Friday, December 14, 2012

Counting my Blessings

I probably shouldn't be blogging right now. I should probably wait until tomorrow when I'm less emotional, less distraught over the events of the day, when there is less of an ache in my heart, but I'm not sure I'll feel any different tomorrow or the next day. So, I might as well try to get my feelings out, and I apologize to all of you if this ends up being a rambling mess of snot and keystrokes...

Today is a day I will never forget. I have lived through 9/11, a ten-year war that my husband fought in, and countless other acts of violence both in the U.S. and abroad, but today is still a day I will never forget. Today, twenty children were murdered along with six teachers by a man with so much anger in his heart he couldn't contain it. It happened at an elementary school at 9:30 this morning, while I was teaching my own set of students just a few miles away. We were talking about All Quiet on the Western Front, and how the war forces Paul to lose his innocence before he is ready. At that moment eighteen children lost their lives, and the rest of the children in that school, the ones hearing the gunshots and the screams, they lost something else too. They lost that precious, fleeting time that allows you to believe the world is good and pure and that bad things don't happen to good people.

I've been sad about a lot of things today. I'm sad about all those families that were destroyed in an instant. I'm sad that one man has the power to end that much life. And I'm sad for all those children who will be afraid to go back to school, who won't want to go to bed tonight, who will ask what happened to their friends. And I feel sad for the parents who will have to figure out how to explain the unexplainable to a six-year-old. What do you say to your child when you can't understand it yourself?

Ever since I heard the news this morning, I've been dying to get to Ella, to hold her in my arms, and I thought about all the times she's driven me crazy in the morning and how we've argued over getting dressed or brushing her hair. I thought about all these little kids and how their parents never could have known that this was the last morning they'd ever put their children's coats on or pack their lunches, or send them off to school with an "I love you."

We all know that these moments with our children are precious, but we are human and the rigors of our daily lives can get in the way of remembering. We cannot spend every moment appreciating our lives, but then, something like this happens. A parent's worst nightmare happens to someone else, and it serves as a wake-up call to you, and you remember that precious, delicate thing in the other room, that thing that drives you crazy, but also turns the very wheels that make your heart work.

I know this is all so overly sentimental, and if a student handed this in as an essay, that's just what I'd tell her, but that doesn't matter today. Today I love my little girl in all the most cliche ways. Today I am a mother more than anything else. Today I am counting my blessings like never before. Today my words are not original, but I feel them more truly than ever.

All my thoughts and prayers are with the families suffering tonight. May you find solace in eachother's arms and know that this corner of the world is dreaming of you.

Friday, November 30, 2012

Ella B Babysitting Survival Guide



Our friends are babysitting tomorrow night, and this is the list I compiled for them today. I didn't realize how insane we are until I finished writing it:
Ella B Babysitting Survival Guide

Here is your mission should you choose to accept it:

