Friday, 30 November 2012


My babies are growing up. Literally: they both seize every opportunity to pull themselves upright to stand, triumphantly, for up to seven or eight minutes at a time.

They both crawl with confident clumsiness and alarming speed toward anything tiny they hope to ingest. Mere weeks ago they just rolled and flailed.

They both have enough hair for ponytails. Well, Ezra has had enough hair for ages, but today was the first time I gave him the pebbles and bam bam treatment. (His mom thought it was great.) I've generally ignored Athena's curls because I have no experience with hair like hers, but her mom asked me to condition, comb, and pigtail it this week, and it's so stinkin' adorable that now I'll probably do variations of this every day she's in my care until she develops enough awareness to pull the hairties out herself.

These two are only two and a half months apart, so it's really interesting to watch them develop at their own rates. They're vastly different little people. Ezra is extremely social -- he smiles easily, laughs ungracefully and uproariously, and will exchange grunts and babbles with delight. Athena is much more cautious and focused in her interactions with the world. I call her my scardeybaby because sudden movements and loud sounds frighten her. I have startled her to tears on more than one occasion by sneezing. Hell, she has startled herself into tears on more than one occasion by sneezing. Ezra thinks stuff like that is hilarious. Today he was busting up because Sasha was tossing the changing table pad around. Athena smiles at her name, but she's not a giggler. She's much more likely to put on a Serious Face, little frown and all, and stare you down with such intensity it's kind of disconcerting.

The best parts of my days are usually getting them up from their naps, when they're all smiles, happy to see me and happy to be alive and growing.


Sunday, 25 November 2012

homemade preschooler gifts: gak

HB and I got ourselves invited to the birthday party of the almost-three-year-old that HB nannies. We wanted to give him a gift that would be handmade and a hands-on sensory experience. So we decided to make gak!

After scouring online recipes and waffling about borax versus Metamucil as one of the key ingredients (borax may be harmful if swallowed), we decided to just go with borax since we had it on hand for making homemade laundry detergent, whereas we would have had to buy a big container of Metamucil just to get less than a tablespoon of the stuff for the recipe. We figured we'd put a warning label on the jar of gak to alert the parents about borax being potentially toxic. Both the three-year-old and his one-year-old sister don't put much non-food stuff in their mouths anymore, so we figured the borax gak would be safe enough. Gak is a good supervision-required activity anyway, since it's notoriously difficult to dig out of carpet fibers.

We used one of the many recipes online for flubber (one of the many aliases of gak). HB had an excellent time mucking about mixing the gak ingredients while I made the jar label, and she speculated that making the gak would actually be an awesome activity to do with kids, as long as they're old enough to keep their hands out of their mouths. The part that took the longest by far was kneading food coloring drops into each chunk of gak before we dropped each into the jar. (We figured the kids would mix all the colors together sooner or later anyway, so we didn't bother to divide the colors into different jars.)

To finish off the gift, we included a Gak Explorer Kit made from objects we scrounged up around the house: chopsticks, straws, and plastic knives slipped into a never-worn lone toe sock.

Maybe you will decide to do this for a preschooler in your life too! And if you're as mature as us, you'll save a chunk of the gak for yourself so that you can plunge it in and out of a salvaged salsa container to simulate flatulence sounds. You will spend a solid half hour doing this and giggling madly after the kid you're babysitting that night has fallen asleep.

High fives,

Wednesday, 21 November 2012


I often take for granted that so many people in my life enthusiastically and unhesitatingly accept my relationship with HB. About a year ago we both started feeling like we were outgrowing the term "girlfriend" as an accurate way to refer to each other. We outgrew "girlfriend" not only because it started feeling too juvenile (especially during the time I was grasping at everything I could to project myself as Adult to validate my role as a facilitator for several groups of teens) but also because so many people hear "girlfriend" and split it, destroying its synergy: girl - friend. HB is neither my casual friend nor described well by binary gender tags. So gradually we weaned ourselves off the term "girlfriend" and replaced it with "partner." It fits us better: the longevity of our relationship, the adultness of it, the consensual equity of it, the queerness and genderqueerness of it.

