4 and 1

like the nice wife that i am (read: pragmatist? martyr?... chump?), i said, sure larry, head to italy to attend an amazing wedding with your friends. while you're there, you may as well swing up to switzerland and visit your brother. no worries, i'll just be here at home with the two kids, enjoying what the 105 degree weather does to people after the pools close for the summer. enjoy your 9 days in europe.

so he gets the vacation.
and you've heard of the staycation.
what i have in front of me, however, is the naycation.

wish me luck.

DAY 1:
all three stopped crying before we got back on the highway from the airport. got massive groceries while spirits were up (or sense of resolve was strong?), including what turned out to be $22 worth of 10 kinds of fruit. no chocolate though, what's up with my definition of "comfort food"?

so far no yelling or crying or "that voice" from any of us. well, except hazel:

hazel can now reach every flat surface in the house (save the top of the refrigerator) which is trouble. i moved a glass out of her reach, to the opposite edge of the island, then promptly turned and slammed it (along with the ceramic mortar i had in my hand) to the tile floor. it was the kind of breakage that rendered much of the glass into a fine powder, and it flew into three different rooms. with no back-up, hazel had to cry from behind emergency baby gates while i swept and eva did her sisterly best to entertain her.

since her only nap was 15 min in the car on the way to the airport (typical!), she's asleep now at 7:30. hurray, i can get eva to bed with relative ease! but first, packing lunch and picking out clothing for tomorrow, to facilitate a smoother morning.

DAY 2:
stayed up far too late, i guess because no one told me to go to bed. oops. thus, was groggy when i rolled over from snoozing the alarm to find... a naked baby bum inches from my face. could have been bad, but i lucked out. her diaper was on the other bed, who knows what she was up to while i was konked out.

still fighting the ants that invaded while we were out of town. today they found the diaper bag, so i unknowingly transferred ants into the car. time to clear out the car clutter (a task that can only be done between 1:00-8:00 a.m.). found a winter coat though. nice!

vacuumed and cleaned the car after school, with double kid assistance. even with the a/c running nearly had heat stroke, but hey, clean car.

dinner and margaritas at a friend's house, and along with an itunes tour through decades of TV theme songs, it was just what we needed. drove around the neighborhood to induce slumber. eva woke up and flipped out as i was transferring her, and i responded by yelling at her for the first time since larry left. so i made it 32 hours. is that good or bad? in my defense, i had hazel locked in a car in the dark driveway in 95 degree heat. (sure, you're saying, bring the baby in the house first. but lately that just ends with two awake kids, one screaming. i know from experience.)

10 pm and two sleeping kids, and i even remembered to feed the dog! (what dog? we still have one of those?) project runway premier is waiting for me on my dvr, so that's a bonus. not a trapsing-around-italy type bonus, but hey, i'll take it.

DAY 3:
"mommmm! lemma pooped on floor and it's in my room and hazel's carrying it around!" i got out of bed with the speed of what i'm sure were those circle-blur cartoon legs, imagining all manner of horrors. thank goodness hazel has moved beyond the "everything in the mouth" phase. we did have to sanitize the whole bucket of duplos, though. note that at this very moment, larry is at the wedding in italy. we seriously need some 'freaky friday' action up in here.

yea! as expected, eva "graduated" from care at her endo appt today. the kids were delightful and i think it's now officially feasible to take both kids to doctors appointments. shh, don't tell larry. (larry, don't tell yourself.)

DAY 4:
went to a clothing swap today -- scored some cool stuff and even got it silkscreened. straight from there to lunch, then hanging out with friends, then to a pool party (where we met lots of new people, many of whom live in our new neighborhood).

so, no surprise really, that 9 hours after leaving the house, we knew it was time to go home when eva lost it over being presented with the wrong dip for her broccoli and started screaming and flailing, nearly (inadvertently) kicking a lovely pregnant woman in the stomach. after all that, said lovely woman was kind enough to hold hazel (who was then crying simply because eva was crying... oh and because she had had no nap) and to help me in getting my sobbing offspring to the car. nice to meet you!

i'm proud that i kept my cool, and that i followed through on my previous warnings that we'd leave if she was unable to change her behavior. we talked on the way home and she seemed to really get why we left.

larry called this afternoon, and we shouted at each other for a while on some sort of old-fashioned ship-to-shore line (or so it seemed) that had a good five second delay, plus echo. he reported that he had such an amazing time at the wedding yesterday that he can't even put it into words.

hmm. i'm not having that particular problem.

damn, just realized i forgot to ask him where the wine and the ant poison are (um, to be used for separate purposes). i mean, not like i can't go buy more, but haven't managed to yet.

DAY 5:
first day that we just stayed home all day. by the end of the day, you could really tell we needed to have gone somewhere, but too late by then. i was feeling sick (presumably allergies) and hazel was feverish/snotty/cranky from some acute teething... and then the trifecta: eva announced she didn't feel well, and sure enough, she had a fever. of course! nearly every single time larry goes to europe the kid(s) get sick.

what did we do all day... i can't remember...i just know it was somehow terribly exhausting.

DAY 6:
spent a nice day out and about with friends at the history museum and whatnot. i'm learning that eva's most ill-timed and maximally embarrassing fits are due to misunderstandings that she can't quite articulate.

spent yesterday with no internet b/c i couldn't figure out which of the various devices hazel had messed with and in what fashion. turns out the answer was "wireless router" and "unplugged" (with a candlestick in the study?).

being beckoned to play "restaurant" in the kitchen. eva just called me on her toy phone to say she hopes i'm already about to turn into the parking lot because my food is getting cold. maybe i can harness this play into some actual eating of actual dinner. (update: nope.)

oh man, that was some fun, elaborate pretending. in the end, i was the chef at the restaurant (what else?) and she came to fix our water pump (??) and paint the kitchen. she didn't have all the tools at first, and called her friend to ask to borrow some, but in the end she got the job done. (it involved waving a broom around, and hazel managed to avoid getting clocked, a win-win.)

uh oh, she's awake again... it's like a game of whack-a-mole with these two tonight, one up then the other (then the other and the other). current score: hazel 4, eva 2.

DAY 7:
okay, the less said about day 7 the better. suffice it to say, 11 p.m. and eva's just now asleep, so now hazel's playing with the dog water while i research double jogging strollers online. eh. good enough.

i'm thinking even the most crazy high-end expensive strollers are in fact a bargain in comparison to a trip to italy and switzerland. i mentioned this to larry, he may or may not think i'm joking. i was at first, but...

DAY 8:
the home stretch! we have enough planned today to require military precision so i best get a move on.

jumpy place (fun! both kids are getting so adventurous!) and swimming lessons filled up the day. earlier larry tried, with moderate success, to cajole the crank out of eva via phone from switzerland. but hurray for small miracles: as i contemplated what was sure to be the rockiest bedtime yet based on our collective mood, eva just curled up and fell asleep on the couch! amazing. hazel poked her with a stick for a while then also fell asleep. as i type this, larry's probably at the zurich airport. i did finally find that wine, and i think it's called for now.

in just 24 hours larry returns and my naycation draws to a close. at least i don't have to spend the next 24 hrs traveling since i'm already home. well, hmm... would i take the travel or my day here? at the moment it's a bit of a toss-up.

