Monday, March 29, 2010

Day 3 of potty training #3

If you're a parent, you're no doubt aware that everyone is an armchair or backseat parent when it comes to offering advice...whether the person has or has not had kids, surely they know the answer to your problems.

These three are the worst:

"They all wean themselves."
"All you have to do is let him cry it out for 10 minutes and he'll fall asleep."
"Just let him run around naked (or put him in underwear, or give him chocolate) and he'll catch on right away."

None of these worked on any of our three children (well, except for Chris on the weaning part, since he was getting breast milk from a bottle and gave that up fairly easily). And none of them have potty trained themselves.

I know that boys are later, and we have been fairly lazy about training our youngest one. But we cannot put it off any longer--he's 3-1/2 now, and we know from experience that it will take a concerted effort to train him. So we started on Saturday.

The best thing is that he's been fairly good natured about it, going off to sit on the toilet every hour or so. Today he had only one little accident and several successes. No wait--actually the best thing? This is the last time we have to do potty training!

We've been rewarding him with M&Ms, which Mike replenished after I made my chocolate-slavery discovery...and now that they've been bought, we are using them and I feel horribly guilty. After they are gone, we are not buying any more--ever--unless Mars finally agrees to use nonslavery chocolate. So we'll have to find some new incentive. It's impossible to find free trade M&Ms (or something approximating them).

However--so far no poop--since Friday. We've plied him with popcorn (which is high in fiber), but he's already prone to constipation, and I'm sure the potty training is not helping. Poor kid!

I hope we will have good potty training news to report soon. Kieran was comparatively easy--we trained him over a 3-day weekend at the beach! Nicholas appears to be a bit more difficult so far. But it could be much worse!

Glenn Beck Haiku, Anyone?

Some very creative soul at Jewish Funds for Justice has developed a web site and invited "socially conscious" individuals to submit their haik u (sic) about Glenn Beck. I love it! Here's my own:
Mother Teresa
Communist in nun's clothing
She'll burn in Beck's hell

Here are some that I liked:

The Bible without
Talk of social justice is
Many blank pages

Jesus healed the sick
Moses parted the Red Sea
Nazi Communists!?

nazis and commies
were not exactly big church
people anyway

And Jesus said to
All his hungry disciples
"Hands off my fish, chumps"

Glenn Beck does not know
the health care bill makes us the
Good Samaritan

Glenn Beck knows that when
Jesus preached social justice
it was sarcasm.

Was a socialist
commie, two grand years ago.
His name was Jesus

Beck is to justice
Social or Economic
Like Hitler to Jews

Does the Bible say
anything about the poor?
It’s in there somewhere.

Beck would not know a
fascist if he saw one in
the mirror. Daily.

If you let Glenn Beck
be your shepherd, don't cry when
you get shorn like sheep.

All Glenn's nazi talk,
protesting a bit too much.
Pot calls kettle black?

If I were Glenn Beck,
I'd fear social justice, too.
It makes perfect sense.

Who else fears justice?
Ahmadinejad, Kim Jong
Il, and Mugabe

If only Beck knew
And his followers did too
What Jesus would do.

Cold March winds blow hard.
Hot is the Beck big blowhard.
Thank God the winds refresh.

New Bumper Sticker.
Jesus was a Socialist.
Sermon on the Mount.

Can you imagine doing this at age 16?

While some 16-year-old girls might be preoccupied with texting (studies show that the average teenager sends and receives around 1,500 texts per month) and flirting with boys (teenage girls are more likely to become pregnant in the U.S. than in any other country), Aussie Jessica Watson and American Abby Sunderland are sailing around the world.

Jessica Watson is more than 18,000 miles into her voyage and less than 1,500 miles from Australia! Abby Sutherland got a late start because of boat issues. She is getting ready to round the treacherous Cape Horn (the Mount Everest of the yachting universe). If Sunderland succeeds on her route, she will be the youngest solo sailor to sail around the world (she is 5 months younger than Watson). Her older brother, Zac, briefly held this honor when he made the voyage at age 17.

