Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Conversations

Vivi and I had two memorable conversations this morning. The first was while she was standing on our loveseat and throwing her play food onto our other couch. We were yelling between a couple of rooms.

Vivi: Mama, come watch me throw my ice cream real hard.
Me: Just a minute V, I have to use the potty.
Vivi: Mooooooom, are you going pee or poop?
Me: I'm going pee. I'll be right out.
Vivi: Do you want your privacy?
Me: Yes, please.

10 seconds of silence...

Vivi: Mooooooom, are you sure you going only pee?
Me: Yes!

By the time I got out of the bathroom a whole 20 seconds after I first went in, she was done throwing the food and was camped outside the bathroom door wanting to know if I had washed my hands. The irony of all this is that we have these conversations ten times a day except I am usually the inquisitor. I think I shall give her more space in the future now that I realize how truly annoying the questioning is!

Our second conversation was while I was cutting vegetables for soup and she was eating them.

Vivi: Hey mom, I love you.
Me: Oh Vivi, I love you too... more than all the stars in the sky.
Vivi: Mom, I love you more than two whole thing clementines.

In our world, that is WAY better than all the stars in the sky!




Wednesday, December 24, 2008

The Kindness of Strangers

My long blogging silence is due in part to the holidays and in part to Blogger itself. I wrote a lengthy post last week on my midwife/birth plan only to have it disappear from my screen when I hit "publish." Floating without a trace in cyberspace, I decided to utter some choice words and take a break from the computer for several days.

I'm back now because not only do I want to wish my readers very happy holidays but also I wanted to share something really nice that happened to me last night.

Yesterday afternoon, I discovered that the shopping cart I purchased for a premium at Pottery Barn Kids had gone on sale online for $20 cheaper. I called the store and asked whether they would refund me the difference in price and they said that they would but I would need to come in. Always on a hunt to save money, I decided it would be worth heading to the mall on the eve of Christmas eve to collect my $20. (After all, that's a bunch of Turtle diapers!)

So at 8 pm, I left home and proceeded to spend 15 minutes trying to find a parking spot at the mall. I was cool and I was calm and I was eventually able to park. I waddled through the huge crowd of people with my oversized box containing the aforementioned shopping cart and got my refund without incident.

On my way out the door, our mall has policy that you have to pay a machine for your parking in advance of leaving so I got on a rather long line with my $1 in change. (The only other money I had was a $20 bill.) When I got to the front of the line, I put my change in and it didn't register payment. I hit it. Nothing happened. I pressed the "Need Help?" button and a voice came on telling me that I needed to go to Customer Service. I didn't want to head back up two flights of stairs with my huge box, so I canceled the transaction and tried to pay by credit card. When I swiped my card, it said "unable to read." I tried it again, nothing. Then I tried my debit card, still "unable to read." Acutely aware of the growing line behind me and feeling my face flush, I banged on the machine again in the hopes that *something* would happen so I could get out of there. Nothing did. I was just about to cancel the transaction again and burst into tears when a man came up to me with a dollar bill and said, "Try this." To the delight of many a person in the queue, it worked!

New Englanders are renown for their reserve and crankiness. This man's thoughtfulness really touched me and I was able to go to bed without feeling annoyed and stressed out by my money-saving trip to the mall. So today, I'm going to pay it forward and do a good deed for someone else. Why not give it a try yourself?

Until then, Season's Greetings!

Monday, December 15, 2008

Jokes

Vivi has made a running jump into the world of knock knock jokes. We discovered this in the car on Saturday evening when she kept saying, "Mama. Knock? Orange you glad to see me?" She would then crack herself up for a good minute.

I'm not sure where she learned this joke but we have spent the weekend perfecting her delivery of it. She's pretty good at it now.

Vivi: Knock? Knock?
Me: Who's there?
Vivi: Orange.
Me: Orange, who?
Vivi: Orange you glad to see me? Mama, that's a joke.

She has told the Turtles and several aunts and a grandmother her joke, each time reminding the listener that it is indeed a joke in case her laughter didn't give it away.

Now if we could just find a way to combine her poop jokes with the knock knock ones, she would be in a two-year old comedienne's nirvana.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Three Dreaded Words...

Well, yesterday it finally happened. While decked out in a poofy pink dress and sparkly tiara, Vivi uttered those fateful words: "Mama, I'm a princess!"


I guess I should have seen it coming. There has been no shortage of signs of Vivi's inherent girliness. She loves purses and shoes. She bedazzles herself with various finds from my jewelry box. She loves to rub my Chapstick on her lips and then give me "lipstick kisses." She is a girl, no question about it, but there is something about the whole little girl as princess thing that REALLY gets to me.


What does it mean to be a princess? Well, to Vivi, right now it means that she puts on a big sparkly dress at our local playroom. There's no other association and I'm going to try and keep it that way. I would argue that the pervasive attitude in our society, however, is quite different. Being a princess means owning expensive things and possessing a strong sense of entitlement-- at least that's what the marketers at Disney have quite successfully established. (Their "princess" line of goods has effectively revolutionized Disney's entire toy enterprise while significantly enhancing the company's bottom line.) And, let's be honest, when we hear of teenage girls and women labeled as "princesses" we tend to think "bitch."

It seems from a very early age our young girls are forced to take on identities that are demeaning, superficial, and sexualized. Until I had a daughter, I had no idea how hard it is to find bathing suits that aren't disturbingly revealing or t-shirts that don't define her as a "princess," "boy magnet," or "hot stuff." It is remarkable that when Vivi is dressed, as she typically is, in gender-neutral or boy clothing she is more often referred to as "polite," "smart," or "clever." When she's clearly a girl in pink, she is overwhelming "cute"or "looking so pretty."

Like most parents, I want my daughter to be more than "cute." I want Vivi to judge herself and be judged by others for her good deeds and not by the goods she owns or how much exposure her midriff gets. This is not what being a princess represents in our society so I find myself walking a fine line between encouraging her natural inclinations and protecting her from the exploitative attitudes that those inclinations make her vulnerable to.

So, as Christmas approaches, I've been thinking about gifts she might enjoy but aren't going to send her down a path of social or moral ill-repute. (Pretty dramatic, eh?) We've settled on a yoga mat, grocery cart, winter boots, a wooden train set from IKEA, and a lovingly handmade tutu from Grandma. Hey, a girl has to have some fun, right?

Saturday, December 6, 2008

HealthyToys.org Lead Check

Like any other parent, I want to make sure that the toys Vivi receives are safe. Visit Healthy Toys or use the widget in the sidebar to check that a toy you are considering doesn't contain lead.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Getting Used To It

So, the whole twin thing is really starting to sink in and dare I say it, I am starting to look forward to meeting both turtles. I am also still very scared about the birth and how I am going to handle it all but over the last few days I've adopted a "just deal with it" attitude. And dealing with it, I am.

The inspiration for my change of heart has definitely been Vivi. While there no doubt has been much anxiety on our part over the change in birth plan and the idea of having a toddler AND two babies, Vivi is delighted beyond words about the addition of two siblings. Her happiness is infectious and for that, I am truly thankful.

This morning, while doing our usual post-wake-up snuggle, Vivi asked if she is still a big sister even though the babies haven't come out yet. I told her that indeed she was. Then she bent over, kissed my belly, and said, "Turtles, will you give a kick for your big sister?" They moved and she laughed at their "response." She then proceeded to put her head against my belly and say repeatedly, "Turtles, I love you." She also offered to help me push them out when the time came although she'd prefer that to be as soon as possible.

