Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Lobsterfest - Connor and Helen Style

Connor has never turned his back when presented with the opportunity to play with lobsters. And though Helen loves eating them, she's not nearly as fond of the pre-dinner opportunities they present.


Elaine

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Measuring a Year

I have a rather thorough knowledge of musical theatre - particular shows that pre-date 2005. I can sing probably 80 percent of the words to scores of musicals. I am likely responsible for my sister's hatred of musical theatre. After all, it's hard to learn all those words without listening to and then singing them over, and over, and over...

Most of the time, this knowledge is useless. But every now and then, a particular nugget shines through. Just for the record, earlier this year Connor posed the innocent question "How many minutes are in a year" and without missing a beat I belted out "five hundred twenty-five thousand six hundred minutes. five hundred twenty-five thousand moments so dear" from Rent, one of a very select group of musical of which Ed approves. Connor was totally impressed. Occasionally, when we have a few extra minutes before school, I turn up the stereo and play the song and we have an impromptu dance party.

We rock!

But I'm so busy dancing, I've not a single photo to share!

Elaine

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Girls ARE Good at Math - Despite What Connor Says

A few nights ago, we walked to a nearby restaurant. I love walks like these, because I can almost always count on one of my kids saying something entertaining. Connor threw me for a curve with this ditty.

I asked him how he liked his new math class.

"I like it. It's THIRD GRADE MATH, so it's fun!"

"Are there any other kids from Mrs. H's class in Mrs. R's [new math teacher] class?"

"No. But there are five other kids that went to Mrs. Rs class with me. One from Mr. F's class isn't that smart. He had to leave. It was too hard for him."

Imagine me being a little blown away by how insensitive this sounds. What happened to - he had a little trouble, so he might try another week? Or, he doesn't really love math so he went back to Mr. F's class?

While I was trying to decide how to respond, Connor carried on: "And, there are only boys in my class.[PAUSE] Maybe because girls aren't good at math."

And then I exploded right there on the sidewalk and hopefully Connor learned that girls are, in fact, good at math. Or, perhaps he learned I am crazy. But either way, I was more than a little annoyed by his postulation. I could see Ed was tempted to laugh and I can assure you, that reaction was stifled quickly. Because nobody - especially not my daughter's father - will have any role in convincing her she can't be good at math.

So now, I've spent the past several days wondering if there's a perfectly good explanation why no girls are in Connor's gifted math class, like the girls are in another group that meets at another time. Six IS a small sample, after all. But a small part of me wants to march into the principal's office and let her know that she needs to drum up some female business for that class - quick.

Because the principal? She also already knows I'm crazy. So in some ways, I've got nothing to lose. Anyone want to toss out some advice?



Elaine

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Can I Help You?

I was going through photos taken over Christmas tonight. These were taken at the Children's Museum at Saratoga.




Thanks, Helen. I needed the laugh.

Elaine

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Subtle...

is not in Helen's vocabulary when it comes to make-up application.

Elaine

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Homemade Friday: First Finished Project of 2012

I've been admiring these bloom tunics over at www.WaldorfMama.typepad.com forever. I finally finished my first one - and I don't know whether Helen or I adore it more!


Elaine

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Just Tell Me What I Need To Do Here

Last weekend, we went skiing with several friends. At one point, most of the people in the group tried snow tubing. Although Helen did not find her first brush with snow tubing to be fun last year, she was interested in trying again. Unfortunately, she's too short. At Wisp mountain, you need to be 42 inches to snow tube.

Helen pondered wearing her "wedding shoes" that Aunt Linda gifted her a few years ago. They have a small heel on them and Helen loves tromping around in them - often announcing how tall she is! Unfortunately, wedding shoes are inappropriate snow tubing gear - although what really concerned Helen is not that her feet would freeze off, but that once she wore the shoes outside, they would become outside shoes instead of inside shoes. That, in Helen's eyes, would be awful.

Connor suggested wearing a big hat. We didn't think that would work though, given that Helen is about 3 inches too short.

The evening before tubing, Helen asked Ed and I what foods helped you grow. We told her that milk, yogurt, and kale were good foods. She insisted we go out and purchase more kale immediately. Her plan? Grow 3 inches overnight. It was a little hard to explain to her, that even if she ate a lot of kale, she'd still be under 42 inches in the morning.

