Thursday, June 30, 2011

ice cubes in a glass? hilarious!

Thankful heart Thursday features my happy Buddha baby - yes, with video. Wouldn't it be great if we could all find joy in the little things?

Monday, June 27, 2011

toddlers at work

You never know what you're gonna get when two toddlers mingle. They are in their own little worlds, that's for sure. E and his friend Conner had a play date this weekend, perhaps the first one where they were even aware of each other.

Conner, 13 months, and E, 20 months are finally closing their age gap. It was hilarious to watch them interact and respond to each other. E didn't seem to mind sharing toys although he was skeptical and observant. Conner was right at home and eager to check out E's digs. They even exchanged a sweet little kiss when it was time to say good-bye. Precious!

E seems to be thinking "seriously - you guys making me ride with this guy?"

"Maybe I can hop over the edge..."

Conner's daddy pulls the little princes.

This definitely sums it up!

"Hey Conner, you sure you know what you're doing with that?"

Note E eyeing the bus he was just playing with.
Conner: "Do we really have to go?"

big bug love

While clipping our nasty, uncontrollable forsythia hedges today, I kept coming across all kinds of amazing insects. I have a real love of all things buggy, so I thought I'd share. (And please pardon some of the sub-par photos - my camera is nothing fancy so it's limited on the macro setting.)

This was very close to the cicada. I think it had just emerged!

I'd like to think this preying mantis is one that I rescued. I found 6 or 7 of them in our bathroom about a week ago...

Not the best photo, but tons of fireflies resting on the leaves.

Check out this critter - it looks a lot like a firefly, but look again. See how the head sticks out? I think this is a kind of soldier beetle.

This little beauty was resting in the weeds.

I love a good hairy spider! This one was on the prowl on our shed door.

Don't know what this fly is, but I've seen them before. I'm going to try and look it up.

Friday, June 24, 2011

puttin' the smack down

"I would never throw these books across the room, mom."
If you were wondering why my posts have been a little sparse lately, it has something to do with the recent battles going on around here. No, not the ones between my husband and me when we both want to lick the brownie beater. Something far more difficult to reconcile...

Seems our little peanut is becoming his own man. This transformation, apparently, is going to begin with smacking and throwing things.

It's not exactly a newsflash, but no, our nearly 20 month old can't communicate very well. He's got some token words and signs down pat and he's eagerly learning more. But when he has a passionate yearning to accomplish something or figure something out and he CAN'T, all hell breaks loose. Sounds familiar?

Luckily, he knows how to ask for "alp". Usually accompanied with desperation in his voice, "alp" is cried while desperately signing. When he asks for "alp", it's great. But other other times, anger gets the better of him and all he wants to do is throw or smack things out of frustration.

Which leads me into the next aspect of his frustration: authority. Fresh out of infancy, my toddler is eager to do things his way. On his time table. Usually he can be coaxed or distracted into compliance. Singing songs, making silly faces or weird noises, asking him to make animal sounds, or breaking out a long lost toy will all distract him. Providing choices is empowering to him as well. But alas, these are not foolproof nor always practical ways to avoid a meltdown. It's exhausting!

Just when I thought I had the whole 'calm baby thing' down pat, my little guy has to go and smack me. Sigh.

So what to do? React sharply by yelling? That could just encourage him to get a rise (and negative attention) from me. Which probably means more smacking in the future.

Give a time out? That may send a message that he's unlovable when he's upset. And he would be totally baffled as to why mommy - loving mommy - wants him to cry all alone with no comfort. Leave him alone when he's already frustrated and can't communicate why? It seems cruel.

But then, I know with my preschoolers time outs occasionally (very rarely) are necessary. It does help older kids know that sometimes they need some personal space to cool off and calm down. Consequences and limits are important to help children feel secure, especially in a large group setting. Time out is never used as a source of embarrassment, but a way for a child to gather his or her thoughts and approach a conflict from a new direction. But my 20 month old can't possibly get all that.

Ignore the smacking and throwing? Well clearly this option makes me a permissive pushover. And doesn't help teach him the behaviors that we desire - not to hit or throw things!

Add to the confusion that it's okay to hit a drum or throw a ball. Some things are for hitting and throwing, not others. This confusion explains why my tot is going around the house (and the yard) hitting and throwing things of all shapes and sizes, then looking back at me with a questioning glance. "Can I hit this mom?"

More sighs.

