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June 2010

Fish Are Jumping

Patrick is now eight, a fact that we celebrated by buying him a metal detector and making him a cake that he accurately but perversely declared to be "too sweet." I guess turning eight means that one now scrapes the frosting off although I always thought that was more like eighty. Steve suggested that maybe next time I could use less than a pound of confectioners sugar and I told Steve not to be an ass. Personally I loved it. Caroline was also a fan

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but Caroline might be one of those people that do better when they limit their sugar intake

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It is never dignified to be dragged away from cake by your ankles.

Edward - just off camera to the right - sat with his hands folded, patiently waiting for Caroline to stop acting the Fool so he could get something to eat. Edward is the only one of our children who consistently devours anything he is offered - he'd never say frosting was too sweet and the way he tackled a smoked salmon and caper pasta the other day brought tears to my eyes - he is such a comfort to me and I am telling you right now that I know which child is coming with me when I become an edibi-tourist. Loved your food memories by the way.    

So Patrick. Eight years old. What is there to say about Patrick? I just typed "he's a gift" three times and then erased it - all embarrassed because what a cliche - but... most of the time Patrick feels like a present. He is funny and loving and off-beat.  He doesn't have a mean bone in his body. When I asked who from his class he wanted to invite to his birthday party he was sincerely taken aback that I would even ask. He said, "Everybody, of course, or someone might feel left out."

He is occasionally thoughtless and often tactless and he never listens the first four times I tell him to do something and he has an irritating habit of saying "Yes master" on the fifth and he completely melts down when he is frustrated with himself (let us never forget that Steve once punched a hole in the wall after stubbing his toe - Patrick comes honestly by his self-control or lack thereof) but in the general scheme of things he is a Very Good Kid.

He is also such a good big brother. While we traveled he made my hovering paranoia about Caroline and Edward look like the neglectful disinterest a pirate captain might show his replaceable crew. He wouldn't just hold one of Caroline's hands as they walked he insisted on holding both, and he once tackled Edward into the grass when he thought a bicycle was about to run him over... from ten feet away. He worries about them and he plays with them and he is very very patient. Yesterday we broke out the kiddie pool and Patrick entertained the twins for an hour with the hose.

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I told him afterward how much I appreciated his help and he said, "Oh yeah I almost forgot. You owe me twenty dollars for being nice to them."

I declined to pay although I noticed with great amusement that the name of his new company (he invoiced me) is "Infinity Co" and its motto is "It's too high to be a number!"

Patrick got sick for his birthday on Friday - which sucks - and then a major storm blew in (oh? you got that one too?) about five minutes after I took the birthday cake pictures and we were without power for two days. Being without electricity is annoying. Being without electricity when you have a birthday kid who is too sick to do anything but watch the unavailable Science channel is really annoying. Being without electricity when you have a kid who is sick and two filthy toddlers and you need electricity in order for the well pump to work, thus leaving you without electricity or water? Faugh. Beyond annoying. I finally got so desperate to at least rinse the cake dishes two days later that I carried up water from the hot water heater in the basement and setup a bucket sink. My mom suggested we go to a hotel but it just seemed too decadent. There must be a bit of early Christian martyr in me because being hot and dirty and bored and irritated beyond belief by all three children made me feel so virtuous and if there is anything nicer than finally washing your hair after being reduced to Handi-wipe sponge baths I don't want to know about it.

Speaking of my hair the most bizarre thing has happened. I wish I had a picture....

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(why is this the only picture of me out of the 5000000 that were taken on vacation? are Steve's fingers broken?)

You cannot really tell from this photo beyond the frizzy halo but my hair has gone crazy. After having it below my shoulders for at least five years I got it cut to my chin a few weeks ago. This is not unprecedented. I have had shorter hair before. But for some reason in the interim my hair has gone from wavy to riotous curls that no amount of styling product can contain - even when I am not standing in front of a giant humidifier like Niagara Falls. My hair is now HUGE. Steve keeps poking at it and Patrick asked if I had gotten this hair cut on purpose. NO, I thought, I did not. Does hair actually change as you get older? And, more importantly, does the Brazilian keratin hair straightening about which my stylist pointedly gave me a brochure actually work? Please advise as I would be willing to adjust our austerity budget as needed if I can take the Bozo volume down to eleven.

What else?

