Tuesday, June 30, 2009

A different perspective

I recently had cause to use an old flash card, and later as I was downloading pictures I found a few of the kids that I'd never processed from just about a year ago.

There was one of Silas, at home, looking none-too-happy on a vintage tractor that once belonged to me (or probably more accurately my older sister) and now takes up a parking place at our house.

And there were a few in Vermont at a place we stopped for brunch before making our way to my aunt's house. Annabel was wearing her dance leotard and ladybug boots. She wanted a fruit plate with cottage cheese.

I snapped a picture as the waitress poured me a coffee.

Strange these little snapshots from the past.

I wonder how they were overlooked in the first place; then I wonder about all the moments that weren't overlooked.

And it brings me here, to this place, where I've dumped words and pictures for years thinking I was amassing some important archive of our lives.

But I end up thinking: "How much of this SHOULD be overlooked?"

I never really had my finger on the pulse of anything that's drawn readers ... what makes me think my own kids will one day find any of this interesting?

I don't know. Maybe I'm just tired and anxious about the move.

Writing such trivial points as the world goes to hell in a handbasket ... Iraq, Iran, Pakistan ... putting a green film over my icon on twitter seems hardly a solution.

Perhaps writing every day, while a good excercise in persistence, hasn't been good for my perspective.

I feel alone.

In a vast universe.

I know I'm probably not quitting this monster I've made any more than I'd walk away from my flesh and blood children. But I'm in need of a new point of view. I need some perspective. Because for as much as I was present when these pictures were taken, I'm beginning to understand that I was absent a reason to make them.

Monday, June 29, 2009

How all men learn to cook

how men learn to cook, originally uploaded by toyfoto.

Friday, June 26, 2009

Just do it ...


Hug your sister ... or your brother ... or your kids today.

Don't ask me why ... just do it, please.

For the universe.


And now ...


The Hedgehog Welfare Society is hosting the Eastern States Hedgehog Show this weekend in Schoharie, NY. The three-day affair will kick off this evening at the Holiday Inn Express hotel.
Think that’s weird? Well just get a load of the events:
* An International Hedgehog Association-sanctioned confirmation show; where hedgehogs of all ilk will be showing off their splendid and spiky forms.
* Also the little thorny creatures will strut their stuff (for stuff and prizes) as part of the Schoharie Skirmish and Costume Ball.
*Not to mention pet and people meditation.
But owning one of these exotic pets is no laughing matter.
Dr. Nigel Reeve, an ecologist for the Royal Parks in London is the guest speaker and a foremost authority on all species of the old-world mammal is the guest speaker.
Dr. Richard DeMatos, from Cornell Veterinary School, who will give a lecture on hedgehog health and disease.
The weekend itinerary also includes opportunities for owners to network, health checks, hedgehog rescue information and more. All are invited to attend.
Visit the Hedgehog Show for more information.

The Rensselaer County 4-H program is hosting a 4-H Shooting Sports session at the Castleton Fish and Game Club on Saturday from 9 .m. to noon.
Youth must be registered with a designated adult. This program is open to youth ages 9 to 19, and youth must be registered and accompanied by an adult. Air rifle will be the discipline of the workshop focusing on overall safety in addition to skill building for accuracy and competency. The cost is $35 per youth/adult registration payable at the session. For additional information, please call 272-4210.

The town of North Greenbush and the Adirondack Woodsmen, assisted by the Bayly Mountain Fish and Game Club, will host a free fishing clinic for children ages 6 to 12 on Saturday from 9 a.m. to noon at the Town Beach at Snyder’s Lake. Class size is limited to 25 children. Parents are encouraged to help children fish. For more information, call Stan at 283-2790 or the Youth Department at 283-2795.


Grafton Lakes State Park is offering its fishing clinic for kids, Go Fish!, with DEC Fisheries educators from 1 to 3 p.m. at Long Pond (Group will meet at the boathouse). Children will learn how to fish, and are almost guaranteed a catch in the fruitful waters of the pond. Poles provided by DEC. This event is part of Free Fishing Weekend, so no license is required for parents fishing with their children. Call 279-1155 for more information.

The Dyken Pond Environmental Education Center will hold its “Introduction to Fishing” workshop, also coinciding with New York’s Free Fishing Days at on Sunday from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Pre-registration is not required, but appreciated. Call 658-2055.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Calling it as we see it ...

love poem ... in my estimation, anyway

I was all ready to pick up and hurl the first stone Atlantic Monthly essayist Sandra Tsing Loh metaphorically suggested in her painfully personal work “Let’s Call The Whole Thing Off” in the July/August edition of the journal, wherein she bluntly and unabashedly revealed her part in the failure of her 20-year marriage, and as a result questions whether the institution has outlived its usefulness in modern society.

Her question: When modern convenience and modern technology has not only freed us from the drudgery of work but also the statistical likelihood of an early demise, would it not seem logical that the idea of making a life-long commitment to another human being would also be rendered obsolete?

