Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Goodbye 2008

Goodbye 2008, originally uploaded by toyfoto.

I can't say as I'm going to miss it, despite the fact that '08 brought us our first African American President and as real a sense of hope as I can remember.

I won't miss it because 2008 also brought us full-force into the debauchery of our times. It forced us to stand in front of the mirror of our own making and see how much we've actually lost. How much we squandered.

On a personal level, 2008 has been good to our family. It's brought us back to the place we started; it's made us see what's important. We have two, healthy, growing children who happen, at the moment, to adore each other.

We have even prospered enough to risk our sanity and future solvency on a new business venture, which means moving a few houses down the road (hopefully by the summer of the New Year).

But it also means deciding to sell our barn: the place we've realized ourselves and raised our infants. It's where we were married, and where we planted our first tree. It's even where we buried our beloved dog Maggie. Someone else will be walking across the tile floor I installed. Someone else will open and close the big barn doors my father-in-law made. And eventually, someone else will paint over the marks on the wall charting our children's growth from the time they could stand until now.

All of that has next year to play out, but the deciding has taken place in this year.

I'm choosing to look at it as an opportunity to make a new home out of an old house. I'm deciding to look on the bright side and be excited.

Time moves on, so will we.

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Just a little sniffle

*sniff*, originally uploaded by toyfoto.

That's what it started out as, anyhow.

Or maybe it started out as that overreaching gastrointestinal microbe that threatened to make our family host Christmas in the crapper (literally).

Whatever the case, we had hoped it was just the residual effects of teething: Cranky, check; runny nose, check; low tolerance for just about everything that doesn't go his way. CHECK, PLEASE!

He hasn't got an ounce of patience for the hat that covers his eyes, or the four seconds it takes you to figure out that he wanted a bite of your toast, or the removal of any object from his hand ... even if all your doing is moving it to his other hand.

No. Patience.

And that's not like him.

As of today, even with his jamming both fists into his mouth and the visible protrusion of molars in his upper gum, it is apparent that he has a whopper of a cold now that the coughing and sneezing has set in.

Sure, he's still a whirling dirvish. He's still able to eat and sniffle and drink all in one fell swoop. (Well, unless there's a sneeze and the eating and drinking turn into spraying and splattering ). But he's still just a miserable, draining ball of phlegm.

I'm beginning to think winter and toddlerhood go together like a goldfish and snowshoes.

Monday, December 29, 2008

Control issues

blue, originally uploaded by toyfoto.

The new year is coming. The new year is coming.

Lots of people are hanging their hopes on the next digit in time.

For me, the new year is just a moment in time. A moment not unlike any other moment wherein a person looks to the future and wonders at its potential.

I rarely wait for the end of one year so that, in a wine-attled haze, I can resolve to be a better person in the beginning days of the next year.

Mostly I try to change the error of my ways as it occurs to me, whenever it occurs to me, lest I forget.

Not that it matters. I don't really change. My diet doesn't get better, my clothes don't become stylish. I don't keep up with the laundry or count to ten before I snap angrily at a child who annoys without intent.

I speak my mind even when my mind is telling me to shut up.

I'm always the same person I was yesterday, and the day before that and the year before that day. Even in the new year. So forth or hense. Whichever applies.

And yet, I'm one of those persons who THINKS they let things go, but in reality we tie our grievances to really long leashes just in case we need to haul them back in when it's cold or raining or otherwise inclement.

I'm not particularly proud of this.

Nor am I fond of the fact that I am a mule with the stubborn.

Fester. Fester. Fester. Rot. Rot. Rot.

A circle of misunderstanding and rage.

I didn't say the things you thought I said. I acquiesced.

Acquiescing rarely means agreeing fully or accepting with the power of ownership.

It just means giving in. It means compromise. Your desires don't just disappear, but your will to fight for them does.

When I bought Annabel an unfinished doll house I knew that she'd want to decorate it. I could have guessed she'd want to scribble on it with markers, or that she'd get tired midway through and stop being careful.

I would have left it alone. I would have wanted it to be clean and fresh and new -- the opposite of how I see my life and everything in it.

I couldn't help but to try and dissuade her from coloring it with the new princess markers and stampers. But she is not me. She has no qualms about what is or isn't pretty. She sees opportunity where I see the trap of imperfection.

And I back off.

It's not my house to decorate.

Now I'm trying to accept it for real and not just acquiesce.

Friday, December 26, 2008

Christmas ... the good, the bad and the ugly (or cute, depending on what you think of squirrels)

my favorite things, originally uploaded by toyfoto.

So. Christmas. Christ. Mas.

Let's dispense with the bad, shall we?

Because, sheesh!

I don't know about you but I'm thinking the people who know a thing or two about a thing or two also know better than to get involved in any heated debates on a day that roughly translates (in my imagination, anyway) to "More Christ."

I'm adding the following conversation topics to the list of things I won't discuss on Christmas ever again:

How I really feel about the new house ... The one I haven't much written about but is mostly likely moving full steam ahead in the new year.
Home renovation.
Credit (how it works in general).
Debit cards (how they work).
Which is better, credit or debit?
Misspellings on personalized items. ... (Just say thank you).
Does bubblegum really kill birds? Google's not decisive and T-shirt humor might DEPEND upon it.

Now, on to the good.

Did you notice the photos up there?

Annabel MADE those for ME.

She sewed the pillow herself, and she painted the three scenes on the candleholder: Snowman, gingerbread house and Christmas tree; not to mention glued on the ribbon embellishment at the top.

She even got her own gift on the evening of Christmas as she was watching one of her favorite gifts, "The Little Mermaid."

"Mama! I have a wiggly tooth!"

I fished around inside her mouth, and lo and behold, her lower right chopper in the front is indeed wiggly.

It's hard to believe I will soon have to tell the Toothfairy our address so she can Google/Mapquest us when the time comes to collect her prize. Where does the time go?

And finally ... The ugly/cute.

My mother-in-law said on Christmas morning that she had the sensation of a small critter crawling around on her in the night. We tossed about the idea that it might have been one of the neighborhood cats, as they have been known to seek shelter from the cold in our humble abode from time to time. But we eventually came to accept that the most likely senario was that she had dreamt it.


Didn't dream it.

