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Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Happy New Day!

Zaiki picked up the holiday fever cheer: for the past few weeks, they keep bringing Papa and I various household items (old giftcards, coins, toys, spatulas) wrapped up in a towel; toy purse; toilet paper or anything else that looks festive to the zaiki-eyes and is within their reach. Then they demand that we drop everything we are doing and open the present as they wish us "Happy New Day!". I like it. New Day is my new favorite holiday. So, whatever you are celebrating this season, HAPPY NEW DAY TO YOU!! :)

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Here to bring you holiday cheer (no, really, no sarcasm this time)

All right, as much as I don' like holidays, the presence of zaiki in my life means that I have to change the way I think. Christmas is time to be grateful, and the end of the year lends itself to summing things up and all that stuff...It would have been much easier for me to write about the things I find annoying about it, but, to put myself in the appropriate holiday mood, I've been thinking about all the things I'm grateful for. So here you go, Lida's 12 things to appreciate at the end of 2011:

1. New pumpkin cookie recipe: love, love baking those! They come out gooey, mushy and sweet. :)
2. Dexter - the best TV show ever!!!!
3. Wine - without it, my life will be unbearable. I love just having a wine glass on the table next to my plate, it instantly soothes me
4. For walking away from my car accident  without serious complications. Also finding a car we like and can afford relatively quickly
5. For my creative ability. Even though I haven't painted in AGES (which I miss so much!), I've been able to find ways to be creative, even if it's making a silly holiday card or making coal candy
6. For running and foot alcohol injections: I'm sosososo happy that I my foot problem can be solved relatively easy and will not cause permanent damage. And for medical geniuses who came up with injecting alcohol into your foot to kill your uppity uncooperative nerve. I love running. It keeps me balanced, and my body just feels right when it runs. I don't know what I would do if I couldn't run (probably drink much much more)
7. For having a job: even though I don't like what I do, and my job is boring.  It's a paycheck. A small one, but still. It also gets me out of the house and keeps me out of stay-at-home-mom-hell. I like (with a very few exceptions) people I work with, so going there is not a torture. The hours are great, people are understanding, and it's really close to our house. And they pay for my graduate school.
8. For my babysitters: girls love them, and we can afford them :) I was complaining about the kids' sleep issues, and Liz came over to put them to bed the other night. That's super super nice in my book, and I'm lucky that my kids have people other than family who care about them
9. For my mother and my brother - even though they are far away and I don't see them most of the time, we've managed to stay close and talk all the time. And the girls know baba Anya and dyadya Masik
10. For my friends, old and new
11. For my husband: I'm really lucky to have him! He gets me. He is a good father, patient husband and I love and get his sense of humor. He is a wonderful father for my kids, and I love seeing them together.  Plus, he cooks (which I hate doing)
12. For my kids, that they are healthy and growing so well!!! They annoy me, they test me to the limit (and beyond), they took over my life, but how boring would my life be without them? It's great to see them grow, and there is a satisfaction in knowing I'm doing right by them, that they are happy and safe.

That pretty much sums it up. Now off to buy a Christmas-themed sweater and maybe do some caroling? LOL...

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Stinkbugs attack!!

If you looked at the side of our house early this morning, you would no doubt see a small purple sponge frozen solid, laying in the grass. How did it get there, you may ask? Behold for a tale of one stinkbug's life and (very timely) death...
Last night I was home alone with zaiki, who were in a rare Incredible Hulk form. I finally wrestled them into the tub. I have two sponges: pink (Maya's) and purple (Sonya's), hanging in the shower for zaiki-scrubbing. Usually the washing goes this way:
Me: "Maya, come here and let me wash your hair"

Me: "Sonya, come here I'll wash your hair"

Me: "Come here now!" (start lathering shampoo on them)
Zaiki: "WAAAAAAA" <splash,splash,splash> - I am covered in water....

Last night, before I could get to the oh-so-fun hair washing routine, we saw a GIANT STINKBUG hiding in Sonya's purple sponge, ready to strike at any moment. Zaiki leaped out of the tub dripping wet before I could say "stinkbug" and I was left to extract the bug from the tub. I hate all bugs. I have creepy-crawlies just thinking about them, and forget about touching it with my hands! Not happening....Plus, the bug was huge!So, I was hoping it will behave normally and drown.

Turns out stinkbugs can live under water for a while. It was firmly attached to the sponge and was perfectly content on sitting in the nice, warm water (and a little bit of pee). But zaiki still needed to be washed, and I still had to shower.

So I gathered all my mental strength coupled with mothering instinct, reached in and grabbed the sponge. I took it to the window I opened and tried to shake the nasty thing into the cold. The bug, feeling imminent death, started crawling up the sponge towards my finger, prompting me to yelp like a wounded puppy and throw the damn thing out of the window. Zaiki were delighted that mama saved the day once again.

And to earn even more zaiki-points, I brought in the frozen sponge in this morning (sans the bug) when I went out to warm up the car. Turns out, 2.5 year olds are really amused by frozen stiff objects. It's nice to be a hero... :)

zaiki and co.: To VFF Or Not To VFF?

zaiki and co.: To VFF Or Not To VFF?: My foot neuroma is back and I'm trying to strangle it permanently with alcohol injections, which, turns out, are covered by my health insura...

To VFF Or Not To VFF?

My foot neuroma is back and I'm trying to strangle it permanently with alcohol injections, which, turns out, are covered by my health insurance (yay!!). In the light of trying to run more as painlessly as possible I've gotten new running shoes, also by Brooks. Not Green Silence, since I think they were a culprit in neuroma appearance, but Pure Flow. I like the shoe so far: it's more cushy and has a little more substance to it...The drawback is that it's heavier and transitioning took a little bit. But the shoes are broken in already (double yay!!!) and are very comfortable for my daily runs. They do tend to run a little more snug so if you have wide feet beware!

My witch foot doctor thinks that I need more cushioning in the front of the shoe, since I strike first with the forefoot. That got me thinking: what about Vibram Five Fingers (VFF) shoes? I've been lusting after Bikilas for a lo-o-ong time, but wasn't sure if those would work for me in light of the annoying neuroma that just won't go away... So this is the question: to Vibram or not to Vibram?

Reviews generally praise five-finger-minimalist shoes to high heavens. They look really funky, which I like, but are they really practical? Since I run around a town, pesky issues like dog poop and broken glass are real...Hmmm...

Basically, there are two camps (just like with everything, I guess):

First, we have people who love and rave about VFFs - "most comfortable shoe ever"; "best for running"; and my favorite "these shoes feel fast". I'm guessing these are people who are mechanically very efficient and slightly obsessed with running. Been there, done that, miss it, but due to the presence of Raging Toddlers can't indulge in. Having two kids puts a cramper on doing long runs regularly and interferes with your life revolving around your weekly miles.

But then there is an underbelly of concerns: stress fractures, aggravating old injuries, which I have plenty of! Also, I'm afraid of blisters. I don't like blisters. Some runners wrote about bloody blisters on the inside of their feet after running in Bikilas. Does it sound like comfort to you? No, me either. And "oh just slap some duck tape on those and you'll be fine" approach never did it for me. Yes, I'm a wimp. I like my feet intact and not bleeding.