Recounting her own mid-life crisis and those of her female acquaintances she wonders why anyone would not only commit themselves to something that has a statistical rate of failure of about 50 percent, but also defend such an institution with such a defective track record so vehemently.

Perhaps, it's just habit; a foolish consistency of little minds. Or perhaps it's something else.

I found the piece, oddly enough, when I noticed my Web site’s hit counter leading hapless readers to my site and an identically titled essay critiquing another piece Tsing Loh wrote for the Atlantic a few years ago on the so-called Mommy Wars.

As I read her latest treatise, my heart was telling me that she is a woman who is going through one of the more painful, demoralizing, defeating moments in life; a moment that – while perhaps a construct of some antiquated system of social support – is no less tragic for a family’s individual members.

But my mind was agreeing with her.

In as much as I am one of the 90 percent of Americans who willingly went into a marriage knowing the rate of failure; knowing that there would be times when the “work” involved could eventually outweigh the value of the relationship; I also believe that if I had made such a decision in my 20s … even in my late 20s … I might not be married now.

Should we live with such mistakes for the sake of the children?

Tsing Loh makes an interesting, and seemingly logical point in her article that while statistics continually indicate two-parent homes are best for children, single-parent homes are not far behind. The problems, as she quotes the experts, comes when parents continually bring new paramours into the mix, wherein children are forced to bond or compete.

It makes me realize that where she’s standing isn't such a strange place to be. There’s no one way to live a life, even though there are socially accepted norms.

It seems to me we are naturally moving toward new understanding of these obstacles, too.

Even in a generation, it seems, we’ve slowed the process immensely.

By my calculation, Tsing Loh would have been about 27 when she married the man she’s now divorcing 20 years later. In some eras 27 would foretell spinsterhood. But today, a woman in her 20s is expected to see the world, and make her mark before she settles down. Ask Rebecca Woolf, writer and essayist, who found herself unexpectedly pregnant at 23, marrying her boyfriend and trying to work family life around her rock ‘n’ roll lifestyle.

Woolf has parlayed her journey into a memoir and a popular blog site despite worries that motherhood would more than likely derail her potential for career success.

And yet, only a generation ago, Woolf’s age wouldn’t have been an issue at all in the framing of family life. Many women had careers and marriage by the time they were out of college; 22, 23, 24 years old.

Now the 24-year-old mother is a unique and suspect being.

Still, I can’t see myself objecting to my children living with their love interests before marriage; in fact, I can more likely see the drawbacks of a more traditional scheme from my own narrative. Had I married the first (or second) person I lived with there’s no doubt in my mind I’d be in my third marriage as I sit here typing.

Yet, in as much as I agree with her theory, I am not ready to give up on marriage.

I’m not ready to file away the 50 percent rate of divorce under the heading of “failure,” any more than I would give up the experience I got from living with the two men I didn’t marry.

Perhaps, in time, Tsing Loh will realize that throwing marriage out with divorce is like throwing the baby out with the bathwater.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

The littlest Superhero ...

At least that's what the diagnosis was during his well-baby checkup yesterday.

At 21 pounds, 3 ounces (less than 5th percentile); 32 1/2 inches tall (10th percentile) and a melon measuring 48 1/2 cm (at least his ego is average) ... we've decided his diagnosis must be ...


Able to squirm out of weighty situations and given the OK to eat a diet rich in fat if he so chooses!

Rawrrr. ...

tiger, originally uploaded by toyfoto.

The Vidbel Circus.

There are two more shows left ...


5:45 and 7:45 p.m.

It's fun and it's for a good cause.

The Valatie Fire Department.

Monday, June 22, 2009

She wasn't nervous in the least ...

house lights, originally uploaded by toyfoto.

nor did she "break a leg."

but I broke my toe ...

Wondering if that counts?

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Go on, get Uppity ...

When the folks at Uppity Shirts sent me four free shirts ...

They probably had NO idea that Ittybit would have NOTHING to do with a black t-shirt that said "wickid."

But ooooo ... that pink one ... she'd wear that .... it's her color:

What's that you ask wrinkled-nose lady selling over-priced fruit skewers at the farmer's market? What does the boy's shirt say?

Yes ... I'm sure he WILL appreciate me taking his picture wearing it in a few years.

I just felt sorry for Jed ...

The shirt the folks at Uppity sent for him gave him the blues ...

He was hoping for some edgy alternadoo-dad. ... I suppose he should have read the instructions.


Friday, June 19, 2009

Sure ... Father's Day is coming, but after that we're joining the circus ...

Sometimes being the mother of a toddler can make a person feel like a circus performer. You’re always juggling, chasing after or taming someone or something.

But for aerialist Susan Vidbel, who grew up under the Big Top, the circus is where she relaxes. It’s her time to fly.

"When I’m in the ring it’s my vacation."

She credits her grandparents, Al and Joyce Vidbel, two Ringling Brothers’ veterans who started the Vidbel Old Tyme Circus in 1984, for the circus blood running through her veins.

