Friday, September 22, 2006

Two Little Pumpkins

This past weekend was the annual Morton, Illinois, Pumpkin Festival and Parade. We go every year. Last year was the first time Lucy was actually aware that a parade could have meaning in her life: total strangers walk down the street and throw candy to her! She's been talking about it all year. Last year I was about six months pregnant and wondering who my little 8-month old baby would be the next time we went.

Fortunately, this year Darren's aunt Bonnie, aunt Madge, cousins Rachel and Jeana, and Jeana's absolutely wonderful three kids came as well. Lucy took about thirty seconds to warm up to Hallie, Jessie, and Noah. They played all afternoon, and for some reason, Hallie, the 8-year-old, and Lucy became devoted friends. At one point I heard Lucy yelling, "C'mon ol' Hal! Come play!" We took the kids to Ackerman's Farm where there are a lot of kittens and cats roaming around. We played with and petted those, as well as seeing peacocks, turkeys, goats that were only four days old, and a pony named Bucky.

The next day was the parade. Lucy had new jeans and an orange t-shirt, and I dressed Elaine in her pumpkin onesie and Halloween pants (they say "Once upon a boo, there was a cat, a bat, and a witch's hat). She rode around in the front carrier all day, and with her outfit, her round little moon face, and her gappy front teeth, she looked like a little jack o' lantern herself.

The parade is pretty lame, I must be honest.'s still really fun. It's just a bunch of high school bands and local politicians and community groups, riding through, throwing sweet-tarts and tootsie rolls. The kids filled bags with candy, and we all got sunburned (despite our late application of sunblock). We ate hotdogs and nachos and pumpkin ice cream, and to top the day off, went to an apple orchard. This had a playground, a train (Lucy was in heaven), and more goats.

This time I took little Smoochie to see the goats alone while the other kids played. They ran right up to her and put their cold noses on her. She laughed her squeaky mouse laugh over and over. I love that laugh. I love that there are things now that tickle her funnybone, such as baby goats. She's becoming her own little person. A little person who I like a lot.

We rode home and talked about it all and ate some more tootsie rolls on the way. All in all, a good weekend.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Imagine that...

One of the best parts about being a mom, for me, is getting to share all the books I loved when I was little with my girls. For a long time now, it's been picture books, but with Lucy we've been reading chapter books lately. I'm trying to find ones that are both easy enough yet challenging and interesting for her. I pulled down my "Little House" series not so long ago. I think she's too young for these yet, but I made a marvelous discovery on amazon. There is a series called "My First Little House" books--and they're lovely picture books with little vignettes lifted from the novels. She has taken to these like a duck to water. Each one starts out the same way, "Once upon a time, there was a little girl named Laura who lived in the Big Woods of Wisconsin. She lived with her Pa, her Ma, her big sister Mary, her baby sister Carrie, and their good old bulldog, Jack." Lucy always adds now, "And their cat, Black Susan!" They're simple, sweet stories about their winter or summer days, Laura's 5th birthday, a dance at Grandpa's house, and--the latest one we checked out at the library--Christmas.

I yearn, YEARN for a Christmas like that! Here's what the children got in their stockings--a stick of peppermint candy and a pair of mittens. And they were speechless with delight! It's September, and if I think about Christmas I already start to hyperventilate because of the sheer volume of stuff that will make its way into our house and I'll have to figure out what to do with it. How much better just to have one or two things, a big meal, and time spent with family. But I digress.

The other day we were playing over at my parents' house, and my mom had a hair appointment. Lucy sat at the desk and carefully wrote two "notes." "What do your notes say?" I asked. "This one says 'I love you.' And this one says 'I hope you have a good haircut, Manga.'" Then she got wrapping paper out of "her" desk drawer and wrapped each note carefully and drew a bow on each. Then she hid them under the desk. Then she took off her sock and hung it on the doorknob to the patio. She said, "Mom, I'm making Christmas for Manga! There are her presents that I hid and I hung up her stocking!" I said, "Let's put some candy in her stocking; I know where there is some!" So, we put a couple of Sparkle peppermints in the sock and hung it back up. She was so excited when my mom came in--to show her the "Christmas" she had made for her.

That night, after I had bathed both girls and put them in their pajamas, I took them on a walk in the bike buggy/jogger stroller, which is now christened the wagon. I tucked blankets around them, just like Pa did for his girls, and we strolled around the neighborhood. Lucy told our neighbor that she was Laura, Elaine was baby Carrie, her daddy was Pa, I was Ma, Rabbie is the good old bulldog Jack, and Elaine's indeterminate stuffed toy (dog? rabbit?) is their cat, Black Susan.

So, the books are a hit. I'm excited to read the real novels with her in a year or so too, and also to maybe try out some of the activities and recipes, like molasses syrup candy that you pour into pans of snow. Laura Ingalls wrote the books with her daughter, Rose. I think her daughter had more to do with the shaping them and making them the works of art they are today. I read once that Laura relayed an incident to Rose about her cousin trying to molest her and her fending him off with Pa's shotgun. Rose wisely said, "If you put that in, it's no longer a children's book." She didn't shy away from hard times or reality though. They're probably the best look at pioneer life that we have. [One comment in "The First Four Years" that I absolutely love--she wonders why she's been feeling so awful and eventually discovers she is pregnant with Rose. Her internal dialog is, "If you dance, you have to pay the fiddler."]

When Darren was little, he and his brother and sister watched the dreadful travesty that is the TV show. He gets incensed when I say that. He says, "'s so wholesome. It's family!" I say, "It's a ridiculous, saccharine bastardization of a timeless and award-winning set of memoirs. It's rubbish! All they did was borrow the names of real people and write schmaltzy '70s storylines for them!" Every once in awhile, we'll come across it on TV, and he'll leave it on just to bug me. He'll say, "Look at that. Isn't it so nice? Look at Pa and Half-Pint." I've gotten to the point where I don't even look up from what I'm reading. I just say, "Didn't happen. Nope. Diiiiiidn't happen." It annoys him, which is really fun.

So far I've protected Lucy from the TV series. Stay tuned.