Author Archives: savoringeverymoment

About savoringeverymoment

I'm a grammar geek (I'm firmly on the side of the serial comma), the wife of a very funny guy (he still makes me laugh after 13 years being together), and the mama of an adorable little boy (his dimples could turn a bouncer's legs to jelly). I live in a fantastic city and attend a church that encourages me to use my gifts and talents.

Weekend “Adventures”

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The DC area has a lot to offer families, and we try to take advantage of that as often as possible. On weekends, we make an effort to get out for at least one activity. Now that Teddy is old enough for organized sports, ball practice and games are often our main outing when the weather is warmer. But Teddy doesn’t play winter sports yet, so if we don’t have something planned — say, a birthday party or a play date or an event at a favorite museum–I’ll consult a couple different websites that offer a lineup of things to do throughout the District, including seasonal and one-off events. Anytime you try something new — that’s not a recommendation from a friend — you take a risk: will this be worth the trek? Or will it be a bust?

Often it is well worth the effort to get there. Last spring, we woke up one Saturday morning to a wide open, beautiful day. I consulted my favorite DC-area activity blogger, kidfriendlydc.com, and found listed a strawberry festival happening that day. I LOVE strawberries and a festival means fun stuff to do for the kids. This seemed like a no-brainer — even worth getting a zipcar for. Despite misreading the location as Silver Spring when in fact it was Sandy Spring, a small town a bit further away, the outing was a great success. We arrived to find a long line snaking into a parking lot well managed by the local Boy Scouts troupe, paid the $3 per person entrance fee (gotta love small towns), and spent several hours enjoying all the festival activities. The kids had their faces painted, pet farm animals, rode ponies, jumped around a bounce house, and ate the strawberries off strawberry shortcake. Teddy even tried rock climbing. And on the way out, I bought a flat of strawberries, because: obviously.

Mark one for “worth the trek”.

Today, another Saturday dawned without any set plans. I again checked in with kidfriendlydc.com and found what sounded like an fascinating outing.

Celebrate the Seasons:
Immerse yourself in each season as you walk through floor-to-ceiling installations that envelop you in a multi-sensory experience. Breathe in subtle scents, touch stimulating textures and soak up larger-than-life representations of quintessential seasonal sights in the District. Extend your individuality into the installation through the interactive elements and show us how you #ExperiencetheSeasons.

The description comes from an eventbrite page, where you can register for free tickets. This sounded really cool, and it appeared to be not too far off our usual bus route. So in light of the forecast, we donned rain jackets and headed out for what promised to be a fun experience for the whole family.

The trip took longer than expected because after checking our app and seeing the next bus wasn’t due for another 30 minutes, we opted to metro and upon changing trains, found we had more than the usual five minutes before the next train. But excitement shortened the wait, and after the metro part of our journey, we enthusiastically strolled, bounced, sprinted and jumped up the hill leading to Trellis House, the site of the “immersive experience”. We arrived at an apartment building under construction and after some confusion, saw a sign confirming our destination.

Two young ladies stood on the sidewalk, drawing attention to the entrance of the art installation. And the entrance, decorated in bright greenery, looked promising. We confirmed everything was meant to be touched, pushed through slats of hanging plastic, and immediately entered “winter”. On either side of the structure, cold-weather garments and accessories hung on strings. I pulled a hat on one side and laughed in delight as on another side, a small sweater glided up. After entertaining myself thus for a couple moments, I took a step forward, through an archway of cherry blossoms. I looked past the flowers and giggled at royal blue swimming pool noodles sticking out from either side. Then I admired myself in the mirrors next to the noodles. Distorting my face, they were reminiscent of the glass in a fun house.

Then I heard Mike say, “Wait, is that it? Did I just walk through spring?” In front of me was a wall of brown branches and fronds. I assumed there was a turn after the mirrors, that I would follow a corridor leading to the next part of the installation. But no, after I retraced my few steps and found nothing further beyond what evidently was an autumnal wall, I confirmed that what we had thought was the entrance was actually the entire thing. I chuckled as understanding dawned. This art “experience” that invited you to “immerse yourself in the seasons as you walk through floor-to-ceiling installations…” was no bigger than a shipping container. It was a shipping container. It was fun and unique and intriguing, but it didn’t take much longer to experience than it took to read the description, which, in hindsight, was like a real estate listing. It reminded me of the giant blue rooster on the roof of the National Gallery of Art: enjoyable as part of a multi-piece offering. But with each “season” traversed in two paces, Celebrate the Seasons was more a roadside attraction, something you stop to see on the way to something else–not the destination itself.

