Friday, November 30, 2007

the yuck bug

Last night, for the first time I removed the tired old covers from our sofa and gave them a Woolite washing. This was the highlight of an afternoon and evening in which Will got a little five-hour mystery bug featuring bad sore throat, two bouts of profuse vomiting (the first of which soaked the couch), and then… Recovery. He’s completely fine today, although we’re holed up in the house making sure that the thing really has left his body.

Low-light of the evening was of course looking into Will’s terrified eyes during the second-go-round of throw up (which I was able to catch in a 13X9 pan that has since undergone multiple vigorous washings). The last time Will vomited he was too little to know what hit him, too non-verbal to express his dismay (in fact I’m not even sure he was crying that much). This time post-expulsion he emitted a higher-pitched shriek than I’ve ever heard out of the little guy and then shouted “YUUUCCCK!!!” I think he might have repeated the refrain a couple times: shriek, YUCK, shriek, YUCK – and I was thinking yes, you have captured my feelings about stomach bugs precisely.

By the way, if you’ve got a Pedialyte-resistant drinker like Will, be sure you know about Pedialyte freezer pops. When he was about 15 months old, Will wound up dehydrated in the hospital after a severe case of rotavirus and his stubborn refusal to drink the liquid stuff (we were trying and largely failing to force it down his throat via syringe) was largely responsible for landing us in the hospital. It was there – too late – that I learned about the Pedialyte popsicles that Will loves so much he asks for them when well (we decline these requests of course).

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Holiday gift guide

Today’s Ledger-Enquirer includes a holiday gift guide for children – actually a compilation of proven favorite toys suggested by about a dozen mothers I contacted. Go here for the guide and then view some of the featured items below:

Captain Feathersword sword

Grab ball (modeled by Owen)

Go here to view the BoBo Brooklyn kids capes.

Some more mom recommendations I received that didn’t make the print edition:

Two baby favorites:

Buzz the Bug Baby Toy

Bendy Bug flexible rattle with clacking rings

Other ideas:
Candy Land, Chutes and Ladders, and Hi Ho! Cherry-O board games “for learning about taking turns and about winning and losing,” as one mother of now-grown children said.

One of Will’s all-time favorites is a Shure wooden puzzle box, which contains four emergency vehicle puzzles. It was a birthday present from friends, but I found one online here for $14.95. A sure bet if you have a fire-truck-loving, puzzle-doing kid like Will.

An idea from a press release I received this week: Filo Lacing Set by Quercetti (which won a Parents' Choice Award this year). Here’s a description: The Quercetti Filo Lacing Set, for ages four and up, allows children to draw with the included laces to create brightly colored designs, undo them quickly, and then draw something new. A special board holds the laces firmly in place while children push the lace into the self-locking slots. The set includes four brightly colored laces and retails for $19.99 (or $14.99 on Amazon).

Also, here are some Web sites with an assortment of classic, wooden and imagination-inspiring toys:


Hand in Hand: Fair Trade & Natural Children’s Items

The Wooden Wagon

Live and Learn

The Vermont Country Store

Try eBay or a local kids consignment store as a way to buy recycled gifts and get a bargain at the same time. Rob and I also had a great time in the IKEA children’s department in Atlanta last weekend. We got puppets, masks, a little indoor tent and a ceramic tea set. (But don’t tell Will!)

Shop safe:

Finally, if you want to avoid dangerous toys go here for the U.S. Public Interest Research Group report “Trouble in Toyland: The 22nd Annual Survey of Toy Safety.” Jump to page 33 to view examples of potentially dangerous toys.

Now it’s your turn. Any more toys to recommend that your children have loved? Any favorite stores or Web sites for shopping?

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

R.I.P. Elderly Balloon

Next time you’re hosting a birthday party for your kid, try this experiment. Buy a pack of 18 or so ordinary balloons. Blow them up, hang them up, give some out to the party guests -- but then don’t throw away the ones that get left behind. Conduct a little experiment in balloon life spans with your birthday boy (or girl). Some will lose their air over the first several days. But others will linger and linger. And linger.

Here’s our last lone balloon from Will’s August 31 birthday (which did get postponed until September 5, thanks to a nasty diarrhea bug).

This little perky pink air vessel was our longest survivor at exactly 9 weeks old. We must have sensed that its demise was imminent because Will and I decided to take a photo of it last night. About one minute after this shot was taken, Will found a way to pop the thing -- and exhibited no regret.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Are we rushing kids?

Here’s a couple education-related items that are interesting to consider side by side:

The first is a YouTube video presentation “Shift Happens,” created by Karl Fisch, technology director at Arapahoe High School in Colorado (scroll down in the blog post to view the video). It looks at how radically our world is being transformed by computers, technology and globalization in general (plenty of eye-opening stats) – with the implication being that teachers of students today can’t even anticipate the problems their students will be facing and the job descriptions they’ll be filling and that their schooling must be focused on making them flexible, critical, creative and technologically literate thinkers.

