anatomy of a meltdown: the easter egg dyeing edition

This morning we dyed Easter eggs with natural food dyes, made from onion skins and turmeric. It was a lovely morning. Two Saturdays in a row now we’ve been doing crafty fun things as a family.

The best friend arrived after lunch for a playdate and sleepover.


So my child proceeds to do what he does in these situations. He gets loud, rambunctious, and super silly.

I do what I do, especially because he and his friend are sitting at the table, his friend eating a snack. I ask him to calm down. Please calm down. Calm your body. Stop grabbing this or that.


I leave the room. I return. Apple juice is all over the table.

I ask him to clean up the juice – he had knocked over his friend’s cup. He sort of does, in a silly way.

I react. Calm, but forceful. I take away the remaining juice (his) and give it to his friend. I clean up the rest of the mess.

My child starts to melt down and scream. Works himself up to hyperventilating. Because I took away his juice.

It probably wasn’t fair of me. But I was mad. Not listening, not helping. Juice gone. I’m pretty sure that since I didn’t set up the consequence before hand, I was just being spiteful.

But once he began threatening to never calm down until I caved, the line was drawn in the sand.

I held on. Like it was a hurricane. Held onto him. Stuck with my “no.” No juice until tomorrow. You weren’t listening, the juice spilled, this is the consequence. No. No, you don’t get to be mean until you get juice. That’s not how this works.

He’s shrieking, shaking, face red. I’m NEVER GOING TO BE HAPPY AGAIN! I will never be nice to ANYONE if you don’t give me JUICE!!!

The storm continued. The friend hung back on the sidelines, looked at some books on a bookshelf. At one point Scott took Jonah to the backyard, while the friend showed me the Lego figures he’d brought for them to play with.

I’m holding on even as I’m losing hope. This other kid was JUST dropped off. Am I really going to have to end the playdate and take him home? The friend and I try to entice Jonah back inside with the figures. Jonah won’t go because he knows his friend made the coolest figure for himself.

I am sitting on a bench in the backyard in the sun, holding my child, rocking him, and explaining that he is being a bully. It is not okay to stay mad until you force your parents to give you juice and it is not okay to force your friend to let you play with the coolest figure.

You can take turns.

No, he says, you can’t take turns because the voices will be different.

Logical. But still…

I persist, rocking, hugging, explaining, calm but forceful. This is bullying behavior and it is not okay. You don’t want to be a bully. Every kid always wants the best toy for themselves. You have your favorite toys that you don’t want to share. You all do this with each other.

New idea:

I ask him if he would like some iced fizzy water. That always makes me feel better when I’m upset, I say.

Do you want to make the fizzy? (We have a Sodastream.) He assents.

The boy, the iced fizzy, and I return to his bedroom, where his friend and my husband are making more lego action figures out of spare parts, repairing others.

Now I am in the other room, typing to the sounds of boys playing happily.

And here are the pictures of the natural-food-dye Easter eggs we made this morning:

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overcoming resistance: the spring camp adventure edition

Today’s story really starts yesterday.

Yesterday, I had to work, so husband took son for day out of a-wandering, a-kite-flying, etc. There was a trail hike, slug discoveries, and the occasional trip-and-tumble, including a sidewalk scrape at day’s end.

When I got home, son was gleefully hopping around the house on one foot, and husband was mouthing — it’s not that bad — over son’s head, per alleged knee injury.

At bedtime, the complaining started. Mother applies “boo balm” to the scrape and ice pack for the bruising. Son falls asleep.

This morning, Jonah says: “What happens to the part of the skin that gets scraped off? You never see that on the sidewalk.”


He’s complaining more about the knee. Says he can’t unbend it.

This week is spring break. We only have one scheduled day of childcare, which is today. A single day of a spring break camp, at a new place we’ve never tried. The goal is of course for him to have fun, but also for him/us to see if he likes the camp, since he’s signed up for a week of it in June, and also for us to be able to work.

I examine the knee. It looks *maybe* a little swollen in relation to other knee. More boo balm, more ice pack.

I announce that we are going to pack the lunch, get dressed, etc., and at least go check out the camp, meet the people, see what’s up. He doesn’t have to go. We’re just going to look.

He’s not a fan of this idea, continues to argue for no camp.

