Thursday, April 30, 2009

A Few More Photos

(I did, after all, take 6 AA batteries' worth).

Sights to See

After our presentation today, Bob and I walked to Pier 39 and Fisherman's Wharf.  We left the hotel at around 2:30 and returned around 6:00.  We were on our feet most of the time, and I have blisters the size of Rhode Island.  I've never actually achieved blisters in a pair of Merrells before so that's a lot of walking.  

Among the sights we saw were: Alcatraz; the Bay Bridge; the Golden Gate Bridge; "wild" parrots; some neat art work; trolley cars; a strange circus-dinner theater that looks like Cirque de Soleil meets Zagat; sea lions; palm trees; Pilates classes; a scavenger hunt about Obama's first 100 days in office; Telegraph Hill; and public toilets we saw on the History Channel in a show about the history of personal hygiene.  

We came back to the hotel for just long enough to revive and then headed to Chinatown for dinner at the Oriental Pearl.  We heard a forecast for rain tomorrow so we thought we should get in as much outdoor sightseeing today as possible.  Tomorrow, we may head to the aquarium, the market, and the modern art museum. First, of course I will have to buy band-aids as well as batteries; I burned through 3 sets of AA batteries today and MUST, MUST, MUST buy some lithium batteries tomorrow.  It's almost laughable that we have to stop to buy batteries almost as often as we have to stop for me to use the restroom.  I think (I hope!) that we will sleep well tonight!

Wednesday, April 29, 2009



AT&T Park

Why I live in Amenia, above.

Trans-America Building across the street

Building With Cool Reflections

It's a strange experience waking up in Amenia, New York, and ending the day in San Francisco while Duncan has his bath.  It's also more than a little worrisome to find out on a full airplane that the WHO has raised the status of the swine flu to Level Five, Imminent Pandemic.  I know it's a cautionary measure, but it has me worried.

There's not much to say except that we arrived safely.  If I don't post now, I probably won't get to because we have a cocktail party to attend in about an hour, and my body is ready to sleep now. Enjoy these preliminary photos.  

Hopefully, I'll post again tomorrow after we rock the presentation!  

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

San Francisco, Cali-for-ni-ay

I'm leaving tomorrow for a four-day trip to San Francisco.  My friend Bob and I are giving a presentation about dyslexia at a conference for educational consultants.  Though I am not enthusiastic about public speaking, I do sort of miss doing this kind of thing.  It keeps me sharp, and it's a trip outside my comfort zone.  It's also good to network with other people in my field. This will be a good conference to spread the word about Kildonan because it's not an LD conference; they are so often frequented by schools like Kildonan that it feels like preaching to the choir.  This mission involves educating professionals who are in the business of recommending schools for all kinds of children.  Even if they've never seen a dyslexic kid before (ha, SO unlikely), they're bound to at some point.  Maybe, just maybe, the first school they'll think of will be Kildonan.  

I'm a bit nervous, not just about the presentation, but about the trip itself.  I've only been away to one conference since Duncan was born.  Last September, I went to Baltimore for a workshop of Fellows of the Academy of Orton-Gillingham Practitioners and Educators.  In a very humbling manner, Jamie and Duncan did just fine without me.  This trip, though, is a little longer, a little farther away, and involves more school days.  Parts of the day where Jamie and I tag-team house and Duncan chores will be all Jamie's territory so it will not be an easy time for him. To compound my general anxiety, Duncan came home today cranky and whiny.  I cannot count with my fingers the number of times he cried (including at least 3 all-out tantrums) between 4:45 and 7:30.  That makes leaving even more difficult.  I hope there will be male bonding and hot dog parties (a la The Pigeon Finds a Hotdog).

To be realistic, I will probably have fun too, albeit guilty fun.  Bob and I have a good time traveling together, and I love San Francisco.  There's not really much at the conference that applies to us so we can probably take a whole day to sight-see and seek out sourdough bread and Ghirardelli chocolate (and presents for Duncan and my students).  I know that once I'm in the car, I'll feel a lot better; preparing to leave is always the worst part of a trip.  And so I am off...5:30 will come early, and I should probably start trying to sleep soon.  Hopefully, I'll be able to post from SF so I'll see you from the West Coast!

(I was a little link-happy, wasn't I?)

Monday, April 27, 2009


When I write a book about parenting, it will be called "One Step Forward; Two Steps Back." Duncan decided tonight to take a bath without a bowl, and so he did.  We were all proud and pleased as punch, particularly Duncan.  I though he'd be putting a bowl over the drain in his 30's. Then came bed time.  Duncan has been wearing socks to bed for a few weeks now, and he doesn't care that it has been 85 to 90 degrees.  We tried to get him into bed without socks, and he cried pitifully.  I even suggested having him just put the socks in bed with him, but he wasn't buying that idea.  Even worse than the socks, however, is the comforter.  He REFUSES to go to bed without the comforter pulled up around his chin.  Even when it's 85 degrees.  The poor kid sweats buckets when he sleeps, even if the temperatures are arctic.  We have to sneak in there and slip the comforter off him.  And get the air conditioners in.  And hide the comforter...

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Baby Gymnast Flies Again

These are pictures of Duncan "doing tricks" in Nana and Poppy's yard.  I should tell you that three hours later, when Duncan was begging us to play with him in OUR yard, we tried to encourage him to do some tricks.  He said he couldn't because he might "hurt his head."

For You, Mama

Sometimes, there are no words.

