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.

Friday, August 31, 2007

Oh, how we love pesto!

Yesterday we deadheaded basil at the farm, so I brought the bucket of flowers and stems home to salvage all the good leaves for a batch of pesto. Fiona enthusiastically helped me sort leaves yesterday. Both girls were absolutely delighted this morning to awaken to the savory discovery that the pesto fairy had been here during the night.

For breakfast both children elected to have, of all things, pesto toast with melty cheese. It made me laugh hard enough to photograph them. Now Fiona is requesting leftover pasta from last night. Perhaps she'll try pesto on that, too?

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Norasaur roars

I came home yesterday from a brief programming stint at a library branch. Nora was waiting for me at the door. The weather was exceedingly steamy outside, and I had experienced a hot, sweaty ride home. I was ready for a drink of water, which was precisely what I told her.

But Nora couldn't be dissuaded. She came barreling toward me with a copy of the board book Dinosaur Roar in her hand. "Dwagon book!" she demanded. "Read it! Read it!"

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Nora was a nectarine

I bought a couple nectarines today. At first I only cut one up for Ian and myself, not really expecting the girls to care much about them. While they've had nectarines before, I didn't think they'd remember them, and they both have a fairly active Ptooey gland which regulates their new food aversion.

So we just played it cool and enjoyed our fragrant, juicy nectarines with all our senses, and then casually asked both girls if they'd like some. We had two takers! By the end of the afternoon, I was out of nectarines, and by the end of dinnertime, Nora was looking for "reenes" for dessert. Score!

Monday, August 27, 2007

We're all about her whalespout

Fiona decided that the only way to get her tiara to stay on her head was to sink the tiara combs into taut "ponytail hair", so she needed a ponytail-- pixie cut or no. When Helena came over today while her father and sister ran an errand and saw Fiona's hairdo, she wanted one too. Soon every girl here five and under was sporting one. What's next? A Dorothy Hamill haircut? Oh. Wait a minute...

Distinct preferences

We got home from an appointment and then a zoo storytime with Elena, Tessa, and Janet just past noon today. Ian was already home for lunch when we rolled in, and Nora was quickly moving past hungry and into sleepy, so we had to eat fast. I was opening a new bag of bread so I could slap together some peanut butter and jelly sandwiches when Fiona said warningly, "Now, I don't like the foot..."

I'll tell you a dirty little secret. I didn't have the foggiest idea what Fiona was talking about, but I was so shamefully focused on getting carrot sticks, milk, Sun Chips and sandwiches dealt around the table before a certain someone's head came drifting down into her plate that I wasn't really paying close attention to what she said. "Well then, what are you going to do about those two that are down below your ankles? You're kind of stuck with those, aren't you?" I asked drily.

But Ian was on the ball. First he laughed a hearty laugh, and then he set her straight. "Fiona, you almost have it. You are misremembering a word. You are calling the end of the bread 'foot', but it's called something close to that..." Then he started a guessing game that we all played together until she got to 'heel'.

I love my family.

Saturday, August 25, 2007


You can't imagine my surprise when, while doing something totally random with us-- like grocery shopping-- Nora began to grimace like Bill Bixby as he became the Incredible Hulk and hollered "MUSCLES!" Both her arms and round pink cheeks shook with "exertion".

On the sly, apparently, Fiona taught Nora that in order to show the world that one has muscles, one must flex, turn red in the face, and quiver mightily.

Monkeying around with Elton John?

Robert and Teresa donated some wonderful stuff to our Garage Sale Cause yesterday. Fiona and Nora are quite charmed by the sisterly monkeys they discovered in Robert's boxes of treasures. When they're not hanging around doing other stuff, they're hugging (that applies to both the toys and the girls). I don't think these particular monkeys will make it to the sale. Thanks, Robert!

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Too tired

Sleepy is as sleepy does. Is there a saying like that? If not, I'm altering the old saw now, because it's definitely true. We've had some fun lately-- too much of a good thing, perhaps? Now it's eminently clear that our sleeping schedules are FWP (a phrase I learned from Ian's Dad which stands for Fraught With Peril).

Fabulous weekends + unusual weekday nighttime routines = sleep loss. Now Fiona has a lower tolerance level and is weepier than usual, and Nora falls asleep over her lunch AND her dinner, and wakes prematurely from her single nap. The poor toddler growled like a wildcat most the day on Monday, and that's BEFORE we had an overnight with grandparents.

