Saturday, September 28, 2013

Memories of My Childhood

One of my favorite things about being a parent is having a good excuse to re-live the most fun parts of my own childhood. Adults aren’t supposed to do things like go down slides, or jump in bouncy houses, or ride roller coasters, or make homemade play-doh – but if we’re doing it with our kids, it’s okay. So my kids are my excuse for breaking out the water guns, and putting marshmallows in my hot chocolate, and going to the amusement park. Or, in the case of today, my kids are my excuse for going to a farm and feeding the animals, going for a hay ride, making spin art, sticking my head through painted pictures and having my photo taken, and running through a field picking apples.

Today, my husband and I took our two kids apple picking.

At the ages of 2 and 4, had that been all we did, they would still have had a wonderful time. They loved walking through the tall grass between the rows of trees, they loved carefully examining each apple to be sure it was unblemished and evenly red, they loved twisting the apple off the branch, they loved dropping the apples into the bag with a satisfying THUNK, they loved touching and smelling and looking and listening. But because Mummy and Daddy remembered all the other fun things you can do at a farm from doing them when WE were kids, we did so much more than just pick apples!
Making spin art brought back a sudden, deep-buried memory of a bulletin board in my sister’s room bearing a piece of spin art and a signed photograph of Mr. Rogers. I hadn’t thought about either of those things in more than 30 years, but seeing my kids’ creations brought it back like it was yesterday. 

 Walking through the farm store, smelling the warm cinnamon-sugar smell of the cider donuts, brought back memories of dunking donuts into hot mulled cider at the local orchard as a child. Looking at the shiny, red, polished apples on display reminded me of my childhood collection of green Nerf cylinders (the circles that were punched out of a big piece of foam for the apples to nestle in, which we bought for a few pennies apiece at a farmstand when I was not much older than my children are now), toys which I (and many of my childhood friends) still remember spending many happy hours throwing at each other.

But most of all, I remember the fun of spending time with my family, all together. I remember all of us singing in the car on the way to the orchard, I remember holding my dad’s hand in one hand and a bag of donuts in the other as we waited to pay, I remember my mom hoisting me up in her arms at the end of an exhausting day running through the apple trees.

And I hope that 30 or 40 years from now, my children are remembering the same happy memories of their childhoods.

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Monday, September 23, 2013

The 2013 Emmy Awards Red Carpet Review

The word that immediately comes to mind as I think over the fashions I saw at the Emmy Awards last night is “divided.” Many of the gowns had a part that I loved but a part that I hated; or I loved it but my husband hated it; or the online reviews are split between loving and hating a gown; or I simply was torn between loving and hating a particular gown, for whatever reason. Here are some examples of the worst offenders (or are they the best? I’m still not sure).

Good Style, Bad Color

There were a number of gowns that had lovely cuts and silhouettes, but the color just did not work on the wearer. Anna Faris wore a vivid yellow gown that was a gorgeous color, but it clashed with her skin tone, making her look both sallow and pale, especially in combination with her platinum hair. I loved the full skirt, the not-too-high slit, the beautifully wrapped bodice, and the adorable lizard brooch at the back, but the color completely ruined the effect. At the opposite end of the spectrum was January Jones in a beige dress that vanished into her skin. I loved the pleated lace skirt with the solid panel at the hem and the severely structured yet flattering bodice, but the overall look was too washed out.

Top vs. Bottom

A number of gowns seemed to be suffering from identity crises, with tops and bottoms that seemed to belong to different dresses. Michele Dockery was a prime example: her red halter with giant loops at the back would have been lovely with a different color and cut of skirt, and her burgundy skirt with flat pleats in front and fuller pleats in back had interesting details like an asymmetrical hem and faux bustle construction, but it just didn’t work with the top. Likewise, Kate Mara’s white column skirt with a high slit was lovely and flattering (I even liked the pockets. Really!), but it was not in the same style as her bohemian crocheted top. It actually might have worked without the side-boobage, but as it was, it was too much of a mish-mash of slouchy and structured.