Saturday, April 25, 2009


Here's my Catch-22 du jour:  a kid wearing a diaper who gets up in the middle of the night to pee. On one hand, isn't it fantastic that he woke up to pee?  What a big boy thing to do.  Duncan woke up with a dry diaper!  On the other hand, getting up with a kid who's wearing a diaper feels suspiciously like changing diapers at 2:16 a.m.  And when the peeing is followed by water, some more peeing, and a little whining...Catch-22.  Thanks Joseph Heller for allowing me to put a name to it, in any case.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Square Investment

This week, I found out that we're resurrecting the community garden at school, and I have already reserved a plot. Having already planned out what to put in our garden at home, I'm thrilled to have the luxury to think outside the box. Outside the confines of my two 3X3 boxes, that is. There were things I didn't even dream of growing because I didn't want to spend any of my precious 18 square feet on them; cauliflower, broccoli, brussels sprouts. I have my Burpee catalog in hand and Gardener's Supply Company's garden planner all lined up and ready to go as soon as I find out how much space I have. Remind me of this mid-August if I suddenly have produce coming out of my ears!

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Anxious Mother's Lament

Housatonic Child Care Center participates in an intergenerational program with the local nursing home; twice a month, the preschoolers take a field trip to Noble Horizons, where they play games, do crafts, and have snacks.  It's a great program.  This was the first week that Duncan went to Noble Horizons, and I was forced to confront a new anxiety:  The Field Trip. As always, I recognize that I am overreacting, but the response is still there.  It has been a rare occasion for anyone but Jamie or me to drive Duncan anywhere so the thought of him getting on a bus, even if it's only a 5 minute trip, makes me just a little uncomfortable.  Also, Noble Horizons is uncharted territory for me.  I know my house; I know HCCC; I don't know anything about the people, the place, or the ins-and-outs of the nursing home.  The thought of my child being out in the world supervised by someone I barely know is enough to give me nightmares. How do I know he won't run away or get lost?  This week, I pretended not to have these concerns because I don't want to pass my anxiety on to my son, and that effort almost kept them at bay.  I know it's fine, and I'm not losing sleep over it.  Just don't try to take my child to the big, big, city without me.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

The Earth Gives Back

I got the greatest thank you gift today.  On so many Earth Days past, I felt guilty, as if I really should be doing something about the state of affairs here on the planet.  This year, I didn't really do anything either, but I know I HAVE been making an effort.  Actually, this is what I did for the earth today:

- sent three garbage-free lunches to work/school
- used 1 unbleached disposable diaper
- used no paper towels
- used only one paper napkin (sorry Earth, it was a work lunch meeting)
- used no disposable water bottles
- recycled all my used office paper
- recycled 3 cans,  two jars, and the dish soap bottle
- used a sprayer to wet down Duncan's hair instead of running the faucet
- filled Duncan's tub without letting the water run first
- used 99.9% natural shampoo and conditioner
- shared information about the dryer ball
- thought about a clothes line, even if it's just for the sheets and towels

The beauty is that I had to think to come up with these things.  I know that some of you are doing better than I am, but these things have become such a part of my life that I didn't "think" I had done anything for Earth Day.  

Oh, yeah.  What was my thank you gift?  The Earth gave me these tiny little arugula plants and reminded me that seeds work.  

Earth Day

Happy Earth Day!  

This picture is my new dryer ball.  Theoretically, it bounces around in my laundry and fluffs up the fibers in my clothes so it acts as a fabric softener without fabric softener.  There are a number of them on the market.  When I looked up the ratings, this one, which was $9.99 for two, rated higher than the $25.00 model.  I got mine from, but I've also seen them at and  I used it this weekend, and although I didn't think my towels felt as soft, I felt no noticeable difference in my clothes.  Maybe I can save money on softener sheets, save paper (or whatever softener sheets are made of), and save some chemicals from being released into the environment and onto my skin.  It's only been 5 loads of laundry, but I see no reason to go back.

So, it's Earth Day.  What are you on your computer for?  Go plant something or recycle something or give back in some way to the great, blue marble in the sky that we call home.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009


This will have to be quick.  I've been nursing a stomach bug for the last two or three days, and now I have a migraine that's threatening to explode my head, and staring at the computer is doing it no favors.  I don't know if I ever really believed I could do this for 21 straight days so I'm right pleased with myself.  I'm amazed not just that I could do it but at the kinds of things that happen when you stop to document your life for 3 weeks.  I don't think I'll continue to blog every day, but I do think I'll write more frequently.

I was going to start 21 straight days of exercise tomorrow, but in the interest of making it a manageable project, I think I should hold off until my body's back to normal.  

Instead, I'll celebrate Earth Day.  I have a new environmentally friendly gadget to share with you, I need to plant more peas, and guess what?  I have arugula!  I have tiny, baby arugula sprouts all full of the promise of summer salads! 

Got to lie down in the dark.  Thanks for hanging out with me for 21 days.  I'll be back soon!

Monday, April 20, 2009


One of my former students passed away on February 28; she was 29 when her car was struck by a dump truck that skidded on the ice.  I'm still struggling with this loss.  One of her classmates just found out today about Bess' death, and he remarked about how we forget about how fragile life is and how much we take it for granted.  Sitting at Bess' funeral, I vowed that I would never take my life, or the people in it, for granted, ever again, but reading Pete's message, I realized how easy it is to fall into our old complain about the little things rather than appreciate the wonder of our lives.

I was very lucky.  I had only seen Bess once since she graduated (I think it was 1997), but in October, she felt a yearning to be back in the northeast and made a trip home to Connecticut to see her parents.  She made a day trip to Kildonan and took my friend B.J. and I out for lunch.  It was so lovely to see Bess.  She was not an easy adolescent.  I enjoyed teaching her, but she was really in a lot of pain as she struggled to find her place in the world.  When she first came to Kildonan, her mom had recently passed away, and she was angry and lost; add some dyslexia to the mix, and you have the makings of a tricky teenager.  She learned to trust school again and learned to trust adults.  She graduated, went to college, and decided college wasn't her thing. For a few years, she didn't know what to do with herself, and then she went to Colorado to live with her cousin.

