Friday, July 29, 2011

Good fences...

Maybe some people who are used to dealing with toddlers have some good ideas:

A friend of mine has a problem. (No, really.)

My friend's neighbor, who is widely acknowledged by the neighborhood to have a drinking problem, has been coming into my friend's garden and either:
1) cutting my friend's flowers and taking them home or
2) pulling up whole flowering plants by the root balls and replanting them in her own garden

She is not, nor has she been at any time, invited to do this.  The neighbor has been asked, at least three times, not to take the flowers. Most recently, she was told quite loudly and forcefully to put the plants back. She continues to wait for opportunities when my friend is not home and then raid the garden.

Their yards are adjacent and there is no fence. In this particular neighborhood, fences are quite uncommon.

What would you do? Call the police? Yell and scream? Plant some poison ivy in your flower beds?

I think I would put up a fence. It's an expensive solution, but it makes the trespassing issue clearer to everyone (not just those directly involved). And the fence will be a nice backdrop for whatever flowers are left.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Rigorous Impact Testing

In honor of Ikea's opening day in Denver, ah-hem, Centennial, Colorado, I present you:
Pages from Ikea's catalog
The Ikea Crib.  Very reasonably priced. We bought one for Noah when he was about 4 months old. That's when he outgrew his never-slept-in-thank-goodness-we-rented-it bassinet. Unfortunately, he continued to cosleep until he was about 2 years old(!).  At that point, he moved into his own twin bed with sides and has (happily) stayed there. So the Ikea crib? Very glad we didn't spend a lot on it. Mattias is still cosleeping. But we hope to move him into the bottom twin bunk...soon.

Nonetheless, our Ikea crib is getting rigorous impact testing.
Detail of page in Ikea catalog
Do you think this is what they had in mind?
It's not broke. See? Total peace of mind.

Don't worry, Grandma, we've got the photo now.
We'll stop before the "testing" does break it.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011


This summer, there's been an ongoing Battle Over Topical Agents at the Wyse household. It all began with sunscreen, which we renamed 'sunscream' after all our adventures.  Today, I'm (indirectly) introducing our newest enemy: bug spray.

It seems that Denver has been hit particularly hard by mosquitos this summer. I find myself really doubting the accuracy of the map in this Wall Street Journal article that claims the aggressive, daytime-loving, container-procreating mosquitos haven't made it to Colorado yet. And perhaps there's reason to doubt the credibility of the WSJ these days.

I think the Rock Pool Mosquito is here. Not that I'm an entomologist. Nor am I very credible as an anonymous mommyblogger. Therefore, I'm pretty sure I don't have to be very accountable on that statement. Uh huh. And now that that is clarified...

Oh, poor Mattias. His face is covered in mosquito bites. He must taste delicious. I'm a little afraid to take him out in public because he looks so bad, that I can't imagine what people are thinking when they see him. Or maybe the problem is that I can imagine what people are thinking. I attempted to put baking soda on the bites, but it turned out to be a really bad idea. He went nuts rubbing the paste-y soda off. That, I do believe, defeated the whole purpose of the baking soda.

[link removed]

This 45 second video I took really, inadvertently, illustrates the problem. About 10am. We're sitting outside checking out a frog that Noah caught. Rather ironically, the discussion is about what we could feed the frog. Mattias is thrilled to see the frog; he's squealing. A mosquito flies by (seconds 24-25). I attempt to film it on Fritz's black shirt...

Note 1: Mattias is wearing light colored full length clothing! I'm trying everything to protect him. He's also wearing (nonDEET) bug spray, which accounts for the red, swollen eye. Guess I just need to keep him inside. 
Note 2: No FROGS were harmed before, during or after this video. MOSQUITO? Watch out!
Note 3: Poor Mattias, again. (In case you miss that the first two time.)
Note 4: Don't learn any German from Noah and me. We've got some mistakes in there. 

Friday, July 22, 2011

Audio Stories

I don't know why I didn't find this site before we took our summer road trips, because it literally took me about 30 seconds to find via google. And it's great. It's classic children's audio stories; they are available online or you can subscribe to the podcasts. Noah has listened to Three Billy Goat Gruff no less than 7 times already today. Naturally, we've stopped playing 'farm' and are now playing 'billy goats.'

