Monday, November 30, 2009

Kid Friendly Stuff

We recently installed these light switch extenders to give Sammy more independence:

Light Switch Extenders

The plastic just screws onto the switch plate and there is a hole for the switch.  When you pull down on the plastic, it pulls down the switch.  You can buy a set of two from For Small Hands.  We put one in her bathroom and one here in the hall.  She already has a floor switch in her room and she can reach the switch in the main floor powder room with her stool.  Now she can reach just about every light she needs in the house.

We also have her closet organized at her height:


This part of her closet has no door.  It looks sloppy, but she can get to all of her clothes easily.  Pajamas and underwear are in the baskets on the floor.  Dresses and sweaters are hanging.   Pants and shirts are in the wire bins.  Pillows and blankets go on the shelf above the hanging garments.  Of course, she has her own laundry basket which is on the other side of the closet to avoid confusion.  And yes, she does use it.

(Her closet is indeed half-yellow and half-white.  We hope to remedy this next month when we get the house painted.)

Soon, I'll have a report on how we're doing with getting her to dress herself.  We've had her closet set up this way for a long time, but it will mean a lot more once she is a fully independent dresser.

A Little Thing

I love this exchange because it expresses selfishness and goodwill at the same time.
Sammy, may I look at that blue crayon?
I just want to look at it.
I like the color and I'd like to see what it is called.
Please?  It will just take a second.
Ok.  You're right.  It is your crayon.

(5 minutes later, when I'd completely forgotten about it)

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Three of the Five

Three Good Things for Thanksgiving weekend:

  1. My house smells like Noble Fir.

  2. My house sounds like Christmas music.

  3. My house looks dirty since I was too busy to clean it.

2009 before decorating

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Objectivist Round Up

Happy Thanksgiving!  If you're not too busy cooking, take some time to check out this week's edition of the Objectivist Round Up, hosted by Rational Jenn.

A Classic American Dish

You've got to love a recipe that starts out like this:
A classic American dish, this preparation takes full advantage of every delicious bit of the lobster.

Kill with a knife, [see page] 491,
     3 lobsters (1 1/2 pounds each)
When they are still, separate the tail and ...  

From Joy of Cooking
recipe for Lobster Newburg

On page 491, it does indeed tell you exactly how to kill a lobster by stabbing it in the neck.  It even gives you this handy tip:
[After stabbing the lobster], to avoid muscular contractions, you can put the lobster in the freezer for a few minutes until it is still.

And no, I haven't tried it yet.  Maybe next Thanksgiving...

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

On an Upward Swing

Three Good Things for the day:

  1. It started out grey and rainy, but ended up clear and crisp.

  2. I was pulled over for running a yellow light, but the policeman just gave me a warning.

  3. Before noon, I had to deal with yogurt in Sammy's hair, 4 (count 'em, 4!) poopy potty accidents, pee purposely dumped out of the potty on to the carpet, the paper towels used to clean the pee put into the toilet, and an hour-long adventure in getting a 3-year-old to put on her pants which destroyed the entire morning.  But Sammy and I had a great afternoon getting tons of stuff done and having a fun time doing it.  And she successfully pooped in the potty 3 times.


Michael had such a good comment on my last Little Thing about Sammy wanting to learn to fly that I decided that his comment and my response warranted a separate post:
When I started reading your explanation to Sammy that even in the future that she will not be able to fly, I got that sinking feeling I get sometimes when listening to my friends "over explain" or "over intellectualize" simple details to their young kids. I do not know if my sinking feeling is valid or not, but I can say that what you said to Sammy does not qualify.

Your line, "[t]hat’s why we build machines like airplanes" is pure gold. Simple, succinct, and one of thousands of nuggets parents can drop that teach the kids how to focus on to think.

I have no idea if I would enjoy having my own kids, but no subject is more fascinating than child raising. Thanks for blogging on your experiences!

Here is my response, which I composed as a comment, but decided to post here:
Michael, yes, I had a quick debate in my head in that moment about whether to say anything about not being able to fly.  I would not have said it without the airplane line.  But I do suffer from over-explaining.  It's a great point you make, and it's something I work on all the time. 

Here's an example: when she said I CAN TRY, I either said, "Yes, you can," or I said nothing - I can't remember.  But there was no way I was going to tell her why trying wouldn't do any good in this case.  And I suppose I could have said, "Yes, you can try by building an airplane or buying a hang-glider," but that is beyond her, and so would have lessened the most important part of her observation: that when you can't seem to do something, you need to try.  We've been working on that with her - getting her to see that you succeed by putting forth effort.  So for her to make this comment on her own was a beautiful thing.  She gets it.  And that was the important part.  Any qualification or correction at that point would only have served to undermine her new understanding about effort.

