Friday, July 31, 2009

A Little Thing

Today I got a massage and a hair cut, and when I returned home, Adam, who was supposed to be working from home, had cleaned the whole house.  My daughter may be the princess in this house, but I am the queen!

One Looks Like It and One Sounds Like It

Adam was trying to remember the name of this kids' entertainment performer we saw about 6 months ago at a party. 
Adam:  What was that guy called?  The Great Cucumber?  The Great Tortellini?

Me:  It was The Great Zucchini.

And then I laughed so hard that Sam got upset because she thought I was crying.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Objectivist Round Up

The latest Objectivist Round Up is up over at The Rule of Reason.  Don't be a secondhander and just trust me on this - click the link and see for yourself!


I have no idea how to potty train a child, and I've done nothing serious with Sam in that regard yet.   I'm not sure why I haven't read a dozen books on the subject like I normally do in my uptight OCD way.  I just can't seem to take it seriously.  I keep thinking it will just happen on it's own, and if it doesn't, well, I'll figure something out.  Very unlike me.

Sam has gone on the potty a few times (once while we were on vacation!) but she's never done it regularly.  But preschool is coming quickly and she's supposed to be using the potty by the time she starts.  Yikes!  Now I'm getting a little bit scared.

So today I put underwear on her and told her she could wear them for a few hours each morning from now on.  (Thank god for princess panties and Sam's love of everything girlie.)  I guess I'm just trying to get her to be aware of when she pees.  She knows when a #2 is coming because if I look in her direction she yells at me, DON'T LOOK AT ME, MOMMY!  (That's how I caught the opportunity while on vacation.)  But with #1, she has no clue.  The few times she's had an accident on the floor she looks down with surprise and says, PEE!  Like, where did that come from?  That's not mine!  But I'll step in it anyway - PUDDLE, YEA!

The diapers we have are so good that she has never been aware of pee at all, from what I can tell.  So we'll try this underwear thing and see how it goes.  We're both clueless and I have no real plan and I dread the mess.  Actually, I did have a plan but I already abandoned it.  I was going to just leave her in underwear all day.  But after she made 3 puddles I gave up and put on the diaper.  I mean, I had to take a shower.  And what if we want to go somewhere?  We'll start with mornings.  Yeah, that's a good plan.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009


Wow!  What a great vacation we had.  We got back yesterday and there's a ton of laundry and shopping and bill paying to do and the pets are puking all over the house to make us feel bad for leaving them, but I don't care.  I had a real vacation!

The trip started out on a good note when I went shopping for shorts and actually bought a real two-piece swim suit for the first time in many years.  I've been wearing the mommy suits for a while, and even though I'm still about 15 pounds overweight, I finally felt confident enough to buy something that wouldn't prompt children to ask me, "Is that a bathing suit or a dress?"

We spent the majority of the time in St. Petersburg, Florida, where Adam's parents live.  They have a beautiful house with a yard and pool like a resort.  The weather was actually quite nice for this time of year so we got a lot of good swim time in.  The bad part was the mosquitoes.  Both Sam and I got chewed up pretty badly.  I have a new love for lizards, though.  Lizards were everywhereThey came out in droves at dusk and did their best to eat up the mosquitoes.  I've never seen so many lizards, even having grown up in LA.  Walking down the sidewalk, you'd see dozens of them scurrying away from you every few yards.   Sam was very excited, especially when one got in the house.  LOOK, MOMMY.  LIZARD!  LIZARD IN THE HOUSE!  For some reason, a lizard in the house was just about the most exciting thing she had ever seen.  Cute.

As always, Adam's stepmom remembered our favorite foods. There was always a ready supply of pistachio nuts for me, and she made us steak and crab legs for dinner our first night there.  (Crab legs are both mine and Adam's favorite food.)  I also got to drive Adam's dad's BMW convertible (I think it is the 335i).  Sweet!

We took Sam to tSandhe beach.  It wasn't her first time, but last time she was only 3 months old, so I guess you could say it was a new experience for her.  She was really excited to go since we missed our chance in North Carolina a few weeks ago.   After parking our car, we had to walk through a narrow path through the brush to get to the sandy beach.  When we came out of the pathway onto the wide open expanse of sand, Sam immediately squatted down and started running the sand through her fingers.  If we didn't make her get up and move along, I think she would have been happy to stay in that one spot, and she probably never would have even cast a glance at the ocean. 


As it was, she got to play in the sand and in the water, and she loved it.  Adam enjoyed just walking down the shore hand-in-haGetting used to the waternd with Sam.  I think that was one of his images of fatherhood, finally realized.  The beach was lovely, with fine, white sand, a lot of shells, and gentle surf, this being the Gulf of Mexico side of Florida.  I found it restful to my wound-up psychology to be somewhere where the water is in its proper place - to the West.

Adam and I left Sam with the grandparents for our 2 day "adult" vacation to Sarasota.  (If you have kids and haven't had a vacation from them, you're missing out on something very important.  Call up your parents today and make arrangements!)  We'll definitely be going back to Sarasota - it's a great place.  We stayed at a hotel on Longboat Key, right on the beach facing the Gulf.  We slept in, drank Pina Coladas and Mojitos, rented Wave Runners, and just floated around in the ocean.  We met a couple of cranky old men and we had a gripe session about the state of the country.  They were both self declared die-hard conservatives, but one of them voted for Obama because he wanted "change."  I guLongboat Key, Sarasota, FLess I didn't really believe that whole phenomenon truly existed until I heard him say it.  Even more unbelievable, though, was that one of those crusty guys said we should go back to the gold standard.  We speculated on whether the country would collapse into dictatorship or Texas would secede.  They were a lot of fun, and one of them took this picture for us.

