Saturday, March 31, 2012

It Smells Like Family

I was recently listening to a radio interview with a woman who had written a cookbook. She told a story about one time when her son, who was home from college on winter break, was on his way to work one morning and called to her, “Hey Mom, is it okay if Joe from work comes for dinner tonight?” She said that was fine, then on his way out the door, he tossed out, “By the way, Joe used to be a professional chef.” She thought about the menu she had planned for that night – meatloaf, mashed potatoes, and green beans – and considered changing it to something more gourmet, but decided she didn’t have time. That evening, as her son and Joe walked into the kitchen, Joe took a deep breath and announced happily, “Yum, it smells like family in here!”

There’s something to be said for that. I love filet mignon and duck a’l’orange as much as the next guy (maybe more), but comforting, family style foods like chicken and rice casserole, shepherd’s pie, and meatloaf make my heart as happy as they make my taste buds. So, like that cookbook author, I don’t let myself be intimidated by guests who may have a more well-honed palate than I – I just try to make them happy with something homespun and delicious. Remember the scene from the animated movie “Ratatouille” where the bitter, cynical food critic comes to the restaurant and tastes the ratatouille – and is instantly brought back to his childhood and his mother’s simple cooking?

His sour expression cracks into a smile and he takes boyish delight in the simple but delicious meal.
That’s how I like to entertain. Simple enough that I’m not spending hours preparing food before a party or locked in the kitchen during the party instead of enjoying my guests, but still delicious enough that my guests feel special and pampered. Who needs to stress over whether a soufflé will fall or a béchamel will break or a meringue will separate? Even if everything comes out perfectly, if I’ve used up that much energy panicking over the menu, I won’t be able to enjoy the food or my guests’ company.
So tonight, when we’re hosting a birthday party for my sister- and brother-in-law, the menu will include steak tips over Caesar salad, fresh Italian bread from a local bakery, and a chocolate cake from Costco. Easy and delicious. And I promise, it will smell just like family.

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Friday, March 30, 2012

The Post-Baby Body Blues

I’m currently in rehearsals for a play set in Dublin the early 1960s, and I’ve started looking for costumes. The first shock of that process was taking my measurements, which I haven’t done since before my kids were born. Yikes. But the real shock was when I pulled out an old costume. Five years ago, I was in a production of The Pajama Game, which is set in the 1950s, and I found a beautiful beige linen shirtdress at a vintage store that was my favorite costume in the show. I thought it would be perfect for my current show, so I brought it down from the attic and tried it on.

Or, more accurately, tried to try it on. The waist wasn’t even close to closing. I have a vague recollection of having to suck in a tiny bit when I put it on back then, but no amount of sucking in or corsets or possibly even organ removal is going to make it fit now.

I’ve got the post-baby body blues.

The weird thing is that I actually look pretty darn good. Not just for a woman in her 40s who has never darkened the door of a gym. Not just for a woman who had two babies after the age of 40. Not just for a woman who gave birth to a nearly 10-pound baby less than 8 months ago. No, I look good for a woman, period. I just don’t look the same as I did five years ago.

Having babies does things to your body that will never change back. My feet and hips are wider and all the exercise in the world won’t make them narrow again. Maybe if I spent two hours a day in the gym five days a week I could lose the added jiggle around my middle and the little muffin top. Maybe if I ran up and down the stairs 50 times a day my thighs would slim down to what they used to be. But that ain’t gonna happen. Because having babies also does things to your lifestyle, like not allow you the freedom to spend hours at the gym and climbing stairs. My exercise these days consists of lifting babies and chasing toddlers. And my diet consists largely of leftover macaroni and cheese, toast, and graham crackers.

And you know, I’m cool with that. I’d love my slim little waist back. I’d love to have my so-firm-I-don’t-need-a-bra boobs again. I’d be delighted to buy a pair of jeans that doesn’t threaten to set my thighs aflame (and not in a good way) because of the chafing. But in the big picture, I’d rather have my small children than my small waistline. I’d rather steal bites of mac and cheese from my son and giggle about it together than nibble a salad on my own plate. I’d rather get my exercise chasing him around the house or climbing at the playground with him than going to the gym by myself. I’d rather tone my muscles by tossing my baby daughter in the air and stretch my back by bending over and helping her walk for hours than take a yoga class with strangers.

When you think about it, the changes in my body are a small price to pay for the happiness that my children bring me every day. And as long as my family and I are eating healthy (side of applesauce or baked sweet potato fries with that mac and cheese) and getting exercise (going for walks together and soon, swimming in the pool for hours every day), we’ll all be doing just fine.

And fitting into some old dress will just be a pleasant memory.

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Thursday, March 29, 2012

Confession: Competition

My son went to daycare yesterday. So I have a confession to make: Every time he goes to daycare, I have a sudden urge to do a special project with him and buy him a new toy and take him to the coolest playground I can find. Because I’m secretly afraid he’ll like daycare better than home.

Yes, I know that’s ridiculous. No, knowing that it’s ridiculous doesn’t make a whit of difference. Sending my son to daycare brings out a competitiveness in me that is rarely brought out so strongly by anything else.

Why is that? Just think about it: At daycare, he has a huge roomful of toys he only plays with now and then. There are a whole bunch of other kids to play with. There is an indoor and an outdoor playground right there. They do some kind of project (like making jello or finger painting or baking something) every day. No-one yells at him or spanks him when he refuses to take a nap. At home, he has the same toys he always has. The only other kid is his baby sister who tries to pull his hair and eat his toys. There’s no indoor playground and the outdoor “playground” is sadly lacking a slide, Cozy Coupes, teeter totters, and a basketball hoop. Projects are sporadic and rarely include the use of jello or paint (and by “rarely” I mean “never”). And naptime is sometimes a two-hour ordeal involving raised voices and frequently a solid swat across a misbehaving tuchis.

I am a bad mother.

Except that I’m really not, and a certain part of me knows this. My son has an amazing vocabulary for a not-quite-2-1/2 year old, and I know it’s because I talk to him all day long and use big vocabulary words like “delicious,” “fascinating,” and “incorrigible.” (I’m kidding about that last one. That one, my husband taught him.) He has a great imagination and loves to play pretend and tell stories because I do it with him all the time and encourage him to use his mind that way. I teach him to be polite and say “please” and “thank you” and “I’m sorry” and “excuse me.” I teach him good manners like not taking other people’s toys and eating neatly and not interrupting a conversation. I’ve taught him shapes and numbers and colors and the alphabet. We sing songs together. We build railroad tracks together. We race cars together. We do puzzles together. I fix his books when he rips them and his toys when he breaks them.

