Friday, January 29, 2010

Who knew recycling was so valuable?

"Mommy, I looked in the recycling pile tonight and I thought to myself 'man, I would really like these in my kitchen'".

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

I attended Kindergarten Information Night on Monday, and all I got was this migraine

I live a few blocks away from a well-loved elementary school that has just recently been renovated to the nines. People with children there love it. They love the principal, they love the teachers, they love the facilities. And did I mention this well-loved elementary school is free? Well, not exactly, but at least already paid for by my property taxes?

I feel bombarded with information about how children need to be outside. They need to be free from the television, computer, movies, etc. They need to explore and create. They do not need to memorize, sit in lines, and repeat back.

Neither Ed nor I were impressed by the image of a Kindergartener sitting at a computer. We were also not impressed that the event started late.

The gist of Ed's and my conversation?

Me: Well...I guess we both know the endgame here. You tell me how everyone loves our neighborhood school, that Connor would get to go to school with friends who lived close by, and that he's an exceptionally smart kid who will thrive in whatever environment we subject him to.

I tell you that he loves Potomac Crescent Waldorf School, that he's having the best year of his life, that he's with the nicest group of 15 similarly aged children I have ever witnessed, and that they actually understand just how important interacting with the natural world is - something that every piece of research quoted in the NYTimes supports.

You tell me public school is free and that Waldorf school is expensive, and that since our school only goes to grade 3, his joining of the public school factory is inevitable. You also point out that logistically, it would be fabulous to have a child who could walk to school.

I cry.

We send Connor to Waldorf school.

And then Ed adds that possibly, I might want to actually visit the local school. And he reminds me that I did have a really nice exchange with the principal over email and the assistant principal in person.

That, my friends, is the clear cost of marrying someone who is utterly rational.

And then Ed admits that he told his coworkers that day he was gearing up for the inevitable argument about where to send Connor to next year.

Why can Arlington County have a public Montessori program and not a public Waldorf program? It seems so unfair.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Driving Lessons

"You know, Mom, if you're in a hurry you could just keep driving instead of stopping at the stop signs if you don't see any cars there."

"Thanks for that advice, Connor. I'm sure it will serve me well in times to come."

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Hardest Working Men in the Business

First we call them for a playdate. Then we let 'em do our yard work. Thanks, David!

Wednesday, January 20, 2010


My friend Therese claims you can't eat a cherry out of season, but Connor would definitely disagree with her on that point.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

She's Clever - and Unimpressed with the Rules

In the old days, Helen loved sleeping. In fact, I could count on her for 12 hours from the time she went to bed at night. Mostly, this rocked.

Then she took notice of the toddler bed in her room, and even though I thought it was a terrible idea to move her to that bed, Ed thought it was a great idea. And, for the record, Ed and I took the same sides when we moved Connor from a crib, and Ed was totally right that time. Connor hated his crib from the moment he was put into it until the moment he was freed from it. Helen though, she loved that crib.

Coincidentally, when Helen started noticing the toddler bed, a friend of ours was very close to delivering her own baby, and was interested in our crib, so the deal was sealed. Helen moved to a bed, the crib moved to our friend's house.

It turned out to be a huge mistake. She started sleeping less, and eventually refused to sleep with her door closed. Helen seems to be a rather light sleeper, so regularly she awakens at night. For the past couple of months (give or take a month, I seriously cannot remember - it seems like forever) when Helen wakes in the middle of the night, she comes downstairs and asks to get into my bed "please please", and then sleeps until Connor comes down in the morning and wakes her up.

When Connor started coming into our room at about this age, I would simply walk him across the hall, lay down with him, and then return to my room when he fell asleep. That was a nice feature of our old house. But Helen?'s so hard to walk all the way upstairs in the middle of the night - especially in the winter when it's cold - so Helen gets to just pile in. And some nights she would sleep very unobtrusively, and those nights were nice. But other nights she would head butt either Ed or myself and kick the other one All NIGHT LONG. That sucked.

