Wednesday, February 25, 2009

A Key to Victor's Identity

Last night, Victor decided to watch the news with me. He loves asking me who everyone is and what they do. He especially loves seeing Barak Obama. "It's Barak Obama!" he says. "He is the president."

(We recently distinguished between "president" and "prophet," and learned that President Bush is now Governor Bush because his term was up.)

Anyway, Victor was interested in everyone's name and position until Dick Durbin came on the screen. His face lit up, and he said, "Hey! He looks like me!"

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

The Children's Museum

Today we went someplace new: the Children's Museum, downtown. Most of the exhibits are play areas: a kitchen, a doctor's office, a post office, and, most perplexing, a community center. There were also some vehicles to play in: a fire truck, stock car, police car, and airplane nose (which was being renovated). There were several train tables with a large supply of Thomas.

There weren't many people at the museum today, so Victor and Zeke had the run of the place. I was surprised, then, when Victor did not plunge into euphoria when he saw the fire truck, police car, mail Jeep, and stock car. I expected his normal response to any vehicle: "OOOooooo . . . it's a fire truck! Look, Mom, a fire truck! A big, big fire truck! It's so beautiful!," followed by siren noises and a dash for the fire truck.

That's not what happened today. He didn't want to approach them or touch them. He vehemently didn't want to sit in them. He only wanted to play with the Thomas trains.


Zeke, on the other hand, was thrilled to sit in the stock car and climb on the fire truck. After ten minutes or so of Thomas, Victor decided to approach the vehicles. First, he went to the gas pump and filled up the stock car. Then he spun the wheel. Then he checked out the fire truck. And after that, he turned into his normal little self (he and Zeke really enjoyed hollering at each other through the pipe on the side of the fire truck).

What do I take away from this experience? I take it as evidence that Victor is growing up. He is approaching new situations more cautiously than before. Since before was dashing towards things while making happy, eardrum-splitting shreiks, it's probably best.

Friday, February 20, 2009

Wednesdays II

My dear sister Liz pointed out another thing that is great about Wednesdays: Life is on. If you don't watch it, it's terrific on all counts. Except for one thing.


Why, oh why, did NBC have to put Life up against Lost? I am devoted to watching Lost. It is my TV trump, and this season is super-duper so far. NBC has lots of shows I don't like, and I would really appreciate it if they scheduled one of those shows during Lost, and put Life somewhere else. But not Tuesday, because that's my dance class.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009


Do you know what I like about Wednesday?

On Wednesday, I get to read Miss Manners' weekly column. (I read it online in the Washington Post.) It's delightful and informative.

And that's what I like about Wednesday.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Potty Drama

Last Wednesday morning, Victor told his babysitter that he wanted to wear underwear. He went to his drawer, chose some drawers, and put them on. A short time later, he had an accident in the dining room. When I came home, he had been changed and cleaned up, and he had also successfully used the toilet.

Since he hadn't used a toilet in months, I was completely confused when the babysitter told me he had had an accident. How can you have an accident when you're wearing a diaper?

Anyway, that afternoon, Victor decided that he wanted to stay dry and use a potty. I was skeptical, but decided to go with it. I put a whole lotta candy in a mason jar and set it on top of the fridge where he could see it. Every time he went potty, he got a bunch of candy.

This lasted for several days. Victor was very pleased with his successes, and he was very proud of being a big boy, but since it all seemed too good to be true, I decided that I didn't care if it worked out.

It didn't work out. He lost interest (except for after bedtime, of course). But at least I didn't care this time.

Saturday, February 14, 2009


It's Valentine's Day, so I thought I'd write a post about love.

There is a commercial on TV for Sylvan Learning Center, or something similar, in which worried mothers look at their teenagers in despair as the teenagers play soccer and listen to music. The voiceover says, in ominous tones, of course, "Does your son not gets his kicks out of algebra? Does your daughter prefer rocking out to writing an essay?" Then the tone of voice changes and sunnily suggests that your child will develop a lifelong love of learning at Sylvan (or wherever).

PBS runs countless commercials--I mean public service announcements--claiming that its programming turns children into lifetime lovers of reading. It even demonstrates things you can do to make your child book-loving for life.

Enough, I say!

Love is an emotion. It is not an assessment of capability or competence. Loving books does not make you better than someone who loves basketball. Loving learning does not make you better than--well, actually, I don't even know what it means to love learning. I like to absorb interesting facts and master enjoyable skills as much as the next person, but I wouldn't describe the experience as anything akin to my feelings for the people I love.

I am afraid that it is chic to claim a love of books as a shorthand for "I'm a good person." Claiming that one's child loves to read is shorthand for "this is pretty much the best child ever." And claiming that one or one's child likes to read books we all know are dead boring is the coup de grace.

Now, before you think I've jumped off the deep end or point out that I've said a bazillion times how much Victor enjoys books, let me say that my objection is not to reading or to people who enjoy reading. Heck--I like to read! I have even pretended to like books that I thought were boring. (I promise that's behind me.) I just don't think it's a moral failing or indicative of deep inferiority if a person does not like to read.

I propose that we excise the idea of loving to read as a social goal. Instead, we should focus on building competent readers. You don't have to love reading to be a good reader. Good: can read material (novel, newspaper article, white paper, bank statement, contract, play, scriptures, court case) and understand what it means, as shown by an understanding of chronology, cause and effect, plot, instructions, analysis, obligations, and other functional measures. I think it is far more useful to society to have competent readers than book-loving readers, because love does not beget competence (see the entire world of amateur athletics).

