Saturday, August 28, 2010

Relaxing is so boring!

That is a direct quote from my daughter.  Apparently our vacation was a bit too low-key for her taste. We arrived at the cabin on Friday night (the 20th) and when we woke up Saturday morning, she asked, "How many days do we have to STAY here?" On the second day, she advised us that relaxing is just downright boring.  I told her what my mother used to tell me: only the boring get bored.  Also, my sisters and I, in our youth, quickly learned never to use the B word within earshot of the woman who gave birth to us.  All you had to do was form the thought in your mind and you'd have a bottle of 409 and a mop in your hand before you could fully articulate your state of utter ennui. I have not said the B word aloud in some 35 years. The woman is six states away from me now but I would not put it past her to overnight some Windex up here if she thought I might be bored.

We did try our best to entertain the kid while on vacation.  I bought her some watercolor paints and a pad of paper.  She spent one afternoon churning out rainbows at an alarming rate.  I bought a deck of Crazy 8's cards.  We played, she cheated. We took her out for ice cream twice (and this was no small feat, as the nearest ice cream joint was a good 30 minutes away from the lake). We made a fire and had s'mores (she doesn't like to eat the fully-assembled s'more, though - she insists on consuming the raw ingredients separately).  Sunday was hot, so we swam in the lake.  On Wednesday, we went hiking at a nearby state park.  We even took a detour to a look-out tower, an excursion that involved a hundred million steps, give or take.

The TV in the cabin only gets two channels, and both are PBS. So, we watched some educational programming and children's shows.  I am not sure why there aren't more channels - something to do with the remoteness of the lake, I suppose.  I can't exactly ask my friend, "Hey, thanks for letting us use your beautiful cabin for free and all, but can you possibly hook us up with Nickelodeon next time?" P and I read a lot.  I plowed through about 250 pages of "A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius." He read nerdy books.  The dogs laid around like carcasses.  For the most part, we just spent lots of quality family time.  A likes to play a game she calls "tackle hug."  She starts out from across the room and winds up her arms.  Then she flies at her target (and for a petite little croissant, let me just say that she runs FAST) and delivers the hug.  When she tackle hugs me, I get an elbow to the boob ten times out of ten. One day at the cabin, she yelled "tackle hug!" and flew at P.  Annnnnnd plowed full-force into his groin with her knee. He gasped.  I think I literally saw the stars he was seeing at that moment.  The kid had no idea why her dad was doubled over - a tackle hug should really be a joyous moment, you know.  All I can say is that I'm glad I don't need his nads for anything, since we can't reproduce anyway.

So, that's our vacation in a nutshell. The four-hour drive was the only real challenge (particularly when someone asks "are we there yet?" and we are still on our own street).  The trip was very enjoyable, despite the wee one's boredom.  Next year I'm hoping one of my sisters can come so that A has cousins with whom to play and to cheat at Crazy 8's.

Friday, August 27, 2010

The P Word

This post may or may not fall under the category of child abuse, since I am about to recount a story about my daughter that is giggly-cute now but will be embarrassing to her in the future, if she happens to recall it and/or read about it here.  However, since I do make some vague attempt not to divulge my child's name or specifically where we reside, let's just say it's not child abuse.

As you know, our wee clan has been on vacation for the past six days.  We stayed in a beautiful cabin (owned by a friend of mine) on a scenic lake situated in a national forest.  The cabin does not have a bathtub, just a shower stall.  The door is constructed of that textured glass (or whatever it's made of) where you can't see through it as clearly as you can through a window, but you can determine the gender, race, and general proportions of anyone who may be taking a shower in said stall (if they left the bathroom door open, that is). On Wednesday night, the three of us enjoyed a fire in the firepit (out in the yard) and made s'mores.  The kid announced that she was bored, so I told her I'd help her take a shower and then set her up with a DVD.  I escorted her to the shower, turned on and tested the water, drizzled some shampoo in her hair, and then went into the other room to close the windows.  We were expecting a cold snap that night.  As I set about getting the popcorn and DVD ready for my little taskmaster, I heard her singing the Sesame Street theme song.  Sunny day, sweepin' the clouds away . . .

I smiled.  So sweet! So innocent!  Then I heard something a little different - she was talking to herself and I thought I caught the word "penis."  No, that can't be right.  I listened more closely.  Maybe she was saying "peanut."  We'd set out some peanuts for the squirrels and chipmunks earlier that day, but the blue jays kept snagging all of them. I stood outside the bathroom door and heard this:

"No, that's not a penis.  Are penises that big? I'm a girl - I don't have a penis."  I poked my head around the corner and silently watched her through the glass shower door.  She had rolled her Sleeping Beauty washcloth (so sweet! so innocent!) into a cylindrical shape and stuck it between her legs while singing some made-up ditty about penises. She swayed and watched as her newly acquired appendage flopped to and fro. Oh my.

