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I recently started using StumbleUpon and it’s just added a whole new level of time-suck to my Internets experience. I came across this lovely piece, “Preparation for Parenthood,” which is painfully accurate in some respects, especially #8 on leaving the house. There really are some smahties down there at Stanford. It makes me think of my bit about “Leaving the House with Small Children.” Here’s a snippet from the Stanford one:

# 8 Get Ready to Go Out. Wait outside the bathroom for half an hour. Go out the front door. Come in again. Go out. Come back in. Go out again. Walk down the front path. Walk back up it. Walk down it again. Walk very slowly down the road for 5 minutes. Stop to inspect minutely every cigarette butt, piece of used chewing gum, dirty tissue, and dead insect along the way. Retrace your steps. Scream that you’ve had as much as you can stand until the neighbors come out and stare at you. Give up and go back into the house. You are now just about ready to try taking a small child for a walk.

This is so true it hurts. I have no idea when I’m going to master the “let’s go outside for a stroll” mom move, much less the “get in the car so we can go to the grocery store and get milk and diapers already!” maneuver, but for the time being I’m trapped in my house and I can’t figure a way out that doesn’t involve some sort of meltdown. I can’t even bribe my children with the idea of a tricycle ride to make the home exiting go smoothly. “But wait!,” you  exclaim, “Your children love their tricycles! Why can’t you get them outside to ride them?” Because I inevitably make a very bad decision just before leaving – like getting the divine inspiration to bring snacks (which means that the second we are three feet away from the front gate onto the sidewalk, the two of them will pounce like starving piranhas onto the snack bag, as though they’ve never seen Cheez It’s or bananas before. The following 15 minutes will be met with me becoming increasing frustrated as they swap off fighting over who gets which tricycle and battling over who gets to stop and eat a Cheez It after getting themselves on and off their tricycles 15 times and not moving farther than 4 inches from the starting line — this always ends in someone screaming. It might even be me, but I’m not telling), or divinely forgetting snacks (after remembering the previous disaster with snacks this seems a smart move, but A-ha!!! There’s the little kid turn-around – if you genuinely forget the food, your children will be unduly starving for their 7 minute outing and will be excessively cranky), or forgetting something else equally basic, such as reminding the 3 year old to pee before leaving (luckily, urine washes off of tricycle seats lickety-split). No matter how you cut it, the only method I’ve found to get out of the house without popping an important temple vein in my head is to just pick up each child and insert them into their car seats or strap them onto their tricycles and push like crazy – that’s why God made ’em with push handles.

What are your top tips for getting out of the house? Or are you like me and just stuck melting into the couch because the battle doesn’t seem worth it?

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One of my neighbors dropped by this afternoon and gave us some hand-me-down giant lego blocks. My husband has tremendous issue with my ready acceptance of hand-me-downs. He complains that I never turn anything away, and he’s right. As a result of my open-arm policy on hand-me-downs we have a home bulging with toys. The problem is compounded by the fact that I haven’t purged any baby stuff yet. It all just keeps getting boxed up and put in our (als0 bulging) garage.

When my daughter was an infant and I first started getting these piles of hand-me-down clothes and toys from various streams, I was blown away by friends and family generosity. Now that my daughter is almost four and my son is breeching two, I see it from a different perspective. We are choking on baby clothes, toys, tchachkis. Everything keeps coming in… nothing goes out.

The problem is that we’re not 100% sure that we’re done having children. Also, a lot of the hand-me-downs were provided with the understanding that I’d circle them back, if needed, to the original giver. Since no one has had babies since (except me, with our son), the stuff lives in our living room, our children’s rooms, our closets, our bedroom and garage. I’m choking for a good purge. Fortunately, one of my sister-in-laws is about to have her fourth (whoops! holy surprise on that one!), so I’m going to rotate half of my supply out (the girl stuff). I’m giving it with the same provision though…. “Hold onto it in case I need it back… don’t give it on to anyone else…”

Letting go of children’s things is really hard. As much as I hate tripping over it, feeling like it’s eating up so much space in our house… it’s hard to let go. It’s even hard to pack some things up to the Toy Purgatory of our garage because that means our children have officially outgrown them. The toys will sit in their storage boxes, silent, gathering some dust… waiting on the chance that we may have another baby in our lives. These are the thoughts and feelings that tug at me and make it hard to clear everything out.

