Friday, August 29, 2014

Hello Not-a-Kitty!

This is something I think everybody has heard about by now, and apparently has shocked millions of loyal fans worldwide. Honestly, I'm not the least bit surprised by this news. When I first heard about it, I think one of my friends tagged me in a Facebook post saying the tweets for this thing were amusing. I'm not very good at following Twitter, so I had no idea what she was talking abut. Then I saw a link on my Google+ feed from a friend and read about it this morning.

All these discoveries keep falling under the category of Things I Wish I Had Known About Sooner, because I am not made of money and I would love to be a part of this sort of epic celebration. What are you rambling about now, Stacey? Oh. Right. Well.

Newsflash: Hello Kitty has never been a cat.

I am not the least bit blown away by this news as I think so many other people have been, crying in outrage. It probably helps that we own quite a large collection of Hello Kitty cartoon DVDs and that my eldest, Your Future Overlord, watches them constantly. Our love for Hello Kitty in this house is not unknown. At least 40% of my daughters' wardrobes consist of Hello Kitty something-or-other, and every time one particular outfit of Lilah's is washed and available for wearing in her drawer, she immediately picks it out to put on.

The Overlord's current favorite outfit.
Hello Kitty has become such a big thing since I've had children. I fondly remember it from my own childhood, but never knew it quite so well then as I do now. To children everywhere, she is not a kitty in any case. Even to my daughter she has always been "a friend" and "a little girl" just like her. As far as my daughter is concerned, she is Kitty White, and her little sister is Mimmy White, which is conveniently coincidental since we've dubbed the Usurper with the nickname Mimi since as long as Lilah first started trying to say her name. She responds to that more than her actual name.

We have so many Hello Kitty accessories and toys in this house that I don't even think I could ever gather them all together for a "collection" picture. Besides, I don't do collectibles all too well. In my daughters' eyes, these are toys, and to keep them from playing with them would be too cruel for me to bear. Every year around Valentine's Day my husband has traditionally found the Overlord a new TY Beanie Baby, and Santa even put one in her stocking once. We're up to four now, and are likely to eventually end up with a swimming pool full of the things by the time she heads off to college or a trade school or an apprenticeship, whichever she chooses to do with herself.

"Snowman Kitty," "Glasses Kitty," "Kitty," and "Lollipop Kitty."
As for the celebration I mentioned above? Well, it turns out that Hello Kitty is turning 40 this year, and there's a first ever annual Hello Kitty Convention scheduled to take place in Los Angeles, California at the end of October! By the looks of things, tickets are going to run us $60/day for me and my husband to attend. Fortunately, both the Overlord and the Usurper are young enough to get in free. If we went for just one day, that would be all right. All four days add up to more money than we should be willing to spend, but gosh wouldn't it be nice!

Add on top of that figuring out how we're going to get there. I, personally, have never flown on a plane before in my entire life, and admit a little bit of trepidation. It's not really the plane itself that makes me nervous so much as all the security and check points and degrading searches people have to go through these days in America, that I've heard of, just to travel. Flying would be the fastest and probably best way to get there with two small children, I imagine, but I have no idea how much it would cost! Very likely it would exceed our budget.

Traveling by train would be a fun adventure for all of us. Again, I have no idea how much that would cost, but I would not be averse to the idea. With two small children, I'm even reasonable enough to consider only going to one day of the convention and not trying for the couple hundred dollars worth of an entire weekend trip. Seeing more of California on the side would be a bonus, though.

Attending Hello Kitty Con would be a better first convention for my girls than Bronycon, I think, which I still want to go to with them some day. But why does it have to be so far away? This gives me a sad.

I always find myself envious of my sister-in-law and her family going on all these family vacations anywhere. I envy my friends who go on family vacations. We have never been on a family vacation. Ever. Had I known about this sooner, I would have squirreled away so much money so that we could go, if even just for one day to the convention. Factoring in the cost of hotel stays, too, and it's just not something we can afford at all. So, so terribly disappointing.

Oh well. I suppose I can hope that they'll do it again next year. I'm going to start saving now, just in case.

Because we love it.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Back to Zoo

At the beginning of this week my Facebook wall was flooded with photos of all these kids posing for their first day of Back to School. Many of my mom friends rejoice about this time of year with exasperated relief. Finally! I hear them shout, because once again they get to be rid of their children for several hours a day, five days a week.

I have mixed feelings about this phenomenon. On the one hand, I am super envious. I wish I could be free of my children for several hours a day, five days a week. I would love to have more than a couple minutes a day to myself in which I can just sit down to think and don't have to meet the needs of my demanding little monsters, only one of which can form actual sentences and talk to me, whereas the other just points and squeals urgently to get my attention for the things she wants. More aggravatingly often than not, she wants to sit on my lap and keep me from doing anything at all but being her chair.

Don't get me wrong. I love my children. I wish them only the best. I want to do right by them. I want them to have the best education possible. I want to see them succeed in their futures and not be delegated to just another fast food drive-thru attendant. I also super hope that by the time they are adults all this misogyny and gender stereotyping that goes on these days is obliterated from the world entirely.

While I would love to be rid of them for just a little while, to have a vacation to myself, I still find myself frowning at all these bright and smiling faces of children dressed up in the nicest thing they're likely to put on all year in an effort to make a good first impression. I remember those days with a certain sort of eye-rolling bitterness. What you wore the first day of school sealed your fate for the entire year. Either you'd be that kid with the brand new designer jeans that will instantly make you everybody's best friend, or you'd be the kid in your Great Aunt Lucy's hand-me-downs taken in at the waist to better fit you and ridiculed the rest of your life.

These are things I don't have to worry about with my children, yet, and desperately hope I never will. I think the only guarantee that I won't have to put them through that sort of exhausting social ringer is if I stick with my plan to home school. But that also means sacrificing my sanity and me time, and as an introvert this is an extremely difficult need for me to give up.

On the other hand, however, I've noticed that with so many other kids going back to school, everywhere else becomes virtually abandoned for several hours a day, five days a week. This is a bonus for us, with my husband's new work schedule. On the first of September he'll have switched up his week to having Sundays and Mondays off. This is nice because most of the nation goes to church (which we do not) on Sundays and kids are in school most Mondays (except those pesky holidays that always seem to fall on one; I'm looking at you, Labor Day). Therefore, the world is our family outing oyster! Free of crowds! An introvert's dream come true!

Last week was a primary example of the wonders of not being bound to society's expected nine to five grind. We took the opportunity of most of Cleveland going back to school last week and decided to have one last final end of Summer hurrah by visiting the Cleveland Metroparks Zoo, just the four of us. The place was wonderfully deserted. Though we were a little sad to see the dinosaur exhibit was no longer operating, it was nice to be able to walk the park (even the Usurper) without having to dodge around the self-important and rude we encounter just about everywhere else.