A few others had tops and bottoms that went together, but one part or the other just didn’t flatter the wearer. Amy Poehler’s trumpet skirt was a lovely silhouette for her, and I adored the charming Chinese dragons at the hips, with their tiny red tongues and fluffy feather details, but the top had oddly scooped cap sleeves and a matronly gathered collar that called for a more revealing skirt to balance it. Claire Danes, on the other hand, also had a lovely and flattering full skirt on her lace gown, but her top was a bit too revealing, appearing to be sliding down her body and successfully disguising any voluptuousness she may have. (In the interest of fairness, the open back was gorgeous even though it was also very revealing.)

One Little Detail

And then there were the gowns that would have been fabulous if the designer had left out one small detail. In the case of Kaley Cuoco, the sheer panel across her ribcage made her look very short-waisted and stumpy, whereas if the swath of color had continued evenly down her torso this would have been one of my favorite looks of the night. Julianne Hough nearly pulled off her very daring gown, and also would have been a knockout if she had opted for a short skirt under her transparent gown rather than what appears to be a pair of granny panties. Heidi Klum made a rare misstep with just a bit too much heavy-looking fabric at the neck, making her look top-heavy and disproportionate. And I could have forgiven poor Zosia Mamet’s stylist for leaving her beautiful watercolor gown hemmed to the wrong length if it hadn’t been ruined by the addition of a bizarre white bib and black pleather…what? Breastplate? Boob swath? Mini-kini? I don’t know what to call it, but I hope I never see one again. Ever.

Split Decision

There were a few gowns that those watching with me (in other words, my husband) and I disagreed on, and several that the online reviewers also disagreed on. Julie Bowen’s gown was a lovely color against her sun-kissed skin and hair, and the draping of the bodice and the fullness at the hem created a lovely silhouette, but to some eyes it looked very bottom-heavy and unwieldy. I adored Connie Britton’s teal velvet with metallic gold embroidery, but my husband thought the bodice looked unsupported and in danger of sliding out of place. Julia Louis-Dreyfus wore a shiny silver column that looked like thousands of sparkly mirrors at some angles but like bad 1960s crochet in others, and she could really have used a pop of color in a piece of jewelry or a handbag or some lip color to avoid looking washed out. And Christina Hendricks, whose figure I envy (although a figure that voluptuous has to be a nightmare to dress), looked both curvy and contained in her black dress, but somehow managed to also look a bit matronly and overly covered up. I’m still torn on whether I love or hate all four of these looks.

Clear Winners

There were quite a few gowns that hit it right on the money, though. My favorites of the night included both of the Deschanel sisters, who were charmingly color-coordinated yet each in her own unique style. More subdued Emily wore her hair in a classic updo with an elegant one-shouldered grey-blue lace column; bubblier Zooey wore her hair in soft waves with a simple ice-blue satin sheath with a deep keyhole and a high slit. Tiny Fey chose a simple trumpet-style wide-necked halter in striking cobalt that highlighted her gorgeous figure. Sarah Hyland’s deep emerald gown was covered with a layer of transparent black lace, which also served to fill in the plummeting neckline and add a hint of sweet demureness, and was gathered beautifully into a wide black satin belt. Alison Hannigan and my perennial favorite Carrie Underwood both wore deep purple gowns with similarly draped sweetheart necklines and even wore their hair in similarly sideswept loose waves, but Hannigan’s shiny satin gown was tightly fitted to the thigh then flared into a mermaid style, where Underwood’s skirt was a more traditional ballgown, wrapping its fullness into a black belt. And Sofia Vergara’s vivid red, tightly fitted to the knee, mock peplum, lace-covered gown was the most stunning look of the night, eliciting the words, “Va-va-va-voom!!!” from this reviewer.

Clear Losers

Of course, no red carpet critique would be complete without listing a few losers. By far, the two worst looks of the evening go to Robin Wright and Lena Dunham, who – sadly – are both actresses that I love, but who make frequent fashion missteps. Wright hides her lovely figure in a dull, black, high-necked, cap-sleeved column that, combined with her pale makeup and slightly sad expression, make her look like she’s on her way home from a rather formal funeral. And Lena Dunham, please fire your stylist for putting your lovely self in this awful gown. The fabric looks like a couch that’s been in a church basement since 1973, and the flat fullness of the skirt front adds 80 pounds to her figure. I actually love the cut of the bodice, especially the back with the open panel below the tie and the lovely framing of her tattoo (I’m not a big tattoo fan, but if you have them, make your clothes work with them, not against them). But the overall look is just unforgiveable. 

