Sleep is for the birds

Helen's transition to the new toddler room has produced an unexpected side effect. Namely, that she wants to stay up late. I usually put her to sleep between 7:30 and 8:00. The past couple of weeks, she wouldn't go until 9:00. This week, I got her to go down at 11:30. That's rough on everyone, but especially her when she's still asleep in the morning and I'm ready to leave for work.

I think she’s forming a Toddler Union. It's obvious. The whiny demands of a toddler who won't be ignored, going on a hunger strike at random meals, secret meetings with other toddlers while I'm at work - plus all those posters and picket signs hidden under her crib.

If this new bedtime goes on much longer, I may file have to a grievance with the shop steward. Waiting until contract time to talk about it will take far too long, and I’d just end up losing a lot of cheese and apples and milk in the negotiating.

So we’ve been discussing it nightly.

Me: (rocking Helen, who has a pacifier and a bottle) Go to sleep, Helen.

Helen: (takes bottle out of mouth, smiles) Hi, mommy!

Me: (grits teeth) It’s time for sleep, Helen.

Helen: (throws pacifier)

Me: (looks at clock and sighs)


A new toy

Brian's been ordering car parts like a maniac since the 1966 Mustang came back from the paint shop.

For those of you who don't know, there's a car that's been part of our lives, weekends, and garage since early 2005. It belongs to a friend in New Orleans who kindly allowed Brian to take on a new project. Brian has taken the entire thing apart to restore it.

The car has spent a lot of time sitting in a body shop or a paint shop, waiting for busy people to get around to working on it. So it hasn't lived in our garage the entire time. But the pieces are everywhere in our house. Seats in the guest room. Glass in the closet. Dashboard gauges on the kitchen table. Stacks of Mustang magazines and car part catalogs and mechanic manuals everywhere.

Now that the body and paint work are both done, all that's left is to put it back together.

That sentence implies a certain amount of simplicity. Really, there's still some significant stuff left to do, not to mention interpreting a few diagrams in the manual that look suspiciously like Helen's artwork. But everything is (slowly) coming together.

Last week, new chrome trim parts arrived at the house.

They were packed in a not-insignificant amount of bubble wrap. Brian took it apart, set it aside, and later that evening at dinner he told Helen about the "bubbles."

It's now one of Brian's favorite words to get Helen to say. She pronounces it "buh-bullsh."

Any bubble-wrap popping addicts out there? (Mom, raise your hand. Higher.)

Meet the newest one in the family:


Segway RULES

Click here to check out the hot Segway action from last weekend.

The video is only about a minute long, and Helen screams through the whole thing. She was highly peeved that I stepped away from mothering her for that one minute. I was within 10 feet of her the whole time, in plain sight, but you wouldn't know it from the decibel level she managed tosingle-handedly produce.

Dear Reader, welcome to my world.

In the meantime, I managed to one-up George Bush and NOT fall flat on my face. Extra bonus points for me.

Let me know in the comments if you have any trouble viewing the video.


Legal Ramifications

Last night, after putting Helen in her crib, I was heading back to the living room to catch the end of an exciting basketball game, when I fell down the stairs. About halfway down, my bare foot skidded on the carpet and flew off the stair. I lost my balance, and fell on my back and left leg. It brought a quick tear to my eye. I tried not to scream because, you know, heaven forbid I wake up Helen! But I did yelp loudly enough to startle Brian out of his chair.

Since I was the clumsy kid in the family, you won't be surprised to hear that's not the first time I've fallen on the stairs. Once or twice with Helen, even. And it's really painful - I actually rug-burned a big spot my back the last time, and the mark is only just now starting to fade.

I winced a little getting out of bed this morning, and I've already got a nice bruise on my thigh. So I went to the site supervisor and asked about filing a worker's comp claim. I was picturing a couple of days off from the daily grind, making sure I didn't strain my back and that I gave the bruise some time to heal properly.

Get this - the site supervisor said I had already punched out for the day at the crib! Since I wasn't on the clock, I didn't qualify for worker's comp.

Hmmm. Not on the clock, eh? So when Helen woke up at 4:00 a.m. this morning, I could have gotten overtime?

