Books for 5 year olds, part 2

This is one of those posts very much about five-year-olds, fair warning!

So, we’ve taken on some books this month with varying success (list here). Zita the Space Girl was a tremendous hit as was Ozma of Oz. Both are parts of series, which is nice. Both are also graphic novels. That worries me a bit with reading comprehension but she has BANG (every fifth Zita page) and CREE CREE CREE (winding Tik Tok the robot) and KUT-KUT-KA-DAW-KUT (Billina, the chicken) down pat. I’m not giving her enough credit here. She’s reading, really reading which is a relief since many Montessori educated kids trail behind a bit for a few months when they enter public first grade. I just don’t think she can read much at once and get it which I suppose is normal for her age. So CREE CREE CREE can’t be the sum total of her evening reading experience, even if it is super cute to see her apply it in robot situations outside of reading time.

The Boxcar Children and Choose Your Own Adventure: Return to Atlantis were a little old for her or a little less interesting, hard to say. She did manage to survive an entire Choose Your Own Adventure thread on her first try which is pretty remarkable if you have any experience with them. I think we’ll come back to the Boxcar Children later, or she can come back to them on her own. At least, assuming she isn’t buried in a graphic novel the rest of her life.

We also gave Inky the Indigo Fairy a go (part of the Rainbow Fairy series). It had only line drawings on every other page but the subject matter is near and dear to RR’s heart so it was a hit. I know she adores fairies (almost as much as princesses) but I had forgotten how utterly passionate she is about the color indigo and its placement in the spectrum. She has loved The Rainbow Goblins since she was small and, if you start talking rainbows, you had better be correct on indigo and violet lest you get a lecture on science.

The Princess in Black and the Hungry Bunny Horde is up next because, come on, that title.


“I don’t want to go to the doctor”

What is it that inspires fear of doctors? Why is there an actual thing called White-Coat Syndrome? Is it the vaccinations we have tucked in our memories somewhere? Even if that’s it, it seems that at my advanced age I should not react with heart-pounding anxiety when this happens:
Petite doctor enters the scene toting her doctor’s bag and brandishing a clipboard: “Mama, would you like some doctoring?”
Me, distracted, towel in hand: “No baby, I’m off to take a shower. Go doctor mama.”
Off she trots.
Post-shower, towel in hand, the door bursts open and a little voice pipes sternly through the steam: “Mama, after this, doctoring.”
Me, gripping the door for white-knocked support, heart leaping out of my chest: “Uh, okay?”
Come on man.
Needless to say, I don’t bring RR to the doctor with me. However, upon being informed that Dr. Lily was working on setting up an appointment with a specialist for her toe-walking, RR prompted planted her heels on the ground and has endeavored to keep them there ever since. She claims the nightly stretching we’ve been doing with her calves is helping and she’s not 100% consistent but I’d say that about half the time when I look over at her she is making a concentrated effort to use her entire foot.
All because we casually mentioned the doctor. Poor kid.


It feels like we’re so very far away from the days of wondering whether or not she’s sitting up on schedule, or when teething would begin (or end already for god’s sake); waiting for her to talk, to eat solid food, or for her hair to grow in (and we waited, and waited); checking off the first steps*, first somersault, first swim. Now one milestone bleeds into the next with far less anticipation or comment.

Oh look, honey, she’s showering alone!
Did you hear? She just sang that whole song and she only heard it once!
Shh, listen, she’s telling a story to herself!

I suppose I could feel guilty that we don’t chronicle milestones anymore. We notice. We even marvel. But the accomplishments come so quickly and we’re self-conscious about making her self-conscious so we mostly keep our amazement and wonder to ourselves. But I can tell you guys, because come on, it’s either that or cancer.

We recently finished Marvel’s The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, the original Oz story told in graphic novel form. I wasn’t sure she was up for the grown-up language but she paid rapt attention. Emboldened, I decided to take on a book without many pictures – Neil Gaiman’s Fortunately, The Milk. She got through it, but wasn’t bowled over. Which she should have been. BECAUSE IT’S AWESOME. I decided to dare Alice in Wonderland. Our version, which was my mother’s, is falling apart, is daunting to look at since it includes Through the Looking Glass, and has only a few line drawings. Surprisingly, she has stuck with it even though Alice is kind of a pain in the ass.

I read Alice in Wonderland to her while Debra was still pregnant. I rested my head on Debra’s belly and RR kicked me each time I repeated “Who are you?” My baby is old enough to understand Alice in Wonderland. My baby!