We ate two excellent dinners at St. Aramand's Circle, a touristy place for shopping and eating on the next island over, Lido Key.  The first night it was Spanish/Cuban food at a place that reminded me of our days in New Orleans.  Sea Bass that tasted like lobster, mussels, and a dish of scallops and chorizo left us no room for desert.  The next night it was crab legs and stuffed meatloaf, with a slice of real Key Lime pie for dessert.  Beautiful food.

We watched TV in the middle of the day and enjoyed not planning out our days around nap-time.  We ate whenever we got hungry, which meant that we were able to have dinner at 8:30pm, which seemed positively decadent, after 3 years of dinner at 6:30.  The hotel's outdoor bar had a mascot - an egret crane named Madonna.  She was bold and beautiful and we enjoyed ruminating on the diversity of life on this planet while eating crab cakes and watching her walk around with her knees bending backwards and her strange, floating grace.  The couple next to us must have overheard us because then we overheard them discussing how interesting it is that man is the only species who tries to destroy himself.  While it is true that humans are more capable of self destruction (both individually and as a species) than other animals, the mindset that chooses to focus on that rather than the glory and greatness that the rational mind can achieve is something that I'll never understand.  It's pathetic. 

Sam missed us, but by all reports, she did just fine without us for those 2 days.  She also was her usual easygoing self when it came to traveling.  She didn't use many of the travel toys I bought her because she just liked the experience of the airport and the flight.  This was the first time that I can say for sure that she knew that we were GOING UP HIGH when we were in the airplane.  She gets her own seat on the plane nowShe saw the ground below and the clouds and she understood.  That was cool.  I actually enjoy being at the airport with that girl.  She makes it all a grand adventure.  The escalators, the people movers, the pictures of crabs and turtles on the carpeted floor in the Tampa airport, the airport play areas, the new foods and drinks, the buses and trains that get you around the airport - all of it is just fun when I'm with my daughter.  I especially liked it when we entered the airplane and I told her to take a quick look as we passed by the cockpit.  The stewardess said, "Go ahead and take a closer look.  Charlie's up there and he won't mind."  Sam walked right in, looked at the pilot and said, HI CHARLIE.

It was a relaxing trip but we're still exhausted now that it's over.  But in a good way.


Monday, July 27, 2009


This week I opened a new 529 account for Samantha.  For all you new and prospective parents, a 529 is a way to save tax-free for your child's college costs.  I won't bore you with the details, but I will say that opening a 529 is a no-brainer if you want to start a college fund.  There are many investment options, but if you use your state's program you might be able to deduct your contributions from your state income taxes.  We had a Michigan-based 529, but we're moving to the Virginia plan for obvious reasons. 

We've put very little money in the fund because we believe Sam should be primarily responsible for her own college costs, if she chooses to go to college.  But we have a credit card through this Futuretrust program, which deposits 1% of our spending into the 529.  This way, we can help Sam out a bit with no pain at all.  When we are financially comfortable, we put a little bit in each month on top of that, and we've also received gifts for her that went into the account.  All those little bits have added up nicely.

If you want to find out more, try, my go-to web site for everything financial.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

A Little Thing

We were at the beach and Samantha was playing with sand.  She filled up a cup with sand and water, and when it was full she poured out the water, leaving just wet sand in the bottom of the cup.  She picked it up, looked inside, and said CHOCOLATE MILK!

Friday, July 24, 2009


So we're in the car coming back from the beach and I have this really interesting thought.  Before Sam was born I would meet little kids and judge them as shy, hyper, curious, sweet, or whatever.  But Sam has gone through enough stages that an outside observer would peg her as any one of these things because that is her primary characteristic of the moment.  It might only last a week, though.

Before you have kids, you are used to judging a person based on one meeting because adults don't change too much.  But all kids go through these stages where they appear to be a certain way, and it means nothing about their overall character.  I had no idea about this before I watched Sam go through it.

Back to the car - I tried to tell Adam about this observation but Sam interrupted me over and over and over again.  I didn't respond to her interruptions (after explaining that I was talking to her dad) but she was just so irritating that I couldn't talk over her like I normally would.  So I waited until she quieted down and started to try to tell Adam again.  But he was in the middle of getting confused by GeePee and made a wrong turn.  He didn't say anything so I just kept talking even though he wasn't listening until I figured it out and asked, "Are you listening?"  No, my words were lost again.

Then Sam started whining again.  I must have said the first sentence of my thought about a dozen times by then, and I was pissed.

At that moment, I missed my blog terribly.  And that's why there are so many mommy-bloggers.

Objectivist Round Up

The Objectivist Round Up lives at Reality Talk this week.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

A Little Thing

By the way, we did get Samantha saying, "For a little while."  Looking forward to season 2!