She spotted me and stopped singing.  I opened the shower door.  "Hey, were you singing about penises?"  I smiled as I said it.

"No, I . . . "  I could tell she was trying to make up a fib.

"It's okay if you want to sing about penises," I said.  (Is it?  Hell if I know!  This one isn't in any parenting book I've seen.)  I gave her a hug to reassure her.

I combed her wet hair and then handed her some popcorn and left her to watch "Beauty and the Beast" for the millionth time.  I then poked my head outside the cabin, where P was still stoking the fire in the pit.  "Hey, your kid is singing about wieners in here," I said. He pretended not to hear.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Vacation Countdown

We're headed out on vacation tomorrow evening.  We're doing the cabin-by-the-lake scene for six days. We cannot wait.  All P and I plan to do is lie around, read, watch movies, and drink adult beverages.  Oh, and yell at the kid to stop letting the dogs out.  We do plan to work in a few other activities, such as making s'mores, swimming in the lake, and doing a bit of hiking (there is a state park nearby with a nice hiking trail). For the most part, it is all about nothing.

The packing is, as usual, the biggest challenge.  I started packing a couple of days ago.  What I have to pack: my clothes, the kids' clothes, swimsuits, towels, bedding, dog food and other supplies for the dogs, a dog crate, food, drinks, shoes, DVD player and DVDs, toilet paper and other paper products, cleaning supplies, floats and stuff for the lake, bug spray, books and toys for the kid, umbrellas, and underwear. What my other half has to pack: three pairs of shorts and a few tee shirts for himself.  Talk about your unequal division of labor.

I would have accomplished more this week except that I took the kid to the county fair last night.  Our neighbor came along, too.  The rides at the state fair are insanely priced (literally, several dollars PER ride, for kiddie rides) so I told A I would take her to the county fair, where she can ride all she wants on a $10 wristband.  So, that is what we did.  You know we cannot pass up a festibul.

In other news, I took my daughter to meet her Kindergarten teacher on Tuesday.  Her new teacher also gave her an assessment to figure out what her new student knows.  Her Kindergarten teacher, much like the 4K teacher she had last year, was clearly born to do this exact job and no other.  She likes kids so much she invites them to her house in the summertime! On purpose!  Having a caring teacher makes such a difference.  My all-time favorite teacher was Mrs. Crawford, who taught sixth grade.  In fact, I adored her so much that I continue to force Christmas cards upon her to this day.

During the assessment, I was asked to sit on a wee chair in the hallway and fill out some paperwork.  The classroom door was left open, so of course I kept one ear pointing in that direction.  You know, for confirmation that my child is a genius and all.  I heard Mrs. L asking my daughter to run through her colors, numbers, and letters.  Mrs. L asked her, "Can you think of a word that starts with the same letter as 'moon?'"  "Mouse!" came the reply.  Then they got to the numbers part of the test.  A was able to count to 99.  Then she was asked to write all the numbers she could think of.  Rut roe.  It occurred to me then that I really hadn't worked with her on writing numbers at all (maybe it's the English major in me, but I like to pretend that numbers don't exist). She wrote a fair volume of numbers, but several of them were reversed.  It is my understanding that it's pretty normal for her age.  Anyway, the teacher stopped short of using the G word (maybe she is required to notify me of that by certified mail or something) but she did deem my child "very bright."  Of course, then I wondered if my kid could've sat there mute and I would've gotten the same feedback. 

Anyway, there won't be any blog posts for a few days (please try to muddle through).  This time tomorrow I'll be sipping sangria and listening for loons on the lake. Ahhhhhhhh

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Fair Weekend

We're back from the state fair - a little sweaty and sunburned, but no worse for wear.  We always make a weekend of it by freeloading at the home of some friends of mine on Saturday night, but we extended it a day and arrived on Friday night this year.  First, we stopped to visit our former foster dog, Fritz (Fritz-a-Million, Fritty Cent, Fritzenheimer) and his mom.  I honestly think he remembered us!  I hadn't seen him since January, but he looked great for his age (10 1/2). I truly adore the lady who adopted him. I've been thinking of asking her to adopt me also.  She gave me some Mala beads and wee Buddha figurine. I'd had a rough week and was touched to receive unexpected gifts. And of course it was great to see Fritz looking so healthy and happy.  It took almost a year to find a home for him, but I'd say it was the right home indeed.

