Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Looking for a square hole for our little square peg...

I want to express my sincere thanks to all of you for your support and input as we've been going through some uncertainty with Mae's situation at daycare.

We had a productive conversation with our childcare provider last night, and came up with some routine tweaks that might help lessen the issues that she is having with Mae's behavior (notice I did not say "Mae's behavior issues"), and we'll just have to wait and see how things go.

The main upshot at this point is that Mae will be staying where she is for the time being, and we are working together to improve the situation. We'll be monitoring things closely, asking detailed and frequent questions about her progress. And we'll belooking into what other options are available, where Mae might find a setting that better suits her as she develops.

I want to be clear that we still feel that our current care provider gives wonderful, loving, and expert care to the children--and we are not suggesting otherwise. She has cared for both of our children since birth (Arlo until he was 4-1/2), and has been a treasured and very important part of our family up until now (which, as an aside, is part of why it cuts deep that we feel she didn't communicate with us on a pretty basic level about what was going on with Mae). Anyway, it just seems like her way of doing things--with a distinct emphasis on keeping with a schedule and doing the same thing every day--though it is very effective and it worked for Arlo--might not be the best fit for Mae's personality as she grows.

We're open to leads and suggestions, whether they are for daycare openings in Iowa City or pointers for collaborating with your child's care provider/teacher/etc. It's not that we're looking for chaos--we just feel like Mae could use a little more flexibility, a little more room to be the independent little firebrand that you KNOW she's destined to be. (Ahem. See the tree from whence the nut came, right?)

Thanks for your love and support for all of us, especially Mae.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Mama Bear and the Daycare

Our daycare provider has "issues" with my daughter's behavior that she thinks might warrant Mae's removal from the daycare. However, this is the first I've heard of any problem AND the behavior is not exhibited at home. What to do?

Our care provider tells me that Mae (2) "screams" all day and won't nap. She says that Mae keeps the other kids awake when they should be napping--by said screaming and jumping up and down in her port-a-crib. She also tells me that Mae has been aggressive with the other children (who are 1, 1-1/2, and 2-1/2) and "cannot be left alone with them without supervision" for any reason. Also? Apparently Mae doesn't eat very well.

All of these things have apparently been going on for a while, according to my phone conversation with the caregiver this morning--the napping problem "since she was an infant"--but honestly, I had no idea. Even though she fusses a little (okay, sometimes a LOT) about naptimes and bedtimes at home, she doesn't scream bloody murder or go on a rampage. And I've only seen her lay a hand on another kid when she's stroking a baby's hair, or doling out hugs and kisses to her friends.

When I pick up Mae from daycare, I often ask, "How was the day today?" or some other open-ended question to invite communication, and never have I heard any complaints. Mae always seems happy and relaxed when we pick her up, and she never resists going to daycare in the morning. So I was just completely blindsided by the phone call this morning, and I don't know how to respond.

We have been with the same child care provider since Arlo was eight weeks old, with both of them in her care together for some of that time. She lives across the street from us. She has always been wonderful with the children, and though our personalities are different, we've always given her the benefit of the doubt because she's just so good at her job, and she apparently adores the children. She even said that she has "been strong for so long" with regard to Mae's behavior because she loves Mae so much, and she recognizes our history with her and didn't want to cause any trouble. But then, practically in the same breath, she suggested that we "might want to consider a different day care situation" for her. (Me: stunned.)

I won't go into the details, but I believe that a lot of Mae's so-called behavior problems can be fixed, if we work together--and I am dismayed that we were not asked sooner to be a part of the solution. I am also feeling rejected and hurt on Mae's behalf, and defensive about someone finding fault with her, even though Mae (of course) had no inkling of the conversation we're having. Part of me wants to just pull her out of daycare and wrap her up in my arms and never let ANYONE say anything negative about her, EVER. (I am going to be in a world of hurt when Mae goes to junior high, I'm sure.)

But then, I acknowledge that Mae's not perfect and that if she is causing problems for the other kids, we need to address that. "If there was a problem, YO, I'll solve it." But why did our trusted caregiver have to allow the situation to reach a crisis level before bringing us into the equation?

Is my babysitter afraid of me? Are there underlying, non-Mae-related issues that are not out in the open? Am I in denial? Is my sweet, two-year-old daughter really just an insomniac tyrant in comfy, brightly-colored knit clothing? And not to be a drama queen, but just in case... Does anyone know of an awesome daycare provider with immediate-to-near-immediate openings?

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

The Art of Marriage

A dear friend shared this with me earlier this summer, and today, as I reflect on the past eight years of my life with my wonderful husband, I wanted to "re-gift" it here because it's an important reminder that any true and good relationship must be created, nurtured, built over time.

Marriage is an art unto itself.

"The Art of Marriage" by Wilfred Arlan Peterson

The little things are the big things.

It is never being too old to hold hands.

It is remembering to say "I love you" at least once a day.

It is never going to sleep angry.

It is at no time taking the other for granted; the courtship should not end with the honeymoon, it should continue through all the years.

It is having a mutual sense of values and common objectives.

It is standing together facing the world.

It is forming a circle of love that gathers in the whole family.

It is doing things for each other, not in the attitude of duty or sacrifice, but in the spirit of joy.

It is speaking words of appreciation and demonstrating gratitude in thoughtful ways.

It is not expecting the husband to wear a halo or the wife to have wings of an angel.

It is not looking for perfection in each other.

It is cultivating flexibility, patience, understanding and a sense of humor.

It is having the capacity to forgive and forget.

It is giving each other an atmosphere in which each can grow.

It is finding room for the things of the spirit.

It is a common search for the good and the beautiful.

It is establishing a relationship in which the independence is equal, dependence is mutual and the obligation is reciprocal.

It is not only marrying the right partner, it is being the right partner.