Bess flourished in Colorado.  She learned to snowboard and went to work at Breckinridge Resort as a snowboarding instructor.  When she died, she had just been nominated employee of the month.  In the off season, she worked for the parks and recreation department, mostly planting flowers for the town.  I met some of her Colorado friends and listened to them talk about her; she built a new family out there.  

She told B.J. and I all about her job and her friends and showed us her pictures of the mountains.  She paid for lunch because she wanted to repay us for what we had done for her, but we slipped the money back in her purse when she wasn't looking.  We went back to school so she could talk to a few more people.  I told her to come say good-bye when she left.  About an hour later, I got a call from her "I forgot to say good-bye, so I called to say good-bye."  And that was it.

I was lucky.  I got to meet this new, grown up, happy, peaceful, and settled incarnation of Bess. I was able to go to her funeral to say good-bye and share my memories with her father and step-mother.  Many of her friends were not so lucky.  Pete said "I liked her so much...although in high school I was a jerk to her."  I reassured him that she had only good things to say about him, which was true, but I can imagine it would have been difficult for him to believe it.  So tonight, I hurt for Pete who not only didn't have the chance to meet the Bess I saw in October but who also has to carry the burden of feeling he didn't get the chance to tell her how he really felt.  

Life is fleeting.  Live it.

Sunday, April 19, 2009


I knew when I started a vegetable garden in July last year that it was merely an exercise in the process, and, as documented, we grew little in the way of product.  This year, I'm off to a better start.  I have already planted peas, lettuce, spinach, and arugula.  I'm hoping to plant carrots this week and am due to plant another batch of peas.  I understand that I can plant potatoes soon as well.  

I'm glad to have these things in the ground, but I'm discovering it's extremely difficult to be patient.  I know July vegetables were an exercise in futility, but they sprouted almost overnight and some, like the pumpkins, grew alarmingly fast.  I guess they gave me unrealistic expectations.  I keep slipping outside to check on my boxes, but alas, there are no little sprigs of green.  Something is sprouting, a square foot of volunteers; Jamie thinks they may be radishes, which I had no intention of planting again.  I may have to rip them all out.

Patience is such a commodity right now.  I'm trying to be patient with myself, my son, my husband, my job, my students; I feel that I could snap at any moment. I just don't know that I have any left for the garden.  There's not really any choice, I guess.  There's no way to hurry nature along, and so I wait.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Spring Has Sprung, the Grass Has Riz, I Wonder Where the Garbage Is?

I know that it has been spring for nearly a month now, at least on the technical side, but it seemed like we suffered endless cold, wet, rainy days.  We did enjoy a few nice days, the kind that encourage teenage girls to wear short shorts and make all the students say "I can't work.  It's too nice outside," to which I reply "Then it will be a long haul to June."  Today, we went for the first walk I have taken this spring.  The grass has greened, the forsythia is blooming, and the weeping willows are expectantly green.  The trees on the hills look fuzzy white, as if they're just thinking about budding.  

It would have been a beautiful walk, if it hadn't been for the trash.  You would think a small town, like Amenia, would be sort of Rockwellian, with freshly painted house, families eating in their dining rooms, and tidy lawns.  However, Amenians appear to believe that trash should be flung from their cars onto the side of the road:  beer cans, potato chip bags, coffee cups.  I think one of my next gifts to the environment should be a trip down Perrys Corners Road with a garbage bag (and some latex gloves).  I guess I'll start small, as always, with the beer can in my front yard...

Friday, April 17, 2009

The Poem

How to Read a Poem: Beginner's Manual

by Pamela Spiro Wagner 

First, forget everything you have learned, 

that poetry is difficult, 

that it cannot be appreciated by the likes of you, 

with your high school equivalency diploma, 

your steel-tipped boots, 

or your white-collar misunderstandings. 

Do not assume meanings hidden from you: 

the best poems mean what they say and say it. 

To read poetry requires only courage 

enough to leap from the edge 

and trust. 

Treat a poem like dirt, 

humus rich and heavy from the garden. 

Later it will become the fat tomatoes 

and golden squash piled high upon your kitchen table. 

Poetry demands surrender, 

language saying what is true, 

doing holy things to the ordinary. 

Read just one poem a day. 

Someday a book of poems may open in your hands 

like a daffodil offering its cup 

to the sun. 

When you can name five poets 

without including Bob Dylan, 

when you exceed your quota 

and don't even notice, 

close this manual.

Hot Zone

My friend Courtney has been writing a travel blog, and she decided recently to broaden her scope to include travels that are closer to home, or even more introspective, within herself. She reassures her readers "My title 'Winding Roads and Close Calls' is still relevant because my goal will always be to focus on experiences in my life that cause me to step out of my comfort zone!"

I so loved that idea because I work to step out of mine all the time. I'm an introvert who has some anxiety issues, but I know that life is best lived through experience, so I try to stretch myself from time to time. If I lived totally within my comfort zone, I might never leave the house so I work to avoid certain agoraphobia. 

More importantly, I teach students for whom school is a daily challenge. There is little involved in "school" that falls within the comfort zone of a student with dyslexia. As teachers and administrators, we strive to make the experience more comfortable and give students opportunities to explore their strengths and develop areas of competence; to fulfill our goal of making them successful, we need to help them develop resilience. They need to know what it feels like to acknowledge that something is difficult for them, trust that they can attempt it, and ultimately complete it. As educators, the only way we can appreciate what it feels like to take that leap of faith is to take on our own challenges and battle our own demons. We need to remember what it feels like to be that kid who counts ahead to see which question the teacher will ask him so that he can practice the answer; we need to remember what it feels like to do the calculus homework, study for the test, and get a C; we need to remember what it feels like to read the same damn word over and over again and STILL not be able to read it right.

