Tuesday, May 3, 2011


Some of you may wonder why I seem to be so philosophical and emotional about the loss of a dog. After all, dogs are not people. They really can't love back the way people do. Their brains don't work that way, science tells us. They are all about the pack and they will forget the weak in a heartbeat in order to survive. So says Science. And then, there's Canucu.

Canucu was born into a pack on the beaches of Aruba. Sounds like an ideal life for a dog, but dogs are looked upon as a nuisance, at best, and as vermin in Aruba, where hotel workers are instructed to make sure the dogs do not bother the tourists and that they absolutely don't come around looking for food. This explains Nookie's lifelong fear of brooms, I guess.

He was discovered by a friend and co-worker of mine, Louise Lock, an attorney working for Peter Angelos's law firm in Baltimore in the 1990s. My grandmother had just passed away and I was living alone in an apartment near Towson. About six months earlier, Louse and her husband, John, had travelled to Aruba on vacation. That is when they met Nookie.

He was thin, weak, and sickly. He had no fur. No energy. And yet, the other dogs in the pack would bring Nookie food. That's right, they brought the sick dog food. And Nookie's disposition was so gentle and sweet, that Louise and John fell in love with him.

After unsuccessfully attempting to get a taxi driver to take them to a veterinary hospital with Nookie in the car, they found out from a hotel worker that there was a young, renegade vet who would come out to the beach to see Nookie. That vet came out, took him back to the hospital and nursed him back to health. Six months later, Nookie had fur and a clean bill of health and was ready to fly to the U.S. where Louise would meet him. She began circulating pictures of Nookie to anyone who might want to adopt him. I tried to get my mom to take him, but she said no way. She already had a dog and the cats Id brought into her home without permission.

Weeks went by and Nookie lived at the vet, happy just to be alive, but needing a home. I agreed to "visit" him and then to "take him home for a two week trial". The vet estimated him to be four years of age. I dont know how anyone would have been able to resist this dog. His eyes showed his soul was not new. He had a warmth and peacefulness about him that was unmistakable. And everywhere we went together, which was everywhere, people fell in love with him and his gorgeous, shiny coat.

Nookie knew I was pregnant with Ian before I did. He was stuck at my side for ten weeks before I found out I was carrying a new life. I wondered if he was sick. He probably wondered why I was surprised he was being so protective of me. Nookie followed me to Pittsburgh, then New York, then "retired" to my parents' home when his age started showing. He lived to be nineteen years old. Yes, nineteen.

Nookie had some really bad dental problems as a result of his early years of malnutrition and disease. He was the only dog the tech at his vet knew who didnt require anesthesia for intensive and sometimes painful teeth cleaning. He was just that gentle and calm. I could go on and on about Nookie's gentle spirit, but it would not come close to doing him justice.

So, at nineteen, unable to see, with two back legs that no longer worked and arthritis pain, Nookie left us on Monday, May 1st. We gathered around him and petted and loved him the way we did all his life, and I made sure that the last thing he heard on this plane was "You're a good, good boy, Nookie. I love you."

He was a good, good boy. The best boy, in my opinion. And I will always love him.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Hey, you. You're a good mother.

A handful of years ago, when I was still pregnant with MaryElise, we took Ian to visit my Aunt --who is a nun -- in the Bronx. I was still homeschooling him at the time, and we were learning about Chinese New Year, so a trip to Chinatown was among the weekend's events. It became apparent to me during this trip that my Aunt had been referring to me as "The Perfect Mother". Upon meeting at least two of her fellow sisters, I was met with a broad smile and a handshake, followed by a sideways glance at my Aunt as they said "Oh, yes... the perfect mother.

Had I just been called out by a nun?

Oh, snap.

My immediate reaction was to be horribly embarassed infused with an air of how-the-hell-am-I-supposed-to-take-that and sprinkled with Oh-no-she-didn't. (And in fairness, my Aunt is a nun, not a Saint, and coming from my Dad's family, there's most likely an extra sarcasm gene in there somewhere.)

