Monday, December 31, 2007

Comfortable silence

Happy New Year, fellow flickrers, originally uploaded by toyfoto.

Dear Babies of Mine,

I had resolved to try and breathe more (and scream less) through my frustrations.

I had hoped to start living more in the moment and not in the dark cave of my thoughts.

Perhaps I should be more positive, since the clock has not even struck midnight yet and already I'm appologizing for losing my intentions. Because I know I will.

Like so many resolutions prior, I don't expect this one will last too long into the new year. I am, afterall, the same person I was yesterday; the same person I was a year ago. I am the same person I will be tomorrow.

But that isn't really true of either of you.

With Silas changing into a kid more each day; reaching out for toys to activate and strands of hair to pull, I've also watched Annabel change and grow into a little girl.

When he cries in the car she sings to him, or searches for his binky, or plays peek-a-boo.

Often it works to calm him but yesterday nothing helped. He was just too tired and in need of sleep.

With a long road ahead I reached back and took her hand. It was warm.

"Mom. You've got the wrong hand," she said quietly.

"No I don't. I have your hand."

And with that the car fell into a comfortable silence.

It's enough to give me hope that anything is possible. That maybe the intention of wanting to be something else -- something better -- is enough. For now.

Happy New Year, babies.



Sunday, December 30, 2007

And now we are four ...

i can still hear the laugh, originally uploaded by toyfoto.

SHE: Hey dad! The Christmas tree lights are BEE-YOOOOOU-TIFUL!

HE: Really? I was just in the livingroom and they were turned off. How did they get turned on?

SHE: I plugged it in. Don't worry, I still have all my fingers.

Friday, December 28, 2007

Somebody must have bribed her ... that's all I can think

her name is Selene, originally uploaded by toyfoto.

Remember I told you about my vision for an Earthy-crunch Christmas? A holiday without a cadmium-lead-toxic-cocktail of toys?

I spent hours and hours on Etsy, scoured the Web for toys that didn't have the Made in China label and plunked down dollars for lots of things I assumed would be well loved a long, long, time from now ... when she was older, and could appreciate the beauty of natural fibers.

I was wrong.

Tonight Annabel played with the handcrafted doll for hours. She carried her around in her new doll sling, rocked her in the new horse swing and put her to bed in her basket, being careful to wrap her in her blanket and tuck in the doll's own softie toy.

I still don't really believe my doll-dissing daughter has adopted this little beauty as her charge.

Perhaps this newly discovered love of dolls was jump started by fact that I had a a sling made for her in the same fabric as mine.

But who can predict the mind of a preschooler? I've was even wrong about the name. (I thought she'd likely name the doll after her favorite TV personality, Emily Yung).

"Her name is Selene. ... or maybe Angelina ... No. Selene. I'll call her Selene. Yeah, that sounds good."

Thursday, December 27, 2007

What the watercooler says

watercooler, originally uploaded by toyfoto.

"Blub, blub, blub ... blub blub blub."

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Did we skip something?

teen beat, originally uploaded by toyfoto.

What if this isn't a phase?

Monday, December 24, 2007

Santa Claus is coming to town ...

he's not so bad, originally uploaded by toyfoto.

Well ... he comes to our house on Christmas Eve and brings a "teaser" present.

The jolly old elf shows up in an SUV and brings presents to all little girls and boys in our village, courtesy of the local fire department's Santa Claus Club. It's all very sweet, really. This is Silas' first year (obviously) and and Annabel's second. (We were traveling during the holidays the times before that). The town's Santa reminds children to be good and get plenty of sleep so he can come back and fill the house presents.

And ... it's past 11 and we're still waiting for the girl to pass out.

Currently, she's in her room. Awake. And has been for the last three hours. ...

Santa has plans for her room. ... so he's sitting with us watching "Something About Mary" on HBO. (He thinks there's too much potty humor in it though).

Ahhhhh. Christmas. Here's hoping yours is merry and bright ... and somewhat bushy tailed tomorrow morning.

My guess is Santa's going to be mainlining caffeine by sun up.

Friday, December 21, 2007

Did I ever tell you about Jed's hidden talents?

Don't send a lame Holiday eCard. Try JibJab Sendables!

About 14 years ago our dear friend Loren most cleverly condensed Wagner's The Ring of the Nibelung into a 14 minute "event" and cast a number of friends in the operatic performance. Jed played Fafner. I thought he was perfect for the role, and so very stylish in his costume, which included platform boots he fashioned out of pink, foam insulation.

I always thought it a shame he didn't catch the acting virus from that experience. He's definitely got star quality, don't you think?

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Last minute mayhem

last minute, originally uploaded by toyfoto.

So .... I bought these espresso cups and saucers about a zillion years ago, presumably because I thought they were cute. They've been packed away in a box since purchase and that box has followed me to three homes.

Shocking, isn't it?

Well yesterday was Ittybit's last day of school at the Marilla Cuthbert Acadamy for Unspeakably Charming Children until the new year, and I never got her teachers a gift. ... So being upset and worried about everything under the sun (or moon, depending on your location in hemisphere) I decided to put my nervous energy to good use last night and I stayed up way too late making yet another batch of Chocolate Covered Compost.

Of course I didn't know how I would package the treats as I sleepily put myself and the cling-on to bed round about 2 in the A.M., so I tossed and turned for the rest of my repose remembering the things in my possession that I'd like to reliquish into someone else's possession.

Sometime in all of that fretting I remembered these little gems were packed away in some dank corner of the mess I call a home office. With an early morning expedition into the cold, dark space with a flashlight, some baggies, some ribbon and a little tissue paper ... and voila! No one has to be the wiser. ...