DAY 9:
three more hours! all that's left is to shower, maybe read some of our new library books, then head to the airport. eva was a mess at the library, so on the way home we had a random treat from the DQ next door. ugh, haven't had a blizzard in years and now i remember why. (does soft serve make everyone queasy or just me?) eva had her *own* dish of "ice cream" though, which thrilled her. i sold it as "a treat for us since we made it through papa's whole trip!" rather than the blatant anti-whining bribe that it was.

all in all, i think we did pretty well. we had our moments, but it wasn't a survive-at-all-costs scenario -- the house is cleaner than when he left, i actually cooked food, and until tonight, haven't gone with the cheater version of double bedtime (letting them crash out on the couches in front of the TV at 11 p.m...). in fact, i think we were pretty freakin' awesome, considering.

so next time, i'm the one who gets to travel around europe for nine days, right? enjoy *your* staycation, larry. the wine is in the hall closet.


a farewell

cousins, originally uploaded by kelanew.

we said goodbye to john, karen, sarah, and katherine on friday. they're in switzerland now for a couple years.

before they left, we got the cousins together nearly every weekend (gram was helping watch the girls while john and karen packed). the little ones, hazel and katherine, won't remember, but for eva and sarah, who are so close, it's all a bit harder.

eva mostly understands -- but at her age she's still somewhat fuzzy on time. so, i had to explain that no, we won't be visiting them in a couple weeks or months. it won't be until way past winter (the farthest thing she can generally conceive of is "winter" or "your birthday" depending on what time of year it is :). so, now she is announcing "we're going to visit sarah in switzerland in the winter!" um, not exactly, but i closer.

the extent to which logical connections don't just fall into place was hammered in this weekend. we were at work day at grammie's house, and we were discussing eva's upcoming birthday party at gram's house. eva casually mentioned that sarah would be there.


when she would mention her birthday and sarah a month ago, i just dodged the question ("we'll see") because there was no point telling her that far out that sarah was leaving. so now she knows sarah moved away, but somehow it didn't connect in her head that (therefore) sarah wouldn't be at her party. she was crushed. but, she's okay now, she was just surprised.

when they said goodbye it was a lot like any other goodbye, the "see ya' later!" sort of thing. but then i noticed eva was just standing there totally still, looking over at sarah in her bed. i crouched down, caught her eye, and asked,

"what are you thinking, baby?"
she smiled just a bit and looked back over in sarah's direction as she said, in that way only kids can, that is both matter-of-fact and conveys a ton of emotion:

"that i will miss her."


charlie's robot

happy!, originally uploaded by kelanew.

today, as told to me on the drive to the first day of summer camp(!) -- she's going every afternoon for two weeks to an arts camp -- visual and performing arts, including dance, drama, and singing, so i think it's just the wright thing for her for the moment. her story:

charlie invented a brand new kind of rocket. it's the fastest rocket ever, and it can go really far into space. millions of miles into space, like past the sun! all the way to the top of outer space! it's different from other rockets, because it's so powerful that instead of having lots and lots of fire that comes out of the back when it blastes ("blast-es") off to space, it only needs a little bit of fire. and that way, it's safer so no houses get burned. then, it shoots out most of the fire once it's already in outer space. and then, a computer tells it if there's an astronaut nearby, and if there is, it just sucks the fire back in to keep the astronaut safe. isn't that great? and also this kind of rocket is really good for the earth.

that charlie, he's so clever. good thing he (as eva often says) "teaches her lots of interesting things".



big sister anniversary, originally uploaded by kelanew.

"eva, can i hold your hand? not because you *need* to hold my hand on the sidewalk -- you can walk along this busy road by yourself -- but just because i like to?"
"because then our hearts will be connected?" (i must have said this to her one time.)
we were walking to a trial dance class at the rec center down the road. there was a pause.

"mama? can we pretend there's a string that attaches to my heart, and goes all the way over and connects to your heart? and then we'll always be connected?"
"sure! hmm, i wonder what happens if i went... all the way across the street! then what?"
"well, it would still reach, because i'd just make it longer."
"what if... what if i was at home but you were at school?"
"then i'd just make it super long! but we'd still be connected."
"does it stretch, or grow, or, how does it get so long?"
"no, it's automatic. you see, i just have these buttons..."

she went on to describe the buttons -- there were three, one to make it short, one to make it medium, and one to make it long. oh wait, she decided after some thought, there's one more button to reel it back in when we go closer to each other. also -- she was very clear on this -- each button makes a different sound (she went on to demonstrate them as we walked).

"eva, what is this whole system called?"
"it's called the Automatic Super String of the Heart Connect."

be still my heart. and i love that it's mechanical, with buttons. when it comes to this sort of thing, she generally reports that charlie taught her about it.

so she had a big long day of too many new activities, with some intense emotions (accompanied by some insight, "i'm having a lot of trouble today, it's a really hard day!" she said through her tears -- usually that realization comes not until she's calmed down).

as i was working on painting her room late tonight, she woke up and needed more water, but mostly wanted to snuggle. i told her i was working on her room, and said i was curious whether she thought she'd choose to sleep in the big bedroom or in her new bedroom.

"mom, i have the perfect solution. i can start the night sleeping in here with you guys, then if i wake up in the night, i can just move to my own room."
huh. odd that she hit upon the usual arrangement, but in reverse. i offered the more standard order of bed-moving, and she would have none of it.
"oh, mama, i just prefer my solution, okay?"
fine, then. she rolled over to go back to sleep.

"you know what eva? i think if you choose to sleep in your bedroom, i might miss you a bit."
(honestly, i'll miss her a lot, but my point in telling her this was to let her know it's okay to be happy and sad at the same time about new things... she's had several changes to cope with lately.)
she rolled back to face me, smiling, and with half-asleep eyes.

"oh mama!" she said in that clearly-you-jest voice she has perfected, "you wouldn't miss me. because of our heart-connector strings!"

oh right. how could i forget?

back in january (when i planned to start working on her room, before i knew i'd be half or more sick all spring) i asked her if she might like to sleep in her new room. i asked just like that, very casually. she immediately started crying and protested, "but i'll miss you guys if i sleep far away by myself!" i reassured her she didn't have to sleep anywhere else if she didn't want to. what a change, five months later, when *she's* reassuring *me*. i always trusted that we'd collectively know when she was ready, and i guess she is. (or, i should say, ready to give it a try... )

[i can't resist adding: she even helped me paint earlier, until she decided it wasn't "as interesting ("inch-rest-ing") as i thought it would be... it seems like painting a *whole* room is annoying!" sorry to burst your bubble.]


huggers shirley

snuggling up, originally uploaded by kelanew.

remember that old sesame street bit about the two aliens (apparently called the geefle and the gonk) who are trying to eat some nectarines from a tree? the gonk is too short to reach them, and while the geefle can reach them, he can't bend his arms to get them to his mouth (never mind that this seems a terrible evolutionary adaptation on a planet where the only available food is nectarines, and the tale doesn't explain how the geefle managed to survive as a species thus far without previously establishing some sort of symbiotic relationship). they hit upon a solution wherein the geefle tosses nectarines down and the gonk in turn feeds both of them, and decide to give this process a name. the gonk says "let's call this 'cooperation'", and the geefle responds, "no, let's call it shirley." (video)

this story, and specifically the phrase "let's call it shirley", are firmly entrenched in the lore of my family growing up. (this, along with "duh stephanie" from full house, "johnny five is alive", any reference to the benniker gang, and of course, jokes about the lennox man.)

a few weeks ago, eva gave me a great hug. one of those hugs where the kid actually squeezes you rather than just flopping across your body, squeezing so tightly that she is compelled to let out a "ungh!" sound. she nestled into my neck and sighed. i squeezed back, and rocked side to side, supporting most of her body weight.

