Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Fraidy Cats

When I was a child, nothing scared me as much as nighttime. Except maybe a thunderstorm at night. Once the thunder and lightning started, I would lie in bed, trembling, trying to work up the nerve to go to my parents' room and beg them to let me sleep with them. Two things deterred me: for one thing, I knew they'd say no. But mainly, as scared as I was in my room all alone, I was even more scared during the endless scurry to their room. I never felt as vulnerable as I did awake and out of bed after dark.

Amazingly, I never really grew out of this. If Chip is coming home late for some reason, I will stay awake in front of the TV with all the lights in the house on until he comes home. If he is out of town, I will leave every light in the house on, but with my bedroom light dimmed (as if that somehow makes it okay). When Chip is home, and we have already "closed down" the house and gotten in bed, I used to make him get up for anything- from water for me to checking on a noise, etc.

Then we had kids. I couldn't expect Chip to get up every time a baby cried! Not to mention the fact that I was the one with all the breast milk. So I had to fight this fear in order to get up and walk through the dark house to the hungry baby or wimpering-from-a-nightmare child. It's still the only reason I'll get out of bed after the lights are out.

But now we have Connor. Connor who is scared to death of lightning. Connor who doesn't want to sleep alone because he's scared of the dark. And what am I supposed to say to make him feel better? Remembering my own childhood fears, and how much they were allayed by the presence of an adult (or currently by the presence of Chip), I am tempted to move him into our bed for good. (Except for the fact that he fidgets endlessly and freaks out if any part of you touches him.) Chip thinks that if we don't indulge him, he'll just get over it. I am worried that he is genetically destined to be scared of the dark, whether we indulge it or not. It's hard to know what to do, and he can sense the uncertainty in me, using it to his full advantage. When I lie in bed with him at night, as part of our "tucking in" ritual, he starts in. "Mommy, why can't you sleep with me? Why do adults get to sleep together?" I have to admit, for a kid who doesn't know anything about, uh, adult companionship, this must be a perplexing question. Adults are (seemingly) unafraid at night. Why would they need backup? Why is it that Mommy can't stay with him while Daddy goes to sleep in Chloe's room, just in case she gets scared? I answer the best I can, explaining feebly that this is just the way things are, and maybe when Chloe gets older they can sleep together some nights. And I'm sure they will, because she's my kid too, so she probably doesn't stand a chance against nighttime. But until then Connor will have to brave the dark, and I'll have to hide my guilt over making him do it alone.

Driveway art

Monday, July 30, 2007

Superb ballroom dancing in the den

In an effort to give this blog a jolt of life so that it'll be updated more often --even when we (mainly I, actually) don't have a lot to say-- I'll be doing more "pic only" posts. Like this:

Saturday, July 28, 2007

But Sometimes It's Fun

Don't get me wrong- for the most part Connor really is a great kid, even if he feels he's never done anything wrong in his life. For example, when he's not "accidentally" torturing his sister, he is very loving towards her. They share lots of hugs and kisses, and they do play together a lot. But I can't resist pointing out that most of their play involves taking whatever toy the other has, with force if necessary.

Another thing they do together is dance. As I've mentioned before, dancing is big at our house. Chloe started her dance career with a simple head nod, then added a twirl, and recently has decided that she, too, must breakdance. Her version consists of lying on her back while kicking her feet in the air and laughing hysterically. Like Connor, I think she imagines that she's doing the spins she sees on TV. I won't tell her any different.

This seems like a good time for a general Chloe update. In her own special way, she's a horrible eater. Unlike Connor, she'll try anything you put in front of her. But for some reason, she is just barely able to feed herself. She has no interest in utensils. She will give the fork one chance to get food into her mouth, then she goes straight to "hand in the food" mode. But instead of shoveling the food into her mouth, she starts wiping it through her hair and on her clothes. It's amazing that she's as big as she is, as she clearly has no real knowledge of how to get nutrients into her body.

But if you give her something un-smearable, like a cracker or a chicken nugget, she will put that in her mouth. Unfortunately, she'll put as much of it as possible in her mouth. One recent outcome of this practice was the application of the Heimlich Maneuver by her teacher. So we've started cutting her food into really, really small pieces and giving it to her a little at a time.

