January 2010

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I finished my 2009 Accomplishments list before the end of January!  (I’ll have to add that to my 2010 Accomplishments list.)

What struck me about this list is how heavy the home improvement category is.  I mean, it really shouldn’t need its own category!  I spent a great deal of time on this house and it looks like it will continue for much of this year.  That’s ok with me.  I enjoy the process and it’s very important to me to live in a pleasant, orderly environment.  Still, I plan to work on shifting the balance at least a little bit in 2010.

Writing out the list was definitely a valuable exercise.  I already felt like 2009 was a good year for me, but I had no idea that I did all of this!  I am also in the process of writing out my future goals, and I used the Accomplishments list to remind me of things that I am already doing that I want to continue, or which fit into broader goals that I have.

I edited the list a bit for public consumption, and I’m sure it’s quite a bore to anyone but me, but just like the Three Good Things, planning to put it up here on the blog helped motivate me to both start and finish it.  I bolded a few of the most significant accomplishments, but really, 2009 was a year of many Little Things.  Here they are, loosely categorized but otherwise in no particular order:

Personal

  • I did the Three Good Things exercise for about 6 months out of the year
  • Made significant progress in my introspection work (details omitted)
  • Organized and decorated and shopped and cooked for a great Christmas at home
  • I took a fair amount of pictures and got some of them organized into photo albums
  • Did volunteer work for ARI
  • Got a fish
  • I walked the dog regularly when the weather allowed
  • I started getting monthly massages
  • I managed my pain through massage and stress reduction, so that I had almost no pain all year
  • I changed my diet and worked on new habits of shopping and cooking to suit it
  • I started listening to music again
  • I started listening to LP and DH podcasts
  • I lost 8 pounds (and gained them back)
  • I showered about 75% of the time
  • I found an inexpensive hairdresser
  • I joined a book club
  • I read a few books in the Great Books Series, Ten Years of Reading project.
  • I read many books
  • I went to the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum
  • I went to the Reston Zoo
  • I went to Mt. Vernon
  • I started practicing the piano again
  • Adam and I decided to have another baby
  • I got pregnant
  • I grieved a lost pregnancy
  • I hosted a party for the first time since 1999
  • I visited North Carolina
  • I visited Florida
  • I visited NYC
  • I took a lot of videos of Sam
  • I attended a talk by John Allison at The Ayn Rand Center
  • I found a dentist
  • I watched the entire Battlestar Galactica series
  • I kept in touch with my friends
  • Started using Skype with a few friends
  • I hosted at least 23 different guests at my house
  • I hosted a couple of playdates and took Sam out for a few.
  • I attended a Tea Party protest
  • Visited the Jefferson Memorial
  • Visited the Smithsonian
  • I found a dermatologist
  • I graded essays for ARI
  • I celebrated my 7th wedding anniversary

Blog

  • I maintained my blog regularly all year – 554 posts
  • I upgraded and added a few new features to the blog: subscribe to comments, search Objectivist parenting blogs, and Feedburner
  • I more than tripled my blog readership during the year
  • I added advertisements to my blog
  • I made my first money with ads on the blog
  • I hosted the Objectivist Round Up 4 times

Writing

  • I decided to try fiction writing
  • I started my first novel
  • I came up with a few other story ideas

Home Improvement

  • Found a good housecleaner
  • Installed a mirror in the bedroom
  • Created a prioritized list of home improvement projects
  • Got the toilets fixed and put on new toilet seats
  • Got the basement laundry sink fixed
  • Put up all of our art
  • I designed and Adam put together my new, personalized office space with a short desk.
  • Replaced the eat in kitchen light fixture
  • I did a lot of unpacking and throwing away old junk from the previous occupants of this house, and continued the cleaning process
  • Adam and I got rid of all of the cardboard boxes that we had been saving and hauling around for all of our moves.
  • I cleaned the grout in the kitchen (a 2 month project)
  • Had new windows installed
  • Moved playroom to kitchen and created dining room
  • New lighting in kitchen, dining room, basement, and foyer
  • Got the roof fixed
  • Started planning for painting the house

Financial

  • I created and stuck to a budget for 10 months of the year
  • I did the taxes
  • I moved Sam’s 529 to VA
  • I paid all the bills and did all the financial planning and reporting

