Funniest Meltdown Ever

Henry finished on the toilet this morning and I told him to go ahead and flush and put his underwear and pants back on (he has to completely undress to do certain things), and remember to close the door to the bathroom when he came out. This is pretty standard procedure, so when I heard him screaming and growling and crying in the hall a few seconds later, I wasn't sure what it was about (especially since Calvin isn't home).

As I rounded the corner and said, "Henry, what is the problem?" he groaned and threw his sweatpants across the floor inexasperation. He started crying and said to me: "We are going to have to throw those pants away, because now they only have one leg hole!"

I picked the pants up and found that one of the pantlegs was inside out and perfectly pushed inside the other, so they truly looked like one-legged pants. I pictured him struggling with them, trying to get his legs in one leg, and I started to giggle. But what made me laugh the most is that Henry was seriously upset, sure that the pants had undergone an unfixable transformation while he had them off, and that the only solution seemed to be to get rid of them.


Nothing To Be Done

I pass a retirement apartment building each day on the route to and from preschool. There is always a character somewhere around - the lady who wears lace gloves and hats from the 30s and pushes her dog in a stroller; the lady who is bundled up in eighty layers of warmth even in summer, waiting to cross the road in her electric wheelchair; an old man in a plaid beret and highwater pants going for a tentative lopsided walk.

Day before yesterday when I passed, there was a moving truck blocking part of the road out front and various household effects stacked and strewn around the back of the truck, on the road, on the little lawn area, up near the driveway in front of the apartment building. I passed by in about ten seconds, but could sum up the situation almost immediately - an old man stood holding a list of his things in one hand, alternately propping his cane against one leg so he could turn a page, looking about, trying to tell people something (I could tell it was broken English), trying to decide what needed to be done.

He couldn't carry all the heavy things up to the apartment. They wouldn't let the large truck park closer to the door because it would block the bus lane and driveway. And no one seemed to be around to help him, only telling him the impossibility of his situation. Because they were so far from the door, the truck driver was saying that it wasn't part of the deal to haul the stuff so far.

When I passed again around noon, the old man was still there, more of his belongings were unloaded and scattered, and I would bet that there was a time frame on when the truck and driver needed to leave to avoid more charges. This time, it looked like people from the neighborhood in general, were actually picking through his stuff - exactly like a yard sale.

There were several people around, but I saw no one carrying anything into the building for him - there were no hand trucks or anyone speaking directly to the man to whom the stuff belonged. They were just assessing, rummaging, tossing things over their arms to take home with them. A little kid was jumping on the couch. It looked like two ladies - they were definitely not related or associated with him - were trying to decide if his bookshelves would fit in their own house or not.

Yesterday, in a steady drizzle, I passed by and the boxes and the truck were gone, some of the large pieces of furniture had been moved somehow, but what remained was a couple of damaged desks, some lamps, a backless chair and several boxes and cushions, fragments of the original pile. It looked like things had been looted and the rest was being damaged in the rain. The old man wasn't there, but a maintenance worker from the apartment building was standing there on his cell phone, gesturing and obviously telling someone that the mess needed to be cleaned up and hauled away.

Today when I passed by, there was a garbage truck backed up against the curb in the driveway of the apartment building. The old man was there again, in a ragged overcoat and leaning heavily on his cane, his face somber and dim, resigned and sad. I came around the bend, recognized him as he watched the truck, and saw the crusher in the back end of the truck come down on the last of his things, some splintered wood splaying out the crack at the bottom.

I don't know why exactly I was so affected by this. It was just so clear what was happening, even though I saw it in brief moments through my car window and didn't hear anything of what was said. It was just like a very well-produced silent movie.

I was sad on Monday because I knew the stress that the man must have felt in the midst of moving to a retirement home and no one would forget themselves enough to help him make the adjustment.

I was sad yesterday because it was clear he had narrowed down the things that were really important to him - much of the stuff that had been important enough to bring along from his old home had to be left on the curb after all.

Today I am sad that he watched pieces of that old home be rummaged through and disregarded, then crushed and hauled away in a garbage truck.

