Wednesday, February 29, 2012

He Goes to Eleven

My son learned the difference between “soft” and “loud” at quite an early age. My husband and I taught him as a survival tactic for our eardrums.  

It was my fault, really. I’m pretty sure it all began when I taught him the concept of “echo”. The stairwell in our house has a great echo, so I taught him that if you called out the word “echo,” you got great reverb. He tried it, then he tried it louder, then he tried it yet louder. And then he discovered that if he shouted it loud enough, he could hit the correct frequency to make the remote control doorbell in the basement ring. Once he discovered that, his volume knob was permanently set to 11.

Very quickly I realized my mistake and attempted to teach him to whisper. Unfortunately, whispering is much less exciting than shouting to a two-year-old. So I tried to outsmart him. (Ha, fat chance.) I figured that if I taught him to contrast shouting and whispering, he wouldn’t need to shout so loud to get the same effect. So together we would shout the word “LOUD!” then whisper the word “soft” over and over. I tried to fool him by shouting a little softer each time but he didn’t fall for that. In fact, he soon discovered that this game was more fun the louder you shouted the word “LOUD.” (The volume of the word “soft” was basically irrelevant. And often as loud as the word “loud.”)

I tried another tack, trying to teach him that there are times when you need to be loud, like when you’re calling to someone who’s at the other end of the playground, and there are times when you need to be quiet, like at a restaurant. He does seem to have gotten the idea of being quiet out in public, for the most part. And he takes advantage of the lesson that his “outside voice” can be much louder than his “inside voice,” and screeches when he’s on the playground or shouts “echo” at the top of his lungs in the parking garage. But for some reason, when he’s playing at home, all those lessons go out the window and the volume knob goes right back to 11.

Lately, he has taken to pointing out to anyone in the room where he is, as if we had misplaced him in the half-second since he’d been looking one of us in the eye. “Mama, here I am!” he’ll shout from two feet away. “Dada, I’m over here!” from the other end of the couch. But the best is when he is actually touching you physically, whether leaning against your back, sitting in your lap, or his latest trick, leaning around you as you’re sitting on the floor or couch, literally touching his nose to yours, and shrieking, “Here I am! Do you see me?!!” No, in fact, I cannot see you, since my eyes cannot focus on an image three microns away from my retinas. But you can bet I can hear you, because

Someday, when my children are both grown and gone, and my house seems empty and quiet, I might miss the days of volume 11.

But probably not.

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Tuesday, February 28, 2012

The Boom Boom Room

My son approached me very excitedly a few days ago and demanded, “Mama! Play ‘Boom Boom’ with me!” I had no idea what he was talking about, so I asked him to show me. He carefully backed up to the other side of the room, then ran at me at full speed, crashed into my legs, and announced, “Boom! Boom!” And then laughed maniacally. He immediately did it again, knocking me down. At that point, he knew I was at his mercy and he sailed through the air like a pro wrestler, aiming directly for my gut as I lay turtled on the floor. Luckily, I had just enough wits left about me to catch him, or at least to slow his descent towards my vital organs.

I often joke that we should have named him “Crash,” since he loves to crash into things – walls, doors, furniture, small children, large adults. Fortunately, he’s pretty tough and although he usually remarks, “ow!” after a crash, he rarely causes any actual damage. Well, he rarely causes damage to himself. Damage to other people, particularly other children, is a whole other story. The difficulty in teaching him not to hurt other people is that since he is so tough, he doesn’t understand how knocking someone over hurts them. He’s not hurt when he falls over, so how could they be? In fact, he thinks it’s fun and he just wants to share the fun by playing Boom Boom with the other kids.

I was vaguely mortified by his Boom Boom behavior at his gymnastics class yesterday. He (and the whole class) had behaved really well all through class, so at the end of the session the teacher let them play on the “tumble track,” which is like a long, narrow trampoline that the kids can run back and forth on. There were a couple of new students in the class for the first time, and they were both a bit young and fairly shy. My son is very social and loves to walk up to other kids and introduce himself: “Hi, boy. I’m Ryan!” So I was not surprised when he tried to play with the two new kids on the tumble track. The trouble came when he – without warning – plowed into a petite little new girl, knocking her down and making her cry. And to add to my embarrassment, her mother (who was right there and saw the whole thing) just happens to be my eye doctor. I immediately pulled him aside and scolded him, then made him apologize to her, which he actually did very politely and even a bit penitently. I think he was genuinely confused by her reaction. Boom Boom is a fun game! You’re not supposed to cry!