Her grandparents met in 1927 when they both worked at The Greatest Show on Earth: he performed with the elephants and she worked with horses. They were married under the bright lights of the center ring with a full audience of spectators as their guests. And for the next 60 years they lived and raised their family in the circus – first Ringling Brothers’ and later their own: a two-pole tent that went up and down nightly, moving from town to town with their acts … elephants, horses, dogs, aerialists and clowns.

“It’s was one of about a dozen traveling circus left in the country when it closed seven years ago,” says Susan Vidbel, who decided to resurrect the show in 2008 after her grandfather suffered a stroke.

“It’s really what he wanted; to see the show up and running again. He got to see the show go back on the road before he died. I think he was holding out as long as he did to see it.”

Although the elephants are gone, the Vidbel Circus has most of the same acts it did in during its nearly 30-year history as well as new excitements such as a Russian Cube act and other feats of athleticism. Her own little girl has also gotten into the tumbling act.

“There are so many moments that make (this life) so worthwhile,” says Vidbel, who’s done her share of average jobs during the off season. “There is no other place I’ve ever worked that has fostered relationships in such a way. In this business you just become one family.”

Vidbel says the physical work necessary just to get the circus moved, erected and ready for showtime is intense. As the recession took hold this year, they found their ranks shrink as their ability to make payroll diminished. Performers on the road pitch work tirelessly in thankless jobs and then change their clothes and take their place under the spotlight.

“It’s really so inspirational. Some dates we’ve gone without sponsors and everyone helps out. Everyone pulls together. Sometimes there hasn’t been money to pay people and still they do it. … Most of the people we’ve worked with grew up with it or they worked with my grandparents. They just become part of an extended family and it keeps us all pushing.”

Sponsorship, however, is the life blood of a traveling circus and it is on the decline. The hosts – often organizations looking to raise money – book the show and do all the work to get it up and running, everything from acquiring permits to selling tickets and promotion. After the Valatie show, the circus has no other dates on the slate and Vidbel says they are headed back to New Jersey with optimism business will pick up.

“We try to keep it reasonable,” Vidbel says of the $10 ticket price. “Everyone should get a chance to see an Olde Tyme Circus, especially now that things are so expensive. If you have two or three kids you just can’t afford a major circus’ ticket prices. … We want a tent full of people enjoying the show; we just want to survive and get down the road.”

Vidbel's Olde Tyme Circus, sponsored by the Valatie Fire Department, will be at Callan Park in Valatie June 22 and 23 with shows at 5:45 and 7:45 p.m. each night. Tickets are $10 at the door.


Of course, while mom is juggling the kids, the carpool and a circus ... you shouldn't overlook dad, who is probably outside beating the lawnmower to death with a four iron. My guess is the poor old guy doesn't even remember Father's Day is on Sunday since he's so enraged with the single-stroke engine piece of #4!@ he's been pushing around the yard since he inherited it from his dad on the day of your birth. Dear old gramps is, no doubt, laughing his fool head off as he tools around on his electric ride-on replacement.

So why not do something special for your unsung hero of yard maintenance this weekend?

Go green and serene ...

SunDog Solar is hosting its first Summer Solstice Family Picnic & Energy Fair on Saturday from noon to 4 p.m., at Crellin Park, Route 66 in Chatham. This is a BYOP (bring your own picnic) event in which locals can meet their neighbors and everyone can learn about renewable energy. Other events include live music by local and international musicians,and presentations by organizations devoted to sustainable, green and artistic living. The event is rain or shine and admission is free. In lieu of admission attendees are asked to bring a non-perishable food donation (or cash donation) for the Regional Food Bank. For more information, call 392-4000 or visit sundogsolar.net

Pass the beer and brats ...

Treat dad to a Father's Day Picnic at the German-American Club of Albany Sunday.
The event takes place Sunday at the Schuetzenpark Biergarten on the grounds of the German-American Club of Albany, 32 Cherry St. Schuetzenpark is the only outdoor Biergarten remaining in Albany. Live music from the Schwarzennegger Connection will be featured. The park opens at 1 p.m. and the event runs until 7 p.m. Entry is $3 per adult, children under 12 are free. German food and drink are available for purchase as well as domestic food and drink. Children's activities include a parade. In the event of rain, the event will be moved indoors in our large banquet hall and barroom. Call 265-6102 for more information.

Or if you're dad's crust is more upwardly mobile ...

Why not haul dad on up to Lake George village on Sunday and drop by the Adirondack Winery and Tasting Room, 285 Canada St., Lake George (across from Shepard Park). The tasting is free and a limited edition father's day wines will be available. Dads unaccompanied by their spawn need only a photo to get in free. And remember spitting is acceptable at wine tastings. For more information, visit adirondackwinery.com


Not Your Father's movie (unless he was around 21 in 1969)

"Taking Woodstock," the Ang Lee film shot in part in our own backyard, is rumored to be having its world premier in Chatham's historic Crandell Theater. Of course the REAL opening is set for August in NYC, but upstaters might be able to see it first if they keep refreshing this link obsessively.