Fortunately, the winners far exceed the losers, and even the losers aren't as bad as they've been some years. At least this year no one was wearing this:

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Thursday, September 19, 2013

Veeeeerrry Pinteresting

For the longest time, I resisted the lure of that strange phenomenon called “Pinterest.” I saw friends posting photos of clothes, kids’ crafts, home decorating ideas, and recipes, and I knew that I had to tear my gaze away quickly or else I’d be pulled into the black hole of time wasting that is Pinterest. And it took weeks, even months, but I finally gave in and signed up, with the full intent of “just browsing now and then”.

Hi, my name is Sandy, and I’m a Pinterest junkie.

Admittedly, I’m not nearly as obsessive as some folks. I browse Pinterest when I have a few minutes of free time. I never rarely browse until the wee hours of the morning when I should be sleeping. I don’t have 100 different boards sorted by which room of the house those decorating ideas are best for. I don’t stalk the boards of random strangers because I want my house to look just like theirs. (OK, I stalk one, but only because she really does share my taste in food and clothes, but apparently has more time to spend searching for awesome recipes and outfits than I do. Kathy Novak, wherever you are, thank you for saving me a lot of time.) But I definitely run to Pinterest for relaxation and comfort and an escape from life now and then.

For me, a lot of Pinterest’s appeal is the dreaming part, the wishful thinking. I have an entire board entitled, “Stuff I’ll Buy When I Finally Write That Best-Seller.” Pins on that board include things like a Valentino gown, a mink coat, a pair of Louboutins, a Carmen Ghia convertible, and a bunch of real jewelry. Even if I do finally write that best-seller, I probably won’t really get any of those things. (Well, maybe the Louboutins.) But it’s fun to imagine it. My “Get in My Closet” board is full of beautiful clothes, many of which would NOT look like the photos once I put them on my average, normal, over-40, post-children, non-modelesque body. But it makes me happy to dream that if I had all those clothes in my closet, I’d look just like those lithe, perfectly groomed, perfectly toned, 20-something models.

But I’m not completely unrealistic and impractical. I justify my time on Pinterest because there really is a practical aspect to it. I’ve found lots of great recipes there. (I’ve even made one or two of them.) I’ve found dozens of ideas for kids’ art projects and educational games and parenting advice. I even did one of the art projects, the infamous Melting Crayon Art, with my son. In terms of the final product, it was a spectacular, colossal, epic failure. But it was fun! 

It also inspired me to create what I think of as my “dose of reality” Pinterest board, entitled, “It Would Not Look Like This if I Made It.” It’s full of lovely, artistic projects that, merely by virtue of being on Pinterest, imply that they can be done by mere mortals like myself. Beautiful, artistic, marbleized Easter eggs. Adorable teddy bears made out of bread peeping out of mugs. Delicate butter cookies shaped like sand dollars nestling in a brown sugar beach. A charming elephant made of swaddling blankets. I post these to remind myself that as fun as it is to collect these ideas, I need to keep my sights set a bit lower. My crayon art failure proves that even the simplest-looking projects may require more artistic talent than I possess. And it’s okay if my projects don’t look like the ones on Pinterest. It’s okay if I don’t even bother to make some of them, as cute and easy as they seem to be.

Because that’s where Pinterest, like any other addiction, gets you. It offers you the promise of easy accomplishment, of effortless success. And when you fail, it lies that the next time will be better, and if you just dedicate yourself a bit more, give a few more hours of time, your results will match the tantalizing picture on the screen. It swears on your mother’s grave that the next project you try will live up to your expectations. But it never does. So we just keep pinning, and pinning, and pinning, and trying, and trying, and trying. And every now and then, a project is a great success, and we just KNOW that from here on out all our Pinterest projects will be successful.


