Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Wordless Wednesday: From Tallest to Smallest

In preparation for the dive team photo, the divers were asked to line up from tallest to smallest. That's Connor in the back of the line.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Bring on the Quarters, Grandpa Rodney

Connor has been obsessed with money for some time now, and I don't mind it at all because the little dude can spend a lot of time counting coins - which is time he is sitting still, quiet, and happy. I appreciate all of those things sometimes. He's mostly obsessed with the Penny Arcade at TDBank, which is a big coin counting machine that sits inside each TDBank. Prior to dumping coins in the machine, you guess the value of your coins. If your guess is within $1.99 of the total, you win a prize. Because of the aforementioned counting, Connor always wins a prize.

I instituted a rule that he had to have at least $10 in coins before I'd take him to the bank, and basically now I spend a lot of time with Connor begging me for coins, and then Connor lamenting not having enough to go to the bank.

Because of Helen's Social Security number problems, I didn't open up a bank account for her when I opened Connor's account. Although a second identity might prove useful in Helen's later life, I didn't want the hassle of having more official documents with the wrong name. On Saturday, Helen made use of her newly minted SSN and I opened an account for her. On the bright side (for her), Connor will no longer pilfer all her money. On the downside (for me), now there are two coin seekers in the house.

Every time Connor and Helen visit my dad, he gives them quarters.

Just a little warning for you, Dad, for our upcoming trip. A few days ago, Connor announced to Helen:

"Helen - we're going to visit Grandpa Rodney soon. He always gives us more quarters!"

And, because the two of them think alike, Helen instantly chimed in with:

"Yes, Connor! And then we can to go to TDBank to get more prizes!"

If this bank goes out of business, blame my kids for squeezing them for beach balls, band-aids, coloring books, crayons, and a bajillion other prizes they've scored in the past couple of years.


Sunday, June 26, 2011

Diving...and Dinner

Connor joined the dive team at our pool. It's something he has looked forward to since he first heard about it last year. As much as I have resisted all signing up for sports, I broke down - encouraged it, even, because I know how much Connor loves the coach, and I just adore this thrill-seeking part of my otherwise cautious child. I won't adore it so much when he gets injured, but for now I love that he has this fun place to take risks.

Connor is in the front row, closest to the water.
Diving season is about to be in full swing, and occasionally, I start regretting signing Connor up for it. For the past couple of weeks, Connor has had practice every evening from 4:00 to 5:00. This was fine when I had a driving babysitter, but then I got a new (temporary) babysitter who doesn't drive, and so either Ed or I had to be home by 3:50 every day to dash to the pool. This has done a number on dinner at our house - which used to take place promptly at 5:30.

Noodles and Company is trying to save me. They came out with a "Very Berry Spinach Salad" for the summer. They happen to be located a few blocks from my house, serve Helen's favorite dish - macaroni - and I'm happy for anything green that has cheese as well (bacon optional, so I had them remove it). Yum. And thank you. I'm adding it to our picnic repetroire, which will help facilitate a new routine of diving and then eating, and then swimming before bed. (Yes, it wears even Helen out, and she falls to sleep almost instantly, rather than talking herself to sleep.) I'm also taking any and all other quick and not too expensive suggestions for pre-made picnic items.

But Connor doesn't really care about dinner. He cares about horsing around with the other kids at practice, and then getting his turn on the boards. He can now do: falling forward front dive; falling off back dive; jumping front dive; front flip (inconsistently); and jumping back dive (sometimes - more on that below).

Helen can do: jump off the side and falling forward front dive from the side. She can also complain mightily about not being allowed to go off the board. She can actually swim now, but not consistently enough to pass a swim test. And she'll go through phases of not really swimming at all, but instead walking on the bottom and insisting she's swimming. Hopefully it'll click into place for her soon.

Helen, being indignant while watching Connor dive.