Every night at bedtime, Ed or I would tell Helen she needed to stay in her room all night long and every night, she would look at us and let us know it would be fine if she came downstairs. She would even tell me after she finished nursing "I come down to your room tonight". And even though I would attempt to convince her otherwise, it was in vain. The exception to this pattern was the big FAMILY DATE NIGHT when I came upstairs with her cat's shoe that she thought had been lost. That night, she looked up and said "Thank you mommy. I won't come downstairs tonight. I sleep all night in my bed."

So I told Ed he was in charge of getting Helen back into her room since I was always the one who took Connor back to his room, but that was a disaster and went nowhere. Ed would sleep on the floor in her room and Helen would just move to the floor to sleep with Ed. Next, we tried the "wake-up" light. This is a nightlight on a timer that turns on when a reasonable hour has been reached. Connor has been using a "wake-up" light since he was 21 months old. The first night we used it with Helen - Wednesday, she actually slept until after 7:00 the next morning. When I went into her room Thursday morning, she popped out of bed and shouted "I did it!". Naturally, Ed and I congratulated ourselves for being brilliant parents and settled in for some long nights of sleep in the near future.

Only Helen had different ideas. Thursday and Friday nights, Helen came down to my room claiming she broke her light and it didn't work so she could sleep in my bed. I was too tired to argue. Remember that long climb up the stairs? Saturday night, when Helen came downstairs I decided to take her back upstairs and lay down with her. After she fell back asleep in her bed, I went to turn the light on, so that whenever she woke up, it would be on. That way, she would learn that it did, indeed, turn on - and hopefully develop a little faith in the thing.

Only when I went to turn it on, it was unplugged. Strange, I thought. I plugged it in, went back downstairs, and told Ed what I'd found. He said he'd seen the same thing a few days ago, and figured our au pair had unplugged it.

In not much more time, Helen came padding down to my room and told me that she had broken the wake-up light and that it was not working and that it would be OK to sleep in my room. I wanted her to see the light I had turned on, so I went upstairs and lo and behold, the thing was off - and unplugged. I plugged it in and showed her "Look, Helen, the wake-up light is on! You can come down and snuggle in my bed." Helen exclaimed "Yay, I can come down to your room!" and came downstairs. On the way downstairs, she told me that she unplugged the light and broke it! And she said this with a glint of victory in her eye.

Sunday morning, my au pair told me that when she had come in Saturday night, she heard a bunch of noise in Helen's room. She peeked in and saw Helen plugging and unplugging the light, fiddling with it, watch it blink on and off, and eventually toss it on the ground. We put two and two together and learned that indeed, Helen had been telling the truth the night before. She had actually reached behind the shelf that had been left ajar and unplugged the light. Helen knows she is absolutely not allowed to unplug things, but unlike Connor who actually follows rules, Helen runs on more of a "if there's no one to witness the crime, it didn't happen" way of life.

But, I like to think I'm smarter than a two year old, so I got a new extension cord that is more difficult for her to unplug. I moved a shelf in front of the thing, and put the light on that shelf so Helen could see it but not reach it. I told her I had gotten her a new light and that it was not broken, and that she should NOT TOUCH IT.

And Monday morning? She slept until about 8:00. And then she came down and snuggled for a bit before going out to play with Ed and Connor.

But Monday night? I went into her room around bedtime only to see her trying to reach behind the shelf to fiddle with the plug and have her tell me "I'm goin' to break the light so I can come down to your room tonight".

Would it be possible for her to unquestioningly follow even one rule in the house?


Monday, January 18, 2010

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Family Date Night

Ed and I typically go out on one weekend night, about three weekends a month. There's also the occasional midweek date, though these have been pretty sparse for a while. Most of the time, we wait to leave until after the kids' bedtime, but because they are psychic and seem to wake up if we don't tell them we're going - and then are shocked to find us gone - we tell them it's "Date Night" and we'll be away for the night. Connor requests to join us on occasion, so on Friday, Ed deemed that Saturday would be family date night. And oh what a night. (And by the way, it's not that we don't do stuff with the kids, it's just that we typically do it during the daytime, and we don't often pull out all the stops in a manner akin to a date night.)

Having already made our annual bowling trip, we needed to come up with another outing. The first idea I came up with was visiting a paint-your-own pottery studio. Both Helen and Connor were into this idea, and then I remembered that they might do this in Colorado with my mom, so I decided to come up with another idea. The winner? Build-a-Bear.

