Tuesday, June 30, 2009


Do you remember when you were a little kid and you were sick and you missed your nap and all your friends had to go home and you fell down and scraped your knee and the whole world was just BAD?  And then your mommy took you in her arms and whispered in your ear and stroked your hair and you fell asleep because the world was just GOOD?

I can do that.

Test Run

Our friend Jackson spent this past weekend with us.  He's the (now 7-year-old) boy who helped inspire us to have a child ourselves.  This time he's helping us understand what it will be like with two children in the house. 

We've never had another kid in the house for so long, and especially without his parents around.  So this was our very first experience "parenting" two at once.  It was awesome!  Not only did we get to put our skills to work on a much older child who could understand so much more, but we got to try our hand at some sibling skills like teaching problem solving

We did a lot of, "If you want Sam to do X, then you might try asking her," and "Sam, when you want something Jackson is holding, you can ask him for it and he can say yes or no."  We never got comfortable enough to say things like, "That sounds like something you need to work out yourselves."  I think if the two of them had a whole week together we might have gotten there.  But Jackson obviously already has some problem solving skills.  I had made a rule that each kid could only have one balloon at a time because I knew that otherwise the bag of balloons would be gone by the end of the day.  Jackson wanted his tied up, and Sam wanted hers untied so that I could blow it up over and over and she could make it squeak or send it flying for the cat to chase.  Jackson saw how much fun Sam was having and tried to grab Sam's balloon.  She whined, NOOOOO, and turned around, protecting her property.  I suggested to Jackson that he ask her if he could use it.  He didn't right away, but about a minute later, he said to Sam, "Here, you can play with mine while I play with yours."  Sam agreed, they traded, and they played nicely together for quite some time.

With Jackson alone, I really enjoyed using some of the skills I've been working on with Sam, like acknowledging his emotions.  It was hard because I don't know Jackson as well as I know my own daughter so I couldn't always tell when he was truly upset, when he was being dramatic, and when he was just goofing around.  The best example happened when we had a little party on Sunday.  A couple with three daughters came over for a barbecue.  (Holy cow, five kids at once!)  All the kids were playing on their own and the adults were talking in the kitchen.  At one point, Jackson came in and said, "I want to play with the girls but all they want to do is sleep."  Apparently, the two older girls were pretending to sleep on Jackson's air mattress in the basement.  I asked him if it bothered him that they were using his bed but he said no, that he just wanted them to play and they wouldn't.  We told him that he couldn't make them play and neither could we, but that he could suggest a different game or play by himself.  He went off and I thought it was over, but about five minutes later I noticed the girls had come upstairs and I thought I heard, over the din, a wailing coming from the basement.  I ran down and Jackson was by himself, crying.  He said the same thing, that he was upset that the girls didn't want to play with him.  I almost went into problem-solving mode again, but then I realized that this was more than frustration.  I went over and hugged him and said, "We'll talk about what to do in a minute, but for now let's just have a hug."  He leaned right into it and it obviously comforted him.  We took some deep breaths.  When he was feeling better, I asked him a couple of questions about how he felt (it was mostly disappointment) and then I repeated some of the suggestions for what he could do next.  This time, he went upstairs and everything was fine.  It might have helped that the girls were done "sleeping" but I also know that, besides suggestions for actions, Jackson needed someone to acknowledge his hurt.  Wow, that felt good. 

Another skill I used, straight out of How to Talk So Kids Will Listen and Listen So Kids Will Talk, was acknowledging Jackson's feelings by fantasy wish-granting.  We have this snake, a stuffed animal we got at the zoo.  We named it Severus, for reasons obvious to any Harry Potter fan.  Jackson loved Severus, and at one point he said, "I wish I could take Severus home with me."  I think I said something like, "Oh, that's too bad."  Jackson didn't complain, but afterwards I realized that I could have done better.  Later, I was given a second chance when Jackson was packing up his things to leave while carrying Severus around on his shoulders.  I said, "I wish I could wave a wand like Harry Potter and make a duplicate Severus for you to take home."  Jackson looked at me and I swear, I saw him pause to digest what I had said and then he gave me the best, most appreciative smile I've ever seen.  All he said was, "Thanks," with delighted surprise in his voice.  It's hard to convey in words what I saw in the smile and heard in that voice.  All I can say is, "It works!"

Another thing that really struck me was how much Jackson really listened.  The first morning, he woke up early and stomped around the house and eventually woke up Samantha.  Adam explained to him that he needed to be extra quiet in the morning so as not to wake her up, and left it at that.  The next morning, I awoke to the sound of my name, opened my eyes, and saw a sweet face in front of me.  Jackson whispered, "Can I watch TV?"  I said "Sure, I'll help you get set up," and got up.  We were halfway downstairs when I realized that Jackson was walking quietly and whispering.  I said, "Thank you for being so quiet, Jackson."  Later in the day, I made sure to tell Adam, with Jackson within earshot, how quiet Jackson had been that morning.  It was actually quite difficult not to overdo the praise.  I didn't want him to think that we were surprised that he was so good, but, in fact, I was a bit surprised.  I'm still rooting out that bad premise that kids are little heathens who will be naughty by default.

Some other random observations:

  • All the kids got along very well together with very little supervision.  I know that having a baby will be very different, but ages seven and (almost) three for one weekend was pretty easy.  If things go as I hope they will, Sam will be the seven-year-old in a pair in about four years.

  • I didn't like the chaos of five kids in the house, but really, it wasn't as bad as I thought it would be.

  • Boys are messy bathroom-goers.  If I ever have one, I'm keeping a mop in the bathroom.

  • I don't know if it's a boy thing or an age thing or a Jackson thing, but Jackson is totally ballistic compared to Samantha.  He can tear through a room and pull out dozens of toys in one minute flat.  Thankfully, he was very willing to clean up when he was done.  He doesn't seem to be careless, but he still breaks things easily.  He always apologized and even told me that he tried to fix things.  I think he's still learning his own strength.  I had to work hard to let go and just let whatever happened, happen.  Luckily, no major damage was done.

