Friday, March 28, 2008

All about my head

I'm a little ashamed that we've been here for over a year, and yet we've just now gotten our eyes checked and made dentist appointments. What can I say? Last year was overwhelming and we didn't have a lot of money to spare on glasses or dental treatments that exceeded our dental coverage.

But I was very early in getting our taxes done and e-filed, so our return has been in our bank account since late February, just waiting for extravagant medical expenses. We went and ordered our glasses tonight, which were both overdue. My glasses are on their second pair of ear stems, and my experience from the first pair is that they're good for about two years, just about exactly the age the second pair are now. The sunglasses that attach through cunning magnets at the temples broke a while back and I miss them dreadfully. Meanwhile, B put his glasses down on the bed Monday and I, um, sat on them, snapping the stems clean off. Clearly those were not frames long for this world, if they broke that comprehensively, given that they're the type that are supposed to flex to prevent just such an occurrence.

Sadly, glasses with cunning magnets in the temples for attaching sunglasses have gone out of fashion and the selection was dreadful. I'm still trying to decide how much I like the pair I chose, which were the only remotely acceptable pair. Intriguingly, putting them on convinced me for the first time that sqare lenses really suit me. I think the problem is that in the past, all of the square lenses I've seen have in fact been rectangular because they were teeny-tiny glasses lacking in the verticality department. I despise teeny-tiny glasses and they definitely don't look good on me. So the shape of the new glasses is really good. The thing that has me hesitating is the color, which is much darker than I normally go, a slatish-silver color instead of my normal brown-gold. I really can't decide if they're not the best color for me or if I'm just not used to them. They've grown on me enough that I decided to go for them instead of taking the time to go someplace else.

Speaking of teeny-tiny glasses, I'm happy to report that the trend of shrinking glasses frames has finally halted before people were forced to peer through microscopic lenses perched on the ends of their noses. The size seems to have normalized and even gone up a bit, so I didn't have much trouble finding glasses of an acceptable size. However, the new fashion seems to be plastic frames horrifying reminiscent every pair of glasses I wore in the 80s. If I had wanted, I could have walked out of there looking like I did in 8th grade, an appalling prospect at best. I suppose I'll just have to hope that eventually the style will swing back to moderately sized wire rims with sunglasses attached by cunning magnets.


More toileting success today! And I'm just barely brave enough to say that K hasn't had a wakeup of more than fifteen minutes in the middle of the night any day this week. She's typically been falling asleep around 9:30-10, but she's been playing happily and quietly in her room until then. It's amazing how much more I like my child when she lets me sleep.

What's amazing me is how social she is these days. When she sees kids on the playground or in the library or bookstore, she greets them cheerfully and then goes and plays with them. It used to be (like, last month) that I needed to help facilitate all of her interactions and be on hand to help her as she played. Now, she runs off with other kids and I hardly know what to do with myself. I'm simulataneously amazed at this kid who's suddenly living with me and feeling melancholy at my obsolescence.

We've had a huge language leap. It's not just that she's talking more, although she is. But she's suddenly so much more comprehensible. Strangers can understand her now. She's now confident enough in her language skills to talk to strangers. She's started talking on the phone too. Up to this point, her reaction to having a grandparent talk to her over the phone is to look at the phone with a delighted grin, but not really say anything (despite the fact that some of the first imaginative play she engaged in at 10 months was with the phone and it's been a perennial favorite toy which she uses entirely correctly when she's playing with it). But this Sunday, she told my mother about her dinosaurs, admittedly from about six inches away from the receiver because she had to look at the phone with a delighted grin. She also waved good-bye to my mother. Last week, she was holding something up to show her other grandmother over the phone. Clearly we have some work to do on the concept, but it's huge progress.

She's running and jumping, talking and using the toilet. I'm working my way through a gigantic preschool application. Where did my baby go?

