Operation Decapitation

Before Hanukkah started, I showed Rose a big pile of wrapped presents in my room to get her excited for the coming week. Her reaction?

“Where’s my bunk bed?”

For months, Rose has been complaining about her toddler bed. Every night when she went to bed, she’d say “I’m just going to go POP! And Boing! And I’ll fly out of the bed and break it! I don’t fit!”

She was right. She didn’t fit in that bed anymore. I mean, she had a couple inches before the bed would actually explode, but it was definitely time for her to upgrade to a twin bed. We kept putting it off because even when you get the cheapest set of bunk beds ever, it’s an expensive investment. The beds require two special 6 inch thick mattresses in addition to the cost of the frame (and extra sheets and matching comforters).

We finally ordered the bunk beds without a discount on Black Friday and assembled them late into the night while the girls slept in OUR bed. We didn’t finish assembly until the next day and it wasn’t until everything was set up and perfect when we realized we had a problem.

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Do you see the fan blades? I never got a proper picture of it, but the way the bed was set up the blades lined up perfectly to decapitate a kid if the kid was on the ladder on a hot day.

Brilliant set up, really.

Needless to say, we had to move the bed to the other side of the room in an attempt to prevent our children from dying.
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There. Now you can climb the ladder without being decapitated. It’s the little things, really.

But since children are children, even the new arrangement wasn’t working great. I could just imagine someone clowning around at a weird angle on the top bunk and getting the top of their head lopped off by the fan.
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The fan’s cord broke at the end of summer and we hadn’t replaced it yet. You couldn’t turn on the fan without standing on a chair and reaching inside the light cover, so despite the somewhat awkward placement, we briefly thought we were ok.

But of course, children are children and our kids couldn’t stop playing with the blades of the fan when they were sitting on the top bunk. We could picture some kid someday thinking it would be fun to grab onto one of those blades and swing around the room on it and kill themselves in the process. We had to resort to more extreme measures. This is what our once pretty white ceiling fan looks like now.
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Gorgeous, right?

Buying an expensive bunk bed apparently means you also should probably invest in a new light fixture.

It’s going to be hot in their room in the summer even after we get clip on fans for their beds, but at least the kids can’t decapitate themselves anymore!

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Two Stories

The girls asked me to tell true stories to them today and I wasn’t feeling very creative, so I told them about the things that were bothering me. Here are the two stories of the day.

Story #1: Once upon a time, a mommy ordered a package from Zulily. For more than a week, Zulily said they were “preparing to ship” the package, which is the final stage in Zulily holding your order hostage. The mommy doesn’t understand why Zulily takes so long to ship, but she tries to be patient. Then Zulily’s status on her order went two steps backwards to just “processing.” The mommy freaked out worrying that the package would not be here in time for Christmas, so she emailed Zulily to find out WHY? WHY?!

Magically, within two hours, she got an email from Zulily that her package had been shipped. When she tracked the package, she discovered that it had actually been shipped several days ago and Zulily sucks at updating order statuses. The package was now only 20 minutes away from her house at a UPS facility in the Toledo area. It was magical! She thought perhaps the package might even appear on her doorstep that very day since the website said the package was on a truck RIGHT THEN. But then, for some bizarre reason, UPS sent the package almost 2 hours away to a facility near Cleveland. Why, UPS, why?

Allegedly the package would be there the next day, but why would UPS send the package so far away when it was so close to her house? The mommy was sure there was some reasonable explanation involving efficiency and main shipping facilities, and yet she sees UPS come to her neighborhood multiple times a day, sometimes more than once to the same house. So UPS just doesn’t make any sense sometimes, now does it? The mommy was very confused and also isn’t sure if she really can wait until Christmas to give the present that is inside the package, especially when you consider the fact that her children are Jewish.

Story #2: Once upon a time there was a mommy who went to the grocery store earlier today to get some syrup so she and her little girls could make pumpkin muffins. When she and the little girls took out the ingredients for baking, they discovered they were out of sugar. Now the mommy remembered running out of sugar, but also remembered seeing another bag of sugar up in the cabinet. This was why she didn’t buy more sugar the last two times she was at the grocery store. But when she and the little girls got what she thought was a bag of sugar out from the cabinet, they discovered it wasn’t a bag of sugar. It was a bag of all-purpose flour.

