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, October 31, 2008

Trick or treat, lots to eat!

Tonight we went out trick or treating in our own neighborhood for a change. Our friend Robert joined us for an evening of merry-making, which made it all the more festive. Our neighborhood has lots of trick-or-treaters, and the sidewalks were filled with imaginative costumes, sleeping babies, many accompanying parents, and lots of laughter.

Robert warmed up to trick or treating once he tried it, and Nora felt sure she could keep going even as we watched her tail begin to get droopy. Fiona leapt over the sidewalks like an actual cat.
We had a magical night with friends, and some happy neighborhood haunting (or at least candy hunting) as well. This Candy Crawl was a memory we'll have forever.

Halloween morning fun

Jamming with Jenny

I had been playing our Not For Kids Only CD yesterday, when both kids perked up at the song 'Jenny Jenkins'. Now I know why-- Ian showed them a JJ video when I wasn't around that they both love. Now they're singing about colors and trying to get that nonsense phrase juuuuuust right.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

The vote: now officially rocked.

Our whole family turned out to go to early voting this morning. Armed with a small stack of early readers and a snack, we got into the line that snaked around the city county building and enjoyed our time together. We passed a sculpture that gave us an opportunity to discuss flooding and sandbagging. We passed a sign that was a wonderful impromptu lesson about alphabetical order. And yes, we voted.

I had hoped to show Fiona a little more about how it worked, but she was immediately told to get next to the window and to avoid- at all costs- touching the cord right where she was told to station herself. I wasn't terribly interested in trying to get Fiona to do anything different than the official told her, so she watched excitedly from afar.

Good souls were handing sections of today's paper down the queue, and besides enduring grumblers who can't stand waiting and loud blusterers who try swaying every person within earshot, it was a delightful way to spend a morning. I must admit though, that Fiona is still asking me, hours later, "Mama, I didn't touch the cord, did I? I was careful about that cord."

Monday, October 27, 2008

The end of the game

I was upstairs brushing my hair and teeth and getting ready to head out the door for a meeting. Mandy and David were downstairs with the rest of the family chatting with Ian and getting oriented in the house. I was pretty close to on time when Nora burst into the bathroom, claiming plaintively, "I don't want to wear these clothes! I want to change!"

It's important to know something about Nora at this point: she doesn't really ever want to change clothes, per se. Once she's in different clothes, pajamas, whatever, for a couple of minutes she's fine. But the actual CHANGING of clothing is usually met with loud, angry distaste. When time rolls around to get into our out of the current day or night of clothing, she doesn't want to take that off either-- even though she kicked like crazy about getting into it in the first place. But she was in already for the day, and I'd already dealt with that once within the past hour, and wasn't eager to repeat it so quickly.

I said to her, "No? You don't want to wear a spin coat? I can't even believe it! And it's blue! I bet David might be wearing blue today. Maybe you could head downstairs and see what David is wearing. Maybe both of you will wear blue today, do you think?"

No, she did not think. "NO! I don't want to!" was her predictable reply. So I said the thing that changes her mind every time, inexplicably, as if she can't help herself: reverse psychology. "Well, just make sure you don't go down to find out what David is wearing. It might be blue, for Pete's sake."

Right on cue she chirped, "I will go downstairs!", turned, then stopped in the middle of the bathroom. She made an impatient sound, then turned around and laid her head and arms on top of the toilet seat in consternation.

"What's the matter, Nor?" I asked her. She looked up at me sadly. Her answer was plaintive and wholly sincere. "I don't like that game. Let's not play that game any more." Even as I watched her wheels turning she looked so genuinely sad that I wished I could suck back every single time we've done this parlor trick to save a minute of toddler time.

Fair enough, Nora. Fair enough. No more.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Conversation at breakfast

Nora and I were eating breakfast. Jen and Fiona had gotten up early and gone out to get some supplies.

Nora: Can you say the word of this?

Me: Of what?

Nora (pointing at her oatmeal): This.

Me: Oatmeal?

Nora: Yes. I can't say that word.

Me: Why not?

Nora: I'm not old enough.

Me: Aren't you two years old?

Nora: Yes ...

