Tuesday, January 27, 2009

That house is going to eat them alive

Ed and I spent many hours battling our old house. Basically, from the time we moved in until the time we moved out, we considered ourselves to be at war with the thing. We battled rats that were bold enough to sun themselves on the deck on occasion, weeds that could not be contained – despite near heroic efforts to do so, and small maintenance issues that are probably typical of all homes. Even on our way out, we discovered the furnace needed to be replaced and we almost stopped using the hot water for fear that the hot water heater would need to be replaced as well. You see, our home inspector told us when we moved into the joint that we’d need to replace the A/C, furnace, and hot water heater soon. And that was eight years ago. I guess outrunning two out of three appliances isn’t bad.

Anyway, much like us when we entered the home in 2001, the new owners gaze at the thing and think a coat of paint here, a refinished floor there, maybe a new oven and the place will be awesome. They honestly believe (much like we did) that they can peacefully coexist with the place. But they have no idea how evil that place can be.

At first, I was impressed with them. I thought they would be the owners to finally tame the beast. After all, at closing they told Ed and me they were getting rid of the Caloric Ultramatic oven in favor of something that doesn’t get seering hot on the outside when in use (and stay that way for quite some time afterwards so that anyone who walks by instantly thinks it’s on and attempts to turn it off, only to realize that it is off). They even said that we could have it if we wanted it (and as much as we hated that oven, we really did love it). Ed and I stared in amazement because we were all like – dude – you’re ripping the very heart and soul out of that house. This act of near violence could have really set the tone for who was going to run the show for the next few years, but it could also anger the house – similar to when we tried to modernize the dishwasher connection when we got rid of the Superba dishwasher and installed a new one which resulted in water streaming into our basement from the ceiling, above which sat the dishwasher. (Can someone please tell me why appliances don’t get these fantastic names anymore?)

And let me just say, our second inclination was correct. Already, the house has battled the new owners and won. They ripped out the carpet in the only carpeted room in the whole house. We warned them not to. Told ‘em that the previous owners had wanted to do this but told us there were stains on the floor from a dog that lived there before them that could not be removed. But the new owners are rookies. They thought they could bring in a “professional” and all would be right. Those floors? They are now as dark as possible because after the carpet was ripped out, the guy refinishing the floor said there was no way he could get rid of the stains, so instead he stained the rest of the floor to conceal the dog stain. House 1, new owners 0.

I’m not sure what else they’ve done to the house – and what it has done back, but I do know by the time I got there, they were afraid of their new home. I spent a good deal of time wandering around the house answering questions about switches and plugs. They had not even attempted to turn the garbage disposal on. Instead, they waited to ask me where the switch was. The locks on the kitchen cabinet beneath the sink? They had been intimidated by them so had not stored anything in the cabinet, instead thinking that perhaps we had baby-proofed the cabinet because it was unsafe to use. (See, they're afraid of the house!) There were other instances where rather than attempting to figure something out, instead they just asked me – e.g. – what does this switch do? What are these wires for? By the time I left, I felt a little bit sorry for them. I knew that the house would own them just like it owned us, until the glorious day when they could foist it onto some other young couple looking to own their first home.

We have not yet decided whether we will have an adversarial or pleasant relationship with our new home. So far, we've been consumed with emptying boxes. Regularly, Connor makes a trip around the joint hauling off trash.

I predict by Friday we'll be completely out of boxes in the main part of the house, though some remain in basement storage. And then we can get down to business showing the new place who's the boss.


Sunday, January 25, 2009

My favorite things

My very favorite thing about Christmas in DC is the many train displays. We head to the Botanical Gardens several times during the season (and this year, it was indoor, which made the weekday trip when it wasn't crowded even better than past years, because the kids could run around for a long time without me freezing my tail off). Connor loves this, and because I can trust him not to run off, he really runs around and explores, meeting many other people he can talk to about the trains. He will let them know, for example, which ones were broken on our previous visit, which ones are new this year, and which one is the longest. I figure it's OK because their kids are running around too telling me "LOOK!".

Helen, on the other hand, cannot be trusted to not run off. Here's what she did at the gardens as I followed her around.

The only surprise? Despite the look of pure evil crossing her face, she did not dive into the water.


Saturday, January 24, 2009

Simultaneously proud and disturbed

Helen has shown that she can hang with the big kids. If she feels she has been wronged, she'll scream almost the second the perceived wrongdoing has occurred, lest anyone be able to pull anything over on her. On Thursday, however, she showed a new level of determination when we were at an indoor play area.

