Saturday, July 30, 2005

Status Report

This morning, as Shef devoured a breakfast of waffles and applesauce, I inquired what he’d like to do today, thinking he’d say “swimming” or “zoo” or “slide.”

“Paul’s,” he said smiling. “Tina.”

And with that, I’ve decided his status is now “perfectly well-adjusted,” and will remain so forevermore.

Thursday, July 28, 2005

Sinner, Part II

The fact of my heathenism was thrown in my face yesterday while I was driving innocently along Lexington Avenue.

I had to brake suddenly because the asshole in front of me was incapable of reading signage, and in response to this, Shef’s little voice rang out from the backseat: “JESUS!”

His intonation was spot-on, and I realized, reluctantly and guiltily, that I’d blasphemed on one too many traffic-related occasions. I looked over my shoulder at him, and he smiled at me around his paci, completely unaware that’d I’d perhaps corrupted him beyond redemption.

Poor guy.

Wednesday, July 27, 2005

Sinners at Dinner

Shef and I recently attended an intimate family dinner at Culver’s in Chanhassen. Chanhassen, while close to Valley Fair and the famed dinner theater, is not particularly close to Casa de Sheffield; but what can you do. It’s family.

We’d never been to Culver’s before, and I admit I was pleasantly surprised; although, the chicken fingers would have tasted a whole lot better if I hadn’t read Fast Food Nation. Stupid slaughterhouses. Why do they have to be so e-coli laden and maggot infested?

Anyway, mid-meal, we broke into song to distract two-year-old Cousin Emily from her impending tantrum, and “This Little Light of Mine” was the chosen ditty. Our index fingers swayed in perfect unison, and we bobbed our heads happily. “Let it shine, let it shine, let it shiiine!!” we sang. Shef and Emily thought this was great fun, and our fellow diners didn’t seem overly perturbed.

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And then Aunt Mary plowed cheerfully into the second verse, which, for her, goes like this:

“Don’t let Satan blow it out! I’m gonna let it shine!”

Needless to say, my sister (there she is in the middle – isn’t she cute?) and I stopped finger-waving and burst out laughing.

“What?!” asked Mary. “You don’t sing it like that?”

Um, no. I like my “Light” a little farther away from the fire and brimstone, thank you very much.

Thursday, July 21, 2005

Learning Rocks!

My summer school class has started, and I’m so glad.

I’ve been feeling very inspired as I delve into Karen Cushman’s materials at The Kerlan Collection. Lucky me, this endeavor counts as official homework. If I weren’t paying two thousand dollars to do it, I’d never know I was slogging away toward a master's degree.

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I open box after box of Cushman’s papers -- handwritten first drafts of Catherine, Called Birdy, clippings of horoscopes, post-its on which she’s written quotations, four drafts of her Newbery acceptance speech…. I feel like I’m opening someone’s mail, all under the guise of scholarly pursuit.

Today our class took us on a field trip to Debra Fraiser’s studio. She’s in crunch-mode on a new book, and I sat open-mouthed listening to her talk about her process. Then she gave us signed copies of this beautiful book:

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What a delight.

Fighting the Good Fight

We’re back from a weekend jaunt to the cabin, which was great, but now I realize I didn’t get around to FlyLadying my house on Friday; so all of a sudden it’s a pit. Yes, it happens that fast.

It was at the cabin that I realized I may be taking PC parenting to the max.

It’s very important to me that Shef not be heterosexist and/or homophobic. Too many times, I’ve had the same “why saying ‘That’s so gay,’ is not okay” conversation with my eighth graders. Similarly, I’m tired of hearing seemingly rational adults advocate restricting human rights to “protect the institution of marriage.”

I want my kid to be enlightened, to stand up to hate speech from the get-go -- to know that all human beings have inherent worth, and to act accordingly.

It’s important, right?

So, when other PC parents in music class mention that their daughters might make good matches for Shef someday, I nod, and then say, “Or Henry! Henry’s cute, too.” Everyone agrees, and we carry on. I realize it'll be hard not assume that Shef is straight -- I think most everyone assumes her child is -- but I try diligently to imagine him with male and female partners. I want to make sure he grows up knowing that either (or both) is "normal."

It was in this vein that I had this conversation with Shef during diaper-change this weekend:

“Penis,” he said, groping his package, as usual. “Touch penis.”

“Yes,” I replied, same as always, “that’s your penis,” and reached for a wipe.

“Penis,” Shef said again.

“Yes,” I said patiently. “All little boys have them.” And then I realized my mistake and edited hastily: “Except some transsexuals, and that’s okay, too.”

And then I wondered, how much information is too much information for a one-year-old?