Me: Then you're old enough to say it. It's really made up of two words - oat, because it's made of oats, and meal, because it's ground into meal. Well, sort of. Maybe not all the way.

Nora (taking off her bib): I'm not finished.

Me: You're coming back?

Nora: Yes. I'm going to go try that word. By myself. Without my bib.

Me: Okay.

(Nora gets down from her chair and goes into the living room.)

Nora (whispering): Oat. Meal. OAT. MEAL. I'm going to do it myself. Oat. Meal.
(Nora comes back.)

Me: How did that go in the living room?

Nora: Good.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Making supper in the morning & eating ice cream before dinner

Wow! We had a really big day today but have no pictures to show for it. Coming off a girl-weekend with Grandma and Toot Toot, we headed out this morning to have a Cooking Day with Teresa and Robert. It was a lot of fun for everybody, and we're looking forward to trying it again. The kids had a ball while Teresa I and baked a lot of meals ahead, and divided them for the freezer. Hooray for that! After cooking our families sat down and shared lunch together. Thanks, Robert and Teresa, for a great day.

We got home just in time to play with Jessie and JP. They took us out to ice cream, where Fiona devoured a Blue Moon ice cream cone (what exactly is a blue moon supposed to taste like? We discussed this for quite some time...) and Nora ate a cotton candy-flavored cone. Don't tell her this, however. She ordered Bubblegum but never noticed the discrepancy.

After a delightful ice cream snack, we enjoyed an invigorating romp in the park. It was too lovely a day not to soak up some of the crisp, autumnal air with friends. We had an amazing time with you, JP and Jessie. Though I forgot the camera and wasn't able to snap a single picture to preserve the afternoon, we'll have a day to remember without it. Thank you for taking time to stop and pamper us!

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Nora tells a story

Jen asked Nora to tell a story in the car a few days ago, and she was astounded by the immediate and and imaginative response she got from her. The story had a definite beginning, middle and end-- and that's more than Jen expected. But she couldn't remember it to repeat it, so we just asked Nora to tell another one. Without even thinking, here's what she told the second time:

"Once upon a time, there was a kid. And the kid went to the forest, and there was a monsta (monster). And the kid ran away, and the monsta chased her. The kid went into a school but the monsta didn't. Then the monsta went back to the forest, and he was glad to be home. The end."

So we think she may be a natural storyteller - with an affinity for twists at the end.

Friday, October 17, 2008

The great pumpkins

Today we went on a field trip to a local pumpkin farm with Kathleen, Sydney, Dever, Nathaniel, Maria, and Flavia, and Hannah and her parents. First we went to Pumpkin School where we learned how pumpkin seeds grow (see pictures above where kids pretended to grow seeds with their fingers). We also learned about types of pumpkins and squashes, and learned about the difference between hay and straw. Then we went on a straw ride out to the pumpkin patch!

Each child chose their own pumpkin from the patch. I expected it to be a very discerning time, but was sorely mistaken on that count. After having the 'Just the Right Pumpkin is Waiting For You Out In That Patch. . . and It Is Your Mission To Connect With Your Little Pumpkin!" pep talk, each girl just so happened to find 'their' perfect pumpkin just beyond the wagon steps. Who could have known?!

Ah well. For some, the joy is in the hunt. For others, it's in the heft of an orange orb jostling back in the lap during the last of the hayride home. For me, it's those grinning jack o' lanterns I buckled into the backseat for the ride home.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Who's your Daddy?

I don't even remember now what Nora wanted to do; but for whatever reason, Ian was the best person to ask about it. "Check with your father," I said.

She looked at me quizzically. "Honey, you can go ask your Dad. He will know." Then I figured out the problem as she squinted at me in bewilderment. "Baby, did you know 'Father' is another way to say Dad? He has a lot of names. I call him Ian, but you call him Dad or Daddy. Sometimes you call him Papa. Those are loving names for what he is to you-- your father."

"No. He's not my father!" Nora retorted as if I were the silliest woman in the world. Luckily, I saw this coming.

"He's not Father Tom, from church; but Father Tom is a different kind of Father. He's not our Daddy, he's a person we can talk to about God. He helps us and gives us many ways to come closer to knowing Jesus. We love Father Tom, but he's not Daddy."

