Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Anyone else nervous about swine flu?

In my house, I am the designated worrier - which is a little odd since I don't worry about that many things. Which I guess means a lot of things that should be worried about around here just don't get worried about. Maybe my mom takes care of the worrying, or my sister. I have no idea.

Per usual, Ed is reserving judgment on the swine flu. I'm wondering how I can stockpile supplies without Ed noticing, just in case we have to hunker down. Seems as if Connor is on my side on this one.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Happy 44 months!

Dear Connor,

This was a fun month. So fun, in fact, that when one of your daddy's high school buddies told him he was on the fence about whether to have a child, your daddy encouraged him to do so, saying that you and your sister had brought a lot of happiness into his life. Sweet, eh? I say stuff like that all the time. Your dad? Not so much. Not because he doesn't love you and Helen both very dearly, but because he's a guy, and it's usually cooler to talk about all.the.sleepless.nights (even if he slept through many of them).

You are definitely ready to hit the pool this summer. We've been going to an indoor pool weekly at the local high school and this month, you decided to teach yourself how to swim on your back, and you made it the width of the pool without interference from your dad or I. This pleased you greatly.

You have continued your rapid growth spurt and ask to be measured regularly - and you express a bit of disappointment when you haven't gained an inch over the last time you were measured. You often ask me if you are as big as me yet, I suspect because you think that a lot of great things are going to happen when you're as big as me. These include: sleeping in my room, staying up late, becoming a garbage collector where you are the person that jumps out of the truck and dumps the trash and I am the person who drives the truck, and many other things. These come up regularly when you say "when I'm as big as you can I..." and I say "yes". Because I'm hoping that I have a few years before we look eye-to-eye.

You love to scream. So much, that I got a note from your teacher at school about it. She thought you were having a mental breakdown, so she pretty much let you scream and scream as she took you out in the hallway. Enough so that other people later her asked her what was going on in the hallway. Once I explained to her that this was just you, she decided to actually tell you "no", and now you don't scream at school any more. But you still scream in the house, and in the car, and outside, and anywhere else you think you can get away with it. I've dedicated myself to convincing you that screaming is for outside, and it's working pretty well, except for recently in the car with Zoe. We were going to a local production of Mother Goose and you and Zoe got excited about riding in the same car (oh the thrill!), so you started shouting, and I actually pulled the car over, looked you in the eye, and told you to knock it off. You did, for at least a few minutes. But when we got out of the car, you ran, and ran, and ran and oh how I am glad you know to stop at street corners because I can let you enjoy that freedom without worrying. Of course, we've had a couple of incidents when I told you to "stop" and you did not, which resulted in you having to hold my hand when we were on the sidewalk and this was so.incredibly.torturous to you.

You lead your sister in constant play. You love to go into closets together, behind furniture, and into forts, declaring that the two of you are in your house. You ask Helen "should we let Mommy come into the house" and Helen says "yes" or "no" and if she says "no" you ask "when you said no did you mean yes?" and then Helen will say "yes" so you will shout "Helen says it's OK if you come into our house!". You are constantly trying to figure Helen out, so you tend to ask her fairly complex questions, and then often get offended at the "yes" or "no" answer she gives you. For example, if Helen is staring at something of yours, you might ask her "Helen, do you like my doggie when he is sitting underneath the pack-and-play" and Helen will answer "no", and you will come running to me and say in a voice that is filled with injustice "Helen won't let me play with my doggie under the pack-and-play because she doesn't like it". Uh, yeah. You will also use the same tactic to express your desires through Helen. For example, I might hear from the backseat "Helen, did you want mommy to stop at the bookstore and get us a new book?" and Helen will answer, and then you will say "Mommy, Helen wants you to stop at the bookstore and get her a new book". Mommy is not fooled.

You run, you skip, you laugh. You make others around you do the same.


Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Happy 18 months, Helen!

