Things to Make - Taro Gomi's Play All Day


I was nervous that the kids would become bored on the car train (as well as in the hotel rooms throughout our trip) so I purchased Taro Gomi's Play All Day: More Than 100 Punch-Out Pieces!. Luckily, the kids self-entertained better than I expected (you never know), but still when fuss occurred I'm glad we had this wonderful activity set. The book contains over a hundred punch out pieces, allowing you to make: finger puppets (don't forget to bring tape), tons of little boxes (which also work well as blocks for toddlers), connecting monkeys, a whole town, and lots of other stuff. The paper toys are incredibly easy to put together and great for lots of ages. A toy box in a book for under $15, how cool is that?


Places to Go (Vacation) - The Car Train to Disneyworld


Once we decided to take the family to Disneyworld (I love how I say "once we decided" as if I wasn't a huge Disney dork who had been planning this since F left the womb) the next question was "how to get there?" With airplanes you have to deal with baggage and baggage fees and fussy kids. The car ride takes 15 hours. So when our neighbors told us about Amtrack's car train to Florida, we were pretty psyched. The train leaves the station at 4:00 pm from Lorton, VA and arrives around 9:00 am in Sanford, FL (about 30 minutes from Disneyworld). Accomodations run the gammet from coach seats to a family bedroom (click here to see the options). We booked the family bedroom (it sleeps two adults and two kids) which was surpisingly roomy for train travel (though, obviously not "huge"). There were two small tables to color on and two large windows to check out the scenery. Most importantly, T was CONTAINED in a destruction-proof space, so I could relax for awhile.

The ticket price includes - a wine/hor d'oeuvres happy hour, dinner, and a continental breakfast. A family-friendly movie viewing takes place in the lounge car after dinner (our movie was about the Everest expedition, which wasn't exactly "fun" for preschoolers). The dinner was not four star but they served it on real plates and the meal came with free wine, thus giving us the feeling of a nice night out.

All in all, I loved the train. I read my book and stared out the window for hours. Unfortunately, T had a cold and was up most of the night (yes, while we were all stuck in the same bedroom) so I saw A LOT of the lounge car (which really isn't very fun at 2 am). Further, once we let the beds down the space did start to feel a little claustophic (which really wouldn't have been an issue if we were sleeping). Oh well, no travel is perfect.

HAPPY TUESDAY EVERYONE!! More on Disneyworld tomorrow . . .



Things to Do - The Last Day of School


Usually I'm pretty psyched when preschool gets out - no more morning "rush" and scheduled days, more time to just chill and relax together. I like waking up in the morning and being able to decide with the kids whether we should "adventure" or just relax. But lately the girls can't stop bickering, every two minutes someone hit someone or took something. Cries of "I HAD IT FIRST" overwhelm my days. I know this is part of the deal (or so I've heard) but I didn't grow up with siblings and cousins so I escaped this part of childhood. And it sort of boggles me. I guess part of it is P finally coming into her own and refusing to act as F's lackie. But ugh, the commotion. I miss the days when they spent hours locked in their room just playing.

And, as cheesy as it sounds, this is an important summer. Next year F starts kindergarten and I feel like after that everything changes, as she'll spend more of her day away from us than with us. I know, I know, they have to grow up sometime. But this summer all three are still LITTLE KIDS and I want to cherish that. But the fighting . . oh the fighting.


*Death Cab For Cutie's new album is WONDERFUL. Available here before it releases next week.

*This seems like a good, local cause and most families have some unused, outgrown diapers laying around.

*Bloesem Kids has a roundup of online kids' magazines.

*Wonderfully stated (and something I really needed to hear/contemplate/think about).

*I really want to read this.

*Antropology has a tumblr, fun, fun (link courtesy of Bluebird Baby)

*Wow (in black and white).

*I love free stuff, especially when it's this cute.



Things to Read - Kids' Books III

Lately the girls seem to be inhaling books, I feel like we're at the library almost every week searching for more great reads. Here are some of the titles we've enjoyed lately (for past suggestions of kids' books, click here).

For Kids Age 3 and Up

The Incredible Book-Eating Boy

We're huge fans of Oliver Jeffers (Up and Down is a particular favorite) and this book didn't disappoint. P kept saying "but that's silly mom, nobody really eats books, right?" And after I assured her she was right she said, "so can we please please read the silly book again?" As for me, I like that the overall plot of the book encourages reading and learning. Nicely done.

