Sunday, November 30, 2008

Say cheese! Please?

We staged a photo session this afternoon after church to get some potential photographs for our annual Christmas card photo. After that little experience, I was reminded of something my friend Jennifer once told me about how she had trouble getting good photographs of her son when he was two years old.

Boy, she knew what she was talking about. Two is a tough age for this sort of thing, I've concluded. At two and a half. William is old enough to know that we want to take a picture of him. He knows we want him to pose and smile and be charming for the camera. He knows that we simper and fawn all over him when he beams a big toothy smile for us. But he's still young enough to be a slave to his own lack of impulse control. He's really just not ready to fully comprehend that it's in everyone's best interest, including his own, if he just (pun alert) grins and bears it and gets it over with. (Of course, it's taken my husband, an adult, nearly ten years with me to fully internalize this, but I digress.)

But I always press on in the hopes that we'll get past this. And I'm sure that one day, we will. One day, William will understand that Mommy just needs him to flash his winning smile at the camera and then he'll be free to run off. And he'll comply. But for now...William may be willing to sit down and smile nicely for a few seconds, but then the urge to move takes over him. And right before I click the shutter on the camera, he feels the need to jump up. Or bend over. Or squeal. Or twist and shout. Or shake it up, baby. And then...he gives in to the urge. So when I click the shutter, I end up with a photo of a little blonde blur. Although, to be fair, the blur is often smiling in these photos.

Diane, God love her, powered through the photo session this afternoon, patiently clicking away and taking shot after shot. When William jumped up, she kept smiling at him and beseeching him to look at her and smile, too. And she kept taking pictures, even as I was finally resorting to offering bribes (Spider-Man fruit treats) to my only child to please just sit still for a few more minutes so we could get a nice family picture. Afterward, she reminded me of the advice once given to me by a photo editor I worked with: take lots of pictures, lots and lots and lots of them, and maybe you'll end up with a couple that are usable. That's some of the best parenting advice I've ever received, by the way, although at the time, the advice was supposed to guide me in taking better photos for the newspaper I was working for.

Someone once commented to me that William always seems to be smiling in pictures. When I stopped guffawing, I confided to them that for every good smiley picture I post of him, there are at least 50 other photos of him madly dashing around or grabbing at the camera or opening his mouth in a big exaggerated expression that is funny, yes, but not exactly sweet and charming. No kidding. You should see my photo archives. If I had to use film, I'd be bankrupt. So I'll just continue to be grateful for the digital camera, which allows me to take hundreds of picture so I will have a few good ones at the end of it all.

And I'll still hold out hope that one day, it will be easier to get a non-blurry smiling picture of my son. Maybe when he's three. Or four? Not any longer than that, though, right?

Saturday, November 29, 2008


Oh my God, I am so upset by the news that came out of Palm Desert on Friday that I still can't talk about it in a reasonable tone of voice.

My old newspaper, The Desert Sun reported on Friday that two men shot and killed each other inside the Toys R Us in Palm Desert on Friday morning. That's right: two men took loaded guns inside a toy store on the busiest shopping day of the year and, when an altercation arose, shot at each other, fatally wounding each other. You can read the paper's report from my former colleagues here, at least for a few days. That's the Toys R Us that I used to regularly visit back when we still lived in Twentynine Palms, an hour's drive away. I used to take William to that very store on Highway 111 when he was a baby to buy sippy cups and bibs and Fisher Price toys. It was a regular on my roster of stores to visit when I made my weekly drives down into the valley. Right across the street from Target and right around the corner from Trader Joe's.

The online report that I read yesterday morning quoted a mother whose four-year-old son was clinging desperately to her leg and saying fearfully, "Mommy, I don't want to die" after the first shots rang out. And the very idea that not only was a four-year-old child afraid of being shot to death in a toy store but that it was a very real fear just about chilled the blood pumping through my body. As a parent, I was absolutely infuriated by this whole tragedy. Sure there are places we can't reasonably expect our children to be safe, but we don't--or shouldn't--take our children there. And a toy store is not one of those places. We all know that having children means that, one day, we will have to turn our children loose, hope that we did a good job raising them, and let them live their own lives. We all know that we can only be responsible for their welfare for so many years. But who ever thinks they'd have to worry about their child's life inside a toy store? And to paraphrase a city councilman quoted in the story (one I used to interview, I might add), who takes a loaded gun into a toy store and why? It would never have occurred to be worried about trigger-happy gun-toters inside a toy store. And for some people, now they always will be, on some level.

