Random Thoughts: The Insert Blog Post Here Edition

1. This is where I would like to tell you everyone is 100 percent healthy! Back in school and daycare, and I am back at my desk 8 or so hours every day, and no more sickness, yay!

But since I can’t tell you that, let’s just move along, shall we?

2. At least *KNOCK ON WOOD* this week has come with 100 percent less vomit and diarrhea.

3. It also comes with a meal at Meat & Potatoes Wednesday evening in downtown Pittsburgh, courtesy of my mother turning another year older. Happy Birthday, Mom! I love you.

4. Flora and I high-fived over the fact that she is starting to learn multiplication.

5. After that homework high-point, last evening went all to heck. And I put everyone to bed at 7:30 p.m.

6. I am woefully out of touch with current events. I usually get my news on my commute or from Slate.com, which I gave up for Lent.

Yes, I gave up a website for Lent. It’s not so much the site itself, it’s the comment section. I can waste hours of time reading, commenting, and responding to other comments. Plus, sometimes, the subject matter of the article and/or the other commenters pissed me off. I’m better off. Although less informed.

I did hear about the Pope, though.

What else is happening, world?

Random Thoughts: The Norovirus Edition

1. I thought the kids had the flu. Because I am confused as to what the flu is, obviously. They don’t have the flu; they have norovirus.

2. The difference between the flu and norovirus: the flu is more respiratory, includes coughing, runny nose, chills, aches, and fever.

The norovirus includes fever, diarrhea, and vomit. Lots and lots of vomit. Buckets of vomit. And the diarrhea can last up to two weeks!

Okay, probably not buckets of vomit. Buckets of *laundry* definitely.

3. Speaking of laundry, I forgot how much I hated laundry. I hate laundry so much, I created the #laundrysucks hashtag on Twitter. My MIL — who is in Florida until Saturday — is worth every penny we pay her monthly to do all our laundry. This week has been especially challenging laundry-wise because vomit.

4. I have changed all the beds, here and at my ILs house (more on that in a second). I have changed M’s crib at least five times since Saturday. I am washing most of the bedspreads and comforter covers as well. Plus my FIL’s electric blanket.

5. M started over the weekend — actually, probably toward the end of last week. One of his daycare ladies mentioned the frequency and consistency of his BMs when I picked him up (in short, often and not ideal). I forget which day he woke up in his own puke (again). Sunday morning I think? I knew we were in trouble when we walked into the donut place in Crafton, and M let go a stream of … well, I’ll spare you the additional details. It came out of nowhere; he had been quite cheerful up to that point. Suddenly he was shivering and felt warm to the touch (although still pretty cheerful).

6. Actually, M was probably the least affected, mood wise, of the three kids. He remained pretty energetic, although he took long naps; he was cranky I wouldn’t feed him, because duh; he didn’t get all glassy-eyed with fever. Trying to explain to a 2-year-old why he can’t have something to eat is the very definition of futility.

7. Flora succumbed next (Monday at 3:30 a.m. to be exact); Kate started Tuesday after school.

At my in-laws.

When I was trying to get laundry done.

8. My plan, since Flora seemed to not be puking any longer (HA! but I will spare you further details), was to pick Kate up from school, go next door with the kids, and let them watch TV while I cooked dinner and did laundry. When we got to Bella and Tadone’s house, Kate went into the bathroom and was spitting in the toilet. I asked what was up. She said her stomach hurt, and she was trying to “spit it out” to “get it over with”.

I so wish that had worked.

It didn’t. Hence why I had to change bed dressings (on *both* beds) at my ILs. And, er, I still have to steam clean their bedroom rug. That’s tomorrow’s project.

When’s the last time your best-laid plans went to hell?

Oh Boy

Last week, Flora asked me to keep a secret from her daddy. And I did. She has since told her father the secret — about liking a boy in the other second grade class. So that cat’s out of the bag.

Flora has liked boys since day one. She’s already been in love at least twice that I recall. At one point, she was “caught” nearly kissing a boy at her former daycare. While part of me is doing a total freak out (BOYS? YOU CAN’T LIKE BOYS! YOU’RE TOO LITTLE! YOU’RE MY LITTLE BABY GIRL! ARGH!), most of me has been very calm and, I like to think, helpful about these situations.