Then I got really, really self-conscious.

I don't know about you, but chances are I'm not the only one who has that ridiculously critical inner critic who sometimes for moments and sometimes for months, decides to hang out just beside your left ear and whisper all sorts of things that you would never even think about saying to a friend. So, you kind of already know to some extent what that conversation between me and the Inner Critic sounded like.

Something like "Oh my God, is that what I do?"

"Yes, Heather. She's totally onto you."

The potential answers to "how the hell am I supposed to take that" immediately became the following list:

1. You are supposed to take that in the worst possible way.

Old habits, hard they die.

I began considering all the parenting choices I had made with Ian. Breastfeeding, babywearing, strictly limited television, vegetarian diet, Waldorf Education then homeschooling.
"Am I doing all this because I think it makes me look perfect? Do I think I'm perfect?"

Thanks in no small part to the miracle of anti-depressants, I did not spend a long time entertaining the voice of criticism and self-doubt. I decided that I would consciously examine this hypothesis ("Heather mothers the way she does because she wants people to think she is perfect.")and objectively consider that this may or may not be true.

Ultimately, I concluded that I parented the way I did because it was the only set of choices I could make based on the vast amount of things I had learned about child development and parenting since seeing two red lines on a pregnancy test all those years ago. And I learned all those things because I wanted to be a good mom. Certainly not a perfect mom. The bar was actually set at "I just want to be able to not eff this thing up."
So I started reading and googling and talking and listening. And I did that because already from that moment when I looked down and saw two pink lines, I loved my kid more than anything in the world.

And based on what I learned and continued to learn, what makes a person a good parent is that they understand that parenting is an active process. Children don't raise themselves to be kind, compassionate, thoughtful, self-aware human beings. In fact, if they have to raise themselves, you can be almost totally assured they will not end up all or any of those things. So whatever a person's values, whatever they hold to be the goals for their children's upbringing, the fact that they have goals and parent toward them makes them a good parent.

The choices I have made as a parent are so not about what I want people to perceive me to be. Who parents that way? Im guessing not even the woman out there who has made every single exact opposite choice from me in parenting her son.
No, we make the choices we make because we love our kids and are doing whatever it is we have to do to not eff this thing up or to parent as consciously as possible, or to raise self-reliant children, or whatever it is that we value for our kids. That's what it means to be a good mom.

I am going on night number two of no sleep with MaryElise. Oh, she sleeps. She does nothing but sleep. I just don't. She has been sick with a fever for a couple of days and is just not her normal Mary self. I have been holding her, at her request, for almost two days. As I was rocking her in my arms earlier tonight, I thought about how her father had thanked me for caring for her the way I do. It seemed such an odd thing. Thank you? I have no choice, I think. It would be impossible for me to not care for Mary the way I do. Im her mother. And for the all the ways I fail to deserve the title "Perfect Mother", I love her more than a person could possibly love anyone else. And I mother her accordingly.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Well, I've got ONE night of the year covered...

My daughter and I co-sleep. I did not set out to intentionally be a co-sleeping parent when my son was born. It just so happened that from the first night he spent at home, the ONLY place he would settle down to sleep was lying on my chest. So, I propped my pillows and let him sleep where he wanted to, a little bit sad for my unrealized fantasy of ever sleeping on my stomach again.

I caught on pretty quickly that sleeping with him in the same bed was actually a really convenient way to nurse at night. I could literally feed him in my sleep. Let me go on record here as admitting that I am a huge fan of sleep. You know that great tidbit of wisdom everyone shares with you when you are pregnant: Sleep when the baby sleeps?

Yeah, I took that advice to heart. For about three years after each child was born.
So, Ian slept exclusively with me for about seven months. That's when I started back to school full-time to pursue my nursing diploma. And, as luck would have it, also when Ian turned into a full-on Ninja baby during every one of his non-waking hours. So, Ian went into the crib with a lot of tears and a lot of standing outside the door, hoping he would stop crying after I go in for this one last time to soothe him.

