Friday, November 20, 2009

quick getaway

I took the kids for an overnight visit with my friend Stephanie, who currently lives in a very rural town in southwest Wisconsin. It's a lovely part of the country; in fact, here's a view from the side window of their house:

We left yesterday and returned this afternoon. Driving there is no picnic - lots of little county roads in places that aren't marked very well - so we met her partway in the small town of Blanchardville when she was done with work. Blanchardville is small enough not to have any stoplights but big enough for a café and public library. We went to Rivery Valley Trading Co, a little eclectic shop full of all kinds of fun stuff, the sort of shop that can only exist in a town like this. There was an antique sewing machine, shelves of used books, handmade pottery and hand knit hats, organic groceries (including a bucketful of Jerusalem artichokes which look like clods of dirt), and yarn (oh!) made from the fleece of sheep who happily graze on an organic farm just a few miles out of Blanchardville (this one). In fact, that sheep's owner, a tiny vivacious woman named Linda, was more than happy to share all kinds of information and stories about her sheep and how they take care of them. Unfortunately, the kids were getting bored, so I missed out on a lot of that conversation while I ran to get them snacks and keep them entertained while we looked around.

Once we got to Stephanie's place, the kids were in seventh heaven. She's staying at her parents' house for the time being, and it is just the sort of house you expect a retired couple with lots of grandchildren (there are 11, I think) to live in. They are kind, generous people who love having visitors, especially young visitors, and we felt at home right away. There are cats to watch and play peekaboo with. There are plenty of books to read. Also, there is a whole attic closet full of toys. I'm not sure what was more exciting for Daniel: the toys themselves or the fact that he could go in that closet, close the door, turn on the light, and go exploring all on his own. Blocks, trucks, marbles, games, stuffed animals, and the big hit of the evening: a plastic apparatus with balls to pound through holes in the top and run on a track to a tray on the bottom. Daniel took this picture of Anya playing with it:

Before coming back to Madison today, we visited Stephanie's cousin on her farm. P raises a few different breeds of sheep plus a wide variety of poultry. I was hoping the kids would enjoy watching the animals, but by the time we got there they were getting tired and ready to go home. We visited for a little bit, took some pictures, and headed back home.

Oh, I'm sorry...did you want to see some pictures of Daniel and Anya? Here are a few:

I really am grateful that I can take the time to make these trips with Daniel and Anya. Since I don't have a paying job outside the home (I refuse to say "I'm not working"), and since they are not in school full-time yet, I have the luxury of time, and I'm trying take advantage. On bad days, I call it "staving off boredom one day at a time." On better days, I simply consider this part of their early education: seeing different parts of the country, visiting different kinds of farms, and bonding with the people who are important in my life and interested their learning and development.

Monday, November 16, 2009

halfway there

I love how Daniel runs into his preschool class every Monday with a huge smile on his face. Most of the time he doesn't even turn around to say "Good-bye" to me. When I pick him up later, he runs to me with an equally big smile and a brief report on what their project was for the morning. Today they made butter, each kid taking turns shaking a big jar of heavy cream until that magical moment when it separated. Then they made pancakes, and according to one of the teachers, Daniel ate so many she was pretty sure he wouldn't want lunch.

She was right, and it turns out I was glad because while Daniel was in his class, I had spent twenty minutes on hold with our clinic trying to schedule H1N1 vaccinations for him and Anya. There's a shortage now, as you probably know, so only the high-risk groups are getting the vaccine. Children under the age of five are among those on the priority list, so when Nurse Kathy (we luuuuurve Nurse Kathy) said they had three doses left and we could have them, I scheduled appointments for right after Daniel was done with school today. When Anya and I went to pick up Daniel, I was trying to rush him into his jacket and down to the parking lot (rushing a 3yo is NEVER EVER a good idea, by the way), and I explained that we had to go get flu shots. "I don't want a shot!" he protested meekly, but he didn't make a big issue of it, fortunately.

On the way there we passed a fairly large cemetery. "What are those things sticking up?" he asked. I answered as directly as I could: "When people die, they are buried there, and those things are called headstones, so we can remember them." This prompted many more questions that I was, frankly, not ready for. I think it's important to address these things as head-on as you can; besides, I wasn't prepared with any kind of fluffy story or explanation of headstones and cemeteries. But after about the fifth time he asked, "Why do you have to go there when you die?" I changed the subject back to shots. I know he doesn't understand; Daniel's experience with death is thus far limited to witnessing day-old roadkill and stomping on ants on the sidewalk. Still, I plan to avoid driving by the cemetery until I'm better prepared for these questions.

