Thursday, May 31, 2007

What Really Goes On

I used to have a job. I mean, a job that paid. But after Claire was born, I quit my job to stay home with her. When Claire was a couple of months old, I remember one of my close friends asking if I was able to get a lot of projects done now that I wasn't working anymore. Unless taking a shower and brushing my teeth everyday counted as projects, the answer was no.

Now that I've got three and a half years of stay-at-home mom experience under my belt, things are much easier and basic hygiene is no longer a luxury. While I'm still not getting around to any big projects, we do manage to have a lot of fun. So I thought I'd give you a glimpse of what really goes on around here...

Here is what happens when Claire is allowed to dress herself. Please note that this picture was taken last week, and it definitely was not St. Patrick's Day. Also, those shorts are a size 24 months. Claire wears a size 3T. Don't ask about the goggles.

This is Arden caught in the act. One of her favorite activities is to unload my kitchen drawers. It is especially helpful when she takes all the pots and pans out and leaves them in the floor.

Claire loves craft time because it means she gets to use glue and scissors. This is actually not a fair representation of craft time because it appears that she has completed a craft, when usually, she just smears glue sticks all over the construction paper and then cuts slits in it.

I've mentioned Arden's love affair with toilet paper before. I was not exaggerating. Given the chance, she can unravel an entire roll in 30 seconds. That's got to be some kind of record.

This is by far Claire's favorite activity, and one I'm sure we'll be doing a lot this summer. Again, with the goggles.

Staying at home isn't exactly what I imagined it would be (before I started doing it). My house isn't as organized as I thought it would be. It's never quiet. I don't get the sit down and watch Oprah or the Price is Right. I haven't gotten around to cleaning out the attic. There is a never-ending pile of laundry to be done. The girls' baby books aren't up to date. The list could go on and on...

But who else, besides a stay-at-home mom, gets to dance with their kids in the middle of the afternoon? Or eat Popsicles on the patio before nap time? Or play Candyland at 8:00 in the morning (OK, that one is actually not a highlight and if you've ever attempted to play a board game with Claire, you know what I'm talking about). I may not get very many projects accomplished, but I wouldn't trade this for anything. Well, if you catch me on a bad day, I might say I would, but I wouldn't mean it.

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

An Earful

Claire has another double ear infection, or as she calls it, "ear infrection." In a move that will likely land me the title of Mother of the Year, I ignored Claire when she told me last Thursday that she couldn't hear because her ear hurt. I assumed it was a ploy to get permission to turn the volume up on her DVD headphones. On Friday when she told me she wanted to take a nap, I was so busy reveling in the thought of two hours to myself that it didn't occur to me that Claire never voluntarily naps. And on Saturday when we took her to the neighborhood pool and she refused to get in past the top step, I just thought she was scared of the water.
What finally got my attention was the pitiful three year old who burst into my room at midnight, burning up with fever and sobbing because her ears hurt. Jason got kicked to the couch and Claire "slept" with me for the rest of the night. Before you go and start feeling sorry for Jason, let me assure you that sleeping on the couch was the better end of the deal that night. Claire and I were up most of the night and just as I was falling asleep, I heard my other sweet girl waking up. I looked at the clock, sure it was still the middle of the night, and was both relieved and saddened that it was 5:00 in the morning. Relieved because the night was over, but sad because the day had begun and I was exhausted.
Claire had a double ear infection a month ago, so I knew right away (well, like after three days of symptoms) that this was the same thing. But since I'm not a doctor and since it was Sunday and our pediatrician was obviously closed, Claire and I had the joy of visiting the local Urgent Care clinic. In my 31 years, I've never been to one of these. If you've never been to one, believe me, you're not missing out. I'll spare you the details about how I made Claire stay in my lap, sprayed the potty with Lysol (why does this child have to visit every bathroom in every building we enter?), and basically bathed both Claire and myself in GermX when we got back to the car.
After nearly an hour of waiting and being exposed to who knows what, we finally saw the doctor who agreed with my diagnosis. He then let me chose what antibiotic to use and told us to follow up after Claire finishes her medication. Um, yeah, only if by "follow-up," you mean with our beloved Dr. Jackson.
It's really too bad that being a mom doesn't qualify you for prescription writing privileges. It sure would eliminate a lot of doctor visits and trips to the Urgent Care clinic. But what do I know? I let my kid walk around with a double ear infrection (as Claire is quick to point out) for three days before I realized it.

Monday, May 28, 2007

Fair and Balanced Blogging

I realized yesterday that I haven't blogged about Arden in a while. Actually, I saw in my post labels that Claire had six blogs written about her and Arden only had two. In the spirit of fairness, I thought I should do an Arden update.

