Childless Insights

A friend from high school has moved into town to do her residency.  She and her husband recently came over for brunch, and I have to say my kids were so, so incredible.  Well-behaved, said “please” and “thank you”, cleared their dishes, answered questions.  It was astonishing for everyone involved.  Naturally, I told our guests that we were superior parents and claimed all the credit.  I don’t know what their ideas and plans are for family life and if that includes children or not, and it is no place of mine to ask.  They did say they have nicknamed our kids “Gateway Children,” though.  Ha.

I went to their housewarming party a few nights ago and admired their beautiful, toy-less apartment with lit candles, open-cabinet kitchen and wine glass shelving.  My friend’s husband, let’s call him ‘Salar’,  apologized to me for talking up our son at brunch and being so amazed at the young scientist, for not paying much attention to my daughter. I hadn’t noticed and in retrospect I thought it was probably good for both of them.  Everyone talks about how beautiful my daughter is, and my son can get shaded out I think.  Salar had a really smart older brother and apparently heard all about that all through his childhood.  He didn’t want to propagate that and I can appreciate that.

What is interesting is that we all know my son is very smart.  I don’t think he is “gifted” per se, just bright and self-directed and confident.  I don’t think we say it very often, though.  I don’t think it is harmful to tell a smart kid he is smart, or for him to hear it from someone else.  I also don’t think it is wrong to tell my daughter she is beautiful….but this is where my inner train starts to go off the rails a bit.  What happens when you do say “You’re so smart” to Child A and “You’re so pretty” to Child B?  What happens when you say it over and over?

Maybe you don’t say anything at all.  And then you find out the smart kid wants to know you think he is smart.  And the other child wants to know she is beautiful.  Also, Child A has these unbelievably gorgeous eyes and eyelashes, and Child B is incredibly smart and you don’t want to short-change either of of your gorgeous, brilliant children, and why haven’t they been discovered as Mensa Models, yet, huh? If how we speak to our children becomes their inner voice, what does confident but not overly self-assured sound like?  I’ll do my over-thinking here and hopefully it will wash out well in real life.


What are your first memories?  Mine was when I first tied my shoe by myself and my mom didn’t believe me.  Salar remembered making “pieces of garbage out of scraps of wood and two screws or something, and adults said ‘Oooo!  Look what you made.  You’re so clever.  It’s a remote, isn’t it!?!’  and you know inside that it’s just garbage.”  He also listed off a handful of injuries, like when he got hit in the back of the head with a Romper Stomper, which reminded me of the time I fell off the picnic table.

“Of course you remember that,” he said. “You don’t remember the day-to-day stuff, like that you meowed at everyone for four years instead of talking.”

I mentioned I thought my daughter did that as a sort of buffer when interacting with adults.  “Meow” is a response (as one is often demanded of her), but it doesn’t offer any information.  It is self-protection.  She was starting to talk to people, even adults in the last few months, but after her gym walk-out stunt and the follow-up to that, her meowing has come back.  I pointed out how aggressive adults got when they saw her, getting closer and louder and more ridiculous and intrusive.

Salar: “Oh, yeah.  I can see that.  Here’s this adorable little thing and all you want in that moment is their approval.  ‘Look at ME!!! I can be funny!  Please think I’m funny and great!’  Because when they smile or laugh at you, it is just the best thing in the world.

“You know what is great, is that kids probably know the game.  They’re thinking ‘Look at this idiot.  I smile at him and he acts like the circus came to town.  Wait until I show him this garbage I made out of scrap wood.  He’ll lose his mind.’

Ha!  Thanks for the perspective, Salar! I hope I haven’t misremembered this! I’ll come and sit with you and your lovely wife at your clean bar anytime!

(I think this is a ‘Romper Stomper’.  Unless we’re talking about the Russell Crowe movie.)

Storytime: The Black Tooth Menace

We read “Franklin’s Pond Phantom” yesterday and my four-year-old daughter’s fascination with “scary” stories was rekindled.  (Franklin is a turtle.  He can “tie his shoes and count by twos”….and the Pond Phantom was a sailboat in the mist for all of you who are not knee-deep in Easy Readers.)

On the way to school today, she told me these stories (with lots of dramatic pauses):

“On Halloween nights.  It was dark.  And SCARY.  And le Black Tooth Menace showed up.  It had ONE TOOTH.  And two eyes.  And a black body.  And it would JUMP out of le dark on …… THINGS!   This is a real story.”


“On Halloween nights there is a… SHAPE…. that follows you in le dark.  It has one tooth and one nose and ONE EYE.  It is….the ONE-EYED MONSTER.  It is so, so scary.  BUT it will protect you.  It is a good monster.  You are safe.  But then… le Black Tooth Menace EATS it.  And you are in trouble.”

“There is also a Black SHADOW…..but…….it can not eat you ’cause it is just air and doesn’t have a real tummy.  Le Black Tooth MENACE chases le Black Shadow, but le Shadow can not be caught.  It is just air. It can go through cages and run on ‘lectricity wires and not get burnt and can go through small holes in a bag. When it roars it makes no sound.  It is le shadow of…..a DINOSAUR.  LOOK OUT BLACK TOOTH MENACE!!!”


Then we watched a bunny until it was time to go in and she wanted to take pictures of it.  Here it is. Enjoy.

Bunny on the run
Le Black Shadow Approaches!

Summer Plans

Once again, summer approaches and I am steeling myself.  I don’t want to be the activity director….and yet, I am.

I already wholeheartedly love Jen Hatmaker, and then I read her piece “What Would My Mother Do? (Drink Tab and Lock Us Outside)” and now I want to ask her to be my sister.

