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.

Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Here, kitty kitty

Today we went to our local animal shelter to pick up forms about becoming animal foster parents. Then we thought we'd look at the cats just for kicks, but people may only go in to look if they've filled out adoption paperwork. Since the papers are in no way binding until a pet is chosen, we did that, too!

We started in the kitten room, which was a huge hit with all three of us-- and I'm a dog person! In both pictures the girls are interacting with the inquisitive Pilar. The staffer at the shelter, Jan, requested that Nora stay on my lap to let kitties come to Nora instead of vice versa, so the picture of Nora is, ahem, not so hot. The experience, however, was priceless. There's nothing like being in a roomful of kittens to make a mom feel like she's had it easy all along. Those little furballs capered, pounced, fluffed up, flattened down, and rolled like they just had fresh batteries installed. Fiona and Nora squealed with glee at the combined antics.

After I asked some questions about choosing a good pet for a family, Jan mentioned that the shelter usually suggests older felines for families with younger children. Despite my concerns about furniture marking, we moved on to the adult cat room. There she showed us the available females.

We found a couple we liked. Mollie was laid back and personable, for instance. Fiona was impressed with Bella. But the most amazing thing that happened here is that we met the third Fiona we've ever encountered since our own darling daughter came into this world. We were stunned! Since we didn't think we could top that we headed home for the day, basking in the lowered blood pressure of people who have recently stroked the soft fur of an animal.

Sunday, July 29, 2007

Fiona's favorite part of the day

Part of our bedtime routine every evening is to take turns talking about the favorite parts of our day. Even Nora is old enough to do this with some success; and it's a positive, calm way to bring closure to one day and get ready to sleep before the next one. (Thus says the mom who can't get her kids to sleep. Ah well).

I didn't expect fireworks tonight during our round of Favorites. Besides Mass, a grocery run, and a fair amount of Mom Cleanup Duty, we didn't do much.

But I asked her anyway, and Fiona said, "My favorite part of today was the chili. I want you to make it again-- just like today-- except get some elbow macaroni next time." She knew we were out of it or else I would've included pasta "crack" this evening too.

I told her that we still had leftovers of today's chili, and she got more excited than is actually necessary right before bedtime. That child is a wonder.

Friday, July 27, 2007

Dinosaur conversation

"Everything looks good from here... Yes. Yes, this is a fertile land, and we will thrive. We will rule over all this land, and we will call it ... 'This Land'."

"I think we should call it your grave!"

"Ah, curse your sudden but inevitable betrayal!"

"Ha ha ha! Mine is an evil laugh!"

With apologies (and thanks) to Joss Whedon and Alan Tudyk of Firefly.

Natasha and Boris

Up until now we had been putting off the idea for a number of laudable reasons, but recently Ian and I have allowed ourselves to entertain the thought of having a pet. Fiona and I have been amusing ourselves by thinking of kitty color/name combinations for years now, since she is most definitely A Cat Person.

Jen: I think I'd like a big, round, yellow cat named Clementine. We could nickname it Tiny!
Fiona: Yeah... or Clemen.
Jen: Yes, but do you see that it's sort of funny to have a cat that's orange like a clementine and big and round, but called Tiny?
Fiona: Yes, but we could still call it Clemen.

Recently, I have had an overwhelming yearning for a blue cat. I have this idea that stray hairs would camouflage better on our clothes and sofa (LOL!) and I like the name Sliding Delta like the song by Missisippi John Hurt. We could call her Delta. My Grandma always used to gush whenever one of her barn cats bore a blue kitten-- enough so that it made me love them because I loved to see her so tickled.

So I started looking around at blue cats, and discovered an entire breed of blue cats with amazing temperament and short, lustrous, silvery blue fur: Russian Blues. Their personality is just about as alluring as their looks, so I began searching for them in animal shelters.

Sure enough, I found a gorgeous pair of them-- Natasha and Boris-- in Chicago. Ian is not thrilled about the prospect of TWO cats, nor does he want us to drive out of town to get them. The point is probably moot, however, because they are six months old, and have been there since before July 4th, so I can't imagine they're still there. What's worse, the Chicago Animal Care and Control WILL NOT tell anyone on the phone whether an animal is still there or not, so we'd have to go there in-person to find out. Bummer.

