Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Judge Elisabeth

..not quite as thrilling as "Judge Judy," but entertaining none the less.

Yesterday, I took Elisabeth to work with me. She was really cute and well behaved. Not the shy kind, she marched right into a few judges' offices and stuck her hand right out to be shook. She told them all about her Christmas, wished them Merry Christmas (even the Jewish one), and told them about her future plans to be a fire fighter and an ambulance driver. (as an aside on that one, she also said to me yesterday "Mommy - when are you going to take me back to the park by preschool? They have a big pole there so that I can practice my fireman's slide. You know I need to practice or I'm not going to be a very good fireman..."

We did all sorts of stuff at work yesterday, including actual work. I had a theory that I could teach a 3 yr old to do some of the stuff I do and I proved that theory to be correct. She can successfully update the computer system with file locations, stick green dots in the correct place, and push all around the courthouse delivering files to their proper location (did I really get a JD for this????)

The courthouse was empty yesterday, only a few hearings went on and that was only in the morning. So, since our courtroom was empty I took Elisabeth in and let her sit where the judge sits. I explained where the jury sits, where the defendant comes in and sits, where I sit... she was thrilled. I asked her if she wanted to pretend to be the judge and of couse she did. So she sat down in the chair and very judiciuosly said "Good morning everyone. Today is..." and at that point she looked down and looked into her pants. I was utterly confused as she stared at it for a few seconds and then proclaimed, "Today is Tuesday." She was wearing day of the week underwear. I didn't tell her that the judges wear robes. She'd never be able to figure out the day then!

She sentened someone to three days in prison and then wanted to go back to my office I have stickers and a big bag of pita chips that I let her it at will. We stayed at work until just after 2pm, and while I was champing at the bit to leave - Elisabeth wanted to stay. I might just send her next week, I'm pretty sure she could hold down the fort.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

The littlest dictator

[Attention Becky, and anyone else reading this who is pregnant with, thinking about becoming pregnant with, or really even just related to anyone who is considering two children: read at your own risk. And when I tell you later, "oh 2 is fine, you'll do great, the second one is easier, etc., etc." - do not throw this back in my face...]

Oh Charlotte, my Charlotte. What am I going to do with you? How do I convince you not to bite? Not to hit? Not to run after your sister hollering your scream of death (henceforth known as Charlotte's battle cry) because she looked at you while you were holding a toy?

I know that as parents we're more relaxed with number two. I can see it in the way we treat Charlotte versus how we were with Elisabeth. While we still are big proponents of "the schedule" - Charlotte has skipped more naps in her little life than Elisabeth did in her entire life. You want M&Ms? It will keep you from screaming? Here's a handful. Oh you don't want to eat in your high chair? Standing straight up in the adult sized chair that Elisabeth was just sitting in and spreading food all over the table and throughout every strand of your hair will keep you from screaming and get you to eat? Fine, here's the chair. But, I worry that we're going to turn into those parents, or rather that Charlotte is that child.

Tonight, I wondered what in the world possessed us to have two children and then - once I was already suckered into the second - why I didn't insist that the OB tie, no tie and solder my tubes together then fill them with concrete for good measure. Tonight was, needless to say, not a good night in this house. The entire day, really, was less than pleasant. Every word out of both of their mouths was either a complaint, demand, or said at a volume of 100 dB - or approximately the volume of a train going by. Elisabeth was just generally disagreeable - she cried loudly and for a long time over the fact that she cut up her crepes by herself and then couldn't pick up the whole crepe to eat it. She cried because we were going for a walk. She kicked and stomped when told she isn't old enough to stay home by herself and earned herself a big fat timeout.

Charlotte is apparently over tired. She didn't nap well and then punished the rest of us by biting us, hitting us with various toys, straightening her little body and screaming bloody murder if you told her she couldn't do [insert forbidden activity here], throwing food at us, or doing the gutteral yell that I'm now calling her "battle cry" for no particular reason.

