Category Archives: Musings

Six Minutes

It rained in Los Angeles last night.  Here we call that a small miracle.  We woke up to one of the most beautiful mornings in a long time.  Clear air, blue sky, birds chirping.  But you know what trumps beauty?  Getting to school on time.

The usual morning chaos ensued:  gulp down breakfast, cram spelling words, make bed, feed the dog, pack the lunch.  To be clear, it’s chaos for me, the mom.  The daughter, on the other hand, wandered outside to take in the morning.

As I rushed out the door to scoop her into the car, she stopped me in my tracks.  Sprawled out on our driveway was a trail of earth worms basking in the warm sun.

Maggie:  “Mama, it’s an emergency!”

Me:  “Sweetie, we have to get to school.”

Maggie (with grave intensity and a bit of finality):  “If I leave them here they will die, and I will not let that happen.”

Then without my assent, she bent down and proceeded to gather up the grey, squirmy creatures.  She spoke to each worm as she delicately lifted it up from the concrete and into her small hands.  “It’s going to be ok, buddy, I’ve got you.”

Having forgotten the time and school for that matter, I watched Maggie carry the wriggling handful of worms to a mound of wet dirt, where they gratefully burrowed down, missing the satisfied smile on her face.

It took maybe six minutes to save the trail of worms—six little minutes out of our chaotic morning.  They say kids have no concept of time.  Maybe kids just don’t think being on-time is nearly as important as saving the life of an earth worm.

I’m certain that kids have it right.

worms

Batteries Not Included

Technology is a magical thing for a mom.  I’m very grateful that when I have to work on a show away from home, technology can bring my daughter’s sweet face right onto my cell phone, for a virtual kiss goodnight.  I can run my online children’s boutique, ROMP, from my home office while watching my daughter play in the backyard.  I tweet, I FaceBook, I recharge, I download and I text.  You might say that technology is my friend, but when it comes to technology and my kid, I have major issues.

When I was pregnant I read every parenting book I could get my hands on and fired endless questions at my new mommy friends.  I’m a type A person, and I thought I wanted to have a type A baby who would crawl early, form sentences by 10 months and learn 3 languages (not including English).  Technology seemed to be the key that would unlock this accelerated world.  For my baby shower, I registered for a bunch of plastic, battery-operated, techie toys. Isn’t that what every post-millennium, cutting-edge, über-baby needs?  Things like their very own iPad that can operate animated yet educational games.  Talking board books and blinking, bouncy exersaucers.  Otherwise how will my kid keep up in this electronic, digital, battery-operated world?  I learned quickly that I was asking the wrong questions and reading the wrong books.

Over the last six years of my daughter, Maggie’s, life I’ve learned that my child can be über without any of that cutting-edge stuff.  And, I didn’t read it in a book, I got to know my kid and observe what makes her tick.  As it turns out, children have been hard-wired with something more amazing than a hard drive:  an imagination.

Maggie, spends much of her day as something other than a 6 year-old girl.  She’s frequently a dog, a dragonfly or an astronaut.  When you’re a kid, nothing is impossible, and everything is interesting.  The best way I’ve found to support her natural creativity and curiosity is to leave her alone.  Dare I say it:  I let her get a little bored.  If she doesn’t have me or a computerized device entertaining her she comes up with fantastic ideas on her own.  Maggie recently built a “snowman” inside our house using her old highchair and my Ugg boots. She used her jacket and hat to “keep him warm” and spoons for the eyes “to help the snowman see his wife.”  I didn’t help her do any of it.  It was her own project—her idea, her creation—and she was pretty proud of it.  Kids will naturally turn ordinary objects into playthings if you give them the space.

I decided to get rid of the flashy, tricked-out toys and instead have stocked our playroom with things like wooden blocks, a dollhouse and a play doctor’s kit.  I went through my closet to find some dress-up clothes, jewelry and hats.  Crayons and paper are always available, and Maggie’s shelves are stocked with great books (some she can read herself and some I read to her).  Doing this made it easy to clear away all the techie distractions like the television, computer, and cell-phone.  I don’t miss for a second any of the blinking, bouncy post-millennium noise.

