Monday, March 31, 2008

Milestones. Or pebbles, really.

All of this-life, parenting, watching a small baby grow and grow while you grow and grow yourself is a series of milestones. Some are HUGE boulders, some tiny pebbles, and most fall somewhere in between. Maybe driveway rocks, or something like that. We moved late last week, a bittersweet milestone (I really don't think it is possible for anyone to use the word "bittersweet" more than me) that showed me that Flipper is really really adaptable and that the whole, long, stressful event (for me) was really one big, fun adventure for her. How fortunate for her. How lucky she is to be just four years old, unworried by bills or the sheer, awful suckiness of moving, how free she is of nostalgia, or recognizing the painful poignancy of us leaving the home she was born into, the yard where she first played, the living room where she took her first step...blah blah blah. These things mean nothing to her, and everything to me. But move we did, and another milestone was approached, summitted, and clambered over. The milestone? Or, more accurately, the mileboulder? Flipper, for the first time since she was born, slept alone in her own bed. All. Night. Long. She is enraptured with having her own room for the first time ever, although after 2 nights of solo-sleeping she announced, "I would like to take a break from sleeping alone." So I let her fall asleep beside me, then made the switch. Unlike many kids I know, once she goes to sleep, that is pretty much it: she is comatose for the next 11 hours. This is one of the ten million things that I think I will be sad about, indeed pine over when it is gone...and then I don't. Instead, I am GLAD and unexpectedly HAPPY. Like having my bed back. Just me. And one of the dogs, no snorting, congested noises, no sharp kicks to the face, no cries for water. I solved that one by putting a water bottle on her NEW bedside table.



New room. Old bed. This is the bed that was mine as a kid, my mom's as a kid, my grandmother's. In fact, she died in this bed. I find this strangely comforting, not creepy at all. In fact, it makes me happy. She would have loved to see Flipper in this bed; the fourth generation to sleep in it. Yes, we got a new mattress.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Boring and worthless post.

What to say, what to say. I am drawing a blank this morning, a morning in which I am trying to speed through "work" so I can justify taking the rest of the week off to move, a task that no matter how hard I try, seems to be ever elusive, beyond my grasp. Take it from me: moving alone sucks. Is awful. No fun. Hard. Flipper, bless her little heart, helps for a while, then stops. She endures the daily runs back and forth, but tires quickly of getting in and out of the car while I tote stuff out of the car, up the steps, and into whichever room it will ultimately live. This is my new trick of moving: not putting all boxes in one room, but getting them closer to their final destination. What, this is what everyone already does?? How can this be?? The main thing is the books. The boxes and boxes of books. Flipper has more than 200 of her own, and I ALREADY weeded out the baby board books and the other really simple ones that don't keep her interest any longer. My collection (one of several) has been boxed up and toted over. Just what, pray tell, IS that collection? Well, at the risk of sounding/being frighteningly juvenile, I collect, in a somewhat major way, children's serials from the first half of the 1900's, particularly those published by the Stratemeyer Syndicate. I have several hundred. I love them, until I have to move them. Sounds rather high-powered and serious, doesn't it? Well...it isn't. All of you know these books: Nancy Drew, Hardy Boys, Bobbsey Twins, Cherry Ames, Trixie Belden, Vickie Barr. I have some first editions, the oldest being a first edition Bobbsey Twins that was published in 1904. This collection is one of those things that makes me wonder about Flipper: what will she be interested in as a child, as an adult? Will she collect anything at all? What will become her little hobbies, her personal quirky interests? I research these books, and am particularly interested in the changes made from their initial releases, typically in the early 1930's, to the re-release issues in the 1950's. I could write volumes about these books, but, luckily for any hapless reader out there, I won't. I do watch flipper with interest, though, eager to see what she will develop a personal interest in enough to pursue it in some way. And like everything else, time will tell.

Monday, March 24, 2008

Hopping Down the Bunny Trail

Easter. Fun. Eggs. The damn dogs...wait, the dogs? Many of you will remember the Flour Fiasco way back in December, when the dogs dismembered a completely full five-pound bag of flour? If you have forgotten, here is the visual reminder.



