Monday, November 28, 2005

kid book recommendation

Well, we're recovering from Thanksgiving here in Landisville. I managed to eat turkey every day, and drink quite a lot of good wine. Hope you and yours had a lovely time, too.

As I mentioned a few days ago, my MIL came and stayed with us over Thanksgiving. She brought books for the kids, along with excellent mushrooms for the adults. And the book that she brought for the Bee was so extraordinary, that I just had to share it. It was The Old Country, by Mordicai Gerstein. It was the first time that the Bee just demanded that we read a book all the way through until it was done, in that fanatical way that I (and I suspect other book-lovers) get. They zipped through it in just under two days, and after it was over, the Bee clutched it to her chest and said, "I'm keeping this book forever, and I'm going to read it to my kids when I'm a grown-up."

That made me so happy, because I know two things now. #1 is that the Bee is listening when I talk to her about books that I read in my childhood. One of my major regrets about the dissolution of my childhood home, is that all my books were lost. Landisdad has acres of books that he read in childhood, which we got when his mom sold their house (right before the Bee was born). I'm not really sure what happened to the books that I owned as a kid. There was only so much stuff I could take when I moved in with my dad. I guess I thought my mom would hold on to stuff like that, but she hasn't (and she's moved several times herself). It's one thing to buy new copies of books that I loved as a child. It's another for my kids to read the actual books that landisdad had (most complete with inscriptions from his parents).

Thing #2 that I now know is that she understands that reading is something to share and enjoy, not something to keep to yourself. And those are pretty good lessons about books, as far as I'm concerned.

The Old Country is an allegory about the Holocaust, told through the eyes of animals. There's a substantial fantasy element, with humans turning into animals & vice versa. The review of it that I read (after the fact) says it's recommended for kids 11-14, and there are some disturbing scenes of war in the book. It's a bit advanced for the Bee, frankly, and I wouldn't have bought it for her myself. But it is an incredible piece of writing, and I highly recommend it for older kids. Gerstein's other books all seem to be for much younger readers--on the strength of this one, I'm buying the Potato his Alphabet book for a Hanukkah present. Gerstein was apparently an animator before he got into children's books, and I'm really looking forward to some interesting illustrations.

• Posted By landismom @ 11/28/2005 11:31:00 PM
Saturday, November 26, 2005

Scarlett tagged me with this Thanksgiving meme. It's pretty time-sensitive, so I'm doing it right away! Here you go...

1) What are three items you have leftover from Thanksgiving that are in your refrigerator right now?

#1 At least four pounds of turkey
#2 About 2/3 of a pound of cranberries
#3 Some beautiful apple crisp

2) What kind of leftover treats will you make with the three items you listed?

Well, my regular readers will know that the answer to this question is, "none"

Here's what landisdad will make.

#1 Some kind of Russian turkey pot pie, with rice, gravy & egg called kurnik (well, he actually made this yesterday--delicious!)
#2 Turkey tetrazzini (yum!)
#3 A delicious cranberry bread (okay, he made this today too)

3) How long will you keep the leftovers before you toss 'em out?

Probably we'll keep the turkey for a few more days. I'm guessing everything else will be gone tomorrow.

4) Now that we're done with the leftover talk it's time to spread some linky love.

Okay, I'm thinking that by the time most folks will read this, it's gonna be too late (or reveal too much) to talk about turkey leftovers. But if you're not afraid to admit you're still hanging on to the goods, leave me a link!

• Posted By landismom @ 11/26/2005 10:00:00 PM
Friday, November 25, 2005

blogging cross-promotion

I'm not sure what the blogosphere protocol for cross-promotion is. But I've started blogging at a community blog, the Bored Housewives Network (thanks for the invite, Doppelganger!). Here's a link to something I just put up over there. I probably won't keep cross-listing posts--that doesn't seem to be the way things are done--but I wanted to let folks know you can find me (as well as some other smart, funny women) over there sometimes.

