Jr. Associate

When I was pregnant and at a friend’s house playing with her kids, I marveled at a wooden food play set made by Melissa and Doug. I played with it (probably without the kids) for a few minutes. I thought it was so cute. You could cut the vegetables and bread with a little knife because the parts were connected by Velcro.
I had never heard of Melissa and Doug before, so I assumed it was some indie toymaker and you could only special order toys from its one storefront in someplace like Portland, Oregon. I was so surprised that it was on Amazon.com like a normal company. I think my initial discovery of this toy went something like this:
Me: Oh! How delightful. Melissa and Doug? Am I saying that right? We need to remember this next year” (but since this was pre-baby I probably used the “f” word like twelve times).
I had no idea that Melissa and Doug is basically wooden Fisher Price and the toys are stocked everywhere. You can probably get a Melissa and Doug farm animal puzzle at 7-11. Two and a half years later, I have had so much M&D toys cross into my house that I get anxious whenever I see that red and white logo and hate all people named Melissa or Doug (sorry, Doug).  We like what we have but we have enough. The company won’t stop making quality wood toys! People won’t stop buying it and making me put it somewhere in my house!   Do they think I’m made of closets?
In short, contributions to a 529 Plan are an excellent Christmas gift if you are wondering what to get the small child in your life.

More like Melissa and UGH

More like Melissa and UGH


ps — I do LIKE the toys, and the people giving them (especially the wooden block set, although the U for urn block will lead to some serious talks I’m sure).









Please, benefit from my wisdom. Here are some life lessons that have come to me from my two years as a mother.

1. Multigrain Cheerios are delicious.
2. Whole Grain Goldfish crackers are delicious.

Since I already have to pay attention to my child anyway, it’s hard not to think/talk about her all the time and disregard the fact that I want to have an identity other than the best mom in the world.  In honor of our daughter’s successful completion of a second year (as she would say, for no reason that we’re aware of, “Yay! We did it”), here are some fun facts that I want to say about my Jr. Associate:

 -Her favorite song to sing is “Happy Birthday”. I say “favorite” but I don’t know for sure if she loves to sing it or if she thinks something terrible might happen if she doesn’t always sing it.

-She has special ways of saying things and it’s hard not to repeat it the same way, which is why you might hear me call a donut a “doo-nut” or say “mo chips pleeze” when you are holding a bag of chips and I want you to give some to me.  Her pop and I will sometimes make light of a funny way she says something only to realize she doesn’t say it that way anymore.  No more “mank you.”  And as her vocabulary grows and evolves, her accent is one of someone who is doing an offensive impression of an Italian or Chinese person speaking English.

-She has instantly taken to some of our favorite things like the songs from “Singin’ in the Rain,” They Might Be Giants, dinosaurs, sausage, and pizza.  When you ask why I no longer have a heart it’s because it burst with pride the first time she chanted “pizza, pizza.”

-She recently started to say “Spiderman” and shoot webs from her wrists, although she has never seen Spiderman in action.  She’s just picked up this and other habits from the mostly boys she is around while in daycare.

-I once made what I considered to be the most delicious homemade macaroni and cheese I have ever had, and she refused to even try it.  This is not really a fact about her, but it really was very good mac and cheese.

-It’s always funny to me when she puts on my shoes and slowly shuffles across the house to find me so that she can show me she’s wearing my shoes.  When I was in middle school I babysat a toddler who would do this and I thought it was the worst and never appreciated it. She must have been doing it wrong.

-I think she has only fallen off our bed twice, which before it happened was the thing I was most afraid of happening.

More importantly, here are some fun facts about me as a mom:

-It’s possible that I will burn a copy of her “Fresh Beats Band” CD and play it when she’s not around.

It was a great day.

-I love reading Dr. Seuss books out loud.

-I think buying clothes for her is more fun than buying clothes for myself.

-Of the various anxieties that come with being an owner of something (pet, house, small person), my anxiety about her getting too many gifts and presents is the most easily avoided yet the most challenged.  It’s number 1, followed by my fear that my neighbors all hate me as a dog owner, and my useless quest to get our cats from sleeping on the dining room table.

-I can’t get that girl to eat a vegetable anymore, so I will stop worrying about it for now.  I’m pretty sure I didn’t eat any vegetables other than tomatoes and iceberg lettuce until I was 21, and I’m healthy.

-Sometimes we dress alike, which has never been on purpose but I get such a kick out of it that it might eventually be on purpose.

-I’m still not interested in dressing her up for Halloween.

And here is one fun fact about her papa (though there are many):

-He has been successful in getting her to say the word “baby” in a “heavy metal voice” and it is adorable.