  • Jackson sleeps so soundly I had to check his breathing.  It took me about ten minutes to get him up for a bathroom run in the middle of the night.  Toby barked right next to his ear and he didn't even stir.  I sure hope that is a typical kid thing and not just Jackson.  As of now, Sam wakes up when Toby barks on the far side of the house.

  • The noise level goes up exponentially with the number of children in the house.

  • The mess level goes up exponentially with the number of children in the house.

  • Five kids can go through a bottle of apple juice in a matter of hours.

  • There's no such thing as a kid who laughs too loud.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

It's That Time Again

It's that after-sick time now in our house.  Samantha is much better today, but I'm losing my mind because she has become a whining, annoying, uncooperative baby.  I hate to say that about my own child (and I wouldn't say it to her face), but it's true.  Of course, we made her that way by spoiling her for the past 5 days.  And it's hard to get out of the habit.  We've been sleeping in her room, spoon feeding her, letting her drink juice all day, and basically giving her anything she wants.  While she is sick, she doesn't abuse her power, but the better she feels, the more she reverts to screaming at any little thing that doesn't go her way. 

I think this is what people mean when they say that being a parent requires patience.  A few days of proper parenting is the cure for this ill.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

A Little Thing

Samantha rolled a pair of dice for the first time tonight.  She got double sixes!


Sung to the tune of "Where is Thumbkin":

Jinx and Sammy
Jinx and Sammy
Don't you fight
Don't you fight
I don't want to referee
I don't want to referee
It makes me uptight
It makes me uptight

Friday, June 26, 2009

Saucy Salmon

Lately, I've been enamored of simple recipes with very few ingredients.  I made up this salmon recipe based on a suggestion from a friend to use heavy cream for sauces, instead of making a roux with flour.  I've made this a few times now and it's one of those "no fail" recipes - always good and always easy.  I like to serve it with roasted asparagus.

  • Season 2 or 3 salmon fillets in Tony Chachere's Original Creole Seasoning (or some tasty seasoning of your choice)

  • Heat 1 Tablespoon butter in a large frying pan on medium-high heat

  • Swish the butter around and when it starts to bubble a bit, add 1 Tablespoon olive oil

  • Once it's hot, add the salmon

  • Fry for about 3 minutes per side (Tip: cut off and remove the thinner parts before they get overcooked - it doesn't look as nice, but it tastes better)

  • Remove the salmon to a plate, turn the heat to low and then let the pan cool off a bit

  • Add about 1/2 cup of heavy cream (I never measure), some lemon juice, and a dash of balsamic vinegar

  • Stir, heat it through and reduce it if you like

  • Season to taste (if you use Chachere's, you won't need any more seasoning) and pour over salmon to serve


Forgive me, Internet, for I have sinned.  It has been 143 days since my last confession.

Michael Jackson was my first crush.

I have some mixed feelings today, but mostly I feel sad.  I don't know whether the allegations of molestation were true.  If they weren't, he suffered a massive injustice.  If they were, he was evil.  Either way, though, his life was obviously a mess.  What a sad ending for that adorable little boy who sang like an angel and taught the world a new way to dance.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

He's a Good Dad

Tonight, Adam taught Samantha how to say, "Give me a shot, barkeep.  And make it a double!"  He also taught her how to say, "One more for the road."  Why does that make him a good dad?  Because Sam is sick and needs her fluids, and that little game is what got her to drink a whole glass of juice, one little medicine cup at a time.

Chocolate Ice Cream

In case anyone wonders why I read dooce, here's the answer.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Objectivist Round Up

Check out this week's Objectivist Round Up at The Rule of Reason.


It looks like Samantha has her first case of croup.  Around 11pm last night, a sound came from her bedroom that made me sit up in bed, and made Adam run into our bedroom to ask me if I had made that noise.  It sounded like a barking seal and it was loud. 

A bit later, Sam woke up crying and we could tell she was not going back to sleep so we went in to give her Tylenol and some love.  When it was time for her to get back in bed, she asked to keep her bedroom door open which we've never done before.  I did want to be able to hear her and I thought it was a good time to test out this new freedom.  Even though she can open doors now, she hasn't bothered to come out of her room at night yet.  That is just typical Samantha.  But I know someday she will open that door and I thought leaving it open this time might help to comfort her and give her some practice at the same time.

I had to return her to her bed 3-4 times, and Adam did it once.  We used the Supernanny technique.  The first time, I said, "It's time for bed, sweetie."  The second time, "Bedtime."  All other times, no words, just a gentle and calm touch when picking her up.  She cried for about a half hour, which is probably what she would have done with the door closed anyway.  Then she stayed in her room for the rest of the night.  She woke up coughing a few times, but she stayed in bed.

I hope this bodes well for the future of bedtime.

I Googled "croup" this morning and it appears that she has a mild case that won't require a trip to the doctor, but she might miss her second day of day care this week if the fever doesn't pass quickly.  I really hate that.  We're also having our friends' son (the one we went to the Bahamas with) stay with us this weekend, so I'm keeping my fingers crossed that she gets better quickly.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

A Baby Maybe

For anybody considering becoming a parent, I'd like to recommend this excellent book:  A Baby? Maybe:  A Guide to Making the Most Fateful Decision of Your Life by Elizabeth M. Whelan. 

When Adam and I got married we were both undecided about having children, and I think we both leaned towards the negative.  The first thing that started steering us in the other direction was a vacation we took with our close friends and their 18 month old son.  We spent a week in the Bahamas with them and saw firsthand how they were able to integrate their child into their lives and continue to do fun, adventurous things, even if it did mean lugging around a lot more stuff.  We thought to ourselves, "We could do that."

