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.

Monday, November 05, 2007

Lil' Nipper

boss lady, originally uploaded by toyfoto.

Have you ever seen a Jack Russell terrier in action?

Tiny dogs with spunk. They've been known to take on dogs three times their size and win. They've got personality enough for five dogs. They don't just walk they strut ... with bravado. As if they owned the world.

That's our Annabel.

Mighty mite.

She's not afraid to make the rules. And change them. Mid game. She's not afraid to call the shots.

Dog-gone it if people don't listen. ... And do as commanded.

It's pretty frightening, actually.

Friday, November 02, 2007

The last of the scary Halloween pictures ...

nurse or treat, originally uploaded by toyfoto.

Didn't think you'd ever see a woman nurse a peacock, did ya?

At sunset.

In suburbia.

... I say no more.

Thursday, November 01, 2007

Rocking the Suburbs

Halloween, 2007, originally uploaded by toyfoto.