Saturday, March 31, 2012

Toddler Tricks - 86: Make a Deal

Problem: You have several things on your agenda, and you need your kids to be down for all of it. Or you have a fun thing to do, but then some not-so-fun things and you want to head off the inevitable tantrum at the pass.

Solution: Make a bargain, make a deal. Make 'em sign it. Or at least shake. Or at the very least, have them listen to you, understand and verbally say okay.

Example:
"We'll go to the swimming pool, but when we get back we have to take a bath and mommy has to vacuum. Understand?"
"Yes."
"No, really. When I say we leave the swimming pool, we have to leave and do our chores, then we'll do more fun stuff. Okay? We can't go if you if don't leave when mommy says."
"Okay."

Then later, when they go to kick up a fuss, you can remind them of their side of the bargain. There's nothing that means more to a toddler than what you say, and they're still young enough so that they hold themselves to the same standards they hold others, so that when they say something, they will also stand by it, as they expect you to do.

"Remember what you said? You said this was okay. You agreed to it."
"...Okay."

So far, it's working like a charm.

___
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Friday, March 30, 2012

Little Girl Excitement

It's here. The moment I've been waiting for since learning I was going to have girls. Waiting for, or dreading...or both. It's the screamy, shrill, oh-my-God-I'm-so-excited-and-thrilled shriek. My girls have got it and they've got it bad. It's cute. For the first three seconds at least. Thankfully, they're also given to song, so that as the initial shock wears off, their voices float down to a more agreeable level and they chant their desire instead.

I give you, "the Alicia song."

video

In their defense, Alicia is pretty awesome. She's been my friend since I was five years old. I hope my kids find a friend like her for themselves. Or maybe they've got one built in? We can only hope.




Thursday, March 29, 2012

I Give my Kids Chocolate Milk for Breakfast

I give my kids chocolate milk for breakfast. I really do. And every time I squirt the Hershey's into their pristine, delicious white milk, I feel a twinge of guilt. But I don't care. I do it anyway. Here's why:

1) My kids were bottle lovers. They adore routine more than anything else and have since they were born. When we took the bottles away (at two, not one, like we should have), it was as if we'd purposefully ended the world. Those first weeks were tough, and all the "you're such big girls now" in the world weren't helping. So they stopped drinking milk entirely, in protest. Chocolate saved me.

"Hey, how about not milk, but chocolate milk?"
Skeptical eyes. "...Okay."

And it was done.

2) It's not like that squirt of chocolate is going to do more damage than the Froot Loops they're chomping on.

3) I figure it's like I gave them Cocoa Puffs with milk in it for breakfast. Same thing, right?

4) I had sugary crap cereal as a kid and it's still my favorite food. I flatter myself by thinking I turned out just fine.

5) This is only what we call "first breakfast." We have a second breakfast of apple sauce, yogurt, grits or oatmeal, every day.

6) It's not like the pre-mixed stuff. My chocolate milk is actually rather greyish. I've tried slowly weaning back to white milk by microscopic increments. They can totally tell when it goes from just-barely-slightly chocolate to white.

7) To me, there's no difference between 9 a.m. and 1 p.m. so chocolate milk doesn't suddenly become more acceptable in the afternoon.

8) I still cut their juice in half with water. (Although this is pure rationalization now. What does juice management have to do with chocolate milk for breakfast? Nothing. I think I'm done.)

Anyway, I make a lot of parenting mistakes, but if chocolate milk keeps my kids quiet while I do my morning tasks, I don't consider giving it to them one of those mistakes. You've got to do what you've got to do. Right?

___
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Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Guest Post - How to Encourage Good Behavior at Your Child’s Birthday Party

Today I am grateful to have party-planning expert Lisa here with a guest post on the ever-stressful child's party.

...

Your child knows the rules at your house, but the fifteen children who are coming over for his birthday party don’t. They have a whole different set of rules at their homes. Plus, when they arrive to your house for a birthday party, they’ll be ready to let loose, and sometimes that means that they’ll be ready to be mischievous. As the host of a birthday party for kids, it’s your job to make sure everyone stays safe and everything remains under control. Here are a few tips to help you do that:

1. Get them up and moving.

Plan outdoor activities that allow the kids to be active outside. Make sure the activities you plan are structured and keep the kids busy. And make sure you supervise them as they play. Letting the kids release some of their pent up energy in a controlled setting will help prevent misbehaving due to hyperactivity. If it’s raining or the kids can’t play outside for some reason, consider playing games like Twister and Red Light, Green Light.

2. Make the rules clear.

When all the party guests have arrived, sit them down, and let them know the party rules. If they know they’re not allowed to do certain things upfront, they’ll be less likely to do those things. Plus, letting the kids know that there are party rules will make them more cognizant of their behavior in general.

