What the belly button says, you must obey

April 30, 2009

Ok, so some (most) days, at a certain point, I completely run out of ideas. We’re all tired and hungry and cranky and I just don’t know what I’m supposed to do to make everyone happy, because all I want to do is lie down by myself on the living room rug for a while. Usually I just forge ahead and go through the 4:00 to 7:00 hours bit by bit, task by task.

But sometimes I get a jolt of inspiration, and I swear, those divine moments can carry you for days. Last week we were all melting down and I was experiencing my usual supreme annoyance at Eli’s obsession with my belly button. And so, in a fit of Sudden Fun Mom, I drew a face on my belly, using the belly button as the mouth, and made all disciplinary action spout forth from Belly Button Guy.

The kids completely lost it. They thought it was the funniest thing they had ever seen, and, of course, they had to draw on their own bellies.

Eli’s got a bit more elaborate after this photo was taken. Mostly I am in total awe of the amazing ocean scene Henry was able to whip out, upside down, in about 30 seconds. You can see the water, and the octopus with motion lines behind it. There’s a tadpole above his belly button. Here are some quick-moving jellyfish:

It’s all got this James Stevenson feel and I just wish that I could draw with such freedom.

If I could just come up with some idea like this once a week, I think everything would be fine. They’re still cracking up about it (mostly because — ahem! — the marker didn’t really wash off very well), and are still listening to my talking belly button.




April 29, 2009

Sometimes I pull things out of Henry’s backpack, and I just have no idea what the backstory is. This says “I can run and juggle at the same time” (or, actually: “I can ran and jagl at the sam tim”) which took me a while to decipher before I noticed the helpful visual aid. What was the assignment? Henry lies as well as I do (that is: not very well at all) and so this isn’t the sort of thing he’d just randomly write down. I guess it’s better than “I can drive and talk on a cell phone at the sam tim.”

At any rate, it made me laugh (especially the smiling juggling stick figure), and I’m all for ridiculousness wherever they can cram it into the curriculum.



Dinner: savory pattycakes

April 28, 2009

Lately I’ve been kind of obsessed with making savory vegetarian burgery cake things for dinner. I don’t know where this came from, but every time I see a recipe and accompanying photo in a magazine, it looks like the best thing ever to me. They’re never quite as amazingly delicious as I think they will be, but they are good, and the best part is that you can mix it all up in the morning and then just pan-fry them at dinnertime, serve them with some broccoli or on a salad, and you’re done.

I made chickpea patties (sort of like smooshed falafel, and recommended for the Greek yogurt dressing that you make to go with it), corn cakes (pictured), and millet cakes, which prompted the following conversation when the children wouldn’t eat them (shock of the century there, I know! don’t all kids love millet cakes?):

Julie: C’mon guys, eat your millet cakes!
Dave: I think that in order for them to like millet cakes you really have to have brought them up eating them.
Julie: What are you talking about? They’re children now! See them there, with the millet cakes on their plates? That’s me, bringing them up eating millet cakes!
Dave: You needed to start even earlier.
Julie: Well. I like them.
Dave: They’re the best millet cakes I’ve ever eaten.
Julie: Hush.
Dave: You guys want me to make you chicken nuggets?
[General screams of relief and love from the boys. Zuzu, who at 10 months old, is, in fact, being brought up on millet cakes, ate her darn millet cake, thank you very much. Ok, she ate a weensy part of it. Still.]



Children’s Book of the Week: If Dinosaurs Were Alive Today

April 27, 2009

If Dinosaurs Were Alive Today by Dougal Dixon

This book is a lot like most dinosaur books, in that it’s crammed with dinofacts, has no plot, and sitting down to read it out loud cover to cover is a 2-hour event. But I don’t know, maybe all this dinosaur stuff is getting to me: I thought this book was fascinating, and I also appreciated that it took the whole dino facts notion and put a new spin on it.

The spin is this: if dinosaurs were alive today, how would they fit into our world? Coelophysis would scavenge for garbage, otters would eat the ammonites, and troodon would prey on kangaroos. (Bonus fact for Sarah: quetzalcoatlus would cause problems for small aircraft.) The book has great pictures that look like photos of the dinosaurs in our world (the illustrators were obviously having a ball — I like the two-page close-up spread of a microraptor, with the Statue of Liberty reflected in its eye).

Henry hasn’t let this book go since we got it from the library. I think the illustrations have a big part in this, but also the idea of what it would be like if the dinosaurs were still around. The book goes through dinosaur-by-dinosaur scenarios, and then talks generally about what meat-eaters, flying dinosaurs, and swimming dinosaurs would be like today. The back has lots of pages talking about how the dinosaurs might have evolved, and looking at modern animals with vestigial ties. At any rate, this book is worth it just for the amount of time your dinosaur lover will spend poring over the pages.

On a vaguely related note: why don’t dinosaur books include pronunciation guides? Why do they expect us to know how to say all these names?


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It’s nice when the kids dress themselves

April 24, 2009

…but sometimes they come downstairs looking like one of the Village People.


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Your Weekly Zuzu

April 23, 2009

This week, Zuzu laughs at a fire hat.



Broadturn Farm

April 22, 2009

I don’t know if it’s Maine, or the crunchy little circle of friends I have, but everyone I know is deciding which farm camp to send their kids to, and which week, because you know if you do it early then they pick strawberries but later there are more other fruits and veggies and maybe more exciting things, and why not just pick a week in the middle? It’s all so much to debate.

So I think we’ve picked Broadturn Farm, mostly because the farmer was the midwife who delivered Henry, but also because they’ve got the best animals. Last Friday we went to get some straw to put down on our lawn after we seed it (and maybe after we do some kind of woodchuck relocation program because something is digging up our lawn like crazy). And the straw farm is right near Broadturn Farm, so we took a gander (ha!) on over to check it out.