So, here's what Arden is up to at 11 months...

1. She has developed a little bit of an attitude. If you try to take a toy away (and by this I mean pry it from her vice-like grip), she will start kicking her legs and yelling at you. Yes, yelling. I'm scared of what it will be like when she can talk.

2. She loves to eat--but only "big people" food. Her current favorites are diced pears, cheese and of course, any dessert. Also chicken legs, as pictured below.

3. She is attempting to climb things. She's still not walking, but if you put an obstacle in her path, she can climb over it.

4. Her favorite toy is a toothbrush.

5. She likes to chase the vacuum. I should mention that Claire hides when the vacuum is on, so this is a new one to me.

6. She has taken one or two steps by herself, but prefers the speed crawl to walking. She has bruises on her knees to prove it.

7. She does not like to crawl in the grass. If you want to keep Arden still for a minute, put her down in the grass. She won't move, but she will try to eat it.

8. She has a keen sense for determining if something is a baby toy. If it is, she throws it aside. Only big-girl choking hazard toys for her.

9. She says Mama, Nana (this is either for my mom or a banana), Dada and No.

10. She likes to give kisses, but beware--they're totally open-mouth.

And now for the sentence I've been waiting 11 months to write...

11. She sleeps through the night!!!!!

Thursday, May 24, 2007

School's Out for Summer

Today was Claire's last day of school. It's hard to believe how fast this year went by and how much Claire has changed since school started last September.

Here is Claire on her first day of school.

And here is Claire today.

I keep looking at that first picture and thinking "She looks like such a baby!" And yet, at the time, I thought she was such a big girl. I suppose it will always be that way.

She had a great year at Creative School--fun teachers, great facilities and precious classmates. She learned a lot, both academically (if you call letter recognition and spelling your name academics) and socially. She made some good friends (with girls! yay!) and even declared Elizabeth her "best friend at school" (don't worry, Reid, you're still tops). She got in trouble a few times (there was an incident involving the ripping up of a foam car game) and learned how to take turns and share (for the most part). She learned how to sit still during Circle Time and ask to be excused after Snack. She learned about the weather and the days of the week. She learned her shapes (does a three year old really need to know what a trapezoid is?) and her numbers and how to hold a paint brush and how to use scissors. And she learned that at the end of the day, Mommy always picks her up.

When I picked her up today, I looked in her backpack and found this:

For some reason, I got a little teary-eyed when I saw it, which is ridiculous because it's just the sign that hung on her cubby. But when I saw it, it struck me that this sign represents a part of Claire's life that I was not intricately involved in. Oh, I was involved plenty (if your kid destroys a toy in the classroom, believe me, you'll be involved), but not directly and certainly not intricately. It occurred to me that even when Claire tells me about her day at school, I don't know everything that went on, just the parts that she remembers or feels like talking about. The realization that Claire has a life (even if it's only two days a week) that I am not a part of hit me when I saw this sign.
And, since I was already feeling weepy, I allowed myself to fast-forward 15 years and pictured myself pulling this cubby sign out of some random box on the night before Claire's high school graduation. And I could imagine myself marveling at how fast the time had gone, and how I still thought of her as my baby, and how I couldn't believe she was about to embark on her own life (probably at Harvard, on a full academic scholarship), apart from Jason and I.
I know, depressing, right? But it's not, really. It's a wake-up call. A reminder of how precious these days are and how great is the responsibility of instilling in my kids a sense of who they are and where they come from. So that even when they have their own lives, they'll never have to wonder who loves them or if someone will pick them up at the end of the day.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Triathlon Wife

This weekend, Jason and I went to Memphis for a triathlon. We left the girls with their grandparents--Arden went to my mom's and Claire went to Jason's mom's (we have a divide and conquer approach to watching the girls).
We usually don't tell Claire she's spending the night somewhere until about thirty minutes before she goes, otherwise she'll be asking about it all day. When the time does come, she can't wait to go, and literally runs out the door yelling "Bye, Mom!" over her shoulder, as some kind of afterthought. Arden started waving bye-bye before we even got out of the car at my mom's.
It's great that both of my girls love their grandparents and don't mind being away from us, but seriously, a little emotion would be OK.
We had a great weekend, but apparently, not as great as Claire. She usually goes through some withdrawal when she gets back from a night away, and this time was no different. The meltdown that ensued Sunday night was probably one of her best performances. There was lots of crying, a few "I don't want to go homes," a couple of arched backs, and an "I'm not taking off my band-aids". On the upside, her "detox" only lasted that night, instead of the usual two to three days.
As for Jason and I, we had a great time getting away. We managed to go to dinner, hang out at Barnes and Noble and see a movie--all pre-baby date staples. The triathlon was fun and Jason did well and pretty much met his time goal. I camped out in a lawn chair, read a new book (19 Minutes by Jodi Piccoult--highly recommend this one), and did some people watching.

