Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Cool as a Cucumber

This evening, Ed and I took the kids over to a gym to burn off some excess energy before bed. Helen was cruising around in a little car, not paying attention to where she was going. Naturally, she ran into the wall. Without missing a beat, she looked up and announced "This my parking spot". Yeah, right, babe.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

BBB #4

The oldest children in the mom's group turn 4 sometime between August 12 (Connor's bday) and December 28 (David's bday). In celebration, almost every family was able to gather - and there's a really wonderful thing about 4. Everyone can be your friend. Sure, there were a few tears, but mostly the kids just went right to the business of having fun.

The moonbounce proved to be a wild bit of entertainment, with kids diving in and out of it all morning. Possibly even more amazing than how well everyone got along and how much fun they had, was that nobody ended up going to the ER.

Occasionally, Helen would bop into the moonbounce for a bit of jumping, and Connor would tell the other children to not bounce too much because Helen was in there. It wouldn't take long for Helen to realize she was outmatched though and head back out.

She enjoyed the party, possibly mostly because baby Ari was there, and the fascination with him has not subsided in the least.


Monday, October 19, 2009

What next?

On weekend mornings, after breakfast I generally tell Ed what my plan for the day is. Last Saturday, Helen had other ideas. Immediately following breakfast she announced "This is my plan for today."

We all eagerly looked in her direction and she firmly announced "No boardwalk walking!".

Connor was in full agreement with the plan, for I suppose he took it as a sign he was finally getting some respect. He's been into rules and signs lately, and a few weeks ago when my dad and Ed removed most of the boardwalk from our backyard, Connor insisted a sign be put up that said "No Boardwalk Walking". He explained at the time that it would be dangerous since parts of the boardwalk were missing.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Bedtime conversations

Me: Connor, go make your potty and then we'll read your last book.
Connor, turning to me with a wild look in his eyes "for 53 years I've been putting up with you telling me to do stuff and I do not like it".
Me: OK, well, go make your potty and then we'll read your last book.

I have to admit, I was impressed with, but a little confused by the conversation. As it turns out, it's a line he adapted from the Grinch.


Thursday, October 15, 2009

Two Year Appointment Wrap-Up

Helen saw Dr. Barakat on Tuesday for her two-year check-up. When he walked in the door she said "Dr. Bear-cat, my daddy no here right now. He is at work. This my mommy." The way she said it, I felt like she thought Dr. Barakat would be disappointed to see me when in fact, outside of a couple of newborn appointments, I am the only parent he ever sees. No introduction is necessary, though it was still nice, I suppose.

Dr. Barakat's response? "Well, Helen, it's nice to see your mommy. I guess I don't have to ask her about your speech."

Me: "She speaks in sentences."

Helen: "Connor at school today."

The appointment continued with Helen interjecting random things about her life, as if her and Dr. Barakat were old friends catching up after not seeing each other for a few years.

Finally, the appointment was over and Dr. Barakat mentioned that she would get her flu shot and one other.

Helen looked at him very firmly and crossed her arms in front of her: "Helly no want the flu shot. Ouch! Helly no like it."

Me: "Sorry Helen, but that reminds me, can Helen have her shots in the leg instead of the arm. She's still mad about the last one."

Dr. Barakat: "Absolutely, I'll tell the nurse." Then, turning to Helen "Helen, my dear, you are perfect. You are the reason I became a pediatrician. It has been a pleasure to see you today. Hopefully we will not see each other for a year because that will mean you continue to be in excellent health."

And with that the nurse came in and gave Helen her two shots, and unlike last time when Helen talked about her flu shot for at least a week, she was over it by the time we got to the car and she hasn't mentioned it again.

Vital stats: 22 pounds exactly (which is the 3rd percentile - and yes I did give Helen a 4 ounce bottle on the way to the doc's office!), 20th percentile height, and 50th percentile head circumference.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Happy 50 months, Connor!

