Friday, February 27, 2009
The highlight was probably finding a newt when I was weeding on Friday afternoon. At least I thought it was a newt, and that's what I called it when I showed it to the kids:
It was about half the size of my hand, and of course BJ wanted to pick it up. I compromised by letting him touch it, gently stroking its back. It stood stock still and hoped we would leave -- but, surprisingly, hung around long enough for me to get these pictures. Both kids loved watching it, though BB wouldn't touch it for anything.
Later that evening, they wanted to see the pictures and kept asking questions, so I started googling "California Newt," trying to find out exactly what was in our backyard. I confess to a certifiable "Oh SH*T!" motherhood moment, when this was the first thing I looked at. In big red bold type, there it was:
"Warning! The skin secretions of the Newts of the genus Taricha contain toxins similar to those found in pufferfish liver. These are among the deadliest natural toxins yet discovered. A healthy adult will die from eating just one Newt. Care should be taken to wash hands thoroughly after handling Newts."
Who knew?!? I certainly didn't think we were in any danger when we found the little guy!
After scrubbing BJ's hands once more for good measure and calming down a bit from my parental panic attack, I looked again at the pictures I'd taken and the pictures of the California Newt. Not the same animal. Thank heavens!
Turns out it was merely a common arboreal salamander. Neither poisonous nor especially rare. (And if you're wondering what the difference is between a newt and a salamander -- as I was -- there's a good explanation here.
Along with the newts (er, salamander), we've been finding lots of snails. They love the wet weather. When we were hanging out with A and C on Friday, having a lovely playdate, BJ found a cache of about a dozen snails in their backyard. He disassembled a few (sorry, A!) giving some credibility to that Wikipedia insight I mentioned above: that the "boys are made of" rhyme is actually a variant of "snips of snails." He certainly was pulling them to bits. Sigh. But mostly he seemed interested in holding them letting them crawl on him.
Thanks to A for the pic! Thanks as well to her for being so very good natured about the whole thing. BJ kept asking her if she wanted to see and/or hold the snails he'd found. A (who is pregnant and due to have her baby boy in about six weeks) looked at me at one point and laughed, "I'm so not ready for a boy!"
Granted, her daughter C didn't seem all that interested in the snails, but BB was all about the tiny one the she'd negotiated from her brother. BB let it crawl all over her hand and up her arm. I'm not a big fan of snails either, but even I had to admit that this wee one was kinda cute. In a sticky slimy way.
In related wildlife news, BB has now had her first moment of true terror. I've been a weeding wildwoman this week, (say that five times fast!) and the kids have been really good about either keeping me company in the yard or keeping themselves occupied with their own little projects. BJ spent a good hour making "snake soup" (Stuxey and Stuxey, the two rubber snake/attachment objects, "helped" him) while BB played in the sandbox. Which leads me to the moment of terror.
I was kneeling, weeding, when all of a sudden I heard her start to holler and then scream in the most horrifying, horrified way. I got up faster than I thought possible, ran over to her, and after much soothing managed to understand that she was frightened by "a 'pider, Mommeeee! A 'Pider!!!"
A spider. An impressively hairy wolf spider, about the size of a dime. I found him in short order, and BB's reaction made it pretty clear that he was the source of the trouble. As best I can tell, it had been hiding out in one of the hot wheels dump trucks and had scurried out while she was playing with said truck, dipping it into a little puddle. (I'm sure the water chased it out, self-preservation and all.)
Would have scared the bejesus out of me, too! She wasn't bitten, thank goodness, but the poor dear is still talking about the 'pider and how 'taired (scared) she was by it. I think it probably crawled over her hand on its way out of the truck. (And a phobia is born.....? Hope not!) She's usually so fearless, I was really taken aback by the whole thing. And my blood still runs cold, recalling the sound of her terrified wail. Not the kind of sound you want to hear coming from your child.
So as much fun as we've been having, I have to say that I've had enough wildlife for one week, between spider scares, snail slime, and false alarms about deadly backyard newts. Good thing, since it's supposed to rain for the foreseeable future!
