Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Not without precedent

Rearing children: It's like living with tiny Supreme Court justices.

"But yesterday you said ... "
"But Daddy let me ... "
"But my sister/brother/cousin/friend got to ... "
"But another day we didn't have to ... "

My god. If it's not enough that you have to anticipate every possible consequence of every single action, you must also be aware that if you allow it once, you are doomed to have to agree to it over and over again for as long as you live.

Consistency: It's the hobgoblin of little minds. And parents.


This here is my 400th post, says Blogger. How on earth did that happen? Thanks for reading and commenting and just generally being fabulous in so many ways.


I didn't eat any bugs (on purpose, but thanks to all of you for the lovely images you suggested, Heather). I tried the dryer sheet thing. No effect whatsoever.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008


1. Any bug with 6 legs or less (i.e., any true insect) is edible.
Source: Fetch! with Ruff Ruffman

2. To calm a dog who is disturbed by a thunderstorm, rub her with a dryer sheet.
Source: Random mother on school playground

Guess which one I tested?

It didn't work.

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Crackberry portrait of a mother

Now that my mother is retired, she and my dad are traveling like crazy. A great deal of it is business (for her; she still does consulting and sits on corporate and nonprofit boards) and gigs (for him). My dad is 71 and incredibly fit and healthy but he seems to be very conscious of his advancing age. He is driven to travel a lot now because he is afraid that soon he will be unable to do so. Being recently diagnosed with prostate cancer didn't help, even though it is in a very early stage and is slow-growing.

So right now they are on a nearly two-week cruise around the Canary Islands, Gibraltar, southern Spain, and Portugal. Because of the cancer thing, and because my brother was in the process of making a big career decision (Mr. Vegan is moving to the land of chicken & cheese!), and just because she's an addict like the rest of us, Mom ponied up for some kind of international plan for her BlackBerry so she could stay in touch while she's gone.

This morning I got this (I added the link):
I'm occupying my mind by doing this message because if I look out the window of the bus, I experience sheer terror. We are coming down a significant mountain on a tiny road full of scary switchbacks--what is a big tour bus doing on a road like this?! Madeira is gorgeous.

I really think Mom needs a blog. Or maybe she should skip right to Twitter.

For serious, though (and I've said this before), I feel blessed to have a mom with a Life. Selfishly, I'd love it if she lived close by and could babysit at the drop of a hat because she never had any other plans. But she's given me (and my sister and my daughter) the gift of knowing that there are a lot of ways to be there for your children. Including ones that come with a keyboard the size of a credit card.

Thanks, Portraits of Mom photo contest and Parent Bloggers Network, for the opportunity to brag on my mom today! It's a Blog Blast, so you can post your own for the chance to win a gift certificate to a local photography studio.

Also, free stuff alert: FOUR Earth Day giveaways at the Full Mommy!

Friday, April 25, 2008

Empathy is us

This is going to make me sound like a dopey job interviewee who answers "I work too hard" to the question "what is your biggest flaw?" but sometimes I think I am too empathetic for my own good. I am so readily able to see the other side of an argument that I can't bring myself to take a strong position of my own. As soon as I begin to form an opinion I am already thinking of all the ways it could be rebutted and countered. I am thinking of a person I know or a blog I read and how "so-and-so would say ... "

Kristen asked the other day about blogs that help us see the silver lining. Understanding more about the challenges that other families face every day--illness, infertility, infidelity, poverty, injustice--has been one of the most moving, amazing, unexpected benefits to me of spending time in Blogsylvania (thanks Jenny for that term). The flip side is that I'm sensitive, to a wishy-washy, mushy-middle fault, to the way others experience tough issues.

I sometimes wish my blog could be more opinionated and argumentative. I'm sure it would be more fun to read that way. But I'd be worried about hurting people's feelings, and--truth be told--about upsetting people I care about. It just wouldn't be me. So I'm trying to be okay with that.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Wow. O-Grandma.

Jeff's grandmother -- white, Catholic, first-generation American, high-school graduate, born and raised and has lived all her 89 years in a small, blue-collar coal town -- voted for Barack Obama today. His mom did too.

