Monday, September 29, 2008

A Long Fall Weekend

As I mentioned before, I took last Friday off to see Lucy's play. First though, Darren and I took Elaine to a make-up swim session. Instead of her usual teacher, she had a guy who looked more like a linebacker than a swim teacher. Elaine spent the first ten minutes of the lesson with her head under her wing, letting him know how much better she likes Ms. Nicole. He then convinced her that he is good friends with Ms. Nicole, so she unbent a little and had fun the rest of the lesson. On the way out she told us, "Mr. Ryan's my friend."

We made it over to the school in time to get last row seats (ka-razy, since we were 10 minutes early) to the play. Two of the kindergartners can already read quite well, so they were the narrators. The rest of the kids didn't have any lines; they basically just made their way across the stage and either barked, meowed, or, as in Lucy's case, fluttered. The little girl who was playing the lead role of the very lonely firefly cried through the whole thing. I don't think kindergarten is really up her alley. She cried and hung onto her dad's leg the first day. Since then, Mrs. Blevins has told me what a good friend Lucy has been to her, bringing her tissues and putting her arm around her, saying, "Don't worry, Lexi, I'll be your friend" when she cries. Which of course makes me really happy and proud of her.

Here they both are, with Lucy's friend Gabby on the left, who was one of the narrator/readers:

This shot just cracks me up. Yeah, not a lot of stage fright or anything for Lucy...

Posing after the play with her little sister...

After the play, Darren took us all out for a celebratory lunch to one of my favorite places. It's actually a cafe within a furniture store--they have fantastic food. The girls wanted to ride the glass elevator up to the other floors, so we did that and Darren tried out various leather recliners. Then we went home and I realized that I had forgotten to take Lucy to her mandatory eye appointment, which if she doesn't have done by October 15, she'll be asked to leave kindergarten. Nice one, Mom.

The next day, we headed to a nearby apple orchard with some friends from church. It was the perfect day for it, though almost just a little too warm. We ate hot dogs, drank apple cider, and had cider donuts. We rode on a wagon through the orchard, and when we got off Elaine said that she wanted to ride the ponies. It's surprising that she'll ever voice anything when she's in a crowd, so we definitely wanted to make that happen for her.

Here are my two favorite girls in the whole world. Just looking at this picture makes me happy. Which is a good thing because most of the rest of the weekend, they totally got on my nerves. Isn't that the way it always is?

Thursday, September 25, 2008

It's All Universal

I have rearranged my work schedule this week so I can have Friday off. Lucy is in her first class play, "The Very Lonely Firefly." I don't think she has any lines to say, but she is one in a group of fireflies. Of course I remembered at 8:00 p.m. on Tuesday (after the absolutely awesome season premiere of NCIS; can't WAIT to see how this storyline plays out) that I needed to have her costume at school on Wednesday for a dress rehearsal.* I had a black leotard and tights for her and that was about it. So I headed to Target where they wanted $9.99 for wings. $9.99. How often do you wear wings anyway? I can't imagine you could get $10 worth of wear out of them (can you tell my parents were born during the Depression?) And they had only pink. Then I went to the Dollar Tree where I struck gold. They had sort of day-glo green/yellow wings, a matching tutu, and matching slippers. We were in business. Lucy was so excited the next morning as I packed her costume all together.

When I picked her up from school, she slumped down in the backseat. "How was the dress rehearsal?" I asked. "How was your costume?"

"People laughed at it," she answered. "What kind of people?" I asked. "BOYS," she said scathingly. "I changed into my costume in the bathroom, then I came out with the other fireflies. And Chase said, 'Look at Lucy, ha ha ha,' and then he and a bunch of other boys laughed at me."

Of course I felt terrible for her, but I explained that that is just boys. That's their nature. "Well, I hate boys," she exclaimed, "except Daddy." OK, hopefully it will stay that way for awhile, right? But I reminded her that there were plenty of nice boys in the world, like Stephen and Andrew and her boy friends from her pre-school class (who, by the way? One of her favorites, Michael, I observed the other day. He is in a different class than Lucy, but they line up next to each other before school every day. As I was sitting in the carpool lane, I saw Michael step out of his line, go over and give Lucy a big hug. It was the cutest thing.)

