I distinctly remember people telling me to make sure not to tiptoe around your sleeping baby when I first had my daughter. The advice was given with the hopes that by letting normal noises occur, you will help your child become a sounder sleeper.
Life on Walnut Street (one of Center City's busiest streets) made this experiment really intense. Born in June, the city of Philadelphia decided its most retail heavy thoroughfare's should enjoy a makeover, which led to all-day jackhammering through the remainder of the summer. That, coupled with the constant song of sirens and horns, brought "normal" noises to a whole new level. Interestingly enough, the only thing that would consistently wake her was the crinkling of paper.
So I canceled our Inquirer subscription for a few months.
The result? My daughter can sleep through anything. In a post I did months ago, I talked about the problem with smoke detectors not being able to effectively rouse children from their sleep, including my daughter. So sound a sleeper, she did not even budge when our security system tripped in the middle of the night a few months back, and the scream of the alarm was heard by our neighbors. She really can sleep through anything.
My son, not so much.
He sleeps well enough, but without fail, the one thing that always wakes him up is the phone. No matter how long he's been sleeping, or how quickly I grab the receiver, he is up with the most pitiful little whimper you've ever heard.
I've tried lowering the ringer, or even turning it off all together, but our phone does not have that option! This fancy phone system we purchased just for this house will not be silenced!
I've actually considered just pulling all the jacks out of the wall for the nap time cycle, but that is maddening in its own right.
Any sympathizers? No one else seems to complain about this.
Having been introduced to "Hyper Dash" by the lovely Debbie Braig, I now feel compelled to buy her something really pretty.
Here's why: This new game (available at Target & Toys R' Us), is appropriate for toddlers and tweens as it combines knowledge of colors, speed, and healthy competition. Basically, the game consists of a small joystick and six small, colored disks. The disks are placed around a room (placement can establish difficulty levels) and play begins with the joystick calling out colors, which you then have to run to and touch with the joystick.
It's great becasue: 1) It reinforces colors for early learners 2) It is a great way to get kids moving indoors 3) Each player's run is timed, to make for some healthy competition 4) Depending on how far apart you place the disks and the level of game you choose, even adults can compete (though alcohol really helps with the fun). and.... 5) High energy requirements = good naps
My own daughter is constantly making observations that are as funny as they are surprising. Her most recent area of interest, however, is loudly identifying women she believes to be "with child".
Author Dave Barry once quipped, "You should never say anything to a woman that even remotely suggests that you think she's pregnant unless you can see an actual baby emerging from her at that moment." The point is: some women have periods of bloat, while others may be battling the bulge, and that being said, it is never safe to assume a baby is on the way. If I suspect a woman is pregnant, I'll slyly remark with a smile, "And so what is new with you?" This suggests I already know, without committing me to any assessment that may be incorrect.
Again, in cases such as these, discretion is lost on a 3 year old.
My daughter's newest interest started with women simply rubbing their bellies. I know she used to see me do this all the time with my son, and so I get the correlation. Unfortunately, now any woman with even the slightest bulge (I mean slightest) are fair game.
At first I tried to awkwardly excuse the statement. Then I pretended not to hear and hightail it out of the woman's vicinity. I later would "clairfy" what I wanted the victim to hear by saying, "No, that's not a baby....that's a woman".
And then I came up with something that actually works (for now).
I told my daughter that a woman with a baby in her belly is keeping the best kind of secret. Sooooo...if you see a pregnant mommy, you should whisper it to me to make sure we keep the secret.
A rare moment of genius for me.....until the approach wears off some time next week.
Having red hair and freckles seems to be one of those things that everyone always compliments in little kids, but never actually wants for themselves.
I had a tough time as a kid accepting my state. Though my mother tried to encourage me to embrace my life as a ginger kid with posters of Molly Ringwald and later Julianne Moore, but the truth remains, who wants spots? In school (especially high school) you either want to completely blend or really pretend you don't care (and hope to really blend).
So, I hated my freckles. I use to pray that they would fade and I even sought off-the-wall home remedies to expedite the process.
On one instance....