A comedy, Taking Woodstock, was inspired by the true story of Elliot Tiber and his family, who inadvertently played a pivotal role in making the famed Woodstock Music and Arts Festival into the happening that it was.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Random Request Thursday

As I was flitting around on Twitter diligently researching potential topics for discussion on Random Question Thursday ... yeah ... I know ... reasearching randomness is a blatant contradiction right?

Neveryoumindthat ... where was I?

Oh yes, I was looking for ideas when a new virtual friend, Velveteenmind, Tweeted a request for lullabys. It struck a chord with me immediately since I was still soothing a sore throat from bedtime the night before wherein I had indulged Ittybit's requests for several encores of her favorite go-to-sleep song.

As I was searching the Interwebs for links to the song lyrics to send Velveteenmind's way, nothing I found seemed to be exactly like the song I sang to Ittybit. The best I could do were lyrics from a somewhat contemporary band, The Cure.

Now she was able to find a download link that song, which she most graciously shared with me, but as I was listening to The Cure sing this old folk song, it occured to me real part I found lacking was a mother's voice.

Don't they always tell us how our children are soothed by our voices no matter how off key or warbly? How we mothers convey the songs to our children is something we each have the ability to preserve and share.

For me, Life's Rich Soundtrack starts with the songs my mothers sang to me and meanders along, returning to a place of origin in how I sing to my daughter, perhaps it will move her one day as she sings to her own children. ...

So, I offer you my humble, unprofessional voice, singing our favorite lullaby in hopes you will share yours.

**I'm thinking about asking my mother to sing The Ninth Prisoner, a Spanish folk song she use to sing to me at night. I'd be honored if you shared your songs by linking here.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Pho-shizzz (part deux) ... or pho-NO-shizz

Photographs courtesy of Papa ... who also got the pleasure of escorting the young dancer to her dress rehearsal, helping her get outfitted and even troubleshooting why her costume skirt was bunching so strangely (she had managed to get both legs through one opening of the leotard) before the sweet little troupe took center stage.


papa took her to the rehearsal

You can TOTALLY tell me now: "I told you so." Because Friday, after the big event, I'll probably have to eat my words.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009



I really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, REALLY hate the end-of-year dance class extravagance.

$400 worth of despise:

Starting with $37 a month, including months containing two or fewer classes.

A $50 recital costume.

Having to pay $65 for four tickets to attend the recital (because it was booked at a professional performance space).

A mandate that five-year-olds to wear make-up ... "the lights will wash them out."

Dinner-time performance scheduled for preschoolers.

Not to mention that every minute of every class since February being entirely focused on "getting it right for recital,"

Which often forced the cajoling my wee one to actually participate after she lost interest.

AND THEN THE INSULT TO THE INJURY .... $18 + $7 shipping and handling for one 5x7 PROFESSIONAL PORTRAIT(TM) of the class (not to mention being told by a puckered-face woman that the pictures are copyrighted so I can't snap the action, too, even after I paid their highway robbery, no-customer-service, prices.) I hate the business model that demands parents herd their kids into a room and pay gobs of money for pictures, sight unseen, to arrive in six to eight weeks.

But the real end of my rope came as I was running around like crazy person trying (and failing) to find nude-colored tights, a mandate for the dancewear that was not included WITH the $50 dancewear.

I practically broke down in tears when the husband, trying to be helpful, asked if I'd gone to WAL-MART. "I do NOT spend money at WAL-MART ... I'm NOT breaking THAT principal, too."

"OK ... Ok ...." came his soothing voice over the phone, evidence I'd gone too far; lost my moorings. I'd haplessly fallen over the edge of reason over sheer hose.

Much ado about nothing. Much ado over something that should just be fun. Something that no matter how it is presented, encourages the arts.

It wasn't the tights but my overall failure that I was lamenting.

My failure to find a class that met my desires for less consumerism. My failure to stand up and assert those values anyway. My insistence she continue when her interest waned. All the while feeling the emphasis was on the wrong place - the recital not the art.

My failure continues as I recognize that the trappings at the conclusion were the ONLY part my daughter had any interest in after all these months: Having her picture taken in the dress and the chance at being on a real stage was poking me in the chest with my inability to NOT buck trends.

Still reading?

Sorry. I have no excuse.

I knew it would be this way. I knew as they scheduled the circus, I was going to be playing an angry clown.

I'm just utterly stunned and shocked by my own rage and stubbornness when it finally came to pass.

Can't just keep my mouth shut and smile. I know when the lights go down and the girls start their performances I will be just as proud as a parent can be.

And then a friend told me something that made it all fit together.

"Let your principles be a guide, not a shackle."

So easy to forget that, isn't it?

When we enslave our "principles" we really run the risk of becoming unprincipled.

I had said that I didn't want THIS to be our experience. And it won't be if I don't let my priciples petrify. If I don't shut down and fold my arms to other possibilites.

