Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Techy Girl

So, last week, I gave in and got a new iPhone. Or rather, my daughter got one, since I haven’t seen it since those initial hours I spent setting it up. After one week, this four-year-old has become as skilled at using it as I am, or maybe more skilled, since she has no fear of screwing up any of the settings I carefully put in place. She just clicks around freely until it does something interesting. I downloaded a few games for her, and within minutes she’d mastered all of those, so then she started playing solitaire, poker, and some of the other less kid-friendly games I have on it. She doesn’t really understand the point of the games, but she knows which moves make which sounds (and, somehow, how to turn the sound back on when I’ve turned it off). This seems endlessly entertaining to her.

I remember, as a child, when we got our first computer (my step-dad worked for IBM at the time, so we were one of the first people I knew with one), our first game system (Atari), our first microwave, and my parents sounding ridiculously old-fashioned as they talked about what a different age it was, where kids were growing up with these modern technological conveniences that still slightly scared their parents. Well, now I see what they meant by that. I also see that our technological advances were nothing compared to what all of our kids are growing up with today.

I have a vivid recollection of my mother calling me, while I was away at college, to walk her through setting up the VCR to tape something for her. I remember my roommate and friends in the background laughing as I walked her through the steps from five hundred miles away. It seemed hilarious at the time, that my mother couldn’t operate something as simple as a VCR. But now I can see a time when I’ll be calling my daughter, maybe still in elementary school, to ask for her help in figuring out how to use the latest tech gadget.

Monday, June 29, 2009

Lost Girl

For years, my oldest couldn’t find anything you sent her to look for. If it was time to go out, and her sweatshirt was on the couch next to her, and you pointed directly at it and told her to put it on, she’d stand up and spin in circles, looking everywhere but directly at the sweatshirt, claiming she couldn’t find it. If she desperately needed her pink glittery shoes to complete her princess outfit, and I told her they were in the bin with all of her other shoes, she’d rummage around the bin, growing increasingly distressed, then come to me in near tears because she couldn’t find them. I’d go to help her and find the shoes, right on top of the pile.

Now, aside from this fleeting blindness, she was a remarkably bright child, able to undo childproof locks as a toddler, skilled in dressing and undressing herself from a young age, able to write her name before she was two years old. So why was she so incapable of finding anything? She knew how to open the fridge, remove the ice cream, whipped cream, chocolate sauce and raspberries, lining them up neatly on the counter before demanding dessert, but if you sent her back to the fridge for her milk or juice sippy cup, she’d stand before the open door, just staring blankly at the contents of the fridge, shaking her head. “Where?” she’d ask over and over, until I finally stepped up and handed it to her.

I was torn between thinking that she was so busy downloading new, more important information into her brain that she couldn’t be bothered with simple tasks like finding the toy she’d left right in the middle of the floor, and thinking it was all some passive-aggressive ploy for attention (after all, it started just after her sister was born). At any rate, now that she’s four, we seem to finally be past the “Where? I can’t find it!” phase. Knowing her left from her right has helped a lot with that, since I can now give her actual directions toward locating an object I can see. Having a baby sister also helps, as every search turns into a competitive treasure hunt, and big sister is not one to lose any competition.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Bug Patrol

My little one, the bug-terrified one, is on constant insect and spider patrol around our house. She’s always had phenomenal vision, even as a baby. I remember being outside with her once when she was just over a year old, and she glanced up for a moment and shouted “airplane!” There were several of us out there with her, and we all took a good long while scanning the sky before someone finally spotted a tiny speck of silver way, way up there. We had no idea how she’d spotted it, this tiny fleck of gray against the vast blue, but it’s a skill she’s never lost. This is a kid who can spot a grain of sand in her bed from five feet away, who will then throw a tantrum about sleeping in a “dirty” bed until I make a great show of sweeping that grain of sand out with my hand.

So, when she’s on bug patrol, and, let’s be honest, these days she’s never not on bug patrol, of course she finds them. She also finds little tufts of cat hair, miniscule dust bunnies, baby pieces of tanbark tracked in from the playground, and tiny pieces of lint that have fallen from some item of clothing. These things will send her rushing to get me, pulling on my pants leg or my shirt hem, shouting, “A bug! Mommy, come get it! There’s a bug!” At which point I come to find the “bug,” only to discover that it’s not a bug, but some other small dark inanimate object that no normal human being would notice.

The other day I picked up a small piece of black plastic which had broken off one of her toys, to prove to her that it was not, in fact, a bug. She simply nodded, jaw clenched and hands in little fists of fear, then turned and started following the wall, studying the space where the carpet meets the baseboards. I’ve done my best to stop this bug tracking habit of hers, and anytime she starts doing it I try to distract her long enough to vacuum every crevice in the house. But no amount of vacuuming can compete with a house with two kids and two pets. I think it wouldn’t be so bad if she didn’t have that superhuman vision, where she can spot a speck of color against the light carpet from across the room. That and this whole bug terror, which sends her into tremors at the mere sight of a morsel of cat food fifteen feet away.