I really like audio stories because I think they force the piccolini to use a little more imagination than videos.

I'd love to find something like this in German (for free) as well. Do you know of any other sites? English or German? Or any other languages?

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Painting Meditation

One of the nicest gifts that Fritz has given me lately was the opportunity to paint these chairs (and table).

I write that facetiously and not so facetiously.  These chairs were part of my estate sale find and they were NOT in great condition. Fritz, however, had always said he wanted some adirondack chairs, and there they were: four grey-ed out pine adirondack chairs and a table. $40 for all. I bought them.

At first, I wanted to leave them grey. Because I like grey wood.  But Fritz wanted to paint them "some wild color." I clenched my teeth, and muttered under my breath for a few days because I felt like I'd already ruined the other half of my estate sale find by trying to improve it.  Then I remembered that I got the chairs for Fritz ANYWAY, so I might as well let them be painted.

Just as I had accepted the fate of the chairs, Fritz switched gear and began nudging ME to buy the paint and, oh yeah, PAINT THE CHAIRS MYSELF. Fritz hates to paint. I love to paint. But, remember, I didn't want to paint the chairs! And as anyone can tell by looking at them, they were NOT going to be the Easiest Paint Job Ever. Also, Toddler Corralling during my normal day so that I could paint? Not happening.

I muttered some more, but I bought the paint. Then Fritz began to clear out my schedule for painting:

"I'll take the boys running this morning so you can paint."
"We'll visit the museum this afternoon so that you can paint."
"You can paint this morning and we'll make brunch."

Hmmm. I painted and painted and remembered that I really DO love to paint - even when there's a fair amount of detail work. Three coats of painting became several hours of personal meditation time. And it was, actually, quite nice.

I wish I could say that Fritz is always so eager to take the piccolini and give me a couple of hours alone, but more often than not, we're too busy juggling schedules, resources, talents and time to allow for such luxuries. These past few weeks, Fritz is spending a lot of time on irrigation at our house - (I know, I know, how hard can it be?) - and me? Well, I would enjoy another painting project instead of playing 'farm' for the 379th time.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Mesa Verde

We've completed two road trips this summer. And now we're DONE with that. Toddlers have no business sitting in the car for the 600+ mile trips we took. Well, actually, the problem was more like 1 toddler +  1 preschooler shouldn't be TOGETHER in the car for that long.  Alone, either one of them might have been okay, but together? It was rough, friends.

That said, we headed to Mesa Verde for a long four day weekend with my road-tripping-across-the-country parents. One of the things Fritz and I have PROMISED to do, living in Colorado, is take the piccolini to lots and lots of national parks. We hope our home base in Colorado will allow us to do this in a slow and measured way; as opposed to a big, gigantic trip kind of way.

I've always been the most intrigued by Mesa Verde with the cliff dwellings; it was a great place to start.

Line of tourists moving through the Cliff Palace.
Somehow, I got the impression that one could only see the cliff dwellings from across the canyon. I'm glad to report that was so not true. There are park ranger guided tours that go down ladders and walk through a few of the sites. The tours are big and crowded, but still! To be there! Wow! Also, as an architect, I have to tell you: I'm actually SHOCKED that the general public is allowed into these sites at all. They are definitely NOT handicap accessible (ADA) and from a conservationist's point of view: these tours have to be a nightmare. After our visit, I thought that Mattias and Noah will be VERY lucky to visit these sites so freely in the future. (Well, 'freely' for Noah. Mattias was in the backpack.)

Ladders, ladders. A backpack is the ONLY way to go for the climbing challenged.
Noah completed a Junior Ranger badge, even though I was skeptical of his readiness the whole time he worked on it. I've read before about what a wonderful program Junior Ranger is, and I have to say: it's completely true.  Noah was totally motivated and excited about his 'badge.'

I know, I know, hard to see the badge on that crazy shirt.
Of course, collecting looking at rocks is still an awful lot of fun to the male piccolini.

Quick! Rocks! Get 'em while you can!
Noah guilty-ly replaced the rocks before he got his Junior Ranger Badge.