I have to hand it to Helen, though. She was pretty determined to grow those inches - and she was willing to do just about anything to make it happen.

Elaine

Monday, January 16, 2012

His Brain Told Him

Connor loves math. In his Christmas letter to his teacher, he told her that. I think the letter was something like "Merry Christmas, Mrs. H. I love math. Love, Connor".

The first time he had a math test, he aced it, and there was a note on it instructing me to "celebrate Connor". I then asked Connor about the test and he proceeded to tell me from memory every question on the test. My next thought was, if the test was so easy you memorized it, it's hardly worth celebrating. So as not to be a total Scrooge, I told him he could pick what game our family played that night. He thought that was pretty groovy.

At times like these, I always remember approaching my dad for a monetary reward after receiving my grade card. You see, every other person in my elementary school received money for getting A's (or at least I think they did!), typically $1 - $5. I let my dad know about this fact so he could step up his efforts in the reward department. He looked at my and dryly said "I'm not going to pay you to do something I expect you to do". Point taken. There would be no monetary reward from my dad for getting good grades. (Which is maybe where my hatred for prizes stems from - latent jealously!)

On Wednesday last week, Connor came home and told me he had another math test and he got every question right.

Me: "Did Mrs. H. tell you got every question right?"
Him: "No, my brain told me."

And then I had a meeting with Mrs. H. on Thursday to discuss his recent freak-outs, and in the course of our conversation, she told me he had scored 100 percent on his math test. She also told me she hadn't told Connor that yet. I told her, don't worry, his brain already told him that. And she was a little blown away, because apparently in class, he lacks this sort of confidence.

What gives on that front?

Elaine

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Connor's First Open Mic

Connor participated in his elementary's school's first ever open mic night. Modeled after the Busboys and Poets Poetry Slam, children were asked to submit a piece of writing they had completed. The PTA would choose works across grades in a random selection, and would supplement the line-up by asking teachers to nominate students as well.

I never turned in the submission form, because Connor's writing lacks depth, shall we say? For him to string two sentences together is a near miracle, but for whatever reason, participating in this event stuck in his craw. I figured he'd forget about it but the day after entries were due, he came to me waving the reminder flier (how he found it amongst the approximately one bajillion items sent home every Friday I will never know) and begged me not to forget to submit something for him.

Craptastic.

So I figured I would submit something late, and hope the committee would have mercy on me. You see, every other time this year there has been a deadline, I have met it. Only to get an email the day after the due date saying "if you didn't meet the deadline, don't worry. Submit whatever random thing you were supposed to submit by the end of the week".

But for that event? The day after entries were recieved - just minutes after Connor had reminded me not to forget, I received an email in my inbox proclaiming "everyone who signed up gets to participate!". So I emailed the PTA president immediately, begged forgiveness, explained that Connor wanted to do this the entire time but I was too lazy to work with him and submit something, and if they could not accept something from him I totally understood because they'd sent home many reminders and this was ALL MY FAULT. And really, I'm a bad mom sometimes, but that's my problem, not theirs. The PTA president forwarded my pathetic email to the committee chair and she took pity on me and said she'd be happy to include Connor.

So then we spent Christmas break writing a story. I have to hand it to Connor. The story started out with his typical two sentences (something along the lines of: She dropped her fishing pole in the water. We couldn't find it.") but he was thrilled to keep writing as I asked him questions about the story, asked if there was anything else an audience who wasn't actually at the event being described would want to know, who is "she", etc. It was hard work, and he rocked it. We even went so far as to cut up his written work into sentences that he could easily re-arrange and write another sentence to insert in between.

Prior to leaving for the evening, I told Connor he needed to wear "fancy clothes" which means, no sweat pants. He took it up a notch and hung one of Ed's ties around his neck as well. We are nothing, if not an awesome dressing family.



Connor is so thrilled with this piece, I cannot possibly capture it in words. However, I can present to you his performance (yay video camera!) and let you know that in Ed's completely biased opinion, Connor's was the best first grade piece.

video

I thought the collection of storytellers was a complete hoot. Helen seemed to enjoy several pieces and only criticized one as being "really long".