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Travel Day

Since we're heading to Florida today, I'll just give you a couple of photos you can look at for at least as long as it takes to read a typical post on this blog. If those eyes don't capture your soul then, well, then I guess you're not her mommy.  But still, come on!  Can you stand the cuteness?


[caption id="attachment_1633" align="aligncenter" width="500" caption="9 months old"]9 months old[/caption]


[caption id="attachment_1659" align="aligncenter" width="500" caption="34 months old"]34 months old[/caption]

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Packing Day

We're headed to Florida tomorrow, where we'll be visiting Adam's parents.  Adam and I are taking a side trip to Longboat Key in Sarasota over the weekend, while Sam stays with her grandparents.  It promises to be an exciting trip, so hopefully I won't be blogging too much for the next week. 

Today is packing day, but I haven't started yet.  I'm still finishing up the laundry that I started yesterday (always do laundry 2 days before a trip), and I had to go to Target to buy shorts for me (I only had one pair!) and to Walmart for travel toys for Sam.  I got the best thing: a magnet board.  It's an ice cream store scene and it has magnets in the shape of ice cream cones, bananas, cherries, and the like.  Sam already plays pretend ice cream store games, so that should be a hit.  Of course, I got a sticker book with Barbies too.  Finally, I got a miniature My Little Pony toy.  You can't even tell that it's a pony, it's just some misshapen "cute" creature (with wings?).  But if my instincts are right, Sam will love it.  It's always a kick to pick out toys for her.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Moon Landing

I have nothing to add to Myrhaf's beautiful words in this poem.

Inanimate Objects

We got a new couch at Ikea a couple of weeks ago.  It's the first major furniture purchase we've made since we moved into our home in Michigan in 2003, when we got a bed and a dining room set.  Those purchases cost as much as a small car, so we quickly ran out of money!

We've been surviving on hand-me-downs and my old Ikea stuff from 1997 ever since.  Furniture just seems so expensive that we put off buying new things until we absolutely have to.  I still miss my old, ugly green Ikea chair-and-a-half, with matching ottoman.  Adam and I sat on it together every single night in front of the TV until we had to literally duct-tape it together, just like Martin Crane.  I learned to breastfeed Sam in it.  In this hilarious video from when Sam was about 5 months old, she is lying on the ottoman, which is covered with a blanket to hide the duct-tape:

The new couch is promising.  It works well in our living room.  I like the way it separates my desk area from the rest of the room.  It has a removable, microfiber slip cover that can be washed in my washing machine.  We bought two covers - the sand color you see here, and the purple you see in the pillows.  There's already a ball-point pen stain on it that I'm not so sure will come out in the wash.  But that just means that we're breaking it in.  I hope we'll love it as much as that ugly old green furniture.


Sunday, July 19, 2009

In Memoriam

Rest in peace, California.  An Onion-worthy satire.
Under the influence of spiritual guru Jerry Brown, it began wholesale experimentation in exotic spending programs, eventual resulting in a traumatic 1979 stay at the Prop 13 Rehab Center.

"California loves children," said Vermont. "California loves children, because deep inside California is a also a child -- full of innocent wonder, and the belief that any budget wish can come true as long as you just wish hard enough."

In 2003 the state rejected suggestions that it was facing bankruptcy, saying that "I can't be out of money, I still have checks left."

Saturday, July 18, 2009


Only when you have a child can you have this exchange:

Me: So, we'll go to the library, then to CVS, then Home Depot.
Adam: That sounds like fun!

Everything is an exciting adventure for a 2-year-old.  And we get to go along for the ride.

Friday, July 17, 2009

A Little Thing

Samantha is learning to pump her legs on the swing.  The other day, she was doing such a great job that I exclaimed, "You're swinging!"  I think I startled her because she fell forward off the swing in a heap.  The first thing she said when she got up was, TRY AGAIN! TRY AGAIN!  She may be a cautious child, but when she values something, she is persistent.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Objectivist Round Up

Titanic Deck Chairs has this week's edition of the Objectivist Round Up, which is celebrating its second anniversary.  Don't miss "Unexpected Poetry."

The Right Way to Begin

I've definitely maxed out on the homeschool conferences for now.  Attending them was extremely helpful for me - so helpful that I don't need any more help for a while.  I'm really starting to feel like I can do this.

As I mentioned, Susan Wise Bauer and her mother Jessie Wise spoke at the most recent conference.  They are the co-authors of The Well Trained Mind: A Guide to Classical Education at Home.  (I waited to buy it at the conference, thinking I'd get a discount.  I did, but they still couldn't beat Amazon's price. Damn.)  Susan Wise Bauer's keynote address was an inspiring and enjoyable talk about how parents can and should remain intellectuals.  I attended 3 of Jessie Wise's presentations.  She wasn't the greatest speaker, but I did enjoy her talk, "The Good Reader: Teaching Reading from Birth On."  It was especially relevant because...

Samantha is ready to start learning to read!

We've started playing Starfall, a free online phonics game.  (Thanks, Rational Jenn!)  Sam can't work the mouse yet, so I do it for her.  (Any recommendations for games to help her learn the mouse?)  She started picking up the letter sounds quickly, and I can see the light bulb going on when the game puts letters together and sounds out the words.  She loves it, and she's spending even more time "reading" her books lately.  I'm sure we'll continue to use Starfall, but I want to be methodical about phonics so I'm quickly trying to find a more formal program to use with her.  The first step is continuing to teach her all the letter sounds, but even there, if I hadn't had Starfall's help, I would have been telling her that "t" says "tuh" instead of just the first part of that sound, just the "t" part.  I want to make sure I do this right. 