There were very few children there, so everyone seemed to be able to do exactly what they wanted. Connor was gathering up all the hula hoops and dragging them around the room. Others were climbing under or over objects. And Helen was sitting inside this little treehouse. A child about Helen's age (but about twice her size) came into her area, and he pushed her, and she fell down and conked her head. And this apparently upset Miss Helen, and she decided to send him a message. Hidden from everyone's view but mine, she looked right at that big kid, stood up and steadied herself, and then leaned her shoulder into him and BIT HIS HAND!

He knew he had it coming, I guess, because all he did was pull his hand back, stare at it, let his bottom lip quiver a bit. Then he went to the other side of the room.

Helen looked satisfied.

Her point was made.

And every time she went near him for the remainder of the play session, he took off for the opposite end of the room.

Hey big kid - don't mess with the littlest person in the room. You might get a big surprise!

(As funny as I think this exchange was, I am also mortified because every class I ever taught when I taught pre-school had a biter and I fear very much that I may soon be the parent of the biter in the class!)


Friday, January 23, 2009

Parental Rite of Passage: Trip to the ER - Completed

If you asked me which of my children was most likely to end up in the ER, it would - hands down - be Helen. She is constantly stretching the limits of her little body trying to do what Connor does, and this is often completely frightening to watch - and impossible to halt. In fact, when I called my parents last night and told them I had been to the ER, both guessed it was with Helen.

But I was wrong. Yesterday, we went on a bowling outing arranged by a mom's group I'm part of. I took Helen and Connor there, got Connor set up, and then Ed arrived. I went to the snack bar to get Connor and Helen a treat (mostly because I needed a good distraction for Helen since this is one of few activities that I really think even she couldn't figure out a way to participate in). While I was at the concession stand, I heard a very terrible scream. In my head, I said "Wow, I'm glad I don't have a kid that screams like that" assuming it was some child protesting leaving the alley. But then my friend Laurie rushed up to me and said "Elaine - get some ice, that was Connor!" and I was totally stunned, and then I saw Ed carrying little dude, blood everywhere. It took a moment to get it washed up enough to see what was going on, but as has been pieced together for me, Connor picked up his very heavy ball, and then tripped. But because his hands were full of bowling ball, he couldn't use them to break his fall, and so his chin caught the edge of the alley with a fair amount of force.

It actually stopped bleeding pretty quickly, but as soon as the physician's assistant at the ER saw it, she proclaimed he'd be needing stitches. I asked about a magic glue solution another mom told me about, but his cut was apparently way beyond the wonder of this stuff. As it turns out, he needed six stitches. He was an absolute champ, only letting us all know after four stitches "I'm all done now. I'm ready to go home.".

The PA thought I had a career in medicine because I was so calm as I held Connor. She told me children only do as well as their moms. She then asked if I'd been through this a lot and I told her "no", Connor's never been in the hospital except to have blood drawn. He wasn't even born in one. She said "wow, that must have been awesome. I think it's the reason you're so calm. Seeing blood must not bother you at all." And that's just another reason to be a home birther (though I don't believe it myself at all, I think I'm just a calm person when I know I need to be).


Thursday, January 22, 2009

Helen's Musical Career - Part 1

If there is one person in my family who should NOT be in charge of supervising Helen's budding music career, it is my father. After all, he is the kid who used to skip his piano lessons. My sister, on the other hand, is a professional piano teacher.

But, as has been noted in these pages before, second children take what second children get, and so it was that my dad supervised Helen as she banged out a glorious tune over Christmas break on the very piano I learned to play on over two decades ago.

Please, Aunt Linda, help the girl out a little!


Wednesday, January 21, 2009

PS to Helen

I failed to include a few other things from the past two months.

First, you walk around saying "sit, sit, sit" all the time, only it doesn't come out like that. Instead, it sounds like "shit, shit, shit" which is very funny, because the latter phrase is usually more appropriate than the one you are intending to say. At one point, Connor asked me "Is Helen saying 'hit' or 'sit'" and it was at that moment that I was very thrilled that Connor did not know "shit", because that would not have been a good parenting moment - and he likely would've started walking around saying "shit, shit, shit".

You have mixed up yes and no, so often when I ask if you want something, you say "no" and then get mad when I don't give it to you. It very much explains why you do things when I say "no" though. Apparently you interpret my answer to be "yes". Hopefully we'll get this sorted out together soon, because it causes lots of aggravation on both ends.