She talks a lot, but doesn't really say much. She's got a few words: "hi/hey," "meow," "oof oof" (=woof woof=dog), and "baby" are big, and she has only-parents-can-understand-her versions of "thank you" and "cheers." On the flip side of that, she's at a point where she can totally understand us, and will follow simple directions or smile with recognition when we correctly guess what her wild gestures represent. Her "Hey!" is most often used when holding a phone, as she is practicing for her teenage years by having a phone to her ear as often as possible. And then she pitches a full-on fit whenever the phone is taken from her. (I knew the teens would be hard, I just didn't realize we were measuring months rather than years.)

She's all about her "lovies," a word I never knew when Connor was a baby (and one I still refuse to use regularly). She relies heavily on her pacifier, one specific baby doll, and a pink blanket that Beth made for her. It's sweetly neurotic.

Both kids are going to be great swimmers. Connor will jump in and take a few awkward dog-paddle-strokes towards whatever adult is waiting for him, without the aide of any floatation devices. Chloe sticks her face in the water and blows bubbles any chance she gets, and also loves to be dipped completely into the water by her dad. (Her mom is too skittish to play that game.)

I spoke too soon regarding Connor's inability to show remorse. He was extremely distraught and apologetic today when he broke my nose. As you would expect, it was just an accident, but it hurt like hell just the same. I'm not sure who screamed more, me or Connor. Fortunately I don't have two black eyes, and my face isn't swollen, but did I mention that it still hurts like hell?

In summary, there's never a dull day around our house. I love my kids very much, but sometimes I really just need a nap. Or maybe an ice pack.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Because I Said So

When I first started teaching, my biggest challenge was classroom control/discipline. It's the bane of every new teacher's existence. My first year or so was disastrous- the kids ran all over me, and I did a lot of yelling. I got into the groove pretty quickly, though, and soon had control of my classroom. I learned the key lesson, which is that you are trying to gain respect from, rather than make friends with, the students. I made sure the rules were fair and the consequences were consistent.

I knew that having kids of my own would present a similar discipline challenge. Chip and I took long walks while I was pregnant, discussing all the details of how we were raised and assuming that the answers would lie there. My mom has always told me that she spanked me until I was around six, then gave it up in favor of less stressful discipline tactics. She's never really told me if she felt I was a good child or not- I know I was a crappy teenager, just like every other, but before that I'm not sure. I know that I was really well-behaved at school, a teacher's pet who always did her homework and never got conduct checks. I was scared of disappointing my teachers or my mom. In my mind, whatever she did to teach me right from wrong worked.

Chip remembers his childhood as one full of logical discussions about ethics, cause and effect, and accepting consequences. He doesn't remember getting in trouble much, and I believe it. He is a good person in a very rare way. And for better or for worse, he believes the best about other people as well. Which is why I had such a hard time convincing him that no other child in the history of children has ever used logic as a basis for their actions. But he'll be my child, so he'll be like me, Chip would patiently explain. But he'll also be MY child, I would counter, and you know I'm not usually bound by the principals of logic. Chip would nod his head indulgently, but I could see in his eyes that he couldn't wait to raise a little mini-Chip.

Turns out neither of us has any idea what we're doing, and drawing on our own experiences hasn't helped. Connor doesn't worry about disappointing me- he's too busy letting me know the ways I've disappointed him. He also refuses to let rational thought get in the way of what he wants to do. And in a surprise twist, Chip has found that not only does Connor not respond to reason, but that he himself doesn't have the patience with Connor that his parents had with him. (All those years I've spent trying Chip's patience, and it took a four-year-old to finally break him. Well done, Connor. Well done.)

