Tuesday, March 31, 2009

First Protest

As residents of the DC metro area, it is almost incumbent upon Ed and me to teach our children how to protest. We're more arm chair protesters, as my friend Martin calls those who send checks to various causes, but rarely get out and shout. But, nonetheless, when something important happens, we at least think about rallying. And on occasion, we actually do rally. And really, we have little excuse not to attend political events because they are usually less than 15 minutes away from where we live.

As is true of most localities - the Arlington County budget is a mess. It's such a mess, that they are considering several budget cutting measures that those on the "mom boards" consider draconian. I'm not sure I would go that far, but I am sad that a nature center near our home is threatened with closure.

So a couple of weeks ago, we packed up the kids and our au pair and visited Long Branch Nature Center. Helen and Connor were happy to wear their 'tickers in support of the Center (and seriously, people, could I get a child with a leading "s" sound, please?). We walked around, we enjoyed the blacksmith demonstration, Connor and Ed wandered off for over 30 minutes leaving Helen, Kathy, and me to freeze as we walked around waiting for them. To be fair, Connor had told us at the outset he was going to walk to the edge of the forest, and I believe he nearly met his goal.

Here are the commemorative photos of Helen's first protest. She decided not to chain herself to a tree or anything radical like that, but that doesn't mean the budget folks should think taking this Center away is going to be easy. You never know when we'll have a nice day and the kids will be inspired to build a tree house on the property and refuse to come down until their demands to open the center are met. But who would plant such an idea?


Sunday, March 29, 2009

Almost grown up...but not quite

"Mommy, mommy! Look! Look! Do you see that? I'm almost like Daddy!!! I have HAIR ON MY ARM!!"

about 2 hours later

"Mommy, do you wish that I could go everywhere you go? Because I wish I could go everywhere with you."

Thursday, March 26, 2009


Dear Arlington County Public Library,

Thank you very much for the books and services you provide - free of charge. As a former children's library worker, I know how much energy it takes to run a good children's department. My children love attending story hour with your many lovely children's librarians (especially Miss Gwen!). They love the toys you keep in the children's area, and most of all, they love the endless rows of books you have available.

I have just one issue I thought I should raise with you, on behalf of all parents of train-loving children. Was it really necessary to purchase the enormous compilation of Thomas the Train stories? The book, in case you are not as familiar with it as Ed and I have become, has FIVE HUNDRED AND NINE PAGES! That is almost as many pages as Little Women, a book I well remember reading in the 6th grade. FIVE HUNDRED. AND NINE. Shelved where a three year old with OCD can easily get his hands on it. Connor has carried this tome with him - up and down the stairs - for 5 straight weeks. morning and night. We will easily finish reading it for the fourth time in a few days, before it's time to either renew it or return it.

Believe me when I say, I have considered throwing it away and paying the fine, just to save other parents from the train wreck we have been experiencing each evening as Connor requests "just one more story from my big Thomas book". But, as I mentioned, I used to work in the children's department of a library, and even though as a parent I do believe I would be making the world a better place for other parents, I just can't bring myself to "lose" a book. But please, I am begging you, when we return it, DO NOT SHELVE IT WITH THE PICTURE BOOKS! Shelve it up high, where only a child who can read it to himself can get to it.

Thanks for your consideration of this very important matter.

Kindest regards,

A mom who has read but a fraction of the book, on behalf of her husband who has easily read the lion's share of this book - nearly FOUR TIMES now.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Happy Month 17, Helen

Dear Helen -

We've made it 17 months and you are still the snuggliest toddler ever (and it is still impossible for me think of you as a toddler instead of a baby!). You continue to have a million hugs and kisses to give out to anyone who crosses your path, whether you know them or not. And at the end of the day, you always remember to hug your dad, your "tonr", and me. And then before you close your eyes, you say "bye bye Mimi, bye bye ZoZo", and that ends your day. Every day.