There are a lot of advantages to having a big, solid, tough kid. He doesn’t hurt himself easily. You can roughhouse with him without fear of hurting him (no comment on any fear of him hurting you). He can shoot hoops with a full-size basket. You can completely skip the Cozy Coupe, Big Wheel, and tricycle stages (he’s too tall to reach the pedals without chewing on his kneecaps) and go directly to a bike with training wheels. He can already use a full-size toilet. (Even standing up!) By the time he’s 10, I won’t need a stepstool to reach things on the top shelf, because he’ll be able to get them for me. And he’s got a pretty good chance at some kind of athletic scholarship someday, whether it be basketball, football, wrestling, hockey, rugby, or lacrosse.

But the disadvantage is his complete lack of awareness of how different he is from most other kids. He loves it when you beat on his head like a drum, so he wants to do the same to his baby sister (bad idea). He likes it when he sits in a chair and you sit on top of him and squish him, so he wants to do the same to other children (also a bad idea). And he loves running full tilt into anything and anyone who doesn’t jump out of his way (even worse idea).

So I’m trying to teach him that being big and strong is a wonderful thing, but when you’re bigger and stronger than someone else, you have a responsibility to be careful with them and treat them especially gently and kindly. Come to think of it, that’s not such a bad lesson for a child to learn. Come to think of it, that’s not such a bad lesson for an adult to learn, either.

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Monday, February 27, 2012

Oscar Fashion 2012 - Part Two

A very faithful reader of my blog expressed his disappointment in my previous blog entry discussing this year’s Oscar fashions. He requested that I post a review of the fashions similar to my Golden Globes blog of some weeks ago. So I am pleased to present this review of the red carpet fashions, using (mostly) the same categories as I did for the Golden Globes, including a few nominees plus a winner in each.

Best Slightly Avant-Garde Without Going Over the Top
Angelina Jolie, in a black velvet gown with an asymmetrical bodice and thigh-high slit which she insisted on poking her thigh out of at every opportunity, vivid scarlet lips, and no jewelry save a single diamond ring
Rooney Mara, in a very haute couture white trumpet dress with a deeply plunging back relieved with a few narrow straps, a plunging décolleté, and heavy jet black bangs and deep red lips
WINNER: Rooney Mara

The Close But No Cigar Award
Sandra Bullock, in a black-and-white satin dress with an unflatteringly baggy, cap-sleeved white top, black trumpet skirt with a train, gorgeously patterned rhinestones at the waist and shoulders, a dramatically plunging, draped back, sleek jet black ponytail, and drop earrings
Cameron Diaz, in a champagne-colored mermaid dress with a wedge of ruffles and metallic fringe inserts in the skirt, messy, frizzled hair, and unfortunate tan lines on her chest
Livia Giuggioli, in a bright coral ball gown with puffy chiffon full-length cuffed sleeves, an oddly-projected shelf at the bust, matching lipstick, severe hair, and an adorable beaded clutch with a little gold bow
WINNER (LOSER): Sandra Bullock

Best Red Dress
Michelle Williams, in a fitted orange-red, ruffly strapless gown with a peplum, a charming rhinestone bow at the waist, a strange flesh-toned corset back, and a short train
Natalie Portman, in a strapless red-with-black-polka-dots gown with a full skirt, V-shaped diamond necklace, loose, barely waved hair and natural makeup
WINNER:  Michelle Williams (provided you don’t look from the back)

Best Black and/or White
Jessica Chastain, in a perfectly fitted black dress with intricate gold embroidery setting off her loose strawberry-blond locks, and a small train
Milla Jovovich, in a silvery-white, single-shouldered, fitted sheath with diagonal draping, a barely-there train, simple diamond jewelry, deep pink lips, and a softly waved, tousled bob.
Gwyneth Paltrow in a simple, sleek sheath with a long, cape-like jacket, a diamond-encrusted cuff and oversized ring, with simple hair and natural makeup
Rose Byrne, in a single-shouldered, impeccably fitted black sequined sheath with just the tiniest bit of ruching along the sides, and a perfectly smooth, shiny chestnut bob
WINNER: Milla Jovovich

