Things to Do - Tag Old Photos on Facebook


A few weeks ago, a Facebook acquaintance from my college days tagged me in a group picture, circa 1998 or so. At first, the image was so foreign I assumed my inclusion had been accidental. The other people pictured were all friends of my college boyfriend, who I hadn't seen or talked with in over 15 years. But sure enough, upon close inspection the image included a young, sort of blah looking me.

I spent the rest of the day trying to piece together who these people were, when the image was taken, etc. Isn't it funny how memory works? At noon that day, I couldn't have told you a singe thing about the photo, but, almost as if I'd gone into an attic and taken a box off the shelf, by 5 pm the entire weekend (Spring Break in Denver, my senior year of college) came back to me - down to the detail of what we had to drink (strawberry lemonade, because everyone was tired and hung over) and the fact that my facebook acquaintance's mother had treated us all to the meal (Mexican food). She was a judge, which seemed so incredibly worldly at that point in my life - the first judge I had ever met.

The odd thing about aging is that you picture yourself in younger years as looking a certain way, or more exactly, as being a certain way. As you get older, you keep the good photographs and throw away the bad ones. You hold onto the memories of a fun, exciting "you" and let go of the other stuff. You become, basically, a little more glamorous.

But in this group photo I didn't radiate glamour at all. Rather, I was underdressed and ghostly pale, with pulled back hair and no makeup except for the bright pink lipstick that I wore everywhere in those days. I can hazily remember the conversation I had with my boyfriend prior to the dinner, stating that I was too tired/lazy to look nice. Probably some sort of request for downtime or to do our own thing - my anti-social introvert tendencies causing an almost fight.

And I realized how little I've truly changed. That I can blame my sweatpant wearing ways on my children or on my lack of a "real" job, but that I've always been rather slouchy. And that a whole weekend surrounded by other people has always overwhelmed me, that this will be an issue in all my relationships (thank you, Dan, for dealing with me:). That maybe I was never that glamorous.

Anyone reading this who knows me probably isn't surprised by anything I've said. But I'm still a little boggled by it all - that suddenly the past can surface like that, become almost real for a moment, an open door. And it's not good or bad. It just is. And so are you.



Places to Go (Vacation) - NYC Winter Weekend, Part II - Broadway and the M&M Store


On Saturday morning, we awoke on the 27th floor to snow falling over Times Square, the kids loved it more than TV. They also immediately started screaming "we need to go to the M&M store! Today! We NEED to go!" (If there is one place in the world nobody ever NEEDS to go, it's a giant store full of M&Ms). So after breakfast we dressed for the arctic and ventured outside. As always, the M&M store was crazy crowded (why do kids love this place so much?), but luckily the average price point is quite low. I bought T a mini light saber filled with candy for $4.50 and he acted like Santa couldn't possibly find any better toy (seriously?).

We then meandered over to see the HUMONGOUS Rockefeller Center Christmas tree. All three kids alternated between telling us "Wow, NYC is so beautiful at Xmas! I wish DC was like this! Look at the decorations and the Santa Clauses everywhere!" to "I'm cold and bored. Can we go back to the hotel yet?" We ended up stopping at the gigantic Toys R' Us (a working ferris wheel takes up the middle of the store), which was so full of people that I began to have a low scale anxiety attack.

And, finally, the big moment arrived - Matilda on Broadway. Since there are 5 of us, I bought the cheaper balcony seats, which were not that great. But still, I found the whole production over-the-top awesome (T can't stop singing "the little bit naughty" song). I thought F would love the play, since Matilda is one of her favorite books of all time, but as the script strayed from the book, she seemed disappointed. Oh well, I was enthralled.

Walking back down a very snowy Broadway, we learned that the tkts discount booth still had tickets to that night's showing of Annie. When in Rome . . . So we took the kids to two Broadway shows in one day (one at 8 pm). And I'm really glad we did, because Annie positively ENTHRALLED the girls. And T tried his best, but by 10:15 he was asleep in the chair. Oh well, all in all a perfect weekend.



Walking in the snow, post M&M store, in search of a really big tree.


Play #1 - I thought it rocked.


Despite the cold, it was sort of fun to see Broadway through the snow (especially since DC temperatures reached 70 degrees the next weekend).


