Monthly Archives: September 2010

Going Pro

It was kids-run-the-bases day at the Mariner’s game last weekend. Josie’s big chance to show the world how it’s done. Do you see this kid’s form? At what age does track and field start? Kindergarten? I don’t think we can wait that long. Maybe I’ll enroll her early… Just kidding! If you haven’t read the comments on the “Redshirting” post, you should. I have the best commenters on the world. We’re having an interesting discussion.

Up Next

It’s raining and snotty here. The berries on our neighbor’s vines are all spent – no more cobbler. Josie was sick Monday and Tuesday and awake coughing and hacking into the night. Sailing season is over.

It would be a den of sadness over here if it weren’t for my sister-in-law’s visit from New Hampshire. Earlier this week we were walking through the grocery store with a certain, runny-nosed, three-year-old when I had a realization: it’s almost pomegranate season.

If you’re one of those people who hate pomegranates because they’re such a pain to eat, listen up. First, choose a fruit that’s heavy for its size. Then, when you get it home, fill a bowl with water. Cut into the skin with a knife and submerge the pomegranate. Separate the fruit from skin underwater. This keeps the juice from spurting all over your clothes. Once it’s dissected, the peel will float to the surface and the seeds will sink. You can scoop the skin off the top and dump the seeds into a strainer to let them dry. Put them in a container and store them in your fridge. I love them on yogurt and cereal.

You? How do you like your pomegranates?


Have you read Outliers, The Story of Success by Malcolm Gladwell? While it’s not a parenting book it is a great read for parents – an enjoyable and thorough analysis of what it takes to succeed. One of the points he makes is how much of a difference a few months can make in the physical, emotional and mental capabilities of children.

Recently I read this newspaper article about the increasing number of parents “redshirting” or holding back their kids from kindergarten. These are kids who are otherwise ready for school but instead of having them be the youngest in their class, their parents have held them back to make them the oldest, and thus, they believe better positioned to succeed.

In recent years kindergarten has become less play and more instruction-based. Maybe parents see the standards for attention and focus are higher. If a child isn’t socially or cognitively ready then holding her back makes sense. It’s a tough decision and I respect each parent’s choice.

However, if the kid is ready by all accounts to go to school then why hold him back? Sure, I want my daughter to succeed but what’s wrong with making her work for it? I was one of the younger students in my grade and school was never easy. I wasn’t the kid who figured it out while taking the test. I struggled. Sometimes I cried, but I learned to work hard and be persistent. Isn’t developing a good work ethic as important as succeeding? Isn’t it more important than appearing to be smart because grades come relatively easy?

Besides, do you really want your child to hit puberty first? Do you want her entering her senior year of high school at the age of 18?

What do you guys think? Did any of you make a tough decision about when your child should start school? Someone disagree with me. Please.

Race Relations

We’re sitting in a gluten-free bakery/café last weekend waiting for our “pizza” and nothing-at-all-like-mac-and-cheese-but-still-kind-of-good dish (you know, that’s the key to gluten-free eating, just banish the thought of what it should taste like and you might really enjoy it). Anyway, the “pizza” crust held together by nutshells wasn’t really good but that’s a story for another time. We were relying on a completely stoned, dreadlocked barista who seemed overwhelmed by my Groupon, as if she hadn’t seen 2,000 of them already, and things were not looking good. The food was taking for-ev-er.

I use the word “sitting” loosely. Jose is alternating between hiding under a neighbor’s table playing peek-a-boo with strangers, and running down the long hall to the kitchen. Dining experiences need to be planned well in advance, prepared for with crayons and paper and toys and discussion. The restaurant should be kid friendly, the food fast, and no one should be hungry when the expedition first sets out. In short, it’s never a good idea for us Ellises to “stop in” anywhere for food, but we seem to need to re-learn that over and over. We are doing a pretty good job of disrupting everyone’s fine Sunday afternoon with our last minute decision to stop for lunch. Josie is somewhere in the general vicinity of our table when a black man sits nearby.

“Mommy, why is he brown?”

Silence… [shit]… I thought she was supposed to ask that question when she was, like, 4. Damn it kid, I have 1.25 years to prepare my answer to that question! Instead of coming up with a good response, I say, “Hey, let’s read this book together.” Smooth.