This idea poses two problems. First, the closest Build-A-Bear to us is located in a shopping mall. Ed does not like shopping malls. At all. Really. As soon as we get close, he starts getting tense. Second, since we've never been to a Build-A-Bear, we were certain to get fleeced. I almost called my sister for advice on how to maneuver the Build-A-Bear, but decided to just wing it. Possibly a mistake, but I did ask for a tour of the store as soon as we got there, which didn't really help at all, but made me feel slightly more informed.

For the uninitiated, let me break it down for you.

Step 1. Walk into overpriced store and have sensory overload. Keep your wits about you if you are me. Decide you have quite possibly found hell if you are Ed. But, decide it's OK because your darling daughter is clearly going to love this.

Step 2. Tell cashier you've never been here and ask to be shown around. Get a little nervous as you notice the cashier sniffing blood.

Step 3. Have cashier tell you: select an animal from a bin, take it to the stuffing machine, pick out the accessories. Pay at the end.

Step 4. Clarify that the puppy being carried by the larger dog that your son has already fallen in love with is an accessory.

Step 5. Actually select animal skin.

Step 6. Rip tag off animal skin because 2 year old won't stop talking about it and expressing annoyance.

Step 7. Wait in long line of adults wondering why on Earth adults would choose to be here without children.

Step 8. Step up to stuffing machine. Listen to instructions about how to make animal skin come to life. Press pedal to make stuffing fly from stuffing machine into animal. Be wary at first, but impressed in the end.

Step 9. Choose heart to put in animal. Watch your mother as she almost has a heart attack, wondering how long it will be before some child of hers with OCD has a nervous breakdown that a heart, A HEART, has been left in the animal and can't it please, please, please be removed immediately?

Step 10. Receive animal.

And now? This is where the fun really starts.

Step 11. Give animal a bath. (Don't ask me. It's a hair dryer thing and a brush.)

Step 12. Sort through approximately 500 different accessories. Learn that any outfit can be used on any animal.

Step 13. Choose puppy that goes with big dog. Test out magnet to make sure it works and actually attaches to big dog.

Step 14. Choose dog bed.

Step 15. Choose sweater for dog.

Step 16. Choose pink cat underpants that are almost identical to your own underpants.

Step 17. Find t-shirt. Discard t-shirt, get pink dress.

Step 18. Get pink shoes. Look over all shoes carefully to make sure the best shoes have been selected.

Step 19. Choose red underpants for dog.

Step 20. Go back to dog accessories.

Step 21. Discard red underpants in favor of leash that taller customer has pointed out.

Step 22. Discard sweater in favor of dog toys.

Step 23. Ask cat holder if she's getting a bed for her cat. Immediately regret it.

Step 24. Watch cat holder fall in love with ridiculous pink "Hello Kitty" chair. Practically beg her not to take it home.

Step 25. Convince her that fancy pink purse is better.

Step 26. Go up to cashier. While waiting in line, have holder of fancy pink purse tell you she's going to trade it for the pink chair. Beg her again not to do this. Watch as she throws pink purse on the ground and walks entire length of store to acquire ridiculous pink chair.

Step 27. Give her props for making it to the front of the store and purchase pink chair along with everything else.

Step 28. Watch son beam with excitement at the fancy cardboard box he gets to take his dog home in.

Step 29. Watch daughter burst into tears when cat disappears into box. Watch as cashier quickly rescues cat from box.

Step 30. Pat yourself on the back for single-handedly keeping the recession from deepening.

Step 31. Wish your kids were old enough to just go have a beer with you.

Final score: Build-A-Bear 1, Family 0. Unless you don't count the small fortune we dropped there for the dog, the dog bed, the puppy that the dog carried, the dog toys, and the leash or the cat; OR the pink underwear for the cat, the pink outfit for the cat, the pink shoes for the cat, or the ridiculous pink 'Hello Kitty' chair for the cat. If you don't count this, then the final score is Build-A-Bear -2 stuffed animals and accompanying accessories, Family +2 incredibly happy children. (And lest you think I did not hold the line, I did NOT allow noisemakers to be put in the toys.)