She wasn't particularly appeased, so I told her that I was very sorry boys had laughed at her costume, and if she was uncomfortable with anything about it, we could change it. No, she liked her costume. She just hates boys. I went on to tell her that at some time or another, everyone has someone else say mean things to me. It's just life. Like on my very first day of first grade, I walked in the door of the classroom and a girl yelled out, "There's Alice Nichols in the same baby dress she always wore to kindergarten!" Or like my friend Anna who had a boy tell her in second grade, "You know, you'd be OK if you weren't black." Lucy was horrified by both those examples, and then I said, "Besides, who tells us who we really are, anyway?" "Jesus," she answered. "That's right," I answered, "so you can lift up your head because He tells you who you are, and that's what really matters."

Interesting segue, because speaking of Anna, who I hadn't seen for ages, I planned to meet up with her that evening. I got an invitation to the medspa opening at the women's clinic where my doctor is. Anna's an aesthetician (try saying and/or typing that fast) who works at a salon but wants to get into the medspa field, so I immediately thought of inviting her. Plus, the invitation said, "Elegant appetizers and desserts" so you know I was all over that one.

Before I could leave in the evening though, I had to say my goodbyes to the girls. I had prepped them for this, but that part is never easy. Elaine usually isn't too bad, but I'm lucky to get out of the house without Lucy crying. She didn't last night, but she did hang onto my arm and my neck and begged me not to go and/or take me with her, and basically they both made me feel like some neglectful mother on the way out to my nightly gig at Caesar's Palace while I leave them to fend for themselves on Top Ramen. As an author I love, Anne George, says, "Guilt: it's a universal chick thing."

But I got out finally, and it was a great time. Anna and I visited the various displays for laser treatments, facials, microderm abrasion, chemical peels, etc. We got to one that was promoting products made from coffee flowers or something anti-oxidant like that. The woman gave us all a sample and then went into her sales pitch. She got to the part where a few-ounce bottle cost $110.00, when Anna coughed discreetly and we ran back down to the food area, giggling. "I would love to see Darren's face if I came home having spent $110 on face lotion," I said. "I'm annoyed that they raised the price of my Neutrogena anti-wrinkle cream to $12 at Super Wal-Mart." Anna said, "I might, might spend $110 on a pair of shoes. Maybe. And then I would run every day to the mailbox, obsessively, so I would get the bill before Gil could ever see it."

We spent the rest of the night catching up and sampling the elegant hors d'oevres and desserts and listening to a guy render Eric Clapton and Pink Floyd classically on guitar. Because this blog is all about the food, here's a sampling. There were lots of things on skewers: teriakyi chicken, fresh mozzarella and cherry tomatoes, tortillini in pesto, fruit with homemade caramel sauce. Then there was a tray of various bruschetta-type things--roasted pepper, olives, artichokes, salmon. Then there were a lot of tiny desserts--chocolate chip cheesecake, white chocolate raspberry cheesecake, seven-layer, white fudge, and more. The free food and hanging out with Anna was worth the whole trip.

Then on the way home, at 9:10, I remembered that today is Johnny Appleseed Day at school, and I was supposed to send apples and apple cider with Lucy to class so I stopped at the grocery store to get that.*

Tomorrow afternoon I'll have pictures up of Lucy in The Very Lonely Firefly play. And if some kindergarten boys accidentally trip and fall or some other minor harm comes to them, I had absolutely nothing to do with it.

*Some call it procrastination. I call it "pacing myself."

Monday, September 22, 2008

A possible reason I'm so tired this morning...

...I spent the last three days reading this:

and this:

Combined that's about one thousand pages. And yeah, since I have little kids around me during the day, that means I was pulling some late-nighters.

Now I wish someone else would read one or both of them too so we can discuss. Oh, why oh why do I not belong to a book club? Probably because I have no time. Right.

Anyway, somebody else please read them so we can talk books. I'll even give you more than three days to finish. But not much more.

Friday, September 19, 2008

It's a First...

...someone tagged me! Jill (another God-bless-the-school-that-DL-Moody-founded grad!) tagged me on her blog, so here goes:

1) 4 Places I go over and over: work, church, the library, Target (that is well-documented)

2) 4 People who email me regularly: Melanie, Kirsten, Ann-Marie, Missy

3) 4 of my favorite places to eat: Reza's on Ontario, Mission Grille in Door County, Noodles & Co., Bakers Square (stay for the pie!)

4) 4 places I would rather be: Heaven (for reals), London, the Lake District, Cornwall (seeing a pattern there?)

5) 4 people I tag: Ann-Marie, Juliet, Melanie, Heather

6) 4 TV shows I watch: NCIS, As Time Goes By, Masterpiece, NCIS on DVD :-)

OK, your turn!