Then there’s this article by Susan Johnson, a behavioral and developmental pediatrician in Colfax, California. Johnson considers how children’s brains develop and makes the argument that young kids are most effectively building their minds as future readers when they are doing things like jumping, running, engaging in imaginary play, skipping and walking on balance beams than when they are trying to learn to decode words and apply phonics rules before they are developmentally ready to master such skills. (It’s all about developing integration between the left and right hemispheres of the brain through physical movement -- an integration that eventually makes fluent reading possible).

In our rush to educate our kids for a changing and technologically driven world, maybe it makes sense to remember that we are first tactile, physical beings -- and that young, young kids still need playgrounds and free play more than desk-sitting, letters drilling and educational computer games.

What do you think? Are we pushing kids to read, write and use computers at too young of an age? Or do you feel the urgency to have your child practice those nuts and bolts of formal schooling as early as possible?

Monday, November 26, 2007

An id called Ally

It occurred to me today that Ally (of imaginary friend duo Puff and Ally) is sort of like Will’s id. They are both boys exactly the same age, and of late, Ally has become the kid that does the things that Will’s learning not to do – or that he at least knows he shouldn’t do:

Last night, for example, Will shouted out, “Ally just sprayed the wall!” Will, who’d gotten his hands on a spray bottle in the bathroom, showed us a spot on the bathroom wall, where Ally had done the misdeed. It looked dry enough, so maybe it really was just invisible Ally spraying his invisible spray – but it was hard to imagine that Will hadn’t been tempted to do a quick authentic spray himself.

Often there’s no denying that Will’s crossed the line, and as we embark on a conversation about why he needs to avoid repeating action X in the future (“patting” Owen with a bit too much vigor, for example) he’ll try to divert the conversation to Ally, who inevitably has committed a similar and often slightly worse crime. “Yeah, but Ally is always hitting people,” he’ll say, shaking his head in disapproval.

And sometimes Will likes to point out how he has advanced a bit beyond Ally. We’ve been teaching Will to recognize the 5, 6 and 7 on the left hand side of his alarm clock (He’s mastered 5 is an S; 6 looks like a G and he’s working on 7 as an upside down L – and for a week now he’s celebrated the fact that he got up on the 6 or 7 – “Yeah, but we don’t get up at 5,” he says with a smile.) Today when he got up at 7:05, he marched into our room and started discussing the fact that: “Ally keeps getting up at 5. I keep telling him not to but he just eats his oatmeal.”

Poor Ally. He can’t do anything right.

Saturday, November 24, 2007

The feast

So the Addingtons decided to make Thanksgiving a little simpler this year. We ate off paper plates and only had 15 dishes to choose from. Count 'em: Deep-fried turkey, ham, chicken stuffing with gravy (a recipe that requires a full dozen eggs), squash casserole, Granny’s famous macaroni and cheese, green beans, creamed corn, creamed potatoes, broccoli slaw, cranberry sauce, cornbread muffins, peanut butter pie, pumpkin pie, cheesecake and brownies.

If you want a sampling of everything on your plate, you have to stick with 2 tablespoons or less of each item – and save dessert for round two.

But perhaps the most sinful offering is the fried turkey, which is about 10 times as moist as traditional bird. It takes 5 gallons of peanut oil to fry a turkey, so you don't want to make it a staple in your diet but we've all managed to survive an annual indulgence. For the past two years, cousin-in-law Bragg (looking slightly glum on the left here) has graciously fried the bird for us. This time he slipped on some spilled grease as he was trying to manage a little pot-fire and nearly overturned the whole pot full of bird and boiling oil on himself. Luckily just a little patch of arm got some minor scalding, but his wife (Rob's cousin Jessica) was plenty shaken by the little dance with death he performed right before her eyes. She swears this will be our last fried turkey EVER. But Bragg’s already shopping for bigger “safer” pots in his mind.

Will inhaled cornbread muffin (see cornbread-stuffed cheeks below), ham, green beans, stuffing and peanut butter pie and left the rest for scavengers like me, who feel obliged to spare good food from trash-can doom. This is a little bit of Thanksgiving morality I picked up long ago from my dad.

Owen, who I think may favor my dad just a bit, already has a big appetite. Here he is anticipating the day when he too can eat real food.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

The salivation begins

For the second time in my life I’m actually contributing a tiny something to a Thanksgiving feast. I’ve spent nearly all my Thanksgivings as an adult at Rob’s grandparents’ house in Marietta, Georgia, where this year about 10 of us – if you include nursing Owen, who feasts in his own tangential way – will gather and overfill our bellies. For most of those Thanksgivings Rob’s grandmothers have supplied the entire meal straight from their kitchens. Now that one of those grandmothers is in an assisted living facility, the younger generation has finally started contributing just a bit.

Still spry ol' Granny, who’s in her late 80s now, will cook up much of the meal. She’s one of those fabulous cooks whose magical recipes are all “a little bit of this, a pinch of that, pour in some of this and voila! – DELICIOUSNESS.” To date all of us younger, less seasoned cooks have failed to master her dishes. So she’s still doing her famous green beans, mac ‘n’ cheese, creamed potatoes and stuffing.