And maybe the wonderful daycare teachers (and they are, truly, wonderful) do all that, too. But there are a few things that they don’t – or can’t – do that I can. They don’t give him a belly Zerbert when he’s in a bad mood. They don’t give him a big hug when he wakes up from his nap. They don’t snuggle him in their lap when he’s starting to get tired or cranky. They can’t fix a boo-boo with a kiss. And they don’t tell him, “I love you!!!!” That line is mine, all mine.

Yeah, I don't know why I'm worried. I totally win.

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Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Que Sera, Sera

Doris Day is probably more famous for her recording of the song “Que Sera, Sera” than she is for anything else she did in her long and illustrious career. And why not? It’s a lovely and unusual song. How many other popular songs are about talking to your mother about what you want to be when you grow up? Not very many, that’s for certain.

In case you happen to be the one person in America who is not familiar with this song, let me share some of the lyrics: When I was just a little girl, I asked my mother, “What will I be? Will I be pretty? Will I be rich?” Here’s what she said to me: “Que sera, sera: whatever will be, will be. The future’s not ours to see, que sera, sera. What will be, will be.” Other verses go on to see the girl falling in love and asking her sweetheart if their future will be perfect, and then her children asking her the same question she asked her own mother, with the same response.

My children aren’t quite old enough yet to ask that question, but I often wonder it on their behalf. Will my son be an athlete? Will he be tall? (OK, that one I actually do know the answer to – that would be a resounding “yes!”) Will he be musical? Will he be into computers or cooking or cars? Will his hair lose its curl and darken up? Will he have a whole series of girlfriends or just one or two long, serious relationships? And what about my daughter? Will her hair always be that baby buttery blond? Will it gain some wave in a few years? Will she be tall and straight like me, her older sister, and my mother-in-law or shorter and curvier like my mom, my sister, and my sister-in-law? Will she be a gymnast or a chess whiz? Will she be a poet or a field hockey player? Will she be a social butterfly? Will she be a scholar? Will my husband and I totally hate her first serious boyfriend? Will she want to pierce some strange body part or get a tattoo?

And the only answer I can give myself is, “Que sera, sera”: What will be, will be. I can guide them toward making wise decisions and taking advantage of opportunities, but they will be what they will be. I can’t force either one of them to love reading or football or French. I can make them do their homework but I can’t make them love it. I can require them to take piano lessons and practice but I can’t make them be good at it or enjoy it. I can feed them healthy foods, encourage them to exercise, teach them self-discipline, and give them lots of opportunities to try new things, but I can’t change their basic builds or personalities. I can support them and cheer them on, but I can’t change who they are. Nor would I want to.  I love who they are, and I will love whomever they become as adults.

That’s not to say I expect to agree with or love all their choices, or even be proud of those choices. But even when my heart is breaking, I will accept who they are and what they choose to do. I think of a scene from “Fiddler on the Roof”, when Tevye’s daughter Hodel is taking the train to Siberia to marry the scholar, Perchik. She says to Tevye, “God alone knows when we shall see each other again.” Tevye replies, “And we will leave it in His hands.”

Not such a bad way to look at it, that.

Que sera, sera.

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Tuesday, March 27, 2012

The Java Jive

I didn’t drink coffee in high school. I didn’t drink coffee in college. I didn’t drink coffee at my first job. I started having a cup or two after meals out with my mom when I was in my late 20s, and in my early 30s I started having a cup at work in the afternoon now and then. I rarely had coffee in the morning until I was well into my 30s. When my son was born, I’d grab a cup every once in a while. But now that I have a toddler and a baby who both get up at 6:30am, I have a cup of coffee to start my morning every single day.
It’s the only way I’ve survived the last 7 months.

But as pragmatic as it was at first, it has now become a real pleasure. Our first Christmas together, I bought my now-husband-then-boyfriend a Keurig one-cup coffeemaker. He is not a coffee drinker but loves hot chocolate. And since I was planning on being in the picture permanently starting very soon, I knew that I would appreciate being able to brew myself a single cup now and then. I had no idea how crucial that machine would be to my entire existence in just a few short years. But the best part of the Keurig is not just its ability to brew a single cup – oh, no. It is its ability to brew a DIFFERENT single cup every morning.

Let me explain. I am a girly drinker in every possible way. I drink girly cocktails, and I drink girly coffee. My cocktails are either some shade of pastel with a sugared rim or include something in the chocolate, butterscotch, and/or cream families. My coffee has sugar, nearly as much cream as coffee, and is flavored. The more flavors I can try, the better. I recently discovered the magic that is a sampler K-cup pack from and I think I’m in love. Wolfgang Puck Crème Caramel, Timothy’s Kahlua, Green Mountain Southern Pecan, Donut House Collection Cinnamon Roll and Chocolate Glazed Donut, Gloria Jean’s Butter Toffee and Hazelnut. It’s a taste of heaven in a bunch of plastic Dixie cups.

And what’s even better is that some of the sampler packs don’t have a specific combination of flavors. You get whatever happens to be lurking around on packing day. It doesn’t seem to be the lousy flavors that nobody orders, either. You might get some cappuccino, you might get some iced coffee, you might get some decaf, you might get some “special edition” flavors like Spicy Eggnog or Gingerbread or Golden French Toast. You just never know. But it will all be glorious coffee, java, brew, joe, the best part of waking up, fill it to the rim, good to the last drop.
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Monday, March 26, 2012

Parental Cookies

I just bought Paul Reiser’s book, “Familyhood,” and I’ve been reading it on my Kindle. Boy, is he right on target. He is definitely the kind of parent that I can relate to. He does the best he can, sometimes he screws up, he tries to learn from his parents’ (and his own) mistakes, he’s not always 100% on the same page with his spouse, and despite everything he does, his kids seem to be growing up okay. I can identify with all of that.

One other thing he talks about that I can absolutely identify with is the “parental cookie.” You know how every now and then something happens or your kid says or does something that makes you feel like you’re doing pretty okay as a parent, something that gives you that burst of joy and satisfaction that gets you through the temper tantrums and the slammed doors and the “I hate you! I wish you weren’t my mom/dad!” moments? Yup, those little rewards are parental cookies.

Here are some examples of parental cookies I’ve experienced in the past few months:
·        My son had just said thank you for something, and I said to him, “I love it when you’re so polite,” and he responded, “I love you too, Mama.”

·        My daughter was in her playpen and started crying, and my son brought her one of his trucks and told her in a very sweet voice, “Don’t be sad, don’t cry. Here’s a toy for you.”