"mmm-uh. wow, that was a great hug, eva! maybe we should give that kind of a hug a name so we can remember it."
"okay! um... let's call it 'huggers-buggers'." [she's into rhyming endearments, gee wonder where she gets that. emma-lemma. hazel-basil. or larry's: eva-boliva-conceeva-bohneva. yes, really.]
"no," i said, reflexively taking my 25-years-old entrenched cue, "let's call it shirley!"

thus "huggers shirley" was born. we discussed that maybe at times when we were having trouble with each other, instead of arguing or yelling, one or the other of us could say "stop! let's do huggers shirley!" so that we could remember how much we love each other. (a few months ago we were into rubbing noses for the same purpose -- it's hard to stay frustrated with someone when your noses are touching. or, i know of other moms who will stop and smell their preschooler's head mid-breakdown to reestablish that connection.)

it's great. now she has specific (nonsensical, but effective) language to say "mama, i need to reconnect to you", and asks for it probably every other day. when we're having a hard day, when she's feeling anxiety about something (recently, school/social stuff), when i'm putting her to bed at night, when hazel's monopolizing my attention:

"mama, can we do huggers shirley?"

and i know never to turn her down. even if the food is about to burn or hazel is trying to teeth and nurse at the same time. it's a little contract of sorts, and we're both really enjoying it.

let's call it reconnecting! no, let's call it huggers shirley.
hey... want part of my nectarine?


growing up


"mama, at night sometimes i dream about what my life will be like when i'm a grown-up. sometimes in the mornings i do that, too, when i'm awake. i was just doing that right now."

we were in the car, about to pull in to a parking space at target. we sat in the car, a/c running and hazel sleeping, so i could take advantage of one of these moments when she feels like sharing her big thoughts. here's a basic synopsis of what she told me about her dreams for her future (my neutral probing questions omitted, a lot of "oh reallys" and "i'm curious to know more about thats"):

"i am going to have the most wonderful children in the whole world. i'm going to live in a beautiful house. there will be flower vases in every room. the one on the table will have honeysuckle in it, and then at lunchtime, we can suck on the honeysuckles. i wish that my children will never get into fights with me, but if they do i'll just go to a different room until everybody calms down and maybe they will say 'i'm sorry'. i want my house to look similar to gram's house, with the rooms in similar places but smaller. everyone will have their own bedroom, but the babies and kids will sleep with us. [who is "us"? i asked]. the mama and the papa. i'm the mama, and i will choose who will be the papa. i will have a job, so i will not be around my children as much. that will make me feel sad, but if i feel sad, i'll just order a necklace like yours and i'll feel better if i have to be away from my children [the one i have with a charm with both girls' names -- i told her once it makes me feel happy when i'm away from my girls, because i can touch it and feel like they are near me.]. i wish for my children to be brother and sister. or if i have two boys, brothers, or if i have two girls, sisters. or twins."

in the past couple weeks, she has for the first time stated What I Want To Be When I Grow Up. the verdict? a "photographer artist". she's mentioned it several times, sort of elaborating on the concept"when i'm a photographer artist, i'll make art that people can buy. it might have paint and photos and other stuff all mixed up." she also added that she might like to act, but that was immediately after we were at the children's theater. i reminded her that in a few weeks, she starts summer camp at arts center, which is visual arts combined with dance and drama.

wow. mama's so smart. (i.e., sometimes i get things right! :)


today was her first day of school having switched to mornings from afternoons. she went to morning class twice in the week when larry was abroad and i was having trouble, say, standing without leaning against available walls. she loved it, minus some trouble with the foreign concept of napping. well, i sort of forgot that it would be a big deal, her first day moving to mornings. same school, same teachers, some of the same kids... plus she'd been to mornings twice.

well yesterday she was sort of insane all day, then at bedtime, it all came flooding out.

"what if the morning kids are mean to me? last time at morning class, i asked if i could play with them and they said no. only the all-day kids [who already know her] would play with me. and i don't know how to do the dancing class that they do at school and all the other kids will know how. and i want to play with the boys, but they only want to play firefighter and i don't like playing firefighter. i could ask them to play race [which she used to do months back with boys when she tired of princessy stuff for a spell], but i don't have any racing shoes that fit me anymore. my sandals run faster than my feet so i can't race in them, but i don't have any good race shoes!"

after a surprising amount of back and forth, it became clear she was referring to tennis shoes. ah, tennis shoes! well, my dear one, that we can fix. we can go get you some tennis shoes. i wish i could fix it so that no kid was ever mean to you and you never had to have your feelings hurt, but that's not how it works (nor should it be). but shoes... check. i've got that covered.

she was excited and apprehensive this morning, and there were a few tears when i dropped her off. by the time i left (after chatting outside the gate with another mom), she was on the playground, chatting with a "new" (morning) boy and a girl she already knows. hazel spied her all that distance away and repeatedly waved bye-bye. at pick up, hazel saw the playground and begain waving again, though it was empty, looking for eva. eva was tired and cranky, but i think that's to be expected after a big new experience. so, i think it's going to be a good switch for her in the end.

but this growing up stuff, whether making new friends or planning for your future as an artist who lives in a flower-strewn house with your kids, is hard work. here's hoping some appropriate footwear can help a little.

happy birthday, hazel!

happy birthday, hazel!

my baby is one. in fact, she's been one for ten days already, but i'm just now writing this. that's in part due to the fact that i've been sick again (since roughly january, but was basically non-functional for a couple weeks there, coinciding with larry's trip to qatar --but frankly i'm sick of thinking and talking about all that, so the less said the better at this point). but i've also not written about her turning one yet because it took me a while to process it.

it sort of snuck up on me, as i was doing my best to get through the minimum level of daily tasks until shortly before her birthday. and then it felt bittersweet -- she's amazing and i love seeing all the new things she can do, love bearing witness to the person she's becoming before my eyes, but it's also a little sad that she's not a tiny baby anymore. she's likely my last, and i already miss it. and i worry at times that i wasn't present enough, because i already can't really remember her first year. i worry it happened while i was busy dealing with life, and if so, that's sad, too.

but really, i think i don't remember it because i was living it rather than recording it all as it happened. i was far more present this time around, that whole living-in-the-moment thing. i spent more time just being with her (and with eva, and as a family with larry) and less time worrying about whether or not i was doing everything the right way. i guess that's the gift of being a second child. the drawback is that your mama's memories are foggy -- but hey, hazel doesn't remember it either, so we're even.

hazel's baby dragon cake

we had a lovely little party to celebrate her big day -- postponed a day with a venue change due to rain, but happily most guests were still able to make it. she looked like such a kid in her puffy party dress, running around with all the kids (who were really basically eva's friends and younger siblings, but at the tender age of 1 hazel is already starting to roam around in the pack of preschoolers and toddlers -- i love that). she really liked her cake and would light up when she saw the dragon (signing for dog, because what baby has a frame of reference for a dragon, right?) and doing her best to get her hands on it and, i presume, eat it.

she is so fun at this age. she has been walking with assurance for a while now, so is trying out new tricks like climbing and "running" when excited (which tends to end with a face plant as her center of balance gets ahead of her feet). she copies *everything* we do, especially eva, and is watching and absorbing everything. yesterday, eva had a doll, so hazel went and found a doll (uh, more accurately, hazel had the first doll, eva snatched it away, and hazel found a new one). eva wrapped her doll in a blanket, so hazel disappeared into the kitchen and came back with a scarf, holding it out for help wrapping up her baby. hazel holds the baby up to her neck and twists back and forth just like eva. eva set hers down on the coffee table (for a diaper change or something), so hazel followed her over and did the same. this morning, hazel walked over to me after i fixed eva's hair for school, hairbrush in hand, wanting me to brush her hair as well. the other day i implored eva to get her shoes on so we could go somewhere, and there's hazel, walking over to me with her shoes in hand, ready to go, too.

it's those sorts of behaviors (as much as size, or walking, or the like) that has totally shifted my perspective. she's not a baby now, she's a small kid. she participates in our family life. eva and hazel play together, they snuggle up when they need a break, they wrestle each other (eva may find they're evenly matched before long!), they play games of chase. the other night before bedtime, the girls got us started in some crazy running around giggling game (good ol' RUSD as larry has termed it -- rile them up to settle them down (before bedtime). he claims it works, i claim it makes bedtime harder but is fun so i go for it anyway). hazel was gigging like crazy, running at one then the other of us, diving at us, wanting to roll around and be silly. i chased them in circles around the pathway through the kitchen, they flew in the air, larry tossed them on the sofa. stuff like that was always fun with eva, but is exponentially more joyful with two, since they feed off each other.

