Sunday, May 31, 2009

One Woman Party

There are two things I thought of when taking this recent set of photos - actually three.

The first thing I thought of was my friend Chris L.'s trademark "one-man-party". As you might suspect, this involves one person, a few beers, and probably some tunes. It's a fine way to spend the occasional Friday night.

Second, I thought of when I became pregnant with Connor and a few of my friends commented that they hoped I had a girl, because they couldn't wait to come over to the house some afternoon to pick me up and see our daughter with all her stuffed animals and dolls set out, along with a tea kettle and some "tea" at a miniature table, with Ed sitting there as well, knees in his ears from sitting on the tiny chairs, enjoying a tea party. That image alone was reason to be excited when I got word that Helen would be a girl.

And then I thought - who knew a little bit of water, a pitcher, a stool, and a cup could provide so much entertainment for the sub-2 crowd?

Helen, my dear, you seemed to enjoy your "one-woman-party" quite a lot, and I'm sure you can't wait to have your daddy join you next time.

Monday, May 25, 2009

A new phrase...for Connor

Due to a confluence of events, I ended up working today which left Ed home alone with the kids (Kathy was celebrating the long weekend with friends in Baltimore). Well, not really alone since I was in my home office, but the kids didn't know that, so Ed was effectively home alone with them. At 1:30, when Ed checked in with me and did a little dance that he had both children napping, he broke the news that Connor had learned his first curse word. As noted before in these pages, Connor will not use a word until he can use it in context, which means that it's possible to have the occasional slip of the tongue with no ramifications. But you only get so many free passes, and apparently those free passes are up.

As Ed was slathering sunscreen all over Connor's very pale skin, he set the sunscreen down, probably about two inches from his leg. Helen, seizing opportunity, quietly picked up the sunscreen. She had been standing next to Ed asking for mo' 'screen and he had repeatetdly told her she had enough. But Helen clearly wasn't taking no for an answer, and Ed had forgotten to replace the cap on the sunscreen. When Helen squeezed the tube, the sunscreen went all over the rug. Ed turned around a moment too late to see it all happen, and exclaimed "Jesus Christ, Helen" - because you must know, the elapsed time between when Ed set the sunscreen down and Helen squirted it all over was probably five seconds, at best.

Ed set about cleaning up the mess, and Connor, always eager to help joined in. Apparently, as Connor was trying to wash the stain out of the carpet, he was muttering "Jesus Christ, Helen".


Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Morning demands

These are the words Connor greeted me with this morning when he came into my room, looking rather resolute.

"Mommy, I am not going to eat fruits and vegetables any more. I am only eating strawberry juice, grape juice, cranberry juice, orange juice, apple juice, jell-o, cake, treats, and cookies."

He actually repeated this list twice, counting the items out on his fingers. I wanted him to repeat it to Ed, but when he did this, he added "drinkable yogurt", because I guess he needed a 10th item.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

National Train Day

Last weekend, Amtrak hosted "National Train Day" at Union Station. I assumed it was an event targeted towards the bazillion train obsessed children out there (much like my own 3 year old), but people who didn't have children actually came to this thing as well. Of course, they didn't wait in the line to get a balloon sculpture or get a Thomas the Train tattoo, but they did wait in line to go through several different trains. Because the theme of the weekend was Supermom, I did not disappoint my crew. I reserved tickets for the train tour, which meant NO waiting in line. Awesome. Especially awesome when a woman commented to me about "the line" and I could smile as the person in charge told me that if I had reservations I could go right in after she checked my tickets.

We went through "the fast train" and a sleeper train, and possibly the third. Honestly, I don't remember because to me, if you've seen one train, you've seen them all.

During the tour of the sleeping train, Connor and Helen both enjoyed taking a pretend nap, and Connor assured me that if we went on a train trip he would sleep. Yeah, right.

The event was fun, but I have to say, I cannot believe the opportunity that Amtrak passed up with this event. Here we were, trapped on a train with thousands of our closest friends, walking right throught the cafe car, and though there was food set out to show people what they had available, it was not for sale. They could have made a fortune from those of us with kids who would've loved to score a bag of chips or a pack of M&Ms. Poor planning, I tell you.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Why the kids call me "cool mommy"

Ok, the kids have never in their life called me "cool mommy", but they've thought it - especially last weekend.

Last Friday, on my "at-home day", Team Little People headed west to Herndon. Thanks to the GPS system, we made it with no problems, and when we arrived at "Big Trucks Day", no team member was disappointed. The town had a construction helmet for each child in attendance, which Connor and Helen promptly wore atop their regular hats, though the construction helmets were later discarded.