Dear Connor,

Yesterday, you turned 50 months. And you are so much like your father that sometimes I want to hug you because I absolutely adore you, and other times I want to kick you because you make me completely insane. Take, for example, our recent trip to the zoo. You wanted to push Helen in the stroller - sweet. Then you wanted to push her with the front wheels up so you could see better, like the way she pushes the stroller when there are no occupants. Fair enough, except that I understand gravity better than you apparently do, so I very clearly told you "DO NOT TIP THAT STROLLER BACK WHEN HELEN IS IN IT BECAUSE IT WILL FALL", but just like your dad would do, you tipped it back. And it fell. And Helen's head hit the ground. Why is this like your father? Because he typically assumes that his ability to generalize from one experience to the next is superior to advice someone will give him. And unfortunately, he is so often correct that it is just a self-reinforcing trait. You're the same way.

When your dad and I were dating, I used to take him to shows at the Kennedy Center or Broadway regularly. Except for Stomp, I could pretty much predict your dad's review "about an hour too long". Last Sunday, you, Helen, and I went to "Go Dog Go!" at Adventure Theatre and true, it was the longest show we've been to. But I was still a little surprised when we walked out and you said "that show was a little too long". And I thought you were going to be my theatre-going buddy. I think partly you were disappointed because you saw the advertisement for "The Little Engine That Could" and you were hoping we were seeing that - but that show is not for another month.

You've been a really happy little dude this month because there are so many projects going on, that pretty much anytime you want you can join one. Sometimes, you're even helpful!

School wears you out, which makes for long naps in the afternoon. You're so busy taking everything in, flitting from one activity to the next - always happy when Mr. Kinnicutt lets you work on one of his projects. Apparently Sam has adopted you as a little brother. The two of you share a cubby, and apparently he spends his day showing you the ropes of the Oak Tree class. This was pretty funny news to me, since your comments about Sam are almost always "Sam got in trouble at school again today. He broke another window." I'm not sure if he ever broke one window, and I'm certain Mr. Kinnicutt would not actually get mad if he did (where do Kindergarten teachers get their patience, anyway?), but for whatever reason, Sam is naughty in your mind, and you are completely attracted to him. I suspect you like hanging out with someone so much bigger than you because at home, you are solidly the leader. Having someone to follow around must be quite a relief.

You were the poster child of a perfect grandchild when your grandparents came to visit for a week. Even though I did not prompt you at all, you asked your Grandma to please not leave and you told them you wanted them to come back and stay with us forever. I'd like that too, Connor, but only a lot of pleading from you could make it happen. Good luck.

You spent a few days being sick, and you make the perfect patient. You don't really complain that much, you just go and lie down. Apparently you fear being given the wrong medicine because you always tell us when we tell you that it's time for medicine whether it's time for Tylenol or Motrin. Thankfully, you like them both. It was a pretty persistent fever, and you clearly felt awful, but you did your best to sleep it off and keep yourself hydrated. You didn't even want the radio playing much because you found it too distracting. It earned you a few nights in my bed, with me up in yours. When you're really sick, Daddy reports you sleep like a rock. When you're starting to feel better, you like to try and shove him off the bed with your persistent moves closer to him. That's the sign that it's time for you to move back upstairs.

There is one thing this month that I have really learned to appreciate about you. While you might express affirmative preferences for clothing (yellow and rainbow are good), you have never refused to wear something. This is in stark contrast to your sister who thinks anything that is neither pink nor purple is unsuitable. I appreciate your response to clothing.

Fall is here, and with that comes a trip to the farm. You chose the biggest pumpkin you could find, and I can't wait to carve it and eat all the seeds! It's so big, that your dad has to carry it around!

You have become my very sensitive child, keenly aware of the feelings of others around you. You've always been compassionate beyond your years, but I really notice now how you want to be a positive force. Your dad and I are so lucky to have you.


Monday, October 12, 2009

Happy 2nd Birthday!

