Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Rain, Rain Go Away

No, no, no, no, no! It's raining! And we were going to go to the sprinkler park and now - it's raining!

Yes, there is whining and complaining in my house right now. (It's not only coming from me.)

I've searched all the library websites, the event websites, the free stuff to do with kids websites. Lots going on tomorrow. But today, we're stuck.

OK, I've got to pull it together. The baby will be waking up soon and I've got to have a plan.

This is what happens when you opt for a summer with a lot of free time. You sometimes wind up with a whole big empty day to fill.

And there's the crying. On the baby monitor that is. It's not just me.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

How to Have a Successful Garage Sale

Was anybody rich in the 1970s? Of course someone must have been. But to me, the '70s are all about being scrappy, making do. Moms sewing rick-rack on the bottoms of their kids' pants so they'll last another season. Dads instructing kids to roll up the tube of toothpaste so they can squeeze out the last few dollops.

I guess this is why it seemed so '70s to have a garage sale this weekend, even though they've never really gone out of style.

I thought a garage sale would be a festive event to kick off the summer. I also thought we might rake in some decent extra cash, provided we sold a few big-ticket items along with the requisite mugs, used beauty products, old shoes, and holiday decorations.

The truth about garage sales: Mugs and skis never sell. Used beauty products do. You're likely to earn about 10 cents an hour if you figure in all the time it takes to gather your junk from the attic and basement, price everything, set it up outside, post signs around town, post an ad online, man the whole operation, tear everything down, remove the signage, and haul the unsold items to whatever charity will take it off your hands.

Who are these people who make hundreds of dollars at garage sales? What are they selling? The most I've ever made at a garage sale was about $100, and 70 percent of the take came from one large item.

Paltry earnings aside, however, the day was a huge success. It was a morning-to-night bonding adventure with our neighbors. It was kids manning their own lemonade stand - a cardboard box with a hand-written sign. It was a whole hot day outside, laughing, talking, sweating, snacking, and bargaining. 

Every time I have a garage sale, I swear it'll be the last time. We never make any real money. It's just not worth the work and aggravation.

Except it is. I'm definitely doing this again next year.

Friday, June 21, 2013

Sweet Stuff and the Ever-Enjoyable Sticky Hand

I can't say I've been totally relaxed today. But some sweet stuff happened that made me smile:

Walking down the street to post signs for our garage sale, we spotted neighbors outside. My son wound up playing with them and I got to talk. Just a nice, spontaneous moment.

While putting laundry away, my six-year-old (who was helping!) got distracted by a toy in his bedroom. He sat on the floor next to his baby brother (who was paging through a book with a serious look on his face) and the two of them sat quietly and companionably for a few minutes.

Everyone had fruit at lunch, counteracting - in my mind at least - the effects of any Cheetos ingested earlier in the day. Plus the baby fed himself his turkey sandwich, pickle, and grapes (mastering the pincer grasp and such healthy eating!).

After lunch, my son got really into playing with his sticky hand, a toy that just never fails to crack me up.

Rules for Summer

It's the first day of summer, a time of total freedom, and here's me, spewing out rules fast and furious...

No one is up for the day before 5 a.m., and that includes the youngest member of the family who obviously can't tell time.

No Monkey Quest - or video games of any kind - before 8 a.m.

No Cheetos for breakfast.

Cheetos only once a week (later in the day) because they are a total junkfood, unlike Cheez-Its, the former favorite, which are somehow a nutritious dairy product now in comparison.

Ah, the lazy days of summer...

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Still Recovering from Monday's Field Trip

My in-laws tell a story about a couple they knew who would commit to only one activity per weekend. They invited this couple to dinner, I think it was, and the man said he was sorry, but on Saturday, they were going to the store to buy gloves. 

When we in the family hear this story, we usually laugh appreciatively. In the manner of slow-paced, simpler living, this couple had it right. With that in mind, I bring you the schedule for my son's field trip at which I was a chaperone.

9 a.m. 
Board buses

10 a.m. 
Arrive at destination and have snack

10:15-10:45 a.m. 
Learn about animals

10:45-11:15 a.m. 
Go on a nature walk

Fish for creatures in a pond

12 p.m. 
Board buses to the park for lunch, playground time, and a party for our retiring school principal

1:30 p.m.
Board buses to school for student's birthday party followed by a movie

2:40 p.m.
Students can wait for the bus or be picked up to go home.

Now, how many separate activities was that in one half of a day?

Friday, June 14, 2013

7 Days till Summer

Yesterday, my son said to me, "Mom, what do we have planned for the summer?"

Our 70s summer of no-plans-no-nothing-nothingness starts in seven days.

"Well, hmmm" I answered nervously. "We don't have a lot going on..." Was he suddenly expecting a highly scheduled summer? Was he hoping I'd signed him up for camp or a fun class without his knowledge?

"Oh, good," he said. "So we're not doing anything?"

"That's right, a whole bunch of nothing," I agreed, relieved.

And our 70s summer is still on.