Caroline is officially sleeping in her big girl bed which means I have to crawl around her room in the dark before I go to bed to find out where on the floor she has fallen asleep so I can transfer her back to her pillow.

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It also means that her room constantly looks like a frat party just ended there so I am putting my plans to go nuts decorating a girly girl bedroom for her on hold. Meanwhile  Edward has noticed that Caroline is no longer sleeping in a crib and although he has resisted all mention of a bed of his own I have noticed his conversation has become punctuated with requests to do various things "like a big boy."

With Edward's deep and raspy and yet still pipsqueaky voice the addition of "like a big boy" slays me.

"Climb on the table like a big boy?" he says, all Lauren Bacall meets Elmo.

He realized half-way down the path to see Niagara Falls that if he bends at the waist and puts his hands down he can stop the stroller. This got old very very quickly. Caroline intervened

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I found the fact that she kept hauling him back up strangely endearing. Most of the time they ignore each other. In fact when Emma at Tyler Place said she always finds twins easier because they entertain each other I opened my mouth to point out that Caroline and Edward are more like distant acquaintances than warm friends but having spent the previous ten minutes explaining the various safety pin systems we use to keep Caroline from falling out of a window naked I let it pass. 

I wouldn't say that Caroline's unwillingness to let Edward bang his nice round head against the ground is exactly the same as a special twin language that only they speak but it did indicate some kind of affection and without any previous indications of the kind I was touched. 

Where was I? Oh thwarted HGTV ambitions.

So I have been meaning to do... something... with both Caroline's and Edward's room for two years. Not knowing what we were having and being restricted to the couch for three months (god I miss bed rest) limited the decorating I did on the rooms for the babies formerly known as the 13s a and b to having Steve paint the walls a creamy yellow and asking Patrick to pick out some appropriate wall clings. He picked the alphabet (surprise!) and that's it in there. Our plan is to one day move Edward into the guest bedroom (it has a closet. his room does not) and punch a dormer into Edward's current room so that we can add both a closet and a small guest bathroom to that space. I asked Steve whether he could do this himself in his spare time and he said, "What? Can I easily change the roof line and put a waste pipe through the ceiling of our bedroom closet? No."

So I asked whether a contractor would charge more than one hundred dollars to do it for us and Steve said, "Yes."

So... so much for that idea.         

My point is that I hate their rooms but since Caroline keeps trashing the place and Edward's lease as a long-term squatter has been extended it doesn't seem to matter all that much. Still I have been trying to figure out what I can do to make their rooms more... oh, CUTE I guess... without spending, uh, almost anything. I'm open to suggestions.

We're off to Ohio for the fourth (so successful was our road warrioring that we have decided to drive back to Cleveland for a family reunion of sorts) but when we return I realized that we have nothing - literally nothing - planned for the rest of the summer. No camp, no trips, nothing. What do you do with your kids in the summer? I can foresee a time when the sprinkler fails to thrill.


What I Did On My Summer Vacation

After an (absolutely) (delightful) drive though Canada we arrived in Vermont for a week at the Tyler Place.

When I was growing up our family vacations consisted of a two-week car trip; sometimes north, sometimes south. My father would plan an itinerary to include as many historical house tours and national forests as could be packed into fourteen days; my mother would stock the car with books and granola bars and off we'd go. We camped a lot or stayed in motels, preferably the old 50s kind with a pool in the parking lot. They were very good trips (in retrospect - family tradition has it that I bitched my way through most of it) although now my only clear memories are of the food because I am the sort of person who has forgotten everything about my first mother-in-law apart from her pickled red cabbage.

[Montreal could be one of my favorite cities for any number of reasons but the truth is that I developed a passion for the place when I was six years old on the strength of two superb lunches there: a chicken pot pie that thirty-plus years later I can describe down to the last leaf of tarragon and a bowl of Potage St.Germain that was as life altering as pea soup can be. From other trips I remember fried shrimp and sweet tea and okra and green tomatoes. Chocolate chip ice cream sandwiches in Maine. Maryland crab cakes of course. A dining hall in the Smoky Mountains that had a really nice beef vegetable soup. Fudge on Mackinac Island. Even as an adult (or maybe especially as an adult?) I tend to perseverate about food, like the tomato and onion and blue cheese salad that I ordered three days in a row on Maui and when my boss asked whether we enjoyed our honeymoon the very first thing I said was, "I had the best salad." He looked at me funny.]