So: the conversation took place in my parents’ car after I had picked them up from the airport. We were talking about Valentine’s Day, and the VDay parties at school, and so on. I planned on taking the kids to the store on Saturday to get the supplies we needed. As we talked about it, Flora asked, “Can I buy B* Pokemon cards and a card for Valentine’s Day?”

This is their main interaction: at recess they play Pokemon.

I hesitated. I wanted to talk to Dan about it — this is where she asked me to keep the secret. Once I agreed to that, I said, “Well, what happens if you give B a card, but he doesn’t give you anything?”

“That’s okay!” she exclaimed. “I don’t care.”

We’ll see about that, I thought. But I didn’t contradict her.

“You and B are friends, you know,” I said. “You can’t be more than that at 8-years-old.”

“I know. I just want to give him a card for Valentine’s Day.”

Deep, quiet breaths. “Okay, Flora. That’s all right with me. We’ll pick it out this weekend.”

Much like Halloween, I like Valentine’s Day again, a day of hearts and candy, of little gestures of love for family and friends. It doesn’t have the weight of being overly romantic, and there’s certainly not the pressure (and disdain) I used to feel as a single gal who usually wore black on the day. (Sixth grade boy, braces and broken hearts, long story.)

I would like Valentine’s Day for my children to be a day of hearts, candy, and small gestures of love and kindness. For years to come. I would like Dan to be my girls’ only Valentine, again, for years and years. Most of all, I would like to save my children from associating a Valentine’s Day spent alone as a day that is lonely. I don’t know that I can do that. I am not more powerful than the culture.

More than that, though, thank goodness my friend @jayesel wrote about this, because I’m just going to quote from her directly:

“But I didn’t let my shock and fear and ZOMG! reaction show. I couldn’t. I knew that this was one of those moments. A moment when everything can change. It SEEMS small and minor to us, but for them? (rpm note: This is *exactly* how I felt when Flora asked me not to tell her daddy about buying B a card. She knew it was a big deal to her, and she knew she wanted me to know, but wasn’t sure about Daddy yet. I’m glad I kept her trust.) This is when it starts. This is the age where things can change, and we need —*I* especially, as her mother — to be careful to make her comfortable talking to us. About EVERYTHING.

“The boy is not important. She’s [8], after all. But when she’s 15? I want her to want to tell me who that boy is. I want her to want to talk to me about the Stuff in her life— the crushes, the heartbreaks, the first kisses (OMG HOLD ME). I KNOW there will be a time when we’ll both be stewing in Teenager/Mother silence, angry with each other over whatever drama we just had between us. She may even storm off to her room and give me the finger through the wall (NOT THAT I EVER DID THAT TO MY OWN MOTHER. AHEM.) But I want her to always feel like she can share these things with me, talk to me, and I won’t judge (too much) and I’ll give advice if it’s wanted. And yes, I’m her mom first, always. But I also want to be her friend, at least on some level.”

“Some level” for me includes being trusted, being a confidante, being someone to whom she can turn when she is hurt or confused or sad or angry (or, for that matter, happy, overjoyed, etc.), knowing that I will 1. Take her seriously, 2. Listen to her all the way through (note to self: get better at this now) and 3. That I will not tease her, condescend to her, dismiss her emotions. I will be calm, I will be safe haven. Even if (when) I’m doing the Internal Freak Out Over MY BABY.

Happy Valentine’s Day, all! Whether you wear black, red, or pink; whether you make the grand romantic gesture or have take-out Chinese and chocolate (our plan); whether you’ve got a secret admirer or a known sweetheart; I hope you get a little and show a little love today.

*B for boy. That’s not even his initial.

