Friday, January 29, 2010

2009 Accomplishments

I finished my 2009 Accomplishments list before the end of January!  (I'll have to add that to my 2010 Accomplishments list.)

What struck me about this list is how heavy the home improvement category is.  I mean, it really shouldn't need its own category!  I spent a great deal of time on this house and it looks like it will continue for much of this year.  That's ok with me.  I enjoy the process and it's very important to me to live in a pleasant, orderly environment.  Still, I plan to work on shifting the balance at least a little bit in 2010.

Writing out the list was definitely a valuable exercise.  I already felt like 2009 was a good year for me, but I had no idea that I did all of this!  I am also in the process of writing out my future goals, and I used the Accomplishments list to remind me of things that I am already doing that I want to continue, or which fit into broader goals that I have.

I edited the list a bit for public consumption, and I'm sure it's quite a bore to anyone but me, but just like the Three Good Things, planning to put it up here on the blog helped motivate me to both start and finish it.  I bolded a few of the most significant accomplishments, but really, 2009 was a year of many Little Things.  Here they are, loosely categorized but otherwise in no particular order:


  • I did the Three Good Things exercise for about 6 months out of the year

  • Made significant progress in my introspection work (details omitted)

  • Organized and decorated and shopped and cooked for a great Christmas at home

  • I took a fair amount of pictures and got some of them organized into photo albums

  • Did volunteer work for ARI

  • Got a fish

  • I walked the dog regularly when the weather allowed

  • I started getting monthly massages

  • I managed my pain through massage and stress reduction, so that I had almost no pain all year

  • I changed my diet and worked on new habits of shopping and cooking to suit it

  • I started listening to music again

  • I started listening to LP and DH podcasts

  • I lost 8 pounds (and gained them back)

  • I showered about 75% of the time

  • I found an inexpensive hairdresser

  • I joined a book club

  • I read a few books in the Great Books Series, Ten Years of Reading project.

  • I read many books

  • I went to the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum

  • I went to the Reston Zoo

  • I went to Mt. Vernon

  • I started practicing the piano again

  • Adam and I decided to have another baby

  • I got pregnant

  • I grieved a lost pregnancy

  • I hosted a party for the first time since 1999

  • I visited North Carolina

  • I visited Florida

  • I visited NYC

  • I took a lot of videos of Sam

  • I attended a talk by John Allison at The Ayn Rand Center

  • I found a dentist

  • I watched the entire Battlestar Galactica series

  • I kept in touch with my friends

  • Started using Skype with a few friends

  • I hosted at least 23 different guests at my house

  • I hosted a couple of playdates and took Sam out for a few.

  • I attended a Tea Party protest

  • Visited the Jefferson Memorial

  • Visited the Smithsonian

  • I found a dermatologist

  • I graded essays for ARI

  • I celebrated my 7th wedding anniversary


  • I maintained my blog regularly all year – 554 posts

  • I upgraded and added a few new features to the blog: subscribe to comments, search Objectivist parenting blogs, and Feedburner

  • I more than tripled my blog readership during the year

  • I added advertisements to my blog

  • I made my first money with ads on the blog

  • I hosted the Objectivist Round Up 4 times


  • I decided to try fiction writing

  • I started my first novel

  • I came up with a few other story ideas

Home Improvement

  • Found a good housecleaner

  • Installed a mirror in the bedroom

  • Created a prioritized list of home improvement projects

  • Got the toilets fixed and put on new toilet seats

  • Got the basement laundry sink fixed

  • Put up all of our art

  • I designed and Adam put together my new, personalized office space with a short desk.

  • Replaced the eat in kitchen light fixture

  • I did a lot of unpacking and throwing away old junk from the previous occupants of this house, and continued the cleaning process

  • Adam and I got rid of all of the cardboard boxes that we had been saving and hauling around for all of our moves.

  • I cleaned the grout in the kitchen (a 2 month project)

  • Had new windows installed

  • Moved playroom to kitchen and created dining room

  • New lighting in kitchen, dining room, basement, and foyer

  • Got the roof fixed

  • Started planning for painting the house


  • I created and stuck to a budget for 10 months of the year

  • I did the taxes

  • I moved Sam’s 529 to VA

  • I paid all the bills and did all the financial planning and reporting


  • I was Sammy's mommy for 365 days and nights and there is no way to list all of the accomplishments this involved

  • I explored Positive Discipline parenting techniques

  • Took Sammy to see “Go, Dog, Go,” the musical

  • Did an “observation” at MSO

  • Found a good and cheap babysitter

  • Took Sammy to the pumpkin patch

  • Planned and executed Halloween with Sammy, including lots of decorations

  • Re-read Faber and Mazlish

  • The daily schedule whiteboard

  • The cooperation chart/new task chart

  • I found Sam a new doctor

  • I made up many songs

  • I made 31 Valentines day cards with Sammy

  • I found a Montessori school after a long quest

  • I registered Sam for Montessori and helped her through the transition in starting school

  • I attended a 7 week Montessori for toddlers program with Sammy

  • I potty trained Sam

  • I took Sam sledding

  • I took Sam to the water park and helped her conquer her fear of the water slide

  • I started teaching Sam to read

  • I attended 2 homeschooling conferences and made significant progress on my homeschooling plans.

  • I taught Sam how to dress and undress herself, all except for shoes.

  • I continued to arrange the house in a way that allows Sam to be very independent, including many stools, the light switch extenders, her own broom, rake, and shovel, her low-slung closet, her low mirror in the dining room, and her low coat rack.

  • Moved Sammy from her crib to her toddler bed

  • I arranged for two occasions where Sammy spent a couple of nights away from mommy and daddy.

  • I made up dozens of stories

  • I taught Sam how to know it is morning using her teach me time clock.

  • I planned and executed Sammy’s 3rd birthday party

Objectivist Round Up

Rational Jenn hosts the Objectivist Round Up this week.  This edition includes quite a nice variety of subjects to choose from.  Check it out!

Burt Rutan

New Scientist magazine's interview with Burt Rutan, one of the greatest men alive today, reads like Ayn Rand fiction.  Even the journalist's skepticism and slightly derisive tone only serve to highlight Rutan's excellent character.  For instance, the author calls Rutan a "maverick genius" and speaks of his "swimming against the tide."  What he observes but cannot precisely identify is the virtue of independence.  For clarification, see, The Fountainhead.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Potty Training Update

The potty situation here at the Mossoff house is a bit more under control.  Now, Sammy has what I would call accidents, as opposed to simply refusing to use the potty.  She no longer poops in her pants several times a day, but only once every other day or so. 

Until now, though, she'd been holding out for the naptime diaper a lot of the time, so that even when she didn't have an accident, she also didn't use the potty.  Sometimes she could go through the whole day without even peeing in the potty at home (although I'm pretty sure she went at school).  That naptime diaper was a crutch.