You spent a few days this month trying to potty train yourself, but I guess you figured out what you were interested in, and after using the toilet a few consecutive mornings, you've gone back to relying on Pampers. You do, however, get major bonus points because one night, about five minutes after I bade you goodnight, you shouted "mama". This was so unusual that I decided to go check on you and when I got there, I asked "Helen, what's the matter? It's sleeping time." and you said "poop!". And indeed, you had pooped! Thank you, for telling me this, because as I suspect you know, dirty diapers do not get better with time.

You are definitely destined for stardom. Every time a camera is near, you flash a very cheesy grin. I have no idea who taught you this, but it is pretty funny - though sometimes annoying because I will be on the verge of capturing a very sweet (and natural) smile when you notice the camera and "cheese" me. You notice the paparazzi following you everywhere, even when the cameras near you are not pointed in your direction. It's important to be prepared, I suppose.

You are a strong-willed child who is happy to throw her weight around - even if that weight is much lower than others your age can throw around. You smack Connor with toys, you steal his things the minute he puts them down (only fair, since he will do the same to you), you will bully your way to any toy you want at the indoor playground we go to each week, and you do not take "no" lightly. As I was preparing to walk you and Connor into a park last week, I noticed a parent hoisting a screaming child out of the park, and I thought to myself "I'm so glad that my children leave when I tell them it's time to go, without all that carrying on" and then I looked at you, and immediately regretted the thought - because it is quite possible that you will decide to "throw down" over this soon. And I do not look forward to that.

You love to "tickle tickle" your dada and you adore it when he tosses you into the air. You love running around the house chasing "Tonr" and dada and you think it is really funny when you catch them, or they catch you. When being dressed, you like to run away so that I have to chase you to put clothes on, and you laugh, and laugh, and laugh when you find something funny. You can climb the stool in the bathroom by yourself now and you finally moved up to 12 - 18 month clothing.

Katherine, a mom I see around town often, says she has a "baby crush" on you, and it is no surprise since whenever you see her, you give her a big hug. She just gave birth to a baby that is just about your size, which is why she says she adores you so much, because she's never experienced an itty-bitty kid like you.

When you're not stealing things from him, you can Connor are the best of buddies. A couple of weeks ago, you were playing in the sand as I was working in the yard, and Connor decided you were making rabbit stew. You had tossed a few leaves in a giant bucket and were stirring them with a stick. Connor would come up to you and ask "Helen, did you need some leaves in your bucket?" and you would either nod "yes" or you would say "no". If you said "no", he would reply, "when you said no, did you mean yes" and you would then nod your head "yes". You see, you still often say "no" when it is clear you mean "yes" - which is still a little confusing for the rest of us.

Your favorite thing to do at the park is to swing, followed closely by playing in the sandbox. Connor will give you a whirl on the merry-go-round, and you seem to love that as well.

Most of all, you love to look at the phone and pretend to call your "mimi" and whenever a grandparent is on the phone and you are near, you wave very adamantly and then seem confused when they don't say "hello" back to you. I'll try and explain this to you someday, but for now, I'm just going to sit back and enjoy it.


Thursday, March 19, 2009

Happy Month 43, Connor!

Dear Connor,

A few days ago your turned 43 months. You have spent most of the past month growing, I think. Or at least that is the only explanation your dad and I can come up with for the fact that you now go to the dinner table and eat, and eat, and eat - and then wolf a bowl of baby oatmeal down before bed, along with your starburst or other treat that you have at the end of the day. And then you sleep late the next day (we actually had to wake you up to leave the house at 8:15 twice last week!). When you come downstairs in the morning, the first words out of your mouth are often "Daddy, I'm hungry". And I love rolling over and saying "Daddy will get right on that, Connor". As long as we're on the eating / sleeping front, I should mention that you added two foods to your diet this month - parmesan cheese (aka your "favorite cheese") and shredded mozarella cheese. I have no idea how this happened, but I'm going to try and work up to an actual cheese square in the next couple of months. Of course, if you start eating cheese for a snack, I will have to stop staying that neither you nor Helen eat any kid's foods - except pizza and french fries. You are still firmly opposed to macaroni and cheese, peanut butter and jelly, fish stick, chicken nuggets (the soy kind), grilled cheese, and pretty much anything else that kids normally eat.