Well, if we're meant to have a cat, it will be sweet serendipity if and when we find one. Or two.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Three Rivers Jenbé Ensemble

The girls and I were fortunate enough to enjoy a performance by the Three Rivers Jenbé Ensemble this afternoon. We thought we were on time, but as we pulled into the parking lot, we could hear (and almost feel) the rhythms streaming out the front door of the library branch and into the parking lot. We found good seats, though, and were mesmerized for the next forty minutes.

And while I can't claim to know too much about Afrikan culture yet, I do know that two fat, hot tears rolled down my cheeks while I immersed myself in the experience, and Nora almost boogied off my lap. The music was a bit too loud for either child to feel totally comfortable dancing in front of their seats, but Nora's head was bobbing and her Play Doh-encrusted fingers were flying. Fiona's somber brown eyes were as round as saucers as she tried to soak up the entire program. She told me before it ended that she wanted to be able to dance like that, too.

We'll check out some Afrikan music from the library next. We requested that our library purchase TRJE's albums and DVDs today as well. I look forward to seeing what inspiration the Jenbé Ensemble may be for our two dancers now that they're in their home environment.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

A get well card

"Dear Helena, If you feel better that's good. Love, Fiona"

Monday, July 23, 2007

Nora can go down stairs now, too!

Nora on going down instead of up:

"A-whee! A-whee! I like it!"

Lakeside lovelies

Before breakfast, in honor of Nora leaving hair doodles in her hair for more than 30 seconds, we decided to take pictures at the park across the street. It was a little chillier than we expected, but we got pleasant surprises too-- like the rainbow in the spray of fountain water in the center of the lake, and the damp, green scent of the blooming plants in the formal garden.

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Farm fun

Today the whole family went to Salomon Farm together for the afternoon. I caught up on some volunteering, and the whole family soaked in the wonderful historic working farm. We enjoyed the new blue Andalusian chickens, and we fed the goats. We were surprised by a couple of playfully prowling farm cats. Fiona picked a few "little marvel" peas and I picked some "Dow purple pod pole beans". That was cool! Did I mention they're PURPLE "GREEN" BEANS THAT TURN GREEN AS THEY'RE COOKED? What a fun selling point.

I also picked a number of Japanese beetles, which wasn't quite as cool, but felt very industrious nonetheless. The fruits, vegetables, and flowers at the farm are heirloom varieties, and aren't very tolerant of bugs; in addition, there are no commercial pesticides used. The girls had to go home for dinner or else Fiona would have joined me in the bug-picking. She was really looking forward to it.

I drove out to the farm separately, knowing that my volunteering would keep me longer this evening than the girls could reasonably stay. The car radio was already tuned to NPR, and I happened to catch today's Speaking of Faith program called The Ethics of Eating. Krista Tippet was interviewing Animal, Vegetable, Miracle: a Year of Food Life author Barbara Kingsolver about her year spent trying to live sustainably. It really was food for thought, no pun intended. I'm currently no gardener, but the show did reinforce my resolve to spend some more time learning about organic and earth-friendly practices, and to learn additional ways to live in harmony with the earth and its inhabitants. I suppose I could start by not taking two vehicles to a destination, huh? : (

Also, could anyone clear this up for me? I've been wondering this since I was a kid: is Indiana just REALLY good at growing corn, or is this "knee high by the fourth of July" saying exceedingly archaic? I realize it's almost August now, but the corn here has been knee-high for, like, forever. Just look at it! And this has been a dry, dry summer! Any thoughts?

Friday, July 20, 2007

Mo faux

This afternoon Sara and I were getting ready for the extravagantly awesome Harry Potter 7 Release Party happening at the library tonight between 9:00 p.m. and midnight. Amongst the 18 free activities planned for as many as 5,000 participants, my job there tonight will be to photograph magical merrymakers in a Ford Anglia replica-- I'm a photogrELFer. Sara will be a Wandering Wizard (aka troubleshooter).

We dyed our hair "Vampire Red" just for the occasion, and sprinkled generous doses of Gryffyndor Gold glitter all over our tresses (and consequently the rest of our persons and the surrounding area). Fiona and Nora are too young to attend the late-night revelry, but they got very excited by all the super-hold hairspraying that was going on, so they both elected to have faux-hawks. J.K. Rowling never looked this good!

Post-party note: you can see pictures from the Potter Party, which best estimates say over 5,000 attended, here and even more here.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Wait, Mommy!