Besides my expanding girth, there are other signs around the house that the babies' arrival isn't that far off. We got the infant carseat and extra base out of the attic and acquired another infant car seat from my generous friend, Kate. (All of which we schlepped to four car dealerships on Saturday in an attempt to find a car that would fit them all. There's enough fodder for a different post.) Kate also handed over her moses basket which has conveniently become a new bed for Vivi's Teddy who was recently renamed "my new baby sister." It's hard seeing all this baby stuff and not feel a little excited about putting it to use.

I will meet with my former/new midwife on Monday. She is not the homebirth midwife whom I'd been working with but the wonderful woman who delivered Vivi at our local hospital's birthing center. I have a great relationship with her and am looking forward to her guidance as we develop a new birth plan. (A plan that I am desperately hoping will avoid having me deliver in an operating room-- a "precaution" that I feel will put me one step closer to a c-section. More on that later...)

All in all, things are moving forward and we're generally feeling good. Now, if I could just get this heartburn to go away...

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Stages of Shock

I'd like you to think that the reason I haven't blogged for over a week is because I've been so busy with the Thanksgiving holiday and assorted other celebratory events. Unfortunately, that's just not true. I haven't written because I've been too consumed with trying to come to terms with the fact that I am carrying twins. At 24 and a half weeks pregnant, I was utterly unprepared for the news and I'm afraid I haven't been handling it well.

I'm not sure if there are "official" stages of emotional shock like there are with grief, but I think my husband and I have run the gamut of emotions at this point. Here is what the last week has held for us:

DISBELIEF
I guess deep down I knew that there was a possibility I could have twins but it just never seemed likely. This pregnancy seemed to mirror my experience with Vivi with the exception that I felt more tired. I was assured that this was common because I was chasing after a 2 and a half year old. Even showing earlier than usual didn't seem to warrant any concern and my size wasn't at all abnormal for a single baby until a few weeks ago. How could so much time pass without even a clue?

RELIEF
After my most recent midwife appointment, I was petrified that I had somehow done something wrong to be so big and that maybe I had endangered our baby. It was a relief to learn that, in fact, I am completely normal size for carrying twins and both babies look great.

ANGER
We feel like we have been duped. My husband, Vivi, and I spent five months bonding with a baby that didn't really exist. Sure the movements were there and so was a heartbeat, but who did those things belong to? Turtle A or Turtle B?

And what about our plans to have a homebirth? Why do I have to go to the hospital now? Isn't anything in my control? I don't want to be delivering a baby in an operating room "just in case" nor do I want to build a relationship with a new practitioner this far into my pregnancy. Plus, since twins tend to come around 38 weeks, we hardly have any time to prepare! I hate that everything has to change and I don't feel like I have a say in any of it. We didn't ask for this.

HELPLESSNESS
If it takes a village to raise one child, how the heck are we going to raise three that are three and under? We don't have family close by and while we have wonderful friends, they all have their own familial responsibilities. We don't know if we can do it. When will we sleep? How on earth am I ever going to leave the house without my husband? How can I manage all this without freaking out and not seriously screw-up my kids?

ACCEPTANCE
This is what we've been given so we've got to deal with it. Maybe it's okay not to know how it's going to work logistically or how we are going to pay for everything. The reality is that I have two in there and we've got to get it together. I am not willing to tempt fate by wishing I was given only one. Besides, it doesn't matter now anyway.

EXCITEMENT
Twins. Wow. That's pretty cool. I guess we don't have to revisit the question of another baby in three years. I can't wait to see what I've got in there.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

A Bounty

I've tried very hard not to be worried. You see, since we discovered my pregnancy, my husband and I have been amazed at my quick expansion. Everyone assured me, "It's your second pregnancy. You show quicker, that's all." None of my prenatal visits yielded anything out of the norm and my midwife has been confident in my health and my ability to have Turtle at home. Then Thursday came and everything changed.

When my midwife walked in Thursday morning, she commented on how much bigger I seemed from the month before. I agreed and questioned whether or not I could be having twins. She said that I likely would have been measuring ahead all along but that hasn't really been the case. Nor could she find two heartbeats. Her thought was that we needed to investigate whether or not I was developing gestational diabetes and/or had too much fluid in my belly which could lead to pre-term labor. I burst into tears because all the worry finally came to the surface. Was there something wrong with Turtle? Is she or he growing too big for me to have the home birth I wanted? Did I screw this up somehow by eating too many cookies? Whatever the reason, I needed an ultrasound and agreed to get one.

Before I continue, I should explain my hesitance about ultrasounds. I never had one with Vivi because it was never medically indicated. My bloodwork was always normal, my measurements were on par with my gestation, and my midwife could feel her position in utero. As someone who tries to steer clear of medical interventions, it didn't feel right to have it done especially since there has been some research expressing concern about the safety of obstetric ultrasounds. Furthermore, there is also a part of me that just feels like I am tempting fate by trying to find out something before nature intends. I'm not just talking sex here. You see, it would do me no good to know that my baby has a cleft palate or something else that is untreatable in utero. All I would do is worry and that hasn't really ever served me well.

With all that being said, and after many a pep talk from mommy friends, I realized that I was at a point in my pregnancy where this test was medically indicated and I'd actually feel better if I did it. I called for an appointment and they got me in yesterday. That's when we discovered that we are expecting TWINS!!! OH. MY. GOD.

I was lying on the table with my husband and Vivi standing next to me. The technician put the wand on my belly and Turtle appeared. She was giving us a good look at him/her when my husband said, "So it looks like there's just one, right?" That's when the technician slid the wand across my belly and said, "Nope. You've got twins." We reacted in the only way one does in moments of complete shock- we hysterically laughed and cried simultaneously.

So in the last 36 hours, we've gone from feeling extremely worried that there was something seriously wrong with our baby to relief that it's just twins to holy crap, we are having twins in 3 and a half months! We are feeling both immense joy and tremendous trepidation. (So many names! Can we get by without a minivan? How am I going to nurse TWO babies? Whoa... how am I going to do anything with a toddler and two babies?)

Vivi, however, has already adjusted brilliantly to the change- my belly now contains Turtle #1 and Turtle #2.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Santa Claus

Santa Claus has become a frequent topic of discussion around the house these days. I have happy memories of the visits Santa made to my childhood home on Christmas (especially the year he brought us a puppy) and I am very excited to impart the wonder to my own child. My wish is that Vivi will find the experience of Santa as magical as I did.

Like Halloween, it is taking a lot of explaining on my part to help Vivi understand how this holiday and the whole Santa thing works. (For several weeks before Halloween, she would repeatedly and somewhat incredulously ask, "Mama, I knock on doors and say 'Trick or Treat' and people give me candy?) We've had a number of questions about Santa too. Here are a few highlights:

"Will Santa ring the doorbell?"
"Does Santa have a tushie crack?"
"Does Santa like clementines? Is he gonna eat mine?"
"Does Santa have a penis so he can stand up to pee?"
"Mama, if I a good girl, will Santa bring me lots of candy?"

I admit that I have used Santa as a way to promote courtesy and minimize whining around our house. I think it is working. When I asked Vivi if she knows what Santa does, she replied, "Santa brings presents to little kids who share and listen to their mamas." I think that is reason enough to perpetuate jolly ol' Saint Nick.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

To Buy or Not to Buy, That is The Question

I can't say that I am much of a shopper. Hmmm, actually, that is a bit of a misrepresentation. I am probably an excellent shopper-- always researching items, comparing costs, and efficiently purchasing the things that my family needs. I enjoy the victorious feeling I have when I find something for less money than I expect which, I guess, means I am likely an atypical American consumer.

As I have written about before, my husband and I live a pretty simple life. We tend to splurge on luxury items like organic pears, fairly-traded sugar, and greener sources of electricity. (Let's get real here: the flood of cheap corn and soy into our food markets is making quality fruits and vegetables seem more and more like a luxury. Plus, the rising cost of everything else and a struggling economy don't leave most people inclined to pay a bit more for their electricity either.) When we can, we try to spend our money on things that represent our values.