My hat's off to these two intrepid young women!

I've often recalled that month in August/September 1986, when my parents said goodbye to me (age 21) and then my sister (age 19), leaving to live a year in Japan and China--and also it being our first trip outside of North America. But at least we were flying on airplanes.

All I can say is: thank God I'm not the mother of these young sailors! I would be a nervous wreck.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Starting out spring break in Seattle...

Sunday (Mike's birthday) we headed up to Woodinville, where our dear friends Nancie, Dave, and Catlin live. They made a wonderful birthday dinner for Mike, and we shared in great conversation as always.

Monday the weather forecast called for rain, but instead we saw blue skies as we headed out, and instead of going to the science center we decided to head for the zoo. I hadn't been to the Woodland Park Zoo for probably 23 years, although Mike had taken the older kids there several years before. It's a beautiful zoo and allows much closer access to the animals than the Oregon Zoo. For some reason, usually-rosy Nicholas was in a foul, very clingy mood during the morning, although he perked up after lunch and especially when we discovered the Zoomazium (an indoor park for kids).

Playing drum in the African village:

One of the things the kids loved about this zoo was the proliferation of stone and brass animal statues to climb on.

With the orangutan:

On the historic carousel:

My favorite part was the new baby gorilla, who was only 9 months old. So cute!!

Watching the gorillas:

Nick aping the gorilla:

After the zoo, we went to Ben & Jerry's across from Green Lake, bought ice cream to eat in the park, and then walked a bit around the lake. It was such a pretty day, although chilly. In all the time I've spent in Seattle over the years (even living there over a couple of summers when I was a nanny for my cousins), I had never been to Green Lake, and I loved the vibe!

Watching the crew training--brought back memories for Mike from his crewing days at Oxford:

The next day, Tuesday, promised nice weather too, but we had promised Kieran the science center--however, unbeknownst to us, it was closed on Tuesday. Revised plan: head to the children's museum, which cost us more money because they do not have a reciprocal relationship with other children's museums (unlike the science center and the zoo). Nick LOVED the children's museum, though (when we were leaving, he said "I LOVE this place!"), and the older kids were good big brothers and tagged along cheerfully (especially poor 13-year-old Christopher, surely too old for children's museums!).

Kieran and I with our tinkertoy creations in the tinkertoy exhibit:

One of Nick's favorite parts:

And dressing up in the theater:

Then it was off to Pike Place Market--also hadn't been there for probably 5 or 10 years--can't remember!

The boys had pieroshkies at the Russian place, Nick had a hot dog, Mike had borscht and a Greek salad, and I had a chicken gyro. We loved all the ethnic food choices. Kieran was "delighted" to find a Turkish Delight store--since he still loves Turkish Delight--where he bought four different pieces--orange and lemon!

Before getting in the car for our drive home (I cut myself out of the photo because I didn't like the picture of me):

We had such a fun time in Seattle, and we wished we had planned to stay longer!

Friday, March 26, 2010

If you're still buying bottled water, you need to watch this movie...

Don't buy into corporate brainwashing. Say no to bottled water! This is a great video by Annie Leonard, "The Story of Bottled Water." The good news is that people are starting to wise up and sales of bottled water are beginning to go down. Thank goodness!

For e-mail subscribers, here's the video link.

Book Recommendation: Cowboy & Wills

Cowboy & Wills: A Love Story Cowboy & Wills: A Love Story by Monica Holloway

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Full disclosure: I received a copy of this book to read and review. As regular readers know, I'm not a dog lover, but I loved this book.

Monica Holloway's son Wills has high-functioning autism, and in her efforts to help him learn to function in the world, in addition to assuaging her own grief, she spends a great deal of money she doesn't have on a menagerie of small animals. Wills wants a dog, but that seems like a much bigger commitment than fish, turtles, hamsters, and bunny, so it takes awhile before they cave in.