I snuck into a "mom and pop" pharmacy and headed straight for the cosmetic aisle to search for a scar cover-up I had read about in a magazine. The advertisement had claimed that the concealer could mask even the most drastic of scars; so, surely it could cloud my freckles.
I crouched down and scanned the labels, hoping that my salvation was there and within the babysitting budget I'd secured over the last few weeks. Before I could locate it, however, I was overcome by the smell of Old Spice and menthol.
I turned to face a shadow of a man whose wrinkled face was staring quizzicly back at me, causing my own to blush at having been discovered.
"Can I help you find something?"
"Uh, no....well, I was looking for something called Dermablend?"
"Dermablend? For scars? Oh, honey, you don't want that....your freckles are beautiful."
I was speechless. How could he know? I was also ashamed. I quietly excused myself and bolted out of the store.
Though almost two decades have passed since that exchange, I have never forgotten it. The memory has stayed with me, not because someone was trying to suggest that freckles weren't equal to leprosy (I'd been hearing that from generous relatives all my life), but that this seasoned man saw and understood exactly what I was struggling with, and ackowledged it honestly.
If I am being candid, I still don't like my freckles, but there are also far worse things that I could concern myself with. I've accepted them, and a small part of me has even smiled over the few that now sprinkle my daughter's face.
And though you will never hear men remark, "Wow, did you check out the freckles on that one?!", I am content to know that at least one guy did.
I can't tell you how many kids have inquired about the "spots" speckling my face and arms...a constant reminder of my freckles, which I honestly forget I have.
And when it comes to hearing funny stories about kids, most of them have to do with the wacky things they say and the subsequent wonderings as to where they came up with it.
One of my favorite kids is a little girl who has provided more than a few laughs through her verbal observations. From comparing people in the supermarket to zoo animals, to asking why other people were the "interesting" shape they are, little Jessica has provided more than a few awkward moments for her mother...and too many laughs for all of us lucky enough to hear the weekly stories.
One of my favorites:
Jessica, her mother, and her infant sister (hard at work on a teether) are waiting in a Target checkout line with all the goodies you never actually go to Target to buy, but find yourself throwing in the cart as you accidentally meander through the aisles.
All is well with the family and, during this moment of idleness, little Jessica's eyes fall on the checkout woman who is donning her trademark red shirt, a very long pony tail, and a happy demeanor all around. She is the complete personnel package....minus one, little thing.
She has no front teeth.
Though I am not an anti-Dentite, I do know that dental maintenance varies as much from personal hygiene as it does insurance plans and so, like most adults, we are not judging on this one.
Such discretion, however, escapes a 3 year old.
As the family begins to pile the day's purchases on the conveyor belt, little Jessica's eyes remain steadfast on the toothless smile. Her eyes are curious, her mind is brewing. But alas, her mother (so happy to have had a peaceful shopping experience) fails to catch on to her daughter's consternation, and hums a little song as the infant child chomps along on her teething ring.
The purchases are quickly scanned and bagged as the efficient and pleasant cashier makes cordial smalltalk. And, just as the bill is paid, the woman smiles at the drooling baby and says,
"Well, it looks like someone is about to get some teeth!"
At this moment, all but Jessica share a knowing chuckle over the adorable baby.
"But, when are you going to get your teeth?" she innocently inquires.
The mother freezes, the hum of Target shoppers screech to a halt, and all eyes turn on the dentally impaired.
"Oh honey, as soon as I get me some money."
Nervous chuckles and a swift shopping cart maneuver finds the mother and her daughters exiting the store, swearing that the new Target closer to home better open soon.
So, of course I am offended by the Communist China's oppression of its own people, its stifling of certain inalienable rights that we as American hold so dear, and all the unforgiveable crimes againt humanity that any eager journalist will be happy to report on.
But, as a mother, THIS really bothers me. If you were the little singer's mother, how would you have reacted?
I have to admit that my adult years as a follower of the Olympics have been minimal. I vaguely remember seeing some swim event in Athens, and anything after that was something I clicked by during a commercial.
HOWEVER, now that parenthood has left my social calendar all but empty, I have been following this year's events very closely.