I had intended to use my new camera to capture sweet photos of Connor diving on Friday, but the last 15 minutes of practice on Friday were "Fun Friday", which involves the kids playing games, until they get so out of control the coach has to cancel "Fun Friday". (Oh, the power!). In this game, Connor was supposed to perform a hurdle, leap into the air, and then "catch the sammy". Apparently, Connor needs to leap a little more. The object is several feet above his head in the photo.

Oh well...better luck next time.

During this particular practice, Connor did a jumping off back dive, only he didn't so something right, and he basically did a Nestea Plunge off the board. Ouch! When he came up for air, the coach looked at Connor and said "Connor, I'm glad you were wearing that smack suit, because otherwise that would've hurt". Connor, undeterred, found his place at the back of the line.

Connor also suffered a minor injury when he literally walked off the side of the board. Thankfully, he landed in water. Neither Ed nor I witnessed the event. Ed saw some scratches on Connor's ankle one night when we were in Williamsburg and asked about the provenance of the marks. Connor replied matter of factly that he had fallen off the board. I emailed the dive coach and found out that indeed, he had just walked right off the board. This wasn't too surprising, as I had kept Connor from walking right into three posts that day. Little Dude can definitely be spacey.


I received a coupon in the mail for a free salad at Oodles of Noodles. Yum!

Friday, June 24, 2011

Homemade Friday: Easy Canvas Prints!

Among the many hobbies I dabbled in before children, when I must have had an awful lot of time, was photography. I took a class at the Smithsonian, and then proudly toted my camera around with me on vacation. I can't say as I ever sealed the deal on a fantastic photograph, but I have plenty that qualify as more than decent.

As Ed and I have been knocking off projects (OK, I've been hiring contractors and Ed has been working his tail off), we're finally turning back to the office. This office has a fabulously blank wall. I was going to fill it with artwork from Helen and Connor (and oh my, is there plenty of that), but the frames I purchased don't work well with the hanging system I had Ed install.

So...plan B. I'm slowly going through vacation photographs, and I'm going to hang them up. I've decided to have them printed on canvas, so that I don't have to have them framed. And score! I got the opportunity to test out a canvas print from  Easy Canvas Prints. The prints are cheap enough that I can fill my wall without risk of sending us (further) into debt, and switch them out whenever the mood strikes. The print came super fast, it appears to be high quality - the colors are certainly true to the original photograph, and there are no obvious defects, and I am going to get several more.

I've started with this photograph of Connor, that I took on the beach in Cape May. He's flying a kite, and when Connor flies a kite, it is a much more active sport than when most people fly a kite. I hope he never loses this enthusiasm, and I'm hoping that the recent photography class I took will lead to better ways to capture it.


Thank you, Easy Canvas Prints, for the sample 8x10! Consider me inspired.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Entering the KidZone in Williamsburg, aka the Benjamin Powell House

We wrapped up our stay in Colonial Williamsburg at the Benjamin Powell House. Here, we saw a sheep being shorn with some awkward scissors. I envy neither the woman working nor the sheep.

They also had an ox cart, but unfortunately they weren't giving ox cart rides the day we were there. Connor and Helen would've loved that - and it would've enabled us to skip the carriage ride around town the next day. Although the ride was fine, it wasn't spectacular, and Helen was getting to be a spectacular pain in my rump. Carriage rides have to be scheduled the day they're taken, and you have to get your reservation by 10:00 or you'll be out of luck. We scored an early ride, but that still caused us to cut it very close for our Schooner Pirate Adventure.

Anyway, back to the Peyton Randolph House. Did you know Colonial Williamsburg was home to freakishly large pigeons? I could've gone without knowing that too. These things are big enough that Hemingway probably would've been quite satisfied to have come upon them, rather than the little ones he was eating in Paris. Here, Helen gifted a baby pigeon with two shells that she had picked up from the road, placing them carefully in its nest. Helen had stuffed her pockets with these things, and doled them out to anyone who she felt needed a special gift from her.

