Friday, January 29, 2010

Isn't This How Everyone Reads?

Bug is determined to achieve her straddle split this year in her classical ballet technique class, so this is her preferred method of stretching without getting bored.

After each chapter, she sits up and pushes the stretch for awhile:
Then back to reading.

Some weird kid, huh?

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Winter: Participation Optional

I took some serious crap from Arizona friends when we announced our plan to move to Maine.

"You know it snows there, right?" they'd ask, "Like, A LOT."

"I love winter, " I told them staunchly, "Bring it on." I may have harbored some slight reservations about driving on icy roads. And, yeah, rattling around in the back of my head was a story I'd heard as a kid from some military friends of my parents. They'd been stationed in northern Maine, and during one truly terrible winter had even had to have supplies airlifted in to them.

But for the most part, it was true. I love winter. I think it's beautiful. I love watching the slow slide of seasons from the lush green of summer, to the bright fall leaves, and on into the monochromatic palette of winter. Spring is so much more miraculous after months of leafless trees and frozen ground drifted with snow.


It occurred to me the other day that I love winter as viewed from my window. I love its visual starkness and beauty, the lavender and blue shadows cast across the snow by the branches of my birch tree, the tiny birds at my feeder, and the grace of snowflakes falling from a leaden sky. I like significantly less the driving in slush, the slipping and falling on the ice, and the way I look in snowpants. When I picture myself going skiing, I don't picture myself whizzing elegantly down the slopes with poles tucked confidently at my sides. No, my vision goes immediately to me snuggled comfortably in an overstuffed leather chair in the lodge reading from my Kindle with perhaps a mug of coffee (lightly spiked with Bailey's) steaming on the table beside me. Sometimes there is an afghan. Out the windows around me, other people are whizzing elegantly down the slopes. Occasionally one of them falls spectacularly. I savor their clumsiness while sipping my coffee smugly.

A couple of weeks ago, after a generous snowfall, the kids begged to go sledding at The Big Hill. The gentle slopes in our backyard were boring, they pleaded, and we hadn't gone sledding as a family even once this winter! We all gamely suited up in snow pants, parkas, boots, hats, and gloves and loaded the sleds into the back of the van.

And despite being unable to completely fold myself into a pretzel to fit on one of the girls' saucer sleds, the first couple of runs were great fun. I climbed back up the hill and savored the crisp, cold air. Look at me! Outside enjoying the Maine winter! All active-like! I thought in that self-congratulatory was that always seems to invite comeuppance.

On the third run, my saucer spun and sent me down the hill backwards and off-kilter. In this position, my snow pants functioned quite efficiently as a scoop, shoveling great quantities of snow down the back of my pants. Just before the bottom, the sled hit a chunk of ice and careened to the left, while I went backwards-with-a-half-twist to the right, landing with inimitable grace on one shoulder while my kids laughed with evil glee. I retrieved my hat and sled and removed as much snow from my pants as modesty would allow in a snowy field filled with children and their parents.

While I huffed my way back up the hill, my cold-weather asthma kicking in, the little balls of ice stuck to the inside of my wasteband chose this time to begin melting, sending random trickles of freezing water down my butt. This sucks, I realized, reaching the top of the hill with damp underwear and no desire to try a fourth run. I began to daydream about my Kindle and an afgan. Ooh, and coffee.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Class Three

Two years ago, at age ten, Bear was diagnosed with a peanut allergy. At the time, she'd been growing so fast and furiously (up, as opposed to my preferred method of "out"), that her pediatrician became concerned about her weight. Despite throwing double protein powder in her breakfast shakes, grilling steak tips (her favorite meat) for dinner twice a week, and offering her Hershey bars for an evening snack once her sister was in bed, nothing seemed to result in Bear putting on a speck of weight. Looking back, when your kid grows six inches in six months, there's not going to be much energy left for putting meat on her bones. At the time, all I could see was that her arms were getting Ethiopia-thin, that we were getting concerned questions from teachers, and that no clothing manufacturer in existence made pants to fit that long and skinny of a kid.