Connor was very excited to take Helen to all of the big trucks and explain to her what they were, though he became extremely concerned when it looked like Helen might recycle her construction helmet, rather than wearing it - or more accurately - having me carry it.

We found a shady spot for lunch, near this fantastic truck. When Connor was finished, he was climbing all over it, having a great time, which Helen was busy splashing in a nearby puddle. Isn't it nice that the mom in the photo is ready to catch Connor while I'm busy photographing him? For the record, the fall wouldn't have been that far, and it only would've happened if her kid pushed Connor - which he did not even come close to doing.

The day ended with promises to attend next year, and two very tired kids.

The following day, we went to National Train Day and that was an even bigger hit. The thing that suprised me about this event is that there were actually people there who did not appear to be parents of train obsessed 3 year olds. Wow! I had no idea adults without children subjected themselves to these kind of events.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Happy Month 19, Helen

Dear Helen,

Here you are at 19 months and what can I say? You are your own woman. You might be small, but you will never be forgotten, and as your Grandma and Aunt have said - you are just like me and your petite cousin, Emily. Only they would say it in a "HA! You get what you deserve!" sort of way, while I smile and think "everything is going to be just fine". Because, Helen, you might as well know, I understand what it's like to be in a roomful of people where everyone is bigger, and I understand that sometimes you have to speak just a little bit louder, be a little bit more clever, or be willing to dig in your heels just a little bit harder than everyone else.

Calvin Coolidge is credited with saying:
"Nothing in the world can take the place of persistence. Talent will not; nothing is more common than unsuccessful men with talent. Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education will not; the world is full of educated derelicts. Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent."

and that last sentence has stuck with me since I first came upon it sometime in high school. And I do believe, Helen, that you sense this too.

How else could I explain the way you do not back down? Not for a second. When your daddy comes around the corner chasing you, and you sense that he's going to swoop you up any minute, you are completely willing to spin on your heel and charge with a look in your eye that says to me "old man, you're going to need more than speed and power to get me!"

And the moment before he gets you, you reach out and take his glasses so he can't see (a move you have perfected to an artform). And then the two of you laugh, and laugh, and laugh.

Some would call that being aggressive and playing dirty. I call that surviving a world that's a whole lot bigger than you are. And Helen, even little people have to find a place to fit into this big world, and I think you're finding yours, and it is closer to the center of the action than the sidelines.

You have an ability to follow the letter of the law, if not the spirit. At least twice now, you have hit someone when you are mad, only to be told "no hitting". And what is your response? You kick the person you are mad at. This, by the way, results in you being picked up and moved to a space where you cannot hit - or kick - anyone, and you screaming indignantly. What can I say, Helen? I understand, but we don't do physical violence in this house. You have also been known to hit Connor and then when he calls you out, you look up very innocently, continue hitting him - only a little lighter now, and say "pat pat pat". AS IF?!? Connor is not fooled, and neither are your dad and me, but I suppose it's worth a try. And to be fair, if Connor falls and hurts himself, you are the first to run to him, give him a pat, and give him a kiss.

Weaning? This is not going well. You see, I stopped pumping at work quite some time ago, so I'm pretty sure my body does not make milk during the day anymore. Monday - Thursday, I nurse you around 6:30 AM when you wake-up, at 4:30 when I come home, and right before you go to bed at 7:00. During the day, you willingly take a bottle from your au pair. But on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday when I am home? You get downright mad at the suggestion that you should get your milk from a bottle (or a sippy cup, or a straw cup, or a cup with no lid...) so instead you walk around nipping at my heels ALL DAY saying "nurse, nurse", and because I guess you thought I didn't understand, you now pat your breast as well.

I understood. And as I've told you many times, I'm done making milk in the daytime. It'll work out for both of us at some point.

You love to hang with the big kids, and when you think you've figured out what they're doing and you join in, you are thrilled. You will follow Connor pretty much anywhere he goes, and you will also follow his directions, which is not always a good thing.

You love to paint. You probably paint a little every day. You always ask for "mo" paint, even when you already have plenty. And then you get mad if the paint distributor tells you to finish with what you have.

You have added "'Cot" (Scott) to your line-up of bye-bye's at night, so now we say good-night to Mimi, Zozo, Dada, Tonr, and 'Cot. During the day, you've started to ask for Lolo (Laurie) too. Still, when the phone rings, you ask if it's your Mimi and this week, you added "Hel-low" to your vocabulary. You also have the funniest little "doodoloo" for Cock-a-doddle-doo. Even your dad admits it's very cute.

These days are passing very quickly, Helen, and I'm very much looking forward to our summer together.


Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Happy Month 45, Connor

Dear Connor,

You are one tough cookie these days. You seem to be enjoying finding out just where the edges of the envelope are, and regularly, you cross the line. This is not very endearing. I know you're going through a completely age appropriate stage, and psychologists have lots of reasons why this happens, but that doesn't make it easy or fun for me. Your throw-downs appear minor compared to what others tell me about, but still Connor, give us a break next month.

This properly belongs in last month's newsletter, but I forgot about it when I was scrambling to write your very late letter, so I'll include it here. For a long time, I worried that you had inherited your father's musicality, which is to say, a performance at Carnegie Hall was not in your future. Once, many years ago, your dad and I were walking down the street in Adams Morgan. Your dad was singing a little tune quietly, and I recognized the words of the song, but the notes were nowhere close to how I had heard it performed. As in, sometimes your dad's voice got higher when it should've gotten lower and vice versa - not just the normal version of not quite right which involves being a little high or a little low. I paused and asked "is that what that song sounds like to you?" and your dad looked at me as if I had just asked him "do you have two ears?" - because the answer was that obvious to him. Yes, that is exactly what the song sounds like, and what are you questioning? OK.

You have never been terribly interested in music classes, though you took a few with a companion of yours. But recently, you have taken a keen interest in songs. A few months ago, you properly identifed that "Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star" and "ABC" are sung to the same tune. You also became fascinated with the idea of a round, whereby I start singing "row, row, row your boat" and then your dad would start after I finished the first line of the song. For a few weeks, you would attempt to sing, too. You would always start, but as soon as I entered, you would start singing my line. No more. You sing your own line now. And...and...your voice goes up at the right time, it goes down at the right time, it stays the same pitch at the right time. When I sing you questions, you sing a response to me. You will sit in the backseat of the car and sing a tune, filling in different words, which are almost always very funny. You will also sing questions to me in cute little tunes. This thrills me.

We visited the dentist for the second time. I sat in my chair, you sat in yours. At first, the hygenists were very nervous about the thought of a three year old being unaccompanied, but you were a champ. I think the secret is that since you do not watch television at home, you are fascinated by the television at the dentist's office. The dentist's report is that you clearly take after your father in the tooth department - and that is a very, very good thing for my pocketbook. The only issue he sees is that your teeth may be a little bit crowded. That is a phrase my parents never heard.

You have decided that tormenting your teacher is among your favorite activities, which resulted in me getting called in for a special parenting meeting. Seriously, Connor? Are you going to be the trouble maker in class? I think not, because I am not prepared to deal with that.

You brought home a book about two pets that stuck together during Hurricane Katrina and I almost cried when you started asking questions about why the owners of the pets had to leave them behind, and I did my very best to answer without freaking you out, and finally I told you "it was a really hard time". And Connor, I remember those days all too well. You were a tiny baby. I would go down in the basement to feed you and turn on the television. During the morning shows, the only news that was being reported was about all the devastation of the storm and every bone in my body wanted to do something to make things better, but I was helpless. And I would look at this tiny baby in my arms - you - and wonder if the government was forever going to be an embarrassment to me. I would wonder if you would ever find yourself displaced, with nowhere to turn, because all your neighbors and family members lost everything they had, too. I would contemplate how unfair the world is when I would realize that realistically, you are very unlikely to face the circumstances that many people in New Orleans and other areas in the Gulf Coast faced simply by virtue of being born to your dad and me - while an equally deserving child faced the possibility of life ending all too early, because there was no one to take care of them. And you know what, Connor? Someone loves those kids as much as I love you and Helen, but for a variety of reasons, some babies just weren't and aren't protected. And I am very sad about that. And I think that we, as a nation, can do better. The show I remember most? I remember when Oprah Winfrey took her crew into New Orleans. After hearing the government make excuses for not sending in supplies to a city that was LEVELED, saying that it was bedlam, and there was no way they could get in, and they were stopping trucks of supplies saying it was too dangerous--there was Oprah, reporting that she was in the middle of it, she didn't feel like she was in danger, and people needed help. I have not read that book again, Connor, because I don't want to answer more questions about it. When you're older, you bet, but not now.

You enjoy putting on puppet plays at school and building houses with two friends of yours at school, and a third friend of yours insists to her mother that you and her play Mommy, Daddy, and baby with another friend of yours, but you refuse to acknowledge it. One day, she came home telling her mom that the two of you and two other girls were playing the "Obamas" and you, as the man of the group, were Barack. When I asked you about this, you flatly said "no I wasn't". I think this is because you are trying very hard to be the lone Republican in the house. What, with your stance on refusing to go to Spanish storytime any more because you like English!

You play dress-up regularly these days as well as trains, and trucks, and sand, and water. Your favorite games appear to be those that cause the most mess.

You provide able assistance in the garden, dumping the buckets of weeds into the trashcan after I pull them. You also can identify weeds and pull them on your own, and always, always, you love the worms.