However, over the weekend she achieved a milestone:  she took her nap without a diaper for the first time.  This is a thrilling development!   She's been able to fall asleep in the car without accidents for a while, so I knew she could physically do it.  I was just waiting for a good opportunity.  We had a confluence of good circumstances on Sunday:  her big-girl mattress was being delivered that afternoon, and I had previously told her that as soon as it arrived, we'd try naps without diapers.  (We couldn't coordinate moving her to her new room with the arrival of the new mattress, so she's been in the new room on an air mattress for a week or so.)  Even though the new mattress hadn't arrived yet, she pooped and peed on the potty right before nap and she was in a great mood and not being particularly anti-mommy, so I siezed the opportunity.  I didn't make a big deal out of it, but told her that since she had used the potty, that she could wear underwear for her nap, and that if she needed to use the bathroom she was free to come out of her room and go anytime she needed to.

Directly after leaving her room, I heard her get up and use the potty and go right back in and go to sleep.  I'm quite certain that she loved this new privilege!  She was dry when she woke up, and very proud of it.

I know we're in for a lot of dirty sheets, but from now on, there will be no more diapers at nap time in this house.  Yea!

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

So Hard to Let Go

I think I might have to let go of the major plot element I had planned to use in my book.  I did the research I mentioned in an earlier post, and learned some facts that would make it difficult to construct the plot I had intended.  I've been struggling to find a way around the problem, but I'm starting to stretch and stretch so much that I'm losing the theme and the feeling of coherence that the story had.

I think I'm going to need to let go of this idea.  I still have my characters and the basic situation, but the particular major conflict is going to need to change.  It's so hard to let go!  I loved my idea.  But I guess this is all part of "the process."  I recall Ayn Rand saying something about how a good writer needs to be a ruthless editor, and that she had cut passages from her novels that she thought were brilliant, but which were not necessary to the story.  I've gotten pretty good at this kind of editing on my blog (you have no idea how many brilliant nuggets you've missed!), but this kind of cutting is new and painful.

The good news is that I had a pretty good laundry list of ideas before I hit upon this one, so I'm going to revisit that, and I'm going to query my subconscious for even more ideas.  That part of the process was energizing and rewarding, so even though I'm taking a step back, I'm sure I'll still enjoy the work.

Frosty the Snowman

Sammy's favorite Christmas character seems to be Frosty the Snowman.  Ever since we watched the old animated movie just before the holidays, Sammy can't stop talking about how Frosty melted and how Santa made the little girl feel better and the fact that frosty has a CORN COP BIPE and a BUTTON NOSE and TWO EYES MADE OUT OF COLE.  Yes, Cole, because she doesn't understand that "coal" is something different that the boy who lives down the street.  (It must be so confusing to be 3.)

She's also been drawing snowmen, asking me to make them out of Play-Doh, and begging me to sing the song.  Too bad for her, but I told her that I'm not singing any more Christmas songs until next year, because I want to save them for that special time.  She still asks me several times a day, though.

The other day, I wore these earrings for the first time in a while, and I'll leave it to you to guess what she said:

Monday, January 25, 2010

A Little Thing


Yeah, I wonder why he's so sad today.


We've Had a Lot of Rain Lately

Another classic exchange:


[As I'm drawing] "...and here is the chimney and here is the front door, and here are the stairs in front, and here is the grass..."


Three Candy Speed

I just read On Becoming Childwise: Parenting Your Child from 3-7 Years, by Gary Ezzo.  In keeping with my new commitment not to delve into parenting philosophy, I'll refrain from a detailed review.  I'll just say that I don't agree with the principles in this book, but that there were some techniques in it that seem very helpful and that I will use.  Or, at least, I'll try.

One idea was the author's way of teaching a child to move more quickly using a game called Three Candy Speed.  Since Sammy is a big-time dawdler, I thought I'd try it.  You pick a time when things are not urgent or stressful to play the game.  You put out three small pieces of candy and tell the child that she can have them as soon as she accomplishes some simple task, like putting away her Legos or something.  As the child is working, and when she is finished, you tell her that this is called her "Three Candy Speed."  Afterwards, as she is eating the candy, you explain that there will not be candy involved anymore, but that you just wanted her to feel what Three Candy Speed feels like, and to give it a name.  And you tell her that whenever you say, "use your Three Candy Speed" that she should move just like that.  I like this idea because it concretizes the idea of moving quickly for the child.  I decided to try it the other day while getting Sammy dressed for school. 

I broke a tiny square of chocolate into three pieces and set them on the ottoman and told her that she could eat them as soon as she got dressed, and that the faster she got dressed, the sooner she could have her chocolate.

She responded,


She did get dressed much faster than usual, but that just means that she didn't stop to pet the cat, smell her toes, read a book, pick up a fuzzball and throw it in the trash, tell me a story about the monster in her closet, point out the cool shadow on the wall, and just space out for a while.  She didn't move quickly, but she focused on the task, and it was great.

But it was a one-time thing.  She definitely does not connect the words "Three Candy Speed" with moving quickly.  All she hears is, "candy." 

Oh well, it sounded like a good idea.



Me:  And what noise would it make?

Sammy:  BURP.

Friday, January 22, 2010

A Little Thing

There's this really stupid advertisement on a kid's tv channel where parents are bragging about how their kids know so much from watching tv.  Paraphrasing:
I couldn't believe it when Lucy said "adios" to me when I dropped her off for school!

...and then he told me that the moon revolved around the earth!

At her last playdate, she told her friend that "sharing is caring."

He pointed to the stop sign and said, "Look, it's a hexagon!"

Well, I scoffed until Sammy drew a picture this afternoon and then showed me, saying, "Look, mommy, a rhombus!"  I had to restrain myself from dancing all over the room.

Of course, she didn't just pick up some disconnected piece of trivia from tv, but learned this in Montessori, in the context of other shapes, but still, I have to take back at least a little bit of my smugness.  It's just so exciting to see how much they can learn so quickly!

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Objectivist Round Up

The posts have been rounded up, herded, collected, aggregated, compiled, assembled, and gathered.  And the Round Up can be found at Erosophia.

Parenting Posts

I've decided to eliminate something from my blog:  any posts on parenting philosophy or theory.

I do find it helpful to write out my thoughts on these issues, but I've also developed an unhealthy habit by using my blog for this purpose.  I've started thinking in a second-handed way about it.  Instead of thinking about the issue in relation to reality, I'm focused on 1) how to express my thoughts to others, and 2) how to make it interesting enough to be blog-worthy.

I'm not saying that I've become a complete second-hander - I'm just saying that I've made the classic mistake of trying to think by means of writing for others.  Thinking on paper is fine if you are writing for yourself, but you can't write something for publication unless you've done the necessary thinking first, and separately. 

