'Twas the Night Before Vacation

Cal has a phantom ear-ache. Saw the pediatrician and it's not an infection. But he is periodically moaning that it hurts, occasionally crying, "Whyyyyy? Is thiiiis? Haaaappeniiiing?", sometimes begging for more medicine, and just a little while ago - while I was in the thick of packing the suitcase (which is now, much to my chagrine, going to have to be suitcases, plural) - saying plaintively, "Mom, I just need you to hold me." So loving. So dramatic. So inconvenient. So irresistible. But it looks like I will be justified tomorrow in administering the Benadryl.

I had hoped to fix up some pre-posts and stuff so that I'm not totally MIA from the blog for two weeks, but that remains to be seen. Not only am I a desktopper and therefore unable to take my personal blogosphere with me in a groovy carry-on case, I am going to the land of diiiiiiiaaaaaaaallll uuuuuuuuuuuup and Pentium 2s. So you'll get what you get. Try not to forget me.

I do hope to get on every once and a while and give you at least some highlights, since I will be with my siblings, and that's a party. So stay tuned for tales of the Code Yellow formative years, thoughts on siblings in general, siblings 22 years younger (and every age range in between), siblings as parents, and what my parents and grandmother have to say about lots of stuff. Maybe I'll even give you a little "Best of / Worst of Small Town Colorado," Gabriela style.

But until you hear from me again, I'm putting together a carry-on bag of tricks, attempting to lighten the checked baggage load, flipping a coin to decide whether I should pack changes of clothes in the carry-on, thinking about the possibility of dinner for tonight, trying to figure out what I'm going to do to pack the carseats so that they arrive with all their straps and still in the shape of a carseat after being checked with our other luggage, and (tenderly, of course) holding my three-year-old with the ear ache to end all ear aches. Oh, and trying to get on with this whole vacation thing.

Total misnomer, by the way: Vacation. I'm not vacationing from anything that I regularly do. It should just be called taking the show on the road. Only without the shpanky tour bus and red carpet.


Crockpot Casualty

You may have thought from the title that this would be the story of a recipe gone awry in the good ol' crock, but it isn't. It is actually about the crockpot (with a small bit of au jus and roast beef leftover from Sunday dinner at Auntie S's) flying onto the floorboard when I hit a HUGE puddle in a semi-flooded intersection during a terrific rainstorm on the way home Sunday night. In the rush to get the boys in their carseats during the deluge, I forgot to put the bag containing the crock down on the floor in the first place. When I saw the pond/puddle, I wasn't going more than 25 MPH, and I didn't hit the brakes because I didn't want to totally hydroplane or lose control, but that deep water slowed us down in a hurry. No one was hurt. Except for my good friend the crockpot. And I am also mourning the loss of that scrumptious, splash-happy jus.

So, in honor of the crockpot, who I love and will miss until I can find a replacement, here is the recipe for the last thing I ever made in him. It was good and easy to make, like everything in a slow-cooker. Enjoy.

Oh, and Husband (traveling edition), you already know I'm having the car detailed for Father's Day / your birthday, so just put this little post out of your mind and don't think about what beef juice smells or looks like after it's been locked in a car over a hot rainy night. I cleaned it the best I could in the continuing HUGE rain last night AND today, and I did take off the bay leaf that stuck to the lower dash...

French Dip Roast Beef

1 lean beef roast (3-4 pounds)
1/2 cup soy sauce
1 tsp. beef bouillion granules (or one cube)
1 bay leaf
5-6 whole peppercorns
1 tsp. dried thyme (my recipe also called for 1 tsp dried rosemary, too, but I didn't include it)
1 clove garlic, minced
a bit of Worcestershire sauce (just because I love it with beef...)
sliced onions if you like (didn't put them in this time around)

Hard rolls or French bread

Remove and discard all visible fat from the roast. Place in a slow cooker. Arrange onion sliced on roast. Combine soy sauce, bouillion and spices; pour over roast. Add water to almost cover the roast. Cover and cook over low heat for 10-12 hours or until meat is very tender. Remove meat from broth. Shred or slice meat. Serve on hard rolls or French bread slices with broth for dip. (I love a little horseradish and mayo on mine.) 12 servings.

P.S. A 1/2 mile later, we saw a mini-Cooper stopped in a similar puddle. (Calvin identified the car make and model before we were even upon it...that kid!) I'm pretty sure the bum of the lady in driver's seat was getting wet from water pouring in the bottom of her door while she waited for roadside assistance (which was there, but not moving very fast). Sad. It's supposed to stop raining by Wednesday. It really hasn't since the thunderstorm post...


Holding Pattern

I took a painting class in 8th grade. I still have the watercolor studies that we did and I still love color theory and I still remember B. Christensen, who I loved and who dated my best friend instead of me, but who talked art and baseball with me across the table while we painted. But I've never really painted much since, mostly because I didn't feel accomplished enough to invest in the supplies...or whatever.

And then I had two little boys, nineteen months apart. I know that's nothing compared to what some moms face in terms of numbers or ages of children, but it nonetheless has been a huge challenge for me - they are busy and smart and busy and naughty and busy and exhausting. In the relentlessness of sleep deprivation and waking up to do the diapers-feeding-changing-running-after routine over and over, and not too long after the Code Yellow day at Target (and subsequent experiences of taking care of one child only to lose track temporarily of the other and not knowing if I would ever be able to do it as flawlessly as everyone else seemed to), I woke up one morning with this image in my head and had to paint it.

Disclaimer: I hold a snobbish opinion that really good art needs no explanation to be understood by the person seeing it, and I find that sometimes an artist's explanation stifles what I might have otherwise experienced if he had let me interpret it myself. If that's how you feel, stop reading here and I will understand. I'd love to hear what you think without reading the following explanation. Sometime after I've polished my technique a bit and fixed it up exactly the way I want it, and if it's hanging on an actual wall somewhere, there will be no mention of Code Yellows or my feelings or thoughts alongside it - people will just be able to look at it and know what I think it's about, and then add their own experience, and it will be a masterpiece because of the unspoken, unwritten link between us.

Holding an infant is an incredible "grounding" experience - your life gets simplified rather quickly into the three main requirements: food, safety, sleep - and your whole schedule revolves around when it is time to feed or nap the little one, because if those don't happen appropriately, ain't nobody happy. Sometimes I felt so needed and sometimes I just felt cemented to the couch, but I always felt that divine calling to hold my babies safe and warm and close to me.

Which is why it was so disconcerting when, at the time when I had an infant with such basic but vital needs, I had a toddler who was ready to test his wings, push all the limits, fly away. He thought he was ready, but I knew he wasn't, or I didn't want him to be. He was my first baby, suddenly a little boy with opinions and energy and I realized for the first time what being a mom is about - it's about holding on until it's OK - or necessary - to let go. Right now, I'm his tether, his kite string, the tie that holds him down and keeps him up all at the same time, but someday it will be time to be more like a ribbon on a helium balloon - untie him so he can float away and see things from a much higher vantage point. I love him so much that I would never want to hold him strictly by my side just because that's the easiest place to keep him safe. Soaring isn't about safety anyway. And my job is to teach him to fly while holding my hand so he can do it on his own when he is a man. While I was painting, I felt his exuberance and his childlike joy, and I wanted to capture that somehow. I hope I can hold on to him in such a way that he never loses that joy and energy, but learns to channel it into greatness of spirit and hope as he grows.

I haven't finished the faces yet, because I am not good at them, but also because I think maybe it's better not to have an expression on them, at least not on mine - I like it better that it's unclear if I'm looking up at my flying boy or gazing down at my sleeping infant...A mother can't really chose between the two, you know.

I could have painted a plate-spinner from the circus, I suppose, to signify what I felt motherhood is a lot of the time - just keeping those plates from slowing or shattering on the ground. But in my mind's eye, the thing that kept coming up as significant was how I would paint my legs. I wanted there to always be a lap for my kids to find and have a safe, comfortable place to sit (it is their favorite place - they have "my mama" wars over it), but I also wanted to be dancing. A jig maybe, or an elegant ballet, just some kind of motion. So I painted half a lap and half a dance dress (in the form of flared jeans) to let everyone know that even when I feel like I'm sitting alone in the dark, I'm happy...rocking my babies and watching them fly away.

Just Kidding...

Twice now I have said my posts would dwindle for a while because I was overwhelmed or busy or tired or whatever, and I ended up blogging more than regular. So I'm coocoo. But there are just things to say, so Tag! you're it to hear what I can't talk to Calvin about. Mostly because it's about him.

