Wednesday, July 30, 2008


This summer, a parent at Connor's school took the initiative to form two weekly outings per week - almost every week - for the entire summer. Connor has been to several of them, and has always had fun. Given that the school is a Waldorf school that really encourages children to be outside and use their imagination, almost all of the outings have been to outdoor places - some new, some old. Because this type of school places so much emphasis on exploring nature, there isn't a parent among us that would tell our child not to splash in a puddle, or gather a bunch of sticks with the intent of building a dam across a creek, or be discouraged from playing on a playground that had been exposed to pouring rain only a few moments earlier. Indeed, we all dutifully carry a second set of clothes and hope a third isn't necessary. Or, we at least have a towel in the car for the ride home with a wet kid.

One of the beautiful finds this summer was Discovery Creek at Glen Echo. This place has all the elements of fun. For starters, there is an indoor space that is designed to look like a forest. There's a little rope bridge kids can cross, a slide that goes through a fake tree, and some little nooks to hide in. They have a fairly broad assortment of animals that they bring out to talk with the kids about, and as you might have guessed from the name - a creek. Kids take a nature walk down to a creek and can then splash around, if desired.

The first time we went, it was incredibly hot. So, not surprisingly, Connor and a few other kids decided to walk as far as they could through the creek, and were they ever rewarded. Eventually, the creek gets a couple feet deep, which is plenty deep for the small folk to swim in and go underwater. I could hardly blame Connor for doing this (the first of the crew) because it was SO.HOT. And, had I not had Helen in a sling on my side, I might've been tempted to join him. Only trouble is, Connor wanted to go through this big tunnel, but I didn't want to risk getting in any deeper, so we needed to come back another time - with Ed.
As expected, Ed was easily talked into going through the tunnel, though perhaps he should've taken my advice and put on the swimsuit I had brought for him. Since I didn't have a swimsuit, I stayed back with Helen. But, when Connor and Ed headed through the tunnel, and Helen and I waved our farewells, it was clear that Helen did not think it was OK for the boys to get to go there and leave her.

Just to prove that she is as adept at making a mess in water as any toddler, she splashed her heart out on a rock for the duration of Ed's and Connor's exploration. The water was cool and Helen seemed to enjoy every last drop that she managed to splash in her face. This is such a welcome change from just a few months ago when Helen had decided that she did not like swimming and protested (loudly) if her foot even touched the water.


Monday, July 28, 2008


Two nights ago, Helen started flipping the pages of the board books Connor and I read to her each night. Last night, she was flipping them so fast we could hardly keep up with her!

She also learned to crawl last Friday - on all fours - about 8 feet if needed, though she has so far kept this skill secret from Ed. I guess she knows she can just bat her eyes and he'll do her bidding.

I think one of these feats is AWESOME.

Thursday, July 24, 2008


As it turns out, everyone in my house has connections, it seems - except me! Connor went to pre-school last year with the dude who owns Five Guys (a local burger joint) at National stadium. This means that sometimes Ed gets a free burger and Connor enjoys some free fries when we head out to the games. And although it shocked a particularly annoying usher when she saw Connor head back to our seats with a big ol' bag of fries instead of the wimpy child-sized fries that she had directed me to, Connor certainly likes it.

And Ed? He knows someone (James, a friend from high school) who has access to a freight train. And James was kind enough to score Connor a ride in the engine of that train. And the engineer allowed Connor to blow the whistle of that train as they drove up and down a 1/2 mile piece of track a few times. Connor was definitely impressed and has requested a return trip on more than one occasion.

Who does Helen know, you might be wondering? I'm not sure. But only because she hasn't told me yet. I presume when she can talk she'll be all "mom, please don't walk so close to me. very important person that only I know might think I'm not cool if you do."

Sigh. Maybe tomorrow I'll meet some super important person while I'm pushing the little people in swings. Who says being a mom isn't all glam?

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Bird population reduced by one

"Mommy, a bird died! I can tell it died because it isn't flying anymore. It's just laying on the floor [of the birdcage]."
"Indeed, Connor. That's a dead bird. I'm going to take it out of the cage."
"Why did that bird die?"
"Oh, I don't know. Probably he just got really old."
"Are you really old?"
"No. I'm going to be around for a long time. Just like my mommy and daddy are still alive - and they're older than me, and daddy's mommy and daddy are still alive - and they're older than me, I'll be around when you become a daddy too."

-- 3 days later

"Connor, we're going to a party across the street. Carl, our neighbor, will be there. Think of the biggest number you can, and that's how old Carl is."
"Even older. Carl is 100. Isn't that amazing?"
"Is he going to die?"
"Probably. But hopefully not at the party tonight."

Friday, July 18, 2008

Happy Month 9, Helen!

