talk about it more

a virtual baby book

When she was two, Fiona regularly said "Talk about it more!" to express her desire to know more about whatever we were discussing.

Sunday, April 29, 2007

Behind the scenes at the zoo

Yesterday Fiona, Nora, and I participated in an enrichment workshop at our children's zoo. We painted piñatas, stuffed empty toilet tissue rolls with shredded recycled paper, and made posters out of old magazine art. Fiona loved everything, of course, but Nora was especially taken with the tempera paint art. She had never wielded a paintbrush before, and she found both the paint and the brush to be very interesting. She got as much paint on her face and hands as on the piñata, but I think in the end she actually did grasp the purpose of the paintbrush, even if she didn't prefer to use it that way.

Next we were invited on a behind-the-scenes tour of the zoo to deliver our treasures to the zoo animals who were going to enjoy the toys! Birds love the pinatas and the paper tubes, though cats also like the tubes. Lots of animals enjoy the posters.

We saw inside the zoo kitchen, above the saltwater tanks for the sharks and jellies, and behind the Indonesian exhibit as well. With Nora being smaller last year, plus both of us working full-time, we never got to the zoo at all with Nora until now; so she was completely enthralled with absolutely everything. Fiona, as usual, loved the actual animals but crowed with delight every time we passed a waste receptacle that had a cover shaped like a gaping-mouthed zoo animal as well.

I had thought that perhaps a behind-the-scenes tour might encourage Fiona to consider working or interning with animals someday, but the way I saw her holding her fingers beneath her nose during much of the tour, I wonder if I achieved the opposite effect! We wanted to go see the giraffes after our tour was complete, but we had spent so much time admiring the orangutans that we were dangerously close to lunch and naptime, so we decided to come again another day and get really good use out of a season pass this year.

Thursday, April 26, 2007

EIEI- O brother!

Let's start by setting the scene: on a rainy day, Fiona invited a friend over to play, everybody had just eaten lunch, Nora was fast asleep upstairs and the two older girls were happily playing in the other room as I began to sweep up the Nora Luncheon Aftermath. The kids started by building a fire engine with Duplo blocks, but were put off of the project when their very tall ladder kept falling over and hitting them in their faces. They moved on to the farm set.

All seemed to be right in the world until I heard Fiona say, "OK, now we need to make this turkey be on fire." HUH?!? Her little farmer friend demurred, but Fiona was undaunted.

"Yes, it has to be on fire so then it can be dead. After it's dead we can get the meat out of it that turkeys are made of. And then we can cook it. What should we make?"

Understandably enough, her friend was clearly not ready to make the leap from plastic feathered turkey to turkey tetrazzini. She worriedly continued saying variations on the theme of, "No, that turkey is not on fire."

But Fiona was ready to do some cooking. I intervened just long enough to gently steer Fiona toward her basket of cookware so she could cook something which did not appear to still be alive, while simultaneously keeping her young guest from bolting. Vegetarianism. Hmmmm...

Why not?

Strongly influenced by their daughter's lack of interest in hair maintenance, the comely kid style of a friend, and the book Packaging Girlhood, our friends Paul and Heather got their daughter Helena's hair cut short yesterday. Helena was, and still is, all for it. Coincidentally, I came home from the stylist this morning with 3-4" less hair than before as well.

By this time, Fiona has decided that she too wants short hair. "Really short," she said decidedly, "like Helena's."

Now, I try to be an open-minded mother. I am downright thrilled that my daughter does not connect her locks with her sense of self. I have already daydreamed about the improved maintenance issues a pixie cut would bring. And I am fully aware that hair grows. But I must confess that I am a mite concerned about how she'll feel about the final product. Because until you get your hair cut extremely short for the first time you Just. Can't. Know. Of course, Fiona is ready to go to the salon the moment Nora wakes up from her nap. Immediacy is in her bloodline as well as her developmental stage, so I of all people can't really fault her for it.

I called Ian at work about it, because it didn't feel right to make this parenting decision on my own. We've decided to wait until this coming Wednesday, when haircuts are half price again-- a mere $3!-- at the local beauty college. That gives Fiona a chance to be sure. Because if she's sure, we're sure too.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

What does it say?