I hope they have the event again. The only thing that really annoyed me is that Connor was so proud of himself - just beaming, and then at the end they announced, in typical public school fashion "and all our writers get a prize". I know Connor loves these prizes, but I really feel as if the school is doing everything it can to eliminate all internal motivation. I hope they don't succeed.

Elaine

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Tantrums and Being Six

I know I'm going to get socked in the face for this,  but in my house, we really don't have tantrums. I can recall a couple thrown by Connor, and three thrown by Helen.

Although few in number, both Helen and Connor have had a tantrum in front of multiple family members, so the number of people who witnessed a tantrum is fairly impressive. They probably don't believe me about the rarity of the event.

Timing. It's everything.

There's a theory of child development that kids spend half a year being super mellow and loving life, and the other half of the year stretching and growing into their next age. Apparently, Connor didn't get that memo exactly right because for the last two days - when he is only 6 years and 5 months - he has been a pill.

Two nights ago, I finally got tired of the "why do I have to [insert chore]" query and told him that the answer was always going to be that it's because he's part of this family, and everyone does what they can to make it work at its best. I then said every time he asked me that question, he'd be given one additional chore. He doesn't like this system but I'm betting by tonight, he'll stop asking that annoying question.

Yesterday, he was home from school to get his hair combed by the professional de-licer. He was having so much fun at home creating a restaurant, complete with menus, that I decided he could remain home for the rest of the day. That was probably a big mistake on my part. I should've sent him back to school after the great comb-out so that he could live in his typical rhythm. By nightfall, he was done being cooperative.

First, he was playing with Helen and the boy next door and he was being insufferable about game rules. I was trying to cook dinner and seriously considered throwing out the beautiful game his grandmother had gifted him at Christmas, just because it was making me nuts.

Then, after dinner I told him to clear his plate (a job he does daily) and he started in with the questions, got a penalty task, and then settled into playing a math game on the computer that is part of his homework this week - another post on how I abhor that to come. He finished, came to join in the game Helen and Ed were playing and I asked him to pick up a puzzle he had left out earlier that day. Rather than doing it, he started in on me, which didn't delight me at all. And then after wasting 10 minutes doing a 1 minute job - complaining the whole time - he decided to join the game in the most disruptive way possible. After a warning or two, Ed scooped him up and took him to bed. It's nice when the parent who doesn't have skin in the game takes this initiative. Helen had a few sympathy tears, argued a bit for Connor's case, and then decided to finish the game and have a treat without Connor.

I heard Connor screaming for a good 5 minutes over this. Seriously? A temper tantrum over a quick job?

This morning, Connor was no less argumentative, so I informed him that he still had one more month of being pleasant and not arguing with me. Come February 12, we can discuss the merits of rebelling. I'm hoping he takes that message to heart, because I need some respite from last night to put my game plan together for the next six months.

Elaine

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Eradicating Lice From Your Head

Chez Connor and Helen has just wrapped up what I hope will be the shortest and mildest case of lice ever. Wish me luck, because nothing less than my sanity is at stake here. And I'm wishing you luck, too. Consider this my public service announcement of gratitude.

On Monday, I received a note from Connor's classroom rep indicating that lice had been found on some children in the class. Connor was outside making a snowman, so I quickly emailed my mom friends so they could talk me off a ledge. They did. Thank you. Although I had hoped one of them would email "you have been given the ability to wind time backwards and have Connor never exposed to lice", that did not happen.

But even in my panic, I was able to remember that I had tools! In June, 2010, I attended a blogging event for DC Metro Moms - a site I wrote fewer than 10 posts for before it collapsed. While it appears I spent more time tasting cupcakes at that event than anything else, I did remember having a little shiver creep up my spine when the founders of Lice Happens gifted me a comb during that event. I politely tucked the comb away, and prayed that I would never need it. Because lice? That's creepy.

I am nothing, if not an over-reactor in situations like these. I had Connor remove all his clothes before entering the house, and gifted him with a new set upon crossing the threshold to what I hoped was our lice free abode. I didn't know, yet, that lice can't actually hang out and live for a long period of time, so even if Connor's head had been riddled with lice (and thank goodness it was not!), lice weren't going to set up camp in my home, or they would die. They need to be close to the scalp.

