My Trader Joe’s Report

Earlier this week I paid my first-ever visit to Trader Joe’s. I’d heard quite a bit of gushing over Trader Joe’s, and I’d also heard that they’ve got plenty of yummy mostly-already-prepared products. That was excellent for this week, since Cute W was traveling. First, I got lost, because my GPS told me that it would be on my left when it was actually on my right. You would think that I’d be able to locate a large-ish retail establishment on Wolf Road, but that would be based on an expectation that I have a normal or at least not particularly sub-normal sense of direction. Alas, that isn’t the case.

Anyway, I got there. And it was lovely, lovely, lovely with flowers and pretty produce. It felt more like a gift shop than a grocery store. Here’s the thing: I was overwhelmed and therefore unable to think rationally. I’m pretty methodical about my grocery shopping. Like, I’ve made my own list of frequently-purchased brands and visited multiple stores within one week to do price comparisons (which I tend not to report on the blog, because Wal-Mart always wins and then I get a little depressed, even though the guy on Food, Inc. said that I could shop there as long as I promise to buy organic so that I can cause a retail revolution of some sort. I’m paraphrasing. I forget, but it was something like that). Anyway, I didn’t comparison-shop at Trader Joe’s. I just arrived and picked up random items that seemed enticing. Here are a few of them.

First, freeze-dried fruit. I am a sucker for freeze-dried fruit, but it’s expensive. Santa Claus has been putting freeze-dried cherries from Just Tomatoes in my stocking for years–they’re some of my favorite things to eat ever. So I was super-excited to see that Target now carries freeze-dried fruit and just as glad to see the stuff at Trader Joe’s. I bought strawberry, raspberry, and mango. All YUM, thank you very much.

I tried some apple granola cereal that was fine, although not a knock-out.

I loved the Roasted Red Pepper & Artichoke Tapenade, especially on some Stacy’s Pita Crisps.  My children, however, would not even taste it. Infuriating, since J is so obsessed with artichokes that she has a framed drawing of an artichoke hanging in her room and her own fake artichoke toy, and both girls love to eat the little red things stuffed into green olives but refuse to relate those things in any way to roasted red peppers. Argh. Whatever: more for me.

We all thought that the 100% juice Cherry Cider was decent, but inferior to Hannaford’s store-brand 100% cherry juice. The real revelation, for me, was the bag of Sesame Honey Almonds. I love them. Although, when I just went to look at the bag I realized that they don’t just contain honey, but also sugar, for a total of  9 grams of sugar in a quarter-cup serving size. Which is a bit of a bummer. Still, they’re a nice little protein hit (4 grams) and tasty. My kids thought that they were “eh,” which is a little sad for me. I’m always trying to shove nuts and seeds in front of them, and for some reason, they’re not particularly interested. For example, my kids don’t like peanut butter. They’ll tolerate it in small doses, but that’s as well as we do. But I’d keep buying these sesame seed-coated nuts for myself: they’re surprisingly filling.

All of us girls loved the Trader Joe’s frozen Indian food. The Chicken Tikka Masala was a huge hit, and they both liked a chickpea dish, too (it’s not in the photo). Next time Cute W’s out of town, I know I could get them these and be super-popular all evening. After Indian Night, we had Chinese Night another evening. We got some dumplings that the girls fought over, but the Shrimp Bao was not popular (even though it wasn’t too spicy, as I’d feared). I loved the Asian Gyoza Dipping Sauce–my girls never even tried it. We tried the Edamame Nuggets, with tofu, edamame, carrots, and peas, and both girls seemed to like them (M said, “They taste like chicken-y eggs”), but no one ate more than a few, and both turned up their noses when offered them as leftovers.

I also bought the Turkey Corn Dogs. I’ve never understood the whole corn dog thing. It’s funny: I like corn and corn muffins, but Fritos and other corny items literally make me gag. My children, however, are inclined to find anything presented to them on a stick alluring, and they love Corn Dogs. These seemed marginally better for one’s body than the average Corn Dog, but, of course, the healthfulness measure of any Corn Dog has got to be a pretty low bar, right?