Wednesday, September 09, 2009

Scenes from the Eat-In

Board Member Jen Knights and daughter Mae
Originally uploaded by New Pioneer Food Co-op

Labor Day "Time For Lunch" Eat-In, hosted by our local chapter of Slow Food U.S.A., at City Park in Iowa City. The event--and hundreds like it across the country--was designed to focus attention on school lunches and to encourage people to call on Congress to make REAL FOOD the standard in public schools.


Originally uploaded by knights_writes

Tuesday, September 08, 2009

Wanty Want Want WAAAAAANT

I really do need new boots this winter, since the boots I bought last year were secondhand, and have already begun allowing water to seep through the soles.
The $165 price tag is pretty far outside of my comfort zone, but I understand that it's actually a reasonable market price for well-heeled (ha) footwear. Unfortunately, my hemming and hawing about the price means that I missed the Labor Day sale (20% off), which would have saved me $33. Guess I'll wait and see if another sale comes along later this fall...
I'll definitely wait until after my wedding anniversary. (Ahem.)
Be patient, my dearies. Mama's gonna try and get you shipped home real soon.

Friday, September 04, 2009

What do you think?

Downtown today, I saw a family crossing the street in front of me, the dad leading a towheaded 3-year-old girl by the hand. I heard a horn honking, and saw a car coming toward them. The car slowed down and yelled something out the window at the family, and they yelled back, incensed that this jerk had nearly run them over.

The thing is, this family had crossed the street on a solidly red light. The car completely had the right of way, and that family seemd to have completely ignored the light.

On the one hand, I thought the guy in the car may have been a little over the top to yell and honk... but he had a point. I thought it was irresponsible to go leading a small child out into traffic. In fact, when we have the kids with us, we have a habit of waiting for the "walk" light to cross, even when there's no cross traffic in sight.

Whose side would you take in the argument?

Random Campus Observations

Today as I was walking across the UI campus, I fell in step behind a pair of college girls, and managed to overhear one of them saying "Ohmigod, I feel so *old*!" I wanted to spit my gum into her pretty blonde hair. (I did no such thing.)

Also... I stopped in to get a University ID card (to which I am entitled as a UI Foundation staffer) so that I can get the software discount at the UI bookstore to buy the software that really should have come with my computer, which came loaded with MS Office but didn’t didn't come with Word BECAUSE MICROSOFT IS A STEAMING PILE OF GREEDY BASTARDS DIPPED IN MELTED BASTARDS WITH CRUNCHY BASTARD COATING.

ANYway. This little college girl was talking on the phone while she is gesturing with her hands to guide me through the picture-taking sequence, and I was totally looking at her instead of the camera when she snapped the photo.


I don’t know how well you can see this, but the photo is actually sort of horrifying. I look like one of the Manson Family gals, freshly brainwashed and ready to KILL. Because I love Charlie, and he is Jesus.

P.S. I don't hate college girls. They just weren't my favorite among God's creatures today.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Leftovers never had it so good.

Night before last, we dined on B.S.T. (bacon, sprouts, tomato) sandwiches, just like they used to have on the Deli menu at New Pioneer Co-op. The other wonderful twist besides substituting sunflower sprouts for the lettuce? A slice of feta cheese on top to up the flavor ante.

Might I suggest--if you should ever try this clever and delicious take on the humble (but wonderful) B.L.T., go ahead and fry up a whole pound of bacon, because you're gonna want to try this salad for your desktop lunch later in the week:
I chopped up a couple of slices of the leftover cooked bacon, crumbled some of the leftover feta, and chopped a few leftover tomato slices, then tossed all of these and a handful (okay, two hands full) of leftover sunflower sprouts on top of a bed of baby romaine lettuce, and drizzled with Annie's Goddess dressing, and voila!
Lunch is served.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

two birds with one blog post

Just so you know, I have been incredibly productive this summer--churning out reams of elegant prose (at work), installing new exterior lights on my house, planting and marveling at a king's crop of Jack-Be-Little pumpkins, waiting for the weather to get hot enough to make my tomatoes turn red, spending all kinds of quality time with the kids (and with Facebook), getting Arlo ready for Kindergarten, and planning a dreamy trip to Vermont (Mara and I leave one week from tomorrow).

In the mean time, certain things have not been getting much attention, one of which is the blog and one of which is my knitting. With this post today, I hereby officially throw my hat back into the ring--both as a blogger and as a knitter.


Sunday, July 12, 2009

Judge Not, Lest Ye Be Judged...

I think I know now why I sometimes see people grocery shopping with their two-year-olds at 11:00 at night. Perhaps some of them have children like mine, who engages in a 45-minute screamathon at bedtime every night. And maybe, some nights, they'd just rather have the kid fall asleep in the car on the way home. Yeah, I get that now.

Thursday, July 02, 2009

Hungry children, apparently

This is what happens to a cantaloupe wedge in our house, if you leave it laying around after supper.

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Thanks, Crappy Economy!

I just got back to my desk after my annual performance review with my supervisor. According to my evaluation (and I have it in writing), I consistently exceed expectations and I deserve a raise and a promotion--but I won't get one this year.

Thanks, crappy economy!

Saturday, June 27, 2009

For my daughter

Twinkle, twinkle, skinny thighs,
How I marvel at your size!
You are small, sweet, and tiny.
Oh, how I love your little hiney!

Friday, June 26, 2009

Friday funny

I identify lately with the "people with so little to say" designation above... but without the implied "so much time on their hands" that makes drivel-blogging so rampant. I have missed the blog, and the comments, and the conversations that precipitate from good posts--and I'll be back to it soon, I promise. For now, just know that I am thinking of you.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Simple pleasures, late spring edition

1) One of the vendors at the farmers' market tonight had a sign up advertising "Buttcrunch Lettuce."