So this week, I challenged myself to read a poem aloud in morning meeting. It would not be a big deal for many people, but public speaking makes me extremely uncomfortable. The Introvert (as I have taken to referring to myself in the third person) does not DO public readings. Nevertheless, we've been asking students and teachers to volunteer to read poems each day in celebration of April's National Poetry Month so I did. If at least two dyslexic kids could read aloud to the student body, then I certainly could too. It made me uncomfortable, and I'm not itching to do it again on Monday, but I did it. I got through it, and I proved to myself that it's sort of okay.

If I can do it, you can do it too.  I encourage you to take a step outside your comfort zone as well.  Do something that makes you a little nervous...dabble in it for minute, in a safe environment, and then retreat if you want too...sort of like Duncan's bath in 2 inches of water. If you can put yourself in that position, maybe you'll open up new doors or new perspectives. Maybe, you'll just remember for a minute how it feels to be challenged, or maybe you'll understand yourself, your friends and family, or the world around in a different way.  

As Courtney says "Of course, there are those journeys that don't require any travel at all but still move you forward: when a friend pushes you to reconsider your assumptions, when the approaching birthday creates angst and hope, when a day at the office makes you want to scream and laugh, or when a quiet moment at home reminds you to appreciate things just the way they are."  Just take a step.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

10 X 21

I'm really enjoying this "21 day" concept for making life changes.  I think I only need 5 more days of blogging after this post, and I have found the daily practice to be beneficial.  I already have ideas for the 42 days afterward.  I know that there are only so many hours in a day so I cannot make daily habits of things like exercising, writing, baking homemade bread, and committing a random act of kindness, but maybe the positive behaviors will become more consistent, and I will *gasp* be happier, just as Shawn Achor predicted.  So here's a list of 10 things I could consider doing for 21 straight days:

1.  exercise (obvious)
2.  not use a credit card (debit is allowed)
3.  use the L word in a real and legitimate way
4.  write 3 gratitudes
5.  commit paper to recycling
6.  take photos
7.  read a poem
8.  save $1
9.  listen to one new song on iTunes
10. commit a random act of kindness

Exercise, here I come.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009


In case you were concerned about the cleanliness and psychological well being of my child...he got into the tub voluntarily tonight and actually asked for some extra water (the bowl was moving around - you just don't want to know)...and he is well adjusted enough to be naughty at preschool.  Today he wandered away from his group during activities, ended up in the office once, escaped to the playground once, and lost some playground time.  Mock me if you may, but I will not be surprised if this child has ADD.  Yes, I know you are all saying "he's just being 3." I hope you are right.  Food for thought.

It is day 7 of preschool and day 7 of full time diapers.

It is day 15 of the 21 day blog project; you may get a break in a week.

It is day 9 of Weight Watchers.

It is day 7 of Amish friendship bread.  It's probably better that you not ask questions unless you actually want some Amish friendship bread starter because on Saturday I'll have some to give away.  

I feel like I am juggling with all these items up in the air, but if feels good.  It feels productive, and I feel like I am making meaningful changes in my life.  Except, of course, for this Amish friendship bread...which feels like a chain letter of goo.  I have been told it will all be worth it in the end...I'll let you know.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Drop in the Bucket

In the last two days, Jamie and I each had a turn at trying to drag Duncan, literally kicking and screaming, into the bathtub.  Last night I went up to help; though Jamie could have handled it alone, I felt like I owed him).  Duncan ALMOST managed to avoid the bath, but finally we got him to go in with a very small amount of water.  I don't think everyone's tub is like this, but ours has a deep end and a shallow end.  It is possible to have water in the deep end while the shallow end remains dry, and that was how we managed to get Duncan into the tub.  (Note to self:  find out if I should be concerned about this tub situation).

Tonight, I coerced him into getting in with about an inch of water in the shallow end.  He decided it was too much, and I had to let some out, but I tricked him and let out very little.  We managed to get him washed and rinsed with little difficulty.  When I washed his hair, I had to turn the tap on to get enough water to rinse with, and I admit I let it run a lot more than I actually needed.  By the time we were finished he may have been sitting in two inches of water. He admitted it was a safe amount of water, and I made a big show of having Jamie come look so he'd know exactly how much water to run tomorrow.  I think this is tremendous progress for 48 hours.  The last time we went through this process, it took about a month, and at least one week of that process involved Duncan sitting in a dry tub while we washed him with water from a bucket.

If you are an astute, loyal, detail-oriented reader, you may remember that the drain is a major part of the problem.  The fact that Duncan was willing to succumb to removing the three layers of drain protection in order to let some water out was remarkable.  Now I can prove to him that he has been in the tub with the drain open, and nothing untoward has happened.  I'm not really sure how it escaped his notice that he was sitting in the tub with the drain open, but it made me optimistic.  Three layers of drain protection...and he still thinks he might get sucked down.  

