Thursday, December 30, 2010

A Bright Spot...

Well, my beloved Wildcats lost the game tonight. I called my parents to make certain nobody had experienced a heart attack, and luckily, nobody had. My mom reminded me that even in Manhattan, Kansas, the sun would rise tomorrow.

I thought I'd do my best to end the day on a high note, in spite of my broken heart.


Monday, December 27, 2010

Let's Play Ball!

In my house, when you participate in an activity, you practice. Even if you have no hope of ever doing anything more than making daisy chains in the outfield, you practice. (Although not the daisy chain making, which I suppose I was quite good at, but the actual activity.)

At some point, my sister and I decided to participate in whatever come-all t-ball league existed in our hometown. As in, no talent required to participate.

Being that my dad is an engineer, he immediately set to manufacturing his own tee for t-ball because, ahem, why would you pay for something like that when you can get an old coffee can, fill it with cement, add a fat piece of pvc pipe, and put some random rubber thing on the top to make your own tee? That, for those who don't know, is what living with an engineer is like in a nutshell.

Besides being a cost effective way to get a baseball tee, it's also a way to guarantee that your grandchildren will be able to use the tee. I'm willing to bet that my friends whose parents purchased a tee saw that tee tossed in the trash a few years after their t-ball careers ended.

Not mine.

My tee is still standing, in like-new condition as the folks on Craigslist would say.

And so it is, that every time Connor visits, he attempts to master the game. And now I present to you, baseball in 6 steps.

1. Grab metal bat that weights about as much as you do.

2. Approach tee.

3. Hey batter, batter, s-wing, batter, batter.

 4. Make contact with the ball, or in this case, the tee. Because that tee? It's set to exactly one height. If you're too short, you hit the rubber part. Throw the bat and start running!

5. Do a victory dance after outwitting your dad by moving the bases so you can get a home run!

6. Then go inside and bake a cake with Grandma.


Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Connorspeak: Being Out-Talked

Yesterday afternoon, Connor and Helen had a playdate with someone I hadn't met before. As I came near the craft room, where the kids were all deep in craft projects that were to be loaded onto "Santa's sleigh"*, Emma was talking a mile a minute. On occasion, she would pause for air, and Helen would chirp in with some tidbit, and then Emma would be off again. Not only did Emma talk constantly, she talked so fast that it was impossible to get a word in without talking right over her.

At dinner, I asked Connor if he'd been able to talk at all that afternoon and he replied:

"Well...I didn't get to say too much, because Helen and Emma were talking so much, but it was OK. I didn't have much to say."

Which I guess is a good thing, because if he had wanted to talk, I'm not sure he could have.

As much as I joke about Helen talking all the time, this little gal set me straight. I believe Emma was sent to my home yesterday just to show me that although sometimes things may seem a little overwhelming, they might be more under control than I think.


*Santa's sleigh is a board with four wheels attached that was left by the previous owner. It has provided hours of entertainment at this point as it morphs from one function to another.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Looking for Baby Clothes? Try Organically Grown - But beware, you'll have to fight Helen for them

Pink bear goes almost everywhere with us. She's Helen's current love, and Helen insists that many, many privileges be extended to her bear. For example, when I made fairy wands for Connor and Helen, Helen insisted that "pink bear needs one!". Pink bear sits with us at dinner, rides in the car with us, and is carried around in a sling quite often. Recently, I've tried twice to make a quick run through Target with Helen and both times, she's insisted that "pink bear needs new clothes!". The wand, I caved on. And I don't mind if pink bear goes places with us, though Ed did toss her in the washing machine recently. But at Target, I repeated my standard mantra when asked for items I wasn't planning on buying "I'm sorry, Helen, it's not on my list today". I did, however, gift Helen several outfits from my now dwindling collection of baby outfits, and for a while, Helen deemed them suitable.

And then a certain package from the oh so chic store Organically Grown shop arrived in the mail. A package containing a super cute and super soft outfit that was pink. PINK! And it came with a hat. And immediately Helen started droning on about how pink bear really, really needs a new hat (even though pink bear has at least three suitable hats). So I told Helen pink bear could test it out, but as soon as Helen was interested in something else, I swiped it and hid it in my stash of "my pregnant friends with babies are going to love me" pile, to be gifted to the first of the four to deliver a girl. Race is on, friends. I'm crossing my fingers for Connor's assistant teacher, because I know she would love this. At our school, the faculty emphasizes putting children in natural fabrics. These tend to breathe better and the kids stay more comfortable.

First person I know that delivers a girl will receive the outfit pictured below. I'm quite certain your baby will love the soft fabric. The information that would normally appear on a tag is stamped on, so your wee one won't be fussing with some tag scratching her neck. You won't have to wonder if the product was treated with some strange chemical (it was not!). And I will get super kudos for gifting you this fine outfit. It's a win-win, as I see it.

But never fear. Even if I don't know you and you're pregnant - or if you're not the first to deliver a baby girl, you can still get this or several other outfits. Just go to The company is running a promotion now allowing you to use the code "organic winter" to receive 15 percent off all orders - and free shipping to boot! So go grab one of these outfits. But you might want to make sure it is securely on your child before visiting. Helen will definitely try and swipe it in the name of pink bear.

