Let There Be Lights (But Not Lead).

You've seen this photo before, but not with your eye on the lights. Behold!

You’ve seen this photo before, but not with your eye on the lights. Behold!

File under something else you didn’t want to worry about: lead in your Christmas tree lights. I learned about it from Dr. G. at A Green Slate, of course.

So this year, given that both children will likely do more handling of all things tree related, we replaced our old lights with LED lights from Ikea, which are lead-free to European safety standards (which are, no duh, safer than ours). The Ikea system is slightly more complex (you need a plug kit and then strands which can attach to each other), but at $8 a strand, and $13 for the adapter, we outfitted our tree with new lights for about $50 (not chump change to be sure, but at least I can calm that one nagging anxiety).

Lo, our funny little ornament is a Star of David! Huzzah for the interfaith tree!

Lo, our funny little ornament is a Star of David! Huzzah for the interfaith tree!

The LEDs are very bright and cute. And you can buy funny little ornaments to put over them.

Festive and safe! What a win!

Thanks again for another useful home safety tip, Dr. G!


Like a Prayer


Egg case.


We have not one. Not two. But THREE praying mantis egg cases on our Christmas tree. It was in fact one of the reasons we selected the tree (although we only saw one egg case on tree-tagging day). But I was afraid to mention it in case the farmer read this blog and thought we were stealing his mantises. Because I’m paranoid, apparently. And nuts. And I guess a little sneaky. This is especially wrong because I adore the farmer. (And here I like to think of myself as an ethical person…)



Anyway, the tree had egg cases and a ridiculous top which we decided we rather enjoyed. So Herr Husband chopped it down as the children and I hollered, “Timber!” And then Herr Husband hauled the tree up the big hill in the sled (I’m starting to see where my children’s warped sense of gender roles comes from; I just wish they knew it wasn’t a woman thing but a me-being-lazy thing. They’ll probably understand this distinction as time goes on.)

As we loaded the tree into the car, the farmer noticed the egg case.

“Hey!” he called out, “Do you know what you’ve got here?”

I tried not to look guilty. “What’s that?” For some reason I decided to play dumb rather than tell him about the Mantispocalyse last year, or about the fact that we knew full-well we were taking his mantises.

“It’s a praying mantis egg case. Take it home, cut the branch off, and put it somewhere in your yard where it won’t touch the ground. In the spring you’ll have a hundred praying mantises.” (As it turns out, we’ll have 300! Triplets!).

“That’s so cool! And they’re really great, right? For pest management and stuff?”

“Yes,” he told me, “They’ll eat a ton of mosquitos.”

“That’s so neat!”

Tying the egg cases into the tree. Like totally normal people do every Christmas, right? Let's hear it for family traditions!

Tying the egg cases into the tree. Like totally normal people do every Christmas, right? Let’s hear it for family traditions!

So yes, I elected not to tell the farmer we knew all about the mantises, and that all we really wanted was another chance with them after last year’s debacle, and that we had already planned on sawing off the branches with egg cases and tying them into trees in our yard. And that’s what we did.

So come springtime, you can expect praying mantis updates from me as I obsessively stalk the pods for hatchlings.

Note the lovely antenna. It was my idea to wind lights around the top. I'm embracing the tree's quirky look.

Note the lovely antenna. It was my idea to wind lights around the top. I’m embracing the tree’s quirky look.

Tree Time

Little Liebchen contemplates snow.

Little Liebchen contemplates snow.

I admit it, having kids makes me ready for Christmas the minute Thanksgiving is over. Our advent calendars are ready to go. I’ve started my shopping. And thanks to Google, I’ve also figured out the dates of Hanukkah (Dec 16-24, meaning the holidays will run seamlessly into each other), so that I can remember to light the candles, give my kids a present, read The Hanukkah Mice to them, and fry up some kick-ass latkes. Seriously, I may not be much of a Jew, but I am a hell of a latke chef.

Little Liebchen eats snow.

Little Liebchen eats snow.

Today was tree-tagging day for the Husband Hausfraus. Remember last year, when we cut down our own organic Christmas tree at Hopestill Farm in Sherborn? And then we had a grasshopper infestation, which was actually a praying mantis infestation? And we tried to save the insects but they died and we were sad?