·        On several occasions, my son has presented my husband, me, or one of his grandparents with a picture he’s colored or painted, and announced proudly, “I made this for you!”

·        My daughter, in the middle of a crying jag, sometimes will spy my husband or I and suddenly stop crying and break into a huge grin of delight.

Those “cookies” may seem like small rewards, but they’re what make all the work and struggle and strife of parenting worthwhile. It’s what I learned about in psychology class in 11th grade called intermittent reinforcement. You never know when the reward will come or what it will be, but you know that if you keep working at it, eventually you’ll get one. You keep eating your broccoli and your Brussels sprouts and your lima beans in the hopes that this is the day mom decides to offer cookies for being in the clean plate club. Some days you down the Brussels sprouts for nothing, but other days you end up with a cookie. You never know which day it will be, so you keep eating those Brussels sprouts to be sure you never miss a cookie.

I love my parental cookies, and I don’t want to miss out on a single one of them, ever!

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Thursday, March 22, 2012

When I Grow Up

This afternoon, out of the blue, my two-year-old son said to me, “Mama, do you want to know what I will grow up to be?” Curious, I told him that I did want to know, very much. Given his current interests, I expected him to say he would be a fire fighter, or a policeman, or a mailman. Nope. “Mama, I will grow up to be a dinosaur.” Okay, that was an unexpected twist. I asked, “Will you be a T-Rex, like Buddy on Dinosaur Train?” He answered with an enthusiastic, “Yeah!” then paused a moment and added, “Or maybe like Tiny’s mama.” (Another Dinosaur Train reference.) “You want to be Mrs. Pteranodon?” I asked him. “Yeah!” was his reply. “She knows how to fly!”

My son may not grow up to know how to fly, or to be a dinosaur. He may not even grow up to be a fire fighter or a policeman or a mailman. But what I hope for him is that he finds something that makes him as excited as the thought of being a flying dinosaur.
It’s good for children to have aspirations. And it’s even better when those aspirations change over time. They should change to reflect the child’s greater understanding of himself, and of the world, and of reality. It’s wonderful when a young child recognizes the fascination of flight and wants to grow up to be a flying dinosaur. It’s more wonderful when the child gets a little older and realizes he can’t be a dinosaur but that maybe he can be an airline pilot. And when he gets a bit older still and realizes that maybe he doesn’t like math enough to be a pilot, but that he would love to spend time in a plane and he wants to be a flight attendant. Or maybe a child starts off wanting to fly, then decides she likes speed but not heights and wants to be a racecar driver, and then decides that’s too dangerous for her tastes but she loves working with the cars and decides to become an auto mechanic.
It really doesn’t matter what a child grows up to be, as long as it’s exciting, attainable, and will keep him or her in the type of lifestyle he or she is willing to accept. Maybe that’s a vice president of a bank, and maybe it’s a bank teller. Maybe it’s an engineer and maybe it’s a telephone repairman. It might even be dressing up in a plush dinosaur suit and entertaining at children’s parties – children who might go home to mom and dad and announce that they’d like to grow up to be a dinosaur.

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Wednesday, March 21, 2012

You Gotta Have Art

This afternoon I wore shorts for the first time all season. I shaved my legs and everything. I looked at myself in the mirror and thought, “Hey, I look pretty good for a forty-something mother of two.” My son looked at me and thought, “Hey, I could draw some great pictures on those legs!”

He loves anything you can write or color with: crayons, finger paint, sidewalk chalk, markers, even a rock that leaves a mark on other rocks will do in a pinch. For the most part he just scribbles, but he’s starting to make a few attempts at actually drawing. In the past, he would scribble for a bit and then beg me to draw something – a tow truck, a trash truck, an excavator – without wanting to draw anything himself. I couldn’t convince him to take a stab at making a picture on his own.

But on several occasions recently, he’s drawn a somewhat recognizable shape, like a circle or a triangle, and pointed it out to me. And today, he even drew a crude stick figure, complete with some arms and a head. Mostly even in the right places where arms and a head should go.

I love that he shows some interest in art. I don’t have much artistic talent myself, but two of my grandparents were very skilled artists (my grandmother even got her degree from Pratt Art Institute in New York City), so I was hoping that some of the talent that skipped over me might land in my kids’ generation.

But even if he doesn’t actually have any talent, I don’t mind as long as he enjoys art – either making his own or enjoying others. Because in some way, shape or form, you gotta have art!

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Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Random Things in Random Places

One of the unexpected things that happens when you have small children is that you find random things in random places and don’t even blink. For example, I find the following objects in my bed on a regular basis: a stone turtle, a battery-powered candle, combs and hairbrushes, shoes (mine or someone else’s), and toy trucks. I have found a toy fire engine in my dishwasher. This morning there was a purple plastic number 3 behind my toilet. I once opened a box of pool supplies my husband had brought down from the attic to find that it also contained several blocks and a stuffed monkey that had been missing for the past eight months. We used to find blocks, stuffed animals, books, and dirty socks in the diaper pail at least once a week. I still never know what I’ll find when I stick my hand into my coat pocket – it could be the car keys I’m looking for or it could be a rock, or a stick, or some petrified raisins, or a plastic spoon.

The first few times it happens, you think, “What on earth??!!??” But you get used to it very quickly, and before long you react to finding, say, a pair of swim goggles in your purse with merely a shrug.

It’s very important not to discard any of the treasures you find, however. What looks to you like a handful of stale pretzels might be a delicious snack that a certain youngster is very much looking forward to. What appears to be a simple, dime-a-dozen rock may be a beautiful and valuable gemstone in the eyes of a little boy. A beat-up plastic spoon could be a piece of trash, or it could be a beloved utensil whose loss will be mourned greatly by its original user. Beauty is, indeed, in the eye of the beholder.

It does teach you to look at things with new eyes. If you look more closely at that grubby rock, you might realize that it does sparkle in the sunshine like a jewel. That old, hardened piece of play-dough really does resemble a tiny robot if you look at it at just the right angle. And raisins are already dried out, so a little extra dryness doesn’t negate their value as an emergency treat.

And so I eagerly await what I may find in my bed every afternoon after my son has visited my bedroom. That may look like a tiny stone turtle and a toy tractor to you, but in my eyes it’s a precious love offering.

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Monday, March 19, 2012

The 13 Things That Men Find Sexiest About Women

Yesterday I stumbled across an online article that listed what it claimed to be “The 13 Things That Men Find Sexiest About Women”  ( Out of sheer curiosity, I clicked on the article, wondering if they’d have anything new to say. Here is their list, along with my take (and my self-rating) on each “Thing.”