By breakfast, he’s using an old umbrella as a cane to hobble around the house.

I notice that he is able to walk down the stairs to the car, one foot at a time, rather than two steps for each stair.

In the car, Jonah says: I think school gives us nine days off so that we can spend more time with our parents.

Open heart, insert dagger.

Yeah, I say.

We get to the camp drop-off location halfway through the hour. It’s a “wilderness” camp, so a bus will take them to parkland at 8:30 a.m.

He’s shy when we get there, of course. We don’t know anyone. I talk to various staff about his knee, we meet the EMT who will be onsite with the kids all day. We are the first to arrive so we get some undivided attention time with his counselor, who watches him walk/limp, and agrees that he’ll be fine. We learn that at least half of the activities involve moving slow “stealth practice” and sitting down while making (they will turn fibres into rope).

Other kids start showing up. I immediately bond with another mom who is also lingering, also a mother of a first-and-only. Turns out her son Miles is also in Kindergarten, 6 years old, and loves weapons, ninjas, Star Wars. The boys are already sitting next to each other so we introduce them and facilitate a conversation about swords, ask them to be buddies and sit together on the bus. When they all stand and line up, it’s clear Jonah and Miles are the same size and stature.

They barely look back at us as they file onto the giant yellow school bus. Jonah glances in my direction and gives a tiny wave. A wavelet.

Miles’ mom and I (the ONLY adults still there) stand on the sidewalk and wave at the bus as it pulls away.

* * *

Did I make the right choice?

Looking forward to pick-up at 3:30, when I will find out the answer.

* * *

Update: He LOVED it. Returned in one piece, albeit with end-of-day splinter removal.

Signed up for two more days this week. Fishing day, and Fire and Knives. (Yes, I’m letting him go to a camp that teaches kids how to whittle. With a knife.)

No further evidence of limp.

Photo of child in front of base-building, showing off his newly acquired, personalized knife. Face adorned with charcoal from fire — one of the stealth activities.

Photo Apr 14, 3 48 03 PM

Hamsa traditionally used to ward off the Evil Eye. Narrowly avoided having to explain why that would be useful.

strange conversations

This morning, on the way to our “Jewish” class…

Not “Hebrew School” as we are not learning hebrew, but rather a class at our synagogue of choice (Renewal, feminist, politically and socially aware, multi-cultural, all kinds of families, etc.) for parents and kindergarteners; we learn about holidays and rituals, we sing songs, read books, do crafts, and make and eat a thematically-related snack.

Highlight the cook-and-eat-snack part.

Now, back to the story…

This morning, on our way to Jewish class, Jonah says:

I’m hungry!

Honey, you can’t be hungry. You already ate blueberry pancakes with bacon and sausage and potatoes and broccoli this morning. Every Sunday morning, when we drive to Jewish class, you tell me you’re hungry and I tell you that you will be fine. And as soon as we get there, you forget about being hungry and you’re fine until snack. You’re not hungry, you’re bored.

Yeah! I’m BORED.

Honey, it’s good for you to be bored. You know what happens when you are bored? That’s the time when your brain gets to rest. And then that’s when your brain can come up with new ideas for stuff. If your brain never got to rest, if everything was exciting all the time, that wouldn’t leave any space for you to get new ideas.

Jonah considers this, seems to be accepting of this concept. I continue:

It’s like the excitement is breathing in for your brain, and the boredom is breathing out. You need both. If you only breathed in all the time, you would explode, right?

He thinks about this. Responds with a question:

Mom, if you only breathed in, would you really explode?

Well honey, you can try, but actually your body won’t let you do that. You have these things called reflexes. Reflexes are things that happen in your body without your brain having to think about it. So your body will make sure you breathe out before you explode.

I make a note to myself that while reflexes and autonomic nervous system are not the same thing, this is far enough for today into this territory, really too far already. What am I telling this kid? Still, feeling pretty brilliant for latest reason to combat the “I’m BORED” complaint.

Hamsa traditionally used to ward off the Evil Eye. Narrowly avoided having to explain why that would be useful.
Hamsa, a Jewish symbol from Arabic culture traditionally used to ward off the Evil Eye. Batman illustration naturally included.


