Cheetahs never…

The other morning, the boy was in the bathroom down the hall and the girl was keeping him company by sitting outside the closed door and chatting with him.  All of a sudden, she yelled down the hall “MOM! Brother says that there are cheetahs in Asia!! He is WRONG!”

I think about this for a second, and then yell back down, “Kid, there’s no cheetahs in Asia.  They’re only in Africa!”

He yells back (still in bathroom), “NO! There are cheetahs in Asia! They live in Iran!”

Still doubtful, I use my google-fu to learn that, well, shit, there ARE cheetahs in Iran.

“You’re right, actually! How did you know that?!” I asked him.

“‘Cause we’re learning about Asia and we just did a part on Iran,” he replies.

And all I can think is that I’m now living with someone who’s going to be an even more insufferable know-it-all than myself.

San Francisco

We all just got back from a great trip to the San Francisco Bay Area, where I grew up and where my parents still live.  The kids had a great time with Aaji and Aba, ate tons of delicious home cooked food, and loved both the Exploratorium and the Monterey Bay Aquarium, places that I have such strong wonderful memories of I was incredibly excited to take the kids to both of them. In fact, when we went to the Aquarium, we took a picture of the boy standing in the same spot I stood in nearly 30 years ago, wearing the Aquarium shirt I bought on that trip. That one is still on my Dad’s camera, so I need to have him send it to me. I’m loving all the trips we’re doing this year and hope to keep taking the kids to more places–in some way, this is my gift to them. Some parents teach their kids music, or sports, or wilderness and nature skills.  I have none of these talents. What I DO have is a love of traveling and seeing the world and the luck of having a job that lets me take a lot of trips, and a desire for my kids to know the world outside of their own, something that I think comes directly from my Dad.

I’ve said it before but it bears repeating-I’m really so impressed with the two of them, especially considering that they’re only 4 and 6, and still soldier through these trips, largely uncomplaining. These are not easy trips-the kids are responsible for their carting own luggage through the airport (Skip Hop rolling luggage, by the way, hold enough for a 1 week of kids’ clothes and are easy for them to manage) and have to walk on their own everywhere since I don’t want to deal with a stroller. (Eric might disagree with me on that last one since the girl got her fair share of being carried, but I’d say it was 75% her own feet.) I don’t expect them to remember everything about these trips, of course, but my hope is that once you learn these skills it becomes easier to do more challenging trips in the future and more importantly, they love going places as much as I do.

A few pictures from the trip (click to enlarge)

Cold beach day

Climbing from Fort Point to the base of the Golden Gate Bridge all by myself!

Chilly girl with a funny funny turban hiking through the Marina

Pole position at the Musee Mecanique-I remember begging my parents for more quarters to play this when we’d go to Round Table Pizza

Hanging on to the Powell-Mason Cable Car

Becoming one with the puffin exhibit at the Aquarium

Spooky jellies

Stared down by the giant octopus

The Folding of Impossibly Small Clothing

Parents of smallish children, a word of advice.

Whatever you do, do NOT fold laundry while watching the last season of “Friday Night Lights.”

Pick something a bit less poignant, such as “Maid in Manhattan,” or “The Sweetest Thing,” or even “The Proposal.”

Because if you don’t, what will happen is this: you will pick up some ridiculously small dress and begin to fold it. On the screen will be scenes of children acting like teenagers, growing up, growing away, and moving away. And you will realize that the ridiculously small dress you are folding was once a lot smaller, and will soon be replaced by larger and larger dresses (though, of course, judging by some of the clothes I see on adolescents they may not necessarily get that much bigger) and eventually you will simply not be folding any more clothes, as they will hastily be shoved into dorm drawers.

And then you will start to cry.

Spare yourselves and heed my words.

Cold Day

Today DPS cancelled school because it was going to be zero degrees. There was a lot of whining about the school closures on Facebook, especially from people who grew up in Wisconson and such, where they only close schools if the Packers lose and everyone is too depressed to do anything. Me personally, I’m happy to keep my kids out of weather that causes frostbite in 5 minutes.

On snow days, Eric usually stays home with the kids because his college closes as well. This time, they stayed open so I took off my 2nd day of work ever. When I don’t work, other people have to do the work I would have done, so I felt a lot of guilt about not going in, even though it’s not particularly busy right now. Then I felt guilty for feeling guilty about work and not putting my kids first. Do mommies get a guilt break, ever?