It was a squirrel ... a baby one. Running around the sunporch next to where she'd been sleeping.

Jed cornered the rodent in the linen closet and eventually coaxed it into a Madam Alexander babydoll box with the window-front. (I'd have a picture of him, but my stupid camera tricked me into thinking I had a data card inserted).

The kids were able watch the tiny little beast freak out at his sudden confinement, and exclaim with glee . ... "oh ... so cute ..." before Jed took him outside (with a handful of Cheerios) and let him go into the trees.

So if Cheerios kills squirrels, please keep it to yourself. I promise won't discuss it next year, anyway.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Random Question Thursday: Navidad edition

What would be your Mexican Wrestling name?

And what would your "Bio" say?

Ladies, if you're looking for the female circuit, you can also go here.

I am Sassy Esposa (Sassy Wife)
Twice voted least likely to make an edible meal.

"Baking is a contact sport."

Jed is Sombra Sundance (Sundance Shadow)
Nine-time world champeen art mover extraordinaire.

"I don't need no stinkin' directions."

Annabel is Lynn Fabuloso (Fabulous Lynn)
Heading for a fifth year of unchallenged fortitude.

"I fed the fish."

and Silas is Chico de Cohotes (Kid Rocket)
Finishing up his novice ranking with tremendous strides in both strength and volume.


Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Life Imitates Art: The two-minute comedy special

my heart, originally uploaded by toyfoto.

ITTYBIT: Mommy! What's around your neck?

ME: It's a necklace. A friend in my mommies' group made it for me as a present with a picture I gave her of you guys.

ITTYBIT: Why are we just lines?

ME: Well, it was taken last year using only the light of the Christmas tree. I thought it was pretty striking.

ITTYBIT: (Pointing to the profile on the right) That one's ME, isn't it?

ME: Nope. That's your brother.

ITTYBIT: No, you're wrong, mom! It HAS to be me because I'm taller.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Music man

he's got a talented tush, originally uploaded by toyfoto.

Dear Silas,

I've been joking that you have a musical tush, but I just wanted you to know that I wasn't be metaphorical or gross, I was speaking literally. Hense the photographic evidence of you playing your sister's keyboard with your posterior.

You have the nubbins of four more teeth, bringing your total to eight in the headcount.

And that's not all your doing these days. In addition to climbing up on the kitchen stepstool, you are also saying please (prompted) and thank you (unprompted) for everything that's handed to you.

Your vocabulary is starting to expand. You can call us all by name: Mama, Dada, Bel, Maddy (who you also refer to, appropriately, as DOG! and GO!).

Of course cookie, chocolate, cracker and pretzels you refer to as the all-inclusive "CA-CA."

It's been tough, lately, since you've been down with the gastro-intestinal badness that is making its way around the world. You've kind of been your usual smily self, but with a mix of "Surley, Frustrated Boy" thrown in to keep us guessing.

This morning, however, I never saw even a glimpse of SFB at the breakfast table, and you ate - without spitting out in various locations around the house - an entire bowl of Rice Chex, so my guess is we won't be seeing much of him around unless you're tired or your sister won't let you play with the Leapster she got recently for her birthday.

Of course you are still amusing. You will try an repeat almost everything we say (unless we ask you directly) and it usually comes out either sounding lost in translation or a battle of wills:

Merry Christmas = May Kiss
Dinner = Do
Play = Pay
Eat = NO!
Shoes = NO!
Diaper Change = NO!

But there are times when you know exactly what you want:

Bye = Bye!
Milk = Milk
NO! = NO!

There's also the thing where everything is "mine." You sound like those Stepford gulls from "Finding Nemo."

Your dad is teaching you to ask for "boob" instead of "milk."

I'm only telling you that because he thinks this is funny, and who knows what he's going to be telling the first girl you bring home to meet us. I suppose I just wan't you to know it wasn't ME who drilled it into your lexicon is all.

There's so much you can do, it's hard to forget your growing up.

You can put on one shoe (I'm sure you can put on the other one, too, you just choose to limp around the house unevenly). You can turn off the television at the crucial moment when the surprise ending is near (driving your sister insane). You can bang around on the computer getting the train in Kneebouncers to show you its crazy cargo. And you can play peek-a-boo with the next table at breakfast.

You are also learning to sing along on one of your sister's favorite songs.

Together, you're singing it loud every morning on the daily commute, and oddly enough, the screaming, laughing indecipherable lyrics are music to my ears.



Monday, December 22, 2008

So ...

no really! this just looks CRAZY, originally uploaded by toyfoto.

How was your weekend?

Our's was pretty smooth ... even if I do think the person who looked at a pair of boots and thought putting wheels on them would be fun might have been a few apples shy of a bushel.

But that's just me -- your old friend, stick-in-the-mud -- waving from the sidelines.

Saturday, December 20, 2008


cupcake, originally uploaded by toyfoto.

You can say it. I won't be offended.

You would have married him, too.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Another reason to wish her birthday was in July

tree lights, originally uploaded by toyfoto.

There are NO PLANES leaving Detroit.

Ordinarily, this wouldn't concern me. However, on this day one of them tin birds in Motor City was winging a very special Ama Linda to our side of the country for the briefest of brief stays.

And we just got word her flight's been cancelled.

Having already told the little miss that her Ama would be here tonight, and at her birthday party tomorrow, I'm not looking forward to going home and saying: "well ...?"

THIS is exactly the reason SMART parents spring surprises on their children. They don't even tell the kids grandma is on her way in when they see her making her way up the walk lest she slip on a crack and have to be rushed to the ER.

They WAIT until gran's gotten into the house and taken off her coat, and even then they let her yell SURPRISE in her own special way.

Why steal thunder? The stuff will only make you deaf, anyway.

We've still got Christmas in a week. She'll be back for that for sure.

Of course then there's the lightning. And you know what they say about lighting rarely strikes twice?


What do they know?

Too bad the travel holidays aren't all in July.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Interrupting the regularly scheduled Random Question Thursday to note

sunday 7 a.m ., originally uploaded by toyfoto.

Annabel turns 5 -- that's F.I.V.E. -- today at exactly 7:14 p.m.

Even she doesn't believe it.

"Are you sure I'm five?"