• Posted By landismom @ 11/25/2005 03:20:00 PM
Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Reason #2047 that I love my husband

It's a common conceit of mine that I am 'handier' than landisdad. Partly, that's backed up by evidence--I've actually had jobs that involved manual labor and tools, and he's been a 'knowledge worker' all his life (lucky bastard!).

But his knowledge worker tendencies do conspire against me sometimes. For example, I never ever read the directions for anything, until I've tried to make it work on my own at least once. His initial response, on opening any package, is to get the directions out and read them.

Since I'm not the genius that I think I am, 9 times out of 10, he's figured the thing out (whatever the thing happens to be--computer game, furniture to assemble, complicated baby toy) before I have, and I'm reduced to asking him for the directions.

Last night, we were all in the Potato's room, and the Bee was reading him a story. I bought a new nightlight for the Potato last weekend, and I wanted to install it, but it's the kind that is attached to an outlet cover, and needed to be screwed on. In order to install it, I had to unplug the light and do it in the dark. "You should wait until morning to do that," he said.

"I'm sure it will be fine!" I shot back.

Then I dropped the screw into the heating duct. Where it still sits.

He never said "I told you so." Not even once.

• Posted By landismom @ 11/22/2005 12:24:00 PM
Sunday, November 20, 2005

social promotion

I'm predicting this will be a slow blogging week, given the Thanksgiving holiday and the fact that my MIL is coming to town for a few days. But I wanted to take a minute to give some props to Grace from I Am Dr. Laura's Worst Nightmare, for her work on the Katrina relief blog, Family to Family. The F2F blog provides info on families to folks who are looking to give direct material contributions for those affected by Katrina. The families are identified anonymously (for example--A Single Mom in Bay St. Louis), and there are very specific items requested, including sizes of clothing, particular appliances, etc. There are also links to online retailers and shippers, and addresses for churches or shelters to send the goods to.

I know that I'm going to spend a lot of this week overeating, and then will probably start my (mostly online) holiday shopping after that. I'm planning to include one of these families in my Christmas shopping this year. It's been a hard year for planet Earth, between the tsunami, the war in Iraq, the hurricanes and earthquakes.
At this time of year, it's easy to succumb to compassion fatigue, and turn inward. In our family, there's a lot to be thankful for. I don't want to forget that.

• Posted By landismom @ 11/20/2005 08:46:00 PM
Friday, November 18, 2005

the power of rule-making

Last year, on one particularly cold winter day, I got tired of telling the Bee to hurry up on the way to school, and I invented a game called "Who's in Front?". The game mostly consists of me growling, "I'm gonna get in front!" while the Bee giggles and runs ahead of me. When we turn the corner to the street her school is on, she likes to hide behind various trees. Under no circumstances am I to look for her. I am, however, allowed to say, "where's the Bee? I've lost her. Oh no!" (This last is a rule of the Bee's creation.)

Then she comes running up,
giggling, and hides all over again.

It's great fun for her, and it means I don't have to spend a half an hour walking the four blocks to school in the freezing cold. We've played it on and off during the fall, but somehow, it's less compelling on a warm day.

Yesterday, the Bee invented her own walk-to-school game--"don't step on any leaves." At first, she told me I was allowed to step on small leaves, because my feet are so much bigger than hers (jeez, thanks for pointing that out, btw). Today the rules changed, and I had to jump over the smallest leaf too. I made a point of asking for several clarifications--are acorns okay? what about sticks?--because I know that she likes to make up rules.

It got me thinking about all those games in childhood that we play, just to have the power of rule-making. Kids spend so much of their lives listening to the rules of their parents, the rules of school--is getting to make up the rules for a game with an adult that much more fun?

What games did you make up when you were a kid? How many elaborate rule variations were there? Did you just make up games with other kids, or did your parents let you make up rules for them, too?

• Posted By landismom @ 11/18/2005 08:35:00 AM
Thursday, November 17, 2005

...and a Potato progress report, too

This morning, when landisdad dropped the Potato off at daycare, his teacher stopped to chat with him for a bit about how well the boy is doing in class. They had a few minutes of conversation, and then she said,

"yeah, he's so smart, when we color with crayons, he NEVER eats them!"

