Friday, December 11, 2009

No Retirement Home For Us

Sophie: Daddy's not very old.
Mommy: No, Daddy's not old.
Sophie: But someday he will be.
Mommy: Yes, he will.
Sophie: But we can still keep him.

It's been an incredible experience watching a three year-old try to get a handle around the concept of time, whether it's the fact that there are still two weeks until Christmas or that tonight is still today or that even though I'm old in comparison to Sophie, I'm not at all when compared with her Papa.

Conversations like this one tend to pop up out of the blue, so I can only figure that the wheels have been turning for some time before the conclusion that can finally be shared has been drawn.

I'm guessing this thought process came up as a result of culling Sophie's clothes one day. We made two piles; one of clothes that were too small but good enough to give away and one of clothes that were too small, but were so old and worn out that they needed to be thrown away. Sometimes there's a bit of separation anxiety when an especially loved item is about to make its exit. We're going through it right now with a pair of pajamas that Sophie adores even though we can see three inches of stomach peeking between the bottom of the shirt and top of the pants and the pants themselves meet all qualifications for being dubbed high waters. The knees are worn through and there are several holes along the seams that have been mended and re-mended to the point where there isn't enough material to grab and hold with the needle and thread. In spite of that, Sophie's adamant that the pajamas will not be thrown out but given to a two year-old friend because their tremendous comfort worth far outweighs their nasty appearance. Even though they're old, she wants them to be kept.

It's wonderful to know that Sophie sees her Daddy in this same light. I hope and pray that as we do get older and she follows her own path; begins a career and maybe her own family, she'll look at us with our worn knees, mended bodies and threadbare minds and insist that we're still worth holding close to her heart because she loves us so much.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Biding the Law

Sophie: Daddy, do you like my cute little boobies?
Daddy: Sophie, by law I am absolutely not allowed to answer that question.

Some time ago I read a news piece about a couple whose children were taken away from them for a short while by social services after an employee of large chain store developed family photos, including some shot in the bath because that employee deemed them to be sexually explicit. Not long before that, our pediatrician told our Sophie during her three-year check-up that no one except her mommy or the doctor should ever touch Sophie "down there." Understand, this includes her father.

At first it was very funny to me when I overheard this conversation between Sophie and her daddy. It was so innocent and wonderful. However, soon after that, the extent of what Doug was saying sunk in and I was saddened by what our society has turned us into.

The unfortunate thing is that while we read the very rare story about a parent accused of sexual impropriety where they were simply doing something innocent, more often then not we're broadsided on a regular basis by stories about young children being mistreated by a parent or some other trusted adult. So, while I hate that we've come to this, I appreciate and applaud both our pediatrician and my husband for erring on the side of caution and choosing to remain blameless, even from the standpoint of conjecture. I remember someone telling me once that Billy Graham would never be seen in a room with only another woman because he wanted to give no reason for anyone to start a rumor or story about him.

So, while our daughter goes through this phase where everything is about boobies or poop and until she learns completely how to wipe herself after using the potty and til that day when it's safe for her to bathe or shower alone, my husband will make himself scarce and I'll be the one handling the toilet paper and wash cloth.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Preschoolers Against Napping

I don't like naps. I don't know how to sleep.

There isn't anything a parent fights more in the growth of their child than the loss of the afternoon nap. The infamous "they" say that naps disappear between the 3rd and 4th year. I agree. Sophie's naps are starting to go away and she's going on 3 1/2.

However, naps are still very much needed.....sometimes. We're learning to discern when the young lady does and doesn't need to sleep. We're also trying to make sure that when we put Sophie to bed for a nap it's not because WE need her to take one, but because she's actually tired. Ok, we're not trying that hard on that one, but we we're working on it.

It's been interesting (and sometimes fun) to watch nap avoidance techniques evolve as Sophie gets older and wiser. What used to be just the cut and run, had become practice for a future in debate. Sometimes we get the cut and run while debating over her shoulder, but I think she's realized that she will never win the running game. Of course, there are other techniques being tried, including stalling and getting up after the door closes, but the debate technique is in full force as language skills increase.

This statement was the first time that Sophie's actually given the statement about not liking naps and then included the reason as back-up. I was impressed. I probably shouldn't have laughed, but she laughed with me and it ended up being a great hug moment for us. We've tried hard to explain a lot of the things that she and we have to do simply because she hasn't had enough life experience to know those things for herself yet. There are times when it's important that she obey then and there and she's learning that as well (especially when safety is concerned), however as we continue to treat her as a little person instead of following the antiquated adage of "children should be seen but not heard" she will learn more and faster.

Eventually Sophie will have a better reason than she doesn't know how to sleep for not wanting to nap, and as a result of that she will be able to stay up instead. That day's not here yet. After she said this wonderful statement, she went to bed and we didn't hear another peep for hours.