Our frugality is interwoven into our parenting too. We've tried very hard to provide Vivi with lots of love, memorable experiences, and fun instead of things. She gets a lot of joy out of reading books and making forts out of couch cushions and doesn't seem to notice or care that her toy box is filled with homemade bean bags, Tupperware, and mama's purses.

So, with all that being said, I recently made a shopping decision that has left me very conflicted. A few weeks ago, I totally deviated from my usual mommy self and purchased a hula hoop on a whim. We were in the store to buy a carbon monoxide detector (of all things) when Vivi caught sight of a box of sparkly, plastic, hula goodness. She didn't ask for the toy but the joy on her face as she manipulated the hoop over her head evoked such maternal pleasure that I immediately plunked down $4.99 + tax.

You are probably thinking, "What's the big deal? It's five bucks!" That's true. Vivi has easily gotten $5 worth of entertainment out of it. What has me conflicted, however, is that I don't want to start a precedent for purchasing cheap plastic crapola on a whim because my child wants it. I just don't want to spoil her. Where does a parent draw the line?

With Christmas approaching, I'm left wondering how much to give her. I have several ideas for things she would love (ironically, none of them are plastic but I would need to buy most of them since I'm unlikely to have the time to make them) and I'm feeling uncertain about how to proceed. She has lots of aunts and uncles so a part of me doesn't want to contribute to the excessive nature of the holidays. Then again, because I so rarely give her gifts, I want to have the experience of seeing the joy on her face when she opens up the gift(s) from mommy and daddy. I guess the larger question of the situation is how do I deal with my competing desires to both shower my child with presents and not create a sense of entitlement?

As I've been pondering this, Vivi recently had this conversation with her two-year old friend Sabine:

Vivi: Sabine, do you know Santa Claus?

Sabine: No.

Vivi: He brings excellent gifts.


Blissfully unaware of the presents at her first Christmas.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Merely a Vessel

It appears that our preparation for Turtle's arrival into our family couldn't be going more smoothly. We are reading all the children's books our library has to offer on new babies, birth, and being a big sister. Vivi seems utterly delighted with my expanding girth and we frequently talk about her birth and what she can expect when Turtle comes out. The idea that we are going to have a "leetle, leetle baby" coming to live with us and she is going to be a big sister and mama's helper often has her bubbling with excitement. I frequently find her with her shirt pulled up "nursing" her teddy bears or trying to change their diapers just "for practice." She has conversations with my belly and will stop in the midst of play just to come over, lift my shirt, and kiss Turtle.

One would think that I would be overjoyed by Vivi's enthusiasm and, to be honest, part of me is. I am sure this is so much easier than having a child who is completely ambivalent or worse, downright hostile. BUT I am starting to feel that I am not her mommy so much as merely a vessel carrying her new sibling.

For example, every morning Vivi climbs into bed with me. We used to talk and snuggle but now the first thing she does is ask, "Mama, is Turtle awake?" Then she proceeds to bury under the comforter, lift my nightgown, and give my belly a kiss and a hug while asking, "Turtle, did you have a good sleep?" At bedtime, when my husband asks her to kiss me goodnight, she refuses saying only that she wants to snuggle with Turtle. Talk about being upstaged by a fetus!

Of course, I am happily looking forward to Turtle's arrival in March. Not only will we get to meet the newest member of our family but we will also see how Vivi adjusts to a baby outside of my body. After all, my belly will finally return to being just a belly.





Saturday, November 8, 2008

Pumpkin Pancakes

Now that we are coming out of our viral fog, I decided to redeem my grumpy self and make pumpkin pancakes for my family this morning. Here is the recipe:

PUMPKIN PANCAKES

1 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup whole wheat flour (use another cup of white if you don't have WW)
1 T. baking powder
1/2 t. salt
1 T. pumpkin pie spice

1 and 3/4 cup milk
3 eggs, slightly beaten
3/4 cup pumpkin puree
1/4 cup oil

1. In a large bowl, combine dry ingredients. In a second bowl, combine wet ingredients. Stir milk mixture into flour mixture until slightly lumpy.

2. Heat a lightly greased griddle over medium heat. For each pancake, pour about 1/4 cup batter onto the griddle. Cook until tops are bubbly and edges are dry. If you have a particularly strong case of parental guilt, you can throw some chocolate chips in when the top begins to bubble. Then flip.

Makes about 16 pancakes.

Friday, November 7, 2008

Bad Colds and Pregnancy

Back in September, my husband and Vivi came down with a horrific cold. Both had runny noses, coughs, fevers, and were far too exhausted to do much of anything. They were a pathetic pair and I was their sympathetic caregiver who managed to come out of the whole thing without so much as a sniffle. This was not because I took extra precautions to wash my hands or refrained from eating Vivi's leftovers. (As if!) I reasoned that I didn't get sick because I am a pregnant lady with a superstar immune system.

Yeah, well, the jig is up and my superstar immune system ain't so super anymore. Since November came, Vivi and I have been sharing a cold back and forth. She feels fine for a day but then I'm wiped out. I feel better and she turns into a cranky monster who wipes her boogers anywhere she can reach. We're both too gross for words.

Amazingly, in all of this, Vivi seems to have associated being "pregnant" with being "sick." Last night, she asked, "Mama, are you pregnant?" When I replied that I was she offered me a tissue. This morning when she scampered across the hall and into bed with me, she asked again, "Mama, are you pregnant today?" I explained that I will be pregnant until Turtle decides to come out. She looked at me with a quizzical expression then proceeded to snuggle up to my belly as if it didn't matter.

Sick or pregnant or both? Who cares. I'll take the cuddles either way.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Obama's House

I admit it. I've been like a giddy teenager the last couple of days with the election looming. The knowledge that it is nearly over has put butterflies in my stomach and contributed to hours of browsing on political blogs and following news reports. Last night, I even turned on the TV (with Vivi right there in the living room) just to hear the latest poll numbers. It's exhausting being sooo excited and I am bound to collapse in tears tonight just by the sheer relief that the whole damn thing is finally over.

It appears that my enthusiasm has spread to Vivi. Last night, while watching the news, Vivi pointed to Obama and said, "Who's dat guy?" I told her that he is Obama and Mama and Daddy are going to vote for him tomorrow. She asked if I loved Obama and I replied, "Yes. I think I do."

This morning, as I was explaining to Vivi that she was going to go with me to vote. She said, "Are we going to Obama's house?" When I told her that we vote at the fire station, she asked if Obama would be there. That question required a quick toddler-friendly civics lesson.

Before we headed out the door, she used the potty and I gave her a couple of gummy bears. I noticed that she was holding on to the bears so I asked why she wasn't eating them. She said, "Mama. I gonna share these with Obama."

After all, what's a victory party without gummy bears?!

Monday, November 3, 2008

More Questions

There's something about seeing the world through my two year old's eyes that has made everything a little more interesting these days. While still in a somewhat demanding phase, Vivi also seems to have all sorts of questions about life and I welcome the opportunity to try and help her figure out the world around her. As I've blogged before, some of her questions I simply can't answer (what is love?) but for the most part, I can come up with something that is reasonably satisfying to her.

Here are some recent examples:

"Mama, does a birdie cry if it bonks its head in the woods?"
"Does Turtle like Chuka Salad?" (Asked recently when we ordered out for sushi.)
"When the sun goes to bed, does it have to brush its teeth first?"
"Mama, when I have big poops, you gonna say 'WHOA!'?"

The answer to all of these questions is yes.