Didn't we have this talk last year?

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

A gift for the weary

I've been cleaning up various bodily fluids, in a variety of forms, for the past few days. Last night I was treated to a surprise explosion of vomit from the boy, who previously had been improving, as I was bringing him to bed.

The mess spread through three rooms. Even when I got him to the bathroom ... or the sink. ... or a bucket, the kid had no idea I've done so in order for there to be less putrid for me to cleanup later. He's poker straight, spewing forward. Trying to get him to curl up even enough to point his mouth in the right direction is like trying to bend iron.

So when Annabel appeared in the middle of the night, I resigned myself to being a third-shift worker in the sick house: part nurse, part orderly, and, with my own gurgling stomach, part patient.

She said she had a "bad dream," but I suspected their might be more to it. I instructed her to go and get her pillow and blanket and we'd camp out on the couch, watching the tail end of 27 Dresses.

A few minutes later, she's off the couch and running. By the time I got to the bathroom she'd already managed to position herself right over the bowl. All I had to do was rub her back until her stomach had emptied, give her glass of water to rinse her mouth and wipe her face with a warm cloth.

Not only does she know the cues that would lead a person to fleet-foot it to the commode, but it's pretty apparent that she's chewing her food pretty well, too.

Growing up sure has it's pluses.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Today I was (this) close to feeling sorry for myself

the finger(s), originally uploaded by toyfoto.

We've been without power (but not without generator) since Friday morning. Effectively this puts us back, I'd say, somewhere in the affluent '50s. Our refrigerator is running, but there's not much else in the way of ammenities:

We're washing dishes by hand

We're able to watch television but not cable. And as a result of limited light we're turning in early.

We're cooking on a hotplate.

The laundry has to wait until the power returns or we can schlep ourselves to the Laundromat, which mightn't be soon as:

I've had a sore throat for two days.

Silas got some vomity illness Sunday night that is inconsistently realized (usually in the middle of the night when the generator has quit or run out of gas).

I will be wearing my prom dress to work tomorrow (If I can muster the will to drag my sorry-for-my-Self out of bed again) because the laundry is piling up with aforementioned vomity duds and no way to launder them until the power comes back up or Silas musters enough vim to make it through a trip to the local Sit and Spin.

I went to a doctors' appointment today and learned that my insurance isn't accepted anymore. I had to pay the full boat and submit the claim myself. Even the lady in the checkout area looked shocked for me when she whispered the total: $180.

So much for health insurance.

I got to work and learned our struggling company will - as of January - stop contributing to our 401Ks (that are only two years old) in order to get itself in better fiscal standing.

So much for retirement.

There's more, but I won't bother you with it. It'll just make me wish I were home with my vomity boy and my silly husband and my ice princess daughter. I'll just try and count the one blessing this week had in store for me:

I filled the gas tank up from empty (for the first time in I can't remember how long) for under $20.

Although, I'll tell you, the cost of petrol isn't going to change my primary philosphy of NOT taking any uncessesary trips.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Frozen world

price freeze, originally uploaded by toyfoto.

Woke up this morning to the sound of ice sliding off the metal roof.

"WHAT! was THAT!?," asked Annabel, who had taken advantage of her father's travels to sleep in our bed.

"Ice sliding off the roof," I answered matter-of-factly.

It was cold, the heat hadn't kicked on. Silas was still in a warm little heap between us.

I checked the clock. It was dark and empty.

No power.

Nothing to do but dress and leave; maybe there'd be electricity at the babysitter's house. I phoned. Nope. But she's got a fireplace and a gas stove, so there's heat.

Our ghosts -- the ones we'd hung from our two mighty black walnut trees but didn't take down after halloween -- had fallen to the lawn with dozens of tree limbs.

The firetruck had blocked the road so I decided to turn right and see the rest of the neighborhood. Trees and limbs downed everywhere.

"What kind of world is this?" exclaimed Annabel from the backseat. And then she was silent. The whole car was silent for a moment until she answered her own question.

"It looks like a beautiful FROZEN world."

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Random questions Thursday ...

dukes of hazard, originally uploaded by toyfoto.

How old were you when you got your first pet?

What was it? What did you name it? Did you take care of it (like you promised you would) or did your mom end up feeding the poor thing before it starved to death?

I was about seven or eight when my dad took my sister and me to the home of one of the farm families who attended our church.

I can still remember walking into their barn and seeing a moving ball of fuzzy heads and wiggly keisters. I was giddy. I couldn't really believe what was happening: We were going to get a dog of our very own.

I think every rural community has this sequence as part of its cultural identity: A well-known farmer's much beloved dog, which isn't spayed and has at least one litter a year until she meets her maker, has about eight of the cutest, fluffiest, nicest puppies you-ever-did-see. When the pups get old enough to leave their mom, a cardboard sign gets pinned to a tree: "FREE PUPPIES." Since the mother dog and its previous spawn of nicest-dogs-on-earth (not to be confused with the smartest kid from eighth grade math), the new pups are in hot demand.

This particular blend of farm bitch was a St. Bernard-collie mix, and she was sweet.

Somehow we managed to leave with the very one they'd considered keeping -- The runt: a mostly white fluff ball with a few large tan splotches and a curvy tail of cascading fur. If we hadn't known she'd been born on that farm to an brown mutt and whatever managed to get over the fence, we might have mistaken her for a Great Pyrenees.

We named her Sheba. And she cried for hours that first night until mom couldn't stand it any more and put her in the garage, where she'd fallen asleep immediately. She was a barn dog through and through.

But she was also a family dog, her care was a family endeavor; my dad fed her (for the most part), my mom cleaned up after her (especially when she was sick), and I taught her to sit, to stay and to heel.

She roamed all over the neighborhood, and to places that seemed too far for a dog to go all by herself ... especially when she was always home at 3 o'clock to meet the bus and walk us home.

She was a kind of magical dog, too, some of her exploits etched in our family's lore. We all remember the day when mom looked into the refrigerator and made the grand announcement that she was out of bread. She'd have to sent us out the door that day with money for the school cafeteria instead of sandwiches. When we'd gathered our coats, and boots and bookbags and were ready to trudge to the busstop -- dollars in pocket and dreams of Turkey and Tator Tots -- we were all surprised to see the dog sitting on the other side of that door, carefully holding a loaf of bread in her mouth and looking up at my mother. It was an offering nabbed, no doubt, off the back of a truck delivering to the grocery store one block away.

