Ask the Magic 8-Ball

If you pay close attention, you begin to pick up on the tiny events that shape your life and give you a glimpse of what your future holds.

Oh, dear reader, even now I can see the puzzled look on your faces, the furrowed brow, the questioning eyes. You're thinking back over the day, saying to yourself, "What's she talking 'bout, Willis?"

Let me explain.

I picked up Helen from daycare the other day. A day like any other, spent racing through my evening commute to get to the center, waving hello to the other parents and a few teachers. Helen saw me at the door and ran straight to me with a cry of pure joy. I got a big hug from her, and headed over to get her daily report.

The teacher casually commented to me, "Helen pulled the fire alarm today."

(loud sound of needle scratching across record)

I paused, and carefully asked, "She did WHAT?"

A table and several chairs sit at one end of the room for meals and art projects. That morning, while the class was playing, Helen wandered over to the table, pushed a chair up against the wall and stood in it, reached up for the fire alarm and pulled it down.

In her defense, it's bright red, perched about halfway up the wall, and apparently the teachers were busy with eleven other children at that moment. Sometimes I lose track of her, and I've only got the one to watch.

But folks, I gave birth to the child WHO PULLED THE FIRE ALARM AT SCHOOL.

I asked the teacher what happened afterwards. She said the kids do pull the alarms from time to time, and they announce on the intercom that it's not a fire. I could just hear the blaring noise she started and how she must have scared all the babies, and the teacher said Helen got off the chair and sort of stood there, looking around, not the least bit frightened. I asked if the fire department showed up, but they called them off before a truck rolled up to take Helen in for questioning.

On the drive home, I saw her whole future. Today, in daycare, she pulled a fire alarm. In first grade, she'll be the one to put the tack in the teacher's chair. We'll get hauled in for a parent-teacher conference and things will immediately go downhill from there. She'll never get into the good math class, or land on the honor rolls. She'll get fingered in some kind of sketchy SAT scandal and end up in a so-so college with a dead-end job after graduation, unable to support her parents in the style we're so desperately looking forward to enjoying.

I tell you, pay attention to these signs, folks. They're all around us. Did you realize your future was right there all along, in a daycare teacher's not-so-watchful eyes?


Material Girl

Last year I gave Helen one present for Christmas. She was just a baby then, and I figured we had another year before the concept of presents clicked with her. No need to cram the house full of things from her parents, when I'm already buying stuff all year long.

This year, I did the same thing again. She has plenty of stuff and I know how much my living room can hold. So Helen got a Sit'n'Spin, which has morphed over the years from the giant hard plastic spinning
beast of my childhood to one that's oval-shaped and plays music.

(Don't worry - I didn't install the batteries. And with a little cooperation from you, dear reader, she may never know it, either.)

Brian got her just one present, too - a beautiful
coin. It's a 2004 Walking Liberty proof, and he's planning to give her a new one each year. Something special and meaningful and SHINY. She really liked it.

But everyone else took up the slack in the toy department. Helen got a LOT of presents. We filled up the car and watched it sag under the weight of the gifts.

Back home, Brian & I packed up or tossed out all the old stuff. We're starting over with the new stuff, and it feels nice to have our living room so de-cluttered. And our bonus room. And Helen's bedroom. Really, really nice.

It's amazing to me how the toys become fruitful and go forth and multiply. Suddenly you have all these things piled up. I've mentioned the Legos and the Potato Head, and I'm not kidding. They were EVERYWHERE.

But now we have new stuff to spread out!

A rocking buffalo and a little t-shirt with an Inuit doll on it:

A kitchen stocked with food:

Her first Barbie:

There are way too many more to mention everything, but there are some highlights. She got a set of magnet letters for the kitchen fridge which gave me about 10 minutes of uninterrupted cooking time. WHAT A GREAT TOY.

We also got a lot of new books, which will be fun for me because I'm getting very tired of reading the same four books to her.

Her favorite new toy right now is a
Magna Doodle. Coincidentally, I had gotten Helen's cousin M. the same thing, and they both really enjoyed them. Helen loves drawing, but she's not so good with keeping the pen on the paper. Magna Doodle is the perfect way to go.

I've been writing our names on the Magna Doodle for her, and now she tries it, too. She makes a little mark and say "Mama" or "Dada." The legibility isn't there yet, unless she's planning a career in medicine. As a test, I could take that Magna Doodle to a pharmacist, and if she's the future Dr. Helen, I'll come back with a really good prescription.


A Christmas Miracle

Warning: this blog entry mentions "tee-tee" and "poo-poo." Please skip it entirely if you're not up for it.

I've spent a lot of time these past few weeks preparing myself mentally for the daunting task of potty training.