However, since her father forgot ittybit's bag at school yesterday when he was her "special day" someone and I showed up bearing gifts this morning when I dropped by to reclaim the tote, which, incidentally, is filled with extra shoes (some of which are her brother's) and plastic toys (ditto, as to ownership), I'm fairly certain they know any gift from us is really just a stroke of dumb luck.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Half time

first food and 120-year-old spoon, originally uploaded by toyfoto.

Dear Silas,

Six months ago today you were born. Imagine that.

Six months ago today I was trying to rest up for the surgery. Trying not to think about all the things that had been heaped upon my shoulders in the last weeks of the pregnancy.

Six months ago today I was wondering what I was in for. What you were in for.

Some of those questions have been answered and some are still a mystery.

Thus far I've found you to be shy, and funny and sweet. You are quick with a smile, and eager to see the world. You are content to watch, and yet you reach out, too.

Your first bites of food were enthusiastic. You seemed ready to chew and eager to try more offerings from your great grandmother's spoon.

Watching you grow and change, giggle and laugh; watching you hide coyly in the folds of the sling, peeking out and smiling all the same, I've come to call you turtle. I hardly remember those days of worry about your wonky kidney. Only the doctors' appointments are the reminders that something about you is not the same as others.

And today, as we slogged through sloppy streets, parking on snowbanks and walking precariously through half-shoveled walkways into the hospital, I fully expected a stellar report.

You were brave as the ultrasound technician waved her wand over your right - perfectly formed - kidney. You batted your eyes and tried to help by grabbing the corded device.

I should have known by the way you were carrying on about being turned onto you right side so she could get pictures of your left kidney that all was not as well as it seemed.

... You decimated the paper sheet on the examining table at the urology office later that morning. You we silent and intent on crinkling every square inch.

But I was staring like a deer in headlights when the PA explained that while the hospital marked the pictures as "UNCHANGED" (The same determination of two months ago) she had conferred with the doctor and they concluded that if anything, the images looked slightly worse.

The next step, she said, was a lasiks renalgram (which I later learned is a LASIX RENOGRAM and only sounds like renalgram when they throw the terms at you fast).

This is a test in which they will insert and IV and inject radioactive isotopes into my baby boy and watch how the glowing dye gets pissed out.
This torture procedure will take three hours. He will be strapped onto a board, have a catheter and be in some radioactive room, similar in appearance to an MRI chamber, or so I'm told by some folks I know who's kids have been through the same test.

So as I stood there blinking and feeling as if I would do anything to switch places with my tiny, chortling son I sad nothing and accepted that this was the best thing to do ... that this is the next course of action ... that this is what is called for ...

And I made the appointment.

Then I realized, four hours later while I was at work and you were calmly lying in my lap watching the coworkers go by, that I don't really know what the rush is for something that is so slight one of two doctors thought was unchanged.

So I called to ask the questions I should have ask when I was busy being caught in the bright lights of fear and wishing away ...

What are our options? Can we wait a few months and do another ultrasound?

But they were busy, so I had to leave a message.
I may be slow on the uptake, little man, but I am learning at a turtle's pace.



Tuesday, December 18, 2007

If the dress fits (it wasn't bought by your mom)

Dear Annabel,

This morning after breakfast I presented you with a timely gift: A flouncy dress and matching tights. Timely because laundry doesn't get a second thought, let alone a chance to suds up, when the preceding weekend is filled with parties and other holiday merriment.

I was holding my breath as you delecately held the "gift" bag, a reused handled brown bag from Starbucks, and asked if it was really for you to open.

You didn't remember that you'd picked it out last fall by tearing it from the Hanna Andersson catalogue and presenting it to me as a dress you most definitely WOULD wear. But that didn't matter. The dress was so YOU.

There have been a lot of missteps on my part in that department, I’m afraid. I continued to buy purple things with turtlenecks and loud prints long after your tastes had turned to scoop necks and soft pinks with pockets. I picked large flowers over your preferred small ones. I picked dogs over cats and green over blue, blue over green, green over orange and orange over yellow. I've even tried buying the thing that I least liked, thinking I'd win by accident.

Turns out I always lose.

You have extremely particular taste in clothes. So particular, in fact, that it's hard for even the initiated to make successful purchases on your behalf. You like pants that are made of soft, jersey material. You like them best if they have pockets. You like T-shirts of soft cotton, but the design could be a deal-breaker on any given day. "No stripes on the fourth Monday of August, but no solids if it snows," is pretty much how I’ve come to understand the selection process. You won’t wear wool or pullover sweaters. You’re not a fan of jeans.

A year ago I used to pull my hair out trying to discern your preferences. I'd hunt and peck through your drawers for things I'd know you’d wear, and then wash them the second you swapped them for pajamas. Then I started buying the favorites in multiples of four so I'd have a few days leeway.

Lately, however, this tack hasn’t worked. It’s not the familiar you’ve been seeking. You are branching out.

"Mother," you'll tell me (because you've decided you like the way MOTHER sounds) "I don't want to wear what I don't want to wear, but I want you to pick out something for me that I don't want to wear. And I'll know it when I see it. Okay?"

You see my dilemma?

A year ago, I would also have gladly given up a week's wages to get you to wear some kind of matching bit of designer fashion so I could pretend I was a skilled and talented shopper. So I could see myself as a hip mom whose child looks clean and impeccably clad at all times.

Instead you insisted on wearing stripes with dots of non-matching hues to your first day of school. You wore purple snow boots with a swimsuit and pajama bottoms to the museum. You wore a purple tutu with a red, three-button Henley t-shirt to the ballet. And each time you insisted, I became that much less worried about how others perceived me. After all, it wasn’t about me, now, was it?

So today, when you opened your dress (two sizes to large, thanks to my skin-flintyness and inability to translate European sizes) and tried it on, it didn't really surprise me that you were skeptical.

"Mother, I think it's too big."

