June 28, 2010

If I were a hobo...

Children are not allowed in the front seat like they were when I was little. Because a short stature slips out of the seat belt and because of too many deaths by air bag, children these days wait 'til they're heavier and longer. I wasn't certain that this was recommended or compulsory by the state. And there's a noticeable lack of information on the internet.

Savannah's been begging to get up front. I'd heard of an 80 lb. minimum, and she's still 78. I do want to keep her safe. But since I knew the chances of her getting hurt up front were really slim, I was actually insisting she wait because I didn't want her invading my space. Georgia-land is another universe where all my moods can roller coaster without anyone else's getting in the way. The music and the cup-holders are mine. But mostly I didn't want her to catch me talking to myself.

Then our neighbor said the minimum is 60 lbs; since I don't have a huge resolve on non-moral issues, I said ok. Y'all can imagine how stoked she is to sit up front. She drops these hints into her psyche about college life, her dream home, and marriage. Her toothbrush keeps appearing with mine and Brad's in our faux-vintage toothbrush holder, etc... She wants to be an adult. When she doesn't have a girlfriend with her at group gatherings, she shadows me, waiting for me to slip and say something I'd only say to other grown women.

She sat up front on a 3 hour trip to our friends in Santa Margarita. She made me nervous for the first hour. Asking me quesitons, I'd suddenly realize that I hadn't been focused on the road. If I'd tail-gated anyone, and they'd stopped short, it could've been bad. That was about 2 weeks ago.

Not only have I gotten more used to it, but I've realized that Brad's prediction was right. She and I talk more. Of course I knew this. But now I know what it really means. She not only shares more of herself, but I have a captive audience! I have one of my proteges belted in beside me. I can tell her how if people would just stand up straight, they'd take 5 pounds off the gut. (She says, "So when I slump, I'm really 83 lbs.?" I say, "No, no, no. Visually.") I can tell her that if she meets a boy, and his father isn't very nice to his mother, stay away from him! Or that even at 35, even I don't know which strangers I can trust.

Shortly, she'll have to take turns with Seth and Arwen for the front seat, which means another fight. Anything of value to children can be used as leverage to get good behavior. So there'll still be times that I can sit alone up front and talk to myself.

Things that Savannah has said lately, "If I were a hobo, I'd come to Trader Joe's all the time, for the samples."

...a week passes...

"If I were a hobo, I'd go to Safeway for dessert, for the free cookie."

September 1, 2009


When Amie (pronounced Ah-mee, meaning grandma) visited this summer, she and Savannah made a skirt for Arwen. Using some fabric that never quite became curtains in our house in Connecticut, they sewed a piece of elastic in by hand, and the bottom hem of the curtain became the bottom hem of the skirt.

Savannah wants to be a fashion designer. One of her babysitters told her about a school in San Francisco, and she wants to go. You can't hold 9 year olds to their dreams, (I wanted to be a detective when I was little. Of course, Savannah says, "Maybe you still can.") but I encouraged it, saying, "Yay! I could come into the City, and we could go shopping together." which is probably the best encouragement a girl could hear.

She just needs a sewing machine. Mine died several years ago in Connecticut. Savannah sits in the floor, like I did at 16. She lays out hand-me-down fabric from me. By hand, she sews clothes for her American Girl dolls.

May 19, 2009

What led to Savannah's first piano lesson and the things that naturally followed

Savannah had her first piano lesson a week ago tomorrow. So I'm prepping for her second lesson. I'm not really a piano teacher, but it all falls into place, especially since she's had some music in school and played the recorder, just like I did when I was young.

I'd been waiting for a full size piano. We have a nice keyboard, one that works through Garage Band, full-sized keys, but only 4 octaves. My friend Lucy and I are exchanging Spanish lessons (para mi) for help with her English pronunciations and obscure words. (Her English is very good.) She is learning piano from her husband. She is motivated and ambitious, and I'm grateful for those qualities' rubbing off on me. She was my impetus for finally sitting down to Savannah's first lesson.

And wouldn't you know it, I now have the option to choose between two different pianos which need homes, for free. I've yet to get contact numbers, and they could have very well found new homes already. But it's lovely how these things seem to work out.