Those of you who knew me back in the day would say, "Jennie! That's not you! Whatever happened to your single gal, free-wheeling lifestyle? The heady days of hefty bar tabs and late nights? The weekends spent planning and hosting a big dinner party with 30 of our closest friends, where I had to wear that crazy costume?"

Folks, if you happen to find that lifestyle, let her know that she needs to stay home once in a while and put all that bar tab money into her 401(k). Good grief.

Anyway, back to the potty training. As I was saying, it's mind-boggling to consider that I will be responsible for getting a child to do something that will carry her through polite society for the next 70 or 80 years, until someone is paid to do it all for her. You know, simple concepts like using toilet paper or washing hands afterwards. And then, there's the training tips that will prepare them for a successful marriage: which way do you hang the toilet paper? After you're done, do you put one lid down, or both?

Valuable skills indeed, and I do feel the pressure weighing down on me each day to get this right.

I bought a potty several weeks ago, brought it home and set it in the bathroom. I talked about it every day, showing her that Mommy uses the potty and now it was Helen's turn. So we have a routine: just before she gets in the tub, she sits down for a little bit on the potty. And she has tee-teed a couple of times. The first time it happened, she looked shocked. I made the appropriate congratulatory noises and moved on with the bath. She talks about it, asks to use it almost daily, even if nothing happens.

A few days later, Helen mentioned "poo poo" for the first time, and held her hand on her bottom. I thought, oh my goodness! The first step is recognizing when it's going to happen. We rushed to the potty, but apparently Helen thinks a little gas is the same as the real deal, so despite sitting there for a while, nothing important happened.

Then came Christmas.

That evening, Helen stood up and cried, "poo poo." She said it several times, appearing to be in agony. And really, haven't we all been there before? Poor girl.

I rushed her upstairs to the bathroom. We didn't bring her potty with us to my parents' house, so I put her on "Mama's potty." Sure enough, a few seconds later - well, I don't really have to type it out, do I?


The bonus part is that from here on out, every box of diapers I buy could be our last. And that, folks, will be reason enough to host another big dinner party for 30 of our closest friends. I'm thinking we need a theme - maybe something to do with water?

And if you know me well, you'll start planning your costume, now.


Jingle Bells

Helen's daycare has already started the onslaught of artwork. I'm never sure what to save of all the things she's done - whether it's fingerpainting, or glued cutouts, or drawings with markers. It all starts to look the same, and averaging about 3 new pieces per week means I've got a lot of paper piling up. Occasionally I'll sort through the stack and toss anything that looks boring.

This morning, I found this one in her folder and decided it was perfect for sharing with all of you.

Clearly, at 18 months, she has yet to master gluing tiny scraps of paper in a straight line. Heck, most days the Wyatt house has trouble walking in a straight line, so at least she comes by it honestly.

This year we haven't put up a Christmas tree, or taken her picture with Santa. (Here's last year's picture.) The tree would have been field-stripped in 38 seconds, and she wouldn't let go of me when I tried to get her near the old guy at the mall. Maybe next year we'll have a little more luck with both of those holiday traditions. However, I'm confident that opening presents will be no problem.

And in the meantime, a very Merry Christmas from our family to yours.


What's that word?

At each visit to the pediatrician, the nurse goes through a checklist of skills the child should be able to accomplish at that age. For example, at 6 months, Helen should be able to sit up. At a year, they ask about walking or feeding herself. Basic stuff, really - and if she's not doing certain things, that's a red flag that they look at to figure out why or what could be slowing down progress in that area.

This last appointment, the nurse asked if Helen had any words. "You know, four to ten words?" I stared at her. "She got, like, FORTY words." "Okay."

When I mentioned this to the doctor, she said that was good. "It's a sign of intelligence," she told me.

Oh no, it's not, lady! It's a sign that I won't get a word in edgewise for the next 18 years, that's what it is. Sign of intelligence. Ha! I gave birth to a chatterbox. I know it, and now you know it.

We can understand what Helen says in context. If she's pointing at her toys, saying "Beh" - that's bear. If she's pointing at the refrigerator, sayiing "Bah-bah" - that's bottle. If she says "Ba-by" - she wants her baby doll. If she says "Baaaaa" - chances are really good that I just asked her what a sheep says.

Sometimes she pops up with a new words and really surprises me. The new one this week is "bite."

At our daycare, parents have to sign an Ouch Report if a child was bitten during the day. It says what was happening when she was bitten (i.e., Helen took a toy away from another child) and what they did afterwards (i.e., hugs, ice, etc.) There's another report to sign if she's the biter. So far, I've only gotten the Ouch Report in her tenure at this daycare, but something's up lately, because it's been twice in two days.