I did try Bikilas at a running store last year. You know how long it took me to put them on? 5 minutes. You can't really wear socks with VFFs, and getting every piggy into its own little house, especially if the house is made of rubber, is a time-consuming task. Either way, any purchasing decisions will be postponed until the warmer weather.
Meanwhile, we are baking rock-star cookies for nice people, candy-coal for naughty. Hohoho!

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Raging Toddlers, or All I Want For Christmas Is Sleep

Almost every night for the past few months our house is being visited by Raging Toddlers, the Incredible Hulks of smaller pink variety. Every night at bedtime it's fussing, crying, screaming, and poopalooning (the Little household word meaning running around, giggling, getting into things you shouldn't and avoiding doing what is asked of you in every possible way). I don't get it! I'm sure there are children who go to sleep quietly, sweetly saying their good night prayers. No, not zaiki! Sleep is an enemy that must be fought at all costs. Each has her own way of campaigning against it: Sonya bites her nails, and Maya just keeps talking, talking, talking, talking....

I hate bedtime. What do you do when your two-year old, in response to your request to close their eyes says "no"? And then there is two of them!!! I feel helpless. Kevin and I sit with them, negotiating, but every night ends up the same way: screaming till 10 pm, then blurry-eyed and cranky in the morning. The cycle repeats itself the next night. And what's up with two perfectly potty-trained little girls who pee in their pull up at night? And on purpose? And then tell me about it. Proudly. GRRRRR.

I know there's master manipulation going on, but there is two of them, and I just don't have enough backbone to fight two strong-willed little people at the same time.

Add the holiday stress on top of our sleep battles, and you have yourself an anti-social tired little me, who is snappy and short-fused. Oh, I completely get the Grinch! But Christmas is inevitable, it's looming and I can feel it breathing down my neck...It's coming! And zaiki know about Christmas - the most important thing a 2-year old should know: everyone puts up pretty lights and Santa (Ded Moroz) brings presents. Maya asked for a dolly and a hamster (HA! Good luck with that!!! As if I need another thing to clean up after!). Sonya asked for a purple rabbit. Every morning they keep asking when Ded Moroz is coming.

Given a bi-cultural household we run, I've been dumbfounded as to how to incorporate both: American Christmas is on the 25th of December, and Russian is on January 8th. Plus, The New Year Eve is kinda big deal for me: that's when Ded Moroz actually comes. So we have a discrepancy: do they get presents on the 25th or on January 1st? Or both? What about January 8th?

Also, I'm trying (unsuccessfully) to keep the religious aspect out of the holidays, at least for now, mainly because I don't want to end up going to church on Christmas as I have a feeling they may request that. Which I know, I know, is the WHOLE POINT of the holiday. Never said I was rational. All I'm saying is that I have issues. Huge ones. And knowing is half the battle. The problem is, how do you make a leap from "knowing" into "changing"? Crystal in your sock? Silver pendulum? (Hi Joe!!! Miss you lots!!!).  

Anyway, back to zaiki: walking downtown by the Catholic church the other day, Maya looks up at the stone Jesus and exclaims: "Mama, it's Jesus!". Then they broke into a duet rendition of "Immaculate Mary, Your Praises We Sing"... Well, our grandma-substitute-babysitter is Catholic. Sigh.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Oh the Joy of the Holidays or the Strange Way My Brain Works Sometimes

Oh, the holidays...Pass the eggnog, spread the joy and other stuff...

 I'm not a fan of Christmas, of obligations that it imposes on me. Plus, I'm a heathen agnostic, and the church aspect doesn't do it for me either. Why do we have to pick one month out of the year to be nice and extra thoughtful? Why all of a sudden we feel that we give a crap about poor people, have to "adopt a family" and spend lots of money on people you usually see once a year? Then go to a party and suffer through dinner, conversations that don't mean much only to come home bloaty from all the bad food you've eaten? Why all this has to be cramped INTO ONE MONTH? How about we spread the "joy" evenly over twelve months? How about we be nice to one another regularly, donate to a charity of our choice sporadically and skip the crazy holiday shopping? Hmm...

The other day in traffic during a drive home that should take only 10 minutes, but took me 30 because I pass right by a local mall on the way home, I got thinking about the holidays.

If each holiday was a person, what would it look like? I know this is a strange concept to think of, but this is coming from a girl whose coffee HAS to be the right color in order to drink it (it's the artist in me, I guess).

So here, ladies and gents, is how I see the holidays if they were people. Let's start with the summer ones:

Memorial day -- gangly, tall teenage boy who likes to party but doesn't know how yet, pale from the lack of sunshine. But the promise of good times and summer growing into itself is in the air. :)

4th of July -- drunk slutty sorority girl who is just so eager and giddy to have fun: makes herself up all pretty only to not be able to pace herself, ends up drunk in the pool and passes out right before the fireworks start. Great expectations but fails to deliver :)

Labor day - pleasant minivan mom in crocs, busy with last minute prep for the upcoming fall.

Thanksgiving is what a grandma should be: loving, welcoming, always has yummy food, loves everyone, everyone is invited, no pressure. The only thing she wants you to do is stuff your face and be happy.

Hanuka is like a strange neighbor, doesn't socialize much but you see him come and go and are dying from curiosity to see what goes on inside their house.

Christmas is a haughty, overly made up finicky female co-worker who puts together a huge party each year and you never know whether or not you'd be invited or whether or not she'll like her gift. Way too much stress.

New Year would be an unkempt, slightly drunk uncle (think chain-smoking whiskey-smelling Santa). You get together with him because there is no pressure, pleasant chit-chat, and good food.

Easter: an old lady in a pastel-colored sweater, with blue curly hair and pearls at a buffet in a family restaurant. (Maybe because of calla lillies which I firmly associate with old people and funeral homes).

I'm sure I missed one somewhere, but gotta go spread the holiday cheer. :)  Let me leave you with this: try  playing f**k, marry or kill game with the characters I've just created for ya.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

zaiki and co.: Here Comes The Bride Or The Way We Once Were...

zaiki and co.: Here Comes The Bride Or The Way We Once Were...: November is a pretty eventful month for the Little family: Kevin and I went on our first date in November, we got married in November, Kevin...

Here Comes The Bride Or The Way We Once Were...

November is a pretty eventful month for the Little family: Kevin and I went on our first date in November, we got married in November, Kevin's birthday is in November, as well as his favorite holiday. So this was a busy month.This year's wedding anniversary was very low key and subdued: we quietly exchanged gifts and went out to dinner.

Talking to a friend from work who just gotten engaged over Thanksgiving made me all reminiscent about our wedding, a fun and classy affair marked by debauchery, guests puking under the tables and pooping themselves (yes-yes, they did!!) out of drunkenness. In other words, everything you expect your wedding to be.

So, fasten your seat belts for a little trip down the memory lane:

Kevin proposed in July and our wedding happened in November that same year, proving that it is possible to put together a smashing fun wedding event in 4 months. I never thought I'd ever get married, let along meet the one person I wanted to live with in my very early twenties, so, as I've prepared myself for a life of spinsterhood and/or promiscuity, I haven't had a slightest clue as to how to plan a wedding, pick out a dress, or what exactly I wanted.