Parents are not immune to this cumulative sleep deprivation, either. Our fuses feel shortest right when they need a little extra. But we're trying to get back on track, and with any luck we will... in time.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Childproofing 2.0

Nora has been enjoying a continued love affair with a particular comb we have in the house. It looks like a caterpillar, and the matching brush looks like a ladybug. No matter where we seem to stow it, she can be found later wandering around with it in her hand bellowing, "B(r)ush!" In the photo at left (yes, she's standing on the sofa with a comb in her hand-- sigh) she combed her own hair right after her bath.

This Monday evening she had a near miss with the comb in question when she tottered and fell, striking the soft area right below her left eye and causing a small yet clearly visible bruise. She was a little shaken, but as you can see it did not lessen the ardor for the caterpillar comb. Minutes later she caught her little toe in the grate in the kitchen floor, and crumpled to the floor cradling her foot yelling, "I broke it! I broke it!" (not hardly, BTW) at the top of her lungs. It's very perplexing to feel concerned and amused simultaneously.

I suppose I should be thinking, "Wow, thank God! That could have been a lot worse." And, on some level, I am. But the louder, more persistent voice in my brain is still, two days later, saying, "Do you SEE how close that came to her eye?! Are you aware of how this could have turned out, or could turn out again in just a heartbeat? And do you know that a caterpillar comb is the LEAST of your childproofing concerns?"

Now virtually every item in my home is looking rather menacing to me, and I couldn't possibly think of nailing down every loose item in our house. When Fiona was little, we never did childproof anything. All we had to do was give her a look and give our heads the tiniest little shake. Fiona knew we did not want her in that area, and ceased exploration immediately. Then we could go on by describing what the item was and why it was dangerous. It was an exceedingly straight-forward method of childproofing, but it mostly involved carefully-chosen explanations.

Neither of us want a carbon copy of Fiona, of course, but it's as clear as the day is long that for many things we'll have to go back to the drawing board with Nora. She's a horse of a different color. Black and blue, and later on green and perhaps yellow...

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

I, Robot

Grandma and Toot-Toot were here for the circus birthday party this weekend, and we were at their house today because Toot-Toot had surgery this morning - a hip replacement that went very well. Later in the day he developed a bit of a fever, but that was coming down when we left. Jen told Fiona that he's getting a metal hip like a robot, so Fiona is pleased that he's getting it. (It's not really a robotic hip.)

Saturday, August 18, 2007

Birthday circus

Do you know what Fiona really needed today? More birthday! Really, she DID need to spend time with Grandma, Toot Toot, Uncle Eric, Aunt Carrie, James, and Luke, so it's quite convenient that we had a reason to gather and celebrate. Thank you, Fiona!

Today we had a backyard circus. We knocked down milk bottles (special thanks to Abby and Marra for collecting them!), walked a "tightrope" board, listened to calliope music, watched eight cicadas molt on the fir tree, decorated party hats and wore clown noses, played pin the tail on the donkey, decorated clown cupcakes, and enjoyed a circus lunch which included-- amidst other, slightly healthier fare-- corn dogs, soft pretzels, lemon shake-ups, cotton candy, candied clown cupcakes, and homemade vanilla ice cream freshly made by Eric right on the back deck.

Hold on a minute... did the list above actually say, "watched eight cicadas molt on the fir tree?!" Yes, ladies and gentlemen, it did. It was so exciting we had to call Paul, Helena, and Ada so they could witness the spectacle with us. Talk about the greatest show on earth!

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Country pinecone, city pinecone

Today we visited friends Teresa and Robert out in their new home in the country. WOW! We always have fun with them, but today we had fun in a fabulous new woodsy place! We saw teeny little pinecones, and frogs, and a glowing pond, and walls with fun hidden compartments, and cupboards with doors to the outside (for firewood and inquisitive little people), and much, much more! We played and danced and pretended to be airplanes and ate the best macaroni and cheese this world may ever experience. But you have to take my word for it, because in all the excitement I didn't get out the camera. I thought I left it in the car, but discovered later that it was in the diaper bag all along. Too bad! It was truly a woodsy wonderland, though, and we're happy for Robert and his whole family for finding such a gem.

