on the fence

fenceLet me share with you a frightening formula:

corner lot + busy street + toddler who is clearly going to be an Olympic sprinter (as long as races are held on a zigzagged track) + no fence = fretful nights where sleeping is replaced by nail biting and days are spent inside holding your increasingly curious (and heavy) child up to the window to teach him about nature from afar.

We’ve been having the fencing debate since the day I got pregnant. Actually: we started discussing fencing for this lot long before baby, when we bought this house. Truth be told: I guess we mentioned it the first day we saw the house.

Our house doesn’t have a back yard – there are a few feet of sloping ground cover spotted with trees, all of which abuts our neighbor’s driveway. So it’s all side yard (this is the busy street) and front yard (this is a busy-ish street.) This means that any fencing we get, whether we go big or keep it relatively small, will be very visible and change the profile of our property.

Turns out that fences are not cheap. And, unless you own a house that calls out for a cute white picket fence (ours does not), they are mostly ugly, they seem to degrade quickly and, from what I can tell, they tend to strike up intimate relationships with weeds.

In order to give our son a proper play space outside where we don’t have to put him on a leash, we have been shopping for fencing. And by shopping for fencing, I mean trolling the web and our local neighborhoods to see if we can find anything that won’t make our beloved mid century modern home look like prison grounds.

Chain link? Vinyl? Wrought iron? I don’t think so.

This is our fantasy fence, stained wood with horizontal boards:

horizontal fencephoto source

But we are afraid to get an estimate. (Hereby proving that it’s possible to get sticker shock before there is even a sticker.) We are concerned about how often we’ll have to get it stained and how much all this maintenance will set us back. We also wonder if it will beckon burgeoning graffiti artists (although that could be kind of cool.)

So here we sit. On the fence. Or more literally, inside…reading books to our son about glorious places with grass, with bugs, and these cute little critters called squirrels.

Do you have a nice fence?

note to the babysitter re: gnomes

big garden gnome

Dear Babysitter,

Hello! Thanks for coming a bit earlier today so that I could attempt to call the dentist, the pediatrician, the gynecologist and the car dealership before work without a toddler hugging my knees and repeating “readyreadyready” 1,453 times with extreme urgency and a complete lack of specificity. (Ready for what?)

You may have noticed since you’ve been with us that we have several gnomes on display both inside and outside of our home. This is because we are fascinated with gnomes. We request that you do not question this fascination, as it cannot explained.

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We do, however, request that you help us to pass on this fascination to our beloved progeny by reinforcing the following practices:

1. Please encourage our son to pronounce the correct salutation to the gnome located by the front door, upon entering and exiting our home. As in, “Hi Gnome!” and “Bye bye Gnome!” As implied by the exclamation points, we would like this to be delivered with the appropriate amount of enthusiasm.

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2. Please dress our son in this onesie from Counter Couture Design on etsy every day:

gnome onesie counter couture design

If this shirt gets compromised by mashed strawberries, a glob of yogurt, or an entire bowl of upended vegetable puree while you are on shift, don’t worry – there are 14 more in his bureau.

3. Please incorporate this gnome hand-puppet from IKEA into most activities:

gnome puppet from ikea

For example, if you build a tower with blocks (see above), please sit the puppet on top of it and ask it directly and with great respect, “Do you like your penthouse?” While playing catch with our son, we ask that you put the puppet on your hand and pretend that the gnome (instead of you) is doing the catching and the throwing. (Though this might diminish your dexterity at first, we can tell you from experience that after a few short weeks this will improve considerably.)

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4. If our son is refusing to eat something packed with nutrients and the good kind of fat, such as avocado, please point to the gnome sitting on the kitchen table (above) and tell him that “the gnome thinks avocado is delicious” with a tone that will incite a bit of healthy competitiveness.

gnome door

4. And last, but certainly not least, please take a walk with our son each day to the side of our house where the gnome door is leaning against the tree. When you do so, we would like you to say things like, “Ahhhh look, there’s the gnome doorrrrrr…” and “I wonder where it leeeeeeads…” and trail off in a way that promotes curiosity. Widening your eyes and tipping your head to the side will definitely stir up lots of intrigue.