Children need explanations.  They positively crave explanations and information.  But recognizing how to give the child the right level of explanation for his knowledge and context is a huge challenge.  I actually think I got this one right, but I get it wrong a lot of the time, too.  Still, I agree with Michael - this is what makes child-raising fascinating!

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Holiday Thoughts

Three Good Things for the day:

  1. One of the local radio stations has started playing Christmas music and I'm totally ready to hear it.  This year we're staying home for Christmas for the first time since Sammy was born, and I can't begin to describe how happy I am about that.

  2. I drank my first hot chocolate of the season.

  3. Sammy is off from school for the rest of the week and I'm actually quite happy about having the extra time with her.  As much as she loves school, and as much as I need the time for myself, I miss her.

Monday, November 23, 2009

A Little Thing

In the car, Sammy likes to have her window rolled down and to hold a napkin in the wind.  I guess she likes to watch how it moves or the feel of it pulling out of her hand.  She was doing this the other day, when I heard her say, IT BLEW AWAY!  MY NAPKIN BLEW AWAY.  I WANT IT BACK, MOMMY! 

I said, "I'm sorry but I can't get it for you.  It's way behind us now and we can't go back to get it." 


After I recovered from the killer cuteness, I said, "That is a wonderful thought, Sammy. It's a great idea, but I'm sorry to say that even when you are bigger, you won't be able to fly.  People can't fly like birds.  That's why we build machines like airplanes.  But we can't fly."

She said, I CAN TRY, MOMMY.

Art, Drugs, and Rock 'n Roll

Three Good Things for the day:

  1. Really great visit from Chicago friend.  Lots of talk about art and technology.

  2. Peter Lehmann Shiraz.

  3. Sammy figured out how to play the demo songs on the new piano within 5 minutes, and went into a spinning frenzy. 

Cooperation Chart Update

As you may recall, I created a Cooperation Chart for Sammy a few weeks ago.  We only used it regularly for about 10 days.  It really worked!  It broke our mutual bad behavior pattern and gave us some structure for discussing the problems. 

We've identified some specific problems that had cropped up back then.  Sammy was, indeed, missing her daddy.  The problem, though, was that she didn't know how to express it and to deal with it.  Her disappointment and sadness came out as anger, so that in the mornings when Adam would be getting ready to leave she wouldn't talk to him except to yell at him and even say, YOU GET OUT OF HERE NOW.  GO TO WORK NOW, DADDY!  She would not kiss him goodbye, and sometimes she would even be mad when he got home in the evenings. 

After we got a little bit of control using the Cooperation Chart, we were able to talk to her about it.  She could keep herself calm enough to listen just a little bit each day, and after a week or two of  continuous discussions about why daddy goes to work, how we all miss each other, and what we can do to feel better about it, she got it!  I also used the trick of giving her a little object from Adam's desk to keep in her pocket all day at school.  She liked that, but I don't think it helped for more than a day or two.  I think it was the persistence with which we kept explaining and explaining, in a gentle and understanding way, that got through to her.  She still gets a little bit angry on Mondays, after Adam has been home all weekend, but she's getting used to the idea that her anger doesn't solve anything (a very important lesson!).

The hitting and really heinous screaming and yelling stopped immediately with the Cooperation Chart.  I'm not sure why, but I do know that she feels terrible when she loses control like that, and maybe seeing something concrete at the end of the day was enough for her to put more effort into controlling herself.

I don't think the Cooperation Chart has helped with the potty training in any real way.  Since we're not using the whiteboard anymore, I might turn it into a new reward system for using the potty and see if it helps.  The candy helped for about a week, but she is back to pooping in her pants again.

The delaying is still a problem.  When I say that it's time to get dressed or eat dinner or whatever, Sammy seems not to listen.  When she does react to my calls to action, much of the time she yells DON'T TALK, MOMMY! or BE QUIET, MOMMY!  I had suspected that she was reacting to being ordered around, so I started putting extra effort into finding alternate ways to get her cooperation.  It has helped quite a bit, so I think I'm on the right track.  Here are some things I've been doing: 

  • I use timers whenever possible.  When the timer tells Sammy that she needs to get dressed for school, she understands that it's not an arbitrary decree from Mommy.  For a while, she would scream and yell whenever I'd set a timer, but she got used to it.

