Saturday, December 29, 2012

Reflections of Opa Day

Opa - Taken by Danielle
Opa Day occurs once a week, usually on a Thursday, and is so named because that is the day Danielle and Gabrielle’s Opa comes to visit. Opa Day is an invariably pleasant day for our family. He arrives around 11am and is often greeted with running hugs from my girls and shouts of Opa! Opa! A handshake yields a treat and so begins Opa Day.

The beginnings of Opa Day can be traced back five years to the dawn of a new age in our lives. I peeked out from my Web Development cave blinking in the bright sun, straightened up my bent spine and headed out into the new world of being a parent. After my maternity leave was spent, I tried to head back to my cave leaving my light to be cared for by my father-in-law for three days a week and on those remaining two days of the work week I would magically divide myself in two and perform both tasks simultaneously by engaging in the phenomenon known as, “working from home”. After five months of trying in vain to will mitosis to work on a grander scale, I left my pleasant professional life behind to embark on the adventure of full-time parenthood.

During the time of my failed mitosis experiment, Danielle and her Opa formed a wonderful bond. He sang her German songs, played wonderfully imaginative games and achieved a success with naps that I was never able to duplicate. Unwilling to let time erode that special connection, we decided to set aside one day a week where he would visit.

We have a wonderful routine for Opa Day that starts with a visit and Opa Day lunch of fried eggs, toast and fresh fruit. Sometimes Opa’s toast transforms into “Mr. Toast Man” who speaks in a gruff voice and elicits laughs from Danielle. Then Danielle, Gabi and Opa play one of the many original games such as, Find the Horses, (or puppies) Barbie Horse Hunting Game, Say Hi to Mr. Ceiling or maybe they’ll just build a tower of toys to the ceiling, or he might play guitar and sing while Danielle requests a sad, sad song. Then as the day continues they might head out for a walk to Costco, where over the years Danielle and Opa have achieved celebrity status. After sampling the samples, and watching the tire guys work, they might share a root beer and a pizza slice or a hot dog, and an ice cream treat. Then if the weather is cooperating they’ll walk to the nearby park where Danielle picks flowers as they head over to the ponds to pay a visit to Harold and Maud, a resident pair of white ducks. Then they might make their way down to the echo tunnel where vocal cords are exercised and eardrums tested. After the park has been thoroughly explored, they head home to a rested set of parents who have fetched some dinner from New Season’s Market. After a family visit, Opa is sent home with hugs and he gives treat bearing handshakes to calls of “Gute reise!” and “Bis sp├Ąter!”

When Danielle was about two, during our dinner time visit Opa would often remark how Danielle would insist he buy a hot dog at Costco, but then she didn’t want any when the hot dog arrived. She’d only nibble the bun a bit and drink some of the root beer, leaving Opa to eat the entire oversized hot dog himself. Later, Danielle and I were at Costco and she pointed at the deli and said, “Hot dog! Hot dog!” I explained that we weren't there for lunch today, then she points at a drink cup and exclaims, “Hot dog!” Oohhhhh! She thought root beer was called hot dog! Since they always arrived as a pair, she never knew which was which. As we walked she was greeted by several people I’ve never met with, “Hi, Danielle!”

But alas the era of Opa Day is coming to a close. With the construction of the addition to their beach cabin and the imminent retirement of Oma in late Spring, they will soon be permanent residents of the village of Oysterville. A wonderful place to retire, no doubt. But we will all miss our pleasant Thursdays and the breakup of our week. It gave us all a much needed breather from each other; a chance for me to take a walk and exhale my anxieties and frustrations and inhale peace of mind.  It gave my girls a chance to play in ways I would never have thought of, enriching their development and taught them that they were safe with people other than mom and dad. I rarely get a chance to miss my kids and experience the joy of seeing them again, which is a feeling that always reminds me know how much I love them. I’ll miss our interesting conversations. I’ll miss getting my husband all to myself at a time when we’re not too tired to talk.

However much I will miss this time, I also know that there are many wonderful times to come. We will be able to visit Oysterville, a place my family loves above all others, and arrive to warm walls, warm hugs and warm company. During their visits to Portland, not only will my girls get to play with Opa but now they will also be privileged to bask in the warmth of Oma’s attention as well.

Things will not be the same, but the love will be.

So many times as we said our good-byes, we'd thank Opa for coming and spending the day with us and he'd reply, "I just want to help out, not sure how much help I am."

In the moment I could never find the right words, the feelings are too abstract for my inadequate vocabulary, but simply put, "Yes, indeed you do."

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Book Review: Spinward Fringe Broadcast 0: Origins

Powell's Books
B&N Nook Book Free!
Randolf Lalonde - © 2010

Jonas Valent is an underachieving video gamer who illegally hacked into military training simulations and unknowingly whooped their best teams. His crew is found out and recruited to become the crew of an elite shadow ship for their home in remote space called, Freeground Station. They’re given a fully refit 400 year old ship with the mission to go out into the universe and collect new technology for Freeground. Cool.

Sci-fi has never been my genre of choice, perhaps because I’m a bit claustrophobic and the idea of being confined to a ship for years and possibly dying the the frozen vacuum of space is a bit, well, awful. However I appreciate how writers of sci-fi stories can be wonderfully imaginative. Free from the limitations of current technologies and geography, writers can pluck choice apples of theoretical physics and bake them into their stories. The pie comes out warm with super sweet gadgets and chewy with fun cosmological science stuff. I love it when authors invent new social and societal structures that are recognizable vectors of current society, with cool original ideas for connecting people across the vastness of space. But regardless of the genre, it is good solid characters, their interactions and personal growth that makes or breaks the story for me.

And that’s what broke the story for me. With the exception of the character, Oz, I never had any feeling (like nor dislike) for the characters. I had trouble remembering their names, they were just flat, one dimensional things. The author, Randolf LaLonde belabored their development with long discussions that were intended to reveal character depth but in the end just detracted from the story and slowed things down. I kept thinking that a discussion or meeting was somehow important foreshadowing for future events. I would mentally catalog ideas but they never turned into anything. Arg! Perhaps one of the inherent limitations of writing in the first person is that you can only see everyone through the window of one dull character’s eyes. When I mentioned this to my husband, he said, “If he’s really good with the technical stuff he’s probably not that great with people.” Of course! Had Randolf known his strengths better he would have devoted that energy to the plot and technical aspects of the story.  I wouldn't have cared about the characters, they’d just be props in an amazingly interesting story.