Good times. Seriously, good times.


So today we went to tag our tree (which basically means we staked our claim so we can drive out to Sherborn again next weekend and acquire said tree). Clearly, people are catching on to the awesomeness that is Hopestill, because a lot of trees had already been claimed. Don’t worry, though. We found our tree.

Much like last year, I wasn’t inspired to select the  perfect tree. Last year’s tree did look amazing once we got it home and decorated. Can’t wait to see how this guy turns out.

Herr Husband tags the tree. Actually, this is a dramatic recreation as I was too slow with the camera.

And here the children and I pose in front of the tree we selected. Not sure if I watched Charlie Brown's Christmas Special too many times as a kid, but I'm drawn to melancholy, offbeat trees. Maybe I'm just a fucking hipster.

And here the children and I pose in front of the tree we selected. Not sure if I watched Charlie Brown’s Christmas Special too many times as a kid, but I’m drawn to melancholy, offbeat trees. Maybe I’m just a fucking hipster.


Here, the children frolic against a backdrop of more traditionally attractive trees.


Will we have praying mantises this year? Only time will tell…

Nothin’ but a Nudie Party

First of all, the title of this post is intended to recall this song:

For some reason, I think this 2Pac/Snoop hit occupies a much larger place in my mental musical canon than almost anyone else in America’s. I’m constantly referencing it at mildly inappropriate times. Like when Little Liebchen gets together with a crew of one year olds and I say to the other moms, “Ain’t nothin’ but a baby party…” And they respond by politely ignoring me. Or wondering if I’ve got some chronic I might be willing to share.

Anyway, it also applies to tonight’s topic: the nudie party, which is what Das Big Boy calls the sometimes brief, sometimes extended chunk of time after his bath during which he is allowed to frolic about in the altogether. Once, during a speech assessment (which he nailed, obvs. DBB may not like to talk to other children, but he is off the charts verbal when given the chance to show off for an adult), he was asked what you do after a bath. “Have a nudie party,” he answered. The speech pathologist looked to me for clarification, or maybe to gauge how she could get me out of her office to call social services. I offered up my best kids-will-be-kids smile and my weakest explanation, then asked DBB what he did before a nudie party. Thankfully, he answered correctly and didn’t talk about his penis.

Anyway, I should probably come clean about something. I am a naked person. I believe the world is divided up into two types of people: naked people and nonnaked people (or the clotheds.) There is a third category of naked when drunk people, but I think they’re mostly repressed nakeds or freespirited clotheds. Naked people are comfortable being naked. Clotheds people are not. There is nothing remotely sexual about being a naked person. In fact, once, back before we were married, Herr Husband suggested I might wear clothes to dinner more often. “What!?” I replied, “I’m sure lots of guys would find it sexy if their girlfriends ate dinner naked!”

“But you’re not trying to be sexy,” he replied. “You haven’t brushed your hair in three days and you’re all slouched over and you’re kind of sweaty ”

“It’s hot in this apartment,” I defended myself, “Hence, the nudity.”

My naked cooking (beware spattering oil–ouch!), naked laundry (yeah, right), and naked lounging earned similar levels of enthusiasm.

My college roommate and I were both naked people, although not, I recall, at the same time. When we lived in a first floor dorm room with a large bay window, this led to people occasionally knocking on our door and saying polite things like, “Um, I just wanted you to know your curtains are open and I can see you,” or “You should shave your legs.” I always thanked them as if I cared and did nothing further. I think nudity is like a booger: you tell a friend, but you don’t go out of your way to tell a stranger. And yes, I went to college in New Hampshire but they heated the holy hell out of those dorm rooms.

I also once attended a party which ended with a group of friends naked in a very small hot tub. We debated the finer points of politics and bickered about who would survive in a zombie apocalypse. It was one of the least sexual experiences of my life.

All of this is to say that I have a long history of nonsexual nudity as laziness and temperature control rather than as a way of showing off my body or some silly thing like that (I think clothes are much better for showing off one’s body, especially after one has breastfed a baby, never mind a baby with a strong right sided boob preference which has led to the sudden development of a mismatched pair, or eternal conflict, if you will. You are SO going to look for this development next time I see you, dear reader, I know you are.)

