Ready for Summer!

May 27, 2011

Susan May 2008, post-surgeryHere at the WhyMommy house, we are totes ready for summer!  We have our flip flops, our summer t’s, and our rashguards all out and ready for action — and this weekend we get our first taste of the lazy hazy days of summer.

What’s a rashguard?  I was asked that twice this week, so I want to show you.  You can see the general look in the picture at the left, one of a very few that we took after my double mastectomy, when I was nervous about going to the beach with the beautiful people.  I had lumps and bumps everywhere after surgery — except in the places you’d expect.  But I wasn’t ready to give up on the beach or the pool forever.  In fact, we were headed to the beach to relax and recuperate!  After some conversation on twitter and the blogs, we came up with this solution — and now, I’d recommend it for anyone who’s tired of feeling overexposed at the pool.

A rashguard is like a t-shirt made of swimsuit material.  You can get them fitted to your body for serious swimming or looser (unisex style) for additional coverage of post-baby tummy or post-mastectomy scars.  I *adore* the rashguard look and the ease of which the kids and I can get ready for the pool – there’s no struggles with vast quantities of sunblock on their pale tummies and backs anymore, or worries about missing a spot, because except for their limbs, neck, and face, they’re covered!  We can be ready in a flash — everybody throws on board shorts (the boys) or bikini bottom (ok, that’s me) and their rashguard t, and we’re off to the pool!

Ah, summer.

This post inspired by Curvy Girl Guide’s Project Real – National Swimsuit Confidence Week!  Real women all over the internet are donning swimsuits and showing the world that it’s ok not to be perfect or to look just like the models in the catalogs.  The project is popping up on blogs all over and has even been covered by Marie Claire!  I’m not part of the campaign — I’m just a fan!  Let’s get back in the pool! 


Space Station Challenge: Grades 5-8

November 23, 2010

I’m still recovering from a nasty virus.  Day 7 of fever and such – not something you want to hear about, trust me!  Instead, feast your eyes on this – and please pass it along to your school or homeschool group for kids in 5-8 grades!


HOUSTON — NASA’s “Kids in Micro-g” challenge is accepting proposals from students in fifth through eighth grades to design a classroom experiment that also can be performed by astronauts aboard the International Space Station (ISS). Proposals are due by Dec. 8.

The experiments should examine the effect of weightlessness on various subjects: liquids, solids, the law of physics and humans. The experiments are expected to have observably different results in microgravity than in the classroom. The apparatus for the experiments must be constructed using materials from a special tool kit aboard the station. The kit contains items commonly found in classrooms for  science experiments. The experiments must take 30 minutes or less to set up, run and take down.

“This is a wonderful program that gives students the opportunity to have their experiments carried out in space by astronauts,” said Mark Severance, ISS national laboratory education projects manager at NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston. “The students will compare the results of experiments conducted in the classroom with those conducted in the microgravity environment of the International Space Station.”

A panel of microgravity scientists, classroom teachers, NASA education and station operations personnel will select the winner and five runners-up. Their experiments will be performed on the orbiting laboratory next spring. During this past summer, astronauts performed nine student experiments aboard the space station. NASA selected those experiments from 132 submissions.

To learn more about how to submit proposals for the 2011 challenge, contact the ISS Payloads Office at or call 281-244-6187.  More information about the challenge and other NASA education programs also is available at: For more information about the space station, visit:

Sounds like fun!

Beagles, beagles, beagles!

May 4, 2009

One of the happiest times in my life was a few years ago, when WonderDaddy and I became foster parents. No, we didn’t take in teenagers, or cuddle new babies as we rocked them to sleep, although that would have been wonderful in its own way. No, we were a foster family for very little ones who were acting out, who had been abandoned, who would take out their anxieties by … barking.

We were a foster family for BREW beagle rescue. Each month, we’d meet the other volunteers at a local PetSmart and pick up a new beagle. We’d take him or her home, housetrain him, feed him good, healthy food, help him exercise out in the yard, hang out with him, and generally cuddle him until he felt better. At the end of the month, we’d go back to PetSmart for Adoption Day, hang out with a couple dozen other volunteers with their rescue beagles, and hopefully make a match with a lucky adopter. We’d say goodbye, get a little teary-eyed … and then pick out a new one to take home and love on for the month.

