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, September 28, 2007

Cat shopping ...

I'm not anti-cat. But I am a cat realist. I've lived with many, many cats - not all at once, except on the farm, where we had about 15 - in many living situations. I've known people who were perhaps too attached to their cats. I've seen a wide range of temperaments in cats. I've known hunting cats (all female: Bobo, Tiptoe, and Maybelle Carter) and buddy-up-with-the-mice cats. I know how much it costs to have a cat as a pet.

Of course, they're across-the-board easier than dogs ...

Oh no! I let my guard down! Comparing them with dogs may turn out to be my downfall! Because yes, all four of us went to the shelter today, drawn by a picture on the web of one "Edna", a gray domestic shorthair who's about 5 months old. Turned out Edna has some personality problems, but we were looking seriously at "Muffin" and "Sweetie". (Names are in quotes because cats don't care what you call them and we probably wouldn't be keeping those names.)

Both those cats are younger than 5 months, though possibly not by much. The shelter has a special right now: two cats for one adoption fee (curses!). They're both in the picture of Nora, both on the bottom level; Sweetie is on the left, and Muffin is on the right. And yes, they're playing with each other. Yes, yes, they're very cute. Sigh.

Both Fiona and Nora were old pros at this, having gone with Jen a couple of months ago. There were no incidents except the small orange kitten who pounced on my back and tried to climb up from there. Well ... at least I know what I'm getting into. IF we get any cats at all.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

A case of the pukes

In an attempt to find a silver lining, I can say it's been so long since Fiona's been sick that Ian and I actually forgot the telltale signs. Ian let me sleep in (that man really loves me!) since I was up late preserving jelly, and he was a little mystified as to Fiona's disinterest in breakfast and whiny outlook on life in general. Then it hit us like a ton of; well, you know.

Fiona used to get a case of the pukes every three months like clockwork. Since taking the kids out of daycare ten months ago, however, we haven't had a single episode. Until today.

It's not that we don't socialize-- you can follow the blog to see a lot of our McKinney Moments. Since reading about unschooling we've been trying to make sure we use all our senses and play a lot and enjoy what our area has to offer. And heaven knows it's not that the house is spotless. I'm no housekeeper! We're just glad she hasn't had to deal with feeling sick until today. We hope it resolves quickly, and that our friends escape unscathed.

A really grape day, part II

This evening we finished the grape jelly project. Only time (or at least a much cooler product) will tell whether it set up enough, but we know for certain that it tastes good. And does anything else really matter?

In other news, if you have ever seen our weedy side yard, you may know that we are trying to think of ways to eliminate the mowing/landscaping issues we have there. What do you think of this? My friend's grapes have me inspired-- though for something simpler than the project described, I'm sure.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Who needs a costume with boots this great?

I am hard at work planning Fiona's requested mermaid costume. The sparkly turquoise and lime fabrics are very fancy, and they look so shiny and slick that when she saw them placed together at the store, Fiona asked whether she might be allowed to swim in them like a real mermaid. I look forward to working WITH Mom to create the costume as opposed to watching her from afar. This should be very creative and fun-- a costume that will surely be worn in the dress-up bin every day afterward until it no longer fits.

And Nora is the right size to wear the old cowgirl costume. I think my Aunt Madonna got it at a yard sale for me when I was a tyke, and Mom got it out for me at the right time for Fiona to be able to wear it, too.

We added a cheap red felt hat and some old boots we found on eBay back when Fiona wore the costume. But Fiona didn't care for either the boots or the hat, so this time I decided to get them out early for a little more orientation before Nora's Big Night.

As it turned out, however, I had nothing to worry about. Nora took to the boots immediately. As soon as she saw them yesterday, she wanted them on-- despite the fact that she wasn't wearing any socks! It took me more than an hour to charm them off of her after that. She put them on again today along with the costume, and while I did peel the costume off before lunch, the boots remained firmly in place.

"Boots. Mine."

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

A really grape day!

Today Ian had the day off, so after Nora's nap we went out to visit Carl, a fellow farm volunteer. He had offered to share the remainder of his grapes with us, and my plan was to try to make grape jelly if we found enough of them.

The girls and I had a ball in the grape arbor with him while Ian swatted bugs and took photos. Fiona delighted in using scissors to cut bunches of grapes down. She also liked to pick dried-up grapes "for the birds". Nora was enjoying picking warm, plump grapes and popping them into her mouth as expediently as possible.