What Mr. Lalonde did well was the application of theoretical physics into the machinery of the story. Their ship is composed of metal that will regenerate itself when damaged, it has inertial dampeners to soften the blow of impacts, they capture a power source that derives energy from a singularity (an itty bitty big bang). They also capture a particle accelerator, and put it to use making antimatter for weapons. The ship can generate worm holes for fast fun travel experiences. Need something? Just go to a handy materializer station. Drop in your garbage, program in what you want, a sandwich say, and it’ll re-scramble the atoms into a hot turkey with mashed potatoes and gravy. Cool. And that’s just the ship.

The idea that they’re on a “shadow ship” out capturing technology for their home station, Freeground is fun too. The evil corporations are also fun to see operate on a galactic scale. I love how corporate technology is cutting edge (in their time) but mass produced and cheap (like in our time). I liked all the creativity that went into how the disparate governments and corporations and the inevitable politics therein work on a grand galactic scale. *Breathe* He did a great job revealing all of this in small digestible pieces, that you eat up and ask for more. And then the characters start talking again...

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

The Taming of the Coffee Monkey

Hey little fellow, want to jump on
my shoulder for a ride?
Occasionally I notice that one of my habits is becoming a need that makes demands. This one I call Coffee Monkey. Coffee Monkey usually starts out as a cute little guy that hangs around making me laugh. I invite him to ride on my shoulder and he delights me with his antics and flings poo at my doldrums; sending them fleeing as I watch with a grin. For a while Coffee Monkey and I get along splendidly, but then by degrees my cute little monkey grows fat and unruly, jumping up and down, scratching my neck and screeching in my ear. Once I catch myself going out of my way shut him up, I know its time to release him back into the wild.

And so it was for Coffee Monkey.

As a mom, one of my primary parental objectives is to teach my kids self control. It is a long and arduous process that is met with more setbacks than successes at this stage. Then as I'm going out of my way to appease Coffee Monkey I realize that I too, must continually practice and hone my self control skills. So I set about to go without my daily cup for a week. I figured starving him out would send him off foraging elsewhere.

My normal drink is a “Tall Decaf Brewed Coffee Please”. To which I normally hear, “Sorry we're out of decaf can I make you an americano instead? Or if you don't mind waiting I can do a pour-over.” So lately my drink order has become, “Tall Decaf Brewed Coffee Please, Pour Over Is Fine”. Saves time. Anyhow, since I drink decaf the caffeine wasn't really a factor for me and clearly it isn't a sugar/fat thing either. So big deal right? Wrong. I love everything about coffee, the aroma, the feel of an almost too hot to hold cup in my hand, the strong rich flavor flooding my palate. I love how the flavor varies from place to place. Peet's is my current favorite but I appreciate all their subtle differences that make them unique. I also appreciate that as far as treats go it is fairly virtuous, almost no calories with very little caffeine.

My week started out easily enough, the first two days were crazy busy and the weather was wet and cold, not conducive for our morning stroll. By Wednesday though, I was beginning to miss Coffee Monkey. We'd usually load up Berzo in the stroller and take a pleasant walk to the corner Starbucks. Along the way Berzo and I would practice our outdoor words and signs such as tree, bushes, sign, bird, dog, etc, while Coffee Monkey rode quietly on my shoulder, smug in the knowing that he’d gotten his way.

Coffee Monkey would compel me to brave the weather, and I'd find that the walk itself was a big part of the mood lifting benefits of the coffee. But without the promise of my favorite treat, the push to get out the door into the cold was lacking. My thought processes looked something like this: “I'd really like to get out. Where should we go? Park? Nah, the park is too wet and cold.. Don't need anything at the market... Been around the neighborhood so many times... Guess I could drive to the duck park, what time is it? Berzo has already been in and out of her car seat a lot this morning... Maybe we'll just go play bubbles in the cul-de-sac.” We’d play bubbles and while the fresh air is nice, I missed the vigorous walk, the impromptu conversations and the culmination: my favorite cup. Sigh.

The week ticked by at a steady pace and I persevered. Now once again, my coffee is a treat, the walk a delight and the experience a gift rather than an entitlement. Coffee Monkey is again cute and trim after his week of fasting.

Coffee Monkey can come play but I don't think I'll invite him to ride along this time.

That's what I said last time too.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Book Review: Illusions: The Adventures of A Reluctant Messiah

Powell's Books/Barnes & Noble
Richard Bach - © 1977

Richard is a barnstormer pilot of a Fleet airplane who flies out of the cornfields of the American Midwest selling ten minute rides for three dollars. His is a free existence, sleeping under the stars with a belly full of pan bread that only he can love. His unburdened mind flies with the idea that reality isn't. That men could fly if they could only forget that it was impossible. One sunny day he lands his Fleet next to a better-than-mint Travel Air 4000 and finds the teacher for whom he has been searching.

Richard rediscovers a bond of friendship with Don Shimoda that extends beyond this life. Don teaches Richard what he has yet to remember; that he can walk on water and swim through dirt; that this life is a story of our own creation from which we are meant to simply learn and enjoy.

This book tears down the fabric of reality and alters perceptions, yet it is light, entertaining and engrossing. It is a story as unlikely as an auto mechanic turned messiah, turned barnstormer from the holy lands of Indiana; a glass of spring water in a literary world polluted with the lead and chlorine of writing for the mass market.

The Impact:
Illusions is a mere 93 pages. Never before have I read 93 pages that have had so much to say or affected me so deeply. The full plot can be outlined in a handful of sentences yet there are enough original ideas to keep my mind busy for years, maybe for the rest of my life.

It has altered my perception of life. Sometimes I feel that I'm not be doing what I want to do, but I am, because I am doing it. Whatever “it” is, is a result of hundreds of conscious decisions I make every day. If I didn’t want to be doing it, I would be doing something else. Somehow I feel less trapped by my days of mommy-hood and realize that this stay-at-home life is what I really want; I am free to choose and I am choosing each day to be my kids’ caregiver. Realizing that I am the only one that has control over my life is liberating. For example, I don’t have to feed my kids, but I want to, because I want them to be healthy and happy. This fantastically simple idea changes my view of making dinner from a chore imposed on me by my family to a choice I make. (Don’t worry, I don’t see myself choosing not to feed my family one day.) It is a simple, yet a mind boggling perception shift.