  • I use questions as much as possible.  We are just now teaching Sammy to ask us things instead of giving orders.  We probably should have started this a long time ago, but when your child first starts speaking in sentences, you don't want to correct a minor issue like using a question instead of a demand.  But we let that stage go on too long.  So now I'm constantly telling Sammy to use a question, and at the same time, I'm telling her what to do.  This makes her mad, and rightfully so!  When I realized this, I asked her if this was what made her mad and she said YES, so I told her that I would try to use my questions, too.  So, whenever possible, I find a way to ask a question.  I can't very well say, "Do you want to go to bed now?" because if she says NO then I'm stuck, so I have to be creative.  This almost always leads to the next technique:

  • I give choices.  This is the most useful tool I have right now, and I'm working on finding creative ways to give choices for just about everything.  "Are you ready to put your shoes on now or would you like to draw for one more minute?"  "Would you like the pink coat or the blue sweater today?"  "Would you like to finish breakfast now and pick out your clothes or should I go get them while you keep eating?"  It sounds crazy, but sometimes just asking her, "Do you want to go up the stairs ahead of me or behind me?" is all she needs to get moving.  Sometimes it's hard to find a way to ask a question/offer a choice.  What do I do when she's standing outside the car with the door open and the rain pouring down on us, just looking at a cloud, while I wait for her to get in?  And that leads to the final technique:

  • I try to allow for slow reaction-time, and to have patience.  I've found that, a lot of times, just waiting a few seconds in a situation like that is enough.  She knows it's time to get in the car.  If I say anything at all, she gets mad.  Sometimes, if it goes on too long I'll say something like, "I'm getting wet," and that does the trick.  But sometimes it takes a good 3 seconds or so for those words to sink in.  3 seconds is a long time when you're getting soaked.  I used to demand an immediate reaction, but I'm learning to give it just a little bit more time, and that is helping a lot.

Because of this challenge with her anger and defiance, I've put off teaching Sammy any new skills.  She's still struggling with the potty, too, so I didn't want to add more conflict to the mix.  But now I finally feel comfortable enough to begin our next adventure: teaching Sammy to dress herself!

Sunday, November 22, 2009

I Can't Wait to Play!

Three Good Things for the weekend:

  1. Saturday was Stay-at-Home-and-Catch-Up day, and I did.

  2. Sunday was Visit-Friends-for-Lunch day, and we did.

  3. This weekend our local music store was having Unload-that-Excess-Inventory-Sale, and they did, on us.



Friday, November 20, 2009

Flirt, Fall, and Fiction

Three Good Things for the day:

  1. Sammy has a boyfriend!  Well, ok, not really.  But I mentioned this boy before - he's the one who beamed when I remembered his name the other day.  Well, today at the school playground I said hello to him again, and he said, "No. That's not my name.  My name is Izo."  I said, "Izzo?"  And he said, "No. Eeeeeeezo."  I happened to see his mother and asked if that was his nickname, since it does sound a bit like his real name (which I'll withhold).  She had never heard of this, so I suppose he had just made it up.  Sammy got really excited and we all chased each other around yelling, "Izo, Izo."  Sammy was giddy and giggly and didn't want to leave.  Then when my back was turned, apparently Mr. Izo pushed her because when I turned around she was on the ground crying.  He said it was an accident but his mother said she saw it and it didn't look like it.  They made up and we left, but in the car, all Sammy could talk about was Izo.  This all seems like classic 3-year-old flirtation to me, especially the pushing.   The whole thing reminds me of her first run-in with the species we call boys.

  2. I am really enjoying this fall weather.  I think this might be the longest real autumn I've ever experienced.  Los Angeles and New Orleans don't have a real autumn at all.  Chicago and mid-Michigan have very nice fall weather that lasts about 2 weeks.  Virginia has been beautiful both years that I've been here.

  3. In the past few weeks, I've come up with two more story ideas.  I'm not sure if they will work or not, but they are good possibilities.  One of them is a kind of unique short story that would have to be completed quickly, so I'm going to do a little thinking on it alongside my work on the original story (which is coming along).  Wow, I went from a desert to an oasis of ideas.

She Found Another Instrument

Can you believe this girl and her instruments?  Of course, I only caught the tail-end of her musicality, but you might enjoy the egg slicing and eating, too.  Happy Friday!

And if you're in the mood for more cuteness, you might enjoy this audio clip of Sammy singing in the shower.  At least, I know the grandparents will enjoy it:

Sammy Singing in the Shower

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Sammy Stuff

Three Good Things for the day:

  1. I am now regularly getting the response, I LOVE YOU TOO, MOMMY.

  2. Sammy wrote the letters "t" "o" and "c" and sounded it out...t...t...tah..TOBY!  (Then I helped her to sound out "toc" which is of course pronounced like "talk."  Everything is phonetic right now; spelling doesn't matter.)  The girl really is learning to write as she learns to read, and it's happening quite naturally.  She's not doing any writing at school and I'm not pushing it.  This is all her on her own initiative.