We did this for years. It became part of our routine, interrupted only when a potential adopter fell in love with our beagle’s picture on the website and wanted to come meet him. Then we’d open our home, clear our schedule, and invite them over to meet each other and see if they clicked. Since these people had already passed several levels of review, and we didn’t have kids, it was a fun thing to do, and we loved to see beagles go home.

Once a year, we’d all pack in the car, drive an hour to a local kennel with a big fenced yard, and let all the rescued and adopted beagles run around together while we talked, played games, ate yummy food, shopped, and, you guessed it, petted the beagles like crazy. It was amazing to see 200+ beagles run around together, tounges hanging out of their mouths, tails wagging, acting like the pack animals of their heritage.

It was also amazing to meet so many kind, good-hearted people who had taken in beagles of no known heritage: abandoned hunting dogs, mouthy puppies, enthusiastic two-year-olds, hungry dogs, all of them, and our favorite, the cuddly, sleepy seniors who just wanted a comfy couch and a sunny patch of the yard to lie in. Everyone greeted each other like old friends … and some of them were, as the bond between foster beagle and foster family lingers on, much longer than the time spent with each dog, teaching them how to behave in a family, and treating them with kindness and love, so that they would remember what it felt like to have someone love them.

It’s been nearly three years since we fostered, between the babies coming and my illness, and I don’t think we’re quite ready to foster again for a little while, but we went to Beaglefest last week, and it was just like old times.

We hugged the volunteers, watched the beagles run, played games, ate yummy food, shopped, and, yeah, helped the children safely pet the beagles like crazy with us. Little Bear had the time of his life with all the little dogs (ours is now on the high side of 50 pounds, 10 years old, and a bit … um … cranky). Widget got down on the grass and crawled around with the young ones, and they ate it up. We all had a purely delicious time, and it got me thinking.

I loved that time in my life, and I look forward to us all being healthy and settled enough again to help. To take a dog into our home, love him, train him, and give him up to a family who will love him forever.

We called it “Beagle of the Month Club,” since our goal was to get our beagle adopted each month. We never knew that the memories — and the warm feelings of love and satisfaction at a job well done — would stay with us for years.

Little Boy Heaven

April 24, 2009

If the Council of Four Year Olds decided at its annual meeting (what? they talk! how else do you think they would all spontaneously arrive at the concepts for war games and rescuing bugs at the exact same age, <i>despite</i> being assiduously overprotected and/or warned since birth?) to define a universal definition of Little Boy Heaven, it might look something like this:

6:30 a.m. Wake up and jump on Mom’s head.

7:00 a.m. Eat waffles, with fresh blueberries and syrup to dip in, as a special treat

8:00 a.m. Take a ride in the car, past not one but TWO construction sites, and slow down to identify each and every truck, by name AND function.

8:20 a.m. Wave at the horses.

9:30 a.m. Take a break, and run around on the playground with Mom.  Bonus points if the toddler brothers go down the slide all by themselves, squealing with delight.

9:50 a.m. Races across the fresh-cut grass.

10:15 a.m. Meet friends at a neighborhood rummage sale.  Decide with colleagues (all four year old boys) to buy battleship game.  Then change minds in favor of chocolate cupcakes.

10:20 a.m. Smear chocolate icing on shirtsleeves (don’t forget to lick the sprinkles off the wristband).

10:40 a.m. Invite each other back “to check out mine car.”

11:15 a.m. After a thorough inspection of the Minivan of the Day, complete with automatic door testing, agree to part ways, briefly, and meet up for playdate after lunch.

12:00 p.m. Arrive home, discover men in trees, with ropes and chainsaws.  Sit on the driveway to watch.

2:00 p.m.  Realize that we’ve been sitting on the driveway and circling the garage with our bikes for several hours.  Demand snack and capri suns.

2:25 p.m. Dirt delivery.

2:30 p.m. Adjourn with friends to the back yard, to dig in the garden and fill it with even more dirt.

2:35 p.m. Pick up first worm.

2:40 p.m. Cordon off area of the garden where the baby worm was found, and put up a sign so no one disturbs it.