3. Assert yourself.

Throughout the party, don’t be afraid to assert yourself and correct the children when they do something that is unsafe or disruptive. It’s a birthday party. So, you should be nice. However, you shouldn’t be too nice. Children can tell when they can walk all over an adult, and some children aren’t afraid to take advantage of you if they perceive you to be passive.

If you stand your ground, establish rules, and keep them moving, you can expect a lot of fun and relatively few behavioral issues at your child’s next birthday party.

___

Author’s Bio: Lisa is a guest blogger on the subjects of parenting, child behavior, and party planning with fun stuff like Mario party supplies.


Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Cake Pops - A Review


Perfectly rounded, bite-sized deliciousness, dipped in colorful frosted coating, and sprinkled for effect. Placed on a stick like a lollipop for a no-mess, classy bite of sweetness. Could anything be more decadent? More delectable?

My children saw these behind the glass at Starbucks a few weeks ago and began their relentless badgering. Clearly, cake pops were the one thing on this Earthly plane that they had been missing out on. Cake pops must be heaven. Cake and a lollipop? A lollipop cake? Two of their favorite things swirled together in a glorious mix of genius

We didn't get them that day. I don't know why. Probably because I'm mean. I didn't feel like cleaning up the mess or they didn't need another snack before nap, I don't know. But they've never let me forget it.

So this weekend when my husband popped into the coffee shop, asking what he could bring them back, cake pops were the obvious choice.

When he entered, the girls were ecstatic. Finally. Finally! Finally, they would know the joy that is cake pops.

Only not. Not at all.


They tried valiantly to like these. They tried for two whole days. Coming back to them. Taking a lick or a small bite. Putting them down again. "I've had enough," they'd say. "You don't like it?" I'd ask. (Clearly they didn't but after such a fuss, they can't admit to it.) "No," they'd answer. "It's not that I don't like it, I've just had enough." (This is my pride that that sentence came out of my child's mouth.)

Eventually, weighted with curiosity, I gave them a try myself, and yech! No wonder the girls can't eat even this one small mouthful.

The frosting is as if made of plastic. The cake within...is it even cake? I mean, are these supposed to be cooked at home or something? The doughy mess sticks to your teeth and your stomach lining.

Tell me it's just my local Starbucks. Restore my faith in the beauty of the cake pop. Because right now, I'm sorely disappointed. And for two dollars, too. Because God forbid the price match the size.


___
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Monday, March 26, 2012

Recipe Monday - Zucchini Muffins


These are the first muffins I've ever made without a muffin mix. I grated the zucchini and everything! /proud.

Anyway, they were easy and delicious.


3 eggs
1 cup oil
1 2⁄3; cups sugar
1⁄3; cup brown sugar
2 cups zucchini , grated
3 cups flour , sifted
1 teaspoon baking soda
¼ teaspoon baking powder
3 teaspoons cinnamon
1 teaspoon salt
½ cup walnuts , chopped
Directions:

1 Beat the eggs until they are light and foamy.
2 Add the sugar, oil and zucchini.
3 Blend well with a spoon.
4 Mix the dry ingredients and add to the egg mixture; blend well.
5 Add the nuts, and spoon into greased muffin tins.
6 Bake at 325°F for 20 minutes.


___
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Sunday, March 25, 2012

Moment of the Week - 85: Making Up Songs

video

I missed the part where Lilly was singing about how beaufidal her daddy is. But the days of the week are priceless, too!



Saturday, March 24, 2012

Toddler Tricks - 85: Make the Old New

Problem: With toddlers, there are only so many options you have for an easy, fun day. Sure you could go on many adventures right outside your door, or, for the more adventurous, you could even do day trips to parks, museums, the mall and the like, but by 3.5, your kids have likely been there, done that. Usually it doesn't matter. They like routine and repetition after all. But I don't like the shine coming off of our weekly park trips. I need the girls out of the house, and it's easiest for me when they're really excited about where we're going.

Solution: Come at the old venues in a different way. If you usually go right to the playland at the mall, do a scavenger hunt instead, or if you're particularly daring, try to go shopping, pushing them in one of those little novelty cars. If you're going on a walk, give them specific things to look for, plants, animals, signs, balloons, whatever you like. We went to the park yesterday, and I noticed that my kids were rather lackluster about it. So I made it a picnic. They were instantly enthused. It was going to be the best picnic ever! Lilly would carry the blanket. Dulce would carry the sandwiches. I've rarely seen them so excited, to be honest. And after we ate our picnic lunch (killing two birds, since I had to feed them lunch anyway), they ran and played for almost two hours.






There are usually many activities you can do at each of your normal locations. Your kids will love them all, and they'll be a nice break for you as well.

___
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Friday, March 23, 2012

Threshold of Pain

My kids have a threshold problem. It's as if they get stuck there, in the door frame, at the car, and most especially at the staircase, just caught between going and coming, not wanting one experience to end and so lingering, but hoping the next will have already begun and so impatient and demanding even as they refuse to move.

This causes much drama in the mornings, especially because it's before my coffee and I am ill-equipped to deal with their special brand of blunt torture after just rising.

