Friday, October 17, 2014

Showdown in Toddler Thunderdome

There are few places more freaky than a play area in a mall.  You know, those child corrals with shiny plastic foam cars and slides ringed with benches so parents can look at their smart phones and not watch their kids for awhile. (It's also ground zero for Germageddon 2012--where around Halloween of that year, Kristina and I took the older girls and our newborns there, and afterwards we ALL came down with the most horrific colds.)  Yeah, that place.

But after today I have renamed it Toddler Thunderdome.

Kristina and I met there this morning to let the #2s get some physical activity and for us to hang out and chat.  The first 45 minutes was uneventful as a number of other kids of similar age showed up and, beyond the occasional minor jostling, everyone was doing what they wanted and having fun. All of a sudden, right in front of where Kristina and I were sitting, a boy (let's call him Mr. Furious) grabbed and shoved another little boy (both appeared to be 3 yrs old) because Mr. Furious got cut in front of to climb on the plastic caterpillar. There was real menace in this kid--he was pissed.  Luckily our #2s were on the far side, away from this action so we turned away from the scene of crying children and intervening mothers to resume our conversation.

Some 15 minutes later, our kids had wandered back to our side of the play area and were either hopping in and out of the plastic car or climbing up the plastic caterpillar along with a handful of other kids.  I then saw Calvin start to prance (faster than walking but not quite a run) between the two plastic structures but he had too much momentum to stop and ran smack dab into Mr. Furious, who was merely bumped back a little. Suddenly Mr. Furious grabbed Calvin's shirt with both hands and body slammed him backwards to the ground so he's flat on this back. It was so forceful that Cal's back hit the carpet first then his head. Before I could get to my feet, Mr. Furious went all Shark Week on Calvin and bites him on the abdomen.  Calvin started wailing as Kristina & I rushed to comfort him.

By then, Mr. Furious' mother had snatched him away from the area and confined him to the bench.  She came into my eye-line with a look of mortified concern and embarrassment.  My Mama Bear instincts of retribution were stayed by her look of genuine remorse.  The mother apologized to me repeatedly and I felt the automatic phrase of 'It's okay' cue up in the back of my throat but I simply nodded through pursed lips.  Because it didn't really feel okay.

But I realize even good kids have the potential to lose their shit sometimes.  Maybe Mr. Furious had a low blood sugar moment or his parents were getting a divorce.  In any case, I didn't necessarily want to rake her over the coals since I've learned by now that the tables can turn in a heartbeat.  Anyone could suddenly be that mom with the acting-out kid that catches everyone by surprise.  But I didn't want to let her off that easy either.  That was a significant hit and bite so I also wanted her to internalize the feeling so that in the future she remembered to pack a snack or kept closer tabs on him or just didn't bring him to confined areas with other kids.

What I essentially said to Calvin but also directed at the mother was that "sometimes we have hard days but we're tough." Calvin was fine after a few minutes and the bite hadn't broken the skin.  The mom might have brought her son over for some sort of apology but I'm not sure . Either way, she promptly scooped up Mr. Furious and got the hell out of there.  As she should have.

Calvin shook it off like a champ but continued to talk about it in the car during the ride home.  I explained how sometimes people get so angry that it causes them to do things like that.  But we don't bite or hit to solve our problems--we use words. It's both fascinating and frightening to watch the microcosm of what the playground and even the larger world will be like for Calvin.  As a boy, physicality is much more prevalent than it ever has been with Sidney. This is the way of nature but hopefully 'better natures' prevail.  Hopefully.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Born Defroster

You know that feeling when someone just gets you?

That's how I felt when I read Virginia Heffernan's recent NY Times piece, "What If You Just Hate Making Dinner?" No one has captured my aversion to cooking so well.
A vague neural itch sets in around 5 p.m. when I recognize that something must happen, and soon, involving plates and macronutrients. I do not move. Dinner preparation is all mental around these parts: I figure out who’s had enough protein or carbs for the day, who can bear eating the other’s favorite food, or whether I must figure out two meals.
But possibly the best part of that article was discovering the existence of a lost tribe, known as the "born defrosters." My people.
In 1982, Jessica Lange as Julie, the glamorous single working mother in “Tootsie,” became my ego-ideal when she sexily told Dustin Hoffman’s character that she was a “born defroster.” Lord, how I loved that expression. 
For the record, I have always loathed meal prep and still lament the time I have to spend doing it. But being a homemaker and stay-at-home-parent thrusts me into the role of head chef. It's a tiresome and thankless job to feed two kids with highly discerning palettes and mutually exclusive food preferences. Add to that their still-picky mother (I'm hard-pressed to think of more than ten vegetables I'll eat) and their father, who would default to a PB&J for any reason. 