Play #2 - T tried, but by 10:15 those 4 year old eyes had to close.


Places to Go (Vacation) - NYC Winter Weekend, Part I - MOMA


When F was little, as in REALLY little (like 2 or 3 (funny how all those years start to blend together), her favorite book was Seen Art?, where a guy wanders into MOMA looking for a friend named "Art" and ends up discovering "art" along the way.

Seen Art?'s plot (obviously) requires understanding that a word can have two meanings (which I think is pretty much impossible for a 2 year old), so reading it to F became rather old as we felt like the whole thing kept going over her head. But she loved it, so we read it again and again and again. Until, finally, the book became lost in the shuffle somewhere (I haven't seen it in a long long time).

So skip ahead 6 years . . .

MOMA is one of my favorite museums ever (despite the crazy high admission price) - the building is beautiful, the exhibits are wonderful, and I like modern art. So when we planned a family weekend in NYC, Dan immediately stated "don't worry, I'll take the kids so you can have some time to yourself in MOMA." But this trip, I figured the girls were old enough to explore with me and I really hoped they'd like it (fingers crossed).

Immediately upon arrival, F looked up and said "MOMA, I've heard of this before. Remember, we used to have some book, where a guy wanted to find his friend named Art but ended up learning all about art? I loved that book." This statement made me realize two things - (1) the early years really do matter, so glad that I spent hours upon hours reading out loud while my kids tried to eat every book in site; (2) my daughter freakishly remembers everything. as in everything. (this isn't necessarily a good thing).

F then basically went on a scavenger hunt, recalling by memory everything in the Seen Art? book. I know I sound like the world's biggest dork, but IT WAS AWESOME!! F's reaction upon seeing Starry Night (absolute awe) was priceless.

In one of their brochures for families, MOMA recommends a game called "Everyone's A Critic" in which you choose an adjective and then everybody "competes" to find works of art that exemplify the adjective (one person operates as the "judge"). So the girls and I played this while we meandered (I learned that MOMA contains LOTS of "tragic" works).

As wonderful as the first hour or so was, eventually the girls became "sort of bored." At this point, we decided to check out MOMA's Art Lab for kids for awhile (a small, but amazing space), where the girls made stop motion films, painted masterpieces using a wii remote, created Calder mobiles, and drew lots of art.

All in all, an amazing day.


The Art Lab was all sorts of awesome.


Our whole family had a fabulous time wondering around the city. P couldn't stop saying "wow, NYC is just so much more Chrismassy then DC."


But nothing really beats jumping on the bed and checking out city views from the 27th floor.


Things to Do - Cherish This Day & Random Links


Some pics of the snow from a few weeks ago (when Arlington canceled school). Now click on over to Cherish This Day and see what everyone else has been photographing lately.



* The Grand Canyon filled with clouds.

* Russia before the Olympics.

* NPR's non-list guide to the best books of 2013 (with a really fun interface).

* One studio = numerous possibilities. Amazingness.

* Best photobooks of 2013.

* Anyone up for a roadtrip to Newfoundland, Pennsylvania? I've never really gotten over Jake Ryan (has anybody)?

* Just another collection of diary emotions.

* I know this ad has already gone viral, but I still love it.


Things to Read and Do - Zoopossible! Royal Kingdom

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When my friend Lola told me about an awesome-sounding children's book she authored, my immediate response was "I want a copy! I want to review it for the blog! This sounds fantastic!" And then I became nervous, what if my kids didn't like it? How awkward. My fears were not alleviated when I told F I received a new book for us to read. Without even glancing at the book in my hand, F declared "um, mom, I'm kind of into picking out my own books now. sorry." So I moved on to my ever-skeptical second child who answered my inquiry by stating, "um, well, I guess. What's it about? Can I play wii instead?"

As you can tell, operation book review was NOT going well. Then, FINALLY, P actually looked at the book. Still hesitant, she stated, "this looks sort of cool, can we read it together?"

Luckily, as soon as we started reading, the MAGIC KICKED IN!! The plot, which involves a zoo kingdom, an animal lover prince, and an arranged marriage with a mall-loving (rather awful) princess is funny in a way that both parents and kids can appreciate (thank you, Lola!!). But here's the really cool part - every few pages the books asks children to draw something mentioned in the story. For example, early in the book the prince discusses a hurt "Snoozfly." And then a blank page asks children to doodle/describe the injured creature.