Thursday, February 26, 2009
I have to say that I chuckled at the sheet Kaiser Permanente sent home with her. It says, "Your child may be ready to: go up and down stairs one step at a time, kick a ball, know at least 20 words, say two-word phrases, and copy adults."
Not to brag, but here's how BB stacks up: she scrambles up and down staircases (as well as anything else she can climb); she has been kicking a ball for months; she speaks in full sentences (with proper pronoun use). I stopped counting how many words she knows at least 6 months ago, when we topped 100. She's also singing the alphabet song, identifying some letters, and counting to 20. She has memorized many of her books (the Berenstein Bears' "Spooky Old Tree" is a particular recitation favorite right now). She finally has all her baby teeth (thank goodness) and is well on her way in the potty training journey.
And copy adults? I think we've got that covered as well:
She's also really learning how to turn on the charm: yesterday at Trader Joe's, she smiled her way to a free flower. She was sitting in the cart, "helping" the cashier by handing him items one at a time. The cashier, a friendly young man, was very sweet about playing along and thanking her for her assistance. BB then spotted one of those little potted roses that they sell at TJ's, and she started talking to us about the flower. "Do you like it?" the cashier asked. BB nodded. He then took out a pair of clippers from his pocket and carefully cut off a pink bud, being sure to avoid the part with the thorns. BB was utterly enchanted.
Of course BJ chimed right up and said, "I want a flower too!" I told him that the flower was for BB and if he asked nicely, and if they had some, he could have a sticker instead. (Love those TJ's stickers!) Both he and BB entertained themselves with the strips of stickers bestowed on them -- and I got to try to explain why the St. Patty's Day themed images said things like, "This is my green. Don't pinch me!"
In other update news, I'm happy to say that BJ continues to do very well at preschool. In response to his escape on Tuesday, I had him draw an "I'm sorry" card for his teacher. He delivered it first thing in the morning, she was suitably gracious and serious about it, and the entire episode seems to have impressed him very much. As I told his teacher when she told me about the incident, "I guess he's starting to feel more comfortable here!" (Comfortable enough to feel like he can wander off!) Very nice to see.
Also nice to have the one-on-one time with BB happen without guilt, worrying how BJ is doing at preschool. It's so nice to be able to focus solely on my little girl. It's usually low-key time -- today, we ran errands over in Willow Glen -- but we both enjoy it very much. We spent a good 30 minutes walking up and down the avenue in search of flowers, each of which was duly sniffed. I love having the time for that sort of thing. It's like bonus overtime in the parenting paycheck.
Tuesday, February 24, 2009
"If you count to infinity, will you die?" (He's been fascinated with the idea of infinity lately, mostly thanks to the TMBG 1, 2, 3's album which has a song about infinity.)
"Why shouldn't I run away?" (Today at preschool, he wandered out of the classroom's open door, by himself, into the hallway. Last week, when the teacher took his class on a walk through campus, he ran away from the teacher. He's also discovered that he can open our front door by himself. We're having some issues with escapes, as you can see.)
"Are the numbers and letters in Chicka Chicka alive?" (He went on to answer his own question: "They are, in book-land.")
And, winning the "most random question of the day" award: "Is there a superhero named Banana Head?"
He went on to tell me, "Banana Head is in your imagination." After a meaningful pause, he added, "Banana Head can reach bananas from banana trees."
How's that for a super power?
Monday, February 23, 2009
1. The trend actually started shortly before midnight, when BJ had a nightmare (as best we can tell -- about snakes). Between his disturbed sleep and then his sister's (they both have the sniffles, which didn't help), I finally lost count of how many times the kids woke us up last night. It was S's turn to be up with the kids at night (because it was my turn to be up with them at their ungodly hour the next morning) -- and even though he took on the majority of the trips out of bed, BJ's anguished wailing for "Mommmeeee!" had me up as well, plus I woke up almost every time S had to get out of bed. In spite of the earplugs I eventually put in out of desperation. So I'd say I got maybe 4 hours sleep. (Much of it listening to S snooze. I so envy him his ability to fall right back to sleep!)