The scene: After finding any number of reasons to cry before I'm fully awake (their towels aren't straight, they have the little side of the bed, they want a different color toothpaste, one of them got to shut the door and not the other, they left their lovey somewhere but need me to get it when I'm...busy) we finally rustle ourselves to the hallway.

We are greeted by the stairs, which I now know mean nothing if not destruction and terror. This is where the whole operation falls apart each morning, as the twins peer over the steps, hovering, waiting, thinking. How can they make it miserable this morning?

They always manage, whether it's by not descending at all, just standing there, looking at me defiantly, as if they are not hungry, not thirsty, do not need to start their day, would be perfectly happy chilling on the stairs for the rest of their lives in fact, or racing down the stairs--only in a house of three-year-old twins, there is no winner, only losers. Whoever makes it down first gloats while the other screams shards of glass right into my eardrums. Sometimes they trick me and begin to go down, only to stop because they've remembered something is not quite right, and we absolutely need a do-over right now. No. No, no, no, no.

And every morning I wonder to myself why I can't just have normal children who can wake up in the morning not as bears, but as humans, and who can move through any threshold with ease, as if it ain't no thing.

Simple. Wake up. Go upstairs. Brush teeth. Go downstairs.

But no. Instead, we have the post above. Why, girls, why?




Thursday, March 22, 2012

Guest Post: Twin Talk - Is it Real, and Should it be Encouraged?

Today I am lucky enough to have a guest blogger. And she's actually done research and stuff. Thank you, Imogen!

...

When you find out you’re pregnant with twins, it really does double the shock waves that run through your system. Even if you’re trying for a baby and even if you have twins in the family, you don’t expect two little miracles to be growing inside you and the list of things you have to do and think about has really doubled! In addition to all your usual must-buys and plans, including whether to commit to investing online or via your local bank for their college funds, you now have to think about the idiosyncrasies that come with having twins. One of these is the wonder of ‘twin talk’ and whether it is actually something to worry about at all.

There are many popular myths about twins and multiples and the idea that they share an exclusive secret language that only they can understand is one of them. Specific scientific terms such as idioglossia, autonomous language and cryptophasia have been coined to describe the phenomenon that is twin talk. Scientists and researchers have been extremely interested in twin interaction for a long time and despite their interest in twin talk, it’s said to be very rare indeed for twins to develop a whole language and when it does occur it’s usually due to neglect or isolation.

What is Twin Talk?

Rather than being a distinct phenomenon between twin talk and your solo baby’s babble, many experts attribute the same sounds coming from both twins to mimicking each other and trying to learn language from each other. All babies babble, making up odd sounds and noises that no one can distinguish yet between twins you can sometimes see that they are attempting to understand each other and may mimic conversation and giggle at each other’s utterances. If nothing else, it’s extremely cute to watch! The older they grow, the more their language may seem similar and they will copy each other whereas sceptics would say they’re in fact just mispronouncing the same words. It’s believed about 40% of twins, usually monozygotic (identical) twins will have some form of autonomous language which will include their own special nicknames, abbreviations, gestures and ‘words’ that they’ll only use with each other. The difference between this and standard babbling is that the twins tend not to use this language with their other siblings or family members.

Some research suggests that twins and multiples can suffer from a delayed or slightly different approach to language compared to solo babies. Boys especially have been shown to sometimes be months behind their contemporaries when it comes to verbalising their feelings and requirements. There are many factors which effect the development of speech. Firstly, babies learn language from their main caregivers and the stress of having multiples is said to sometimes make it more difficult for parents of twins to be consistently verbally involved with their children. This is by no means a criticism and is a basic finding that researchers have found due to the additional stress of having two children of the same age.

Baby twins spend nearly all their time together and like most people who spend a lot of time in the company of another individual, they find a nonverbal or simpler form of communication. They understand each other implicitly and understand utterances as simple as a grunt or a squeal. This also means they can see less reason to engage with ‘real’ language as they’re getting on more than happily without it! Statistics have shown that twins tend to speak more quickly, abbreviate their words and sometimes leave out key consonants when pronouncing words, sometimes put down to the fact that they want to be first to speak over their twin. Some of the delays that twins are said to experience are also due to the cognitive differences that come from premature birth as twins are often born before full gestation.

Encouraging Speech in Twins

Of course, everyone wants their babies to grow into confident and coherent young people and with these few hints you can ensure that for your little ones:

*Keep on talking – the more you talk to your twins, the more they understand language in its proper form. *Giving each twin one-to-one time is essential.
*Socialize – interaction and socialisation with other children is a great way of introducing your twins to the wider world of language. Playgroups and clubs are fantastic for meeting other kids.
*Read aloud – reading to children has uncountable benefits and is a significant element of supporting your twins’ language.
*Encourage – many sets of twins set themselves in a pecking order and one takes the lead. This can be problematic when it comes to language as you want both your twins to be able to express themselves. Give them solo time to express themselves.