I'm still working out my own parenting philosophy.  I'm trying to be inductive about it (and overall I think I'm doing an excellent job at that), but the blog is pushing me to come to abstract conclusions before I've really done enough thinking.  Therefore, I'm going to stop writing posts about issues like discipline, screen-time, honesty with children, etc.  I might report on concrete things that I'm doing, like using a reward chart or letting Sammy watch different types of TV shows as she matures, and I might write about the results that I observe, but I won't be writing about any abstract conclusions I might be coming to on those issues, as I've done in the past.  From now on, I'll be writing about those kinds of thoughts in my own, personal journal.  In fact, I've already started doing so.

Don't worry, I'm still highly opinionated on these matters!  What I mean is that I act decisively on my current thinking, even when I know that I can get more clear about it.  I have to act on something, and I know I have a great foundation of principles to draw from, so I'm confident that I'm doing a good job as a parent.  But I'll be able to do an even better job if I stop the premature blogging.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Home Improvement Update

The new dishwasher will be installed today, and a new water heater tomorrow.  (We can't get the tankless kind in our townhouse, and I'm not so sure we would have wanted one anyway, after I learned more about it.)  I really kicked butt getting those things done.  The painting is going well, too.  We're just having the main level of the house painted by a professional, plus the upstairs hallway.  We'll do the rest ourselves.  As expensive and difficult as the painting is, it sure does have a huge impact on the feel of the whole house.  I think it's going to be fantastic!  I'll have pictures soon.

Sammy's new room is painted and she is sleeping in it now, but on an air mattress.  We haven't yet had time to get to a store to buy her full-sized mattress.  Really, I just can't get to the store.  But I did figure out the closet situation and bought a kit.  Now we just need to install it and move all of her stuff from her old closet in.  Luckily, she loves her new room!  I just hope she doesn't get upset when we replace the air mattress with her real bed.

It's chaos here.  And if you've read my blog regularly, you know how I feel about chaos.  I'm certainly stressed and on-edge, but I'm handling it a lot better than I thought I would.  I hope I can keep it up for another week or so, until the worst is behind us.

A Little Thing

We went to a birthday party the other day where the song, "Who Let the Dogs Out" was played as part of a puppet show.  The kids loved it.  Sammy and I were singing it together last night, having a great time.  Afterwards, in her bath, she took one of her foam letters, a "d," and plunged it into a cup full of water.  Then she let it go so it popped up to the surface and she sang:


Tuesday, January 19, 2010

A Little Thing

Sam spelled "job" today.  She sounded it out and spelled it.  Cool.

Friday, January 15, 2010

You Can't Make This Stuff Up

Ok, I have to take one moment to tell you that the washing machine did last the day, but the hot water heater did not!  Well, we still have hot water, but it's leaking and it was on its last legs anyway, so it's time for a new one, and it's urgent.  Really, it's quite shocking what went on in this house today.

The good part is that I surprised myself today by researching and purchasing a new dishwasher online in 3 hours - it will be installed on Wednesday.  Maybe the hot water heater will only take 4 or 5, and maybe I can get it by the end of next week.  (I'm going to check out the tankless kind.) I usually take a month or so for a project like that.  I also finished the design and purchase of the closet shelving today, got 4 more paint samples and slapped them up on the wall, paid all the bills, changed the filter in the air furnace (which is how I noticed the leak), and kept my e-mail inbox at zero.  I actually feel pretty good about this day.

Two observations:  1) Everything is so much easier now that we are not under as much financial strain.  2) You can really get a lot done when your child watches TV all day. (She's still sick, but ok, in case you were worried.)

I guess I can't stop blogging after all.  I only meant to write the first sentence.


I'm going in to lockdown mode.  Sam is sick (which means I'll be sick soon too), we're in the middle of moving her to a new bedroom, I need to design, buy and install shelving for her new closet, we have to finish painting the room, we need to buy a mattress and set up her new "big-girl bed," we have to move all her stuff (much of which is in the hallway right now), we're having the whole main level of our house painted starting on Sunday and we haven't completely decided what colors we'll use yet, one of the kitchen cabinet doors broke and needs to be glued, the handle on the dishwasher is not working right and I know that at any moment it will not open at all so I need a new dishwasher NOW, and I just went down to move laundry from the washer to the dryer and found the clothes in a tub full of water - again.  If the washer goes and I can't do laundry, I might have a nervous breakdown.

It's 11:41am and I haven't even considered eating anything and Sam is planted in front of a movie.

And before all of that, I was already too busy.  I keep cutting more and more, but now I have to cut out the blogging until I can regain control.  Wish me luck!

Two Songs

Sung to the tune of the Kit Kat candy bar song from the 80's commercial:

Listen and do
Listen and do
That's how we cooperate
Me and You

I'm not crazy about the obedience aspect in this song, but Sammy really responds to it.  Sometimes, she just needs a reminder to "tune in" to me.  These little songs always lighten the mood, which is sometimes all that is needed.

And I can't believe I've never published my potty success song.  It never really worked as a motivator, but Sammy and I both enjoy it.  There is no tune - it's more of a cheer:

You put it in the proper place
You put it in the proper place
The potty
The potty
The potty

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Objectivist Round Up

Check out this week's Objectivist Round Up, hosted by Titanic Deck Chairs.


A few of Sammy's latest funny quotes:


[Inspired by the song "Fast Monkey," which tells of someone who is faster than a fast monkey, slower than a slow monkey, louder than a loud monkey, etc.]:  I'M MADDER THAN A MAD MONKEY!


Wednesday, January 13, 2010

A Little Thing

I've found a good way to help remember if I've taken my vitamin for the day.  (I have to take the vitamin with food, and I don't eat regularly enough to simply take one with a particular meal.)  I keep the bottle in a cabinet and, on even-numbered days, after a take the vitamin, I turn the label facing out.  On odd-numbered days, after I take one, I turn the label facing back.  This requires an adjustment on months with 31 days (or a February in a leap year), but that doesn't seem to be a problem.  Actually, the biggest problem is remembering what the heck the date is.  But I like my system.

Not all of my Little Things are about Sammy, you know.  Little Things are minor, everyday actions, objects, and experiences that add up to a life full of deliberately chosen values.  I used to think that if you spent your time applying your mind to the acquisition of these Little Things, that you'd necessarily be sacrificing your higher values, but this is wrong.  It's true that we all have a limited amount of time, and even a limited amount of room in our conscious minds, so we have to have a hierarchy of values.  But the sum of all the Little Things in one's life does add up to a great whole, and our pursuit of these things can bring great meaning and fulfillment to our lives.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Theme Day

Maybe it’s just because I’m in the middle of reading a draft of my husband’s latest work-in-progress, which is a defense of intellectual property on the basis of Ayn Rand’s theory of value (!), but yesterday was a day of lessons for Samantha about the value of work.  I didn't plan it that way - it just happened.