We ate dinner, and then I set about using The Comb. And I found four living lice, and about 10 nits (eggs) - and because I wasn't sure I was using the comb correctly, and because I was still freaking out underneath, I called Lice Happens and I talked to a co-owner of the company, Nancy, for a long time. She really did calm me down. She answered a lot of questions that I had and she agreed to have someone at my home the next morning at 10:30. I was actually hoping she'd hop in her car and come right over, and I did ask, but she assured me that this morning would be sufficient. I might point out though, that while this is completely logical on her part, she wasn't the one with four lice recently discovered on her kid.

Also, I should note that I never would have seen these lice by inspecting his head. The only reason I found them was because of that comb. Connor had no symptoms (classic ones would have been an itchy head or a red scalp) to give me a clue he had the little buggers on his head.

I combed Helen's hair - though not as thoroughly as Connor's hair since I knew reinforcements were on the way, and found a couple of nits. That made it official that she'd be staying home from school. Then Helen started sobbing, because Helen LOVES school, and it was such a tease to send her yesterday (first day after two weeks off) and then not let her go today. And, to make it worse her friend's birthday was possibly scheduled for today, and missing that would be awful. Luckily, it's actually tomorrow. I called the mom of the birthday boy and asked about the party and when she queried "why do you ask" (she's a reporter for a major newspaper and it is impossible for her not to ask this at any given opportunity) I said "I'll tell you, but let me warn you - what I am about to tell you can never be unheard or unlearned - are you sure you want me to continue". Yes, yes she did. And when I told her, I could actually feel her shiver. She can't say I didn't warn her!

After the kids were in bed, I continued combing and found a louse on Ed's head. I decided it was OK to be freaked out again and was thrilled that I had decided to call someone who knew what they were doing in for help. This morning, when Connor normally would've snuggled up next to me in bed, I told him I'd wake up instead. Having lice on your head can work to your advantage (from Connor's point of view), as it turns out.

This morning, Kara from Lice Happens showed up and found 1 additional louse on Connor's head and one louse on Helen's head. She found 2 - 3 nits on each of their heads as well. She found nothing on my head, Ed's head, or our au pair's head. And here, I have to hand it to my au pair because she was awesome, working this morning when she should've been off AND not freaking out at all.

Because we didn't actually have many lice, and because nobody in my house has long, thick hair - the whole appointment took an hour, which meant it wasn't too hard on the pocketbook - though it certainly wasn't cheap. I'll be submitting the expense to my FSA and getting reimbursed via that. And even though it seems like I probably could've solved this on my own, I would've had a nagging feeling that I missed some AND my head would've been sympathy itching for days, so I'm glad I ponied up the bucks to eradicate the problem. My sanity is worth way more than the price I paid.

I'll be doing follow-up combing for 2 weeks, and hopefully there won't be any new bugs. I'm a lot calmer now than I was when this episode began, and I will now be decreasing my list of parenting challenges that I thought I could absolutely not handle by 1. (Ironically, my friend Vickie and I were chatting about lice over Christmas and I was definitely no way, no how, I am NOT dealing with those gross things.)

So here it is - my ringing endorsement of the company Lice Happens. They have a 24 hour a day lice line (443.510.4480). I hope you never need it.

Elaine

As a side note, I emailed the mom of someone Connor had a playdate with over the weekend even though the likelihood of spread was infinitesimally small, and she replied "I'll check the boys, but I doubt they have it. And don't worry - almost everyone gets these at some point or another". That, in case you don't know, is a very comforting email to read.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Things I Learned From Helen Recently

At times, Helen has the attention span of a squirrel. Which might, in all honesty, have a very great attention span (they do survive, after all). But to the casual observer, they appear a bit...scattered. I've heard of a squirrel's practice of stocking up nuts under each and every flower, tree, and bush in my yard (but never that giant patch of weeds) as a sort of insurance policy. Insurance against forgetting where they hid the prior nuts. Because the task of remembering that their stockpile lies beneath the wavy grass is just too much, I guess.

And all this? Well, it is Helen.