Jessie Wise has a program called The Ordinary Parent's Guide to Teaching Reading.  Based on her lecture and flipping through the book at the conference, it seems to be very well thought-out, but not very flexible.  It gives a full script for the parent/teacher to follow.  I suppose I could adjust it.  It's also a very inexpensive option, so it's at the top of my list right now.

I also bought a used copy of The Writing Road to Reading, based on a recommendation for this "Spalding Method" of learning to read.  It is a phonics-based program, but you do writing and spelling right along with the learning of the phonemes.  I skimmed the book and the approach didn't appeal to me.  I know Sam is not able to write letters yet; she just drew her first triangle a few days ago!  However, I might use the instruction for writing the letters when the time comes later.  It is very precise and the method is highly structured which I think is important.

I did a bit of research on the Internet but didn't see anything that struck me as better than the Ordinary Parents guide.  Since we have Starfall for free, I'm not looking for a game-based program or any bells and whistles.  I also don't clearly understand what Sam will be doing at Montessori in the fall.  I know about the sandpaper letters, but I think she'll move quickly beyond that.  If you have a suggestion for a good phonics program, please let me know.

Of course, the first thing I did after the conference was to start reading "The Well Trained Mind."  I've only read the first few chapters but I know that I am going to use this book as my homeschooling bible.  This is the structure that I've been looking for!  Although I don't agree with all aspects of Classical Education, it does have the 2 most important elements at its core: hierarchy and a focus on teaching content (facts), especially in the early years. 

It respects the hierarchy of knowledge by using history as a guide to the order of learning, which is what Lisa VanDamme does at her school (though probably not in the exact way outlined in WTM).  Subjects are studied in historical order, but you spiral through history a few times during the 12 years, getting to deeper levels with each pass.  So, for example, you would teach biology in grades 1, 5, and 9, each time presenting more advanced material.  (If you're interested in this approach, I repeat my enthusiastic recommendation of Ms. VanDamme's lecture course, The Role of Hierarchy in Education.) 

The focus on content comes from something called the Trivium, the ancient Greek method consisting of 3 stages of learning: grammar, dialectic, and rhetoric, which are geared to the abilities of the mind at that stage.  The grammar stage emphasizes the memorization of facts, the dialectic stage teaches logic, and the rhetoric stage moves into argument, debate, and written expression.

I don't buy the sharp distinctions of the Trivium, but I do agree that students must first learn facts before they have any ability to analyze, let alone to express formal opinions.  The most damning thing about standard schools is not their propaganda or lack of academic rigor, but the demented methodology that asks a 3nd grader to write an essay on his opinion of the United Nations.  This emphasis on "self expression" is not just pointless; it teaches children that ideas have no connection to facts.  Is it any surprise that college students seem to be a bunch of know-it-all know-nothings?  That's exactly what we've asked them to be from grade 1.

So I do think the general course of Classical Education makes sense, but I would put it differently:  First you must have data, then you must move to more abstract knowledge using reason, then you must learn how to work with those abstract ideas to come up with your own insights and learn how to apply all of this knowledge to further your own life.  I probably won't keep the stages as distinct as would be done in true Classical Education, and I don't see "logic" and "rhetoric" as the ultimate focus of the later stages - just as added elements.  I'm sure I'll incorporate all kinds of other ideas into my homeschooling as time goes on.

This last conference also cemented my intention to teach Samantha Latin starting in 4th grade or so.  I don't plan to teach her any other foreign languages as part of her core education, though she could do that as extracurricular study.  Adam and I are excited to learn Latin right along with Sam.  We'll probably do that work in the evenings as a family.  How great is that!

So, I feel like my new career as homeschooler has officially begun, and I'm much more excited about it than I ever thought I would be.  Somehow, all my bouncing around in life has brought me to this fantastic place.  I'm really not sure how that happened.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009


Samantha had her first visit to the dentist this morning.  She got to sit in a chair that went up and down, to see and touch all kinds of new things, to practice spitting out adult toothpaste (something she begs to do at home), to show the hygienist how well she can brush her own teeth, and to wear cool sunglasses and a bib with neat clips.

And just in case she didn't enjoy that, she got a bag of treats to bring home.

And just in case that didn't make her happy, she got a balloon.

And just in case, I still took her out for ice cream afterwards.

Another Round

Well, we have at least one more month to go.  I had high hopes this time, so I'm quite disappointed. 

However, since I'm working on looking for the bright side in things, I choose to focus on the fact that this will just allow me to keep my job as professional parent for one month longer.  And truthfully, extending this period in my life is one of my main reasons for wanting another child.  So, there, negativity!  Be gone!

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Love Letter

Dear Jackson,

Jackson can't go to the playground with me.  Jackson can't go to the playground at school.  Because he had to go home.  I miss you, Jackson.  I feel like I miss you.

I liked to play with you, Jackson.  I didn't like it when you got hurt and cried.  I liked going to the playground with you, and the dog park too.  I remember when we took a bath together, my daddy dumped water on your hair.