The My Granny’s Dress Award
Shailene Woodley, in a long-sleeved, high-necked, literally buttoned down and possibly polyester dress complete with a prim, high bun not worthy of the term “chignon”
WINNER (LOSER): Shailene Woodley

The You Should Always Wear That Color Award
Emma Stone, in a flowing sleeveless magenta gown with a wide belt and a disproportionally large bow at the neck
Viola Davis, in an emerald green strapless column with beading at the top of the bodice and a daringly open notch, flaring pleated inserts in the skirt, matching green earrings, and a stunning rhinestone cuff
Ellie Kemper, in a copper sequined sheath perfectly matching her heavy copper bangs and just-messy-enough chignon, matching sparkly earrings and double cuff bracelet
WINNER: Ellie Kemper

The Big and Beautiful Award
Octavia Spencer, in a loosely fitted white gown with a round neck and cap sleeves and beading radiating out from the waist, and a smooth chignon and chandelier earrings
Melissa McCarthy, in a pale mauve chiffon gown with elegant Grecian draping, flared ¾-length sleeves, and rhinestone belt and neckline, with a loose, wavy updo
WINNER: Octavia Spencer

The Totally Boring Award
Kristen Wiig, in yet another shapeless, skin-toned sack with torn-looking bits covering a skirt that should have been flared but wasn’t, and tired-looking locks
Maya Rudolph, in a bland, round-necked eggplant sheath with rhinestone cap sleeves and belt, intricately beaded back, and nude makeup
WINNER (LOSER): Kristen Wiig

Most Elegant (Under 40 Division)
Berenice Bejo, in a pale seafoam green, long-sleeved flared sheath encrusted with bugle beads, a short train, deep emerald drop earrings, and her red tresses in an intricate braided and twisted updo
Stacy Kiebler, in a beautifully draped gold lame sheath with a large rosette at the hip, a single wide off-the-shoulder strap, tiny train, and simple waved tresses tucked to one side with an elegant coil at the nape of her neck
WINNER: Stacy Kiebler

Most Elegant (Over 40 Division)
Penelope Cruz, in a silvery-blue off-the-shoulder gown with a full, sweeping skirt, simple diamond jewelry, and a softly waved bob
Glenn Close, in a perfectly fitted, deep emerald mermaid gown and matching jacket with satin cuffs and lapels, and just the tiniest bit of bling on the train
WINNER: Penelope Cruz

And I would like to throw in a Special Judges’ Award for Christopher Plummer, who at the age of 82 was still one of the sexiest men in the room, wearing a spectacular deep purple velvet tuxedo jacket, a perfectly tied bow tie, French cuffs, and a tiny Edelweiss pin in his lapel.

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Oscar Fashion 2012

The red carpet fashions at the Academy Awards this year were, much like the awards ceremony itself, memorable only in being unmemorable. There were no over-the-top dresses, no cutting edge styles teetering between the ridiculous and the sublime. Where was Helena Bonham Carter in her mismatched shoes? Bjork with a fake dead swan draped around her neck? Lady Gaga in a dress made of bacon? Yes, there were some lovely fashions, but nothing that hasn’t been done before – and better, or at least more dramatically.

In fact, instead of merely rating the hits and misses as I did with the Golden Globes earlier in the year, I want to compare this year’s red carpet to red carpets of Oscars past, to remind us all of who did it before and who did it better.

 Showing Skin
There weren’t a lot of overly-revealing fashions this year, and Jennifer Lopez definitely was at the forefront of the double-stick tape contingent in this sartorial concoction, which could have been improved if the modesty panels on the shoulders didn’t keep wrinkling up like sagging pantyhose.

But when it comes to an avant garde, memorable showing of skin, the award definitely goes to Cher for her legendary Bob Mackie spiderweb gown from 1986.

Or, for sheer beauty and subtlety of showing skin, how about Halle Berry’s elegant 2002 peekaboo gown with the strategically placed hand-painted flowers?

Looking Like Oscar
Several attendees this year wore lovely gold gowns reminiscent of Oscar himself. Stacy Kiebler managed to be noticeable even on the arm of George Clooney in this draped column with a giant rosette on the hip and a subtle puddle of a train:

Best Actress winner Meryl Streep took gold lame in a very different direction in this wrap dress with a plunging but age-appropriate and flattering neckline.

