Tuesday, May 31, 2011


I do not care what the calendar says. It got hot last week, so that makes it summer. Then Ginger had her last day of preschool. And today it is NINETY-SIX DEGREES, so that seals the deal. This year we got season passes to the local public pool, but on days we just can't make it that far, this is what we'll be doing.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

DM Finds: Stomp Rocket

OK, folks, here is the hottest summer toy that both you and your kids will love: the Stomp Rocket. This one is actually the Stomp Rocket Jr. with glow-in-the-dark rockets.

I was browsing on Amazon for a birthday gift for Hazel's friend, and was seduced by the rave reviews and perfect price tag ($10.50) this little set offered. So we got one for her friend. And another set for us.

It is the BEST summer toy, and here's why:
  • Kid-powered (no batteries)
  • Requires turn-taking but turns are very quick
  • Fun for all ages (Poppy can put the rocket on by herself and we help her jump or sit on the stomper to send it flying - gratuitous giggles ensue)
  • Can play alone or with others (it's fun to try to catch the rocket when you're waiting for your turn)
  • Inherent but unmeasurable competition
  • Active!
Cons, though I don't think any of them are a big deal:
  • Babies like to chew on the rockets (so what else is new)
  • The stand sometimes comes apart if it gets knocked or jumped on - an adult has to put it back together
  • The rockets sometimes get stuck in nearby trees, but that offers its own fun trying to get it down (Dads love to get involved in this manly challenge)
  • Babies crawling too close to the stomper may get knocked down by heaven-gazers trying to catch the rockets (whoops)
We were out in our common area/courtyard the other night doing the rocket and a family who recently moved in came out when they heard the giggles. They have a newly adopted 3-year-old son from Eritrea who is shy and speaks little English. It was fun to see him warm up and smile when his Dad, and later he, stomped the rocket into space.

So if you've got a space for stomping, I'd say go get you one. Unless your kid has a summer birthday and will be inviting my kid to the party...because I'm pretty sure this is our new favorite gift.

And here's a cute picture of Ginger climbing the tree the HOA says we're not allowed to climb. I am training them early to defy authority.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

DM Tip: Pony Holders

This is our hair basket:
It contains a brush, water spray bottle, detangling spray, and several zipper cases of elastics, clips and various accessories, all of which are always jumbled, and to which you can never find a match when you need one. When the girls take ponytail holders out of their hair at night, they end up on the floor, in the bathroom, in the laundry - anywhere but back in the hair basket.

But a tip I read recently is helping to reign in the chaos - keeping ponies on carabiners.
It's especially nice for us since we have several sizes of ponies and the little ones are really hard to keep track of.
We ordered a set of six carabiners from Amazon ($6), and when they arrived Ginger helped me load them all up. One empty one stays in the girls' bathroom to receive used ones at night. She thought it was a super fun activity. And I love that everything is a little more contained.

And as a bonus, the case of pony carabiners is Poppy's new favorite toy!

Sunday, May 22, 2011

End of Year Teacher Gifts

This is the last week of preschool. WHAT?! Goes fast when you start in September and end in May, unlike public schools. Snuck up on me a little when one of the other class Moms emailed about a donation for a group gift. I will be giving my $10 for sure - Ginger's teacher has been AMAZING - but I wanted to give something from us as well. So I reviewed this and this post from 2009 to help me decide.

We gave her movie passes and a mall gift card at Christmas. Also she is stylish so I would never presume to pick out an accessory for her. I know she has middle-school-ish kids, so I looked around my house, and Amazon (shockingly few Listmanias with non-cheesey teacher gift ideas), trying to think of something thoughtful, useful, and fun for her and her family this summer.

I decided to get her my favorite popsicle mold and cookbook that I loved last summer and am looking forward to again as our first real heat wave descends. I wouldn't get a big cookbook for someone, like baking, grilling, 30-minute meals, etc. unless I knew their culinary interest better, but everyone likes popsicles, and everyone can make them! Doesn't take up horizontal space (like a plant), doesn't require any special equipment (except the mold), or skill (except reading), and it seems like something older children might enjoy as well. I will have Ginger make a hand-drawn bookmark and we'll put it by her favorite recipe (probably that fancy sundae on the cover.)I have struggled with teacher gifts for years, but I'm pretty confident about this one. Pretty sure I'll be getting the same for Hazel's teachers in June.

How about you - what are your teachers getting this year? Or if you are one, what are the best gifts? Parents like me always need more ideas.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Not the Spice Girls

Don't call my kids the Spice Girls. It does two things: 1- it annoys me, and 2- it betrays your ignorance. Neither of which we want. Neither of which are good for society.

First of all, if you have done this, don't take it personally. You are not the only one and there have been so many instances I have not remembered individual ones. This is a rant. If you think I liked you before, I probably still do.