Anyway, my point is that this is how we would travel when I was a child and that - plus a week in a rental house at Rehoboth every summer - was the extent of my personal experience with family vacations. So when Julie went to the Tyler Place resort three years ago and sent me an urgent telegram immediately upon her return saying "SELL ALL AVAILABLE KIDNEYS stop COME HERE NEXT YEAR stop WEATHER FINE AND OH MY GOD THE STAFF MEMBERS WHO ARE NOT BUSY REMOVING YOUR CHILDREN TO EXHAUST THEM WITH CAMP SONGS AND NATURE HIKES ARE ASKING IF THEY CAN BRING YOU SOMETHING FROM THE BAR OR TELLING YOU THAT TODAY'S HOMEMADE ICE CREAM IS CARAMEL TURTLE FUDGE" I was interested but I didn't totally get the concept.

It goes like this:

You pay $x per person per day (rates vary depending upon how old the kids are and where you stay) in exchange for which the nice people at Tyler Place make everything about your life completely perfect for an entire week. You reserve one of the dozens of different cabins (some little, some really big; some new, some nicely patina'd) which ring an incredibly beautiful bay on the Vermont/Canadian border. Kids are divided into groups like summer camp and the big ones spend mornings (8:30 to 1:30) and evenings (5:30 to 8:30) with their counselors doing things like swimming and boat rides and pirate treasure hunts and campfires and arts and crafts. Little kids have similar hours (less naps and bedtime as needed) at their own playhouse and they go for walks and hay rides and make play dough with their parents' helper. And they feed them. Did I mention they feed the kids? Breakfast lunch snacks and dinner are handled by the counselors, which... words fail me. I think that alone would have made it all worthwhile but if you have been doing the math with me you will notice that in addition to not having to hassle with meals the schedule leaves eight hours a day for the parents to do anything they want. So that's the deal and it sounded pretty good to me so we went last year and it was awesome. Seriously. Amazing.

I think, somehow, this year was even better. Kind of like Harry Potter's room of requirements, they provide whatever it is you need most at the moment. Last year I slept a lot. Caroline and Edward were eighteen months old and had yet to sleep through the night - EVER - and I was so tired I was growing transparent. So as soon as their parents' helper wheeled them away I would collapse into a boneless heap and just... sleep. 

But this year I was feeling much more zesty so I signed us up (singularly jointly and collectively - they have activities for every taste and familial combination) for a bunch of things, starting with the guided canoe trip for Steve and me. We had a great time. Well, great until the bracing Scotch mist turned into a driving rain and the bay we had to cross turned all Deadliest Catch on us. I swear that I could have made it the rest of the way but admit I was grateful when the entire group was rescued by pontoon boat. I also admit that I spent the next three days unable to lift my arms above my shoulders. Paddling is hard.

After that the weather cleared and Steve took a sailing lesson   

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which was apparently comprehensive enough that it took a mere thirty minutes of instruction before he decided that he was competent to take me for a spin around the bay. I fully expected to need another pontoon rescue but I guess the Hobie cat is amateur proof and I only had to paddle a little to get us back into the dock.

After I indulged his Aubrey-Maturin Steve agreed to play basketball with me. You can tell how seriously he took our game by the fact that he is wearing flip-flops and he didn't stop laughing (at me) the entire time.

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For the official and extremely public record: I beat him at Horse. I happen to have a killer lay-up, which Steve very rudely referred to as a weird short person under-basket toss but against which he was nonetheless helpless.

The rest of the week we played mini golf and found ourselves alone in the cabin at ten in the morning and rode around on bikes and went swimming and drank too much one night and went to Montreal for lunch without the children (you have to be a Formula One fan to appreciate this photo but look where we drove - Steve DIED.)

Meanwhile Caroline and Edward:

Toddlers Monday (34)

they bounced

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and they swam

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and Edward got to try out a tractor.

One day they went to a toddler yoga class. Caroline wanted nothing to do with it, so their parents' helper (wonderful Emma) got down a dollhouse for her. As Emma was helping Edward get into his half spinal twist everyone started shouting Eeek! and Emma discovered that Caroline had climbed into the dollhouse and gotten well and truly stuck, head out the window a la Alice and everything. Three people tried to see if the roof came off and Caroline said, "I'm upset!" and Emma eventually told her that she had gotten herself in there so she needed to find a way to get herself back out again. So Caroline twisted her head and slid out like an oyster and there was much rejoicing. Emma told me that sometimes you need to be a little firm with Caroline. I consider this the understatement of the century; also I loved the fact that I was not the person who had to figure out how to get Caroline out of a dollhouse.