Then, during our family walk after dinner, we found MORE teeny little pinecones, and more cicada exoskeletons during Fiona's pauses on her bike. That child is really getting fast on the bike. Most people use stroller cupholders for, well, CUPS, but check out how they usually get pressed into service for us these days. I'll spare you the pictures that showed the spare legs lying loose in the bottom of the key tray.

Nora also got to go past her lions, aka doggies. Check out all the roaring here.

Monday, August 13, 2007

Happy birthday, Fiona!

Well, Fiona's fifth birthday was Friday, August 10th, but gifts have been rolling in for weeks now, and it has taken this long to Photoshop her birthday pictures, so the fun just continues! Her special day was celebrated with friends Helena, Ada, Heather, and Paul over spaghetti dinner, cake, and ice cream.

Fiona informs me that it feels different now that she's five: "I can do more things 'cause I'm bigger, and because I'm getting close to, like, a grownup." Now I need to go prepare some banana slices with peanut butter hats for my big girls.

That's a bee cake, by the way. Yes, really! You might not have know without me telling you ... even if you'd seen it in person ... but that's why I'm telling you. Fiona thought it couldn't have been more perfect, though, so I just need to view it using Fiona's standards, not Martha Stewart's.

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Family walk

Yesterday after dinner, we decided to go for a family walk. Fiona didn't really want to go, because she didn't want to walk. Her toast is still a little burned because we don't have a double stroller, and she's no longer the one riding. She wanted me to go get the wagon out of the car.

But part of the reason we were walking was so we could all MOVE AROUND a little bit, so Ian and I held firm about the walking aspect, and in the end she not only walked but had a highly enjoyable time. Had we not walked together we'd never have been out long enough to have discovered yesterday's amazing cicada, for example.

We had enough fun to go out again tonight after supper. We decided, on impulse, to snap a couple pictures in the formal garden at the park across the street. Once we got home, warm and ready for a drink, stories, songs, and a night's rest, I heard Fiona say, "Dad, let's do this every night forever!" A far cry from not wanting to walk, eh? Our Fiona is growing up, and it gives me goose bumps and throat lumps.

Saturday, August 11, 2007


Fiona hasn't been sleeping so well lately; read, neither have Ian nor I. This afternoon, during Nora's nap and Fiona's sanctioned Saturday episode of The Backyardigans, I took a little sofa catnap, which became an actual nap that went a tad longer than I intended. Let's just say Nora felt plenty refreshed when she awakened, and Fiona had begun working in earnest on one of the velvet posters that Granny and the Priory Aunties sent with some markers for her birthday.

Therefore when Ian got home from helping run the library's teen chess tournament, we still all had enough steam for a nice walk around the neighborhood together after dinner. Fiona walked curbs, reached for leaves, hopped, skipped, and heard stories about Ian's bat-catching cat, Maybelle Carter, and my old crab-shell stealing beagle, Buffy. Nora left the house without her shoes, so she issued commands periodically from the stroller and named (and misnamed) objects. She especially enjoys the huge, imposing, gargoyle-like lions (aka doggies) that flank a stately home on Forest Park Avenue.

On the way home, Fiona and I fell into our habit of collecting cicada shells. Our eyes were trained downward, scouting for good spots to find multiples, when I found a live cicada. We watched it for awhile in the mad hope it might emerge then and there like our friend Helena's did for her (see photo above); but when it didn't we brought it home. We enjoyed it for awhile*, then left it on our tree to sing with its buddies. You can enjoy their song in the video below, as well as our little friend, Cadie.

*No cicada was harmed in the making of this film

8/12 Update: We didn't see another exoskeleton on the tree this morning, so we figure that cicada may well sing to us again tonight.

Toddler analysis

Growing up at my house, one of the joys of someone having a birthday included birthday cake and milk for breakfast all around on the following day. We had some cake left over from last night's invented bee cut-up cake, and that's exactly what Nora was offered this morning.

There were two smaller pieces of devil's food cake available, and most of a 9" pan of yellow cake still in the pan. I put one of the pieces of chocolate cake in front of Nora, but that's not what interested her most.

She pointed at the pieces in the pan for some pint-sized analysis. "Fiona!" she exclaimed while pointing at the smaller chunk of chocolate cake. Apparently she wished to reserve that particular remainder for her sister.

Next, she pointed to the yellow cake and bellowed, "Big!" I prefer to think that in this case she was explaining the size of the cake and not the size of the eater.

Friday, August 10, 2007

Why, why, what?

Why are we collecting these cicada exoskeletons, and why can't we stop? And what are we going to do with them now?