In the car many minutes later, I’m ready. I ask her what color her skin is. Brown.

What color is Mommy’s? White.

What color is Jada’s? Brown. Alyssa’s? Donnel’s? Etc. Brown, brown, brown.

I make a mental note to put the Josie Book on top of her pile of bedtime books so we can revisit the pictures of her infancy and her birth mother.

What color is your hair? Black.

What color is Mommy’s hair? You get the idea…

I say something like, well, your skin is brown because some of your ancestors, your grandparents’ grandparents’ grandparents, were from Africa. Mommy looks more like some of her ancestors who were from Norway.

She’s quiet for a minute. She stares out the window. Then: “Sometimes my ancestors… My ancestors, sometimes they blow bubbles for me.”


My vegetable beds have gone totally Darwinian – the squash, melons and cucumbers are all tangled up in each other, the kale is five feet tall, and the spaghetti squash vines have taken over one bed and are reaching over the aisle and climbing the green bean trellis. It’s scary out there.

Here’s the problem: I can’t throw away vegetable starts. I don’t do seeds unless they can be planted directly into the beds. When the season is right, I go to the local nursery and buy a variety of organic starts – whatever sounds good. This means I buy six or eight plants when I usually need about three or four.

Take kale for example, I bought a container of six, but when planted the recommended 18” apart I only had room for four. It seemed like there was so much empty space and the starts were so itty-bitty. I couldn’t just throw them away. I imagined my baby kale crushed in the yard waste bin. So, of course, I planted all of them about 12” apart and planned to thin out the smaller more sickly ones later. When that time came they were all so healthy and doing so well. How could I rip such a lovely food-producing plant out of the ground and throw it away? Do you see? This same thing happened with the onions, leeks, chard, kale, all manner of squash, celery, beans, and the lettuce. There’s some crazy shit going on out there.

So now, instead of broccoli, I am awash in chard and kale – greens, greens everywhere. I bring a cooler full to the Wednesday night sailing races and I walk around the parking lot, just me and my bunch of greens, pushing them on anyone who will take them. I add kale to everything – pea soup, stews, spaghetti, and, yes, it was not my proudest moment, but I even add them to tacos.

I’m constantly on the lookout for good greens recipes. I’m fond of a white bean and chard or kale soup and also Martha Stewart has an awesome recipe for brown rice and chard risotto, wrapped in a blanched chard leaf (like a burrito) and topped with tomato sauce. It’s great but exhausting to make.

My new favorite is this one. I substitute chard for spinach and it’s oh so good. Rice, onion, egg, chard and lots of cheese baked together? Really, you can’t go wrong.

Have you got any good greens recipes for me? Please, please help me with our chard consumption. I’m begging you.


Like any parents we have our struggles. Without giving you all the details, let’s just say that we’re seeking professional help and not for the first time. I don’t believe there is anything wrong with our girl, but the conventional parenting techniques (ie: Love & Logic) aren’t working, and we need an advisor to help us through our days. There are weeks and months when I feel like I can’t do anything right for her, when I feel like it’s all wrong. When I don’t know what parent she needs me to be.

We met with someone last week. When I thought about the appointment beforehand I worried I’d start crying and not be able to stop. We gave her the whole story from the beginning.

I told her about Josie’s grand entry into the world: spontaneous labor and an unplanned home birth (ie: have a contraction, get in tub, have baby). I told her about Josie’s first week of life in the ICU, and how she had a little orange bow in her hair the day we met her. I told her how Josie had complete head and neck control and cried real tears from the beginning. I told her about the time Josie got so mad at me for running out of formula that she wouldn’t make eye contact. About the crawling and the climbing and the walking and the running, oh god, the running. The running and how she ran without fear or boundaries, how she’d run into large bodies of water, off tall ledges, into traffic. I told this woman about the pinching and the biting and the hitting, but also about the hugging and the loving and the joking and her first words which were ‘owl’ and ‘hug.’ We talked about how other children cluster around her, how everyone is drawn to her, and also about the sleep problems, the night waking, the sensory seeking and the inability to calm herself. I told her I was reading the “Spirited Child” book and that Josie scored 106 on a scale of extreme behavior that only goes to 50. And, finally, I told her about the unreachable place where Josie seems to go sometimes when nothing works.