Based on the people watching, I have a few observations I want to share.
First, there were lots of women competing in this race. You would think anyone who can swim over a mile, ride 26 miles on a bike, then run 6.2 miles would be in top-body shape, right? Well, you would be wrong. I think this must be one of the cruelest ironies of life...
Second, when the National Anthem was sung, not everyone stood up and only a handful of people put their hand over their heart. Am I the only one who still does this? Regardless of what you think of the current administration, or the ones preceding it, we're all still Americans. It's our common denominator (in addition to pooping--thanks, Oprah, for that gem). If we can't take the time to pause and remember that, what does it say about us?
Third, Memphis is the home to Graceland, Elvis' home and final resting place. With all the Elvis impersonators out there, don't you think that Memphis would have some pretty good ones? Well, you would be wrong again. There were better Elvises (Elvi?) running in the Las Vegas marathon. Come on, Memphis, represent!

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Baby Food Boycott

Arden has recently decided that baby food is, well, for babies. If you have the audacity to attempt to feed her from a spoon, she will wave her arms so wildly that you will end up with banana strawberry baby food all over the kitchen (for example). Unless you are offering ice cream (she will never turn down sweets--that's my girl), you might as well put the spoon down.

While I welcome this new stage in Arden's development, I would be lying if I didn't admit that I'm sad to see the baby food phase come to an end. It's so much....cleaner.

The following picture is Arden after breakfast yesterday. That substance all over her face is strawberry cereal bar. What you can't see in the picture is the cereal bar smashed between her chubby fingers, the cereal bar all over her high chair and the cereal bar smeared over her clothes. What was I thinking? A cereal bar? It probably would have been cleaner to just give her a jar of grape jelly and let her go to town.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Because she can...

Who doesn't enjoy a rainy afternoon on the couch? And who doesn't love watching Curious George with new blue swim goggles on? It's kind of like 3-D, only instead of being three dimensional, everything is blue.
Must be nice to be three and do things just because you feel like it.

Sunday, May 13, 2007

Happy Mother's Day

"Every mother has the breathtaking privilege of sharing with God in the creation of new life. She helps bring into existence a soul that will endure for all eternity."
Father James Keller

Friday, May 11, 2007

Here's your sign...

We're expecting the delivery of Jason's new bike today (to replace the one that got smashed up when he got hit by a car). I didn't want to risk the UPS lady waking up the girls by ringing the doorbell, so I hung this sign on the door:

"Grumpy" is the kindest word I could come up with to describe Claire's behavior today. If I were being completely candid, I probably would've written "Caution! Please watch for spinning heads." I'm not even exaggerating. Well, maybe a little. But she is acting kind of demon possessed.
To be fair, I don't think she feels good. We went to the doctor last night and are waiting on results from a urine culture. Since this is the fourth time we've had to do this, we're now pretty good at it, but if you've never had the pleasure of attempting to collect a urine sample from a three year old who doesn't like public restrooms, let me explain.
First, and most importantly, you must start with a bribe. For us, it's a Diet Coke. Simple, yet so effective. Second, you must never, never, let the three year old hold the cup, no matter how much she whines. Third, tell the three year old that she can put the sample inside the special door. Explain to her that there is a grumpy old troll who lives inside who will give the sample to the nurse. If she is not a Dora the Explorer fan, that last part might freak her out a little.
We're praying that the culture comes back negative for infection. If it comes back positive, Claire will have to undergo some additional tests, one of which involves a catheter. Without sedation. On a three year old. If we get to that point, I'm thinking it's going to involve a bigger bribe than Diet Coke.

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Future Mother of the Year

The other day, I found Claire in her room playing with her baby dolls. This was unusual because in the past she has not had an interest in dolls at all. Maybe this is because all her friends are boys and they play things like Spiderman and Superman and Batman.

She has several different dolls and they have interchangeable names. Sometimes her baby's name is Lola (Ian's baby sister), or Emma (baby from church), or Ella (girl from her old school). My personal favorite, however, is "Mercybetoyou." Mercy. Be. To. You. I have no idea what that name means, where it came from, or even if that's what she's trying to say. But I think it's hysterical. And creative. And probably a little weird.

Claire is a good little mommy to Mercybetoyou.

She reads to her.