Both of these gowns are lovely, but no-one will remember them a few years down the road. But I bet most of us remember Lizzy Gardiner’s (who? I have no idea, either – but I remember her gown) sheath dress made entirely of gold American Express cards.

Maybe not the most beautiful dress that ever graced a red carpet, but it’s creative, it’s interesting, and it makes a statement.

 Plunging Necklines
Both Jennifer Lopez and Meryl Streep wore lovely gowns with plunging necklines, but Elizabeth Taylor did it first – and better – in 1962:

Basic Black
Judy Greer (who?) chose a very simple, basic black gown with a metallic insert down the center. Pretty, flattering, and showing off a lovely figure, it still pales in comparison to Julia Roberts’ similar gown from 2001.

Basic Blue
I’m not generally a fan of Penelope Cruz’s looks or style, but she was at the top of my ”well done” list last night in an understated, old Hollywood glamour gown, a soft, marcelled bob, and subtle makeup and jewelry.
But even so, the styles of the Golden Age of Hollywood are best carried off by those who created the Golden Age, including the divine Grace Kelly, who won a statuette in this elegant blue gown in 1955.

Fantastic Flops
We all enjoy seeing gorgeous gowns on the red carpet, but let’s admit it: we love the spectacular disasters even more. As the saying goes, “If you must sin, sin boldly.” And there have been some very bold fashion sins over the years. The top of the list has got to be Bjork’s infamous swan dress from 2001:

Or how about Demi Moore’s self-designed biker shorts in 1989?

Or Tilda Swinton’s one-armed oddity from 2008?

Sometimes even a celebrity known for her spectacular gowns has a spectacular disaster, like Gwyneth Paltrow’s unsupported shapeless dress from 2002 or Uma Thurman’s frothy white mess from 2004:

These ladies all missed the mark, but at least they took a risk with a bold fashion choice. This year’s celebrities played it safe and didn’t give themselves a chance to succeed spectacularly because they didn’t risk failing spectacularly.

Most Improved
I do want to call out a few actresses who stood out a bit in the dull crowd this year. The above-mentioned Penelope Cruz was my favorite of the night, but the actress who caught my eye was Melissa McCarthy, for being most improved over her Golden Globes gown. Some of you may recall my Golden Globes blog, where I scolded her stylist for putting her in this unflattering sack:

Apparently she took my advice because she shone in a much prettier and more flattering gown last night, with a more elegant and flattering hairstyle to go with it.

Meryl Streep also gets credit for improving her look over the Globes, where she donned this cowboy travesty (pockets, Meryl? Really? POCKETS??!!??):

A few actresses get a couple of lashes with a wet noodle for dressing better at the Globes than at the Oscars, most notably Emma Stone, who went from this beautiful, flattering gown:

To this gorgeously colored but ultimately overwhelming dress:

Note to all starlets: When people notice your gown and not you, it’s not a success.

Even the dog from “The Artist” knew to up the ante from the Globes to the Oscars by adding a bit of bling:

The bottom line from this year’s Oscars, in my opinion, is that it was a year for playing it safe. There were no spectacular flameouts, but no spectacular successes, either. Let’s hope that next year a few more celebrities decide to take some fashion risks. After all, fashion is what the Oscars are all about, right?

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Sunday, February 26, 2012

A Beautiful Mind

Unlike some 2-year-old boys who tend to be the strong, silent type, my son is a talker. He talks night and day. (Literally. He even talks in his sleep.) He has an impressive vocabulary for his age, and he is fascinated by new words. And the bigger, the better. “Humongous,” “articulated,” “stabilizers,” and “breakable” have all had their turn on his list of favorite words. But the top of the list by far this week is the word “beautiful.”

I’m not sure exactly what appeals to him about the word “beautiful.” Perhaps it’s that he can say it quite clearly. Perhaps it’s the sheer number of things to which it can be applied. If I dress up to go out to dinner with my husband – heck, if I put on earrings – my son informs me that I look beautiful. He likes to snitch diaper wipes and use them to clean off his toy trucks, telling me, “Mama, now my snowplow is beautiful,” or “I have a beautiful garbage truck.” While watching an episode of Curious George, he will announce, “George is a beautiful monkey,” or “That is a beautiful big yellow hat.” When he puts on his own yellow play hard hat, he asks, “Do you like my beautiful hat?”