But Nora was somewhat adamant about Ian and the father thing. "He's not our Father Tom, Mom." I had to agree with her on that score. Nobody's quite like our Father Tom. We're happy to have both of them in our lives.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Fiona's surprise

After hearing some piano this morning, I was ready for a story. I mean, I wanted to hear one from Fiona. I asked her to select an early reader she hadn't read yet from the bookshelf when she made a happy leap into the air and said, "No! I have one of my own books upstairs I want to read to you. I was reading it to myself in the closet this morning when I got up. Wait a minute. I'll get it for you!"

She spun and raced up the stairs. I scarcely had time to ponder, 'I was reading it to myself in the closet this morning,' before she was back with her beloved treasury The Complete Tales of Winnie the Pooh. We've been reading it to her since she was very, very small. She knows how it goes; but she doesn't have it memorized, so I was pleasantly surprised to see her working through it this morning. It was really uplifting for all of us. I found it especially heartwarming to hear my own child use voices for characters just as Ian and I have been doing for years.

Monday, October 13, 2008

He-llo, Ba-by!

Today we ran a lot of errands and cooked a lot of food, but the real excitement of the day was meeting little Benicio. He's a wonderful little man with very tiny, very long legs. He also exhibited a very sleepy, laid-back attitude while we visited. Fiona took some photos, and we all admired him and congratulated his family for awhile this afternoon.

The economy is trying for many of us. Our world is not perfect. But some things in life are just exactly where and when and who they're supposed to be. That sums up little Benicio. Welcome to the world, little friend. We are so in love with you.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

A birth day ode

to our very newest little friend, Benicio. Welcome to the world!

Friday, October 10, 2008

Go, dog, go!

Our good friend Lynn brought her new dog Stella over this morning during Math. She's a three year old greyhound adopted fresh from the tracks in Florida and has a lot of learning to do about houses, children, pet food, soft carpets, backyards, and other comfy, homey wonders. Stella is quite a smart dog, though, and needs lots of stimulation, and she came over to start her education about Young People. We learned a lot about greyhounds in the process, and loved on a big, quick, affable dog. What a sweetie! We have big new brindle buddy in town, and we're pleased as punch to know her. Welcome home, Stella!

Thursday, October 09, 2008

A fond farewell to the zoo

We spent what might have been the most glorious afternoon we've had outside in a very long time at the zoo today. We promised ourselves that since the zoo closes in a couple days that we'd go do things we don't ordinarily do, and we did: we got *very* close to Tengku, the orangutan, the rainforest bird in one of the photos above chose the next minute to mercilessly peck and chase my sandaled feet through the Indonesian rainforest (may THAT never happen again!), we drummed over near the African exhibit that's under construction, and we walked through the aviary.

We'll miss the zoo while it sleeps during the winter, but it'll just make it all the more exciting when it reopens again next year. And this will open up more opportunities to use our Science and Botanical passes, anyway. Goodbye, zoo. See you in the Spring!

Wednesday, October 08, 2008


Ian came downstairs this morning to see the girls nestled in on the sofa, still in their jammies, tending a pair of stuffed animals wrapped smartly inside Fiona's trusty yellow blanket. As he kissed them goodbye before work, he asked them what they were doing.

"We're playing a game I made up that we like to play," explained Fiona. "It's called Everlasting Colds. Our bunnies are sick, and we get to care for them, and cuddle them, and talk to them, and bundle them, and feed them, and nurse them so they can feel better." Nora beamed and nodded in agreement, patting their little charges.

Ian sat down next to the girls and hugged them. He said to them, "Your Mom and I do something a little bit like that every day, but it's not a game. Nobody HAS to be sick, although sometimes they are. We call it . . . Everlasting Children."

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

Recognize that face?

Nora has begun making pictures we can recognize! I had sort of forgotten about the thrill of excitement when blobs of shape begin to emerge and tell stories on paper. Ian asked her about this picture. "It's me," she said. "I'm scared. Wook at my eyes!"

As she was telling Ian about it, she started on the hairs on the chinny-chin-chin. Ian asked her about those, and she said "I don't know!" and started erasing them, which is when Ian snapped the picture.