Iggy Peck, Architect
This story of a young boy who dreams of being an architect is really well told with great rhymes (somewhat similar to Madeline), plus it's pretty funny in a way that parents will definitely appreciate.

All in a Day
This short simple book (F can read it) emphasizes the importance of an ordinary day. I love reading it on slow, boring afternoons as it serves as a great reminder about how lucky we really are.

Make Way for Ducklings
I remember reading this book as a little kid and falling in love with the little duck family that makes its home in a busy Boston park. There's something magically ordinary about the basic story, especially when the traffic pauses as the police help the ducks cross the road.

Smartypants (Pete In School)

This book (which is probably best for slightly older kids, age 4.5 and up) tells the story of a dog going to school. Don't let the silly plot fool you, it's a good read, written in a slightly snarky, sarcastic tone. A lot of the jokes (such as references to pop quizes) went slightly over my kids' heads, but they still liked reading about the "funny dog's adventure."

For Beginning Readers

We Are in a Book! (An Elephant and Piggie Book)

I find most beginning reader books pretty insipid. Luckily, the MAGNIFICENT Mo Willems (author of our favorite Knuffle Bunny series) has created the Elephant and Piggie series, which is quite funny (for both kids and adults). F loves reading these to us and I actually love hearing them.

The Lovable Little Misses (Mr. Men and Little Miss)

As a kid I loved the Little Miss and Mr. Men series and now my kids love it too. The vocabulary is pretty basic so (with a little help) beginning readers can get through them (plus they aren't too long).

What about everyone else? Read any good kids' books lately?


Places to Go - Arts on the Horizon for Kids 0-6 (Alexandria, VA)


On Saturday morning we packed the whole family into the minivan and drove to Landmark Mall in Alexandria, VA to check out the inaugural production of "Arts on the Horizon," a new theatre and arts program focused on kids 0-6 years old (which is pretty exciting for me as all three of my kids meet the age criteria, which happens rarely in the arts). According to Michelle Kozlak, the company's founder, she wanted to create a theatre company for young children where "they would come and feel comfortable - somewhat like their playroom or living room at home. The lobby would have a place for kids to play and the theatre would be inviting . . . . shows would be . . . interactive, inclusive, and intimate."

And, in my opinion, thus far Ms. Kozlak's doing a pretty good job meeting her goals. The waiting area of the theatre basically operates as a large playroom (primarily for toddlers and young preschoolers) full of blocks, floor pillows and various other toys. Once we entered the actual theatre we discovered a gigantic rainbow parachute to sit on (P seemed enthusiastic about picking the color of her "seat.") For adults who aren't fans of criss-cross-applesauce a row of chairs rests against the wall.

The play, Drumming for Dishes, was short and simple, the actors don't speak and a guitar-player provides music throughout the entire production. The "plot" (and I use this word loosely) centers on the fun that a girl and her (possibly imaginary) friend have while exploring a kitchen. The play begins when the main lead discovers a friend hidden in the cabinets - all 3 of my children were enthralled watching this mysterious "friend" appear and disappear. Yes, in case you missed it I just said "all 3 of my children" - who range in age from almost 2 to 5.5, LAUGHING IN UNISON, as were most of the children in the audience, INCLUDING TODDLERS. I found this a pretty impressive start as the words "theatre" and "toddler" seem tough to mix.

After the mysterious friend appears the two actresses have fun "playing" in the kitchen - making pasta boxers into musical shakers, drumming Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star on kitchen utensils, marveling at how a colander folds in on itself, trying to figure out how to clean up a kitchen spill, etc. Throughout their adventures the actresses flow in and out of the audience, inviting children to play with the kitchen gadgets (P and F seemed bizarrely elated while shaking a cous cous box). The play runs about 35 minutes, which seemed just a little bit too long for the younger ones in the audience, most toddlers started to fuss at about 20-25 minutes. On one hand, don't let this keep you from attending, as I've never seen toddlers watch anything for more than 20 minutes. But, on the other hand, I think it would have helped if they ramped up the action a little bit at the 20 minute mark as some of the kitchen games were becoming a little redundant. This being said I liked the fact that the theatre seemed fine with fussy toddlers, there were no evil glances, no employees asking people to "take their children elsewhere"; rather, the resonating vibe appeared to be "well, kids will be kids."