You spent much of the month moving dirt from one pot to another in the greenhouse, and eventually planting and watering seeds. So far, only the broccoli has dared show its little green leaves, but I have hope that other plants will follow soon.

You performed your first solo puppet play, which was a mix of the Very Hungry Caterpillar and a story relating to a giant dog. It starred your (stuffed) puppy "Pugsley", who sleeps with you every night. The heroic protagonist of the play eats, and eats, and eats until he grows to be as tall as the highest point in the ceiling in our kitchen - which is (for those who don't know) a cathedral ceiling that is much higher than a normal ceiling. I await the puppy's next adventure. You started the show by setting up your props and then covering them with a white blanket - much like Mrs. Moss and Mrs. Trembour do when they perform a puppet play at school. You then sang a little tune to set the mood, asked me to find my seat, and then dramatically took the blanket off and began the show. It was incredible.

I think you have finally decided on Pugsley as your favorite stuffed animal, though you don't have so much loyalty to him that I worry about losing him and you being too upset. This is the stuffed animal your grandma Lynn gave you Christmas, 2007. You ask for it each night before bed, though yesterday morning, you offered that maybe Helen could sleep with Pugsley for just one night. As nice as the gesture is, I think we will wait a while for such a dramatic thing to happen. Many nights I check-in on you, I find you clutching Pugsley in some sort of vicelike grip, and I do not want to risk you waking up and wondering where Pugsley is, and then embarking on a midnight stroll to find him. And possibly remembering it is in your sister's crib and ultimately waking her up by snatching it out. That would be bad for the whole house.

You and Helen continue to play together. Most of your play involves the kitchen, dirt, or trains. Here, Helen is cooking you up for dinner. She chose not to eat you, though she did try and bite you this morning and you were cool as a cucumber. You ratted her out but did not fight back and words cannot express how grateful I am for that. She also tried to shove you out of the wagon a couple of days ago and other than telling her it was your wagon too, you were remarkably restrained. Your dad and I have begun to discuss what we will do when you finally pop her one and she deserves it. We are considering pretending it didn't happen, though we aren't yet decided.

You remain an excellent sous chef. You show particular skill with the use of sprinkles. We have about 10 containers of these things and according to you, it is essential that we use some from every one of them, every time we get them out. And after carefully putting some in each of many bowls, you go about mixing them all together, and then finally dumping them in large quantities on the cookies or cake we are decorating. Frankly, I prefer my cookies with a few less sprinkles, but I'm happy to have the help in the kitchen.

I believe I can accurately report that you scored a serious victory at school. When you started in the 3-day class, Mrs. Moss told me about snack. On Mondays you have whole wheat rolls with butter and apples (same as we had in parent-child class so many days), on Tuesday they serve real oatmeal with maple syrup and apples, and on Wednesday you have brown rice and apples. When Mrs. Moss told me this, I told her that you would not eat real oatmeal (you only like the baby stuff), and it was a battle I had long ago decided I wasn't waging. She looked very surprised, but said that at least you could have apples. I told her that possibly your love of syrup would drive you to eventually break down and eat oatmeal, but the possibility was remote, at best. At the last parent night, Mrs. Moss announced that on Tuesdays starting in April, the class would be switching to a muffin for snack on Tuesday. She did not say what precipitated this menu change, but I'm pretty sure your steadfast refusal to touch the oatmeal had something to do with it. To be fair, you told me that you tried one bite of oatmeal on one day, so it's not like you were unreasonable and never tried it - which is your usual reaction when you decide you do not like a food.

Connor 1, Mrs. Moss and her oatmeal 0.