My daughter has taught me never to underestimate the power of play.  I mean good, old-fashioned play where a kid makes a fort or digs up worms.  On the surface those activities may not look as educational as a computer math game, but they are teaching a child countless vital developmental skills.  You never know what part of your house can magically morph into a classroom.  For Maggie, her classroom is our backyard.  It’s where she becomes a scientist and formulates questions like: “Why do pill bugs roll up?”, “Do stink bugs really stink?”, or “How long does it take for an apple tree to grow?”  When she stumps me, we do occasionally grab the computer to research an answer.  Just a little sprinkle of technology every once in awhile can go a long way.

As Maggie grows and the world becomes even more technology-driven, she’ll have to learn to punch away at an iPad screen and eventually enter the computer age.  There’s time for that.  For now, my hope is that she gets to live the carefree, blissful life of a kid who’s biggest job in a day is to discover shapes in the clouds—real clouds.

This blog was posted on People.com Celebrity Babies.

 

Pals for Life

I still have my favorite stuffed animal from childhood.  He’s a raggedy, strange, little dog named Poppy.  He was (and is!) one of my most cherished possessions.  He was by my side all through childhood, and even when I went through tough times as an adult, there was Poppy, happy to listen and snuggle.  Yes, I did bring him to college with me.  Don’t act shocked, he learned a lot at Yale.

My daughter has a similar obsession with a little stuffed dog that she got at FAO Schwarz in NYC.  She is a little Dalmatian puppy named Ruff Ruff Stella Barkley (a grand name for a grand dog, n’est pas?).  Ruff Ruff is already looking a bit… er, rough, so I’m hoping she’ll survive until my kid needs her at college.  But in the event, that she get’s lost or loses her stuffing, it’s nice to know that her likeness has been forever captured in a beautiful portrait by First Friends.

It’s pretty brilliant, you just email photos of the favored stuffed animal, doll, blankie—heck, there’s even a few Matchbox cars up on the site—and Erin Chainani will create a hand-painted, framed portrait that your child can have forever.  It’s a brilliant gift for the child who really doesn’t need another toy.

Check out the site: http://firstfriendsportraits.com

Required Summer Reading

Do you remember when you were in school and had a required summer reading list for the summer?  Call me crazy, but I really miss it.  I remember sitting under a tree barefoot scaring myself half to death over my latest Nancy Drew book.  Or hiding out in my room all day, no one bothering me until dinnertime, reading The Catcher in the Rye.  It was kind of a luxury, that required summer reading list.  A mandatory escape from a hot, boring summer into other worlds full of possibilities.

My daughter’s only 4, so a required summer reading list doesn’t seem appropriate yet, but a trip to our local library makes perfect sense.  We spent about an hour searching for some fantastic books (three for the kid, one for the mom), got our library cards (my daughter’s first), and headed home to hunker down under a tree with some lemonade and read our brains out.  Fun.

Oh, my daughter chose Sophie’s Window by Holly Keller, Grumpy Bird by Jeremy Tankard, and The Inside Tree by Linda Smith and David Parkins.  I chose The Help by Kathryn Stockett. Even though my book has fewer pictures than my daughter’s selections, I’m enjoying it immensely.

Cool Rider

Ever since I found out I was going to have a little girl, I’ve been beyond excited for the moment when she would learn to ride a bicycle.  I clearly remember my dad racing behind me as I pedaled with all my might and all my courage, terrified that he would let go, yet giddy with the idea that I could do it all by myself.  It is one of the most important and poignant moments in a child’s life.

Today we bought our daughter a beautiful pink bicycle complete with streamers hanging from the handlebars and a zippy (and already overused) little bell.  I can’t precisely pinpoint the moment at which my daughter changed today, but she did.  Once she got onto her bike, she glowed with confidence and anticipation, and I saw her focus like never before.  I tried to run alongside every step of the way, but quickly, she went ahead.  Brave and eager.

