Wednesday, September 29, 2010

PSA: Learn about vision care and win an iPad!

Vicki Davis-- an awesome classroom innovator with a blog called Cool Cat Teacher-- is promoting vision care with an exciting contest. Vision care is a bigger deal than you may think. Here's why:

  • Eye doctors not only look for blurred vision. They can see signs of diabetes, high blood pressure, and high cholesterol.
  • Kids need eye exams at 6 months, 3 years, and before Kindergarten. 
  • 80% of what you learn is through your eyes.

Check out for more trivia and information on eye health and vision care savings, and also like them on Facebook and "send a wink," which donates money for service dogs for the blind.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Questions we never thought we'd ever, ever ask

  1. What's in your mouth?
  2. Did you poop?
  3. Is that spit-up or snot on my shoulder?
  4. Why is Bear Bear wet?
  5. Is Princess Presto saying "Wands up!" or "Kwanzaa?" Is that racist? 
  6. Is this pee or sweat?
  7. Well, whose nuk is that?
  8. Is this crayon or marker on the dryer? 
  9. Seriously-- can I see what's in your mouth, please?
  10. Where did that booger go?
  11. How many Weight Watchers points for these yogurt puff things? 
  12. Are you trying to bite me?
  13. Why is it so quiet in there?
  14. Did you just lick the refrigerator? 

Monday, September 27, 2010

Fear of the Week: Mean Kids

I have no idea what I'm going to do when Norah starts school. Probably fall apart.

On Saturday we went shopping for diapers and the like, and wandered into the toy aisle, so Norah could explore a little. There were two little boys there, and she ran up to them.

"Noonie," she said, patting her chest. She was like a polite little cave person, introducing herself. Me Noonie. You friend. 

They ignored her and walked away.

She followed and sort of positioned her self in between them and the toys they were looking at. "Noonie,"she repeated, beaming.

They ignored her again and walked away.

She trotted back to me with a perplexed look on her little face and motioned "up." I picked her up and rubbed her back. "It's okay," I murmured. "They are socially inept little neanderthal jerkfaces."

And that was nothing. Nothing! She would be damn lucky if that's the worst a kid ever did to her. Kids are monsters. They naturally contrive social hierarchies and ruthlessly administer daily reminders of caste position. The playground is Lord of the Flies at best. Even sweet, normally kindhearted children wield plenty of hurt if it means self-preservation.

I vividly remember coming home from school one day and running straight up to my room. There was a bully in my class and he had tormented me the entire day. I threw myself on my bed and wept, my mother not far behind. As I tried to explain to her the situation in between heaving sobs, I could tell she wanted to do something. She was just as upset as I was. She rubbed my back as I cried into my pillow and asked me questions she knew the answer to: no, she couldn't talk to the teacher or the bully or anyone. No, ignoring him didn't work. No, it doesn't help that he probably has low self-esteem and is trying to build himself up.

I can picture her desperate, pained expression even to this day. I bet if she ran into this kid-now-an-adult-and-likely-a-normal-person, she'd probably give him the finger.

And that will be me. And my sweet angel will be the one draped across her bed, soaking her pillow with tears. And I will envision bursting through the wall of the classroom like a deranged Kool-Aid man, kicking over desks until I make my way to the perpetrator. But I'll just listen to her cry, give her the same advice my mom told me, and my heart will break.

So, we've got that to look forward to.

Monday, September 20, 2010


Norah and I headed to the mall on Sunday, with a goal to get a couple hats for fall. Of course, being that I'm completely oblivious of things others seem to know, non of the stores were yet open when we arrived. The anchor stores like Target and Sears were open, but everything else was dark and gated. We had three options-- 1. leave, which would mean coming back later; 2. stay at Target, which didn't seem like a great idea being that we always spend a buttload there unnecessarily and Norah terrorizes the entire store for some reason; 3. Playland.

Playland is an area for little kids. The entrance is guarded by a large, plastic bear, holding his or her finger up, indicating you half to be this short to enter Playland. There are a bunch of rules posted, but I only remember that you have to take your shoes off. The Playland "equipment" is kind of a mix between plastic and Nerf material. There's a dump truck/slide and different outdoorsy-type structures, like a tent, a log, a dock, and some creatures. The floor is a little bouncy. Norah was in heaven.