We all loved that dog.

**Coming soon ... I forgot to look through old pictures that I might scan. So perhaps tomorrow, I'll show you my first dog.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Hair today ... still grow'n tomorrow

Mature, dad, originally uploaded by toyfoto.

It was going to be a busy day: dance lessons, a date with Santa, a holiday craft workshop AND a playdate.

To fit one more thing in between the time slots, we'd need Vaseline and a shoehorn.

Jed made breakfast for the kids and coffee for me -- as is his usual morning routine when he doesn't have to rocket out the door before the crack of dawn -- and then turned to me and suggested we add a trip to the barbershop to our itinerary.

HIM: Hey? I have to get my hair cut. Why don't we stop by Scotty's on our way out of town. I'll take Silas, it can be a two-fer."

ME: *Bugged-eyed Silence.*

HIM: I just pissed in your Christmas stocking, didn't I?

ME: Yup! Sounds about right.

Jed has it in his head that I'm going to be one of THOSE mothers who let their boys hair grown down to their feet, tempting all sorts of school yard bullies (not to mention the high-pitched praise of the stranger-ladies wanting to know the age of our precious little girl.)

He's not entirely wrong.

At 17 months (and discounting each and every day until the very hour of his 18th month milestone ) I'm just not ready to excise Silas' baby-like locks. In my mind to do so would give up the baby and replace him with a real boy.

I've made all kinds of bargains with myself.

When the hair is in his eyes. ...
When it just looks too scraggly ...
When it stands on end ...

(Ok ... that last one has happened on numerous occasions, but a little No More Tears and some fingers combing through the Alfalfa-like protrusions normally does the trick).

I know it's not going to last forever. He doesn't have that beautiful, rock-star thick hair with curling tendrils that inspired legions of groupies. His hair is like mine; fine and thin with only a slight humidity-styled wave. His tresses are more like some buffoon of a billionaire.

I'm just not ready to see my baby turn into a boy in the course of a haircut. Just not yet.

ME: Why can't we wait until he's two?

HIM: "Well, O.K. But lets let him just see me get mine cut. Then he can see it doesn't hurt."

I agreed and we moved our clownshow from the warmth of the house to the cold of the street, and finally the brief stillness as we climbed the steep stairs of the second-floor barbershop.

Silas was the only one who was silent as we took over the waiting room, and waited our turn. Even the television blared sports scores over the non-stop chatter of men, scissors and suggestions.

When it was Jed's turn, Silas wasn't having any of it.

I knew he'd be on my side. He is, after all, my son.

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Adding insult to irony

The only reason I ever thought of buying a shopping cart cover was to pad the skinny little wires, which, from my vantage point as an adult, look mighty uncomfortable for small tushes. But then I'm always shoving my coat, or their coats, hats and all manner of pillowy belongings in right beside them anyway.

But physicial comfort is not what the makers of these cute little liners are selling us; they're selling us supposed protection from the big, bad germ bugs looming on the handlebar; leftover, no doubt, from the unwashed, diaper diving hands of some other mother's little heathen.

That's what they're selling.

Of course, according to, with this particular cover -- The Shop 'n Learn Cart Cover made by Fisher Price -- you also get 153 parts per million of lead, 240 parts per million of bromide and 19 parts per million of Arsenic.

Kinda glad I opted for the common cold.

Monday, December 08, 2008

Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow

happy snow

Is there anything better the snap of winter with a fresh dusting of snow in which to make snow angels?

Perhaps snowball fights, catching snowflakes on your tongue, the building of snowmen or an afternoon of snowshoeing or skiing are just as good.

However, the only thing that even comes close to those is that mug of hot chocolate and peppermint stick waiting for you in the kitchen when you come in from the cold.

The only way to love winter is to get out and play in it.

Friday, December 05, 2008

Planning for lack of planning

low down

I’ve got birthdays on the brain.

Most people are probably thinking about Christmas, wishing it were New Year’s Eve already so they can just drown their sorrows in some sweet and tasty beverage.

Not me. I'm planning a gigantic moving party for a soon-to-be five-year-old who wants to usher in her last months as a preschooler rolling around a gigantic skating rink with a minimum of 30 of her closest friends.

Total cost $350.

Really? For a child's birthday party?

Yup. Said so right there in the contract.

"Includes: rink admission, skate rental, private skate for two hours, sheet cake, pizza and two choices of beverage."

It’s what some might call overcompensating for an original lapse in planning.

See, when we decided to have children somehow it never occurred to us that the baby would likely arrive nine months (give or take) after the proverbial rabbit died.

When the doctor smiled and told me Ittybit’s due date I realized my first mistake as a new mom.

A Christmas BIRTHDAY! Really?

Really ... says so right there in the calculator.

Thursday, December 04, 2008

Random question Thursday ...

07 psv ornaments in 08

What's your favorite holiday tradition?

We live in a town where Santa actually visits each and every child in their own home.

A Christmas elf from the community arranges it with parents beforehand, gets all the fact-finding information the big guy needs for his visit and tells you 'round about what time to expect his horse-powered "sled" to pull up in your driveway.

And being Santa and all, he won't let you wait around like the cable guy sometimes does. He is jolly-well punctual.

Not to mention, when he arrives he brings a healthy snack, a juice box and an age-appropriate toy for each child he visits.

It's an amazing little slice of mid-century Americana, born from war-era frugality, that has somehow continued into the modern era. The town elders (in our case the fire department) collect monetary donations year-round and canvas residents to see who'd like Santa to drop by for a visit. It doesn't matter if you're wealthy or poor, this particular Santa's an equal opportunity elf.

So now it's your turn ... spill it. I'm looking to absorb some new holiday traditions.

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Fresh air

For the past three years and then some, I've been pasting little bits and pieces of my life -- and the lives of my family -- here in the vast bloggesphere.

Ittybits and Pieces began the way most baby books get their start: I wanted to keep the memories of my children alive in words and pictures, and in a place I would always know where to retrieve them. I wanted my children to be able to find them, too, one day if and when they are interested.