  3. The grocery delivery Peopleguy came today and Sammy actually kept her clothes on the whole time.

Objectivist Round Up

This week, Titanic Deck Chairs hosts the 123rd edition of the Objectivist Round Up

And this is my 666th blog post. 

And Rational Jenn has a milestone of her own to report, which she does in her usual, hilarious fashion.


There are things that surprise you when you become a parent.  Ok, let’s face it: almost everything surprises you, but some things more than others.  One thing that I never expected was how much I would love the physical closeness I have with my daughter.

I didn’t grow up in a touchy-feely family.  We didn’t hug much, and we didn’t even express our feelings with words all that much.  Don’t get me wrong – we loved each other – we just didn’t express it in those ways.  I never thought much about hugging and cuddling and kissing my daughter before she was born.  I thought much more about all the things I wanted to teach her and how much I would enjoy watching her develop into a rational being with her own, unique personality.  Those things are still the biggest values for me, but what an unexpected bonus it is to have this other, more sensual aspect to our relationship.

Sammy wasn’t a cuddly baby, so I didn’t discover this until she was around 18 months old.  Once she could get around on her own a bit, she seemed to want to come back to home-base a little more often.  It was as if she needed a bit more of that mommy-security once she gained the physical independence of separation.  This was also about the time she stopped nursing, so that might have been a factor.  When she was an infant, she wasn’t easily soothed by being held and cuddled, but at some point, she started to actually enjoy being snuggled before bed.  She still sleeps best when she is in her own bed in her own room, but now I sometimes get the sweet pleasure of her falling asleep on my chest.  We spend a lot of time just hugging and tickling and sitting close together while reading a book.  I love it.

When we are close like this, all is right with the world.  Touching her hair or her arm or kissing her cheek gives me butterflies.  It's very hard to describe because it is an integration of emotion and sensation.  She is my daughter and she is of me and when I touch her I know it in my bones.

I’m sure this must be a universal feeling amongst parents, but to me it is a delightful surprise.  People always talk about how much they love to hold their babies or snuggle with them, but I had no idea they meant this.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

I Think She's a Talker

Three Good Things for the day:


  2. We got really good financial news today. 

  3. I got a lot of Little Things done today, which makes time for work on bigger things.

Peanut Butter and Jelly Management

I stole that title from a book.  I bought the book because its subtitle, "Tales from Parenthood, Lessons for Managers," was so intriguing.  Unfortunately, I was disappointed with the book when I finally read it.

But Jason Crawford's recent post on a management principle he calls "Query for Judgment" reminded me of those fascinating parallels between parenting and management.  His rule is, "by default, always ask your reports for their judgment before giving your own."  The reasons he gives for his policy line up nicely with Faber and Mazlish's ideas of giving children respect, allowing them to own their emotions, and giving choices.  Sometimes I wonder why businesses don't see the value of hiring former full-time parents.  Those few years of "time off" from the workforce are really like management boot camp.

I've added Jason's blog about his adventures starting up his own company in San Francisco to my blogroll.  Check it out!

Tuesday, November 17, 2009


Three Good Things for the day:

  1. My daughter thinks the "th" sound is hilarious.

  2. I used my new Droid phone to record thoughts as I walked the dog. 

  3. Those were some damn good thoughts.

Montessori Observation

I spent about an hour in Sammy's Montessori classroom this morning.  It was great to see her in action in her new environment, but it was hard to tell if she was acting differently because I was there.  I was hoping that she would go off on her own and do some work without me, but she wanted to show me everything.  She showed me how to do the brown stairs (teaches height and width), the red rods (teaches length), and the moveable alphabet (pre-reading).  We also had a snack together, which was prepared by Sammy and an older classmate.

As always happens when visiting a Montessori classroom, I was struck most by the way the children interacted with each other.  The atmosphere in that classroom was one of benevolence and cooperation, which is exactly the opposite of what we are all taught to expect from children.  Children are supposed to be little "selfish" heathens who need to be tamed.  They are expected to treat others badly until we pound it into them that they must share and be polite.  The children in Sammy's class were not perfect.  There were times when others encroached on Sammy's work, or something was grabbed at, but these were the exceptions.  The teacher had to step in once that I noticed, to remind the children not to touch another's work.  ("Work" is what the Montessori materials are called.) 