Here is a list of animals and the sounds that Nora makes to imitate them:

dog: panting sound-- used to be 'woof' but changed for some reason
cat: makes a quiet, high pitched 'mmmmm' sound
cow: 'moo'
horse: tries, with mixed results, to make raspberry
mouse: squeaks much like her version of a cat
snake: 'ssssssssssss'
duck: 'qack'-- as if there were no 'u' in the word

Nora's new words

Additions Include:


Monday, April 23, 2007

Oh what a thrill to see Jim Gill!

This evening it hit me like a ton of bricks: we're too busy.

I should've realized this long before now ... we had an early morning Saturday as we got ready to drive two and a half hours to put hand prints on a plate for Toot Toot's 80th birthday, a late night as all the grandkids cycled through the bath and got into bed only to get up again bright and early for Mass and a birthday brunch, followed by long car trips home. And today, we had two separate visitors and a fabulously festive pre-Gill pizza party before the library concert even began. All loads of fun, mind you, but even fun takes its toll.

All the pieces came together, though, as I held my two girls in my one lap in the front row of the brand new theater in the brand new Main Library in the middle of the Jim Gill concert while they both wailed and got blotchy. Once I realized that what they needed most was sleep, I tried to leave early, but that idea was met with even louder wails-- something I hadn't thought possible. Fiona had really been looking forward to this, the first live concert she was old enough to remember. And honestly, until that weirdly random ache in her side came back with a vengeance toward the middle of the concert, she was having the time of her life. In a ringing commendation, Fiona had said, "I clapped till my hands hurt!" Nora too was all-over wiggly with the music and family and fun, but suddenly her circadian rhythms got the better of her and she became tetchy.

We left as quickly and quietly as we could, so we didn't get a chance to tell Mr. Gill that his music brings our family together, or that we enjoy making our own music, dances, rhymes, and stories. Even through the tears, though, we had a memorable evening tonight. Now we just need to give ourselves lots of rest and down time to reflect upon it.

Saturday, April 21, 2007

Old house, old memories

Today, while we were at Grandma and Toot Toot's to celebrate his 80th birthday, we visited the house where Fiona lived for her first six months of life. It had been up for sale, so I called the realtor to see if we could walk through it while we were in town. And while it had already sold within a week, it hadn't closed yet so our previous buyers very graciously walked us through it and proudly showed us their renovations.

Of course, Fiona had no recollection of this home; but I certainly did. It was the first house Ian and I ever bought. From the moment we first walked through it I felt we were meant to live there and raise a family there together. Being only a mile from parents would probably be a nightmare for many people; however we found it to be wholly delightful. Fiona was their only grandchild at the time, and we savored our every bit of time we could spend together. But our community helper professions were not earning enough to be able to coddle that old house the way it needed to be coddled (or ourselves for that matter! Drat TCPL!), and relocation seemed to be our only recourse. Leaving it behind truly broke my heart, as did many aspects of that particular move.

No more, though. Seeing the way the property had been loved and improved did wonders for me. In addition, the generous, courteous welcome we received as I walked from room to room sharing memories with Fiona and Mom while asking questions of the current occupants was exceedingly healing. For Fiona, it was wonderful to see the place where she started out. For me, it was a genuine relief to finally finish a chapter of a truly wonderful book.

Check out the pictures above to see how Fiona has grown since she was last inside that house!

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Sicky is icky

Tonight, even as I grapple with a mindbending headache associated with my own uncooperative sinuses, I am contemplating the interesting new rash on Fiona's face. It appeared this morning right before I went to an elementary school to try to read stories over a room full of school kids eating lunch in their cafeteria. Fiona, who was blissfully unaware of the rash until she heard me inquiring about it with the pediatric phone nurse, couldn't possibly leave it alone once she knew of its existence.

Upon hearing the reason for my call, the nurse said, "Oh great. Another phone rash. OK, here we go." I guess she's been dealing with a rash of rashes. I felt for her. She ticked off all the important questions: where was it, was it raised, was it evenly scattered or clumpy, was it hot, itchy, or painful, was it crusty, blistery or uniformly red? How did Fiona feel? Was she febrile? Had she eaten or done anything out of the ordinary lately?

In the end, she concluded that if the only thing we'd done unusual lately was slather on some of last year's sunscreen, we'd just have to watch and wait to see what would happen next. On the one hand I feel relieved that we're a family with health insurance and the means to get our children proper medical care when they need it. On the other hand, I feel a little fanatical about all the Mystery Variables out in that big wide world that can give my children a faceful of spots or worse-- and I may have no clue what they are.

