Saturday, December 29, 2012

Thanks and No Thanks

Christians are encouraged to give thanks in all things. If we look hard enough, we can find gratitude amidst annoyance. So I'm going to give that a try today.

I'm thankful for warm down coats. I'm thankful for furry mittens. I'm thankful for fleecy warm hats. I'm thankful for soft silk long johns that disappear nicely under my work clothes. I'm thankful for warm fleece socks to go over my knee highs. I'm thankful for warm scarves. I'm thankful for shiny burgundy work clogs with a thick sole to lift me out of puddles. I'm thankful for the NextBus app that keeps me from having to wait too long at the bus stop in the sideways rain. I'm thankful for a dry train station in which to wait for the train. I'm thankful for my umbrella to keep the sideways rain out of my face. Mostly. I'm thankful that down coats dry well after a drenching. I'm thankful for a fulfilling job in a warm dry building.

I am truly thankful for these things. But I have to admit a few "no thanks" elements of my day.

If asked, I'd quickly say "no thanks" of offered the following:
Sideways falling rain
Temperatures in the 30's with sideways falling rain
Umbrella-buckling wind
Urban wind tunnels that exacerbate the umbrella-buckling wind
A warm train full of damp people

But at the end of the day, I'm going home to a warm dry house and a loving family. The pros outweigh the cons, and I really can't complain. And besides. There's so much to give thanks for!

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Sorority of Moms Meeting

I left work 45 minutes late today because I believe in the sisterhood of motherhood. My job floats me between hospitals, and today was the first time I've been back at one of the sites in a few months. So today was the first time I saw Jane* since she came back from maternity leave. On my way out the door, I asked how life was, back at her full-time job with a 4 month old at home. Boy did I open a can of something...

"Is it supposed to be this hard?" The floodgates were opened, and the last 4 months just came pouring forth. I smiled, nodded, and said "yup" a lot. She joined the chorus of all of the working moms I know. "There's not enough time in the day. Daycare gets her best hours. I'm always stressed. I'm always behind. I never feel like I'm doing a good job. I love coming to work. I love my job and don't want to give it up. But this sucks. And daycare is so expensive. And nobody at work understands. And none of my friends are working with kids. Am I doing something wrong?"

I did her the favor of not sugar-coating things. I wasn't telling her anything she hasn't already noticed herself. Being a mother is a full time job. And having a career that you love outside the home is a blessing. But having both can feel like a curse.

Moms know this. That's why moms need other mom friends. So we can vent after a long day of work about how much something sucks. Society isn't so understanding of that need to vent. "You chose to have the child, right? You chose to go back to work, right? So why are you complaining? There are so many childless couples who would LOVE to be in your shoes. There are so many unemployed families who would love your job. Stop whining!"

But moms know what it means to be that candle burning at both ends. And we know the isolation it brings about. Motherhood is supposed to be so fulfilling, so wonderful, so all-consumingly joyful that all inconveniences are too petty to mention. But many of us don't feel that way. Some of us experienced failure for the first time as a new mother. Sleep deprived, oozing hormones, and feeling helpless at the hands of a colicky newborn, motherhood does not always feel like sweetness and light. To deny this is to devalue motherhood. Because it's hard. It just is.

So if you believe in the sorority of moms, find a way to support another mom this week. Take the new mom at work out to lunch. Surprise her with a mid-afternoon latte. Just stick around and listen. Or offer to help her out with something so she can go home early. She probably needs it.

*Of course her name's not Jane

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Getting into the Christmas Spirit

You can't have Christmas without Christmas music. To me, the two are inseparable. BestestHusband likes to tell the girls that our church choir helps us get a glimpse of how wonderful Heaven will be. I like that idea - I could spend all day singing, if only my pipes could hold up that long...

We're blessed with a lot of talented musicians in our congregation. I marvel at that occasionally, but was re-re-reminded of that yet again today. Balint Karosi, our music director, kindly gifted us with a CD of Christmas Music recorded in our church. The musicians are all in-house talent. Audrey, the vocalist, has truly been gifted with an angelic voice. Rosie, our pianist, is blind from birth. Balint, who plays organ and clarinet, has won international acclaim for his performances. And we get to listen to them every Sunday. We are truly blessed.

So for Christmas, I'd like to share them with you. Balint has been uploading worship music to the church website, and much of the music on our new CD can be found there:
http://www.flc-bostonmusic.org/worship-music

Click on the carols, turn up the volume and enjoy. If it doesn't get you into the Christmas spirit, I'm not sure what can.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

The Countdowns Begin

It's that time of the year, the time we start counting down the days in breathless anticipation!

Days 'til Christmas:  7
Days 'til New Year's Day:  14
Days 'til the Christmas episode of Call The Midwife:  12!!!
Days 'til the debut of Downtown Abbey Season 3:  19!!!

This truly is the most wonderful time of the year!

Oh, and if you're still not sure what to get me for Christmas, here it is:


Downton Abbey Seasons 1, 2, and 3

I would happily fold laundry all day long if I had these...

Hope your Christmas preparations are going well. I've got holiday biscotti in the oven, and life is good!

Saturday, December 15, 2012

The World Is Very Evil

BestestHusband loves the old version of a hymn, The World is Very Evil. It's quite old in origin, written by Bernard of Morlaix in the 12th century. It's a longish hymn, so I'll just grace you with the first verse:

The world is very evil,
the times are waxing late,
be sober and keep vigil,
the Judge is at the gate.
The Judge who comes in mercy,
the Judge who comes in might,
who comes to end the evil,
who comes to crown the right.


The hymn speaks of the end times, encouraging Christians to keep their eyes on the joys of a future heavenly home.

I think BestestHusband mostly likes the hymn for its dire-sounding title. The beginning of the first verse does sound pretty dark and grim. It seems appropriate this week. Our newspapers here are talking about a local child molester facing over 100 counts of abuse, and our eyes are all still moist from the horrible massacre that happened in Newtown, CT yesterday. When you look at recent events, it does appear that the world is very evil. 

My Facebook and email streams have been flooded with appeals to join in on banning guns. Because banning guns will prevent the mass-murder of innocents that occurred yesterday. But certainly we all know that this is just an attempt to do SOMETHING, ANYTHING, to try to salve our fear and helplessness. The child molester didn't need guns to be evil. A few years back, there was a series of machete attacks in Boston. There was plenty of evil and horror to go around without guns. (Didn't hear about those attacks? There are no pro-machete or anti-machete lobbyists that I know of; I suspect that this is a factor in why you didn't hear about these attacks. And I would much rather be killed by bullets  than hacked to death by a machete.)