In all seriousness, I'm not quite sure what we'll do with Ms. Charlotte. I suspect we're on the cusp of full blown toddlerness, yet she's too young still for timeouts and 1-2-3 Magic. Distraction isn't the greatest tool with her because she is pretty strong willed, but even still how do you distract a kid when she's heading for you with the Russian stacking dolls (the source of the welt on my wrist)? We never dealt with violence with Elisabeth, so this is uncharted territory for us. I've heard, and read, about the bite them back logic - but I doubt that expands to hit them back with the Russian stacking doll.

And how do you keep them from flinging themselves off of the couch just for fun? Or force them to eat sitting nicely in their highchairs? I know I could just take her food away from her when she starts acting up - and perhaps that is the answer - but is it really so bad to let her eat standing up in a big girl chair? I know, I know - it is. But it is kind of cute, in our defense. And she doesn't get to go to restaurants so often. And I'm pretty sure she won't go off to college eating like that. But it is all a control game and we can't let her in on the secret that our lives really do revolve around the kids.

Oh, and Charlotte has learned "no." Not the word, but the head shake. The very big, hair flopping, oversized headshake. It is really cute, and silent - so kind of a bonus. And at least this way, I can ask her "do you want applesauce" and get an answer in the form of a headshake instead of in the form of a bowl of applesauce thrown at me. The kid's got an arm.

Wasn't the second one supposed to be easier????

Saturday, December 27, 2008


We are .... insane (among many other things). In addition to two high energy children, two cats that seem to seek out ways to irritate me, and a dog who is mostly just wonderful, we are going to have a new puppy come sometime in late April. Another lab, probably black. Perhaps yellow. At the time we signed up for this, Charlotte was not quite as, uh, spirited (?) as she is now. She wasn't throwing noteworthy temper tantrums whenever Elisabeth so much as looked at a toy from across the room that Charlotte might, at some point in the future, think about playing with. She wasn't climbing up on top of absolutely everything. She wasn't running. She wasn't contemplating making the terrible twos the terrible 1.5s. But now she is doing all of these things, with expertise. So- we're crazy.

Elisabeth is excited. She has already named the new puppy. She chose to name her Elisabeth Virginia [insert our last name]. I guess that would make the puppy a "junior." She will go by "Ginny," as a nickname for Virginia. As Elisabeth said, "I like matching names. My name matches Aunt Elisabeth's and it works ok." She really wanted the dog to be called Elisabeth too - but I told her that would be too confusing. I said "What if I had to yell at the dog for doing something bad? Wouldn't you think I was yelling at you?" She replied, "No, mommy, I'd know it was the dog." And so I said "what if I holler 'Elisabeth!' - who would come? You or the dog?" and she said they'd both come - what is the problem with that? Admittedly she had an answer for every problem, but in the end she decided a nickname wasn't the world's worst idea. So luckily, we escaped having two Elisabeths in the same house. And now we'll just merely have chaos. And hopefully fewer toys, since the dog will inevitably eat at least a third of them.

Friday, December 26, 2008

Christmas 2008

We had a very nice Christmas here. Charlotte was unbearably cute hauling around all of her presents, doing the hand motions to Rudolph the Rednosed Reindeer, nodding to indicate yes (for the first time ever), and dancing to the music from the wide variety of toys she got that play songs. Elisabeth was over the moon because she got what she wished for: "a pogo stick and some stuff for Charlotte." I was so touched on Christmas morning when Elisabeth came downstairs. She immediately said "oh! I got a pogo stick! I am so happy!" which was immediately followed by an inquiry about which Santa stuff was for Charlotte. She has such a good heart.

Santa brought Elisabeth a GeoTrax train set, which has been a huge hit. Elisabeth enjoys playing with the train, and Charlotte enjoys sending the little people down the freight chute while saying "wheeeeeeeee." Oh - and taking the engine and shoving it into all of the places it doesn't belong, including but not limited to the elevator shaft.