Wednesday, March 21, 2012

What They Say at Three and a Half

Our language here is ever-expanding, and I try to list out some of the funnier or more precious sayings and mispronounciations. Of course, I can never remember them all.

I can say that at 3.5, the girls still have a bit of trouble anchoring their words and will stick a "d" or a "t" sound in the middle to create two syllables in a two-syllable word. Most interestingly, they have a different language development, so that while one has trouble pronouncing words with "fs" in them, the other pronounces them well. That one, instead, has trouble with "rs" whereas the other never stumbles over the sound. So that while one says "fruit" like "sloot" the other says "fruit" like "fuwoot."

One of them mixes up sound syllables so that "medicine" becomes "mecidine," "animal" becomes "aminal," and, my personal favorite: "beautiful" becomes "beufidal." The other usually corrects her.

Both pronounce "th" as "d." But one cannot pronounce words that begin with "c" while the other has no trouble. So that "cry" becomes "pry" and "Christmas" sounds like "Primmus." The other's pronunciation of those words is different but still not correct. "Cwy" and "Cwistmus."

They've started using high-pitched voices for their toys and stuff animals when they pretend to be them. They've picked up (minimally, thank goodness,) the girly shriek known with fear around playgrounds.

They'll often drop the first syllable of a word, or mispronounce it. "I apposed to do that!" "We have a mergency!"

Here's a short list of habitual sayings and words around here.

"Don't tell me that word!" -- I didn't like what you just said. Stop talking to me. You're wrong.
"Cruntsuls" -- pretzels
"I already!" -- "I just did that."
"Like yesterday." -- Like we did in the recent past.
"Like a long time." -- Like we did in the distant past.
"When it gets light and dark out, what kind go outside?" -- What are we doing tomorrow?
"I a fast girl." -- "I need this done right now."
"I a new girl." -- I want the new toys.
"I a old girl." -- I get to do this first because I asked first (making my request older.)
"Can you make it louder?" -- This applies to volume, but also to speed (how fast the fan moves), and light (how bright the lights are.) Everything that increases is volume, apparently. (I did this too as a kid.)

Pretty soon they'll be talking like little adults and I won't be able to do these posts anymore. But I'm guessing we still have a few left.

___
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Tuesday, March 20, 2012

The Man and the Tiny Elephant

Once upon a time there was an elephant, and this elephant was so tiny you could hardly even see him. One day a man went on safari. He expected to see a very large elephant, and some lions and rhinoceroses as well. He thought nothing could surprise him. But when he came across the tiny elephant, the shock of the sight froze him in place. And from that point on, he remained just as he was, stuck in place next to the tiny elephant, his mouth gaping open.

The actual story went like this:

"Mama, why is that elephant so small?"
"Oh, that does look like an elephant, doesn't it?"
"Yes, why it so small?"
"Because it's actually a phone jack."
"And why the man like this (she makes a face o.o)"
"Huh, that does look like a man, doesn't it?"
"Why he like this?"
"I don't know."
"Is it because the elephant is tiny?"
"...yes."



I'm learning never to close my eyes to what my children see. Their world is so wondrous and so very different from my own.

___
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Monday, March 19, 2012

Recipe Monday - Lobster Tails






This recipe will make you look like you have attended cooking school: www.onlinecookingschools.net

2 whole lobster tails
1/2 cup butter, melted (in two parts)
1/2 teaspoon ground paprika
salt to taste
ground white pepper, to taste
1 lemon - cut into wedges, for garnish


1.Preheat the broiler.

2.Place lobster tails on a baking sheet. With a sharp knife or kitchen shears, carefully cut top side of lobster shells lengthwise.

3. Pull apart shells slightly, and season meat with equal amounts butter, paprika, salt, and white pepper.

4. Broil lobster tails until red and lobster meat is opaque, about 5 to 10 minutes. Garnish with lemon wedges to serve. Use the other 1/4 cup of butter for dipping.


Pro-tip: Don't use too much butter, and if you do, don't put the pan too close to the heat of the broiler. I set my oven on fire, after all.


___
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Saturday, March 17, 2012

Toddler Tricks - 84: Make them Acknowledge You

Problem:

You're talking and talking and talking, but your kid can't hear you. Or more accurately, your kid is blatantly ignoring you, your presence not registering on his preschooler radar. I've written about this here, because it's a big deal around here lately. But I've been fighting it, and I've found a few things that seem to be working, at least in the short term.

Solution:

One of the ways to fight this is to ask them to acknowledge you. I'll usually end my statements with "okay?" And I know they heard it, I know they did. So, sometimes I'll say, "say okay, mommy." And they do. And after a few days of this, they begin saying okay as a habit. Now, I'm not sure if this is purely a voiced repetition, or if they are actually listening and saying okay, but they do tend to do what I've asked if they say okay. Another benefit of this is that if they don't do it, I can come back and remind them of the incident. "You said okay, remember?" They nod thoughtfully and complete their task. Plus, I really, really like hearing them acknowledge that I've spoken and do, indeed, exist. It extends my patience by miles.