Honesty clause: As stated in the post, I was given this outfit to review. I'll be passing it along as soon as I can because this outfit should definitely be in use, not sitting in my home. It's not so fantastic that I'm regretting the decision to not have any more babies, but it is definitely nice. I just know my friend and baby fashionista Thrift Store Mama would approve!

Monday, December 20, 2010

A New Creation Myth, Brought to you by Connor

A couple of weeks ago, I co-hosted a cookie decorating party for the children in my mom's group. I provided the house and the cookies, Amanda provided the doo-dads to go on top (and Laurie and Susan both brought frosting leftover from their daughters birthday parties earlier in the year to add to Amanda's quite extensive collection of doo-dads - apparently age 5 is the age of cookie decorating!).

I think I have discovered Connor's favorite thing about Christmas.

And Helen performed her own physics experiment, testing just how strong the cookie was.

In some ways, I love a party like this. Even though both Helen and Connor know I really do not like messes, I want them to know that sometimes, I'm totally OK with them. My mom was like that. Nobody would confuse her for someone who wanted to live in a messy house - and her house is rarely messy - but she was always letting my sister and I have friends over, and I'm sure we were anything but neat and tidy.

After the cookie decorating, Connor busted out his latest puppet show. It was a story about how the world came to be. He recruited his friends Eamon and Zoe to help out. I'm not sure they knew what was going on, but everyone seemed to have a fun time.

My friend Marya wins the award for being most engaged audience member. It's obvious she has a background in education. She really pays attention, she absorbs what's going on, she puts the action into context with what she sees happening.

At times, it's hard to stay the course with Waldorf education. I see Connor's friends reading and writing legibly, and clearly doing more academic things than he is. But when I see the joy in Connor's face and the creativity in what he's pursuing, my heart rests easy.


Friday, December 17, 2010

Happy months 37 and 38, Helen!

Dear Helen,

You make me smile more times than I could ever record. You embrace life with squeals of delight, and wow can you put on a show. At Thanksgiving, your Grandma Lynn gave you your Christmas presents since we won't see her again until after the holidays. After opening each one, you gasped "this is just what I wanted". But really, we all knew instantly what the favorite one was.

I present to you, photographic proof that you are quite possibly not my daughter.

Along with photographic proof that you most definitely are my daughter.

You love your Grandpa Dick - just adore him. And during our Thanksgiving visit, you found some automated music making device, which you brought out to share with everyone. You then announced there was a dance contest and let's just say, Grandpa Dick has moves. Unfortunately for him, he lost, because although you didn't mention it before the contest started, to "win", one needed to do a surprise drop to the floor maneuver, that really only you could do.

After the dance contest, you insisted that Grandpa Dick hold your hair back so you could properly apply your make-up.

Your first visit to Santa this year was like all the rest. You kept a cautious distance. But then we attended the Daughters of the American Revolution annual Christmas party and wow - I guess you just know who the real deal is because you climbed right up on this Santa's lap. He is, by far, the best looking Santa I have ever laid eyes on.

You yell, you stomp your feet, you don't get pushed around by anyone.

And you, more than anyone I know, seem to realize that politeness and a smile can go a long way.


Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Photo Contest!

Anyone who knows Ed, knows that the mall is not a place he likes to find himself. So why does he find himself there on occasion? Because of Helen's smile when she gets to go to Build-A-Bear! Seriously, who knew putting stuffing in a skin could be so delightful?

My parents spent a small fortune turning my rather odd teeth (hint: I still have baby teeth in my mouth. Lots of them!) into teeth that look like most adults. My best guess is that Connor has Ed's teeth. Which is to say, he has all of them - two sets, in fact - but they're prone to cavities. Helen, on the other hand, might have mine (please, tooth universe, no!). She doesn't seem to be missing any like me, but she has a couple of pointy bottom ones and those are trouble, trouble, trouble in my family. But on the bright side, even though I only have one set, for the most part, it's made of concrete and that's why at age 37, my baby teeth are still hanging on. It's only appropriate, then, that I enter Helen's smile in a photo contest, because I might just be going to the sponsor of this contest in a few years and begging them to have mercy on my checkbook.
I am participating in the Invisalign Teen Bright Smiles Holiday Photo Contest with Dumb Mom. Wish me luck!


Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Happy 63 and 64 Months, Connor!

Dear Connor,

I know it's late, but happy 63 months - and now it's even later, because you're 64 months! But when I started this note, you were only 63 months. This month has These past two months have been marked by you working very hard to grow into yourself. I can tell you're on the brink of change, and these changes can be hard on everyone. You handle the uneasiness you must be feeling inside by stomping your foot and shouting "FINE!" and then often issuing some ultimatum, like, "FINE! If you don't let me eat that piece of candy than I won't go to school" to which I reply "sorry, pal, I don't negotiate with terrorists" (a phrase borrowed from my friend, Helen) and you will stomp your foot again and say you are angry. I acknowledge that anger, Connor. And eventually, it dissipates and you move on. Five is a tough age. You're torn between being this incredible free-moving spirit growing into your body and struggling as you move into your head. Many people tell me that six can be a particularly difficult time of figuring out when to assert yourself and when to go with the flow. Perhaps that's what's going on now.