I also noticed that most of the children were smiling and friendly to each other, and to me.  One boy asked if I remembered his name, since we had met before.  He beamed when I did, indeed.  (The children addressed each other by name quite often.)  Other children told me how Sammy needed help carrying the biggest blocks, or how they liked to have a snack with her.  Since I did not know how to help Sammy do her work in the proper way, I was instructed by the children not to sit on the rug, but next to it, and that the rods needed to be aligned vertically on the rug, not horizontally.  These instructions were not the bossy behavior you sometimes see with children (including my own) but sincere help and assistance.  I love the Montessori combination of great freedom for the children, but with instruction and expectations for the proper way to use things.  It is not the freedom of subjectivism, but the freedom of trust and respect.

Sammy and I arrived early so I saw how the children filtered in.  The teachers greeted the newcomers, but there was no need for them to get up to tell the children what to do.  The kids just hung up their coats and went right to work.  Some worked independently; others worked in groups.  The teachers gave lessons or read books to small groups that formed organically.  I didn't stay for "circle time" which is when the whole class does some kind of activity together.  I might want to go again in the later part of the morning to observe that.

One final thing I noted was how big and clumsy I felt in that classroom, with all of its child-sized things.  It made me realize concretely how uncomfortable and frustrated children must feel with all of the adult-sized things that surround them.  I don't believe in turning one's home into a full Montessori environment, but it must be such a wonderful relief for the kids to enter that world designed for them each day.

Monday, November 16, 2009

This Is the Point of the Exercise

I'm going to have to dig deep for Three Good Things today:

  1. It was warm and sunny again today. 

  2. I got some time to myself tonight, which I always desperately need after a weekend of visitors.

  3. My cat is sitting next to me on my desk, purring.  It's one of my favorite sounds.

They're always there, those Three Good Things, if you look for them.

The Public Option

Another reason to homeschool is revealed in this conversation between mother and daughter:
"How many movies do you watch a week?"

She thought a bit, counting up on her fingers and trying to remember. "Oh--I don't know--five or six, maybe more. We watch t.v. pretty much every day in at least one class and any time we have a sub they put in movies or something. We watch stuff like Mythbusters a lot and call it chemistry."

She paused a moment then said, "At least it's not like my history teacher who flirts with girls in the class then shows us pictures of himself without his shirt on and talks about his tattoos."

You can read the whole frightening post at Scribbit.

Sunday, November 15, 2009


This is one of those times when listing Three Good Things (the parts) doesn't nearly express the goodness of the weekend (the whole).  Adam's parents were here for the weekend, and seeing them with Sammy is one of the great joys of parenthood.  We spent most of our time together shopping and just hanging out, and here are the only concrete events I can come up with:

  1. We decided that the Yamaha YDP140 is the piano for us.

  2. I bought a brown coat which makes me look forward to cooler weather.

  3. My husband finally bought some new clothes.  He looks mighty nice in a dark blue suit.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Objectivist Round Up

It's a little bit late, but Rational Jenn has your Round Up this week.

A Little Thing


Friday, November 13, 2009

New Toy, New Song, New Me

Three Good Things for the day:

  1. I got a Droid!  It's Verizon's version of the iPhone and it's pretty cool.  Maybe it will help me become so much more productive that I'll have more time for blogging.  

  2. Sammy's new favorite song is Take Me Out to the Ballgame.  It's a lot more fun to sing than Baa Baa Black Sheep. 

  3. I had a lot of bad luck today.  It took me four trips to the Verizon store to get the darn phone, and it wasn't their incompetence or anything but bad luck.  My blog was down this morning.  I almost ran out of gas.  Things just didn't work.  And yet, I was in a good mood all day and everything worked out fine in the end.  Who the heck am I, anyway?

A Little Thing

After yet another potty accident:


Blogging Bog-Down

I apologize for the lack of good posts here lately.  Somehow, I seem to be very busy lately.  I'm working on a couple of home maintenance issues (why do all the light bulbs burn out at once and why does it cost $8000 to paint the interior of your house?), some insomnia problems (aka, too much thinking), a lot of laundry (aka, poop clean up), and a little bit too much Battlestar Galactica (Adam and I are watching the whole series straight through on DVD - we never saw the last season so no spoilers, please).

When I do feel like writing, I want to spend time on my fiction.  I feel some conflict between that and the blog.  I was worried about this problem arising, but I thought the two were so different that I'd have time and motivation for both.  I might have been wrong.  I'm hoping that this is just a glitch, but right now I'm just thankful that this problem gives me an easy blog post.

Thursday, November 12, 2009


Three Good Things for the day:

  1. Talked to my parents over Skype using the new webcam (thanks KEPI!) and convinced them to buy one of their own so we can have more video calls with Sammy.