Honestly, I would have been perfectly happy to live in sin for years, but pesky legal issues (like being an illegal alien) played their role in speeding up our nuptials. Kevin and I are lucky enough to be mostly on the same wavelength for most things, so we knew that these were non-negotiable:
- lots of good food
- lots of alcohol
- great music

Everything else didn't really matter. And, turns out, if you are flexible and open about venues, guest lists and invitation styles, you can put your wedding together pretty quickly. Unfortunately, my mom and bro couldn't come, so that was one bit of a downer for me... Kevin's mom officiated the ceremony, I got my dress during the first run to the bridal shop, we made our own centerpieces, chose all this amazing food and a cake (it was raspberry chocolate with whipped cream), good friend agreed to DJ, guests graciously agreed to attend on a rather short notice, and we were set.

The night before we had a drunkfest rehearsal dinner for our guests, and I had a mean hangover on the wedding day. Add the fact that I stumbled into Kevin's hotel room at 5 am piss drunk, and you get the picture of squinty-eyed, pale shaky bride. After lots and lots of water, some make-up and rest I was ready.

Everything went on without a hitch (haha, here I go again, ain't I funny?), guests were having fun, and we danced the night away. One bit of wisdom that I've discovered: at your own wedding dinner, you can do two out of three things: eat, talk to guests, dance. One has to be sacrificed to the wedding gods.We chose the latter two, and didn't have more than a bite of all the amazing foods we painstakingly chose several months before. I think I had a single shrimp.

Our guests were having so much fun (thanks open bar and John!) that the venue had to kick us out (they flipped the lights on and starting clearing the tables while people were still dancing). Then lots of guests went back to our hotel, piled into our bridal suite and ordered pizza. They stayed till about 2 am. And it was a lot of fun even since.

I think I'd like to do a "middle of marriage" celebration at some point in time...This time a destination on the beach, during sunset. Flowers in the hair? Maybe some white horses? Rum? Reggae? Rasta minister? Yeah, definitely our kind of thing...

Monday, November 28, 2011

Playing Blocks: Art or Science, or Why Some Whiny Intellectuals Need To Stop Breeding

All right, I'm back from the turkey-induced coma. Actually, we've been sick all weekend. Hacking, coughing, sneezing and waking up at 5:30 am. Not cool. So today, I'm still dragging and decided to put my scheduled work hours to a good use: to catch up on global news. I opened an online NYT edition and what do I see on their front page? A piece intriguingly titled "With Blocks, Educators Go Back to Basics". After reading first few paragraphs I thought this was a joke. Then I flipped to the second page and realized that a very serious matter is being discussed: How to play blocks with your children.

Simple, right? Intuitive, right? Apparently, some neurotic overachieving parents need to ATTEND WORKSHOPS on playing blocks. Big, huge, sloppy WTF anyone? Or is it just me who thinks that building towers and tunnels and houses and other stuff out of wooden blocks is part of what you do with kids? Well, lets look at the article closely, because some paragraphs just leave me in awe. I quote:

"Huddled together on the reading rug of a prekindergarten classroom on the Upper West Side, three budding builders assembled a multilayered church with a Gothic arch. Nearby, another block artist created a castle with a connecting courtyard. Meanwhile, a fifth toiled earnestly on a shaky tower, eliciting oohs and aahs from across the room when it came tumbling down."

Block artists? Budding builders? Oohs and aahs? Sounds intriguing... Let's keep reading on:

"J. S., a self-described “block consultant,” advised the group to engage their children in building by photographing their work."

Block consultant? Really? Photographing?? Those pre-kindergarten kids and their parents have "block consultants"? What's next: Renting a gallery to exhibit your child's pre-k watercolors? Or recording their musical achievements? Do they also have nutritionists and assigned nose wipers on staff? What kind of school is it? Let's see:

"Eva Moskowitz, the former city councilwoman who runs a fast-growing network of charter schools, said her schools had created a “religion around blocks,” and she proudly advertises their fully outfitted block labs alongside the chess program and daily science classes. The International School of Brooklyn is developing a program using blocks to reinforce foreign-language acquisition. And Avenues, the for-profit school scheduled to open next year in Greenwich Village, is devoting a large section of its kindergarten floor to a block center.<...> Fretta Reitzes, who runs an early-education conference every November at the 92nd Street Y, said the block workshop sold out so quickly this year that she added a second one."

Oh, it makes perfect sense now: Upper middle class New York school, where common sense is permanently suspended and replaced with absurdity and new age crap. Block center? Workshops? How neurotic and sad do these parents need to be that they have to taught by a "block consultant" how to play blocks with their kids. Here, let me consult you: get a bucket of wooden blocks, dump them on the floor and actually let your rugrats go at it. This will be $500. I'll even throw in a free song and dance about natural selection and soft-bellied sissies in with it. I bet you that it'll still be cheaper than those trendy workshops... and I'm an awesome dancer, just ask my kids.

In my opinion, if you need a workshop on how to play with your child, you should not have procreated. Your genes are obviously inferior and in the good old days, you'd probably get eaten by a saber-toothed tiger because you wouldn't have been able to climb a tree and there was no need for lawyers back then. I just hope that these people's kids get a healthy dose of common sense and life from somewhere despite charter schools, block workshops and Mandarin lessons. Maybe from their nannies?

Anyway, the article continues in the same fashion for TWO PAGES!!! About playing blocks. With pre-schoolers. Must have been a slow week, NYT. For those of you with a healthy sarcastic sense of humor, feel free to check out the rest below:

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

zaiki and co.: The Great and Powerful World of Disney, Or Everyth...

zaiki and co.: The Great and Powerful World of Disney, Or Everyth...: I’ve mentioned before how Disney has inevitably and irrevocably became part of our lives in the last 6 mo...

The Great and Powerful World of Disney, Or Everything Has a Hidden Meaning

I’ve mentioned before how Disney has inevitably and irrevocably became part of our lives in the last 6 months. The obsession with all things Disney has progressed from an occasional Steamboat Willy to almost daily references to princesses, dragons and evil witches. A friend from work loaned us pretty much an entire Disney library (thank you Doug!) saving us a ton of money and hassle to find the highly coveted entertainment.

The three contenders for the top spot in zaiki’s hearts are “Sleeping Bleuty” (yes, yes, just like that: BLYYUUUTY), “Tangled”, aka “Punzel” and “Lady and the Tramp”, aka “The Puppies”. We watch one of these at least once a day, and by this point I could write Disney's misogynistic, sexist and racist anthology just from watching the three cartoons. But I won’t. Instead, I’m offering you free snippet-style insight into the magical world of Disney:

Lady and the Tramp – the oldest of the three, made in 1955.

Little rich girl-puppy gets thrown out of her house by the stupid cat owner-babysitter and her evil Siamese cats. Full of stereotypes, (Is that what was funny 60 years ago?), starting with the cats, who are obviously and insultingly foreign (Siam is Thailand I believe?).