But this brings about a conversation I somewhat recently had with a group of my mom friends: at what age does it become inappropriate to bathe with one’s kid? In my case, boy kid. Herr Husband and I always had family bath with DBB until I became pregnant enough with LL that it was uncomfortable to fit us all in the tub. We treasured these family baths as a way to spend time together. And now I bathe with DBB and LL. When I shared this with my friends, a lot of them said they had never bathed with their kids. On the hippie mom spectrum, I think I’m one of the more out there ones among this particular crew. I’m pretty sure they thought my bathing with kids was as surprising as I found their never having done so. Of course, my parenting philosophy, if I were to have one, would be called Lazy Parenting (there will be a post on this). Do whatever is easiest for you (with lots of love, of course). It’s easier to bathe with a kid than to reach into the bathtub. So bathe with kids. Added bonus of contained, distraction-free time together.

CG Toga

Dinner at the Husband Hausfraus. Togas, diapers, Herr Husband in a white t-shirt. It’s like college all over again.

After tonight’s bath, DBB had his nudie party, and LL enjoyed a brief one as well (she’s too young to be a reliable non-peer). Meanwhile, I cooked dinner in the buff (I now know to stand back). But when it came time to sit at the table, I felt a bit funny doing so with no clothes on. So I donned a Curious George toga. The kids ate dinner in diapers and HH wore his undies and a T-shirt. (It should be noted that we keep the house at 73 degrees in order for the kids’ rooms to be warm enough. Our furnace is very efficient, I promise, lest I erode some hippie cred.)

So I guess my answer to my own question is I’ll know when it’s time to stop the group baths, just like I knew it was time to put that toga on. And like I know I shouldn’t go to a naked hot tub party again unless everyone else is really, really drunk and it’s so dark that you can’t see my boobs.

Feel free to share you pro/anti-nudie thoughts in the comments!

Suburban Hippie Mom Problems

It was a struggle to figure out what to get Lil Liebchen for her first birthday. I’m historically not-so-psyched about gendered toys (which has totally backfired. Thanks to Das Big Boy, I can name every construction vehicle ever invented, and even the most obscure trains from the Island of Sodor). Plus, gendered toys don’t usually emerge until around age two. We already have pretty much every developmental toy you would want for a one year old (when you have a preemie, you’ll buy anything you think will foster his development, and early intervention practitioners are constantly hinting about the benefits of all kinds of bouncers and balls and walkers and ride on toys). So I was at a loss for what our Lil Liebchen might need.

I thought about an organic bean bag chair, but those are expensive. It would make more sense buy her a sack of organic rice and hope it doesn’t eventually produce weevils or something. Then I asked around of parents of multiple kids. A doll, they suggested. Now of course I had a wee sexism freakout, but then I realized Das Big Boy has several dolls: Otto, Ernesto, and Samantha.


And finally, Samantha. Turns out I should have taken better care of her because according to the internet she is now worth lots of money.

Meet Otto, who at the time looked eerily like Das Big Boy.

Meet Ernesto. He never looked like Das Big Boy. Also, we had a hard time naming him because it seemed stereotypical to give him a traditionally black name, but like we were trying too hard not to be stereotypical by giving him a traditionally white name. So we made him Hispanic and (sort of?) avoided the whole issue. (Also, it should be noted that Das Big Boy’s real name is the same as a famous black TV character, so yes, there are obviously names without racial assumptions. But still. These are the conundra you face as a (white) suburban hippie mom trying to teach about racial justice. That was a long f-ing caption.

So I didn’t have to feel terrible about getting Little Liebchen a doll, because it’s not some act of female containment. I like dolls for Das Big Boy because I think they foster his sense of nurturing and encourage his pretend play; don’t I want the same for my daughter? (Let’s not go too far down this road. After all, I’d rather DBB become obsessed with Disney princesses than LL. Perhaps we can explore that later.) So I started researching dolls. Lots of folks love the Corolle dolls for their kids, but a quick search told me they’re made of vinyl! Vinyl!! We don’t even have a vinyl shower curtain (although we do have a giant vinyl bounce hut that both kids love, so we’re not batting 100% on this one. Sorry, Dr. G. I promise not to let your kids play in it). Now I know everyone’s kid has a doll made of vinyl, and people of my generation probably wore vinyl pajamas and underpants and headgear, and they turned out fine but once it was in my head, I at least wanted to look at the crunchy-mom doll options.

