Kids say the funniest things

kids say the funniest things

At a birthday party recently, Harry took a moment out of the action to pose for a photo op. He thinks he's awfully cute.

So busy!  We were in Washington, D.C. for almost a week, and work has been crazy, and Bess has been sick…and I’ve had no time to write!

And there’s so much I want to write about, too.  Our trip to D.C. provided much food for non-violent parenting thought, I’ve finished two books I want to review (both novels, unusual for me), there have been some interesting articles and blog posts that beg commentary, and I also read Seth Godin’s Stop Stealing Dreams (it’s free, you can download it in every format imaginable here).  Alas, all those things will have to wait for another day when I have some free moments to put together a coherent thought.

In the meantime…more funny things my kids have said recently:

  • John: “Harry, have you brushed your teeth yet?”  Harry: “I brush my teeth on Thursday, Tuesday and Sunday.  Is it one of those days?”
  • Harry has had a cold, and whenever he sneezes he runs around the house saying “Snot alert!” which sounds like “Snot aloit!”  And then, usually, he wipes his snot on my shirt.
  • The other day, my mom put Harry in the bath and then went home.  When I started taking the toys out of the bath so I could wash him and get him out of the tub, he reprimanded me: “No, Mommy!  Oma (pronounced Oooh-ma) put those in here for FUN!”
  • Bess wanted Harry to get out of her bed, so she said: “Here’s the rule, no boys allowed in my bed!”  I thought this to be a most excellent rule.  But then she amended it to “No boys allowed in my bed except Daddy and Evan”.  Evan is her friend across the street.  This is a significantly less excellent version of the rule.  I suspect that we will have to revisit that rule in approximately ten years, specifically as it relates to Evan.
  • Harry asked me the other day: “Remember when the police came and Bessie was a little bit arrested?”  I still have no idea what he was talking about; I do not recall Bess ever having been arrested, a little bit or otherwise.
  • Over the weekend, Harry was supremely uncooperative and I may have become uncharacteristically impatient at a few points in time.  After he lay in bed for an hour chatting me up and I was desperate to go to sleep, I may have asked him in a less-than-pleasant tone to stop talking and go to sleep; the next morning, when I needed to go to work and he refused to put his shoes on after approximately seven hundred billion requests, I may have made my request a bit louder.  So Sunday night he had one of his epic meltdowns, spearing me with a hockey stick and throwing toys at my head.  When I finally got him to calm down, he said: “Mommy, remember when you yelled at me last night?  I didn’t like that.  And remember when you yelled at me this morning?  I didn’t like that either.  Now that we’ve had this little talk, I feel much better and now I am sleepy.”  And he rolled over.  And he went to sleep.

Adopt a senior, you won’t be sorry

Touch of Grey

This week marks the second anniversary of the day Touch of Grey (Grey for short) came home.  We had lost our dog Sarah in December 2009, and we were still mourning and weren’t ready for a new dog.  But Chryssi, who came from an abusive home and can be anxious and – ahem – confused under ideal circumstances was not adapting to her life as an only dog.  She was depressed and lonely without her fearless leader.

So, when John showed me Grey’s picture in the paper… naturally I immediately jumped in the car drove through a snowstorm to see him.  He had been in a shelter for five months and had pneumonia, so we met in the warmth of the lobby.  When a chihuahua came through the door, got all up in his face, and started pitching a Napoleon Complex barking fit, you could just about hear Grey (tipping the scales at 100 pounds) laugh.  “Seriously?”

I’ll take him!

The shelter manager said he was five years old.  John said eight, at least.  My vet thinks maybe ten.  When people learn his story, they invariably respond with something along the lines of, “What a charitable and kind of stupid thing you have done for this old, decrepit dog who is going to get cancer and die, probably next week!”  (Maybe that’s not exactly what they say, but it’s what they mean.)  But I think I’m a lifer with this senior dog thing.

