Teach a man to fish

Brian's newest obsession is fishing.  One of his co-workers has a boat, and enters a lot of bass fishing tournaments each year.  Last month he invited Brian to join him for a Sunday fishing excursion.  It meant Brian had to wake up around 4 a.m. and drive an hour away to help haul the boat to the lake.  Yes - FOUR IN THE MORNING.  He's come home that late, but he hasn't been up that early on purpose since we met.  To top it off, it was really, really cold outside.  I figured this would be a one-time deal, and I never dreamed he would enjoy it, let alone do it again.

But he came home and talked my ear off non-stop about the fishing that day.  And as soon as he had a free weekend, he went back twice more, leaving even earlier than 4 a.m. and in even colder weather.  And by the third time, I caught on to the shenanigans.  A full day on the lake, plus travel time.  That is a very long day when you do it two weekends in a row.

For me, I mean!  Let's see:  a day that starts out shivering in the freezing temps just after dawn, casting out and reeling in over and over and over, or a day with The Girl With A Thousand Questions.

Heck, I can always wear more clothes.

Now I know what they mean by "fishwife" and "carping."  Good lord.

Anyway, for Christmas I decided to be a little less selfish, and I put some bait in his stocking.  He loved it so much, he took it down to the lake behind my parents' house and spent the evening fishing.  I gave up hope for him to catch anything until around 9 p.m., when he appeared on the deck with a flashlight aimed at his prize.  My parents and I headed out to take pictures of the catfish he pulled in with his hands (the line got tangled up on the reel):

This one weighed about 15 pounds and measured about 2 feet long.  Brian's fingers were a bit chewed up from holding the fish for this picture.  After we oohed & aahed over our favorite hunter/gatherer, Brian took the catfish back down to the lake and let him go.  The fish swam off quickly and managed to avoid getting hooked again the next day, when Brian spent the entire day fishing.

The first step is admitting you have a fishing problem, and that you are powerless to stop fishing on your own.


Hung by the chimney with care

Do you have a personalized Christmas stocking?  Have you used the same one since the year you were born?

My entire life, each and every Christmas, my parents, my sister and I have had the same red velvet stockings, topped with white satin cuffs with our names in felt letters.  My grandmother made all of the stockings for us.  After her children grew up and got married, she made stockings for the spouses, and then their kids.  It made Christmas feel pretty special, to have matching stockings like that.  But I never really thought about what went into them until I got married.  At that point, Brian would have looked like the odd man out without a matching stocking on Christmas morning.  

I should have known Grandma had it all in hand.  I married Brian in mid-December, and she made sure he had a personalized stocking for Christmas.  It even has an orange T for his Tennessee degree, which must have been difficult for anyone from Oklahoma to attach on purpose.  Orange Ts aren't very popular in that state!  But she made sure he had something he loved and made him feel welcome in our family.

My grandfather had several brothers and sisters, and she spent some time in the 1950's making stockings for all of them, as well as her own family.  Keeping up with her own kids was plenty of work, let alone all her nieces and nephews.  Then her grandkids got married, and eventually my aunt and cousin joined in to help with the baby boom of great-grandkids.  Although my grandmother didn't get to meet the 2nd round of great-grandkids, she had cut out a bunch of extra stockings and cuffs that my aunt used to prepare the latest additions to the family for Christmas morning.

Here's a picture I took of Helen when her stocking arrived in 2005:

and here's a picture I took this evening with Alice and her new stocking: 


Christmas Wishes

Last month Brian & I talked about our Christmas lists, and Brian asked Helen what she wanted for Christmas. I have to hand it to her, that girl was prepared for this question. To this day, someone will ask me what I want for Christmas, and everything I would love to have flies right out of my head. I end up asking for kitchen stuff, bless my heart. But kids? They are pageant contestants, in a 24/7 prep course for the interview portion of the evening. Lists for Santa are on the tip of their tongue. I bet they schedule rehearsals during recess.

Anyway, Helen pipes up, "I want a tree with eyeballs." Brian & I looked at each other, then he dutifully wrote it down. I was completely mystified. What in the heck? A tree? With eyeballs? I pictured some animated talking Christmas tree on television that she had seen, or maybe one of those singing Christmas trees that you see in stores. I couldn't for the life of me remember seeing that anywhere with her, but perhaps she had seen one at school.

Over the next few weeks, occasionally we'd ask about what she wanted for Christmas, and to her credit, she has remained steadfastly loyal to the original list. Always, she said, "a tree with eyeballs." So last week, we sat down at dinner and tried to figure out exactly what the heck she was asking us to buy.

I asked Helen if she could draw a picture of the Christmas tree with eyeballs, or if she could point one out to me the next time she saw one, because Santa didn't know what a Christmas tree with eyeballs looked like. She corrected me quickly. "No, Mommy, not a Christmas tree - a TREE with eyeballs." Okay, my mistake. It's Christmas time. Sue me for thinking a tree mentioned at this time of year - especially this time of year - would be a Christmas tree. I said, "Okay, a tree with eyeballs. Can you tell me where you saw one?" She thought for a minute, and replied, "You know, like at Uncle John and Auntie Tine's house?"

