Posts Tagged ‘parenting’


Glamor shot.

Evening.  A bedtime scene in a house in middle Tennessee.

“Chickens are sleeping?”

“Yes, Miles,  The chickens are sleeping.  It’s nighttime.”

“I will sleep with them!  They go BOCK-K! BOCK-K!?”

“Yes, they say bock bock.  Go to sleep, Miles.”


Morning.  A child rolls over in bed.

“The chickens are awaaake?!”


Naptime.  Rubbing eyes.

“I want to feed the chickens.”

90 minutes pass with no actual nap taking place.

“Bock-k!  You’re awake! Chickens!!”


Miles and I just went on a trip to visit Nana and Pah. And the chickens.  Were so.  Thrilling.  Miles didn’t nap at all after the first day, and I think his feathered friends were to blame.  How could anyone expect him to sleep when there were live chickens just outside?  Then again, how could he sleep when there were cousins to play with?  A golf cart to drive?  Cows to moo at?  Let’s just say that a good time was had by all.


Evan, Miles, Cash.



Rollin' with Pah.



"I want to feed them!"



Miles and moos.





Where's the stereo on this thing?


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I hope this email finds you well.  I apologize most sincerely for my rudeness in not responding earlier; my mothers are quite adamant about restricting my use of the computer.  “Miles, don’t touch that!” they chide, thinking I simply want to press the buttons and make a disaster of their external hard drive.  How can they fail to understand that I need to keep up on my correspondence?  They ramble about “screen time” and how it is bad for my brain development, yet I think we both know that my brain is developing appropriately.  Perhaps if you, a physician, write to them and ask them to relent, they might reconsider their cruel rationing of the iPhone, the Internet, and Sesame Street. 

But on to other matters.  You asked about the new neighbor downstairs.  I have not yet had an opportunity to make her full acquaintance, but I confess to a deepening affection for her bicycle.  She parks her bicycle on the second-floor landing, and each time my mothers and I come and go I examine it with interest, naming its parts aloud. 

(I’m talking now, by the way.   Sometimes I speak in sentences, as tonight when I was holding my stuffed monkey up to see the moon outside my bedroom window.  “Monkey, see moon,” I instructed it.  But I digress.  My attention span has yet to mature.)

When I pass the pink and lavender bicycle — yes, I know my colors now too — I often say, “Handlebars!  Seat!  Pedals!”  In case my mothers should think I believe the bicycle is mine, I also clarify, “Heather’s bike.”  Sometimes, I admit, I get confused and knock on Heather’s door, asking for you and Min.

Although the bicycle is charming, I am more than ready for you to return.  Please move back in downstairs at once.  I understand that this will be detrimental to your career and that your family might object to your moving so far away from them.  Yet, as I am sure you know, 2-year-olds are famously egocentric.  Everything is about me, of course, and I prefer that you come back. 

If you must know my reasons, they are simple: you played with me so very well, you were kind to my mothers, you saved Luna’s life, and you always pretended not to be bothered by the sound of me throwing wooden toys on the floor at 6 a.m.   Additionally, any place without subways cannot be a good place.  As I have matured, my interest in transportation has grown exponentially (see above discussion of bicycle), and I shudder to think that anyone for whom I care would be deprived of decent public transit.

It sounds as though the short mother is almost done running my bath.  I must close this letter quickly before she realizes I am not in fact cooking imaginary omelets in my play kitchen.  I regret deceiving her, yet I could not allow another day to pass without my responding to your kind inquiries.  I look forward to seeing you and Min very soon as you move your things back in to the apartment.  Please hurry — my birthday is next week, and if you ask very politely my mothers will probably let you take me to the zoo.  They always liked you. 



P.S. If I need to communicate with you again, I will do so through the blog.  My mothers have cut off service to my cell phone.

P.S. #2 Attached, please find a recent photo of me.    I hope Min will enjoy it.

On Sept. 17, David wrote:

Dear Miles, 

Probably by now you are wondering where we have gone. Don’t worry, we are still around just a little farther away, in a place far away known as Arizona. It’s a strange place unlike the comforts of our walk-up in Brooklyn. People here have golden blonde hair and bronze colored skin. They also drive in big pick-up trucks, and can you believe that they don’t know what a subway is?! Arizona is great though. There are surprising a lot of restaurants to try here, which keeps us busy during the weekends.
Anyways, we very much miss New York, especially walking around Park Slope. But most of all we miss you and your family, as well as Violet and hers. We have been keeping up on your blog. Min absolutely loves it, especially the candid pictures of you. Anyways, I know you still have your cellphone, so call me anytime you like. Tell Melissa and Robin we said hello and that we miss them too. Hoping that the new tenant below is friendly.  

My, what big teeth I have.

