Wednesday, June 30, 2010

This Never Happens When You Are "The Responsible Girl"

Ellen is headed to the beach for a couple of days with Monkey Boy and another kid. She offered to take Ada, which would be great except that Ada has a dental appointment on Friday morning. And then I thought: why don't I meet them there late Wednesday, work from the beach on Thursday and drive Ada home that night? Because, why not?

Why not: it is a shlep for one night, I have a ton of work to do and deadlines looming and and and. But wait, there is wi-fi at the beach house! Chris agreed that it was a good idea and that he'd be fine soloing with Ian and Mira. Well, that's settled then.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Birthday Treasure Hunt

When Chris was a kid, his parents created treasure hunts for birthdays. He fondly remembers these hunts, which ended with finding his birthday gifts, and wanted to do something similar for Ada. She is now old enough to enjoy this kind of game, but as she does not yet read Chris came up with the idea of photographic clues. I snapped a bunch of pictures and we printed them out and hid them around the house the night before her birthday. On Sunday morning I ran outside in my pajamas to hide the presents, and then we told Ada to look around the living room for something that looked out of place. We told her that when she found it she'd have her first clue in her treasure hunt. She quickly located this photo:

treasure hunt, clue #1

That led her to this:
treasure hunt, clue #2
which she identified as magnets on our (metal) back door and which led her to:
 treasure hunt, clue #3

the shoe basket outside the front door, which took her to:
treasure hunt, clue #4

an old Ikea cd shelf (empty as a baby-proofing measure). This one was a little tricky, but eventually she figured it out and found this inside:
treasure hunt, clue #5

An even older Ikea box with finger holes. And on to:
treasure hunt, clue #6

...our refrigerator. Though she easily identified the fridge, finding the next photo inside proved somewhat difficult. It was too close to her face, in the door of the fridge.
treasure hunt, clue #7

Next was a plastic basket with art supplies in it. The photo inside took her to:
treasure hunt, clue #8

A baby toy, which led her to:
treasure hunt, clue #9

The recycling container. This one was pretty hard. We spent some time talking about things that were blue and plastic in our house. Eventually that led us to the recycling, which contained a picture of:
treasure hunt, clue #10

A drawer pull. This was a little tricky, because we've actually been keeping these drawers in the closet because Ian and Mira were pulling them out and we were a little afraid they'd hurt themselves when they eventually dropped on their feet. (We put the drawer back for the hunt.)

Inside the drawer was the last clue:
fairy dress at the window

A photo from Ada's third birthday party. It features her playhouse, so we ran outside and she found her presents inside the little house. We took them back in, where she opened up some gifts from Chris and me, along with an amazing knit crown from our pal Stephanie. Ada wore the crown all day, but somehow I managed not to get a picture of her. For once I put the camera down and just enjoyed the day. I think the trade off was worth it.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Cake, From Planning Through Execution

You may remember that Ada had a plan for her cake. No? This is the plan:

Plan for a 5th Birthday Cake

On Saturday Ada and my mom baked the cake (white). While Ada was at a friend's birthday party, my mom made the frosting (white). On Sunday morning Ada and I mad the icing (green, red and yellow) and decorated the horn cones.


The so-so execution is mine, but the direction was all Ada's. She decided what colors, what icing tips, what designs to make on the cones.

Cake with candles

Ada asked her pal Lila to blow out the candles, which she did (with a little help from Monkey Boy). The kids appeared to like the cake, and Ada was happy with the way it turned out. So, yay! (happy birthday to Ada!)

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Sometimes it all feels like too much

But not tonight.

Today I got up early with Ian. I worked all day, productively. I biked home to find my family playing with chalk in front of our house. We chatted with neighbors and then came inside to get dinner ready. Our good friend Juniper arrived to help make and eat dinner. We laughed with the babies, joked with Ada, caught ourselves up on the happenings of our lives. We ate, put Ian and Mira to bed, and got Ada bathed and in her room. We drank Chris's wonderful Manhattans. We talked more, and made plans to go camping late in the summer. We cleaned up and then said good night to Juniper. We cleaned the rest of the dishes and picked up the house, and then sat down to rest and enjoy a little quiet before bed.

It was perfect and I feel so lucky to be who I am, where I am.

Random Quote and Unrelated Photo of the Week

June 13: Black Bike For Sale

Fucking magnets. How do they work?

Insane Clown Possse

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

not to mention I am bad at taking a compliment

Last month I got to meet the charming Jennifer of under the ponderosas, who was in town for a conference. In the course of our conversation, she complimented my photography and I immediately tried to deflect.

Why is it so hard to take a compliment, to just say thanks and move on? Even if I don't think I deserve a complement, shouldn't I be gracious enough to just say thank you?

