns out to be a friendly lion after all).


Monday, April 13, 2009

RIP Little Wigglies...

I'm so bummed! After years as a responsible vermicomposter, I've had a complete die-off in my worm bin. I will spare you any pics. Suffice to say that my Worm Factory, once the source of lots of fantastic fertilizer, turned into several black plastic tubs full of noxious sludge.

I guess I didn't realize how attached I'd become to those little wiggly guys, but I was truly saddened to see that they had all died. (And not just because it meant I was in for a thoroughly disgusting clean-up job.) I didn't appreciate how very happy it made me to put aside the fruit and veggie scraps for them, and up until we discovered black widow spiders lingering inside the lid of the bin, I always enjoyed feeding them. I don't tend to be one to go in for muck and yuck, but it was strangely satisfying to hear the distinctive squishy sounds of them going about their business every time I opened up the bin. And oh, the fun of harvesting compost!

I was overdue to harvest a bunch of this gardening gold when the die-off took place, so now I won't be able to add it in to the garden this spring. I'd hoped to salvage it, but thanks to the slaughter it was much too disgusting and full of mold and rotting food remains, alas. It all had to be dumped into the larger backyard compost pile, where it should degrade in due time with all the grass clippings and yard waste.

There's karma for ya, I guess. I wasn't a good enough worm mommy. (Like I really need more guilt in the parenting department. )

At least now I can clean everything up and deal with the black widow issue. I'd been stymied as to what to do, since I didn't want to use any pesticides that might endanger the worms. Time to relocate the bin and be more diligent about keeping down the fruit fly population, methinks.

It took me a few days of puzzling to figure out what had happened, and then it hit me. Those 10 pound bags of grapefruit that I've been enjoying so much.... What was I thinking, adding in the peel and pith from one or two grapefruit a day for weeks on end? Too much citrus equals a bin that is too acidic, and that means massive worm death.

As I found out firsthand, alas.

I really should have known better. After all, I'm not new to this whole worm thing. I'd attended the vermicomposting workshop sponsored by the city when I first started, read countless online resources about composting with worms, and even gone to a lecture by Amy Stewart, author of the fascinating account, The Earth Moved: On the Remarkable Achievements of Earthworms.

The kids keep asking me, "Mommy, why did all the worms die?" BJ wanted to know, "Are they all in worm heaven, Mommy?"


Looks like I'll be celebrating Earth Day by starting up anew on the vermicompost bin.... RIP my little wiggly friends. I promise to do better by the new batch of worms!

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Happy Easter!

We had a nice Easter -- if you don't count the last two hours. Total utter meltdown on BJ's part. We're talking one of the top three worst out of control tantrums in his four years on this earth. Ostensibly about his insistence that he be allowed to have wet Kleenex in the bath, but actually just overstimulated and tired. Of course I'm sure the sugar overload didn't help things. Sheesh.
(Actually, there were more than a few sugar-induced difficulties today; first holiday that I haven't played Sugar Police with the kids' candy intake. I didn't let them eat everything, but neither did I limit them to three jellybeans at a time. I think I've learned my lesson.....)

But for the most part, in spite of that, we had fun. Both kids were very excited about the holiday. BB was awake first, and she was delighted by her Easter basket, though a little confused. "Where are my presents, Mommy?"

Once we explained that Easter is not Christmas, and after we led her to understand that her basket was her "present," she got right in the swing of things.

"The Easter Bunny came, Mommy! He caaaame!" And then she gave me her best jellybean smile:

We dug out the bunny ears from last year -- they had migrated to the bottom of the dress-up basket. BB put hers on right away. This Easter thing is serious stuff, after all, requiring the proper accessories!

Soon she relaxed into the true bunny spirit -- lots of smiles and bouncing.

After a little coaxing, BJ joined in as well.

BJ got to try Peeps for the first time, which he REALLY liked. (BB not so much, which meant BJ got a few of hers, too.) You could almost see the sugar haze beginning to have its sticky effects. (See above.)

We continued the tradition of egg hunting, spreading Easter grass all over the house and in the backyard. At first, BJ wanted to use a big orange bowl for his "basket."

"Can't look at the camera now, Mom! There are more eggs to find!"

A very Happy Easter to those of you who celebrate the holiday! Hope your day was sweet... and not too sticky!

Friday, April 10, 2009

Thank Goodness For Templates

Well, here we are more than 8 months after I first started working on the website for Mama's Magic Studio, and I finally have a beginning that I'm not completely embarassed to show the world. I'd slapped up a few links when I first purchased the domain, and then it had been left "under construction" for months and months. On the to-do list, but always near the bottom.

It is definitely still a work in progress, but for somebody who knows as much as I do about putting together a website (nearly nothing!) I think it looks pretty decent.

(Not that this means the to-do list has suddenly gotten shorter. Far from it, alas!)

