Thursday, February 26, 2009

The third sign of spring, a dinner conversation, and good recent reads.

Elisabeth exclaimed excitedly this afternoon:  "Mommy!  I see the third sign of spring!!!"

I love how attuned she is to the things around her.  I saw red winged blackbirds at my feeder over the weekend.  That is my self-declared first sign of spring.  The red winged blackbirds stay here all winter, but for some reason they only eat at my feeders from about now until April.  So, I declared spring is on its way.

Then today, she found a blooming crocus - sign number 2.

The third sign is bees.  Or what Elisabeth thought were bees.  I think they were mayflies, but I agree - they're definitely a sign of spring.


At dinner, Doug was on a conference call and I was feeding the two crazies.  Regarding dinner, I think we've done something wrong.  I wish I could turn back time.  I made the fatal flaw of not expecting them to eat what we eat and instead providing them "kid food."  This has (1) created picky little things - although not as picky as some kids and (2) led to both Doug and I losing weight since we never get to sit and eat our own dinners and instead of eating we get up and down and up and down a million times in a half an hour getting the various courses for the little ones.  Oh and I bet you think that at least I feed them the same kid food each.  Ha - joke's on you.

Charlotte starts with string cheese.  This is only after a fight, though, since some moron put NUMBERS on the string cheeses.  So Elisabeth has to pitch a fit about getting to pick the number that she wants.  And hey, maybe Elisabeth doesn't want string cheese, maybe she wants yellow cheese.  No shredded.  No yellow.  NO a quesadilla - handmade by her!!!  Then comes the bean course (black to be specific).  Usually they both like them, but sometimes only Elisabeth.  Then, the kids get some combination of "macn" (homemade mac n cheese), chicken nuggets, taquitos, scrambled eggs, white rice, sandwich, french toast, waffles, or other frozen delicacy.  On days that Elisabeth wants nuggets, Charlotte wants scrambled eggs.  Or, my favorite, they both claim to want nuggets and then you get them to the table and have them [im]politely declined.  And Lord help us all when there's only one serving of macn.  That almost always goes to Charlotte since she is the pickier of the two, and this sets Elisabeth off to moping that is truly deserving of some kind of preschool acting award.

Just to keep us literally on our toes, midway through dinner, the preferences change.  Elisabeth usually vocalizes this by politely asking for something else.  Charlotte expresses this change of preference by depositing whatever food is left on her tray on the floor.  Or, on occasion, launching it a bit farther.  If I'm lucky, I can avoid the thoroughly disgusting hand from landing on my suit pants.

Dinner is exhausting.  And, it is our own fault.  But, at least they eat.  And, they both seem to like vegetables.  So we're not the worst parents on earth.  Just hungry.

So tonight, I was a little tired of all of the up and down.  I asked Elisabeth if she was going to eat vegetables so that she could have dessert.  And heaven forbid the kid eats the absolutely wonderful oven roasted carrots that Doug made.  Even though she loves carrots.  She says yes, she wants green beans.  I did not hear a "please" in there, so I refused to acknowledge what she said.  I just said, "what?"  She kept saying she wanted green beans and I kept asking "what?"  So she started just going on and on and on.  Tired kids who ramble are pretty funny.  

E:  "Mommy, I want greenbeans.  You know - green beans.  In the fridge.  You heat them.  The ones in the bag?"  (She seems to think I'm genuinely stupid).

Me:  "What else?"  (with a leading tone in my voice)

E:  "Nothing else.  Just green beans.  I want green beans.  Green beans come from bags.  Bags come from the freezer.  All of our vegetables come from bags.  I want green beans.  You KNOW, mommy.  Green beans!"

Me:  "Yes, but what else do you say?"

E:  "If I have green beans can I have dessert?"
I gave up in frustration and let it drop for 10 minutes.  I figured (correctly) that when she really wanted dessert, she'd figure out how to ask nicely.

Since I feel like all I ever talk about is my children, here's proof that I do more than just sit around and think of kid stories.  I have been reading a lot lately.  I've read quite a few good books (and some bad ones too).  Among the good recent reads:  The Story of Edgar Sawtelle, The Guernsey Literary And Potato Peel Pie Society, The Nine, The Hour I First Believed, and The Omnivore's Dilemma.  I'm about to pick up What Is The What by David Eggers - and I'm pretty excited about it.

