Random Thoughts: Monkey

I know that kids like music. Monkey loves music — mostly the singing aspects of it. Currently, “Flying Machine” by Father Goose on Bam Bam Diddly (featuring Sheryl Crow and Dan Zanes) is, in her words, “her best song.” She asks to hear it over and over (and over and over and over…) again.

Dan and I like music too, although we have radically different tastes. And as I was hitting repeat on my CD player for the fourth time to listen to “Viva la Vida” by Coldplay — this is my summer song ’08, the one I blast from my car — I thought, “Oh, that’s probably where she gets it.”


Monkey has a new friend, a 7-year-old boy whose family moved into our neighborhood about two months ago. The other day, walking with him from his house to our house, she asked him, “Can I hold your hand?”

I just about had a heart attack.

But at least she’s not kissing boys in cars. (Yet.)

I know that it is sweet and innocent, and just friendly. Platonic if you will. And I have to rein in my adult mind and just get a grip.

Admittedly however, Monkey has been like this since the earliest days, preferring Tadone to Bella, Pap-pap to Nonna, the uncles to the aunts, and so on. I could wish for a more shy child it is true — for goodness sakes, she walks up to perfectly strange men in restaurants and waiting rooms to say hi and take a seat next to them. Yes, it causes me palpitations. But I have to believe not only in Monkey, but in the inherent goodness of human nature.

Or should I just let DearDR go and buy that gun now?

Incidentally, the boy did hold her hand, although his, “All right,” was reluctant. But he is the younger brother of two sisters (11 and 18 years old), so he’s probably a little sensitive to female nature.

Poor kid.


I finally got around to asking Monkey why she didn’t want to sleep in her room.

“I’m afraid of the dark,” she answered.


How about a nightlight? I just happen to have one right here! With a brand new light bulb!

She has to be able to see the nightlight, but that has been easily arranged.

Two nights so far. I have my fingers crossed.


Finally, I think I know what Monkey will be getting for her birthday.

Obviously, most of these feature her fingers. If I can identify any other part of it, I will.

I think this is a swatch of the dress she wore on Christmas day:

Not a clue:

Niece, artistically framed:

I’m not that pale:

Couch with cherry blanket:

Same, only fingers much, much closer together:

Top 10 Things I Learned Girlie Weekend

10. Telling your 3-and-a-half-year-old that you have to go get her present is a good way to have her forgive you in advance for leaving for three days and three nights (hence the importance of the horses). I asked Monkey what kind of present she wanted from Mommy’s vacation. We decided on a stuffed horse (not coincidentally). “Where is it, Mommy?” she asked. “I have to go get it,” I told her. This seemed to appease her.

9. (Okay, I kind of already knew this, but): Not having to make decisions for anyone else for a few days is lovely. The biggest decisions we faced: should we shop or go to the beach first? Where shall we eat? What will I have to drink? Can I finish this book before I go to bed? And none of those decisions were based someone’s melt-down point. (Well, L did need sustenance suddenly on Saturday afternoon, but I am fairly certain she was not going to throw herself on the ground and start screaming about it.)

8. Beet, chickpea, and pistachio salad is very tasty. Figs with gorgonzola, balsamic syrup, and walnuts is exceptional. Wild mushrooms in a brandy cream sauce with rosemary on crostini is heavenly. (Here’s a PDF of lupo di mare‘s menu.) Not having to fix or eat mac ‘n’ cheese or PB&J: priceless.

7. I suck at the horse ride game at Brigadoon. A, J, & L are such pros; they won multiple horses each. Monkey and Bun say, “Thanks!” (In a unique twist, Monkey has named her horse “Bun”. Bun’s horse is called “Wagoness”.)

6. When you take two showers a day, you need the requisite amount of underwear. (I told them I was standing in for Angel and the red panties.)

5. The best way to enjoy Grotto Pizza is on the beach with your girlfriends and a 32-ounce pop (soda for those of you not in southwestern Pennsylvania).

4. I won the in-law lottery.

3. I would like to vacation in Rehoboth Beach with my husband and daughters.

2. Three days and three nights is the perfect amount of time — I got to relax, and by Sunday I was looking forward to returning home and being with DearDR, Monkey, and Bun.

1. As J says, “Girlie Weekend is like Christmas,” i.e. it only comes once a year — but it comes every year! It is a lot less stressful and expensive than Christmas, though.