We couldn't stay as long as I might have liked, because we were afraid the hotel pool might close at 9 and I'd promised the kid I'd take her swimming. I'd purchased a hotel room on Priceline ahead of time (we didn't want to put my friends out for two nights instead of the usual one) but had never been to this particular Ramada.  When we checked in, the man at the front desk informed us that there was a Quinceanera party taking place in the atrium and that we would be able to enjoy the thumping beats served up by the DJ until midnight.  I peeked into the ballroom and was amazed to see the array of formal dresses and the fancy decor.  Now, I must tell you that I have never once in my life had a thought anywhere close to "I'm glad I'm not Latino" but after realizing how much such a shindig must have cost, I had that exact thought.  I'm relieved to know I won't have to throw a party like that in ten years. Yowza.

As luck would have it, the pool did not close until 10, so I was able to take her Highness swimming. I was hoping to wear her out so that she would sleep well.  The plan mostly worked.  When we got back to the room, her dad was already snoozing so I gave A a quick shower and popped her into bed.  The hotel boasted Sleep Number beds and let me say, the mystique wore off pretty quickly.  As near as we could tell, the Sleep Number bed is essentially an air mattress and when you adjust the hand-held unit, air is either being pumped in or released. Big whoop.We never could figure out what number was most comfortable, but A fell asleep eventually.

Although the hotel's website very clearly advertised a free continental breakfast, this turned out to be an elaborate practical joke.  (Free = $5.95 per person)  I ran out and grabbed a quick breakfast for the three of us (which we ate in our room), and then we headed to the fair. We made it to the fair by 9:30 or so.  We've learned to get there early before certain attractions get too crowded.  I had two extra tickets so I gave them to a family that was just about to purchase tickets at the window.  Good Karma and all that.

We had a great time at the fair, despite the searing heat.  We shared an order of deep-fried Oreos.  Those little delicacies really should be illegal - they feel so, so wrong and yet . . . right.  We visited a vendor expo, at which we enjoyed a full-on meltdown from our daughter after we refused to drop $25 on a *%$#ing Pillow Pet.  It's a stuffed animal, fer cryin' out loud!  We keep telling her, "All of your stuffed animals are Pillow Pets!" Who comes up with these things?  I keep picturing some board room full of toy company execs tossing ideas around when finally one guy stands up and says, "I think I've got something that will piss parents off like I don't know what.  It's a run-of-the-mill stuffed toy, see, but then I put a two-cent piece of velcro on it and voila!"

Anyway, we just keep telling her, "Maybe for your birthday next year" and then keep our fingers crossed she'll forget over the next nine months. That is not to say we got off easy at the fair.  We bought her two small plush kitties (buy one, get one free), took her through a dinosaur exhibit, bought her an overpriced slushie, and waited patiently while she went down a pig-shaped slide several times.

Later that evening, we met some friends at Buca di Beppo and enjoyed a fabulous dinner.  The chianti and sangria flowed freely.   See, if the kid were smart, she'd wait until moments like those to hit us up for the Pillow Pet.
Oh Oreo, I love you so

Thursday, August 12, 2010

My optometrist makes me sick

As you'll recall, my right eye has gone all squirrely on me.  I went to my optometrist for help. He helpfully advised me that I'm old, gave me some new contacts (this variety allows more oxygen to permeate, apparently), and told me to put drops (artificial tears) in my eyes as needed.  Dr. K was right, because the contacts and the drops did rectify the issue.  However, just to make sure there is nothing fundamentally or structurally wrong with my eyes, he told me he needed me to come back so that he could dilate my pupils and take a closer look.

I put it off as long as I could.  I had an appointment scheduled for two weeks ago, but the kid's daycare scheduled an ice cream social for the same day, and I would rather eat glass than to tell her she would have to miss it.  So, I rescheduled.  Knowing that dilating my pupils would cause my vision to be more out of whack than usual (so much that I was required to bring a driver with me), I was a little nervous.  Not having control over things . . . well, I struggle with that.

Dr. K and I chatted a bit and then he sent in an employee to put the dilation drops in my eyes.  The drops stung a bit. I was instructed to sit in the waiting room until the dilation was complete - 15 minutes or so.  I sat with my husband and daughter and waited.  The room grew fuzzier and fuzzier as I waited.  I watched the two of them flip through Highlights magazines (can you believe my husband has never heard of Goofus and Gallant?) and make shadow puppets against the reception desk with their hands.  The sun was shining in from behind us and seemed to grow brighter with each passing second.  I mean, we're talking nuclear brightness here.  After a while I cupped my palms over my eyes and stopped trying to look at anything.

