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."