Alert the Media: Baby Sleeps Through Night!


For immediate release

June 14, 2013 - After a year of night wakings, the Schwartz baby has finally slept through the night.

His mother - who the night before last was woken for the day at 3 a.m. - was ecstatic and slightly delirious. "What is this strange feeling?" she asked. "I think I feel... rested?"

His father, still sleeping, was unavailable for comment.

For the past 12 months, Baby Schwartz has been up several times each night, usually taking three to four bottles between 8:30 p.m. and 5 a.m. His mother spent the year reading up on many different methods designed to increase baby sleep duration, including the Ferber method (controlled "crying it out") and the No-Cry Sleep Solution

In her quest to answer the question of "why" he was waking so often, she experimented with giving baby less formula during the night, giving baby more formula during the night, using a sound machine, changing the sound from "white noise" to "car motor" to "babbling brook," putting baby to bed later, putting baby to bed earlier, keeping baby up during the day, making sure baby has several naps during the day, and driving him around in the car before bed.

Sleep deprived and unable to think clearly, she could not use her findings to answer the question until now.

"I've finally figured out why he was having so much trouble sleeping through the night," she said. "He's a baby!"

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Losing Faith in Doctors

I want to trust in my pediatrician, I really do. Obviously, this man went to medical school and knows a lot more than me about medicine, the body, human development, etc. But... 

When my older son was born six years ago, my husband and I were beyond super-careful. We checked out everything. We made sure he had a sleep positioner, so he wouldn't roll over and become trapped and suffocate. We outfitted his crib with the requisite crib bumper. When he was a year old, we started him on whole milk, as instructed. The whole fat was so important for his brain development, we were told.

And then... we had our younger son. Five years later. As anyone who's had children a few years apart can attest, things change quickly in the pediatric medical field. Suddenly, it's as if we did everything wrong the first time around.

I accepted this when we learned that our new baby should not have a sleep positioner (It could actually trap and suffocate him!). Or a crib bumper (Waaay too dangerous! He may as well sleep with knives!). But now, whole milk is suddenly unnecessary and could even lead to childhood obesity!

I heard that one and the brakes in my brain screeched to a halt. I just couldn't go along with the program anymore. I stopped listening. I stopped following along. I realized, sadly, that medical care is completely subject to trends. 

Personally, I'm OK with trusting my instincts about a lot of this stuff. In five years, the doctors will reverse their instructions anyway. But I wish there were an authority I could totally trust. 

Maybe everyone wishes that at some point - and not just about doctors and medical care. Maybe everyone wishes someone with all the right answers would appear and give them up. But that's parenting and that's life. You don't always know the right answers and you can't always be sure of your decisions. You just do the best that you can.


Monday, June 10, 2013

I'm Watching "Barney"

Yes, that's right. I'm watching "Barney." My older son's in the other room playing with Legos. My younger one's taking a nap. So this is all on me.

But there's a good reason for my childish choice in television programming. I've learned a valuable lesson over the past year. If you put on the news, you will hear about the shootings in Newtown. You will hear about the bombing at the Boston Marathon. You will hear the news, yes, but it's so depressing, so all-consuming, that sometimes you'd just rather not know.

To be perfectly clear, I'd rather not know.

So I put on PBS Kids during the day whether the kids are watching or not. I like the cheerful little songs about sharing and cleaning up and being kind to one another. And if I'm in a good mood - feeling happy and safe in the world, not panicking over all the terrible things happening in remote locations around the globe - I'm definitely a better mom. It's as simple as that.

P.S. If you're wondering why I don't put on some quality adult music during the day, check out the prologue to this show on "This American Life" about a kindred spirit who understands why T.V. is so comforting.

Friday, June 7, 2013

The Story of a Popsicle

Once upon a time a little boy found an enticing-looking popsicle-making kit languishing on a shelf in the basement.

"Look at that kit! Let's make popsicles!" he suggested.

His mother, busy gleefully cleaning the basement and tossing unused items into a bin for a future garage sale, was distracted. She only heard the word "kit" and remembered that it hadn't been touched in years.

"Garage sale," she thought, reaching for the item.

But her son kept going. "I had these at my friend's house. We could make our own! This'll be awesome!" And the mother realized the last time she'd used the kit, he'd been only one. It didn't seem fair to get rid of it when he'd never had a chance to enjoy it.

"OK," she relented, tearing herself away from the satisfying task of getting rid of things. "Let me clean it first."

The mother then learned the importance of putting kitchen items away clean. The popsicle-making kit had last been used about five years prior. And the sticky remains of those long-gone popsicles still, unfortunately, remained in and around the plastic molds. Which could not be removed from their places in a metal tray.

"Garage sale," the mother thought again, running the molds under hot water and trying to clean them without the advantage of being able to reach the soiled areas with a sponge. She imagined telling her son the molds couldn't be cleaned. She imagined him wandering away to play with something that didn't involve her at all. She remembered when he always wanted to cook and bake with her and how he wasn't so into those activities anymore.