hazel has also reached the stage of having very strong opinions. no longer the happy-go-lucky laid back infant, she now will let you know what she thinks. if she wants to drink out of your water and you decline (or stop after you get bored of helping her after 10 minutes), she might scream. or plop down on her bum, tilt her red face up at you, and cry. or, if proximity allows, scratch you on the face. at this point it's mostly cute (mostly), but it is definitely a preview of toddlerhood to come.

happy birthday, my sweet hazel penelope. we are all thrilled beyond words to have you in our family. and while i will always remember your babyhood (and probably bore you to death recounting it when you are a teenager), and though i look forward to getting to know the person you will become, right now, i'm so happy and thankful to simply be with you. (i'm sniffing your head as i type this. you're nursing on and off, interspersed with roaming around carrying blocks in a bag, putting the phone in papa's (empty, phew!) coffee cup, and climbing in and out of the rocking chairs. busy as always.) i love you, little one year old baby. forever and always.

mama and girls



walking baby, originally uploaded by kelanew.

it's official, people. she's walking. as in, she no longer crawls.

it's so fascinating to watch the transition. eva woke up one day at 15 mo and decided to walk. so she did, from then on. she had clearly known how for months, but needed to decide to go for it. but once she did... she went from full time crawling to full time walking literally overnight (i believe it was october 3rd?) hazel, on the other hand worked it out over a period of a few weeks... those first strings of 5 or so steps a month ago, then part-time walking (arms out for balance), slowly tipping the balance to walking more than crawling... and for a week or so now, she walks full time. so every day this last month has been something new, a measurable shift in her abilities (not unlike how eva and i have been watching her pinto beans grow, and there's often a change between lunch and dinner. don't blink or you'll miss it!)

she seems thrilled that she can now transport items around the house in true bipedal fashion. which explains why i keep finding markers and rubber bands in the silverware tray of the dishwasher, and why the remote and both cordless phones can generally be found under the kitchen table or in the pantry.

she's signing a bit more but still not too much -- she clearly understands lots of signs, but isn't that in to doing them. and i don't care, because it's communication, that's all i'm really hoping for. she'll be crying at the gate because papa left to go upstairs to work, and i'll call to her from across the room, ask if she wants milk. she'll stop crying, turn and grin, and walk over to me, both hands up flapping away signing milk (one that just really "clicked" for her recently). wow. she's like a whole person. i know that shouldn't continue to amaze me, but it does.

and that brings me to the dominant theme of the last several days -- hazel is officially in a papa phase. say, in that previous scenario, that i'm sitting nursing her, and she may even be three-quarters asleep. larry will walk in, he may or may not speak, and hazel will pry herself awake, wriggle herself into an upright position on my lap, climb down, and make a beeline for him. this is new to me, a baby who will give up nursing to do... well, anything else. but hazel is 100% in love with her papa: more than almost anything in the world, she loves to sleep on his belly (she always has). she lights up when he's around (sorry, mama, you're old news :) and cries when he leaves. she finds him hilarious.

it's a beautiful thing to see. and while part of it is personality and part is the situation (two kids, divided attention), he has more than earned this adoration. they spend so much time together, including hours in the late evening. after i head up to bed, he stays downstairs with her (as he's generally up late anyway) so i can get a couple hours of uninterrupted sleep. if she wakes, he can get her back to sleep with no problem at all. this, too, will never cease to amaze me. (but not really. because it's larry.)

i've said it many times, but we feel so privileged that our children get to have two parents around them for so many hours of the day. (okay, there are times when larry might not think of this is a "privilege", like when he really needs to get some work done and there's crazy flying around out of every corner of the house.) it's easy to become immune to one's own daily experience, whatever it may be, but i am in fact conscious of this one quite often. among all the many blessings in my life, this is a good one. my kids get to have this amazing relationship with their dad (who nicely balances out the mama side of the parental equation). and of course that would be true whatever his job (or my job)... but the extra time together sure is nice, and i am truly thankful for it.

thinking something

okay, that wrapped it up in a nice tidy bow, but i can't resist this postscript: it's like wrestling a drunk monkey trying to change hazel's diaper these days, never mind trying to get her dressed -- she's halfway across the room and somehow you're still holding onto one sleeve chasing her down. she's not opposed to these things, not (generally) protesting or crying -- she's just too busy to be bothered with it, she has places to be.

but come at her with her shoes.... wow. she-who-shall-not-be-still becomes placid, calm. she watches with rapt attention as you slip the shoe onto her foot. she doesn't even move while you hunt around for the other shoe ("hey eva, have you seen hazel's shoe? can you check the dishwasher?"). she knows her shoes mean freedom. and then she's ready to go.


oh yeah?, originally uploaded by kelanew.

so, i don't know if it's something that works sort of like christmas creep, what with reindeer flying over the jack-o-lanterns while out running errands. or if, instead, it has something to do with environmental estrogens, smashing puberty right down on top of preschool. but whatever the cause, we're getting a serious preview of eva at fourteen these past few weeks.

there's glaring. there's dramatic sighing. there's flopping down onto the couch in practiced anguish.

i'm now often called "mom", which is pronounced across three syllables and as many notes ("ungh! mah-uuuuh-AAAAHM!") and i'm pretty sure we're ruining her life. i can tell, because apparently i never let her buy anything she wants, i never let her do what she wants to do, and i never do anything fun, never ever. or so i'm told. often.

i'm sure a lot will change in the next decade, but i think some things might remain constant. i knew enough to expect this eventually, but was naive enough to think i had a few more years. just wait until she learns how to roll her eyes in exasperation. then we'll be ready to go.

(and yes, i know this is all just life coming full circle on this former petulant teenager who gave her own mother no end of grief.)

eva to mama: stop taking photos

but for all the times she's sighing and moping and saying "i don't know" when i inquire about her life, there are other times when she's almost comically articulate about what ails her:

"this shirt causes me to struggle."

she said that today, in a frustrated but not whiny voice, and i couldn't help but smile.

and then, of course, there's the rest of the time, which is actually the vast majority of the time, when she's sweet and caring and just so excited to learn everything about everything.

it can be really up and down, this preschool thing. and i'd better just hang on tight and enjoy the ride...


return of the troubador

walking, "help", originally uploaded by kelanew.

"mama, can i sing you a song? it's a song about you."

(i then missed the first verse, but quickly realized i might want to type as she sang. so she danced and flowed around the living room, singing like so:)

Mom Song:

mama you are thankful for giving me your care
when you are my mama, you will be my favorite
you are beautiful and thankful
oh, you are sweet to me, you are happy
you are just my mom.

when you are happy i love you
you are my mom for ever after all
you are my mom, you are my mom
you you you are my mom
you you you are my mom
you are my mom forever until...
you just are my mom forever.

you are my best mama
you are lovable
mama, mama, mom.

you are great for giving me your care
and hazel needs help from you and me and her whole family
woo woo you are the best mama i ever had.

when you are great, you are sweet
mama you take care of the whole family
the whole family takes care of theirselves and each other
you are my mama and i love you
and you love me

mama you are sweet to me
mama you are happy
you can always be my mom.

"that's the end. do you want me to sing you another similar song? it's similar but a little bit different."

Girl Family Song:

mama you are great for giving me your care
you are sweet, happy as can be
you are my mom forever after all

i will have my sister, she will always be my sister
when you are sweet
i will love you even when you are mad
mama i love you so much

my sister loves me so much and i love her so much
and you love me so much
woo woo woo and joolaloo

i love everybody who i know
you are my best wholooloo

hazel and you are the best people in my family

K: "what about papa?"
E: "he's in one that's similar to these two girl ones. he's in the boy one. [pause] next i'll sing you the boy one."