On a related topic, I spent some time singing a week ago. I cleaned the kitchen with Emmylou Harris on, and when I finished cleaning, I had to just sit down and sing. She demanded it. I noticed a long time ago that my voice is much better with a strong dose of confidence. Last Monday, I sung with more confidence than I've ever felt. It was so uplifting that it made my stomach hurt. And I've actually avoided doing it in again in the last week. I'm hoping for singing lessons, but I have more pressing projects right now.

But as a result of the singing, I did pick up my guitar; it had been a year. Then when I tried to tune the thing, the second string broke. The strings were old anyway. This brought me yesterday to our music shop on Main street which I've thought of going into for the last 3 years. I got the strings and a guitar stand to keep it out and easy to pick up again, for anyone in the family who wants to play.

May 12, 2009

Something to teach your Mama

My nine year old approached me this afternoon while I was reading and told me, "In 5th grade, we get to dissect a squid and owl pellets."

"Owl pellets?" I asked. I assumed she meant owl poop.

"You don't know what owl pellets are?" she asked suddenly. And there it is, I could see it. She loves to find something she knows that I don't.

She explained that they will dissect the indigestible parts of the mouse from the owl's stomach, bones, hair and such... I looked at her in disbelief and asked, "What?" a couple of times.

This is disgusting to me. Really glad she's getting a great education but glad for once that mine was apparently not as good as it could've been. All we ever dissected were frogs. I googled owl pellets. She's right, of course. I was taken to a site that marketed the pellets for sale in bulk to classrooms, along with a book called Owl Vomit.

January 14, 2009

Nine year old's joke of the day

It's been said that in the first two years of a child's life, parents work in happy anticipation to get their tykes to walk and talk; then they spend the next sixteen trying to make them sit down and shut up.

November 25, 2008

9-year-old's jokes o' the day

Q: What goes "Moooooz?
A: A jet flying backwards

Q: What do you call a sleeping bull?
A: A bulldozer

Q: "Doctor! Doctor! My boy has swallowed a roll of film!" What does the doctor say?
A: "Let's just hope he doesn't develop!"

Q: What state has a friendly greeting for everyone?
A: Ohio

and my favorite for today........

Q: What did the traffic light say to the driver?
A: "Don't look! I'm changing!"

November 7, 2008

Mothering a daughter, or Why it never occurred to me I might be pretty

American Girl dolls are all the rage in our area. Although they're expensive, they are the wholesome antithesis of Barbie, correctly proportioned, fully clothed, and age appropriate. Every doll comes with a back story. Julie is from San Francisco in the 70's. Kit grew up in the Great Depression to become a journalist. All of that appeals to the story tellers in both me and Savannah.

I refused to buy her one a year ago, so she saved her birthday/Christmas/grandma money to buy one herself. (In the last year, she has also bought Ruthie.) She has saved for a few of the accessories also. But when our neighbor invited Savannah to her American Girl sleepover birthday party, I was happy to buy pink polka dot pajamas, for her and the doll! Wondering about the precedent I was setting, the girl in me was tickled for her. It would be here in plenty of time for the sleepover.

She wore the pjs for three nights before she got a black stain on the bodice, actually that's not bad on a kid's timeline. It didn't come out in the wash. The dry cleaners could have it ready on the day of the sleepover! We went together to pick them up, only to find the one button had broken in the cleaning process and two had fallen off! The cleaner's supplied six new buttons. I'd have to replace them, and this couldn't have happened on a busier Saturday! I noticed the new buttons were shaped slightly different than the three remaining but figured Savannah wouldn't notice. On the way back to the car, she said "You are gonna replace them all, right?" I asked why? She said, "Because the new buttons are different." It was more work for me, but I was happy she noticed.

While we were out, she remembered that she'd never gotten the birthday magazine I'd promised from Safeway. And there was Safeway right next to the cleaners. On our detour she held up a girl's magazine, with girls on the cover just a bit older. (I remember always aspiring to be the girls two and three years older than I was.) I scanned the headlines for dating and kissing, but it had phrases like "Cliques, good or bad?" and How to have the best sleepover ever.... I approved it. Then Spongebob caught her eye. I watched her looking between a girl/growing up magazine and a funny cartoon. Hmm, growing up or staying young. I made it clear it was her choice but asked which magazine would she get the most use out of. She chose Spongebob. When I asked why, she said, "Because it has comics." :-) Even my mother loves Spongebob.