Although I would not say I followed the "Cry it out" philosophy to the core. We rocked and read and sang, usually for an hour or so, before bedtime and Ian always fell asleep in my arms. It was after I laid him down in his crib that the crying started. And of course, it broke my heart and I hated every second of it. Eventually, we ended up co-sleeping three or four nights a week until Ian was in second grade.

This time around, I'm having the same sort of sleep-disturbance issues with MaryElise in my bed. She's one of those kids that figures out a way to become perpendicular to your own body within a few minutes of your falling asleep. And she wants to nurse. Constantly. Which hurts.

So, about nine months ago, I set about preparing for Operation Big Girl Bed. I received a lovely toddler bed from a friend (who had inhereted it from another friend) and affixed MaryElise's pristine, mint-condition, never-slept-on-once crib mattress to the frame. I figured out a good place to set it up in my room, close to my bed but not so close as to tempt a little one to climb up and sleep with Mama. A few pink sheets and a bedskirt later, and I introduced MaryElise to the idea of her very own bed. Which she thought was a fantastic idea. For jumping, reading, lounging and pretending to sleep. But, sadly, not for sleep.

Fast forward to this winter. I decided to entice MaryElise with Dora the Explorer sheets from Santa Claus if she would try sleeping in her own bed. She slept in it one night, earned the right to claim the sheets on Christmas morning and never slept in it again. Months later, I decided to create an entire Big Girl Room for MaryElise to call her own. You know, a place to keep her twirling dresses, to have dance parties, and hopefully, well, you know...

Night number one started off too well. I should have known where it was going to end up. We did the entire bedtime routine: pajamas, teeth, books, stories, numnums, snuggles -- soup to nuts -- with MaryElise enthusiastic about every step.
Until it was time to go to sleep. Then, well, back to Mama's bed we went.

Today we were playing in her new room when MaryElise decided she was the Mama and I was the Girl and we were going to go night-nights. She kissed me, spoke to me lovingly and sang to me. She told me to look out the window. See, it's night time. It's dark outside. Little girls go to bed now. She then tucked me in and explained to me that she was not going to be going to sleep with me. She was going downstairs. Being the brilliant mother that I am, I thought I'd use this opportunity to get some ideas from her about what might just work to get her to sleep on her own. I was actually pretty damn proud of myself. Way to think on your feet, Heather. You rock at this.

"But I don't want to sleep by myself. I want to sleep with you." I said.

She called me darling and gently explained that I had to sleep in my bed alone.

"But why?" I asked. "Why can't I sleep with you?"

She looked at me for an extended moment and I was practially leaning forward and holding my breath in anticipation of what her reason would be. This was it. I could use whatever she said to me later when it was my turn to try to get her to sleep alone.

"Because." she said in her mother/teacher/grown-up voice. "Santa's coming."

So. Ive got that. I can use that one night this coming year. Maybe tomorrow she will give me something I can use on Labor Day.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

My Daughter's Namesake. Mary

Ive been working, in my head, for the past two years on a piece, or a talk, or a book (LOL) about Mary as an archetype for women. This morning, as I contemplated the beginning of Lent, I really wanted to hear this song by Kathy Griffin, but I could not find the CD. I went to YouTube and I found this beautiful compilation from someone else who found the song inspiring.
For me, it is about the Universal Mother. About loss. About love. About Grace. About saying "Yes" when life is hard, or the path is not clear. I hope you will find this as beautiful and touching as I do.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

The Spiritual Worth of Giving Up

There is a peculiarity among many who were raised in the Catholic faith. That is that they profess to believe that a person is "born Catholic". In other words, if your parents were Catholic and you were baptised and raised Catholic (whatever that meant in your family), you are ALWAYS a Catholic. You CAN'T be anything else. It is not possible. So, while you may walk the middle path with the Buddha or dance for Jesus with the Pentecostals, you are still, in the eyes of the Catholic Church, a Catholic. Just not a very "good" one.
I speak of this because my own spiritual path began (in this body, anyway) with me being held over a pool of Holy Water, swathed in incense and oil, my name being officially spoken before God and his faithful. Since then, it has led me through an Assembly of God, the Buddhist teachings and everything in between. And yet, as I grow older, and perhaps wiser, at certain times of the year I can not help but feel, well... Catholic.
Spring is one of those times. The time of Easter. The time of Renewal. And the Giving Up.