Dear Helen,

We have reached that monumental point where you have spent as much time outside my body as you spent inside. That, to me, is absolutely staggering. And just as your passage into the outside world was nothing short of incredible, so too, was this month.

After having some rough bouts with reflux keeping you awake at night, I took you to see a specialist. And, despite his nurse being a complete ass about me feeding you, he did seem to hit the right combo of meds. Almost instantly, your sleep improved to the point that now, when you wake up, you need little more than a couple of pats and a hug to go back to sleep. This pretty much moves you back to rock star status because man was it awful walking the halls or walking outside with you at night and knowing you were in rather severe pain. Your sleep was not so good on vacation, but perhaps you were just distressed to be in unfamiliar surroundings, and calling for me and Daddy regularly is probably a pretty smart maneuver on your part to make sure you haven't been left. Here's my promise to you, Helen, even if we leave you with grandparents at some point - we'll be back to pick you up within a couple of weeks. (If any grandparent is wondering how long that bruise on their forehead is going to take to heal after hitting their head on their computer monitor because they can't imagine keeping track of my two children for two consecutive weeks, you can pretend that last sentence said "week" or "few days" or whatever it is you think you can handle. But be prepared, at some point - the little people are coming without their mama!) In any case, the gastro doc thinks that by month 11 we'll be in the clear and can start reducing your medicine. Daddy and I are crossing out fingers that this is true.

What made this month so amazing? For starters, you decided that you would just go ahead and do something new so regularly that I have probably lost track of some nifty things. Your first two front teeth came in on June 15 and 17. Then, on June 21, you really made a big effort to crawl. But, rather than crawling, you face planted on the floor and that pretty much squelched that notion for a few days. On Father's day, you said "mama" for the first time - not as in, calling me - just as in putting a new sound together. And the following morning, it was the first syllable out of your mouth when you started yammering upon wake-up.

When we went to the baseball game, your brother was paralyzed with fear that fireworks might go off at any minute, so he sat pretty much clutching your dad, holding his ears. But you? You learned to clap - and now Helen, you clap ALL.THE.TIME. If someone isn't looking your way and you think you ought to be the center of their attention, you clap. You do this until they look at you at which point your face just lights up. By all accounts, you've made a lot of new friends in the past month with this trick.

And Helen, this milestone most certainly deserves a drum roll. You learned to roll from back to front. You've been rolling the other way since month four, but you had no desire to go the whole distance until this month. I have this feat recorded on video, but I can't figure out how to get that video to this blog, so that'll have to wait for another day.

You also learned to pull up. Quite frequently you are delusional enough to think you can walk so you try and let go of whatever object you are holding onto. This is not your smartest move, so far, but someday it will work.

You have learned to wave good-bye, and though your dad and au pair have been telling me for a few weeks that you say "bye bye" at the same time, I didn't get to hear it myself until a couple of days ago. So, you get credit for your first word. You also wave "hello" when I come into the room and that trick is fabulous. It feels completely ridiculous to write this, but I believe you also said "thank you". It happened on four different - completely appropriate - occasions. And, it happened in front of different people and each time I would respond "you're welcome" and they would swivel their heads around and say "it sure sounded like that's what she said" with complete disbelief. I wouldn't believe it myself if I hadn't heard it. No, the consonants weren't there, but it really did sound as close to thank you as possible for a kid your age. Just imagine how many sounds you might be able to say at this point had your hearing not been obscured by fluid much of your life.

You're starting to get to play more with Connor. You can ride in a wagon with him, and even ride the merry-go-round with him. You swim, you swing, and always, you smile. The two of you love playing music class together and someday, I hope you form a band. At this point, it would be one focusing mostly on percussion instruments, though occasionally one of you will strum the guitar or harp.

You are most definitely a mama's girl, and while your daddy may tell you no one likes a mama's girl, he's wrong. I do.


Thursday, July 17, 2008

Happy Month 35!

Dear Connor,

A few days ago, you turned 35 months old. And from the get-go, this was one of those really incredible months. For starters, you solidly have the concept of "if I stay up late, I should sleep late the next morning". This is a lesson that I never would've guessed one had to learn, but alas, you used to wake up early regardless of when you went to bed. For the most part, this completely stunk from my point of view. Because sometimes, when you are up late, I am also up late, and I am well versed in the idea of sleeping in if I go to bed late. Thank you Connor, for sleeping in on several occasions.

It was also a special month because you set a goal, and have made great strides in trying to attain it. A few weeks ago, you announced to me that you wanted to go off the diving board. I explained to you that you needed to be able to swim the width of the pool to go off the diving board. What I did not explain to you, was that you swimming the width of the pool at your age is completely insane. Why? Because all of your life you will be told "no" and told you can't do various things, and I while I don't want to set you up for disappointment, I also don't want to say negative things if there's even a chance you could do it.