13. Fit Legs
There are “breast men” and there are “butt men,” but this article claims that there are also “leg men.” Considering the popularity of the micro-miniskirt, I have to admit that this one is very much true. Which makes me happy, as, among my many figure flaws, I also happen to also have legs up to my neck. Lousy when trying to buy pants, but apparently great when it comes to making my husband happy. And that’s a good thing. My score: +1. No, I’ve got a pair of great legs – make that +2.

12. Unshakeable Faith
Faith. Yes, in God. I was both surprised and delighted to find this on their list. But anyone whose faith is so deep-rooted that their moral code, their philanthropic practices, their view of their fellow man, and their personal way of living life is unchanged by the chaotic world around them – that’s sexy. +1 for me.

11. Mean Shoe Game
Shoes? Okay, the article commented that “Five- to six-inch heels will get his attention,” so they’re talking about a very specific kind of shoes. They are right in that a man can’t fail to notice a woman in five- to six-inch heels because she’ll either be towering over him or falling into his lap after lurching gracelessly across the room. Possibly both in rapid succession. I’m already plenty tall and I have bad feet so although I have a terrific and extensive shoe collection, there’s nary a six-inch stiletto in the bunch. Score me -1.

10. A Pleasant Scent
I know exactly what my husband smells like, even if I can’t name the brand of aftershave, cologne, or body wash that he uses. But if I ever smelled his scent on someone else, I would immediately think of him. And there is no doubt in my mind that he recognizes my signature scent, as well. (It’s Estee Lauder’s “Pleasures,” just for the record.) Another bullseye, and another +1 for me.

9. Ample Derriere
I don’t know if this is true, but I’m going to pretend it is, even if it’s not. Nothing adds junk to your trunk like having a couple of babies after age 40. +1.

8. Patti Labelle Skills
I’m vaguely confused by this one, because apparently they’re referring to cooking. I wasn’t aware that Patti Labelle could cook, but I’ve been known to sing in the kitchen so I’m giving myself credit either way. In fact, I’m giving myself +2. Just because I can.

7. Select Cleavage
I appreciate that they modified the word “cleavage” with the word “select.” Showing a lot of cleavage, in my opinion, is tacky and downright unattractive. But just a hint of tasteful cleavage can be very alluring. For me, this is the flip side fringe benefit of having kids: I may have a bigger butt and a thicker waist, but I also have cleavage. Subtle cleavage, but cleavage. Subtle enough that I have to be honest and give myself a zero. But at least it’s not the -1 it was pre-babies.

6. Understated Confidence
There is a very fine line between confidence and arrogance. Lucky for me, I am nowhere near crossing that line. In fact, my confidence is so understated that it’s pretty much non-existent. I’d better give myself a -1.

5. An Adventurous Spirit
Before I met my husband, I would not have considered myself that much of an adventurous spirit. But with him by my side, I’m game for a lot of things I never would have done before. I’ve tried more new foods than I can count since I’ve met him. I’ve ridden in a tiny catamaran, I’ve tried kayaking, I’ve held discussions with sommeliers, I’ve even learned to drive a minivan. Heck, I’m raising two kids. Doesn’t get more adventurous than that. +1.

4. Exposed Back
Based on the number of backless designer gowns that make an appearance at every Hollywood gathering of the rich and beautiful, I guess a lot of people think that backs are sexy. And one of the first compliments I ever got from a relative stranger was when I was wearing a backless dress for a show I was in, and an acquaintance came up to me and whispered, “I hope this doesn’t sound weird, but you have a very sexy back.” It did sound weird, but I appreciated it nonetheless. And since my husband has echoed that sentiment on numerous occasions, not to mention pointing out and/or buying me a number of backless or nearly-backless dresses, I’m scoring myself another +1.

3. Genuine Happiness
This one has to be a no-brainer on any list. Who doesn’t find genuine contentment, genuine joy in life, genuine, sincere happiness to be an incredible turn-on? And for all that I have many moments of existential crises on a regular basis, on the whole I consider myself a genuinely contented and happy person. I’ll give myself another +1.

2. The Hip to Waist Curve (waist 70% or less of hip)
Yup, curviness is sexy. Big, voluptuous women are just as attractive as – or often more attractive than – their slender but equally curvy counterparts, and they’re definitely sexier than their slender and less curvaceous counterparts. Which would be me, which is why I get a -1.

1. Using His Name
I have to say I disagree with this one. Everyone calls me by my name; only my husband calls me by a pet name, and I find it VERY sexy. I’m sure he does as well. But to be fair, since I never use his given name, I definitely have to score myself a -1 on this one.

So what’s my total score? A very mediocre 5. But since my husband thinks I’m the sexiest thing since sliced bread, I have to conclude that this scale is immensely flawed. So here’s the real scale of sexiness that makes me a perfect 10 in his book:

5. Love and Support His Children
Not just the ones we have together, but the one he had before we met. I know it means a lot to him that I cheer his daughter on, encourage her in what she wants to pursue, and support him spending time with her. Understanding that there are other parts to his life besides me is very sexy. +2

4. Be the President of His Fan Club
I support my husband in everything he does, and I do my best to make sure he has the time and energy to do it. I don’t complain when he spends weekends away because of avocational commitments, or when I’m alone some evenings because he has rehearsals. I go to see the shows he’s in whenever I can, I offer to co-host or help coordinate events he organizes as much as possible, and I act as a sounding board whenever he asks me to. And in return, he moves heaven and earth to make my outside activities happen. +2

3. Dress to His Taste
I’m not necessarily a huge fan of leopard print, but I recently bought myself a leopard print shirt because he loved it. I sometimes wear shoes that make my feet hurt because when I put them on, he purrs. Literally. He bought me a big kitschy pearl bead cocktail ring a few months ago and I didn’t love it when he bought it, but I’ve worn it on several occasions, and I have to admit that it’s really growing on me. In fact, everything he’s ever bought me, clothes and jewelry, even if I didn’t love them at first, I’ve grown to love. Or at least I’ve grown to love how much he loves them. And since I see myself in the mirror once for 20 seconds before we go out and he has to stare at me all night, that seems like a pretty fair deal. And the compliments I always get from everyone else when I’m wearing what he bought me are pretty nice, too. +2

2. Tell Him HE’S Sexy
Men are supposed to tell their wives all the time that they’re beautiful. But no-one expects women to tell their husbands that they’re handsome. Luckily, my husband is very handsome and very sexy, and I try to never miss an opportunity to tell him so. He rocks my socks whether he’s wearing a white dinner jacket (rowr!), white tie and tails (double rowr!), a cashmere sweater and nice khakis, or a ratty old undershirt and boxers. And he smells good, too. I tell him that a lot. +2

1. Love Him
The sexiest thing in the whole entire world for either sex is to be loved, respected, and adored. I try to show my husband that I love him as well as telling him, by making his favorite dinner, offering him a backrub after a long day, giving him space when he needs it, and occasionally just plain shutting my yap for a while (that might not sound especially loving, but I’m saving him from having to tell me to shut my piehole, so that’s actually kind of a big deal). But I tell him a lot, too. I waited a very long time for him to come into my life, and I’m so glad that he did. I tell him that a lot, too. +2

There it is: my perfect 10.