Although I write hoping to be read -- because I am a writer and that's what writers do -- I also continually reevaluate how I'm meeting that mission. I am constantly holding myself back, chastising myself for going outside the lines. But I know this business of living and writing and recordkeeping is messy stuff. I trust time to sort it out.

However, in October of last year, the people who pay me to sit behind a computer terminal in a newsroom and design pages, proof copy, write a couple of columns and do whatever else has needed doing (dependent on the day) asked me to link my blog to their Web site.

Newspapers, as you know, are struggling. And they’re looking for new ways to get readers and revenue. Blogs are in demand. (Maybe not mine so much, but you see my point).

I was hesitant. ... Another reevaluation. Would it change my mission, which has always been intensely personal, intensely focused on putting MYSELF on the page in a way that my children might one day be able to discover me as the woman I think I am? Would it get messy? Sure it's my blog but it's their dime.

I could see a time when ownership of the words became an issue.

Already there had been overlap. The blog I was producing personally had proved invaluable to informing the column I write professionally.

Yet, like the clutter that piles up in our real lives, there IS so much on the periphery of this blogspot room -- namely the ads, and bells and whistles and gizmos piling up (which is also a part of me ... you should see the contents of my CAR!) -- that it becomes difficult to parse "readerships" and "ownerships" and who's paying whom and who owns what and on and on and on.

You see the dilemma. My blog preceded the business, but the business pays the bills.

And yet, aside from all of that, I’ve come to believe that by inviting the newspaper's readership to join me three-quarters of the way through the party (so to speak) they may have gotten lost and overwhelmed by the weight of the past.

You see, they've known my children for the past three years only as "Ittybit" and "The Champ" (formerly "Thing 2") as they sat down with their Sunday papers and thumbed their way to the back to follow our pursuits.

So I think now is the time to open the windows and clear the air, which is why I've decided to start a mirror image of Ittybits and Pieces for the newspaper.

Ittybits & Pieces will always be my baby, and it's not going away. But Tiny Babel will be here, too.

And for those readers from The Record who really haven't been properly introduced to my children ... Please allow me to rectify that:

Please meet Annabel and Silas.


Ittybit and Champ.

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

G'morning son shine

Dear Silas,

It's going to be a good day.

Unless you knock over the tree that your sister worked so very hard to decorate this past Sunday.

Yes. I know it's just barely December. But after her Academy Award worthy performance of the Nutcracker -- she danced with dramatic flair (and what seemed to be four-part harmony) -- the point of which was making yours truly buy the earliest cut tree EVER in the history of this household. ... What could I do?

It was either get the tree or watch the "Barbie Nutcracker" DVD for the zillionth time. And saying 'No' to decorating it after the Royal WE had hauled the dang thing upstairs and cemented it into its stand would have had the same effect as trying to stop train barreling down an an icy track.

No one wants that.

But I digress.

Back to you, and the thing you've started doing ... hurtling yourself into the tree from your lowly position on that little pushcar you so love.

Please, just don't do it. Ok?

Because if you continue to charge headfirst at the evergreen, we shall have to wrap you in a duct tape leash, measured precisely to stop your forward catapult one measly little foot away from the stately fir. (Picture the tree holding a midget at arm's length and you will get the drift of what I'm trying to get at here).

Of course I realize you may need a sweet incentive, so here's the deal: If you stay away from the lights and the baubles, I will make waffles.

You like waffles.

Fluffy, hot waffles bathed in maple syrup are SO much better than some dumb old tree that's sticky with pine sap, anyway!

Wishing you love and soft landings,


Monday, December 01, 2008

My heart's center

heart center, originally uploaded by toyfoto.

Dear Annabel,

You will soon be five.

In any other message I would bemoan the fact that you are growing up. I would wonder where the time went. Five years is no time at all but, by the same token, it's an eternity.

But I am not sad that you are growing up. I don't miss the baby you were as much as I love the girl you are right now. I love that you are so curious, that you are not shy. I love that you are so interested in the world around you.

You've gone from a tiny baby to a tiny little girl. I'm still able to tote you about; swing you around, but you are heavier in my arms. I have to take breaks and regroup my strength. I have to employ the "mommy's tired" approach to such activities in earnest.

I know that you are dealing with a lot of growing up stuff right now. There are frustrations. There are miscommunications. There are some bad days that end with fewer books read at bedtime and angry "Goodnights" ... more of a command for silence than a wish for sweet dreams.

I am not proud of this. I AM the adult. I DO know better.

It may not seem like it, but whenever there is sadness on your face it settles in my heart.

You should know that while I don't consider you an "easy" child, I love you for all your complexity.

You are sensitive, robust and inquisitive. You are kind and loving. I hope you are resilient, too. I know that any effort people make on your behalf will be repayed with interest.

I know I can't always protect your feelings, even from my own thoughtless outbursts. But I know that I love you always and forever.
And I woudn't want you to be anyone else.

You are my heart's center.



Friday, November 28, 2008

T'is the season ...

'tis the season for SWAG '08

It's time for the soul-sucking, clogged-shopping-mall, every-thing's-potentially-dangerous holiday season. (Not to mention the ceremonial lighting of this year's holiday masthead.)

What? You didn't expect to get a sales pitch, here?

Silly readers.

I know you're strapped for cash.

We're in a recession, damnit.

You can't afford the exorbitant cost of an Ittybits & Pieces coffee mug or an Ittybits & Pieces bumper sticker. (They're never going to be collectors items anyway). That's just shameless self-promotion.

We're in a recession, damnit.

Save your money.

Go make something and give it to your mom why don't you.

Wouldn't that be nice?

Speaking of nice, I've made something I'd like to give to you.

Send me your mailing address and I'll send you our 2008 holiday card.

It's time to get this party started.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Random question Thursday ... Thanksgiving edition

dollhouse of her dreams

What's your story?

I never owned a proper dollhouse.

I wanted one as a child but I was too much of a "tom boy" to admit that to anyone.

My mom told me a story about when I was little and I used to make dollhouses out of cardboard boxes. I'd color them with paint and crayons, and fashion furniture out of matchboxes and unraveled thread spools. I'd play for hours with small animals and dolls. Just chatting with myself.