Dad Song:

daddy is the lovable
daddy is the best
woo woo woo
dad loves all his whole family
even the dog
who barks a lot

you are my best family
you are sweet, i love you papa
you are my best caring
woo, you love me and i love you
you love me and i love you
you are so so happy to be my papa

dad is my dad
he loves me and i love him
he's the best when he is the best
when you are the best dad
you know you are the best
dad is the best and hazel is the best

hazel is the best of all the people i love
woo i love dad
dad is the best dad and he is
you are my sunshine and he is too

dad you are the best of anybody i know
so you can be my dad you know
you are my dad

("hazel no no no! no grabbing my telephone!")

thus ends the program.


bedtime for two

sisters at play, originally uploaded by kelanew.

how to manage bedtime for two kids on your own, when the elder is not accustomed to falling asleep on her own and the younger is too old to just nurse quietly at any time of your choosing:

night 1: take papa to the airport at the crack of dawn. during the sleepy day that follows, discuss with eva that after pjs/potty/teeth/book/song, you and hazel will go downstairs so hazel doesn't keep her up. feel far too reassured when she agrees to fall asleep on her own. subsequently answer her queries down the stairs every 20 minutes, at first with "iloveyous" and giggles then later with shouting and explanations of consequences. continue in this loop until 11, even though you must wake up early for a daytrip in the morning.

night 2: in an effort to avoid a repeat of night 1, orchestrate your day such that you eat dinner before your drive back into town, planning for the kids to fall asleep in the car. inexplicably, feel far too reassured (once again!) when the plan works. ninety minutes later, start the cycle of the previous night all over again when she wakes up. later, make her cry by shouting up the stairs in frustration "just. go. to sleep!", and nearly cry yourself when she responds through tears, "mama, you're not being very nice to me." go up and sit with her until she falls asleep. fret that she was up until 11:30, knowing the alarm is set for 6:45 to take the rescue puppies to get spayed and neutered.

night 3: get home late when it takes forever to pick up the puppies. mentally check out after the makeshift dinner, mentally check back in to realize your daughters are playing on the floor, giggling hysterically at each other, scoop up your heart from where it melted into a puddle on the floor. decide "screw bedtime" and follow the giggles instead until after 9. be amused rather than frustrated when hazel grabs the bedtime book 42 times and literally crawls back and forth over you and eva over and over as you read. wish you had a video camera handy to record the insanity. go along with eva's request to stay with her. amuse hazel on the floor rather than the bed so that she'll stop crawling on her sister. stare at eva's sleeping face just 7 minutes later. wonder why on earth you bothered with the hours of craziness the previous two nights.

night 4: plan to not bother with bedtime at all, given there's no need to wake up early and that papa will be home tomorrow. surprise yourself by initiating the bedtime routine promptly at bedtime because things seem to be heading that direction with ease. follow the night 3 plan, marred only by papa's phone call home when eva is all but asleep. be amazed when both children are sleeping peacefully by 9:15! get a glass of wine and watch an hour of trashy television. be more than ready to welcome papa back home tomorrow!

ralphie, help!

you will not believe what just happened to me.

i was packing our lunch for our day trip tomorrow, and since my last remaining ice pack leaked yesterday, i was making another tray of ice to use in cooler instead. (our ice maker has been broken for ages, so we put trays in that little bin up top since it's otherwise unused freezer space.) so i filled the tray, spilled a bit, and stuck it in the freezer.

("spilled a bit" is the foreshadow there, but "stuck" is really the key word.)

well, apparently my wet index finger and thumb found a metal bar inside the ice maker, and were instantly and firmly stuck. really stuck. who even knew that metal bar was there, hiding behind the plastic case up high where it can't be seen? uh oh.

i tugged a bit, no luck. i glanced around for some sort of tool... not sure what i was looking for, but in any case, our kitchen is arranged such that the freezer is practically in the hallway, so there's no way i could have reached anything other than a box of oatios. contemplated flinging a foot toward the counter in hopes that my water bottle would roll my way, realized that wasn't going to work. it was my right arm stuck in the left-side freezer, so i couldn't really open the fridge side, let alone reach anything of use in there.

i should point out that i'm alone in the house but for a preschooler and baby (both asleep) and three dogs, two of which are post-surgical and locked in a crate -- in the kitchen no less, watching me with interest. i suppose i could have, in theory, yelled loud enough to wake eva all the way upstairs, but i'd rather rip the skin off my fingers than traumatize both my kids to that degree (nevermind the case of frostbite i'd have by the time she could help).

i was still calm, and remembered what i learned growing up on the tundra, what everyone tells you to do when the predictable happens and you get your tongue stuck to a metal pole -- you wait. wait until your body heat melts the ice and then you will be free. well, i only stuck my tongue to a pole once as a kid and this was before i was offered this sage advice, so i've never personally tested this theory. until now. i don't know if it only works with tongues not fingers, or if the freezer makes it worse than the outdoors somehow, but i waited as long as i could and the stuck-on patches didn't even get smaller.

or, it seemed they didn't anyway. i couldn't see my fingers (or that damn bar!), and it's hard to assess since they were getting so cold. by this time, it was really starting to hurt quite a lot, and i'll admit, the cool-in-a-crisis me was walking out the door, leaving time-to-panic me still stuck in the freezer. sure, it's funny, (i thought), but i've exhausted my options and i can't just live in the freezer from now on. here comes the inevitable -- similar but more dire versions of this thought have gone through the minds of many a hiker trapped under a boulder or logger trapped under a tree -- i'm going to have to just do it. i'm going to have to rip off my finger skin.

oh, but i really, really don't want to! i gave it a tentative little tug. apparently, it's not as easy as you might think to rip off your own flesh. but man, was it starting to hurt... or maybe you have to do it bandaid-style and just go for it? i was thinking this one through when inspiration struck! i had it, i thought of the solution, and it worked! (obviously it did, or i wouldn't be typing this... i'd still be in the freezer or nursing some sizable finger-wounds instead.)

now, let's just pause here for a second. anyone remember "encyclopedia brown"? i used to love those books, and loved that feeling of satisfaction when i could figure out the mystery on my own before checking the back of the book for the answer. so let's all have a little encyclopedia brown moment, shall we? you have all the clues you need to solve this problem (not to mention you have the benefit of it being thusly narrowed for you, rather than having to scan my entire kitchen in a panic as i did).

did you figure it out? probably it's obvious, but no cheating. scroll down after you've made your guess.

















(guess, you smartie-pantses, if only because then you can gloat in the comments section...)

















the ice cube tray! i had just put it into the freezer, so it was filled with water (versus, say, ice). after some maneuvering, i managed to get it out with my free hand and pour the water over my stuck fingers. (there was a momentary panic when i thought all available water was gone and one finger was still stuck, but turns out there was enough to go around after all.) my fingertips were blanched completely white in a weirdly-defined shape on both fingers, which looked pretty freaky, even for someone who grew up routinely dealing with 40 below temperatures. after the painful "thaw" stage was over (yeowch!) things seem fine, though, and i think come morning i won't even know it happened.

except, i will know. i'll not soon forget the time i managed to get stuck in the freezer with no one around to help. though perhaps it was better that way -- remember that woman in the 80s who famously got stuck in her dishwasher? rather than helping, her husband video taped her and laughed his karmically-challenged head off, then sent that into america's funniest home videos. that said, i'm sharing because i don't mind being laughed at, as long as it's happening while all my fingers are a normal temperature and i'm free to move about the cabin.


car rhyme

nurse...?, originally uploaded by kelanew.

eva made up this rhyme in the car, then repeated it three times the exact same way so i knew it was important and had better write it down. fyi, when i asked eva what a "soldier" was when she started saying it a few months ago, she said "someone who guards a castle" (meaning she heard this term at school). okay, good -- glad she didn't learn about soldiers from overhearing too much NPR! (can't remember the last time we read "brown bear, brown bear" but i guess she saw hazel's copy lying around recently?)