But it could have been worse. 30 minutes of that precious sleep time were gained when S very kindly rushed his way through his shower so that I could go back to sleep for a little while this morning. That definitely helped. And part of my sleep deprivation was because I got to bed later than usual, because I went to a friend's house for a nascent book club. Very good to get the adult time with pleasant, intelligent company -- almost worth the loss of sleep! Though of course I hadn't expected both to be out late and to have the kids sleep so poorly. Murphy's law for Moms, eh?
2. It was another rainy day today, keeping me and the kids inside. We've all got a bit of cabin fever, on top of the kids' sniffles. The mess and general bouncing-off-the-walls-ness of being inside all day, for days on end, really gets to me after a while. I can only take so much chaos in my living space.
But again, this could have been much worse. I haven't caught their cold (touching wood!) and I was able to take almost 4 focused hours yesterday to organize, clean, and generally detox our bedroom (aka my workshop). So today I was still riding that surge of satisfaction, feeling pretty good about my ongoing fight against the household chaos. In spite of all the puzzle pieces on the floor in the living room!
3. I went to start dinner this afternoon, roasted chicken with lemon pepper potatoes -- a rather elaborate affair, at least it is for me on a weekday night, since it requires several hours of cooking and a fair amount of prep. When I opened up the chicken, I found out to my disgust that it had gone horribly, revoltingly bad. The odor nearly made me lose my lunch. It was marked use or freeze by tomorrow. So I had a choice: toss it, be out the money, and have nothing to make for dinner; or go back to Safeway. In the pouring rain.
Back to the store it was. Happily, the kids were patient and flexible about this last-minute change of plans. I was shocked, frankly, at how good they were about it. I had caved and put on a video (TMBG "Here Come the ABC's" at BJ's request) so that I wouldn't have to deal with them underfoot while I did the chicken prep, potato slicing, etc. They were quite content sitting there on the futon in front of the tube, and I dreaded having to tell them we would have to stop the video. What a surprise when my explanation and request to "put it on pause" was met with an immediate, "Okay!"
And when we got to the store, they were very kind. I got a fresh chicken in exchange and they refunded the money I'd paid for the original. Plus we got a break in the rain when it was time to leave. Another tick in the "coulda been worse!" column. Got home, picked up the video where it stopped, got dinner in the oven only about 30 minutes later than I'd planned.
4. In today's mail, the credit card bill had a distressing item: a charge from Yahoo! for my annual domain name fee, a charge which was more than 4 times what it should have been. I've used them for years for simple forwarding so that my domain name goes straight to my Etsy store. When I tried to track down what had happened, according to their information online, my account is not associated with any services at all. No forwarding, no nothing. Hmmm. I most definitely did NOT authorize this charge, nor did I change my service with them.
In fact, I'd planned to cancel this domain altogether, given how all the CPSIA stuff has played out. I was simply waiting for the annual email from them telling me that it was time to renew. But that email never arrived.... and I lost track of time to realize that it would be time to renew. Since I couldn't figure it out online, I called. Even though I was still solo with the kids.
After being on hold for more than AN HOUR AND A HALF with their customer service number, holding just to talk to somebody, I was disconnected! Gaaaah!
I think there's a special place in purgatory for those folks who devised the automated phone systems, with their muzak and false assurances of how important your business is to them. Not to mention the business practices that lead to wait times like this in the first place.... if there's any justice, the suffering associated with this particular place will involve being on hold, indefinitely, while caring for small children. Bonus points if one of them is potty training and the soul in question has to wipe a toddler's poopy butt while cradling the phone between ear and shoulder.
I don't know if I was disconnected because of their system or if my phone's battery went out or what. These are new phones (thanks, Nana J!) so at least I know the batteries are better than they used to be. Before the new set, we couldn't be on the phone for more than 15 minutes at a time without the likelihood of hanging up on somebody. (Ah the joy of cordless....) Thinking about it now, however, I'm not entirely sure if this is a good thing or not: perhaps it would have been better, in the long run, if the new phones hadn't allowed me to waste so much time on hold....