It is not a coincidence that Easter occurs in the Spring. Even pre-Christian Easter myths speak of death and new life. Of growth and renewal. We clean our houses. (Some of us clean our digestive tracts!) Everything is given a chance to become new. And that is what Spring and Easter really are all about. This idea is integral to understanding the real value of "giving up".

For those of you who may not be familiar with Catholic teaching, it is customary at the beginning of Lent (the forty day period leading up to Easter Sunday) to "give something up". A vice. A pleasure. A source of comfort. When I was a child, the rationale for this was explained, simply: Jesus suffered on the cross, so we should feel some suffering too.

This explanation, while simple to understand, fails on a few levels.
All one has to do is look around and see that there is suffering everywhere. Just like Siddhartha, I have glimpsed out at the vast suffering in life and wondered at times if that was not really all there was. So, to say that for a certain forty days of the year, we should induce suffering in some small, most likely non-life-changing way, seems rather ridiculous and a bit grandiose. Really? You're giving up Chocolate? Wow. Im sure all the starving children of the world will be right there with you as you post your woah-is-me Facebook status updates for the next thirty nine days.

More importantly, the explanation really fails to invite us to explore the immense potential spiritual benefit to "giving up".

Regardless of your spirituality, the idea of giving up, surrender, letting go has most likely made its way into your personal lexicon. In recent years, popular spirituality and psychology has melded the Eastern ideas of Zen Buddhism and other schools of thought into quaint little snippets, sorts of "spiritual petit-fours", to quote Lily Tomlin in "I Heart Huckabees", for us to carry around in our pockets for times when we need to "remember to breathe". You know. "Serenity now!" and all that.

I would like to think that in today's Religious Ed classes, the children and young adults are given a much more enticing and provocative rationale for "giving something up" for Lent. I would hope that it would go something like this:

Giving up can be a profound Spiritual exercise. Even the idea, in today's materialistic, instant-gratification culture, seems foreign. "Why would Jesus care whether or not I drink a cup of coffee every morning for forty days?" Well, forgive me, Mother Genevieve Regina and all the devout Christians in my life, but I for one do not believe that Jesus gives a rat's ass whether or not you drink coffee in the morning. And even if he did, that would be far from the point.

The point, in this wayward Catholic's mind at least, is the experience. It's not the thing. It's not the absence of the thing. It's you being present in the absence of the thing. And, ultimately, what fills the space that the thing left behind.

It is so very easy in our culture to find ourselves burdened by the massive amount of things that we have learned to cling to for security. The idea of discomfort is foreign and scary. Going without has become a non-option. And of course we have all seen where that has gotten us, even on a national level. How many of us might find that having one thing less might just give us the levity to explore something deeper and more meaningful?

How often during the year do we pause and really check in with what it feels like to be uncomfortable. The mere avoidance of discomfort is the ultimate goal of some peoples' lives. Maybe even people you know. Maybe even you. Imagine that there might be something waiting beyond the discomfort. Something worth the discomfort. But you have to go through that place to find out.

When I think about "giving up for Lent" in this framework, I think to myself "Man, thos Catholic Patriarchs were effing amazing!" A gift in the form of a mandate. But none the less, if accepted, a real gift. Sure, some guy in a funny hat is telling you what to do. But, like our own parents who are "meanies" for our own good, the guy in the hat wanted you to have something better.