Friday, July 15, 2011

The kind of Coupons I need in order to use Coupons

I really, really hate to use coupons; mostly because tracking down coupons for the items we use seems so inefficient.

This is what I want:

I want to enter all the specific products and brands that I buy on a regular basis in a list.

Then I want a service that tells me exactly when and where these items are on sale (in Denver).

Preferably, that service will be free. It will email me at the beginning of each week. And I only want ONE email a week telling me ONLY the products I buy and ONLY the locations where those products are on sale.  I would prefer that the weekly email sort the products by location. 

Is that really so complicated? Am I asking too much?

Do you know something I don't know?

Does it already exist?

Saturday, July 9, 2011


If there is a subtext in this blog - and we could say, in my current life - then it would be my conflicting feelings about returning to A Job in the world of compensated employees. I have a 6-8 month cycle between really, really wanting A Job and then choosing, all over again, to stay-at-home with the piccolini.

I just finished my cycle of really wanting A Job, which culminated in NOT completing an application the night before it was due, even though I'd taken the time to get all my references and materials in place.  Somewhere, deep down inside, I believe that my desire for a job is ultimately selfish and not in the best interest of anyone else in my family. So when the moment of truth comes, the application is filed in the recycle bin.

I'm hard pressed to give evidence to support my belief that the rest of the family is better off with me at home. The contrarian in me (who never wins this argument) says that children need lots of different caregivers to reinforce ideas, that they should see a mother who is doing something (other than mothering) that she loves, and that they should learn that the world doesn't revolve around them.

But then, oh, then. It's so hard for me to articulate why I keep making this choice to be at home. Especially when anyone could say this: my objective, measurable talents are not the best suited to this motherhood role. We snack all day, I change the schedule on a whim, I am sloppy about reinforcing nap times/quiet times. There's a lot that could be gained by a more conscientious, systematic caregiver.

So why do I keep doing this?

It's all about those nebulous beliefs. Beliefs or personal baggage: sometimes I'm not so sure they are different: things my mother did - ways I was raised - cultural expectations. They are ideas I can't let go of - no matter how many ways I can argue, no matter how many cultures I straddle, no matter how many miles away I move.

When I let go of wanting A Job - and it does happen, at least temporarily - it feels rather wonderful, for a little while.

I wake up in the morning and I think to myself: what will we play today? What can I teach the piccolini about the world through play? I think about teaching Big Ideas (because things like letters and numbers, math and science, they can learn that all at school, and to be honest, I find that stuff mostly BORING at this level). I think: how can I teach them about taking care of other people? How can I teach them about being good stewards of the Earth? How can we talk about personal space and consideration of feelings? How I can be sure that they learn to solve problems with words, not guns? How can I teach them to pursue dreams?

And then we play a lot. Mostly we play make believe these days. Even Mattias seems to get the gist of make believe. I try to put Noah 'in charge' a lot, and he tries to be 'the baby' a lot. (I guess choosing to be the baby is kind of like being in charge. For two seconds.)

Then, for myself, I try to do One Thing every day. And some days making one single phone call is the only thing I get done. Somedays, I write something here. Somedays, that One Thing doesn't get done until the piccolini are in bed. The rule of sanity stays the same: the more I try to do, the more frustrated I get. The more I start thinking about a desk that isn't covered in confiscated 'toys,' the more I want A Job. With a coffee break. And a lunch break. And defined beginning and end to the day. And beginning and end to the week. The frustrated feelings snowball.

Until: Full cycle. Some undefinable, illogical belief brings me back to where I started. Playing all day, spending the evening at the Desk of Confiscated Toys, application in the recycle bin, writing One Blog Post.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Teething Reprieve

Mattias' molars have been coming in for what feels like MONTHS. None of them came through at the same time, resulting in whinyholdmedon'twalkawaycarrymewhere'smommyholdme

Somebody said to me, "I feel so bad for you carrying him around like that!" And it made me feel rather bad for myself, too. Note to self: sometimes, it is NOT GOOD to express empathy. Or would that be sympathy? After I got over feeling bad for myself, I started to feel rather indignant about the whole carrying-thing. And that is never a good place for me to be in....