5. Oh! I almost forgot: we are no longer using sippy cups. This is our son’s new water bottle:

gnome watering can

Again, thank you so much for everything. Notice that I defrosted some of that veggie burger he likes. It’s on the counter.

Have a great day, Jocelyn (and Rob)

* Big shout-out to our wonderful babysitters Emily (who gave us the first gnome pictured) and Jamie (who gave us the one on the kitchen table). Both of them are very kind to tolerate long notes from me mostly regarding Ian’s menu! They are also very kind to humor (and enable!) my gnome obsession fascination.

** Another big shout-out to these other enablers: my friend and co-worker Fiona who gave us the second gnome pictured; my friend and co-worker Katie who just gave us the gnome watering can; and my mother-in-law Sandy who gave us that mysterious gnome door.

 

the sad science of safety proofing

house and hammer

Greetings from The House of Too-Little-Too-Late where we have very good intentions, an under-abundance of time, and a fifteen month-old who suddenly moves at the speed of light. Our previously cozy home has recently come to seem like a series of edges as sharp as comic book lightening bolts. Innocent chairs loom like perilous cliffs. Appliances teeter on counter tops and lamps threaten to tumble like boulders.

What we at the home tome have learned so far about safety proofing is that, like any science, it’s…imperfect. As far as we can tell, many of the childproofing gadgets out there are only partially effective and they cause almost as much annoyance as reassurance. Besides, it’s impossible to predict your toddler’s exact proclivities and accurately assess your home’s particular dangers. The truth is that most implementations are reactive; in other words, they are put into effect after an incident. (And we can only hope these “incidents” don’t require a trip to the ER…)  There is no doubt that our attempts thus far have helped, but there is also no way of knowing what we’ll need to do next.

Here’s the gate we got to enclose an area in our living room we now call “the playground”:

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We installed this when Ian started crawling. It is unclear how long this set-up will last. He will still stay in here for fairly long stretches before yearning to hit “the open road” i.e. the rest of the house, but surely our days are numbered. Also: this gate is of course supposed to be attached to walls at both ends, and though the gate is pretty long, it wouldn’t reach any two walls in our open-ish floor plan. So we attached one end to the slipcover of the chair with wire:

safety gate attached with wire

As our son gets heavier and stronger and commences his inevitable mountain/gate-climbing career, that little wire attachment will be quickly compromised.

This Skip Hop rubber flooring has been wonderful:

rubber flooring for baby

Until he discovered what a joy it is to pull apart:

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We just broke down and got the cabinet latches most people with toddlers seem to have:

cabinet latch

Yes, they keep the baby away from the pots, pans and cleaning products, but so far they also keep these items conspicuously far away from the cabinets, too, i.e. they instead get piled up on the counter when you’re in a rush. If there were just 45 more seconds in each day, I would have time to take off these latches, return the contents to their rightful cabinets, and then put the latches back on…

The same goes for these frustrating drawer latches:

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I think I actually heard this little gadget laugh at me today when it took me three tries to retrieve a simple spoon. Besides, the drawers still open about two inches, just enough room to pinch tiny fingers.

These are the rubbery things we purchased to put around our coffee table and end tables:

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They are super-soft and would certainly protect a small person from hurting his precious face on the edge of a table IF they weren’t so easy for that same small person to pull away from the adhesive. And why keep these attached to a table when you could wave them around triumphantly as if you just caught a hilarious snake?

Note that it only takes about .00004 seconds for a 15 month-old to pull off bubble wrap that has been frantically attached to a table with blue painter’s tape:

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This ad hoc attempt at childproofing was highly reactive. Our son face-planted into the edge of this table last weekend while having a grand ol’ time doing laps around that adjacent chair. Though this incident didn’t require a trip to the ER, the blood spooked us at first. No stitches were needed, but a monster-sized blood blister formed on the side of his lip. Feeling panicked, we pulled out this completely ineffectual bubble wrap. (Next plan of action: getting rid of the table all together.)