You can follow complex commands. About a week ago, you were lucky enough to get to attend David's birthday with Connor. David's mom was super kind and let you make a pizza along with all the 'big' kids, and you very diligently spread sauce around, and then carefully picked up small handfuls of cheese and sprinkled them on your pizza. It was quite remarkable. At the end of the party, Connor got a goody bag from David, and in it was a crayon that had three interchangeable tips. Later that afternoon, you were playing with it, and decided to bring the crayon to me. Only, you had broken off the red tip. So I said "Helen, there used to be three tips to this crayon. Please go get the red tip and bring it to me" and off you toddled all the way down the hall. You picked up the red tip and brought it right to me to assemble. I was pretty impressed by this.

And, possibly the coolest skill you have, that you've had for quite some time, is that you can blow your nose. I know your Grandma in Kansas gives you big points for this one. It's going to make your vacation with her in February very nice.


Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Months 14 and 15 & 40 and 41.

Dear Helen and Connor,

You might be wondering what happened this month and last month and you know what? So am I. You did, as you might expect, mark another two months off the calendar - for as much as I wish for time to stand still some days, it doesn't. I could tell you that nothing remarkable happened these past two months, but I doubt you'd believe me on that. So, what did happen?

For starters, I worked uncharacteristically long hours after you went to bed, which seriously cut into my blogging time. And on top of that, every last item in our house had to be packed up and moved to our new house, and then for that past 9 days, I've spent almost every waking hour in the evening unpacking boxes. And do you know what? The two of you have a lot of crap. A lot. I would like to get rid of a lot of old toys, but I am resisting that temptation because I know the move has been a bit hard on both of you, and at least Connor can express great adoration for his things - and losing them can be very upsetting. So for now, I'm unpacking all your mounds of crap and piling it on shelves in the Rompus Room (basement playroom), the closet in the new hangout space (it is glorious!), a large portion of the kitchen (which now houses your kitchen from your grandparents which is as awesome as I thought it would be and gets played with a lot), and next I will add some things to your bedrooms. After that, I am hoping you run out of things because we will be about out of space.

Connor, in January you started attending a 3-morning kindergarten at the Waldorf school we have been attending 1 morning each week for the past year and a half. Already, I miss our time there a bit (even your dad admits being there was a really peaceful way to spend some time each week). You never hesitate to enter the classroom and seem happy when you are picked up. Since the first day or so, you've taken to telling me the following details about your school. "There are no other children there. There aren't even any teachers. I'm all alone." One day, you even added that your dad forgot to drop you off so you had to walk there and you were really cold. I would feel sad for you, except Jordan's mom tells me repeatedly how Jordan talks about you at home all the time and Keegan's mom told me that he reported "I have a new friend in class. His name is Connor. He can talk." so I figure you must be mixing with the other kids somewhat. I also know that Maya is always happy to see you and Anza enjoys having you around as well.

You have taken this move a lot better than I expected. For starters, you've been able to sleep in your room without too much drama. The first couple of nights, your dad slept up there too (there were, after all, three beds in there) but after that, Daddy moved the beds out of there (except for yours, of course) and you've been waking a bit early, but nothing too crazy. You've enjoyed cooking in your kitchen, making sure Helen doesn't attempt to get on the three sets of steps without an adult escort, spackling the au pair's room, and the craft room. Oh, the craft room. It's a shared dream of ours, Connor, to be able to craft without having to worry about others in our business, and now we can. It's fabulous. The only rules are "no painting without telling an adult first" and "craft projects stay in the room". So far, so good. Possibly the best thing about the move was borrowing our friend Dave's truck. You got to sit in the front seat with your carseat (totally legal) and you were amazed at all the dashboard lights.

You caught your first stomach bug, and that was awful. For everyone. If I didn't believe in breastfeeding before, I do now. On Saturday, Helen greeted me at the early hour of 5:00. She ate like a truck driver, and then fell back asleep. But then she woke up 30 minutes later and spilled her cookies - three times - all over me. (Why is it that you kids look to me when you're about to hurl?) Anyway, this was surprising, but given that Helen puked for much of her first year of life, it's not so far out of the norm to cause panic. But you, Connor, have a stomach of steel, and you woke up at 7 and started puking. Only Helen stopped after that first little round but you didn't. For 1.5 days, everything that went in, came back out. You did seem to like the juice and jell-o diet that the pediatrician's book recommended, but it was still very sad. At the end though, you have a new skill. You can actually get to a trashcan or toilet when you need to throw up. That was not the case at the beginning of the illness. But dude, earlier in the month at David's birthday party, you showed us you had "moves" and I'm certain those moves will be back very soon.

You have been crafting up a storm, focusing primarily on the cutting and painting arts. I can only assume that you are preparing to have a ticker tape parade for me some day with all the little pieces of construction paper you are making. The only downside to your painting is that Helen wants to paint. And Helen is not old enough to paint. Only, Helen does what Helen wants to do, so Helen paints. And I clean up the mess.