It's not the association that bothers me - I love my ZIG-uh-ZIG-aah as much as the rest of you. And, hello, red hair, always a plus. It's the inaccuracy of the thing. If you would take a minute to consider their names - Hazel, Ginger, Poppy - there is really only one spice in that list. Do you know which one it is? Did you know that one in three does not a pattern make?

In the past, when someone has made reference to my girls as spices, I have either responded with a weak but polite noncommittal smile or, depending on who it is and/or my mood, a withering look. But my new approach, and my favorite so far, is to look confused, like I have never heard that before and can't understand why they are saying it. Works great because then they have to explain it, and in so doing, stumble on their own folly. While I stand there smiling.

Let us consider:

Hazel - A nut-bearing tree and/or the nut of said tree. Also a golden-brown-green eye color. Witch-hazel is also a flowering plant used medicinally. Not a spice. Not even close. I had a friend in high school who had it as a middle name after her grandmother - Emily Hazel Miller - and ever since I saw that, I had it pegged for my first daughter. Always my favorite girl's name.

Ginger - A rhizome (horizontal underground stem from which roots sprout), which when dried and ground up, is yes, considered a spice. Ding, ding, ding! Related to turmeric and cardamom. Delicious (I have lots of good recipes...)! Also a reddish-brown color. And a person with red hair, fair skin and freckles - not the coloring she turned out to have, but it was a possibility. We chose this name for its non-trendiness, the ever-elegant Ginger Rogers, my sister Maren's goldfish, and we liked how it sounded with our chosen middle name, Litz, Ed's maternal grandmother's maiden name.

Poppy - A colorful flower, traditionally red but can also be purple, yellow and other colors. One species, the opium poppy, is used to make opium, opiates, poppy seeds and poppy seed oil for culinary purposes. I was at a baby shower when I was pregnant and told someone the name we had chosen. "Poppy?!" she seemed shocked. "Wow, she'll be popular in high school." I had to think why. Is it because of the opium thing? It seemed a far stretch - do high schoolers even know where their pharmaceuticals come from, much less does it destine my daughter to be stereotyped based on her name? I thought the woman was ridiculous. When we visited England in 2009 we noticed Poppy was a popular name there. And it's a lovely flower. We just liked it.

So for a stretch, I admit an unintentional botanic, or possibly chromatic, thread. But not a theme. And definitely not spices. Don't make me say it again.

And then there are those who offer witty unsolicited suggestions for "the next one." If, in some mythical fairytale world, I were to have another, they say to name her Rosemary! Sage! Cinnamon! And for a boy, Tarragon! Chives! Coriander! Seriously? For my only boy? Besides the fact that I hate all those names, why would I limit myself to such a narrow selection? Naming is the best part of having kids; I'm not self-imposing parameters based on other people's ignorance. (My one concession - if we had had boy-girl twins, "Hazel and Basil" might have been irresistible.)

You say I brought this on myself? Maybe. But I'm not going to name my kids Isabella, Sophia and Emma just because people don't use their brains.

So I'm gonna tell you what I want, what I really really want: just call them the Hickmans.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

The 1-Year-Old

Wow. Anyone remember this post? Does a year really go that fast?

Here she is, our one-year-old, who has opinions, curiosity, daring, gusto, eight teeth, wicked awareness, and humor.
She had butterbeer cupcakes for her birthday party - watch the VGP, they'll be the next post going up.
My mind is all a-muddle, that's why I haven't posted on this major milestone yet. It's almost too big to write about. But I will kick myself if I don't. (And I kick hard.)

Communication skills are coming right along, but not quite adequate for a whole interview. Instead, I will act as her agent in citing key points.

Words: Dada, Go, More ("moh"), Get-it, This, and such profuse (and super-cutie) head-shaking to communicate refusal and/or contradiction that it definitely counts as a word.

Favorite Games:
Peek-a-Boo, wrestling, rolling a ball, and she still loves dump-and-fill with anything.
Skills: Walking is coming along. She made big strides when Grandma Marsha came to visit and taught her how to use a physio ball as a walker. But now she needs no encouragement. She has caught the vision of what walking can offer. We often catch her carefully standing up without holding onto anything, then walking a few steps, grinning big, until plopping down on her bum. AND, thank goodness, she's coordinated all systems to go down stairs backwards. Hip hip hooray!
She is getting better and better at keeping up with her sisters, and can do more things with them than ever...even doing things from the Crazy Box:
And "sharing" her new birthday toys:
Poppy LOVES to feed herself. Favorite Foods: yogurt, goldfish, applesauce, peaches, pretzels, hummus, pasta w/ marinara sauce, bananas, apples, grapes, marshmallows, and pretty much anything someone else has that she doesn't. Unfortunately she does not like cow's milk, so the old weaning thing is going slowly, but I secretly don't mind. And if I want her to try something new, I just give her a spoon or fork with it, and she will at least give it a shot.

