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October 2013

O'Ween

Obligatory pictures of children in costume to follow:

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Edward as a Football Zombie

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Patrick as a Test Subject

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Caroline as a Vampire.

Aaaaand Caroline as a vampire again just because she makes such good faces.

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Happy Halloween or rather Happy Harvest Day, which is what the twins got to celebrate today in kindergarten. What. Ever.


Feeling Like 42

Ahem.

Birthday! Birthday! Birthday! BIRTHDAY!

It's my birthday. I love my birthday. This morning Steve took the kids to school and let me sleep in and if that weren't enough (it was) he returned with two chocolate doughnuts. A birthday doughnut and a backup doughnut, if you will.

BIRTHDAY!

So although it kills me to do so I feel obligated to point out that the upside to the Furby is that the children looooooooooove them. Y'all asked about Edward and I am sorry to have excluded him before but he just didn't fit into yesterday's arc. Call me an unnatural parent if you must but I hate to force the narrative even to accomodate my belovable Eddybear.

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Edward's Furby is actually rather sweet. Still frightening, of course, but more like a demented Miss Marple than Caroline's Furby the Ripper. It might kill you with a knitting needle but it would be gently remorseful afterwards. Edward's speaks in a very high and squeaky voice and it mainly says things like, "I missed you!" and "Kah gives you stamp of approval!" When introduced to Caroline's Furby it made friendly little twittering noises and then sang a song. Edward races to find it as soon as he gets home from school and he spends a lot of time rocking it and feeding it with his finger.

We have only been able to get the Furbys (Furbies?) to interact intermittently with the app on my phone. More than half the time the app doesn't work THANK HEAVENS because it is utterly disgusting. There are four things you can do to maintain your Furby with the app: feed it (ok) give it a shower (whatever) x-ray it (never gotten it to work) and... have it evacuate its bowels in a virtual toilet complete with a tank-mounted spray air freshener.

AAAAAIIIIIIIIIEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE!

As Clarabella said in the comments, you just cannot unsee something like that.

And now, since it is my BIRTHDAY, I am going to go watch the next episode of the UK version of Life on Mars even though it is the middle of the day. I know I am woefully behind the times but I just got the discs on Netflix and my god it is soooooo good. You know what I love about British television? They tell a story and then they are done with it. The BBC rocks the arc unlike American television which, once they have a popular show, will keep going on and on and on no matter how much it destroys the story.

PS I went upstairs last night to check on the children. Edward has temporarily moved into Caroline's room again and I wanted to make sure they were asleep and dispose of any Furbys that might be poised to wake them up in the night.

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I found Edward's Furby lying next to him in bed but I went all over the room trying to find Caroline's.

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It was under the upended waste basket.

Hmmmmmmmm.


Virtue Re-Something'ed

The Good:

I used pretty much every suggestion you offered for Caroline to earn $13 so thank you. She chose toys with which she was willing to part and I drove her to a children's resale shop where they offered her a whopping $4 for the lot. She accepted.

Then she worked like a demon all Saturday.

She did laundry.

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She helped me put the porch stuff away for the winter.

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She vacuumed.

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She washed windows (well, what she could reach which coincidentally was exactly as high as all of the smudges.)


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And then she picked up her room and helped me straighten my bathroom. At the end of her toil my house was tidier and she was exhausted but she was still short of her goal. Then I remembered that Perrymoffitt had suggested a big one-time chore in the same sentence as the word 'basement' and I laughed.

Why yes, I DID have a big basement project for her, thanks for mentioning it. 

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The following day she attacked Patrick's latest fort, dismantling it and putting the various elements away. He helped. They finished and for a coup de grace

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She lost a tooth.

Thus perseverance and hard work and the macabre tradition of paying children for their teeth all came together and Caroline was able to buy - at the discounted Target Cartwheel price - the peacock Furby I had hidden in my sweater drawer. Which brings us to

The Bad:

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OH. MY. GOD.

As the Queen of Sheba said to Solomon, "Howbeit I believed not the words, until I came, and mine eyes had seen it: and, behold, the half was not told me" although I am pretty sure she meant it in a good way whereas I am cowering in terror.

You warned me. You shook your fingers. You told me that the Furby Boom was demented. The Gizmodo review last summer said it was a product designed for "[c]hildren. Lonely children. Neglected children. The children of criminals. Evil babies. The senile. CIA black site prisoners. Skeletons. Hated cats. Madmen. Other robots. The hounds of hell."

But did I listen?

Last night, a mere twenty-four hours after acquisition, Caroline thrust it at me and said in anguished tones, "Mommy! It's talking LIKE A BOY."