The Storm and The Calm

I heard screaming upon entering Paul’s this morning with Shef on my hip.

“Mama,” he whispered and locked his legs firmly around my waist. I steeled myself for a tricky extraction. It’s always worse when someone else is crying when we arrive.

A harried Dad passed us on his way out.

“Yes,” he said, when I looked at him sympathetically, “I’m abandoning my child.”

“I feel the same way,” I replied.

By the time we walked the twenty feet from the door to the “dining room,” however, the screaming had stopped, and I couldn’t even tell which Little Angel had been making such a fuss.

This fact encouraged me as substitute teacher Marion pried Shef, kicking and screaming, from my body, and I made a beeline for the exit. Maybe, I thought, as Shef yelled desperately for my return, and heartbreaking tears streamed from his scrunched up eyes, if Harried Dad’s kid recovered so quickly, mine would too.

Sure enough, when I snuck back in five minutes later to leave a pacifier in his cubby, he was chatting away about pancakes, and (I hope) looking forward to the rest of his day.

Tuesday, July 19, 2005

Opportunity Squandered

How is it that in umpteen Monday evenings passed at the Loring Pasta Bar, we never noticed this?

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Jess and I were pretty miffed about our insufficient menu reading, as the savings were significant.

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We had a nice dinner anyway, despite our indignation, and I bought jm a celebratory drink, as promised.

(Links for jm, who can’t see my photos: menu photo, check photo)

Monday, July 18, 2005

What Happened Behind the Tasty Freeze?

We (Shef and I) spent the weekend in the air-conditioned loveliness of my mom’s house. It was unbearable here, and Shef loves Nana and her dog, Slobbery Amber.

Dan, on the other hand, spent the weekend working away at his office, penning important legal briefs. So, while he also enjoyed air-conditioning, he didn’t get to hang with the golden retriever.

On Sunday, I wrangled the troops – Nana, Shef, and myself – for a trip to the Y, where they have a “leisure pool” with slides and fountains and waterfalls. This keeps Shef happy for a good forty-five minutes, which makes the nightmare of showering a wiggly, slippery male child, who has learned how to say “penis” and discovered that his outside voice echoes satisfyingly off of tile, almost worth it.

On the way there, we heard John Mellencamp’s “Hurts So Good” on KS95, and my mom said one of those things I wish she wouldn’t:

“You know,” she said, “I’ve always liked this song.” Shef bopped away in the back seat, affirming its undeniably catchy beat. “But the other day, I was singing along to it on the radio, and I thought… Well… is it about S&M?”

“Moooom,” I replied, sighing deeply.

“No really,” she pressed on. “Listen: ‘Hurts so good, c’mon baby make it hurt so good,’” she sang a few bars along with John. “’Hurts so good’… See?!”


Saturday, July 16, 2005

In the Wee Hous

We were half-awake, lying on the bed and listening to Shef go in and out of our closet this morning.

“Open close,” he’d say, and then he’d giggle. I’d peek at him every once in awhile, and he’d wrinkle up his nose and coo. It was very cute, but it was also 6 a.m, which wouldn’t have seemed too terribly early if he hadn’t required five overnight visits, all of which were made by me.

Dan and I were playing that weekly spousal game of chicken, each hoping the other would be compelled to get out of bed and take care of the kid. I was mumbling about the heat, Dan was ignoring me, and then Shef deviated from his “open close” pattern.

“Penis,” he said, laughing on the other side of the closet door. “Penis. Hahaha.”

And that was that.

Thursday, July 14, 2005

A Size Issue

Shef is going through a developmental stage where he doesn’t understand scale. His Little People can go down their slide, he reasons, so he should be able to go down it, too.
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Every day, over and over, he straddles the slide.

“Slide!” He says again and again, each time with a bit more urgency. “Down!”

And, each time I patiently and gently explain that the slide is too small, that we have to try it with a Little Person.

“Person!” he agrees, happily. “Slide!” And so, the boy and the girl People each slide, and I naively assume we’ve gotten things figured out.

And then (sigh) we repeat this interaction twenty or thirty more times.

It’s the same with the dollhouse stairs at his friend’s house and with the ramp on the Little People Garage at Aunt Susie’s. It’s one of those things, like many in toddlerhood, that’s cute the first time, and then, after twenty or thirty or two hundred times, not so cute.

Case in Point

We were half-awake, lying on the bed and listening to Shef go in and out of our closet this morning.

“Open close,” he’d say, and then he’d giggle. I’d peek at him every once in awhile, and he’d wrinkle up his nose and coo. It was very cute, but it was also 6 a.m, which wouldn’t have seemed too terribly early if he hadn’t required five overnight visits, all of which were made by me.