The girls loved it. My husband and I loved the fact that we could actually enjoy ourselves and not get super cranky from having to deal with so many people. The last time we were at the Cleveland Zoo, we went with his sister and family, and the littlest monster pictured above left was so tiny that she slept in her car seat in the stroller the entire time. The place was packed with people then. We missed out on some of the exhibits both times, but it was nice to sit in the picnic patio and eat overpriced McDonald's for dinner without another living soul around us this time around. We actually got to hear the lions roar when they came out of their cave to bask on the sun rock. 

This time we got to see the timber wolves, too, unlike last time, but neither me nor my husband could get a good picture of them. However, the littlest Usurper was immediately drawn to these statues, so she and her sister stopped to ride on them a little bit. I think, perhaps, she was remembering our temporary dog Lucky who went back to live with his original family before she was even crawling. 

Sadly, the tiger was napping in his cave by the time we got to him. This was more disappointing to me, I think, because I was the only one who knew what we had hoped to see. The Usurper's favorite animal in the world is a tiger. She absolutely loves them. Probably in part thanks to Daniel Tiger's Neighborhood. Had she seen the tiger, though, I think she would have tried to climb into the exhibit, like she kept trying to do when we walked through Kangaroo Land and saw the grizzly bears. Regardless of constantly having to battle her with her insistence on walking everywhere (I'm shocked she didn't pass out in the car on the way home), we had a good time. Admittedly, it was nice to be able to unleash her without fear of losing her in a crowd. Though having to pull her down off of everything and keep her from trying to squeeze herself through the bars of certain enclosures was an adventure, let me tell you.

We'll be going back to the zoo in a little over a month, but not the one in Cleveland. Ever since the Overlord was born, we've tried to continue carrying on a tradition with our friends to attend the Akron Zoo's Boo at the Zoo event. Of course, Cleveland does this too, but Akron is much closer for everyone involved. I'm hoping this year to get a bigger group of us together, now that more of my friends are having kids too. So look forward to October when I'll talk all about it!

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Move Over, Boys. Girls Game Too. Get Over It.

I'd like to preface this article first by thanking my good friends Matt and Adam for not even knowing about, yet alone believing, the bullshit claim that "girls don't have enough imagination" to play role-playing games. Second, I'd like to thank my friend Stubby for not being a skeevy, perverted, desperate bastard when I met him and he became my first Dungeon Master.

Last night, before I went to bed, I quickly scanned my Facebook wall to see what I had missed while my husband and I watched a couple movies. One of my friends had posted an article that caught my eye, but I didn't really have the time to read. I saved it for this morning, and what I read disturbed me.

The article, #NOTALLROLEPLAYERS: A HISTORY OF RAPEY DUNGEON MASTERS, reinforces a distressing stereotype that I've been reading about with alarming frequency all over the Internet. That stereotype seems to suggest that all men are sex-crazed lunatics who can't keep their fantasies to themselves and that they feel ridiculously threatened when females venture into their games. So much so, in fact, that they feel perfectly entitled to sexually harass and physically threaten the lives of women both in the industry and in the playing field.

More and more articles are being written about this sort of thing, where women are starting to finally speak out about their bad experiences with gaming groups. I've heard about this shit occurring most frequently in video games, particularly MMORPGs and shooter games like Halo, where female gamers are continuously harassed by male gamers the moment they find out the person behind the avatar or controller is in fact a woman.

I've never encountered problems like this before, personally. I think it's because I've almost always played male characters. Or maybe I just got lucky and involved myself in groups where none of the guys were at all interested in me sexually. Of course, it could also be that I also made it abundantly clear I wasn't available, let alone interested in any case, and, as my male friends have never been shy about telling me, that I'm intimidating. This amuses the hell out of me, because I'm all of five feet tall and a hundred fifty pounds at most soaking wet.

My first experience with role-playing came in the form of this game "Battle Masters" that my friend Matt brought over one day when we were 14. We sprawled the giant mat out on the living room floor of my house and played this fantastic geekery for hours. I think the spark that jump-started our delve into RPG-land was the fact that we were both avidly reading Margaret Weis and Tracy Hickman's Death Gate Cycle series at the time. To this day it is still my favorite series and holds a special place of honor up on my desk shelf.

Around this time is when I first started really heavily writing my own stories, too. My friends Matt, Adam, Amanda, and I passed around a spiral bound notebook between classes during our high school career, taking turns writing bits of a greater story together. This, I've said time and again, was my first experience with free-form role-playing, in a sense.

Not long after we started rolling out the mat to play "Battle Masters" on the weekends and after school, Matt came over one day next toting a selection of manuals he had found somewhere. These books started off pretty simply as the TSR 2nd Edition Dungeons and Dragons Player's Handbook, Dungeon Masters Guide, and Monstrous Manual. I don't know whose they were originally, but I do know that I still have them in my possession.

I spent hours reading over the material in those books, figuring it out. Matt and Adam were both as eager to play as I was, and they were both unanimously in favor of me, a girl, taking on the role of Dungeon Master. I know. Terribly unheard of, right? Girls can't possibly have "enough imagination" to play D&D let alone enjoy it, let alone be Dungeon Master.

My collection has grown significantly since then, and is nowhere near complete.
Since that time, I have played in several various tabletop adventures. Though D&D remains my top favorite, and I'm a vintage elitist snob who prefers TSR's 2nd Edition to anything Wizards of the Coast has pumped out since it bought the rights, I have also played in a few World of Darkness games such as Mage and Vampire. One of my past boyfriends was really into WoD, so I got a taste for that. I think none of his guy friends ever hit on me because I was his, though he never put me through the sexual fantasy ringer I've been hearing about in articles like the one I read this morning.

The fact that there are so many women and girls who experience sexual harassment online and off in their games really distresses me. Some of the best stories I've ever had to tell have come from my tabletop experiences. Stubby and I once talked about turning his campaign world into a novel, or book series, featuring his DM PC Dusk, our friend Matt's Nera the drow, and my gangly Gammaliel the Great, Master Illusionist! He's still my favorite ever played character in a game.

I also consistently tell people the story of my elven cleric, Hisael the Paladin Slayer. That adventure was probably the only one experience I had that made me uncomfortable, and it was mostly to do with the fact that the DM and 90% of all the other (male, every last one of them) players kept forgetting that my character was male and not female. The one stereotype that has always troubled me with these games is the limited imagination among the male population that seem to think a person should only play characters that match their real life gender, "so as not to confuse the DM."