The Principal’s Office

So I wrote and emailed this letter a few days ago:

Dear [Principal],
We are writing to you regarding a situation with our younger daughter Kate [redacted] and a classmate of hers [redacted]. Although most of the time Classmate and Kate purport to befriends, even in the terminology of the day “BFFs”, they have conflicts that are natural to children. However, some of Classmate’s actions toward Kate have been physically aggressive and are crossing the line.
Last year, Classmate pulled Kate’s jumper up over her head at recess, embarrassing our daughter. For awhile afterward, Kate “played sick” for several mornings, not wanting to go to school. (I wrote about that here.)
We spoke with [Kate’s awesome teacher] about that situation, and she has been very responsive. She said she had noticed conflict with the two girls, and worked to keep them separate from each other to avoid the drama that little girls can provoke. So far, we have been happy with the school’s response. Kate and Classmate seem to have been doing well sofar.
Two days ago, Classmate slapped Kate across the face at extended day. As far as we can tell, this was unprovoked or, at the least, an aggressive reaction to normal play. Kate didn’t tell on Classmate, but our older daughter Flora did inform the extended day caretaker [name redacted], about the incident. We do not know what action was taken at that time.
We have asked Kate to report any aggressive action of Classmate’s to the nearest adult immediately. We have also asked Kate to not play with Classmate, or to avoid Classmate if the girl seems to be in a bad mood or troublesome.
We are worried about Kate being the target of Classmate’s aggression. We would like to speak with you about further actions we can take to protect our child. For the record, we don’t think Classmate is a bad child. However, her behavior is unacceptable and needs to be addressed. If Classmate’s parents and step-parents need to be brought into the conversation, we are willing to meet with them also.
Thank you so much for your prompt attention to this matter. 

The principal wrote back to Dan and me, saying she was going to speak with the extended day caretaker, Classmate, and Classmate’s parents. I thanked her, and I’m not going to pursue this further with the school unless I have to.

Meatless Monday: Now With Meat!

Just kidding.

I got a 20-pound lot of ground beef through my CSA recently (here’s more information about the farm with which my CSA partners for this). I managed to give away/sell about 12 pounds to family and friends — which still leaves me with 8 pounds of meat.

As a vegetarian for the past 20+ years, I don’t have much experience cooking with meat. But as I’m married to an omnivore (and apparently raising one) I’ve been trying to improve.

Short version: I decided to try my hand at slow cooker chili on Saturday. I decide to use the beef and also some frozen whole tomatoes I had gotten my the CSA this winter; I was also going to make vegetarian chili, which I miss, because I haven’t been making it, because my boy is allergic to citric acid, which is in most canned tomato products.

Even shorter version: my chili needs work. Lots and lots of work. The meat eaters at dinner (Dan and my in-laws) gave me an A for effort, but like a C- on result.

Aside: Tomatoes. In a recent winter box, I got a bag of whole frozen tomatoes. I stuck them in my freezer, unsure of what to do with them. I searched around on the Internet, and discovered they are pretty easy to use. You just pull them out of the freezer and run them under warm water. The skins come right off; the cores are a little more problematic. If I decide to freeze tomatoes in the future, I will core them first.

Anyhoo, I miss tomatoes. I don’t get to cook with them regularly anymore because of M’s sensitivity.

I think I did okay with the tomatoes. I added garlic, spices, and carrots (for the chili). And, frankly, I think M still had some issues. I’m going to have to watch that little guy.

Back to the beef: As part of my attempt, I decided I had to try the meat chili. Which I did, at dinner. About two bites.

Here’s my impression: The meat seemed very … dry? Chewy, maybe. Not overly flavorful. The chili had *no* heat, which clearly needs to be rectified.

And, yes, I will probably try it again. I don’t know that I’ll down a whole bowl of it, but it’s not outside the realm of possibility.

My primary reason for being a vegetarian is that I just don’t like meat. I’m not sure I can say that anymore, because I don’t have the first idea what meat tastes like anymore.

Another reason for not eating meat is my strong antipathy for the animal products industry in this country. It’s horrid to the animals, it’s bad for the environment, and the end product isn’t healthy. It just seems unethical to me, and I don’t want to participate. (Don’t worry, I’m not going to give you a lecture on the animal products industry when we have dinner together. I’ll probably even serve meat if you eat at my house. I don’t eat meat; that’s my choice. If you choose differently, that’s fine.)

(My favorite take on the animal products industry in America comes from Michael Pollan’s book The Omnivore’s Dilemma. Great book; you should check it out if you’re curious about any of this stuff.)