All in all, I found the show a pretty fun family activity. Parking at Landmark is easy and readily-available**. The theatre is an incredibly welcoming place (they even have a roped-off area for stroller-parking). And the play managed to entertain my three children who are at three different stages of development, not an easy feat. Further, as a parent the play helped remind me how fascinating the world can be when you're young. I tend to get caught up in "going somewhere" and/or "doing something", where the play served as a needed reminder that kids' needs are often quite simple, for them a kitchen contains a world of discovery.

Drumming for Dishes has both weekend and weekday showtimes, tickets are $8 per person. Arts on the Horizon also offers kids' classes and camps and lots of fun stuff. Click here to check it out, I highly suggest a visit. Although there's a lot in DC for children in general I still find it hard to find weekend activities aimed at really young children, so I'm glad that Arts on the Horizon exists and I hope they continue to put on great productions.

**If you want to make a day of it, Landmark mall also has an indoor children's playarea and a food court.

By the way, I received free tickets to review this play, but this didn't influence my review. Hopefully you all know me well enough to know that if I don't like something, I'll say I don't like it.



Things to Make - Black Bean Chilaquile

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food (8 of 22)

I'm not the type of person who has a lot of stock recipes, rather I'm always searching Cooking Light & Everyday Food for something new and exciting. My mom is the same way, she can't even remember most of the recipes from my childhood. All that being said, there are a few recipes and cookbooks I return to time after time. My favorite cookbook is Moosewood Restaurant Low-Fat Favorites: Flavorful Recipes for Healthful Meals, as demonstrated by the fact that my copy is in tatters. And of that cookbook my favorite recipe happens to be blackbean chilaquile, a mexican-type casserole. I could live on this stuff, it's that good.

Here's the scoop:

1 cup chopped onions
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 cup chopped tomatoes
1.5 cups frozen corn kernels
1.5 cups cooked black beans (15 ounce can, drained)
2 tablespoons lime juice
1 teaspoon salt
0.5 teaspoon black pepper
2 cups rinsed and stemmed swiss chard or spinach
2 cups crushed baked tortilla chips
8 ounces grated fat-free sharp Cheddar cheese
2 cups Mexican-style red salsa

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Saute the onions in the oil until translucent (about 8 minutes). Stir in tomatoes, corn, black beans, lime juice, salt, & pepper and continue to saute for another 5-10 minutes. Meanwhile, in another saucepan blanch the greens in boiling water to cover for 1-3 minutes. Drain immediately and set aside.

Prepare an 8x8 casserole dish with a light cooking of oil or cooking spray. Spread half the tortilla chips on the bottom. Spoon the sauteed veggies over the tortilla chips and sprinkle on about two-thirds of the cheese. Arrange the greens evenly over the cheese and spoon on half the salsa. Finish with the rest of the tortilla chips and top with the remaining salsa and cheddar. Back for 35-40 minutes, until the cheese begins to brown.

Makes six servings, each one is approximately 245 calories and 4 grams of fat.


*Quinoa burgers.

*Avocado fries.

*Greek nachos.

*Penne with roasted asparagus and balsamic butter.

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Things to Do - Local Food

(All photos above taken at South Mountain Creamery's 2010 Spring Festival)

I've completely bought in to buying local (just like crocs for children and Mad Men). As I've mentioned in previous posts, The Omnivore's Dilemma: A Natural History of Four Meals scared the hell out of me, especially when it comes to carnivorism (which, according to Wiktionary, is a real word). Luckily the DC area has some great options for locavores.

My absolute favorite place to buy meat (lamb, pork, chicken, and goat) is Fox Hollow Farm in Gaithersburg, MD. The farm is super small and family owned; you can even go out back and visit the animals (I know I sound obnoxious, but if the idea of "visiting" your food freaks you out, you probably shouldn't eat meat). My kids love to run through the field and say hi to the goats (pictured below). The farm delivers to neighboring communities in MD (but not VA). Call ahead as they tend to sell out of top products (esp. the broiler chickens, which are SO SO yummy).

