Thursday, August 28, 2008

Cooking with Will

Now that Owen has reached that independent-yet-more-dependent-than-ever phase (where even though he’s starting to walk and be generally more self-sufficient he’s more attached than ever to the idea of being right by my side) making dinner with him in the vicinity is growing more difficult by the day. I stand at the counter dicing an onion; he stands tugging at my legs whining desperately for some face-to-face attention. Maybe he wants to chop onions too.

So Will and I have begun adopting a dinner preparation ritual during Owen’s naptime. On at least a few afternoons a week, we wind up cooking dinner ahead while Owen catches his afternoon snooze. I love these times with Will, both of us working over dinner together. And he’s growing increasingly adept at tasks that you’d think would be frustrating. Chopping carrots with a dull table knife, for example. He loves to stir a sauté, add any measured item into a bowl, peel carrots and potatoes, and stir ingredients together. He also tends to anticipate dinner with great enthusiasm when he's involved in the preparation. As in “this is going to be the best soup EVER.” And he is generally excited to eat the food he’s helped cook. The other day I said to him as I was noticing how much he was enjoying himself with his inadequate knife at the cutting board, “Maybe you’ll be a chef when you grow up.”

“No,” he said decidedly. “I’m going to be a trash man.”

In the meantime though, it’s nice to have an apprentice cook (even if I am a very mediocre mentor).

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Speaking as a mother

Call me a sap, but I got a little teary-eyed listening to Michelle Obama’s speech last night at the Democratic National Convention. No matter your politics, it’s refreshing to hear a woman speak so obviously from her heart -- and as a mother first and foremost. If you missed it, you can listen to her speech here.

Whoever we elect in November, I hope they can muster the political courage to return to a philosophy of pay-as-you-go government – so that we can begin to climb out of our national debt and stop expecting our children, who are too young to have a say, to carry the burden of our massive debts – of our reckless adventures in spending without taxing - when they are our age. As mothers, we owe that much to our children I think.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

In the rain

It’s not too often that we get a relentlessly rainy day like today. So Will, who is rather addicted to our walk-to-the-park ritual, got a bit sullen by the end of the day, wishing he could go outside. Yesterday we’d battled the stuck-indoors blues, by letting Will out in the rain. While Owen and I watched from our tiny covered front porch, Will ran laps around the front yard – and got mildly soaked and totally happy in the process. Today, with things even soggier, we opted for a living room dance party. We cleared the floor, skipped to the most danceable tracks on Will’s Kids Hits Mix and Will did acrobatics around the room while Owen and I bobbed to the beat. Owen is an avid dancer now. He bounces up and down and claps his hands, thrilled that he can do this thing called dancing about as well as me.

Tomorrow, with more rain in the forecast (and Tropical Storm Fay still hanging around) I’m thinking Will and I will leave Owen with Rob, put on some rain gear and go take a long, wet puddle-splashing walk. We’re also finding alternative play spaces – like the library, this morning (where Owen delights more in climbing on children’s chairs than browsing the books) – and maybe we’ll try the Columbus Museum tomorrow afternoon.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Pin the somethin’ on the somethin’

As Will grows old enough that he has some say in the birthday parties I throw for him I find myself facing increasing dilemmas: When he asks for a boys-only birthday party, do I play along or enforce some gender equity? When he wants a baseball birthday party in the heat of August, how do we carry out that request? What is a baseball birthday party anyway? And when he wants to add his class of 10 or so kids to the invite list for what is sure to be an overcrowded overheated T-ball celebration for kids who can’t yet play T-ball in a backyard whose grassy square-footage is about equal to the size of a picnic table (once you factor out the sprawling deck that consumes most of our outdoor space), do I agree to drag several parents I’ve never met over for a destined-to-be-funky and way-too-hot party?

After some hemming and hawing, Rob and I decided to make the most of Will’s requests: We’re giving him two parties (one snacktime party at pre-school complete with 28 cupcakes for the entire Pre-K class there) and an evening party for about five non-school friends – all boys (and a few of their sisters).

We’ve done nothing to prepare other than make this pin-the-baseball-on-the-diamond game during an Owen nap. (Photo coming soon....) I’ve become a pin-the-something-on-the-something addict, because it’s so easy to do variations on the theme. We’ve done pin the trash on the recycling truck, pin the feathers on the owl and, well, that’s where my lousy memory stops. Sure the kids only find it mildly amusing, but Will and I enjoy the excuse to do a big project on poster-board together. I trace something quick in pencil and leave all the coloring to him. This time for the pinning we made a baseball for each party-goer – Will drew the red stitching on and I wrote names on the balls. I think we’ll crown them first baseman, short-stop, or catcher etc. based on where they stick their ball.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

The mosquito clap

Owen’s most recent sign is one I taught him by accident. Granted, it’s not official ASL, or even a suggested baby sign – but every time I say the word mosquito I can count on Owen to clap his hands together once. Now Owen is currently an addicted hand clapper – he claps for himself every other step he takes as he walks, and he claps again when he plops back down on his bottom, and he claps at the end of any song we happen to have in the CD player. But the mosquito clap is distinctively different – a ruthless swipe, once and you’re done.

