Buy Your Own Crap at TJMAXX

This post is not about shopping. It is not about thinking TJMAXX is crappy. (Nothing could be father from the truth and why can’t I have one in Japan). It is rather, about how strongly I feel about letting children create their own art, not some clearance end-cap art you need to buy at TJMAXX. Children are born artists; let them create their work and depart at times, from the mold.

You, mothers, go hang somewhere else so they can think and make something that will blow your mind.

I know all we mothers love our kids. And sometimes we wear the proverbial macaroni necklace or grow tired of glitter that is entirely too messy for anywhere other than the beach…or their friend’s house.

But for goodness sake–if we take them to a place that is all about promoting creativity, can we shut our pie traps and let the kids make something interesting and beautiful? Don’t take them to tie-die and be all up on their choice of dyes in those plastic vats. Let them make their forty-five-years-old-too-late-shirt in peace.

If you buy them some rainbow loom kit, let them get funky with color and pattern. They do not need to prove their genetic intelligence by following your recommendation for pattern.

If you spend the morning at one of those paint your pottery places, maybe guide their initial choices (because those too tall for the cabinets mugs get expensive  and they may not need another Little Mermaid figurine or ceramic piggy coin bank). Please, though, do not make it a paint by number, rediculosity. Please let your kid choose their own favorite colors and interpretation of Ariel’s pert shell boobs. Please release your vision of what colors the princess dress must be. Let them explore with color, texture, and design, within the safety of developmentally appropriate materials so they learn to be proud and aware of their own thinking.

2014-02-15 15.11.32

Can you guess who chose the colors and placement of nail polish for her auntie/niece mani?

If you can guess, we went to this kind of pottery painting place while staying with my amazing sister-in-law. My father drove down from NC and wished to spend quality time with me and my kiddos. This was what we chose as our activity du jour. There were two very different scenes in that pottery shop.

Table “Chill Out & Let Them Paint”: This is the place where adults recognise the inherent creativity of their children and take the role of supportive facilitator rather than panty-wadded-stick-to-the-plan-sold-by-princess-marketing. These adults guided safe choices, instructed about paint brushes, the organisation of the shop (i.e. ask the woman working there for the pain you need; help yourself to brushes), and generally supported critical thinking and art.

There were no spills at this rather Bohemian table. No one got hurt. A plaster butterfly was enthusiastically painted to hang in a three year old’s room.


Table “It-is-strongly-suggested-that-you-adhere-to-the-real-version-of-Sophia-the-First’s outfit”: needs to have a sip of water or a puff from an herbal cigarette. Princess Sophia or Elsa are not going anywhere. Their outfits have already been chosen, yes, in posters and in every bit of marketing toolery from McDonald’s Happy Meal toys to birthday pinatas. It is just fine if your girl envisions something a bit imaginative. It won’t hurt Disney’s feelings or make your daughter look stupid, colorblind, or a product of shoddy-parenting.

Do you suppose the artistically-controlling mother’s daughter was very verbal? Uh-no. The girl didn’t speak more than one little murmur and later, she asked for a juice box. That’s it. No engagement. No admiring colors. Nope, as soon as they walked in, Ms. I’m a Pinterest Mother had already decided for her daughter what piece she would paint, what three colors would be used, and just where it would be placed in the daughter’s room. Nonstop, she said things like, “Paint here. Now here. Do it this way,” before she took the brush and did some “correcting”, herself. For all I know, she may have already blogged their “artsy experience” and told all of her cyber mom friends about how she didn’t do a thing and her daughter is just so good at doing art. Trust me when I say, she operated a bit like a Bob Ross robot, but with all focus on the end product, rather than the crucial, would-have-been process. Scratch Bob Ross. I was more him.

Perhaps I turned this mother off. Perhaps she didn’t even pay attention to me and my language. We each have our own parenting styles, much like our artistic sensibilities. I just desire supportive language to bring up critical thinkers. Kids who choose their own design, who can draw from many strengths, and explain why. Maybe this other mom is totally doing great things! As a teacher, I just long for more of an interchange.

For all you education majors out there, it is the process we are after. This is the key factor and marker for intelligence. But maybe don’t fully go by me; my math SATs bit it. Of course, sitting between one boy sucking up his snot and another boy dealing with his very vocal, very loud and piratey Turrets didn’t help much, either. I should have gotten some major “Gee, we’re so very sorry points”.

I know this post has a different feel. I am experimenting with sarcasm. (I am a little off, I know; I am not funny. I just sound angry. That’s no good). But maybe I am a bit upset. You see, I am a teacher. Child development and promoting good practices for the sake of their growing brains is my passion. I don’t like the possibility that children, really intelligent fabulous children, are being stifled and cultivated to be cute and stay within the lines of their mother’s thinking. Not when art is so amazing. Not when children so naturally produce poetry and learn from their surroundings.