Savannah knows she's pretty. It's nothing she's said out loud. But I can see it in the way she presents herself. This school year she's been brushing her teeth and hair every morning without being told. She just started wearing perfume. Although Daddy and I had to teach her how little she really needs.

I've told her she looks pretty, which is not quite the same as saying "You're pretty." It's a hard thing for me to say to her. I need to be level headed for her, not too vain. I've found it easier to tell Arwen she's adorable, but at 4 1/2 she is still hanging on to her babyhood with her round face and dimpled knuckles. In the long run, I don't think it's best for either of them to hear it too much.

I'm looking for the balance on that fine line of passing on confidence or vanity. I was raised with a "Pretty is as pretty does" mentality. And her example of pretty comes from my behavior more than my words, no? I was never told I was pretty. The single mother who raised me, the woman who cut bad sycamore limbs with a chain saw, chopped fire wood and poisoned wasp nests even though she was near hysterically afraid of them, well, she wanted me to go into science. She liked hearing me play Fur Elise or Floyd Cramer's Last Date on the piano. You can't put looks in a cash register, my dad liked to say. Their generation, and mine too I think, didn't have the audience that this new one has. Pretty was something we were just supposed to know, our ranking in the world's gauge of who's handsome and who's not.

What if I'd had a mother who tried building my confidence with compliments? Would I have been more assertive in junior high? happier? What if it had gone to my head? What if it had ruined me?

Now I'm a fairly secure person. I like my green eyes and ski-slope nose and I've even grown to like my natural hair color. But when I hear someone say that so and so (insert celebrity name here) is beautiful, my next, most natural thought is, "What do you think of me?" With a beauty compliment dropped, there is an invisible notion left hanging, the notion of ugliness. So I find it no easier in saying "She's beautiful." than "She's ugly." However, if we're going to hear we're beautiful, it should be from someone who knows us.

I'm still figuring out the gender difference, but I've had no problem telling Seth he's handsome.

August 9, 2008


I have found a pattern in my party planning. When I'm shopping for my children at their birthdays or December, I'm conservative in my buying. Savannah always gets one or two things on her list, which is always 5 times that long. When she shows me her list and talks about it, I can see two things; one, she knows she won't get everything on the list, and two, this year there were subtleties in her approach. She's conscious of appearing greedy.

I love that. I want to reach out and hug her for it. She's thoughtful of her place in the world, and I'm happy to see that so far she has not fallen for the notion of entitlement that so many children of this generation and in our location on the map seem to have fallen for.

It must mean I'm correct in my conservative shopping. But then I wrap the gifts. It's almost always the night before the friends come for games and cake, and every time I panic a little. I'm sad that I didn't give her just one or two more things on her list. Then I wonder if I'll have time to pick up High School Musical 2 or one of those American Girl movies tomorrow before the party. (I won't.)

Her main present is an American Girl accessory. (She owns two American Girl dolls which she paid for herself with allowance and birthday/grandma money.) Before wrapping the box, I saw the catalogue in it. I've thrown several away before she ever even saw them. I know, aren't I cruel? ;-) But some I give to her. Tonight, the catalogue reminded me how I felt when I was young and looked at wish books. I knew I couldn't have _any_thing in them. That doesn't bother me now, seeing things I can't have, but it was very sad when I was young. I hope it's not like that for her. I don't think it is. I believe she has more ambition than I did, more knowledge than I had that she can work toward something.

On her card I drew a picture of nine individual candles, some with little polka dots, some with big, some with stripes, one a flower collar and the last, the ninth, large wings and a smile on the flame. The front of the card quotes Helen Keller. "Life is either a daring adventure, or it is nothing at all."

November 22, 2007

Savannah's Declaration of Independence (her spelling)

I Savannah declare:

- Stay up later
- Have a raise in my allowence
- Have the computer in my room
- More sleepovers and playdates
- Science stuff
- Science posters

Savannah (in very curly cursive)

June 28, 2007

The F Word

End of the year, 2nd grade, Savannah comes home asking, "What's the F word?" I refused to tell her. She'll not hear it from me.

I'm actually surprised that she got this far into her eighth year without hearing this word before. And it's not that I mind saying it to her, but after hearing the word, I know her next question. "What's that mean?", and I haven't yet tailored a good answer for a 7 year old.

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