You love the weather this time of year, whether it's the few flakes of snow that you looked at out the classroom window one day - when your teacher let you run out and try and catch a snowflake on your tongue, or the light dusting that came during breakfast, you want to play with it. You also love the leaves that crunch and I must say, you were the champion of leaf rakers this year. Between you and your babysitter, you kept the leaves in the backyard at bay for quite a few days!

You also love the Christmas season - starting with the Advent garden at school and ending with the big huzzah at whatever grandparents' home we happen to be at. Similar to years past, you are excited to hop right up onto Santa's lap and let him know you want trains, more trains! But lately, you've also been very insistent that you NEED a volcano. Why? Well, just in case we're ever near a volcano, you would like to have practice running away from it. You even make the distinction between this volcano and every other item on your Christmas list. Those other things? You want them. The volcano? You need it.

You've changed, as an artist. Typically, you draw crazy lines going every which way. In the book of drawing made by you and your peers at school for your birthday, you drew one side with lots of colored lines everywhere and the other side was mostly black (hello, future therapy!). Before I had much time to worry about this rather dark version of the world, you explained that it was a thunderstorm. But recently? You were hanging out with Helen while I was at a meeting at your school and your dad was continuing the destruction of what remains of the boardwalk on the side of the house and you drew seagulls flying all over our path. It rained later, so the seagulls are no longer there, but maybe you'll put them back another day.

You've upped the number of puppet shows around here, and unfortunately, I have very few of them caught on video. I had a cocktail party / cookie exchange about a week ago and you prepared a show for everyone. You insisted that we all come upstairs to your room, where you then told a story about a few characters that flew out into the audience, complete with sound effects from a harp and guitar.

On Sunday, I hosted a cookie decorating party for children and you prepared a creation myth for us to enjoy. There was quite a nice setup, some magic stairs, some mention of a time when it was all dark, and then when it was all light, and then animals were created on various days. It actually had a beginning, middle, and an end. Nice!

And I would be remiss if I didn't mention the counting, and the obsession with money. It makes me nuts, but you love putting quarters into dollars, and nickels, and dimes, and pennies, and really - any piece of change you see sitting around the house that you quickly lay claim to. Your Great Grandpa Bill sent you and Helen a check in the mail and you immediately announced to Helen what her share was. And you were correct.

Rules. You know them. You live with them most of the time, but you flirt with breaking them as well - and sometimes do break them. It's obvious, of course, but parenting after the breaking of rules is loads more difficult than parenting that mostly establishes following rules. I'm hoping this flirtation ends soon.

You are still my loving, happy, entirely charming best guy.


Thursday, December 9, 2010

Organizing your people can be so hard

Connor and Helen are most definitely a team, and they've tried many times to move from the status of parnters in crime to union with power. Unfortunately, the leader of the union is regularly thwarted by the younger member of the union. Yesterday after lunch, they were getting ready to rally. They had banned together, had started to create general chaos, and then the younger member of the union stopped and said "Wait, wait, wait, Connor! What are we mad about?".

Back to the drawing board.


Monday, December 6, 2010

The Albert Einstein Look Better Suit Me

When I turned 16, my dad taught me how to drive. That same summer, his hair went from virtually black, to mostly white. Maybe it was the driving lessons, maybe just a coincidence of time.

A few years ago, I noticed my first white hair. It stuck out of my head like a crazy antennae, and it was then that I realized as an old lady, I might have hair that made me look as if I had just put my finger in an electric socket. I didn't notice another until today.

A few hours ago, I looked in the mirror and noticed two more white hairs sticking straight out. I share this with you in case the next time you see me, you feel compelled to ask me if I have recently electrocuted myself.

Rest assured. I have not.

But I have worked hard for those white hairs, and I'm not about to color them.

Bring it, old age. I'm ready. (And it is not lost on me that today, my sister celebrates her 40th birthday.)  I'm pretty sure her husband isn't posting on his blog about any white hairs on her head.


Sunday, December 5, 2010

Happy Saint Nicholas Day!

Growing up, I always thought St. Nicholas Day was pretty special. Not only did little chocolates appear in my shoes, but it was my sister's birthday.

Ed did not celebrate the holiday growing up, so it took him several tries to get it right. And now, I think he's grateful we have kids so that I just take care of it, rather than expecting some little gift from him.

At school, Connor's teacher has been telling stories about Bishop Nicholas. And on Friday, the children left their indoor shoes out (rather than putting them in their cubbies) with a carrot. I didn't realize St. Nicholas was supposed to get a carrot, and he didn't get one at our house, but given that the school has a German foundation, I suspect Mr. K. is right about this one.

Tomorrow morning, my children will be greeted with a couple of books, some tiny pads of paper, a few chocolates, and the homemade fairies I just finished. Ed even complimented them by saying they looked professional. They could be destroyed in minutes, but it'll be some fun minutes, I hope.


Thursday, December 2, 2010

Connor's Nemesis

Several months ago, on the camping trip that I almost lost Connor - well, technically did lose him but found him shortly thereafter - Connor collected an enormous bag of acorns. His plan was to sell them for $100 each, so that he would have a lot of money. The sale never took place, but as the bag sat on our front porch, an enterprising squirrel took note and begin to nibble.

The first day we walked out and saw acorn tops and shells scattered, Connor was mad. So we wrapped the bag a little tighter. This fellow was persistent though, so the squirrel had another snack the next day. Then I allowed Connor to move the bag inside, and it was finally safe.