Dan and I were playing that weekly spousal game of chicken, each hoping the other would be compelled to get out of bed and take care of the kid. I was mumbling about the fucking heat, Dan was ignoring me, and then Shef deviated from his “open close” pattern.

“Penis,” he said, laughing on the other side of the closet door. “Penis. Hahaha.”

And that was that.

Tuesday, July 12, 2005

Tubby Toast

I borrowed Naughty Noo-Noo from the library for Shef. He’s partial to The Teletubbies – “Tu-bbies,” he says, pressing play on the DVD machine when he sees the box – and I don’t mind them.

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Because they debuted during my college nannying days, I’m used to their weird utterances and their big hugs. I understand what Lala is talking about when she says, “Tubby Custard.” I remember the Tinky Winky gay rumors and the subsequent uproar from the right wing whack jobs.

Molly, on the other hand, doesn’t quite understand the appeal.

“What the HECK?” she says, shaking her head, unable to embrace the baby in the sun and the psychedelic counting exercises played out on bright pink backgrounds. She sits there with pained, constipated looks on her face while Shef laughs and claps his hands for Po.

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“Doodlebug, why do you like this crap?” she asks him repeatedly, despite my frequent appeals to watch her language.

I, for one, don’t care why he likes it, but I love that he’ll sit still for five whole minutes to see Dipsy jump in and out of a hole and run around the space-age Tubby chromedome.

God bless 'em, I say.

Monday, July 11, 2005

Where is Paige Davis When You Need her?

We met with Fab Architect Jackie last week to look at drawings of our new kitchen/family room, which will attach to our garage.

I’m feeling very excited about this, but anxious about the homework I’ve been given. It seems that if you want a new kitchen (and a new powder room and remodeled bathroom upstairs) you have to pick out products that you like. For instance, cabinets, sinks, and countertops.

Does anyone have any tips on this?

Funding our giant, but totally worth it, home-improvement project requires that we make sacrifices like not having cable television. Lee tells me that not having cable is akin to not having air to breathe, and I'm starting to agree because just when I need HGTV more than I've ever needed it before, I must do without.


I picked up a happy, well-rested Shef from Paul’s this afternoon. Then, I took him to the library where he frolicked and socialized and picked out seven books for the week. On the way home, we stopped at the grocery store for taco fixings, and Sheila and Eric came over for dinner.

What a happy evening.

And then, without warning, Shef puked and puked all over me. There was puke down my back and in my hair and across my neck and in between my toes. After each projectile, as the puke splattered on the floor, Shef said, “Boom.” We were tempted to laugh and smile at his cuteness, but I was too covered in puke to really enjoy it.

I tried to get him to the bathtub, but what happened instead was we tracked puke all the way up the stairs and down the hallway. Dan followed behind us with a mop.

It was so nasty.

I thought vomit-dousing was some kind of Mom rite of passage, so I called my mom to report that I was in the midst of the harrowing trial; and she told me that she’d never been puked on like that. Not once.


I’m feeling sick, but I think it’s because the puke smell is lingering in my hair despite a mid-dinner shower.

Saturday, July 9, 2005


I’m having a terrible time pulling the trigger on a new washer and dryer.

It’s not because I think our old ones will do. Oh no.

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The resounding and repeated clunking sounds emanating from the dryer convince me that I have, at the very least, a repair issue; and after I inspected our first finished load here, I feel certain that our washer is not agitating properly. We don’t have the highest of standards, but we do like our clothes to be dirt- and body odor-free.

Our friends and family tend to like us that way, too, and as my father-in-law made a point to remind Dan and me to look decent for John’s high school graduation, I’m feeling like our presentation has been lacking enough as it is – we don’t need to be smelly and stained in addition to perpetually disheveled.

Being relatively eco-friendly and wanting to save money on water, gas, and electricity, Dan and I have decided to go down the front-loader path. So far, every fast-talking appliance hawker has pointed me toward a different machine when I asked to see the "best base-model."

After I spent yesterday pouring over Consumer Reports, cursing the Warners’ Stellian guy who recommended the Maytag model that’s known for growing black mold, and surfing several appliance-centered websites, I’ve decided it may be possible to overthink this decision.

At dinner last night, Meghan gave me some sound advice.

“Here’s what you do,” she said authoritatively.

I nodded, pen poised to take notes.

“You go to Sears…”

“Yeah?” I looked at her hopefully.

“And you buy which ever’s the cheapest.”

She might be right.

Status Report

Overall, I’d say Shef’s time at Paul’s is getting a little less traumatic.