Tomorrow's forecast is for some crazies in the courtroom.   We have one guy whose motion is simply titled "Complaint."  I cannot wait to see what his complaint is.  I didn't know you could use the Courts as simply a means of venting - but I might try it when I'm done with this job.  Lord knows I've got them.  I'll put my dinner dilemma on a motions docket and ask for guidance from the court.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Charlotte's Big Day at the Courthouse

On Friday, Doug took Elisabeth ice skating.  He dropped Charlotte off at the courthouse to hang out with me for about an hour and a half.  Charlotte thoroughly enjoyed her day at mommy's office.  She enjoyed herself primarily because I bribed her.  With iced donuts with sprinkles.  Fridays at the courthouse are notorious for breaking diets.  Then I took her down to the file room to let everyone say hello.

Charlotte is not my outgoing, friendly little girl.  At least not initially.  She clammed up and looked as though she might cry when the nice women wanted to chat with her.  Thankfully I had my handy dandy iced donut.  All kids look cute shoving a donut in their face.  And then, as kids do, as soon as everyone turned around she was all smiles and waves.  

Charlotte is, however, adventurous.  Unlike Elisabeth who sticks very close to me when we're at my office - never leaving the confines of my 8x8 office - Charlotte thoroughly enjoyed running up and down the halls.  So much, in fact, that I ended up moving my chair into the hall so that I could watch her.  She'd get about 4 doors down and then decide to come running back.  Great exercise for an 18 month old.  Charlotte also climbed up on my desk when I wasn't looking.  And - don't tell anyone - she just might have spread some ketchup onto a divorce file I was looking at.  Fittingly, it now looks like some blood on the complaint.

And for all of those wondering - no, it was not a good idea to get a ketchup packet out in my office without having the 18 month old confined to a high chair.

Charlotte enjoyed walking around the courthouse so much that when I sat down to try and get some actual work done, she came over, grabbed my finger, and tried to pull me up saying "walka walka walka walka."  How do you say no to that???

Then, sadly, it was time for Charlotte to go back home.  I still see the little remnants of her visit though - my two chairs that were previously at the same height are now 6 inches different, the ketchup splatters on the wall, the green dots on the floor, the paper she doodled on.

The two ice skaters had a grand time.  Until they didn't.  The report that I received was that everyone did great - Doug skated along behind Elisabeth, holding her up.  Elisabeth then decided to skate like the bigger kids, on one foot while holding the other one up.  This caused a crash and resulted in Elisabeth vowing never to skate again.  Of course until she decided that next time Charlotte and I could go too.

I think the right term is "when hell freezes over."  Which, given how February feels to me right now, might be sometime next week.

Friday, February 20, 2009

Elisabeth's Writings

Lately, Elisabeth has been doing a lot of writing. She likes to sound words out and write them. A few weeks ago, we closed on our refinance and we had the notary come to our house. Elisabeth was watching Word Girl on tv while we signed a bunch of documents. After Word Girl was over, Elisabeth marched in and showed the woman her craft cabinet. Then she told the notary that she was going to "write down the story she just saw." She got out a piece of paper and a pencil and walked over to the table. The notary said "Oh, that's so sweet, are you going to draw pretty pictures?" Elisabeth looked at the woman, with a kind of curious expression like perhaps the woman was hard of hearing or just plain dumb, and said - slowly - "no.... I'm going to write the story." And she said "The butcher had a free barbeque. Th th th t h." Then she wrote the word "the." The woman said "She's actually writing it!!!"

The entire rest of the time we signed papers, Elisabeth wrote out the story of that Word Girl episode. Some of the words are misspelled ("btchr" for butcher as an example), but by and large it is a very impressive piece of work - and the notary was extremely impressed.

The thing about Elisabeth is that when an adult is around, she is incapable of doing anything on her own - she asks questions like "is this right? How do I spell this." And then says, "no I caaaaaan't do it by myself," when you tell her to figure it out herself. But - left to her own devices - she can do pretty much anything she sets her mind to. Case in point, the other day (on her actual birthday), Doug came downstairs to find her in the family room sounding words out. He listened for awhile and then asked what she was doing. "Writing in my journal, Daddy" He asked what she had written and she said "Today we met mommy." Well, actually, she wrote "toodai we met mommy." And, they had met me - we met at McDonalds for lunch. She sees Doug write in his journal (this is my version of a journal), and she had gotten a nice pretty notebook for her birthday complete with fancy pen - so she decided to start keeping her own journal.