And, astoundingly, virtually everyone in my life embraces that. Not only do people love and celebrate HB and me, as individuals and as a unit, but for the most part, our friends and family echo our language. When our "girlfriends" started fading out and our "partners" filtered in, we fielded a few questions here and there, but for the most part, people just picked it up and went with it. Even HB's mother, whose cultural context influences her tendency to introduce me as HB's "friend" most of the time, tacitly accepts our relationship and has recently started deliberately including me when collectively referring to her "kids and their significant others."

I am so used to people getting it that I can be completely blindsided and downright hurt when someone casually redefines our relationship by a simple substitution of a single word.

Today when Sasha and Ezra's dad came home, he asked for recommendations of other people who could act as kid care backup if I'm ever unavailable. I suggested my partner, who I mentioned to him last week in a different context, both times with "she" pronouns attached.

Sasha had been dancing around, only half-listening, and she asked who we were talking about. Without missing a beat, Sasha's dad said, "Her roommate."

And yeah, that hurt.

If I had said "husband," would he have translated it to Sasha as "roommate" or "friend"? What if I had said boyfriend? Wife? Girlfriend?

I have no way of knowing how deliberate that translation was. Was it to avoid a potentially awkward talk with Sasha about gender and sexuality and relationships? Was it an unconscious sleight of brain, a mistaken mistranslation? I doubt it was intended to offend me. I doubt he realized that it would sting, that it would feel like invalidation, rejection, refusal to support -- let alone acknowledge -- the reality and legitimacy of who I am and who my partner is and who we are together.

As I biked home, I cycled through a bitter inner soliloquy about gratefulness and ungratefulness. A lot of it sounded like: "I spend eight hours a day three days a week raising your children. I am teaching Sasha to read and to explore and to be kinder. I feed, nap, bathe, and carry Ezra around on my chest. I kiss his cheeks and tickle his belly and sing him every lullaby I know. I make sure the dog gets a walk, and I clean it up when she vomits on the rug. Even though you have never asked me to and have never thanked me for it, I wash all the dishes in the sink. And then with one casual word I feel like my family doesn't matter to you."

But now that I have put a few hours and a solid venting session between myself and that incident, perspective is sliding back into place. Regardless of what, if anything, Sasha's dad meant by editing my words, HB is still my partner and my family. And my life is -- miraculously and wonderfully -- filled with people who know that and who reserve wide open spaces for us, together, in their hearts.


Sasha Says, ep. 8

A week after the election: "I voted for Obama. All the kids vote for Obama."

"Do you know Barack Obama's real name? Barack. And do you know Mitt Romney's real name? Mitt."

Flexing her itty bitty biceps: "I'm so strong the Mandrakes can't kill me!" [in Harry Potter, Mandrakes are plants that, when immature, can knock out a human with their cries, and when fully grown their cries are so horrible they can actually kill humans.]

I texted Sasha's mom a picture of the activity we were working on, and she texted back saying "Tell Sasha I say HI!" When I relayed this to Sasha, she rolled her eyes and said in her most dramatic teenager voice, "Boring." I laughed and started to type a text, and, panicked, Sasha said, "Don't tell her I said that! It's unpolite!"

Me: "It's chilly out here!"
Sasha: "It's okay, we have strength!"

Me: "I missed the goal! Alas!"
Sasha: "Alas, you swabs!"
Me: "Huh?"
Sasha: "You know, like pirates say."

High fives,

Monday, 12 November 2012

Harry Potter Holidays

Sasha had Friday and Monday off from school, so I wanted to make sure I had plenty of activities prepared to keep her busy for two whole days. Since we've been reading the Harry Potter books together, and she loves the hell out of 'em, I thought she would enjoy a load of Harry Potter themed activities.

