and then i will leave it alone.

Dear Daddy,
Thank you so much for your letter. What a surprise to hear from you. My initial response, my ONLY response, is this:

Thank you for (inadvertently, of course) confirming that our decision to have only one child is truly "for our good". Slipping into the habits and "norms" from my childhood would be all too seductive otherwise. This way? My choices are MY choices, rightwrongindifferent. This unfamiliar path keeps me alert, non-complacent.

That is my (chosen) take home message.

Because of you, I am who I am.

In spite of you, I'll be who I'm supposed to be.

Your daughter,


complacency check

All it takes is one red towel in a not-so-red load of wash to take an otherwise not-so-bad weekend down a notch or two.


yet another reason i (heart) pbs

On 9/8/09 11:21 AM, "" (dictated to me and I) wrote:

Dear Martha,
At the end of the show when you were the school teacher, that man put on a sign that said "no dogs". I would like to know what might happen if you didn't follow the rules?
(age 3, CA)

On 9/14/09 11:13 AM, martha_feedback wrote:
Hi Aaron!

Thank you so much for writing! What a stupendous question! I think the “no dogs allowed” rule is pretty unfair rule, don’t you think? Most of the time when I try to not follow that rule I get caught and I’m told to leave, usually by the school Janitor. He lives to keep me out of the school building. One time I won a trip to the Come-On-Inn, but the problem was that dogs were forbidden, which means against the rules. So Helen and I came up with a great solution, I showed up as Granny Martha! When everyone eventually found out that I was really a dog, they realized how much they missed their pets, and the Come-On-Inn decided to change the rule to allow all pets to join their families on vacation. Great huh?!

Thanks again for writing! We hope you’ll continue to watch and enjoy Martha Speaks!




Last night Aaron asked me to "sing something we never sang before" for his bedtime song. Of course, the only songs I could come up with were our old standbys -- Twinkle Star, I See the Moon, Little Boy Blue... and then I suddenly remembered a song that Granny Nina used to sing to us. As I started humming the tune, I momentarily wondered why I had never sung this song before, feeling almost guilty for neglecting that bit of my past. The words flooded back to me as I quietly began to sing:

Oh, don't you remember
A long time ago
Two poor little babes
Their names I don't know
Were strolling along
One bright summer day
Got lost in the woods
I've heard people say

They wandered around
Until it grew night
The sun went down
And the stars gave no light...

At which point I began doing my very best Bob Dillon impression for the remainder of the verse:

Dey sah an dey siii (They sobbed and they sighed)
An dey bi-er-ee crii (And they bitterly cried)
De da poe li ings (Then the poor little things)
De lay dow an ie (They laid down and died.)

Aaron didn't complain about the suddenly incomprehensible turn the song had taken, so I finished off the remaining lyrics similarly:

La-la-la-di-la (And when they were dead)
La-la-la-di-la (The robins so red)
La-la-la-di-la (Brought strawberry leaves)
La-la-la-di-la (And over them spread)
La-la-la-di-la (And sang them a song)
La-laaa-di-la (The whole day long)
La-la-di-la-la (Two poor little babes)
La-laaa-di-la (All dead and gone.)

Lovely little ditty, no?


things (part 2.75)

Just in case you were wondering:

We have had several conversations since last week re:teeth are for food and blankie and not people. Some matter of fact (there are lots of germs in our mouths and when we put our mouths on other people, we pass along our germs), some stern (people don't like to be around people who hurt them), some silly (wouldn't you rather eat spaghetti than arm?). We hadn't talked about it in a few days, though. So you can imagine how floored I was when he brought it up on the way to school this morning.

"Mommy? We should use our words, not our teeth. Even when we are very, very, very, VERY angry and frustrated." (That's right, baby.) "An if that doesn't work? We should tell an adult or a mommy or sumpin like that." (Yep, that's true, too.) "Because if we use our teeth and then people don't like to be with us then they might make it a rule that we can't go to places with them. And then, and then, well, then how will I do all my learning if I am not going to my new school? Because I need to do my learning so I can grow my muscles big and strong and do stuff with them. So I think that is why the plan is to use words and not teeth."

I am pleased to report that we are now currently 1 week and counting bite free. Yay?

PS To the two of you who emailed me asking for more about what Aaron is up to these days? This should give you a pretty good idea... enjoy!

things (part 4)

My little brother will soon be deploying deployed for Afghanistan last weekend.

Though a self-proclaimed pacifist at heart, I respect that his chosen field is honorable and, yes, even necessary. I am proud, proud, proud, PROUD of him -- he seems to have found something that he is passionate about and has worked very hard to get to where he is. He is (usually) a level headed kind of guy, quick to collar his hot-Italian emotions. He is excited to learn, eager to experience, willing to explore. He is thorough, dependable, respectful and respectable. He is exactly the kind of ambassador that I believe we need when dealing with cultures and traditions and viewpoints not our own.