This is what I call falling down a Hippie Mom Google Hole. I looked for organic dolls, then rediscovered the notion of Waldorf dolls (natural materials, hand made, neutral facial expressions to encourage open-ended play) and quickly came across Bamboletta.

Sidebar: whenever I say Bamboletta, I sing it like this:

Bamboletta dolls are made in Canada of local wool and fancy imported Dutch doll cotton. They’re sewn by a collective of women, mostly moms. They are one-of-a-kind, handmade, and apparently very difficult to acquire. They have handmade clothes and specially styled hair and because they are stuffed with wool they’re naturally antibacterial and soak up the smell of home. Each Friday, the Bamboletta ladies upload the dolls they’ve made that week (somewhere between fifty and seventy), and people snap them up instantly. The day I sought out LL’s birthday gift, 4200 people attempted to buy fifty dolls.


Meet Petunia.

It was a case of first time being the charm. Actually, it was a case of their website having a problem and my somehow being lucky enough to work around the glitch and land Petunia. I admit, it was quite the rush. In fact, despite having spent what can only be considered an excessive amount on a doll for a one year old, I find myself returning on Fridays to see if I can at least “cart” (when you land the doll and have five minutes to pay for it) a boy doll for Das Big Boy (I guess I am gendered). So far, no luck. But it’s like gambling (which I don’t enjoy) for hippie parents.

Petunia arrived (after I aggressively stalked her shipping progress on the Canada Post website) looking lovely–the care that goes into the making of these dolls really is impressive–and smelling of a piece of delicious goat’s milk soap that Bamboletta had gifted me. But I decided she should smell like home, so I wore her in a big nursing bra I had from right after LL was born, and slept with the doll between my boobs. Herr Husband found this hilarious-slash-creepy. But then when I brought LL to bed with us to nurse her early in the morning, he had to cuddle Petunia to hide her from LL, so the doll picked up his scent as well. As a final touch, I wrapped Petunia with a dirty tank top that I’d been wearing for two days to ensure she’d really smell like home. (Sidebar, I have found that co-sleeping causes one side of one’s baby’s head to smell like one’s armpit. Discuss.) (Double sidebar: I do not believe my showering frequency has improved since the end of bedrest).


She seems pleased.

Here is Lil Liebchen’s reaction to Petunia. She definitely likes her, particularly her hair, because as I’ve noted previously, LL likes to eat fuzz.

I have grand visions that Petunia and Lil Liebchen will be BFFLs. For now, while happy to stroke Petunia’s locks, she still prefers her “beh-beh,” a Circo doll given to her by her cousins, who were obsessed with these dolls and own like 1000 of them, all named after Das Big Boy in various colors and modifications (one had yellow tattoos, I believe. He was Yellow Das Big Boy.)


The baldness may make them kindred spirits…



I’m strategically offering both dolls now, and allowing Petunia in the crib for maximum hair fondling and bonding. (That sounds awful. Sorry.) And I do believe that Petunia will be the pal I intend her to be. So the moral of this story is not  that you shouldn’t buy fancy hippie dolls for your one-year-old (although if she winds up smearing strawberries on Petunia and staining her, that may be my message). But I believe that your kid’s going to like what he or she is going to like. She’s going to be who she’s going to be. We have some influence, sure. But not as much as we’d like to think. So go forth, Lil Liebchen. Eat your baby’s head. Rub Petunia’s hair. As long as you’re happy, and reasonably safe, I’m happy too.

Grasshopper Update

If you haven’t read this post about our organic Christmas tree and resultant grasshopper infestation, you need to do so in order to fully appreciate these photos :

1-2 grasshoppers

La Gigi researched the grasshopper diet and learned that lettuce would suffice. So we captured them in a shoebox and gave them some Romaine (organic, of course).  We appear to have twelve, which is neither thousands nor eleven, as previously stated.

1-2 T grasshoppers

Das Big Boy is fascinated by his new pets. “I give them a kiss!” he announced. We convinced him that blowing them a kiss was good enough.