Parenting

  • I was Sammy’s mommy for 365 days and nights and there is no way to list all of the accomplishments this involved
  • I explored Positive Discipline parenting techniques
  • Took Sammy to see “Go, Dog, Go,” the musical
  • Did an “observation” at MSO
  • Found a good and cheap babysitter
  • Took Sammy to the pumpkin patch
  • Planned and executed Halloween with Sammy, including lots of decorations
  • Re-read Faber and Mazlish
  • The daily schedule whiteboard
  • The cooperation chart/new task chart
  • I found Sam a new doctor
  • I made up many songs
  • I made 31 Valentines day cards with Sammy
  • I found a Montessori school after a long quest
  • I registered Sam for Montessori and helped her through the transition in starting school
  • I attended a 7 week Montessori for toddlers program with Sammy
  • I potty trained Sam
  • I took Sam sledding
  • I took Sam to the water park and helped her conquer her fear of the water slide
  • I started teaching Sam to read
  • I attended 2 homeschooling conferences and made significant progress on my homeschooling plans.
  • I taught Sam how to dress and undress herself, all except for shoes.
  • I continued to arrange the house in a way that allows Sam to be very independent, including many stools, the light switch extenders, her own broom, rake, and shovel, her low-slung closet, her low mirror in the dining room, and her low coat rack.
  • Moved Sammy from her crib to her toddler bed
  • I arranged for two occasions where Sammy spent a couple of nights away from mommy and daddy.
  • I made up dozens of stories
  • I taught Sam how to know it is morning using her teach me time clock.
  • I planned and executed Sammy’s 3rd birthday party

Rational Jenn hosts the Objectivist Round Up this week.  This edition includes quite a nice variety of subjects to choose from.  Check it out!

Burt Rutan

New Scientist magazine’s interview with Burt Rutan, one of the greatest men alive today, reads like Ayn Rand fiction.  Even the journalist’s skepticism and slightly derisive tone only serve to highlight Rutan’s excellent character.  For instance, the author calls Rutan a “maverick genius” and speaks of his “swimming against the tide.”  What he observes but cannot precisely identify is the virtue of independence.  For clarification, see, The Fountainhead.

The potty situation here at the Mossoff house is a bit more under control.  Now, Sammy has what I would call accidents, as opposed to simply refusing to use the potty.  She no longer poops in her pants several times a day, but only once every other day or so. 

Until now, though, she’d been holding out for the naptime diaper a lot of the time, so that even when she didn’t have an accident, she also didn’t use the potty.  Sometimes she could go through the whole day without even peeing in the potty at home (although I’m pretty sure she went at school).  That naptime diaper was a crutch.

However, over the weekend she achieved a milestone:  she took her nap without a diaper for the first time.  This is a thrilling development!   She’s been able to fall asleep in the car without accidents for a while, so I knew she could physically do it.  I was just waiting for a good opportunity.  We had a confluence of good circumstances on Sunday:  her big-girl mattress was being delivered that afternoon, and I had previously told her that as soon as it arrived, we’d try naps without diapers.  (We couldn’t coordinate moving her to her new room with the arrival of the new mattress, so she’s been in the new room on an air mattress for a week or so.)  Even though the new mattress hadn’t arrived yet, she pooped and peed on the potty right before nap and she was in a great mood and not being particularly anti-mommy, so I siezed the opportunity.  I didn’t make a big deal out of it, but told her that since she had used the potty, that she could wear underwear for her nap, and that if she needed to use the bathroom she was free to come out of her room and go anytime she needed to.

Directly after leaving her room, I heard her get up and use the potty and go right back in and go to sleep.  I’m quite certain that she loved this new privilege!  She was dry when she woke up, and very proud of it.

I know we’re in for a lot of dirty sheets, but from now on, there will be no more diapers at nap time in this house.  Yea!

I think I might have to let go of the major plot element I had planned to use in my book.  I did the research I mentioned in an earlier post, and learned some facts that would make it difficult to construct the plot I had intended.  I’ve been struggling to find a way around the problem, but I’m starting to stretch and stretch so much that I’m losing the theme and the feeling of coherence that the story had.