Luckily, no innocent people were harmed in this incident. At least not physically. But I'd be willing to bet that some of those parents, once they finish thanking God for still being alive, are never really going to get over it. I don't think I would.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

'Twas the night before Thanksgiving

'Twas the night before Thanksgiving
and all through the house,
Not a creature was stirring...
well, except for David, trying valiantly to defrost the turkey.

Oh yeah, and no one could find apricot-flavored JellO for the supposedly mandatory apricot-JellO-cream-cheese-mandarin-orange thing. Guess we'll have to make do with peach.

And I'm not sure I got the right kind of gravy packets.

Or that the rolls are the right kind, either.

Do we even have anything to drink tomorrow?

But let's hope that everyone just remembers the big's all about being together and being grateful for what we have. And at least William understands that tomorrow is Thanksgiving (and not Christmas, although I think he's about ready for all the Christmas lights and decorations to go up). He says that Thanksgiving is the day when you eat pumpkin pie and eat turkey and watch the parade. And, if prompted, he will also that note that it's a day when you say "thank you." My goal is to hopefully parlay that into many many days when he is thankful.

So let's just cross our fingers and hope that the turkey thaws out. And the salad is acceptable. And the rolls. And the gravy...

Monday, November 24, 2008


You know, I know that it's common for teenagers to think that they know everything and their parents know nothing. In fact, I know it from firsthand experience. In moments of extreme frustration with her hardheaded teenage daughter, Mom always exclaimed that one day, I'd realize how smart she actually was. And I scoffed. 'Til I was about, oh, 24, or so. And then Mom got even smarter after I had William. Amazing how that works, eh?

So I figured that one day, William would grow up and dispute every word that comes out of his parents' mouths. I just didn't realize it would happen when he was only two years old.

Inspired by some of our fellow parent-friends from church, we've been trying to say a prayer with him every night before he goes to sleep. We've been a little (okay, a lot) lax about this until recently, but we really are trying. We put him in his crib, and then we all fold our hands and begin a little freelance prayer out loud. It's still a little awkward. I do much better with these things when I write them out beforehand--and I keep wondering if perhaps I should try that next time. But my friend Fran has reminded me in the past that it's okay to pray badly as long as you're actually praying and you're sincere, so maybe I should just keep that in mind instead. So we're working on the routine part and the sincerity parts right now, trying to instill the importance of prayer in our little boy at a young age.

Usually, David or I start with a little riff on "thank you, God, for such a nice day that we had today" and segue over to thanking God for our friends and family and wind up with a "please help William be a good boy tomorrow." To our delight, William agreeably folds his little hands and echoes us. "Dear God," he says, swaying on his knees in his crib, smiling and looking at us to see what happens next. Sometimes he echoes whatever he say next and sometimes he just says a few words and giggles. I think he's catching on, though. He repeats more of what we say each time we try it.

But here's where the premature teenager-ness comes in. Tonight, David led him in a very nice prayer, ending with, yes, "Amen," which David pronounced "aaaa-men" with a long "a" sound. And William popped up on his knees and immediately corrected him. "No, Daddy, it's aaaah-men," he informed his father.

Whoa, where did that come from? David stuttered over this for a few second, finally saying weakly, "William, you can say it either way, you know. They're both correct." Which is true, as far as I know, but who knew our son already had an opinion on ecclesiastical issuses?

Our son, the expert. The two-year-old expert on the proper language for prayer. Perhaps in a former life, he was on the Council of Nicea. Or maybe it's just soome of his preacher-grandaddy genes coming out. Or--and this may be the most likely--he's just growing up to be as opinionated as his parents are. Gulp.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Back to the treehouse again

I meant to post this on Thursday, but I got distracted.

Let me just say a big hearty "thank goodness" for the Monkey's Treehouse. As the weather cools down again, and rainy cold days are in the forecast, it's nice to have an indoor destination where my child can run wild. During the summer, we spent a lot of mornings at the pool, and in the autumn, we often headed to a nearby playground. As winter approaches, we'll be putting the Monkey's Treehouse back into our regular rotation of playspaces. We'll still go to storytime at the library and visit the train tables at the bookstore, but as I've written before, more is expected of children in those situations. They actually do need to be quiet at times--or at least not run amok. So it's nice to have a place where William can run around (or amok) and make noise and it's all good.