I love you,


Monday, July 13, 2009

Another Mouth to Feed

Introducing, the latest addition to the Mossoff clan:  Fishy.


We've had him a couple of weeks now, but we weren't sure if he was going to make it for a while, there.  Apparently, Bettas can be pretty moody and don't like moving in to a new home, so they refuse to eat.  This guy also doesn't like his food pellets whole - they must be broken up into even tinier little particles.  I don't really care since I refuse to accept any responsibility for this extra mouth to feed.  This one is Adam's.  I tried that deal with the dog, but didn't count on the fact that I'd be the one who was home all day, making it impossible for me to avoid doggie-walking, doggie-playing, doggie-training, and doggie-loving.  The fish, however, is working out just fine.  Adam feeds it and cleans its bowl.  I just get to enjoy it.  Him, I mean.  I've been wanting to add some royal blue accents to my living room anyway.

I Love Summer

A couple of years ago, Adam and I (with a 3 month old Samantha!) went to Playa del Carmen, Mexico, for a wedding.  One of the events was a catamaran ride with a stop for snorkeling.  While we were all filing on to the boat, a few of us were making some small talk with one of the tour guides, a tan, smiling young guy who moved with the kind of energy that says, "I'm enjoying this."  Somebody said something that prompted him to say, "I haven't worn any kind of shoes except flip flops for years."  He said it with pride.

This is the kind of statement that, ten years ago, I would have seen as either dishonest or a sign of laziness.  Now, in my new role as parent/blogger/future homeschooler, I can say proudly that I, too, wear flip flops or nothing at all on my feet.  At least, that is, during summer.


It's a week old now, so I'd better write up our adventures on our trip to North Carolina before I totally forget what happened. 

Besides our fun with GeePee, we had a pretty good time traveling by car with Sam.  She's always been a fairly easy traveler but, of course, car trips at this age can be difficult.  We brought the Da-vi-da, which is the way we say "DVD player" when we don't want Sam to know what we're talking about.  (I'm sure she knows exactly what we're talking about.)  We didn't use it on the way down, but on the way home we let Sam watch her Barbie video.  For the first time, she watched an entire movie.  For 83 minutes, she was captivated.  For some reason, this made me proud. (By the way, I really like this movie, Barbie as Rapunzel, and I've heard that the whole Barbie series is quite good.  The music is nice, the story is charming, and there is not a lot of fast scene-switching.  Sam seems to understand the basic plot and talks about it afterwards.  We'll definitely be buying more from this series.)

At the campground, we stayed in a little "cabin" which I think was half of a trailer home.  It was clean and cozy, with a bathroom and kitchen.  We brought our dog along on the trip but they didn't allow pets in the cabins, so he stayed in my parents' RV with them.  I guess the enormous bugs that could not be kept out of the cabin didn't count as pets, though.  Holy cow, the bugs!  The bad part was the mosquitoes all day long, not just at dusk.  The good part was the dragonflies and butterflies that were hovering about at all times.  Quite pretty!

We were able to spend a lot of good time with my parents, also known as Grandee and Grando.  Grandee cooked a lot of good food, and, of course, brownies.  We had a campfire the first night, which is always my favorite part of camping.

The campground had a little lake with a fountain in the middle and we rented a paddleboat and took Sam out on it.  She seems to like boating, and I'm determined to get her out on the water at every opportunity to keep that interest alive.  I love boats.

The lake was stocked with fish and Sam got to seem them jumping out of the water.  That was a first.  She also saw a little girl, no more than 9 years old, catch a fish.  We saw the whole thing: she cast the line, the thingy bobbed, the girl pulled on the rod and then reeled it in.  Her older brother took the fish off the hook and put it in a bucket of water, where we watched the fish swim and jump angrily around in circles before settling in to his fate.

On the Fourth, we went to a little town called Elizabeth City to watch the fireworks.  There was a good military band playing, and a moon bounce to pass the time until it got dark.  We also saw a woman holding (wearing?) a python, and Sam got to touch it.  It's not the first time she's touched a snake, but again, we try to take every opportunity for Sam to have these interesting experiences. 

Since Sam has recently decided that she is afraid of thunder, I knew the fireworks might be a problem, but I didn't think about it much.  We just kept a semi-casual, semi-excited attitude.  She was sitting on my lap as we waited for the show to start.  When she saw the first explosion, I felt her sit up straight with interest, but when she heard that first explosion a moment later, she cowered into my shoulder.  The rest of the show was the ultimate in what Adam and I call, "scared-curious."  We actually invented that term for our cat, who seems to be in a permanent state of ambivalence, but it is certainly applicable to many things with Samantha as well.  She was fascinated and scared at the same time.  She alternated between being transfixed and saying, GO HOME NOW. NO FIREWORKS. SHOOK. [Scared.]  She was never scared enough for us to pack up and call it quits, and I think that she enjoyed it overall.  I was proud of her.  It was quite a nice fireworks show too.  We all enjoyed it.

We had planned to hit the beach at Outer Banks the next day, but we slept in late and it looked like rain, so we just went to another local town for a picnic at a park instead.  The park had a playground, so Sam was happy.