And here, I'll take a moment to note that there's a big difference between men and women. When Helen would attempt to bestow a man with her gift, he would politely decline. But women? They would take the shell, admire it, ask if she was sure they could keep it, and then stick it in their pockets. Unfortunately for me, Helen didn't unload all of her treasures, and Ed - feeling a strange amount of inspiration in the vicinity of the washing machine didn't bother to check her pockets. I'm hoping within a few loads I will finally remove all of these from the machine.

The Peyton Randolph House is loaded with games for kids, both in and out, and we played several. Connor was pretty excited to see checkers, and Helen was excited by the dress up clothes.

I think Helen would've made a spectacular Colonial girl - except for likely expectation of needing to be seen and not heard. I'm not sure she would've been very good about that.


For this vacation, my family was guests of Greater Williamsburg. My family received passes to Colonial Williamsburg, we stayed at the Williamsburg Woodlands Hotel (we had a suite, which meant Ed and I didn't have to relive our trip to Key West where we sat on the curb outside our motel after Connor and Helen went to sleep, watching DVDs - not a highlight of our lives as parents). The hotel comped us one night, Greater Williamsburg comped one night, and we paid for one night. 

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Connor's Takeaway? Things Weren't As Good in Colonial Times

Connor and Helen remain captivated by "olden days", so of course they loved Williamsburg. I was a little nervous about our trip at first, because I feared the trip would be long on tour guides talking above the little people's heads, and short on hands-on fun. Turns out, I shouldn't have worried.

Yes, Colonial Williamsburg has lots of history. You can stand where the Stamp Act revolt started, on the recreated steps of R. Charlton's Coffeehouse (and we did - while I discussed the outrage of women not being allowed to go to the coffeeshop, one of Helen's and my Friday rituals), you can walk down the street and see the Capitol of the colonies (we saw it from afar), and you can talk to as many historians as you like - since they dot the town.

But as you might suspect, those weren't the highlights for my 3 and 5 year old companions. The clear highlight in Colonial Williamsburg was the brickyard. Here, we learned that clay was excavated, mixed with water, and then people would mix it by squishing it with their feet. I could not even believe this, but when offered the chance to participate, Connor initially declined saying it was "too messy". After I recovered from falling over backwards in disbelief, I noticed Helen jumping at the chance, and Connor soon followed.

As you can see, Ed was in charge of supervising the little people because, um, it was too messy. Thankfully, no Helens or Connors ended up taking a bath in the mud pit.

So on we went to see the cabinet maker, who had a harpsichord which people could actually play. A teen was playing, encouraged by her parents to keep playing. I still can't believe I walked out of there without testing it out. What was I thinking? My sister - a piano teacher - is going to kick me for this one.

We also saw a man making barrels (and learned that all the bourbon barrels around town for trash collection were not manufactured during Colonial times - they're not the right size).

Artisans were happy to talk shop, happy to continue working, and happy to answer whatever random questions your 3 year old daughter throws at them. Like "what's your name" and "how old are you", Helen's questions d'jour.

We saw all of these places on our way to visit the jail of Colonial Williamsburg, which held endless fascination for Connor. This building has an official tour guide who walks you through the joint. The tour there was a bit more graphic than I usually like for Connor and Helen, but perhaps it will serve as a good deterrent to future crime. I received only a few follow-up questions about the 8 people a year who tended to die there, most of which I answered with "we don't think that's a very good idea now". And by we, of course I mean "I", but they'll figure that out soon enough.

While visiting each of the artisans, I took some time to point out that the stores didn't carry pre-fabricated merchandise, but rather, each piece was made to order - exactly how the person ordering it wanted it. The artisans would often tell us how long it took to make particular pieces. I was hoping to make the point that each item was made with care and very different than mass produced goods today. Connor wasn't impressed with the inefficiency of it all, and I think the point will need to be made another day.

As we walked the streets, Connor noticed the unevenness of bricks, the roofs that had sunlight coming through, and the corners that weren't quite square. His conclusion? "That's not a very good [insert noun of choice]". I guess the kids likes his corners square!