She ate plenty. Oh, she loved to eat. It just didn't help that this was a kid who, from the time she was a toddler, preferred Jell-O over pudding, popsicles over ice-cream, and fruit over any form of protein ever invented. I frequently wheedled her into eating a dish of full-fat ice cream when what she really wanted was an apple. (Sidenote: how is this my kid? How?)

At my most desperate, I started making her peanut butter sandwiches. She'd only ever tried peanut butter a couple of times, around the age of five, and declared she didn't like it. But now - I had to bring out the big guns. She brought the sandwiches home in her lunch box with a bite, maybe two, taken out of them.

"Bear, this is ridiculous. You won't eat lunch meat. You don't like the school lunches. You have got to eat these peanut butter sandwiches to give your body enough protein to build muscle."

"Mom, they make my mouth itch," she whined.

"BEAR, YOU ARE TOTALLY MAKING THAT UP," I told her firmly. (In retrospect, not my proudest mothering moment...)

Luckily, the next week we had an appointment with an allergist to address to seasonal allergies. When he asked if she'd ever reacted to a food, I initially said no. Then I remembered The Battle of The Peanut Butter and said offhandedly, "Well, she says that her mouth itches when she eats peanut butter..." (Probably my second proudest mothering moment).

He scrawled something quickly in her chart and added peanut butter to the list of things they would test her for that day. In addition to a host of trees, grasses, dust mites, carrots, celery, etc., peanut butter tested positive. To be certain, they ran bloodwork as well. Positive. Class 2 (out of 0-6, with 6 being the most severe).

Our lives shifted hugely. We read up on peanut allergies. I apologized to Bear for not believing her. We carried an Epipen and learned to read labels and ask detailed questions at restaurants. Did you know that peanut butter is a common thickener used in restaurant chili? Or that many Asian restaurants cook in peanut oil? We began ordering snack foods like granola bars and cookies from Canada, which has some completely peanut-free manufacturing facilities.

Our big consolation was that since she tested at Class 2, her allergist felt that she had an excellent chance of outgrowing the allergy. We would be excruciatingly careful to keep her away from peanuts and re-test in two years.

We are now at two years. Yesterday, the allergist's nurse called with the results. Positive. Class THREE. She's getting worse, not better. Bear was devastated.

I sat last night on her bedroom floor, with Bear in my lap, like she used to when she was younger. She leaned her cheek against mine, as I rocked her back and forth and said every consoling word I could think of. If the worst thing that happens in your life is that you have to be careful of peanuts, that's not so bad. Her face was still, so sad. Tears slipped down both cheeks, but she nodded, I know. I just really hoped it would be gone.

I would give anything to be able to make this go away for her.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

I've Decided That This Makes Me a Trophy Wife


Be it known that The Artist Formerly Known as Daddy Shortbread (Tom) is now 40!

Four decades. the Big 4-0. Forty. Four times older than when he was 10. TEN times as old as our cats. Half as old as 80. Fully in a different decade from me (at least for another year and a half).

He's slightly bothered by it, which I take as an open invitation for ridicule. (Feel free to participate in the comment section). I mean, come on, 40 is the new 28 thanks to hair dye, Botox, and the judicious use of Photoshop. And as a man, he doesn't even have to worry about going gray. Salt-and-pepper is considered downright hot on guys thanks to George Clooney.

Besides, I happen to think that he's aged delightfully, and I do appreciate his gallantry in testing the waters by turning 40 first. Before me. Who's still only 38. And merely 9.5 times as old as the cats.

Happy Birthday, sweetheart!

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Basement Cleaning Bonus

This weekend we tackled the basement. You know, the basement where we hastily shoved the accumulated minutae of eight years when we got to the Oh holy crap, we need to pack up our stuff NOW so the workmen can knock our walls down phase of our renovation. Like we didn't know that part was coming.

One example of my super-organized packing method was the box I discovered that contained: cat toys, dollhouse furniture, letter stencils, Tupperware, the refrigerator magnets, two puzzles, and a lone roll of masking tape. Master packer in the house, y'all. It was a baffling, frustrating three days of unpacking, reorganizing, and sorting things into piles labelled "Keep", "Store", and "Yard Sale." I'm pretty sure I've committed myself to having a yard sale now, too, because I might have mentioned to the girls that they can split the profits on any toys they sell. No way are they letting me back out of that one.