My contribution’s puny in comparison: just an old fashioned pumpkin pie and some made-from-scratch cornmeal muffins. But it made for a nice morning at home with the boys, anticipating the feast. I managed to make the pie crust unassisted while Will concocted his own pumpkin pie with puzzle pieces as the chief ingredient.

Together we whipped up the pie filling and the cornbread muffin ingredients and Will enjoyed some quality time with his favorite kitchen tool: a hand-held beater.

“I like to beat,” he said. To avoid mass spillage, we let him do some of the "cooking" in the sink.

As we poured some evaporated milk into our pie filling concoction, he announced: “Cows come from milk.” I thought about it a minute and decided he was partially correct.

After our cooking session, Will decided it would only be right to eat a cornmeal muffin for lunch, so we counted our muffins and our feasters tomorrow and decided we could spare one muffin. I served it up still warm with the requested sides – a piece of deli turkey laid over it like a blanket and some grated Swiss cheese all around.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

NO!!! logic here

If you’ve got a nay-saying tantrumer on your hands, check out this “Argue with me!” article by Jay Heinrichs at It’s an interesting and amusing look at how one dad has molded his once-upon-a-time tantrumers into deft debaters. It gives me hope that we can harness Will’s strong-willed opinionated spirit and help him become a master lawyer or just a generally persuasive speaker in a decade or two or three. I say he’s still a good year away both from grasping logic enough to be able to piece together a compelling argument in the midst of some of his powerful emotions and from letting go of some of his completely bizzare notions about what he’d like to do.

I may start asking for some good arguments when we’re debating a little issue I don’t mind giving in on, but inviting him to use his barely-three-year-old logic on us would probably end in frustration all around in some cases. (Do you really want to tell a sobbing kid who’s just had a bedtime accident and is now insisting that he wants to keep wearing his wet underwear – yes these are the beautiful ones with cars that inspired him to forego his nighttime diaper in the first place -- that he needs to use better logic to persuade you that he should keep them on? In fact, Will’s already doing about as well as he can in the logic department on these rhetorical debates. “They’ll dry out!” he says to me, eyes pleading. The logic’s creeping in – but so much illogic remains.)

Heinrichs -- who points out that, even with each other, many adults choose to avoid arguments rather than embrace them as opportunities for healthy, lively communication -- is working with a 5-year-old daughter and a son somewhere upwards of 7 and teaching them to employ the old Greek rhetorical devices of logos, ethos and pathos in their debates. “To disagree reasonably a child must learn the three basic tools of an argument,” he says. When his kids tell him about a dispute with a peer, instead of the old “Use your words,” advice he’ll say, “See if you can talk him into it.” And he makes a point of letting his kids talk him into things that are reasonable too.

I kind of like the idea of envisioning every butting-of-the-heads with Will as just another teaching moment, one more tiny step on the long, long road of teaching him the art of disagreeing reasonably.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Going native

Today we enjoyed the first performance of Will’s pre-school career. He and about two dozen other 3-year-olds – each of them dressed in sponge-painted beaded white oversized t-shirt garb and feather headbands – sang a rousing rendition of one little two little three little Indians. Will was one of the very last to mount the stage. As I watched for him I began to get a wee bit nervous that stubborn one had refused to join the program. But at last, one kid from the end, there came little Will.
Only, where were his pants? All the other kids had trousers beneath their oversized Indian garb but Will appeared to truly be going native. He had some shoes sure, but no socks, no pants just the upper costume. I started praying silently that there were shorts beneath that T-shirt – and there were. Earlier that morning, in the excitement of playing in another teacher’s classroom, Will had lost sight of his most basic needs and had suffered the second urinary mishap of his school career. So some kind teacher bagged up his entire outfit (shirt, underwear, pants, and socks all managed to get wet) and suited him up in the first pair of shorts they found.

By the time we met him for the Thanksgiving program and subsequent feast, he seemed unfazed by his slip-up. He remembered to sing at least the first two verses of his long-practiced Indian song, just looked around at the crowd for the final verse and then downed some chicken nuggets, mac ‘n’ cheese and an entire frosting-covered turkey cookie that gave him a good enough sugar high that I had to drag him giggling and breathless to the car.
Will and Owen after the show:

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Will as Wendy

Lately Will, who’s never seen an episode of Bob the Builder, has nevertheless had Bob the Builder on his mind. His classmate and buddy Creight, who was a builder for Halloween, has apparently lured Will in for some Bob the Builder fantasy play of late. Over the past week, Will has announced to me several times: “Mom, Creight is Bob the Builder. And I’m Wendy.”

The first time he told me this, I couldn’t help but ask, “Oh. Is Wendy a girl?” (I’ve never seen Bob the Builder either.)

“No. Wendy’s a boy,” Will said.

