Friday, April 30, 2010

eye candy Friday: kiddie hug

I caught this moment, unprompted, between Daniel and Anya this morning:

"I love you so much, Anya!"
"I love you so much, Dan'l!"

Alas, much of the rest of the day was filled with whining and clinging and squabbling. I guess you have to appreciate these moments when you can.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010


I've only been to Milwaukee a few times. It's just a little over an hour away by car, all interstate, but even so, we've never really visited there except to go to the Amtrak station (twice - and that was before we got smart and figured out there was a stop much, much closer to here) and once for a U2 concert. Those aren't even interesting reasons to go to Milwaukee! But it's a fairly big city with lots to see, so today we went.

We packed some snacks for the kids and drove to downtown Milwaukee, where we spent a couple of hours in the children's museum, which is very nice, especially since the one here in Madison is closed until at least August while they move to a bigger building. Then we schlepped to the nearby art museum, which is on the lake. We didn't look at any actual art, but we had lunch there and stared out the windows for a while.

It was fun. We should do it again. Maybe next time we'll go to the zoo. And maybe in about 15 years, Stuart and I will be able to go someplace grown-ups like (like the exhibits in the art museum) and enjoy ourselves.

My only mistake was forgetting to bring stuff for the kids to play with in the car. Anya fell asleep on the way home, but Daniel doesn't sleep in the car unless he's really tired, so I had to work pretty hard to keep him entertained for the drive back. For some reason, he was very keen on making mud upon our return. He pretty much jumped out of the car and dashed to the garden to do just that, Anya close behind to help, of course.

"Mom, it's a perfect day for making mud!"

Saturday, April 24, 2010

weekend randomness

1. The farmers' market is open! Last Saturday was the first one, and the lot of us biked there. Daniel has been riding on the tag-along behind Stuart, which excites him to no end, and Anya rides in the trailer behind me. Daniel was so excited about both that and being at the market that he could barely contain himself. He is particularly fond of a certain honey vendor who hands out free tasting samples. You'd think this early in the season there wouldn't be much to buy in Wisconsin, but you'd be wrong. Today the weather is crummy and the kids are down with the sniffles, so I went alone. I came home with a big bag full of tasty greens (purple mustard, arugula, spinach, lettuce, and a couple I'd never heard of), green onions, maple syrup, green onions, eggs, cukes (probably greenhouse-grown), organic ground beef, and the only reason I gave the raw goat feta a skip is because I'm still eating up what I bought last week. It is oh-so-delicious, but I'm the only one in this house who thinks so. More for me, then.

2. We are finally getting around to doing the paperwork for refinancing to pay for the basement remodeling project. Now, I don't like to complain about money here because we could definitely be doing worse. But still, ay carumba. Our house is worth pretty much the same as when we bought it nearly 6 years ago (thankyouverymuch housing crisis), so we can't affordably borrow as much as we'd like. This means we'll have to dip into savings more than we wanted and borrow more cash down the line. I just hope and pray the contractor's estimate is accurate, because if it goes over, we'll be in trouble. But we need this work done, so we're going to do it. (Have I mentioned our house is about 900 square feet with just one bathroom? Yeah, I have.)

3. I went shopping this afternoon. Egads, do I hate shopping. I really need some better performance clothes. I have exactly one pair of nice dark gray pants with one or two shirts that go along with it. And that's it. Seriously. I went through my closet a few weeks ago and found a suit I bought in 2002 that looks dated and pinches my mama-belly and a black dress I wore to my high school graduation that was always too big and gapped under the arms. Those and some other things got hauled off to the thrift store, and now I'm down to pretty much nothing. So I sucked it up and went to the mall for about an hour, and except for a black sweater/tee shirt, I found squat for what I was looking for. I just don't look good in pencil skirts, and that's about all you can find except for mini-skirts, which are 1) inappropriate for professional accompanying gigs and 2) completely unflattering on a 30+ mama with only a vague sense of style. I know it's petty to complain about clothes, but most of the time I'm wearing dirty jeans and stretched out shirts, and it would be nice to look pretty once in a while.