Next Carl took us on a tour of his absolutely amazing gardens, orchard, and property. We tucked some eggplants and some persimmons--wow-- into our backseat. Nora even got to pet a kitty! We once again extend our heartiest thanks for the wonderful afternoon. At the end of the day, when asked what her favorite part of her day was, Nora said with conviction, "Gwapes!"

When we still hadn't made jelly at midnight, Ian and I knew it was time to give up for the night, but we did get 8 cups of juice-- 3 cups more than we needed for a batch of jelly! Not bad for the last grapes of the season, I think. Hopefully I'll manage to get some more pictures of us working on jelly together tomorrow. I know the girls will be sad to awaken to already-made grape juice. Well, mostly sad...

Monday, September 24, 2007

Fridays on Monday

When I picked up eggplant at my friend's house, he suggested that his family cuts it like french fries, dips it in flour, then pan fries it in canola oil.

That sounding far quicker than the Eggplant Parmesan I was planning, I went home to try it with the evening meal. My only change was to add garlic pepper to the flour and use olive oil in the pan. The family loved it, but clearly Nora hasn't eaten too many fries, because she's still slightly confused about them. She continued to demand more "Fridays! Fridays!" throughout the meal.

Sunday, September 23, 2007


Jen: Nora's hands are always so hot! Feel them!
Fiona: Do you want me to hold your hot little hand?
Nora: (indicates not)
Fiona: Do you want me to hold your tepid little elbow?

NB: Thanks to Lynn, Mike, and Basil for the fabulous necklace and wooden game featured at right. Our family played before lunch today. They are both made of awesome!

Saturday, September 22, 2007

Fall Festival Fun

We squeezed some fall fun into our late afternoon by attending a fall festival with our friends Paul, Heather, Helena, Ada, and our new friend Betsy. While there, we met up with even more friends Janet, Tessa, and Elena! We arrived too late to see a fraction of the offerings available, but we did take a nice long, jostly hayride, see a baby pig and other farm animals, and watched a log get sawed into board with some amazing contraption attached to a tractor by means which probably weren't magic to a trained eye.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Turn up your speakers, Grandma...

but not too loud, because the end picks up steam a little. Now this is an e-card we never thought of before!

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

2007 fall preview

Despite today's temps in the mid 80's, we really did have a couple days of cooler weather last week. They were my warning: sort through last year's winter clothes ASAP!

This afternoon after naptime we had a fashion show. Fiona tried on a number of things she's been wearing for the past couple of years. Not surprisingly they fit in most places, but failed to cover her ankles-- and sometimes her wrists as well! She has plenty of outerwear passed on by loving friends and relatives, and also some amount of clothing to get her started-- once again Ian and I wish to extend our deepest gratitude to our friends and relations who have so graciously gifted us with lovely children's clothing.

I still need to see how much we need to add for Fiona's core collection, though, before the cold winds blow. I'm still trying to figure it all out. She's such a tall, thin, lanky, (and adorable) child. 6's seem to be too short, and 6X's are often too big around. Her legs were aptly described by a friend as "coltish". What's a Mom to do? I don't know anyplace that sells "slims" anymore. Do you?

I began burrowing through old clothes looking for 2T fall and winter wear for Nora as well. No go. There was precious little of it, and what there was ended up being the 24 month stuff she wore at the very end of last winter. So our little Nora has been upgraded to a 3T, and now she has a veritable mountain of clothing! Shifting her up a size brought her closer to her August birthday sister size-wise, so she now has a heap of winter clothes plus a handful of summery things tossed in to enjoy at the end of this season to boot.

Nora couldn't care less about the heaps of fall finery-- which is great because that means she's also too young to notice that her older sister will be the only one going clothes and shoes shopping this season. Autumn, here we come.

Rapid cycling

Turn it on. Turn it off. Turn it on. It's the way the whole day went. See for yourself.

Baking buddies

This morning our friend Tessa came over while her sister and Mom took a class, so we held a class of our own: Bake Your Very Own Pumpkin Cake. Preparing our hands and other surfaces, reading, counting, measuring, smelling, stirring, tasting, touching, spilling, sweeping, using a Kitchen Aid mixer, cracking eggs, and cleaning up-- we (they) did a lot of work!

It took us awhile, too, but judging from the scent in the kitchen right now, the end result should be well worth it. Now we're whiling away our time with Play-Doh as we dream of dessert.

Monday, September 17, 2007


This was during a game of Hide and Seek - a game which I'm pretty sure Nora doesn't get just yet.

"Nora, say Three."


"Say Four."


"Say Five."


"Say Six."


