Next on the Horizon...

Calvin has literally been waiting since Henry's birthday in July for his birthday to come. ("First there's the 4th of July, then Dad's birthday, then Dad gets home, then Mom's birthday, then Halloween, then Thanksgiving, then YOUR birthday!!!")

We also have determined that every fourth birthday* is a friend party (not just family over for cake and ice cream), so this is his first big one.

My brain is saying, simple, simple, simple - they're four years old; my vain brain is saying, but their parents will probably stick around to see the shebang and you need to impress them. Added to the fact that we live in an area where if you don't rent a moonbounce or a $50/hour face-painter/magician/balloon artist, your party is a bust. I'm feeling a tiny bit of stress.

I am reassured by the fact that we (Calvin and I) have cooler friends than that. And I'm going for the kind of party my mom would throw - a cute cake, some home-made fun, and some wild animal safari games. A four-year-old's dream, right?

One of my favorite memories is actually of my sister's birthday one year. Remember "slip'n'slides?" They were really pricey when they came out, but my mom made one with a sheet of black roofing plastic and a sprinkler, and then she even belly-slid on it with us!! I have a picture. My mom can be really cool like that. I'm afraid I'm not as fun, but we'll give it a whirl.

Look for jungle safari pictures after Friday. And pray that there will be sunshine so we can do a couple things outside instead of all in our little house...

*It's a little much to have a huge shebang every single year, plus we figure four years old is the first time kids really have friends that they have opinions about inviting and that they will remember and enjoy at a party; eight is their baptism year and extra cause for celebration; twelve is their growing up year - junior high, graduate to youth program at church, boys get the Priesthood; and sixteen is just sweet. The other years are celebrated, of course, but just within family - special outings with mom or dad, etc.


Back-dated Thanksgiving

How could I have neglected posting this?

Both boys ate their weight in turkey and potatoes and Auntie S's ribbon salad. The whole turkey brining-cooking-gobbling process enthralled Calvin, and having a whole day to play with cousin Lily was all they could ask from a holiday.

As for me, I came from behind to win a very sorry game of Phase 10 and managed to make my mom's crab dip appetizer without a flaw. So, it wasn't too bad.

Mostly, I'm so thankful for my husband and my boys. We're safe and sound and healthy and happy and together, and it's really quite nice.


Of Squirrels and Sons

Our neighbors gave us a really neat bird feeder that hangs by suction cups on the window to the back yard. I grew up in a place where there were basically two kinds of birds: robins in the spring and magpies year round. Here, there is a magnificent assortment of birds, and the boys love to watch the little things land and take seeds and fly away again. David helps them look up the birds in a little bird book so they know what kind they are.

The Carolina wrens have been known to form lines in the tree a few feet a way and take turns at the feeder. And an occasional cardinal (Calvin's favorite) or woodpecker stops in. Some of the birds even act like hummingbirds, flapping their wings like crazy to hover while their little friends take their turns getting seeds.

We liked the feeder a lot because we thought it was squirrel proof - and it has been for almost a year now. Then a bushy tailed rodent figured out how to scale the drain pipe and brick wall next to the window and leap 2 feet across to the bird feeder.

At first he balanced precariously in the little hole where the birds feed and munched while holding on for dear life with his hind feet. (I bet you've never fixed red-eye in a photo of a squirrel before - to tell you the truth, it kinda creeped me out!)Then he figured out that if he leapt to the top of the bird feeder, hopped on the outside edge where the hinge is, held on to the bottom of the feeder while the top door opened, then he could twist his way up to the top and enjoy a real feast. The graceful but mangy creature then proceeded to bark at any bird who even dared come near, and started devouring all the sunflower seeds and spitting the shells back into the birdfeeder. After which he got really sure of himself and started doing acrobatics while munching.

This shot was my favorite, hanging upside down, holding a seed in his little paws and munching away.

It was fascinating and somewhat riveting to watch a squirrel literally inches a way, with only a window pane between us. The boys crawled up on a chair and watched and tapped on the window and the animal was completely unphased. It's like having one's own personal zoo. Or being too close to a glorified rat, if you want to know the truth. But really a nice reprieve from PBS kids.

It did make me want to tell the squirrel about the ants and the grasshopper and that he needed to be putting some away for the winter, because that's what industrious real-world squirrels do. It just amazed me, how smart, dextrous, and agile squirrels are...

Kinda the way Calvin amazes me, how smart and aware he is...

In September, we were taking a friend to the airport, driving along Hwy 1 past the Pentagon to Reagan National. In taking the friend to the airport, we probably mentioned that it was Reagan, just in our conversation, talking about the crazy security lines there and the fact that the runways end abruptly at the tidal basin, etc.