"Well it's a little big, that's true, but it just has more room to grow and more room to flutter when you twirl."

"Ok ... but are you sure I'm four?"

"You are four today, Ittybit. I can hardly believe it myself."


Mommy (Mother)

Monday, December 17, 2007

What are they trying to sell me?

sleeping in daddy's lap, originally uploaded by toyfoto.

We don't watch a lot of network television.

It's not because we believe it will rot our minds or turn our babies into degenerates, it's merely because we really can't stand the shows within the shows; commericials.

Since we're usually pretty adept at getting our snacks BEFORE most programs begin, and our bladders can handle excess beverages for the two hours it takes to watch most movies, we don't need to partake of the only true benefit offered by a commercial's thirty-second reprieve.

That's not to say we don't watch our heaping American portions of television. We watch HBO and public television. We watch Discover and the Sundance Channel. We watch the Independent Film Channel and we have a library of childrens movies, enough for hours of viewing bliss.

But last night, for the first time in I don't know how long, we suffered through countless commercials for ABS's offering of "The Incredibles." Why? I don't know. But it was amusing, nonetheless, to sit on the couch next to Ittybit and her father and listen to the lesson he tried to impart.

ITTYBIT: "DADDY!!! Please get my cartoon back. The news is on. I DON'T like the news. It's only for GROWNUPS."

DADDY: "That's not the news. That's a commercial. It's how most television networks pay for programing. They are trying to sell us things we don't need."

ITTYBIT: "Is my cartoon coming back?"

DADDY: "Yes, but first we have to wait through these things and try and figure out what they're trying to sell us. See, here, this is an ad for McDonald's. They're trying to sell us expensive foods that they are masquerading as good for you. But look ... they're dipping them in sauce, which is high in sugar and calories. ..."

ITTYBIT: "What is this one trying to sell me?"

DADDY: "Well this is trying to sell you toys."

ITTYBIT: "What is this one trying to sell me?"

DADDY: "Toaster strudels ... more junk food."

ITTYBIT: "What is this one trying to sell me?"

DADDY: "Well ... this is trying to get me to go see a film in the theater ... hey ... I actually want to see that one ..."

MOMMY: "Daddy bought that one."

DADDY: "I did NOT. I just want to see that movie."

MOMMY: "How do you know you want to see it?"

DADDY: "I. ... Uh ... Oh, I know. ... I saw the trailer at the theater the last time we went to the movies."

MOMMY: "See? Marketing."

ITTYBIT: "Ok. Shhhhh. The cartoon is back."

Sunday, December 16, 2007

I'm going to have to lie. ... And that's not good.

four ... doesn't need help, originally uploaded by toyfoto.

She was worried about the disparity. A birthday party on any other day than her birthday, in her considered estimation, is a lie. Plain and simple.

Whether it was conscience or keep adherence to fact, turns out she really didn't have to lie after all. It is true, she will be four on Tuesday, but we invited half the western hemisphere to celebrate the occasion on Saturday.

"I'm not really four," she told her guests. "WHEN AM I GONNA BE FOUR, MOTHER?" Oh yeah, Tuesday. On Tuesday I'll be four."

I'm not the best judge of such things, especially since my attentions were split so many ways I'm sure many of the conversations I picked up with people were likely continued from conversations I'd started with others, but I think the party was a pretty good one. They played. They ate. They painted. They ate some more. They drank. They played. They bounced on beds. They drank some more. They played. They opened presents (pretty much on their own, because the mom was drinking and playing, too ... so, I'm sorry to say, there are a few folks who will be getting generic yet genuine thank you notes.) And then the played some more.

And then they enlisted some of the menfolk to institute a forge in the painting studio, where they crafted some of the finest play swords known to kids out of ridged insulation, aluminum foil and electrical tape.

I think it's safe to say a good time was had by all. And no one lost an eye.

Friday, December 14, 2007

Taking notes

night terror cropped, originally uploaded by toyfoto.

ME: I know you hate when I ask you this ... but do you ever have weird sensations across your back or shoulder?

HIM: No.

ME: Because I get this weird feeling right over my left shoulder where the sling hits. ...

HIM: Well it's probably from the sling.

ME: But it happens when I'm not wearing it.

HIM: *blink. blink*

ME: Do you ever feel like your hands go to sleep but they really don't. So you're not sure if they have or not?

HIM: Uh, no. ...

ME: Do you ever get the feeling that you are not right handed after all?

HIM: Maybe I should have the blog.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Snow job

from the archives, originally uploaded by toyfoto.

Jed finally convinced me, hours before the storm, that it was probably the better part of valor -- seeing as my new commute has me driving at dawn over hill and dale with little in the way of road plowing -- to swap my good all-season radials for the studded snows I haven't used since global warming thumbed its nose at our northeast winters.

How long has it been since I've personally brought a car to the shop to have the winter changeover? You know, the schlepping of snowtires you already own (four in my case) to the clipshop tire store so that their top-notch technicians can spend all of 12 minutes spinning and perching, all while making that satisfying 'weeeeerrrrrrr' sound of the lug-gun.

Because ... Um ... I know it's expensive but 22-freaking-dollars per tire?

Just seems like highway robbery to me.

I just have a feeling I've been snowed.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

And peels of laughter ensue

ME: So I think I'm going to try making chocolate covered orange peels for Christmas.

HIM: *blink. blink. blink*

Orange peels?

ME: Yeah. Orange peels. They're candied ... you know, like marmalade?

You blanch the orange peels and then simmer them in a simple syrup for an hour. Then you let them dry and dip them in melted chocolate.

HIM: *blink. blink. blink*

Orange peels?

ME: OK, just think of it as half healthy.

HIM: No hon, it's half compost.

ME: Oh well, more for me then.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

It is not playtime yet

sweet son, originally uploaded by toyfoto.