She feeds her in Arden's high chair.

She straps her carefully in the carseat.

She has even been known to nurse her in public. I take pride in knowing that she is modeling the loving and nurturing behaviors she sees me exhibit (except for the nursing in public part--she's way less modest than I am). I could close my eyes and imagine what a good little mommy she'll be some day.

That is, until I saw this.

For the record, this is clearly NOT a behavior she has seen me exhibit, although I'm sure there have been times that I wanted to.

Tuesday, May 8, 2007

Out of the Mouths of Babes

The following is a list of things I've yanked or fished out of Arden Kate's mouth in the last 24 hours:

1. Blue chalk (non-toxic)--much blue foaming of the mouth

2. AAA battery--saw this happen in slow motion and couldn't quite get there fast enough

3. Toilet paper--from the roll, thankfully

4. Plastic hair band

5. Claire's toes--this caused quite a scene

6. Toilet paper

7. Grass

8. Black marker--washable, non-toxic (thank you, Crayola)

9. Claire's full sippy cup--no apparent intolerance to cow's milk

10. Dryer lint

11. Toilet paper--why haven't I learned to close the bathroom doors?

12. Mail

13. Flip flops

14. Toilet paper--seriously, close the door!

She's turning out to be worse than the dog was at almost one year old. At least we could put Annie in a kennel.

Monday, May 7, 2007

Such a polite child!

I took both girls to Wal-Mart this morning. In the pouring down rain. As if taking two kids to the store isn't bad enough, we had to go in the middle of a torrential downpour. Normally, I would have waited until tomorrow to do the grocery shopping, but we were out of the essentials. Like formula. And milk. And Cheez-its (for the girls, obviously).

Claire was in a particularly helpful mood this morning. She is normally restrained in one of those monsterous shopping carts--the ones that have a huge plastic seat attached to a regular cart--but none of those were available. So Claire was walking. And helping.

She selected the produce, carefully inspecting each apple, orange and broccoli spear. She helped choose the bread. She deliberated for what seemed like an hour over the Gatorade (did Daddy want orange or blue? Maybe yellow?). When she paused to examine the many varities of fruit snacks, I didn't notice and rammed her with the cart.

"Sorry, Mom," she said. "I didn't mean to hit your cart."

I was trying to figure out why she was apologizing to me when I was the one who nearly ran her down when I saw a lady watching us. "Such a polite child!" she said. "They should put her in the front of the store and let her teach the other kids how to behave."

I think I snorted out loud. And then mumbled something like "Yeah, that'd be a good one."

Saturday, May 5, 2007

Are my neighbors weird, or is it just me?

Since it's the weekend, I decided to take a break from blogging about my girls and write about something that's really random. Are my neighbors weird, or is it just me?

The first house we bought in Dallas was in an older, I mean established, neighborhood in Northeast Dallas. We loved the area, we loved the house and we loved our neighbors. The only downside was that we kind of lived in the ghetto. And by ghetto, I mean we were surrounded by apartments that you really wouldn't want to frequent in the day, let alone the night. It was not uncommon for us to be awoken by gunshots, to have strange men at our door asking for money, to have teenagers crash a stolen car in our yard, or to have our car windshield shot out while parked in the driveway. But those are stories for another day.

What was I talking about? Oh yeah, my neighbors.

We had great neighbors in Dallas. There was Bob, the 80 year old widower who baked us a cake, had us over for dinner on many occasions, and let me clip roses from his massive rose garden every week. There was the family across the street with their four kids who were always outside and ready to visit. There was Mr. C, another 80ish widower, who knew pretty much everything about everyone in the neighborhood. Then there was the guy next door.

He and his teenage (angst-filled) daughter moved in shortly after we did. I think we met him once, but I never caught his name. He was allegedly an insurance adjuster, but I never saw him leave his house. Mr. C was sure he was in the witness protection program. He kept to himself and was kind of the odd man out on our street. But that's not why I thought he was weird.

I thought he was weird because I would see him playing frisbee by himself all afternoon while bitter angst girl was at school. I would watch as he tossed the disk across the yard, walked around his pool to retrieve it, and tossed it back across the yard. He would seriously do this all afternoon.

Now, before you go and start thinking that I'm the weirdo for watching my neighbor play frisbee all day, let me explain. My kitchen window offered a perfect view of this guy's backyard. At that time, I was a new stay-at-home mom to an infant and I spent a lot of time in the kitchen, making bottles, washing bottles, loading the dishwasher, unloading the dishwasher, binging on kit kats. Wait, forget that last part. The point is, I didn't purposefully watch him, he just happened to be outside whenever I was in the kitchen. And I was in the kitchen a lot.