Dancing for the bard

The video says it all.

Thursday, August 09, 2007

No TV for kids under 2

A study published yesterday in the Journal of Pediatrics says that babies who watch Baby Einstein videos have smaller vocabularies than babies who don't. Want baby Einsteins? No TV while they're under 2. (That's the recommendation from the American Academy of Pediatrics, which, it turns out, knows what they're talking about, at least about this.) The study adds: Read to them. (I'm not sure how much more obvious this could be, but maybe that's just me.)

Read an article about the study here, or listen to another here.

Mother's little helper?

Dinner was over, the trash was overflowing, and I grudgingly had admit it was time to take it out. Again. Both Fiona and Nora were dressing up and dancing with wild abandon in the front room, so there was no time like the present. I took off the lid, only to discover four wadded-up one dollar bills in the top of the receptacle.

Hmmmmm... If Nora is "helping" by throwing away cold hard cash, where is she getting it? How often has she done this before? In what other ways has she "helped out" around the house by "tidying up"? If she IS actually trying to be useful around the house, how perturbed can I possibly be? And lastly, if I dug through this entire, gooey bag of refuse, would I find any more money, and would it be worth it even if I did?

Summer Safari sisters

Fiona's fifth birthday gift from Ian and me was to attend her first-ever camp! This week she has been attending zoo camp along with friends Alyssa, Carlie, and Annie Rose. They've been learning about animals like alligators, sharks, and tigers-- not to mention riding ponies, merry-go-rounds, trains, and log rides, eating snacks, making crafts, and learning camp songs-- all week long. The girl sleeps like a log.

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Anxiety makes me anxious

Yesterday Fiona, Ian, and I went to see a new psychotherapist. We visited someone years ago as well, back when Fiona was playing on a temporary play yard at her daycare center while a new playground was being built. She noticed clouds moving in the sky, except from her perspective it didn't look like the clouds were moving but instead like the building was falling down. Within short order she was anxious enough not to be able to go out into the courtyard at all anymore. Fiona's pediatrician referred us to someone, but our single visit with her was such a poor fit that we never returned.

Fiona's anxiety has continued, however, and has perhaps ratcheted up to some degree within the past six months, so we tried again. We hoped that both Fiona and we ourselves would learn some good strategies. This time the fit is just right, and we're very pleased to feel we've done the right thing for Fiona and for our family. He doesn't anticipate visiting more than a handful of times, and we look forward to gaining some new life tools.

Here is the main idea of what we've gleaned thus far. Children fall into a curve of intelligence, and kids at either end of the spectrum may end up with some amount of anxiety. The therapist inquired about Fiona's IQ, and while we haven't had her tested, we told him about our experience with the kindergarten readiness test. Then he did another short test with her in the office yesterday. He was inclined, with the facts available, to agree with the St. Jude school faculty.

Bottom line: Fiona is bright. She notices things that some kids her age might not notice, but her almost-five-year-old brain can't logically rationalize them, which gives her worry. To some degree, her beloved baby sister Nora probably also unwittingly exacerbates the anxiety with her every-present roly-poly toddler cuteness. People tend to notice Nora first, and sometimes Nora only. And while situation is certainly not unique to Fiona, it doesn't make it affect her any less.

Now at our house, we are of the firm belief that every child is gifted, and it is the happy quest of each parent (and child) to both discover where those gifts lie and to fully appreciate them. And while I'm glad to have better insight as to where the anxiety probably comes from, I'm also a little upset to hear a nebulous term like “gifted” being mentioned so often or so lightly. Keeping in mind that no one has actually labeled Fiona at this point (exhale), who decides who's “gifted”, and what exactly does that mean? And what happens next? And how do I feel about it? What's the best school for a gifted child? For our child? Is home the best school? Would spending some time away from Nora on her own turf be a better choice for her? But what could be better than following her own pace and interests at home?

It's time for more reading, talking, and thinking at our house. I don't think Fiona is the only anxious one around here.

New sandals

Nora's feet grew; so much, in fact, that she needed a new pair of sandals in August. She just wanted you to know.

Whirlwind weekend

Sadly, Alan wasn't able to make it, but Lindie and her kids Ben, Mia, and Luke stayed with us this past weekend. Sorry I didn't get anything blogged for awhile there-- we were too busy! Nora and Ian really WERE there too, they simply managed to not be around where photos were being snapped.

