Wednesday, January 30, 2008


Maggie was so excited about going to school today - - it is their 100th day of school this year. To celebrate the event, each of the kids in her class had to count 100 pieces of some sort of food that could be put into a trail-mix sort of creation that they would all mix together and eat. I took Twizzlers and cut them up into pieces, and Maggie counted out 100 of them to go to school to add to the magic stew. In theory, this sounds like a very clever first grade sort of fun activity. To me though, all I can think about is that there will likely be 100 different kinds of germs mixed in from the kids' hands as well (I did make Maggie wash her hands before she handled the licorice.)

When do germs start being a concern for us? Kids have absolutely no concept of them. They will happily eat whatever treat some kid brings to school with them. They will casually pick candy up off the dirtiest floor and not even give it a second thought before putting it in their mouth.

Maggie's school (and Aleita's school as well) have a rule that any treats brought to class must be store bought. I say, Amen brother. I can't tell you how many homemade cupcakes and cookies and the like I politely accepted from my students when I used to teach elementary school. As soon as school was dismissed for the day, that lovely goodie was off my desk and into the garbage can. I had seen the condition in which my students came to school each day - - there was no way on God's green earth that I was going to put something from their kitchen into my mouth. After all, for some of those kids, if their momma cleaned the kitchen like she cleaned their laundry, then that meant not very often and not very well - - and never with bleach.

I am sure that Maggie will roll in tonight with tales about their wonderful 100th day of school celebration. She will no doubt have enjoyed the mish-mashed goodness of whatever food items that each kids' germ-laden fingers meticulously counted one hundred of. I can only hope that her teacher enjoyed this marvelous snack right alongside the kids.

Thursday, January 17, 2008


Last night, I took the kids through the drive through at McDonald's - - one of their favorite treats. As we were going through the line, Aleita surprised me by saying, "Thank you for getting us McDonald's, Mommy."

We constantly work on remembering to use manners and be polite, but it is always a fantastic feeling when they actually think to do it without being told.

I said to Aleita, "You know what kiddo? I love you" to which she replied, "You know what Mommy? I love chicken nuggets!"

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Hangin' with the Boys

When Aleita started attending the daycare center that she is at about three months ago, she came home talking about her new best friends - - she constantly brought up Polly and Adrian. Turns out she was talking about Paul(y) and Hadrian – both boys. When Aleita names the kids she likes the best in her class, they are actually all boys.

When we go to pick Aleita up at daycare after work, it is common to walk in to find two groups of kids playing: the girls are generally playing dolls and dressup on the right side of the room, while the boys are usually found playing with cars, blocks, and action figures on the left side of the room. There is an exception - - nine times out of ten, Aleita can be found playing with the boys. Anyone who knows Aleita knows that she is something of a bruiser. By and large, she prefers rough and tumble play to quiet, subdued anything.

The boys seem to have no qualms about having a girl in their midst. If they did, I have no doubts that Aleita would quickly set them straight. She can definitely hold her own with them.

This Christmas, Aleita asked Santa Claus for Power Rangers, Spiderman, and a motorcycle. Santa, being the obliging sort, indeed got her all of those things (Spiderman actually rides the motorcycle – we considered one of those battery-powered deals for about five seconds, but we had visions of her taking off unannounced and making her way down the street to see our friends, Barb and Greg, or making an attempt to head through the country to her Grandma and Papa’s house.)

A few weeks ago, Aleita and I went to McDonald’s for lunch. As she watched the girl put together her Happy Meal, she piped up about the time the toy got dropped in. “I don’t want a doll!” she yelled. “I want the boy toy!”

This morning, after I had gotten the kids ready for school and was getting ready myself, Maggie asked Aleita if she wanted to play in her room with her (a rare request these days.) Aleita, who had been playing with her Spiderman, carried him into Maggie’s room with her. Maggie said to her, “let’s play Barbies,” to which Aleita said, “ok.” About two minutes later, Aleita was shrieking and being pushed out of Maggie’s room.

I asked what was going on, and Maggie complained, “everytime I set one of my Barbies down, she runs over it with her motorcycle!” to which Aleita responded, “well that’s how I play Barbies!”

Friday, January 11, 2008

OH BABY. . . .

We had two of my closest friends, Michelle and Kristin, and their families, over for dinner last night. They both got started with their baby-raisin’ days a little later than we did. Our oldest is seven, and our youngest will be four in early March. Michelle’s son is a year and a half old, and she is pregnant with their second child, and Kristin’s little girl was just born in early December. It only takes spending a little time with little bitty kids to remember why we decided to stop at two.