I counted 5 additional racial/cultural stereotypes in the cartoon, including but not limited to:
a. Red-faced Irish cop
b. Smarmy yet friendly Italian cook
c. Sleepy (and I think drunk) Mexican Chihuahua
d. Dopey and sad Russian greyhound
e. Hillbilli-ish beaver

The tramp-dog calls the girl-puppy “Pidg”, short for Pigeon, which when said quickly made me stop what I was doing and rewind to make sure I heard it correctly. Go ahead, say it fast…See??!

Moral of the story: women need strong manly handling and should stay home and make babies; everyone who likes cats is stupid. And never let your spinster aunt with two foreign cats babysit your baby: they’ll destroy your house, eat your fish and drink baby’s milk. Maybe will even sit on your baby’s chest and steal his soul.   

Sleeping Bleuty – 1958.

Here we see the princess as a helpless yet beautiful thing in need of man-rescue. She does not control her fate in any respect, and is easily hypnotized to prick her finger and fall asleep. In fact, all that the evil witch has to do is show pretty green light to the princess and off into the danger she goes. She doesn’t appear much after that and rightfully so. If  you have nothing valuable to contribute, off to sleep with you!

First of all, let me just say: who gets married at 16???!!! How about let’s finish high school and get a decent education beyond singing and berry picking? And the prince has to be at least 10 years older than her. And who starts dancing in the woods with an older stranger?

Moral of the story: men will take care of everything, just be a good girl and wait.  Also, don’t forget to be as obtuse and gullible as possible. What the fairies should have given her as a gift was brains.

Tangled – 2009 

Fast forward 60 years later and oh my how the times have changed! Here we have a totally different breed of princesses: strong and assertive, handy with a frying pan. Rapuntzel is a force of nature. My guess is Disney acquired some female executives or did a viewership focus group. Or both. They know who puts all those millions in their pockets: mothers of pre-pubescent girls, that’s who, and those power-mommies want good examples for their little ones: “Mr. Disney, no more oh-come-save-me damsel in distress crap, and while you are at it, please raise the age of consent to 18!”

The male protagonist, on the other hand, while still handsome, is somewhat dimwitted this time. Definitely some strong female decision-makers had come aboard… Interestingly enough, this is the first Disney movie I saw with an actual murder in-progress depicted on the screen.

Moral of the story: Girls, make your own fate with the help of a frying pan, a dream, some friendly thugs and don’t count on your prince charming, ‘cause he may need you to bail him out of trouble.   

So there you have it. I don’t know which one I like best/least, the animation is amazing in all three (as always), but at least Tangled has some comic relief for parents’ benefits and some amusing musical numbers. It’s less scary for the little ones. 

One more valuable observation: King fathers in Sleeping Beauty and Tangled could be twins. Ahem, Disney, cutting corners much? 

I know some of you may say, oh, it’s just cartoons! Except it’s not: those movies are carefully crafted advertisements that propagate a certain worldview and lifestyle. It is important to know what your children watch, see it from their perspective (we actually have conversations about the cartoons, zaiki tell me what scared them, what they thought was funny or impressive) to be able to mitigate whatever influence you as a parent consider harmful. As for me, I’m off to make a tinfoil hat, dig a compound in North Carolina woods and stock up on ammo. J

In other Little household news: Thanksgiving is upon us, the Christmas shopping is in full swing, turkey has been bought, wine will be bought tonight, and let the festivities, completed with Kevin’s birthday right on Thanksgiving, begin! We are crazy enough to go out on Black Friday to replace a television that died a tragic and untimely death in a mishap this past year (turns out plasmas really don't like to be dropped on the floor, oops!). I guess you are not fully American until you get baptized in the holy church of Best Buy on Thanksgiving night. 

Thursday, November 17, 2011

zaiki and co.: Chi-Squareds, Cohen's Kappas, T-Tests and Academic...

zaiki and co.: Chi-Squareds, Cohen's Kappas, T-Tests and Academic...: I am in statistical hell: I am taking a research methods course in my graduate program. I'm burning and little evil chi-squared, alphas, kap...

Chi-Squareds, Cohen's Kappas, T-Tests and Academic Unfairness

I am in statistical hell: I am taking a research methods course in my graduate program. I'm burning and little evil chi-squared, alphas, kappas and t-tests are prickiling me with their tiny pointy numbery pitchforks. Since when does a marketing communication graduate student need an in-depth knowledge of correlation coefficients? What kind of poppycock is that?!!! You have computer programs for that!

Ok, I have always been no-so-good sucked at doing math and math problems. And now, due to existence of SPSS, Excel and other awesome tools my mathy part of the brain athrophied and fell off. It's an atavism,just like a tail our ancestors had once upon the evolution. Actually, I'll take a tail over the ability to do math.
That's it: I need a long, bendy, grabby tail so I can take my children in public and not worry about keeping tabs on them. Just imagine: you are at the grocery store, both hands full of squirming/screaming babies, and you calmly reach and grab what you need off of the nearest shelf. How cool would that be! And then you could push your grocery cart without having to let go of either of your children.

But anyway, back to my statistical suffering: I have an exam coming up and studying for it is like reading transcriptions of a coded speech. I recognize the individual words, but the meaning escapes me. And then what's up with academian speak?! The more courses I take, the more I realize that just because you are a brainy academian doesn't mean you can effectively relay your knowledge to others. The goal of the majority of my professors has been to use as many GRE test words as they can to make it as difficult as possible to understand them. I actually believe it is a requirement for teaching to weed out faint-hearted students and also to make sure that they don't get questions. If you can't understand the topic, you won't have questions about it.

Seriously in need of wine therapy after this week.

To end on the upbeat note as usual: no mention of poop for quite awhile :)

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

zaiki and co.: Zaiki in a time lapse

zaiki and co.: Zaiki in a time lapse: I’ve gotten “I’m missing my babies being babies” mood lately. Maybe it’s my biological clock's last feeble attempt to change my mind about h...

Zaiki in a time lapse

I’ve gotten “I’m missing my babies being babies” mood lately. Maybe it’s my biological clock's last feeble attempt to change my mind about having more kids, or just that the girls are getting so big so fast.

So today, after I managed to get them up, dressed, somewhat fed and out of the door with only slight damage to my wardrobe (wiping boogers on Mama's button-down dark navy blue dress shirt doesn't count as damage anymore, it's like wearing deodorant to work, not only normal but somewhat expected) and even less damage to my psyche, I found myself looking at the girls' baby pictures and getting all soppy and in "remember when?" sort of mood. So here you'll find a few of my favorite baby-to-little girl transition photos. 

When the girls were born they resembled newborn mice more then anything else: bold, red and squinty. But they smelled so good! Until they pooped that is, and then cried and cried and cried and cried. Have I mentioned they cried?

Then came endless feeding-pumping (yes, I breastfed for 5 months, yes, it was difficult, and yes, please leave the Best-Mom-of-Twins award at the door, no applause needed). Thanks to nutrient-rich-good-fatty-acids full mama’s milk they plumped up and pinked up. Grew hair. Screaming didn’t stop though. Just got louder.
Then came the teething. Here they are trying really hard to eat the crib: 

Then the little wiggly legs grew stronger, brains-eye-limb coordination developed, and we moved from the cocoon stage into the worm stage.

Maya is so proud to be standing!

