From an article about Billy Ray Cyrus by some idiot at GQ:

One of the freedoms you can find away from the nation's coasts is freedom from the curse of trying to be cool ...



From Bert Holldobler's & Edward O. Wilson's Journey to the Ants:
In our view, the competitive edge that led to the rise of the ants as a world-dominant group is their highly developed, self-sacrificial colonial existence. It would appear that socialism really works under some circumstances. Karl Marx just had the wrong species.
(What is dogeared?)


roaring for a chamber-pot

Warning: Readers without children may want to skip this post.

So I really didn't want to start potty-training, as I've mentioned, but Nugget has seemed very ready for a while so I felt like I should. I guess I have to reevaluate what constitutes readiness.

We went all out on potty training starting this morning, and in the less than four hours it took me to give up, Nugget went through six pairs of underwear, including one that I threw away (I know it's not ecologically or economically sound, but there's a reason I didn't do cloth diapering. I'm just not willing to go there.) and Nugget did not earn a single sticker.

I really tried to stick with it, even after I repeatedly asked him to be very specific about whether he had to poop or had already pooped, and, with his full assurance that he had not pooped, I pulled down his pants and poop fell out.

The final straw was after I cleaned him up from that little incident, and I asked him over and over again whether he wanted to sit on the potty before putting clean underwear on; he said no, no, he didn't have to pee, so I foolishly listened to him and put clean underwear on. Whereupon he immediately told me he had to pee. Whereupon I discovered he had in fact already peed. In the underwear that had been on him for less than two minutes.

This is why I am not ready to potty train. Not because I don't want my baby to grow up. Nugget will always be my baby, even when he doesn't need me to clean up his poop. Even (sigh) when he does need me to clean up his poop.


such a deal of skimble-skamble stuff

During my last year of college I volunteered in a after-school arts program at a local elementary school. I and a partner planned and implemented arts-related activities for about a half-dozen fourth graders once a week.

I had to apply to get into this program, and I was initially rejected. But then someone dropped out so they called me. Possibly after calling a half-dozen other people. I am pretty sure I was a last resort. In part because during the interview I told the two students who led the program that I thought my weakness would be discipline and keeping the kids focused. "Thanks for your honesty," they said. But also because the sample lesson plan I submitted with my application was built around having the kids recount how their families came to America. The students at the school were mostly African-American.

My favorite moment from this class was when we had the kids enact talk shows featuring characters from fairy tales. One girl, portraying Goldilocks, confronted the three bears, wailing plaintively, "I was cold! And I was hungry! And I was NAKED!" Those kids were amazing.

But the moment I recall most often was the day we were reading The Little Prince and I needed to explain the word "sacred" to the kids. It's not an easy word to define under any circumstances, and I was on the spot. But what complicated it was my hazy half-baked idea that I was not supposed to make any reference to religion under any circumstances because this was a public school and we had to maintain the separation of church and state. Yeah. Chalk it up to youthful naivete and let's just forget that I was 21.

Anyway, accepting this faulty premise, how the heck do you define "sacred" without making reference to religion? I suppose it can be done, but I was obviously not thinking very clearly. So I told the kids that "sacred" describes something that is magical, like a dragon. Yeah, a dragon. Even the fourth-graders knew that was not what "sacred" meant. I can still picture the incredulous, derisive looks on their faces, and it still makes me cringe. My partner jumped in quickly to set the record straight. I don't recall what he said, but I'm pretty sure it did not involve dragons.


Thy words are too precious to be cast away upon curs

My dog, Kiara, often pees in the house to get back at me when I leave her home alone. She's been doing this pretty much since I got her six years ago, although it is worse now, probably because of our recent move. She was abandoned twice before she was a year old, so she's got some issues. Notwithstanding the last six years of not being abandoned.

Since it doesn't get that cold here, I've taken to just bringing her along every time we leave the house, and leaving her in the car while we go in the store or whatever. She barks the entire time, but at least she doesn't pee in the car. So, in my current life as a stay-at-home mom, I don't go anywhere without my entourage: dog and toddler.

But before I started doing that, when we would come home to find the telltale puddle, I would of course yell at Kiara, believing it necessary to let her know this is not acceptable, however hopeless it seems. So that's the background.

The other day when Nugget was throwing a tantrum about something or other, I sat him down for a discussion about appropriate ways of showing anger, I said: we don't yell when we're angry. You see where this is going, right? He said, "Mommy yell at Kiara?" Busted.


therefore hath the wind-swift Cupid wings

In the category of questions I never had to ask when I lived in Chicago: what does one do at a four-way intersection with no stop or yield signs when another car arrives at the intersection from another direction at the same time? Who has to stop? Obviously, my response will always be "not me"--I'm always up for a game of chicken. One of many reasons Trent drives whenever we are both in the car.