If we can’t let them choose their own shade of green or decide on their own color scheme, how can they possess the confidence and experience to make tougher decisions? We might as well hang our hats on the “controlling nag of a mother” mantle.


Art has the power to be a fully-loaded vehicle for growing critical thinking skills, oral and written language, problem-solving, flexibility, and creative vision. If you are on-board with this, then the good news is that the pressure is off! All you need to do is recognize your role of supporter. Provide opportunities for creativity, for building and taping and painting and growing. Ask questions like, “Why do you want her hat to be yellow and that fall leaf shade of brown?” Let them come out of their verbal, critical shells as you value their decision making and ask, as a facilitator, which adhesive would be better for the job?” Ask questions that seek to understand their burgeoning minds and help them get to the next level. There is enough pressure in other areas of their world with schoolwork, homework, future pressures of SAT scores and the tensions of an ever-changing world and the freeing and boggling fact that the jobs of the future have not even been realized yet. Let them paint freaking Elsa the way they see fit. It’s really an okay thing, especially when they can dialogue with you about their artistic choices and explain their rationale.

And if all of this is not enough, if you still need Sophia’s dress just so, the way table 2’s mom went on and on and on, then just go buy yourself the figurine online. Better yet, shop those crusty end-caps. Leave your naturally zesty, thoughtful kid out of it.

Amelia Earhart with Dramamine


Amelia Earhart sure did love to fly, but did she ever get air sick?

What would she have said to my daughter who now knows the inside of those airsick bags?

We are recovering from a tough flight in a mini-plane. Recovering from flying in a mini van.

I am “up in the air” over the dizzying prospect that we will have to take this little jumper again, on two more mini-legs of our trip.

Trying to face fears and be a good mom. Or be a good mom and eradicate fears. And throw-up. Let’s eradicate throw-up.


No, this isn’t Ms. Earhart’s plane; this is ours, from today, year 2014. I think the only difference between Amelia’s ride and ours is color vs black and white!

We took this sweet baby from the horse and buggy roads of Lancaster, PA, to Washington-Dulles airport. We, my two kiddos and I, were three passengers out of the whopping four passenger who rode. The pilot and copilot were so close. I felt like they were just playing some Wii or Atari flight simulator game. No, wait, I didn’t feel like that because we were absolutely dangling from the sky in this little outdated car with wings. It was a rode trip in an old Datsun.

With turbulence. Great big gusts of turbulence that rocked our inner cores.

Sometimes A to B is tough, Amelia. You must have known that more than anyone.


It was in the car, we first discovered our daughter’s motion sickness. We are gathering methods; It is all about hustling chewing gum, distractions like movies, and the reason why I am wedged in between her’s and her brother’s car seat: to rub her tummy.

Adding to our strategies is a big big harrowing ride. It was not the America/Japan flights.  It was a cute little domestic flight, all of fifty-minutes. We took the hardest little airplane of our lives. Skydiving could have been better, because at least we would have been prepared with parachutes. How about one for the baby?

And the terrible, funny, not-funny thing is that we are scheduled to hop on (or drag our bodies onto) two more of these little flights over the next week and a half. I will be positive. I will be positive. I will be positive.

I am doing some soul-searching, some grand fear-facing, and some mega Dramamine buying over the next couple of days. I’ll let you know what I find.

Love, peace, and airbags,


Storytime in the Air


By hour number thirteen, I was a little threadbare. We were supposed to be landing in Dulles, but now, a rerouting to Chicago’s O’Hare. All due to the super thick white stuff falling from the air.

So we sat and we sat and the seat belt sign flashed on and off, but mostly on. And at first it seemed we’d be able to deplane and then come back when it was deemed likely we’d fly out-a-there. Talk of Atlantic City, thoughts of me lumbering my boy babe and big girl through the night, into another day. Maybe a motel? Thoughts of us roving airports, lost like a whole tower had gone out. Missing birthdays, feeling lost at sea. Yep, I get desperately dramatic when I am sleep deprived and hungry.


And then, something amazing happened – something that made every shaky feeling subside. I came back from taking the baby guy to that skinny metallic toilet shack with running-out soap, and saw this:


One of the flight attendants was sitting, knees under skirt, stockinged legs and tired, perpetually jet lagged feet, reading to my girl. To her. Smiling, engaging, kind, and witty, she read to my K. And I got all wobbly-weak, but with love and gratitude.