Friday, June 26, 2009

Missing School

I know I’ve mentioned that I’m missing preschool these days, when I have to come up with new and interesting means of entertaining my kids all by myself. The funny thing is, I’m not the only one who’s missing it. My 4-year-old woke up on Wednesday, quickly reminding me that it was a school day, and when I told her that she had no school this week, she started to cry: “But I love school!” So, any guilt I had for signing her up for the summer session evaporated right there.

It was so hard to get her used to preschool in the first place, that I couldn’t imagine pulling her out for the entire summer, then going through all of that separation anxiety stuff all over again in the fall. It’s easier on both of us if she goes all summer, too (same school, same teachers), because, like me, she functions better on a reliable schedule. Oh, and then there’s the fact during school, there are two less days per week that I have to come up with fun outings or projects to impress her.

Really, nothing I seem to come up with competes with the endless art projects, music teachers, dance sessions, and good friends she has available at school. And that’s how it should be. She’ll have plenty of years of having to go to school when she’d rather not, all of those teen years of just desperately wanting to sleep in instead of racing to make it to her first class of the day. I’m glad she has these less serious years of sliding and singing the day away, when school is just a really fun play group she can’t wait to get back to.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Fun in the Sun

Well, I promised the kiddies a pool day, but the 90 degree weather broke and it wasn’t quite warm enough for soaking in the kiddie pool after all, so instead we filled a bin with water out back, and used buckets, plastic tea pots, and plastic princess cups to splash around. Or that was the idea anyway. It didn’t go quite according to plan, because there were flies outside, and the little one is still insanely terrified of all insects. So she spent the majority of the time clinging to my leg screaming about a fly that kept buzzing around. The older one, insisting it wasn’t too cold to swim, decided to sit in the bin and overflow the water, then complain that there wasn’t enough water anymore.

I got the younger one set up inside with some of her favorite books, and sat just outside the screen door where I could keep an eye on both kids at once. The older one, overly concerned, as always, that her sister might just be having a better time than she was, soon abandoned the buckets of water to go in and harass her sister. They got into some game where they took turns putting one of those little New Year’s noisemaker horns into their mouth, then blew until the horn came flying out, aiming to hit each other with each attempt. They took turns blowing the horn at each other, trails of spit flying in its wake, and laughing hysterically at the situation. So, so much for fun in the sun. Who knew the entertainment of the day would be spitting a toy dug out of the bottom of the toy bin at one another for half an hour?

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Knot Tying

So, my sneaky four-year-old has learned to tie knots. Perhaps because she doesn’t have shoe laces to practice on, she finds anything string-like around the house and practices her skills on that. Whether it’s the dog’s leash, or the yoga straps we mistakenly left in range, she’ll tie knot after knot, like sloppy macramĂ©, until she cannot tie any more because the whole thing is a knotty mess. This means that I spend far too much of my time untying knot after knot, when I need to use the dish towel she’s tied onto the oven handle over and over, or while she dances around impatiently, desperately needing to wear the dress that I cannot put on her because of the twelve knots she’s tied in the sash. It also means that I just spent several minutes shivering in Starbucks, fighting with my sweatshirt, since she had tied the hoodie strings a million times. I’m all for encouraging any new skill set, but maybe it’s time for her to master the fine art of untying, now that she has the tying thing down cold.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

The Little Farm

There is a great place in Berkeley called The Little Farm, where kids can bring lettuce and celery and feed cows, pigs, goats, chickens, turkeys, and geese. We’ve gone several times, and have had to deal with children who too were frightened of the animals to attempt to feed them, but then threw tantrums when it was time to leave because they were having so much fun.

I took the girls back to The Little Farm yesterday, and for the first time, the older one actually fed the animals. At first, she would only throw stalks of celery over the fence to the waiting animals (usually hitting the animal, who luckily never seemed to mind). It took a few tries for her to master the art of holding the end of a celery stalk and getting just close enough for the goat or pig to grasp the other end, without freaking out about how close the animal was to her hand. She got in some tug-of-war matches with the goats before understanding when to let go. You really have no idea how much of a learned art feeding a farm animal is until you’ve watched a kid try to figure it out on her own.

She cheerfully dispensed two huge bunches of celery and one bag of lettuce (thrown by the handful to the chickens, turkeys and geese who noisily begged for more). The food was munched heartily amidst the happy squeals of two little girls. My youngest was fascinated by the pigs, shy of the goats, and terrified of the rooster who cock-a-doodle-dooed every few minutes. He was enclosed in a full cage, and we visited him several times so she could see that he was still neatly contained, but every time he crowed, she’d jump and cling to my leg. She also found the cows “big and scary,” but thought the pigs were “just like Wilbur” and even got up the nerve to pet them a few times. I guess all of those viewings of Charlotte’s Web have been good for something. Not calming her hysterical fear of spiders, but warming her up to pigs a bit.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Summer Break

So, my oldest is on summer vacation from school, halfway through that two-week pocket of time between regular school and summer school that I like to think of as a special challenge. She only went to preschool two days a week, so that’s only two three-hour timeslots per week that I need to fill. Why then does it feel like so much longer?