"But what does a snoozfly look like, mom?", asked P.

"Well, it's up to you," I replied. "How do you think a snoozfly would look?"

Within seconds, P had relocated the markers to our living room and was busy creating a new species.

And so went our afternoon, alternating between reading and arting, as P became both reader and illustrator for "Zoopossible! Royal Kingdom."

I have to admit, I think Lola's whole idea of an interactive book is sort of brilliant. Sometimes when I read to my kids, I wonder "are they even listening?" It can be like talking to a void. But with Zoopossible, kids actively engage with a book. And, more importantly, they WANT to do so.

The book is available on Amazon, click here to check it out (and/or purchase a copy).

*Zoopossible! is somewhat long and contains some large words, so I'd probably recommend it for children over 5.


Things to Do - 12 in 12 (December 2013)

This month the 12th fell on a somewhat kid-free Thursday, which was fine and good because on Friday we left for a long family weekend in NYC. So I mostly spent Thursday completing errands, packing, catching up on some TV . . .

Sometimes you need a day like this.

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8:45 am - Walking the girls to school. The dogs are crazy when walked together, so now we separate them, but I always feel so bad about leaving one behind.

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9:00 am - Crazy how you can still see colors from the sunrise behind the playground.

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9:05 am - This is what happens when we leave Coco alone in the house (she can now break out of a crate that's locked with 10 carabiners and 2 bike locks, it's like living with Houdini).

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9:45 am - Kickboxing. Jessie is the best instructor ever. She makes me smile and laugh like crazy, even during burpees.

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11:30 am - Union Market with Trina for some holiday shopping. I (of course) end up only buying things for myself (somehow it seemed perfectly normal to spend $50 on tea). And soup for lunch. Really good soup.

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1:45 pm - Pick T up from preschool and then drop him off at a playdate. More time to myself (which feels crazy).

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2:00 pm - Fold laundry and pack while watching episode 1 of the Real Housewives of Beverly Hills (I broke down and bought the whole season on Amazon Instant video because everyone needs a guilty pleasure, but Dan hates it and I don't want the kids watching it, so I need to "sneak" the housewives in). [By the way, in case there are any other "fans" (I use this term loosely) out there - Yolanda annoys me and what's up with the crazy witch lady this season? Why is she always so cranky?]

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3:30 pm - Pick T up from his playdate and then walk to pick up the girls from school. Yes, pink sheet and Knuffle Bunny REALLY need to come with us.

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3:45 pm - Best friends after school. A playdate is requested and granted, as they knew it would be.

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4:15 pm - Run over to the neighbor's house to take some quick photos of her kids as a surprise b-day gift for her husband (for those of you who know said neighbor, let's keep the surprise on the downlow, k?). I haven't processed the pics yet, but so far I really like this shot.

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5:00 pm - The kids play wii before homework. Lately they enjoy making miis of their favorite pop stars.

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9:00 pm - Dinner at Rosa Mexicana to celebrate Shannon's birthday and baby. They brought her a shot disguised as a cake, that Rosa is pretty clever (if she's even real).

Now click on over to Not-So-SAHM to see how her day went.


Things to Do - Grateful List (November 2013)


* Watching season 1 of Don't Trust the B**** in Apartment 23
* Watching Master Chef Jr. as a family (the kids LOVED it)
* Watching Frances Ha!
* Reading The Examined Life: How We Lose and Find Ourselves
* Attending We Are In a Play as a family and F leaning over to tell me "thank you, this is wonderful mom"
* Watching A Place at the Table as a family
* Watching The Stories We Tell

* Chickpea, cucumber, tomato, and avocado salad (via Washington Post Cookbook)
* Salted caramel apple popsicles (via People's Pops: 55 Recipes for Ice Pops, Shave Ice, and Boozy Pops from Brooklyn's Coolest Pop Shop)
* Eating lots of strawberry mochi
* Jesse and Amie's thanksgiving feast

* Closing out Cox Farms for the second year in a row (thank you, St. Pierres!)
* Watching the sea anemone feeding at the National Zoo with T, Jules, and Q
* Tuesday night at Silver Diner for P's birthday (face painting and crafts)
* A VERY cold day at the National Children's Museum (esp. American flag shrinky dinks)
* Spaworld adventure day with Lola and Trina (followed with prosecco)
* Waking up for 6 am Bikram
* Fuego with Alison for some much needed girl time
* P hanging from the bar in the Spy Museum's James Bond exhibit for 47 seconds (she rocked it)!
* The Sackler Gallery's yoga exhibit

* Wonderful party decorations and crafts for F's 8th birthday party (Thank you Land of Nod!!)