I talked about all of these things with surprising composure. It was when I got to the adoption, to the part where we talk about the birth family that I got into weepy, quiver-lipped, trouble. I mentioned a friend who had a spirited child. How the boy’s father had been the same way growing up. I thought about how wonderfully reassuring it would be to be to know Josie’s traits came from a relative and be able to say, yes, it’s okay – look at what a lovely and interesting adult she is now.

We know very little about Josie’s birth father but, for some reason, I think she gets her temperament from him. I wonder what his mother would say if she knew there was a small version of her son in the world. I wonder what her life and his childhood were like. I imagine her hearing about Josie and saying something like: Oh heavens! And putting a hand to her chest and laughing. Then saying: You have got your work cut out for you! Or something like that. That’s all. She doesn’t give me any sage advice, or answer questions. She doesn’t tell me what I already know, that this kid is going to be fine and that everything will be all right. We share a look and I get everything I want and everything I need from her eyes because I can see there is someone in this world who knows exactly what we’re going through.


“And here we aren’t, so quickly: I’m not twenty-six and you’re not sixty. I’m not forty-five or eighty-three, not being hoisted onto the shoulders of anybody wading into any sea. I’m not learning chess, and you’re not losing your virginity. You’re not stacking pebbles on gravestones; I’m not being stolen from my resting mother’s arms. Why didn’t you lose your virginity to me? Why didn’t we enter the intersection one thousandth of a second sooner, and die instead of die laughing? Everything else happened—why not the things that could have?”

Jonathan Safran Foer’s short story, Here We Aren’t, So Quickly.

Cell Phones

Alright, enough chitter-chatter and self promotion, it’s time to get back to work. But before we start talking about cell phones watch this 3 minute video. It is hilarious. However, it does contain some profanity so if you are a young child or my grandmother or my mother-in-law you should probably skip it.

Sound familiar? You know that woman? I’m pretty sure I do.

Anyhoo, a friend of mine was recently diagnosed with testicular cancer. The good news is that he is doing very well and has a good prognosis. Questions were raised about the cell phone he kept in his front pants pocket. What about it? Is it safe to keep your phone close to your junk, your privates, the family jewels? Is it safe to use a cell phone at all? Is your cell phone trying to kill you? Probably.

Cell phone radiation emission and possible links to brain and mouth cancers have been getting a lot of coverage these days. GQ’s somewhat hysterical (even by my standards) article makes an interesting and terrifying case that cell phones and wireless networks are doing irrevocable damage to humans. The piece is heavy on the conspiracy theories but makes some valid points.

Fortunately our good-old friends at the Environmental Working Group have taken all this information and put out a guide and rating system of cell phone emissions.

Oh calm down, this doesn’t mean you need to go out and replace your phone immediately. It’s something to keep in mind and refer to when it’s time to buy a new one. Also, they have a list of great suggestions on how – while using your cell phone – to limit exposure.

  1. Use a headset. It emits less radiation. Experts are split on whether wired or wireless is better.
  2. Phones emit most when you are talking or texting, not receiving, so be quiet.
  3. Keep the phone away from your body.
  4. Text more. The phone uses less radiation and it is held away from your head.
  5. Make calls when the signal is strong. Phones emit more radiation when the signal is weak.
  6. Limit children’s phone use.
  7. Don’t use radiation shields. They force phones to transmit at a higher power and higher radiation.

Now, carry on…

HMN Elsewhere

Yesterday The Next Family put up a guest post I wrote in response to this prompt: It would be great to have you write your story — being a cancer survivor and a mom (an adoptive mom), how it was for you, where you are now, how it’s changed for you…

It’s funny how framing a situation differently, asking a slightly different question, can elicit a totally new and different response. You can read the post here.

And check out The Next Family while you’re there – they’ve got interesting content from urbanite families, adoptive families, in vitro parents, interracial families, same sex parents, and single parents.

Also, I’d like to take this opportunity to do a little more shameless promotion. Hysterical Mommy Network has been nominated for the Parenting Blog section of the Best of Western Washington contest. I’m just so tickled about the whole thing. It makes me giggle. If you’d be so kind… If you haven’t already… Would you vote here, please? That color you’re wearing looks so nice on you. It matches your eyes and, my goodness, those lashes… You look particularly lovely today.

Love you all! XOXO