Evil is everywhere. In various forms. Yesterday, it surfaced in an elementary school in a picturesque New England town. But it can, and will, surface anywhere.

Details about the killer are starting to surface. He is being described as a very troubled young man - possibly with a personality disorder, possibly as autistic. It will likely take a while to figure out the whole story. 

My friend Jenny once gave me a copy of Columbine, by Dave Cullen. It's a recounting of the horrible Columbine High School massacre in 1999. It tells a story different from what we heard on the news immediately after the attack. In reality, the murders had nothing to do with Goths bullied by Jocks, as I had remembered hearing. The two boys had plenty of friends, and there was no rivalry with other cliques. The perpetrators had significant psychiatric issues. One was a full-blown psychopath, the other just a depressed follower. They actually planned on killing most of their schoolmates with bombs that they had intended to level the school. The guns they carried were simply a back-up plan. Thankfully the bombs were duds. The evil they prepared didn't depend on guns.  The evil was beyond our understanding, and beyond our ability to predict and prevent. 

One part of the story really stuck me, talking about the parents of the murderers. It's no doubt that they suffered horribly, both as parents burying their children, and as parents watching other parents bury their children because of the horrors their own offspring had committed. They weren't bad parents. But they did have damaged kids, for reasons they couldn't control. The story that marked itself upon my heart was the story of the role of a pastor. The local Lutheran pastor (yes, this is likely why it caught my eye) was reminded by a parishioner that the murderer's family had once attended the church, and would likely need some support, as their community was raging against them. And so the pastor reached out to them. 

As Christians, we know that the world is very evil. And we know that we are all sinners, and that all sins, great or small, need forgiveness. And while we feel that our transgressions are certainly miniscule in comparison to the horror that was perpetrated yesterday, we all crave grace. We all crave forgiveness. I've read many horrible things said by people about the family of Friday's shooter. And they break my heart. Because certainly the Lanza family is already heartbroken. Both by their own losses, and by the horror of having a loved one be the bringer of such evil. 

The Lutheran connection caught my eye again yesterday, as I learned that one of the victims belonged to a church in our district. We consider those in our church to be part of our extended family. We feel their joys and pains as we do with our own biological family. And our church family has lost children in the past. But we have the comfort of hope, promised by a merciful God, that He will triumph over evil in the end. This early "goodbye" is not an eternal farewell. We believe that the second-grader killed yesterday is now waiting to greet her parents in their heavenly home. And while this can't erase the grief we're all feeling right now, it does provide a healing hope. 


"Security",
http://www.bowman-art.com/indexFineart.htm

The lyrics of The World Is Very Evil point to this hope:
The Judge who comes in mercy,
the Judge who comes in might,
who comes to end the evil,
who comes to crown the right.


We cannot end the evil, no matter how we try. But God can, and will. And we can set our eyes on that day. Because we know that more evil will befall us in our lives, and more horrors will call out our tears. But we can place our hope in a God who is greater than those horrors, who will wipe away all of our tears. 

Please find a place in your heart to pray for the killer's family. I'm certain they need a big dose of grace right now.

Friday, December 14, 2012

There But For The Grace of God Go We

Parenting is an amazing combination of job, lifestyle, and heart-filled obsession. It makes your heart sing. It makes you sink to the depths of despair. 

It makes you vulnerable. 

Parenting rips you from a world that you can carefully construct to convince yourself that you are in control. Before having kids, you can work hard in school, get a good job, work for the right promotions, save and invest wisely, and construct a safe and comfortable world for yourself to inhabit. You can sculpt your body through marathons and trips to the gym to look and feel the way you want. You can live in the right neighborhood to have all of the conveniences you'd like. You can move the distance from family that you'd prefer - either as close or as far as is comfortable. Before having kids, you are in control of your life. And then you have kids and you suddenly aren't anymore.

Before the baby even arrives, it takes over your body. Sleeping, puking, with bulging belly and swollen ankles, it doesn't matter what you want your body to look like. The baby will have its own way with you. You can construct the perfect birth plan, but you can only have it if the baby agrees to enter the world the way you'd like. You spend the beginning of your child's life eating and sleeping at the child's whim, not your own. No matter how much you think you'll stay the same, having a child changes you.
And when you get past the hectic early days, you realize that you can again eat, sleep, and shower whenever you'd like. You start to feel in control again. 

And then horrible news splashes all over the internet, and you lose control. You see images of children being led from the school where their classmates were killed, and the tears are unleashed. The terrified faces of those children don't belong to strangers in another state, they belong to yours. You feel their fear, you want to comfort them and hold them. You see the anguished parents waiting to be reunited with their children, and you say a prayer that they will be holding their terrified children soon. You pray that they won't be one of the ones to get the bad news from the authorities - that theirs is one of the 18 (or more) children that were killed in the school. That they'll be setting one less plate at the dinner table from this night forward. That they'll have Christmas gifts under the tree that will never be opened. 

Parenting makes you vulnerable to fear. Vulnerable to the knowledge that you can't protect your children from everything. Vulnerable to the heartache that befalls other families. Because there, but for the grace of God, go we all. We are all in the same family. And none of us are in control.

I'm sure there will be a flurry of reactionary activity to follow this horrible school shooting. People will want to ban guns. People will insist on new rules to make schools safer. People will point fingers and place blame. I'm sure there's blame to go around. But really, it's just all a desperate measure to try to help us feel better, to help us feel that we have a bit of control over the situation. But none of us do. And let's face it, that's the tragedy that we're all mourning together today. We'd give our own lives to save our children. And sometimes we're not given that chance. 

So we should all pray for the families in Newtown, Connecticut. Not just today, but on Christmas. And New Years. And next Christmas. And the Christmas after that. And for the families all over this country who have lost children to violence. This is a horrible day for them too, because their child died all over again. They were actually there, in those heart-breaking news photos, once upon a time. And let's pray for all families, as we mourn our new-found loss of control. It's not the message we'd prefer to think about during the holiday season.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

The Secret Christmas Peacock

I'm supposed to be earning the last of my CEU's right now. I have 3 more hours to earn before the end of the year (that would be 18 days from now). But I'm quite distracted. I've searched for recipes, read my favorite blogs, and stalked people on FB. In theory, I'd like to brush up on my dysarthria knowledge. For you non-SLP's, dysarthria is defined as a speech disorder with decreased muscle control caused by either muscle paralysis, muscle weakness, abnormal muscle tone, or dyscoordination. 

