You're gonna love it in an instant

Last weekend, Helen asked me to put hairbows in her hair. Hairbows are the code name for rubber bands in her hair. The first time I tried to put one in, I had to convince her it was the cool thing and "ponytail" wasn't going to work. I knew she'd get stuck on the "pony" part. So I told her that it would involve a BOW. In her HAIR. And the name stuck.

Anyway, she wanted lots of hairbows that day. So I proceeded to comb and section her hair into 4 different areas of approximately the same amount of hair, and started loading up with the rubber bands. I added a 5th one for her bangs at the last minute, probably because she was not wiggling like a maniac who needs his meds.

Later that night, she crashed on me before I could bathe her and get the rubberbands out. So, they stayed until the next morning.

I remember she was in fine spirits the next morning, and the little scamp managed to carry a small horde of her Little People upstairs to her crib for a nap. First they were under her blanket:

Until I took it off to take a picture:

You can see that Ms. Hairbow McHairtyPants decided to get into the photo shoot by climbing on the crib. At that point, I managed to get the most gorgeous shot of her eyes I've ever seen. Coming from a girl who's taken at *least* 1,000 pictures since the end of April, I think that's saying something.

It's the covergirl smile with the hair of a hobo. *sighs heavily*


Up a creek

Some of you already know this, but I spent some time this summer at home, struggling to stay sane in the presence of a two-year old.

In those few months, I discovered a much-loved program in reruns on cable: Dawson's Creek. God, how I loved that show. After growing up with the kids on 90210 and maturing with the folks on Melrose Place, viewers and TV networks longed for the next generation of teen soap operas. Dawson's Creek came along on fledgling WB network, and saved my Tuesdays with their wordy dialogue and crazy antics. Rarely witty, with razor thin plotlines, the show relied on gorgeous high-school kids, tunes from stellar singer-songwriters and a constant question of whether the characters would ever get together. I watched several seasons religiously, and even bought the soundtracks. It was my guilty pleasure, and I didn't care who mocked me. I was hooked.

Once I found the reruns, I couldn't resist seeing them again. So, my morning would start with Helen's breakfast routine, followed by a steady attention to The Creek, while Helen put together Legos or played with her Little People, and ended with Helen melting down over getting dressed. Usually, she picked the climatic final scene to have her meltdown, which would send me into a meltdown, and by the time it was over, the two of us were panting and wiping away tears in our separate corners. (And yes, she was dressed.) I never knew how the episode ended, but thank goodness the next day had a neat little wrap-up to replay before diving right in to the next one.

And then suddenly, my leisurely summer schedule ended. I would be without the Creek at a crucial moment in the Dawson-Joey-Pacey story. (For the interested, Joey is played by Katie Holmes, the young lady who recently married Tom Cruise. She spends several seasons going back and forth on her feelings for both Dawson and Pacey.)

Never fear, dear reader - I have Tivo. (Hallelujah forever and ever, amen.) Now my Tivo faithfully records each episode daily. Whether it's after dinner, or during a bout with insomnia in the wee hours of the night, The Creek is there for me.

The other night, after I had put Helen down, I quickly got engrossed in that day's show. For fellow fans out there (and knowing my friends, there are not many), I'm at the end of the season where Pacey has figured out he has feelings for Joey, and is trying very hard to let her progress in a doomed relationship with a college boy in Boston. Pacey has from the beginning, been the character I've most liked, and always hoped that Joey would choose. He's a smart aleck, quick with a comeback, fiercely loyal, and generally the life of the party in a show chock-full of people with a tendency to talk everything to death. He's always gotten the best lines and the funniest moments. He's really the best person to both challenge and appreciate Joey, and since I had a wee bit of a crush on him, I wanted them to get together. Plus, Dawson had turned into kind of a peevish little wuss, a wholly unsympathetic character. So, at this crucial point in the season, I really paid attention.

Brian, on the other hand, would probably prefer I spend our Tivo's energy on History Channel shows. He doesn't openly mock me, except to sort of roll his eyes, and comment on how unrealistic it is that these kids talk like they do. I admit, sometimes the dialogue reminds me of the vocabulary on the SATs. Why use one or two syllable words, when five will do nicely? But I'm hooked.

Anyway, he worked on the Mustang for several evenings this month in preparation for trip #2 to the paint shop. It's been so hot, it's not any fun to be in the garage, so he brings small parts in the house to tinker with and fix up. So, he's been in the living room while I watch, and sort of caught on to the basic plot lines. I realize he would much rather watch something else, but he indulges me. I love him for that, but I never suspected he even paid much attention.

Until the other night. There was a short scene with Pacey and I don't even remember what was happening, but Brian said, "I have that shirt." I looked at him, like, "Huh? I don't think so." Brian said, "Yep, I have it in the closet. Have you seen it?" I said, "No" and went back to the show. (I figured he had something similar, but I hadn't seen him wear it, ever.) A few minutes later, he came out of the bedroom wearing the exact same shirt.

Ladies, at that moment, I have never been prouder of my husband. There have been moments I've been proud, sure - but they're things you'd expect, like on our wedding day, and the day Helen was born. Both times he didn't run away screaming. So I was proud. But when he came in the room with that shirt on, it was like, wow. The football-loving, Mustang-fixing man I married dressed up like a soap opera star for me.

What a man. And he's all mine!


Farm living is the life for me

This past weekend, we visited some of Brian's extended family, who live about 100 miles away from us. The important part of the story for Helen is that when she visits them, she gets to see a puppy, and COWS.