Which brings me to you, Helen. You are one stubborn little lady and when you need to get a point across, you do. Your language has absolutely exploded over the past two months. You can say duck, dog, nose, sock, shoe, pizza, cup, and up - and you even say "cheese" whenever I take out my camera - and I'm sure I'm missing many here, but my note taking this month was not as good as it could have been. You play a game where you say "mama, dada" and then instead of saying Connor, you light up with a small and point to him - wherever he is.

You adore your brother. And these past few days he's been a bit low energy, and you haven't been, and this isn't always the best combination because you go running up to him, pat him on the head, and want him to play - only he doesn't want to play, and he usually lets you know by telling you to go away. Although sometimes you convince him to play. You enjoy cooking on your new stove, climbing up the step stools in the bathroom, sitting on the toilet (you even wave bye-bye to the imaginary poo or pee you believe you have deposited in the toilet).

You are the snuggliest person in the world and give hugs and kisses to anyone. You will even sit on just about anyone's lap. A few days ago, we were at music class and another mom smiled at you and you went right over and sat on her lap. She looked at you and said "did you get me confused for your mommy?" and you pointed to me, laughed and waved, and I explained to the other mom that you just liked sitting on everyone's lap. You wave and say "bye-bye" to everyone, and at night you always give your dad a hug and kiss before I toss you in bed.

You have also become quite accomplished with a fork and spoon. In this respect, you remind me a lot of your cousin Katie who by sheer determination can accomplish most anything. I was helping you and Connor with lunch at an indoor playspace and at some point, I guess you decided you wanted to eat faster than I could serve, so you promptly picked up a fork and ate every piece of strawberry and pineapple that was near you. Another mom said "wow, she's really good with a fork" and I said "Oh, she's older than she looks" and the other mom said "she's 15 months. Exactly the same age as my child who has never even looked at a fork and spoon". You're very interested in putting on your own shoes and socks but lack of dexterity has you down here. You have no trouble putting Connor's hat on your head or his monkey's hat on your head, and you love wearing both of them around the house. And your beads, Helen, you love your beads. You wear them whenever you see them. I swear it is instanct that draws you to them.

You got your fifth tooth and are working on a sixth.

The two of you are really becoming friends and often play right beside each other, and that's a lot of fun to see.


Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Missing her brother

Monday, Helen went with me to drop Connor off at pre-school. When he walked in the classroom, Helen motioned that she wanted down and started to follow him right in. Only, I had to stop her, because only the kids in the class go in. Wow, was she mad. It occurred to me that this was the first time Helen had ever seen me drop Connor off somewhere that she wasn't going as well.

Next stop was to drop Helen off at Laurie's house so Ed and I could move without having to worry about children underfoot (our au pair left on Sunday - surprise! she told us on Saturday!). The last time I dropped Helen off, she was mad. But yesterday? She just waved good-bye. It was as if to say "you've already ripped my heart out woman, by taking Connor away, so perhaps it's best you just go too."

Helen was delighted when Connor showed up after lunch to be with her.


Friday, January 9, 2009

Christmas, 2008

In preparation for our home sale, we loaded up 3 remote storage boxes, and sent them away. The idea was to fool the next owner into thinking adequate storage space existed. Apparently it worked, but unfortunately, Ed only saved our measly tree and one box of Christmas decorations from being shipped off. This meant that we had to make do with a lot fewer decorations than normal. There were probably only about 20 ornaments on the tree, and those were only there because they'd been sitting in my basement for about a year waiting for new photos to be put in them.

No matter. Connor had a ball decorating the tree, and was extra excited to get to climb the ladder and hang things higher. He explained that he needed to perform this little task to keep Helen from messing with them. Of course, Helen only messed with the ornaments when Connor handed them to her and then hollered "Mom, Helen is breaking an ornament", because uh, that is just an ornament's destiny when it reaches Helen's nimble fingers.

Amazingly, when I put a few presents under the tree for the kids, they actually left them alone. Helen, because she didn't care that much and Connor, because he does occasionally follow rules, and I told him very specifically "I'll put this present under the tree, but you may not open it until all the candy in your Advent calendar has been eaten." He did try and change the rules of the calendar a bit and speed up the process by eating more than one chocolate each day, but that movement was thwarted easily.

Hope everyone else had fun preparing for and then enjoying the holidays!


Wednesday, January 7, 2009

The Resolutions - 2009 Edition

So...the moment you've all been waiting for, a look back at last year's resolutions and a look forward at this year's resolutions.