2:45 p.m. Abandon afternoon’s plans for impromptu wade in the creek.

3:15 p.m. Get stuck, and figure out how to get unstuck.

3:30 p.m. Allow mothers to fuss over us, and to change us from the waist down because all our clothes are wet, and it’s getting a bit chilly out here, don’t you think?

4:00 p.m. Submarine play in the Splashatorium.

4:30 p.m. Another snack.  Something sweet this time.

4:55 p.m. Battleship.

5:30 p.m. Pizza for dinner.

6:00 p.m. Wii with Daddy.

7:30 p.m. Snuggles and stories, and dreams of high adventure.

Friends, this was (yet another) perfect day.  My little boys and I were in Little Boy Heaven, and we’re happy to finally spend bright spring days together outside, digging, climbing, exploring, learning, and adventuring together.

It may not seem like much, but to me, it’s everything.

All those months sick in bed, taking poision through my veins, willingly burning my skin, and submitting to surgeries … today, they were worth it.  Today, my heart sang with the birds and laughed like a two-year-old.

I’ve been waiting for this day for so long. And now, I’ve had it not once, but two or even three times in one week.

I wonder what we will do tomorrow.

Mama, go space?

April 22, 2009

All week, Little Bear has been asking, “Mama, go space?”  If I ask him a follow up question, or don’t respond immediately (because, say, I’m already in the middle of a sentence), he follows up with, “Mama, Goddard?”

Cracks. me. up.

My two year old is asking to go to the Goddard Space Flight Center Visitor’s Center in Greenbelt, Maryland.  It’s a great little place, with lots to investigate for the older kids and a dress up area and space capsule for the younger kids.  We often go there with our playgroup, and have lunch in the rocket park afterwards.

Being able to go to so many museums, and get out of it what we need to for that day, is one of the wonderful things about living in D.C.  We are taking advantage of every minute of it.

Edited to add: You have GOT to go see Stimey’s post about the day.  She is freakin’ hilarious, and she recaps the day for all of us … and Commander Blue Bear.  The 6 moms and 8 kids (including Heather) had a fantabulous day, and the sky was just as blue as it appears in the pictures.  Truly, truly, these are the good days.

Jessica’s got a great line up of Earth Day activities today, if you’re local to the Washington, D.C. area … there’s also a special Sid the Science Kid on today, and lots of other things to do to celebrate the Earth.  What will we be doing?  Getting out into the garden again, preparing the soil, and planting our vegetables for the summer.  Mmmmm.  I’ve been looking forward to planting in the garden with both my children for more years than I’d like to say.  Oh, okay.  Forever.


January 20, 2009

1.4 million people came to my town today, to see history being made.  They crowded on Metro, parked their tour buses, walked for miles, and stood for hours in the cold to see the realization of Dr. King’s dream — of many, many, many dreams — come true today.  Sen. Barack Obama is now President Barack Obama.  Elected for the content of his character, not judged on the color of his skin, today we step back and marvel, and wonder at just how far we’ve come in the last 60 years.

Perhaps I can only speak for myself here.  I will.

I marvel.  I grew up in the Deep South, just after desegregation, surrounded by private schools that all mysteriously popped up in the same year, the year that the Mississippi schools were truly integrated.  I attended a neighborhood school, but half the students were bused in, from — literally — across the tracks, in neighborhoods not too far away but in some ways a different world.  The neighborhood around the school was full of professionals, and no one there ever went hungry, or needed a new pair of shoes their mother couldn’t buy.  Many of the kids who were bused in didn’t have those luxuries necessities, and we lined up each day, together, but in strata nonetheless — the kids who got free lunch lined up first, so the cafeteria ladies would know not to charge.  These were the kids who arrived late to class, dragging after a long commute and a quick (free) breakfast in the cafeteria.  There were differences, but we were kids, and we didn’t notice, most of the time.

I went to public schools in Jackson, Mississippi, my entire life, and it made an impact on me.

I grew up learning about the Civil Rights Movement, hearing history from social studies teachers who had marched, singing songs of protest and of strength, and learning about the delta blues from teachers who had grown up in segregated times and schools.  My classmates and I were conscious of the recent history of our state — of our city! — but we were convinced those days had passed.  We lived the dream of desegregation, of white children and black children (and the Tran boys) going to school together, walking hand in hand, and learning how to navigate the world together.

