Sunday, May 06, 2007

playing to strengths

In the spirit of recognizing my Isaac’s strengths, I’d like share why he’d make a great…

- Geologist. Rocks are cool. Rocks on the ground must be picked up. Walking by a rock you could have otherwise pocketed is a sacrilege. More rocks than you can carry are really what you’re after. Rocks are SO cool that they trump trucks, dogs, and dirt in the field of coolest toys ever.

- Astronomer. The moon is cool. Moon trumps sun easily (see below). The moon’s real name is “Boon” and we look for Boon every chance we get, inquire about its whereabouts at 2 in the afternoon, request to be wrapped in a blanket and carried outside in the early morning or right before bed to visit with Boon. We spot it way before Mama or Daddy; we love it in every shape it comes in.

- Underwater cave dweller. When you are a Pisces, Aquarius cusp baby, and you were born in the pouring rain, you gravitate toward dim, watery worlds. Case in point, “Isaac, should Mama open the blinds and let the sun shine in?” Answer: “No.”

- American tourist abroad. If you aren’t understood the first time you ask for something, you should say it slower and louder. Example: “Bloobloolaee?” “What, Isaac?” “BLOO. BLOO. LA. EEEEEE!”

I'm sure the list of lifepaths/career possibilities will only continue to grow, and I, called to duty, will note them down.

Thursday, May 03, 2007

sweet dreams: evolution over one generation?

Shorty after Isaac was born, I was digging through my own baby book for stats revealing genetic links to why our son was already popping tooth after tooth painfully out of his gum line. I was happy to have the book to refer to, since we weren't getting any on Mike's side. His “baby book” consisted of half a piece of paper that listed a random weight and height – the end. The youngest of four, his mom was apparently over it by the time baby Mikey hit the scene. I am also the youngest of four, but what might have saved my infant info from a similar fate was the eight year gap since the last baby in the family, marking my birth – whoopsie that it was – something of a novelty once again.

While flipping around my baby book, I came across a small piece of paper that for all intents and purposes seemed to be a recipe written on a doctor's prescription pad. A closer look sent me dialing my mother at once.

“Mom, I found the 'recipe' for my baby 'formula',” I shot into the phone.

“Oh really,” my mother sighed distractedly, unsuspecting.

“Whole milk and sugar?!? Mom.”

“Oh no,” my mother hummed, “You couldn't take the whole milk. We switched to skim.”


“Yes, dear?”

Let's put aside for a bit the myriad nutritionally misguided and bereft aspects of this diet to focus on one: the sugar.

Caffeine addict I am not. Vegetarian- 100% - no I eat fish if my cousin Larry the chef cooks it. or Free range chicken on the third Mondays of the month. No. Vegetarian. – going on 16 years. But sugar? Well, let's just say that after two weeks of trying to eat healthy alternatives, stuffing carrots and cashews in my face for snacks, I grabbed the front of my husband's shirt in my fist. “I need cookies, see? Cookies, you got it? I NEED cookies!”

Not wanting my boy to take this path of lunacy, plus diabetes prevalent in our family history, formidable dentist bills commonplace, I've done my best to curb (read: hide) my habits and mold my bean's tastebuds into freewheeling lovers of flavors sour and spicy, or natural sugar enhanced.

One Sunday during Isaac's nap, Mike had cooked up a mini-batch of chocolate chip cookies in the toaster oven, when suddenly kiddo was awake - Doh! He pointed at the still-warm treats. “Yeah... yeah,” he nodded. “Oh, give'm a cookie,” I told Mike, resigned.

We all sat down at the table and Isaac proceeded to slowly munch a quarter of a cookie. “Do you like it?” I asked. He nodded rather noncommital.

When he was done his fourth of a cookie, he took up his fork and continued his snack of carrots and beets I had cooked him not long before while Mike and I finished off the cookies beside him.

These days, Isaac gets his cookie fix by asking his dad to make biscuits every day for breakfast so he can cut out the dough in the shape of dinosaurs and Christmas trees.

I'm not simple enough to believe this is the end of sweet temptations, and in fact, I worry that it could just be a fad, those cute things kids do for what feels like a millisecond before dropping them completely. Even if they aren't gone yet, watching, you know someday you'll long for them – things like constantly asking us to draw doors, or announcing proudly whenever asked what cows say “Boo!! Boo!!”, obsessing about nuclear families – if there's a mommy bunny and a baby bunny in the book, for God's sake, where's the daddy?