Then, a friend of Adam's recommended this book to us.  He picked up a copy and we read it together (back in the days when we had time for him to read out loud to me ;) ).  I don't remember it too clearly, but the book was mostly a series of interviews the author conducted, asking people about which choice they made, why, and whether they had any regrets.  Adam and I came away with three new and life-changing ideas about this decision:

1)  The decision to become a parent is unique - unlike any other you will make in your life - and so it must be approached slightly differently.  There are two things that make it unique.  First, you are creating a new human being with free will, so you have much less control over the outcome than with other choices.  You never have perfect information, but in this case, you will always have doubts and confusion because you have no ultimate control over what your child will be.  You can't make a pro-and-con list.  You will never feel like you've analyzed the options and know what to expect.  You cannot really know what to expect.

2)  The second thing that makes this decision unique is that it is irrevocable.  Most choices you make in life can be reversed.  Sometimes there is a lot of pain involved, but you can say, "I made a mistake.  I'm going to go back and fix it."  When you have a child, you can never change the fact that you are a parent.  Even in the worst cases where you might give the child up for adoption, the fact that you created a human being is going to alter your life forever.  But, more likely, you will spend the rest of your life as an active parent and there is nothing you can do to change that.

3)  The regret principle applies.  In the interviews in the book, the people with the most regrets were the ones who defaulted into a choice, whether it was to have children or not to have children.  That included people who had kids because it was "the thing to do" after they got married, and people who never had kids because they just never got around to it or couldn't make up their minds.  This taught us that we needed to make a conscious decision one way or another.

Once we recognized these three principles, we both knew we wanted to have a child.  It was strange how it became so obvious after these revelations.  I think we both had been in the "wait and see" mode, figuring that we'd know if and when the time was right.  The third point really woke us up.

The book is out of print, but you can find used copies at Amazon.  The thing that prompted me to write about it is that I recently heard Leonard Peikoff recommend the very same book on his podcast.  (Unfortunately, I didn't write down which podcast it was.)  The person who told us about the book was not an Objectivist, so I was quite shocked and pleased to hear that Dr. Peikoff also recommended it.

A Baby? Maybe is not a book that will convince you to have children.  It is a guide to how to approach the whole issue.  It gives you a framework for your thinking.  And it uses an inductive approach by starting with real people and their decisions, and using those facts to come up with some general principles.

Monday, June 22, 2009


Early this year, Adam and I agreed not to take a vacation this year for financial reasons.  We were really struggling, and a vacation is a budget-buster that is easy to cut out of the equation.

Now we have three trips planned.

Our financial situation improved a bit, so we thought, well, maybe we'll take a quick trip somewhere.  But we also decided that we wouldn't go visit any friends or family, but just get out of town on our own, just the three of us.

Two of the three trips are family visits.

It's just irresistible.  My parents are staying in a campground just 4 hours away for the next month, so we're going to drive there with the dog for the Fourth of July weekend.  Cheap and fun!  Then, Adam's parents told us they'd chip in if we flew down to Florida to visit, and that they'd watch Sam for a couple of days while the two of us took a side trip.  How could we say no to that? 

Then, Adam has a business trip to New York just after Christmas, so Sam and I will tag along.  Going along on Adam's business trips is an easy and cheap way to travel, but, again, it's not something we really chose on our own. (But I have been dying to get back to New York lately anyway.)

Most of our vacations are like this - things that fall in our laps.  Mostly, they are a lot of fun, and we don't end up doing the same thing year after year, which I prefer not to do.

But someday...someday...we'll make it to Italy for our long-delayed honeymoon.  Maybe I should start planning now if I want to do it in the next decade.


Michelle at Scribbit has the best moose story ever!  Here's a teaser:
You see, apparently the good folks at the Anchorage School District figure that children today don't have enough to worry about. Global warming, nuclear holocaust, terrorism, AIDS, swine flu, drugs and domestic violence are all fine and dandy but our children today really need to be warned about the dangers of moose. Yes moose.

The schools are trying to make kids afraid of man, but, of course, we're supposed to be afraid of nature too.  I applaud Michelle's intent, even if it didn't work out as planned.

Saturday, June 20, 2009


That was a crazy post I wrote last night but I'm finally rested!  The cat meowed and I woke up about 4 times, but it was still the best night's sleep I've had in a long time.  Ambien rocks!  Sam slept better too, only waking up a half hour early this morning.  Whew!  You never know, those hallucinations might just have been from sleep deprivation.

My Consolation Prize

One thing I get to be happy about after finding out that there is another month of uncertainty ahead of us as we continue on this baby-making journey is that I get to take my sleeping pills for a couple of weeks, while I'm sure I'm not pregnant.

Prior to chucking the birth control pills, I'd been taking Ambien (or the generic, Zolpiderm) for about 6 months pretty much daily.  It was wonderful.  It was so wonderful, in fact, that I was afraid I wouldn't be able to stop taking it when the time came.  I was sure that I was addicted, even though it is supposedly non-habit-forming.  But I did stop, that first month, and although I had some trouble sleeping, it was nothing worse than the same insomnia that drove me to take the pills in the first place.  Maybe it was even less severe than that. 

I get the lowest dosage of this drug that you can get, and I cut the pills in half, and they knock me out like a ... like a ... like a two ton heavy thing.  (Anyone? Anyone?) And before I fall asleep, I get a sense of well being, along with minor hallucinations that amuse me.  That's pretty good shit, doc!

Tonight I took a full pill and now the words are swimming on the screen in front of my eyes, and several rows of type are highlighted in orange (oh, no, it's blue now).  My keyboard appears to be covered in snow. I wouldn't be surprised if I started smelling the fishy scent of the Pacific Ocean any time now.  You couldn't pay me to get in a car and drive right now. 

I took the full dose tonight because I am actually more tired than usual.  Sam has been keeping me up at night.  Well, in the morning.  She is waking up an hour or two earlier than usual, and not napping well either.  It's wreaking havoc on my sleep schedule, because I'm one of those night people.  I just can't get my butt to bed early.  As soon as it gets dark, I'm awake.  And this has been going on for a couple of weeks now, and even after sleeping in until 11am this morning (thanks, hon), I am still a walking zombie.

