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.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Keeping our distance?

My mind is spinning. It won't settle long enough to gather its thoughts.

I have to admit, most of what took place after the polls closed last night I was afraid to hope for. This morning when I woke up I felt lighter and more at peace with the citizens of this land. I even have a greater degree of compassion for those with whom I don't see eye to eye.

Hope. It's a powerful thing.

I suppose that's what drew me to a well-meant post: "So we have a black president. Who cares?"

The author struggled with posting the essay because she didn't want to be misunderstood. She didn't want to be perceived as attacking (or condoning) Barack Obama's fitness for the position. Yet she worried that he was only elected BECAUSE of his race.

I suppose, on the surface, I wish we could all say we don't care about race and mean that there is no ill will or stereotypical conclusions. That character and abilities matters most. And I suppose most people who voted for Obama -- especially those who crossed party lines to mark their ballot -- will say that his character and not his race cinched the deal for them.

I know it was his words that made me pull the lever above his name.

But I can't downplay the significance of his election because of the color of his skin, either, even though it may seem unfair to do so. Is it really so different to vote for a person because of their skin color as it is to vote for them because of their stance on only ONE issue?

Who am I to dissect a person's choice? We all have our reasons.

I'm just a white woman of some degree of priviledge that I really didn't earn.

And so many people with very different experiences than mine are seeing their dreams become reality.

We must remember that voting rights in this country weren't really fully realized for people of color -- some may say they still aren't -- until the Civil Rights Act of 1964 when Jim Crow laws (separate but equal) were finally abolished.

For many in the older generation -- some who may have themselves been intimidated at the polls or forced to pay a poll tax -- this day was a distant dream they never thought would come.

I for one would love to see the day when racism is behind us as a nation.

It's not today. But because of yesterday, I have hope it could be tomorrow.

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Whatever your persuasion

GO, VOTE!, originally uploaded by toyfoto.

Monday, November 03, 2008

I don't think your insurance will cover this ...

tough case, originally uploaded by toyfoto.

"I know what the problem is.

"It's his heart.

"It's very bad.

"His heart is round not heartshaped.

"I don't think I can help him ...