While I applaud the PC nature of Crayola’s “multicultural” crayon set, next time, I suggest the product-development folks think about flesh colors—picture actual skin tones. Really, a white crayon and a black crayon? For the record, in the limited crayon palette at school, Carter reaches for the orange crayon when he draws himself.
Archive for the ‘Family life’ Category
“Mommy, I’m almond, you’re white chocolate, and Daddy’s dark chocolate.” When a conversation with Carter about why my paler skin would burn without sunblock took this turn, I correctly guessed his kindergarten class had read a book about skin color.
The book turned out to be Shades of People by Shelley Rotner and and Sheila M. Kelly. I got it, and I like it. Talking about race is a necessary but often uncomfortable conversation parents need to have with their kids. I like how Shades of People gives parents an easy way to use common words to talk about skin color—and, by extension, race—at an age-appropriate level.
“Have you noticed that people come in many different shades?” is the opening sentence of Shades of People followed by: “Not colors, exactly, but shades.” The book features color photos of people with different shades of skin, which it likens to wrapping paper.
At the start of the school year when Carter and his classmates drew self portraits topped with yarn hair, I was happy to see that they had various shades of paper to choose from. Carter used a tan that’s, well, pretty close to almond.
When Carter and I read Shades of People together, Carter considered whether Daddy’s skin color might actually be closer to coffee. Almond, chocolate, or coffee. You really can’t go wrong with any of those—or a combination.
Carter is perfectly capable of getting himself dressed in the mornings. Yesterday, he put on the Dalmatian-print flannel pants from his Halloween costume, usually reserved for PJs. Some parents might disagree with his choice, but I didn’t care. I’m not a morning person, so I’ve been overly sympathetic to Carter when he’s a sad sleepyhead, like Mommy. Even though I know that I shouldn’t, I’ve even dressed him on particularly late, weepy mornings. But this week, I’ve been managing, though not happily, to get myself up and out of his way. I forced myself to practice what I preach in parenting books: Step back, stop nagging, and tell Carter that I trusted him to get himself ready.
And he did. Good puppy!
Happy Mothers’ Day! Except for asking (aka pestering, nagging, begging) everyone I know to buy the book The Happiest Mom (Parenting Magazine): 10 Secrets to Enjoying Motherhood ($8.22, 45 percent off at Amazon today). I’ve been mostly off the grid the past several months. Tweeting @bakingwithc, but not blogging (a story for another day). So why do I care so much about this book? I’ve edited dozens and dozens of books, but this one is different. The Happiest Mom published with Parenting magazine (the book includes a one-year subscription) struck a personal nerve with me. I’m going to cheat and share an answer I gave when Freelance Success, through which I met the author, Meagan Francis recently interviewed me for its newsletter.
Q: What makes this project so special for you—you say you really put your heart into it?
A: Heart and soul. I know from personal experience how powerful the support from other moms can be, especially when you have young kids (my son is 6). This book gave me the opportunity to counter some of the recent less-than-enthusiastic press motherhood has gotten and offer practical and emotional support to moms everywhere.
Meagan’s pitch was perfectly timed. I had just read I Was a Really Good Mom Before I Had Kids for book club. The book’s message is: motherhood is miserable, but we can get through it together. Worse, there was a growing trend of blogs and books with a similar message—and this was all before Tiger Mom!
Well, we book club moms disagreed. We like being moms. I felt the world needed a different message: being a mom is wonderful, but challenging. By sharing the good times and supporting each other in the not-so-good times, we moms can enjoy motherhood together.
Meagan’s message that you can say “happy” and “mom” in the same sentence resonated strongly with me, and I knew it would with a lot of other moms. The Happiest Mom offers realistic advice that can have an immediate impact on your happiness. This book also gave me a chance to inject some personal advice—how to say “no,” (politely) brush off busybodies, and make a don’t-do list. You know, all those things that nag at you because you “should” do them? Put some on a “never do” list and others on a “don’t do now, but might do later” list. You’ll feel instant relief. Also, look for the “two-minute” rule inspired by Dave Allen’s Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress-Free Productivity. It will change your life.
I’m know for being science-phobic (I took yearbook instead of chemistry in high school), but the Scientific Explorer’s Mind Blowing Science Kit for Young Scientists Santa got Carter for Christmas could change that. Today Carter and I made “magic goo.” Try it even if there’s no kid around.