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Because apparently I can't post on singular topics

* We have achieved pee in the toilet! On K's part that is. B and I both have quite good aim in that regard, thank you. And she sat on the toilet completely of her own volition, and would have completely forgotten about the chocolate if I hadn't decided that success deserved a reward and gave it to her. I think I'll try putting her in a dress tomorrow or Thursday and try going bottomless for the afternoon.

More tedious updates on my child's bladder as events warrant.

* My mother put a downpayment on a condo last week. Eesh - we went from "thinking about it but it's probably a ways off" to "downpayment" awfully quickly. But she can afford the condo and the house at the same time and I'm sure it will be easier to get work done on the house if she's not living in it.

The condo isn't finished yet, which is a big advantage because she'll be able to get it customized for her needs. All of the units are accessible, but she'll be able to get things like an accessible shower and a bathroom sink and counters that she can get her chair under. She's thinking about a move date some time in June. My brother and I are starting to make plans to go up after Acen in May to help get the rest of our stuff out and take other things she might be giving away.

There are a hundred logical reasons why this is a good idea, which I keep telling myself. Because I can't deny that losing my chldhood home less than a year after losing my father doesn't sting a bit. Like I said before, I'm a grownup, so I'll support her in this. But it's still a bit emotional.

* The dressmaking has been going gangbusters. Each one takes about 20 minutes, making it just possibly the most addictive sewing project ever. I've branched out a bit - instead of using t-shirts for the entire dress, I'm using a toddler t-shirt for the top and went to the fabric store for some cute cotton prints for the skirt. Cute cotton prints are cheap to begin with and you only need half a yard for a skirt for a toddler. So now K has a fishy dress, a dragonfly dress and a dinosaur dress. I'm particularly pleased with how the dinosaur dress turned out. I found a nice shirt with embroidered dinosaurs at Target and then lucked into a dinosaur print for the skirt that matched the dinosaurs on the skirt remarkably well. Approximately twenty minutes and four seams later:

dinosaur dress1
dinosaur dress2

It's a huge hit, as pretty much all the dresses have been. It's been fun - I made a dress nearly every evening last weekend, put it in K's room when it was done and then got to hear her pleased squeals in the morning: "Dino! Dino!" "Fishy!" It's nice having a toddler who's easy to please.

Thursday, March 20, 2008


I can't quite believe I forgot to include this in the list of weekend plans yesterday: neither B or I are working tomorrow. But we intend to heartlessly send our child to daycare anyway. So tomorrow, you will find us giddy with freedom at a movie theater, hopefully seeing Spiderwick. First movie in the theatre in four months! Hooray!

The traditional spring movie drought has been particularly parched this year. Last year, we were able to take K to a couple movies that we wouldn't have bothered to see otherwise, but we were desperate to get out of the house and they were child-appropriate. But there hasn't even been that this spring. Just tons of particularly hideous thrillers and horror movies, which, well, yuck. I truly don't understand the impulse to put something that ugly into the world, or to sit through it. I mean, I understand the adrenaline thrill that comes from being scared, but the previews I see and the synopses I read to these movies don't seem to be nearly so much about giving the audience a good scare as simply vomiting the most nightmarish scenario possible onto the screen, which makes Nightmare on Elm Street look like Mary Poppins.

I, for one, will be glad when the trend in movies swings back to vapid romantic comedies.


Our method of coping with the Writers' Strike has been to watch a lot of Food Network. It helps that Good Eats is on every night now, and Iron Chef America is long and complex enough that it's usually worth watching more than once. I was very surprised at how much Throwdown with Bobby Flay has grown on me, since I don't like Bobby Flay. But the process he goes through of analyzing what exemplefies the archetype of the theme dish is something I like in a cooking program. And Flay isn't nearly as obnoxious as I expected. So I don't go out of my way for it, but I don't change the channel when it's on.