Psychologists call this process systematic desensitization and use it to treat phobias.  During the last bath debacle, Jamie and I each came up with the same plan independently.  His arose from logic and common sense and mine from the study of psychology...which makes you wonder just how much of psychology is actually just instinct.  Either Jamie should study psychology, or I shouldn't have wasted my time.  For the time being, however, I have a clean child who is sleeping soundly in his own bed in his own room and no hacking cough.  I think I handle a little blip in the sonar.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Karma Rules

When one has had a humbling experience of extreme, unfair impatience with one's child, Karma sees to it that one will then be required to stay at home the next day with same child, sick.  It is difficult to know whether Karma views this decision as an opportunity for redemption or whether Karma chooses to use her power to toy with mere mortals.  While one is at home, falling farther behind at work, Karma ensures that appointments will be scheduled that will prevent one from eating lunch on Tuesday and teaching 5th period on Thursday.  In terms of 5th period, Karma's end result is to reduce teaching time to 90 minutes for the week rather than the regularly schedule 215 (or so).  In the evening, Karma chooses to resurrect said child's fear of the bathtub (though actually it is a new fear of the drain).  One is reassured that bath theatrics are equal-opportunity employers since one's husband was forced to endure the experience tonight; however, it is a feeble reassurance as one must now confront the fact that a new fear has, in fact, taken hold, and it will render future baths theater of the absurd for quite some time to come.  Karma is a female dog of indiscriminate parentage.

(One finds it difficult but therapeutic to continue to write in the third person.  Doing so continues to reinforce one's knowledge of the complete and utter loss of control over one's life, thus reassuring one that one bears absolutely no control over one's actions.)

Karma does, inevitably, deliver a silver lining.  One expresses extreme gratitude to the Easter Bunny for bringing a dinosaur egg to hatch, for it has provided humor and distraction today. One is extremely thankful for a husband who does not always get it right but got it right today. One is thankful that the ceaseless rain has finally ceased, for it was cold, dreary, and unpleasant.  Above all, one remains thankful and blessed to have the little boy hacking and dripping upstairs in his bed, protected by a tiny owl named B, and proof, above all, that Karma does have her moments.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

The Great Easter Wipe Meltdown of 2009

Sometimes, I wish I had a tree house.  Many days, I wish I had a tree house.  Today, I wished I had a tree house.

Duncan has a cold.  He's had a night time cough since Thursday night and a runny nose since yesterday.  The Easter Bunny brought him a nose that runs like a faucet.  He was excited about the candy and the egg hunt.  Nevertheless, he felt a little crummy.  And it was a little too cold to play outside today.  And we wouldn't let him eat as much candy as he wanted.  And dinner was a little late.  And he sat on the potty for 20 minutes wiping his poor, red nose with tissues.  And it was nearly 7:00 by the time I was running the bath water. And that was when he discovered the wipe was gone.

Duncan often likes to play with wipes.  Why, I know not.  He likes to wipe himself, his animals, and his books with them.  He often plays with one while he's on the potty and then takes it (clean...don't worry) into the bath with him.  Last night, he left his wipe on the side of the bathtub for safekeeping, but I didn't know that because Jamie gave him his bath last night.  I saw it when I got into the shower, wondered "what's that wipe doing there," and threw it away.

So when I confessed that I had thrown it away, Duncan went straight into the garbage to get it back.  But it wasn't there because Jamie took the trash to the dump today.  So I said "Duncan, I'm sorry I threw away your wipe, but we can't get it back.  It's in the dump now."

For Duncan, that was the straw that broke the camel's back.  "I don't WANT IT TO BE IN THE DUMP."  No other wipe would do.  He had a new collection of two or three wipes by now.  He cried inconsolably.  He refused to get into the tub.  He refused to skip his bath.  He refused to calm down.  He refused pretty much everything.  Finally, Jamie had to come rescue me because I had begun getting angry, really, really, angry.  And then I had to go finish cleaning the kitchen instead...the kitchen in which I had been cooking an Easter dinner from 3:30 on (it wasn't that exciting an Easter dinner)...the kitchen in which I slammed dishes and threw a temper tantrum until Jamie and Duncan came to ask me about medicine, and I remembered that this was all about a poor little boy with a raw, red nose running like a faucet.

So tonight, I am the worst mother and the worst wife, and I am worried about Duncan's cold, and I feel crummy.  It really was a lovely day.  If I had written this post at lunch time, it would have been about how I loved watching Duncan hunt for Easter eggs, how I ate candy only in moderation and managed to stay within my Weight Watchers points allowance, how I finally got my laundry done early enough to enjoy the afternoon, how I made my first scalloped potatoes ever, how I freed the treadmill from the tyranny of clutter that had taken it over, how I cleaned out the hall closet and found 4 coats to donate to the homeless shelter...

I wish I had a tree house so I would have a place to run away, but I don't.  It's probably better I don't; if I did, I might have been there instead of here, and I would have missed this:  "I was cryin' Mama."  "I was too, Duncan."  "I was cryin' REALLY hard."  "Yeah, me too."  "You dry your tears Mama?"  "Yeah.  Did you dry yours?"  "Yeah."  "I hope you feel better."  "You too, Mama."

Saturday, April 11, 2009

A Proclamation

I will purchase no more bleached diapers.  I confess that I don't remember why bleach is bad, and I'll review that point later.  I think it just produces chemicals that go into our water and waste stream and contribute to the mounting toxicity of our planet.  This is not as big a sacrifice as it sounds, but I feel good realizing that it's true.  Duncan still has a ways to go with potty training, but he's still spending all day in underwear, which means he's down to one diaper a day.  For one diaper a day, I'll stick with our Seventh Generation unbleached pull ups.  We do have a pack of Pampers Pull-Ups to get rid of so he'll wear those, but that's it.  I'm finished.  No more bleached diapers, EVER.  (I'd donate the Pampers to a homeless shelter, but they're already open.  Does anyone know if they'll take them?)  I have a similar issue with cleaning fluids.  Once you've got them, you can't just throw them down the drain or into the garbage.  It's better just to use them until they're gone.  The problem is, I really don't want to use them now.  But I will, grudgingly, and then I'll move on.  Good bye, environmentally unfriendly disposable bleached diapers; hello, tiny loads of teeny underwear covered in poop and boiled in the washing machine.  I guess maybe my next step should be a clothes line, even if it's just for Duncan's clothes and the sheets and towels...we can hang it right next to the solar cooker.