My family and I were guests of Greater Williamsburg on this vacation. They facilitated mosts of our activities. My family received passes to Colonial Williamsburg. We stayed at the Williamsburg Woodlands Hotel (we had a suite, which meant Ed and I didn't have to relive our trip to Key West where we sat on the curb outside our motel after Connor and Helen went to sleep, watching DVDs - not a highlight of our lives as parents). The hotel comped us one night, Greater Williamsburg comped one night, and we paid for one night.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Future Career Identified! Training Ground? Williamsburg Schooner Alliance!

We did it! We took our vacation to Williamsburg. And we were not disappointed. Although we crushed any dreams I might have had of taking the kids to Europe in the near future. We'll be staying closer to home, thank you very much. Some people in our traveling party - ahem, Helen - still need their naps. And some people in our traveling party - ahem, Connor - need to not come up with great ideas during dinner like launching a cherry tomato out of one's mouth "just like a cannon". Thematically appropriate? Perhaps.

But despite some difficulty, all was not lost. Connor and Helen appear to have found their calling. They plan to become pirates. Not only that, they have given the good folks at the Schooner Alliance pirate cruise the good advice that in order to more successful, they should get more cannons. In fact, they have both promised to save up their mythical allowance to purchase some larger cannons for the pirate schooner they hope to one day call their own.

Late morning on Sunday, we rushed aboard the Serenity in preparation for an adventure at sea. The cruise promised tattoos, learning pirate skills - including a battle, and certificate of completion.

Connor and Helen totally rocked this cruise, and how the people running it kept from dying laughing, I will never know. I haven't been this entertained by the little people in a long time.

The cruise started out with the kids hoisting a sail. Ed even joined in the fun! Next, the lead pirate "Captain Mayhem" taught Connor and Helen to steer the boat, while "Mad Molly", the second in command, taught them how to tie knots. Helen's response to Mad Molly? "I already know how" which surprised only one person. And it wasn't anyone in my family.

Mad Molly was totally nice to the belligerent pirate, and taught her how to tie, but did not take the opportunity to string Helen up. Thanks, Mad Molly, but really, we would've understood if you'd taken the chance.

Then, the kids got their pirate tattoos, and finally, it was time for the big attack.

There is no other word to describe this, except fantastic.

We hoisted our pirate flag, as we snuck up on an unsuspecting merchant vessel. Then, Mad Molly taught everyone how to fire a cannon, and though Connor and Helen look intimidated in the video, fear not. As soon as the cannon was fired, Helen jumped to her feet screaming for the merchant vessel to give her their treasure and then told everyone on board she was going to capture them and "poke them in the eye!". Violent little thing, eh?

As soon as our boat's cannon was fired, the merchant ship responded with an even bigger cannon. Smart money told everyone in our boat to back off. Everyone except my two pirates.

Helen stood firm that their gun was NOT bigger than ours when Molly recommended we turn around. I'm pretty sure Connor was convinced we were going to actually board the much larger ship and take their stuff. I'm shipping him off to Somalia next week.

After we steered clear, Helen and Connor discussed their battle plans for next time, and I do believe they plan to come back and get that merchant vessel. In the words of Great Big Sea, Connor and Helen were prepared to make that other boat Wish They'd Never Taken That Cruise Around the Bay!


This is a new cruise offered in the Greater Williamsburg Area, which leaves from Yorktown. My family participated as part of a visit we took to the area sponsored by Greater Williamsburg. The cruise was donated by the owner of the ship. Call 757-639-1233 to book this cruise, or visit their website and find out more. A huge thank you. Ed and I are still laughing about how into the cruise Connor and Helen were - due in no small part to Mad Molly's enthusiasm.

Sage Advice Leads to Social Security Card for Helen

Possibly one of the bigger downsides to home birth, is that paperwork that hospital moms take for granted, can be quite cumbersome for those birthing outside the hospital. One issue is that although a representative from the Vital Statistics Office apparently has an office at the hospital, no such representative exists in my home. In order to get a birth certificate for Connor, I think we had to fill out and send in the form 5 different times. I learned that the good people at Vital Statistics care a lot about the color of ink, whether information is crossed out and written in again, and other random issues that were completely unknown to me. Eventually, we did get a birth certificate for Connor, and then his Social Security card arrived in the mail not long after that.

