Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Assault or Concerned Employee?

I'm so busy this week. I have all my normal wifely,motherly, teacherly duties and I'm getting ready for my sister's baby shower. We're celebrating Addie becoming a member of our family. So yesterday I met my sister and her gorgeous baby for lunch and we discussed invites to the shower.

Straight after lunch I went to wal-mart with my children to pick up some stationary for the job. I was looking at the choices and talking on the cellphone to Stephani. (She had gone home to give Addie a nap. My children are way too entertaining to sleep around.) John was at the end of the aisle looking at party favors. Hannah was on the other end of the cart making her own purchasing decisions. I saw out of the corner of my eye that she was loading up my cart with all sorts of merchandise.

I was about to hang up and "help" Hannah replace all the loot, when a nice, grandmotherly employee came up to Hannah and said, "You don't need to do that." She grabbed Hannah's wrists (albeit, gently) and stopped the cart-loading process. Then she started to remove the packages from my cart. The Mamabear inside me woke up nice and quick. In a firm, assertive tone I said, "Ma'am... Ma'am. Please stop. This is keeping her busy and I will be putting those back in just a minute. She's not hurting anything." She finally paused and looked at me incredulously and asked, "Back where they are supposed to go?".

My tone was still firm but starting to move from assertive to frustrated. "Yes, of course, I'll put them back where they belong." I knelt down and started to reshelve the plates when I realized I was still on the phone. I quickly said to Stephani, "I'll call you back. Apparently I'm an employee of Wal-mart now."

The woman stayed in the aisle working on the shelves nearby. She was about 10 feet away from us. John wandered over to ask if he could go look at toys. I spoke to him but my words and tone were directed at the woman who I perceived as assaulting my daughter, my parenting skills, and my character. "We are leaving. I don't believe it is appropriate for someone to come and put their hands on someone's child and tell us what things we should buy. We will go get our supplies from Staples. Wal-mart does not want our money today."

I was frustrated and angry but not terribly so. I felt good about my assertiveness in telling the woman to stop and not quite as proud of my passive-aggressive ramblings to John about the woman. I probably should have spoken directly to her and and asked for a manager. I never asked for a supervisor or even her name, I simply left the store.

But on the other hand, I keep thinking I'm making a mountain out of a molehill. She was out of bounds but she wasn't particularly nasty and she was actually sweet as she disciplined my child. She behaved just as my mother or mother-in-law would have. But that's the thing... this wasn't the grandmother of my grandchildren. This was a complete stranger.

I've never worked retail but I have worked in situations where people were thoughtless and even rude in their lack of concern for others. I know she was probably thinking about all the work this little girl was making for her. This woman had no way of knowing, of course, that I was going to put the things back and not just stash them haphazardly as I walked by.

That doesn't give her permission to parent my child, parent me and remove things from my cart. My sister, who was on the other end of the cellphone, later told me that people used to come into a clothing store where she worked and make horrible messes. She said they'd remove a bunch of different dress shirts from the packaging and leave the pins on the floor of the dressing room and they were unable to put them back in the bags. Sometimes she'd try to head them off by offering to measure them or point out that the convenience of standardized sizing so that they only needed to try on one... but she said she'd never dream of telling a customer they couldn't take seven shirts of the same size into a dressing room and wreck the packaging.

I was emotional in the moment but the "danger" of what she did faded quite quickly. Where I find myself now is a somewhat academic inner discussion of what is the best way to handle something like this. I know for a fact the woman behaved inappropriately. I know I handled asking her to stop assertively and without a nasty attitude. But after that... I'm sure that my talking about her for her benefit was childish. (Even if it might have been deserved.)

So if I don't choose to use that method in the future to inform others of my distate, what would be the redemptive course of action? Did this interaction warrant a discussion with her supervisor. Or is this simply a shrug it off sort of situation? Perhaps something in between where I actually address her politely and explain why I felt that was inappropriate? Or something else? What do you all think? Perhaps I should shop at Target?

Monday, March 30, 2009


.... that's what we made yesterday. It's Hannah's favorite thing in the world. She starts squealing with excitement when she sees that we've even purchased avocados. So when she saw the knife and the avocados on the counter yesterday, it was inevitable I'd have help making our family's most enjoyed delicacy. Immediately she slid a chair to the counter and started opening the upper cabinet. "Gawlic, we need gawlic!". Then she rummaged through the drawer for the garlic press. A visible shiver ran down her spine as she gleefully spied the cilantro.

Oh yes, dear reader, guacamole is THE quintessential toddler food. Not cheerios. Not apple juice or animal crackers. It's guacamole, and I mean the good,lumpy,home-made kind with chunks of red onion and tomatoes in it. What two-year-old wouldn't be clamouring for the first taste?

Hannah's tasting started as soon the first ingredients hit the bowl. "MMMM!" she said, "Tastes...like...ummmm......Gawk-a-mowlee!" Good, that's exactly what I was going for.

She took a halved lime and asked "I lick it?" Sure, kiddo. Lick away. I'm not going to use that half anyway. She licked it and there was no sour-puss face I'm sorry to report. But then she held it over the bowl and offered, "I kweese it." Um...oops, that's not up to health code. Oh well, it was just our family and the boys have absolutely no idea about the licked lime. We'll keep that our little secret. I'm not sure what to do about the photo evidence though!

Saturday, March 28, 2009

John discovers the reason for divorce

No, the picture has nothing to do with the story other than they are both silly!