Wills is a brilliant, sweet little boy...he is extremely fortunate to be born to two highly dedicated, loving parents who will do just about anything they can think of to help him. This book made me cry so many times--from when they receive the devastating diagnosis, to his first difficult day of preschool, and then when he gradually meets what might be minor milestones to most parents, but for Wills, they are absolutely huge. Even though we have not dealt with autism, after my oldest son Chris was born extremely prematurely at 24 weeks, and after 17 weeks of hospitalization and associated trauma, his first several years were not all easy. When he was a baby, we had no idea what he would be able to do--after the doctors had told us that he had 50% chance of having a major disability (after the 50% chance that he would die bit). He didn't walk until he was a year and half or speak until he was around 3, he had major feeding issues, and he had years of speech therapy and occupational therapy. He experienced many delays, including potty training, and had to learn how to socialize effectively with his peers. Chris was on his own schedule, just like Wills.

When Holloway and her husband finally get Wills his own puppy, his life is changed. Cowboy gives him the courage to do so many things that terrified him before--make friends, talk to strangers, take baths, eat out in a restaurant, etc. Cowboy opens the gate to the outside world for Wills and opens him up to full-bellied laughter and fun--something that is often lacking in the world of autism.

I felt honored to get a glimpse into this deep friendship and love story between dog and boy. It almost made me want to get a dog. (No, Nancie--not going there!!)

Autism Awareness Month is coming up in April. Here is more information about the story and the author's family:

Cowboy & Wills video:

Book Excerpt

Have a Cowboy story of your own? The publisher has set up a Facebook app, where you can upload your own Cowboy story. The winning stories will win a signed copy of Cowboy & Wills and a “Who’s Your Cowboy” t-shirt (with art from the book).

View all my reviews >>

Stephen Colbert on Christian Social Justice = Nazis

You've no doubt heard about the latest rant by Glenn Beck, equating Christians who believe in social justice with communism and Nazism. I don't pay much attention to anything that lunatic says, but this tirade deserves a comment.

Regular readers know that I've got lots of issues with the Catholic church. Some of my best friends are Catholics! :) Seriously, being married to a Catholic, related to Catholics, and surrounded by amazing human beings who are Catholics, I separate my criticism of the institutional church from my love for these people who live out their faith.

Granted, I realize that the Catholic church also has a bunch of diehard fanatics who can be found saying very hateful, condemning things on web sites such as the Catholic Reporter (viewed to be overly liberal by conservative Catholics). But nearly all the Catholics I know personally are loving, nonjudgmental types...both those who are still church going, and the ones who have "lapsed."

Of all the things about the Catholic church that anger me (first and foremost, the church's official stances on female clergy, gays and lesbians, birth control, and ignoring the sexual abuse of children!!), the #1 thing I admire about the church is its staunch commitment to social justice. The Catholic church, in song, scripture, and deeds, almost glorifies "the poor," as they are called. One of my least-favorite Catholic songs (not because of the words, but because of the extremely slow tempo it's played at in our church--it's almost like a dirge!) is "Cry of the Poor."

Take a look at Stephen Colbert's take on Glenn Beck--he is visited by Jesuit priest James Martin to discuss Catholicism's dangerous wading into communist waters...

The Colbert ReportMon - Thurs 11:30pm / 10:30c
Glenn Beck Attacks Social Justice - James Martin
Colbert Report Full EpisodesPolitical HumorHealth Care Reform

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Happy 20th annual 27th birthday to my sweet husband!

We have a friend who celebrates her 50th birthday every year--this year was her 20th annual 50th birthday party! So in the tradition of Sue, happy birthday to my young groom (he was 27 when we got married!).

In true G-G tradition, we celebrated several times--cheesecake with my parents and Nadine and David and family on Friday night, and again on Mike's actual birthday (Sunday) with presents in the morning and then later in the evening with our friends Nancie and Dave in Woodinville. On Saturday night, though, we went out with Nadine and David for an adult dinner while their sainted nanny, Herrera, watched all of the boys. We went to our favorite Puyallup restaurant, which used to be called "The Hungry Goose," but is now called "HG Bistro."