What a brave and valuable exercise it could be, for a finite number of days in this time of newness, to just see what things might unfold in the space where the thing you think you can't do without once was.

Even if your personal spiritual belief is more along the lines of "Im going to grab all the gusto I can get in this lifetime because you only live once.", consider how much easier it would be to grab ahold of (or graciously accept) the Next Amazing Thing that the Universe has in store for you if you didn't have so much in your hands already.

Emptiness is a transitional state. The question is, transition to what? The answer can not be known until you create the empty space. However uncomfortable the creation of that space may be, like a tidal pool, it WILL fill up again. Maybe with something really beautiful, valuable and elusive.

So this year, once again, for forty days, I'm a Catholic. I'm going to engage in the spiritual practice of giving up. Surrendering. Letting go. And I am certain that when I come out on the other side of Lent, I will be anything but empty.

Monday, March 7, 2011

MaryElise's Birth Story - Born at home 7-22-2008

MaryElise Kathleen Noonan Born 7-22-08 into the arms of her Dada in her very own living room, under the watchful, peaceful presence of our midwife.

I had been in contact with Jen a few times in the weeks leading up to
MaryElise's birth because I was having contractions and thought they might be heading
somewhere...but they never did. I was a little bit nervous because my water had leaked with my first child and I walked around for a few days before I went to the hospital and found out that all that liquid was, in fact, amniotic fluid. I had kept looking for the mucous plug, which never materialized at Ian's birth.

So, on a Friday afternoon, almost two weeks after my "due date", Jen visited the
house and rubbed some Evening Primrose Oil on my cervix. I think she said I was a couple of centimeters at that time, but I knew from my first pregnancy that one can walk around for a LONG TIME at two centimeters! The next day, I lost my mucous plug. And the next. And the next. And the next. I had no idea what it would look like, so I thought well, maybe I missed it. This time, the Universe made sure I did not miss the mucous plug, as it made its way out over three days. (Who knew it was so big????) I tried very hard to not take this as anything of great importance, but I did see is as a positive reminder that things were eventually going to start happening.

On Monday afternoon, my copy of "The Wise Woman's Herbal for the Childbearing Year"
arrived in the mail. I had ordered it the week before because I am interested in
going to midwifery school and I had read all the books I had already from cover to cover.
I opened it to the pages that address inducing labor and decided to give one of the
remedies a try. After talking it over with my husband and agreeing that it was not going to do any harm to try the remedy, I drove to the store and purchased the following:

Orange Juice
Castor Oil

I remember walking out of the liquor store, first of all embarrassed for being
SO pregnant and buying a bottle of Absolut, and thinking "Okay, this is it. If you drink this, you are not going to be pregnant anymore." and taking just a minute to make sure I was ok with that. When I got home, I followed the instructions in the book and drank one glass of the concoction and took a hot shower. An hour later, I drank another and decided that I would not repeat the dose again after an hour because I was already feeling a little bit tipsy and I did not want to get full-out drunk while I was still pregnant.

Then we went to a neighbor's house and played a board game until about eleven.
When we got home, the castor oil took effect. My husband then did some nipple stimulation as we sat on the futon I had set up in the living room for the birth. I went to get up to take another shower and GUSH my water broke. I was so happy! My husband and I high fived one another and I called Jen. She said just call her back when things get going. We both thought it was a good idea for my husband to get some rest, but there was no way I was going to be able to sleep. I called my Mom at around midnight and then took a shower. Then, I ate some Ramen noodles. I was not hungry at all, but after having had my son in a hospital
where I wasn't allowed to eat, I was bound and determined to eat during this labor!

Then, I settled in on the birthing ball and starting timing my contractions.
Time started doing really weird stuff, like speeding up during the contractions. They were timing at a minute or so long each, but I was feeling like they were much much shorter. Things started to get so intense that I couldn’t move or talk through my contractions at around two a.m., so I called Jen and she said she was on her way.