Monday, June 21, 2010

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Negotiation (Birthday Edition)

Negotiation: Birthday Party Guests
A couple of months ago, Ada decided she only wanted one friend at her birthday party. Ada is completely in love with her friend Amelia, so it is not surprising that she'd make this declaration. And though it is a little surprising that she'd ask for a one-guest party, it is consistent with Ada's general discomfort with big social events. (One year she did not want to come out of our house for the block party, despite the fact that she'd been talking about the party nonstop for several days. It took her a good half hour to decide that the people she knew and liked individually were acceptable as a large-ish group.)

At first I was thrilled by the idea of a one-kid party. So much easier! So much less mess, organization, potential for someone to feel left out! But then Ada started getting invited to her good friends' birthdays (which somehow seem to be mostly in the spring and summer - maybe there is more to this astrology thing than I'd thought...). So, as any mother might, I started to think that we should invite Ada's other friends out of a reciprocal invitation obligation. Ada disagreed, but then I pulled out the big guns. If you only have one guest, you'll only get one present. Invite more people, and more presents follow. I kind of hated to say this, as the idea of making a birthday just about more! More! MORE! is gross, and a lot of people in our friendship circle explicitly discourage gifting for their kids' birthdays. But the argument worked, or at least Ada eventually relented and invitations were sent out to the seven kids Ada likes the best. Even better, two of them will be out of town, which brings us down to five guests. This feels completely manageable and is even more appealing because it conforms to my mother's birthday invite guideline: the number of guests = the age of the kid having the party (or maybe not equals, but is no more than the kid's age).

Negotiation: Cake 
Last year Ada decided she wanted a strawberry-raspberry-cherry cake. Ian and Mira had arrived the month before and our family energy-level for big baking projects was pretty low. Luckily Maggie sent us a recipe to use as a starting point and our good friend Stephanie make the cake for us. It was delicious (and oh-so-pink).


This year Ada asked for a unicorn cake. Thinking this meant something like this or this, I agreed. Unfortunately, Ada meant something more like this. We talked about it a bit and I tried to play up the idea of making a unicorn's horn out of sugar cone. She was taken enough with the idea that she agreed to put aside the 3D unicorn in exchange for a cake with multiple horns. In fact, Ada decided that instead of a unicorn cake she wanted an all-horn cake. We even sketched it out:

Plan for a 5th Birthday Cake

At least one horn per guest, maybe more. 

Negotiation: Presents
I asked Ada what she would like for her birthday. She thought for a moment before coming up with "a baby cradle." We talk about; I mention that she already has a doll bed. She counters that it doesn't rock. I mention that she doesn't really play with dolls a lot right now. She insists that she really wants a cradle.

We talk about it a couple more times, without any change in our respective positions. And then, after watching an episode of Angelina Ballerina, and says she would like ballet shoes and a dance dress. Green, like the character Alice wears.

"So, would you like this enough to trade the doll cradle?"

"Yes, I really want the ballet clothes."


Of course, it took me a few hours before I realized that Ada probably wanted toe shoes. I brought this up with her, saying that toe shoes are only for kids who have studied dance for years and years. She dissolved into tears. The issue was unresolved when Ada went to bed, but in searching the web for dance clothes, I realized that Alice doesn't wear toe shoes! Hopefully this will solve the problem, and the stuff I ordered will be well received.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Sun, Sun, Sun, Here it Comes?

In an ongoing attempt to make sure Chris and I get to do fun things together (sometimes even without children!) I signed us up for a 30 mile bike ride. We considered taking Ada with us, but I decided I didn't want to pull her for 30 miles, and I guess Chris felt the same. So on Saturday we'll be cruising along scenic byways, enjoying the great outdoors with thousands of our closest friends other biking enthusiasts. The kids will be hanging out with their grandparents, who have let us know that they think they are getting the good end of the bargain. 

If the weather holds, this should be a great ride. The ride's web site promises the 30 mile course is "a very flat, scenic course that is a gorgeous way to get out and experience riding" in the country. (This is in contrast to the 60 and 100 mile courses, which are a bit hillier.) Did I mention if the weather holds this will be a lovely day? Because all month it has been raining and raining and raining here. The forecast shows a 60% chance of rain for Saturday. 

Guess we'll be packing some extra dry clothes for after the ride. At least there is beer at the end of the ride.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Monday, June 14, 2010

Cell Saga

Being a modern woman, you have all kinds of gadgets with all kinds of cords. And sometimes those cords get misplaced, moving them as you do from here to there and back again. So just say, in the wake of a fruitless house and office search for your phone charger, you decide that charging your phone in the car is not a long term solution. After doing some research you realize that now that there are iphones and blackberries and other smart phones in the world, you basically can not buy a good quality just-a-cell-phone phone. You pine a little for the nokia that was your first cell phone.