Sonya HATED crawling. But she loved the TV remote (sucking on it) and it was one of the few things that motivated her to move. Otherwise she'd just lay there and scream her head off until someone came up and placed her where she wanted to be. Anyway, here Papa would let Sonya crawl close enough to the remote to get her gums on it, and then move it far enough so she'd have to crawl to it. And then he'd giggle and do it over and over again.

I think she is saying "not cool!!"
 Sonya has a strong spirit. She knows her cuteness and is not afraid to use it. Just look at those eyelashes!!!

Maya would crawl up to me and hoist herself up on my leg. Sometimes she'd pull my pants down, sometimes not. It was always a surprise.

Here you see my industrious, strong children at their favorite past time: creating chaos and climbing into things they were not supposed to be in. Like a bookshelf.
This was a spontaneous photo op, I swear. Makes my Russian heart proud though. Ole-ole-ole...

I loved the skirts. This was around 1st birthday.

And this was last week. Oh how the times have changed!!! Now we make "funny faces", tell Mama that we are "mean on you!" (mad at you), demand to wear purple (only purple, God have mercy if you attempt to dress Sonya in any other color!) tights, don't go to sleep till 10 pm due to witch-in-closet issue and pee in the tub. Sometimes INTO the tub. :)

 Little butts. :)

Sonya's and Maya's favorite snack: green pitted olives from Wegmans. Note the adults standing around and calmly watching two 2-year olds use SHARP toothpicks to fish out the treats out. That's free-range parenting right there!

Thursday, November 10, 2011

zaiki and co.: Halloween 2011

zaiki and co.: Halloween 2011: The blog got a bit depressing lately due to fall blues, car loss (solved by the way), and other assorted stresses, so see some chipper Hallo...

Halloween 2011

The blog got a bit depressing lately due to fall blues, car loss (solved by the way), and other assorted stresses, so see some chipper Halloween pictures below to bring up the mood.

Currently we are thousands of dollars poorer but became proud owners of a gently used but still pretty Acura 3.2 TL. By the way, NJ sale tax on vehicle purchases is a heinous fuckary most foul and I strongly recommend picketing DMVs to repeal it. Not that it anything in life is fair, but seriously??! 7% of your car price paid to the DMV???!   

We still managed to pull off a Halloween party complete with banging cupcakes, awesome corn bread, chili, and Kahlua-spiked hot chocolate. 

werewolves cupcakes by Lida
This year was the first Halloween with snow on the ground.

Got some interesting pictures: apparently, our house got visited by a large, friendly and unshaven Halloween valkyrie, who was kind enough to grill in our back yard. :)
Girls got the concept of trick-or-treating fairly fast: you go up to the porch, smile and hold up your pumpkin-shaped basket, and people place candy in it. If you are really lucky, you get to root through the candy bowl yourselves.
We still don’t like costumes though. Fairy wings were the extent of dressing up this year. In the past 2 years, we tried to get more extravagant with costumes, but it didn’t work so well.

Halloween 2009 - went all out. They are thrilled as you can see

Maya as a very sad wingless Tinkerbell in 2010
Sonya wondering why we put her in a hot, itchy costume - 2010

2011 - don't care, plenty divas as is, no costumes needed
I have come to realize that Halloween is a single or childless people holiday with two important parts to fulfill: dress slutty and get drunk. Kevin and I enjoyed both requirements in the past. Since zaiki were born, our costumes have been those of tired parents and drinking has become far more subdued. It is a sign of passing into another life stage. :)

Thursday, October 27, 2011

zaiki and co.: Let's All Chip In and Blame the Mother

zaiki and co.: Let's All Chip In and Blame the Mother: Even before zaiki were born, I've looked for parenting advice. I thought that there must be a formula, a set of guidelines on what to do to ...

Let's All Chip In and Blame the Mother

Even before zaiki were born, I've looked for parenting advice. I thought that there must be a formula, a set of guidelines on what to do to raise happy children. Turns out, no...After two plus years of doing it, this is my takeaway: no matter what you do, you are bound to screw up. It seems that all literature's (and some blogs' on parenting) goal is to make you feel guilty for something. Not giving enough meat, or giving meat. Sleeptraining or co-sleeping, and so on. Seems that as a mother and a human being, no matter what you do, you will somehow manage to impede your child's growth or fail to help them realize their full potential. Grrr.

Now,thanks to this book: that-was-made-into-a-movie-that-just-won-big-at-London's film festival, mothers are responsible for turning their children into murderers. Lovely. The gist of it is that the boy never felt fully loved by his mother who is an emotional handicapper, and killed a bunch of people at his school and now she is writing about her guilt to her estranged husband.

So something else for mothers to fret over: are we loving our children enough, giving them unconditional love? Or are we somehow scarring them emotionally? What about self-love? Self-actualization? Common theme in parenting I come across often is "lose yourself in your children". But it's impossible. And unhealthy. Once they leave (as all children should!) to start their own life, what is left of you? Your life doesn't end when a little screaming thing is placed in your arms. Or does it?

I agree that the book and the movie both raise an important issue that is akin to a gay uncle at a fundamentalist (think Duggars-ish) family reunion: The gay uncle issue is wearing a flamboyant pink shirt with orange crocs, but everyone is trying to ignore him it as hard as they can. What if you don't love your child unconditionally? What if you don't have an instant bond with him or her? People shy away from discussing it.

The cult of "having children is the best thing that ever happened to me" is reinforced by the media who parade a score of idiotically happy new celebrity parents. Of course, if you have a full staff, don't worry about sleepless nights or changing diapers if you don't feel like it, why not enjoy your child? But this attitude of baby-bliss makes feelings of anything but drool-filled love for your children a crime. Oh, you mean you don't enjoy wiping puke off of your new shirt 15 minutes before you have to leave for work? You don't think that 2-year-old's temper tantrums are cute? Then you must not love your baby enough and he'll turn out to be a psychopath and it's-all-your-fault.

By making mother a sympathetic (but still) a villain we open the door to more maternal guilt. To things like "Oh my God, I just yelled at her for dumping her juice all over the floor (again) and put her in time out. Or slapped her bottom after she bit me hard enought to draw blood. Or anything else. Will it scar her? Do I need to find a baby-shrink ASAP?" and then beating yourself up for it for the rest of the day.

I don't think I'll read the book. Or watch the movie. I could really use some positive reinforcement for a change.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

zaiki and co.: Eating healthy

zaiki and co.: Eating healthy: One of the most important mom-duties (as I see it) is feeding my children a healthy, home-cooked diet. I try to limit processed stuff and ma...