I have mentioned before that I am not much of a reader anymore. When I was a kid I read all the time, but after I finished college the number of books I read decreased (I know this because I tracked it for years). Now I probably read about ten books a year, but I’m trying to get reading back into my daily routine like it was before. This inspired my “summer of reading.” I probably haven’t read any more than I usually would, but I think I’m not going to read less this year for once, and for a little while this summer I did put a book in my hands when I normally would have cruised on the internet.   And if 1,000 reads of a children’s books equals one novel, then I have read this adorable novel about a talking pig named Olivia.

I thought I would be a more dedicated reader if time was against me, so I checked out books from the library (I hadn’t been to my neighborhood’s location since we moved into our house, although I still have at least one book out from there from when I was in elementary school).  On my first visit, I checked out “Maus” by Art Spiegelman and “Living History” by Hillary Clinton.  I read Maus during lunch breaks, but it probably only took up a tear-soaked hour overall. I checked out Hillz’s book week after week.  What’s the point of due dates if I can just keep the book for infinity?  She is a long-winded writer (she has to have at least one sentence of bio for every person she mentions, and she knows thousands of people and they all became close friends, and subsequently, most of them died before the book was over).  I read the first half of the million-page book and then skimmed the second half, but I have to say that I love her.  We are idiots for not choosing her as our president, and I will do whatever I can for Hillz 2016.  I will argue anyone who has anything illogically negative to say about her.  Bring it.

from textsfromhillaryclinton.tumblr.com

Other books I read:

“Man Made” by Joel Stein. I like info-packed memoirs.  It’s pretty funny, a little too jokey sometimes, though.  I really liked the LAFD and turkey-hunting sections (turkeys are great source material; also the best subject in Barbara Kingsolver’s “Animal, Vegetable, Miracle”).

“Are You My Mother?” by Alison Bechdel. Not as enjoyable as “Fun Home,” but still really liked it (also I have learned to stop calling these graphic novels since they are memoirs). It’s all about her mom this time (Fun Home is about her dad), and has given me well-drawn instructions on what not to do as a mother.

I started to read “Flowers in the Attic,” but I can’t get over the prose to get very far (like with “Twilight”). Instead I’m reading “What is the What?,” which is an engrossing/devastating novel about a Sudanese refugee. I’m reading it in ten-minute installments on my lunch break. Because of the subjects (war/watching everyone die) it’s hard to enthusiastically pick up and not a good before bed read unless you like to sob to sleep, but it’s written so well that I’m sure I’ll finish it soon.  After that I want to read something classic like “Wuthering Heights” (please put your book recommendations on hold; if you want me to read something bad enough, just give me the book).

I have really enjoyed the classic kid’s books, most of which I don’t remember reading as a child. I read a lot as a young kid, though, and my parents gave me a book subscription when I was young and a book was mailed to me every month. My child reads (and has torn up) some books that we owned as kids.   When a children’s book is good it’s so good, but when it’s bad it’s so hard to read (RAINBOW FISH). I have contemplated throwing some away because she finds where we hide the ones we don’t like and then focuses on those to be read the most (the condition is never good enough to give it away). When  she rips the pages of a book I don’t like it takes me a really long time to say something to her about it.

She has some books that made me laugh out loud the first time I read them (the first Olivia and Runaway Bunny).  I also really like to read Dr. Seuss books out loud. It’s fun.

Everyone is expecting me to finish this with “But you don’t have to take my word for it.”  WELL YOU DON’T.

During the first five years of my life everyone thought I was a boy.  I didn’t have hair longer than a fresh haircut until I was maybe three, and I didn’t have hair long enough to be recognizable as a girl until the first grade.  And then I think I cut it off.  On picture day.  Because that’s what kids do.  Judging by photos of me as a young child I didn’t dress particularly girly, mostly because I was probably wearing hand-me-down clothes from my brother and sister, and also because I think I was allowed to dress myself so usually looked like a German tourist.

I remember playing on the parallel bars at school with three other girls and a boy came up to us, pointed, and said “Mrs. T, Mrs. T, Mrs. T,” to the other girls, and “Mr. T,” to me.  Later my kindergarten teacher asked my mother to send me to school wearing dresses because everyone thought that I was a boy.  And during nap time a girl who napped next to me never failed to point out that she could see my underwear.

Now I have so much long and beautiful hair and often wear two dresses at a time, have given birth, get paid less probably, and have less rights than other people in Virginia, so yeah, I’m a female.  And so is my daughter.

I don’t plan to work hard to prescribe or deny my child anything that girls usually do (although, please  don’t be into horses, that’s a rich girl’s hobby).  Sure now she’s into cars and dinosaurs, but she’s only recently behaviorally different from our dog so I imagine that eventually dolls and boys and princess stuff will be in the mix.  That’s fine.