1) Michael Phelps and his quest for Olympic gold history is absolutely enthralling. That, coupled with the fact that he is my "type" (tall, lanky, and adorably dorky), means I have been following his races like some kind of swimming enthusiast....too bad I still refuse to don a bathing suit in front of anyone I actually know (shout out to everyone at Cade's birthday party).
2) Despite that whole bad rap over crimes against humanity, the Chinese have done right by the Olympics in all its beautiful ceremony. From a kimono-clad beauty handing a towel to a beach volley baller to the opening ceremony I actually watched for more than a minute, they certainly know how to put on a good show.
3) I don't hate the commentators....and Matt Lauer certainly helps that cause (Did I mention my predilection for the dorky population?)
All of this got me thinking...I know I could totally bring some medals home for the good old USA if they finally realized true genius in something I really consider a competitive sport.
I give you: the MOM Olympics
My areas of excellence:
1) The Mom Triatholon- The race begins with competing moms pushing a double stroller through 27 staggered clothing racks. Then, they follow with a 50 yard dash while carrying a 24 lb baby doll, a 15 lb diaper bag, and (miraculously) full bladders. Finally, the race ends with moms hiking up an enormous mound of toys with only one Wii at the top...for the victor.
2) Mind Gymnastics- (Because, let's face it...few of us would dare wear a uni-tard) A Jeopardy like competition where moms are asked about complete names of immunizations, quizzed about the endless theories of child rearing, and questioned about every possible illness your child could contract from the grubby kid who always wants to play.
3) Morning Individual Medley- This competition begins before the sun is up and requires un-caffinated mothers to prepare a breakfast with aforementioned baby doll in hand, another, larger doll clinging to your leg, a husband constantly knocking into you as he desperately searches for his wallet/keys/blackberry, the phone ringing, the dog barking, and a voice lecturing from an overhead speaker about the grave importance of a well-balanced meal, vitamins, and school preparedness. This event is timed and scored using a points system that evaluates speed, efficiency, and your own level of sanity.
Please feel free to let me know if I missed any events....
Though I am in no way wishing time away when it comes to my children's youth (the approach of pre-school has sent me into panic attacks), but there are some things we all wish would speed along in terms of the learning process.
Number one on the list: Cause and Effect. Let's see, if you refuse to put your coat on, we cannot go to the park. The sooner you go to bed, the sooner morning will come and we can go to the zoo. If you eat paint, you're going to get sick. And, of course, if you do not brush your teeth....meet the dentist.
Number two: Long term consequences. Similar to cause and effect, long term consequences are just incomprehensible threats to little ones who can not yet fathom that if they do not play well, people will not want to play with them. If they only eat macaroni and cheese, their body will not be able to sustain all the fun they may want to have. And if they do not stop throwing tantrums, eventually their mother's hair will fall out and, consequently, they'll be teased at school for having a weird mom with a nervous tic (though, that may be short term effect for some....)
Number three: Nutrition and time. Clearly, the merits of tofu and soy may be lost on the average, adolescent eater, but wouldn't it be nice if they enjoyed an Asian flavored salmon, or some steamed asparagus with almond slivers? Moreover, when it comes to time and the need to occasionally hurry, why must a toy that they have ignored for months suddenly become interesting as you are just about to ealk out the door? Diaper blowouts, potty needs, spilled sippy cups, and the like all seem to cosmically come together just when you are trying to get to a timed destination....this is so frustrating and so where I put my own vote.
Number four: Ahhh...hygiene. Whether your child resists a bath, a toothbrush, or a kleenex, hygiene is something that works until it loses its newness. This ongoing struggle to stay clean and well kept is common among little kids, and downright disgusting once they hit the 7th grade. Don't believe me? Search out your local middle school...an easy task if you know how to rely on your olfactory senses and are great at holding your breath.
I recently read an article in The New York Times about how American children are losing their connection with and appreciation for nature. Gone are the days of exploration and discovery. Staring up at clouds, investigating bugs, rolling around in the grass....basically a summary of my summer thus far.
