Saturday, September 30, 2006

Just Call Me TAFKAM*

Today is the 167th** consecutive day of rain. The sky is dreary, the air is humid, the cold weather blues are starting to sink in.

Mark is at work. On a Saturday. Yuck. And I'm home with two small children who would much rather be outside. What to do??

Haircuts, I tell you, haircuts. While they watched "Kiki's Delivery Service" from NetFlix, I plunked them onto the kitchen island and performed my magic.

The boy who's head was starting to resemble Don King's was transformed into a nicely groomed little man. And the girl who's bangs were obstructing her view and causing her to trip over things now has her cute little bob back.

Their hair is now a work of art.

*The Artist Formerly Known as Mommy
**OK, this may be a slight exaggeration

Friday, September 29, 2006

At The Breakfast Table

Abby: Ethan is choking me!
[I snap my head around to see what is going on, only to discover two children who are belted into their booster seats, approximately 10 feet apart]
Me: Ethan is not choking you. He's nowhere near you.
Abby: Ouch! My knee! Ethan pushed me!
Me: What, 3 days ago? [Mommy can be a little snarky before her morning coffee]
Abby: No...
Abby: ...four.

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Works for me Wednesday: spackle & sanding

This is my first time posting a tip for Works for Me Wednesday... after being a reader, I'm finally jumping on the bandwagon!

At our house, we are finally at the stage of finishing our basement where I can paint - yeehaw! And so, in preparation for painting, I have been doing a few touchups on the walls with mud ("spackle" for you non-home-improvement types).

My father-in-law gave me a couple of great tips which have worked out really well! First, apply the mud to places that don't need very much with a paintbrush instead of a scraper. It adds a much smaller amount that doesn't require much sanding. And second, instead of using store-bought sandpaper for the really fine detail sanding, use a paper grocery bag instead. It's a much finer grit than what you could buy, and it's free. So next time you're grocery shopping, you have another reason to ask for paper instead of plastic!

Go visit Shannon at Rocks in My Dryer for a whole list of WFMW ideas!

Thursday, September 21, 2006

Pillow Talk

Mom: Ethan, you're awake already? You were up coughing last night... I thought you'd sleep in.
Ethan: No, Mom.
Mom: Aren't you sleepy?
Ethan: No, Mom.
Mom (barely able to believe morning could be here yet): Why aren't you still sleeping?
Ethan (exasperated): 'Cause why, Mom. 'Cause WHY.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

We're In For It

I've been participating in my church's babysitting co-op for one full year now. And boy, oh boy, do I love it.

Last schoolyear, we had 8 moms with 12 kids participating. The kids were great, got along pretty well, the spats were minimal. Over the summer, 3 of the moms had dropped out. We had 5 moms with 9 kids, an easy load for 2 moms to handle (although we hired babysitters for most of the summer - well worth the cost!) The kids were mostly buddies.

Now, we are recruiting. One of the moms dropped out for this schoolyear, and two new moms have joined. As of right now, there are 6 moms with 11 kids in the co-op.

I had "the pleasure" of working the co-op last week with one of the new moms. It was the most hectic co-op I've ever worked. It wasn't just one kid that was causing commotion, it was a majority of the kids. We would turn our backs for one minute, and two kids would be crying and reporting that the other had pushed/pulled/taken their toy/kicked them/you name it. Ethan was personally in time out 5 times for being a really big stinker. It was crazy. I needed a wine cooler after it was over. Truly.

Over the last few days, I've tried to figure out what is different? Is it because we have four new kids to the co-op right now? Are the kids too close or too far in age to play nicely? What's going on?? And then it struck me.


Right now, we have two girls and NINE boys. And boy, oh boy, oh boy, does it show. The boys play off each other, are more physical with each other and are just generally louder and messier than our girls. I'm sure there is some mathematical algorithm that would show that a 9:2 ratio of boys to girls approaches insanity.

Wow, are we in for it.

Monday, September 18, 2006

Just Because

Because it's raining here today, and it was raining on the day these videos were shot, I share them with you now. Enjoy!

[Abby and Ethan sing "The Abby Song"]

Photo Sharing - Upload Video - Video Sharing

[Ethan sings "Oh, Susanna"... the best part is when he says, "bye, Grandma!"]

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Thursday, September 14, 2006

Me Likey NetFlix

Hi. I'm Trista. [Hi, Trista]. I am an addict.