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Sunday, March 18, 2012

Sand Between My Toes

The weather was so gorgeous and warm that my 2-year-old son and I went right outside after lunch and played in the sandbox. While we were happily building roads and sand castles, I heard my 7-month-old daughter waking up from her nap. I ran upstairs to get her and found she had shed a sock, but since it was so warm, instead of searching for it, I just took the other one off and brought her out to the sandbox. At first I sat with her on my lap and let her watch her brother playing in the sand. But after a few minutes, it occurred to me that she might enjoy dipping her bare toes in the sand.
I held her arms and lowered her slowly so her feet just brushed the warm sand. She immediately looked down at her feet with an astonished expression and drew up her left leg, as if having this strange new sensation on both feet at once was more than she could bear. But she soon lowered it again, albeit a bit cautiously, and then began to slide one foot back and forth, watching the tips of her toes as they vanished and reappeared under the cascading sand.

For a full ten minutes she didn’t take her eyes off her feet while she experimented with how different movements made the sand feel on her feet. She poked it gently with a pointed toe, she stomped it with flat feet, she slid her feet back and forth slowly and then quickly, she tried ”walking” a few tentative steps. She buried her toes deep in the sand and then leaned down quizzically as if she was trying to figure out where those sneaky toes had gone to.
She was, in a word, enthralled.
It never ceases to amaze me, this fascination that babies and small children have with new experiences and new sensations. As adults, how often do we get to experience a sensation, a taste, a sound, a sight that we have never sensed, tasted, heard, or seen before? How long has it been since we experienced something truly novel for the very first time? Think back to your first airplane flight or your first roller coaster ride, when you felt that sensation of your stomach dropping for the very first time. You’d never felt anything like it before. It was dizzying. It was overwhelming. It was exhilarating! It doesn’t happen to us very often after the age of 8 or 9. But for babies, that dizzying, overwhelming sense of exhilaration happens every day.
It happens the first time they open their eyes in the light. It happens the first time they taste solid food. The first time they touch snow. The first time they put their weight on their own two feet. The first time they grab a handful of Mummy’s hair, or feel an ice cube, or put their hand into a puddle of cold water. The first time they touch a crayon to paper and it leaves a colorful mark. Each of these experiences teaches them something new about the world around them, and something new about themselves and their relationship to that world.
So the next time you feel sand between your toes, imagine what it must have been like the very first time you ever felt that sensation. And be amazed!
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Friday, March 16, 2012

Put Another Nickel In

I recently read an article about legitimate ways to earn income from home using the internet. One of the ways suggested by the article was a website that pays its “workers” to do short tasks such as taking surveys, submitting to psychological or skills testing, writing short essays, evaluating Google searches, and similar tasks. The tasks generally take very little time, but they also generate very little income. And by “very little,” I mean literally a few pennies. Many of the tasks pay two or three cents for ten or fifteen minutes of your time. Some pay thirty or fifty cents. A few even pay a dollar, or two, or three! So I signed up to be a worker.

Some of the tasks are interesting, like comparing the top hit of Google searches with slightly varied keywords, or transcribing a political interview. Some are good for polishing writing skills, like writing a few paragraphs of copy for a photographer’s website, or writing a brief article on how to give an effective wedding toast. Some are just plain goofy fun, like watching brief images flash on a screen and picking the category that they best fit into, or adding a column of figures while clicking on an icon whenever you hear a certain sound.

But it’s certainly not going to make anyone rich. After four days and probably ten or twelve hours of “work,” I’ve earned a grand total of….wait for it….twenty-two dollars and sixty-one cents. Now, technically, it’s likely that I’ve earned more than that, because some of the tasks take a day or two to be approved, so I have a number of outstanding payments that aren’t included in that total. So assuming that I did twelve hours of work and made a little more than thirty bucks, I’m earning roughly two fifty an hour. Before taxes.

That kind of sucks.

And yet, I’m still doing it.

Why? Because it’s kind of fun. And because, as my husband pointed out, that’s booze money for the week. Thirty bucks a week will buy a nice bottle of wine. (Or a pair of shoes. Or a dress. Or dinner out - for one, anyway.)

It’s a bit humbling to think that my time is worth so little. And yet, it’s not worth that little simply because that’s all that I’m being paid for it. It makes me think of the many talented musicians I’ve heard playing in subway stations. Every few minutes, someone tosses them a nickel, a dime, maybe a quarter, maybe even a buck or two. They’re not being paid a fair wage for their skill, but they’re willing to share their talent for the little bit they get back. And why? Because they enjoy it, whether or not they’re being paid. Because the world is a better place due to their willingness to share their time and talents. Because eventually those nickels and dimes do add up to something.

Even if that something is just a bottle of wine. Because that makes the world a better place, too.

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Thursday, March 15, 2012

My Mom Makes the Best ___________

This morning, my son and I made cornbread together. And as I was lifting it out of the pan and smelling its buttery sweetness, I thought to myself, “My mom made the BEST cornbread.”

I’d bet that all of you, my readers, if asked to fill in the blank in the sentence “My mom makes the best ________,” wouldn’t even hesitate. You’d have an answer right away. Maybe it would be something as mundane as meatloaf or chocolate cake, or maybe it might be something a bit fancier, like Baked Alaska or boeuf bourguignon, or maybe it might be something a bit offbeat, like Dirt Pudding or curried hotdogs. But I’m sure you would come up with at least one answer without even having to think. And even if your mom isn’t much of a cook, I bet you could think of something your dad, or your grandmother, or your Aunt Delores makes that’s the absolute best, in your opinion.
I wonder what my kids will think of, years down the road, when asked about my signature dish. Will their favorite be something sweet, like my chocolate fudge cake or my Lime Fascination, something ordinary like my shepherd’s pie or my chicken pot pie, or will it be something that I don’t even think about as being special, like my fish chowder or my pumpkin pie?
Whatever it turns out to be, I only hope that part of the reason they think it’s the best is that they associate it with wonderful times spent together in the kitchen, working and laughing together with each other and with me.
I know that’s what makes my mom’s recipes so special to me.