Speaking of which: "Importance of driving compatibility to a relationship" is on the list of post topics I've jotted down. Trent and I were driving somewhere a couple weeks ago--or rather he was driving, of course--and he was telling me about a recent short road trip he took with someone who drove very slowly and cautiously. "tThat would drive me insane," I said. Trent agreed that it had indeed been very annoying. I have met the wife of the driver in question, and I reflected for a moment on what it must be like to be her. "I don't think I could be married to you if you drove like that. I think that would have been a dealbreaker."

A couple in a long-term relationship typically spends a lot of time in the car together. At least in this country. With the possible exception of New Yorkers. It could have a significant effect on a relationship if the parties have different ideas about the appropriate way to drive. I have been in cars with couples who were bickering about driving, and it was quite unpleasant. So I think driving compatibility should be part of the conversation in premarital discussions and counseling.

Fortunately, Trent used to drag race when a heedless youth, and he still tends to drive fast and aggressively, although he probably has more concern for safety these days. He is a good driver, as well as a fast driver. Which does not necessarily stop me from suggesting--in that special tone of voice that I didn't know I had until I'd been married for a while--that he slow down at times. For the most part, though, he drives fast enough even for me. It may be an understatement--at least according to Trent--to say that I am not a very patient woman, generally speaking. He is not always as aggressive as I would like--he doesn't, for example, try to drive people off the road when they attempt to pass him, to my chagrin--but that's probably for the best.

Of course, there is another side of the coin here. Trent doesn't like my driving, it must be acknowledged. But (a) no one likes my driving, not even me; and (b) there is a very simple solution--I don't drive when Trent's in the car, which pleases me as much as him. In fact, we recently drove for four days from Chicago to Port Angeles and I didn't get behind the wheel once. Here again, fortunately, Trent is well-suited to be married to me: scoffs at the idea that driving all day for several days (in December) might be hard. We were made for each other.


o’erstep not the modesty of nature

I started work on a novel yesterday, and it was really hard. Were you expecting it to be easy? My husband laughed when I told him. No, but I was taken aback by how crappy my writing seemed to me as I wrote. It really shook my confidence. And that really scared me: if I can't write a novel, then what am I doing? I left a great career to be a stay-at-home mom. I realized that my whole life plan hinges on being able to write a novel, so if I can't do it ... then what?

When I went back a few hours later and read what I'd written, it didn't seem totally crappy. So that was good. But I'm encountering a problem that I think is common among first-time novelists: it's too autobiographical. I'm not sure whether I want to continue. On the other hand, maybe I need to get that material processed and out of my system.

Anyway, it feels good to be moving forward.

I got Nugget's hair cut yesterday, and he looks like he's ready to enlist now. It's a real big boy haircut, someone said. It's got me thinking about the fact that I've never been that sentimental about his hair. It's true I was upset the first time I had his haircut, when I thought they cut it too short and I was mad at myself for letting someone cut off his baby curls. But I didn't wait a long time to get that first haircut, as many people do, and I've kept his hair pretty short ever since. I like that he looks like a big boy. He is a big boy.

While getting my eyebrows shaped the other day I was talking to the aesthetician about kids -- she had a baby girl, I think she said 4 months old. I mentioned that I thought Nugget was ready for potty training, but that I wasn't. She immediately jumped to commiserating with me about how "we" don't want our kids to grow up. Which is totally not what I had in mind. I'm not ready for potty training because it seems like a real hassle -- remembering to ask if he needs to go potty every couple hours, dealing with accidents -- I'd rather change diapers. But I didn't correct her. She seemed like the type who would recoil in horror that I found anything about my child to be a hassle.

That was not the first time someone assumed I was wishing my son wouldn't grow up, and commiserated. I don't get it. Why would I want to keep my son from growing up? Even when I occasionally miss things about his babyhood, I never think, oh if only he were still a baby. That's just weird to me. I love the age he is now, and I can't wait to experience every new age with him. I want him to learn and grow and have new adventures.

Not to mention the fact that I found his infancy much harder and less enjoyable than toddlerhood. There were perks, to be sure, and sometimes I miss them -- the new baby smell, the cuddling, those dimpled thighs; being able to cart him around while he sleeps; never worrying about what he's eating; etc. And certainly toddlerhood is equally hard. But it's hard in different ways, ways that I prefer. Infancy is physically hard, but it's boring. Toddlerhood is a mental challenge: how do I get him to eat right, sleep enough, and let me get my errands done while teaching him to be independent and make good choices, and feel unconditionally loved? It's still hard, but it's the type of challenge I prefer.