I know, it sounds fascinating, right? Alas, I'd rather be folding laundry, which I can't do with this CEU course because it's not a recorded seminar that I can listen to while folding laundry. No, it's a giant powerpoint presentation that I have to read and actually learn something from because the tests can have some tricky questions. I have Pandora Christmas music in the background which helps, but I'm still squirmy. Sigh. Am I whining? Come on over for some cheese. We've got some good bacon-studded stuff smuggled here from Minnesota that I can highly recommend. Ok, I'm rambling. I should just give up on avoiding my CEUs and tell you about the new stockings I got today.

Once upon a time, I had time, creativity, and a sewing machine. In our first year of marriage, I made stockings for BestestHusband and myself. (And some pretty awesome polarfleece jammies!) They were pretty simple, made of fabric I had around, and not bad, if I say so myself. I also started a matching reversible tree skirt which did not get finished. It's around here somewhere...the three layers of roll hems did me in... Since those initial stockings (and jammies), I had 2 kids within a year of each other. I still have a sewing machine. But my time and creativity are used up by daily damage control and the two mega-cakes I concoct for the girls on their birthdays. Last year, I asked my Mum to find stockings for the girls. I think she misunderstood. We got stockings for the dogs and additional stockings for ourselves. But our stockings just were not appropriate for little girls.

So this year, we still needed stockings for the girls. And I discovered Meg, a mom at our preschool, and her company, Proof. She makes some lovely and unique things, including stockings. So she agreed to stop by the house after daycare drop off one morning, and we talked stockings. I showed her our stockings, she showed me fabric swatches, we agreed on a design, and off she went with my original stockings as a pattern. A few emails and a week later, the details were hammered out, and the stockings were delivered. I'm thrilled. They're sweet and feminine, without being too babyish. And they're definitely unique.

Here's the back view. The front has the girls' names in contrasting fabric. Trust me, it's super cute.

If you live in the Boston area, check out her stuff at Birch St. House & Garden, a gift shop in Rosi Square. Or Colorwheel Collection. Or check her out on Etsy. She's a work-from-home mom, she can design to your specifications, and she's lovely. Check her out!


I loved the colors in this fabric, they matched our home and other stockings. I wasn't sure about a peacock on a Christmas stocking, though...

So Meg cut the fabric to minimize the peacocks. The front shows no peacocks at all.  And I like the idea of a secret Christmas peacock on the back.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Whine Fest

The urge to whine must be a very strong one.

My first job out of college was teaching children with autism in a private school that provided ABA therapy - Applied Behavioral Analysis. With ABA, you look at a behavior, you look at its antecedent, and you look at its response. ABA teaches that you need to change a behavior's antecedent or response to get a change in behavior. A behavior that is persistent must have a response that is reinforcing to the child. If you want to remove a behavior, you need to remove the positive response, and train a different behavior with a different desirable response.

So, when you have a persistent and undesirable behavior, like, say, whining, there must be some reinforcing response that makes a child continue to do the behavior. In other words, whining continues because it works somehow for the child. If it's successful, they'll keep doing it. And if you want to make them stop whining, you need to stop giving in to it, and only reward them for NOT whining.

Here's where ABA fails.

My girls whine. Constantly. But not because it's reinforced by the adults in the household. No. In fact, whining results in a response like, "No, you can't, because you're whining." or "I can't understand you when you whine. Use a Big Girl voice." or "Stop whining." or "No. Ask me again when you're done whining." NEVER does whining get them what they want. Yet they still whine. And we've tried to replace the undesirable behavior with a better one. We model a pleasant voice and polite way of asking. Here's an example:

MeToo:  "Moooommmm, I waaannntt miiilllkk!"
Me:  "Mama, may I have some milk please?"
MeToo: (in a non-whiny voice) "Mama, may I have milk please?"
Me:  "Sure sweetie, here you go."
MeToo:  (gets milk, her desired result)

ABA would claim that after multiple trials of this re-training, the whining behavior should be extinguished, replaced by polite Big Girl voices. 

ABA would be WRONG! They persist in their whining attempts. Despite never getting anything they whine for.

But today, I suddenly feel the need to join in on the whining.

Logically, I know that I don't really have any problems in my life. We can make our monthly mortgage payments. We're both as employed as we want to be. Our girls are both healthy. Our extended family is quirky, but not dysfunctional. I'm not battling a terminal illness. I'm not puking nonstop like the former Kate Middleton. There are people in this world with REAL problems, and we are not them.

But I have an annoying niggling little thing that makes me want to whine. And I'm going to do it now.

I caught a cold from the girls. It hit me full-on at work today. I've had a sinus infection for 2 weeks. I'm on Day 13 of antibiotics. I haven't had full use of my left nostril for 3 months. It was 3 colds back-to-back that set me up for my sinus infection. And just as I was starting to turn the corner on my sinus infection, I got walloped by another cold. Seriously?

Can't a girl catch a break?!?!

Look, I know it's not the same as a neurodegenerative disease. It really isn't such a big deal. It's a mere nuisance in the grand scheme of life. But I'm angry. And sad. And holding a one-person-pity-party in my own honor. 

Please pray for my sinuses. And if you get the chance to talk to Santa, tell him I'd like a new left nostril for Christmas. It's only 2 weeks away. Certainly he can take pity on me and start working on it...

Thanks for entertaining my whine. Come on over and I'll serve you some cheese to go with it.

Monday, December 10, 2012

I Love Ikea

I experienced an otherwise under-appreciated play date setting today:  Ikea.
Who needs the Children's Museum or trampoline park? Take 3 preschool girls to your local Ikea, and they can jump on beds, investigate every cabinet and drawer in the kitchen mock-ups, sniff every scented candle, and run around in relative safety and peace. And most of the other people there on weekdays have kids, so you don't get any disapproving or judgmental stares. 

Even better, you don't have to pack a lunch. A family of 3 can get a hot meal for $12. That's less than a lunch entree at a restaurant in Boston. And it can even include such exotic drinks as Lingonberry or Elderflower juice. What a deal!

Next time, we're turning it into a mommy play date. We'll drop the girls off in the playroom to be babysat while we mentally redecorate our homes and enjoy tea time in the cafe. Anyone want to join us?

PS. Thanks to Joy (my friend Joy) for getting together today. It was definitely the highlight of this wet and dreary day! And thanks to the distraction of her daughter, my daughters didn't notice the Christmas shopping I did for them. SCORE!

Sunday, December 9, 2012

School Report #5

The girls and I did our 5th school visit on Friday, at the Mozart school. It's one of our neighborhood K1-5 schools, and another small one, with only one class per grade.