... I just hope it's the dance that will be the reason she'll want to continue in six to eight weeks (if she chooses to continue) ... not just to see her picture on the wall.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Weird and wonderful

tickle torture

There's really nothing better than a gentle game of "Tickle Torture" as you're on your way to buy new shooooze!

Well, unless you count this ...


But I don't know what you'd call that.

I'll call the shooooze, however, a success. He picked 'em; he'll put them on; he won't try to pry them off; and he lovingly refers to them as his "(fire)EN-GEN CHUCKS."

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Color me happy, it's finally Friday

like father like daugther

Of course I may just be heading back into town for the Red, White and Blue this weekend. ...

Old Glory on Broadway Block Party gets underway Saturday from 1 to 7 p.m. on Broadway, between Fourth Street and Fifth Avenue in Troy. Featuring a hot dog eating contest sponsored by Hembold’s, live local music, children’s activities, vendors, and food and beverage, it seems like a fitting precurser to Troy's most enduring event, The Troy Flag Day Parade -- the largest parade of its kind in the nation to honor the American flag -- which steps of at 1 p.m. on Sunday. The Flag Day Parade is a two mile route that runs along Fourth Street beginning in South Troy at Fourth & Main streets and ending at Fourth & Federal streets.

Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art, 125 West Bay Road, Amherst, Mass. is hosting a Birthday Bash and Book Festival on Saturday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. The event celebrating the Western Mass Illustrators' Guild includes special art show, sale, and auction with many local artists. Enjoy special storytimes, book signings, face painting, card-making for Eric Carle, free birthday cake. (413) 658-1100. Free with museum admission: $7, adults; $5 youth seniors, students and teachers; $20 for families of four. carlemuseum.org

Rhythm on the Ridge, Maple Ski Ridge, 2725 Mariaville Road, Rotterdam is the place to be for the music minded. The day-long summer music festival, with food, crafters, children’s activities, music workshops gets underway on Saturday 10 a.m. and continues until 6 p.m. The tickets are reasonable, $10, $8 if canned goods are donated, and children under 12 scoot in free. 381-4700 or mapleskiridge.com

Omi International Arts Center, Fields Sculpture Park, 59 Letter S Road, Ghent is hosting its 2009 Summer Annual Exhibition opening on Saturday. If you like contemporary art, this is a good event for kids as well. There are acres to roam, art workshops for kids and you get to stretch your legs. You will take 'em home inspired and tired for sure. Free. artomi.org.

Random Question Thursday

sticks and stones, originally uploaded by toyfoto.

Where do you dwell?

And by dwell I mean where do you linger or ponder a particular thought ... until it eats your brain?

When I'm at my worst I dwell on what I think people think of me.

When I'm at my best I dwell on what I think of us.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Bucking trends

It's been a while since I've taken up a call from the mavens of the interwebs, the virtual community of which I've found myself at times adoring and feeling oddly estranged, but her bad mother's recent manifesto -- followed by some other posts about what we feed our kids ... how we introduce them to the world ... or how others perceive us as we traverse the sometimes tragic path parenthood leads us down -- has my head spinning.

I can't help but think that while I agree with most of what has been articulated, any lable we put on it will subtly miss its mark, or worse; set up an entirely new layer of ways to compare ourselves to each other, when maybe we should be trying NOT to compare.

We can call ourselves Bad parents with the smugness of knowing we aren't; and as such try and snatch the word back from the media that we think has sold us some bill of goods we didn't need. A collection of To Do Lists that suggests the only way we will be Good parents is to follow their reporting on their Attachment Parenting protagonists hell-bent on turning the universe of parentbots into breast-feeding, baby-wearing hovercrafts who never even wrapped their babies butts in cloth diapers because the water to wash them is wasteful. Instead they dangled their little dewdrops over the composting toilet.

Meanwhile, we sit rapt and judgemental while the station break allows us to drool over the latest eco-friendly brain-food toys waiting for the gleaming white-toothed and visibly pregnant broadcaster to return and tease the next story about the hip parents in our neighborhoods currently enrolling their infants in Mandarin lessons at the Montessori school where they also practice violin and tai-chi.

Of course, we could switch the channel and hear from the Ferberists who would like to reintroduce the scientific proof that formula is nutritionally superior to breast milk, and that mothers who leave the home really don't love their children, or perhaps if they don't leave the home they are traders to their gender. They might be pushing the agenda that we should all be enrolling our kids in public school, lest we unwittingly flush society down the crapper.

Then there's the conundrum of fear. Should we be letting our kids have more freedom or less? Is junior too fat? Are they spending too much time in front of the television. Is school too demanding? Not demanding enough? Are they usurping our authority?

Good parents will know, infallably, what to do. They will be the deciders. Of course the BAD parents we're talking about were never REALLY bad, they were just judged.

The gyst is that in realizing the impossibility of adhering to all these influences we must accept that there are just too many books to live by and what seems intolerable to me isn't tolerated by you. So we should do our best, what speaks to us, and accept our collection of quirks under the moniker of "bad," put it on our chest and wear it proudly.