1.       Please feed the child dinner around 5-5:30. I have placed a box of macaroni and cheese on the counter. I would make her that, but if she refuses to eat it, she can also have hummus (straight up with a spoon), string cheese, a cheesy roll-up (slightly melted cheese in a tortilla), or basically whatever else you can get her to eat. Tell her she can only have a Popsicle or other treat if she eats dinner first. Have her sit at her table in the living room, and turn the TV so she can see it (Yes- I am aware that this is ridiculous. Thank you).
2.       Bring her upstairs around 6:15 and stop acting crazy! Transition into quiet time so she can wind down.
3.       Her pajamas, nighttime diaper, lotion, cream, and hairbrush are on our bed. You’ll need to set up her bed after she destroyed it during nap time. She will show you how it goes. She might ask you to face her pillow and everything else in the opposite direction. That’s fine. You’ll need to get a bottle ready. I left one for you on the counter. Fill it with 1% milk and heat it in the microwave for 20 seconds.   
4.       (If you decide to give her a bath) The water is temperature controlled, so it can’t get too hot. Turn it up all the way and fill the tub.
5.       You’ll have to chase her to get her clothes off and get her in the tub. Tell her, “Fine. I’m going to take a bath. Don’t come in the bathroom!”  and she will follow you in. Try to get her to pee on the potty before she gets in the tub, but if she says no, don’t make a big deal of it. Sometimes she likes to “pee like a boy" and face the other direction. That’s fine. I’m assuming you know how to give a bath, so I’ll leave the specifics out.
6.       After her bath, lotion her, brush her hair, put her diaper/cream, and jammies on. Ask her if she wants to watch a show or read a book before bed. She will probably say, “Watch a show.” Lie down with her and give her a bottle. When she’s done, brush her teeth, then let her brush her own teeth, and give her a sip of water. She’ll say she wants to watch another show, but don’t let her.  Let her press the button to turn off the TV.
7.       Bring her in her room and let her turn on her humidifier. Try to avoid letting her stall too much. Don’t turn on the lights. Keep it quiet. No goofiness. Give her three hugs and kisses. If she asks for a wipe to hold, that’s fine. If she asks for a band aid, she can have one. If she wants her hair in a ponytail, that’s fine. She’ll come up with as many things as possible to keep you in there, try to leave within five minutes. Leave the hall and bathroom lights on and ask her how much she wants her door open. She will make you adjust it several times. Ask her if she wants you to blow kisses to her on the way downstairs. Keep blowing them until you get to the bottom. Then say goodnight. She will ask you a few questions once you’re downstairs. Answer them from the bottom, and try not to go back upstairs. Answer and then say, “Okay, I have to go do my work now. I love you, goodnight.” You may have to just cut her off at some point.
8.       Close the French doors so she can’t hear you.
9.       At this point, try not to judge us too much.
10.  Dinner, dessert, and wine have been provided.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Be the Bigger B

I got some parenting advice after school today from a former teacher and current colleague of mine. He was talking about the difficulties of having a thirteen-year-old daughter and how much attitude and sass gets tossed around his house on the regular, and how he has to put the kibosh on it almost everyday. I said that I feel like Ella already has thirteen-year-old attitude, and I'm a little afraid of how much worse it can get.

Her newest thing is when she tells me something and if I say, "What?" she gets all upset and says, "I already telled you!" and refuses to repeat herself.

I was telling my colleague about how she refuses to sit at the table at dinnertime and will only eat sitting on the living room floor, or how she has to approve her outfit choices in the morning, or how every night we have to close her door the perfect amount- not too much, not too little, and how when we leave, we have to blow her kisses all the way downstairs. Sometimes we are allowed to use our hands to blow kisses, and sometimes we have to do it with just our lips.

Believe me, I know what you're thinking, but the truth is that these things just develop somehow. Kids are smart. They push you little by little, until one day you find yourself feeding a two-and-a-half year old a Popsicle on the couch.

I explained to my colleague that Ella is a lot of wonderful things, but she can also be a brat. If we went to high school together, she would have been that tough, pretty girl I was kind of afraid of. She might have been Parker Posey's character in Dazed and Confused, or Regina from Mean Girls. Okay, maybe she's more like Hermione Granger or Ferris Bueller's girlfriend, but still, she's an alpha female. She's Daphne, and I'm Velma. She's Kelly Taylor and I'm Brenda Walsh (Though in real life I think she'd be Shannen Doherty- that girl is scary).

The point is that sometimes Miss Ella B is kind of a bitch, a way better bitch than I am, to which my learned colleague replied, "Then you need to be a bigger bitch."

I realized in that moment that this is some of the best advice I've ever gotten. This light bulb went off in my head about what I need to do to reign this girl in. I have to learn how to be the bigger bitch. But realization is not enough here. I have to actually do it. I'm not sure how that's going to look yet, but I wanted to let you guys know that I'm going to work on it and see what I come up with. Stayed tuned for updates on my bitchiness. 

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Elf on the Shelf: Creepy or Cool?