So they were one up on me, although I had a touch of revenge when one of them tore open a tiny bag of cayenne pepper on the couch last week. HA HA HA!! I was cruelly gleeful, thinking perhaps tongue-pain would be some sort of fantastic deterrent to their misbehavior. Trash I can understand. But a tiny plastic bag of cayenne? this escapes my understanding.

Then, they got me back over Easter. Flipper spent a fair amount of time dyeing eggs on the back deck with the little tablets and the reeking vinegar solution, and then we left them to dry while we went over to the new place with yet another box of stuff.




Gorgeous, no?

So off we go, drop off armfuls of random junk, and return home to...no eggs. None. Tears from the Easter Bunny's little helper. Nary a trace, nary a tiny speck of colored shell. Both dogs LOOK guilty, but no evidence anywhere. Empty carton in middle of back yard. I cannot even definitively say it was the dogs, although they are Prime Suspects #1 and #2. But Flipper rallied, dyed some more, and spent the rest of the evening (get this) hiding them herself, then counting to ten with her eyes closed, and then "finding" them. She did this over and over again...and still came up short as night fell. Out there in the wilds of our backyard, is an egg. Perhaps the dogs will find it.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Sandbox

I visited a friend yesterday, sold her a bunch of Flipper's old clothes and her beautiful Britax "Marathon" carseat. We spoke about sandboxes, and since I built one for Flipper several years ago that was so easy to do, and, if I do say so myself, a stroke of genius on my part, I decided to embrace the first day of spring by posting directions for anyone that wants to build one as well. 3 friends have also done this successfully. One of the big keys to kiddie sandboxes is that they need to be pretty big, and deep. Deep enough for digging, burying, tunneling. Wide enough to accommodate more than one kid at a time. And so...

Step 1) Go here: http://www.shop.com/10_Raised_Bed_Corners_Set_of_2_-72901161-p!.shtml and buy 4 of the ten-inch raised bed corners.

Step 2)Go to your friendly lumbar yard and buy some 2x10's. That is 2 inches wide, ten inches tall. Now, I am a bit of a freak, and so I bought untreated wood, then clear-sealed it myself. You would probably be OK not clear-sealing the wood at all, or if you want to buy pressure treated wood, by all means do so. Either have them cut the 2x10's into the length you want, or do it yourself. Ours were 6 feet long. Remember, a big sandbox is a very very good thing!!

Step 3) Go home and find a good spot. Ours is partly shaded. Don't put a tarp or any other type of non-permeable plastic on the ground. You want the sand to be able to drain. You can, if you so desire, purchase from above lumbar yard fine black plastic mesh, but this, too, isn't necessary.

Step 4) Put corners on ground. Drop wood into corners to make a perfectly square, ten-inch tall box. Fill with sand. Now, the sand is the hardest part of this, because you need A LOT. Ours has one ton of sand in it, and not builder's sand but playsand. Also purchased at lumberyard and loaded directly into bed of borrowed pick up truck, which was carefully maneuvered through backyard to edge of sandbox, then emptied into. Many places will deliver and dump the sand in there for you, or you can use a wheelbarrow, etc.

Step 5) You're done. Pull up a chair, get something cold to drink, throw in a few old spoons or shovels, and kick back. We have dogs, and so cats do not come into our yard. If you want/need to cover it, use a tarp and weigh it down with bricks. All done, and for less than 100 bucks.


Taken just after assembly.


Another view.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Short

Yesterday I met a new neighbor. He is old, which I like, as I really really tend to love old people. I do not like the word "elderly" as the image my mind conjures is one of weakness and frailty. And, so often, they are NOT. So, old it is. The VERY FIRST thing he said to me (this is NOT made up or exaggerated) was, "Did you see the buzzards circling this morning?" Undoubtedly more on him later, after I move in and he meets my massive 85 lb doberman and my 70 lb mutt and deduces, rightly, that the little cutesy flag he has in his yard that reads "Cat Lover" could easily be hung around the neck of my dogs. I sense fodder. Below, pictures of Flipper and Baby Seamus in the woods near my house. When asked, "Are you making mud pies?" She responded so angrily, so offended, "NO! We are making a picture of the SKY!!" As though that was so apparent, so obvious that anyone would have been able to immediately grasp that soaking wet mud plastered onto a rock was the sky. Anyone but Rose and me, apparently. We immediately went back to some sort of worthless celebrity gossip, and let the sky-making commence.