Determined to only have to fill out the form once for Helen, Ed and I were very careful. But some worker in Richmond decided that I must have made a mistake writing Helen's name as "Helen Carlin MyLastName", because s/he changed it to "Helen Carlin Ed'sLastName" before issuing the birth certificate. It was fixed easily enough, and a new birth certificate - identical to the first except it had the correct last name, arrived.

But I learned the hard way, that sometime a big bureaucracy can move at lightning speed. On the heels of the second birth certificate, a Social Security card with the wrong name showed up. I was all set for this to be fixed as easily as the birth certificate, but that was insane.

Because Helen was born in October, by the time the birth certificate got sorted out, it was the beginning of the year. Ed and I decided not to correct the SS card, because we didn't want to get our taxes returned to us on account of a name mismatch. You see, if we indicated Helen's name was one thing, and her SS card indicated it was another, we'd have mess on our hands, which would now involve the IRS.

And thus began what turned out to be a 3 year process to get a corrected SS card. Basically, every time I became even semi-motivated to deal with this, I would instantly lose motivation as someone at Social Security crushed all my hopes of this being an easy process. Ultimately, they needed me to pay them to officially change Helen's name, which is just offensive since I am not the one who changed her name. It's some office worker in Richmond. Make her pay!

Then a friend of mine, who is a bureaucrat, gave me the sage advice "You can't out-bureaucrat a bureaucrat." In other words, stop trying to be logical and explain why I shouldn't have to pay to get Helen's name changed, when I'm not the one who changed it, and just pay the fee.

Egged on by the idea that I would like to travel to a warm island over Thanksgiving this year - I finally made it to the Social Security office to present my ridiculous amount of paperwork - including the coveted name change document. And now, Helen finally has been granted a Social Security card and birth certificate with the correct name on it.

In other words, you win, Social Security. Now I really need a tropical vacation!


Saturday, June 18, 2011

Latest Puppet Show: He's Got It Almost Figured Out

Tonight's puppet show consisted of Connor hiding several puppets behind pillows in preparation for the show. Monkey, the main character of the show, then went behind each pillow and sought the advice of each of the other animals in turn, about how he could go about making a baby. Nobody had any advice, until he got to the "clever" frog.

When asked how to make a baby, the frog basically told the monkey to go behind a pillow and prepare a room for the baby. Monkey then went and hid behind the pillow, asked a few characters if they minded sharing a house with him for a while, and then out popped monkey with a baby.

That pretty much sums it up.


Thursday, June 16, 2011

Spring Camping!

We took our annual Spring camping trip a few weeks ago. And guess what? It DID NOT RAIN - breaking quite a streak, as Therese and I recalled! Well, at least not until we pulled into the farm to pick berries, on our way home from camping. More importantly, I lost no Connors, Helen was part of the action, and everyone had a good time. Just like in the past.

We headed to Greenbrier again, which is a great park (except that the authorities in Maryland think that drinking and camping do not go together - but I dare them to attempt camping with three children and keep that position). Mostly, we love the warm water in the lake. As of a few weeks ago, it was warm enough for the kids to spend a fair amount of time in the water, with little to no complaining.

Although I think of Connor as more of a camper than Helen, I'm not quite sure that's true anymore. From the moment we got to the campsite, Helen narrated every detail with great excitement.

"Lighting the fire is the BEST part of camping!"
"Setting up the tent is the BEST part of camping!"

Really, I think the best part of camping might be getting out of the car upon arrival!

Connor, per usual, was happy to check out the dog door of the tent. And yes, our tent is so ridiculously big that there is a dog door.

We spent time paddling around the lake, and at one point, all the kids went to Rob's boat. He really liked that, I'm sure. Four per boat - that's the rule!

We packed up before we saw the rain, and headed off to pick berries. Connor can actually be pretty useful in the clean-up process, a trait that Helen has yet to posses.