We also got a game for Elisabeth that she can legitimately beat me at: I Spy Eagle Eye. The tide is turning. There are 8 different boards, each having a zillion things on them. Think "Where's Waldo" but with items not people. Each person picks a board for themselves. Then there is a deck of cards, each card has 8 items on it. Each person picks a card and you frantically search for one item on the card that is on your board. You get to ding a bell if you find it first - this is huge incentive for a 3 yr old. And Elisabeth can beat me at this game even when I'm trying to win... but I secretly enjoy playing this game.

For all of those interested, as expected Elisabeth can in no way make the pogo stick work. It seems too tall for her, even though it says it would work for her height. The bigger problem is that the spring is pretty tough and she is just too much of a featherweight to make it work. I think she's getting frustrated about it. I mentioned the possibility of some WD-40 on it to my dad and now she asks me approximately every 30 minutes when I'll put the "slippery stuff" on it.

Being off for three days in a row is heavenly. I'm sitting here watching terrible television (What Not to Wear - this girl is actually crying in the confessional because she can't find anything to buy with her $5000 gift card, oh the tragedy), I spent a large part of the afternoon working on a project I've been planning for months - the basement re-do, and I have the exact same schedule planned for tomorrow. Work is really cramping my style.
Here are two cute pictures from Christmas morning:

Charlotte playing with the GeoTrax train set.

The look of joy on Elisabeth's face when she saw that we now have our very. own. copy. of. Dumbo! priceless.

And with that, I'm back to TV. I have more stories for this week, but I'll put them in separate posts. Oh, this is a relief, crying girl from TV has discovered the color purple and it looks like everything is going to be ok. I wonder if CNN turns out happy like this.

Monday, December 22, 2008

res ipsa loquitur

This Latin phrase, commonly and perhaps only used in 1L Torts classes, means "the thing speaks for itself." That said, I hereby title this picture "res ipsa loquitur":

Sunday, December 21, 2008


I have been so busy this week - between a very heavy docket, everyone in Fairfax County wanting their divorce done now now now, interviewing MIT kids, and trying to get sort of ready for Christmas - that I haven't had time to write anything!

I'll start with the trip back home from Gram's house. We left early - like 6:30am - so that we could make the trip home before lunch. Despite the crazy weekend of fun, neither girl slept on the 6 hour trip. And the DVD crack seems to be wearing off because Elisabeth would rather be a part of the conversation. She and Doug made up stories for the last two hours of the drive - tall tales involving Elspeth, Lula-lu, Maura and Elisabeth. At one point in the story, it was decided that each character needed super powers. Elisabeth has been heavily into the super hero thing, thanks to some of her friends at school. Elisabeth's super hero power was the ability to rescue people. Mine was the ability to fly. Charlotte is still unable to claim her own super power, so Elisabeth assigned her one... the ability to throw people in jail without having them see the judge first. The secret police super power!

See, on the way up, she wanted to know about criminal procedure... why people had to see a judge after they got thrown in jail. We gave a cursory explanation on fairness and that in America we don't just let the police throw people in jail forever without someone else saying that's ok.

So when time came to dole out super powers, she decided this secret police power ought to belong to Charlotte. Which, anyone who knows Charlotte should know that Charlotte is not the one you ought to give secret police powers to. Fairness isn't her strength.

Also this week, it seems that the sixteen-month old babe has decided that communicating with us might be beneficial to her. She has started nodding her head to say yes. And, we've heard a few recognizable words such as blanket, geese, and Willy (the cat). So hopefully soon we'll get some repeatable words.

OK - the little one is biting me and complaining that there is a laptop on my lap and not a biting toddler. I don't know why that is. Hopefully the next edition won't be a week in coming.

Friday, December 12, 2008

The sign says...

In some ways, we're not looking forward to the day that Elisabeth can read with certainty. One time, Doug told Elisabeth that she couldn't wear slippers to preschool by telling her it was in the handbook. She demanded strict proof of this, and he pointed to a section of the handbook. She believed him.