After Jewish class, while waiting for Jonah to collect his things, I check Facebook on my phone, because isn’t that what we all do in our interstitial moments? Just as Jonah reaches me, I am emoting with another mom, about posts about Phillip Seymour Hoffman’s death. You know, making faces and sounds of sadness.

Jonah asks what happened.

I say:

Somebody died. An actor.

Was he old? Like Nana and PopPop?

No, he was closer to my age.

And here’s where I start to worry — I don’t want my child to think that I might die at any moment for no reason. And thus, I find myself suddenly trying to explain drug overdose. TO MY SIX-YEAR-OLD. Parent-of-the-year award officially revoked…

He died because he… how am I going to explain this? Honey, you know how I’m always talking to you about not having too much sugar, because it’s not good for you?


So, sometimes grown-ups take too much medicine. They like it and they know it’s not good for them but they do it anyway.

He pauses and thinks for a while.

Like coffee?

Sort of like coffee, but it’s medicine. Coffee is not dangerous, but with medicine, you have to be careful.

And if they take it every single day, all the time, too much of it, they die?


(Oh my gawd, how did I end up trying to explain drug overdose to my kindergartener? Slaps self repeatedly. Fortunately the subject appears to be closed…)

Mom, can you hand me my Batman drawing and a pen?

You want to draw in the car?




Yesterday, Jonah attended a birthday party that featured a fairy princess in full costume who provided face painting and magic show and balloon animal (or sword as desired) services.

Jonah loved the face paint, of course, and the balloon sword, natch, but the Magic…

That fairy can do REAL MAGIC, he says.

She made the box fill up with the stuffed dog.

And the pot was empty and then it was full of butterflies.

And she caught a bubble in her fingers that turned into a marble!

Me: Have you ever seen real magic before?

NO! And she can make herself small if she wants, so she can ride her dragon. (She had a small stuffed dragon puppet that was part of the act.)

Note to self, need to take the kid to more magic shows, while he is still young enough to believe in them. He’s been to one before, but maybe it didn’t seem magical enough. The magic as performed by a fairy in full fairy-garb and adorably squeaky voice was just the most divinely awesome experience ever.





Jonah Ready for Action

Kauai with 5-year-old: Round 4, Days 1-8

In years past, I have more or less diligently blogged our biannual family tradition: Traveling to Kauai with our one child as he grows, plus grandparents and aunt.

This was our fourth trip, so I thought I’d do things a little differently. I left my computer at home. I left my big fancy camera at home. For the most part, I stayed off of social media, email, and phone.

I took a VACATION.

But, what that means for you, dear reader/stumbler upon of this page after googling “activities in Kauai with kids” or somesuch, is that I don’t have the tips-heavy multiple descriptive posts of years past.

However, the travel writer in me cannot resist making a list of my favorite discoveries from this family trip in August of 2013.

Where to eat the first day for lunch when your plane lands around noon and checkin isn’t until 3pm:

RUN, don’t walk, or rather drive, to The Feral Pig in Lihue. A mere 5 minutes or so from the airport and I swear I’d almost fly to Kauai just to eat there again.

It’s merely a formality at this point, or a joke they insist on continuing, that the signature Feral Pig burger is “not on the menu.” But if your waitperson doesn’t mention it, ask for it. A proprietary grind mixture of locally-sourced meats, smoked pork and grass-fed beef, topped with cheese, caramelized (reaallly caramelized) onions, and thin slices of divinely crisped pork belly on a taro bun.

Oh. Mah. Volcano-Gawds.

The fries, oh the fries, how The Feral Pig has ruined me for french fries anywhere else. I was going to be saintly and ask for the salad instead, and in fact, at first, all of us adults went that route, but the waitress stopped us. “Our fries, she says, take four days to make.”

Four. Days. People.

“They actually taste like potatoes.” And in fact, the half-week process of soaking and twice frying did indeed yield the most crisp, potato-y perfection I have ever tasted. Even though I’m prone to hyperbole. That good.

Where to have lunch in Kapaa after you visit the waterfall at Wailua or snorkel the protected, calm waters at Lydgate Beach:

Chicken in a Barrel — the name conjures KFC in my brain but this is SO NOT THAT AT ALL. This is BBQ chicken, and pork, beef, ribs, smoked in a barrel-shaped smoker which imparts the most delicate flavor, tenderness. Aaaaaaah. So good. Brown rice, corn bread, chili with actual chunks of meat. Mmmmm.

