Category Archives: children

First day of school

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She never looked back. Not once. That’s my girl!

Dear Little Elephant,

This month, you are getting a second letter.  Why? Because you reached a really big first: First Day of Pre-School.  In fact, I was planning to hold of.  I love Liza and so do you.  She is a great nanny, teacher, companion, and friend.  But about 6 months ago, a school opened up near by and all your little friends started attending.  You spend more and more time alone and the truth is that you miss them.  I caved and off to school you are going.

Two weeks ago, I went to visit the school and meet the teacher.  I wanted to make sure it was a good learning opportunity, where you could explore and ask questions and create.  No reason in paying for child care twice if the second was only watch my kid.  Turns out, I liked the teacher.  The class is diverse with some kids further ahead and able to get you speaking.  Also, they are actually focusing on curriculum and instilling good lessons.

After meeting the teacher and deciding it was okay, I called you over.  Liza came too.  You loved it!  In fact, after trying out all the bikes and the slide and going inside, you were set to stay.  Testing you, Teacher asked if you knew what this was (holding out a plastic fried egg).  Energetically, you responded, “yes, an egg”.  Teacher praised you, impressed you knew the word.  Only, she had interrupted you.  “This is yolk. This is white. I like white actually.” you continue.

We were supposed to start last week, but there were delays.  You got a cold, we had a doctors appointment, Mommy was asked to be on TV.  Last week, you looked up at me and said, “Mommy, will I go to school?”  “Yes.” “Will S be there?” “Yes.” “Good, I will never be lonely again!”  Little Elephant, those words broke my heart and compelled me to make first day come sooner.

Today, you started.  Daddy wanted Liza to come with you.  We met her on the way there, but you summarily sent her off to make sure Harley (the dog) was not lonely.  As we started in, you got a little nervous, clutching to the door but still moving forward.  Then, as S, one of your best friends rounded the corner and cheered your name, you forgot all fear.  You never looked back as you moved in to the classroom.  You talked to kids you didn’t know and shared toys.  You sat down on the ladybug to play with the toy S discarded.  You didn’t look up.  You were in your element.  We are peas in a pod. I asked for a kiss and was granted one.  But then you were back.  New friends, new things to concur.

I picked you up after lunch.  You were still sitting and feeding yourself.  Today may also have been the first time in your life you have agreed to wear a bib.  But, I guess the other kids were doing it.  When I said I was there to bring you home, you protested. “No, I want to stay.”  30 minutes of negotiations later, nearly succumbing to sleep at the table, you agreed to come home for Mommy Milk as long as we got to return tomorrow.

You are truly my child.  A little mini-me.  Only so much more.  So amazing.  I love you so much!


Supporting the chainlink heart project


I started looking for hearts everywhere I went about 8 months ago.  It was then that I first saw a post on instagram posted by Emily making reference to the chainlink heart project.  Curious, I checked it out.  What I found both broke my heart and inspired me.  You can read Jennifer’s story here and why she needs to collect hearts to heal.  You can read about losing her own son due to a broken heart and the decision no parent should ever have to make.  Be careful.  Her words are well chosen and, at least for me, poignant and painful.

I wanted to be part of her solution, part of the chainlink heart project.  So, I started looking for hearts to help her map grow.  As of today, she has received hearts from 16% of the world.  I have submitted two from Albania so far.


Can you help Jennifer expand this map?

Bonus pictures from Rancagua, Chile:

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Scary how many pink hearts you find when you look down a toy aisle in Jumbo, Rancagua.

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Heart staring at me from the wall. Rancagua, Chile.

Bonus picture from Thailand:


Lotus leaf hearts in Bangkok, Thailand.



Her version of song lyrics

Photo: Kenny Louie

Photo: Kenny Louie

As we walked the dog tonight, Little Elephant sang:

“I wish you a little Christmas.
I wish you a little Christmas.
I wish you a little Christmas.
And and Happy New Years.”

Last month she was singing:

“Have a birthday to you.
Have a birthday to you.
Have a birthday dear you.
Have a birthday to you.”

With time, she will correct these tiny errors. For now, I think her version is best!

On negotiations and tears


In our household, you can find people on all sides of the cry-it-out vs. no tears debate.  And, by 29 months, we have tried it all.  The honest truth is that lack of consistency seems to be the biggest problem our two-year-old faces.  When asked to cry-it-out, she figures out how to self soothe and sleep by herself pretty quickly and painlessly.  When given the options to be cuddled and rocked to sleep, she will jump on that.  Vacillating back and forth, however, is hard.