Anyway, take a look and let me know what you think: Mama's Magic Studio on the web!

Letter of the Law

Overheard while I was making lunch this afternoon and S was sitting at the table with the kids:

S: (speaking loudly over BB's crying) "You need to say you're sorry."

(BJ had chosen to drink water directly from the downspout of the Brita pitcher, putting his mouth fully over the entire dispenser. Which meant I needed to disassemble it for cleaning, which meant that BB couldn't help get herself some water.)

BJ: (reluctantly) "I'm sorry."

S: "Okay, then."

BB sniffles, calming down somewhat.

BJ: "But I cross it out."

S: "What?"

BJ: "I cross it out!"

S: "You can't do that. You need to apologize, or it will be a timeout."

(After a few more seconds of negotiating, BJ ends up in timeout, wailing.)


S: "You can come out of timeout, now."

BJ, now calm, returns to the table.

S: "But you still need to apologize to your sister."

BJ: (after a pause) "I'm."

S: "What's that?"

BJ: "It's a shortcut."

S: (swallowing back a laugh) "You can't take a shortcut for an apology. You need to say the whole thing!"

BB, who is now onto other things, proceeds to eat her lunch.

BJ: "I'm Ess-Oh-Are."

S: "Spelling it out doesn't count."

BJ: "I'm Sorrrrrrrr........"

S: "You need to say the whole word."

BJ: (speaking very slowly) "I'mmmmm Sorrrrrrrrr.... Why."

S: (biting his lip to keep from chortling) "You Will Go Back Into Timeout If You Don't Apologize To Your Sister The Right Way. Right NOW."

BJ: "I'm sorrrrrr...eeee."

S: (getting up from the table to come into the kitchen) "Okay then."

At which point the two of us burst into stifled giggles in the kitchen.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Etsyblogger Carnival -- Green!

The current round of the Etsyblogger's blog carnival is themed to Earth Day, with the following question:

What is green in your shop? (This can be something literally green in color, or something eco-friendly.)

I'd say my greenest item would be these Handcrafted Knitting Needles -- both eco-friendly and colored green!

The wooden needle part is crafted from USA grown Poplar wood, which is a renewable resource that helps protect the rainforests. The decorative elements are recycled vintage beads from my grandmother's jewelry stash, repurposing beads from a broken necklace that would have otherwise ended up in the trash.

Thanks to Lilbees for hosting the carnival!

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Yay BJ!

I'm so proud of my son today. (Well, that's usually true -- but even more so today!) Regular Mama's Magic readers might recall that we started him in preschool this past September, going on Tuesdays and Thursdays. It was a rough transition for him, which wasn't too surprising given that it was his first experience with a caregiver other than me or S (and the very occasional babysitter).

The preschool we chose does not do a partial day option, but BJ had such a difficult time that we didn't feel he was ready to stay there all day. So ever since September, we've been paying for full days but only using part of the day. We've also been juggling schedules so that he got picked up right after lunch, about 12:45 p.m., which is right before his classmates took their naps. This was especially challenging because his pickup time happens right in the middle of BB's nap, so most preschool days S ends up making the trip between home and preschool three or four times. Not ideal.

The original plan was to ease BJ into a longer day as he felt more comfortable. Well, here we are, after seven months, and finally he has seemed ready to try to stay through rest time. (He stopped napping long ago, which is another reason we didn't want to push things, but he does understand the idea of rest time and gets it daily at home.) We never intended to have him there from their opening time to closing (7:45 a.m. to 5:45 p.m.) but it would be great if he could make it until the early afternoon, so that I could pick him up when BB wakes from her nap. Which would mean he needs to stay through the school's naptime.

Well, today we tried it for the first time, and I'm very pleased to say that it was quite successful!

We'd agreed with the teacher that we would plan to pick up BJ right at the end of rest time, at 3 p.m. Unless she called between 1 and 3 to tell us that BJ was miserable. S and I spent those two hours waiting for the phone to ring, and I think we were both surprised when it didn't. I know I was! S picked up BJ, and it turns out that our boy had done really well. He didn't fall asleep (no shocker there) but he did rest on his mat with only a very few tears at the beginning of the rest time. Amazing!

The kids are allowed to transition into "naptime" with some quiet book time at their mats, so we sent him in with Richard Scarry's Storybook Dictionary. It's actually a book that I had when I was a child, copyright 1966. Mine is a 12th printing published in 1974, and you can tell; it is definitely pre-P.C.! What with characters like "Chief Five Cents" (the buffalo) living in his smoky teepee and the two vain "pretty girls" Maud and Molly Rhinoceros -- for the word possible, it is defined: "It is possible for Maud and Molly to put more make-up on their faces, but it is not likely." and it has become a big favorite of his. I'm not sure if he's read all the way through to the end of all "over 2500 words!" but he's come close. Certainly enough to keep him occupied for a while, at any rate, and apparently it did the trick this afternoon.