This book is filled with the simplest of ideas that have never once occurred to me. It must be how 17th century scientists felt upon reading Newton’s laws of motion. “Of course! Why didn’t I think of that? It is so simple.”

Favorite Quotes:
Don, regarding quitting the messiah gig:
“A good messiah hates nothing and is free to walk any path he wants to walk. Well, that’s true for everybody, of course. We’re all the sons of God, or children of the Is, or ideas of the Mind, or however else you want to say it.”

Messiah’s Handbook quotes:
“Learning is finding out what you already know.”
“Doing is demonstrating that you know it.”
“Teaching is reminding others that they know just as well as you.”
“You are all learners, doers, teachers.
“You teach best what you most need to learn.”

Thursday, October 4, 2012

To Smoke or Not to Smoke. Is There a Question?

A rare photo of my mom, dad and baby me.
Love this picture.
I was on a run through the park today and passed a smoker taking in the creek flowing gently beneath the bridge. A pleasant moment for her, but for the thousandth time I was somewhat taken aback by the burn in my lungs and reflexive cough as my body rejected the smoke. “Why should this be a surprise?” you ask. Good question. For the whole of my childhood I lived with, and was to a second hand degree, a smoker. At least one smoker, sometimes two (girlfriend), and sometimes Dad would lend a helping hand to a troubled soul who needed help to get back on his feet, to make three adults who smoked cigarettes in our house.

I never minded much that I lived with smokers. When a freshly lit cigarette filled the cab of my father's pickup, I thought it smelled good. At home I liked watching the smoke rise and curl in the air and thought it looked cool the way smokers could blow the smoke out of their nostrils, or let it out of their mouths and inhale the same smoke through their nostrils. I knew it was “bad” for you though and resolved to myself that I would never be a smoker. I didn't realize I already was one.

I loved sports and could never figure out why I would wheeze when running for distance or if I pushed myself a bit harder than normal. If I was anxious it compounded the problem. I thought it happened to everyone if they pushed their limits. I also thought that I just wasn't built to be a good runner. I never connected the two.

Also, being the child of a smoker automatically adds you to the WT side of the scholastic social circle. Why? Because I smelled. Bad. I didn't realize how bad it was until I visited home after moving out. Once back from the trip my newly enhanced olfactory senses demanded showers and laundry; even for the clothes that weren't worn. I remember realizing, I must have smelled like this every day at school. Admittedly, there are other attributes of my persona that compounded the problem. Such as my unkeen fashion sense, my propensity for wearing Camel Joe tee-shirts, (in WT land they were cool, I liked the colors, and well they were free) and my lack of a hair style. However, as a teenager I got a job and could afford to buy my own clothes and hair cuts; but unfortunately I could never shake the unseen fog that hung about me.

Once, while holding a pack of cigarettes for an unnamed friend of mine, (No, really! She lifted it from her mom and expected a room raid.) I decided that I should try it. Not to become a smoker, but just to gain a little understanding as to why everyone I cared for did it. There had to be something that compelled people to spend a fortune over their truncated lifetime for the privileged of smelling bad and aging prematurely.

I took a walk by myself to The Pit, (our local swimming hole) sat on a rock and lit one up with practiced expertise. (I'm observant by nature.) The cherry glowed and I pulled the first real drag into my lungs. I didn't cough. I exhaled through my nose, waited a moment, and took another. I flicked off the ashes just as if I had done it since time immeasurable and eventually flicked away the cigarette butt. (I know, I totally littered!) I thought to myself, this is stupid.

On the walk home I analyzed the results of my experiment at little more thoroughly.
  • The buzz consisted of a slight dizzy feeling. Like perhaps I spun around once, not much, not terribly pleasurable.
  • My mouth tasted terrible.
  • My cigarette gripping fingers smelled and my hair smelled. (Bad enough that even I could smell it.)
  • I didn't feel cool, at all. I was realistic enough to know all the cigarettes in the world couldn't shroud my awkwardness in smoky tendrils of coolness.  Actually, I felt like a poseur.
Conclusion: It is indeed, stupid.

Curiosity satisfied. Test complete. Understanding imperfect. I still don't get why people do it. Perhaps people get started during their adolescence when, “Can I bum a cigarette?” is a viable pickup line. I was less interested in that particular pickup line than I was in cigarettes themselves. Or maybe overprotective parents make it alluring by trying to shelter their kids. It certainly does makes an effective mode of rebellion against protective parents. Whereas in my environment it was there always every day, and there was a general feeling of disdain for uppity non-smokers. Perhaps I am a rebel of sorts for rejecting smoking and some of the other facets of my upbringing. What is a person who rebels against rebels?

I don't get it, probably never will and I am kind of glad I don't. However, I have no such problem understanding the allure and pleasure of a cold beer on a hot day.   Speaking of which...

I'm not against smokers or cigarettes. As member of a free society I'm glad people have the freedom to make their own choices. I am opposed to banning smoking in private establishments like bars and restaurants. Personally, I prefer eating/drinking/working in non-smoking establishments, so that's what I do. Perhaps some ordinances on ventilation is needed, to preserve the safety of the workers, but otherwise proprietors and customers should be free to make those decision for themselves. That being said, children are not free to choose where they eat/drink/live and deserve consideration. But to their credit, all the parents I know who smoke are very cautious to keep their kids from being exposed.

Monday, June 4, 2012

Transit of Gabinus

Tomorrow, June 5th at about 3pm my baby girl Gabi turns 1 year old!  To celebrate this momentous occasion Venus decided to make a transit across the sun!  Awe, thanks Venus, that was very thoughtful of you.

Transits of Venus are a rare astrological event in which the Venus passes between the Sun and the Earth.  During the transit, Venus looks a bit like Cindy Crawford's beauty mark as it glides across the face of the sun.  The event is predictable and comes in pairs that are roughly eight years apart, then not again for more than a hundred years. The next transit will occur December 2117.

This event has been setting scientists atwitter since the 17th century, but it was Edmond Halley (of the so named comet) that recognized that the principle of parallax could be used to calculate the distance of the Earth from the Sun and from that work out the distances to all the other bodies in the solar system.  However, Halley knew that the next transit wouldn't occur during his lifetime, long though it was.  He therefore passed the slide rule to the next generation of scientists.  And boy were they ready.  In 1761 scientists from all over Europe were dispatched to over a hundred locations all over the world.  As Bill Bryson states "It would be history's first cooperative international scientific venture, and almost everywhere it ran into problems."  So much so that what data they did receive from the scientists that were lucky enough to avoid the hostile natives, equipment failure, cloud cover, sicknesses, war, even shipwrecks, was so filled with irreconcilable inconsistencies that the project ultimately failed.  It wasn't until the second transit in 1769 when Captain James Cook took the necessary measurements while in Tahiti, presumably from a folding lawn chair next to a bucket of Corona.  After popping over to Australia to chart it and claim it for the British crown, he returned and delivered his measurements to Joseph Lalande, who was able to calculate Earth's distance from the sun to be 150 million kilometers.  Which turned out to be stunningly accurate for the technology of the time. Using modern methods we now know the precise distance to be 149.597870691 million kilometers.

