Wednesday, May 26, 2010

All this, and she can't even walk yet

Lucy is a tornado of mess. There is no other way to describe it. She twirls from the dining room, where she dumps out her snack of cheerios and crawls through them until they are scattered to the four corners of the earth, to the kitchen, where she strips the refridgerator bare of its magnets, pulls out sundry napkins and plastic wraps from the cabinets, terrorizes the cat's food and water bowls, and pulls apart the play kitchen. This all in of about 20 minutes as I attempt to throw dinner together. I balance Finn's demands for a snack, a TV show, help with a post-pee zipper, a better TV show, as I preheat and chop and microwave and yelp "No Lucy" as she purposefully turns her bottle upside down and watches the milk drip, drip, drip all over the floor. I have a floor covered in dried milk, despite all my best efforts to clean, to prevent. Admittedly, my best efforts are by no means good.

Exhibit A: Cheerios - You Always Hurt The Ones You Love

Exhibit B: Orderly Kitchens Are Not Her Thing

Lucy pulls all the books out of the bookshelves, she yanks the mail and school papers, piece by piece, off of the coffee table and onto the floor. She runs her hand in a crazed "wax on, wax off" pattern across her highchair tray, creating food projectiles that reach beyond the TWO splat mats we have, to the white walls, the cream-colored carpeting. She pulls folded laundry out of the basket, and unrolls the toilet paper every chance she gets. She has a preference for chewing on shoes and socks which, while not messy per se, is gross and odd.

She does all this, and then giggles when we tell her no, when we shout "stop!". Then, as we turn around to assess the damage and initiate reconstruction efforts, she takes off for the 8 miles of staircases we have in our house, giggling once more as she attempts to break her neck and/or give us heart attacks.

It is exhausting, exasperating, and great fun to watch. But mostly exhausting:

Sunday, May 23, 2010

The Best Laid Plans

I'd like to make this a witty post, but my brain is fried and I have some work to do before I turn in for the night, so this will be more "bare bones" than I'd prefer. Long story short, we have had difficulty getting a decent school/posed photo of Lucy alone and with her brother. On two separate school photo occasions, the resulting proofs of Goose were a complete disaster. I blogged about the first experience here in preparation of the second experience (by the way, I went with tights over the onesie), and if you can make it out, below is a photo of the second attempt at Lucy's school pictures. This is a digital photo taken of the proof, so quality is low, but hopefully you can make out the incredibly red-rimmed eyes and goopy nose from all the crying and - oh, yes, the BRONCHIOLITIS - from that day:

Needless to say, we never bought any of those school pictures, and I've been meaning to get some professional ones taken of the kids together. I finally overcame the activation energy needed, and made an appointment at the Target portrait studio to get pictures taken of the two kids today. In my mind it was the perfect time - Lucy just turned 1, Finn is 3.5, so it would capture some milestone ages for them.

Preparation for the photos included: 1) Purchasing new white sandals for Lucy from Stride Rite (read: $$) as her cheap Target brand ones broke - twice - and I gave up on fixing them; 2) Getting Finn a haircut; 3) Laundering appropriately cute coordinating outfits (two per kid); 4) Administering morning baths to tame the typical post-bath bedhead.

My first clue that things would not go entirely according to plan came on Saturday night, when Lucy managed to bang her head into a chair, give herself a slight fat lip, and a bump on her forehead. The lip swelling was gone by morning, as was the head bump, but it was replaces by a nice linear bruise down the front left section of her forehead. The part her sideswept "bangs" don't cover, of course.

My second clue was the abbreviated nap Lucy took today (could only manage to get an afternoon photo session, unfortunately, even though everyone knows kids are at the top of their game in the morning). She woke up crying only an hour and a half in - not enough sleep for a one-nap day. I coaxed her back down for another 20 minutes or so, but it was still clear she hadn't had enough rest.

The third clue was ALL THE CRYING that Lucy did from the moment we walked into the studio. It was clear Lucy didn't like the room, didn't like the strange woman talking to her, didn't like that Mommy kept trying to put her down on a white sheet in the middle of the room, didn't like all the many times we tried wiping her nose to stem the flow of snot...

We finally gave up, and M. brought her out into the lobby and let her play with the toys out there. We managed to get one shot of her that we felt obligated to buy, taken while I was holding her, so my arm is in the background of the shot. She is nowhere close to smiling, but she looks slightly less unhappy than in the other few photos that were taken of her. We didn't get any shots of the two kids together.