Of course, soon I spotted some strange worm-like bug in the house, and having nothing else to blame, I blamed the acorns and back to the porch they want.

The squirrel was happy, indeed.

So happy, that eventually it ate more than half the bag. Our porch was a mess, and Connor was furious. (But not so furious as to actually move the bag into the shed, or something clever like that.)

We move the bag around the porch, tie it, wrap it up, but always, the squirrel gets in.

A few days ago, Ed hung the bag from a nail on the porch, up high. Today, I sit at my office window watching the squirrel try and figure out how to climb about 4 feet up a column to get his tiny little hands on the acorns he desires. So far, no luck.


Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Lunch with Helen

As I sat in my home office today, I heard the following exchange:

mumble, mumble

And then Helen in a very animated voice: The Library! Oh honey, you must go to the library! It's A-Mazin'!


Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Firsts and Lasts

Capturing firsts can be difficult, but not impossible. After all, it's not like most babies up and crawl with no notice. Instead they rock, they smile at you, they tease, and then eventually, the figure out how to lift that little tushie and then make their move. Other big firsts are similar.

Capturing lasts, on the other hand, can be impossible. Because often it happens without me even knowing it's happening. And sometimes, it can be a few weeks after the event happens that I realize it's probably never going to happen again. As much as I built up to Helen ditching her bottle, it wasn't until I downloaded a photo of her tipping one back on our farm trip with Grandpa Dick that it really hit me that I'm never going to have a child with a bottle again. What was once such a mainstay in our lives, always in our thoughts - because for the last year or so we had exactly one ring for that bottle, so we kept a close eye on it - is now gone. Someday, I'll even remove it from the cabinet.

On our camping trip last Spring, we went hiking, and during the hike, Helen fell asleep in Ed's arms. And it really brought me back to when she was a baby, and Ed carried her all over. Because that's the fate of Helen. Many times when she needed a nap, she just had to catch as catch can because we were busy doing things where no bed existed.

Ed and I were both cognizant of the fact that this might be the last time Helen ever passes out in his arms, both because her endurance increases daily but also because she's getting heavier, and it's hard to imagine him being able to carry her very far in that position for much longer.

Last night, Helen woke up at 11:30 and told me her stomach hurt. I held her for a few minutes, and she just couldn't get comfortable. She told me she needed to sleep in my bed, so back downstairs we went. She had already gone to the bathroom, and she didn't feel warm, so I wasn't sure what was up.

About an hour later, after tossing and turning, she asked Ed to take her upstairs and sleep with her there. They got about 5 steps outside our bedroom when she hurled all over him. Just like old times, it was. We cleaned her up, donned pair of pajamas #2 for the evening, and she told me she needed to sleep on my tummy.

This is only position she could get comfortable in when she was a baby and had terrible reflux. With a baby, it's difficult after a while. With a toddler, it's harder. But I really did love that Helen somehow found this position of comfort, refusing all others. It's not that Ed didn't help out. His role? Every couple of hours, Helen would sit up, cough, he would grab her, and run to the bathroom, and at some point during this run, she'd puke all over him.

And Helen is, by far, the happiest sick person in the world. As soon as she'd puke, she'd remark on how she was feeling better, be surprised that indeed, we had another pair of pajamas for her, and go back to sleeping on my tummy. Four outfits that little lady went through. Four.

But I didn't even mind that much, because even though my body ached in the morning, and I was wasted today when it came to thinking complex thoughts, I had one more memory of my baby sleeping right on top of me through the night. And this time, I'm remembering how comforting it is to see a small child sleep. Because I promised myself that a long time ago.


Best we can figure, she ate a bad mussel yesterday. She's been fine since early morning.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Knowing When to Let Things Slide and When to Stick to My Guns

I find the hardest thing about parenting to be figuring out when to let something slide, and when to make a big deal about it. On the one hand, I fully realize that I'm the mom, and that means that it's my job to make rules. And the rules I make, if I do it right, could serve my children well. And I have to admit, when my kids were at the nature center last Friday, and they were offered the opportunity to touch a snake, I beamed with pride when Helen said "No thank you. I don't care to touch the snake." and the naturalist complimented her on being so polite. Because in my world, politeness counts. It's the way we express to every individual we come across that they are a person deserving of basic kindnesses.

On the other hand, life can be short, and when it comes down to it, does it really matter if my kid says thanks?

Part of the answer lies in long-term versus short-term thinking. If I live my life thinking about the long-term, then everything matters. It matters if my children tell the truth, eat their vegetables, and generally know how to live in a world with sometimes arbitrary and capricious rules. If I think only about the short-term, than the only thing that really matters is that my kids feel loved. Every moment of every day, and those vegetables really don't matter a bit.

My friend Benjie boiled his parenting rubric down to four things, when his son turned one.

be gentle
be careful
be patient
good job

And my friend Helen borrowed from Moxie:

be safe
be respectful
be kind

And those both seem like pretty good guidelines.

I think my parenting got a whole lot better when I committed to (1) trying to meet my children where they are and (2) not yelling (and that second one might just have resulted in a good exercise program because now when my kids yell, I don't yell back "STOP YELLING", I walk to wherever they are in the house, let them know that they're using an outside voice, and then proceed with my business). I'm not perfect at either of these, by a long shot.

This job sure would be a lot easier if there was just a set of rules that everyone followed and taught, though life would be awfully boring as well.