We had made reservations for 7:00, but something must have gone wrong because they were unable to seat us until nearly 7:30. This restaurant has excellent service, though, because our waitress soon appeared and apologized for our wait, and asked if we all eat prawns and drink alcohol. We answered "yes!" She brought out a beautiful appetizer of a lovely boozy cocktail sauce (with fresh basil) in a martini glass, surrounded by prawns. Yum!

The first time we went to this restaurant, the owner told us that we must have the salmon--it was spectacular. Three out of four of us ordered the salmon, and then he came back to announce that sadly, the salmon was all gone--but he would comp our entire lunch! Can't beat that customer service.

The dinner and conversation were lovely--as much as I adore my kids, I love grownup evenings! I truly realize how very lucky I am to have a sister and brother-in-law who we love and consider to be close friends. (They are a great aunt-and-uncle team too!)

A toast to 47--I mean 27--again! :)

I had mentioned to the waitress that it was Mike's birthday--you can always tell a good restaurant if you drop a birthday hint and they do something special. In this case, it was a flaming dessert--their s'more specialty--ice cream, marshmallows, chocolate sauce, and graham cracker crumbs on a puff pastry crust--all on a flaming piece of wood, so it smelled just like campfire s'more! Yum!

Very fun celebration!

The Princess and the Pea

We began spring break by journeying up to Puyallup on Friday evening to spend time with my sister and her family. Two of my nephews were appearing in a play at their school engineered by the amazing Missoula Children's Theater. Their touring group goes into schools and conducts auditions and produces plays--within one week! They bring all the costumes, sets, etc. In this case, they had just two adults to direct a cast of about 50. We were amazed at what they did in such a short amount of time. It was a VERY cute, fairly elaborate, musical 1-hour show.

Ryan before the play--he was a bamboo shoot gardener (or something like that!)

Garrett as a dust bunny

They don't look nervous, do they?

As I posted a few weeks ago, Daniel was deliberating about trying out for the play, so he wanted to ask Kieran's advice. Of the three boys, he seems to be the one who is most interested in theater and imaginative play. However, on the day of the auditions, he had a horrible ear infection, so he wasn't able to fully participate. We were all worried about how he would feel when Ryan and Garrett got parts, but fortunately he rose to the occasion and enjoyed his role as family photographer. He also was their biggest cheerleader! So sweet! The boys got a front-row view for the show! Our kids loved it too!

Ryan with the river folk

The play was a takeoff on the Princess and the Pea--very loosely based on it and updated for our modern era (the princess doesn't marry the prince in the end). The "Pea" is actually her friend--her parents always told her to "mind her Ps and Qs," so she did just that with her Pea. This is how they handled the mattress scene--Princess on top and Pea below.

Garrett as dust bunny--he was so cute!

The plot was about "Glacierdom" (on the right) vs. "Riverdom" (on the left). It also featured leprechauns, including one adult (from Missoula Children's Theater) who spoke in a silly Irish accent.

Garrett relaxing in the dust

Ryan reaching high

Aren't they cute?

After the play, we let the kids play on the playground and then went home for lunch. Afterward, I accompanied Nadine and David to watch Ryan's basketball game--the poor kid was EXHAUSTED after hours and hours of rehearsal all week long! But somehow he managed to play basketball!

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Another Book Recommendation: The Girl Who Fell from the Sky

The Girl Who Fell From the Sky The Girl Who Fell From the Sky by Heidi W. Durrow

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The Girl Who Fell from the Sky is a beautiful novel about a biracial girl who survives a horrible tragedy and goes off to live with her grandmother in my hometown, Portland, Oregon. (I had no idea it was based in Portland when I began reading it. I picked up the recommendation from a Goodreads friend who loved it.) Durrow describes Barbara Kingsolver as her mentor, and Kingsolver provided a glowing comment for the dust jacket, so it's no surprise I liked this book. (I've always loved Kingsolver since I first read The Bean Trees years ago before most of the world had discovered her.)