Patrick bloomed. He made friends (and introduced them! to me! with relevant details about them like their names and where they were staying!) He ate more than just bread. When questioned in the evening he admitted that he enjoyed everything including the lake, which was arguably pretty damned cold. One afternoon he even had a play date. At the end of the week the counselors gave awards to all of the kids. Patrick was named King of the Sandcastle. When we got home last night he put his certificate on his bedroom wall and said, "You know, it's surprising but this is the first international recognition I have gotten for my work."

J. Pirate Cruise (12)

So that was Vermont.

And then we drove home as fast as we could under the Great Lakes (stopping to visit family in Vermont and Ohio) and the children did not come completely unglued until Eau Claire. 

A very very nice trip except for the last two hours and who can ever say more than that?

PS On an administrative note my computer died so I have been incommunicado since last week and will continue to be so until my hard drive is replaced this week. If you have emailed me I'll get back to you.

PPS I would add my usual defensive caveat about the fact that Tyler Place is pricey but after spending seven days on the road I have concluded that all travel with children is expensive and for what you get (everything) Tyler is actually a pretty good deal. We went to Niagara Falls on the way home (pictures to follow) and they charged us ten freaking dollars just to park for thirty minutes. Scandalous.  

PPPS Steve thinks it is strange that I remember with such passionate clarity decades later things I have eaten. Do you remember meals?


Like A Band Of Gypsies

I suppose as far as things go there are worse things I could have left at home. God forbid we had forgotten Edward's tahssies (his word for his blankets - why?) or the fleet of Little Red Cars or Caroline's duct tape. Still, I regret that my media card reader is on the kitchen counter because I wanted to post some pictures of our trip thus far. We saw a rainbow and a tractor supply company and a vintage VW bug stretch limo (thereby crossing about a dozen things off our I Spy list in one awesome fell swoop) and a whole lot of Canadians. Patrick the forest kid was dazzled by the majesty of Ottawa's twenty stories buildings and Edward turned bright red and then bright white and bright red again when he discovered the giant crane working directly outside our hotel window. It was perhaps the only time in my life that I was delighted to learn there was a major construction project underway within six inches of my hotel room and it didn't even bother me when they got back to work again at seven o'clock on Saturday morning.

"Yook. At. Dat. OOGE. GUYANT. BIG. Cane," Edward kept saying, an Arthurian in a Yankee courtyard.

The drive was mostly terrific. Very easy and enormously scenic. While I can see what you mean about the relative dearth of stuff along the Trans-Canadian highway between Sault and Ottawa we thought it was beautiful.

"Ooooh what a pretty lake!" I would say and Steve would murmur an enthusiastic agreement, then ten seconds later Steve would point and say, "Hey! Nice lake!" and I'd say oooh again. Edward and Caroline talked to themselves and occasionally to each other, mostly about Little Einsteins' episodes they had enjoyed in the past. Every three hundred miles or so Patrick would agitate for better living conditions but I handed him another new/borrowed book from my enormous black backpack of books (not to be confused with my large green backpack of snacks or my tiny blue backpack of things to bring into restaurants) and he settled back down again like a placated swamp creature. I discovered that the I Spy list was actually for me as I was the only one who was really into it - Steve and Patrick just humored me at intervals; Caroline kept saying she saw water towers (true - but I already got that one; thank you Escanaba Michigan and your whimsical town council for giving me my smiley face water tower) and wire towers (also true but not on my list) and rollercoasters (a patent falsehood until Montreal.) I - modestly - am kicking ass on that list, by the way, and we still have the return trip in which to see your blasted inflatable giant rat and someone wearing a costume.

