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, June 29, 2008

Reunited and it feels so good

The day cooperated fairly well for our annual reunion for Dad's side of the family, and we had a great time. It was frustrating to have an evening meeting cut our visiting so short this year, but we did get to spend some amount of quality time catching up, chowing down, playing BINGO, blowing scented bubbles, balancing on stilts (or trying to, anyhow) and laughing a lot. There were lots of pictures being taken, too, but unfortunately not many of them were with our camera. Thankfully Verna got our immediate family together early-on for a photo and we passed our camera on so I can at least share that here.

My evening meetings should be much more sporadic by next year, so we'll be able to party till the cows come home by then! Hopefully it won't be another entire year before we see everybody again, though.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Later, gator

Hmmmm. . . What have we been up to today? The kids put away some laundry with me. Fiona played with Sydney at her house next-door. The whole family played "I Spy With My Little Eye" before Ian went to work. And oh yeah, Nora held an alligator.

Yes, Mark of Mark's Ark visited the library today, and we caught him on his last visit of the library branch circuit. We learned about hissing cockroaches, millipedes, a cane toad, an albino hedgehog, a hairless rat, and an American alligator named Irwin. It was simultaneously educational and entertaining.

Mark let anyone interested person touch Irwin at the conclusion of his program. Since neither daughter professed any interest at all in holding the year-old gator, I said I would do so if they might want to pet it. I figured it would be good for them to see that it wasn't scary, and might actually be fun and interesting. Moms try stuff too, right?! I gratefully handed my camera off to a friend who would document the excitement, then accepted the reptile.

So we were all surprised after both children had a chance to pet it and to thank the presenter when Nora reached up with supplicating palms for her turn to hold Irwin as if that's naturally what was to happen next. Way to go Mandy for snapping a quick picture of her curiosity!

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Robert, you're it!

Robert and Teresa came over today for lunch and an afternoon of rip-roaring play, and we couldn't have possibly had more fun. Seriously. I screamed and laughed so hard during a hilarious game of tag that it was almost an emergency. Fiona was so excited it caused her to dribble maple syrup down her shirt. Nora had so much fun she had to take a nap in the middle of the visit to rest up. Would you two please come over again immediately?

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Ain't she sweet?

We went to the library today to see a clown/magician act called Sweetcakes, and while the girls couldn't have been confused with kids who wanted to volunteer to help with the program, they did stay tuned in the whole time. They each had a different favorite part in the lengthy act, and have been enjoying one of her gags at home. Whenever Sweetcakes needed a helper from the audience, she added "Sweet-" to the beginning of his or her name. At one point Sweetjen got playfully busted for painting her nails during the program-- d'oh! And while that's the surest way to become the next audience participation helper, it didn't happen to me. (It was just so serene to sit and not to have anyone needing me for 20 minutes).

I'm glad we had some zany fun at the library this morning with Sweetcakes, because for the rest of the day Sweetfiona and Sweetnora will be laying low at home playing outside while we do laundry and get cleaned up a bit for a playdate with Robert and Teresa tomorrow. Woot!

Lavender blue

We went with Heather, Paul, Helena and Ada to a lavender farm on Sunday. It was a beautiful day and a lovely farm and gardens. We'd like to go back and check out again and bring Ian. The fairy gardens there were a favorite among the smaller set.

Monday, June 23, 2008

Nora's new talent

Bedtime is not always easy. We go through phases. The current phase involves Nora winding herself up at bedtime, despite all efforts to encourage the opposite. Last night, this included, for the first time, a full-out scream (of delight, mind you) from the bedroom upstairs. Of course, by this time, Fiona had moved to our bed to wait it out (since she is, astoundingly, now actually ready for bed at bedtime).

But this isn't really about bedtime. This did happen during bedtime ... possibly when I went up to put her back in bed when she came out of her room to demand breakfast, or it might have been when she came out of her room to "rock a little bit".

Nora was sitting on my lap in the rocking chair, and she reached one index finger up into the air, crooked it twice, accompanied by a verbal sound like "chk-chk". Here is how the rest of it went:

Chk-chk ... Dad ... ee.
Chk-chk ... Mom ... ah.
Chk-chk ... Nor ... ah.
Chk-chk ... Fion ... ah.
Chk-chk ... Zeld ... ah.
Chk-chk ... Iv ... ee.

I was quite amazed at the work she was doing with separating syllables, and so I missed the significance of the "chk-chk" ... until tonight. She did it again, and I finally thought to ask:

"What is this finger motion with 'chk-chk'?"

Huge smile: "It's a pencil!"

