Category Archives: Treasures from the Archives

Homework Blues

Woe is me. At the beginning of the school year, Chloe and I agreed that her after-school schedule would be as follows:

(1) treat
(2) homework
(3) play/tv
(4) dinner
(5) play
(6) bed

For the most part, I’ve been fairly strict about adhering to the rules. The one exception is Thursdays, when our babysitter watches the girls and I have several uninterrupted and precious hours of alone time. Today, our babysitter gave Sophie and Chloe a break from the rainy weather and took them to the local McDonald’s to play at the indoor playground.

When they got home, I reminded Chloe that she had some homework to do. But it was 6 o’clock, which is her usual TV time. She asked if she could do her work after the shows, and since I was not in the mood for a screaming child (she had already taxed my patience earlier today during a rare morning bath), I acceded to her request. To her credit, this is not something she asks to do often, as she is actually pretty diligent about her homework. But stupid, stupid Mommy nonetheless.

Truth be told, I’ve actually enjoyed helping her with her daily assignments. I look at that 1/2 hour as an opportunity for us to talk about her day at school. And I admire her facility with math, and her increasing ease with reading.

In another break from the rules, she completed the math portion of her homework during the TV commercials. But the reading part was more complicated than usual, so we didn’t start it until after her show was over at 7 pm.

It would be generous of me to say that she was distracted. She needed to answer some reading comprehension questions, and it took her FOREVER (ok, I’m exaggerating) to write her responses. And since I’m never going to win any awards for my patience, this was torture. She was unfocused and sloppy. At one point, she needed to write “Mr. Green,” a character in the text she had just read. It took her FIVE times to spell it correctly – at one point Chloe had even transgendered him – even though the name appeared at the top of the page. Following are Chloe’s various permutations of Mr. Green:

(1) Ms. Green’s
(2) Mr. Greern
(3) Mr. Gereen
(4) Mr. Greeen

She practically erased a hole into her paper. After 30 excruciating minutes, the ordeal was finally over. Of course, my frustration grew in direct proportion to my recognition that this was all my doing.

Chloe is in first grade. There are about 7 more months in first grade. And an additional 110 months of schooling before she graduates from high school. And when you add Sophie into the mix, that’s yet another 30 months. So 147 school months until both girls are in college (hopefully), which translates into 147 months of assignments. Suddenly, homework has lost some of its appeal.

Calgon, take me away!

It’s Not Enough to Have One Fashionista in Training

This anecdote was recounted to me by my husband. He suggested I add it to my blog, so here goes.

Let me preface the following story by emphasizing the fact that while I think I have a decent sense of style, I am not “Project Runway” material, nor do I shop as if I believe I’m “Project Runway” material. I don’t spend hordes of money on clothes, and much of what I have in my closet was purchased years ago. As for my husband, any sense of style he has is thanks to me. I also wish my dearly departed father was here to witness these episodes. He may no longer be with us physically, but his fashion sense thrives in his grandgirls.

You’ve already read about Chloe’s attempts to discover her sense of style (and her struggle with making choices). It seems that Sophie has now caught the bug, too.

Forgetting that Sophie had a YMCA gym date with her father, our babysitter tried to put pajamas on Sophie after her bath. Sophie started to cry and protest when confronted with her nightclothes. Now, I’d like to think that Sophie is really smart. To the point of knowing that today is Wednesday, which means fun gym class with papa before bedtime. But that’s just wishful thinking on my part. She simply didn’t want to put on her pjs.

My husband came to our babysitter’s rescue, and carried Sophie to her closet so that she could choose an outfit. Note to Papa: Didn’t you learn anything from my blog posting about Chloe the other day? For crying out loud, Sophie’s only two! At least I waited until Chloe was six to give her the chance to break down in tears over clothes.

So what did Sophie take from her shelves? Believe it or not (although I guess if I’m being honest, it’s no surprise), she pulled out her denim mini-skirt and her pink (yes, pink – it’s very hard to avoid pink in a girl’s wardrobe) tunic shirt (see photo above). What did she exclaim once my husband dressed her? “Pretty!” Shoot me now.