Broccoli Recipe for Toddlers

So I don't expect to be posting a lot of recipes here because I don't consider myself much of a cook, but I do have to say that I've been doing a totally awesome job at getting tasty, nutritious, homemade meals on the table every night since I quit my job. because I totally rock. And so does the ingredient search at allrecipes.com. (Not a sponsored plug.)

Nugget and I were at Costco the other day and I picked up a Costco-sized bag of broccoli florets. "I yike broccoli!" Nugget told me happily. Shocked but hopeful, I put the bag in the cart and steamed some broccoli that night. After much scolding and cajoling and threatening, he put one tiny piece in his mouth and spit it out. Another night I made my (unbelievably delicious) homemade macaroni casserole, with broccoli and ham. "'Oni cheese" is Nugget's favorite food, hands down, but he almost refused to eat any of it, even a bite without broccoli in it.(He did eventually eat some, including the ham, which was awesome. But the next day when I asked if he wanted macaroni and cheese for dinner again he said, "not mommy's.")

So today, when I was planning a variation on a recipe that I think my mother made up-- a split baked potato topped with chicken and broccoli and blue cheese dressing (I substituted grated cheddar for the blue cheese because my husband dislikes blue cheese, an untenable position that I tolerate because I love him very much) and I was nosing around the internet for a more interesting broccoli preparation than my usual simple microwave steaming, when I came across this recipe. I told Nugget I was making "brocoli candy" and had him help me add the brown sugar.

I won't say that he loved it, yet, but he did eat two whole florets and professed to like it. I am hopeful that he will eat more next time, and may even learn to love broccoli without the brown sugar. And, importantly, Trent and I liked it. It's unusual but quite good. The original recipe on allrecipes included cayenne pepper, lemon juice, and garlic powder, which I left out. I also halved the broccoli while leaving the other quantities as is, and was happy with the proportions.

Nugget's Broccoli Candy

1/4 c. olive oil
2 T. brown sugar
1 tsp. dried oregano
1 tsp. dried thyme
salt to taste
1/2 lb broccoli florets

1. Preheat oven to 350 F.
2. Mix olive oil, brown sugar, and seasonings.
3. Pour oil mixture over florets in a large bowl and toss to coat.
4. Spread florets on baking sheet and bake about 15 minutes until slightly browned.

Serves 2 to 3 adults and a toddler.


wonderous strange snow

This week was all about gratitude. Gratitude that I don't live in Chicago anymore. Haha, suckas! I asked Trent last night whether he was disappointed not to be in Chicago experiencing history and was very surprised when he said yes, a little. I'm more than content to miss out on that one, thank you very much. 

[Nugget just asked me to help him with something and when I hovered a second too long afterward he ordered me to "go back to work." Love his growing independence.] 

Although it is much warmer here than in Chicago, and although we are partly in the rain shadow of the Olympics, it is still pretty wet and this puts a damper--ha--on outdoor activities. Even if it's not raining for the moment, the playground equipment is usually all wet. So we have become frequent visitors to a place I have not been in years. To my shame, Nugget's growing vocabulary now includes "a'Donald's." Which is not to say that we are eating there all the time. Although we do sometimes. And I am torn between delight that Nugget is actually eating chicken--protein that's not cheese!--and wondering morbidly what is actually in a McNugget. I have never recovered from seeing Supersize Me.

One wet day when I really wanted to curl up with a latte and a book and Nugget really wanted to run around like a crazy man, I had the naive idea of heading to "McCafe" to satisfy both our needs. Sadly, and perhaps unsurprisingly, I discovered that a latte at McDonald's tastes like McDoald's coffee--colored water with a bitter aftertaste--with steamed milk. Sigh. So much for finding SAHM paradise.

So why is it that McDonald's and its ilk are the only option for a free indoor playground? Why doesn't Starbucks--or better yet, Tully's or Peet's or Intelligentsia or Argo, or even better yet, since I'm dreaming, an independent coffee shop with free wifi, used books, comfy couches, a roaring fire (childproofed), and a hearty helping of character--have a play area like McDonald's? Why not Panera or Noodles & Co. or Potbelly or Corner Bakery or even Subway, some place with healthier food? OK, McDonald's salads are actually quite good. But (a) there's no salad HappyMeal, and Nugget wouldn't eat it anyway, (b) I still feel like there must be some health-destroying processed-food chemicals sprinkled on the salad (why else would it taste so good?), and (c) at least one time out of five if I'm at McDonald's I'm going to cave and get a Quarter Pounder with cheese. Because the health-destroying processed-food chemicals are in the same family as crack cocaine, as far as I can tell.

Would some like-minded entrepreneur please get on this, and open a branch in my hometown ASAP?