Of course! She was writing with her finger pencil in the air, and possibly imitating Fiona (or someone else?) sounding out the words she is writing. Jen says that writing on paper with a pencil is one of her favorite activities, and that it seems to make her feel big - like a grown-up, or at least like Fiona. Actually, I think there's very little difference to Nora between Fiona and grown-ups at this point.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

It's too early for philosophical questions

I'm putting dishes away out of the dishwasher. The girls are eating cereal and milk.

Fiona: Mom, can you come here for a minute? (I do.)
Fiona: Do you think his hair (Quaker on cereal box) looks like dough?
Jen: Now that you mention it, I guess his puffy hair could look a little like dough. Our hair is straight, but some people's hair is fluffy, and some people have curly hair. Some people have no hair at all.
Fiona: Why?
Nora: He can't take off his hat. Huh huh. He's on da Life cereal. (Leave it to Nora).

I'd better wake up. This may take a little explaining.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Mark Bittman scores again!

Mmmmm. The kitchen still smells like ginger, garlic, onion, sesame oil, chicken. . . It's stir fry night. We've been enjoying Mark Bittman's chicken and spinach stir fry for years now-- and by "we" I would mean Ian and I. Nora is somewhat adventurous in the food realm. Let's leave it at that.

This has been a soggy Spring, though; we've seen more than our fair share of mosquitoes around here already. And if there are mosquitoes, they will find Fiona and me. My Dad always says I have "sweet blood". I remember the hive-like reactions I used to get to bug bites when I was younger, and I also remember begging my pediatrician to give me a shot so that mosquitoes wouldn't like my blood anymore. Dr. Miller laughed, saying that I might be the only child who had come into his office requesting a shot.

I reasoned with Fiona that she and I might consider cutting down a little on sweets as a test, and increasing our veggie intake. I said that besides the fact that vegetables are a good idea on principle, they might smell bad to mosquitoes-- who knows?! This was more than slightly disingenuous, but I still don't feel bad about it. Not one bit.

Tonight, out of the blue, Fiona decided to try chicken and spinach stir fry. She ate two big helpings of it, and asked me when I'd be making it again. She pronounced it "delicious", and tried to convince her sister to give it another try.

Tune in tomorrow when pigs may fly. We're on a roll here-- anything could happen!

Moving too fast for the camera

Uncle Eric, Aunt Carrie, James and Luke popped in to visit us today on their way to another family gathering and managed to take us to lunch! Their schedule was tight, and the pizza place we thought we'd enjoy didn't happen to be open for lunch, but we did get to eat in a tiny, cozy diner downtown and have a jolly good time with the seven other diners who would fit into the place with us. Thanks guys-- we had a great time with you! Next time, we'll be poised with the camera. Hope your trip to our fair city was a great one.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Lettuce be grateful for small miracles

Today I harvested some of our Bronze Arrow lettuce at dinnertime. Guess what?! EVERYBODY LIKED IT! While it's true that homegrown stuff always tastes yummy, there may be some truth to the philosophy that helping grow something really does make it taste better to kids.

Gotta go... I have some more clouds to walk on...

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Nora caught a rash

I have been watching a fine, raised, red rash on Nora's chest and back for over a week now. It doesn't bother her a whit, and doesn't now nor has it had any other symptoms to go with it; but is not getting any better or worse, so I finally called the pediatrician about it. They, of course, wanted to see it. I remember calling in to ask about a rash on Fiona once on a nurse-line and the person actually said, "Oh great. Another phone rash..."

So I took her to the doctor, but it's only a viral exanthem. Hooray! Nothing catchy! Our pediatrician said it's just a biproduct of a virus-- which we all get regularly even if we're not laid low. She doubts Nora ever felt poorly, in fact, but she may have that rash for another three weeks nonetheless. Whoa.


Today we attended a library program by a family of four who sang folk songs, played instruments, and acted out stories. They live on a farm in a yurt in a nearby area.

Neither Fiona nor Nora wanted to volunteer as helpers in the program, and were a bit slow to warm up there, but they were both very tuned in for the entire thing; and loved playing the spoons that were handed out at the beginning of the program. You'd think we didn't have a set of spoons (and bones) to play at home already. Nora was finding a beat in many of the songs once she got the hang of it.

I think the true test of enjoyment might be that I've heard Fiona singing snippets of new songs off and on throughout the day today. I asked her whether she'd like to catch the program at another library branch, and both kids jumped at the possibility. Chalk that one up as a win, library!

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Happy Father's Day!

Happy Father's Day Ian, and Daddies everywhere! At our house, there was a morning zoo trip involved (there were more mosquitoes than people there at that hour of the day-- which was not what we expected on Daddy's Day) and pancakes for lunch, and happy chicken and mushrooms and rice and sweet peas at dinnertime. He got a chunk of time for reading and napping, and plenty of time with all of us, too! A great day for a great Dad. We love you lots.