I can always tell when it's time for her to move to the next room, because all of the kids turn into sharks and start biting each other. It's like they're sick of the toys, the kids, the teachers - get me out of here! *chomp*

Anyway, when I picked her up on Monday, I looked at the mark on her arm and she pointed to it and said, "bite." I know it's a new word, and I'm happy for her learning so much, but this isn't quite what I had in mind.


Say Cheeeeeeese

This is what happens when you ask Helen to smile.

I can't WAIT for her first school picture day.


The Second Anniversary is "Cotton."

December 11, 2004. Brian & I were getting ready for our big trip down the longest aisle in town. Marriage vows, wedding cake, first dance, tons of famly and friends there to witness the whole thing. It was a bitterly cold day, overcast and wintry. Of course half the wedding party was dressed like it was a gorgeous summer day, but that's really all they sell in the stores.

Groom: undershirt, long-sleeve shirt, vest, jacket, long pants. (Note the many layers required.)

Bride: sleeves? what sleeves?

Many of you reading this blog were there that day. What most of you don't know is that Brian & I had been taking dance lessons for about two months. For our first dance, we were planning to break out a choreographed disco number to a Bee Gees tune.

Instead, we used up all of our lessons and we still had no choreographed number (go figure). More lessons were going to be difficult and expensive at a time of the year when nobody needs either one. So, Brian & I decided it would be much better to dance to his alma mater's song: The Tennessee Waltz. And when I mentioned this part to the DJ handling the music for our reception, he arranged for a mutual friend to record a version just for us. We heard his tune for the first time as we danced to it at the reception.

It was absolutely perfect. Brian & I dressed in our finest, waltzed around the room to a custom-made tune, surrounded by a gorgeous night-time view of downtown, our closest friends, and a buffet table full of delicious food and drink and wedding cake.

Fast forward two years: we're standing in our kitchen, sharing a bowl of macaroni & cheese, watching Helen smear dinner on her face. Later, during the Muppets movie, I fall asleep with Helen on the couch.

Like sands through the hourglass, people. Sand, hourglass.


A lot can happen in a blog.

This week Helen had an appointment for her 18-month immunization shots.

Her doctor is a wonderful lady - very sharp, yet quite friendly. But the best part is, when I tell her funny stories about Helen, she actually laughs. I never noticed how many doctors don't laugh, like EVER, until I met this one. Most doctors are too busy to listen to you. They're ready to move on once you start making jokes. Maybe they all skipped the class where people in my generation figured out how to use humor as a defense mechanism. So, doc, when I'm making jokes about chest pain, maybe you better ask me if it's heartburn, or will I need an ambulance to the emergency room? I guess medical school and residency and a busy practice suck all of the humor out of life. How could a patient possibly joke about chest pain?


This pediatrician job-shares with another doctor, so she's only losing half of her workweek to joyless pursuit of financial freedom. Then, every 3 months, I show up as the last appointment of the day - and I bring a really funny story about Helen. How much better can your job possibly get?

So, while we were waiting to see the doctor, I thought to myself, "Hey! She clearly appreciates my sense of humor, and maybe she'd enjoy our blog. I should write down the address for her ..." (loud sound of needle scratching across a record)

I almost let Helen's doctor see all of my lousy parenting skills. Letting Helen play with pill bottles and inhale paint fumes? Ignoring ear infections, or advertising the sale of my firstborn? Hanging out for hours at a whiskey still?

Wow, that was close. I mean, really close.


Show Mommy how the piggies eat!

Mini-beef ravioli:

Sugar-free chocolate pudding, different night:

Dear reader, I will let you guess how many paper towels we use in a week.


Lynchburg Loves Helen

Last weekend we drove to Lynchburg, Tennessee, home of the Jack Daniels distillery. They offer free tours, and there's a tiny town center nearby to purchase memorabilia. Unfortunately, it's a dry county, which means sales and tastings are not possible. But they finally got special permission from the state a few years ago to sell a limited number of commemorative bottles in their gift shop, for the first time since Prohibition.

(I know what you're thinking. It's a very odd situation for a distillery in business for over 150 years.)

Every so often, they release a new commemorative bottle, and they arrange a signing day with their Master Distiller, Jimmy Bedford. There are a lot of collectors who show up to get his signature. He's kind of like the rock star of whiskey. Do a search on eBay for "signed bottles of Jack Daniels" and you'll see what I mean.

We packed up Helen and drove down early that morning. The line wasn't very long when we arrived, but someone brought a couple boxes of glassware to be signed. They set a limit on this kind of stuff, but apparently the limits didn't apply to this guy. So it took about 2 hours to get to the front. But don't you worry - I did a lot of glaring at him for everybody.