Actually, Caroline, it was talking like a Cockney costermonger of dubious parentage. I frantically googled "Furby Boom weird accent" and was informed that the accents are linked to personality and the personalities develop based on how they are treated, which made me wonder if Caroline has been beating hers and stuffing it up chimneys. I was further informed that to change the personality you need to try treating it differently, so first I played it some music.

"Eh, ye're hurtin' me ears!" it roared.

Then I tried to rock it.

"Take yer 'ands offer me!"

So I shook it and shook it until it cried, "I'm CHAAAAAANGING!" and its eyes spiraled and it trembled and it became... something kinda like an exceptionally simple-minded Japanese schoolgirl. 

Caroline thanked me and clasped it to her bosom once again.

Weirdest. Fucking. Toy. Ever.


Chronic

Patrick woke up today with another blinding headache followed by a round of vomiting. Poor kid although now that he's medicated and hydrated and napped he's fine and I am wondering why the child isn't in school (this late in the day it's not worth the drive there and back for me, frankly, but cripes he's annoying.)

How does he think I manage to do without him every other bloody day? I feel haunted. Seriously, I had no idea I was so fascinating but every time I turn around I trip over him. I think he is trying to irritate me into letting him use his computer but... no. Children who stay home from school get to sleep, read or stare at the wall; their choice*.

I had been hoping that the sick headache during our trip was an anomaly but with its recurrence this morning I called his ENT to see about getting him in as soon as possible. She has changed practices since last we saw her so the notes in his old file about being seen as needed were not available to the scheduler who offered me November 22nd. I said, oooh, hmmm, maybe, sooner? November 22nd, she repeated. 

Here is my hard-won hint for you: when you wind up in a scheduling stand-off be extremely polite to the scheduler but ask if you could speak with a nurse to discuss the options. In my case today the very nice woman on the phone explained that both the doctor and her nurse were in surgery all day but she would take a message and someone would get back to me tomorrow. Less than an hour later she called back to say she had talked to the nurse who had spoken with the doctor and they could offer me anything in the morning on Tuesday, morning or afternoon on Wednesday and any time in the afternoon on Thursday. This was such a far cry from November 22nd that I almost snorted but it wasn't her fault, of course. I think many doctors save appointment slots during their clinic days for emergencies, so it's just a matter of prying one out of somebody.

Done and done.

That said, I'm not sure if Patrick has a sinus infection or not. Historically his headaches have always been harbingers of sinuses gone amok so I am starting there. Occam's Razor and all that. If it is not the sinuses then I suppose we will need to look at migraines and to be on the safe side I just had him start a headache diary.

Of course being Patrick he wrote under Possible Trigger: sleeping/breathing.

And on that note I should go pour another pint of water into him and make sure he's not breathing too much.

*Exceptions are made when the kid feels truly awful. Then they get to lie on the couch and watch TV until their eyes bubble.


Easy For The Book To Say

Aw damn it. I missed a day. We went to a great Halloween party yesterday afternoon (kids. grownups. cupcakes. chili. wine. candy corn high octane jello shooters) and upon our return Steve gently suggested that perhaps I needed a rest. I fell flat on my face, fully clothed on top of our bed and slept for fourteen hours. Very... refreshing. But I didn't get a post up, so here's a quick one.

Caroline's reading packet came home for the weekend and I am so amused by her book choices that I took a picture of them, in the exact order I pulled them from the folder.

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Indeed.


Boom?

First, thank you for letting me know that Target is running Furby Boom at 50% off right now if you use their new Cartwheel app. Second, curse you, Target, for offering the one thing that would actually induce me to let you mine my Facebook data. I mean, such as it is.

True story: I set up a Facebook account a couple of years ago when my best friend from childhood came to visit and said oh my god you have to see all of the people we knew thirty years ago and I said oh my god I DO. I spent a week or two cruising through my past and then I more or less never logged on again. A couple of weeks ago I was trying to follow... I dunno... something... a news story maybe? Something that required me to go to Facebook but when I tried to log on it stopped me because it didn't recognize this laptop (which I got at least a year ago to give you some idea of what an active user I am.)

In addition to my username and password Facebook wanted me to identify pictures of my friends. I said ummmm ok, however, since virtually every friend on my list is someone I knew when they were eleven I had absolutely no idea who any of the people in the pictures were. Even with multiple choice options I got so many wrong that Facebook suspended my account, at which point I said oh screw this and walked away.

Until Target, those evil beautiful geniuses, created Cartwheel with Facebook in an unholy and unabashedly transparent move to gather every possible scrap of information about their shoppers, luring us into abandoning our privacy in exchange for discounts so deep no one can resist them. Diabolical, truly.