Saturday, November 1, 2008

The Bad, The Ugly, and The Sweetest of All

The Bad
Thursday evening, in the midst of all of our pre-Halloween chaos, I remembered that I had signed-up to volunteer at our local library's book sale. Of course, when I put my name down weeks ago it didn't occur to me that Vivi's superhero costume wouldn't be done. I just thought a couple of hours of quiet time at the library would be a welcome retreat. When the day actually rolled around, I was a little scattered and really worn out but I did my duty and headed over to the library at six.

When I arrived, I had the following conversation with one of those ubiquitous old ladies who always seem to hover around the bake sale tables at these types of things:

Old Lady: So, when are you due?
Me: In March?
Old Lady: Whoa! Are you having twins?
Me: No. It's my second. I guess you show much earlier the second time.
Old Lady: Yeah, I guess I was HUGE with my second one too.

Nice. My official costume for Halloween is no longer doting mother of adorable superhero. I am a blimp.

The Ugly
Halloween morning, I packed Vivi up and headed off to the grand opening of Rhode Island's very first Trader Joe's. I was feeling celebratory and looking forward to our little toddler Halloween party later that afternoon. When we arrived it was MADNESS... PURE MADNESS!

I eventually found a parking spot and headed to the store to look for a cart. They were all taken so a few people started forming a line to grab one as the TJ's folks were retrieving them from exiting customers. When I reached the front of the line, some woman ran ahead and grabbed the next cart. When I politely explained that she probably didn't realize it but I was next, she looked at me holding Vivi on my hip and pronounced, "Too bad!" and headed into the store with my cart.

I decided that she was a word that I had the good sense not to say in front of my daughter. Then I promptly let it go. (One point for Mama for not swearing. Five extra points for not ramming her cart and kicking her in the shins like I really wanted to do.)

The Sweetest of All
Halloween was all that we could have hoped for and more. I finished Vivi's costume and she liked wearing it. All of her little friends came over and we had a party which was a ton of fun. After the party, she climbed the porch stairs of our neighbors and gleefully said "Trick or Treat" and "Happy Halloween!" while collecting some goodies. When we returned home with a few treats in her pumpkin, she burst through the door and yelled, "Daddy! Come and look. I got LOTS of candy!" It was an absolute delight to see how happy she was with the whole experience.



Now, I will happily accept payment for my seamstress duties in the form of Reese's Peanut Butter Cups.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Order Please!

It seems that Vivi has decided that her world needs a little bit more order these days. Shoes jumbled in a heap on the floor? Not anymore. They are neatly lined up in a row. A stack of library books piled on the futon in her bedroom? No, they must be put edge to edge to form a concise border around her rug. Groceries tossed in a cart? Not unless they can be organized into a circle first.

This picture may not look like much to you but to Vivi it is a highly organized collection of her belongings.

Initially, I was feeling all self-congratulatory about this change in Vivi's behavior. As someone who prides herself on systems and organization, I just knew that this inclination had to have come from me. She may get her athleticism and facility with language from her dad but, by god, it is Mama who knows a thing or two about keeping things in order!

Then it occurred to me-- people who need to have control are often the ones who feel most out of control. (Ummm... guilty!) I think Vivi, like most toddlers, falls into this category. Instead of chalking it up to a developmental milestone, however, I've been feeling like I haven't been doing a good enough job with consistency these days.

Just yesterday, Vivi woke up from her nap crying. When I asked her what was bothering her, she said, "Mama, I no want a big girl bed. I want to sleep in my crib." She's been in her bed for months now with no problem!

There's no doubt that we have had plenty of changes around our house. Men have been in and out working on our chimney and boiler. My husband has been away a lot for various conferences. Turtle is growing and my expanding belly is garnering a lot of attention. And Vivi and I recently started looking at nursery schools. There's a lot of talk about the future and I think we are all feeling a bit unsettled about it.

So what's a mommy and toddler to do in a situation like this? Well, I'm going to let Vivi organize til her little heart's content. And me? I've got a closet that needs cleaning out.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Words to My Ears

This morning, instead of immediately demanding breakfast like she usually does when she climbs out of bed, I heard Vivi say the following:

"Daddy, I want to snuggle in bed with Mama and then I eat breakfast."

Ladies and Gentleman, Mama is back in favor! Woohoo!!

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

On the Day You Were Born....

Soon after we discovered I was pregnant with Vivi, my husband bought me a copy of Ina May's Guide to Childbirth by Ina May Gaskin. Like many women who are pregnant for the first time, I was afraid of giving birth. I had only heard horror stories from other women who described birth as "absolutely unbearable" and appeared profoundly traumatized by the experience. No one seemed willing to tell me what I could reasonably expect and the mystery scared the hell out of me.

Ina May's book changed all that. The first section was full of positive birth stories. None of the writers omitted how painful the process was or minimized the strength it took to deliver a baby and I really appreciated that. Instead of feeling afraid, I began to feel empowered. I started to believe in my body's ability to birth without intervention. Over the next seven months, I found a wonderful midwife, read as many books as I could, and even made flashcards to remind myself that "the pain is for a purpose" and that I need "to work with nature and not against it." It was hokey but it worked!

Since that time, I have loved hearing and reading people's birth stories. It doesn't matter to me if the birth was a vaginal or Cesarean, happened in a hospital or at home, induced or spontaneous. They are all compelling and they are all miraculous.

A few weeks after Aviva's birth, my husband and I each wrote our version of her birth story. It was interesting to see the differences since he remembered things I hadn't and I relayed the physical sensations of birth that he could only have imagined.

With my ever growing belly, these stories have been especially useful. Vivi asks me several times a day to tell her about the day she was born. Sometimes I skim over it and other days I tell her all the toddler-appropriate details. She thinks it hysterical that she was born naked and loves to tell people that she "almost pooped on the nurses when she came out."

Just the other day, we had this conversation:

Vivi: Mama, when teddy was trying to come out of my belly, my water broke.

Me: Really? Did it hurt?

Vivi: Yes and I go in my room and I sittin' on yoga ball. That helps my tum tum.

Me: That's good. That really helped mama when you were trying to come out of my tummy.

Vivi: Yes, but teddy was pushin', pushin' to come out.

Me: Really?

Vivi: And Mary (my midwife) saying, "I see dat baby's head!"

Me: Wow!

Vivi: Mama, and teddy came out nakey and he almost pooped on the nurses!

Of course, Vivi's birth story and Teddy's are pretty darn similar but it is great to see her little two-year-old mind processing the whole thing.

For those of you out there who would like to share your birth story, I'd love to read it. If you'd like the specifics of Aviva's (as told by an adult), let me know and I can post it on this blog.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Lazy Person's Vegetarian Chili

I've been remiss in not posting any recipes lately. With the election, my pregnancy, and Vivi's various adventures, I really have not been paying much attention to my culinary endeavors. It's not that we haven't been having good meals lately. In fact, now that my nausea has completely abated and my energy is back, I've generally had it together in the kitchen. I've been whipping up mushroom risotto, Tuscan bean soup, vegetarian pot pie, and large quantities of homemade macaroni and cheese. (I've also been eating large quantities of all of the aforementioned dishes.)

Still, there are nights when all I want is an easy, hearty meal. That's where my recipe for Lazy Person's Vegetarian Chili comes in. It'll cook on the stove in half an hour or you can let it sit in the crock pot for most of the day. You can also substitute fresh ingredients for any of the canned/frozen items. Here are both variations below:

Lazy Person's Vegetarian Chili

1 tennis ball sized onion, chopped
2-3 cloves of garlic, chopped
1 28 oz. can diced tomatoes (or 6 fresh tomatoes, chopped)
1 green, 1 red, and 1 orange pepper (or any variation thereof,) chopped*
* You can also use 1/2 a bag of Trader Joe's Melange a Trois Pepper Mix
1 package of LiteLife Smart Ground Taco/Burrito tofu crumbles
2 15 oz. cans of red kidney beans*
*(If you soak and cook your own beans, use one cup dried)
2-3 cups water or vegetable stock or beer
Salt
Pepper
Chili Powder
Lime Juice, all to taste

Cook onions, peppers, and garlic until softened. Add tomatoes, tofu crumbles, beans, liquid, and spices and simmer on stove for at least half an hour. If using a crock pot, cook onions, peppers, and garlic until barely soft. Put those and the other ingredients into the crock pot and cook on low for 6-7 hours or high for 3-4.