So every night I've been saying, "I have to get to bed earlier," but now I have my miracle pill that will make it happen.  Still, I took the pill and, instead of getting right in bed, I came downstairs to write this post in an altered state.  Anything, anything to stay awake longer.  It's a curse, I tell you!

And now I must go get a snack and watch a little HGTV, because, of course, I'm all wound up and need to chill a bit before actual sleep arrives.  But at least I know that I'll be asleep the minute I turn off my light, and nothing will wake me.  Not that damn bird that tweets outside my window at 4am, not those crazy sounds I heard last night that sounded like a combination of something breaking the sound barrier, followed by a gunshot, twice, at 3:45am, not my dog puking under the bed, not my daughter waking up at 6, and then after she quiets, the cat meowing at her door to wake her (and therefore, all of us) back up.  And not that strange lady peering at me from inside the closet, oh, but she disappears when I look in her direction. (Serious hallucinations, I tell you!)

Yeah, I'll sleep tonight.  Thanks again Modern Medicine.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Cats and Dogs


Once upon a time, there was a little kitty cat.  He didn't even have a name.  He lived in a cattery with many other cats.  His brothers and sisters all got sick, so they took him away from his mommy.  He was sad.  They put him with a new mommy who gave him milk, but he still missed his real mommy and his brothers and sisters.  Then, one day, a man and a woman came into the cattery.  The kitty smelled them.  [sniff]  They smelled good.  He wanted to go home with them.  The man sat on the bed and the kitty jumped up on the bed and bit him on the butt.  The man said, "I like this one. Let's bring him home."  The woman said, "Ok, if you insist."  They brought him home and named him...[dramatic pause]...Jinx!


Once upon a time there was a brown puppy dog.  He was left on the side of the road, but at least he had his brothers and sisters with him.  They were scared, but a lady came and picked them up and brought them to her home, which she called, "The Rescue."  She named them all.  The brown puppy was named Spencer.  One day, a family took Spencer to their home, and changed his name to Buddy.  Spencer especially liked the little boy, but every time he went near him, the boy would sneeze and cough.  The daddy said that the boy was allergic to Buddy and they would have to take him back to The Rescue.  Buddy was very sad.  At The Rescue, the lady changed his name back to Spencer.  He was confused.  Then, one day, a man and a woman came to The Rescue.  Spencer smelled them. [sniff]  They smelled good.  He wanted to go home with them.  He jumped out of The Rescue lady's arms and ran to the woman, who picked him up and kissed him.  The man said, "He loves you."  The woman said, "Let's bring him home."  The man said, "Ok, if you insist."  They brought him home and named him...[dramatic pause]...Toby!


I'll tell you that one when you are older.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

My New Throne

After my dad fixed the inner workings of three out of our four toilets, we got motivated to replace the seats, too.  Three were chipped and disgusting just like this one:

Old toilet seat

The fourth, in the powder room on the main level, was wood, which I think is wrong on so many levels:

Wood Seat


To replace them, we got 2 of these awesome kids' seats:

Kid Seat

The smaller seat folds up into the lid and is held there by a magnet.  We put one of these in the powder room and one in Sam's bathroom.  Hopefully she'll start using them soon. (Arg!)

Then for the other 2, we got the "Whisper Close" seats.  Check it out:

It may seem like a gimmick, but we always keep the lids shut to keep the animals out, and in the middle of the night that small luxury is welcome, indeed.  It's a Little Thing.

In Case You Think I'm Against Modern Medicine

I peed on a stick this morning.  That's 2 months of failure now.  I'm not surprised this month, though, since Adam was away on a business trip during the crucial time.  I have more hope this coming month because we were successful in month number 3 both of the previous times.  The other key ingredient was the ovulation predictor kit, which worked on the first try both other times, so I'm pulling that tool out of the box next time too.

If you've done the math you may be wondering what happened to the other pregnancy.  Something bad happened.  Something really bad.  Not a miscarriage.  At twenty weeks, I had the ultrasound that told us we were having a girl, but there were some anomalies.  So, I had an amnio.  Waiting the 10 days for the results was hard, but they came back normal.  Then we had to wait through another 3 weeks of torture to have another ultrasound, and that's when we found out that the baby was horribly disfigured.  We got a second opinion just in case, but we knew what we had to do.  I would never give birth to a child with Down's, and this was probably worse, although we couldn't know for sure since it wasn't a recognizable condition or syndrome.  If the baby made it to term at all, it might have even endangered my health to give birth - at least that's what the good doctors told the religious nuts on the Board of the hospital, who would presume to tell me what the rest of my life must be.  You see, I was just about to enter the 3rd trimester.

The doctor gave the baby a lethal injection and I gave birth to a dead baby the next day.  I was so scared to look at her, but I did.  She never could have lived - not a real life - but she wasn't a monster either.  I'm so glad I looked at her or I would have had a black hole of terror inside me forever.  The autopsy didn't tell us anything about why it happened.  It could have been a combination of our genes, which would mean that it could happen again, or it could have been something that went wrong after conception, in which case it would be very unlikely to happen again.  We waited 3 months and started over and ended up with Samantha, who is perfectly healthy.  Still, that doesn't rule out the possibility that we have a lethal combination of genes; it just makes it less likely.

I've had to work really, really hard at not allowing that experience to cripple me with fear.  I'd had very little experience with death before that, and it was a hard way to join the club.  I didn't feel like I was truly pregnant with Sam until we had a clean 20 month ultrasound, which was a shame because I did love being pregnant.  I know if I get pregnant again, it will be the same.  Most people wait until the 12 week mark to make any announcements because the chances of a miscarriage are so high up until that point.  I figure that by the time I'm 20 weeks along and feeling comfortable, I'll be as big as a house already anyway, so I might as well lay it all out from day one.

Since nobody likes to be pitied and we hide early miscarriages, I had no idea how common they were.  After our experience, it seemed like every woman I knew told me about their miscarriages.  If they hadn't had a miscarriage, they had fertility issues.  Despite all the racy jokes to the contrary, the process of making babies is a terrible, difficult thing.  And now, I'm 39.  Doctors call that, "advanced maternal age," and it comes with all sorts of fun stuff to worry about.  I was in that category last time too, but at 36, it was borderline.  Now I'm clearly past the time when making babies is supposed to be easy.