So at this point, I’ll have to ask for guidance. It seems like there’s stuff at Trader Joe’s that is unbelievably delicious and inspires fan club-level passion, and other items that. . .  don’t. But you all know that I’m not a shopper, and it’s a bit of a schlep for me. So, my next Trader Joe’s shopping list will include tapenade, those sesame almond things, and stacks and stacks of Chicken Tikka Masala. What else am I missing that we simply must try? And has anyone done comparison shopping and can tell me what’s a good deal here compared to the many other grocery options in the Capital District? Because comparison-shopping groceries makes me feel like raggedy-ass June Cleaver, and I would oh-so-much rather do. . . . well, almost anything else.

Where Was I?

The Me Party continued with a chick flick tonight. I watched Mean Girls. This had been on my “to watch” list for a while, but I realized that I had no idea exactly when it came out. As the previews rolled and announced their availability on DVD and VHS, it became clear that it was a while ago. But with Tina Fey and Amy Poehler, how did I not even hear about it when it was in the theaters? I mean, I love them. Well, I suppose that my love has been a slow burn, ever-growing more recently with their awesome and hilarious election year skits, and later Tina Fey’s book and her Prayer for Her Daughter  and Amy Poehler’s “Smart Girls at the Party.” But come on! Even accounting for slightly less ardor for the ladies of SNL, how could there have been a time when I wasn’t dying to see  little Claudia Salinger from Party of Five all grown up? I loved Party of Five!

So I checked when the movie came out. 2004.

What the heck was I doing in 2004?

Oh, yeah:

I was chasing toddler M around while manufacturing J from scratch.

This made me start to wonder. I did a search for  the top 10 pop songs of 2004. I listened to clips, and only 4 of them were even vaguely familiar to me. I checked out the Academy Awards for 2004, and I’ve only seen 2 of the nominees for best picture. Of The New York Times list of 100 notable books of the year, I only remember hearing about 10 or 11 of them, and of those, I only managed to read one and attempt, but set aside, another.

The point is, I pretty much missed 2004.

In so many ways, I was still adjusting to being a mom. Little M was often fun but also willful and exhausting. I wasn’t sleeping enough. Even when I did get a decent night’s sleep, it didn’t feel like enough. I was still in survival mode, and every ounce of energy I had was put into those two little girls.

I’d lost myself. Which is okay, I guess. I know that everyone tells you that you have to take care of yourself and plan time for you and all of that, but I still don’t understand how anyone does that when they have babies and toddlers. There are women out there who can do it, who can still function at a high level at their jobs or who can transform nap-time into bookdeal-making opportunities for fabulous creativity, but I just wasn’t one of those mamas. Whether it was my daughters’ high needs or my own inadequacies, I spent the first three years of motherhood just barely surviving.

So this is for those of you who are in new-mama survival mode: it will pass. I won’t tell you to take time for yourself, because somebody’s already told you to do that, and I know that you will if you can. I’ll just remind you that you’ll come out on the other side of survival mode and you’ll find yourself again. And you’ll be a better person. You’ll know yourself better, and you’ll probably be wiser about pretty much everything. And you’ll appreciate the simple pleasures of a good night sleep or an uninterrupted conversation like you never, ever could when you were in your early twenties. And you’ll look back at those pictures and you’ll almost forget that your feet were hurting and that maternity bra strap kept sliding off your shoulder. Instead you’ll marvel at the compact little toddler body with the cherub cheeks and golden bangs and long-ago romper that the next baby has long outgrown, too.

It was about when this picture was taken that I started writing the newsletter for my Moms’ group. It feels, now, like that began the gestation period for this blog and all the other writing that I have done since. So remember: as you begin to come back up for air after drowning in mamahood,  pay attention to whatever it is that inspires you even when you are overtired, the stuff that satisfies you. If you’re searching for yourself again, try swimming in that direction.

Enough schmaltz! I’ve got to go put Million Dollar Baby on my Netflix queue.