But let us be honest. Caroline is never going to save up fifty-nine whole dollars. She said it at the time and I knew it. She has tried, though. She has worked and cajoled and looted the couch cushions and she went weeks without spending a penny. Eventually, inevitably the chasm between her twenty-seven dollars (my mom sent her a $20) and the $59 she needed for the Furby Boom (the peacock one) wore her down and in a fit of despair she bought a Lego friends animal polybag for $4.99. Then she bought another. She needs a more attainable goal.

So yesterday I held my commonsense under water until it passed out, downloaded the Cartwheel app, gave Target access to my very soul and bought the Furby Boom (the peacock one! I had to go through every shelf and end cap but I found it.) Then I took it home and hid it.

I thought about just saving it for Christmas but that seemed to negate all the effort that Caroline has put into working towards something. So this morning I told her that they are having a sale on Furby Booms and now she only needs to earn $29 to get one. She squealed, rapidly did the math and said "Oh WOW! I just need... TWO MORE DOLLARS!"

Edward looked at her skeptically and asked how much money she has right now.

She asked me.

"Sixteen," I told her.

Edward said, "No, Caroline you need more like ten more dollars."

"Thirteen," I specified.

Caroline said, "Well I can clean my room and do chores and I can get one!"

I smiled and gave myself a mental pat on the back. Parental job well done, me, I thought.

Then Edward said, "I really want a Furby Boom too! They are so cute! They look like creepy little owls."

Caroline said, "Oh Edward you should! Then yours and mine can be friends! You can get an orange and blue one!"

Edward said, "Great!" Then he asked, "Mommy how much money do I have?"

I thought about it.

"You have $29," I said. "You had $39 but you bought those two little lego sets, remember?"

[Edward received $30 from my mother. Not in some act of flagrant favoritism but because Edward - straight up, Edward - won her office football pool three weeks ago and after paying back the entry fees that my mom had fronted, he netted a cool three small bills. The $20 for Caroline (and Patrick) were just freebies; her grandmotherly heart refusing to let her send money to just one grandchild and not the others. Even if the others can't pick football games for nuts.]  

Caroline was the first to grasp the significance of this amount.

"Edward!" she gasped. "You have enough to get a Furby Boom right now!"

I shifted uncomfortably. "Well I guess but... Edward are you sure? You would have no money left at all. Zero. Wouldn't you like to save up for a big lego set or something?"

"No," he said. "I really want a Furby Boom."

Ohhhhhhhh crumbs.

So if you are following me like a lynx you will see the situation as I left it in the carpool lane this morning is:

1. Caroline has wanted nothing in the world but a Furby Boom for weeks and weeks. She has been saving up for one and is now $13 shy of her goal.

2. Edward decided on a whim that he wants one too and because a little natural thrift has combined with his gambling winnings he is in a financial position to get one today.

I have stopped patting myself on the back for my brilliant parenting. I think the best I can do now is come up with enough chores for Caroline this weekend that she is able to earn the remaining sum as quickly as possible. I just hope I don't establish some ridiculous precedent whereby the kids think that sorting a basket of clothes is always worth $8.79.

PS Oh and yes, I know. Furbys are very disturbing and the only thing I want less than a Furby in the house is two of them. 


Home, Improved

What? I hadn't shown you my long-awaited window seat cushion yet?

When we bought this house there was a gas fireplace in a sitting area adjacent to the kitchen and I am kicking myself for not having a photo of it... oooh, wait hold on.

[HA! I knew there was a reason I saved the marketing packet from the realtor who sold us this house ten years ago. I mean, a reason beyond the fact that I am a little looney when it comes to filing things in neatly labeled folders.]

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Scan of a scan but you get the idea. Around the fireplace the original owners had created a surround out of 12X12 dark green granite tiles. I thought it was rather elegant but when my mother came to visit she noted that all of those cold shiny squares stacked on top of each other put her in mind of nothing so much as a very small masoleum.

"For pets maybe. You could attach little brass plaques on each one: Mittens 1996-2002, Squeaker 2000-2000... ."

I never felt quite the same about the space after that and eventually the fact that I could not see outside from the kitchen because the fireplace was in the way began to prey upon me. So I said you know, we really should put a window there and Steve said ummmmhmmmmm and that was that until I woke up one morning a year or two later and

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Steve had removed the fireplace*, installed a new window and dropped the original mantle down to make a seat.

"Oooooh!" I said "I love it! It's perfect!"

Then I looked at the space and said, "You know, I think it needs a seat cushion."

And there the matter rested.