The Peapods are officially the greatest thing ever in the history of all time. You can always just rip hunks off a loaf of bread but what else would have kept Caroline out of the broken hotel bathtub that took ten hours to drain a foot of water? I was worried about how Edward would adapt to the change in sleeping accommodations but he was fine. The first night he cried and said Get Out? for about five minutes and then he shrugged and resigned himself to the new state of affairs. He's a very sanguine kid in many ways. Sleeping within ten yards of Edward reminded me of why I moved them to separate rooms back when they were four months old. He is the loudest sleeper. Very Heorot. He snores and he snuffles and he kicks and he scrabbles and sighs and says things like "Hey guys I'll help you" in his sleep. The first night Patrick sat with a book light and his brand-new summer journal and recorded events as they unfolded:

Chapter One - The big bad boring beginning

Things were LOUD in room 204....

And they were. But it was fine and we all (eventually) slept much much better than I expected.

What else?

I packed a lot of medium-sized bags with very specific purposes and I think that made things easier. There was the diaper bag that just had diapers, wipes, ziploc bags, antiseptic hand things and a big old towel to use as a cushion. I used a very small backpack (Patrick's old preschool bag actually) to take into restaurants. It had sippy cups and a couple of pictures books and some astronomy trivia cards and a travel shampoo bottle filled with dishsoap and an old bottle washing scrubby. We just drank water in the car but the twins got milk when we stopped for a meal. Rather than put the milky cups back into the car I took a second and washed them before we left the restaurant. Yes I felt a little gypsy caravan when people found me washing dishes in the bathroom sink but it enabled me to have the cups clean and ready to use again at the next stop. Other than that I had an overnight bag with pajamas and toothbrushes and our books and booklights and Caroline and Edward's special bedtime things. An outdoor bag with swimsuits and bug repellent and sun hats. A day bag with clothes - for some reason I vastly overestimated pajamas (they really could have worn the same pair for three nights) and underestimated clothing changes. I mean, one pair of pants per day per kid was just dopey. Three minutes into breakfast on the second day Edward tipped an entire bowl of Cheerios and milk into his lap.

"Aaaaaa!" He said. "Cold! Wet! Mahk! Need new pants!"

By the time we got to Vermont Edward looked like he had been rolling in lasagne for days, a state of filth that was very distressing for him. Oh well. Life is messy, Ed-wad.

Sudbury was unexpectedly interesting. You go past enormous mining, uh, operations and then drop into a neat little college town. I don't even know if there was a college there but it felt like it. We used priceline for all of our hotels (ever since you told me about priceline I have become a bit of a name your own price junkie. I like it because it's like gambling. be advised that you get much better deals on four star places - we spent the same on a four star in Ottawa that we did on a two star in Escanaba - so when you only have two star hotels available it's not a great deal) and they were all fine. Fine except...

I mean more disrespect to Steve than to any faith when I say this (Steve has Issues with organized religion, specifically those that proselytize) but the funniest moment of our trip for me was when I saw Steve's face as he realized that I had pricelined us into a hotel which was also hosting a... Jehovah's Witness convention. I am laughing all over again as I think about it and I would like to add that we shared the pool with many of the conventioneers and their families and they were absolutely lovely.

Speaking of friendly I have to thank you for the Laurentian View Dairy recommendation in Deep River. We had an excellent lunch and terrific ice cream. We did have to wait a while for the food which is always hard with little kids but a woman sitting at the table next to us assessed our situation and then got up and went and rummaged around in the waitress station, emerging with crayons for our table.

"It's a new girl," she said apologetically of our waitress before she sat back down to her own lunch.

I think that pretty much sums up the Canadians we met: WOW. I am sure there are surly, unhelpful, antagonistic, brutish Canadians as well - I would hate to further stereotypes - but everyone we encountered was very kind. And I loved Ottawa. Very pretty, livable city. I always like it when you have downtowns that blend history and commerce and neighborhoods all together.

Also funny: Patrick decided to pass the time by increasing Caroline's number awareness. After drilling them on zero through twenty he moved on to place values.

"What comes after ninety-nine, Caroline?"

She thought about it.

"Tenty ten," she announced and absolutely nothing Patrick said could dissuade her. He's still frothy about it. 

We're in Vermont right now which is a post unto itself and it will get one. Hopefully by then I will have tracked down a card reader. Don't you want to see pictures of my kids in the car? Sure you do!

PS If you can only have lunch in one restaurant in Montreal - preferably in Vieux-Montreal - and see an afternoon's worth of things there what would it/they be?

PPS Hope you are well. Oh and check out the featured reader ad for a Reader's Retreat. It sounds like it is right up our alley.