Scientists always love an excuse to get out their toys and such a rare event is not to be missed.  Today they will be watching hoping to gather data on what a planet transiting a star looks like, in hopes of refining plantet detection techniques.  Since there are over 200 billion stars in the milky way there are possibly hundreds of billions of planets. Sounds like job security there... 

This poor bastard was dispatched to India to observe the transit and his story warrants reading:  Guillaume Le Gentil

Want more info on the transit or save viewing techniques?  Here are some resources:

Much of my information came from Bill Bryson's book, "A Short History of Nearly Everything".  Serendipitously,  I'm currently reading tipped me off to the event happening this year so imagine my surprise when looking it up that it was to occur on Gabi's first birthday.  Kinda cool.

Saturday, April 28, 2012

The Jimmy Buffet Experiment

Why'd you put me in here??
Today my girls and I were in the truck headed home when Baby Girl, who was late for her nap, started fussing.  I quickly flicked on the stereo and switched it to disc: 2 song: 11, Tin Cup Chalice by Jimmy Buffet.  The fussing switched off with the first few notes.  Gabi just looked out the window and yawned, then rocked her head back and forth and started to get sleepy.  For the thousandth time since we discovered this trick, I think, that is so weird.  

Tin Cup Chalice is the the only song that works this way, and has worked for both our girls.  It's still working on Gabi, but around the 18 month mark, it suddenly stopped working with Danielle.  I could feel her thought waves, why do you keep playing that song then looking in the mirror, Mom?

So my quasi scientific mind wonders. . . Is it just the unique combination of our DNA that causes this to work?  Why doesn't other relaxing songs calm her in the way?  (I've tried countless others, including my own voice, before giving up and firing up ole' Jimmy.)  Sometimes if she's only a little fussy song number 12 can come on and all is well, but when she's really fussy, as soon as a few notes from the next song starts, "Waaaaa!!!"

Time for the experiment, all of you out there with babies, next time you're in the car throw in a trusty Jimmy Buffet CD.  Everyone has one right?  And if Baby gets fussy, give Tin Cup Chalice a try and let me know what happens.  If it works at all, it'll be within the first few bars.  Note: the music has to be louder than Baby's crying so you might need to crank it at first, depending on the strength of your little one's pipes.  Lets see if we can isolate the "Jimmy Buffet" gene.  1*, 2*

On more than one occasion, Charley has said, "We need to write Jimmy a letter of thanks."

Yes, indeed we do.

1* Note: Those who participate in this study will need to provide extensive background lineages and well as details on chemical substance exposures to each for at least three generations back.
2* Note: Just kidding about 1* note.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

A Morning in the Life of . . .

Occasionally moments in my life take on a surreal quality.  Almost as if the events are scripted by a writer with a penchant for hyperbole and potty humor.  This morning a few months ago was one such . . .

3am - Gabi wakes up but I hold off feeding her till 3:30.  (Trying to stretch these times out to get her body to go into fasting mode at night.)
4am - Back to sleep
5:30am - Big girl in bed.  My girls play wake-the-other-up-then-fall-asleep game.  Here's how it goes:  try not to laugh as mom squirms as she tries to keep me quiet and get me back to sleep while my sister snoozes, then we trade off.
7am - Up time for everyone. One of my favorite parts of the day.  Lots of cuddles, smiles and giggles.  I love it when my girls cuddle each other.
7:30am - Change baby's diaper.  She's soaked through her clothes and blanket and onto our sheets.  Get baby new clothes toss blankie in wash but keep sheets; they'll dry.

I lose track of time as I the next events pile on top of one another:
  • Head out to the kitchen, pop bouncy chair on counter strap baby in. 
  • Wash hands.
  • Start warm coco for the big girl.
  • Brush teeth (in kitchen), apply contacts to eyes. 
  • Pour glass of water.
  • Discover large pile of vomit on counter top.  Curse cat, clean vomit.
  • Wash hands.
  • Discover chunk of poo on floor near the cat food bowl from old arthritic kitty.  Clean poo.
  • Wash hands.
  • Serve coco.
  • Pour cereal for self.
  • Sit on futon in play room, play roll the ball with baby, while eating, drinking and interacting with big kid.
  • Share water with baby.  Make lame attempt to teach "drink" and "water" signs.
  • Hear cat scratching in litter box.  Sigh.  Wait for assault on my nose.  Scoop litter box.  Notice all the poop streaks on the floor from old arthritic kitty that can no longer clean himself so he scoots his bottom on floor instead.  Sigh again, dodge said skid marks.  Run scooper full of poo to potty, sprinkling litter all the way.
  • Wash hands.
  • Play with baby and big kid in "secret grotto" (spot on the floor near heat register, between shelves and futon) until big kid gets upset about baby drooling on the floor and her toys.
  • Shower - get clothes together while hauling around baby.
    • drag over bouncy
    • insert baby into bouncy
    • start water
    • step over old cat
    • step around big girl who suddenly has to go potty
    • get in shower
    • listen to big girl narrate her potty experience, “Whoa that was a big poop!  Ewww stinky!” Then resist her attempts to engage me.  ”Mooooom do you smeelll something?”  *laugh snicker*  Then the wiping starts, half a roll of TP and half a package of flushables.  Then more poo comes out and the process starts over with my big girl chattering non stop.
    • Baby is getting fussy, must hurry.
    • I need soap, lean out of shower getting water on big kid and cat to get new bar from the drawer.
    • Get out of shower, help big kid wipe while trying to keep towel on self.
    • Wash hands.
    •  Big kid washes hands too.
  • Big kid goes into room to put on outfit which is wildly inappropriate for cold weather.
  • Decides she want to feed cats, fills water dish and food bowl splashing water and scattering kibble on the floor.
  • Discover more vomit. 
  • Phone rings - Papa - “How's your day?”
  • While talking on phone and spraying cleaner on poo streaks in hallway.  “Kinda crappy (literally) today...  How’s your day?”
  • Clean up poo and vomit.
  • Wash hands.
It's 9:30am  I gotta get out of the house.  Why are my hands so chapped??