You occasionally have nightmares, and while developmentally appropriate, I find it rather annoying. Last night, you were vexed by the little black armadillos that were shouting in your room and dear DOG, I was so glad when i finally convinced you to just dream about a train trip with me to Alaska. At first I suggested you dream about fishing in Alaska, but you said "Oh No, I'm going to dream about a train. That special train that is in Alaska that you can sleep on". Which reminds me, you are obsessed with the idea of going to Alaska. I told you we were going on a practice vacation to Minnesota this summer and if everyone slept every night, we would consider branching out more next year. I do look forward to seeing the world with you and your sister, Connor.


Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Booty from grandparents

Dear Grandma and Grandpa,

I know you have been back in the country for less than a day, but we wanted to let you know that if you have time to send some stickers in the new few weeks, we could really use them.

Connor and Helen

Monday, March 16, 2009

Sometimes, it's all in the details

There are a million things that Connor is very particular about, and I know he gets it exclusively from me. For example, Connor would never consider leaving the lid off the toothpaste and he always closes drawers after he opens then. When he cleans up, he puts his toys in their designated space and he regularly alerts me when I come home if a toy was not put away properly by someone else. He picks up on rules very quickly and he is not afraid to enforce them. For example, if I tell Ed to make sure the shower curtain is all the way extended when he is done so that it can dry, Connor will walk by the bathroom after Ed gets out of the shower and make sure the curtain is in the proper position. If it is not, he will either rat Ed out or fix it, depending on if he thinks he needs help.

And so it came to pass that we had this conversation Friday morning.

Mommy, I need to tell you a very important story.
Yes, Connor.
Yesterday, I looked in the dishwasher and noticed that your special offset spatula was in there. I told Daddy to take it out. I know you would never put it in there. It must have been Daddy or Kathy. I wonder why they never remember that things with wooden handles CANNOT go in the dishwasher. Especially your special offset spatula that is your very favorite kitchen tool.

And a few minutes later:

Mommy, do you know why my vanilla container is in the refrigerator?
I think Kathy or Daddy must have put it in there. I know you would never do that because it belongs on the shelf, not in the refrigerator. I always put it on the shelf too.
No Connor, I would not. Because I know it is important to put everything back where it belongs so we can find it the next time we need it.

And so it is, that I have passed on probably every OCD tendency I have to my son. And I adore that there is someone else in the house who thinks just like me - at least on very important matters such as these!


Tuesday, March 10, 2009

New Routine

For a few weeks now, Helen has insisted on reading several books before bed. In fact, she typically requests that we read every.book.on.her.shelf. This is not too painful, though, since each of her books takes about 10 seconds to read - and I regularly send a stack of the books back into Connor's room so her shelf never gets too full. Sometime last week, Helen decided Ed should be part of our nighttime routine, so she walked into Connor's room saying "booh, booh, Dada, Dada..." and Ed read the requested book.

Last night, I needed to get to the quarterly coop meeting so I was rushing bedtime. Helen would have none of it. When it came time for Ed to read a book to her, she started walking into Connor's room to fetch him, even as I told her that Ed was not upstairs yet. Helen persisted in her calls for dada, until finally I hollered down to Ed to get upstairs and read to her. At one point during her spell of insisting Ed read a book, I thought I had convinced her it wasn't going to happen. She sat down on my lap, but then as soon as I started reading, she said "no", very firmly. And unlike most times she says "no", when she actually means "yes", she definitely meant no.

When Ed arrived, he took the book from Helen, opened the cover, and then she proceeded to point to every animal in "Brown Bear, Brown Bear" and say its name as Ed flipped the pages. I was impressed, since she pretends as if she has no idea what the animals are when I read it to her.


Monday, March 9, 2009

Something you might not know about airplanes

Look, Mommy, an airplane!

Yes, Connor, an airplane is flying right over us.

It's very low to the ground. I think it is getting ready to land.

I think so too.

I think it is going to land on the water.

Probably not. It looks that way because our airport is very close to the water. Next time when we're on an airplane, look out the window when we land and see if you can see all the water around our airport.

Some planes can land on water.


Yes. And in the event of a water landing, use the doors at the front of the plane. There is a float underneath your seat that you can use too.