And that’s why the mommy and the little girls made microwave s’mores instead of pumpkin muffins.

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“The Day You’ve Been Waiting For!”

“Good morning, school district! It’s the day you’ve been waiting for! We finally have a 2-hour delay for winter weather!” said our superintendent said during the robocall that woke me up at 6 am.

The day I’ve been waiting for? Really? Maybe it’s the day my kid has been waiting for, but let me tell you, delays only cause scheduling conflicts for the parents. I would bet that 90% of the parents DON’T want a delay.

Also, “waiting for?” WHAT “waiting for?” We’ve already had seven fog delays! SEVEN! What waiting? I mean, I guess it’s been a couple months since we had a delay, but do you know how many months I went without a 2-hour delay at my school district growing up? Sixty. Easily. That’s probably an underestimate, actually.

To top that off, this is what my street looked like this morning.
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Wow. Treacherous.

There might be some slick spots on the road, but it’s almost nothing. Trust me. Not school delay worthy. JUST DRIVE MORE SLOWLY.

I think my superintendent might be deranged.

EDIT: And now school has been completely cancelled for the day. Since Lily is in half-day kindergarten, I actually prefer this to the insane schedule that is 2-hour delayed half day kindergarten plus another kid in morning preschool.

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A Google Emotional Roller Coaster

Today we were watching a well-known episode of “Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood” in which Mr. Rogers talks to a quadriplegic little boy named Jeffrey Erlanger.

While we were watching it, my husband said he wondered what had happened to Jeffrey, which led me to a quick google search where I found this beautiful clip of Rogers with Erlanger nearly 20 years later.

Rogers was being inducted into the TV Hall of Fame and Erlanger came to surprise him. Watching how excited Mr. Rogers was to see Erlanger made me teary-eyed. And listening to Mr. Rogers speak is inspirational. I wish I had an ounce of the kindness that seems to ooze out of every word Mr. Rogers says.

Both of these clips came up when I googled “Handicapped boy on Mr. Rogers.” With the second clip, I learned Jeffrey Erlanger’s full name, which brought me to the sad discovery that Erlanger died 6 years ago. He was only 36 at the time, but had already taken on some leadership roles in his community, advocating for other handicapped people.

And that’s how Google gave me an emotional roller coaster today. You google some obscure guest star who was on “Mister Rogers” 30+ years ago and you almost end up crying.

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Who’s the Tooth Fairy?

My husband apparently still believes in The Tooth Fairy.

Earlier today Lily lost her first tooth. We’ve been aware of it being loose for about a week. It seemed like she should have been able to pull it out the first day she noticed it, but she was a little slow in the process and it finally popped out today.
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She was very excited, obviously. We all were!

After she went to bed, The Tooth Fairy, otherwise known as me, wrote her a special note about her first lost tooth and slipped it with a dollar into her special tooth holder owl (pictured above) after retrieving her baby tooth.

When I came back downstairs, I made my husband look at how tiny the tooth was and asked him what I should do with it. Should I just throw it out, or am I supposed to keep the thing?

“Aren’t you supposed to put it under her pillow so The Tooth Fairy can come?” he asked.

I stared at him for a minute. “Where do you think I just got this tooth?”

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I hate to break it to you, GoldieBlox, but you are pink

All across my facebook friends list, people have been raving about the new GoldieBlox commercial. “Look! FINALLY a toy designed to encourage girls to be good at math and engineering!” they say. “Put these girls in Harvard.”

And GoldieBlox does look pretty cool, assuming its technical aspects actually work. Girls go through a storybook and learn how to build some sort of spinning machine with a (flimsy-looking pink) ribbon. I have my doubts about this because the game/toy itself looks a bit Mouse Trap-ish in design and the game Mouse Trap never actually worked.

Assuming it DOES work, yes, it’s a cool engineering toy and it’s very nice that it’s “for girls.” As the mother of three girls, one of which shows very strong engineering tendencies, I’m glad for any toy that encourages girls to develop their engineering skills.