Simply mix 5 tablespoons cornstarch with 1/8 cup (1 ounce) water in a bowl with your fingers. Squeeze the mixture, ball it up, put it down. What happens? Is it a liquid or a solid? Technically, this corn starch-water mixture is a “non-Newtonian” liquid, which means pressure as well as temperature can affect its viscosity. (Newton was in the temperature-only camp.) When you squeeze the mixture, it feels like a solid, but take away the pressure and it goes quickly back to liquid state.
Of course beyond the science lesson about solids and liquids, tactile exploration is a key benefit of this easy science experiment. Bottom line, though, do it yourself with or without kids because it’s fun.
For more details and a larger-scale recipe, check out Steve Spangler Science’s take on this chemistry experiment. The site’s tagline is “making science fun!” It’s never too soon to start or too late to try.
Unplanned, unintended hiatus. Months go by without blogging, and here I am showing up finally.
Much has happened. Carter has started kindergarten, rides his bike without training wheels, and lost his first tooth. As the “snack coordinator” for Team Dynamite, I officially become a soccer mom on Saturday.
Saturday is also the one-year anniversary of the break-in. I am not the same, and I am not over it. How sad and annoying is that? I still don’t have a new wedding ring, but a titanium (both nonallergenic and airplane grade, how appropriate) one is on its way.
You know you can get anything on Amazon, except, perhaps, peace of mind.
Outside of school assignments decades ago, I rarely wrote about my own life until I took a personal essay class from Adair Lara back in 2001. The biggest “aha!”—realizing that readers get bored if everything is going well. Conflict keeps their attention. You also have to show how your experience illustrates some universal truth without it being a cliché. It’s way harder to do than I imagined. I didn’t even attempt it again for years.
Now, I’m writing a blog, where the whole point is to share something personal that I hope will be of value and interest to other people. While I’ve been microblogging on Twitter (bakingwithc) lately, this is the longest I’ve gone without updating the blog. Part of it is I’m a perfectionist when it comes to writing. I just can’t dash out a blog and hit “publish.” To me, blogs are personal essays, so I hesitate to write unless I can deliver a fully-formed essay. (I’ve also been trading writing time for sleeping, but that’s a different day’s topic.)
Which is a very long way to get around to talking about Mothers’ Day, because mine was so nice.
Carter, who was supposedly going to let me sleep in, woke me up around 6 am, because he couldn’t wait to give me my cards. The only problem was he wanted to know where they were. I realize I’m his early-morning go-to guy, but this was one question I could not answer. Jeff got a rare wake-up call, followed by whispering.
The card that Carter made for me at daycare had his handprint on one side and flowers he drew on the other side. He also got me a baby pink Hallmark card pink decorated with chiffon ribbons and a gold seal. ”Mommy, I know the bad guys took your jewelry and made you sad, so I got you this card that has jewelry on it to help you feel better.” Put that together with hand-drawn hearts and a signature with both his first and last name on the inside and who wouldn’t melt? (See it’s just not tension-filled essay material.)
Then miracle of miracles, Carter let me sleep some until Jeff brought me breakfast in bed: Mickey Mouse pancakes, grapefruit, cheesy scrambled eggs, and Whitman’s dark chocolate sampler. No complaints there.
And that’s not all! I went to yoga, and my shoulder didn’t hurt! (Thank you, thank you, Dr. George Thabit for ending my year and a half of pain with one shot.)
That’s still not all. I went to hear Anna Quindlen speak. I’m so in love, that’s whole other blog topic.
And to top it off, Carter insisted we go to Dave and Busters because that’s where we went last year. Not my scene, but after dinner, we stopped by Forever 21, a new store to me. Carter picked out an adorable, albeit short, blue polka-dot dress for me. I wore it with skinny jeans to work on Monday and got an unusual number of compliments. (This reminded me of Anna’s comment about how this is the first generation of mothers to dress so much like their daughters.)
So no drama, just a really nice day.
If stuck with me this far, despite the lack of conflict, thank you. I owe you a pithy wrap-up that ties my Mother’s Day to a universally understood experience. But I’m not coming up with it. So, instead, I’ll simply sign off by sending my best wishes to all mothers out there. I hope you, too, had a wonderful day.