Fast forward five years. We live in a different city, in a different state. We love our new neighborhood (no shootings so far) and have great neighbors. But guess what the guy who lives behind us does all afternoon? That's right--he plays frisbee by himself.

Am I the only one who finds this odd? Are the neighbors weird, or is it just me??

Side Note: Since we moved, I'm told our old neighborhood has undergone something of a transformation. A lot of the really bad apartments are gone and there is a lot of new development. I'm really glad because it was a great place to live. Minus the stolen car crash and drive-by stuff.

Friday, May 4, 2007

Can I get you a warm-up, Hon?

Claire is into pretending these days. She loves getting into her dress-up trunk and being a doctor, or a chef (Emeril Legasse), or a princess. But her current favorite is pretending to be a waitress. She puts on an apron, grabs a pad of paper and a pencil and asks "What do you want?"

Almost anything is available, but occasionally she'll let you know they either don't have a particular item, or that you just can't have it. For instance, if you say you want a hamburger and a Coke, Waitress Claire will say "You can have tea." Then she'll write it down on her pad and tell you your total is $25.

Now, this is an interesting point because no matter what you order, it's $25. You want a full meal, complete with soup, salad, entree and dessert? $25. You want a glass of lemonade and a cookie? $25. You only want water? $25. It's best not to argue this point with Waitress Claire, because she tends to get a little testy when questioned.

If the astronaut thing doesn't work out, I think she'll make a great addition to the Carnegie Deli wait staff.

Thursday, May 3, 2007

Sleeping Beauty

Here is the sweet face I was greeted with this morning. Looks like she had a great night's sleep, doesn't it? You wouldn't suspect that this angel was up at 4:00 in the morning, screaming her head off for so long and so hard that it woke up Claire. And prompted me to get out of my warm bed and rock her back to sleep. After what seemed like an hour, she finally fell back asleep. For approximately 10 minutes. This went on until 5:15, when I gave in and fed her a bottle.

Arden has what we call a "sleeping problem." By that I mean that she doesn't. Sleep, that is.

Claire began sleeping through the night, on her own, around three months. I naively thought this was due to my superior parenting skills and was perhaps a little (a lot) smug around those moms whose infants were not sleeping through the night. I now realize I am paying for that smugness. To the tune of nearly 11 months (more like 13 if you count the final stages of my pregnancy) of no sleep.

Early on, Arden tricked us into thinking she was going to be a great sleeper. For one thing, you could just lay her down in her crib and she'd fall asleep, unlike her big sister who still enjoys being rocked. For another, she only woke about once a night for a feeding. But now, almost 11 months later, she still wakes (at least) once a night.

I've read all the books. "Babywise" (hated it), "Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Children" (OK, but not very effective), "The No-Cry Sleep Solution" (don't even get me started). I've searched the internet, scoured the parenting message boards (not recommended unless you feel like dealing with smug know-it-all moms--please see above), and asked all my friends for advice. So far, the general consensus is "let her cry".

Oh, if it were only that easy. This child, while seemingly mild-mannered and mellow, is not phased by the so-called "crying it out." She will cry for a minimum of an hour the first night. The second night, instead of just waking once, she'll wake two times. And so it goes.

I know that this will pass and that eventually Arden will sleep all night. Someday, when she is big, I'll probably look back on this time and think "that wasn't so bad." Well, actually, I probably won't.

Tuesday, May 1, 2007

Conversations with Claire

Yesterday Claire told me she wanted to be an astronaut when she grows up. Filled with pride at my obviously exceptional daughter's dreams of becoming a female flight commander, I asked her why she wanted to be an astronaut. Her reply? "Because you get to wear astronaut gloves." I paused. "Any other reason?" She thought for a minute then said, "And the hats. I like the astronaut hats."
What can you say to that? It really is all about the accessories.

Sunday night Claire was playing outside with her friends Ian and Caleb (she only has boy friends). All of a sudden she comes running inside, all pouty and indignant. "Those mean boys are being mean to me!" she said. I asked what happened and she said "They killed me!" I asked her if she knew what that meant and she answered "No, but I don't like it."
Not wanting to have to explain what being "killed" meant to Claire, I walked her outside and told the boys "No more killing. You need to pretend something else." Then, being the clever and imaginative mom that I am, I suggested that they play Diego and try to help some animals in danger.
I swear, if I didn't know the ages of these kids, I would have thought they were 13. They exchanged annoyed glances and I think I even saw some eye rolling. Claire paused then said "Come on, let's play cowboys instead. You don't have be killed for that."