Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Mamma Mia!

There are many things that I love about my husband. He always goes out of his way to do nice things for me like stopping at the bakery for a cinnamon roll just because he was walking by. Or if Vivi and I are on each other's last nerve when he gets home from work he offers to take her on a run-- even though it's 90 degrees, the jogging stroller is heavy, and he is going for 8 miles. He picks up after us. He mows the lawn. He cries at such heartwarming films as "School of Rock." He is a regular renaissance man.

So I guess I shouldn't have been surprised with my husband suggested that we see Mamma Mia! while out on a hot date last Saturday night. Of course, I was dying to see it. (Nothing like "Dancing Queen" to bring back fond memories of spending every Thursday night during college at our school's disco.) Still, somewhat incredulously I asked, "Do you really want to see that?" He assured me that he did so off we went.

We had so much fun and for $10 a ticket, I think it was actually worth it. I think it was the first time I actually felt really good after seeing a movie. We have even started having ABBA dance parties. I dug out the CD and all three of us spent this morning shaking our tushies! (Well, then Daddy had to go to work so our party was down to two.) Vivi is full of requests during our dances-- "Mama, turn it up LOUD!" or "I want a different song" if the beat doesn't pick up right away. A connoisseur of pop music already...

Tonight at dinner, Vivi said to me, "Mama, I want to see Mamma Mia. We go dancin' tomorrow?" Sounds like a plan.

Monday, July 28, 2008

Beets, Beets, Wonderful Beets

My husband came home from the farmer's market last weekend with a truckload of beets. When I asked him why he had bought so many beets, he calmly replied, "It was buy one ton, get one ton free and I thought that was a good deal." And I thought I was the bargain shopper in the family...

After giving up on most Central Asian delicacies (mutton, anyone?), I grew to love beets. There's nothing like living in the former Soviet Union to precipitate a fondness for beets but what was I going to do with all of these? Even I didn't know if I could stomach that many.

I started off by making a gallon of Vinograd which is a Russian salad consisting of beets, potatoes, white beans, onions, dill, and pickles. I know. Right now you are thinking that I would need to pay you a million rubles to give this salad a try but trust me, fair reader, it's actually quite good. I thought I'd shot my wad on the salad though so I turned to the Internet for some beet inspiration. That is how I found this recipe:


1 cup butter, softened and divided
1 1/2 cups packed dark brown sugar
3 eggs
4 oz. semi-sweet chocolate
2 cups pureed cooked beets
1 t. vanilla
2 cups all purpose flour
2 t. baking soda
1/4 t. salt

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Grease and flour a 10 inch fluted tube pan.

In a mixing bowl, cream 3/4 cup butter and brown sugar. Add eggs and mix well. Melt chocolate with remaining butter and stir until smooth. Cool slightly. Blend chocolate mixture, beets, and vanilla into the creamed mixture. (It's okay if it appears separated.)

Combine flour, baking soda, and salt. Add to the beet mixture and mix well. Pour evenly into the pan and bake for 45-50 minutes until toothpick inserted near the center comes out clean.

Cool in the pan 10 minutes before removing to a wire rack to cool completely.

I made this cake on Sunday morning and it is already gone. Vivi devoured the batter on the beaters in one minute flat even though she saw me add the beets! This cake made my weekend and so I am spreading the word.

Bring on the beets!

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Summer Bummer

I know this sounds blasphemous but I am really not that crazy about summer. I hate the heat and the humidity and every summer day seems to end with me feeling sweaty, tired, and cranky. I hate having to slather my and Vivi's fair skin with sunscreen or make sure we have hats on even though it's too bloody hot for hats. I'm no fan of winter either but summer seems to have edged it out as my least favorite season.

When I was a kid growing up in Vermont, I loved summer and all that it meant: the break from school, setting up a tent in our backyard, playing outside ALL DAY. Of course, I remember feeling bored sometimes but I don't recall ever feeling like I just couldn't wait for the heat to pass.

Now, as an adult, I don't feel like my life has slowed to a summer pace. I feel like I have as many responsibilities as I have the rest of the year except now I am doing them without central air. (Despite what W and his cronies all say, I really don't remember it being THIS hot when I was a kid.)