In eighth grade, I ran for Student Body President.  I ran a tough campaign, seeing my first chance at real leadership, and campaigned as hard as I could, within the rules, even though I didn’t agree with them.  You see, in those days, we had strict rules about who could win.  If a white kid won president, a black kid would be vice president, and then anyone could be secretary.  Two of my friends also ran, and we all rankled under the rules that we thought we were so far past.  Would we really have to live with this antiquated, grown-up-enforced rule?  We didn’t know the name for it yet, quota, or affirmative action, or even equality, but we rankled under it.  We proved something on our little Election Day, though.  The student body voted overwhelmingly for Chaka, and he became president.  Without quotas.  And the crowd went wild.

I’ve never been so happy to lose an election.   (Although there were others I wish I’d lost — but that’s a story for another day.)

Chaka, Jim, and I served happily that year as student body officers, and our actions proved the old rule outdated.

Of course, that was just our introduction to race-based rules — we would soon learn that  the class favorite designations for ninth-grade graduation came in pairs, with thinly linked names.  The top-voted boy and girl would get the top designation (like “most beautiful”), and the top-voted boy and girl of opposite race(s) would get a secondary kudo (like “cutest”).  I still don’t know who those rules were trying to protect, but they live on in my yearbook, awkwardly posed pictures of ninth graders in remarkably similar combinations of race and gender.

Today’s images of Barack and Michelle Obama, Joe and Jill Biden brought those pictures to mind again.  Only, once again, their success is OUR success, and their performance is proving the old way of thinking outdated.

It feels like a new time in America, a time when anything is possible.

A time when we can finally leave our past behind, and look to the future.

Anything is possible.

Congratulations, President Barack Obama, First Lady Michelle Obama, Vice President Joe Biden, Dr. Jill Biden, and all the new leadership and staff.  I can’t wait to see what happens next.

Because toddlers like to party

January 4, 2009

I’ve had my share of fun toddler parties. Oh, not for birthdays and such, mind you (I’m rarely that organized), but for unexpected stuff, like New Year’s Eve and the Fourth of July. We always host our whole mom’s group on the Fourth of July, dads included, and everyone has a fantastic time just running around the yard, picnicing with babies on blankets, climbing in the fort and sliding down, swinging until the moms’ arms hurt, and adventuring in the forest. Oh, and eating. We always eat a lot.

For the past three years, I’ve also hosted a New Year’s Eve party, where we get the little guys together for a morning playdate that culminates at noon with a big countdown, a celebration, and lots of squealing. We do the “ball drop” by giving each kid a ball to throw up in the air at the end of the countdown (at noon). We skipped the traditional noon ball drop this year, but celebrated quietly with very good friends and a progressive dinner. Progressive because the other mom had made dinner and I had offered to host dessert. So we went to her house for dinner, wrapped all the kids up and put them in the car, and came over to our house for ice cream sundaes, wii games, and a whole lotta train play. Cause that’s how we roll.

My favorite nonstandard party activity was for Widget’s birthday last fall, when we cut out dozens of animal pictures from the Baltimore Aquarium and Best Friends magazines, pasted them to bendy straws, and hid the animal pictures around the yard and the forest so we could have an Animal Rescue adventure. (My big kid is very into Diego and animal rescuing.) Which works out well for us, since we’re kind of animal rescuers ourselves, having fostered 35 beagles in 3 years before the kids came along.

We’re at it again over here at Toddler Planet. Or, apparently, unusual party central. This time, I’ve volunteered to host the pack of kids for an Inauguration Party. We’ll get together that morning and spend the day playing and talking about the new president and what we think might happen in the next few years. (You know, like turning five.) It’s a once-in-a-childhood opportunity for these kids, growing up so close to the District, but there’s no way we’re going to take kids this little downtown for the inauguration or parades. There’s just too much going on, too fast for toddlers and preschoolers to have a good time.

So here’s where you come in. What would you plan for an inauguration party for preschoolers? What games would you include? Crafts? Party hats? I’d love to hear some ideas as I brainstorm over here as well.