Friday, October 9, 2009

I Can't Have It All

Sophie: How much are you asking for Mommy?

Mommy: (singing Queen's song) I want it all.

Sophie: You can't have it all Mommy.

It's another phase we're going through in the house. The love of shopping at the grocery store. If we can't actually be in a REAL grocery store, Sophie will set one up in the family room and we are given opportunity after opportunity to buy things. In this instance, Sophie wanted to know how many eggs I was looking to purchase. When I told her that I wanted all of them, I was summarily told the truth we all learn at some point in life; I just can't have it all.

While I'm not sure when and where Sophie learned that I can't have it all, I'm positive that she has no clue that she can't have it all yet. Many times conversations with our little lady start with her saying, "I want...." Beyond the fact that we're working to change those two word to a better four-word version; "Can I please have...." we're also trying to teach Sophie that even if she asks nicely she just will not always be able to get what she wants.

One thing that we have learned throughout the work of changing the "I want it all" mindset is giving a full explanation as to why she (and we) can't have it all. Whether it's reminding her that she already has a half-dozen baby dolls and so no, she doesn't need the one she sees at the store or that dinner is in 30 minutes so no, she can't have a cookie right then, it's obvious that she appreciates it when we take the time to tell her why we've made the decision about what she can't and can have.

Sophie will continue with the "you can't have it all" learning process for quite a while, but somewhere along the line, probably in her 30's or so, the lesson might be forgotten. I know that because I've seen it lived out on the news and somewhat in my own life. Forgetting that we can't have it all means running up high credit card balances in the attempt to get it all even if we can't afford to. Forgetting means scamming millions out of your company and leaving your employees with nothing and then getting caught and losing it all anyhow.

Even this morning Sophie showed us another lesson that can be learned from not being able to have it all. When she told me that she wanted something and I had to tell her that she couldn't have it, her next question was, "Can I have it another day?" Delayed gratification. What a wonderful lesson.

Sophie, it's a different song, but the same principle; "You can't always get what you want, but if you try sometimes you just might find, you get what you need."

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Taking a Cooker Down a Notch

Daddy: Daddy's a good cooker.

Sophie: Yes, but did you remember that you spilled the flour?

If you read any of the earlier posts, you'll remember that Sophie often remarks that I'm a good cooker after a particular meal that she's enjoyed. On occasion, Doug will take over kitchen and prepare pancakes for us. I was at my desk working while Doug and Sophie were making pancakes one day and while I couldn't see them, I had no problem hearing what was going on. As per usual, when it comes to the both of them in the kitchen, it was a bit like listening to Abbott and Costello.

At one point, it was obvious that something had been spilled and an attempt was being made to clean up. Sophie, being three and having learned the all-important three-letter word, kept asking her Daddy why he had spilled and it was obvious that while he was trying his best to be gentle, the question was getting old. But he persevered and soon there were golden delicious pancakes on the table for us to have for dinner (if you've never had this breakfast treat for dinner, you've been missing out, trust me).

We all sat down to eat and were commenting on how good the pancakes tasted. Since Sophie wasn't coming out with her trademark compliment, teasingly Doug decided that he would initiate it himself and so proclaimed that, "Daddy is a good cooker." Without losing a beat Sophie took on the job of taking him down a notch and helped him realize that compliments work best when they come from someone else, not from the same person being complimented.

We're working hard to teach Sophie that it's generally not appropriate to take people down a notch, but what she said did hit home for me. Sometimes the mistakes we make on the way to the end of something we're doing stick in others' minds more than the accomplishment. It's human nature to look for the negative, and that's a bad thing. Sophie needs to learn that everyone spills flour, or sugar or baking powder, but what we concentrate on is if they were able to clean it up, recover and create something delicious and beautiful.

When it comes to pancakes, Daddy IS a good cooker!

Friday, October 2, 2009

Raising a Child to be Color Blind

"Mommy, Imani's kind of brown."

This comment about Sophie's best friend came totally out of the blue as Sophie and I were coloring together one morning. Imani's been a part of Sophie's life for almost two of her three years and this summer was the first time that the question of differences between the two of them came up. Imani is our next door neighbor and is seven years older than Sophie, but the two adore each other. Imani's the one who taught Sophie the importance of a sense of humor, especially in making others laugh.

I wonder how long Sophie had been thinking about the fact that Imani's more brown than she is. We're in an integrated neighborhood and some of our close friends are African American but it's not something we ever talk about because there's nothing really to talk about. It just is.

We want Sophie to grow up color blind because color is just another tag that gets put on people and the less tags she recognizes, the more unimportant she'll understand they are. We had a conversation about the different colors people are and decided that even though Imani's more brown than Sophie, she's not a whole lot more brown than my father, who spends a good amount of time in sunny places and enjoys soaking up the rays. Being of Mid Eastern descent, he has the olive skin that turns him a deep brown the minute he steps outside.