A couple of weeks ago, our family went to the beach. It was crowded, hot, and dirty. I am not a big swimmer and the waves scared Vivi so we sat under the umbrella and ate sandy watermelon. I spent the entire time stewing about how uncomfortable I was and wondering how the heck so many people could just lie out there and cook under the sun. My husband spent most of the time in the water but he ended up with a nasty sunburn on his back. We returned home and had to spend far too much time cleaning out sand from every inch of our bodies and beach paraphernalia. So much work for so little fun.

Probably on some deeper level, the heat reminds me of what a drag the Peace Corps was for me. Turkmenistan routinely got well into the hundreds in the summer and having neither air conditioning or a fan (not to mention a refrigerator), I routinely felt like I was on the verge of losing consciousness from the heat. When it gets hot here in Rhode Island, I immediately start to stew about how much my day is going to suck.

Maybe I need to work my heat aversion out in therapy. Until that time, you can find me and Vivi sitting together in the kiddie pool, under our maple tree, with the hose spraying directly on our heads. I'll get back to water conservation in September.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Made in China

I admit that I have a prejudice against things made in China. If it's food, it is probably tainted with anti-freeze and if it's a toy, it almost certainly contains lead paint or phthalates ready to wreck my kid's reproductive organs. It's not rational but as a woman who is trying to be a good mom AND do the job of the FDA, I cling to these ideas.

Yesterday, I was thrown into neurotic mama mode when Lu, Vivi's Chinese babysitter, arrived with "treats" for her. As I've posted before, Lu and I really can't communicate but I ascertained that Lu found my use of gummy bears as potty-training bribery to be unacceptable. (Maybe it was the scrunched up expression on her face that gave it away.) Hence, the new treats.

Well, the "treats" weren't just for a successful trip to the potty. They were for anytime Vivi wanted them which turned out to be one right after another. She probably consumed ten of them in under a minute. This shocked me because I actually tasted one at Lu's insistance and found them to be utterly disgusting. (Not unlike something that would be thrown into a potty.)

I decided to let it go though. Lu was taking Vivi to the park and leaving the "treats" behind so I figured I would hide them while they were out and that would be the end of it. Ummm... not exactly. When I looked at the package I noticed that these candies are called haw flakes. What the hell are haw flakes?!! I went to Google to find out.

Well, according to the Internet, haw flakes may be any or all of the following:
-packing material
-banned by the FDA
-made from the berries of the Hawthorn Bush

Insert super freak-out here. I had visions of my kid tripping out on the swings or thinking she could fly and jumping off the top of the slide. It was awful. I was pacing and sweating and wondering if it was time to let Lu go. Then the voice in my head said, "Get it together, Sam. Lu eats these and they haven't killed her yet. Just throw them out and forget about it."

As I grabbed the package, I noticed something. Made in Singapore was written on the side. Phew! Now that's a relief...

When I returned home that afternoon, Vivi and Lu were sitting at the table eating lunch. Vivi said, "Mama, Where's my pres san char?" Apparently, that's Chinese for "haw flakes."

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

It's a Girl Thing

When I was pregnant my husband and I decided not to find out the sex of "Junior." We reasoned that there are so few true surprises in life that we wanted this to be one of them. Besides, I was convinced that I was carrying a boy anyway.

In retrospect, I think I had convinced myself I was carrying a boy so if one came out, I wouldn't be disappointed. You see, I really wanted a girl although I wasn't able to fully admit that to myself while pregnant. Of course, like all pregnant women, I wanted a healthy baby with ten fingers and ten toes but if I had been given a choice between a healthy boy or a healthy girl, I would have taken the girl without hesitation. I am sure I would have loved a boy as much as I love Vivi but I just didn't feel like I would have known what to do with a boy. After all, I have four sisters.

Well, be careful what you semi-subconsciously wish for. I've tried to be aware of how Vivi's sex might impact my interactions with her and the choices I make on her behalf. I don't believe that she should only be wearing pink, frilly things or playing with toy kitchen sets because she is girl. (Even though it does not go unnoticed that toy kitchens, vacuums, and tea sets almost always seem to be in "girl" colors or motifs.) I also try to praise her only on what she does and not how she looks. Still, there is something inherently girly about my girl and I don't think I have any control over it. Here are five recent examples:

  • As I've posted, Vivi loves babies and dolls. I recently found her holding her baby close to her chest. When I asked her what she was doing, she said "Baby drinking milk from my boobies."

  • Vivi loves to play dress-up but only with my clothes and my shoes. She particularly likes to wear my bras and underwear and high heels. The other day she refused to leave the house without my tank top on so we went to the park with my shirt tied around her waist. When I ask her what she wants to wear on any given day, she'll say, "How 'bout a pretty dress?" Vivi also loves to put on lotion and brush my hair which, along with the heels and pretty dresses, are all things I gave up once she came along.

  • In the same vein, Vivi has been carrying a purse since she could walk. We can't go out on errands without one and it is usually stuffed full of accessories. (Give a woman a bag and she'll fill it...) Several times during the day, she'll put her baby in the stroller, throw her purse over her shoulder, and say, "Bye mama. I going shopping."

  • Our daughter seems also to have a thing for vaginas. She is always inspecting hers and telling me if it has a rash or a boo boo. If I put a diaper on her, a frequent response is "No mama. I need some air for my jy-na." She talks about it a lot and just the other day in the middle of Target announced to the people in line next to us that she has one. Oh yeah and "mama naked in the shower too."

  • Lastly, Vivi loves to use pantiliners as a prop in her pretend play. Sometimes one is a hat, sometimes another is a telephone. Since she seems to know what they are typically used for, she finds her acquisition of them and subsequent repurposing to be utterly hysterical.

Now tell me that's not a girl thing....

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Root, Root, Root for the Home Team

My husband and I used to be big baseball fans. When I was living in Boston, it was nearly impossible not be sucked into the ups and downs of the Red Sox. It was depressing and euphoric almost always at the same time and that was wonderful.

During our courtship and first year of marriage, my husband and I had regular dates watching the games on TV or occasionally seeing them in person. It was a happy time for us until three terrible things happened: The Red Sox won the World Series for the first time in a zillion years which made it impossible to go to a game without mortgaging our house. Then the Red Sox establishment decided that they would make more money airing their games on cable which effectively removed us from the viewing equation. (We being antenna-type folks and all.) Lastly, and most devastating, Johnny Damon left the team. Now this might not seem like a big deal to most folks but Johnny D was the Red Sox for me. It wasn't the beard or his way with words or his superior talent in center field. It was that he never got into fights and just seemed like a real team player that really did it for me. (FYI to all of you people who think I was just a poser who jumped on the bearded Johnny D bandwagon, I would like to say that I was his fan long before it was cool and I harbor no ill feelings toward him for his departure.)

So it is fair to say that there hasn't been a whole lot of baseball for us in the last couple of years. We've been mildly content to check the scores in the paper and leave it at that. That is, until last night, when my dear husband had the great idea to take Vivi to see the Pawtucket Red Sox! It's not quite the spectacle that Fenway is but I think that might be a good thing. Our evening cost us about $20 (including the cost of a bright blue ice pop for Vivi) and we still got to see some good baseball (including a home run by a rehabbing David Ortiz.) The parking was easy, the field is nice, and there weren't any drunken frat boys spilling beer on us. All in all, it was quite a success. Just ask Vivi:


Saturday, July 19, 2008


After returning from Turkmenistan, I came to the realization that I had lost my handle on English prepositions and some verbs. This may sound strange but I still confuse words like of, at, to and in. Am I "of a mindset" or "in a mindset?" Did we spend the day "in the park" or "at the park?" I really don't know. I also have found that sometimes I have to stop and think about which form of a verb I should use. For example, it is not immediately clear to me that "the box of snacks was open" is correct grammar. My brain hears snacks and I have to stop and think, "Is it 'was open' or 'were open'? What is the subject of the verb?"

Now one would think that for me to lose a pretty basic part of the English language, I must have been quite good at speaking Russian. That would be wrong. I spent my entire time in the Peace Corps struggling with a language that didn't make ANY sense to me. If I encountered someone on the street and they couldn't make out what I was trying to say, I would slip into French. Surely if they didn't understand my Russian, maybe I'd be luckier with another foreign language! It didn't work. I have a somewhat disturbing memory of being asked by a man in Turkmenistan how much I was paid. (A frequent question there.) I replied that I worked "naked" instead of "for free" which is what I intended. The subtle difference in those words was lost on me for several months but the idea that I might be considered a prostitute was not.