On the way home, we stopped for dinner at The Smokey Pig restaurant in Ashland, Virginia.  It's just one of those hokey places with a silly name that you see everywhere on the side of the road, and the food was sub-par.  But it was a highlight of the trip because the whole place was filled with pigs - pictures of pigs, statues of pigs, stuffed pigs, carved wooden pigs, even a poster of Pigs in Space.  Sam loved it enough that we grabbed a to-go menu for the Adventure Box.

As you can tell, most of my thoughts about this trip revolve around Samantha.  That's fine with me.  Watching her experience new things and places is one of the great joys of parenting.  Still, I'm really looking forward to our next trip, which will include a Samantha-free weekend for Adam and me.  Now that will be a first for the adults in the family!

Saturday, July 11, 2009

A Little Thing

My daughter's voice on the telephone saying, I LOVE YOU TOO, MOMMY!

Friday, July 10, 2009

From Choreography to Musical Composition

If you liked the dance video I posted yesterday, maybe you'll also like this video of Nora the Cat playing the piano.  The music was composed around what the cat played and I must say, the composer did a pretty amazing job.  (Full disclosure: The cat's mommy is my husband's aunt.  Does that make the cat my cousin-in-law or something?)

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Another Homeschool Conference

Today and tomorrow I'll be attending another homeschooling conference.  This one is a Northern Virginia group, whereas the last one was for the entire state.  Still, there's enough homeschooling going on around here that even this organization was able to get Susan Wise Bauer as their Keynote Speaker.  She is the author of The Well Trained Mind: A Guide to Classical Education at Home, which is my next homeschool read, for sure. 

I also just finished listening to Lisa VanDamme's lecture, The Role of Hierarchy in Education.  Ms. VanDamme runs a school in Southern California which is a model for what I want Samantha's education to be.  Her writings and lectures have taught me more than anything else what a real education should be.  At the school's web site, you can sign up for The VanDamme Academy's newsletter, Pedagogically Correct, which is a great way to get a taste of what Ms. VanDamme's method is all about.


I've tried to restrain myself from writing too much about my favorite show, So You Think You Can Dance, but I just must post this clip from the show last night.  This is some of the greatest choreography I've ever seen.  Mia Michaels is an evil genius.

The Tyranny of the GPS

For Independence Day weekend, we took a short trip to North Carolina to visit my parents, where they are staying in their RV for about a month.  This was our first road trip with our new friend, GeePee, the GPS.

I felt bound to name the machine after I heard how my parents talk about their own "Carmen":  "Carmen told us to take the 123 but we didn't listen,"  "I was just doing what Carmen told me to," etc.  If you're going to anthropomorphize a machine, the GPS is a fun one.  It might also be a solution for road rage, as people can now just yell at their GPS devices instead of other drivers:  "Goddamn it - that's the wrong way!" or "How was I supposed to get over in time to make that turn, you stupid machine?"  I mean, somebody has to be the scapegoat for our bad driving, so why not a computer?

You'd think that having a virtual back-seat-driver would eliminate the need for real ones.  But when Adam was driving us back to the campground after fireworks on the Fourth, none of us could resist telling him where he should turn or which way would be faster.  Oh well, I guess technology can't solve all our problems, after all.

Our GPS doesn't have traffic information and we forgot to check before we left, so we probably didn't take the best route out of DC.  Since we had consciously decided to let GeePee guide us, we didn't bring maps or make alternate plans like we might have otherwise, and we didn't have much of an idea of where exactly we were going.  That was a mistake, since we got caught in tunnel traffic near the Outer Banks area.  We tried pressing the "Detour" button on GeePee but I guess we didn't trust him quite as much as we thought we did because we chickened out of actually changing course.  Next time, GeePee, I promise, I'll listen!

We sure spent a lot of time fiddling with GeePee.  On our way home, we wanted to get off the freeway so we tried the "Avoid Highways" function, but it would have taken us way out of our way.  When we tried to turn off that function, we found a bug in the software which threatened to keep us on surface streets forever - the menus were not displayed properly and it wouldn't let us go back to normal mode.  You mean, we can never drive on the freeway again, GeePee?  Please, don't do this to us!  Fortunately, Adam was bright enough to find the "Restore Defaults" button on another menu and we were back in business.  But then, how could we get it to guide us up Highway 1 instead of the I-95?  I tried entering intersections, I tried to "Detour," and I tried who knows what else.  Finally, we just left it alone and listened to "Recalculating" for 2 hours as we fought our way back to DC on a Sunday afternoon at the end of a holiday weekend.  God forbid we turn off the machine!  Do you think somebody might have programmed an Easter Egg in there so that if you reach 1000 instances of "Recalculating," the machine will instead start saying "Why'd you buy me anyway?"

The defining moment of our travels occurred on that drive home.  We'd been stuck on the streets of Fredericksburg for about 20 minutes when a man in a truck in the lane to the right of us rolled down his window.  He said, and I quote: "Excuse me sir.  My GPS is telling me to turn left and no one will let me in.  Will you let me in so I can turn? I only have point-six miles to go and no one would let me in so I thought I'd ask someone."  Talk about an appeal to authority!

I think that's when Adam started talking back:
GeePee:  In point-two miles, turn left on Courthouse Road.
Adam:  No!  I reject the tyranny of the GPS!
GeePee:  Turn left on Courthouse Road.
Adam:  No!  I tell you, no!

It's a contentious relationship, but we're working on it.