Until a couple of weeks ago when Steve went to the farm and I already had a babysitter; so I was able to leave the twins and take Patrick to Joann Fabrics where he picked out fabric and foam, and then to Home Depot where they cut plywood to size for us. Patrick is good with color and scissors and fabric and folding and... we learned... staple guns.

Using Caroline as his helper/paperweight (see: yesterday) he put together a window seat cushion for me in about an hour. Clearly for the past decade I had just been asking the wrong person.

I love it.

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You can see a peek of the granite that is still part of the floor since code required that fireplaces be fronted with non-flammable material and Steve - for some reason - chose not to rip up the floor and put down wood. I like to think of the future owners who are going to one day puzzle over the random tiling there.

*Steve put the fireplace on Freecycle and a couple came to pick it up. A year later they sent an email with a photo of their remodeled living room with our old fireplace glowing away in the center; very nice of them.


Two Peas In A Something

Caroline and Patrick have an interesting relationship.

They are not seamlessly close like she and Edward. Nor does she regard Patrick as some sort of wandering Odin; a homework-having, Minecraft-dominating god who dwells among us as Edward does. So far from treating him with awe, Caroline tends to argue with everything that comes out of Patrick's mouth and has done so since the moment she could talk. I'd like to say that seven year old Patrick found it charming when this wee scrap of a sister kept shouting "no!" at him but to be honest he found it galling.

"It is!" "Isn't!" "IS!" "ISN'T!"

No matter how many times I explained that arguing with a two year old is the shortest route to madness he would still get all flushed and annoyed and they would go back and forth and back and forth like opponents at the highest level of competitive ping-pong. This went on for yeeeeaaaaars.

Fortunately, finally, they have mellowed a bit. Partly because Caroline has developed the habit of lifting her chin and saying, "Patrick you are being rude to me and I am not going to speak to you ever. again" and Patrick is impervious to this. He says, "Good." Also, unlike Edward, Caroline doesn't mind losing and she is happy to play whatever the latest running-around-screaming game Patrick has invented.

And, on rare occasions when she accepts that he knows how to do something better than she does, she is willing to be his minion although she would call it his also-president.

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I expect they'll get along quite well when they're older which will make it easier to repair the rift after they come to blows over which one gets to take the new window seat cushion with them to college.


Apple. Tree. Mars.

I went with Caroline and Edward's class to the Children's Theater today. I offered to chaperone in September when the request for volunteers first went out; back when I thought it would be nice to get at least one field trip in with Edward before he was sent to Amish prison school.

Ha ha ha! I'm kidding! I mean: before he was expelled, period. I don't think an Amish prison school would take him*.

It was only later that I learned the play we were going to see was Charlotte's Web and then I started pleading with Steve to take my place on the bus. I didn't want to see Charlotte's Web. I don't like Charlotte's Web. I think it is both sad (spoiler: Charlotte spends the bulk of her adult existence emptying the dishwasher and sorting laundry and driving people to school without ever being appreciated and then she dies. the end) and... forgive me for saying this and I'll give my regards to Snowden after they deport me for dissing EBW... kind of dumb.

I thought the best line in the play was when Uncle Um first sees "Some Pig" spelled out in the spider web and he says something like, "Look at that! We have an amazing pig!" and Aunt Er replies, "More like we have an amazing spider."

YOU THINK? Seriously, that bothered me even as a child. It was like crediting the corn field for the billboard.

Anyway, all literary sacrilege apart, I went to the Children's Theater and although I might have preferred RENT (imagine how short it would be after they removed and/or sanitized all of the adult themes - we'd have been in and out in ten minutes) it was very fun to spend the day with kindergarteners and first graders. Caroline and especially Edward were excited to introduce me to all of their classmates and I was struck anew by how different they are from each other and from Patrick.

Caroline started the morning by throwing her arms around the other kid in my personal group of three and crying, "Oh, don't be sad! Are you sad? Are you worried because my mommy is here and yours isn't? Don't be! We'll have fun!"

The girl extricated herself and said, "No. I'm fine."

Caroline grabbed her again and patted her and said, "Yes. That's right. You're very brave."

Her job, I guess, done she walked over to another parent chaperone and said, "Hi! I'm Caroline! You must be so excited about the play!" and wandered off with her.

At the theater she sat next to a teacher who she engaged in quiet conversation during intermission. During the performance she was upright, very still and applauded politely, fingers to palm, when appropriate. On the bus she just hopped up next to whoever happened to be there. She asked the kid next to her who his favorite character had been and then told him she was proud of him for his good behavior.