THIS is the face I saw at 4 a.m.

Only it was pitch dark.

And he was laughing.

Sleep. Baby. Sleep.

Monday, December 10, 2007


American Public Media's Marketplace recently aired a series called Consumed, presumably to ask the question: Is our consumer society sustainable?

It mainly focused on Americans' insatiable appetite for things. Pretty, pretty, things. Pretty cheap things. Lots and lots of cheap things. That we can throw away. Things that come packaged in more things. Things that can't be repaired. Things that are cheaper to replace.

And now that these pretty, cheap things - especially for children - come with a toxic shadow surrounding them, I am trying to reform my ways.

But boy is it tough.

It's like a drug, these bargains that aren't really bargains. The Christmas-Tree-Shop thinking (Don't You Just LOVE a Bargain ... for some piece of detritus you don't really need) combined with a spend-or-the-terrorists-will-have-won mantra that keeps the economy afloat, is drowning me.

My mother reminds me that WE didn't have all these plastic toys when she was raising us. There just wasn't ALL. THIS. STUFF. And that we were happy playing with creations of our own making. We didn't watch a lot of TV not because she eschewed it but because there just wasn't a lot of children's television. Seasame Street, The Electric Company, Captain Kangaroo ... Saturday morning cartoons was pretty much all the programming there was; and movies for children consisted of the occasional Disney flick in theaters, and Willy Wonka and The Wizard of OZ, played once a year on the boobtube around Christmas time or Halloween.

Yet, I could list all the possible things I could buy, collect, watch, rinse, repete, and I still would probably miss about 75 percent of the things available to purchase as a way to deplete the college fund for no good reason.

And you know what? No matter how I rail against it, I am guilty of perpetuating it. I pay so little attention that the reality of buying some $1 piece of dreck seems a bargain if it will just stave off whatever potential meltdown is brewing in the background.

"You just lost the battle," my husband scoffs at me as Ittybit leaves Target with a tiny basket of Made in China fruit.

I try to protest, turn the tables and shine the blinding light of failure elsewhere. I tell him I am too tired to have THAT fight. I don't want to drag her from the store, kicking and screaming over something that is a natural desire: To have something new.

We are all guilty of those types of transgressions. He can't go past a hardware store and I can't get out of a discount store without buying something I don't need just because it was inexpensive-artfully placed-or-otherwise alluring with its shiny "Hey-YOU-Don't-Have-That" glow.

He looks at me with well placed skepticism.

"The only way to win this was is to leave her home," I say in exaspiration.

"Or you could say 'NO,'" he responds.

"Leave me HOME?" she asks me sadly? "Your not going to take me with you to Target anymore?"

"Yes, honey, I think we are going to have to for a while," I reply.

"But why?"

"Because Mommy can't say 'NO' to you. And I really need to say 'NO'."

Saturday, December 08, 2007

Down time

icing her back like daddy, originally uploaded by toyfoto.

He slipped, jerked his back and hurt his shoulder.

It wasn't the best timing. Not that you can plan your accidents, but the Saturday we were planning on getting a Christmas tree, decorate said evergreen and perhaps start the process of making food gifts for the holidays ... he would have liked to have a full range of motion.

Nevertheless, we were able to accomplish much of what we'd set out to do. We got the tree, he got it upstairs, I put the lights on and many of the decorations.

There was a moment of panic for a minute as box after box of supposed Christmas ornaments turned out to be dead light strands and plain old tissue paper. I envisioned having the tree festooned in recycling (a trick I learned in college) when what to my wondering eyes should appear but a crazy long box with a smattering of duct tape here and there

Rejoice! It contained the goods: dozens of ornaments collected over the years sans children, dozens of ornaments created in the last three plus years by Annabel or her big people and a few dozen origami cranes made by yours truly to relieve nervous tension.

And therein also contained nearly 70 ornaments made in the past two years and exchanged by members of an internet moms' group.

Seriously. As I sat there, drinking my refreshing beverage and watching Ittybit hang the last of the origami birds, I wondered how we ever filled a tree before Please Send Vodka. But the most miraculous part is that every year I think the idea of making 30 to 40 ornaments to send around the country, and in some cases round the world, is just too much. But really, hanging up last year's ornaments while getting this year's in the mail? Worth every bead of sweat and glue, I swear.

Thursday, December 06, 2007

This pretty much sums up my feelings today.

ohhhh the silliness, originally uploaded by toyfoto.

But that won't stop me from yammering on about it.

Yeah ... the devil's in the details and all of that. Annabel's birthday party is coming up (as is Christmas) adding even more stress and budget-draining angst to an already overburdened holiday season.

Turns out we've invited 17 children because we hate ourselves we don't like leaving anyone out, and, you know, now that we're the proud parents of two we've recognized the errors of our way in the past. (We are sheepishly admitting duct tape doesn't make that great a babysitter after all.)

And because I am INSANE don't sleep at night, I end up going overboard in the planning phase: designing printed invitations and gift bags and ideas for projects that wind up costing more than an Oscars afterparty.

Jed's in charge of the food, so luckily the people who show up won't have to eat a lunch of pretzels and apple juice. Buuuuuut because I was in charge of the invitations, there's a little SNAFU.

While I poured buckets of sweat over the processs, I neglected to consider the simple fact that ANNABEL is still going to swim lessons with her papa on Saturday mornings. See, I thought I'd be all clever-like and throw her party BEFORE meltdown:30, which usually takes place at the precise moment of the proverbial afternoon naptime. I figured if we had a BRUNCH-time party we'd be all set.

So the invitations are demanding people arrive at 10 a.m. and the guest of honor won't be showing up until 11. Yup. Not sure how many of you read this here nonsense, but if you do ... there it is.

ME = Still a moron.