Suddenly, the ceiling opened up and the light shone in and angels sang "AH-HA!" in one voice, like that perfect harmony you always hope for in choir practice but only manage to achieve by yourself in the shower.

We had visited Uncle John and Auntie Tine right after Halloween, when they still had all of their decorations up. Uncle John is one of those people in your neighborhood who loves Halloween a little bit too much. You know - with the gravestones on the front lawn, and the house covered with cobwebs, and a fog machine. This year's decorations included a guy in the front window with a hockey mask & a chainsaw, and "KEEP OUT" written on the window in red paint. He also has a scary head on the front porch, which can "talk" courtesy of a speaker and a microphone. John stands at the mailbox, chatting up the parents. He learns the kids' names, then pulls out the microphone. When they approach the door, the scary head "talks" to them, using their names.

There are kids who avoid their house like the plague every year. Even the bravest ones (and some approaching their teenage years) won't go on the porch. Those who screw up the courage to ring the doorbell are then greeted by this scary talking head WHO KNOWS THEIR NAME.

Yeah, John is that guy. What he spends on decorations, he saves on candy. He also gets a good workout, what with all the doubled over laughing he does at these kids, running in terror from his front porch.

The next day, I emailed them to find out if they could shed a little bit of light on the mysterious "tree with eyeballs" for me. And after they picked themselves up off the floor from laughing so hard, I learned exactly what Helen was talking about.

We had arrived at their house in the afternoon, and Helen was a little bit cautious approaching the front door. Nothing was turned on yet, since it was still daylight. But the head was a little scary, and she told me so. I kept saying, "Oh, that's silly!" until we got inside. She was wearing her own Halloween costume, so we focused on "trick or treat!" and made it in the door with no problems. I was playing with the baby and visiting with friends, so I didn't know that later that evening, she went outside with Auntie Tine and her cousin to see the whole show at night. At first, she was a little frightened of the tree with eyeballs, but her cousin loved it so much, she realized there was no way that it could be scary. So folks, I present to you Helen's #1 Christmas wish: a Halloween decoration. By the way, it's not a tree - it's the bush behind the tree.

God bless us, every one.


Today, when I picked up Helen from daycare, I found this picture in her folder. I'm sure her teachers would love to know the story, too!



"In English," the teacher said, "A double negative forms a positive. In some languages, though, such as Russian, a double negative is still a negative. However, there is no language where a double positive can form a negative."

A voice from the back of the room piped up, "Yeah, right."


This one goes out to my Grandpa:

Did you hear about the baby revolution in South America?
It was a kitchy-kitchy coup.


What's orange and sounds like a parrot?

A carrot.


What's green and has wheels?

Grass. I lied about the wheels.


Feel free to add one of your own in the comments!


The ones where Helen gets the punchlines

Helen:  I want a Happy Meal for dinner.

Jennie:  Helen, you had a Happy Meal last night.  We're having spaghetti tonight.

Helen:  No, I want a Happy Meal.  I want chicken nuggets ... and apples ... and french fries ...

Jennie:  You had one yesterday, remember?  We got you a hamburger and french fries from Wendy's.  You had a Happy Meal last night.  

Helen:  (angrily)  Wendy's is NOT a Happy Meal.  Wendy's is just FOOD.

Jennie:  (speechless)


Brian:  Helen, who do you love most in the whole wide world?

Helen:  Daddy!

Brian:  (quietly, to me)  Ha!

Helen:  ... and Mommy ...

Brian:  (hangs head)

Helen:  ... and Alice ...

Brian:  Sheesh.  Don't forget the kitties!

Helen:  Daddy!  I don't love the kitties.


My Doll

When Helen was born, I got a gift from her great-grandmother.  She sent a baby outfit and a matching Carter's doll.  My cousin told me later that she had taken her to the store, and my grandmother picked it out herself.  Considering that she was already in somewhat poor health at that time, it meant a lot to me that she had gone out and done that.

I treasure the doll.  Carter's has been a big part of dressing both of my babies, so it's nice to have a lasting reminder of the adorable little clothes that my girls can play with for years to come.  

And when my grandmother passed away about a year later, I realized that gift meant even more.  She would never get to meet her other great-grandchildren or pick something out for them that she thought they might like.  

At my work baby shower for Alice, I was in a room full of people opening presents and was startled to find another Carter's doll.  There was no way my co-worker could have known about it.  And in a way, it was like Grandma was right there with me, letting me know that she wanted this one to have something special, too.

I know pregnancy is an emotional time that comes with its own set of irrational thoughts and weepy moments, but that's what I was thinking.  And 4 months after the pregnancy has ended, I still believe it.

Alice loves this little doll.  It's very soft and squeezeable, and when she gets a little sleepy, I put the baby in her arms and she pulls it toward her face to chew on it.  

I really miss Grandma.


5 things I am thankful for

1 - Marble Slab Creamery, just down the street.  Every 5th purchase is free.  I love the double dark chocolate with cherries mixed in.  Crave it, actually.  Crap, now I have to go get some.

2 - Alice got her rotavirus vaccination about 2 months ago.  It's a recent development (they didn't have them when Helen was an infant) that has drastically cut down on doctor visits for that "stomach bug" that families pass around to each other.  This month, Helen & I both got the actual virus.   As we've spent too much time over a toilet, I'm thankful that I don't have to worry about Alice getting this one.