Brian bought a few bottles and chatted with others in line, while I did my best to entertain Helen in a room that really wasn't meant for kids her age. We played outside a little, but it was about 40 degrees so we couldn't do that for long. She said hi to everyone in line, played with a Christmas tree, and sent a Jack Daniels e-card to Grandpa B. from the computer in the lobby. It was 8 pages of gibberish, but banging on the keyboard bought me a solid 5 minutes of distraction, so I let her do it.

Finally, we were at the front of the line. I got out the camera, and Helen chose that moment to demonstrate her superior hair-pulling skills. Honestly, I can see the benefits of being Sinead O'Connor when she gets a fistful of my hair. Pulling back on hers doesn't work, either. We just end up looking like 2 girls in a junior high school fight. "OWWWW! Let go!!"

While Brian distracted her, I got my pictures of Mr. Bedford signing one of his bottles. I took Helen back and in a fit of spite, she took her pacifier out of her mouth and tossed it away. Normally, it hits the floor. But today, I wasn't that lucky. To my sheer horror, it landed on the table and skidded to a stop against Mr. Bedford's hand.

Time stood still. Tick .... tick .... tick. I didn't even know how to react. I honestly thought he would nod to a security guard and we'd be quickly escorted to our car. Oh well, I thought - at least we had one bottle signed.

Instead, he smiled and kept on signing. Everyone at the table thought it was funny. Brian gave the pacifier back to Helen and she miraculously behaved herself long enough for us to collect everything and leave. Thank you, Jack Daniels and Jimmy Bedford, for having a sense of humor and a lot of patience. And for not quickly escorting us to our car.

As we were leaving, I heard someone say they were taking a break for lunch. I bet Mr. Bedford was headed straight for a good hand-washing.


The Muppet Show

Our friend W., the Navy officer I mentioned in a previous post, recently sent Helen a bunch of Muppet DVDs, including movies and the first season of the Muppet Show. Helen will go to the DVD player, point, and say something. It doesn't sound like Kermit or Muppets, but that's what she means. Too bad if you're watching something. It's required that you stop and put in a Muppet DVD.

She spends the opening theme song dancing. She bobs her head around and moves her arms. Shortly after that ends, her interest wanders. Except for the Swedish Chef skits. She will stop whatever she's doing to watch Swedish Chef.

She knows some of the characters. She can point out Kermit, Fozzie Bear, Miss Piggy and Animal. She can say "hommel, hommel." That's "Animal, Animal."

It's been fun watching the first season again. Such happy memories of my childhood, watching this show with my family. I can't imagine what TV executives thought in the mid 70's when they put puppets on in prime-time, but they deserve an award for it. I wish they still had that kind of imagination today.

And I dare you to watch this scene from "Muppets in Space" without a smile on your face. 4_on the Floor fans will especially appreciate the link.


A few months ago, Helen's Uncle K brought over a couple of boxes of toys. They're moving to a new house later this month, and they've been paring down the toy collection. I haven't had to buy anything new in a quite a while. I just pull something out of the box.

So a few weeks ago, Helen became the proud owner of a family of Potato Heads.

She LOVES these things. One of her favorite games is to point out her ear, her nose, her feet, her belly button, etc. Potato Head is an excellent way to teach the body part game. We've even added "hat" and "shoes" to the repetoire.

However, after a few weeks of playing with the Spud Family, I've figured out why he gave us the whole set. Turns out that a nose and 6 ears and a random pair of cowboy boots can sit on the playroom floor for days at a time before she'll pick them up and play with them. But if I spend an evening cleaning it all up, it's promptly all back out on the floor again the next day. It's Uncle K's sinister way of passing the clutter back to our house instead of his. Way to go, K. Very sneaky.

Just wait until he sees what we got his boys for Christmas. I think it involves, oh, about a MILLION Legos.

Last month the family came over to out house to eat Thanksgiving dinner with us. I asked K., "Won't your boys see these toys and say, 'Hey, that's mine!' " He said, "Nah, they didn't even notice the toys were gone. So they'll just say, 'Hey, we've got one just like that!' "


Tis the Season ... to tear out my hair.

It's getting harder to buy gifts for my parents. They're the kind of people who go out and buy what they want. That leaves precious little ideas about what to give them for Christmas. And believe me, I've given it a lot of thought.

When my father walks into an Apple Store, the salesmen all say "Norm!" and the stock price zooms up. That can't be a coincidence.

My mother, the Alpha Geek in the family, has a computer monitor the size of Kentucky sitting on her desk. It's tough to see what else she could use, besides a bigger desk.

I'm honestly happy for them. We kids are on our own, and they finally get to take care of themselves. Goodness knows they deserve it. I'm looking forward to deserving it one day, too! But now I'm stuck figuring out what to get them for Christmas. Here's my list so far.

Dad: white socks.
Mom: maybe some cream-colored socks?