I try very hard not to be overly sentimental, but today, watching my daughter, I was a bit of an emotional mess.  Helping her lean to pedal and steer a bicycle then ride on her own just smacked me in the face as what a parent’s job is all about:  teach them well, then let them go.  I found this day, and more intensely that realization, startling.  I really wasn’t ready to let her go but was relieved and grateful that she was prepared and excited to make her own way… albeit down our little street, then back again.

Bonjour, Mes Amis!

I love anything French. I love croissants, the Eiffel Tower, champagne, Degas…. And I so hoped that my daughter would aspire to be a little Francophile too. Of course, like any proper 4 year old, if I said let’s read “Le Petit Prince,” she would insist on “Clifford,” and if I suggested an éclair, she would insist on—actually she’s good with éclairs (who isn’t?).

My family is full of English-speaking Americans, and I’ve always thought my friends who had to speak another language at home were really cool. Then I went to college where I had friends who spoke 4, sometimes 5 languages. They were able to go to countless other countries and feel very much at home. Cool. So my husband and I decided that when we had a kid, she’d be introduced to a foreign language at a young age.

But it wasn’t until my daughter met Miss Sophie that she began to fall in love with all things French. Miss Sophie teaches French through the most delightful songs that she sings with her own children. You don’t have to speak the language to love listening to Sophie’s album “Bonjour,” but my guess is that you and your child will know every word by the third time though.

You can pick up “Bonjour” at http://www.cdbaby.com/cd/sophielespetits. Il est tellement fantastique!

Happy Easter… Cookies!

Growing up at my house we made my mom’s frosted sour cream cookies for every holiday; we just altered the decorations and cookie cutters depending on the occasion.

Today, my daughter and I continued the tradition by making some delicious Easter cookies. They are so good and remind me of my childhood. Oh, and don’t tell my mom, but I’ve improved the frosting recipe. Shhhhh!

Kellie’s Mom’s Sour Cream Cookies

3 ¼ cup all-purpose flour

1 tsp baking soda

½ tsp salt

½ cup butter, room temperature

1 cup sugar

1 egg

1 ½ tsp vanilla

½ cup sour cream

– Combine flour, soda and salt in a bowl. Set aside.

– In the bowl of a mixer mix the butter, sugar, and egg on a medium speed for about 2 minutes, until smooth.
– On low speed add sour cream and vanilla to butter mixture.

– Add half of the flour mixture and mix for about 1 minute. Turn off mixer and add the rest of the flour stirring with a wooden spoon (you may not need all the flour)

– Roll dough out to ¼ inch thick. Use cute cookie cutters!

– Bake at 350 degrees for 8-10 minutes (do not allow the cookies to brown)

Frosting for Kellie’s Mom’s Sour Cream Cookies

2 egg whites

2 ½ cups powdered sugar, divided

½ cup butter, room temperature

½ tsp vanilla

– In a stand mixer, beat egg whites until stiff peaks form, about 5-6 minutes; slowly add in 2 ¼ cups of the powdered sugar (make sure all sugar is incorporated before adding more); set aside and clean mixer bowl

– In clean mixer bowl, beat butter and ¼ cup powdered sugar

– Slowly add the egg white/powdered sugar mixture to the butter mixture (I find it easier to do this by hand)

– Stir in vanilla

Earth Day to a Four Year Old

When I was a kid we didn’t have an Earth Day. Although, I suppose if we had it back then, we might not need it today.

I didn’t know anything about recycling until I was in high school, and then it was just the crazy neighbors down the street who recycled soda cans to make some extra cash. In college I started using the scratchy recycled paper tissues and cleaning my dorm with vinegar and lemon. Thankfully, being earth-friendly has become a lot more user-friendly, so much so that there’s really no good reason not to do it.

Try explaining that to a four year old.