She told me one Christmas she'd bought a lovely set of little boxes that were all screen printed inside to look like rooms in a house. You could stack them on top of one another, in any order you liked, to make a dollhouse similar to the ones I had been making out of empty postal packages. She thought I'd be thrilled with their bright colors and modern design. She expected they would enhance my play.

But, she says, my reaction was something best described as lukewarm. She explained with some degree of humility how I filled the boxes with crayons and never played with my creations again.

Mom said she thought the message she'd given me along with the boxes was that the houses I'd made weren't perfect enough.

After she'd told me that story, I wanted to make her feel better.

I remember those pretty little boxes, but I don't remember the emotions she's attatched to them. They were just the place I put my crayons. I have no memory at all of my cardboard houses. In my way of seeing things, it was her story more than mine.

But the tale has etched itself on me all the same. And it's taught me a lesson.

My daughter makes cardboard houses, too. She stacks them one ontop of another. Her father has helped with fancy turrets and colorful roofs. They are her story boxes: a room inside her room where she brings her dolls to reveal the stories of their lives.

This year, I'm getting her an unfinished wooden dollhouse. She'll get to paint it and make it her own.

** This would be one of the stories I'd ask my mother to retell tomorrow, StoryCorp-style, as part of the National Day of Listening, if I had any ability to use our camcorder and force her to sit in front of it. Since I don't see any of those variables coming together, I'm going to settle for this remembered transcript of our conversation.

Please consider taking part of this important contribution to history. Post a comment or blog about your experience and link back here. I'd love to hear (or read) your stories.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Haircuts don't really change a person

sentry elias

Ittybit: "I don't even know who you are."

Elias: "I'm Elias."

Tuesday, November 25, 2008


cupcake ice cream cone

Mmmm. ... Ice cream cone.

Nope. Guess again.

Mmmm. ... Cupcake.

I tried out this cupcake-in-a-cone thing last weekend as a test of my baking prowess. I wanted to see if I could I make 100 of these little delicacies for Annabel's birthday party next month. (They're so small, even the little people will need at least three).

I only made a couple dozen (all of them gone now) but I think I can do it.

*Fill cone halfway with cake batter
*Stand in muffin tin
*Bake as usual
*Pipe on frosting
*Sprinkle with festive, dinosaur candy toppings

Easy as pie cupcakes.

The real problem will be figuring out a way to transport these little thumb-sized cups of goodness to the Skate Factory where the party is going to be held.

I'll go insane if I have to make a tray by cutting 100 holes in box tops. I'll let Jed do that part. He's crafty.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Hey, you!

little face

Yeah. I'm talking to you, Mama.

If you EVER want to SLEEP AGAIN, don't try
putting those footed pajama thing-a-majigs on me.

Otherwise I will wake up every hour, screaming in terror as I try
to rip my feet free from whatever it is that is strangling them.

My dogs gotta breathe!

Oh, and if you think of it ... next time you go to the
store can you get me that Blood Orange Soda again? That stuff is
good mixed with breastmilk.


Your** son

(**Not to be confused with Daddy's son, who would NEVER be allowed to have carbonated beverages or fast food.)

Saturday, November 22, 2008

My, what big teeth you have ...

Well, actually it's just a little nub peeking out from the lower gum. ... you can see it ... green the right of that yellow one on my vandalized version of the American Dental Association's primary tooth eruption chart.

It's not really green. It's white like the others. Silas isn't going to open his mouth for my camera though.

But I'm sure happy it decided to join the cast of characters.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Subtle, but you can still tell ...

they're off, originally uploaded by toyfoto.

He's crying. Doesn't want to be second fiddle; not on the PlasmaCar.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Random question Thursday

dear santa, originally uploaded by toyfoto.

Do you have a formula for writing greetings in your holiday cards? What is that formula?

My words may bubble over here in cyberspace, but I tell ya ... on the inside of my holiday cards (some of you who receive them in the mail might know what I'm talking about) it's like a desert wasteland of sentiment.

I spend so much time on the idea for the outside that I'm kinda spent by the time I have to get out ye ol' Bic pen to actually make them a little more personable.

Must. Work. On. That.

How about you?

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Does this mean war?

fridge patrol

I was doing my usual holiday pre-shopping (which generally entails perusing the Target Web site for its selction of Playmobil sets before getting into the car and actually DRIVING to Target to purchase one) when I stumbled upon Roman Arena action set and the following angry review by "Proud to be a Christian 'Mandy B'":


Are you kidding me??! You need "0" stars above or a space where we can give our "real" feedback.

What kind of sadistic toymaker would come up with this "toy" for a child age 4-8? or for any age for that matter? What was fun about the slaughtering of Christians by the Roman empire? What do you think the lions were for?? This is nauseating. I can't believe Target would sell such a disgusting toy just to make some $. I will not ever shop in your store again unless this toy is removed from your shelves.

Mandy B.
Past loyal Target cardholder and past frequent shopper

And below it was this more tongue-in-cheek critic, who penned himself Maximus (Pompeii):


This toy is quite valuable for teaching young children about the Roman Empire. Countless hours can be had playing Gladiator vs. Lion and Gladiator vs. Gladiator in mortal combat. Children and take on role playing acting as the Caesar giving the good ‘ole “thumbs up” or “thumbs down” as they learn logical consequences as a part of early childhood development.

Parents should thoroughly preparing for the onslaught of educational and historical questions that will arise from the hours of delight acting out mortal combat in front of the thousands of Patrician Romans leisurely spending their idle time.

Some questions that parents should be prepared for are,” Who did the lions attack besides the Gladiators?" Of course the answer would be the criminal Christians who were guilty of treason by not worshiping the state Caesar who was considered God by decree.

Perhaps some extra figures of unarmed Christians could be a useful addition to the group and in that sense would round out the historical accuracy of murderous spectacle.

Which got me thinking. ... What IS inappropriate as a toy? You know ... aside from our preferences as parents and our kids' preferences as players.

Is it the TOY or the PLAY?

I'm of the general opinion that toys aren't the problem. The Roman Empire has returned from ancient history. Popular culture - such as wildly popular HBO series, "ROME," has brought it back into the minds of Christmas-shopping parents, and the history IS fascinating.