Portrait of the Artist as a Muddy Girl

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Answer: none.

My very own private little mini-rant:
Yesterday I took not one but TWO online surveys, just because I love them. One was for Blogher and one was from the Wondertime magazine's website. What was striking-and annoying-was this: the surveys were general and about media use, you know, what you buy online, etc. etc. The annoying part? The questions about television did not have "none" or "0" as an option when asking about how many televisions you own, etc. Now, I grant you that 99% of American households own one TV, according to my new best friend, Wikipedia. And so I am the freak, the one TOTALLY out of step with mainstream American culture. No denying it here, although I know a fair number of families that don't have one. But the assumption that EVERYONE, all 100% of the survey-takers own at least one, was surprising to me. Also irksome was the question about which Desperate Housewife you are! Another massive assumption: that everyone was familiar with four specific characters from one specific show? Perhaps I should become a survey-writer. Because then "0" would be an option. My number one reason for not owning one? They seem addictive to me, like so many things, and so it is easier for me to NOT have one at all than try to either monitor Flipper's watching, or, really, my own. And yes, I am weak and lacking in self-discipline.

Friday, March 14, 2008

Pending Patents

I almost never write about my job here, but it pertains, a tiny bit, to this entry. I work for a head-hunting company. Oh, sorry, we prefer the term "professional recruiter." I manage (kind of) our office's resume database, and increase it almost daily. I could write a whole book on good/bad resumes, were I so inclined. Which I'm not, unless the advance would make me a millionaire. At any rate, we often receive resumes with the number of patents that engineer has applied for, or received. If you're wondering, there are lots and lots. Like 34, which I read on a resume today. I don't think I can top that, but I DO have a few brilliant (if I do say so myself)"inventions." Henceforth:

Flipper received a precious-and beautiful-child-sized roll-top desk from my Dad. It-along with my very recent role of Transporter Of Multiple Kids In My Car-fired up the old imagination, and here is what I want to see: a button on my console, perhaps directly next to the radio, that, when pushed, deploys a roll-top style clear plastic divider between the front and back seats. Much like the privacy screen in limousines. It would hide up in the ceiling of the car. Then the kids can enjoy their senseless and oft-annoying prattle without making me turn NPR up much MUCH louder than it should ever be listened to.

I frequent playgrounds a great deal, and invariably there are one or two kids that wander out of sight, either to the foul creek that borders it, or, more terrifyingly, into the parking lot. My magically effective "shock socks" would deliver a teeny tiny harmless jolt to the wearer (wandering kid) and remind them to head back to worried parent immediately. Mommy doesn't have to run around shouting kid's name!! Mommy is spared panic-induced heart attack, although then the socks might be able to be converted into some sort of instant defibrillator!! These socks can also be used to deter other forms of egregious misbehavior BEFORE it takes place; imagine seeing, from across the playground, a handful of sand being lifted with the CLEAR INTENTION of tossing it into the wind (and other children's eyes), the tiny jolt will cause the potential thrower to stop for a second and, hopefully, reconsider.

Guiltometer
Best one yet. Some sort of magical device (been reading too much Harry Potter lately, can you tell?) that records your daily actions/interactions and lets you know through a soothing electronic voice if said action should REALLY inspire major guilt-trip feelings or not. For example: nice voice says, "It is perfectly fine for your daughter to wear clashing clothes today! They are clean, she is warm, and she is expressing her individuality!" Or, "You aren't buying another Happy Meal, are you? That makes 17 this week alone!" See how great that would be? No more guilt about those things that really don't matter in the big picture but that almost every mother I know STILL obsesses over! A more expensive version could even have a "justification" option added, one that would rationally make a case for actually doing everything that causes guilt.