I’ve realized two things. One, those three hours of down time Monday morning are something I really look forward to. That’s when I take the time to make a perfect mocha at home, start the laundry, get caught up on email, write my blog, and, amazingly, I’m able to get all of this done with my two-year-old at home with me. But one kid is infinitely easier to care for than two, and my daughter seems to relish this alone time, when she can choose any toy to play with, and relax knowing no older sister will be coming up to snatch it away moments later. We usually spend a good hour or so cuddling together, either reading one of her books out loud, or doing our own thing: she’ll act out a scene with her favorite stuffed animals and I’ll read a few pages of my book, the perfect curve of her tiny back against my hip, together and separate all at once.

Having my oldest home means none of these quiet moments will happen. When the two girls are home together, there simply aren’t any moments of quiet. There are song and dance numbers, rowdy games of princess and beast/pirate/evil queen, games of hide-and-seek where both the hider and seeker take turns yelling random things, good-old-fashioned shouting matches, and, of course, tug-of-war over everything. The other day I actually had to yell at them for fighting over a clothes pin. And there was another clothes pin all of two feet away at the time.

So, one week down and one to go. I’ve scheduled in extra play dates to fill the preschool time slot and am squeezing my Monday/Wednesday chores and writing time into nap times and evenings after the girls have gone to bed. But what I miss most are those quiet times with my youngest. She didn’t have the 20 months of being my only child that her sister got, and I find myself yearning for that time alone with her. One week down, and one to go.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Father’s Day

Happy Father’s Day, to all of the dads and dads-to-be out there. It’s a tough job, fatherhood. I’m no expert, but I’ve seen it done poorly, and I’ve seen it done brilliantly, and I’ve seen the gamut in between. My feeling is that the position of dad can be a relatively thankless one. You’re expected to work all day, pitch in and care for the kids each night, spend special bonding time with kids on the weekends, take care of cars, yards, household projects, financial situations, and somewhere in there keep a sense of yourself, your marriage, your friends, and the rest of your family. And whenever the kids have an urgent need, or some fantastic news, who do they shout for? In my house, unless I’m not home, it’s usually mommy.

But, as a woman who didn’t live with her father beyond age 8, but who has always considered herself a daddy’s girl, I want to tell you all that your efforts are appreciated, or will be one day. What I remember most about my dad is the quiet moments he spent with me as a young child. I’m sure they weren’t frequent, as he worked full-time, had a commute, had hobbies and friends and all of those household duties to attend to. But I have a vivid memory of sitting on his lap on the front porch while he read the newspaper, and pointing to the few words I could recognize, and his patience and praise at my early reading abilities. In the end, I think it’s those little moments that endure the longest.

If, at the end of the day, you take a few minutes to cuddle and read with your kids, throw in a few solid tickle sessions each weekend, let the munchkins “help” you mow the lawn here and there, it all adds up. Maybe not in the obvious “I just fell down and only mommy can give me magic kisses to fix it” way that I get my appreciation, but when your child is in his/her thirties, and someone says “father,” those tender images of time you spent alone with them are the ones that will float to the surface.

Friday, June 19, 2009


This weekend, hubby and I are out of here. My mother has bravely come down to watch the kids, and we’re heading up to the bluegrass festival where hubby and I met eight years ago. Hubby now has the same cold the rest of us do, so this is less than ideal, heading up to higher elevation to camp with head colds. But I’m determined to do it. It’s a Father’s Day tradition. My banjo-playing dad attends this annual festival each year, and so, if I want to spend Father’s Day with him, I have to go where he is.

Dad takes his RV, and we camp nearby, an ideal arrangement. We have our own space, but there’s a kitchen and bathroom a short walk away. Then there’s the music, day and night, friends new and old, the peaceful lure of pine trees all around, and, oh yeah, no kids to take care of. We buy dinner from the food vendors, take strolls around the campground between sets, browse the arts and crafts vendors for trinkets for the kids, but there’s nowhere we have to be, nothing we have to do. Sure, the camp showers tend to be cold, and the days can be ridiculously hot, sitting out in the sun before the stage, and it’s noisy while you’re trying to sleep with a late-night jam session a few feet from your head. But I have water, sunscreen, earplugs, and did I mention, no kids to take care of? Paradise.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Sick Days

One of the tough things about motherhood is the lack of sick days you can take off. I’ve been down and out with a tough head cold this week, and my 4-year-old is right down here with me. To make things worse, she’s done with preschool, and off for two weeks before the summer session begins, so our routine, the cornerstone of her existence, is blown. This would make both of us a tad more antsy, even if we weren’t both sick. Add to that that hubby is out of town, and we’re a pretty cranky household right now.

