Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Cool Christmas shopping ideas

In my quest for fun, engaging, and lead-free toys for the Peanut and all the other kids on my Christmas list this year, I've found some great options online. For a mind-boggling array of craft items, toys, artwork, jewelry, and tons of other stuff made by individual artists all over the world, check out Etsy.

More ideas for toys (many of them made by moms) are at CoolMomPicks.

And yet more amazing toys, kids' furniture, and more, can be found at Oompa. Happy shopping!

Monday, November 26, 2007

Thanksgiving long weekend by the numbers

Pounds of turkey consumed chez Fraulein: 10

Home improvement projects completed with help from the Peanut's very industrious Pop-Pop: 1 (Waxing our hardwood floors!)

Pumpkin dessert items demolished: 2 (Nana's pumpkin pie and my cream cheese frosted pumpkin cake)

Hours of Caillou DVDs watched by the Peanut: Countless

Christmas decorating tasks completed: Zero, because I ran out of energy

Babies visited: 2: my friend Christine's charming four-month-old twins, who the Peanut loved hanging out with, along with the twins' big brother, who is almost 3 and likes to pretend to be a Power Ranger. Or Buzz Lightyear, or something. All those superheroes that the little boys like seem the same to me.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

But did he survive?

Actual AP headline from today:

Student Slain to Death Near U of Chicago

Monday, November 19, 2007

Secrets of the toddler brain

If somebody could figure out a magic formula for unlocking the secrets of the toddler brain, they'd undoubtedly make a fortune. We are slogging through some Terrible Threes lately, with the Peanut suddenly careening from a (relatively) reasonable mood to a screeching horror show in 10 seconds or less. She becomes enraged over minor things, throws fits if we don't understand her cryptic requests ("I want the white thing with the yellow things on it!! I WANT IT! I WANT IT!") and, perhaps most frustrating of all, changes her mind every two to three minutes. She wants pancakes. Then she wants a bagel. Then the bagel is the most disgusting thing she's ever seen.

There was a cartoon in the paper yesterday that showed a man and a woman heading out their front door with several suitcases, while a small boy stood nearby. The father was holding a bag full of cash out to a young woman and saying, "Jenny, at your normal babysitting rate, this should cover us for two years."

This weekend was that kind of weekend. The kind of Toddler Terror Experience that makes you wonder whether there are any boarding schools for 3-year-olds, perhaps in France.

I just wish I knew what was going on in that little head. Thankfully this morning, after a solid night's sleep, relative calm was restored. And on the ride in to school she even said, I swear, this:

"Mommy, when I'm big, I'm gonna feel different. That happens."

Yes indeedy, you will feel different. You and your parents too.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

The nosebleed

You could pretty much have gone your whole life without being roused from a dead sleep in the early morning hours by hearing your 3-year-old screaming: "MOMMY! BLOOD! BLOOD! MOMMY, COME HELP!"

But she is screaming exactly this, so you leap out of the bed like it's on fire, race down the hall. There she is, sitting up in bed, blood pouring out of her nose and down the front of her pajamas, soaking her pillow and sheets. You help her to get out of bed and stagger to the bathroom, where you somehow simultaneously hold a wad of tissues to her nose, strip off her clothes, and wash her bloody hands, face and arms. Vaguely in the midst of your toddler's sustained screaming and crying, you wonder why this happened. (Just the dry winter air? Who knows?) But it's impossible to spare much time to think about causes when she is still yelling, terrified, because she has no idea why she's bleeding. It must seem to her as though she is dying, although it's just a simple nosebleed, and it's already slowing down quite a bit.

"I'm cold," she keeps saying, because she has no pajamas on now, but she's shaking too hard at the moment for you to get new ones on her. Finally after many hugs, she calms down enough for you to get her dressed again. It is not helping that Daddy is off on a work trip, because most of the time, the cure for all ills is a healthy dose of Daddy.

Finally it is determined that she should sleep in the big bed with Mommy until it's time to get up, and this helps enormously. Solemnly she collects various stuffed animals and her favorite pink blankie from her room. You follow her back down the hall, carrying her butterfly night light and her sound machine, which plays the sounds of the ocean and the rain and a babbling brook.

She settles in on Daddy's side of the bed with a wad of tissue stuffed up one nostril. Her eyes remain open for a long time.

And it occurs to you that this is what you signed up for, when you decided to trash all the birth control and plow bravely ahead, having not the slightest clue what this entailed. You consider what you used to sometimes do at this hour of the morning back when you were single. You think about the late-night post-party diner gabfests, back in the wilds of New Jersey. There you would sit, slumped in a booth with three or six or 12 other people, mountains of omelets and bagels, gallons of coffee, a non-trivial hangover, and laughter that stretched on for hours.

At that time you could never have imagined this moment happening. It would have seemed as likely a future fate as walking on the moon. Now you cannot imagine a present without such moments. Because this little sniffling person lying next to you will sometimes need to have her tears or even blood mopped up, and you realize that you would shed your blood to stop those tears from flowing.

Thursday, November 08, 2007

All I have to say about Dennis Kucinich

...is that if he somehow, against all odds, succeeds in his mission to rid us of He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named, I will vote for him for President even if his campaign platform states that he intends to dance naked under the full moon every month on the White House front lawn while scarfing down barbecued tofu with Shirley McLaine and E.T.