I wish it were that easy when I go mosquito hunting in our car – which is lately happening all too often. Our neighborhood around Lakebottom Park, with its mature trees (including magnolias whose leaves are large enough to hold tiny pools of water that mosquitoes can hatch in) is a mosquito mecca.

So anytime we plan to emerge from our house without dousing ourselves with repellent we have to make a mad dash for shelter – usually the car, which will then take us to a less mosquito-dense corner of town. (I admit that we are not generally driving in order to escape the mosquitoes, but somehow they do seem better wherever we happen to be going.) In any case, these dashes to the car often prove futile. About once a day this time of year, a mosquito sneaks in along with us. So before I begin driving I wind up climbing in the back seat for some mosquito hunting (since the mosquitoes tend to enjoy hovering around my sweet, helpless children). Will has eyes for mosquitoes, so he often points the pests out to me so I can prepare my ruthless hand clap (move too quickly and you fail every time).

And now all it takes is the word “mosquito,” for a wide-eyed Owen to launch his own fierce clap. I wonder if he’s ever even seen a mosquito – or if he is just fascinated by the word because it’s the only thing out of my mouth that means I’m likely to come into the backseat and start clapping madly at thin air.

For those of you who are also cursed with mosquitoes I found (after some research a couple years ago) that Repel Lemon Eucalyptus is a fairly effective, deet-free mosquito repellent. It’s got a strong smell, but Will’s worn it plenty in our backyard. We’ve also tried spraying Listerine on our deck when we’re hanging out there and it seemed like it worked, but this may have just been the placebo effect working on us, according to this investigation of the rumor (which does acknowledge that it might help a tad).

What mosquito-repelling tricks work for you?

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Our Chincilla

My husband, Rob, has a knack for nonsense nicknames. Or they sound like pure nonsense anyway. His term of endearment for me for years has been B.D. This used to kind of bother me when I was teaching high school since B.D. is teacher shorthand for behavior disorder -- an official label for a tough-to-handle student (who probably didn’t benefit from having the label -- but that’s another story). In my case it stood for Big Dawg, which is not necessarily much more complimentary. But I’ve come to accept it as my household name.

And for a couple months now, Rob has been tossing around different nicknames for Owen. For a while he was calling him “butter,” which somehow didn’t have the right ring to it in my ears. And then he moved on to “Chinchilla.” For a couple months now Rob’s been calling Owen “Chinchilla” and I’ve been imagining that it was a case of him being inspired by Owen’s chubby chin and then tacking some nonsense sounds on the end.

This week Rob finally decided to clue me in. I’d forgotten the chinchilla is a rabbit-like animal native to the mountains of northern Chile that somehow made it into one of those word-and-photograph animal board books we own but that I hadn’t looked at carefully for quite a while. And now that I know the inspiration behind the name, I have to admit there’s a vague resemblance

– and now that Owen’s alternating time on all fours and just the hind legs, the resemblance is growing stronger (especially when you can’t see the real chincilla’s tail). Although, I’ll admit that the real chinchilla, with his meager forelegs, does not look quite as capable of wielding cardboard-tube weapons.

In any case, I kind of like the name. And Owen does to. If Rob calls out “Chinchilla” from another room, Owen will shout “dada” with equal enthusiasm. And the “Chincilla-dada-chincilla-dada-chinchilla-dada” song plays on for as long as Rob keeps up his part of the chorus.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Not quite a full-time mom anymore

For over a year now I’ve been a full-time stay at home mom and I’ve had Owen either by my side or sleeping a couple rooms away around the clock. So today when I dropped Owen off at the nursery of the preschool where I’ll be teaching for the first time this fall, I was feeling almost more sentimental than when we passed that first birthday mark.

I’m glad I’ve had the luxury of staying home with my kids for the first year of life and of choosing after that to work minimally. It’s not that we’ve got more money than the average couple – we’ve just found ways to be thrifty enough for me to be a mostly stay-at-home mom. But I have my yearnings to work a little too – and I’ve been dreaming and scheming for a while now about trying my hand at teaching preschoolers while my own kids are in their preschool years so that we can run on the same schedule. I also never realized until I had kids, how fascinated I am by their minds -- their creativity, their silliness, their storminess and their incredible ability to learn so much so quickly and so joyfully.

So instead of taking a break from kids I’ll be serving myself a quadruple-whammy of them. And somehow I’m really excited about that prospect.

But this blog is going to stay a blog about me as a mom to Will and Owen, not my adventures in teaching. Today though those worlds intersected as the beginning of my teaching marks the end of my serving as full-time mom to Owen. If I didn’t have somewhere to be, I think I’d likely keep him home one extra year. At least this way, we’re just separating for a few mornings a week.

It also helps that Owen’s happy to be around other kids. Today he had the good fortune of being in the same room as Will when I left them to go work upstairs. And I think he realized that finally, after so many experiences of accompanying me to drop Will off, he was going to get to stay. At some level, he knows he’s making steps toward big-boy status.