Other than the general coziness of the school , I was struck by the impression I got of the Principal. He was older, a parent, and gave off a serious no-nonsense vibe. He talked about knowing every home owner that abutted the school property (and it's quite a few!), and I didn't doubt it. He talked about knowing every child in the school by name, and I didn't doubt it. He talked about knowing everything that goes on in the school, and I didn't doubt it.

The other great impression I got was that being a parent there could be a full-time job if you wanted it to be. He pointed out some of the things that had been accomplished by parents: grant-application for funding and design/construction of an updated playyard/playground, brochures and website for school marketing (yes, you have to market your schools here in Boston if you want people to apply for them), and updated library with funds for re-stocking/growth. I saw parents helping with crafts. Parents run the PE program. 

My notes were scribbled on a small notepad I had in my pocket, so here are some other details:

  • There is a before-school program for K1, but after school they have to go to a different school for afterschool programming.
  • Uniforms are worn M-Th.
  • "Specials" include visual arts, woodworking, music, science, PE.
  • There are designated rooms for music and science, and the library is large enough to do classroom activities in.
  • The school is tiny, but the classrooms were large enough, cheerful, and felt airy, with great windows.
  • They participate in the yearly Roslindale parade, as part of civic-mindedness.
  • The nurse is shared with the local Bates school (discussed in an earlier school report).
  • They have a lovely outdoor classroom, which is a garden-ish space with benches and different plants. It's used for every type of class (writing, math, science) across every grade. There was a tiny greenhouse in use, and a compost bin to help maintain the garden.
  • They have an urban gardening program, named SLUG (something-something-urban-gardening).
Overall, it's another school that I think the girls could thrive in, and I'd be happy to send them there. I saw many parents that I've seen at other school tours, and it affirms my idea that there are lots of parents like me who care about their children's school options, and would be very active in any school that their/my kid went to. I see this as a good sign for my girls' education. We get a break from school visits until after the New Year. But this Wednesday is a meeting that talks about the process and strategy of applying to schools in Boston. Yes, I said strategy. (sigh). But I want to be fully informed, so I'll go. I'll be happy when this application process is over.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

A Royal Celebration

Once upon a time, there was a little Princess named MeToo. Every year she grew fairer and smarter. On her third birthday, fair maidens from all over the land gathered to celebrate at a Princess Party. They wore puffy princess dresses, decorated tiaras with jewel stickers, painted masks, and decorated treasure chests. They found jewels hidden by an evil fairy to fill their treasure chests. They destroyed an evil piñata to get the treasures hidden inside. They feasted on treats, and a few healthy foods, too. They played with toys and balloons. And when the party was over, they cried as they put on their coats and went home.

But before the party, royal preparations had the household abuzz and aflutter. Royal family flew in from Minnesota and Alaska. Gifts were purchased. Party supplies arrived in the mail. And the royal birthday cake was made. The fragility and secrecy of the Princess' cake required that it be made the night before the party. So, working late into the night, the royal cake decorator frosted, cut, constructed, and assembled the cake. And, long after the stroke of midnight, the long-awaited Princess Cake was complete. 

Modeled after the castle Neuschwanstein, it was similarly structurally unsound and designed by a crazy person. 

Front view.
Side/back view.
View of the tower that fell and shattered while taking pictures seen above.

The exhausted royal cake decorator assumed that more castle damage could occur overnight, and left the repairs for the morning. Amazingly enough, no further damage occurred, and the repairs were simple and quick. (and cleanup was rather tasty.) 

And the Princess loved her cake, and everyone lived happily ever after.

The End.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

I'm Spoiled

I'm spoiled. I've been attempting to stave off a sinus infection for the past several weeks, and the throbbing in my face and teeth finally convinced me to renounce my martyrdom today and call the doctor.

So at 3:30pm, as I was crawling into bed, I called my doctor's office. The receptionist said I could be seen in 30 minutes, or after noon tomorrow. Of course I leapt out of bed and dashed to the car.

And 30 minutes later I had a doctor peering up my nose. I went down the elevator of my large urban medical practice to the pharmacy. I'm writing this as I'm waiting for antibiotics.

I'm spoiled by the instant medical care. I complained of a problem, and it got addressed. Just like that. A $20 copayment and $4.30 for amoxicillin, and an hour after complaining, I'm on the road to recovery.

Most of the world can't even fathom this access to healthcare.

I'm spoiled. I bet you are, too.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Blogging in Bed

I'm going to bed early. I'm in bed, actually. I probably won't be blogging much over the next few days. Here's why:

I've had a waxing and waning migraine for over 24 hours.
I've had a sinus infection for over 4 weeks. Perhaps I should go in for antibiotics, but I'd rather be a martyr. For now.
My house is full of inlaws, in a delightfully chaotic way. Adding a 2.5 yr old niece to our resident 3 and 4 year olds really is a fun mix.
We're celebrating MeToo's birthday on Saturday. It's a small gathering, but I promised a piñata and a cake modeled after Neuschwanstein. There is much to do. Like starting them.
There is a birthday banner to finish sewing. Yes, because I'm crazy.

So I will be too busy quietly freaking out to blog much. I promise to make contact on the other side. Hopefully with pictures of an edible Neuschwanstein.

Have a great rest of the week and weekend!

Monday, November 26, 2012

3 Years of Exponential Joy

Three years ago today, at about this time, I was holding a tiny new person. I'd had enough hours to sleep off the effects of her birth. I'd managed the newborn phase of her older sister, so I knew (kinda) what I was getting myself into. But I wondered how I would manage TWO little blessings in my life. I knew I wouldn't be going back to work full time. I knew my role of full-time-employed-person-who-knew-important-stuff would change, and I'd suddenly be a stay-at-home-mom to 2 children. I knew things would change. I knew we'd be ok, and I suspected I'd never regret any of it.

What I didn't yet know about was how each extra child didn't just add extra joy to your family. No, even "multiplication" was not significant enough to describe the difference. I think "exponential increases of joy" is a more accurate description of the change. 

I won't deny that the change was tough. There were some rather dark days at the beginning. Having 2 babies in 2 years is not an undertaking for wussies. Combining that with seismic shifts of self-concept and identity certainly didn't help much. You couldn't pay me enough to go back to those days.