The only guy present who did not keep thinking my character was female was the only guy present who was playing a female character himself. In retrospect, I realize he was playing a big-breasted stereotypical man-dependent, helpless mage, but... At least he acknowledged and remembered that just because I, the player, had boobs and a vagina did not necessarily mean that my character did as well.

Very rarely do I play female characters. Mostly because I've always been kind of male-minded. I don't like make-up or playing dress-up or the color pink. I like steak. I think the only truly female trait I have is my loathing for sports, but... My husband doesn't like sports either. That's just one of the many reasons why I married him. I am insanely happy to be with a man who doesn't have "The Game" playing in the background all the time on the television. In fact, right now I'm hearing Star Trek: the Next Generation. Awww yeeeah.

The point of all my rambling this morning is that... Some day I hope to share my love of RPGs with my daughters. I have big dreams of getting back together with Stubby and Matt and teaching our kids to play D&D, to run watered down campaigns and stimulate their imaginations. I've had giant foam polyhedral dice on Lilah's Amazon wishlist since even before she was born! And frankly I'm really disappointed that nobody has bought them for her as a birthday present yet.

I fear for my daughters' futures, though. I fear that they are going to suffer the same indignities many other female gamers are still stupidly facing today. I fear their only experiences with gaming are going to be limited to a small, cloistered, pre-arranged group consisting of my friends' kids, and that they won't be able to talk about their joy of role-playing (if they have it) with the larger community for fear of ridicule and scorn, and, worse, sexual harassment.

Amelia first discovers the manuals at 8 months.
Long before all this gender-stereotyping bullshit came to my attention, I was strongly defensive of role-playing, one of my favorite hobbies of all time. In high school, the negative fallacies I was most aware of were the ones claiming D&D was devil worship. I wrote a fiercely defensive essay on the matter, the only paper I ever wrote in which I got an F, because I had started off insulting everybody in the first paragraph. I still have that paper. I save it like a trophy. My grammar and spelling was perfect, but my tone was so aggressive that my teacher gave me an F and stern blue-pen talking to in the margins.

To all the ignorant people out there who spit claims of Dungeons & Dragons being devil worship, I have a few things I would like to say. It is time that your misinformed closed minds be opened up to all the facts. Evangelists and related religious fanatics, just hold your breath. Hear what someone experienced in the field has to say.

There is more to that essay than that. I wrote it in response to a bunch of idiotic propaganda I remember going around at the time, when the Internet was still new. I wish I could find the same video I'm remembering right now, but essentially it claimed D&D was a gateway drug to actual devil worship. As a non-believer and child of limitless imagination, I think you can probably guess how offensive I found that as a teenager. It ranked right up there with the absurd assumption my step-mother made from point A to point R (for ridiculous) that just because I wrote an X-rated note to my boyfriend (which his mother found) that somehow that meant I was planning to elope and get pregnant and drop out of school. I was insulted, to say the least.

I feel all my male geek friends should feel insulted, too, that there still exist skeevy assholes the likes of which are described in the article I linked to in the beginning of my post here. Sleazy, gross bastards who can't take no for an answer and give other male gamers, who are not at all as insecure as the stereotype, a bad name. It's sad, and not quite as funny as I'd like to say, that most of my online role-playing/writing friends are female. Even the ones who write/portray male characters, as I do, are mostly run by women.  I think because even I am uncomfortable playing/writing with men. At least... heterosexual men. My gay friends have never given me cause to feel uncomfortable, and that's sad.

I hope for a brighter future. One in which my daughters can take part in these games and past-times that I have so enjoyed most of my adult life without fear of harassment, without being made to feel uncomfortable. I hope, beyond hope, that they'll be able to log on to the next greatest installment of Halo for the Xbox Gabillionty without some dickwad telling them to "get in the kitchen" and "make me a sandwich."

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Your Future Dance Superstar

When the Usurper was born, we received a package from my Uncle Ed who lives now in Pennsylvania. I was very happy to receive a gift from them. Since they live in another state, we don't ever hardly see them. Thankfully there are things like Facebook and I'm kind of sort of in touch with his daughter (my cousin) Heidi. So, word gets around.

In the package was this adorable little outfit that became Lilah's absolute favorite for a while. She called it her "Fancy Dance" outfit, and wore it every chance she got. It came in February, while it was still cold. Long sleeves and leggings did not dissuade her from wearing it in the Summer, though, if she could get away from it.

Around this time, we were also watching a lot of Sesame Street. One episode I remember had a segment on ballet, and Lilah was very interested in it. I asked her, "Lilah, would you like to do ballet? Do you think that's something you'd liked to do?" And she enthusiastically said, "Ye~eah!" She has this really cute, drawn out way of saying "yeah" that I'm going to have to get on video one of these days, but I digress.

My girls were early walkers. Lilah was up on her feet by 10 months old, and she transitioned pretty quickly from toddling to running circles around the coffee table. Singing her ABCs.

Apparently this is video day. I know you're not complaining. There will be a bunch of pictures, too. Where was I?

Ah yes. Dancing. Lilah has always loved to move. She's a mover and a shaker. I even tried to get her on Yo Gabba Gabba when she was a baby, because honestly she was dancing before she was even walking! Here. I have a video of that, too.

As luck would have it, when we moved into our house, we discovered that not only are our neighbors super nice people, but their children are enrolled in a dance studio. We got to talking one day. I don't even remember how it came up, precisely, but I do remember saying, "Oh really?" Perking up. "I've been thinking about putting Lilah in ballet! She really loves to dance!" Next thing I know, a couple days later, my neighbor Lisa was bringing me a brochure from the studio with information on their summer camp.

This is where I'm going to take a minute to do a little free advertising. If you're looking for a school of dance, I highly recommend I'hDe Rather Be Dancing. Looks like they just updated their webpage, too. Not only are the prices very reasonable, but the studio staff is super pleasant and absolutely wonderful with children. Lilah loves it, and can't wait to go back this year. She's super excited about doing tap, which is a new option available to her this fall, too.

ps: It looks like there's an open house August 16th that I'm really going to have to figure out how to get us to, because face painting! That's something Lilah watched a segment on recently and she's been begging to get her face pained. So. Anyone want to check out the studio? I'll be your special tour guide!

Anyway. Lilah loved ballet. There was one month there in which she didn't want to go, but we figured out that it was because she was having embarrassment issues regarding her potty training. One day she watched as all the girls in her class all took a potty break before class started. She stood around toeing the floor, like, "Aw, shucks." Once we got her fully potty trained, wearing panties and not diapers anymore, she took right back to dancing like she was born to it. Maybe she was.