And maybe I am sad that although I wasn't the unhelpful truck driver or a neighborhood rummager, I kept passing by all the same, somehow knew exactly what was going on and not thinking that anything I could do would help.


The Inkblot Test, Geography Style

Calvin found a little world map the other day and after looking at it for a while, he came to tell me what he had learned: "Mom! All these countries look like something else!" I asked him to explain and he pointed to the silhouette pictures of the continents that were at the side of the map. Then he showed me...

This one looks like a fluffy dog standing up to catch a (Madagascarian) doggie treat:

This one looks like a party hat (Ole! Carnaval!):

And (my favorite) this one looks like a duck with a worm in its mouth:

I was a little troubled that to see these images he had to rotate the pictures of the continents 180 degrees. So, just to make sure he doesn't have any underlying thought disorders or psychosis, I presented him with the ultimate inkblot of geography. To my great relief, he confidently answered that sure enough, Italy looks like a boot.


I'm A Woman Now

I grew up in a beauty salon watching my mom do hair. If there's one thing I learned from all that cutting, crimping, blow-drying, curling and spraying, it is that nothing is permanent. Hair grows. Colors can be modified. Eyebrows can be shaped. Other people's hack-jobs can be fixed. (My mom got called on to do any number of those fixes, always wondering why they didn't come to her in the first place).

From those formative years in a beauty shop, I figured out that if something wasn't illicit, why not give it a try? Not that I've ever been edgy in my hairstyle, make-up or clothing, but the idea of trying new things with my looks has never bothered me - I'm not one to freak out about cutting a couple of inches off my hair or shading it red or whatever. It's just hair.

So, when I went to the salon this week to get a long overdue haircut, I let the lady talk me into highlights. And while she was putting the foils in, she caught sight of my eyebrows - "What?! Have you never had your eyebrows done?" Well, of course I have. I actually like to have them waxed. I just haven't seen my mom for a few months and waxing is a little more personal than I like to get with the girl at Hair Cuttery. For whatever reason. That, and it costs a lot.

But since she was appalled at the status of my eybrows and it only cost $10 and she said she would love to show me threading ("new thing in states, old thing in my country"), my beauty shop instincts kicked in and I thought, "Why the heck not?"

Let me tell you why the heck not. For one, my eyes are sensitive to light, terribly sensitive to most make-up, and, as it turns out, quite sensitive to a cotton thread being spun against the skin right above them, twisting up the hair of my brows and pulling it out by the roots. It wasn't painful, really - just crazy aggravating, stinging, tingling somehow. My eyes started watering like crazy, then suddenly I couldn't just lay there and take it anymore - my legs started flailing and all I could think was that I must. sit. up. So I lunged up and wiped my eyes and took a deep breath.

At which point, the lady made me lay back down to do the other side, saying something about how beautiful I was going to look, to just relax, that it was just like a little massage for my eyebrows, like being in a spa, less irritating to my skin than wax, and then started chatting about girls in her country who get this done on their most important days, it's part of growing up and being a beautiful woman.

I survived. But I have now added one other reason that I'm glad I'm not a woman in her country: if that's their spa treatment or part of their wedding day...yikes.

She did give me a fabulous haircut, and the highlights I can live with (I always learn that they aren't so great on me, but then forget a couple years later and try it again). My husband doesn't believe how happy I am about my haircut because he's distracted by the tiny scabs under one (very nice, clean looking) eyebrow where a couple twists of the thread drew blood. But that's OK. Live and learn. Try anything once. And never again.


Voluntary Deafness

Sometimes (like in the morning when I'm getting everyone breakfasted and dressed and I'm otherwise busy doing other stuff before the day can start), the Henry soundtrack becomes white noise to me. And sometimes, he notices:

Mom, I ate my bweakfast, so I want cookie dough now. Mom. I. want. Cookie dough. MomIwantcookiedough. MomIwantcookiedoughmomIwantcookiedoughMomIwantcookiedough. MommommommommoMmOMMOM!Iwantcookiedough. Mom, can I watch a movie? Mom, I want to watch a movie. MomIwannawatchamovieIwannawatchamovieIwannawatchamovie. Can. I. watch. a movie? MommommommommoMmOMMOM!MommommommommoMmOMMOM! Iwannawatchamovie. Willyouplayagamewithme? IwannaplayagameIwannaplayagameIwannaplayagame. What? Is it like you don't have ears or something?