The old Tintin crest is gone, but she still gets called a boy all the time. I'm usually not as outraged or rude as I want to be in those situations, but sometimes I give someone something to think about. I mean, I see it. Round face, short straight hair. And sometimes her clothes have delicate feminine details rather than blaring frills and lace. But just ask. If there is any doubt, or even if there's not, just ask.

We don't really call her Spanky Bum Bum anymore, but names that have stuck are "Little Missy" and "Bungaroo" pretty much. Her sisters adore her, and likewise.

Last Sunday, on Mother's Day, the primary kids got up to sing a song in church. As Hazel, Ginger, and all the other kids walked up the aisles to the front of the chapel, Poppy looked around and immediately started crawling double time up the aisle with the kids. She didn't know what was happening, but she knew she belonged in the middle of it. And that pretty much sums her up.

Thursday, May 05, 2011

Fruits of Their Labors

Are you familiar with Pillow Pets? I bet if you have kids in the 3-to-7 age range that either go to public school or watch TV, you do. They are HOT HOT HOT right now. Which means I am against them.

Thanks to Qubo channel's highly repetitive, persuasive and obnoxious commercials, which also have my children asking for Pocket Copters and LifeLock, the girls started begging for Pillow Pets right after Ginger's birthday. Which poses this dilemma - too late to get one for Ginger; if I get one for Hazel's birthday that leaves Ginger in the cold; but I am not just buying these things for no reason except the girls wanting them. What to do?

I looked a little closer at the things. Turns out that, commercials aside, they are not that offensive and even kinda cute. Their worst trait is being big, but they are soft, machine washable, no batteries, and not ridiculously overpriced ($20 average on Amazon.) And in case you don't know, they have a velcro strap across the bottom, so they can be a 3-D-ish stuffed animal or, when undone, a flat-ish pillow.
Still. We already have a lot of stuffed animals. So I made the girls a deal, having NO IDEA how it would work out. If they really wanted Pillow Pets they could earn the money for them by doing extra jobs around the house. Both were enthusiastically on board at first, which I figured they would be. I was interested in if there would be staying power.

I didn't dare deal in cash - guaranteed to lose it! - so we made a chart, with $20 in 25-cent increments for each girl, and stuck it on the fridge. Ginger took off like gang busters. Jobs, jobs all the time! First tier jobs were always cleaning or running - pick up the toys, pick up the newspapers, take this upstairs, etc. Second tier were things that needed my help - watering plants, cleaning the bathroom, sweeping. Third tier, when I was desperate or busy and couldn't think of anything else, were made-up jobs - things that didn't really need doing but wouldn't hurt - usually involving a spray bottle of water and a rag - wash a door, the dining chairs, the stairs, etc. Good stuff.

Well obviously you can tell from the pictures that they gained their prize. Ginger reached $20 in about 6 weeks. Hazel took a little more time and prodding but eventually got there. She is more lazy and not home as much anyway. But watching Ginger work towards a goal with focus and motivation was a phenomenon to behold, and a great insight into her little character.

When it came time to order, Hazel chose the dolphin, "to be friends with my mermaids." And Ginger chose a cream Easter bunny, "because it's new and I like it" (limited edition at Easter time, though the ladybug was a close second.)
Of course, they take them everywhere and yes, I even like to lay on them. And of course as soon as they had them, they wanted a new chart to start earning money for Happy Nappers (thank you again so much, Qubo.) But Ed and I had a bigger vision.

We recently attended a casual game night at our church - tables with sandwiches, board games, card decks, etc. (and the best white chocolate popcorn on earth, I am getting that recipe!) They also had a couple of rooms set up with Wii's that were supposedly under adult supervision. It ended up being kind of a train wreck because Ed and I were socializing or playing games and not really paying attention to where the girls were. When it was time to go, we found Hazel in a Wii room trying to get a turn among a bunch of kids who thought they knew what they were doing, and no adult to organize them. Then someone came in and unplugged it and said the game night was over. And Hazel never got a turn. She knew it was fun, but didn't know how to do it. And was probably the only kid there who couldn't go home and play her own Wii. Cause we don't have one.

So after the mother meltdown Hazel had, Ed talked to the girls this week about earning money for a Wii. It seems to be something Hazel really wants, so it shall be interesting to see which prevails: wanting or lazy. Each girl must earn $50, and we will make up the rest. So what do you think - will they do it? Or will we just break down in 7 months and get one for Christmas? Stay tuned, only time will tell...
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