Bedtime has always been our Achilles' heel around here, no doubt about it. We've tried numerous strategies to get our kids to bed and to sleep; and the truth is, winding down is hard to do. With all due respect to Dr. William Sears and Elizabeth Pantley, WHERE ARE YOU NOW?!

Once again Ian is at work for day one of a two day stint in night-time librarianship, and I am trying in vain to put both little people to bed. Depending upon a number of factors (how tired they are, how much physical activity we've had during the day, how high-strung they've been feeling lately, how sick they may feel, or even totally external factors like what activities are planned for later in the week or what we've recently enjoyed-- just to name a few) this can go anywhere from very smoothly to very poorly. Tonight happens to be a "very poorly" night.

It is now an hour since their bedtime, and even longer than that since I first began the night time routine. Just now I finally had to excuse myself to give them a chance to howl while I struggle to maintain my own sanity elsewhere for a couple of minutes. It is very difficult to remain calm and respectful when things go this wrong for this long, especially when I myself feel rather exhausted.

Even as I climbed down the stairs, Nora was plaintively wailing, "Wait, Mommy!" which would've been rather charming a couple hours ago, or in any other context. I am very grateful for the blog to give me something solid to capture my attention as both girls expend some (loud) energy upstairs.

(Half an hour later)

Ahhhhh. The sound of silence. I just had to get both of them to stop alternately needing me long enough to leave the room to let them work through their extinction burst quickly and loudly together so they could peter out. Thank goodness Ian doesn't work another night shift for at least... a couple hours.

Princess prattle

Now, if I were a princess, I could think of much better things to do than to have you sit beside me so handsome and bold as the song suggests. In fact, would you consider doing some laundry?! But just because artist Sara Hickman and I don't see eye to eye about what we'd do in our first hundred days in power doesn't mean the girls can't dance to really zany princess music with friends Tessa and Elena.

If, after watching all of them get down, funky, and loose like princesses you still feel wrong about the whole princess thing, just browse the Anti-Princesses Reading List, then check out some wonderfully empowering books at your local library.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Continuing the circle of respect

I don't know where I've been for the past few months, but I've only just realized that Magda Gerber, the woman who coined the term "educarer" and wrote both Dear Parent: Caring for Infants with Respect and Your Self-Confident Baby: How to Encourage Your Child's Natural Abilities from the Very Start died on April 27th of this year. I have for some time been attracted to her honest, natural, respectful approach to interacting with wee ones. Her approach was the inspiration which led Teich and DeBravo-- both students of Gerber's RIE (Resources for Infant Educarers)-- to write Trees Make the Best Mobiles, a book which contains bite-sized meditations which were formative in the way both Ian and I think about parenthood today.

We don't have infants in the house any longer (*wistful sigh*), but her mantra of respect, mindfulness, and non competitiveness extends beyond infancy. So, in the spirit of Magda Gerber, I leave in her honor both one of her quotes and a short video. "Do less. Observe more. Enjoy most."

Thursday, July 12, 2007

It takes a busy ant to sing a busy song

What a busy day! It all started with Ian's trip to the dentist, then we went to the library to sing and dance along with our friend and presenter Paul (a true Renaissance man) as part of our well-filled Summer Reading Program of activities. After that we visited a local nature preserve and delighted in frogs, bugs, seed pods, a fallen tree that looked like a crocodile, and lots of plants that looked like poison ivy but (probably) weren't.

We were so into the nature preserve that we couldn't just go in to have dinner at the table. We brought our sandwiches, apple, carrot sticks, and tortilla chips out to our front steps and ate as we watched some people fly kites at the park across our street. We couldn't help but marvel as some of the ants that scurried around our feet hauled off food bits four times their own size. We watched crumbs of our bread go over the dry, brown lawn in undulating waves. It was the messy kind of picnic those ants will be talking about for hours, I'm sure.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Oh what a wonderful year!

Although we really only started blogging in earnest this Spring, I just looked down at our archives and noticed that our blog is a year old now. Look how Fiona and Nora have grown!

Monday, July 09, 2007

Not so-ful anymore

We have a regularly scheduled monthly gathering at our house with friends. The kids play with a babysitter, and Ian and I enjoy the company of some of our favorite grownups for an afternoon of fun and laughter. And food!