Tonight she hit two more milestones. She stormed away from the dinner table shouting, “AND I’M NEVER HAVING SUPPER WITH YOU AGAIN!” and, while we did take it seriously, it was a teensy bit amusing to hear her try to leverage her delightful presence at the table in order to get a popsicle instead of pot roast. She also took a scissors to her own hair. Fortunately, she’s so proud of herself when she does something new independently, that she cut one piece and immediately went to find Debra and show off her new skills. Even more fortunately, she cut a lovely face-framing piece rather than shearing a clump off at the scalp.

Tonight she read Where is the Green Sheep to me. She got it. She gets the concept of the silent e and how it changes the vowel before it. She’s reading. And this milestone, like so many of the others, sidled up on me and slid right past. She has been reading, hasn’t she?

I remember sending her to daycare and thinking (okay, sobbing) that I was going to miss her first rolling over, first crawl, first everything. But the milestones are so fast and furious that all I’ve ever been able to do is hold on tight and watch. It turns out, I haven’t missed a thing.


*how on earth did I not write about first steps? Oh that’s right because 2011 kicked my ass.


Right Now


Tell me you’ve seen Bob Ross. Tell me you’ve watched his show. Ok, stop. Just hang on right there and go reacquaint yourself with the tone of his voice, his pacing, his whole deal (by the way, autoplay). He’s a mellow dude, soothing, and not very dynamic. I mean, he’s a dynamic painter in that…holy shit I could not do that. But he isn’t dynamic in the way that a four-year-old would stop to watch. And then keep watching. RR has been drawing happy little clouds and happy little trees ever since.


Debra said today at soccer, rather, watch-RR-spin-and-grin-in-the-middle-of-the-field, that at least the social time with her teammates is valuable. And it is. But that pretty much sums up what RR is getting out of it right now. Well, and handfuls of mini muffins and oranges slices brought by the other parents. I say without judgement that RR loves everything that she does and does exactly what she wants to do, which is not flipping over the bar in gymnastics, moving her arms in the water, or kicking the ball in soccer. Sports, maybe, are not her thing right now*.


Which leaves us wondering whether it’s time to return to music and try dance. But what she loves to do right now* is to color and draw and paint and dream on paper (and walls, and floors, and today on our quilt). It seems strange to let her try everything else in a formal-ish setting except art. I mean, are there even art classes for the almost five set? I feel weird thinking about sending my kid to art lessons, like it’s somehow pushing her. But how is it different than soccer, or swim lessons, or piano? I don’t want to make a mistake.


Mostly, I just want her to have fun instead of focusing on planning for the future (and I mean I’m the one focusing, not her). Because that’s what everything is. Swimming so she doesn’t drown. Or can get a job as a lifeguard. Or can be on the swim team. Gymnastics so she can run fast and jump high. So she learns practice, perseverance, and a tolerance for risk. So that she feels part of something. Music so she can keep a tune when she sings to her own children or can belt out Bob Marley with her arms wrapped around her friends at a beach bonfire. So she can join a band. Or read music. But what she wants to do right now* is art. Nothing but art.


Of course, I don’t mind leaving stacks of blank paper everywhere and endlessly replenishing her colors. But when I think about it, it’s not really different than kicking the soccer ball with her in the yard while also letting her play on a semi-organized team. And so I think it’s worth considering. Art. If only to save my walls. And really, if she’s happiest painting, so why not.


* all things subject to change at a moments notice and thank goodness for that


In the middle of a tantrum (and believe me, it nearly was mine), I realized that RR is having some throwback terrible twos. I guess they are anyway. RR has always been something else, but two years ago, on the cusp of three, she was like this: full of cute babyisms and charm. But. BUT. She wasn’t potty training then.

You heard me. Potty training is going to kill me. The accidents. The whining. The shouting and stamping and growling. What?! you are surely gasping, STILL?! Yes, still. This is a child who spent so much time reading and adding and outsmarting us that she is just now getting around to the practical business of using. the. bathroom.

For what it’s worth, she mostly does (use the bathroom) and by mostly I mean about 50% of the time we pick her up and she’s “a little wet, mama, just a little” which can very between damp and GALLONS. She’s old enough to be completely through with us reminding her to hit the bathroom but she’s still that kid who gets so deeply into whatever she’s doing that she forgets she and her body are in this together.

Cue the tantrums.