That blows me away, frankly. These are a couple of ladies who have been around the block a few million times. They have lived long lives and worked very, very hard. They raised Jeff and his brother alone, when the boys' father and grandfather died within months of each other more than 30 years ago. You want to see salt of the earth? They are it. And they want to see Obama lead the country. Not just because they are opposed to McCain and Clinton, either. They both said they were inspired by Obama's message and his ideas.

Food for thought on a Tuesday night.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Sunday song*: Freshman flashback

After my mini-college reunion last month, our host gave all of us a CD which is a recreation of a mix tape he had made way back when. I've been listening to it all week and here's one of my favorite songs from it.

*because it was so very popular last week

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Going stag (beetle)

For better or worse (usually worse), my sister-in-law is a very ... direct person. You might even say "blunt" or "tactless."

She is, however, a very good gift-giver, especially for the kids. She consistently picks spot-on presents, toys they enjoy right away and continue to play with often. Even this year, when she flat-out told us that she'd forgotten their birthdays up until three days before (see line 2 above). The gifts were obviously the product of a sweep through the Chinese discount store--random, inexpensive, and labeled entirely in Mandarin--and still the kids loved them. Fake bronze, fire truck-shaped pencil sharpener? Opie thinks it is awesome. Glue-backed, 99-cent Hello Kitty wall hooks? Jo oohed and aahed.

Oh, and that's also how I came to live with 20 totally realistic looking plastic stag beetles (link NSF the weak-stomached).

And even though it is hard to top those creepy crawlers, they are not the best gift the SIL has ever given. Nope, that was when she went ahead and pointed out (I told you, she will say anything) that it was dumb for us to give gifts to each other, when we were pretty much just swapping one gift card for another. She gave me the gift of cutting her off my gift list and that, my friends, is a pretty present indeed.

I am quite sure I don't want to get in my SIL's head, but the idea of a site to help men give good gifts to the women in their lives is a cause I can certainly support. Thanks to Parent Bloggers Network for this week's Blog Blast.

Friday, April 18, 2008

Haiku Friday: Meddling kids edition

Wake early, sneak down
Kids' spidey senses trigger
Crush my workout groove

Seriously, I cannot catch a break from these two. Every other school day I drag them from their beds with barely enough time to dress and wolf down some breakfast. Turns out the secret to getting them up is for me to wake up early and try to squeeze in some exercise. Then they're all over me like white on rice critiquing my posture (Jo, and I quote: "Mommy, you need to make your legs straight like his. ... Mommy, that's not how you do a warrior pose.") and begging for a channel change.

Maybe I'd have better luck over at Johnny's.

Haiku Friday

Thursday, April 17, 2008

April showers bring cute boots

You have to agree that there is almost nothing cuter than a kid in a pair of spunky rainboots. There's something about encasing those sweet little feet in some brightly colored rubber that just makes grown-ups swoon. Maybe it's the cheeriness they bring to an otherwise crummy day, or the fact that to kids, rainy days mean puddles! and how fun is that?

All this to say that when I had the opportunity, via Parent Bloggers Network, to try out some Vincent Shoes for my kids, I went for the boots. Check out the full review (plus a discount code!) at The Full Mommy.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Lessons in laissez-faire

If you have been reading this blog for awhile you may have gathered that I am a pretty relaxed parent, or at least I try to be. I don't think there is any use getting worked up over whether kids can recite the alphabet at 18 months old or kick ass at soccer before kindergarten or start a successful dot-com while they're still in high school. Or, for that matter, whether anyone runs in the house or jumps on the furniture or eats crumbs off the floor or lets the dog lick their fingers. Yes, we have rules and we do enforce them but I try to maintain a "don't sweat the small stuff" attitude.

But. All of a sudden Opie is 3 and I feel like I'm being followed by some kind of huge, menacing, loudly ticking clock. He is neither potty-trained nor at all interested in giving up his pacifier. While he was 2 I just thought to myself "Well, he's only 2." Now that he's been 3 for all of 11 days I am totally doubting myself and my "he'll do it when he's ready" attitude.

He started in a new room at his child care center this week and between that and the birthday hangover, he has not taken a nap since a week ago Sunday. Reason to cut him some slack, or total rationalization?