Dear Helen,

Oh dear, oh dear, Helen. It seems as if you have gone and turned one month older. And do you know what, you're perfect. Really, Helen, I'm not bragging about you or just trying to boost your self esteem. We went to the pediatrician's office and that's what Dr. B. said. And is it any wonder, my love? As he was getting up to leave, you looked at him and said "bye-bye do-tor". You weighed in at a full 19 pounds and 3 ounces, which means in another couple months, we might actually flip your car seat around so you can see all of the wonderful things that Connor constantly points out to you. Or not. You seem pretty happy facing backwards, and you might as well know, I do not like to rock the boat when there are content children in the car. Neither you nor your brother have always been that way. Your weight puts you still below the growth chart for weight, but you are 30th percentile for height and have a head in the 70th percentile. Which is just to say, you sound like one of my kids!

And speaking of cars, I have instituted a new rule in the car. Occasionally, when I am performing a very tricky maneuver like merging into traffic when I have about 20 feet to perform the merge and there are about three million cars coming at me, I announce that "I need everyone to be quiet in the car for two minutes" which ALWAYS results in Connor shutting his yap for about a millisecond, which encourages you to open your yap, because DOG FORBID there be silence in my life...ever. And then Connor shouts "Helen, Mommy said to be quiet! She's trying to drive! You have to be quiet!" and this causes you to squeal, and me to bang my head on the steering wheel, close my eyes, and hope for the best. So far it's working brilliantly.

I am alternately known as "mommy" and "mama" to you these days. When you are grumpy, it's "mama". When you are delighted about something, it's often "mommy". You are also working very hard at internal consonants. We went on a very long hike at a nearby Nature Center a few weeks ago, and you spent much of it saying "wahTrr, wahTrrr" as we walked first along the creek, then crossed over the creek, and then along its other bank.

The folks from the Georgetown Early Learning project came by because you were eligible for a new study, and I think we have found your calling, my dear. For this study, a person showed you how to put three pieces of an object together to make it a rattle. It took you, oh, I don't know, maybe THREE SECONDS to perform the task. Clearly, you should be a mechanic. And Helen, this is a great occupation. It does not require me to send you to graduate school, and with a little entrepreneurial spirit, you'll do fine. You might not realize this, but your dad and I have been gambling away your college fund by "investing" money in a 529 account for you, only to watch it disappear by the time the next statement comes around. This has not turned out to be the best college savings strategy.

You are the principle raspberry giver in the house - doling them out whenever you see a piece of bare skin.

You're making your brother seem much less impressive. You see, as a new parent, pretty much everything Connor did was amazing. And a part of me felt that it was possible he was the only one doing these things, but as it turns out, you do them too. At roughly the same time. Apparently it's called "developing". Until I went back and read Connor's 17 & 18 month letters, I had not remembered that when I would sing "Ring Around the Rosie", he would twirl around all by himself, as if playing a game for one. You know what, Helen? You do it too, only your song of choice is "Here we go round the mulberry bush" which has you twirling, brushing your teeth, trying very hard to "jump out of bed", and laying on the floor pretending to sleep. You also do Ring Around the Rosie, but we don't sing that as often.

I would not fully be capturing you if I didn't write that you are STUBBORN, STUBBORN, STUBBORN! The most extreme example is that a few nights ago, you asked from some "choc", so your dad gave you a piece of chocolate with a foil wrapping on it. He would've taken it off, but you were totally annoyed at having to wait even one second to get your beloved "choc". So then I said "Helen, if you give me your chocolate, I will take the wrapping off so you can eat it" and you shouted "NO!" and I said "give me the chocolate, Helen" and you hid it behind your back and shouted "no", and then I finally just took the damn thing from you and started taking the foil off which caused you to scream so I handed it back with foil half on and half off, and you popped the whole thing in your mouth, because I guess you were going to show me - but then you did capitulate and spit the candy out so that the remainder of the foil could be removed.