A Recent Quote Collection

The setup: I'm in the bathroom, getting ready. The girls are in their room, supposedly making their beds. Instead, I can hear them bouncing on their beds, singing a song Lucy composed that goes, "We're dancing in the shower; who do you think will win? We're dancing in the shower; who do you think will win?" and laughing maniacally.

Me: Lucy Nan, have you made your bed yet?

Lucy: Wellllllll.....I haven't done the part where you pull up the sheets and blankets yet.

The setup: [This one is from my mother-in-law.] When Lucy was there last week for the pumpkin festival, my mother-in-law took her to the mall. On the way there, she got a call from my father-in-law to let her know he was taking our niece for physical therapy on her knee. Of course, Lucy had many, many questions about that.

I think she eventually wore MiMi down because she finally told her, "Oh hon, it's a long story." Lucy was quiet for a moment and then asked, "Can you just tell me half of it?

The setup: Elaine and I were driving to work. She saw a dog in the car next to us. She loves to see dogs.

Me: Maybe someday when you're a little bigger I'll get you a dog. Would you like that?

Elaine: I want a dog.

Me: Well, if I buy you a dog though, it's going to be for both you and Lucy. To share. Together.

Elaine: I don't wanna share a dog with Lucy. I want one myself. Lucy needs her own precious dog.

Me: Oh no, it'll be a dog to share. It can sleep in between your beds.

Elaine: Mom, will you just go to the store and buy us some dogs now?

The setup: There is a large spiderweb outside one of our windows downstairs (you know, in our continuing effort to incorporate as much wildlife as possible into our family life). We've enjoyed examining the web, through the window of course, but the spider is always motionless. Every time Elaine looks at it, she announces, "It's dead." However, the other night, Lucy was watching carefully, and the spider began to move.

Lucy: Mom! Look! It's walking around the web! It's so awesome!

Me: Yeah, that is really cool. I wonder if that web says, "Some Pig."

She stood staring at the web for quite awhile. Then she said thoughtfully, "I think that spider is a cardiologist."

The setup: Yesterday. Oh, what a day. Neither Darren nor I have been feeling well this whole week. By Thursday afternoon the girls are usually worn out and irritable. This day was no exception, plus they were whining that they were bored. I gave them the usual lecture about all the toys, dolls, and books they have so get up to their room and figure something out. Eventually they put all the dolls on the floor and covered them with blankets and played hospital or something. didn't last. Soon they both ran down to the kitchen.

Lucy: Mom, I do not want to play with Elaine any more. She's rude and she's ruined our playtime. Do you know what she said to me? She said: "I'm sick of you"!

Me (to Elaine): Did you say, "I'm sick of you" to your sister?

Elaine (thinking for a few moments): Noooo. I say, "It stinks outside!"

Sunday, September 14, 2008

A Concert and A Sale

This was a busy weekend, a good busy weekend. Darren and the girls headed out on Friday to the annual pumpkin festival. I was a little worried because we've been getting a lot of rain from Ike, but fortunately the parade and fair were not rained out. They came home Saturday with a bag full of candy they had gotten. Lucy said, "Here, Mom, I brought you this from the parade" and handed me a Snickers bar. That's my girl.

As for me, I headed out after work on Friday to pick my brother up at the train. It took me an hour and a half in rain/rush hour to make a 20-minute trip. My brother had spent the day downtown at a trade show. He got in the car and said by way of greeting, "The lack-wit cab driver I had took Michigan Avenue so I missed my earlier train. What's that horrible noise in your car? I think you need a new muffler." I love older brothers.

Then we went to a Phil Keaggy concert. I've been to countless concerts--classical, jazz, rock, country, folk--Phil Keaggy is the greatest musician I've ever seen, bar none. If you're not familiar with him and ask, "What style of music does he play?" the answer is "Yes." I've seen him in concert probably 15-20 times at many different venues, but mostly at this one. It was sort of surreal to be surrounded by college students; the first time I saw Phil I was in high school, before this audience was even born yet. But the coolest thing about it is that no matter what age, people are still into his music. These college students were major fans. Phil Keaggy is definitely the most humble performer I've seen, and his fans shout out what they'd like him to play. If you ever get a chance to see him, grab it. His talent is mind-blowing; you won't regret it.

The next day I headed to the bi-annual Mothers & More used children's clothing sale. These are two Saturdays a year that my bargain-loving soul lives for. For $145, I got 12-14 outfits each for Lucy and Elaine. That's outfits, not single pieces. Here are just a few samples of what I got [note: for anyone who's interested, almost all of these are Gap, Gymboree, or Children's Place. Normally, I don't care about that stuff. Unless I'm getting it all for the low, low price of $145.]