I kind of like the idea of Will playing out a TV-inspired fantasy with only his own images in his mind. So, next time you see Will, don’t tell him that Wendy looks like this:

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Gratitude schmatitude, my kid's got attitude

Today as I picked Will up from pre-school I couldn’t help but feel a little gush of happiness as I looked at a big T hanging on Will’s stuff-to-be-taken-home clothespin. On it was written “I am Thankful for ‘My mommy and daddy and Owen.' ” Oh, how thankful I was for Will and my family right then even if it was just a simple little preschool project. There were surrounding T’s with kids thankful for food or for a particular toy and plenty of others with family listed too – but I loved that Will had chosen family.

So I said something along the lines of how nice it was that he’d said he was thankful for us – that I was so thankful for him too.

“Yeah,” said Will, his nose squeezed up in a grimace, “but I said, ‘I’m not thankful for ANYTHING.’ ”

And then I knew. Will (who I’m sure is plenty thankful for all of us but is also still his stubborn three-year-old self, often quite determined NOT to play the game exactly as you wish him to play it) probably had to be coached to that perfect little “mommy, daddy, Owen” answer.

It got me thinking that it wouldn’t hurt for Rob and I to be modeling gratitude for him a bit more than we do. Often we’re too tired to thank each other for all the things we’re doing to help each other through the day. I’m not too into begging Will to thank me for every little task I carry out for him. That would feel too artificial – too drilled in to actually mean anything. I thank Will pretty frequently, I think because I never take anything he does for granted since he’s such a little primitive ball of fire (you almost want to thank him when he DOESN’T pee on the wall). But my appreciation for all of the work Rob does to keep our family and our house happy and functioning is more likely to go unarticulated. So I’m going to say some out-loud thank yous a little more often -- and mean them.

Of course, the gratitude that matters most is the kind that values people for who they are rather than for the specific thing they're doing in a particular moment. Here’s some quick thoughts about how to “practice” gratitude (and how it leads you to feel generally happier) from this UC-Berkeley Greater Good Science Center web site – devoted to “the science of raising happy kids." Among other things, they recommend having kids reflect each night before bed on a few things that made that them feel happy that day -- just a little piece of developing the "emotional literacy" that helps make for a happy child. Nothing earth-shattering, but sometimes we need a little kick in the pants on the basic stuff too.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Santa's prep-shop

My mom’s the kind of prepared person who Christmas shops all year long, picking up items she thinks a family member might like as she happens upon them. I wait until December. This week I got inspired to at least start thinking a little earlier when a friend sent me a link to this newsletter by an organization called TRUCE -- Teachers Resisting Unhealthy Children’s Entertainment. It includes a thumbs-up list of toys that promote creative play and a thumbs-.down list of toys that glorify sex or violence or “make children depend on screens for play.”

On the thumbs-up list is a doctor’s kit, which I discovered this evening after watching Will play doctor on Owen and I today. Inspired by a morning visit to the dentist and a doctor’s trip to get a flu shot yesterday (yes, we bit the bullet and got Will the shot just this year, for Owen’s sake) – Will decided to take our temperatures using a segment of train track. He then punched little holes in our stomach (which he promised to fill back in immediately) with one of the plastic links that hangs from Owen’s floor mat/gym. So I started thinking about a doctor’s kit as a gift from Santa. But when I looked online at the various plastic boxes full of plastic doctor tools I wondered if I really wanted to welcome another twenty plastic toys into our already overpopulated plastic-toy collection.

So I started musing about how to create a doctor’s kit of my own. I know I could convert a lunch box and add things like band-aids, gauze, cotton balls and nail files. And a repurposed plastic hammer for checking the old knee reflex. The sticking point is the essential stethoscope. I even checked out real stethoscopes on e-bay but they’d probably be long enough to trip Will up. So we’ll have to see if we go with ready-made plastic doctor kit, a yet to be determined doctor kit made by Mama but purportedly sent from the North Pole – or perhaps no doctor’s kit at all. (It’s not like Will was complaining about using his train track thermometer, and when you have to make toys and household objects serve multiple functions there’s a lot more envisioning and imagining going on.)

Still I can’t help but want to play Santa a bit. Big jolly red guy has me trapped in his marketing magic as much as the next mom, but I am going to try to keep things modest this year. Beyond the possible doctor's kit I’m thinking puppets and the makings for a homemade puppet stage and maybe a dress-up item or two (courtesy of a thrift shop if I can swing it). I’d like to make a tradition of putting a little more creativity into my gift giving for my kids at least. (Adult relatives can expect the old lousy stand-bys -- a cd, a shirt, a book, a gift certificate when all else fails. They know the drill.)

And when Will sits on Santa’s lap come early December and asks for a nice big plastic monster truck or some such thing, then we’ll have to start deciding whether to indulge his one request or just let him know that even Santa’s out of stock on some things.

See page 8 of the TRUCE newsletter for some ideas for homemade "Shoe Box Gifts" designed to inspire creative play. By the way, TRUCE is affiliated with a larger organization called Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood. Check out their website for plenty of interesting information about kids and consumerism as we head into the most over-commercialized season of the year.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Coloring beyond the lines

My 90-year-old grandmother, who majored in art at Ohio Wesleyan some 70 years ago, once told me that she never gave a coloring book to my mother and my two aunts. She wanted them to draw from their imagination. (Now one of her daughters is a prolific painter and the other two both make hobbies of arts and crafts).