Little Things, Big Thrills

Saturday, almost as an afterthought, we hopped in the car and went to one of our favorite places in the city - The National Building Museum. They were having Discover Engineering Day and there were all kinds of activities for families. Usually we like to go on a less busy day because it is the perfect run-around-without-bothering-anyone-or-destroying-precious-artifacts type museum. But cabin fever is a huge element of our lives right now and we did a battlefield last weekend, so we decided to brave the madness of thousands of families and boy scout troops building stuff.

It wasn't too bad. The boys got to make slime somewhere besides my kitchen, they built tables out of cardboard and newspaper, attempted to construct a zipline vehicle for a pingpong ball, and designed playground equipment out of food (again, somewhere besides my kitchen). And they were able to watch a guy rapel to the 125-foot ceiling using his own invention (that part impressed Cal).

But, most importantly, they got to be photographed with a cartoon character - as Henry calls him, in true Hacker fashion: "that cyber turkey." It's Digit, from Cyberchase - Calvin's favorite show ever.

For us, it was just something to do once we got there, the line to stand by Digit wasn't too long, and we thought the boys were mildly interested. The best part was that night when David was listening outside their bedroom - they were still talking a half hour after being put to bed. He heard Calvin say, "Henry, today was the best day of my life. Can you believe we got to meet Digit for real?!" And Henry answered, in equally excited tones, "Yeah. I know!"

Can you even imagine the rapture, should we sometime take them to Disneyland or something?

Charlie, for his part, has the time of his life playing with the big boys. I can't believe how quickly he has gotten to the crawl (fast!) and pull up stage. And the put-small-objects-in-his-mouth stage. (Is it bad that my five-year-old is becoming proficient at the mouth finger swipe for choking hazards?)

(In case some of you are wondering, I do occasionally put clothing on the baby.)

While I'm on the subject of taking care of my baby, let me just share one of those hidden mother talents I never knew I had (not to mention a picture that makes me giggle. Nearly uncontrollably.):

I canNOT listen to him cry in the car. You gotta do what you gotta do.


Goodbye, Code Yellow Road

I think I just got tired of myself. Well, at least of my Code Yellow identity. More than a year and a half is a long time at one URL, you know. So I freshened up a bit and would love it if you came on over to my new place. I'm not promising really frequent posts yet or anything much different from the frenetics you've grown to love here, but there are lots of new adventures right around the bend and it would be a shame not to have you along. (Just remember to change me in your favorites or bloglines or whatever.)


Happy Valentine's Day!

Calvin said this morning, "Uh, mom, shouldn't we be crackalackin' on making Valentines and hearts for everyone?"

Yes, crackalackin'.

I've just never really caught the larger spirit of Valentine's Day, so I'm not sure what "hearts for everyone" should look like...

And first we have to convince the dad that it's a "real" holiday. He left for work this morning mumbling something about Hallmark constructs...

That's OK, though, because last night he took me to eat at Marrakesh, a fab.u.lous. Moroccan restaurant in the district. Like stepping into a whole other world - literally through a (steel-door) hole in a wall that you would never think is a restaurant, even after you noticed the name on the exterior wall, posted very clearly...in Arabic. The food is served family style, you eat with your fingers, and there's a belly dancer partway through for your entertainment.

As an added treat last night, Muhammed, the manager, came and gave us a mini culture and geography lesson on Morocco, including where to find the best beach and what those strange guitar-looking gourd-like instruments hanging on the wall were. We've been to Marrakesh only once before, on New Year's Eve, pre-Henry. The New Year's atmosphere is decidedly more energizing than a random Wednesday in February, but nonetheless, it is one of the funnest dining experiences ever.

Calvin and I did make some sweet treats for his preschool party yesterday:Valentine Popcorn and Sweetheart Kabobs. Calvin and Henry both had fun sprinkling and stirring the popcorn to make it pink, and Calvin was a trooper cutting out many of the watermelon hearts for the kabobs. Shapes, patterns, counting, helping mom, eating fruit...It was quite fun.