For Elaine:

Here are some I got for Lucy:

Aren't they cute? Now, here was a first for me--in addition to buying, this year I was also selling. My attic is absolutely exploding with girls' clothing, and it was time for it to go. As I went through all the little pieces, I have to say it was not as easy as I thought it would be. There were so many things I could look back in my mind and visualize the girls as babies and toddlers in. I could smell their baby skin and feel their downy hair. I could feel their baby weight in my arms. There were certain things that were so hard to part with (and don't worry--there's still a box in my attic labeled "Keepsake Clothes"--I didn't get rid of everything). Here are a couple things that were hard to part with:

First Christmas dress...

First little winter outfit I bought for Lucy; both girls eventually wore it (oh, hello Alice's feet! Nice photography...)

I also sold some equipment we haven't used in ages. This was particularly hard to part with--dubbed at our house "The Sister Stroller." Obviously, they're both too big for it:

By the end I had one huge box and a medium bag of clothes, a garbage bag of basically new stuffed animals, and a number of pieces of equipment. Here's what sweetened the deal for me though. Every single penny that I earn from any of this stuff is either going here or here. It's incredible how much more willing I was to pack, price, and tag this stuff now that I had those two motivators. And for any of my friends who have shared some of their beautiful clothes with my girls (and told me they didn't want them back! Shout out to Alysa!), I know it will thrill you as much as it does me to know that the money is going somewhere it will be needed and welcomed. A big thank you to you too!

So, that was our weekend!

Thursday, September 11, 2008

More Tales for the EFFC*

*The Elaine Frances Fan Club. (Not to be confused with the EFCA.)

If you know me at all, you know I'm all about the children's books. Some of my very-very-very-very-most-favorite-ever-since-I-was-a-little-girl (well, there are actually a lot of those, but these are truly my MOST) are the Frances books by Russell Hoban (illustrated by his ex, Lilian Hoban. I'm not sure if she was his ex- while she was illustrating the books or after. Interesting. I'll have to research that. But I digress.) The books are about two badgers who are sisters. Frances is the big sister. She's smart and precocious and sensitive and likes to make up little songs. Then there's Gloria, the little sister. First off, she doesn't factor in much because she's just a baby. However, later we find out that Gloria is brave and funny and kind of in-your-face. And cries a lot. Are you seeing any parallels here?

Anyway, here are this week's tales of Gloria, er, Elaine. She likes to eat. And she likes to color. She spends her days trying to wear me down into giving her things to eat. Here's a usual breakfast for her. A container of yogurt, possibly two or three. A piece of cinnamon toast. Probably two. A handful of dried cranberries. Then two or three more handfuls. Tea with milk and sugar. About 45 minutes passes after breakfast. "I wanna treat," she announces. "No way," I counter. She bursts into tears. "Just one treat!!!!!" she wails. "Absolutely not; you just ate breakfast. You'll get a great big Santa tummy," I answer. She cries some more.

8 minutes later. "I want some gum."

10 minutes later. "I want to color." "Are you going to color on your hands, your face, or the table?" I ask. "No." "Say it back to me. Say: 'I will not color on my hands. I will not color on my face. I will not color on the table.'"

12 minutes later.

(This is her in the naughty chair.)

Look closer.

"Why would you do that?" I ask. "I need lipsticks," she replies. And in case you were wondering, I guess lions need lipsticks too.

[Also for anyone saying, "Uh, Alice? Isn't insanity defined as doing the same thing yet expecting different results? Who is the maroon who keeps giving this kid markers?"]

So, we head out of doors to the Japanese gardens. I believe that's called the "parental redirection."

Happy Gloria.

Looking for fish. "Yeah, I hope as soon as you got that shot, you yanked her back. She looks like she's about to go in headfirst," said Darren.

Enjoying a beautiful fall day running over a bridge, repeatedly.

Then we went to swim class. Instead of having her teacher all to herself, two other little girls were in the class too. They were all supposed to sit on the side of the pool and take turns. Yeah, Elaine. Not real big on taking turns yet. While the other girls were doing their thing, she got up and went to get a noodle out of a container. I saw the teacher say something to her, her lower lip come out mutinously, and her little bottom sit back down on the side of the pool. With bad grace.

In the changing room afterward I said, "What did your teacher tell you?" She buried her face in my shoulder. I heard, "She say, 'SIT.DOWN.ELAINE.'" I said, "Well, she's your teacher. You're here to learn to swim, not goof around. You need to do what she says." She wasn't done yet. "Den she say we not go down da slide today. She say dat!" in an outraged voice. I almost expected her to add, "Can you believe it?" "I MAD at her."