Uncomfortable topics like divorce arise occasionally while we are talking with John. I don't remember now why it was being discussed, but that isn't important. Theo mentioned that some people get divorced because they just really aren't committed to "'till death do us part". John had a lightbulb moment and said, "Ohhhh! And people weren't dying quick enough!?"

Sometimes they say brilliant things while completely missing the point.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

How do I Pimp my Blog?

So I've been reading blogs about blogging. And that's pretty crazy I realize. But the truth is I'm dying to know who is reading my blog and what they think about what I'm saying. How many people are coming here? Are they all friends and family? Do I have any loyal secret admirers?

And Jordan who blogs at mamablogga.com says that if you want people to comment you should ask them. So here I am shamelessely asking for a little cyber affection. Please comment on my posts, tell me what you think. Help me improve my blogging skills. And thanks to those of you who are commenting. It is so nice to hear from you.

I'd also like to have you be a "follower" so I can know who is routinely coming and reading about my life. I'm excited to already have three followers and I get warm fuzzies all over when I see those little boxes in the the upper right hand corner of my page.

So... now it's up to you. What posts are you enjoying the most? What would you like to see more of? What's boring and a waste of time to you as a reader? Also, please let me know if you have a blog. I'd love to read it and possibly link to it. Am I posting too frequently or not frequently enough?

Okay... Your turn.....

An Engineer and the commutative property

John is learning multiplication. You can only understand my stress as we've approached this task if you understand the painful experience addition has been. You see... even if John has an answer memorized, he must go back and verify it to be true before he will commit to the answer. He refuses to entertain the idea that it really could be as easy as his first thought. But the work he has to do to figure out the answer from scratch every time is so daunting to him that he has had panic attacks trying to answer addition facts that he knows quite well.

I was a whiz in school and I remember learning the times tables with some pain and difficulty, so it is no surprise this is stressful for John. Since John refuses to accept memorization as a viable option, we've been using strategies and tricks. He's still pretty slow at it, but he has a strategy that he can apply to most of the tables.

I was explaining to Theo tonight that we have no simple strategy for 3's, 7's or 8's, but since we had all the other strategies it worked out that there are only 6 unique problems John would have to flat memorize. Theo's raised a contemplative eyebrow as he tried to calculate alongside my ramblings. I know he was trying to verify there were indeed only 6 facts left. I quickly cleared up his confusion by reminding him it was only 6 because of the commutative property.

There was a short pause and a long, slow grin. He said he was impressed and that phrases like "commutative property" were real turn-ons for engineers... I told him it was just inappropriate to speak to his son's teacher in that manner.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Why my van smells like peppermint

This is an oldie but a goodie that I previously posted on thebabywearer.com. Oh and this is before we knew Hannah was also allergic to soy.

We went with my husband on a business trip. One afternoon I decide to hit starbucks and take John to an office supply store. (Geeky, but he likes it). So on the way I get in the wrong lane and as I try to get in, the truck I'm trying to get in front of, honks at me. I sigh in exasperation and realize I'm not making it before the traffic light. As I drive off to find somewhere to turn around, I look in the mirror. The guy is shrugging in a confused but actually nice way because he had left a huge space for me to get in. (Who on earth actually honks to let someone in???)

So, almost to Starbucks, I spy a Hobby Lobby. Clouds part, angels sing. John readily agrees it is a much better shopping choice. Happily I drive a couple more blocks to Coffee Mecca. You see, it's the only place for me to get something creamy since Dear Daughter has a new-found milk allergy.

I order a tall decaf caramel macchiato extra caramel at 110 degrees for John and a grande decaf peppermint soy mocha no whip for myself. To my continued amazement the starbucks employees are never outdone and can rattle off all those specs like they are reciting the alphabet. As we approach the window John says in this wistful voice, "Mom, in just a moment I'm going to be in my happy place." Ha, ha... in just as wistful a voice worthy of a Calgon commercial mixed with a fairly big hint of amusement I manage, "ahhhhh, me too."

I head for Hobby Lobby with a sense of gratitude for my station in life and the beautiful day and for my amazing children. On the way I fantasize about picking out some dupioni silk to line the brocade pouch I plan to make. I, in fact, have no idea what dupioni is or how it is pronounced. I simply know it's a much adored fabric in the babywearer do-it-yourself forum. But it was a glorious moment.

I park and move to the middle row so I can nurse and offer the baby a pottytunity before our excursion. Things are going so well, I offer the greedy munchkin a sip of the drink I ordered to suit her nursing needs. She doesn't do well with the lid so I took it off. I believe she too finds a happy place.

I set the cup on the tray table/cup holder thingy between the two front seats and start to undress the baby. The diaper bag is in the front so I ask John to hand me a fresh prefold. (He sits in the front to test all the buttons while I nurse.) He tugs smartly on the bag and it doesn't move. He grunts and gives it another go as I realize the strap is wrapped around the release bar for the that stupid tray table/cup holder thingy between the two front seats.

Time slows. I yell in drawn-out, distorted words "JJJJOOOOOHHHHNNN STTTTOOOOPPPP" Apparently time doesn't slow for the eight year old desperately trying to please his mother by freeing the diaper bag.

Decaf grande peppermint soy no whip latte all over the van! A million thoughts race. Most of them involve the hurt and disappointed and fairly angry look my husband is going to have when he sees this. I pick up the fallen cup of doom, open the sliding door, and violently slosh the remaining liquid into the parking lot. I begin to soak up coffee with the clean prefold.

I remember that my dear husband does not like coffee at all. He most certainly detests expensive coffee. And, well, coffee that mars the van.... I clench my teeth, peel back my lips and snarl: "BAD WORD, BAD WORD, BAD WORD!!!!".