2) Feeding the kids fresh local strawberries in the car on the way home from the market. They Could. Not. Wait. I tore the green tops off with my teeth and spat them out on the floor as I handed the luscious berries behind me, eyes still on the road. Each berry elicited a "thank you" from the backseat, along with a "please" requesting another.

3) At dinner, Mae said, "Mmmmmmmm, asparagus!" (It sounded like "Spare Gus.")

Friday, May 22, 2009

Giving of Myself

For many years, bone marrow donation has been on my personal "To Do" list. Now that I'm done having babies and breastfeeding (barring any unforeseen seismic shifts in Ted's and my thinking on the topic), I feel like I'm entering a stage in my life (and in the lives of my other family members) when I could actually follow through with that dream.
Last night, though, a conversation with a friend got me thinking about becoming an egg donor. I've been so blessed with easy conception, textbook-normal pregnancies, and two healthy (not to mention incredibly attractive, if you ask me) babies. It breaks my heart to know that so many couples lack what has come so easily to me, and I'm pretty sure I have hundreds of thousands of healthy oocytes in my ovaries, just going to waste--positively languishing behind the iron curtain that is my IUD.
I wonder if I could do both, say, in the next five years? Am I crazy?
Ten minutes of research revealed that you have to be 34 or younger to donate eggs, and I turn 33 next Sunday. I guess a little soul-searching is in order for the holiday weekend...

Monday, May 18, 2009


Originally uploaded by knights_writes
I was told that the video I uploaded via Picasa (below) didn't want to come out and play... so here. Let's see if the flickr version will load.

Happy Birthday to Ted

Here's a video of Arlo helping his papa make Rhubarb Delight (rhubarb harvested from our garden) on Friday night, in honor of Ted's birthday.

The best present Ted got on Friday was a new job!

He put in his two weeks' notice at Quality Care and will begin working at Forever Green nursery & garden center on June 1st. His new position (as nursery manager, in a retail and customer-service environment) will put Ted in a work habitat that's more to his liking, and put his considerable plant knowledge and educational leanings to more appropriate use than what he has been able to do at Quality Care.

Ted will continue to teach horticulture at Kirkwood, part-time, and is really excited about a new chance to really show his stuff--and to hopefully do some meaningful work in a place where he is appreciated! Here's to new beginnings...
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Monday, May 11, 2009

For Better Or For Worse: Mother's Day

Slap a beard on the dad here, and you might as well be watching the scene unfold in my house yesterday morning. Right down to the aqua-blue bathrobe, and the fact that my baby girl just this weekend mastered use of the word "YEAH!" (see first panel). Hope everyone had a wonderful Mother's Day--I know I did!

My blog has been awfully bike-y lately for someone who rarely bikes.

I'm celebrating "Bike to Work Week" as a spectator--but at least I am riding my scooter instead of driving the car. Limiting factors include my asthma's peak season (tree pollen allergy) and the fact that my bike is a heavy old one-speed beast that requires too much exertion for my wheezy self.

This is not a photo of my actual bike--but this is the exact make, model, and color that I own. The bike was given to me by a college roommate's grandma, who had kept it in storage for several years. I love the bike, but I am rarely able to ride the bike, on account of my fragile condition.
I am Biking to Work in spirit, though. Promise. Now, where did I put my inhaler?

Wednesday, May 06, 2009

Score! Chinese Laundry flats, from Revival

Check these out! Today I scored these brand-new flats at Revival, the hippest consignment store in town. The shoes, made by CL by Chinese Laundry, have never been worn, and are a perfect fit. A quick search online reveals that the style is called "Unique," the color is olive (an iridescent green-and-black), and I paid about a third of the retail price for them. SCORE.

Monday, May 04, 2009

Plug for the Iowa City Bike Library

Big Kid Bike
Originally uploaded by knights_writes

We were thrilled to find this beautiful bicycle for Arlo on Saturday. Even better: we checked it out from the Iowa City Bike Library! Check out their site at www.bikelibrary.org.

My favorite features: whitewall tires, with matching handlebar grips and wide seat. Chrome fenders. A distinct lack of licensed characters.

The bike was made by Peuegot, but I have not yet determined its age. The guy at Geoff's Bike & Ski guessed that it was around 15 years old.

If you don't know how the bike library works, here's the deal. For a nominal fee (actually a deposit) you can check out a bike for 6 months. Within that 6 months, you can return the bike at any time and get a refund of your deposit--and during that period the Bike Library will also provide free maintenance and repairs for the bicycle. If you don't return the bike after 6 months, you forfeit the deposit and you own the bike.

Bikes are donated to the Bike Library by local folks who think that putting more bicycles on the roads will improve the health of our community--and also by people who simply want to get rid of bikes they're not using. We've been popping in there occasionally to look for a bike for Ted (who, being so tall, is hard to fit) and this is the first time I can recall seeing a kids' bike. SCORE!

The takeaway lessons here: if you're interested in taking up the bicycle habit, but maybe you're not yet ready to invest the moolah in buying a new bike, take a look at the Iowa City Bike Library's offerings (or, if you're not a local, see if your community has one). If you have decent old bikes languishing in the dark corners of your garages or basements gathering dust, please consider donating them.

Your donation might just make someone like me (or that person's husband or four-year-old) very happy indeed!

Thursday, April 30, 2009

Things I Love Thursday

I might have just found my new favorite online clothing source. Not that I actually purchase things very often... I do a LOT of browsing, finding, oooohing, ahhhing, coveting, hemming, hawing, and kvetching, but only rarely do I actually fork over my hard-earned dollars. This dress, however, may qualify.

Check out http://www.shopplasticland.com/ for more sweet and JenTastic items.