Anya fell asleep on the way downtown to the clinic. She didn't wake up when I unbuckled her. She didn't wake up when I pulled her out of the car. She didn't wake up while we checked in at the reception desk where everyone in front of us in line, hacking and puffy-eyed, was delicately handed a mask with pinched fingertips and directed to the walled-off area of the waiting room reserved for people with a "fever, cough, or sore throat." She didn't wake up when we took the elevator to the next floor, sat in the next waiting room, or walked back to the exam room where Nurse Kathy asked if Daniel might be able to take his vaccine via the nasal spray to save the shot for a younger child. (He couldn't. We tried to teach him how to sniff, but he just wrinkled up his nose and exhaled every time we tried to practice.) She didn't wake up when Daniel got his shot. She only woke up when I placed her on the exam table and gently pulled down her britches for her own shot, and by the time she got it, she was too groggy from her little nap to complain. I'm proud to say neither kid uttered so much as a whimper, so we went to a nearby café for a reward of cocoa for Daniel, a cookie for Anya, and a latté for me (we had an early start this morning).

We're only halfway there, of course. Kids as young as mine have to get the H1N1 vaccine in two doses, so around this time next month, I have to call the clinic again to see if they have enough doses that day to finish up. By then they should have enough seasonal flu shots for us all as well (our county ran out of the seasonal flu shot a month ago.) I hope it goes this well next time around.

Friday, November 13, 2009

i'm phoning this one in

It's Friday afternoon. Both kids are sleeping (rare) which means bedtime will be hell and a long time coming, but I don't care. The dishes are done, the bread dough is rising, the laundry is washing, the other laundry is folded, the other other laundry can wait for the weekend and by golly I intend to enjoy this peace and quiet with a cup of much-needed coffee.

It's been kind of a long, boring week and I don't have much to say about it. However, I think it's high time I shared some choice pictures from the Daniel-cam. Enjoy.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

silly me

I am about to send a check for $1 to the Illinois Tollway system. Why? Because on the way to Kentucky, I forgot that our I-Pass is still in the other car. I breezed right through the fast lane, realizing too late that I had missed my opportunity to pay cash. The toll in Rockford, IL is one dollar. ONE DOLLAR. A buck. I worried a little at the time that I'd get a notice in the mail with a picture of me driving blithely through the tollway, with a notice of a big old fine attached. But then eleven hours later, when I finally pulled into my parents' driveway with two sleepy kids in the backseat, I'd forgotten all about it.

On the way back home last Wednesday, as we prepared to go back through the tollway, I remembered and confessed to Stuart. Yes, confessed. You see, I NEVER break traffic rules. I'm not a rule-breaker in general, (except for being a political lefty and really feminist, but that's different.) The worst I've done is accidentally park in a disabled spot on campus, which, by the way, was only temporarily for the disabled; it was usually metered, which is why I didn't realize I had done anything wrong. My argument didn't fly with the UW traffic nazis, sadly, so I was stuck with a hugely unjust fine. Bastards. I won't tell you how much that cost me, but it was a huge chunk of my piddly little graduate assistant paycheck. Huge. (I pointed that out in my plea for mercy, but they didn't buy that, either.)

So tonight we looked up on the IL tollway website what to do if you blow through the tollway like that. Well, I say "we" but it was really Stu because he's even more of a rule-follower than I am. And it turns out they forgive you for doing that a couple times, because we are human and we all make mistakes and besides, for pete's sake the sign that says KEEP RIGHT FOR CASH ONLY only shows up about 6 feet from the concrete wall that divides the I-Pass lane from the cash lane. Golly gee whiz. I owe the toll, so I'm going to pay it, but I won't get fined unless I make that same mistake twice more.

Now if you'll excuse me, I'm going to go write that check.

(I didn't rebel much as a teenager. Can you tell?)

Monday, November 09, 2009

out of whack

Everything has been a little screwy the last week or so, like the weather. And sleeping. Over the weekend, it was warm enough both Saturday and Sunday to wear sandals and flip-flops. On Saturday I dug out a pair of shorts for Daniel to get ready for a trip to the park. Yesterday I hung a load of laundry on the clothesline outside, something I didn't think would happen again until another six months from now.

And the sleeping. Oh, the sleeping. While we were in Kentucky, the kids were going to bed freakishly late. One night Daniel didn't get to sleep until almost midnight (that nearly broke me). Now that we're back, we are evidently still adjusting to the two-hour time change (having moved over a time zone two days after the end of Daylight Savings.) Anya has been getting up between 4:30 and 5:00 in the morning, despite my desperate pleas to just go back to sleep. Yesterday she was up at 4:30, DIDN'T HAVE A NAP, and then was in bed a little after 5:00 in the evening. It's just after 6:00 now and Daniel is in bed, having nearly fallen asleep on his dinner plate. Other nights they've had their usual bedtime of 8:00 or so. I have to admit the unpredictability is getting to me a little bit.