I hate having yard sales. They make me itchy and tense.

One bright moment in the weekend was when Tom discovered this Father's Day card that Bear made him when she was seven. She came up with the idea on her own and spent an afternoon slaving away over it on the craft table. It's cute, clever, and possibly the most unintentionally cruel Father's Day card in existence.

The front:
The inside (and I like her note to the side, because let's just be clear here and not get any delusions of youth, Daddy):
Flip the bread down, and you see this:
Remove the tomato (hey, at least the middle is reassuringly long, right? Lettuce AND tomato!):
Remove the lettuce (ouch):The inside bottom:
Hey, put on a happy face, Daddy! Just keep in mind that your life's half over and someday YOU'RE GONNA DIE. Happy Father's Day.

Finding the card this weekend was quite timely, too, since Tom turns 40 on Thursday. He's not too keen about it, which I'm taking as invitation to really drive home the point that I, in fact, am still in the blushing youth of my thirties. And he's ooooooold.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Home Renovations: The Photos, Part the Third

Bug's Room
Looking back at the driving forces behind The Four Months In Which We Demolished Our Home Then Completely Rebuilt It While Eating Mostly Frozen Pizza and Takeout, it's fair to say that Bug's room was at the top of that list. Closely followed by
2. Another Bathroom, dear God
3. More Square Footage so I can stop tripping over people/furniture/cats
4. Eradicating the 1960's design elements that lingered in our house

When we moved into this house, Bug was 22 months old. Giving her the little bedroom was a no-brainer, but even at that age the 9 by 10 foot space was small. (That's pretty much the size of my new walk-in closet). We put a toddler bed, a small dresser, and small bookcase in, then placed her toybox under the window. It fit pretty well. When she outgrew the toddler bed, we had to move the toybox out to get the big girl bed in. Dicey, but do-able. In a manic moment, I maneuvered a desk in there. The furniture was tightly wedged against each other along the
walls. There was zero floor space for playing. It was one and a half steps from the doorway to her bed, which was on the far wall. It was not good.

I would show you a picture of the old room, but:
1. I'm in the process of transferring photos to my new! fancy! computer, and
2. I really don't feel like it, any more than I feel like cleaning out the basement, which I'm currently avoiding by working on this blog post.

Picture microscopically small, purple and Tinkerbell green, with fairies hanging from the ceiling. OK?

Here's her new (not cleaned for authenticity) room:
I snagged the dresser and mirror at a yard sale this summer for $75. It was pretty beat-up and painted 1970's yellow with metallic gold trim. Yummy. I stripped it off with a heat gun and palette knife, sanded it down, repainted it white, and replaced the hardware . It was strangely fulfilling. Power tools: they complete me.

And the view the other way, looking away from the bed:
She was in her glory planning the color and design of her new bedroom. She pored over paint samples, changed her mind daily, sketched the flowers she wanted painted on the walls, and gave me specific measurements as to how big to make them. She told me that she wanted it to "feel like a summer meadow, but trendy" (did I mention that she watches a lot of HGTV with me?) She's a bit of a micromanager, but I can't argue with the results. It's totally Bug, and she's so proud of it.

Her bedding and essential nighttime companions:
I had to document the everyday necessities that Bug feels the need to keep out on her dresser. Please note: deodorant (which she technically doesn't need, but is quite insistent about using), tube of juggling balls (one never knows when one will suddenly feel the need to juggle), tissues, nail polish, camera, bubble gum, marbles, hairbrush, lip gloss, body spray (I've had to establish a very strict "one spritz per day" rule just for her), comic books, face wipes, Chinese fan, and various bracelets, earrings, and hair accessories. I can't begin to fathom what this will look like in her teen years when she discovers makeup.
But for me, the best part of her new room is that she truly enjoys hanging out in it. I love walking in to find her laying on her stomach in the middle of the floor drawing on her sketch pad and listening to music or snuggled down in her bean bag reading. She finally has a space that feels like her own.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Home Renovations: The Photos, Part Deux (See? I Knew I'd Get Some Use Out of That French Minor)

Bear's room was the least dramatically changed in all of our renovation project. She did get a brand-new room (space) in a different part of the house, but she had just gotten a room makeover for last year's birthday. Thankfully, she still loves the colors, bedding, curtains, etc. because there was no way she was getting a do-over. Especially since we were trying to rustle up the money to pay for little luxuries like plumbing and floors.

