Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Beep, Beep, Beep!

So there is this song we sing sometimes at our church that goes (I think) like this:

And now, let the poor say "I am rich"
Let the weak say "I am strong"
Because of what the Lord has done for us
Give thanks

Inevitably, this song gets stuck in my head for a week or so afterward, and I walk around the house singing in the back of my mind:

And now, let the poor say "I am weak"
Let the weak say "I am rich"

I catch myself doing it, then think "Wait, no; That's not right..." But an hour or so later I'm back to:

And now, let the rich say "I am weak"
Let the poor say "I am strong"

I realize again that, despite being more correct in the sense of the spirit of the song, I am still singing it wrong.

This morning I was getting out of the shower and heard Daniel getting ready for school in his room. He was singing:

The wipers on the bus go "beep, beep, beep..."

Must run in the family.

Monday, March 22, 2010


So this past week I was on spring break, the source of my annual feeling that I should do something big around our house. This year I chose a yard sale, mostly because we were still hanging on to ALL of our kids' clothes from birth to their current size, and we had officially run out of room. I spent a good portion of the week hiding out in our study, frantically labeling all our old stuff with tape and a Sharpie. On Friday we opened the garage door, set our junk on the driveway, and by afternoon had fat wallets and a small enough amount of stuff left that we were easily able to fit it into our trunk to be donated to the high school's after-prom fundraiser rummage sale.

The thing about selling your kids' stuff, though, is that they inevitably see the things you've plucked from their shelves and drawers displayed neatly in the garage. We have tried very hard to regularly purge the kids' old toys, and to balance a message of taking good care of our things with one of willingness to let things go. But, as these things go with preschoolers, I found myself in many lengthy conversations throughout the week about my reasons for selling Daniel's toys and clothes:

-"No, I'm not giving away your new toys. Only the old ones you don't play with any more."
-"No, actually, rattles are generally for babies and you are a big boy."
-"We get rid of our old things so we can have a clean, comfortable house that is not full of junk."
-"Actually that Lightning McQueen shirt does NOT still fit you. See how I can see your belly button when you put it on?"
-"We sell old stuff so we have room for and money for new things that might be more useful to us now."

By the end of the week, I was considering some kind of Lion King-themed Circle-of-Life explanation for the yard sale, claiming that his toys would have new life in the hands of a smaller, younger child. Finally, though, I resorted to allowing each of the kids to buy something new with money we'd earned, and I think a new Spiderman shirt really drove the "out with the old in with the new" message home for Daniel.

For me, though, the yard sale served as a reminder of the great circle of friends and family I have. As I looked through the kids' clothes and toys, I could remember
the people who had lovingly bought, made, and given so many of them. Two friends participated in the yard sale with me, and by the end of the day we had each given some things to each other. It felt good to just let go of bargaining and trying to make money and to just give and receive those things.

There were friends who dropped off and returned borrowed tables for me, who rearranged play dates to make time for me to have the sale, and who came by to see how we were doing. My friend Bethany and I spent the week leading up to the yard sale hashing and rehashing the weather and the logistics, plotting like mini tycoons of used baby items. The night before, when I was knee-deep in junk and nowhere near ready for the morning, my friend Janice dropped off some things and stood joking and laughing with me in my chilly garage.

Living in a college town where a lot of friends come and go has taught me to appreciate my friends, but to hold onto them loosely, like Daniel with his toys. But it is always amazing to me that despite all the transience I am rarely short of friends, local or long-distance, when I need to talk or scheme or laugh. Or sell a bunch of junk on my driveway.

Sunday, March 14, 2010


When we found out that our first child was a boy, I was somewhat relieved. Boys seem lower-maintenance, and I could just see myself as a mother of a boy. When we found out that our second was going to be a girl I was kind of surprised, despite the roughly 50/50 chance of this being the case. I had kind of settled into the boy routine; I had learned the names of various construction machines and all the characters in the Cars movie. Most (all?) of our close friends had boy kids first, so Daniel had lots of friends and all us moms were pretty much on the same page with things like potty training and feigning interest in monster trucks.