I about fell off my chair when I heard it. I guess the toddler bar is set pretty low.

• Posted By landismom @ 11/17/2005 05:07:00 PM
Tuesday, November 15, 2005

caution, kvelling mama ahead

We had the Bee's parent-teacher conference today. Since I posted so much last year about our bad experiences with the kindergarten teacher, I thought I'd better update on the much more positive time she's having in first grade.

Backing up, though--on the first day of school, we found out that the first grade teacher was pregnant, and would be going out on maternity leave in October or November (come on, we've all been there, we know it's not an exact science). After the first couple of weeks, we went to back to school night, where I peppered this poor woman with questions about who the sub would be, and how various things would be handled in her absence. (I did apologize later for being crazy.)

I was really worried about what would happen with the transition. The Bee has her high maintenance moments, and I thought this might trigger one. My fears were all for naught.

In addition to the great academic report that we got from her regular teacher (which was read by the sub), the sub (who has now been there for a week and a half) talked about how the Bee always participates in class, and is always polite and helpful to the other kids. Landisdad and I sat there, unable to say anything as we beamed with pride. She showed us some of the Bee's classwork, including her journ
al, and raved about how she writes much more than is required, and uses complicated, descriptive sentences.

I present to you the thoughts of a six-year-old girl, rendered in her own words (MD, you might want to skip this part.) You'll have to imagine the kid print & illustrations.

"Look at what I'm doing in First grade! I'm ruyting (writing) in my jrnul evrey morning befor morning mesig (message)! I am a good friend. I help my friend plant a gardin. I could not swig my self. Now I can!"*

*For those who are not the parent of a kid learning to write, let me tell you that the current preferred method of teaching kids to write is to let them write free form, not to correct their spelling and grammar at every chance. I like it--it's making her love to write stories, because she's not worried about doing something wrong all the time.

• Posted By landismom @ 11/15/2005 09:25:00 PM
Monday, November 14, 2005


So I had my first-ever blog play-date yesterday. Oddly, neither the other blogger or I managed to discuss whether or not we would blog about the experience. So I'm gonna let her out herself in the comments, if she's so inclined, otherwise, you'll just have to keep guessing until we come to some agreement. It was a lovely day, and a lovely time with much playground equipment.

Most of my weekend was spent trying to keep landisdad from contaminating the wee bairns. He came home early Friday with some kind of awful fever & stomach virus thing, and spent most of the next three days wrapped in a wool blanket and whimpering for mercy. It wasn't pretty.

We're getting ready to host our first post-kid Thanksgiving here. For the last six years, we've always gone to NYC for Thanksgiving, as landisdad's grandmother wasn't able to travel. This year, we decided that we should give his mom a break from the cooking, so we're having her over, plus possibly some other family members. Unfortunately, that means I'm going to have to take apart my 'office,' which is currently located in our dining room. Grrr! I'm not looking forward to it very much. It's a major cleaning job. On the plus side, maybe we'll finally move the seven boxes of photographs out of this room...

Also, for those of you who arrived here via some search for a sweet potato pie recipe or other sweet potato cooking problems? Sorry, I'm not the cook in our family. Try here, here or here.

• Posted By landismom @ 11/14/2005 09:13:00 AM
Friday, November 11, 2005

fall holiday

The Bee had the day off from school today, so I kept the Potato home from daycare too, and made a mommy-kid day of it. The Bee had a playdate this afternoon, but the morning was mostly relaxing at home, marred only by the ginormous temper tantrum that the Potato threw in the coffee shop, forcing me to carry him home the four blocks. There's nothing quite like hauling a screaming, back-arching two-year-old to bring a certain luster to your day.

After that ended, we all sat on the porch for a while, me with my coffee, the two of them with their pumpkins.

Yes, my kids spent an hour this morning playing with the leftover Halloween pumpkins (whole, not carved). First, they carried them down the front steps and lined them up on our walk. Then, they carried them down to the sidewalk to 'wait for the bus.' Then, the bus came and took the pumpkins to the airport, where they flew to Florida to visit my mom. And so on.

