Thursday, January 29, 2009

Obama Signs Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act

That's the kind of President I'm talking about!

Sad Mommy

Tomorrow evening, the Girl Scout Leader, Jazz and I are taking the Lone Star Girl and five other girls from her troop to a weekend sort-of camping trip at the Girl Scout sort-of camp in the Valley to earn their forensic science Interest Project Patch at a university near the camp. None of the adults involved really want to go, although I know it will be a lot of fun, but we are sort of the ones (excepting Jazz, who I reminded about all the times I changed her diapers so she would drive us in her car - good sister, good aunt) holding the short straws.

It really does sound like a lot of fun (excepting the part that I really only get to sleep a little on weekends and I need that to get me through the week), but...I haven't ever left the Lone Star Baby overnight before. And I don't want to. I just don't.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Punk Rock

The Lone Star Girl and I got haircuts on Saturday. I got mine trimmed back to its original August short cut. The Lone Star Girl, however, under duress from a mother who is tired of her letting her long curls mat, got hers cut to a sort of stacked and layered bob. She kept two long trands on either side in an attempt to have a punk rock hair style, which really works for her when she straightens the two strands and the bangs. The above is a photo of the favored style. As excited as she was with her punk rock hair, its punk rock look was totally a product of the stylist's $100 straightener and cannot be done with her own regular straightener. The two strands don't look very punk rock when they are all bouncy and she is now pretty unhappy about the cut. When she braids the two long strands, the cut looks fabulous, but she does not concur. My only stipulation was being able to be neat and combed, whatever the style, and I think this is a saga not yet finished.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Graham Crackers And Milk

Both of my daughters are extremely, extremely picky eaters. The Lone Star Girl happily chowed down on the diverse and wholesome vegetable-laden fair that I provided to her until she was about three, but then did an abrupt about face, wanting only her protein foods and junk food. It's been that way ever since. I blame her father. I thought about never allowing her to see him eat, but decided that the benefits of having a father outweighed the potential dangers of his dietary influence. Most days I still think so, sort of, especially when I'm paying bills.

Except for nursing, the Lone Star Baby never really wanted to eat much as a baby and that has never changed. Although it turns out, after many tests, that she is just fine, the doctors always worried about her low weight when she was younger, so I never bothered with the healthy, diverse diet that the Lone Star Girl ate during her baby and toddler years - I just fed the Lone Star Baby chocolate and french fries and anything high in fat and calories as soon as she could manage it, as instructed, but she stayed tiny anyways - it's just the way she is.

While I have made some peace with the fact that the Lone Star Baby's version of eating dinner is to eat two or three bites and ask to be excused (she is more of a breakfast eater), I cannot handle the way she then cries at bedtime that she is hungry. I know that popular wisdom says that if they don't eat at dinner, they don't eat and that they won't starve themselves and that they'll learn to eat when they should and blah, blah, blah...but popular wisdom has not met the persistent spirit that is my youngest. And she's so skinny.

So. I have instituted a new routine in our house.

After dinner and bath and the obligatory rounds of Sleeping Queens, but before stories and bed, the Lone Star Baby gets to sit at the kitchen table and eat some graham crackers and milk. She likes this and to me - it's a beautiful thing.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

January YA Pick

My YA pick for January is Tyrell by Coe Booth. This one is definitely YA and not appropriate for the upper el reader, due to explicit sexual content, drugs, and some violence.

Tyrell is a teen-aged boy whose father is locked up and who has become homeless with his mother and younger brother. He is trying to stay out of trouble and be a good older brother and boyfriend, but he is in the middle of a lot of complicated situations and emotions. He tries to make some money to take care of his family by throwing a big party like his father, a DJ, used to do, and the plot thickens. There is enough of a turn in direction at the close of this book to take it as a resolved ending if the story is looked at very simply, but this is really one of those books that has a pretty unresolved ending, and should stay that way, if one pays closer attention. Little about real life and growing up and the tough situations that happen to people can be tied up in neat bows, and I didn't think this author tried to do that. I thought the book was very well-written and compelling and illuminated an all too real character in an all too real life situation the way that only good fiction can.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

My Four-Year-Old Sleeping Queens Junkie

So I've been all excited about this new family game phase that we are in and the fun we are having with the game Sleeping Queens. We are still having fun, but it seems to have become required fun. Mandatory fun. Religion. Or something.