We pushed back through the plastic, bid the ladies goodbye, and headed off in search of something else to do with our afternoon. At dinner that night, I asked Teddy what he thought of the art thing we went to. He looked at me, brow wrinkled, and said, “You mean that little room?” Mike laughed. I smiled and said yes. Teddy brightened and said, “The strings were fun to pull. And I liked running through the plastic.” So it was indeed an immersive, multi-sensory experience.

Like I won’t reprimand my child for an action that prompts an instagram pic, I probably shouldn’t file this one under “bust” since it’s good for a story. But I’ll probably try to read between the lines next time.

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Slowing down and saying yes

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I remember when Teddy was in preschool, and getting him out the door two mornings a week was a fight each time. I would get so frustrated at his sluggish pace, coming down the stairs, eating his breakfast, getting his shoes on. I like being on time — even to preschool — and I just knew his dawdling would make us late, and that made me so angry. Until one morning, it dawned on me that being late was not the end of the world. If we missed the bus I was aiming for, there’d be another one five to ten minutes later. I could be patient with my child, who did not understand the urgency of leaving RIGHT NOW to catch the bus. And once I survived this departure, I could build more time into our routine in future so I wasn’t so stressed–I certainly didn’t want it to be OK that we’d be late; we needed to figure out timing that accommodated my son’s pace and satisfied my desire to be punctual.

Fast forward four years and we’re still dealing with getting our snail out the door. But it’s still not the end of the world. And if it gets in the way of our morning plans, we have a strategy for it, now. We have learned that our eldest needs a little extra motivation to comply with our morning routine. He still tends to drag his feet, but he knows that if our desired departure comes and goes and he’s still not ready, he starts accruing time that he owes us. And we can redeem that time however we want. (If it’s my time he wasted, I usually have him write a note or draw a picture for a grandparent — something I like to send periodically but is not something he’d ever do voluntarily; if it’s Mike’s time, it’s typically sweeping, which is Mike’s chore.) I still struggle to hold in my irritation (our routine has not changed since he started attending school full time two and a half years ago), but I feel more in control with this strategy. And he’s not micromanaged every morning.

I’m also trying to say yes more. Teddy bombards me with sundry trivial requests that I instinctively want to say no to: can I have a mint? No: we’re leaving and I don’t want to run back inside to get the tic tacs. Can I play for five more minutes? No: time’s up. Turn it off. Can I have one more slice of cheese? No, we’re going to have dinner in 20 minutes. But a no always leads to a tantrum, and even though I want to dig in my heels on principle, in hindsight, it’s not worth it.

So I’m making a Hurculean (for me) effort to save no for truly important situations and figure out a way to say yes for the mundane stuff. Sometimes this means just taking an extra 30 seconds to retrieve the mints, knowing he’ll walk happily to school instead of crying and planting himself angrily just outside the door. Sometimes it means pulling out the bag of goldfish that I just put away to give him a few more.

As with accruing time, sometimes there’s a consequence to him. He can have another slice of cheese, but then he might not be hungry enough to eat his dinner and will miss out on dessert. (Yes, he gets dessert every time he finishes his dinner. Don’t judge. The child is not motivated by hunger. If he didn’t have the promise of a treat, he’d never eat. Also, I’m realizing, for a child who’s not motivated by hunger, a lot of his requests revolve around food, albeit snack food.) Or yes, he can play with the popping corn kernels, even though I know it’s going to make a huge mess, but he’ll need to clean up afterward. Also, we have a one to one rule for screen time: for every 20 minutes he reads, he can play on his kindle for 20 minutes. So yes, he can play for five more minutes, but next time, he’ll need to read for 25 minutes to play for the same 20.

This strategy–when I remember to use it–works well. I sometimes hear myself saying no before really thinking it through, but thankfully — sarcasm font — he always pushes back, giving me opportunity to reconsider and revise.

Setting a foundation for literacy

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Teddy is/was an early reader and people ask periodically what *I* did to make that happen. I insist not much. I was never one to provide running commentary on our day when he was pre-verbal, as all the parenting articles advise. But as he grew and expressed interest in different things,  I nurtured that interest. Here are a few things that might’ve helped him along in his journey to literacy.