Eating healthy

One of the most important mom-duties (as I see it) is feeding my children a healthy, home-cooked diet. I try to limit processed stuff and make lots of stuff from scratch. One of my specialties this past summer due to us joining a co op and receiving an abundance  (I'm not kidding, we got a shitload!) of zucchinis, was zucchini bread. But zaiki, in a natural children fashion, refuse to eat anything that is remotely good for them unless it is carefully disguised (Kevin actually pureed a roasted eggplant and clandestinely added it into a pasta dish). We also started making them kale (yes, kale) smoothies. If you add enough bananas and blueberries to mask the taste, they don't even know it's in there. It looks a little funny, but they haven't figured out suspicious food color yet, ha!
Anyway, back to zucchinis:
Since they wouldn't eat zucchini bread, I came up with a sneaky strategy: put chocolate pudding on it and told them it's "happy cake" (cake or cookies in zaiki-speak). Well, do you know that they DEVOURED it. The photographic evidence is below. Turns out, we really like healthy stuff. If properly presented that is. :)
Chocolate lover number one

Life is sweet

Somewhat dazed chocolate lover number 2

Really focused Sonya

Tune in next week for more poop updates and Halloween fun :)

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

zaiki and co.: I'm done playing

zaiki and co.: I'm done playing: I didn't think it was possible to be stressed any more than we were before the car accident, but turns out our stress-bag can be further exp...

I'm done playing

I didn't think it was possible to be stressed any more than we were before the car accident, but turns out our stress-bag can be further expanded. I'm just waiting for it to burst.

Turns out I am incredibly naive: I thought that, since my car was totaled and we were left with one functioning vehicle (which in suburban NJ is a death sentence since there is no meaningful bus, train or car pool transportation, the fact that makes my head explode periodically) the insurance company will kindly pat us on the back and fork over the estimated value of the car within a couple of days, we'll take the check and hippity-hop into a sunset to buy a new (for us) beautiful car.

The reality, as usual, is ugly and cruel: it's been two weeks and we haven't seen any money yet.  All the dealerships in the area pretty much laughed at us and our budget. We were told by one sympathetic dude to look privately, because they have nothing in our price range. We were not planning on purchasing a car for another two years, when zaiki will go to school and we'll stop paying ridiculous childcare fees, so now we are effectively fucked.

So we've been looking privately. We've found a score of scams, lemons, and Polish people who can't spell.

One seller's mother saw my daughters, asked what their names were and, hearing "Maya" excitedly exclaimed: "I love that name! One of my dogs is named Maya!" before climbing into her sporty red Mercedes. Now, I don't have anything against people with money, people with dogs, or Bergen county, or Medcedes drivers, but I do have an itty-bitty thing with people comparing my children to their smelly spoiled butt-licking creatures.

Note to ya'll: if you ever compare my children to your dogs, expect an ass-whooping. It's a pet peeve of mine. Because children are NOTHING like dogs. I've had both and I can assure you of the difference most emphatically.

In addition to all this, I had a flu shot. BIG MISTAKE. I've forgotten that every year I get sick after it. This year is no different: two days after the shot, I feel like shit, my head is on fire and my body hurts. Which made taking care of the girls oh-so-fun this weekend. I should have one of the zaiki sneeze in my mouth instead, probably would have been more effective. Apparently the American flu shot vaccine is poison to my sad Russian immune system. This is a last one I get.

So right now I'm sitting in my pajamas sniffling into a napkin, shaking from the cold and the stress. Yes, I am that high-strung. I haven't been able to run and it makes me even sadder.
Today Kevin took the girls to the park so I can fully engage in self-pity right now. God, I'm done playing. Old Jewish parable (or whatever you call it) says that it could always be worse, and I know that. But I'd like a little bit of a break for us, just to be able to swim up to the surface and take a breath. I'm done playing.

Monday, October 17, 2011

zaiki and co.: That’s How the Car Accident Goes Squish! Goes the...

zaiki and co.: That’s How the Car Accident Goes Squish! Goes the...: What does Lida and a bouncy ball have in common? They both didn't see it coming…Ok, let me elaborate a little: So last week I had an awesom...

That’s How the Car Accident Goes Squish! Goes the Jetta

What does Lida and a bouncy ball have in common? They both didn't see it coming…Ok, let me elaborate a little:

So last week I had an awesome day: came home from work, went for a run, took a nice shower, went to class. Kevin had the zaiki so I took the Jetta, our commuter car. Traffic was slow and heavy as usual. I’m crawling along the road in the left hand lane, sipping my hot green tea to invigorate me for an intense research session, grooving out to music. All of a sudden I hear a grinding noise, my head slams back and forth and I am being propelled into a car in front of me. Again and again. Bouncy-bouncy..

My brain short circuited and the following thoughts flashed through it:
- oh shit
- I can’t believe this is happening
- this really really really hurts
- this must be what a bouncy ball feels like
- I’m definitely not making it to class tonight
(I know, I know, I expected something more eloquent myself but this is in a span of a second).

Somehow I managed to turn my wheel (I do have cat-like reflexes inherited from a military pilot grandfather who was able to catapult from a burning plane over Korea), got onto a curb, and surveyed the damage. The vehicle that hit me was behind mine with its mug smashed in and airbag deployed. The next few minutes are a blur, except I remember cursing. A lot.

The back of my faithful little car was crushed, it looked like crumpled paper. There was also curious numbness in my head and neck and I contemplated fainting for a second or two. Somehow laying on the side of 287 next to a roadkill deer didn’t seem at all appealing, so I focused on the moment and cursed some more.

Then a very young authoritative trooper came up, license-registration-insurance-sit in your car-are you hurt-what happened-I’ll be back-m’am. By the way, do all State troopers in NJ look like they are 15?

Kevin and the zaiki came to pick me up, drove me home while I cried and shook. My neck still lacks movement and I wasn’t able to run since. Recovery will take awhile, I have a feeling. Muscle relaxants and Naproxene flowed freely over the past week. So did the X-rays. L

I got really really lucky. I did everything right: I had my seat belt on, sitting far enough from the steering wheel, I was stopped a good distance from the car in front of me. If one of the above wasn’t present, I may have been writing this from a hospital bed and/or mumbling through a broken jaw. But even so, I can’t lift my kids, my movement is severely limited and I can’t sleep at night.  

Now we face an unpleasant and difficult task of searching for a new car, stress of dealing with insurance companies and overall uncertain financials due to this unforeseen expense.

This situation makes me angry: because someone else was careless, was not paying attention and should not have been behind a wheel of a heavy SUV on a major highway during rush hour due to their sub par driving skills, my family has to pay the price. Had I mentioned I am angry? I’m not going to comment (yet) on the actions of the other driver, but let’s just say that their reaction reinforced my misanthropic tendencies.

One thing about German das auto engineering: it did das wonderful in protecting the driver (me) as much as possible. The salon was left intact, few cracks in the window and jammed doors. It’s the rest of it that suffered. Oh, and the front symbol from the other car was firmly jammed in what was left of the trunk. We are keeping it as a trophy. HA!