Of course the Playmobil version does seem to mix its timeline - setting its stage with Caesar but keeping the Christians and other 'criminals' (save gladiators) out of the arena (which actually seems to be the case in 313AD under Constantine, when religious persecutions were banned and Christianity slowly started to become Rome's official religion). But who cares, right? Christians were persecuted. People's lives were not valued they way we value them today.

But where was I?

Plaything appropriateness ...

Is it glorifying war to play with war toys?

There have been lots of conflicting studies over the past two decades as to the effect violence and violent play has in shaping young minds; and most of it seems to have biases that coincide with current events. A sharp upturn in violent crime in teenagers during the 90s, for instance, seems to have made experts conclude that it couldn't hurt to dissuade parents from allowing their kids to play with guns or to engage in any violent roleplay. Skip forward a little to a post-Columbine era and zero-tolerance policies aimed at stopping violence altogether, even at the thought-level, became the norm. If a child drew a violent picture they were referred to school counseling.

More recent research seems to be of the opinion that violent role play is not only normal, but it can be healthy for most youngsters. One theory being that it's not just that children learn from play, they work out their perception of the world through it. Keeping them away from roleplaying we as parents find distasteful or shocking, might actually keep kids from learning the necessary lessons of controlling their natural aggression.

It seems what's most needed is for parents to be present. What the kids learn about their own play, whether it be with toy guns or toy harlots or just pretend play without any props, is related to what we are reminding them of: The realities, good or bad. When that happens my guess is everyone will learn something useful.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Bubble, bubble, toil and trouble

bubble, originally uploaded by toyfoto.

Did you know bubbles are always spherical -- regardless of the shape of your bubble-making wand -- because they hold the gas inside of them with the least possible surface area? The geometric form with the least surface area for any given volume is always a sphere. The exception to this rule, of course, is when the bubble is surrounded by other bubbles. But when the other bubbles pop, the oddly shaped one returns to its spherical form.

Did you know regardless of how you color your bubble juice, the bubbles themselves will take on the color of the light that is refracted from them? Although you can't color a bubble with paint, you can paint with pigment-added bubbles by popping them on a piece of paper.

Do you know why bubbles pop? Dryness kills bubbles. When you make bubbles in the sun they even evaporate more quickly.

Did you know that if you wet your hands you can successfully catch bubbles? You can even penetrate your bubbles if you keep your tools wet.**

Did you know you can make your own bubble solution?
1 part diswashing liquid
15 parts water
.25 part white Karo syrup

To paint with bubbles add a few drops of food coloring or washable paint.

**Did that sound a little too racy? Science museums do that to me, I guess.

Monday, November 17, 2008

What light through yon science museum breaks ...

peg light, originally uploaded by toyfoto.

*Seriously. We didn't do it. This time it wasn't us.*

Since she was about 19 or 20 months old or so, Annabel has been pretty consistent in holding her hand in front of her face, only the slitty eyes of disapproval staring me down, whenever I aim my camera at her in public. She's good at showing disapproval.

It took some self restraint, and some slitty eyes from her father, to put the camera away during those times.

Mostly I just changed my approach. I started shooting from the hip, and wishing upon the stars that something would come out, and that it would be worth saving.

It seems (and the last thing I want to seem is cynical) that among my friends I am the parent who is most wanted at parties -- despite the fact that I largely ignore my children's antics -- because I sometimes take half-way decent pictures.

It always astounds me when I level my lens at some other child and they instantly smile. Sometimes they even seem relaxed and joyful. Something that photography can be when it is rare and you are young.

Of course not every child feels that way. Some make it their goal in life to be invisible. Some pay no mind at all. To them, I am invisible. That works, too.

But it was a particular joy to ask my daughter, as she was playing, to just "stay there a minute longer so I can get another shot," and have her comply. It was a risky question. She has friends waiting. They want to see more things.

"Awe, mom. She's always taking pictures of me," she says. And yet, she waits and manages looks cheerful -- happy, even.

It was the first time I've detected a little pride creep in between the words of irritation.

I really hope it's not the last time.

** oh and just in case you weren't aware (INSERT SHAMELESS SELF PROMOTION HERE...) I'm doing half a column with our city editor. It's a point/counterpoint kind of a thing. I know you'll side with me even if you don't.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Sixth sense

Whirlwind tagged me for a photo meme ... I'm not ashamed to admit that the two things I can't pass up are photo challenges and any prompt that's all about me me me me.

The MEME instructions are as follows:

Go to your Sixth Picture Folder then pick your Sixth Picture.
Pray that you remember the details.
Tag 5 others.

I'm not really good at following directions.

At all. Not only did I kinda fudge the count, but I'm not going to tag anyone (feel free to tag yourself and link back, though).

As you may imagine, I have a bazillion folders filled with photos on my desktop at any one time. The majority of the photos in process (before archiving) are in two parallel lines along one side of the screen. Client folders (don't laugh, I have some) are intermingled with family stuff. I archive folders either at the end of each month or when the client account has been fulfilled. When I counted straight down from the left the sixth folder was a wedding; the sixth photo in it was rather banal. I had included it because I thought it offered the best chance that any peopled who had avoided my lens would at least appear in one overall shot. I'm a hack. I'm not proud.

So I then decided to zig zag across the desktop. My curser landed on a folder containing some images from a fun project I embarked upon this summer that I didn't want to archive just yet.

This was the sixths picture in the folder:

Under the trampoline.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Brotherly love

kisses, originally uploaded by toyfoto.

He woke up this morning, cooing his happy coo.

"Chuck cho. Ah. Libby doh do.


I woke up. He was Inches away from my nose, telling me he was awake.

I sat up and chatted with him for a moment.

Can you say Mama?


Can you say Daddy?

"Da! Da!"

OK, it was more like a quiz, but things are so different this time around.

He babbles whole sentences, when his sister would have clearly pronounced a few words. It's almost as if he's not talking at all, and so we easily disregard what he says.

I sadly haven't really taken the time to really decipher what it is he's saying.

Can you say Silas?


Can you say Annabel?

he was quiet for a moment ...

Then he threw back his head and yelled "BELL!"




I helped him out of bed and he toddled off, yelling 'BELL' all the way down the hall and into her room ...