Schenectady Food Swap

Tonight was the first Schenectady Food Swap. You might remember that I was excited to hear that  my church in is the newest location for food swaps with the From Scratch Club.  When I mentioned it the other day, I said that I was “both intrigued and intimidated.”

Luckily, they planned for people like me with the option to register without swapping as someone who’s “Swap Curious.” I didn’t realize that, and M had a soccer game that started at the same time as the swap, so I’d planned on skipping. Then a friend asked me this morning if I was going, and I decided to motivate for a quick stop.

Umm, loved it! The offerings were exactly in my sweet spot: enough items that I could potentially make myself, so I am no longer intimidated, and plenty of items that were tasty, so I’m not too snobby to participate (unlike most holiday cookie exchanges, where the cookies are just not up to my exacting and finicky standards).

There was a wide variety, from garden produce to homemade soaps as well as dips, soups, preserves, and desserts.

Arugula and lotion soap

The best is that the first hour is spent sampling the offerings so that you can choose your swaps. Something about having items not made by mom inspired more adventurousness in my children. J, who has consistently refused to try any of our delicious salsas, tried and approved this one:

I happened to arrive just before the swapping started. I wanted some of the surprisingly tasty edamame dip and a bunch of arugula, and I started wondering, if no one swapped for them, could I offer money, or was that too crass? Did I perhaps have any trinkets in my backpack? Why, oh why hadn’t I brought some delicious, home-produced products? As swapping continued in earnest, I was deeply jealous.

I was also distracted by my kids. We were just doing a quick stop on the way home from soccer, and before we arrived I told the girls not to taste, because I knew that we weren’t contributing. But then people were lovely, friendly, and pro-sampling. So I relented and said that they could taste only one sample of something that they’d like. So while I was barely oriented and too stunned by the buzzing mid-swap activity to muster up the manners for chitchat, my children were running around eating like fiends. It’s their home turf, and they’re used to grabbing whatever food’s available in their church dining room, and I had no idea if they were blending in or if they were Menaces to the Community. I hustled them out.

“That was awesome,” M said.

“It was like being at a store where you can sample everything,” J gushed.

So I’ll sign up to swap next time for sure, but I’ll leave the kids home so that I can relax and enjoy it.

Mother’s Day Minefield

Walking around my house these days is like a minefield. A Minefield of Love. Everywhere I turn, J is working on another project for Mother’s Day. She is diligent. She is creative. She is prolific.

Sadly, many of these creations will not make the cut. She will labor over a glorious and beautiful message that is two-thirds entirely accurate and one-third invented spelling, and then she will deem it Unacceptable and throw it into the garbage.

That’s not fair.

Doesn’t she understand that the unacceptable, the misspelled, the overly goofy and ardent, are my very favorite kind of gifts? But I won’t get those. I will get something lovely. I will add it to the display.  But what makes the days leading up to Mother’s Day frustrating is that around every corner, J is working on a Special Secret Something, and I’m not allowed to enter the room. Which is adorable the first time and the second time. But eventually, I’d like to walk freely around the house.

Or something is left out. Like this:

You know that this had to be driving me crazy if I’m willing to expose the grubbiness of my stairway to the world. This is a Very Special Item that I’m not permitted to view. Actually, it’s better if I don’t even notice it. This is torture. I am trying to respect J’s desire to keep gifts a secret, but it is very difficult to ignore adorable messages of love from your children. This folded piece of paper spent about two and a half days on the stairs. J kept not moving it, and then when I’d ask her to move it, she’d say that she would later, or she’d freak out that I had noticed it. Ummm. . . it has been sitting there for days, making it difficult not to notice. Actually, it was making me crazy.

There are items like this on the table and on the counter and mixed in with the school papers and I absolutely must not look at any of them. Half of them are things that J’s forgotten about, but I’m not supposed to look at them, because that’s forbidden, and I can’t ask if they should be recycled, because that would imply that they are worthless. It is difficult to tidy any surface around J these days, because she flies into a panic that something will be revealed.

Trying to make good use of all of this loving energy, I offer suggestions, each quickly rejected.