Objectivist Round Up

For your reading pleasure this week, you can find the Objectivist Round Up at One Reality.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Teach Me Time Clock

Ever since Samantha learned to open doors, I've been looking forward to, and dreading, her first foray into leaving her room on her own during the night.  As you can see by my comment in the linked post, I decided to buy a digital clock so that Sam would know when it is ok to come out and when she should stay in her room and either sleep or play quietly.

While browsing clocks at Target, I noticed one that advertised changing colors.  I thought, "What a perfect way to signal that it is morning - the clock changes color instead of sounding an audible alarm!"  Upon closer inspection, however, this clock simply changed colors when you pushed a button, not as an alarm function.  But once I had the idea, I knew somebody must have invented my dream clock.

[caption id="attachment_1543" align="alignright" width="115" caption="Teach Me Time Clock"]Teach Me Time Clock[/caption]

Here it is!  We got this cute little clock a couple of weeks ago.  Besides having a color-change alarm clock, it also has a digital and analog display (well, the "analog" display is really a digital reproduction of an analog display) and a game you can play to help your child learn to tell time.  It is super-versatile:  you can adjust the volume, the brightness, the colors, whether the "child buttons" on the front do anything or not, and whether you want digital, analog, or both types of time displayed.  All the important controls are in a latched panel in the back which I'm sure older children can open, but hopefully by the time they can do so they can also understand why they shouldn't.

I set it up so that its backlight would turn green at 7:45am each morning and so that it displayed the digital time only, but I turned off everything else.  Sam was very excited to have her own clock.  She knows a little bit about time, clocks, and watches, and I explained how this clock would tell her when it is morning.  She still hadn't ventured out of her room at night, but I told her that when the clock is green, she could come out of her room.  She listened without interest for a while, but at one point in my explanation she looked up, thinking.  I paused, and after a moment she said, GO DOWNSHUSH, PLAY TOYS?  I said, "Yes, when it turns green, you can open your door and go downstairs to play with your toys."  Her face lit up in understanding.  The very next morning, I awoke to a sweet little face at my bedside.  She said, TURNED GREEN, MOMMY!  GO DOWNSHUSH?

Every morning since, Sam has waited until the clock turned green and then come out of her room on her own.  She positively loves it!  A couple of times she obviously woke up after it turned green and came right out, but many times she has turned up at my bedside right at 7:45, so I know she was waiting for the signal.  Today she woke up screaming at 7:30 (she is not a happy-waker-upper), but didn't come out until it turned green.  With that one exception, our mornings have been so incredibly pleasant.  Instead of waking up to someone yelling at me to come get her, I wake up to a sweet girl whom I can pick up and cuddle in bed with me for a few minutes before starting my day. 

She hasn't gone straight downstairs yet, but that day will come!

Tuesday, July 7, 2009


I wish I had kept all of our "packing lists" from when Sam was a baby.  Before each trip we took, we'd take almost a whole day just making a list of stuff to bring for Sam. (In the early days, I'd start the list a week ahead of time and I'd be adding things each day until we left.)  We always set aside an entire day to pack.

We still make a list, but it's so much shorter now.  It still changes every time, though.  At first, we needed to bring dozens of baby washcloths and burp cloths, but as that need fell away, we started needing to bring baby food, spoons and bowls.  Now we don't need to bring baby food, but we do need Sam's toothbrush and toddler toothpaste.  Depending on where we are going, we might bring diapers for the entire trip, or we might plan to buy some at our destination.  In the past, we always had to bring Sam's "white noise machine" which she only recently gave up, plus a CD player and CD's, and the baby monitor.  Sometimes we might need the car seat, sometimes a stroller, and we always need the Pack 'n Play, except when we go to Adam's parents' house, where they have one waiting for her.  Most of the time we bring some children's Iboprofen, but we used to bring her whole "medical kit"  which included her baby nail clippers, an aspirator, and a thermometer.  I can't even remember all the stuff we used to need to bring along, but I remember that it would fill a whole sheet of paper.  Now, it's down to half a page.

Her needs change so quickly.  I think it would be fun to have a history of all the "stuff" of babyhood, and a record of how it evolved.

Maybe next time...

The Sam Update - Thirty Four Months Old

Only 2 more months until Samantha is 3 years old!  I'm going to have to start thinking about what to do for her birthday

I have a feeling we've entered the talking phase. I mean, the nonstop, Slyendless, unbearably-cute-and-irritating-at-the-same-time, talking phase.  Sam has always given us her lovely soliloquies, but now she is interested in conversations.  This kind of thing happens a dozen times a day:

We'll go to the playground after your snack.
You have juice in front of you.
This is your snack in front of you.
What is it, sweetie?
MOMMY, LOOK!  LOOK, EYES, NOSE, MOUTH [she's made a face on the plate with her food]
That's a face!
We're having a snack.
Oh, Miss E. squirted your shoes with water during water play?  Did you like that?
You were scared.
I'm sorry, Sam, but I can't tell you a story while I'm eating. My mouth is busy chewing.
Yes, Sam.
Ok, let's clean up.