But what I can’t stand about this toy is how it’s developed this huge social media following based on its contradictory marketing claims and everyone is following it blindly saying “YAY! Finally a building toy that’s not pink!” Here’s the first commercial that came out for this toy last year.

Oh no! All the toys are pink! They turned Legos pink for girls and that’s condescending! Look! I finally made a toy that’s not about princesses! It just focuses on engineering!

And… IT’S PINK! And not just pink! It tells a story about a ribbon, because girls like ribbons! And fairy tale allusions!

You can’t bash other companies for making building toys pink for girls when your toy is PINK. It’s such a contradiction. “We’re better than pink Legos! We’d never condescend to girls, but we’re using the exact color we’re bashing!”

I mean, WHAT?

Additionally, it complains about stereotyping women out of becoming engineers, yet uses stereotypes that girls like reading and boys like building to promote itself. The creator claims she can get girls to build if they read a book. Guess what? That’s a stereotype. My girls spend huge amounts of time building over here WITHOUT books. (They also spend a lot of time reading, but that’s not the point.)

And now the commercial with the three girls is going around with nothing but praise from everyone. No one is questioning any part of this toy. Now I admit, what the girls do in the commercial is pretty cool, but again we have some contradictions.

The newer commercial bashes princesses and dolls, but the name of the toy itself is based on the fairy tale Goldie Locks. It seems contradictory to bash princesses when your toy name is based on a fairy tale (about a girl who steals things from forest animals).

And check out this lyric:
“You like to buy us pink toys
And everything else is for boys”

And again the pink ribbon. You don’t get to bash other toys for being pink when your toy is pink! I really hate this smear campaign against other toys. Why can’t we say “we need to encourage our girls to build so they might become engineers” without saying that all these other toys promoting pretend play and other things many children (not just girls) really do like are terrible things? Is there really so little interest in your toy that you have to resort to name-calling with the other toys? I’m not saying girl toys are perfect, but clearly you can sell building toys to girls without shaming parents for buying their kids princess toys. Lego Friends hasn’t employed any of this crap and their sales seem to be going very well. And if you point out the alleged anti-feminist stuff with Lego Friends, I again point to GoldieBlox including a pink ribbon. Doesn’t work.

Also, the song for the commercial is based on Beastie Boys’ “Girls,” which is a really sexist anthem. Consider the original lyrics:
“Girls – to do the dishes
Girls – to clean up my room
Girls – to do the laundry
Girls – and in the bathroom
Girls, that’s all I really want is girls
Two at a time I want girls
With new wave hairdos I want girls
I ought to whip out my girls, girls, girls, girls, girls!”

(I have to credit my cousin-in-law Greg for pointing that out.) Now I love Beastie Boys, but this is the song we’re using to promote a toy that’s allegedly going to empower girls?

GoldieBlox may very well be a great toy. I might even buy it for my kids. But let’s not pretend like these commercials are anything more than they are: Commercials. This is not the key to a life of engineering, it’s a toy. A PINK toy that’s pretending like it hates pink toys. Come on.

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Shoe Pile

So this just happened:

The big girls were giggling away doing something, I wasn’t sure what, when the baby woke up. On the way upstairs, I noticed our coat/shoe closet was wide open and the shoe rack was askew. I tried to shut it, but it just wasn’t lined up right. The rack was now over the inside doorknob.

“Was one of you messing with the shoe rack? What happened here?” I said.

“No. We weren’t doing anything!” someone said.

I realigned the (empty, now that I think about it) shoe rack and firmly shut the closet door. When I came back downstairs, the shoe closet was open again.

“Ok, someone MUST have messed with the shoe closet. Why?!” I asked.

“We didn’t do it!” said Lily.

“Here’s a boot, Mommy!” said Rose, handing me a boot from 2 seasons ago.

“Why do you have a boot?” I said. “What are you doing with it?”

“Just playing!”

I rounded the corner to the living room, the room I had just been in, and the floor was completely carpeted with EVERY SHOE IN THE HOUSE. It was about a foot thick and a pile so large that it was breathtaking. I failed at blogger here because I didn’t think to take a picture of it.

“OH MY GOD. Where did all these shoes come from? Did you put them here while I was still in here? How did I not notice this when I went to get the baby? How did this happen?!” I gasped.