“You know,” I begin, with what I hope is a subtle, musing expression, “A lovely gift to me would be if you spent some extra time tidying up your room or the playroom.” No. J practically rolls her eyes. She could do that any day. It’s not Mother’s Day special. Theoretically, one could spend any day doing such a thing. Okay, she doesn’t say anything about “theoretically,” but it’s clear that that’s Not Special Enough.

“Why don’t you make something for Grandma or Nana Honey?” I  ask when I see art supplies all over the table. M looks up from her book, yawns, and looks back down. J  rejects the idea. She has More Important Work T o Do. Secret Work. She can’t tell me anything more about this.

“A wonderful Mother’s Day idea is to just not drop your belongings all over the house,” I grouse. “It would be so delightful not to have to nag anyone to do anything.” M, standing on top of one of her little sister’s discarded sweaters, folds her arms and says, “You know, it’s not Mother’s Day yet.”


YMCA & Proctors do Parents Night Out

I heard about the YMCA & Proctors launching this new program, and I was so excited about it that I finally motivated myself to visit the new downtown Schenectady Y, even though I am still fairly bitter about its lack of pool on the premises. Some of that bitterness ebbed when I saw the pretty, pretty locker rooms:

But I am easily distracted by attractive stone tile. Where was I? Oh, yes. . .

Anyway, the plan is that for the “bigger” shows at Proctors, the Schenectady Y, which is a short walk away, will offer childcare for kids ages 6 months to 12 years old. Parents get 4 hours of childcare (so, for an evening show, they can drop off at 7 pm or later, then pick up by 11 pm, and for a matinée, the program would run 1-5 pm) for $15 for the first child, then $12.75 for each additional sibling. The idea is that the kids get a fun outing, too, with games in the gym and other activities. There’s a “hang out” room for older kids

and an area set aside for the youngest kids as well.

The emphasis will be on games and plenty of choices, and parents can drop kids off with a snack and their sleeping bags for extra coziness if they want. On weekends, the facility closes for work-outs at 7 pm, so the kids and the staff watching them will basically take over the whole place.

For me, this sounds like an excellent deal all-around. First, with my two kids, that comes to $27.75, cheaper than the $32 I’d end up paying for 4 hours of babysitting at $8/hour. Second, it’s more reliable than your average teenager who, I am painfully aware, can accidentally just not show up on a night when you’ve got tickets to something special. Plus it’s reassuring to know that there will be real grown-ups with CPR & first aid certification on site. You know: just in case. I can also see how, with a little coordination, this could become a huge party for your kids. Get enough friends together, and you can get a group rate on tickets to a show, plus all your  kids will be excited to play together with their friends.

They’re still getting the program started, but the plan is that the Parents Night Out will be an option for some shows as you buy your tickets online. If you want more information, you can contact Kevin Kuon at 518.881.0117 or kkuon [at] cdymca [dot] org.


Celebrating Spring With Books

I was volunteering at the library today, and I stumbled on What Bluebirds Do by Pamela F. Kirby. It’s a gorgeous picture book full of photographs of a family of bluebirds that took up residence in the author’s backyard. Readers see the baby birds grow and learn all sorts of interesting facts that will be appreciated by both parents and kids, including how to tell the difference between a bluebird and a blue bird and what the parent birds do with all of that baby-bird poop. It’s a lovely appreciation of nature and introduction to birdwatching.

I was so pleased with the discovery that it made me think of other great nature-and-spring books. One that came to mind is an old classic, The Lady and  the Spider. Okay, the lettuce in her garden is full-grown, so it’s probably more like summer in the story. If you can get past the ladies 70s-era accessorizing, what you’ll find is a book about respecting nature and other creatures. It’s also a great illustration of different points of view. Of course, if you’re the type who sees a spider, screams, and tries to squash it, I wouldn’t read this book to your child. On the other hand, if it upsets you when preschoolers wantonly stamp all over, say, an ant hill, this book is a gentle reminder to treat other creatures with care.