Ready for her first day of ballet class.
I learned a lot of things during our year of ballet. Things I never bothered with when I was a child, such as hair styling and make-up! When I was a little girl, I wore my hair in a short bob or wild and tangled and free. It wasn't until high school that I started pulling it back in a ponytail, when it started bothering me if it was in my face, as far as I can remember.

Up-do's, curling irons, hair spray, bobby pins, barrettes, high ponies, buns, pigtails, braids... All of that? I didn't know the first thing about until I had my daughter enrolled in a dance class. The studio handbook says her hair has to be pinned up during class, and the best I could do was a couple of pigtails in the beginning. But I got a lot of practice in, until I was an expert by the day of her big recital.

First flowers from Grandma Morgan.
Make-up on a three-year-old drives me crazy, but I can deal with it for the sake of recitals, because having worked as the Stage Manager my Junior and Senior years of our high school productions, I understand the importance of cosmetics. As the studio owner and director, Elisabeth Cavallaro, said, "Otherwise they look washed out on stage." I get it. Half the other moms kept insisting they weren't going to do it and cheat the system so their little girls didn't look like... I don't know. They were very adamant against it.

I'm very anti-make-up myself. I don't wear it. As we've already determined, I am just not a girly-girl. That cruel mistress Fate decided that I should give birth to one, though, because ever since the recital Lilah has been asking me for her make-up. I use the eyebrow pencils to paint whiskers and a nose on her sometimes for fun, but . . . child? No. I am not letting you get in the habit of wearing make-up every day just because you want to. That shit's not good for you, and I don't know how to explain it to a three-year-old why!

All of this, for a three-year-old, for one night.
The make-up's sitting in a Dollar Store bag in the linen closet right now, way up high where she can't get to it, yet. I felt gross having to buy it in the first place, but kept reminding myself that at least I wasn't putting her in a stupid beauty pageant. These cosmetics served a real practical purpose, and the Capricorn in me was satisfied with that. The first time I put it on her, I was amazed with how much it made her eyes pop, and how pretty she looked. Not the kind of enticing pretty that sickos and perverts imagine, but a real doll-like beauty that made me just want to cuddle her to pieces. I realized... 

My girl could be a movie star. And I started entertaining dreams of putting together an acting portfolio for her and actively searching for roles to audition her for. Those notions still crawl up to the surface of my thoughts sometimes, but I just don't have the kind of work-motivated energy to get that ball rolling. But I suppose I'm giving her a good start with a background in dance. Who knows? Maybe some day she'll be on Broadway.

Professional photo by Tuesday Photography.

Monday, July 28, 2014

Keep the Shears Away

This time last year I didn't have much hair on my head, because I had volunteered to shave it all off in the name of charity for St. Baldrick's Foundation. I had started writing a big blog post about this four and a half months ago, but it got pushed to the wayside for reasons I don't even recall. My original intention with that unfinished entry was to pimp out my friend Ben, whom I had convinced to do the same thing I did, which was a bigger sacrifice for him because he likes his hair much more than I do my own.

Going bald is liberating. July 2013.
This morning I found myself contemplating hair again, because since the time I shaved all mine off I have gone back to get one trim. In one year, I only got my hair cut once. I know people who follow that "every six weeks" advice and go see their hair stylist all the freaking time, but I'm just not that kind of person. My hair doesn't matter much to me at all. In fact, when it starts getting long, it starts to annoy the crap out of me, and I contemplate drastic measures such as shaving it all off again.

My daughter does not share my sentiments about hair and doesn't loathe her own the way I do mine. Hers hands freely in her face most of the time, and it's a fight on the best of days just to get her to let me or my husband comb it. I don't blame her. I remember being young and getting the worst tangles in my hair, and my dad having to sit me down in front of the couch with a hair brush that he'd work and tug and pull and hack at for hours until it was clear.

I realized this morning that in just a little over two months, my baby girl's going to be turning 4, and I have never once cut her hair. All that mess you see in the picture above? Still those gorgeous locks she was born with. She has never had a trim in her life. 

We've discussed it before. I've asked her if she wants a hair cut, but she flip-flops between answering me yes and no, and it's never a subject she brings up on her own. So I've just never had it done. I haven't seen any reason to. There's nothing wrong with her hair. I think it's beautiful. It falls perfectly in a natural part on the left side of her head without having to really put any work into it. Sometimes she lets me put it up in a "high pony," and for ballet we always put it up in a bun, but otherwise she's perfectly content to sweep it out of her eyes while she's running around having fun.

My wild child riding a pony for the first time at the 2014 Summit County Fair.
Her hair comes up in conversation sometimes, especially with the in-laws. Her grandmother (husband's mom) has asked before, seemingly innocently, "When are you going to get her hair cut?" My answer remains the same: whenever she wants to get her hair cut. 

My niece commented once about how you have to get your hair cut regularly for it to stay healthy. Apparently this is something her mother told her, but I don't believe it's the least bit true. Personally, I think it's something hair stylists tell their clients to convince them they need to come back "at least every six weeks for a trim," just so they can have a steady income. Propaganda.

This morning I found myself Googling "why get a haircut" and not being able to find any hits, except, of course, from hair stylists. People who make their living by cutting hair, or selling beauty products to make your hair shiny or bold or not frizzy or... They've tried to sell me a lot of crap in those salons, and almost convince me every single time, but I'm sorry... I'm not going to pay $20 for a bottle of shampoo that's only going to last me a week when I could spend $2 on one that will last me a month or two instead.

My niece Sydney, who will be (holy crap) 15 in a couple of days, had her baby hair for the longest time, too. I'm pretty sure no shears had touched her head even by the time she starred in my wedding 11 years ago as one of two flower girls. Her curls were the most adorable thing in the world. I always thought she was, up until I had my own kids, anyway. 

My niece when she was tiny like Lilah, but obviously with bangs.
Every time I think about taking my daughter to get her hair cut, I remember this woman I knew when I was a teenager. For the life of me, I can never remember her name, but she was the sweetest woman who knew all of us, and helped out on all the school musical sets with costumes and make-up and all that. I talked to her quite a bit my Junior and Senior years because I was the Stage Manager for two of our high school productions (The King and I and then Bye, Bye Birdie).

What I remember most about this woman, besides her unending kindness, was the fact that she had never, in her entire life, ever, got her hair cut. She always wore it in this long, tight braid, and it was so long that she had to fold it up and secure it back up at the back of her head. I think of her whenever I contemplate taking Lilah to the salon to get her "First Haircut" that seems to be such an important milestone for parents everywhere. Not for me, though.