As long as we're talking about Things I Like That Can Be Purchased Online, I am currently rationing out the single package of Rosemary-Mint cleansing hand wipes that I bought on impulse at Bath & Body Works while Christmas shopping. Not only are they refreshing for your hands--perhaps used after scarfing a bag of Doritos at your desk (theoretically speaking, of course)--but you can wipe off your desktop after your hands are clean, and the discarded wipes will act as a light room (cubicle) freshener after you toss them.

You could also just walk your lazy butt to the restroom and wash your hands, but there's a lot to be said for life's small and occasional luxuries.

Monday, April 20, 2009

She's a Pro


In case you ever doubted it, Mae is a champion pouter. This photo is proof. Ted snapped this shot of the little lady when I was away yesterday afternoon for my knitting group. She had been pulling all of our muffin tins and cooling racks off the shelf to play with them, Ted said, and he stopped the fun and games and firmly told her "no."

Her response was to stalk off to the hallway (where Arlo's time-out spot is) and plop herself down to sulk. Self-imposed time-out? Or just a taste of the dramatics yet to come? Methinks it is probably the latter.
Posted by Picasa

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Dear Roasted Beets,

Dear Roasted Beets,

I like you. I think you’re sweet and pretty, but so much more. You’re earthy and robust, and you’re good for me, in so many ways. But I’m writing today because I think we have to break up.
This spring, we’ve spent a lot of time together, and it has been delicious. I especially liked it when we have shared a meal at the Wedge with our friends, Mixed Greens, Gorgonzola, and Walnuts—not to mention Raspberry Vinaigrette, your soulmate who dresses in the same color as you. And I know how you appreciate it when I make sure that each one of them sits next to you on my fork as I lift you to my mouth for each glorious bite.

I think I might even love you.

But I wish that you could get along better with my GI System. You see, GI and I have been together for a long time, and she is usually quite agreeable. She likes almost all of my culinary friends—even the spicy ones, on the occasion that I want to cut loose and party! I don’t know if you said something to offend her, but it is clear that my GI doesn’t like you the way that I do. In fact, she usually sees you coming in the front door, and boots you right out the back, and that makes me feel bad.

I am so sorry, Beets, that it has to end this way. Maybe we can see each other sometimes, in small doses, and maybe GI will tolerate it. But I know where my loyalties lie, and I think that for now I have to respect GI’s feelings and take a break from you for a while.

I had a really wonderful time at lunch today. Please know that I never meant to hurt you. I mean, you know, other than cutting you into little pieces and chewing you up and swallowing you—but you know that was all done out of love.

Stay Sweet,


Big ups to the daddies out there, yo.

Thursday, April 09, 2009

Guess it's about time for that diet-and-exercise thing I've been meaning to do...

Arlo was in the bathroom with me this morning as I was brushing my teeth and putting on my makeup. I hadn't picked out a shirt yet, and was bustling around in my slacks and bra, wet hair still in a towel from the shower.

The boy had been sitting on the toilet seat, conversing with me and watching me go through the paces of my morning routine, when he suddenly stood up, grabbed two handfuls of my belly paunch and joyfully shouted (in a deep voice, like the kind of voice you'd use to talk about a walrus), "Look at that FULL belly!"


Wednesday, April 08, 2009

"Enjoy just like Boiled Peanuts!"

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Um, riiiight. Because everybody knows how to enjoy boiled peanuts.

I'm not even going to specualte as to why they capitalized "Boiled Peanuts."

Queer Eye for the Hawkeye

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Mom & Me

My mom took me to a New Kids On The Block concert last Thursday, at the Mark (now called the iwireless center?) in Moline. This is a picture of us from the show, just before the Kids took the stage.

I decided to post this instead of all the grainy zoom shots I tried to capture of the NKOTB waaaaaay down there on the stage, not just because my camera battery died right after I took this photo and the zoom attempts were made with my cameraphone (yyyyeah, not so much), but also because this is what the concert was all about for me. Spending some quality time with my mom, whom I love dearly no matter what differences of opinion we have. We always have so much fun together--and truly, no one *gets* me the way that my mom does.

Thanks (a little bit late) for a great "Girls' Night Out," Mom!
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Tuesday, April 07, 2009

Widget, and ancient history

I don't know, what do y'all think of my new widget? (Look to your right.) I like the idea of building a community for my blog--so I put this little box up that allows readers to "join." Now I'm feeling a little insecure, though. It's kinda like inviting all the cool kids to your birthday party, and then waiting to see if anyone shows up.

By the by, this actually happened to me in the seventh grade (the first time I was in seventh grade, in Florida), and nobody came, except for my one best friend, who was just as nerdy as me.

The tide turned the following year. My family moved back to Iowa, and I repeated the seventh grade at Anson Middle School in Marshalltown. That year, my birthday party ROCKED. Not only did I throw a successful pool party--I also managed to get myself and 8 other little girls arrested for curfew through a botched T.P.-ing outing at 2:00 in the morning.

My poor mom and dad. They met most of my friends' parents for the first time AT THE POLICE STATION.

I try not to think too much about karma when it comes to the future of my children, especially my strong-willed and fiery daughter. If paybacks are hell, then I expect that my hair will be ALL gray before Mae graduates from high school.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

The Knights family might be moving

I have been thinking about relocating the Knights Who Writes blog. Certain people tell me that I would like blogging on Wordpress better. Other people should comment here if they have an opinion.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

What Arlo thinks of his mom

I saw this interview-your-kid exercise on Facebook. I thought maybe I'd post it on Facebook, but since I've got this here Blogger machine hooked up to pipe my blog posts onto my FB page, I'm a-fixin' to kill two Internet birds with one stone.

What my kid thinks of me.
Saturday, March 21, at 3:43pm

Copy this note, ask your kid the questions and write down the answers exactly as they say them. Tag me back if you do this. I'd love to hear yours.