My criteria for activities was:
  1. It must be fun.
  2. It must support learning.
    (Literacy, science, art, physical activity, music, social skills, problem solving, etc.)
  3. It must be relevant and doable for a single six-year-old who has only read the first two Harry Potter books.
I searched the internet for "Harry Potter activities for kids," but almost everything that came up was kind of pathetic. I tend to shy away from things that restrict kids' creativity, so pretty much any website that started with the words "free printables" was off the table. Coloring a pre-printed owl or doing a crossword puzzle? No thanks. One "top ten" list of Harry Potter games for kids I found was almost entirely composed of screen-oriented activities like marathoning the movies, downloading an iWand iPhone app, and playing trivia online. As much as I love the occasional movie marathon, that's not really a great option for Sasha, since a.) we have enough power struggles over movies as it is and b.) she already vetoed watching the movies because she thinks they will be too scary for her, and she's probably right.

What's a nanny to do?

Make her own activities, of course! Here's my lineup of fun, educational Harry Potter activities, after the cut.

Saturday, 10 November 2012

Sasha Says, ep. 7

Referring to her dad's crooked teeth: "You know how my dad's teeth are all piled up?"

Talking about her dog: "She had the fleas."

Flexing her biceps: "I like exercising because it makes me tough!"

"There's something fishy around here."

On the walk home from school, pulling up her shirt to show me what resembles a magenta child-sized sports bra: "I'm wearin' my joggin' clothes because it makes me really fast! Because it makes it so I can't sweat so I'm fast."

We had been having a verbal tug-of-war about something or other, and she decided the best way to win the argument would be: "Yeah, well, my dad is famous." (He's not.) I replied, "That's what Draco Malfoy says." She looked at me in genuine horror and backpedaled: "Actually, my dad's not famous."

High fives,

Thursday, 8 November 2012

Leaf Puppets

The last week or so, Sasha has more cheerful and easygoing than she has been for the last few months. Perhaps she's finally adapted to the school routine, or to having a new baby brother, or to having a new nanny; perhaps it's some other unfathomable combination of variables. Either way, I'll take it. It certainly makes me more excited to plan activities for her, since she's more likely to be receptive to them!

On Wednesday this week I showed up to Sasha's house equipped with a box of googley eyes and a bottle of Elmer's glue. On the walk home from school (which was, mercifully, sunny) I started picking up fallen leaves. I explained, "I brought googley eyes and glue to your house, and so I thought we could collect some leaves and--"

Sasha interrupted, excitedly: "I have a great idea! We could put googley eyes on the leaves and make leaf puppets!"

Pretty much exactly what I was thinking, although it hadn't occurred to me to call them puppets, which implies that we might produce a puppet show. Awesome!

We did step 1: collect leaves, spread all over kitchen counter; and step 2: adhere googley eyes to the leaves and allow to dry. Sasha also got out her gel pens and drew freckles, a mouth, and other details on her favorite leaf.

We'll see if she's interested in using them as puppets on Friday.


Tuesday, 6 November 2012

in honor of the election...

Here is a piece of art Sasha made a couple of weeks ago. She told me she was "definitely voting for Obama" and that she and one of her friends were going to hold a demonstration and march in their neighborhood to "make everyone vote for Obama."

it's a "balloon" duct taped to a stick

On a more personal note, I tend to lean toward Emma Goldman's philosophies about voting -- primarily that it's a bullshit system whereby we are pacified into believing that voting is equivalent to making actual change. The notion that we exercise agency because we get to choose who and what to vote for reminds me a lot of offering a preschooler the red shirt or the blue shirt when you're just trying to get out the door to get more diapers. Yes, it's a choice, but it's a limited and coerced choice, designed primarily to placate one's desire for autonomy and control, and not to actually allow full participation in decision-making processes.

That said, I also recognize that a lot of folks in this country who are affected by who is in office and what policies are put into place do not have the privilege of voting. I also recognize that if I, as an individual, simply abstained from voting to protest the screwed up, coercive political system in the US, it wouldn't change anything. A president will still be elected. Local officials will still be sworn into office. Ballot measures will still become law or not become law. Taxes will still be levied. The only thing abstaining from voting would do would be to exclude me from having any say at all. It would mean someone else picks the red or blue shirt for me because I'm still at the mercy of people with more power than me, and their agenda includes getting diapers and by god we're not doing it shirtless.