Between visiting the park, the art supply store, and the zoo-- not to mention all the eating, showering, reading, tumbling, laughing, and origami-making, we were in near constant motion.

It's awesome that their family was able to make a stop here in their three-week vacation across the states. May your mountain of laundry smell sweet like the heather, Lindie!

Our friends are so crafty

You've already seen the amazing "heirloom loom" sent by Helena, Ada, Heather, and Paul in a previous post. But you haven't seen the table and chairs yet! When Paul had to chop down the big tree in his front yard, I asked him whether he considered making Waldorf-style tables and chairs out of them. He DID make them and sent them over as combined birthday presents for Fiona and me. THEY ARE LOVELY!

See Nora trying to get Fiona and our little friend Robert to come join her immediately at the table. They were being waylaid by sidewalk chalk at the time. Or maybe it was cicada shells?

Our daughters are very blessed indeed to have such an amazing network of family and friends who love and care about them-- not just on their birthdays but all year long.

It's so good to be almost five

Fiona turns five on Friday, and already wonderful things have been rolling in! Aunt Lynn sent the most wondrous blending and bi-color markers ever, along with paper and special stencils for Artist Fiona.

Aunt Ruby appealed to her playful side and gave her a dust ruffle to match the comforter, headboard, and footboard brought by Aunt Ruby and Aunt Lynn earlier in the year. Now Fiona is hiding all sorts of treasures under her bed!

Granny sent an amazing set of picture cards. We're looking at and talking about the faces we know, and we look forward to conversations with Granny about some of the family we look forward to knowing better!

And in some of the pictures you can see Fiona's Summer Safari T-shirt. Our gift to Fiona this year was to send her to her very first day camp at our local zoo. She, along with three other friends and a host of other area preschoolers are experiencing the zoo together. Yesterday she rode her first pony!

Thank you, everyone. Birthdays sure are exciting!

Thursday, August 02, 2007

In a hurry

I work tomorrow morning, babysit tomorrow afternoon, book club tomorrow night, and some friends from the East coast will be here this weekend. Our house looks like it always does, and I can't seem to get ahead. It'll all work out, of course. It always does. But does this cartoon resonate with anyone else, by any chance?

Oh beans!

I was able to bring some Dow purple podded beans, sweet peas, sweet corn, tomatillos, and a lemon gem cucumber home from the volunteering gig at the farm today. They weren't going to make it until Farmer's Market on Wednesday evening. Fiona loves to shell peas! We ate some corn and peas at lunchtime, and will have the Dow purple podded beans for dinner.

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

First haircut

It's weird. People told us throughout the second pregnancy how different the second child would be from the first, but it took living with the second child to make us true believers. Nora is, in fact, very different than her older sister-- as well as delightfully similar in many ways-- in appearance, word, and deed.

One of their differences is certainly the growth pattern of their hair. Today, almost on a whim, we had Nora's bangs cut. She had one stubborn lock of hair that was getting into her eyes regularly. It bothered her, but when I pinned it out of her way with a clip, she tore the barrette out with a savagery that pulled out many hairs unnecessarily. Contrast photos of Nora's first bang trim at 18 months with Fiona's first haircut-- which primarily helped blend in the "natural tail" that was growing at the nape of her neck-- at two years. Wow!

I was already going to see my stylist Amy today, so I asked her whether she might have time to clip Nora's bangs sometime. Amy said there was no time like the present, so with no planning, no fanfare, right in the middle of my own haircut, when Ian arrived after work to take the girls home for dinner, Nora got her first haircut.

We're different parents now than we were then, I guess. Sure, we try to blog now and do our best to document the ups and downs of our daily lives with our lively little ones. But last time around we had the presence of mind to save that first sweet curl of hair in an envelope. This time, in sharp contrast, we simply had the presence of mind to bring the children home for dinner instead of letting them run amok during my haircut. But with or without that little strawberry blonde wisp, Nora is much more comfortable after her first haircut. Thank you, Amy!

18 months old and healthy as can be

We met our beloved Dr. Wolfe today for Nora's 18 month appointment. Here's the breakdown:

22.8#: 70th percentile
30.5": 90th percentile
Plenty verbal
On track physically
Eats enough-- we need to keep offering food even if she continues to toss most of it
Left foot does roll in considerably, but no need for alarm

Also, after a fair amount of discussion, both kids got shots.