So I'm excited to try to make another one, but I'm going to be on-edge for a while, no matter what happens.

I want to conclude this story with one observation.  As bad as our first pregnancy experience was, I thank my lucky stars that I was born in this age of modern medicine.  My baby's problem was diagnosed before she was born, allowing me to save her, my husband, and myself from the unimaginable misery that would have ensued should she had lived.  I had an abortion.  I'm proud of it, and so very thankful for the doctors who helped me through it.  And now when I hear anti-abortion advocates calling abortion immoral, I get angry.  I get head-spinning, stomach-churning angry because I remember the 3 hours I spent in the doctor's office, waiting for the lethal injection.  The 3 hours that it took to clear the procedure through the Catholic Board of Directors.  The 3 worst hours of my life.

Monday, June 15, 2009

A Little Thing

Samantha drew her first recognizable face.  I think the scribble over the head is supposed to be hair.

First Face

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Sammy Says

Samantha is really too young for Simon Says, but she made up a similar game, pretty much on her own, that works well for her age (coming up on 3 now!).

At the dinner table the other night, she slammed both palms down on the table, just in playful way, so I did the same.  She put her hands in her lap.  I did the same.  Then back and forth she went, with me copying her each time.  Adam joined in after a few rounds.  It didn't take long before Sam decided to trick us by hitting the table twice in a row, and we fell for it.  That was a hit, so we kept going, and she got pretty good at fooling us.

Last night we played again, and after Sam's turn, I told her and Adam to copy me.  I added clapping into the mix.  Adam took a turn being It and added in the Macaulay Culkin hands-to-the-cheeks move.

All of this got huge giggles from Sam, and from us grownups as well.  At least one type of humor is the surprise of the unexpected.  All the clown-inspired entertainers for tots seem to go by this principle, pulling bananas from their ears or just falling on the ground for no apparent reason. 

I really enjoyed that Sam was able to surprise us, and that she was able to invent a game like this.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Problem Solver

My dog has been refusing to eat his dry food lately.  After his bout of Pukinson's Disease (credit for that term goes to Rational Jenn) he got used to eating wet food and rice, so now dry food is just oh-so-dull.  He'll wait until he's sure it's the best he's going to get before he'll take a bite.

This morning, he wasn't eating his breakfast, but Jinx, the cat, wanted some.  The cat is usually the dominant animal in the house, but when it comes to food, Toby will stand up for himself.  So Jinx goes into Toby's crate where his bowl is, and Toby growls and snaps at him.  It's a pretty scary sound, coming from a dog who is otherwise completely non-aggressive.  Jinx then either runs away, or starts a face off, where they just look at each other until Jinx makes a move, and Toby snaps at him again.

This is all a bit scary to Samantha, who is not used to the dog sounding so mean.  After a few rounds, she got fed up and decided to solve the problem.  She went to Toby's crate, picked up his bowl, and put it up on top of the crate where neither of them could get to it.

I thought that was pretty darn smart.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Homeschooling Conference

Wow!  I actually learned quite a bit at the conference yesterday.  First, I learned that god is everywhere.  At least, he is at one of these events.

Religion aside, I really got a better feel for how to start tackling the homeschooling thing.  First, there was a workshop on understanding Virginia homeschooling law.  I had read the law itself and a couple of summaries, but the hour-long presentation really answered my questions about small details.  There were also a couple of "how to begin" type courses which ranged from mind-numbingly boring to mildly helpful, and a course on the major types of homeschooling: traditional, classical, unit studies, "the living book," the principle approach, and unschooling.  None of the categories struck me as exactly what I want to do, but it's nice to have a framework when searching for materials to use.

The exhibit hall was 90% Christian.  I know a huge amount of homeschoolers do it for religious reasons, but I was still shocked.  I managed to find six or seven interesting vendors out of the hundreds there.  I also got a great tip from a woman selling a grammar program.  When I joked that it would be a long time before my 2-year-old would be ready for grammar, she suggested that I buy a set of those accordion files that are numbered 1-12 for the months, but use them to file away ideas for each grade level.  I thought that was a great idea, as I'm quickly outgrowing my current system of pasting ideas into a single Word document with no organization whatsoever.

I managed to buy only one thing: a book called Slow and Steady Get Me Ready by June R. Oberlander, which is just a collection of weekly activities for birth to age 5, using common household items.  I doubt that I'll follow the week-by-week structure of it, but I'm always looking for ways to do fun, challenging things with Sam.

Objectivist Round Up

Titanic Deck Chairs hosts the 100th edition of the Objectivist Round Up this week.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Baby Steps

I'm going to my first homeschooling conference today.  (What a coincidence!  I guess it's that time of year.)  It's run by Home Educators Association of Virginia (HEAV) which seems to be a terribly religious organization.  Still, I need to start somewhere and this conference is free to me, as a parent of a pre-schooler.  The conference goes on all weekend but I'm just going to attend the newbie presentations and check out the exhibit hall today.  I'll report back tomorrow.  Now I'm off on the 2 hour drive to Richmond!

(Incidentally, I'm pretty sure this is the longest I'll have ever been away from Samantha.  Her dad took her to day care at 10:30, and I won't see her again until tomorrow morning.  I still remember the days when I'd have to fight milk-leakage and extreme anxiety when leaving her for a few hours.  I wonder what part of me will ache this time.  Probably my face - it's so used to smiling and laughing that the relaxed state might feel odd.)

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Tuesday, June 9, 2009


A classic selfish thing to do when you have children is to have a date night with your spouse a couple of times a month, at least.  Marriage takes time and effort, but it is all-too-easy to neglect it.

Adam and I have never managed to do this.  We've been out alone together here and there since Sam came along, but never as a regular part of our lives.  We have a good excuse though: all that moving around.