Later in the afternoon, she ran upstairs to our bedroom where I was straightening up. "Daddy tell me NO!" she roared, tears streaming down her face. "He say 'No berries'!" "Daddy's about to take you to supper. He doesn't want you to get full beforehand. So, no, you can't have cranberries now."

I'm sure you can guess how well that went over. And then later I found her down in the kitchen, calmly munching them anyway, her little fists full of more. She had gotten them out of the cabinet herself.

That naughty chair does a booming business, I tell you.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Just Call Me Miss Daisy

I taught Lucy to read. Really, I don't think I had much to do with it because she's been on the verge of reading for some time now, but I did give her the needed push.

When we would talk about kindergarten this past summer, I would tell her how exciting everything would be and most importantly that she would learn to read! She, who loves books so much! She was surprisingly unenthused. "I don't think I want to learn to read, Mom, " she would say. Finally I got out of her that a) she was worried she wouldn't be able to and b) she was afraid that if she learned to read, no one would read to her anymore. (Isn't that sad?)

In her kindergarten class, they're planning to learn to read a new phrase every few weeks. They're going to make a book each week, which they'll put in their book shoebox, that will contain the phrase they're learning. In September it's "I am." Lucy came home with the little book she had made and colored with various uses of the phrase "I am."

"Will you read your new book to me?" I asked. She was happy to do that and read it all off in no time. "This kid is so ready to really read," I thought to myself. So I went over to Borders and picked up a copy of good ol' "Dick & Jane: Wherever We Are"--the book from which I learned to read. In fact, I still have a crystal clear memory of being by myself amidst the library shelves in my kindergarten room, sitting on a little stool, and for the first time the black marks on the page becoming words I could understand.

I brought the book home and showed Lucy. Her eyes got big with trepidation. "What if I can't do it?" she wailed. "That's no problem if you can't," I said. "Then we'll just have fun reading these cool stories together like we always do." That put her at ease. We opened the book and looked at the pictures and talked about what they were doing in them. Then we looked at the letters to see if she could identify them. She could of course, and we sounded them out. Within 20 minutes, she could read the first three stories in the book.

I felt like a proud mother duck, watching her duckling swim away from shore for the first time.

That night, about two hours after she should have been asleep, Lucy found me getting ready for bed. "Will you come and rock me?" she asked "Just like you did Elaine?" We went in their darkened room, and I hauled her up on my lap. "I'd like to read you those stories again about Dick and Jane," she whispered. "I can see from the light in the hall." We opened the book, she read the first three, and then wanted to learn how to read two or three more so we did that too. I can't wait for the first time I see the light of a flashlight under her covers, reading after lights out.

Here's my little reader:

The next morning I asked her, "Are you going to tell Mrs. Blevins you can read now? Whole stories and everything?" Translation: Are you going to tell Mrs. Blevins what a unique, talented, and smart little girl you are? And what a conscientious mother you have who has single-handedly taught you to read in the second week of school?

Usually in the morning during my devotions I pray, "Lord, help me to be more like Jesus today. Please don't let me get away with all my usual junk." Fortunately, for the sake of my spiritual growth and humility, He usually answers those prayers immediately. When Lucy got home, I asked her excitedly, "Did you tell Mrs. Blevins you know how to read now?" I couldn't wait to hear how wonderful her teacher thought we all are.

"Ummmmm...I forgot to tell her that," she answered. "Oh, but I did tell her there's a mousetrap in our kitchen now!"

Monday, September 08, 2008

The anthropomorphism, it's getting a bit much

I love animals. Love them. I was conditioned early by the likes of Beatrix Potter, "The Wind in the Willows," "Stuart Little" and "Charlotte's Web"...the list goes on. When I would write stories as a child, the characters were almost always mice or rabbits because humans are just so boring.

So the other day when I came home to find a note on the counter from Darren that said: "Alice--don't open the patio door" and I looked and found this little guy, I was not troubled at all.

Yes, that's a bat (please ignore the unwashed state of my window). He had somehow wedged himself in between the screen and the glass doors. Bats are fascinating little creatures who echo-locate and eat mosquitoes, so I'm all for them. I predicted that if we left the screen door open and the patio door closed, as soon as dusk rolled around he would make his way out of there. I was right, and it was so cool to watch him figure that out.