First, I told her a Little Bear story.  I tell her stories based on the Little Bear TV show all the time.  I use the characters from the show, but make up stories on the fly.  Sometimes I use these stories pedantically, but sometimes they’re just silly.  I usually don’t know what the story will be until I’m telling it.  Yesterday, she asked for a story about Little Bear's sweet tooth and a piggy bank shaped like a cat (??).  Here is the story I told:
Once upon a time, there was a Little Bear.  He lived with his Mother Bear and his Father Bear, in a cozy cottage in the woods. [This is how the story starts each time.]

Little Bear loved sweets.  Mother Bear said that he had quite a sweet tooth.  He could eat sweets all day long:  cake, cookies, candy, ice cream, pastries, chocolate, pie, hot cocoa – you name it!  One day, Mother Bear said, “You eat too many sweets, Little Bear.  You’re eating me out of house and home, and it’s not good for you.”

“What’s ‘out of house and home’?” asked Little Bear.

“It means that I don’t have enough money to buy so many sweets for you.  I have an idea.  From now on, I’ll make dessert for the family on occasion, but if you want your own candy and other treats, you’ll have to buy them with your own money.”

“But I don’t have any money,” whined Little Bear.

“Hmmm.  That’s true,” said Mother Bear.  “I have another idea.  You can work for the money.  You can do jobs around the house for me, and I’ll pay you money.  That’s what money is for, you know.  It’s a trade.  If you do this for me, I’ll give you money, and you can use that money to buy something that you want.”

“Yea!” said Little Bear.

“Now,” said Mother Bear, “I can only pay you a small amount of money for each job, say, folding the laundry.  You might have to save up your money for a while to have enough for a treat like a candy bar.  I’ll pay you five cents for a simple job like folding laundry.  A candy bar costs twenty five cents.  Do you know how many loads of laundry you’ll have to fold to have enough for a candy bar?”

“Hmmmm," said Little Bear.  [And then commenced a counting exercise.]

“But where will I put my money while I’m saving it?” asked Little Bear.  Mother Bear replied, “I’ll buy you a piggy bank.  I'll use my own money this time.”  [And then commenced a trip to the store where Little Bear picked out a piggy bank in the shape of a cat.]

So for five nights, Little Bear folded laundry.  He took the nickels Mother Bear gave him and put them in his piggy bank.  When he knew that he had five nickels, he opened up the bank, took them out, and went to the store, where he bought his favorite treat:  a chocolate bar.

“Mmmmmm,” said Little Bear.  “It’s soooooo good.  My sweet tooth is happy.”

It was the best chocolate bar he had ever eaten - because he had earned it.

The End.

We’re in the process of moving Sam into a new bedroom.  She is going to get the bigger bedroom of the two kids’ rooms on the top floor.  We figure that when SS (Sammy's Sibling) comes along, the older child should probably have the bigger room.  Adam was putting on the final coat of paint last night, and Sam was excited to help.  (She actually did a great job and didn’t destroy anything, using a miniature roller, and with much supervision.)  But before we went upstairs to help him, I called her over, saying that I wanted to tell her something important.  I said, “Have you noticed how hard your daddy has been working to get your new room set up for you?  All good things take work.  Every single good thing in the whole world takes work.  And you might want to say ‘thank you’ to your dad for all the work he is doing to make your room so nice.”  She did say “thank you” later, but the point about values coming from work was the more important part, I think.

Finally, I read Sammy one of her books she got for Christmas for the first time:  The Wishing of Biddy Malone.  I didn't even pick it out for the evening's reading - she did.  Its theme is that things you get for nothing (wishes) have no value.   (And by the way, this is a beautiful book, appropriate for children Sammy's age, but also much older.  Check it out.)

I liked Theme Day.

Monday, January 11, 2010

C's and B's

When I was a kid, one of my dad's favorite snacks was "C's and B's," also known as crackers and butter.  He would slather butter onto saltines as an appetizer before dinner and eat them with shameless enjoyment. 

I loved C's and B's until I bought into the myth of how fat is bad for us and how we need to reduce our dietary cholesterol.  Then, I was horrified at my dad's reckless behavior.  How could he eat so much butter?  I denied myself C's and B's for many years. 

But I've recently come to see the light and I am no longer afraid of fat, thanks to Gary Taubes.  (I'm not afraid of carbs either, though, as he would have me be.)  I've started cooking with butter and cream, and I use as much mayonnaise as I please.

So when Sammy asked for crackers with butter on them, I didn't bat an eye.  Now, C's and B's are one of her favorite snacks.  I think my dad will like to hear that.

Saturday, January 9, 2010

A Little Thing






[long pause]

[more of the long pausing]

[much patience being exercised by Mommy]


[If you are a parent, you'll recognize the long pauses as time for the child to think about the fact that she knows the answer will be "no" and is trying to find some way around it.  Not figuring out any better way, she simply decides that maybe if she doesn't say the actual words, but tells Mommy to say them, that the answer might be different.  But of course, she said the words anyway.  Trust me, it's hilarious.]

Friday, January 8, 2010

A Little Thing

What do you like best so far, the butterflies or the dinosaurs?


Book Reports

I haven't been reading as much as usual lately.  I read almost nothing while Adam and I were watching Battlestar Galactica from start to finish because it utterly consumed me.  I bought a couple of light fiction books right before I went in for the D&C because that usually helps when I'm down, but I ended up not doing much reading during that period, either.  And most of my reading has been light fiction because I've not been in the right mind-set for anything serious.

However, I do want to continue to record my reading here on the blog, so I'll try to recall what I've read since my last report.  Let's start with the good stuff, eh?

Chantecler, by Edmond Rostand, (translated by Kay Nolte Smith):  (I believe Kay Nolte Smith was an admirer of Ayn Rand and had some relationship with her, but I can't recall the details.  Her introduction to this book is wonderful.)  This play is the best thing I've read in quite a while.  If you like Cyrano, you might like this book, although it is not as focused as Cyrano and its theme is a bit more confused.  But I loved it.  Chantecler was an intelligent, passionate idealist, and also, yes, a rooster!  The characters are all barnyard animals, which is what turned me off from this play for years, but trust me, its theme is as human as Animal Farm's.  Any fan of Rostand will recognize the witty dialog - it's just so darned clever!  I wish I knew French so that I could read the original because, even in translation, the language and wit was amazing.  I'm not sure why this play is not more popular.  There were a few scenes where Rostand took the joke too far and it became tiresome (how many pages of peacock-analogy-satire do I really want to read?), but overall, I think it deserves to be a classic.  Read it!