Monday, April 2, 2012

Fun with Toilet Paper

My four-year-old Boots was sick with a fever; one that knocked Charley, Berzo and me on our respective butts.  Expecting Boots to follow suit, I got her up on the sofa to watch a movie and wrapped her up in a quilt.  She had rivulets of snot running from her nose, so I set her up with a roll of TP and a paper bag as a conveniently located garbage receptacle.  Then I turned and lunged to save Berzo from adding another purple lump to the menagerie she’s collecting on her head, and when I turn back a moment later Boots has unrolled the TP onto the carpet.  Berzo seeing her favorite snack, paper, in silly abundance, makes a go for it.
“Boots, Boots we gotta pick up the TP!” I said urgently.
Boots hesitates and grins mischievously, thinking it’d be funny to see Berzo get a mouthful, then watch as I try to fish it out of her mouth while trying to avoid those super sharp “milk” teeth. (Ha!  I like to meet the funny fellow who named THOSE teeth milk, teeth.)  So I switched into my MOM voice, “Boots, pick up the toilet paper.”

She jumped down and scooped up the paper.  Now that she has been detached from the sofa, this wad of toilet paper begs to be explored.  First she sets up a “bridge” of toilet paper from the sofa to the toy chest.  She leans over the back of the sofa and wants me to counter balance her legs while she crosses her “bridge”.

The TP bridges were abandoned in short order.  She retreated into the bathroom and noticed herself in the full length mirror.  Then she tucked a piece of TP in the collar of her jammies admired the effect for a moment before running across the room taking a flying leap at the end, with the long TP cape flowing rather beautifully behind her.  She does this again and again, soon adding more capes and doing more flying.

Next we head downstairs and while I’m fixing breakfast and she makes a “Treat Trail”.  It consisted of a winding TP path on the floor on which she arranges all my favorite snacks.  Next she takes five of her Schleich horse figurines and hides them around the our front room. If I am able to find all five horses I get to walk the “Treat Trail” and eat my goodies!

And you thought TP was just for cleaning your nethers!

This is not how I look when burning up with a 102 degree fever.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

A Promise of Spring

It was a cold gray day amidst a wet cold month as Danielle, Gabrielle, and I sat out on the curb in front of our house when I noticed tough green daffodil leaves lancing up through the mulch.  I pointed it out to Danielle who immediately went in to investigate.

This seemingly insignificant discovery did wonders for my mood.  Those robust shoots reminded me that the cold and grey would soon give way to warmth and light.  They are every bit as reliable as the winter solstice, and maybe a bit more so than a certain rodent with teeth as long as his name.

Daffodils, also called narcissus, originated in Southern Europe as well as parts of China, Japan and Morocco.  There are about 50 different species that are categorized in twelve groups, based on look.  In favorable conditions, (like ours) the bulbs may outlive the person who planted them.  These are no delicate tulip bulbs that need to be replanted every few years.  Nor do they need much in the way of pest and disease control as they are generally free of both.  (Screw you Monsanto.)  They are seemingly happy wherever they are plugged into the ground and will obligingly clone themselves by way of growing clusters of bulbs which can be dug up and divided, then stored in a shed for a few years before being distributed to neighbors; as I am wont to do on occasion.   They will also propagate in the usual flower fashion of pollination by insect and wind, but the resulting seeds will take a long five years to produce a flower after germination.

On many a stroll down the roads of Oysterville, Washington I have noticed daffodils growing amidst the forest.  Often looking closer there's evidence of a tumbledown cottage or perhaps only the remains of a foundation, almost fully claimed by the forest.  The daffodils that once grew in a flower box or along a picket fence are all that remains of a home.  Whenever I see this my imagination erases the tangle of brush and conjures up sepia toned images of a small cottage with a trim lawn and perhaps a tire swing hanging from a thick branch of a maple tree in the front yard.  Perhaps some children playing while the adults relax on a rocker on the front porch or standing at the gate while visiting with some passersby.

What were we talking about again? Oh yes, daffodils.

Daffodils have been one of my favorite flowers for as long as I can remember.  I've always been an outdoor kind of girl so those short soggy days spent mostly indoors are long ones for me.  I have vivid memories of being outside in shorts and tee-shirt (in kid protest of the enduring cold) while climbing our maple tree and beneath the tree in a patch of hard dirt grew the loveliest patch of daffodils, which I'd lay on a low hanging branch to admire.  It still makes me smile.  I've always imagined their beauty to be a gift to others, not selfish vanity like the Narcissus of Greek mythology.

Daffodils, being so common and nearly weed-like in robustness, I assumed my particular fondness for this flower was rare.  However, I couldn't have been more wrong.  Since thinking about writing this article, I've noticed each of my neighbors remarking on the daffodil leaves and overheard many a conversation of strangers whose subject was the very thing.   It seems as though the daffodils hold the same promise for everyone.  The Chinese believe that if the daffodils bloom before the Chinese New Year there will be extra wealth and good fortune and although I couldn't find verification of this for 2012 on the vastness of that which is Google, I do believe that they did, and that the good luck transcends the borders of China.

For further daffodil reading:

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Warning: Messes Are Bigger Than They Appear When Four-Year-Olds Are Near

Sometimes when I spill or drop something, I'll log it away in my brain's to do list for a bit later to avoid derailing my current task.  I must train myself to clean up all messes immediately...

I was making lunch for Gabrielle, Danielle and myself and managed to step in the cat's food bowl and upturned it on the floor. (AGAIN!)  I sighed, then headed to the table with my armload of foodstuffs and sat down.  After all, the invisible high chair clock is already running and Gabi's patience only stretches so far...

Danielle observed that I made a mess.

"Yes, I stepped on the cat's bowl, but don't worry I'll clean it up after lunch," I replied.

Danielle got up,  magnanimously grabbed the broom and said, "I'll do it Mama!" Dum-dum-da-dum!

Her untamed strokes of the broom sent kibble floating all over the floor.  After corralling about half of it (and some other dirt) she took the dustpan and managed to sweep some up, while sending more around the floor.  She then whipped open the cupboard door and tried to dump it in the garbage by shaking it, which instead shot it all over under the sink.   Miraculously not one kibble landed in the trash.  It's like it had a force field over the top of the can.