Finally, I’m a huge fan of Sharon Lovejoy‘s gardening with children books. She draws her own lovely illustrations and in her Toad Cottages and Shooting Stars: Grandma’s Bag of Tricks book, she includes photographs from her own garden. These are longer books packed with information and suggestions for grown-ups, so they make an excellent mother’s day gift for a mama or grandma that you know. I actually did a phone interview with Sharon Lovejoy for an article that I wrote, and she projects that peaceful joy that you might recognize from, say, the best nursery school teacher you know, or your friend’s awesomely sweet grandmother.

So, those are my suggestions. How about you? Do you have any recommendations for great books to inspire your kids to love and appreciate nature? Any favorite spring reads?





Dispatch from the Land of Big Kids

Sneakily, my kids got old, and now I’m the mother of Big Kids. They’re 7 and 9, so I knew that they were aging, of course, but it really struck me today at the grocery store. For about two years I walked the grocery store with M strapped to my chest, carrying on a continuous monologue about the splendors of delicious produce, the perils of partially hydrogenated oils, the changing seasons as they played out in large cardboard displays of foods and beverages. The trip would end with me talking too much with the cashier. I couldn’t help myself. There would be an awkward pause and I’d realize that I needed to make more friends who could respond to me verbally.

Then there was juggling the two girls: a short-but-bleak period when J would yell when strapped down and grab and throw jars when not strapped down. The constant choices: get out of the check-out line to run to the potty, or risk a 5-minute wait? Accept the proffered cookies because it’s polite, or refuse because the children were until this moment oblivious to the existence of cookies at this counter? Beg for another sample, or just pretend I didn’t see that my child wrapped her deli cheese around the shopping cart handle?

Literally juggling children

Today I was alone, efficiently unloading my groceries into the car. Nearby, a woman chatted with her infant while walking a slow pace for the toddler holding her by the shirt through the parking lot.

I don’t miss it. In fact, I’d almost forgotten what that was like.

On the rare occasions when the girls come along to the grocery store these days, I send them out on assignment to divide and conquer the list. They joke and skip along and quietly negotiate, then bat their eyes with extravagant, charming puppy dog faces while holding up a package of Oreos. They’re helpful. It’s a completely different experience from my early mama days.

All of which made me think of those mothers of older children that I’d encounter back when the girls were little. The ones who said that their children became more difficult, the problems were tougher, that parenting is progressively more challenging. My children were challenging as infants and toddlers, and hearing those women scared me.

Those women scared me.

I call bulls%^t.

Parenting a 7-year-old and a 9-year-old isn’t always easy. The dilemmas are both more subtle and complicated. For example, just in the past week for my older child, I’ve had to tackle the topic of showers and deodorant without sounding insulting and explain prostitution (in the most general terms possible, I assure you).

But more work? More work? No way.

Here are just a few examples:

THEN: I would wake up several times during the night, breastfeeding again at 5-something am, and just as baby fell asleep again, toddler was up and ready to play.

NOW: I roll out of bed at 7 am to the sound of the 9-year-old showering while the fully-dressed 7-year-old is reading with Daddy.


THEN: If I forgot a crucial ingredient for dinner, I’d have to strap both girls into the car and drag them to the grocery store with me or wait until Cute W could bring something home, throwing off the entire bedtime routine.

NOW: If I forget a crucial ingredient for dinner, I quickly drive to the nearest store after reminding the girls that I’ve got my cell and the next door neighbors are home in case of emergency.


THEN: Going to the bathroom alone was difficult. Company or screaming at locked doors. Once when I had the stomach flu, I ran off to vomit, and M followed me and clung to my legs, sobbing, while I heaved.

NOW: We all go to the bathroom by ourselves. Recently I had to purchase a tampon from one of those vending machines in a public bathroom and both girls just looked away discreetly.


THEN: If I tried to leave the house on my own, one or both girls would sob and occasionally break free and actually chase the car down the driveway.

NOW: When I leave the house, the girls look up briefly and say, “Bye Mom!”

I’m rambling now, aren’t I? Well, it’s difficult not to exult in the freedom of it all.

So, what the heck is with those mothers-of-older-kids? Is it the same nasty, competitive instinct that causes women to ramble about their Horrifying Labor Experiences at a baby shower? Have they forgotten what life with very young children was truly like? Did they just get it wrong somewhere, so their kids aren’t turning out as awesome as mine? I don’t know.