I’ve noticed that when I’m sick, it’s not just tough that the endless demands of little ones never cease, but I suspect that their need for attention actually increases. Maybe this is a special reaction from my two precious ones, but when they see me running extra slow, trying to spend generous amounts of time on the couch, giving in to the urge to lay down or close my eyes for a minute or two, they go crazy. It’s like their sense of safety and security is thrown into the balance at the sight of a sick and weary mother, and they feel compelled to harass me until I perk back up and get back to the business of running the house.

Whenever I’m sick, I feel like if I could just get a few nights of decent rest, then I’d bounce right back. So why is it, when I’m sick, that my girls give up napping (as if they know that all morning I’ve been dreaming of taking a nap myself), fight going to bed at night, call me in the middle of the night to reassure them after nightmares or phantom bug sightings, and wake extra early the next morning? I feel like they’re testing me, making sure that even though I’m cranky and tired, I’ll still make sure they are cared for. And I understand this childish type of fear, and so I do push myself to take even better care of them when I’m sick. Which, I suspect, makes it take even longer for me to recover. Oh, but what I wouldn’t give for just one sick day, to rest and not care for anyone but myself.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009


My 4-year-old loves to pick out my clothes, which is a lengthy process, where she has to weigh the weather, her mood, the color shirt she wants to wear, the color shirt I wore the previous day, and other random things that seem terribly important to her. This means that I race to get dressed whenever she’s not in the room, or is in my room, but temporarily distracted by rearranging toothbrushes in the toothbrush holder, or counting the various tubes of things (toothpaste, Neosporin, cortisone, etc.) in the top drawer of our sink vanity.

One thing I cannot seem to get out of, however, is letting her choose my earrings each morning. She not only likes to select which ones I’ll wear, carefully extracting pairs of earrings from my jewelry box, holding them up to me, squinting one eye as she imagines them dangling from my ears, but she likes to put them on me. If she were any other kid, I’d never allow this, but since my daughter is a ridiculously meticulous type, I never worry about her hurting me as she slides the hook through the tiny hole in my earlobe, and so far, she never has hurt me.

The other day we were getting ready for the neighbor girl’s fifth birthday party, and I’d hastily selected a pair of opal earrings when my daughter showed up and pitched a fit because she’d wanted to choose my earrings. As we were already running late, I yanked off the earrings, and held out my hand to await her careful selection. She chose these iridescent crystal squares my sister had made for me. At the birthday party, three separate times, little girls came up to me just to praise my pretty earrings. It’s not that I didn’t think she knew what she was doing. I figure she probably does have better taste than I do. Last night she said to me: “I just really like pretty things.” So maybe tomorrow I’ll splurge and let her choose my whole outfit, and see how many compliments I get then.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Orca Girls

The movie of the week this week is Free Willy. The girls have loved Orcas (if you try to call them Killer Whales, they will correct you) ever since we went to Sea World in San Diego and they saw the Shamu show. I just noticed Free Willy on the Netflix instant play list, so I put it on to distract the girls the other day. The opening shots, of Orca pods swimming in the open ocean, sent the girls into crazed squeals.

We’ve watched it about five times now. By “watched it,” I mean they tune in for the scenes devoted solely to the wild Orca pods or poor captive Willy, watching him leap out of the water and come down with a big splash, then they tune out for all of those pesky talking scenes that only showcase the human actors. As a fan of Michael Madsen, I don’t really mind having it playing quietly in the background. As a fan of anything that gets my girls to play together nicely, I’ve been pleased with the play sessions this movie’s inspired.

The girls have been spending hours “swimming” around the living room together, doing leaps and pirouettes Orca-style, speaking in Orca, and even eating Orca style. You see, Willy swims up to the little boy in the movie, holding his big mouth open for a fish, then another, then another. Last night, as I did the laundry, the little one “swam” up to her older sister, and (apparently) asked for some “fish” (pizza) in Orca-ese. So big sister obliged. I think it was the best meal my 2-year-old’s eaten in weeks. Big sis just kept popping bites of pizza into her mouth, and little sis would “swim” away, perform another Orca trick, then “swim” back for another reward. So, I’ll be scrolling through the Netflix queue now, looking for other fun movies that feature a good eater.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Found Treasures

The other day my girls found a ping pong ball in the weeds on the side of the house. You’d have thought they’d won the lottery by their excitement level as they ran to me, holding it aloft and shouting, “Look what we found! Treasure!” Found treasures are one of their all-time favorite things. Once it was a plastic flower ring someone had left at the park. Another time they found a hand-made pipe-cleaner bracelet decorated with chunky plastic beads. Sometimes it’s a pretty rock, or dandelions they’ll collect by the fistful and demand that I bring home for them to put in their little plastic vase that came with their princess toy tea set.