As I’ve steadily continued consuming and serving locally grown and organic fruits and vegetables in my house, and then discovered organic and locally sourced cheese, milk, and eggs, I started noticing that local meat was available too. Mostly beef and chicken. In general, the animals are free-range, hormone- and antibiotic-free, fed naturally, and come from farms nearby.

And the thought crossed my mind: I could eat that kind of meat, I think. I wouldn’t have an ethical issue with that.

So the next question was: if push came to shove, would I?

Again, I only had a bite or two of the chili. It’s hardly enough to turn in my vegetarian card. I’ve explored getting chickens from my CSA, but they don’t deliver them to my pick up location — I’d have to go to the farm to get them. Once I make something good with the beef, I may give a serving of meat (say 4 ounces) a shot and see what happens.

Plus, if Kate is going to become an omnivore, I’d like her to realize that the cafeteria nuggets, burgers, and hot dogs, are not, actually, very good food.

Random Thoughts: The Boobs in Public Places Edition

1. I found Beyonce’s Super Bowl half-time show to be yawntastic. I wanted to be impressed with her talent: she’s rich, she’s gorgeous, she’s a star, she’s married to Jay-Z, and has a lovely little baby girl with a cool name.

I found nothing titillating or compelling about her half-time show. I didn’t think what she wore was terribly revealing. I didn’t think what she did with her body (call it dancing if you want) was terribly suggestive. She didn’t sing that much either, which is what I really staying in the room for.

If one of my daughters had come into the room during the half-time show, I wouldn’t have rushed to turn it off. If anything, I think I would’ve pointed out the all-female band playing behind Beyonce. That was some cool shit. Alicia Keys and Jennifer Hudson were much better performers that night, in my opinion. And Alicia Keys looked fabulous in that dress. Mm, mm, mm.

Apparently, some people found the show to be “too sexy”, and some people think that being prudish about Beyonce’s sexiness is objectifying. It could be an interesting argument, I suppose.

2. Of course while everyone fights about Beyonce’s right to be a sexy as she damn well pleases, Mt. Lebanon Library wants a photographer to take down a picture he took of a building. Because it shows an image of a partially-clothed woman (i.e. one breast is exposed). (source: Pittsburgh Post-Gazette)

My favorite thing about the angst at the Mt. Lebanon library is that’s it’s summed up with, basically, someone might make a joke about a bare breast. I’m of the mind that if they have art books, Fifty Shades of Gray, or anime, the library probably has plenty of sexytime stuff to go around. Are they seriously worried that someone’s going to protest a picture of a painted boob? REALLY?

I like Jane Pitt’s take on the whole thing. The comments are punny gold as well.

3. This morning, Kate whipped off her Batgirl nightshirt, stuck out her bony little torso, and declared, “Nipples!” Flora and I started giggling. Then we had this conversation:

“Mom, when you were little were your nipples fat?”
“Flat? Yes, everyone has flat nipples when they’re little kids.”
“No, FAT, fat nipples.”
“No. Momma has never had fat anything.”
“Now you have droopy nipples.”
“Yes. Yes I do.”

Thanks, breastfeeding!

4. And in the meantime, CBS, the network hosting the Grammy Awards on Sunday, has declared itself to be a stick in the mud vis-a-vis “excessive skin”. Snarky take on MamaPop here.

Two things: First, I am giddily excited to actually sit on my couch and watch the Grammys this year. Just about every artist I loved last year (and before) is up for some kind of award: fun., The Black Keys, Mumford & Sons, The Lumineers (great, great live show — very high energy), Alabama Shakes, and (my dirty secret) Rihanna. I’m in. I can’t wait.

Second, with the exception of Rihanna, I’m not sure I want to see excessive skin from any of those rock acts. No offense, Dan Auerbach. I’d rather just watch you play some guitar.

My guess is all this outrage about the degenerate effect that breasts in public have on the poor children is being ginned up by the GOP or the NRA. Let’s take the focus off the continuing dysfunction in Washington and the actual real danger that real guns pose to America’s youth.

Let’s flash some skin.

Quandary, II

Flora asked me something yesterday.

And I said I’d like to talk to Dan about it.

And she asked me not to. She got pretty upset.

(And, no, Internet, I’m not going to tell you what it was either.)