May the happy memories be many, and the shortcomings be few.

Tonight, I go to bed remembering Connor's last words to me. As I went up to tend to Helen just one more time, Connor said quietly from his room "I love you, Mom".

"I love you, too."

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Best Present Ever - Lego Train That Goes All By Itself!

Several months ago, Connor had a gift card to Toys-R-Us that allowed him to get a $10 item, or something like that (maybe less!). Ed and he went in search of "something small". But of course, Connor fell in love with a Lego train that goes all by itself. It was love at first sight, and he talked about it a lot. The pricetag kept Ed from bringing it home.

So then I started giving Connor $5 a week (most weeks) and I told him when he saved up enough money, maybe he could go purchase the train. I figured if he still wanted it after more than 6 months, he could get it.

I included it on a Christmas list for Connor, and because we celebrated Thanksgiving in Albany this year, and will not celebrate Christmas there, Ed's mom presented him with the Lego train as a Christmas gift a few days ago.

Connor was ecstatic. He saw the box and guessed right away what it was. He was so excited for it, in fact, that I talked to him a little bit about how sometimes we think one item is in a box, and it turns out to be another, and it's still appropriate to thank the giver for whatever item it is, even if it wasn't exactly what we thought it was.

Connor agreed. And he told me that he knew Grandma Lynn always got him good presents. And he would be happy with whatever was in the box...but he just knew it was a Lego train.

And note the incredibly awesome hat Connor is wearing. I knit that up for him over the break, and even though I wish I had opted for the smaller size, he loves it, and I think it's the cutest thing ever.

Today when we got home, Connor couldn't wait to show off his new train to our au pair, and then he told me at bath time that he was the luckiest boy in the world because he got the Lego train.


Saturday, November 27, 2010

Kicking New York City in the Ass

I have arrived at Vickie's house - with all of my luggage and all of my family members.


Of course, I shouldn't boast too much, given that I still have to get out of this city tomorrow.

Now - must commence chatting nonstop with Vickie in order to catch up on anything that's been happening in her life, and to gather any morsels of wisdom she might care to pass on. And to eat cupcakes. We bought the sampler. The kids go to bed soon.

Friday, November 26, 2010

New York City with Kids - Take II

I have a hard time admitting when something is bigger than me. A really hard time. I suspect part of it comes from the combination of being small in stature and the baby of the family. I have really spent the better part of my life thinking that I can do anything.

Often, that is a good thing.

But sometimes, it's probably best to admit defeat, and just learn to avoid doing certain things. And I'm not talking about trying out for the WNBA. That is something I know I can't do. This time, I'm talking about going back to New York City. The last time, the trip started out with an illegal parking spot, a sick child (that we were visiting), and losing Helen, ever so briefly. And the second day was not better.

But I am destined to not learn. So about a couple of months ago, I sent an email to my mother-in-law asking her if she wanted to go see the Rockettes with me this Winter. We've gone twice before and enjoyed it, and I think Connor would love it. She was excited to go, so we put a group of family members together and if all goes well, there will be 10 of us sitting at the afternoon performance tomorrow.

After that is when it really gets fun. I'm heading out to my friend's house again, and then Ed is heading into the city to meet a friend of his. If all goes really well, Ed will make it back out to my friend's house before we have to leave for DC on a bus the next day. If not, well, who knows how many bags or children will be left behind?

I figure, it can't be worse than last time, right?

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Happy Thanksgiving: 2010

One nice thing about Thanksgiving is taking a moment to breathe in, look around, and give thanks. Here goes.

This year, I'm thankful for 5 year olds and good grooves, because for several months now, Ed and I have both been waiting for the other shoe to drop. Connor is just a happy kid. And he can (and does) dress himself (albeit mostly in sweat pants) most mornings and he even celebrated daylight savings recently by sleeping in until 8:00 the day before daylight savings started. It was awesome. Regularly, he hops up to his chair at breakfast, consumes a big meal, and then starts smiling and bubbling with excitement. It's contagious. Of course, there are still the occasional tired, very emotional days, but those are few and far between. And hey, I have them, too.

I'm also thankful for Helen. She is truly a pain in the rear end many days, saying "no" before considering any other answer, jabbering away non-stop, and recently taking to waving her arms, clapping, and shouting "Hey, Elaine!" when she wants my attention. But she also brings joy with her almost everywhere she goes, and she continues to be the snuggliest child in the world. And that is such a gift.

I'm thankful for healthy children and a partner that celebrates them with me.

I'm thankful for sleep, when I get it, and am hopeful that these last few nights of sleep are going to turn into a string of many, many nights of sleep. It's not the kids waking me. I think it's just the memory of waking often several years ago and never quite being able to kick the habit.

I'm thankful for a Democratic Senate that will hopefully hold the line in this next Congress and that we're getting closer to universal health care (though I continue to hold out hope of single payer). I'm thankful for the midwives that assisted me during pregnancy and that caught Connor and Helen. I still wouldn't do it any other way and I look forward to my annual visits with them. I wish the healthcare legislation would've provided more protections for midwives.

I'm thankful for no longer having to carry diapers when I travel.

I'm thankful for new recipes, dinners that get eaten by everyone (which happens occasionally), and that our local grocery store has started stocking Chincoteague clams. Everyone in my family loves those delicious, salty morsels. The last time we had them, Helen had 23, Connor had 23, and Ed and I had 1 apiece. Two didn't open.