3 - My job.  In this economy, I'm glad I'm employed somewhere I love to go each day.  I've been very lucky to land in a great place with great people.

4 - We've worked pretty hard on getting Helen to learn all of her letters by sight.  She's really picked it up in a very short timeframe.  It's an amazing feeling to watch her learn.

5 - Our library card.  It's our newest Saturday afternoon tradition - head down and pick out 10 books to read.  It's a great way to cancel out the whole "I've read that 100 times since your birth, and if I never see that book again, it'll be too soon."

Thanks, S. - and Happy Turkey Day to you all!



Here are 5 things I don't ever want to forget that Helen says.

1. "Callapitter" instead of caterpillar.
It now takes me forever to figure out in my head how to say it right. Some days, under extreme sleep deprivation, "callapitter" sounds like a good choice.

2. For a long time we called a serving of chicken "bock bock" after the sound that a chicken makes. Helen started it as a toddler, and after a while I was doing it, too. Giving this some serious thought lately, I don't know if Helen has actually put together that the chickens that walk around clucking are the same ones that end up in her Happy Meal. But calling it "bock bock" might be the best way to reinforce that very image. So I stopped doing it. Call me chicken (pun intended), but I'm not ready for that conversation yet.

3. For words that start with "Y" she uses the "L" sound. Especially "yellow" which is now "lellow." Typical conversation:

Jennie: What color is the sun?

Helen: Lellow.

Jennie: No, it's yellow, Helen. Ye-llow. Say it.

Helen: Le-llow.

Jennie: No. Try this. Ye ...

Helen: Ye ...

Jennie: llow.

Helen: llow.

Jennie: Ye .. llow.

Helen: Le ... llow.

Jennie: *sigh*

And for some unknown reason, L words got the Y treatment last year, like "Yama" instead of "Llama" or "Yove" instead of "Love." We worked *forever* on sticking that tongue between the teeth to make the L sound, and she finally got the hang of it. Now we're working on the reverse with the Y words. It never ends, people. But I realize, mine is not to reason why, mine is but to teach that kid how to speak correctly, or die penniless because she never graduated from med school with that speech impediment. "What we'll do is make a yateral incision along the yeft ventricle ..." "Uh, there's the exit. Use it."

4. Last weekend, we went to the "Libarry." It is my firm belief that at least four out of every ten adults INSIDE THE LIBRARY still say "libarry." So this may not be easily fixed.

5. Lately, Helen doesn't want us to leave the room without sharing something vital. If I get up to check on the baby or head to the kitchen, Helen asks me to wait, she has to tell me something. And then I pause while she struggles to make something up to tell me. It's a delaying tactic, I get it. And my sole purpose is to get out of the conversation quickly, so I can get on with what I was going to do, before I forget what it was. So I don't really engage her, and yet she comes up with these gems off the top of her head that are so sweet.

The one where I get the punchline:

Helen: Mommy, I have to tell you something.

Jennie: What is it?

Helen: You're the bestest mommy, ever.

Jennie: I know!

The one where Brian gets the punchline:

Helen: Daddy, I have to tell you something.

Brian: What?

Helen: You're my daddy.

Brian: That's what they tell me.


Party Pooper

So this weekend I caved. I took Helen to a child's birthday party.

I know, I know. I had sort of hoped that my year-long boycott would somehow start a trend and that people would finally give up trying to entertain toddlers with a $200 party place and goody bags and an elaborate cake and a one present minimum.

But for some strange reason, a child's birthday seems to have ballooned into an entire industry. Go figure.

Since we're at the new daycare, my reasoning for accepting just this once seemed sound: jump into the fray with an entirely new clique of parents. Meet people. Be social. You know - a good time to give this gig a second chance.

Instead, I was reminded of just how much THIS IS NOT MY GIG.

The party child sleeps on a mat next to Helen's at daycare, so they're friends. The parents were perfectly nice and took a moment to come over and introduce themselves to me. They said really sweet things about Helen, which I appreciated. But folks, I'm one of the first parents to drop off in the morning, and one of the last to pick up at night. So I don't know any of the kids, and I really don't know the parents. I think everyone else must have assumed I was family, because I had to walk up and talk to people to get more than a passing smile. And I couldn't reciprocate with nice things about their children, except "Oh, Helen talks about him all the time," while I'm thinking of David Spade from SNL, "And you are ...?"

The party took place at one of those indoor inflatable jump places, which sounded like a great way to wear Helen out on a weekend afternoon. But because of the blowers and the blaring party music, it ended up being noisier than the bars I remember from my single days. It was difficult to talk to anyone unless you were standing right next to them. So I spent most of my time holding Alice and watching Helen bounce. I think she had a ball - she ran around a lot, and she seemed to know the kids there. But to me, nothing beats the old-fashioned playdate: meeting a friend at the playground for some slides and swings and juiceboxes. I can chat with the parents and get to know them, instead of anonymously standing around and not talking to each other.