Prior to the trip, we taught her how to say, "I want to ride the cows." We thought it'd be fun for her to announce this to Uncle J., and see how much he laughed. Instead, he got on his tractor and drove around until he found the cows, and hauled them home. Then he promptly invited the kids to come out to pet the GIANT bull.

When I say GIANT, I don't even begin to do this guy justice. Everyone stepped carefully around him, because one big swing of his head could have sent a grown man flying. Yet he munched on his feed and stood patiently while Uncle J. waxed poetic about desirable cow and bull features. He called the bull a "baby." And there was no way he'd let his whole family get on the same side of a fence with a bull who had a little attitude. So Helen did her petting, while I took lots of pictures of the whole herd. Believe it or not, those cows were so interested in me running around with my camera pointed at them, safely behind a barbed wire fence, that they hardly noticed the crowd standing in the field with them.

I have to say that it's a little unnerving to watch something weighing as much as my car make a conscious decision to keep an eye on me. And then proceed to do it, no matter which direction I move.

Oh, but where are these pictures, you ask?

Never fear, dear reader. I escaped the farm unscathed and am ready to unleash a torrent of pictures. As usual.

Helen ran around the farmyard, and I tried to get some good pictures of it. Oh, and by the way, her dress is from a Puerto Rican souvenir shop. No really, her grandparents went to Puerto Rico, and now that she has a pretty white party dress, IT'S THE ONLY THING SHE WANTS TO WEAR. Thanks, Nana & Grandpa.

Here's the sweet border collie named Lady that lives at their farm, herding the cattle at the slightest tsk-tsk of the tongue.

Here's a gorgeous old tractor that Uncle J. still rides all the time. He took it aross his field to find the cows, who, due to the seasonably appropriate, but blistering hot weather, were standing *in* a nearby creek.

After they heard the tractor rumbling around, they mustered up the strength to head our way, just in case we had stumbled and dropped a big bag of feed in their trough.

Here's the GIANT bull, with Helen petting him:

Brian can confirm this if you're skeptical, but I took at least 20 pictures of the cows. Nearly all of them were looking right at me. Really. It's a little scary. This one in particular was the "hussy" of the herd and pushed around some of the other cows who got too close to "her man." Apparently, that jealousy extended to a zoom lens on a nice camera, too.

The men contemplate the farm.

And here, we contemplate a beautiful day with family.


So you think YOU'RE tired ...

I read an article in the news today that the Duggar family just gave birth this week to baby number 17.

This family is pretty famous, with all the shows on Discovery & TLC. They have a LOT of kids, and they still want more. I can't imagine being in her shoes for one minute, and yet they seem blissfully happy to be right there. So, I say, more power to them, and no, I will not have any of your water, thank you very much.

But, two things struck me about this news today that I thought I'd share with you. First, the article mentioned she has spent over 10 years of her life in pregnancy. Now, Helen gave me a "get out of jail free" card and I got to skip the last painful, awful month entirely - thank you, sweetie - but TEN YEARS? Mrs. Duggar must LOVE her maternity clothes. I could have cheerfully set a bonfire on the front lawn when I was done.

The second thing that I noticed is the new baby's name is Jennifer. All 17 children have names that start with "J," girls outnumber boys 10-7, and it took TEN GIRLS to finally get around to naming one of them Jennifer.

So, officially and all? I'm like, offended.


Zoo Trip + Camera = Joy

So yesterday I took Helen and MY PRECIOUSSSSSSSS to the zoo. This time, I had my fancy zoom lens, and took some great shots of the animals.

Here we have a good example of Helenicus Monkinius, or as it's more commonly known in this part of the country: "Monkey Toddler." Note the squinting eyes, the deceptive grin - clearly, this creature is contemplating her mother's every move and deciding how loudly to say "no." Oh, it's a wily one, to be sure.

I took a lot of pictures yesterday, and here are some animals that stood still for me:

My favorite pictures came from the Elephant Savannah, where they took advantage of the watering hole to bathe:

And I also got some great shots of flowering water lilies near Monkey Island:

This perky bird would not sit still for the camera, but I managed to snap one of him after a great deal of patience:

And here sits a meerkat, giving us a little look that says, "Hey, I'm working on a reality show here, move it along."

It was steaming hot yesterday, but I managed to endure over 3 hours in the extreme temperatures. Helenicus Monkinius, on the other hand, wilted like a lily at the end. And as I put that sweaty creature back into the car, she mumbled, "More animals."


Helen gets ready to date

I've got that kid. You know, the one who doesn't want to wear clothes.

As a former babysitter with decades of experience, I've witnessed it up close. One child wouldn't wear clothes before noon. The mother told me that she just went with it, and eventually the child grew out of it to become a lovely girl who took a job in an exclusive women's clothing store. Oh, the irony.

But I was not prepared for how hard it would be to keep clothes on my own kid. Literally, a temper tantrum ensues if I try to replace the diaper left behind in some corner of the living room. I try to force the issue because she's not potty-trained yet. And even if I manage to get the shirt back on her, she takes it right back off. If I persist in keeping her clothed, we both end up in a horrible mood. It's really not worth it if we're just hanging around the house.

Needless to say, it's been a tricky month for me. I can convince her to wear clothes if we're headed anywhere outside, but like the fearless mother who has treaded the path before me, I have decided to let her be naked if she really wants it that much. And pray that she grows out of it, sooner rather than later.

This morning, Helen and I were reviewing the names of various body parts. I taught her a new one ("ankle") and eventually moved on to "boobies." I've tried other euphemisms, but for now the name has stuck. Thank you, anonymous daycare teacher.

Anyway, when I asked her where they were, she covered them with her hands and said sternly, "Leave my boobies alone."

I sniffed, and wiped away a tear. Her father would be so proud.