It's easy, healthful, and very versatile. (Vivi ate 2 bowls of it last night!)

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Reunions

This past weekend, my husband, Vivi, and I found ourselves traipsing through Harvard Yard to attend my husband's thirtieth (yes, that's 3-0) college reunion. We had no intention of going but my husband has a very persuasive college friend who made the trip out from Texas so we reluctantly agreed to show our faces for an hour or so.

As reunions go, this was probably your run-of-the-mill type event with the exception that everything at Harvard seems to cost more and be more self-congratulatory. When we arrived at the designated location, the woman at the door told my husband that he needed to pay $125 to enter. He explained that we weren't there for the brunch but just to see a few classmates for a few minutes. She let us in but only on the condition that we don't touch the food or she'll "have to wrestle it out of our hands." Not twenty minutes later, my husband was chastised by a former classmate for not registering in advance. That's some school spirit right there.

The "brunch" was followed by a lengthy PowerPoint presentation of a class survey where respondents noted how much money they were making, how Harvard was a chief factor in their self-identification, and how much smarter they were than their work colleagues who did not attend Harvard. Since my husband did not register and fill out a survey, I suppose that he "fails" in all three of these categories.

We did take away a few things from this reunion, however. My husband confirmed his ambivalence about his Harvard education. I discovered that the fountain of youth is embodied by my husband who was, by far, the most vibrant and best-looking of all of his classmates. (Although some were trying very hard with their obvious Botox injections.) Vivi learned that the only way to have fun at the Harvard Faculty Club is to climb three flights of stairs and then take the elevator back down... over and over again.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Metaphysical Questions

Yesterday, Vivi asked me something very important. She said, "Mama, what is love?"

Oh boy! Have I been trying to figure that one out for a while now. I thought, somewhat cynically, it is when mama frantically chases you down the sidewalk praying the whole time that a car won't back out of a driveway and hit you. Or it's when I read Where the Wild Things Are for the millionth time or clean up your poop. That is definitely love.

What I really wanted to explain is that love is a warm, tingly feeling inside but since Vivi is still potty-training I thought that might confuse things.

Since Vivi came along, love has been more than a tingly feeling though. It is like my heart is swollen-- a feeling that I could just explode from the weight of my adoration for my little family. It's something that I find impossible to contain and certainly one that I probably couldn't convey to a toddler without scaring the hell out of her.

Ultimately, I told Vivi that love is a lot of hugs and kisses and snuggles from people very important to her. I don't think that was a satisfying answer for either of us. But, hey, I'm no metaphysician.

When my husband asked her, "Vivi, what do you think love is?" She paused and then asked for a dog.

Of course, the answers are always far simpler than we could possibly imagine.

Friday, October 10, 2008

In the Mouth

Not only are interesting things coming out of Vivi's mouth these days; there seems to be no shortage of things going in. In the last month or so I have removed a button, earrings, money, paper, felt, and crayons from her mouth. It's disturbing, really.


You might look at this photo and see my darling daughter with her beloved new cousin. Take a closer look and you will see that Vivi is snacking on grass during our photoshoot. That's right-- my little peanut is part Holstein. Ugh...

Now, I was under the impression that Vivi's compulsion to put things in her mouth was SOOO two years ago. How is it that this child, who will officially turn 2 and a half in a couple of weeks, is once again trying to eat things that aren't food?

My husband and I were thinking that maybe she has some sort of deficiency so we started her on a multi-vitamin. It hasn't worked and if anything, the inappropriate consumption has intensified. Is it the "I think I'm a big girl but sometimes that's scary so I'll start acting like a baby" regression that seems to happen in toddlers? Is it for attention? I have no idea. Any insight out there?

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Words of the Wise

Many an experienced parent has warned us to be careful what we say in front of our toddler. After all, children are sponges and they have a remarkable way of quoting you at inopportune moments. That's the conventional wisdom, at least, but I have to say that until recently I haven't been too worried about it.

You see, my husband is not the swearing type. In all the years we've been together, I can count on one hand the number of times an expletive has escaped his lips. And, it should be noted that with the exception of one very colorful expression he used for our President, his verbal transgressions have fallen on the minor end of the expletive spectrum.

Like my husband, my language mostly falls under a G rating. Of course, there is at least one point during a day where the phrase "Oh shit" will come out of my mouth but, in general, I've tried very hard to keep myself in check.

Well, it seems that Aviva is giving me a bit of a reality check these days. The other night as we were walking into her bedroom and I was talking about something, she said "Shut up, Mama! My granddaughter (her imaginary friend) is trying to sleep." Excuse me? Did the words "shut up" just come out of my child's mouth? What heathen child on the playground taught her to say that?!?!?

Well, it wasn't a heathen child. It was me. Apparently, when I am on the phone with my sisters I frequently tell them to "shut up." No, not in the rude way. I say it in the "I can't believe it. Really?" way. I didn't even realize I was doing it until my husband pointed it out.

Unfortunately, Vivi's verbal experimentation doesn't end there. The other day when she slipped under the table after lunch, I gently inquired if she was pooping. Her response, "Mom. Get out of my face." That one we'll definitely blame on the heathens at the park.

Luckily for us, Vivi has also had some less shocking turns of phrase. After trying to unsuccessfully fit the cell phone into the camera case, she reluctantly sighed "Well, that's a bummer." This weekend, she grabbed a toy at the store and said, "This is freaking me out." And just yesterday while pooping she informed her daddy that she was "cooking something in my diaper."

In the last week or so, I am pleased to report that there haven't been any more repeats of the uglier comments. Vivi asks for her privacy instead of telling me to get out of her face. She does occasionally use "shut up" but it is in the context of "Mama, I no say shut up. Those words hurt your feelings."

I've learned my lesson too. No more hanging out with those heathens at the park!

Saturday, October 4, 2008

Memo to Sarah Palin Part II

As a mother, and as many mothers and fathers before me, we believe that all of our children are created equal. Apparently, you don't feel the same way about your own children.

You seem to have no problem appearing on the cover of popular magazines with your special needs son or carting him around on stage after the debate on Thursday night. Yet, there have been no public appearances by your teenage daughter since her pregnancy was announced around the time of the convention. Why wasn't she on stage with you and the rest of your family after the debate?

Oh right, it's not in your political best interest to include her. You're just exploiting the baby for this election.





Friday, October 3, 2008

Memo to Sarah Palin

It's Senator "Biden" not "Obiden."

McKiernan is the commanding general in Afghanistan not McClellan.

You used "kind of" and "you know" to punctuate your statements at least fifteen times. If you need to do that, it seems to us that you aren't sure and you actually don't know.

Is bringing some "Wasilla Main Street" reality to Washington a euphemism for moving crystal meth across state lines?

Oh, and it's "nu-cle-ar" not "nuke-u-lar."

Doggone it!

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Money, Money, Money

Not only is Money, Money, Money Vivi's favorite ABBA song but it seems to be a primary concern for the majority of us these days. With all the news of banks collapsing, the stock market uncertainty, and mounting foreclosures I find myself worrying less about whether or not we'll have the money to send Vivi to college and more about whether or not the money in our retirement plans will actually be there when we need it.