But, as every tough phase of childhood does, it all passed. I learned, I grew. They learned, they grew. They grew into delightful and entertaining little people. And the joy grew exponentially. Here are a few sources of joy that the last few years have brought:


  • Meeting a new little person, and learning that her personality was different from every other person in our family.
  • Learning the role of nature vs. nurture, and realizing that it wasn't all because of me. 
  • Seeing the results of teaching and training, and seeing that some of it could be from me.
  • Having a cuddly child in the house when another was independent.
  • Watching independence grow while having to hold another. 
  • Watching the beginning of a lifelong sister relationship.
  • Watching the development  and growth of that sisterhood.
  • The relief of observing that my children are smarter, cuter, funnier, and more interesting than I am. 
  • Watching beloved dogs grow to accept and love my children.
  • Watching my children grow to love and care for my dogs.
  • Observing a spark of music in my children that is beyond what I could give them.
  • Watching my husband grow in importance in the eyes of my daughters.
  • Watching my husband grow as a result of my daughters.
  • Enjoying the growth in our relationship as a result of parenting our daughters.
  • Nurturing a faith in young hearts that is greater than I'd ever imagine in children so young.
  • Receiving exuberant hugs, kisses, and artwork with a frequency that is sometimes overwhelming.


I could keep going. 

Despite missing a fantastic gourmet Thanksgiving meal the day that she was born, the entrance of MeToo into our lives was a huge blessing. And I give thanks for that day, 3 years ago today. 
Happy Birthday MeToo!

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Kolaches in Boston

It's quite difficult to find kolaches in Boston. I looked online. All I could find were people talking about how difficult they were to find here. So sometimes, one must take matters into one's own hands.

Growing up in Texas, kolaches were a big deal. Grandma made them for special occasions. And there were some bakeries here and there that we'd stop at to get some. It was high praise for a bakery if my dad declared, "those are some gooooood kolaches!"

So, while recently flipping through the Homesick Texan cookbook, I stumbled on a recipe for kolaches. They looked just like I'd remembered. So I had to try making them myself. 

While I remember them being made with prune filling, I opted to buy premade cans of apricot and raspberry. I wasn't so sure about mixing preschoolers with prunes...

And here's the result.




I used bread flour, as I'd somehow run out of all-purpose flour, so they ended up being huge! They were at least twice as wide as I remembered them. But they were good. They're more doughy than sweet, although the filling is quite sweet. They're best when fresh, so I distributed them among friends to avoid eating 12 tablespoons of butter in 2 days. But I'll be making them again soon. 

We're still trying to figure out what our family traditions will be around the holidays. So far, they consist of getting together with friends at Thanksgiving and me working the day after Thanksgiving while BestestHusband and the girls start to decorate for Christmas. But I feel like kolaches should be one of our traditions. It's a part of Texas German-Czech heritage that is so easily lost living in Boston. And a memory I want my girls to have. 

And now that I can make them, I feel like I have a certain mom cred. Hard to explain, but... Growing up, there were always a few ladies at the church who would bring things to potluck dinners and their food would disappear first. Mrs. Smith was known for her chicken'n'dumplins, Mrs. Jones was known for her sausage, Mrs. Brown would make tamales, etc. You wanted to get in line early to make sure you actually got some. I've always wanted to have The Thing that I could make. It's like church-lady street cred. And I feel like maybe I have it now. Maybe...

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Bedtime Prayers of Thanksgiving


Heard tonight at bedtime:

MeToo:  "Dear Jesus, thank you for money. And Mandy. Amen."
HeyMama:  "Dear Jesus, thank you for video games. Amen." Daddy, can we get an iPad?

I'm not sure when my children became so materialistic, but they picked an odd day to display it.

Happy Thanksgiving to all, and to all, a good night!

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

The Hat

We took a trip to the playground this morning to let the girls get some sun, burn off some steam, and prep for a trip to a chaotic pre-Thanksgiving grocery store. They played on the playground for a while, then decided to play in the baseball field. They ended up repeatedly rolling down a hill.

MeToo ended up covered in leaves. They clung to her knit hat and somehow made their way down the back of her coat. She was unhappy about that. She yanked off the hat and handed it to me to fix.

I picked the leaves off of the hat and held it in my hands. It was made of basic off-white yarn, probably acrylic. It was simple in design, but quite warm. My grandmother had made that hat. She made it when HeyMama was very tiny, and the hat was comically large. She made it before she forgot how to knit. But now she's gone. And MeToo has grown up to fit into the hat perfectly.

I'm thankful for family members that make things. I like to think that Grandma knitted and purled love into that hat. I can see it in her hands, with the rings she always wore. I can see her knitting it in her favorite chair. Her love cradles MeToo's little ears and holds in her wispy blonde hair. MeToo won't remember my Grandma, she was a tiny baby when they last saw each other.  And HeyMama will only remember the pictures and the stories that "Grandma Rose", the reason for HeyMama's middle name, typed up of her childhood adventures. But I can show them the hat she made for them - tangible proof that someone loved them. 

I used to think that intentions mattered more than actions. But now I know that's not true. Actions can produce evidence of love that endures long after the gift-maker is gone. I'm blessed to have a home that is full of things made by loved ones. We have quilts, furniture, scrap books, and other odds and ends. I can touch the objects and feel the love that went into them. And for that I am thankful. 


The Hat

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Preparation for Thanksgiving

I didn't take part in this year's Facebook challenge to list one thing every day in the month of November that I'm thankful for. It's not that I'm not thankful. It's more that I have poor followthrough.

In fact, by the time I finish this blog post, I will have gone off on at least two tangential google searches, gotten a drink of something, and certainly used the bathroom. And maybe sent an email or two. It's a marvel I get anything done in life, really.

See, by the time I got to THIS paragraph, I'd already gone off to find a recipe for mashed sweet potatoes. I think I've narrowed it down to ones with maple syrup instead of chipotles. I think I'm in charge of kid-friendly side dishes, and chipotles aren't always kid-friendly... Oooh, I just found a recipe with cardamom and orange liquor. That looks interesting too...

ANYWAY, my point was that I'd have more luck listing things that I'm thankful for if I actually sat down to do it all in one sitting. So, in not-a-consistently-hierarchical order, here's the beginning of my list. 