I'd fully expected a meltdown. He knew that today was the day he would stay, and up until this morning he was fine with that, but when it came time to leave he started fussing and whining about the idea. He's been in a rather difficult mood the last few days, what with Mom and Dad being sick and not having all the patience in the world. Hate that vicious cycle.... the good news is that it seems BJ didn't catch the cold after all. His symptoms resolved into vasomotor rhinitis stuff, if anything. Certainly not the stuff that S and I have been dealing with, and BB too it seems. Otherwise, he wouldn't have been at school at all today!

But apparently he kept it together when it came down to it. In fact, when S went to pick him up, he wasn't yet ready to leave!

Yay, BJ!

Monday, April 6, 2009

The Family Cold

Guess it wasn't exciting enough around here -- we've all developed the sniffles and are playing a family game of "Pass The Kleenex." It descended upon S and me very quickly, and at almost exactly the same time, knocking us into viral purgatory in a matter of half an hour. The kids followed shortly.

So it was a long, drippy Sunday in spite of the sunshine. Here's hoping for a quick recovery. Springtime colds are no fun!

Saturday, April 4, 2009

BB -- Pretties, Puzzles, Her First Story

Mama's Magic has been a bit skewed towards BJ news lately, what with the 4th birthday and all, so I wanted to focus on dear little BB for a bit.

She has been getting better about leaving hair pretties in her wispy locks, which makes it easier to justify my steadfast refusal to get her bangs trimmed. (I really, really want to grow her hair out to all one length.) When we were running errands at Target the other day, she even expressed an interest in picking out some hair accessories for herself! We had a great time choosing some together, including some headbands.

I think they make her look about two years older! My little girl is really growing up....

BB is passionate about puzzles these days, and she's getting really good at doing them. We have two map puzzles that she can all but do on her own: a 24 piece one of the world and a 50 piece one of the USA. Most days, the very first thing she asks to do is to put together a puzzle.

You know how some folks just can't get their morning started without their cup of caffeine? BB seems to be like that about her puzzles. Case in point -- this expression, at about 6:30 a.m. on Thursday morning:

In other BB news, today she made up her first story. Perhaps it was inspired by the creativity of her brother when he made up his own lullaby the night before (which S posted about here) or perhaps it was merely the example of the many books we read this morning -- it did happen to emerge right after reading the Berenstain Bears' Spooky Old Tree, which is a particular favorite of hers.

At any rate, she launched into a deliberate narrative, telling BJ and me that she was going to tell us a story. Naturally, being who I am, I asked her if she wanted me to write it down. She was absolutely delighted, and the three of us raced over to the table. Paper and pen in hand, with BB in my lap, I recorded her first story with BJ reading over my shoulder. A very gleeful moment all around, moreso as her story quickly developed a rather surreal quality.

Here it is, verbatim, including the title where she (appropriately enough!) began her tale:

The Hopping Old Tree

Once upon a time, there was a ladybug sitting on a leaf. The tree was windy, and it was raining. Chicka chicka boom boom! They all fell out. The ladybug flew away. The tree broke. The hopping old tree said something to the guy. The ladybug got fixed. It bit its wings and smelled the flowers. Strawberries go, "MMM!" Chicka chicka boom boom! Honey bit its wings. "BB" hugged the Mommy and "BB" said, "I want to watch a video!" And Mommy said, "No."


For the record, I have no idea who "the guy" might be. And she clearly included the chicka chicka line for the benefit of her brother, who cackled wildly when she said it. And also for the record, I'm happy to report that today has been a very relaxing day.

The Heart Has Its Reasons

Well, it's been an interesting few days around here. On the evening of BJ's 4th birthday, after going out to dinner at Sweet Tomatoes to celebrate (at his request), I ended up with a severe but blessedly short case of food poisoning. I spent the evening vomiting, nauseous, and generally feeling lousy. Happily, though, the next morning I was feeling much better. (I think it was the blue cheese crumbles -- they didn't taste right when I was eating them. And yes, I do know what blue cheese is supposed to taste like!)

So Wednesday was spent in a nervous state of wondering whether or not I was really going to be able to keep down whatever food I ate. The kids kept asking, "Why did your tummy hurt, Mommy? Why did you eat something your tummy didn't like?"

Thursday was a very full day, including a tour at one of the local magnet schools to see if it might be a good fit for BJ's kindergarten. (Might be; lots to think about.) In spite of glorious weather, I was still in the grip of a fairly serious malaise for much of the day: a bit woozy physically, and mentally consumed by concerns about BJ's schooling prospects. The school I checked out is a Montessori magnet school, and it has some really promising aspects. The magnet is part of a larger school, though, and the larger school has some aspects that concern me greatly. (Including safety issues.)