So even though our democratic election process invokes patriotic rhetoric about "freedom" and "change" that's more stormclouds than actual deluge, at least my infinitesimally small opinion has been requested. It ain't much, but a vote for Obama is one itty bitty squeak closer to avoiding a Romney/Ryan presidency. At least under the Obama/Biden administration I have a chance of seeing people in the White House acknowledge that trans* and gender non-conforming folks like my partner exist and matter. We have a president who publically recognizes and supports all marriages, not just heterosexual ones, and who has a pretty solid track record of making this a better country in which to be LGBTQ, at least legally. That's a pretty stark contrast from Romney's "I didn't know you [gay people] had families" comment. Yes we do. We have families, both families of origin and chosen/created families. And we, like all people, deserve recognition, respect, and equitable access to resources.

Excuse me while I sign off to spend some quality time alternating between trying to plan Harry Potter themed activities to fill Sasha's two upcoming no-school days, and agonizing over news coverage of the election results.

In hopes of high fives,

Friday, 2 November 2012

Sasha Says, ep. 6

For the past 10 minutes Sasha had been pretending to be a cat, and as I petted her and gave her imaginary kitty food I recited a few cat facts. She abruptly stopped pretending to be a cat, and said in this very annoyed voice, "Please stop talking about cats."

Me: "Are you excited to go trick-or-treating on Halloween?"
Sasha, adamant: "NO."

As I sing the chorus to "This is Halloween" from Nightmare Before Christmas: "I know that exactly same song!"

 "You know what? All food is from the store. But some of it is from farms, and some of it is made in factories. So you can go to the farm to get foods from the grocery store and factories."

"Santa Claus has the same initials as me. If Santa Claus had initials. I don't think he does."

"I know how that song goes. But don't trust me."

"Books are like movies, except books the screen is in your head. I think I like real screens better."

"At the morning meeting our principal did a dance. He was really bad at it. It looked like a cowboy wearing a tie, which is very unlikely."


Thursday, 1 November 2012

Borrowing Kids

Halloween is my favorite holiday. I don't know if it's just that I'm breathlessly in love with fall, or that the holiday has so many opportunities for one-time-a-year artistic endeavors (carving pumpkins! sewing costumes!), or that it has really fascinating historic and contemporary ties to other celebrations like Samhain and Dia de los Muertos. Whatever the reason, I get super stoked for Halloween right around when the first rainstorm slicks the city in October every year.

The past three or four years, October 31st itself has been rather a letdown. I'm in this liminal space between kid and adult that is almost incompatible with Halloween:
  • I'm definitely too old to go trick-or-treating without kids in tow.
  • I don't have kids.
  • I don't like the types of parties that people my age typically attend.
So the last few years, if I bothered to make a costume at all, I couldn't bring myself to put it on for Halloween. Instead, I sat in my room and avoided Halloween entirely. Last year we didn't even get any trick-or-treaters.

This year, Jaden's mom took pity on me and invited me and HB (who also babysits Jaden) to go trick-or-treating with their family and a friend's family. HB and I clumsily, valiantly biked to Jaden's place wearing our costumes and carrying everything we would need for the next 24 hours. (We've been cat sitting for a person whose cats require us to stay overnight, so we've been hauling food and clothes back and forth from our house to the cat place each day for two weeks.) I'm sure we were quite the sight. Totally worth it when Jaden bounced over to greet us and play with our costumes.

Ultimately we were a flock of six adults chaperoning two three-year-olds. Only two of the adults hadn't dressed in costume, which means some houses offered us candy, too! We had a grand time, and the kids did too.

HB and I rounded off our night with hot spiced apple cider and a movie (and unsuccessfully tried to cajole the cats into snuggling with us), and we agreed that when we have kids, we hope that, like Jaden's parents, we will invite kid-loving kid-less adults into our kids' lives. It's rewarding for everyone.

High fives,