Reading books. This one probably goes without saying, but given that we’re reminded in the weekly newsletter from Teddy’s teacher to read every night for 20 minutes, I figure it’s worth mentioning. We have a decent home library (that I’m always adding to), and we borrow books from the library every week. I’ll often search on Amazon for good books or read a recommendation and then put them on hold at the library. (DCPL has an amazing collection.) We’re also signed up for Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library. Every registered child receives a new age-appropriate book every month until they turn 5.

Library story time. When Teddy was a baby, we regularly went to story time at the local library, which, at the time was the Shaw library, where a fantastic story time librarian brought books to life and kids to their feet with catchy songs. (Her skills, unfortunately, were deemed too good for Shaw and she was reallocated. She set a high bar and no other story time librarian has come close to matching her enthusiasm and energy.)

Letter blocks. From the time he was a year old, Teddy loved playing with your standard letter blocks. Most kids make towers; he’d make “trains”, clacking the wooden cubes together, sometimes same colors, mostly not, and declaring which color “metro line” was headed where: “blue line to Largo!” (The kid has always loved the metro.) And while he played station master, I made names–mommy, daddy and Teddy passenger block sets. (We had just enough d’s for father and son.) He could push those blocks around the living room floor for hours.

Road signs. As soon as he could talk, Teddy wanted to know what the letters surrounding him meant. Everywhere we walked, he’d point to a sign and ask me what the word was. When we were in the car, while I was trying to follow the GPS directions, he’d be demanding from the backseat that I read all the highway signs. (Initially, I tried to shush him, but Teddy is not a child to be shushed, and I learned it was easier to quickly scan the environment, reading aloud everything I could see, and then deal with the GPS recalibration, rather than try to drive with my 2-year-old screaming at me, “What does that sign say?!” A satisfied–and therefore quiet–child was worth a thousand missed turns.) It wasn’t long before he recognized all the most common signs near us: Stop, Do Not Enter, School Zone. On one road trip, I pulled into the chick fil-a parking lot, and, turning the wheel to enter the drive thru, heard, “Mommy, that says ‘Do Not Enter’!” Indeed, I had missed that sign. Already my child was a necessary backseat driver.

Leapfrog letter bucket. This was a gift from an auntie, and it likely set the foundation for teaching Teddy phonics. He would plug each letter into the mold and sing along: “M says mmm. M says mmm. Every letter makes a sound. M says mmm.” The tune ingrained itself in your head but not annoyingly so. I would link to it, but it’s ridiculously expensive on Amazon now given that LeapFrog has created newer toys to accomplish the same thing.

Piggie and Gerald. I’m pretty sure these books put everything together for Teddy: The simple text, the repetition, the word bubbles that possibly reminded him of road signs, the funny stories, the text italicized or enlarged to match intended tone and volume. One particularly well worn story, “We are in a book!” in which the elephant and pig discover the existence of a third character, the reader, reading about them, features a full page spread of the animals declaring, “THAT IS SO COOL!” Teddy delighted in yelling those words along with me. He still does, when I read the book to Lydia. Pretty sure he has that book memorized. In fact, he probably has most of the Piggie and Gerald stories in our personal library memorized. He used to love assigning me either Piggie or Gerald, and then taking turns reading accordingly.

Metro and bus games. Once Teddy had the fine motor skills necessary for playing games on my phone, I downloaded the early reader app Endless ABC and gave it to him to play on metro rides. This app makes a puzzle of words: you drag each phonetically animated letter into place. Upon completion of each puzzle, silly creature characters act out what the word means. (Now that Lydia is old enough to play, there’s a number version, too. It’s pricey for an app, at $12, but it’s really well done.) Once the word puzzles were no longer challenging, I got the sentence version. Both games provided much needed entertainment if I was having a conversation with a friend or otherwise needed to distract him.

We also have played an alphabet game: we’ll start with A and name words that begin with each letter. (Q never got much love, although thanks to our alphabet books we knew about the bird, quetzel.) Teddy is actually way more interested in geography than words now, so he’s more likely to play “I am a country…” with Mike than “A is for…” with me.

Finally, Mike and I team up to try to expand Teddy’s vocabulary. Teddy will ask a question or make an observation and in my answer I’ll try to introduce a new word and then Mike will elaborate and define that word. (We’ve never actually discussed doing this–well, until now. It just happens. It’s the language person in me loving any excuse to introduce new vocabulary and the teacher in him unable to resist explaining something in age appropriate terms.)