So we've started the Elf on the Shelf tradition for the first time. For those of you who don't know, the elf on the shelf is a manipulation tool to keep your kids from misbehaving...I mean, a cute holiday tradition to last throughout the years!

Basically, you read this story called The Elf on the Shelf and it explains how this elf will come to your house and watch you and then report back to Santa every night about whether you were naughty or nice. Each morning he flies back and reappears in a different part of your house.When you first see him, you have to give him a name, and you can never touch him or his magic will disappear.

So, we read the book, and then Mike and I chose a place to hide the Elf after Ella went to sleep. The next morning I said to her, "Let's go see where the elf is hiding!" to which she replied, "Does he have really sharp teeth?!"

When we found him, she asked if she could wave to him. I said yes, and then she said, "He's not waving back," all annoyed. She also wanted to know why he didn't talk or walk or move. She even made a creepy smiley face like the elf and said, "Why he go like this?"

When all the questions were over, I told her we had to give him a name.

"What do you want to name him, El?"
"Um...chair."
"Chair?"
"Yeah, chair."
"Well, chair's not really a name, buddy. What about something like Pedro?"
"No, his name's chair."
"Okay."

Luckily, she kind of forgot about the whole "chair" thing and ever since he has just been "elf." Most of the time, I think she knows he isn't real, but if I say, "Wait until I tell Chair what you did!" she just about loses it. "No, Mommy! Don't tell him!"

So, yeah. That's a thing that's going on in our house.


Monday, November 26, 2012

Priceless

One Kindle Fire...$199.99

Watching a two-year-old teach her grandmother how to play Angry Birds...priceless


Sunday, November 25, 2012

Thankful Tree


This year we decided to create a thankful tree that everyone in the house could add a "thankful" leaf to. Some people wrote funny things like, "The Walking Dead," and others wrote more serious notes like "I am thankful for my girlfriends and the men who love them" (my favorite by far written by my girlfriend Alex after an amazing old-school friend brunch). Nathan asked Ella what she was thankful for, and it was adorable watching him try to explain the whole thing to her. How does a seven-year-old explain being thankful to a two-year-old? I guess the same way that anyone does, by telling her it means the things you are happy about. It got me thinking about how well Ella understands this idea. How thankful is she for all the things she has? I know there is so much in her life that she takes for granted, just as there is so much I take for granted in my own life.

One day a few weeks ago, she and I were leaving a store and I had her put a dollar in the Salvation Army can. She asked me why we did it and I tried to explain that other people don't have all the things we have.

"They don't have toys?" she said, incredulous.

"Nope. Some people don't have toys, or coats, or nice shoes, or anything."

"Why they don't have anything?"

"Because not everybody is lucky like us."

"Like us?"

"Yeah, some people don't have any nice things."

"Why don't they get them at the store?"

This went on for quite a while, and I did my best to explain the harsh realities of life to a two-year-old. I feel so lucky that having a difficult life is something I have to explain to her because she wouldn't otherwise know about hardship. I want her to appreciate the things she has, but how do you teach a child to appreciate? How can she "thank her lucky stars" unless she understands that others don't have any stars to wish on?

Of course I want her to be thankful, but I also want her to hold on to her innocence as long as possible. I want her to think that the world is full of rosebuds and lollipops for at least a few more years, and then, when she does learn the truth, I hope she'll be the kind of person who wants to do something about it. But the only way that will happen is if I show her that I'm that kind of person, in little ways everyday. Right now those tiny acts of kindness and giving might not mean anything to her, but someday, when she understands, hopefully it will have sunk in anyway. And then she'll know that being lucky is the kind of gift you are meant to give away.

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Thanksgiving 2012

Hey, so about that November blog challenge, well, the thing is...November is probably the worst month (other than December) to ask someone to commit to blogging every day. I was doing really well, and then this little thing called Thanksgiving came up in which I had to cook for twenty people, and then well, I just got a little busy. So, I'm trying to decide if the challenge is officially busted, or if I should start fresh today and finish out the rest of the month. I guess you'll find out tomorrow.