So, there's my dilemma. And probably the same dilemma of all parents of toddlers around the globe. I'm wrestling with what to do about gently correcting behavior in a loving but serious, meaningful way. I want to model empathy so that he knows he is respected and loved no mater what. (No, I don't think that is fluffy or a bunch of bunk.) I don't want to make a "mistake" in these early stages of discipline even though I know there's no easy answer or quick fix. Besides, I know I've already made lots of mistakes and more are on the way. C'mon: screwing up the consistency of his baby food puree is WAY more forgivable then screwing up his foundation of positive discipline.

This is going to end badly. One of us will cry.

After all, no one wants to end up with a Bratty, Ungrateful, Unruly, Little Giant.

So I am committed to trying a combination of things because hey, this parenting gig is all about trial and error. One thing is for sure, he's too small for time outs. I'm not sure that's a route I ever want to go after researching it more thoroughly. It can set up a power struggle which is not what I want to do. Here's an interesting article I read on the topic. What do you think?

For now, I'll keep taking my licks in stride. And savoring the kisses and snuggles whenever I can get them.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

for the hubs

He's the best. He's an incredible father. He loves spending time with our son. Even when he's had a bad day, it doesn't keep him from enjoying E. His patience doesn't waiver when it comes to our little guy. He has the magical ability to make E smile, no matter what the tantrum is about. Our boy is very blessed to have a dad that spends quality time with him every day.

Even though he's my spouse, he's the "daddy" in this house. He takes care of us all, cat included. I am so very grateful to him for his support and love. He's an amazing guy, faults and all. He's not perfect, but a wonderful daddy just the same.

Father's Day means different things to different people. To me, it means taking time to recognize my son's father, the man who loves us unconditionally. Thank you, sweets. We love you! Happy Father's Day!

birds and the bees

This bundle of fireworks is butterfly weed (Asclepias tuberosa). It is a host plant for Monarch butterflies who eat the leaves as caterpillars.

The sweet yellow blooms here are evening primrose, sometimes called sundrops (Oenothera biennis).

Tall bell flower (Campanula americana) is seen here, bells drooping. I think they would be aptly called wedding bells instead because they bloom in June and the white blossoms are so stunning.

This sad little scene will be something truly special when I'm finished! I've started our first vegetable garden (on the left) with tomatoes, peppers, strawberries, and carrots. The empty grassy area will become a little patio with an outdoor easel, table, and chairs for E to make art. Or help in the garden!
My garden has been keeping me busy this spring! I've got more weeds than common sense yet I still make new planting beds. The existing ones have sprung into action. A good friend of mine, a certified Master Gardener, told me "the first year they (your plants) sleep, the second year they creep, and the third year they leap!" She's so right.

One of my favorite things about gardening is all the bugs. I am completely taken with insects, spiders, and all manner of creepies. (Well, they're not creepy to me, anyway.) But I really love BEES! Sadly, bee populations are in sharp decline. There are many theories about why nearly 1/3 of them are gone, but very little action to help them. Read up at the Huffington Post or this NRDC article. My father always said if you're not part of the solution, you're part of the problem. For me, I hope I'm helping the little buzzers with plenty of nectar and pollen from native wildflowers.

As for the birds, they're more like pigs in my yard! I can hardly keep the feeders full. And, this is big excitement folks, our ruby-throated hummingbird has returned!!! I saw it yesterday drinking from my bee balm. Today the hummingbird feeder will go up - and I hope to get a picture of it to share!

This is bee balm, one of my favorites and a favorite for hummingbirds, too. (Monarda didyma).

Saturday, June 18, 2011

great day for a hike

What a beautiful day for a family hike at our favorite stomping grounds. E really enjoys hiking and he's becoming more interested in birds and opposed to not noticing them before when he was uber concerned about keeping his balance! Check out our recent adventures:

He looks like king of the hill to me.

Isn't this familiar, mamas?

He got sick of me and daddy pointing things out so he decided to start showing us some interesting finds.

Hmm, what's in the grass?

I think this is a cicada killer - a big bee. The mama finds a hole, kills a cicada, drags it in the hole (if it wasn't already living there in the first place), and lays her eggs. I can't say for sure that's what this is though, because she never came out of the hole...

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

first hair cut!

Pre-hair cut...note the adorable whispies sticking out everywhere.
Wow, what a big kid. At 19 months my little shnookie got his first hair cut. He looks so grown up! Daddy was all too eager to do the deed. We sat outside for the big 'do so I'd like to think some little bird is lining her nest with locks E's silky blond hair.

If he could talk, I think he'd say "I have a bad feeling about this..."

Mom, dad, what's that snipping sound?

Little guy, hair cut complete!

Our baby is growing up too fast!

Friday, June 10, 2011

super human powers? favorite places?

One of my colleagues is put together a "getting to know you" staff board and sent out some questions for us to answer and post for all to see. My immediate reaction was, "GREAT. Homework."