- And this sums up precisely why I stopped listening to NPR when Connor was around. If only I could turn the flight attendant on the airplane off as easily. Although I have to give the flight attendants credit - the thought of a water landing is not at all alarming to the little dude.

Monday, March 2, 2009

Even when he's not trying to be funny

Yesterday morning, Connor walked out onto our deck and shouted excitedly back to me:

"My balls are frozen!".

He also came up with this ditty in the tub:

"The hippo's in the water.
The 'pounge is in the cup.
The 'pounge came out
and the hippo ate it up."

And when I sing questions to Connor, he is trying very hard to sing his responses back. His Aunt, the musician, would be proud.


Sunday, March 1, 2009

Happy Month 42!

Dear Connor,

Here we are at the 3.5 year mark. Which means that in only 6 more months you will be 4. FOUR! Four is my favorite age. It's the age I most loved teaching when I taught preschool. I am so ready to fall in love with four again.

This month, you promised to live with me until you are ONE HUNDRED!, which is actually a little longer than I had hoped, but I haven't told you that yet. I'm happy that it's going to be at least a few more years though.

As fun and happy and generally pleasant to be around as you are, you are also a contrarian. For example, for the past few weeks, you tell everyone "Good Morning!" as you go to bed, and you substitute other opposites when you can. You have made your dad and I vow many times to NOT teach your sister opposites.

You're trying to figure out numbers and measurements so each night, you end the day by telling me you "had 100 feet fun" with me today. I'm assuming from the enthusiasm that it means you had a good day. You will also tell me that you want to go to bed at 6:00 instead of 8:00 or that you prefer to nap at 4:00 instead of 2:00 and clearly, you are just naming random times without much thought to whether they come before or after the appointed time.

You never complain about going to school, and seem to look forward to it, but I know remarkably little about what happens there. At some point early on, you decided it was funny to tell me "there were no teachers and no children at school today, only me" and you have kept this story up. Occasionally you will add elements like "my father forgot to take me to school today so I had to walk there all by myself".

You pick up everything, so now not only have I given up NPR when you're in the car, I can no longer talk obtusely to your dad about things that affect you because you always seem to pick up on exactly what I'm talking about. For example, your Aunt Linda called and you heard me say "Oh, Linda, I'm so sorry" and you looked up and asked "did Sarah die?" and yes, Sarah did just die, but how the heck did you figure that out? Your dad and I were stunned, as was your grandmother, and when Aunt Linda reads this I'm sure she'll be stunned too.

You refer to your dad as "my father" when you're not talking directly to him, and if you need to get my attention, you shout "Elaine", just like your dad does. You also occasionally call me "honey" as in "hey honey, can you get me some drinkable yogurt?". It's hard not to laugh when you do this. At one point on vacation, you said to your grandpa "Dick, could you pass me the 'trawberries?". I don't think you ever called my parents by their first names, but perhaps I just missed it.

While on vacation, you went skiing. And I hate to admit it, but so long as you stay interested, I suspect you'll be a better skier than me by the time you're in the third grade - and it might not take that long. By the end of our vacation, you could turn a bit on your own, and you were fully prepared to ski to the bottom with no help, but since you cannot yet stop, we decided not to let skiing downhill with no one to catch you come to pass.

You are remarkably protective of Helen, and your dad and I both appreciate that. It's not suprising for us to be involved in some task and her you shout "Helen, don't do that" and then we'll look up and Helen will guiltily spit out a bead she's been holding in her mouth. You will also put her in a full-body hug if she gets near the stairs without your dad or I there, just to make sure she's can't ascend them. She is not so appreciative of this maneuver, but I am.

You're been really into creating rhythmic verses which is always interesting. You start with a couple of stanzas, say them a few times, and then come up with a clever rhyme that makes sense.

We've been gearing up to get the greenhouse ready. You are a champ at moving dirt from one pot to another, which if not always useful, is at least entertaining.

We're in a lovely groove, Connor, and everyone has been enjoying it.