Fireplaces are challenging. The edge of our cement hearth is terrifyingly jagged Just looking at it makes me shudder:

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They do sell hearth pads for this purpose, but they are pricey and none of them seem to have been designed with our hearth’s exact dimensions in mind. For the time being, we’ve created a barrier with pouf/ottomans:

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We already had the round CB2 poufs from B.B. (Before Baby) but we recently tracked down the square poufs from Walmart. The problem is that: 1) They are extremely light and easily lifted by baby body-builders-in-the-making and swiftly transported across the room, leaving the hearth completely exposed and 2) They are so nice to climb on in order to get a closer look at the television. Once the child’s face is two inches from the screen, his balance is compromised, causing him to topple and bang his face right into the edge of the TV shelving, an edge pretty much as sharp and hard as the hearth we were originally covering. (True story, sigh.)

There is obviously a lot more work to be done at the home tome safety laboratory: most of it will be experimental and much of it will probably “fall” short, but we’re trying…

Do you have any safety-proofing tips? As always, both genuine and sarcastic comments are enthusiastically accepted.

bubble calendar

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All I have to say is…………….POP! 365 days per year. Could there be anything more satisfying than an XL calendar composed of bubble wrap? What a way to mark time.

bubble wrap calendar

This Bubble Calendar poster is designed and made in Brooklyn. We love the way it looks in our library. Thank you to my sis-in-law Marcy for this wonderful holiday gift.

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The only problem with this genius idea is that it requires a lot of self control…you can’t just go crazy and pop-pop-pop the whole thing in a blind, manic frenzy, as requested by your inner 8 year-old. I guess you could, but it just wouldn’t be right.

Hope your ’14 is going well thus far.

the thing about curry

coconut curry

Curry dishes are delicious.

And healthy.

And they’re so easy to make. I made this one with onions, garlic, light coconut milk, sweet potatoes, and broccoli. It’s a basic chop and stir. And part of a health kick over here at the home tome.

But the thing about making curry in a mostly white house is that it leaves neon yellow stains on your white sink, counter, walls…(refrigerator…cabinets…ceiling) if you don’t clean it up instantly. And by instantly, I really mean that it’s best this spice doesn’t touch these surfaces in the first place.

curry stain on sink

The question is: what is it doing to our teeth?

7 ways these Olympics might hurt you

olympic-rings1. Painful fits of Jealousy, specifically of the: Athletic prowess, 2. Hot, young, strong bodies, 3. Gold medals (or, really, medals of any color), 4. Corporate endorsement

2. Bed Sores (or, more specifically, couch sores): Some get injured in an instant when they tumble end over end with their feet strapped into a snowboard.  Other injuries come on more slowly and are incurred from sitting for long stretches with your feet propped up on an ottoman.

3. Emotional Anguish brought on by Sentimental Advertisements: Especially those featuring real athletes with actual photos or even video footage of them as adorable children.

4. Empathetic Performance Anxiety: Viewing stress, which is already high, can hit unhealthy limits when the commentators reference concepts such as, “redemption,” “expectation,” “weight of the whole country on his/her shoulders,” and “this is his/her last performance/race before retiring.”

5. Multifaceted Confusion including but limited to: 1. The rules 2. The techniques required to master these unnatural feats 3. Improbability of survival through almost any of these events.

6. Extreme Fatigue: Staying up so late for two weeks straight while trying to hold down a job can make you feel exhausted as a cross country skier after crossing the finish line.

the-brutality-of-cross-country-skiing-in-one-surreal-photoimage source

7. Vision Impairment, not to mention Compromised Appearance : Staring at the television screen this long can make vision blurry and cause Olympic size rings to develop under your eyes.

To read the article I wrote for Slate Magazine four years ago about actually training for the Olympics (sort of) and falling short, click here.

Truth be told, though I do consider it an endurance event, I love watching the Olympics. Have the they harmed (or helped?) you in any way? Happy Viewing!

zebra-themed first birthday party

zebra birthday table

Why did I have my heart set on throwing a zebra-themed first birthday party for our little Ian? I’m not exactly sure: I do think zebras are magical and beautiful creatures. Zebras do populate many of his books. And we do wear a lot of stripes around here…But mostly I was thinking that the black and white would make a stark statement and a nice counterpoint to Christmas (something I wanted since his birthday is only three days later.)