Last one...anyone ever seen/used/owned a central vacuum system? I cleaned a house in Telluride with one once, hated it, total pain. BUT...imagine the same set up, but with a larger opening, concealed behind a chair or a plant or something, that you could drop toys into. Then, the toys would fly silently through this system to some sort of holding pen where it would sit for a week or so. During that week, a voice recording monitor would secretly record how many times (if at all) said toy was queried/whined about/begged for. Parents could set a "minimum" number of times, and if the requests exceeded that limit, the toy would zoom back to the room where it vanished, but less than the number and it would...disappear forever, gone to Goodwill or the dump or just the trash can. Or someone else's yard sale. Brilliant, no? This device was actually inspired by my Colorado best friend. When I met her, she was newly single and the parent of a 2 year-old. She lived in a tiny house and maintained an iron-clad rule: only 7 toys at a time. Ever. If he wanted something new, out would go something else. He totally "got it" and sometimes passed up something new, other times tossed an older toy. And, her house always looked great. Clutter-free, something I strive for and fail at on a regular, almost daily basis.
And so that's all. A good week to everyone out there!

Very Short Fairy Tale

Once upon a time they rode off into the sunset and lived happily ever after. The End.








Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Attached

We are looking down the barrel now at moving. I am frighteningly good at pretending something isn't happening to me; after all, it is how I survived a pretty miserable pregnancy and a horrific labor. Every night I lie awake, stunned at the the thought of packing up and transporting all the pieces of our life somewhere else. Much will be gained, namely, more room. And, literally, more room, as in a room of Flipper's own for the first time in her young, four and a half year old life. The antique, three-quarter spindle bed that was my grandmother's, then my mother's, then mine, then back to my grandmother's-she died in this bed 4 years ago this month-will now be Flipper's. With a new mattress, and new, beautiful sand dollar sheets still in the shipping box marked LL Bean. Ready to be put on the brand new mattress on the old, old bed, even though I suspect the newest female in our family to own this bed will not lie on them for some time. But it marks something, a step away from the intimacy we share in our current life. She and I sleep in the same bed, along with one of the dogs. We share a dresser, a closet. Our toothbrushes reside in the same plastic cup on the same counter of the same sink. It is an intimacy I simultaneously love and cherish and yet, at times, long to be free of. I dislike parenting "labels"; are we ALL not "attached" to our babies, our children, regardless of where we sleep, how long we nurse? But from the outside, we are a very very attachment-parented family. I have spent only one night away from her since she was born. I wanted it that way. She nursed forever...and would still be doing so, I am convinced, had my desire, when she was just two months shy of turning three to NOT be awakened by her 4-6 times a night caused me to cut her off. But there is another part of me that thinks we are both ready, ready to movie into our Jack-and-Jill bathroom, where we EACH have a sink for our toothbrush mug to rest, where we EACH have a closet to fill, where her copy of "Creepy Crawly Things" will no longer rest alongside whatever current trashy saga I am in the middle of (in this case, the deliciously named "Wicked Pleasures") and where one day, sooner or later, she will sleep between her sand dollar sheets and I will sleep alone. Except for the dog. Many people have asked me if I am going to use this move to "get her out of my bed" and I say "No, the move is transition enough." But unlike now, the bed will BE THERE, ready and waiting for as long as it takes, indeed, as long as she needs. Like me.

Frantically Rushed.