You believe you are three years old, and are incredibly offended when anyone suggests otherwise. Which means you paint, and climb, and do any number of things all day that are either incredibly messy or dangerous. But everyone around you is a sucker for your smile, so things seem to work out just fine.

You have also decided that you must sleep with your baby and "bah" (a sheep) each night. The baby is a felt doll about three inches big that I purchased for you at Connor's school in the Fall. I believe I know who made it, and I am going to have to ask her to make a few more, or teach me how to make them, because "baby" is not long for this world. She's easy to lose and doesn't take too well to all the love she's been getting (like when she went swimming - and bless your heart, right after tossing her in the water table, you came to be and said "bay-bee, swim" - so I could at least keep her from drowning too quickly). "Bah" has his own problems. Compared to your arm, he is enormous, so it's a little awkward at night when you lay on my lap to nurse with one arm attempting to hold onto "bah" and the other hand filled with "bay-bee", but we get by.

Mama / Mommy

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Toss the secret decoder ring in the trash

For a couple of years now, whenever someone new is going to be around Connor a lot, I tell them "if you don't understand something he says, put an 's' in front of it". And when I say this, a wave of understanding will wash over their faces, and all of sudden they understand about the 'nakes.

Today, Connor announced to Ed that he had a snake on his shirt. Not a 'nake, a snake. It was so shocking that Ed asked Connor to tell me what was on his shirt, and sure enough, it was a snake.

I'm so bummed to see this speech tic disappear. I miss the 'nakes already.


Thursday, April 16, 2009

Ready, Set, Hunt!

Connor loves egg hunts. In fact, after our first egg hunt, Connor begged Ed and me to hide eggs for a l.o.n.g...t.i.m.e. And last year was no better. In fact, I think we were playing egg hunt into December.

This year, we attended one warm-up hunt. Prior to the hunt, Connor and Helen totally hammed it up as if they were amateurs.

But then, they decided to practice a little bit. While the other children milled about, played in the moonbounce, and ran around, Connor and Helen searched for rocks. Thankfully, Helen kept dumping her basket out after filling it up because I have a rather large rock collection at home already, that I'm not particularly fond of.

I put them both in the 2-3 year old age group. And when the hunting began, my children definitely separated the men from the boys.

First, I turned my back for a minute, and the next thing I knew, a whole bunch of parents were laughing, and I had to go fetch Helen off the grounds.

When the hunt actually began, Connor took what turned out to be very sage advice from Ed. Rather than being lulled into grabbing the close eggs, he sprinted past all of the other children a few feet, and then stopped to pick up eggs. He was cleaning up the joint as the other kids were tripping over each other. He easily filled his basket and was super excited that he seemed to have found a patch of eggs with Smarties in them - yummy! He was kind enough to share these with Helen, which she was very excited about.

After the hunt, the two of them bounced around in the moonbounce, which was nothing less than completely frightening. She was - by far - the smallest child in the moonbounce, and it is nothing short of a miracle that she survived. I did have to go in with her to fend off the jumping beans around her. She may have wanted more at the end, but I was done.

A couple of days later, we hosted our annual egg hunt. It was supposed to be a gorgeous afternoon - like all the afternoons leading up to it. I had spent the previous day clearning the lawn of the hazards I could find. Unfortunately, Mother Nature had something else in store for the day. It started raining the night before and didn't let up until Saturday afternoon after all the eggs had been hidden - and for the most part, discovered. Incredibly, the house is still standing after about a dozen kids tore through the place looking for the plastic shelled goodies.

Here's Connor, preparing for the hunt with his secret ingredient - apple juice!

Sequestered in the basement while the eggs are hidden upstairs.

Finding the eggs

Helen made it about two-thirds the way through the party - and then she passed out.

Next year, I'm hoping for some sunshine!

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Ticket karma

I am a strong believer in karma - and when I send negative energy out into the world, I almost always regret it deeply within a few hours - though sometimes it takes me longer, I admit. But I try and send lots of positive karma out into the world and I do believe I live a mostly charmed life in return.