It is with all this in mind that I consistently marvel at Vivi's facility with language. She was asking for her "privacy" at around 18 months and tells elaborate stories today- sometimes true, sometimes not. She's also really good at quoting us. Here are some recent examples:
  • Me: "Let's go for a walk."
  • Vivi: "How 'bout we stop at bakery? Get a cookie."

  • "Mom, I need to go poop real quick. Be right back."

  • Vivi: "Mama, I want to tell you secret."
  • Me: "Okay, what is it?"
  • Vivi whispering: "I love you, mom."

  • Me: "Good job on the potty! Would you like a gummy bear or a pretzel?"
  • Vivi: "I'm thinking about it."

  • "Mama, G.G. (her friend) tried to drink Sara coffee but Sara say, 'No. No. Jose.' G.G. biiiiigggg rascal!"

  • After spilling some water, "Mom, accidents happen!"

She must get this from my husband.

Thursday, July 17, 2008


I am starting to come to the conclusion that our kid has us all figured out. Vivi seems to know a way to get the things she wants and we are often struck by her creativity. Unfortunately, we are also struck by how easy it is for our toddler to manipulate us.

Let's take potty training for example. I initially thought I could use the gummy bear multi-vitamin she takes to facilitate her pottying. She loves the bears so every time she uses the potty she gets one (either the vitamin or a regular one.) It's been a great motivator for her. In fact, now she'll go sit on the potty as much as 10 times an hour in the hopes that something will come out that will warrant a gummy bear. Another great mommy idea turned bad.

The second big manipulation hit us at bedtime. Around two, Vivi went from being the easiest kid in the world to put to bed to a fierce 25 lb. warrior armed with demands and needs that could not be met in any satisfactory way. A routine that used to consist of teeth-brushing and a story was being stretched into a 45 minute ordeal of rocking, singing, decisions about which music to listen to and which stuffed animals to sleep with, and drinks of water.

I admit that I could have said no to all of these things but when she would look up at me and say, "Mama, rock you in chair and Vivi snug-glow now" there was no way I could turn that down. What mother could refuse to snuggle? That's when she had me though and the demands kept coming. While rocking, she would politely request that I sing Silent Night. (I dread the day I have to explain "round yon virgin" to her.) When she finally would get into her crib, she would need a drink of water. Now we all need water so it seemed cruel to deny that request. After the water, I would set up the music and leave and Vivi would scream for five minutes. It was painful. My husband and I never subscribed to the sleep training philosophy that it is okay to let a baby cry it out but we had to face the fact that our toddler wasn't a baby anymore and she clearly needed to sleep.

We indulged Vivi for a few weeks when the light bulb finally went off. She said she wanted a drink of water so my husband got it for her. She took the cup and, in what seemed like extreme slow motion, lifted it to her lips and started taking the tiniest sips of water possible. We just started laughing. Her ingenuity at delaying bedtime was remarkable and our inability to pick up on it earlier was astounding.

Now she has a drink of water after brushing her teeth and we are much firmer with the bedtime routine (although it is still not entirely fuss-free.) Last night as my husband was putting her down, Vivi said, "Daddy, I need use potty real quick."

And we'll begin again....

Wednesday, July 16, 2008


Sometime around the age of 18 months, Vivi became interested in babies. Actually, that is a bit of an understatement. Around 18 months, Vivi became OBSESSED with babies. Newborn or newly walking, boy or girl, awake or asleep-- it didn't matter so long as they were smaller than she was. Nine months later and this doesn't exactly feel like a phase anymore.

I've learned that Vivi has a sixth sense for babies. She just seems to know when there is one around. She can spot a baby carrier perched on a shopping cart or a stroller parked in the distance long before I do. I often become conscious of a baby's presence by Vivi's insistent repetition of "I see dat baby! I see dat baby!" If I don't bring her over to see the baby she has spotted, she will dissolve into a heaving mess of tears. It's not pretty.

While it is certainly a delight to see Vivi take an interest in someone other than herself, the baby obsession can have it's problems. You see, Vivi doesn't just want to see a baby. She wants to stare right at it, kiss it, shake it's hand, point out it's eyes, and most recently, feed it goldfish crackers. The delight is very often outweighed by the exhausting vigilance it requires to keep a healthy and happy distance between Vivi and said baby.