As usual, I got to overthinking, which led, inevitably, to worries about all sorts of other primary concerns, including whether or not we could possibly afford private school (the answer is NO), whether or not I should homeschool (the answer is probably NO, but is that because of my own selfishness or because of what's really best for the kids?), whether or not we should move (of course we should, eventually, but now?), and how in the world that might be accomplished in this housing market with a foreclosed home next door that has been on the market for more than a year....

I'll be the first to admit it: sometimes the responsibility of Being A Parent just totally overwhelms me.

But I thought I was doing okay, I really did, until yesterday afternoon. About 2:30 in the afternoon, as BB was napping and BJ was resting, I was puttering around in the kitchen doing dishes and cleaning up when I started having chest pains. Sharp, stabbing ones on the left side, every time I would take a deep breath.

Nothing quite like being on solo duty with the kids and faced with the prospect of keeling over. I laid down, tried to calm down, and wondered what I should do. Waking a napping toddler and dragging all three of us to the ER didn't seem to make a lot of sense. S was in the middle of teaching a class, so I couldn't call him to come home. The pains weren't getting any worse, but they weren't getting better either. I ultimately decided that either things would get so bad that I'd need to call an ambulance, or I'd survive.

After about 15 minutes, the pains subsided. I took it easy through the remainder of the kids' rest time, and when they woke I put on a video and hung out with them on the couch. As soon as S got home from work, about 2 1/2 hours later, I called the Kaiser advice line and spoke with one of their nurses. She ran through the usual questions, determined that I probably had not had a heart attack or anything equally serious, and advised me to come in for an evening appointment just to be sure everything was OK.

Well, so much for the Mom's Night Out that was on the schedule....

The doctor did a full exam and ran an EKG. Everything was totally normal. My blood pressure was a little high for me, but still in the normal range. (Given how freaked out I was about everything by that point, frankly, I'm not at all surprised by a higher reading.) Her diagnosis? Probably an anxiety attack.

She sent me to the lab for some blood work, just to be sure everything was physically fine (and this morning's results show that all's well -- still amazes me that they can report all this online, so quickly). But her main concern was my stress levels, my lack of exercise and good sleep. In other words, the usual stuff of life.

I'm trying very hard not to get even more stressed out about the fact that my stress is apparently bad enough to manifest itself physically like this. Granted, my typical worry-wart personality has been working at a higher level of intensity recently. (It's really too bad they don't make Compound W for the soul.) But for all my talk over the last few months about being "heartsick" -- whether about the CPSIA crapola, about family stress, about personal future plans (or lack thereof), about economic worries, or whatever -- I honestly didn't see this coming. I didn't realize my heartsickness would lead to an urgent care visit to check out my actual heart.

The heart has its reasons, of which reason knows nothing. (Pascal, right?)I have to say, my heart seems to have a heckuva way of telling my reason to chill out and stop worrying so much.

The good news is my heart is physically fine. That is very good news. (Reason, are you listening?) Metaphysically, though, I've got some work to do. I see a lot of yoga in my future. Which wouldn't be a bad thing. I've been meaning to make some lifestyle changes for quite some time (couldn't most of us say as much?) and this little episode will hopefully provide the impetus to turn intent into action.

Friday, April 3, 2009

Papa's post

We interrupt Jen's usual broadcast for a special message from S, her beloved husband and mysterious first initial. While Jen was out this evening, it fell to me to get the kids to bed myself. Jen usually does the lullabies in our bedroom routine -- though for the record, I've always been perfectly happy to do the lullaby thing, and have developed a pretty big repertoire -- so I asked the kids if they wanted me to sing Mama's lullabies or something different. Apparently Mama's traditional selections (Rene and Jeremy's Powder Blue, James Taylor's Sweet Baby James, and Loggins and Messina's House at Pooh Corner) are sacrosanct, so they told me to sing other stuff. First they wanted one of my old reliables, Gillian Welch's Dear Someone (the first lullaby I ever sang to each of them), and then BB asked for Moon River. But then BJ asked for "The Blanket Song". This I'd never heard of before, so I asked him if he could tell me how it went. He proceeded to sing the following song to me in a cute little melody, which I think qualifies as his first poem:

Blankets keep you warm at night.
Blankets keep you warm in the car.
Blankets keep you warm in the air.
Blankets keep you warm everywhere.
Blankets keep cats warm.
Blankets keep bugs warm.
Blankets keep stuffed animals warm.
Blankets keep fans warm.
Blankets keep the table clean.
Blankets keep dogs clean.
Blankets go with pillows.

He then had me sing it back to him twice, to make sure I had it right. And once I had it to his satisfaction, he settled in to sleep, and I came out here to write it down before I forgot it. And now, thanks to my lovely's blog, it's part of the record!

Thanks for letting me steal a post, sweetie!