At this point, inconspicuous intervention is necessary.  I put the baby in the playpen and pull out the garbage can and start cleaning up under the sink.  She does a bit more sweeping and drops a few kibbles in the can this time.  (Yay!)  She then dropped the broom and dustpan in the middle of the floor.  Whack!  Now that the floor cleaning complete she moves on to the next task.  She pulled out the big bag of cat food and refilled Loki's bowl.  Then she laid on the cat food bag to admire her hard work.

"I cleaned up your mess Mama, wasn't that nice of me?" she said.

I said, "Baby, I love you.  Thank you for cleaning up my mess."  She skipped away.  Gabi started to fuss in the playpen so I soothed her, then went back into the kitchen and swept the floor, put the broom and dustpan away, put the garbage can away, and put the cat food bag back in the cupboard.

I have a wonderful kid.  She tried with all her four-year-old skill and zest to help me clean up a mistake I made, just because she loves me.  Although, next time I think I'll just clean it up right away and give her a big hug instead.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Hi Baby!

(Article seven of the "On Being Pregnant Series")
I wasn't one of those moms who just couldn't wait to "get the baby out."  While I was pregnant I was well aware of how good I had it, relatively speaking.  All I had to do to be the perfect mom was take my vitamins, eat well, rest and get a breath of fresh air now and again.  That was it.  However, as my time approached I felt increasingly restless. Here I was nearly forty pounds heavier than usual and unable to sit still, as I buzzed around doing a bit of this and a bit of that, then this again, and then that again.

"Amy, just sit down!" I'd hear.

I was generally in good spirits and unafraid for the most part.  Towards the end of my first pregnancy, I was getting anxious about how much pain would be involved.  Then during a phone conversation my friend Carmen said, "Amy, it's just a day. You just have to do one day and it's over and you'll have your baby."

Quantifying the duration as she did, erased my anxiety.  I can tolerate anything for a just a day.  My first experience ended up lasting two days; but the spirit of the advice is that it's there, and then gone.  And it was, and was.

I also had great faith in my obstetrician and St. Vincent's hospital.  So long as I could just get there, (and stay there—they do love to send 1st time mommies home) I knew that the baby and I were in good hands.  I have never felt like as much like a VIP as I have during my two deliveries there.  The nurses are compassionate and attentive and the doctors are amazing.  I thought that if I was ever to work in health care, I'd want to be involved in this side of things.  Everyone just seemed to be happy.  It must be uplifting working with life coming into the world instead of the majority of medicine which deals with life going out of the world; the yang to the birthing yin.

If the birthing process were a musical composition played by a symphony, it would start slow and quiet, staying that way long enough to make you wonder if you're really hearing anything.  Then just as doubts would surface, here come the bass, brass, then the strings.  Then cymbals and tympani come in and the music starts to crescendo, crescendo, then, then, then.... nothing.  Back to the quiet music, layered under with intensity that wasn't there before.  Sweat is pouring down the conductor at this point as the lights burn into her shoulders.  She frantically motions for the brass, strings, percussion, which join in turn then crescendo, crescendo, crescendo the pressure building, she loses a button, the member of the symphony are showing obvious signs of great fatigue, crescendo, hold, hold, HOLD!! then cut.  The conductor collapses in a heap as a baby's tiny cry pierces the stunned quiet of the auditorium.

All this great symphonic composition and as my angel is being brought to me and laid on my chest, do I spout the poetry with meter that keeps time with the pounding of our united hearts?  What sonnets burst forth as she goes from crying to peaceful upon contact with the skin of her mother?  My fingers explore her features, my eyes drink her in, I absorb her through my breath and touch of her skin.  What words come forth to articulate this eruption of emotion???  "Hi, Baby!"

Baby Danielle
Baby Gabrielle

After Gabrielle's birth, my very next thought was, "I'm not pregnant anymore.  I'm never going to be pregnant again."

It is a bitter sweet phase of life to see come to a close, as it will be with the baby phase, then the toddler phase.  I'm sure I'll even miss the teen years when they come and go.  So with the conclusion of this article I can put this phase in a pretty box, tie a ribbon around it and tuck it away in the annals of my mind and get myself ready for all the fun of toddlerhood, bigkiddome and the challenges of sibling rivalry.

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Other People

(Article six of the "On Being Pregnant Series")
The reaction people had to my baby belly seemed to divide along age groups, kids, teens, adults, parents, grandparents.  I'm not a person that's used to bringing about a reaction from other people, quite the opposite actually as I tend to blend in with the wallpaper;  not so with a baby belly.

Kids are the most fun, although toddlers didn't really seem to notice.  I think it's because they're still developing a baseline for what's normal.  Many a parent said, "Look honey, there's a baby in her tummy!"  The toddler would usually look for moment then squirm away and run off.  After all, everything is a miracle to a two year old.  Open the door to the big box in the kitchen and cold air rushes out and lights turn on.  Pull the handle and water shoots out.  Push the lever and G.I. Joe disappears in a whirlpool.  Baby in her tummy?? Big deal!

Add just another year or two of sophistication and suddenly the baby-in-her-tummy idea is a lot more interesting.  These kids loved putting their hands on my belly and some would even run up to me and pull up my shirt for a better look and give the baby a shout out.  Their stream of questions almost always started with, "How does the baby get in there?"  Being a biology buff I had no trouble answering this question for my daughter, but in attempt to be sensitive to other people's beliefs and boundaries I would answer, "You should probably ask your mom about that, kiddo."  What did I tell my daughter?  Excellent question. It went something like this: "Mommies have organs inside their bodies called ovaries.  Once a month, these ovaries release an egg.  If the daddies fertilize the egg within a few days then a baby will start to grow.  That's why babies look a little like their moms and a little like their dads.  The baby starts out very, very tiny and gets bigger every day.  Then one day, a long time later, the baby will be ready to come out."  I was pretty proud of my simple yet accurate description of human reproduction, until I figured out that my daughter assumed the fertilizer was "rubbed on the mommy's tummy."  I think I mumbled out an "ummm hummm".  I guess my frank honesty only goes so far.

With regards to teenagers, some of the girls would show some enthusiasm but most teenagers would deftly avoid any eye contact.  It was like I was a drop of oil in a saucer with pepper flakes.  Firstly, they're wise enough to know how you got yourself in this predicament, (tee-hee-hee) but really the idea of pregnancy to a teenager is painted with a thick coat of scandal and over a primer coat of fear.  There was nothing more scary that the idea of being a "teen mom" when I was a teen and no scandal bigger than one of us turning up with a baby bump.  So their reaction was predictable but also lacking in perspective.  I've seen teenage parents do an amazing job and lead a great life.

