Off to an intentionally slow start

I have nothing on my calendar for today – thank goodness. I don’t know how I always get so busy, but it is exhausting.

We started “school-lite” this week: math and Latin. That’s more than enough. I really do like easing into the school year. My two boys are using DIVE videos for the first time, so we’re figuring out how that works and also doing time management.
Two subjects, four students.

But to give you an example of the challenges I face, one student who has no desire to do math or Latin and who thinks that giving me a hard time will – I don’t know – make me decide that we should just skip those subjects? Really, I have no idea what he hopes to accomplish. Anyway, he was showing me just how difficult math is by wrinkling his brow and acting constipated. And what exactly was the problem that was giving him such trouble? Complex algebra? Long division? Word problems written in French?
9 + 8
I told him he should have picked something just a tad more difficult if he were going to pull such dramatics.
So, this is why I am glad we’re starting off small. 90 minutes more or less of school is good for the first week, especially when nobody else in the area has even begun to think about it.
One other sure sign that school has begun in my house is the antics of the younger crowd, including Jenny who is not learning Latin and whose math takes all of 15 minutes. Peter keeps begging for a playmate, so we will work on following the full school year routine I laid out which actually has someone assigned to him to keep him occupied. Jenny’s downtime has been relatively benign.
Here is her self portrait taken while waiting for Katie to finish math.

She took a half dozen pictures of the sunroom: things on the wall, the ceiling fan. Harmless, quiet self-absorption. Wish she did this more often.

Mary, of course, is the biggest trouble-maker. It’s her age-appropriate nature. First she got her hands on the white-out pens. Fortunately, I own some Goof Off. The linoleum looks just fine now.
Then it was the magic markers. She currently into body art. And even washable markers take several days for the ink to get off skin. I buy markers once a year – at the beginning of the school year. When they’re gone, they’re gone. If the kids can’t keep them put away and monitored closely when in use, they will be gone very soon.
Then it was the half-eaten yogurt all over her and the dining room table.

If you look closely, you can see the lines from the markers. Her legs are twice as bad.

Right now she’s soaking wet from playing with soapy water in the sink. It’s what I have to do to type a blog post. The floor is wet, too, but this is an easy cleanup compared to hand soap rubbed all over the bathroom mirror, another of her favorite pastimes. She’s bored now, and thus ends my writing for today.

Cookies to the Front

Last weekend we made cookies.

Rather, I made cookies.
I have realized that I am a selfish chef. I do not like to have my children helping me in the kitchen. I find cooking and baking to be a gloriously solitary pursuit. I’m working on this. I do consider competence in the kitchen to be a prerequisite for adulthood, and it is my responsibility to teach it. But for these cookies, it was mostly just me.
I made three different types: crinkled molasses cookies, peanut butter with chocolate chips, and a variation on snickerdoodles. I have a different recipe than the one listed here, but they are all fairly similar: it’s a sugar cookie rolled in cinnamon sugar. These were a favorite from my childhood, and I make them every so often for my kids. Sometimes, I make what I call cinnerdoodles instead, and I put the cinnamon in the dough and just roll them in sugar. They are a bit more cinnamon-y. That’s what I did this time.
Of course, the cookies weren’t really for us, they were for my husband. I hope they survive the journey.
We saved some for us, too.
Yesterday we headed to the post office, and I asked Fritz to carry the heavy box out to the van.

“What’s in here?” he groaned.
“Cookies, M&Ms, magazines, your dad’s Cincinnati Reds hat, a cigar cutter…”

“Yes, I ordered your dad some cigars for his birthday.”
“They’re allowed to smoke there?”
“Yes, honey, they can’t drink, but they can smoke.”

“That doesn’t make any sense! Smoking is much worse than drinking!”

These are the life lessons my kids are learning. Of course, the drinking that goes on here is very moderate. I grew up with a dad who smoked a pipe, but rarely drank – not because he thought alcohol was bad, but because it just wasn’t his thing. I considered (still consider) pipe and cigar smoking, in moderation, as a harmless and rather pleasant pastime, but as a kid thought drinking was dangerous and even bad. Interesting.

Lost his head

It’s a good thing I knew that Katie wanted a picture of her daddy for an inexpensive heart-shaped locket she owned. She abandoned her work, I suppose to retrieve the locket, and I happened upon this disturbing scene:


On the Road Again

Yes, no helmet and no shoes. I survived childhood without them, and I’m sure my kids will, too.

Peter is riding a balance bike. It has two wheels but no pedals. He loves it. Loves loves loves it.
We bought him a balance bike two Christmases ago. He was 2 1/2. It was an inexpensive wooden model, and it was just a tad too big for him. But that’s OK. Kansas is pretty cold in the winter time. By spring, he was big enough and had already gotten the hang of it by riding in the basement.
He loved that bike. But it was an inexpensive wooden model, and it kept falling apart. We kept putting it back together, but when the falling apart started happening more often than the staying together, and when the falling apart started causing injuries (especially since he wears no shoes or helmet), we decided it was time to get him another one.
Supposedly, little European children use balance bikes instead of tricycles and then when they are four, they go straight to two-wheels with no training wheels. Peter is four, but I knew there would be a learning curve with a two-wheeler, plus we have a bike all ready for him when he’s five. So I opted to stick with what he loves, just better.
This time I went with a Strider bike which is metal and has an easily adjustable seat and handle bars. On the lowest setting, Mary (22 months and small) could have fit on it. Peter’s setting is about halfway up, so he has room to grow.
This kid is so happy. For several days after he got the bike, he was glowing. He would sigh happy sighs and give me hugs and kisses He said thank you and I love you a bazillion times. He just loves this bike.

