Thursday, July 30, 2009

What Not To Wear, Junior Edition

I've posted before about how proud I am that Erika is following in my footsteps, and developing a love of so many of my own favorite activities, including writing, reading, tennis and running. What I should also mention is that she has adopted my style of dress - if track pants, t-shirts and hoodies can properly be called a "style."

At first, I was thrilled to see Erika reject so many of the girly items she cherished as a toddler, when she literally wore dress-up clothes whenever she was in the house - out of the house, she would wear a dress, tights, and patent-leather Mary Janes. I could never understand where she had picked up such stereotypical inclinations in the first place - certainly I, a devout feminist, had never taught her that girls like pink, and skirts, and hair ribbons. But she had absorbed those cultural cliches anyway.

And part of me is still thrilled. I love that she has never asked me for Ugg boots, or Juicy jeans, or any of the trendy items that Main Line girls notoriously bug their parents for. But sometimes, when I watch Erika go off to school in her track pants, t-shirt and hoodie, I wonder if I've done her a disservice by being such a slob. I wonder if other girls will tease or ostracize her - if not now, maybe later, in middle or high school. Surely, there's a happy medium I could have modeled for her, somewhere between track pants and Juicy jeans.

But I've decided not to worry too much about it. Soon enough, I know my influence will begin to wane, and Erika will look to her friends for guidance in all things, including fashion. My strategy at this point is to take advantage of her Mommy-worship while it lasts, and nudge her so far down the right track that her friends will have a tough time derailing her.

Besides, if my biggest flaw as a mom is raising candidates for What Not To Wear, Junior Edition, then I think I'll be quite satisfied with my performance.

Friday, July 24, 2009

My Pet Shrimp

I've had virtually every kind of pet imaginable, from a pedigree Guinea pig, to Siberian Dwarf hamsters, to run-of-the-mill gerbils, to dogs, cats, fish - you name it. I even had birds for one brief moment, when our nanny, Marina, surprised Erika one Hannukah a couple of years back with a pair of parakeets - which, we decided, would be happiest living in Marina's apartment.

But I can't remember ever being as enamored of any of those pets as I am with my three pet shrimp.

The shrimp - named, by Erika, Sunny, Bailey and Teeney, live in an eco-sphere I bought last week at the Smithsonian's Museum of Natural History when Erika, Hilary and I spent a few days in Washington last week. The eco-sphere is a completely sealed glass pod containing the shrimp, algae, gravel, bacteria, and a decorative branch, and it is entirely self-sustaining: the shrimp release carbon dioxide when they breathe, and the algae use the CO2 and light to make oxygen.

Here's the link, if you want to check it out.

I've been a huge animal lover my whole life - I still like animals, maybe not as much as I did when I was fourteen and spent my Saturdays cleaning dog and cat crap at the animal shelter FOR FREE, but enough to agree to add a new puppy and a new kitten to our household, both of whom will be arriving this fall (more on that craziness in another post). But I cannot get over the concept of the absolutely, totally maintenance-free pet. It's the plant I can't kill, the animal I can't neglect. It's all pleasure, no work - which, after a lifetime of hearing about how there's no such thing as a free lunch, and how I can't have my cake and eat it too, feels like as big an epiphany as Newton must have felt when the apple conked him on the head.

So, I highly recommend the shrimp to those parents whose children are constantly pestering them for pets the parents have no intention of ever procuring. They may not be as cuddly as, say, a dog, but they have many other advantages. Besides, they might have babies! Although the shrimp are specifically chosen for their slow and irregular reproduction (to avoid over-populating the pod), we can always hope. What's a good name for a baby shrimp?

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Happy Birthday, Aaron and Gretchen!

If it seems as if every other post of late has commemorated another birthday, it's not your imagination. Andy and I and all five of our kids celebrate birthdays between January and June (as do Ronan and Molly). By the time the twins' birthday rolls around on June 30, everyone is suffering so much birthday fatigue Aaron and Gretchen are lucky to get a dingdong with two candles in it.

I kid, I kid (in the immortal words of Triumph, the Insult Comic Dog). What I meant to say is that not one child in our household gets even a molecule more of anything than the others, because everyone knows that would mean - in the irrefutable logic of kids since the beginning of time - we loved that child more.

This year, after two years of parties attended by family and my friends, the twins finally got a party catered to their little friends. And by friends, I mean the small individuals from their school with whom they'd been engaging in parallel play for the past year, and the 3-year-old goddess Margalit, with whom Aaron and Gretchen are both so infatuated they can barely speak in her presence.

I'm happy to report that a good time was had by all. While the kids bounced around to music provided by the twins' music teacher, the moms of the boys freaked out that their sons weren't potty trained to the moms of the girls, who all were. (Parenting boy-girl twins never ceases to fascinate me.) We then adjourned to the patio for hotdogs, hamburgers, and a cake that was, naturally, half orange and brown and half pink and purple.

As for me, I celebrated the end of an era: the baby era. I've always considered three the age of personhood, when you can start counting on kids to listen better, to talk better, to start thinking things through. Shortly (I mean it, Aaron), I'll be saying goodbye to diapers forever, just as I've said goodbye to nursing, bottles, baby food, and cribs. And I don't feel even the hint of nostalgia. Maybe when Aaron and Gretchen are learning to drive, I'll long for these days of complete physical and emotional dependence.

But I doubt it.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Home Alone

I am all alone in the house right now. That might not sound so interesting, but consider this: It's the first time in 3 1/2 years that it's happened.

I guess that's par for the course when you decide to cohabitate with another family, especially one with five kids. And I can't really say that I've been longing for this day; the truth is, having a bustling house full of family, friends, and yes, chaos, has become such a part of my life that's it's only notable when it isn't there.

Like now.

Off now to enjoy it...

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Happy Anniversary Amy and Andy!

"You know what the worst thing about being a single parent to two teenagers?" a friend told me recently.

"There's no one to roll my eyes at during dinner."

So to Amy and Andy, on the 12th anniversary of your marriage, the best I can wish for you is that you'll always have each other to roll your eyes at.

Happy Anniversary!