*** Also if you didn't GET an invitation, and your reading this, please let me know because ... yeah. ... might not have affixed postage to the envelope. **Post office doesn't accept Hello Kitty stickers as postal tender, right?

I repeat:

ME = Still a moron.

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Ready to eat your words

curtain cling, originally uploaded by toyfoto.

Dear Annabel,

This is you, Ittybit: Shirt on backwards, hair clinging to the curtain, perpetual static. Nothing about you matches. Not your clothes, not your voice, not your sense of humor. Everything about you is unique.

You are just about four, just a blip in time, and yet somehow I've already lost track of where you've been. Listening for your brother's first (ever-so-stingy) giggles has made me lament that I can't remember your early laughter.

I don't remember when you first said Mama, or Daddy. I only know that when we play our "going home" games in the car I wonder when you learned to use proper grammar. When did your verbs started to agree with their subjects? (Probably when you and I started to disagree on the wearing of summer clothes in winter).

It pains me that sometimes your happiness makes me sad; that as you bounce and twirl and jammer and joke, I just want some quiet. I beg for an instant of peace that lasts for two days.

Lately the best times have been in the car; your brother sleeping (or watching you) while you and I play games of nonsense.

I can't help but think as we volley words and ideas back and forth that these silly games we play -- such as "WOULD YOU EAT THAT?" -- have a shelf life that will expire long before I am ready to give them up. (A testament, perhaps, to the notion that shows like Fear Factor will always have a place in America's low-brow television diet).

But I digress. ...

MAMA: Would you eat a horse?

ITTYBIT: No, too fuzzy.

MAMA: Would you eat a skunk?

ITTYBIT: No, too stinky.

MAMA: Would you eat a turkey?

ITTYBIT: No, too feathery.

MAMA: Would you eat a dog?

ITTYBIT: No, too furry.

MAMA: Would you eat a hedgehog?


MAMA: Would you eat a dinosaur?

ITTYBIT: No, too big.

I wish I could explain the feeling because as I read back, the words just don't convey the wash of warm chills that went through me as you came up with descriptions for each and every animal you wouldn't eat. When you changed auxilary verbs to fit their plural subjects mid-sentence, I held my breath. When did you start to match?

I just keep spinning the number four in my head and whistling under my breath. "So this is four, or just about."

I hope four is sweet, little girl, because I'm sure I'll soon have to eat these words.

Love and kisses,


Monday, December 03, 2007

Um ... wasn't he just, like, a BABY or something?

crawl, originally uploaded by toyfoto.

That's what I thought, too.

So while I had him in the sling and was busy ignoring him trying to keep the kid with the big mouth his big sister from peeling off her skin happy, the baby learned to really move. A little bit, anyway.

My evil plot has been foiled. Next stop, bouncy seat.

Friday, November 30, 2007

Christmas cheer

an ittybit of christmas cheer, originally uploaded by toyfoto.

Rah, Rah, Sis, Boom, BAH. ...... HUMBUG.

(Not to mention a little shameless self promotion).

You know, for the holidays.

What? At least I didn't put up the holiday banner a few hours before HALLOWEEN, Right?

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Food for the soul

Adventures in Shopping, originally uploaded by toyfoto.

Isn't it strange how life-affirming events almost always happen in the most mundane of all places, or, more specifically, during the persuit of the bland?

I suppose it shouldn't be surprising. It's not like revelation waits for those RARE moments when you're all gussied up, coiffed and powered, and sets a placecard for you at the table.

But the supermarket? The supermarket!

I've spent countless hours in empty rooms, in comfortable clothes, emptying my mind of its negative contents and not only does relaxation elude me, but I gain no discernible insite into any of life's great mysteries.

Yet give me a cart with a wonky wheel, a kid who won't Be Still and an infant who is as happy as pie to just Be Attatched as I try and find the aisle where the shopkeepers hid the pancake mix this week, and you can be sure some little bit of wisdom is gonna come my way, ready or not.

I remember the first time it happened: Ittybit was only a few weeks old and I had gone to the market for oranges. I was in the produce section frowning over clementines when the aunt of a friend came up to congratulate me.

I didn't feel like much of a parent. No experience. No sleep. No ability to see too far into the future. I told her the idea of returning to work frightened me, as did the idea of not returning.

"Don't worry," she told me. "You will make the right decision. And remember, if that decision doesn't work out you'll make ANOTHER decision and IT will be the right one!"

Just that little affirmation made me breathe easier. It's crazy but still comforting. You know, like when your mind is mulling over all the things that you can't shut down and some song comes on the radio that seems to fit perfectly. Some little bit of universal wisdom wedged into a couplet that makes you whistle a happy tune again all because it played when you needed it most.

So I guess I have to admit that when I need something spiritual in nature I go to the grocery store. I head right for the make-your-own coffee counter next the Bakery and then I slowly make my way up and down the other aisles, taking my time.

Usually, I'm given some sample of something that changes my outlook.

Just last week I was bagging my groceries with the little one asleep in the pouch. An elderly woman was sitting on a bench by the window and she asked for my attention. Like most people who notice me, she was interested in the being in the bag.


"Why look at him, he's so alert.

"And so handsome.

"My word.

"You know, I predict he will do great things. I can see it in his eyes."

What is it about unsolicited praise from a stranger that makes everything seem so smooth and uncomplicated?

And somehow, with the sweetness of age and concern, even unsolicited advice seems satiny soft.

"May I give you a piece of advice? Don't ever mock him. Don't even laugh at him with love. These smart ones catch on even when they don't really know."

It was something I know, sadly, from experience.

"Don't laugh at me," Ittybit tells us now, "You're making me foolish."

It's a shame I don't come to the store more often, I think, because by the time I get back to the car with my purchases and my lukewarm coffee, I've got more than nurishment for the body. I've got some for the soul, too.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007


ama and Ittybit, originally uploaded by toyfoto.