"We've" been working on phasing the word "stupid" out of "our" vocabulary so that it doesn't get spoken at inopportune or inappropriate times (my friend Angela described the gradations of certain word use quite well in this post). I had fun with this at first, teaching Calvin to substitute it with words like "ridiculous," "absurd," "goofy," etc. The one substitute that stuck, however, was, "silly." So now when Cal says, "Stupid," I can give him the disapproving mother look or call his attention to it and he will change it to silly.

Tonight, he called Henry an idiot. Oooooh. Definite no-no. And somehow he knew it, because I said, "Ca--" (didn't even get his whole name out in "the warning voice") and he quickly changed it: "Henry, you're a silliot."


Oh Me, Oh Life...

Um, yeah...

Today began with discovering a singing Henry in his crib covered in diarrhea. OK, maybe not covered - just up to his armpits and down to his knees, soaked through his pajamas, all over two blankets, the sheet, the mattress pad and on the corner of his pillow. Lovely. I am truly nonplussed (LOVE that word) - he has had no appetite for three days, only drinks, I thought it was the heat, but it's got to be more, except, as I said, he was singing his little good morning babble song and giggled when I put him in the shower and hosed him off, and he hasn't had a fever.

I changed my clothes (the crib-to-shower transfer was not a clean one), put the bedding in the wash, and fed the boys pancakes. Henry ate two, and half a yogurt, so I thought he was back to his normal, colon-cleared, bottomless pit self.

We met Auntie S and her little girls to see "Cars" at the theatre to get out of the hot overcast of DC summer. Calvin has been dying to see it. It's an adorable movie and I enjoyed it even though Henry barfed down my arm halfway through. Movie theatres really need more absorbent napkins. It wasn't smelly, thankfully, and he just laid down on my other shoulder and went to sleep. Cal sat still and loved the movie and only had to go pee once during the show.

Anyone else gotten poop and barf on them all in one day? Nay - all in one four hour period of time? Wanna join my club? Bring the pedialyte over and you're in.


Other happenings:

I asked Cal if he'd like to get a DVD player for the plane so he could wear headphones and watch a movie on his lap. He looked at me like I had asked if he wanted Henry to barf on his arm. "Nooo," he said, bemused (another beloved word). I explained that the plane ride would be long and there wasn't anywhere to run on the plane, and he needed to have quiet things to do in his own seat so we don't disturb others, and wouldn't watching movies be a good idea? "No," he said again, firmly. "Well, what would you like to do the whole time we're on the plane?" His answer? "Um, I just want to play 'I Spy.'" Funny and sad all at once, huh?

We went out the Leesburg Outlet Mall yesterday to see what kind of sales were to be had - taking care of the "nothing to wear" problem. I found a super cute $28 shirt on sale for $12 at the Gap to go perfectly with a skirt I've had for a while but had nothing to go with. Brought it home (about a 1/2 hour drive) and the clerk had forgotten to take the security sensor off!!! GRRRR. Do I have time to drive all the way back there? Do I want to? No. I'm done shopping.

I went to the Gap store near me and they don't use the same kind of sensors. They sent me to the nearby Express store, and they don't use those kind of sensors, either. They sent me to the Banana Republic store nearby and they use those kind of sensors but before I could explain myself, the clerk looked at the Gap bag and said, "Uh, This. Is NOT Gap." Give me a break. Like you're not the same company or something, like I can't read or don't know where I really am, and like it was this major faux pas to step foot into Banana Republic when I am just a lowly Gap shopper. Can you imagine if I would have pulled out a WalMart sack? But she did remove the security sensor, so I didn't have to drive all the way back to the Outlet for it, so I will forgive her her store clerk snootiness.

When I got home and tried the shirt on with the skirt, Cal said, "Hey, Mom! Nice shirt. It looks...fabuwus." Thanks, Cal. Can always depend on him for appreciation. Good job trying out a new word, too.

I have succeeded in saying no to a few things lately that would likely have sent me over the edge of Stress Ledge, and it feels good. Sometimes it's really OK to lessen the demands on my time and energy and just take things a little slower and methodically. Not that my life is a total ratrace, but sometimes things just have to give, and I have let them in the past couple days. Also, a friend brought us dinner on Thursday (she said her med student husband would be on an out-of-town rotation for two months later in the year, so I could return the favor then), another invited us over last night, and my laundry is caught up. I'm kinda almost on top of things...

But then there's thoughts like this that make my blood run cold (I exaggerate, but it is a worry...): What if Cal needs to go potty on the airplane? There's not enough room for one of us in those toilets (I personally have been known to avoid them and just wait until my final destination for a toilet with elbow room), but two of us? Cal will need my help - the toilets are too icky and he's too curious to go alone. But do I leave Henry back in the seat, or haul him along?

Who but a mother has to grapple with these kind of logistics?

And how would you answer this question that Cal just posed, as he came running in with a produce bag from the fridge: "Mom, do you want celery like I want celery? Do you?" Where does he get this stuff?


Should I Be Worried?

Our very cool neighbor/friend/landlady came over a little while ago and said she was taking her youngest son (who's leaving for Princeton in a couple months) to lunch and then they're going to Costco. She wanted to know if I needed anything from Costco. Can you believe how nice? I haven't even bellyached to HER about the parking-hassle-two-kids-in-the-cart-can't-ever-find-what-I-need-when-I-need-it feelings I have about the necessary evil called Costco, and yet she thought to ask if she could pick up anything for me there, to save me a trip. I'm telling you, this is a good woman.

And THEN, she asked if it was OK for Calvin to go along with them to lunch and to Costco. That's an invitation, right? It's not pawning my child off, right? That was my first hesitation - I know that she was not thinking that AT ALL, but I worry about being a moocher...I said it was fine if he wanted to go. As if he wouldn't want to go - he practically WORSHIPS the ground the Princeton son walks on, and every time we pull into our driveway, he wants to go down to their house and "see what they are doing and talk a little while, OK, Mom?" So they took his carseat and he trotted off after them, all big-boyish and pleased with the prospect.

And all the while, I'm just worried that he will be rude or climb all over the booth at the restaurant or (gross, gross, gross) under the table, or he'll loudly shout, "That's disgusting!" at whatever they order for him, or he'll bolt away in Costco (even though he hasn't done that for some time), or he'll say a swear word or...you know, um, otherwise embarrass me?

Don't get me wrong - he is not really a bad or unruly child - in fact, we had a great trip out to the outlet mall this morning without a single incident of stress. And twice lately people have complimented me on his manners. (He spontaneously told a mom at a playdate as he was leaving, "It was very nice to meet you.") I guess it's just that I know him better than anyone and I have had lots of "moments" with him, and more than anything, a three-year-old is unpredictable.

Maybe I care too much about what other people think, or I believe that they judge my parenting by how my wild card preschooler behaves (and they really don't - it's just me), and perhaps the reality of it is that he feels secure enough with me to act like a hellion on occasion but keeps it in check with other people. I hope so. But does anyone else ever worry about this kind of thing...?

I'm biting my nails until they get back.

These Are a Few of My Favorite Things

The temperatures reached 96 degrees yesterday, with some ridiculous level of humidity, then last night some kind of front moved in and the result was electrifying. I LOVE a good storm, and this one was tremendous - huge flashes of lightning, instantaneous crashes of thunder, followed by continuous rumbling until the next flash. It lit up the dark room, shook the house on occasion, and once or twice sounded like the world was coming to an end when a lightning bolt hit one of several cranes at the nearby construction sites. Seriously awesome. As Toot and Puddle would say, "Sometimes thunderstorms are absolutely necessary." (Love that book.)

I lay there for a while thinking about a similar storm when I was in college. David and I went for a rainy drive into the hilly farm country outside of town, found a little road on the side of the hill and watched the lightning strike all over the valley. It bolted down from the black sky, hit the box thingies (D is not here to ask the real term for them) on the phone and electrical wires, zapped a ways down the wires themselves, and then a whole section of town would go dark from the power outage. It was like watching the special effects on a movie, only it was real - blue and white flashes, pops, booms, runbling...To this day it's one of my favorite memories.

Henry was not so impressed with our storm last night. In fact, the little guy was scared. I heard him whimper and yell out a couple times, then he started crying in earnest. At about midnight. So I went in and scooped him up. He was halfway asleep, but cuddled up on my shoulder and I brought him into my bed. He and I laid there for a few minutes, and he said, "Whassat?" after one of the flash-booms. I told him it was thunder and he sat up and yelled toward the window, "Keepa NOUN!!!" (Translation: "Keep it down!" He learned that from Calvin, who learned it from Dad. Usually it has an "up there!" tacked on to the end.)