The rule is that Nuks are for sleepy time only but he begs for it the minute we walk in the door in the afternoon. He'll even say "I just want it for one minute" or "I am going to take a little rest so I neeeeeeeed my Nuk." (Hah! There is no way I am falling for that, dude.) I am starting to think that a few days of cold-turkey misery might be better than spending hours every day trying to distract him via snacks, water, play time, walks, etc.

Similarly, the potty ... he kind of, sort of knows what to do and when to do it but not with any consistency at all, and he does not want to wear the cool Thomas the Tank Engine underwear his Grammy got him or even the Lightning McQueen Pull-Ups we stock by the dozens. He is not really motivated by rewards (like Jo is) so I am a little stumped. The last thing I want is a potty power struggle, but again ... am I being a gentle, attentive parent or a lazy loser?

So help me, the other day I started to wonder whether I could tackle one or both of these issues (and/or Jo's thumbsucking) if I promised them a kitten. Somebody stop me!

Monday, April 14, 2008

21 Squeeee Street

Which famously seafarin' star, who's shooting a movie in a nearby town, is said to be whistlin' pretty in a rented home right down the street from your faithful correspondent?

Seriously ... le tout Mayberry is abuzz with rumors. Exact quote from my neighbor (Joe is her live-in boyfriend): "One of Joe's former employees girlfriends works at Jimmy John's [sub shop] and she said they delivered food to the house." OMG it's like complete confirmation.

I've heard other tidbits from various sources in the 'hood. One of my friends has ordered me to spend my workday facing the window so I can keep track of any relevant goings-on.

Tonight I stalked walked my dog past the house to check things out for myself. From the front: Everything quiet and dark. But! From the back/side, lots of lights on and several parked vehicles, including a large dark SUV with a trailer attached.

Stay tuned, me hearties!

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Hey, Sunday song

For no reason at all except that I looooove this...

Friday, April 11, 2008

My kids' art: Let me show you it

Love your mother
Originally uploaded by mayberrymom
I love kids' art -- I've found ways to post several pieces here already. But it's not just my own children's stuff I love. Lo these many years ago when Jeff and I first started dating, we went to a bar in the West Village one Halloween. They were having an auction of kids' paintings to benefit some cause. We were crushed when the bidding got too rich and we had to leave some our favorite pictures behind.

Now the tables have turned and I'm offering some of my children's prizewinning works for a good cause: the Kid Art Auction for Earth Day 2008.

Clickety the button to find out how it works.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Dropping like mother-effing flies

As of two months ago at work, I was part of a small group that also included an editor-in-chief, a managing editor, a web producer, and a production assistant (a full-time, long-term temp).

Mid-February: My boss resigns.
Monday: The managing editor has surgery, goes out on medical leave for 3-5 weeks.
Today: I learn that the producer has resigned.

My team is now me and a temp.

This can NOT be good.

Turnover bites. And what also bites is that everyone knows how to prevent it, but isn't willing to follow through. Another producer in the department, the mother of a one-year-old, quit recently after trying for months to negotiate some kind of flexible work arrangement. Come on, managers. Give people a little freedom and a little credit, and 98% of the time you'll be richly rewarded.

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Take two baby aspirin and call me in the morning

(You are sick to death of hearing about my kids' birthdays by now, I know. If you need a break I recommend a visit to my friend GHD.)

Last week's birthday festivities were kicking my ass. Then came this week: The Birthday Hangover. My god, these children are beastly. They are defiant, rude, and aggressive. Sent-to-the-principal (her), screamed-through-three-naptimes-in-a-row (him), hitting, throwing, tantrumming naughty.

Please tell me this is just a reaction to the excesses of last week. Please tell me my sweet children will be coming back, after a firm application of regular routines and discipline. I am hoping desperately.

The situation brings out an argument discussion I've been having with Jeff lately, which is that too much--too many treats, too many presents, too many desserts, whatever--is just as bad as none at all. If you get candy every day (or every hour, it feels like), then what's special about candy? If you get gifts once a week, how long before you expect them once a day?