Finn, on the other hand, did great. We spent far too much money on several different poses of him, so relatives, beware. You'll be receiving pictures of your nephew/grandson/great grandson soon. We'll just have to keep working on getting you some of Lucy.

10 minutes later, once we were outside and walking around, Lucy was all smiles. Of course. Below are some photos from before and after the portrait session, mostly of Lucy. I didn't want to bully Finn into sitting for more pictures since he had already done so well in the studio.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Haaaaave you met Martin?

1. So, have you? Met Martin, that is? I haven't, but Finn has. Or not really. But sort of. Martin spends a lot of time in his car, driving. He drives a lot. You may not have met him yet because he's always driving. That's because Martin lives far away. On Mars.

2. That whole childlike imagination thing? Really taking off (see Martin the Martian, above). It's fascinating and fun to watch.

3. When Finn listens to Lady Gaga's "Poker Face," he hears fireworks in the background of the music. He has never actually seen a firework in action, so I'm not sure how he is so certain of this. However, if you listen closely, he's kind of right.

4. Also, my three-year-old can recognize Lady Gaga on the radio. Her name makes him giggle.

5. Today I realized my trunk was open just as I was getting on the highway. In retrospect, it now makes sense why I thought I had already unlocked my car when I reached for the door handle and found it locked. Apparently instead of unlocking the car, I popped the trunk. Cut to 10 minutes later, as I'm bearing down the entrance ramp to the highway, and realizing my trunk is bopping in the wind behind me. I squeamishly edged onto the highway and held my breath for about 6 miles, biding my time until I could get to a "sensible" exit (read: no traffic/easy re-entry) and get off the highway to fix the situation. I kept picturing my reusable grocery bags littering the highway or hitting a large bump and having the kids' stroller bounce through someone's windshield. Then I did hit a large bump, and the trunk shut itself.

6. Illness has entered our house. Again. And again. And aga... Oh, well fine, I think it's just never left. It's moved in and taken up residence on the couch in the basement, making all kinds of demands for pork rinds and beer and foot rubs, like a creepy relative that refuses to MOVE OUT ALREADY! There was the one virus with a fever and a slightly red throat (Lucy), then the second virus with the higher fever and the really yucky throat (again Lucy), then the third virus that brought croup (Finn, oddly remiscent of this time last year), then the cough that has set up shop (Lucy) that we are hoping against hope isn't more croup. And that's just the month of May.

7. Also, this:

8. And this:

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Mother's Day, Etc

My fourth Mother's Day (fifth, if you count the one when I was pregnant) is safely under my belt, and as far as Mother's Days go, it was a pretty good one. We aren't the type of family to go all out for these Hallmark holidays, so Sunday was definitely in keeping with that tradition. M. let me sleep in (though I still got up by 7 am - our house is like a sound column, and every shriek the kids make travels right up to our bedroom), and made me coffee. Then we headed off to Bob Evans for a relaxing breakfast with even more coffee (yay!), and a Belgian waffle for me in honor of M.'s recent trip. Was it a fancy restaurant? No. Did I care? No! With kids, you really need a place where it's OK to have bits of pancakes and pineapple strewn about the floor, and plenty of other noise to drown out the noise your own angels are making. So this was the perfect venue, AND they even gave me a single pink rose as I was leaving - score!

Lucy fell asleep on the way home, so we hung out there for a couple of hours until she woke up, then headed off to Best Buy to get my mother's day gift - an iPod Touch! I have been mocking of the iPhone/iWhatever mania - people are WAY too into their gadgets. But my ancient, beloved iPod Mini (light blue! 4 GBs! Very outdated!) was on its last legs, and pretty much worthless when it came to any workout longer than 12 minutes (roughly the length of time it took the fully-charged battery to run out). So M. talked me into getting a Touch instead of a nano, because of the apps! The apps! A word I derise (see mocking, above). But still, some of those apps could be useful, like calorie-tracking, and anything else I might want to do in the precious few places that have free Wi-Fi around here. So I caved, and said Touch was purchased along with a new armband. And I must admit, I really like it. It is so user friendly! 2 minutes after opening the box, and I had it synching to my computer and was downloading some of those crazy apps.

Post-lunch, I got my best gift of the day (sorry, iPod!) - M. and Finn went out and did the grocery shopping, one of my least favorite weekend chores, while Lucy and I both napped. Of course, as a result I have no idea what I'm making for dinner the rest of this week, but the nap was totally worth it.