Friday, April 10, 2009


There comes a day in the development of any new life habit that challenges the resolve, and today is that day.  For some reason, it has been a long week.  The day care experiences, combined with everyday job stress, combined with gray weather and snow events, combined with teaching 90 minutes of grammar this afternoon, combined with my returning to Weight Watchers have made me want to do nothing but drink wine, eat cookies, and watch trashy television.  It was probably too much to take on a second new life habit at the less-than-halfway point of the first, but I had a moment Monday when Weight Watchers just felt right again, and I had to go with it.  So I want to consume empty calories and skip the blog, but I'm doing neither.  I'm not writing anything meaningful for you this evening, but I'm meeting the challenge and getting the job done.  Some days, just getting the job done is all we can hope to accomplish.

So I've done it.  High five to me.

Just to put a little closure on this week's seemingly endless preschool thread, Duncan is happy as a clam.  He loves preschool.  They had an Easter egg hunt yesterday, he ate all his lunch, and he was a pretty good listener.  He had a few potty accidents but nothing out of the ordinary. His school was closed today, and we had to work so Paul came to babysit.  They had a fantastic time, and both were more than a little sad when Paul had to leave.  Duncan even took a nap for Paul!  It was a nice ending to the week.  

I owe you something a little better tomorrow.  One C+ day is excusable; two C+ days is the beginning of a life habit of mediocrity!

Thursday, April 9, 2009

The Science of Happiness

You might be wondering why I've been blogging prolifically lately.  Last Monday, we had an in-service at school conducted by Shawn Achor, a social psychologist who studies Positive Psychology (or, the science of happiness and potential).  It turns out that it's all very scientific and brain based.  Our brains have these great things called mirror neurons, which essentially activate in response to what's in our visual field.  Our brain almost thinks we're looking at ourselves and causes the response we see to be enacted in our brains.  They are the reason we yawn when we see others yawn or nod when we watch others nod.  We smile in response to people smiling at us.  Unfortunately, they also mean that it's easy to be drawn in by negativity in the world around us.  It turns out that we can be happier and come closer to reaching our potential if we can develop an immunity to that negativity and teach our brains to seek out what is positive.

Our bodies have two possible reactions to a stressful situation: 1) we embrace our strengths, use our resources (including our social networks), reduce stress, and ultimately succeed; or 2) we spend all our resources on areas in which we're poor, focus only on the negative, divest from our social networks, increase our stress, and ultimately fail. 

So why do we want to be happy? Positive brains perform better because happiness causes a neurotransmitter called dopamine to be released in the brain, and dopamine enhances memory. So we learn and remember better when we're happy. If we're usually happy and then encounter a stressful situation, our brain is more likely to go about finding creative, new ways to solve the problem rather than shutting down like a quivering mass of stressed out jelly. When we're negative, our brain deletes possibilities that are in the environment; when we're happy, we add possibilities. Our brain also invents what is called a "counterfactual" to measure the stressful event against. Think of the counterfactuals as "what might have been." Counterfactuals can be either negative or positive...the upshot is if you're happy, then you're more likely to think "thank goodness no one died when I rear ended that car" than "now I have to call the insurance company and pay the deductible to have my car repaired and go through the inconvenience of dealing with this mess."  It turns out that it's actually pretty easy to teach our brains to create positive counterfactuals.

Long story short...we learn better and respond better to stress when we're happy most of the time, and there are some good ways to retrain our brains to be happier: 1) listing 3 gratitudes every day; 2) journaling; 3) meditation; 4) exercise; 5) random acts of kindness. AND doing something for 21 straight days creates a life habit. For me, blogging is journaling, and it's making me I'm going for 21 straight days of blogging, and I'm on day 9.

I know it sounds like a lot of psycho babble when I write it, but it was a fantastic in-service. I encourage everyone to take a look at Shawn Achor's work and consider reading his newest book. He explains it much better than I do.  He works with a lot of institutions, from colleges to wall street investment bankers. He is hired to teach people to be happier so that they can be more effective workers. He's an engaging and lively speaker and a brilliant psychologist. In fact, you can watch his lecture online if I'm not convincing (or if I'm so convincing that you want to know more).  If you don't buy into it, just support me for 12 more days...I should feel pretty happy by then!

Wednesday, April 8, 2009


Interestingly, with Duncan's full-time preschool status has come a preoccupation with monsters. He's only been full-time in the preschool room for four days, and on at least three of those days he has asked Jamie or me to tell him monster stories.  When he's not asking for stories about them, he is repeating his new mantra "I love monsters."  Mind you, it was not that long ago that he banished Leonardo, the Terrible Monster and his Wild Thing from his room because they were scary.  (Sorry Wild Thing.  I know you have a name, but I don't know what it is.)  Also, when he first started transitioning to the preschool room, the only fear he expressed was that the books were "scary."  Now, I might be reading too much into this, but I do have a lot of psychology under my belt so it's kind of what I do in my "free time."  So I have two theories about the monsters.  

1.  Some kids in the preschool room who watch more T.V. and videos than Duncan have been talking about monsters, and he is afraid of them.  Asking for stories about monsters is his way of taking ownership of them and desensitizing himself against his fear of them.  It's kind of a psychological self-medication.  