4. I just like this picture:

Saturday, April 17, 2010

v is for vacation, part 2

After our stay in Blacksburg, we drove to Winston-Salem, NC to visit Stuart's brother Mitch and his family. Daniel and Anya have two cousins; C-boy will be three years old in a few weeks, and C-girl is now 17 months. The boys spent all three days of our visit running after each other and tumbling across the yard. They played like boys typically play - lots of wrestling, chasing, ball-throwing, and yes, a bit of arguing over whose turn it was with the frisbee/riding toys/ball, but for two preschool-age kids, they got along quite well. As for the girls...well, let's just hope they get to know each other a little better as they get older. C-girl is still too young to be very social with other kids, and Anya seemed so overwhelmed with all the unfamiliarity (a house we hadn't been to before, people she hadn't seen in nearly a year, driving a different car, etc), she mostly clung to me and Stuart.

Anya finally came out of her shell a bit the last night we were there. It was getting to be well past bedtime for the boys and Anya (C-girl was already asleep), but all the grown-ups were enjoying sitting outside drinking wine and no one felt like dealing with pajamas and teeth-brushing just yet. The boys were running around, increasingly giddy with tiredness, and all of a sudden C-boy's pants were off, then his shirt, and then Daniel was naked, too. And then - incredibly - Anya joined in. She got all of her clothes off by herself and ran around the back yard in the buff with the boys. By that time it was after dark, so nobody cared. I was so proud of her, really I was. For days she had been so clingy and high-maintenance, and that evening she finally shed some of that shyness (and her clothes).

We spent most of our time in Winston-Salem outside, as a matter of fact. The weather was so perfect (sunny, 70s, blue sky), and all four kids are just happier out in the fresh air. We ate most of our meals outside on the back deck, and visited some nice outdoor parks. One day we hiked a small nature trail. Another day we went to Tanglewood county park. We tried going to a local winery, but it was closed, sadly. Stuart and I both enjoyed the nice weather for running (he barefoot, I wearing my Vibrams).

The one drawback to being outside all the time was that C-boy, who recently potty-trained, decided that it wasn't worth the trouble to go inside and use the bathroom. He also doesn't like having messy pants on...Do you see where this is going? Yes, C-boy compromised by just taking his pants off and pooping in the yard or on the driveway. I think Daniel may be preparing himself for a career as a reporter of some kind, because every time C-boy doffed his britches to do his business, Daniel would run inside and announce, "Um, um, aunt R?? C-boy just pooped!!" M and R conceded that it was better than going in his pants, but it was understandably frustrating for them when he had been doing so well with using the potty in previous weeks. "It's like having a dog!" his mother exclaimed, partly in amusement, partly in frustration. The last day we were there, after cleaning up 3 piles from the driveway with nothing but his bare hands and a plastic grocery bag, M wondered aloud if it was time to get a proper pooper-scooper.

There's not much left to say, really. We ate lots of good food and drank plenty of good wine, courtesy of R's hard work in the kitchen and M and R's considerable generosity. We met several of their neighbors, good friendly people. And just like that, it was time to go home.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

v is for vacation, part 1

Did you notice I disappeared for a little while there? We were out of town for about a week visiting our bros. My little brother lives in Virginia, and Stu's big brother lives with his family in North Carolina, so our family of four flew out to see them. They live in towns separated by a mere 2-hour drive (Blacksburg, VA and Winston-Salem, NC, respectively). The visit was long overdue. We had a fabulous time, and my only regret is that we couldn't stay longer in each place. But you know, you don't want to wear out your welcome. We were blessed with many things on this trip: smooth flights, no lost luggage, beautiful weather, and children who were content to sit on airplanes and schlepp through airports with relatively little complaining (no small miracle, that).

All week I've been thinking about how best to write this blog post, because a play-by-play would be interesting to no one (except maybe all the kids' grandparents, none of whom joined us this time). I suppose some pictures and a list of highlights would be the best way to keep everyone's interest...

I haven't been to Blacksburg since my brother Joe moved there nearly eight years ago to begin graduate school (he's about to finish a PhD in electrical engineering, the smarty-pants). What a great little town, Blacksburg. It's not big, but it's beautiful and green and lively, and everyone there was so friendly. Seriously, I could live there. Joe lives in a bachelor pad with two other guys, so we got a hotel room. (Actually, we splurged on a 2-room suite so that he and his girlfriend M and others could hang out with us there. That turned out to be a very wise decision, especially the night Daniel was so tired he went to bed at 6:15!) Our kids love their Uncle Joe (or "Uncle Toe" as we sometimes call him, because of an amusing mispronunciation Daniel used to make). Loooooove him. They both pretty much engaged in full-body tackles when they saw him the first night we were there. Joe is a big goofball, so it was all good.