When you're not intentionally trying to annoy us, you're still pretty fun to have around. But really, Connor, we hope the annoying phase passes quickly.



Monday, May 11, 2009

You OK back there?

Connor: ...pontificating about the world around him...the people around him...pretty much saying anything - and I can't say that anyone in the car was actually listening at this point in the ride and then?

silence. SILENCE. In my car...for five seconds...there was silence. And nobody was sleeping.

Elaine: Ed, is Helen OK?
Ed: Helen, you OK back there?
Helen: Yes.
Ed: She's OK.
Elaine: No she's not. She's never quiet when Connor stops talking. Connor, is your sister OK back there?
Connor: No, Mommy. Helen just threw up all over herself.
Ed, leans into backseat to see what's going on, even though the smell of puke is now penetrating through the car. Yeah, you guessed it, Helen is covered in vomit.

But as soon as we get out of the car? Helen is laughing away, as if nothing ever happened. And I have to admit, I didn't even get to enjoy the five seconds of silence because I was too busy worrying something was wrong. Sheesh.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Mother's Day, 2009

This morning, Helen was very excited to start celebrating Mother's Day. I know, because for the first time in at least 6 weeks, she was awake before 6:15. Yes, my dear daughter decided to wake up at 5:35 this morning. I attempted to get Helen back to sleep by putting her in bed with me and nursing her, but that was a huge mistake because someone (her mother), had forgotten to trim her finger nails. So now, not only did I have a fully awake, nursing baby. I had a fully, awake, nursing baby who was scratching me - and it hurt! Only I'm an optimist, and I didn't want to trim her nails, because she might wake up even more, and then all hope of returning to sleep would be lost.

I should've just trimmed her nails. Then I would've at least not endured over 30 minutes of scratching my tummy, chest, and any other part of me she could reach.

Helen kept asking for "Tonr", because she really wanted someone to play with.

As promised, Ed took the kids out for breakfast and then to a park to hang out, because this is possibly the only way he can keep the kids from pouncing on me as soon as he turns his back on them to start making breakfast. It was awesome. I slept long enough to actually dream about how nice it was to have a dream. Sweet!

We celebrated the day eating cake, gardening, playing in the park, and taking a long walk. I ended the day by singing Connor two songs (about a dump truck and a recycling truck -- please, Connor, do not ask for a repeat performance, because I might not even remember the tune I put the words to, let alone the words I made up to go with the requested song topic.

At the end of the day, Connor (with a little help from Ed), left me this message:

I love you too, little man.

Friday, May 8, 2009

Stamp Out Hunger

Tomorrow, please consider doing your part to end hunger in this country. Simply leave a bag or box of non-perishable food on your front stoop, or wherever your mailbox is located, and your postal carrier will pick it up and deliver it to an area food bank. There's a lot of hungry people out there. Can you help?

Tuesday, May 5, 2009


Three days ago, it started to rain. And since then, there hasn't been much respite around here. At some point, you just have to put on your boots and make the best of it. Connor and Helen both wanted to play outside, and since I finally found a pair of rain boots for Helen, she was able to go out without getting her feet drenched. Unfortunately, I miscalculated how long they would be outside, and failed to put them in raincoats. I figured (incorrectly) that the downpour outside that had drenched me a half hour earlier when I rode my bike from the subway to home would dissuade them from playing outside for long.

As soon as they were granted their freedom, Helen began asking for a shovel and to have the lid of the sand table removed, and Connor began searching for a big plastic tub that he could dump water from the sand table lid into. It was quite a sight. Helen soon caught on to Connor's game and started filling her own cup up with water that had pooled around the deck to add to his tub.

The two of them splashed around for a good half hour, before I finally called them inside to eat dinner--and change into warm, dry clothes. They were drenched - except for their feet, which came out of their respective rain boots dry and toasty. They would've played outside all night had I not called it quits.

At the end of it all, Connor reported that he was ready to water the plants tomorrow with all his water - and he is confident the plants will grow really well with said water.


Friday, May 1, 2009

So that's what this house is missing...

Connor rarely mentions our old house - except on Friday. Every Friday, he mentions to me at some point how our old house was better, how he liked it better, or actually starts sobbing because he claims to miss it so much. The thing he misses so much? Our tiny kitchen.

Today was the first Friday that I can recall since we moved in that Connor did not mention our old house. Instead, as we were driving to the Arboretum, I heard this from the back seat.

"Mommy, we should have bought a house with a bathroom outside. That way, we wouldn't have to take our shoes off every time we have to go inside to the use the bathroom."

My response?

"You are clearly your father's son. I'll bring up this important home improvement idea at the next committee meeting."