I have wanted to attend the White House egg roll for a long time. A big sticking point was that I needed a kid. Traditionally, folks in DC camp out overnight to get tickets to the event. I considered doing it last year, but Helen was only 9 months old, and being away for an entire night wasn't going to happen, as she wasn't sleeping through the night at that point. Ed was less than enthusiastic about the idea of camping out himself, and I wasn't sure Connor's arm would be good enough to accurately launch an egg at the President's head - just kidding (sort of), so I didn't attempt to get tix.

This year, my friend Vickie and I were planning on camping out. But our plans were foiled when the White House decided to release the tickets via the internet. The idea was that people from all over the country could attend the event, rather than the event being dominated by locals.

The ticket distributor was horrible. The system kept crashing, people would get in and then be kicked out at the last minute, it would look like tickets were available when they weren't, allotments of tickets were released randomly throughout the day so rather than just selling out in an hour, people had to keep checking back to see if maybe, maybe, another ticket became available. My stalwart father clicked and clicked all day for me.

I got very lucky. I got into the system pretty early, but when I tried to get 2 adult tickets and 4 kid tickets (so that I could go with Vickie and her two), the system said that there weren't that many tickets available. So I clicked the next lower number, and the next, and the next, and finally, I ended up with 1 adult ticket and 1 child ticket.

I was sad not to take Helen, even though I know she won't have any memory of the event.

But I was really psyched to be able to go with Connor.

As the event came closer, I posted messages everywhere I could think of about needing an extra ticket for the Group B time slot. I queried past event-goers to see if there were likely to be extra tickets available at the door. In response to a message I posted, another mom felt the need to write me back a message so nasty that other folks on the listserv chastised her. And I thought about writing a snarky note back to her, but kept myself from pushing "send" because I thought to myself that it's better to just absorb the negative energy than to send it back out into the world. In a final bout of desperation, I even called a former colleague of mine who is a member of Obama's cabinet and amazingly, he put his assistant on the trail for a ticket. When this happened, I called my sister and asked her "do you want to know how effin' cool I am? I am totally going to score a ticket for Helen" and my sister responded "If the economy crashes tomorrow, it's your fault and did I tell you I just got a blackberry", so there she was, in my moment of cool, being cooler than me, again.

Tickets were selling for hundreds of dollars. I was not willing to pay that. Conversely, I was not willing to sell for that. You see, I am convinced that if I scalp a ticket like this, I am doomed to never get a hot ticket again. At this point in my life, I have always been able to get a ticket for every event I've wanted to attend, at a fair price. This includes a sold out Ani DiFranco concert in Central Park where there were hundreds of young, hip people jumping around, dancing, and shouting for tickets, along with Ed and me who were in our work clothes (having left work in DC a few hours earlier and driven like crazy to get to NYC) and looking rather plain. We had just given up and were heading to the subway, when a couple of people who looked as out of place as we did asked "do you need tickets" and we promptly responded "yes", and unlike every other person whom we had previously had this discussion with, they told us the tickets were available for face value. And, it includes a sold out Neil Young show, where he added a second day - unannounced - and I happened to be checking back for tickets, and several others. L.U.C.K.Y.

Knowing that these things always work out, I kept my nose to the ground for a ticket, just in case the White House tickets didn't come through. And then I saw a message from another mom "I have a pass for two adults and two children, but I only have one child. Does anyone know if both adults will be let in, or will only one adult be allowed in with one child?"

I responded "I'm just begging here, but if that extra ticket for that child happens to be for Group B, I would love to have it. I have one adult ticket and one child ticket, but I'd like to bring my 17 month old daughter along as well. But, in answer to your question, I think you'll have no problem getting in with one fewer child than your pass indicates."

And do you know what she wrote back? "My extra child ticket is for the Group B time slot. Would you mind entering as a group of 6, with your one adult one child pass and my two adult and two children pass?"