Photo: Paul Goyette

Recently, however, we have a new phenomenon: negotiation.  Being excessively verbal, she is working to see what works in getting to stay up and what is ignored by the parents.  Recent post-bedtime requests have included:

  • Potty, please.
  • I want eat.
  • I want eat eggs.
  • I want eat yogurt.
  • I hungry, please.
  • Sleep in big bed.
  • Go get Harley.  I want my dog!
  • Want new pajamas.
  • Want Mama wear pajamas.
  • Want [name one of many toys]
  • Need binkin [binkin = pacifier; usually right after she has thrown it across the room]
  • Want go there.
  • Want go rocking chair.
  • Need more hugs.

Note: she is never actually hungry and often when we get to the potty, she does nothing.  She is looking for excuses to be up and moving, thus avoiding sleep.  She is learning what negotiating tactics work and what don’t.  The dog, however, is my favorite.  She believes her crying scares the dog, so when Harley comes in, the tears must stop.  Once tears and negotiating stop for any length of time, she is out.

Explaining loud sounds


DSC_0576Little Elephant has started to develop fear.  My fearless wonder in starting to worry about dangers in the world around her and be startled by things unexplained– particularly loud noises. Luckily, she does seem to be a child of reason (within limits of course).

The Tirana International School has a very unusual after-school activity: a donkey and a goat.  Literally.  Kids can sign up to care for the animals and they are considered the school’s pets.  Honestly, it is a ingenious idea.  Kids learn responsibility and about nature plus so much fun!  The donkey is Don-key Jote (get it???) and the goat is Vincent Van-Goat! Hardee har har!

We went to visit them for the first time a few months ago.  We brought carrots as we understand that was the treat of choice and we stood around waiting for our friends to show up.  Bad choice.  The Don-key Jote could smell the carrots.  He started baying at us very loudly.  Little Elephant was terrified.  There were tears and declarations of “it scary” and promises that she never wanted to go back.  Once her friends showed up, braveness returned– but she still wouldn’t let me put her down.  Despite really liking watching the feeding and seeing the animals, the memory of the sound was upsetting.

At some later point, it occurred to me to explain to her what they were saying.  She will now tell you not to be scared when the donkey is too loud, he is, in fact, just yelling “WANT CARROTS”.DSC_0575

Turns out, explaining sounds helps with lots of things.  We now know why dogs bark– and they are less scary.  We know why the cow moos — and it is less scary.  We even know why thunder makes those loud sounds– and it is less scary.  (In case you were wonder, thunder is the clouds apologizing to one another when they accidentally run into each other).

Little Elephant has even been sighted explaining to our dog why she shouldn’t be afraid of the vacuum cleaner!

Potty Trained


Note: if you don’t want to hear about potty training, don’t read this post!

Little Elephant had started potty training in the spring.  She would occasionally, when cajoled, use the potty.  She was getting excited about it.  But then, we went on vacation.  My folks got her a potty which she adamantly refused to use.   Two months later, she wanted nothing to do with potty training.  Ultimately, we gave up.

On October 9th, while getting dressed in the morning post bath, she announced: “no more diapers!”  She meant businesses and wriggled this way and that.  The only way to get a diaper on her would have been brute force.  She was told that as long as she used the potty, she could start using underwear.

Day 1 ended with a 50% success rate.  She was convinced that during nap and at night she must wear a diaper; otherwise, undies.

Day 2, the success rate rose to 80%.

Day 3, she decided she didn’t like pushing to go poo-poo and we spent way too much trying.

By day 4, she was at 100% in the potty or tiny accidents solely because we couldn’t run from the playground to the house fast enough.  So proud of my little girl for making a decision about her body and sticking to it.

One month on and she is still thrilled to be in undies.  Now if I can just get her to stop giving self-wedgies.

Imagination and fruit



This is probably my favorite activity that my Nanny instigated with my daughter. They collect fallen fruit and other pieces of nature from around the neighborhood. Then, they brainstorm animals and build them! How cool.

I love that my Lisa teaches my daughter to be creative, to use the world around her, and to see more in something than meets the eye. I love the absolute creativity that springs forth from these little adventures. Hello! They made a porcupine!  I also love how she learns about animals and nature.

Honestly, my biggest problem is that they are so cute that I cannot bring myself to throw them away.  So, there they are, rotting on the table, just inside the front door. 

Two Years! And so much joy!


​Dear Little Elephant,

Two years ago today, at three am, I awoke with my water breaking. I wasn’t sure it was real, that a few hours later I would be holding you in my arms to nurse. Now, two years later, you are an independent, smart, opinionated, stubborn little person– but I still love cuddling you up close, allowing you to nurse, and holding you in my arms. Your smell has changed. How you ask to be cuddled has changed ( now you do it with words, “Mommy! Cuddle!”). The shape of your face has changed. My love for you will never change.