In general I keep coloring books hidden away in a closet and hand Will blank paper instead. And yes, some people might say, that his little creations like this

are nothing but colorful scribbling. But he’ll tell you differently as he describes sea creatures and identifies their body parts on the paper. In case you can’t decipher Will’s drawing, here’s some of his commentary that I jotted down as he drew: “This is a submarine with a baby fish that you can just bring inside… This is how the big fish is dying. He has to go up out of the water and breathe and when it breathes it has to go back under water and when it goes back under water for a long time it dies and little bugs start eating it.” He also told me that the picture contains a sea animal that is bigger than a whale, can hold its breath under water even longer than a whale and can eat even more than a whale -- until he gets a tummy ache.

Last month as Will and I watercolored birthday cards for Rob while we were at Hunting Island, I took the cowardly not-a-real-artist approach and painted a boring lighthouse scene straight off a throw pillow in the cabin there, while Will created this masterpiece:

There I was, 30 years older, and wishing I could present Will’s card as my own. Next time we sit down to paint I’m going to force myself to draw from my head and see what ghastly creation I come up with as I scribble-paint like an inspired kid again.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Not so harried hairy mama

There is little I love more than a lazy weekend at home. Okay, so it’s never lazy here, but at least we finally attain something like borderline sanity. It’s the simple things (most of which didn’t even seem photo-worthy at the time):

Rob hangs out with both boys on the couch

while I tackle a few loads worth of clean but unfolded laundry. The piles sit in laundry baskets or in the dryer for days sometimes and then when I find the inspiration to finally put it all away, there’s typically a lone-sock epidemic that looks something like this:

The smaller the sock, the greater its tendency to roam solo, I’ve found, so Owen’s tiny feet have added extra chaos to my disorganized laundry-doing. (And no, those two red ones don't make a pair: One is Owen's; one is Will's.) I've actually reserved a special place in one of Owen's drawers for lone socks waiting to be reunited with their mate. It's been a long wait for many of them.

Owen joins me on the bed for some folding, and we play peekaboo with each of the larger articles.

Will and Owen and I have a picnic in our front lawn while we watch Rob, up on a ladder, replacing some rotting trim. We talk to our neighbor and her granddaughters, also enjoying some autumn lawn time, and Will does some hammering and ladder-climbing himself.

Rob and Will play tackle football on the living room floor as they watch Georgia crush Auburn. It’s the longest TV watching Will ever does but it’s at least three times as aerobic as typical playtime.

Rob and Will rake leaves in the front yard and then sit a while in the pile they’ve created.

We take a family walk around the lake at Cooper Creek Park and Will does about a mile of it on foot. We let him set the pace: He and I running in 20- and 30-yard bursts until Will calls “STOP!” and we look back at Rob pushing Owen in the double stroller. “Dad, you’re kind of slow,” Will says each time. “Mama, let’s run again.” And we do.

On the drive back from the park, Will proposes a game of I Spy. He and I take turns spotting the typical colors. Then he decides to let the game evolve. “I spy something bricky. It’s that house!” “I spy something baby. It’s you, little guy (pointing and laughing at Owen). “I spy something hairy. It’s you!” This time he's pointing at me.

Throughout the day, all three of us periodically work on eliciting Owen’s beautiful laughter. Brisk head-rubbing on the belly is a sure-fire technique:

Quiet time ends with a nap one day:

And no nap the next, but miraculously we survive the whole sleepless day cheerfully – a first.
And just before clean-up time (and the launch of bed-time rituals), we agree that Will can sing one last song for us as he and Daddy play guitar. Master-staller sings a seven-minute half-comprehensible ballad about Winnie the Pooh being chased by honey bees, strumming his guitar all the while.

Friday, November 9, 2007

Creativity 101: Don't go to school for it

Today Rob and I had our first parent-teacher conference of Will’s fledgling school career at Wynnton Preschool, where Will has been enjoying himself so completely of late that I’ve nearly been having to drag him from the classroom come pick-up time. Today his teacher (who he loves deeply) gave us the run-down on how Will is doing using a checklist that included everything from letter recognition and articulation to fine- and gross-motor skills. Then she mentioned that lately all of the children in the class have been enjoying pretending that they are dogs. How wonderful, I thought to myself. Will and his 3-year-old peers, without the teacher’s direction but also with her tacit support for their fantasies, have created for themselves a community of dogs. (Last night at home Will decided to be a dog at clean-up time and he worked fairly efficiently as he navigated the house on hands and knees, occasionally picking up objects with his teeth.)