Strung Hams

I realize that these last couple of posts have made it sound as if I want to treat Caroline like a convicted juvenile offender (held until she is 18) but in truth she is merely a person of interest. I just wanted to keep her in a safe place for twenty-four, seventy-two hours tops; and then, of course, throughout her transportation to Vermont and back. After that I am willing to bow like a willow to the inevitable and her real bed (shall we call it a launch pad) is made and waiting for her should she choose to move out of her pod. The Morning After (you got that that was all in one night, yes? good - I'm sure I'm more clever when it isn't midnight and I am armed with a drill to keep things attached to walls) I proofed her room as much as I can by which I mean I removed everything that she had not already thrown onto the floor so as far as I am concerned... enjoy! I should add that although I have nothing but admiration for you free-range baby raisers I will continue to confine her to her room (door-knob thing works fine; padlock awaits - I am kidding. sort of) forever or until she learns to fly because this is the door to her room

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and that is the (messy) bookcase that Caroline could climb with both feet tied behind her head and this

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is the other side of that bookcase. I mean how do you baby-proof that? With a jump net?

So you remember my phobia about falling and yeah. Not happening.

Speaking of phobias I thought it was interesting how people react to the peapod. I find caves cozy. A close friend - who dislikes elevators and airplanes et al - said, "You're going to shut her up in some kind of little burrow?" and then had to breathe into a bag for a while. Patrick was on the roof with Steve yesterday (I repeat. on the roof. the roof of my house. my living heart was on the tippy part of a roof) and it was all I could do to restrict myself to a croaky "Be careful" before going back inside rather than screaming GET DOWN! GET DOWN! thereby turning my perceptions of what is safe into some kind of parental virtue.

He eventually got down. He was fine.

Anyway

The "EAT please" sign was made by Patrick two and a half years ago. After Edward came home from the hospital Patrick noticed that we were short a baby so we told him his sister was very little and needed to stay in the hospital until she grew some more. He withdrew to his room and then emerged to put up the sign for her. I am never taking it down.

Speaking of Patrick and his room and paper and his projects and violins...

Patrick does really interesting things with paper, preferably card stock when he can get it.

This is a two-story house he built

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Can you see the flower pots on the balcony and the little coffee cup on the table?

Both parts of the roof flip up to reveal the interior. Here's a staircase. The lower level has a fireplace to go with the chimney and a couch and what not. He does nice work. I don't think I would personally have him as an architect as he brooks absolutely no outside influence but some people like that. Look at Frank Lloyd Wright. I assume more than one client mentioned that they owned stuff, stuff that they liked to put in places like closets but did he listen? No.

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My point is that Patrick is sent to his room at eight and by eight-thirty he usually makes it in there and then he builds... whatever. It is not uncommon for him to continue to poke his head out for hours with a conciliatory, "I know I am not supposed to come down but..." followed by the fact that he is about to drop down dead right that second due to a lack of food or water or Scotch tape or more Scotch tape or the other night he asked me for a violin. In all seriousness. Like I keep them next to the flour. I said no sorry go to bed and forgot to ask what the hell.

Turned out he had been experimenting with creating string instruments (he loves the double bass for some reason) and that was why he wanted a violin - for a template. Without one he went, um, lyre?

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And that is the asterisked story of the violin.

The end

PS And now I'm really leaving and I mean it.

PPS This post brought to you by the fact that the "few things" I have left to pack cover the guest bed in its entirety and half the floor.


Promises Promises

By Saturday night our containment problem had become so dire that the chairman of British Petroleum called to offer his condolences.

First I tried putting Caroline into a summer-weight sleep sac that we had been using for Edward, safety-pinned at the back to make the neck hole small enough that she couldn't slither out. Five seconds after I shut the door she undid the safety pins and leapt to freedom. Then I pulled out another light sleep sac one-size-too-small and tried again. She couldn't get out of the sac but she was able to climb out of the crib regardless. So I hand-sewed two new seams into the sac such that it resembled a mermaid gown in the tradition of a pink butterflied Morticia. She could barely move her toes; however, she escaped anyway and brought one of the shelves from the book shelf down on her head a minute later. She cried. By this point it was almost midnight and I was feeling a little desperate so I said, FINE, you're going to be a little warm tonight and encased her in the midget quilted Grobag she used last winter that had been keeping her in her crib for months. Sleep well, I said. OK Mommy, she said. Then she gripped the crib rail and vaulted over, which was actually pretty impressive and which is why I found myself unplugging all the pluggables, stripping the bookcase and inflating the toddler aerobed for her at two in the morning.