* P scoring a goal at her last soccer game
* F's class nominating her as their student council representative
* P reading chapter books (both girls are Wimpy Kid obsessed)
* T falling asleep in his fox sleeping bag surrounded by 8 giggling girls during F's 8th birthday sleepover
* F and her magic science kit (she can self-entertain for hours with it)
* Playgroup at Kelly's house (interesting conversations involving open marriage, baby dikes, and burning man)
* T finally drawing people (sort of)
* Fantastic report cards for F and P
* Finishing up a fabulous season of photoshoots


F - my family, that we have a nice house to live in and food to eat, a great day, a great mom and dad, a sort of great sister, my class electing me to student council, piano, Xmas, the long weekend, countdown to Xmas, Thanksgiving

P - the Neverending Story, soccer, gymnastics, books, the library, the holidays, my birthday, Halloween, Cox Farms, the sleepover [for F's birthday], art, cookies, Master Chef Jr., my monster dolls, all my grandparents, voice lessons, my cousins, Project Runway

T - the Neverending Story, our family, Cox Farms, McDonalds, puppy, Coco, TV, our feast at school, going to the zoo, that we have enough food to eat


Things to Read - Interesting Articles From Around the Web (on Tragedy, Children's play, Formerly rich people, Kinfolk, Chinese labor camps, Big families, and Funerals)

* The Atlantic published a short article highlighting the importance of discussing world tragedies in the classroom -

"Adolescents often have fragmented notions about real-world, R-rated themes: violence, death, sex, scandal. Sheltering students from these distressing subjects only keeps their frame of reference limited to the grapevine. And I fear ignorance far more than scruples. Talking about difficult issues such as gun control from a young age is a positive way to influence students' developing sense of belonging in society.

A gratifying byproduct of current events education is how it enhances their other school subjects. Social studies becomes palpable. Literature suddenly has social context. History is thought-provoking, like the time our discussion about marijuana legislation turned into an analysis of Prohibition."

* Peter Gray wrote a great article on the play deficit and how it affects most children -

"[There has been ]a continuous, essentially linear, increase in anxiety and depression in young people over the decades, such that the rates of what today would be diagnosed as generalised anxiety disorder and major depression are five to eight times what they were in the 1950s. Over the same period, the suicide rate for young people aged 15 to 24 has more than doubled, and that for children under age 15 has quadrupled.

. . . .

The decline in opportunity to play has also been accompanied by a decline in empathy and a rise in narcissism, both of which have been assessed since the late 1970s with standard questionnaires given to normative samples of college students. . . . Children can’t learn these social skills and values in school, because school is an authoritarian, not a democratic setting. School fosters competition, not co-operation; and children there are not free to quit when others fail to respect their needs and wishes."


* Even though I never heard of Simone Levitt before reading her profile in New York Magazine, I found myself fascinated by her story and life (as summarized by the author "[Levitt] was once married to Bill Levitt, one of the richest men in America. Now she lives in a rented one-bedroom, alone with her memories. But oh, what memories.")

""When I asked about her state of mind—what does that kind of loss of wealth and status feel like?—she smiled the way Ruth Madoff might smile if she became a ­Buddhist. “We had a life that was unimaginable,” she told me. “But I’m happy with today. Look, I told my daughter—she bought a new apartment—‘Nicole, don’t be cynical. You’re forgetting to enjoy today. Don’t say you can’t wait for it to be finished. Don’t do that. Squeeze everything out of the moment. Don’t look for tomorrow.’ I don’t look back. If I do, I never regret. I appreciate. I believe that nothing is forever. The painting on this wall, in another five years maybe it’ll be on someone else’s wall. My rings and jewelry, the shirt I have on, it will be on somebody else. Nothing and nobody lasts forever. Everything changes hands.”