Yes, suddenly the maternal instincts kick back in and I actually say "bad word" as if I am spitting vile itself out of my mouth. And then the homeschooling part of my personality which requires that I explain everything says, "Mommy wanted to say a bad word just now but that would not be appropriate."

I calm down enough to nurse. Then I start to get tickled. Especially when I wonder what the owner of the burgundy grand prix next to me is going to think when he finds all that sticky coffee on his hubcap and rear quarter panel.

The mood swing does concern my son a little. But he is relieved we are still going to shop. Dupioni only comes in gold, not black at Hobby Lobby and it is very expensive so I buy some cotton. John enjoys looking at the project kits and balsa wood.

We return to the van and John races ahead as always and hops in his seat. I see him climb in quickly, inhale slowly and deeply and break into the "happy place" smile. He says, "Mom! It smells like..."

I cut him off, "peppermint and coffee. Yes, I know."

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Such a good baby...

From the time Hannah was a newborn, folks have commented that she was "such a good baby". Granted, I think she's pretty doggone awesome, but I was constantly scratching my head trying to figure out what they could possibly mean. It was usually said to me while she was sleeping soundly in a sling, or right after church and it was usually followed with "She didn't make a peep the whole time." There were variations like "Does she ever make a sound?"

Ahhh, so "good baby" = "quiet baby". I see. Well, that's your own definition. I am the mother of two very special creations designed perfectly for our family by God. And one of them is quiet... but that does not make her good. Even the Bible is pretty clear there is "...none good, no, not one."

Oh yes, she is quiet. That's because she is a stealth menace. She quietly wanders off. She is a master of the "act natural" school of deception. Everyone in the room sees that Hannah has a dry erase marker in her hand but no one thinks it inappropriate at all. No one thinks to follow her to offer supervision. Stealth baby just melts into the background and doodles perfectly formed H's and circles all over walls and furniture. It happens time and time again.

No one suspects the quiet child... and that's just the way she likes it. She's secreted herself away to wear my mother-in-law's mascara. She's completely stickered the front of a small cabinet in the living room. She's a master of using my makeup and, well, other supplies. My bras frequently become baby slings. She climbs bookshelves and can serve herself chocolate (dark, all-natural, soy and dairy free) from the above counter kitchen cabinets.

One time I was getting my teeth cleaned and the hygienist had the naivete to ask, "Is she always this good?". Of course, I couldn't answer at the time as she was cleaning my teeth. But when we both turned around we discovered Hannah had de-leafed her jade plant and probably eaten a little. I shrugged and with a newly freshened smile said, "She's about this good all the time."

My daughter is quiet. And that should be appreciated. She's turned it into an artform. But please, let's not call it something it isn't. Quiet does not equal good. Just ask the poor jade plant.

Friday, March 20, 2009

A Hair-raising Experience

Today I went to my wonderfully colorful hair dresser. I've only been to him twice before but he waxes my eyebrows and cuts my hair so I like him. Last time, I was so excited with the slightly funky style he gave me. I got many compliments on it and it was really easy to fix. I was happy to be sitting under his knowledgable scissors once more.

He's not one of those stylists who plops you square in front of the mirror. No, I suppose he likes to surprise you. He's also not one to ask what you'd like to do today or if you just want the "usual". He's an artist... and your hair is his canvas. Now, be quiet and let the man do his work.

I was all too happy to sit and discuss the weather and his new condo and leave my hairdo to his concern. My kids were at home with Theo. I had time to just sit and relax and look forward to how cute I was soon going to be.

He was very, very excited because he got new scissors yesterday. They were very gadgety and had pivoting handles to help him avoid carpal tunnel syndrome. Tools of the trade, tools of the trade! This is a man who loves his profession. I was especially excited when he started gushing about how he "loved" my hair and how he could "make it do anything" and told me how "cutesy" it was.

After an entire bottle of Paul Mitchell's Freeze scrunch spray, he spun me toward the mirror. Wow, it was certainly funky and exciting. WOW! I was giddy with the strangeness of it all. I had once toyed with the idea of cutting off all my hair and going with spikes. But I didn't have the guts to go through with it. And here, I had my dream without any of that fussy decision making process.

There was a problem with this hair. This is not the hair of someone who homeschools her children and uses cloth diapers. This is not the hair of someone who owns ANY of the clothes in my closet. This is certainly not the hair of a first grade Sunday School teacher. I'm going to need a whole new personality to go with my hair. Between my new hair and my new sunglasses, my head has left the rest of my body behind.

I stopped at the grocery on the way home because I had to pick up some things. For the first time in my life, I was turning heads. Don't get me wrong. I've drawn attention to myself before. Wearing a baby on your back in a simple piece of cloth gets you some attention. But people froze when I walked by, stopped reading the labels on their prospective purchases and literally turned to follow me all the way around like those weird eyes that follow your cursor on the screen.

Hannah and her cousin Audrey, were dancing alone together in the living room when I got home. Audrey spun around as she heard me open the door and yelled with two-year-old enthusiasm, "There she...." Then she paused as she looked at me with vague recognition and finally slowly said, "....is...".

My husband laughed. It wasn't one of those mean-hearted laughs. It was more of disbelief and an inability to control himself sort of laughs. It's the guilty, uncontrollable way people laugh sometimes when other people fall. John started talking to me without eye contact but I know when he saw my hair because he just. STOPPED. talking. My sister-in-law said, "John, your mom has cooler hair than you!"

When Theo left to get the grill ready and talked about how he had to make dinner, I said that was good, because girls with hair like this, don't make dinner. Ladies and gentlemen, I'm going to need a tattoo and some leather to go with this hair.