On Saturday, we went skiing. You see, even though we could have been walking around downtown Arlington in shorts, we went skiing. Back in November, we purchased an Advantage card which gives us a discount on lift tickets at several nearby mountains. It seemed like a sure investment given that it snowed in October! Not so, as it turns out. But because I am from the family I am from - and cannot possibly understand "sunk costs"- we're going to use that card enough to make it worthwhile, no matter what. Even if it's 55 at the mountain.

SNOW! In October!


After a few initial runs, it made sense to split forces. At one point, I found myself skiing with Helen, down a green trail. No, she does not ski, as a matter of fact. But the mere fact that Ed and I think she ought to confine herself to the bunny trail and the magic carpet offends her. So, I decided it was less painful to let her ride the chair lift (which she insists on calling a gondola because clearly, she is a dreamer) and take her down the green trail than listen to all of her grievances about being confined to the magic carpet. Nerves of steel, I do not have.

As we were skiing down the green trail, with Helen in the center of a hula-hoop while I steered her from behind, did she bother focusing on the task at hand? No. Because why bother paying attention and trying to ski, when you can instead tell your mother about:

(1) your internal debate about whether you will marry J. or S. or maybe Jo. (Please let Virginia have gay marriage soon, so I don't have to tell Helen she cannot marry Jo if she wants to get married in Virginia.)

(2) your favorite colors and the favorite colors of all your friends

(3) the reasons that you love Miss Angela

(4) why life might be better if you were an only child and could ditch Connor - and assure your mother that you've talked to Connor about it and it is totally OK with him if he's no longer part of the family

(5) how we really need to have a mom-daughter date night, and perhaps it could include getting another American Girl doll, because apparently having twin Bitty Babies is just not cutting it these days and

(5) how you already know how to ski.

After several runs of this, I instituted a new rule - talking is for the chair lift, er, gondola. Focusing on getting downhill is for ski time. We can take a break on the way down if there's something really important to talk about, but we should both be in a stopped position.

When she's paying attention, she's actually pretty good on skis. Unfortunately, most of the time, she appears a bit scattered. But, the practice of telling me all these random tidbits serves as her insurance for getting bored as she heads down the mountain. Because, you know, she already knows how to ski. Just ask her.



Elaine

Thursday, January 5, 2012

First Ski Trip of the Year

The day after we arrived in Albany, we headed to a tiny mountain / hill outside of Albany. There were two strips of snow - one near the rope tow, and one on a blue trail that went straight down the center of the mountain. In case it is not obvious, the rope tow is terrible, and with kids, it moves to unbearable, which meant we quickly shifted over to the other trail.

Conditions were not great - but I have to hand it to Connor - after a few runs, he seemed as comfortable as ever on the snow. Afterwards, he told us that it was "so much fun"! Now I'm looking forward to our upcoming ski trip over MLK weekend with friends. Helen was not so certain about the experience, but given the conditions and the fact that she doesn't actually know how to ski and that the hula hoop we were going to use to guide her down the mountain broke, I give her a pass. Hopefully conditions will be better when she's next on skis.


Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Thank You, Santa

I'm not certain that Connor believes in Santa. A few weeks ago, he was sitting at the table with Helen chatting about Santa, relating all the glory that the fat man is. Abruptly, he paused, looked up at Helen and said "wait a minute, that doesn't make any sense, maybe Mom and Dad just give us our presents". Then, he went back to whatever he was doing before he started telling the story, and the subject never came up again.

On Christmas Eve, Ed and I realized that we had failed to have Grandma Lynn hold back one of the many presents she had purchased for Connor to give as a Santa gift. We were screwed. Except Toys-R-Us was waiting for us and had Ed by the proverbial balls since I sent him off to join the other parents that were scrambling to find gifts for their kids.

Ed did the only thing he could in such a situation - he bought the one gift for Connor that Connor desperately wanted but that we hadn't even asked the grandparents on either side for because it was too frivolous. He bought the Lego cargo train. For Helen, he purchased some more supplies for her illegal daycare, as she had requested a "baby nursery" from Santa - whatever the heck that is. (In case your child ever asks for this, Helen seemed pleased with some baby bunk beds, a baby bathtub, and some plastic feeding supplies). Dagger through my Waldorf heart those gifts were.