Friday, March 16, 2012

What's Important?

I'm sure no one labors under the misapprehension that I'm a good housewife, but in case you thought I had this under control, here are some reminders.

I can't grow things. Ever.


I also cannot line up pictures, apparently. But you get the point. Anyway, these don't look so bad, do they? Well, they're supposed to be flowers. They've completely stopped growing and the one in the pink turned yellow. Sigh. I don't know. I water them. I put them out in the sunlight. It's not like they're high maintenance. They're in a two-inch pot. Not that hard to take care of. Fail.








Even funnier (now, not at the time), I can cook, but I make awful, horrible mistakes all the time as I grow in that department. Now, I'm not talking about last night's pork, which was awful and drowned in salt (though maybe I should be.) No, I'm talking about how I set a fire in my oven. A real fire. Flames. Lots of flames.

I was broiling lobster tails, and it started smelling funny and I opened the door to a cloud of smoke, flames licking the top of the broiler. Awesome. I don't even remember how I got it off the shelf. I probably just reached in there with a towel (because who needs oven mitts, am I right?) and moved it onto the open door. Then I stared at it. And stared at it. And stared. At it.

I freaked out, but froze, completely useless. What are you supposed to do for a grease fire, I asked myself. Not water, right? Salt? Sand? No. I don't want to ruin the lobster tails! They're expensive! (Great thinking.)

So...I took a video. Haha. Nevermind. I was so discombobulated that I accidentally took a video of the fish sticks still in the oven at the time. Nothing incriminating! So, now there's no proof, can't pin it on me!

Other than the fact, of course, that my kids' new favorite game is playing in their little kitchen...setting the oven on fire. Great.

But, these aren't the important things. (Thank God.)

The important thing is that I can throw a rocking, impromptu house party with a million (or five) three year olds just because. It started with hopscotch...our friends came to join us, then the neighborhood kids. Then we rode bikes, and in a shining moment of clarity, I thought to bring everyone popsicles. Of course, being kids, they don't have any boundaries, so we all ended up inside where the girls rocked out to club music (ie: They Might Be Giants).


While the boys stayed home and cooked them a glorious meal.



(I'm also a bad photographer, but you get the idea.) It was a fun day that didn't require plants or broiling. Win all around. Play to your strengths. The kids don't care if you can't cook or clean or grow things. Lucky for me.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Rights Clashing with Rights is Wrong

Arizona's Senate Judiciary Committee has voted six to two to endorse a bill that would allow employers in that state to deny women birth control if it is used to prevent pregnancy. This opens the door further so that should employees use birth control to prevent pregnancy, they could lose their jobs.

Before going any further, can we just look at what I just said: They don't want women using birth control to prevent pregnancy. Guys. It's called BIRTH CONTROL. Just saying.

Anyway, supporters of the bill say it is not about birth control but about freedom of speech and freedom of religion.

Sorry, nowhere do I see stripping a woman of the ability to plan her family as akin to speech. I'm not making the connection.

As far as freedom of religion goes, Father John Muir says, "It's about the right to live out your beliefs and principles without interference from the state."

Where is the state interfering with your beliefs and principles? They are placing the onus of the whole birth control problem on the insurance, and last time I checked, insurance companies weren't all that religious or morally devout. So, you don't even have to worry about it.

You have the right to practice your religious beliefs. You do not have the right to impose them upon other people. You furthermore do not have the right to tell women what they can do with their bodies. You also don't have the right to discriminate against them for their personal health choices and family planning methods.

The Bill of Rights versus human rights. Interesting.

"I believe we live in America. We don't live in the Soviet Union," says the bill's founder, Debbie Lesko, R-Glendale. "So government should not be telling the organizations or mom-and-pop employers to do something against their moral beliefs."

First of all, hello, wacky, out-of-place reference. Not relevant. Secondly, the government is not asking anyone to do anything other than provide health care to their employees. What their employees do with the health care provided does not infringe upon the employer's rights because it has nothing to do with the employer. Your female employees are not going to be giving the birth control to your wives, I promise. Even with insurance, that stuff is expensive.

Most importantly, if we can't tell organizations to do something against their beliefs, why ever would it be okay for those organizations to force their employees to do something against their beliefs? Not using birth control is against my beliefs, and you are now hindering my freedom of religion. There. Does that satisfy you? If beliefs are so much strong than individuals and their bodies, let us just reword.

If employers are allowed to force employees to show proof that their use of the pill is for some other reason than birth control by showing their prescriptions, getting notes from their doctors, what have you...that violates medical privacy.

You don't want the state to meddle with you. We get that. It sucks to have someone telling you that you can't live your life the way you deem acceptable, especially if your decisions pertain only to you and yours and puts out no other people. Oh wait. No. That's us. We don't want you to meddle with us.