Edward, meanwhile, rotated in his seat during the play like a compass on the North Pole and he is all up in the complicated social machinery of his class. Who plays with whom at recess but not in class and who shares the K'nex but only with that person or this person if that person is doing one of three other choice time activities but not the fourth - it's like the court of the Sun King; I had no idea. Edward filled me in on everything although he, personally, is only interested in the ones who have a passing acquaintance with Minecraft or Plants vs. Zombies. On the way back to school his eyes lit up when a girl he has mentioned in the past arrived in the aisle needing to share a seat. This girl is the one who he refers to as G's friend because she apparently has expressed a decided preference for the company of G over himself; a loss because she also  knows all about zombies. But she sat next to Edward - who dropped me like a stinging nettle - and they talked zombies and plants and kids in their class who also like zombies and/or plants. 

Patrick, of course, at age eleven, somehow managed to spend six days in a small cabin with nine other boys and never learned any of their names.

I continue to believe children and their personalities are generated at random.

* Edward had a very rocky start to kindergarten. My big fear was that he would be a weepy mess at drop-off like he was during preschool but, much to my surprise, from the very first day he and Caroline insisted upon being dropped off in the car line. Whether he might want to get clingy or not becomes immaterial as he is being helped out of the car by the carpool line people and guided toward the door of the school with firm hands.

I give a cheerful wave and drive away. Love it.

Or rather, I loved it until the fifth day of kindergarten when Edward came home with the school's equivalent of a red card, detailing an incident in which he had (god. Edward) spit at another kid. Good. Lord. I was horrified and only slightly less so when I discovered that the other kid in question was Caroline. It was all I could do not to say, cripes Edward! Can't you wait until you get home to spit at your sister... I mean of course this was very very wrong and we never ever do it and you will apologize and we ESPECIALLY don't do it at school because then I have to talk to the teacher about you. And I hate that.

The second week he... he hit a kid.

The third week he refused to come in from recess and this, work with me here, was actually a sign that things were improving because it was an indication that he was moving - shall we say evolving? - from violent to non-violent protest.

And that is pretty much where we are now. Edward has not any more aggressive incidents (his teacher today was nice enough to tell me that things have improved tremendously and she knows she just needs to give him lots of time) and he continues to emulate the great pacifists. When he objects to an activity - say cutting out shapes with scissors - he simply lies down on the floor and closes his eyes, as Gandhi did before him.

He's immature. He'll grow out of it. But in the meantime he has started seeing someone on Wednesdays to help him learn to manage his emotions more appropriately - she thinks he may be working through some anxiety stuff: fight flight or freeze; I was, like, oh! huh! wow! - and he got enrolled in the school's Friendship Rainbow Club For Reformed and Reforming Hitters. It takes him out of class a couple times a week. He likes it.


Don't Wait

I just went back in the comments to see who suggested that Patrick and I might enjoy the Wait Wait Don't Tell Me podcasts. It was Elizabeth (seconded by the always delightful Heidi - who sells lovely lovely yarn by the way) and to them I must say: THANK YOU. It never would have occurred to me and it was perfect. I laughed so hard that at one point I almost wrecked the car in Mississippi and we quickly had to institute a no-eating-or-drinking-while-listening policy for Patrick because he started to choke. Twice.

Hmmm, I just read that over and it sounded a lot more like an Addams' Family roadtrip than I had intended. I should clarify: at no point was NPR actually life-threatening. It was just so, so funny and even when things went sailing right over Patrick's wee head

(quasi-quote since I don't remember the exact phrasing but "Good thing the previous president didn't come up with the ACA or it would have been called Bushcare" 

Ba Da BING!)

he still cracked up. During something I don't even remember about Kid Rock I was wiping away tears and he was gasping and I asked, "Why are you laughing?" and he said "I don't even know! It's just that you're laughing so hard I cannot help myself" and that started us both off again. So fun and I can count on one hand the number of times prior to this that Patrick and I found ourselves prostrated by mirth over the same thing.

Not to mention the fact - and this is key because I had pulled him out of school for this jaunt under the promise that I would offer experiential learning - it was NPR so it was educational. Hand to my heart Patrick now knows just as much about the affordable healthcare act and all of its myriad ramifications as I do.

But most important of all it launched any number of inside jokes which everybody knows are the most binding of all human interactions and until the day we shuffle mutually or severally off this mortal coil I know that Patrick and I will make eye contact and smile at any mention of Amish prison schools.

So thank you for the recommendation most sincerely.

PS I have an Android phone so I wasn't sure how to listen to podcasts in the car but I downloaded a free app called OneCast and it worked fine. Not GREAT mind you, but fine.