I'm a worrier by nature so all this economic news hasn't exactly left me with a warm and tingly feeling. I try to remind myself that we're lucky though. My husband makes enough money that we are able to live a full and happy life. Not an extravagant life, by any means, but a happy one.

What makes a happy life? For us, it's lowering our standards for what we "need." We don't have a huge house and, thanks to my husband's foresight, we have a fixed rate mortgage and expect to have it paid off in less than seven years. We have one cell-phone that we carry only for emergencies. We don't have cable or the latest gadgets. Most importantly, we don't have the feeling that we are deprived.

For us, our lives are enhanced by knowing how lucky we are to have the little luxuries we do. Those luxuries aren't fancy cars or designer clothes, they are things like an occasional meal out, a few new books for my husband, a couple of yards of fabric for me, a yoga class, and a family vacation. I think it is such a gift that we have a wonderful library two blocks from our house where we can get any book or DVD or CD that we desire.

This is not to say that we don't have money worries. In the next couple of months, we will have paid for a new boiler with installation ($5000), a rehabilitated and safer chimney ($3000), our midwife fees for Turtle's upcoming birth ($3800), and Vivi's visit to the emergency room ($ god only knows). It's shocking to see it all written down. While I can't blame George Bush for the poorly-timed but necessary maintenance to our home, I can blame him for our pathetic excuse for health insurance.

You see my hard-working husband is self-employed so we have to pay for our own health insurance. We pay Blue Cross about $400 per month for coverage that does not kick in until we have met a $10,000 deductible. Effectively, we have catastrophic care. We just could not afford the $1500 a month we would need to pay for broader family coverage.

So how does George Bush play into all this? About a year ago, Bush vetoed bi-partisan legislation that would have expanded children's health insurance. The bill would have subsidized health coverage for 6.6 million people, mostly children, from families who earn too much to qualify for Medicaid but not enough to afford their own private coverage. Ladies and gentlemen, that would be us. (OK, so maybe I am feeling a little deprived but health insurance shouldn't be considered an extravagance.)

With 47 million uninsured Americans currently living in this country and millions of others like my family who are underinsured, one would think that this election would be a wash. Obama's plan clearly will cover many, many more people than McCain's but do people really care? Or do they only care when they are the ones actually seeing the medical bills? I just don't understand how this country can tolerate Bush taking us into a war that has cost us at least 600 billion dollars so far but aren't outraged that our government is unwilling to cover the cost of health care for our children. It makes me sick...

How's that for irony?

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Names

My husband and I are having a heck of a time coming up with a girl's name for "Turtle." It seems we really shot our wad with Aviva and there ain't no going back. The boy's name came to us rather quickly but the girl's name, well, it just isn't coming at all. I am starting to fear that "Turtle" may be it, after all.

I am very particular about names. I want something that is easy to spell and easy to pronounce. It has to be clearly feminine or masculine and it has to work with my husband's last name. (That's the name we have chosen to give to our children although I have maintained my own.) I don't want anything trendy or common but I also don't want it to be weird. No Trig, Track, or Bristol for us. It would also be nice if the name had some sort of meaning to us. Oh yeah, and my husband has to like it which is proving to be the most difficult task of all.

When I was pregnant the first time, we didn't find out the sex of our baby. We went in with four boy names and four girl names and we thought we'd name the baby once we got a look at it. Well, after the whole birth was over, it didn't even occur to me that we then had to choose a name. Finally, our midwife asked what the baby's name was and my husband just said Aviva. It was on our list and I was happy with the choice. (Although, at that point, I often joke that I would have agreed to Hortence or Wilbur.)

Those names that we had for Vivi just don't feel right for this pregnancy. I've even asked Vivi what names we should give Turtle when s/he comes out. She gave me this look that said, "Duh, mom. We already named it Turtle." Upon further encouragement, she offered a few more. They are: Agua, Nancy, Vivi, or Mommy. Hmmm...

Since Vivi is little help, I ask you fair readers to throw out your girl name suggestions.


Thursday, September 25, 2008

The Arm....The Sequel...

I've learned that there is nothing worse than seeing your kid crying in pain. I'm not talking about the "I wanted that cookie and you said no" type of crying. I mean the "I pulled your arm too hard and dislocated it from the elbow" hysterics. The guilt of knowing that I caused Vivi's pain has officially topped my list of life events that royally suck.

Yesterday morning, we piled into the car and headed to Vivi's pediatrician. The office was great when I called and they got us in right away. The receptionist assured me that Dr. Ray has a "great technique" for setting a dislocated forearm which was good because I was starting to feel like he was our last hope. After three tries in the emergency room, it didn't seem as easy as everyone professed it to be.

When we walked in, Vivi told Dr. Ray that she loved him and that he was gonna make her "boo boo arm all better." It was really amazing to watch him work. Vivi sat on my lap, Dr. Ray gently held her hand, and in one beautifully choreographed movement, he popped everything back into place. It was the polar opposite of the grab, yank, and lift action she endured in the ER. Even though she still wasn't using it when we left, I was confident that it had worked.

Vivi spent the rest of the morning favoring her other arm but by dinnertime she was willing to touch her nose with the injured one. By this morning, she was as good as new doing "boingas" on our bed and carrying her teddy around, sans sling.

Now, that she is healthy I can work on dealing with the trauma I have from the whole experience.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Worst Mother of the Year

I have officially awarded myself the craptastic title of Worst Mother of the Year. Is it because I let Vivi fill up on candy and cake at my sister's wedding? Nope. Is it because I've let her sleep in our bed for the last three nights? Nope. It is because I dislocated her elbow yesterday. That's right people- full on bodily harm.



It all started on our walk home from the bakery yesterday morning. Vivi will periodically drop to her knees while we are headed somewhere and I periodically swing her up by her arm. Well, when I did it yesterday, she let out a scream and her arm went limp. Then she started crying...hysterically. I wasn't totally sure what had happened but I knew it was my fault. I picked her up, carried her home, and we got in the car to go to my husband's office. (Yes, the first official medical opinion that I got was from my psychiatrist/homeopath husband.)



When I burst through the door of his office, I was panicked and sobbing. I said, "I think I dislocated Vivi's arm." He looked at her shoulders which seemed symmetrical but her long sleeves prevented a good look at the rest. She was in a lot of pain so he told me to take her to the emergency room and he would meet me there.



I pulled myself together and got to Hasbro Children's Hospital. I hadn't been there since Vivi was 6 weeks old and needed a CT scan of her head because my husband ACCIDENTALLY dropped her. I had all these terrible flashbacks. When I got to the desk, I just lost it. I couldn't spit out her name or her birthdate. I was just holding her and crying hysterically.



When I finally was able to calm down somewhat and tell the nurse that I was pretty sure I dislocated her arm, she calmly said, "Oh, that happens a lot. Don't worry. We should be able to just pop it back into place." I was starting to feel a little relieved that I wasn't going to have DCYF knocking on my door.



We got into a room fairly quickly and Vivi was very cooperative. I told her that a doctor was going to come and fix her boo-boo and that she was doing such a great job being brave. (By this time, she was much calmer than mommy, that's for sure.) When my husband showed up half an hour later, she said to him "Daddy, you a doctor. You fix my arm."



Well, our 3+ hours at the ER included a nurse giving her a dose of ibuprofen, two tries by the nurse practitioner to reset it, one try by the pediatrician, Vivi's refusal to move the arm on her own, a red Popsicle, and the eventual discharge of Vivi with her arm in a sling (which she promptly removed to use instead as a way to carry her bear around.)




Is it fixed? In the words of many an esteemed Vermonter, nope. The arm is still hanging down by her side. She refuses to use it and was up every 1-2 hours last night crying in pain. We are taking her to the pediatrician this morning to get his opinion. The saga continues...