My husband constantly complains about it. He was practically glowering at our poor neighbor while she handed me the basket full of Legos. Pressured by his frustration, I immediately set about to putting toys in two bags – one for the trash, the other for the garage – in order to create new space in the house for more age appropriate toys…

Until my husband saw me putting Emily in the bag. Emily is the $20, French, all-natural rubber giraffe teething toy that was all the rage when my daughter was 6 months old. Neither of our children play with Emily now. In truth, they didn’t play with her much when they were teething. But she’s terribly cute and she represents a moment in our parenting lives, the moment when we would pay anything to try to help give comfort to our little girl’s teething pain.

My husband stopped me as I put Emily in the bag — “You can’t take Emily!!!” “Why not?,” I asked. “Because that’ll mean they’re growing up.”

So, we live with some more clutter for now.

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I started watching this new show on Hulu, “Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution.” It’s kind of schmaltzy, but I’m interested to see his approach at getting people, particularly children, to eat fresh, local food. I’ve only seen two episodes, but they are pretty illuminating — first graders not being able to identify a tomato, the fact that most of the food a family eats is brown or yellow (pizza, chicken nuggets, waffles, etc).

One of the things Jamie talks about is that children need to know what food comes from – that the processed food they mostly get fed is an end product not a beginning ingredient. I agree that knowing how to grow and cook food are increasingly rare skills in our society – skills that every person should have, not just children. There’s a scene in the second episode where Jamie is mortified that school children aren’t given knives to eat with. Apparently, in England primary school children get knives and have their teachers supervising them during lunch, literally teaching them how to eat. Oliver’s point is that, with no knives up until middle school, that means the most convenient foods to give the children are processed — it literally hobbles them into being given processed foods only!

Anyway, I’m just glad on a whole new level that we started this garden a few years back and it’s already reaping its small rewards.

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I’m a haphazard gardener at best. Before children, I would usually think to buy a basil plant in late October. Although we live in an area that generally has year-round growing, even here it’s too late for basil at that point!

When my daughter was old enough to start getting dirty, we started a garden. I am not a talented gardener, by any stretch. Most things I plant don’t make it too long, not even cacti. Those that do are the ones that can thrive with neglect. Yet, we started this garden so our children could have an intimate understanding of where their food comes from – of what food is and what goes into getting it to the table.

Last year, we had tomatoes and bell peppers, an attempt at corn, some lettuces and herbs. At the beginning of the summer, my daughter, then two, wouldn’t eat tomatoes. By the time the tomatoes were harvesting, she LOVED them. She thrilled at picking them herself and most of the smaller varieties never made it to our kitchen – she gobbled them up as she went. Even now I’m surprised when we’ve had the occassional off-season cherry tomatoes in the house and she says “Oh, yay!!! Tomatoes!!! I LOVE them!,” because I just remember how adamant she was about them a year ago.

This year, we’re a little more ahead of the game in terms of early planting. We have some incredibly small lettuce heads just barely peaking out. After her nap this afternoon, just before dinner, I asked my daughter to help me collect some lettuce for a salad. There really isn’t enough in the garden to serve more than a 3 year old, so I let her pick and choose her own leaves. I gave the tiny handful of leaves a light wash and added a little dressing. At dinner, she ate exactly one leaf and I was delighted with that. It was a mesclun mix leaf, not a crunchy butter lettuce or some other more kid-friendly affair. Even if she didn’t like it (which she claims she did), I’m just glad she tried it!

At the rate of things dying under my gardening care, it’s unlikely we’ll have a lusty bounty of lettuce this year, but I think I may just keep buying starts as I need to and pop them in our garden to keep her interested in the process.

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