Finally, if it is somehow important to society that people "value" reading in a non-economic way, I believe a competent reader is more likely to truly enjoy a good book because he or she will be able to understand it.

So to the moms in the Sylvan commercial, I say, let your son play soccer and maybe he'll be more willing to do his algebra. What person wouldn't rather kick a ball than solve for x? And don't be dismayed that your daughter prefers music to writing essays. The whole opera industry revolves around this premise.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Housekeeping Tips of the Day

You can use a Mr. Clean Magic Eraser to gently coax permanent marker off fabric.

But you should not use a Mr. Clean Magic Eraser on yourself.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

John Williams Strikes Again

Last summer we watched a fair amount of TV during the Olympics. Victor wandered in and out and enjoyed some of it (i.e. anything that he could describe as "fast"). But one part of the Olympics stuck with him: the Olympic Fanfare. He's been singing and humming it to himself consistently since last summer. He even has a high-stepping march of sorts that he does to the music.

I'd like to acknowledge John Williams for writing a piece of music so attractive to small boys. And although I would like to hypothesize that it all means that Victor will grow up to be an Olympian, it's far more likely, given his parentage, that it means he will grow up to play a brass instrument.

Saturday, February 7, 2009

Festival of Learning, Day 2

Day 2 of the Festival of Learning was all I ever hoped it would be. Duke professor Scott Silliman's presentation on the legal aspects surrounding the detention, interrogation, and trial of detainees was very interesting. His presentation is on the internet somewhere--you could check it out. Did you know that those charges against Guantanamo detainees were dropped this week to avoid double jeopardy. It attaches at a different time in military court proceedings than in federal court proceedings. He favors using courts martial for enemy combatants.

I also attended a seminar on intellectual property for all of my Etsy-loving friends. It was all for you, Mel and Joan!

Friday, February 6, 2009

Festival of Learning, Day 1

Today was Day 1 of the Festival of Learning. In other words, I spent 8 hours in legal seminars today. I learned how to talk to the press, and the latest in 4th Circuit employment law. It was very interesting.

Tomorrow I get to go back for Day 2. But that will only be 4 hours of fun.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

You Ride the Bus, Gov. Dukakis!

Today I heard Gov. Dukakis (you remember him from 1988) on the radio. He said we Americans should be embarassed about our public transportation. I have this to say about that:

You ride the bus, Governor!

I cannot imagine the awfulness of doing today's errands if I had to ride the bus.

Come on kids! Bundle up! Let's stand in the freezing cold and wait for the bus. Victor, stay here. Don't run---STOP! That's the street! Hold Mommy's hand. Keep your hand on the stroller. Jump up and down to get warm. Oh look--here's the bus. Wait for me! I'm putting down the stroller and trying not to drop Zeke. Here Zeke--climb into the bus. Don't eat that. Yuck. Good thing I'm not pregnant. Wait! That is not your purse. Don't pet the guide dog. Shoot--I dropped my fare card.

Oh look--we're at Home Depot. Let's get out and put up the stroller and walk up the hill. Keep walking!

Then we'd repeat all of the above--adding our parcels--while we waited for the bus, which may or may not even go to our friends' house to drop off two bags. And then to get Victor's hair cut. And then to the grocery store. And then home with our OJ and roast beef and eggs.

There is no way to do this and live in the suburbs as we know them. Kudos to you urban moms who get it all done in the city!

Tuesday, February 3, 2009


Victor was up half the night screaming and crying and whining.

Today he was up at his regular time, perfectly happy.

What is up with that?

Monday, February 2, 2009

A New Kind of Car

Jeremy and Victor went for a car ride on Saturday. Victor became very excited when they passed a car with team-spirit flags waving from the windows. He said:

"DAD! It's a pirate car!"

Sunday, February 1, 2009

What a difference!

I went to church alone today.

Victor has a fever and a cough. He says he feels "a little sick" and that "I'll feel better soon." He was clearly too sick for church.

(How do you decide when your child is too sick for church? I ask myself if I would want an equally sick child sitting next to my child. If the answer is NO, then no church.)

Because I'm the Primary music person and Jeremy is the Zeke-toting person, I went to church and Jeremy stayed home with both boys.

Here's how it went.

First, when it was time to go, I picked up my things, walked out the door, got into the car, put on my seatbelt, and drove away. There was no diaper bag, no snack bag for Zeke, no two trips, no car seat, no last-minute diaper, no chasing Victor down the street, and no van. It took about 1 minute instead of 8. Also, I wore a nice necklace and a skirt that gets too short when a small person sits on my lap.

Then, when I got to church, I got out of the car and walked inside and sat down. There was no chasing and no near-misses in the parking lot.

During the meeting, I sat still and listened. I sang all of the hymns. I did not get up or move around or trade seats with anyone. No one got a time out. No one pulled my clothing in an embarrassing direction. Did I say that I listened? Yeah--I listened.

Primary was the same as usual, but after it was over, I didn't have to retrieve Victor, find Jeremy to get Zeke, or beg any young person to help me find Victor after he ran off through the building or parking lot.

Then I drove home, got out of the car, and walked inside. Everyone was asleep, so I sat down and read the paper.

It was the strangest Sunday ever.

Did I mention that I listened? Yeah--I listened.