Friday, June 13, 2008

Playing in the street?!

On the one hand, our sense of community was strong enough this year to finally get us out of our house and down a couple blocks to my church's awesome street fair-- even in drizzly rain! On the other hand, the children's games part was from 5:30-8:30, and bedtime at our house is 7:30, and dinnertime is always leisurely, so we still didn't spend a huge amount of time there.

But that's really too bad, because there was a magician, and music, and children's games (one even being assisted by our neighbor Sydney. We played-- everyone wins!) a "stump the teacher" game, teen skateboarding area, talent show, food that turns your mouth blue, cake walk... you name it! It was huge. It was jolly. We met a lot of neighbors we knew, faces we kind of knew, and nice people we just met-- even in just that short span of time. People come to this fair prepared to make friends.

As for Fiona and Nora, they were mainly content to take it all in, but Nora really wanted to bounce in "that monkey thing" (until she did it, then promptly and loudly changed her mind-- see photo above) and Fiona won a squirrel straw playing Plinko. Yes, I know. A squirrel straw.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

June egg hunt

We found a local source for eggs and not only went to pick them up with a friend-- we got to pick them out, too! Chickens, as it turns out, don't lay eggs in wholly expected places. It requires a careful collector to find all of them. Fortunately, Fiona and Nora had a patient teacher to show them all the likely hidey holes.

They also got to see pear trees, plum trees, apple trees, two large vegetable gardens, and a shade garden, one renegade cat and two happy dogs along the way. It was quite a fun farm trip! We learned about the benefits of the color red for tomatoes, about "June drop" in fruit trees, and why some plants had netting over their tops. We also virtually watched sweet peas growing on the vine. They're fast!

Our garden has a long way to go, but it does give us an appreciation for the way things grow to visit such a large and thriving farm. Thanks, Miss G. We're looking forward to visiting again!

Dinner by candlelight-- but hold the candles

The girls and I got home from a huge grocery store run just in time to slam together a rather late, patched together dinner and enjoy it with Ian. It had been raining off and on all afternoon, and we were glad not to have been caught out in the worst of it.

Then around 6:00 p.m., just as I dished bowls of too-processed-to-admit-on-this-blog out to the clan, the power went out. There was enough natural light to see our food, fortunately, but we were afraid to open our refrigerator to get out the cream so I could whip it to put over berries and cake, so that had to wait. Last time power went out in our area, it took until around 5:00 a.m. to regain it.

The rain stopped. We finished our dinner, pulled on our rain boots, and stomped joyously in all the water that had pooled on our street corner. We put the girls to bed. We moved all the stuff we cared most about into the freezer downstairs. We sat around in a blackout and chatted, debating between the relative merits of better air circulation outside against a high mosquito count.

Finally, around midnight, the power returned. At long last Ian and I righted everything and finally went to bed. Now, for my next trick, cleaning out the refrigerator.

Saturday, June 07, 2008

Say goodnight, Gracie

The girls and I headed to Grandma and Toot Toot's on Thursday night. We had a funeral to attend there on Friday afternoon, and didn't want to make two car trips in one day. Besides, an extra night with Grandma and Toot Toot is a treat all the way around.

As it turns out, we went home at just the right time for dear, devoted Grace Ann. Our sixteen-year-old dachshund, who has been living with Grandma and Toot Toot, basking in their love and attention and appreciating being let out frequently by my patient and retired father, had a miserable seizure near midnight that night. Afterwards she paced confusedly for half an hour before collapsing in sleep. This, in combination with other symptoms she'd been racking up, did not look good.

It seems like little Gracie has been in the winter of her life for a fairly long time. She was an old dog when she curled up in our first house under then-newborn Fiona's baby swing and came padding toward me whining whenever Fiona made sad peeps. She was old when Ian and I taught her to moonwalk. Fiona and Nora have never known any other Gracie besides the one who sleeps much of the day but definitely comes alive for mealtimes so she can get just underfoot to watch for mistakes falling from the table. She never begrudged those darling daughters!

But a trip to the vet revealed a diagnosis of Cognitive Dysfunction Syndrome-- a pet condition that appears to be a geriatric onset of gradual behavioral changes which are not entirely attributable to other general medical conditions. This, on top of her cataracts, near-deafness, and new penchant for soiling carpets daily, didn't leave her quality of life looking exceedingly rosy now or in the future either.

My abiding friend Helen came with me to the vet for the two hours we took to sort this out with the doctor. We put her to sleep. I dragged myself home. We told the family waiting at home about Gracie, and from the looks of those girls, you'd think I told them that the mail might arrive five minutes late. They were fine. They had been alerted to this possibility before we left the house, and had already kissed her goodbye.