But yesterday?  Yesterday, the last tooth (in this round) poked through his gums. And today?

Today he's been like the smiley-baby (now turned toddler) that we all knew and loved. It's so nice. So, so nice. I can cook food again. I can run up and down the stairs without carrying an extra 23 pounds. Mattias sits happily in his chair. Or totters around exploring independently. AND he simultaneously has discovered books, meaning he retrieves them from the shelf and brings them to me to read. (Noah did this a lot earlier - Mattias has previously been too busy to bother with books.) So now, BOTH the piccolini sit on my lap quietly listening while I read books. It's kind of like being a Normal Rockwell painting.

We should celebrate our children getting their teeth. The process is such an ordeal for them. I'm already dreaming about the completion of the baby teeth set. If Noah's experience is any indication, we have about one more year to go with Mattias. And then we are going to throw one hell of a party.

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Strawberry Shortcake for Independence Day

I LOVE LOVE LOVE this Strawberry Shortcake recipe from the 1970s Better Homes and Gardens Cookbook. It was subsequently replaced - in newer BH&G cookbooks - with a lower fat version; you know, replacing the cream with milk and so on.  I find the old one much more delicious.

What I really like about this recipe is:

1) It's not terribly sweet. That makes it a good dessert for my German family members, who don't have the American sugar addiction. (It is, however, loaded with creamy goodness.)

2) It's biscuit! That's distinctively American! American biscuits use baking powder. (Unlike the English versions of biscuits which we call cookies.) Baking powder gained it's American popularity as a cheap and easy-to-store alternative to yeast for pioneers prior to the Civil War. And I think we did baking powder good.

Unfortunately, you have to follow the directions pretty carefully on this recipe. No over-stirring, or, for example, just throwing everything in a bowl and hitting high on the mixer.

Ahem, not that I would normally bake that way.

No really, since I typically ignore about half of any given recipe, I'm putting the not-to-be-ignored parts in CAPS.

I actually made a shortcake for Father's Day. It was gone before I could take a photo. But I thought someone might enjoy this flash-back-to-the-70s (60s?) strainer.

Strawberry Shortcake

For the topping:
3-4 cups strawberries
1 cup whipped cream (we always use more, thanks to Fritz' favorite kitchen gadget.)

For the shortcake biscuit:
2 cups SIFTED flour
2 tablespoons sugar
3 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup unsalted butter
1 BEATEN egg
2/3 cup light cream (I used whipping cream on Father's Day and that worked, too.)

  • SIFT dry ingredients and cut in butter
  • combine egg and light cream IN A SEPARATE BOWL
  • add egg mixture to dry ingredients UNTIL JUST MOIST
  • spread in GREASED 8 inch round pan
  • MOUND SLIGHTLY TOWARDS THE EDGES (I think the idea here is that the biscuit will rise more in the middle and you want to counter-balance this effect.)
  • bake at 450 degree fahrenheit for 15-18 minutes 
  • cool 5 minutes
  • remove from pan and cut in 2 layers
  • butter the bottom layer
  • spread strawberries and whipped cream over top (We put them in the middle, too. See, I really can't follow a recipe.)

Fritz always wants to know the difference between whipping cream and whipped cream. I don't really know this for sure, because (and since he asked, I've noticed) we Americans are casually inconsistent about our cream nomenclature. However, I think, whipping cream is the liquid state, and whipped cream is the solid-ish state. Or, at least, that's the way I wrote this recipe.

Friday, July 1, 2011


Fritz says, "Before kids, changing the vacuum bags used to be a theoretical possibility."

I urge using the shop vac, "Please! All those cracker crumbs will fill a whole bag."

We bought Roomba because he was cheaper than a maid. He just flicks the cracker crumbs around the room, rather than sucking them up. But he does a great job with the dust.

Fritz tried to convince our neighbor to bring by his dog on the evening walk. Our neighbor didn't take very kindly to the idea of us using his dog as our post-dinner vacuum cleaner.

Noah and Mattias like to ride the vacuum.

Noah calls the vacuum his fire engine.