I'm thankful for grandparents that come on ski trips, come to visit, and always agree to take morning duty when they visit. I'm also thankful for grandparents that allow me to drop my kids off for a week - or at least I hope to be someday (hint, hint). I'm also thankful for grandmas that never stop reading books.

I'm thankful for full-length musicals and lots of great, local children's theatre. Even more, I'm thankful that Connor and Helen seem cut out for the role of theatre buddies for me. Hopefully they'll wheel me into the theatre when I'm drooling on myself in my old age so I can see just one more show.

I'm thankful the Chiefs are winning again. It's been a long time.

I'm thankful for date night, HR57, and the proliferation of cupcake stores and high-end chocolatiers in the greater DC area. I'm thankful for good open mic nights at Iota, old friends returning to the States, and being back at Miriam's Kitchen. It's been a long time. I didn't realize how much I missed it. And along those veins, I'm thankful for Kevin Crowe's lecture at the Foundry this year.

And finally, I'm thankful for friends and family that inspire me daily. I believe in the power of positive energy. Thank you for sharing yours so freely.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

She Climbs!

In the past few months, it seems Helen has become so steady on her feet that she locomotes by running everywhere she goes. And as if that wasn't enough, she's also been mistaken for a monkey at a local playground!

Monday, November 22, 2010

Four Years and No Unintended Fires: Waldorf School Lantern Walk

As the days grow shorter, Waldorf schools join many cultural traditions by having a celebration centered around light. Children prepare their lanterns during school and at our school, the entire early childhood program joins together at a park to share a snack and then light their lanterns and take a walk, singing a little song one evening.

The first year we did this, I couldn't enjoy it. All I could think about was the fact that I was surrounded by children, many as young as two years old, carrying lanterns made of paper and tissue paper. As you might expect, a two year old doesn't necessarily carry her lantern mindful of the candle inside. Instead, they swing their lanterns around, and seem at times to forget completely that they have a lighted candle. With each wave of a lantern, I offer up a little prayer that nothing catches fire. Did I mention dry leaves typically cover the ground? So far, we've made it through four years with no fires. I call that a raging success.

As time has passed, I've become a lot calmer about the celebration. And, our collection of lanterns has grown so that now we have four (I suspect one was lost in the move, though it's possible one just wore out since one lanter walk never seems to be enough at our house). This means that everyone in the family can carry one.

So far this year, we've had the school walk and two of our own. Helen can't quite make it all the way around the block without being carried some, and Connor's candle always seems to burn out. It appears that Connor has become fascinated with watching the wax from the tea light melt and pool, and then he tips his lantern to pour the wax out into the bottom of his lantern. At that point, he just borrows Ed's or my lantern and carries on. Last night, he was particularly excited to wave his lantern when a car drove down an alley we passed.

The blue lanterns were made by me in parent-child class. Connor made the lantern with leaves last year in Kindergarten and he made the tin can lantern in Kindergarten this year.

I was thinking about this tradition recently when my friend Ellen asked me about how Waldorf schools taught the kids about seasons. They never sit down and talk about the leaves turning from green to gold, but the circle often center around seasonal happenings. They also never talk about the days being shorter, but that's exactly what the children learn from the lantern walk. Where once there was light during the early evening, now there is dark. So, we make our own light and enjoy the crispness of the air.


Sunday, November 21, 2010

Project People: Bathroom Redo Part 1

About two years ago, Ed and I made what was a monumental decision for us. We decided to move from our home - where both Helen and Connor were born - into another house. We were on the edge of a major renovation, when we decided we just could not live through all that construction. And I couldn't live with our tiny kitchen any longer and the layout of that house was just not working.

So we moved into a much larger house, with a huge kitchen. But it needed work to suit us. So immediately, we set about ripping out tons of shelves, and repainting. And then we turned out attention to the outside for the summer, and now we're readying our project list for the winter. And we're going for a biggie. One that will result in Ed and I having to use Connor and Helen's bathroom for some period.

I present to you...Ed's and my bathroom.

What will we be attempting to do?

1. Rip out those white shelves. Nobody needs this many shelves in a bathroom (though we did fill them up!), they're ugly, and someday they will fall apart. Someday soon, probably.

2. Rip out and replace all the bathroom furniture. This will include:
  • replacing the disgusting medicine cabinet that is so rusty inside that I have never placed an object in it.
  • replacing the very ugly and enormous cabinet above the toilet, that sometimes makes me think the wall will collapse beneath its weight.
  • replacing the sink. I'm planning on getting one that is undermount, because I don't want to be tempted to "go toothpick" ever again in my life.
  • replace the toilet, probably.
  • replace the vanity - that is so gross underneath I only store bathroom cleaner and still in the package toilet paper.
  • possibly replace the tub. Totally not sure on this one. It needs to be replaced, but this is already a huge job, and replacing that might open up a can of worms we're not ready for.
3. Rip out the ugly linoleum floor and put in tile. This part is particularly awesome because right after we bought our first home - in 2001 - we tiled our basement floor. We were total rookies, but we took a two hour class and figured we were pros. Naturally. We were not. And by the end of the project, Ed had moved the boxes tiles around the floor so much, prompting me to call him Sisyphus one too many times, and he absolutely refused to take the extra boxes of tiles back to the store, even though we could've gotten a chunk of change back. Instead, the tiles sat in our old basement, and then when we moved, we either left half of them or none of them, I can't remember. But now! Finally! We're going to use those tiles, though I'm sure Ed's back will start hurting just looking at the things.