When we were in high school my parents took my older brother and me on a trip to Israel and sent my younger brother and sister to stay with my aunt in Michigan. When we returned all we heard about from my younger brother was a guy named Charlie that lived in the apartment complex. Charlie did this and Charlie said that. He seemed to be a wonderful guy and he treated my siblings as his own kids. It wasn't until months later that we were talking about it to my aunt and she mentioned something about Charlie being African American. It had been such a non-issue that it hadn't ever even crossed my brother's mind to mention that to us. It was great and it's what I want for Sophie.

Understanding what color is but being color blind will also serve Sophie well once she's old enough to understand that she carries a tag or two as well; being a female (especially once she hits the workforce) and being adopted.

Imani IS kind of brown, but she's all high spirited, funny, kind and a great friend for Sophie and those are the things that count.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Every Breath You Take

"I need to rest. I ran out of my breath."

The truth of the matter is that Mommy and Daddy run out of our breath way faster than Sophie. Ever since she stopped waddling around like a drunken sailor and learned how to walk and then to run, she hasn't stopped. The only time she ever slows down her stride is when it's time to go to bed. Then it can take 45 minutes to take the 20-foot walk down the hallway to her room.

a favorite activity is chase, whether it's just a romp around the house or running away from monsters (usually Mommy or Daddy Monster). We always need a rest before Sophie's ready to stop and have to beg her for a break. This time, however, Sophie decided to have a practice at it and it was a very dramatic presentation. She stopped, leaned against the wall, took a couple heaving, deep (and very fake) breaths and said, "I need to rest. I ran out of my breath."

Isn't this the way it is with everyone who tries hard to pretend to be someone or something they're not? They just get it a little off. Junior high and high school seem to be the time that young people are most tested in who they are and who they want to be. Unfortunately, when they try to be something they're not, the results rarely end up being a cute line that's quoted by proud parents. Instead, the young person is teased mercilessly, rejected and hurt.

While Sophie is stretching her boundaries and trying on adult sayings, she is still has a firm grip on who she is and marches to the beat of her own drummer. We're going to work hard to encourage her to do that all her life. I hope she is able to stay true to the independent spirit she has, that she keeps her own style instead of thinking that she has to change it in order to fit in, and that she never loses her sense of drama (it just provides too much comic relief).

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Do Tires Get Cold?

Driving home from somewhere, an SUV with the spare tire on the tailgate pulls in front of us and Sophie starts to giggle, then says,

"That tire must be cold. It has a coat on. That's goofy."

Sophie has long been fascinated with the fact that some vehicles have spare tires on the tailgate. We're constantly surprised at how observant she can be and it's caused us to be much more aware of what surrounds us when we drive because we never know when she is going to point something out and ask if we've seen it.

What I'm glad about is the fact that Sophie didn't ask WHY (the three year-old's favorite question) the tire had a coat on, but that she came up with the explanation herself. I'm glad because I have no idea what my response could have been that would have given such a needless accessory relevance. So far our little lady hasn't felt the need to accessorize her look other than the barrette that she's required to wear when she goes out in public or eats food (otherwise she tends towards a distinctive Cousin It look) and neither of us leans towards excess in the way of jewelry or other trinkets so I'm sure at some point the question of why will come up.

What I'm also glad about is the fact that Sophie decided that a tire with a coat on is goofy. Tire covers average around $50 for a new one. Even while a person is providing advertisement for whatever brand vehicle they are driving, they have to pay in order to do so. Amazing. Fifty dollars can do so much more than keep a tire warm. At orphanage in Uganda (, you can feed a child for almost two months with $50. You can buy a toilet for a Habitat for Humanity home with $50 (

When I was a little girl my family had the opportunity to spend a few years in Beirut Lebanon. During that time my parents were wise enough to show us snapshots of lives that were much different than ours. One of those snapshots was a trip to a Palestinian refugee camp. I had a red troll with me, my favorite one at the time and when we got out of the car I was carrying it. We were immediately surrounded by a crowd of dirty, smelly children in clothing that my parents wouldn't have even kept as rags. Somehow, in spite of the fear I had at being crowded so closely and having all these little hands reaching out and touching my hair and clothes, I locked eyes with another girl around the same age as me. Somehow we became friends in that instant. In a moment of un-childlike selflessness, I held out my red troll to her. She took it gingerly at first, then clutched it to her chest and ran off, I assume to the drainage pipe that she probably called home. Considering the fact that we watched children use orange rinds as boats in filthy ditch water, I'm pretty sure it was the only real toy she had.

I don't know that we'll have the opportunity to show Sophie those kinds of snapshots that she can hold on to when given the chance to spend money on helping others or keeping tires from getting cold, but I do hope that we're able to instill in her what's right and what's just downright goofy.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Emeril, Move Aside

Sophie: "Mommy, you're a good cooker!"