An example of our failures: We were cooking together the other day (worthy of its own post, the cooking thing) and Connor reached his hand toward the hot eye of the stove. "CONNOR NO!" I instinctively yelled. Cue the waterworks. "You yelled at me!" he whined accusingly. I explained that I was sorry to startle him, but the stove was hot and I didn't want him to burn himself. I told him about how his flesh would melt into the stove, and we'd have to take him to the hospital, and how my heart would break if he were in that much pain, so I had to react quickly. Connor wimpered softly while I was explaining this to him, and when I finished he said, "But you yelled at me!" No sense of why he shouldn't touch the stove, or why I'm the parent and have the right to raise my voice occasionally, just a sense of indignation that I would dare yell at him. Another example, from just this morning: Connor was kicking a door, and Chip said, "Connor stop." Another kick, another "Stop!" More kicking followed by me yelling "Connor!" as Chip grabbed his arm and pulled him away from the door with the, "Connor, that is called 'not following directions.' When an adult tells you to stop, they should only have to tell you once," speech. This was not followed by an apology, or even a look of remorse. This was followed by much bawling with a round of "You grabbed me! You yelled at me!" (And as always when her brother is upset, Chloe joins in the wailing. Fun.)

So we've clearly done something wrong, something that has led Connor to believe that he is in charge and we are just there to do his bidding. I've made sure he sees me as a parent rather than as a friend, yet I have failed to gain his respect. The parenting books, our parents, friends who are parents- none of their advice could adequately arm us for the battles we have waged. I always thought that the sense of entitlement today's youth possessed came from attitudes they learned at home. Now I wonder if it comes from the hormones in milk or is a result of the chicken pox vaccine, like some kind of kin to the autism outbreak. Because despite my best efforts, Connor has caught the entitlement bug. I'm finally starting to think it's time to pull out the old conduct chart and start threatening Connor with a trip to the principal's office. At this point, it's the only trick I've got left.

Two Feet, Two Fisted

Monday, July 23, 2007


What is it that makes kids push the limits so much? Connor has started arguing over EVERYTHING lately. Often about what's on (or not on) his plate at dinner, also about what's on TV, how much longer he gets to play the Noggin computer games, who's giving him the bath... and on and on. I'm a competent parent-- I don't backhand him or anything, though many times I'd like to. More than anything, I'd like the excise the words "But Daaaad..." from his vocabulary entirely. They are NEVER followed by anything I'd like to hear.

Steph, however, is having no trouble whatsoever coping with this problem... right Steph?


On another note, Rock n Romp 7 (?) was this past Saturday. The weather was gorgeous, and the turnout was huge. Chloe loved the sprinkler action there:

For more on Rock n Romp, along with a slideshow of all the rest of our pics, check it out here.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

List of Links

Recently Stacey posted a list of house projects on her blog. Chip said, "Amateur. You would have had that thing in an Excel spreadsheet with a column for 'Priority,' another for 'Supplies Needed' and one for 'Receipts' that included formulas to calculate cost by room and cost total." Sadly, he wasn't joking- he was referring to the list of house projects I made a couple of months ago.

As much as I love lists, I also love being entertained. Since I can't rely on finding random lists on friends' blogs, I have identified some websites full of lists that I look at regularly. Here are a few, in case you have time to kill today.

Local Lists: Listwork, by the famous Aunt Elizabeth.

Sports Lists: AM Jump on ESPN2. My imaginary boyfriend, DJ Gallo, writes content for this page on Monday, Wednesday and Friday. There are lists on Tuesday and Thursday too, but not by anyone I'm in love with.

Smart Lists: McSweeney's, of course. The more I read, the funnier it gets. If you can't decide where to start, this is one of my favorites.

Inappropriate Language Lists: Cracked.com. These lists aren't for those who blush easily, but man they make me laugh out loud. Check out this one- Cube's #10 and BBD's #6 cause me physical pain.

Self-Serving Lists: Amazon Wishlist. August 7 is right around the corner, people!

Saturday, July 14, 2007

Let Me Tell You

Recently I was describing to a friend a comically crappy day I'd had, and he immediately said, "So why isn't this going on the blog?" I've thought about that question a good bit since he asked it. The quick response is "I don't like to write/I'm not a good writer" but that excuse never really goes over well. So here is something a little more accurate and less self-deprecating.