She climbed on all the structures, hid in the log to play peek-a-boo, and climbed up the truck-slide while I caught her on the way down. She screeched with happiness and bounded around.

Soon, there were a bunch of other kids. They were all in heaven, and all seemed well. Then a little girl ran up to me and handed me her socks.

"Socks," she said, matter-of-factly. Then she ran off to play more.

I looked up and saw that I was the only parent on the floor. And the only mom. There were a pile of dads, all either on the benches, or standing around the entrance. Hmm.

"Um," I said, raising my voice a little over the ruckus, "Whose is the pink shirt girl?"


"Um, hello?" I said a little louder. I walked over to Pink Shirt Girl and pointed down to her head as she bounced on a dragonfly structure. "Who belongs to her?"

"What's wrong?" a startled dad perked up. I gave him her socks and he said, "Oh."

Then another boy came and his father sat down and started texting or something with some fancy phone. He started to come to me: "Look at me slide! Look at me jump off here!"

Then another little girl about Norah's age started having me catch her down the slide.

Then another little girl, a little younger than Norah, started whimpering. Her dad snatched her up and asked her what was wrong. Obviously she couldn't talk, so he just stared at her, bewildered. I told him she was sad because her big toe had poked through her tights. "Oh."

As I was listening to Norah tell me which fish structures were the mommy, daddy, and baby, the little girl around her age went down the slide alone and ended up in a pile, crying, at the bottom. I ran over and stood her up, gave her a pat, and she scurried around, climbing up the slide again.

Now this is no commentary on all dads, so don't get all up in arms. But these dads were pretty... hands-off. And I was just confused. I thought the people there were possibly just people who didn't realize the stores weren't open yet, too. But that seemed strange, being that they were all dads. (Sexist, I know.) And they all kind of coupled or grouped off, like they knew each other, chatting about the Vikings or boasting about the daring leap their kid just made off of the turtle structure. Maybe it was a Sunday dads' group thing. None of them said more than "Oh" to me. Interesting. Maybe I infringed on something private. I almost asked.

But I was tired of watching all these kids, clapping for their acrobats and helping them climb stuff. Finally the lights started turning on in the stores and gates were slamming open. I scooped up Norah and dug her shoes out of my purse. Off to get hats. I may go to Playland again on Sunday. Or maybe send Ryan in as a mole.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Flashback Friday: Baby Names

Ok, I'm doing something new-- Flashback Fridays. This is when I dig through my repressed memories of either pregnancy (shudder) or newborndom and find something hopefully useful or amusing to write about. Let's give it a whirl.

This is an excerpt from my pregnancy memoir. Hope you enjoy:

“Have you thought of any names yet?”

Just hearing the question made my butt cheeks clench together. Ever since I started looking pregnant and not just fat—although fat still took up a considerable amount of my total composition—I heard this question at least once a day. Family. Friends. Acquaintances. Co-workers. Clerks. Randoms. It wasn’t necessarily the question that made my body tighten up and my inner lip become raw with anticipatory bites, but the inevitable and lengthy conversation to follow. I could make a flow chart of the conversation before the person would even launch into the formulaic dialog, which painfully included even similar facial expressions. The first part of the flow chart diverged into three paths, depending on my response: One, I tell the person our potential name list. Two, I tell them we’re keeping it on the down low. Three, I lie and tell them we haven’t yet decided. Each one of these paths is treacherous, but after enduring multiple reenactments of each conversation, I’ve settled on three: the lie.
The biggest lesson Ryan and I learned was to absolutely not tell people the names we were considering. I was astonished time and time again at what would spill out of peoples’ seemingly innocent mouths. And about a baby’s potential name! It was practically blasphemous. Granted, when I heard of a co-worker naming their child Merlin, I viciously gossiped behind their back, but I never would have said anything to her face.
What we learned from loved ones and strangers about our names was this: Eleanor is an old lady name. Parker is too WASPy. Laurel will remind people of Laurel and Hardy. Sophia is too popular. Mia is the name of “some bitch” someone went to high school with. Victoria will turn into Icky and/or Sticky Vicky. Morgan is a boy’s name. Madeline is too popular. Nixie is too weird. Noelle is cheesy if the due date is in December. Amelia is from the Amelia Bedilia children’s books. Bunny is a stripper name (and this person held this position even after learning that Bunny was my great aunt’s name who recently had passed away from leukemia. And to be fair, Bunny was only going to be a nickname anyway.) Anyway, little by little, our girl name list shrank.
On top of verbally abusing our treasured list, painstakingly created by going through a name book of 50,001 names—literally one by one—and arguing with each other to near tears, people had the nerve to offer up name suggestions to us. As if their suggestion was inadvertently left out of the 50,001 names recorded in what claimed to be the best baby name book in the history of the world. Really? Madison? I hadn’t thought of that. I should have gone to you in the first place. Silly me; making such a production out of something so simple. Madison it is. Name suggestions came from everyone and anyone. The baffling thing about it was that if you showed anything but sublime reverence for the name offered up, the person was offended. You insulted some imaginary baby’s name. Or rather, you insulted someone’s idea of the perfect name. But that didn’t stop them from letting us know that Gwendolyn was “an ugly girl’s name.”