But for now, in the field of snacks, I'd like to think – I did it!!

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

The Wuggie Norple Story: a story of addiction and recovery

Perhaps you've heard of the children's author Daniel Pinkwater. Perhaps you know the name because he reviews kids' books for NPR's weekend edition. Or, perhaps, like me, the name didn't ring any bells when you came across it at the dump.

It was a Saturday, and not unlike many Saturdays before this one, I found myself with my family at the dump.

At this point, I should fill you in on a few things. One is that my husband and I revel in scrounging- uh, recycling, if you will. I used to regularly give guests the thrift shop tour of our apartment, informing them which objects used to be part of which others and which pieces of furniture came from which thrift stores, how little we'd paid for them and how they used to look before they were painted, recovered, or otherwise improved upon post-sale.

Just this past weekend we spent a glorious Saturday morning garage saling. We scored a barbecue, a CD rack in the shape of a lizard for Isaac, and several cans of paint with which to paint the bookcase we'd recently dragged home that someone had left out by the curb for trash.

The other thing you need to know (in case you're getting images of my baby boy scaling a land fill and battling seagulls for treasures hidden under rotting garbage) is that our dump has a store. It's called Last Chance Mercantile.

Not long ago, Mike had found Isaac a couple Clifford books there that he adores, so we were again checking out the book section when we discovered an orange hardcover picture book with a cat on the front, and no dust jacket: The Wuggie Norple Story. Flipping through, I knew we wouldn't be leaving behind the illustrations of a groovy hipster family and a cat named Wuggie Norple. Those were two quarters we could part with.

Mike drove home and I read aloud. Lunchbox Louie, the whistle fixer, and his wife, Bigfoot the Chipmunk, had a son, King Waffle, and an ever-growing kitten Wuggie Norple. I couldn't make this up if I tried, but, you see, that's the point, Daniel Pinkwater did. I can't remember the last time I laughed so hard. The kind of laugh where no noise comes out at first, then it bursts forward in a choked rush of hilarity.

A dog enters the story – Freckleface Chilibean, then a six-year-old razor back hog named Papercup Mixmaster.

I rocked back and forth in my seat gasping, my seatbelt the only thing restraining me from doubling over. Tears swelled in Mike's eyes, and I started to worry that maybe he should pull over.

Behind us, Isaac was growing more and more concerned. “Mama! Mama!” he called frowning and pulling his index fingers down his little cheeks. “No, Isaac, Mama isn't really crying. Well, I am, but I'm happy.” “Mama!” he called again, unappeased.

The horse's name was Exploding Poptart, the elephant's Laughing Gas Alligator. There were wild caterpillars, whistles whittled out of carrots, picnics at Nosewort Pond.

“It's okay, Isaac,” Mike got out between snorts. “Mommy and Daddy are having fun.”

Isaac wouldn't let us read him the book when we got home. “Aw, c'mon!” we begged. “This is the best book ever!” “No!” he said with finality, stomping away.

Okay, so some people even though they love their kids and want the best for them, still can't get off the drugs? It was like that.

Mike and I tag-teamed at the computer, obsessively looking up information about Daniel Pinkwater and Wuggie Norple. His window, open to Pinkwater books on was covered over by my window of the Daniel Pinkwater homepage, then both were blotted out with the text of an interview Pinkwater'd done for a publication called “Fat!So?”

I'd arrive home to find the book in the middle of the kitchen table. “Been reading Wuggie?” I asked Mike. “Isaac didn't want to,” he shrugged.

The peak of our addiction came when we discovered copies of the book – paperback edition – were going for like 200+ bucks. Not that we'd part with ours.

Things had just about gotten back to normal, Isaac even let us read him the book once in a while, when, on a trip to the library yesterday I found Pinkwater's book Spaceburger. Isaac would have none of it. I mean, one of the pages didn't even have a picture! “But,Isaac, the boy who said 'Ho' instead of 'Hi;' the song about lovely ravioli!?”

It wasn't easy, but I walked away. I figured I best go home and work on lesser habits - maybe paint our roadside bookcase. I stroked Spaceburger's light blue cover and then turned. I scooped up the truck books, the dinosaurs going to bed, the one about bugs, and didn't look back.

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