Monday, November 30, 2009

Hurray for School

I was worried that the girls would have a rough re-entry into school after two weeks off, but instead, they were so excited to go back and see all of their friends, tell them all about Hawaii and Thanksgiving, that they couldn’t sit still this morning. Drop-off was easy, with barely a kiss goodbye as they rushed in to see their friends. When I picked them up, String Bean told me she wasn’t too good at listening to the teacher today, because she was so excited to catch up with her best girlfriend. I’m sure I was supposed to admonish her for not paying better attention to the teacher, but I was actually glad to hear she was busy being social. I consider that part of her education as well. Peanut’s teacher told me she was going for a Miss Congeniality award today, being her sunny and chattery self with every student in the class, laughing and playing with everyone. It was great to see them both so happy to have the routine back in place. And those two and a half hours to myself to drink coffee in silence at home this morning were just perfect. I had a list of chores to do and I didn’t do a single one. I just relaxed and enjoyed the quiet.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Family Time

Between our Hawaii trip and Thanksgiving week, the girls have been out of school for two weeks. While I have certainly enjoyed this quality family time with them, sharing them first with my dad and step-mom for Hawaii, then with my mom for Thanksgiving, I think I’m ready for the old routine to return. The kids have been off schedule with naps and bedtimes from our travels and from having family over, and it’s taking its toll on both of them. The fighting has reached a new, more serious level. After years of mild pushing and shoving, they are now biting, kicking, and ripping each other’s hair out (literally) by the fistful.

On Thanksgiving I dug out some old baby toys to pass on to their cousin, and the girls had fun showing her how each toy worked. Then they started wrestling over the toys, screaming, punching, and biting each other for the privilege of giving their little cousin a demo on how to put Noah’s animal pairs into the ark or how to slide the triangle-shaped block into the triangle-shaped hole.

Basically, I think we’re all a little fed up with each other’s company. It doesn’t help that I’ve been sick all week, so not really up to taking them out to parks or on energy-burning outings. That’s another reason I’m looking forward to school on Monday. Maybe I’ll actually get a few minutes to rest while they’re there, and I’ll finally get on the mend with this cold or whatever it is that is just dragging on and on.

But first, we have two more days of together-time to get through…

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Turkey Day

So, as a vegetarian, and not much of a food lover in general, Thanksgiving’s never been my favorite holiday. I’m fine with the whole family getting together, and I can get behind taking a day to be thankful for all that you have, but the notion of spending a whole day cooking a mountain of food that will live on as leftovers in my fridge for a couple of weeks just never made sense to me.

My girls are very curious about Thanksgiving. As fellow food non-enthusiasts, I’m not surprised that they don’t remember Thanksgivings past. String Bean can describe each Easter egg gathering mission, each Christmas stocking, and every Halloween outing since she was two, but when I asked if she was looking forward to eating pumpkin pie, she thought I was joking, that you could make pie out of those funny decorations from Halloween. I guess she doesn’t remember eating it last year, or the year before. Mostly, like me, they’re just looking forward to having the whole family over: laughing with their silly uncle, playing with their favorite cousin, and fighting for grandma’s attention.

I’m looking forward to hearing the laughter of my happy, healthy girls, the main thing in this life that I am thankful for, and being surrounded by my loving and supportive family, another great thing to appreciate, and I’ll even take the mountain of leftovers, and be grateful that I can skip making dinner for a few nights.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Nap Time

Before nap time and bed time, there is story time. In String Bean’s case, this can mean coloring, practicing reading or writing, or listening to me read her a story. In Peanut’s case, it means I read her a story, and then she “reads” it back to me. She has an uncanny ability to memorize entire books almost line by line, and can recite the story as she flips through the book, giving the impression that she really is reading. If you listen closely, you can hear her edits on the original story, as she throws a line about a bird into The Cat in the Hat or an extra conversation with Sam into Green Eggs and Ham.

Her room used to be our guest room, and the guest bed is still in there, shoved into a corner, unused except during story time. We sit together as I read, and then I lay down and listen to the lilting rise and fall of Peanut’s voice as she takes her turn reading. On more than one occasion, I’ve felt myself drifting toward sleep as she reads to me, so I understand the reason this has been a part of bedtime rituals for generations.

The other day, I was listening to her read Peter Rabbit, and the next thing I knew she was elbowing me roughly, giggling, asking why I’d elbowed her. I think I must’ve nodded off, and then elbowed her as I twitched in my sleep. I’m thinking maybe I should record her soft, soothing reading voice and play it to help me sleep on nights when insomnia has the upper hand.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Home Again, Home Again

The week in Hawaii was great. We had torrential downpours for the first two days, which was less than ideal, but we made the best of it (hot tubbing in the rain is a nice way to pass the time—even the kids loved it), and we were repaid for our positive outlooks with nice weather for the rest of the trip.