I woke up my husband, who set about filling up the birthing pool, which was out on our deck. The night was unseasonably cool, though, so we didn’t end up using it much.
I guess we used it for about an hour, but like I said time was doing all sorts of funky things. The whole night seems like it went by in an hour as I remember it now and I felt that way, then, too.

Jen arrived at three o'clock and I was ready to go use the tub. We spent some time out there under a big big moon, but it was chilly outside and my contractions were coming on super super strong. I said to Jen "I guess I should tell you what I did." She just looked at me. I told her what I had drunk the night before. She said something about castor oil births sometimes being like Pitocin births (hard andfast) which this labor totally seemed to be...and when I complained she said "You didn't call me!" I guess she was right, but the “damage” was done now. I was on this ride for better or worse.

We moved inside because it was no longer comfortable for me to be out in the pool. I wasfrightened by how hard the contractions were coming. When I had my son, I was
in active labor with Pitocin for almost an entire day. I could not imagine being in labor this hard for that long again. I asked Jen to check me. She said she could tell
by the way I was looking and acting that I was around seven centimeters. I went to thebathroom and it took my forever to get back into the living room because the contractions were coming so so fast. By the time I got back in the room and on the ball for a fewminutes, I felt like I couldn’t take it any longer. I got on the futon and just rocked back and forth and chanted "Hail Mary, full of grace" between contractions. My Aunt had given me a statue of Our Lady of Fatima and it was situated next to the birthing bed. I put it there because we were to call our daughter Mary and it seemed fitting that Mary, who knew the pain of labor, would be present to witness my labor. I am not a practicing catholic, but I was ready to pray to anyone who would listen at that point. I literally screamed with every contraction because moaning was just not cutting it any more. Soon, Jen checked me and found that I was fully dilated. I was astounded. I thought I was going to labor like this for hours and hours. I couldnt believe it was time to push.

Now what?????
With my son, I had an epidural after over twelve hours on Rambo Pitocin so I had no idea what was going on "down there" when it was "time to push". The nurses and my doula all shouted at me when it was time to push and I could not feel anything at all. I had no idea if I was doing it right except for what I could tell from their feedback, and I couldn’t feel the difference between a good push and an ineffective one. So, this time I was freaking out a little bit inside about not knowing what to do and Jen and my husband just stayed calm and quiet. I was thinking "Why is nobody telling me what to do??????"

All of a sudden, I knew exactly when and how to push. A contraction would come, and at its peak I would jump on top of it like I was surfing on a wave. If I tried to push any time before the "right" time, I could tell it was not effective and a waste of my energy. I felt like I was working so hard but I knew I had to work even harder. When I hit the bottom with each contraction, I had to dig even deeper. It was the hardest thing I had ever done and I began to doubt that I could actually do it. All this hard work and still so much to do…yet, I thought to myself “I have no other option but to do it." There is no choice.

In that moment I realized that nobody was going to get this baby out for me, nobody was even able to help me get the baby out. I was either going to stay pregnant forever (which seemed like an actual possibility in the heat of the moment) or do the work, myself. I decided to get that baby born.

Jen suggested I move from all fours to squatting, and that helped the baby to
move down even further. At this point, Jen called out to my husband. I was facing away from her and I wondered, "Oh no, what could be so wrong that Jen needs to ask my husband foradvice?"
"Is something wrong????" I turned around to see my husband chasing a bat around
the room with a broom. "Everything's fine..." he said in his best
pretending-everything-is-totally-casual voice.
When I finally pushed MaryElise out, I just remember saying "It can't be real!
It can't be real!" It was just so amazing. I was squatting, my husband was behind me with the baby in his hands. He handed her to me from behind and I just could not believe I had just given birth to this baby. My husband said that when just her head was out, she was just hanging there looking serene like a little Buddhist monk. The sun was just rising and we heard the first birdsong of the day just before she came out. She was born at 5:45 am. She was calm and beautiful. I immediately felt so empowered and disbelieving at the same time. Did I just do that?