My hat is off to all of you with big families - - or hey, with more than two kids for that matter. For awhile, we tossed around the idea of one more little one. Then we started really thinking about it and woke up from that pipe dream. For starters, when Aleita was a baby and she and Maggie were in daycare at the same time, we spent just over $13,000 in daycare expenses. That is not a typo - - $13,000 for two kids in daycare. If we were to have another child, we would be right back in that same situation, at least until Aleita begins kindergarten in August of 2009. In addition, we would most likely have to look at two new cars - - I don’t think my little car can handle three carseats in the back, and Chris’s car is starting to get some age and miles on it and it is only a matter of time before it gives up the ghost. We also just recently purchased and fixed up our new home, and we have no plans of leaving anytime soon - - but with only three bedrooms, two of the kids would have to share a room (I know, not the end of the world, but still a consideration.)

Beyond financial considerations: Until you are around tiny infants again, you forget how demanding and stressful having one really is. The thought of having to get up at all hours with a newborn is something I definitely do not miss. Likewise, as I watched Kristin lug in the bulky infant carrier and Lucy’s diaper bag, I had a little smile at knowing how nice it is now just to be able to throw everybody in the car and go and not have to spend 20 minutes making a pack that is roughly the same size of those used by climbers to scale the Himalayas to simply sustain the needs of a newborn 10 pound baby for two hours away from home. Kristin even balanced Lucy on her lap as she ate supper because she knew that putting her down in her car carrier would result in her waking up and screaming until she was fed. I cut my kids food up for them, but beyond that, they were totally self-sufficient for the entire meal.

Michelle’s 18-month old, Nathaniel, is a bundle of energy. He also requires a large pack, though his is perhaps the size of someone who plans to do some climbing the Rockies. Having somewhat older kids now, it didn’t occur to me until they walked through the door that my house is not even close to baby-proofed. As he ran through the living room, I quickly grabbed and moved candles out range. I then looked around at my exposed outlet covers, fire burning in the fireplace and two open staircases and said a silent little prayer that he’d make it out unscathed. Also, having not eaten with a toddler in awhile, I had forgotten how much fun to them the game of throw the cup (or spoon or fork or bowl or napkin) can be.

Don’t get me wrong, I loved being around both of my friends’ kids last night. It was so nice to hold and feed a tiny little baby again, and playing with a sweet little toddler was really enjoyable. . . . but so was getting a full eight hours of sleep last night after they had gone home.

Thursday, January 10, 2008


I grew up in a generation in which we didn’t have car seats when we were infants or toddlers. Heck, we didn’t even wear seatbelts. I remember several trips in my grandma’s huge silver Buick where Jeff would sit in the front passenger seat, and I would ride on the arm rest in the middle. I think the big, white tank that my parents drove when I was little (a 1976 Chevrolet Caprice Classic) could have survived a collision with an oncoming rocket. OK, perhaps not, but I think young people today don’t have the slightest idea what a “big car” really is.

In the mid 80s, when Illinois passed its mandatory seatbelt laws, we gradually became accustomed to bucking up. I remember that it took quite awhile to get into the habit. I also remember that most people didn’t wear them to be safe - - just to avoid getting a ticket. As time has passed, it seems we have all become very accustomed to buckling up. I find that even if I am driving the two blocks from house to our church, I still instinctively reach over and click my seatbelt in place. What used to seem so unnatural and difficult to remember is now just a familiar habit that I don’t even think about - - driving without my seatbelt now is almost akin to leaving the house on a 5 degree January morning with no coat - - it makes you feel exposed and vulnerable. It even greatly upsets me now when I see kids in a car that aren't belted in.

My kids are definitely from the seat belt generation. The summer before last, the kids and I were at the mall on a very hot July day. As I helped them in the car and got the packages in, all I could think about was getting the car started so I could roll down the windows and turn the AC on. I helped Aleita into her seat and pulled her straps over her head and clicked her carseat buckle in place. I then put the packages in the hatch, got in myself, and backed out of my parking space. We were about halfway around the mall when Maggie suddenly let out a blood-curdling scream. I immediately asked what was wrong, and she replied to me in a scream: MY SEATBELT IS NOT FASTENED!!!!