When Vivi turned two in April, she was the elated recipient of two "babies." One was a Waldorf-style doll she named "Turtle" and the other was a Cabbage Patch Doll named "Mariella." I also outfitted a wicker basket as a crib and made her a baby blanket. She takes her babies shopping, puts them in time-out, rocks them to sleep, and frequently puts her diapers or panties on them. Before I go to bed, it is not uncommon for me to find Vivi's doll(s) lying on her pillow covered in her blanket while Vivi sleeps without either comfort at the other end of the crib. (I guess those mothering instincts kick in early.)

You might think that the introduction of Mariella and Turtle have eased the desire to be around real babies. Well, not exactly. As the months continue to pass, it seems Vivi's baby fascination has entered a whole new realm. She talks nonstop about the upcoming arrival of her new cousin. She points to her belly and says, "Baby live in dare." When she points to my belly, she says "I live dare when I was lee-tle, lee-tle baby." And just a couple of weeks ago, we had this conversation:

Vivi: Mama, I want a baby to come live at our house.

Me: Really? What would you do with that baby?

Vivi: Carry it.

Me: That's nice. Anything else?

Vivi: Hit it.

Well, at least she's honest.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Getting It Done

Things I thought I would get done yesterday:

-Get a TB test for my volunteer work
-Drop off a bag of Vivi's old toys at Salvation Army
-Mop the living room
-Call back a friend who phoned a week and a half ago
-Buy a frame for a print that we want to hang up
-Figure out our meals for the week
-Grocery shop
-Mail the reply card to my sister's wedding
-Pay some bills
-Finish my sister's birthday present (Her birthday was June 24)
-Arrange to get some estimates for our boiler replacement
-Return a DVD to the library

Things I actually got done yesterday:

-Got a TB test
-Returned a DVD to the library

Things I did but didn't intend to:

-Took a nap
-Brushed Vivi's hair

So I'll try again today to get it all done. Then tomorrow I can blog about how I need to get a better handle on my expectations for accomplishing things.

Saturday, July 12, 2008


It's another summer Saturday and I've already broken my promise of posting a recipe every weekend. I think I am going to institute an exception for weekends when we are away. Hey, that's the beauty of being a grown-up with her own blog-- I get to make the rules up as I go. (Hmmm.... that's also kind of how I parent.)

Anyway, here are two of our favorites. Hope you enjoy them!


1 cup dry bulghar wheat
1 1/2 cup boiling water
1 1/2 t. salt
1/4 cup lemon juice
4-5 cloves of garlic, crushed
1/4 cup olive oil
1 1/2 packed cup fresh mint leaves
1/8 cup chopped fresh parsley (1 t. if dried)
2 medium tomatoes, diced
1 cuke, skin removed and diced

Combine bulghar, boiling water, and salt in a bowl. Cover and let stand for 20 minutes, or until bulghar is chewable.

Add lemon juice, garlic, olive oil, mint, and parsley to bulghar and mix thoroughly. Let rest in refrigerator for at least two hours. (You can skip this step if you are rushed for time but the flavor just gets better the longer it is able to rest. I usually make this the night before of the morning of the day I am going to serve it.)

Just before serving, add tomatoes and cuke and combine.

For a perfect kid friendly dinner, smear some hummus on a whole wheat pita. Pile on some tabbouli and add a little feta. Then roll up, cut into rounds, and it's the perfect size for little hands. (We eat these in our backyard to minimize cleaning up little bulghar bits!)


4 cups whole milk
2/3 cup white sugar
3/4 cup small pearl tapioca
1/2 t. salt
1 t. vanilla
2 eggs, lightly beaten

Stir together all ingredients in the slow cooker. Cover and cook on low for 4-5 hours until set. You must stir during cooking otherwise the ingredients will separate. I stir every half hour or so. You can also cook this on high in 2.5 hours but you really have to watch it to prevent the milk from curdling. Even thought it takes longer, I've found that it tastes better if you cook on low heat.

Let me know if you have any questions! Happy eating!

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Real Jobs

Last night, I was in the company of several other women whom I had never met before. As we were introducing ourselves, one woman said, "My name is XXX. I am the mother of six kids but I have a real job at XXX investment company."

This comment really struck a nerve. Why was she discounting her own role as a mother by saying "but I have a real job..." and why does being paid for work make it "real?" This touched on the larger question of what truly forms our own personal identity? That's something I've been thinking about a lot since I became a mother.