Run Interrupted

My knees have survived today's [Wednesday] running adventure unscathed.  It's the heart of my husband which underwent some stress.  

I run a half mile circle in my neighborhood on many days.  It's a great hill workout and I don't have to drive anywhere when Theo gets home to watch the children.  I understand that Monday's run created a bit of drama as Hannah watched me from the window.  Apparently, about the time she'd start to calm down, I'd pass the house once again.  It took several laps before Theo discovered the source of Hannah's waxing and waning grief.  

But today, she seemed in better spirits and was happy her Daddy had come home.  I set out for my run with just me, God, and my Ipod.  I passed the house a second time and began the long slow climb up the the hill toward the cul-de-sac.

Off in the distance, headed toward the entrance of our subdivision was a little girl walking along the edge of the road.  I thought to myself what a cute little girl that was but I didn't recognize her as one of the usual witnesses to my neighborhood slog.  As I got a little closer to her I realized she was awfully young to be walking out by herself.  I scanned the area before me for an older sibling or parent.  

Meanwhile, the little girl was walking very purposely in a straight line right along the edge of the road.  She looked like she knew where she was going, but I thought I'd probably talk to her anyway.  As I got even closer, I thought to myself again Hey, wasn't Hannah wearing a shirt that same color today?  

OH MY WORD!!!!  It WAS Hannah!  When she saw me she stopped pursuing the entrance of the subdivision, thank goodness and turned calmly to wait for me with her arms up.  As she reached up nonchalantly and held my pinky she grinned, "I GOT you Mommy!  You on run?"

"Um, yes, I was on a run.  Does your Daddy know you are out here."

"Daddy know I out here."

Yeah right....  I few moments later I heard Theo's somewhat panicked voiced yelling "HANNNAHHH!!!!"  from our hill.  I yelled back that I had her and met him in the driveway.  

Woohoo, guess what, my daughter has a new developmental skill. She can operate the dead bolt. Why yes, the child safety door knob cover has been returned to the front door. Thank you so much for asking before calling DCS.  

Thursday, March 19, 2009

When John Made us Parents

When we became foster parents we explained our understanding of the job to our social worker.  Theo said, "We are Motel 6.  We leave the light on."  Our job was to provide a safe place until they could go to the nebulous somewhere called home.  We were excited to participate in this noble endeavor.

At the end of May, that same social worker called to say we had officially received our foster parenting license.  After a short pause, she added that she would like to offer us the chance to be a respite home for 10 days for a 20 month old boy.  Before she could finish my heart was screaming "YES!"  She said he'd been in quite a few foster homes and was quite difficult to handle.  His current foster parents were leaving the state for job interviews and couldn't take him with them.  Heck, I thought, we can handle anything a 20 month old could throw at us for 10 days.  Theo and I quickly agreed to take the job.

Since the little boy had been moved so frequently, DCS felt it best if we visit him a couple of days before we took him.  We arrived at the foster family's house to find an amazing tank of a bald-headed boy.  He looked more like 3 or 4 than 20 months.  His smile was infectious and he ADORED Theo.  

I called my Mother that night and told her I was in love and scared OUT OF MY MIND.  How am I going to handle being a revolving door when I fall in love with the first child in the first five minutes?  For two days I pined for the boy I barely knew.  I pined for a boy I was destined to care for for only 10 days and then send him back to another foster family and then later back to his birth parents.  

At last, we picked him up at the other family's house.  He knew what suitcases meant and leaving by himself with strangers.  He was hiding under an end table in the hallway, making himself as small as possible.  He screamed and raged but there was nothing he could do to prevent this.  He was miserable.  

He had the only thing that comforted him in a little baggy he would continue to hold onto for weeks and months after that: food.  He kept dry cereal in a baggy at all times.  Food was the only thing that when available could reliably make him feel comfortable and safe.  

His head was shaved because he'd had head lice and that was how his previous foster parent chose to treat it.  Two weeks before this, he underwent surgery to place ear tubes and clip his tied tongue.  He had a raging sinus infection that took 8 months of antibiotics to clear up.  

He had lived in his first home until about 1 year of age, experiencing severe neglect.  Then he was placed in foster care with two older siblings and then separated from them.  He bounced during the next 8 months into so many homes that DCS didn't record them all on his official paperwork.  One social worker later told us it was more than 20 homes.  

But when he came to our home for 10 days, he laid a claim on our family.  The other foster parents got the out of town job and decided rather than move John twice, they would let him stay with us.  So we would be his port in the storm until he went home to live with his biological family.  Over two years later, that option became unavailable and we all agreed, he was already living in his forever home with his forever parents.  

Since then, we have had the opportunity to foster a few other children.  While they were all wonderful and amazing and I was sad to see them leave, none of them broke my heart.  My spirit must have known he was my son the moment I saw him.  Despite my painful willingness to set him free, this butterfly chose to stay.  

Thanks for choosing us, John!

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Head and Hannah, Knees and Foots

Hannah is not a performer.  She will kindly do no monkey tricks for you or anyone else, no matter how nicely you ask nor how compellingly you bribe.  Hannah is her own woman.  When she demonstrates silly two-year-old antics, she does it behind closed doors.  

I was a Ham.  Her grandmother before her was a Ham.  Her father is a Ham.  Heck, even her brother is a Ham.  But Hannah does not perform for the pleasure of others.  It started when she was quite small.

For instance, she rolled front to back and back to front at the appropriate developmental age.  And then, she DID NOT do it again until after she was crawling.   Doctors would ask if she could do it and I'd say, yes, she CAN do it but she WON'T.  