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Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Plink, Plank, Plunk

Yesterday, the piano tuner came to work on our piano. My 2-year-old son was in heaven. Not only did he get to watch the tuner take the whole piano apart and pull out its guts, but the tuner let him plink on the keys and watch the hammers move while said guts were pulled out. He loves to peek into the shadowy interior of the piano (or, as he inexplicably calls it, the “compiano”) to catch glimpses of the hammers bouncing up and down as he pounds on the keys, so seeing them out in the open doing their work was extra-exciting.

Once the tuner got down to the serious business of tuning, my son and I went outside to play in the sandbox so his (ok, OUR) childish squeals wouldn’t interfere with the tuning process. But I could still hear the repeated plink-, plank-, plunking of one key at a time as the tuner’s sensitive equipment (and sensitive ear) determined what adjustments needed to be made.

I have a pretty good ear myself, but I was amazed and impressed at the minuteness of the adjustments. Three wires for each note, each wire with its own distinct overtones, combining to make what the ear hears as a single note – single, yet rich and full. And each wire must be perfectly synchronized with the others in order to reinforce and enhance the sound, producing the beautiful tones of the piano.

It’s a lot like the way a family works. We’re a single unit made of multiple parts, each part having its own identity. Yet we have to work together, and if any one component is a bit off, we’re discordant and out of sync. We need to listen to each other to be sure we’re in tune, and make adjustments when we’re not.

And when we’re all in accord, what beautiful music we can make. Plink, plank, plunk!

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Monday, March 12, 2012

Hernando's Hideaway

I just went to grab a pen from my desk and realized that I’ve had to hide all the “adult” writing implements in the study. Right now, within arm’s reach of my computer, the only writing implements available are a naked washable blue crayon (my son likes to peel the paper off), four slightly dried-out Color Wonder markers (the kind that only write on special paper), two Color Wonder Crayons with the tips smushed down to the nub, and (if these even count) a set of Color Wonder paints and a paintbrush. There used to be a green Sharpie in the drawer, but I had to hide it when my son got into it and scribbled on his own knuckles like gang tattoos. There was a pen in the same drawer before he used it to decorate his wooden toy truck. There was a Ziploc bag of non-washable crayons at some point before he made a mural on the wall with them (thank heavens for Magic Eraser). Even the mechanical pencil with the retractable lead had to be tucked away before someone put an eye out by accident.
There are a lot of things that parents need to hide away when their little ones become big enough (and curious enough) to explore. Not only writing implements, but scissors, glue, tape, staples, and white-out all vanish from the office drawers. The kitchen gets a complete makeover as things like the knife block, ceramic mugs, flower vases, even salt and pepper shakers drift from easily accessible countertops to higher shelves and closed cabinets.
The bathroom is the craziest spot in the house to make child-proof. Even aside from safety issues such as tucking medications and razors far from where little hands can reach, things like shampoo and soap and hand cream and toothpaste need to be tucked away from curious hands which can spread them all over the room. And how about treasure troves like bandaids (and let’s admit it, maxipads) that can be opened and stuck all over the room?

I won’t say much about the bedroom other than that the contents of certain drawers need to be relocated or at least shifted to the bottom of the stack.

Having small children in the house has caused me to hide away many common items in secret storage places. This can be a problem for a sleep-deprived mom who can hardly remember where to find stuff even when it’s where it’s supposed to be. So if you get a birthday card from me in the mail and it’s addressed in crayon, please forgive me. I know there’s a pen in the house somewhere, but by the time I find it the card will be late. Although it’s probably going to be late anyway, seeing that I can’t find the stamps, either.

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Sunday, March 11, 2012

Nice House, Nobody Home

This afternoon, as soon as we got home from church, I headed off to a rehearsal. As I was leaving, my husband was packing up the two little ones for an outing to a playground and to grab some lunch, and my stepdaughter was heading out to spend the afternoon with her cousins. When I got home from rehearsal, I discovered to my surprise that I was the first one home, so for the first time in a very long time, I was in the house all by myself.

It seemed eerily quiet at first, but as I’m getting used to the strangeness of it, the eeriness is turning into a peaceful calm. There’s no baby wailing for attention in the upstairs bedroom. There’s no child grabbing my hand and pulling me away from what I’m doing. There’s no husband making a business call. There’s not even a quiet hint of country music or teenage giggling wafting from the upstairs bedroom. The radio isn’t on, the TV isn’t on, no computers are blaring video clips. The neighbors are unusually quiet and the dog up the street isn’t even barking. It’s as if the sunshine streaming through the window is casting a blanket of silence over everything, like new-fallen snow.
I like it.

Now, that’s not to say I’d like it all the time. Without the baby’s wail I wouldn’t get the excited gurgle when I go to get her. Without being dragged into the other room I’d miss seeing my son’s crayon artwork or block tower or new train track configuration. I’d miss hearing my husband in his authoritative (and sexy!) work mode. I’d even miss the giggles and twang from upstairs.

But for right now, I have to say that it’s a really nice house when nobody is home but me. So please forgive the brevity of this entry, but I hear a bathtub and some bubble bath calling my name, along with a cheesy free mystery novel on my Kindle, a couple of leftover Valentine’s chocolates, and maybe even a glass of wine (yes, I know it’s only 3:30 in the afternoon – on mom time, whenever you can get it unmolested is a legitimate cocktail hour).

I'm off to enjoy my nice house while nobody's home.

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Thursday, March 8, 2012

Mama! Mama! Mama!

I used to think that this video clip was hilarious. And then my son hit that stage. Not so funny any more. That glazed yet annoyed, “I’m ignoring this” yet “I’m about to explode” expression on Lois’ face makes its appearance on my face on a regular basis. My son can out-“Mama” Stewie like nobody’s business.
It wouldn’t be so annoying if he actually wanted something, or had something to say. But it tries the patient of a saint (which I am most assuredly NOT) to be on the receiving end of conversation that goes like this:
“Yes, Ryan?”
“What is it, Ryan?”
“What do you need, sweetheart?”
“Hi, Mama!” delivered with a sweet smile.

Or worse, the last line of the conversation is a puzzled, “Huh?” as if to say, “I didn’t say anything.”