See you in the Fall!

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Soon, He'll Be a Man

Sometimes, I get a little weepy when I think about the fact that at some point, almost everything about Connor will change as he grows up - even his voice! But most of the time, I'm just thrilled to have him, exactly as he is. But, oh, is he interested in growing up!


Helen Dives!

I don't have a photo, because when I discovered that HELEN CAN DIVE BY HERSELF! - I was the only adult in the pool. Because Helen cannot swim, I needed to be catching her, not photographing her. She walked right over to the deep water where kids can play and promptly put her arms by her ears, stretched up her hands, folded them, and dove. When I asked her who taught her how to dive, she said "Connor did!". Now, to figure out how to get her to seal the deal on swimming, because I have a feeling she's not going to be satisfied with diving off the side much longer.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Helenspeak: Drinking Water

Upon handing a glass of water to Connor, he noticed something floating in it. He handed it back to me and said "there's something floating in my water".

I gave him my floater-free glass of water.

Helen then asked "Can I see it?" and upon inspection declared "Oh those things? They're always in the water. You don't have to worry about them".

Helen is famous for having "backwash" in her water. It was hard to resist saying "only yours, Helen".


Thursday, June 9, 2011

Sailing On

The boat Connor has been making in Kindergarten.
 Tomorrow, in all likelihood, Connor will attend his last class ever at Potomac Crescent Waldorf School. Barring unforeseen circumstances, Connor will start first grade in the Fall at our neighborhood school. I've told more than one parent that sending my children to a Waldorf school was quite possibly the best parenting decision I've ever made - and I wasn't exaggerating. What I didn't always tell them that it wasn't just for my kids, it was good for me, too.

The thing I learned most from observing my children in parent-child class (the first class Connor attended) was that sometimes, it's important to just be present. It's not necessary for me to come up with constantly stimulating entertainment, or train my children how to do things like read, write, and sit still. It wasn't necessary for me to talk to my children constantly, and make sure their toys had bright lights and exciting tunes. An endless supply of batteries was overrated, for sure.

What my children needed most, in these early years, was for me to recognize each of their gifts, and to be there to catch them when they fell, but not always be the one to pick them up. Because what Connor has taught me over and over again, is that the thrill he gets from accomplishing something on his own is unmatched by any other thrill.

When Connor was a little guy, we'd often hoist him up onto a step to view something. He would then fall off. It took a while for Ed and I to figure out that Connor is the kind of kid who needed to map where he was. If Connor climbed onto an object, it was rare that he would fall off. And you know what? Today Connor can climb more steadily than I ever would've imagined, he can run without tripping (most days), he can direct his body to do pretty much anything he wants to do.

I stumbled upon Waldorf education in the unlikeliest of ways. I was pregnant with Helen, and I knew I needed something that Connor and I could do after her birth that would remind him that I was still available to him. I also needed to remind myself that I could still be available to him, even when I was in the throes of a baby who screamed all night from painful reflux. A friend of mine who I respect deeply couldn't stop telling me about how lucky he felt that he happened into Waldorf education for his child. He would tell me things like "Elaine, I sometimes don't even speak up when people complain about their school experiences because I feel so guilty that I found something so good and they're stuck where they are". For the record, their child now attends public school and adores it. After several of these conversations, I googled "Waldorf School, Arlington, Virginia" and I felt like I hit the jackpot when I found one. Connor's and my first parent-child year was a touchstone in a sea of what must have been great uncertainty for him.

For the past two years, Connor has been in the 5-day Kindergarten class. He's been blessed with a male teacher - whom he adores, the nicest assistant teacher in the world, a half-day program - which I adore since it allows he and Helen to spend their afternoons together, and an incredible place to build, climb, imagine, negotiate, paint, and draw. And so much more.