At five months she hummed in perfect tune after some music in her play-center-walker contraption.  No one else got to hear it again, including me.  That was the first sign she was musically inclined.  

And even though she's been using the potty since she was one month old, insisting I take her to the toilet instead of soiling herself, she still will mostly only use the bathroom for myself and a few select other individuals.  She's made more than one caretaker quite self-conscious about this fact.  She's gone so far as holding her urine for more than six hours, just to wait until I could take her.  

At eight months she spoke her first word other than "mama".  It was "baby".  She said it clearly for a week.  And then, she chose to remain mute for a month after that.  This kind of behavior causes adults to start the pleading process.  "Please Hannah, say 'baby'.  Would you like a  treat?"  No, indeed, keep your treats.  I will say it again in my own, good time.  

A month later upon receiving the most desirable gift of a new baby doll, my mother and I caught her lowering her face and mouthing "baby" secretly to it, a sort of sly grin on her face.  Eventually, of course, all of us have been graced with her voice.  But every milestone is shared with the world when she chooses not when society dictates she should.  The louder we praise a performance of Hannah's, the less likely we are to see it again.  

So imagine on our surprise and delight, when she chooses to dance her heart out and sing at the top of her lungs in our own home with only a few, intimate spectators.  Everyone freezes, and turns to watch in silence as Hannah does her thing.  She has great rhythm and can really carry a tune.  The words, however, are usually of her own choosing.

Our most recent experience with this phenomenon is a song I sang to her only once before "Head and shoulders, knees and toes".  Hannah suddenly stood in the middle of the couch, watching herself in the mirror.  In her loudest voice and with a quite recognizable tune, complete with body motions, Hannah belted out,  "Head and Hannah, Knees and Foots".  It was fantastic.  And truly, it's a shame you'll never experience it for yourself.  

Tuesday, March 17, 2009


On a recent date, Theo and I varied from the usual dinner and movie. We went shopping... for cologne and sunglasses. It was very fun. I recently started wearing contacts and needed sunglasses. And Theo lost his sunglasses in Florida.

We went into a sunglass shop in Sevierville. We tried on all sorts of glasses and had a great time. Since I have a new body, new sport... I decided I needed some more fashionable sunglasses. So I chose a big/bulky black pair with rhinestones along the edge.

Theo's eyes sparkled and immediately he grinned. Dude, he thinks I look silly, I thought. But when I looked in the mirror again with my modern hair and cool sunglasses, I decided I liked them anyway. They were slightly impracticle, I realized. In was this break from the norm which I think amused my husband.

About a week later, our family went on a wonderfull hike. Unfortunately, I needed sunglasses but all I have now are my highly impracticle rhinestone-studded ones. Now we were hiking, so I didn't shower, had unstyled hair, a not-terribly flattering t-shirt along with these out-of-place shades. Now I'd already had some great feedback from others about my new sunglasses... so I knew they were cool. They just were not right for the occasion.

And everytime Theo saw me he started singing "Fabulous" from High School Musical. It did crack me up... and sadly I have a picture to show you. LOL!

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Honey, it's cold outside

John is a particularly hot-blooded child. In the past, I have told him the reason he had to bring a coat with us, even if he didn't put it on was so that I didn't look like a bad mom. I have been accosted for him being coatless while he was sweating in a long-sleeved shirt about "where is your coat, young man?".

But before this winter, John lost approximately 40 lbs while adding inches to his height. He has much less insulation than in the past and has at last felt the sting of winter. He does occasionally get cold nowadays.

A couple of weeks ago, we had one of the freakish cold snaps after a warm up. John woke up, took a shower, and put on some shorts and a sleeveless top. We were getting ready to leave the house and I tried to urge John to dress more appropriately for the weather.

"Honey, it's cold outside. You'll want warmer clothes."

"Mom, you know I'm always hot."

"John, do you remember when you and Daddy spoke in the parking lot with a friend yesterday, and you froze to death?"


"Well, today, it is 10 degrees colder than that."

At last a look of recognition crossed John's face. My reasoned and logical explanation had gotten through. I was proud of my parenting as John got that understanding sparkle in his eye. But, alas, it was him simply finding a new angle to argue, "Mom, is that in Farenheit?"

Friday, March 13, 2009

The Night Watch

When I was a sophomore in high school, I visited Holland on a school trip. I stayed with a host family for two weeks. It was a very memorable trip as you can imagine but yesterday, as I contemplated writing and journals and well, blogs, the memory of seeing Rembrandt's "Night Watch" came flooding back to me.

There was a lot of hullaballo about us kids having the chance to actually see this piece of art in person. I had no idea why it would be important other than having the bragging rights to say I had indeed viewed the painting with my own two eyes. There was so much excitement that my host family spent a lot of time helping me gurgle Nahhhhccccckkkkt Vaaaahhhhcccckkkkt with as best a Dutch accent as I could muster.

We toured the museum. Most of us didn't understand or appreciate what we were seeing, but we bought in on the excitement of the adults. There were stories about how the painting had been stolen and damaged and returned. Or maybe someone had attempted to steal it and it was damaged in the process. I don't remember.

I think we saw the "Mona Lisa" which was surprisingly small and haunting to my 16 year old mind. And then we found ourselves crowded in a room in front of the purpose for our visit to the museum. "The Night Watch" was cordoned three feet behind red velvet ropes making the spectacle complete. I remembered we had learned about chairoscuro which is what was supposed to be so great about this particular artist and this particular piece of his work. And indeed, the small child near the foreground of the painting was absolutely brilliant and shone right out of the scene.