I’m glad that my kids can appreciate these found treasures, and don’t feel like everything worth having is advertised on TV. I’ll admit, having a DVR helps with this, as my kids aren’t really aware of commercials as anything other than the part of the show you get to use the beloved remote for, pressing the cool “skip” button until you get back to the good stuff.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Summer Time

I’m all for those summer barbecues, kiddie parties at the park, and I can even get into weddings and graduations. In moderation. This weekend, we had four parties scheduled, which may be a tad too much of a good thing. We had two birthday parties (one for a 2-year-old, and one for 5-year-old and 1-year-old siblings), one college graduation party for the son of some good friends (a boy my girls adore to no end—he can juggle, need I say more?), and one barbecue with the play group families.

We kicked off the festivities with a birthday party, where my 4-year-old latched onto the 9-year-old cousin of the birthday boy and spent the entire party trying to keep up with her. From jumpy house marathons, to play-sword fights, to races around the pool and throughout the house, her long legs never stopped moving. So, I wasn’t surprised to get a good solid nap out of her. Her sister, equally exhausted, but in that over-stimulated 2-year-old way, wasn’t able to sleep. So by the end of the college graduate’s party that evening, we were verging on full-on meltdown mode.

The next morning, we had the second birthday party, where Tinkerbell made a guest appearance and did a magic show, face painting, blew bubbles, made balloon animals, and gave the kids temporary tattoos. You’ve never seen two happier girls. Both birthday parties had jumpy houses, which means that three parties into the party-a-thon weekend, both girls were covered in minor injuries: bruises, abrasions, a cut tongue (bit during all that jumping), and bodies so tired they kept falling down on the way to the car.

By the time the barbecue rolled around, even though both girls had taken short naps, I was thinking of skipping party number four. But since there wouldn’t be a jumpy house, and it meant not cooking dinner, and I really like all of our play group friends, and wanted my husband to get to know them, we decided to go after all. I’m glad we went, as a good time was had by all, but I’m glad we haven’t got any parties scheduled for next weekend.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Find your Joy

One thing about being a stay-at-home mom (or a mom at all, really) is that it’s hard to put yourself first. There are so many demanding household-, husband-, children-, and pet-related chores, that during the day, even when you have a few minutes, it’s hard to think of anything to do that’s just for yourself and no one else. My solution is to get out of the house. Between my bi-weekly mornings out when my dad and step-mother babysit the girls and the weekend hours away when hubby watches them, I’ve learned to check out of mommy/wife/housekeeper/cook/pet owner mode for several precious hours each week. For the first year of doing this, I felt like I was slowly coming back to myself, finding the ability to relax sooner on each outing.

My writing degrees have been gathering dust in a drawer since having kids. That’s four years when I should’ve been taking advantage of every moment of quiet to write, but wasn’t. The main problem: hardly any moments of quiet. Now, on these regular breaks, I’m able to settle in at the cafĂ© down the street with my laptop, and either tune out the bustle around me in order to concentrate on writing, or tune in when I’m looking for something interesting to write about. This blog has been a nice reintroduction to writing for me. Something for the family and friends to read, to keep up with the girls’ latest antics, and a means for re-disciplining myself about writing every single day (the words of my many writing profs ringing in my ears). I’ve also been working on several short stories, and have even found that I can write, in those short bursts of quiet during my chaotic day at home, when I’m excited about what I’m writing.

So, my advice, to all moms (and dads) out there is to first find some regular alone time to find your peace. Then work on figuring out something to do with that time that gives you real joy. Whether it’s writing or doing yoga or having coffee with friends or running or going to the movies or reading a book, find something that not only helps you keep your sanity, but that actually gives you joy.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Greeting Neighbors

My girls love to run around the front yard. There’s nothing out there but a patch of drying grass and a wide concrete driveway, but they think it’s as good as any park. While it’s lacking the swing set and riding toys of the back yard, it has the advantage of giving them a front row seat to the world. They can watch the neighbors come and go, see the cars (and occasional fire trucks, mail trucks, and garbage trucks) driving by, jump up and down with excitement every time someone walking a dog passes by, becoming more excited when the dog actually responds to their squeals.

The other day my two-year-old watched in awe as a woman jogged slowly down the street. The woman was clearly struggling, moving at a reasonably slow pace, but chugging along with determination. My sweet little girl pointed at her and shouted, “Look at that lady, Mommy. She’s running! She’s going so fast!” The woman smiled and waved, and sped up her pace a little.

Our house is on a corner, and the side street is fairly busy, so while the girls spend many hours in the front window watching the street outside, they don’t get as good of a view of the busy street from inside the house as they do from outside. I think this feeling of distance from the goings-on out there might explain why, when they are outside, they don’t realize the people they’re talking about can hear them. When they jump up and down yelling, “Look, that man has a red hat!” and the red-hatted man pauses to wave at them, they erupt into excited peals of laughter, run around the driveway a few times, and then finally get up the nerve to wave back, just as he walks out of view.