Shelters are not comfortable for any animal.  But they are especially uncomfortable and even dangerous for senior animals, with their aching joints and aging immune systems.  Many people think that if an animal is in a shelter then something must be wrong with him, but that is simply not true.  Companion animals often end up homeless after a death or divorce.  Sometimes an animal simply becomes an inconvenience to her person and gets dumped.  Animals who get lost and are not wearing identification cannot be reunited with their families.

That’s what happened to Grey.  He was wandering around wearing an electric fence collar but his microchip was outdated and his first family never came for him.  He had obviously been well-loved; he has had knee replacement surgery, and he knows tricks including speak, sit up, and roll over (not easy to teach a dog of his size!).  He came to us a ready-made family member, house-trained, well past the chewing/nipping/scratching stage, a mellow yin to Chryssi’s neurotic yang, and a perfect family dog.

His flaw?  Cats.  You can teach an old dog new tricks, but it isn’t easy.  A younger dog would have eventually learned to peacefully co-exist with the cats (particularly considering that every feline encounter has left him bloody).  But Grey has not adjusted and we have had to take steps to keep everyone safe and happy.  In my opinion, managing his cat chasing has been much easier than dealing with puppy nonsense, though I’m quite certain the cats would strenuously disagree.

Of course, there’s the obvious drawback: We will have to care for another dying dog within a few years.  Old dogs tend to have more problems, and it tends to cost more to keep them healthy.  But there are no guarantees with young animals either, and if you are lucky old age will still come.  Yes, Grey is stiff in the winter, and yes he gets ear infections easily and gets rid of them only with great effort.  But when you compare a few courses of antibiotics with the cost of obedience school, chewed furniture, ruined carpet, lost sleep, and all the rest…I would (and most likely will) do it again in a heartbeat.

Link Roundup

Two sleepy DiNorcias plus a friend!

I think I need to stop calling it “Weekend Links” since I only get to it on the weekend about half the time.  We were in Washington, D.C. over the weekend and, annoyingly, there was no Internet access at the hotel, so I couldn’t do the blogging I had planned to do.  Well, that’s not entirely true; there was access if you wanted to pay $10 per day, per device.  I didn’t.  And now I have so much catching up to do….

Anyway, here are some things I read this week that were pretty cool, or interesting, or inspiring:

Enjoy your day!

Happy World Read Aloud Day!

Happy World Read Aloud Day to you!

From the LitWorld website:

World Read Aloud Day is about taking action to show the world that the right to read and write belongs to all people. World Read Aloud Day motivates children, teens, and adults worldwide to celebrate the power of words, especially those words that are shared from one person to another, and creates a community of readers advocating for every child’s right to a safe education and access to books and technology.

In celebration of worldwide literacy, we are going to share one of our new favorite picture books, Max’s Words by Kate Banks, illustrated by Boris Kulikov.

Is anyone else addicted to Pinterest, or is it just me?  A few weeks ago I pinned this really amazing craft from Mommy Labs, creating a self-portrait with magazine clippings and mixed media, and someone repinned it with the comment that it would work well with a reading of Max’s Words.  Which, of course, it totally would!  (I wish I could figure out who it was so I could give credit where credit is due – but thanks for introducing us to this book, whoever you are!)

max's words by kate banks pictures by boris kultkovPoor Max – his brother Benjamin collects stamps and everyone admires them, but he won’t share with Max.  His brother Karl collects coins and everyone admires them, but he won’t share with Max.  So Max decides that he is going to collect words, and he finds that his collection is way cooler than his brothers’ because while their collections don’t really do anything, his can tell stories!

As a writer, reader, and word nerd I love how Max comes to appreciate the beauty and versatility of words.  Some are small but necessary, some make you feel good, some you say to other people.  Just one word has the power to completely change a sentence or a story!  And when you share your words with others, you can build whole worlds together.