After Henry got done telling the thunder to keep it down up there, Calvin wandered in wanting a drink and then crawled up in bed with us. Very Maria and the von Trapp children, wouldn't you say? Thank goodness Liesl didn't come crawling through the window. I didn't burst into song, either, but I was not unaware of the romance of making my boys feel safe and warm while the whole world crashes and booms in the dark outside. It's easy to be brave when you love a good thunderstorm.

Cal fell asleep again almost immediately, but Henry tossed and turned and turned and tossed and pulled blankets up and kicked blankets off, then crawled down to sleep (on top of the comforter - my pet peeve) near my knees.

This is how they were sleeping when I woke up. Did I ever really go to sleep? I think I did, but looking at it, I'm not sure where I fit into the cuddly little puzzle of nocturnal pillow-blanket wrestling. Although I woke up partially because I was balanced precariously on the very edge of the bed. And I do vaguely remember Calvin's head resting on my hip at one point. There's an unwritten rule that if children are put into a bed larger than the one they usually sleep in, they will sleep perpendicular to the larger person with whom they are sleeping. I always forget that.

Anyway, I've got a hitch in my getalong today, and everyone will be in their own beds tonight. That thunderstorm was amazing, though. A fabulous show. Even better than fireworks.


Mid-week Sigh

We stayed late at Auntie S's tonight / last night - it was her birthday. The boys and I swam at her house while she was out for a bit in the afternoon, then she brought home Chinese to share. Her youngest daughter (who is a nine-year-old delight) baked and frosted a birthday cake, and then the kids went downstairs to watch Robots while Auntie S got me hooked on the second season of Veronica Mars. (Love it, love it, love it.)

Arrived home and both my babies were sleeping in their carseats. I looked back at them and my heart just filled up. Precious, precious sons of mine. That's really the punchline of this post: that overwhelming, no-words-for-it feeling.

I might be a little scarce for a couple days - I am more than a little keyed up about our impending travel by plane to Colorado via Utah. It's still a week away but I am (trying not to be) anxious about all the things I need to settle (stroller or leash for Cal?), organize (en route entertainment and rides to the airport), clean (laundry, bathrooms, cars), and pack (I have NOTHING to wear) before then...

Deep breath...Ready...BREAK!


Much Better Than "Frost Yourself"

So, I was rummagaing around in "the room" - you know, the one that should be made up nicely by now into a guest room but instead contains boxes of stuff that is apparently not necessary for daily living (since it hasn't seen the light of day since moving in February) and taunts me from behind closed doors. It's mostly old letters. I need to read them before I toss them, you see, and there are oh, several hundred...from my college days and mission days and good times and bad times...and certainly someone will find them fascinating sometime, will they not? That's the historian in me - the one who once wrote an A+ paper about a random missionary in South Africa based on letters he wrote to an English governor...

And scrapbooks, or starts of scrapbooks. Mostly hilariously teen-angsty, but strangely dear to me...Anyway, I was rummaging to find a letter of recommendation from an English teacher in high school because a phrase of it has been begging for a blog about me, and I can't remember it and I can't find it...but I came across this in the front of one of those scrapbooks. I remember it being a double page ad in a magazine and being strangely touched by it, but I can't remember what product it advertised.

Anyway, I liked it so much back then that I typed it up and printed it, with dot matrix printer, even, and pasted it into a binder of my high school years. And all these years later, I still like it for some reason, and thought you might enjoy it, too.

You were born a daughter.

You looked up to your mother.

You looked up at your father.

You looked up at everyone.

You wanted to be a princess.

You thought you were a princess.

You wanted to own a horse.

You wanted to be a horse.

You wanted your brother to be a horse.

You wanted to wear pink.

You never wanted to wear pink.

You wanted to be a veterinarian.

You wanted to be president.

You wanted to be the president’s veterinarian.

You were picked last for the team.

You were the best one on the team.

You refused to be on the team.

You wanted to be good in Algebra.

You hid in Algebra.

You wanted the boys to notice you.

You were afraid the boys would notice you.

You started to get acne.

You started to get bre*sts.

You started to get acne that was bigger than your bre*sts.

You wouldn’t wear a bra.

You couldn’t wait to wear a bra.

You couldn’t fit into a bra.

You didn’t like the way you looked.

You didn’t like the way your parents looked.

You didn’t want to grow up.

You had your first best friend.

You had your first date.

You had your second best friend.

You had your second first date.

You spent hours on the telephone.

You got kissed.

You got to kiss back.

You went to the prom.

You didn’t go to the prom.

You went to prom with the wrong person.

You spent hours on the telephone.

You fell in love.

You fell in love.

You fell in love.

You lost your best friend.

You lost your other best friend.

You really fell in love.

You became a steady girlfriend.

You became a significant other.

You became significant to yourself.

Anyone relate to any of the lines? The only thing it left out was becoming a mother, but maybe that's a whole level of significance that they couldn't cover in two pages, or didn't dare, since it was the late 80s. Hmmmm. I'd love to know what you think. This little heart-tugging ad still speaks to a samll part of me somehow - wish I could remember what they wanted me to buy after reading it, because I think I'd do it now. After I get me a right-hand diamond, of course - don't those ads just draw you in?! (Women of the world, raise your right hands!)How do they get to me like that?



(That could stand for Speaking of Spatulas...)

We have some doors off our kitchen that used to open and close like shutters into the dining room. We lived here about three days before the incessant opening and shutting and slamming of them into the wall and onto little fingers drove me to exclaim, "Nail them to the wall! Please!" (We couldn't just take them off because the door frame is metal and they are attached in such a way that it would really wreak havoc on the doorway. And we are renters.)

It didn't take long after the nailing for Henry to figure out that stuff FITS between the door and the wall. Things can DISAPPEAR into that little space. Let's try...spoons...Matchbox cars...sticks...Mom's cutting board. Amazingly enough, it's pretty simple to get the smaller items out, but the cutting board was trapped, and trapped good. And I needed it to make dinner because I refuse to cut things on my tile and grout (blech!) countertops.

So I sat down to cajole the cutting board out of its clever hiding space and soon Cal was over to supervise. About the third time his head was between my eyes and the space I was trying to joggle the cutting board into, I felt quite exasperated. He backed up a little after surveying the situation to his satisfaction and said, "Mom, I think you need someone to help you."'

I mumbled, "Hmmm, MMMM." And he said, "We just need a bigger family." My initial harumph/thought was, "Another baby? Why? So he could grow up into a two-year-old and find other things to put irretrievably behind nailed doors? That would hardly be helpful here."

And then I realized what Cal was thinking - he wasn't envisioning a helpless infant adding to the melee of the moment. He had simply surmised that the more people in a family, the more people there are to help when you need it. He was thinking we just needed someone - a family member - who could figure things out when one or the other of us was at a loss.

And the more I've thought about it, the more I like that view of family. And I like it that in my boy's mind, the family is where we share the most and can depend on the most in terms of help, comfort, support and love.

Of course, there are always the members of a family who cram things where they shoudln't be crammed, but we can easily overlook that when most of the time their adorableness surpasses chocolate.

I do have to say I am relieved that it didn't take a newborn to get that cutting board out from behind the doors. A spatula did the trick. Go figure.


Saturday (and Thursday Thirteens) Revisited

Glen Echo - Check!

In case you are following my progress on the "Thirteen Places We're Going This Summer," we went to our first of the list on Saturday, quite spontaneously. Our neighbor/landlord/wonderful friends called up to say that their grandchildren were with them for the day and they were going to ride the carousel and would we like to come along. Would we?!

It was a real treat. Here are the best things about it:

It's only a hop, skip and a jump off the beltway, just on the Maryland side of the Potomac. (I thought it was much farther and probably would have procrastinated had we not been invited to go with someone who knew the way.)

The carousel is a piece of history with a real calliope (which fascinated Henry - he giggled every time he saw the little cymbals inside move). Beautifully restored orginally built in 1928.

There is also a little cafe and a playground. About three birthday parties were happening in different areas of the park.

There are also several quaint historic buildings and museum-like spots, as well as some yerts with craftsmen working inside - metalwork, glassware, and pottery - and a puppet theatre and gardening workshops.

Our trip was unique because our neighbors went there as children, and could point out different parts of the place and tell stories about when it was an amusement park, etc. We walked into the park area and heard the carousel playing, and Pat said, "This. Is my childhood." That made it the most fun for me.

Cal and Henry just loved the carousel, and they picked the giant bunnies to ride on. (There were ostriches, lions, and the regular horses.) It's only $1, by the way - for a good, long ride.