* Is anyone else sick of the whole Kinfolk ethic (i.e. "a life of a cultivated beauty that serves up the illusion of simplicity.")? I loved this piece.

"After thumbing through three-hundred-plus pages, it occurs to me that the Kinfolk cookbook is a variation on a single theme: the creation of a life lived in an Anthropologie catalog. It’s the reason why we get lost in blogs and the lives of strangers. We want to be happy, always. We want a life free of storms and sorrow. We want our linens, and bowls, and kitchens with reclaimed wood—and in this way, Kinfolk succeeds, for its America is rarefied and specific, rife with denizens who are preened to dishabille perfection and apply pretty filters to their photos. I recall a similar charade: GOOP. While escapism looks lovely on paper, in practice it’s difficult and expensive. You don’t need a book to tell you how to gather, you don’t need a formula to cultivate simplicity. Find the people you love, a space to lay down plates, and a meal that binds the two."


* Sometimes it's important to remember where several of our "cheap" goods come from. One women had an awful surprise when her plastic pumpkin included a note from an inmate in a Chinese labor camp - "The decorations came in a $29 "Totally Ghoul" toy set that Keith purchased in a local Kmart store in 2011. When she opened the package before Halloween last year, a letter fell out. In broken English mixed with Chinese, the author cried for help: "If you occasionally (sic) buy this product, please kindly resend this letter to the World Human Right Organization. Thousands people here... will thank and remember you forever. The letter went on to detail grueling hours, verbal and physical abuses as well as torture that inmates making the products had to endure -- all in a place called Masanjia Labor Camp in China."

* David Sedaris wrote a sad, but wonderful personal history for the New Yorker about his family's trip to the beach after the suicide of his sister.

“Why do you think she did it?” I asked as we stepped back into the sunlight. For that’s all any of us were thinking, had been thinking since we got the news. Mustn’t Tiffany have hoped that whatever pills she’d taken wouldn’t be strong enough, and that her failed attempt would lead her back into our fold? How could anyone purposefully leave us, us, of all people? This is how I thought of it, for though I’ve often lost faith in myself, I’ve never lost it in my family, in my certainty that we are fundamentally better than everyone else. It’s an archaic belief, one that I haven’t seriously reconsidered since my late teens, but still I hold it. Ours is the only club I’d ever wanted to be a member of, so I couldn’t imagine quitting. Backing off for a year or two was understandable, but to want out so badly that you’d take your own life?

“I don’t know that it had anything to do with us,” my father said. But how could it have not? Doesn’t the blood of every suicide splash back on our faces?

* And, finally, Deirdre Sullivan reminds us to always go to the funeral (such good advice, I wish I had followed it earlier in life) -

"Always go to the funeral" means that I have to do the right thing when I really, really don't feel like it. I have to remind myself of it when I could make some small gesture, but I don't really have to and I definitely don't want to. I'm talking about those things that represent only inconvenience to me, but the world to the other guy. You know, the painfully under-attended birthday party. The hospital visit during happy hour. The Shiva call for one of my ex's uncles. In my humdrum life, the daily battle hasn't been good versus evil. It's hardly so epic. Most days, my real battle is doing good versus doing nothing.

In going to funerals, I've come to believe that while I wait to make a grand heroic gesture, I should just stick to the small inconveniences that let me share in life's inevitable, occasional calamity.


Things to Make - Peppermint Body Scrub (so Christmassy)!

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After learning, this spring, how easy it is to make body scrubs (check out the recipe here for our wonderful rosemary sage scrub), the kids and I keep experimenting with different recipes. For winter, peppermint seemed like a much needed ingredient, perfect for teachers' gifts.

Here's our (rather imprecise) recipe:


1. Fill a mason jar approximately 1/2 to 3/4 full with sea salt (the coarser, the better).

2. Slowly pour Almond Oil Sweet Oilover the salt, until it just covers the top. (Note that the scrubs photographed above have way too much oil, so we drained a lot of it off (and added more salt as well)).

3. Add about 5 drops of Peppermint Essential Oil

4. Shake.

5. Smell. Add more peppermint if necessary. If the scrub is too oily, pour off some of the top oil.

6. Scrub.

If you don't want to use this as a body scrub, it also works great on hands (just keep it next to the sink). I love making it with the kids because they can "help" and it's almost impossible to mess up.