This month, however, Ian forgot to send out the usual reminder email, and due to a number of flukes, many people couldn't meet yesterday afternoon. The babysitter was already on the way, however, so Ian and I decided to use the time to do something that we couldn't have easily done while attending the girls. We began to clean out our wall-to-wall cluttered garage to prepare for the garage sale I keep threatening to have.

Hours after we began, the sitter came out with the girls to find out whether they might all go across the street to play at the park for awhile. Fiona was astounded to discover that she could actually see the floor in our garage! Her eyes lit up with something that looked like promise and possibility, and she exclaimed, "It's very run-ful and play-ful now! I love it!" as she capered around the open space. She was loathe to go to the park for a moment, but recovered herself soon enough once it dawned on her how stiflingly hot the garage actually was at that very moment.

Saturday, July 07, 2007

New "words"

Fiona, Nora, and I were sitting down to a somewhat early lunch after having worked up considerable hunger at another Home Depot Kids Workshop this morning. When Nora didn't want another bite of the food I was offering, she turned her face as usual, but also suggested, "Change." Fiona and I were both duly impressed.

I held the cottage cheese container in front of Nora for her to see. I have gotten a little lazy lately about foods, and if she has already had enough of a particular food group, I don't bother to even dole it out unless I think she's actually going to eat it. Then I asked her, "Nora, do you want any of this cottage cheese?" She held her hands out to the container, saying, "Hold." I gave the entire tub to her. Then Nora added, "Cold. Whoshee. Gaga."

Those last two "words" are courtesy of Fiona, who taught Nora to repeat the babble from Ian Falconer's Olivia series. In Olivia and the Missing Toy, the spunky pig protagonist asks her baby brother William whether he took her missing toy, and he replies with a disarming "whoshee gaga" of baby babble.

What Nora thinks this means we'll never truly know; but from the looks of things now, it means "Look! I didn't want this last bite, and you skipped my bib today, so I spit it back out. I'm. Messy."

Friday, July 06, 2007

Overheard at the breakfast table

Jen: I'm thinking about scrapping my yoga workout and heading out for a walk. At the Zoo.
Fiona: At the Zoo?!
Nora: Yeeaaaahh!

Dang - you really had to be there. Nora's tone of voice and delivery were priceless. Though it was somewhat similar to what she says in this video, taken last night at a birthday party for a friend at Chuck E. Cheese:

Thursday, July 05, 2007

Fun for the 4th

This is the first year we went to the local fireworks display. Coincidentally, it's also the first year it's been held at 10:15 p.m. because of our newly enacted time change. Dark IS actually beneficial for fireworks, though trickier for sleepy little girls!

After a day of frolicking with friends in the backyard, Fiona fell asleep easily enough for a little shuteye before our nocturnal festivities; but Nora, sensing excitement, couldn't fall asleep until right before we left the house.

This was Nora's first fireworks display, and the grandeur was not lost on her. While the rest of us cheered, clapped, and chatted with our friends, Nora looked to the sky with a disarming mixture of awe and alarm. She pointed skyward and said, "Change!" She hooted, "G(r)een! B(l)ue!" and "Whoa!" By about five minutes into the show, though, she had settled into the spectacle and was loving every minute of it. In fact, it became too exciting for her to watch while seated.

Fiona was thrilled to see flowers in the sky again this year while sitting next to her good friends and family, and also glad to actually SEE what all the fuss she's been listening to at bedtime for over a week now has been all about. Hooray for the red, white, and blue! (Though all those other colors didn't look too shabby in the sky last night, either.)

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Mini meez

Fiona and I were playing around together this morning and made a Meez that looks a little bit like her feline-loving self. Well, OK, not too much like her. Not like too many other women I know, either, since I don't know hardly anyone shaped like that.

Fiona does not use the computer very much-- and never on her own-- but she really enjoyed trying to figure out which face shape, eye shape, and hair style and color looked the most like hers with me. Until now, she had never noticed that different people have eyes/faces with a range of shapes.

If anyone knows of a site that lets kids experiment with this type of play but which pictures realistically shaped bodies and less body-conscious clothing, please let me know! (Please, no similarly shape-impaired, highly commercialized, toy-pushing sites like!)

Money consumption

Fiona found some of her Bunny Money currency today in her art cabinet, so she wanted to pay me for something. I had been going through the junk drawer, which we recently renamed the "tool drawer" in an effort to keep its multitasking to a minimum. So Fiona "paid" me for a doll comb I found in the drawer, and she left happily enough.

