Tuesday, February 26, 2013



We have skunks under the foundation of the addition on our house--the part without a basement beneath it.  We've been putting up with with an occasional skunk bomb going off near our house for probably the past year and a half, but only recently realized where they were living.  I thought maybe they were under the deck.

Anyway, the impossibly skunky stench was so bad when they blasted our house in the middle of the night last week that I couldn't sleep, and we finally called someone to trap the skunks.  The traps have been out for days now, and still nothing.  They got tripped the first night, probably by curious raccoons, but although we see lots of little skunk prints in the snow along the fence, no skunks have taken the literal bait.

The skunk bomb went off again last night at about 4 a.m. and we are doing our best to air out the house.  The smell is in every room, and when I got to the Y this morning to swim I realized it was on my coat.  I'm hoping I can find some clothes to wear to work that won't offend the olfactory senses of my violin store customers.

So I thought it was funny when I came home yesterday and found that the kids on their day off from school were dressed in their Halloween costumes, which meant Quinn was a skunk.  He'd spent part of his day as a bluejay, but by the time I saw him he was decked out in his black and white fuzzy finest.

I told Quinn to be careful of the traps out back.  He assured me he was smarter than the average skunk.

Quinn is also more talented than the average skunk.  Now, if the little stinkers under the house practiced as much as he did, I might consider putting up with the smell.  But slacker skunks have to go.

Friday, February 22, 2013

An (Unsponsored) Plug for Home Depot

I don't do sponsored posts, but I don't have a problem with mentioning products or stores by name that I have experience with.  We've had some pretty good experiences lately with Home Depot, and I want other people to know about their kid project program, which is one of the smartest promotional ideas I've ever seen.

Quinn, Mona, and Aden making Thanksgiving napkin holders
On the first Saturday of every month Home Depot runs a free workshop for kids.  They get an apron to keep, a project kit and space to work, and a pin to go with each completed project.  The projects are simple, like a small pin-board or a birdhouse, but they involve wood and glue and a hammer and nails, sometimes a screwdriver, and usually paint.  My kids have been doing this for about a year now.

Sunday, February 17, 2013


My kids are 11, 9 and 6.  They have their little squabbles here and there, but for the most part they are very sweet together.  Aden as the oldest is good at managing her siblings, little Quinn is seldom any trouble, and although Mona in the middle is the least predictable of the three, she can be counted on to do her best to follow instructions.  So we've been experimenting more and more with leaving them on their own when we go out.

It's a whole new level of freedom as a parent when you don't have to either bring your kids with you everywhere or arrange childcare for them when you leave the house.  Aden is fairly trustworthy, and when she turned 8 we started letting her opt to stay home by herself if the rest of us ran out on an errand.  I'm less comfortable with Mona on her own even at 9 because I have trouble picturing her keeping a calm head in an emergency.  Quinn is about as responsible as you could ask a 6 year old to be, but he's still only 6.  As long as Aden is in the house I'm comfortable with leaving the kids on their own from time to time.

The rules for when they are on their own are as follows: 

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Happy Valentine's Dog!

That's what we say around our house, anyway.  We have a neighbor who has changing decorations and lights up on their house all year round, and part of their February display includes a Valentine's flag where the AY in DAY look like OG.  Every time we pass it we wish each other a Happy Valentine's Dog.

Chipper got groomed this morning, so we actually have a happy Valentine's dog.
I love Valentine's Day.  I can see why people would get irritated with it if they thought about it solely in terms of romance, but I've never thought of it that way.  It's just about making people smile as far as I'm concerned, and it's nice to remind people you care.  My mom always prepared cards for us and still sends me and my brothers a Valentine's box every year.  My kids gleefully opened it up this morning to find shortbread heart cookies, little wind up owls (Mona's had a broken foot so it just gyrates in place which is very funny so she's delighted), and beautifully decorated cards among other things.

Kids went off to school this morning with their homemade Valentines.  We looked at Target to see if there were any they just wanted to buy, but they didn't see anything they liked.  Aden did pick up some kind of candy treat to put inside each of her cards, and I showed Quinn how to cut out heart shapes and he went to town cutting them out in different sizes and colors.  Each time he finished one he'd update the count on his Magnadoodle board.  He got a list from school of the names of all his classmates and wrote all of them in cursive on the cards.  I love that bag of hearts.

But the big Valentine project this year was Mona's. 

Monday, February 11, 2013

The First Baby Tooth

Not too long ago I wrote about how Aden lost her very last baby tooth.  I am feeling overwhelmed by how grown up she seems lately.  In many ways she's still my snuggly little girl, but now when I catch an unexpected glimpse of her moving through a room, poised and tall, she doesn't register as a kid anymore.  I don't truly understand where that baby went, the one I used to hoist up by my shoulder who would drape her tiny arm around my neck and stroke me lightly with her hands that had dimples for knuckles.

Proud of his Longest Road card
This week Quinn lost his first baby tooth.  He is also growing up faster than I'm ready to deal with.  Quinn recently started piano lessons and has learned how to play Settlers of Catan.