Two boys, two lambs. All totally free range.

Hello, I’m a pig. Perhaps you remember me from one of your favorite movies.

The funniest part about the pigs was that the farm worker who directed us to them cautioned, “There’s an electric fence around their pen” and then added, “but it’s really low.” I made some joke about, “Oh, ok, so I’ll just toss the kids right over it then!” and he sort of looked at me oddly and said, “Yes.” I don’t know what the deal is with pigs, but the electric fence was seriously about four inches high. So, yes, I did just toss the kids right over it so we could get some close up pig lookin’.

I felt really sorry for this chicken. He was totally on his own, ostracized from all the others. What did he do wrong? Or maybe he just wanted some quiet time.

This little scene prompted Zuzu to spontaneously utter her first animal noise. “Ba-dawk!”

We were all quite taken with this big friendly dog, though I don’t know why he was penned in with cows and sheep. Maybe he is the watchdog. At any rate, he was enormous and very sweet.

Of course we went back to the lambs.

Some lovely indoor sheep that we discovered right before we left, mostly because one came out and yelled at us for being so close to her baby lambs. I’m still not convinced that mama sheep was real, as she sounded way too much like a human just saying, “Baaaa!”

And lo, the light did shine upon the sheep and the lambs, and call to them to lie in the hay and be wooly and regard the humans with great skepticism. And they did, and it was good.



Makeup Bag Decluttering

April 21, 2009

I don’t really wear makeup. I used to, when I went to a Regular Job, but I haven’t in years. I don’t really have time, and Dave lovingly says I look better without it.

Lately, however, when I look into the mirror, the image I see screams, “Dark circles! Old!” and it seemed time to do something about it. I dragged out my makeup bag, but most of the things in it were kind of dried out, or I didn’t remember when I’d bought them, or I did remember, and it was for my wedding 10 years ago. So I went for the Web 2.0 solution and posted a Facebook status update asking for undereye concealer recommendations.

One jaunty trip to the Benefit counter later, I was ready to streamline my makeup bag. Here’s what it looked like before:

Lots of old foundation and mascara. I do have to say, though, that after throwing away the obvious things, I was still left with more than I expected. There were a lot of eyeshadow colors that are pretty good and weren’t cheap, and while I don’t wear eyeshadow very often, maybe someone will get married or something and I’ll have to dress up more. (Is this rational? Should I pitch the eyeshadow?)

Here’s the after:

Last week I stopped by at Dave’s office and he said, “Hey! You look really good today!” “I’m wearing makeup!” I proudly declared. To which he said, “Darn!” because it disproved his better-without-makeup theory. It does say something for the Benefit stuff I got, though, and that it looks makeup-free, and can be smeared on by a tired mom with her fingers in one minute and still yield excellent results. I got:

  • Boi-ing, undereye concealer. Covers everything and looks great.
  • That Gal. Called a “brightening face primer” which doesn’t really help. I don’t really understand how this works, because it’s very pink, but somehow it makes me look like I have perfect skin.
  • Creaseless Cream Shadow in Honey Bunny. This also seems like magic. I smear it on my eyelids, and it doesn’t look like I’m wearing eyeshadow, but just like I’m perky and awake, which I mostly am not.
  • Bad Gal mascara. I am really not very good at mascara, but since all my other mascara was many years old, it seemed like a smart idea to get some new stuff. This mascara has a brush that’s roughly the size of a toilet cleaning brush, and despite the name making it sound like it’s going to be all smudgy and punk rock, it’s actually fairly subtle and lovely and adds to the whole “I’m not wearing makeup, no, I’m just this fabulous all on my own!” aesthetic.

So there you go. In the spirit of my continued decluttering, I have partially decluttered my makeup bag, and have feng shui-ed my face, as it were.



This is just to say

April 20, 2009

I have eaten
the majority of the
cookie dough
that was in the fridge

it was supposed
to be “chilling”
so we could make
animal crackers later.

Forgive me
but I’m on a deadline
and we were inexplicably
out of dark chocolate.



Children’s Book of the Week: The Stray Dog

April 20, 2009

The Stray Dog by Marc Simont

I have a stray dog fantasy, that one day I’ll find a dog sitting forlornly in our backyard, and he’ll love us and we’ll love him and that will be that. I’d really love to get a dog, but I know that it’s logically a terrible idea right now. But if a dog just sort of walked into the house, well then, that would be different, right?

Once when I was out for a walk, with Henry in the stroller and Eli in the sling, a dog came out of nowhere and just started walking with us. He trotted along side us for close to an hour. I brought him home and called the local vet, who looked up the number on his tag. The dog’s owner was on vacation and the dog was staying with someone near us; when I finally got in touch with that person, he drove to our house and grabbed the dog and angrily stuffed the dog in his truck and drove away. Poor dog! I hope his real owner was nicer. Thus ended the one episode that almost brought my stray dog fantasies to life.

I’m not the only one who has a stray dog fantasy, clearly, since there seems to be an entire subset of children’s literature devoted to the idea, from McDuff Moves In to The Old Woman Who Named Things to the tragically beautiful A Day, A Dog. The last time we went to the library we got The Stray Dog, and it might be my most favorite of all. A family goes on a picnic and finds a stray dog, but they leave it at the park. The next week they go back to the park and are relieved and thrilled to find the dog again. Simple and short, and I love the images of everyone in the family thinking about the dog while they’re supposed to be doing other things (spilling coffee absentmindedly, that kind of thing). A very nice stray dog fantasy if ever there was one.


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