Dear Helen,

In 2004, your dad and I completed the Topeka Tinman Triathlon. The event consists of an 1100 yard swim, a 20 mile bike ride, and a 7 mile run. Winning or hitting a certain time were not on the horizon of goals I had, but I did hope to complete it. I was certain I could complete the biking portion, figured the swim was probable and was a bit concerned about the run. When your dad and I started training, I could not run a half mile, let alone 7 consecutive miles...after swimming and biking. But as you instinctively seem to know, Helen, sheer force of will can make you do some things that seem impossible. The men started swimming before the women, but your dad - who also didn't much care about winning - cruised along on the bike portion until I caught up to him so we could ride together. At the end of our bike ride, it was time for the run. HELLO LEGS! It is impossible for your dad to run as slowly as me because his stride is longer, so with a little guilt, he took off to finish the race. At that point, I think we both wondered whether I would finish.

But I had a strategy, Helen, and that strategy was given to me by a few concerned co-workers. I would walk through the water stations. No matter what. I would drink every drop I could, and hope that my body could rebound just enough to make it to the next station. And by about mile 3, I was fairly confident I was going to finish the race. And that was the time that I started passing other runners. And at mile 5, I passed a woman who was in her 50s or 60s (and yes, that means a woman in her fifties or sixties was faster on the bike and swim portion - BY A LOT - than me) and do you know what she did? She shouted "YOU GO GIRL!". And those were possibly the most inspiring three words I have ever heard in my life. I pumped my fist in the air and said "THANKS!". And part of me was thinking "I just passed someone and she actually cheered me on, and that makes her the coolest person in the world".

And I tell you this story now, Helen, on your second birthday, because this is the cheer I have had for you every day of your life. And you embody it. How else to explain the way you can go into a room of older children and figure out how to get your way? You scale adult-sized furniture with no trouble and you are willing to really struggle on the playground to get where you are going. Yes, sometimes you need a strategy, but you develop it, and you test it, and you get the job done.

And even though you are strong and tough (all 22 pounds of you), you are also my baby. And from one baby of the family to another, don't worry. It's not a bad thing. It entitles you to have your way more than 50 percent of the time because you have the ability to cry at the drop of the hat (and you do this already). You can also expect older siblings to get things from tall cupboards, even when you are perfectly capable of getting a chair or stool to stand on yourself, just because you have that special ability to look so pathetic when you need to. Just ask Aunt Linda about this someday. Connor already seems to know he's there to help you out.

You are also my child who was the Best Sitter Ever. Seriously. You learned to roll over at four months, but you did not crawl until you were nine months old. And up until that point, everywhere we went folks would remark on what an excellent sitter you were. And I would smile and nod, and mostly think to myself how thankful I was because our house spelled danger to a mobile baby. A few of my close friends tried to ask in polite ways if I was worried and I would practially shout "WORRIED? I'm WORRIED about when this child does learn to crawl and suddenly all of the pennies, marbles, and million other tiny things Connor loves will become not just objects of fascination and admiration but CHOKING HAZARDS". And soon enough, you would put things in your mouth, and even long after you knew this was unwise, you would do it when you wanted a little attention. And I would dutifully stick my hand out and request you to spit out the object, while friends were having a heart attack wondering how it was possible you were still alive. And by the way, you should remember to thank Connor for your being alive today because while you were busy stuffing things in your mouth, he was busy screaming "NO HELEN! NO HELEN!" and when I would holler back "Connor, please use a quieter voice with your sister" he would shout "MOMMY, Helen just put a marble in her mouth!" and I was all "GAH! Thank you Connor, SPIT THAT OUT, Helen!" He also would single-handedly tackle you if you decided to go near the stairs while I left the room to do something else until you were able to maneuver the stairs deftly on your own. You did not appreciate this, but I did.