I've managed to give birth to two kids with summer birthdays - probably scarring them for life that they can't have cupcake day at school! Brian & I talked often about what we wanted for our kids, and a giant party they won't remember was definitely not one of them. So Year 1 was cupcakes in her high chair. Year 2: lather, rinse, repeat. Year 3: more cupcakes, plus a $2 box of popsicles for her classmates at daycare. Next year, we may get an inflatable bouncy something in the backyard. But we won't have to invite a dozen kids to make it worthwhile - Helen and Alice could have it all to themselves!

What I could see in future years to celebrate their big day: inviting a couple of their best friends over for some time at the neighborhood pool. Maybe they could have a sleepover if they wanted it. I'm sure they sound like boring old-fashioned parties that nobody has anymore, plus it's so much work and it messes up your house to have a bunch of kids over. But why spend weekends going to the same party places over and over? My greatest wish for their birthdays is a party they'll remember. I don't remember most of mine, although Mom swears up & down I had them. And for some reason, my 29th birthday is a total blank. Hmm.

What's the first birthday party you can remember? Let me know. I wonder if it's just me being ridiculous about this whole thing. I've seen scads of posts on parenting websites and while everyone has ideas for themes and games and cakes and goody bags, not one single parent expresses my level of frustration at having to stand around at these events with nothing better to do than watch your child. So maybe it's just me, and you can feel free to tell me to just get over it. And if it's not just me - speak up!


Next up: Safety Patrol

Brian's friends at work asked him to join them on a fishing trip on Sunday.

Brian:  He asked me if I needed to get a hall pass.

Jennie:  As if!  You don't have to get a hall pass from me.

Brian:  Yeah, I told him he had it all wrong.  He should have married someone who didn't like him.

Jennie:  Then you get all the hall passes you can handle.


Family Jargon

If you've ever checked out the list of blogs I read, one is a community blog called "Ask MetaFilter."  Basically, it's a large group of people who live for the internet, some of whom are experts in their chosen fields.  The site's purpose is to ask questions and post answers on a variety of topics.  Questions range from technical details on setting up a webpage to the ethical dilemmas that pop up at work to the dire psychological problems in a relationship - even hypothetical situations are fair game.

I noticed one yesterday as I perused the site for some interesting reading, where a poster was looking for examples of family jargon.  Going beyond just the average inside jokes, the poster wanted to learn more about the origins of the terms, and if outsiders would be clueless hearing them used in the average dinner conversation.

There were over 100 responses, some of which were downright hilarious.  And it got me to thinking about our own family jargon that I grew up with.  I'll explain some of them to you.

A lot of family jargon comes from kids who make up words or have trouble with pronunciation.  As long as I can remember, the clothes you wear to bed in my family have been called "nighty-suits."  The true origin is lost in the hazy mists of my memory, but I'm guessing this came from my mom's own childhood.  And my mom still uses this phrase today.

We've all been there - Mom would get tired of figuring out what to cook the troops for dinner.  Or we'd have some leftovers, but not enough to serve the entire family for another meal.  So Mom would call for a Scrounge Night, and we could dig whatever we wanted out of the fridge or the pantry to cook for ourselves.  It went without saying that the meal had to fulfill certain nutritional requirements (i.e., cookies are not a meal) but as long as we reheated it ourselves, we could enjoy it.

Every summer, my grandparents would meet my parents halfway between our house and theirs, and my sister & I would get in their car and go spend a week at their house.  Usually our cousins would meet us there to hang with us that week.  Many years later, I learned that it was informally called Camp Grandma by our parents.  We had waterfront activities just about every single day.  Also, we did arts and crafts.  Often there were cooking lessons.  Also, we went to see the outdoor amphitheater performance of "Oklahoma!" near their home.  Grandma even enforced a "naptime" every afternoon.  And if the trip coincided with July 4th, we walked down to the river to see the city's fireworks show.  Later, my sister & I used "Camp Grandma" to refer to our own parents caring for our cats while we were out of town.  I don't think they had to enforce naptime, though.

Based on the Gary Larson cartoon here, my sister and I make the same gesture and repeat "School for the Gifted" whenever we do something really dumb.  Sometimes we just do the gesture, without saying the words.  

In my mid-twenties, I moved back in with my parents after ending a long-term relationship out of state.  I worked downtown and commuted about 45 minutes back home.  Sometimes I'd offer to pick up dinner on the way home.  My parents would call in and I'd stop to pick it up.  And just as often, my dad would pick it up.  On one of those occasions, we discovered just how many times we had called a particular Chinese restaurant for takeout.  As my dad came in, the hostess greeted him, "Ah, Mr. Brown, you cook in the car tonight?"  We all loved the idea of "cooking in the car" so much, that's how we refer to all takeout food.

Please please please contribute an example of your own family jargon in the comments!  I'd love to hear more.



Today Alice had some tummy time on the Boppy.

Also, Brian played his video game.  Alice helpfully commented here and there on his strategy.

Not sure if you can see it in the background, but we turned the fireplace on today.  It was a bit chilly outside and very overcast.

All in all, a very quiet Sunday.  Funny how I crave these kind of weekends after a bunch of busy ones in a row.

Under the Sea

Helen is an avid fan of all things Disney.  About a year ago, we watched Cinderella together, and since then, she's been hooked.  "Little Mermaid" is a big favorite.  She especially enjoys singing all of the songs.