That’s how it could be.  My kids are finally old enough at seven and four to be in the roving band of feral neighborhood children.  Except that sadly, it is a band of two.  There aren’t other “neighborhood” children.  There is no pack.  Two kids, both too young, do live around the corner but are in daycare year-round.  Other friends are nearby, but not near enough to walk to. All play needs to be organized by me, with start and end times, a car trip and a drop-off. They can’t go to the park by themselves yet, and frankly I don’t even know in this day and age, when they will be. Is this how kids have friends these days?

We love the neighborhood we live in.  It is quiet and we have lots of trees and green space to run and grow in.  It is ideal…except that we are an island unto ourselves.  We’re surrounded by middle-age professionals who rarely come outside, who hire people to do the yard-work and walk the dog, who get their mail from the car window before they drive into their garage and close the door.

The house next door to us is going on the market, and I have a fervent wish. Please, Oh Universe, let someone with kids buy it!  Nice kids.  Maybe a boy and a girl, between the ages of four and eight, into dinosaurs, world-exploration and/or princesses.  Pretty please.  It would make (my) summer so, so much better.

Two tough, cute little kids

Kids Seeking Kids. Now Accepting Applications for Summer Position in Roving Neighborhood Band with possibility of lifelong friendship. Apply Within.

Emboldened: Thinking of Travel

Recent small victories and the insightful questions of my fellow moms-in-arms has got me thinking.  About travel, about summer, about technology, about time, about the future.

For a moment in our recent road-trip, when both kids were entertaining themselves with electronics (should we hope that they were being read to by Lavar Burton or should we just admit that they were playing Pet Doctor for the seventh straight hour?  Do you promise to judge me, either way?)….it was unbelievably peaceful.

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And a thought filled with hope entered my brain:  “We could do this!  We could travel!!”  We could travel to Europe, to Brazil, drive to the Grand Canyon and all through the west of these great states.  I’ll get them passports right away when we get home!

I’m still on that bubble.  I can see it.  I can see us in Barcelona and France.  (Give me a while before I can see us in India or Bangkok.  One rung at a time.)

You know what is first?  Montreal.  I have three great loves for three deserving cities: Madison, where I live and set down deep roots, Boston, and Montreal.  I had the good fortune to introduce my kids to Boston last fall.  Subway trains, sparkly toothpaste at the home of our good friends, and encounters with dog sharks and patient  at the New England Aquarium ensured the kids love Boston as much as I.  On to Montreal.  I don’t know when or how.  But soon.  Gear up, Montreal!

First up, find my passport, dust it off and renew that baby. Next, passports for the kiddos.

Did you know you must have travel plans to get a passport?  I haven’t figure out if “some time this summer, via minivan we’ll drive to Montreal” is legit enough, but I’m pretty sure not.

Did you also know both parents need to show up when getting passports for children or get a notarized thing.  And you have to show up in person for first passports…so I was getting ahead of myself. First up, the nearest passport processing center, Chicago! Then Montreal! That’s okay.  We always love a visit to The Windy City.  Three hours in the van is nothing for us! ( I think.)

Also, I just got my passport out of the one place it belongs, hidden in The Box of Important Stuff, and immediately misplaced it.  It took ten minutes to find:

Hidden Passport
I AM a slob, but this seems beyond my skill level.


I’ll figure out the kids’ passports after I renew mine. The wheels are already in motion!


A trip to Fernbank Museum of Natural History

On our way home from our week of respite on the beach, we drove through Atlanta, Georgia.  All my previous experiences of Atlanta involved driving through it at Mach One with the entire rest of humanity at three in the morning, and my impression of the place was not the greatest.  This time, we managed to get off the highway and actually see some of the city, fortunately at the peak of spring with all the flowering trees and bulbs in full bloom.


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Gorgeous, and our destination was also a real gem, the Fernbank Museum of Natural History.

Were there dinosaurs?  Indeed, there were.

IMG_3416 (3) IMG_3424 IMG_3420 The  most impressive part of the museum is of course the main display, skeletal fossil copies of an Argentinosaurus and a Giganotosaurus, astonishing creatures of incredible size (the originals remained in Argentina I hear.)

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The kids had an amazing time talking to the docents and then discovering the upper floor, a Children’s Museum with different ecosystems, a clubhouse, learning stations and so much more to explore.

There was so much about this museum that I loved.  The special exhibit at the time was “Poison”, which led people through the history, botany, and chemistry of poisons in addition to many of the references from literature (Think “Alice in Wonderland”, “Romeo and Juliet” the witches from “Macbeth” and “Harry Potter”.)  I fell in love with the interactive book on display.

Interactive book on poisons

I also loved the Poison gift shop and bought “A Poisoner’s Handbook” and skull scarf for myself my best friend, and the preserved green space all around the museum.

The Halls of Time were such a weird and wonderful juxtaposition of prehistoric time along one side of the hall, and taxidermy of the biology and ecosystems of modern Georgia (i.e. the stuffed turkey families across from the video about the dawn of the universe.)

The last thing, and the one I was most geeked about were the limestone floor tiles, harvested from the same quarry as where the famed Archaeopteryx with feather imprints was found (Solnhofen region of Germany, and I suppose it is okay if you’re not squealing here.  I understand.  Actually, no, I don’t because I was emitting a very high-pitched noise when I realized this.)

Exhibit describing source of limestone floor tiles

After this and the trip through the halls of all known time, I was wiped out and went to the cafe for tea and looked out at the lush grounds while the kids did more “nature tracking” in the NatureQuest exhibit.  All in all, lovely, and so, so fun.  Next time you are speeding through Atlanta, I highly recommend the detour.

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