Sunday, September 21, 2008

Please Meet My Granddaughter

Ever since Vivi learned that there was a baby in mommy's tummy, we've been helping her understand the different relationships in our families. She knows, and proudly announces, that she is going to be a big sister but the fact that she may have a sister or a brother is a little harder to grasp. (That's why this baby will probably forever be known as "Turtle.")

Vivi is aware of who her grandparents are and who goes by aunt or uncle but the fact that Katie is my sister thus making her Vivi's aunt, well... I think it'll be awhile before she has a handle on that. She seems to be processing it though.

We recently discovered that Vivi has renamed many of her stuffed animals. A teddy bear that used to be known as "Big Ted" is now "my big sister" and her little stuffed frog is a "little cousin." It's not stopping there though.

As we were putting Vivi to bed a few nights ago, she told us to be quiet because someone was sleeping in her big girl bed. I looked and there was no one alive (or even stuffed) there-- just her blanket and pillow. When I asked Vivi who was sleeping in her bed, she said "Shhh... my granddaughter sleeping dare." Apparently even the imaginary friends are now related to us.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Manners, please....

OK, the truth is out. My husband and I have no official parenting philosophy. We try to be thoughtful and respect Vivi as an individual being but we also try to be firm and consistent with rules and structure. I wouldn't say that we fall entirely under the attachment parenting umbrella but we certainly don't ascribe to the old maxim "spare the rod, spoil the child". We are just trying to find our way like everyone else.

There is one thing in our household, however, that is absolutely non-negotiable: manners. Although the golden rule of treating others how you want to be treated is tough to instill in a toddler, the words "please" and "thank you" should not be.

I'd like to say that we've worked hard to get Vivi to be a polite child but the truth is it was pretty darn easy. If she wanted something and didn't say please, she wouldn't get it. If she didn't say thank you, she would be reminded. It comes up a 100 times a day so we have lots of opportunity to practice. Plus, it has made me more conscious of how frequently I say those magic words. And now, I say them much more! There are few things more thrilling for a parent than to hear an unsolicited "please" or "thank you" from one's child. I get a warm fuzzy feeling when Vivi does it.

I figured we'd done a pretty decent job teaching manners thus far when I climbed into bed with Vivi Monday morning. It was 5:05 and she had woken up yelling for me. She's had a cold and I knew she didn't feel well so I snuggled in next to her. Vivi quickly fell back asleep and then let out the loudest, rip, roaring fart I'd heard from her little body. Although it didn't fully awaken her, I certainly noticed. In her sleepy state, she murmured, "Excuse me. I did toot."

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Two's Company and My Politcal Problems

I've been a little depressed about the state of the world to write much in the last week. This upcoming election has me all worked up and I've been spending too much time dwelling on why I can stand John McCain and Sarah Palin. Rather than turn this blog into a forum for my political rantings, I've just been lying low and planning an international move with my husband and daughter should the unthinkable happen in November.

I did have a chance this week to forget about the election when I took a brief foray into the world of parenting more than one child. I happily volunteered to take my friend's 8 month-old little boy for a few hours while she was classroom mom at her 3 year-old's nursery school. I had no doubt that I could handle this task. Vivi LOVES babies and this child is the sweetest, calmest baby to come our way. Plus, with five younger siblings, I was sure that I had been in this situation before.

Then the baby's dad left, he started to cry, and I had some serious reservations about whether I was truly game for this endeavor. It turned out that the baby had at least three teeth coming in and was just miserable. I tried a cold washcloth but that didn't work. I tried giving him some warm cereal but that was a bad idea. After an hour and a half of crying, Vivi said, "Mama, I think it time for dat baby to go home."

I discovered that the only thing that would keep the baby calm was to carry him and keep moving. So that's what I did. I grabbed the sling, maneuvered it and the baby around my pregnant belly, and we all strolled around the neighborhood. Vivi was an absolute delight- kissing him and showing him all sorts of neat things she discovered on the walk. At home, she tried to make him laugh, laid out a blanket for him, and was a regular mama's helper.

At one point, the baby was rooting around my breast. Vivi quickly noticed this and said, "Mama. You need to give dat baby some of your milk." I said, "Honey, I don't have any milk. My milk won't come until Turtle comes out of my belly." Vivi had a great solution. "Mama, I give him milk from my boobies. I feed my babies."

This experience made me realize that Vivi is going to be a great big sister although I'm sure there will be times that she'll want to send Turtle back. It also helped me feel more confident about being able to handle two kids. It wasn't an easy three hours but knowing the cues of one's own child is a lot easier than trying to figure out what will help ease the discomfort of someone else's.

My feeling of success after the baby and his mother departed was diminished when I logged onto one of my favorite political websites and saw this photo:

Korean war veteran Andy Lacasse posted his homemade sign in the front yard of his Barefoot Bay, Florida home. "I got nothing good to say about Obama," Lacasse told his local news station. "If I see anybody touching that sign, I got a club sitting right over there."

Apparently, Andy is not concerned with being perceived as a racist who can't spell and doesn't have his facts right. With people like this voting, is it any wonder why our country is in the shape it is in?!

Ok, I promise, that's the last of my political rantings for now.

Monday, September 8, 2008

No Batteries Required

In my quest to keep Vivi occupied without turning on the television, I have discovered two wonderful books. The first, Unplugged Play by Bobbi Conner, is a collection of 700+ activities for kids aged 1-10. The games can easily be constructed from materials you already have lying around your house. I checked the book out of the library and it has so many great ideas that I plan on buying my own copy.

The second book is The Mister Rogers' Parenting Resource Book by Fred Rogers. I received this as a gift while pregnant with Vivi and I've found it to be very useful. Not only does it have several easy activities for kids but it also has reassuring parenting advice.


As promised, I also wanted to share some of the games and activities that have kept Vivi occupied for fifteen or more minutes. I hope for those of you with toddlers, these games will be useful for you.


Whole Body Drawing
Vivi loves to have me trace her outline on a large sheet of paper. (I tend to save the paper that comes as packaging in large boxes. It is usually off-white and very large. You can also use butcher paper or a flattened paper bag.) Once I've traced her, she likes to color in all her features and clothes. I find that it is a little more exciting than handing her a piece of paper and telling her to go to it. You can extend the time by giving your child other things to trace-- like a stuffed animal, empty tupperware, you name it.

Poker Chip Fun
I've discovered that there are many fun uses for poker chips. One evening, I dumped them all into a metal bucket and gave Vivi some measuring cups and she spent the duration of my dinner prep, scooping and dumping them. With a muffin tin, she can fill up the different cups. Or, with a couple minutes of advanced prep, you can cut chip-sized slits into the tops of large yogurt containers and now the chips become money for "depositing in the bank." (Vivi also uses them as money in her purse for "shopping.") If you have three containers, your child can deposit by color.

Special Dress Up
This game seems to top Vivi's list of fun things to do. I've written in the past about how she loves to get dressed up in our clothes and I came up with this idea after she learned how to open my dresser drawers. Take an empty laundry basket and fill it with various items of your clothing. Usually, I take a pair of high heels, a bra (the hooks take up some time), a shirt (which Vivi calls a dress because it's so big), and one of my husband's ties. It's amazing to see the outfits she comes up with and she often will spend a good 10 minutes figuring out how to turn the tie into a belt that manages to stay around her waist.

Find the Colors
This game works pretty well when I need to get something else done but Vivi isn't prepared to play completely on her own. I drew a different colored square on each of ten index cards. So, for example, one card has a green square, one has a red, etc... I give her a card and a bucket and I tell her to find a few things that are the same color as what is on the card. It took a while for her to get the hang of this but now she comes up with some pretty funny things.