It was definitely one of those moments where I thought, "and why do we buy toys?" But at the same time, I was amazed by their (particularly the Bee's) imagination. It would simply never occur to me to send pumpkins on vacation, and it was truly wonderful to see her invent a game that her brother could play too.

The afternoon was slightly more difficult, as the Bee and her friend decided that they had to lock the Potato out of her room (and when I put her to bed tonight, I found a note they had written that said, "my brother is being a pest," which I was amused by, partly because I didn't know she knew how to spell 'pest' or 'brother'). But then they ended up all playing soccer in the back yard, so it was okay.

It felt like today is going to be one of the last nice days of the fall. I'm hoping that it'll stay okay through the weekend, because I have my first blog play-date on Sunday, and we made a plan to meet at a local playground. If it turns into a rainy day, I'm not sure what we'll do.

I'm kind of curious about meeting someone that I only know through her blog, especially with her kids in tow. Metrodad had a great post about blogfriends earlier this week, and I've been thinking about it a lot. Will let you know how it goes!

• Posted By landismom @ 11/11/2005 10:58:00 PM
Thursday, November 10, 2005

tap, tap, Is this thing on?

Hellloooo Internet? Is there anybody out there? Feeling a little lonely here today.

Anyway, Jessica from Daydreams & Musings had a post on Tuesday about wacky hi-jinks going on at her condo board. Apparently, some humorless adults have decided to try to ban children from, well, acting like children, and she wants to do something about it. Check out her post, it's a pretty amazing story. I emailed her some tips about organizing a petition drive in the building, and I liked them so much, I'm making a blog post about them. Well, I'm really just trying to guarantee that I have two posts in a row that no one comments on. Enjoy!

Okay, here’s my two (or perhaps two hundred) cents.

I wouldn't try to create a competing rule to take to the board, but doing something along the lines of a simple petition along the lines of—“kids welcome here.” If you are already in contact with some of the other parents in the building, let them have input, but don’t spend a lot of time fretting over the wording. The point of a petition is not to convince the board through a long argument, but to convince them through large numbers of signers that there is opposition to limiting access for kids.

After you get your petition finalized & copied, make sure you know which parents are going to which apartments. It’s always better to have people talk to other people that they know, and then fill in the rest in a way where everyone knows where each other is going, and there isn’t duplication. You might want to also try to figure out how many petitions you want to get signed overall. Be realistic—you are not going to find every single person at home. Then, you’re all ready to go.

Here are some tips for door-knocking when you don’t know the person on the other side of the door:

1. I started knocking on the doors of complete strangers to talk to them about politics almost 16 years ago. I’ve knocked on thousands of doors. I still get nervous every single time I go out to do it. You know how people who do a lot of public speaking say that they’re always nervous, and they still get up and do it anyway? It’s like that. You will be nervous. Accept it and move on.

2. Even though you are going out to talk to people about an issue involving your kids, you need to think seriously about whether or not to take them with you. Will your kids run around screaming when you are trying to have a conversation with the person who lives in the apartment? Might not send the right message.

3. Before you go out to knock on doors, it’s a good idea to think about what it is you are actually trying to accomplish in the conversation. If all you want is to get folks to sign the petition, the conversation is different than if you want to start a tenants' committee in the building, or something like that.

If you just want petitions signed, the best thing to do is a short rap that has a problem/solution/strategy structure. (ie—Problem: a few people want to restrict kids’ access to the common areas. Solution: we need to show the condo board that most people want kids to have access to the common areas. Strategy: please sign this petition to show that you support the right of kids to use the common areas.)

If you want to do something more like building a committee, it’s better to start the conversation with more open-ended questions (‘some of us are getting together because we have concerns about things in the building. Are there any things that you’re concerned with?’). In this kind of conversation, you should try to do only 25% of the talking. Ask a lot of questions and let them talk. If the conversation is not moving in a direction that is helpful, excuse yourself politely and leave. (“I’ve got a lot of folks to talk to in the building—thanks so much for your time.”) It’s pretty common to feel guilty about cutting off the conversation—like, “well, I knocked on their door, it’s rude to leave without listening to their story about their grandchild.” It’s not rude—it’s productive.

4. Make sure that you have an extra piece of paper with you, in case someone wants to get more involved (like going to the condo board meeting, or getting petitions signed)—you will want to be able to get back in touch with them later.

• Posted By landismom @ 11/10/2005 12:47:00 PM
Wednesday, November 09, 2005

what goes around...

Back in the early ‘90s, there was a hiphop act I was particularly fond of in California called The Disposable Heroes of Hiphoprisy, whose cover of the Dead Kennedy’s “California Uber Alles,” compared then-California Governor Pete Wilson to Hitler.

Sure it was a little over the top, but how could you dislike a song that opened,

“I’m your Governor Pete Wilson
the baddest governor to ever grab a mic and go BOOM!
Give me a budget and watch me hack it
Give me a beat and I’ll show you how to jack it”

That song has been ringing through my brain a lot lately, as I’ve been watching the polling on Governor Arnold Schwarzeneggar’s ballot initiatives swirl into the toilet. Last night, when I came home from being on the road for two days, the first thing I asked landisdad about was how the vote count was going (and in a weird testament to our relationship, let me just say that he already had this map up on his web browser). And I'm happy to report that the Governator's whole special election idea went down in flames, particularly the initiative that put limits on the use of union dollars.

I'm not sure why it is that I still care so much about what happens in California politics. I understand why landisdad does--he grew up there, and politically, it's still his home. He just doesn't have as much of a sense of connection to the place that we now live, although he knows that the California that he remembers from his childhood is gone, too.

For me, I think it's really a recognition that, in many ways, the exciting trends in progressive politics (and organizing) that are happening nowadays are coming from California. It used to be that the East Coast was the place to be if you wanted to do cutting-edge work on important political issues of the day, and that those ideas were exported from places like New York, Boston and Philadelphia to the rest of the country. If you look at the history of progressive organizing in the last century, you'll see a lot of initiatives where gritty, left-wing New Yorkers left the city that they loved to go out and organize textile workers in the south, or health care workers in the West, or where students in East Coast colleges did things like travel to register African American voters in southern states.

In a lot of ways, that trend has reversed itself lately. We who live in the Northeast are getting hammered every day with political ideas and agendas that are crafted elsewhere--particularly in more conservative elsewheres. It's exciting to me that progressives are fighting back against those agendas, and I'm really glad to see that we're winning, too. So to my friends in California, I say, si, se puede! Thank you for winning for us all.

• Posted By landismom @ 11/09/2005 12:20:00 PM
Saturday, November 05, 2005

to sleep, perchance to dream

Is there any better feeling, on a fall afternoon, than having a small child fall asleep in your lap as the two of you sit in a rocking chair? Cozy and warm, with a little human heat generator to ward off the afternoon chill...

The Potato has recently decided that he is too big to nap. (He's too big for a lot of other things too, if you ask him, as evidenced by his cries of "I big boy!" every fifteen minutes.) Landisdad and I do not concur with this decision, especially since he insists on getting up at 6:15 a.m., even on weekends. On the days that he is successful in winning the nap struggle, there are generally sixteen or seventeen meltdowns between dinnertime and bedtime. Not that much fun, especially on school nights when we are trying to cook, help the Bee do her homework, and make sure the kids get a bath once every six weeks or so before getting into bed by a reasonable hour.

There's not much we can do about the nap-at-daycare situation, so on weekends, we try to do whatever's in our power to get him to nap. Lately, that's meant sitting in the rocking chair with him, sometimes for an hour, to get him to fall asleep. It's a somewhat odd development, as the Potato is our 'good' sleeper. He slept through the night when he was a week old, and was always a great napper. And I know there are people out there who are cursing me out right now, but let me tell you, we deserved it. Because the Bee? Never. Slept.