Speaking of classics and tiresome passages, I also tried to re-read Victor Hugo's Ninety Three recently.  I'm just not in a place to deal with an author who includes so much extraneous information in his fiction.  Although I was fascinated with the plot, I gave it up after about a month of effort.  (I was also able to recognize Hugo's stylistic influence on Ayn Rand, elements of which I've picked up in my own style.)  I'm sure that I'll read this book again someday, but I'll have to be capable of more patience.  Maybe after my child(ren) are all grown up.

I read Montessori Read and Write, by Lynn Lawrence.  I'm still torn about whether or not to buy this book.  I read it quickly from the library and it seemed to have a lot of great exercises.  Actually, now that I write this, I realize that most of the pre-reading exercises that I do with Sammy are from this book, so I probably should go buy a copy.  It's definitely a worthwhile addition to any Montessori fan's reading list.

I read two good books by an author new to me, John D. MacDonald.  I read A Purple Place for Dying, and One Fearful Yellow Eye, both of which are part of his Travis McGee series.  It's detective-fiction, and MacDonald is a cynic, but he's the kind of cynic you like because he's just misguided, not nihilistic.  He writes great stories with a biting style that really fits with his cynical view.  I'll never forget his description of Chicago in "Yellow Eye."  It was such a witty, scathing condemnation that I heard Dennis Miller's "rant" voice in my head as I read it.  Even if you don't "feel it" as a sense of life experience, you've got to appreciate MacDonald's skill.  I plan to read every one of his books.

And now on to the junk.

I read a terrible book called The Water's Lovely, by Ruth Rendell.  I was intrigued by the plot, but by the end, I found that it was just a cheap, TV-drama-style trick, and worse:  all the good characters suffered and all the bad characters won in the end.  Totally nihilistic.  Do not read this book.

I read The Street Lawyer, by John Grisham.  God, I'm so sick of John Grisham, but this book was given to me and I needed mindless reading.  The book itself was worse than mediocre - it was banal, sloppy, and the main character was not likable at all.  But I did get something important out of it.  Ayn Rand suggested in The Art of Fiction that, as an aspiring fiction-writer, in your reading you should always be asking yourself how you could make a dull story better.  Good premises (in plot-situations, not philosophy) are a dime-a-dozen, but how many times have you been suckered into a movie or book based on a clever "what-if" idea that collapsed into nothing after the basic situation had been presented?  Ayn Rand said that thinking about how those dull plots could have been great is a good exercise for a writer, and might lead to original plot ideas.  I took that advice to heart while reading this otherwise worthless book, and it led to my initial idea for my own novel.  I hate to admit it, but it's true.

I read Extreme Measures, by Vince Flynn.  I've read at least one Vince Flynn book that I liked, but after this book, I can't imagine how that is possible.  This book was juvenile, predictable, and corny.  It read like a parody of what the angry left might imagine as George W. Bush's wet dream, but it was serious.  As much as I despise the angry left, I can't take this kind of garbage seriously.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

A Little Thing

We're at the American Museum of Natural History.  We're walking up this big, spiral ramp that has something to do with astronomy.  (As it turns out, we were supposed to be walking down the ramp, which would have taken us from the so-called Big Bang through the history of the universe up until the present day.  Oh well.)  There is a foreign family trudging up along the ramp near us.  The little girl keeps running ahead and her older brother keeps yelling, "Pada! Pada!"  Each time he yells this at her, she waits until the rest of the family catches up, and then she takes off again. 

Sam watches a few cycles of this, then runs ahead of us and says:


I yell, "Pada!"

She stops.  And as soon as we catch up, she yells, GO, and takes off again.  We spent the rest of the painful climb playing PADA and GO.

Observant little creature, isn't she?

Objectivist Round Up #130

Welcome to the January 7, 2010 edition of the Objectivist Round Up!

This Round Up is a weekly compilation of posts from Objectivist bloggers.  In case you've stumbled upon this publication for the first time, here is a brief summary of the philosophy of Objectivism, in the words of its originator, Ayn Rand:
At a sales conference at Random House, preceding the publication of Atlas Shrugged, one of the book salesmen asked me whether I could present the essence of my philosophy while standing on one foot. I did as follows:

  • Metaphysics: Objective Reality

  • Epistemology: Reason

  • Ethics: Self-interest

  • Politics: Capitalism

If you want this translated into simple language, it would read: 1. “Nature, to be commanded, must be obeyed” or “Wishing won’t make it so.” 2. “You can’t eat your cake and have it, too.” 3. “Man is an end in himself.” 4. “Give me liberty or give me death.”

If you held these concepts with total consistency, as the base of your convictions, you would have a full philosophical system to guide the course of your life.

The best source for more information about Objectivism is The Ayn Rand Institute's web site, where you can find excerpts from her fiction and non-fiction, a short biography, information about her ideas, and much, much more.

And now, I present the January 4, 2010 edition of The Objectivist Round Up:

Mike Zemack presents 2010 - Into the Political Vacuum posted at Principled Perspectives, saying, "A brief look back ... and ahead: In 2010, the political vacuum widens, and so will Objectivism's opportunity."

C.W. presents Meltdown by Thomas Woods, Review posted at Krazy Economy, saying, "Review of "Meltdown" by Thomas Woods. A book recommended by Yaron Brooke. Excellent, detailed explanation of the 2008 panic. Good economics."

Ottens presents Deregulate the Banks! posted at Atlantic Sentinel, saying, "Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke is wrong. A lack of regulation did not produce the financial crisis; the Federal Reserve along with enormous government intervention in the American housing market did."

Rachel Miner presents Sharing Emotions posted at The Playful Spirit, saying, "As Faber and Mazlish state, 'Children need to have their feelings accepted and respected.' (A separate issue from the necessary limits on their actions). I discuss why I think the same applies to parents and why, I think it is letting one aspect of the teaching opportunity pass to supress our emotions as a shelter for a child and focus only on the physical consequences, alternative actions, identification / acknowledgement.'"

Trey Givens presents Insurance is not a Coupon for Free Stuff posted at Trey Givens, saying, "I've written three posts recently on health insurance that I think are pretty good, but this one came to me in a flash of insight. Apparently, there are a bunch of people out there who think insurance is a discount program!"

Ari Armstrong presents What Are Conservatives Trying to Conserve? posted at, saying, "A look at the four strains of conservatism: libertarianism, tradition, faith, and liberty."

Myrhaf presents 2009 and Beyond posted at The New Clarion.

Pomponazzi presents Digesting Objectivist Principles posted at Pomponazzi ponders, saying, "I explain what the primacy of existence means and use it to refute the false theories of Descartes and Kant."