Anyway, we had a lovely Thanksgiving, but I was so busy with turkey cooking and gravy making and whatnot, that I didn't have any time to take pictures. We were lucky that it was one of those beautiful November days so after dinner the kids all went outside and my Aunt Kathy took a bunch of pictures, so we'll see how those turned out. Here is just a smattering of pics from our day. It was full of food, family, and fun. I hope you all have as much to be thankful for as we do.

Happy Thanksgiving!

A picture of a picture on the front porch- Ella and the boys

My sandwich-making helpers- Nathan and Jacob

My sweet potato cupcakes with salted caramel sauce and embellishments thanks to Amy Miller

Our thankful tree that everyone left a message on



Tuesday, November 20, 2012

S is for Sass


Here are a couple of quick Ella B-isms from this week. As far as I can tell, she put the "s" in sass.

Me: "If you're not going to finish that cupcake, bring it in here please."
Her: "No, I can't. I'm relaxing."

Me: "Can you please pick up those flashcards before we go?"
Her: "No, Mommy, but I can do it tomorrow, okay?"

Also, P.S., who doesn't finish a cupcake? Sometimes I'm really not sure she is my kid.

Monday, November 19, 2012

That little something special


Dear Ella,

This photograph is your most recent school picture. It will probably be that picture you put in the yearbook when you're 18, or it will be the one picture you like to show your boyfriends because it isn't embarrassing, and it shows that even at two years old, you weren't just cute, you were beautiful. I couldn't be more enamored with those sparkly eyes, that perfect smile, and those soft little cheeks, but those features are not what makes you beautiful.

There is a light in you, Ella. A light that shines so bright I am blinded, a light that sparkles and dazzles beyond what I could have ever imagined from my own child. You have this quality, the "It" factor that celebrities and politicians strive for because it makes the world fall in love with you.

I know this will sound absurd, but I feel like one of the reasons you were such a difficult baby was because you just had too much personality. You were ready to run and jump and laugh and entertain, and being a baby just didn't suit you. There has always been just too much life bursting out of you, and while this can sometimes be frustrating, I know it will serve you well in life.

I know that spark will give you the confidence to take the risks that will open up the whole world for you in a way I can only imagine. I'm so in awe of you Ella, of the fearless, confident, amazing little girl that I sometimes can't believe I created. I only hope that you never let the realities of this world take away that spark. I hope a little part of you will always remain the bright-eyed girl in this photograph, and that your light will only grow brighter.

I'll do my best to make that so.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Wordless Sunday: Full Punky Brewster


She insisted on every piece of this outfit including the striped leggings you can't see. Also, she wore an Easter basket as a hat at the grocery store today. Her father was thoroughly embarrassed.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Our little Helper

In preparation for "Thanksgiving Extravaganza Year Three" at our house on Thursday, Mike and I are frantically trying to clean the house this weekend. This means that a certain someone is either spending the weekend watching T.V. (don't judge us), or trying to "help" in her own special way.

She loves to think of herself as a helper, and often asks if she can "help" me make dinner, which usually translates into her eating a pile of shredded cheese while sitting on the island and mixing broccoli and uncooked rice in a bowl. Totally super helpful.

So we often try to divide and conquer when it comes to big projects we need to accomplish, meaning, one of us accomplishes the goal while the other distracts the child. I planned on taking Ella to the store this morning so Mike could clean, but she insisted on staying home with Daddy, so I wasn't sure how much he would be able to get done.

He said that she was fairly helpful. While cleaning the dresser, he kept handing her things to put away. She is good with a task like this. If you give her something and tell her where to put it, she will usually follow through, but eventually being a helper gets boring and the idea of "going camping" in her bedroom becomes much more appealing.