You are committed to getting a new phone, as your phone is literally falling apart (not to mention only chargeable in the car). Too bad your cellular company isn't offering any phones that aren't aimed at text-crazed teenagers or people afraid of technology. You think about it some more but aren't sure it is a financially good idea to leave your current plan, which is a very good deal of a family plan that you share with your "uses no more than 10 minutes a month and rarely even that" husband (I am not kidding, the man never uses his cell phone).

After looking at $450 smart phones, you realize that for what you want, an iphone is as good as the androids and others, and less spendy in terms of the phone purchase. Too bad the at&t reception is terrible at your house. But wait, your friend tells you about these little personal cell towers you can buy, for not too much money, which have done wonders for a neighbor's cell reception. So you reconsider the viability of an iphone.  (The friend also passes on rumors that your carrier will likely be the second company to offer legit iphone service, but he has no news regarding when exactly this might happen.)

But there is still the matter of your husband's phone. Will he limp along with his hated but almost never used phone and thus probably keep the same plan you've been on for several years? Will he get a pay-as-you-go-since-you-rarely-ever-go phone? And then it happens. Pulling the clothes out of the washing machine, you realize you've inadvertently washed his cell phone, rendering it, well, even more useless than it was when it sat uncharged and ignored in your husband's jacket pocket.

So I guess Chris needs a new phone. I need a new phone. Looks like we will be getting new phones.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

No wonder TV is so addictive, it's delicious!

Um, Mom

Ian: Um, Mom, did you notice Mira is licking the television?

Why are you so delicious?

Ian: Oh, it's so terrible I can't look. 

Tasty TV
Ian: Yeah, it still tastes gross, but maybe it is a pinata, and if we push it over we'll get prizes.

The photo is fuzzy because this is the point at which I decided to intervene, and Ian is making a break for it.

And yes, we own a television that is older than the ages of all my children combined, multiplied by 2. I bought it in 1993 after I finished college. This means it was me and all the 90 year olds complaining about having to get a converter in order to use the television after the digital switch went down. We'd get a new one, but that would just encourage us to watch television.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Random Quote and Unrelated Photo of the Week

That's Mr. Dirtbag 

I hate posses.

Charlie Prince
3:10 to Yuma

Tuesday, June 08, 2010

Blast from the Photo Past

A couple of months ago I started getting a semi-monthly email from Photojojo with photos I took a year ago. It combs through my flickr photos and randomly grabs year old pictures and sends them to me. I love this service (and it is free!)

Among the pictures I got last week is this:

Ian is in pink, Mira in stripes
Ian is in Pink, Mira in stripes
(There is nothing wrong with the color in this picture, they were just jaundiced.)

And this:
Worth Washing Their Hands For
Worth washing their hands for

It isn't perfect, which is to say Photojojo's time capsule doesn't read my mind and know that this and this are among my favorites.  But until psychic software is invented, I will remain a huge fan of this service.

Monday, June 07, 2010

Right Now

cribbed from under the ponderosas

Right now I am sitting on the couch, moving my foot around until it cracks.

Right now I am swatting at a mosquito that snuck into the house when the doors and windows were open to the warm weather earlier today.

Right now Chris is watching a basketball vlog and swatting the mosquito too.

Right now my children are asleep, no doubt figuring out how early they can wake me up without risking being left on the curb with the recycling.

Right now I am wondering where we hid the rest of that chocolate bar and whether we can break into the chocolate chips.

Right now I am trying to decide whether the game Plants vs. Zombies is the best thing ever or a horrible time suck. (Both, I think.)

Right now I am missing my sister, who must be in South Korea by now.

Right now I am considering asking Chris who is getting up with the babies, but I am afraid of the answer.

Sunday, June 06, 2010

They cry. They grow.

Ada's preschool teachers asked all the children a question each month and recorded their answers. The responses are included in the children's portfolios, folders that also contain drawings, project notes and other highlights from the year.  Reading through the answers, I was so charmed by the variety of answers. Here are my favorite responses to some of the monthly questions:

What will you do for Thanksgiving?

L: I love my teachers.
S: I think I'm gonna make birthday cakes and my Grandma is gonna come over for a sleepover and I think Jack and Owen and James are gonna have a sleepover and you can come too, but my mom has a very tall bed so I think you should sleep in it because my bed is just big enough for me and Charlotte and Evelyn.
L: I don't know yet. I think we're gonna go over to my Papa's house and have a little malt-o-meal, we might do that.

What do you know about babies?

A: That they love to do dangerous things like play with electricity.
J: I know 2 things about babies: they have umbilical cords and they also like to swallow marbles.
M: My baby was sleeping on mine head.
M: They cry.
L: They grow.

What was your favorite gift you gave? 

E: I had a cardboard picture to give to Grandma but I missed out because I didn't do that.
Ada: I made a present for Lila. I gave her some of my toys.
S: I gave my mom's mom some pictures in a box and we wrapped it up in wrapping paper to make it look pretty - of Christmas trees. The only picture I can remember is of a smiling robot.