Other than the above, a shout out is due to Poipu Beach where we stay, with its fabulous snorkeling and gentle waves that feel like a big hug. And occasional visits from Monk Seals who beach themselves on the spit to take a nap.

Also to our favorite places to buy BBQ proteins: Sueoka’s and Koloa Fish Market, the latter also has a GIGANTIC box lunch combo, fish or pork, that will rock your flip flops off.

And my new favorite for spending way too much money on dinner. Merriman’s. The poke trio was ridiculously good. Amazingly, they serve “real” ginger beer, the kind I recently learned how to ferment in a class I took on such things. Actually, the cheaper downstairs Pizza and Burger Merriman’s is pretty great as well. Had my first taste of Hawaiian butterfish there (a.k.a. “Walo”) which is now my favorite fish of the islands.

As in trips past, Jonah’s favorite activities were bamboo-pole catch-and-release fishing, although he’d like to catch and cook something sometime in the future, as well as chasing and video-ing the chickens, feeding, drawing, and video-ing the Koi, and swimming swimming swimming swimming swimming.

I took a ukelele class and not only did I learn a few chords, I discovered that a GOOD uke makes one’s playing sound oh so much better. Sigh. (Must pick one up on our next visit.) And now I am prone to singing “Tiny Bubbles” and “Going to a Hukilau” at odd moments throughout the day.


For those who would like a look at past years’ reports, a few portals into the archives:

who made god?

Jonah asks me, over breakfast one morning: “Who made God?”

So I ask him, “Who do you think made God?”

He answers. And I start writing it down because, well, you’ll see…

The guy made of asteroids and stars. He made God b/c that was the last person he could make and he’s been making lots and lots of people just like him. And making hats and stores and houses and castles.

After he made God, everyone shook hands and then everyone exploded and fell apart and God made all the other planets and people.

And that’s it.

I mean, that’s not it.

And then, the planets formed in a line and then the asteroid belt formed. And it formed into a regular solar system.

He pauses.

I ask: So, where is God now?

He’s making more Solar Systems and figuring out how to make more people to go to them.

We start talking about solar systems being “infinite” — infinity is one of Jonah’s new favorite numbers…

If God was infinity feet tall, everything he makes would be even shorter than this dreidel (Jonah picks one up — they are still in a bowl in our Dining Room, from last Hannukah).

Can you believe everything he makes would  be smaller than this dreidel if he was infinity feet tall? I think that’s true!

What else do I want to say?

(He pauses, musing. Thoroughly delighted that I am taking notes.)

How did the person who made all of the stars and comets and asteroids make God with anything in the Solar System? I don’t know. How did the place where galaxies are born get made?

At this point, we are both stumped.

We move on to simpler topics, like clearing the table and heading off to preschool.

Dred Pirate Jonah

what jonah does at summer camp (chicka-boom)

You never know when Jonah might actually reveal something about what happens during the day at summer camp.

He certainly doesn’t reveal much when asked.

Sometimes I can trick him into giving me a detail. I’ve wormed out of him that he has a new friend, or at least knows the name of a kid, named Owen.

So, I said today, after camp, as we were sitting at a picnic table outside of the Merry Go-Round, and as he was eating his chocolate and vanilla ice cream…

(I should pause here to mention: His camp is in Tilden Park, which has many attractions in it amongst the campgrounds, including the 100-year-old Merry Go Round. Since he’s at camp this week without his best friend from school, he’s been a little complain-y. So I’ve been bribing him to go the distance via post-camp sweet treats and go-round rides.)

So, I said. Does Owen like sharks? Or dinosaurs?

Jonah considers this.

No, he answers.

(Yeah, I got nothing today.)

This evening, he volunteered that he’d played a game called Evolution. He told Scott about it first, and then amazingly was willing to explain it to me again.

It’s a kind of tag.

People are eggs and they run around like this (he demonstrates, hunched in a ball and scuttling). When two beings encounter each other (I’m pretty sure that’s the word he used), they RO SHAM BO. And the winner turns into a Dinosaur! (Demonstrates snapping jaws.) The other person has to become what the first person used to be. Then the next time, after ROSHAMBO, the winner turns into a Human Being. And then the next time they turn into a Supreme Being.