The Lone Star Baby now wants to play Sleeping Queens all the time. All the time. She really can't get through a day without one or two hands and will cry if no one will play with her at some point before we make her go to bed at night (oh, we play with her - at least one hand, usually two or more). She also tries to teach it to all of her friends, who are not all as interested in it as she is. It's like the central focus of her young life.

And a little scary.

We can now identify which queen most of the face-down queens are because we recognize the creases and scratches unique to each card.

Honestly, with the exception of our concerns for what this obsessive behavior might mean for the future, we don't really mind. We all like playing Sleeping Queens very much - even if it is not really our mission in life the way it seems to be her mission in life. Her passion for the game makes it more fun for us since she is so freakin' adorable to watch. Still - beware the addictive power of Sleeping Queens! You have been warned ...

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Inauguration Day 2

I'm so proud to be an American tonight! I really am! I feel like ... a Woody Guthrie song.

God Bless Our President!

I'm so excited! Was that not the most wonderful speech ever? And I believe every word!

Monday, January 19, 2009

Doctor Day Instead

I am experiencing guilt (kind of a theme with me, is it not?) at not participating in our local march in honor of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. today. We always go, usually with the Girl Scouts, and are excited about the day's identity as a national day of service as well. Today, though, was spent in two doctors' offices with only time in between for a late lunch and medicine runs. These things do happen, I know, but I still feel bad. We're okay, though. I think we'll be in school tomorrow.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

The Rain Project - Learning About Drought

Every day when the Lone Star Baby records the day's zero in her Rain Project calendar, she says something to the effect of "It's still a drought!". Yesterday, while we were running some errands, a light drizzle started to fall. She was extremely excited that the drought might be ending and that she would find some rain in her rain gauge when we got home. Unfortunately, when we got home, the ground was dry and the rain gauge still read "0". The drizzle had not been enough to move the floating indicator even a tiny bit. My little weather scientist was disappointed, but she keeps hoping to find rain the next time!

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Lines At The Carousel

The already-nicer of our two local shopping malls was bought awhile back by new folks who want to make it posh (which is sort of funny - we are not a posh sort of city). One of the things they feel the need to do in the pursuit of this poshness is to get rid of the carousel in the middle of the mall - it just doesn't fit with their vision. Needless to say, the young children in our community are displeased that our community will no longer have any carousel, and their parents are dismayed at the removal of this very effective bribe to behave until we have finished shopping for bras and underwear. The new folks don't care, though, and the carousel is heading out in a few days.

I took the Lone Star Baby to the mall today so she could ride it one last time. Teen drop-offs aside, the mall is not a frequent destination for us, so the carousel is special. There was a long line, snaking all the way around the carousel and out into the mall, as many kids are going to miss the carousel and wanted their last rides, as well. The Lone Star Baby rode a horse on the upper level and named it Mari (the Lone Star Girl used to name all of her carousel horses Camel when she was little, but her sister favors Mari) and said good-bye to Mari and the carousel when we left.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Breaking Even And then Some

Teachers in my district got a raise, thanks to the generous vote of our taxpayers, starting in December. Our health insurance changed starting this month, though, and it looked like the insurance I carry - for employee and children - was going to cost a lot more when I filled out the paperwork. I've been waiting to see if the raise would cover the complete cost of the change in health insurance or if I'd be bringing home less come January than I was before the raise. I got my first January check on the 15th and it actually looks like I am bringing home a little more than before the raise, even with the health insurance! There's a part of me that is still worried that it is some nasty timing trick and that it will be different next month, but I am hopeful that the check I got will be the way my checks stay this year. Wish me luck!

Thursday, January 15, 2009

A Dream

Today would be Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.'s eightieth birthday if he was still with us. And Tuesday! Tuesday is coming! I keep thinking about Jesse Jackson's face, his tears, in the crowd at President-Elect Obama's victory speech in November. I think that image will be the one I remember always from the history that has happened in my lifetime. It's really happening!

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Weather Watching

One of the Lone Star Baby's Christmas gifts was a rain gauge, partly inspired by the one I saw at her school and partly inspired by this story on We have fastened it to the back fence in the backyard and the Lone Star Baby and I walked up to H-E-B and bought a little pocket planner. Now, she's checking the gauge every evening and recording each day's rainfall (so far all zero) inches in her calendar. It's a two-year calendar, so I wonder how far she'll take it. It seems like a great little project to me - science and nature - groovy.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Pine Cone Bird Feeders

It is so hard, in our hectic life, to make the time to keep the kids as connected to nature as I think we all need to be. I find myself having to come up with things to make us take time each day - it's pretty crazy. Whatever small things we can sustain are what I look for, though - whatever works.