Places to Go - Checking out Holiday Trains and Learning about the World's Fair at the US Botanic Garden (Washington DC)


Last week, after preschool, T and I met up with some friends to check out the US Botanic Garden's annual train display. This year the exhibit spotlighted past World Fairs and we had a blast learn-exploring (who knew that the TV debuted in 1939 at the New York World's Fair?). The kids watched the trains for over 20 minutes, waiting for Thomas and waving as he sped by.

For extra fun this year, the exhibit also includes a passport scavenger hunt, where you can search through the rest of the gardens looking for plants made famous at World's Fairs.

If you want to check out the trains, the exhibit is FREE and open daily from 10 am to 5 pm (though beware, on weekends lines can snake around the building, so if you can arrange it, try to visit on a weekday). Also, during December, the gardens offer free concerts on Tuesday and Thursday nights, click here for additional info.


Who doesn't love a ferris wheel? Especially when Thomas the Train drives past?


After the trains, we explored the jungle for a little bit. Wait, did I say explored? Scratch that. I meant "ran through the canopy crazy fast."


We also picnicked outside because if you have the opportunity to dine next to a moose, you don't ever pass it up.


Things to Do - Cherish This Day & Random Links

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T's best friend these days is an adorable little girl nicknamed Jules. She's one of the sweetest children I've ever met and with her long yellow hair Jules looks like something out of a fairy tale - thus setting a pretty high standard for future "girl" friends.

A few weeks ago I brought both of them to the Hirshhorn's new Damage Control exhibit. I probably should have thought twice before taking two preschoolers to an exhibit centered on destruction - when we arrived Jules walked right up to the first photo she saw and said "oh, how sad a car crash." Then she walked to the next photo and said "oh, another crash, isn't that sad?" This went on for a few pictures before I decided to redirect.

We moved on to an "art" movie with footage of the bomb. As I didn't feel like explaining nuclear war I told the kids it was like a "giant firework" (I'm sure there are some readers who hate me right now) to which they both became really excited as they "love fireworks!". We then watched a video of a pickup truck pulling around an electric guitar, both kids asked "why?". T guessed that the artist "really hates music." And so went the afternoon.

I found the exhibit somewhat gratuitously violent and pointlessly destructive, so the two happy preschoolers (both of who insisted on carrying Jules' pink dolphins throughout the museum) added a strain of happiness. After the museum, the kids started to run around next to a concrete wall and I (of course) decided to take their picture.

Happy Friday everyone!! Click on over to Cherish This Day to see what everyone else has been photographing lately.


* 22 Dreamy Art Installations You'll Want to Live in (well, maybe not actually live in, but at least spend a few hours).

* Take the color challenge.

* What the world eats. Really interesting photos (the book is also great).

* 1998. So much nostalgia, if only for the adorable Lindsey Lohan pic.

* Edward Hopper reinterpreted.

* Behind closed doors with the women of Saudi Arabia.

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Things to Read - How to Build an A


I wrote about Sara Mida's How to Build an A book/building set years ago, when we started teaching P to read (click here for the past post). But I'm going to write about it again, because for T's last year of preschool, the book/kit has become invaluable.

T has awful fine motor skills, he still struggles with writing his own name. And while we're working on this issue, Mida's letter construction set has made it much easier to teach him letters and the alphabet, especially to work on how they're formed. Plus, he thinks it's a game, some days he can play with it for hours (other days, not so much).

Anyways, for preschoolers, the kit makes for a fantastic introduction to the alphabet.

Happy Thursday everyone!!


Things to Do - Talk About Infertility

Over the last year or so, my friend Cathi has written periodic posts about her work with Moms Demand Action and common sense gun control laws (click here to read her latest post) (by the way, as someone who is pro-gun control and pro-hunting (yes, the two can co-exist), I'd like to give a huge shout out to my husband for shooting two deer this weekend - we now have SO MUCH FOOD!!).

Anyways, the response to Cathi's posts has been wonderful (thank you everyone!!), so I've decided to branch out and ask other friends about issues that are near and dear to them.

For today's post my friend Kelly has written a wonderful piece about her struggles with infertility, including links to resources and support networks. So if there's anyone out there struggling with similar issues, remember you're not alone. And if any readers have an issue or cause they'd like to write about, please email me!