You can see where this is headed: a one-way ticket to Yawn City on Christmas morning. So if anyone has better ideas, step up to the plate and take a swing.


All I Want for Christmas

BRIAN: You need to make a Christmas list for me. Or else I'll have to get you a bowling ball. Or a blowtorch.

ME: (silent, thinking of what I might want)

BRIAN: Okay?

ME: Yeah. I don't want to get a blowtorch for Christmas.

BRIAN: It's not really a blowtorch, as much as a cutting torch.


Classified Listings

Last week, for no apparent reason, Helen woke up at 12:15 a.m. She stayed awake until nearly 4 a.m., passed out for an hour, then was up for good.

I, on the other hand, spent the day in zombie mode. Apparently I promised everyone money and loads of free time, too. This morning, everyone called to remind me of it.

Next time, I need to remember to take the day off.

So I was complaining to a friend about not getting any sleep, and behold, there's a website that understands my pain. Here's a t-shirt I could have ordered instantly:

Unfortunately, they don't have any sizes over 18 months, and Helen "bowl full of jelly" Wyatt outgrew that size the day she learned about macaroni and cheese.

She's her mother's daughter, to be sure.

(I think they're also limited to 18 months because the kid catches on to the FOR SALE sign bit after a while.)

Anyway, the shirt made me laugh on a day I really, really needed it. But if I bought it, made her wear it and then took her to daycare, you can bet DHS will be following me home.


Mmmm, cookies.

While Helen & I were napping this afternoon, Brian went to the store. I awoke to the delicious smell of freshly-baked chocolate chip cookies.

Brian: There's nothing better than cookie dough icing on top of a cookie.

Me: Really?

Brian: (takes a bite) Oh my god!

Me: What?

Brian: I can actually feel my hips expanding!


Cheeky Monkey

When do you stop wanting to kiss baby cheeks all the time?

I was scrolling through photos we've taken of Helen over the past year, and what surprised me was how many pictures I have of Helen where we're kissing her. Top of head, little baby hand, you name it. Both Brian & I, caught in the act.

I kiss that little baby's cheeks a LOT. When she gets up in the morning, I get her out of her crib and give her a big hug with lots of kisses. While we're playing, sometimes I grab her and kiss her cheeks until she starts giggling. When I get her out of her high chair after dinner, she gets a big kiss before I put her down. Of course, that's after she's been cleaned up - the ravioli nights would be a disaster for both of us if I didn't wash her face first. Yuck!

And I know that kissing stops eventually, because our parents aren't kissing on us all the time. And I'm wondering, why? Do you still want to, and you just don't because we're all adults here? Do the teenage years ruin it for you? Is it because I don't have those impossibly squooshy soft baby cheeks anymore?

I'm curious. Really. If you have a theory, feel free to leave it in the comments.

In the meantime, I'm kissing those cheeks for all I'm worth.


Halloween Night

We didn't practice "Trick or Treat." We didn't show Helen how to carry her candy bucket. We didn't even tell her to what to do when she got to the door.

We didn't have to do any of those things. At 18 months, Helen is a Halloween pro.

She picked through bowls of candy, and she said "dah-doo" (thank you) and "bye." She said "woof woof" to the puppies and "shee-shee" to the kitties. And she charmed the heck out of all of the neighbors.

I tell you, there's nothing more fun than a little kid on Halloween.

Except when she goes to bed at 8 and her parents get to eat all the candy.

Getting ready to go out in her Piglet costume, exchanging pacifier for candy bucket:

Running to the next house:

I love this picture! She's peering in the door (can you see the homeowners?):


Checking out the candy back at home:

Twizzlers rock!


Pumpkin Patch - AGAIN

South of our house is a giant farm with a pumpkin patch. In the fall, they open up on the weekends for people to bring their kids to see the goats and sheep and cows and chickens. They set up a maze in the cornfield, and they pile up hay bales in one of the barns for another maze. They have horseshoes and bean bag tosses and giant checker games. There was a slide for the kids, and little tractors for them to ride. And don't forget the giant tractor rides for the whole family. Clearly, this place was set up for a fun time.

The house itself was built just before the Civil War. They had a couple of cabins and sheds and several barns all around. It was a huge patch of land, and despite the hundreds of people enjoying the gorgeous fall afternoon with us, I really liked all the room. It was one of those days when you think, wouldn't it be great to have a farm and all that land to yourself, and just spend your days working at home?

And then you think of milking cows on Christmas morning, and those rainy days when getting out seems like the last thing you want to do, and you realize farm work is way harder than your cushy day job.

But for a little while it was a nice dream.

Here's Helen tossing the beanbag:

And here she is, about to go down the slide for the 30th time:

And here she is, enjoying the farm:


Beans Beans Beans!