Bad is the new good.

... but I just can't get behind that either.

It's just another slogan. Another option to confound us.

Mothers have been the scapegoats since Eve. Freud cemented the notion in modern psychology, and every damn Disney film of mass appeal has done away with us to acheive a better arc. We pit ourselves against one another, we wallow in our own insecurities and then we blame media for making us feel demoralized and disappointed when our expectations of ourselves are not met. Then we chastise each other for giving us a "smack down."

And with so much time to fill, the media can hit every damn one of us (if we let them) just because it has to fill air time. And let's not forget the market, because they pretty something up and sell it to your friends and all of a sudden you HAVE to have it. But even if we fall for all of this hook, line and sinker we have to admit, if we're going to be honest, it's not their fault. It's ours.

We all are horrible. We are all amazing. We are all human and we always have been.

And no matter what we do, whether we accept any particular mantle - bad or good - our children will all blame us for each decision we made, no matter what it was. Sometimes they will be justified. My hope is that if we truly were good parents, our kids will forgive us when they've matured enough to realize it.

Like my mother before me, I am a human being doing the best I can at any given moment of the day. Some days I fare better than others.

So. ...



*shugs shoulders*

I don't even know what that means in the wide world of parenting these days.

My guess is I shouldn't judge.

But not judging doesn't mean I can't disagree.

Or does it?

Tuesday, June 09, 2009

Death be not proud

When we were cleaning the gutters last fall preparing windows for the winter, Jed made a gruesome discovery.

A nest near the bathroom window had been abandoned with three birds still inside. Their skeletal remains sad proof that their mother had not returned to care for them.

But it was proof of nothing more.

It didn't prove they were ill.

Or that she was.

It didn't prove she cared more for her survival than theirs.

I could only guess as to what happened. Maybe she came to some sudden harm; a windshield of a car, the trap of a wiley cat, a predator bird. Or perhaps it was just her choice of a nesting place - next to our growler - that was enough to set her on the edge of wits. (I know it does me, sometimes).

Jed called me into the bathroom quietly, asking me to take the now mummified remains out and dispose of them so he could continue to work. The kids were sleeping so I didn't have to hide my somber task or perform it quickly.

I took a picture.

Later, I posted it to flickr under "friends and family" not wanting to incur the ire of strangers, but wanting to share this life event; death.

I'm not sure why I thought of it today after the New York Times posted an article about Dr. Tiller's family closing the women's health care clinic he was brutally shot down for operating.

Other than it was something I had wanted to supress.

Just as there will be people coming out of the woodwork to forecast the ramifications of closing of Dr. Tiller's clinic -- there will be people who lament the future of women's health care; there will be people who see it as no more than a black eye for their mission to end medical abortion -- there will be people like me who don't know what to think.

People who are sad that it had to come to this.

We don't speak of death when it comes unannounced. We often don't speak of things that make us frightened. We hide behind words like life and choice as if we can have either whenever we want them. We don't speak when we are afraid of repercussions.

I know I don't.

I'm just one person.

One person who has wrestled with her own understanding.

Her own fears.

Her own disbelief at what she is seeing.

From both sides of the debate.

I am only one person with one small voice.

One person who is asking you to please find reason in her words.

And find reason in your own, too.

We shouldn't be afraid of the truth.

But we should remember that the only truth we really have access to is our own.

And sometimes our truth is based on a lie. Or a fear. Or misperception.

Monday, June 08, 2009

He's as happy ...

TRACTOR!, originally uploaded by toyfoto.

as a pig in poop.

Or a middle-aged man with a mid-life crisis mobile.

Oh yes. Oh yes.

I'm so glad the thing's battery wasn't charged.

Otherwise he might have just driven away ...

rather than have to take turns.

Friday, June 05, 2009

Onwords and Upwords



Ittybit graduated from The Marilla Cuthbert Academy of Unspeakably Charming Children today. I was a little choked up. And though I tend to write in a sappy way about watching her grow, I'm not a touchy-feely sort of person on the exterior. I am a cold as ice ... well ... yeah. You know.

Let's just say sarcasm and I go way back.

It was a little unusual for me, when I walked into work late today, nearly shedding saline out of the corners of my eyes, to announce that the tiny ceremony I had just attended was more fun that I could put into words. Me. Rendered speechless by a tiny, Bristol board cap with a curled-ribbon tassle.

So ... in lieu of words here are pictures.


Words will never hurt us. ...

There are lots of folks who disagree with the idea that only words used as decorative objects, forged in metal or cast in plaster, that fall from atop some monumental shelf onto our thumb twiddling noggins can do us bodily harm.

And truth be told, I’m one of those folks who believes that while it behooves us to use our words wisely as well as compassionately -- that what we say and how we say it can shape our understanding and our actions, as well as our relationships with other humans -– we have to choose our battles and perhaps do a lot of forgiving.

For instance:

I don’t believe retarded should be stricken from the lexicon. I just think we need to tweak its meaning. As a start to that end, I would suggest its dictionary entry be illustrated by a photograph of Rush Limbaugh.