Taking away other people's rights does not equal protecting your own. You have become what you are fighting against. And I, for one, am really sick of the fight. Tell your freedom to leave mine alone.

Here is an article to read that you would hope is exaggerated. But it's not. Women and Their Whore Pills.
___
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Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Nidus

Whether you work or stay at home full time, making time to read is important, and when you do secure those precious moments, you'll want to fill them with something worthwhile. Something that will make you think, but that also immerses you in a world so detailed and vivid that you take a trip far away each time you flip the pages.

And with the advent of ebooks and amazon.com, for the cost of a cheeseburger at McDonald's you have access to millions of such books with the click of a button. Choose wisely. You'll want something more satisfying than that cheeseburger would have been, after all.

Sebastian Gray doesn't mince words or shy away from difficult ethical questions in his book, Nidus. The perfect mix between a fairy tale and a twisted noir, Nidus is a Cinderella story of the most evocative kind.



Here...read for yourself.

"A smoothly compelling tale of speculative eroticism, NIDUS is set in the summertime playground of Newport, Rhode Island, depicted here as a sensuously intoxicating place where the lascivious comes as if coated in tangerine-flavored candy, where titillation floats everywhere in the pink air of summer evenings. It is a Newport where it seems natural for just about every alluring person to be caught up in blithe if mysterious debaucheries. Among them are Helana, the sleek, hitherto serene, mature trophy wife of an aging yacht owner, and Terry, a poor, loose and often ill-used unwed young mother. Though ostensibly from opposite sides of the tracks, Helana and Terri come to be erotically manipulated by the same man, Lathian Kometes. A journalist who specializes in society exposés for glossy magazines, Lathian is in town to cover the wedding of the season. With what idle time he has on his hands, Lathian seems casually intent on a more intimate and experimental form of exposé, using one woman to expose to the other what she would keep concealed from herself. Is he doing this merely for the sake of a Pan-like amusement? Is he what he appears to portray himself as, some wry apostle of eros? Or is he more sinister, a modern slave-hunter of sorts?"




The relationships are sordid and surreal but strike a closer chord with real-life strife than one would like to admit. The use of sexual exploration brings the reader to new heights, but underneath those tones lie struggles with identity, personality and control in all aspects of life. The subtle themes reach out to all audiences, hidden well within the fantastical and imaginative.

If you've got a dollar to spend (or if you're a Prime member, get it for free), it's worth the download. You'll be engrossed from start to finish. Plus, I know the author and they're brilliant!

Go. Download. Read.


Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Reasons my Children Cry

We're in a bad phase. A pushing boundaries, we're not quite sure how to handle things so let's cry phase. These come and go, and each time we come out the other side better for it, with new communication skills, more patience and an enhanced ability to reason. But going through them just plain sucks, any way you slice it. A psychologist that specializes in child psychology knows that children can cry for a wide variety of reasons.

So, here are the reasons my children tantrumed today, starting from 8 a.m. when they woke up. (At the time of this post, it's only 9:30 a.m.)

1) I didn't stay in bed until both children could come up and lay with me in bed. First Natalina cried about this in outrage for her sister. Then Dulce came upstairs and cried for herself.

2) They both cried when I dared to go to the bathroom and asked them to shut the door (either with them in the bathroom with me or outside.)

3) Dulce decided to tantrum while brushing her teeth. I have no idea why. So I had her spit, then I placed her outside the bathroom, where she tantrumed about not being able to rinse her mouth first.

4) They tantrumed over who got to go down the stairs first.

5) Natalina tantrumed over where I sat on the couch to hug Dulce.

6) Natalina tantrumed over how quickly I was able to remove her overnight diaper.

7) Dulce tantrumed about me sitting on the orange couch, then about me sitting on the green couch, then me sitting on the orange couch again, trying to dictate exactly where I sit.

8) They fought over a toy. Dulce wanted her turn, but she was going to play the same song Lilly just played and Lilly didn't want that.

9) Dulce tantrumed because my hair wasn't down. Lilly tantrumed because it wasn't up high enough.

By 10 a.m. all of this had finally subsided, and we're back to normal. For each of these, which obviously came one after the other after the other, I responded the same way, explaining to them that they can't cry and flop when things don't go their way, telling them to ask me nicely or do whatever else was needed to solve this like big girls, and if that didn't work, I put them in their room for a bit to calm down and then talk about it. (Dulce will now look me in the eye and say, "Let's talk about this." Hah.)  I took the toy away and put it on top of the fridge, which is now overrun with coveted toys. The plastic dog, Mr. Potato Head and a leap frog letters game now find the top of the fridge their permanent home.

I expect the girls will pull out of this in a few days to a week at most. I hope my sanity remains in tact until then.

___
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Monday, March 12, 2012

Recipe Monday - Easy Homemade Strawberry Shortcake



It's strawberry season in Florida. I don't get it, but I'm not complaining, either! Anyway, don't let me fool you. This shortcake is only homemade because I found out too late that I didn't have enough bisquick!