I think I’m going to need to let go of this idea.  I still have my characters and the basic situation, but the particular major conflict is going to need to change.  It’s so hard to let go!  I loved my idea.  But I guess this is all part of “the process.”  I recall Ayn Rand saying something about how a good writer needs to be a ruthless editor, and that she had cut passages from her novels that she thought were brilliant, but which were not necessary to the story.  I’ve gotten pretty good at this kind of editing on my blog (you have no idea how many brilliant nuggets you’ve missed!), but this kind of cutting is new and painful.

The good news is that I had a pretty good laundry list of ideas before I hit upon this one, so I’m going to revisit that, and I’m going to query my subconscious for even more ideas.  That part of the process was energizing and rewarding, so even though I’m taking a step back, I’m sure I’ll still enjoy the work.

Sammy’s favorite Christmas character seems to be Frosty the Snowman.  Ever since we watched the old animated movie just before the holidays, Sammy can’t stop talking about how Frosty melted and how Santa made the little girl feel better and the fact that frosty has a CORN COP BIPE and a BUTTON NOSE and TWO EYES MADE OUT OF COLE.  Yes, Cole, because she doesn’t understand that “coal” is something different that the boy who lives down the street.  (It must be so confusing to be 3.)

She’s also been drawing snowmen, asking me to make them out of Play-Doh, and begging me to sing the song.  Too bad for her, but I told her that I’m not singing any more Christmas songs until next year, because I want to save them for that special time.  She still asks me several times a day, though.

The other day, I wore these earrings for the first time in a while, and I’ll leave it to you to guess what she said:

MOMMY, LOOK AT TOBY.  HE LOOKS SO SAD.

Yeah, I wonder why he’s so sad today.

HE MISSES DADDY.

Another classic exchange:

MOMMY, WILL YOU DRAW A HOUSE?  MY HOUSE, MOMMY – DRAW MY HOUSE!

[As I'm drawing] “…and here is the chimney and here is the front door, and here are the stairs in front, and here is the grass…”

DON’T FORGET THE MUD, MOMMY!

I just read On Becoming Childwise: Parenting Your Child from 3-7 Years, by Gary Ezzo.  In keeping with my new commitment not to delve into parenting philosophy, I’ll refrain from a detailed review.  I’ll just say that I don’t agree with the principles in this book, but that there were some techniques in it that seem very helpful and that I will use.  Or, at least, I’ll try.

One idea was the author’s way of teaching a child to move more quickly using a game called Three Candy Speed.  Since Sammy is a big-time dawdler, I thought I’d try it.  You pick a time when things are not urgent or stressful to play the game.  You put out three small pieces of candy and tell the child that she can have them as soon as she accomplishes some simple task, like putting away her Legos or something.  As the child is working, and when she is finished, you tell her that this is called her “Three Candy Speed.”  Afterwards, as she is eating the candy, you explain that there will not be candy involved anymore, but that you just wanted her to feel what Three Candy Speed feels like, and to give it a name.  And you tell her that whenever you say, “use your Three Candy Speed” that she should move just like that.  I like this idea because it concretizes the idea of moving quickly for the child.  I decided to try it the other day while getting Sammy dressed for school. 

I broke a tiny square of chocolate into three pieces and set them on the ottoman and told her that she could eat them as soon as she got dressed, and that the faster she got dressed, the sooner she could have her chocolate.

She responded,

BUT I DON’T WANT TO GET DRESSED FAST.  I WANT TO GET DRESSED SLOOOOOOOOOOW.

She did get dressed much faster than usual, but that just means that she didn’t stop to pet the cat, smell her toes, read a book, pick up a fuzzball and throw it in the trash, tell me a story about the monster in her closet, point out the cool shadow on the wall, and just space out for a while.  She didn’t move quickly, but she focused on the task, and it was great.

But it was a one-time thing.  She definitely does not connect the words “Three Candy Speed” with moving quickly.  All she hears is, “candy.” 

Oh well, it sounded like a good idea.

Quotes

Sammy:  IF I WENT IN THE DINOSAUR’S MOUTH, IT WOULD SUCK ME UP.

Me:  And what noise would it make?