Here are Arlo's answers (he's 4 and a half):
Me: What is something Mom always says to you?
Arlo: "Be Nice."

Me: What makes Mom happy?
Arlo: Being nice.

Me: What makes Mom sad?
Arlo: Like doing things that I don't do for you.

Me: How does your Mom make you laugh?
Arlo: Tickle me.

Me: What was Mom like as a little girl?
Arlo: Being a baby.

Me: How old is your Mom?
Arlo: 60. Dad is a hundred.

Me: How tall is your Mom?
Arlo: Big.

Me: What is her favorite thing to do?
Arlo: Clean.

Me: What does your Mom do when you're not around?
Arlo: Go to work.

Me: If your Mom becomes famous, what will it be for?
Arlo: I don't know. Cause that would make me real real REAL happy.

Me: What is your mom really good at?
Arlo: Being a mom.

Me: What is your mom not very good at?
Arlo: No.

Me: What does your mom do for her job?
Arlo: Do work.

Me: What is your mom's favorite food?
Arlo: Veggies.

Me: What makes you proud of your mom?
Arlo: She makes pictures.

Me: If your mom was a cartoon character, who would she be?
Arlo: Word Girl.

Me: What do you and Mom do together?
Arlo: Clean.

Me: How are you and your mom the same?
Arlo: Like to do puzzles.

Me: How are you and your mom different?
Arlo: Nope.

Me: How do you know your mom loves you?
Arlo: Because you love me.

Me: Where is your mom's favorite place to go?
Arlo: Home.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

How to Make Your Four-Year-Old Love You

Last night we served the kids blueberry pancakes for dinner, with banana slices and milk. Arlo requested that his have a happy face on top, so I made eyes and a nose with Cheerios... then I went to the fridge to look for something to use for the smile.

There, in the refrigerator door, was a bottle of Hershey's chocolate syrup (something we occasionally have in the house, primarily for the use of my husband, the primary sweet tooth in residence.)

I pulled out the bottle. Arlo saw what was in my hand and he started laughing maniacally.

"Who's the best Mom in the whole world?" I said, as I shook the bottle. (I felt like I might as well have been saying "Who's your DADDY? C'mon, say my NAME!")

"YOU ARRRRRRRRE!" he gleefully screamed.

I don't care what you say. As I squeezed a ribbon of chocolate across my son's pancake-happy-face dinner, I really did feel like the best Mom on Earth.

(P.S. For the record, they were organic multigrain pancakes, with real blueberries mixed in.)

Wednesday, March 18, 2009


Originally uploaded by knights_writes
I'm a lazy/busy blogger lately... just thought I'd share with you this "springy" video, because it makes me smile. I know it would make Ted's parents cringe (because jumping on the bed is something of which they soundly disapprove), but they are not generally "online" people, so I think I'm safe in brazenly sharing with the world my laissez-faire approach to bed jumping. Enjoy!

Monday, March 09, 2009

Downer Alert: The Accursed Items, by J. Robert Lennon

I heard the following prose piece on a recent episode of "This American Life" on NPR, and really enjoyed wallowing for a few minutes in the stark and forlorn mental images it conjured up. Please be advised that this is not a feel-good piece--but it stopped me in my tracks because of the poignancy with which Lennon assigns such history and emotion to these objects: the accursed items of the title. I Googled the piece so that I may share it with you now:

The Accursed Items, by J. Robert Lennon

A bottle of pain reliever, brought along on a business trip, that proves, at the moment it is most needed, to be filled not with pain reliever, but with buttons.

Sneakers hanging from the power line, with one half of a boy's broken glasses stuffed into each toe.

A Minnie Mouse doll you found by the roadside, and brought home, intending to run it through the washer, and give it to your infant son, but which looked no less forlorn after washing, and was abandoned on a basement shelf, only to be found by your son eight years later, and mistaken for a once-loved toy that he himself had forsaken, leading to his first real experience of guilt and shame.

Love letters, seized by federal agents in an unsuccessful drug raid, tested in a lab for traces of cocaine, exhaustively read for references to drug contacts, sealed in a labeled plastic bag, and packed along with a plush bear holding a plastic red heart, into an unlabeled brown cardboard box, itself, loaded into a truck with hundreds of similar boxes, when the police headquarters was moved, and forever lost.

Nude polaroids of a thirteen-year-old female cousin.

An icicle, preserved in the freezer by a child, which, when discovered months later, is thought to be evidence of a problem with the appliance, leading to a costly and inconclusive diagnostic exam by a repairman.

A gay porno magazine, thrown onto a ball field from a car window, and perused with great interest by the adolescent members of both teams, two of whom meet in the woods some weeks later, to reproduce the tableaus they have seen, leading to a gradual realization that they are in fact gay, an incident, the memory of which causes one of the two, when he is well into a life that is disappointing emotionally, professionally, and sexually, to fling a gay porno magazine out his car window, as he passes an occupied ball field, on his way to what will be an unsuccessful job interview.

A biscuit, crushed into the slush of a Kentucky Fried Chicken parking lot.

The orange tobbaggen, whisking her to her death.

A resume, that portrays its author as utterly unqualified for the position for which she has applied, but which, because it smells good, leads its reader, a desperate, experientially undernourished middle-manager at an internet-based retail corporation, to invite her into the office for an interview, which, although further portrays the applicant's complete unsuitability for the job, provides the middle-manager with a physical impression to complement the good smell, which impression is intensely exciting, forcing him to hire her as a supplemental secretary, much to the bafflement, chagrin, and eventual disgust of his extant secretary, who, during her employer's lunch hour, removes the resume in question from his files, and personally delivers it to the CEO, and is with the CEO when he barges into the middle-manager's office, and finds the unsuitable supplemental secretary standing beside him, crying silently with her dress half-off, while he sits in his reclining office chair, sweating profusely, and holding a plastic letter opener in a threatening manner.