I'm thankful for:

  1. A faith that provides hope, comfort, joy, and an internal compass to guide me through life's adventures and challenges.
  2. A family that supports me, encourages me, challenges me, and gives me new reasons to be thankful every day.
  3. An education that gave me bankable work skills, challenged my view of the world, and taught me to always keep my eyes and mind open to new views.
  4. A vocation that challenges me emotionally, creatively, and sometimes intellectually. And allows me to help people. 
  5. Enough confidence in myself as a clinician that I can rejoice when patients rejoice, and cry when patients cry. 
  6. A group of friends that have become family.
  7. A handsome, brilliant, and all-around-good husband.
  8. Two adorable, entertaining, and loveable children. Most of the time.
  9. A local Mommy community to answer questions and reassure me that I'm not completely insane. Most of the time.
  10. The YMCA gym with babysitting, for when I am going insane.
  11. Flannel sheets.
  12. A down-filled duvet.
  13. Forced air heat.
  14. Heated tile bathroom floor.
  15. Down coat.
  16. Cashmere scarf.
  17. Giant warm mittens. (can you tell it's gotten chilly here lately?)
  18. A comfortable home that has room to grow into. This is not a common thing in our city.
  19. A yard, with room for a garden.
  20. A workplace within walking distance.
  21. Another workplace that allows me to walk to a train through one of the most beautiful urban gardens in the world.
  22. A safe neighborhood in a usually-safe city.
  23. Guaranteed education for my girls.
  24. Dogs. 
  25. A preschool that provides excellent care and enrichment for my girls, and supports their growing faith lives.
  26. Sunsets over our back yard.
  27. A patio to eat on in the summer and watch the sunsets.
  28. Woods behind our house that give shelter to deer, coyotes, foxes, and other fauna.
  29. Rapid internet access to any information we need to find. Like sweet potato recipes.
  30. The ability to walk to places, like parks, stores, libraries, and restaurants.
  31. Freedom.
  32. Dansko clogs. In marbled burgundy patent leather.
  33. Plenty of weather-appropriate clothing for the girls and us.
  34. Friends who hand a lot of it down to us.
  35. An in-unit washer and dryer to keep it all clean. 
  36. A spare bedroom to pile it all up in until I can fold and sort it all.
  37. A palate that was expanded by persistent parents, travel, and adventurous friends and husband.
  38. Cookbooks.
  39. Booze.
  40. Chocolate.
  41. Chocolate-flavored booze.
I could keep going and going. 
The challenge is to find something to be thankful for every day, not just at Thanksgiving, and not just in November. But November is a nice opportunity to sit down and focus on the many things for which we can give thanks.

So tomorrow, as I'm trying my hand at pumpkin empanadas, I will give thanks for pumpkin. And a functional kitchen. And family who taught me to appreciate home-made things. And... may the list go on and on.


Monday, November 19, 2012

School Report #4


We kicked off our week with another school visit. Bright and early, we visited the Hernandez School, or Escuela Rafael Hernandez K-8. The Hernandez is unique, as it conducts all educational instruction in both English and Spanish. The kids start out alternating 3 days of Spanish instruction with 2 days of English instruction. In 3rd grade, they switch to alternating 2 weeks of instruction in each language. Literacy begins in the child's home language, but children are expected to become functionally bilingual. This would be a marvel in our household, which is firmly monolingual.

The school itself was impressive. The classrooms were large, surprisingly large. The school had lots of space, including an auditorium, a gym, AND a cafeteria! They weren't all smooshed into one multipurpose space like in other schools! They had a full-time PE staff, with competitive sports, including track, for the 4th graders and up. The outside play yard/playground was the biggest I've seen so far. They had gardens, and a plot in the local community garden. Music and performance arts seemed to play a big part of their curriculum and culture. We saw the children practicing for a performance they'll be giving tomorrow. We observed dance and instruments, as well as singing. 

The school is considered a "Discovery School", which means that they can deviate from the standard BPS curriculum. They employ an "expeditionary learning" model of teaching, which from what I can tell, sounds like it's more hands-on and collaborative. (I still need to do more research on this concept.)

The school is an exciting prospect. It would be a challenge for all of us, both the girls and BestestHusband and myself. The language and cultural divides would allow for a significant amount of growth. And this school, with its bilingual education, is something that we could not provide for the girls anywhere else. The 'burbs don't provide the opportunity in public education, and our finances can't provide it at a private school. 

It's considered a city-wide school, so walk zones and BPS reorganization won't affect our ability to go there. The only thing that controls us is the lottery. I'm pretty sure this school will be high on our list.

School Report #3

So I visited my third school in as many days on Friday, the Beethoven school. This school appears to be much more popular. The tour group was large. They had a lot of questions.

The school was large. It was oldish, not as old as the first two I saw. They too did a lot to make brick walls more cheerful. But there was just a lot more space for everything. It didn't feel as cozy, quaint, and cramped as the other schools. It just felt like a school. With an actual auditorium. It's hard to articulate beyond that...

The principal was non-nonsense. She was older than the others I've met. And I got the sense she'd been doing this a long time and was good at it.

The test scores from the school are good. It's a popular school. My girls would fit in there. They would get a fine education. We'd never have to worry about it. It would be much like the elementary schools I went to.

But it's out of our walk zone. It probably won't be available for MeToo after the school re-draws zones and changes the lottery program. It's nice to have as a referent - to compare other less-popular schools to. But I don't think we should rank it highly, because I don't think it's a durable solution for us. It's too bad...

Thursday, November 15, 2012

School Report #2

I visited our second elementary school today, Phineas Bates Elementary.

After a hectic day where I worked at 2 different hospitals, I rushed to preschool, picked up the girls, stopped by the house to pick up a container of much-anticipated celery (!?!), and dashed to the other side of Roslindale to find The Bates. We found it. It wasn't too far away, as it is in our 1-mile radius "walk zone".

A teacher met us at the front door. The doors were locked, and we had to ring a doorbell to be let inside. BestestHusband mentioned that the school is in a higher-crime area and has gone into "lockdown" on several occasions. Lovely! 

Once inside, we saw the familiar trappings of an old-school Boston school building, with ugly brick walls and "quaint" windows and trim. Somehow, they did a lovely job of making it look cheerful and inviting. We met first in a Kindergarten classroom. The girls were invited to join in at the play area. They dove right in. The walls were papered with artwork and educational tools. I loved the room. It was full of action, even when we parents were sitting quietly. MeToo wandered around looking at all of the displays and teaching activities. When it was time to take the tour, she cried. She didn't want to leave that room. So the teacher of that class invited all of the kids to stay and play or color. My girls cheerfully waved me off and dove into the crayon box. I loved that teacher. 

The school was much like The Kilmer. It was boxy. It had multiple levels with old stairwells. It had a large playyard and good playground structure. But it had an additional Cafetorium, a mixed-use room that had a curtained stage to create a largish auditorium. 

This school had a large number of partnerships to augment the educational basics, using external community partners to provide additional resources and activities. The student population was not as white as the Kilmer. Or, more importantly, it wasn't as West Roxbury-ish as the Kilmer (ie. more affluent, with more dual-parent families, regardless of race/nationality). In other words, more was offered because the students needed more. The MCAS proficiency average was 22 points lower than the Kilmer, but the SGP (student growth percentage) was also 8 points lower. So the data also suggests that the student population struggles more, and the teachers aren't overcoming it as well. But the school had Advanced Work classes for 4th and 5th grades, equivalent to the Gifted and Talented programs that BestestHusband and I recalled so fondly from our childhoods. In fact, it's the only school in Roslindale that offers Advanced Work classes. So, given likely changes to BPS school assignments, if we want our girls to get AW opportunities in the later grades, it's good to start out here to make sure we can get in.