Yes, that's right - she sings.  But she's inherited her mother's skills, which means you shouldn't get your hopes up about seeing her on American Idol any time soon, unless it's the Worst of American Idol Auditions.

Below I've embedded the YouTube video of "Part of Your World."  It's a touching song, one of Disney's finest moments, where the teenager Ariel laments about how her blockhead of a father just doesn't understand her because she wants to be on land with all the humans and the prince of her dreams.

My favorite moments in motherhood lately are when Helen sings snippets from this song.  She even adopts the "breathy" singing, when Ariel whispers some of the lines.  Watch the first minute here (you don't have to watch the whole thing, unless you're a giant fan).

I mention all of the above to tell you that Helen has a problem with pronouns.  Instead of "she wants" Helen will say "her wants."  Now I've noticed that she sings that way, too.  So at the end of that first minute, where Ariel sings, "Looking around here you'd think, 'Sure, she's got everything'," Helen will change the words to instead sing, "Her got everything."  CRACKS ME UP.

I babysat for a little boy who had pronoun problems.  Instead of using "I" he would say "me" - as in, "Me want juice."   And there was the 3-year old who talked about himself in the third person - as in, "Bob want juice."  So I know this is common - and also temporary.

But I'm trying hard to notice this cute stuff, because one day Helen will yell at me about not letting her take the car, upset that I'm being a blockhead who doesn't understand what she really wants, and I'll be able to sing "Sure, her got everything" and MAKE HER EVEN MADDER.  Because that's what moms live for, dontcha know.


The Week From ... Well, You Know.

Sometimes you have one of those weeks where absolutely everything you touch turns to mush.

Last Monday we got back from vacation after midnight, and the next morning after sitting 4 days in cold weather, my car was acting up. When I pulled out of the driveway, it wouldn't shift out of first on time. The RPMs kept revving higher and higher until finally CLUNK it shifted into second. I don't pretend to be an expert on cars, but one thing I do know: CLUNK is not a sound you want to hear coming from the front of your car. I stopped at a few red lights during my short commute that morning, and with traffic building behind me, my car would start off slowly. I'd curse a blue streak and then CLUNK, it finally shifted into second. Eventually, when the car warmed up and I had run out of colorful phrases to use, it shifted normally. But that took some time, of course. And when you've got 2 kids to drop off at daycare and a bus to catch, time is of the essence. Plus, there's the whole "Helen, those are Mommy words" vocabulary lesson I have to give.  I chalked some of the car's problem up to being cold and not used for 4 days, but I was still concerned. In November, the weather isn't going to get any warmer.

I mentioned it to Brian, who was having a really busy week after taking vacation. He promised to take a look at it soon. The car did pretty much the same thing every time I turned it on - reverting to normal after it warmed to temp. On Thursday's commute, the car's check engine light came on. So I knew things were going from bad to worse.

Friday Brian checked under the hood, and the transmission fluid was fine. The hoses were in good shape. He did some googling for transmission problems in Hondas, and with fear in his heart on Monday, he drove it to a mechanic who kept it overnight in order to test drive it cold. The next day he reported back that yes, there was internal damage, and yes, we needed to replace the transmission. He gave Brian a piece of paper that had an impossibly long string of numbers next to a dollar sign.

Brian met me for lunch with a copy of the estimate in hand. Aside from using insurance proceeds to fix damage from an accident, I've never spent that much to fix any car I've owned - EVER. We both sat at the table in stunned silence, trying to absorb the shock. Then Brian said, "I didn't tell the guy it was my birthday. Maybe he'd give me a discount." He looked at me, and he had tears standing in his eyes. That got me teary, and let's just say lunch wasn't any fun after that.

This week Brian borrowed his brother's car while mine is at the shop. His brother's car doesn't have a backseat, which I need for both car seats. So now I'm driving the kids around in his company car. Keep in mind I'm catching the bus to work. After dropping off the kids, I drive about a mile down the road and park my car at a local drug store with a bus stop right out front. Let's just say for the sake of the story that the drugstore is called Ballpeens.

Yesterday, Brian needed to use the company car instead of his brother's car, so at 7 AM he went to the drug store and left his brother's car there, taking his. Later that afternoon, he returned to the lot to give it back, so I could arrive on the bus and drive it to get the kids. Instead of finding his brother's car where he left it that morning, he finds that half of the parking lot roped off and resurfaced - AND ALL THE CARS ARE GONE.

Did anyone else hear that CLUNK?

Heading inside the store, he learned that Ballpeens has towed our car. No warning signs the day before or even that morning, but rather a construction crew that arrived at 10:30 a.m. and after checking with all customers in the store, they had it towed.

I have two questions.

A - What kind of construction crew starts work at TEN THIRTY?

B - You towed the car across town? Really? You couldn't just tow it TO THE OTHER HALF OF THE PARKING LOT?

Brian waited for me to arrive on the bus, and we picked up the kids and drove across town to pick up the car. What we expected to be a simple operation requiring money to exchange hands, turned out to require a phone call to his brother and faxed signed documents authorizing them to release the car to Brian. Oh, and money, too.