Enjoy a book with your kids today (and every day, of course)!  Here are some resources for finding your next great read-aloud:

I’m a big lover of public libraries, but if you come across a book that you simply must own or would like to give as a gift, I encourage you to purchase from Better World Books.  It’s an amazing company that saves books from landfills, sells them, and donates the proceeds to literacy projects worldwide including Books for Africa, Invisible Children, The National Center for Family Literacy, Room to Read, Worldfund, and more!

What I’m reading: Supermarket Vegan and The Conscious Cook

I am not vegan.  I am not even vegetarian.

I was vegan for a long time, and vegetarian for a long long long time.

Yet, I never felt good eating that way, and after a number of health issues arose culminating in a very difficult pregnancy, birth and recovery with Bess I made the decision to re-introduce meat to my diet.

There are other issues at play, too.  I have become more committed to eating local and unprocessed food as much as possible.  I avoid tofu, tempeh, seitan, and other heavily processed soy  and vegan substitute foods.  While the animal rights issues are undeniable, I find the environmental benefits of this diet compelling.

I eat locally-raised grassfed animals.  As part of my choice to eat food with a face, I made a pact with myself to visit my food while still on the hoof (or wing, whatever).  The least I can do is look these animals in the eye and say thanks.

For what it’s worth, I have come to believe that different bodies have different nutritional requirements because they evolved in different ecological niches.  People who live at high altitudes or latitudes where plants don’t grow have traditionally subsisted on animal protein.  People who live in tropical climates where a wide variety of plants grow have traditionally been vegetarian.  My body is healthier when it is given animal protein, and I don’t think that makes me a bad person.

That said, our weekly menu includes plant-based meals, and I am always on the lookout for recipes that will satisfy my family.  (My baking is always vegan because Bess has egg anaphylaxis and does not tolerate diary well, in addition to being gluten-free because she has Celiac disease.)

conscous cook by tal ronnenWhile browsing the cookbook section of the library, I picked out two cookbooks that looked promising.  The first one, The Conscious Cook: Delicious Meatless Recipes That Will Change the Way You Eat by Tal Ronnen, is a beautiful book.  The photography and graphics really caught my eye and I decided to take it home for a closer look.  Unfortunately, the usefulness of the recipes did not match the book’s aesthetic appeal, at least for my family.  The recipes were much too fancy for our palates and way too labor-intensive (Sweet Onion Beggar’s Purses, anyone?), and they included a lot of wheat and processed foods like Veganaise and Gardein.  However, if I was hosting a dinner party with a guest list that included vegans, this book would definitely be a useful resource – and I wouldn’t mind having it on display in my kitchen as a piece of art.

supermarket vegan donna kleinOn the other hand, Supermarket Vegan: 225 Meat-Free, Egg-Free, Dairy-Free Recipes for Real People in the Real World by Donna Klein is an understated, text-only volume (with a cover price of $18.99 as opposed to $29.99 for The Conscious Cook).  But the recipes are perfect for a new vegan who is wary of unfamiliar substitute foods, or for a time-pressed whole-food family like mine.  The recipes are straightforward and simple, the ingredients are readily available, and Celiac-friendly substitutions are easy to make where required.  I think I’ll be buying a copy of this one.

 

Portobello Mushrooms with Chipotle Mashed Sweet Potatoes (from Supermarket Vegan)

  • 1 1/2 to 1 3/4 pounds sweet potatoes (about 3 medium), peeled and cut into chunks
  • 1/2 cup light coconut milk
  • 4 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 to 1 teaspoon finely chopped or pureed canned chipotle chili in adobo sauce (these are HOT so go easy if you’re cooking for kids!)
  • 1 clove chopped garlic
  • freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • 2 scallions, white and green parts, thinly sliced
  • 6 large portobello mushroom caps

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.  Lightly oil a baking sheet with sides or a shallow casserole and set aside.