But if you’re a mother of a toddler and/or an infant and someone starts telling you that it only gets tougher, perhaps that was that person’s experience. It doesn’t have to be yours.

Adorable? You bet! Easy? Nope.

And, okay. I don’t have teenagers yet. There are so many years ahead, full of hormones and college decisions and driving. But right now, it feels like I can conquer any parenting challenge with the benefits of a full night’s sleep, an occasional workout, and a hot shower pretty much any time I choose. And if I’m wrong, don’t tell me. It doesn’t help to scare me.

Future Dinners


Not too long ago on the TU Parent to Parent blog, Tracy said, “I asked my girls what kind of meals they think they’ll cook when they are on their own.”  The answers were a little demoralizing. She suggested that readers ask, too, and report in the comments.

I thought it was an interesting question, so I asked my kids.

J said, “Artichokes, that pork and apple thing we’re making tonight, and Naked Spaghetti.” J remains obsessed with artichokes. Naked Spaghetti is spaghetti with a bit of olive oil & butter, Parmesan & Asiago cheeses, basil, and garlic salt, all to taste.

I loved M’s answer. The first words out of her mouth were, “Not the junky stuff that some people have, like right out of the microwave. I’d make chicken chowder, quesadillas, and ‘Octupus’ because they’re classics and they’re awesome.” I sort of can’t believe that I haven’t shared these recipes already, although “Octopus” is really a flank steak recipe from Cute W’s family. M then proceeded to give me the never-before-shared inside scoop on some inadequacies she had noticed at friends’ houses, including one home where the mama always seems about 400% more with-it and together than me.  So I was feeling like the Rockin’ Excellent Mama.

Of course, then I didn’t comment because it felt too snotty to say, “Wow, my 7-year-old named a vegetable first, and I’m the Best. Mother. Ever.”  I blew it all off and saved it for some night when I was feeling blog-lazy. Like tonight. When I checked the link tonight, I noticed that no one ever commented. That’s so today’s parenting. Either your kids only like to eat crap and you don’t want to admit, or they like vegetables and you don’t want to rub the other mamas noses in it! Talk about damned if you do, damned if you don’t.

DOs and DON’Ts, Should You Be in My Position

Should you happen to wake up feeling depressed because last night your 7-year-old had another allergic reaction with swollen tongue, lips, face, and hands to add to the itchy rash, DON’T try to distract yourself by reading Facebook or the local news, because stories about how some of your favorite teachers are likely to be laid off or the man who was sexually abusing a 7-week-old baby are likely to lead to a broader and more generalized existential despair about the state of the world at large.

If you happen to find yourself spending way too much time on the phone with people from the pediatrician’s, insurance, and allergist’s offices, so that you figure it’s too late to make it to that exercise class, DO just hang up the phone and go. Because if you DON’T, you will have missed your chance, and you’ll feel lazy and sluggish and sloppy for the rest of the day. It may seem like a waste of precious time, but it isn’t.  Or it wouldn’t have been, if you had actually gone.

Later, if your toilet overflows, DO take comfort in the fact that your day is now both literally and figuratively craptastic. Because that’s funny, right? Sort of?

If, after you have visited the doctor and spent ten minutes sitting in the back of the car explaining to J about our new EpiPen and why she has to get blood drawn again at the next stop, DON’T cry no matter how much she does, because that isn’t helpful. DO feel good, at least, that you are maintaining your composure. DO agree that you hate this whole thing, too. Because the last thing that you need right now is for your pants to burst into flames.

DO treat your child to a milkshake when you notice that the Control Tower is open already for the season. DON’T get one for yourself. Seriously, you already feel slovenly from not working out. How will a chocolate milkshake make things better? It will taste good for ten minutes, and then you’ll feel over-full and nasty for at least an hour. And, for the love of God, please DON’T accept a free sample of their new Snowball snow cone product. Because you know that as a loyal customer, you’ll receive a huge helping of the the margarita Snowball, and honestly, what’s the point of margarita anything without tequila and salt? And just because you’ve received something for free doesn’t mean that you have to finish every last bit of it. Because if you do, you will feel seriously ill straight through and into the evening.