Until the day comes that I'm being begged and whined to for a haircut, I'm just going to let my daughter's hair grow wild and untamed like her personality. It's not hurting her, or anyone else. I don't think it looks "unhealthy" or anything either. Though it is a pain in the ass to find her hairs in everything all over the house, including dinner sometimes. We know it's hers, because she's the only person in the house with long hair right now!

Also, she's blonde and I'm not.
For now, we're skipping that "milestone" in favor of natural beauty. Which reminds me... Next article I should talk to you all about make-up. Yeah. Three years old and we're already in love with cosmetics. Thanks so much, ballet recital!

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

This Girl's Got Big Dreams

Walking along the canal on Free Comic Book Day.

There was a week back in early April in which we, as a family, went for a walk around the block before bedtime just to make sure our girls wore themselves out. The Usurper toddled along most of the way while her sister marched circles around her. We only had to pick the little bug up a couple of times. Mostly she insisted on her independent ability to carry her own weight. I love that in my girls most of the time.

Anyway. As we were walking along, the Overlord noticed a group of children playing on the opposite side of the road up ahead. She asked, "Can I go play with my friends?"

Her daddy replied, "No, honey. We don't know those kids."

To which she immediately reasoned, "Daddy. They're kids, and kids are my friends." Love her to pieces. My eldest has a warm heart and I hope she never loses it. Everybody is her friend. All she wants to do, all day every day, is to go play with her friends. She asks me at least a dozen times, starting with when she wakes up first thing in the morning and not giving up until even bedtime.

It breaks my heart, because I wish I could just open the door and let her out whenever she wanted to play. She's only three and a half years old, though. I don't think she completely understands the boundaries of the street and why she should not ever go into it without an adult holding her hand. I know she doesn't understand property borders, because every time we pass by a house on our way home from the gym, she sees swings and slides (which to her is a "playground" no matter what) in somebody's yard and asks to go play. I tell her, "No, honey. That's not our yard." But I don't think she gets it yet.

My girls love being outside. When I was little, I did too.

I wish there was a safe place, supervised by a certified adult, that I could take her to every day, drop her off to play with other kids around her own age for several hours, and not have to stick around while she does so. Oh! But wait! There is!

You may remember my misgivings about preschool that I wrote about back in January when I started this blog. If not, the link's right there. Feel free to click it and read it over. What I might not have mentioned in that article, but possibly have elsewhere, is that whether or not my children go to school is ultimately up to them. Much to my disappointment, the eldest has been asking me nonstop, for the past several months, "Can I go to school, Mommy?"

I blame Blue's Clues and Daniel Tiger's Neighborhood for showing her these outrageously appealing and totally unrealistic preschool settings. She wants her circle time, but most of all she wants to be able to play with her "friends" whenever she wants. I don't fault her this. Isn't that what every child wants? The sad truth is that she has no idea what school will become the very moment she hits kindergarten.

Screenshot from the Blue's Clues Preschool computer game.

The introvert in me is crying loudly to do everything in my power to get this girl into a preschool, any school, just so I can have several hours a day mostly to myself. Until her sister is old enough to ship off to a learning factory too. I won't lie. Being stuck at home all day with these two is challenging and goes against everything I hold dear about myself. Selfishly, I want her to go. I'm glad I've been able to teach her so far that "Mommy needs some time to herself. Please go play downstairs or in the living room and watch TV or something." She does this well when her sister is napping, thank goodness.

Regardless of my own feelings on formal schooling, I do not feel it is my right to keep my daughter(s) from going if she really wants to go. It's not like she's asking me to join a brothel or jump off the Empire State Building. There's nothing inherently harmful that I need to protect her from in this scenario. With this in mind, I confess that I've been doing a lot of research on preschools. We even toured one a couple of weeks ago.

The place we looked into is a private franchise known as KinderCare. You may have heard of it. We looked at that one first because my husband passes it on his way to work every morning. We thought it would be ideal, because then he could drop her off on his way in and then pick her up on his way home. So we set up a tour and took the girls with us.

To be perfectly honest, it breaks my heart that we had to decline enrollment. The place was absolutely perfect in every way. There was a security code you had to punch in to enter the building. The playground had high fences. There were designated areas for different age groups. There was an indoor playground, too, for those rainy days. The facility served breakfast and lunch. Each child got her own cubby with a bin with her picture on it. The teacher had been there for sixteen years, fully accredited, and was the nicest lady on the face of the planet. Before we left she told us she had even set aside a bin for Lilah, with her name on it, for when she started her first day.

Man. I'm crying right now just recalling all this.

Your Future Overlord totally blew me away with how well behaved she was too. When we go to the facility, I shook the director's hand upon meeting her. Lilah shook her hand too. She has never done that before! After talking with her potential teacher for a while, I shook her hand as well and said, "Nice to meet you." My daughter turned right about and mimicked me with her exactly! I was pretty amazed!

I wish we were rich, because unfortunately the cost of tuition is beyond what we can conceivably afford. In an ideal world we wouldn't have to pay for something so perfect. My daughter should be able to just go to school whenever she wants, play with her friends whenever she wants. For the former, I guess, there's always the library. There's no limit on the learning available to her there. Finding friends on a regular basis is the hard part, though.

In which she took the initiative to learn how to tell time by picking
up this book and making me read it to her; unschooling.

I'm not too concerned about enriching my daughter's learning. As I've said before, she pretty much already knows everything they would teach her academically in a preschool setting. Though she could probably use more practice with penmanship and things I don't have the patience to make her do every single day. What she really needs (and wants) are friends, and so here I am breaking my brain trying to find a preschool for her that we can afford that isn't going to brain-wash her with Jesus.

What would be ideal is if I could create my own preschool that is totally free and completely secular, with certified teachers or observers, where I can fearlessly leave my daughter(s) for a few hours, that I don't have to work in myself. That would be nice. A mom can dream, can't she?

Monday, May 5, 2014

No, really! I'm alive!

Dear Loyal Fans,

I'm sorry. There are probably not enough words to express how apologetic I am for having hooked you into my life with my writing prowess bait and left you dangling and gasping for air for....

How long has it been now? Over two months? Geeze, Louise! My friend Stacy yelled at me a few weeks ago. Right after Easter. I was supposed to sit down and do a blog post about that. Obviously it never happened, but hey! Have a picture!

This is the first time I've she's ever been within five feet of the
 Easter Bunny without crying, let alone posing for a picture with him!
We ended up doing three egg hunts this year. Two of which were planned. Following what is steadily becoming a yearly tradition, we went back to Canal Fulton for their community egg hunt. After which we had brunch at the Sister's Century House. You should eat there. I have nothing but fond memories of that place, when I was a little girl and my dad took me for breakfast. I got hot cocoa and "bump eggs," and we sat in the back left corner booth every time.