A program we've really gotten to like is Ace of Cakes. The process of making those fantastical cakes is fascinating. It's also giving me completely unrealistic ideas of what we should do for K's birthday cake this year. I was walking through a craft store the other day, passing the cake making aisle and saw boxes of pre-colored fondant. I kind of wish I hadn't - much like finding a bucket of radioactive glow-in-the-dark paint in the back shed, this sort of discovery could be dangerous. If you find yourself reading frustrated and overwrought posts from me revolving around cake-making disasters this June, don't say I didn't warn you.

Domestic notes

The museum is closed this weekend, so I don't have to work at all. B has tomorrow and Friday off, is working Saturday (boooo) and has Sunday off. So we have essentially a four day weekend starting tomorrow, although admittedly one where we can't go anywhere.

Do you know how long it's been since we had such a long run of days off at the same time? I feel like I'm starting a grand tropical vacation, if only I could convince Sonya to dress up and be our cabana boy. What we'll probably actually do is go somewhere Improving like a museum or the zoo sometime this weekend, go to church Sunday and spend much of the rest of the time generally bumming around. I can't wait.


It appears the secret to getting K back on the toilet is straight up bribery.* First, I introduced the idea of a long-term bribe (a Fisher Price Little People barn, which she was so engrossed with at daycare last week that I had to literally drag her away), to be given when she is completely out of diapers during the day (nighttime dryness can take a long time, and she has a genetic heritage of longer-term bedwetting, so I'm not going to make her reward hinge on something that could take years).

She was very enthusiastic about the idea of the barn and went charging upstairs, only to do an abrupt u-turn when we reached the bathroom door. So I decided that since two-year-olds are creatures who live in the moment, she needed a short-term bribe. In this case, chocolate. I brought out the bag of M&Ms and she practically sprinted for the bathroom. After the first time, where I was downright profligate with the chocolate, I've established more firm rules where she has to sit on the toilet for two minutes before she gets her treat. I'm going to gradually both increase the time and then move towards only rewarding actual production, but the key right now is just getting her in the bathroom again. It's definitely working - tonight, she sat on the toilet for at least another five minutes after I said she could get off because she was engrossed with playing with the timer I had brought in to count down the two minutes.

I know better than to count my chickens too early when it comes to a toddler, but the progress so far is encouraging. I may try putting her in a dress for some diaper-free time this weekend.


In addition to the visit to someplace Improving and loafing, I'm hoping to get some projects done this weekend. Tomorrow, I'd like to make to a fabric store sans toddler, so I can get some fabric to get moving on the dinosaur dress.

And tonight, I made a very successful prototype of a four piece puzzle for K (pictures later). She was able to do the two-piece puzzles with absolutely no hesitation, so rather than searching high and low for something more complicated but not too complicated and then spending too much money, I made one tonight with Microsoft clipart and scrap cardboard for pennies. I'm looking forward to experimenting withy making more.

And if I'm feeling crazy, I might deal with the empty boxes drifting like tumbleweeds throughout the house.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

We're the uninvited loud precision band

I got K a book the other night which has a two-piece jigsaw puzzle on each page. She's been ready for puzzles more complicated than one piece for a while, but it seems like most puzzles seem to leap from one piece directly up to eight, and I don't think she's quite ready for that (although she's doing incredibly well with shape matching these days, so she might be up to it). So this book seemed like a nice intermediate step.

It's a big hit. She'll go through and pull out all the pieces, and then pick up a piece, open the book and say, "Does it go here? Noooooo. Here? YES!"

And then you hear the thud of her parents dying of cute.


I talked to my mother the other night and learned two things:

1. My cousin is getting married in Colorado this July, so she suggested that my brother and I go out with her. It's blowing my mind a bit, that the cousin who was a tiny baby at our family reunion in 1984 is getting married. Isn't she still a baby?

I'm looking forward to seeing that side of the family. I haven't seen most of them since, lordy, 2001. I'll get to see my favorite great aunt, Aunt Doris, who is just about the nicest great-aunt ever. She's 90 and still going strong. I'm looking forward to introducing K to her.