Here is a picture of her Feb. 11 entry from her journal. Doug circled the words, since Elisabeth interspersed a few extra words that she won't discuss with us. Doug helped her with the date, after the fact.

And then, she had to write thank you notes for the vast array of presents she got for her birthday. I had come up with the absolutely brilliant idea of buying her letter stamps and letting her stamp out "Thank you [insert name here]" on each card. We got through two cards before Doug and I realized that this absolutely brilliant idea was amongst the absolute worst ideas ever. Each card took 15 minutes just to stamp out and then another 5-10 for Elisabeth to write her note (after each letter we had to hear a complaint about how she was so tiiiiiiiiiiiired and couldn't write any more letters - only to watch her run and run and run when we set her free). Doug and I then stamped the rest of the cards and she wrote the note on the inside. It took us almost 2 weeks of pretty diligent work, but I can say that as of today they are all written (this is almost completely thanks to Doug's persistence).

I learned that it is important to do quality control on child-written thank you notes. One read, or was supposed to read, "Thank you for the birthday set." But the final "t" in "set" was tipped backwards at a 45 degree angle and let's just say the lines were of equal length making it look a lot more like an "x" than a "t." Needless to say, I had to correct that one lest the preschool find out about the kind of parties we throw...

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Super hero capes

For Elisabeth's birthday, I made her (and Charlotte) super hero capes. Elisabeth's is blue and yellow - of course - as is everything in the world that she has any control over. Charlotte's is purple and yellow. After making these simple capes, and using over 4 hours of my precious time in sewing (not including the hour in the worst JoAnns Fabric ever), I have come to terms with the fact that I will never be on Project Runway. I will never be able to sew either of the girls a prom dress. These capes have some ugly stitches, but they are well loved.
Here's Charlotte the Super Hero:

Here's Elisabeth the Super Hero:

And here is the view of the capes from the back:

And finally, for those of you with kids who like to watch other kids endlessly - here is a little video of girls running laps around our kitchen island wearing super hero capes. Please forgive the clutter. I'd say it is not ordinary for our house, but - well - I'd be lying.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009


I thought that carrying and birthing a child was a lot of work.  I was mistaken in the definition of "a lot of work."  A lot of work is having a four year old in her self declared "birthday month."  We've had, and survived, the party.  And now I've survived the actual birthday.  I think the worst is behind us.

First, the party.  And first among the first - the party outfit.   Self selected.

I had to talk her into the tights (and more importantly, out of the sweat pants under the skirt under the dress).  But she was so proud of herself, and her outfit, that I couldn't offend her.  So this is what she wore to her party.  

The kids arrived on time and en masse - a literal herd of kids walked up our street bearing presents.  They all played in the basement together happily - and loudly.  12 four year olds plus a 2 yr old and an 18 month old can really put out a lot of decibles.  It was so loud that - get this - a few of the kids came upstairs to get away from the noise.  Ironically, these same few kids were the ones contributed the most to the raging noise downstairs.  That just made it loud upstairs and downstairs, so we sent the noisemakers back down to the basement.  Then we played red light/green light, musical cushions, Simon says, and pin the tail on the donkey.  

The grand finale was the pinata.  It is amazing how much better a 4 yr old boy swings a bat than a 4 yr old girl.  I swear, the Nats should sign a few of these kids.  Elisabeth is no pansy, though - she held her own.  And Little Miss Charlotte took a few good cuts herself.  But this was the pinata of steel.  It was not breaking apart.  We were torn between letting the adults go at it and just ripping it open.  Doug decided to stab the daylights out of it with some scissors, which weakened the structural integrity enough that we finally got some candy out of the thing.  I think that I'll never tire of seeing a bunch of kids diving for candy.

After playtime, we had pizza and cake and then as quickly as they arrived, the herd was gone.  We opened presents and then cleaned a bit, then all collapsed for the rest of the weekend.  