Extreme Helping Hands Debut

My friends and I decided to start a small co-op which combined some of the things we like to get together and do already, like math games and book discussion group and park days, with a more community-based component in which our kids and our families got more involved with kid-friendly service projects which served our local community. We had originally decided to call it Helping Hands Club (good one, Kathleen), but after our first meeting with the kids the name morphed into *Extreme* Helping Hands, which really has a fun twist of extreme sport tossed in for good measure.

We're currently getting a revue ready to take to a local senior center, but as it turns out our first outing was actually an outgrowth of our first book discussion group of the year. Last month we read Catwings by Ursula K. LeGuin together. The big kids are modeling how to talk critically about a book with the younger kids, and we're all enjoying it. One of the extension activities we did afterward was to make no-sew kitty beds that our local shelter asks for year-round for their homeless felines, and also to gather some pet food for the cause.

Many of our members were available to go drop off our items there today. We also got a heart-melting tour of the facility. Seeing those kittens immediately took me back to the day just over a year ago that we selected our own Zelda and Ivy from that very kitten room and they became beloved family.

Public service announcement of the day: We saw lovely animals young and not-so-young at the shelter today. We even saw a beeee-autiful Brittany purebreed there-- purebreeds are there often as well as the more eclectic, 'creative' varieties. Please consider a shelter when considering a pet. There are some wonderful friends to be made there.

Saturday, October 04, 2008

Bye bye, butterflies

We let our butterflies go today. They were loathe to do so-- they had gotten pretty used to us. The feeling was mutual. We let them go during the warmest time of the day in our neighbor's front flower garden. We had to extend a finger into their habitat and reach in to take them out on a finger to get them going, but in the end we think they were glad.

Friday, October 03, 2008

Good bread!

This new flour makes great product, though I must admit I didn't make this lovely loaf-- our friend Paul did. Thanks, Paul!

Thursday, October 02, 2008

Field trip to the mill

Today our family joined a group that went to visit the oldest water powered mill in the state. Family owned and operated since 1904, the mill has changed a lot but was amazingly old-fashioned in numerous ways. It was fascinating to see so many beautiful wooden machines gleaming lustily while they churned out cornmeal, buckwheat flour, white and wheat pastry flour, bread flour, and more.

The kids were amazed by the huge hydroelectric generator and whirring machines, but were just as impressed by touching the sharp pieces of buckwheat or flour in varied stages as it was being milled. It was quite the floury experience; in fact, there was a sign that read something like, "We have many types of dust but you're welcome to help yourself to any of them." LOL!

The machines were loud in some places (it is a busy mill!) and Nora needed my attention in other spots, so I know I missed some interesting points. But tourists young and old were treated with the utmost respect and kindness everywhere at the mill today. We learned plenty, had a great deal of fun, and brought home some fresh, delicious pantry items. Now I just need to find my flour sifter!

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

Make us channels of your peace

Growing up, I attended a Franciscan middle school, so I was completely familiar with the Feast of St. Francis. Our whole school used to go out to one of the beautiful local parks that Francis would have loved so well, and those nuns ran us utterly ragged there. I still have no idea why they took such demonic pleasure in seeing us huff and puff through the hills and vales on scavenger hunts while they beamed at us from beneath a picnic shelter.

Despite the annual experience described above, I love Saint Francis and am inspired to try to follow, in my own, small way, his call to charity and his dedication to peace and to the natural world. I suggested the name 'Clare Frances' with each pregnancy. Therefore I was thrilled to take the girls to our local parish last night for a traditional Blessing of the Pets. From a kid perspective, it's a truly exciting experience to see that many animal carriers, dogs on leashes, nonchalant cats lolling on laps, rodentia in Habitrails, and reptiles in clear plastic carrying cases all in one place. Some smaller children even brought stuffed animals. (Actually, it was all rather engaging from a parental perspective as well).

I'm not sure how much Fiona or Nora got out of Francis' speech this year, and I know our cat Ivy was nonplussed to be dragged outside to be sprinkled with holy water. But our family was glad to have attended, if a mite chilly. And if reflecting upon the life of St. Francis helps our family discuss living more simply and loving nature and the environment... well, we've had a great day.