Paul Hsieh presents 2009 Front Range Objectivism Media Output posted at NoodleFood, saying, "In 2009, Front Range Objectivists published 57 OpEds, 48 LTEs, and 3 articles, including high-profile outlets like the Wall Street Journal, New York Times, and Christian Science Monitor. Most of this was done by volunteer activists working in their spare time. Americans are willing to hear our ideas -- we just have to be willing to articulate them!"

Adam Reed presents A Radical Strategy for Objectivists posted at Born to Identify, saying, "Most people's New Year resolutions have to do with a new commitment to act in accordance with one's values, but often too little thought is given to the identification of the course of action that will lead to the realization of one's values. The principles relating actions to values constitute a strategy for the achievement of values."

Diana Hsieh presents The Unsoap Experiment posted at NoodleFood, saying, "It sounds crazy, but I'm experimenting with going mostly soap-free and shampoo-less in January -- yet definitely not unwashed."

Ryan DeGoyler presents Toddlers-Selfish or Selfless? posted at The Undercurrent, saying,  "Are children naturally altruistic? A recent study seems to suggest so. DeGoyler discusses the assumption that cooperation is altruistic, and presents an alternative explanation for the child's motives."

Andrew Dalton presents The soul of an egalitarian posted at Witch Doctor Repellent, saying, "A British intellectual notices that children who attend private schools succeed disproportionately -- and proposes banning private schools as the solution."

Stella presents One good point, and a lot of bad ones posted at ReasonPharm.

C.W. presents Speech by Ben S. Bernanke, Commentary posted at Krazy Economy, saying, "I read this so that you don't have to. Really, it wasn't fun. But it was revealing. This isn't just bad economics, it is a methodological disconnect from reality. Freedom, reality, even money supply are not terms that he would ever use in a conversation."

Edward Cline presents States’ Rights: Dumb Show and Noise posted at The Rule of Reason, saying, "The Republican Party has reached deep into its armory of political arguments and come up with its best shot against federally-mandated health care “reform.” Citing the Tenth Amendment, they are beginning to claim that Congress is overstepping its Constitutional authority to require individuals to purchase health insurance, thus usurping states’ “rights” to do the same thing. The power is not enumerated; ergo, it is unconstitutional."

Tom Utley presents Clemson has an Institute for the (honest) Study of Capitalism! posted at It's My Blog, saying, "This is my first ever submission to this list, but I wanted to share the news to all objectivists because I'm so proud of my Alma Mater!"

That concludes this edition. Submit your blog article to the next edition of the Objectivist Round Up by using our carnival submission form.
Past posts and future hosts can be found on our blog carnival index page.  Next week's host will be Titanic Deck Chairs.

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Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Zip Your Lip

A while back I made the unfortunate mistake of teaching Samantha the phrase, "zip your lip."  I didn't tell her to zip her lip; that would have been obnoxious.  I used the phrase as an example of something she could say to express her desire for me to be quiet.  I think I was trying to lighten the mood or something by finding a cute way for her to say it, but now the damage is done.  You see, she always wants me to shut up.  Not only does she resent it when I try to do things for her, she can't stand it when I give her instructions when she doesn't need or want them.

So she is constantly telling me:  MOMMY, WILL YOU PLEASE ZIP YOUR LIP?  As long as she uses a respectful tone of voice, I don't mind.  It's just her way of saying, I WANT YOU TO BE QUIET NOW.  When she wants to emphasize how important it is to her, she asks me to run my fingers over my lips in a zipping motion - another little gem that I wish I had never taught her.  But, alas, this is her way of controlling her world and getting too-helpful-Mommy to just butt out.  I respect that.

So, when we were at the American Museum of Natural History in New York, Sam was totally into the dinosaurs.  She was fascinated.  I think it took her a while to get the idea of bones; these were the bones of the dead dinosaurs.  (We did a lot of explaining beforehand, but that's a tough concept for a 3-year-old, don't you think?)  But I do think she got some sense of it - that this was all that was left of them.  The point is, she really, really loved it.

She was being really good on this trip in general, but at one point I asked her to do something and she started to yell at me.  I told her that if she wanted to stay at the museum and see the dinosaurs, she had to speak kindly to us, or we might have to leave.  She started to yell again, but then she took her fingers and zipped her lip.  Over and over, she zipped her lip, until she was sure that she would not yell at me again.  And it worked!

A Good Time to Take Stock

You might have noticed that I've stopped the Three Good Things exercise.  I got so caught up in the Good Things of the holidays that I just didn't have the time or energy for it.  But instead of starting it up again, I'm going to a try a different exercise, which I'll call my 2009 Accomplishments.  The idea comes from the same source as Three Good Things, Jean Moroney.  As soon as I finish it, I'll publish it here. 

Here is Ms. Moroney's description of how to take stock of your achievements:
2010 is just getting started. To begin on an inspiring note, I suggest you spend a little time taking stock of your achievements from 2009. Make a record of your accomplishments--everything you did or said or bought or made happen that you're proud of. This is not a journalistic account of the ups and downs of the year; it includes only the successes. They're what matter most in the long run; they're worth pausing to reflect on to give you fuel for 2010.

This is similar to advice I relayed some time ago to record three good things at the end of each day.* It is not a mindless exercise in feel-good, rah rah positive thinking. Reviewing your actual achievements is much more profound than that. It reaffirms emotionally that these successes are good and important, and keeps that context activated.

There is an added benefit to reviewing the whole year. You get to see the brightest achievements all in one list--a list as long as you can make it. To make sure you remember the highlights, I
recommend you review your calendar or some other record of your activities; it's surprisingly easy to forget important achievements from months ago.

If it was a difficult year, you can see clearly all you accomplished in the face of adversity. If it was an unusually good year, you get to count up the amazing total of successes. When you see the year as a whole, you add to the sense of yourself as one who achieves something over time. As you do this over many years, you can reflect on long-term improvements that you see from year to year.

I think you will also find that reflecting on the successes of the
previous year puts you in a good frame of mind to look to the
future. As you review, you will find some unfinished business. Seen in the context of all you did accomplish, it's natural to treat these items as next year's successes, rather than last year's failures. I always find the process leaves me inspired to achieve more in the future, because I am building on the success of the past.

This reflection takes a little time, but the time has a payoff.  Reviewing your achievements across the year gives you a sense of yourself, and helps you keep your life in perspective.

A productive and happy 2010 to you.

*The "Three Good Things" article is on the site at:

Jean Moroney, President of Thinking Directions, teaches managers, business owners, and other professionals how to tap their own knowledge banks to solve problems faster, make better decisions, and communicate more effectively. Corporations hire her to train their managers in "Thinking Tactics" to help them get more done with fewer resources. For more information, visit:

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Tuesday, January 5, 2010

A Little Thing

I had zero e-mails in my inbox before our trip to New York, and although I managed to keep the inevitable build-up while I was away to less than 20 messages, I am quite proud to say that I'm already back down to zero.