From last year:
1. Meet my children where they are. I'm keeping this resolution from last year, although I made great strides in meeting it, I realize it's one of those lifelong pursuits. I'm hoping the repay the favor when I'm old and drooling on myself, and ask them why we're vacationing in Hawaii, when in fact, we're hanging out somewhere far from Hawaii, but my mind isn't aware of that fact.

2. Finish the summer sweater. HA! I don't think I even picked this up last year. I can't even remember where it is, though I do remember the color and how much I like the pattern. Better keep this one around as well.

3. Declutter. Uh, yeah, not too good here either - though I did make strides, and am making more strides as I pack up the house. I did, however, get a lot better about not keeping everything, which meant the clutter didn't grow exponentially this year.

4. Start the morning with thanks and situps. This one I get a yes and no on. I do, in fact, spend a moment each day to be grateful for my children's good health. Sadie moved on to the next dimension last year, despite a whole lot of people hoping otherwise. If that wasn't a wake up call to be grateful for what my children have, I don't know what would be. The situps, happened for about 1 month. Through no effort of my own, though, I weigh less than I did when I became pregnant with Connor, which means part of my tummy did melt away.

5. Get back into the pottery studio. Failed here too.

Hmmm...guess the report card on keeping resolutions isn't that good for me. But...I'm doing it again.

1. See above.
2. Keeping from last year.
3. I'm only going to put things away in my new house that have a place. If there's no place for it, I will either create the appropriate space, or live without it. One thing that will help with the kid clutter is getting all of Connor's beloved crafts into one room - with a door. I will let him keep all his supplies in there, and keep them out of the rest of the house.
4. My health resolution for the year will be to go jogging with the baby jogger one time per week. Connor can help me out here by learning to ride his bike proficiently, because then I can chase him on it. But even failing that, surely once each weekend I can take one of the kids for a spin.
5. Set up a functional pottery studio at home, unless Ed threatens to divorce me for doing this. And use it. So Ed doesn't mock me for not using it.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

First Day of Kindergarten

Saturday, Connor's new - and wonderful - teacher came for a home visit. As is traditional in Waldorf schools, she brought him a small gift which turned out to be a sand dollar. Connor treasured this so much that - despite having a staph infection in his throat and feeling pretty miserable, he muscled his way outside to place it in the sand table out back. He was supposed to start yesterday, but he slept until after school started (8:30!) and he was in no shape to go to school since he'd been popping fevers of up to 103 for the past 48 hours whenever the motrin we were giving him wore off.

So today, Connor headed off to the 3-day "Morning Glory" class at the same school he has been attending with me for a year and a half now. This was his first sans parent drop-off school adventure. His teacher called me this evening to let me know that he fit right into the other children's play and had an absolutely perfect day. I don't know much about what happened, but I do know he spent an hour on the playground when it was raining and he must have done some jumping with others in puddles in the sand pit, because he came home looking like this:

In case you can't see the detail, his face has sand and dirt in many places - and he was smiling when I picked him up. The teacher suggested it was best not to ask him a lot of questions about the day - that if I wanted to know anything, she'd be happy to talk with me. So I went with the flow and just waited to see what Connor said. His comments? "I did not eat one single bite of porridge today (regular oatmeal with maple syrup, as opposed to the instant baby oatmeal he still loves) and I did not drink one drop of water. I did enjoy eating my apple though." Uh, OK, Connor. If anyone had asked me what part of the day would stick out in Connor's mind, it would not have been snack. Tomorrow's snack is brown rice with apples. Connor has already told me it's silly because rice is normally a supper food. I guess I'll know tomorrow whether he will rethink his categorization of if he refuses to eat that as well. Monday's snack will go over well - whole wheat rolls with butter and apples - because that's what we have in the parent-child class. He also told me there were no other children and no teachers and that he just played all by himself. I'm willing to believe he didn't eat snack, but I'm not willing to believe he was alone - especially since I dropped him off and picked him up and spoke to his teacher both times.

I'm a little sad to be leaving our parent-child class. Even Ed, who is not necessarily as much a fan of Waldorf education as I am, said the time he spent in the classroom this year on two occasions was really relaxing and a nice environment. However, I am delighted that on my day off now, I can spend it with both of my children instead of feeling like I spend my day off whisking Connor away from Helen.

This experience has turned Connor into a man I guess. He refused to let me help him carry his backpack, because it was his backpack, after all. He also spent about a half hour doing craft projects while I worked from home late this afternoon and Ed prepared dinner. He did, however, still request a snuggle and book at bedtime.