In your FACE

This evening, we had company over to watch the Monday Night Football game. Since most of the real estate on the furniture was taken, Brian hauled out one of the fold-up chairs we have stored in a closet, and set it up in a prime viewing location.

Helen immediately decided she wanted to sit in that chair. And not in his lap, either - she wanted the CHAIR. Brian was unwilling to give it up and eventually she abandoned that mission.

Or, so he thought.

About 5 minutes later, Helen found a "hairbow" and insisted that her daddy put it in her hair. Not only that, but she planted herself on the other side of the room from him and insisted that Daddy come to her. Brian was watching the game and chatting with his friends, and was a bit distracted. But like any good dad, he got up and crawled across the living room to assist with the requested hairpiece.

Helen promptly walked over and climbed into his chair.

He's definitely going to have to up his game a bit.


Flapping those butterfly wings

Saturday Helen & I checked out possible Halloween costumes. I was leaning toward Cinderella, because Nana bought the movie for her and she watched it twice last week. She LOVED it. I haven't seen her sit still for that long, like EVER. But she was totally enthralled with the whole movie. And the scene where the evil stepmother sweeps grandly out of the house after her evil daughters have destroyed Cinderella's gorgeous dress, and the poor girl runs weeping into the garden - well, Helen turned to me with her first words since the movie had started, and asked, "Cinderella crying?" When the movie ended, she had a big smile on her face.

So naturally, when we got to the store, I pointed out a Cinderella costume, and she was interested in all the accessories, like the shoes that were too big and the tiara that I pictured her losing after 2 houses on Halloween night. I started adding it up, and decided to let her roam the aisle for a short time, to see if anything else caught her fancy.

And indeed, it did. We narrowed it down at long last to the Hello Kitty butterfly costume. It came with wings and a headband, for much, much cheaper than the Disney princess package. I knew I liked that girl.

We brought it home, and of course she wanted to crack it open right away. Take note of the pile of clothes on the floor next to her:

Later, she stripped off the dress and ran through the living room with just the wings. She was so thrilled to be "flying."

I don't think this outfit will hold up until Halloween. But this smile was worth every penny.

It Just Might Work

Last night I headed off to bed after a long football game went into overtime, while Brian stayed up late to play PS3 with a friend. I must have quickly crashed into the deep sleep of a single girl with no responsibilities in life, because I slept through a late-night slumber party with Brian and Helen. She woke up before he was through with the PS3 game, and they tried a few different rooms, but she didn't sleep much. When she did try to pass out, it involved a lot of flipping and flopping. At night, Helen is hard to cuddle. It's like hugging a washer in spin cycle.

This morning, I was dreaming, something about eating pancakes and taking care of birds, and the sound of pounding feet running through the hall snapped me straight awake. I got out of bed, and found Helen & Brian in our guest room, where Helen was having a conversation with Daddy.

Helen: I need to be under the covers.

Brian: You know what might work? If we put you under the covers, and wrapped you tight, tucked you in with ...

Jennie: ... duct tape.

Brian: ... compression straps.


Ol' What's-Her-Name

The other day, I was in the kitchen with Helen and Brian. Helen was sitting in her high chair, while I was making dinner and talking to Brian. I don't remember what the conversation was about (typical), and at one point, my rusty memory failed me yet again, and a particular name escaped me.

Jennie: Oh, you know ... I can't remember ... what's-his-name?

Helen: (pipes up) Helen. My name is Helen.

Okay, so fair warning: she's paying attention to our conversations. Good to know. REALLY good to know.

But it reminded me of the times my mother called me and my sister by the dog's name. We reminded our mother all the time what our actual names were, not that it really helped much.

Clearly, a mother's brain just overflows, and the minor details (like names) fall right out. It's a good thing Helen is getting started early on reminding me.


Nothing's Better Than Bubbles

I'm going to reveal a secret to you folks. The #1 way to get Helen to stop crying is to suggest a bubble bath. She gets so excited, she races up the stairs, shouting at the top of her lungs, "A BUBBLE BATH, MOMMY!" Over. And over. And over.

Not 15 seconds earlier, she was in pure meltdown mode over not getting to put the lid on her cup of milk. You would have thought I'd explained the massive failure of the sub-prime lenders and the slowing housing market, and that she'd sunk her entire 401k into aggressive construction industry funds. I mean, it was THAT BAD.

But mention bubble bath, and she's happier than the kid who convinced his parents to buy ice cream from the truck on the street - right now, right now, hurry or we'll miss it! Those kids will end up selling something for a living. Nothing like an 4-second sales pitch for ice cream at 4:30 in the afternoon sounds right. Spoiling dinner, costs too much, I don't have any cash, you'll ruin your clothes - there's plenty of ways to get turned down. I should know, because I heard them all growing up. But the kids who succeeded, and flew to the truck on wings of pure speed, and later paraded around with those AstroPops and their red & blue tongues like they were the kings of the neighborhood - THOSE were the kids to worry about.

Wait - where was I? Oh yeah - she was happy about the bubbles.


Isn't it obvious?

Tonight as I sent Helen to give her daddy a goodnight hug and kiss, Brian asked her, "Helen, is it bedtime already?"

Helen responded with the following list: "Umm, pajamas, big hug, taking bath, brush teeth."

These are all things she does right before she goes to bed. I think all we're missing is eye rolling, the big sigh, and the "I mean really, Dad. DUH."


She's on to us

This evening, Brian's empty dinner dish sat on the ottoman as he watched the end of a football game on television. Helen walked past, noticed the plate and offered to take it to the kitchen. Brian nodded, still watching the game.

Helen picked it up, and waited expectantly, looking at him.

When he looked back at her, she asked, "Careful?"


Headline News

On Monday, Helen decided she wanted to wear panties all day. Exclusively. As in, no more diapers.

