Tag Archives: parenting

Child of the Giant Corn

Corn, tomatoes and cucumbers give all Ohioans a reason to live through the muggy muck of August. And it took Declan no time at all to learn to love the food of his ancestors (his great grandfather and great-great Uncle were once the Grand Marshalls of the Millersport Sweet Corn Festival).

He went absolutely wild at the Field of Corn in Dublin the other day, surveying the giant kernels up close, and running, running, running through the rows of ears.

Imagine this from the perspective of a 3-foot-tall person.

Ohio State has an extensive site about corn, including a monthly podcast about conditions for growing corn.

That other state that begins and ends with a vowel and is also known for corn has its own Corn Cam.

Life soundtrack: Earl Scruggs & Lester Flatt, Foggy Mountain Jamboree, “Shuckin’ the Corn”
Earl Scruggs & Lester Flatt - Foggy Mountain Jamboree - Shuckin' the Corn

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Charting Cyberspace

Here are a few selections from my week in web stumbles and ‘net exploration.

In light of the recent Mattel/Fisher Price recalls of toys produced with lead-based paint, two different blogging moms have taken the initiative to put together lists of toy companies with higher safety standards. Check out the lead-free toys lists at My Two Boys and Mamanista. If you don’t know about the risks of lead paint, particularly to very young children, you can read about them here.

Moms in our playgroup compared notes on Time-outs and other forms of toddler discipline on Saturday, and then I found out that Elizabeth Pantley, author of The No-Cry Sleep Solution, has recently released The No-Cry Discipline Solution: Gentle Ways to Encourage Good Behavior Without Whining, Tantrums, and Tears.
Her web site also has a fair amount of good, free advice.

It took surprisingly little time for me to create myself as a character on The Simpsons. (Pictured above.) Dan made one for himself, too. (Right.)

Oddee has a genuinely funny list of 15 unfortunately placed ads.

The space shuttle may be the big news of the week, but there’s always so much going on in the world of space news, like the potential discovery of a new “invisible” form of dark matter.

In a couple of weeks, folks in the Western U.S. may get a rare look at the Aurigid Meteor shower.

There is also a cool feature with pictures of the top 10 views of earth.

The first ever Blog Action Day will be devoted to environmental issues this October.

The imaginative people at Craftster challenged their community to come up with recycled uses for plastic shopping bags.

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Dark & Elegant Matters

(Note: this video is longer, and of a higher quality, so it may take some time to load.)

We found this huge book on the Cosmos at Borders a few weeks ago. High atop a display of discount outer space books, Declan asked me to get the “Bero Galaxy book.” For those of you who, like me (before I had a space-obsessed child), would have no idea what that might mean – it’s a book with a picture of the Sombrero Galaxy on its cover. Filled with huge images taken by the Hubble and Spitzer space telescopes, as well as various other spacecrafts, he was excited to see things he loves, like the Galilean moons of Jupiter, in such detail.

And he stunned me a bit by identifying not only the things I knew he knew, but by saying things like “oh, these are the train wrecks,” when I turned to the page that showed distant galaxies colliding with one another. He can also identify many planets and moons in our solar system by their surfaces – the volcanoes on Mars, the pock-marks of Mercury – and the long arms and glowing cores of several different galaxies. His father and I are confounded by this on pretty much a daily basis, and grateful to be learning that we are even tinier specks in the universe than we ever thought possible.

“That is a really good space book,” he told me confidently after we spent 10 minutes on the floor of the bookstore, flipping through and talking about the pictures.

His favorite thing to watch lately has been the Nova special The Elegant Universe, about string theory. I have watched this with him at least two or three times now and much flies over my head. Declan likes me to watch it with him and explains some of the basics to me: “It’s everything, mommy. It’s everything.”

A few days ago, a young pregnant woman flirted with Declan in the grocery line. He peered around the shopping cart at her, sweet and shy. She waved at him and said “Hi there! How old are you?”

This is a question people ask him all the time, but he doesn’t seem all that interested in answering or even knowing the answer.

I leaned over to him and said, “can you tell her how old you are? Do you know you are two? Can you say ‘I’m two?'”

He looked right at her and said “It’s an elegant universe.”

She looked at me curiously and I interpreted. “He said ‘it’s an elegant universe.'”

She looked pleased and surprised as she touched her belly.

“He has a lot of answers about the big things,” I offered. “Details like his age – not so much.”