Before Eva was born I told myself that I would have to think really hard about what we were going to do about things like makeup and princess movies and dance teachers who have 5-year-olds shake their booties. For the most part I'm still avoiding these things, assuming we'll deal with them on a case-by-case basis as they come along. So for the first almost-two years of Eva's life we've been knee-deep in baby dolls and tiny pink accessories, but have otherwise not treated her much differently than we treated Daniel at her age.

But now we've reached the stage where Eva's hair is long enough to go in pigtails or clips or other things qualifying as hairstyles (all of which she refers to as "bows"). At first this seemed like a good thing; her hair got tangled and gummy from her twirling it around her finger, so getting it out of the way was a good solution. And though strangers in public were always nice to us before, they didn't fawn and point and exclaim like they do now when her hair is in the cute little sticky-uppy pigtails. I've adjusted to having a girl now, and the world of tiny hair accessories doesn't seem so overwhelming. Eva likes seeing herself in the mirror with her hair done, and when she sees me combing my hair in the morning she runs into the bathroom, sits on the toilet and points to her head saying, "Bow! Bow!" What could be bad about a couple of pigtails?

The problem, as you can see here, is that Eva's bows have a way of coming out. Mainly that way is that she pulls on them. What's left is something that looks a little like the plumage of an exotic bird or Wolverine from the X-Men. Really, once the bows are in there is no going back for the rest of the day. And now I seem to have a new part-time job: maintaining Eva's bows. So in addition to remembering all of our usual kid stuff any time we leave the house, I now have to pack extra tiny elastics in my pocket to replace all the ones that are lost in the car or the grocery store. And, though Eva is enthusiastic about the idea of the bows, the reality of getting them is much less exciting for her, and I sometimes find myself having to sit on her or give her a very serious talking-to in order to get her to hold still long enough to have the bows done or re-done.

At some point, I have to ask myself what part of the bows are for her benefit and what part are really just about me? I remember being the childhood victim of some seriously elaborate hairstyling, and I don't want to be the kind of mom who cares more about how my kids look than how they feel. But there is just something in me that cannot abide going into the library with a toddler who has hair like Don King. And so we embark on what will surely be a couple decades of struggle between us. Today her hair preferences tend to be based on a moment's whim or her hair-twirling convenience, but surely someday Eva will want to have some kind of hair or clothes that are embarrassing to me as her parent. Will I be able to put my money where my mouth is and focus on her character instead of her appearance? Can I make a positive contribution to how she feels about how she looks, or will she end up someday telling her therapist about how her mom made her wear these awful BOWS as a child...

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Excuses, Excuses...

As we rode home from church tonight, Kyle and I could hear Daniel in the backseat saying "Excuse me... Excuse me... Excuse me, excuse me, excuse me."

Daniel is almost four years old. We were lamenting today that we still have to remind him to say please when he asks for something, to wash his hands after he goes to the bathroom (he's really sneaky at trying to avoid that one), and to say thank you when people give him gifts or compliments. We wondered together when these habits will finally become ingrained enough in him that he will do them without prompting...

But one time, probably almost two years ago, one of us told him he should say "excuse me" when he farts or burps. We have never had to remind him again. He remembers every time. Every single time.

Friday, March 5, 2010


We have been living in Kirksville for a long time. I realized recently that in just a few months I'll hit the 15th anniversary of the day I moved here. Though we initially came as students, and decided to stay here to work at the university, in the end we continue to live here even though neither of us is going to or working for Truman anymore. So, basically, we're what the students would call "townies." That seems weird.

This fact seems almost deniable most of the time, but the other day I realized that we're more entrenched in the local culture than I give us credit for. An old college friend was saying on facebook that his first date with his now-wife took place with a group of us at a local diner called the Northtown Cafe. We had gone there as a joke before a sorority date party, a bunch of college kids dressed for a jungle-themed event, dining among the blue-haired regulars in the dirty, smoke-dense restaurant. Several former Truman students commented on the post, remarking about the disgusting nature of that restaurant, and other Kirksville establishments in general.