Nobody else told me the way. Nobody yelled "push push push!". My body knew
exactly how to give birth to MaryElise and I rose to the challenge. I have never been
more proud of anything in my life.

I thought I knew the limits of my strength and my power...and then I gave birth to my daughter. And I felt as high as a kite. "It's our baby!" After the birthing of the placenta, my husband went and got champagne and the birthday cake I had baked for MaryElise the day before I went into labor. We all had cake and champagne and I just rested while MaryElise nursed and slept and we just were so happy in that calm moment together. Everything felt really perfect, calm and natural. Im so so grateful we had her at home, that I found Jen and that my husband not only honored my wish to have our baby on my terms in our home, but embraced the experience with me.


The Next Big Thing

This morning, I revisited the idea of postponing the next-big-thing with Mary. I say re-visiting because it was a lesson I already learned once, years ago, when my first child was Mary's age. But, here I am again, learning the same old things as if they were brand new ideas. Ah, parenting. Ever refining, instantly humbling parenting.

This time, things played out pretty much as I imagine they did when Ian was younger. I don't remember the exact moment it happened, but because my mother played (and still does) an integral role in the raising of my son, Im sure she was involved in the conversation.

Mary has decided that my old portable DVD player, the one that is missing a power cord and weighs like forty pounds, is her "video game". She sits down with it, opens it up and laughs hysterically at the "games" she plays on it. Her absolute favorite is the one where "the girl jumps on the man's head!" "Isn't that funny, Mama?! That's so funny!" This morning, she decided to show her Nana her wonderful video game.

"Oh," my mom says, "At what age can she start using Ian's old Leapster?!" Trying not to sound preachy, I gently replied that as long as she is happy with this "video game" I was not going to introduce the one that makes things happen for her.

Now, I totally got where my mom was coming from. I thought the same thing when Mary first started playing with her "computer game". "Hey, Ian has that old Leapster, I bet she would get a kick out of having her own REAL video game." I want her to have fun, to feel like a "big girl" and that old thing is just laying around collecting dust, anyway, right? When I take a step back and really examine my motivation, though, I think it comes from something deeper. I think it has more to do with me than with Mary. After all, she is pretty darn happy with the old broken DVD player.

This seems to be another one of those Universal experiences in parenting. We watch our children playing, say, with a wooden spoon and a plastic container and we think "Oh wow, she really loves playing "drums". I remember when I used to pretend to have drums. I would imagine the pots and pans were a big drumset. Those were such fun times. I should buy her a big, amazing drumset like the one I imagined when I was a kid!"

So, the next thing you know, you're online at some specialty toy store looking at really expensive or really poorly-made (or both) drum sets for two year-olds.
The same thing plays out in other situations. The kids are having SUCH a good time pretending that the television box is a car. We should buy them one of those battery-propelled cars! They could drive it in the driveway!

Remembering the types of things we envisioned in our childhood and realizing that they are actually available for kids today, it's pretty hard to put on the brakes and stop providing the next-big-thing for our kids. But when I stop and really think about it, the next-big-thing really isn't what my kid needs. Or maybe even wants.

That "vintage" DVD player plays ANY game Mary wants it to. All she has to do is think it up, and there it is, making her laugh and squeal and fill with pride that she is playing her "big girl game". And those battery-powered cars, well, honestly have you ever seen a kid enjoy driving one of those for more than like five minutes? There is no way they can do all the things that cardboard box car can do. No contest.

There will inevitably come a day when pretend video games, cardboard cars and bedsheet castles just won't cut it any more with Mary. (Im imagining the look on Ian's face if I had offered him a "pretend" Nook Color for his eleventh birthday.)
For now, Im practicing being as content with the little pleasures as Mary is, and doing my best to hold off on imposing my ideas of what's fun on her amazing little almost-three-year-old imagination. Cause that's what being almost three is all about. The next-big-thing can wait. And so can I.