On a completely different subject, will someone please Joe Lieberman to get his stupid head out of his ass? He is trying to classify the Fort Hood shooting incident a terrorist attack. A TERRORIST ATTACK. A tragedy committed by an individual who was clearly mentally unwell? Yes. A terrorist attack? Hardly. Sadly, these shooting tragedies have happened in our country before. Columbine, Virginia Tech, the D.C. sniper, the factory in Goshen, IN. Why were those not terrorist attacks and this is? Because a Muslim guy did it? Maybe there's something I've missed here, but last I heard being a Muslim doesn't automatically make you a terrorist.

Sorry this post wasn't more coherent. I clearly need more sleep.

Thursday, November 05, 2009

back home

The family and I made it back to Madison intact yesterday. No one got carsick, thank the lord baby Jesus, and the kids managed to hold off on major whining until the last 45 minutes of the drive. I don't know what it is about car trips and kids: you can be on the road for 3 hours or 10 - it doesn't matter how long, really - yet they can somehow sense when you're on the home stretch and your back aches and your head is pounding and you have to pee but there is No Way You Are Stopping One More Time So Stop Asking and that is precisely when they start wriggling and complaining and asking "Are we there yet?" (Daniel) and whimpering "Home! Home! Home!" (Anya). Who can blame them, really? It was a long drive.

Anyway. It seems the large maple tree in our back yard belched off all its leaves in one go while we were gone. Daniel and I had some fun piling them up and spreading them around again this afternoon while Anya was napping:

As you can see, he quite enjoyed himself.

Sunday, November 01, 2009

Ky trip, part the second

As it turns out, blogging from here is no picnic, even though my parents have high-speed internet, which has not always been the case. The main impediment to blogging from here is: DANIEL. He sleeps in the room with the computer, so I can't be in here after he's asleep. And the other problem is that every. single. time. I want to get online to check my email and read the news he's clamoring for a turn. I can take the insistent pleas for him to use the computer (he likes a couple youtube videos, but he can also write an email and work the DVD player) for about 3 minutes before I lose my patience with the whining, at which point I either let him have a turn, or put the computer to sleep so no one will use it.

It's REALLY annoying.

Not only that, but the kids, as good as they are, have been thrown completely off routine by this trip. It's worse than usual, for some reason. Every night at least one, if not both, has stayed up until 10:00 or later. It's a combination of unexpected or late naps, the fact that we should have changed our clocks back to standard time a couple weeks ago, and the fact that we moved one time zone east when we drove here. One night Daniel wasn't asleep until almost midnight, and he was a complete disaster the next day.

Despite kooky sleeping habits, though, we are having a really good time and, for the most part, decent weather. We did our trick-or-treating a day early. The downtown businesses had trick-or-treating Friday afternoon (they didn't do it on Halloween this year because banks and such wouldn't have been open on Saturday), so I dressed Daniel and Anya in their costumes...

...and took them to Main Street. Yeah, you can see it wasn't easy getting them to pose for pictures. Daniel, in case you can't tell, was a goat. He was dressed in brown from head to toe with floppy gray felt ears, a brown tail and black horns reclaimed from an ancient childhood puppet I found in the basement. Anya was a little black kitty cat. I knit her hat and tail, and she has little white mitts, too, but it was about 80 degrees on Friday (unusually warm even here), so I didn't try to put them on her. I'm afraid even the hats didn't last too long.

Daniel's favorite part of Halloween, though, was handing out the candy to trick-or-treaters last night. They came in droves, and the 100+ pieces of candy I bought for the occasion were gone within 45 minutes. He and his Oma sat outside on the porch next to a glowing jack-o-lantern with their funny hats (my mom wore a horned viking helmet strongly reminiscent of a certain Wagnerian character, and Daniel had his goat hat on), handing out candy, one each to the costumed kids that came by. I was inside making pizza, and Anya fell asleep on my dad at 6:00 (I told you the sleeping was jacked up!)

We made another trip to Evan's Orchard this afternoon, taking advantage of the sunny weather. No school buses on Sundays, you know. Oh, how I wish I could have stopped and taken some pictures along the way! Kentucky countryside, when not spattered with litter, is just beautiful, and it doesn't get much better than the drive out to that orchard. But there's no shoulder on that little road, and the kids wouldn't have had the patience for picture-taking anyway, so you'll just have to believe me that black fences and rolling green hillsides and black tobacco barns and those old, old stone walls from before Emancipation create scenery that will take your breath away.

The other major event of the weekend is my mom's birthday today. Wish her a good one!