  2. Convinced Adam to go with the Verizon Droid and give up on the iPhone.  We're finally getting smart phones!

  3. Christmas is coming fast and I'm doing serious research on digital pianos.  I keep getting tempted by the acoustics - I know that I'll want one eventually - but the idea of playing with headphones and not having to tune the piano is just too seductive.  I'm sticking with digital - for now.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

My Work, Adam's Work, and a Little Fuel

Three Good Things for the day:

  1. I love my new work of fiction writing.  No other work has ever made me bang my desk repeatedly and yell out to the empty room:  "Yes!  F*&@ yes, that's it!  I got it!" 

  2. Sammy and I went to Adam's work and visited a while then watched him teach a class.  We stayed for about 15 minutes and then Sammy said she wanted to go home because daddy was TOO LOUD.

  3. The morning DJ one-upped himself today and played Rush's The Spirit of Radio.  There really is no better song to hear in the car first thing in the morning:

Begin the day with a friendly voice
A companion unobtrusive
Plays that song that's so elusive
And the magic music makes your morning mood.
Off on your way, hit the open road
There is magic at your fingers
For the spirit ever lingers -
Undemanding contact in your happy solitude

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

This Is Why We Are Buying a Piano

Do you think she's the musical type?

Singing, Spurting, and Smiling

Three Good Things for the day:

  1. I caught Journey's "Lovin' Touchin' Squeezin'" on the radio in the car, where I could sing it as loud as I wanted and ham it up as much as I wanted, without worrying about offending anybody.

  2. Sammy went through some kind of sudden change overnight.  It's impossible to describe, but both Adam and I can see that she is speaking more grammatically, expressing new thoughts, and is just generally smarter than she was yesterday.

  3. I got Sammy's school photo today and it is one of the best pictures of her, ever! 

Potty Training Update

Sammy has supposedly been potty trained for over 9 weeks now, but we're still in the state where I'm cleaning poop off of the floor, underwear, pants, coats, shoes, and skin (including my own) every single day.  This is much worse than diapers.

About a week or two after she stared school, she got the hang of using the potty all the time.  That lasted for a week or so, and then she decided that she could poop in her pants.  This was bad enough, but Sammy has always been a frequent pooper, so it often meant 3 accidents per day.  At one point, I had found poop in her underwear when I picked her up from school every day for at least 2 weeks.  We made a big deal about not having accidents at school and she's been doing better lately, but it just means that the accidents happen at home now.

More recently, she has reduced her poops to once per day, usually.  That is something of a relief, but the whole problem is starting to wear on me.  I haven't done much about it because everything I've read and been told implies that there is nothing that I can do, and I should expect accidents.  But this is insane.  Here are some definitions of "accident:"

  • An unforeseen and unplanned event or circumstance (Nope - I know it's going to happen every day)

  • Lack of intention or necessity (Nope - I know she can poop in the potty; at some level, she is choosing not to)

  • Used euphemistically to refer to an involuntary act or instance of urination or defecation (This is supposed to be the definition I'm looking for but, nope - it's not involuntary; I know she can control it if she puts the effort into it)

  • An unfortunate event resulting especially from carelessness or ignorance (OK, this might be an accurate description)

I guess my point is that these are not really accidents.  She has just chosen to stop using the potty.  Last week, in a moment of extreme frustration, I decided to try something.  Since she can not be trusted to use the potty on her own, I am going to have to force her to sit on it at regular intervals every day.  (I've never made her "try" to go to the potty.  I found that she would never, ever go when told, but if she did it at the time of her choosing, she'd be fine.  I might ask, "Do you need to use the potty?" before leaving the house, but if she says "No" then I let it go.  This has never caused pee accidents.  I totally trust her with that.  Adam makes her try, but I think he's wasting his time.)

So now, every morning and a few times each afternoon, I tell her she must sit on the potty for one minute.  I also force her to sit on it if I hear grunting noises.  I know that she will never poop during that minute.  But I'm trying to impose a consequence for her pooping in her pants.  She obviously does not care about being dirty, despite the conventional wisdom that kids don't like to have accidents or to be dirty.  I've explained to her that the reason we are doing this is that I can't trust her to go on her own.  I've already explained to her what it costs me when she poops in her pants.  I wish I could make her clean it up, but obviously she isn't ready for that.  I've explained about germs and wasted time and wasted money (we've thrown out so many pairs of underwear that I can't keep track anymore).  None of that seems to matter to her.  But I know that she hates to be told what to do, so that's what is going to happen now.  If she doesn't sit on the potty, I will hold her down.  Luckily, we haven't had to resort to that yet.