During the day so far, I think the girl has averaged about one time out per half hour because she screams when she doesn’t get what she wants. Screams. My ears hurt. I began to wish that school had just stayed open, frostbite be damned, because I just couldn’t take the screaming anymore. I know, I know, I’m terrible.

That all being said, we’ve done some fun crafty things and in some ways it’s been nice to be holed up with them, warm and cozy.

We started by making a paper snowflake garland. I had to look up how to do this, having forgotten from my childhood. It was so much fun! The boy loved doing this, and so did I. The girl did a few but got bored pretty quickly and found other pursuits.

Watching the snowflakes unfold was the most fun part!


Turned into these!

Then we took some dental floss and clear tape and made a garland to hang in front of our fireplace. I think it looks just lovely–you can click to enlarge. (Full disclosure–prior to this picture, I took off of the mantelpiece: An entire deck of Uno, packing tape, 2 pairs of scissors, twine, a small stuffed animal, an old glass of water and and a knitting book.  It doesn’t really look that tidy all the time)

Then we started baking and made some cookies. The girl got sent to rewash her hands about every FIVE MINUTES because she kept licking them. I can’t attest that all cookies are 100% germ free. The baking has to kill most of them, right?

I chose thumbprint cookies thinking that there were a lot of steps they could participate in. Both kids had a lot of fun sifting flour and watching the mixer. They got a bit bored with making the dough into balls, but loved rolling them in coconut and finally thumbprinting. So, so tasty.

It is now, gratefully, naptime.

Now all I need to do is come up with some ideas for the afternoon….

Conversation Starters

Ever try to talk to a 5 year old about how his day was?

The typical exchange goes something like this:

“How was your day?”


“What happened at school today?”

“Ummmmmmmm……I don’t remember.”

I thought I had at LEAST another 7 years before I got that response, which is essentially a more polite version of “nothing.”

So I’ve been trying something different lately, which has worked well. Try it yourself and see how it works.  Instead of asking how his day was, I say, “Tell me something happy that happened today.” Then I go on to ask about something sad, surprising, funny, and something that made him mad.  I usually get an actual story from his day with these questions.

Today’s responses–

Happy: Playing with my friend N.

Sad: When my sister was mean to me.

Surprising: Nothing today.

Mad: When C was mean to me at school.

That led to the follow up question of what exactly it is that C does, which seems to be looking at the boy’s private stuff in his cubby, which he only allows other kindergartners to do.  Eyeroll.

Then I ask, “Is there anyone else at school who is mean to you?”

“Well, H and E are sometimes.”

“What do they do?”

“They make fun of my name.”

Now this I was NOT expecting.

“What did they say?”

“They keep making fun of my name ’cause it has the word ‘kiss’ in it and they keep saying it over and over  again. And I don’t like that and it makes me sad.”

“So what do you do?”

“Well, I use my words and I tell them to stop and if that doesn’t work I tell the teacher.”

He looked so sad talking about this.  I gathered him in my arms for a hug.

“You know, ” I whispered in his ear, “I think you have the best name in the world.  I love your name.”

“Yeah,” he said, smiling, “me too.”

“Don’t you ever let anyone make you feel bad about your name, okay kiddo?”

“Okay.” I guess the talk was over then, because he moved onto “can you help me build this Star Wars rocket?”

I wonder what tomorrow’s conversations will bring.

(If any of you try this, I’m curious to see if you have any interesting chats from it–let me know!)




Eric had had a tradition of watching “The Last Waltz,” The Band’s last concert, on Thanksgiving and chose to resurrect it this year.

We watched it downstairs with the boy.  The girl had long since fallen asleep in our bed in her monkey-print fleece footie  jammies.  After the second interview segment in which band members talked about their lives in the 60s (think sex, drugs, rock and roll) we skipped the spoken bits and went straight to the musical performances.

The boy loved watching Van Morrison high kick around the stage in a sparkly purple jumpsuit.  He got a bit tired after that and laid down with his head in my lap.

Then The Band started to sing “Forever Young,” and, looking down at my bigger-than-I-thought-possible son, I realized that I’m not really all that young anymore.

(May God Bless and keep you always, may your wishes all come true)

The lyrics have a poignancy when you’re a parent.

(May you always do for others and let others do for you)

It’s the wishes I think every parent would have for their child.