It amazes me when he understands how a word can be used in a context in which he has never heard it before. I’m sure that when he’s seen me dressed up, my husband has told him, “Mama looks beautiful!” And somehow from that, apparently he’s figured out that “beautiful” can refer to an improvement over day-to-day looks; hence his application of the word to toy trucks that have been freshly washed. And he understands that “beautiful” is something special, so he describes Curious George as beautiful (a term I’ve never heard him apply to his stuffed monkeys) because he knows that George is an unusual and special monkey. Some things that are especially dear are called “beautiful,” so his beloved yellow hard hat is beautiful.

Occasionally, I am privileged to hear him talking through a new word as if to figure out how it works. He tends to be rough with toys and dishes, tossing them around carelessly, so I’ve cautioned him that some things are “breakable” so he needs to be extra-careful with them. I pointed out that Mama's coffee mug is breakable. I told him that he can’t step on his smaller toys because they’re breakable. I explained that some things in our house, like vases and candlesticks, are kept on high shelves because they’re breakable. So yesterday when we were having lunch with my father-in-law, my son went around the table carefully identifying various items by their breakability status: “My [plastic sippy] cup is not breakable. Pappy’s [glass] cup is very breakable. Mama’s [glass] cup is very breakable. My [paper] plate is not breakable. That [pointing to a glass vase of flowers] is very breakable.” It’s quite impressive to me that he was able to figure out, entirely on his own, that things made of plastic are usually not breakable and things made of glass almost always are. And when I warned him not to touch a figurine on the windowsill, he immediately understood why, asking, "Oh, this is breakable?"

His fascination with any particular word or concept also seems to help him fit it into the correct context because he uses it at every possible opportunity. When the word “happy” was the word of the week, he would ask me, “Mama is happy?” at least a dozen times a day. (Often out of genuine curiosity but occasionally out of pure hopefulness after he had misbehaved.) And he would inform me, “Ryan is happy!” at least a dozen more. My favorite example of his use of the word happy has to be from a few nights ago when he was being naughty right at bedtime and got sent to bed without his usual bathtub playtime. I was listening to him on the monitor and couldn’t help but laugh as he laid in bed and tearfully protested, “I want to be happy in my tubby!”

The idea of sleeping and being awake is another recent interest, although he applies it to trucks and buildings more often than actual people. When I come down for breakfast, he rarely fails to ask, “Mama, did you have a good sleep?” He announces, “I had a good sleep!” after every nap. When he asks if we’re going to church and we tell him, “Not today,” he inquires if the church is sleeping. On days when we don’t have gymnastics class, he tells us that gymnastics is sleeping. If I try to clarify things by telling him that the gym isn’t sleeping, he just isn’t going there today, he nods and says knowingly, “Oh, gymnastics is NOT sleeping. Gymnastics is awake!” If we pass a work site where he had seen some kind of construction vehicle within the past month and it’s not there, he announces that the backhoe/excavator/skid steer/bucket truck must be sleeping.

I love introducing him to new words, and I love watching him try them out, wrangle with their meaning, and quickly master them in every context. It is, as he might say, a beautiful thing.

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Saturday, February 25, 2012

I Am the Best of Moms, I Am the Worst of Moms

Being a mom means having to make countless choices every day about what is best for your child. You have to decide whether to let him come to the store wearing blue and green plaid shorts, a red polo shirt, and mismatched grey socks, because that’s what he picked out, or force him into slightly more mainstream clothes. You have to decide whether to make him eat a banana for breakfast or stick an Eggo in the toaster. You have to decide whether to bundle him up and take him to the park or stay inside out of the rain. You have to decide whether to hold his hand on the balance beam or let him fall off and get back up again.

And after you make every single one of those decisions, you second-guess yourself. If you gave him the waffle and he’s hyper all day, you should have gone with the banana. If you take him to the store looking like his closet threw up on him and you run into the most elegant lady from church, you should have picked out his outfit yourself. If you take him to the park and he catches a cold, you should have stayed home. If he falls off the beam and gives himself a shiner, you should have held his hand. Any time something goes wrong that a different decision might possibly have avoided, you think to yourself what a horrible mom you are.