After the Build-A-Bear extravaganza, Helen INSISTED (I know, Helen, insisting on something? You find it impossible to believe, but stay with me for a minute) that she be allowed to walk through the mall, carrying the ridiculous pink 'Hello Kitty' chair. The girl's height renders her invisible to almost every person found in a shopping mall and she can't walk a straight line under the best of circumstances, and carrying a chair as big as herself could hardly be considered the best of circumstances. And hello, big tall guy, is it really necessary to be walking and staring at your handheld device texting someone? I don't think Ed would've felt at all bad if you'd actually hit the deck after almost tripping on Helen. Sheesh.

But we made it out of the mall, stopping only once more at Cakelove to get carry-out cupcakes. I told the kids we could go on date night once a month. I already know Connor has his heart set on another Build-A-Bear experience, but we'll be doing something a bit quieter next time. In fact, we might be calling up that Paint Your Own Pottery night!

Helen clutched her pink chair the entire ride home, lamenting once that she was sad she didn't have the box for her cat, but remembering that she had cried when the lady at the store put her cat in the box.

The cupcakes were deemed delicious.

As I tried to balance the camera on the trashcan to take a timed photo of the four of us to commemorate our big outing, Ed reminded me that I had a tripod in my office. He fetched it, and we gave one final hurrah.

P.S. We have been home for over an hour, and Ed still sits dazed in the corner of the room drinking a beer, watching football, and commenting on how the people at Tyson's looked so..."stylish". I'm wondering how long it will be until I convince him to step inside a mall again. My money is on 6 months. However, after more contemplation, he has decided that Build-A-Bear is a good idea.


P.S. Helen and Connor, you should know that every person I have spoken to that knows me and has read the post has started our conversation with "you went to Build-A-Bear? Are you crazy? I cannot imagine you and Ed in a Build-A-Bear!".

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Connor and the Ladies

My sister came to visit over New Year's with cousins Anna and Emily. And let's just say, if anyone out there has children ages two and four in need of a super awesome vacation, invite Anna and Emily. For the days they were here, I think Helen and Connor both pretty much forgot I existed they were so in love with their cousins. On one day, we took them to the zoo. The pandas were super active since it was cold outside, which always makes for a good trip.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Happy Month 53, Connor!

Dear Connor,

You celebrated your 53rd month outside my womb this month and mostly, it was a fun one. After all, it encompassed Christmas - which around here lasts a lot of days since you received a box of packages first from my parents, then we went to Albany where you were greeted with even more presents, and then back home with a visit from Aunt Linda who brought even more presents. You found this wholly acceptable, if only because you seriously love the accumulation of stuff. So much so, that I had to remind you on more than one occasion that you had the choice between saving the packaging from a present (what I refer to as trash) or keeping the present. On every occasion, you chose the present.

You loved hanging out with all 5 of your cousins - first the girls in Albany, then the girls from Kansas. What it is with dad's and my siblings that they only produce girls? Luckily, you're quite happy to play with 'girl toys', so it's never a problem to visit Albany. Your favorite toy there? A cleaning cart that Grandma Lynn gave to cousin Kate last year. You never forget it between visits, and wake up every morning ready to fetch it and get to work. I'm sure Grandma Lynn appreciates your help greatly.

You visited with Santa once, and you jumped eagerly onto his lap...and promptly requested 100 presents.

You convinced me to allow you to participate in the afternoon program one day per week at school. If you had your druthers, you would attend every day, but I'm a bit appalled at paying for an afternoon program when you have perfectly wonderful care available here at home. But, it's a good test drive on the idea of going to school all day. So far, Mrs. Gaudinski reports complete success. From my perspective, it's been a complete failure. It's a bit too exciting for you to fall asleep there - lest you miss anything - so you end up going napless, which makes for a difficult evening. Week 1 was a disaster. Week 2 I figured out that if I gave you a knife and a cucumber and told you to go to town, you would stop picking on Helen. That's what we call good parenting in this house. After dinner, we commenced immediately with baking banana bread because with a bit of structure, the evening can run smoothly. I'm hopeful that after a couple more weeks you'll be settled into your new routine. If not, your beloved afternoon program will end.