What was your favorite gift you received?

F: I got a tape dispenser and I got a wind-up truck with no body, just wheels and a mouth and a fin sticking up. And I got something that you fold inside out, you drop down and it comes outside in, but you have to fold it inside out first.
L: I got Belle princess and Barbie and I got this princess that puts her legs in the air.
Ada: I got two favorite presents, a pirate ship and a bike with training wheels.

What is something that makes you feel afraid?

A: Lions.
A: Chickens.
Ada: Being lost.
A: Black widows and dinosaurs, giant dinosaurs that are bigger than the whole world.
D: Big shadows, I mean trees.
S: When all of these people, my friends, said they would put me in the hole we dug and they would dig it really deep and there would be hot lava.
S: I'm afraid of, and glass, cause if it breaks you get your foot cut, that's why I'm scared.

What do you want to be when you grow up?

D: A baker.
J: I don't know. I think the thing I would do best would be police. It sounds fun.
A: I'm gonna be a daddy when I grow up. I also want to be a guy that races in a race car on a race track and I want the number on the car to be 200.
A: I want to be nothing. I will just play.
Ada: A mermaid.
M: A butterfly.
F: A paleontologist.
C: I want to take care of my neighbor's dog.
L: A gummy person that eats all the gum.

What's your favorite kind of pie?

B: Raspberry, pear, strawberry pie.
L: Futon pie. It has nuts in it.
L: Strawberry shortcake.
J: My mom and dad don't know any recipes for pies and I've never had pie.
A: I don't have a favorite. I think it will be strawberry.

What signs of spring do you see in the world?
M: If spring is coming it will be pink and purple with butterflies.
A: I saw pink blossoms when I was going to swim lessons and I have a little pink plant.
M: When I wake up from wake up time and it feels like spring, I smell popsicles.

What is your favorite thing about the Earth?

J: Cause all my friends are on Earth.
A: That I can see stars.
L: I love the tomatoes on Earth.
M: That I want to go in rockets.
L: That there can be different weather in each state.
Ada: My mom gets to have babies.

Thursday, June 03, 2010

Not Like the First Time

Ada was, and remains, a parent-focused kid. She was one of those babies who is happiest sitting in her mother's lap. And despite the fact that she has always been a strong-willed person, as a baby she was also pretty happy to listen to us. Mom says don't got up the stairs? Okay. Dad says don't pull down the books? Sure. She was just not a destroyer and did not feel the need to investigate every nook and cranny of our house.

Unlike Ada, Ian wants into everything and is not happy to be redirected or diverted from his investigations. Until we got a gate, he spent a solid week trying to get up the stairs (over and over and over again). Even now he often stands at the bottom of the stairs shaking the gate, venting his frustration with its existence. He has lately been interested in getting to the built-in window bench in our living room. We have tried to keep him away, as the bench has a printer on it, along with Chris' lap top and a mess of cords. Today while I was at work Ian spent considerable effort to get to the bench, finally figuring out how to move the ottoman out of the way. In response, Chris wedged the ottoman between the couch and the coffee table. Undeterred, Ian skirted the ottoman by climbing up onto the couch. Chris relented, and after moving the computer let Ian get to his goal. Chris reported that Ian just stood there looking thrilled, and eventually moved on.

So maybe that is lesson number one for us with Ian. If we let him go where he wants to go, he'll be satisfied and then move on. Unfortunately the same can not be said for Mira, who followed her brother to the built in and immediately began banging on the printer.

Tuesday, June 01, 2010

Princess Process

The other day after dinner Ada and I were outside drawing with chalk. She told me to make a queen while she made a princess. Her princess started out fairly simply:

Princess - 1

But as with most things, the original "finished" product was deemed in need of some tweaking.


I understand the addition of a crown. (By Ada's thinking, it isn't even really a princess at all if there is no crown.) The bumps, which may be six toes but are more likely bumps on the bottom of the shoe, make less sense to me.


We had been talking about someone we knew who had freckles, so the princess got some too.


The final product, with freckles, a spotted dress and a bouncy floor on which to walk. Not sure if the latter is completely wise, given the high heels. The heels, by the way, are mandatory for Ada-created royalty. All her princesses get them, and when I failed to put heels on my chalk queen, she came over and added them for me. It made all the difference.

Purple Prose (and Photos)

Purple collage

This month Ada started to help me look for purple subjects. Having her help was fun; it turned walks into treasure hunts. The one down-side is that once I have taken a picture of a certain type of flower (this month, various irises) she tells me that I can't shoot it because I have already done it. It doesn't matter to her that last time I shot a bearded iris and now we are facing a naturalized iris. I am impressed that she knows that the different flowers are related, but it is funny to have a 3 foot tall art director.

The full May set is here. June's color is Black. That should be interesting.