You may have noticed, alongside my children, there are only a few guest appearances by other important members of the family in this here running record, Ittybits & Pieces. Most references to people of age and ability to protest are both selective and rare. Of course there is the Awwww, Isn't That Sweet post. There's the Incidentally, So-and-So Lost a Battle of Wills with Ittybit post, and there's the rare NA-NA-NA-NA BOO-BOO post in which I prove the pen (or the camera, as the case may be) is mightier than the sword in the family fight club.

It is rarer still that I write about my mother.

She is fiercely private. She is deeply sensitive. And I don't want to hurt her. Ever. Not even accidentally (She's not online, so, folks who know her, please don't tell her you read this).

But this isn't about her, really. It's about me.

Ten years ago my mother was diagnosed with cancer. The Stage Four, it's spread, you have a 10 percent chance of living out the year kind of cancer. But she and her doctor beat it back. And for nearly five years it stayed away.

When she was diagnosed the first time I learned a hard lesson about myself: I was not strong. I couldn't speak or hear conversations pertaining to cancer. I couldn't watch television, read stories about it. I couldn't even stay in a room for very long with my mother without falling apart.

The treatment, for her, was hard. The residual effects have taken its toll on her quality of life. She's not the healthy, vivacious grandmother she'd hoped to be. I can only imagine what she goes through knowing every single day could bring it all back.

But I know what I go through.

I remember my mom's eyes the day I told her I was pregnant with Annabel. She had a look that was perplexing to me. It was sad. When she turned to my father and said, "Isn't that wonderful, you're going to be a grandfather," I knew what her words actually said were: "I won't be a grandmother."

What she hadn't told me right then was the cancer had returned a third time. Surely that meant it would overtake her.

But it didn't. When Annabel came she had finished her treatment and even regrown her hair.

Yet, still she was like a ghost, trying to stay in the room but out of the way. Look but don't touch.

If she were to keep herself from falling apart, I surmised, she had to keep herself from getting attached. It lasted only until her first CTscan after treatment showed no sign of the disease. That same day she dragged herself up our trecherous staircase, practically hand over fist along the railing, and demanded I hand over her granddaughter.

I don't think I've ever loved her more.

Until today.

On Thanksgiving she weepily left our house in pain. She hadn't felt well in weeks. She was seeing her doctor again, as is routine, but fully expecting to hear news that the cancer had returned. This pain wasn't usual, and it included some ominious memories of past recurrences. She didn't talk to me for very long after that and never on the phone. I can't blame her, I don't put people at ease.

But today she called me at work and we had a long talk about the trouble with Christmas shopping and the beauty of Hanna Andersson play dresses. She told me she wanted to end her boycott of the Internet and perhaps do a little online shopping this holiday season. And I knew she got good news. She was alright. For Now. And that For Now is as all she needs.

Monday, November 26, 2007

More folks should nap at work

take your baby to work day, originally uploaded by toyfoto.

Sunday night I got a phone call from our sitter. Her son -- who's been suffering from strep throat, double ear infections, and, most recently, a nasty cold -- now has croup. The poor kid is up all night, barking like a seal.

She was calling to tell me that her son's doctor (and it turns out our doctor, too) recommends that while the big kid would likely fight it off, the little one was going to have to find an alternative to the fun-times normally had at her house.

Now, she might have been a little chagrined to tell me we'd have to find alternate childcare for the bebe (afterall, until starting preschool her son had been the picture of health) but I was grinning from ear to ear. This means I'm taking the boy to WORK! Woot. Woot.

Oh sure, there are some days when the kid is off his game. He cries and doesn't want to be held or put down or fed or played with; he just wants to scream and rant and rattle the big people to their core. But that's rare.

And as I expected, today was pretty slow in the complaint department. Well except for Annabel wondering why HE couldn't stay with HER. (Although, that complaint was shortlived when she found out his absense would mean she didn't have to be quiet during his naptime.)

Our commute was only delayed by only one farm vehicle so there was no screamfest in transit abd suitable extra time to stop and get coffee. *punches air*

While in the office, Champ's attention was held for long periods of time by the comings and goings of photographers and other members of the various departments. *nods head, and strokes chin*

Ate on schedule *check*

Napped on schedule *check*

Found new ways to amuse himself with sealed granola packages and reflective stickers. *check, check, and who knew my file cabinette held anything interesting?*

The boy smiling and chatting with the boss? BONUS!

I suppose that's one way of getting over a case of the Mondays.

But don't go thinking the whole day was perfect. Since I only got held up behind one farm vehicle, I wormed my way through the drive through of the local Dunkin' Donuts to get a large black coffee. And since you need an asbestos mouth to drink the thing while driving I held off until I was sitting at my desk. Suffice it to say I'm very glad my kid doesn't understand English just yet, because when I took a large gulp of cream and sugar that was thicker than syrup I sounded a LOT like the dad in A Christmas Story -- you know, when he was trying to fix the furnace or when the hounds ate the turkey? Yep. Just like that!

Friday, November 23, 2007

Writing through water

swirly swing, originally uploaded by toyfoto.

Words are coming in waves but not in any order that makes sense. Not that I can really write them, anyway.

You see, so much of my story really isn't mine to tell.

It is my custom, at least in my head, to rethink what is my intention with this place here in the ethos. The last few times I checked, it was my intent to leave something for my children to know the me I thought I was if I am not around to answer their questions.

It is a place for them to come and learn what I thought while they were dazzling me with their little beings.

It is a place to jot down all those little things I am apt to forget minutes after they happen. Like THIS little tidbit a reader in Philadelphia dug up today, and, through my sitemeter snooping, let me have a teary little stroll down memory lane.