It's interesting to note that when we were first married, Ken did 90% of the cooking since we both worked and I had even less cooking skill than I do now. Back then, he would make a notable dish like Curry Halibut Cheeks--fancy stuff.  But the cooking he does now fits into one four categories: 

  • grilling 
  • grape or fig jam 
  • super hard, rarely-made recipes for events (like vegetarian lasagna from scratch or brined turkey for Thanksgiving)
  • breakfast (with emphasis on fried eggs)

I think my own aversion to cooking all started back in my adolescence when I perceived that knowledge of cooking was a gateway to being trapped in the kitchen.  Besides, I had no reason to learn to cook because growing-up all the men in my life (dad, brother & assorted boyfriends) were good at it.  My mom also loved to cook.  She still revels in all the details and process of it.  Often she likes to regale me with foodie speak and tidbits she's gleaned from her Julia Child's cookbook or a snipped recipe from the newspaper.  At which point, my mind clouds over as it attempts to shield me from a knowledge most unwanted.  If I don't know how, I can't be held responsible. 

Against my will though, I have actually learned some things, like how to make flawless hard-boiled eggs and to use thermometers to avoid overcooking things.  But recently (errantly) I tried to step up my game with a recipe/delivery service called ACME farm + kitchen out of Bellingham, WA. Once a week they deliver a box with local, organic raw ingredients for 3-5 meals depending on the box size.  Normally this would activate my educated, liberal, urban, Seattlite pleasure centers (the same ones that fire up at farmers' markets) but the draw back of this service is that you 'get what you get and you don't get upset.' The meals are a surprise. Do you know what picky eaters hate most? Surprising, unfamiliar foods. 

So last week's box had ingredients and instructions for Banh Mi Vietnamese Pork Sandwiches with pickled carrots.  It was a very hands-on meal with chopping vegetables, pickling of the carrots, shaping/frying/baking/chilling of the meatballs, etc.  After all that work (non-stop for an hour) I served it to just Ken and myself, since both children went screaming from the room when I offered them some.  Ken, who is usually game for anything, surprisingly didn't like it. I was astounded and disheartened.  I don't often spend that much time on stuff I KNOW will be good so I was super frustrated by this development.  I ended up eating much of the left overs for the next 2 days because someone was going to benefit from all that effort.  But for us, it's not worth doing a food service like this (as lovely as it is) for a family of picky eaters and chef who hates cooking.  I know, it's sad.

But if you want to know my saving grace, two words: prepared meals.  I bet you thought I was going to say 'mac & cheese'.  Well we do that sometimes too.  

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Star Wars Battle Droid Brushes Up on Some Reading

In a weird burst of inspiration, Ken decided to do this today during our lazy Sunday morning home with the kids. He made that little book and meticulously posed the Star Wars Battle Droid by the best window for natural lighting in our house. 

I have allowed the kids to play with my Star Wars action figures for a good part of the year now.  I was sort of saving them (for what I don't know) but now that they regularly play with Obi Wan aka "Obi Toby", Qui-Gon Jinn, Padme, Mace Windu, Darth Maul and this guy, well, it can't help but inspire some parental silliness.

A good number of North Seattle school families have something against vaccines

The moment I became a parent, I bore the weighty and unrelenting yoke to make life and death decisions for the two little people I helped create.  Like every parent, I want the very best for my children and I want to protect them from what is in my power to do so. But I grow so weary of this "debate" about vaccinating. I have to mindfully suppress the feelings of rage that bubble up when data like this gets published--are you serious that we might attend one of the top 5 Kindergartens in Seattle with the highest opt-out rate for vaccinations? WHAT?  (Now, these numbers are from 2012-2013 so I am hoping in the two years since that data was current that things have improved.) But it shocks me--shocks me--that intelligent, educated people still question the value and importance of immunizations.