This technique worked with another problem we had a few weeks ago.  Sammy had stopped following me when we were walking together.  It could take a half hour to walk the 20 paces from the playground to the car and get her strapped in.  I've never been one to hold her hand and drag her around, but after putting up with these delays for a while, I told her that she had lost the privilege of walking by herself and that we had to hold hands whenever we were walking somewhere.  I told her we would do it for one week, and that's all it took.  After a week, she got her privilege back and she's been much better about sticking with me since.  She still needs constant reminders, but she listens.  I'm hoping that forcing the potty issue will work the same way.  I told her we'd start with a week, but that if she was still having accidents, that we'd keep doing it until she had learned to poop in the potty every single time.

So far, we've only had minor success.  She's put a couple of tiny nuggets in the potty, but it is obvious that she is holding it as long as possible and then losing control when she can't hold it anymore.  But I'm sticking with it until and unless I have a better idea.  Now, I'm off to do more laundry...

Monday, November 9, 2009


I must have been hungry today to think of these Three Good Things for the day:

  1. I had leftover lamb stew for breakfast.  Eggs are so Twentieth Century.

  2. Champps has the best patty melt I've ever had.  Wow - go get one tomorrow!  Lunch with Sammy is always fun.

  3. We had crab legs for dinner.  This happens to be both mine and Adam's favorite food.  It was nice to see Sammy enjoy it with us.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Silly, Sandals, and Savory

Three Good Things for the weekend:

  1. The musical version of "Go, Dog. Go!"

  2. I wore sandals and a short-sleeved shirt today.

  3. Lamb stew in the crockpot.  (I skipped the mushrooms but added a bag of frozen stew vegetables at the end.)

Saturday, November 7, 2009

A Little Thing

Sammy just taught me how to make a neat pile of cards.  She has some small, square pieces of cardboard that are part of a board game.  She collected seven of them and spread them out.  Then she placed each one in a neat stack.  She picked up the whole stack and tapped the edge on the table to line up the cards.  She rubbed her finger over the top edge of the stack to make sure the cards were aligned.  Then she said,


I love Montessori!

Friday, November 6, 2009

Humming, Heat, and High Traffic

Three Good Things for the day:

  1. My daughter's humming and singing as she works.

  2. The Virginia sun in November is strong enough to heat up my car, even when the temperature is in the low 50's.  Quite a change from the Michigan sun in November.

  3. Highest traffic ever on the blog today.  Thanks, Diana!

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Birthday Suit, Boxers, and Balmy

Three Good Things for the day:

  1. We had an old friend from Michigan visit for dinner tonight and the minute he walked in the door, Sammy promptly stripped off her clothes and put on her ladybug shoes.  Luckily our friend has two girls of his own, so he gets it.

  2. I took Toby to the dog park and we met up with two Boxers.  Their owner couldn't get one of them to drop the tennis ball so he could throw it.  He warned me that the dog would bite me if I tried.  I felt like quite the Dog Whisperer when I stood over that beast, made him sit, and then told him to "drop it," and he gave up the ball. 

  3. It's November 5 and I don't need a coat.

Mini Fridge for Mini Me

Adam came up with the brilliant idea of setting up our miniature refrigerator in the kitchen for Sammy.  She isn't able to open the door on the big fridge yet, which hampers her ability to get her own snacks.  We had this little fridge just sitting in our storage room and Adam realized that Sammy probably had the strength to open it. 

Sammy's fridge

He set it up, and, voila!  Sammy now gets her own yogurt and cheese whenever she wants it.  In fact, she loves serving yogurt for two.  She'll get the two containers of yogurt and place them at our respective places at the table, then she will get 2 napkins from the shelf she can reach, and 2 spoons from her low cabinet.  Then she asks, WOULD YOU LIKE HAVE YOGURT WITH ME, MOMMY? 

We plan on putting more food in the fridge for her, but yogurt is her main refrigerated snack.  We do have a small pitcher of milk in there (you can buy the pitcher from For Small Hands for $7.50), but she hasn't had the guts to try it herself yet.  Once she does, she'll be able to get her own cereal for breakfast.  And that will bring me one step closer to my selfish goal of having her be totally self-sufficient in the morning.  Interesting how my selfish goals seem to coincide with what is best for her, isn't it?

Objectivist Round Up

Here it is!  NoodleFood hosts the Objectivist Round Up this week.  Food for your noodle, indeed.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009


Today started out pretty rough.  I've been extremely busy lately and I was overwhelmed with the amount of stuff that needed to get done today.  But somehow I got it all done, plus I made a giant leap in my plot development, plus I actually relaxed quite a bit, thanks to these Three Good Things:

  1. A professional massage.

  2. My daughter, asleep on my chest.

  3. Battlestar Galactica with the hubby.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

A Little Thing

Does the horse have a tail?
Does Toby have a tail?
Does Jinx have a tail?
Do you have a tail?