On Christmas morning, Connor was both thrilled and surprised. He explained to me that he didn't think he was getting the Lego train because none of the boxes that he helped carry last night were the right size. (Evidence of knowing that Grandma's presents are the same as Santa's presents, perhaps?)

Connor was so thrilled that he later told me he was definitely going to write Santa a thank you note. He planned to thank Santa "at least six times". He composed the following letter, which he gave to Santa a couple of days after Christmas when we rode the Polar Express Train and got a visit from Santa.


"Dear Santa - Thank you for the electric train. I was dying for the electric train. Now I can make a big enormous city. Love, Connor"
This is the kind of stuff that melts my heart.

Elaine

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Cherrydale Santa

Santa sure knows how to make an entrance around these parts. Having missed our usual Santa meeting at our realtor's office, we headed to the volunteer fire department in our neighborhood to catch a peek of the fat man there. He arrived to much fanfare on an antique fire truck. Unfortunately, this is the best photo I have of Ed and the kids hailing his arrival and then him stuck in traffic. After that, my camera died because I failed to charge the battery. For the record, this has never happened before with my Canon D20. That battery lasts forever!



As it turns out, after children sit on Santa's lap and request "lego trains" and "a baby nursery", they get to rifle through a huge pile of gifts and take one home.

Connor chose an electric train.

Helen is nothing, if not clever. I had feared she would bring home another plastic headed baby doll - and she was certainly interested in these. But then she noticed a freakin' pink and purple plastic "laptop" and she knew that the only way she would ever get one of these electronic nightmares was as a gift from Santa. So, like all good politicians, she seized the moment, as I stood there crooning about how cute the plastic headed babies were.

Game. Set. Match. Score 1 for the fatman and Helen.

Helen doesn't play with the toy that often, as she seems to know if it makes me nutty it might have an unfortunate accident and disappear. But she does enjoy saying things like "Daddy, isn't it nice that now EVERYONE in the house has a laptop. Well, except Connor." and "Potter needs to have a playdate with me because he really, really, really wants to see my music computer. He will love it." It wouldn't actually be that bad, except Connor has been able to read the instructions for her so between the two of them, they can make several games appear.

Ugh.

Double Ugh.

Elaine

Monday, January 2, 2012

Starting the New Year with Less Clutter

Before Ed and I headed off to Albany for Christmas, we collectively decluttered the main floor of our house - except for a few "dumping grounds". We came back from Albany with loads of loot (compliments of Santa and Grandma Lynn) and realized that our current organization system was at its breaking point.

Ed banished himself to the basement where toys go to die in our house, and was able to nearly fill my home office with discards for the next person who walks in my home with a toddler. Don't say you weren't warned. There's loads of floor space now and it is finally an inviting playspace. He removed the storage cabinet doors so they would function as shelves, and now the kids can actually see the toys. Novel idea, I know! These shelves now house the musical instruments and most of the toy cars / planes / tractors, etc. Ed also tossed out all furniture on our patio that we one day hoped to restore. It's never going to happen, and it's embarrassing telling company to please not sit on a particular chair because it can't hold anything that weighs more than Helen (a robust 27 pounds these days).

I took to the main floor of the house and managed to (1) get the illegal daycare center that Helen runs under control; (2) get the building toys onto a hard surface so Connor didn't have to deal with building on carpet; (3) toss out a few bags of trash; (4) move all outside toys to bins in deck - a project accomplished mostly by Connor; and (5) construct a marble run with Connor though admittedly, he ran out of energy for the project before I did.

Behold!

Plan toys, stacked on upper shelves, grocery store near couch, FLOOR SPACE!

Helen's illegal daycare, which has been a baby hospital lately with lots of babies with broken arms. She insisted the "hospital vacuum" be added.

Most of the marble run - more pieces to come!

What you can't see are the neat boxes of legos, trains, and track pieces and the lovely set of shelves with many beautiful handmade toys. Every time I cleared a space, Helen couldn't wait to go play in it - so not only does the house look better, it's way more functional with a lot less stuff! Now, hopefully she doesn't notice how many things were removed!

Happy New Year, all!
Elaine