In a large saucepan, place the sweet potatoes in enough salted water to cover by a few inches.  Bring to a boil over high heat.  Reduce the heat slightly and cook until very tender, about 20 minutes.  Drain well and return to the saucepan; add the coconut milk, 3 teaspoons of the oil, chili, garlic, and pepper.  Mash until smooth but still slightly chunky.  Add the scallions, stirring well to combine.  Set aside to cool slightly.

Mound equal amounts of sweet potato mixture on the gill side of each mushroom cap.  Transfer the mushrooms to the prepared baking sheet and brush the tops evenly with the remaining 1 teaspoon oil.  Bake in the lower third of the oven 10 to fifteen minutes, until mushrooms begin to soften and release their liquids.  Place on the center oven rack and bake 5 to 10 minutes, until the potatoes are lightly browned and mushrooms are tender when pierced with a knife.  Serve immediately.

What does breastfeeding have to do with feminism?

exclusively breastfed on demand

One of my (exclusively breastfed) babies

I recently found a new (new to me, not new new) blog, Mom, JD, where I read about an article by Elisabeth Badinter called “The Tyranny of Breast-Feeding: New mothers vs. La Leche League”.  It is not available online unless you want to spend $17 for a year’s subscription to Harper’s, so don’t bother looking.  I got it at the library.

Given that the article contains the words “despotism of an insatiable child”, it is no surprise that I agree with very little in it.  Mostly it is a history of La Leche League from the perspective of someone who believes that LLL’s real motive is to repress women and that it has co-opted the authority of organizations such as WHO and UNICEF in a global conspiracy to promote their women-repressing agenda.  Using quotes from extreme militant breastfeeding supporters, Badinter argues that LLL is full of uncompromising lunatics who support an “ideological shift toward…dedicated motherhood”.

Badinter’s indictment of breastfeeding culture does not jive with my experience.  I spent five days in the hospital with my first, and there was no lactation consultant available.  The nurses strongly encouraged me to bottle-feed when I found nursing difficult.  I have been chastised for nursing in museums and doctor’s offices.  I have been relegated to a bedroom to feed my babies during family gatherings.  When I spent a week in the hospital for a heart issue, I could not get a breast pump from the maternity floor to relieve my engorgement.  An “orthodoxy of nursing”?  Hardly.

I loved nursing because it made early motherhood so very much easier.  Sterilizing nipples, mixing formula, adding another thing to my grocery list, packing bottles every time I left the house…not my cup of tea.  With Harry, I got way more sleep than I would have otherwise because when he was hungry, all I had to do was roll over, lift my shirt, and go back to sleep.  (With Bess it wasn’t so easy, but that’s a long story.)  I had an ace-in-the-hole when my babies were sick or crabby.

But every situation is different.  I worked from home so it was easy to nurse on demand.  I could take a break whenever I needed to, and I never had to deal with pumping or low supply.  I recognize that I had a pretty sweet arrangement.  While I am an ardent supporter of breastfeeding, I know that it doesn’t work for everyone.

I do, however, believe that it is the height of hubris to believe that humans could manufacture a formula that is equal to breastmilk, which was shaped by millennia upon millennia of natural selection.  I believe that males and females serve different functions, and that even as 2,000 years of civilization has expanded our choices and our expectations, it has not changed our essential natures.  My feminism is primarily about choice, and that includes the choice to stay home with one’s children in lieu of working for pay.  If that makes me a “maternalist feminist”, then I will wear the label proudly.

In the end, LLL and its supposed anti-feminist agenda is a red herring.  Badinter’s readers catch a glimpse of the real issue in a quote from the International Pediatric Association: “this right [to breastfeed] is associated with another, the right to benefit from adequate maternity leave and a re-adaptation to the world of work.”  BINGO!