The kids, of course, loved the pools and hot tubs at the condo complex where we were staying, and the beach, as always, was a big hit. My father is a long-time train aficionado, and he found a 40-minute train ride through an old plantation. Half-way through the ride, the train stops next to an enclosure of Hawaiian boars. Initially they captured four of the wild pigs, but now there are 50, just a few short years later. Who knew pigs bred like rabbits? They handed out cups of dog food for us to feed the pigs, and Peanut thought that was the most fun she’d ever had. String Bean wasn’t so sure. The pigs were noisy, squealing and butting each other aside to get to the food we threw in handfuls over the fence, and the ground was a muddy mess from the heavy rains, so the scrambling pigs splashed all of us with mud. Peanut found all of this to be hysterically funny and exciting, even as we wiped her down in the bathroom afterward, laughing and saying “Look, pig mud!” at the splatter we wiped from her legs.

It was great to spend a full week with my father, extending beyond the initial catch-up phase and into a comfortable zone of just hanging out and relaxing together. And it was terrific to spend a week with my sister and her 7-month-old daughter, two people I never quite get to see enough of anymore. The girls loved having their cousin around so much, and I can see String Bean’s future as a great babysitter, from her attentive care of her little cousin.

It was hard to leave, which is the way you want to end any vacation. I realized that in her 4 years, String Bean has been to Oahu, The Big Island, and now Kauai. So, Maui must be next.

Thursday, November 12, 2009


Tomorrow, we’re off to Hawaii, for a much-needed family vacation. I’ll be leaving my computer at home, and so the blog will be taking a week-long vacation right along with me. The girls are excited about hitting the beach, swimming in the pool, and hanging out with their seven-month-old cousin for a full week. My dad, step-mom, sister, and niece will be joining us and I’m not only looking forward to sun, sand, and just getting away from it all, but I’m excited to be making new memories with my dad. We haven’t done enough family vacations with him over the years.

Back in my pre-kids life, I had a good run of going to Hawaii each year for six or seven years. Since having kids we’ve been there twice, and the last time we went Peanut was three months old, so it’s been a while. I’m looking forward to introducing her to Hawaii, the home of one line of her ancestors, now that she can run around and appreciate it. String Bean had just turned two on that last trip, so there’s no way she should remember it, but somehow she remembers certain details, like the bulldozer on the beach that she was scared of. Maybe it’s just all of the pictures she’s seen from that trip and stories that she’s heard, rather than actual memories. Either way, I know that she’s old enough to remember this trip, so it’ll be great to build some fun new memories with her, too.

I’m looking forward to a full week with my perfect little niece, with her smiley disposition, who has just learned to clap and give sloppy baby kisses. And having grandparents along to babysit on occasion for some kid-free time in paradise? Well, I don’t even have to tell you awesome that sounds.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Disasters, Part 2

This happened on Dad’s watch, so at least I don’t have to beat myself up that they got me again just four short days later, but the other day, while I was in the shower, and hubby was downstairs with the girls, they apparently felt the need to paint. With white-out. On chairs, the floor, and light switches, as well as their own hands. The thing about white-out, it doesn’t come off. Not with acetone, Mr. Clean magic sponges, 409, or Orange Clean. I know, because we tried. We tried everything. I was able to scrape most of it off the light switches, and eventually it started coming off of their hands, but the kitchen chairs are not being so cooperative, and neither is the floor. Luckily the kitchen floor is white linoleum, so, from a long enough distance, you can hardly tell.

String Bean painted her name on the back of one of her sister’s chair, and even though I’m annoyed that it’s there, I’m glad to see she spelled it right, and that all of the letters are facing the right direction (lately she’s been regressing on writing her name, something she could write at 2 years old perfectly, reversing the letters or writing it from right to left).

I won’t bother saying that I hope they learned a lesson here, because even as they were being scolded, they were all too proud to parade me around and show me everything they’d painted, from the kitchen to the family room. I also won’t bother saying that hubby and I learned a lesson here, because our lessons so far are to keep them away from kitty litter and white-out, and we know all too well that the next potential disaster to catch their attention won’t be on that list.

Sunday, November 08, 2009


So, I know better, and yet these kids still manage to catch me off guard. It’s like it’s their mission in life, to find your moments of weakness and then take advantage in a way you’d never expect. The other day I was chatting with my father, standing by the front door. I’d just come back from my weekly break, and he was headed home, but first we had some catching up to do. The girls were a little crazy, running around and flinging diapers at each other (clean diapers, fresh from the package), making a mess and shrieking up a storm. I asked them to pick up the diapers, and they started to, carrying armloads of them down to the family room to put them away. Maybe ten minutes went by as my dad and I chatted, possibly fifteen, before he left and I headed into the kitchen to make them lunch.

Peanut came up to me, hands held out to me and said, “Look Mommy. It’s dirty.” She’s never been one to like dirty hands, and will cause a fuss if she finds a speck of lint on her palm, so I escorted her toward the kitchen to wash her hands, but then I noticed what was on her hands. Sand, which made no sense, as we keep no sand in the house. I asked her what it was and she said, “We’re making footprints,” which also made no sense, so I followed the sound of String Bean’s cheerful chatter and found a complete disaster. Kitty litter, fresh from the litter box (as in, not the clean kind), was everywhere. It covered the bathroom floor, the laundry room floor, it filled the potty chair, it was in the sink, it was tracked onto the carpet in the family room, it was on the coffee table. There were sand buckets filled with it and toys strewed around on top of it. I was too horrified to react, but after I yanked the kids out of the mess and got to work sterilizing them from top to bottom, shaking my head and muttering to myself to avoid yelling at them, they got the idea that they were in trouble. Which is strange, since they’ve been told countless times never to touch the cat box, and until now, have had a perfect record. How could they suddenly forget that it was forbidden? Except, of course, if they knew it was, and that was the whole allure.