When I was a kid, I sucked at keeping a diary. Oh, I'd write in it, tell it all my fears and complaints, and close it up, satisfied to have gotten that off my chest. Then the next day when I pulled the diary back out, I'd read what I'd written and think to myself, "I was bothered by THAT? How silly!" and then rip the page out and throw it away. I guess once I air my greivances, I kind of get over them, so I don't want a permanent record of them. I ended up with a diary that had book reviews and recaps of what I did on Saturday night scattered between the stubs of torn out pages. I do that on the blog sometimes- I start what I think will be a profound post about how frustrated bath time with the kids makes me, then I read over what I've written and laugh that I ever found something as simple as bathtime to be a challenge. Then I erase it and slap up a couple of pics of the kids with some pollyanna comment like, "Look how cute they are in the bathtub! It's not always as fun as it looks, though!" and call it a blog post.

The other reason I don't tell fun stories on the blog is because I like to TELL fun stories. Out loud. My strength does not lie in constructing hilarious blog posts about how Chloe can't keep her balance when she walks, or in making my trip to Huey's with my family sound like an adventure while smoothly throwing in a good description of the food. My strength lies in telling you that story the next time I talk to you. (Or even telling you via IM or text, because I consider that conversation and I'm a good conversationalist.) Plus, if I do put the inferior written version on the blog, I miss out on the fun of telling you. I like to talk, and it's easier to do when I've got an arsenal of stories you haven't already read.

So next time you see me, ask me about the time Chloe got all choked up at school this week. Or about how I ended up crying in the parking lot of Schnuck's at 8:40 Friday morning. Or about who I ran into at Huey's last night. Although even if you don't ask, I'll probably tell you anyway.

Now hurry up and read this before I come to my senses and rip it out of the diary.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007


For some reason, my kids really love me this week. At face value, that's a good thing. But when you're trying to cook dinner and both kids feel their lives aren't worth living unless they are actually touching you, it starts to wear thin. When you arrive home and sit down for just a minute, to catch your breath after 8 hours of work and a 38 mile day of commuting, it's not fun to have them both on top of you, engaged in a physical altercation over who gets to have more of their butt on your lap. But no matter how annoying it is, when they are whisked away to bathtime crying for Mommy it's impossible to turn a deaf ear. So I drag myself up to their bathroom and cheerily say, "Why don't I give you a bath!" as Chip gives me the "Are you sure?" eyes he has perfected over time. In a few years, neither of them will want anything to do with me, and I'll miss the days when they wanted me to tuck them in. So today, I'm tired. But helpless to resist.

Monday, July 09, 2007

We Are Family

This weekend we had a wonderful visit with Uncle Shannon and Aunt Carrie.

One day of the visit, after wrestling the kids down for a nap, Shannon looked at me and said, "So- kids, huh?" It's hard for me to imagine what it must be like to be plopped down in the middle of the chaos of two kids and try to make sense of the situation. I tried to promise him that it builds up gradually- that by the time he gets to where we are, it won't seem so crazy. I'm not sure he believed me. Here Shannon tries to understand what it is Chloe is telling him about Connor.

On Thursday afternoon, Shannon and I went down to Idlewild to pick up the kids and to give Shannon a chance to walk around. It's so weird that Idlewild is suddenly a part of my everyday life when for a long time it was this distant, mythical place. So Shannon and I walked around, looked in the sanctuary, and found the picture of our dad that hangs with the other portraits of former pastors. It was nice. As was the reception my kids gave their Uncle Shannon. How exciting to be picked up from school early by your cool uncle!
Thursday night we belatedly celebrated Carrie and Connor's birthdays. Connor's favorite new toy is this cool dinosaur that plays hide and seek with you. I highly recommend it if you're looking for a birthday gift for someone around Connor's age.

You see pictures of my babies all the time on this site- for a change, here's a picture of Grammy's babies.

On Friday Shannon, Carrie, Mom and I took the kids to lunch and enjoyed a leisurely afternoon. Our Saturday together involved barbeque, Cullen, soccer, the Live Earth concert and lots of dancing. (Connor is still in his breakdancing phase, and Chloe has added a twirl to go with her head nod. It's quite a sight to see.)

We were sad to see them go on Sunday, and are already looking forward to their next visit, whenever that may be. We love you and miss you already!