You are also the poster child for helping people decide that yes, another child is a great idea. For as stubborn as you are--and you are stubborn--you snuggle, you hug, you kiss, and you smile - often coming up to complete strangers to give them a little love. Sometimes they look at you and say "Oh, I think your mom is over there" and I would respond "she just loves everyone". And for quite some time, that was true. You have a million smiles and also have your daddy wrapped around your finger. And me too, though I still possess the ability to say "no" on occasion, which brings on instant tears from you. Oh, Helen, the injustice of life. But your dad? He adores you and he caves when you tilt your head, smile, and say "please".

You stand your ground. Sometimes a little too much for my taste. You fold your arms, glare at whomever offends you, and then either turn your back to them, or continue staring at them just daring to cross you. As I looked back at photos over these past two years, I was reminded that this has been you from birth.

When you are tired, you take it out on Connor with the occasional hair pull, bite, or kick. But you also adore him and are sad on those occasions when you wake up and he's still sleeping.

I attended a lecture recently where a psychologist said that personality traits that children display at very young ages tend to be with them at older ages as well. In some ways, I am scared, for even at the age of two, you can be a force to be reckoned with. We don't call you Hel' for nothing, my dear. But mostly, I hope you hear me shouting "YOU GO GIRL" in the background whenever you get ready to kick whatever happens to be in your way. You may be little, Helen, but as Nora Lou Mills told me over and over, big things come in small packages!

Saturday, October 10, 2009

All hands on deck

After spending a Spring and Summer waiting for our backyard to do something gorgeous, we decided to demolish it. Gone is the boardwalk that ran the distance of the yard, the cutting beds that were falling apart and yielded only a few pretty things these past few months, the fences that guarded those beds and the veggie garden, and more.

Through the destruction of the past few weeks, Connor has been Ed's faithful companion - ready with a rake, crowbar, hammer, or shovel whenever duty called. But on Monday, Ed finally got the mechanical reinforcements he needed in his one-man, one-son battle trying to restore openness and calm to our little jungle. Enter, the digger truck. A well-timed illness on Connor's part meant he could lay on the couch and watch the truck rip out a mighty stand of bamboo and other brush, regrade the back quarter of the yard, and eventually see a truckload of dirt get dumped and finally seeded and covered with hay.

And now starts the reconstruction.

Cleverly, we invited friends over for a "playdate" and as soon as the girls arrived, Connor shot out the backdoor, enticing the older of the girls to follow. It wouldn't be long before all four children were out there, shovels in hand, digging up an entire wheelbarrow of dirt in the place that will soon be home to a 10 x 8 sandbox. I'm only sorry I wasn't able to "photoshop" in beers for the three adults that observed their steady progress.

After Zoe and Mia left, Helen requested we go to their house next time. Doesn't she realize we've got to get the dump truck with sand in before the fence goes up in a few weeks? We'll be hosting playdates at our house whenever the weather is suitable for digging!


Tuesday, October 6, 2009


I think this is the third time we've gone camping with Eamon and his parents. It's such a treat to go with someone Connor can play with, because the boys really do have fun together, and that means Ed and I can relax just a little bit more.

On this trip, the boys had the joy of scaling some rocks that led to the top of a waterfall. And just about the time the dads and sons were about to be back to the bottom -- where Therese, Helen, and I had stayed -- the rain began. And it wouldn't really stop for more than a brief interlude the entire day.

Ed and Rob - always prepared - had set up a makeshift covering before we went hiking that we took cover under after the hike.

Then we made the best of it by heading to the nature center, where I stayed safely behind the camera as Ed and the kids enjoyed a snake. Next up, Ed and Connor disected owl vomit and found mouse bones...that Connor wanted to keep. And yes, I understand they were sterilized before being passed about, but please, sir, pass that sanitizer once more. And yes, they have been thrown in the trashcan by now - where they belong!

The kind lady at the nature center looked up the weather on the internet and it did not look good. But damnit, we were going to have fun!