soldier, soldier, what do you see?
i see a dragon chasing me.

dragon, dragon, what do you see?
i see a bear eating my tail!

bear, bear, what do you see?
i see an alligator jumping on my head.

yesterday we played all day long at the new braunfels children's museum. she and hazel had a great day, and it was sweet to see them playing alongside each other with eva's friends.


nine in nine out

eat your veggies, originally uploaded by kelanew.

poor, poor, neglected second children. hand-me-downs aren't the half of it -- eva's babyhood was meticulously recorded (at least in contrast!) and hazel's... well, i end up posting every two months or so, and saying everything i can think of all at once. (though, i hear third children are known to pick out their own baby books at the age of four or so, right baby sister?) hazel, as for you, find solace in the fact that i'm playing with you and enjoying you instead of obsessively recording each and every tooth.

well, so far, i'm actually on top of the teeth. two. that's it.

hazel is 9 1/2 months old. she's healthy and happy and growing like crazy. she's smiley and easy-going (but makes her opinions known when she needs to). just by being who she is -- and her hazelness is really starting to make itself known -- several times a day larry and i are required to exchange glances, smile at each other, and say "just look at that baby!" or "can you even believe this baby?" being her parents it's not too surprising, i know, but we're endlessly amazed by her very existence on a daily basis. it can't get better than that.

i should say (and should have said to start out), you can pretty much stop reading unless you're a grandparent or auntie. these "baby book" posts are just that -- intended for hazel herself when she gets older, and for doting family. everyone else can tune in another day if they like.

today i called larry at his conference to say "guess which one of your children just said 'light'?" generally i'm not so bold as to pronounce a word as being an actual word until i hear it in context a few times, but it was just so obvious i called larry. she's already been saying "mama" -- that started as sort of meaning me but sort of meaning "someone bring me comfort!", which is more or less what mama means, anyway. that would be her first official word at 8 mo (eva's was "dog", followed months later by "grandpa", at least as i remember it.) since then,she's been saying "ummuh" for "lemma" (the dog, i'm sure because i'm always shouting the poor dog's name... oops), and a few times i've thought she's said "baba" for papa, but i'm not sure of that one yet.

light, though... that couldn't have been more clear. why? well, as much as i'm a huge proponent of baby signs (i'll tell anyone who'll listen, it's the biggest payback for the least effort of anything i've ever done as a parent), we've been a bit lazy about it with haz. she signed some around christmas, and then dropped down to only signing light. we're really consistent with that one! at every meal, we sign when we turn on the light above the table. so, today i flipped on the light and was about to sign it to her, and she looked at the light, looked at me, and said "ligh" (missing the "t"). cutie.

this photo was taken 6 weeks ago when she was 8 months old, eating various veggies. she's quite the eater (and let's just say, that's in stark contrast to my previous experience). i think she's yet to turn down a food -- maybe zucchini? -- and loves to eat all different kinds of tastes and textures (and rocks too). we've still not given a few things (like dairy), but other than that, she pretty much eats what we eat. i love that, like a few nights ago, sitting at the dinner table with larry and our girls, everyone eating veggie & lentil stew over brown rice. those moments make me wonder where this little family of mine came from. crazy!

hazel's new favorite game is to use the rocking chairs my dad made for eva as climbing gyms. she stands on the seat and holds the back and rocks, or sits on the arm (threatening to tip it over on herself!), crawls off face first, etc. loves it. she gets her leg stuck under the arm, but works out how to disentangle it on her own.

but the biggest news is probably that she's thinking about walking. she took her official first steps this week (or last week,maybe? it's all a blur, honestly). she'll reach out and take three to five steps toward you, with a huge grin on her face. now she'll walk between pieces of furniture, and so i think we could be in trouble very soon. she's been on the go since she was just days old, so once she can walk for real... she'll be off exploring her world with mama trailing behind trying to keep up.

her hair is getting a bit lighter, in that zone between blonde and brown, and the more it stands away from her head, the clearer it becomes that she will have some amount of curl. eva loves that idea, that they'll both have curly hair.

speaking of that... eva loves hazel with the biggest love i've ever seen. it's overpowering, and i just enjoy watching them together. they're getting to the age where they play together -- athough sometimes eva shrieks and tries to hoard her toys when hazel starts plodding over her way, just as often she's trying her best to entice hazel to join her. eva tells us (daily!) that she loves hazel most of all, even more than mama, even more than papa. that she sometimes is sad at school since babies aren't allowed to go there, so she misses her sister. she wants to snuggle with hazel, to touch her, to talk to her, all the time (which sometimes becomes an issue when hazel is trying to sleep). and it's clear already that hazel reciprocates all of this, she seeks out eva and laughs with eva more than with anyone else. if eva is around, hazel feels safe and comforted. i know they'll have to work through their relationship as young kids learning to share space in a family togther and as teenagers/adults as they have to figure out how to relate to each other as people -- and none of that is easy -- but when i see the foundation they have, the love in their eyes... i feel so happy that i get to be a witness to their unfolding relationship. they'll always be sisters, as eva is fond of saying.

off to bed, big adventures in store for tomorrow and i've been behind on sleep this week.


first date

afternoon pick-me-up

[rereading this, it almost sounds like things are Just Plain Awful. and they're not. there are a few more struggles than usual, and eva and i could stand to reconnect a bit, but it's not like we're having a big problem or anything. i just felt compelled to point that out. that, and that she adores her sister like you would not believe... but loving your baby sister doesn't preclude you from missing your mama. --k.]

eva has been a bit out of sorts lately. i know some of it is just the usual stuff -- social learning at school, what seems to be a pretty good growth spurt in the last month or two -- but some of it is coming directly from me. i've been struggling (again!) with this health stuff, whatever it is (we're guessing orthostatic hypotension type stuff, but who the hell knows), so i'm often tired, or cranky with her when i shouldn't be. plus, hazel is requiring more attention these days, and with hazel's tendency to get into eva's stuff, the responsibility of figuring out the early sibling dynamic falls mostly to eva. it's hard being three and a half sometimes. so she's been expressing a lot of frustration and anger, but also a lot of love, sometimes colored with a bit of longing, i think. (and she tells me things like "... and sometimes you're tired and papa has to help me instead" or asks "are you too tired mama? do you have no blood sugar?" which pretty much breaks my heart.)

i decided that maybe what might help would be some one-on-one time with me, which she has had almost zero of in nine months. (our big first date!) so we discussed it, and made a plan to have some "special eva and mama time all by ourselves" at a coffee shop. she planned the activities, and wisely chose things that are made more difficult when hazel is around (books, puzzles).

miss hollywood so after i took the dogs to get their vaccinations (these would be the stray puppies that last week began living in our back yard -- after being tossed over our fence in the middle of the night -- but now due to inclement weather apparently live in our kitchen), and after she selected exactly what she wanted to wear and how she wanted her hair, we headed out to a coffee shop we had never been to before.

from the moment we set out, her mood was completely shifted. we chatted and joked, no crankiness anywhere (from either of us). she ordered a foamy milk and chose a cookie as her treat. she chose a high table and scrambled right up into the chair.

puzzling we finally did the puzzle gram sent. she loves puzzles, but they can be hard at home because hazel can't leave them alone, but hazel also gets upset if we're all somewhere she isn't. i noted that she did this puzzle with zero frustration, when lately even taking off her pants can cause an explosion of frustration. so much of this is about feeling heard and validated (which can't be faked while doing six other things), i'm now realizing the full extent of this need. then we read a chapter in the book she chose. she lounged back in her chair and sipped her milk as i read to her, uninterrupted, until we were done. and no one tried to grab the book out of our hands, or needed to nurse, or bonked her head the whole time. (reading can also be a challenge at home.)