When the Bee was born, we lived in an apartment in a duplex house. We moved there while I was pregnant, so we didn't know our upstairs neighbors tremendously well. It was an old, kind of shitty house and you could hear all kinds of stuff between the two apartments, and we really tried very hard to not subject them to a crying baby at all hours of the day and night. That meant that landisdad and I spent a lot of time holding the Bee while she slept, or sitting on the floor while she held on to our thumbs. (Yes, the Bee never had a comfort object--just "thumby.") When we finally did move into our own house, we had created a monster--a child who wanted to spend every waking--and sleeping--moment with her parents. By the time the Potato came along, we had been through the sleep wars, and I vowed, "never again." But we didn't have to have big battles with him about sleep, the way we did with the Bee.

I'm much more patient about the nap struggle, this time through. Partly because I know that it won't last--that eventually my son will develop the stamina to last the whole day without a nap. Partly because I myself have more stamina to sit quietly in a chair, slowly rocking, than I did with my firstborn. But mostly because I know it's not that much longer that I'll have a little kid to do this with. In a few weeks, he'll be moving out of the crib, and then I really won't have a baby anymore. I'm clinging to the last moments of his babyhood with a combination of pride and regret.

• Posted By landismom @ 11/05/2005 02:30:00 PM
Thursday, November 03, 2005

is the internet making me dumber or just lazier?

About a week ago, the Potato broke my alarm clock. It was a very old alarm clock--in fact, I've had it since my grandfather died in 1990--it belonged to him. It wasn't anything special as far as alarm clocks go--just your garden variety digital that made a horrible beeping sound every morning. It's the kind of thing that probably wasn't built to last for fifteen years, and I'm kind of surprised that it did. But the Potato has been on some kind of mission to deconstruct it for several months, and he finally succeeded.

I ordered this, and today it came in the mail. And it got me to thinking about the role that the Internet plays in my life now, and how I depend on it for so many things. I spend an awful lot of time online for my job--the amount of email I send and receive in a single day is just astonishing (and I'm not talking about spam or ads, though I get those too). In recent years, I've found an apartment online, I relocated across the country on the basis of a job that I found online, hell, I even found one of my kids' names online!

Yesterday, I had to do some background research on a guy who my boss is meeting with in a few weeks. Through some pointed googling, I found out practically everything about him except his shoe size, including his political giving history going back until 1995. In the days before public online databases, it would have taken me a really long time to find all this stuff out, but I was able to compile a fairly detailed portrait in just a few hours. In the same way, in the days, if I had broken my alarm clock, I would have had to go to an actual store and buy one.

These are (to me) the advantages of the Internet--greater access to information, the ability to shop for almost anything, communication with a nearly unlimited number of people on a nearly unlimited number of topics.

But there's a dark side to my Internet use, too. The time I spend blogging when I should be cleaning my house. The virtually unlimited number of ways that I waste time online that I could be using more productively--playing with my kids, reading a book, hanging out with friends--whatever. I'm almost starting to feel like I'm addicted to the Internet. (The first step is admitting that you have a problem?) What about you? Are you an Internet addict?

On the more productive Internet-use side, check out the new button on my blog for "Since Sliced Bread". It's a cool contest going on that asks ordinary people to come up with ways to make the economy better. Check it out--you can win $100,000 if you submit the winning proposal. But you'll have to beat me to do it!

• Posted By landismom @ 11/03/2005 08:34:00 PM
Tuesday, November 01, 2005

hey, I'm a blogosphere celebrity!

Well, not really. But I was checking out my site statistics today (is there any activity more vain?), and lo and behold, I have a new bunch of traffic after being quoted on's Broadsheet. (Requires subscription or watching an ad.) Okay, so it's only two words--everyone starts somewhere.

In other news, I finally got the 'a' fixed on my computer. I feel like I had a limb reattached. AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA Isn't it beautiful?

• Posted By landismom @ 11/01/2005 01:24:00 PM
  2. My daughter is the Bumblebee. My son is the Sweet Potato. You'll have to ask their father.

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