In Today’s News


(1) Didn’t throw a fit…at all. She remained calm and happy for most of the day. There were some grunts and groans, and crocodile tears, but nothing Super Pink Me Not Mom couldn’t handle.
(2) Had another stellar session of creative movement (see my update to the initial blog post here).
(3) Voluntarily went to the couch to take her afternoon nap. All of that dancing exertion must have wiped her out.
(4) Informed me that she had made number two and assumed the horizontal “change my diaper” position without my asking her to do so.
(5) Has a new favorite exclamation: “Gross!” (not difficult to guess where that comes from; see below for her inspiration)
(1) Also had a decent day, with minimal angst and frustration.
(2) Upon being informed that her Grammy was in the delivery room (along with her papa) when she was born, asked, “Did I come out of your v____a?” To which I responded very matter-of-factly, “Yes, you did.” Her reaction: “That’s GROSS!” You don’t know the half of it, sweetie.
(3) Made a good-faith effort to remain seated at the dinner table until her father told her she could be excused. That’s not to say that she accepted her fate without protest; the protests simply came in one-minute intervals instead of every 30 seconds.
(4) Hugged my husband and me this evening without our asking her for one. Mind you, she’s thankfully not at the stage where hugging us humiliates her, but I have noticed that she doesn’t do it as frequently as she used to.
In a stupefying feat of baking, I made a pear tart from scratch (including the crust). Book club friends, if any of you read this entry before our gathering tomorrow night, consider yourselves on notice that you are going to be my guinea pigs. If you give my creation your seal of approval, I will replicate it for Thanksgiving at my mom’s next week.
All in all, a very excellent day.

Music in Sophie?

Does she or doesn’t she? That is the question…at least for my brother. My dear sibling is a jazz musician and he is very disappointed in my husband and me. Why, you ask? I don’t think he has any quarrels with our parenting (I mean, how could he? His child, Lucy, is not of the human species – she’s a yellow lab), but he is crushed that we missed our chance to turn Chloe into a musical prodigy.

A few weeks ago, my brother and I had a long conversation about lots of things, including his youngest niece. He’s currently in the throes of getting his Ph.D. in music education in Austin, Texas, and is convinced that if we don’t act soon with Sophie (i.e., within the next couple of weeks), all hope will be lost for her too. Which makes him very sad. You see, our great-grandfather was a well-known musician in Russia (before the Revolution), who was able to immigrate to the United States largely because of his talents. The musical aptitude then skipped a couple of generations before planting itself in my brother, who happens to be a rather gifted guitarist.

I took piano lessons when I was much younger, but never really liked it (come to think of it, I tried a lot of extracurricular activities that I didn’t like, and my parents indulged my lack of sticktoitiveness to an extent that I refuse to replicate for my kids). So now my muscially inclined brother is hoping that his sister’s last child (’cause the factory’s closed, folks) will carry on the tradition.

Uncle James, this video is dedicated to you. Let us know what you think. Is there hope for our little Sophie, who has paid tribute to Beethoven with her own version of “Symphony No. 9 (Ode to Joy)“?

Creative Movement?

Update 11/13/07: Sophie followed instructions again! Not all of the instructions, but most of them. She danced backwards, forwards and sideways. She excelled during circle time warm-up, and helped clean up the props. There’s hope for this toddler, yet!

Sophie likes to dance (see photo to left, Exhibit A).

So when it came time to enroll Sophie in a YMCA class, I thought it would be fun for the two of us to bond while creatively moving across the dance floor, since she seems to have a knack for it (see video below, Exhibit B).

With a feeling of irrational anticipation (adjusting to the stay-at-home gig has been a bit trying for me, to say the least), we went to the first class a few weeks ago. The instructor, a lovely woman who teaches at a local studio, warned all of us caregivers that the children might not participate, at least in the traditional sense, right away. They might simply observe, or make up their own moves. All of this is good, she told us.

No problem, I thought. Sophie loves to shake her booty. But Sophie often moves to the beat of her own drummer. And her listening skills are not yet as honed as her mischief-making skills. She is only two, I remind myself, ad nauseum. She’s also the youngest in the class. First session, she mostly watched. Second class, slight improvement. Third class, complete and utter meltdown. You get the picture. Until today, the only thing she seemed to enjoy was climbing on top of my back during warm-up when I’m on all fours trying to demonstrate the moves to her (“trying” is the operative word here) .

It thus came as a huge surprise when, at class this morning (after a minor tantrum when I tried to get her in the car), she creatively moved! We’re not talking 100% participation, mind you, and she didn’t always follow the teacher’s instructions. But she made a good-faith, smiling effort to move like a duck and like a spider, and she leapt and “swam” in the water (represented, of course, by a blue hula hoop).

Even our kindly teacher noticed the difference: “There’s been a breakthrough!” she exclaimed at the end of the class. Indeed, there was marked improvement. Even I had fun.