I'll admit at some point when I was pregnant with Sidney, I considered an alternative vaccination schedule because I got spooked by some things I read on the Internet and some stuff a few fringe moms had said. But I quickly came to my senses and remembered that I believe in science. So the moment Sid came out, we got that kid on the standard vaccination schedule and haven't looked back.  (I didn't even hesitate with Calvin.) Because when it comes to protecting my kids from deadly diseases, immunization is the best way to do this.  Of course it SUCKS as a new, sleep-deprived mom--nerves frayed and protective as hell--to walk into that well-check appointment to get 4 shots and they need your help to hold the baby down.  After the first stick, your little precious looks up at you with surprise, terror and betrayal, or just screams like this one in the KUOW article.

Flickr Photo/Dan Hatton (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)
And for a moment, your confidence waivers, protective instincts jolt through your nervous system and it takes a willful, focused effort not to attack the nurse for hurting your baby. But 10 minutes later, everyone is calm, bandaids are in place, outfit back on, car seat buckles strapped and you're outta there. Congratulations, you made it though AND your baby is one step closer to a solid immunity to some of the most deadly and debilitating diseases on the planet.

But the success/disaster of the effectiveness of vaccines is that in our lifetime, most of us have never seen significant outbreaks of these strange diseases. So it's easy to get lulled into a false sense of confidence, as some parents have, and take for granted that this safe medical innovation can prevent unspeakable anguish. These parents send their under-vaccinated kids inevitably into the same playgrounds, daycares, classes and elementary school as my kids.  So then a "personal decision" for that family becomes very personal to me, indeed.  It'd be one thing if we all lived out in the country with acres between us and homeschooling was the norm, but we don't. I think it should simply be: under-vaccinated kids don't belong in public schools.  They just don't.  Not only does it put the fellow students at risk but also their younger, not-yet-able-to-be-fully vaccinated siblings, any immuno-compromised teachers/staff, and pregnant teachers/staff/parents.

Obviously there is a very small population of kids who can't have vaccines on schedule for medical reasons and I am sympathetic to that. It might be the only good reason to object to vaccines but that's an even bigger incentive to make sure all the kids who can have vaccines, get them.  It just smacks of selfishness by burdening the rest of the group.  You wouldn't send a kid to school without the necessary pencils, notebooks and supplies.  So why would you send him/her to school without all their immunities onboard?

Wednesday, October 01, 2014

Frozen Frenzy

I know we're late to the party on this but we officially have been "Frozen"-over here. Sidney has joined the legion of young girls who LOVE the Elsa and Anna. We have not helped to quell this either by giving her an Elsa dress and making her an Elsa castle for her birthday.  I think Ken and I were waiting to see if things would fade and that would be a big "nope".

But honestly I see why Disney was a little surprised by the popularity and success of Frozen.  It's just not their strongest work. For instance, despite finding Mandy Moore grating in real life, I find her delightful as Rapunzel. I also think "Tangled" has a much more cohesive, emotionally satisfying and relatable story.  And don't get me started about that lantern release scene--I tear up every time. But Frozen, yeah, Anna seems to be the only character with a little depth, the only one who is slightly relatable. Though I find it hard to believe she has no anger or resentment from being cut off from her sister and cooped up from the world.  That doesn't quite seem believable to me.

1. Nordic Story?
My assumption from the dress designs, multitude of white people, trading post guy, mention of "fjords" and general coldness lead me to assume this story is based on Nordic tradition. Though I feel a little unsure about this (see troll people).

2. How the parents dealt with Elsa
You discover your eldest born has magical powers that become uncontrollable when she's scared or angry and the best you can do is lock her in her room for the rest of her childhood?  Good plan Mom and Dad. That DEFINITELY won't be a problem later.  And if the trolls know so much, why doesn't she go and live with them for awhile--maybe they can teach her something, considering they are "love experts." Dangerous, magical powers and no guidance, that should end well.

3. Parents in general
In true Disney fashion, the creators of Frozen dispatched with the parents when the girls were teenagers in an accident at sea. Parents in Disney movies are like red shirts in Star Trek, destined to die unless they're Scottish and then they can stay.

4. The songs
Everyone went crazy over the signature song "Let It Go."  Truly Idina Menzel sang the s**t out of it.  But I find myself drawn more to the layered duet of "Love is an Open Door" and the cleverness of "In Summer" more.  As a musical palette, the songs are all over the place. "First Time in Forever" and "Fixer Upper"--meh.

5. The troll/rock people
As long as we're talking about the troll people, they are the one element in this story that confuses me every time I see them.