As far as decorations, we started with this plush zebra from Lambs & Ivy. He got lots of love before he served as the centerpiece:

Lambs & Ivy Zebra

We rounded up some little zebra finger puppet books as party favors:

Zebra party favors

We ordered a palette of wheatgrass from The Little Flower Shop of Nyack – thank you to the very cool and accommodating Leslie for helping us with this:

wheatgrass

These little pots brought a fresh element to the table on this wintery day. I found the cloud fabric for the runner on etsy from the Land of Oh.

We tried to not go too crazy with the stripes, figuring that a few touches would suffice (okay, that’s not entirely true – what you don’t see here are the striped plates, striped balloons, and striped napkins…):

bistro table all set up

We focused much of our energy on the “zebra cake.” I got the idea from Carisa’s Cakes. Hats off to Rob who baked the cupcakes and “sculpted” them into place:

zebra cake no stripes yet

I brought the stripes:

zebra cake

Not sure it was the wisest idea to display this cake on our low surfer table at one year-old party (lesson learned), but thanks to the diligence of the adults in attendance it stayed intact:

zebra cake and favors

I couldn’t resist placing some books in the window sill:

zebra books

I hung this uber-dorky fact sheet on the wall nearby because, you know, it’s good to learn stuff:

zebra trivia

As guests arrived, Ian greeted them holding a toy bottle of whipped cream given to him by his friend Annabel:

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We gently requested/suggested that guests wear stripes or black and white and to our delight, most people did! All the kids seemed to enjoy the musical entertainment, provided by Catherine Moon of Moon River Mother and Child. Not only did Ian rock out to the music, he had a good jam session with his cousins Brodi and Bria and also discovered that “drum sticks” can be quite tasty:

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Speaking of tasty…

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The first “processed sugar” was intriguing indeed…

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Gotta mention that the quiche(s) my in-laws, Sandy and Bob made (all six of them) were also delicious and I am pleased to now have the recipe.

One of the greatest moments of the event was when our friend and neighbor, Katie Elevitch, singer-songwriter extraordinaire, surprised us all by performing an original song about Ian. AND she was only a few short days away from welcoming her own bundle into the world. The chorus went: Ian, Ian!/One year old today! /But there’s a million reasons/ To love you every day! Our favorite verse: Ian Ian/ Your name is hard to rhyme /I don’t think mom and dad/ Thought of that at the time! Then she threw out a few possible rhymes: Carribean? Canadian? Oxygen? Utopian? Plebian? Tazmanian? ha!

Though he didn’t have much interest in wearing a hat during the party, these shiny cones provided entertainment for many days to come:

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Thank you to all of our friends and family who helped us celebrate Ian’s first year of life and our first year as parents.

***

On a more somber note, this post is dedicated to my mother Barbara, a.k.a. Granny, who passed away later that night at a hospital in Delaware. Her passing was sudden, shocking, and also not-so-sudden, as the last few years were very difficult for her, mentally and physically. She was an amazing woman who brought so much creativity, love and fun to our lives. These elements were in full effect for birthday parties she threw for my brother and I.

The day ended up containing both light and darkness – lots of joy and then heartache. In retrospect, these opposing emotions are represented perfectly by the stripes of a zebra.

May you rest in peace my wonderful mother. xmas skiing 036


titles of the last ten posts I haven’t had time to write and probably never will

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1. The Joys of Motherhood Mitigated not Insignificantly by the Fears of Motherhood

2. How the Super-loud Clicking, Clanking and Clonking of our Baseboard Heating is Killing Me Not-so-Softly Despite 64,000 Attempts at Quieting It