Sunday, September 16, 2007

Planning is key

Ian and I keep talking about making a real-live budget, and part of that plan hinges on me making a menu so I can do a better job keeping grocery spending in check. It sounds relatively easy to sit down, figure out what we like to eat, figure out balanced, healthy meals on a weekly basis using Sunday sale ads as a seasonal springboard-- perhaps with a couple freezer meals and meatless meals thrown in for good measure-- and make a streamlined grocery list based solely upon that plan.

Then I started thinking about what I actually MAKE. Hmmmm. Why am I coming up with a blank? I asked Fiona, "What do I make that you like to eat?" She thought about it for a moment. "Annie's mac and cheese," she said. And I mean, that's ALL she said-- even with further prompting. Something tells me that this menu thing is going to be painfully arduous. Annie's mac, anyone?

Busy detox

OK, it's official. That yard sale (or SOMETHING!) has ruined our groove. We haven't played enough this week, or unpacked enough (including the cord for downloading pictures-- where IS that thing?! I'VE SEEN IT!!), or washed enough clothes. We haven't eaten right, or slept enough, or blogged enough. We've worked too much, yawned too much, and traveled too much. Stay tuned, dear readers. We are experiencing technical difficulties. Please stand by.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007


"REEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE!" Nora was belting out weird sounds from the backseat today as I took the girls to Fiona's 5:00 haircut. We'd been going virtually nonstop since 8:00 am, and I must've been getting numbed to the entire experience, because I think it actually took a moment for the sound to make it into my consciousness.

But it seemed there was a method to her madness, because in a moment or so I heard her sing, "REEEEEEEEEEEE... BANANAPHONE!" It isn't exactly how the song goes ("ring, ring, ring, ring, ring, ring, ring, ring, Bananaphone" - we like Rhonda Vincent's version best, from Sing Along With Putamayo), but you know how it is when you get a song stuck in your head ...

Saturday, September 08, 2007

Learning to let go

Garage saling is a mentality; and so, I suppose, is holding one. Some people hold onto stuff, and others use it for a time and then release it into the universe to be used by another. It’s all a complicated dance between basements of mildewing boxed memories and a front yard of voyeuristic profits at 50¢ a pop. There’s something rather bittersweet about either one.

There’s nothing wrong with holding onto things, mind you. There are some things that are definitely worth keeping. I’ve been voraciously reading rightsizing books for almost a year trying to figure out which things are worth keeping, and why, and how. I want to be able to streamline our home and our lifestyle so we can declutter ourselves to have more room to breathe, to think, and to live simpler and less materialistic lives. Our sweet old house may be crumbling in a couple places, but it’s ours and we love it dearly. It’s the place we want to stay for the foreseeable future, and if the things we own don’t work in this place, it’s time to let them go.

Enter Fiona and Nora. Fiona’s very accustomed to hearing the comment, “I remember when you wore that,” but she doesn’t quite know what to think when the item no longer fits Nora. We keep a few memorable things, and we pass on as many as our friends would like to have, but many are going by way of the sale.

And toys! And gear! It’s hard for the girls to see those go. I don’t really want to admit it to them, but it’s difficult for me as well. There’s something so very final about saying goodbye to a baby sling, a baby food cookbook, a breast pump. They are the tangible relics of that fleeting, sensuous, rollicking, sleep-deprived time of sheer love and attention to my itty bitty family. I do truly believe that someone should use them before they become dated and dappled with age and disuse.

But oh, the heartache. It’s difficult to teach our daughters about the concrete mechanics of reducing, reusing, and recycling when such visceral pain is coming from somewhere completely emotional. As happy as our times have been, are now, and will be in the future, this fairly straightforward yard sale marks the inexorable fact that our baby days are, in fact, behind us.

Friday, September 07, 2007

Rain, rain, go away

Come again another day, but please not tomorrow! We'd at least like a GHOST of a chance to sell some stuff at our advertised yard sale! Fiona is at Grandma and Toot Toot's, and Ian and I got up at 4:30 to set up since we feared overnight rain and couldn't do a lot outside the night before. The forecast had called for a slight chance of showers today but much more likelihood of rain on Saturday, so our plan was to sell as much as possible on the cheap early today, then haul what we could into the garage and punt. Even Nora was game.

Well, the forecast changed in a hurry. We had two browsers and one buyer-- our next door neighbor who wouldn't take "free" for an answer after awhile-- and a little after 8:00 a.m. the sky opened up. There was enough wind to blow our carefully prepared plastic table covers off, so we had to hustle to get as much as possible into the house or the garage. None of the three of us could've gotten wetter. Nora stood in the pouring rain with palms up, puzzled. The upside there is that it did cut down on the mosquitoes for a bit!