I’m already dreading the day when the teachers start telling Will not to be a dog. And start telling him, instead, precisely what it is he must memorize for the upcoming test. Last night I stumbled upon this talk on creativity (and whether schools kill it) by Sir Ken Robinson – on the recommendation of this creative mom blogger from Maine. It’s a 20-minute listen, but it’s interlaced with plenty of humor, and Robinson makes an important point about the disservice we do to children when we over-compartmentalize knowledge and focus on one side of their brains while neglecting the rest of their minds and bodies -- until finally we’ve sucked all of the creative juices out of them, or labeled them ADHD when their bodies refused to submit to the drill. Take a listen. It’ll make you want to get up and dance.

Thursday, November 8, 2007

Night dreams

Will woke up the night before last and wanted a hug from me because he’d had a nightmare about a goat. He blamed the “goat book” he’d been asking to re-read throughout that day for making him have the dream – actually a far from scary little library book called “Seven Loaves of Bread” that happens to include an innocent enough goat as a not very major character.

Last night as bedtime approached nightmares were again on his mind and we had ourselves what seemed like a scene from a postmodern play…

Scene: 15 minutes before we launch our bedtime routine, Will sits playing with the cards from a memory game on the floor as I work on the computer nearby.

Will (looking up at me with his hand covering his ear) whispers: Mommy I hear my dream.

You do?

Yeah, is it time to go to bed?

Almost. Is your dream calling to you? Is it saying,” Come dream me?”

No, it’s coming to dream me.

Is that a good thing?

No, because I don’t like dreams.

Why don’t you think of a fun dream to have?

I don’t have fun dreams. I only have night dreams.

(Here I suggested some fun dream topics, but he didn’t seem interested. Then I couldn’t help but ask:)

What does your dream sound like?

Will does a sort of heavy breathing – 3 deep huffs: "huh, huh, huh.”

That sounds like a .... nice dream. (Mom fumbles for positive interpretation of slighlty spooky ghost-breathing. )

No, it’s a nightmare.

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Baby care, 70s style

For my own amusement, I’ve been skimming over the contents of several information sheets my mother-in-law received from her pediatrician in Decatur, Georgia, at Rob’s routine baby and toddler checkups. Circa 1974-1975.

Here’s a sampler:

Back then there was no starving the baby on nothing but mother’s milk for 6 months. No, you’ve got a little diner on your hands and you need to move onto solid foods and juices fast.

At 4-6 weeks: “You may now begin giving your baby cereal and fruit at breakfast and supper. The cereals should be started in this order: Rice, Oats, Barley, Mixed and finally Hi-Protein cereal. It makes no difference in which order you start the fruits. When starting a new food, you should ALWAYS start only one food at a time and continue this same food for four consecutive days. Give 1-2 teaspoons the first day and increase the amount daily until the baby takes as much as he wants.”

At 2 ½ months: “Continue giving cereal and fruit at breakfast and supper. At lunch, start the baby on yellow vegetables first and then the green vegetables. Offer four ounces of juice – mixed half and half with boiled water – one or two times a day after naps.”

At 3 ½ months: Continue cereal and fruit at breakfast and supper. At lunch give either a yellow or green vegetable and start adding the sinlge meats like lamb, beef, liver, chicken etc.

At 5 months: “Breakfast: cereal, fruit, egg yolk. Lunch: mixed meat and vegetables, hi-meat dinners, soups, desserts. Supper: a single meat and 1 or 2 vegetables. Continue offering juice 1-2 times a day.”

Bring on the cow's milk:

At 6-9 months: Begin offering your baby whole milk from a cup or glass.

Breastfeeding, what’s that? (We don’t mention breasts or nursing in these information packets, thank you):

At 9-12 months: "Continue to offer milk out of the cup and STOP the bottle by age 12 months. A baby does not need as much milk now and the intake will automatically decrease if the bottle is stopped somewhere between 9 and 12 months."

From the BAP era (Before Attachment Parenting); when slings were foreign and playpens were P.C.:

“Now is the time to begin putting him in a playpen, before he discovers the thrill of moving about on his own. The playpen will keep him out of things but near you, in or out of doors. The firm floor helps in learning to sit, the bars are good for pulling up and the top railing gives him support for his first steps.”

And here’s a little car safety gem:

“When riding in the car with your baby, restrain him in some manner. Either put him in a car bed placed lengthwise of the car or, if he’s in an infant seat, fasten the seat belt around it. In case of an accident, your baby is probably safer in his car bed or with the seat belt around him, than if you held him in your arms. Don’t just lay him on the seat beside you!”

But best of all, some 70s-era advice on catering to your husband as well as your children. And yes, these information packets are addressed specifically to moms. After all, dads wouldn’t need to know anything about baby care since they are busy being breadwinners and watching sports and lounging in their arm chairs and the like:

“So many girls tend to get all wrapped up with the children that they forget about, or neglect, their husbands. He needs you, too – often more than the child does. He may have had just as hard a day as you. You’re a lot more likely to be taken out that nite (sic on the spelling) if he’s greeted with a warm smile and a kiss rather than a cross word and tears.”

(Ahem. If my pediatrician attempted to lecture me on my duties to my husband, and called me and all mothers “girls” in the process, I might just save the cross words for him.)