That trip downstairs from Helen's room was not part of my commute home from work. I may have to get a lawyer involved to get this claim pushed through.


She Blinded Me with SCIENCE

This weekend Helen and I drove south for a little visit with the extended family. It was her cousin M's birthday, and we celebrated with a trip to the local science museum for kids.

Now, you may be asking yourself, what in the world could a child under the age of 2 (as far as the admissions clerk at the counter knows) do at a science museum? You would be surprised. It's fully loaded with kid-friendly stuff they can't break. They get to TOUCH EVERYTHING. For a kid, I don't think there's a better day to be had. So what if I can't explain basic science principles to her yet? "Wait a second, I can touch this and you won't tell me NO?" That rocked her world.

We started with the giant game of Mousetrap, where the tiny wooden balls roll around on tracks and levers. It's mesmerizing for adults and kids alike:

Then we figured out how lightweight plastic balls float on water - did you know it's just a giant game of "get my sleeves soaking wet"?

The kids ran around for about 2-3 hours, loving everything they saw, and we enjoyed it, too. My sister and I had an especially good giggle at this exhibit:

But the big highlight of the day for the grownups? We got to ride a Segway! I have video of my journey, and once I figure out how to post it here, I'll put a link up for everyone to see.

And a big HAPPY BIRTHDAY! to Cousin M. He's turned the big T-W-O! It's a momentous occasion. He's so mature for his age - speaking in complete sentences, and sharing his toys like a champ. So I'm guessing the giant meltdowns and temper tantrums will commence in 5, 4, 3 ...


Here's What's Cooking

For Christmas, my mother gave me a cooking class. It turned out to be a 3-course Valentine's Date Night meal for couples at the local chef store. You know, the place with the monster gas stoves and every utensil you never knew you needed.

The class was a few hours on Saturday afternoon, so we got a sitter for Helen, and I got all dolled up to go cook something other than macaroni & cheese.

The kitchen was full with six couples and two chefs. Each couple was paired up with another couple, so once we had our instructions, the four of us stood around looking at each other, like "who's gonna separate the yolks?"

All different skill levels were represented. I felt kind of sorry for the couple we cooked with. Chopping fresh veggies presented a major problem for both of them. Either they eat out A LOT, or they must be pretty good at heating stuff in the microwave.

Another group just let one girl do everything. She chopped green onions like one of those fancy cooking shows where everything flashes by so fast, it's a little scary. I was jealous of her, wishing I could use a knife like that.

Brian & I made a vinaigrette for a DELICIOUS spinach salad with dried cherries, toasted walnuts & blue cheese. We also made lump crab cakes with a yummy avocado salsa, and butterfly shrimp (breaded & fried) with a tangy aeoli sauce. There was also a beef tenderloin not really worth mentioning, but the dessert was creme brulee.

We were supposed to use their kitchen torches to make our own caramelized sugar, but the torches weren't working. None of them would stay lit long enough. The chefs said they never use those little kitchen torches in restaurants, and they don't really recommend them for home use, either. One of them worked in a restaurant with 3 different flavors of creme brulee every night (!), and they used a real blowtorch. At that point, several of the guys in the class offered to head down to the hardware store to pick one up.

After watching them struggle to get the sugar browned for us, and then enjoying that delicious dessert, I realized maybe a blowtorch for Christmas wasn't such a bad idea after all.

In all, the class took just over 3 hours, including the dining portion where we all made yummy noises. Obviously we don't have that kind of time at home to cook with Helen around (when we get home from daycare, she throws off her jacket and says "Eat!"), but it was good to see how easy it is to make some of these things.

We'll definitely have those crab cakes again soon.


Helen and the Pacifier

On this blog, there are several pictures of Helen using a pacifier. For many parents, a pacifier is something of a godsend, while some see it as a necessary evil, and for others it's just plain evil. I can actually see all sides of the argument. From the day Helen was born, I actually encouraged her to take the pacifier, and she did very well with it. The first couple of months of an infant's life are typically fraught with gas pains and sleepless nights, and to top it off we had an early delivery, so if there's one thing she could take comfort in, I gladly provided it.