And the deal was done. And notice, Helen took full advantage of the opportunity by running into the egg hunt, tossing her basket, and then throwing an egg to me. Rock on!

On Monday morning we met for the first time by the Washington Monument. We walked over to the ellipse together, and as it turns out, I totally could've snuck Helen in. The person who took my tickets didn't even ask for one for Helen or check that she had one. She just said "3 bracelets" and I said "yes!". The person I came with was next to me in the ticket line telling a different ticket taker there that Helen was entering on her ticket, but that ticket taker was also completely uninterested in this news.

I think attending the event might make me cooler than my sister. But I'm not calling her, because I do not want her to tell me she just got an iphone, or some other cool gizmo that will mean she's still cooler than me.

Many thanks to the kind mom who made it so I didn't have to worry about getting Helen in - and to Ellen for loaning me some beautiful tulip pants with matching shirt and jacket for Helen (I knew she'd have some super cute, super appropriate outfit in her stash). Unfortunately, it was pretty cool so I had to keep Helen's pink winter coat on as well.

At one point, Connor decided to lay down in the middle of the White House lawn. He reports that the grass there is very soft and very nice. Perhaps their gardener would like to come take a crack at my backyard, which has several holes in it that Helen has learned to maneuver around expertly, after falling in them a few times.

Helen waited to take her nap until we were about 1 block away from the White House. She probably didn't want to fall asleep at the event because she was busy pilfering everything she could get her hands on. Her booty includes some little plastic bead-like things that were used to make jumpropes; 3 crayons from the egg decorating area; and an attempt at several plastic eggs from the egg hunt area.

We didn't actually make it over to the egg roll. We got side-tracked in the crafting area. Had the kids not been exhausted at 11:45 when we were supposed to leave the grounds, I would've dashed over to the egg roll with them, but since they were tired, I decided we'd leave it for our next trip to the egg roll.

After this photo was snapped, we dashed out quickly. I was worried those cops had their eyes on Helen and I didn't want to take any chances that my baby would end up in Gitmo over a simple crayon misunderstanding.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Happy 40th Anniversary...again

Today, my parents celebrate 40 years together. FORTY. And this time, I'm not kidding about it. My sister called mid-day to point out that we were both jerks because we hadn't remember the anniversary and I was thinking to myself (but didn't say it out loud because I didn't want her to feel bad), what are you talking about? Me forgetting our parents' anniversary? Don't you remember, I wished them a happy 40th anniversary a year ago. (FYI, Thrift Store Mama - your parents have an anniversary coming up on May 4th.) Plus, of course, when Connor called earlier in the day to thank my mom for the Easter goodness (he was particularly impressed with the Bunny Express train) Helen got on and pushed a bunch of buttons, and hung up, and said a few words that might have sounded like "mama" and "choc" [chocolate] and something else but what she said was "Happy Anniverary, Grandma!". Maybe my mom didn't hear it because Helen had already hung up on her. I don't know. Like I said, I didn't want my sister to feel bad.

My gift?


Saturday, April 11, 2009

First Haircut

I never documented Connor's first haircut while it was happening. In part, I was somewhat terrified that it wouldn't go well (which thankfully was a misplaced fear). And I do not have high standards for events such as these. I consider anything that doesn't end in massive amounts of tears or bloodshed a success.

Connor, per usual, hopped up on the chair when it was his turn and gave Annie his instructions.

"I think I'm ready for a buzzcut."

Annie looked up at me with surprise and I shook my head and told her he'd have the usual. Because, uh, yeah, Ed might think telling Connor about buzzcuts is funny, but I love Connor's curls, and I know it's only a matter of time before he no longer loves his curls, and that time will most definitely come sooner for Connor than for me. So at least for now, they're staying.

Throughout Connor's haircut, Helen kept climbing over every other barber chair in the shop that did not have someone in it to test them out - showing us all she was totally ready to have her own hair cut. She actually can hoist herself up unassisted, which surprised me and every other mommy in the joint. When it was her turn, Helen happily toddled up to Annie's chair, but then had a moment of hesitation when Annie handed her a toy to look at and put the cape around her. But there's was no looking back now.