Here she is on her birthday last year with her old "new" room:
And here is her new new room. The main differences are: much more square footage, bigger windows, and a larger, double-door closet. I snatched this photo last month in the five minutes between the time when she'd cleaned her room and before she began to mess it up again. Just picture it festively strewn with leotards, tights, random socks, and books if you'd like a better idea of its everyday look. Also, the dresser drawers should be only partially closed with stray bits of clothing hanging out.
Here are some of her room's key design elements, which is basically a pretentious way of saying I watch way too many home improvement shows. Bear would just tell you that these are some of her favorite things. I especially love the shiny little stuffed frogs arranged on the lamp. That's a particularly "Bear" touch.
Her closet runs the full width of her room (12 feet). Inside, all the way to each side, are floor-to-ceiling shelves. Bear's are mostly crammed full of notebooks (all with partially written stories in them), sheet music, dance paraphernalia, and stuffed animals that she's not quite ready to part with but feels that she is too grown-up to display. She still picks one out to sleep with every night, though.
The bedding and a partial view of the Wall 'o Dots (also known as The Wall That Took Five Bajillion Hours to Paint). She wanted a mix-and-match blend of patterns and pillows that carried out her brown and teal color scheme. Odds on walking into her room and finding this bed made are about 129472 to 1. I believe there was bribery involved on this day.
Next up: Bug's room! If Bear's room was the least changed, Bug's was definitely the most. More on that later.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Exactly How Dumb Do You Think I Am, Kid?

Scene: Last night after dinner.

Me: Bear, I'm going to take you to the hospital first thing in the morning to have your bloodwork done for Dr. Allergist.

Bear (slumping in her chair): I HATE having my blood drawn. It's going to hurt, I'm going to feel nauseous...

Me: I really think you're exaggerating. It's not that bad. And won't it be worth it to find out if you've outgrown the peanut allergy?

Bear (mumbling): I guess.

Me: You'll probably miss part of first period, but I'll go with you to the office to sign you in.

Bear (suddenly sitting up and brightening): Oh! Oh, then that's great! I have a quiz first period tomorrow. Now I don't need to study tonight.

Me (eyes narrowed): On second thought, we'll go on Wednesday morning. Go study.

Bear: *slumps back down in her chair*

Friday, January 8, 2010


I pick up both of my girls from school and frequently ferry one or more of their friends home as well. I've learned that by keeping my mouth shut, Top 40 on the radio, and my ears open, I overhear some very interesting conversations from the back of the van.

For example, today...

Bear: Hey, Mom, did you remember to get cucumbers at the store? I want cucumbers and dip for my after-school snack.

Me: Yep, sure did.

Bear: Cool.

Bear's Friend: You know, I've never tasted a cucumber.

Bear and Bug: You've never had a cucumber??

B's Friend: Huh-uh. What do they taste like?

Bear: They don't taste like anything. They're just crunchy. You've really never tried one?

B's Friend: No, we don't really buy vegetables. Well, sometimes corn, but not much.

Bug (speaking up from the rear seat): I eat them when I want something crunchy with my lunch.

B's Friend: Why don't youjust eat chips?

Bug: No, I mean when I want something healthy and crunchy.

B's Friend (in a superior tone): Then you should get baked chips, sweetie.

Me: *speechless*

Wednesday, January 6, 2010


So I guess it would be fair to say that I am not the world's greatest bagel slicer. I could probably even be considered mildly retarded in the area of bagel slicing. I usually cradle the bagel in one palm, slicing toward the palm with a serrated bread knife. In an embarrassingly high number of instances, this results in me cutting into my palm.

This time I got smart. (No, not smart enough to buy one of those bagel-slicer thingamajigs. Did you read the title of this post?) I rested the bagel on its edge on the counter, using the fingers of my left hand to press firmly into the bagel, while slicing down into the bagel with my right hand.