For every thing I write here, as well you may gather, there are dozens of things I don't write. There are tons of experiences, outside of motherhood, just as a human being, that I don't discuss. In some cases it's not prudent, and in other cases it would be unkind.

I'm holding my breath a lot, these days. When I breathe it's with a gigantic sigh. So much is just the human predicament. All the things we as mortal beings are incapable of protecting ourselves against. All the things that can keep a person up into the wee hours of the morning replaying in their mind.

Maybe I'm tired. Maybe I've got nothing of importance to say. I don't know. What I do know is that it seems like everything I try to write sounds like it's trying to be written, and trying too hard.

But what's even more frightening is just thinking about it all leads me to another conclusion: that so much of what I've shared here already really isn't mine to give, either.


Wednesday, November 21, 2007

She wasn't messing with it

Is my nose growing?, originally uploaded by toyfoto.

"She was taking a nap."

That's what Terri, our babysitter, said when she phoned my office at 1 o'clock.

"When she woke up she was covered in blood."

My mind starts on a loop.

Holy shit.
holy shit.
Holy Shit.

Stay Calm. "O.K. Where was the blood coming from?" Stay Calm

"Her nose."

I could tell she was unnerved but holding things together:

"The blood was all over her face and all over her clothes. It was even in her hairline where she wiped it."

Terri said she'd never seen this much blood. I could hear Annabel still crying in the backround, "I want my mommy."

She'd never had a nosebleed before and didn't know what was happening.

"When she woke up she was screaming and I couldn't see her at first because she'd pulled the blanket up over her head. When I finally saw her it looked like she'd smeared red lipstick all over her face. She just kept asking me 'what is this? what is this?"


I told Terri: "I'll come and pick them up," and she told Annabel, "Mommy's coming to get you, honey."
A few minutes later I was out the door and in the parking lot dialing her up on the cell phone.

"How's it going. Has it stopped?"

"Yes, it has stopped and she's calm. My husband looked at it and he doesn't think it's that bad at all."

I was relieved, but not enough to run through all the senarios in the 40 minutes it took to go from the parking lot to her driveway.

I know nosebleeds happen all the time. I get them myself. Jed gets them. We have the heat on but not the humidifiers. It's just a nosebleed.

But then I worry about her skin color. Does she look pale? She been acting like the same rambling almost-four-year-old whirling dervish she's been since she was almost three. Or has she?

I torture myself thinking about all the rolled eyes, clenched teeth and generally angry thoughts I've entertained while she's doing her job of pushing boundaries.

I just want the happy, nonsense-word uttering, spinning, singing little electric ballerina back. And as I drive up to the house, I want to take back every Stop fidgeting. Be still. Will you PLEASE be quiet. I've ever uttered.

When I get into the house, I see my pink-cheeked little girl (now in fresh, matching clothes) rocking in the armchair nearest the television. "Mommy, I can't go yet, I just have to see the end of this movie. ... But I'm gonna need an ice pack tonight for sure 'cause I had a bleednose."

Monday, November 19, 2007

Because he's a P.E.A.C.O.C.K. (not a turkey)

Ittybit: Don't worry, Silas. We're not going to cook you. We wouldn't do that. We'd never do that.

Friday, November 16, 2007

He's all heart

Dear Annabel and Silas,

I have a few things to tell you about your papa; things that he may tell you himself one day.

When he was born he weighed three pounds. The year was 1939. They didn't know if he'd survive.

One Christmas when he was a kid he got coal in his stocking. He was upset and confused until he learned there was a toy coal truck waiting for him under the tree.

He loves the music of Aaron Copland and Joan Baez.

He always wanted to work for the telephone company. Until he had worked for AT&T for thirty-some-odd years.

He's never voted Republican in a national election.

He used to go fishing.

He always wanted to own a small sailboat.

He is great at picking out memorable presents. When I graduated from college he presented me with a red Swiss Army knife. I'd wanted one when I was seven. The card read: I think you're old enough now.

It was my favorite gift ever.

Well, before I got you.

Much love,


P.S. Try not to wrap papa too tightly around your little fingers. He's kind of a sucker for little beans like you.

Telephone ettiquette (learned from her father)

AMA: Hi, Siobhan. Your daughter wants to talk to you.

ITTYBIT: Oh, hi, mom? Yeah. Well, I had a pretty good day only I had a meltdown. Yeah, Jacob wanted the toy I was playing with and he pushed me and I fell into the couch. It hurt. I was crying. Jacob got a timeout and then he said he was sorry.

MAMA: Well it's nice that he appologized, but that's not really a meltdown, honey. That's more like you were just sad and hurt. That's justified. A meltdown is when ...

ITTYBIT: OOH, MA! I'm Gonna LOSE YA, here. ........

AMA: Still there? I didn't think you hung up. She's busy now, Curious George is on.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Note to self

Note to self, originally uploaded by toyfoto.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

They make them this cute ...

oooooo, originally uploaded by toyfoto.

so you won't sell them to gypsies or toss them out onto their ears when they wake up every hour on the hour throughout the night.

And for the record, I took no pleasure*** in waking this child out of a sound sleep at 7 a.m. once he'd finally drifted off to the Land of Nodd only an hour earlier.

***(Especially since he was so dang happy upon being awakened!)


Tuesday, November 13, 2007


us and them, originally uploaded by toyfoto.

That's roughly what each American family owes for this war so far.

... and the number will continue to climb.

When Ittybit asked me why we can't waste soap or let the shower run too long, I tell her we have to try and protect the environment.

When she asks why I tell her it's because we don't own it, we're just borrowing it from her children and her children's children, and that we need to leave it in as good a condition as we can for them. I tell her it's not only for her, but for everyone all over the world. I tell her 'We are all in this together.'

She's starting to understand.

But I don't know how to explain this war.

I don't want to explain this war.