One thing we do, starting at Thanksgiving as a tradition, is make pine cone bird feeders - the kind where you slather peanut butter all over a pine cone, roll it in birdseed, and hang it somewhere for the birds to find. The Lone Star Baby brought a bunch of pine cones home from her grandmother's house in Denton and we have been busy with the peanut butter and birdseed since we got back. I'm not sure this sort of thing really even helps the birds, but I hope so. It's fun and it does make little kids feel like they are taking care of the birds in winter. I think fostering that feeling of compassion and protectiveness toward nature is the main point (second always to just fostering their enjoyment of being out in it) when they are young.

Do you have any winter traditions that bring your family closer to nature?

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Cookie Season

It's that time again. Last night was our area cookie sales kick-off rally and the Lone Star Girl's Cadette troop girl-ed a table leading some activities for the Daisies and Brownies and Juniors. Today was the first day of cookie sales and I walked around our neighborhood with the Lone Star Girl as she took door-to-door orders. Now she is calling some close friends and family members to see if they want to order cookies.

I found out at the cookie rally last night that Daisies are selling cookies now. It didn't use to start until Brownies. Kind of crushed all my dreams there. Ah, well. We'll just have a slacker Daisy troop for the Lone Star Baby next year.


The above photo is from cleaning out the guinea pig and mouse homes on last Friday. I'm glad we are becoming a pet family. We have been rather slow bloomers in that regard - cats having been so easy back in the day - but I think it's important for the kids. Below are some photos of the mice, hanging out in one of those exercise balls while the Lone Star Girl cleans their deluxe mouse house. She has named the white one with black (the rest of the family insists they are dark grey) splotches Iris and the brown one Psyche.

Wednesday, January 07, 2009

January Preschool Pick

There is a new Madeline book out by John Bemelmans Marciano, grandson of Ludwig Bemelmans! We purchased it for the Lone Star Baby with some Christmas money she got from relatives. It's called Madeline And The Cats of Rome. It doesn't really rival the originals, but it is a Madeline book - that's good enough for us!

Tuesday, January 06, 2009

El Dia De Los Reyes Magos

Today is the last day of the Christmas season, which always feels a little sad to me. We had Rosco De Reyes for dessert and the Lone Star Baby got the piece with the babies in it. This is the first year that I haven't rigged it to make sure she didn't because she can understand to be careful now. The kids got one last present, our little plastic Magi made it to our little plastic nativity scene and we read Dance In The Desert, by Madeleine L'Engle as a bedtime story. It takes place after the Epiphany, but follows logically in my opinion and is our traditional bedtime story on this night.

Happy Dia De Los Reyes Magos! Do you have any traditions for this day? I hope your winter is wonderful and magical throughout!

A Good Day in U.S. Government

Yay for President Bush! Bet you never expected to hear that from me, right? Me, either, but today he created three large marine preserves - one for the Shrub!

Also, today was the first day of the new session of Congress and Nancy Pelosi was once again elected Speaker of the House - another one for women- woo hoo!

Monday, January 05, 2009

Back To School, Back To Work, Back To School

Lone Star Pa and I both went back to work at our respective schools today, but we had staff development days - the kids come back tomorrow. The Lone Star Girl stayed home and rested on this, her last vacation day. The Lone Star Baby's school had a staff development day today, too, so she stayed with friends of ours from Meeting while I was at work. She had a lovely time and I am grateful to our friends for being there for her. Tomorrow, we will all be back at school!

Sunday, January 04, 2009

True Progress: Iron-On Patches

The Lone Star Girl's Cadette vest is going to look a whole lot better than her Daisy, Brownie or Junior vests ever did. Word.

20/20 - Making the Normal and Healthy Sound Bizarre for Kicks

I watched most of the 20/20 show on "extreme mothering" on Friday and seethed. Although they made an effort at letting people tell their own stories without too much added commentary, and I will give them credit for that, they employed very sneaky and nasty techniques to sensationalize things that should be seen as natural and normal and make them seem bizarre. That is so frustrating.