Ah well. The earth is going to keep on spinning, and hopefully by tomorrow the rash will be something I'll wish I'd photographed for the blog.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

A comedy of errors

Have you ever completely botched up a recipe, then accidentally ended up with the tastiest product you could have ever imagined? That's what our whole day was like. Through a disorganized mother's stream of miscalculations and overbookings, we managed to scrap a playgroup, catch a playgroup that I hadn't realized till the last second was actually set for today, and even manage to bring along a bonus friend to it.

Fiona, Nora, Helena and I went to Teresa and Robert's house today. We read stories, rode a rocking horse which, through the day's unbelievably sweet karma, ended up living at OUR house, tended a doughnut garden, ate a nice warm lunch which included chocolate chip banana bread, laughed, spun upside down, and had a ton of fun.

This picture of Robert enjoying his first peppermint patty was taken a couple weeks ago at our house because, of course, on a day when I couldn't get anything right, I couldn't possibly remember to pack the camera. Robert is the kind of boy you wish lived right next door-- and I'm not just saying that because of the eyelashes. He can't see Nora without patting her on the head with a charming blend of fondness and exuberance. And anyone who uses his garden tools to plant a doughnut garden is definitely a friend of mine. I asked him what kind of doughnuts we were harvesting. The kind with holes? Filled ones? He looked at me in complete seriousness and said, "Gooey ones."

After leaving Robert's, dropping Helena off at her house, and bringing the girls home, I experienced a pang of remorse for not having stuck around to make sure Paul was able to get Helena's behemoth of a car seat back into place. So I called to make sure that went OK, only to have our family invited for roast chicken dinner! The meal was a blast; in fact, the only way we were able to will ourselves home was with the notion that we'd never be back if we kept them up all night with the boisterous fun our families seem to create together.

Both girls fell asleep relatively quickly considering their entire day of excitement, and Ian went to bed to catch up on some sleep shortly afterwards. I sure wish more mixed up days went this swimmingly!

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Unintentional night owls

We're rounding out our third week in our attempts to night wean Nora. Why is a family that struggled so hard to breastfeed night weaning a toddler, you ask?

Before, if we waited until after 11:00 pm to go to bed, and figured on getting up somewhere between 4:30-5:30 am, she might end up in bed with us two or three times on average. I'd put her back in her crib (on a good night) only to start the process again in an hour or two. Besides the chronic fatigue, my hips were getting sore, nerve pain was shooting down my leg, and I was getting numbness pretty easily in many of my fingers. The final straw was a close call or two in the car when I realized that sleep deprivation was making me a hazard to myself and the family I was trying to support by breastfeeding. Thank goodness for rumble strips! I looked terrible, I felt terrible.

In short, we were falling apart in some respects, so we decided to night wean. To do this, I nurse Nora whenever she wants up until bedtime, then not again until morning. Period. The easiest way we've found for her to deal with this is for me not to be the one who tends to her in the night time.

Enter Ian. No, actually, that makes it sound like he is only now getting involved. Whereas before he was getting up multiple times per night, retrieving Nora when she cried, bringing her to bed with us, going downstairs to make a bottle to supplement her night nursing, and often tucking her back in when my numb extremities couldn't pick her up safely, his job just morphed a little. Now instead of bottles or musical beds, he gets to play the "Get Nora to Go Back to Sleep When All She Wants is Mommy" game. Woo hoo!

Now, it's not that I don't have a job and Ian does, but Ian actually has to look good while he's doing his bit to support our family. Plus since I often lie in bed and listen to Nora howl, feeling her wails jangling in every single nerve ending and willing myself not to go scoop her out of her crib and snuggle down into bed with her, my poor hearing often allows me to sleep through Fiona's sometimes multiple excursions to the bathroom. Contrary to all logic, Fiona's nocturnal jaunts still require an escort.

So now Ian is the one who doesn't look so good; and what's sad is I don't feel a whole lot better either, and Nora is dissatisfied to boot. Plus, Fiona doesn't see any of this as a reason to try the bathroom run solo even though the hallway and bath are lit up like a runway and her nocturnal trips to retrieve a parent are farther than it would be to go straight to the bathroom. So if you ever speak to one of us and we say something unintelligible, it's because the sleep deprivation doesn't go away when the infancy doeszzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz.