After this little life lesson, we decided not to tell anyone our name list; to keep it safe from unsolicited opinions and obnoxious nickname generation. We figured we’d tell people once the ink was dry on the birth certificate. Anyone who would say anything after the fact would just be a jerk, hands down.

But trying to tell people that it was secret was nearly as offensive as telling them you weren’t in love with their baby name suggestion. By telling them we were keeping secrets, we were basically admitting that we thought people were acting like jerks. Half of the time, I think actually just calling someone a jerk straight to their face would have been less of an affront. And I, being a person who avoids conflict and hurting peoples’ feelings like the proverbial plague, would predictably offer up cowardly excuses (Oh, my family is being so judgmental, or, I promised Ryan I wouldn’t tell) or even throw them a bone or two, usually in the form of a name we’d rejected a long time ago (Well, we’re not really telling, but I kind of like Quinn or Margot.) My sickening need to please people would then catapult me back into the first path of the flow chart. 
It was definitely easier to lie. We may have lost some significant karma points in the cosmic justice bank, but I figure we’ll earn some back by never, ever again torturing any more parents-to-be by offering up name suggestions or trying to come up with a schoolyard rhyme about their great grandfather’s name to show them how wrong they are for choosing it.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

I am... Noonie

While she generally tries to pronounce things the way they sound, Norah also has odd little words for a few different objects. It takes us a little while to figure out what she means. For example, we are to sing "The Wheels on the Bus" when she says, "Round-a-round!" "Bob Barsh" is Spongebob Squarepants. (Yes, she watches a little Spongebob. Judge away.) "Hoppy" is a rabbit. So when she started saying "Noonie," we tried to figure out what she meant.

A week or so ago I thought I had discovered the answer. We were playing our game Goodnight! Good Morning! and I put a little blanket on her.

"No! Noonie!"

I paused. "You want Noonie?"


I thought for a second. "Show Mama your Noonie."

She ran out of her room and we ended up in the living room, her clutching her favorite blanket.

"Is Noonie your blanket?"


I was pretty proud of my detective skills and let Ryan and Grandma know.

But then the other day I was holding her jacket.


"You want your blanket, Baby?"

"NO. Noonie jucka."

I paused. "Is this Noonie's jacket?"


Now I was a little worried. "Does Noonie want to wear her jacket?"


"Baby... are you Noonie?"


I told Ryan this revelation later. He rolled his eyes. Norah was cuddling on my lap. He asked her, "Norah, does your toe hurt?"

"Uh-huh," she answered absentmindedly, bending her Mommy Hugs a little backwards.

"Do you want a unicorn?"


I snapped at him, "Well of course she wants a unicorn. Who doesn't?" I was convinced our daughter either had an imaginary friend, an alter ego, or another personality. All were a little worrisome. Mostly the personality one.

The next day happened to be Norah's 18-month appointment. Yeah, I know she's 20 months. I'm an idiot. We were seeing a new doctor, and our old doctor apparently chose this particular doctor because she's "laid-back." In other words, she thought we were kind of excitable. Anyway, after a few basic information questions, Norah warmed up a little and introduced us to Dr. Wendi. She patted me and said, "Mommy."

"Is that your mommy?" Dr. Wendi asked.

"Mm-hmm." Then she patted her belly. "Noonie."

Before the doc could say anything, I blurted out, "She's Noonie. She renamed herself. Is that normal? Can she just not pronounce 'Norah?' Does she have an imaginary friend or another personality?"