This morning, I gave him a hug and kiss goodbye, set him in front of a novel toy, watched him take a few of his very unsteady steps and darted for upstairs. And then I spent this afternoon giving him a few more hugs and tickles and story-times than I usually find time for.

So here we go, all three of us -- off to school...

Monday, August 11, 2008

Occasional walker

On Thursday, while we were visiting his Aunt Alicia in Atlanta, Owen decided to take his first real stab at walking. In the midst of an exciting game of indoor bowling with Aunt Alicia and Will – and two poodles darting around on the sidelines -- Owen lost all inhibition and took eight steps all on his own.

I counted them as he tottered toward me, laughing as he came. And Rob who’d taken out the video camera to document the bowling game, caught the whole thing on camera.

Since then Owen, who is 13 months old today, hasn’t taken more than a few steps at a time – and then only when he’s so distracted that he forgets he’s walking in the first place. Most of the time if I try coaxing him to take a few steps, he starts shaking his head no, his eyes wide with alarm.

But he’s more than happy to climb up on the kid-sized chair in Will’s room and stand on it before I come to the rescue. Which is why all little chairs are heading to the attic for a sabbatical tonight.

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Charlotte -- the kind of mom you cry for

For a few weeks now Will (my nearly 4-year-old) and I have been dividing much of our reading time between E.B. White’s “The Trumpet of the Swan” and Laura Ingalls Wilder’s “Little House on the Prairie.” (I’m more of a one-book-at-time kind of reader, but Will’s in charge when it comes to book selection. We always read what he wants and he chooses the book he’s in the mood for.)

In any case, one of the luxuries of having graduated to chapter-book reading is that I’m enjoying the stories so much too. And for now anyway, E.B. White is my favorite children’s author – he can turn a phrase, be inventive and silly, and infuse his animals with real recognizable human-like qualities.
So when I heard on the radio Monday that NPR commentator and mother Melissa Block had chosen Charlotte A. Cavatica, heroine of E.B. White’s Charlotte’s Web for an NPR “In Character” essay, I knew I was in for a good time.

I’m not sure I’d recognized just how much I had also fallen for Charlotte until I heard this piece. Charlotte is, after all, the quintessential mother – wise, gracious and selfless -- she’s determined to mother a pig by creatively saving his life and she’s happy to die for her own brood of spider babies that arrive at the end of the book. The highlight of this story of Charlotte is listening to E.B. White read his own prose -- and learning that he broke down 17 times while trying to read her death scene for an audio-version of the book before he could compose himself enough for a steady-voiced take.

If you’ve read Charlotte’s Web, be sure to take a listen here. And if you haven’t, put it on your read-aloud list -- for children ages 3 to 90.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

A new hub for mom blogging

So tomorrow marks the beginning of my migration from this lovely green site that’s been my home for just over a year to a larger mom2mom Web site, which the Columbus Ledger-Enquirer is officially launching this week, after a couple of trial weeks.

For now I’ll be posting a few times a week on this blog – including a Thursday post that will also run on the mom2mom site. And soon enough (I’ll let you know when) the mom2mom site will become my permanent home.

But go ahead and get acquainted now with the Ledger’s mom2mom site. It promises to be much more interactive and useful than my lone “mother load” blog – which for a year now has been floating out here in cyberspace, too loosely connected to the Ledger-Enquirer. Mom2mom should be a wonderful way to connect with other moms, swap advice and war stories, learn about kid-friendly events in the Chattahoochee Valley and on and on.

So whether you live in Columbus or off in some more exotic place, I hope you’ll follow me to my new and improved blogging home and set this link in your favorites. I love having all of you as readers and I’m grateful for all your comments (which have influenced my parenting in little ways, made me laugh, and made me grateful to have this place for online mom comradery). I don’t want to lose touch!

And for the next couple weeks at least, you can still find me here too.

Sunday, August 3, 2008

Lion-free circus

Yesterday, we enjoyed the Florida State University “Flying High” Circus at Callaway Gardens, which is the most kid-friendly circus around. (Will asks not to go to circuses with tigers and lions -- at least last time we checked in with him on the matter, which I admit was a year ago). The FSU circus, which is free with admission to Callaway, is a human-only affair with trapeze artists, jugglers, tight-rope walkers and bicycle-built-for-five riders doing their stunts.
Will found the circus quite mesmerizing while Owen waffled between awe and terror as he watched the strange leotarded people do their death-defying tricks. He spent most of the show, looking like this:

The FSU circus performs daily (except for Wednesdays) at Callaway during mid-summer, but if you haven’t been yet, start planning. Friday marks the final day of performances. Go here for details.

And of course before or after the circus you can enjoy other activities at Callaway. We stayed right in the Robin Lake Beach Area, where Owen discovered that a waveless beach is much more his speed than the mighty ocean. We also played an abbreviated game of mini golf. Will got some putting lessons from dad while I kept Owen one hole ahead, where he could crawl on the green and hand-drop his ball in the hole without risk of being struck by Will’s wayward shots.