The houseplant that will not die.

Fifty pairs of old blue jeans, found at second-hand clothing stores, and brought at great expense, on a trip to eastern Europe and the former Soviet republics, where rumor had it, old blue jeans could be sold for a lot of money, but where this was no longer true, as so many previous visitors had heard the same rumor, and done the same thing, creating a glut of old blue jeans, which were not even all that stylish there anymore, and causing the entire trip to be ruined by the necessity of hauling around these huge suitcases full of other people's jeans, which smelled kind of bad, as if those other people were currently wearing them.

The urine sample, produced for the cancelled doctors appointment, and forgotten in the back of the fridge.

My eyeglasses, covered with a thickening layer of dust that I never seem to notice, and simply adjust to, until, at last, I clean them out of habit, and discover a new world, sharp and full of detail, whose novelty and clarity I forget about completely within fifteen minutes.

Your signature, rendered illegible by disease.

(Jen again here: I especially loved the one about the icicle.)

Friday, March 06, 2009


(Disclaimer: I hate how hard it is to lay out photos in these blogposts. Please forgive the ad-hoc appearance of this post. I don't have time to make it look right--I tried--but I hope you'll enjoy playing "match the caption with the photo!")

Ted teaches a horticulture class at Kirkwood in Cedar Rapids on Thursday nights, so I've gotten in the habit of taking pictures of what the kids and I do in his absence. I was enjoying the shots from last night--what a glorious springish evening!--and thought I'd share them with you, too. After all, most of you missed the fun too!

Racing the setting sun, we scooted over to Wetherby Park for a little fresh air and play time. Erika and Booker figured they could use some of that too--so they joined us for a short but intense playdate.

In this first shot, Mae is very excited about something up in the sky...

Yep, there it is. Zee plaaaane!

Here, E and Arlo and Booker (at least Booker's tail end) romp around.

Here's Arlo, running off some steam. Honestly, after an afternoon at Kinderfarm I don't know HOW he has any steam left.
This is when Arlo decided that he had played enough and informed me that "We'd better get outta here."
And back at home, Mae celebrates the onset of spring weather with some festive headgear (daisy headband courtesy of Gramma Mary).
After a gorgeous day yesterday, temps are still on the mild side, but we are definitely ready for more 60+ temperatures! This morning I noticed the tips of tulip foliage pushin up out of the soil by our front door, and just seeing that gave me a fresh burst of energy. C'mon, spring!

Wednesday, March 04, 2009

This Just In: The 5 C's of a Successful Lunch Outing

Cyndi Lauper. Cheese. Camaraderie. Crude Humor. Candy. Oh, and Cyndi Lauper again. These are the elements that added up to make my lunch outing today a real pleasure. And would you look at that--I had my camera right there in my purse. Happy Hump Day!

Tuesday, March 03, 2009

First Day of (Pre)School

First Day of (Pre)School
Originally uploaded by knights_writes

Arlo goes to Kinderfarm today!!!

In a few short hours, the "Rainbow Connection" van will be picking Arlo up from day care and heading out to the farm. The van will then return him to Tata's at the end of the day.

It feels so weird that I won't be delivering him to his first big day at preschool. I won't even be there to see him off, or to greet him upon his (we hope) triumphant return. I honestly believe that he will do better without having me there to cling to, and that he will have a wonderful day... but of course I'm also feeling a little disconnected and absent.

I'm wistful about my little boy growing up. It's all the more real now that he'll be shuffling off to the bus TO KINDERGARTEN at the end of this summer--and all the more apparent that he can operate independently in the world without his mom (in small spurts, anyway), thank you very much.

I'm also joyful about the splendid little man he has become. I'm excited for him to make new friends and enjoy socializing with kids his age, and to play really hard out in the sunshine and fresh air. I anticipate being amazed at how much he will learn, and how quickly he will continue to grow.

No matter what I do, I will never be able to stop this runaway train that is My Kid Growing Up--so I'm just going to try to relish it.

Have a wonderful day, Arlo. I can't wait for you to tell me all about it at the end of the day!

Monday, March 02, 2009

Stimulate Your Visual Cortex Today

As a fundraising writer, I spend a lot of my day dithering around in the region of my brain that handles language, logic, and persuasion. It's common knowledge that only a relatively small part of the brain is responsible for language processing. And that this region lies around the sylvian fissure: the deep fold in the brain lying roughly parallel to and above a line from the outside corner of the eye to the middle of the ear.

I mean, that's just basic everyday brain mapping, right?

(Just kidding. I lifted that info from a Harvard Medical School newsletter for the neurosciences, called "On The Brain." Anyway.)

I need--and relish--occasional breaks from the cramped quarters of the sylvian fissure of my brain. For that reason, I was tickled to find this on flickr:


Go here, look at pictures, breathe, then go back to work. Lather, rinse, repeat.

Friday, February 27, 2009

Thursday, February 12, 2009

My little empath

You know how sometimes, when you have a pimple and you're looking in the mirror in the morning, desperately trying to cover it up with makeup (which usually just makes it look more gross but less red), you tell yourself that nobody else really notices your pimples?

I do that. In fact, I usually believe myself because, frankly, I hardly ever notice flaws in my friends' skin--and my friends probably don't actually all have perfect skin.

This week, for whatever reason, my entire system seems to be erupting with hormones, and my skin has not escaped. My face is a landscape of volcanoes. My T-zone (usually the oily trouble area comprising forehead, nose, and chin) has expanded to envelop my entire face.

And my dear, sweet, empathic, 16-month-old daughter will not stop furrowing her brow when she looks at me. She reaches out to my face with one finger, touching my zits one by one with a look of great concern on her face.

"Ow," she says.