Just today, she wanted to go into the chocolate store on the way to Doug's mom's house, but didn't want to wear her shoes. He told her there was a sign on the door that said she had to wear shoes. Again, strict proof was demanded. I'm sure he assumed there was a "no shirt, no shoes, no service" sign. Since there wasn't, the "no solicitation" sign had to suffice. She believed it said "must wear shoes."

But, I'm beginning to think she's on to our trick. We play a game on long drives. You have to find a sign that has the letter A on it. Then the letter B. Then C. We got stuck for awhile on J. Being nothing if not patient...she decreed that if she saw an L that was curvy like a J (like a calligraphed lowercase l), then she could call it a J. I said, "no, no, that's cheating. You can't do that." She replied, "yes, I can Mommy. The sign says that I can. I'll show you. It says you can call a curvy L a J."

How are we going to parent when she can read and spell? Code words, I suppose. If I want to ask Doug how he feels about the kids having a donut, I'll have to say something like: Doug, do you think the petunias need a sweet fertilizer?

In other news, I now know for sure why the jail "waiting room" smells like urine. As I walked in on Thursday morning, in the middle of a government, public building, a guy was urinating against the wall. Not a homeless looking person. Not even a person that looked like they had just gotten out of jail. A guy wearing perfectly respectable clothes, that you would certainly not expect to be urinating against a wall in an open room. People are nuts.

Monday, December 8, 2008

computer age

the scene: Doug and Elisabeth sitting at the raised bar in the kitchen. Each with a laptop. Doug is talking to me.

Elisabeth: Daddy, don't talk to me if you have something to say. You can just type it to me.

I think we've created a monster! Yesterday she pitched a fit that I made her go to the bathroom instead of check her email.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Some similarities to her mama

As all mother's probably do, my mother once said that she hoped I had a child just like me one day. Shockingly, she wasn't saying that because I am so wonderful. Elisabeth is not just like me, but let's just say there are some similarities. She maintains that she can't read. If you show her a word over three letters, she almost always refuses to even attempt it. That is, of course, unless she is all by herself with no one to help her. Or if it is a show on TV that she wants to watch that I'm vehemently arguing isn't on. Or anything else that we don't want her to read. The funny thing is, she can read most of those things surprisingly well.

But if you ask her to read words out of a book at bedtime, she gets grouchy. "NO." "I can't read it. Yooooou read it." She either just really enjoys having things read to her, or she hates feeling like she's failing while people are watching - she wants to read perfectly (there's my girl!). But her new favorite game is Spelling Bee. She's the blue team, I'm the red team, and Doug is the moderator. We played this on the way to the airport last week, and again this morning. And while she would tell you she can't read these words, she's perfectly capable of accurately sounding out words like plane, plate, spoon, and other five letter words. Maybe I need to make reading into some kind of competition. Again, she might be just a little bit like her mother in that she seems to have a competitive streak. She actually engages in some pretty good smack talk during a rousing game of Spelling Bee. Hmm... maybe we'll make a "Reading Bee." With flashcards. She looooooooves flashcards. (as a flashcard side story - we have these animal flashcards that I've caught her doing with Charlotte. Poor Charlotte is still mastering saying the word "cat" and Elisabeth is trying to get "octopus" out of her. Of course Charlotte says "blgiesfrau" and Elisabeth hears "octopus" and then reports to the pediatrician that Charlotte can say "cat, clap, dog, Maggie, and octopus.")

She asked Santa for "books she can read all by herself without any help from Mommy and Daddy." And a "pongo" stick. Oh and some kind of camera that lets Mommy and Daddy watch her all of the time when we have to go very far away. I'm not sure where it is we're going, seeing as we've left her with a sitter exactly 3 times in her life (four if you count when Charlotte was born and my mom was here), but apparently Doug and I need some kind of super duper "shmooper" binoculars.