These possibilities suddenly seemed terrifying to me. Well, mispronunciation isn't terrifying, but imaginary friends are. I've heard a million times that it's not uncommon; that there are tons of kids who have little friends to talk to and play with. But I never had experience with that. Maybe I just wasn't creative. But the fact is, people talking to themselves, or to their made-up companions, freaks me the hell out. And multiple personality disorder is beyond terrifying. Years of therapy, medication, total dependence, the lost opportunities... I couldn't even let my mind dip a toe into that one.

My panicked eyes searched Dr. Wendi's face for any sign. Worry, sadness, stress, concerned, a twinge that would indicate she was worried but knew she had to be calm and professional...

She just shrugged. "Kids are weird."

The rest of the appointment was fine. The doc said Norah was very verbal and that she had lovely eyelashes. She left us to get dressed and I looked at Norah, dancing with her new little Curious George book, chanting "Mon-key! Mon-key!" and grinning.

I grinned, too. "Come on, Noonie. Let's roll." Kids are weird. Good lesson.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Beloved children's characters who should die

This post was inspired by a blog post from the Bad Moms Club : Calliou Makes Me Stabby. It made me think, which characters from cartoons and children's programming make me anywhere from annoyed to homicidal?

Pronounced ky-you.The author of that blog post had it right. Ugly kid. Ear-pieringly horrid voice. Stupid name.

Gerald from Sid the Science Kid:
You are not a rock star, kid. And I'm certain that your parents should take you to be evaluated for Ritolin. When Teacher Suzie says it's rug time, sit the hell down.

Curious George:
Doesn't anyone care that this monkey screws everything up? He's touching people's food in restaurants, he's dicking around with instruments at a train station, he's always making a huge mess everywhere. The yellow hat jerk always just smiles embarrassingly and apologizes, as if that is enough when your monkey lets zoo animals out of their cages. And why does he visit the zoo? He's a monkey. It would be like me staring in my neighbor's living room window.

I know I'm not making any friends here. But it's as if some Sesame Street executive was sitting around a conference room with a bunch of marketing people saying, let's create a monster specifically for what we believe a girl is and should want to be. She has to be pink and purple. There must be sparkles somewhere. She should be wearing makeup. Oh, girls like fairies-- make her a fairy. And Abby is in the top ten names of the decade, so little girls can relate to it. Wait, could you make her voice a little more irritating? Yeah, that's it!

Mr. Lopart from Handy Manny:
Um, what the hell is wrong with this guy? He lives with him mom and has picnics with his cat. I think he owns an ice cream shop or a candy store. Is he registered?

Luckily, Norah really is only in love with Abby, and she has just average fondness for the monkey. I think mostly because she likes to dance like a monkey. I think once she hits Hannah Montana age, we'll just get rid of TV all together.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Yours and Mine

Now that Norah has mastered the art of "MINE!", she has started to take notice of what belongs to others. And she really doesn't like it if someone has something that she has deemed belongs to another. Especially if that object belongs to Mommy.

It started a month or so ago. Ryan slipped on my flipflops, which I wear embarrassingly too often, to run out to his car. Upon seeing this, Norah dropped her Weeble and screeched, "Mommy shoe!"

Ryan, being Ryan, either didn't hear her, or wasn't paying attention. Norah took off after him and grabbed his leg.


He stopped and looked at me, confused. She bent down and tried to pull off the flipflops and he braced himself against the wall so as not to topple over. He dropped them both off of his feet, one by one, and she grabbed one and ran to me. She took the flipflop and set it on top of my foot.


"Yeah, Baby?" I said, putting on my flipflop, as I could tell she was waiting for me to do so.

Then she went to retrieve the other one.

"I guess I can find my own shoes," Ryan said, laughing. I laughed, too. It was nice having a protector.

Then it happened a few days later. It was a weekend Ryan didn't work, and it was his day to sleep in until-- wait for it-- 8:00 am! Around that time, Norah started getting anxious to see him, so I said, "Let's wake up Daddy!" She tore into the bedroom, only to find that Daddy had rolled over onto my pillow, blissfully sleeping away. Norah stopped in her tracks.

"MOMMY! MOMMY!" she yelled, and tried to climb up on the bed.

"What is it, Baby?" I asked, slightly concerned. I hoisted her up on the bed as Ryan half sat up, groggily. She made her way through the covers on all fours and grabbed the corner of the pillow.

"Mommy!" she said, right in Ryan's face.