But as I read down the list of questions, I found them to be amusing if not thought-provoking. And pretty revealing for those that give honest answers.

"If you could have one super-human power, what would it be and why?"

I didn't answer this one because I was too embarrassed, but I don't mind telling you! If I could have a super-human power it would be the power to instantly detect and remove any evil, nasty thoughts of people around me. I would fly to far-off lands and try to get close to those terrible dictators and gorilla war mafias - just close enough to be in the same air space - so that I could erase all of their evil ways. I would mingle with politicians in D.C. I would visit my local mechanics and contractors and car salespeople (since, though cliche, I've been duped by all of them). I'd go to prisons and visit inmates. I visit drug rehabs and schools. There's so much good I could do!

It would be a great power to have. But then again, it would only make the world a better place if I were able to meet a whole lot of "bad guys". And, I guess I would want this power to permanently erase the evil thoughts. It would be tricky because culturally some things are acceptable in one place while they may be considered "evil" in another. That would be tough to work around...

Oh, and the power would have to work on me, too.

Okay, then again, there's supposed to be opposition to all things good, right? So, maybe this wouldn't make things better after all? Who am I to be the evil-thought police anyway?! Ug. I give up. This is clearly why no one has bestowed any super human powers on me. You can see why I didn't end up answering this question for the quote board...

But the question I DID choose to answer was "what is your favorite place in the whole world?"

I've been to a few places. Not many in America, actually. I've done lots of travelling in Europe. But I'm not all that well-traveled compared to some globe trotters. There have been some amazing places that I've seen. The ruins of a monastery in England, the incredible castles in France, the sun-drenched coastline in Portugal, rural landscapes in Scotland, La Guernica by Picasso in Spain - I've seen some awe-inspiring things abroad.

When I think of favorite places in the U.S., as I say, I'm a bit limited geographically speaking. But I've explored many miles of forest along the Gunpowder River and along the shores of the Chesapeake Bay. Nothing beats a seine net full of crayfish on a hot summer day, especially when you're sharing the experience with children. I've been to a few states but by no means have I seen the whole country. I feel very fortunate that Maryland (and the East Coast) has so many diverse regions. I can honestly say I love where I live.

Giving this more thought, it's no surprise that my favorite place is my own yard. It's my own piece of, not heaven, but life carved out in grass, bugs, weeds, stones, and flowers. It's what I make it. And it's my favorite place of all.

For starters, my family is always near: my husband and my babe and my cat. But the physical place, the space that is my yard, is a sanctuary that I try to build every day. Even though it's work, I love to do it. And when I think about my yard and the gardens which are in constant flux, I think about the time I spend sharing it with my son. You've seen the blog, you know how much time we spend outdoors. It's our life!

So what could have been a mundane work task became a fun exercise for my brain. There are still so many places to go, so many places to see and love. But the verdict is in on my favorite place in the whole world: home.

Sunday, June 5, 2011


I thought that I was the queen bee when it comes to E. I thought that I was the apple of his eye. Given that I gave birth to him and all (and destroyed my figure in the process) I foolishly assumed that I would always be his "go to". You know, anytime there is a boo-boo or he's scared or he needs a reassuring snuggle, I'd be top pick.

Seems I have been dethroned by my husband!

We've had a couple of little incidents here recently where E very deliberately wanted his dada instead of me. What a blow to my ego! I couldn't help but feel a little hurt, even though I know it's completely irrational! When I saw my little guy's arms go flying in the direction of dad, I was crushed. My comfort wasn't good enough. Daddy reigned superior.

Please tell me someone else can relate? I'm not crazy, am I?

I hope you know that I am writing this with a bittersweet chuckle. I am grateful that my husband spends copious amounts of time parenting - far more than most dads I know. And E reaps all the benefits of a loving, trusting relationship with his dad. They have a special connection. E looks to his papa for security and love. It is the most precious thing to watch my boys together. I don't care if it sounds cliche - it really does melt my heart.

For us, it's far better for us to divide the labor, so to speak, when it comes to E. Since the initial couple of tough months when he was born we've gradually gotten better and better with this. I am sure this is why E is so close with each of us. My husband trusts me to do my best, and I trust him to do the same. I don't step in and tell him how to be a dad, and he doesn't tell me how to be a mom. We each do our parenting in our own way. It feels just perfect, exactly as it should be.

So don't take my silly complaint serious, okay? I'm glad that daddy is the hero sometimes. To me, this is how it should be - a shared throne. As long as my boys remember who the queen bee is around here, we'll be just fine!

Yes, peas are delicious - and funny!

Yes, peas are delicious - and funny!
Our little guy at 15 months, February 2011.