Six weeks later the boys were getting a little restless on the way to David's boss's house and we were driving along the same road. A huge jet was taking off and David pointed it out and told Calvin that we would be seeing the airport tower in just a minute if he would look out his window. As soon as he saw the tower, Cal said, "Hey! This is Reagan!" What kids know and recognize names of different airports? (There are three around here that we've been to.)

And the other day I had a doctor appointment and was taking the boys to a new babysitter in our co-op. We got there a few minutes early and Calvin was reading the numbers on the apartment house building: "Is this her house? It's 1-1-6-6-3." Just then I realized that I had forgotten the paperwork I was supposed to take with me to the doctor and Henry's fringy blanket, which would be important during a naptime sit. So I decided to go back home and get the papers and blanket and come back to the sitter with the boys.

The boys and I talked about other stuff on the way home and back, plus listened to their mind-numbing Little People songs while driving, but when we pulled back into the parking lot at the sitter's house, Cal piped up and said, "Remember, Mom: It's 1-1-6-6-3." Yeah, I was going by memory - it was the building about three buildings in. And Cal was going by this great innovation called an address. That he had taken upon himself to learn and remember.

Maybe other not-quite-four-year-olds recall this kind of stuff, too. I'm just amazed by it every time - the little things he notices, hears, and stores away for future reference.

Some creatures are just capable of squirreling like no other.


State of My Fall Into Reading

I have completed these books so far, except Washington's Crossing, which is still in progress. (I reported on some of them last month, but I have handy dandy pictures now, and wanted to be all cool.)

Since my last update, I've read The Scarlet Pimpernel, which thrilled me as much as it ever did; The Enchanted April, which I found less than enchanting this time around - a little too trite and a bit contrived - I think Under the Tuscan Sun spoiled me; and To Kill a Mockingbird - sorry to admit that I have never read it before now.

Can I just say that if there is one piece of writing (aside from scripture and the founding documents of our country) that every person, particularly every American, needs to read and internalize, it is To Kill A Mockingbird. And if I didn't read any other book in the Fall Into Reading challenge, I am so grateful that I read this one.

I haven't felt so deeply and learned so much from literature in a long, long time, and it was truly amazing to read such perfection in simple prose, and to see prejudice and gentleness and hope in humanity through the eyes of Scout. The last few pages from the front porch of Boo Radley's place - unforgettably precious.

One of the lines that keeps recurring to me is a comment Atticus makes that when great injustices happen, only the children weep. I think one of the keys to raising children who respect and appreciate others is to encourage them in that child-like instinct, not to "educate" them out of it or pass on our own jaded views of how things "are", and to teach them not only to weep for the "hell people give other people," but to show them that they can make a difference by just pausing long enough to walk in other people's shoes a bit.

It's been weeks since I finished To Kill A Mockingbird, but I am still crying over passages from it. A book like this is why we read.

For more about Katrina's Fall Into Reading Challenge, visit this post over at Callapidder Days. (I think you can still join in!)


Three Little Pigs and the Bag Man

The other night in the car, I heard Henry talking in different tones of voice while we were carrying on a conversation in the front seat. I stopped to hear what he was saying, and he was doing a rendition of The Three Little Pigs. Hilarious. I had no idea, for one thing, that he could tell so much of the story. I decided to get him telling it on video because it makes me laugh.

I realize that it's probably the language only a mother can understand, so here's the rough translation of what he's saying:

Big bad wolf came knocking at the door, say little pig, little pig, let me in, pig say, No! Not by the hair of my chinny chin chin, then Puff! and Puff! and blow yours house in and he blew his house in. (Then mom and Calvin help continue the story a bit...)

My favorite is how the pig says, "No!" and how Henry gets all pensive when he says the wolf blew the house in. It's just good storytelling, seriously.

In other Henry interest, he plays pretend a lot. Definitely more than Calvin did at this age. It may be because Calvin just started doing it and Henry is following suit. But Henry does voices and comes up with things unprompted that I think are remarkable. Like pretending that the orange fringes on the edge of his favorite blanket are carrots, and trying to feed them to me.

His latest imagining was the Bag Man. Cal was at preschool the other morning and Henry took it upon himself to pick a bunch of random toys and put them into a plastic bag. Then he began talking to the bag, asking it if it was sleepy, telling it that it was heavy. (Please don't call CPS because I let my child play with a plastic bag, OK?)