But what made tears come to my eyes and my mouth hang open was the size of what I saw before me. I had seen the dulled, printed version of this painting in my text books many times. It was roughly 2 inches by 3 inches. Sometimes it was slightly larger. The prose always gushed about the amazing technique and subject. But this painting is enormous. It filled the room. It was taller than myself and I could walk it's length to view the entire painting. Why was the physical magnitude of this artwork never mentioned?

I'm sure I missed whatever was the intended point of our visit. I did, however, develop a desire to see real objects in real life as much as possible. If I had the completely wrong impression of Rembrandt's masterpiece, how many other things were watered down by the text book editors? And while I do not view art with the eye of a learned critic, I've never once found myself disappointed by the original as it compared to a photo in a book. I make it a point to get out and experience life. It's so much bigger than I always imagine it to be.

***Note: I checked on the web after I typed this and discovered that an unemployed teacher slashed the painting with a bread knife. It was not stolen. Wikipedia mentioned it is also known for its colossal size (11*14 feet). ***

EC... Yes, I potty trained my 1 month old!

(Here's Hannah at about 6 months using the potty. She's about 13 months old in the bottom picture.)

I haven't talked about my "initials" for a while... so with all my recent posts about the potty... I thought I'd discuss EC.

Elimination Communication is one of those bizarre things I discovered and decided to do while I was pregnant with Hannah. The concept is that from birth, babies do not like to have their waste stuck to their bodies and can be taught to eliminate into a potty or somewhere else you indicate. The interesting note that convinced me it was possible was an article that mentioned tribal moms in Africa who wore their babies on their backs without diapers and yet, they didn't have poop and pee running down their backs. That meant they had some means of predicting when their babies were going to do it.

I figured it was worth a try even if it didn't "work". At the very least, my plan was to leave my daughter sitting in her own waste a minimal amount of time. Tiny babies cry and cry when they need to be changed but, by the time they are toddlers and we want them to use a potty, we've trained them to be comfortable going in their diapers. I've seen toddlers wait till they've got on a pullup or a diaper and then have a bowel movement. John could hold it all day and then ask for a pullup and go within minutes.

It is hard to change your ideas on where you go to the bathroom. If you doubt this, try to go in the woods. Or try to convince yourself to go in your bathtub, just as an experiment. It may be impossible for you to go somewhere other than the toilet. We are asking our children to make the same fundamental leap. I liked EC because the concept was that one could avoid the trauma.

I have one other friend in real life who has done EC. Her daughter is several months older than mine and we would secretly take our children potty hoping no one would notice. Such a stigma and confusion over doing something this crazy. But we both knew our daughters would let us know they had to go and then hold it till we got them there and then were relieved when they could potty. Hannah used to sigh happily as she released the pee she'd held.

I started "catching" pees and poops when she was one month old. I learned what signals she used when she needed to go and what times of day she was more likely to. She learned my cue to let her know she was in a potty place.

I used to convince myself from time to time that I was the one being trained... like I'd heard people say. But the truth is that we are trained to change diapers when soiled anyway. If I could be trained to take her potty before the diaper was dirty, then that was one less diaper to wash or buy. Plus, I had a happier baby with almost zero diaper rash in her lifetime.

I also thought it might be coincidence until we were driving back from Indiana one time when Hannah was 3 months old. She cried a distinctive cry as she woke from a deep sleep in her carseat. Even Theo said, "Hey, that's a pee pee cry! Should I pull over?" We started looking for an exit. The next exit was three miles away. I told Hannah it was okay to go ahead and pee in her diaper that we were going to stop in just a minute and I'd change her. She continued to cry for a few minutes and then suddenly stopped. I knew for sure she'd gone.

So we pulled into a gas station parking lot and I got her out of her carseat and put her on my lap and removed her DRY diaper. I was shocked and quickly reached for the gladware we kept in the car for this purpose. I held her over the container and whispered, "Sssssssss." She took a deep breath and the muscles in her back loosened and there was a large pee stream going into the container. She immediately turned her face to nuzzle my chest and cuddled back to sleep before the diaper was back on. That's how I knew I was doing the right thing. I was meeting my daughter's needs in the same way I did when I bathed her, nursed her, and held her. This was just one more way I could be there for her. And she let me know she appreciated it.

At five months, I was so used to taking her potty that I accidently did it with a friend in the room. Remember, I tried to keep some of my weird behaviors on the down-low. Marie was amazed, impressed, scared? as she said, "WHAT ARE YOU DOING? Did she just pee in a potty?" I know for certain she would have never believed me if she hadn't seen it for herself.

The developmental specialists and doctors in our country say that babies aren't even aware of their elimination until around 18 months and certainly don't have sphincter control until then. But that isn't based on medical information but on population statistics. Babies are very aware of their elimination needs and are happy when you pick up on their communication about it.

In the end, Hannah is not completely independent at pottying before her same-age counterparts. (Though many haven't even started the process.) But I've had a lot less diapers to deal with and she certainly hates to have wet pants. I've never had to bribe, cajole, teach or threaten about using the potty. She's just slowly gotten better and better at it. She also slowly has gotten better at walking and talking and eating as well. It's been a gradual process.

I love EC and now that I know how to do it better, I look forward to doing it whenever God grants me another child. If this concept fascinates you, search the internet. There are all sorts of sites and books out there to help you in this journey.