My next-door neighbor is in a heightened state of ecstasy and joy due to Daylight Savings kicking in over the week-end. However, IT IS KILLING ME. Smokey is living the high life with my sister in Maui for two weeks, and so our mornings have devolved into a rushed, somewhat frantic race for the car and school. My house currently looks as though there has been some sort of police raid. And yet we have been out late most days, all my rigid, uptight "rules" about parenting, which generally involve NOT rushing my child around from place to place, thing to thing. A few randomly scattered playdates at a playground, one activity per week-end day, etc etc. I even bore myself sometimes. But...all of this has been thrown asunder lately. Tossed right out the proverbial window. So not only is she pretty much living in squalor right now--no, not REALLY, but I did manage to suck a spool of thread into my vacuum cleaner, whereupon it has gotten lodged in the metal tube, and is wedged so tightly that I cannot budge it and so...no vacuuming until I can figure out how to deal with it. So not just intense messiness but a morning that includes eating in the car on the way to school. This makes me feel INTENSELY guilty/lame/slack/awful as a parent, even though I know two things: it won't hurt her (hey! organic fruit cup from Weaver Street!) and that this situation isn't permanent. But I still hate it, even though she trots into school happy as a little clam, no sense that getting up at 7:05 and in the car at 7:33 and out of Weaver Street at 7:51 is one crazy way to start our day, a way that in theory I loathe but in reality I fully accept. I swore I wouldn't be this type of parent, the crazy, rushed one where every day is some sort of race to and fro, but I currently am. Some aspect of our lives is always off-balance, always out owhack. Us, school, home, dogs...something is always suffering a little from a touch of benign neglect. Today Keith picke her up from school and returns with her at 5:30, and so I will be at home most of the afternoon cleaning. And packing. And NOT vacuuming. Any suggestions on how I can avoid the Vacuum Cleaner Hospital in Chapel Hill greatly appreciate. I smashed the handle of a hammer reapeated upon the hapless spool, but it did nothing but lodge it more firmly still. (I love the Vacuum Cleaner Hospital, but please, please, not another errand anywhere!)

Monday, March 10, 2008

Back.

Back now. Life settling...except for the moving which seems so monumental, so daunting that I will continue to do what I do best and pretend that it isn't happening. Yet.
When Flipper was younger, and learning how to make friends, few things were more precious to me than eavesdropping on their "conversations." The other mommy and I would freeze, fall silent, clutch each other's forearms and listen, ears straining to hear their precious utterances. I don't think the words "cute" and "precious" have ever come out of my mouth more often. But now...now things have changed. To eavesdrop now is to be either caught unawares, shocked, annoyed, or just plain annoyed and pretending that no, this really ISN'T my child. Except, sadly, it often is. It fascinates me, utterly fascinates me the things kids talk about. And it also fascinates me how invisible-and silent-they believe themselves to be when in fact, they are neither. Harking upon my ancient psych degree, this is actually a developmental thing, young children cannot yet grasp that just because they can't see you doesn't mean you can't see them. (Note that I have no memory of when this happens, who "discovered" this, or what this phenomenon is called). I love this. So. For your reading pleasure, a few conversations that have transpired lately, usually in the backseat of my car between Flipper and one of her little friends. What I also find fascinating is how, unlike adult conversations, there is little desire to force the other into your point of view. To win. Often, a verbal disagreement between kids simply peters out, fades away with no anger, no escalation of frustration on the part of one speaker towards the other. I will resist the obvious lecture on how wonderful it would be if our world, or, really, just my very own personal interactions with others followed this model. Sense many nodding heads out there. Will pretend this doesn't hurt my feelings. One conversation I can't write verbatim, so I will just pass along the gist of it:
How many different ways natural disasters can kill you. Wow. There's some fun backseat chatter! Hurricanes were mentioned, as was lightning. But the big winner, in terms of minutes spent discussing, was lava. Or, as Flipper invariably labels it, HOT lava. It can melt you. And trees. Her friend, who is a bit older, discoursed at length about the core of the earth being, yes, you guessed it, hot lava. So then volcanoes quickly popped up (no, not in the middle of the Pacific) but in conversation. I debated if I should try to shift the focus from your body melted by hot lava to something more innocuous, like, say, the rainy weather, but I stayed quiet. They moved on to discuss the kids in the school, who they like and why, which snack is their favorite, and other earth-shaking, life-changing news.


What, exactly, are they talking about? Why pit bull dogs are dangerous. A topic about which I have no idea why they chose it, what sparked it, nothing.

Monday, March 3, 2008

A Picture is Worth a Thousand Words...but just for today


Flipper gives some hapless duck What For at the lake


My best friend and her second son. This year she and will mark our 10-year anniversary of best friendedness, the longest, healthy, adult relationship I have ever sustained outside of a family member.


Cute, huh? Want to know what they were discussing? How and why pit bulls can and do occasionally kill other dogs. Nice.