But on the flip side, when your decision makes your child happy, you know you’re a great mom. When he gives you a sticky, syrupy kiss after breakfast and says, “Thank you, Mama!”, you know that good nutrition can wait until lunch. When he grins with pride from ear to ear as he looks at himself in the mirror wearing his painfully garish outfit, you don’t care about anyone else’s opinion. When he shouts, “Look at me, Mama, look at me!” over and over from the top of the slide, you don’t care any more than he does that his nose is red with cold. When he gets back on the beam after a fall and walks the whole length by himself without hesitating, there is no question in your mind that you made the right choice to let go.

And isn’t that really how every part of parenthood goes? Every decision you make can lead to heartbreak or ecstasy. You teeter between triumph and disaster every day like a human pendulum. And if this is what it’s like now, I can only imagine how it will be magnified when my children are teenagers. Right now the worst disaster of a poor decision on my part is likely to be a black eye or a disappointed tantrum. A poor decision ten or twelve years from now could end up resulting in someone sneaking out of (or into) the house in the middle of the night, or a really bad tattoo, or worse.

It’s a good thing I’ve got a decade of practice between now and then so I can up my percentage of good decisions.

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Friday, February 24, 2012

I'm Not Wearing Any Pants

As is true of most small children, both of my children like to be as naked as possible at all times. My son is very good at undressing himself, including taking off his diaper, so it is not that unusual a sight to come into his room in the morning or after his afternoon nap and find him running around naked as a jaybird. Or occasionally naked as a jaybird wearing shoes.

He has also mastered the art of timing an escape from the changing table so he gets to run around either naked or in just a diaper for a few minutes until I can catch him. (The changing table is on the floor – he’s not quite agile enough to escape from the other changing table that’s on top of the dresser. Yet.) He’s also been known to thrash and kick to avoid wearing pants. Apparently, any degree of nakedness is preferable to wearing clothes.

And his sister is getting to be the same way. She is getting so active that sometimes she manages to wriggle her legs up inside her sleeper so they get stuck. And now that she’s pulling herself up on everything, slippery socks or sleeper feet are very inconvenient, not to mention downright dangerous. So she also prefers to solve the problem by simply being naked.

And as much as I’m a bit embarrassed to admit it, I let them be naked whenever I can. After all, how short is the part of your life when you can run around naked without shame? And how beautiful is a completely uninhibited, naked child? They’re not worried about cellulite on their thighs, or a jiggly belly, or upper arm wattles. They’re not concerned about what anyone else thinks about them. They have pure joy in their own bodies. In fact, as you can see from the above photograph, they find their own bodies endlessly fascinating, as well they should.

So get naked while you can, little ones. All too soon you’ll start seeing some perceived imperfections instead of the perfect, beautiful gift of a strong, healthy, amazing body. While you still see yourself honestly and without shame, go ahead - take off your pants!

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Thursday, February 23, 2012

Rescue Me

My daughter has jumped directly from crawling on her hands and knees to pulling herself up and standing on her own in less than a week. This is incredibly exciting. It’s also a bit of a problem, because although she’s learning to stand up, she hasn’t the faintest idea how to get down.

Now, you’d think it would be pretty obvious, even to a baby, that if you’re standing up and hanging onto something, and you don’t want to be standing up any more, you can just let go and fall on your backside. And even if it wasn’t obvious, you’d think that after a very short time, you would let go by accident and then figure out that you could do that on purpose next time. My daughter, however, has yet to figure that out.

When she wakes up in the morning, she often plays in her crib for a bit before crying for us to get her. Now that she likes standing up, she pulls herself up on the crib bars and coos and bounces happily for several minutes when she wakes up. But then she pauses and thinks for a moment, as if wondering what to do next. She might give another bounce or two, just to fill time. But then the realization that she is stranded seems to dawn on her and her lip quivers, her entire face puddles up, and she lets out a pathetic wail. It’d break my heart if it weren’t so hilarious.

She has the same issue when she’s playing during the day. While her brother plays with his toys, she crawls around looking for things to climb up on. Her favorites are her brother’s highchair – when he’s sitting in it, eating, she crawls over to it, reaches up, and peeps over the edge at him, Kilroy Was Here style – and the corner of the couch. In both cases, she reaches as high as she can and hauls herself up on her knees, then with great effort pulls herself up onto her tiptoes and generally sways precariously for a few seconds before regaining her balance. She proudly stands there for a while, occasionally even taking a step or two sideways. And then, if she happens to be wearing a sleeper with particularly slippery feet, she begins to do a straddle. Lower and lower and wider and wider, until she realizes she’s in trouble, at which point the wailing begins. If she’s lucky and she’s already shed her socks for the day, she stays standing for a bit, but then she starts to get tired and again, the wailing begins.