To make Valentine Popcorn, mix up a small bowl of cinnamon sugar, add a few drops of red food coloring and stir it well until it is nice and pink. Pop your popcorn (we did microwave) and sprinkle the sugar on top while it's still warm. Toss to coat and add more pink sugar as needed. We had to add some spray butter a couple times to get the pink to stick, but it was a yummy snack - crunchy and not too sweet.

So I guess we're not total Valentine scrooges around here.

Hope your Valentine's Day is full of fun and lots of Xs and Os. And if it isn't yet, then you better get crackalackin'. Love begins at home, and all that.


The Family Kitchen

I love to cook. I love to make something beautiful and delicious and have people (particularly my husband) ooh and aah over it a bit, or sit back from the table and say, "That recipe's a keeper."

Cooking and baking are an outlet of creativity for me - I love to change things up or go for a fun presentation. But they are also an assurance that there are some things in the world that still follow some semblance of order, perfect results that you can always count on, just by following a recipe.

Sometimes I'm a great cook, sometimes things turn out a little less than edible. But I'll take that chance. Luckily, my husband and kids like to play along.

I enjoy food, I enjoy flavors, I enjoy trying to new things and making old favorites. I wish I was as good at writing about food as Orangette, but that's beside the point.

The past year and a half has witnessed a decline in my culinary endeavors, starting with David being in Iraq. Cooking for the preschool set isn't as easy when there's no one to keep the preschool set happy while you do it. Plus, they don't really have a heirarchy of appreciation - Kraft Mac-n-Cheese gets plenty of acclaim and is a lot less work than food that is artful, good, or good for you.

Then there was serious pregnancy nausea that curtailed the serious cooking, and after that, simple shear exhaustion mixed with a dash of laziness and a couple cups of dysfunctional kitchen sauteed with six months of broken dishwasher.

I've missed cooking and our family meal habits have declined to chaos, so I've made a few attempts recently to get cooking real meals again. Most of them are your standard dinners, and while most of them are very simple and quick, it sure makes a difference to sit down together and enjoy a real meal.

The great thing lately is that Calvin wants to cook. And because he does, Henry does. And because I feel bad about Charlie groveling at my feet while we all enjoy mixing stuff up, he helps, too. It has become fun to find recipes that involve measuring and easy stirring that the boys can do, and I've found that they eat things they've made a lot more enthusiastically, even when it contains ingredients that don't usually appeal to them.

Most recently, Calvin helped me fill and fold wontons for wonton soup. He is my rule/system follower, so once I showed him the process, he just went for it and did a great job.

We've also made falafel a couple of times. Mostly because I wanted to try the recipe once, but it calls for dehydrated chickpeas (because they stick together better than canned) and the only quantity I could buy was practically a year's supply (and only $10). So we're going to be making falafel a lot. That's OK, though, because they are yummy, easy, and great protein.

All the ingredients go in a food processor; the boys love to operate it. I help them measure, they whip it up, and then I drop the balls into hot grease. The whole process is twenty minutes, tops. Serve the falafel up with pitas, tzatziki, and tomatoes and cucumbers, and you've got a meal.

The average Middle Eastern cook makes them smaller and more ball-like than we do, but the boys handle something flat a little better. Cal likes making a Falafel Big Mac with mini pitas.

Henry and Charlie usually lose interest in the cooking after about two minutes, but Calvin is often there with me to the delicious end. I love having a curious little helper in the kitchen. It takes a few more minutes to explain what I need Calvin to do, and sometimes it's tricky even to think up something that a five-year-old can do, but he is intent on participating.

And far be it from me to ever send away a boy who wants to help in the kitchen.

Now if I could figure out a way to get any of us interested in the clean-up.


He Learned It From Me

The finer points of exercising in a public gym. (Or, why we don't.)

Photo Sharing - Video Sharing - Photo Printing - Photo Books

And if only my thighs could be considered as delicious as his.

Photo Sharing - Video Sharing - Photo Printing - Photo Books