I guess that means I can't pretend that my breakout is invisible to everyone else. But I can take comfort in the fact that my daughter has a well-developed sense of empathy and concern for other individuals. You win some, you lose some.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009


Following the lead of a smart and sassy mom friend of mine, I made this incentive chart as the new approach for getting Arlo to sleep in his own bed.

When we were at Target last weekend, Arlo was drooling over a Lightning McQueen (of "Cars" fame) comforter and race-car-shaped pillow. We had already purchased the sheet set for him, hoping that it would make him want to sleep in his bed, but having the sheets apparently was not enough incentive. Seeing my opportunity, I told him that if he slept in his bed 14 times (two weeks, but not necessarily consecutively), we'd bring him back to Target to get the comforter and pillow.

It's not like Arlo has never slept in his own bed. The problem is that we only have two bedrooms. The kids were supposed to share a room--but it hasn't worked out until now. First, Mae was in our room and Arlo was happily sleeping in his own big boy bed. Then when Mae was big enough to go to her crib in their room, she wasn't a sound enough sleeper to handle Arlo being put to bed in the same room--so they swapped. We set up a little sleeping area for Arlo in our room. "Temporarily."

That was, erm, 8 months ago? How embarrassing.

Now that Mae is sleeping soundly in her crib, we've discovered that Arlo really LIKES being back in our room with us--and it has been a struggle to convince him to go back to their room. If he puts up a fight, we run the risk of waking Mae and having TWO screaming children--so we're using more diplomatic means to achieve our goals.

Arlo has earned two stickers so far. We gave him the first for taking a good nap in his bed on Monday (he was home sick, so Mae was not home) and he earned the second one for going to sleep in his bed last night. (YAY! Mae stayed asleep!) Even though he crept into our bed at about 2 a.m., we've decide to reward every successful effort, even if it's not 100%.

Last night, Ted and I went to bed, turned on our bedside lamps, and ACTUALLY READ before we went to sleep. Ahhhh, the luxury of adult bedtime!

Here's hoping for more of the same.

Thursday, February 05, 2009

Time Machine

Did Ted finally perfect the time machine he's been tinkering with in our basement, and send Arlo back to 1972 for a nap on his mom's couch?

Nope. That's the daddy, back when he was about Arlo's age.

Kind of takes my breath away, and makes me wonder: "Did I actually have any genetic role whatsoever in the forming of this child?"

Saturday, January 24, 2009

25 Things

I did it on Facebook--so figured I'd re-post it here, for readers who are not on Facebook...

Rules: Once you've been tagged, you are supposed to write a note with 25 random things, facts, habits, or goals about you. At the end, choose 25 people to be tagged. You have to tag the person who tagged you. If I tagged you, it's because I want to know more about you.

1. When I was six years old, my sister slammed my pinky in the bathroom door at my Grandpa’s house. She got in trouble, but it was totally not her fault because I stuck my pinky in there on purpose when she was about to slam the door shut. Morbid, irresistible impulse.

2. I have never seen my husband without a beard, and we’ve been together for nearly ten years.

3. I really want to vacation in Italy. Without my children.

4. Coconut is my enemy. Unless it’s in Thai food.

5. I’ve had my nose pierced twice. I want to do it again.

6. I’m a joiner. I hate to be left out. (Which is why you can almost always count on me to perpetuate these memes.)

7. I cannot wiggle my ears, flare my nostrils, or roll my tongue in any direction.

8. I do iron clothes occasionally—but I don’t think I’ve EVER done it without burning myself.

9. I also have a tendency to cut myself (at a rate higher than the average person, I think) when using a knife in the kitchen.

10. I have never, however, broken a bone in my body.

11. I have four tattoos. The second one is covered up by the fourth, so only three are visible.

12. I believe in the power of a corndog.

13. Though I read labels at the grocery store to avoid buying foods with trans fats and high-fructose corn syrup, I fantasize about (and occasionally indulge in) Sonic (see #12 above) and McDonalds.

14. I worked for John Hughes (the movie director) for about 3 months in the spring of 2003, as a gardener (growing organic vegetables) on his private estate. It was the worst three months of my life.

15. I also once worked as the caretaker of a 17-acre estate with a private beach on Lake Michigan, just north of Chicago. The owner of that property, my former employer, is now in federal prison on charges of racketeering and insurance fraud.

16. I make a better door than a window.

17. I would rather be on my scooter.

18. I can keep a secret.

19. I am Actually Afraid of Halloween haunted houses, haunted barns, haunted hayrides, and the like. As in, it is not fun for me because I am terrified, squeezing my eyes shut and screaming. Exception: the Haunted Mansion at Disney World. Not scary.

20. My husband is a horticulturist. I used to be a garden writer, and could practically CLEP out of a two-year hort program. Still, our own garden is a mess! Hip-high weeds, ad-hoc plant arrangements and an out-of-commission compost bin. Babies make it hard to find time in the garden!

21. I adore asparagus. When it’s in season, I cannot get enough. I even get an inexplicable sense of satisfaction from the weird-smelling you-know-what that results from eating a plateful of spears.

22. I really want to take up camping.

23. At any given time, I probably own about 23 tubes of lip balm.

24. I am a neat freak at heart, but a slob in practice. I adore order but have trouble attaining it. Sometimes I resent the factors in my life that make it difficult to maintain order. (See # 20 above.)

25. I wrote more words on this “assignment” today than I wrote for actual work assignments.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

All Much

Yesterday morning, Arlo crept into bed with us after my alarm had gone off, while we were still snoozing and lollygagging.

As he folded himself into the half-moon curve of my body and wrapped my arm around himself, he closed his eyes and said, "Do you know how much I love you guys?"

"How much, Arlo?" I asked.

"ALL MUCH," he smiled.