Teddy: Why do I have to read every night?

Me: Because literacy is a priority.

Mike: Reading well is something you should consider more important than other things.

Along the same line, the weekly newsletter mentioned above suggested using new or at least different vocabulary when affirming a child’s observation, rather than just parroting them.

Teddy: Look, there’s a nest in that tree!

Me: Right! A bird has gathered twigs and branches and leaves to build a place to lay its eggs!

All of these activities were in response to Teddy’s interest. I (we) didn’t force anything. He has always loved language. And of course I’m going to encourage and nurture that natural interest as much as I can. Nowadays, you can find him driving me crazy by playing rhyming games with himself, starting with one word I’ve said as part of a request and making up nonsense words that rhyme.

Me: Teddy, please put on your jacket.

Teddy: Ok, pracket, lacket, macket, nacket…

I tell myself this is something I should appreciate, but all I can think is, just put your jacket on! Tree, here is your apple…

Shopping seasonally, circulars, and store brands

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My name is Sara and I spend way too much on groceries.

In the past, I’ve determined to change this periodically and have made halfhearted efforts, clipping coupons and shopping the sales tab when buying groceries online (through Peapod). But I would still go to the store several times a week, buying stuff as I needed it. I don’t consider myself an impulse shopper, but even when you’re buying things you need, if you shop a lot, it adds up. I’ve been spending upwards of $1,000 a month–and two members of my family don’t eat much! (Although Teddy is starting to eat more. And that’s all the more reason to reign in the spending now, before he starts clearing out the pantry and fridge as soon as I stock them up, as I’ve heard happens with teenagers.) I’ve looked online at the USDA’s Cost of Food chart and found to my dismay that, while I aim for the “moderate cost plan” for a family of four, I’m usually closer to the “liberal plan.”

In further researching what people spend on groceries, I’ve been reading blog posts by women who feed their families of 4, 5, even 6 on monthly budgets of $350 to $500–and with healthy food! And I’m shaking my head, wondering how they do it. This year, I’ve vowed to put real effort into finding out.

The more I read these online diaries, the more I see common practices, namely: shopping with the seasons, opting for store brands over name brands, and paying attention to the sales in the circulars that come in the newspaper every week. And then, to tie it all together, meal planning. I know I’m not going to reduce my spending by two-thirds, but I’ve decided to work on these strategies and see what happens.

The first two are already familiar practices. I’ve been buying what’s in season for produce for years, ever since I discovered the farmers markets when we moved here 11 years ago. (Our farmers markets are expensive! Great quality, but whew, a lot of things I consider a splurge. But buying in season in the supermarket does save money.) More recently, I’ve discovered the value of store brands. When Whole Foods moved in three blocks from my house and my visits increased tenfold, I knew I needed to cut spending there. I started paying attention and found that a few 365 products are actually cheaper than at other stores (eggs, for example). I’m baffled by the difference in price between store brand flour and name brand flour.

But up until a few months ago, when we started subscribing to the Washington Post, I’d never paid any attention to the circulars, and even then I’d only give them a cursory glance. And I’ve never been good at meal planning. I’ve tried on occasion–I even subscribe to a meal planning service that allows you to curate online recipes into an easily searchable database, schedule recipes for the month, and pull together shopping lists based on that schedule–but I’ve never been able to make it a habit. I’ve also tried recipe subscriptions, but my family is too…particular about their likes and dislikes to make that worth my while. The recipes all look delicious to me, but I know everyone else would decline half of them.

So this year, this month, I’m practicing those last two. Wednesday, I looked through the store circulars and actually highlighted what I wanted. Friday, I bundled Lydia in her stroller and together we walked to three stores to take advantage of their sales. Man, is there money to be saved through those weekly inserts! Who knew?? (All those bloggers, that’s who.) And last weekend, I determined to tackle meal planning. I love to cook, but I hate to plan. I usually decide in the morning what I’ll make that night, although many an evening, I have found myself in front of the fridge at 5pm, assessing the contents and proceeding to “whip something up”. Recently I read Finish by Jon Acuff, and he emphasizes the importance of adding an element of fun to any goal to increase your chance of achieving it. So I wondered, how could I make meal planning fun? And I decided if I set aside a couple hours to meal plan by myself at a coffee shop, it might be something I could look forward to. And indeed, I decided last weekend to do this, and I was excited about it all week. So Saturday morning, after making waffles (a favorite weekend breakfast, no planning necessary), I bundled up and ventured out to plan dinners for the month. Vanilla chai in hand, I got to work, reminding myself of past meals that I have entered in that meal planner, looking up my favorite cooking blogs (SmittenKitchen, SuperHealthyKids, thekitchn), and just wracking my brain. It took me a few minutes to get going, but eventually I found myself in a zone and managed to plan for three weeks (not the full month, like I’d hoped, but it’s a great start).