My cordiality toward bats did not extend however, to a few nights later around midnight when I was completely asleep and Darren was sitting up next to me, working on his laptop. He shook me awake. "There's a bat in our room." I opened my eyes to see it swooping by, shrieked, and dived under the covers. Darren was now out of bed and positioning himself around the room, trying to figure out how to corner the bat. He said, "You've got to get me something to capture this thing with." All I could think of was a) how very hot and airless it is completely submerged under blankets and b) close-up pictures I'd seen of vampire bats flying out of caves with their teeth bared. "I can't," I whimpered. "You have to or I'm not going to be able to get him. You'll be fine," he answered. "Where exactly is the bat right now so I'll know when I race out of the room?" I asked in my muffled voice. "Well," he said carefully, "Right now he's actually lying on my side of the bed. Next to you."

Everything is a blur after that, and my heart might have stopped for a few seconds. But...I got the essentials tools, and Darren removed the bat, setting him free out on the front porch. Now each night I do a careful bat check.

The girls are currently in love with Jim Aylesworth's Book of Bedtime Stories. One story, Elaine's favorite, is called "Two Terrible Frights." She positions herself on my lap and commands, "Read dat book about da liddle girl and da mousie." It's a nice story about a little girl mouse who goes upstairs for a bedtime snack and a little girl who goes downstairs for a bedtime snack. When the little girl turns on the kitchen light, click, and they catch sight of each other, the little girl says, "eeek!" and the little mouse says, "squeak!" and they both take off running and have to be comforted by their mothers. The girls and I like to play it in parts, and Lucy will sometimes correct me and say, "No, Mom, you read that line in the wrong voice." I guess everyone's a critic.

We have so much fun with it that it might surprise you to know that the other day while standing at the kitchen counter, checking my email, I was somewhat less than thrilled when a baby mouse ran over my foot. My bare foot. That had no shoe or sock on it. A mouse. A live mouse. In my kitchen. And you know baby mice don't usually come in singles.

Y'all. I 'bout platzed. The fact that the only words I can find to describe this event are Southern and Yiddish, neither of which I am fluent in, should somehow convey my level of distress. I didn't hear if the little mouse went squeak, but let me tell you: this little girl definitely went "EEEKK!"

I don't know what I'm going to do. I love my house so so so much. And I'd like to think of it, you know, like the house where Raggedy Ann lives--and she and the other dolls sneak out of the nursery and raid the kitchen for supplies for the poor starving mouse family since Marcella's mother keeps her kitchen so clean. (I keep my kitchen so clean too! I promise! I do!) But...people. What am I gonna do? There are bats and mice in my house. Vermin. Varmints. Should I get a cat? A DOG? (Because you know I want to.)

I will tell you this: if I see Templeton any time? I'm outta there until further notice.

Friday, September 05, 2008

Welcome... my new look! I was getting bored with the other one. This took me hours I tell you, hours. And I didn't even design the template. I don't know much about code, but I picked my way through it. I can see some errors, but I don't know how to fix them. And I'm not crazy about the title font being white, but I don't know how to fix that yet either.

Anyway, hope you like it! And, if not, don't worry. I'm sure I'll be changing it sometime.

Thursday, September 04, 2008

...and then other times

Thursday was a big day for Elaine. She has gamely gone along with the fact that she's not in kindergarten even though she desperately wants to be. Each day she goes with me to drop Lucy off and pick her up. Sometimes she'll say quietly, "I going to school, too." So Darren and I figure that she needs something of her own during the week since she's getting to be such a big girl.

[This was cute: in the morning on the way out of the carpool line, she asked, "Where's Mr. Smith?" (Mr. Smith is the assistant principal. He stands in the intersection and directs traffic.) "There he is," I answered "with the big blue and white umbrella." "I see him!" she said excitedly as he motioned us forward. "He's waving goodbye to me!"]

After we got home , we got ready for her big day. She was so excited.

Here she is...

Now, we've had Lucy taking lessons at the swim club for 2 1/2 years. I've seen all sorts of little kids at their first lesson (and sometimes not even their first)--lots of them cry or won't get in the water. I saw one little boy get out and run away and have to be chased down by his teacher. Some of them shriek with terror about getting their hair or their face wet. Some of them just want to play with the toys on the side of the pool. Most of them have no clue what they're doing.

Now here's my girl on her first day:

These two look like they're going to be good friends already...

And here she is in the dressing room afterward (she chose the Nemo room). I would say a pretty successful morning, no?

It Always Wins

There is a great anecdote in the book "Feather's from a Mother's Nest" where Beth Moore describes her older daughter and how sweet and sensitive she was as a little girl. Then there was her younger daughter who, when she was 4 years old, came downstairs one morning and asked, "Are you gonna boss me today?" I am telling you, there is redux in our house for sure. (Though I take great comfort in the fact that her former 4-year-old who didn't want to be bossed recently got her master's in Biblical exegesis from Wheaton and now researches and writes Bible studies. There's hope.)