I am addicted to NetFlix. I've been a member since February 2002, where my addiction started forming during my free trial period. I have rented 334 DVDs since then. This equates to 6 DVDs a month.

Mark and I started innocently, renting the movies we had on our "to see someday" list. Classic movies we hadn't seen yet, or movies we saw previews for at the movie theater and said, "wow - that looks really good!," or movies recommended by family and friends. After a few months of movie-watching, we discovered - television series.

After our first series, we were irreversibly hooked. Who wouldn't want to watch 24 in the span of a few late nights, watching episode after episode until your vision becomes bleary, not having to wait to see the results of each cliffhanger the writers left you with? Who wouldn't want to watch a TV show instead of a movie, which doesn't require much concentration and can be completed in somewhere around 40 minutes? Who wouldn't want to skip all of the loud and obnoxious commercials? Most importantly, who wouldn't want to know Jack Bauer's next move immediately, instead of waiting a full week to see what happens next?

And so, in an effort to provide full disclosure of the magnitude of my addiction, I would like to share a list of the television series we have watched through NetFlix. So far.

  • 24, Seasons 1 and 2 (Season 1 was brilliant, but by the end of 2, the plot lines were so absurdly ridiculous we couldn't watch it anymore. Plus, I couldn't stand Jack's daughter)
  • Sex and the City, Seasons 1 to 6 (Who wouldn't think this show is amazing?? Me likey Sex and the City!)
  • The Kids in the Hall, Seasons 1 and 2 (Sketch comedy that is less scripted and predictable than Saturday Night Live)
  • Six Feet Under, Seasons 1 to 5 (I LOVED this series, and I don't think I've ever been so personally invested in fictitious characters before I fell in love with Nate, David, Claire, Brenda, Ruth and all the rest. And I BAWLED through the end of the series finale episode - it was the best finale I've ever seen.).
  • The Shield, Seasons 1 to 4 [waiting for season 5 on DVD] (WOW. Love the editing. Love the storylines.)
  • The Festival, Season 1 (not worth renting)
  • Nip/Tuck, Season 1 (this kinda stunk)
  • Curb Your Enthusiasm, Seasons 1 and 2 [season 3 is in our queue] (Larry David, co-creator of Seinfeld, is very witty, with his own brand of funny.)
  • Dead Like Me, Season 1 [season 2 is in our queue] (A series about grim reapers - what could be funnier? Is it a comedy? Or a drama? I'm still not sure.)
  • The Office [British version], Season 1 (we love the American version, and decided to try the original version. I couldn't even finish an episode of it, it was so boring and unfunny.)
  • Strangers With Candy, Season 1 [season 2 is in our queue] (An absurd premise for a TV series, but it's strangely laugh-out-loud funny.)
  • Arrested Development, Season 1 [season 2 is in our queue] (Very smart writing, hilarious!)
  • Lost, Season 1 [season 2 is in our queue] (WOW again - we love it! And watching it all at one time on DVD is the way to go!)

I'm not ready to give up my addiction just yet. Our queue also includes two new series (Deadwood and Wonderfalls), and eventually I'm afraid we'll have to start a love-affair with The Sopranos.

Can you help?

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Preschool, day 1

11:27. I park my car at the preschool, and casually walk inside. Several parents are waiting in the hallway outside the 4-year old room, listening to the teacher while staying out view of the kids. I quickly pass by to approach the 3-year old room. Peeking in through the tiny rectangular window in the door, I see Mrs. Sandy jumping up and down and clapping to music. Directly in front of her are 3 children, following along. A fourth is running around the room in wild loops, between tables and past the kids, over to the turtle tank and back around to the dressup area. "Maddie - we don't run in the room," Mrs. Sandy reminds in her firm, yet kind voice. I look over the 4 children. None of them are Abby.

I go to the second door in the room, and spot Abby. She's quietly playing with the train set by herself, not participating in song time (but then again, not being disruptive either). I'm not surprised to see her doing her own thing, she frequently likes to play independently. And when I get her to take her home, my nose tells me that she was playing by herself for a second reason... she was filling her pull-up, an activity that Abby does privately.

I move on to the 2-year old room, directly next door. I see 4 children sitting at a table while Mrs. Laurie watches over and helps. They are painting pictures on orange paper. They are so cute, intently working on painting in their clumsy way. I see Ethan with his paintbrush. Oh good, he's following along with the activity. My son, the rule-follower.

Then Ethan reaches over and paints all over Elliot's paper.