The same thing happened this afternoon while I was folding laundry. She came in and asked if she could help, so I asked her to find all the socks and to put them in a pile. She went about her job dutifully and when she'd found every last sock, she carried them into the livingroom leaving no sock behind, and I showed her how to match and fold them. She was very excited to find the matches and even made an attempt to actually fold them. I left her to her task, confident that she could complete it. By the time I got back to the laundry room, I could hear her laughing and telling Mike, "Daddy, these are my sock puppets." She ran into the laundry room sporting two different socks on her little hands. She was quacking like a duck, so I guess the sock puppets were ducks? I'm not too sure of the specifics, but, needless to say, the socks did not get folded.

Hopefully we will soon have a little girl who both likes the idea of being a helper and can actually be one.

Sidenote: I just wrote a blog post about folding socks. This is what happens when you challenge yourself to write one blog post every day for a month. Good God it's only November 17th. Pray for me.

Friday, November 16, 2012

Potty Training 2.5

So, remember way back in the beginning of the summer when I talked about how one of our big summer goals was to really work on this whole potty training thing? Yeah, well, we're still kind of working on it. Now I know that it's totally normal for a two-and-a-half-year-old to still be in diapers, but the problem is that being fully potty trained doesn't even look like it's on our horizon.

She knows how to pee in the potty, and if you take her diaper off and leave it off, nine times out of ten she will remember she has to pee and run to the bathroom like a good little girl. I have gotten so confident about this that I've even let her ride home from school with no diaper on (if I know she already pooped and she pees one second before we leave). She pees pretty regularly at school, and we've set up the whole sticker chart thing with the promise of some sort of prize when she fills it up.  She likes to go to the bathroom alone, and she also likes to "pee like a boy" meaning she turns around and sits facing the back of the potty. Whatever, it's fine.

The problem is, she's really just not that into it. She loves the idea of wearing underwear, and she's very pleased with herself when she goes on the potty, but for the most part, she seems fine with the idea of wearing diapers for the rest of her life. 

I was looking at a development chart the other day and noticed that it says that most girls are potty trained at around thirty months. I did the math on my hands and realized that means Ella, right now. I think a little bit of egotistical panic set in because although I've always complained about how difficult Ella is, I've also always praised how early she did everything. She crawled before she was six months, she walked before she was eleven months, and she's been speaking in full sentences for what seems like forever. I have always felt a little secret pleasure about how "advanced" she is, and that's why this whole potty training thing is such a blow to my parent ego. This is the first time she isn't "early" and at this rate, she not only won't be right on time, but she'll be the dreaded "late." I'm used to so many difficult things with Ella, but I'm not use to worrying about when she's going to reach a milestone.

I think the problem is that potty training requires cooperation. You can force your child to be sleep trained (with a lot of screaming), or to sit for time out (with more screaming), or to wear a coat when it's cold out (sort of), but there is no amount of bribing, pleading, yelling, or dancing that will make a child pee or poop on the potty if she doesn't want to. So I guess it makes sense that this is the developmental roadblock for us, because Miss Ella B understands that this is something she has control over, and this lady likes to be in control. 

So, we're working on it, but I know my little girl, and pushing the issue is not going to work with her. Perhaps the promise of a trip to the chicken nugget store or a new set of batteries for her flashlight will do the trick. She may be stubborn, but she's not made of stone.


Thursday, November 15, 2012

Fashionista

Here is little miss fashionista. Or at least that's what she'd like to think of herself as. Beezely McBeezlington has always been an opinionated girl to put it mildly. She likes to be in charge of everything: what she eats, whether or not I'm allowed to put her hair up, whether or not I'm allowed to sing in the car. You get the picture. Recently, this has extended into the realm of clothing. Now, this isn't an entirely new phenomenon. For about a year I've been required to offer her multiple outfit choices. "Do you want to wear this shirt, or this shirt?" And that was usually enough of a choice to keep her satisfied. But now that she is a bit older and can articulate herself a little better and remember what clothes exist beyond the choices I am presenting her with, she has all kinds of opinions about what she's going to wear. I introduce to you the dress-over-pants-with-mismatched-socks-I-look-like-the-random-kid-you-find-at-the-Phish-concert look.