Furthermore, and this is where Rush might actually agree with me, I don’t think prejudging something is always a bad thing. We are human. We come to all situations with an assumption. The prejudice isn’t really the problem as much as the insistence that the assumption is correct without further exploration. We need to do more leg work on our thoughts.

And curse words … well … the only reason I oppose curse words in any way whatsoever is the simple cause and effect that the more you use them the less punch your paragraph packs. They may be harmless, they may even be fun to spit out in mixed company, they just aren’t effective if you want people to pay attention to what you have to say.

But there is one word, if I possessed such a power, that I would erase completely from the pages of Webster: boredom.

“I’m sooo bored,” to me, has always seemed a whiney complaint, that is such a waste of angst.

When I hear it uttered the hairs on my neck stand on end.

How is boredom possible if you can read? If you can draw? If you can think or plan? How is it possible with the hundreds of must-have toys, the internets, the telephone, the myriad of amusements you can invent with your mind?

Rhetorical questions, perhaps, as I have friends who disagree with me.

They don’t see boredom the same way I do. They see it as a good thing; a way to teach their kids that they don’t always have to be amused. That doing nothing is OK, too.

But I don’t define doing nothing as really doing nothing. Roget wouldn’t have paired it with boredom in his thesaurus. We are always doing something if we can think, or curl up with a book, or take a nap.

Allowing boredom to be an acceptable activity, if you ask me, just steals the thunder of quiet thrills.

So … get the word out … Boredom is only your inability to be creative with the options you have available.

Excise boredom with some passive excitement: reading. The Kinderhook Memorial Library and St. Paul’s Episcopal Church are holding a back to back (or spine to spine) book sale this weekend at their adjacent locations, on Hudson and Sylvester streets. On Saturday, The Kinderhook Library's general book and bake sale will run from 9 a.m. until noon with half-price books from noon to 2 p.m. There will be a "Buck a Bag" opportunity on Sunday from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m.
St. Paul's book sale will be held on Saturday, June 6 at the McNary Center on Sylvester Street from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. A "Buck a Bag" opportunity will be held from 2 to 4 p.m.
Of course, you don’t have to buy books to recharge your supply … visit your local library and see what’s new.

Show the kids the value of volunteering. The Sylvia Center at Katchkie Farm in Kinderhook is a non-profit organization that focuses on children’s nutrition, farm education and wellness. It’s hosting a volunteer day Sunday from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. and needs help getting into top shape for the summer season. Pack a picnic, bring a blanket, and enjoy a day spent beautifying a farm. Activities will include: planting seeds at the Sylvia Center flower and vegetable garden, a ½ acre children’s garden; clearing trails; building birdhouses; constructing trellises for bean planting; and planting sunflowers.
Visit www.greatperformances.com/farm/sylviacenter for more information.

The Robert C. Parker School in North Greenbush will have one- and two-week camps for children ages 4 to 14. You can choose from an array of options from adventure, arts, science and athletics. Campers will have access to 77 acres of meadow, woods and creeks. Internships available. Call 286-3449 of visit http://www.rcparker.org/ for more information.

Time & Space Limited in Hudson is offering three interesting summer workshops, including “Soup 2 Nuts,” a theater workshop for kids ages 7 to 13; Hip-Hopera, a workshop for teens; and a circus arts workshop with the Bindlestiff Family Cirkus for kids ages 8 to 18. Call 822-8100 for more information.

Woodland Hills Montessori School also has an exciting lineup for its week and two-week camps for kids ages 3 to 12. The camp lets kids explore science, nature and global awareness through Montessori methods. Visit http://www.woodlandhill.org for more information.

Celebrate River Day on Friday, June 12 at Schodack Island State Park. Heritage Vessels is docking at the Castleton Boat Club at 4 p.m. and ship tours will start upon its arrival. There will be music and food, and a fireworks display at the Port of Coeymans that will be visible from the park. Free.

On June 13, Schodack Island State Park continues its event with Schodack Community Day from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. The day-long event will feature exhibits food and music. Heritage Vessels departs Castleton Boat Club at 11 a.m. and will lead a parade of boat club flagships north. Visit www.schodack.org for a complete list of activities.

Thursday, June 04, 2009

Random Question Thursday

almost perfect, originally uploaded by toyfoto.

What's your favorite snack food?

Popcorn: salt, no butter.

Wednesday, June 03, 2009

Dangerous Books for Boys ...

The March release of "Momma Loves Her Little Son," (Simon and Schuster, $17) the first children's book by John Carter Cash, illustrated by Marc Burckhardt, seemed strategically timed to coincide with Mother's Day. The only son of the legendary Johnny Cash and June Carter Cash, John Carter Cash has spent much of his own career advancing and archiving the legacy of his famous parents, his mother in particular.

In his children's volume, John Carter Cash claims to share the nighttime words she used to to sweep him up over mountains and sky scrapers and imagined adventures before bidding him goodnight.