Needless to say, I hit that snooze button at least twice more before I could tear myself away from a morning snuggle with the Sweetest Boy on Earth.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009


Maybe this song struck a chord with me today because I spent my lunch break preparing for a New Pi board meeting, and won't be home until well after my children go to sleep tonight.

"Even when I'm a mess, I put on a vest with an 'S' on my chest, oh yes..."

This goes out to all my friends who are amazing parents (especially the moms, but the dads get mad love too) and who try to also have ambition, a social life, passion, creativity, and something left to give your community. This, I think, is exactly the call to action that we heard in Obama's Inaugural address yesterday... and I salute all of you are out there being superwomen (and men), each in your own way. This is how we build a better future.

Friday, January 16, 2009

I promise you, we will not make these comparisons when the girls are in high school.

Mara and I grabbed a quick taco (Mara, a taquito) for lunch today and then went to Kidworks to powershop for pants for her 6-month-old, Nora, since she's outgrown all of hers. Mara reported to me that Nora now weighs (according to our shared daycare provider) twenty-four pounds. Twenty. Four.

I mean, that is one large helping of Baby Goodness:

For the record? Macy (who is just shy of 16 months now) weighed twenty POINT four pounds at her last doc's appointment. As in, twenty-and-a-half. She's in the tenth percentile for weight, which does vex me a little, considering the copious amounts of food that she gobbles up every day. But hey! that was, like, a month ago! I'm sure Mae has been packing on some weight since then. She'll catch up!

Macy is nearly a year older than Nora, and yet we are in a peculiar situation where Nora could, concievably, start handing down her outgrown clothes to Macy. That is, if her mom didn't have to hem them all up to accomodate the much-shorter legs of an infant in toddler clothes--because Macy is at the 90th percentile for height.

Look at Nora's thighs in the photo above, and then check out the wee gams on my daughter here. This photo was taken at Thanksgiving. Oh, and wouldn't you know that Mara's comment on my flickr page when I posted this photo was, and I am quoting verbatim, "such slender little thighs."

Ah, if only someone would say that about me. If only.

When I asked Mara if she minded me writing a blog post about the girls and their respective sizes, her exact quote in the instant-messaging window was: "you can also refer to my daughter as any of the following: piggie, la gordita, full-figured, Rubenesque, etc."

So yeah, I guess you could say that Mara has come to terms with having a Giant Girl Child. (Oops, did I have permission to use that term?)

Just promise me, Mara (and Rockne), that you will abandon the "Piggie" nickname before young Nora is old enough to have body image issues. I love your big, beautiful baby, and wouldn't have her any other way.


Thursday, January 15, 2009

Dance Party

Here's my baby girl, showing off some serious dance moves. Arlo shows up at the end, outside the window. He was blowing off some cabin fever by shoveling the snow off of our deck (which we sometimes like to call "the kid run").

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Speaking of... speech

I've had conversations lately with fellow parents wherein we lament the adorable mispronunciations that have been lost in the mists of time as our toddlers have grown into preschoolers, and as they approach (GASP!) school age. Ted and I always agree that one of our fondest discarded mispronunciations was the way Arlo used to pronounce Cookie Monster. He would say, "Turkey Butter." We still laugh about that one, and I think he's been pronouncing it correctly for going on two years now.

Just in the past day or two, I was desperately trying to remember one of the current speech glitches that I really hate to see go by the wayside (See??? It's almost gone already! Like sand slipping through our fingers!) but I just couldn't bring one to mind.

Today, I thought of two.

One: Arlo still calls his fingers "ningers." Awwwwwwww.

Two: When Arlo's not feeling well (or playing at not feeling well), he says he has a "tummy ick" or a "head ick." Truth be told, I think his words are a little more accurate than the "right" ways of saying tummy ache and headache (especially in the case of the tummy). I'm thinking of instituting his pronunciation as the new official pronunciation in our household.

Maybe if we do that, we can hold on just a little bit longer. Here's hoping.

A Much-Needed Reminder

I've been enjoying the blog of a friend from high school, who is now all grown up and a mighty fine writer/blogger. Today was an especially resonant post for me, so I am compelled to share. Enjoy this post, and think about bookmarking Jill's blog as a daily favorite.



If you want to buy an album on iTunes, it's gonna cost you $9.99. If you want to buy someone a gift card so that they can purchase an album on iTunes, it'll cost $10.

I wonder how much extra money goes into the Apple coffers because of that penny difference. I think I'd like to sign up to have those pennies deposited into my own personal checking account.

I mean, I know it's all imaginary money anyway--what's the difference between paying $9.99 and $10, really? But why, then, don't they just make it cost $10 to download the album? What is the deal with that penny?

Friday, January 09, 2009

God Bless Olive

Mae approaches, Olive prepares.

Mae pets Olive.

Mae huuuuugs Olive.

This is a really big hug, people.
And believe it or not, Olive did not run away following this photo shoot. In fact, Mae got up and walked away and Olive looked a little disappointed that the lovin' had come to an end. What a sweet cat!

The Time Has Come

Back when Arlo was a toddler, I found this adorable knitting pattern for a hat equipped with holes--made for a little girl's pigtails to stick out. I mildly lamented the fact that I had a boy, because I so desperately wanted to parade my child around in the "Piggle."

I'm surprised that I never knitted one for myself, given my propensity for grown-up pigtails. Even though I said, many times, that I should knit a Piggle hat for any of my numerous friends who have since had little girls, I never did. Maybe I didn't really want anyone else to have one (that is, an adorable little girl in a special pigtail hat) if I couldn't have one.

Since Mae was born, I've been monitoring the hair situation, wishing that her hair would grow as quickly and thickly and luxuriously as Arlo's did when he was her age. I have pined away for my girl's hair to be long enough to attempt pigtails.


Guess I'd better get crackin.' Matching Piggles for Mom and Daughter, coming soon to a blog (and two very lucky heads) near you!