First, natural birth. It's really hard to get the sort of information and support that one needs to have a natural birth in our highly medicalized society, but most people who have been able to speak very positively of the experience. Birthing Marigold was definitely one of the major highlights and best, most enjoyable experiences of my life. Natural birth is safer for mother and baby in 90% of circumstances and our excessive medical interventions are making the U.S. the most unsafe industrialized country in which to give birth in the world. 20/20 mentioned none of this but talked about orgasmic birth the entire time it discussed natural birth. More power to women who have it that good, but most women who have natural childbirths do experience pain, as well as joy, and talking about orgasms alone just does make natural childbirth seem weird, no disrespect at all intended to those who do have orgasmic childbirth - and more power to them as far as I'm concerned.

Let's skip to home birth. The show mixed up talk about unattended birth, something that even I think is wildly dangerous (though I have and respect friends who have done it - and understand why they think it safer than putting themselves in the hands of the medical establishment) with midwife-attended home birth so that all home birth looks like some scary, irresponsible thing. They brought on doctors who said that the hospital was the safest place for birth, but did not mention that statistics say otherwise. I myself have always given birth in hospitals but the truth is that it is in hospitals, not home births, that mothers and babies are being lost due to dangerous and unnecessary interventions. The statistics show that a U.S. hospital is the most dangerous place to give birth in the industrialized world.

Those dolls were really weird, bless those poor lonely people's hearts.

On to breastfeeding - here's where the smoke starts coming out of my ears. Allow me to be clear - all true research done on the subject of human weaning shows that the normal human span for weaning falls between two and a half and seven years -that means no developmentally typical child should wean before two and a half or after seven, and most should wean in the middle of the curve - between four and five. Basically, a child should wean around the time that they start losing their baby teeth, which marks a certain maturity of the immune system.

There are lots of factors, and families are units in which lots of needs must be balanced so I'm not knocking mothers who would never dream of nursing two and a half years. Most U.S. mothers never would nurse that long, and I believe that most mothers know what is best for their family in their circumstances. It isn't fair, though, to say that what the way heaven has designed our biology is not normal - it is the very definition of normal, no matter how unusual it might be in our twisted, stressed out society. If we can give our little ones what they are designed to need, that is a good thing, not a bad thing.

The show portrayed a mother nursing a two year old as extreme (not even old enough to be weaned, according to human biology) alongside a woman nursing a kindergartener (within the normal span of human biology) alongside a woman nursing an almost eight-year-old (a bit outside the normal span). All of these things were lumped together as weird, when only the last is sort of biologically weird - and we don't really know if that child was or wasn't a developmentally typical child; there are all sorts of valid reasons she might have been nursing, even if it probably was just weird.

Then, while the show said that no study had shown any harm from "extended" breastfeeding, it got some ignorant psychologist to say he was concerned that the children would not learn to be independent. The show said "the jury was out" on "extended" breastfeeding when there are actually hundreds of studies that show both the health and intellectual benefits of breastfeeding for as long as possible within the normal span - and the show of course did not mention any of those studies at all.

Boo to 20/20 for mixing the healthy with the weird and misleading everyone.

Friday, January 02, 2009

Good Mommyness

Today I took the Lone Star Girl to the mall to meet a friend and I left the mall and picked them up later. Applause, please.

Family Game Paradise

I posted somewhat recently about how the Lone Star Baby has finally gotten old enough to play card games (with the help of Lone Star Pa's card-holding invention!) and board games and how it looked like we were going to be able to return to our fun pre-Lone Star Baby tradition of having family game nights. Now, we are in full family game night swing and it is really wonderful!

We have found, with the help of Veloute's recommendations, some really fun card games that bring the whole family together - Sleeping Queens and Frog Juice. While these games say they are for 8 and up, the Lone Star Baby is only four and a half and she is a whiz at Sleeping Queens and is really pretty competent at the more complicated and more recently learned, for us, Frog Juice. She is quite bright, but I think any typical five or six year old could play Sleeping Queens (and most bright four year olds) and I think your average six year old and bright younger kids could definitely learn Frog Juice. These games are fun for the kids but also really fun for teens and adults of all ages. My step mom loved Sleeping Queens when we played it on Christmas.

The Lone Star Baby also got Hungry, Hungry Hippos, Cootie Bug and Chutes And Ladders for Christmas. This house is a fun place to be!