I think we may have identified some areas for potential improvement. ;)

Monday, September 11, 2006

Understanding Marlin

Last night, before bed, Abby asked me to read her a book. Since Abby asking for help with anything is a rarity, I happily obliged. She chose "Finding Nemo," and there couldn't have been a more appropriate book for me to read.

Abby and Ethan started preschool today*. They will be in school two mornings a week. They will be under the tutelage** of two amazingly patient teachers. Abby will be learning from Mrs. Sandy and Ethan will be learning from Mrs. Laurie. They will be learning to respect and love two other women... women who are not me. In some ways, that's a very good thing. I've already written about the many good reasons to put Abby in preschool at age 3, especially with her personality. But it doesn't make it easy.

Last night, I could really relate to Marlin in Finding Nemo. He is a protective father who doesn't want to see any harm done to his son, Nemo. He is especially worried about Nemo starting school, where he won't have his father's watchful eye over him. While I'm not worried about Abby or Ethan's safety, I do worry about the things that won't be under my control while they're there (will other kids want to play with them? will they share toys with the other kids? will they know to listen to the teacher without my reassurance? will the teachers know the tricks I use to convince Abby to do things, or the way to get Ethan out of one of his "funks"? will my babies have fun at school, and develop a love of learning that will last through their lives? will they miss me? will they need me?)

I know logically that they will be fine. Preschool will help them with structure and help prepare them for Kindergarten. They will have lots of interaction with other kids and teachers in a classroom setting. They will grow. They will thrive. They will love it.

I just didn't realize how much I will miss their presence.

*Ethan is in a 2-1/2 year old program, and Abby is in a 3-year old program
**sometimes I just like to sound smart.

Ethan's not actually bigger than Abby - he's just standing in the foreground. This was taken last week, before we left for preschool orientation. Don't they look old??

Ethan loved the train set and truck collection.

Abby went right for the dressup clothes.

This is some artwork they made today. Abby told me that she drew a princess, and it really does look like she made a face with eyes and a mouth. Ethan painted the picture on the right.

9-11-01 I Remember

The morning of September 11th, 2001. I was sitting at my desk at work. In rushes my boss. "A plane just hit the World Trade Center! I have the TV on in the conference room!" As quickly as he appeared, he was gone.

A couple other employees and I walked quickly to the conference room. A fuzzy broadcast of the incident was being shown, apparently we didn't have cable television at work. Footage of a smoking building was on the television, a building I had never seen in person.

Shortly after, the second plane hit. Now it was obvious - this was no accident. That reality hit like a ton of bricks and I was glad to be sitting down. Over and over, the TV station broadcast the plane hitting the building. It was an image that is burned into my mind.

A group of us sat huddled around a huge conference room table, sitting in stunned silence. Then we began to leave, one by one, to call our loved ones. I called Mark at work, and he had just heard about it. More than anything I wanted him to be with me right then, but his office was an hour away.

I worked in a major city. There was talk around the office that one of the large office buildings in our city might be a target for an attack. It was a 5 to 10 minute drive away. Before lunch, we were allowed to go home. Mark wasn't released from work early, a point I held against his company for a long time.

At home, I sat glued to the small TV in our computer room (I'm not sure why I didn't watch the bigger living room TV?) I heard all the speculation about who might be attacking us and why. I cried. And cried. And. Cried.

Months later, I watched the Diane Sawyer special about the children who were still in their mother's wombs on 9/11, and had lost their fathers. Children who would never know their dads in person. I don't think I have ever felt as sad about anything before that special. I couldn't imagine their loss, their mothers' loss, their siblings' loss.

Security is a fleeting feeling. Before the events of 9/11, I felt very secure as an American. That day has changed my perception forever. It gave me a much greater understanding of what prior generations have felt when the first atomic bomb was dropped, or when JFK was assassined. It is a day whose events will color my world from now on.

My kids weren't alive on September 11th, 2001. But they will hear about the events of 9/11 for many years to come. It will be in their high school history books. They will come to learn about the events of that day and the impact on the entire world. But they won't have the same feeling about it as I do, because I was a witness.

I just pray that the kids of today don't have their own "9/11" to take their security away.

Go see Shannon at Rocks In My Dryer for links to many more September 11th stories.