June 2011,                                                 June 2012,                                                    April 2013.

You, my dear, are a social butterfly! You have no fear of strangers. You love being with friends. You thrive groups. For your birthday party, we invited five of your closest friends, all two and under, over to finger paint. You love to finger paint; but this time you played with your friends. You particularly like putting your hand print on their diaper or backside. What a mess! And yet,what a wonderful, wonderful way to celebrate two years.


A selection of the children’s art work from the party.

Lisa, our nanny, says that you are the newspaper of the neighborhood. Every day when I come home, we go upstairs for “Milk” and you tell me what everyone is up to. So-and-so poops. So-and-so upa table. Trucks. So-and-so pushed. Little elephant pool. Swim. Cheerios and strawberry. By the end of your discussion, I know all of the comings and goings of the day.

Two days before your birthday, while cuddling on the couch with books, in the wee hours of the morning while Daddy slept, you announced, “I love you”. My eyes filled with tears at these words coming from your mouth for the first time. It’s not like I don’t know it. You say it with your actions, running to me hen I come home from work, hugs and kisses not asked for, inventing boo-boos for me to kiss, the way you smile when you look up at me while nursing. I know it. But hearing the words… Sheer joy. And then you said it in Spanish too!

You are developing the concept of “mine”. Luckily, at he same time, you are practicing the concept of turns. At the park, you announce X turn now, Y turn now, to keep everyone in line. Sharing can be hard, but your are generally good. You do, however, have a sense of fairness. Th girls up the road who don’t hare well- you don’t like sharing with them. The twins you play with at the park every night- sometimes you don’t want to, but you do always share with them.

There are two boys in the neighborhood that you spend your days with. Twins, a girl and boy, you wait or everyday after dinner. When the twins are coming,you yell “A coming! O coming! Stroller! Yay!” You are liberal with your kisses and the most vocal of the group. Sometimes, with M, you run and and hand.

You are the only kid on the planet who likes time out. First of all, Olivia, the pig, has time out. Second, time out is a moment to cuddle with Mama, talk about your feelings, or have Mama explain he myriad reasons people get sad or angry. It is okay to get sad or angry, we just need to work on constructive ways to express these emotions. You like talking about feelings because you worry when other kids cry. You often ask or posit why so-and-so is crying. You like to give hugs and kisses to make their pain go away.

I suppose I should have expected it, but you have started to throw tantrums. We keep repeating that you need to use your words. I love the idea that’s won’t ave to guess at hat is ailing you. The other day, you wanted milk. I was carrying you up stairs to our glider, but not fast enough. You were wailing! Finally, t the ends of frustration, you used your words: “Mommy. Little elephant crying!”

Your vocabulary is growing I all three languages. In fact, because of you, I can say “bugger” in Albanian. A current fun sampling of your words/phrases includes:

  • fragrante
  • delicious
  • awesome
  • mommy no want that
  • mommy hold that Pooh.
  • tiger jump.
  • kiss boo boo
  • change ( meaning need new diaper)
  • share!
  • more milk!
  • flours! (when you want to get flour for pancakes)
  • Shoes off! Socks off! Shoes back on now!
  • Playground.
  • Yay stroller!

My dear little elephant.  You make every day fuller, every moment more joyful.  Like the line in one of your favorite books.  “You know, you wear me out, but I love you anyways”.  And I do.  Each and every moment. Forever and ever.


My daughter likes drag

Little Elephant watching video of Miss Martha Graham Cracker's jazz rendition of Green, Eggs, & Ham.

Little Elephant watching video of Miss Martha Graham Cracker’s jazz rendition of Green, Eggs, & Ham.

Sandra (from West Philly Mama) posted over on Lesbian Family about taking her young kids (8 months and 2.5 years) to a drag show.  Now, before you judge, this was no adult themed drag show.  This was a drag artist putting on a show kids and reading Dr. Seuss.  Miss Martha Graham Cracker, a beloved local drag performer has originally planned to read to kids for National Read Acorss America day.  How cool is that?  Except, bigotry reared its ugly head and she was uninvited.  In response, a local church hosted her and ended up being jam packed!

I was delighted not only by the fact that a church stepped forward and allowed her to perform despite homophobia, bigotry, and hatred, but also by the outpouring of support by the community.  I was thrilled that Sandra not only told us about her kids reaction but also video taped some of the show.  Obviously, I live in Albania and couldn’t just swing by, but I did share the video with Little Elephant.  She was riveted!  (I think your kid would be to– I hope you watch it with them).

For those who won’t click over to Sandra’s original post, here is the video: