That’s Julia’s work.
She’s got this hideous blob of silly putty that she’s had for I don’t know how long, and lately I’ve been finding it wrapped around plastic tigers on the small table in the living room, or in a blob on my kitchen work table, or – the other day – right there on the arm of a chair.
I’m a terrible housekeeper – I left it there. And I took a picture.
Yesterday morning when Alex came downstairs, he sat in that chair and put his arm on the silly putty. “Julia’s silly putty!” he announced with an older brother sigh.
“I wrote your name!” Julia told him. “It was for you!”
“Oh!” he said, in a much kinder voice.
School was supposed to start last week, but Hurricane Irene gave Bill and the kids an extra week of summer vacation.
Last Tuesday I had the kids doing all sorts of day-before-the-first-day-back-at-school things: cleaning their rooms, stripping and remaking their beds (okay, I did the remaking), cleaning out their backpacks and restocking them, choosing their clothes for the next day…lots and lots of work.
And then, at some point early in the afternoon, I learned that the first day of school wasn’t going to be tomorrow. It might be Friday, but they weren’t sure.
So I told the kids, and they immediately dropped everything and tried to go off to play, but I stopped that nonsense and told them they still had to finish.
“Why? We don’t even have school tomorrow!”
I don’t care. You need to clean up this big mess that you made while you were cleaning. Just do it now, and then it’ll be DONE.
Grumblingly, they trudged back to the dining room and finished my cruel and torturous chores.
Some days, motherhood is so much fun!
They’re weeding. Alex is weeding the asparagus bed and Julia’s weeding around the garlic.
Yeah, we don’t believe in all that namby-pamby feeding the children because we brought them into the world and we’re responsible for them garbage.
They’re out of kindergarten, they’re out of diapers.
They’re old enough to get out there and work.
Bill’s birthday was last week, and when I asked him what he wanted for dinner, he asked for crab cakes, seaweed salad, some kind of fish on the grill, and tiramisu.
We also had sauteed asparagus, steak, and a simple garden salad.
But Bill said the crab cakes were his favorite part of the meal.
So here’s how I made them.
First – I hope you all had a great last-weekend-of-October/Halloween-weekend.
Important things first – here’s my kids in their Halloween costumes:
Julia, as you can probably guess, is a very stylish and beautiful little witchling.
We took her devil costume from last year, removed the sequined pitchfork, changed the stand-up collar into a cape, and i put the sequin strands that dangled from her pitchfork around her cute little hat.
I also made her an earring with a little spider dangling from it.
Unfortunately, you can’t really see it in these pictures.
Oh, and she wore black tights (and two shirts under the costume – it was pretty cold last night) and sparkly red shoes. Everything the fashion-forward witch-girl-on-the-go needs!
Now, Alex’s costume took a little more work and might need a little more ‘splaining for some of you.
First of all, in case you’ve forgotten what he really looks like, here’s my little boy:
And he wanted to dress up as Billy the Exterminator. (No, don’t bother clicking on the “watch video” thing below – that’s just a picture from the site.)
We love Billy. We first saw him in an episode of Dirty Jobs, and recently (we’re a little slow) discovered his show on A&E.
The kids, of course, love watching Billy tackle ‘gators and big snakes, mostly.
I love the fact that Billy prefers to set animals free whenever possible, and he uses environmentally safe pesticides and animal deterrents whenever possible. AND I love that fact that he exemplifies the whole “Don’t judge a book by its cover” thing.
But enough of that.
There is an actual “Billy the Exterminator” costume you can buy, but I didn’t want to buy it – I wanted to make it. I’m wacky like that.
So I went shopping one day for a few items of necessity…a black hat, a black tee shirt, some black gloves, some studs, and some white paint.
The first, and easiest, thing I did was to make the gloves. I just cut off the fingertips and sewed the little studs on. (The studs were part of a Halloween “goth” set of earrings, a bracelet and a necklace. I just removed the earring backs and cut the sections apart on the bracelet and necklace. The studs were in little groups of three.
Next thing I had to do was make the shirt. I took a look at the VexCon logo and did my best to paint one like it. I think I did pretty well.
Now, for the studded wrist bands, I just cut the ends off the shirt (which was an adult small – couldn’t find a long-sleeve kids’ tee in black), reinforced the cut sections with some denim, and then I sewed some more studs along there.
And once the shirt was dry, I stitched some studs along the shoulders, too.
I made the belt out of a piece of chain and a plastic skull with the back cut off. Easy.
Now, the hat. I had to get the hat right. I started off with a cheapo black almost-cowboy-style hat I bought at iParty. It was kind of like Woody’s hat in Toy Story, only black. Very simple. And the brim was easily bent, which was important.
OH! Almost forgot. I needed hair, so I could create a kind of mullet for Alex. I looked at all the wigs – male and female – and didn’t like ANY of them, not even the actual mullet wig. (It was a really weird color, and I’m all about realistic-looking fake hair on my child at Halloween. I’ve got standards.)
I finally settled on the “Surfer Dude” wig – it was a shorter, shaggy style on an adult, but long enough for the back of the mullet on my boy.
So, back to the hat. First, I wanted to make the sort of band thing that runs around it. The real hat has what look like sections of chain, but I didn’t have any of that, so I drew on a piece of gray denim with a sharpie and glued it on. I’m pretty happy with the result. Then I folded the sides and stitched them down. And, finally, I stitched part of the Surfer Dude wig to the back of the inside of the hat.
We used Bill’s (my husband, not Billly) sunglasses, and for the skinny little beard? It’s actually deer fur (or whatever you call it) from Bill’s fly-tying supplies, trimmed and stuck on Alex’s face with double-sided tape.
OH – and Bill made the little cage for Alex to carry around. (I didn’t get a good picture of it – sorry!) It’s fashioned a bit like a Have-a-Heart trap, only smaller and lighter. Alex put a little stuffed animal fox inside, and then used it to collect candy as he roamed the neighborhood.
And I think that’s everything.
By the way, they raked in the candy last night.
I’m thinking their costumes had something to do with that….
Now, Bill and I’ve had colds of some kind since last week – sore throats, congestion, aches (me), and other various afflictions, but we managed to accomplish a few things over the weekend. We picked up Bill’s and the kids’ skiis and the kids’ new ski boots and a pair of goggles for Julia, so they’re all set for the winter.
I took a nap.
And then Sunday morning I ran/walked the 1st annual Monster Mini-Dash 5K in Providence with my sister and a couple friends. I’d signed up a while back, and though I felt lousy, and Bill sort of urged me not to go, I went anyway. My head had that kind of swimmy feel from the congestion pressure, and my throat still hurt, and I ached, and – during the race – I discovered a particularly nasty, metallic taste in my mouth whenever I coughed. That was fun.
In addition to the 5K, there was also a 1K for kids, and most of the people – kids and adults – wore costumes. The kids were adorable, and a lot of the adult costumes were really impressive. Next year, we’re dressing up.
(I said I was dressing up as a runner this year. HAHAHAHA!)
I actually did okay. Especially when you consider that I haven’t run AT ALL since the NK5K in September AND I was sick.
It doesn’t seem right, I know. But I think I’ve discovered a secret that runners don’t like to share, and since I’m not reeeeeally a runner (yet), I’ll go ahead and blow the lid right off it: when you’re sick, you run FASTER, because you just want to get it over with so you can guzzle some water, eat some bananas, and curl up in a little shaking, coughing ball on the sidewalk.
Okay, I didn’t curl up on the sidewalk. But I did move faster, and I swear that at least PART of the reason was because I wanted to STOP. I didn’t want to be out there running and race-walking, even though it was a gorgeous Autumn day and perfect for running and race-walking.
I wanted to sit down.
And since I had to get back to the finish line in order to get back to my sister and our friends and my sister’s vehicle, I kind of had to keep going.
So I did some of what I did last time – I picked out people I thought I might remotely be able to move past, and I’d run enough to go past them and put some distance between us, and then I’d drop down to a walk. A fast walk. A fast, coughing walk.
But, of course, some of those people I passed were doing the same thing I was (minus the coughing), so eventually they’d pass me and get ahead a little bit.
So that’s how it went – a little group of us passing and re-passing each other. If we’d had the breath to talk, we might have even introduced ourselves. But it’s hard to talk when you’re gasping and coughing.
Funny thing – before the race we (Mere (my sister), Beth, and Stephanie) were talking about hills, and types of hills – long, slow inclines vs. steeper hills. I sort of like the steep ones better, and (not that I’ve got a great long history of running) I tend to like to run up them. It gets them over with quicker.
And wouldn’t you know it, there was a little hill at one of the turns, – a very little one – and I ran right up it. So there!
And another thing…at each mile marker there was a digital time display, so, you know, you could keep track of how you were doing. To my surprise, at the first marker, I was apparently doing better than I’d done in the NK5K. Hm! So I made sure to RUN to it and past it, just to psychologically keep my time low. Mental games.
And when I got to the second marker, I was still (amazingly) doing better than before. Wow!
And, yes, at the third marker I was still in good (for me) shape. And then it was just that little tenth of a mile remaining. Just a tenth of a mile. And then I would be done.
So I ran. And I ran most of it. I had to stop to gasp and cough briefly, but I made sure to run the rest of it, and I even tried to crack a smile a bit, so that in the pictures I wouldn’t look like I was wearing some really scary, ominous mask.
I haven’t seen any pictures, but I did check out my time this morning.
And the funny thing? My time was almost exactly TWO MINUTES faster than last time.
So now my sister is trying to get me to run in the Jingle All the Way (or whatever it’s called) race in December.
I’m planning to get the flu, just so I can shave off another two minutes.
Both kids were snuggled in bed with me this morning for a few minutes.
Julia had left a stuffed animal bald eagle in the bed last night - a gift for me earlier in the day. She likes to give gifts of "living" creatures.
Anyway, we're snuggled together in bed, and Alex said something like "Wow, Part 9 next!" in reference to his Zoo Tour with Alex series. And then he said that maybe next time we go to Southwick's Zoo or Roger Williams Zoo (which still sounds like he's saying "Woger Williams"), maybe Julia could talk (on my blog) about that.
Then conversation turned to bald eagles, with Alex saying Southwick's has them, and Julia pointing out (or maybe I have that backwards) that so does Roger Williams. And Alex said that maybe the pair at Roger Williams are mating.
"What's that?" Julia asked.
I waited, curious myself.
During all of the house stuff we've been doing this summer - scraping, sanding, some carpentry, priming, painting - there were a few times that I ended up having to go way up high on the really high ladders that go up very high. Not my favorite part of all of this. But a few times it was necessary, for example, in order to help Bill nail in the new boards behind the gutter at the back of the house. Or to prime the second floor windows. Ugh. So up I went, clinging to the ladder with every cell in my body, except the few cells that had to carry the paint and a brush.
At one point, when I was priming around the upstairs bathroom windows, Alex's little face appeared behind the screen in front of me. He looked at me for a minute, observing, no doubt, my grim, tense, "oh no this ladder's starting to slip sideways!" face, and he said
** I'd started typing little snippets of overheard kid stuff a couple years ago...these are the two that still seem worth sharing. **
"Alex, where's Julia?
"She's under the deck."
"What's she doing under there?"
"Um...she's seeing what she can see."
Okay, and here's a little quiz for you for April Fool's Day.
Which of these statements is NOT true?
1. I impulsively bought a bicycle yesterday.
2. We found a tick on Julia's head.
3. Alex has joined a cult.
There you go - oh, and Facebook friends are disqualified, as they already know the answer.
Happy Foolish Day!
This was Friday afternoon.
The weather was about ten degrees warmer than we had expected - a gorgeous spring day.
We were all home - from work, school, whatever, and Bill and I were walking around the yard checking the gardens to see what was coming up and what wasn't...what might need new soil...what might need to be moved...that sort of thing.
The kids decided to dig for treasure in the bare spot where we put their pool every summer.
"No, wait, you have to put an X there before you dig!" (Of course, because if there's no X, there's no treasure.)
Well, they dug for a bit and - much to my surprise - found nothing in the way of pirate plunder, so they started bringing buckets of icy cold water from the sandbox (which had been left uncovered for, oh, the winter) and pouring it into the hole they'd dug.
And then, well, things got a bit messier.
They had a blast until it was time for them to come in the house. We had them strip down to their underwear and then (perhaps not the best idea) Bill hosed them down. So we went from two happy, laughing, muddy kids to two shivering, cold, sobbing children. "IT STINGS!!!!"
I herded the kids into the house and directly into the shower. They sat in the tub as the NICE AND WARM water pelted them and the mitrror and window steamed up. I got MOST of the bits of dirt out of Julia's hair. I think.
All the rest of the pictures are here.
Last fall sometime I brought Blur to the vet because she had a runny nose and she was sneezing. You know how sometimes something just overtakes you and you sneeze multiple times in rapid succession? That's the sort of sneezing she was doing. She's pretty much never been ill in her life, so this was an unusual occurrance. I figured maybe she caught some germ the kittens brought into the house with them and it had taken this long to manifest.
I saw a different vet - our usual Dr. C was off that day - a Dr. H. He pointed out that the discharge was only one one side (mucus only coming from one nostril) and that could mean something more than just a cold, especially in older cats. He ran his fingers gently along the front and sides of her face - a forwardness she did NOT appreciate at all - and looked in her mouth. No abnormalities, which was good. He prescribed an antibiotic and sent us home. If the discharge didn't clear up, we'd maybe have to come back and have her head x-rayed or something. You know, in case there was a tumor. Great.
Fortunately the discharge cleared up by the time the round of antibiotics was completed, and that was that.
Until, of course, recently.
She's been sneezing again. And she's been sounding kind of snuffly. Congested. It's especially pleasant when she sneezes on our heads in the middle of the night. So not only have I had small children who don't think to RUN to get a tissue until AFTER the grossness is running down their faces post-sneeze, now I have a cat who sneezes grossness on our heads while we slumber.
I didn't bring her to the vet at the first sneeze - or the second. I didn't want to, truthfully. I was hoping it would just subside. My kids had been sick - heck, we've ALL been sick - and I was hoping - irrationally, perhaps - that with the warmer weather (HA!) and windows open and fresh air flowing throughout the house, all those ucky germs from the past couple of months would just BE GONE and we'd all be breathing clearly through two nostrils and not sneezing all over each other any more.
Well, that "not sneezing" part hasn't happened yet for Blur. Oh, yeah, and the discharge is just coming out of one nostril again.
Yesterday morning I noticed that there was a tiny bit of blood on her fur right next to that runny left nostril. Not a lot - just kind of a little smear. I called the vet as soon as they opened and got an appointment for that afternoon.
Then I spent the day thinking the worst. And looking up feline medical symptoms on the internet. Because that's how I roll.
I thought about...well, about how old she is. She's eighteen now. I've had her eighteen years, almost exactly. She's had a very good life....on and on...that kind of thinking. And to make it worse, she stayed next to me on the loveseat while I attempted to write up my Tuesdays with Dorie post. I tend to read WAAAAAAAAAY too much into things like that, so in my mind, she was acknowledging that yes, it had been a long and good life, and she was content, despite her yucky nose. She curled up in such a small and lightweight little ball beside my legs.
Of course, the fact that she does this ANY time I'm sitting on the loveseat, typing on my laptop, meant nothing. I was busy looking for signs.
The other thing I thought about was the great WHAT IF possibility. What if I had to make some sort of final decision TODAY? I knew, if it was a question of her being in pain, or having a greatly diminished quality of life, I could do whatever was best for her. Words like "dignity" and "peace" and the like were whispering in my mind. I've had to make the decision before, and it's horrible. Horrible.
Worse, though, was my worry that I'd have to go through that IN FRONT OF THE KIDS.
Bill wasn't going to be home til after we'd left for the vet, so I couldn't leave the kids with him. I thought about calling up my friend across the street and explaining the situation and asking her to watch the kids for the half hour or so til Bill got home, but that didn't pan out. And besides, when they heard I was bringing Blur to the vet's, they wanted to come.
So, for better or for worse, the kids came along.
I was already gearing up mentally for worse. I don't know if that's a good or a bad thing to do, but habits are hard to break and I've had this habit for a long, long time. I suppose it's a control thing. If I imagine all the ways something could turn out, and gear up for the very worst of them, then I will be able to handle whatever comes my way without embarrassing myself. It's a lovely theory, isn't it?
I told the kids that they would need to be VERY GOOD while we were at the vet. It wasn't the zoo - they needed to just SIT DOWN and WAIT PATIENTLY until it was our turn to go into one of the exam rooms.
Yeah, that worked. Well, it worked with Alex. Julia? Not so much. We walked into the office and right in front of us in the waiting area was a man with a dog on a leash. The dog looked kind of like a beagle, but bigger and longer, and more like the size of a bassett hound, only without the bassett face. The man was apparently waiting for something or someone. I turned the cat carrier so that Blur wouldn't see the dog and freak out, and so that the dog wouldn't see Blur and freak out. I sat on one of the benches and told the kids to sit with me.
Remember my daughter, Julia? Yeah. She obediently sat, hands folded in her lap, and waited quietly until our appointment. Hahahahahaha! No, she ran some kind of fake-out play, meandering over to the two fish tanks across from us but then crossing quickly and purposefully to the man with the dog. "May I pet your dog?" she asked first, and when he said yes, that was it. She wasn't sitting on any bench anywhere any time soon. She was busy.
And okay, fine. No harm in that. I need to relax about her sometimes. She wasn't doing any harm, she wasn't causing any sort of disruption, she was just saying hi. She and the dog became buddies, and then a few minutes later ANOTHER dog came out, dragging our vet along for the ride. The two dogs were almost identical. Julia was overjoyed. "Ohh!!!!" she chortled, "you've got TWINS???" The man chuckled and said they weren't even brothers, but yes, they do look a lot alike. Then he turned to discuss dog #2's condition (or lack thereof, from what I could hear) while Julia introduced herself to the other dog.
And then we were summoned into room number three. Come on kids, time for fun.
OH - I forgot this part. (It's twenty past three in the morning - I don't know why I'm awake, but I am, or at least I was. I seem to be a third asleep now.) On the ride to the vet I casually but pointedly reminded the kids that Blur was pretty old and so MAYBE and HOPEFULLY this was just a cold, but we needed to bring her to the vet to find out for sure.
And Alex said "I hope she doesn't have leukemia!"
Yikes. He's very aware of this now because of the Pasta for Pennies fundraiser at his school earlier this month.
Julia asked what leukemia was, and Alex sort of explained to her what it was, mainly by listing symptoms...you get a lot of bruises...your bones break easily...you're tired. And he also told her that "when you take the medicine for this sickness, it makes your hair fall out."
We all agreed we hoped Blur didn't have leukemia.
So back to the vet's.
First in was the tech, a nice girl who may be relatively new there, as I haven't seen her before. She was a loud talker, a trait she'd probably developed to be heard over barking and yowling dogs.
I told the kids to SIT in the two chairs while I put the cat carrier on the exam table and opened the little door. Loud-talker-tech peeked in and oohed at Blur and was incredulous when I confirmed that Blur was eighteen. "She doesn't look eighteen! She doesn't have an old lady face!" Nope, just a bloody, drippy nose.
We got Blur out of the carrier, and the first order of business was to check all her vitals. Starting with her temperature. Out cane the little jar of vaseline, the thermometer, and, as I held Blur and Loud-talker-tech did the deed, out came the sound of my kids' horrified voices. "EEEEW!!!"
And then Alex: "You put that RIGHT IN HER BUTTOCKS!!"
Loud-talker-tech and I both attempted to hold our breath and then gave up and burst out laughing. Yep, that's where she put it. Right in Blur's buttocks. Thanks, Forrest.
The kids kept up a commentary through the rest of that preliminary exam. They didn't stay in their seats, either (the thermometer incident pulled them to their feet pretty fast), and Julia in particular was all over the place, first on one side of the exam table, then on the other ("what's THAT?" it's vaseline. "can I smell it?" um NO.), while I tried to have a conversation without actually saying THE MAIN WORDS of the topic. Loud-talker-tech and I managed just fine, with nods and eye contact and words that danced on the outskirts of unpleasant paragraphs. She knew I knew what MIGHT be happening.
She left to go get Dr. C., and while I had the chance I directed the kids back to their seats and asked them to please SHHHHHH when I was talking to the vet.
A few moments later Dr. C came in and we had another of those conversations without having a conversation, and she checked Blur out...listening to her heart and her breathing...running her fingers over Blur's face to feel for any lumps or bumps that hadn't been there before...checking her teeth and inside her mouth, too, for those bad lumps or bumps. Nothing. So maybe there's something else in Blur's nasal passage that is getting irritated and infected and causing the drainage. Hard to tell. For now, we agreed on antibiotics (a two week dose) to see where that got us. And then, after that, we'd play it by ear.
Blur happily went back into her carrier and pretty soon we were on our way home.
It's kind of funny - once we were home, Blur became a little more active than she usually is. She ate some food...wandered around the kitchen sniffing things...explored the dining room...ate a bit more...maybe she was just glad to be home. Maybe she was energized by her little adventure, such as it was.
Maybe she thought that by appearing extra perky she could avoid another incidence of that greasy thermometer in her buttocks.
Let's hope so.
My husband's brewing beer today with a friend/coworker.
Outside, mostly. In the arctic tundra that is our back yard and driveway.
I am sensibly staying indoors and baking bread and, later, making risotto.
The kids - my two and one belonging to our friend - are playing downstairs, and I just heard one of my own little ones shout out - proudly - a swear word.
Now, the rule in the house (because sure, we have rules about swearing for our small children to follow - we're responsible, conscientious parents, after all) is that you can only say that particular word if you're in the "MAN AREA" and playing darts with other MEN. (That should give you a clue as to where and from whom my offspring learn their foreign language bad words.)
Of course, this rule completely excludes Julia from playing darts or swearing. And while I don't think she should be discriminated against because of her gender, I don't think she needs to be throwing sharp pointy objects at this stage of her life. And she's already broken the swearing rule anyway, so there's no going back with that one.
I am pretty sure Julia shouted the bad word. But because I haven't heard it repeated by the other two kids, I'm letting it slide.
It's delightful to know that our home will be that special home where all the neighborhood kids learn new words.
My son, just moments ago, after being asked to put away his toys downstairs:
"Ohhhh, it's not FAIR! We're like the king's servants and we have to do ALL the work and you just sit around and relax and play on your computer!"
Well...yes. Isn't that why people have kids?
Remember this post? Just last month?
Well, this morning, while we were all hanging around together in the living room before Bill had to leave for work, Alex looked over at Reddy's tank...and said "Oh no! Look at Reddy!"
And, with sinking hearts, we did.
In the vernacular of the tank mates in "Finding Nemo," Reddy went belly up.
And this time we couldn't hide it from Alex.
He cried, of course. Poor little guy. I held him on my lap and he cried, and Bill patted him on the back, and Julia did her best to be soothing and sympathetic. ("Alex. I'm really sorry that Reddy DIED.")
But what surprised me, besides how nice Julia was, and for how long, was Alex's recovery time. He was sad, but he stopped crying relatively quickly, and is already talking about his next fish. Maybe a blue one.
And - this just in - he is also able to joke about it. He just walked by the tank on his way upstairs to brush his teeth, and he reached for the fish food, saying "Oh, I forgot to feed - Oh, guess I don't have to." And he laughed a little.
So here we are. Just an hour after the body was discovered. And everything's fine.
And I am marveling a bit at my little boy's maturity.
The other evening Alex and Julia wanted to try on their Halloween costumes. Again.
Julia is a pink princess (of course), and Alex is Anakin Skywalker from the recent Star Wars/Clone Wars movie.
They looked cute and all was fine.
Something went wrong.
Very, very wrong.
At some point, the word "butler" came to mean - to my children, who are 6 and 4 but may have been 5 and 3 when all this began - butt. Or bum. Or derriere. Fanny. Tush. Tuchus. Whatever you call it.
And this word - butler - became the funniest word in the world to say or hear.
"Wanna see my butler?"
"You're a butler!"
"ACK! Mom, she showed me her butler!"
And so on. Each use of the word is always followed by both of them gurgling with laughter and using "butler" over and over again a few more times in new and expressive sentences.
Oh, and you have to say it in italics, too. Can't just say butler. Has to be butler.
This morning my daughter, happy about an upcoming field trip, broke into a spontaneous dance, shimmying and shaking her little self all over the room.
"Mom! I'm shaking my butlers!"
And then later, after they've both gone to school, I laugh and laugh and laugh.
I took a bunch of shots with them at the rear of my car, and kept telling Alex to OPEN his eyes and stop making goofy faces, AT LEAST ONCE!
He stopped with the faces, but kept his eyes closed.
"Alex. WHY WON'T YOU OPEN YOUR EYES?????"
"Well Mom, it's because the sun keeps getting in my eyes."
I moved them over to the side of the house and things improved a smidge.
Julia pretty much hammed it up in every shot. Really? Couldn't see that coming.
And yes, those are metallic pink sneakers she's wearing.
I think the shot below is the only one in which Julia ISN'T mugging for the camera. They were looking at our friends across the street.
Julia actually started pre-K on Monday, but since Alex went back to school today, I waited to do the "first day" pictures.
Alex is in the first grade this year. There are two first grade classes in his school, I've heard great things about both teachers, so I really didn't care which teacher he had - I was more interested in which of his morning kindergarten classmates would be in there with him. So we all met up this morning and got the kids sorted out, met the new teacher, saw his kindergarten teacher and said hi to her (I love her. I wish she could just be his teacher in every grade. Including college.) And yes, some of his friends are in the same class, some aren't, as expected, but they'll see each other for various things the two classes do together.
He stood there in line looking so serious. He confessed, once we got to the school, that he was feeling "a little bit shy." Up til then he'd been all excited about the first day, but, expectedly, that changed when we reached the back of the building and there were a ton of parents and kids milling around, checking the lists and finding where to stand.
Oh, Alex. I was like that. I was "a little bit shy" too. I still am, in some situations - new situations, where there are people I don't know, and some of them are louder and more boisterous than I am. It is my nature - and yours - to hang back a bit at first and watch...to assess the situation...to get my bearings...to figure out how and where I fit into the puzzle. With age (usually) comes the ability to fake it until you feel more sure of yourself, but right now, I know you are just holding yourself together and being a big boy.
All the parents stood around taking pictures with their cell phones and smiling big at their little student-children. It's real school now. First grade. I kept wanting to go over to Alex and make him smile. Make him relax. Make him feel not so shy. But I can't do that for him. That's all stuff he's going to have to learn to do on his own.
But still, I couldn't help myself, I squeezed through some other parents and went over to kiss him on the head and look into his guarded eyes and tell him "Don't smile." Our game. And then he smiles. Today? Well, he flashed a quick one and went back to looking serious and introspective. I told him I loved him, and then backed away a bit so flabby parts of me wouldn't end up in other parents' snapshots of their new-clothes-wearing, hair-in-place, shiny-faced kids.
And then, in a blink, their teacher was telling them to wave to their parents and then turn and follow her into the building. Alex didn't hear the part about waving - he just saw the kids on either side turning to the right, so followed suit and off he went, march, march, march.
I hollered "Alex!" so I could wave to him once more, but he didn't hear me. It was so noisy.
I watched the back of him. His short blond hair, his bright yellow shirt, his blue backpack.
And then he turned the corner and went inside.
Julia and I walked home, and then I brought her to daycare/pre-K.
And OH, what a different scenario it was there.
It's her third day, but for SOME reason - I'm thinking maybe all the excitement wrapped around Alex's first day - she adhered herself to my upper body and eventually had to be pried off with a crowbar. Okay, not a crowbar. But pretty close - one of the teachers had to peel her off me. And you know how sometimes when you're trying to peel something off of something else, say, a "30% off" sticker off a book? And sometimes the sticker is easily removed and other times you have to pick and pick and pick at the edges, and even after you get it off, you've still got tiny bits of sticker glue residue still stuck to the book and there are little thumb nail tracks embedded in the dustjacket?
That's kind of how it went with Julia. That glue residue and thumb nail tracks part.
It's a good thing stickers don't cry - the book would get all wet.
I know she will be fine, I know she will have stopped crying within 27.42 seconds of my departure. But still. I don't want her to cry. And to keep bawling "mommymommymommy" over and over. She'll adjust, and it'll get easier as she gets back into this routine. I hope.
It's been a rather emotionally tumultuous morning for Mommy.
I think I'll go bake some cookies.
You know, I've found that conversations with the vet about kittens are pretty similar to conversations with the pediatrician about babies. Especially about illnesses and symptoms. Particularly the condition of their poop. Or stools, if you want to be more clinical about it all. But what's the point, really? We know what we mean, and what we mean is poop.
So consider that a bit of a head's up - if conversations about poop-related issues are disturbing to you, this post may not be for you. But if you've been through kitten or puppy or baby stuff, and are a veteran of ick, then read on.
One or both of the kittens have had diarrhea for a couple of days, and yesterday morning I saw what looked like blood in one of the...um...samples. Up til then I'd thought maybe it was caused by them eating our adult cat's food, and it not sitting well in their little kitten digestive systems. But the blood? Not something to mess with - or even the diarrhea, as they can get dehydrated and die from that. (My PSA for the day.) So, veteran poop mistress that I am, I saved some "samples" in a ziploc bag (inside another ziploc bag...inside a paper bag so I wouldn't have to look at it any more) and called the vet. Got an appointment for mid-afternoon for the babies. Here we go.
Coincidentally, my kids' yearly exam appointment was scheduled for the same time. It's handy having a spouse - one can do the human appointment, one can do the feline. I took the kittens. I do most of the kids' doctor visits through the year, so it's good for Bill to take them now and then. Heh heh.
So off we went, in opposite directions.
I got to the vet's office, filled out the paperwork for the babies (cringing as I wrote "Softie" and "Scratchy" because, you know...I would have named them something like oh, Luke and Leia, which is so much more mature. Or Pesto and Remoulade, maybe. Or Bechamel and Bolognese. You know, proper cat names. But we let the children name them, and so their names stand.
I went to sit, with the kittens in their carrier, until it was our turn. Over on the table in the corner, the magazines were fanned out nicely, so I went to get something to read. My choices were "Cat Fancy" or "Dog Fancy" (at least that's what it might have been - I didn't really look at the dog magazines because a) it would be disloyal to the kittens and b) it would get me wanting a dog, and right now, that's a very adamant NO. I've got enough poop to clean right now, thank you. So I took a copy of "Cat Fancy" and sat. And flipping through the magazine I felt...uncomfortable. Like I was peeking in on a meeting of some secret society. Because, you know, I have loved all my cats over the years, but I have never even considered rebuilding my home so it is more pleasing TO THE CATS. I saw glossy spreads of home interiors with skinny stairways running up the wall, leading to a little doorway (think Tom & Jerry size) so the cats can go - where? So they can have privacy? They can crawl under a bed for that! Or hide in a closet! I found myself shaking my head a lot, a little bemused grin on my face, as I flipped through the pages.
And yet...there are a LOT of subscribers to Cat Fancy. A LOT of people who submit photos, share heartwarming stories, and read their pets' horoscopes on a daily basis. (Okay, I don't know about that last bit, but it sounded appropriate.) And I'm not knocking any of that. But it's just not me. I don't quite get it. But whatever. As long as everyone's being nice to their pets, I'm fine. I guess I'm just not quite ENOUGH of a cat person. And I like dogs, too. I can't be pigeon-holed. I'm a rebel.
Okay, enough of that.
Suddenly, out of the silence, I hear a pleasant and professional voice over the loudspeaker. (oh, and I've never been at a vet's office where there is a LOUDSPEAKER. It felt, briefly, like a grocery store - "clean up on aisle five!")
And the voice said: "Softie and Scratchy are here for their 2:20 appointment with Dr. Blahblahblah!"
LOUDspeaker. An appropriate term. So there we go - the whole WORLD got to hear what my kids named the kittens. I put my magazine down, in anticipation of someone (laughing hysterically, no doubt) to come looking for me and the kittens.
A rather business-like looking woman (the office manager, I believe) came over and confirmed, in a business-like manner, that the kittens in the carrier were, indeed, the aforementioned Softie and Scratchy. I followed her to room 4, she told me a tech would be in shortly, and then she left. Moments later the tech showed up - she looked familiar but I couldn't think where I'd seen her before, unless it was (in all likelihood) last time I was at the vet's with Blur.
First one out of the carrier, once all the preliminary questions were answered, was Scratchy. He is, I have to admit, aptly named, though he didn't do any real damage. He tried to, however, once that thermometer went in. Oh, he didn't like that at all, and he was quite determined to get as far away from it as he could. He twisted and turned and reached and squirmed and made little angry kitten noises. The tech said she'd need to have some help with him (besides me). She reached into the carrier for Softie, who, not surprisingly, was huddled way at the back of the carrier, hoping we'd forget about her completely. But she was very docile and patient during the temp-taking part of the show, and only let out a little tiny "mew!" of discomfort during the whole thing. Her temp was normal.
The tech took Scratchy out of the room for his temperature re-take and also so they could do a Feline AIDS/Leukemia test on him. She said I might hear some horrible cries from him but he'd be okay. I told her I'd been through it before and I wouldn't worry about anything I might hear. Strangely enough, he was very good during whatever torturous things they did back there, and I didn't hear a peep from him. Tech Girl brought him back in and he seemed fine, but he refused to look at anyone and promptly sat down and started licking the leg they'd taken blood from. He shook his head a few times at the unpleasant taste of the antiseptic, but soldiered on, licking determinedly, in order to erase, as best he could, the memory of all his recent indignities.
Softie left the room with Tech Girl and Scratchy worked his way across the floor until he was under my chair, and there he stayed. Softie was brought back - she had behaved well, of course - and she, too, sat down right away to attend to her leg.
She barely licked the damp fur and then she was airborne - made me think of a popcorn kernel bursting open - the taste was clearly the most horrible she'd experienced in her 10 weeks of kittenhood. She gamely tried again and - POP - up she went again. Yuck! She tried one more time, and then gave up for a bit. She saw her brother still licking away under my chair, so she went to sit near him and gave it another go. Nope. Just not working. So she opted to prowl around the room a bit more instead.
Well, to prevent this long story from getting TOO much longer, I'll cut to the point where the examination of the disgusting poop was complete and Tech Girl came in (Dr. Cat Lover was already in there with me and the kittens, she'd examined both of the babies and played with Scratchy a while, and we were chatting about Old Wives' Tales regarding urinary tract blockage in male cats. Fun stuff, I know. Anyway, Tech Girl came in and confirmed with Dr. Cat Lover that yep, she was right, it was coccidia.
Coccidia, in case you're interested, are (and I am quoting from the hand-out they gave me) "protozoan (one-celled) organisms that can infect the intestine. The disease "coccidiosis," most often affects young puppies and kittens, but can infect animals of any age." Symptoms include (surprise, surprise) diarrhea, dehydration, weight loss and loss of appetite. Fortunately for my kittens, they only seemed to have the diarrhea issue, as they were eating and drinking (and peeing) just fine. If ignored (another PSA here), the kittens or puppies can eventually have seizures, and can lead to a weakening of the immune system and even (because of the dehydration) death.
Fortunately it can be treated with medication, so I'll be dosing the kitties for the next 9 days. Tech Girl gave them their first dose (a double dose) in the exam room. She said the initial taste isn't bad (how she knows this for sure, I'm not certain and didn't ask) but the aftertaste was yucky. She dosed Scratchy first, and he handled it well. Softie, she of the more refined palate, struggled and coughed and spat out what she could. She will be the tough one to medicate, clearly.
Oh - but the best part? When Dr. Cat Lover told me, with a slight wince of sympathy, "It's (the diarrhea) going to get worse before it gets better." Such common words, actually, in illnesses. The pesky little parasite responds to the meds by MULTIPLYING RAPIDLY and causing the symptoms to increase, in a desperate attempt to fight off the meds and remain, happily and disgustingly, in its happy intestine home. The parasite, however, will soon learn the power of the dark side, and will be forced to flee or die. Something like that, anyway.
So, armed with a bottle of medicine and two droppers for the kittens, plus a box of free kitten food and two free samples of some flea and tick and ear mite and heartworm stuff, AND the carrier with the kittens in it, I paid my (shockingly huge but okay, it was for TWO kittens and the first year is the worst in terms of shots and illness and all that so just take a few deep breaths and sign the check already) bill and all the people (really) in the front desk area took their turns oohing and aahing and squealing and gushing over the kittens - AND calling them by their names without snickering at me - I left the vet's office and headed home. The kittens promptly curled up in exhausted little balls of fur and fell into comas. Really. They didn't bother to move until hours later. It was just so draining, all the various devices poking them and sticking them, people looking in their ears and at their teeth. Just too much for such little baby creatures.
And speaking of being stuck and poked, Bill and the kids arrived about 20 minutes later. Alex told me "Wait til you hear how brave Julia was!" Ah yes, age 4 - THE SHOTS. My baby girl sported 4, count 'em 4, band aids on her arms (two and two). But the thing was, when it came time for her to have those shots, Julia was - according to the nurse who inflicted all the pain - the bravest 4-year-old she (the nurse) had ever seen.
First off, she refused to sit on Bill's lap for the shots. She climbed up onto the table herself, and told the nurse she was ready to go. No reaction to the first shot. Second one - a bit of wimpering, but the nurse said that was the one that would sting most. Third and Fourth shots - yeah, is that all you've got? And then it was over. She got her band aids and she was all set. The nurse gave her a sticker because she was such a tough little chick.
Bill was amazed and impressed. He probably would have cried more. I know Alex would have. But not my girl.
She is probably so jaded about needles now that as long as she doesn't see any blood, she's fine.
That was the only horror story from the kids' visit - and it's not even a horror story, really.
There were, of course, the humorous moments. It's nice for Bill to experience those, too. I don't think he's been to the yearly checkup appointment in a few years, so he hasn't had to sit and cringe when the doctor asks the kids "What kinds of healthy foods do you like to eat?" and Julia bursts out with "Macaroni and Cheese!" every time. Alex said ribs first, but also included sushi, and eventually got around to peas, and squash, and carrots. So we're okay as parents, I think. At least they didn't say "Happy Meals!" or "M&Ms!" or something like that.
And Alex is going to need a visit with an eye doctor, because apparently his right eye isn't seeing as well as the left one. Ah well - he can blame genetics for that. I wear glasses, and Bill SHOULD but doesn't unless he's reading music in a low-light situation.
All in all, though, the kids and kittens are healthy and (now that the appointments are over) happy, so things are good here. This morning Julia had me rip off her band aids because "I'm all better now." I made the mistake of saying "One, two, three, BLOOP!" or something else dumb like that when I ripped one of the Daffy Duck ones off. She told me, in a rather condescending tone "Mommy, don't say 'one, two, three, bloop' when you do that, okay?"
At four, she's just simply too old for that sort of thing.
I took this picture a couple of weeks ago but forgot to post it at the time.
My kids had watched the movie Ratatouille (we own it. of course.) recently, and were inspired to create their own restaurant.
I could hear them down in the basement, but I didn't know what they were up to. All that mattered was that neither one was screaming or hollering or threatening "this is what YOU get!" or crying. But I could hear little bits of phrases about "he should have fish" or "is this good for him?" "yeah, he likes leaves."
Eventually the mystery was solved, and this is what I saw:
Each dinosaur has either a meat or a vegetable, depending on whether they were a carnivore or an herbivore. I like how the food here is so good that the meat eaters aren't interested in eating the herbivores at all.
Everyone dines in unprecedented prehistoric harmony.
(Now I've got the lyrics to "Ebony and Ivory" playing as background music in my mind....)
Not sure if I mentioned it before, but my husband is giving my son guitar lessons. They're about 3 weeks into it, with a 15-20 minute lesson most days of the week.
My husband, by the way, is a classical guitarist with a Master's degree in Performance from New England Conservatory. He teaches in both a middle school and a college, performs, and now - teaches our son.
Bill (my husband) was kind of hesitant about teaching Alex - it's not easy to teach - really teach - your own child. And eventually, if Alex wants to keep going, Bill may have someone else teach him. But for now, the lessons are here, and Alex can attend class in just his Shrek underpants if he wants to.
The other thing about the lessons is that Bill didn't want to force them. He's been asked (and so have I, actually) if the kids play guitar yet, and people have been surprised when the answer has been no. But you can't force music lessons down a kid's throat and expect them to be passionate about music. At least, that's not the way Bill wanted to do it. So he waited, and just...played guitar like usual, practicing at home for concerts or whatever. And eventually, Alex expressed a desire to "play guitar like Daddy."
Alex has a nice guitar - it's a real guitar, just 3/4 size. And, as a Mommy, I have to say that watching Alex play, with his little face all serious and intent on the music, and his correct posture, his hands where they belong on the strings and frets, and his bare foot on the footstool - it's unbearably adorable.
It's been hard to get a good shot of Alex playing because if he sees me approach with the camera, he looks up and grins like a madman, and the adorable factor is rather diminished.
But recently, while family was here last week, Alex performed his first paying concert (really! He got a dollar from his uncle!) for an audience. I took a few pictures - they didn't come out great from a technical standpoint, but still - they're priceless to me.
And then, of course, he has to take his final bow...
Pretty good, huh? Only 6 years and one month and he's already played his first paying gig.
And then there's Julia.
Julia is two years younger than Alex, and while she definitely has shown interest in playing guitar, she isn't really interested in the LEARNING HOW TO part of it. So even though she wants equal time (mainly when Alex is having a one-on-one lesson with Daddy and she wants in on the attention), once it's her turn, she isn't interested in what Bill has to say or teach. She prefers to just play and sing.
Yesterday Bill did Alex's lesson and then Julia wanted a lesson. They went downstairs to the basement, where Bill has a guitar that he lets the kids play. After a little while, Bill came upstairs and asked if I wanted to watch Julia's performance. I said sure, and headed down. Bill brought the DVD camera.
And there was Julia, sitting on her little tiny chair, holding Daddy's big guitar. Bill stood nearby. He asked Julia if she was ready, and she nodded, so he started recording and announced:
"Presenting...Miss Julia Maker!"
After a few straggling claps from me, Julia began.
She held the guitar neck with her left hand, and strummed confidently with her right.
And she sang:
"The ants go marching one by two, hurrah, hurrah!
The ants go marching one by two hurrah, hurrah!
The ants go marching one by two, the little one......
And then she slammed the guitar, strings down, onto the carpet and stalked away, muttering, "Oh, I don't know it."
She apparently is more a student of the Pete Townsend school of guitar abuse.
So yesterday I'm in the kitchen with Bill, talking briefly before one of his students arrives for a guitar lesson.
The kids are outside playing.
And I glance out there, and see, way in the back corner of the yard, that Julia is lying flat on the ground, motionless.
And Alex is approaching her, carrying a whiffle ball bat.
He reaches down and looks at her a bit, then pulls her by the arm a little way.
Then he sort of swings the bat around a bit and puts it down. And pulls Julia a bit further - closer to where he'd been swinging the bat.
And then he sort of pauses, and his lips move a bit.
And then Julia stands up and Alex lies down.
Julia moves away from him about fifteen feet...and then sashays, like she's riding a horse, toward Alex.
She stops a little way away from him and then just walks normally to where he is lying, motionless on the ground. She carries the bat.
She touches his face. And then she takes his arm and pulls him about a foot. Then she turns away from him and swings the bat in a sideways arc, like Alex had done moments earlier. And then she pulls him again and then stops and stands, sort of staring off into her own little vision.
And her lips move.
And then - again - it is Julia's turn to lie down.
They go through this little scene once more, and this time, when Alex is standing there and his lips are moving, the wind blows the sound in my direction and I can hear him.
I knew, all along, what they were each saying in turn.
The same phrase, after the swinging of the whiffle ball bat and the dragging of the prone person.
The pause. And then the line:
"And I thought they smelled bad...on the outside!"
I was getting dinner ready last night and Bill was outside when the new neighbors started to move into their house.
Bill called to me from outside, quietly, so as not to be rude.
A bit later, the Missus came back from curtain-shopping...
Yesterday, completely on a whim, I decided to bring the kids to the beach. Alex is in the middle of a 4-week study of the oceans and sea creatures of all kinds, so I figured this would be especially cool for him. It was a gorgeous day, too. And the best part was, I didn't tell the kids where we were going. Just bundled them up, gave them rubber gardening gloves to wear in case it was cold (and because we'd be collecting sandy, wet treasures along the shoreline) and off we went.
Here she is, and see how nicely she's healing? Thank goodness it was all surface scratches and nothing worse.
I also like that look on her face.
She has many looks, as those of you reading this blog may have noticed over the past few years.
Yesterday I brought her to the doctor's to make sure she didn't have strep. She didn't really have symptoms, but since Alex had it, I just wanted to know for sure, one way or the other.
I had to bring Alex, too, because Bill was at work, and my biggest fear was that he would tell Julia what was coming. The strep test. Throat culture. Spanish Inquisition. You know.
But, amazingly, he didn't.
The three of us sat in the waiting room with another mom and her little girl. The girl was somewhere between one and two, very cute with dark blond hair parted on the side and swept into a little braid on one side.
She was a little leery of Alex and Julia, both bigger kids who were playing with the toys like they owned the place. (It's so funny to think of Julia as a "bigger kid.")
The waiting room is this little rectangular room with chairs that line one wall beneath the windows, and two chairs on the opposite wall, right next to the large window into the receptionist's area. A couple of other chairs are at the other two walls, and there is a low table with 4 kid chairs and some toys in the middle.
I was sitting in one of the chairs near the receptionist's window. Alex and Julia were playing, and the other mother and her little girl were over to my right.
At one point Julia came over to me and leaned on my knee. She gazed toward the receptionist, a hopeful expression on her face, and asked, "Mom, is it okay if I ask her if I can have some of what she's eating?"
The other mom burst out laughing.
I told Julia no, and she accepted this like she knew the answer all the time but figured it couldn't hurt to ask.
When it was our turn to go into the exam room, of course the nurse took one look at Julia's face and asked about that, so I told her and Julia told her version of it and Alex chimed in a bit of detail as well. Then I told her we weren't there about the face, and I explained the whole strep thing.
Let me just say right now - the nurses, like the doctors, at this place rock. They just do. I love them. They are kind and THEY KNOW WHAT THEY'RE DOING. I had anticipated all sorts of struggles with Julia once she realized the strep test would involve sticking things into her throat. I figured, knowing Julia, it would be worse than dealing with Alex the day before. So I was poised and ready.
The nurse got the little swab kit out and told Julia "I'm just going to tickle your throat" as she peeled apart the plastic wrapping and took out the evil tongue depressor and the giant double Q-tip. She had Julia sit on my lap, and I wrapped my arms around Julia and held her hands, ready for the writhing. The nurse moved in quickly, asked Julia to stick her tongue out (on went the tongue depressor) and to say "Ah," and basically as Julia opened her mouth, the nurse stuck the Q-tips in and even though Julia flinched and tried to turn her head, the nurse moved right with her and kept the swab in there until she hit pay dirt and pulled them back out.
It was over in seconds. Julia sat there not quite knowing what just happened, not liking it, but not saying much either, because it was over and what was there to say? She swallowed several times and looked unhappy, maybe she whimpered once, but that was IT. The nurse left to run the test, and I sat there marveling at how nicely it all went.
While we waited for Julia's strep test result, my kids decided to tell knock knock jokes. And I wrote them down. Yes. I have a little notebook for scribbling stuff like pictures I want to shoot and, yes, stuff my kids say. I can't remember everything, you know.
So here they are. My kids made these jokes up right there, on the spot. Geniuses, they are. Geniuses.
Knock Knock Joke #1
Alex: Knock knock.
Julia: Who's there?
Julia: Light who?
Alex: Light, can ya go to the doctor and let me through?
Knock Knock Joke #2
Julia: Knock knock.
Alex: Who's there?
Alex: Telephone who?
Julia: Telephone's gonna...go to the doctor and let open our tongue and be sick.
Knock Knock Joke #3
Alex: Knock knock.
Julia: Who's there?
Alex: Knock knock.
Julia: Who's THERE?
Alex: NO - it's "knock knock!"
Me: You mean Julia needs to say "Knock knock who"?
Me: Julia, say "knock knock who."
Julia: Who's there?
Me: Never mind. I'll say it. Knock knock who?
Julia: No, I want to say it!
Me: Then say it.
Julia: Knock knock WHO.
Alex: Knock knock we're sick, we need your help with something, too.
I love when little kids make up their own jokes. I seem to remember my niece doing that for a while at some point, years ago.
Anyway, the test was negative, and I was hugely relieved. So today - both kids are at school/daycare - and I have time to myself! The house is quiet! No one wants juice! No one is screaming because the other one "took that (insert toy name here) and I wanted to play with it"/"won't be quiet"/"won't share"/"won't play with me"/"wants me to play with her but I don't want to"/"said I was stinky" and so on.
Okay, well, that's it for now. I can't think of a graceful exit line. Have a good day!
Yesterday I barely looked at a computer or a camera. Instead, I spent my day hitting the grocery store early and coming home and cooking for the menfolk. And the kidfolk, too.
Alex was psyched up for his swim class tonight - has been since this morning. Not just because he is ready and willing to jump into the pool, but because AFTER class, as a reward for facing his fears and conquering them, and for doing well on his report card (hee hee hee - his very first report card!), the deal was that we'd go out for dinner at Smokey Bones. It's one of his favorite places to eat. And fortunately, he forgot all about wanting to go out for sushi. We'd need to sell one of the vehicles to support his tuna habit.
Anyway, swim class went great - and at the end, when they lined up along the edge of the pool, Alex was the first one in. His skinny arm shot up and he was wiggling with excitement. And in he went. Second time through, he was smiling huge and pointing to himself and nodding like "Yeah, I want to do that again!" And he did. Bill and I sat there on the bench, grinning and giving him thumbs up signs and nodding like annoying bobble-head dolls. After the class, he came running over to us, beaming with pride.
We got the kids dried off and back in their clothes, and headed up the road to eat.
For dinner? What does the triumphant water boy eat? Ribs. No question. He ate a half rack of ribs, and might have eaten more if he hadn't eaten half his fries, his slice of garlic toast, Bill's garlic toast, and some tortilla chips before the meals came.
I wish I'd brought my camera with me tonight. Not just to take a picture of his jump into the pool, but to capture his rapturous face, dotted with sauce, as he devoured rib after rib. He'd hold the meatless bone up to Bill and laugh as Bill gave him a look of shock and amazement.
Lots of the time, I just go on with things, you know? Don't we all? Get up, go about our days, do our things, eat, work, shop, relax, go to bed, etc. Get the kids dressed and ready for school and daycare, shuttle them back and forth, do laundry, plan meals, help with homework, mediate squabbles, direct traffic, wash faces, tuck blankets under chins, hugs and kisses and off go the lights.
But I try to be aware now and then. I try to pay close attention to the smaller picture. A week ago, Alex was afraid to jump into the pool. Yesterday Bill worked with him in the pool, helped him work through the fear and get past it and discover that it's actually fun when the water goes over your head. And tonight - he did it himself. Twice.
So the four of us, our little family, went out to celebrate. We relaxed, we had good food, and we had fun. No tears, no tension. Just...comfortableness.
A peek into the window of my own life...tonight glowed warmly, gentle laughter and random giggles dancing from room to room.
They're downstairs right now, watching a Dora and Diego DVD ("The Great Dinosaur Rescue" or something like that. Featuring Dora and her football head, and her normal-looking cousins, Diego and Alicia.) Julia got to pick this morning, and Alex was just trying to convince Julia that she's not really interested in this movie.
"Hey," he hisses with fake excitement, "I've got a better idea! Let's watch...(dramatic pause) cartoons!"
Cartoons, as in something on TV, rather than a DVD.
Sometimes he can sway her, but not this morning.
"No! I'm watching THIS!"
They are quiet now.
Yesterday Bill took Alex over to the Y during "Family Swim" time at the pool so he could coach Alex in jumping into the water. At swim class, for some reason, Alex has developed a fear about jumping off the edge of the pool. He used to be fine, but something changed at the end of his last swim class, and in order for him to move up, he needs to get over this.
So for half an hour, Bill worked with Alex, having him jump in holding Bill's hands, and then one hand, and finally no hands...jumping in and giving Bill a high five in passing...and it worked. Yay!
Swim class is tonight, and hopefully Alex's confidence won't suddenly disappear.
My sister's kids spent the weekend. It's always nice when they visit - my kids love their big cousins, and I think the big cousins get a kick out of the little cousins. Best of all, they all keep each other occupied, which gives Bill and me a bit of a break.
Of course, there was cooking. We cooked Mexican for the weekend, and I also gave everyone samples of some of the desserts I've been working on for some of next month's posts.
So it was a weekend of eating. Especially Saturday. I'll post recipes and pictures later.
In a few minutes, I've got to get the kids moving, brush teeth, get dressed, bring Alex to kindergarten and run a few errands with Julia in tow.
It's cold out this morning, and we had a little snow yesterday, so everything looks clean and wintery.
That's it for now. I'll be back later.
Remember that snowman my kids and my husband made yesterday? It looks like this:
Well, this morning as I was bundling up the kids for school/daycare, Bill (he's home, sick) was looking out the window at the back yard and announced "There's a squirrel on the snowman!" So as he picked up the kids so they could see, I grabbed my camera and stealthily slid out the door to try to catch the squirrel in action.
He was stealing the peanuts (in shells) we'd used for eyes and mouth. At this point, he was working on the snowman's shrinking grin which, understandably, now looks more like a frown....
A few minutes ago, while I was uploading the icy pictures from this morning, Bill announced that the squirrel had eaten all the peanuts, and just the nose (and hat and scarf) remained.
Our snowmen do not live peaceful lives here.
The other day I was driving home with the kids after picking them up at kindergarten (Alex) and daycare (Julia). Somehow they got into a discussion of how different animals would break through ice to get to water if they were thirsty.
"What about...an eagle?" I asked them.
"His beak!" Julia shouted. "And his...claws!"
"Yeah," Alex confirmed, "But eagles don't have claws - they have talions!"
Last night was the next session of my kids' swim class at the local Y. They're both in the Pike class, though Alex could progress up to Eel, but he's still kind of leery about jumping into the water unassisted. He does well once he's in, but it's the scary jumping in that is holding him back from my husband's Olympic dreams. Ah well. We all get our bubbles burst from time to time.
Anyway, couple of little things from last night. Okay, three.
First thing - it was EVEN hotter/more humid than usual in the pool room over there. Just in case you were wondering.
Second thing - while we're sitting with the kids on the benches waiting for the earlier class to finish up, I noticed a little girl about Alex's height in a swimsuit. She looked familiar, and within a second, I recognized her. She and Alex went to daycare together when he went to earlier place (where he went for about 5 years of his 5 and a half years on the planet). She is very cute in a tomboy girl way. Pretty brown hair, big brown eyes, couple of baby teeth missing in the front with the edges of the adult teeth just starting to appear. Very quick to smile. Her father was tying the styrofoam "bubble" around her middle when she noticed Alex. And I watched her telling her father and pointing to Alex. So I hissed at Alex - "Hey, isn't that?" And he looked and looked away, because he is a cool macho boy and girls are yucky. Bill joined in and tried to get Alex to say hi, but that didn't work either. There was something very interesting Alex needed to stare at on the opposite side of the room. The girl and her father sat a row behind us and as they climbed up, she said hi to Alex. But of course, like I said, Alex is a cool, macho manly man boy and girls are yucky. So he ignored her. Which I thought was rude and so I hissed (yes, it's my day to speak Parsel-tongue) at him "SAY HI TO HER!!!!!" and, realizing I wasn't just kidding around, he turned around and tossed a casual "hi" over his shoulder in her general direction.
When the teachers came around to call the names of the students in their classes, GUESS who was in class with my kids. Yep! Bill and I grinned to each other like the goofy parents we have become and settled in to watch the show.
Actually, it wasn't a whole lot of a show. At first, she was at one end of the little line-up of students and he was WAAAAAAAAAAAY at the other. Eventually, after late registrants had been added to the classes, there were 7 kids in that class. Two boys, five girls. And while Julia was still the tiniest, there was one other girl around her size. But back to Alex. The teacher passed out pool noodles to all of the kids and they hooked the noodles under their arms, across their chests, and began paddling and kicking across the width of the pool. This is old hat for Alex and Julia, and like I said, Alex is doing well once he's in the water, so once he got acclimated to the process, he was way out in front of the pack every time. They'd paddle and kick and splash across the pool, with their instructor helping the kids who were new to it, or joking around with Julia, the class clown. (She hit him with a pool noodle last session. And she was splashing water at him today. He is great with little kids.)
Anyway, again, back to Alex. After one or two races across the pool, lo and behold, guess who now was lined up next to Alex along the edge of the pool. And guess who was chatting away with her like they were old war buddies. I sat there elbowing Bill and giggling. I'm so goofy. Not much else came of it, but at least he wasn't being aloof any more. He said "bye" to her as we left. Girls aren't ALWAYS yucky.
And the third thing. If you've been reading this blog for oh, the past two weeks or so, you know that Julia has had a bout with Lyme disease. The most recent adventure was when she had to have blood work done. That was last Friday. One of her band aids (the Diego one, on her right arm) came off over the weekend, but she wouldn't allow anyone to touch the Dora band aid. I'm sure she was afraid of more pain.
But with pain and suffering often come great stories to share with friends and family, and Julia, while not as wordy as her mother, told her story with great passion and drama. I overheard her telling Alex about it, her eyes wide, her face animated....
"I went to the BAD doctor, and she put a SHARP THING in my arms and I GOT BLOOD!" And as she said this, she'd hold our her wounded arms, pointing at the band aids (or where the Diego band aid had been), her face drawn and grave. She knows she's lucky to have survived that morning. She's told the story to a few people now, and has her delivery down pat.
So back to last night. We're watching the kids go back and forth with their pool noodles, and you know, Julia's small and so she kind of gets hemmed in by some of the slightly larger kids who can take off faster. But she can move pretty fast if no one's in her way. She smiles hugely through the whole class.
She is not, however, there to learn to swim. At least it didn't seem like that last night. No, this is her social hour. Social half hour. She and the second-to-littlest girl bonded immediately and spent the swim-across-the-pool time chatting away about hair and nails and makeup and boys.
We didn't notice this immediately, because we were too busy watching Alex and looking for signs of romance there. And then Bill said "Why is she swimming with her arm like that?" I looked, and there, in the middle of the pack, was Julia, her left arm raised straight up. She looked like she was at a synchronized swim team practice session. I waited for the next graceful move...and then I looked at her face. It was no longer smiling. It was grave. Somber. And her mouth was moving. She was talking to her little best friend, and she was telling her the story of the Bad Doctor Who Put a Sharp Thing in her arms. I saw Julia's mouth as it formed the words "And I got BLOOD!"
She'd been holding up that arm so her little friend could see, with her own eyes, the scars of battle.
Alex REALLY REALLY wanted to make gingerbread men. Not just any - he wanted to duplicate the gingerbread man from (what else) the Shrek movies. So last night we made a batch of gingerbread dough and cut out some cookies, and the kids decorated two each before bath time. Here they are:
Complete with gumdrop buttons. Alex's, that is. Julia's...gumdrop goiters, perhaps.
The same night Julia was playing "Eye Spy" with the grilled red snapper, we also had maki rolls. I had picked up a rainbow roll and a barbecued eel roll on the way home. After the four of us consumed the two whole fish and a lot of the noodles Bill had made, Alex was still hungry. So Bill told Alex to sit back in his seat and just wait. And then he brought the maki rolls in.
Alex loves him some raw fish.
He's quite the connoisseur.
Hey, I want some of that!
(Nothing can distract him at this point.)
All was blissful...
Julia? What is this?
There's still some eye goop left, Daddy! Want some?
Well, even though the repair guys from Sears came out on Thursday to fix the fridge, over the weekend, things have gotten WORSE - now in addition to random things freezing in the fridge, now things on the door are freezing too. And supposedly everything is fixed. HA! And also - the water line in there is frozen (I assume) because while the icemaker is working just fine, the water won't come out now. It was working Saturday. It did not work on Sunday. Bill called the repair center on Saturday to get someone out here and Wednesday was the first available appointment. I called again this morning, because of the water line, thinking that maybe I could get someone out sooner, but NO. Wednesday is apparently the first available date. Lovely.
So instead of continuing to rant and rave about that, I'm just going to put up a few pictures of the kids from when we made pizza a couple of weekends ago.
There. That's better than my annoying refrigerator stories.
Just wanted to put up a few pictures. I'm home today - our fridge is malfunctioning (it's running too cold, in areas, so for instance, we had blocks of milk and half-n-half available for our coffee this morning, but the ketchup, thank goodness, is fine. We thawed some half-n-half for Bill's coffee...and little dots of curdle floated to the top. Nothing was wrong, really, other than the molecular issues caused by the freezing. It looked oh, so tasty. I drank mine black.) and the repair guy is coming this afternoon to expensively assess the situation. In the meantime, I've got three birthday cakes to work on, all due tomorrow. Some are already started. And at some point I'll go pick up the kids from daycare.
But in the meantime, for your amusement or entertainment or something...
This was earlier in the day. The neighborhood holds a Halloween Parade every year, and we were all assembling in front of the organizer's house. It's a huge event. But anyway, here is my daughter, the Fairy Princess, fighting the neighbor's Pirate kid. Go Fairy Princess!
And for fun, I messed around with effects this morning (because I procrastinate even when what I have to do is something I enjoy doing - like working on cakes. I don't know what's wrong with me.) and came up with this:
A little freaky, I know. But I was having fun AND putting off what I was supposed to be doing, so too bad.
And here's my son, Batman, keeping an eye out for bad guys. Thank goodness my children were on hand to keep the peace.
After dispatching the Pirate, Julia the Amazon Warrior Fairy Princess confronts Darth Vader.
"Light Saber, Schmight Schmaber!" she tells him. "You're no match for my Sparkly Fairy Wand with Silvery Streamers and a Star On Top!" And at that, Darth turned and ran, sobbing, for his mommy.
Once all the bad guys were taken care of, Batman and Julia the Amazon Warrior Fairy Princess took a break, had some popcorn, and laughed about the fun they'd had beating up thugs. It's fun to be a Super Hero. And an Amazon Warrior Fairy Princess.
And here they are again, later that night, the trick-or-treating is done, they did well, and I forced them to sit still so I could take a few pictures before they dove into the candy.
And now? Off to the kitchen.
Yesterday we had a little Halloween party for our kids and some of Alex's friends. I had them decorate halloween cookies, and originally I was going to have some sort of haunted part of the house with stuff to touch, like cold spaghetti for brains (or guts) and peeled grapes for eyeballs.
But Saturday I felt like I was coming down with something, and I really didn't have any desire to peel grapes.
So instead, I made a spider web in the back yard and then wove separate lengths of string from the gate through the web and ultimately to their little goodie bags hidden around the edges of the yard.
Here's the view from our second floor:
The original web was more web-like in appearance. This is after I wove all the string mazes through it all. The whole web was about chest high on me, so taller than Alex, and he's the tallest of the group of kids. So no child was decapitated during the event.
And you know, it was the best fun, making this thing. Especially the original web itself. I was out there by myself laughing with delight. (So I'm sure I looked like quite the lunatic to anyone walking by...)
And it went pretty well, the game part. It was a little frustrating for some of them, having to follow the strings and unloop them from the main web lines, but still, everyone ended up with chocolate eyeballs and spooky tattoos and rubber bats and spiders, so overall, the web maze was a success.
I actually thought of writing "Boo" or something in the web, but I didn't have enough string. Maybe next year....