So, I give it several stars out of several for good, easy, inexpensive fun for everyone.

Big Boy Birthday Party

Auntie S's youngest boy turned twelve this weekend and they had a big ol' birthday party for him, with a great tropical theme and fun in the swimming pool. She invited us over for the delicious food, and Calvin loved getting in the pool, jumping on the trampoline and just hanging out with the big kids. They were very accomodating and he thinks he is one of them, really.

And would you check out these ice creams? Yes, that is ice cream. In a cup-size bucket. With graham cracker crumbs on top to look like sand. I took pictures of the cupcakes, too, but the lighting was off, so they aren't very clear, but they had light blue frosting, graham cracker crumbs for the beach on one side, and palm trees on the beach made out of pretzel sticks and leaf-shaped chewy candies stuck on the top with a little dab of frosting. Can you believe how cute and clever?

We had a great time, so much so that I failed to leave while we were still having fun. That is key. The fewer times Cal looks and acts like this, the better. Yep, time for a blog snapshot and then bath and bed. It was a long, fun day.

Father's Day Package and Phone Call

For those of you wondering if the package that incurred all the trauma this week at the post office arrived, it did. Exactly on Father's Day. Nice, huh? Made the daddy's day. I hope he wore the obnoxious stickers we sent in one of the cards to church.

We also talked to him on the phone today. Henry said, "Fodders Deh, Dad." Very cute.


Happy Father's Day

To my Grandpa, who made me feel like I was the only girl in the world, who worked hard and loved his family best of all, and who did everything with exactness and grace.

To my Dad, who has always been there, who showed me an example of faithfulness and hard work, who thinks my kids are great, and who has never failed to just do what needs to be done.

To my father-in-law, Jim, who is always so willing to do anything for us, who has filled a gap in my husband's life, who does so much work just so we can have fun, who loves Colorado as much as I do, and who I'm so glad to know.

To my "little" brother Craig, who has shouldered the responsibility of his little family beautifully, who shows me that loving your spouse is the most important thing, and who has become such a great man and tender father.

To my brother-in-law Sean, who adores his wife and loves his kids, who is strong and sensitive and a good provider, and who is perfect for my sister.

To my Husband, who loves me and our children like crazy, who has taught me about faith and hope and just being grateful, and who is the best Dad our boys could ask for.

And now we'll sing great praise,
And rev'rently recall -
The Holy One
Who gave His Son,
The Father of us all.

Fathers are so special,
With a very special love.
They watch us and protect us,
They guide us and direct us,
Back to our home above.


Day Fifteen

Wow. Last night was the most sleepless night on record. I called David at 2 a.m. because I was WIDE awake after trying to go to sleep since ten. One great thing about the time difference between us - he was already well into his work day and had to go at the end because of a morning meeting - so I wasn't keeping him awake.

We decided we were both exhausted and the last day or two is when it has registered how really long the summer is going to be. I think that passing the two-week mark did it for me - he's never been on business trips longer than this so far. And we haven't been apart this long since our long-distance (second) engagement. And the paper chain isn't changing in appearance quickly enough for me, Miss Instant Gratification. (For a comparative photo, click here. It's disappointing, isn't it?)

We're both keeping plenty busy. I told Auntie S a little about his first two weeks and she says he's like Forrest Gump, which I think is hilarious. He's not quite as obliviously running and running, but he does seem to be in all the right places at just the right time, and he did admit to me that he only shaved for the first time since leaving yesterday. Eww.

It's not quite a box of chocolates here on the home front, but you know what my life is all about. I did have a baking extravaganza on Thursday and made my famous cheeseball and some fantastic spinach-artichoke dip yesterday for Auntie S's end-of the-school-year festivities. It was busy and fun - I love to have a reason to bake and make.

And interestingly enough, having the kids 24/7 hasn't been as wearing as I thought it would be - probably has something to do with expectations. (Although I am thrilled that a good friend of mine called and TOLD me she was going to take my kids for a whole day next week, choose my day, so Monday I get a catch-up day!) We've only skipped their evening bath twice in the last two weeks. So I'm not missing David so much for the childcare reprieve (see - I told you). I am missing the eye-to-eye contact and the snuggling and holding his hand and how good he smells and well, you know, just being close.

And being able to sleep. I think I must have dozed off sometime after 5 a.m., but suddenly it was nine and Henry was yelling from his crib. Cal was still zonked out because he only slept about two hours more than I did. I have no idea what this insomnia is all about, but sleep is precious, sacred, and directly linked to my sanity, so I'm going to have to figure something out!

In other completely random news, I noticed this morning as Cal was walking around in his skivvies (does anyone else call underwear that, or is it only my childhood family - I haven't thought of it in years, but I like it), I noticed that he has LOVE HANDLES. Could there be anything more adorable than a three-year-old with love handles? I wish baby fat was as fashionable on me. That my thighs could be considered as...edible... as the Michelin baby's.

This morning while foggily reading a book to the boys about a racecar, I was really impressed with this onomatopoeia: It says, "Along the straight part of the track the racing car charged, chasing the leader. Neeeyowwww, it overtook the car in front..."

I really like that, "Neeeeyowwww!"

Do it with me now: "Neeeeyowwww!"

Doesn't that just sound like a race car zooming past? Maybe when the summer is over we'll look back and feel like it zoomed past at neeeeyowwww speed.

P.S. In real life, I'm not this much of a baby - you just get to see the whiney side, lucky you! I am constantly sucking it up when I think of the women (and men and children) who are without their spouses and parents for really long deployments, or are separated because of divorce or death. It's hard for me, and I've got it easy. I feel for them - the real heroes - and I thank God every day for the blessings of my little family and the faith I have that He didn't give us to each other to love only when we can see and touch and talk to one another, but for forever. He loves us that much.


Rethinking My Image and Another Tale of Shower-time Negligence

When I was thinking of what to call my blog (which is only slightly less mindboggling than naming a child), I was trying to find a phrase that pretty much summed up my mommy-ness, and settled on the Code Yellow story. Which, as you may or may not know, perfectly illustrates the reputation I have built for myself - a little out of my depth (at the moment) with two preschool boys and a little too prone to panic and/or cry because I really just don't know what else to do on certain occasions. I feel that reputation keenly every time I venture into Target. I know all the red shirts are spying from their pre-morph state and whispering, "There she is, the Code Yellow Mom." I'm OK with that. It's where I'm at and I am already getting to the point where I can laugh at myself, take it easy a little bit, and every trip to Target is les and less the episode it once was. Plus, it's all about knowing that I'm not alone in the periodic cold-sweat of public appearances with young children. Or in household substance spills and other destruction. (See the comments on this post - they THRILLED me.)

Not too long after I started blogging, the first of what I considered "bloggable" moments in my "day in the life of the Code Yellow Mom" chronicles revolved around what happened when I was not in the same room with the Code Yellow Preschoolers - Namely, when I went to the bathroom, took a shower*, answered the phone upstairs and stayed up there to finish the conversation, or checked the comments on my blog. Ten minute activities, and - you know the phrase that begins 90% of my stories - WHEN I CAME DOWNSTAIRS...

So I think I might rename myself the "Upstairs Mom," or call my blog, "Mom Up, Two Down." Nah, that's too drastic a change. But maybe I should have someone design me a cool banner for when I post about what happens downstairs at our house. Something like, "While you were showering..." I don't know. Help me out here. Ideas? Anyone? I could even start a blog carnival of messes that moms everywhere find each time they take a few moments for personal hygiene.
Anyway, here's another Code Yellow classic: (How's that for a good banner phrase?)

WHEN I CAME DOWNSTAIRS, Cal was hiding in the corner of the couch with his hands over his ears (his new stance when he knows I'm going to get after him). I saw him, then I saw this masterpiece. I said, "Oh, Calvin!" in an exasperated tone and then just smiled - because, thanks to Tess's comment on the Desitin post**, I thought of the digital camera. Cal popped his head up to look at my face when he didn't hear me growling and he said, "Mom? Are you laughing?"

Me: Not exactly, but what have you been doing here?
Cal: Just playing with the blue tape and the spatulas.
Me: I see.
Cal: (gaining confidence in my non-irritated approach) Look, Mom. It's really cool. They're belted to the wall!

I just really could not get upset, considering the following:

1. The photo opp and bloggability factor. (It would be an interesting study to examine whether mommy blogs have made the mommy bloggers themselves more uptight or more laid back, based on how they respond to things like my downstairs discoveries. Guess it depends on what they consider bloggable. Orneriness and creativity are apparently my benchmarks.)