My way to fight the trap of random successes was to create another Pinterest board. (Well, of course it was.) This board is called, “Pinterest Stuff I’ve Actually Done.” It reminds me that a) of the hundreds of things I’ve pinned, I’ve only tried a handful of them, and b) of the handful I’ve done, only about half have been any kind of success. The homemade spaghettios were great, the honey duck breast was spectacular, and the beef tenderloin with cognac Dijon cream sauce was to die for (almost literally; I nearly set the kitchen on fire – but it was totally worth it).

So in the end, I’m glad I joined Pinterest. I can enjoy dreaming about the projects I’ll do, the clothes I’ll buy, even the redecorating projects I’ll take on, as long as I don’t worry when the results aren’t quite what I’d hoped for. They might not be perfect, but at least they’re…Pinteresting…

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Monday, September 16, 2013


One of the best parts of being the mother of small children is that it imbues you (in their eyes, anyway) with all kinds of magical, miraculous powers. You can heal with a kiss. You can transform something inedible into a delicious, appetizing treat using only cheerios, red hots, and broken pretzels. You can make up stories about anything on the spur of the moment. You know whenever they do something wrong, and when they lie about it. You can drive away all kinds of bogeymen, dragons, ghosts, goblins, and other scary closet and under-bed beings with nothing but a can of Febreeze or an invisible spoon.

I can’t claim the Febreeze story for myself; it was shared by a college friend whose son was afraid of ghosts, until she banished them with a bottle of Febreeze that she informed him was Ghost-Be-Gone. The invisible spoon, however, was a spur-of-the-moment invention of my own. I was putting my kids to bed a few days ago when my son announced that the previous night he’d had nightmares about meatballs made of cheese with giant green mouths. And also volcanoes. So I handed him an Invisible Dream Spoon (that was so invisible that you couldn’t even feel it while you were holding it), and I explained that in his dreams, he could use the Spoon to eat up the scary meatballs, and to cover up the tops of the volcanoes so they couldn’t erupt. He then informed me that he expected to also dream about thunderstorms that night, so I told him that if he held the Spoon over his head, it would grow into a giant, impenetrable umbrella (good vocabulary words are often a useful distraction from his usual bedtime avoidance techniques) and protect him from the storm.

After I tucked him in, I reflected on my story. Was I brilliantly inventive, or was I just dismissing my child’s fears with a silly story? I wasn’t sure until I got up the next morning and asked my son how he’d slept. He popped out of bed, grinned, and said (with a bit of surprise in his voice), “Mama! No bad dreams last night!” Yup, brilliantly inventive.

Being a mother, at least at this stage of the game, is often frustrating. It’s sometimes like herding cats while nailing jello to a tree. It’s repeating the same things over and over, hoping something will stick. (Isn’t that the definition of insanity?) There are days when the only people I want to spend time with after I finally get the kids to bed are Ben and Jerry and Johnny Walker. There are days when I’m convinced I won’t even make it to bed time without losing my mind. But then I have a moment when I am suddenly all-powerful. I am the Kisser Away of Booboos, the Teller of Tales, the Knower of All Misbehavior, the Fixer of Broken Toys, the Driver Away of Scary Beasties. I am…Momnipotent! (At least in my son’s eyes.)
Apparently in my son’s eyes I am also the wearer of bright purple pants.
Hey, if your superhero costume isn’t in vivid colors, why bother wearing one at all?

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Thursday, September 12, 2013

The Truly Terrible Twos

I am convinced that the reason the phenomenon commonly known as the “terrible twos” doesn’t happen until that particular age is simply to allow for the survival of the human species. It takes parents two full years of bonding to become hopelessly attached to a child enough that we don’t simply wrench their precious little heads off after the twentieth spontaneous unreasonable tantrum within a 30-minute span of time.