I’m currently taking bets on the last two classes. Will the progress continue, or will Sophie revert to her old ways? Tune in next week – same time, same channel – to find out…

Bonding Over Dinner and Folding Laundry

One of the most rewarding aspects of my new career turn as a stay-at-home mom is having more time to bond as a complete family unit. When I was working, it was rare for my husband and me to have dinner together with the girls. For the last six months, not only are we dining more frequently as a foursome, but I’ve accustomed the brood to some ground rules for harmonious meals:

(1) Dinner at 6:30 pm, because if it’s any later, I have to deal with Mr. Hyde (i.e., Sophie, see related post here), who turns into an inconsolable crank if she hasn’t eaten by then.
(2) Chloe must stay seated at the table until Sophie is done; otherwise, Sophie will inevitably follow her sister into the other room before her tummy is full. Saying the word “done” out loud is also verboten for the same reason. Chloe has since taken to spelling it out. Sophie is smart, but she’s not that smart.
(3) And no interrupting! The hubby goes nuts if we cut him off while he’s trying to make a crucial point.

So, it was with great pleasure that, after we finished cleaning up the mess Sophie made of the pasta, tomato sauce and parmesan cheese this evening, our two daughters asked to HELP(!) us fold the laundry. Had a passerby bothered to look through our dining room window, she would have seen the girls diligently trying to fold their father’s ratty old t-shirts – why such rags are even worthy of a folding effort is beyond me, but you do what you gotta do to keep the spouse happy. Of course, we had to refold everything they touched, but Chloe learned a thing or two from her father about proper folding methods. And Sophie amused herself by grabbing as many pieces of clothing from the basket as her little arms would hold, and putting them on her head.

In between folding episodes, the two little kidlets danced to their favorite music, including “Rollover DJ” by Jet and various songs by the Blues Brothers.

I smiled quite a bit during that 1/2 hour. However, in the interest of full disclosure, the girls managed to exasperate me plenty of times after we finished the laundry, so the warm and fuzzy feelings didn’t really last all that long. But the episode gave me fodder for the blog, so that certainly counts for something, right?

Fantasies of Youth

There was a time during high school when I was convinced of three things:

(1) I would become a brain surgeon (I think “St. Elsewhere” was one of my favorite shows back then);
(2) I would live in a beautiful apartment in New York City; and
(3) I would lead the life of a cosmopolitan, childless single woman (in the manner of a “Sex in the City” character, before the book and HBO series existed).

I was adamant about all of this, advertising my intentions to all of my friends, at least for a few years. Then I went off to college. I realized I would have to take too many science courses to fulfill adolescent fantasy #1, that in choosing to major in Art History and French literature, I would likely never be able to find a job that would pay enough for me to afford fantasy #2, and that, after meeting my future husband as a junior in college (the story for a future blog posting, perhaps), my single and childless fantasy #3 was numbered in years, not in decades.

I am incredibly happy that the path my life took differs so greatly from the life I imagined for myself in high school. A brain surgeon, for crying out loud?!? What was I thinking? And, no offense to Manhattan, or committed bachelorettes, but NYC has got to be one of the loneliest places on earth for a single woman. My post-high school decisions led me to several incredibly romantic years in a closet-sized studio apartment in Paris, my husband, my law degree, my girls. All of that adds up to fantasy-turned-reality #4, although I never would have put money on such an outcome when I was 17.

It’s funny how life happens.

Chocolate Chips?

My two-year old, Sophie, and I just returned home from enjoying a lunch date together at a local Tex-Mex restaurant. Whenever we eat there, she usually shares a burrito with my husband. But the hubby is out of town, and I don’t like burritos. So I ordered a rice, beans and cheese platter for her off of the kids’ menu. She loves her rice, beans and cheese (see photo of her above, enjoying the dish at home a few months ago). Until today, Sophie’s gusto for this dish was a mystery to me – especially since her older sister, Chloe, won’t go near such a concoction, and Sophie’s modus operandi is to emulate everything Chloe does. The serving was about three times too large for a two-year old’s tummy, but no mind. Sophie attacked it with all of the fervor of a child who hasn’t eaten in days. As she was nearing the end of the beans, she repeatedly said, “More chocolate chips.” In Sophie’s World (not the novel by Jostein Gaarder, but in my Sophie’s world), anything brown and mushy is a chocolate chip. What this says about her lack of taste buds is another story and perhaps worth a call to her pediatrician. But in the meantime, eureka! Forget about buying Jessica Seinfeld’s new cookbook, Deceptively Delicious. All I need to do when I want Sophie to eat some brown, healthy stuff is to tell her that the mush on her plate is chocolate chips. Do they come in green, too?