(May you build a ladder to the stars and climb on every rung)

I looked down at the 5 year old nearly asleep in my lap, and think about all the love he brings to my life.

(May you grow up to be righteous, may you grow up to be true.)

I think of  how he wants to be a “scientist and learn everything about everything.”

(May you always know the truth and see the lights surrounding you.)

How the girl loves to touch noses, and insists on “Cheers!” and glass clinking at every meal.

(May you always be courageous, stand upright and be strong)

How proud the boy was of himself at not crying when he got his latest shots.

(May your hands always be busy, may your feet always be swift)

The mayhem on a daily basis as the kids run from the “zoo” to the “toy store,” both populated with stuffed animals.

(May you have a strong foundation when the wind of changes shift)

How the girl would scoot over to me when I went to bed and touch foreheads with me as we slept.

(May your heart always be joyful and may your song always be sung)

She wakes up with a big smile in the morning, looks at the sunrise and excitedly chirps, “Wainbow, Mommy, Wainbow!”

(May you stay forever young.)

May they both stay forever young.

May I never forget how much I have to be thankful for.

CSI: Denver

Time: Last week

Scene: The boy’s bedroom

Crime: Deep scratch marks on the dresser.

Suspect #1: The boy.

After what had been an EXTREMELY trying afternoon with the boy, he’d been sent to his room to calm down. (Apologies to any parents who witnessed the spectacular meltdown at the local school playground, involving hitting, screaming, kicking, and running away.)

Eric and I went up to get him dressed as he was going out to dinner with his grandparents.  In his room, I glanced at his dresser and saw that there were deep grooves carved into the bottom drawer.

“Did you do this?” I asked the boy.

“No….” he replied, with his lips doing funny twisting things.  He’s such a terrible liar.

“Well then, who did it?”

“My sister.”

I called for the girl, who was in her room, and asked, “Did you do this?” while pointing to the dresser.

“No.” She said definitively.  “Brudda do it.”

I look back at the boy. “This would be a good time for you to choose to tell the truth.  Who scratched your dresser?”

“I…I…she did it! I know she did!”

“How did she do it?”

“Ummm…I don’t know…a sharp pen…or something…” By now he’s shifting uncomfortably from side to side and still doing the funny lip twisting thing.

“Where’s the pen?”

“I don’t know.”

“Well, then how did she do it?”

“Well, maybe like this.” He proceed to pick up a ruler nearby with a sharp corner, sit next to the dresser and start to carve another deep line into the bottom drawer, at the exact same height as the others.

I then hand the ruler to the girl and tell her to use it on the dresser like she did before.  She lays the ruler flat on top of a half-open drawer and slides it around for a second before losing interest.

I look at the boy again.  I’m really trying  hard to get that badass Mom look down, you know, the one where kids eventually talk about  “The Look” that sent shivers down their spine.  I don’t think I’m there yet, but this was a good try.

Eventually, the boy sort of fesses up.  He loses a variety of perks, including desserts and TV watching, and gets a good talking to.

I think the worst thing about it is how angry it makes ME.  Like, I feel I’ve somehow failed as a parent because my kid is lying.

Some consults to the parenting expert, Mr. Google, have yielded a few thoughts about how to handle stuff like this in the future.  First of all, I shouldn’t have asked IF he had scratched the dresser since it gives him an opportunity to lie–I should have just said all the stuff I did at the end of the whole affair–about how even if we’re angry we don’t destroy things, etc.  The other tidbit I gleaned was that all 4-6 year olds lie as part of their normal development.

How do you deal with it when your kid lies? (Or have you done a better job than me and they simply never do?)

Coda: While making his bed today, I turn over a pillow to find his name written on it.  In black Sharpie.  Here we go again.

Speech Therapy

The boy has always had amazing language skills.  I remember when we’d go to his well child visits and would receive a sheet of paper with his expected language milestones, all of which he had achieved months prior.  I thought, rather uncharitably, that the milestones were for the dumb kids.

Things were a bit different with the girl.  We’d go to the same well child visits, look at the sheets, and she’d have maybe one or two of them achieved, and just barely at that.  I know you’re not supposed to compare children, but it’s sort of hard not to.