Beat the Beeps
Lastly, this is our end of the day, clean-up our mess game. I set the oven timer for one minute and Vivi has to race the clock to pick up her toys. There's no prize involved but she gets a giggle out of it and I don't have to spend the rest of my evening cleaning up and/or tripping over her toys. (It might take a few rounds of you racing around first before your child gets the idea.)

I've also listed below a few other quick things I let Vivi do which she seems to enjoy. (They don't buy me any time but I suppose a more creative soul could make a game out of them.) They are:

-opening mail. She loves to rip the envelopes so she gets all the junk mail.

-vacuum. Vivi loves to turn the vacuum on and use the hose.

-check e-mail. She likes to push the buttons on a big calculator. She calls it checking her e-mail. Since numbers actually come up on the screen it seems to be fairly gratifying to her.

Is there something you loved doing as a kid? Or does your child have a game that s/he can't get enough of? Please let me know. I'm always trying to find new ways to amuse us!

Saturday, September 6, 2008

Television and Play

I admit that I spent a huge amount of time in front of the TV as a kid. A cringe-inducing amount of time, really.


As a young child, I loved Mr. Roger's Neighborhood and possessed a great fear of The Incredible Hulk. Saturday morning cartoons weren't often worth the battle since my brother staked out the TV well in advance of my rising from bed. Cable television hadn't found it's way to rural Vermont yet so the few channels we got were very often of little interest to me.


Around middle school, it all changed. We got more channels and I had a television in my room. I would come home from school, grab a snack, and turn on the television. I probably spent more time watching such quality programming as Melrose Place than I did doing homework. And there was the little matter of my crush (obsession?!) with Fred Savage that caused me never to miss a single episode of The Wonder Years. I'm sure by the time I graduated high school, I was watching 3-4 hours of television a day. I feel gross just thinking about it.

College and Peace Corps pretty much cured me of my habitual TV viewing and I am grateful for that. I think television has it's place and I certainly appreciate it for the half hour of mindlessness it provides me after particularly rough days. And, to be honest, I don't think I was adversely affected by it. BUT (and isn't there always a but?) I don't like that it has become the de facto entertainment source/non-stop ad machine. When I was a kid, there were no Mr. Roger's figurines or special Wonder Years Happy Meals.

Now that Vivi is over two, I don't worry so much about the neurological and cognitive implications of TV time. What scares me is the advertising: the sexy images that are aimed at young girls, the message that to consume is to live a fuller life, and the inevitable complications that will arise on a trip to Target when my daughter spots a toy or character that looked so appealing on TV. That is what I am afraid she will get from TV.

As my pregnancy progresses, I've been thinking about what role television might play in Vivi's life. Every parent with more than one child has told me that I'll relax my TV stance out of necessity. Maybe that's the case but I hope that I'll be able to reach a thoughtful compromise- choosing a pre-screened video that I am comfortable with as a special treat versus plopping her down in front of Sponge Bob because I can't take it anymore.

In the next couple of days or so, I'll share the activities and resources I have discovered that keep Vivi occupied for 15+ minutes. So far, they have served as good alternatives to TV. I'd love to hear other ideas from my fair readers as well!



Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Big Girl Bed

We greeted the month of September with an exciting change in our household. Vivi's room now contains a big girl bed-- and she is happily sleeping in it!

We ordered the bed a couple of weeks ago and when we looked at it in the showroom, it didn't look very big. It's a twin bed but because it doesn't require a box spring, it is quite a bit lower to the ground than a typical bed. When we got it set up in Vivi's room, however, it looked huge and when she climbed into it, she looked so much like a baby that I actually reconsidered whether I was ready for this transition.

Still, she was so excited and napped without incident in it that first afternoon. Her first night, I offered her the choice of sleeping in her crib or her bed. She looked at the bed and said, "Mama, dat bed is a lot of space for me but I sleep dare." She did well until about 2 a.m. when we heard a loud thump followed by some crying. She had pushed so hard up against the railing that they both fell to the floor. My husband got her settled and asked her if she wanted to move to her crib. She did not and went back to sleep in her big girl bed. About an hour later, we heard another thump followed by silence. She'd again pushed the railing and fallen but she slept through the whole thing. My husband discovered that we didn't have the railing in properly (bad, bad parents) so he fixed it and put her back to bed. The rest of the night and every subsequent rest period since have gone off without incident, although my husband is still jumping out of bed at every noise he hears!

The irony of the whole big girl bed is that when she wakes up in the morning or from her afternoon naps, she still yells for us to come get her. She doesn't climb out at all even though we moved her to the bed because she was climbing out of the crib. I'm thinking we are on borrowed time with that though.

The best part of all this is that she is really proud to have that bed and seems to appreciate it as a gift from mommy and daddy. She wants to show it to everyone who comes to our house and I love that we get to lie together and snuggle before sleep. She said to me this morning, "Mama. I think Turtle gonna like my big girl bed too."

Indeed... I think so too.

Monday, September 1, 2008

Voting for Women

Well, in case it wasn't glaringly obvious, my husband and I are supporting Obama this election. Perhaps it was the Prius in our driveway that gave it away?!?

At the start of this whole election process a year and a half ago, my pick was John Edwards. He was not the most dynamic candidate but I felt that he best represented my progressive values. While I loved the idea of having a woman or minority as our president, I strongly feel that the Democratic process only works if people vote for the person who most closely represents what they are looking for in a leader and in our society. I felt that Hillary Clinton tended to vote for things that she thought would be politically popular. (The war? She is a bright woman-- how could she have thought that was a good idea?!) With Obama, I loved his charisma and life story but I didn't think he was as progressive as the others.

By the time Rhode Island's primary rolled around, Edwards was out and I was struggling with whom to vote for. I was pretty sure that I preferred Obama but I was starting to feel very angry about some of the sexist comments I was reading and hearing about Clinton. (After all, I don't recall anyone calling the other candidates a "bitch" or "ugly" or saying that they were "having a meltdown" when they got angry.)

As the parent of a young daughter, I have thought a lot about what this election means for the world my children will grow up in. The day of the primary, I walked into the booth, looked at my ballot, and checked off Clinton's name. I reasoned that we needed to take a long look at ourselves and what it means to be a woman, particularly a "liberal" woman, in our society. Given all things being relatively equal with Clinton's and Obama's policy leanings, my vote was a vote against sexism. I'd like to think that with enough liberal women in government, my daughter might have the opportunity to seek public office without being asked by Katie Couric if she needs to take vitamins to make it through the long campaign season.

Now that Clinton is officially out, I find myself angry at McCain's choice of Sarah Palin as his running mate.* Not all women are created equal in the realm of politics, and I find his choice to be insulting and manipulative. Just because I voted for Clinton because I was angry at how she was treated as a woman doesn't mean that I will vote for someone because she is a woman. John McCain, I'm not that stupid. (As an aside, I will be interested to see if Palin is subjected to all the sexist venom conservative pundits unleashed on Clinton or if they'll reign it in for the sake of their agenda.)

As many of you have read, Palin is an unapologetic right-to-lifer who is currently under investigation for ethics violations in Alaska. She believes in drilling for oil in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, thinks "creationism" should be taught in schools, and counts her stint as mayor of a small Alaskan town and her year and a half as governor to be enough experience to put her next in line for the presidency. Sorry folks but this ain't the woman for me.

I'd like to think that in the next four years, I will live in a country that hasn't stripped me of my right to get an abortion. A country that will reinstate a health insurance program for middle-class American children like Vivi. Or one that won't indoctrinate our public school children with religious theories. Or, at the very least, will finally do it's job and lead the world in environmental protection by cutting our disgustingly voracious appetite for oil.

It's hopeful but right now, that's all I've got. So this November, this mama is for Obama.

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*I did not, by the way, think that Obama necessarily should have chosen Clinton as his running mate. His nomination makes it his choice.