I recognize that there is an element of danger to what he does/will do. He is a long way away from "home". There is the possibility that I hugged him for the last time at my sister's wedding in June. And yet, I sit here, struggling to figure out what is wrong with me because I'm not all verklempt about it. There is no wailing and gnashing of teeth for him in my soul. No wearing of sackcloth, no dabbling in ashes. I am excited for him, perhaps even a little envious of this amazing opportunity he has to go LIVE life, to go roll around in the dust and life breath of others, to embrace and swallow and digest and scoop up and spit out all those incredible many differences and similarities. My toes tingle in false anticipation, as if it's ME on this journey, somehow living vicariously through emails and Facebook posts. I think of him at odd times during the day, wanting to know what he's seen, what he's done. How does it smell? How does it sound? How does it taste?

And if he doesn't come back on his own? If he DOES come back, changed, wounded? My heart will be broken, of that there is no doubt. But my stomach will dance, knowing that he took his chance, grabbed it with both hands, held it high above his head and ran with it.

Living life on your own terms. To me, that's heroic.


things (part 3)

When he's not biting me (which, to be fair, is like 98% of the time. I guess the 2% just seems like a lot more because, oh, I don't know, IT HURTS.), Aaron is transforming into a pretty neat kid. I'm stunned, STUNNED on a minute by minute basis by how much stuff this kid knows and sees and retains and applies. I try to keep up, but somehow I managed to birth a gear head and damned if that stuff doesn't bore me to tears. Stuff works because it works, in my book, but no, we need to know more and why and why not this instead and where does that connect to and what if it connected here too? Between Google, my little brother, and YouTube, I'm learning more about the internal combustion engine than I ever cared to know, yet somehow I'm still failing to keep up with the rapid fire of questions shot at me from the backseat on the way to go get groceries.

We got him an Erector set (best purchase EVER) and he's put together all manner of moving/rolling/driving creations, talking to himself about drive-trains and crankshafts and motors and axles all the while. This morning he informed me that the reason his latest "car" wouldn't climb up the slope of our leather ottoman was because "I think it's maybe an issue with the traction or torque or stuff like that. Because it's too slippery up here." I don't know how much of this is just repeating back the words we've encountered on the diagrams/videos and how much of this is actual mastery of the language of nerds mechanical engineering, but it scares me more than a little bit. I'm thankful on a daily basis that we don't have the proverbial chemistry set in the basement.

We're trying to step up his levels of responsibility to keep up with his growing awareness of the world around him. Or, said another way, to keep him busy, we're giving him chores. He doesn't like being told what to do (duh),though, so we were butting heads on an almost hourly basis because I don't like having my authority challenged/ignored. We've both got issues. I finally assigned a significant portion of my brain to the task of coming up with ways to get him to do what I want him to do without telling him what needs to be done.

Bedtime was the worst.

Naggingpleadingbeggingthreateningcryingwhiningscreaming to get out of the bathtub, brush teeth, put on pj's and GET INTO BED was just not working as well as you might think. In a rare flash of brilliance (read: 2 neurons firing simultaneously) I came up with the idea of introducing him to the concept of time being finite and guess what? the natural consequences of wasting time now is not having it later. Or, in boy-ese, if you [choose to throw water out of the bathtub], you will need to [take the time to clean it up] which means you will only have time for [2 bedtime stories instead of 3]. Insert any variety of [actions] and [consequences] and all the sudden it's not mean ole mommy making arbitrarily mean decisions because she hates little precious.

Except that it was still mean ole mommy glancing sternly at her watch and issuing "Well, I guess you don't want 3 stories tonight" warnings ad infinitum , so really in the end it wasn't at all about natural consequences, but a game of "how many chances can I get Mommy to give me by whining and wheedling?". So, yeah. Not so effective.

Then it hit me that maybe he needed to SEE it. He needed to literally see that time was not waiting around for him to finish his hop-on-one-leg-athon.

And then, it really hit me. As in "fell off the shelf while I was cleaning my closet and hit me on the shoulder". I'm not sure if I saw stars or if it was those two renegade neurons flashing again, but three overhead projector markers, some poorly drawn pictures, and 15 minutes later and viola! The bedtime clock was born:

So now our evenings are carefully segmented off and it is the clock, not Mommy, controlling our Storytime destiny.

Since that picture was taken, we've further divided the time between Bath and Story1 time to include a "chore card" segment. In a nutshell: I took pictures of 5 tasks that Aaron (should) completes on a regular basis, glued the pictures to index cards, and then made "banks" out of clear plastic cups (see picture). We go through the cards each night at chore card time, talk about whether or not he earned his nickle for said chore and then pop the earned nickles into the appropriate cup bank. First nickle is "saved", second nickle is "shared", and he gets to choose whether to save, share, or spend whatever remains.

That, too, is working very well, though we're at a wiggly point where we're trying to decide whether or not the "Good Attitude" card should stay in there. Are we, as we initially hoped, encouraging him to go about his day thoughtfully, considering the consequences (positive and negative) of his behavior on himself and others? Or are we teaching him that he doesn't have to do anything unless there is a reward in it for himself? I go back and forth. Input?


things (part 2.5)

Guess who bit another kid at school yesterday?

"I was just too frustrated to use my words and decided I should use my teeth, Mommy," he told me. Apparently he had been building a block tower and someone else decided to knock it over.

"Oh, I understand. That makes sense," he told the teacher when she pulled him aside and told him in no uncertain terms that biting was never, ever, ever appropriate. "I think I can use my words, now."