my boy is learning to read!

While we were on vacation, the Potato demonstrated to me his ability to read the word ‘bus.’

I was tremendously excited, but his sister was non-plussed. For me, having my kids learn to read has been one of the most rewarding parts of parenting. The Potato loves books, and like most four-year-olds, has certain ones that he wants to read over and over–lately we’re doing a lot of How Do Dinosaurs Say Goodnight and certain Curious George books that seem to have emerged in the post-PBS Kids era. But until this week, he hasn’t shown off his own budding reading skills.

There’s a part of me that feels the need to make a bigger deal about this that what might seem rational. The Potato, like all second children, has become accustomed to his accomplishments going unremarked (or at least less-remarked). By the time he achieves a benchmark, the Bee has gone on to something bigger.

But learning to read is a big, big deal in our family, and I want him to know that I noticed, want him to know that it’s important to us that he can recognize letters and words. Want him to know that we value reading, and that we prize his ability to do it.

I can’t remember a time when I didn’t know how to read, but I do remember, vividly, the first time I realized that I could read a street sign. I want my boy to remember the moment he first saw the word ‘bus’ on a sign, and understood what it meant.


August 31, 2007. books for kids, growing up. 8 comments.

vacation vignettes


  1. The Bee is a fearless, rock-climbing girl! Guess it’s time to find a local climbery (or whatever they call those rock-climbing places).
  2. Took the kids to a lake to go swimming with my FIL. While we were there, a 12 year-old girl came over and started talking to the Bee in a sort-of “I’m bored, will you be my friend for the day” kind of way. She saw me with the Potato, and asked, “are these your kids?” When I said yes, she told me, “You’re lucky to have one of each. You know, girls really go through some stuff.” Great. Thanks.
  3. How is it that a four-year-old boy can be the smallest person in the house, yet is still capable of making the most noise while on the stairs?
  4. I’m pretty sure that not only am I turning into my mother, but I’m also turning the Bee into my mother. There’s nothing like a little solo vacation to show what kind of future parent your older child may someday become.
  5. I went for a walk one night through the college town that my FIL lives in, and saw a sign that said, “welcome class of 2011!” After I swallowed my tongue, I figured out that the Bee (who will, god willing, be a college freshman in 10 years) will be in the class of 2021. Yes, 2021. No really, 2021. And the Potato? Class of what, 2025? How old will that make me? Will I officially qualify for the geezer discount at the college ice cream shop after I drop them off?
  6. I was chatting with my step-mother-in-law (isn’t family complicated?) about my new book-trading addiction (and the financial reasons behind it), and she gave me about 40 new books. I sobbed with joy. I might be back to blog-reading before the end of the year.
  7. If you’re not sleeping in your own bed, there’s nothing like having your sopping wet son climb into bed with you at five-thirty in the morning to remind you of the pleasures of home.
  8. The Eric Carle Museum rocks. Looooovvve the art studio. Plus, a library of 3,000 picture books? Sign me up!
  9. Home? Is nice.

August 29, 2007. family life. 6 comments.

travel tip

When you’re borrowing a bike rack, you might want to try it out with your bikes before the day of the actual trip. Otherwise, you may find yourself on vacation with only the kids’ bikes, and not your own.

On the plus side–big round driveway + bored kids + bikes=Landismom is super genius.

August 27, 2007. family life. 1 comment.

road trip

I’m taking my kids on a solo road trip this weekend, to visit their grandfather and step-grandmother in Massachusetts. Landisdad didn’t have a ton of vacation this year given his job changing–our French vacation pretty much wiped it out. The Bee’s last day of camp was today, and rather than facing a week of going to the pool every day, I decided that I preferred the 3:2 adult-to-kid ratio.

Unfortunately, I drove about 800 miles for my job this week, so I’m not looking forward to the many hours I will spend in my car with the children tomorrow. It’s hard to feel bad about it, though, since their grandfather is so obviously thrilled that we’re coming up–he’s called every night this week to discuss sleeping arrangements, food preferences, and the like. He even asked me what DVDs he should get from Netflix.

So it’ll probably be some light blogging for the next week. There is teh internets there, but I don’t know if they are wireless, and I’m generally hesitant about blogging on other people’s computers. Especially people I might be blogging about.

Have a great week, everybody!

August 24, 2007. family life. 6 comments.


So, my first PTA meeting as president is over. Did you know that the PTA president has to host the first meeting at her house? Before school even starts? Huh. Good thing it rained all week, so landisdad and I had lots of time to clean.

I’ve made two major changes to the PTA agenda for this year.

1) Fundraising can only occupy half of every meeting, not 98% (100%, if you include the treasurer’s report).

2) New topic: outreach to other parents (as opposed to just sitting around and complaining about how no one else does anything except us).

I got the group to agree to each personally meet one new parent on the first day of school, and one new parent on back-to-school night. It wasn’t that hard–I was actually pretty amazed at how receptive people were to the idea.

Baby steps, people.

Next month–an email group!

August 23, 2007. the joys of PTA. 11 comments.

Yet another reason the Bush Administration needs to go. Now.

I don’t know about you, but I’m not sure I can wait another 18 months.

The Administration, in its infinite wisdom (yes, that’s sarcasm), has announced that states can no longer use their SCHIP money to pay for health care for the children of the working poor, or the lower middle class. Just brilliant. Because paying for health care for children amounts to socialism, donchaknow.