A friend gave us the pacifier as a gift in a bag full of baby stuff. It's a style of pacifier that I'd never seen before, and have spent Helen's entire life tracking down replacements at Target. Sort of a butterfly shape, it looked far too big on her as a baby. For a short time, she preferred it upside down. She eventually grew into it, and needed it more often than not. Especially on car rides, that pacifier became a crucial component of our lives. Everything comes to a screeching halt when you look for a pacifier. Not having it usually means a crying fit until it's located. But when that crying stops - ah, what bliss.

In January, Helen moved up to a new room at her daycare. It's a little early for this transition to a full-blown toddler room, but I've requested it because Helen is talking A LOT, and also eating with a spoon. It may not sound like much to anyone except her proud parents, but these two skills put her well ahead of her entire class. I wanted to make sure she was in a room full of kids already doing the same things.

As a bonus, it's a room full of new kids to teach her fire-alarm pulling skills.

But very quickly, we had a run-in with the teachers over the pacifier. It turns out that in the baby rooms, Helen got her pacifier at naptime, and at "stressful" times during the day. Essentially if she asked for it, her teachers gave it to her. I picked her up every evening and 4 days out of 5, she'd have it.

In the new room, however, it's a rule in our state that kids can't walk around with pacifiers. They can have them at naptime, but that's it. Because I let her have it at home as much as she wants, it was tough to go to daycare and play by different rules. Frankly, I was pretty skeptical about this law. But I sighed and made the effort to change it up this weekend. We put the pacifier away at a time in the morning when she wasn't looking for it, and kept it hidden all day except for her naptime and bedtime. Two days in a row. I was fearing the worst.

She didn't even notice.

I'm serious. It's like, "Pacifier? I didn't need it that much. Whatever, mom."

I remember the pacifier song she sang every night as an infant as I rocked her to sleep - holding it up, singing to it, then putting it back in her mouth, sometimes continuing to hum a little with it in her mouth. (My mom said I did the same thing as a baby.) Or when Helen wasn't quite through giving me grief over something, but she had the paci in her mouth - she'd sort of grunt and fuss behind it. Oh, how I laughed at that early version of backtalk.

When she's crying, it's so easy to hand her something that stops the crying 95% of the time. Do you have anything that works so well in your life? Don't you wish you did, just a little bit?

Maybe I'll have a harder time letting go of the pacifier than Helen will.

It was a *Super* Bowl of Shrimp

On Sunday, Brian and I took Helen with us to a friend's house for a SuperBowl party. We brought the required football snacks - namely, some shrimp (a fresh catch from the grocery store that morning). I make a mean cocktail sauce, so we were looking forward to enjoying some good food and company.

Upon arrival, I counted kids. There were 6 altogether, which ups the noise factor by a factor of 25. Aside from the 7-month old daughter of the party hosts, Helen was the youngest. She's not the best on stairs, so after we got the food set up (more on that later), I kept running up to check on her. There was a gigantic playroom upstairs, complete with a kiddie electric train set which I enjoyed more than anyone. The three oldest boys were watching Cars, in between figuring out how to cause maximum damage to each other with minimum parental involvement. Making sure Helen didn't get caught in the crossfire so meant missing most of the first half and about 90% of the commercials.

Thank god for the internet. Everything from SuperBowl Sunday is listed on ifilm.com, so I'm totally caught up.

Back to the food. As we were unpacking everything, I unwrapped the seafood and noticed something odd. The shrimp didn't look - well, COOKED. So I asked Brian, "Hey, did you get these steamed, or are the shrimp raw?" Oh no, he assured me they were cooked. Doubtful, I picked one up and watched it sort of flop over. He said, "I think you're used to the grey shrimp, but these are the pink kind, and they are cooked." To test it, he peeled one, dipped it in cocktail sauce and ate it.

If you've met my husband, you already knew those shrimp were raw.

About an hour later, Brian was decidedly not feeling well. Of course, with Peyton Manning's pride on the line, we didn't leave the party until the game was over. But when the game was over, we were speeding down the interstate.

Two days later, he's still trying to get the taste of raw shrimp out of his mouth. And oh, how I giggled - to myself, of course.