This entry is for S., my roommate in college and still one of my closest friends. S. hails from jolly old England. Freshman year she told one of our hallmates that they all wore black on 4th of July.

Is it any wonder we're friends?

After the time in the dorms, we shared our first apartment together. We mainly cooked for ourselves, and it was junior year that I learned about her favorite meal: baked beans on toast.

This meal really tested the bonds of friendship, not to mention my gag reflex. Even though I grew up in the southern United States, I can't eat baked beans. They're a staple at every family reunion, church picnic, and most barbeque joints. And I have passed them up every time. Something about them just tastes wrong to me.

And there was S., putting them on toast! Of course it got all soggy, but she loved every bite. Later I learned it's not just S. who eats this odd meal; it's a well-known favorite of English folks everywhere, from childhood on. Yuck!

To be fair, I think that's how she felt when I ate all those Kraft dinners.

I know Helen has eaten baked beans at school, because I've seen the words "Beanie Weenie" on her lunch calendar. But that's the American version, with cut-up hot dogs. It's a meal with enough sodium to rival your saltshaker. Minus the hot dogs, I thought I'd finally give the beans a try at home with her. Something about having a kid - you get to correct all your own food mistakes. Maybe this one will eat all the asparagus I never did. Or maybe she'll like lima beans. You never know. Baked beans? Why not?

And of course, the whole time she was eating them, she kept saying "Mmmmm!" She finished the bowl and asked for more.

All right, Helen, I'll refill the bowl - but you can't pay me to add the toast.

UPDATE: She just ate a whole crumpet. Now we'll have to move to Liverpool!


Home Improvement

I realized that I've left you all hanging on the TV update. It's installed and sitting pretty above our mantel.

But Brian noticed right away that the high definition channels weren't as crisp as they could be - definitely not what we saw in the store. When the images on the screen moved, the picture got very pixelated. And the regular channels weren't very good at all. The blue TV did regular channels much better.

Some moron at the customer service center tried to tell us that's what TV looked like in larger sizes. Yeah, right.

Anyway, this Friday someone's coming out to replace the video board. So hopefully, I'll be able to tell you next week that the TV looks fantastic and we're loving it.

But really,in spite of it all, that's already happening.


Yes, it's fun, but it's also a lot of responsibility.

Yesterday Helen and I went to Target. Daycare takes the kids out twice a day, and it's getting cold enough here to need a coat. Helen has grown a bit since last winter, so we needed to go shopping.

It's never a good idea to let me into a Target supervised by only a 17-month old.

Helen is now the proud parent of a Fisher Price baby. She held that doll all the way to the register, where there was a bit of a struggle to get it scanned. There was an even bigger struggle when we got home and I tried to get the doll out of its packaging.

The baby came with a little bottle, and after spending a lot of time (at her insistence) "feeding" the baby, I've taught her how to do it. I tried to teach her how to "burp" the baby, but she just hugs her instead.


Fly the friendly skies of Las Vegas.

Email exchange from last month:

To: X, Y, Z
From: Me
Subject: This weekend

Vandy is a 33-point favorite to win, over a Division 1 school? Granted, it's Temple, but still!

From: Z
To: X, Y, Me
Subject: Re: This weekend

Early prediction: Vandy loses.

From: Y
To: X, Z, Me
Subject: Re: This weekend

Vandy by 42.

From: Me
To: X, Y, and Z
Subject: Re: This weekend

With all these predictions, someone should pony up and be the bookie!

From: X
To: Y, Z and Me
Subject: Re: This weekend

Helen. She cannot go to jail.

From: Me
To: X, Y and Z
Subject: Re: This weekend

This is the first time Vandy has been this big of a favorite since Vegas started keeping up with the data. I might put money on this game.

From: X
To: Y, Z and Me
Subject: Re: This weekend

You need to let Helen stand on her own. She needs to spread her wings and fly. Like a bird. A glorious bird, who takes bets.

You can only hold on to them for so long.

From: Me
To: X, Y and Z
Subject: This weekend

Helen would make a terrible bookie. She'd spend it all on Twizzlers. She really likes Twizzlers.


The Great Pumpkin

This morning we passed a local church with a front yard full of pumpkins.

Actually, this was the same pumpkin patch we visited last year with Helen at 4 months old, where I propped her up against giant pumpkins to get some cute pictures. She would slump over, I'd prop her back up, and take a few more shots.

This year, she wouldn't even stand still. I could barely get her to look at the camera, she was so excited to pick up the little pumpkins and carry them around.

I really don't know a better way to get in the mood for Halloween than to watch a little kid get this thrilled.


This worked out differently in my head.

Mounting a TV over the fireplace means figuring out how to hide those pesky cords. So Brian spent Monday night drilling a couple of holes in the wall for power cords and cables. Actually, he spent some of early Tuesday morning on that project, too. But he finally conceded to the Carpentry Gods that the drilling was not going to work without the right drill bit.