I'd give this 4.5 stars. It was very sad, but wonderfully crafted. I had a hard time putting it down, and the story will stick with me for awhile.

I'd especially be curious to know what other biracial people think of seems to be a very sensitive exploration of coming-of-age in a space in between the earth and the sky--especially in a wonderful but white bread city like Portland, where the city is very progressive on one hand, but segregated on another.

View all my reviews >>

Book Recommendation: Living Oprah

Living Oprah: My One-Year Experiment to Live as TV's Most Influential Guru Advises Living Oprah: My One-Year Experiment to Live as TV's Most Influential Guru Advises by Robyn Okrant

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

In 2008, Chicagoan yoga teacher/writer/performer Robyn Okrant decided to devote a year of her life to living according to the Gospel of Oprah Winfrey. She chronicled her adventures in a lively blog, which immediately began attracting thousands of followers. The blog is the basis for this memoir.

I am a VERY occasional Oprah watcher and O Magazine reader. Back in the old days when our TV used to be in our living room, I watched Oprah when I was home sick or on maternity leave after my first son was born. I tease my sister because she has a tendency to share scary statistics or stories that she learned on Oprah (where she lives, the Oprah show is broadcast in the evenings, and she watches it while she's on the exercise bike).

Not only do I love well-written memoirs and nonfiction, but I also am fascinated by the idea of doing one thing for a year. For example: Nickel and Dimed: On Not Getting By in America, and Bait and Switch: The Futile Pursuit of the American Dream, by Barbara Ehrenreich; Not Buying It: My Year without Shopping by Judith Levine; and The Unlikely Disciple: A Sinner's Semester at America's Holiest University by Kevin Roose. So when I saw that a brave woman had taken on Oprah as an annual challenge, I was all over it.

When Oprah told her guests or TV audience to buy something, Okrant bought it. When she prescribed a "must-have wardrobe," she sought it out. When she told people that they had to read a book, see a movie, or attend a concert, Okrant was all over it. She did everything she could to follow all of Oprah's many directions. Each chapter has a tidy introduction summarizing the month, and it ends with a detailed accounting of what Okrant did, how much time it took, and how much it cost.

I really enjoyed this book--I like Okrant's down-to-earth writing style and her passion for justice. Here are some things that jumped out at me:

*When Oprah announces that Dr. Mehmet Oz will be a featured guest on the show, Okrant is excited--at first. Although she's energized by talk of a healthy lifestyle (and she speaks from experience, having been overweight when she was younger and now she teaches yoga), she talks about the "copious advertisements for turn-back-time products sandwiched between articles" in O magazine. (This has been my pet peeve with my otherwise-beloved More magazine, too.) Okrant talks about her ambivalence about "antiaging." Although she laments our constant obsession with how to prevent ourselves from growing older, she also calls herself a "big fat hypocrite." "I truly am willing to let go of all my fear and the time I spend looking at the skin on the back of my hands. But I'll only do it if you do it first. I don't want to be the only haggard-looking one out here." I love her honesty.

*She also notes Oprah's obsession with weight and her openness about her weight struggles. Another contradiction appears around food. Unfortunately, after Oprah and trainer Bob Greene urged viewers to sign the "Best Life Contract," she had Cold Stone Creamery on the show the very next day--she was indulging while her viewers were trying to stick to their contract. Many of the recipes Oprah features on her show, magazine, and web site appear to feature expensive, exotic ingredients and are not always the healthiest...they also do not encourage the thrifty, simple lifestyle that she encourages on other segments.

*The Gospel According to Oprah goes so far as prescribing S-shaped fecal matter (Dr. Oz, that is). Not only does Okrant have to make sure she is suitably dressed, but she also must "study the toilet bowl to make sure I'm a proper pooper."

*Okrant was waffling between Obama and Clinton in early 2008, and she felt deeply torn about her choice to vote for Obama since Oprah campaigned for him. "What would I have done if Oprah backed a candidate whom I didn't morally or ethically believe in? Would I have been able to continue this experiment or would I have had to pull the plug? In all honesty, I got incredibly lucky on this one." She also ponders the effect that the Oprah "brand" had on Obama's win. I suspect that it certainly didn't hurt!