Among adults it was immediately obvious who was and wasn't a parent.  The non-parent types would treat you with mostly indifference, (nothing wrong with that) but fellow parents are quick to light up with excitement and run through the typical script of questions while peppering your responses with their experiences.  Dads were generally not so forthcoming but occasionally I'd catch a tough looking, rough-around-the-edges-type with a big sappy grin at the sight of my engorged belly and I'd think, "Yep he's got a little princess at home too."

Some of my favorite reactions came from people who were older.  They come from a place of such experience, wisdom, and best of all, perspective on how fleeting these moments are.  They'd show unabashed happiness at the gift I'm about to receive and know firsthand that the discomforts and trials are not what I'll remember, nor what really matters.  Even from a casual exchange I'd feel uplifted, as though I just had a nice visit with doting grandparents.

I've never been a person to elicit much of a reaction from people, particularly strangers.  There's just something special about a pregnant woman.  She holds the magic of creation and the hope for our kind in one neat, adorable, little bump.  Which is what I think people really meant when Id get the usual, "You look great!"  I'd think these people were crazy or lying for my benefit.  My internal dialog would shout, "What do you mean, I'm huge, my face is fat, I'm tired, and I haven't seen my toes in ages!"  But now that I'm normal again, (well a new normal anyway) when I see a pregnant friend the words fly right out of my mouth, "You look great!"

Saturday, January 28, 2012


(Article four of the "On Being Pregnant Series")
The cruelest part of pregnancy isn't any of the aforementioned inconveniences or discomforts.  It the onslaught of information in every pregnancy book, pamphlet, show, etc. about what could be wrong with your baby.  I'm getting anxious even thinking about it.  One book had me stressed out after I read that stress was bad for the baby.  We live in an age of too much information.  If I have symptoms of an ailment, then a nice index by which I may look up my symptoms would be helpful. Just make sure it's all in some appendix at the back of the book.  It would even be nice to post a warning: "SCARY STUFF IN HERE -- OPEN ONLY IF NECESSARY".  If there's no indication of anything amiss, I don't want to know all the terrifying possibilities.  Just stick to showing me how big my tadpole is and what adorable parts she's developing at this point.

Of all the possible defects, the one that scared me the most was Down's syndrome.  The only reason I worried is because I opted for the screening.  WHCA recommends it; so how could I turn down the opportunity to know my baby was OK?  It also came with a bonus early ultrasound.  But!  The screening is done to give you the option of terminating the pregancy.   I can't explain the horror of imagining the scenario in which you'll have to make that choice.  Although the testing is done fairly early, you don't get your results (which are in the form of odds -- Vegas style) until 20 weeks.  That's about four weeks after I'd already begun to feel the baby move.  'Nuff said on this subject.  Shudder.

If  caused any pregnant mommies and undue anxiety, please accept my apologies and view the below video over and over until your blood pressure returns to normal.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Don't Worry They All Look Like Aliens at this Stage

(Article four of the "On Being Pregnant Series")
Isn't she the cutest little ink-blot you've ever seen??
The coolest part of pregnancy is getting those first few sneak peeks at the baby via an ultrasound machine.  The image is black and white, blurry, like a bad charcoal drawing; and also the most amazingly beautiful thing I had ever seen in my life.  It always amazed me how little they are (only about 4" and 2.5oz at 15 weeks) and yet how much they already look like a fully developed baby.  I loved feeling them kick then seeing it on screen a moment later.  When feeling the movements my imagination would always try to figure out what was creating the sensations, but here I could see it, in real time, live.  It was breathtaking.  A weepy person I am not, but both times I saw my babies for the first time kicking around in there, I cried tears of pure happiness.  Afterwards, I'd check my book to make sure the oversized alien head on my perfect baby was normal...

Before I had kids, I'd view my friends' ultrasound pictures with indifference.  "Um yeah that's great.  Where's the head again?  Oh that? OK I think I see it.  Uh, here you go."  No so anymore, now they elict genuine responses of "How adorable!" and "Look at that cute button nose!"  I see no blurry images anymore. I see a cute little baby waiting to bring his/her own brand of joy to the world.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

There's a Baby in There!

(Article three of the "On Being Pregnant Series")
Sometime early in the second trimester (16 weeks or so) I'd feel little twitches, like muscle spasms in my lower abdomen.  Humm strange, then with wide eyes and a sharp intake of breath I'd realize, that's the baby!  This triggered a whole new mindset.  Suddenly every discomfort and sacrifice (no coffee, no wine, no sports, no lunchmeat, no hot baths, no this, no that, nononono...) was worth it.  It's the moment that the pregnancy in all it's beauty and magic became real.  There really was a new little life living, growing, and maybe even playing in there.  Suddenly my body was no longer mine, it was hers for as long as she needed it and I felt blessed to carry her.  Ah, l'amore!

This was also a gift for the other people in my life.  My husband Charley, loved feeling the movements and would talk or sing to her and imagine that her subsequent movements were in response to his voice.  During my second pregnancy, my older daughter enjoyed this phase as much as we did.  She would talk to the baby and even told her sisterly secrets.  Although I pretended not to overhear, it was invariably the suggestion that she should kick me.  Sometimes the baby obeyed, but usually I feigned feeling a good kick -- "Oh ouch, that was a good one.  Be nice to Mommy baby."  It was magic.  Once while cuddled up with my older daughter reading her bedtime stories, I felt a good kick and Danielle said, "Hey, she kicked me!"  I pretended to scold the baby by pointing at my tummy, "No hitting in this family, young lady."

By the end of my pregnancies, my babies, already eager for their first gymnastics lessons would start training, -- in utero.  My belly would contort into a rectangular shape (sideways) and I could often, very accurately, measure the size of their feet and even count toes.  Their antics earned more than one "whoa!" from spectators.  During a late lunch with a sightseeing group, our waitress remarked, "Wow - I can see your baby moving from over here."  I had more than one nightmare where the baby's foot broke through my belly button and was sticking out of my body.  I'd wake up in a cold sweat grasping my intact belly, then I'd heave a sigh of relief to find that it was just a dream.