hazel bog hat she wanted to label our cups with our names, which she did, and then she moved that into my writing words for her to sound out, which is one of her favorite games these days. it's fun to watch her start to make all these connections about letters and sounds and words, and the concept that someday she'll be able to put that all together herself and read on her own. she insisted we bring the cups home. i guess once something has your name on it, it becomes more difficult to just toss it mindlessly into the trash.

and then, she had a hard time leaving. i know she didn't want it to end, and promises to do it again soon fell on deaf ears. like a switch, she instantly moved back into that other mode, the "if you say that then you're not my mama anymore!" mode. "if you keep saying we have to leave," she continued, even though we were in the car and halfway home at that point, "then i'm never going to play with you again!" oh, i said, then i would be sad because i like playing you. she replied in true three-and-a-half form (so many conflicting emotions!): "i would be sad too, because i like to play with you, but i still wouldn't play with you because you said that!" all followed by a sigh, sounding just about as exasperated as she could manage.

and true to form, i understood and worked with it at first. i know where she's coming from, i get it. but after being yelled at every-which-way for the entire drive home and into the house and then waking up her sister, i lost my cool and got snappy at her. i always mean to do better, and sometimes i do. or, i do for a while, but i can't quite shake the feeling that i'm failing her at least some. because for two hours on a saturday afternoon, removed from all distractions, we were perfect. and it was lovely. and i miss that.

but i know life is just what it is. we're both doing what we can, and generally it's good and only sometimes it's not... but then sometimes it's amazing. today was amazing in that little pocket of time. and never mind all the rest, we have that. and we can move from there.

learning more about things

all partied out

driving to school the other day discussing her shoes, i sounded like an Official Mom and said "you know eva, when i was your age, they didn't even have velcro on shoes. can you believe that?" this lead to a discussion of other things they did or did not have when i was a kid. she asked:

yes, we had cars, but they didn't have cars when my grandma eva was a kid.
yup. paper is actually really old. like more than a thousand years old!

"but you know what we didn't have? the internet. there was no internet when i was a kid."
"what?! no internet? but then how did you learn more about things?"
"that's a good question, eva. i don't know, i can hardly remember how we did that..."

and honestly, it is all pretty vague. how *did* we learn more about things before the internet? i remember a world with these things called "phone books", which much to my annoyance *still* up on my front step every spring. and i have fuzzy memories of a school trip the library -- the nearest one was 45 minutes away -- so i could use a "card catalogue" (eh?) to find books about laura ingalls wilder for my 4th grade research report.

i'm all for limiting media for young children, but i see little benefit in being dogmatic about it. (that said, i have little patience for dogmatism in general, as it often belies a lack of critical thought and is almost never helpful to one's cause.) opinions vary, but for me, i have no problem using appropriate media to facilitate her desire to investigate a topic of interest. computer, TV, whatever... to me, the content is far more at issue than the particular medium (just because it's in video form doesn't mean it's garbage, and just because it's printed in a book for children doesn't mean it's quality material.) but i digress...

earlier today, we finished reading "clementine", a "young reader" type book (10 chapters, 160 pages of largish font, some pictures, you remember the type) about a precocious eight-year-old girl who tends to find a lot of trouble despite her best intentions. eva loved it -- no surprise, since she is currently *obsessed* with how amazing life will be once she's eight years old. in fact, we were going to save the last chapter for our coffee shop date later that afternoon, but then she decided "just one more page", then maybe one more, and then i just read to the end. i was an avid (obsessive?) reader as a kid (flashlight under the covers on a school night type of thing), and it makes me so happy to see her learning the excitement of sinking into a long story, wanting to know what happens but at the same time, not wanting it to end.

so after the last page she said, "is that the end? is there any more?" i told her i didn't know if there were other books about clementine or not, but that we could find out. i brought up google, and told her she could type the author's name so we could search on the internet. i know she's a fan of copying down words by typing them -- various times recently i have returned to my email to find it says "caps lock" or "backspace", which she carefully copied from the keyboard itself. she carefully typed "s-a-r-a p-e-n-n-y-p-a-c-k-e-r" and hit enter. up popped the author's website, with a familiar picture of clementine right there! one more click and we saw cover images for *two* other clementine books. i navigated us over to the city library site, and we found that one of them is on the shelves at our local branch. yea! she's very excited. we'll have to pick it up next week for extra entertainment when larry's out of town.

i don't really have a grand point here, but yea internet, yea love of learning, and yea reading. and yea for sharing all these amazing things with my very own daughter. that's one of the best things i've ever had the privilege to do.

she just said to me while i was typing, "mama, did you ever have this feeling that you love everything in the whole wide world? i'm having that feeling *right now*!" yes, eva, i do know that feeling.


fun with spatial relations

lately many of my "hmm" moments with eva have related to spatial relations. seems like she's starting to wire up that aspect of her brain. (other fun things include more wacky vocabulary that surprises me, and adding/subtracting, which for whatever reason, happens mostly during dinner, when "subtract" = yum.) so, some spatial relations related (ha) highlights from this week:

eva's been taking a keen interest in left and right. we were driving home from an errand, and she noticed i was going straight instead of turning, so i pointed out there is more than one way to get home: turn right or go straight then turn right. she said, well, if you go straight even longer then turn left instead, you go to jennifer's! [jennifer cuts our hair.] i was surprised, since she was in fact correct, but we'd never gone to jennifer's from there before because it wouldn't make sense based on where our house is. then, she wanted to discuss more about which is her left hand. it's the one closest to the window, this is the left side of the car. she thought about it then replied "but hazel's left hand isn't on the left side because she's backwards. when we turn her car seat around when she's bigger, then her left hand will be to the middle."

last night, larry was reading her some new chapter books we got from the library (she was really excited about this, we even talked to the children's librarian to get suggestions. we've started with a "mrs. piggle wiggle" selection.) he read to her for over an hour, so i guess it went well. i overheard a line stating that mrs. piggle wiggle's house was upside down, and before he could continue with the description of what that would entail, she said "that's silly, then her fan would be on the floor!"

this morning, i found the ticket stubs from the children's theater performance rita treated us to this weekend -- that was eva's first theater experience (a musical, "the and and the elephant"), and she loved it. as distracted as she was by the setting ("we're way up high by the ceiling! those lights are shining from behind a screen!"), she followed the story and enjoyed recounting it later. anyway, i showed her how the tickets told us which seats to sit in, pointing out that we had seats 2, 3, and 4 in row N. eva, who sat between larry and i at the performance, said "oh, that means i was sitting in seat 3!" (she likes 3s. she's three and a half, you know. oh, did you know that she's three and a half? in case you hadn't heard.)

this morning she told me something i'd said was "quite cute". touche, eva.


andy pandy

new chair

so, this is one of those times when larry is working nonstop. as in, some days i see him for about 5 minutes 3 times per day when he emerges to find food. instead of getting snappy at each other (which is sometimes the case under such circumstances), this time we've been quite cheery and supportive of each other (nonstop work mode creates very different but real challenges for each of us :). that said, this has been going on for about a month, and a month is about how long either of us can stand it. so, things may or may not start to get a bit precarious around here. (eva loves using that word, though she thinks it's "precurious" which is, frankly, just plain adorable).

that preamble is mostly to provide context for eva's recent obsession: andy pandy. for those of you who wonder (as i would have) why you haven't yet heard of this preschooler trend... that would be because apparently eva is the only child in america who cares about this show.

andy pandy was originally a 1950s british children's television show, (think howdy doody), but in 2002, it was revived -- in color! and claymation! eva doesn't watch a ton of kid tv -- mostly sesame street, and last fall, many many viewings of "how the grinch stole christmas" -- but i am not above just rolling with tv requests when necessary for family sanity (and nonstop work mode is one of those necessary times). so, in between viewings of "ace of cakes", we stumbled across three -- yes, just three -- episodes of andy pandy on bbc kids on demand.