All I know is we are not all in this together.

Monday, November 12, 2007

I am deeply ashamed

punched, originally uploaded by toyfoto.

So we get back from "date night," flop on the couch in a tired but 'Hey, the kids are asleep' kind of way and flip on the television.

Saturday Night Live is on, and, writers' strike or not, it's been like a zillion years since either of has seen that show's late night shennanegans so it's all new to us.

Now, if you had been at our house around 11:30 Saturday night, this is what you would have heard ...

Skit one: Ha.

Skit two: Um ... whatever

Skit three: Silence

Skit four: ? ... more silence

And then this

It must have been the absurdity and the music that made this (extremely low-brow) bit funny, but I hated myself for the uncontrolled laughing.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Date night

*** Standing at the movie theater at 8 p.m. to see Gone, Baby, Gone at 9:35. ***

ME: An hour and a half? What the hell are we going to do for an hour and a half?

HIM: There's a Tractor Supply Company right there. Looks like it could be fun.

ME: (somewhat distainfully) Tractor Supply? Oh, I don't think it's open.

HIM: Well, we could find a dark side street and go parking.

ME: Hey, I think the Tractor place is open after all. See the lights?

Friday, November 09, 2007

The picture of health ... for now

sleepy, originally uploaded by toyfoto.

Dear God,

If you're out there poised to hit my family with a thunderclap of typhoid this weekend in the form of Coxsackie virus, please remember that I was once an altar server.

Mostly I set up for the mass and cleaned up after the priest because, being a girl and all, according to your henchmen representatives here on Earth, I was unable to particapate fully because of said lack of appropriate external plumbing.

But I'm not bitter.

I won't promise to go to church or anything like that, because, and you know this Lord, I am not a hypocrite. But I will promise to try and use your name FAR more infrequently when I stub my toe or burn my fingers on the baking sheet. I know full well it's not your fault I'm such a klutz.

So if you could see fit to let this particular trouble pass, I will be most appreciative. I'd even knit you or one of your reps a scarf.


Ittybit and Champ's mommy

Thursday, November 08, 2007

They have lots to discuss

secrets, originally uploaded by toyfoto.

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Toy story

baby doll, originally uploaded by toyfoto.

If you've ever clicked on one of my photographs and been sent hurtling into the vast universe that is the flickrsphere, you may get the idea I have a thing for toys.

I'm probably the WORST person to be the parent of a kid in today's world of high consumption (or the best, depending upon your height). I've never met a toy store I didn't like. And I'm fairly certain I've never left one without making a purchase.

I am partial to small plastic people with moving parts. It's a sickness, really, and Annabel shares my disease.

"Hi, I'm Siobhan, and I have an addiction." I'll admit it.

But now, with all the recalls in the news and the growing popularity of a social concience (thank you Mr. Gore [without whom I'd still be stuffing plastic shopping bags under my sink instead of accumulating a similar stock of reusuable totes every time I go grocery shopping and forget to bring the ones we've already purchased]) I'm reading lables and trying to make better choices.

Made in Germany, my beloved Play Mobile figures are safe.

But little else seems to be.

When I walked through a chi-chi toystore late last month, trying to get a gander at possibles for Santa's sleigh, I was astounded by how many toys were made in China.

Everywhere I looked, every toy I picked up was labled "Made in China."

And then I started to see another, more curious lable.

"DESIGNED IN THE UNITED STATES" stamped prominently above the diminutive letters that spell out made-in-China ... as if the makers hoped those who are checking such things before they plunk down their money would be tricked into buying anyway.

Walking around my house will provide the same experience. Most of the colorful plastic contraptions that whirr and jump about on the power of D-cell batteries were made in China as were the myrad dolls, cars, plastics and gizmos that pour out in droves from her room.

This is excess, I say to myself in disgust. This is what we should have been trying to avoid.

And so, dear friends, I'd like you to meet Emily, as that is what I'm sure she'll be named if the little missy takes a shine to her come Christmas morning.

I met her at Etsy, a collective shop for individual craftspeople, many of whom hail from the states and take their creations seriously. It's not necessarily the answer, but it's definitely a start.

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Written (and photographic) proof ...

There are days, especially when I'm feeling unable to cope with the near constant barrage of questions -- What day is it today? Is it a Terri day? Is it a school day? What's in my lunchbox? Did you remember Silas' milk? Mom, why are your lips gone? Are you ok? -- that I wonder about this magnetic personality of Annabel's.

Although I believe that given a constant dose of our firstborn's sweet little voice in all its curious affectations, anyone -- even the most loyal Ittybit fans (*pointing to self with Bic lighter blazing, flipping hair forwards and backwards ... you know, for nostalgia's sake*) -- would be driven to the brink of madness for a time. Of course, they'd bounce back once they'd had a good night's sleep and a hot cup of coffee in the morning, because there's really no doubt there's just something about her that is intoxicating.

Even the people at the Fortune Cookie stuffing factory can sense it ...

After today, however, I'm fairly certain she could make a Greyhound bus driver take a Trailways to the vacation destination of their dreams. Seriously.

See, we thought we'd surprise an old friend this morning on our way to the sitter's house with an early morning visit and a gift bag full of chocolates. It is her birthday, you see.

Turns out she was hoping to get that gift. And I don't mean the chocolate.

When Lori asked me whether I could just leave her for the day, I had to say yes. Afterall, I am the mom, right? And who knew a babysitter would want to take a busman's holiday on her birthday?

Annabel just has that effect, I suppose.

Here's what was in my inbox when I checked ...


What a special birthday present to have Annabel hang out with us, make projects, towers, "have tea", etc. today! Thanks Siobhan!! Elias is happy to have his ol' pal here too!



Happy Birthday, Lori. Believe me, It was nice to get a YaYa report again.