Most of the time, it’s very funny. But there are times when it’s not so funny. When she has her last bottle at midnight and I put her in her bed, turn out the light, and drop exhausted into my own bed, and ten minutes later the wailing starts because instead of lying down and falling asleep like she used to do, she’s hauled herself up by the crib rails and is now stuck. So much for crying it out. Or when I’ve spent 12 hours peeling her off various pieces of furniture (and my legs) every 15 minutes.

She only took about a week to go from barely crawling to full-out climbing the furniture, so I’m really hoping that it’ll only take her another week to go from climbing up the furniture to climbing down the furniture. Because if it takes any longer, she may not be the only one who needs to be rescued. 

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Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Someone's in the Kitchen with Dinah

When I was a little girl, one of my favorite things to do with my mom was to cook. As soon as I was big enough to climb on a stool and reach the kitchen counter, Mom let me help in the kitchen. She let me stir and pour and frost and crack eggs and lick the beaters. She showed me how to use measuring cups and spoons, how to read a recipe, how to know when cakes and cookies are done baking, and how to adapt a recipe when you need to. And now that my son is big enough to climb on a stool and reach the kitchen counter, I let him help in the kitchen, too.

And I’m not alone in that. My son has cooked with his older sister and his daddy as well. In fact, almost every time he hears his sister in the kitchen, he runs upstairs and announces, “I want to help cook!” It’s nearly an unspoken rule in the household that he must be invited to help with any cooking involving cracking eggs. I love how natural it is for him to do things in the kitchen.

And I try to let him do as much as possible when we cook together. Last Sunday we needed to bring something to church for coffee hour, so he and I baked brownies. I read the recipe, chose the right measuring cups and utensils, and cut open the package of mix, but he really did the majority of the work. He broke the eggs into the bowl with minimal assistance (and didn’t get a single bit of eggshell in the bowl!). He carefully dumped the mix into the bowl. He poured the oil and the water into the measuring cup and dumped it into the bowl. He squeezed the packet of fudge in. He sprayed the pan with cooking spray. And we took turns stirring and counting our strokes until we reached 50. Then he scooped the batter into the pan and smoothed it out. And on Sunday, he was very proud to tell everyone that he had made those brownies himself.

Baking is his favorite, but we do cooking together, too. A few weeks ago we made shepherd’s pie together, and once again, he did the majority of the work. I browned the ground beef and poured the boiling water for the mashed potatoes, but he did nearly everything else. He helped me scoop the beef into the pan, then he poured the frozen corn into the measuring cup up to the line that I showed him and poured it onto the beef. He poured the salt into the measuring spoon and scooped the butter into the bowl for the potatoes. He measured the milk and the potato flakes and poured them in. And he stirred everything together after I added the hot water. He dumped the potatoes on top and smoothed them out, then dropped handfuls of cheese on top of the whole glorious mess. He even helped me crimp a piece of tinfoil over the top. I popped it into the oven, and when it came out and I spooned it onto plates for him, his daddy, and myself, he again announced proudly, “I made this for you!”

Yesterday being Fat Tuesday, I thought I’d let him have something special for lunch, so we made a tortilla pizza. He laid a tortilla on his plate, scooped some pizza sauce on and spread it around, and covered it with shredded cheese. I put it in the microwave to melt, and then together we used a pizza cutter to make wedges. He was very proud of his own creation and gobbled it right up.

I look forward to a few years from now, when I plan to make it his responsibility to choose a menu and help make dinner once a week. I already have a mental list of favorites that he can do completely or at least almost completely on his own: shepherd’s pie, meatloaf, wienerschnitzel (one of the first dishes I made by myself under my mom’s watchful eye), soup, chicken and rice casserole, pork chops.

I have always appreciated that my husband knows how to cook – it’s great for his own sake and for mine. And I plan on raising a son who can feed not only himself, but his family and friends as well. And if he turns out to be a better cook than I am, that’s just fine with me.

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