10 years ago, I might have agreed with them. But now I found myself defending the Northtown Cafe, wanting to explain how it's moved to a new, cleaner building with more light and no smoke. The handwritten menus and mismatched floral plates that seemed lowbrow in college seem pretty charming now. Rosie's Northtown Cafe serves the best, cheapest breakfast in town, and people who live here know you can eat there without wading through throngs of hungover college students looking down their noses at you.

But what got me thinking about this whole thing was that I bought some dog food yesterday. When we originally got our dogs, we figured out that the cheapest place to buy good dog food was the local feed store instead of a supermarket or other chain store. The feed store has changed owners and locations several times in the years since, but we've continued to follow it around because going there makes me feel happy.

First off, the slogan of the Kirksville Feed & More, displayed in the front window, is "if it eats we feed it." How can I NOT like a place that's as to-the-point as that? Secondly, the owners are friendly. They never make me feel like I don't belong there, even though I'm the only one wearing loafers instead of coveralls or boots. They carry the giant bag of dog food to my car for me and always thank me profusely for my business. Farmers I pass in the parking lot always greet me, and comment on the weather or one of my kids. The best thing, though, is that there are usually a few guys standing around in the shop discussing things like which wild animal is overpopulated this season and creating a nuisance to their herds. They all seem to know each other and each others' business, and say things like "how's that sick calf o' yours?" I don't know the first thing about farming, except that it takes an amount of work I cannot comprehend. I will never be a local in the sense that these men are, but for just a moment I feel like one. And this is a strangely good feeling.

Though I sometimes yearn for proximity to things like Target and Starbucks, there is something cold and corporate about those places that doesn't give me the feeling I get at Rosie's or the Kirksville Feed & More. We like to say that living in a small town is good because we avoid rush-hour traffic and crime, but it's also good because of the feeling of belonging, and of investment that comes from buying from people you know.

So I'll admit it. I am a townie. But we really prefer to be called locals.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

The Sun Will Come Out.... Today?

No, this is not a post about Kirksville finally digging itself out from under our most recent 9-inch snowfall (though the past few days of sunny weather have been great; who knew 38 degrees could feel so warm?).

This is a post about time, and how difficult it seems to be for us to explain time to a preschooler. Here is a composite of many conversations that have taken place in our house recently:

"Am I going to Gus's house today?"
"Nope. Tomorrow."
"Is tomorrow today?"
"Nope. Tomorrow will be what it is when we go to sleep and wake up in the morning."
"Is it tomorrow when it gets dark outside?"
"Nope. That's tonight."
"Tonight... Is today tonight?"
"When it gets dark later today, it will be tonight."
"Is tonight tomorrow?"

And so on and so forth for several minutes, over and over. Every single day. Honestly, probably every single day with each parent. Don't even get me started about the questions identifying which day of the week it is today, and when it will be Tuesday, and what day it will be when we go to church/school/whatever special event he's looking forward to that week.

I never realized before now how very difficult it is to explain time without using other similarly-misunderstood time words. We have tried getting out a calendar, pointing to days, explaining what day it is, where tomorrow is, where Tuesday is, when he will go to church next, etc. to no avail. We have tried pointing out different times of the day, commenting on how it is now "this afternoon" or "tonight." Still nothing. It makes me wonder what Piaget would say about preschoolers' cognitive readiness for something as abstract as time (guess who I'm teaching about in my Lifespan Development class this week?)...

The end of most of these time conversations, though, usually comes down to this:

"When do I get to watch a case movie? I think I want to watch my car movie next."

What he usually wants to know is the next time he gets a full 90-minute video instead of just the 20-30 minutes of Sesame Street we limit him to on school days. It may start out with questions about when he'll see his buddies or go to school, but it usually ends with television.

Should I worry about that? Maybe I'll think about that tomorrow.