And I, too, needed story time. I sat and soaked up their laughter. I got to just BE for a sec. It is not like I was the one flying the plane, but being a mommy show, just after saying bye to my strong and fun hubby for these few weeks, well, something heavy and serious fell away for the minutes I watched someone else loving the heart of my girl.

And then another warm hearted flight attendant came over and we were a party!


They passed out snack bags and a thing called levity came down like one of those beach balls in an outdoor concert in Miami. It’s called an exhale and I only notice my exhale if I’ve been holding my breath for a while. Phoowaaah.

We pulled from our white sandwich bag apples KT called, ”beautiful like in Snow White,” the welcome-home from thin greasy potato chips, dark chocolate Mmmilanos, and some sun-dried tomato bun with parmesan. It doesn’t take too much. We rumpled up wrappers and the last of the apples, and so much of the tired anxiety just came off. My head was on right.

Thirteen plus hours in flight turned into
eighteen plus, but again, at least we had this good breather. My heart reloaded, alongside the plane, as it took in more fuel for the remaining time.

Look what one dear gave me. Such treasure for our little bag of momentos.

There is more to say, but later, maybe. I am enjoying being here. And, oh yeah, I am nursing a serious case of round the clock nursing from some family jet lag. Who’s reading to us next?

static prepares to board

This was a post of travel with my sweet kids as we readied ourselves for the sky.