On rainy days when I was a kid, all the neighborhood kids would gather around our kitchen table (big enough to seat my parents and us six kids) for my mom’s project du jour. It could be anything from copper enameling to baking chocolate-chip oatmeal cookies, making candles to pouring plaster of Paris in red rubber molds.
When Carter’s friend and neighbor Sonia came over to bake with us on a rainy afternoon, I felt a bit nostalgic for those days. Sonia wore her new apron, and we made mini lemon Bundt cakes. I explained to Carter and Sonia how they could each put in a quarter cup to equal a half, and figured that pinches from two 5-year-olds equalled the called-for pinch of salt. (Baking is such a great way to teach math, without it seeming like you’re teaching math.)
We also did some experimenting. Since we were out of yogurt, we substituted sour cream and added 2 tablespoons of buttermilk. If I were Alton Brown, that could have been a science lesson.
Better than the mini lemon Bundt cakes being delicious (thanks to Nigella and four helping hands): Sonia wanting to come back and bake with us again.
I just read Wheels on the Bus, and Lucy, Emily’s son Benjamin’s one-of-a-kind lovey, has gone missing. For a mom, this is a crisis situation. I left an encouraging message after recently having had a Bear Blanket close call. And I don’t want to think about what would happen if we lost Pink Bear.
When I was pregnant, my friend Brenda took me to Maternal Connection at El Camino Hospital, an amazing and rare resource for breastfeeding supplies and support. She told me to buy two flannel receiving blankets. One had a balloon pattern, the other Teddy bears. As only an experienced mom would know, these blankets were cut larger than most receiving blankets, so you could actually swaddle a baby in one. Of course, we didn’t know our baby would weigh 9 pounds, 13 ounces, at birth and quickly outgrow them for swaddling.
Brenda also took one look at me the first time she saw me at home alone with Carter, called El Camino, had me hand over a credit card, and registered me for the New Mothers’ Support Group, another amazing resource when taught by her same teacher, Laurie. My mommies’ group, all with babies born within weeks of each other, is still a lifesaver and actively in touch, as is Brenda’s. During a class, Laurie taught us how to train our child to have a lovey. The hope is a baby with a lovey in the crib will wake up, comfort himself with the smell of Mommy from the lovey, and fall back asleep without crying.
I started with cloth diapers (it’s a good strategy, as you’ll see, to have multiples). I’d put one over my left shoulder, where I would pat Carter after nursing him at bedtime. (I’d be in my bed. Sometimes, I’d fall asleep, too, and “forget to put the baby back.”) I’d put it with him in his crib and toss it in the wash in the morning. Eventually, I upgraded him to flannel blankets, and the El Camino blankets went into the rotation. As the years went by, and the El Camino blankets became the softest from the most washes, Carter settled on just the Bear and Balloon Blankets. He would sleep with them and use them to comfort himself. (When he’d get upset, I’d straight out ask, “Do you want a flannel blanket?”) They also had starring roles in many pretend play schemes. Then they went missing, turning up, finally, in all places, at Brenda’s house. (She had assumed they were one of her kids’ until I called searching for them.)
Late last year, we lost Balloon Blanket. Carter rejected the replacement from El Camino (yes, the shop still sells the same pattern nearly five years later) because it lacked the washed-hundreds-of-times texture. As a preventative measure, I cut Bear Blanket in half. Then one half disappeared. I cut the remaining half in half.
Then the other night, I found myself knocking on the door after hours at Frye’s trying to track down a 1/4-size piece of worn-thin flannel that looks like a rag. I told the man at the door, “It’s an emergency! My son lost his baby blanket!” (I left out that my son is now 5.) I retraced my husband’s steps and nearly assailed the salesperson cleaning up in the camera section, where the model trains live, too. He had seen it…and eventually found it in a back room! I could not adequately express my gratitude.
New rule: Both Bear Blanket halves stay home. Carter’s asleep with them now. And I had to find Pink Bear before he went to sleep. I hope I won’t have to ground her, too.
Is saying “I’m doing the best I can”:
A) Giving up
C) My 2009 mantra
D) All of the above
Does the answer depend on whether I say it aloud or just to myself? I confess it was my silent mantra last year, but I’ve found myself saying it lately with some frequency.
Excuse or survival tactic? Discuss among yourself.