Regardless, I did eventually get around to yelling at them, when String Bean put on an attitude, smirking at me, making jokes with Peanut, and refusing to act contrite in any way. I put them both in time out with lunch while I vacuumed up the bulk of the mess, then swept, then mopped, and I still don’t feel like it’s clean enough. We’ve had countless conversations since then about germs and dust and general filth, to not just make it clear that the litter box is off limits, but to explain why. But I feel pretty sure the explanation isn’t necessary, because they’d never do anything as predictable as making the same type of disaster twice.

Saturday, November 07, 2009

Christmas Crunch

I stopped by the Halloween store in the early afternoon on Halloween to get a last-minute costume for hubby, only to find the whole store gutted already, with the few remaining costumes in a messy heap in the center of the warehouse-sized room. So I ran next door to Target, which had a huge section dedicated to Halloween merchandise, only to find the Halloween items had been moved to a messy pile on one shelf, and the rest of the section had been stocked with Christmas items. Strangest of all, there were several people in the new Christmas section, loading their carts as if they were quickly running out of time to get their decorations purchased. Halloween wasn’t even over, and the Christmas frenzy was already starting? As much as I enjoy Christmas, I’d prefer to just celebrate one holiday at a time. And even though Thanksgiving is one of my least favorite holidays, not just because I’m a vegetarian and it centers around consuming a dead bird, but the whole glut of food aspect of the day just never made sense to me, I’d still like to have Thanksgiving behind me before getting into the Christmas spirit.

Wednesday, November 04, 2009


So, the princesses were sick, but they were still beautiful. One Snow White with a deep cough and one Cinderella with a low-grade fever made the rounds around our neighborhood, collecting candy and admiring decorations, getting cooed over by the neighbors we know best, and getting special treats designated just for them. We headed down the street, and by the fifth house they had a system down. String Bean would ring the doorbell, and when it opened, Peanut would lead the chorus of saying “trick or treat!” It’s the first year that they jumped right in without much shyness, especially Peanut. As soon as the candy dropped into her bucket, she’d spin on a sparkly heel and say, “Let’s go to the next house!”

We were planning on a brief outing this year, not only because the kids were sick, but also because they were looking forward to being back home in time to give out candy to other kids. After maybe a dozen houses, the little princess buckets they were collecting candy in were totally full (who knew people were so generous with three- and four-year-olds, some giving four or five pieces of candy each), so we headed home. String Bean was done by then, feeling tired and ready to settle down to eat some candy and wait in the front window, watching for kids coming to our house, so she could race excitedly to open the door and dump huge handfuls of candy into their bags. But Peanut, who really got Halloween for the first time this year, and was no longer frightened by the scarier decorations, wasn’t done. So String Bean stayed home with me while Peanut went out on another round with her grandma. I’m happy to have another Halloween enthusiast in the family.

Sunday, November 01, 2009

Happy Birthday to Me

Last Friday was my birthday, and despite having two sick kids at home who were stir crazy with missing school and out to cause each other bodily harm out of sheer crankiness, I had a great day. I woke up to my two precious little bundles of nonstop chatter bursting into my room, talking over each other in their excitement to wish me a happy birthday, and then describe every present and card waiting for me downstairs. Sure, they’d only seen the cardboard boxes that had come in the mail, and the colored envelopes waiting on the dining room table, but they were so excited that even these paper products were worthy of lengthy descriptions. We headed downstairs and they helped me open everything, running off with the prettiest cards before I’d had a chance to read them and storming my boxes of gifts like demolition experts (luckily I received nothing fragile). They sang “Happy Birthday” to me as I made my morning mocha, sang it again as I checked my email, and sang it again as I fed the dog.

My mom came down to brave the sickies and babysit so hubby and I could head out to celebrate. She came early, just as I was putting the girls down for much-needed naps, and while hubby was still at work. I took advantage of the time to run down the street to Starbucks with my laptop and get a little writing done. During my hour and a half break, I put the finishing touches on the final two chapters of a novel I’ve been writing for the last five months. It’s just the first draft, and I already have ideas for what needs tightening up or loosening up during revision, but it’s the first novel I’ve ever written, so I’m pretty proud of myself. I’ve spent years writing nonfiction, sharing family secrets and telling stories about crazy events in my life, but this novel is complete fiction. Finally, a book I can publish without having to apologize to anyone or warn anyone! I realize that trying to get it published will be a tremendous challenge, but looking back at the discipline it took to crank this 85,000 word novel in just five months, squeezed in around caring for my girls, I feel like I’ve already achieved success. In all my 38 years, it’s the best birthday gift I’ve every given myself.