Today, on her actual birthday, she took cupcakes to school.  Each cupcake was decorated with the first initial of a kid in the class.  Blue icing with yellow letters of course.  She got a pink princess crown with glitter all over it (I hate glitter).  Then after preschool she and Doug and Charlotte met me at McDonalds for lunch.  When I came home from work, we opened presents.  For dinner we had a crepe fest and cake and then sent two kids on sugar highs to bed.  

I can't believe four years have gone by since we were in the hospital with a six pound, three ounce babe.  She's become an amazing little girl who gets every joy out of life and then some.  I'm especially proud at the joy she injects in the lives of others.

Friday, February 6, 2009

How will I wash Charlotte's hair?

If Obama has outlawed waterboarding because it is a form of torture, I'm unsure as to how I will wash Charlotte's hair from now on.

Charlotte is a self starter - if she wants something done, well she'll do it herself.  This is in stark contrast to Little Miss Can You Please Wipe Me?"  Or shall we call her Little Miss Still Won't Dress Herself.  Or, perhaps, Little Miss Refuses to Use Cutlery?  Charlotte has a humidifier in her room, a big one with two tanks that are each as tall as Charlotte.  The other night it was empty and she took it upon herself to go get a tank and haul it to the bathtub.   This morning, Doug looked up and there she was again walking by with a big water tank on the way to the tub.  I love her interest in how things work - I think she's our little engineer.

Tomorrow, we are having 13 4-yr olds over for Elisabeth's party.  Heaven help us all.  The basement is clean and mostly child proofed.  We have a pinata.  We have a sort of plan for entertainment.  My friend at work offered me some Xanax to make it through.  I declined, but I'm thinking I should have taken her up on it.  More on the flip side - provided I make it.

Monday, February 2, 2009

random tidbits

We have this game called "Dinner Games" - it is a set of cards and you draw one at the dinner table and play that game.  It is actually pretty fun and Elisabeth loves it.  One of the games is a feel good kind of game.  You're supposed to tell uplifting stories from the news, but since we don't let Elisabeth watch the news (nor are there any uplifting stories in the news these days...) we let her make up happy stories.  The card says "take turns going around the table telling blahblahblah..."  So, I read that to Elisabeth.  She asks to go first.  She gets up and starts walking around the table while telling us her story.  Her new name is Elisabeth Bedelia.

We just had our basement painted, and I guess they left some of that blue tape on the trim somewhere.   Elisabeth found it and asked what it was.  Doug told her it was tape.  She said, "Goosetape?"  So, now, duct tape will always be Goosetape just like our non-minivan car is The Pizza Car for reasons I will explain later.

Charlotte has a surprising number of words.  Doug and I set out to make a list and we've decided she's really not far behind.  Of course, none of you could recognize the words and unless she is pointing at whatever it is she wants and saying the word, we have no idea what it is either.  We do think she is putting two words together, though.  Like 'mama wawa' and 'ma wawa' - meaning Mommy's water and "the sippy cup that Elisabeth has, is looking at, or is thinking about looking at anytime in the next 24 hrs," in that order.  Oh, and did I mention that approximately half of Charlotte's words sound like boo or moo:  spoon, moon, bird, bug, ball, blanket... but each has its own inflection.

Charlotte says "eowm" instead of "meow," which in fact sounds a lot more like what our cat says than meow.  Charlotte is incredibly good at mimicking sounds, just not so good at utilizing sounds as words to tell us what she wants.  Instead she chooses to use the sheer power of her vocal cords.

Elisabeth records every single kids show on television onto the DVR.  She does it behind my back and it drives me nuts because it fills up the DVR.  Do we really need 62 episodes of Dora, 48 of Diego, 15 of SuperWhy, 18 of Curious George and then a smattering of Martha, Word Girl, Word World, Clifford, Backyardigans and Blues Clues?  She knows it annoys me because today she asked Doug not to come into the room while she was doing it.  Then she fessed up that "mommy will be mad because I just recorded a bunch of shows."  

I went through and deleted a bunch of shows.  As expected, the next morning she asked for a specific episode of a specific show, which I knew that I deleted.  The look of hurt in her eyes was piercing...

Another little snippet of things I learned from working close to the jail:  people wearing sneakers without shoelaces likely just got out of prison.  They're a rather friendly lot, for being 8am, having just gotten out of prison.  But, no Mr. No Shoelaces, I don't really want to "have a smoke with you."