I called home to ask Ian to gather some books at the library about pet loss for the girls ... but you know? They're actually for me. We've been gently preparing the girls for this moment in our old dog's life for so long, they simply weren't surprised. They know her, they love her, they will miss her, but they are OK! They are at peace.

Is it that they really don't understand, or do we actually lose sagacity as we grow? It's true that our girls did not have sixteen wonderful years with that beloved dog, but it seems that I have much more to learn from our children than I realized.

Thursday, June 05, 2008

Fairies go a-gardening

Our friend Paul and I took our four little flower fairies to the gardens at the local extension office this morning. It was a beautiful morning to pretend to be a garden fairy-- even garden fairies who don't want to be seen, as evidenced by one of the above photos.

We tramped through the woodland fen garden, the vegetable garden, herb garden, cosmetic garden, pastel garden, and cottage garden. There was a lot going on at that place. Ada enjoyed the soft feel of a rose petal, and the other three liked to look, but also to run, run, run as fairies are wont to do from time to time.

After looking at and smelling a number of old and new favorites in the gardens, we traveled to China! Well, not really China, but we enjoyed some high-powered pretending while walking across the sky bridge that leads from the university campus where the gardens are located to the student housing across the street. Not only was it fun to look down on the cars from the "hamster tube," it was also really fun to make noises inside there.

Other friends had meant to meet us and weren't able to make it, so we're sure we'll be back again soon. We can't wait to return to see how the gardens will have changed their clothes yet again.

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

Where there's Life there's hope

We've been living slightly closer to the belt in some ways, and less cereal choices seems to be one of them. Nora came down the stairs requesting cereal today, and things didn't seem to be going her way.

N: "Life cereal please."
J: "Oh, we ate all of the Life cereal. Let's pick something else to eat today. Maybe Cheerios and bananas?"
N: "I want circles."
J: "You mean Cheerios?"
J: "Ah. Cracklin' Oat Bran? (Nods) Sorry, we don't have Cracklin' Oat Bran."
N: *mournfully* "Why not?"
J: "We ate all of it. We'll need to find something else."
N: *concerned* "Will we ever have it again in our life?"

Today's photo is an opening scene from May 11th-- a day that Nora managed to get up before either of her lay-abed parents, open the pantry, rip open a new box of Pop Tarts (Daddy's special treat), and help herself. It was also the frustrating day she realized that she's been cheated out of the twin packaged Pop Tart for all this time. Hmmm, parents really need to wake up early if they want to maintain their magic tricks, huh?

Monday, June 02, 2008

Our kitchen smells doggone good

Grandma gave us a Kids in the Kitchen cookbook from Gooseberry Patch last weekend, and Fiona has been itching to crack it. I had been gradually assembling some supplies to be able to do some of the more "exotic" activities inside (like glycerin for huge soap bubbles outside, and Borax to make goo. As it turns out, though, the fabulous Helena came over today, and it was decided that we'd make dog biscuits for her dog instead.

Hoo boy, for dog food, those things smelled good. Both our neighbors and Helena's father Paul commented on the delightful scent of our kitchen when the stepped inside our home today. (OK, so Paul did give us some homemade bread to bake off today as well, but I'm sure the dog biscuits figured into the overall mingling of odors...)

We had fun with the alphabet cookie cutters as well as measuring, mixing, and the ubiquitous joy of bubbles in the sink that go hand in hand with frequent washings. Here's hoping the dogs of our lives are even half as pleased. Now, for our encore, Easy-as-Pie Spaghetti Bake for dinner! Fiona is so pleased. She's had her eye on that recipe since she spied the book with Grandma last week.

With many thanks to Gooseberry Patch, I have permission to print our biscuit recipe below:

Barking Buddy Dog Biscuits

2 c whole wheat flour
3/4 c all-purpose flour
1/3 c cornmeal
1 t garlic powder
1/2 t salt
1/4 c oats
1/4 c molasses
2 T vegetable oil
2 eggs, beaten
1/2 c milk
non-stick vegetable spray

Mix all the dry ingredients in a large mixing bowl.

Stir in molasses, oil, eggs, and milk until dough sticks together and there's no powder left.

Roll dough out on a well-floured surface to a 1/2" thickness.

Cut out biscuits with your favorite cookie cutters.

Place biscuits on sprayed baking sheet and bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes.

Turn the oven off, but leave biscuits in the oven for another 20 more minutes to harden.

Thanks again, Grandma and Toot Toot! And Gracie, there's a treat waiting the next time we see you!

Sunday, June 01, 2008

The moment you've been waiting for ...

Finally, here's the actual dance recital.