2.  The monsters embody his fears of being in a new situation with new responsibilities.  Asking for stories about monsters is his way of expressing those fears to us in a safe environment where we can talk him through his fears and reassure him that everything. Since our stories are often funny, they allow him to conquer his fears.  In fact, his "FAVORITE" monster story today was one in which monsters go to school where they have circle time, read books, and learn to be scary.

Now I have a new theory.  3=1+2.

The week is definitely going better.  Duncan ate most of his lunch, had no time outs, and had one accident, but he also asked to go to the potty on his own before lunch.  

I, on the other hand, have monsters under my bed, where Duncan left them for safe keeping.  

P.S.  The Wild Thing under the bed is Moishe.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Baby Steps

Each day of preschool gets a little better.  Jamie had a little time to talk to Susan this morning and found out that they are, indeed, taking the new preschoolers to the potty at regular intervals, whether they need it or not.  So even if the 3 year olds are not asking to go, they are being encouraged.  Duncan continues to eat a little better, but with less supervision during meals, he is eating less of his servings of fruits and vegetables than he usually does.  I was also a little concerned about the movie yesterday and wondered if it was a daily thing, but apparently it is not.  Duncan was a little more himself today and even earned a time-out for throwing a plastic potato in the toilet.  Actually, it was bigger than a time out; he had to stay behind instead of attending the weekly field trip to Noble Horizons, a local nursing home.  (I know; it's hard not to chuckle.  Jamie said "Tell Mama why you didn't go to Noble Horizons."  Duncan said "I threw a potato in the potato."  I had to step out of the room to regain my wits.)  And he and his friend Ryan crawled away during circle time to pretend there was a monster.

Here is why you cannot trust the first-hand reports of a 3 year old ( Tom the Music Man is a local musician who comes once a month for special programing):

Jamie:  So, Tom the Music Man came today.  Did he bring any instruments?
Duncan:  No.
Jamie:  Did he sing?
Duncan:  No.  He just sat there.
Theresa:  Did he do a puppet show?
Duncan:  No.  He rested.  He rested at my school.

There is a great silver lining to the preschool program; it costs $50.00 a week less than the toddler room!

Monday, April 6, 2009

A New Day

I'm sorry I brought so many people to tears in my Friday post.  Today was better on many fronts. I picked up Duncan early for his doctor's appointment, and when I got there, he was dry and still wearing the same pants and underwear he was wearing when he left the house.  He also ate a little bit better.  We have this great lunchbox, but we've never used the individual containers because they don't all have lids, and his lunch was supposed to be removed and stored in the fridge (in which there is not room for his cool little bento box).  We thought today would be a good day to try it because the novelty might be enough to get him through lunch.  In addition, ever since he stopped eating baby food, we've been sending in a very balanced lunch of leftovers, which were healthy but required utensils.  We thought that this week, with "new" bento box in tow, he might be more successful with finger foods.  With the all the new experiences he's going through in the pre-school, maybe it will be more effective if he doesn't have to think about how to use a fork.  He didn't eat like moose, but he ate more than Friday, so that's a start.  (Oh, and did I mention that we bought a sandwich cutter so he can have dinosaur sandwiches?)

Today's issue of debate was that he was in the middle of watching a movie when I arrived; and it was not just ANY movie, but a dinosaur movie.  In fact, I think it was Land Before Time, which he has been trying to convince Nana to let him watch for months.  I got the silent treatment until midway through his doctor's appointment, and so did the nurse and doctor.  In the end, Dr. Gray-Clarke was able to pull him out of his funk.  In fact, she managed to transform sullen Duncan into hyperactive Duncan; at one point, he escaped the examining room and ran down the hall, into and through the office, and into the nurses' and receptionists' break room.

Through all the drama and moodiness of today, Duncan did get a clean bill of health from Dr. Gray-Clarke.  He's up to 37 inches tall, which falls at the 50th percentile, so he may have a chance at being taller than Jamie and me.  His weight was also up to the 50th percentile at 31.2 pounds, so I can stop worrying quite so much about lunch.  She was pleased with his pulse and blood pressure as well as with his gross and fine motor development and  his language skills. She refused to entertain any discussion about attentional issues (and rightly so), but that was before the escape plot was hatched.  

It may have been rainy and cold, but Monday was hopeful.  

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Music to My Ears

This morning, as we were eating bagels off paper plates, Jamie said (and I paraphrase):

Maybe this summer, when our schedule is a little more flexible, we can give up paper plates.

I tempered my enthusiasm because I was afraid to be too hopeful, and I commented that it might be good to have some in the house for those random bad days when you REALLY don't want to wash dishes.  He said "...but they're like snacks.  If we have them in the house, we'll use them."  

Wow.  A convert.  I suppose I'd better not tell him that I've spent a lot of time looking at solar cookers online...

Saturday, April 4, 2009

Owl and Bear Night

Duncan has developed an awareness of and appreciation for theme.  Often, Jamie picks bed time books with a central theme; Mo Willems books, Gerald and Piggie books, Halloween books, Mr. Putter and Tabby books, cat books, and the like.  Tonight, Duncan declared it was "Owl and Bear night."  He had chosen to sleep with a bear and his stuffed owl and wanted appropriate stories to accompany them.  So Owl and Bear night it was; Little Bear, Bear's New Friend, Corduroy, and Owl Moon.  Good night, owl and bear.

Friday, April 3, 2009


I've become one of THOSE moms.  In the three years that I have been a parent, my experiences with Duncan have informed my work as an educator and an administrator.  Today, I've learned to understand a new breed of parent:  the parent who is afraid her child will fall through the cracks.