When I don't have time to drive to MD, we have meat and dairy delivered through South Mountain Creamery. We visited the Creamery last spring for their annual spring festival (pictured above) and enjoyed seeing the cows and chickens everywhere. Plus P could spend forever "driving" a tractor.

Regarding other options, we've joined Arganica, but haven't activated our membership yet. And in the summer we have veggies delivered through Great Country Farm's CSA, which entitles us to free activities at the farm all summer - the kids love the slides and giant bouncing pillow; we love all the you-pick options. And on weekends we frequent the farmers' markets on Courthouse and Columbia Pike, especially when Cibola Farms has a booth.

What about everyone else? Do you buy local? Where do you go?


*There's a new local mom blog and it's pretty awesome (and funny), make sure to check it out here when you have a chance!

*Six Ideas for Exploring Nature with Kids

*I sort of love this.

*So this is interesting. What do you think?


*USA literary map. I want one.

*Poufs!! (you know you want one)

*Great photos of Israel.

(Photo taken at Fox Hollow Farms)


Things to Do - Make A Grateful List (April 2011)

Rain takes lots of preparation.

Every month I make a list of things I'm grateful for or that I really enjoy. Click here for past lists.

1. The Avett Brother's Live, Volume 3
2. Tracey Kidder's Mountains Beyond Mountains: Healing the World: The Quest of Dr. Paul Farmer
3. Kate Chopin's The Awakening and Selected Stories of Kate Chopin (Enriched Classics (Pocket))
4. Taking the girls to see Rio in the theatre (I love Jesse Eisenberg)
5. Demetri Martin's standup followed by a question and answer session at the I Street Synagogue

6. Chicken with tomatillos & cilantro (via Washington Post)
7. Air-popped popcorn (best snack ever!)
8. Weight Watchers's Bacon, Tomato, and Cheese Strata (for Easter Brunch)
9. Baked Granola (for Easter Brunch)

10. F creating a game called "princess saves the world"
11. My closet purge (goodbye size 4, maybe some day we will meet again, but for now I'm moving on. It was fun while it lasted, but I feel I've outgrown you.)
12. The cherry blossoms at Meadowlark Gardens ("it's raining petals")
13. T and his blue ball (or "ooh all") which for about a week he tried to take everywhere with him
14. Checking out the flowers during our evening walks around the neighborhood
15. Kids playing games in the yard and moms drinking wine on the deck
16. Waking up to a cool breeze and the sound of birds in the morning
17. Sunny days without mosquitos
18. The submarine and miniature trains at Carnegie Science Center in Pittsburgh (part of our spring break trip)
19. The animals habitats at Nemacolin Resort in the Laurel Highlands
20. Touring Fallingwater
21. Laurie visiting
22. F asking me "mom, in the Barbie book why do all the girls sit around and watch the boys in the pool?" "I don't know F, just sitting there watching boys looks boring to me." "I know, when I grow up I want to be in the pool, not just sitting there watching boys." (this was one of those rare parenting moments when I feel like I did something right).
23. The girls playing "forest friends" with their dolls from HazelVillage
24. My new striped tunics from Boden
25. Our annual Easter egg hunt

F's LIST - Tae Kwan Do, reading books, bare books, birds, birthday parties, my cousins, memory games, easter, recycling

P's LIST - field trips, art projects, my family, my ladybug nightlight, the pictures F draws for me, my cousins, dollies, my bunkbed

Good girlfriends make life so much better!


Things to Do - Talk About Girls Marrying Girls

One of my good SAHM friends is a lesbian (she and her partner have two children, who are among my children's best friends) and a close neighbor is a gay, single dad (his partner died when their son was a baby) so a long time ago we explained to the kids that "girls can marry*** girls and boys can marry boys." As with most conversations with young kids, this news was accepted matter-of-factly and except for a few confusing moments at the playground where we had to explain that just because two women are sitting next to each other does not mean that they're in love, the girls have never asked many questions about alternative families. Well, until recently.