He resolved the weight problem by holding it with both hands above his head and the loops of the bag around his arms and came to me, saying, "I hold dis bag yike dis and it not hebby now." Then he asked for juice and sat the cup down by his bag and told me that his bag likes juice, too.

I came around the corner a little later, and he was watching TV - with his bag. The topper, though, was when Calvin came home a little later and put a few other toys in the bag. Henry yelled at him, "Dose toys not my bag's!!!"

So apparently the toy choice for filling the bag man was not random after all. It all makes sense in his imagination.


Where I'm At

That really about sums it up. But since I've been a little less than prolific recently on the ol' blog, I'll elaborate some on the Code Yellow Show, now in it's fourth (or so) season:

There are lots of moments in motherhood, I've found, when you feel suddenly or once again "official" as a mom. There's the first ultrasound picture of that teeny tiny miraculous beating heart inside you. There's the first cry and knowing it is exclusively for you.

Then there are the conversations like this:

2yo: Mommy (in his "soft," mewing voice that he has inexplicably adopted as of late)
Mom: What do you need buddy?
2yo: Mommy, Mommy, Mommy (still in that little falsetto, but now pushing Mom's legs away from the sink where she is washing dishes)
Mom: What?
2yo: Mom, Mommy, Mom, Mommy
Mom: (Realizing it's a song, not a request) Henry, Henry, Henry
2yo: Mommy, Mom, Mommy, Mommy, Mom
Mom: (Now mimicking the annoying charming mewing voice) Henry, Henry, Hen, Henry, Hen, Henry...
(Continued name repetition for several more rounds as the legs get pushed farther away from the sink and the dishes, and 2yo finally looks up quizzically...)
2yo: Why yous saying mahs name so much yike dat?

And those times you know you must have "arrived" as a mother because duct tape really is the only answer:

And then there is the first time that your baby (almost four years old) draws a picture that's not just scribbles, and it's a picture of you:

Or when he finds a chrysallis and tells YOU what it is and you realize you've never seen one in real life before he brought one to you.

It really is quite a show. I wouldn't want anyone else sitting in my seat.

But if you're not too busy watching your own show, could you get me another Coke and some popcorn and M&Ms?


I'm Gettin' My Blog On

All of a sudden (a phrase that makes me cringe when I read it in real writing - it's "suddenly," people, "suddenly!" - but I digress...) All of a sudden, I have five six semi-legitimate things to really blog about. Five Six whole posts, probably. That hasn't happened since...oh, I don't know...late August? Are you happy for me? Code Yellow's got her groove back. Or something.

First up for tonight is the tag I received from Rhythmless to do a Pop Culture Meme. I can't believe I am even going to try - it will demonstrate my complete lack of pop-culture-knowitiveness, and Auntie S in particular will be so disappointed. But for Rhythmless and her daughter's pigtails, I would do just about anything. So here goes:

Favorite Song Intro: This is the only one of the items on this meme that I actually had a ready answer for, but it's no less embarrassing because it's um, obscure? I mean, the song is familiar, but I bet no one has listened and listened to the intro, just to hear the cool bass pluck - bum, bum, bum, ba, budda, bum: Chicago's "Hard to Say I'm Sorry." I also really, really love the piano intro to "Sailing Away" by Styx.

Favorite Movie Quote: There's a Jane Austen one for just about every social situation conceivable, and I love to throw them in whenever possible, especially when there's only about one other person in the room who knows where it came from and why it's funny applied to the modern circumstance...But "Oh Brother, Where Art Thou" is truly quotable gold ("You like it? It's horse. I kilt it last Tuesday. I think it's startin' to turn."), as is Lonesome Dove ("I like to kick a pig ever now and then.") Incredibles is at the top of my list at the moment. ("It's just another way to celebrate mediocrity!" and, "Leave saving the world to the men? I don't think so!" and, "If we're going to make this work, you're going to have to be more than Mr. Incredible. You know that, don't you?" and...)

Favorite Musical Character: My favorite live performance was Eponine the first time I saw Les Mis on Broadway. Heart-wrenchingly beautiful. I also thoroughly enjoy The Unsinkable Molly Brown - oldie but goodie. And one can never go wrong with Eliza Doolittle.

Favorite Hair Band: Um. I had to ask what exactly this meant and peak at how Rhythmless answered. I realized that hair bands were the ones I thought were intrinsically evil as a teenager, and who I really enjoy now as fun listening. So...moving on...