Round one pretty much went to Caroline.

The next day I decided to get a crib tent per your recommendation but decided that my more pressing concern was the trip. I had been thinking that Caroline would sleep in a pack n play but clearly I was delusional. Caroline wasn't going to be restrained by a goddamned pack n play - Caroline wouldn't be restrained by fucking Alcatraz. A pack n play tent, I realized, was needed immediately which is when I discovered that the only item designed for this purpose is currently on backorder everywhere on the planet.

Gaaaaaaarrrrrhhhhh and I imagined the entire family in floods of tears in the middle of the night as the people in the hotel room next to ours banged on the walls and Caroline perched on top of a wardrobe lobbing toiletries at us. 

Then I stumbled across links to the Kidco Peapod. It is like a tiny indoor tent with its own air mattress and mostly mesh sides that pops opens and zips shut. I put Caroline in the car and went to more Babies R Us'es than I ever want to see in my life again (why are Babies R Us employees so universally crabby? is it all the baby registrants they have to deal with?) until we found one that had two in stock (I figured Edward will eventually want whatever Caroline has) and this is the part where the heavenly hosts descend and you note that I am bathed in a golden light because

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Caroline loves her new nylon sarcophagus SO MUCH (that is a big girl bed in the background - Patrick upgraded to a spare double bed from the basement and she inherited his.) My only regret is that this item didn't exist when Patrick was a baby and we used to really travel. It weighs next to nothing, folds up the size of a big fat frisbee and makes the ol' Pack n Play feel like you were carrying around a suit of armor.

But that is not what I wanted to tell you and this is not even a post because I have too much to do to be frittering time on the internet. No, I am writing because I wanted to give you a dowloadable link to the giant slightly weird I Spy list we created. Here you go. Also a neatly typed list of the states and provinces for the license plate game here although I just noticed that the check boxes I so laboriously created in Word seem to have disappeared in google. Oh well. It is the thought that counts. At some point let me know how many you find and I'll do the same.

I shall update from the road at which point I expect to be all Canadian; so basically a tidier, more polite version of me.

PS Any thoughts on where to stop and burn off energy half-way between Sudbury and Ottawa? Algonquin? Please advise.

PPS I wrote this while Caroline and Edward were napping and just went up to discover that Caroline was not napping at all having managed to unzip the Peapod from the inside. She is unbelievable. I still love the Peapod, though. And safety pins.

 


Timing

Around ten-thirty last night a doorknob rattled upstairs. Steve and I paused our wildly-inappropriate-for-children Netflix and waited for Patrick to emerge seeking water or an apple or a violin* or whatever. Nothing happened. So we started the movie again and then paused - rattle rattle rattle.

"Patrick?" I stage-whispered as if the sound of cinematic explosions do not travel upstairs but my lightest utterance would wake up the twins.

Nothing. We re-started the movie. Rattle. Rattle.

Steve and I looked at each other and in the same instant said, "Oh no."

I bolted upstairs and - sure as eggs is eggs - there was Caroline's empty crib, Caroline's dumped out dresser drawers, Caroline's cleared bookshelves and Caroline herself standing on an upturned wastepaper basket trying to open the window.

"Oh hello Mommy," she said brightly "welcome in!"

So the good news is that the Little Keeper Sleeper is the only garment Caroline is incapable of removing. The bad news is that liberating her from her nice little sleep sack finally enabled her to move her legs more than six inches apart and after two nights of careful consideration she realized she can vault over the bars. Or straddle them. Or hang from her knees. Or dangle head-first while gripping the top rail before rotating her hands to drop, all Spiderman, onto the floor. All of which I have had the opportunity to watch her do. 

It's not that we didn't expect her to leave the crib eventually; it's just that I wasn't prepared for her to do so at that exact second, six days before our big cross-country excursion. I'm not ready, damn it.

Oh oh oh! And! Meanwhile! Caroline is acting like she got hit on the head by a coconut. After three days of using the potty more or less without accident she woke up one day and yet again had no idea what I meant.