It’s not a big deep dark secret, it’s nothing that’s going to put her in physical danger. She wants to do something, and would like my assistance. It’s the kind of thing I could see being a “girl” thing or something special between a mother and a daughter.

I’m clearly uncomfortable with it. Not the thing itself — I’m fine with what she asked. I’m uncomfortable not telling Dan.

Here are my options as I see them:

1. Don’t tell him, and just keep it between me and Flora.
2. Do tell him, but ask him to not say anything to Flora because she asked me not to tell him.
3. He reads this blog post (not a sure thing, but not out of the realm of possibility), and demands to be told anyway. I tell him, and ask him not to tell Flora I told.

She asked me not to tell her father because she’s afraid of a) being teased, b) being embarrassed and/or c) being in “trouble”. It’s not something she would get in real trouble for — her daddy may find it upsetting because it’s a sign she’s growing up and becoming more independent.

Flora doesn’t like upsetting her Dad.

Either way, I’m betraying a trust. Dan trusts me to communicate about what’s going on with the kids. Flora is trusting me with a secret.

I’m torn. My instinct is to tell Dan and ask him not to talk to Flora about it. Tell him that I will be there for her in this instance.

And then I waver. If I do that because I want to establish trust between me and Flora, want to establish a bond that will help her come to me *no matter what*, aren’t I basing that bond on a lie?


Here is where I understand the desire to keep children small, something I generally don’t wish for. I like watching my children grow, enjoy watching them hit milestones, develop new skills, learn new things, and be excited about new skills and learning.

We were at a restaurant last night with my parents, and first Kate acted up, and then Michael threw a tantrum — I walked outside with him to calm him down and not bother other patrons (even though it was Eat ‘n’ Park). On the way out, I noticed a little baby, probably about 5-6 months old, contentedly hanging out in his carseat. And for a split second, I wished my kids were that little and that easy again.


But they aren’t.

What think you, readers?

Edited to add: And then there’s the issue of telling Dan and putting the burden on him to keep it a secret that I told him Flora’s secret. That doesn’t seem very fair either. Darn it all.

Things Kids Do

Eight years into this parenting thing, and I’ve been noticing that there are things my children do that I *automatically* tell them not to do. And then I think, “Why do I bother telling them to stop doing that? They aren’t going to stop.”

So, I’m going to try to stop telling my kids to stop doing certain things.

For example:

1. Walking in the snow. Regardless of what kind of footgear they are in, my kids HAVE TO put their feet in the snow. I ask them not to because I don’t want snow all over my rugs or the inside my car. But what does it matter? The sensation I refer to as wetsock isn’t exactly the greatest, and they’re going to complain about their cold, wet feet, but so what? Dirt washes, snow melts, feet warm up.

2. Tilting the kitchen chair backwards. My brother used to do this all the time, and it drove my parents nuts. Dr. Sis and I sat on a bench at the kitchen table (perhaps to prevent this very thing. Hm). It’s futile to tell the girls to not tilt their chairs backwards. I’ve tried to give it up. If they fall backwards, it’s going to hurt. Actions have consequences.

3. JUMPING ON THE BED. Why oh why do children jump on the bed? Is it *because* it drives adults mad? For that matter, why does it drive adults mad (or at least me and Dan)? I want to not care about jumping on the beds. I guess it’s a complicated matrix: expensive furniture that may break, someone may fall and get hurt, the noise.

I have gotten better about a few things:

If my kids want to eat three yogurts, or five cheese sticks, or thirteen raw carrots (that would be Flora), I let them. I try to only limit chocolate and other sweets. You want three cut up apples? In a row? Before dinner? Have at it. (I have to cut M off from clementines, understandably.)

The giggling. Giggling sounds harmless, I know, and in general, giggling is good (so much better than bickering). But giggling when Flora is supposed to be doing her homework — irritates me. Also, giggling when they are supposed to be going to bed. Or eating dinner. Giggling when I wish they were getting a move on with other business — irritates me. I’m trying to get better.

Potty talk. *pshaw* Whatever. As long as they aren’t actually swearing, they can talk about butts, farts, pee, poop all they want. I ask them not to do it in public (loudly, at least); my ILs have a zero-tolerance policy on potty talk at family dinners; and I draw a line at name calling (i.e. poopy head).