I should start by telling you that Duncan had a great week at daycare.  After a two week vacation, it was our plan to send him back wearing underwear full time since he needed to master toilet training in order to make the transition from the toddler room to the pre-school room (AKA, the BIG room).  On Monday, he had a pretty good day.  He spent some time in the morning in the big room.  He had a couple of accidents but returned home still in underwear. Tuesday was rough; he had an accident in the big room and didn't know who to tell.  When he finally returned to the toddler room, he misbehaved and had two time outs.  He was in tears telling Jamie about it all.  But Wednesday was okay and so was Thursday.  When I picked him up today, he had spent the whole day in the big room, and I was incredibly proud.  He showed me his new cubby, we tried to collect all his things from his various locations in the building, and we talked to his friends about the big, big slide.  He yelled good-bye across the room to his new friends and stopped in to say good-bye to the director.  It was a good day.

And then, when I buckled him into the car seat, I realized his pants were soaking wet.  Now, I know I'm overreacting, and I'm pretty sure he must have had that accident on our way out the door, but I can't stop thinking about that little boy from Tuesday who didn't know who to tell about his accident...and I have to wonder just how long he was in wet underwear and sweatpants.  Somebody would have noticed?  Right?  I'm sure...even if he hadn't told someone, someone would have noticed.  I'm sure, but then again, I'm not so sure.

When we got home, I realized why Duncan has been starving when we got home every day this week.  In my rush to get him home, I had thrown all his lunch containers in my bag without looking at them.  Every day this week his teachers said he didn't eat much, but there in front of me was a collection of almost (90%) completely uneaten food, at least two days' worth of his lunch, untouched.  At home, he has been pretty distracted during meals.  Although we start out making him feed himself, eventually we resort to shoveling food into his mouth out of necessity.  I know that some among you will be saying we should just let him not eat, and he'll get hungry and learn to feed himself.  I know that they can't feed him in daycare, and in the larger preschool room, he needs to learn to be independent.  No one is going to remind him to eat.  This is his opportunity to learn from that.

So on a Friday afternoon, I returned home with a pee soaked 3 year old who hadn't eaten lunch for at least two days.  And I almost cried...because I worried about whether anyone is looking out for my child.  I don't want my sweet, beautiful, happy, innocent boy to fall through the cracks because he's not naughty enough to make waves...and I don't want him to have to learn to make waves either.  I want to believe that someone is caring for him as they would their own child.  I want to know that someone notices how kind and gentle and clever he is and also that someone will notice if he's starving and covered in pee.

So...where do I go from here?  I remind my son that he needs to tell someone if he has an accident.  I trust in my ability to overreact.  I trust the people who take care of him.  I trust that he will eventually become hungry enough to eat lunch.  I trust that we will go talk to the teachers if these concerns continue past Monday.  I trust that I can protect him from the world just enough to keep him safe but not enough to smother him.  I trust that I will pay even more attention to my students who could fall through the cracks because I know how their parents feel.  When you get right down to it, the issue is whether or not we trust adults to do right by children, and I think most of would agree that about 90 - 95 % of the time, we're comfortable with that leap of faith.  It's the other 5 - 10% that scares me.

I had a rough week in the BIG room, but at least I have dry underwear.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

The Bee


During our second week of vacation, we took a day trip to the New York Botanical Gardens. Jamie and I craved the warmth and color of a greenhouse, and we thought Duncan would enjoy the "chocolate and vanilla adventure"s in the Children's Garden. We were initially awed by the green grass and spring bulbs already blooming in the Bronx, but our enthusiasm for the outdoor displays was quickly dwarfed by the orchid show in the conservatory. It was heavenly; the smell was hypnotic, and the inexhaustible display of orchids was sumptuous. It was the plant equivalent of Tiffany's. Although Jamie and Duncan quickly grew weary of losing me as I lagged behind with the camera, we all enjoyed our walk through the conservatory. In the Children's Garden, Duncan wasn't overly impressed with the chocolate and vanilla adventures, which were designed more for the 5 year old crowd, but he had a blast climbing inside the bee display that was designed to illustrate how bees see color. For him, of course, the highlight was the train ride, and on the way home, he declared "This was FUN." It was a lovely blast of spring for everyone.

And Sometimes, A Simple Party Favor Is WAY More Fun Than It Ought to Be

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Many Faces of Duncan, Take 2

Happy Birthday Chicken Dance, from Baby Ben

The Big Three

We spent the first half of our spring break in pursuit of cake. Duncan turned 3 on March 13 and had no fewer than 4 separate birthday celebrations. (I think this may be why he is 3 going on 30 - if he averages 4 birthday celebrations for each birthday, that would make him 12 in party years, which doesn't even begin to approach 30, but it's an equation still under development). On his actual birthday, Duncan awoke to his big gift, an old-school, classic, Radio Flyer tricycle, complete with helmet. He declared it "the bicycle I ALWAYS wanted" and took a few turns around the living room with his introductory pedaling skills. He headed off to daycare, where he had a cupcake party (banana with cream cheese frosting), and after school he opened the rest of his presents, ate pizza, and devoured ANOTHER cupcake. The next morning we headed up to Albany to celebrate with Nana and Poppy and Lorna, Vernon, and Colin. We took a birthday trip to the children's museum and took in a space movie at the planetarium. Back at Nana and Poppy's house, we had a party with a Blue's Clues cake and...wait for it...more presents! Yay presents! The following weekend, Grandma and Grandpa and Paul came to visit. Duncan, Paul, and Jamie took a birthday trip to Kids' Time while I finished the cake. Later in the afternoon, we enjoyed a smorgasbord of pizza followed by chocolate cake and...more presents! Duncan had a great time sharing his birthday, and we thank everyone for their continued love and support.

P.S. Duncan also had a BLAST with his Chicken Dance card from Baby Ben. I'll try to upload some video of that as well.