So, after a trip to Home Depot, Tuesday night's work went a lot faster. He made it through 2 studs to bring the cord down to an outlet he created next to the mantel, and after I went to bed, he put up part of the mounting bracket for the television.

(I would put up pictures of this stuff, but right now the hard working crew at Blogspot is out for a manicure. So I'll try to edit them in later.)

He also created a second outlet for the satellite dish hookup and the phone line. That required a trip to the crawlspace, to pull the lines from the current location across the living room to the new spot.

For those of you who have not visited your home's crawlspace before, I learned an important fact on Tuesday night. Brian came back from his trip under the house and shared with me that we had "millions of spiders."

Now, I don't know about you, but I get the heebie-jeebies whenever I see a bug. As a kid, I was not typically afraid of bugs. I carried around roly-polys, I played with caterpillars, I watched ants scurry around, but a chance encounter in a bathroom with a cockroach the size of my foot changed all that in a hurry.

And for many years I've owned a cat who delights in taking care of any pest problem I might have, and even tortures them, too. So, at the end, there's no more bug, and as a bonus, it's died a horrible, lingering death. It's a win-win in my book.

But now, I have to sleep each night on a bed which stands on a layer of carpet and plywood subflooring and wooden joists, knowing that mere inches below all of that lies a breeding, teeming layer of spiders.

(Sorry - did I mention sleep? My eyes aren't actually shut. It's more like a panicky, "eyes wide open" look.)

Back to the project! On Wednesday night, which should have been the easiest of all, it took 3 hours and another trip to Home Depot to get one lone cable through the brick outside of the house, into the crawlspace and up through the floor. As a bonus, tonight Brian will get to re-crimp the cable since one end didn't survive the trip through the brick wall.

I'm now taking bets as to how many more trips to the hardware store are left in this project. Please feel free to make your guesses in the comments. The winner gets a free consultation with an experienced TV installer, who may or may not be deathly afraid of spiders.


TV Land

Last year we bought a gigantic Zenith television for an absolute steal at a friend's employee pricing sale. Brand-new DLP TV, more than 60" of viewing pleasure, with a few good reviews already online.

But about 5 months later, we noticed a small blue streak along the lower left-hand corner. The manufacturer's warranty was only 90 days, so we were pretty worried that there was some very expensive going wrong with our gorgeous TV.

After a bit of Googling, it turns out we were right to worry - the light engines were defective in this model. Reviews were scathing by this time as most owners were seeing the problem, and since they paid retail, I can understand their wrath. By then Zenith was well aware of the defect, but since it was outside of their warranty period, they were only too happy to replace the part after you gave them quite a lot of money first. Money which we didn't really want to spend, not knowing if the new part was also defective.

In the meantime, our TV screen turned more and more blue. For a while, it held steady at about half the screen. But eventually, it went ALL blue. This is a picture of the Monday Night Football game, to show you what we've been watching:

Fun, huh? It means every team plays on Boise State's blue field. It means having conversations like "Who's in the dark uniforms? Georgia? Okay, got it."

We got a quote to repair it, but the estimate was a bit shocking. Not willing to spend more to fix the TV than we bought it for, we hemmed & hawed for months. Finally, we decided to cut our losses and go for a new TV. Brian shopped and read reviews and talked to the guys at Circuit City and Best Buy. Then he'd come home and tell me all about it.

Plasma. LCD. DLP. Rear-projection. Warranties. Surround sound. Receivers. HDMI cables. Satellite dishes. My head spun.

But after 8 months (!), Brian finally settled on one model. He took me to look at it, I loved it, and he proceeded to swing a fantastic deal, along with a 5-year warranty. Plus (you'll have to take my word for it), it's really pretty.

But it's going to take a lot of work to put that thing on the wall.

(to be continued)


Best Wishes to the Happy Couple

One of my college roommates got married yesterday. C. has found the love of her life and decided to settle down with him. After watching the two of them at their reception, I think they'll be supremely happy.

She & I reconnected after I moved to town a few years ago to be with Brian. I knew she was from this area, but didn't know she was still here after we all went our separate ways at graduation. So imagine my surprise when I was headed to my car after work one day and saw her standing on the sidewalk. Once we recognized each other, I think the squealing could be heard a couple of blocks away. Now we "do lunch" at our favorite little restaurant nearby and spent a little quality girl time catching up on all the latest news.

The wedding was very small - just family and a couple of friends. I felt very privileged to be invited, and best of all, I finally got a chance to meet her parents. Lovely people. Her dad and her new husband both tried pretty hard to get the dirt on our college years, but since most of my stories implicate both of us, I kept my mouth shut.