Badinter’s claim that “thanks to bottle-feeding, couples can share roles” is, frankly, absurd.  It is women who endure the discomfort and indignities of gestating and producing new human beings.  It is women’s bodies who expand, contract, and pulse with hormones.  A few midnight feedings can hardly be considered sharing.  It’s not about breast vs. bottle, people.  It’s about people who give birth (women) vs. people who don’t (men).  Instead of insisting that women fit into the patriarchal system that was designed by and for the benefit of men, maybe it’s time we start restructuring the system so it works for all women regardless of how they want to feed their babies should they choose to have them.

Weekend links

first lost tooth hello tooth fairy

It was a couple of weeks ago, but I just realized I never posted the First Lost Tooth photo!

Some things I read this week that were pretty cool, or interesting, or inspiring:

Enjoy your weekend!

What I’m reading: The Anti-Romantic Child

This review of Priscilla Gilman’s book The Anti-Romantic Child: A Story of Unexpected Joy is running over at Woman in Washington.  I hope you’ll visit, and if you like reading and talking about books on motherhood in all its agony and ecstasy, I hope you’ll join the MOTHERS Book Bag group on Good Reads!

the anti-romantic child by priscilla gilmanIn her book The Anti-Romantic Child: A Story of Unexpected Joy, author Priscilla Gilman chronicles her experiences as the mother of a special-needs child. Though Gilman harbored suspicions that Benj was unlike other children, it was not until he was almost three that Gilman’s worries were confirmed. The director of a potential preschool delivered the upsetting news that he suspected something was amiss.  What their pediatrician had initially assured them was perfectly normal turned out to be hyperlexia, a disorder characterized by early reading and vocabulary acquisition coupled with a delay in spontaneous speech, motor dexterity, and social skills.

Gilman and her husband, Richard, quickly had Benj evaluated and started him in various therapies which ultimately helped him to achieve a relatively high level of functioning. With the help of expert educators and therapists, Benj learned skills that led him to overcome, or at least cope with, his difficulties. Gilman’s unwavering commitment to her son, her absolute conviction that he possessed unique and wonderful gifts, was undoubtedly the major force fueling his success.

A high achiever who grew up immersed in the arts, Gilman met her husband when they were both students in the Ph.D. program in English and American Literature at Yale. She brings her literary background to bear in The Anti-Romantic Child, scattering quotes from Wordsworth liberally throughout the book. She uses these works as a jumping-off point for examining the ways in which her romantic notions of love, marriage and childhood shaped her expectations and heightened her disappointment over the failure of her marriage and the struggles of her son.

Gilman’s seemingly superhuman efforts on behalf of her son are impressive, but her story left me vaguely disquieted. After all, my children are mostly healthy and high-functioning, I have a stable marriage, and my paying job is relatively undemanding, and yet sometimes I lose it. I do not “listen attentively to [my child], at every moment…to always make sure I’m giving him what he…needs.” I am a mostly attentive mother – but every moment? Gilman recounts the extraordinarily amicable divorce she negotiated with Richard and describes the ingenious therapeutic activities she concocted for Benj. What she does not do is delve into the depths of frustration, despair and loneliness that she must have felt. The story would be more authentic, and more interesting, if the reader was given a real glimpse into the inenviable struggles and failures of Gilman’s life.

Perhaps her reluctance to shine a light on her difficulties is a function of her desire “to make life just right for those [she] loved,” or perhaps she was trying to protect the privacy of her family and friends. She dances around the issue, admitting that she periodically “felt so lonely, in a disconcerting, frightening way,” that sometimes “it can be extremely exhausting and overwhelming” to be a wife (and ex-wife), a mother, an advocate, a daughter, and an employee. Yet, she is quick with the disclaimer that “the blessings…far outweigh the worry and stress and fatigue.” In this, Gilman is no different from any mother who feels the pressure of perfection and confuses isolated failings with utter failure. We are so concerned with justifying our choices and validating our parenting that we are afraid to expose our inadequacies. The brave among us couch our admissions with declarations of maternal devotion or cite fatigue or busyness in self-defense. How much more support and validation could be gained from candid and compassionate discussions of the dark moments of motherhood!