Such a Gentle Mom

Last night, we were at Olive Garden waiting for our dinner and Hannah needed to poop. You are noticing a theme to my posts now, aren't you? Anyway, I took Hannah to the bathroom and she was in a very independent two-year-old mode. We went into a stall together and she noticed the toilets were sorta low. "Look, Mommy! Hannah-sized!" So she pulled down her pants by herself and actually climbed onto the potty herself and used the wall as a support.

I was aware we were having a very candid discussion about her bathroom experience and imagined our bathroom mates chuckling to themselves. She got down and flushed and then told me there was "more". So she climbed up again. She also asked me what I was doing. I said "I'm just standing here being proud of you because you are such a big girl getting up on the potty by yourself." She flushed multiple times and was a little unsure of pulling her pants up by herself. But I suggested she start pulling them up and I'd help if she got stuck.

It was one of those good Mommy/Daughter interactions. She seemed so old and so tiny at the same time. As we were washing our hands, a lady came out of the stall next to us. She smiled and made eye contact. She said, "You are such a gentle mom." In surprise, I managed a thank you.

But, all the while, I was feeling a little dishonest. Yes, I was being very patient and sweet and gentle in all that she heard. But that was only a snap shot of my day. She hasn't heard me scream at my kids or tell them "not now" a million times while I did something as important as wash a dish while they wanted a hug. I was proud and self-conscious at the same time.

All the same, I was encouraged. We had a nice talk about her 35-year-old daughter and her grandsons and about the bittersweet nature of children getting older. I felt really good about that interaction and inspired by the person she thought I was. The rest of the evening I paid a little closer attention to being "gentle" to both of my children. It's so nice when I can remember to be patient and just enjoy being with them.

May God place more mirrors in the stall next to me and give them the grace to say something. I'll also try to remember to encourage other moms with my words if I see an endearing interaction. They may need encouragement, just like I did. I hope you all have a gentle day with your kids.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Does a Hannah poop in the woods?

On our Hike last weekend, John encountered his inevitable need to "water the trees". And of course, Hannah suddenly felt the urge as well. Five minutes into a five mile hike, we were all off trail looking for a private place to take each child. I held Hannah in a semi-squat position and she peed.

She was tickled pink with the freedom of it all. As I started to pull her pants back up, she said with excitement, "Mommy, I poopy!" Arrrrggggg, no! Not now! But you don't turn down a toddler on a five mile trek who's wearing underwear. So we get back in position while I ensure my shoes are out of the damage path.

Sure enough. She produces. Okay, I think, we can get back to the boys waiting on the path. Oh no. She had to see what she had done. She had to comment on where she'd done it. And about the time I started looking for suitable leaves, she decides indeed that there is more excretion to do. A two-year-old's colon is only so long, isn't it? Eventually, she will no longer be able to poop despite the novelty of the situation, I assure myself. Each dropping caused the same excitement and discussion. "I poop in the woods, Mommy! I poop in the woods! I do that!" She'd say, enthralled.

So at last the bowels have been emptied into the great outdoors and it is time to clean the girl. It's not quite Spring so the only leaves are dead leaves on the ground. They will have to work. I silently apologize to her as I start to do my Motherly duties. She whips her head around and twists in my arms.... "Mommy! What are you doing?!" as an even more exciting part of this experience dawns on her consciousness. "Leaves... toilet paper, Mommy?!... Leaves... toilet paper... OKAY!"

That's done! But now I can't get her back to the path as she keeps collecting large handfuls of leaves for everyone in our party. "Look, John-John, Leaves! Toilet Paper!!!" Our God surely does provide!

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Turns out: Running is bad for your knees.

As is common in our household, we are traveling once again. Last night we drove to Atlanta and are staying in a Country Inn and Suites so that Theo can attend a conference. The blessing of homeschooling is that we packed up school and brought it with us. And we'll squeeze in some field trips along the way.

I love going on trips and getting the lay of the land. One of my favorite things to do is to run in a new place. But the wifi connection in our room is spotty so I couldn't do Google Earth last night. But the night clerk did tell Theo that the road in front of our hotel is well lit and pretty safe as it goes past business parks. Since I couldn't map out a course to find out my mileage last night, I decided I'd try the treadmill this morning. That would be an adventure too, as I've never run on a treadmill before.

I got up to run at 6 so Theo could be with the kids till I came back. I went downstairs and found the sign on the fitness room read "Open 8am-8pm". Aha, new road it is. I decided I'd just run about 20-25 minutes and then turn around. I'd map my run later in the day.

I was glad I went outside. The temperature was a gorgeous 55 degrees. I turned on my Ipod and hit the sidewalk. About two minutes later I really hit the sidewalk. I didn't even feel myself tripping, but I did feel myself flying through the air and then landing on my hands and knees. I felt miserable. My hands and knees stung and I decided I was finished and turned to walk back to the hotel.

I walked a block and then a song came on my Ipod that said, "The God of Peace will soon crush Satan underneath your feet." And I thought of all that God had accomplished in my life in the last year and how I've been struggling to get back in the running groove after my recent cold. I also thought of my son who looks for any excuse to stop trying anything when it is even slightly difficult.

We've learned that John's fear of heights while climbing Mountains is a pretty big hurdle but if we give in to that fear and allow him to give up... within weeks he is afraid to walk across the house on his own. Fear takes on a life of its own. Strike that. Fear takes YOUR life for its own. I will not do what I won't allow my son to do. Fear and pain will not take the joy of running from me. I was merely stinging on my skin and pride from a minor fall. Grace settled in my heart and pushed back and said, "This road is yours and this run is yours. Make it happen."

