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.

Elaine

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."
Elaine


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.

Elaine

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.

SO TAKE THAT NEW YORK CITY!

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.




Elaine

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.

Elaine

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Leaves

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.


Elaine

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. 

Behold!

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!
Elaine

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." "

Elaine

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?

Elaine

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Letters

Dear Helen,

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

Sorry about that.

Love,
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 www.jlnv.org/theenchantedforest 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!

Elaine

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.

Elaine

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.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Sloth Bear Tour at the National Zoo

Over the summer, Ed and I attended one of the National Zoo's after-hours fundraisers, Zoofari. Typically, I do not support over-eating in any way, but this event is loaded with excellent food, and I love it. In fact, every year I try and recruit more friends to attend because it is really that fun.

I quite possibly owe my sanity to the National Zoo, because that's where Ed and Connor would head bright and early the Winter after Helen was born so I could snooze at home with Helen - the super sleeper. And because of that, we've been members of the zoo for several years and attend one or two fundraisers a year for the place.

Before we started attending this annual event with friends, they went without us and won a "backstage visit" with the sloth bears one year at the silent auction. They generously took us as their guests, and we had a ball. This was about a month before Helen was born. This year, while attending the event, we formed a bidding pact and first bid on a backstage tour of the panda bears, but got outbid. So one of my friends ran to the tent with the sloth bear backstage visit and placed a winning bid for our team.

After several scheduling issues, we were finally all able to make it to the zoo this past Sunday. Only the keeper failed to show. But my friend is nothing, if not persistent, so we got our promised visit. And, because the zoo folks felt bad about our tour being delayed, they threw in a backstage visit with the otters. BONUS!

We all had a blast. Note that both Helen and Connor loved feeding mealy worms to the sloth bear, even going so far as to pick up any worms that fell to the ground so they could feed them to the bear. No squeamishness here, friends.

video

Monday, November 8, 2010

Math

On Sunday morning, as we prepared to leave for the zoo, Helen and Ed were packing lunch for everyone. Helen asked that we please use her new pink lunch bag (one of the gazillion things she has received as a result of having Ed twisted around her finger). She noted that she only had one fork and one spoon, so if everyone needed a fork and spoon, she would need to pack three more of each.

Not bad for a three year old.

Elaine

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Best Birthday Party Ever: Woodmont Gymnastics Center

Today, Helen and Connor attended the birthday party of someone we met during our nanny sharing days. It was, by far, the most rocking party ever. We were late to it (had exciting behind-the-scenes tour at the zoo before the party), so missed part of it, but will still rank it among the top parties of the year. It was the obstacle course birthday party on steroids. Or rather, done professional style.

The party was held at Woodmont gymnastics center, a place both Connor and Helen have taken gymnastics at. They started with a warm-up (which we missed), and then set up an obstacle course (which we missed), and then set up another obstacle course, which was a total hoot - balance beams, rings, tunnels, bars - the works.

Because Connor thinks sweat pants are the appropriate attire for all parties - and all non-party days as well, he was dressed perfectly. And on a related note, the day before Connor attended another birthday party, and as he was getting dressed he told me he was going to wear something really fancy so nobody would know who he was. If they asked, he was going to tell them his name was Ronnoc so he could trick them. He wore black pants and a red shirt. Ironically, it was a costume party, but I forgot that, so he really could've dressed up in an unusual outfit.




I'll definitely consider this party for Helen next year. Totally fun.

Elaine

Saturday, November 6, 2010

I Couldn't Make This Stuff Up If I Tried: Connorspeak AND Helenspeak

Before breakfast on Friday:

"Helen, you can't just take my things!"
"Well, yes I can. If you're not lookin'."

During breakfast on Friday:
"When we go to Cape Town, we need to make sure we stay in a very tall apartment so that the renegade baboons don't take our things. We need to choose a very high window and then at night, we can look out our windows and see if the renegade baboons are still there. But I know a way to get rid of them.

Renegade Baboon Traps!

We can make them with really strong metal with little holes to catch their paws. And how we can get them to go in is to put their favorite food in them."

Elaine

Friday, November 5, 2010

Goin' to New York City! But not too fast.

This past summer, we drove to New York City to visit my friend Vickie. Athough the trip was somewhat traumatic for me, the kids (and Ed, I believe) had a ball. Since then, Helen regularly packs a bag and tells me she's "Headin' to New York City!" and then she takes her pretend vacation.

Over Columbus Day, Ed's dad came to visit and we took him to a dairy farm. Because if there's one thing Ed and I know about, it's how to have a good time.


As a side note, we learned from our trip that the life of a dairy cow is really, really crappy. Seriously. Bummed me out, although apparently I was the only one because Connor actually wanted to live there forever and become a dairy farmer. Also, sniff, sniff...see that bottle in Helen's hands? Among the last.

Besides walking around the farm and seeing cows eat and get milked, we also took a hike


and went to the fair. And because were were in a sparsely populated farming community, this fair was the real deal. Complete with hay ride and  John Deere tractors.