And I haven't even read Getting Things Done yet.

Spitting and Hitting

Sam started spitting recently.  It's a new way of acting out her anger.  Usually, she makes a noise and dribbles down her chin, but once she spat directly at me.  I let her have it for that, giving her a stern lecture in a way that I reserve for really heinous behavior.  It seemed to work, as she has stopped (at least for the moment).

But now she is back to hitting and screaming at us.  She has just shifted the form of her angry response, and there is no reason to believe that she won't start spitting again at any moment.

Before I knew that the specific spitting problem was resolved, I posted a question about it on two parenting lists I belong to.  The responses fell into three essential categories:

  • Explain why spitting is wrong and give alternatives for expressing angry feelings

  • The child cannot control her body so, as a last resort, do it for her by covering her mouth

  • The child is showing that she cannot behave properly in a social context, so remove the social context by sending her to her room (or to time-out)

(There were other points about how to handle things like spitting bath water and playing with one's spit, but those did not apply to Sam's situation, which is all about expressing anger.)

The first response is a Positive Discipline approach and definitely needs to happen.  Before you can take any other action, as a parent your first responsibility is to assume positive intent, respect the child's intelligence, and give reasons.  Sometimes the child just doesn't know how to express her feelings in an appropriate way. 

But, "assume positive intent" does not mean "your child always acts with positive intent."  Sam's hitting and spitting is (usually) done precisely because she wants to make an impact by doing the "wrong" thing.  (Although there are certainly times where she just forgets, but I can tell the difference now.)  The first approach would be worse than a waste of breath in these cases - it would be a default on proper judgment of really inappropriate behavior.  It would be an injustice.

The second response is kind of like the last resort of Positive Discipline and it's what I've been doing with the hitting (restraining her body) for the past year or so.  But the hitting has continued, off and on.

The third is a more traditional approach, and something that PD advocates might call a "punishment."  But in the end, I think the third approach is best for our situation.

I've been thinking a lot lately about the problems with Positive Discipline.  I don't think it's a really good concept to begin with, although I think a lot of the techniques are fabulous.  (I don't have any clear, overall, positive principle of my own, but I'm working on it.)  Here is one area where I think PD falls short.  With PD, you have to be willing to make the correction or give the guidance hundreds of times before the child gets it.  This is fine and dandy for most things (table manners, treating toys respectfully, cleaning up, etc.).  But for some things, I'm not willing to allow the behavior to happen over and over.  With hitting, I'm not willing any more to have it happen 20 times a day for a week and go through the restraint and explanations and apologies and all of that before she stops.  It's not something I'm willing to continue to be a patient "guide" about any more.  The behavior needs to end now, and for good, for my own, selfish reasons.  I feel like a punching bag, and that is not ok.  (And honestly, it gets to the point where I fantasize about hitting her back, and that is scary, and a real signal that something is wrong.)  Selfishness is always a good guide, but I also do think that it is in the child's interest to understand that hitting is not just another way of being impolite, but is in a different category from those other things.  This is not something that she has the luxury of taking any more time to "learn."  It does need to be treated differently. Spitting is in the same category.  It is out of bounds.  Period.

This was my original instinct a year ago and the reason that I tried time-outs.  But making a child sit on the step for a couple of minutes is not a clear way of isolating her and removing her from the social context.  And the endless Supernanny method of returning the child to the step when she gets up is too painful, and really just too much trouble.  Why should I spend an hour physically battling my child when I'm trying to teach her the lesson that force is not ok?  Sure, I'm using force as a response to force, which we adults know is not only acceptable, but a requirement, but can a child really understand that in the heat of the moment?  I think the child would see this as bullying.  And that's the way it felt when I used that technique.  It was miserable, and it didn't make sense.

So even before I got those three responses, we had started sending Sammy to her room for certain things, not as punishment, but because the minute she hits or spits, she has declared herself incapable of acting properly in a social context, and so must be removed from it.  PD has some techniques to deal with this in a similar way, like removing yourself from the child.  But for some reason, time-outs and sending the child to her room are seen as punishments, and therefore, not ok. 

Well, I'm coming to strongly disagree with this view.  We cannot walk away from Sam when she hits because she follows us and continues to hit us.  I could lock myself in my own room, but I don't think I should have to stop what I am doing because she is acting improperly.  If she hits me at the dinner table, am I supposed to leave?  No.  It is she who needs to be isolated, not me.  And if she cannot stay in her room on her own, I am ok with locking her in there.  (That has happened a couple of times.)  And there is no arbitrary time that she must spend in her room, like one minute for each year of age.  She must stay there until she is ready to act like a human being.  Sometimes this means that she comes out and asks if she can come downstairs.  Sometimes it means we go in to her.  There are no formulas for this, but simply our perception of exactly what is going on, and whether she has truly changed her attitude.

I'm gaining a little bit more respect for this traditional, "go to your room" technique.  Sure, it can be abused (see Betty Draper in Mad Men), but I think it can also be used properly.

So, thanks to Betsy Speicher on the Rational Parenting List for the identification of the "social context" issue.  I was already using it, but having it stated this way has helped me to clarify why it is an appropriate measure to take.  It can be a logical consequence, not an arbitrary punishment, if used the right way.

Monday, January 4, 2010

New York for Kids

Our quick trip to New York was one of the best vacations we've ever had!  (I think I've said that after each of our last 3 trips, but it's all true).  It was such a great family event that we cancelled the babysitter we had lined up for the last night, when Adam and I were going to go out and have a romantic meal.  We both agreed that it was more fun to spend the time with our daughter, because she loved every minute of it and was clearly thriving in the New York environment.  3 years old is definitely not too young for New York City!

I wonder why people choose not to raise kids in the city.  Sure, there are problems and challenges, but there are also huge benefits.  And the argument that kids need "green space" is absurd.  They do need stimulation, but New York, with its buildings and lights and vehicles and restaurants and street performers is much more stimulating than a few trees and some grass!  And when you do want nature, there's Central Park!  As for space to run around, Sammy was outdoors more and got more exercise in New York than she has gotten anywhere else, ever.  And frankly, it was the most exercise I've gotten in quite some time.

We took the train, which was fun and terrible, both.  I did not like the mad rush to find a seat and the stations were crowded with pushing and shoving masses of people - one of the most terrifying situations for me.  But it was nice to arrive 20 minutes before departure and to walk around all we wanted in the train instead of being stuck in our seats the whole time.  Unfortunately, the views along the eastern seaboard were as depressing as I remember them. 