Eventually, Dr. K came to retrieve me and I felt a wave of nausea pass through my stomach as soon as I stood up.  When we got back to the exam room, I told him I was dizzy.  "Oh yeah," he said, "I threw up the first time I had my eyes dilated."  Nice.  I pictured him and his cohorts in optometry school squirting dilation drops at each other just for sport.  If he had told me about this puking business before my appointment, there is no chance I would've come in.  I would've moved out of state just to avoid it. 

The fun wasn't over, though.  He still had to look inside my eyeballs.  He shone a bright light into my pupils from several different angles.  When he was done, he sent me on my way.  And by "on my way" I mean that I stumbled into the waiting room looking and feeling like Otis, the town drunk from the Andy Griffith show. I then lurched out to the car, family in tow, and grabbed my sunglasses.  I curled up in the passenger's seat and closed my eyes.  As soon as my husband took the first turn, I felt like I might spew.  I kept my head down until we got home, at which time I took two Tylenol PM and went straight to bed.  It was 7 p.m.

By the time I rolled out of bed this morning, I felt halfway decent.  My pupils were no longer the size of frisbees. So yeah, I won't be having my eyes dilated again anytime soon.  Looking on the bright side, I eliminated my issue with nighttime snacking, if only for one evening.  And ten hours of sleep . . . well, that's a dream come true when you're a mom.

So, lesson learned, kids - be sure to neglect your health and do not visit your local optometrist under any circumstances!  A little tip from me to you.

Monday, August 9, 2010

A good (if nerdy) dad

One of my favorite television shows is “Intervention” on A&E. I watch it every Monday night (or at least record it on the DVR and then watch it when I can). I was most relieved when they moved it from Friday nights to Monday nights, as watching it on a Friday night with a glass of Gew├╝rztraminer in my hand felt a little unseemly. In any case, every week I root for the addict and am always elated when they make it through to the other side. One clear observation I’ve made as a result of watching “Intervention” is that one cannot downplay the importance of parent/child bonds. Over and over the same theme emerges. An inattentive or absentee father often seems to lead to a cascade of bad decisions by his daughter. Tales of a son vying for his father’s approval are told and retold. While there are fewer examples shown of mothers neglecting their parenting duties, they surely exist as well.

I’ve told my other half, “Never forget how important you are in our daughter’s life. You wield more influence that you will ever realize.” I gesture at some strung-out meth addict on “Intervention” for emphasis. I mean it in a sincere way, but in the back of my mind I also replay Chris Rock’s “keep my baby off the pole” routine.

The good news is that my husband does spend lots of time with his daughter. While I am cooking and cleaning and doing laundry, those two are reclining on the couch with PS3 controllers in their hands. They watch “The Justice League” cartoons together. They play Cash Cab and quiz each other about super heroes. He asked her to name four members of the X-Men. She named five. He asked her if she knew the real name of The Flash. She knew it (do you know it? If so, I would not recommend mentioning it in public).

As proof that she spends a lot of time with her comic book-reading, nerd of a dad, I offer this recent exchange:

I was watching a documentary called Paper Clips.  The kid was supposed to be in bed, but wandered into the living room to see what I was doing.  "I'm watching a movie," I told her. 

"A movie about what?" she asked. 

I thought for a moment.  I didn't feel prepared to explain the Holocaust to a five-year-old.  When she is older, I will take her to the Holocaust museum on one of our trips to visit family in DC, but she is too young for it now.

"It's about a war," I replied.

She nodded. "A war with ALIENS?"  

So yeah, someone's been watching a little too much TV with her dad. But hey, if it keeps my baby off the pole and off the crack pipe, it's all good.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

I am nothing if not colorful

The kid is going through some sort of artistic phase lately.  Normally, she does churn out a lot of art, but she never really sits down for any length of time to color. My six-year-old nephew is an Olympic-level colorer who can do it for hours. A lot of times A hands me a sheet of construction paper with three lines on it and that's about it.  Lately, though, a lot of color is coming out of the bedroom at the end of the hall. 

The image above was created yesterday.  Click on it for a larger version if you'd like. That's her dad on the left.  The one with the marsupial ears.  P says he always looks like a Sleestak in the pictures in which he appears. He was happy to note the sunshine aura around him, though.

That's me in the middle.  Now, is it my imagination or am I getting down?  I mean, I am leaning into the beat and my purple clogs are about to start tapping big time. I don't have a sunshine aura, but with a rainbow over my head and one under my purple clogs, how can I go wrong? (I should note that I do not own purple shoes in any incarnation).

That's the kid on the right.  The patchwork skirt might be a little bit retro, but one can pull off any look as long as purple clogs are involved.