Favorite Reality Series: Say "reality TV" and I immediately think of the more trashy shock-value shows out there, and I really just hate them. But I'm good with American Idol. And Trading Spaces (but only with Paige), Clean Sweep, or What Not To Wear. I once watched an episode of Trading Spouses. Oh, and I did get sucked into the very ill-edited premier season of Unanimous. Most of them just prove too much for my sensibilities and I froth about the state of society for days. I'm actually pretty selective about TV and I don't really like to support smut raking and amoral obnoxiousness. How's that for self-righteous snobbishness?! Actually what it really is, is that if I'm going to watch questionable/reprehensible behavior, I prefer it to be absolutely fictional rather than pretending to represent a reality that is nowhere near reality.

Worst Celebrity Nickname Ever: TomKat bugs me to no end.

So, there you have it, Rhythmless. Hope I didn't disappoint you. (wink)


Ah, The Love...

This morning at about 6:20 a.m., Cal and Henry wallering snuggling me...

Calvin: You know that other night when we went downstairs and got a drink in the middle of the night?

Me: Yeah.

Calvin: And remember when you held my hand to walk back up the stairs and when we were on the first level? (That means the stair landing between floors)

Me: Yeah.

Calvin: Well, see this little owie right here?

Me: (straining my bleary eyes to see what he's talking about - some little old scratch on his ankle bone) Mmmhmm.

Calvin: You scratched me with your toe when we were walking on the stairs that night after you gave me a drink and that's where I got that owie from.

Me: Oh. I sure didn't know that I did that. I'm sorry.

Calvin: That's OK. (His little arm slides across me and he squeezes just a little.) I still love you.

I honestly remember no foot-scratching incident on the midnight drink excursion in question (3 or 4 days ago), but I'm sure glad it's all cleared up now and that he still loves me. Hope he'll be as forgiving sometime when I do something that really needs it.



First, some quotables:

From Henry -

Someone at the church party said to him, "Oh, what a cute little spider you are!" and you would not believe the storm clouds that came over his face and how he adamantly responded, "Me not pidah! Me bug." He says "pidah" in the same tone of voice Mammy told Scarlett she was going to be waiting for Missah Ashley, and he says "bug" in a very low, emphatic tone. So when you look at the pictures, don't even think that he's a spider.

This is not Halloween-related, other than it happened on Halloween, but Henry crawled into bed with us in the wee hours and laid there for the longest time, until I thought he might be asleep again. But then his legs started kicking around and he piped up, "Knock, knock!" and was tapping on my back. It made me laugh, so I said, "Who's there?" really quiet. And he said something like, "Henry, on your back!" and started giggling. That is the first official knock-knock joke at our house. Calvin has never really picked up on them or perpetuated them (yet), which I've been expecting, but Henry somehow has been introduced to the fun world of senseless knock-knocks. Very funny.

And now from Calvin -

He met a little girl named Tia at a company picnic in September and since then mentions her at least three times a week, wondering what she's doing, if she can come over, when we're going to see her again, and so forth. I think it's because she enjoyed digging in the dirt with him. What a girl! Anyway, we had an office get-together Sunday evening and the children all wore their costumes. Calvin was very excited about his, although whisker/nose drawing pencil (aka Mom's eyeliner) broke and he was sure no one would know he was a lion without whiskers and a nose. He pranced around proudly in his costume until his dad said, "I think Tia is here, Cal!" and then he started pulling his costume off and told David, "Take this off! I don't want her to see me like this!" (He did want to put it right back on when she came in dressed as a purple dragon...)

Calvin has this idea that a party is when there are cupcakes. It's very cute - make a dozen cupcakes and voila! instant party. We were having a little get-together last night and he has been dying to make some skeleton cupcakes that we saw in a magazine, so we assembled them together yesterday afternoon. At one point, I was handing him cupcakes one after another so he could put the skeleton heads on and he said, with obvious admiration, "You're like a conveyor belt, Mom!" Yep, that's me - the Code Yellow Conveyor Belt. (Total mystery how the child knows what a conveyor belt is, what it does, and how to say it properly. He's brilliant, that's all. And don't think it doesn't terrify me.)

We have the perfect neighborhood for trick-or-treating, very safe with no through traffic and lots of doors within a close proximity. And nice neighbors. We invited some of our friends (including Tia!) who live in apartment buildings (filled with mostly young single professionals who don't "do" Halloween), and Cal's favorite cousin Lily, so we had quite a little group. And totally perfect weather - temps in the 70s yesterday and a perfectly cool but not cold evening, lots of crunchy autumn leaves. Just beautiful.

So, without further adieu...

Oh, and here are Calvin's cupcakes.

And here are a few of them after we left Henry at the table while we went to say good-bye to some of our guests.

There you have it...Happy Halloween to all and to all a good night.

Happy November!