While pregnant, I was pretty sure that I wouldn't return to my job once the baby arrived. I had a new and astoundingly incompetent supervisor which exacerbated an already stressful line of work. The hassle of managing my manager in addition to everything else just didn't seem worth it. Then Vivi came along and everything changed. I didn't know anyone here except my husband and I missed the camaraderie I had at my job. (Sleepless nights can really make you romanticize the old days.) So after three months away, I returned to work.

During the first year of Vivi's life, I made local friends and gained some confidence as a mother. The stress at my job continued and I was really starting to resent that my salary was hardly covering the cost of commuting and childcare (especially when male colleagues of comparable age and experience were making $20,000 more a year than I was.) So after much deliberation (10 months of it, to be exact), I quit.

It was a tough decision. I felt the need to contribute financially to my family even if I really wasn't doing that during my employment. More than the money and stress though, I struggled with what my identity would be without a career. For the majority of my adulthood, I was the person who did human rights work, who traveled and had cool stories, who was (dare I say it?) interesting. Now, I was just a mom and who was going to care about that?

It has taken me a while to figure out the answer to that question. I am discovering that who I am is only defined by how I am. As a career woman, it was easy to point to journal articles, public speaking events, or quotes in Newsweek as indications of my identity. Now I hang out at the playground and am only quoted by my daughter.

But how I was then is still how I am now-- hard-working, caring, impatient, and countless other traits. Those traits helped me be productive in my paid career but the career wasn't who I was. The product of those traits now will be my daughter but she is still her own person. Even though I'll never see a penny for "producing" her, you can't get any more real than that.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Losing it

While we were in Maine, I was feeling pretty darn good about my parenting skills. I was cool. I was calm. I was caring but firm. I was mindful. I was Zen Mama and oh boy, did it feel good. Bedtime at 10 pm and Aviva's losing it? I had it all under control. Breakfast of toast, peanut butter, strawberries, rice krispies, silly putty, scones, AND a bite of cheesecake? We're on vacation and the kid should live a little. A trip to a public beach and Vivi wants to be naked? She's got a cute tushie so let's go for it. A long car ride home on Sunday? Let's sing Ring Around the Rosie a million times. It didn't matter because Mama had it TOGETHER!

Then Monday rolled around and Mama lost it- BIG TIME!

It all started when I volunteered to take Aviva on errands in the morning so my husband could get some things done at home. We went to the farm for our vegetables knowing full well that Vivi would be begging to see the goats. I thought I'd just let her see them for a minute (stupid) but as we were walking out to the field, it started to get really hot. Then she wouldn't actually go near the goats but demanded that I feed them some clover. When I tried to get her to leave, she refused. Zen Mama was still present and I offered to let her carry my purse back to the produce stand. After some negotiation, it worked but I was already sweaty and sticky and feeling like my equanimity was fading.

Then at the produce stand she proceeded to take a bite out of a potato, green bean, scallion, and piece of ginger before we left. I held it together and reasoned that at least it was all good food.

Next we hit Target for some soy milk. Vivi refused to stay clipped in the cart. I grabbed the milk and hightailed it out of there but not before she plopped down in front of the exit yelling, "No hold mama's hand." Somewhat calmly I responded, "It's not safe for you. We'll just wait until you're ready to hold mama's hand in the parking lot." So she sat and I waited and waited and waited and got angrier, angrier, and angrier. I was running out of incentives and I really just wanted to get out of there. So I lied. "Vivi, let's get going. Mama thinks there is a special snack in the car for you." It worked until we got to the car and I "couldn't find" the snack. I figured that since Whole Foods was our next stop, I would just open a box of Cheddar Bunnies in the store and she'd recover. My head was starting to pound.

We got to Whole Foods and I found her a snack. She was happy and my composure was returning. Then she turned her snack upside and dumped it ALL OVER the floor with a look that said, "I know you lied to me. You are a bad mother. What are you going to do about THIS?" I exhaled loudly, ripped the bag from her hands, and began cleaning up the floor the best I could. She screamed at the top of her lungs for what felt like an eternity. I turned red and got out of there as fast I could.