That was basically the end of my holiday, as once Finn got home and woke me up, it was time for the usual Sunday evening rush of dinner, homework, picking up the tornado-hit house, etc. Not to mention a somewhat cranky Lucy thrown in to the mix. Though we did manage to sneak in a quick walk around the neighborhood with the kids, and I snagged a run in the evening (excuse to try out the new iPod - worked well once I figured out how to disable the "Shake to Shuffle" feature - a stupid idea, IMO).

The day was, in sum, great. Could only have been improved by the company of some of the other mothers in my life, like my mom, my grandmother, and my sisters. Oh well, maybe next year.

Abrupt topic area change here. I'd like to work with Finn on his fine motor skills and preparing him a little more to learn to read. I don't expect him to actually read yet, but I'd like to encourage him more in gaining better control when he practices writing his letters/drawing, and to become more familiar with the sounds different letters make, the concept that letters make words, etc. I'd like to do it as fun activities/projects we can do on the weekends, because we both get bored of the rote practicing he does for school. I have a couple of ideas I've gleaned from the internet, but there are just so many resources out there and it's hard to know what is in line with what I'd like for us, and what would be a waste of time. Do any of you have recommendations of books or activity/craft sets you have found useful AND enjoyed using with your kids? I'm not really interested in anything that involves watching a video or playing a handheld game, as I think he does enough of the former and I don't really want to encourage the latter. But I'm open to just about anything else!

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

European, Work trip

M. here. As A. alluded to, I'm currently in Brussels, Belgium. The rationale for the trip is a workshop that I'll be attending on Thursday and Friday to help the European Commission think through the process of establishing a couple of large research programs. I wrote a report detailing some historical examples, mostly from the US, which will factor into the discussion, so it should be interesting. Since I didn't want to be totally jet-lagged for the meeting, I decided to fly into Brussels a day early and let my body adjust a bit through the healing powers of chocolate, beer, waffles, mussels, and bad Jan-Claude Van Damme movies (of which there are none; Bloodsport remains to this day one of the finest revenge/karate movies ever made.) So far, I've managed beer and chocolate. I passed on a couple of tourist-trap waffle places today and fear that mussels may be out of season. I haven't turned on the hotel TV yet, but assume that there is a Belgian station dedicated to their patron son of the martial arts, the Muscles from Brussels.

Before providing you with a pictorial of my five hour walking tour of Brussels, let me note a few observations:
1) Having spent my entire life in a "new" country, I've totally under appreciated parallel and perpendicular roads. US urban planners have it easy, with their blank sheets of land to develop. Try modernizing a city that's been around for half a millennium.
2) Cobble stone, while quite lovely to look at, is a bit tough on the ol' feet after a couple of hours.
3) Thank God the majority of the world grows-up learning English. I noticed this first in Vietnam, but it wasn't such a big deal because I was traveling with co-workers. This trip, however, I'm completely on my own. So, while I can piece together some French (thank you Grandpa Milo for sharing your college adventures in French class during fishing trips), it's reassuring to know that I can fall-back on English if needed, which is every time I'm saying something other than Thank You. Basically, I've specialized in Merci!

So, without further ado, my day in pics (guided by my faithful Frommer's):

We begin with my home-base for this trip, the NH Hotel du Grande Sablon, conveniently located near most of the touristy interests.

Next up is an example of the juxtaposition I guess you expect from cities that have been around for 500+ years. Yes, that's a fairly modern bowling alley tucked behind a really, really, really old brick wall that's been preserved.

We move now to Le Sablon, where a beautiful garden is best seen from an elevated vantage point. The really big spire in this picture...

...belongs to one of the amazing building surrounding Grand' Place. Protected by crowded medieval streets bustling with tourists, restaurants, and chic shops, Grand' Place definitely has a Wow factor. According to Frommer's, this used to be the administrative hub of Brussels in the 1600's, with each of the buildings housing the all-important guilds. The Gothic architecture is overflowing with details that depict the guilds crafts. Now, it's a great place to people-watch and take in the "how do they keep it so shiny?" gold accents on the buildings.

More Grand' Place.

Yet more Grand' Place.

God, please no more Grand' Place.

On second thought, maybe Grand' Place pictures weren't so bad! Those in the know will recognize this little fella' as Mannekin-Pis, who apparently has become something of an icon for Brussels. As one of a million different legends goes, Brussels was being invaded by (insert any number of groups that have sacked Brussels). As the soldiers marched on the city, a boy took up residence in a tree and "showered" them with insults. The rest, as they say, is history. It's now one of the largest tourist traps in the world. I've been to Wall Drug. I've seen the World's Largest Ball of Twine. I've toured the Corn Palace. This beat those hands down.