I have to admit, *disclosure* when Simon and Schuster offered a review copy of this book I wanted to love it.

I have a son who doesn't sit still to read. I have a daughter who has more books about mothers' love than imaginable. The gap between them would need a lengthy bridge to traverse.

But from the moment it arrived the volume turned me off. Figuratively and literally.

To be frank, I found the smell of the ink overpowering.

I wasn't going to mention that I found the odor of the book to be even slightly nauseating. I'm not a printing expert and it could have been some isolated event, or perhaps some fresh-book smell I'm unaccustomed to. The illustrations, which are quite beautiful, are also saturated. So I decided to let it air out for a while before
i'd air such a grievance. Seemed like such a paltry quibble any way. ...

When I finally read it, however, (and yes, the scent was still evident a month later) I had to wonder if the smell wasn't some lingering bile from some unspoken sibling rivalry.

"Momma loves her little son.
There is nothing more so true.
From now until forever more,
Momma clings to you."

Near its end, Carter Cash's book also adds Christian overtones that, while some families may share and welcome them, will not appeal to all audiences.

Overall, the quality of the storytelling is what I find most lacking. The words weren't terribly lyrical, and their flow wasn't particularly satifying. Perhaps that's why all the press material that accompanied the book referred to the words instead of the story almost exclusively. In this respect it seems possible, in reading between the lines anyway, that the words June Carter actually said merely filled out the title and John Carter Cash conjured the story himself.

I suspect the latter because the work also seems awkward in the way personal stories can be. The more I read it, however, the more I realized the work he's created doesn't really speak to me as a special vehicle for mother and son, as much as it seems capable of driving a wedge between brother and sister.

I think I would have left "Momma Loves Her Little Son" on the shelf if it hadn't arrived in the mail.

Alison McGhee and Peter H. Reynolds, creators of the best-selling "Someday," have a much better option in their 2008 book "Little Boy," (Simon and Schuster, $16). (A book I did buy off the shelf).

"Little Boy
So much depends on ...
your yellow cup,
a serenade to wake you up,
sun that slants across the rug,
the wings on that astonishing bug."

This book takes a more carefree, playful tone than "Someday," but its message is no less elegant. Its love is implied in the noticing and the marveling of boyhood play. Imagination is at play here, too, but it is subtle. The other thing I like about this book is that it doesn't classify a mother's love as being separate from the rest of the family ... it's a book anyone can read to a boy ... and the love will be implied.

Even big sisters. (Well, once they learn how to read, anyway.) Love is love.

Tuesday, June 02, 2009

I have two fervent and deeply held beliefs ...

ONE: All babies do Elvis.

and TWO: When you find on a mop style that you LOVE, buy as many replacement heads as you can afford. Contact the company and ask them to send you a few gross if you have the dough. Pay for it with the third-born child you're certain you won't have if you're running short. Because as sure as all babies do Elvis, those feckin' mop designers will discontinue their product within two years, forcing you to buy another mop handle and start again.

Thankyouverymuch, Jerkwads. Another perfectly good mop handle - better, in fact, because it was the only mop I have ever LOVED - bites the dust.

Monday, June 01, 2009

Make no mistake

no oops, originally uploaded by toyfoto.

I've spent the last few months just being angry.

Angry and hurt that there are people I know who don't have much faith in our ability -- MY ability -- to parent.

I'm even angrier when these folks (who will remain nameless) feel the need to point out our parenting prowess when it happens, noting it to anyone who will listen, because they are surprised it exists at all.

I seeth with rage.

Somehow ... telling someone else that we are such good parents with such vim has become an indictment all its own.

Why do I care? My husband asks me this all the time. Why do I care?

It's a rhetorical question.

Rationally I know he's right.

What they THINK really has no basis in any fact. They don't know more than they see in any given snapshot, any given instance. Even in what they read here -- IF they ever read here.

Here is really just a snapshot, too. What I write is not as important perhaps to this equasion of good vs. bad or competant vs. incompetant as what I leave out.

We are all fallible. We all make mistakes. We all hover when we should let go. We all give in when we should stand our ground. We all zig when we should zag.

I know I make mistakes. I'm not June Cleaver.

I'm sure Mrs. Cleaver wouldn't give her kids sno-cones they would spill immediately. Or ice cream so late at night. Good parents would not keep the kids up past the time in which they are cute and amenable. They would not allow such insolence.

Good parents wouldn't let them pick out their own clothes, or go without baths or hair brushing. Good parents would ensure that children are seen and not heard. Good parents wouldn't be angry, or short tempered. They wouldn't say 'see, I told you not to run,' before they kissed a forehead.

Good parents are much more consistent than I am: much more consistent.

Or are they?

I know my parents made mistakes. And their parents made mistakes. And that people thought THEY were bad parents.

Parents throughout history have had to endure the glare of scrunched up faces as their life -- with all its loud, raucous imperfections -- made an assault on someone else's solitude ... or their idea of the way things should be.

But that is history. Not news.

I'm trying to learn from it. Then let it go.