After our conversation, you went from hesitating to submerge your head into water to full on swimming under water - for one breath, that is. You stand on the steps of our pool and motion for me to back up so you can swim to me. You often tell me to "go all he way because I can swim across the pool now". But, because I do not want you to drown, I only step about 5 feet away. This is about the distance you can go once you push off the steps of the pool and I reach my arms towards you.

And this isn't the only swimming milestone you accomplished this month. You also got out of the pool and dove in head first before a lifeguard or I could tell you not to, and you paddled your float all the way to the deep end of the pool on "float day" and then had me catch you as you jumped off the side of the pool. While on vacation, you pretended the docks were diving boards and you leaped into your dad's arms.

Daddy pulled a few strings while on vacation, and you got to ride with him on an actual train that carries produce from Washington state to New York. You even blew the whistle. This is remarkable not only because most children your age do not get to do this, but you became terrified of loud noises this month so it is nothing short of amazing that you blew a whistle you knew was very, very loud. Thank you, James, for scoring this adventure for Connor. As you predicted, he's still talking about it a week later.

You also caught your first fish, thanks to Uncle Rick. You went to the lake armed with your fishing pole and your dad and you spent a fair amount of time fishing off the docks. I use the term fishing rather loosely here, because what you were actually doing was dangling worms off the hook on your pole and feeding the fish below, who were not about to be caught by the likes of you. When you did finally catch a fish (with only a couple of worms to spare), you seemed a bit disappointed that it wasn't large enough to feed the entire family dinner for the night. You correctly pointed out that it was much bigger than Connor fish. Seeing your disappointment at the notion of having to toss back your prize, I explained to you that catching a baby fish was the best kind of fish to catch because you had just fed it a nice big worm and that would help it grow bigger so we could eat it next year when you caught it again. This explanation satisfied you so much that every time you tell anyone about the fish you caught, you immediately told them it was a baby fish, but Mommy said this was the best kind of fish... I'm not sure if you're trying to get someone to confirm to you that I am nuts or if you found the argument so convincing that you want to make sure they know it as well. Either way, you seem pretty happy about the situation.

After a day of getting used to your new surroundings (during which you had not one, not two, but three 'accidents' and I thought I was going to burst a gasket if I had to find you clean underwear one more time), you were an absolute joy on vacation. It was great fun to watch you and your cousins play together. You introduced them to our game "music class", which provided lots of fun for everyone, or at least for Kate and Alisa. The three of you swam, danced, climbed, and occasionally sat still. That last feat was the most impressive.

Your have pretty much gotten over your deathly fear of drains, though I must assure you that everything that looks like a drain at the pool is a filter, or you will still sit there and freak out when toys go near it thinking they are disappearing. Remind me to punch Judith Viorst in the face should I ever meet her. Did she not realize when she wrote that Alexander's marble went down the drain that she would cause kids like you incredible distress? Of course, just as soon as the drain fear has been mostly calmed, you decided you were afraid of loud noises. Awesome. Just in time for fireworks. Why is it again, that we celebrate independence by blowing crap up? I look forward to whatever part of life you decide to obsess over in the future, Connor. It keeps me on my toes.


Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Are words really necessary?

There is no possible way that I could record in words what brought on this series of photos, So I won't try. It's sufficient to say, like all young men, Connor appreciates a good piece of potty talk when he hears it. But the world table tennis competition? Little man is not likely to be participating in it anytime soon.

Joining in

Prior to the last 48 hours (more on that later), Helen spent most of her day sitting and watching Connor. She loved seeing him bounce into a room, run down a hall, or play with various toys. But she really loved it when Connor would come up to her and screech - which often induced her to screech on her own. And then there were the rare moments when Connor would sit still, and she could actually join in his games. So long as the game involved sitting, she was all for it.

Here they are playing with Connor's friend Zoe in the pool at the hotel my parent's stayed in when they visited - enjoying one of those games that Connor must be seated for.

A few days later, we were at a park with Zoe and I was pulling Connor and her around in a wagon. Turns out, if Connor scooted a bit, Helen could be wedged in right beside him and as soon as we did this, Helen just beamed. It was completely obvious that she knew she was being included in his play.

Similarly, yesterday we found ourselves at the grocery store that has a cart attached to a two passenger truck. This thing is enormous, and I do not relish pushing it because we are a total hazard to every innocent person in the store. But, Connor loves it, so occasionally I will take the kids to the store with Ed and as he does the real shopping, I'll push Connor around as he honks his horn and carefully lifts the little latch to get out of the seat to put various items in our shopping cart and then sits back down and closes the latch. If Connor and I actually did the whole shopping trip like this, it would take at least an hour to get through the store. I put Helen in the front of the cart like I always do because it didn't seem like a good idea to put her in the truck contraption - especially with all of Connor's in and out motions. But as we toured the various aisles of the store, Helen kept looking at Connor's part of the cart.