It was at the park later that afternoon when I just couldn't take it anymore. I woke her up from a nap to get there because I was meeting my friends and I REALLY WANTED to go. When we got there, she was crabby and wouldn't share and I abruptly put her in timeout. I was cranky and I was probably mean and I certainly wasn't mindful. I really just wanted to spank her and that scared me. I was feeling embarrassed by her behavior and then by my own. I just couldn't pull it together and was fighting back tears on the drive home. What the hell had happened to Zen Mama?!!

When we got back to the house Vivi started to play quietly. I just sat there and watched her. I felt like such a jerk. Returning from vacation is an adjustment and I didn't cut her any slack. I dragged her around because I needed to get things done. She was cranky at the park because I cut her nap short. I lied to her and then expected her to behave.

When she looked up at me, I said "Hey V. Mama is sorry. I was a little grumpy with you today and I should have been nicer." Her response: "Mama, you not little grumpy. You BIIIIIIGGGGG grumpy." I agreed. Zen Mama was starting to resurface.

Then, while I was making dinner, Vivi used the removable pot from her little toilet to scoop out all the water from the big toilet and dump it on the bathroom floor. She then unrolled all the toilet paper. I should have realized sooner that the house was way too quiet.

Welcome home Zen Mama!

Sunday, July 6, 2008

Where's Maine?

Our Independence Day holiday involved a trip to Maine or what Aviva called a "big a'venture." There's no doubt about it-- traveling away from home with our toddler usually does turn into a big adventure. This trip was no exception.

The wonderful thing about Vivi's rapidly expanding vocabulary is that we can now have actual conversations about our adventures. The bad thing is that we seem to have the same conversations over and over again. Take this one for example:

Vivi: Where's Maine?
Me: It's where we are going this weekend.

Ten minutes later

Vivi: Where's Maine?
Me: It's where we are going this weekend. You are going to see your cousins there.

Ten minutes later

Vivi: Where's Maine?
Me: It's where we are going this weekend. You are going to see your cousins there. It's near the ocean.

Ten minutes later

Vivi: Where's Maine?
Me: Where do YOU think it is?
Vivi: At MamaDaddyVivi house.
Me: Yup. That's it!

I am seriously starting to think that this was the toddler version of "Are we there yet?!"

At one point during the weekend, she also said to me "Mama, I so nervous." When I asked what she was nervous about, she replied, "I nervous bout chocolate." Naturally...

Despite the odd comments and conversations, we had a great time on our adventure. Vivi got to ride on her first carnival ride alone in Old Orchard Beach. She enjoyed the beach in Kennebunkport without any clothes and explored a Rachel Carson Nature preserve where she ran along the trail for "exercise." She devoured her Aunt Coleen's pancakes (and pretty much anything else that anyone left out) and bonded with her cousin Laena by calling each other "dootyhead."

We figured the trip had been a success when we arrived back home this evening. As we pulled into our driveway, Vivi said, "Where's Maine?"

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Green Is the New Black

I've never considered myself a real hipster. I don't follow trends. I really can't tell you who Hannah Montana is. I'm not into fashion. (Although I recently drew the line at my husband wearing his high school gym shorts ever again. He graduated in 1974.) I haven't enrolled our toddler in an SAT prep course. I just live my little life the best way I know how-- simply. It seems that by doing so I have turned myself into a willing participant in a green revolution.

We try to do what makes sense for us-- hanging our clothes outside, reusing cloth grocery bags, having a garden, turning off the lights, and walking or riding our bikes whenever possible. (When we need to drive, we have a Prius.) It doesn't feel like a big deal. Perhaps, it was growing up in Vermont and spending most of my childhood outside that made me this way. Or living in Turkmenistan as a Peace Corps volunteer and seeing how it was possible (and in many ways, preferable) to get by on so little. Or maybe it is just having a child and wanting her to know that she is valued for who she is and what she does and not what she has. Who knows...

Lately, I've been feeling like we could do more though. That's how we discovered People's Power and Light which allows us to purchase all of our household electricity from local renewable resources including solar, wind, biomass, and small hydroelectric plants from New England. It doesn't even cost that much more-- 2.4 cents per kilowatt hour, or about 40 cents per day for the average home. The best part is it is 100% tax-deductible. Now doesn't that make you feel all warm and tingly inside?

Many states off similar programs. Contact your local electric company and see what they can do for you. After all, we hipsters know that green is the new black.