*Oprah vacillates between advising us to simplify, get rid of stuff we don't need, and try to do more with less...and urging us to buy things and telling us the 12 things we need to own. This type of inconsistency would drive me absolutely batty if I were living out this type of experiment! "What's a gal to do when Oprah's advice for attaining my 'best life" is all twisted up in her excitement about exorbitant, to-die-for Christian Louboutin shoes? Whether or not this is her intention, her delight hints that material goods can bring us happiness...Oprah will always remind us that we can't be defined by our things, but she sure looks like she's having a great time with them." Her annual "Favorite Things" episode "doesn't discourage anyone from worshipping looks more like a cautionary tale about how greed makes us appear on national television."

Okrant lives according to her principles and her own rules for the year. When she starts losing steam and her sense of herself, and begins worrying about the toll all this is taking on her husband, she just keeps plowing forward and makes it through the year. When Oprah sending her a gift, she reluctantly returns it because Oprah had urged viewers to buy it "if you can afford it." According to her own rules, she had to buy it herself.

This was not an indictment of Oprah in any way. Okrant deeply admires her--that's why she set out on this path in the first place. While pointing out the many inconsistencies and oddities in the little TV microcosm of a world, Okrant seems to develop a deep and abiding fondness for All Things Oprah.

Okrant continues to write some on her Living Oprah blog, and she's also started cowriting a new blog, Ready-Set-Wife, with a friend. I'm glad I discovered her. I think she would be an interesting person to know, and I'm glad she invited us into her little social experiment of 2008.

View all my reviews >>

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

A good week to be parents

One more post and I'm off to do a late-night spurt on Wii Fit Plus!

Last week a number of positive things happened for or about each of our children. Christopher won "Student of the Month" at his middle school for being courteous (our middle-schooler??? just kidding! the students are nominated by their block teacher for a particular skill of the month); we got a heartwarming e-mail from Kieran's teacher; Chris' math tutor complimented him; and Nicholas's little friend Asher (who is new to preschool and has had a hard time adjusting) told his mom that Nicholas "makes me waff" (laugh). Kieran also got a great report card on Friday, and his teacher commented that she thinks he might end the year above grade level in reading (he started out the year below grade level).

As much as parenting can be exhausting, kids can be clueless or inconsiderate of their parents' needs, six-year-olds are extremely temperamental and hard not to lose patience with, and it's easy to criticize ourselves for not raising children who are more independent and clean up better after themselves (!), the developments last week made me feel that maybe we're not doing too badly at this tough job called parenting. I remember reading in some parenting book that when you compare how children act at home and how they act at school, their school personality is more indicative of how they will turn out in life. Then yesterday I read in the Seattle Times that one of the best indicators of a child's success is whether they care about other people and are able to demonstrate "executive function" (not punching their boss in the face when he annoys, for example).

We're certainly far from perfect...but maybe they will turn out okay after all! We can only hope.

Kieran's debut as a frog

After an event-filled week, I realize how far behind I am in my blogging and am doing some catch-up.

Kieran participated in an after-school drama club and had a performance a few weeks ago. He was a frog in a play about endangered creatures in the rain forest. All the creatures were trying to convince a man not to cut down the Kapok tree.

Each child came up with his or her own costume, some with parents' help and some not. You can guess whether Kieran wanted our help. (Not!) He's wearing a tie-dyed Peter Pan shirt, with a former Peter Pan costume over the top (he cut out the image of Peter Pan so it could be a hobbit costume too), and a frog mask out of which he cut eyes and nose (so it doesn't exactly look like a frog any more) and green socks on his hands and feet. He had one line--and he said it very proudly!

In the meantime, several kids have quit the middle school production of "Grease" because they didn't think they were given large or good enough roles. I'm so glad that Kieran, as much a performer as he is, was perfectly happy with his role as a frog and his one line.