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

How to make your baby a genius, или я говорю по-русски

Ha! I knew that second language early on is important! Now the all-mighty prophet of liberal burkenstock-wearing parenting and childrearing, aka The New York Times, agrees. Aha. I feel justified. Well, not really, but this article is pretty interesting:  

According to it, bilingual children learn to be more flexible in their problem-solving skills and other high-order cognitive functions. The article keep bringing up Mandarin and Spanish languages (I guess those are the “it” languages that all cool cloth-diapered and breast-fed upper class infants are learning) and no one mentions Russian. With Cold War over, the demand is not as high as it was. Here’s a recap of zaiki’s Russian lessons (as promised, no mention of poop anywhere in this post!):

So I found a Russian school without exorbitant (for our family anyway) fees. Do-Re-Mi school in Livingston NJ. It’s a hike for us, but totally worth it. Their teacher is super nice, and I think zaiki like it in their own spastic, destructive 2-year-old way. They are starting to say color names in Russian, as well as few words here and there. They switch between languages amazingly fast, although still prefer English. It’s my fault, because I speak English to them. I know I have to be diligent and only use Russian, but it is virtually impossible. I try, and try, and fail. So I’m beating myself up about that, feeling time to instill language knowledge in them is slipping away…

This brings me to a free bit of wisdom from Lida for today: no matter what you do and where you turn, parenthood is ridden with hidden (you like that, ridden-hidden rhyme? I’m so cool!) guilt-traps. How do I lessen the guilt? Well, according to NYT parenting blogs, this is what you do:
                Learn a second language and speak it to your kids exclusively
                While you are at it, feed them an all-organic diet
                Never lose your temper 
                Hand-make their clothes 
                Never vaccinize them
                Be a hands-on parent (but not too much, because you don't want to be hovering and stiffling)
                Don't project your values on your kids
                Make sure they go to the right school district (move if you have to!).

Did I forget anything? I'm sure I did, and that's why I'll probably screw my kids up in some way. But at least they'll be able to tell it to their therapist in two languages. And I need to stop reading the blogs..До свидания!

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Running with orthotics and hiking with two-year-olds...Which is

I finally received my highly anticipated orthotic inserts for the running shoes. Not sure how I feel about them yet - they have to be broken into and it looks like it'll take some time. They make a squishy noise when I walk and are heavier then regular insoles...Running with them takes getting used to as well - the feel of the shoe changed, I notice I'm doing a heavier heel strike. Now that I'm back on track (haha) I've been evaluating the damage done to my running form by wear and tear, pregnancy and wine. So:
-Need upper body and back strength (doing the Paula Radcliff headbob when speeding up, not good). Our leg movement during running is connected to upper body strength, so hit the weight room people!
-Weak and feeble hip muscles, especially the left one. Balance, balance and more balance. Been doing fartleks during runs and one-minute pick ups with high knees. Painful, will see how it works.

Once I'm improved enough, I'll attempt to go a longer distance, but for now, while I break in my orthotics and nurse my pregnancy-damaged hips back to health, I'll stick to my regulars.

I've also been a bit jumpy: the other day I was running along a very pretty but isolated path and heard rustling in the bushes. It was probably a squirrel, but I thought it was a bear and it made me sprint for an unscheduled minute. Ha!

Speaking of bears, we took the zaiki hiking to Round Valley the other day. It was interesting. As you see from the photo below, Maya had to make an unscheduled pit stop. What the photo doesn't show is Maya telling us she has to go "peepepepoopoopotty" and then promptly pooping in her underwear and on the ground. And us performing an emergency change-clean operation midair.
After which she proudly proclaimed that she pooped in the woods like a bear.  (It is important to note that I do know how much I talk about poop: it took over my life during potty training. I'll try to stop. Maybe next I can write about ice cream..Or Dr Seuss...Or Russian lessons the zaiki go to...Anything but poop, I promise).

Also, if you pay enough attention to the photos, you'll notice how wet and sloppy the trail was. And that Sonya was the only one who was wearing rain boots. Two somewhat intelligent adults didn't think about trail sloppiness, and the only reason she is wearing the boots is because she insisted on having them. The hike was fun though: pooped in the woods, touched some questionable mushrooms and lake foam, threw rocks, got wet shoes, chased unsuspected and blameless insects into a certain heart attack, made sure that Papa doesn't lose his cardio endurance. Can't wait to do it again. :) 
zaikiandco: Kevin and Maya on the trail

Monday, October 3, 2011

Thursday, September 29, 2011

“Little, party of 4” or learn to live with what you’ve got…

So we are not having anymore children, and I’m very sad about that on some level. Zaiki are the first and the last. You know, there are people to whom everything is easy – they seem to breeze through life blissfully unaware of struggles, efforts or disappointments. And then there are the rest of us.

To me, nothing was ever easy. All I have now I had to fight and work hard for. Even with pregnancy fate/God/something didn’t give me a break – I had to fight to get pregnant and then to keep it - being on bedrest for 5 months was not fun. When the girls were born, I was hoping that at least they’ll be easy-going and mellow, because Kevin and I deserved a break. No such luck. The first few months were hell as we battled constant crying and my postpartum depression. The girls have what my pediatrician calls “high-need” temperament and I have a feeling we are in for an interesting ride once puberty hits.

As for other aspects of our life, for the past year our family had been in the middle of a very long and expensive renovation project. Since we live in NJ and are tied here for the next 10 years because of Kevin’s job, and the house market is insane for a middle-class family, we’ve lived in the same small-ish house for almost a decade.

When the girls were born, we tried to sell, and had an offer that fell through a month away from closing partially due to our realtor’s shenanigans (you know who you are, Millenium 21 Realty!). The house was bursting at the seams: us, my mom staying for 6 months, two babies, squirrels in the attic, a miniscule kitchen with no dishwasher – it was a Survivor Island.  

Then we decided to build an addition. Refinancing was its own special hell, as well as trying to find a reliable contractor. We finally did: John Scutti from Scutti Construction, my kudos and gratitude to you!

Due to budget constraints we opted to do some of the work ourselves (I say we but really mean Kevin, who is gifted and handy. There isn’t much on the home front he can’t fix or build). I excel in drinking wine, painting and running. I’m also a good baker (my cupcakes are LEGENDARY), but home improvement is not my forte. I don’t even know how to work a screwdriver…But I digress.

So, moving into a one-bedroom with two one-year olds, paying rent on top of mortgage, Kevin, who was working all hours to finish the house, never being around made 2011 winter a rather bleak time for me.

The day we moved back into the house both girls got stomach flu and threw up all over our couch and everything they had. The washing machine was not hooked up yet, so that was an interesting three days. Then the kitchen cabinets got delayed. For two months.  

Now we are almost done with some much needed and appreciated help from various friends – we have floors, walls, and heat. The kitchen (with a dishwasher) is in place, and our new leather couch has been delivered yesterday and got zaiki’s approval.

Two days ago we moved our big girls into a bigger room and transitioned them into big-girl beds. Sonya fell out of hers the first night. Last night thunder and lighting woke up Maya and she cried. They have been super excited and unmanageable, not going to sleep till 10:30, which in zaiki-time is like 2 in the morning. But I know that they’ll get used to their new room and get back on the sleeping schedule.  

We had very difficult and draining three years. We are getting back on track, things are getting easier (as much as they can ever get for us). We are settling down. So even though, when I watch my daughters grow up oh so quickly, it makes me want to add another little soul to our family, we are not going to do that.

I don’t want another upheaval, stress, sleepless nights and additional financial strain. I’m tired. I know Kevin is tired too. Our plate is full.

I wish it was easier, I wish I had a better job, more money, more family support and people who were involved in our lives, but it’s just not in the cards.