Much love and congratulations, C. - Brian & I wish you many happy years together!

And no, I won't post that picture of C. dressed like an early 80s Madonna for a frat party. Your dad offered money, which is tempting, but no. ;)


You Can Sail the Seven Seas

Our friend W. is in town this weekend for a golf tournament. W. was stationed in the Navy at Pearl Harbor a few years back, and graciously allowed us to stay in his home for a week-long vacation to Hawaii.

Now W. is stationed in DC. More administrative work than boat duty, but he's in DC, so there's a normal routine and a nightlife. He's single and young and clearly quite unsure what to think of a weekend with a married couple and a baby. The highlight of our evening is watching Helen run around the living room. For those of you who remember your single years, you may be thinking, "Yeah, just give the man a drink already."

On our trip to Hawaii, this guy took us to one of the best karoke bars in Waikiki Beach, where 99 cent mai-tais encouraged the guys to sing "I Want It That Way" by the Backstreet Boys. Tonight, Helen kept pulling up her shirt to show us her belly button.

I'm sure he'll carry these memories of domestic bliss with him for a long time after this weekend is over.


New Clothes

It's September - time to shop for back-to-school clothes! Remember getting in the car with your mom and your little sister to go shopping, just a little bit peeved because you could have gone to the pool one last time? Remember picking out new shoes that hurt your feet, and those dark, stiff jeans? Remember having a hard time trying on sweaters when it was still 100 degrees outside? Remember spending several hours arguing with your mom over what you really wanted to wear?

Yeah, Helen's only 15 months old. This year, no argument from her on clothes shopping.

I especially love those jeans. They fit her in the belly but they're WAY too long. So I had to cuff 'em.

But I noticed something weird last night - when I took the jeans off so she could take a bath, her legs were this weird shade of blue. Turns out the dye on the jeans had rubbed off on her skin.

Did anyone else's mother buy them new clothes for school that turned them into a Smurf? Just wondering.



Sunday the Wyatt family went to the zoo. It's a pretty nifty place, designed more as an animal preserve than a zoo. There are lots of walkways through shaded forests or bamboo jungles, with wide open spaces for the larger animals. The selection of exhibits are fewer in number than most zoos, but it's a quality place, and we enjoyed the afternoon.

My favorite part of the place is the elephant savannah. They have a huge field built up with rocks and ponds and shaded areas for the elephants to wander around, and a nice path for the visitors encircles it with several different viewing areas to choose from, depending on where the elephants might be. We lucked out and spotted them close by at the first spot we stopped, so I pulled up the stroller to the fence, leaned down and pointed at the three large grey elephants nearby. "Helen," I said, "Can you see the elephants?"

"Noooooo ..." she replied.

I point again. "There they are, Helen, can you see the elephants?" Again: "Noooooo ..."

I lean down and try to look through the fence from her vantage point in the stroller. Maybe there's a fence post in the way, or she's too far down to see them uphill. Nope, she's got a great view. Two handlers come out, apparently to walk the animals around, and as they start to move, I point them out again. She's watching, but always saying, "Noooooo ...:

The exact same thing happened at the giraffe exhibit, and the tiger exhibit. The only animals she really "saw" were the meerkats. She kept meowing and woof-woofing at them.

I've decided that "Noooooo ... " must actually mean "Yes, that's a perfect view, Mommy, and thanks for pointing it out to me" in toddler-speak.

I had to adjust my high expectations for our trip to the zoo very quickly. She was old enough to pay attention, but the things I thought would interest her, she didn't even notice. The things that I didn't see, I could hardly peel her away from. Like, she was absolutely thrilled by the sight of water. A small rushing stream near the lemurs, or a pond near the petting zoo - didn't matter. It was water, and she wanted to look at it. Same with pulling leaves off all the bushes that we passed by, or watching the other kids nearby. And Helen loved the swings in the children's play area. I couldn't believe my camera got pictures of her in the swing, but it came through in a big way.

Good thing it didn't cost us anything to bring a child under 3 to the zoo. Next time, I'll save the gas money and just lead her outside to the water hose.

Helen learns "Touchdown!"

We had friends over for ribs and football on Saturday. Helen was really excited to see our friend S. He's one of those guys who has energy to spare for a kid. Totally ready to play, and way more fun than an actual parent. At one point, Brian said, "Helen, come give Da-da a hug," and Helen ran straight for S. Brian's still hurting a little from that one. Little tip, Helen - try that again, and you won't ever get the keys to the car.

We also had the Amazing Babysitter over for the food and games. Helen had a ball eating cheese and crackers with us. She dipped her cracker and ate the cheese, then dipped the (soggy) cracker back in the cheese.

Now that I think about it, the cheese was all hers after that.