He thinks I am totally overreacting, but I worry. I really do. I realize all this is a problem of privilege, but I want my children to appreciate all they've been blessed with. I want them to know that the reason they receive so many gifts is that there are so many people who love them. Even when they are being total stinkers.

P.S. She does look cute in her TwirlyGirl dress, though.

Monday, April 07, 2008

Let's just take five

I am totally burnt from last week. I thought it was cute that my kids have back-to-back birthdays. Except when it was actually that week and I had to spend every night, post-bedtime, hiding, seeking, wrapping, baking shopping, etc.

So today, as I convalesce, here's a little meme from Kimberly over at Gav Menagerie (who by the way has two of the cutest girls in the blogosphere. Join me to sigh at the adorableness). I'll merge this with the "ask me questions" fad that's sweeping the interwebs too: If any of these responses pique your curiosity, say the word and I will proffer up more fascinating detail. Or make up some entirely unrelated question. I'm easy.

Five things I was doing 10 years ago:
1. Dating Jeff and riding the Sphinx bus a lot
2. Working in New York City (just like Kimberly)
3. Spending half the summer house- and dog-sitting in the New Jersey 'burbs
4. Ghost-writing a book
5. I can't remember anything else. I didn't have a blog then!

Five things on my to-do list today:
1. Fold an enormous mountain of laundry (just like Kimberly)
2. Select and buy the kindergarten snack for tomorrow
3. Cajole kids to write/scribble on thank-you notes for birthday gifts
4. Pick up tax returns
5. Upload birthday pics for nagging grandparents

Five snacks I enjoy:
1. Flat Earth Baked Veggie Crisps/Tomato Ranch
2. Apples
3. Cereal
4. String cheese (just like Kimberly), or better yet, Babybels
5. Anything furtively filched from the many stashes of candy/sweets in this house: Easter baskets, party favors, birthday leftovers ...

Five things I would do if I were a billionaire:
1. Enjoy the fact that my husband took his job and shoved it, so can't whine about it anymore
2. Open a Bikram yoga studio in my town so I could go there whenever I wanted
3. Quit my job so I could go there whenever I wanted
4. Travel (non-commercial air only of course; just like Kimberly)
5. Throw lots of money at big problems like poverty and climate change

Five of my bad habits:
1. I blog instead of working (as we speak!)
2. I hold grudges
3. I get snappish when I haven't had a good night's sleep (just like Kimberly)
4. I don't make time for exercise
5. I am a clutterer. It's mostly all stuffed in closets but it's there. Oh boy, it's there.

Five places I have lived:
1. Crafthole, Cornwall
2. Philadelphia, PA
3. Grenoble, France
4. Davis, CA
5. Weehawken, NJ (just like Kimberly). OK, not exactly. It was the town right next door. But I spent a lot of nights in Weehawken before that (see #1 in the "10 years ago" list).

Five jobs I've had:
1. Babysitter
2. Office flunky
3. Newspaper reporter (just like Kimberly)
4. Newspaper deliverer
5. Magazine editor

Five bloggers I tag to go next:
You, or you, or maybe you? Bonus points if you can repeat any of my answers, like me and my twin Kimberly.

Friday, April 04, 2008

Deja vu all over again

Didn't I just write a birthday post? Poor little guy is always trailing on his sister's heels. He was so disappointed yesterday when Jo got to bring her birthday treats to school and he didn't. But now, Opie, this is it! Congratulations. Today is your day.

My sweet boy,
It should be noted that I am writing this post later than I had intended. That's because you were such a PITA at bedtime last night that I fell asleep before you did. I finally woke up two hours later, wedged awkwardly in the armchair (just like every night of the first year of your life, come to think of it). By that time there was nothing for it but to go to bed myself.

You redeemed yourself, as always, waking up sunshiney and smiling and so pleased to be reminded that today is your birthday. And despite your two-ness and now your three-ness (oh, the three-ness. I hate three), you are still that darling child who will chirp, unprompted, "Thank you for the dinner Mommy! It's vewwy dewwicious"; or who will tell me my hair looks pretty or who will remind me that we pet our dog "vewwy gent-a-ly."