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Backwards underwear boy

Note to all designers of three-year-old boys’ underwear. Since you obviously understand the deep desire a male toddler has to wrap his private parts in bright red race cars and semis and fire trucks, please refrain from putting those sexy machines on the rear of the underwear with nothing but a boring logo on the front. While this may seem practical because of the penis-pocket-seams that would interrupt a large car picture on the front, in fact it is quite frustrating to the young male who can’t look down and see that mesmerizing picture as he dresses himself or takes a bathroom break or runs around the house pantless.

For several days now Will has been wearing his underwear backwards. On occasion, he not only puts them on backwards but also puts them over his pants for continued truck-and-car viewing pleasure.

So, next time, Mr. Briefs Manufacturer, let’s get those big vehicles front and center. And offer some matching pants to boot.

Monday, November 5, 2007

Disturbing the peace at Pasaquan

The highlight of our weekend was a trip to Pasaquan – a little world of colorful temples, totems and folk art not far from Buena Vista. The place itself – all the work and inspiration of a farm boy turned artist who came back to Georgia after living in New York for three decades – is astonishing, especially planted as it is in the midst of a swath of rural Georgia forest. Eddie Owens Martin returned to Marion County after having a series of visions in the late 1930s in which he encountered giant visitors from a futuristic world called Pasaquan , “where the past, the present, the future, and everything else all come together.” They enlisted him to go back home, under his new name St. EOM, and create an artistic representation of their world. Go here for the full Pasaquan story, including lots of photos of the site.

Pasaquan would be well worth a visit on any of the select Saturdays when it’s open for tours, but this weekend the place was alive with art and music as part of an “Artists for Pasaquan Day,” which marked the end of this year’s Pasaquan season. Rob and friends played some music for the event and Will had a fun-filled afternoon exploring Pasaquan and playing for hours in this mammoth circular sandbox beside the musicians’ grassy stage.

But Will was not quite so enraptured with the art of St. EOM as he was with a boy, twice his age, who befriended him, showed Will his marshmallow-spitting gun and then taught him to play “army.” While the boy shot mini-marshmallows from his weapon, Will slung a little rubber chicken around, a weapon on loan from older boy. Will has just recently begun turning all long stick-like objects into guns so he can shoot things down and hunt things down (while I groan silently to myself and let him play out his testosterone-filled fantasies), but this rubber-chicken-and-marshmallow-gun battle brought things to a whole new level of sophistication.

I’m not sure St. EOM -- whose visionary purpose included delineating “an understanding of the peace and beauty that the future might hold for mankind,” according to the Pasaquan website – would have approved of the army game. But we do hope to raise Will in such a way that his weapons remain chicken-like and marshmallow soft,
so maybe the Saint would understand.

Saturday, November 3, 2007

Lying mama chefs

(Quasi-honesty -- the sequel)

Here’s an article from that suggests that even when you try to trick kids into eating vegetables by sneaking them into foods you’re doing them a disservice. You’re not teaching them to love vegetables in their purest, healthiest forms and you’re practicing a form of deception. The article, entitled, “Lie to Your Children—It's Good for Them: The Terribly Wrong Message Sent by Jessica Seinfeld and Missy Chase Lapine” is a slam against the cookbooks "Deceptively Delicious" by Jessica (Mrs. Jerry) Seinfeld and Missy Chase Lapine’s "The Sneaky Chef," which apparently advocate things like adding mashed sweet potatoes to hot cocoa and pureed zucchini to macaroni and cheese. I still say it’s not a problem if you make some delicious zucchini brownies mostly because they truly are delicious, call them zucchini brownies when you hand the dessert over to your child, and then serve up zucchini in other more typical dishes on other days -- or if you make a soup with pureed cauliflower and carrots and turn it into a little adventure with magical ingredients like sunshine and moonbeams (see the August 22 post on the subject of getting kids to eat vegetables) – as long as you tell the kids the real ingredients if they’re curious about the real stuff behind the magic.

But it makes sense to me that in general it’s best to be forthright with kids about healthy eating and serve up lots of whole, unprocessed vegetables until you discover several staples that prove palatable to your child.

Friday, November 2, 2007

Quasi honesty

With Halloween gone but Halloween candy still lurking in our house, I’m finding myself thinking more carefully about my honesty policy with Will. I’d given thought, for example, to chucking half the treats in the trash or sending them off to work with Rob yesterday. But since I don’t want to get caught explaining either of those scenarios when Will asks, salivating, “But where’s my candy corn?” (this year he’s remembering specifiic varieties of candies he’s acquired) I’m just keeping the stash out of sight in a cupboard. When the candy question comes up I tell Will he can have a piece for dessert or on our walk to the park. We’ve also been discussing tooth rotting plenty this week, so Will is accepting these limits surprisingly graciously.

So I’ll wait a week or so, and when his whole preoccupation with candy has faded the stash will make its appearance at Rob’s office. Then if Will still pops the candy question, I might say “We don’t have anymore left,” but I won’t go for the “You ate it all” fib. In my mind there’s a difference between being vague and being dishonest. If the questions keep coming and I have to tell him that we shared some with daddy’s friends at work, I’ll do it.