Part of why we're all going out is so we can spread Dad's ashes. He spent part of his growing up years in Colorado and he's always loved the mountains there. My uncle will be able to join us as well if we do it there. He said that he should be able to find us a back road to some out of the way place where we can scatter the ashes without running afoul of the law. The thought of going someplace like Estes Park is nice, but we don't want some friendly ranger wandering up to find out what we're doing.

"Oh, just spreading human remains, sir!"
"Yes, this is my husband. We're throwing him off a cliff."

2. My mother is contemplating buying a condo. It makes sense. One person doesn't really need a five bedroom house, especially since she can't get into half of it. She wouldn't have to worry about hiring people to plow in the winter and take care of the yard in the summer.

I can't say it's not a wrench to think about losing my childhood home, though. And the thought of shoveling out that basement - ai-yi-yi. Pardon me while I curl up in the fetal position here for a while. Thank goodness my brother and I have been progressively working over the years to chip away at Stuff Mountain when we're home for the holidays.

I'd like to pout about this, but it turns out I'm too mature to demand that my mother stay in a house that's too big for her just for my sake. Adulthood is inconvenient sometimes.


I have to say this very quietly, in case K hears me and decides to never sleep again in a fit of toddler contrariness: bedtime hasn't been too bad for the past several days. Friday, K fell asleep early, woke up around ten and stayed awake for a while, but was clearly sleepy and content to stay in bed until she drifted back off on her own. Last night, she played quietly in her room after I put her down and was asleep by 9:30, then proceeded to sleep until nearly 9 this morning. Tonight, well, she was still awake when I went upstairs 20 minutes ago. But she's quiet and in her room. I really can't ask for anything more.

Do I dare hope that the nighttime chaos is coming to an end? Or have I just cursed us to seven more years of bad sleep?

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Zest for life

I was folding laundry the other day, and K, clearly aching to be helpful, decided to sit down on top of the clothes in the laundry basket. Since I knew from experience that her next move would probably be to try and fold clothes I had already folded and then arrange them in her own special arcane taxonomy, I asked her to look for socks in the basket and put them in a pile for me.

I'm a little surprised at how big a success that was. It's not just that she did it, and kept at it for quite a while. But she got incredibly excited every time she found a sock - "A sock, a SOCK!"

I think if I found laundry that exciting, I would have to be medicated. But life would definitely be more fun.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

The escape artist

Dear Daylight Savings Time,

I hate you. Please go away. Nothing personal.

Daylight Saving Time came at a very poor time for us while we're still trying to deal with K's sleep problems. Because of course, when you have a toddler that's already staying up far too late, what you really want is to shove time back an hour so her body thinks it's an hour earlier than it actually is, giving her the stamina to stay up another hour, right?

The sleep avoidance is also harder to deal with in our new house. At the old house, one of us was usually in the room next to hers while she was going to sleep, which usually kept her in her room. Now, we're in the basement, which has led to a toddler running around upstairs at will and getting into any manner of trouble. We've finally resorted to a gates across her doorway. Actually, this is our third gate. The first was a classic tension-mounted gate which she was able to push down (she could have just opened it on her own if she were a little stronger). The second was a gate-type, which she figured out how to open within fifteen minutes. Mind you, we used both of these gates in the old house with no problems. The problem with children is that they keep getting smarter.

So now we have a hardware mounted swing-gate, with four boxes of books in front of it to prevent her from crawling underneath (if we had mounted it lower, she would have been able to climb over it). Does four boxes seem like overkill? Not after Monday night.

We had heard some thumps, but didn't go up investigate right away. When we did, we discovered:

1. She had pushed the top box, filled with magazines, over, spilling magazines all over the place, and then pushed the bottom box out of the way.
2. She had pulled half of the contents out of her dresser. Not unusual, but it added to the atmosphere.
3. She then went to the refrigerator and got two bags of shredded cheese, apparently wanting a snack.
4. Which is why her carpet, the rocking chair, her bed and the top of her low bookcase were all coated in cheese.