This is the part of the post when I would normally sigh and say that I miss the Bellevue Mall's play area. But I have committed myself to not saying that because the renovation of the mall is going to result in a big new lovely library, and that will benefit far more people than just us. I'll just have to keep searching for more good indoor activities for winter for my exuberant (read: rowdy and noisy) son.

Here he is, with Leland, putting on a big show in the play theater. He picked the purple witch's costume out all by himself.

The warehouse sale

Boy, where do I start with this one?

My friend Mary Clare and I got up early this morning to drive downtown for a Kelly's Kids warehouse sale at the municipal auditorium.

For those of you unacquainted with Kelly's Kids, it's a boutique brand of children's clothing based in Natchez, my parents' town. It's a popular brand here. They sell little corduroy longalls in the winter and seersucker shortalls in the summer and cute little dresses and pajamas all year round. The clothes, while expensive at full price, wash and wear beautifully, which is key, given how much hard use and laundering we put clothes through here at our house. I already own a fair amount of KK clothing, mostly bought at consignment sales and from the outlet near Mom's house. The warehouse sale was advertising drastically discounted prices, so I figured it was worth a try.

Hoping to find a couple of cute things, Mary Clare and I drove up to the auditorium around 8:40. A line of women, dressed in their heavy coats and holding cups of Starbucks, was already wrapped a quarter of the way around the building. As we trolled for a parking spot, three women here, two women there, four women here again joined the line. A few women even pushed laundry hampers on wheels. No kidding. These women were serious. And as we found out later, some even showed up before dawn to wait in the cold and get one of the first spaces in line.

We found the end of the mushrooming line and waited. Finally, the doors opened at 9, and we descended into hell. Okay, no, we walked down the stairs into the warehouse space. But unless you love big eager crowds of shoppers, it was kind of hell-like. Hordes of women were converging around dozens of tall metal hanging racks, snatching and grabbing and squealing and pushing. Huge rows of clothing disappeared before our very eyes, like something out of a science fiction movie. MC and I moved around, trying to find an empty spot here and there at a rack so we could find a few things for our own kids. I got lucky and snatched a pair of brown corduroy overalls trimmed in light blue, and Mary Clare found a pair of darling tights with hearts printed on them. But we were clearly moving too slow to really get the good stuff. And all I have to say at this point is, thank God we didn't have William and Leland with us. It may have been a children's clothing sale, but it was clearly no place for children.

Well, as it turned out, those first few shoppers, the hard-core ones, had run through the space and grabbed enormous armloads of outfits--usually the best ones, like the really nice holiday overalls and dresses--and refused to part with them. They lugged huge baskets full of multiples off the main shopping floor and began dumping clothes on the bare dirty floor to see what treasures they had landed. See, these women were not Mommy looking for a Christmas card outfit for Sally and Junior. They were crusty old battle-axes looking to score as much new merchandise--with tags--as possible so they could take them home and sell them on eBay at a big markup. Security guards pushed their way through and demanded that the women start handing over some of the clothes because they didn't want them scattered all over the floor. Dozens of regular shoppers stood around them, hoping that someone would grudgingly part with that sweet little blue gingham snowman jumper or that long-sleeved pumpkin t-shirt. MC and I waited in vain for a pair of darling little madras plaid pants for Leland, but no one was willing to part with any. Not only that, but when we approached one of these women a little later to ask if she'd part with one lousy pair, she snapped at us. Yikes. Gee, thanks, lady. I hope you get carpal tunnel syndrome from listing everything on your eBay store.

We cast about aimlessly, looking for discards. Turns out most people must have discarded the same things. Strange red-and-white zebra-print jammies. Basic corduroy pants. Little blouses that didn't match anything else. Nothing to see there. So we got in line. No, scratch that. We got in the first line. We waited in a long line to have our items counted and packaged, then we had to go wait in another line to actually pay for our stuff. As we compared our small armloads of clothing with other women in line, a common sentiment was heard: "Hmmm. Do we really want to stand in this line and then again in that one for this?" We weren't the only ones disenchanted by the eBayers. Not by a long shot. That camraderie was kinda nice, actually. It made the line-standing much more pleasant.