Denver has a city program for early evaluation and intervention for any delay, and I figured it couldn’t hurt to have the girl evaluated.  We sat on the ground with a bunch of toys, books, and puzzles, and two delightful women engaged the girl in a series of tasks.  During each one, the women would nod vigorously and beam at the girl, who was at her charming best.  At the end of it, they looked at me and said, “She’s not behind at all! She’s actually about 15% ahead of her age.”

Um..okay…I’ll just…walk away now…I’m not an overacheiving parent…no…not at all…

The funny thing is, I just went to find a video of the boy speaking at her age and you know what I found? They use exactly the same number of words.  The only difference is that the boy’s speech was much clearer.

The therapists did note this, especially that the girl tends to skip letters and drop the end off of words.   They encouraged me to enunciate and repeat sounds back to the girl to improve her pronunciation.  For example, if I show her a picture of a dog, and she says, “Daw!” I’m supposed to say, “Right! Dog! Do-Guh-Guh-Guh,” emphasizing the “g” sound.

I went over this at dinner that night, and the boy listened to every word.

This morning at breakfast, Eric asked the boy what music he wanted to listen to.

“Wilco!” he replied.

“Wacko!” parroted the girl.

The boy turned to his sister, “Wuh-Wuh-Wuh-il-il-il-ko-ko-ko.”

“Wacko!” said the girl.

He kept repeating the appropriate diction of “Wilco” until she more or less got it right. “Wuhlco!” she finally blurted out.

With such a talented speech therapist in the house, I’m sure she’ll be speaking clearly in no time!

Playground blues

At the park today, I’m pushing the girl on the swing.  My boy was off on the play structure.  The nanny pushing the boy in the swing next to us looked at me and asked in a friendly voice, “Where are you from?”

I almost immediately knew where this conversation was leading, but thought I’d wait just to be sure.

“India,” I reply, giving the untrue answer for which most people are looking. “Where are you from?”

“Ethiopia. Oh, Asia? Are you a student here or something?”

“No, I usually work but I have the week off, so I’m hanging out with the kids during the day.”

“Oh, it’s just that I don’t see many Indian babysitters around here.”

“Oh, I’m their mom,” I say with a smile, gesturing in the general direction of the play structure to indicate that there is another child of mine in the vicinity.

The woman looks at the blonde, light-skinned girl that I’m pushing in the swing and says, somewhat incredulously, “She’s your daughter?!”


Truthfully, I’ve been expecting this and am quite surprised it hasn’t happened sooner.  I mean, look at us (pic from another day):

I know that nowadays families come in all sorts of mixed colors, but the general truth of darker-skinned nannies with lighter-skinned babies largely holds true at the Denver playgrounds, at least in my experience.  Should I have been offended? I wasn’t, really.  I have to admit to myself, though, that if the person who had mistaken me for a nanny had been a white woman, I would have been entirely offended.  I’m not saying that that’s right, but it would have been true.  The funny thing is, I make the exact same assumption that I don’t want people to make about me–that if I see a dark woman out with a pale baby, she must be a nanny.

This won’t be the last time this happens, I’m sure.

There was something else about the exchange that I found a little disturbing, to be honest.

I’m old enough to be slightly flattered that she thought I was a student.

What’s next? Lighting up at being carded?


After a great few days in Westchester, we headed to Brooklyn to spend a few days with my sister.  We hopped on the train and the girl waved goodbye to her new friends, who waved from the platform.  At every single station from Westchester to Grand Central, the girl looked at me and asked, “Friends? Where go?” She didn’t quite get the principle that we were at different stations every time…

We met up with Sapana –who, I’ve since learned, is called “Panda” by most of her workforce after multiple clients have written to the office for “Sapanda.” That’s how I’ll refer to her for the rest of this entry, and perhaps for the rest of the blog–anyway, we met up with Panda at Grand Central and dropped our stuff off at her office and headed to the Natural History Museum.  That place is HUGE.  Massive.  We got lost quite a bit until we got our bearings and made our way to the dinosaurs.

It’s nearly impossible to get a decent picture in there, partly because the girl never stops moving:

and because the lighting is terrible! (This is remedied by the awesome flash that my parents got me for my birthday, which I can’t wait to try out!)

Look at that hadrosaur!

We hopped on the train back to Brooklyn, and got to Panda’s apartment.  It’s a rather large (by NYC standards) 3 bedroom apartment, which she shares with two other people.