In retrospect, I may have pressed a bit too firmly with the middle finger of my left hand. Because I ended up slicing neatly through it - a truly impressive cut that managed to extend through fingernail, fingertip, and onto the pad of the finger.

I would like you to meet Frankenfinger.
It bled a lot. A LOT A. LOT. Not usually one who freaks at the sight of blood, I was way too woozy to deal with this one. I called for Tom, whose idea of bandaging apparently involves wrapping the cut finger in an inappropriately large Band-Aid in sort of a "Cone of Shame" configuration. This resulted in blood dripping steadily from the open end of the Band-Aid, while Tom tried to cut it off my finger and I tried not to faint. He sawed ferociously at the Band-Aid with (I shit you not) baby toenail scissors that I didn't even know we owned anymore, while I rested my head on the table and whimpered, "HurryhurryhurryIneedtogetdownonthefloor" and trying really hard not to picture the way the cut had neatly bisected my fingernail.

Once my finger was cone-free and wrapped in a towel, I slid gratefully down to the floor. The oak was delightfully cool on my cheek and kept me from passing out.

Visual Aid: This is my husband's idea of the appropriate size of Band-Aid for a sliced fingertip. I assume that if I had broken a finger, he would have amputated it.
However, in the light of making the best of a bad situation, I prepared the following photo essay for you. Because I love you. Also possibly because I have way too much time on my hands.

The Many Faces of Frankenfinger

Frankenfinger is way cooler than you:
Sometimes the social pressure of being different is too much for Frankenfinger:
Although moderately well in touch with his feminine side,
Frankenfinger remains a badass at heart:
Moral #1: New hardwood floors are delightfully cool to the cheek if you ever need to lay on them to keep from fainting. I recommend that you all get some immediately as a precautionary measure. Write them off as a medical expense.

Moral #2: Buy your bagel pre-sliced or trick someone into slicing it for you.

*Dedicated to my BFF, who dared me to write this post.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Christmas 2009, The Photos

Only two weeks late! (See also: "hardly late at all" and "practically on time for Jenn even though every other blogger on the planet has already moved on to 2010").

There were grandparents from Arizona:
My very favorite part of Christmas morning is when I hear the kids wake up before our Negotiated Wake-Up Time. First I hear one skitter across the hall to the other's bedroom. Then, excited whispering. A creak of a door as they "quietly" check to make sure the coast is clear, then mad scampering down the hall to peek at the tree. We have a strict Ye May Peek, But Not Touch rule, which they manage to respect. There is always loud whispering and giggles as they creep back to a bedroom to wait out the minutes until wake-up time.

This year, Tom slipped into our bathroom to brush his teeth, then started for our bedroom door.

"What are you doing?" I whispered.

"I thought I'd go start the coffeepot," he replied.

"Get. Back. In. Bed." I hissed at him, "Part of the fun Christmas morning is getting to wake your parents up."

He humored me, climbing back into bed and closing his eyes. Three minutes later, our bedroom door exploded open as both kids burst through hollering, "Time to wake up! It's 7:00! Get up! It's Christmas!"

We made much show of blearily opening our eyes and saying, "Oh, it's way too early. I'm too tired.." Once we were assuredly upright, they zipped off to wake up Grandma and Grandpa.

And, lo, there was Christmas morning loot:
Lots and lots of loot.
Including the long-coveted, frequently (and not-so-subtly) mentioned new Ipods. Yellow for Bug and pink for Bear, both engraved on the back with their first names.
There was a brief respite between the flurry of unwrapping and Christmas Brunch, where the kids plopped exhausted amongst the boxes and paper.
After a hearty brunch of French Toast Casserole, homemade doughnuts, bacon, and fruit, the girls each retired to their new beanbags (hand-made by Grandma to match their new bedrooms). Bear watched one of her new DVDs. She's developed a taste for disaster movies, so she got "The Day After Tomorrow" (global warming on speed) and "Titanic" (winning combination of shipwreck + Leonardo DiCaprio).
Bug got absorbed in her new puzzle book:
Christmas Day was delightfully lazy, a pleasant blur of new books and puzzles, naps, leftover ham sandwiches, and Christmas cookies (seeing as how calories don't count on holidays - totally true, look it up. Then please come over and explain it to my pants, which did not seem to get that memo).