What did we do in Blacksburg? Well, we tried to balance kid-friendly activities with actual sight-seeing. We ate a few meals downtown, drove around the V-Tech campus, played at a park, played at the indoor pool at the hotel (probably Daniel's favorite thing, to be honest), did our best to avoid the insufferable douche Fred Phelps and his gang (who were protesting downtown on Friday), visited the duck pond at V-Tech, cooked food with Joe and ate it at our hotel suite with his girlfriend M, and one night with M's sister and her husband, and in general enjoyed each other's fine company.

At one point we drove past the memorial for the 30+ people who died in that awful shooting in 2007. Joe lives approximately 1/2 mile from the classroom building where it happened. I'm a little sorry I didn't get a picture of the memorial; it's a beautiful stone circle on the top of a hill overlooking the huge drill field, where hundreds (maybe thousands?) of people fled in terror that April morning.

Pictures, then? All right, in no particular order:

Uncle Toe!

"One two free cheeeeeese!!"

At the park:

Posing with one of the many decorative hokies around Blacksburg. This one is covered in legos:

Trying out Uncle Joe's motorcycle:

Daniel and Anya in their new matching Virginia Tech tie-dye shirts (because I couldn't resist), playing on a grate at the International Festival on campus:

The four of us at the duck pond on campus:

Best climbing tree evah:

Joe and M. Don't they look happy?

To be continued: our visit in Winston-Salem, and why my BIL is in desperate need of a proper pooper scooper...

Monday, April 05, 2010

so much for dignity

Funny how parenthood strips away one's dignity, bit by bit. I thought it couldn't get worse than lying naked, panting and sweaty in the delivery room while a half dozen people calmly looked on, watching my very most private parts and waiting for the baby to appear. I was wrong.

The other morning, Daniel was complaining a bit about some pain and discomfort in a certain region of his body. I'll spare y'all the details, but we talked with him about the benefits of eating lots of fiber and drinking lots of water and how these things can alleviate such discomfort. Our discussion included some rather graphic details of certain bodily functions, and the whole thing occurred while I was cooking up some breakfast.

I admit I was just a tad worried about this. Despite being a terribly picky eater who resists eating most fruits and vegetables as a matter of course, Daniel's never had, you know, problems staying regular. So his complaints that morning reminded me that we should step up the encouragement to eat enough veggies and fruits and whole grains.

Later that day, the problem resolved itself. We had gone to Menards to look for a new screen door (a particularly strong gust of wind ripped apart the old one). After playing peekaboo in the display of fancy outside doors for a while, Daniel announced he needed to use the bathroom. I sent him in the nearby Men's room. When he had been in there a couple minutes longer than necessary, I hollered in the doorway:

"Daniel, is everything okay in there?"
"Do you need help with anything?"
"Well, I can't get my shoe on."
"I can't come in there. It's the men's room."
"Daniel, I can't come in there right now. Have you washed your hands yet?"
"Well, come here and I'll help you with your shoe, then you can go back in and wash your hands."
Shuffle, shuffle.

Daniel appears at the doorway, pants and underwear wrapped around his ankles, one shoe on, one shoe dangling.
"Daniel, why didn't you pull up your pants? Did you have to poop?"
"Did you wipe up?" and without bothering to wait for an answer, I check. "Good enough."
So I help him pull up his pants and fasten his shoe, then send him back in the bathroom to wash his hands.
(This is all happening in full view of men walking in and out of the restroom, and people shopping for shingles and siding, which are on display on the wall nearby.)
"Mom, I can't reach the soap!"
He comes back out, I give him a squirt of hand sanitizer, which he rinses off in the drinking fountain. That probably isn't allowed, but I had already checked my kid's butt in the doorway of a public restroom, so whatever. I didn't care. And that's just a reality of having small children: you lose your dignity, or at the very least, your concern for privacy.