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Sometimes, when Miles is flipping out  — because I won’t let him stop to inspect a pebble covered in dog pee, or because I want to put the stroller away and go upstairs, or because the fridge magnets won’t stick to his kneecaps — I try to imagine what it must feel like to never be in charge and to be at the mercy of rules which seem needlessly arbitrary.

I mean, here he is, realizing he is a separate living being with volition.  And here we are, controlling his every move.  Miles, it’s time to put the train away and eat dinner.  Miles, it’s time to get out of the high chair and onto the potty.  Miles, it’s time to get off the potty and into the bath.  Miles, it’s time to get out of the bath and… you get the idea.  

Do not interrupt. I'm learning here!

He’s trying to learn things, like what fridge magnets will stick to, or how many books he can read on the potty (without peeing, of course!) before his butt falls asleep.  He wants to determine just how long it takes to go down three flights of stairs on one’s bottom, pausing every three of four steps to hum a song or point at a smoke detector.  This is important learning, of course!  And yes, the stairwell experiment must be repeated every time we leave or enter our apartment building.  For statistical accuracy!

"Ninety-nine bottles of beer on the wall..."

And meanwhile we are trying to make life go.  We’re feeding him, washing him, providing time and space for sleep.  I spend all day coercing him — while he obstructs all forward progress.  I coerce, and he obstructs.  I’ve started calling him my little obstructionist.  (I don’t want to know what he calls me.)

So I understand why sometimes, he has to take a stand and do something himself, on his own time.  And sometimes, whenever I can dig deep and find the patience, I let him.  Sometimes that means sitting in the stairwell for twenty minutes until I feel myself seething with a dull, ridiculous rage. 

Other times, it means standing back at a respectful distance and letting him work something out. 

Can he do it?

The eyes say, "Stay back!"

He did it!

Piece of cake.

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This is my latest nerdy obsession: blocks made of milk cartons.


I know, I know, you’re thinking that I have way too much time on my hands, and who bothers to make blocks out of milk cartons when you can just BUY blocks, for gosh sakes.  Well, first of all, never ever accuse me of having free time.  And second, I would like to defend these blocks by saying they’re shockingly easy, practically free, and fun to play with.   They make use of empty milk cartons, which most families have in abundance, and every time I make one I feel like a creative genius.  Five minutes of measuring, cutting and taping is absolutely worth the pleasure these blocks bring.

I came across the idea when I was trying to find affordable toys and fun activities for the cooperative preschool that Miles started yesterday.  So I turned to this book — a resource that every parent of a toddler should own.


In case you can’t read that tattered cover, it’s The Toddler’s Busy Book, by Trish Kuffner.  She also has a busy book for preschoolers, if your child is a bit older.  A neighbor gave this book to me, and it is amazing.  Some of the ideas are a wee bit obvious, like “Let your child pull every kleenex out of the box!”   (We’ve got that covered, Ms. Kuffner.)

Yet sometimes we need someone to remind us of opportunities for creative play that are right beneath our noses.  I wanted to slap my own forehead when I read her entry on draping a bed sheet over a table.  I played under many a makeshift tent in my childhood, but I had yet to introduce Miles to the pleasures of the hide-away.   Now we have a little celebration every time we change the sheets, and I have this book to thank. 

But back to the blocks.  I was trying to convince you to join the milk-block party, but I can see you’re still skeptical.  Do these blocks even stack, you ask?  Why yes, yes they do.


I was considering posting a detailed demo of how to make them, but I decided against it for two reasons.  One, these are so easy you could probably figure it out without a demo.  There’s not exactly a wrong way to make blocks out of milk cartons.  Two, it turns out that I didn’t even follow her directions properly.  She uses two milk cartons per block, but I use only one.  (I cut one side longer and fold it over to make the sixth side.)  Here’s a peek at her simple directions, though, in case you want them.  She even suggests covering them with wrapping paper or photos.  I’m not that fancy.


  Even the tops of the milk cartons are useful.  I would have tossed them all in the recycling bin, but Miles pointed out that they make lovely houses.  And train stations.  And barns.

Now, pardon me, I have three blocks-to-be waiting in my sink.

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I would like to state for the record that some things about being (almost) 2 are not so terrible.

Around 2 years old, children develop symbolic play.  That’s fancy child-development speak for, like, pretending and stuff.  They personify their stuffed animals and use toys to act out little scenes.  For reasons I don’t fully understand, this is closely tied to the development of language.   Which means that Miles is able to tell us a little of what he’s imagining, and we get a peek into his inner life.

There’s lots of hugging and kissing in Miles’ inner life.  His toy animals hug and kiss each other ardently, with little regard for preserving the purity of species.  You’ve heard of the lion lying down with the lamb?  Well, in our house the chameleon lies down with the monkey, and the giraffe lies down with the bear.  The animals are quite promiscuous, actually.  The animals also have conversations.  The stuffed dogs will not shut up. (“Ruf!” “Ruff Ruff!” “Ruff… ruff.”) 