3. The Spreading Crop of Grey Hair on the Right Side of My Head that Can No Longer Be Denied or Plucked

4. How Keeping up with Other Blogs at this Point is Kind of Like Trying to Walk up an Icy Hill: Fun yet Impossible

5. Squirrels

6. Neglecting Your Child while Looking at Photos of Your Child

7. To Christmas Tree or Not to Christmas Tree? How to Celebrate Safely with a Curious Toddler Underfoot Or: How to Keep Your Curious Toddler Underfoot as opposed to Under…tree

8. The Challenge of Catching that Perfect Holiday Card Photo of your Extremely Wiggly Worm Child

9. Learning that Food is Meant to Go in the Mouth, and not on the Floor, in the Pocket of the Bib, or Hidden Stealthily in the Little Crack Between the Highchair Tray and the Highchair Seat

10. And finally: An Ode to the Swiffer accompanied by An Apology to our Extremely Patient and Good-natured Kitchen Floor

falloween 2013

fall grasses

Some crazy things are going on at home tome headquarters this Falloween. For one thing, our decorative grass, above, has turned a pleasing shade of brown and sprouted fancy, fall-ish tufts.

Six friendly ghosts are calling our pergola home…

ghost lanterns

Boo!

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After several years of searching/hoping for/dreaming about weird white mutant pumpkins, we finally found some…and a bale of hay as bonus. All I have to say is that you know you have an awesome husband when he comes home one day with a bale of hay…

white pumpkins

In our travels, we stumbled upon a pumpkin patch with one very unique pumpkin.

The most delightful news is that we got a new garden gnome!

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(In case you are wondering, he is an expert at taking off his hat and beard, but did not master this skill until after the photo was taken.)

While this photo shoot this was going on, our original gnome shed single tear across the yard…Was this pride? Jealousy? Maybe he just wanted a pumpkin of his own? Well, he got one.

gnome with pumpkin

Happy Falloween!

what to do when a rabid bat is flying rapidly around your living room

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1. First, it’s important that you sink into a deep, contented slumber, trusting that all is well with your shelter: the security alarm is set, the baby is asleep, and your tall, strapping husband is in a nearby room viewing yet another Sci-Fi thriller (a predilection of his that you love and love to not be a part of).

2. When your husband emits a high-pitched scream, bolt upright.

3. When he calls out your name with panic, resist the urge to angrily shush him. (After all, you have requested that he not speak louder than a whisper once the baby has been put to bed.)

4. Check the video monitor to see if this ruckus has woken up the baby. Gaze momentarily at your sleeping bundle with unspeakable adoration before running out to see if your husband is okay.

5. Screech to a halt at the end of the hallway when he tells you that there is a bat flying around the living room. Assume the same duck and cover position he is in. Then peek furtively through your forearms to see a blurry brown creature flying erratically around the room. Though tiny, its pointed wings and sharp fangs make it seem like a gigantic alien monster created by sci-fi fiends.

6. Sprint to the linen closet to grab sheets at your husband’s request – he is going to try and catch it.

7. When catching it proves impossible due the the bat’s flying prowess, crazy flight patterns and evident use of narcotics, run to get some tape so that the sheets can be hung across the hallway entrances. This will hopefully contain the craziness.

8. Since both of your computers are in the living room with The Beast, shimmy back to the bedroom in order to consult google via your e-reader.

9. Though most of your information and most of your life decisions are based on knowledge gleaned from google searches, do not believe what you read when it says only one percent of bats are rabid. Or: tap into your readily available pessimism to decide that even if this is true, this bat is definitely, with your luck, part of the “one percent”… a different kind of one percent. Gloss over the part where it says that bites from rabid bats are usually fatal, since this is far too terrifying to process.

10. Read aloud from an informative website that instructs you to put the porch light on, open the front door, and make clicking or scraping sounds furthest away from the front door. Bats are so sensitive to sound waves that they will basically surf their way out.

11. When this method actually works, hug each other long and hard, thankful that you have your living room back and that you are still alive. Be even more thankful if the baby is still asleep. Be extra thankful that you were able to remove the bat without re-enacting this horrifying scene from The Office:

***

We have no idea how this scrappy little bugger got in. We fear that where there is one bat, there are more…which is lending an extra spooky mood to our Halloween season. Has this ever happened to you?