Are we close to Australia yet? Even with this, though, things aren't as awful as they might be. I admit it was fairly amusing to have the kids asking, repeatedly, "Are you still trying to talk to Yahoo, Mommy?" (OK, it was less funny the 20th time, but still.) After dinner, I called up the credit card company -- no hold time! score! -- and told them what was going on. They were very polite and helpful, told me that I should dispute the charge, and explained what is involved in that. Doesn't sound like a big deal. I am going to try one more time, early tomorrow morning, to get hold of Yahoo! directly and see if they can solve this mess. But one way or another it looks like it should work out. We'll see.
5. To top it off, our cat has resumed his peeing. Socks did a number on BJ's blankets this weekend, leading to a whole round of washing and rewashing to remove the odor. Then, tonight as I was tucking BJ in for the night, I discovered that Socks had again pissed all over the bed.
The good news there? Somehow the urine avoided all of the beloved stuffed animal friends. Twice. Blankets can be washed. And I suppose it's good news that Socks is even here with us still, cat piss and all. I will remind myself, again, that this is the cat who was given 6 weeks to live almost 2 years ago. I think he's just mad because S has been so busy and doesn't have as much time to love on "his" cat -- Socks is definitely his guy. Would be nice if he could show his affection/annoyance in some less stinky manner, though.
Cat piss, telephone hell, rotten poultry, rainy weather, sleep deprivation. (Did I mention the sleep deprivation? I'm going to bed, like, NOW. Seriously.) I'd say that qualifies for a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day.
But would you believe that I'm actually feeling fairly good at the moment? Pleased with myself and with the world. In spite of it all, it's really not so bad. And it will be so much better after a good night's sleep. Or even a night's sleep. I'll take what I can get!
Saturday, February 21, 2009
Or this for the photographer in your life (I immediately thought of my dad!)
And of course my regular readers won't be surprised that I'm a fan of these buttons:
And of course, being an Etsyblogger, she also has a great blog: http://ddpool.blogspot.com/
Congratulations, Donna Pool, this month's featured Etsyblogger! I loved checking out your shop.
This was a hard question to answer -- there are so many unique, beautiful, creative items on Etsy. But as I thought of it, I remembered one of the very first "favorites" I marked, back in 2006! Booklaces by JOYouz.
These little works of art are calligraphy booklet pendants. Aren't they charming? I don't have the skills to make these, but I sure wish I did! They were one of the very first Etsy items to really get my attention, and it's surprising that I haven't yet splurged on one for myself. But I have a good reason: I've been in breastfeeding jewelry land for the past four years! We're just now emerging from that, now that the kids are old enough to know to be gentle with Mommy's jewelry, so I may have to get one soon to celebrate.
Thanks to Stormy Designs for hosting the carnival and giving such a great prompt! I look forward to discovering lots of wonderful items as I read through the other carnival posts!
The kids and I had a great time making Angel Food Cake this morning. I generally like to make things from scratch, but using a mix for Angel Food definitely has its advantages: among them, the fact that you can lick up the leftover batter without fear of salmonella from raw eggs! It was the first time the kids had the joy of licking batter from a beater, and they enjoyed it to the fullest.
I love this shot -- she looks like she's thinking, "Hmmm. Wonder if his is better than mine?"
But she was pretty pleased with her portion, all told.
After we got all sticky, I cleaned up the kids and even dressed them up a little. (Thanks to Giki and Pop-Pop for the adorable Gymboree outfits!)
ALL BY HIMSELF, he wrote "DAD" on the front,
and ALL BY HIMSELF on the inside he wrote his name and "I love you." Granted, the "I love you" is much less legible, but he did pretty darned good on the rest!
On the back, he drew a picture, "Of Daddy when he was a very little kid." (Perhaps a fertilized egg???)