Of course Nora wanted in on the action as well, so I turned over my bunny loot as she watched me organize the tool drawer. Easy come easy go, I suppose. Apparently I got boring relatively quickly, though, because Nora didn't last long at my side.

As I walked into the family room a little later to give part of the tool drawer a new home, Nora handed the wet, mangled Bunny Money bill back to me. Her mouth was set in a grimace, and her chin was disconcertingly yellow. Max, one of the main bunny characters from Rosemary Wells' Max and Ruby books, was missing in the middle of the hand-colored bill.

I can't help but smile, thinking that eating Bunny Money and getting yellow marker all over her chin probably celebrates the true spirit of Max. Now Nora's just missing his dripping cherry juice fangs. Fortunately, her dragon shirt didn't take any damage. Help me, Ruby!

Monday, July 02, 2007

Naptime was never this fun

Fiona and I enjoy "big girl" time while Nora takes her afternoon nap. Usually we do something ordinary like run a load of laundry with Fiona dumping the detergent into the washer and helping socks find their warm, fuzzy mates.

Today, however, we had a grand plan. Our friends Paul, Heather, Helena, and Ada had brought over an early birthday gift for Fiona. Ever since we visited the local Fiber Arts Festival and were wowed by the weaving there, our friends have been hatching a plan to build a loom.

And they did-- a wonderful, silky soft wooden loom with a handmade set of bags of holding handmade tools and colorful yarn balls. It is truly a delight to the senses and a birthday gift to treasure. Fiona and I read through the instructions giddily and got started.

It's not that she didn't make mistakes, and she needed a break after about fifteen minutes of it, but it was a great start to a wonderful activity. At one point Fiona forgot what to do next, and as my addled brain was trying to describe the next step, I said, "On this side your yarn ball needs to go through that natural hole. You know, whatever that little spot is called." Without skipping a beat, Fiona recalled, "Natural shed."

So together we muddled through our first day of weaving, and I can't wait to see how much we retained when we do it again during naptime tomorrow!

You gotta fight for your right to potty

I think Nora has been showing the earliest signs of toilet readiness for awhile now. She presents herself to us when she wants a new diaper. She announces when she is carrying around a bonus item in her drawers. Lastly, she is nowhere to be seen when she has a job to do. I believe it's time to resurrect our little potty.

I know that lots of people contend with a great deal of misery in conjunction with potty training. The fact that Fiona basically trained herself means that statistically speaking, this time around will be much, much different for us.

But as we've realized countless times before for other things, it's only after we utilize our time-tested methods that we realize they're no longer any good. So we'll probably just do what worked so well last time around. We already started today by setting the potty out (well before we expect it to be of any use) in a main room so she can begin to get accustomed to it and realize that it's her own personal fixture. Once she's finished playing jack-in-the-box with the lid and when the novelty of stuffed animals in the well-bleached chamber pot has died down, we'll move it to the bathroom. Our "open-door policy" there will escalate to explaining that we, the bigger people in the family, use the big potty instead of diapers, and that someday she will too. If Nora acts interested we may also start bringing home potty books.

Around this point Fiona, at age 2.5, announced her intentions with the potty one day, then sat down and realized them. About a month and a half later, our daytime toilet training was just about complete. Who's to say how long the process will take this time around? All we know is that this is probably the last time we'll buy diapers until we may be lucky enough to buy them for a grandchild, so we're in no hurry.

Sunday, July 01, 2007


We went to Saturday evening Mass so that we could have the coolest part of Sunday to work together in the backyard. Our yard is rather, uh, "natural", and when weeds are taller than the air conditioner, it does give a person pause.

You may be able to see from these pictures, however, that when the four of us gather in the backyard, we have a difficult time being serious about much of anything except goofing around. We pulled some weeds (three full garbage cans of weeds and brush from the backyard alone!), followed some bugs, sifted through some dirt, had snacks at the kitchenette that Aunt Nancy sent us (thanks, Aunt Nancy!), enjoyed the swing, collected walnuts for Toot Toot's squirrels, and generally had a jolly old time. We knew it was time to go in when Nora hit the wall and began walking around keening for dinner.

Not surprisingly, we still have a fair amount of work to do. But when work is this much fun, who can complain?