“No, we just put them here while you were gone. They were still in the hamper when you left.”

“But why were they in the hamper?!”

“We’re just playing ‘Shoe Pile,’” said Rose.

Of course, the time-honored traditional game of “Shoe Pile.” I should have known.

“That’s way too many shoes! You have to put them back! This is freaking me out!”

Rose to Lily, “We have to put the shoes back. It’s freaking Mommy out.”

It really was. It was SO MANY SHOES. It gave me a headache to even think about managing that mess myself. WHY? WHY? Why did they put ALL of our shoes in a pile? It was five people worth of multiseasonal shoes as well as outgrown sizes waiting for two kids to grow into them. It was an ungodly amount of shoes.

They got right to it, and for that I’m relieved because getting people to clean around here is like pulling teeth.

The whole time they cleaned, Rose was singing, “Who let the shoes out? Who? Who? Who? Who? Who let the shoes out?” to the tune of “Who Let the Dogs Out” by Baha Men.

When they finished, it occurred to me I hadn’t given them good instructions.

“Did you pair them up?”

“What’s ‘pair’?”

“Here’s a new game for you: It’s called Sort the Shoes. Put each shoe with the shoe it matches.”

“Ugh. Do we really have to?”

Yes. Yes, you really do.

They are still playing that “game” right now. May the game of “Shoe Pile” forever rest in peace.

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Reading Comprehension

For weeks, Lily’s teacher has been pushing for me to ask Lily more reading comprehension questions. The teacher claims that while Lily is able to read very fluently for her age, Lily needs work on her reading comprehension. She claims that when she tested Lily’s reading, Lily bombed the reading comprehension questions.

I’ve been confused about this for a while because whenever I ask Lily questions about what we read, she’s able to retell most of the story. Maybe I am asking the wrong questions?

Needless to say, I was curious as to what an official kindergarten reading comprehension question would be. Today was the first time Lily brought home official reading comprehension questions from school, and I’m even more baffled by reading comprehension than ever before. The questions were almost unanswerable for me, a 34 year old English major who went on to get an MA in journalism. I should be able to answer kindergarten reading comprehension questions without much thought, right?

In an effort not to break copyright laws, I will rephrase the book right here for you. Don’t worry, it’s shorter than everything I’ve already written.

    He Walks

He walks to the bus.
He walks to the train.
He walks to the boat.
He walks to the plane.
He walks to the school.
He walks to the store.
He walks home.

It was accompanied by illustrations of a boy walking all of these places.

If you were to ask me what this book was about, I’d say it was about a boy who walked a bunch of places and you’d probably agree that I had grasped the concept of the book, right? I mean, there was no plot to remember. There were no important details. It was just a boy walking places.

But here are the reading comprehension questions for this book:
1) What happened at the beginning?
2) What happened in the middle?
3) What happened at the end?

Apparently it’s CRUCIAL to remember the order of the places this guy walked? Was she supposed to memorize the list in order? I honestly couldn’t remember the order myself. He walked some places, none interesting.

Lily told me one place he walked for each question and I hope that was good enough, but was she just supposed to rewrite the entire book? Is it really important to remember that he went to the train before he went to the boat if nothing happened either place?

Then comes the most baffling reading comprehension question of the bunch.

4) Where did this story take place? (setting)

Where did this story take place?! The boy was in a different location in every single picture. No permanent location is indicated in the text. He’s going from place to place. Is this a trick question? I don’t understand!

Lily and I thought about this question for a long time and I honestly don’t know what the correct answer is. We eventually decided the answer was “He was walking outside.” It took all my effort not to end that sentence with a question mark (I was supposed to write down what she said.).

If this was the sort of sample Lily was given for her reading comprehension screening at school, no wonder she bombed the thing.

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Build-A-Bear Pony Hanukkah Conundrum

Hanukkah falls ridiculously early this year. It starts the night before Thanksgiving. So, two days before most people even start their holiday shopping, I’m supposed to be completely done with mine. There’s no Black Friday for Jews’ Hanukkah this year– although I suppose you could shop for the remaining 5 days, I prefer to be more prepared than that. I like to have all my gifts wrapped, labeled and ready to go on the first night of Hanukkah.