Sometimes, as my babies rolled from one side to the other a point, probably and elbow or knee, would create a bump that would streak from one side of my tummy to the other.  I referred to these as shooting stars.  I didn't feel the need to wish on those, because my wish had already come true.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Trimesters by Girth

(Article two of the "On Being Pregnant Series")
Although my girth was unchanged, my first trimester was always the worst.  I felt tired and a little sick all the time.  It didn't matter if I slept  23 and 1/2 hours a day, as that 1/2 hour of awake time would be spent yawning, rubbing my eyes whilst wishing I would just throw up so I could feel a little better.  All this and there's no adorable baby bump to show for it.  I was sure people were wondering if I was milking-it.  After all, I sure looked the same.

By the second trimester it was abundantly obvious that I was pregnant, but only to me apparently.  I'd think my belly was big but other people could hardly see the difference.  "You're not even showing yet!" I'd hear often.  As any mom will tell you, the second trimester is golden.  I felt much better with most of my energy back, and I only had a bun in the oven rather than the whole bread truck.  Also, as pregnant ladies are wont to do, I'd radiate that glow that is a composition of hormones, super vitamins and happiness.  By the end of the second trimester I can remember looking down at my belly and thinking incredulously, "I'm going to get even bigger?"

By the third trimester, I always felt great.  When my baby belly first appeared, it always seemed to be in the way, then I'd grow accustomed to the odd weight distribution and girth, and it soon became the new normal.  Then it would grow again and I'd start all over again.  Interestingly though, when I was huge I could sometimes forget it was even there.   Especially with the second baby, since I was usually preoccupied with my three-year-old.  I'd start talking with other moms at the park and after a few minutes one might ask me how far along I was.

"Hummm - what?  Oh yes this, (pointing to my belly) I'm 35 weeks".

Once I joked, "What am I showing?"

"Uh yeah, lil' bit," was the reply.

Sometimes I'd wonder if under my thick sweater it was even noticeable; after seeing pictures of myself in said sweater --yes, yes, it was noticeable.

Even though I was big, in general I felt pretty spry.  Ironically this is when I'd get the most help from family, friends and strangers.  Holding doors, offering up their chair or place in line.  I'd usually politely decline—or graciously accept, depending on the circumstances, while sometimes thinking—boy this sure would have been great during my first trimester!

Friday, January 20, 2012

On Being Pregnant

Being pregnant was a fascinating (and sometimes downright scary) experience.  It seemed to go on for an eternity, then just days after the delivery I could hardly remember what it was like being that big, carrying a little life I loved so passionately, but had yet even to touch or see.  So I'm here to tell the tale before pregnancy amnesia claims the rest of the details and replaces them with such critical information as the names and whereabouts of my kids' stuffed animals, the location and state of their clothes, toys and the words to their favorite picture books.

For the next week or so I'll be posting new articles regarding some of the different aspects of pregnancy, including: Discovery, Trimesters by Girth, There's a Baby in There!, Worry!, Other People, and Hi Baby!


In each of my three pregnancies my reaction to the + on the pregnancy test was surprising.  The + sign themselves were overly long in coming and I was pretty sure how I would react when it was positive.  I had images of winning-the-lottery style jumping hugs and smiles—like the commercials.  Not so...

After my first + sign appeared, the am-I-really-ready-for-this anxiety washed over me like a cold Oregon Coast wave, but I escaped the undertow and danced in the sands of excitement and joy.  That pregnancy ended in heartbreak ten weeks later when I miscarried.

Three months later we started trying again and after many additional months went by the + sign reappeared.  There was none of the former anxiety, only joy tempered with a little worry about a repeat.  That pregnancy happily concluded with the birth of our first daughter, Danielle.

The third + sign didn't make an appearance until almost a year of trying.  When I saw it, I had to sit down as my heart pounded and my vision blurred.  My brain rapid fired words such as miscarriage, down syndrome, labor, stretch marks, sleep deprivation (ohGodIdon'tknowifIcandoitagain), engorgement, mastitis, cracked nipples, cleft palate, autism, spina bifida, sore hips, morning sickness, colic, premature birth, teething, nipple biting, shots, etc.  It was as if these words were bullets fired by a guerrilla soldier that was hiding behind the dunes of the sunny beach I was walking on while dreaming of breathing in baby smells again.  Whew!!

Stunned but not felled my by the initial attack, I persevered by taking each moment as it came. Although I'm in the thick of the dreaded sleep deprivation phase, I'm still very happy to be the mom of another adorable baby girl.

What was your reaction to the news that you were going to be a mom or dad?

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Big Kid Paradox

My four year old, Danielle still uses a binkie.[1]  She loves, loves, loves her binkie and has it every night at bedtime.  Three times now, my husband and I have bought what we've sworn to be the last binkies we'll ever buy her; so she'd better take care of them.  When the latest set developed chew holes after only a few weeks it was time for a new tack.  I told her that if she wanted new binkies she'd need to save her own money to buy them.  She always takes this with a good attitude.  She likes having some control over her acquisitions and will show inordinate patience (for a four-year-old) with the time it takes to save for the object she wants.  However, this was not the case in this instance.  There was some whining, "Uunnnuugghh - how much do they cost??  How much do I have??  (Followed by frantic piggybank shaking.)  Can I do some jobs??"  But overall, it wasn't much.

With new determination she saved and counted, then counted again.  Until, at last, she had the required $5.99 for the newest set of binkies.  As soon as the money was tallied, she deposited it into her purse and we were off to Fred Meyers.  I picked up a few things I needed and we made our way over to the baby aisles.  She looked over the pacifier selection much as a fine restaurateur might peruse the dusty tenants of a wine cellar.  She made her choice and refusing to add them to our cart, carried them in hand to the register.  I paid for my purchases, then she for hers.  She carefully counted the money while the checker patiently waited.  Mercifully, the checker bagged Danielle's purchases and handed it over in exchange for her money.  "My aren't you a big girl," she said graciously.  Danielle puffed up with pride.  I wanted also to congratulate her, but as I couldn't seem to muster the right words, I remained quiet.

Upon our return home she made a beeline for her scissors.  Lacking the required hand strength to cut through the Kevlar packaging, she enlisted my husband's help.  He opened them for her and she dutifully went to the sink to wash them both.  After letting them breathe for the slightest of moments they were each sampled in turn.  "Was it a good year?" my husband inquired.  "Indeed father, it was."

1. Let he who is the perfect parent with the perfect children cast the first lego.  That's what I thought, now sitdownwouldja.