In the meantime, I'm sitting in the tow truck's parking lot with a hungry hungry hippo in the backseat and - thank god - a sleeping baby. Helen doesn't understand why Daddy is taking so long, and by the way, do I have any snacks? or anything to drink? How about now? No? Are you sure? Hey Mommy, when's Daddy coming back? Do you have anything to drink? Why is Daddy taking so long? Is he getting us any food?

And Brian has to head out for his company softball game, so he's got better things to do than wait on all the formalities, too. From picking up the kids to picking up the car, it took over an hour, and that close to dinnertime, it really really sucked. We parted ways in the parking lot. I decided on the way home to lose the grumpiness because there was really no way I could take this out on Helen, so after eating some leftover mac & cheese, we all curled up in our bed and watched Alice in Wonderland while I fed the baby.

Brian's team got drilled in the softball game, so instead of heading out to eat with co-workers after the game, he came straight home.

I called the drug store this morning, and they said they didn't tow it to the other side of the parking lot because that would have cost THEM money, not me. I'm like, hey, we would have paid it if you told me we had 2 options - pay you, or pay the tow truck driver across town with my car behind a locked gate and a hungry hungry hippo in the car an hour past her dinnertime. She said, hey, I didn't know that. And don't park there anymore.

Gah. Have a little heart, giant corporate drug store manager.  You have a huge lot that's never full, and a bus stop right there.  It's for customers, you say?  I buy a coke or something I need about twice a week from that store since I started parking there, but not anymore.  Now I've got a drug store chain to boycott, and a new parking lot to find.


That's Spooky

So we had a little holiday this past weekend that most kids tend to enjoy.  Helen is no exception.  Her daycare teacher is the biggest fan of Halloween so Helen has come home every day with one spooky art project after another.  Or a Halloween song.  Fortunately, nothing from Rocky Horror Picture Show.

So, here are the obligatory costume pics.  Helen was a beautiful Snow White.  Her costume has little sparkly red gems on it.  She loves to wear it, like, ALL THE TIME.  I found a good hiding place for it the week before Halloween, just so she wouldn't sleep in it.

Alice recycled a costume from Helen's first Halloween, what I like to call the Pink Bunny Costume from "A Christmas Story."

This looks says, "No! No! I want an Official Red Ryder Carbine-Action Two-Hundred-Shot Range Model Air Rifle!"

And what do we say, folks?  All together now:  "You'll shoot your eye out, kid."


We Have a Winner

Brian's company provides rewards for meeting certain sales goals, and this fall they were offering a long weekend for both of us at an all-inclusive resort in the Dominican Republic.  In June, Brian had done the math after having an exceptional couple of weeks, and he was already halfway there.  He really wanted to go on this trip, and he vowed to make it happen for us.

At the time, I was pregnant.  I thought, hey, we'll have a very little baby then!  Won't that be a problem?  Brian assured me that the company would let us take a baby if I was nursing.  I knew Brian would work very hard to get there, but my thought was, let's worry about that when he meets the goal.

Brian kept selling all summer.  He was racking up the deals.  I was thrilled for him but waited to make any plans.

And then I went through labor and delivery and maternity leave, which was sort of distracting.  Just as I headed back to work, Brian hit the last week of the program and learned he had qualified.  We had a trip to the Dominican to book on the 4th weekend of October.

So, now it was time to worry about what to do.  I knew Helen would have a ball with her grandparents, but I went back and forth on what to do with Alice.  Four whole days away from an 11-week old baby is rough on both mom and baby.  I could take my breast pump with me, and Alice is used to getting bottles at daycare, but the connection is not the same.  She recognizes my voice now, and god, that smile!  She really is a happy baby, and I would just miss her.  I didn't want to ruin the progress we were making together, and I couldn't imagine leaving her behind.

And then I thought, Dominican Republic.  I don't know if you are catching the news on this place lately, but it's in a bit of political unrest right now, and that's putting it mildly.  Also, the middle of the Carribbean at the end of hurricane season could be dangerous.  On top of that, they tell you not to drink the water.  And it's hot and humid and there's sand everywhere.  So maybe not the best place to bring a new infant.  

So, in the end, I told Brian to book it for just the two of us, and we made plans for Helen and Alice to stay with her grandparents.  I spent weeks pumping and freezing extra milk for the baby.  And then the day finally came - we got up at the crack of dawn last Friday, drove to the airport in the pouring rain, boarded a plane and headed due south.

Of course, it was an incredible trip.  We never left the resort to do any sightseeing around town, but instead spent the entire time relaxing, sleeping, and enjoying the beautiful beach.  Oh, and eating and drinking.  The food was fantastic, and the drinks were amazing.  

Coming back home, we discovered the temperatures hit freezing.  Helen had so much fun with her grandparents, now she actually cries at night and tells me how much she misses them.  And the baby didn't seem any worse for the absence.   Alice spent her time hitting them up for more bottles, and when I took her to daycare, they mentioned she suddenly wanted to be held all the time.

Hmm.  I wonder why.

Below are some pictures of the resort.   Just plain awesome doesn't begin to describe it.

Our rooms were surrounded by gorgeous lush Carribbean landscaping - lots of flowers and palm trees everywhere.