One particular Black Friday event has thrown a wrench in my gift-giving plans. The big girls are obsessed with My Little Ponies, and Build-A-Bear recently released a line of My Little Pony plushes, which they are slowly putting out on the market one pony at a time. The big girls already got Rainbow Dash and Twilight Sparkle for the birthdays.

Pinkie Pie sold out at Build-A-Bear almost immediately from what I understand, and Lily was sad to learn that she would never have at home access to ALL the Build-A-Bear My Little Ponies. I hadn’t planned on getting her ALL of them because they are $$$$$, but apparently that was in her big plan. I was actually a little glad when I found out Pinkie Pie was sold out because it meant the set could never be complete and I wouldn’t have to secure all six ponies.

Well, that plan got destroyed. Build-A-Bear rereleased Pinkie Pie, but with a catch. You couldn’t make her in the store until Black Friday. I refuse to go to the mall on or around Black Friday. I hate crowds! Pinkie Pie was available online earlier, though, and I ordered her and received her shortly thereafter.

Now I was faced with the very annoying reality that I only had ONE pony to give to two (or three) girls at Hanukkah, but I decided they could share it until…

Build-A-Bear announced they were releasing Fluttershy. Great! Now I have a pony for each girl for Hanukkah. But wait. Wait!

Fluttershy isn’t available until Black Friday. You can not preorder her on the website. The only way I can get Fluttershy in time for Hanukkah if you consider shipping times is if I go to Build-A-Bear on or after Black Friday.

Oh yay.

I guess we’re stuck doing that, but it creates a whole new equal sister treatment problem. We already have one pre-stuffed pony. Who gets the unstuffed pony? Are we going to fight over who gets to make Fluttershy? Is it wrong to give one sister a stuffed pony and then take the other one to go make one herself?

I mean, what to do, right? I suppose I could go out to the mall (45 minutes away) by myself mid-Hanukkah to stuff Fluttershy by myself, but that’s time-consuming and also seems unfair. Or maybe I could buy a pre-stuffed one in the store? Or maybe the girls will be ok with sharing stuffing responsibilities? Or?

I also absolutely can’t make my mom the year-end photobook I usually make her for Hanukkah because I’d have to finish, oh, right now, and that’s seriously not close enough to year end.

You see what this early Hanukkah does to people? Or how Black Friday totally neglects Jewish people this year? I want Fluttershy right now and I need her for Jewish children, but nope. I can’t get her.

Thanks a lot, Build-A-Bear, Black Friday and the Jewish lunar calendar. Thanks a lot.

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How to Tell You Married A Smart Kid

This morning at the bus stop two nine year olds were telling me their spelling words were easy this week.

“One of the words is ‘girlfriend!’ Isn’t that weird?” said one of the girls.

“Well, actually that’s kind of hard for some of the kids. I know ‘girl’ and ‘friend’ can be hard words to spell when you are just starting out,” I said. “‘Girl’ is really confusing at first.”

“I can spell ‘girl’!” said a 7 year old. “Is it ‘G’… huh. Um… ‘G-R-I-L?’”

“That’s really close, but it’s ‘G-I-R-L.’ See how that’s confusing?” I said.

When I came into the house I told my husband about the conversation and he immediately said “Why would ‘girl’ be hard?! It’s easy!”

“Well, when you are a kid, ‘girl’ is really confusing because when you sound it out it sounds like the ‘R’ comes earlier than it does. It’s easy to mix up where to put that ‘R.’”

“I never had that problem!” said my husband. “Are these kids just stupid? It sounds like a vowel comes before the ‘R!’”

“It’s a really common early spelling mistake. And it’s also easy to flip around the ‘I’ and ‘E’ in ‘friend.’” I said.

Because, really, it is. I remember being confused by those very words. I remember my friends (or “freinds”) screwing up these words over and over again long past when we had them on a spelling test. Also, when you sound it out “friends” sounds like “frends.”

“I just can’t imagine spelling that wrong! Why? Why would that be hard?” said my husband.

“For some kids, those words are really tricky!” I insisted.

“No wonder I won all those spelling bees,” said my husband.

Indeed.

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