I had this awesome post for last Thursday all ready to go. It was about how much I was looking forward to Girlie Weekend, and cute stories about my kids, and how Monkey was doing about me going on vacation (not so good), and so on. And it was going to include these pictures:

Aren’t they cute?

But due to forgetting to email it to myself, and a half day of work, a pedicure, and a bikini wax on Thursday, and issues WordPress has with Safari, and not getting home until 3 p.m., and not being completely packed, and needing to get to the airport — well, it just didn’t get here. Too bad, because it was a good post.

But then I went away for 3 nights and 3 days, without children and a spouse.

There was some of this:

And plenty of this:

And this was nice:

And we got some horses at Brigadoon (the horses were important):

And Whack-A-Mole!:

And this was the view from the hotel, as it is every year at Girlie Weekend:

And we laughed a lot, and shopped a lot, and had a gorgeous meal at lupo di mare, and I was clearly told what was “blog-able”, and I cannot thank these three enough for making it a great weekend.

I have much more to say about all of this, but it is Vacation Recovery Day, and I have tons of laundry to do, and I’m taking Monkey to the dermatologist in about an hour. So I gotta scoot.

Girlie Weekend rocked. Thanks, A, L & J. You guys are three of the best. (We missed a number of attendees, among them Misfit Hausfrau, who at least we managed to have dinner with on Thursday.)

Can’t wait until next year.

Weekend: Over/Under, and Down

I seriously overestimated my ability to deal with four children under the age of 5 all by myself. Bella did step in at crucial moments. Such as when I broke a glass on my patio. She also took the three older ones for an hour at “rest” time. God bless her.

I also overestimated the attraction of a kiddie pool. I figured hot day + cold water = kid magnet.

Not so much.

Bun absolutely refused to go in at all (she had woken at 6 a.m. that morning, and was disinclined to be cooperative pretty much for the rest of the day).

I completely underestimated the desire of children to be outside on a hot, beautiful day, especially with the promise of a kiddie pool.

As a matter of fact, my nephew complained that the water was too cold. What?? Too cold? He asked me to “make it super hot.” Dude, it’s 90 degrees outside. I did add two buckets of hot water, as much as to appease Nephew, as see if the temperature was bugging Bun. And it still wasn’t much of a go.

Also, I overestimated the size of the pool. I thought it was easily big enough to accommodate four kids. I was wrong.

Anyway, some pics:

Nephew “taking a break” from the pool. Just before telling me it was too cold.

Empty Pool, One Niece.

Kids in Pool! Success!

Well, almost. Bun, not in pool.

Dress-up: Witch and Pumpkin (note to rpm: please think about getting a few boy dress up clothes.)

Dress-up: Dancer, Dancing.

The “Down” part of the title references DearDR’s Sunday activity, namely cutting down the half-dead tree in our yard. It took two almost-40-year-olds and two teenage boys about eight hours. No blood was shed. I don’t think anyone even got seriously bruised.

However, I cannot speak for the other almost-40, but DearDR could barely move today.

I hope some of these pictures give you a sense of scale. Suffice to say: Not a small tree. But my man had a plan, everyone followed the plan, and they took their time. And drank roughly 20 to 25 pitchers of water. And probably a couple of beers (for the almost-40s).

12:30 p.m.: All of Tree.

1 p.m.: Starting Small.

3 p.m.: Less Tree.


4:30 p.m.: All Dead Tree.

Yeah, that’s my man. He’s got tools, and he’s not afraid to use them.

6:30 p.m.: Short Tree!

7:30 p.m.: One, Two, Three.

7:32 p.m. Tree Down.

Now we just have to tear out that box and level the ground a little, plant some grass, and walla! Backyard.

Countdown to Girlie Weekend: 36 hours

To Binky or Not to Binky?

Actually, I know the answer to this question.

I know I should wean Bun from the binky (what I call the pacifier– also known as a paci, nuk, etc.). I know I should.

She only gets it at nap time and bedtime, so actually we are doing pretty good. Oh, and on long car trips.

When she is awake, when/if she sees it, she freaks out when I don’t give it to her. But I don’t. So I’ve been dealing with those tantrums. (Not always well, but dealing.)

Given her history of ear infections, she especially should be weaned, because sucking on a pacifier at this age seems to add to the risk.

I’ve had two doctors tell me to wean her immediately, one who encouraged me to wean her when she was feeling better (one of our sick visits), one doctor (on her 1-year-old well visit) tell me that a binky at bedtime was fine until about 4 years of age, and a chiropractor who told me the binky was just fine because the sucking helped the cranial adjustment (or something like that).