At his request, my gift to S was the first season of The Tudors on DVD. Watching stuff together is one of his favorite things for us to do, but it isn't always mine (not too surprising given my TV snobbery) so as part of the gift I consented to watch it with him. We've seen the opening episode, and I'm not yet persuaded that it will be excellent -- among other things, I've heard that the history is a bit sketchy -- but it's entertaining enough so far. (At any rate, I'd rather watch this with him than episodes of obscure anime! Sorry S!)
Hard to believe my guy is closer to 40 than 30 (and I'll be right behind him...) but here's to many happy returns of the day. I love you, birthday boy!
Friday, February 20, 2009
Wednesday, February 18, 2009
And there I'd been thinking I wouldn't break down entirely....
I gave him a big hug, gave in to the moment's emotion, and reassured him that I was fine. "I'm just a little sad because I'm missing my Mom and Dad, your Giki and Pop-pop."
Both the kids were incredibly sweet, giving me big hugs. "It's okay," Benji told me. "You'll see them maybe in November."
Later, at the grocery store, we were standing in line to check out. Unprompted and out of the blue, Benji turned to me and said, "Don't worry, Mom. You still have your husband."
True, that! And thank heavens for it. But it's still a little lonesome around here today.
Monday, February 16, 2009
Here's a bit of what we've been up to:
- Sorting through 3 years worth of kids' clothes. The kids' closet had become impossible, full of bags and boxes of clothes that they had outgrown. We hadn't gotten rid of anything since I passed along some baby girl items to my sister more than a year ago! (And before that, nothing -- just letting it pile up! Yikes!) With my mom's help, we sorted through everything, ending up with 9 bags of boy's clothes and almost as many bags of girl's clothes (I lost count and the girl bags are piled up in the closet; no way am I going in there and waking them up for such a detail!)
Pile A, bags of boy's clothes. Passed everything along to A for her little one on the way -- was so happy to be giving it to someone who could use it! The girl's clothes will be going to my friend T very soon. Whew!
Here's what it looked like about halfway through .... all those shopping bags used to be filled and stacked precariously in the closet!
- Preparing for Valentine's Day. We cooked several dozen gingerbread heart cookies (some to give away at BJ's preschool, most to keep here at home since there are one of S's favorites)
We also made a bunch of cards. He needed 16 for his classmates, so I made 26. I know, I know. But he did end up giving away several more beyond the 16, to his teachers and (naturally) to his beloved J.
It was a fun project: I cut fabric hearts out of my scrap stash, and we used paintbrushes to apply Elmer's glue to everything, making little collages on construction paper.
I then wrote "Happy Valentine's Day" inside on every card but one. BJ insisted that one of the cards for one of his teachers should say, "Do you like chasing kids?" (Apparently, one of the assistant teachers, a student at the college, likes to play tag with the kids. BJ isn't entirely sure he approves of this.)
- Recycling! We donated our old TV, broken DVD player, and kaput window AC unit to a local electronics recycling drive, benefiting the Ainsley House in Campbell. I was SO glad to get those out of the way and to do something good at the same time!
- Gardening! In between the rain storms, Mom and I have been hard at work in the front yard, which needed it sorely. It isn't quite the right time of year, I'm afraid, but if it didn't happen now it just wasn't going to happen. Weeding out oxalis (again....) planting bulbs (a dozen agapanthus and calla lillies, and over 100 gladiolus) and seeds (poppies and sweet peas), digging out four nasty rose bushes that had seen better days (one of which must have been almost as old as the house, given the size of the root ball) and removing several dying lavender bushes. Laid down a bunch of mulch Still haven't figured out what to do with the bed right in front of the house, but it looks a sight better out there.
- Remembering what it's like to be grown ups! S and I had our first real date night in a looooong time. We did what used to be our favorite cheap date: slices at Pizza My Heart and a double feature at the Stanford Theater.
We saw two fun but bizarre WWII flicks: "The Major and the Minor" and "Miracle at Morgan's Creek." In between the movies, listening to the organ (they have a live organist! is that cool or what?) we said to each other, "So this is what it's like to be grown ups?" I think we'd almost forgotten.