Finally, we made it to the check-out stand and I plopped Helen into the seat next to Connor and she just glowed. But the really great part? When we started moving, Connor leaned over and held onto Helen so she didn't tip over. Is my toddler the sweetest kid in the whole world or what? I don't care if we are a huge spectacle in the grocery store, we're going back there for more! (My advance apologies to every customer who finds themselves unable to go down an aisle they want to traverse because me and my kids are hogging the whole thing with our enormous shopping cart. I also wish to apologize in advance for anyone who doesn't hear Connor honk his horn when we get to the end of the aisle and gets in our path. Really...I can't see you coming!)


Saturday, July 12, 2008

The Pied Piper of Reston

A couple of weeks ago, when my parents were visiting, we headed out to a nearby petting farm. After all, if there’s even a small chance that I won’t be the one stuck helping Connor feed the goats, I’m all for it. We were among the farm’s earliest visitors that day, which meant the animals in the barn were good and ready to eat. But Connor had other plans.

As he taunted all the goats with his full cup of food, he noticed that there were an awful lot of ducks in the barn. And, he knew the ducks would be more comfortable in the pond. He asssumed they were in the barn because they had gotten lost, so he took matters into his own hands and by sprinkling food on the ground, was able to lead all of those 'lost' ducks back to the pond they belonged in. It was rather impressive.

Through all of this, Helen was napping. My dad – never one to pass up an opportunity for a nap – volunteered to 'babysit' Helen. My mom, who grew up on several farms and is not one to faint at the thought of feeding a few goats, took Connor duty.

My role? I played director of the trip, making sure Connor got to the pony ride line with enough time to ride the pony and then sprint over to the wagon ride that starts a half hour later. Yes, indeed, I am a master at the petting farm.


Wednesday, July 2, 2008

My little adding machine

Ed and I spend very little time trying to teach Connor "book skills". In part, it's because he's had a string of nannies that were in love with the idea of teaching him letters, numbers, shapes, colors - you name it. In part, it's because it's not all that fun to teach these things - even though Connor has a clear interest in them. We do, however, read him books -- a lot of books. Sadly, Connor will often decide he adores a book that is nothing short of horrible. It either has no story, uses poor grammar, or is just plain boring. Yet, Connor will request the book over and over, until he has it memorized - and even then, he'll go through phases of wanting to read nothing but this book that Ed and I seek to avoid.

One of these books is the "M&M Counting Book". This book is horrible. It has pictures of M&Ms in various colors, and starts by counting up to 12, and then subtracting to 0, and then using those 12 M&Ms to make various shapes, and then putting them in sets of 2, 3, 4, and 6. I have more than once hidden this book hoping Connor would forget about it and I could give it to the next unsuspecting parent without fear that Connor would be devastated when he learned his precious book had disappeared. But, every time I think it's safe to give away, he requests it. DOH!

Last week, we were in the car on our way to "float night" at our neighborhood swim club. This is one of few nights throughout the summer when you can bring rafts into the big pool. Oh, the thrill of it all. On our short drive there, Connor asked how many floats we had in the trunk of the car. Ed or I told him there were four. He quickly told us that if we got rid of one float, there would only be three left. And then I asked him what would happen if we got rid of two floats, and he correctly identified there would be 2 left. Then we went in the opposite direction adding, and as it turns out, Little Man is pretty good at simple math. Who knew? I'm not sure whether to blame my dad the engineer's genes, or Ed's genes on this mathematical oddity.

In the past couple of days, Connor has been reminding us of his new skill constantly to keep track of how many drinkable yogurts are in the refrigerator (hello, OCD). He has a definite fear of running out, so several times a day he will remind me how many there are, and then he will tell me how many he used to have, how many he has drunk, and repeat how many are left. Often, he'll decide he could have just one more, so long as there would still be at least one remaining. I can tell already it's going to be a tough choice for him when we get down to only one in the refrigerator. Not sure if it's better to get the pleasure of drinking one more and the knowledge that none are left - or if it's better to leave an emergency drinkable yogurt just in case it's needed.

The only thing keeping me from drinking one just to mess with him is the knowledge that on Friday, we will be seated next to each other on a plane for a long time and I am not particularly interested in hearing how one drinkable yogurt disappeared over, and over, and over, and over. Or, having him ask me 3,000 times "why did you drink one of my drinkable yogurts, Mommy?".

OK Connor, let's see how good you really are. The year is 2008. Your grandpa was born on this day in 1942. How old does that make him? (Happy Birthday, Dad. Not only did we count a lot of things in your honor today, we went to visit some digger trucks and a cement mixer.)