2. The brilliance of belting kitchen utensils to the wall. With painter's tape. The tape actually stretched through our kitchen, around the wall that divides the living room, around the armchair in the living room, and back to the belt site. Those kitchen utensils were belted good. I thought of saving this functional art idea for Works for Me Wednesday, but it was just too excellent to wait a whole week. "Having a handful of spatulas belted to the wall with painter's tape at my three-year-old's eye level works for me!"

3. The kitchen utensils, unlike bum cream, are not off-limits. They have kept my boys busy and happy for probably ten times as many hours as any of the "real toys" in the house. And occasionally the boys want to use them to help me, so I am not going to discourage that. (My only rules regarding them are that they never include the kitchen knives and they never go outside.)

That third point got me into a little messier situation a little later in the morning, however, when I left Henry to eat his (third) breakfast of Raisin Bran (the kid is a bottomless pit) with this spoon while I changed laundry loads (that's where Henry's clothes were - being laundered from his second breakfast). This photo is a re-pose so you could notice the size and color of the eating utensil.I came back to find him trying to dip up the last of the milk with this, raisins and bran flakes in splats all over the table and floor.
Cal had apparently decided Henry needed a bigger spoon. OOOOOO Kaaaaayyyy. Hmm.

But again, bloggable. Or is it? Anyone getting bored with these shenanigans? Because if you are, I won't commission the post banner. I'll stop going upstairs altogether to prevent them from happening again. I'll try to come up with alternative but undoubtedly less delightful blog topics. And I definitely won't change my name.

* Do you believe that before I blogged, I really thought that I was the only one who just couldn't find the time or sometimes even the emotional stamina to get a shower in each day? It was the first blessing of blogging to realize I wasn't a sloth. Or if I was, I wasn't the only one.

** Google "funny gunk bums." That cracks me up. (No pun intended, until after I typed that and decided not to change it.)


Thursday Thirteen #4

Thirteen Things
I'd Like To Tell The Woman I "Met" At The Post Office Yesterday

1. He’s three and a half. He’s recently potty trained and was trying not to wet his pants. (And yes, he did go before we left the house.)

2. In case you didn’t notice, my hands were full with a package to mail as well as his little brother, who is two – and who, I can tell you, was also running and whooping before I caught him and he started trying to crawl out of my arms by going over my head. And how old are you?

3. Also, they were behaving fine until a nicer fellow customer stopped to ask me if I was a resident of the city and if I wanted to know more about the young readers program. I’m not, so I didn’t, but by the time I could answer her politely, my boys had started the whoop jog around the room.

4. And I was mailing a package to their dad, who is overseas for the whole summer. He’s been gone for less than ten days so far, but you couldn’t even manage ten seconds of patience with my little ones, so I don’t really think you could do what I’m doing.

5. Do you know how much I literally sweat about taking the boys into a post office? It's one of my least favorite places because of the waiting in line (little boys don’t do that with any more grace than you do), and the feeling that everyone is looking at me and judging my parenting by whether or not my boys stand like robots beside me in line. Incidentally, mailing a package overseas required extra paperwork, so I had to wait in line twice.

6. In retrospect, I don’t believe I could have done anything different in the situation than I was doing, because I was doing the best I could. Can you say the same?

7. But since you acted like the post office was supposed to be as quiet and solemn as a library or a church, you should know that the Lord’s name is not an expletive, and it should not be used in that tone and that loudly, nor in the face of my three-year-old. That was more obnoxious than the sophomoric dirty look you threw my way after my boy crossed your path (without even touching you, I might add) in your hurry out the door.

8. Must have been nice for you to be able to act like that and then walk out the door without hearing a reply. I didn't make one - I never have one in situations like these, but you still missed a lot of the show…

9. The postal worker asked me if I only had two kids and when I nodded she said, “It’s enough, huh?” I was actually less insulted by her remark than I may have been normally because it at least approached empathy.

10. And my little boy forgot how bad he needed to go pee long enough to ask me with genuine concern - albeit loudly, for everyone else in the post office to hear - why I was crying and if I was OK. Looks like he’s further along on his way to getting over himself and caring about others than you are.

11. I am willing to give you the benefit of believing you were having a bad day, and it's quite possible that my children need their running and hollering curbed a little, but I'm glad they are at least learning that bad day or not - it's not OK to take it out on other people. And how old are you?

12. But hey, I haven’t cried really hot, embarrassed tears like that since the Payless Shoe Source Lady (who asked me not to "let" my infant spit up on "her" floor - while I was cleaning it up!) and the Man on the Airplane Three Rows Back (who made an unwarranted and snide comment about bringing a baby on board - before we even took off). To all three of you, and others like you, I say thanks for this experience. Because of you, I am reminded what I am about and what really matters.

13. You're not it. And from now on, I'm going to concentrate on doing what you should have done yesterday: Relax! Life is just too short, and my little boys will grow up quicker than I can get through the line at the post office.

Links to other Thursday Thirteens!

Get the Thursday Thirteen code here!

The purpose of the meme is to get to know everyone who participates a little bit better every Thursday. Visiting fellow Thirteeners is encouraged! If you participate, leave the link to your Thirteen in others comments. It’s easy, and fun! Be sure to update your Thirteen with links that are left for you, as well! I will link to everyone who participates and leaves a link to their 13 things. Trackbacks, pings, comment links accepted!


WFMW: Babysitting Co-op

(Thanks to Shannon for hosting the Works for Me "carnival." Check out Rocks in My Dryer today for links to tons of other WFMW ideas!)

A couple of you have asked about this, and I decided it would be great for a WFMW: The Babysitting Co-op.

This is one of the most helpful things in my life. Teenagers these days seem to have a much busier agenda than I ever did, and the ones who are willing to babysit could easily break the bank. (I was lucky to get $15 for a whole evening of sitting, let alone for each hour!) Plus, I love the peace of mind that comes with having other moms tend my kids.

Here’s how it works:

There are about ten families who participate. Most have two children, but some have three or four, and all of the children are under age 12. It would work with four or five families, but the larger the number of participants, the greater the chance of getting a sitter when you need one. And we have a limit of 25 families, but it has never gotten that big.

Each family (mom) takes a turn being the bookkeeper. We have used both a hard copy in a spiral notebook and an Excel file that we posted electronically. Either works fine. On the bookkeeping sheet, there is a line for each family in the co-op and a column for each day of the given month.

Whenever I need a babysitter, I e-mail or call around the co-op list to see who is available. In general, for daytime sits I take my kids to someone’s house and for nighttime sits someone comes to my house.

After the sit, the sitter contacts the bookkeeper and reports the hours of the sit. We round to the half hour. (Hours are not multiplied by the number of children – it’s just straight up, however long you watch anyone’s kids.) The babysitter gets the hours entered as a positive number and the family whose children were tended gets negative hours entered on the same date.

At the end of the month, the bookkeeper tallies the hours, lets everyone know how many positive or negative hours they have, writes in the balance forward for each family, and passes the books on to the next family in alphabetical order. (The bookkeeper balances the hours by calculating the rows across and the columns down and making sure it all equals zero. i.e., the same number of negative hours and positive hours across the board.)

We periodically call the bookkeeper to find who is most in babysitting debt, so that they can be the first person we call for a sitter. That way, no one is over-babysitting or not babysitting enough. No one is allowed to accumulate more than 20 hours (positive or negative).

The co-op I participate in is made up of young moms I go to church with, and they started it almost three years ago. There are written by-laws for it from the early days, but since we have all become great friends, it’s a little more casual than that now. (If you are trying to establish one with your community or in an area where there is a frequent turnover of neighbors/friends in the co-op, I would recommend doing something in writing for each family that participates. I have a copy of the bylaws for ours – if you want it, e-mail me.)

Some important things to keep in mind are:

  • Keep the geographic area of your co-op within a reasonable distance so that it’s convenient for everyone involved.
  • Although the bookkeeper changes from month to month, it’s important to have a member of the co-op that acts as a leader/mediator, just in case circumstances arise that need to be worked through or cleared up.
  • You might want to have penalties/bonus hours in place for times when a sit is cancelled at the last minute by either the sitter or the person who needs the sitter.
  • You will want to make clear expectations of the members on issues such as guns in the home (locked up tight or not permitted), pets (allergies, Rottweilers...), medical release information, and the people in the family who qualify as sitters (i.e., only the mom, only the parents, or is the teenage daughter or au pair OK?).
This is an awesome money, time and stress saver in my life, akin to supper swapping (which DYM blogged about and I dream of doing but no-one will go for - can you believe?!).