- Laughing! Lots of laughter, for mostly silly reasons: watching the kids run around, remembering funny family moments and inside jokes, teasing each other.... Giggling at BB's repeated insistence on showing my parents their picture from the refrigerator each time they arrive at the front door. Accompanied by her observation that my mom is "squinting in the sun." Or chuckling at BJ as he asks another stumper, "Are the stars infinity?'
Among other noteworthy amusing moments: BB's announcement to my mom: "I'm not having trouble with you any more, Giki!" (This from the kid who has had a bit of difficulty warming up to my mom; she's definitely been partial to my dad on previous visits.) And sure enough, she's definitely been more friendly this time around. Very nice to see.
- And on top of that, the usual cooking, cleaning, shopping, washing dishes, doing laundry.... the stuff that has to happen with a household full of folks!
All in all, it's been balm to the heart and salve to the soul to have my family here with us. (And not just because they work so hard to help out!) It is always a joy to have them visit, and as the kids get older that's even more so. We will miss them terribly when they leave on Wednesday. I'm choked up already, just thinking about it.
Saturday, February 14, 2009
Yesterday morning, I took BJ to his preschool's Valentine's Day party. He got all dressed up, which is a rare occurrence for him. When we were done buttoning up his shirt, he asked me, "Do I look like Daddy?"
At the party, he handed out the cards and cookies that we'd made:
Then he "cooked" pizza with his friends (pizza sauce and mozzarella on english muffins), and had a great time finding "treasures" left by the Valentine's Day fairy.
This was a brilliant notion: his teacher had sprinkled holiday confetti all over the classroom and given each child a red envelope to collect the little shiny bits. The kids were delighted, hunting for tiny hearts and cupids. Apparently, she does this for every holiday party, and it's always a hit. I complimented her on it, and she said that by the end of the day there won't be a bit of confetti left in the room. "Great for fine motor skills, too," she pointed out. Quite right!
Today, we exchanged cards with family. Such fun to have Pop-Pop and Giki with us to share the love.
S had me laughing when he wrote in my card that I would always be his "First Shark" -- a reference to BJ's first love, little J. As we were leaving the preschool party, BJ insisted on leaving a valentine for J, so we stopped by her classroom and asked to put one in her box (she was busy with storytime) which satisfied him greatly. "And when I see her on Tuesday, maybe I will tell her I love her!" he announced as we were getting into the car. It's all very sweet.
Hope you had a lot of love in your life today! I sure did!
Tuesday, February 10, 2009
ANYway. Here are some of my favorites from the past week or so.
BB and Lil' B playing in the backyard (I especially love their expressions!)
Visiting the Monterey Bay Aquarium:
When we'd mentioned we were going to visit the aquarium, BB announced that she was going to "touch the starfish." And when we arrived, the first thing she wanted to do was head to the touch pools. She loved them!
Before we got to the aquarium, BJ asked, "Is there going to be a menu?"
It took me a few moments, but I finally figured out that he was asking about the lists and descriptions that are posted, naming the aquatic animals in each of the tanks. He loves these lists!
Only thing that would have made him happier: seeing a triops or a tripod fish. Ah well, can't have everything!
BJ wanted to bring his "camera" (the magnetic mirror we keep on the fridge; it's actually a locker mirror, I think!) and he got a kick out of using it to "take pictures" by looking at reflections in the mirror.
BB really has a soft spot for her uncle R!
We had great fun visiting Vasona Park one morning, watching the birds and playing together.
We visited the Children's Discovery Museum:
We visited our favorite local park:
BB giving Lil' B a flower
It's such fun to share mommy-dom with my sister! She's a great Mom. (And of course we had a wonderful model in our own mother....) I miss them all sorely already. My parents will be with us for a bit longer, which is lovely, but it was extra-special to have everybody here at the same time. A rare treat, that, and I'm so grateful for the time we had together.