A series of "mean boys" in her preschool class have caused P to explain to all her friends that they can ignore boys forever and just marry each other. I'm not sure how fellow parents are feeling about this, though I've had more than a few tell me that their girls came home saying "P told me I can marry a girl!" as if it's the best news their child has ever heard. Then the other day F asked me, "mom, why do I ONLY want to marry boys and P ONLY wants to marry girls?" P is only 4, so hopefully I'm not outing my daughter (can you really know your sexuality at 4? is that even possible? what if you're raised in an environment where homosexuality is accepted? And you often have playdates at the house of a loving gay couple? Maybe?? I have no idea.) Now sometimes I worry that I oversimplified the issue, that I shouldn't have made sexuality simpler than "what do you want for dinner?" That in this privileged world they're living in I've sheltered them from the fact that people can be persecuted and even murdered for loving someone of the wrong sex. But does it matter? At the end of the day all I want/hope/dream for them to be is comfortable with who they are. Whatever or whoever that may be. So if sometimes in their games Cinderella has two loving mommies, well, that's A LOT better than the evil stepmother Disney gave her.

But the questions haven't stopped at two mommies. The other day F asked me, "mom, only girls can have babies, right?" [yes] "So then how did Mr. W [our neighbor] get his son?" Before I could even answer, P said "well, probably someone old, like a grandma, had a baby and gave him to Mr. W because old people are too tired to raise kids all the time." To which F replie, "P, that's ridiculous, what kind of women would give away her baby? Mommies love their babies." And with this as an introduction, I tried to explain surrogacy to preschoolers - since it takes a woman and man to make a baby [avoiding any explanation of sexual intercourse, because I'm a wimp and this conversation was already challenging enough] C was really Mr. W's baby, it's just that C's "mom" [I didn't think the term "birth mother" would help matters] lives far away. But this arrangement still made F really uncomfortable. So I spent the day answering questions like "you'd never give one of us away, right?"

Ugh, this parenting gig, we try our best to be honest and at the same time to keep from unduly scaring our children. It's such a tough balance - this raising of kingdomless princesses.

What about everyone else? Any advice or stories on how to explain the world to your children? (anyone who posts anything at all homophobic will be deleted immediately from the comments, so please don't even try).

***My children think that "marry" means spend the rest of your life with someone you love. I like (and agree) with this definition, thus, while my children are young, we have refrained from introducing them to the plethora of legal complexities muddying the issue.


Places to Go (Vacation) - Longwood Gardens in the Spring (Kennett Square, PA)

Even when the girls wear matching dresses, they manage to put their own "spins" on the outfits.


One of the biggest downsides of living in the DC area is that everyone always leaves. Well, maybe not everyone, but over the years several of our friends have decided to relocate - for jobs, for a "slower" pace of life, for different climates, etc. On the upside, this means we have outstanding invitations to visit lots of wonderful destinations (Philly; Burlington, VT; Charleston, SC; Rochester, NY; etc.). So a few weekends ago, we packed up the mini-van and headed to West Chester, PA to spend a a few days with good friends.

Years ago, when I started my job as a big-law associate the firm assigned me a "buddy" (their word, not mine) to help navigate the complexities of firm life. My buddy, A, and her husband quickly became good friends of ours, we even "borrowed" their backyard for our wedding ceremony. And a few months after I gave birth to F, A gave birth to a little boy named, E, whom F calls her "first friend." Another little boy, Z, quickly followed (making their family acronym "JA ZE", pronounced like the rapper, how cool is that?). A few years ago, A took an in-house job outside Philly and the whole family moved away. Though we don't get together as often as we'd like to, when do see each other all five kids play really well together, which makes it easy for us adults to relax, catch up, and drink a bottle of wine.

On the Sunday of our weekend visit, we spent the day at Longwood Gardens. We've visited Longwood in the fall (click here for post), but this was our first spring trip. I especially loved seeing the tulips in full bloom. The gardens provide children with easy-to-read maps, so we explored waterfalls, castles, fountains, and treehouses. And, of course, the kids tumbled through several rounds of ring-around-the-rosie (T's favorite game as as of late). Several. (Sidenote - did you know that some scholars believe that ring-around-the-rosie is about dying from the great plague? How depressing is that?)


*This weekend is Claude Moore Colonial's Farm Spring Market Fair (Saturday and Sunday 11 am - 4:30 pm). Great fun for the whole family, click here to read my post about last summer's fair.

*This quote made my night. Thank you Ira Glass. Thank you.