We also swung by The Toys Time Forgot to say hello to owner Dan Hare, but he wasn't there that day. I have fond memories of him, too, from back when I was 14 and stopping in once a month to ogle Gambit everything!

He's only The Sexiest Marvel character
to have ever been drawn to life!
How could you not?
Nearly 20 years later and Dan, Dan the Toy Man still remembers my obsession for Gambit and points out every new issue or statue or playing card or bust or anything he might have in stock, just for me. I really need to get back there with some money to buy all the back-logged issues of my imaginary Cajun boyfriend one of these days.

In other news!

We got a family membership at the local YMCA and signed the girls up for a free gym day that we walk to once a week. Basically I unleash them upon the gymnasium, let them go down slides, walk the balance beams, and tumble all over the mat. Then we go swimming. We've been meeting Stacy and Addison there pretty consistently every week. It's a good, regular play date.

Your Future Overlord continues to attend ballet class every week. Her recital is coming up in just a month too! Hooboy!

The Usurper is starting to develop more and more personality, and attitude along with it. She seems to have discovered temper tantrums, and I think she's right on the fringes of starting to use actual words instead of pointing and grunting and whining to get her point across. I know she's already said a few words, but she doesn't use them much at all. Except for maybe, "Maaa-maaaaaaaa!" Often when I'm purposely ignoring her because she's driving me nuts.

Last weekend we visited the Cleveland Animal Protective League to drop off approximately $125 in assorted change that the Overlord had collected for her first charity project. I'll try to remember to make it a point to talk about that in more detail some day. We also came home with another cat.

This is Mindy. She is a one year old catch and release rescue.
I did mention we are cat people, right? Well, this brings us back up to our three cat limit, which I gave myself years ago to avoid giving into adopting ALL THE KITTIES. Because I totally would. This house would be overrun if I didn't have self-control.

We also went back to Toys Time Forgot for FREE COMIC BOOK DAY, which is the first Saturday in May every year, in case you didn't know. I've kind of made it a tradition to go to Dan's store for that, too. I don't know. What can I say? I'm a loyal customer. Even though I moved miles away, I keep coming back. It's cool. He loves my daughters and wants to steal them. It's hard to tell him now. Haha!

Mother's Day is coming up. I'm feeling rather particularly meh about it this year, and I don't know why.

Well, okay. Thus concludes my brain dump. There is so much you've missed out on because I've failed to write, and I am so, so, SO, SO SORRY about that. Life kind of grabbed me by the horns and flung me around. Two little ones sure keeps a momma busy!

Stay tuned! I promise to write more again soon!

All my love,

♥ - S. R. Miner

ps: Head stands are new.

Monday, February 24, 2014

Sundays Are Fun Days

By now you already know we're not a religious family. This gives us a lot of free time on Sundays, because we obviously don't go to church. Even if we were religious, I doubt we'd go to church anyway, because my husband and I are also very much not social animals. We have no desire whatsoever to involve ourselves in "fellowship." We're perfectly content to stay at home and do nothing whatsoever. Besides, we've started our own traditions and so far our girls have no complaints.

Cinnamon Roll Sunday! We started this tradition before the girls were even born. After a while, we got tired of the usual bowl of cereal or eggs and toast. Heck, especially after the girls were born. I don't often cook eggs and toast anymore, because it's just too much work for me to bother with in the morning. I am not a morning person. At all.

More than half my lifetime ago, I used to babysit this kid named Egan. I think I may have mentioned him before. Maybe not here. I don't remember. But! I learned to cook cinnamon rolls while babysitting him ages and ages ago. He's probably 30 by now. I wasn't that much older than him. In any case, those fond memories of sharing cinnamon rolls for breakfast with him reminded me of how simple a "meal" that is to make. So now, with my own family, we've made it a Sunday morning tradition to bust open the Pillsbury packaging and bake up some cinnamon and cream cheese icing goodness.

That's only the morning, however. We don't spend the entire day eating cinnamon rolls, I promise you. Our Sundays are ever-changing. Sometimes we stay at home and lounge around, but most of the time, without even thinking about it, we leave the house to embark on some sort of adventure or another. More often than not we wind up at the library, because . . . books. We are nerds. We like books. A lot. I think The Usurper likes them more than the rest of us, though, because every single morning she brings me or her daddy a dozen books to read. It's quite maddening, really. Love her to pieces. Love her love of books to pieces too, but for the love of all that is sacred, child, give us a break sometimes!

"Please you will to read for me?"

This past Sunday we went to the mall, instead of the library. There are, actually, two malls nearby. The one we went to on Sunday is 100% better than the other one, however. We spent this past week trying them both out, and decided on Sunday that the Summit Mall is by far better than it used to be. To be honest, it used to be quite boring, but things have changed since then.

The first store that drew us in like two opposing magnets was an unexpected gem called Recess. This place is a nerdling's paradise. No lie. The very instant we crossed the threshold, both girls were struggling and straining to get out of their stroller seats so they could check things out. To my pleasant surprise, this is a very child friendly store. The clerk was very nice and informative, and had a super not creepy adoration for children, I could tell.

A large selection of the merchandise consisted of wooden toys. I love wooden toys. Apparently my girls do, too. I'm pretty sure these toys are imported from Germany, but I'm not 100% positive. The packaging is German. My friend Kate could probably tell me for sure, since she lives over there. Hi, Kate! The Usurper, though, was enjoying this display table with these toys very, very much. If they weren't so darned expensive, I would have bought all the things right then and there.

There was another display for a wooden marble track that Your Future Overlord was practically permanently attached to. It took a lot of coaxing to pull her away from playing. I was reminded very much of a toy my sister-in-law's kids had; a plastic marble track that was all the rage for a week or so at their house. This one that my eldest was playing with was wood, and it was awesome, and again if I had a couple hundred dollars to spare I would have bought it for her.

In addition to oodles of fun wooden toys for kids, such as doll houses and play kitchens, this place also had a plethora of board games for all ages. Things like Settlers of Catan, which is all the rage and we have yet to own, and Arkham Horror, for which there are a half dozen more expansions I need to add to my collection. This store also had all the core D&D 4.0 source books, and a wall of preconstructed dice sets that would put any normal hobby shop to shame. I hope this place is still around by the time I start training my girls to nerd it up with tabletop so I can take them there to pick out their own sets.

The most wonderful bit of merchandise this place had, however, were Goldie Blox box sets. And the clerk actually knew what they were! I was so ecstatic. It took every ounce of willpower in every single fiber of my being to walk out of this store without buying a single thing. Because I wanted it all. Everything. Board games, card games, wooden toys, and Goldie Blox!