The best thing about their obsession with the front yard is that it gets me out there with them. The other day, sitting out front with them, post-naps but pre-dinner, I felt like we were all unwinding from a long busy day. Taking the time to wave at people walking down the street and greeting each neighbor as they returned home from work is a much better way to spend an hour than cleaning up piles of kid toys inside while trying to lip-read the newscaster’s report over the racket of two hyper girls.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

ID Bracelets

My girls have little ID bracelets that I put on them whenever we’re out and about. They’re just like the medic alert one my sister used to wear for her penicillin allergy, but they have cute dolphins and sea shells on the front, and inscribed on the back are the girls’ names, our address, and our cell phone numbers. I figure this way, if they ever get really separated from me, and a kind-hearted person is somehow able to get close enough to this hysterical child to see they’re wearing an ID bracelet, and then is somehow able to get said hysterical child to allow them to flip over the metal tag to read it, they can call me to come get this tantrum-thrower off their hands.

Luckily, we’ve never gotten separated, so this theory hasn’t been tested. But the first time I took a toddler into a bustling airport, I found myself wishing I could tattoo my phone number onto her forehead. This is a nicely modified version of that. I’m surprised I don’t see more of them on other kids. I’ve had various moms come up to me in parks and ask what my kid’s allergic to, then tell me what a great idea they think it is to have my kids labeled with my contact info. I mean, really, we take the time to tag the dog (not just with dog tags, but a microchip) to make sure if he strays we’ll get him back. Shouldn’t we take the same precautions with our kids? I’m still waiting to the microchipping to be approved in kids, but in the mean time, I’m happy to have them wearing ID tags.

Tuesday, June 09, 2009

See You Later, Alligator

Getting into the car today, my 4-year-old daughter looked at me, very seriously, and asked, “Mommy, can you turn into an animal?” I waited a few seconds, to be sure I had heard her right (she has a good imagination, but usually doesn’t confuse fantasy with reality) before I told her, no, I couldn’t, and finished buckling her in. I was about to close her car door, but then I got curious about what was going on in her little overactive brain, so I asked, “If you could turn into an animal, what would you want it to be?” Without missing a beat, she said, “An alligator.”

I knew she had once had a fascination with crocodiles (back when they were bingeing daily on Peter Pan), but had never heard of her wishing she could turn into one, or an alligator, for that matter. Okay, so the kid wants to be an alligator. She also wants a bicycle, a princess castle, a trip to see the Statue of Liberty, and for my sister to hurry up and have another daughter (the same sister who is currently on maternity leave with a two-month-old daughter).

I figured I’d see where this was going, so I asked, “And what do you think I would be, if I could turn into an animal?” Again, without having to give it a thought, she said “A crocodile, so we could fight.” I started laughing but agreed that those sounded like great ideas.

“Is that funny?” she asked. I told her: “A little. But mostly it’s just cute.” She thought this over, then nodded. “Okay.”

It’s not just the bizarre thought processes these kids have that is so refreshingly cute, it’s how seriously they take these thoughts. I know someday my daughter's filter will kick in, and she'll hold back the weird, off-beat things that pass through her mind. I'm glad that, for now, I get to be in on all of these fun ponderings of hers.

Monday, June 08, 2009

Matching Outfits

My sister and I, just 20 months apart in age, never wore matching outfits growing up. In fact, we went to great lengths to avoid wearing similar clothes. If we were ever given matching outfits as gifts from family members who didn’t know better, we’d make sure never to wear them on the same day. Which is why it seems so strange to me that my girls, also 20 months apart in age, love to wear identical outfits.

It’s gotten to the point where I pick out one kid’s outfit for the day, then show it to the other one, before asking what she wants to wear. If they can’t find their identical princess shirts, and the matching purple frog shirts are both dirty, and it’s too warm for the similar long-sleeved Tinkerbell shirts, they’ll settle for shirts that are different, but that they received in the same gift package from their Grandma. How they can both remember the gift well enough to distinguish the Easter gift shirts (one blue with butterflies, the other orange with flowers) from the Grandma’s visit shirts (one purple with a sparkly design, the other green with a turtle on it), I’ll never know, but they remember, and expect me to as well.

I think it might have something to do with my aversion to dressing them alike. I didn’t like it as a child, so I’ve avoided doing it to them for so long, that now it’s an attractive alternative from the norm. Maybe if I’d insisted on dressing them alike, they’d now refuse to do so.

Sunday, June 07, 2009

Daddy's Girls

So, as you know, my girls have a daddy who travels fairly often for work. He works in as much father-daughter bonding time as he can during his time at home, but it can be tough, with household chores, bills to pay, other friends and family to catch up with, to get as caught up with the munchkins as I’m sure he’d like to be before heading back out of town.

This weekend he is in town, and we took the girls over to the local airport, where a touring company of World War II bombers visits every year. The girls have always had a fascination with airplanes, and getting to walk through these aging green giants: a B-17, B-24, and P-51, fills them with a ridiculous amount of joy. The fact that it’s at the small airport down the road, where they can watch small planes and helicopters take off and land during our tour, is also a big plus.