But, it's not even any more work than that, and the cakes were fabulous.


  • 1 1/2 pounds strawberries, stemmed and quartered
  • 1/3 cup of sugar
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 1/2 cups heavy cream
  • Whipped Cream, recipe follows

Directions

Mix strawberries with 1/4 cup sugar and refrigerate while juices develop, at least 30 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.
Sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, remaining 2 tablespoons sugar, and salt in a medium bowl. Add heavy cream and mix until just combined. Place mixture in an ungreased 8-inch square pan and bake until golden, 18 to 20 minutes. (I just made biscuit on a cookie sheet)

Remove shortcake from pan and place on a rack to cool slightly. Cut into 6 pieces and split each piece in half horizontally.
Spoon some of the strawberries with their juice onto each shortcake bottom. Top with a generous dollop of whipped cream and then the shortcake top. Spoon more strawberries over the top and serve.




To make whipped cream, I mixed 1 1/2 cups of heavy cream with as much confectioners sugar as I wanted to taste, using a mixer with a whisk application.



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Saturday, March 10, 2012

Toddler Tricks - 83: Parents, Use your Words

Problem:

Your kids want something that is impossible to give them, or they have to wait a minute for something, or you need them to eat before they do what they want, or any other variation of "Mom, I want," and then "no." Now they're screaming crying messes, and you're wondering why people even have children in the first place, and where did you go wrong that you can't even have a coherent conversation with a three and a half year old.

Solution:

Don't say no. I mean, mean no, but don't say that word. The moment you say no, you will not be able to say another thing without being drowned out by the pure anguish of cries accompanying a child who doesn't get what she wants. This is the training phase. They'll get over this. But right now, their brains hear the word no, and everything else crumbles around them. Their world disintegrates. This is something that students earning an early childhood education degree should understand as well.

And they want this to happen. If they're not going to get what they want, their next favorite choice is to break down about it. If you explain why they aren't getting it without using the word no, they'll repeat, they'll cajole, they'll beg. Until you forget that you're trying to teach them how to converse, verbalize their arguments, and have patience. Until you absentmindedly and because you think maybe they're not understanding you, say no. Then you've done it.

Not that your child shouldn't be able to hear the word no and just accept it, but as a teaching method, right now, the world allows them to shut their minds down, and no further learning will be done. Kids need to know why things happen or don't happen. That's why they ask why so often (I assume.) So, if you take out the culmination, instead of leading with it, you've got a better shot of helping them understand why some things must be and why others cannot be. No then starts to have meaning. They'll slowly come to understand that "no" has a purpose other than to piss them off. They'll hopefully begin to trust you. Or at least listen to you in public. Which is really all I ever hope for.


___
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Friday, March 9, 2012

A Parent's Road is a Tired One

My husband was right.

The girls went to bed at 11:30 p.m. last night. (They share a room and can often be found "having picnics" or "going camping" after lights out.) Since it was so late when they laid down their little heads, I figured they'd sleep until at least 9 a.m.

My husband said, "They'll probably be up at 7."

Not to be outdone, Natalina pounded up the stairs at 6:38 a.m. I tried to put her back to bed, but I knew it was an exercise in futility.

She was hungry, she said. So I fixed her some cereal, and got her and Dulce dressed. She ate three pieces of cereal.

The real reason she was up is that the days are getting longer. The sun is shining earlier. She even pointed outside to prove me wrong. "But, mom, it's light out, see?"

Now they're busy wrecking my house, which I could swear they just did yesterday, and the day before, and the day before.

Also, demanding cake. Because that's a perfectly reasonable request.

Edited to add: I know why! I told them we would make strawberry shortcake today! Never do this. Never  give them something to look forward to. I make this mistake once every few weeks, and it always ends up like this. They have been asking me nonstop when we're making the cake.

The only solution is to run them ragged, I guess. We're just getting over a cold and they don't know what to do with all their energy. But they're still coughing and sneezing so I can't really take them anywhere public. Looks like it's bikes, and tag, and the big bad wolf game today, over and over again. I've got to tucker them out.

Wish me luck.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Can. You. Hear. Me?

I know people (lovingly?) call three year olds threenagers, but I'm still astounded that this amount of attitude can come from something so small. Something so small that loves me so much and loudly.

I mean, we've got it all over here. We've got the exaggerated sigh. We've got the arms crossed, squared-shoulders harrumph. We've got the eye roll (although they're still perfecting that one. Sometimes they accidentally cross their eyes when trying to pull it off.)




















Truly, we are a disgruntled bunch.

But the worst of them all, the one that cannot be pictured, the one that even if I could snap a shot of it, the photo would never convey the amount of annoyance this behavior brings...the worst is the ignoring me.