You want me to do... what? WHERE? You must be joking. And then off she wandered like a poorly fused highly volatile bomb. This is the same child that used the little potty bucket thing this week to scoop all of the water out of the big toilet; water she carefully carried to the laundry room where she poured it over a basketful of (once)clean clothes. My fault for believing her when she said she wanted privacy to pee on the big potty all by herself. Liar. Thank heavens for neatnik Edward who was no doubt a willing side-kick but who alerted me to the bathroom disaster by coming in to get washcloths out of the kitchen drawer before hurrying back to Caroline with a stack of them clutched in his chunky hands. Edward cannot abide a mesth.

Finally after weeks spent stripping she has started locating swim diapers (do you know how much a swim diaper costs per leg? a lot) and pulling them on, pair after pair. Yesterday she waddled by wearing four at once, together with her swim bottoms pulled across her arms like a backwards shrug.

If I had a List she would occupy the first six spaces.

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She's cute but she's a lot of work.

My plan - by the way - is to keep her crib bound by any means necessary until after we return from Vermont. Then we'll really kid-proof her room and get her a big girl bed and blah blah etc.

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Edward is what they used to call All Boy but would now be referred to as a Child Who Displays A Natural Affinity For Pursuits That Are Neither Inherently Masculine Nor Feminine Despite Societal Constructs To The Contrary.

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Rock in one hand, baseball in the other and he's looking for bugs, most likely to squash them. 

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Steve and Patrick have spent a few weekends working on a playhouse spaceship. It still needs to be tackled with all of the half-empty cans of paint in the garage and the interior could use some work (Shelves, I suggested. An electrical panel, Patrick countered) but it is mostly finished.

Caroline is smitten with it and gave an Amelia Earhart press conference to mark her inaugural flight:

Hanging Off The Wing

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Getting A Troubling Weather Report

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Describing The Perils She Faces

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Smiling For The Folks Back Home

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To Infinity Or Maybe Borneo

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This has nothing to do with anything but I have been following the rumors of an impending Important Engagement with interest. Like most Americans of a romantic bent I have a fondness for the British royal family and it's very hard not to admire Kate Middleton. She's a miracle of respectability, she is lovely, she dresses like a dream, she is a grownup and they have been dating for years and years. It is all so suitable and even though I wouldn't wish that kind of global scrutiny on anyone I suppose she knows what she's doing. But as I contemplate another royal wedding I keep thinking about the last one and I am shocked by how much perspective can change in such a short period of time.

I mean, isn't it weird that everyone thought it was so nice that a 19 year old was going to marry this jaded 30-something she barely knew? Or that a junior high school kid in Washington DC (along with the rest of the world) would be made aware of the fact that the royal physicians had (huge sigh of relief) certified the future princess as virgo intacta?  Surely we are less... ridiculous than that now?

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As I said we are getting ready to leave for our trip pretty soon and it is making me even more dithery than usual. I keep thinking of things to bring (battery charger. sun hats) and buy (ziploc bags. little red car III IV V) and get (almanac from library for Patrick. more recorded books - one of you asked why I could not bring both Percy and Artemis and I opened my mouth and closed it again; then I requested the beejums out of the two serieseseses via the library) and do (unload dishwasher before we leave. write notes for house sitter) while I am driving or in the shower and then I spend the rest of the day trying to remember what that ultra-important item was that flitted into my mind only to be promptly forgotten five seconds later. 

Steve remarked to the cat that hyper-controlling people should probably not be allowed to travel and I beat him to death with my 45 page list of Things To Etc. So that was sad.


Two questions for you:

1. Snacks for the car that are not sticky, crumbly, oozy or too completely entirely constructed of crap. So far I have come up with: cheese.

2. I had this idea that I thought was pretty clever last summer when Steve and Patrick went on a little road trip without me. I wrote a short list of things for Patrick to try to find while they drove; a personalized I Spy meets the License Plate game. I decided to do it again and then I thought oh hey maybe we can make it more global if you guys give suggestions as well. I promise (hand to my heart) to put the finished list up on my blog before we leave and then you can play too as you car trip or just commute this summer. My original list was pretty basic (Find a: yellow truck, cow, dog in a car...) so anything like that or even things that you might see where you are (windmill, condor, whale, ferry, ski gondola) that we have no chance of seeing this time would be fine too. OK? OK.   

Sorry this is scattered, I am writing with one hand and wringing the other as I try to remember what that THING was - that totally critical THING - for Edward for the road.