Bonus: since I planned my meals for several days based on what I already had purchased, I made no trips to the supermarket for a full week!

So here’s hoping that I’ll be able to keep it up, and my efforts this month will translate into a much reduced grocery bill.

Summer 2017 bucket list

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At the beginning of the summer, I set myself a bucket list. Consisting of only six activities, it was not ambitious; it was merely designed to get us out of the house and do something we either had never done before or do rarely, at least once a week for each week that Teddy did not have a camp. Make no mistake: these activities were planned for my sake, not my kids’. They would be perfectly happy playing at home all day every day. I’m the one who needs to get out once a day. Despite this plan being primarily for my own happiness, I did my best to find things I thought the kids would enjoy. This was really in my own best interest; it’s hard to coax Teddy out of the house…for any reason. It requires actual bribery for him to voluntarily go somewhere solely for my sake. So, I mined the archives of kidfriendlydc.com, searched my own memory for ideas I’d filed away, and actually asked Teddy. (He kind of missed the point of the assignment, offering ideas for activities…at home. But we did some of those the other days of the week.) I put together my list, posted it on the wall, and checked things off as we did them. And yesterday, I crossed off our final activity!

Summer Bucket List 2017

DC Trails Tour Bus
Every time we walk to Union Station and Teddy sees the hop-on-hop-off tour buses waiting for passengers, he asks if we can join. So when friends invited us to join them, I jumped at the chance. I love this touristy activity. Mike and I toured the city on one of these buses when we first visited DC, and I’ve ridden a trolley with my parents. I enjoy the trivia and seeing the sights without all the walking (since we walk ev-er-y-where), and I figured Teddy would appreciate that part, too. So one beautiful Tuesday morning (we planned carefully around all the projected rainstorms for that week), we boarded an empty bus and found seats at the front, right behind the tour guide. I LOVE being close to the tour guide, whether on walking tours or bus tours (or bike tours! We biked the sights at night when we first moved here). I always ask questions and get to know the guide a bit. (I’ve decided when I retire, I want to be a tour guide.) We opted to stay on the bus the entire tour rather than get off anywhere, and it lasted about two hours. The kids hit their wall for sitting in one place at about the 90 minute mark (and that’s also about when the lovely morning turned unpleasantly hot), but we powered through until we’d reached the stop where we’d started.

Anacostia Pirate Ship Playground
This playground in Anacostia Park has, as you might imagine from the name, a play structure designed to resemble a pirate ship. We’d gone once before a couple years ago for a friend’s birthday party, and every since I’d been determined to go back. Anacostia always feels so far away, since it’s across the river, but getting there turned out to be quite doable. We met the same family whose birthday party we’d attended and another friend, and stayed for nearly four hours. Of course, the kids spent approximately five minutes on the play structure itself and the rest of the time playing in a nearby mud puddle and throwing sticks on the massive green space surrounding the play structure. But everyone had a great time, and it was nice to get outside our Stanton–>Sherwood–>Lincoln–> routine. (The only downside: I hadn’t planned for the mud puddle so two very muddy children rode the bus home…)

National History Museum Butterfly Exhibit
My original plan was to visit the Meadowlark Gardens Butterfly Exhibit, which is something we’ve never done, but we ended up just going to the butterfly exhibit at the National History Museum (on Tuesday, because it’s free), which we rarely do, instead, because we had friends in town and that was an easier adventure. (There’s a joke that if you want to see all the tourists in London on any given day, go see the changing of the guard at Buckingham Palace at 11 am; now I can say, if you want to see all the tourists AND locals in DC, go to the Natural History Museum on a Tuesday in summer! The place was packed, and we actually ran into another friend in line.) Teddy studied the lifestyle of the monarch butterfly at the end of Kindergarten, and he loves the book gotta go gotta go, which traces the annual migration of monarch butterflies to Mexico, so I thought he’d enjoy the exhibit. When we’ve gone before, he hasn’t lasted more than a couple minutes; all those wings fluttering by can be a bit disconcerting. But this time, he liked it; he even stood still for a couple minutes while a butterfly hung out on his back. Lydia enjoyed the exhibit, too…from my arms. After one butterfly fluttered quite close, she refused to walk on her own.