We visited the trains at the Botanical Gardens several Fridays in a row and it was not surprising at all that you remembered these. What was surprising is that the day I announced we would visit the National Christmas Tree, you piped up from the backseat "will the train be there again this year?". I did not even remember the train from last year, but indeed, it was there. And according to your report, it's the same train that was there last year. I have no doubt that this is the case.

Snow, snow, snow. You love the snow. Clearly, you are your father's child. You played in it, enjoyed being buried in it, shoveled it, went sledding in it, and finally skiied in it. A hill near our house has a nice pitch, so you can go skiing there while others go sledding. Hopefully you'll enjoy our ski vacation as much as you enjoyed heading down this little hill. You also skiied up in Albany for a few hours and had a lot of fun. You really enjoyed the package of Starburst that Grandpa bought you. I told you they were yours, and even though you were too tired to eat them in the car ride home, you did find the time to hide beneath a table and eat nearly the whole package. That's a lot of Starburst! You were in heaven.

This might be the longest break I've taken from blogging in a while, and as is always the case, it was the result of being busy at work and stress. In the past few weeks, I was offered a new job, a good job with a great boss, and great long-term potential - but in the end, they needed someone full-time, and that was not something I could do just yet. Also, I spent a fair amount of time visiting your former nanny, Rani. You were the light of Rani's world when she was with you. She brought you several highly inappropriate presents that you adore (chief among them, an ATM machine). She was diagnosed with breast cancer, and eventually it metastasised to her brain and became terminal. I have now experienced one more thing in life that I just don't think you can ever understand until you go through it yourself, and that is driving to the hospital praying that by the time you get there, the person you are going to see will be dead. Should this happen to you, know that I have walked that road and you can too. Eventually, Rani did die, and while it was very sad, it was also merciful that this terrible journey finally came to an end. Connor, I now pass along to you two things from Rani. First, find something to believe in. When I went to visit Rani as she lay in the hospital very ill, she smiled and told me that she felt all of her angels were coming to visit her. She expressed true happiness and a very strong faith that God had sent everyone to her. Believe in a higher power, believe in karma, believe in your partner, believe in the regeneration of life, belive in mercy, or believe in anything else. But I do hope you find something to believe in. It'll provide you strength when you're not certain you have it. Second, a smile can go a long way. Several staff members expressed to me what a joy Rani was to be around, and many cried when they learned of her death. These people work in an oncology unit. They see death regularly. Yet still, Rani touched their lives. You have the power to spread the same positive energy into the universe.

When you're not bossing someone around or trying to keep people from messing with something that you have exactly.the.right.way, you're completely fun to hang out with. Your dad and I are both looking forward to our upcoming ski vacation with you.


Thursday, January 14, 2010

Happy Month 27, Helen!

Dear Helen,

You continue to simultaneously be a pure delight and a complete pain in the ass. Luckily, your pain in the assness is often really funny - really funny, which takes the edge off the annoyance factor. Take, for example, when we were preparing to leave your grandparents' home to go to the airport after Christmas. This might be a good time to remind you that airplanes fly on a schedule. A schedule your dad and I like to adhere to, for the most part, lest we find ourselves with two antsy children in an airport missing a flight and then trying to hitch a ride on a plane for which we have no ticket. Your dad was pulling out grandma's car (we needed to utilize both of their vehicles for the trip to the airport, since we numbered 5 with the inclusion of our au pair). You posed the innocent question "where is cat"? Cat, who had-in just a few short days-become your most loved toy. A toy that allowed us to continue the grand tradition that whenever we visit Grandma Lynn's, someone convinces Grandma to allow them to remove a toy from her home and bring it to ours. Your dad rushed into the house, looked around frantically for the cat, all to no avail. He came back out to the car and announced that he couldn't find it. Well, only you knew the reason, and you proudly announced "he's hidden behind my back!".

And this isn't the only trick you played on someone. At one point during a meal, your Grandpa (or Dick, as you call him) tried to convince you to eat something by pretending to eat it himself. You stuck the fork right up to your mouth like he did, and then made eating sounds as you pretended to eat. Clever, my dear. Later, you told him you were a baby and the two of you had the following conversation:

"Can you say mama?"
"Can you say dada?"
"Can you say Grandpa?"