So, whew. I like what we got, but was it worth the jostling and jousting? Hmmm. I might have to see how much the brown corduroy overalls are selling on eBay for before I tell you for sure.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Testing out the new camera

We have a new camera--hooray!--but I'm still figuring out how to use the photo editing software that accompanies it. The camera is a lot nicer, but the software is slightly more complicated.

Does this picture look okay?

Ah, the Thanksgiving turkey headdress. This picture probably should be filed under the category of "Pictures to Show William's Prom Date."

Monday, November 17, 2008

Later, Dad

My child is entirely too verbal for his own good. Or for ours. We forget that he's only two sometimes. It's as if because he can say so many things, we expect him to be able to do more things, too.

The other night, he cried out in the wee hours. David blearily staggered into William's room to see what was wrong. William stopped crying as soon as David opened the door and simply handed his fleece blanket to his daddy so he could cover him back up.

"William, you could put the blanket back on by yourself," David told him.

"No," William responded. "I'll do that when I'm older."

So he can say that but he can't actually cover himself up with his blankey? Hmmmm...

Monday, November 10, 2008

Books We Need

In a committee meeting the other day, I was chatting with some other women who have small children, and we came up with a good idea. Someone should write "A Pregnant Woman's Guide to Nashville."

It would contain a carefully audited list of pediatricians (ahem, I can recommend an excellent one by the way, if anyone's looking), places to buy maternity clothes (the Opry Mills Old Navy), places to fulfill your odd cravings, stores with good restrooms, stores where they sell nursing supplies, and so on. We'd interview all the moms we know and get the best advice and then compile it into one (mostly) definitive guide.

Or perhaps it could become a series, like travel books for various cities. The Lonely Planet Series of Guides to Motherhood. Fill in the name of your own city. Anyone want to sign on with me and create a new venture? Anyone know how to write a business plan?

But I had another idea later. Someone should also write a book that contains all the stuff about parenting that the parenting books always seem to leave out. The not-so-glamorous stuff that happens After you give birth. There are shelves full of books about sleep-training your child but precious little about what kind of nursing pads to buy and why. Or the return of certain bodily functions. Or how to get poop stains out of a christening gown. Or the best way to deal with the mess created by a projectile-vomiting infant. Or why your breast pump is making funny sounds and when it's time to buy new tubing.

Parenting books often deal with, yes, parenting, but let's face it: is adjusting to your new life and all its messes not a cruicial part of being a parent? I know I can find a book about introducing new foods to my child and helping them learn to love a healthy balanced diet. But I want to know how other moms deal with Play-Doh and tiny PlayMobile parts. How do you get puke out of those car seat straps, anyway? What's the best way to get Craisins stains out of the rug? How do you get your two-year-old to smile for the camera? If you hide your child's Halloween candy so they don't get cavities or beg for candy for the rest of their young lives, are you a bad parent or a good parent?

You know, the un-warm-and-fuzzy stuff.

Sunday, November 09, 2008

William in his own words

Sometimes I wish I could be a fly on the wall and observe William when he's not with me. I always wonder how other people see him, how he really acts when I'm not in his presence. I know him so very well--but only in relation to me. He's my son, and I adore him. But what is he like as a friend? A student? Even a grandchild? I can never really know for sure.

So when I get a small insight into William Without Mommy, I always get a small thrill. The latest came when I saw the new bulletin board for his class at school. The teachers had asked each child what they were thankful for, then transcribed the answers onto a piece of paper. The children then colored on the papers, and the teachers hung them up in honor of Thanksgiving.

William's paper reads, "I'm thankful for my books, and my mommy and daddy, and that's all."

I choked back giggles when I read this. First, because he listed his books right off. Mommy and Daddy don't come first; his books do. And the "that's all"--what's that about? When I picked him up a few minutes later, I asked him about the picture and asked if he wasn't thankful for anything or anyone else. He thought for a moment or two, then added, "My toys and my books." And with some subtle reminding/prompting, he also added his grandmothers, grandfathers and uncles to (verbal) list. (Amazingly, he did not say "food" or "fruit treats" or "lollipops." He must not have thought about that angle. One of the other children in his class did, though: she added "my lunch" to her list.)