Babysitting Co-op works for me!

P.S. If you are in the throes of potty training, head straight over to Katherine’s WFMW at Raising Five – she is a preschool mom extraordinaire, sharing her wisdom in that department today! (Antique Mommy also has a hilarious previous post about potty training here, and I posted what worked for me here, so read up. Sharing our collective wisdom definitely works for me!)


Raspberry Mugshots

Our neighbor gave us a cup full of fresh raspberries from her garden yesterday. Henry had himself a few. I'm beginning to see that telling him "no-no" or other reprimands might not ever work, but taking out the camera and making him hold still so I can take a picture and blog about it might.

And not to be outdone, Cal found the markers we used yesterday for coloring a Father's Day card and decided to decorate his face, too. When I was taking the picture, he asked, "Are you going to put this on your blog?" I can't even succinctly explain to people what a blog is, and he knows all about my habit.

Feeling Poignant

I read Out of the Dust by Karen Hesse a couple weeks ago and haven't been able to get it out of my mind since. It's a quick read, entirely in free verse, and I highly recommend it. It's a little My Antonia, a little Sarah, Plain and Tall in flavor, and if you like historic fiction a la Grapes of Wrath, you will like this book. The part I started bawling at was her "Thanksgiving List" - all the simple and precious things she was grateful for even in the midst of tragedy and loss.

I also read a post about cherries today that got me thinking about the moments in our lives when everything seems to converge into a moment of appreciation, joy and gratiitude, just happiness at life, and how those moments are often inextricably connected with moments of pain, fear and loneliness but somehow made even more intensely beautiful because of the things that hurt.

These are the things I'm thinking about today, and can't really find adequate words, but I think I am grateful for the times that aren't perfectly wonderful as much as I'm grateful for the times that are. In fact, I don't think I would appreciate the joy without the sadness, or learn anything if life were constant bliss.

What do you think?


I Went Extreme Rock Climbing Today *UPDATED*

This is the carpet runner that goes up our stairs. This section is from the landing:"Um, so what?!" You might ask. Look again. There are twelve cleverly disguised ROCKS on this carpet runner on the stair landing. Do you see all of them? I didn't either.

There were at least three more on actual stairs, disguised by the same carpet. I found them, one by one, by FEEL today, usually while taking laundry or a child up or down the stairs. Each time I stepped on one, I picked it up and took it away, only to discover another one later.

You'd think I'd only have to worry if the rug looked like this. But it is apparent that I am entering a whole new level of the rock collecting and stashing - in plain sight, but not. Clever little rock fiends. This had to have been a several day project for Henry - his little fists only hold one rock each. That's at least six trips to the stairs with a pair of rocks (assuming we went out to the car at least once in a day, where he collects them en route). I have no doubt Cal helped arrange them strategically, but still, this is quite an operation.

It means I need a new rug, new feet, new eyes, and a system of fist inspection before anyone is allowed on the stairs. Not to mention some understanding of why rocks are so endlessly fascinating and necessary.

***UPDATED to add - *** I found this cache in a corner by the bookcase...And learned that his fists have a larger capacity than I gave him credit for. Also that he has a special relationship with his little handful of feet and ankle wreckers: When I told him they had to go back outside and tossed them out the back door, he stood there with his face pressed up against the glass chanting his farewell with a heartfelt dimunitive: "Bye-bye, Rockies. Bye-bye, Rockies." (None of us call them "rockies," I assure you.)


Bird Poop Ad Infinitum and Other Important Subjects

(If this topic doesn't interest you, feel free to skip it and go on over to my friend Angela's blog for a look at her little girl's adventure in a bowl.)

We have this fabulous tree out front - super shady, with one of those long, thick, outreaching branches that just begs to be climbed upon. The unfortunate thing is that the branch (and most of the rest of the tree) is over our assigned parking space. And lots of birds like to fly and sit in the tree with the cool branch that hangs over our assigned parking place. They also like to poop while they are flying and sitting there. I have washed the car more in the few months we have lived in this house than in the few years before, combined. That reflects my general neglect of all things car-related, but it's also a comment on the bird poop situation.

But actually, I'm not sure if I wash the car more because of the bird poop itself, or because of the toddler who zealously chants, "Bud-poop-window, bud-poop-window, bud-poop-window," every time we get in the car to go anywhere. The chant continues for several minutes and is only sometimes concluded either by the three-year-old, who invariably says, "Mom, can we go to the car wash? A bird pooped on Henry's window again," or else by me getting into the line at the car wash before we continue with other errands. There's just nothing else to be done about the poop or the chant but wash the car.

Well, I guess we could cover the car with a tarp every time we get out of it, and uncover it every time we want to go somewhere, like the guy next door who just bought a shpanky new porsche (he's a bachelor with three roommates to share the rent - we don't live in a naturally shpanky neighborhood, I promise). But the diaper bag, two car seats, and the handfuls of rocks that are collected between the front door and the car every time we exit is already more than I can handle. A tarp to contend with would put me in the loony bin for sure. Besides, the car wash doubles as ten minutes of entertainment for the engineer in Calvin.

Here are a few other conversations from today:

First thing this morning, Calvin told me his tummy really hurt. He looked uncomfortable, so I asked if it hurt like he was going to throw up? No...Does it feel like you just need to go potty? No...Well, do you think it hurts because you are hungry? And then he said, "No, I think it's just tired of running." To which I said, "But you just got up. You haven't been running at all yet today." And he said, "I know I haven't, but my tummy has been running a lot, and I think it's just tired of it." I guess you're never too young to feel some days like parts of your body must just be tired of operating...

I'm not really very adept today at figuring out my children's ailments, apparently. Henry tried to "escape" from some play equipment at the park by going down the firemen's pole. (If the six-year-olds can do it, why can't he? is what he thinks). He fell, of course. It was a short pole, thankfully, but he landed pretty hard and had some measure of wounded pride, I think. I didn't see what he hit on the way down, and I ran over to him. He laid his head on my shoulder as I asked, "Oh, Henry, what did you hurt?" He lifted up his head, and looked at me incredulously, with big crocodile tears, and wailed, "MMEEEEEEEE!"

But my favorite comment was today while driving down the road, when Calvin said, completely out of the blue,"Mom, our house is only big enough for ONE thing, and that's...all of us!"

Sometimes I wish for more profound things to talk about each day, but other times, my boys get it just about right. I generally like life in our house that's just big enough for all of us, bird-poop inviting tree and all.

Day Six

My blog has multiple personalities...one is dotty and one is floweredy, but the dotty one is more comfortable while blogger is going through his own major instabilities...We're all codependent here. Or enmeshed. Or maybe just sick and tired...Therapist, anyone?

Anyway, it's Day Six without Dad. (For new readers, he's "just" out of the country for the summer...)D always says he has the hardest time sleeping when he is away from home. I usually sleep better, for whatever reason. But this time, I think he left his separation insomnia behind. My coca-cola consumption is way down and I still can't sleep.

The boys are starting to do all the things I knew they would to express the things they can't verbalize. Cal falls apart at the slightest change. (We moved the furniture around today and it was thirty minutes before he calmed down enough to say that he hated the "new" couch and that he wasn't going to sit on it.) Henry is whiney, whiney, whiney - which is partly a function of things being different and partly a function of being nearly two.

Mostly, things are a lot like they are when D is only going to be gone for a week or ten days, except the knowing that it is going to be much longer. That's the hard part.

And trying to think of someone who would run to 7-11 and pick me up a soda and something crunchy/salty at 10 p.m. on a Thursday night, since the boys are in bed already.

I went ahead and posted my Thursday Thirteen, even though the day is all but over. It's part of the plan for sanity this summer. I also found a friend at church who is going to watch the boys on afternoons - she has a little "preschool" activity program that she will do with them as well. And last but not least, we made plane reservations for a trip to Colorado to see the extended family, and we were invited by Auntie S to come to the beach for a week or two in August with her family. So we're pretty booked up. Hope it keeps us busy and happy.

Thursday Thirteen #3

Thirteen Places We Are Going This Summer
It would be a shame to live in a place as great as the nation's capitol region and miss out on some of the spectacular parks and other sites. In addition to the monuments and Smithsonian which we happen to go to a lot (especially when visitors come), this is our list of outings for the summer. My boys are really into trains, the outdoors, and animals, so most of our stops have to do with that, but there really is something for everyone around here. And I have found most everything stroller accessible and kid-friendly.