Once upon a time my mother tried to get me to stand by her side and watch her prepare the traditional, family Armenian recipes that she's so good at making. Since I was a high schooler and knew much more than she did, I refused. For many years it didn't matter that I knew how to boil water and push the buttons on the microwave, but then one day I discovered the absolute joy that is the art of cooking.

Now, if I could go back in time, not only would I stand with my mother, pen and pad in hand, but instead of wasting time in college on a subject that I didn't follow anyhow, I'd have gone to the Culinary School of the Arts and become a chef. I'm not talking about Paula Deen cooking here, though I do agree that everything tastes better with full fat milk, cream and butter. I know how to open a can and push microwave buttons already. I love the cooking that I see on Iron Chef America and watch the show simply to see the choreography that is professional cuisine.

Being in the kitchen is a catharsis for me. Pondering a new, difficult recipe, shopping for the ingredients, doing the prep work and then watching it all come together relaxes me and re-energizes me.

Unfortunately, I need to amend the first sentence in the paragraph above. Being in the kitchen USED to be a catharsis for me. That was the period of time we have labeled, "Before Sophie." Post Sophie cooking consists of a stool by my cooking area, the constant fear of tender young skin getting burned, and the stress of having to answer why I do every single thing I do and use every single ingredient I use, not to mention what everything is as well.

Even though these kitchen times aren't as relaxing as they used to be, they've become something else. Through the opportunity to share my love for cooking with Sophie, she's stayed open to trying new foods once she knows that she's helped cook them. My hope is that as the years pass she will absorb a love for the art of cooking and not see it as simply a tedium, or necessity. I hope that she will continue to stand by me, even after she doesn't need a stool and never adopts the high school attitude that I had and with which probably hurt my mother.

I still make the advanced dishes I made Before Sophie, but I have a new audience and there is nothing that will make all the preparation, heat and steam more worthwhile than sitting down at the table and hearing the words, "Mommy, you're a good cooker" come out of my little girl's mouth.

Emeril, you may have a show, but my Sophie thinks I'm a good cooker and that make me think I've come out ahead.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

On Being Dutch

PapPap: You're Dutch
No I'm not. I'm Sophie.

When Sophie was learning to talk, her grandparents had a really tough time understanding what she was saying. Well, we all had a really hard time, but since they didn't see her as often as we did and weren't around the jibberish-turning-into-words, it was even tougher for them.

My in-laws are from Pennsylvania and there's a saying that's come out of there; "You're Dutch."

I don't know where it comes from, but whenever Sophie would say something that obviously made sense to her, but didn't to her PapPap, he'd say she was Dutch. It took a long time, but the day came when Sophie said something silly and PapPap told her, "You're Dutch." Sophie immediately responded, "No I'm not. I'm Sophie."

The days of being Dutch are long gone because Sophie has made it clear that she is NOT Dutch. Another thing that's clear now is her speech so there's really no reason for that cute exchange between grandfather and grand daughter anymore.

It's a pretty young age for a person to have such a sense of self. I hope that she will always remember that she's Sophie and what a wonderful thing that is to be. I hope that when she's confronted with someone labeling her because of a specific trait or quality she's able to face them and strongly say, "No I'm not. I'm Sophie." We too often allow labels to attach themselves to us and end up losing sight of who we started out as and who we had dreams of being.

Sometimes when we're out somewhere I make the mistake many parents make when they try to get a youngster to talk to an adult when the young person doesn't want to. I say, "she's shy." I think I'm going to keep this Sophieism close to my heart so that before words like that can slip out I can see Sophie staring me down and saying, "No I'm not. I'm Sophie."

Thank goodness she is.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

The Babe with the Mouth

Sophie is our three-and-some year-old daughter. It's hard to believe that parents find the need for any other form of entertainment when a child is in the house and we've found that during the "Sophie awake" hours, if the television isn't on a show like Max & Ruby or Lazy Town, we're being constantly entertained by a constant flow of commentary.

When Sophie was 6 months old we brought her home from an orphanage in Yerevan, Armenia after spending a month in the country finalizing the paperwork. While she was still only at the babbling stage, she already had a curiosity and independence that didn't bode well for an easy life for us down the line. Staying true to form, one of the highlights of our little girl is that independent spirit, that desire to learn and the tenacity to keep trying until she gets it right. The downside is that Sophie contains the firey Armenian spirit that can result in an explosive temper and lack of patience.

Throughout the years we've listened to this little girl go from saying "la-nana-nana butter" for a banana with peanut butter to using the word ferocious in its proper context. Through the continuing transition Sophie has taught me much with her 3 year-old wisdom and I thought it important to write it down so I don't forget. Hopefully someone else can glean a little insight from her sometimes brutally honest words as well. As well as a little humor.