My son’s “terrible twos” weren’t too bad. By the time he turned two, he was speaking quite clearly and in complete sentences (more often, in complete paragraphs), so he didn’t have a lot of frustration from not being able to make himself understood. He was also unusually physically coordinated so he didn’t have a particular issue with frustration from not being able to do things he wanted to do. His main source of frustration was really from me telling him he wasn’t allowed to do something, rather than from not being physically able to do it. And being an older child, his only competition for my attention was a 3-month-old lump of a baby sister who didn’t do much but occasionally cry and occupy my lap or my arms when he wanted to be there. His behavior at age two was somewhat annoying at times, but it was NOTHING compared to my daughter’s since she’s turned two.

If I ever wondered what my daughter’s puberty will be like, the last month since her second birthday has given me plenty of hints. Much like an adolescent girl, she has developed her pouting and flouncing skills to the utmost. Like a sullen teenager, her response to any activity I suggest she do is a monosyllabic “no” or a barely verbal “uh-uh.” And like every moody teenage girl that ever lived, her emotions are on a hair trigger. If her father or I so much as look at her funny, she dissolves into tears. She doesn’t like what’s for dinner? Tears. She wants to play with a toy her brother is using? Tears. I turn off the television? Tears. Someone sneezes in the next room? Tears. A dog barks on TV? Tears.

And naturally, the tears are rarely, if ever, a case of simple crying. Oh, no. The tears are invariably accompanied by scream-sobbing, hurling herself to the ground, rolling around, and kicking and flailing. If I try to pick her up during one of these episodes, I can count on her attempting to push away from me any way she can, including punching, kicking, and – luckily, only on very rare occasions – biting. Since she weighs roughly 26 pounds, it is difficult but not impossible for me to restrain her. (When my son turned two he was 3’3” tall and nearly 40 pounds of pure muscle, so it’s very fortunate for me that he rarely pulled that particular stunt.)

So how is it that parents get through those difficult months that comprise the “terrible twos”? For me, it’s the moments between the tantrums that are so delightful and endearing that get me through the rough patches. My daughter’s language development is exploding – nearly every day I hear her use a new word or a new combination of words. One day she doesn’t know red from blue and the next she is correctly identifying the color of half the things in the room. She’s gone from getting most of the letters in the alphabet right to spelling out the words on every sign she sees and singing the alphabet song with next to no help. Her play is getting more creative and elaborate. She is imbuing her dolls and stuffed animals with distinct personalities. The other day, she made two of her stuffed bears have the following conversation:

“Bye, Dad. Car. Dada gone. Sad. Crying. Where go?” (I assume this was Daddy leaving for work, as this is generally our personal family scenario in the morning.)
(Deeper, “daddy” voice) “Bye. Soon!” (“Soon” is her abbreviation for “See you soon” and often follows “Bye.”)
“Dada gone. Swing? Slide?” (Apparently the baby bear wanted to go to the playground.)
“Mmm-hmm. Swing. Slide. Bye!” (Daddy approved of the playground idea, I guess.)
“Mama, phone? ‘Hi Dad’?” (I’m guessing this was a request to call Dad at work.)
(Higher, “mama” voice) “Yeah, phone.” (I’m not sure, but I think Dad left the stage and re-entered as Mama Bear.)

How can you listen to a conversation like that and not forgive a few kicking, screaming temper tantrums? As long as my kids keep me laughing now and then, their lives are safe. And considering how funny my kids are, I think they’ll both stay safe for a very, very long time. 

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Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Fall Favorites

As sad as I am to see the summer coming to an end, there are a lot of wonderful things about the fall that I love, and that I look forward to eagerly every year. Here are some of my favorite things about fall:

The Afternoon Light
As annoying as it sometimes is when the slant of the light blinds you on your afternoon commute in the early autumn, there’s also a beautiful golden cast to that afternoon sunlight that puts a kind of an aura around everything. I love to sit on my porch and watch the glow of the sun over the trees, or see the sunlight catch my daughter’s blond locks or my son’s light brown waves and give them an angelic halo.

Warm Days, Cold Nights
One of the first changes that tells me that autumn is here is the return of good sleeping weather. The days are still warm, the sunshine still heats everything up during the day, but once the sun goes down in September, a chill falls. I love slipping in between the cool sheets of my bed, snuggling underneath my fluffy comforter, putting my cold feet on my husband’s warm legs, and slowly but surely getting all toasty and cozy.