The fact that Goldie Blox are designed for ages 4-8, I think, is what helped me resist buying the two sets currently available right then and there. Now you all know what to get Your Future Overlord for her 4th birthday, though. Don't disappoint me, Internet.

After escaping Recess, we resumed our casual stroll through the mall. We almost did not complete our circle before something amazing very nearly stole my eldest away from me. It drew her in like a waiting Venus Fly Trap. Sweet, sweet playtime was just around the bend. I seriously had to physically restrain her from running off. Note to self: have long talk with her about the dangers of strangers with candy.

Some time in the last several years since we've been to Summit Mall, somebody got the brilliant idea to install a little kids playground. I wish I had taken a picture of the logo. I really wish this is a permanent structure, because my girls loved it. Your Future Overlord cried when we told her it was time for a potty break, so we could go home. Her daddy actually had to go in after her, because there were so many children enjoying herself that she was in no way going to be able to hear either of us calling for her.

The Usurper and I spent most of our time hanging out at this toy plane. She even figured out how to climb up into it all by herself, and would not leave. A sweet little girl came over and asked me, "Um. Can we play in this when she's done?" I melted, and picked Amelia up to go investigate some of the other attractions in the pit so that some other kids could have a turn. She's one. She would have never been done if I had not carried her away.

The giant foam house with the slide was the biggest attraction for all the kids who could walk on their own. Lilah kept climbing over the walls, and she wasn't the only one. Her baby sister tried crawling into the house once, but most of the bigger kids kept running her over and she quit fast. One sweet little girl tried stealing her binky, too. I laughed. Amelia cried. The other girl's mother apologized. Kids don't know any better, though, so I wasn't mad.

On the back wall there's a giant piano mounted. You can see it in the background of the above picture. It's an actual, working keyboard. The keys don't press in, but they make piano noises when you touch them. I thought it was awesome. The Usurper was not very impressed. She was much more interested in getting back to the giant foam plane to sit in and hog all to herself, haha!

I hope this little pit playground stays around for a long time. All around the interior are benches for adults to lounge on while the kids go wild. On two sides there are indentations and outlets to recharge phones and tablets and eReaders galore. There is also a recycling can and trash can right there. So you can stop to plug in your electronics for a recharge while setting the restless monsters loose to play. I can't wait to go back, but next time I think we'll go on a week day when the mall's less crowded.

Friday, February 21, 2014

Ballet Fundraising Powers Activate

In today's American society, there seems to be this exaggerated expectation that children should be involved in at least one extracurricular activity. Billy must be enrolled in youth football as soon as he's old enough, so that he gets all the experience that he possibly can, so that he can earn a scholarship, otherwise he's never going to get into college. At least, that's the impression I get. For boys it's football. For girls it's cheerleading. That's always bothered me.

If my daughters want to be cheerleaders, that's a different story. But I don't want society pushing onto them this idea that the only way they'll ever get into college and be worth anything is if they are popular and captain of the cheerleading team. I'd rather them dance to the beat of their own drum and be girly on their own terms. That's why Your Future Overlord is enrolled in ballet class.

September 25, 2013 - she's the only one without a tutu.

I don't even remember where it came from. I think maybe there was an episode of Sesame Street she watched once that featured ballet. One of the Muppet characters takes ballet classes and is always wearing a tutu, twirling around the neighborhood. I think I vaguely recall her twirling around the living room mimicking the people on the TV. I tilted my head, watching her and all the joy she was expressing in the process, and asking, "Would you like to do that, honey? Do you think maybe you'd like to do ballet?" Of course she said yes. I'm not sure she fully understood my meaning, but that paved the way to where she is now.

Shortly after moving into our house and getting to know our neighbors, I learned that the girl next door is in ballet. I asked her mom which studio she goes to and got some information. Next thing I know I'm signing my eldest up for a summer class so she can test it out to see if she even likes it. She didn't like it. She loved it! So we signed her up for the youngest class for 2-3 year olds and have been going back every week since. Her first recital is in June. I am SO stupidly and girlishly excited, which is completely abnormal for me.

October 30, 2013 - Halloween Week. Pictured with class helper Miss Rachael.
I love this studio so much. Her instructor, Miss Elizabeth, is the sweetest, most tolerant woman in the entire universe. It takes a special kind of somebody to be able to direct the attentions of five rambunctious little girls and teach them the basics of ballet every single week. And I know mine is the most challenging and energetic of the entire bunch.

Lilah gets so excited every time we go to the studio. She runs down the hall to put down her bag, tear off her outerwear and shoes and put on her ballet slippers. She loves all of her "friends" who are in her class with her. She gives them hugs and squeals in delight when she sees them. I don't know if it's because we don't go out much during the winter, and don't socialize a whole lot with the outside world, or if she really does just genuinely love ballet class. I'm glad she still likes it, though. I'm glad she's sticking with it. I'm not so sure how I'm going to feel about it if she sticks with it for the next ten to twenty years, though. Haha! I've watched dozens of documentaries on the matter of ballet and learned that it's an expensive industry!

Which is a wonderful segue into my original purpose for this particular post. My daughter's dance studio is hosting a fundraiser.

This year the studio is working with a locally founded popcorn company that sells over 65 delicious and original flavors of gourmet popcorn. The name of the company is Nom Nom Popcorn. Come on. How can you not want to buy popcorn from a place geeky enough to call themselves NOM NOM? In addition to helping cover recital expenses, though, the top sellers can win some wonderful prizes, of which I have my sights set on being #1.

That's right. The number one grand prize for the number one top seller is a $150 tuition voucher for Tiny Tutus II, the next stage evolution of Your Future Overlord's beginning ballet career. I don't know if she's going to stick with it, but it would be wonderful to not have to pay a large chunk of her future tuition. Though I'd be perfectly satisfied with 3rd place, too, because that's $25 I won't have to spend on a recital DVD which I absolutely must have.

So this fundraiser takes place 100% online. There's no door-to-door sales. I don't get order forms. They did give me a stack of fliers to hand out to people, however, with the website printed on them and a step-by-step guide on the back that doesn't even really tell you how to do it. Turns out to be a little more complicated than it seems. I had to have my husband walk me through the process, and have since had someone else tell me they couldn't figure it out, so I am here to provide you with a handy walkthrough!

STEP 1:  Go to Look at all the delicious flavors and varieties of Nom Nom-alicious Popcorn. There is a large selection to browse through that is separated into categories. I suggest clicking the "Show All Products" option at the top of the page.