So again, it's another school I can see the girls going to. Tomorrow I'll visit a third school. Wish me luck.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

School Report #1

So I did my first school visit this morning.

Boston has an interesting public school system, where you don't send your kid to a neighborhood school. There is no such thing as a neighborhood school. There are dozens of elementary schools in your "zone" and a lottery system where you rank the schools by preference and hope that your lottery number is good enough to get your kid into a school at the top of the list. You find out in the spring which school your child will attend that next fall. Of course, if you're on a waitlist, you may get in after school starts. Or not at all. It's hard to know, really. It's a bit nerve-wracking for parents like me who like to plan in advance. Or like to feel like we have some semblance of control over our children's education.

We applied last year for K0, which is like public preschool. Of course we didn't get in. 

So this year we're back to try for K1, which is 4 yr old kindergarten. We may not get in. But I want us to at least try. My plan is to visit as many of the schools as possible that are either close or interesting. There are quite a few to visit. Currently, there are 3 zones across Boston, and you attend schools within your geographic zone. This system will remain in place for the 2013-2014 school year, the year that HeyMama could potentially enter K1. But that system will change for the 2014-2015 school year, the year that MeToo could potentially enter K1. We don't know what that system will look like. We may not know until after we register HeyMama for schools. So there will likely be a smaller pool of schools available for MeToo to register for. We're not sure what those schools will be yet. And we may not for a while. The school district may continue the practice of prioritizing younger siblings to be in the same school as the rest of their family members. Or they may not. So we could potentially have 2 kids, just one year apart, attending different schools. The whole thing is like a multivariable equation where the variables shift and change at undetermined intervals. Needless to say, Boston parents are stressed. 

So I visited the Kilmer lower school today. The school is across 2 campuses, with K1-3rd grade at the lower campus and 4th-8th grades at the upper campus. These campuses are 2 miles from each other. But it's still all the Kilmer School. Ok... I did not see the upper campus, but I heard it's very recently renovated. The lower campus, that I visited today, is not newly renovated. Built in the 1940's, it's a bit old-school. Both in appearance, and as I learned from a mom who sent both of her kids there, in practice as well. She describes the school as "structured", with high expectations for performance and behavior. She described standards that are higher than those mandated by the state. The school had the best 3rd grade MCAS reading scores in Boston, and some of the highest in the state. And, unlike other elementary schools, it offers multiple "specials", including art, music, drama, and phys ed. Optional string instrument classes start at the 2nd grade for a nominal fee. Now, growing up, we just called those things "classes". They were just part of the curriculum. (Joy, you're not in the 'burbs anymore! Get over it!) There was no indoor gym, no auditorium. But apparently, this is also normal for BPS. They had a nice school yard, with a fun playground structure. It was in a quiet residential neighborhood. The classrooms were all cheerful, orderly, and vibrant. I could see the girls learning a lot there. Apparently others can, too. It's a popular school. There are 2 classrooms for K1, with a total of 44 seats. In any given year, up to half of those seats can be filled with siblings of older students there. And there's always a wait list.

It's a school that I would be thrilled to send HeyMama to. But it's a bit further away, out of our "walk zone" (an area that is a 1-mile radius from our house and grants some preferential seating to kids in a school's neighborhood). So any school assignment changes would likely take it out of the running for MeToo the following year. Dang.

The Assistant Principal and I had a wonderful conversation about why we wanted our kids to grow up in a city school. We can offer our kids educational enrichments at home. They won't suffer academically, regardless of where they go to school. They will travel and see the world to learn history, geography, art. But we can't offer them the life lessons of growing up with kids that are different from them:  kids that speak different languages at home, kids that come from different religious backgrounds, kids that struggle with the challenges of poverty and broken homes. There is something to be learned from growing up in a diverse city that we can't provide as parents. And isn't that my job as a parent? To provide my kids with as many advantages as possible? I know it sounds strange, but perhaps putting my children in urban schools actually does give them more than putting them in homogenous and safe suburban schools would. I don't know...

There are 2 more schools that I plan to visit this week, with more scheduled over the next month. I'll report in regularly, mostly to just help myself organize the info. Sometimes choice can be a great thing, but at the moment, it feels like quite a burden.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Airing Dirty Laundry

If you read some blogs, you might get the idea that the blogger lives in a world where the house is always clean, the food is always gourmet and organic, and the cute clothes on the children are always hand-made.

This is not that blog. You don't want to read those other blogs. You want to know that other people out there live lives that are more chaotic and disorganized than your own. You want to see other people's failures so that you can feel a bit better about your own.

Oh, you don't? Well, sometimes I do...

So I'm posting my week's laundry failure. It's not really a failure, I mean, I managed to get all of the clothes clean in a 36 hour span. But not necessarily sorted. Or folded. Or put away.

But I did manage to make a pretty menacing mountain of laundry.


In the beginning, there was a basket of clean laundry, and a collection of socks.

And then a dry rack of work clothes and some more clean laundry came along.

And then the laundry basket disappeared.

And the mountain continued to grow.

There's a quilt still in the dryer that will soon be added to the mountain. I plan on sending out an avalanche warning. I think the spare bedroom will be off-limits to children and pets until I can get this monster under control.

I hope you feel better about your own laundry habits. Happy Tuesday!

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Little Surprises

Some things are for certain. Like laundry. 
Some things are surprising. Like the speed at which laundry multiplies. 
Good gracious. Bunnies have nothing on the multiplicative power of laundry.

But life is still full of little surprises.

Like finding the Virgin Mary at the bottom of the girls' laundry hamper.



Where else would she be? I mean, why NOT in the bottom of the laundry hamper?

Maybe it's because I'm doing laundry after midnight and even BestestHusband and the dogs have gone to bed. But it made me smile. 
It's a nice reminder that even in the mundane, joy hides, waiting for you to find it. This week was full of little joys: 
  • I found encouragement and support in strangers, even after a difficult mommy confession.
  • I found friendliness and trust in other strangers, who took a chance and accepted a random offer of hospitality.
  • I found thanksgiving and grace in the news that a church friend's child, born with birth defects that could have been fatal, will be testing out of early intervention, and is just as healthy and well-developed as any other child his age. 
  • I found hope and excitement in a new project that will share the joy of the upcoming Christmas with others who might be in need of a little joy. 