Casseroles and Crock Pots
I’m mainly a comfort food cook, so planning dinners in the summer is always a challenge for me. I tend to rely on my husband’s grilling skills most of the time. But when the weather cools enough that a) using the stove doesn’t cause anyone in the kitchen to faint from the heat, and b) my family is happy to sit down to a hot meal, I pull out all my casserole and crock pot recipes. Shepherd’s pie, chicken and rice casserole, chili, chicken pot pie, lasagna, pork chops and applesauce…I love to make them and I love to eat them.

Autumn Smells
Autumn has so many wonderful smells, both indoors and out. Outside, there’s a smell of burning leaves, of upturned earth from fall plantings, of rainstorms that somehow smell different in the fall. Inside, there’s lingering wood smoke from the first fire in the fireplace, that funny musty smell from the first time the furnace kicks on, and the wonderful kitchen smells from the above-mentioned casserole and crock pot cooking. Sometimes in September I just take a few moments to just stand still and take in that wonderful fall smell.

Fall Decorations
In July, everyone decorates their houses with bunting, American flags, stars, wooden Uncle Sam dolls, all things patriotic. But once that comes down, there’s not much themed decoration until September, when people break out the big pots of purple and orange and gold chrysanthemums, the wreaths of autumn leaves, the Indian corn, the scarecrows, and the pumpkins.

Fall Flavors
Speaking of pumpkins, fall is when all the local supermarkets and bakeries and coffee chains start putting out their wonderful fall flavors, mainly pumpkin-themed, with a bit of apples and cider and cinnamon and spices thrown in. Dunkin’ Donuts has pumpkin donuts, pumpkin munchkins, and pumpkin muffins; and pumpkin spice, pumpkin white chocolate, and pumpkin mocha coffee and lattes. Starbucks offers a pumpkin spice latte and a special Thanksgiving blend coffee. Many restaurants and bars offer fall-themed cocktails featuring cider and spices and cranberries, like caramel apple martinis and cranberry sangria and hot toddies and mulled wine. Mmmm, the taste of fall.

Cozy Clothes
By September, I am so sick of my summer wardrobe, and I am so ready to start wearing my cozy sweaters and turtlenecks and cute wool skirts and fabulous leather jackets and tall boots. I look forward to packing away all my sleeveless tops and T-shirts and cotton shorts and sandals in favor of long sleeves and khaki pants and tennis shoes. All those pastels can give way to my beloved forest greens and burgundies and navy blues and rich browns. The exhibitionism of summer gives way to the safe, protective comfort and cover of long sleeves, long hems, and baggy cuts that I can retreat into like a hermit crab vanishing into his shell.

The Unexpected Exception

And one of my very favorite parts of early fall is the occasional exceptions to the above rules. Every once in a while, September will sneak in a day, like today, when the temperature shoots back up to 90 degrees, when I have to dig out a pair of shorts from the box I just packed away, when I make a last-minute menu change to throw some pork chops on the grill instead of baking them in the oven, when ordering that pumpkin latte just feels wrong, when the scarecrow on the porch looks out of place and premature. Those moments remind me that even though I love the heat of summer, I’m ready for the coolness and changes that fall brings. 

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Monday, September 2, 2013

Attractive Nuisances

Under the law, an “attractive nuisance” is defined as “anything on your premises that might attract children into danger or harm.” Common examples of attractive nuisances include swimming pools, ponds, trampolines, and tree houses. But based on my personal experience, most homes are chock-full of attractive nuisances, inside and out.