It's so funny to think that this bright little person with all these funny ideas used to be a tiny little helpless blob of a baby. Every day, he grows farther and farther away from that tiny baby and grows into his own person. It still sometimes amazes me. There was a time when I really thought of him as an extension of myself, but those days are long past. In case I ever forget that, though, I am reminded when he says something new or unexpected. And that happens just about every day. He still repeats some things that we say, but often, he comes up with things all on his own. William's mind seems to be whirring along at warp speed all the time. I can barely keep up with him. I don't know: if I were an expert in early childhood development, would it still seem as amazing the way his mind is developing?

So I just try to write as much of it down, so I can remember and marvel again later.

Friday, November 07, 2008

William Wyckoff: On Domestic Affairs

A toddler's take on the world:

William, upon hearing that "Bock Mama" had won the presidential election and defeated John McCain, asked why they couldn't just share the job.

I guess when you're two years old and constantly asked to share your toys/food/books, that idea seems so natural that you can't imagine why adults don't just sign on, too!

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Never underestimate your child

Never underestimate your child.

But if you do underestimate what they are capable of doing, trust me. They will surprise you! I learned this, in a delightful way, last night.

William was dancing around the bathroom while I brushed my hair and put on makeup yesterday morning. To give him something to do, I pointed to a stack of plastic cups sitting on the counter and said, "Hey, William, do you want to carry those cups downstairs for Mommy?"

William is at the age where he loves to "help." He loves to help unload the dishwasher--which I let him do; he gets to take out all the little plastic forks and spoons that he uses and put them in his drawer. He loves to help take clean laundry out of the dryer and put it in the laundry basket. And he's finally old enough to fetch various things for me when I need them; if I ask him to grab a kleenex for me, he goes running off and comes back moments later with, yes, a kleenex. It's actually quite nice. Even nicer is the look of sheer pleasure on his face because he knows he has been helpful, like a big boy.

Anyway, he was happy to help by carrying the cups downstairs. Off he went. I managed to get distracted by various things and completely forgot that I had asked him to run this little errand.

Fast-forward to about 6:30 p.m. last night. William was eating dinner, while I ran upstairs to get something. While I was upstairs, I remembered the plastic cups. And then I realized that I hadn't actually seen where he put them. They could be anywhere. Really. Anywhere. I walked back downstairs and called, "Hey, William, do you remember those plastic cups I asked you to bring downstairs this morning? What did you do with them?"

Through a mouthful of strawberries and pears, William said, "I put them in de dishwasher."

Astonished, I opened the dishwasher, and there they were! He had opened the dishwasher, pulled out the top rack, unstacked the cups, and placed each one individually in the top rack, just like Mommy always does, pushed the rack back in and closed and locked the dishwasher.

Amazing. I never would have thought he'd even think of doing that, let alone actually do it! He just gets more and more interesting and amazing as he grows up. Wow.

Sunday, November 02, 2008

Some Halloween photos to tide us over

It's taking me forever to get Halloween pictures organized and posted, so I'll just have to do it piecemeal.

And frankly, I'm just glad there are pictures at all...I managed to break our camera at Leland's birthday party on Saturday morning. Ack. That poor camera. We bought it when I was pregnant with William, and it's taken so many pictures since that it deserves a Bronze Star for meritorious service or something. Is meritorious even a word? I digress. I read a news article a few months ago about a UPS driver who logged something insane like a million miles on the same UPS truck over a couple of decades of work. My little silver camera was like the Canon equivalent of that truck. That was even more of a digression, wasn't it? Bottom line, that camera has worked hard, but at least it held out through Halloween!

Anyway, here are a few...

We had a Wyckoff-McDonough family Halloween shindig at our house this year. Mark, Diane and William represented our family with costumes:

Here, Alethea helps William sort out and organize his candy, clearly a very serious enterprise.

I'm a little unclear on their sorting criteria. I think I heard Alethea proposing that they sort by color, but it could be that they ended up sorting by candy type. What I do know is that William has enthusiastically embraced this whole free candy thing. He's eaten almost all the lollipops he collected, except for the Tootsie Roll Pop, which er, I am going to work on convincing him to give to his dear old mom. Last year, he didn't understand candy, so we ate Twix bars and M&Ms from his pumpkin with abandon. This year, it's going to be much harder to get away with that. So my plan is to let him eat some of it, over the course of a few days, and gradually spirit away the rest. For the sake of his teeth, of course.

Hopefully we'll get this whole ugly dead camera debacle behind us soon.