The kind of sitters you can find on sittercity.com or through the local college charge $20/hour plus tip.  That means that just the babysitting for a quick dinner-date costs about $50-60.  Add a movie and you're talking about $100 or more.  We don't have that kind of money to throw around.  We have not lived in one place long enough to make local friends to share babysitters with, we have no family nearby, and we've never had time to tap into the local teenage pool of sitters, who are considerably cheaper.  Well, the last part has changed.  We have a few teenagers living within walking distance.  We're using one tonight for the first time, and she only charges $9/hour.  I offered her $10, but with a no-tip policy.  The best part is that her parents live directly across the street, so if she is uncertain about something but hesitates to call us or make a decision, she'll certainly go straight to them for advice.  Of course, I still made sure she had real sitting experience and checked her references.

Let the date nights begin!


Along with her stories, Samantha is clearly playing with the make-believe world more and more lately.  The other day, she told me there was a rabbit in our kitchen.  I said, "Really? Will you go get it and bring it to me?"  She came back with cupped hands and said LOOK,  MOMMY.  I said, "Hello, rabbit. May I hold you?  What is your name?  Oh, he won't answer me.  Samantha, did you give him a name?"  HMMMM. HMMMM. GUACAMOLE. "Hello, Guacamole. That is a nice name.  I can't see you because you are a pretend rabbit, but it's nice to meet you."  Then I turned to Samantha and said something about how it was fun to make up an imaginary rabbit named Guacamole.  She beamed.

Believe it or not, some parents would call this "lying," and would punish their children for it.

We got into the make-believe issue a little bit in the comments on my TV post and at Rational Jenn's post that inspired it.  I haven't yet sensed any danger in letting Sam explore the pretend, the imaginary, and the make-believe.  I've read that children have a hard time distinguishing between reality and their imaginations (especially dreams) until they are quite a bit older than Sam, so I've got to assume that she doesn't completely get the concept.  However, it seems clear to me that she will learn precisely by using her imagination, pretending things are real, and seeing what happens.  I've been labeling things as "pretend," "imaginary," and "made-up" for a while now, but I don't make a big deal about it.  Last October when we looked at Halloween pictures of, say, a cat, a Jack-o-lantern, and a ghost, I would name them and then tell her that ghosts aren't real and leave it at that.  She also likes to talk about "monsters."  I think a monster, to her, is something that growls, so there's really not much pretend going on there yet, but sometimes I'll say, "Daddy is pretending to be a monster."  I'm just trying to use the word "pretend" in different contexts so that she get an idea that there is something specific going on.

It's interesting that Sam's more intense exploration of her imagination coincides with her development of fears.  Her mind must have enough data now to move from simply identification, to projection of possibilities.  I wish I knew more about epistemology and child psychology because this is really starting to get interesting!

Monday, June 8, 2009

Reading Update

I've read a few more books recently so I'll dash off some quick reviews.  Warning: I'm feeling a bit flippant today.

First, I finally finished the bible.  Actually, I gave up reading the actual bible and turned back to my Complete Idiot's Guide to the Bible.  I just got so bored with Jesus and the traveling and the healing and all that.  Also, the bible that I have has some strange notations in it that make it very difficult to read.  Every single proper name is written with the dictionary-type pronunciation notation, with stress marks, carats, and the whole works.  Considering the number of names in the bible, this gets quite overwhelming.  All of Jesus' words are in red which was actually helpful because I never could have figured out who was speaking on my own.  Then, of course, are the paragraph numbers and italicized words.  I had no idea why so many words were italicized in this King James Version, but apparently, these words were added at some later point in translation.  I really do not understand why they would need to do this.  Other works are translated between languages all the time and it is understood that there is no such thing as a word-for-word translation and that the translator must be trusted to convey the proper meaning.

As to substance, here are just a few impressions.  The Old Testament was a lot of fun, but if I was trying to take it as some kind of moral guide I suppose it might have been depressing.  Jesus did not impress me, but I did get a bit more of a sense of how Christianity was new and unique.  The altruism in the New Testament is definitely much stronger, as is the focus on reward and punishment in the afterlife.  Really, what struck me most is how absurd the bible is.  I've always held that Christianity is no different than any cult, and reading the bible just gave me more evidence.  Do Christians really believe that Jesus came back from the dead?  I mean, are you kidding me? 

Next, I read a terrible Michael Crichton book called Timeline.  Crichton always has some kind of intriguing premise, and then he lets you down.  This one was worse than usual.  I'm done with Crichton.

I'm sorry to say that I was disappointed in Agatha Christie's Murder on the Orient Express.  I read it for my book club.  It's a classic, right?  Well, I found the mystery to be dull, the resolution to be somewhat arbitrary, and I didn't even like Poirot.  I've read Christie before and liked her mysteries, but this one left me cold.

So, three duds out of three.  I am glad that I read the guide to the bible, though.  I'm sure reading the actual bible carefully would have given me a clearer picture, but I got what I wanted out of the guide.  Since I started with almost no knowledge of the bible, this gave me an overview.  It was worth the time.  The other two, not so much.

Sunday, June 7, 2009


You may have noticed that I've added ads to my web site.  I hope they are not too obtrusive.  I like seeing them here because I think the Google AdSense concept is brilliant.


My best friend just qualified for the Ironman World Championship in Hawaii this October!  I'm not sure I even comprehend how big a deal this is, but I know it is big.  Here's what Wikipedia says about those who qualify for this race:
The Ironman format remains unchanged, and the Hawaiian Ironman is still regarded as the most honored and prestigious triathlon event to win worldwide...

Although thousands of athletes worldwide compete at an Ironman event each year, the vast majority aim simply to just finish the course if they are first timers, or set a PR (personal record) time if they've raced this distance before. Only very talented athletes realistically compete for a spot in Hawaii [the World Championship], and just finishing an Ironman race is often the highlight of many triathletes' career.