I'm wondering if this is related to the fact that she wants Doug to just drop her off at playdates and not go inside and stay. Next thing I know she'll be asking me to drop her off a block away from preschool so she can walk in with her friends.

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Thoughts on working next to a jail...

At least twice every day, I walk past or through the adult detention center. I park in a garage with a view directly into the cells. When I get to work after about 8:45, I typically have to pass through at least two groups of prisoners out doing chores - mopping, gardening, collecting trash. I never know whether to say "excuse me" when I have to scoot through them, or "thank you" when they hold the door open for me. I usually do, but get scowled at by the prison guard who is on their watch.

When I get to work and look into the cells (it is literally the only view I have as I walk down the steps or ride down the elevator), the prisoners are either on their beds reading books or working out in the gym that's just beyond the doors of their cells. As I trudge into work, often grumpy from traffic, I begin to wonder if their life is all that bad. Do you know the last time that I had the time to work out??? It was before I started this job, so in August sometime.

So the last time my judge threw a guy in jail for not paying his child support, I didn't feel terribly bad for him. Especially because he had told her that the reason he hadn't paid was because he was living in his car since he was jobless. I thought, hey buddy, you can have a bed, food, all the reading time you want AND a gym! It's almost like a pleasure cruise.

But then, when I'm on my way back to my car in the afternoon, I realize that maybe the prisoners don't have the best life. After about 4:30pm, they sit in their cells with their faces plastered against their windows... waving. Desperate for someone to wave back. The other day, when I got into my car and looked up (the jail is probably 10 stories tall), I saw at least 20 prisoners waving at me. I did not wave back. It felt too strange. It also feels strange not to wave to a crowd of waving orange jumpsuit wearing folks. So then I get annoyed at being put into that position of fretting about whether or not to wave back.

In talking to a co-worker who used to work in the prison, I learned that those 20 people know exactly what time I leave every day and exactly which car I drive. Creepy. (For what its worth, she implored me not to wave back at them...) I also learned that a good number of the people that I pass every day, in and out of the courthouse and jail, are members of MS-13, which is a gang that is always in the news for doing very bad things. Kind of strange to literally rub elbows in the elevator with gang members.

Oh, and apparently the women had to be kept far away from the actual courthouse. They can't do their chores out in the main hallway. It turns out some of the "ladies" were playing Mardi Gras and flashing attorneys and parties heading into the courthouse. Classy.

Perhaps my favorite part about the jail is seeing the people getting released on Friday mornings, obviously having been picked up for something alcohol related the night before. Wearing "going out" clothes, with their belt and other personal items in a little plastic baggie that they're carrying. Usually a girlfriend is picking them up, but one time it was this guy's mother. The moral of that story is that if you ever get thrown in jail, your mother is not the person you want coming to pick you up. Hire an attorney for that.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Mommy, what can Jesus do?

This is the question I was asked at dinner tonight. I replied, "what do you mean, what can Jesus do?" here's how the conversation went down:

E: I mean what can he DO?
Me: well... he can walk on water.
E: what else?
Doug: he can turn bread into fish.
Me: um, not really.
Doug: Mommy can tell you.
Me: he can turn one loaf of bread into thousands of loaves of bread, and one fish into thousands of fish.
E: no he can't. BUT - he can flyyyyyyyyyyyyyyy.

Apparently they've been playing a lot of "Superhero" at preschool. It is the favorite game amongst her friends in her class. They each get superpowers, and apparently Jesus' superpower is that he can fly. So that He can watch over everyone.

And now, I am off to watch my tivo'd Top Chef while eating cheesy poofs. Tom Colicchio would be so proud.

Monday, December 1, 2008

Plane travel.

First of all, as the years go by I get more and more fretful before each plane trip. We just got home from Florida today, and I'm relieved that I won't have to get on a plane again until sometime in the spring.

Two children do not make the trip easier.