Small children are wonderful, and amazing, and delightful, and fun. But sometimes they are also annoying as all get-out. It’s a good thing they have the wisdom (or the dumb luck) to occasionally end the above conversation with, “I love you, Mama!” and a big hug and a kiss. One of those conversations will buy him a get-out-of-jail-free card for a good half dozen of the ones that end in “Huh?”

Now if you’ll excuse my cutting this entry a bit short, I hear a small voice in the next room calling my name…

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Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Before There Was Them, There Was Us

I’ve been blogging an awful lot about my kids lately, which is not surprising, seeing that they’re both at particularly fascinating and fun ages. And also because, being a stay at home mom, I spend twelve or more hours a day with both of them. But I was just looking at my blog subheading, “Thoughts about life, marriage, motherhood, and anything else that strikes my fancy,” and I decided that it’s about time for another marriage blog.

After being married for almost four years, my husband and I have been through a lot. In the past year and a half alone, we’ve had four deaths of close family members. In the four years since we’ve been married, we’ve both had surgeries, and we’ve both had medical issues. I got laid off from a job and my husband survived several rounds of layoffs at his company. We’re dealt with financial readjustments, including paying for college and needing to buy three cars in rapid succession. We’ve dealt with parenting newborns twice, and we’re currently dealing with parenting a teenager on top of a toddler and a baby. To say that this marriage has endured a lot of “for worse” would be a fair assessment.

And yet, we’ve endured a lot of “for better,” too. The toddler, the baby, and the teenager all fall into the better category as well as occasionally the worse. In fact, because of how we dealt with them, in some ways every event in the “for worse” category ended up also being in the “for better” category. Suddenly and unexpectedly losing an income was a worse, but pulling together and figuring out how to make the situation work made our marriage stronger and ended up being a better. Suddenly and unexpectedly losing a family member was far, far worse, but once again it pulled us closer not only as a couple but as a family, and showed us that we can rely on support not only from each other but from extended family as well. Definitely a “for better,” in the big picture.

For all my light-hearted, humorous blogs over the past few months, this has not been an easy year for me. I’ve struggled with the baby blues, with the demands of managing two small children, with the physical fallout of being off medications for my rheumatoid arthritis for four years while trying to conceive and bear those children, and with trying to figure out my role in a home with an adult child who is not my biological child yet who I am, in many ways, responsible for in loco parentis. And amidst all that, I’ve been trying to be a good wife, with varying levels of success. And if that doesn’t sound exhausting, you’re not paying attention.

But what has gotten me through the past year, through the past four years, has been the secure knowledge that whatever happens, my husband has my back. Even when he doesn’t agree with me, even when he thinks I’m being ridiculous, even when he can’t even begin to understand why I’m having a problem with something, I know he’s there for me. And I know that he knows, as I do, that “us” sometimes needs to come ahead of “them,” whether “them” is work or kids or family or whatever other demands are pummeling one or the other of us at the moment.

So this Friday night, we’re spending the evening together, going out to dinner and then seeing a show. We’ll take a few hours away from everything except each other, and we’ll take time to relax and rejuvenate and remind ourselves of the relationship between us, the one that started it all. We’ll remember how it was just us before it was them, and we’ll make sure that us stays strong and steady enough to manage whatever they can throw at us.

I can hardly wait!

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Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Chew Chew Train

My husband mocks me because I’ve been swearing our daughter is getting teeth for about 4 months now. But I think this time she really is. I can’t feel any teeth under her gums yet, but she must be teething because she’s chewing on EVERYTHING.

Babies her age love to explore things by putting them in their mouths, but lately she goes way beyond just putting things in her mouth. She puts things in her mouth and chews them, chomps them, gnaws on them, and gnashes them with her gums. When I hold her against my shoulder, she bites down on my collarbone with all her strength, or gnaws on my jawbone. When I tickle her belly with my head, she grabs handfuls of my hair with both hands, pulls me toward her, and chomps on my hair – or my nose – or my neck. When her daddy nuzzles her with his nose, she attempts to gnaw on his head. If I stick my finger in her mouth, she chomps down with all her might.

I’ve tried offering her traditional teething toys, and although she’ll try them out, she loses interest very quickly. The frozen duck teething ring was rejected almost immediately. The cold, wet washcloth lasted for a few minutes before it was cast aside. The stuffed toys with textured plastic teething rings also get a few minutes of attention before being tossed overboard. We have a mesh feeding bag that her brother liked as a teether, especially when we filled it with a few ice cubes. My daughter, however, when presented with the ice cubes, licked it a few times then looked at us as if to say, “Is there supposed to be some flavor here?” I tried putting some frozen peas in it, but she gave it a half-hearted nibble then ignored it. She gave a similar response to a bite of frozen waffle and some chilled apple chunks.

She has managed to find her own favorite teether, though: her brother’s toys. More specifically, her brother’s trains. There must be something about the size, shape, or texture of Thomas and his Friends that makes them the perfect teethers in her opinion. They’re just the right size and shape to fit in her hand, and the wheels add enough lumpiness that they don’t slip through her fingers. The ridges of their funnels and smokestacks apparently feel good on her tender gums. Fortunately, her brother’s train collection is extensive enough that she can “borrow” one for a while even when he’s playing and he doesn’t protest. And since none of her teeth have popped through yet, she can’t do any damage to them.

We’re lucky that she’s pretty good-natured, even when she’s teething, but there are moments when her gums really seem to be hurting her and she gets cranky. And when that happens, the best thing I can do is hand her a train and think, “Go go, Thomas!” and agree that Thomas really is number one.

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Sunday, March 4, 2012

Lonely, I'm So Lonely

This morning, my pastor's sermon was about Jesus spending 40 days in the wilderness and the problem of loneliness. As an illustration, he talked about meeting a man who had spent seven months hiking the Appalachian Trail. He was asked what he found to be most difficult about the trip. Was it having to carry his own food, was it the physical exhaustion of hiking many miles every day, was it the lack of showers and laundry and toilet facilities, was it fear of wild animals? His answer was that the hardest part, by far, was the loneliness. He admitted that what motivated him most to get through some days was the hope that when he reached a shelter for the night, there would be another hiker there. In fact, he said that sometimes when he reached a shelter and it was empty, he would hike the 6 or 8 more miles to reach the next shelter in the hope of finding someone there.

Human beings were designed to be social animals. Even people who tend to be loners like to have company sometimes. I consider myself quite introverted, and I am perfectly content to be alone much of the time. But there are times when I desperately want companionship. I don't even necessarily need someone to talk to, I merely need someone to be with. My husband and I often spend the evening working at our own computers, not talking or interacting, but just being in the same room. Some evenings he has a meeting and I spend the night alone at my computer, and I find myself feeling lonely. Nothing is different about what I'm doing other than the fact that he is not there in the room with me. But the lack of the presence of another human being makes all the difference in the world.