I haven't been this scared since I brought her home from the hospital.

We hadn't discussed it before, and I hadn't prepared for it (except for the panties I bought optimistically about 8 months ago and left in a drawer after one disastrous day). She has a few friends in her class who wear panties now, so I figure that was the inspiration. Instead of a diaper change, she gets to hang out in the potty room every hour. I bet if all the cool kids jumped off a cliff, she'd think about it, too.

But this time, I'm okay with the peer pressure. Because it saves me $20 a week in diapers and wipes, and honestly, I didn't have the first clue how to teach her. Instead, a room full of two-year olds took on the challenge.

She's also been pooping on the potty, which is a Very. Big. Deal. I've given her some extra incentive to make sure this happens - she gets a little Hershey's kiss afterwards. She is thrilled about this bonus, and will often ask for it. The first few times it happened, I was so excited to share the news with the grandparents, we would hop on the cellphone right away. Now, whenever she's done, she asks for chocolate candy and "call Nana." And now, instead of burdening both Nanas with all of the calls, I've tried to share the wealth with Grandpa and Pop-Pop, too. But I'm sure it'll get old soon. So one day, if you get a call from me and Helen tells you that she's eating some chocolate candy because she just pooped in the potty, I don't care if you're in a cubicle at work, or saying your wedding vows. You better stop and give Helen her props. Something like, "Aren't you a big girl! I'm so proud of you!" would be perfectly appropriate.


Where the sky is not cloudy all day

Labor Day weekend was inappropriately named. You get paid *not* to Labor, plus it's a Day, but everyone calls it a Weekend. So it really should be renamed "Labor-Free Three-Day Weekend." People, let's get on this. Write a letter to someone in Congress. I don't think they're busy right now. Certainly not with anything this important. We could have this wrapped up before next year rolls around. Really.

But I digress. After a busy summer, Labor-Free Three-Day Weekend was a chance for the Wyatt family to truly enjoy No Agenda Whatsoever. Unless you count cooking a mess o' ribs for the first Football Saturday, we really didn't do much of anything.

So, when I asked Brian if he wouldn't mind being a tourist in his own town on the holiday, he was pretty easy to please. We traveled down the road a ways to visit a former President's homesite. The 9th President of the US, Andrew Jackson, once lived nearby, and we got a chance to see his place up close.

I've always enjoyed finding new things to do like this, and it turns out this little place was much more than we expected. There's quite a large home that was rebuilt a few times (once due to a fire) and grew into a large stately manor over a period of a few decades. Much of the hardwood floor and even some of the hand-painted wallpaper in the house dates back to 1830's, which was the period of the last major renovation. In addition, several original log cabins on the property have been well-maintained and kept as part of the general tour of the property. There's a tomb with the President and his wife in a beautiful garden next to the home. It was really lovely to see it all and hear stories about General Jackson and his wife Rachel.

One of the funniest stories, though, was about a slave named Alfred. Alfred was born to Betty, the cook. He grew up with his family on Jackson's farm, working his way up to a high position in the household. When the property was sold in the 1880's to the current owners (an historical society), Alfred offered to work for them as a tour guide, if they would agree to give him "a nice funeral" and bury him in the garden near the General. The society quickly agreed to the deal, and Alfred continued to live in his cabin behind the house, giving tours to the public. The story goes that if you showed up at the front door, asked for a tour, and gave Alfred a little tip, he'd show you around the parlors and the library and the upstairs bedrooms, as well as the kitchen and smokehouse. If you didn't tip him, he'd take you in the front door, straight through the front hall to the back door, and let you right back outside.

And in the early 1900's, when Alfred died, he got his "nice funeral" - they held the service in the large front hall of the manor. There's a great picture of the assembled group at the service displayed in Alfred's old cabin. He's buried in the garden near Jackson's tomb.

Now, for the pictures!

Here's Helen under what had to be the biggest magnolia tree I've ever seen. I didn't even attempt to take a picture of the tree, or else you wouldn't have noticed My Doodlebug underneath one of the branches! And most of the leaves are on the ground because of the heat wave.

Here's Helen in the garden, with the flowers (I don't think they worried about the water restrictions!):

Here's the tomb of the President and his wife:

Here's the back porch of the house, where Helen is enjoying running up & down, while Alfred is probably spinning in his grave:


Reading Comprehension, or "Get out your #2 pencils."

This summer we had a record-setting heat wave. There were ten days in
a row with a high temperature over 100 degrees. It didn't rain for three weeks
at my house now everything in my yard is brown. The leaves fell off the trees,
even though it's still summer. The flowers are dried up. The grass crunches
under my feet. The bushes are like dried twigs stuck in the ground. I hope it
rains a lot this fall my yard really needs the water!

The paragraph above:

(a) sounds like Jennie hasn't had enough sleep this week.
(b) was a sample paragraph written for a 3rd grade class editing exercise.
(c) naturally leads into a discussion of global-warming. Again.
(d) gives Jennie an excuse to complain about yardwork.


Heat Wave

This summer we had a record-setting heat wave. There were ten days in
a row with a high temperature over 100 degrees. It didn't rain for three
weeks at my house and now everything in my yard is brown. The leaves
fell off the trees. Even though it's still summer, the flowers are dried up.
The grass crunches under my feet and the bushes are like dried twigs
stuck in the ground. I hope it rains a lot this fall. My yard really needs
the water!

The paragraph above:

(a) sounds like Jennie got some sleep and finally edited her blog entry.
(b) sounds like Jennie got SUPER SMART THIRD GRADERS to edit her blog entry.
(c) makes you wonder if global warming begins at home.
(d) reads like a subtle invitation for family, friends and neighbors to help with yardwork.

PS - I'll give you a hint: "be" smart about picking your answers.