East Potomac Park Miniature Golf
I love mini golf. I’m terrible at it, but I love it. I think because of how mini golf courses usually incorporate miniature versions of local landmarks as features for each hole. We made a family trip to East Potomac Park a couple weekends ago, and I learned from a plaque at the sixth hole that this course used to do that as well, but they all got renovated out. Teddy also loves miniature golf. And because he has a natural ability for any activity involving a ball, he’s pretty good at it, for a 5-year-old. He doesn’t care about tiny Capitol buildings. Didn’t miss the tiny Thomas Jefferson Memorial that wasn’t there anymore. While I was lamenting its absence, he was checking out the lay of the green. He beat me on more holes than I care to admit. I got a score card, thinking I’d keep track, just for fun. I didn’t even mark scores for the first hole–that’s how depressing mine was. But I still love mini golf. And Lydia had a great time getting a hole in one every time by carrying the ball to the hold and dropping it in.

Port Discovery
The same friend who gave us complimentary tickets for the bus tour has been urging us to come with her to Port Discovery, an amazing indoor playland in Baltimore. We finally put a date on the calendar and made it happen last month. It was amazing. If we lived in Baltimore, we’d definitely have a membership. In the center towers a three-story playground, and around the perimeter are themed rooms, such as a diner, a water room, and an Egyptian room. The kids loved it. I feel like we barely spent any time in any one room because we wanted to see everything.

Kids in Canal
This is a weekly summer program run by Capitol Riverfront. Every week features a different form of entertainment. We went to was Mad Science. The scientist demonstrated the power of air in various ways, including shooting confetti out of an air gun. Unfortunately, he was competing with a shallow water feature under his stage, which Teddy splashed around in for about half the program. But the confetti got my little mad scientist’s attention, and from there, he was enthralled. Next week is Carousel Puppets; Teddy will be back in school, but I may take Lydia.

40 books for turning 40

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One of my goals for the year is to read 40 books in honor of turning 40. I just finished number 36, so I’ll probably finish closer to 60. But I thought I’d pause to share my top five from the first 20.

Generally, I read anything and everything. When I started this, I had a couple books in mind that I wanted to read, but all year, I’ve been keeping note of books people recommend, from podcasts, my pastor, and blog posts.

  1. I Am Pilgrim. I say I read anything, but I generally don’t read thrillers. I read so many Dean Koontz novels in my 20s that I was having nightmares. (Couple that with watching all the CSIs and my world was looking pretty dark.) But a journalist wrote that this book was the best thriller they’d ever read. That was pretty strong praise, so I decided to give it a try. And I was hooked within the first 10 pages. I effectively got nothing else accomplished for two days. Could not put it down.
  2. In Their Voices: Black Americans on Transracial Adoption. For the transracial adoption community, this should be the bible. In this book, Rhonda Roorda interviews black Americans from all walks of life about their thoughts on transracial adoption. More importantly, she asks what advice they have for white parents adopting black children. I highlighted half this book. So much valuable insight for me as an adoptive mom and such an important read for those considering adopting a child of another race. One piece of advice that struck me was to ensure we have objects in our home that represent our kids’ heritage. Mike and I have made tremendous effort to expose our kids to their cultures in various ways, but I look around our house, and nothing screams “African American” or “Kenyan”. Since reading this book, I’m working to change that.
  3. Born a Crime. Trevor Noah is hilarious. I watched a couple episodes of The Daily Show after he took over, and I was unimpressed, but since reading his book, I’ve started watching again. Once you read a memoir, you feel like you know the author, so I find the show more enjoyable because I loved his book. His stories from his childhood in South Africa are fascinating and funny, and threaded throughout are profound insights that made me pause. He alternates between those stories and South African history, and since I’m not well versed in that, I learned a great deal in addition to being entertained, which, for me, is the best kind of book.
  4. Bird by Bird. I would never have thought reading about the writing process would be enjoyable, but my favorite author (Jodi Picoult) raves about Anne Lamott, so when I saw this book in one of those neighborhood Little Libraries (I’m fortunate to have several within walking or running distance), I picked it up. I’ve been wanting to get back into a regular writing habit, and this book had so many helpful tidbits shared in such an engaging style. I read this book while sitting on the beach in Mexico (you know you’re a nerd when…) and was excited to get home to try out a few of her tips. One such piece of advice was not to be afraid of “shitty first drafts”. Just get down what’s in your head without editing or crossing out anything and come back later to revise. If you’re editing as you go, you might never get past the first line.
  5. The Nest. Reads promoted by theskimm always sound so interesting, and this one was available at the library. (My library card is well loved. A book not available at the library has to come really highly recommended for me to buy it.) All the characters are equally enjoyably annoying. There’s no one perfect one that you’re rooting for. You’re just along for the ride to see how it all turns out.