He is still my little barnacle boy, but instead of being a baby glued to my hip he's a tall kindergartener who cuddles as close as he can whenever I sit down and hugs my arm with both of his as we walk.  And now all those little teeth I watched coming in six years ago are starting to come out.

Our tooth fairy tradition has been to put a little present under the pillow in exchange for the tooth.  For Aden it was mostly Pokemon toys for a long time, then we switched to Littlest Pet Shop toys, then a string of things she was disappointed with before her last tooth came out and she got a stuffed dog that she adores.  Mona hasn't lost a tooth in about a year, and I'm not sure what to put under her pillow next time it comes up.  She's appreciative of everything, so I don't stress about it particularly.

But for Quinn I wasn't sure what to do.  That first tooth sets a precedent.  If you give your kid a dollar he will always expect a dollar.  The types of toys I'd given the girls didn't seem to fit him as well.  When he showed me his tooth was loose a couple of weeks ago I started thinking about it.

Friday, February 8, 2013

Defining Women and Men

There are times when I feel like as a society we are getting on a more enlightened track about gender issues.  That there is a broader range available to people about what is tolerated or even acceptable when it comes to personal expression of gender and it makes me glad.

Then a media story will spark the debate anew and people, even people I like and respect, will start writing reactions that I don't agree with or even fully understand.  The most recent example to catch my attention was back at the end of last year when there was a story on Fox about how men aren't as interested in marriage currently because women essentially do too much for themselves, and a blogger I admire agreed, saying it made sense to her since, "Women aren't women anymore."

I think about gender issues a lot.  I find them fascinating.  There are so many variables that impact how we think about gender including culture, history, technology, tradition, fashion, science, religion, sexual orientation, biology, parenting....  Some elements seem fixed, others fluid.  The questions about what is masculine and feminine, and what is male and female, are so obvious on the surface, until you start to break it all down.  Under close examination very little is obvious, and all of it is interesting.

When I was in high school I had a biology teacher who gave us an assignment to write down two lists: one of characteristics that were masculine and one of characteristics that were feminine.  The catch was we were not allowed to include any characteristics that were physical.  It seems like an easy assignment until you really start to think about it.  To this day I am still thinking about it.  (Now that's a good high school biology teacher.)

If physical strength is discounted as a defining characteristic, as is anything delicate in appearance, where do you go next?  I suppose I would say at this point in my life that I see boys and men as generally more reckless, but is a cautious and sensible man less of a man?  No.  And whether or not a woman is more of a risk taker has little to do with if she's perceived as feminine in my opinion.  (I suppose it depends on what kind of risks.)

Men as protectors comes up a lot.  And yet, if you need the ultimate example of ferocity in the service of being protective isn't it always of a mother bear defending her cubs?  The most basic view of a good mother, which by definition is the most feminine role one can hold, is of a woman who will protect her children at any cost.  Is she stepping over into masculine territory at that point, or is that fundamentally feminine because it is so basic?

Women as nurturing also comes up.  And yet I personally don't know any man who when given the opportunity to be involved in the life of a child finds himself incapable of caring for one.  Just because traditionally men may not have often been as involved with child rearing does not mean they aren't up to the task.  My children are lucky to have a stay at home parent as kind and patient as my husband.  And no way in hell is he less of a man for being there for them.

Here is where I think the real problem with the discussion lies: 

Monday, February 4, 2013

Report Cards

My kids got their report cards last week.  They all seem to be doing fine.

Although, honestly, Montessori report cards are a little odd.  There are lists of skills broken down by category, and for each item Aden and Mona receive an X, a / , or a - .  At first glance it always takes me a minute to figure out what is going on.  An X is good on this scale.  Aden had lots of Xs, and some of her /s from last semester had gone up to Xs.  Same for Mona.  There is also a list of behaviors that get graded with a U, an S, or an R (for Usually, Sometimes, and Rarely).  They each had a U for most everything, and a few places had upgraded from an S.  I seem to recall Mona getting a bunch of Ps at some point and I still don't remember what those were, or if I was supposed to be Pleased or Perturbed by them.  Anyway, both girls had nice comments from their teachers saying they are working hard and getting along well, so that's great.

K5 is graded differently, so Quinn's report card took me longer to figure out than his sisters'.  One page of it had a long list of categorized skills, but he was graded on a scale that went from 1 to 3, 1 being good, 3 meaning needs work.  The second page was general areas like Reading and Math and they were scored from 1 to 4, but this time 1 was minimal and 4 was advanced.  So on one page you want to see 1s, and on the other page you don't.  I have no idea why they don't use the same system for the kindergarten students as they do for the older kids.

In any case, Quinn's report card had a few things on it that took us slightly by surprise.  But his classroom has had a lot of upheaval because his teacher moved away at the winter break and other than saying a brief 'hello' at the pickup we have not really met his new one.  She seems very nice and Quinn likes her, but I don't know if she graded his report card or if his previous teacher did.  Regardless, it had things on it we didn't get.