Your most impressive feat this month is learning to use the toilet, rather than a diapers as long as you are awake. That rocks. You were inspired on New Year's Eve when your friend Ruthie came over and you asked her if she had pink underwear - something you had expressed an interest in owning for yourself. Being Ellen's child, the answer was, of course, yes. You asked if Ellen would please give them to you but I assured you I could get you your own. And I did - pink, with cats - what could be better? (Thank you, Hello Kitty brand, for existing.) Upon receiving the precious underpants, you were delighted. You enjoy changing your underpants often, and choosing which pair you will wear. You have always had such a keen fashion sense.

The two things you say most often that make me smile are "re-fridge-uh-bee-rator" as in, "Can I see if there is some milk in the re-fridge-us-bee-rator?" and "Botanabee Gardens" as in "I wan' to see the trains at the Botanabee Gardens". The origin of both of these speech tics is unclear, but I'm hoping they stick around for a while.

We had snow this month, lots of snow, but other than making the occasional snack of it, you are rather unimpressed with it. You have, however, recently conceded that mittens are, in fact, a good thing. However, you rarely agree that you need a hat if you have a hair clip in. It's all about the style for you.

You definitely enjoyed opening up the many Christmas presents you received although you were not about to sit on Santa's lap, though you would stand nearby. After we left Santa, you did tell me that night when you were nursing that "nex time I goin' to sit on Santa's lap". We never saw him again, so you never had to decide whether or not to perform this feat.

You enjoy hiding and little things - so hiding in little places is just about the best.

You do not enjoy hand-me-downs, nor do you enjoy Connor getting anything you feel should be yours. I sense that you feel you are always getting the shaft in the way of new stuff, and that is certainly true to some extent. I think I can empathize with Grandma Carlene when I was a child. I distinctly remember not wanting to wear Aunt Linda's hand-me-downs and one of my two favorite pieces of clothing was a denim jumpsuit she made that bore the letters "E L A I N E" from the shoulder down the leg. I loved that outfit, and I'm sure it was in large part because it was mine, mine, mine!! I'm not sure I ever told your dad about this, but I also adored this pink dress Grandma Carlene made me that had tiny white polka dots on it. It had a fantastic full skirt so that when I twirled, I could really catch some air. Perhaps the gene that made me love this dress has been passed down to you because you LOVE pink. A couple of days ago, your au pair announced that all your pink clothes had been washed and you literally cheered. You also regularly refuse to wear anything that's not pink, but will give up without too much fight if I've managed to wrangle something else on you. Most days, your dad dresses you, and I have to admit that when I see the combo the two of you select (for which he always gives you exclusive credit) I am a bit surprised. But last Saturday, I took you up to get clothes, and you chose red pants with flowers, a pink shirt with flowers (that may actually match, I need to check with Ellen on this) and then you insisted on adding your yellow "new jersey" and yellow socks. It was quite a work.

You loved your cousin's make-up kit and were quite pleased when you got your fingernails painted. Tonight at dinner you asked me why I didn't have my nails painted. For the record, it is possible that nail polish exists somewhere in this house, and if I find it, I'm happy to paint your nails. I'm pretty sure my own nails have not been painted since I married your dad almost 9 years ago. Pottery and painted nails just don't go together. I once patted myself on the back for the fact that neither you nor your brother have ever seen me don make-up, forgetting, of course, that your au pairs never leave the house without it. So much for instituionalizing feminism in our house.

You are solidly in the "why" phase of life, and occasionally I get trapped into answering those whys, only to wonder why I went down this infinitely regressive path. Ugh. I'm hoping this phase passes quickly.

You also follow the time-tested rule of "little girls love big girls" and oh my, did you get to see a lot of big girls this month. For starters, you played with Zoe a few times, then you visited cousins Alisa, Kate, and Sam, then cousins Anna and Emily came for a visit, and finally Ruthie, Esther and Elizabeth came over. Now that's a good month!

You sing, you dance, you entertain whenever you get the chance.