STEP 2:  Place an order. To do this you have to register an account, just as you would if you were signing up on any other website forum or email service or whatever. I know. It's weird. It's extra complicated. I have no idea why they set it up this way, but they did. To register, there is a link in the upper right hand corner of the page under the time limit ticker labeled "My Account." 

I have circled the link in the image above in red, drawn an arrow to it, and indicated that you should click it, as you can plainly see. Clicking on that link will bring you to a second page that looks like this:

You are a New Customer, unless you've actually bought product from the Nom Nom Popcorn company, which I doubt. For the purposes of this exercise, you are new and should fill in the form on the right accordingly. All the fields with a red asterisk beside them are required. You must input something there. I recommend you input your real name if you're going to have me deliver it to you personally. Otherwise feel free to have fun with the postal service. Or unless it's a nickname or inside joke I might possibly know. After you have filled in all the required fields, click the "Create Account" button. The screen will then change slightly to look like this:

I'm seriously going to find the person who created this website and slap them. I mean, really? In any case you will now be using the left hand forum. Type in your email address and the password you made up and click "Login." On the next screen you will see something like this:

STEP 3:  Go Shopping! You want to click that link to take you back to the page where all the delicious choices are. The rest sorts itself out. You click on something. You drool over its tasty image. You decide if you really want to spend $10 on a measly 6 cups worth of Cookies & Cream, aka: "Slam Dunk," gourmet popcorn, or if you want go calorie crazy on the $60 worth of 40 party favor bags! You may also decide you want more than one type of popcorn. Believe me. I know. There are so many tasty options, I want to eat them all. I'm sure you and your pocketbook will have to have a long talk, though. 

So you browse. You choose. You select your size. You select your quantity. You click "Add to Cart" if that's your final decision. And then you can either "Continue Shopping" or "Proceed to Checkout" like just about any other online store in existence. This is where it gets more complicated than it really needs to be. Your checkout screen will look something like this:

I've highlighted some key selection areas in red for you. As I said, there are two ways in which you can get your order. The default setting is to have your order "Ship to Group." This means it will be sent to the studio where I will have to pick it up and then personally deliver to you. If you are ordering from out of state, clearly this is not an ideal selection for you. If you select "Ship Directly to Me," the screen will change a little, deleting that block of text I have highlighted and replacing it with a new form to fill out for your shipping information. You'll also notice the receipt changing to include a shipping cost. For the purposes of this walkthrough, I selected a $10 item only. The shipping fee set itself to $7.95. I would assume that if you order larger quantities of delicious popcorn that the shipping fee will still only be $7.95. So if you, my out of state friends and family, really, really want to help out Your Future Overlord's dance studio and gorge on popcorn, go for it. I'll love you forever. Wait. I already do. Tell you what. As an added bonus, I'll make her draw you a thank you scribble. Of course, you'll have to tell me you ordered. Up to you!

Second Very Important Thing. You'll see where I also highlighted "Choose a person to receive credit for this sale:" in the picture above. After you fill out your name, address, credit card information, all that... make sure that you select a name from that list. Likely you're doing this for me, but if someone else you know directed you to my walkthrough here then by all means use them! If me, however, select "Miner 1" from that drop down menu so that I can get credit for the sale and hopefully win Lilah's next year tuition!

Once you've done all of that, click "Submit Order," and voila! You're done. The campaign ends in 17 days. If you're having your order shipped directly to you, it should arrive sometime during the week of the 10th of March. My experimental order form says 2-4 days after the end of the campaign, which is the 10th. I'm not sure if they got that calculated right, though, because if you selected ship to group it tells me I'll be getting my stuff to pick up on the 19th. So I'll just say you'll probably definitely be getting your popcorn by Spring, and that should cover it nicely.

Seriously, though. Don't do it for me. Do it for Your Future Overlord's love of dance.

January 29, 2014 - Your Future Prima Ballerina

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Introduction to Sharp and Pointy Things

The bravest thing I have ever done is willingly put a pair of safety scissors in my three-year-old's hands.

Allowing my daughter to play with scissors is a huge step along my path to conquering motherhood paranoia. I cannot tell you the number of times I have had frightening hallucinations of what could happen if either of my girls came charging into the kitchen while I was chopping vegetables. It's almost second nature now for me to always hold the cutlery high over my head as I'm moving around, even if they aren't even in the house!

My friend Stacy lets her daughter use knives! She lets her chop her own food up! The very thought of allowing my daughter anywhere near sharp pointy objects fills me with a terrible dread that I cannot even logically explain!

Something my sister-in-law said to me once sticks with me to this day, though. She's a child psychologist working for our area schools. It's her job to assess children to see if they're even ready for school or if they have any learning disabilities or may be gifted. She said to me once, "You'd be surprised the number of kids I see who don't know how to use scissors before Kindergarten."

I'll be honest here. I didn't know that was a requirement. I thought using scissors was a skill kids learned in Kindergarten! Not before they even started!

Though, it does bring back memories. I'm pretty sure I was the only kid in Kindergarten who didn't know how to tie her own shoes. I was the only one wearing Velcro. I'm pretty sure all the other kids were secretly making fun of me. I remember feeling embarrassed, for maybe the first and only time in my life, when my teacher said in an astounded voice, "You don't know how to tie your shoes?" It's the very same tone of astonishment Sarah Heren used when she asked me, in high school, "You don't believe in God?"

That's another story entirely, though.

Let's get back to talking about the terror of allowing my three-year-old to cut things. It turns out she's surprisingly very good.

It's also adorable that she has to open the scissors with both hands before she can squeeze them shut again to actually do any cutting. When we first bought her the scissors, we set her at the table with a piece of construction paper and let her go to town. But as I've been out and about at the book stores, browsing the learning sections with all the gorgeous workbooks (I wish I could afford every single one), I remember noticing one book that was all nothing but scissor skill projects.

Sunday I was sitting here at the computer working on something or other, and I thought, "Hm. I wonder if there are any free scissor skill projects online I can print?" Because we finally got more ink for our printer and why not put it to use, right? So I Googled "free scissor skills printables" and the search results came up with a large selection of web pages to browse. I clicked the first one for DLTK's Crafts for Kids to get the clown and balloons pictured above, and a small handful of other ones.

This week I learned just how frustrating it is to work with preschoolers. Maybe it's just my daughter, but she has the shortest attention span in the world. I had to tell her so many times to "stop looking at me and pay attention to what you're doing!" Trying desperately not to sound panicked because I was totally terrified that she was going to cut her fingers off. With safety scissors. I know.

The funny thing is that I found her using safety scissors even more terrifying than that one time I let her stand on the step stool and help me chop vegetables for dinner. Uh huh huh huh huh... Yeah. Not doing that again any time soon.