But, like me as a child, and most babies, really, she has very short hair, and like her father as a child, it’s almost white so she looks hairless.  If she dressed like a boy she could pass as a boy, but we dress her like a girl (also: after 12 months, baby clothes are sized differently for gulls and buoys, so she has to wear girl’s clothes even if we wanted to let her wear anything).  No matter.  Bright colors, fun animals, skirts, dresses — she is always mistaken for a boy (today she got a “you go, little man!” from someone in the Target parking lot).  Even yesterday a waiter bothered to ask if she was a boy or girl, and after we said “girl,” he said “boy?”

Often with infants I can’t tell if they’re boys or girls, but instead of guessing incorrectly I just pretend I don’t see that the person has a baby.  I feel that is more polite.

It’s one of those things that’s not really a big deal.  I don’t bother to correct them because I’m not interested in giving her stats to strangers anyway.  It’s just puzzling that a sweet little girl, dressed like a sweet little girl, is 95% of the time mistaken for a boy.  Maybe it’s because she sometimes wears a ball cap (though, let’s be fair, it’s not that boys her age actually like baseball so sports shouldn’t be assigned to either sex at this point).

Also, maybe it’s because I take photos like this:

Both boys and girls can have handsome mustaches.

Please note that as soon as people realized I wasn’t a boy, they just assumed I was my sister.

I love Doritos.  I served them at my wedding.  And received them as wedding gifts.  And my birth plan involved eating an entire bag of Cool Ranch Doritos while sitting in a tub.  In fact, while I call my daughter “Jr. Associate” throughout the bjournal, her real name is D’Rita Ellen (the boy’s name we had picked out was LL Cool Ranch).  If I had to give up all junk food save one item, I would choose Doritos.

But like all good things, I try not to buy Doritos because I will eat a bag in a 24-hour period and I don’t feel the need to share.  The first few chips are the most delicious, crisp chips to ever eat.  I don’t have that part of the body that says “stop eating this!” when it comes to Doritos.  I’ll eat half a bag while leaning against the kitchen counter, and then I feel ashamed and lash out at others while covered in orange powder.

I had unfinished bags of Cool Ranch & Nacho Cheese leftover from a party this past weekend, and I had finished them both by Tuesday evening (if I didn’t have to work they would have been finished by 9 a.m. Monday).  On both Monday and Tuesday I went straight to the chips after work, and since I have a child, I had to share (ugh) because she has learned to say “chip, please,” and even I can’t refuse that.  I dug through the bag to find her a broken chip — because whole ones are unsafe? — all the while eating probably a serving of whole chips, and when I handed her a chip she thanked me (well, she actually thanked her babysitter, whose name she’s says after every “thank you”).  She squealed with delight after each chip, and basically reenacted the warehouse scene from “Footloose” which caused her to get an orange film on everything.

By the time I was ready to pack up the bag she had orange face and fussed when I cut her off, and I felt guilty that I was getting her to love junk food.  It is totally within my power to keep her from eating chips, but I let her because it’s something I do.  And it’s not one of those things that I can say “as kids we ate junk food all the time and we’re okay,” because we’re not — we’re fat and sick and can’t handle the concept of portion control. Because I can’t give up bad habits I’m passing them on to my child.

So, parent lesson #212 – eat chips alone, preferably after everyone is asleep.

Nevermind that I also will eat a cantaloupe with the same zeal, and if I learned anything from being pregnant it’s that cantaloupe has the same nutrients as a leafy green vegetable.  I also feel like I should add a disclaimer that I feed my child well-rounded meals in addition to pumping her with Doritos.  Obviously I do, otherwise I wouldn’t care that she eats chips.


We have a plane trip planned for the fall, and since it’s too early to buy tickets or pack, I have instead started to create responses to irate passengers’ possible comments like “control you kid” and “you shouldn’t fly with babies” (inspired by the comments in a New York Time’s article about air travel with family).  While we are good with timing outings to minimize meltdowns (new favorite word) we won’t have as much control during flights.  Of course we will come prepared with snacks and diversions, but if she’s awake she will not happily sit down for four hours.

Here are my comebacks to variations of “learn how to control your kid”:

  • “Here are two more kids I can’t control — Lefty and Righty,” and I lift up my fists.  Or just one more kid and one fist if I am  handling a crying baby with the other arm.  Also, depending on the situation I might pop up the baby’s dukes.
  • “She’s not my kid.  She was on the seat when I got here.”  Cue laughter, the melting of hearts, and the clunking of plastic airplane cups being raised in a cheer.
  • Deliver a monologue like, “I’m doing the best that I can as a woman in a society that wants to run the reproductive system like it’s a prison, then offers no support to parents once their children are born, and continually fails the children in their education, then leaves an unhealthy planet and faulty, debt-soaked government as inheritance.  The least you can do is have patience for this girl whose future you’ve already ruined.”  Hopefully by the time I’m done the plane will have landed.
  • Or say “WHAT?  I can’t hear you — my baby is too loud.”