It's not like we've never gone up to her room to discover a mess before - the time she got ahold of her diaper cream comes to mind as a particularly memorable moment (as a point of interest, it is very hard to get cream meant to be waterproof out of carpet. And a room with Burt's Bees diaper cream smeared all over it is very pungent). But I think this goes down as the worst.

It shouldn't surprise that the child who was able to get out of a sleepsack put on backwards with a safety pin through the zipper has a talent for getting around gates (thankfully, she doesn't strip any more - she just changes her clothes if she feels like it). I don't care if she plays in her room until she's ready to go to sleep. But when she runs around upstairs to keep herself awake and then rampages through the refrigerator like a teenager, some sort of containment strategy is needed. It's been two nights since we added the extra layer of boxes and she hasn't gotten out yet. I hope this is the box that can finally trap Houdini.

Sunday, March 9, 2008


* I made K a dress out of two t-shirts last night, which was just about the simplest thing ever. I took a cute t-shirt on clearance from Target and cut it off so it stopped at her waist. Then I took an adult t-shirt and cut off the bottom 12 inches, gathered it, and sewed it to the toddler shirt. And voici! A cute dress. I would share a picture, but K insisted on wearing it to bed over her pyjamas.

The problem with this method, of course, it that it leaves you with half an adult t-shirt. But then it occurred to me that it's just about the perfect amount of fabric for a pair of matching shorts, so she can go have fun on the playground without flashing everyone.

I think I'm going to have a lot of fun with this. As I mentioned before, I'm planning on putting K in dresses this spring and summer to try and get serious about potty training. But the problem with dresses is that they're so... girly. You can find cute shirts for girls that aren't quite so aggressively in lock-step with fashion gender norms, but once you choose a gender specific item like a dress, you've committed yourself to a sickeningly array of pink flowers, with a chaser of pastel butterflies. Which I don't necessarily mind, but not for her entire wardrobe. My daughter loves dinosaurs, fish and dogs, and I'd like to give her some of that. And the joy of t-shirts is the wonderful blank palette of expression for the creative. So dinosaur dress, here we come.

* I finished my last knitting project last night, so now I'm working on a Hemlock Ring blanket. My last several projects have been for K, and while I do adore how quickly toddler clothes knit up, I'm itching for something complicated and lacy that makes your eyes cross. I found a lovely yarn with a subtle stripe to it, which should look great going around the circle.

* Next up, I'm hoping for good weather this week so I can tackle painting K's Ikea table and chairs. If we had been intelligent and prepared, we would have finished them right away, but as we're clearly stupid and improvident, she's been liberally decorating the wood with crayon and markers, until the only solution is to just cover it all up with a thick coat of paint. In general, I applaud self-expression, but not on the furniture.

Thursday, March 6, 2008



She was found under a porch on a cold and rainy night a couple weeks ago by some people who own a local business, and they had been keeping her there ever since. When B was out looking for Olwen a couple nights ago, he talked to several people and one of them knocked on our door last night to tell us that there were signs up about a grey cat that had been found. When we initially looked at the signs, our hearts sank because they said it was a male cat. But we decided to stop by and look anyway, and fortunately for us, the people keeping her are incompetent at sexing cats.

So now she's back home, skinny but sweet as ever. The people who found her had been getting attached to her (and who wouldn't, with that lovey personality and thunderous purr?), so I know she would have had a good home if we hadn't reclaimed her. I had really given up hope by this point and had reduced myself to hoping for that. But oh, I'm more happy than I can say that my cuddly girl is back home.

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Oh you have got to be KIDDING me

Olwen is missing.