So I gritted my teeth, upped my IPOD volume and watched sidewalk seams diligently as I trod the territory Grace laid at my feet. It was a good run. It was a statement. I ran for twenty minutes and found an auto parts store to be an ironic/symbolic place to turn around. I felt stronger and happier as I approached the hotel.

As I ran, I could feel that my hands were newly texturized but not bleeding. I figured my knees were in the same condition. I was hardly stinging anymore and chided myself for considering stopping when there wasn't even really any blood. I stopped at the parking lot and bent over in the universal post-run crouch where you grab your breath and saw my knees.

They were more than texturized. They were ground beef. I had semi-dried blood running down my legs. What seemed pretty wimpy earlier made me feel pretty hard core now. My Dad would say I had some pretty good war wounds. War wounds plus 40 more minutes of running equals victory. And that feels good.

I grabbed the camera as I planned this very blog entry and told Theo I wanted a picture of my knees. Of course, he asked me what happened. I told him that I run so fast that sometimes the wind splits my skin open. He knew I was okay because I still had a sense of humor.

And tomorrow I will continue to stand my ground as I take these sore, stiff, cracked knees back out again. Fear won't stand still so I can't afford to either. I'm running this race as if to win.

Monday, March 9, 2009

Allergic to Playfood

For those of you who don't know: Hannah is allergic to dairy and soy.

Yesterday, Hannah became very busy providing us with food from her play kitchen. She brought Theo a hamburger patty on a plate. He said, "Thank you." and started to pick it up to eat it. Hannah stopped and looked very serious with her hand extended in full "Stop!" mommy fashion. With some urgency but a great deal of clarity she said, "Don't touch it. It has cheese in it!" She calmed and waited a beat and then, "You wanna fork?"

Theo asked if it was Daddy safe and she indicated it was but that it did have cheese so he should use a fork. She's learned enough to know that sometimes we choose to eat foods that contain her allergens but we are careful not to touch them with our hands so we are less likely to expose her to danger.

It's heartwarming and a little scary to realize just how closely she is watching and imitating all we do. Not only did she feed us in a Hannah-safe manner yesterday but she also played church. That involved putting stickers on our backs and then going to make "copies" by sliding index cards through the slot in a cabinet door. I realized, I've been taking her to help make copies for my class every Sunday before I drop her off in her class.

Be careful, little eyes, what you see. Be careful Mommy because the little eyes are always watching.

Saturday, March 7, 2009

John's New Glasses

John got glasses. He's so cute and old and sophisticated. Yes, only a mother can say you are cute and sophisticated in the same sentence. John, however, doubted his new image would be favorable amongst his peers. "I'm going to look like a doofus, Mom".

Quickly, we had to do some damage control. Granted, we homeschool and he only needs them for school work and video games. It wasn't likely he'll be wearing them around many other children. Nonetheless, I felt I should encourage and reassure the boy.

Theo and I spent a great deal of time telling him how women liked men who wore glasses. We pointed out that his uncle is very handsome and all his facebook pictures include pretty girls and yet, he wears glasses.

I painted a scenario where he'd find himself in a library sometime and a girl would approach him because he looked cute and studious. She might shyly ask if he knew where to find some sort of classic literature. I demonstrated how he'd look up from his book and sweep his glasses away to reveal his devastating brown eyes. He would tell her he'd read that tome many times (because he was homeschooled and had a wonderful teacher. (Hey, it's fantasy, okay?) And then they'd walk arm in arm directly to the requested book.

I finished my vignette thinking I might have oversold this just a little. Its just so hard to resist really getting into story telling when both my husband and my son are watching, mouths slightly gaping in complete amazement. John was quiet, contemplating the future I had painted for him.

He warmed to the idea as he said, "Mom, can I wear my glasses ALL THE TIME?"

Yep.... definitely oversold it.

Friday, March 6, 2009

Best of Cousins

My sister-in-law and I had our daughters four months apart. We always knew that was going to result in a lot of fun and adventure. Now that the girls are two, the adventure begins!

Hannah and Audrey adore each other and they both are in love with big brother/big cousin John. But as all Moms know: Two's company but two two-year-olds aren't good company for long. Sometimes they greet each other with affection and sometimes it's just cause for repealing the second amendment. But every visit has its share of ups and downs.

They've spent so much time together recently that when I told Hannah that Audrey was coming to see her, she said "Where she been?" Mind you, they had parted ways only twelve hours before. But the way I know they've really been spending a lot of time together is when Hannah is asleep.

She has started screaming in grand two-year-old fashion "Mine!" and "No share" and "No touch, Audrey" all in her sleep. And the words are backed up with quite intense physical actions as well. My favorite is "Audrey! Top it. Top it now!"

So I told my sister-in-law this story feeling somewhat embarrassed about my daughter's nighttime follies. And you know what? Apparently Audrey's been dreaming as well. "No Hit, Hannah" she yells in slumber.

And when they wake they drive both of their mothers nuts wanting to play with their other. And that's just fine as long as they don't have to share.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Preparation Hannah

My father came to visit us in the afternoon the other day. John was happily playing video games and Hannah flitted in and out of the room with various toys and pilfered items. As Dad approached a transition in his story, I held up my hand to indicate I needed a pause. "The baby's been gone for a while.... I'll be right back."

I found the aforementioned baby in my bathroom. This is a favorite place of hers recently. She was hiding behind the door with her pants around her ankles. Her hind quarters were thickly coated in white cream. She raised her eyebrows in feigned innocence as she handed me a half empty container of Preparation H. Sweetly and hesitantly she added, "My bottom hyurts."

We quickly redirected our creative efforts toward play dough. My Dad kept laughing in that "you're getting what you deserve" sort of way.