All best to you as you prepare those diaper bags and brace yourselves for home, but also a little reverse culture shock, maybe. As you love those friends and families you’ve missed, and let them lavish you with the hugs and all of those little things you’ve missed.

~~~~~   ~~~~~    ~~~~~    ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~..

See–I’m preparing to travel to visit my dear dear amazing amazing Grandpa who has gotten sick. 

We will go and hug him so hard, so much. 

All of the energy in traveling is already worth it, obviously.

But there is still some stuff to ready, some static to comb through. 

jude's close face

Static is what we hear when one of the monitors is not on.

It is all crinkly, reminding us of old time tv rabbit ears & standing with tin foil in your hand,

one leg extended, body mashed mid-movement like twister, erect, away from the board.

Some things are a bit staticky too, right now.

My husband gave me a sip of his whisky, with directions to “take a good slug”

to just calm me down a bit,

even me out.

See, I’m preparing to fly with the kids

(first time with both)

& I’ll be the only parent, like always on these flights.

And it is not a hop, skip, & a jump,

but over oceans.

Over blue and depending on the airline,

we may cruise over pointy white caps

like we are jettisoning snowboarders

shooting a spearmint ad.

My kiddos & I will fling ourselves across the sky,

eat & try to sleep

& be warm and lovely and ourselves

in cabin pressure

in same clothes

in what the heck time is it

& what the heck meal is this supposed to be

in lumbering through same aisle-ways

bumping into big guys’s arm extended

& why are all these ladies wearing night time, stick on white masks. They are so freaking scary.

We will try to fit

in too small bathrooms

for anyone

let alone people changing diapers

on ten month old boys who will not ever want to sit or lay down.

There will be crinkles of static

or at least rolling carts, snores of white noise

but it is always worth it

for the joy in the receiving line,

the overtired speak

through Customs when you have to say what you do in Japan

& spit out why you are here, in America

& you feel ragged, soggy

GLIMMERING like you’ve just come through Ellis Island

& maybe your name will be changed

& everything is emotional

for the weary traveler

who may not be able to hear out of one ear for two weeks

for the hormonal woman being a single mother when she is not used to

such strength full throttle for that whole jet-lagged time,

leaning forward with the dang piece of tinfoil

and folded-in, pressurized smile

concentrating on

the next 48-72 hours

of getting there alive,

bracing for those next steps in the itinerary

and just wanting so many hugs

& a Taco-Bell burrito.

Next Door

Trying out this whole “ping back prompt thing”


It’s a snowed-in weekend 

& I wonder what our neighbors have on-hand. 

I wonder if they see us through snowy windows

or if they were able to catch their trains. 


Next door I am tired. 

I cannot speak well, but I’ll remember your name. 


I’ll hand over our homemade

chocolatechip-nod-to-Americana with a



and apologize over things

like my barking dogs and weedy mess of a garden

and that is how we chat here,

we who are so busy, tired,

glad to have moved in. 


We (meaning me) dreamt big, smoky barbecues,

grandiose Fourth of July fireworks 

with Classic Rock and Steely Dan,

and home made pita, sauerkraut, chips. 


Thought we’d be the hub, the lookout, the fort

with all the English books for your kids,

birdhouse libraries,

everything in miniature–

you know, to be cute,

even though

everything American 

is big.



One weekend I’ll escape the confines called “shy”,

“she’s got too much on her hands” or the biggest:

“language barrier”,

which needs no quotation marks around it. 

Let’s not be too formal. 


And yet, how I would love to still work my cosmetics and skin care

’round the neighborhood, fix my pearls 

and make dates to get to know you over tea and a little makeover. 

To practice knocking. And ringing. 

To see how you decorated & found something to put on our same funny wall. 


Maybe when all this snow melts,

I’ll go over

and see how you are. 


Snowy Morning Blues

Check out my Florida girl rookie moves:

1. Two lonely shirts left out on the line


2. Sticks left outside that I was going to use in crafts

3. The Bugaboo stroller, our car, was left with the cozy muffler, the kind of sleeping bag, dangling in the elements so that the snow could fall on it and turn it to wet ice.


4. Cardboard boxes, post Ikea expedition, not broken down, but frozen in snow sculpture. Later, they will be like wet jeans.


5. Isaac just locked me out as I took this picture. That was after he threw a snowball at my head. I am barefoot.


All of this was posted and snapped from my phone. First time I’ve done that. Pretty useful when you are locked out and want to publicly whine.

Awkward Lady Living Abroad 2: SHOES in the House

This is the second of two “awkwardly abroad” posts. Did you see the first?

PSA Take 1: This may not come off so much as a confession to awkward-weirdness, as much as a very concerned Public Safely Announcement.

Roll cameras. Ahemmmm. Outside? In the wilderness of paved roads, smooth sidewalks, classrooms, and malls, there is a danger. (Dramatic pause). There are many dangers to speak of, actually. Poop is one of them. Yes, poop. Phlem, spit, your general grossness. Some things sail around, microscopic and untold.

Some things only forensics could see. Some grossness is big enough that you lunge for your toddlers to disgustedly step over. I have, ladies and gentleman, stepped over many a pee-stream. Some from dogs, some from grown men, after their many Saturday night beers. I know. It’s revolting. Image And yet,…many of us wear our shoes inside. Why, oh why?? This is the part where you concentrate on what you can change–what serenity you do have control over. It’s your shoes. I didn’t used to be such a germaphobe. I blame it on moving to the far East, namely, to Japan. I was likened to Carrie Bradshaw, pre-shoes-off-inside-awakening, in one fabulous episode of Sex in the City, when she was directed to take off her shoes at a party.

The gifts go over on the table and the shoes go there. Oh. Kyra and Chuck don’t like outside dirt coming in. The twins are always picking things up off the floor. But this is an outfit… Good thing I wore my party socks. Gees, If I’d known I was gonna be shoeless, I would have compensated with a big hat or something. Okay. Well, now I’m so teeny I might bump my head on the coffee table. Watch out ‘Little Me’.

Later, someone tramps off with Carrie’s shoes, which are Manolos, of course. I am now that woman, asking you “Mmmkkkayyy?” with a lipstick-on-the-teeth-smile, directing you to take of your shoes in my house, while I nod my head as a final Jedi-mindtrick meets kindergarten teacher meets flight attendent command.

Okay, shoes have come off. Not sooo bad, right? Not really awkward, right? The environment supports it, teaches it. Nothing new to see here, folks. Here, when you go to a house party, you must wade through the dozens of shoes at the door, on tiptoe, lest you step on someone’s. There is no wearing those hot new black and perfect-gold pumps to show off and make you stand feeling fun-sexy-awesome. Not inside, anyway. Nope, you get to feel a bit short and squat. (Ladies, we all know how the right heel is transformative).


our own little houseparty

But…put me on a plane and fly me back to any-state, America, and I will be your fifth grade door patrol and shoe-hall monitor. I will be retching with discomfort as you walk through (even your own home’s) hallways or recline on a couch. I will order you, please please, fling off those shoes. Do it for the general good. Do it for everything right and decent and clean still in this world. I know it’s annoying. Rather, I’m annoying. I’ve been changed, I know. And if you are wearing your shoes in the house, well, then I have to also, don’t I? Because I surely cannot walk around bare foot, on a walk of zen, underfoot the filth that is rubbing off onto the Berber or Spanish tile with your every step. It’s a call to make peace. We both need to decide what kind of home or party this will be. Let’s be a pair of shoes…sitting, parked near the front door, please??

Until then, I wil be so annoying (I do not mean to be, promise). Every time we watch even a MOMENT of TV, I will call-out every family wearing their shoes in the house. I will drown-out the loving peace with my rants and nausea over seeing sitcom teens donning tennies on the couch. “Why are their parents okay with this?” I will screech! Add you will say, “Because this is normal, you awkward thing going through reverse culture shock.” And I will ask you to just please even just consider wearing brown paper bags as socks.


: What’s your shoe policy?