Sunday Morning Controversy

Controversial Doll Lets Little Girls Pretend to Breast-Feed

I just had to read this article. I don’t prefer toys that require batteries or make noises, and I don’t think my daughters need shirts with drop-down access, so I am not in the market for this sort of thing. My daughters have all been perfectly happy shoving stuffed animals up their shirts with no prompting from me. They just do what they see mommy doing. It’s perfectly natural.

But what strikes me in this article are the anti-crowd’s remarks.

“…parents around the world have criticized Berjuan, saying the idea of breast-feeding is too grown-up for young children — and may even promote early pregnancy.”

Breast-feeding – providing nourishment for an infant – is too grown-up a concept for little children? Ummm…???

Promotes early pregnancy? Maybe we should hide all babies from anyone under the age of 25 so that no little girl gets the idea that they are cute and would like one. Keeping in mind this is a Spanish manufacturer and knowing the unsustainably low birthrate in Europe, I guess it’s not so much a matter of hiding the babies…they just don’t have babies. It’s one way to combat teen pregnancy: discourage children in general.

Dr. Manny Alvarez, managing health editor of, said although he supports the idea of breast-feeding, he sees how his own daughter plays with dolls and wonders if Bebe Gloton might speed up maternal urges in the little girls who play it.

Heavens knows we don’t want little girls to have any maternal urges. Why do we even let stores sell those kitchens and dishes and pretend food? Why have we not banned or at least discouraged dolls in the first place? Toy stores should sell pink tools sets and pink hard hats and pink briefcases. None of this “mommy” stuff.

“Pregnancy has to entail maturity and understanding,” Alvarez said. “It’s like introducing sex education in first grade instead of seventh or eighth grade. Or, it could inadvertently lead little girls to become traumatized. You never know the effects this could have until she’s older.”

Is he suggesting we want our youth having sex in the seventh grade? If sex education in the 1st grade might correlate to sex at an early age, wouldn’t sex education in the seventh grade also correlate to sex at an early age? Really, can’t we all agree that 13 year olds should not be having sex? (I’m not promoting ignorance here, just saying that his argument is weak).

So, wouldn’t little girls pretending to breastfeed likely have the effect of them wanting to breastfeed their own real babies when they are older? Isn’t this a good thing?

Alvarez said breast-feeding reduces childhood infections, strengthens maternal bonding and increases the child’s immune system. But introducing breast-feeding to girls young enough to play with dolls seems inappropriate, he said.

Inappropriate? Truly this is a holdover attitude from someone who thinks women should excuse themselves to a private location to nurse their child.

“What’s next?” wrote Eric Ruhalter, a parenting columnist for New Jersey’s Star Ledger. “Bebe Sot — the doll who has a problem with a different kind of bottle, and loses his family, job and feelings of self-worth? Bebe Limp — the male doll who experiences erectile dysfunction? Bebe Cell Mate — a weak, unimposing doll that experiences all the indignation and humiliation of life in prison?

“Toy themes should be age appropriate. I think so anyway.”

Comparing breastfeeding to issues such as low self-esteem, sexual dysfunction and incarceration is ludicrous.

Again, a big chunk of the world seems to need reminding that breastfeeding is not about sex. Breasts were made for feeding a baby, not primarily as playtoys. It is sad that our culture is so warped and sex-obsessed. We have all the collective maturity of a bunch of high schoolers where everything has a double entendres.

There is nothing more age appropriate than a little girl imitating motherly activities: cooking, cleaning, nurturing babies. I’m happy that my daughters have all rocked, cradled and “breastfed” their dolls or teddy bears.

And I’m happy that they need to be taught what that bottle thingy is.

Fresh Minty Smell

All I really want is for the kids to keep the bathroom doors closed.

OK, that’s not all I really want. But it’s a good start.

I do have to admire her resourcefulness. She was thirsty, and the door was open. So she climbed up on the counter, sat in the sink and poured herself a cup of water.

This is Mary, of course. The other “she”s in the house know how to get a drink properly: whine.

But yesterday at dinner time, Mary had disappeared. She was right there, and then she was gone. We sent out a hunt, but she fooled us. She now closes doors behind her so we don’t know she’s gotten in. Clever little devil. She was in my bathroom and had gotten her hands on the toothpaste. That blasted Colgate has toddler-friendly flip tops. I really wish Crest would start putting coupons in the paper.

Anyway, there I find her with her hands full of toothpaste. She sees me and knows she’s being naughty, so she runs and tries to hide…behind my bathrobe. The one I just washed the day before.

The one that now needs to be washed again.

One day I’m sure I’ll look back and find this all very funny. That’s why I blog it, right?