I’ve also read that lollipops, phone apps, and Play-doh helps, too.

For those of you who don’t live here, Richmond’s food scene is very important to us.*   New restaurants and food trends get a lot of attention, and it seems the newer the restaurant the more locally sourced the menu, to the point that I’m sure in the next six months, let’s say a doula and her artist husband will open a place that uses herbs grown in coffee mugs on the tables and serves all but the fur of a goat that was water-birthed in the kitchen sink (this just in – it’s closed).

When I heard about Burger Bach I was amused how non-local its mission is.  Burger Bach serves beef that is shipped in from New Zealand and I think the fries are cut from potatoes grown at the foot of the Alps.  You could say that the traveling fees are incorporated into the price ($10 for  the cheapest burger, wha?) but it’s worth it.  We have only been once but I really liked it.  I ordered my burger with American cheese, and I felt really self conscious about that (I will stand up for American cheese, though, because it melts really well and it’s AMERICAN).  The cheese, mustard, and ketchup combination reminded me of the burgers of my youth, like McDonalds and Fuddruckers, that I know now aren’t good.  It was basically the delicious version of those.  I liked the fries and dipping sauces, the burgers come with salad (yay), and the atmosphere works well for parents with a mostly well-behaved toddler (meaning it’s loud enough that people probably don’t notice her and the booth is big enough for her to move around).

I haven’t had my previous favorite burger (Dot’s Back Inn) in years (though the Meat on the Street burger was pretty fantastic, but my associate recreates that at home).  There are so many new places to try that I get anxious that I need to try them all and that keeps me from previously enjoyed meals.  We also have a short window of time for fuss-free meals with our Jr. Associate, which means that eating out isn’t the leisurely activity it used to be.  Although there is a glut of new places to visit, it’s easier to start sticking to the places we already know that are kid-friendly but also good.  I can see now why parents resort to fast food places with Playlands. (Please ask me about “Kid Pit,” which I’m trying to bring into public spaces to make eating out better for everyone)(it’s basically a padded pit for corralling babies and there’s a prototype for a portable, fence version in the works.  I’ll send my Kickstarter link soon).

More important to me than burgers, Dixie Chicken opened up nearby and makes really good fried chicken for take out.  Even the kid eats it, which is sad because I don’t want to share but I guess good because I don’t have to cook anything else for her.

Food pouches have been great for eating out, but I’m sure they’re probably terrible

*Although I enjoy eating out and reading about restaurants, I’m not sure why we should be as informed as we are about food trucks.

Since our child has been out of work for 19 months we’re trying to beef up her resume with new skill sets.  We’ve been pushing the ABCs and 123s.  There has been lots of reading and counting, animal and vehicle identification, and working with Microsoft Office.  She is a talkative little girl — complete with charming phrases like “go away!” — and it’s been fun and fascinating to watch her learn things.

Favorite things she’s been taught by her dad: to reply in a “metal” voice when he uses his metal voice (a lot of metal music is played at our house); and to say “hi-ya” and kick when the narrator says “I learned to kick from my friend the gorilla” in the book “My Friends.” From me she has learned to yell at the pets.  It really does take a village to raise a child.

She will probably be upset when she learns that gorillas might not kick.  Also, she appears to not like Zizzer Zazzer Zuzz from Dr. Seuss’s ABCs.  I understand and respect this.


The AV Club recently did a very enjoyable breakdown of every episode of “Freaks and Geeks” with creator/writer Paul Feig.  I love that show.  I watched it during its original run on Saturday nights, and since I was in college at the time I am officially negating claims that I was a party monster back then.  I already plan to make my child watch it in middle school (or earlier) as a primer for how kids are going to act when she’s older.  Reading through the articles though, I realized that there are almost as many years between high school and me as there are between me now and having a child in high school.

I had a similar reaction when I rewatched “My So-Called Life.”  I hadn’t seen most of the episodes since it was originally on, and we started to watch it after we had our baby.  It was just remarkable how I suddenly identified with Patty more than Angela.  I don’t really have a big point to make about all of that, it’s just another reminder that I’m old.   What if when I watch “Freaks and Geeks” again in ten years I most identify with the dead grandma?

I think the Weirs and Chases are good parents, and other than TV shows I’m using Marc Maron’s “WTF” podcast interviews as way to see what kinds of parents help make what kinds of kids.  We should make sure we’re more like “Weird” Al’s and Mindy Kaling’s parents, because they are both delightful and successful (and have different sets of parents, obviously).

Also, I am an aunt now.  As the line in my current fave book (Dr. Seuss’s “ABC”) goes: “Hen in a Hat. Hooray Hooray!”

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