Helen immediately noticed the child sized tractor and Connor and her hopped right on in. And Helen announced, in classic Helen style "we're goin' to New York City" and then she stepped on the gas. Only clearly someone had not thought this out well for many reasons - chief among them:

1. The car had a battery.
2. The car was about six inches from a metal post.


In the span of about ten seconds, Helen made her gleeful announcement and then ran head into the post, which totally ruined her fun. And, then the lady staffing the John Deere tractor (if that is, in fact, what you call sitting in a lawn chair ignoring everything going on until a three year old bothers to crash your car) started telling me how Helen shouldn't have done that. And when I told her Helen didn't realize what was going to happen, she started in on how I should've known Helen couldn't sit in the car and of course, I wanted to tell her that the information she was giving to me rudely now would've been a lot more helpful a few minutes before the fun-ending car crash, but instead I just told Connor and Helen we needed to leave because that woman was carrying around a lot of negative energy.

But man, the glee Helen had for those two seconds before the car crashed is something I hope I never forget.

And note to people running a fair: if you don't want a child to sit on a child sized object, you ought to put a sign up, or a rope around it, or for goodness sake, at least remove the battery! Or, you know, be prepared to politely tell parents that children aren't allowed on the object before there is a car crash.

Elaine

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Unionizing

On Monday, Connor and Helen attempted to form a union. They would've been more successful had the younger member of the union not come downstairs and asked:

"Mommy, can you give me a Tupperware? I need to put some candy in it so if you give me a no treat consequence night I can have candy anyway because I'm hidin' it in Connor's room where he hides his candy."

"Sure, Helen. Just choose one that's the right size for you."

And then, of course, the older member appeared giggling nearly uncontrollably, letting me know exactly where I should not be looking in his room.

Management decided he could keep the candy in his room for a few days, because it was so funny to see the two of them working so well together for a common cause.

Even if the cause was pure evil.

Also, I know Connor will enforce strict rationing of the booty.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Jazz Hands - For Grandma

Helen loves it when my mom comes to visit. For starters, my mom is willing to crawl through all manner of playground equipment with her. She also has the ability to push Helen on a swing for a long time and has been known to read an enormous stack of books to both Helen and Connor.

My mom's other skill? She can actually tame Helen's hair. Wow! I was impressed when I found this photo.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

My budding feminist

My friend Ellen has pointed out that her daughter is a budding feminist theologian. I say, you practice what you preach - or in this case, are preached to. And as in her house, we're feminists. And Helen is no exception.

Friday, Helen and I attended our parent-child class. Every class ends with a puppet play performed by either the lead or assistant teacher. The same story is told for three weeks, and then a new story is told.

In case you wondered whether a 3 year old could pay attention to a puppet show, they can. The kids sit mesmerized by the action. Helen started class by requesting a puppet show from two weeks ago be repeated. I actually didn't even clue into what she was requesting (though the teacher did) until it came time for the puppet show and Helen made her request again.

She didn't get the one she wanted (the teacher is not a jukebox, after all), but she did listen intently as always. The story was a version of Strega Nona, and the last line was "and whoever wanted to return home, had to eat his way home" to which Helen shouted "HER!". Because in Helen's world, the gender neutral pronoun is "she" not "he" and she's not afraid to correct people.

That's my gal!

Elaine

Monday, November 1, 2010

NAtional BLOg POsting MOnth: The Discerning Trick-or-Treater

It's November, and once again, Therese has issued her annual NaBloPoMo challenge - post something every day the entire month of November.

Ready. Set. Go.

I'll start with the really low hanging fruit. This year, Connor and Helen opted to be a hobgoblin and a pink cat, respectively, for Halloween. What is a hobgoblin, you might be wondering? I wondered, too. According to Connor, it is someone who dresses up in blue blue sweatpants, a blue sweatshirt, and a blue scary hat like Daddy's. Really? Because that actually sounds like your dad, but whatever. It was a costume I could do, even when Connor added he would need a yellow cape with green stars. Twelve individually cut and sewn on felt stars. The hat was discarded almost as soon as it was donned because he couldn't see well. It's a ski mask for an adult, after all.


In case you can't tell - that cape rocks! A few people even though I had used a machine to sew the felt stars on because the stitches are that even.

And a photo where you can see the stars:



My mom will be totally proud of that cape, and even more proud because not only did I make it like she made almost every costume I ever wore, but I was stitching it together yesterday during a birthday party and last night during a dinner party. All I can say is, I learned to stitch fast from her - because that's how you have to stitch if you're making the costume the day before Halloween!

Helen loved the trick-or-treat aspect of the holiday, and in fact went to more houses than Connor and made a last run with Ed when she sensed her time looting others' homes was nearly done.



As in past years, the loot was good. In fact, my neighbors across the street asked Connor and Helen what their favorite candy was and Connor received an entire bag of jelly beans from them. Helen got a box of Whoppers. Talk about nice people!

Elaine

P.S. Here's a little tip I'll give everyone out there. Do not go to the fabric store thinking it will be a ten minute visit like it is every other night of the year the week before Halloween. I acquired my yellow fabric, elastic band, and pink felt - but I had to wait in a substantial line to do so.