Monday, April 27, 2009

More Toothy Goodness

Elise is just so doggone cute with this crazy gap-toothed grin that I'm going to just put a bunch of pictures here and let you grin right along.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Who Parents the Parents?

One of my favorite blogs struck a nerve with me this evening, and I tried to post a comment. It ended up being longer than any blog post I've written in months. "Hmmmmmmmm..." So I'm posting it here instead.

For some background on the ramblings that follow, please visit A Reluctant Mom. I'll wait here.

You've read it, right?

That is one crazy playdate. Kids are easy-it's figuring out what the heck to do with their parents that's hard. I know this because I'm a parent and I'm pretty sure I have exasperated a hostess or two in my time. So, from my heart, RYD, here's my response.


RYD, you're too nice.

"I'm sorry, I am not prepared to accommodate more than one friend this afternoon. I'm sure the girls will be disappointed, but if this afternoon is not going to work for you we can certainly reschedule."

"Please don't put shoes on my clean tablecloth!"

This woman sounds like "one of those" who lives in chaos by choice. She probably doesn't even realize she's such a drain on everyone around her. In her past life, she probably wouldn't have put shoes on tables or invited herself for an afternoon.

You may well be one of the few people who sets boundaries with this gal. She was probably not sure what to do with specified start and end times. (Wow, it sure is hard to do playdates at RYD's house-she has rules!) She's found a way around your rules so she can stay in her comfort/chaos zone.

I can't imagine you'll be letting her so much as look at your doorstep any time soon, but if you do, stick to your guns! It's good for you, it's good for her. And if she trash talks you with the other moms, I'll bet you anything they'll all be secretly wishing they had your gumption.

As for the racism, well, words fail.

I was raised in a deliberately colorblind household, which I think was a well-meaning mistake. Imagine my surprise when I moved out of blindingly white Montana to a more normal part of the country. I thought people were people, but the first time I was called a honkey it knocked me back and gave me more existential angst than 3rd grade generally merits.

Fast forward and my kiddo figures kids are kids. But one day she notices that her best friend (recently adopted from Nepal) has darker skin and hair. As does my cousin. My girl tends to be especially fearful of anything in her environment that is different. She was pretty anxious when she first discovered this difference between herself and two of her favorite people in the world.

So we (duh) talk about it. "How do you feel about that, Kiddo?" I asked. Turns out, she was worried that darker skin meant her best friend was seriously ill. And it made her nervous to play with her friend because she didn't know if it was contagious. Dunno about you, but I'd NEVER have guessed that in a gazillion years.

Not one to rest on my laurels, I've been encouraging both the noticing and accepting of racial differences. Our favorite activity? A generic princess coloring book from the dollar store. It is now the most ethnically diverse collection of princesses ever assembled. And we've decided that they are ALL beautiful. I think it's important to keep fun activities like this on hand (or at least in mind). Teachable moments and all of that.

Chaos Lady might be the biggest racist in town, or she might be inept. "Never attribute to malice that which can equally be explained by stupidity," as my hubby's favorite saying goes. If she's wallowing in that chaos and self-manufactured helplessness in the face of small children, chances are she's just never devoted gray matter to values training. She probably doesn't think she can. Or she's a hopeless bigot.

So you can avoid this gal because she's obnoxious. Or, you can avoid her for the reason that really gets at you. She's inept. This is not your problem-it's hers!

This reminds me a lot of playing in band in high school & college. You never want to sit next to the underachiever in your section. Some of their attitude and poor habits rub off no matter what you do. I remember my head getting fuzzy about half-way through, and then irritability and inability to concentrate would set in. There's something about the aggressive underachiever that sucks everyone around them into stupidity. I didn't really get the connection until my best friend explained to me about how that works on married couples. Don't hang out with the ones who have unhealthy relationships-it'll rub off. It's not such a stretch to apply the same principle to parenting. Not that we're all one bad playdate away from shoes on the table or teaching racism in utero, but over time that sort of thing can really muck with a person's sense of normalcy.


Missing: One Front Tooth
Last Seen: Elise's Mouth
Description: Gigantic Front Tooth.

If Found, please put in box for Tooth Fairy.

Saturday, April 4, 2009


Howdy, sports fans! We here at Steingruebl World Enterprises have got a serious case of hockey fever. Don't worry, it's highly contagious and completely normal around playoff time. We've discovered that it's a chronic condition. You've been warned.

First off, I'd like to announce that Elise had her first pre-hockey class on Wednesday afternoon. Andy ditched work early and met us at the rink. A nice lady helped me get Elise's skates on just right, and then ended up being Elise's teacher! Here is our girl, ready to get out on the ice:

For those of you who, like us, have never been to skating classes before, the system by which they sort out the class groups is clever and fun to watch. They get the more experienced skaters out there first, and then instructors get stacks of buckets for the newbies to hold on to, and take them out on the ice. Once everyone is there, they do a few little exercises to sort of sort out both skill and apprehension levels. The kids who have never skated before but are willing to try moving around a bit go in one group, the ones who stay rooted and frozen and (in some notable cases) crying for their mothers are in another. It works well for everyone except maybe the teacher who has a dozen immobile and thoroughly terrified little people with whom to contend. I thought Elise's teacher was really good. She also did a great job of getting Elise fired up for next week, which I loved.