If your dining room floor happens to look like this:

DO remember the whole chocolate-shake-and-margarita-snow-cone episode and run away from the Girl Scout cookies. Maybe you could write a blog post instead? That would be a productive use of your time. Perhaps it could be therapeutic.

DO step away from said blog post numerous times. The girls need you. There’s homework and chatting and dinner. Rides to soccer. A hungry cat. DON’T sigh when J asks you, please, to keep her company while she brushes her teeth. After all, she could go into anaphylactic shock, like, any minute now. The blog post will get done eventually, and probably before the dishes are clean.

DO embrace the joy when it comes along. Like when you realize that J does not appear to be traumatized and has, in fact, acquired the elusive skill of telling a joke properly. DO reflect that this skill can only truly be appreciated by parents who have endured a phase of tedious, meandering, preschool nonsense jokes. DON’T deny that there is a cosmic lesson here, that when things go poorly, it allows us to exult in the blessed ordinariness, the cheerful snap and punch, of our everyday days.

DO exult that she even gets the timing right on the “interrupting cow” one. Because that delivery is tough!


Why did the fly land on the pancake?





Because it’s a butterfly!

Clothing Joy and Pain

The other day we received an unanticipated package. “A package!” both girls yelled, as their Psychic Possible Gift Perception kicked in. The return address was my mom, so the girls  clustered like cats around tuna while I gestured for space with my scissors. Dangerous but effective.


New scarves for me, M, and J! Yippee! Nothing like what my mom calls a “happy present!”

And here’s the cutest part:

I mean, come on. How cute is that? “Nanahoney” is her grandmother name because she was planning for “Nana” but the first grandchild was confused because my Dad always refers to her as “Honey.”

Everyone was quite excited and in fact I couldn’t post about the scarves right away because J wore hers to sleep and I couldn’t get a photo.

As for the more painful side of clothes, it’s laundry. Sigh.

You know, summer means wet bathing suits and towels, but with the clothesline, the whole family is pretty well trained. And then the cool weather (and travel soccer) comes around and my hamper is full constantly. And it’s full of things like:

  • Pairs of jeans that have been worn for only minutes before a wardrobe change
  • Footy pajamas that are pristine and smell pleasantly of fabric softener
  • Shin guards
  • As many as 6 sweaters at a time

Alright, so I walked right into the shin guard thing. Recently I discovered that with a baking soda scrub-down followed by a wash in the delicate cycle, even the most repugnant fumes can be squelched. But now M wants this treatment after each game or practice, and even if I were up for that, shin guards aren’t designed for consistent washer abuse.

I have asked nicely, explained, reminded, and nagged. So I got a bit of a bee in my bonnet.

Usually these bees result in slightly overwrought essays. But this required something different: a flow chart. I found a free flowchart web site and set to work.

It occurred to me, sometime while I was trying to line up my arrows, that I might not be the only person who suffers from Laundry Challenges. So I made it generic enough to share, and TA, DA! It’s a Laundry Flowchart! (I couldn’t get it to show up on this post, but you can click to a pdf file. Update: Deb from Kids Out and About helped me, so now it’s below–click for a close-up. Thanks, Deb!) It is not aesthetically perfect, but it does get the point across.

J loves the flowchart. She asked me to read it to her and explain exactly how it works. She appreciates it.

I taped it just outside the girls’ rooms.

M hates the flowchart. She thinks it’s humiliating and it’s treating her like a baby and she knows what to do with all of her laundry (a “dammit” is unspoken, but implied, here).

In protest, M turned the flowchart backwards, facing the wall.

I fixed it, conceded that she would be permitted to turn it around during play dates, and explained that the one surefire way of getting rid of the flowchart was to demonstrate her vast laundry knowledge on a daily basis with appropriate disposal of the various items.  Her pair of pajamas lounging on the hall floor was offered as Exhibit A, and the discussion was closed.