The unvarnished truth is: I don’t want to wean her. I don’t want to deal with the crying and the loss of sleep. I don’t want the fight.

I’m a tired mama.

Here’s the thing about being a mother in your late-30s to young children: It is physically harder, because you don’t just bounce back from stuff the way you did in your 20s. I would contend that it’s emotionally harder, too, because you’re a little more selfish. Up until you had kids in your 30s, it was mostly about you (and depending on when you partnered up, about your partner) and your needs.

My best friend N made the same point on the phone the other day. She has a very active 2-year-old boy (which may be the most redundant phrase I have ever typed on this blog), and she said playing with him is exhausting. She would rather he just play by himself.

I, personally, find playing with very young children boring. How many times can we do that puzzle? How long do I have to blow bubbles? Well, okay, I actually like bubbles because they look adorable while they are chasing them. But I get lightheaded after 10-15 minutes! How much longer are we going to play with that ball popper? Can’t you just play by yourselves while Mommy reads on the couch? See? Selfish!

And we haven’t even started with board games like Candyland and Chutes and Ladders, which N referred to as “Just Shoot Me” and Ladders.

This “tired” excuse is also why I don’t fight with Monkey about going to sleep in her own bed. I would be up and down those stairs at least five times if I put Monkey in her own bed at bedtime. She would need to go potty, she would try to climb out of her room, she would cry and wake up Bun, she would do pretty much anything to stall bedtime. Whereas, I read her a book and sing her lullabies to her in my bed, and I don’t have to run upstairs once after kissing her goodnight and turning off the light. I can clean my kitchen, fold clothes, and/or read a book until I go to bed. (A little selfish.)

It takes her between 10 and 30 minutes to fall asleep, and when I go to bed, I just move her into her own bed.

If I’m running up and down stairs after my children go to bed, it’s to perform BRT (Binky Replacement Therapy) for Bun. Usually, BRT needs to be done at least once a night. We seldom make it through a night without BRT, although she is usually well-settled by the time I hit the hay. This is what makes me so hesitant to complete binky weaning. I would be up late and/or often with a crying Bun.

Here’s a couple other things I found on the ‘net:

Moxie sez, Wait until the child is 2 or 3. (Full disclosure: Like Moxie, I sucked my thumb for a long time, so clearly I had oral fixation issues as a child, too.)

This site agrees with Moxie: Actually, most of what I read was along these lines. A lot of the strategies they propose are for older toddlers.

And then there is this fun fact: Pacifier use is linked to a 50% increase in ear infections as compared to babies that don’t use pacifiers.

On the plus side, Bun does not have the binky all the time (she did this weekend though — I had to stop the insanity). Obviously, I will have to talk over strategies with DearDR. Part of me thinks we should wean in September, before cold/ear infection season starts again. The other part of me thinks that maybe we can hold off until January, when Bun turns 2.

It has to be done. Now or later? Anyone else dealing with this or know anyone who is?

Countdown to Girlie Weekend: 7 days

Due to Circumstances Beyond My Control

I pulled the plug on our Seven Springs vacation at 6:05 a.m. Sunday. I looked helplessly at my husband, my still crying/hiccoughing 18-month-old against my body, and said, “I can’t do this for three more days. We’re going home.”

For all the delight and love our children inspire in us, it should be told that they can suck the joy out of vacation faster than a Dyson can vacuum.

We had the audacity to schedule our family vacation the same week that Bun decided to cut her 2-year-old molars. Which pretty much added up to no sleep and no relaxation for mommy. I decided that if I couldn’t have my vacation, I was going home to not have it.

You know that whine that your child has? That one that goes straight to the middle of your head, makes you crazy? Yeah, that one. Bun had that starting Friday morning. Considering that whine and the fight that DearDR and I had in our driveway as we were getting ready to pull out, I should have just pulled the plug right there.

It was great to see my family. My parents had a good time with their grandchildren (except for the heartbroken and pained crying and screaming that Bun engaged in). My extended family is doing all right — as well as can be expected with jobs and kids and retirement and aging parents — the usual extended family stuff.

But I was so happy to come home on Sunday. I did cry as I was leaving, because I had wanted a vacation, dammit. Also, I felt pretty selfish taking the kids home when my parents are going to be at Seven Springs for another week. Additionally, Bun did not get a long nap (for the third day in a row) on the way home, and due to her whining and my utter exhaustion, I did not get to go to Eve’s baptism and a birthday party. Thank goodness DearDR took Monkey. It saved me, barely.