But the points of this particular article were well-made. Computers, computer games, television, and so on are all taking up hours of the day that were formerly occupied with outdoor games and curiosities. I am aware of this and perhaps that is why I make sure we spend as much time outside as possible.
Though I really love the time outside, there are so many games and so many times on the swings before my creativity starts to wane. We water plants, play in the sand box, name clouds, bike, scooter, pretend mow, and so on.
But what is the best, most reliable activity? --- Our butterfly bush.
This purple-flowered shrub attracts hordes of butterflies through the day on the late summer months and both of my children are completely entranced by them.
Needless to say, if you're like me and running out of things to do outside (and you'd rather do anything other than blow up the kiddie pool again), pay a visit to your nearest nursery for one of nature's best forms of entertainment.
"Jump on Daddy. A game in which Daddy lies on the floor and suffers his child to jump, roll, and climb on him at will. While this game is relatively unstructured, there are some rules: The child may not weigh more than thirty-five pounds and must remove his or her shoes. Neither is the child permitted to sit on Daddy's face or jump from an elevated point like the sofa or coffee table." -Stan and Jan Berenstain
For those of you unfamiliar, (pause to give thanks) a "sand and water" table is an ingeniously engineered headache that elevates a covered sand box to keep it from animals and really getting your kids messy, and situates it alongside a elevated pool for water play.
Such a great idea, right?
Well, they should have just named the thing "Two mud tables".
Oh, and in addition to everything else under the sun, my son has decided to add mud, dirt, and mulch to his menu.
What seems like a thousand years ago, my dad attended the Inaugural Ball of George H. Bush. Though his attendance was a matter of protocol, the thought of him rubbing elbows with all sorts of celebrities and dignitaries had me bouncing off the walls.
This made him cooler than the time he scored me a Hard Rock Cafe shirt from Reykjavik...no one on the school bus had one of those.
So off he went and I tried to stay awake until he returned to hear all about the glamorous people he talked to (and maybe even scored a few autographs from....though the idea that I actually wanted someone's autograph makes me cringe a bit now).
I made it until 9:15 before sleep triumphed.
The next morning I bounded down the stars to get all the great details...of which there were really none. Not much of a pop culturist, my dad couldnt really tell me of anyone famous he saw, though a couple looked familiar.
I was crestfallen.
"Oh!" he shouted, "There was one person I got to meet!"
"Who? And how could you forget?? Madonna? Prince? Molly Ringwald?" (like any of them would have appeared at a Republican inauguration).
"You know, the country singer."
Thankfully my mom intervened, "The guy who sells sausages."
My dad's coolness factor dropped just a bit. Oh, and he has no recollection of meeting the Big D either. So much for my full circle moment.
****Special shout out to Megan, who's so supportively encouraged my JD obsession (not the same JD I enjoyed in the college years), and whose own blog I've added to my roll.
Though this does not exactly constitute a "meal", it does include some important ingredients...
The Ultimate Brownie Ingredients 1 lb unsalted butter 1 lb PLUS 12 oz semisweet chocolate chips, divided 6 oz unsweetened chocolate 6 extra large eggs 3 TBS instant coffee powder 2 TBS vanilla 2 1/4 cups sugar 1 1/2 cups flour, divided 1 TBS baking powder 1 tsp salt 3 cups walnut pieces...(Optional)
1) Preheat oven to 350. 2) Grease and flour a 13x18x1.5 inch sheet pan. (You can split into 2 smaller pans if necessary and adjust cook time.) 3) Melt together the butter, 1 lb of the chocolate chips, and bitter chocolate on top of a double boiler. Cool slightly. Stir together the eggs, instant coffee, vanilla and sugar. Stir in the warm chocolate mixture and cool to room temp. 4) Stir together 1 cup of the flour, baking powder and salt Add to cooled chocolate mixture. Toss remaining 12 oz chocolate chips and walnuts with 1/4 cup of remaining flour to coat. Then add to chocolate mixture. Pour into prepared pan. 5) Bake for about 30 minutes or until tester just comes out clean. Halfway through the baking, rap the pan against the oven shelf to allow air to escape from between the pan and brownie dough. Do NOT overbake! Cool thoroughly, refriderate well and cut into squares.