We have so stressed the utmost importance of them sitting correctly in their seats and the significance of being buckled in, that I think she was quite certain that if the situation were not corrected immediately, that she was going to go hurtling from the car as a projectile at any moment. I pulled over into the mall parking lot and saw that, indeed, she was not buckled in. In my haste to get the air on and get going, I had forgot to check her belt. Maggie is very good now at doing her belt, but the seatsbelts in the backseat of my car are actually quite difficult to buckle, so at that time, I had to help her get fastened in place.

I hadn’t thought about that incident until a few days ago. Aleita and I had stopped by my parents’ house and were on our way back to Decatur when she let out a yell from the backseat. “MOMMY! HELP!,” she shouted, “CURIOUS GEORGE UNHOOKED MY SEATBELT!!” Aleita had a Curious George monkey stuffed toy that she had been playing with in the backseat, and when she reached for it down beside her seat, she accidentally unhooked her seatbelt from beside her booster. I pulled over to the side of the road and rehooked her belt. Aleita then stuck her thumb in her mouth and handed me Curious George. “Put him up there with you,” she said, “he’s a bad monkey.”

Wednesday, January 9, 2008


Seven year olds are literalists. At their tender young age, things like metaphors, similes, and symbolism escape them. This fact often makes it difficult to listen to the radio when Maggie is around. Maggie has reached an age where she listens intently to songs and wants a very specific breakdown of what each song means. She often asks, “is that real? did that really happen?” She demands an explanation for songs from everything from wayward lovers to newfound love.

A few days ago on the way home from school, Johnny Cash’s “Ring of Fire” came on the radio. After a few moments of intent listening, she asked how that man singing got ringed by the fire, and wondered how badly he got burned. I tried my best to explain to a seven year old that this song is actually about two people who fell in love with each other but were married to other people at the time and wanted to be together but couldn’t. She listened quietly to my explanation, and then thought about what I said for a moment as she continued to listen to the song. Then she asked, “Did his wife get mad because he liked someone else and she set his ring on fire?” I sighed, and said, “yes, something like that.”

Clearly, symbolism will have to wait awhile.

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

No need for candlelight, music, and wine. . . .

It's a slow day on the homefront, and I couldn't really think of anything to blog about today. As I was eating lunch, I read the newspaper and found the following article. I found it so amusing that I felt compelled to share - - apparently if these monkeys need some lovin', they have to work for it:

Study: Monkeys 'pay' for sex by grooming
In the primate world, sex is subject to the law of supply and demand
By Gillian Wong

SINGAPORE - Male macaque monkeys pay for sex by grooming females, according to a recent study that suggests the primates may treat sex as a commodity.

"In primate societies, grooming is the underlying fabric of it all," Dr. Michael Gumert, a primatologist at the Nanyang Technological University in Singapore, said in a telephone interview Saturday.

"It's a sign of friendship and family, and it's also something that can be exchanged for sexual services," Gumert said.

Gumert's findings, reported in New Scientist last week, resulted from a 20-month observation of about 50 long-tailed macaques in a reserve in Central Kalimantan, Indonesia. Gumert found after a male grooms a female, the likelihood that she will engage in sexual activity with the male was about three times more than if the grooming had not occurred.

And as with other commodities, the value of sex is affected by supply and demand factors: A male would spend more time grooming a female if there were fewer females in the vicinity.
"And when the female supply is higher, the male spends less time on grooming ... The mating actually becomes cheaper depending on the market," Gumert said.

Other experts not involved in the study welcomed Gumert's research, saying it was a major effort in systematically studying the interaction of organisms in ways in which an exchange of commodities or services can be observed — a theory known as biological markets.

Dr. Peter Hammerstein, a professor at the Institute for Theoretical Biology at Humboldt University in Berlin and Dr. Ronald Noe, a primatologist at the University of Louis-Pasteur in Strasbourg, France, first proposed the concept of biological markets in 1994.

"It is not a rare phenomenon in nature that males have to make some 'mating effort' in order to get a female's 'permission' to mate," Hammerstein said in an interview, likening the effort to a "fee" that the male pays.

"The interesting result of Dr. Gumert's research on macaque mating is that the mating market seems to have an influence on the amount of this fee," Hammerstein said.

Monday, January 7, 2008


This morning, Aleita was in a good mood. As she came skipping into the bathroom after Chris got her dressed, she announced, “I am wearing a happy shirt.” Happy shirts are ones that make her happy to wear them (and I am sure that you can assume what the inverse of this statement is.) The “happy shirt” she is wearing today is a pink and red striped one with a picture of a cat on the front. She loves this shirt and would wear it every day if I would let her.