Last year, parting in the morning was hard for quite possibly the whole year. He didn't cry, but he didn't want to always let go either. So his teacher would scoop him up into his arms, and let him wave until Ed's or my car left the parking lot. It wasn't sadness that drove Connor, it was just that he liked being with his parent. Another parent in the school once observed this and said "do you see that? That's the reason I know you'll be back next year even though you're planning on going to public school Kindergarten". And she was right. We came back. And the only moment I've ever looked back at that decision is the day Ed wrote the tuition check. Every other day I've loved that decision we made. Even if I did have to live through a migraine to make it.

This year, Connor barely has time to bid Ed or I farewell. He bursts into the gates of the playground, checks out who else is there, decides whether he's going to try and claim the giant hollowed out stump as his dish factory, his rocket ship, his cave, or whatever else it might be for the day - or whether he's going to look for fun in the sandbox, at the climbing wall, or in the tree.

He's such a different kid. He told me today he doesn't want to go to our neighborhood school. He wants to be in Kindergarten for two more years. He wants to make a sword - something the 6 year olds in the class got to do this year, and he wants to be in class with Helen - something that is theoretically possible. Not only does a child have to be 6.5 before entering first grade, a child also has to pass certain readiness tests, which include jumping rope, walking on a balance beam, and other random things that I know sound completely ridiculous, but in the context of the school make a lot of sense.

I know you would love being in your Kindergarten class one more year, Connor. And maybe the neighborhood school will be a disaster and you'll end up back there. But for now, Connor, I just feel something deep in my gut that says you're going to love first grade.


Tuesday, June 7, 2011

The Illusion of Time

Possibly my favorite thing about having children is the ability to enjoy things for the first time again. Well, I can't really travel back in time and enjoy them for the first time, but I do get to see eyes light up at subway trains rushing past, I get to hear squeals of delight when we walk into an ice cream store and the kids can confirm there are sprinkles! In an ice cream store! Can you believe it? Their thrill infuses me with joy.

Besides the thrill that accompanies first times, there's also the methodical dissecting of new information, in order to fit it in with all the other information that's already been learned. Sometimes, this can be a very slow process. And while it's easy to step in and say "the pipes extend up and down the street above ground because they're fixing the pipes beneath the ground, and the water is being temporarily re-routed!" now stop asking me about those damn things before my head explodes! I enjoy life much more when I allow Helen and Connor to turn into detectives and figure out what's going on. But I admit, the simplest tidbits of information can sometimes take days to unfold into a probable truth.

Elisabeth Tova Bailey documents the passage of time, as she battles a debilitating illness, in her book "The Sound of a Wild Snail Eating". The gift of a snail, which turns out to be quite active, provides the context for days beginning and ending. Over and over.

Her words provided me a beautiful reminder that lessons can be learned from the smallest of creatures. I also learned a ridiculous amount of information about snails, and I will find the perfect moment to bust out this knowledge someday. Just wait for it.


This post was inspired by the book "The Sound of a Wild Snail Eating" by Elisabeth Tova Bailey. I received a free copy of the book as a member of the From Left to Write book club.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Builder Wins: Screened Porch Complete!

It was a race to the end, but eventually, the builder pulled through and provided a completed screened in porch. To be fair, Ed has the plumbing working (both toilet AND sink!), and the shower rod is hung. He's been asking me, as the chief caulker in the household, to do some caulking. I'm busy shirking my duties.

But luckily, the builder has not been. We will be officially opening the patio on Sunday when I try to impress a friend of mine and cook a salt encrusted fish. I'm planning on busting it open table side. Stay tuned...


Step 1. Build frame, wrap it in screening fabric, and put Trex on.

Step 2. It's necessary to dig very deep holes, so the deck doesn't fall down, I suppose. Note: just because you can climb in, does not mean you can climb out.

Step 3. The porch...almost there. With no door, it works more like a bug catcher than a screened porch, but hope is high that the project will be completed.

Step 4. Build the patio. Helen and Connor supervised the building of the patio. These workers worked long days on Monday and Tuesday - possibly the hottest days of the year. It might be the best money we have ever spent in the home improvement arena. They rocked it.

Step 5. Voila! Ceiling fan and door added. Porch is finished!