This article in Parenting magazine explores “Why it’s okay to lie to your child (Sometimes).” With the exception of tall tales about Santa Claus and the tooth fairy that are designed to introduce an element of magic and fantasy into a young child’s life, I disagree with the basic premise of the article. I’ll admit that in the early stages of Will’s tantruming I’d occasionally find myself in a little “white” lie to avoid a confrontation, but I’ve put a stop to that bad habit. If he needs to hear no, he needs to hear it. And he’ll learn from it. When I tell him as he moves into his teenage years that the one thing that’s most important to me is that he is always honest, with Rob and me, with his teachers, with his friends, with the world, I want to be a model of that request. It’s the one thing my honest parents always asked of me and my brother, and we all fared pretty well and respected one another because of it. I admit that I’ve slipped up and engaged in the occasional minor dishonesty, not with my parents, but with friends or acquaintances I wasn’t quite as comfortable with or I was worried about impressing. But I’ve decided that now that I’m a mom, I need to outgrow even the tiniest of lies. I still might be tactfully vague or avoid answering a question by switching subjects, but, beyond Santa Claus/Easter Bunny stuff I’m working on total honesty.

The Parenting Magazine article gave an example of a mother telling a little “white” lie to her toddler who smelled chocolate on her breath. She said she was eating raisins to avoid having her daughter ask for the chocolate. I say, suck it up and either give the girl a tiny bite of chocolate this once and resolve not to eat chocolate in front of her in the future or explain to her that chocolate has caffeine that’s not good for little kids but she’ll get to eat more of it as she grows older.

There’s a second example of telling lies when your child asks questions about death. Here the author says, “Developmentally, little kids can't understand the concept of death, so don't feel guilty. You're just going to scare them if you try explaining the circle of life.” I disagree. If your kid isn’t understanding the concept of death anyway, then answering a question very simply and without bloody, gory, frightening details shouldn’t scare them too much. And once they’re ready to grapple with the idea of death, then they’re ready for honest answers anyway. (Dig out the August 22 post from the blog archives and read boar hunter Phillip's comment on the matter if you missed it. I was avoiding the death questions back then.)

As to your kids' question: "Who's your favorite?" which the author seems to think is the most dreaded of questions, I agree that admitting you have a favorite child to your children is a lousy idea. But it seems to me that parents in that predicament need to reframe the whole notion of favorites in their own mind. Would it really be so hard to convince yourself honestly that while you may have more in common with one of your children, or you may find one of them generally easier to manage, you do not have a “favorite”. When it comes to your own kids, surely it’s a good time to steer clear of simplistic favorite games and love them all for their differences.

Still, since I’m writing these declarations of honesty, I’m sure it won’t be long before some sticky situation arises and I feel desperately tempted to lie to Will. If I do it, I promise I’ll confess. Maybe that’ll keep me honest – or trapped in a double lie.

What do you think? Is honesty overrated? Any situations where a little lie just seemed like the best medicine for your child?

(Coming tomorrow: The sequel -- Lying mama chefs)

Thursday, November 1, 2007


Last night our friends Carey and Brant joined us for a brief round of neighborhood trick-or-treating. We decided to walk the first piece of the route we take on our daily walks to the park, since we wave at those neighbors all the time. Most of the houses were dark, not open for trick-or-treaters. At every fifth house or so the jackolanterns would be lit, the porch lights would be on, and often the host of the home would be out on the porch welcoming us up – as if they too were yearning to keep neighborhood trick-or-treating alive. Around here anyway, more and more parents just stick with a Church “trunk or treat” party or drive their kids around to homes they know, and more and more home-owners are reluctant to open their door for strangers.

So while Owen was riding in the front pack oblivious to the fact that he
was masquerading as a dalmation (yes, I came to the conclusion since Monday’s post, with some help from Rob, that it was a dalmation costume, not a cow one, that I had purchased second-hand for Owen) and while Will the Tiger was concentrating on swinging his plastic jackolantern, the adults in our group were lamenting the demise of those carefree days of our childhood when you could go out and canvass whole the town for candy without worrying about pedophiles or poisoned Tootsie Pops.

We rounded the corner and headed back for home, only to witness a sort of bizarre low-speed cop chase. One man was trying to flee in his sputtering car and three police cars were on his tail. Somehow they
attempted to block the driver off and some of the cops stepped out of their cars. The whole scene was a blur a half-block behind us but I was pretty certain I saw one of the cops pull a gun, which although it was pointed at the offender was also aiming in our general but distant direction. I was the only one who saw the gun – so I led the pack as we ran with the boys around the side of a house and recollected ourselves.

Soon the fleeing driver had made his escape, with cops on his tail, and the neighborhood was quiet again. Will didn’t seem to process what had happened and we wound up stopping at one more house for trick-or-treating before we made it home. But I was feeling shaky about having dragged my little boys out into the scary night – even if it was just 7 p.m. And I’m thinking next year we may just drive around to a few friends’ houses and call it a trick-or-treat.