1. Walkersville Railroad
2. Kenilworth Aquatic Gardens
3. Reston Zoo
4. Imagine That! (In Rockville, Maryland - huge open space with tons of hands-on play areas, including a real fire engine and airplane that kids can climb on and explore.)
5. B&O Railroad Museum
6. Meadowlark Gardens
7. Cunningham Falls
8. Glen Echo
9. National Building Museum
10. Green Springs Garden Park
11. National Gallery of Art (Rousseau - More orange monkeys!)
12. C&O Canal (This is so cool...)
13. Leesburg Outlets and Lucketts (antique shops and a country drive)


Small Talk

I have multiple ideas for WFMW (chose just one for today) but I am still having trouble with pics, so you get two little boy stories this morning and maybe as soon as Henry and Blog*ger stop tantrumming I will get some patience, come back and try it again. Or maybe it will just happen next week.

Calvin hollered up from downstairs last night, "Don't come down here, Mom! I'm making a surprise!" Uh-oh. I went down anyway, thanks to his announcement, and found a cute little surprise, not as messy as the usual. He had filled four little cups with water and placed them (in a line, of course) by the bathroom sink "because there are four people in our family and we will all need water when we brush our teeth."

Henry tripped and bumped into something yesterday (we call him "Ricochet" around here)and without a pause or a fuss, said, "OosaDezzy." So cute - and I thought only five year old girls with pigtails and British wall-climbing travel bookstore owners said that. But my 2-year-old does, too.

He is definitely two. I didn't realize Cal was out of this phase until Henry started it and it is kicking me in the butt. Again. Oh what fun it is to live in a two-boy crying house!


Our Day at the Zoo

I tried to tell you about it on Sunday, but blo**er bullied me out of it. I tried to tell you last night and blo**er crashed when I clicked “post.” I am going to try to tell you about it today and if blo**er won’t let me put pictures up or tries to mess with me in any way, I will leave you with a forwarding address. I realize I am only a newby to blogging and by no means a professional, but my time in the blogosphere is precious. I have kids to raise and chocolate to eat (THANK YOU, Gram and Grampa Jim!)and showers to take. My blog was supposed to be a fun reprieve each day, not an ordeal of weeping, wailing and gnashing of teeth. So consider yourself warned, blo**er.

This is actually a post about taking the Metro and my very smart sons, but the zoo is mentioned, and I like the 4th-grade-essay-type title, so we’ll leave it at that.

Since we got a late start to the zoo on Saturday and parking is very hard to find and very expensive when you don’t get there at opening time, I opted to try the Metro. Free parking at the station on Saturdays, and less than 1/3 the cost to ride the train than to park at the zoo. There’s a tip for you, should you ever want to visit the National Zoo on a Saturday in the summer.

Riding the train into the city had the added advantage of allowing Cal a look at the underworld of the Metro. While our public transport system is probably one of the safest and cleanest in the nation, Cal will tell you that what he found under the bench was “Yicky.” He also went on an eloquent little tirade about how God probably doesn’t like for us to put trash and sticky stuff all over the world that He made for us. I bet it made the man next to us think twice about where he was going to put his gum when it no longer tasted like spearmint. Yep, me and Cal, changing the world, one loud lecture at a time.

We disembarked (never been on a cruise, but I like that word, so that’s what we did) from the Metro at Cleveland Park. It’s actually one stop past the “Zoo” stop, but it’s a LEVEL three block walk across across a bridge instead of one STEEP UPHILL block from the real zoo stop. That’s important to know in case you are pushing too lead-bottomed boys in a double wide jogging stroller. And Cal is crazy about bridges. This one went over a “Ciduous Forest” – the new term he learned from Auntie S a couple weeks ago.

The added bonus of taking the Metro was the Cleveland Park neighborhood. Never been there on foot, and it was a treat. If I were a DINK (well, if David and I were DINKs together), I would want to live in Cleveland Park. There is this really cool 1916 firehouse right across from the station, some fabulous art-deco style apartment buildings, tree-lined streets of historic homes, and this great array of shops along Connecticut Avenue. I loved the little grocery markets (not the suburban “super” type) and the drycleaner with the huge drop box in the window right off the sidewalk – people were walking down the street carrying their groceries and dry cleaning, doing errands like it was 1955 on Main Street America or something. And a great mix of chic sushi bars, antique shops, salons and coffee shops (not a Starbucks in sight).

It’s the kind of neighborhood that feels as if people really live there, as opposed to thinking about living there sometime if it could just be planned out properly. (Suburban DC is the land of planned communities, and being from the west, I miss the “sprouted up as it was needed” kind of town. Although I also miss the nice North-South, East-West grid pattern of cities like Salt Lake – here the paved cow paths cross each other so many times, sometimes under aliases, that even Mapquest doesn’t know what to tell you.)

At the zoo, I learned about three new animals. I was proud, because I thought there wasn’t much more to the animal kingdom after Diego educated me on pygmy marmosets and spectacled bears. But there is the caracal (kinda creepy, really), the capybara (is it me or should Brazil and Australia win the “Weirdest Animal” award, hands down?), and the Przewalski’s horse. Guess how you pronounce that horse’s name? Zhe-val-ski. Cool, huh? They are the Siberian equivalent to our wild horses, named by some guy from one of those countries where a P doesn’t sound like P.

Incidentally – did you know that the National Zoo is actually a part of the Smithsonian Institute? That means it is free (except the parking), has tons of factoid placards and educational pit stops (Morning Glory, your husband would love it), a few politically placed publicity stunts (we’ll see if that will get my traveling husband to froth in the comment section about the pandas…), and it’s a very busy place, especially in the summer time.

We didn’t get to see the pandas because of the crowd. I made a woman gasp in horror (well, maybe not horror, but she was visibly chagrined) when I told Calvin that the pandas were lazy and boring. It’s just that he was about to have a meltdown because not one person with their ginormous telescoping lensed cameras and tripods could pull themselves away from watching a SLEEPING panda almost fully obscured by a stand of bamboo just to let my little boy squeeze between them for five seconds to get a glimpse. (Husband, let’s hear it about the pandas!) I don’t dislike the pandas as much as all that, I just don’t understand the “buzz”, and I think there are more interesting things at the zoo.

Like golden lion tamarins. (Imagine a photo of Calvin standing by a "Caution: GLT Crossing" sign here.) They aren’t enclosed in a fake habitat and are fun to look for, scampering through the trees, not much bigger than a squirrel, but bright orange. We didn’t see them either, but I did get the idea to start referring to my boys as my GLTs. We all know that it stands for little orange monkeys, but it sounds like a sports car and it could have some fun meaning when applied to little boys. Groovy Little Tykes? Help me out, here. The winner of the “Nickname Code Yellow’s Kids Using the Letters G-L-T” gets…a link in her next post?

(Imagine a picture of Henry fast asleep in the stroller here.)Anyway, the highlight of the zoo portion of our trip was probably the chocolate-vanilla twist ice cream cone near the end. Oh, and Henry telling me that a monkey says, “Oo, Oo, Ah, Ah” and taking a nap. (I’m telling you, one o’clock comes and that is it, he’s out for the count…That's brilliant for you. Wish I were that smart.)

On our way out Cal piped up and said, “Hey, Mom. THIS is a police station.” This picture is really all there is to it – it’s in the middle of the zoo, there was no one in uniform in sight, and he knew what building it was. Can he read?!? If so, I am going to have to be more careful what I right in my blog. Wouldn’t want him to get a big head, knowing that I’m telling everyone he’s brilliant all the time.

But he is. When we were at the station waiting for the Metro to go home, he said, “This is where we get on our FIRST train, then we change to the next train and THAT ONE will take us back to our car.” I had never explained how many trains we had ridden or how long it would be until we got back to our car. He just does not miss a trick. It frightens me.

It also boosts my confidence in mothering, even though I can hardly take credit for his brilliance. If my sons weren’t amazing, I might feel totally deflated after giving Henry a Reese's PB cup and hearing one of the co-eds sitting on the Metro near us start talking to her friend very loudly (and pointedly, I might add) about her niece who just lives for blueberries after her dinner, because she doesn’t eat sweets all day long. Henry was asleep for the twist ice cream cone at the zoo, and I didn’t have berries in the stroller basket, OK? And besides that, if she would have seen him eating fresh peas out of the pod like they were candy the other day, she would have just stopped with her passive-aggressive little treatise on healthy food for toddlers. My other son has made a list of “foods that are good for our body,” which didn’t include chocolate. (Nevermind that if I had made that list, it would have.) And I hate to tell her, but blueberry nieces are the kids that gorge themselves sick at birthday parties and spend their fiedltrip pocket change entirely on AirHeads and Slurpees because they don't ever get a real, honest to goodness, fructose treat every once in a while. So there.