Go Dennis!

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

'My country is the whole world'

In "Three Guineas," Virginia Woolf's primal scream about gender, war and terrorism, she proposes that women try to completely divorce themselves from the societal structures that perpetuate endless wars. She voices the fear that as women moved tentatively into the professional workforce (this was in 1938) we would become inextricably linked to those very societal structures. This was because women were so desperate to have opportunities for advancement outside the home that we would embrace even war-making industries, as long as they allowed us to escape the home by earning our own money.

So she proposes the idea that women should, essentially, opt out. That we should become what she calls "outsiders." Woolf's illustrations and analogies don't entirely hold true in 2007, and not simply because there were women among the brutes giving the thumbs-up over the bodies of dead Iraqis at Abu Ghraib. But they do point to something that I find intriguing. And that is the idea that if ordinary citizens--men as well as women--were to demand that our talents and treasure be devoted to building up our own country (fixing our schools and bridges, just for starters) rather than to carrying out extended bombing campaigns to demonstrate our might over the rest of the world, we might actually have a civilization here, instead of the '1984'/'Lord of the Flies' horror show we're living through right now. I think she's saying that maybe if we turn our backs on what is patently wrong, we might just have the energy to start making things right:

But the outsider will make it her duty not merely to base her indifference upon instinct, but upon reason. When he says, as history proves that he has said, and may say again, ‘I am fighting to protect our country’ and thus seeks to rouse her patriotic emotion, she will ask herself, ‘What does “our country” mean to me an outsider?’ To decide this she will analyse the meaning of patriotism in her own case. She will inform herself of the position of her sex and her class in the past. She will inform herself of the amount of land, wealth and property in the possession of her own sex and class in the present—how much of ‘England’ in fact belongs to her. From the same sources she will inform herself of the legal protection which the law has given her in the past and now gives her. And if he adds that he is fighting to protect her body, she will reflect upon the degree of physical protection that she now enjoys when the words ‘Air Raid Precaution’ are written on blank walls. And if he says that he is fighting to protect England from foreign rule, she will reflect that for her there are no ‘foreigners’, since by law she becomes a foreigner if she marries a foreigner. And she will do her best to make this a fact, not by forced fraternity, but by human sympathy. All these facts will convince her reason (to put it in a nutshell) that her sex and class has very little to thank England for in the past; not much to thank England for in the present; while the security of her person in the future is highly dubious. But probably she will have imbibed, even from the governess, some romantic notion that Englishmen, those fathers and grandfathers whom she sees marching in the picture of history, are ‘superior’ to the men of other countries. This she will consider it her duty to check by comparing French historians with English; German with French; the testimony of the ruled—the Indians or the Irish, say—with the claims made by their rulers. Still some ‘patriotic’ emotion, some ingrained belief in the intellectual superiority of her own country over other countries may remain. Then she will compare English painting with French painting; English music with German music; English literature with Greek literature, for translations abound. When all these comparisons have been faithfully made by the use of reason, the outsider will find herself in possession of very good reasons for her indifference. She will find that she has no good reason to ask her brother to fight on her behalf to protect ‘our’ country. ‘“Our country,”’ she will say, ‘throughout the greater part of its history has treated me as a slave; it has denied me education or any share in its possessions. “Our” country still ceases to be mine if I marry a foreigner. “Our” country denies me the means of protecting myself, forces me to pay others a very large sum annually to protect me, and is so little able, even so, to protect me that Air Raid precautions are written on the wall. Therefore if you insist upon fighting to protect me, or “our” country, let it be understood, soberly and rationally between us, that you are fighting to gratify a sex instinct which I cannot share; to procure benefits which I have not shared and probably will not share; but not to gratify my instincts, or to protect either myself or my country. For,’ the outsider will say, ‘in fact, as a woman, I have no country. As a woman I want no country. As a woman my country is the whole world.’ And if, when reason has said its say, still some obstinate emotion remains, some love of England dropped into a child’s ears by the cawing of rooks in an elm tree, by the splash of waves on a beach, or by English voices murmuring nursery rhymes, this drop of pure, if irrational, emotion she will make serve her to give to England first what she desires of peace and freedom for the whole world.

Such then will be the nature of her ‘indifference’ and from this indifference certain actions must follow. She will bind herself to take no share in patriotic demonstrations; to assent to no form of national self-praise; to make no part of any claque or audience that encourages war; to absent herself from military displays, tournaments, tattoos, prize-givings and all such ceremonies as encourage the desire to impose ‘our’ civilization or ‘our’ dominion upon other people. The psychology of private life, moreover, warrants the belief that this use of indifference by the daughters of educated men would help materially to prevent war. For psychology would seem to show that it is far harder for human beings to take action when other people are indifferent and allow them complete freedom of action, than when their actions are made the centre of excited emotion. The small boy struts and trumpets outside the window: implore him to stop; he goes on; say nothing; he stops. That the daughters of educated men then should give their brothers neither the white feather of cowardice nor the red feather of courage, but no feather at all; that they should shut the bright eyes that rain influence, or let those eyes look elsewhere when war is discussed.