I think she gets some bragging rights for such a great accomplishment, so I asked her to write up something for my blog.  She sent me this interesting explanation of the race, how you qualify, and what her goals are:
Ironman (capital “I”) is a registered trademark of the World Triathlon Corporation (WTC).  WTC owns some Ironman races and licenses other triathlons to become official Ironman races.  Although “ironman” is generally used synonymously with "2.4 mile swim, 112 mile bike, 26.2 mile [run]", there are non-Ironman brand races of these same distances, but legally, they cannot be called Ironman or even ironman (I think they now use the term “full-distance”).  Only Ironman brand races have qualifying spots for the Ironman World Championships in Hawaii.  There are currently 22 Ironman races all over the world; most of the Ironman races in North America (7 races this year) will have a total of 70 Hawaii spots for age group athletes, while some of the international Ironmans have fewer participants and thus give away fewer spots to Hawaii.  My age group (W35-39, usually the largest of the female age groups) usually has 4 spots.  Most Ironman races have over 2000 participants and I believe the Hawaii race usually has about 1500-1600.  In addition, there are about 30 half Ironman (exactly half of the full-distance: 1.2 mile swim, 56 mile bike, 13.1 mile run) races internationally each year and about 8 of these offer qualifying spots for Hawaii with each age group having only 1-2 spots.  Hawaii spots do “roll-down” so if someone passes on the spot or has already qualified at another race, the spot rolls down to the next place.
After my 2nd Ironman in 2007 when I was 7th in my age group, I realized I could possibly qualify for Hawaii if I could put together a good enough race (“good enough” is vague, I know, but generally for me it means not losing too much time on the bike portion and then, since running is my strength, running the marathon I know I’m capable of.  After 4 Ironmans, I still have not run a good Ironman marathon but hopefully this year I have it more figured out!).  In my last 3 Ironman races, I’ve been close to qualifying but just not quite close enough.
So in order to qualify, you have to finish high enough in your age group to get a qualifying spot either outright or via a roll-down.  In my race this past weekend [a half-Ironman], I finished 3rd in my age group and there were 2 Hawaii spots (I expected only 1).  The girl in 2nd place had already qualified so the spot rolled down to me and I took it! :)  Half Ironman races with Hawaii spots are usually very competitive so I wasn’t even thinking about qualifying at this race.  [My husband] and I just wanted to do this race in Hawaii because we love Hawaii.  My main goal was to qualify at the Ironman I’m doing this July in Lake Placid.  Even though the pressure is now off for Lake Placid, I still want to have a really strong race there and approach the race as if I’m still trying to qualify.  I’m not going to change my training plan or take it easy in the race because I want to put together that “good enough” race.  Doing the Hawaii Ironman will be a bonus, more for the experience of being there and participating, with no expectations or time goals.


This Old Man, Revised

Sung to the tune of This Old Man:

Baby Sam
Baby Sam
Tell me, tell me, what's your plan
Doctor, lawyer, maybe spaceman
You can do anything, yes you can

Friday, June 5, 2009

The Foundation of an Empire

I don't think there is anything on the internet that gives me more consistent smiles than Dooce's photos of her dog, Chuck, balancing things on his head.  And here is the video that started it all.

The Sam Update - Thirty Three Months Old

Samantha is 33 months old.  That's two-and-three-quarters years old to you and me.  May was a busy month for her.  She had visits from both sets of grandparents so we did a lot of fun, new things.  Everybody jokes about grandparents spoiling their kids, but what I've found is that I am the one who spoils her when they visit.  I don't seem to be able to carry on a conversation and pay attention to the details of how I relate with Sam at the same time.  So I let her get away with interrupting conversations, I pick her up if she screams, I spoon food into her mouth if she doesn't want to eat, I let her run around the house with sippy cups to avoid spills, and all sorts of other things that I don't normally do.  It's a good reminder of just how much effort goes into all of these little things that make up allowing her to be independent.  We loved having the grandparents around, though.  It was a great month.

Samantha is doing a lot of new things this month.  She has always made up "conversations" for her dolls and Little People, and acted out scenarios with them.  Now, she has started telling stories.  It's pretty basic and the sequence of events doesn't always make sense.  She might say something like:


Sam has also taken to adding DOT-COM to the end of many sentences, which I find hilarious.  She must have picked it up from radio commercials in the car.  We adults don't notice it much, but if you don't know the meaning of all our words, you might think DOT-COM means something like, "Thank you, goodnight," or "The End."

Sam can spell her name.  I mean, she can say the letters, S-A-M because she has heard them in that order so many times.  I know, it doesn't mean anything, but I still love it.  Here's a clip of her "spelling":


I am now certain that Samantha loves piano music.  She's been asking for PIANO for months, but I was never sure if it was just the only instrument that she knew the name of well enough to ask for when she desired any music.  But it has become clear that she knows a piano when she hears one, and that she likes it better than anything else.  She loves all kinds of music, but piano just sends her off the deep end of joy.  I hope I can get a video of a moment when we are flipping through radio stations and we come upon some classical piece with a piano.  She'll close her eyes, lift her head, raise her arms towards the sky, and start spinning in her special Samantha dance.  It's a beautiful thing.

Sam has long been pointing out things from her car seat, but lately she seems to always know where we are when we drive around.  School, the ice cream shop, the playground...she practically gives me directions.  Maybe we didn't need to buy that GPS device after all.

Sam has three new teeth coming in.  Don't let doctors tell you that it is a myth that teething symptoms include fever and diarrhea.  We weren't totally sure, but it's been a long time since she had a new tooth and we clearly saw these symptoms, along with drooling, biting, and general testiness, before we figured it out and stuck our fingers in there to check.  Yup, teeth numbers 17, 18, and 19 have made an appearance.  Number 20 is the last of the baby teeth (which were supposed to be in about 9 months ago), and then we'll get a reprieve for about 4 years when that crazy thing happens when the first set falls out and you have to do it all over again.  Then you get braces.

Samantha had her first major "I hate mommy" phase this month.  Well, she didn't hate me, but she certainly liked everybody else better.  It didn't last too long, but it was hard on me.  When it was over, it was over, and we've been getting along better than ever since then.