Elisabeth's ears start hurting before we even get on the plane. Just thinking of airplanes seems to cause her to start complaining about her ears. And she's stubborn. She is convinced that nothing... NOTHING will help them pop. Not swallowing. Not yawning. Not pinching her nose and blowing out. Not eating a bag of M&Ms (I was getting desperate). Strangely, just wearing her headphones without them being plugged into anything helps the most. Probably because it somehow muffles my pleas to yawn, swallow, pinch nose and blow. I guess maybe she dislikes flying with me as much as I dislike flying with her...

Truthfully, Elisabeth is a delight to travel with. She plays with her Leapster or watches a dvd during the entire part of the flight that takes place above 10,000 feet. She makes no noise and rarely bothers her parents. Her sister, on the other hand, is a menace. She is unhappy being held in any situation, but especially so on planes. I think that turning 2 and getting her own plane seat will make travel much more enjoyable... and expensive. Not the least of the enjoyment is that I will figure out a way that I get Elisabeth and Doug gets the little pipsqueak and they sit like 6-10 rows ahead of us.

Our flight today was not without excitement. As we were landing, I asked Elisabeth if she wanted to sit in my lap (seatbelt sign, be damned!) We were descending - probably about 2,000 feet up. I was pointing out landmarks to Elisabeth - Costco, the mall, Route 7, the Dulles Toll Road, the school where I used to teach, on and on. All of the sudden, the plane started going back up. This is something that I don't really like.

Maybe 13 years ago, I was landing in Tampa. The plane touched down and immediately took off again. I nearly passed out with panic. Turns out there was another plane at the end of the runway and we couldn't possibly stop in time. Whew, crisis averted. So, today, when the plane started going back up, I tried not to panic. At least we hadn't touched the runway yet, right? Doug tried to convince me that it was because we were so early that we had to circle until they had a spot for us to land. I bought that for awhile until I thought, well --- then why did they let us get so close the last time?? What, the air traffic controllers all of the sudden said "nope - sorry, we were just kidding. USAirways flight 772 really got here faster than we expected and now you have to start circling?" So I was a little nervous.

Then they turned on the big jets. You know, the ones that make all of the loud noise on takeoff. I'm not a pilot, but they don't usually turn those on and leave them on. It was loud. For a long time. We circled once and went for another attempt at landing. No word from the cockpit on why we're circling.

As we're close to touchdown, with the runway beneath us, I see a few firetrucks with their lights on on the runway. As we pass they start speeding towards us. Then more firetrucks. And ambulances. Definite panic in my mind at this point. And then we stop and pull off of the main runway onto one of those diagonal roads that go between runways. All of the emergency vehicles circle the plane.

The flight attendant comes on and says, "Welcome to Washington's Dulles International Airport. The temperature is 49 degrees. We'll be taxiing to the gate for the next few minutes. You'll see some emergency equipment surrounding the plane. Please don't be alarmed, this is standard procedure." About fifteen people around us muttered "standard procedure for what??"

Then the pilot came on and said, "Ladies and gentlemen, this is the captain speaking. Sorry for the delay. As we approached, we had trouble getting the landing gear down. But everything is ok now. The fire equipment is just a precaution. Sorry for not letting you know earlier, we were pretty busy up in the cockpit trying to get it figured out. Oh and we lost our steering capabilities too, so we have to wait for a tow truck to come and tow us to the gate."

Let's just say that it is a good thing they were "too busy" up in the cockpit to let me know that the landing gear wouldn't come down. They would have needed one of those ambulances to haul me off of the plane. I would not have handled that well. We're talking worse than 'Elisabeth picks up a dead mouse' reaction.

I was secretly hoping (after I knew everyone was safe) that we'd get to go down the emergency slide. It seems like it might be kind of a fun adventure. So then we had to wait for 30 mins on the tarmac with two hungry, tired, and agitated girls. Make that three. But we're home now. And hopefully later this week, I will tell you all about our fun visit with Grandmommy and Grandaddy, Aunt Elisabeth, Annaleis and Jacob. And of course the goats, donkeys, dogs, pool, and trampoline.