He blinked. "Sorry?"

"Mooommmeee," she said slowly, as if to help him understand. He shifted himself off the pillow, and Norah tugged on it with all her might, finally releasing until it was just resting on top of her.

"Thank you, Silly Goose Egg."

My stuff isn't the only thing she protects, although she probably knows my stuff and Ryan's more than anyone else's (she tried to get behind the counter at the eyeglasses place when the gal was adjusting my frames! "Mommy! Glasses!"). She knows Ryan's favorite blanket. Hannah's dog biscuits and yellow chew toy. Papa's measuring tape and miscellaneous tools. Nana's shoes and purse. Don't mess with other peoples' things, or you will hear about it. And then she will deliver your objects to you, as if you've been wronged.

She needs people to have their own stuff, and she also needs to have things the way they're supposed to be. Cookie Monster does not belong in Go Go's swing. Bear Bear does not go on Daddy's head. Not exactly... flexible. Or as my sister would say, she's OCD. I really, truly hope not. That's actually kind of a crippling diagnosis. Hopefully her fastidiousness will wane later in life, as Ryan and I aren't exactly sticklers on the everything-in-its-place philosophy. Until then, Ryan wears his own flipflops and I wear mine.

Friday, September 3, 2010

Working at Home

A few months ago, I started working for an amazing company: Atomic Learning*.

This job allows me to work from home, as I'm recording video tutorials and I need quiet. I'm really quite lucky-- interesting work, super cool co-workers, fun techie stuff, still education-related, and I get to wear sweatpants. So, what's the problem?

People do not understand what it means to work at home.

Here are my top three most annoying misconceptions I encounter:

3. "Come on, you can do that whenever. You work from home."

Here's the deal: maybe some people can do stuff whenever, but I do keep office hours. That means two small breaks during the day and a lunch period. I am on at 8 and off at 5. Yes, there is some flexibility if need be, but these are my regular working hours.

That doesn't mean that if Ryan is off and home with Norah, that I will be readily available for feedings and diaper changes (i.e. anything that isn't fun). I love having Norah run to the office and give me a hug during the day, and being able to play with her on breaks. But I can't just up and stop working because someone stuck their hand in the toilet and needs washing.

Also, that doesn't mean I can just go shopping, take a 2-hour lunch, or just take a half-day whenever and work at night. And I don't want to work at night. I want to sleep.

2. "Oh, you 'work from home,' wink, wink."

People automatically think you're watching TV, sleeping, or playing games online all day long. Nope. Actually working. Yes, AL employees do have fun. But these are some majorly hard-working people as well. I am proud to be one of them.

1. "It must be wonderful being home with your daughter and work at the same time!"

Well, it's not. It's impossible. People say this to me all the time, and I think either they don't have kids or they have forgotten what it's like. Which is fine, but it makes me feel guilty and horrible.

Norah is 20 months. I can't even take her grocery shopping anymore. She's the Tasmanian Devil.  She requires constant attention or she'll find something sharp or poisonous or esophogous-sized. I can't look at my computer screen for more than 60 seconds.

So, Norah goes to daycare Tuesdays and Thursdays, Nana's Wednesday, Grammy's Friday, and Ryan has her Mondays sometimes at home, if I'm not recording, and sometimes at a grandmother's or the park or something.

And even though I am fully aware that caring for Norah and working simultaneously is not an option, every time I hear someone say this to me, I feel terribly guilty. A former co-worker whom I didn't really know was gushing over my good fortune right before my last day at the college, and I felt so bad that I actually just smiled and nodded. I felt pathetic.

A lot of the time, though, I do realize that I'm doing what I need to do. Norah is happy. I would feel guilty about something no matter what. I think that's just a mother thing... guilt. And I'm really lucky to actually like my job. Misconceptions about working from home are just another thing that I need to let roll off my back. And that's the life of a parent-- and lots of non-parents, too-- people make judgements about you and you decide whether or not it's going to tick you off. I just need to be a little more resilient.

*Atomic Learning is a company that provides technology training and solutions to schools and universities (and companies, too). Wanna know how to use Word 2010? Go to AL. Photoshop? AL. Blogs and wikis? You know it. And I get to be one of the people who creates the training! Each tutorial we make is one to three minutes and captures just one little task. So you don't need to view a 30-minute seminar just to learn how to do a hanging indent. It's awesome.