“Who needs to know they’re two when they know that?” she said, then she leaned down and looked right at him. “I hope you keep thinking about the big things and the elegant universe for a long, long time. I hope you don’t forget them when you get older.”

Life soundtrack: The Elegants, Little Star: Best of The Elegants, “Little Star”
The Elegants - Little Star:  The Best Of The Elegants - Little Star (LP Version)

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Forget your blues

Dan played blues riffs on his guitar in the living room this morning, vamping lyrics about Barry Bonds. Declan started dancing on arrival.

He does a lot of dancing these days. A couple of weeks ago, he romped with lots of wet toddlers and their drenched stuffed animals at the Columbus Symphony Orchestra’s “Teddy Bear Picnic.” The evening ended with a puddle-splashing riot, led entirely by people too small to ride on roller coasters.

This past weekend, he put his whole heart into a jig at the Dublin Irish Festival, which had organized a massive (10,000+ person), 3-minute jig to try and take back the world record for dancing without arms from Dublin, Ireland. I have no idea if they made it, but Dec did more than his part.

Mostly, we just have to play music around the house to get him started. His tastes are already becoming as eclectic as ours, and perhaps veering into territory even we are unaware of. He’ll throw down for rock, spin for classical, bounce for pop, wiggle for reggae, or sway his head from side to side for blues and jazz, like he did this morning.

“Gimme some skins,” Dan said to Dec, who obliged with a high-five. “Let’s play the blues.”

“No. Let’s play the reds,” Declan answered.

Life soundtrack: Billie Holliday, The Incomparable, Volume One, “I’m Painting the Town Red”
Billie Holiday - The Incomparable Volume 1 - I'm Painting the Town Red

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We all woke up in the middle of last night as the house got a good shake or two from passing thunderstorms.

“It’s a funderstorm,” Declan told us, confidently.

For some reason the weather made him very alert at three in the morning. He requested that he be able to play with a puzzle, take a purple bath, watch “Little Einsteins” and see the moon. The three of us opted to drink tea, sit by the window and look out at the rain together, trying to explain why “funderstorms” obscure our lunar view.

When I complained that I was hungry, he asked me for a “shiny red apple.” We went to the kitchen and cut one up for him. Before I could get something else for myself, he made me take a bite of one of the slices.

“Is that better, mommy?” he asked me.

In that moment, he reminded me so much of my little brother, Andy, who possessed that breed of kindness from his earliest days as a blonde-haired moppet. Lately, he I get those childhood reminders on lots of days, like our visit to Inniswood park earlier in the week, when I had to swoop Declan up into my arms to stop him from picking a flower for me.

Life soundtrack: Eddie Rabbit, All Time Greatest Hits, “I Love a Rainy Night”
Eddie Rabbitt - Eddie Rabbit: All Time Greatest Hits - I Love a Rainy Night

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“You’re Already Home”

For some reason, this emerged as Declan’s chosen mantra on the final night that Little Brother’s was open. He pointed at several different people, leaned into me and said, “he’s already home, mommy,” nodding, often putting his hand on my cheek and adding, “we’re already home, mommy.”

On Sunday afternoon, my mom and I were part of the wrecking (or, more accurately, preservation) crew at Little Brother’s. She managed to pry out a painting that covered the fireplace – a phoenix with the word Stache’s that painter Dan Work made there years ago. With some help from friends who came by, we also managed to bring down the Elvis, Billie Holliday and Karen Carpenter paintings that used to be the bathroom walls at Stache’s. Not to mention the bird painted on diamond-shaped plywood from the wall next to the sound board that used to cover one of the front windows at the old place. I took enough pictures of the dressing room, which was filled with fairly historic fliers from both clubs, to hopefully reconstruct the room in a photographic collage.

One of Dan’s doormen climbed a ladder and took down the Little Brother’s sign. We loaded it, and some odds and ends, including a life preserver that said “Save our Stache’s (and Little Brother’s)” into the trunk of my car.

Then I went to a friend’s house to pick up Declan.

“Oh mommy!” he said when I walked in the door. “You’re home! You’re really, really home!”

Dan spent a long night and extra day clearing out the place and cleaning. By Tuesday morning, the last few straggling tools were gathered, and the locks on the building were changed.

Meanwhile, Declan’s continued his monologues about the galaxies as well as random declarations, including “all aboard the choo choo train” and the old standby “just the right SPEED, just the right ANGLE” (which he chanted alone while practicing somersaults on the upstairs futon the other afternoon). Last night, the three of us sat around the dinner table at 6:30, which seemed awfully strangely normal.