I’m pretty sure this is what the terrible twos are made of. All of the frustration she feels piling up on her little soul. It’s worse on days she has an accident. It’s much worse on days when she’s so wet a teacher has noticed and sent her to change. While I think that she is surrounded by patience and practicality, all the empowerment in the world doesn’t change the fact that it must be beyond awful to be nearly five and trying to master this. And so she loses her mind.

We’re back to the urologist again next week. I don’t expect he can fix tantrums though, so I’ll just keep mine to myself

Wii Are Tired of Winter

That’s right, this winter drove us right over the edge. After being trapped for one snow day too many (which, if you ask me, is the first snow day) we were all wishing long spring hikes weren’t so very far away. So we dusted off our aging wii and called my mom to ask if she still had a wii fit board. She did have one, she allowed, and we could have it. She did not confess that it had been stored so long that the batteries inside had corroded but, with a bit of care, it’s operating again.

hulamy record is 964 spins in 6 minutes. debra says she thinks invisible hula hooping is hot.

I don’t remember when these were trendy. It wasn’t recently, but the premise is that you take on a character and the board acts a scale and game controller in one with a host of aerobic, strength, and balance games. I’m a particularly good hula hooper, it turns out. Debra is a class act skateboarder and slalom skiier. RR runs.
This shouldn’t surprise anyone.
So with snow pouring down and piling up in drifts, we gave our kid a controller and let her run, her game character racing through a course chasing kittens and puppies. And she ran. Ran for three minutes. Ran for ten. And ten more. The next day she asked to run while we showered (separately. you saw the size of our bathroom. not even the hula hoop can conquer that.) She likes the biking course but can’t figure out how to control the handle bars. She likes the snowball fight game but can’t dodge and throw at the same time. In fact, she can’t master many of the activities beyond yoga and running.
I don’t want her to be an ace gamer. But when outside isn’t an option it’s kind of awesome to watch my kid run anyway.
This post is brought to you by 2007. Also a wii fit image search turns over tons of pictures like this. I’m not sure why so many people are watching so many other people’s butts.
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RR has never been that kid, the one who wants to be a part of something bigger. She is a tiny, self-contained, ball of fire. She burns bright until she flares out, sleeps, lights again. Not a joiner, but a maker. Not a follower, but a watcher. Parts age and parts personality, right?

This Halloween she dressed as Elsa and we tried the large, kids’, costume event in town. We skipped it last year in favor of our own sanity. The draw is the festivity and the joy of seeing so many kids and adults celebrating. She enjoys candy, but as we all know by now, is not particularly motivated by it. What’s the key, RR? What IS your motivation?


So we were there for the atmosphere and she soaked it up. She got to practice trickortreat…thankyou…happyhalloween! on college kids who thought she was terribly sweet and adorable. And she got to mingle with hundreds of other terribly sweet and adorable children. And also, a million Elsas. There were large Elsa and small Elsas. Storebought Elsas and cobbled together Elsas. Blonde or bewigged. Tiaras or not. Gloves on some. Snowflakes on others. Anything went, so long as there was a somewhat blue dress involved. Many were accompanied by Annas or Olafs (big and small, particularly favored by the Dads). Some were friendly, others were in the candy zone – unable to recognize a fellow cheery Elsa or, maybe, a bit flattened by seeing so many others dressed in similar costumes.


There was a Halloween Elsa drinking game. There were a lot of Elsas. We stopped counting somewhere after 21 Elsas and 15 Annas. We gave RR a heads up that there would be other Elsas and rather than seeing it as a disappointment, she looked at every passing Elsa with delight shouting, Hi ELSA! HAPPY HALLOWEEN! She was thrilled to see Annas HI ANNA! IT’S ME ELSA!


It was a shining moment. RR was an Elsa among Elsas. She glowed. And she was just as happy to leave them and be a single Elsa again. It was a super Halloween. An Elsa Halloween. And RR? Well, it flowed right over her and past her and it’s gone. More chocolate for us!


Also, thank goodness Grannie can sew satiny fabrics because apparently my costume fabrication skills cease at fire fighters, raggedy ann, hippies, and mermaids.

Holy shit. Did that happen?

I imagined the moment in my mind: a hotter than usual spring day at work, watching live feeds and twitter streams, waiting for news about the Supreme Court’s decision in Someone vs. The State that would change my life. I imagined the agonizing wait between the decision in some other state and the inevitable consequence in Virginia – the day we, too, would get the right to be married.

I did not imagine that I would wake up on a completely unremarkable Monday in October with a slight cold and by 11am I’d be rushing to the Courthouse. I was married on Monday. MARRIED. To my gorgeous wife. Married.