Today the kids are at daycare. My “stay”-cation consists of cleaning and a little reading, and I’m good with that. In exactly 10 days, I get to go to Girlie Weekend.

Know the rules of Girlie Weekend? “No boys and no babies.” That’s a good rule. I can hang on for 10 days.

In the meantime, Bun’s room needs a thorough decluttering. At least it’s quiet around here.

What You’ve Missed

We have had some technical difficulties, and I haven’t been able to download pictures from my camera for months. It was the digital-age equivilant of all those rolls of film you keep meaning to take to get developed, but never get around to.

These difficulties have finally been resolved, so I’ve a few images from the past few months to share.

But first!

We went to the ENT (Ear-Nose-Throat) doctor on Monday, and it could not have been a more different experience than what I was expecting. Except for the “great with kids” part — I mean, it’s part of their name. They should be great with kids.

The upshot is: No ear tubes. The doctor was really honest, and after talking with me, reviewing their charts, and checking the kids’ ears and throats, he just basically said there was nothing that indicated that they needed ear tubes any time soon.

He said that if they should develop infections over the summer, then tubes could be indicated. If they get a bunch of them this fall and winter, tubes are an option. But for the time being, in the absence of any other indicators (no fluid in the ear, no current infection, no sore throats or toncellitis [sic]), then they were in the clear. He also suggested that one reason for their rash of infections could be because of their return to daycare. Now that their immune systems have gotten a boost, we should see fewer colds, etc.

Here’s hoping! I was really relieved. I though I was going to meet a more aggressive doctor. He summed it up by saying, “If they were my kids, I wouldn’t get tubes now.” That pretty much clinched it.

We’re taking off for Seven Springs shortly. If my sis has her laptop with her, I’ll try to throw something on the blog, but it’s not going to be a top priority, if you can imagine.

In the meantime, here are some fun, photographic moments:

My little audiophile!

Happy Mother’s Day (a little late…)

Bella’s summer outdoor gift:

“I grew some hair since you were away.”

Future tomato:

Cherry tomatoes:


Happy Independence Day!


I wish I had a better one.

I wish I could tell you all the stories of my grandmother’s life. Because they are great stories. How her parents met in Italy and traveled to the States. How she grew up in Erie. Her life with her brothers and sisters. Meeting my grandfather. Being the hatcheck girl at one of the Italian clubs. Her life as a wife and mother.

I know that my grandmother has told me all of these stories.

I wish I had listened better, or remembered more.

Because she can’t tell me those stories any more.

She doesn’t remember them. She can’t tell them to me.

Driving over to my mother’s house one night this weekend, she asked my mom, “Who’s watching your children?”

My mother said, “I don’t have children living at the house anymore, mom. Except for my husband.”

My grandmother laughed and laughed.

She does not seem to be sad. For that we are grateful. She has forgotten how to knit; she has forgotten how to play cards, except for King’s Corners, and she needs a lot of help to even play that. She can’t really read, because she can’t remember what she read. She can’t cook anymore.

Now that is a true tragedy, because as a pure Italian one generation removed from the Old Country, my grandmother knew how to cook. One thing I will never forget is her easy acceptance of my vegetarianism. She cooked for me before my mother deigned to. And she told me the stories of what she grew up eating.

“We never ate a lot of meat,” she would say. “Just once in a while.” Read: when the money was okay, we could have meat. Otherwise: peppers on Italian bread, polenta, tomato sauce, homemade pasta, pasta fagiole, ravioli with cheese… Oh, how she talked about food.

She was a baker, too, and no holiday or family wedding was complete without Grandma’s cookies: lady locks so flaky they melted in your mouth, pizzelles, Italian knots, biscotti, apricot-filled fold-overs — the list goes on and on. Thank goodness my mother has the recipes. I look forward to the day she passes them down to me.

Although I really should learn to bake first.

Today is my grandmother’s 90th birthday. We celebrated this weekend at my parents’ house. Most of my generation of grandchildren were there. She seemed confused, and got tired very quickly.

But when they brought out the cake, she smiled and clapped and sang along. And had a nice helping of cake and ice cream.

Happy Birthday, Grandma. I know you may not remember your day. But I always will.

I love you.

Your first grandchild (and your favorite!),