Putting together this post made me realize I’m not as discriminating as I think I am. I do not feel obligated to finish every book I start. In fact, if I’m not hooked within the first 20 or 30 pages, unless the book has been recommended to me, I move on. There are way too many awesome books out there to waste my time forcing my way through one that doesn’t have my interest. However, there’s a substantial drop in enjoyment from #5 to what might have been #6. I continued reading books so long as I didn’t hate them.  But I want to be reading books I enjoy as much as I enjoyed these five. So I might be ditching more in the future.

 

Tic tacs 

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Teddy loves tic tacs. Lydia enjoys them, too, but Teddy is actually motivated to do things he might otherwise fight doing if there’s a promise of tic tacs upon completion of said task. For example, he’s a homebody who fights every outing. But I can convince him to get his shoes on and go out the door if I assure him tic tacs will be distributed once we’re on the sidewalk. 

We started out with light green tic tacs, the spearamint flavor. Those are my favorite, and the kids love them, too. Then, for Teddy’s birthday last year, I included tic tacs in the favor bags, but only the white, peppermint flavor ones were available in the tiny size I wanted. 

Teddy did not like the peppermint flavor. (Neither do I.) The peppermint tic tacs were too spicy. The peppermint tic tacs were not motivating. But I couldn’t find the spearamint ones anywhere. 

Then Teddy discovered the orange flavor ones. And honestly, once you discover orange, you can’t really go back. He kept asking why I hadn’t bought more tic tacs, and I kept telling him he was welcome to earn the money to buy them himself. We even priced all the different options. But he was uninterested in actually doing the chore I suggested (shredding documents, which I HATE doing; we have a grocery tote bag full of documents to be shredded). Finally he asked if we could count the coins already in his Thomas the train bank and lo and behold, he had enough for a pack of tic tacs. And that’s even we suggested he get the orange ones. The container lasted two days. He managed to save two tic tacs for a second day. 

And then we were back to the tic tacs no one would eat. I had a few coupons for the citrus mix tic tacs, and I figured if he liked the orange ones so much, green and yellow and red would be fun too. Sadly, he did not like the yellow ones. He proclaimed they tasted like banana. I’m not sure how he’s tasting banana, but regardless, he *likes* banana. Whatever. But now he gets upset if I give him a yellow. And the larger container I have does not lend itself to easily choosing one’s preferred “flavor”. (They’re like sour candies: is there really different flavors, or just different colors?) And I refuse to dump a bunch in my hand for him to choose because then I get food coloring all over my palm. 

But today, it became a thing. I gave him one green and one yellow as we were leaving for the bus, and he flipped out. Screamed and refused to walk with us. We missed our bus and had to wait for the next one. Mike decided he was done with tic tacs and all the drama they created. I was tempted to agree. The problem was, I had quite a few packs of the little candies. What would I do with them? Secretly feed them to Lydia, who never fought going outside and happily accepted whatever color came out? Whatever I decided, if I suddenly turned off the tic tac spout, Teddy would be furious. And it didn’t seem worth my energy to provoke that fight. 

Then I had an idea: I’d pour all the tic tacs into a sandwich bag. Then Teddy could easily pick the ones he wanted while my hands stayed clean. It was while I was pouring the tic tacs into the bag that I noticed there was a hinge on the back of the container. I turned it around and saw the words “press here”. Well look at that: the top fully opens to reveal a mouth the width of the container. No need to pour the candies unto the bag at all. 

And it made me realize, if I can step back from my frustration at Teddy being totally, in my opinion, unreasonably angry, and try to find a solution that works for both of us, more often than not, a solution will present itself, and hopefully I can validate his frustration and teach him to solve his own problems without blowing up.