It was a great father-daughter bonding experience, as he’s a tad more excited by the whole war plane thing than I am, and can answer their endless questions about what this is and what that does all over the planes.

We returned home, got two happy and tired girls ready for their afternoon nap, and the two-year-old got a hold of her dad’s sweatshirt, and insisted on taking it to bed with her. She usually has me lay her favorite blankie on my shoulder, then lays her head on the blankie, while we sing a few songs before I lay her down. Today, she wanted the sweatshirt instead of the blankie. After putting her down, I tried to take it back, but she hugged it to her chest and said she wanted to sleep with it. I was a little worried about the zipper scratching her in her sleep, and asked why she wanted it. “Because it smells like Daddy,” she said. And so she fell asleep, hugging not her favorite stuffed animal, but her dad’s favorite sweatshirt, while downstairs, her dad was busy uploading the photos from the day, proudly showing the great shots he’d taken of the kids. I’m grateful for moments like these, when the amount of time spent apart doesn’t seem nearly as relevant as the amount of love shared between this traveling dad and these busy little girls.

Friday, June 05, 2009

Feeding Frenzy

One thing I’ve noticed about my youngest is that she’s not fundamentally opposed to food, just that she has an aversion to feeding herself. I can sit next to her and spoon an entire container of yogurt into her, or a full serving of Annie’s mac and cheese, or little bites of pizza, but if left with the food on a plate before her, the food never makes it into her mouth. Her arms just hang loosely at her sides, like they aren’t even a part of the eating process.

The funny thing is, when she was a baby, she hated being fed. She was a good nurser, loved snagging drinks out of her sister’s sippy cup of milk, but as soon as I got her into her high chair and put a bowl of mush in front of her, there was no way it was going down. She’d hit the spoon away, turn her head away, or just clamp her mouth shut. Back in those days, she preferred to feed herself. If I cut up pieces of fruit, cheese and made a pile of frozen peas on her plate, she’d happily browse the buffet, popping food into her mouth to gum down.

Now, she likes to stop by the kitchen during lunch to have a few bites of whatever sandwich her dad has made for lunch, or pause next to my salad bowl at dinner and ask me to feed her a piece of avocado, and she’ll even let her sister feed her with a fork (one of the cutest things to watch). But food sitting listlessly on a plate holds no appeal to her. Occasionally I’ll forget the new deal, that feeding her, almost two years after I quit trying, is now back in favor, and she’ll turn to me and say, “Mommy, will you feed me?” And the truth is, since I never got a chance to spoon-feed her as a baby, I don’t even mind. For now…

Thursday, June 04, 2009

Yoga Kids

I’ve been trying to get back into doing yoga regularly, much to the joy of my kids. I love how excited they get at the sight of me putting the Rodney Yee DVD into the player. They scurry around, kicking toys out of the way, clearing a space for the three of us, chanting “Yoga! Yoga!” Do other kids do this?

They’re actually ridiculously good yogis. The way they carefully adjust each pose until it matches mine, then put me to shame by folding themselves effortlessly in half without things like bones or joints seeming to get in the way. They get bored with the simple poses, and start throwing their own complications into it, standing on one foot while balancing a toy in one hand while waving their other arm around in circles (a la Cat in the Hat, before he falls off the ball).

At some point it always devolves into contact yoga, with me fighting to maintain a warrior II pose, with a kid hanging from each arm, or doing downward dog while the girls see how many times they can crawl beneath me before I change poses.

Sometimes after we’re done I feel extremely exercised, without feeling particularly relaxed, which isn’t really the point of yoga, and I’ll decide that next time I’ll wait until the kids are napping to do yoga. But when, a few days later, the girls are flipping through their vast DVD collection, trying to decide between an early Disney classic or modern Pixar favorite, and stumble across the yoga DVD and turn to me and say, “Mommy, can we do yoga instead?” how can I possibly say no?


We had a little breakthrough on the reading front last night. My 4-year-old had given up the nightly bedtime story in favor of flash cards, this reading thing becoming like a hunger to her. After a few frustrating false starts with words far too complicated for an on-the-cusp reader, but that she refused to skip (butterfly, caterpillar, grasshopper), I sorted the cards when she wasn’t looking, pulling out all of the three-letter words (ant, cat, dog, owl, pig, cow, bee, some others I can’t remember now).

She knows all of her letters, and all of the sounds they make, so she was quick to say “a-n-t” then “ah nnn t,” but lazy about trying to run them together, wriggling around, begging to see the picture on the other side of the flash card to see what the word was. She fidgeted some more, then repeated the letters, then the sounds of each letter, and then suddenly sat bolt upright. “Ant!” she yelled. “It says ant!” she looked at me for confirmation and I flipped the card over to show her the ants pictured on the back. She squealed, flipped over backwards, kicked her legs in the air, then begged for more.