*These hand-made "wings" are beautiful. And they look like so much fun.

*Una Hunderi = WOW!!! (link via a fantastic post on The Blue Hour)

*KidFriendlyDC has the scoop on strawberry season. Click here to check it out.

*I really like these. Quite a bit.

You really can't go wrong with tulips and treehouses. A great combo.


Things to Read - Raising "Princesses"


Lots of parents of girls come into this experience prepared for battle. I was not one of those moms. In fact, it took me years to realize a problem existed. When F asked for a princess dress, I bought her a princess dress - then two, then four, then who knows how many. When she asked to wear the dresses everywhere, I let her wear them, despite condescending conversations parents who proclaimed "my daughter is NOT a princess girl," which I translated as meaning, "I'm not a princess mom/dad." My goal as a parent has always been to teach my children that they can be anything they want to be (as cheesy as that sounds). So if F, at the age of 3, wanted to make feudalistic fashion choices, I let it be.

The real problem manifested itself during a bbque with family friends. F was 3, as was E, our friends' son. When I looked over F was sitting by herself on the patio, E was coming my way. "She says she's in the tower and needs me to get her out." "Seriously?" I asked. But this was just beginning, throughout the morning F refused all of E's efforts. He didn't slay the dragon severely enough. He didn't run fast enough. The key was the wrong size. After an hour, my daughter still resided in an imaginary fortress and E had had enough. So had I. How did this happen? How had my "you can be anything you want to be" parenting resulted in my daughter forcing boys to rescue her? Proactive measures were needed.

After the bbque, a friend recommended Sharon Lamb and Lyn Mikel Brown's Packaging Girlhood: Rescuing Our Daughters from Marketers' Schemes and I practically inhaled it. In retrospect, I think the book's analysis is a little over aggressive - as in yes, I agree a problem exists, but unlike the book's authors I don't think the sky is caving in, so to speak. Yet the book contains several interesting questions and discussion topics to broach with children (boys or girls), such as "[i]sn't it funny that just because there are boys and girls, everyone seems to think they're opposite?" and "Why do you think they chose a girl who is so pretty an skinny to play the role? Why do you think they decided to have the prince rescue the princess three times? Why do you think they decided to make the sidekick or the creatures that accompany her all boys?" Along with such questions the book does a good job emphasizing that it is up to us, as parents, to not let our children fall into marketing traps, "adolescent girls may believe that what they are expressing [when they buy into marketing] is uniquely them, but it's your job to mirror back to them what is really unique and interesting about them."

Each chapter of Packaging Girlhood analyzes a different type of marketing to girls - fashion, tv/movies, music, books, and hobbies. I found the chapter on what girls read particularly inciteful/scary. I have a tendency as a parent to always view reading as a good thing, but the book makes a convincing argument that often books geared primarily to girls emphasize the very stereotypes one hopes to avoid (i.e. "math is hard", "all i want is to be pretty", etc.). Scary.

In our own family, the issue of stereotypes in "girls'" books arose recently when my mom sent the girls a care package containing a Barbie-learn-to-read book. As F looked through the book's illustrations she asked me, "mom, why are all the girls just sitting by the pool watching the boys swim? Why aren't they swimming too?" For a moment part of me felt incredibly sad that after years of feminism and "women can be whoever they want to be" I had to explain to my daughter that, yes, teenage girls are allowed in the pool. But then I became grateful that F raised the issue, that she now picks up stereotypes better than I do.

Another great read on the topic of girls and marketing is Peggy Orenstein's Cinderella Ate My Daughter: Dispatches from the Front Lines of the New Girlie-Girl Culture. Orenstein writes in a funny, conversational tone, while digging into the issue of "[w]hy has girlhood become so monochromatic?" As summarized by Orenstein, "[l]ittle girls may have more real-life role models than they used to, more examples of how to be in the world, but they have precious few larger-than-life heroes, especially in the all-important realm of fantasy, where they spend so much of their free time." I highly suggest reading it.