There are some parenting things I need to lighten up on. Flora recently asked if I would get upset if she didn’t get married. I thought about it, and I told her that no, if she decided not to marry when she was a grown up, that wouldn’t make me mad at all.

Kate piped up, “But if you don’t get married, you can’t have children.” (I know, but just roll with it.)

Flora murmured, “I don’t know if I want kids.”

I was quiet for a long moment. (This was a “car talk,” by the way. Car talks are the best.) Then I said, “I make being a mommy look really hard, don’t I?”

Flora said, “Yes. It just seems like a lot of work!”

I decided then and there that it was important for me to make my experience of parenthood more fun. I have to laugh more and stop sweating the little stuff. I have to stop yelling (so much).

I have to stop caring about jumping on the bed.

What do you have to stop caring about?

Flora and the Violin: A Love/Hate Relationship

Last year, Flora asked if she could start violin lessons.

Dan and I talked, and decided first grade was too young for her. We wanted to get her settled into a new school routine, see what homework would be like and so on. If she was still interested, there was no reason she couldn’t start in second grade.

It was the right decision.

Dan was ecstatic that she was interested in violin. If there is a true musical aficionado in my house, it’s Dan, not me. He has very specific and classic tastes (not being snarky here, he really does). And he loves classic music.

I had misgivings about Flora starting an instrument, but the school the girls attend makes it very easy. Classes are during the school day, twice a week; violin rental is a breeze because you just send the teacher a check and he does the actual legwork; and most everything else comes home from the school as well.

The only obstacle — and I know you can see it coming because we’ve talked about Flora’s attention issues before — is practice.

It’s very simple: Flora needs to come home from school and practice violin for 15 minutes.

That’s it. That’s the rule. I’ve been giving her a pass on Fridays and weekends, but I’m going to change that.

She tries to negotiate with me about it. Can she eat dinner first? No. It’s 15 minutes. Can she play with Kate or Michael? No. Go practice. It’s 15 minutes. If she goes to the bathroom in the middle of it, I stop the timer. She has to play her violin for 15 minutes.

Flora and I have had several go-rounds about this topic. And ultimately here are the two issues for me:

1. It’s 15 minutes. She has to be responsible enough to do it when I tell her to do it. I can’t be up in her business about it — I’ve got dinner to get on the table and two other children to manage when we get home. I tell her to hang up her coat and go practice her violin (usually in her room). I will probably continue to give her a pass on Friday (I’m such a softie), but I’ve told her from here on out she has to practice one day on a weekend.

2. (This is the real red flag for me.) When we have had these go-rounds — and we just had one on Monday — I have said to her: You either practice, or you’re quitting violin. It makes no difference to me (although quitting would save me a semi-weekly argument, and a bit of cash). If she is going to stop playing, she has to tell her father and tell the violin teacher.

Flora is afraid to tell her father (and/or the violin teacher; I’m sure the violin teacher at the school has seen his share of students who’ve quit). She doesn’t want to disappoint him (or them).

I am uncomfortable with this. Flora is a born people pleaser, which is fine to an extent. (Oh, and I’m the exception. It’s not that Flora doesn’t want to please me, she just wants to do it in the easiest, quickest way possible, which is why she tries to negotiate with me so often.) But now her desire to please her father is conflicting with her desire to be committed to violin.

I don’t know how to help her resolve this conflict. I don’t even know that I should. She has “quit” about three times already — until she talks to Dan. Then she recommits. Then about two weeks (or two days, or 10 days, or however long it takes Flora to decide that 15 minutes is JUST TOO LONG!), Flora and I argue about practice again.

I flipping hate it.

I don’t know if anyone has suggestions or wants to give me encouragement or whatnot. This is kind of one of those posts that I just had to write because it’s a parenting issue driving me bonkers. Please, don’t suggest a chore chart or reward system. I have so many gd chore charts and reward systems started in my house. I never keep up with any of them. Flora’s not the only one with commitment issues.

And yes, Dan and I have talked about this too. I don’t know that we are on the same page here. For all I know, he is promising to buy her a pony (hyperbole alert) if she sticks with the violin. He knows my position.