And in a stroke of real genius, they’ve made a requirement that states who still want to pay for healthcare for low-income workers who are at 250% of the federal poverty level (just under $43 grand for a family of three) have to establish that the children have been uninsured for a year.

That’s a year without well-baby checkups.

A year of worrying that your kid will break a leg, or develop leukemia, or need an operation to repair a cleft palate, or any of the myriad number of things that could go wrong in a child’s life.

A year without vaccinations.

I hate those bastards.

If you do too, go here, and sign this.

And if you’re from a country that isn’t this crazy? Wish us luck.

August 21, 2007. politically motivated. 9 comments.

spook country

I finished William Gibson’s new book today. It’s kind of a strange departure for the king of cyberpunk–to write a novel set in the present, with basically recognizable technology–but I thought he explained it pretty well in today’s NY Times Magazine.

I bought this book because I thought I was going to get to hear Gibson read when he was in town this week and I wanted to have read it first, but I ended up being too tired to go and stand in line. I saw (heard?) Gibson read probably ten years ago in Berkeley (around the time that Idoru was published), and I was really looking forward to seeing him again, but it just didn’t work out this go round.

I can’t say I thought this was Gibson’s best book, but I did think he had some interesting things to say. Like much of his work, there are multiple story tracks that all tie in together eventually, and one of my major problems in engaging with it was that I really wasn’t into one of the major characters (Milgrim, a junkie) in one of the three plots. I also found the writing somewhat disjointed–there were chapters that were only a page-and-a-half long, and when when you’re trying to track three plots, that’s not too helpful.

But I can’t think of anyone who has more insight into the ways we use–and are used by–our technology than Gibson. And his portrayal of the life of a minor celebrity is witty and revelatory.

I’ve been a fan of Gibson’s since I first read Neuromancer in the early ’90s. I read his blog, which is spare and elegant. And I’ll keep buying his books as long as he keeps writing them, or until they have some other method of publishing them. Not every one has to rocket out of the park. This one’s more along the lines of a grounder base hit.

August 19, 2007. books for grown-ups. 5 comments.


It’s quiet here tonight, as the Bee is at a sleepover. Our basic cable package cruelly denies our children access to the Disney channel, so the Peony took pity on the Bee, and invited her to watch the premiere of  High School Musical 2. For those of you not in the know, this is the biggest night in tween girl history. At least until they release High School Musical 2.5.

I miss the Bee when she’s away overnight, but it’s kind of nice to have the quiet time to spend with the Potato.

August 17, 2007. family life. 8 comments.

what’s older than my son?

If you answered “The Iraq War,” you’d be right.

I was inspired to write this post by Shark-Fu…go check out what she wrote (on the Potato’s birthday, so it was extra-resonant for me).

The day that the U.S. invaded Iraq, I was at a conference in Las Vegas. There were buses hired by the conference to take us down to the Strip where there was an anti-war demonstration going on, but some of my colleagues and I missed the bus, and jumped into a cab so we could try to find the protest march, in the kind of madcap adventure that would have been funny if it had been in a movie (“I see them!” “No, those are performers from Circus Circus!”). Okay, it was a little funny even without being in a movie.

I was four months pregnant with the Potato, and I was willing to go on a march, but I didn’t want to have to walk a marathon to get to the march, if you know what I mean.

It’s impossible for me to remember the start of the war without remembering that anecdote, and the fact that the pregnancy in question netted me a son is a topper. Because since I became the mother of a son, I’ve been wondering a) will this war end before he’s 18; and b) at what point will we move to Canada to avoid him being drafted?

Two years later, I was back in Vegas on the same weekend for a similar conference, and again, a bunch of my co-workers and I marched down the Strip to protest the war (this time I wasn’t pregnant, fortunately). Will I still have to do this when the Potato is six? eight? fourteen?

There are all kinds of sacrifices that I’m willing to make in the struggle for justice. I’ll march against the war every year of my kids’ childhood, if need be. But at a certain point, I have to wonder, what will make us finally give up on living here?

I’m going to spend a lot of time doing election work next year. I’d really like there to be a candidate to work for who wants to end this war before the Potato turns six.

August 13, 2007. politically motivated, thoughtful parenting. 6 comments.

Sweet Potato Boy

Dear Mr. Potato,

Well, it’s official. You’re four. Happy birthday, little man!

A few mornings ago, you told me that you wanted to have Mr. Bear live in my office, because “I’m a little too big for Mr. Bear. I’m almost four.”

That night, you came downstairs after you had been put to bed to rescue him from having to spend the night alone in the dining room/mommy’s office.

This story illustrates perfectly for me the stage you’re in right now, and what we’ll be going through for the next year or so. You’re so desperate to be a bigger kid, to do all the things your sister and her friends can do, and at the same time, you still want to be little, still want to climb in bed with me and cuddle every morning, baby-talking. You want the whole enchilada of independence and dependence mixed together, wrapped in a nice flour embrace, smothered with some gooey new abilities.

You’re interested in a bunch of typical boy things like dinosaurs and construction vehicles. You have a new-found love of knights in armor, after our French trip. But you’re a very nurturing kid, too. Your favorite thing to say about our kitten is, “she’s so cuuuuute!” When your best friend showed up for your birthday party today, you were so excited you didn’t know what to do–you hugged him, you ran around like a monkey, you put a turtle shell on your back, and a starfish on his head, and then the two of you sat under the cake table, giggling.

You are my favorite boy in the whole world.

Love, Mommy

August 11, 2007. growing up. 16 comments.

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