By the time I got there he was already pulling the covers off her trying to get in beside her.

"Why did you let him wake me up, mom?" she asks and then leans in to give him a kiss.

That's why, kiddo. That's why.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Random question Thursday

nature's easter eggs, originally uploaded by toyfoto.

Which came first, the chicken or the egg?

E for evolution.

E for egg.

I say the egg.

There's another thing about eggs that has my brain cramping up: We women are born with all we're ever going to get. So that means a part of me was just hanging around during the entire existence of my mother, and a part of her was swimming around the entire life of her mother. So by extension (and the ability to suspend all disbelief) I may actually be as old as Methuselah.

Of course, I've been known to eggagerate one or 18,000 times.

Which do you think came first?

Wednesday, November 12, 2008


petshops, originally uploaded by toyfoto.

She was walking around the house with an awkward gait.

I could see the spine-curled hobbling was likely the result of the odd angle of her outfit. She'd pulled her skirt up from the bottom hem, folding it around some precious (albeit illicit) cargo and was now hunched over in a protective stance.

"KLUNK, scrabble, scrabble, KLUNK!"

Of course, her oddly comic dance around the room could have been because she was wearing my shoes.

I thought for a second about the tiny lady apples I'd placed on the counter, then shook my head. No, she wasn't carting those around in her skirt. I knew whatever miniature objects she'd concealed in her apparel had to be something she wanted to keep safe from her little whirling dervish of a brother. The petite apples were neither her taste nor his. Plastic was more likely.

As she passed me, she looked up and opened the skirt revealing a litter of miniature doe-eyed, bobble-headed dolls.

As her brother overtook her with his own Franenstein-esque grace of toddlerhood she dipped into her stash and pulled out the green lizard, handing it to him with a playful giggle.

He pitched it over his shoulder and staggered forward some more.

Turns out it was the shoes and not the toys that had him following in close pursuit, flailing his arms and yelling out "Dug be doh! Doh! DOH!" in fierce protest.

Remember this moment, I tell myself. It won't be long until nothing about you is epic in their eyes, not even your shoes.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Real men (and women) wear babies

papa sling - crop, originally uploaded by toyfoto.

That's what the folks behind Babywearing International think anyway.

They've even devised an entire week each year during which people around the globe celebrate the wonders of this very literal component of attachment parenting.

Some local folks have also planned a bunch of babywearing events, including a demonstration of their slings and things at the Troy Waterfront Farmers' Market this Saturday from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.

I can tell you, demostrations are good. As in "GUD." I kinda struggled through it alone at first, but I'm glad I did.

I tell you, without my tiny little arsenal of slings (which we still use) I'd have been waving a white flag long ago.

True story.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Where did Mr. Potato Head's nose go?

potato head, originally uploaded by toyfoto.


Saturday, November 08, 2008

you probably can't pronounce my REAL name, anyway.

There are SO many things I should be doing right now. There's gunk that needs to be scrubbed off of the stove top (thanks to Jed). Laundry in the washer needs to be transferred to the dryer (the towels smell moldy no matter what I do). I've got Christmas cards to fix finish (don't even go there).

So what am I doing?

A meme.

Cause it's all about me me me me me me me, right?

Thanks, Binky. I needed the distraction from this horrible movie Jed's watching, anyway.

Without further ado, I'm playing the name game:

1. ROCK STAR NAME (first pet, current car): Sheba Civic

2. GANGSTA NAME (fave ice cream flavor, favorite type of shoe): Pistachio Clog

3. NATIVE AMERICAN NAME (favorite color, favorite animal): Green Dog

4 SUPERHERO NAME (2nd favorite color, favorite drink): Blue Margarita

5. NASCAR NAME (the first names of your grandfathers): David Emmett

6. STRIPPER NAME (the name of your favorite perfume/cologne/scent, favorite candy): Dryer Sheets Licorice

7. TV WEATHER ANCHOR NAME (your fifth grade teacher’s last name, a major city that starts with the same letter): Jordan Juno

8. SPY NAME (your favorite season/holiday, flower): Autumn Dahlia

9. CARTOON NAME (favorite fruit, article of clothing you’re wearing right now): Grapes Smartsocks

10. HIPPIE NAME (What you ate for breakfast, your favorite tree): Coffee Crabapple

You know you want to do it ... I'm not naming names.

Friday, November 07, 2008

A message to Obama

You lead. I'll follow., originally uploaded by toyfoto.

You lead, I'll follow.

My daughter didn't like your name. She wanted me to vote for her babysitter.

I told her not liking a person's name was not an acceptable reason to dislike them. I told her I was voting for you because I believed the world would be a better place - for her and her brother, and their children - with you at the helm now.

Like the four-year-old that she is ... she ignored me.

"We'll I'm voting for my babysitter."

But her eyes filled up with happy tears when I told her you'd won.

She's willing to believe. She's four and she can see reason.

She's also now in love with your name ...

"Barack, Barack, Bo Bock.
Banana Fana Fo Fock,
Me My Mo Mock

Just wanted to let you know, we believe.

Have you got a message for our president-elect? Why not drop it here? Or better still, share your vision for change at the office of the president-elect.

Thursday, November 06, 2008

Random question Thursday

pressies, originally uploaded by toyfoto.

What was the best gift you ever received?

I have two:

I had wanted a pocket knife when I was seven years old, but since I'd borrowed his pen knife and cut a large gash through the center of my thumb that same year, my dad thought it would be best to wait.

When I graduated from high school he presented me with a Swiss Army Knife -- The Waiter -- and a note:

"I think you're old enough now. "

A few summers later, I lost the knife as I was walking along a beach in Maine. I was a little upset until I realized it really wasn't the object itself that held the meaning. It was the memory. I'd always know where it was, even if I couldn't find it.

It was amazing to me that the place I lost the knife -- a place I'd never been before -- would be a place I'd revisit each year by coincidence of marriage.

The other gift that has a permanent place in my heart was a song written for me when I was 20 by a good friend (for whom I carried the teensiest bit of a crush). He recorded it on a tape cassette, which I still have in my possession.

I haven't seen this friend in years, nor have I heard the song since the day he sung it to me in his livingroom, but every time I come across the tape, the memory comes back. And I smile.