Parent-Teacher Conference

Three Good Things for the day, all revolving around our first parent-teacher conference at Sammy's Montessori school:

  1. The first words out of Sammy's teacher's mouth were, "She's a very independent little girl."

  2. Sammy is the first in her age-group to start working with the Movable Alphabet, except for one boy who is almost four.  (Of course, she's probably also the only one who still poops in her pants practically every day but the teacher didn't mention that.)  It's such a joy to see how she has carried her interest in reading into school, and that her teacher recognizes that interest.

  3. Sammy's teacher confirmed what I already knew:  Sammy loves school, and is very happy there.

A Different Audience

On Friday, an older post of mine (Children Vows) was published at Mamapedia Voices (welcome, new readers!) and I had a completely new blogging experience:  I got a lot of negative comments.  I’ve been told publicly that I should not be a parent.  Thanks, everyone - I feel like a real mommy blogger now!

I read every single comment after seeing how intriguing the first few were.  The audience at Mamapedia Voices is a general audience of moms (and dads, I’m sure), whereas my regular readers are mostly Objectivists, a lot of them parents.  It was fascinating to see the difference in the responses.  The Mamapedia comment that captured the difference best was from Kala, who said, "Wow...I don't even know how to respond to this. I've never seen anything like it."  I was surprised to hear that because this particular post didn't seem like anything too unusual to me.  But then I thought about it:

  • I say that my husband and I are having a child for selfish reasons.

  • I say that our priorities are career, marriage, and then child, in that order.

  • I say that with rational people, there are no conflicts of interest so that what is good for us as parents is generally good for the child.

All of these principles are so integrated into my life (and most of my friends and readers share them) that I don't think about them as being that far from the norm.  But, of course, they are – especially the idea that selfishness is a virtue.  In my world, it’s easy to forget that most people think selfishness is the biggest vice in the book.

The most interesting comments were those that misunderstood the essence of the post.  First, it seems that many people believe that career means money.  I was chastised for putting money ahead of family.  That’s so funny to me.  The idea that the only value in a career is the money it brings is so foreign to my way of thinking that I never would have thought to clarify it (and I’m not going to clarify it here).  Even more common was the misapprehension that when I said that my husband and I were clueless when we wrote the Children Vows, that I meant we now think they were a mistake and we now renounce them.  And re-reading the post, I can see that the readers did have some basis to think what they did.  Coming from their context of believing selfishness to be a vice and parenting to be the ultimate act of altruism, it would be hard to believe that I was truly advocating selfishness in parenting.  When I said we were clueless, I was a little unclear about exactly in what way, and I don’t think it was a totally unreasonable interpretation for some to think that I was saying that I had no idea that I was going to have to sacrifice.

Of course, I did not mean that at all.  We were clueless about the details.  We still hold the same principles, but now we know that the challenges in holding them are different than what we thought they would be.  Travelling with a small child is easy.  Showering is not.  And, according to my principles, I have worked hard to keep showering.  I will never, ever use the cowardly excuse of sacrifice to give up a value.  I will keep working for all of my values.  That is the point of the Children Vows.

These comments reminded me of how difficult it is to try to communicate to both Objectivists and non-Objectivists at the same time.  I’m not interested in defending or promoting Objectivism, but I do like to write about how I apply Objectivist ideas in everyday life.  It’s hard to strike a balance between setting enough context for a general audience and not boring those who already share the same core beliefs.

And then I realized that this tension is exactly what has been so difficult about coming up with good plot-theme ideas for my fiction writing.  I have no interest in defining an entire philosophy in a novel as Ayn Rand did.  I want to write good stories with what I’d call “medium-depth” themes.  But because my most basic beliefs are so unconventional, it is difficult to get to those themes without going all the way back to the core ideas.

I’m going to be doing a lot more thinking on this issue.

Monday, November 2, 2009

An Exercise, a Skill, and a Relief

Three Good Things for the day:

  1. I'm really enjoying my Three Good Things exercise again.

  2. I taught Sammy how to throw a paper airplane.

  3. I had a plumber come out to fix the laundry room sink and look at a leaky toilet, and it turned into a $600 job.  The good part is that they were all necessary repairs and now we can actually afford to do these things without massive financial stress.


I have no time for a blog post today, so I thought I'd substitute a little cuteness:




Sunday, November 1, 2009

Cuteness, Conversation, and Candy

Three Good Things for the weekend:

  1. Since it fell on a Saturday, it was All Halloween All Day.  We carved our pumpkins, roasted the seeds, went trick-or-treating, and ate candy.  Much fun and cuteness!

  2. We visited friends today and had some great conversation. 

  3. Dinner tonight was pumpkin seeds, string cheese, yogurt, and candy.