It's made even more frustrating by the fact that I don't even realize it's happening until I've said the same thing a dozen times with no response. I actually fall for it. Regularly. I think they haven't heard me. So I repeat. Because I honestly think they haven't heard me. Fool.

They heard me. They heard me the first time, they heard me the twelfth time. And I'm over here looking like a jackass broken record, giving them the benefit of the doubt because I haven't even considered the alternative until it's too late to correct the behavior.

Go down the stairs.
Go down the stairs.
Hey, could you go down the stairs.
(I do something else for a moment, then notice that no stairs have been gone down.)
Girls, can you go downstairs, please.
(I start down the stairs, no one follows me. No one has even acknowledged my presence.  That's when I realize it. They're purposefully ignoring me.)
Go down the stairs.
Girls.
Girls.
GIRLS!
GO. DOWN. THE. STAIRS. NOW.

Crying.

Now they're insulted that I yelled at them. How dare I? Gee, I don't know.

Sometimes I catch it before this point. If I do, I repeat their names over and over and over. Sometimes I say, Can you hear me? Can you hear me?

Amazing that I, who perfected this ignoring in my childhood, could be thrown for loop by it.

I remember doing it when I was a bit older. I remember thinking, when my mom would constantly ask me if I could hear her, 'why are you so needy, woman? You need validation at every turn? Yes, I heard you. I have ears. I'll get to your ridiculous, time-wasting, unnecessary request in a second. Either that or I'll forget about it, then be insulted when you have to remind me.  You know how this works. I. HEARD. YOU.'

Little did I know that I had trained my mother to do this, much as my kids are now training me. She had been conditioned to ensure that, yes, I actually did hear her and I'm ignoring her, so that later, when she had to tell me again, I couldn't say, "but, mom, I didn't hear you!"

And this ignoring thing, it's good. It's subtle. There is literally no response. No indication that they might have heard me at all. It's not like they set their jaws, and I know they're being obstinate. They literally act as if no one has spoken.

Threenagers. I can see everyone's point now.

___
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Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Once-ler Upon a Time

The Lorax is an awesome movie.



Now, maybe it's because this is the only movie I've seen all year (I think I saw two movies in the whole of 2011...I don't get out much anymore), or maybe my tastes have muted, having been subjected to hours of Dora and Max and Ruby...but, really, kids' movies just keep getting better and better, don't you think?

I would confidently say that any kids' movie released in the past five or ten years is better than any adult comedy.

There's such an art to making movies, and kids' movies especially, because they have to span the entire audience. The writers have to engage not only the kids for whom the movie is intended (and try engaging a three year old for an hour and a half...it's not easy), but also the weary parents dragging their kids there, or the well-intended grandparents who want to do something nice with the children and probably need a break from "my favorite game is asking you a billion non-stop questions."

The movie-makers find themselves having to span generations of different experience and amusement levels, and they do it. Adding adult jokes and content to kids' entertainment isn't new by any means, but if you ask me, they're perfecting the art, and each movie that comes out is better than the last. Tangled probably topping that list.

It must be so hard to write stories like this, or even (in the case of many movies these days, kids' and adults' alike) rewrite them. To capture imaginations across the board. Having now tried to write fiction myself, I appreciate each line of dialogue and each fitting theme. I'm about as lyrical as a foot, so seeing people do this for a living the way I did news, like, 'hey, no big deal, just writing up an awesome movie,' well, it's awe-inspiring to me.

And the songs are fantastic. My all time favorite is Ursula's number in The Little Mermaid. I don't think you can get better lyrics than this:

"The men up there don't like a lot of blather
They think a girl who gossips is a bore
Yes, on land it's much preferred
For ladies not to say a word
And after all, dear, what is idle prattle for?

Come on, they're not all that impressed with conversation
True gentlemen avoid it when they can
But they dote and swoon and fawn
On a lady who's withdrawn
It's she who holds her tongue who gets her man."

The Once-ler's big number isn't quite as witty lyrically, but it's still a smash as far as I'm concerned. How can you not love this deliciously creepy song?



I don't know how bad he could be, but after seeing this scene (not pictured because none of the film is out there yet, and if it were, this would be a spoiler anyway), I wouldn't mind finding out.

The interpretation of the Once-ler is genius. He's probably one of the best-written villains out there, being given a boost by the fact that the writers had to make most of him up, tying greed in with innocence, knowing destruction with good-heartedness. A very tough blend, though, of course, they had help from the hints left by Dr. Seuss. Here's an excellent post all about the making of the new Once-ler.



Nowhere anywhere can I find a picture of him in his Once-ler duds, so I guess you'll have to go see the movie. It's worth it, really. Even with a squirmy three year old on your lap.

Oh! I do have one complaint. If you want to watch a movie in peace in the theater, how about you don't go to the matinee showing of The Lorax, k? Geez, people. Who else did you expect to be there? Of course it was going to be a preschool.

Anyway, final words.

"Unless someone like you
cares a whole awful lot
nothing is going to get better
it’s not."

____
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