There are any number of times when Darren and I look at each other and say, "What are we going to do with her?" There are also times when I have said to Elaine, "Someone is definitely going to win in this situation. And I promise--it's not going to be you."

I always tell this story when people ask me what our girls are like. Last year, when Lucy was just 4 and Elaine was 18 months, I got annoyed with Lucy. She was continually goofing around when I was trying to get her ready for bed. I finally said, "Dry off, go in your room, and get your pajamas on. I am NOT happy with you!" When I came in in a few minutes to check on her, she threw her arms around and sobbed, "I'm so sorry I did those bad things, Mom! Please have mercy on me!" The next morning at around 5:30 a.m., I was on my way to work. When I passed Elaine's darkened room where she was (I thought) sleeping peacefully in her crib, I heard her little voice singing this song: "Mommy, Mommy, Mooooommmmy. No way, no way, no way!" That pretty much sums up their personalities.

Flash forward to this week. Both girls love this game they call "Water." It's pretty much what it sounds like--they take whatever containers they can find and fill them with water and play in it and spill it all over. Sometimes it's fun. Sometimes I let them have a few extra things lying around because they like to make "soup." The other night they both stood at the counter and put salt, fresh basil, dried oregano, and Darren's hot sauce into water and stirred it. They would play this game all day if I let them though. And clean-up is not really their strong point either.

Yesterday was hectic and busy, and I sure didn't feel like cleaning up extra messes so I decreed, "No one is to play Water today." Every so often they would try to wheedle me into it (and sometimes they play it without getting permission first). Finally I said, "The next person who plays Water will not get any treats or dessert for the rest of the week." Now that is huge, right? (And let me also interject that Elaine had already gotten in trouble in the morning for saying, "Hmph!" in an extremely sassy way to me because I wouldn't let her spend the entire day in the bathroom lifting the toilet seat up and down.)

Anyway, back to Water. I had given them dinner, then a little bowl of ice cream. My back was turned for a minute when I heard Lucy say, "Mom, is it ok if we make soup?" "Absolutely not," I said. "Oh." I turned and I guess that request was after the fact because their ice cream bowls were filled with water from their cups, and they were slopping their spoons around in them, as well as spilling ice cream-tainted water all over the counter. "You" I pointed at Lucy "You in the red chair. And you," pointing at Elaine, "you in the chair in the dining room. No treats the rest of this week." Lucy started crying, and Elaine screamed (that's pretty much the ending line to any situation in our house..."and Elaine screamed.")

Later on Lucy came in and hugged me. "I'm so sorry we disobeyed, Mom. You were right to say we can't have treats." I hugged her and forgave her. Then, still crying a little, she said, "I wish that old snake never went into the garden and that Adam never did what he did. Then we wouldn't get into these problems!"

Then Elaine came in with a big grin and hugged my leg. "I forgive you, Mama. I forgive you for when I scweamed at you." Oh. Well, that's all right then.

That evening we were on the way home after church. Both girls were so excited because a plane flew fairly low overhead. We watched it for awhile then got in the car. Except Elaine did not want to get in the car. She wanted to keep watching the plane, even though it was gone. I tried and tried to get her buckled in, but she made herself stiff as a board. Oh, and screamed. Of course. Finally I said to Darren, "I'm done. That's your daughter, not mine. See if you can get her buckled in." The whole way home, she found things to be mad about. She wailed, "Dat plane flew away, and I wanted to watch it. He not my friend anymore, waaaaahhhhhh!" We all burst out laughing, which just made her madder. Then she segued into, "Dose fireworks at da baseball game; dey stopped and I wanted to keep watching dem, waaaahhhhhh!" (She hasn't been to a baseball game since the end of July.) Darren said it was like listening to an opera singer--she kept coming up with new verses to her song of rage and shrieking a chorus at the end.

Then we noticed what was playing on the radio. I can't even make this stuff up. We've decided it's her theme song.

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

Ta Da! The Final Installment: 5 1/2 Months Later

Remember? Remember the guest room project? I won't be hurt if you don't. Starting in March, we set in motion the process of redecorating our guestroom. So, "set in motion" doesn't necessarily convey "motion of a herd of turtles." We got busy with other stuff, what can I say. Rather than make you look back at the old blog post, I'll repost some of the pictures here. This room was the former owner's teenage son's room, then it was Elaine's room when she was a baby. Suffice it to say, it got a lot of wear and tear. It was dark brown and green and overcrowded with furniture and general clutter.