Of course, the beach was a big favorite.  The sun was a bit strong, so I stayed under those huts all weekend.  It was either that or look for SPF 480.  
They had these beds by the pool area for lounging and snoozing. 
And here's the pool area.  Not too shabby.
Wait, how'd that get in there?!  That is a Mai Tai of extraordinary goodness.  In fact, they were so delicious, I ordered two at a time.

And there is Brian's favorite, the Bloody Mary.  Secret ingredient:  soy sauce. 

All in all, it was a fantastic four days.  Very relaxing to get a bunch of hours of sleep in a row and have a little bit of peaceful quiet and ocean waves to enjoy.  I'd recommend the place to anyone looking for a nice vacation spot, and I wouldn't mind going back there again.  

But it sure was nice to hug the girls when we got home.


The Solution

We all have those mornings where we wake up in the wrong mood, or we don't like any of our clothes, or breakfast just doesn't sit right. Everyone you see crosses you the wrong way or says the wrong thing to you, and life is just monumentally unfair from the moment your eyes open.

Brian is saying to himself, "This is what Jennie is like after 8:30 at night!"

Hmm. Anyway.

Last week, Helen had that morning. We got to daycare, and she just wasn't ready for it. She knew the drill with the transition - get out of the car, get Alice to her room, give her hugs & kisses, and then head to her room - but as soon as I was shutting the door to the infant room, Helen went into full-on whine mode. As in, I don't want to go to daycare, I don't want you to leave, I don't know what else I want but right now YOU'RE NOT DOING ANYTHING RIGHT WHINE WHINE WHINE.

When you're three years old, life is hard. You think you can do it all by yourself, and you definitely want to, but you don't have any marketable skills to put on your resume except "makes messes" or "screws up a perfectly good schedule." If you can paddle your canoe upstream, just because you can, you do. Even if that's not what your parents want you to do.

From the moment she was able to speak, I have taught her Mommy's Rules, which are as follows:

1. No whining.
2. No crying.
3. Do what Mommy says.
4. See Rule #3.

These rules cover a wealth of mistakes and potential problems. If she's in timeout, she knows why. Not doing what Mommy said is usually the biggest offense. But the whining gets me mad in a hurry, and I've tried my best to get her to stop doing it. She's okay about it most days, depending on how much she wants to watch Little Mermaid.

Last week marked her second week in a new daycare, and she had been doing stellar up to that point. I wanted her to do well, and I wanted her to like the new place. But that morning she kept telling me she wanted to go back to the old daycare, that she didn't want to be in the new daycare. And she really didn't want me to leave. She just wanted to bury her head in my neck, wrap her arms around me and never let go. Oh yeah - and the whining.

And instead of being mad, for once I was really, really sorry for her. I understood. Everything was still so new for her. Having one day in the past two weeks as Whiny Kid at dropoff time - well, that earned a free pass. Sympathy kicked in. So instead of getting mad at her about missing my bus or needing to hurry or being late for work, I took a deep breath and tried to talk her through it. I gave her all the reasons why the new daycare was better (she gets to see her sister, she gets to make new friends, she gets to learn new things, her teachers love her, etc.). She wasn't buying any of it. Her grip kept getting tighter, and I could not put her down at all.

This is exactly why they tell you not to reason with toddlers. I mean, she understands it, but that doesn't mean she has to agree with it. "Because I said so" is a perfectly legitimate response from a mom. But today, I knew I couldn't use it. I wanted her to be happy when I left, so that the next day and the day after that and every day would be easier for her. Forcing the issue today would only make it harder for everyone tomorrow.

Finally, I called her teacher over and explained that we were having a hard time this morning, and that Helen really wanted to go to her old daycare. Her teacher was not the least bit offended, and in fact was very sweet and gentle with Helen. Telling her that she had a toy she wanted Helen to come over and play with didn't work. Tack #2 was the trick, though. She said, "Helen, you know what, let's go over here and play with this, and then, after snack, I'll let you go see your sister, and you can give her a bottle. Okay?"

Helen's head popped up immediately. She looked at me, smiled, kissed me goodbye, and leaned over to her teacher. I mean, she changed in a SNAP.

Bribery will get you everywhere with a three-year old.

Alice has nursed since the day she was born. For the entire maternity leave, I nursed her. I pump at work so she gets bottles at daycare. No one else has fed this baby except her daycare teachers. Not even Brian has given her a bottle. Helen hasn't even asked to feed the baby - I don't think it occurred to her to ask, since she knows Alice gets her milk from Mommy. So this was a VERY. BIG. DEAL.

The teacher took a picture of them together at that feeding.

She hasn't made a peep about going back to the old daycare.


Wait, WHAT did you say that was called?

So Alice is now the proud owner of one of the hottest baby items: a Bumbo seat.

I don't think they were selling these seats when Helen was a baby, and walking around Toys'R'Us last weekend, I decided Alice needed one. She's not quite holding her head up by herself, but she definitely lifts it for long periods of time, so I thought it would be good for her.

Turns out I was right.

Oh, and Helen likes it, too.


Wedding Day

One of Helen's daycare teachers and sometime babysitter got married, and invited us to the wedding.   Brian had to attend a football cookout at his boss's house, so it was just us.   A girls' night out! 