My children are both the same way. They don't always need someone to actively play with them or talk to them, but they like to have someone else in the room to keep them company. If I'm working in the office and my son is in the playroom, he will often ask me, "Mama, do you want to come in here?" or he will simply come in, grab my hand, and pull me bodily into the room where he's playing. And although he sometimes likes me to help him build a block tower or put railroad tracks together, more often than not he just wants me to be there with him. My daughter will loudly protest being put in her crib by herself so I can take a shower or put her brother to bed, but if I put her in her crib while I'm puttering around in the room putting away laundry or making the bed, she is perfectly content to play even if I don't talk to her or pay her any attention. They both simply crave human companionship.

We were designed to enjoy each other's company, to bring joy and comfort to each other by our mere existence. What a gift, to be able to increase another person's happiness and contentment simply by being! I know I'm a happier person because my husband, my children, my family, and my friends are in my life, and I like knowing that I make them happier people because I'm in their lives, too. Just by existing.


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Saturday, March 3, 2012

Educational Food

Since my son tends to be a bit of a messy eater (he looks everywhere except his fork when he's eating), it's only very recently that I've introduced him to the joys of soup. I love to make soup, so his first couple of soup experiences were soups that I had made and tailored specifically toward his tastes (he loves corn, carrots, and rice). But when my husband picked up groceries the other week and brought home a can of alphabet soup, I knew it was time to introduce my son to Campbell's for the first time.

Because of his messy eating habits, when I do give him soup I go light on the broth and heavy on the other ingredients. So when I presented him with his bowl of alphabet soup, it was mostly a pile of chubby pasta letters with a few carrots, peas, and corn dotted here and there, with just a tiny puddle of liquid at the bottom. As is often his habit, my son barely glanced at what was in the bowl before absent-mindedly scooping some up while looking elsewhere. But when he peeked at the spoon before he shoveled it in his mouth, his eyes grew big. "Mama! Letters!" he said in astonishment. "Letters in my spoon!"

Being raised by an elementary school teacher, I find teaching opportunities in everything, especially things as obvious as alphabet soup. So naturally, I asked him what letters he saw in his bowl. Every letter he named, I told him something that started with that letter. He pointed out a "B"; I told him that "B is for ball." He found a "T"; I said, "T is for turtle." Then I started asking him to find a particular letter: "Is there an 'R' in your bowl? R is for Ryan! Can you find an 'M'? M is for Mama!"

I laughed at myself a bit for finding an educational opportunity in a bowl of soup. But then, it wasn't the first time I've used food as a teaching tool. We often count how many peas are on his plate, or how many pieces of cheese. I tell him that his peaches are a fruit and that they grow on a tree, and that his carrots are a vegetable and they grow in the ground, and that they both need water and sunshine and soil to grow. I tell him that candy is sweet and we only have it now and then as a treat, but we need to eat meat and vegetables and milk and bread every day to keep our bodies strong and healthy. We talk about how banana slices are circles and wedges of pineapple are triangles. We talk about apples being red and canteloupe being orange and grapes being green or purple.

In our house, food isn't just something you eat to give you energy or because it tastes good. It's something that can teach you colors and shapes and numbers and letters and agriculture and nutrition. Oh, and don't forget all those wonderful food vocabulary words: tasty, yummy, delicious, and scrumptious!

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Friday, March 2, 2012

Boy Oh Boy Oh Boy!

My two-year-old son has discovered the difference between boys and girls. Well, he’s discovered that some people are boys and some people are girls, at least.

I’m not sure exactly what made this knowledge click in his head. Ever since he could talk – ever since he could walk, actually – his father has pointed out other children by saying, “Look at that little girl,” or “Do you see those boys?”, or encouraged him to say hi to other children by saying, “Go say ‘hi’ to that boy,” or “Go tell that girl your name.” And without fail, my son trots over like an obedient puppy and proclaims, “Hi, boy!” or “Hi, girl!”

When his baby sister was on the way, we explained to him that he was going to be a big brother, and that he would have either a little brother or a little sister very soon. When she was born, we informed him that he now had a big sister and a little sister. I think I may have even explained that girls are sisters and boys are brothers. And I tell him all the time that he needs to be careful of his baby sister because she’s just a little girl and he’s a big boy.

Every now and then, he proves how much he understands the concept by asking me to confirm who’s a boy and who’s a girl: “Mama, you’re a girl?” “Mama, Daddy is a boy?” “I’m a big boy? No, I’m a little boy!” And lately I’ve even been able to quiz him on a whole list of people he knows, asking who’s a boy and who’s a girl: “Is Pappy a boy or a girl? What about Uncle Steven? Auntie Susan? Pastor We? Is your friend William at church a boy or a girl? How about his sister?” He gets nearly all of them right, although occasionally is answer is phrased as, “She’s a boy” or “He’s a girl”. But at least the girl or boy part is right.

He had never really showed that he made any distinction between boys and girls. He’s as happy to play with a little girl as with another boy. He’s never shown any preference between boy relatives and girl relatives (his big sister can roughhouse with him as easily as any of his uncles). He’s never showed any confusion at seeing a boy doing something that he’s only seen girls do (like a commercial showing a dad having a tea party with dolls) or a girl doing something that he’s only seen boys do (like a video of a Powderpuff football game). But yesterday morning, as his father was changing his diaper, he protested, “No! I want Mama to do it!” and when asked why, he answered, “Because she’s a GIRL!”

I’m not quite sure of the logical connection there. His father jokes that I’m the “soother” and he’s the “enforcer,” so maybe my son associates “girl” with gentleness, and with hugs and kisses. Or maybe it’s the flip side, and he associates “boy” with roughhousing and discipline. I’m a bit apprehensive about the first time he asks a more specific question about the difference between boys and girls. It’s not as simple an answer as it once was. Back in pioneer times, the answer could have been that girls wash clothes and bake bread and take care of babies, and boys plow the soil and milk the cows and build houses. But today, boys wash clothes, bake bread, and take care of babies nearly as often as girls, and girls are just as capable of plowing, milking, and building as boys are. In my grandmother’s childhood, a valid answer would have been that girls wear dresses and boys wear pants. That explanation doesn’t work these days, either.

Maybe I can get away with, “Boys grow up to be men, like Daddy,” and “Girls grow up to be women, like Mama.” That should buy me a few more months to come up with a better explanation, anyway.

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