And with that, I give you...the haircut.

Note, Annie's expertly placed hand to keep Helen's head in place while the cutting began.

Then the instruction to lean her head down a bit, which could have resulted in a tumble off the chair but did not.

Close-up of hair - note how close the scissors are to Helen's head. At this point, Connor is jumping all around me saying "Pick me up so I can see better". And I'm all "go eat another lollipop, or some more popcorn, I've got some photographs to take".

And then Annie stepped back and told Helen she was beautiful, and Helen is clearly relieved that she has made it through her FIRST EVER HAIRCUT!


Friday, April 10, 2009

My Littlest Wildcat

Ed thinks it's very funny to teach Connor how to say "Rock Chalk Jayhawk". But when my littlest wildcat grows up, he might want to watch out! Go Cats!

And could someone please take this little wildcat to get her hair cut? I think she's due for an actual style other than her current - gets combed on a good day 'do.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Team Little People

In case there's a day when I wonder why I decided to have a second child...

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Project People

Ed and I used to be considered "project people" by our friends. We'd decide to put in a shelf that was needed, install an overhead light, fix a leaky toilet, install a tile floor - really, whatever needed to be done (though we eventually learned to leave plumbing and electrical work to professionals). We'd kick off these projects and usually finish them pretty quickly.

Once children came into the picture, it was harder to be project people. We don't tend to take on tasks that aren't absolutely necessary, and we keep the projects small in scope. We definitely avoid unnecessary work, though Ed and I sometimes disagree on what is and what is not necessary.

Our new house is loaded with blue paint. I hate blue paint. But, it's not like the blue paint was peeling, or particularly dirty, or there was really any problem with it. But, there was an air conditioner installed in the wall. And once we had central air conditioning installed, we no longer needed the wall unit - and that meant we could call our now favorite drywall dude and ask him to remove the AC and put a wall back in. And behind him he left an enormous white spot, where there was freshly primed drywall - and that meant we needed to paint. The first of the blue rooms has been converted to a much more neutral beige. And we did it in a weekend...with a little help.

Helen deemed the work good.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Let's Play

Connor and David are the "book ends" for the birthdays in my mom's group. And I'm so glad, because if the group were any younger, Connor wouldn't be included - and if the group were older, David wouldn't be included, and that would be just sad, because watching these two kids play together is really fun.

On his first visit to our new house a couple of weeks ago, Connor and David acted like they'd played together a million times (which sadly, is not the case). Probably the most interesting thing for me to watch was how the boys went into the greenhouse and decided to fly it. They both found window cranks and set out on their trip to Africa or Alaska - depending on who you asked. I often think of Connor as a problem solver, but he's got nothing on David. Faced with Connor pulling rank and choosing the easy to get to hand crank, David simply climbed onto a couple of shelves to reach the other window crank. Dude was not at all phased, and in the process, Helen learned where she could crank the window if Connor was hogging the other one.

David also introduced Connor to some race car concepts and fire fighters, which have made several repeat appearances since their visit. I think we're all looking forward to the next visit!


Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Ask me how great I feel!

OK - I'll give you a few clues.

This morning, I woke up before anyone shorter than me did. I took a shower - all by myself. When Connor finally woke up, he went into the kitchen and helped himself to a granola bar while I finished getting ready for the day.

Helen then woke up, and used the potty, meaning I had 1 fewer diapers to change today.

Connor and Helen played nicely while I prepared breakfast and Ed got the lunches together. They then sat down, ate, and seemed pretty happy.

About halfway through breakfast, Connor asked me a question about Obama, and only then did I realize - he had just read the caption on the front page of the Washington Post while I was reading the inside. That's right folks, at just over 3.5 years, Connor has begun to read.

I just had to record this great day. And wish everyone a Happy April Fool's Day!