Now. After intermittent months of planning (by me) and actual work (by Darren and my dad)....

(We'll open the door all together now)

Behold! Our Wedgwood room!

Look how light and airy! No wallpaper! No excess mismatching furniture! No need for lights in the middle of a sunny day! Toile!

For this new room, I had to get a copy of one of my favorite paintings in the whole world, "On the Terrace" by Pierre-Auguste Renoir. The original normally resides at the Art Institute of Chicago, and I've loved it ever since I was a little girl. When Elaine saw it she said, "Dat liddle girl is ME, Mom!" I asked, "Oh, and is the lady with her me?" "No," she answered (a little scornfully). "Dat's Mary Poppins."

You can't see it that well, but on the bookshelf reside classic mysteries, the Miss Read books (Thrush Green series), and some Alexander McCall Smith books--along with blue and white teacups.

We still have a few more things to hang on the walls. A friend gave me some cards with beautiful etchings and quotes from Jane Austen's novels and diaries, which I put in silver frames. Then we have a number of Jasperware plates to hang as well, especially since they're the inspiration for the room.

But I figure we have a good six more months to get that done, right?

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

Road Trip, Road Music, and Road Monster

We road-tripped to Memphis this weekend. Every year, Darren's extended family holds a big party on the Sunday before Labor Day, which we try to go to. We thought we were leaving when I got home from work on Friday afternoon, probably around 4:15. Yeah, that didn't happen--we finally rolled out of here a little after 7 p.m. I mentioned it's at least a 9-hour drive, right? Probably more like 10. We hit St. Louis close to midnight and just had to stop. We had planned to drive straight through, but...

We got up in the morning and went the rest of the way. With that length of journey, of course the DVD player comes in handy, but something's up with our car and players and I don't know what all, but right now you can only do one thing at a time--have movies going or have the iPod on. I said to Darren, "Trust me, I know the utter irony in being annoyed that all the electronic junk in our car that is like a traveling living room doesn't work perfectly, what with starvation in the Sudan and Hurricane Gustav and whatall, but MAN. We paid for this stuff! It should work!" So we alternated between letting the girls watch endless episodes of the Muppet Show and listening to our music.

Darren and I are experienced road-trippers; everyone knows the music is key. For this trip, we played Memphis theme music: the soundtrack to The Firm (mediocre movie, fantastic soundtrack), Shawn Colvin's Fat City, and of course Marc Cohn's self-titled album--which we play all the time anyway. (get it?"Walkin' in Memphis"?) Then we just threw James Taylor in there because he is the definition of road trip music. The girls sang along too because being JT fans is genetically hard-wired into them. Then occasionally Darren would drift over the line to the side of the road so Road Monster could talk to them. (You know, that strip on the side of the road that makes the horrible noise. We debated about it's actual name. The sleep guard? If you know, please tell us.) Anyway, the girls love Road Monster--actually there's a whole family: Mr. Road Monster, Mrs. Road Monster, and Baby Road Monster.

So with all that we finally got to Memphis. We were staying at Darren's Aunt Madge's house--she has a pool. 'Nuff said because that is where the girls spent the rest of the weekend basically. Their cousins Drew, Ryne, Joseph, Hallie, Jessie, and Noah were all there so all the kids played and played together. They would get out of the pool, run around the huge yard, jump on the swingset, then get back in the pool again.

The party on Sunday was great--wait for it; here's the food description because you know this blog never disappoints--fried fish, hush puppies, french fries, hot dogs, Coleman's BBQ, chips, coleslaw, Mississippi mud pie, butterscotch bars, brownies, and my favorite--my mother-in-law's Texas sheet cake. Yeah, not a lot of green vegetables in the line-up, and it probably should have been served up with some salve and paddles close by (by the way, did you know that you can buy a defibrillator on amazon?), but it tasted so good.

We left Sunday afternoon and drove part of the way, stopping in Jackson, MO. We stayed at a hotel there and surprise! Got back in the pool for some more swimming. We were very glad to see home last night though.

Talking about road music and Marc Cohn (my love for his music is well-documented) made me think of the very first post I ever wrote for this blog, about another road trip, back when the only person reading this was Melanie. Normally I hate everything I write afterward, but I actually still like this one. I'm not sure why I wrote it all in present tense, but there you have it if you're interested.

Oh, and one more thing. While in Memphis? Elaine decided to potty train herself. On her own. Independently. Pretty much done.