Now we're taking a little time to regroup before trying to figure out what happens next. The only thing we're certain of right now is rain.

Thursday, September 06, 2007

Nora's been hornswaggled!

Somehow, right before the big yard sale tomorrow, Grandma, Toot Toot, and Gracie-dog made off with our first-time-overnighter Fiona while Nora wasn't watching! Now Nora's simply wretched. She continues to point to Fiona's seat next to hers at the kitchen table and mourn, "Fiona! Seat!" It's like half of herself is missing.

She's had trial separations, I guess. Just last month Fiona did go to day camp every afternoon for a week. But even then, Nora threw out her hands as she sat strapped into her carseat keening, "Fioooooooooooona! Nooooooooooo!" Meeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee!" So we'll see how this two nights away thing works, since the two girls share a room. Were Nora not still nursing, she would've gone, too, but we just didn't think she'd care for it yet in the long haul.

It will be all right. Nora will have Ian, and she'll have me. We're paltry playmates next to Fiona of course, especially during a huge yard sale, but she'll make it. And once the whole weekend ordeal is over, we'll all be together again. Ahhhhhh.

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Squirrel girls take a walk

Fiona and Nora pretended to be "squirrel girls" as they scampered around the park lane this evening just before dinner. They chased their shadows, accepted an invitation to pet a basset hound, and talked to ducks and geese. Fiona found a fabulous "wand".

Nora finished up the very end of the circuit on my shoulders-- a first for her. She really enjoyed it, saying at first, "High! Whee!" and then, worriedly, "I fall..." as she gripped my glasses lenses with her sweaty, chubby fists. So we walked her all the way home that way and let Daddy peel her off to lessen her concerns.

Monday, September 03, 2007


Nora has been very feisty at bedtime recently. She stands up in her crib because she knows it will keep her awake; she alternates between talking, singing (she does a pretty good Skip to My Lou), and screaming; and any time one of us puts in an appearance she demands to be released. She just doesn't want to go to sleep, probably because she thinks she's going to miss something. Jen points out that, based on her personality, if Nora were awake, there would probably be something to miss!

Fortunately, her antics don't bother Fiona at all. She's generally asleep within minutes. Tonight, though, so was Nora. And, oh, this might have something to do with it: Fiona has a couple of very itchy bug bites. You think you got bad mosquito bites when you were a kid? Fiona has it worse. So she gets hydrocortisone cream a few times a day, and Benadryl as well. I had poured her Benadryl and put it on the counter in the bathroom and pointed out to her that it was there so she could drink it and then went to get pajamas for Nora. Nora was not in the bathroom at the time.

But by the time I got back, Nora had gotten the Benadryl, spilled most of it on the floor, and was gleefully lapping up the last little bit in the medicine cup. Way to go, Dad! Good thing toddlers don't have any fine motor control.

Now, repeat after me: I will not drug my children so they'll go to sleep. I will not ...

Dancing hat

The dancing hat, the dancing hat, it goes like this, it goes like that! Nora can usually get down, but you should see her when she's wearing her dancing hat.

As usual, we're using spare moments to go through old treasures, clean them up, and price them for the big yard sale. Nora found the top of a bubblegum machine-shaped fish tank that I bought when I worked in daycare, and popped it on her head.

Simultaneously, Ian and I were going through old glory days CDs and putting them back into cases to mark up for the sale. We were laughing too hard to take video of the most animated of the dancing, but managed to catch some footage of her moves during a Crowded House song from my old Reality Bites soundtrack which, incidentally, was totally fitting since our own crowded house is still rather trashed due to garage sale prep!


Fiona and I were playing a little chess the other day, and of course, Nora had to play too. So I made sure Fiona knew we would be playing just with each other after we showed the game to Nora, and we were teaching Nora what the pieces were. She already knew the word "king" and was calling all of the pieces kings. We taught her queen, pawn, knight, and rook, and then came the hard part.

"Nora, this is a Bishop."
"Hmmm ... Nora, say bi-"

There's someone who reads this blog who may be having a bit of a flashback about now ... it's a member of my family, which cuts it way down (so many of you are off the hook now), and it's not my mom. Extra bonus memory points if he can name either the kid (not related to us, just an acquaintance) or the phrase or the substitute phrase involved. Maybe in the comments, or, then again, it may have disappeared altogether. As mine will, someday, I'm sure ... but then I'll look it up in the archives. Shipbeesh!