We seem to be losing a lot of the cute mispronunciations lately.  If I correct her, she can say most words properly, although she still uses her baby words most of the time.  I tried to note as many of them as I could before they disappear altogether:

Pwaygwound (playground)
An bote (both - she always says "and" along with "both")
Shook (scratch)
Shook (scared - I can tell the difference between scratch and scared because with scared she usually does the sign language along with the word)
Membo (remember)
Danky (thank you)
Pudy (put)
Read-ee (read)
Oh-gee (orange)
Hebicopa (helicopter)
Adi-gayda (alligator)
Bit (bib)
Lida bayda (little bear)
Downshush (downstairs)
Amee-yo (animal)
Sam-bup (stand up)
Seep (sleep)
Back-see-ball (basketball)

What we're getting in exchange is Samantha's new, made-up language.  She mostly speaks it to the cat and it sounds something like, CHA-MOW-WOW.  MI-MI-MOW-A.  HA-HEE-NA-HEE-NA. MUSH. A-WEE-AH. GOI-A-BOO-BOO.  She loves that cat so much we should have known she'd find a way to speak his language.

I've asked Sam a couple of times if she would like a baby brother or sister and she says yes, but I don't think she really knows what it means.  I've heard that many children her age start asking for a brother or sister and I would have expected it from Sam by now since she loves babies so much.  She's definitely the nurturing type and I know she'll be interested in a baby, but I also know that she likes to be the center of attention and the transition will be hard.

In the treeAs I've been writing this, Sam has come over a few times and asked to be picked up.  I explain to her that I can't pick her up while I'm writing and that this is her time to play by herself.  If she seems lost, I'll ask her if she needs help finding something to do.  She usually says no and walks off, but if she doesn't find something she'll be right back again saying, MOMMY PLEASE PICK UP.  But the last time, she went to her bookshelf and I heard her "reading."  When she was done, she said, MOMMY, READ BOOK SELF!  (She can't really read it, but she is working on it, as I'll write about in a future post.)  Sam made a lot of strides in her independence this month.  She can get up and down from her booster seat at the dinner table, she can climb in and out of her car seat, and many other physical things, but mostly, she just continues to find new ways to amuse herself.  And us.

Monday, July 6, 2009


I have so much to blog about that words are coming out of my ears, but we just got back from our little trip to North Carolina and I'm trying to catch up on laundry and grocery shopping and all that fun stuff.  I have some good stories to share from our trip, a really great product recommendation, and a Sam Update for y'all, so stay tuned.  In the meantime, in case you missed it, you can relieve your boredom by catching up on last week's Objectivist Round Up which was hosted by none other than Rational Jenn.

Friday, July 3, 2009

A Little Thing

Whenever I mention Samantha's grandmother, Samantha says, BROWNIES? WHIPPED CREAM?

Thursday, July 2, 2009


Forgive me, Internet, for I have sinned.  It has been 6 days since my last confession.

I committed the host's cardinal sin of allowing not 1, but 2 bathrooms to run out of toilet paper during our party last weekend.  I didn't even have tissues as backup.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Children, Parents, and Power Struggles

I recently finished listening to Susan Crawford's Children, Parents, and Power Struggles lectures.  Susan runs a parenting e-mail list that I subscribe to called the Rational Parenting List, and these lectures were given at the 2004 Objectivist Summer Conference.

This course was a great complement to my other reading on parenting.  Much of the material Susan covers is similar to what you would find in my favorite How to Talk So Kids Will Listen and Listen So Kids Will Talk.  I'd definitely put Susan in the Positive Discipline camp, although I don't think she uses that term.  She does give the best explanation of "consequences" that I've heard.  I'm paraphrasing, but she says that choices have consequences, and that consequences are logically related to the choice.  Further, natural consequences are the ones that follow automatically, while logical consequences are the ones that parents impose, but which attempt to maintain that connection between action and consequence.  So, a natural consequence of a child's forgetting to take his lunch to school would be that he would go without that meal.  A logical consequence of a child's not coming home on time would be for the parent to disallow him going out for a period of time, the connection being that the child can not be trusted.  I liked this distinction because I think it will help me work on consequences.  I now can always ask myself:  Is there a sufficient natural consequence for this behavior?  If not, do I need to impose a logical consequence?  It's occurring to me as I write this that the need for logical consequences probably arises mostly in connection with social requirements.  It's analogous to the difference between the laws of physics and the laws of man.  I'll have to think about that more - it's just a germ of an idea.

I did find the course to be somewhat disorganized.  I'm not good at listening without taking notes and I listened to this in the car over a few weeks, so that didn't help.  But Susan's outline shows that what she's really doing is covering a range of discrete issues in the context of power struggles.  Here are just a few topics that she covers:

  • Time Outs

  • Picky Eaters

  • Tattling

  • Procrastination

  • Honesty

What I found very helpful was that she gives so many examples and concrete suggestions.  She often lists off a dozen or more specific ways you can deal with a particular issue.  The presentation can be dry because of this, but I feel like many of those ideas are lurking around in my subconscious now, ready to be pulled out when the moment arises.  I suspect I'm going to listen to this course every couple of years just to restock my toolbox.

You can purchase the course from the Ayn Rand Bookstore.  I do recommend it, especially if you have more time to listen than to read, or if you are an auditory learner.  If you're interested in signing up for the mailing list (for a small yearly fee), you can send an e-mail to rplist at aol dot com.  If I recall, Susan does allow a trial membership.

A Little Thing

Samantha has started twirling her hair around her fingers.