She definitely has developed her own taste in clothing. It is strange how different she and Maggie are. At seven, Maggie is still quite content to allow me to pick out her clothes everyday, so long as I don’t select anything with a constricting collar, such as a turtleneck. I will sometimes give Maggie a few options for clothing to wear that day, and frequently, she will look at me somewhat indifferently. Most of the time, she will tell me, “whatever you pick is fine.” She likes to wear nice clothes and likes to look pretty, but she is confident in my ability to help her achieve this, I suppose. Not so much her sister. . .

Many times, at the beginning of the week, I will set out five choices of outfits for the week (M –F). She can pick the order in which she wears them, but all five outfits will get worn as the course of the week goes on. Often times, knowing that those are her only choices, Aleita will try to rearrange the pants and shirts so that she can insert as much autonomy as the situation allows. She can never understand why I won’t let her wear the strange combination of mismatched shirts and pants that she comes up with. I know, I know, if I were one of those hip and with-it moms, I would wait patiently as my daughter selected her clothing choices each day, and honor those selections and celebrate what a “little individual” she is becoming.

I saw a mom in line the other day at the post office with her young daughter in tow - - she must celebrate her “little individual” quite frequently, because her daughter looked like she belonged at a circus for the colorblind and deranged. She wore green and yellow polka dot pants, a pink and blue striped shirt with stars, tap dance shoes, and what appeared to be the fairy wings from an old dance outfit or Halloween costume. The mom looked adoringly at her daughter as she tapped her way around those of us waiting in line, as if to say, “isn’t she precious?” All I could think to myself was that that little tap-dancing, mismatched whirling dervish was definitely the one who ran that household. Her parents will shake their heads once she is an out-of-control teenager and wonder just why they can’t influence their daughter to behave better.

Perhaps I lack sympathy for my young three year old because of the fact that 99% of what she wears is cotton and has an elastic waistband. My ironed button-down blouse and slacks definitely appear at the opposite end of the “happy” scale from cotton pullovers and elastic waistbands.

Friday, January 4, 2008


Somebody at our house was looking at the world through green eyes last night. Maggie doesn't return to school until this coming Monday, but Chris and I had to go back to work this week. Maggie's school care program isn't available while they are on break, and I knew she'd get bored spending two days at work with me - - and I have a lot to get done, and knew having her here would be a distraction. So I called Grandma.

Grandma Helen and Papa Kenny were glad to keep Maggie Thursday and Friday, and Maggie was very excited to go. As soon as she heard us stirring on Thursday morning at 5:15AM, she was out of bed and eager to get the day going. Without even being told to, she made her bed. She was anxious to get to Grandma and Papa's house. As I was getting ready for work, she continually asked, "Are you almost ready yet?"

We decided to skip telling Aleita about these plans until we had to. Last night after work, I went grocery shopping, and then called Maggie on the drive home to talk for a little bit. She wanted to talk to Chris and Aleita as well, so after we had hung up, I called home and told Chris to give her a call and let Aleita talk to her sister. Long pause. . . . then he told me that he hadn't yet told Aleita that Maggie was at Grandma and Papa's house. He decided that the jig would be up as soon as I arrived home sans Maggie, so he might as well get it over with.

When he told her that Maggie was staying at their house for the night, Aleita at first asked with concern if Maggie was sick (the kids often get relegated to the grandparents' houses to convalesce when they are not feeling well so that we can go to work.) Once assuring her that Maggie was ok, but was just staying with Grandma and Papa for a few days, Aleita's expression immediately soured. She insisted that she too, should go to stay with them. After being told that just Maggie was going to be staying, she did what most three-year olds do in this type of situation - - she threw a fit. Needless to say, in Aleita's words, she was "not happy about this."

This morning, Aleita awoke and groggily made her way to the bathroom to go potty. She stretched and coughed a little, and then we made our way to her room to get her dressed. As I was dressing her, she coughed again, and (accurately) reported that she had the hiccups. She said, "I have a bad cough and the hiccups." I told her that she had only coughed twice since she got up, at which point she threw in some nice fake ones for good measure. She then pronounced herself sick and decided that she should be immediately taken to Grandma and Papa's house for the day.

Oh jealousy, you green-eyed monster - - Aleita be thy name.