We made it through about a dozen cards, and she got every word, the switches in her brain flipping a little faster with each new attempt, the word coming to her a little easier, her excitement mounting after each success. After we’d completed the stack, when she wanted to move on to the four-letter words I’d set aside, I insisted it was time to sleep instead. I was thrilled to be there for the moment when everything finally lined up in her brain to read, really read, for the first time. I was high-fiving her after every word, hugging her and telling her how proud I was that she didn’t give up and kept trying until she got every one of them. Okay, I’ll admit, I was every bit as excited as she was. But it was getting late, so I did my best to calm us both down, and put her to bed.

Fifteen minutes later I heard a loud, gleeful cackle on the monitor, followed by a long giggling session. I went up to her room, to remind her that her sister was asleep next door, and found her squirming around in her bed, legs cycling above her. “I’m too excited to sleep!” she yelled. I hushed her, listened patiently as she brain-dumped the million thoughts keeping her awake, then told her that sleep helps your brain work even better, and this finally convinced her to settle down and try to sleep. A little while later I heard the telltale sound of sleep-breathing on the monitor.

I can’t wait for our next reading session together, tonight if she’s up for it, but not if she isn’t. I won’t push, risking turning this into anything less than good-natured fun. But next time I’ll try to start a little earlier, with some proper calming-down time scheduled afterwards.

Tuesday, June 02, 2009

Chatty Little Einstein

So, I don’t know if this is a girl thing, or a toddler thing, or just something with my kids, but my girls are talkers. They can ramble on incessantly about absolutely nothing for hours. They also ask endless questions, then repeat your answer, then repeat the question, then repeat the answer. They were both early talkers, one said “cat” at nine months, the other said “ball” at about the same age, and they’ve been jabbering away at me ever since. I am a quiet person. It’s almost always the first word people use to describe me (tied with its other rival: short). So the fact that I have not one, but two, ceaseless talkers (and off-the-charts tall ones at that), just confounds me. I have no training for dealing with people who never let a moment of silence build.

The hardest thing about getting out the door after tucking each of them into bed is getting them to stop talking long enough to say goodnight. My 4-year-old is notorious for stopping me, just as I’m closing her door, to say things like: “But Mommy, how come the clouds move fast, but the moon moves so slow?” or “How many bones are in our fingers?” Last night it was the bones discussion. Fingers, feet, arms, legs, ribs, skull: she wanted to discuss them all. She has no interest in general descriptions, either. She wants scientific names, exact numbers, and if I were capable of producing one of those science-class skeletons hanging on a rod, she’d be one ecstatic little girl. I’d just given her the low down on fingers, joints, muscles, tendons, and veins, and was rushing for the door, when she let out an excited squeal, then shouted “I need an X-ray right now!” When I asked her why, she wiggled around, too wound-up to lie still: “Because I need to see my bones!”

Now, I don’t know if, when you were her age, you were ever prone to lie awake at night, unable to sleep due to some desperate need to know something in ridiculous detail, right now, but I remember being four years old, and I have no memory of that sensation. Of course, I’m assuming this means she’s a genius in training. I like that she’s a genius in training, so I humor her quite a bit on the desperately-information-gathering front. The nonstop talking, however, I could probably live without.

Monday, June 01, 2009

Cabin Success

So, our annual Memorial Day trip up to our family’s cabin was a success, to the amazement of everyone present. For the first time ever, my two girls elected to sleep (not nap at all, but you can’t have everything). They seemed to have a better sense of where they were at night, so the strange mountain noises and pine tree shadows didn’t scare them so much. I armed each of them with one of those keychain flashlights, the small push-button kind (shaped like pigs, for their amusement), so any time they felt scared of a shadow or unsure of where they were, they could light up their surroundings and put their little minds at ease. So, aside from the mild distraction of mini flashlights blinking randomly throughout the night, it was fairly peaceful on our side of the loft. Well, on hubby’s and the girls’ side of the loft, as he graciously offered to let me sleep on the twin bed downstairs, away from the girls. That ancient, slab-hard bed gave me the best night’s sleep I’ve had up there in a long time.

Also amazing was how well my new niece, just eight weeks old, did. She really is a very good baby. In three and a half days together, I think I heard her cry, a real full-lung capacity wail, maybe four times, and she was quickly appeased each time. I remember eight weeks marking the pinnacle of fussiness with both of my girls, the point where they’d scream for a good three hours each night no matter what I did to soothe them. This kid has nothing on them.

We took several nice hikes in mild weather (some with the girls, some, blissfully, without), enjoyed bonfire-side chats each night (vacating the cabin for a couple of hours so the girls could fall asleep), we got to watch the girls fawn over their cousin with more adoration than you’d think such self-absorbed creatures could muster, and I even got a little quiet time here and there to read. It was the first time in a long time that I’ve come home from a vacation without needing a vacation to recover. I sure could’ve used the help of a laundress after our return, but that’s beyond wishful thinking.