Monday, April 16, 2007

Rhyme time

On a trip in the car this morning, Fiona, Nora and I were singing. We couldn't just be content with plain old songs today though. It simply felt too good to be outside in decent weather, and we had noticed that there was a lovely, crisp, cloudless blue sky. Feeling full of ourselves, we were making up quick rhymes mad-libs style-- finishing them off for each other where we saw fit. I felt up to my eyeballs in glorious Spring as I made up some parody to a nursery rhyme and sang my way out to Spy Run Avenue. Nora chortled and bellowed from her carseat as if she were wholly in on the joke.

My first rhyme being met with roars of ecstasy, I started again without so much as a thought or breath between. To the tune of "Twinkle Twinkle" I belted out, "Nora climbed into the sky, looking for a berry pie. But up in the sky so blue, Nora could find nothing new. She came back down to the kitchen..." Uh oh. Hmmmmm. Well, I'd better finish anyhow, "But no words will rhyme with kitchen."

"How about bitchin', Mom?" piped Fiona helpfully from the backseat. Oddly enough, at that exact moment, something hopelessly funny happened out in the ditch by the side of the road, but we passed it too fast for me to point it out to anybody, so I laughed alone.

Sunday, April 15, 2007


If Fiona is doing something, chances are Nora will want to try it, too. In this case, Pirate Nora is reading to herself but the eyepatch was, strangely enough, making it difficult to see the pictures-- especially upside down pictures-- so she ditched it.

Saturday, April 14, 2007

She broke the code

I suppose she's actually been ready for awhile now, but I finally got around to bringing home a set of those unattractive Bob Books for Fiona. Day before yesterday we got out book one and took a look at it. Sure enough, with very little introduction from me, Fiona proceeded to read the first book of the set to me-- twice.

Today she showed her new trick to Ian. Whereas I had encouraged her to stay in book one until I could point to any word on any page at any time and she could immediately name it, Ian saw that she had it down cold. He let her work her way through books two and three this afternoon. She was like a kid in a candy store. She wanted to read more and more. She didn't want to stop for lunch. She wanted to pick up immediately afterward. Even Fiona acknowledges that we aren't reading these books for the engaging plots, but clearly the plot is not what makes these particular books so alluring to her.

This means we can actually pick up a number of simple early readers for Fiona now-- some that, unlike Bob Books, I actually LIKE. She's off and running. She's very excited, and rightly so. Without massive amounts of TV, computers, flashcards, drills, worksheets, or electronic games, she has begun to break the code. Of her own accord, in her own time, based on her experience with caring people, word play, and lots of quality children's literature, Fiona is learning to read.

There are times that the capacity of my children simply overwhelms me-- their capacity to love, to make a colossal mess, to execute deductive reasoning. Today, as I watched Fiona read to her father about Mat and Sam and some cat which insisted on sitting upon both of them, I noticed how very much she looks like Ian sometimes, and felt viscerally how wonderful it is to be a child's first teacher.

Thursday, April 12, 2007

They blinded us with science

Today close friends invited us to join them on an outing to our local science emporium for the young and young at heart, Science Central. Ian was working, which is unfortunate because he missed a wonderful afternoon filled with friends, water, boats, bubbles, mirrors, clouds, mini tornadoes, a hot air balloon, shadows, echoes, a rocket, live animals (insert Nora's emphatic shrieks of glee here), pulleys, a simulated moon walk, a crooked fun house, and much more. Plus Fiona, Helena, and Paul even pretended to be sewer rats climbing through underground sewers while Heather, Nora, and I waved at them through a one-way mirror. We hear it was deliciously dark under there!

During dinner afterwards, Fiona told me she wants to go there every day. I don't know whether the zoo opening will sway her at all, but it's certainly clear that all six of us had an intensely interesting, pleasant, and hands-on afternoon.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

We only have one big sister

This morning as I was toweling Fiona dry after her shower, she was giving hugs and kisses to her little protégée in pajamas and talking to her about the day they were going to enjoy together. I told Fiona that she certainly took her Big Sister Role seriously, and that Nora was a lucky kid indeed. Without skipping a beat, Fiona said to Nora, "Yes, and someday you'll be a great big sister too."

"Hold on a minute," I said. "Fiona, we don't think Nora is ever going to be a big sister. To be a big sister, you have to have a younger brother or sister, and Nora is the youngest in our family. We don't expect any more babies at our house."

Fiona was thunderstruck. "But we're going to have another baby in June, Mom! You said so!"

Oopsie. Little pitchers DO have big ears, don't they? I did set her straight as gently as I could, but I guess I should clarify once and for all what she actually overheard.