So our family is complete. But it’s not so bad – zaiki are endlessly entertaining, Kevin is handy and fun to hang with, and I bake. I try to think of what lies ahead: Halloweens, costumes, family trips, New Years, snows, summers, first loves and much more. I think I am content with what I was given in life as I try to make the best of it.J

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Zaikiliciousness :)

So I think that my girls embody sisterly love. See for yourself and dare to disagree :)
And Mama:

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

zaiki and co.: Toddler entertainment: Disney, Why we are afraid o...

zaiki and co.: Toddler entertainment: Disney, Why we are afraid o...:  borrowed from /wildlifeweb  As zaiki get older, I find them more and more entertaining. It’s fun to watc...

Toddler entertainment: Disney, Why we are afraid of raccoons, and How Laurie Berkner saves rainy days

borrowed from

As zaiki get older, I find them more and more entertaining. It’s fun to watch their little brains work and make connections between reality and make-belief.  

Little Sonya for the past month has been afraid of raccoons. In the mornings, her first words to me usually were “mama, raccoons are coming”; “raccoons are going to eat me” and other pleasant variations. Then she’d run outside and scream at the birds: “watch out birds, raccoons are coming”. Raccoons became so scary they overshadowed our other nemesis, The Giant Oatio, who was “coming to eat my face”, according to Maya.(WTF, right? Still can’t figure this one out, if you have any suggestions, please comment below).

Since raccoons that I’ve met in my travels across children’s literature are usually cute and cuddly, they are pretty random creatures to be afraid of. We just chucked it up to Sonya being Sonya, but the stories of raccoon atrocities and warnings to the birds persisted. Then, one busy weekend morning,  I put on Disney’s “Lion King”…

As it got to the part where two stupid lion cubs are gallivanting across the elephant cemetery, Sonya started yelling for me to come sit with her because raccoons were coming. Did you figure it out yet? She meant hyenas, since wonderful Disney animation gave them dark patches around the eyes that were akin to a raccoon’s mask… And the aforementioned hyenas catch the poor Toucan bird and stick him in a fire…See the logic? Isn’t it so creative, imaginative and overall amazing that she was able to make the connection?

So I am holding Disney responsible for my children’s disrupted sleep and foundless fears. And my babysitter for showing them a Disney “Halloween” compellation DVD that included the scary snippet in the first place.

On the other, anti-Disney end of the spectrum, we have such children’s entertainment as Yo Gabba Gabba, Caillou, Jack’s Big Music Show. (I’m not mentioning Dora and Wonder Pets because I hate them and their whiney voices. I hope that The Giant Oatio eats their faces).

Jack’s Big Music Show introduced us to our favorite singer, second only to Mama – Laurie Berkner. Both Kevin and I agree that she is the best thing that happened to children’s music since the Wiggles. She is actually listenable. And funny. And a Rutgers grad (just like me!!!!). Her videos are bright and colorful, they don’t overstimulate zaiki, they enjoy dancing and singing her songs, like “I’m not perfect”, “Party Day” and “5 Days Old”.

It’s light entertainment and holds their attention on cold or rainy days while I try to have breakfast or get something done. And I fully expect to get a free family pass and a backstage meet-and-greet after this shameless promo entry.

Now Sonya doesn't mentions raccoons anymore, only if we happen to be outside in the dark. The Giant Oatio doesn’t appear in the repertoire either. Waiting for other fears to raise their heads as zaiki keep exploring the world around them and expanding their worldview. A giant potty, or a tooth brush maybe? Broccoli? 

Meanwhile, my strategy for TV and DVD viewing is this: about 2 hours a day total, more Laurie Berkner and less Disney. J

Sunday, September 18, 2011

zaiki and co.: Foot neuroma, mousetraps and other injuries

zaiki and co.: Foot neuroma, mousetraps and other injuries: This week marks the start of something remarkable, wonderful that I never thought I could experience again: I am back to running! Yay! Afte...

Friday, September 16, 2011

Foot neuroma, mousetraps and other injuries

This week marks the start of something remarkable, wonderful that I never thought I could experience again: I am back to running! Yay! After two months of dealing with painful and annoying neuroma in my right foot, I’ve been running again. I’m slow, my endurance is shot and I need new running shoes, but at least I’m doing it.

The sordid tale began with wearing uncomfortable shoes to work, coupled with running in Brooks Green Silence that don’t support my natural foot strike, forcing me to land repeatedly on the ball of my feet. Great shoes though, wide, comfortable and super-super light. I did half-marathon in them this spring, and had no foot issues whatsoever up to that point. As my weekly mileage increased, I noticed repeated numbness and pain in the ball of my foot. After about a month of limping, I went to highly, ahem, capable foot doctor who waived a chicken bone took x-rays of my foot and told me to stop running for now. That was in June. After constant whining on my part, repeated visits, co-pays and two cortisone shots, I ordered orthotic inserts. Still waiting to receive the left one. In the meantime, the pain gradually went away. I have to be careful, take it slow (running with the girls in the stroller has been great, it adds to endurance training and keeps me from sprinting) and ice my foot after running.

These are the treatment options should the pain persist or return:

1. Orthopedic inserts (can’t speak to them, don’t have them yet)

2. Cortisone shots – actually did wonders for me, although the process is a little freaky

3. Should the orthotics provide no long-term relief, alcohol injections into the nerve to destroy it. Those actually been shown to have high success rate (80%), but most insurance plans don’t cover them, check with your doctor

4. Last, but not least – nerve removal. Done as an outpatient procedure, the side effect is permanent numbness of the affected toes. Not fun but covered by most insurance plans (gotta love American healthcare, no?). I had a nerve-numbing agent injected into my foot, and not being able to feel two toes out of five is a bit unsettling…

In case you are wondering, foot neuroma is characterized by feeling of numbness, “pebble”-feeling in the bottom of the foot, and tingling. It is worse in the mornings, and wearing narrow shoes or running shoes with minimal support can trigger it. Initially, I had to wear an orthopedic boot for a month, which helped to reduce the pressure on the spot.

In other reassuring news – Sonya’s finger got caught in the mousetrap over the weekend. Because you know, I don’t feed my kids so they have to scavenge for food.

A cautionary tale for all cookie-lovers:
Once upon a time, Kevin and I decided to do an addition on our house. The construction dislodged a family of mice that was determined to have its revenge. With floors being semi-finished, there was a small hole around the radiator pipe. Little nimble mice kept climbing through it inside, eating all our food and pooping. In retaliation, we set up a mousetrap. Since (based on previous experiences) even our mice are foodies, they refused to eat usual mouse-food (like peanut butter, cheese, etc), we bated it with Nilla Waifer cookie. It worked, one visitor met his/her untimely death, and we bated the trap again for good measure. So it sat there, silent yet deadly, for a day…

Meanwhile Saturday was upon us. Maya and Sonya stole the box of Nilla Waifers from the kitchen counter and ate them all. Then they decided to see if anything was left on the floor (sure, the most logical place to look for food!). Sonya came across the mousetrap, rejoiced to see the cookie in it, but nothing is free in this cruel-cruel world as we all know. You can imagine the rest. As I held sobbing Sonya in my lap with an ice pack around her finger, Maya wisely mentioned “sissy, no touching! It was mouse’s present!”. J

Coming soon: why we are afraid of raccoons or how Disney stole my children’s sleep, and why we like Laurie Berkner.