My kid loves to turn the hose on in the afternoon on a hot day and just let it run, spay the dog, wash her swingset, you know, basically burn though Southern California’s scarce and precious water. Oh, and she loves to grab as many paper towels as humanly possible to clean up the tiniest of spills. This might shock you, but saying: “Sweetie, California is experiencing a drought,” or “Honey, think of the trees,” doesn’t work like a charm.

So how do you get even the youngest kid on board with living responsibly? Not sure I know the answer, but I’ll tell you what works for me.

Teach your child to live responsibly in all aspects of her life. First and foremost that means taking care of herself: things like brushing her teeth, dressing herself, and getting herself a snack. Then teach her to take care of others: feeding the dog and cat, making birthday cards for friends. Taking care of others requires respect and compassion, and if you can treat a friend with respect and compassion, you can do the same for the world around you.

Give your child the tools they need to directly impact their little world in positive ways. Before you know it, they’ll grow out of their little world and be smack dab in the great big world. If we all raised mindful, responsible kids, think about what Earth Day could look like 30 years from now. Maybe we wouldn’t even need an Earth Day in 30 years. I doubt that could happen, but a girl can dream…

Put a Bow Tie on that Cauliflower!

I have a major obsession with pasta, probably because I can always get my kid to eat it. Even when she’s tired or grumpy, put a little pasta in front of her, and presto. Lately I’ve been experimenting with combining vegetables that my kid claims to hate with her favorite pasta shapes.

So, the following recipe is a happy marriage between cauliflower (not a fave) with adorable bow tie pasta (a fave). Who says you can’t dress up cauliflower….

Bow tie pasta with Artichoke hearts, Arugula and Cauliflower

1 small head fresh cauliflower, broken into small florets

1 14 ounce can artichoke hearts, drained and quartered

5 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, divided

salt and freshly ground pepper

½ lb. baby arugula, rinsed and spun dry

15 kalamata olives, pitted and halved

4 ounces freshly grated parmesan cheese

1 lb. bow tie pasta

– preheat oven to 400 degrees

– place artichoke hearts and cauliflower on separate baking sheets; drizzle each with 1 tablespoon olive oil, 1 teaspoon salt and ½ a teaspoon pepper

– roast artichoke hearts for 20-25 minutes

– roast cauliflower for 30 minutes

– bring a pot of salted water to a boil, add pasta and cook per package directions; once cooked, drain pasta then return to pot

– mix 3 tablespoons olive oil and the parmesan cheese with the warm pasta; add roasted artichoke hearts and cauliflower, kalamata olives and arugula; finally sprinkle in salt and pepper to taste

– serve warm or at room temperature

When You Gotta Go… Again

Ever try sneaking out of the house without saying goodbye to your kid? Just don’t want the waterworks, the tantrums, the “you said you’d never leave mes?” Yes, saying goodbye, even when you’ll be gone only 20 minutes, can be a rather unpleasant affair. I get it. I didn’t want to do it either, but just recently, now that my daughter is 4 years old, I’ve started reaping the always-say-goodbye-to-your-kid benefits. Yes, it took 4 full years.

I wrote on this topic a year ago (“When You Gotta Go…) and this is an update of sorts, more results of this little experiment called Parenthood. I was told by a very wise mom to always say goodbye. Start when your child is an infant—when they give you that blank stare—and continue on when they’re toddlers—when the stare becomes a roof-raising scream. Stay the course, keep saying your goodbyes.

A year ago my daughter was pretty good about letting me leave; her bottom lip stuck out a bit and she usually cried for 5 minutes after I left. Not bad at all, but the guilt of her sad goodbye ate away at me. Last weekend my husband and I escaped for 24 hours while Grandma stayed with the daughter. When, with our bags in hand, we told her goodbye, she threw her arms around us and told us to have fun then went right on playing.

Wow. I guess it finally sunk in: “mama always comes back.” No waterworks, no “you said you’d never leave mes,” just “have fun.” And… we did.