And that was our day at the zoo.



This post. Excuse me while I go do some breathing exercises and refrain from rashly swtiching to typepad.

"A Quick Succession of Busy Nothings"

aka "About 25 Things That Happened This Week and I Wanted to Blog About Them But Didn't And I Can't Do Full Posts About Them Now, But I Can't Let Them Go, Either."

aka "Feel Free to Read in 25 Sittings If You Need To, Just To Get Through It, Since Blogger Will Not Let Me Add Photos for More Enjoyable Reading."

Yeah, the Jane Austen quote for a title is much better.

David arrived in Molvania, safe and sound. He is mostly sleeping and waiting for now, but he has called and e-mailed and entered a comment on my blog (the husband speaks!), so all is well.

Speaking of David leaving, the sandbox got a lid and our kitchen got a new light fixture, courtesy of his faithful completion of the honey-do-before-you-go list. Now we don't have to whack the light fixture after flipping the switch to get it to come on, and the stinking black cat that is prowling our yard can't make the sand box into a litter box...

Speaking of the honey-do list, I tried to clean the carpet in our living room to help with item on said list and it resulted in nice muddy stripes up and down the rug. So honey had to do it anyway. And then he told ME thanks for trying to do something sweet. Can't lose for winning...

Speaking of the clean carpet, we took a trip to the zoo today to keep one day's worth of sandbox foot traffic off of it. This will probably be the topic of Monday's post because it was more of an adventure than I want to elaborate on here.

Speaking of zoos, I have apparently been operating like I live in one (the monkey house), because I asked my babysitting co-op last week for a babysitter on Monday, got one, then sent out another e-mail today to the co-op asking for the same thing, thinking that I had neglected it and now no one would be available last minute. The mom who is going to watch my boys sent a note back: "Is life a little crazy? You're already on my calendar." Uh, yeah, he, he, he...

Speaking of our babysitting co-op/playgroup friends, we went strawberry picking with them on Wednesday. It was lovely. One of my favorite places: Butler's Orchard in Maryland. The boys are great berry-pickers, and as a bonus, the peas were also ready for picking so we picked a few of them, too. Cal and Henry had me opening sugar snap pods for the rest of the day, eating little fresh peas like they were the most wonderful, amazing thing in the world. There really is something so magical about the miracle of planting and harvesting, and God's amazing creations. Fun to see it through the boys' eyes...

Speaking of strawberries, we passed the Godiva chocolatier in the mall yesterday and their dipped strawberries in the window were seriously the size of my fist. And they cost more for their weight than gold does. I don't think I want a single strawberry that expensive or that big, even if it is covered in chocolate...

Speaking of gold and riches, on Memorial Day we ate at one of my favorite places in all of DC - El Pollo Rico. The Rich Chicken, El Salvadoran rotisserie style. You can choose a 1/4 chicken or a 1/2 chicken, and it comes with great fries and tasty slaw and a great yellow dipping sauce. The place is in an alley-like side street and could be mistaken for an auto shop from the outside, but that chicken is fabulous. And you can't beat the feeling of leaving a pile of bones and greasy napkins on your plate when you're finished...

Speaking of eating good dinners, the question of what to fix every night is right up there on the banes of my existence. I saw a preview this week of a new TLC show called the Take Home Chef where he tracks down someone in the grocery store, and asks her if she'd like him to come home with her and whip up a gourmet dinner for whoever she was planning to feed. He buys the groceries, too. I think I want to be stalked like that...

Speaking of making dinner, and not having a chef to take home with me, I bought some frozen crockpot meals to try out (they were on a good sale and I love the crockpot). I made chicken and dumplings yesterday, but really had to laugh at the instructions because they really said, "Wash hands" after emptying the seasoning pouch into the crockpot. Since when is personal hygiene included in package instructions, and were my hands supposed to get dirty emptying packets of frozen stuff into the pot? The only thing I could figure is that from the picture it looks like the pouch is magically pouring itself while both my hands are busy pouring and stirring. A magically pouring sauce pouch probably could require hand washing, if it decided to go Disney's Sorcerer's Apprentice or something. I don't know...

Speaking of magic, I think that one of the most eye-opening parts of motherhood is realizing that all those things that happened as a child that were so wonderful and magical (Christmas morning being the least of them, it turns out) were the result of the parents - i.e., if my kids are going to have anything magical (like clean underwear folded nicely in their drawers), I have to do the work for it. And there's a lot of stuff that goes on "behind the scenes," I am finding out. Do you know what I mean?...

Speaking of being a little overwhelmed, I have a bone to pick with mo willems for his book, "Don't Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus." It and "Don't Let the Pigeon Stay Up Late" are favorites around here. But Calvin has very intelligently adopted the phrase, "What's the big deal?!" as expressed by the pigeon to bring me back from my moments of exasperation. Funny, but not...

Speaking of funny expressions, Calvin also changed his trademark, "What in the world?!" about things he thinks are odd, to "What in the what-ness?!" No idea where he got it from...

Speaking of wondering what is going on, Henry got some bad hiccups the other night after gulping his drink too fast. He sat at the table hiccuping, and I could tell they were starting to hurt, then he looked at me after one of the big jolts and said, with an anguished little face and questioning voice, "Burp?!"...

Speaking of Henry's new talking habit, he has learned to put things together like, "No-Talk-Me!" when he doesn't want to be told not to eat Desitin or climb onto the coffee table. And when I told him it was time for bed tonight he said, "Wats. Mossers. Ink." (Watch Monsters, Inc.) I don't think I'm ready for the articulate Henry, but it's so freakin' adorable...

Speaking of bad habits (like turning on movies as a form of childcare in the hopes that you can get a shower), David sent me an article this week about a study that indicates that fewer snack foods in a child's diet doesn't really positively impact their average life expectancy or their obesity level. Whew. Now I feel a little better about all the fruit snacks, lollipops, ice cream, and the fact that Henry asks for "Bot-bot" (Chocolate) in his "Muk" (Milk)...

Speaking of fabulous sweet treats, David's sister sent a hug in the form of brownies by mail today. Thanks, M! They were so good that I don't even care if they affect my ability to fit into the vintage bathing suit I bought on E-bay. It's a 1940's style with cap sleeves and sooo cool. I really like vintage stuff and I hope it's not too wierd to get a bathing suit from E-bay because it is just what I'd like a bathing suit to be - modest, flattering, and inexpensive. No, I will not post a picture of me in it. I am done with pictures of me...

Speaking of fitting into clothing, I bought a few new shirts for summer a couple weeks ago. They were so cute and simple and nice looking, great for shorts or jeans or skirts, and they were long, which was the main thing (the baby fat over low-rise pants must be covered), but they were also only $6 each. So $24, one wear and one wash later, I am left with four shirts that look like this. I did in no way alter or stretch this shirt for photo bloggability! I measured it, too, and it is seriously 1 inch wider than it is tall now. So from now on, do I buy one shirt for $24 that will maintain it's proportions through washing it every day because it's the one shirt I own, or do I continue to buy the cheapies and try not to be disheartened when I wear them a second time and look like a cube resting on top of a butt and gut?...

Speaking of washing shirts, I saw one on a little kid today that said, "My Mom Did My Laundry!!!" OK, that is just hilarious. I told his mom so, too. I want to get six for each of my boys, for every day of the week except Sunday, so everyone knows I'm doing one of my jobs. And if they wear one of them on Sunday, everyone will know I'm not...

Speaking of having clean, fresh smelling things to wear, check this new product out: eau de Play-doh. I want some, I really do. I wonder if they have perfume in the scent of those brown artgum erasers, too. I'd take some of that as well. We know how much I'm in to smelling nice...

Speaking of play-doh, I learned an important lesson about letting myself go this week. Cal has a new play-doh kit with four colors of "doh" and a bunch of squishers and cutters and "tools" that he loves. I have told him a couple times to be really careful not to mix the colors together or he will have an ugly brown color of play-doh and it won't be as fun to play with anymore. Well, I came into the room and he was in the process of squishing the blue and green together. I made a conscious effort to say nothing, both because I thought he could figure out by experience what would happen, and also because I decided it really wasn't the end of the world if he did end up with a brown gob of doh. A little while later, he brought the green and blue swirled together, shaped into a nice ball in his little hands and said, "Look, Mom! I made the Earf! The blue parts are the water and the green is the grass!" Letting go of the less important requirements of myself let him make a beautiful little world...

And that's my week being a mom.