Do you remember being in college, or living away from home  (or if you still live at home, this is every day), when your mom would come visit and would, well, go into mom-mode?  I don’t remember this because my mother never once visited any place that I lived away from home until the day I left, so I never got this benefit. (Sorry, Mom, but it’s true.) My roommates’ parents, however, would often visit and I’d see the mom-ing take place.  Shortly after arrival would be a trip to Target and back would come bags and bags of shower curtains, and floor mats, and furniture.  When I was in high school, we got the mom-ing from my aunt! She came to visit us in California and was apparently so horrified that we used reusable sectioned plastic dishes as dinnerware that shortly after her departure, boxes and boxes of matching Mikasa dinnerware sets showed up at the house.  I used to wonder how one knew how to do that stuff–was there a mom class that you took?

Apparently, I’ve taken this class at some point because my first instinct on going to Panda’s place was to take her to Target, Ikea, and Bed Bath and Beyond and buy new stuff for her.  She’s been there for 9 months but on a shoestring and hasn’t been able to get a lot of the home furnishings she’d like.  We didn’t manage to go because it was just impossible with a two year old in tow, but I’ve learned that sometime after actually becoming a parent, I’ve become a Mom. Fantastic.

The next day we went to the Prospect Park Zoo and met up with Eric’s family, who drove up from Pennsylvania!

Here’s the girl with her adorable cousins:

The older kids were so good with the little girl, and they all clearly loved being together.  The Zoo is a bit scaled-down from your typical zoo which was perfect.  There’s a petting zoo that the girl just loved.  I think she fed almost all the animals except the alpaca and some dwarf cow thing, because they were over 4 times her size.  Anything smaller than that, she had no problem with.

The next day, we took a visit to the MoMA. The girl was NOT very impressed, though I did get her to sing “Twinkle Twinkle” while looking at “Starry Night,” which I got a kick out of.  

Then the girl posed in front of a wall describing all her finer points:

After that, a trip to Central Park and then, finally, back to Brooklyn to pass out.  Panda and I were exhausted, so we thought we’d watch a movie together and just choose from one of her roommate’s 100+ titles.  Unfortunately, this particular roommate is a documentary producer-type and doesn’t own movies, only films.  We ended up watching “Memento” and going to sleep with a quite unsettled feeling.

The next day the girl and I bid farewell to Panda and set off for Denver again.  The flight home was not as much fun, and culminated in the girl spitting into her hands and then grooming herself like a cat.

It felt good to get home.

A few thoughts after the trip as a whole:

I’ve been to New York plenty of times, and have always loved going there and just feeling the general excitement of the place.  Being there with a two year old is an entirely different phenomenon, however.  I was struck by how much of just getting around was a struggle.  Here, we live in the city but  aren’t fighting the crowds and noise right outside our doorstep every moment of every day.  Even if you’re a wealthy New Yorker and live in a beautiful apartment overlooking something green, as soon as you get on the street you’re back in the middle of it all.  And as for that “something green,” Denver is rife with green spaces and flora, even just in the front yards.  In New York, those spaces are relegated to small community gardens, balconies, some roofs, and Central Park.  You have to make an effort to get there–it’s not just in front of you all the time.  Before I had kids, I never would have noticed these things, since my main focus was on museums and, well, the bars and clubs.

I loved travelling with my daughter.  It’s so different to visit places as an adult and make an impression of them, and then think about those same places through your child’s eyes.  I know that she’ll remember little, if anything, of this trip when she’s older, but there is value in the experience and the exposure.  I don’t buy the argument that you shouldn’t travel with your kids before they can remember it–I mean, if you extend that argument why expose them to anything before memory sets in?  The girl LOVED all the newness and the thrill of being somewhere new, taking the train, having a daily adventure.  We give our children experiences that shape and form who they are as adults, even if the experience itself becomes nothing but a faded impression.

And one last thought–all you second and beyond children, your suspicions have been correct all these years.  You completely missed out.  The girl’s language developed exponentially during this one week trip, and I think it’s because she had my undivided attention.  I’ve realized ever since the boy came back home that he gets about 80% of my verbal attention and the girl gets the rest.  (Eric and I basically just communicate in grunts at this point, so that doesn’t factor in.)  It really made me realize that both Eric and I need to spend more one-on-one time with our small one.

Overall, a fantastic trip! I loved getting back to my garden, and can’t wait to update you all with the next post!