I always wonder what a child psychologist would make of a drawing like this.  I think it shows that we're happy.  I think it may also illustrate that her father is a less than imposing authority figure, in as much as she depicts herself as being the same height as him.  This picture might also make one wonder if daily life at our house isn't one big methamphetamine-fueled rave.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Summer’s still going strong

August is shaping up to be a busy month for our wee clan. We spent a weekend out of town with friends to start it off. This weekend I’m working at a pet expo on Saturday afternoon and then the three of us are headed to a party (hosted by some friends from church) after that. This is the same party at which I was generously over-served last year (yes, I was serving myself, but I need you to play along here) and actually sang karaoke. In front of other people. So, we’ll see how it goes. The kid will have friends there as well, so it should be a good time for all. Next weekend, we are headed to the state fair (held a couple hours away). We always make a weekend of it, and freeload with some friends of ours. As an added bonus, we are going to visit our former foster dog Fritz. I am very much looking forward to seeing the ol' guy.

The week after that, we are taking a vacation. It’s nothing terribly elaborate or exotic – a friend of mine lets us use his cabin every summer and we definitely take him up on the offer. It’s the most relaxation we get in an entire year . . . even while screaming, “Close the door!” to Short Stuff every time she accidentally (or not) lets the dogs out. It’s nice to just hang out and read, and to have a view of a beautiful lake while we’re at it. We never know what the weather will hold. We’ve encountered sweltering heat and summer days so cold we had to light a fire in the fireplace. I love those late summer days where it’s hot enough to swim in the lake during the day but chilly enough to sleep well at night.

Once all of the trips and vacations are out of the way, I guess it’ll be time to get the kid ready for school. Unlike some moms, I’m not feeling all weepy about it. I remember my mom saying that her three favorite words were “Back to School.” The good news is that our daycare bill will drop by over $50 a week once school starts. We’ll still have to pay for before and after school care (about an hour before and less than an hour after), but it’s better than paying for full-time. I am sure that the start of Kindergarten would make me all verklempt except that she was in 4K last year. So, I worked out all of my “my baby’s going to school!” angst at that time.

In preparation for the new school year, I printed the Kindergarten supply list off the district’s website. Holy glue sticks, Batman! Looks like it will be another long year of trying to find spots to display paint and glitter-encrusted objets d’art. The other part of school preparation includes, of course, the new wardrobe. I’ve been picking up fall/winter dresses here and there. I bid on a few on eBay, but some whore always outbids me at the last second. The other day, the kid pulled out her magnadoodle and sketched for me the dress she wants me to buy (oh, and the matching shoes). I was actually pretty impressed with the sketch – maybe she’ll be on Project Runway someday. In any case, she’s once again laid down the “dresses only!” edict so that is what I will buy. It is not worth the grief of trying to wrestle her into a pair of pants, even on days when pants would make far, far more sense (such as a planned trip to the park). I guess that “pick your battles” stands as the first rule of parenthood. I'll save my energy for the piercing/tattooing type discussions that are sure to arise in the coming years.

Now, if you will excuse me, we are headed to a festibul downtown. Woot!

Monday, August 2, 2010

Just 670 days until we leave for Disney!

The photo above has nothing to do with anything - I just happen to think my wee boss looks really cute in this shot and thought I should obligate you to look at it. 

I have never been to Disney World.  There, I said it.  P and I have talked about taking the kid.  We typically host a party every other year for her birthday, so that is what will happen on her next (sixth) birthday. We developed a loose plan to take her to Disney for her seventh.  We knew we didn't want to take her when she was really little, because she wouldn't remember it (we took her to Texas when she was two, and all she could recall from the trip was that she'd had eggs for breakfast one day).  We decided that seven would be a good age. Immediately, we were full of questions such as: who will get on the rides with our daughter, since P and I both received "no more rides for you" memos from our respective stomachs.  My friend Karen says that it's not the stomach but rather the inner ear that dictates this sort of thing.  All we know is that we can't ride anything that spins. You may recall my unfortunate encounter with the Tilt-a-Whirl two summers ago. Sometimes I get a little queasy just swinging on the swings when I take A to our neighborhood park. 

Our other questions about Disney World were mostly related to where to stay, where to eat, what attractions to focus on, etc.  I figured I'd start doing research next year.  However, we visited some out-of-state friends last weekend and hatched a plan that the eight of us will have a joint vacation trip to Orlando in 2012.  They have three kids so . . . voila, ride problem solved.  They have also been to Disney World several times so they can show us the what/when/where ropes.  Best of all, they own a timeshare and we can stay with them at a very decent rate.  Woot! 

2012 feels like a long time from now, but I guess the good news is that we have two years to save up for $15 french fries and whatnot.