Civil rights. Civil fucking rights. They deserve their own moment. It’s all their own moment. But today is to tell you about my wedding.

In that almost-wedding-moment in August, I bought a dress that was too plum-colored and too heavy for summer. Independently, my wife’s best person helped her pick out a tie that matched perfectly. We threw them on and rushed to the courthouse to stand in line for marriage license. I guess you can’t leave rights out, after all. The room slowly filled with other couples and members of the press. The tiny space was chaotic and filled with happy families waiting for that very moment when it would be legal to sign the first license.


We couldn’t have planned it better – the press followed the first family out to the courthouse steps and in the silence, Debra and I committed to each other, again, in front of the Clerk of the Court.

The community started there, with the hugs and the handshakes from our fellow brides and grooms and the enthusiastic embrace from the Clerk. It followed us to the steps of the courthouse where we settled in to watch the string of ceremonies, listened to the happy honking from passing cars, and began to panic, a little, about everything going right.




Before we got there, we called our local families and our best friends and planned on a 3:30 ceremony. Yes, we’d have to wait two hours, but the license was in hand and we were likely to make it before the Supreme Court could take it away. There’s that rights thing, popping up again. A co-worker arrived with a veil, her own balsa-wood bouquet, and a tiny champagne bottle with paper cups. Friends left their offices. Their children walked over with picked wildflowers for RR. My parents brought RR and we slipped her into a new dress. And then it happened.


We were married. We are MARRIED. In the state that we live in. Married.

I could talk your ear off. About the press and our fellow newlyweds. About the tremendous outpouring of support from our community. About the gifts our friends gave us – their presence, a serenade from the steps, their joy in this victory. We’re married. You can share our moment here and here and here. I’m not promising this is the last you’ll hear about this. I’m still overwhelmed and a little tongue-tied. But I wanted to tell you, because you are always here to listen, that I am filled with joy and amazement and a sense of gratification.







15 Minutes


Last Wednesday we landed on the cover of the local weekly paper.


The interview came about the normal way, which is weird in and of itself, to think of interviews as being normal. There was less angst over clothing and talking points this time since it’s our sixth time in one paper or another in the last couple of years (seventh if you count an impromptu television interview). It’s both cool and surreal to see RR grow up in newsprint.

do you

It also satisfies something inside that with each interview we’re getting closer to equality. The evolution from captioned activist photos on the front page to below the fold interviews to DOMA updates to a sizable interview in a weekly has come with more tolerance and more acceptance (and a better photo each time). Our interviewers have become increasingly more well-informed and relaxed (and so have we). We sound more confident and articulate each time (thank goodness).


Pride was this weekend and Debra sat under a dripping tent while RR and I donned raincoats and  camped out on a blanket in front of the stage. Our allies stopped by and friends joined us on the blanket to have a very short but gratifying conversation about queer space.* I was prepared and sort of nervous to be recognized since our pictures are tucked inside a news box on every corner but we slid through the day peacefully. It was a weird feeling wondering whether people were identifying us privately but not saying anything or whether we were surrounded by 2000 gay folks and their friends at a gay celebration who hadn’t picked up the gay issue of the popular weekly.

rr and box

To top it off, Debra was quoted on the front page of Sunday paper having very briefly talked to a reporter at her Pride booth. The butch-focused booth was a new endeavor for her and I was thrilled to see her hard work well received by the community. And, while we live in a progressive town, having something about butch identity on the front page is a major accomplishment.

I say all that to say this: I’m hugely proud of my family and I really hope this is the last time we are in the news talking about our rights. If we’re in the paper again, I’d like it to be a wedding announcement.

*While we have super friends, super super friends, there’s something to be said for that moment when everyone at the table (or blanket, in this case) is coming from a common place of understanding. I’m delighted to be able have it both ways and the first makes the second even more cherished.


Fire Cider

Saturday was for cold season. Although we’re all healthy, we are anticipating that the giant petri dish that is working in a University will eventually gift us some kind of cold. So we tried our hand at fire cider. I can’t explain this to you. Go here for a recipe and here for a video.

photo 1

We usually muddle through with a combination of good luck, strong immune systems, and a healthy dose of elderberry syrup, but it seemed as though this horseradish-boasting recipe* could blast through a stuffy nose. This is the bane of my winter.

I have no idea what to expect but I can’t wait to give it a shot!

photo 2


*Debra was on horseradish duty. Unfortunately, I may never be able to convince her to do this again. Then again, maybe those were tears of joy at grating duty?