Since yesterday. It definitely happened yesterday, but we have no freaking clue when it could have happened, except that she managed to slip out around our ankles as we were going out to the car. When Sonya disappeared, I felt guilty because I was pretty sure I knew when it happened and I might have been able to find her if I hadn't been in a hurry. But now? I'm just bewildered.

How, in 9 years of loving, responsible pet ownership (regular vet visits, vaccinations and medical treatment, provision of ample food, treats and toys, lavish applications of affection), can we possibly lose two cats in a month? Two lovey, affectionate cats that gave every impression that gave every impression that they loved us too?

The only thing that has occurred to me is that Olwen left to try and find Sonya. She's definitely been missing her. I admit, I've entertained fantasies of finding both of them together. At the very least, we haven't given up hope on finding Olwen. She was seen around the neighborhood last night, and she is much smarter and tougher than Sonya. I have much more confidence in her ability to survive outdoors for a while, not to mention more confidence that she'll be able to find her way home again when she feels like it.

But meanwhile, I think we feel like the most imcompetent pair of pet owners in the world. Two cats in a MONTH? Was it something we said?

February books

Aunt Dimity's Death
Aunt Dimity's Good Deed
by Nancy Atherton

A pleasant little mystery series where one of the main characters is a ghost, the eponymous Aunt Dimity. I'm reading it a bit out of order because those are the books I could get immediately from the library. There are a ton of books in the series, which starts out a tad depressing but has cheered up immensely over time. Enjoyable, lightweight mysteries that haven't even had any murders yet.

Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi
This is an incredibly powerful graphic novel about a young girl growing up in Iran in the late 70s and early 80s before, during and after the Revolution. Like many people, my education in American History rarely got into the twentieth century before the end of the year, let alone past World War II. So most of what I know of the history of the 70s and early 80s is from Doonesbury. Not surprisingly, while I've heard about the Iranian revolution, it was mostly in the context of the 1980 hostage crisis. Just learning about the history behind it was fascinating, and the personal story surrounding it was stunning. Highly recommended.

The Beasts of Clawstone Castle by Eva Ibbotson
Ibbotson is a highly enjoyable children's fantasy author. She writes an excellent lighthearted, yet well-crafted book that I would recommend getting for the 10-year-old in your life, or even reading yourself if you're in the mood for a quick, good read.

I feel certain I'm missing something here. I may well come back and edit if I remember what.

ETA: I remembered!

Mary Poppins by P.L. Travers
Definitely not the fuzzy friendly version from the Disney movie (although I was surprised that probably the most famous sequence in the movie - stepping into the sidewalk paintings - was taken from the book). Mary has some real edge in the book. I think it's going out on a limb to say that the book is far and away better than the movie though. It's perhaps better to say that they both have their individual faults. One way the movie improves on the book is that it has a narrative and character arc, which gives it a point. In the book, Mary Poppins appears because they need a nanny, but any nanny would have done. She leaves for her own ephemeral reasons, and while I'm sure the children learned a lot from her, it's hard to say what she accomplished at the house beyond child care and magical hijinks. She appeared, did a bunch of stuff and left again. This is not atypical of a certain type of book from this time period, but I find I prefer books that have a more connected plot. Or a plot, period.

Also, remember a few years ago when they wanted to revive stuff like old Dick Tracy strips or episodes of The Spirit or Warner Bros cartoons, only to discover that they're full of racial and ethnic stereotypes that were fine at the time, but are appallingly offensive these days? Oh my, they're in Mary Poppins too. Asian characters of the "Me so solly" persuasion and African Americans that stepped straight out of a minstrel show. As with the Little House series, it didn't make me put down the book, but will make me hesitate to give it to K until she's old enough to discuss and understand these things.

(Don't take these criticisms to mean that I think the movie is the best thing ever. As I said, they each have their individual faults, and both provide some enjoyment. But I never saw the movie as a child, so I don't have the nostalgia to improve it for me, and I found that I was ready to put the book down about 3/4 of the way, so it's not a huge amount of enjoyment for me).