My Journey to Parenthood - by Kelly Maguire

Four years, four miscarriages, four treatment cycles (in vitro fertilization and IUI) and $40,000 later my husband and I welcomed our first child, a son, into our lives in 2005. This was not the journey we imagined, dreamed, hoped or planned for, and it was hell along the way. But, the journey to parenthood ultimately has impacted our lives in ways for which I am forever grateful.

Infertility is a disease of the reproductive system and is defined as the inability to conceive after 1 year for women under the age of 35, or 6 months for those over 35. It affects approximately 10% of the United States population, which means that it’s likely that your neighbor, colleague, cousin or college suitemate are having issues building a family.

After trying to conceive for a year with no success my husband and I went to my OB/GYN for evaluation. There’s a standard battery of tests to make sure the pipes are open, ovaries are plump, uterus is hospitable, and swimmers are healthy. Like many couples we “passed” these tests. While we were grateful there wasn’t any devastating news, we were looking for answers and had none. We were then referred to a Reproductive Endocrinologist (RE) for further evaluation.

The RE sells treatment. Yes, they are there to do further evaluation, but they basically have a toolbox of alternative ways to get pregnant and depending on your age, test results, tolerance for invasive treatment, and depth of your pockets you can choose from the low-budget option (e.g., intra-uterine insemination or IUI) to more invasive in vitro-fertilization (IVF). While a doctor oversees and recommends option there is nothing short of a menu to choose from, most with “payment plans” for the more expensive options.

We found the choices bewildering, the decisions overwhelming, and the process intimidating. For the price of a new car I had around a 15-20% chance of getting pregnant. (www.sart.org publishes all sorts of statistics by clinic across the U.S.) I wouldn’t take that bet in any other situation, but somehow our family’s future was riding on this unpleasant lottery. In order to help navigate the options we were fortunate enough to both stumble upon and seek out resources that provided significant insights, additional information, and most importantly, a sense of normalcy about our situation.

RESOLVE: The National Infertility Association (www.resolve.org) became our go-to resource for education and support. RESOLVE is the premier patient resource for all-things infertility. We attended a local conference is 2002 and immediately felt a sense of relief. We heard from a variety of medical professionals about various treatment possibilities and were able to explore options for building our family, such as adoption, surrogacy, and donor eggs. Equally important was the opportunity to meet people who were facing the same fears, hopes, and concerns as us, as well as seeing families that were built in creative, unique, yet entirely normal ways.

I ended up becoming a RESOLVE volunteer and started coordinating their education programs. It felt good to channel my own fears about family building in a positive way. But, more importantly, I made friends. People from all walks of life who were facing the same thing I was. It normalized what I was going through and at one point I thought, “all my friends are infertile.” We had our own little club and I kind of liked it! Funny how life takes funny twists like this. To this day, my RESOLVE friends are some of my closest and while we’ve all “resolved” our infertility in different ways we remain connected through this unique experience.

I also found a great therapist who very quickly diagnosed me with “unresolved grief.” Through talk therapy and a few concrete activities I was able to address and move through the never-ending stream of losses that come with infertility. There is a Native American tradition that if you write a letter to a loved one who has died and plant the letter at the roots of a tree as the tree grows it carries your message to the heavens. We aren’t religious people, but this was right up my alley. I wrote a letter to all the losses we had experienced . . . the miscarriages, the failed treatment cycles, and the lost years of parenting. My husband dug the holes and we planted the letters and then the trees. Acknowledging the losses, and honoring them, provided immediate relief.

Finally, a few books became invaluable resources. Ali Domar’s Conquering Infertility gave research-based information about the mind-body connection. Toni Weschler’s Taking Charge of Your Fertility taught me more about the female reproductive system than any science class I took in high school or college. And Randine Lewis’s The Infertility Cure talked about alternative resources when it seemed like traditional medicine was not going to be enough.

While the infertility journey is the lowest period of my life and still causes pangs of sadness, I’ve woven it into my life in ways that I hope have made me more understanding and sensitive of what others might be going through to build their families, or just navigating life in general. And, when I look at the 3 children I have I am both amazed and grateful for the journey to bring them into this world.

Kelly Maguire lives in Arlington, VA with her husband and 3 children, ages 8, 5, and 19 months.

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