Just like your sister, you have changed so much this year. I still find it hard to think of you as a preschooler. No more baby (except, uh, for those Nuks and diapers). You talk--and talk and talk--and sing and dance and run and swim. You love to cook and play your collection of musical instruments. (About that drum set you wanted for your birthday ... not happening. Sorry.) You love airplanes and have been my stalwart companion on so many trips.

I am still so thankful for you and always will be. Happy birthday, Opie. You're off to great places.

Thursday, April 03, 2008

Now we are six

To my favorite girl,

Two nights ago I told you, "Tomorrow is your very last day in your whole life to be five years old!" A smile slid across your face at the thought. I know it's because you were thinking of your birthday, and all the accompanying treats and presents and attention. But I like to think you realized too what's so special about this time, this moment of passing from one year to the next.

I'm so proud of how much you've grown and learned this year. You can ride a bike and cross the monkey bars and swing a hula hoop. You can read and write and add and subtract. You love science and nature. You can even pull a tractor and direct movies!

I'm proud of the subtler things too. Just the other day when a boy I know you think is a little weird said "hello" to you on the playground, you responded politely and with a smile. You share your toys and books with your brother without complaint. You've suddenly grown aware of, and fond of, our dog (even though you're already making plans for the next pet we'll get "when she dies"--a bunny or a bichon frise).

It would take another year to sum up all the wonderful things about you and by then there will be so many more.

Happy birthday, clever girl.

The End (from the collection Now We Are Six) by A.A. Milne

When I was One,
I had just begun.
When I was Two,
I was nearly new.
When I was Three
I was hardly me.
When I was Four,
I was not much more.
When I was Five,
I was just alive.
But now I am Six,
I'm as clever as clever,
So I think I'll be six now for ever and ever.

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

Happy birthday to my dog

I am a total goody-two-shoes. I am a rule-follower and a risk-avoider and always have been. Very boring and sensible.

But I did once hitchhike 200 miles through the south of France, along the Route Napoleon. I was studying in Grenoble and three friends and I decided to go to Nice. We split up into boy-girl pairs and set off on a chilly day in February with a couple of backpacks and a cardboard sign. It took us a full day to reach Nice, but we got there, in the company of several nice ordinary people and a few harmless wackos. Plus a priest, who picked us up about 50 miles from Nice and took us to a nice convent he knew about, near Grasse. He (and the nuns) insisted that we have dinner there and then they put us on a bus for the very last leg of our journey.

Somewhere, I still have that cardboard sign reading "Destination Nice s'il vous plait."


And while we're taking this walk down memory lane: The story of how we got our dog, eight years ago today. Jeff and I were living together and engaged but not yet married. He had wanted a dog for a long time. I hadn't grown up with any pets but being all starry-eyed and goo-goo over my man, I started getting starry-eyed and goo-goo over all the cute doggies on Petfinder too.

One day we found an adorable little terrier there. We contacted the foster caregiver and scheduled an appointment to drive out to the boonies and meet this dog. The caregiver assured us that he was extremely sweet and gentle and would make a delightful pet. She encouraged us to take him out for a get-acquainted walk. We did and about 200 yards from this woman's house, stopped to play a bit with the dog--at which point he decided to sink his teeth into Jeff's arm. Not just a little puppy nip but a full-on chomp. We ran back to the house with blood gushing all over, handed off the terror terrier, and headed straight for the nearest ER. Jeff needed 6 stitches but did manage to avoid a series of rabies shots.

The next day we went to an animal shelter near our apartment. There must have been 50 dogs there, all barking like crazy trying to get our attention. The one who didn't bark, but just shyly gazed at us from behind the wire fencing, was the one we took home.


You know what today is, right? So which one of these is a true story?

For more fact vs. fiction:
My Life As It Is
The Mummy Chronicles
The Hip Mom's Guide

Updated Wednesday April 2: The dog story is about 60% true. It all happened except for the bad bite. The France story is 100% true. And here's a bonus story about my travel companion that day. A couple months ago I Googled him, since I am nothing if not nosy, and found that he is a spokesperson for the U.S. State department. Because his statements were similar to those of his colleagues with different names, some bloggers accused them all of not actually existing--just being sock puppets for the department. Surreal, since I can assure these bloggers that I spent several months seeing and talking to this person every day.