Friday, September 08, 2006

Abby's Movin' Up (getting taller, that is)

Yesterday, Abby had her 3 year checkup. She was very cooperative for Dr. L., spending the first five minutes telling him all about, well, everything. She has become very social in the last month or so, which is so fun to witness. She recounted how Ethan was playing at the park (really, he was at church as part of the babysitting co-op). She told him that she was a princess and she liked Buzz Lightyear and that I was Mommy (and then she corrected herself and said I was her Mommy). She discussed lions and jumping and scary monsters and candy. When she finally slowed down, Dr. L. examined her. She is in great health, developing normally, she has all the proper physical skills and her speech is right on track (a subject I've been a little worried about). A good review.

Then we talked about her growth. I knew from these pictures that Abby has been growing like a weed. But when I discovered that she's grown 4-3/4 inches and 4 pounds in the last year, I nearly fell off the chair. Almost 5 inches taller! I looked up normal growth rates between 2 and 3, and 2-1/2 inches is average. Wow - our girl has had another spurt!

Don't start scouting out basketball teams just yet. Despite the huge upward movement, Abby is still on the "petite" side. Her measurements fall in the 30th percentile for height and the 10th percentile for weight, no surprise since she has always been thin.

When I said Abby grows in spurts, I wasn't joking!


$1,183.26. That's how much Ethan's emergency room visits for croup are costing us. Out of pocket.

I've wrestled with the insurance company ("emergency room visits are all applied toward your deductible, maam"). I've called the hospital to try and reduce the unnecessary ambulance charge (a whopping $500), but haven't gotten anywhere. So, I've paid the bills.

The killer is that our insurance plan has a $1,000 deductible per person. The bills that were applied toward that deductible total - - - [drum roll please] - - - $947.26.

Maybe I'll "schedule" another visit to the emergency room before the end of the year so our insurance company can share our joy. It would be soooo worth $52.74.*

*OK - I'm not really vindictive enough to do that, but sometimes I wish I was!

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

It's Never Enough Time

For the past two weeks, Mark's sister Tracy and her family have been here for a visit. They left the hot, hot weather of their southern home to venture to the Midwest to see family and friends.

We haven't seen them in person since November, and it has felt like forever. Tracy and Jeremy have two kids, Lana and David. Our kids are very close in age: Abby...3, Lana...2-3/4, Ethan...2-1/4, David...1-1/4. It was very nice to visit with them, to see the kids together again, and to have an adult-night-out so we could reconnect with our siblings. We are very happy that they could come home for vacation!

It always seems like there isn't enough time. We miss you already, Tracy, Jeremy, Lana and David! I'm sure Abby and Ethan will be asking about you every day for awhile again, but that will be great. That shows how much you mean to them (and to us, too).

Here are some of my favorite photos from our time together.

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Camping - Take Two

We spent this last weekend doing our new family-favorite activity - camping out. We bought our own tent after the last camping trip, so we were stylin'. We decided to camp at the same campground as Mark's extended family, which was a lot of fun. Everyone played with Abby and Ethan a lot, and fed us great breakfasts. We sure were lucky! The nights were pretty cold this time around, but other than that we had a good time. We're gearing up for next year - hopefully we'll be able to camp quite a bit!

3 Favorite Things about this camping trip
Mark: Delicious "apple strudel" cooked in pie irons; Playing pyromaniac with our campfire; Setting up our new ultra-cool tent.
Trista: Coffee from Uncle Jim on Sunday and Aunt Marianne on Monday (I needed caffeine); Beating Mark 3 times at Ladder Golf; No schedules, nothing important to do but RELAX.
Abby: Uncle Jim and Aunt Mary's dog, Sadie; Cooking hot dogs over the fire; Catching beatle bugs and caterpillars in her bug box.
Ethan: Halloween candy (the campground had labor day trick-or-treating); Hitting up all the aunts, uncles and cousins for food (mmm... chocolate donuts...); Waving to everyone while on the hayride through the campground.

Cooking hotdogs with Mark's improvised hotdog-fork-rest (a stack of firewood).

Abby was (of course) a princess for trick-or-treating.

Ethan was dressed as a ghost. Here he has charmed a grape sucker out of Aunt Sue, just one of many treats he charmed out of Aunt Sue.

Uncle Jim was reading a story to his granddaughter, Shyann. Ethan climbed up in his lap to listen too.

Abby loved sifting rocks and acorns out of the sand. This girl is a nature-lover, that's for sure!

Ethan is saying, "I love campin', Mom!"

Our dusty-kneed daughter couldn't stay awake for the 25 minute drive home after such a great weekend.