We stopped in Philly on the way up to visit Adam's aunt and uncle, parents of Nora The Piano Cat.  It was a really nice, but short visit.  They gave Sam a "thumb piano," something I had never seen before.

thumb piano

We stayed in Midtown, around 8th Ave. and 51st St.  I love Midtown the most, and this was a perfect location for all of our activities.  I've heard that dining is better elsewhere, but we had 3 excellent meals within 2 blocks of the hotel, at Pigalle, Gallagher's, and Sweet Emily's.  This was the trip of bread and butter for Sammy.  She had bread and butter at practically every meal.  We don't often eat bread at home, and she loves butter, so she just couldn't get enough.  But we also discovered her new favorite food: prime rib.  She loves the fat.  She always eats the fat off our meat at home, so I should have known that this would be the perfect food for her.  (The prime rib at Gallagher's was the best I've ever had - I wish I could go back right now!)

Our first night did not go well.  It was raining like hell when we arrived and we had to stand in a really long line for a taxi with street hawkers constantly trying to sell us umbrellas.  When we got to the hotel we ordered food delivered and when the delivery peopleguy came, he claimed he didn't have any change and you could tell that he expected me to leave him with a $7 tip just to avoid the hassle.  What a scam.  The food was already in the room so we kept it and told him that we'd pay him when he could make change.  He left and came back a few minutes later with change.   And he got no tip.  Two typical New York experiences.  Thank goodness Adam used to live in New York and knows the ropes.

The weather was incredible the next day so we decided to do our outdoor activities.  It was the Sunday after Christmas so everything was packed, but it didn't matter; it was just part of the atmosphere.  We didn't think we'd have much chance to walk around so we didn't bring the stroller.  That was a mistake.  Bringing the car seat was also a mistake.  We didn't use it.  And we did take cabs.  Let the flames pour in. 

Here are some highlights:

The first thing we did was Top of the RockTop of the Rock (Rockefeller Center).  Incredible!  Short wait and amazing views.  Sammy really loved it and she understood that we were going UP UP UP WAY HIGH.  The view of downtown with its gaping hole in the skyline still pains me, but it also brought tears of joy to my eyes to see so much concrete, steel, and other and man-made stuff in such a concentrated area.




Rockefeller Plaza was also wonderful.  The tree was ok, but the ice skaters really grabbed Sam's attention.  We watched for quite a while.Rockefeller Plaza

We walked up Fifth Avenue and looked in the store windows from afar. 

We got a hot dog from a street vendor and then Sam fed part of the bun to the pigeons.  This was a thrill for her.  She loved those flying rats, I mean, birds.

We picked the first restaurant we passed for lunch, and it was great.  Lots of bread and butter.

We saw SpongeBob (yuck!), Winnie the Pooh, and Elmo.  It's like Disneyworld, I swear.  Sam was scared of all of them, but of course all that means is that she couldn't stop talking about them for the rest of the day.

We went up and down a thousand escalators and elevators, and Sammy learned that it is ok to walk over the grill in the sidewalk and that she won't fall through.  But she refused to walk over the clear plastic floor in Rockefeller Center that made it look like you were on top of the building when it was under construction.  Even after I walked on it, she would not step out into what looked like thin air.  I say, good for her for using her own judgement, even if she was wrong.

Central Park CarouselWe walked around Central Park and took a ride on the Carousel.  At the ice skating pond, Sammy was again fascinated.  I've promised her I will look into ice skating in our area because she obviously wants to try it.  She also enjoyed the ducks and watching the horse-drawn carriages.  But more importantly, I have decided that Central Park is my favorite place on earth.  I don't think I'd ever been there as an adult until this trip, and I was so moved by the beauty of it.  I love art and scenery that contrasts the natural with the man-made, and looking at those buildings through the trees was more incredible than I would have guessed from what I've seen on movies and TV.  It just doesn't get any better than that.

We walked to FAO Schwartz and then went right past it because there was a line to get in. 

There are some really cool new buildings at Columbus Circle.  I like that intersection.

We took the subway, just for fun.

We walked through Times Square at night, which was also really neat, and something I'd never done before. 

Adam had a business dinner on Sunday night so Sammy and I dined alone.  I swear, she is a great dining companion, and we had a lovely time.  Then we caught part of The Sound of Music on TV in the hotel room, and Sammy fell in love with it.  Good taste, that one.  That was the end of Day 1.  We slept well.

Monday was the day Adam worked, so Sam and I met up with Kim and her family at the Children's Museum of Manhattan.  The museum was fun, but it was really just great to get to know another e-friend in real life.  We also had a nice lunch, and Sammy tried sweetbreads for the first time.

We took the subway again that day, and we were treated to some live music, aka, panhandling.  I know the locals hate it, but Sammy and I enjoyed it.

That afternoon we just chilled in the hotel room until Adam got back and we went to dinner.  Sammy was so exhausted that she fell asleep at the restaurant.  As I was ordering, she was saying, MOMMY, MOMMY?  But I couldn't hear her.  After I ordered, Adam told me that she was trying to get my attention and she said, MOMMY, PICK ME UP? in the tiniest voice, and the moment I picked her up, she was asleep.  Luckily she woke up in time to eat a huge amount of that prime rib I mentioned.  Again, we slept well that night.

Tuesday was freezing cold so we went to the American Museum of Natural History.  It's true that you could spend a week there.  We especially enjoyed the dinosaurs.  It was definitely the best dinosaur exhibit I've ever seen, with helpful but not overly-wordy text.  I've never been into dinosaurs and I never understood why kids like them, but after seeing this, I actually felt a little bit of that kid's enthusiasm for the subject.  We also saw a live butterfly exhibit, and the life-sized blue whale hanging from the ceiling in the ocean exhibit is something not to be missed.  The place was a madhouse and it was expensive, but totally worth it.  We must have walked up and down 300 stairs and gone 2-3 miles inside that place that day.

After all of that, another nice dinner was all we could manage on Tuesday evening, but it was just perfect.

Unfortunately, once the momentum stopped on our departure date, Wednesday, it all caught up with Sammy and she was a nightmare the whole day.  Small price to pay, though.

There was so much else that we did in the down moments like drinking hot chocolate, jumping on the hotel bed, and just looking up at the tall buildings.  I wish I could better capture how incredible this trip was for all of us.  Part of it is all the great Little Things that happened.  Instead of going on longer here, I'll save them to post over the next few days.

My final comment on this trip is that Samantha really surprised me with how well she kept up with us, both physically and mentally.  Since we didn't have the stroller, she had to walk or be carried, and we're not big on carrying her.  She probably walked 75% of the time.  Her mind was also active the whole time.  Any time I glanced at her she was observing, and I could see the wheels spinning inside.  She understood so much of what she was seeing, and she was never bored.  She's really a kid now, and this trip showed me how exciting the future with her is going to be.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

A Little Thing

I said to Sam, "You're acting like a monster today."  She said, I'M NOT A MONSTER!  I'M A GHOST!

Friday, January 1, 2010

Quick Quote