In these first couple of days in this new life, the mantra keeps coming, usually while we’re sitting together, reading a book or watching TV: “Mommy, daddy, are you home?”

It’s been exactly what I’ve needed to hear.

Life soundtrack: Chris Smither, Leave the Lights On, “Leave the Light On”
Chris Smither - Leave the Lights On - Leave the Light On

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Chasing the moon

Dan spent yesterday afternoon at the club, the front door propped open so that people could come in and buy t-shirts or old posters he had on sale. It was kind of a depressing day, with people mostly coming in to gawk, take pictures, or, to his amazement, say “you mean you’re really closing?”

He came home deflated that he hasn’t saved more memorabilia over the years, and that business has been so lousy in this final month. This all happened so quickly, it was impossible to create any real finale for the place. People might have stayed away for fear of getting trapped in the crowds, so there weren’t many crowds. Or they never believed it was really going to happen, thanks to the dubious reporting of The Other Paper, where the only real coverage was the speculation that Dan was bluffing or that the landlord was going to have a change of heart. (Never, I repeat never, trust TOP‘s “facts.”)

Fortunately, I read Space.com almost every day. So yesterday, I found out that last night’s full moon would appear to be the biggest of 2007. Venus and Saturn are also hanging out together in the western sky.

So, here on the realio, trulio (props to Ogden Nash) last weekend of Little Brother’s, we loaded our son in the car at sunset on Saturday night and drove to the country. The sky was electric pink and an old, unmarked mix tape of mine that I unearthed in the club’s basement played Neil Young’s “Long May You Run.” Venus was bright, with the faint Saturn nearby, and fireworks were going off all over the countryside west of town. When the moon peeked over the horizon, it did indeed appear to be huge, streaked with hazy red and orange stripes.

“Is it Jupiter, daddy?” Declan asked.

This is the planet that Dec is both the most fascinated with and the most afraid of. After watching a few specials about it, I must admit that I’m a little scared of Jupiter too.

Life soundtrack: Neil Young with Stephen Stills, Decade, “Long May You Run”
Neil Young with Stephen Stills - Decade - Long May You Run

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The understanding of bliss

All weekend long at Comfest, this arch of rainbow balloons tormented Declan. The allure of the rainbow seduced him across crowds. It would catch his eye and off he’d run. Held down by two supposedly empty helium canisters, it was treacherous to toddler parents who knew that looking at the spectrum really wasn’t enough for little ones. They want to stand beneath it, to touch it if at all possible, and you’d just have to hope that you caught them before they pulled on the ribbon that held it all together and rolled the metal canisters right over their feet.

On Sunday night, the arch was attached on one end and sagging lower to the ground on the other. Declan ran in circles beneath the limp side and Dan brought it down to him. Soon, an entire gaggle of toddlers was running directly underneath the rainbow, or wedging themselves into sections where everything in their world became blue, or in Declan’s case, orange (pictured above). The laughter was infectious and constant – the most contagious display of unabashed childness I have ever seen.

But for some reason – I think maybe an older kid down the row started popping some of the balloons – the woman who had blistered her hands making the arch came up the row, upset and yelling “Let it go! This mine, get off of it now!” to, well, a lot of people who were under five years old. Even though there was less than an hour or two of daylight left in the festival, and the helium arch was flagging, she scolded Dan to let the balloons go, claiming he was preventing all of the other children from enjoying it.

This is the place where parents and people without kids often part ways. I know that before I had Declan, there were certainly times when I would have been on that woman’s side of the divide and wondered what in the hell we, as parents of wild, balloon-crazed giggle monsters were thinking. I know that I’ve put shiny objects in front of more than one little person in my time and wondered why there seemed to be no way to get them to leave it alone. If I’d put in the work that she did, I also might be too attached to watch my work destroyed, even though the arch’s death was clearly inevitable.

When a little child is one of the people you are closest to in life, and you accept their essence – their ability to sustain a state of joy – you know that there is absolutely no way that simply looking at an arch of balloons can compare to the unadulterated bliss those children had when they could run beneath, around and over them – how often do you get to touch an actual rainbow? Regaining a closeness to that simplicity is one of the most precious things about parenting a toddler, and you can often see a nostalgia for it on the faces of parents who have been there.

So I’m grateful to the woman who made the arch, I just wish that she had been able to experience some of that joy along with us.

Life soundtrack: Willie Nelson, Rainbow Connection, “Rainbow Connection:
Willie Nelson - Rainbow Connection - The Rainbow Connection

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