Sunday, July 08, 2007

Anatomy of an Open House

Today we had an open house. I have so many things to say about this process that I'm just going to start saying them, with no clear narrative form. (So this will be like any other post.)
The level of clean your house has to be for an open house is mind-boggling. Especially for a family with two kids and a cat.
We have spent the last week trying to keep our house at an acceptable level of readiness, in case anyone wanted to see it while we were at work. They didn't.
You'd think that would mean our house wasn't too far from being ready to go this weekend, but you would be wrong. My brother and his fiancee were in town this weekend, so I took off Thursday and Friday (after being off on the Fourth). An extended holiday weekend does not lend itself to a clean house!
Why did we have the open house this very inconvenient weekend, you ask? For some reason my realtor and I did not communicate well regarding our plan for an open house. I wanted next weekend, he wanted today, and because he has the power to put an "Open Sunday 2-4!" sign in my yard, he won before I even realized I was losing. So that's why. I hope Shannon and Carrie still enjoyed their visit, despite the fact that my mind was sometimes elsewhere.
I could not have pulled my house together Sunday if not for my mom, who showed up at 8:00 a.m. with a mop and a smile. She and Chip cleaned until the realtor showed up (I wrangled kids and got them out of the house as much as possible), and the house looked perfect. I wanted to buy it myself. I can't thank her enough, but I will be sure and try as often as possible.
My cat did NOT like being put in his travel carrier and taken to my mom's house. He is currently back at home, locked in a bedroom trying to relax. He did a lot of hissing, spitting, and actual yelling, even after we got back home. I think he might need Valium. Which they do, in fact, prescribe to cats. What is it with Chip and the crazy cats?
We have friends who moved into a new house before putting their old one on the market, just so they could clean and de-clutter all at once. Man, I would do that if I could afford it! Right now I have a car trunk full of toys that I couldn't figure out what to do with otherwise. They'll be back in the middle of the den floor in no time, I'm sure.
I have friends who offered to let me drink their beer and eat their food this evening, but due to our crazy day (did I mention the trip to the airport and no naps for the kids?) we just couldn't make it to Midtown at a reasonable hour. And that's really the point of this. I'll miss being close to my mom, but I will really enjoy being close to everything else if and when this move happens. After this strangely stressful day, just knowing someone was willing to take care of my family for me tonight was enough to make me feel warm and fuzzy inside.
So thank you to everyone who really took care of me (Mom) or just offered to (Alleys) today- it means so much to me!
Now keep your fingers crossed that one of the two families that came by today will want to buy this house. Because the kids have already messed everything up, so this might have been our only shot.

Thursday, July 05, 2007


This Fourth of July we had a lot of fun. We started at the amazing water park at the JCC.

They had a "furriest father" contest while we were there. Trust me, there were a lot of serious contenders. Luckily, Chip refrained from photographing the event. Every picture taken of Connor that day also features Miss S, his new favorite person.

Later on, we invaded the Clines' home and more than took advantage of their hospitality. The kids were occasionally well-behaved. And they did some serious swinging with the super-cool (and childless) Mary while the parents enjoyed adult beverages and conversation inside.

Predictably for this particular holiday, the evening ended explosively. My kids slept almost 12 straight hours in the wake of all the excitement. They were good and rested for the arrival of Aunt Carrie and Uncle Shannon, who will get their own well-deserved post once the weekend is over. Happy Birthday, America!

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Firecracker, Firecracker, Siss Boom Bah

Chip and I have picked up our running efforts of late, mostly because our friend RJA challenged us to run a 5K with him. He's been so happy to be doing so much running that his enthusiasm was contagious. But while Chip and I have enjoyed the running on some level, on others we've found it quite depressing. You know how professional athletes are considered old by the time they hit their mid-30s? Now that I'm there, it totally makes sense. My toe hurts. Chip's knee hurts. Of course my knee hurts. And sometimes my back. And maybe Chip's heel. It's not debilitating, just humbling to realize how quickly one's body can turn on you.

So last night we ran the Firecracker 5K. The boys soon left me way behind, but I'll catch up with them sooner or later. I finished in 31:45, Chip in 30 flat, and RJA in 27:09. I definitely want to break 30 minutes next time, but I think I'll take a day off from my training to celebrate our nation's awesomeness. And to rest my toe.

(The pictures aren't relevant at all. They're just cute. Sorry!)