Last week I mused that we had either a family or seasonal holiday for almost every month of the year! Check it out:

January: Nora's birthday
February: Valentine's Day
March: St. Patrick's Day
April: April Fool's Day
May: Ian's birthday
July: Independence Day
August: Jen and Fiona's birthdays
September: Ian and Jen's wedding anniversary
October: Halloween
November: Thanksgiving
December: Christmas and New Year

But, I laughed to Ian, there's nothing for June, so we'd better have a baby in June. Ha ha! Joke! NOT! Now, if we hit the lottery someday (soon!), we would certainly consider another child, but that big garage sale we're aiming to have over Memorial Day weekend-- the one with most our baby gear and infant clothing in it among other treasures-- would indicate that as least as far as planning can take a couple, we think our baby days are over. We have a preschooler and a toddler now, and inasmuch as that does make me a little verklempt, it's still bittersweet and true. Now if only our sleepless nights were over... And, to that end, I'm going to bed now.

4/12 NB: I just happened to think that if we add Mother's and Father's Day to the list, we'll be completely covered without any more big sisters or retention of baby gear.

Monday, April 09, 2007

Easter Monday

Well, yesterday was just too full to blog. We started with an Easter egg hunt in the living room, followed by checking out goodies left in the basket (we couldn't find Nora's basket this year because there's so much stuff in the basement right now in preparation for the big Memorial Day Garage Sale and also stuff that hasn't made it back upstairs yet from the recarpeting thing. Sad.) Then the girls and I went to Mass, and when we got back just had time for a quick lunch before a group of jolly gaming friends came over to spend the day. We rounded out the evening with an Easter feast and another round of Easter egg hunting. What a lot of fun!

Friday, April 06, 2007

2nd, 3rd, 4th, 5th, and 6th steps

When Nora figures something out, it's off to the races! She took her first step this afternoon (toward me from standing next to Jen), and within half an hour tried it again, and took five steps in a row before she got distracted. Now she's off practicing some more.

She has been enormously hungry the last couple of days - obviously, she knew she was working up to something big.

Thursday, April 05, 2007

Word count

(in no particular order)

Words Heard Regularly
ball-ball-ball (so exciting it must be said repetitively)
dog-dog-dog (same same same)
Toot Toot (aka Grandpa FitzSimons)
m-mmm (as in "no thanks")
Aaaaaaaaaah! (open mouth sound = "Feed me that!")
'nana (= banana)
moo (cow)
bopple (apple)
pe-boo (peekaboo)

Words Heard Sporadically
last word of any given sentence spoken by someone else

Sign Language Still Used

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Bunny love

Granny sent, among other lovely things, a felted woolen bunny for Fiona just in time for Easter. Fiona loved it--from the tip of its deep brown nose down to its fluffy bunny tail. After a couple hours tying its red scarf every which way on the rabbit, she asked me if she could sleep with it. If only all requests were this easy! "Sure!" I agreed.

Fiona remembered tonight as bedtime approached, and retrieved bunny from her safe "Nora Can't Reach the Button Eyes From Here" resting place, and brought it upstairs. As I tucked her in, Fiona wrapped her arms lovingly around her bunny, then made a quizzical face. "Hmmmm," she said, "it's kind of scratchy, huh?" Guess she wouldn't want to sleep with a sheep, either! But she definitely wanted it to stay in bed with her, so it's now watching her sleep from the next pillow over-- where Nora will hopefully sleep someday should Bun Bun not have permanent dibs.

Little Houdini

Nora has figured out a thing or two since I last wrote. For one, she stands up and jiggles around at the knees to see if she can stay standing. She sort of looks like a surfboarder on land, actually. Last night while performing this trick she leaned down to pick up my slipper, then righted herself again. While we're in no big hurry for a walker, it looks like we're going to be getting one anyway one of these days. By the way, I can't get her to stand up, throw her arms out, and say "Ta-da!" anymore, so there's none of that on video, but hopefully some of you got to see that gem while it lasted. Hilarious!

She has also mastered the art of flipping her highchair tray to the floor. She is a child in almost constant motion-- she was in utero and hasn't quit yet-- and one day while sitting in her high chair and feeling around on the tray she discovered the squeeze handle that releases the tray. It wasn't too much longer before she was sitting at dinner, holding the tray in both hands well below her knees, looking at the rest of the family with a look of shock and concern, saying "Uh-oh!" Having watched exactly how she got there, it was kind of fun to ask her what was wrong.