4. Replace the light.

5. Replace the cheap plastic towel bars that have yellow paint on them because the last folks were apparently not inspired to remove them when they decided to turn the bathroom lemon yellow.

6. Repaint, and possibly tile the walls partway. Because we're totally pros at tiling, now that we've done one floor. Luckily, Helen honed her painting skills all last winter as we repainted much of our house.

It's not clear to me we can actually complete this project. So...anyone want to bet when the bathroom will be finished? Or, alternately, whether our marriage will outlast the bathroom redo?

I'm keeping our handyman's number on speed dial, just in case things start getting rough.


Saturday, November 20, 2010


For a couple of weeks now, our au pair, Connor, and Helen have been raking leaves. Up until now, the take has been insufficient, in Connor's mind. But over the past couple of days, the last of the leaves fell from one of our trees and the other one is finally starting to look quite bare.

Finally, we have a large enough pile to suit Connor.


Friday, November 19, 2010

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

From Left to Write Book Club: Earthbound Cook

Long ago, in a world that sometimes seems far away, Ed used to enjoy cooking fabulous meals, and I enjoyed eating them. Unless they had a lot of onion. Then I enjoyed picking through them before eating them. I also know my way around a kitchen, and as I played the role of Ed's sous, my skills grew. Until one day, I gave birth. And that little guy, as perfect as he was, required a lot of time. And so it was only natural that we started scrimping on the cooking side of life. We didn't resort to going out, but we resorted to simpler meals and over the past five years, the number of dishes we cook regularly has shrunk considerably. Naturally, the times we attempt to be really adventurous have dwindled as well.

This month's From Left to Write book club selection was a cookbook, which gave me the opportunity to remind myself that I actually enjoy cooking, and  I made several dishes from this great cookbook - no stinkers yet. 


Squash, White Bean, and Chard soup. Bonus points for using up the last of the CSA produce!

Shrimp and Corn Chowder! The kids ate the shrimp part.

Coconut crusted salmon! The kids liked this one, after they wiped off the coconut and bread crumbs.

Ed's birthday dinner - Tuna on Lentil salad, with feta a roasted red peppers. The kids ate the tuna. Can you believe they will not eat a roasted red pepper? Makes no sense.

And roasted brussel sprouts. Even Ed doesn't like these. But because they are the most beautiful vegetable on the planet when still attached to the stalk, he cannot resist buying at least one batch of them each year.

I loved them all, something my mother never thought she'd see in print since I was the pickiest eater on the planet when I was little.

Bon appetit!

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Helenspeak: Working the Halls

Helen picks Connor up at school each day at noon. She waits outside his classroom, and often tells the other parents to "line up" and lets them know any important details about her day that she thinks up. All of the mothers agree that she is hilarious. To say she is comfortable would be an understatement.

Tonight, I was up at school and one of the moms mentioned to me how funny Helen was today. And then I received this email from another mother:

"As usual Elaine, I had the most intellectual conversation of my day today with your daughter. She was being very sweet to [younger child] and explaining how the world works to him at pick-up. I told her that I was going to hire her to babysit and she said, "I'll babysit for [older child] too. That way you can have a datenight." "


Monday, November 15, 2010

Squeaky Door

Our ability to bust Connor committing nefarious acts upstairs in his room has been significantly weakened now that he connects the opening of the squeaky door at the base of the stairs with our appearance shortly thereafter at the top of the stairs.

Time to get some WD-40. Or just stand at the bottom of the stairs opening the door over and over until he becomes immune to the noise. Bets, anyone?


Sunday, November 14, 2010


Dear Helen,

You may not have friends over again until they are as old as Connor.

Sorry about that.

Mom and Dad

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Home Birth - It's Really Not That Scary

A great article in the Huffington Post made me smile when it came across my inbox today about choosing home birth and asking questions about why one-third of babies are delivered in US hospitals - by Cesarean - and whether that might be a risky choice. Don't get me wrong, I understand that c-sections can be a very good thing, lifesaving, even. But it's major abdominal surgery that comes with risks to both mother and child. I'm not sure it ought to be extended as often as it is. Indeed, most well-developed countries with birth statistics better or rivaling our own don't extend it as much.

But what bothers me more is the idea brought out in the beginning of the article, that the images that surrounding birth are scary, and may just make women lack confidence in their ability to do anything but give birth with lots of assistance, and possibly surgery.

"For many of us who haven't yet been through childbirth, there's an image we have of what it's like: A woman is rushed to the hospital in a taxi; she gets put in a wheelchair and is rolled down the hallway in dire emergency; then we see her screaming, and yelling in pain and then... there's the baby.

"Sadly, this is the image that a lot of television shows have put into our minds, and have led many of us to believe: Birth is scary. Birth is dangerous. And it might be better if we just numb out through the whole experience.