Then, the big surprise of the week was that we secured a spot at a session of "Girls Only-Give Hockey a Try." Pretty good, considering that when we signed up there was a hefty waiting list. This program allows girls aged 5-12 to gear up and spend an hour, well, giving hockey a try. And, it's free. Which is a good thing when you start thinking about the cost of the gear. In theory, this is a great program. In execution, it is a phenomenal program. I had not expected to see so many of the Jr Sharks Girls there, but they turned out in force to help with the gear and to mentor the new girls. Their parents were amazing, and one mom spent a vast portion of the morning introducing Elise to the big kids and helping her get comfortable. And then, there was the alumna who dedicated her morning to Elise. She is my new personal hero, and you'll see why as this story continues.

When we arrived, Elise was assigned a giant bag with all of the necessary gear. We headed for the locker room with Kelly, who showed us the ins and outs of dressing for hockey.

When Elise was mostly suited up, Cori came through and helped us get skates on and laced up properly.

It was then determined that the gear felt "funny" and we slowed down a bit and got the helmet on. Not so sure about the helmet...

All geared up and ready to go!
This was the point at which the tears began to flow. The gear felt funny, the ice looked scary, etc. A thoroughly wonderful mom of one of the big girls (age 7!) sat with us and talked all about hockey and the wonder of all that padding and insulation.

Still unconvinced, Elise was determined to sit on the bleachers and not get near the ice. Then, Cori arrived. And Elise let her carry her out on the ice and skate with her in her arms. They came back for a bucket to sit on and be pushed. They came back for a stack of buckets for Elise to push. Elise didn't want to go back out, until she asked Cori about the penalty box.

All of the earlier resistance disappeared when Cori told Elise about just how much time she's spent in that very box. They skated across to the box, and spent a few minutes pretending that Elise had got a penalty. My truly amazing camera work shows them waaaaaaay across the ice.

Now, in regular skating class, the teachers want kids to let go of their buckets so they get them to drum on them and do head and shoulders touches. Elise wanted none of that, but had no problem letting go of the bucket with one hand in order to to "rough" Cori and try to draw a penalty.

When Elise got tired of skating, Cori sat her on a bucket and they worked on stick handling.

Near the end of the session, a coach helped with a few more skating skills, and discovered that Elise needed smaller skates than I put on her, so now we're all set for our future lessons!

All in all, this was an absolutely amazing experience. And now our girl is ready to play! Thank you Junior Sharks Girls, and thank you Cori, our new hockey hero!

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Who is Jenny McCarthy, and Why Does Anyone Care?

Up until several months ago, I'd never heard of this gal. Then she wrote a book. I refuse, on principle, to read it. Jenny McCarthy imagines that vaccinations cause Autism. Jenny McCarthy also believes she has a magical cure for Autism. In honor of World Autism Awareness Day, I would like to call attention to the delusions she shares with entirely too many parents. Why do we care? Because McCarthy and people like her are a public health risk. Arm yourself with actual information. And if even one vaccine preventable illness or death is prevented by what you learn here and share with others the world will be a better place.

Autism and Autism spectrum disorders seem to be everywhere. Here in Silicon Valley, we seem to have more than our fair share of people suffering from this. It's a horrible malady, and people are justifiably desperate to find some dadgummed answers.

Many times, this disorder begins to present right around the developmental age at which kids get vaccinations. Worried parents swear everything about their kid was "normal" until the day their kid got protection against measles, mumps rubella, diptheria, pertussis and tetanus. The Autism must've been caused by the vaccines! Just like global warming is the result of declining pirate populations. Just because these things happen at the same time doesn't mean that one causes the other. There's a way of checking for that, using some clever ideas called "science."

Unfortunately, there are some real cretins out there. One guy, one guy I tell you, published a study a good while back in which he made up results to show vaccines causing autism. Thoroughly discredited and even admitting to having his pants afire, this guy's nonsense lives on. And lots of innocent people don't.

A lot of well-meaning parents do "research" on vaccinations and decide that, based on faulty studies and the woo of people like Jenny McCarthy, they just can't "risk" their kids getting autism. So they don't vaccinate their kids. That's right. They have the power to spare their children pain, misery, disfigurement and even death but refuse to do so based on the insane ramblings of fearmongering nutbags. Yeah, it sucks that we don't know how to prevent Autism and to cure the most debilitating aspects of it. Causing a whooping cough epidemic that kills old people and little tiny babies "just in case" is almost Pope-like in its arrogance.

In recent years, there have been increasing numbers of outbreaks of entirely preventable diseases because of falling vaccination rates. This is not based on the superstitions of has-been centerfolds, it is measurable. And it is killing people.

Many others have written about this, and I'd like to point you to them now.
The Bad Astronomer

So, the next time someone expresses reservations about vaccinating their kids you have the knowledge. You have the power to encourage them to use their brains and not be a public health menace. Use that power for good. Save some lives. And then someday we can all forget about this Jenny McCarthy person.