Okay, so not really.  And you might ask what would possess a woman with a 3-year old and a 2-month old to pack up the kids and drive 45 minutes across town to a wedding that takes place an hour before dinner time.

You can ask. You won't get a response that makes any sense, other than "I hadn't worn my favorite little black dress in a *really* long time, okay?"

I spent the day thinking about timing and what I would need while I was away from the house.  When you nurse a baby, everything you do in a day comes down to a simple equation:  

Travel time (A) + last feeding time (B) = when is the next feeding? (C)  
where A = 45 and B = ...

oh, screw it, we all know C = NOW

So traveling that far with a baby who could be hungry upon arrival meant "BE PREPARED" or possibly "DANGER WILL ROBINSON."  Factoring in Helen's naptime prior to leaving and preparing everyone to get out of the house in wedding finery - well, I'm sure it didn't take this much work to get to troops to Iraq. 

The wedding itself was picture perfect. The bridesmaids were dressed in black satin strapless sheaths, with a fushia sash around their waists. They carried gorgeous white rose bouquets, and all of them looked like a million bucks. The bride wore a bright white strapless dress with plenty of tulle and sparkling sequins, and carried a bright pink bouquet of roses. The groom and his groomsmen wore black suits with black shirts. The groom's tie was white, and the groomsmen wore fuschia ties. Sort of a late 70's mafia look, which I'll admit is difficult for guys from the deep South to pull off with any degree of success.

The bride had not been over to babysit for us in quite some time, but Helen remembered her right away. She was the model child during the wedding - finding a pencil and something to write on, she busied herself with scribbling a few things for me. Fortunately, Alice took a short nap with a good pacifier, so we didn't have a single squawk out of either of them. And it was one of those quick Protestant ceremonies - no sermon, even - so we were out in about 12 minutes.

I should have known that would be the easy part.

The reception was at a nearby country club, which had a back patio set up on a hillside that overlooked a gorgeous mountain scene. The sun was about an 30 minutes away from setting when I got this great picture of Helen.

Shortly after this was taken, Alice decided to scream in agony about gas pains for nearly 30 minutes. This has happened before, and there's nothing I can do except give her a little bit of gas medicine and pat her back. Eventually she burps, but it can take a while. I felt horrible after about 2 minutes on the patio with all the wedding guests trying to enjoy the gorgeous view, and here was a screaming baby out there with them, so we ended up in the parking lot, with me in the car trying to soothe her and Helen running around picking flowers. I was inches away from giving up and going home when Alice finally burped. So we settled down, and I gave her a little dinner bottle, and that's when the bride & groom pulled up in their getaway vehicle.

Oh, how I wanted to get in behind the driver's seat and take off.  

Helen was all about the dancing at the reception. In fact, she was the only one who danced most of the evening. She also spent quite a bit of time chatting up the DJ.  I believe at one point she mentioned that her daddy knows all of the songs to the Lion King.  To his credit, he was the soul of patience and acted interested in everything she wanted to tell him.  He did, however, ask me to let him know when I was ready for the Chicken Dance.  I'm not sure if that was an insult or if he was serious, but I told him that I would NEVER be ready for the Chicken Dance.  Hopefully he got the message and sent it to other wedding DJs.  I'm here for you, people.  

Here, Helen shakes her groove thang.

I don't know where they got their cake, but it was amazing. Very heavy and moist.  Here, Helen contemplates the mystery of delicious, sugary frosting.

I didn't get any pictures of me in that little black dress, though.  Probably a good thing.



Six unremarkable things about me

My cousin tagged me, which I have figured out means I need to do a blog entry with this theme.  Since the purpose of this blog is to catalog many of the unremarkable things that happen to me every day, I'll just have to come up with some things you haven't heard before.  Wish me luck.

1.  My Wii fitness age is currently 75.  That Wii is just damn lucky to be alive right now.  

2.  I have a black cat named Max who turned 13 this week.  I can remember the day I got him so well.  He's been with me through some big changes in my adult life, and he's the biggest bundle of unconditional love.  I don't appreciate him nearly enough, and it's getting harder to pay attention to him with 2 kids running our lives these days.  Through it all, I know he's just secretly wishing he could live with my parents again, out on their screened-in porch.

3.  I have several seasons of Buffy the Vampire Slayer on DVD, and I watch the musical episode from Season 6 about once a month.   I treated myself to a viewing before heading back to work.  Now I can't get Xander & Anya's tune out of my head.  

4.  I love love love the "In Memorium" segments on the Oscars and the Emmys, as they recall who died the previous year.  Yes, I'm a morbid award show watcher.  It always strikes me as a little wierd when people clap for the more famous people, like "Oh, he died!"  (clap, clap, clap)  Anyway, sometimes I get a little choked up and teary at the loss of so many talented people.  I'm already a little sad just thinking about seeing Paul Newman's name up there next spring.  

5.  I do not know how to use a lawn mower.  Or, as my husband would put it, I have refused to learn how to use a lawn mower.  Yard work is not something I have tried to learn.  I'm much more of a laundry person.  This might explain why our bushes are completely overgrown, but right now the kids' clothes are clean, folded, and put away.

6.  I got new contacts last week.  Helen immediately noticed the glasses were gone, and she asked me if I had my contacts.  She even said it correctly!