On Friday, he didn’t cry when I left him in his breakfast chair.

“Look! It’s cereal!” I chirped, hoping to distract him from the looming separation. “Can you take a bite like a big kid?”

He did, I overpraised (see below), and his beloved Tina came to sit by him.

“Buh-bye mom,” he said with furrowed brow and considerable apprehension. He whispered “mom,” a few more times, but I heard no screaming as I scuttled out the door.

I was feeling especially nervous yesterday because of the state he was in when I picked him up on Wednesday (he takes Thursdays off). Lead Teacher Terese told me he was waiting out his failed nap with Diana in the Dramatic Play room. When I peeked in there, he was huddled on her lap, sobbing, and repeating “All done, Paul’s. All done, Paul’s.”

It was very sad, and I spent the rest of the evening wracked with guilt for abandoning him.

Still, I think it’s getting a little bit better.

You can tell if you look at the big picture.

Friday, July 8, 2005

He Loves Him

Molly’s taken a bit of time off from work, thank goodness, and so has spent a lot of time with Sheffie and me this week.

Impressed with his vocabulary, she taught him to say, “Genius,” despite my warnings about the dangers of overpraise. (This child already applauds himself for even the smallest effort. For instance, choosing not to throw food off his high chair generally triggers quite a lengthy ovation.)

We’ve also been working on counting around here, and with Molly’s help, he has “one” and “two” pretty much down. We’re stuck at three, but I’m confident we’ll get there.

So yesterday, when Shef was carrying around a couple of plastic clothes hangers, the instructor in Molly sensed the imminence of what we in the field of education call “a teachable moment”:

“How many hangers do you have, Shef?” she asked, as he toddled by.

“Two!” he announced proudly.

“That’s right!” she cooed. “Very good.” I agreed that this was quite impressive.

Apparently Shef did too because he smiled at Molly and said, with perfect comedic timing, “Genius.”

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I’m not really so worried about his self-esteem.

Wednesday, July 6, 2005

Not Complaining

I’ve been thinking of Pal Erin a lot today – imagining her and New Husband David frolicking on the beaches of Hawaii with fruity drinks in their hands. I bet Erin is wearing her ultra cute and sophisticated beach cover-up. I bet they’re eating at fabulous restaurants. I bet they brought good reading material. Their honeymoon, I’m thinking, could be worse.

For instance, they could have opted for a low-key week at the in-laws’ cabin in Wisconsin, only to scurry south on Day 3, trying to escape the aftermath of a fatality on the water. Somehow, they would think, Love Lake is less idyllic when divers are searching for a corpse that has likely become entangled in weeds not thirty feet in front of the dock, and they might as well just go home.

But, this particular example of a honeymoon – while certainly worse than a romp on the Big Island – is neither here nor there.

What I really wanted to do was show you this picture of Erin’s wedding hair:

Very Grace Kelly, eh?

Let it serve as an example of just how cute and sophisticated a bride Erin was.

Monday, July 4, 2005

Burgeoning Vocabulary

“Car-git. Car-git,” Shef repeated as we breezed into The Quarry on an emergency paci run -- we’d officially lost all spares, and we haven’t gotten around to implementing Project Wean per Dr. G.’s recommendations.

“What’s he saying?” Dan asked. I shrugged – I’d never the word before.

“Car-git,” Shef insisted. “Car-GIIT!” The matter was clearly urgent.

“Um, Target?” I asked, as Dan pulled into a spot just beneath the trademark bullseye.

Shef laughed. “Car-git!” he confirmed.

We exhanged a look -- a look that could be roughly translated as, "We are so lucky the f-word isn't isn't part of his repertoire" -- and slammed our doors.

Sunday, July 3, 2005

An Accidental Blog Break

I’ve reached the finish line of the Erin and David Wedding Extravaganza.

All that remains is to step into the shower and eradicate helmet head and that pesky b.o.

This might take awhile, as my up-do required many ounces of extra-hold spray, and the temperature of the church rivaled that of the equatorial sun. When the trumpet sounded and Erin rounded the bend, my eyes teared and my armpits produced like never before. The bridesmaid behind me actually stopped to wipe the sweat that was rolling down her legs and dripping on her feet. This made my snot-mopping a little less conspicuous, and for that I am grateful.

Miraculously, I was the only bridesmaid not to spill on my silver dress. This might have something to do with the fact that I was also the only bridesmaid who wasn’t loaded, but I’m proud of myself, nevertheless.

Now that the formalities are finished, the newlyweds will bask in the glow of their nuptial fantasia all the way to Hawaii, and Dan, Shef, and I will away once more to the Lake Isle of Innisfree.