She persisted.

After 45 minutes under hot water, the molds were miraculously clean. Mother and son stirred blue food coloring into vanilla ice cream. Mother filled the molds. Son put the sticks in. They cleared out room in the freezer and placed the molds on a shelf. 

"When will they be done?" the son asked.

"About two hours," the mother replied. "And then we'll add the next layer of color."

The rest of the day passed sweetly. Mother, son, and baby went outside. They played together in the yard, took a walk, and visited a neighbor. The popsicles were forgotten. Then they weren't.

"Can we add the next layer?" the son finally reminded his mother. 

This time, red food coloring was added to vanilla ice cream. The molds were filled. The popsicle sticks were coated with pink ice cream, but that was OK, the mother told the son. "We can just wipe them off when they're done," she said.

The next morning, mother and son peeked in at the popsicles. They were beautiful. The blue and pink ice cream looked good enough to eat. 

"When can I?" the son asked, eagerly.

"After school," the mother replied, feeling just as excited.

They'd put in the work. They'd put in the time. And when they were done, they got so much more than this delicious, melty mess:

The End!

Food for Thought

This might sound obvious, but a chicken patty described as "a round, flat, humongous chicken nugget" will satisfy picky eaters who prefer nuggets over every other type of food except chocolate. (It may not seem much better, but there are really good natural, free-range, etc. kinds out there. Like this - yumalicious!) 

Maybe others have figured this out already, but it took me about, oh... two years? So I just thought I'd share. It's nice to have options.

Thursday, June 6, 2013


Ah, the freedom of abandoning a plan! I've decided not to go to the mall, which means:
  • no packing up a diaper bag.
  • no driving while tired.
  • no hassling with my son to get him into another outfit.
  • no rushing out the door to get there in a timely fashion.
  • no bargaining for time in "my" stores.
  • no spending money I don't have.
  • no worrying about the fussy baby getting even more fussy in a public place.
So many things I don't have to do today, but I do have to pay the price of not getting to see my mom, who we were planning to meet. The fact is, I'm just plan too tired. This is why a '70s summer is so appealing to me. It's supposed to be relaxing, flexible. You just can't do everything you want to do even if there are a million fun things begging you to take part. Who has that kind of energy?

Of course, tomorrow's another story. I've happily rescheduled and we're going to the mall!

It's Going to Rain Today

Maybe. Which is actually the worst kind of forecast. You can't plan an outdoor activity with any confidence. But the minute you commit to spending the day indoors, you just know the sun will come out.

Anyway my plan is to try and get the kids' picture taken at the mall. (Free and cheap attractions there include a pet store with snakes, a glass elevator, a soft pretzel place, a fountain, a kids' play area, and some little rides - not to mention the stores for me!) I picked out some cute outfits for the boys and threw them in the dryer with a wet towel to dewrinkle. (Works great!) The baby is wearing his now.

My older son? He opted for wrinkled shorts from his drawer - "These are better, because they don't have buttons!" - and a tie-dyed T-shirt. 
  • Will I be able to talk him into wearing the more portrait-friendly outfit after school?
  • Will the baby's face remain free of the mysterious red bumps he had earlier in the week?
  • Will I be up for the trip by this afternoon when I'm already feeling like it's nap time at 9:30 in the morning?
Tune in later to find out!

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Playground Test Run/Wardrobe Malfunction

Took the boys to the playground today for the first time since the baby started crawling. Wasn't sure how that would work out. Here's what I learned:

1. My older son is pretty much self-sufficient provided we meet a friend there (which we did).

2. Baby is happy in his ride-on car, so it was worth lugging that along instead of the stroller.

3. Baby also likes the swing and will fall asleep in it.

4. The swing is in the blazing hot sun - I must bring a hat for him next time.

And last but not least...

5. My yellow tank top is totally see-through, a fact I unfortunately did not glean until AFTER I'd stripped off my outer layers and spent an hour and a half on the playground. Worried the whole time that my post-baby belly might look pudgy (it didn't), while the real concern was whether my bra was completely exposed (it was).

Camp Songs

My son may not be going to camp this summer, but that doesn't mean we can't sing camp songs! So far, his favorite is "Comet," which I actually didn't realize kids sang at camp (we just sang it in the neighborhood). In case it's not included in the songbook, here are the words:

Comet! It makes your mouth turn green.
Comet! It tastes like gasoline.
Comet! It makes you vomit.
So drink some Comet
And vomit

Had to be sure to explain that you should actually never try and drink Comet, which led to a short-but-meaningful discussion on people trying dog food. Which probably also would make you vomit.

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

A Little Background

Looking for ideas for our '70s summer (and also for ways to waste time on the Internet - not that there's any shortage of time-wasters there), I found this article in Ms. Magazine called "10 Things That American Women Could Not Do Before the 1970s."

It's not exactly what I was after, not really about things to do with your kids. But it's a bit of useful history, I suppose. Most of it I'd heard before, so for me the most shocking item is the one about credit cards.

Which one shocks you??