After the visit at the nature center, Connor and Helen napped in the car, while we tossed about various plans, and ultimately decided that with this much rain, the possibility of a tent leaking was getting high, and fleeing with children in the middle of the night was not going to be a good thing. So we moved the party to Therese's house where we had Therese's soup, drank a little, watched the kids play, and then headed home. Helen insisted that she be allowed to sleep in her pack-and-play one more time, and asked several times if we could go camping again. Connor definitely felt jilted by going camping only two days when we had promised three, but the promise of another trip has been enough to keep the sadness at bay.

We already have plans to bid on a treehouse campground at Connor's school's silent auction next weekend. Wish us luck!


Friday, October 2, 2009

Project Men

"Connor, here is a book with all kinds of projects in it we can make together."

"Yeah, Daddy, but I don't think it will have instructions on how to make a new toilet."

I'm sitting across the table wondering if there is a reason Connor thinks we need to make a new toilet, but I am afraid to ask.

Thursday, October 1, 2009


Connor started 5-day a week Kindergarten this year at the Waldorf school he's been attending since just before Helen was born. On the first day, parents were instructed to bring in a box with a change of clothes in it and a pair of inside shoes. Connor was fairly nonchalent about the whole experience. Excited to get to see his buddy Sasson again, but it's not like he spent his summer crossing off the days until school began. Now that it has started though, he does seem to be enjoying it. His biggest complaint is that Mr. Kinnicutt only lets the children model with beeswax on walking day (Friday) and never any other time. Of course, this is because Monday is bread making day, Tuesday is soup making day, Wednesday is painting day, and Thursday is coloring day. Last Friday, Connor felt he was given inadequate time to model his beeswax so he brought his precious piece home to work on it some more.

Helen, on the other hand, was thrilled at the mere mention of school. As soon as she realized her full-time playmate was abandoning her, she decided she might as well go to school too. First, we heard "Helly need a backpack. Now Helly need a box. An' shoes, an' clothes" and by the end, she was prepared for her first day. I tried to fake her out and tell her that the playgroup she attends on Monday and Wednesday was her school, but she was buying none of it. As if to prove her point that she was ready for school, she paraded around the house with her backpack.

And then the day came when I took Connor to school and left her with Kathy. Worse, on Friday, I brought her with me to drop Connor off because I didn't figure there was any need to get Kathy out of bed to watch Helen for a half hour while I ferried Connor to school. So Connor went into the playground where he starts his day, and was all too excited to bring Helen in with him. I waited outside the gate as Helen and Connor were the picture of perfect siblings. Connor would hold Helen's hand and take her into the tee-pee, Helen would give him a big hug. Hand in hand they explored the playground until it came time for the morning verse. Connor led Helen to the circle where all the parents join in and we sang the verse together.

And then it was time to say good-bye, and to say Helen was crushed would be the understatement of the year. She finally tasted school and it was as good as she dreamed. But now she was being dragged away and she cried "Connor" in the saddest tone anyone who is not Helen's mother could imagine, and every mother in the parking lot that day looked at me and almost had tears in their eyes as they commented on how that was the saddest sound they'd ever heard. It almost made me turn around and enroll her in the parent-child class just so she could go one day, but she's too young and I'd rather spend our Fridays in a more freeform manner at this point.

Of course, Connor was quickly forgotten as we chased each other around a nearby playground. And when it came time for pick-up, Helen knew she was the one who knew what to do since she picks Connor up every other day of the week with Kathy. Helen toddled right up to the big school door, demanded that I open it, and then marched in. When we got to Connor's classroom door, she put her back to the wall and told me (and everyone else there) to line-up. And then Mr. Kinnicutt opened the door and saw us, and out came Connor with a huge smile on his face, exclaiming that "it was beeswax day! We got to model beeswax!" And his first creation? A ball.

Since then, Helen seems to understand that school is not for her. Connor has told her often that you have to be TWO to go to school, and you don't get to go every day until you turn FOUR. He fills her in on lots of other details and I'm quite sure she's listening and trying to figure out a way to sneak in some day.