Of course, the problem doesn't reside in marketing alone. I think as parents it becomes so easy to focus on all the differences between girls and boys, but you have to realize that kids hear what you're saying. And the message can be quite strong. For example, "oh, of course your girl loves princesses that's so cute, my son is SUCH A BOY - he only loves superheros and saving the world." Translation to a child - girls can't be superheros and princesses can't save worlds, only boys can. Maybe I sound a little crazy and maybe I am. All in all I tend to think I'm a pretty laid back parent (probably too laid back a lot of the time), but this is the one issue that worries me. And it's the one issue that my kids have bought into. P used to assert "I can't play with those legos, they're BOY legos." So of course for her birthday someone bought her a set of pink, "girl legos". Despite their gender-coded hue, I plan on handing these down to T when he's old enough. After all legos are legos, or so I'd like to think.

All this being said, this ten year old's rant to "boys around the world" made me feel so hopeful. Apparently the marketers haven't won over everyone. I love this kid.

Things to Do - Reflect


Growing up my best friend in the world was my grandpa. I wish I could remember all the fun stuff we did together, but those early years remain somewhat blurry. What I do remember was the feeling that he gave me of always being in the moment with him, as if the two of us were the only people in the world. And I remember that he never expected anything of me he just seemed to like playing with me, no strings attached.

Eventually I went to school and met more friends. And learned to love TV and pop culture and boys. And as I became more self-involved, I saw less of my grandpa. At the time I felt that my parents held this against me, that viewed me as abandoning grandpa. But my grandfather always seemed completely accepting of the loss of our closeness, as if this was the way it had to be. As the years went by my grandpa suffered from dementia and became almost childlike. I wish I had some great story about how this effected me strongly, how hard it was. But truthfully I was in high school by then and I had college applications and prom dates and I didn't think about him as much as I probably should have. Though in other ways I never forgot our friendship. T is named after my grandpa and it was one of the few non-negotiables in my marriage.

Anyways, now that I have my own children I think about my grandfather quite a lot. I try to remind myself that the kids will remember so little of what we do and what we talk about, rather at the end of the day they'll just be left with a hazy blur regarding how I made them feel. It sounds so easy to say that you'll be in the moment with your children, but in reality it's so hard to do. These years are always so busy - so many meals to make, bills to pay, details to plan, SO much cleaning (seriously, more than I ever thought possible), hopefully some romance with your spouse, so many little needs that fill up the days. And so little sleep. But I try. At least they have that.



Things to Do - A Backyard Art Gallery


P's asthma has been much better this year (especially since we no longer have our cat), but at times it still acts up. A few nights ago she needed nebulizer treatments, with steroids, making it impossible for her to sleep. So we stayed up and watched cartoons until the wee hours of the morning. And P napped through most of the next day, despite the beautiful spring weather. While P slept, I set up some brushes and paint in the backyard for T and F, who had a great time creating our backyard art gallery. Well, until T decided to paint himself instead. Kids are always so fun until they aren't.


*Days worth of inspiration, right here.

*Wonderful composition and light.

*Jonathan Safran Foer's new book uses words from existing text to make a new story, the pages all have holes in them so that different words are revealed. Sounds interesting, check out pictures here.

*Wow, these are gorgeous wedding pictures.

*I love this new take on the family portrait.



Things to Make - Bouncy Balls


I originally bought a DIY bouncy ball kit from Target as a child's birthday party gift. But then one of my kids got sick and we skipped the party, so I figured we'd try the kit ourselves. I wasn't expecting much, but this project ended up being awesome (I need a bigger vocabulary) and so simple. You just pour the powder into the mold, then stick the mold in water for about a minute, let dry and you have a SUPER bouncy ball. We made these while T napped and the best part was seeing him wake up to a tube full of balls. At first he kept hiding them behind his back, as if scared the girls would take them away. But once he understood that he could play and play, he became quite a happy little boy. Similar kits are available through Amazon for under $10 - Make your own Bouncy balls - craft kit makes 12 balls and MegaBrands Super Bouncing Ball Activity Kit.


*Bad Hausfrau has a great tutorial on how to use a specific solvent to make art projects out of old newspapers and magazines. The results are pretty cool.

*These glass block jello snacks are so pretty, plus I'm one of those dorks that actually likes jello.

*Wet on wet watercolor painting

*I love the Artful Parent's flower box idea (using real flowers and contact paper). I really want to try it.

*A great tutorial on using painters' tape to make patterns on fabric.

*Rolling pin stamps.



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