"mama, can i watch andy pandy? the one with the picnic?" with just three 20 minute episodes, we came to know well the adventures of andy pandy and looby loo (yes, this character is the source of the song "here we go looby loo... all on a saturday night"). "mama, now can i watch the one with the man from the moon? please, just one more andy pandy?" the best thing about this show is that there are no squeeky fake kid voices (think elmo, etc) -- only a decidedly grown-up sounding british narrator. but a mama can only hear about, oh, say... how teddy painted looby loo's flowers blue with sailor bilbo's blue paint so many times before she looks for options. as in, where's the dvd?

after much google searching, it seems more andy pandy is not to be found. no dvds, no streaming video from bbc online, nothing on youtube, very little on ebay (when last i checked, a single region 4 dvd and some $35 collectible vhs tapes). so, as i said, sadly for eva, no children in america seem to share her obsession.

well, today -- after an unprecedented three day break from andy pandy -- i pulled up the preschool on demand channel on the cable box to find... no andy pandy. sure, the programming rotates, but since this long-off-the-air show had been present for many months before we ever started watching it, i presumed it would outlast her love for it. sadly, it did not.

i actually paused, probably with my mouth hanging open, before breaking the news, not relishing the thought of crushing her little world.

"oh, eva... there isn't any more andy pandy. they're not here anymore. i'm so sorry."

i can't remember when i last saw her so sad. her eyes instantly brimmed with tears, her jaw quivered.

"you mean all of the andy pandy's are gone? even the picnic one?" at which point she collapsed into sobs.

i held her, i told her i knew how sad she must be. after a minute, i suggested we go up and tell papa about it. he repeated all the google searching i had done several weeks ago, and i hoped he would have better results. we found a 5 minute clip in italian, which seemed to make her feel a tiny bit better, but no solid leads.

"mama? maybe we can just make a cd of andy pandy instead?" she's a surprisingly smart consumer of technology (grasping the difference between dvr recordings and live tv, and between flickr videos and skype), so i think this was maybe in part the "bargaining" stage of grief and part preschooler misunderstanding.

poor kid. for whatever reason, she just really connected with this show. in a world of super-duper-attention-grabbing kid shows that are too hectic or scary for her tastes (meaning, pretty much every kid show), andy pandy was just her speed. i think she mostly gets that it's gone forever, and (since she has already torn through the first several stages of grief) i think she'll get over it pretty quickly. but it was still just... sad.

i guess to avoid potential disappointment (not to mention future lack of cultural knowledge), she should just go with disney?

nah... she'll recover. but, if anyone has a lead on an andy pandy dvd, do let me know...

UPDATE 08/2009: it came back. hooray! i guess i freaked out too soon, because it reappeared on the on demand channel, a different set of three episodes. it has since rotated a few times, offering different episodes every few months. though, by now, she can take it or leave it. ("uh, yeah, mom, that was so, like, 1/8th of my life ago." heh.) she asked to watch andy pandy yesterday, though, when she was feeling sick. so i think it still brings her comfort.


immortal charlie

stone, girl, originally uploaded by kelanew.

"mama, you know what? every time charlie dies, he just comes back to life again! he comes back to life every time. charlie's special; he's the only one who can do that. and so guess what? someday a long time from now when all the people in the whole world are dead, charlie will still be alive. he'll be the last person alive in the whole world. and that's what makes him special."

so, maybe everyone has conversations like that with their three year old about her imaginary friend who dies many times per week. maybe, as it has been suggested, it is just the normal thing at this age to start discussing life and death with that combination of matter-of-factness and awe that only a preschooler can manage. and, maybe other people know exactly how to respond all the time... but despite feeling like i've got a pretty good handle on how to guide her through the great mysteries of life, every so often i'm just completely speechless.

so not only are you telling me charlie is immortal, but that you've thought it through regarding how this will play out at the end of days? really? i'm pretty sure i have no response to that.


she of course experienced significant loss at what turned out to be a key time -- when she was old enough to "get" what was going on, but young enough that it has been part of her life for as long as she can really remember. consequence or coincidence, she does talk about death often. not in a morose way, but just as a topic of unending inquiry. all kids do process this eventually, but i suspect it might be a little sooner than normal in her case -- whether because of our experiences of the past year and a half, or because she is simply more curious about working out every little detail than is the average kid, i can't say. i guess i'm not overly concerned, but sometimes i am struck by it all.

but man, do i love charlie. charlie helps eva figure things out, and his (or her!) form changes to suit the needs of the day. sometimes he's in school, sometimes he's a teenager (the holy grail to a three year old!), sometimes he's a teacher. sometimes he lives in new york city, or has moved to guatamala. sometimes he has sixteen dogs, or is a big sister, or has a baby sister who is too loud in the car. and in this way, based on who he is that day and what he's going through, i get an extra glimpse of eva's view of the world, and know how she's processing the joys and challenges involved in growing up.

but charlie sure is a moving target; you never know what you're going to get. sometimes, from the beginning of the conversation to the end, i'll discover he has shifted -- to protect her from the appearance of having made a mistake or contradiction in her narrative. (she has a strong aversion to ever being wrong, which is a story for another day...)


"so, charlie will live forever and ever?"
"uh huh."
"hmm. i curious what he thinks about that."
"oh, he won't be lonely or anything."
"silly mama! he's just a robot!"
(aha, i forgot. every since maker faire, charlie is periodically a robot.)
"uh huh, and that's why he'll be the only one left when the dinosaurs come back."


the shift

stand up

so in a two week period right around christmas, hazel: got her first tooth, learned to sign, started crawling for real (not just the army crawl thing), began pulling up, ate her first food. and grew some hair.

the shift. she used to be a baby baby, and now we've transitioned and she's a kid baby. as in, a baby who explores, has opinions, looks for people if they leave the room, and laughs at her sister's jokes. it's really fun, but man, were we caught off guard. we returned home from our christmas visit in ND to a home that was not at all ready for a baby that moves around. we also launched directly into several weeks of larry working round the clock for a big deadline, so it was a bit of a rough time there for a while. (he's still working enough to make himself loopy, but things have settled back in a bit.)

hazel, here are some details and thoughts on your fast flurry of milestones (sorry my love, if you wanted a doting write-up on each one like your sister got, you should have spread them out a little! think ahead next time.): your first food was... cheerios. not too exciting, but it was on christmas, so that's fancy, right? after all but begging for food since you were four months old, we were all a bit amused to see your less-than-enthusiastic reaction to this new taste and texture. your famously expressive eyebrows were working overtime in trying to sort out what exactly was going on. but you quickly warmed up to the idea, and soon you were munching away happily on carrots, broccoli, pasta and more.

it's been so fun watching you learn so much in such a short time. you figured out that you could pull up, and suddenly your realm of movement expanded from the three inch layer directly above the carpet to a so much more. it doesn't seem like it would be a big difference, but it was like a whole new world for you. you could go wherever you wanted to go, stand up when you got there (assuming a suitable vertical surface was nearby of course), and sit back up if you managed to fall over. at first, we all noticed that we could find baby contraband on the floor just by plotting your trajectory -- whenever you got that look of focused determination, you were clearly heading slowly but surely toward something you didn't usually get to have. well, those days are already long gone... you're always heading somewhere, and you're fast enough that by the time we notice, the baby contraband is already being gummed to death.

so, for the record (since i've not yet managed to write anything in a baby book for you, and as you can tell even this blog is proving difficult to keep up with):
first tooth 12/18 lower left-middle 6.5 mo
second tooth 1/10 lower right-middle 7.5 mo
first food 12/25 7 mo
crawling 6 mo (speedy by 7 mo)
pulling up at 7 mo -- love this photo set, look how excited your papa was!
signing at 6.5-7 mo. first sign: dog, followed by light and fan

and now you're awake and making some very loud grunts, so i think that's it for today.