Another big development is Samantha's new fears.  She has become afraid of lawnmowers, walking in the street where the cars go, and thunder.  Luckily, so far, she is not terribly afraid.  She just cowers a bit and wants to be comforted.  But the other night, a thunderstorm hit just as she was going to sleep.  I heard her start screaming in fear when it was booming, so I broke my usual rule and went to her room.  She was scared enough that I let her come downstairs and watch TV with me until the storm had passed.  When I told her that the thunder was gone and it was time for her to go back to her room and go to sleep, she started kicking and screaming and saying, MORE THUNDER! MORE THUNDER!  So much for that.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Objectivist Round Up

The Objectivist Round Up can be found at Erosophia this week.  I'm going to make a bit of time tonight to read the posts that intrigue me.

New Edition of We The Living

Leonard Peikoff has written a new introduction to Ayn Rand's We The Living.  The latest paperback edition of the book just hit the shelves - you can see the new cover here.  I picked up a copy just to read LP's introduction, which, in his podcast, he describes as one of the best short pieces he's written.  I think I know why he is so proud.

He said the purpose of the introduction was to bring out why the novel's theme is universal and not just a condemnation of Soviet Russia in particular.  He does so, first by naming the two causes of totalitarianism - faith and self-sacrifice - and then by giving historical examples of the manifestations of those errors and of their counterparts - reason and love of values.  He first does so chronologically, skimming history from the ancient Greeks to the twentieth century, then he examines how "different" totalitarian states are fundamentally the same.  He tells the amazing story of the Italian film version of the novel, which is an eloquent example of his thesis.  Finally, he brings us to what we care about the most - the present - citing numerous examples of calls to faith and sacrifice in our own culture, and concludes with:
This book is not about your long-gone grandparents, but about your still-growing children.

He accomplishes all of this in 2 pages.

I admire Leonard Peikoff tremendously.  Aside from the incalculable benefits I have gained directly from his books and lectures, his intellectual growth is inspirational to me.  Dr. Peikoff admits that he was a rationalist as a young man, and he worked for decades to change his method of thinking.  Now he seems to be a paragon of the inductive method.  I can't wait to read his forthcoming book, The DIM Hypothesis.  I attended his lectures on the subject two years ago in Telluride, and it is clear that this is a man committed to facts.  He is steeped in facts.  His podcasts show a man who has a detailed, deep and integrated knowledge of history.  What a transformation!  I tend towards rationalism myself so Dr. Peikoff is an intellectual mentor to me, at least from afar. 

The issue of being fact-oriented is something I work on every day.  I know I'm getting better when I take the position that one should follow the news.  Thanks, Dr. Peikoff!

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Adventure Box

The Mossoffs are a young family (although the individuals composing it are not so young), and until now we've been a bit unsettled, but we've managed to start at least one family tradition that I think will stick.  I call it the Adventure Box.  Every year at Christmas time, we decorate a shoe box in gift wrap and put it on a shelf that is easy to access.  Throughout the year, we put mementos from trips, special occasions, along with all the greeting cards we receive, into the box.  Next Christmas, we go through the box and label each item so that we won't forget what it meant.  Then we write the year on the box and put it away and start a new one.

It's a simple idea, but we love doing it.  It gives us a place to put all of those things that you don't want to throw away, but which have no "home."   And we don't stress out about getting a souvenir from every single place we go, but having the Adventure Box in mind gives us something to think about when we're at a new place, and helps to tie all those experiences together.  Going through the box is a great way to wrap up the year, and every single time, we're surprised at how many fun things we did.

This year, we didn't get to the adventure box until May.  We've never been so tardy, but moving for the fourth time right before Christmas made it difficult.  Here are some of the things we found in the 2008 box:

  • A matchbook from the restaurant in New Orleans where we had our wedding reception - Adam went there on business last year and picked it up for me as a little reminder

  • Maps of Disneyworld

  • A homemade Halloween greeting card from my parents to Samantha

  • A ticket stub from the park where we celebrated Samantha's second birthday with Adam's parents

  • My personal favorite: a lollipop wrapper from the candy dish on the desk of Clarence Thomas, whose office I got to see on a private tour (but no, I didn't get to meet him)

Where else would you keep all of these precious things?  I used to stick them in a file, but it would get full and I'd throw them away after a while.  Even if you stick them in a box, the labeling is critical.  We found that we'd almost forgotten a few things by May.

I think family traditions are important.  A tradition is a concretization of your family's culture.  It should reflect a value or attitude that is important in your family.  If it does, it will become a fixture in your psyche that shapes who you are.  Adam brought the spirit of the Adventure Box into our family with his personal edict of, "No Regrets."  When he is faced with a decision that involves some risk or maybe a lot of effort for an unknown payoff, he thinks about which decision he might regret ten years down the line, and makes the opposite choice.  We try not to let opportunities to experience the new pass us by, and to live life based on love of values, not fear of failure.  The Adventure Box represents this attitude perfectly, and so it has deep meaning for us.

Monday, June 1, 2009

And Even More TV

It looks like Samantha has come down with a cold.  Either that, or she broke her nose.  We went to the local water park on Saturday (which was awesome) and she fell (which was not awesome), scraping up her forehead, eyebrow, nose, and shin.  I didn't see the actual fall, so I don't know how hard she hit, and now she has a runny nose and a fever.  Her nose looked a tiny bit swollen so Adam was concerned and did some research and, wouldn't you know it, the symptoms of a broken nose are similar to these cold symptoms.  I hate this part of parenting.  Do I take her to the doctor?  I hesitate because it seems to cost a hundred dollars each time we go (yes, we have "insurance") and doctors are useless drug-pushers anyway. 

On top of that, the dog is sick.  He's been puking occasionally for over a week.  Should I take him to the vet?  Same analysis, except the cost is usually double.  Sorry, Toby, you're on your own.

Adam is the home-diagnosis-home-remedy guy in the family and he left for a business trip this morning.  I really, really hate this.  Anyway, I may have a lot of time for blogging, or I might have none.  But either way, this is one time that I'm thankful for TV.