Sammy:  BURP.

There’s this really stupid advertisement on a kid’s tv channel where parents are bragging about how their kids know so much from watching tv.  Paraphrasing:

I couldn’t believe it when Lucy said “adios” to me when I dropped her off for school!

…and then he told me that the moon revolved around the earth!

At her last playdate, she told her friend that “sharing is caring.”

He pointed to the stop sign and said, “Look, it’s a hexagon!”

Well, I scoffed until Sammy drew a picture this afternoon and then showed me, saying, “Look, mommy, a rhombus!”  I had to restrain myself from dancing all over the room.

Of course, she didn’t just pick up some disconnected piece of trivia from tv, but learned this in Montessori, in the context of other shapes, but still, I have to take back at least a little bit of my smugness.  It’s just so exciting to see how much they can learn so quickly!

The posts have been rounded up, herded, collected, aggregated, compiled, assembled, and gathered.  And the Round Up can be found at Erosophia.

I’ve decided to eliminate something from my blog:  any posts on parenting philosophy or theory.

I do find it helpful to write out my thoughts on these issues, but I’ve also developed an unhealthy habit by using my blog for this purpose.  I’ve started thinking in a second-handed way about it.  Instead of thinking about the issue in relation to reality, I’m focused on 1) how to express my thoughts to others, and 2) how to make it interesting enough to be blog-worthy.

I’m not saying that I’ve become a complete second-hander – I’m just saying that I’ve made the classic mistake of trying to think by means of writing for others.  Thinking on paper is fine if you are writing for yourself, but you can’t write something for publication unless you’ve done the necessary thinking first, and separately. 

I’m still working out my own parenting philosophy.  I’m trying to be inductive about it (and overall I think I’m doing an excellent job at that), but the blog is pushing me to come to abstract conclusions before I’ve really done enough thinking.  Therefore, I’m going to stop writing posts about issues like discipline, screen-time, honesty with children, etc.  I might report on concrete things that I’m doing, like using a reward chart or letting Sammy watch different types of TV shows as she matures, and I might write about the results that I observe, but I won’t be writing about any abstract conclusions I might be coming to on those issues, as I’ve done in the past.  From now on, I’ll be writing about those kinds of thoughts in my own, personal journal.  In fact, I’ve already started doing so.

Don’t worry, I’m still highly opinionated on these matters!  What I mean is that I act decisively on my current thinking, even when I know that I can get more clear about it.  I have to act on something, and I know I have a great foundation of principles to draw from, so I’m confident that I’m doing a good job as a parent.  But I’ll be able to do an even better job if I stop the premature blogging.

The new dishwasher will be installed today, and a new water heater tomorrow.  (We can’t get the tankless kind in our townhouse, and I’m not so sure we would have wanted one anyway, after I learned more about it.)  I really kicked butt getting those things done.  The painting is going well, too.  We’re just having the main level of the house painted by a professional, plus the upstairs hallway.  We’ll do the rest ourselves.  As expensive and difficult as the painting is, it sure does have a huge impact on the feel of the whole house.  I think it’s going to be fantastic!  I’ll have pictures soon.

Sammy’s new room is painted and she is sleeping in it now, but on an air mattress.  We haven’t yet had time to get to a store to buy her full-sized mattress.  Really, I just can’t get to the store.  But I did figure out the closet situation and bought a kit.  Now we just need to install it and move all of her stuff from her old closet in.  Luckily, she loves her new room!  I just hope she doesn’t get upset when we replace the air mattress with her real bed.

It’s chaos here.  And if you’ve read my blog regularly, you know how I feel about chaos.  I’m certainly stressed and on-edge, but I’m handling it a lot better than I thought I would.  I hope I can keep it up for another week or so, until the worst is behind us.

We went to a birthday party the other day where the song, “Who Let the Dogs Out” was played as part of a puppet show.  The kids loved it.  Sammy and I were singing it together last night, having a great time.  Afterwards, in her bath, she took one of her foam letters, a “d,” and plunged it into a cup full of water.  Then she let it go so it popped up to the surface and she sang:

WHO LET THE “D” OUT, DU, DU, DU.  WHO LET THE “D” OUT, DU, DU DU.

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