A Supreme Being?

Jonah says, Yes, and they go like this! (He jumps and does a pose that looks vaguely like a surfing superhero.)

So, the supreme being is a superhero?


They go like this! (He does a spin jump and ends up on the floor.)

I’m still not getting it. Scott seems concerned.

What are they teaching our kid at camp?

Jonah demonstrates again, jumping around, surfing position, waving hand gestures, and he starts singing:

STOP! In the wayyy of LOVE. Before You BRAAYAAKE aye Heart. Thinkut Ohoh ber.

Ah! SUPREME Being!

I love it.

+ + +

Shortly thereafter, he starts singing to himself, still during dinner. (Dinner with a four-year-old can be a long process, full of self-generated fascinating distractions.)


Wait! I know this one. So I sing it to him (and he corrects me in places):

I said A Boom Chicka Boom (x 2)

I said A Boom Chicka Rocka (Wocka? – my version) Chicka Rocka Chicka Boom

Uh huh

Oh yeah

One More Time

____ Style.

I suggest “cowboy” style. He humors me by trying it that way, with a western twang.

But then he lays the real knowledge down.

Monster Truck Style: I said a VROOM chicka VROOM

Now THAT’s what he’s talkin’ about.

Oh, and Shark Style: I said a Boom Chompa Rocka Chompa Rocka Chompa Boom.

I’m sure there was a Pirate style, because it is Pirate Week, after all, but he couldn’t remember that one.

However, he did sing semi made-up sea shanties in the bath tonight so that part of his education is clearly not being neglected.

Today’s costume for “Wacky Wednesday” (he’d worn the hammerhead shark pirate headpiece yesterday just for fun, and was quite the hit with it, but wanted to try the non-shark variation today, partly because the former is simply too heavy for running around under; note improvised hoop earring made of organic broccoli rubber band):

+ + +


This morning, I spoke with his counselor Laura (who was dressed as a merperson yesterday, see below).

I was telling her about our initial confusion regarding Supreme Beings and how funny it was when we got to the reveal.

As a college student majoring in Molecular Biology, she felt compelled to help fill in the blanks regarding the Evolutionary path, with apologies for the obvious scientific inaccuracies.

The order goes:





Human Being (but yesterday it was PIRATE, per the theme)

and THEN Supreme Being

… Yeah, it’s still awesome.


One more (final?) addendum:

It turns out I got the name wrong.

It’s Supreme BEAN! Jonah told me, quite emphatically, as we were re-discussing the game today in the car on the way home from camp.

No, Jonah. It’s Supreme BEING.

No, Mama. Supreme BEAN. Like Human BEAN.

Of course. I can’t argue with that.



and then a praying mantis adopted us

Two nights ago, after dinner, Jonah was playing with clay at his art table.

Suddenly, a frail, white, praying mantis climbed up from the underside and perched near the edge, it’s so-very-recently and much-smaller molted former-self dangling empty, just beneath.

A PRAYING MANTIS. Appeared. In our house.

So, of course we decided to adopt it. Or we decided that it had adopted us so we might as well make it a nice home.

We used the bug catching environment that I’d scored from Freecycle a few years ago. Basically a plastic terrarium with airholes, some faux landscaping to which we added real branches and flowers from the yard, and the best part: a special door and tunnel for slipping in more insects.

Because Praying Mantises are meat-eaters, so to speak.

The toyset included a special bug-catching vacuum, with a capsule that you take off, when full, attach to the special door, and release a trap-door within the capsule to escort your insect into its new home, or, rather, well…

We have been catching moths and flies thusly. And our mantis, (named “Mantis), has been thoroughly appreciative.

Nom nom nom nom.

How big will it get? How long will it live? How many flies exactly does it require? We don’t know yet. But so far, it’s a delightful companion. I’ve never seen a live praying mantis in my life. Do they normally hang out in Oakland? How long has it lived IN MY HOUSE? Some cultures believe a visitation by a mantis to be lucky.

We love how it tilts its little triangle head to watch us. As we watch it.

Male or female? We still haven’t counted the segments on its abdomen. Either way, Jonah proclaims, the name is Mantis. So we’re good.