There’s lots of cooking and eating in Miles’ inner life.  In his play kitchen, he unloads groceries, washes his hands, munches on grapes, and drinks pretend coffee. 

Other rituals confuse me a little.  Cows take naps inside houses made out of cut-up milk cartons and then wake up to endlessly climb invisible stairs.  (“Upstairs!  Downstairs!”) Huh???

And yesterday, this happened.

"Doggy read. Miles read. Book."

He put his little stuffed dog in his lap, nestling it in, the way he nestles into my lap when we read before naptime.  Then, patiently, struggling with the pages and smushing the dog somewhat dreadfully, he “read” the dog  several books, pointing out significant objects on each page.

"Truck. Fire truck."

Did I die from the cuteness?  Yes.  Yes I did.

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Guess what I did?


He pooped in the potty!  He pooped in the potty!  Stop the presses: he pooped in the potty!

Think this is a weird thing to get excited about?  Then you have obviously never raised a toddler.  This is a situation of location, location, location.  A fresh steaming pile of excremement smeared around in a diaper? Quotidian.  A fresh, steaming pile of excremement in a gleaming, never-used Baby Bjorn potty?   Victory!

Don’t get me wrong, we’re not hardcore potty trainers over here.  It’s not like we marked a date on a calendar and said, “Miles must be potty trained by this date!”  (Nor do I think one poop in the potty means we’re bidding diapers adieu.)  We’re also not doing the “boot camp” style of potty training in which you teach a kid in three days by abruptly going diaper-free.  We’re kind of taking the approach that he’ll learn to use the potty the way he learned to use a spoon — gradually, through imitation, and with often messy results.  So we show him how to sit on the potty seat and give him lots of practice sitting on it while we read him books.  And that is about the extent of our potty training.

He has peed in the potty exactly twice.  The first time, when the urine started to flow,  he looked frightened, jumped up, and tried to hold the pee in with his hand.  The second time he sat down, grunted, peed, and acted like it was no big deal.  But the first time was over a month ago, and we haven’t been very focused on the potty lately with all of our travel.

So we weren’t expecting much this morning when Miles wandered over to his potty, sat on it still wearing his diaper, and said conversationally, “Miles potty!”

I took his diaper off just in case, and Robin sat down to read him a book.  After awhile, Miles became completely engrossed in the book — a favorite of his, Richard Scarry’s “Cars and Trucks and Things That Go” — and seemed to forget his purpose.

“Okay Miles, go ahead and poop,” Robin said.

So he grunted and pooped.

And we both lost our minds with delight.

We’d been intending to be low-key about any potty victories in order not to put pressure on him, but we couldn’t help ourselves.    Robin cheered, and I took photos of the poop and high-fived him.  I was just so proud — and certainly not of us.  We didn’t do anything.  But Miles did something amazing.  He wanted to poop on the potty, and he did it.  Without anyone forcing or bribing or stickering or cajoling* — with his parents basically being lazy about it, in fact — he decided he was ready and stepped up to the potty.

I mean, come on, what’s not to get excited about?  

See? There it is.

*I am not promising we will never bribe or sticker or cajole, for the record.

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Country Time

For Robin’s birthday, we visited her family in Georgia.  She comes from a small town — and when I say small, I don’t mean a town with a McDonald’s but no Taco Bell.  I don’t mean a town where the mall has a lousy selection and a cheesy fountain. 

I mean a town without a gas station.  A town of fewer than 300 residents.  A town where the only street light is the blinking caution light you roll through as you pass the abandoned mill.  A town where there is one restaurant, named simply, “The Chicken Place,” that until last year was housed in a defunct gas station with sagging old-time pumps.  In this town, Robin’s father was at various points both the mayor and the fire chief, and neither of those was his full-time job. 

It was the perfect place for some R&R in the midst of a summer of nonstop travel.  We lolled in the pool, walked in the woods, played with kids and, of course, ate and ate and ate.  Miles disappeared into the play room at Nana and PaPa’s house for long stretches of time with his cousins.  I curled up on the couch with a book for most of a day.  At Aunt Martha Ann and Uncle Bill’s house (clear across town, about a quarter of a mile away), we feasted on turkey, cornbread muffins, black-eyed peas, butter beans, macaroni and cheese, cornbread dressing, garden-fresh sliced tomatoes, creamed corn,  sweet tea and caramel cake.  Miles climbed tractors, a boat and a handful of lawn mowers.

So, basically, it was exactly like daily life in Brooklyn.  (Not.)

Into the woods.


"Miles have it?"


Nana's kitchen.


Turn signal.


Photo by Taylor Davidson.





Homeward bound.

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