If you leave the Grand' Place in a certain direction, you wind through some very cool cobblestone corridors. If you're lucky, you'll stumble on the the Galeries St. Hubart, which has to be the original mall. Basically, it's a really long glass roof over a narrow street, with cool shops all along the way.

Next stop is the Cathedrale des St. Michel et Ste. Gudele, a 16th century Gothic church where members of the Belgium royal family are married and crowned. I was amazed by the fact that much of the outer edge of the floor is actually comprised of the top of crypts (I'm sure there's a more accurate description). In this picture, you're looking down the main aisle of the church. The statues depicted on each column are the 12 disciples.

This picture is for you, mom. Pretty awesome organ pipes, don't you think?

Finally, what trip would be complete without a trip to Palais Royal to see the current royal family. What? Oh, they prefer a different home in the 'burbs. So, this one just pretty much sits empty then? Huh. Not a bad second home, I'd say.

Finally, after all of my walking around, I decided to treat myself to a late lunch (or early breakfast since my internal clock is all screwed up). Thank you, waiter at L'entree des Artistes, for allowing me to order by pointing at a random entree on the French menu. I now know that Boulettes are meatballs, which is nice. Lunch was accompanied by a cold glass of Belle Vue Kriek, a cherry beer. Delightful!


Feliz Cinco de Mayo!

As much as I'd like to be drinking a large margarita right now (yes, it is only 8 am. But I've been up since 5:45 with both kids, so it feels much later), I'm not. But I do have a nice, large, steaming cup of coffee in front of me, so that'll have to do.

I'm on borrowed time here, with far too much to do to be blogging. But M. is out of town - the country, really, as he's in Brussels - and blogging at night is near to impossible at the moment. So instead, I shall steal a few precious moments of work time to bring you.... well, just updates, really.

1) Houston, we have a first word!! OK, possibly third word, as Lucy has been saying Mama and Dada for some time now, but we're not sure if we can count those as real words since she likes to call EVERYTHING Mama and Dada. But sometimes us, too. Regardless, we now clearly have a "used in the right context" word and it is.... MORE! Yes, that's right, my daughter's first word is more. What does this say about her planned future of selflessness and generosity? Not sure. But if she is eating, and she runs low on her food tray, she says "mo." If she has a toy and you take it away, she says "mo" (and/or cries). If she just went down the slide and wants to go again, she says "mo." If she just threw her sippy cup on the floor for the tenth time, and you have picked it up and put it on the table out of her reach so she can't do it again, she says "mo." Basically, she is saying it ALL THE TIME.

2) We have discovered the age at which "ear worms" develop, and it is apparently 3-and-a-half. Finn walks around constantly singing little snippets of songs. It's adorable, really. He is by no means in tune, and the words are often unintelligle as he sort of has a lazy mouth while he does it, but still adorable. Now if only we could get him to sing some classic rock instead of kids' TV theme songs or Sandra Boynton songs, then we'd really be getting somewhere.

3) Operation Re-introduce Dairy has been moving along. Lucy is up to taking 1/3 of her bottle as milk, the rest still formula. We have introduced no other sources of dairy into her diet, just to be safe. So far, no puking or diarrhea. We are doing this very, very slowly, though, so I don't want to assume we are safe from a milk protein intolerance yet. However, things are looking up a bit in that area.

4)There are a plethora of fuzzy caterpillars outside our house right now, and Finn is enthralled. He goes on little hunting trips to find them. He and some of the neighbor kids spent about 20 minutes last night taking turns picking up about 10 different caterpillars, shrieking, and dropping them. Those poor caterpillars must have been having heart attacks. Until they were squished, of course, because one of the little boys kept having a change of heart about his degree of affection for these creatures, and stepped on them one by one.

5) M. is due back this Saturday afternoon, if that Icelandic volcano doesn't go and strand him (Just heard a report today that it has started spewing volcanic stuff again). I can guarantee that by Saturday afternoon, I'm going to be in need of some reinforcements. But also, I am jealous, as the most exotic place my work has ever taken me is St. Pete's Beach, FL. In August. The trip went something like this: I thought about exploring a little, and then I melted. The end. I'm hoping M.'s trip is much more interesting, and that MAYBE he'll hop online and blog a little to let us (me) know what he is doing. He doesn't have an international plan on his phone, and the 6-hour time difference is a little awkward, so our only chance to talk will be if he can somehow use Skype to call my work phone during the day. I'm hoping he'll call me any minute now...

OK, 5 snippets/bullets/updates/random paragraphs seems like a good stopping point. Hasta luego!