My children, like most, apparently have radar which helps them find every attractive nuisance within reach (as well as many that are not). Whenever they enter an unfamiliar room, they instinctively make a beeline to the nearest electrical outlet, knife block, or breakable objet d’art in sight. In a familiar room, they know all the best trouble they can get into and they find it as soon as they can. If my kids are in the office and I leave the room for 30 seconds, when I come back my daughter is invariably playing with a letter-opener shaped like a sword and my husband’s checkbook. (The checkbook may not seem like a harmful object, but believe me, if she scribbles on or rips up the last check, her life will be in danger.) If they’re in the playroom and I leave to answer the phone, when I return I’m sure to find one or the other of them attempting to climb up the entertainment center containing hundreds of pounds of books and a large-screen television. In the kitchen, I don’t even need to leave the room, but just turn my back for a second, and two little hands are reaching for the burner knobs on the stove or stretching toward the delicate wine glasses on the sideboard.

Life itself, for a small child, is an attractive nuisance.

After all, to them, everything is attractive. Everything is new, and interesting, and curiosity-inspiring. Unlike me, they don’t know everything that’s in the junk drawer, nor what it is, nor what it’s for. So of course they want to dig and explore and examine. They’re too short to see what’s at the back of the counter, or on top of the fridge, or on a high shelf in the bathroom closet. So they try to climb up there and take a peek using whatever method they can find, be it stacking up toys or boxes, or scaling lower shelves, or swinging like a monkey from a nearby piece of furniture.

And unfortunately, to them, many things are also dangerous. A stove, when you know how to use it and you use it properly, is not dangerous. Nor is a sharp knife, nor a pair of scissors, nor an electrical outlet. These are all extremely useful, practical, even necessary items for modern life. But in the hands of a small, ignorant, curious child, all these things change from necessities to nuisances. 

Katie discovering the principles of elasticity via an attractive nuisance commonly called a bungee cord.

Ryan can even make paint an attractive nuisance, especially since it’s kept on top of the refrigerator.

Hopefully, they will outgrow their ignorance before they outgrow their curiosity, and hopefully before long the attractive nuisances will become attractive learning experiences. But until then, I guess I’ll just have to learn how to manage a couple of attractive nuisances of my own.

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Sunday, September 1, 2013

The Play's the Thing

I love to watch my kids play.

I love to watch their minds figuring out how to use each toy, each apparatus. I love watching them approaching other children, both friends and strangers. I love watching their joy as they discover something fun and exciting and new.

A few days ago, I brought both my kids to “Bounce for a Cure,” a fundraising event hosted by some friends of mine. The day raises funds for the charity “Voices of Hope,” ( which is a vocal and theatrical group I am honored to have been a part of for several years. The mission of Voices of Hope is to raise funds for cancer research. The group is comprised mainly of theatrical performers, most of whom have lost a family member or friend to cancer. Each of us sings in honor of someone we have lost to cancer, or in celebration of someone who has beaten cancer. Many of the members are even cancer survivors themselves. We each have a story of how cancer has touched our lives. Not only does the group as a whole put on several major performances each year which raise funds for the Henri and Belinda Termeer Center for Targeted Therapies at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston, but many individuals also raise funds on their own via their own personal skills and talents, from cake decorating to jewelry making to…well, having a yard that will fit multiple bouncy houses.

For the past several years, these particular members have rented a bunch of bouncy houses and opened their yard and their home to members and friends of the Voices of Hope family. For a donation to the cause, families get not only access to a racecar bouncy house, an obstacle course bouncy house, and a basketball shooting bouncy house, they get to play with a bunch of ride-on toys including a Big Wheel, a Cozy Coupe, a miniature pickup truck, and several tricycles, they have access to a “slack line,” a tire swing shaped like a bucking bronco, a cool play structure with a slide, multiple swings, and ladders, and a play house, and they get to snack on pizza, watermelon, pretzels, goldfish crackers, popcorn, and slush, washed down with ice cold lemonade. What a way to spend the afternoon!

And that’s exactly what we did. We spent the afternoon romping around in the sunshine. I chatted with other parents; my kids chatted with other kids. They raced from adventure to adventure, stopping only to come tell me about the new fun thing they had found, or to drag me over to watch them play.

But they didn’t need to drag me, because I was already watching them with great interest. After all, if I didn’t watch them, I would have missed lots of wonderful moments. Like when a little boy who had been playing with my son clapped him on the back and said, very matter-of-factly, “I like you, dude.” And I thought to myself, “Me too, kid. Me too.”

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