"Because so many women don't have an image of what a natural, empowered birth looks like, there is a lot of fear surrounding the act giving birth. Accordingly, the majority of women give their inner authority over to doctors in their birth process. They trust the doctors more than themselves. The problem with this is that many women aren't aware that the majority of her doctor's medical decisions are being made today for monetary and legal reasons, and not necessarily for the good of her and her baby.

"Here is the reality: Hospitals are businesses. They want those beds filled and emptied. They aren't really interested in having women with long labors hanging around. And there is something else you should know: Having a baby in a hospital might not be as safe as you thought."

Occasionally, I find out a co-worker or playgroup mom had a home birth, and it's usually after the birth, and if that's the case, they tell me "I wish I'd known you had your children at home while I was planning my birth. Everyone I knew was against the idea." And this always bums me out because a lot of people know I had home births. And I'm happy to talk about those births. I still count them among my best two days, ever.

I don't expect the numbers of home and hospital births to change that much. But I do wish the information out there was delivered on a fair playing ground, so that people who choose out-of-hospital birth don't have to feel like they're some sort of outcast. I also wish people didn't feel like they had to choose between a hospital birth and the birth they imagine. Seems like there ought to be common ground available.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Expanding our Holiday Traditions: Junior League of Northern Virginia Enchanted Forest

As anyone who knows Connor knows, he LOVES trains. Still. Every mother of a boy told me that trains were a phase, and next we'd move to dinosaurs. Not so with Connor. For Christmas this year, he asked me to get him a train that goes all by itself that he could set up for people to come see, but only he and Helen would be allowed to make it go. This may be the start of a very expensive hobby.

Connor's love of trains possibly makes Christmas our most favorite season of all around here. Because there are lots and lots of incredible train displays. So when Javamom - over at Caffeine and a Prayer - told me about the Junior League of Northern Virginia's annual Enchanted Forest - which includes beautiful trees decorated by sponsors that you can bid on in a silent auction, loads of kids' entertainers, a science center room for kids, and A POLAR EXPRESS MODEL TRAIN ROOM, I jumped at the chance to go. This is going to totally kick-start our train viewing this year, and I know Connor is going to be so excited.

The event takes place at the Sheraton Reston, located at 11810 Sunrise Valley Drive, Reston, Va. 20194 on November 20 and 21. Javamom generously gave my family tickets, so we'll be hitting the first day of the forest and I'll be posting photos of the event here that night. Tickets are $10 per person - and we're planning on upgrading our tickets to include the cupcake decorating event with the snow princess and Georgetown Cupcakes. Tickets are sold at the door, online at or you can get them by calling 703-442-4163. You can also enter Javamom's giveaway for this event on her website.

We'll also be heading out to Brookside Gardens to see the trains and lights as we have done for the past two years, the Botanical Gardens to see their trains - as we have done for the past four years, and we'll even go to a guy's house not far from us that puts up a display. We'll hit the Norwegian trains at Union Station at least once, although this one is always difficult for kids because it's at adult height, which requires me to drag a chair from a restaurant over or figure out how to pick both Connor and Helen up. We'll head down to the ellipse to see the trains on display, where Connor once remembered the trains from the year before, completely freaking me out.

Join me at one or all of these events!


Thursday, November 11, 2010

Rubik's Cube: I have the answer key! Take that, Sister!

Many, many years ago (probably 30!), my sister received a Rubik's Cube as a gift. She definitely told me not to touch it, and I definitely did not listen to her, and I remember very well hiding it, and being frantic with worry trying to figure out how to solve it without her knowing that I had totally and completely screwed it up.

I thought of this a few weeks ago when I received an email indicating that the Rubik's Cube was turning 30 this year. And partly in honor of that, there was going to be a competition on the National Mall sponsored by the organization "You Can Do the Rubik's Cube". Unfortunately, I was unable to attend the event. However, the organization did offer to send me my very own Rubik's Cube (guess what my sister is getting for Christmas this year?) with an answer booklet.

Naturally, I was very excited to receive the cube, because I still feel a little bit guilty about my sister's cube. And well, Christmas is coming... However, I told the man offering the answer booklet that I totally knew how to solve that bugger already - either take it apart and reassemble it, or remove all the stickers. What more did I need to learn.

My cube arrived - complete with the fixing's for a party - woohoo!

It was also completely solved when it arrived. Witness. A perfect cube.

And then, naturally, Connor and Helen set about destroying it.

And then Ed got the thing and he freakin' solved it. Yes. Solved it. It didn't even take him that long, though he did look at the answer key at one point.

He even tried to explain it to me, stuck in my one-side solved only world, and he was talking about math, and blah, blah, blah and I was all, look, pal, I got a perfect score on my math GRE, this thing is NOT about math, because if it was, I could totally solve it.

Only, it is all about math concepts. And maybe that's why my little number lover Connor is loving the cube, though has yet to show me up in solving it. I'm thinking of having Ed train Helen to solve it so she can be the youngest kid to solve it someday in competition. Right now, that distinction is held by a 4 year old.

I'm planning on studying the guide until Christmas, and then at Christmas, when my sister opens this irresistible morsel, I'll let her gasp as Helen and Connor destroy it and then I'll place a friendly wager with her over who can solve it faster.

Even with my advanced studying, I might put my money on either her or Ed.


Disclosure: As mentioned in the post, I received my cube free. I hope this toy becomes a huge hit on its 30th birthday because it definitely provided many hours of fun (and anxiety!) in my house.