The week was a busy one. It was good stewardship of my time that prevented me from writing more posts this week. This upcoming week will be busy, as well. I'll visit 3 different elementary schools to try to decide where to send HeyMama next year. There's a party, some swim lessons, and trips to the playground. There will be a lot of the mundane. Like more laundry. (For Pete's sake, will it ever end?!?!) But I have no doubt that there will be plenty of joy. Maybe even at the bottom of the laundry hamper.

Have a great week!



It multiplied again! Yikes!

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Maybe Sunday isn't the Best Pick

So I'm starting to think that Sunday isn't the best day to sit back and reflect on my week. Perhaps Monday isn't reliable, either...

I don't watch much TV. Except Sunday and Monday. Call the Midwife is on. Then, Revenge. They've become addictions. I never used to understand the ladies who scheduled their days around their afternoon soap operas. And now I schedule my week around a show of my own. Lame, I know. But they're really fun shows! Call the Midwife is good. Really good. Revenge is just fun. And then Monday has Dancing With the Stars. And then Castle. Ok, so they're not the most profound of offerings, but they are a lot of fun. And they make me not want to to escape my escapism to write about how my week was and how to improve upon it for the next week.

So maybe I'll switch to Stewardship Saturdays. Sundays aren't really so productive anymore.

Friday, November 2, 2012

Bedtime Prayer

Heard tonight during prayer time (translated from preschooler dialect):

MeToo:  "Dear Jesus, thank you for Mama... and Daddy... and Mandy... and Cameron... and HeyMama... and undies... and jammies... and pants... and shirts... and good stuff.......... and Mama... and Daddy... and Mandy... and Cameron... and lights... and flashlights... and toys... and flowers... and books... and butterflies..... and um...... and um.........."
Mama and Daddy:  "AMEN!"
MeToo:  "Amen."

I'm glad she gives thanks for the small joys of life, but she was starting to do a visual inventory of the room, and we didn't want to spend the next 20 minutes in there.

Thank you Lord for bedtime. Amen.

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Listen and Obey

"Listen and Obey."
It's a phrase we use a lot in our household.

I know that some parents would find this phrase to be horribly demeaning to children. Parenting is about negotiating with your child, reasoning with them until you can come to an agreement on what should happen. Or you should play through the situation until your goal is achieved. 

I think that's a bunch of malarkey. You don't have time to negotiate and play when your child is running towards a busy city street. You don't always have the chance to reason with them when they're doing something unsafe. Sometimes, you just need to be able to utter a command and know that your child knows they're supposed to respond. I'm not saying we have a 100% success rate for compliance, but we're usually above 90%, which I think is pretty good. Children don't know which commands are keeping them intact vs. keeping the china cabinet intact. It's not their job to stop and try to figure it out. They just need to listen. Their lives and my sanity depend on it. 

As the girls can recite, my words are to "teach them and keep them safe". So I used the newspaper this morning as a teachable moment. There were a lot of people that suffered in the hurricane, despite preparing as well as they could. I have nothing but sympathy for those folks. I've lived through roof-ripping hurricanes, and they're terrifying. I can imagine that the recovery effort is overwhelming. But there were a lot of people who suffered because they decided not to evacuate when they should have. They were given an order, but they chose not to obey. 

wwlp.com
Now, I'm not saying we should all be automatons that follow every recommendation of our government without questioning them. No, reason is important. But when all of the weather reports and emergency warnings tell you that 90mph winds and 10+ feet of water are coming to wipe away your home, it seems wise to evacuate. Especially if you aren't savvy in the areas of meteorology, civil engineering, and hydrology. They weren't interrupting your weekend TV programs for the fun of it. No, they were trying to keep you from getting killed. 

I wonder, as I see more people subscribe to the "negotiate until agreement" method of parenting, if this phenomenon will get worse in the future. If a good chunk of our society believes that the rules don't really apply to them (especially if they don't like the rule or recommendation), how will we stay safe? How will we learn without having to learn the hard way?

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

A New Obsession

I have a new toy obsession. Not a toy for me, but toys for the girls. I never thought toy-buying could be so complicated, but hey, most of us were pretty naive before we had kids.

I always figured we'd avoid Barbies. It's just the appropriate feminist thing to do, according to my liberal arts education. I figured we'd avoid "things that were too-thoroughly marketed". It seemed safer to just avoid TV character dolls that had their own music videos, breakfast cereals, and aisles at Target. Then there was the "avoiding the toys that contribute to poor body image or gender stereotypes". And the "toys that do too much of the work and don't foster creativity". And the "toys coated in toxic paint".  And the list goes on and on. Whew.

And one day, HeyMama and I went to a toy store to do a little lesson on the value of a dollar. The lesson didn't really get us too far, as nothing there was available for a dollar. But there was a little table set up with these little animal dolls. Their appendages and heads were moveable. They were fuzzy. They had tiny little clothes, furniture, and intricately detailed accessories. HeyMama sat herself down at that table and played for half an hour. I could not pull her away.

That was my first exposure to Calico Critters. They were cute pudgy little animals. The Mama and Daddy animals look alike, as do the siblings. No body image issues there... I had never seen them anywhere else before. No excessive marketing there... And while there are a lot of intricate pieces (great for fine motor skills!), none of them do the work for you. It's great for creative play. I found the perfect toy!!! And then I looked at the price tag... 
I would pay dearly for that perfection.

The price tag horrified me. Ok, so quality toys demand a quality price. You get what you pay for, yadda yadda. 
But still. The price!

An then I discovered a thriving secondhand market for Calico Critters. Because they cost so much, parents want to recoup their investment. They're still not free, but they're secondhand toys, so they can't cost an arm and a leg. So they sell them for about half price. This makes them reasonable. And the collection has been around at least since I was a little girl (I remember the commercials!), so there are a lot of pieces out there that are up for grabs.

This makes them perfect for becoming an obsession. It's something I can troll Craigslist for to find a great bargain. Or 7.

So if you see some at a yard sale with prices in the single digits, please snap them up for me. Or for yourself. Then you can have your own obsession.

Here's a teeny-tiny fridge with teeny-tiny groceries. Too cute.

Here's some teeny-tiny produce. With some dog fur thrown in for scale.

Here's Sister Panda in MeToo's little hand.

Here's Sister at her desk. With teeny-tiny desk accessories.
And MeToo's toes for scale.

MeToo holding Sister's globe. It actually spins. So cute!

Here's a Baby Guinea Pig on his/her playmat. Remember the gender neutral thing?
So dang cute.

Mama Guinea Pig and her twins come with a stroller. That really rolls.
And has an adjustable canopy. Seriously.
It's just all insanely cute.