The funniest part is that I actually brought her matching socks and she said, "No, I want different socks!" She also insists on wearing pants and pajamas that are too small for her even though they look extremely uncomfortable. I put an old pair of Elmo pajamas on her the other day that were bursting at the seams, and I swear she wore them just to spite me. She wants to wear a rain coat when it isn't raining, shorts in the winter, a sweater in summer, "Not that sweatshirt, Mommy!" God forbid that sweatshirt. You know, the only one she would wear last week.

Tonight she had to change her clothes for dinner with Grandpa. Her choice? Her super girl Halloween costume, of course.

Most of the time I really don't care, and I have honestly encouraged her to be a bit of a Punky Brewster, but I want her kooky outfits to look intentionally kooky. I don't, on the other hand, want her to look like her mother is a vagabond.

The head of our daycare, Kathy, was teasing me about her outfit the other day and then told me a story about her own daughter. She said her daughter insisted on wearing different shoes to school and would go around limping until Kathy finally just bought her several pairs of the same shoes in different colors. "You pick your battles," she said, "and different colored socks ain't worth fightin' over."

So if you see my kid walking down the street looking like a very small bag lady, know that I tried, and that, if she'd totally had her way, she'd probably be wearing just a tutu and rain boots.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

You're Sick

One of Ella's big things right now is playing doctor, and she will frequently tell us that we are sick and that she has to check us. We are made to lie down while she shines her flashlights in our mouths and takes our temperatures under our armpits. She has to cover us with blankets and she especially likes it if we moan and stick our tongues out. Mike was lucky enough to be the recipient of some good old fashioned doctoring the other day. I had gone to take a shower and when I got back I found this. Apparently, when you are sick you need to be covered in several blankets from head to toe as well as stuffed animals, flashcards, and even a "grooby grabber" as she calls it which is one of those mechanical arms. The future of healthcare in this country is definitely in trouble if Ella B gets her hands on it.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Daylight Savings and Losings

Daylight Savings is an ongoing argument in my house. Basically, I know that it's awesome because it means we all get to sleep in for an extra hour for the next six months, but my husband believes that it is only awesome for one day until we all adjust and don't notice the difference. I agree with him that we do eventually adjust (right around the time that we have to change the clocks again), but it doesn't happen overnight. I can look at the new numbers on the clock, but that doesn't mean that my body feels any different about the time. My body is smart. It knows what you did.

Well, apparently Ella's body is pretty smart, too, because it is not down with this whole daylight savings thing. When I said that daylight savings is awesome, I meant daylight savings was awesome before I had a child. Now, daylight savings means I'm getting up at the same time I used to, but I'm going to bed an hour later. Unfortunately, that's what Beezer is doing, too.

She has always gone to bed very early. We really cannot keep this girl up past seven o'clock or she turns into a gremlin after midnight. That means that we generally go upstairs at about 6:15 and she is in her crib by seven sharp. This is great for me because I can do all my grading at night. Unfortunately, it also means that she gets up between 5:30 and 6. Everyday. Including Saturday and Sunday. I have gotten fairly used to this, and pretty much go to bed early every night in anticipation of getting up at the crack of dawn. However, with the time change, I've been going to bed at the new 10:00 (the old 11:00), but still getting up at the old 6:00 (the new 5:00). I can't seem to get everything done by the old 9:00 (the new 10:00) because we're getting home an hour later than we use to, so I can't just go to bed earlier.

Beezer is feeling the effects, too. Because she is going to bed an hour later each night but still getting up at the old time, she is waking up grumpy as hell. She is also a basket case at night, so we've been trying to put her to bed earlier, but by the time we get home, eat dinner, and take a bath, it's the new 7:00, and she is a disaster.

I know we'll all adjust eventually, but I hope, if nothing else, my husband realizes that I was totally right about this whole daylight savings thing not just magically working out overnight. That would make it at least a little bit worth it.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Fantastic Gymnastics



Here's that girl again doing what she does best, which is all the things I'm too afraid to do. Fantastic Gymnastics to you too Ella B.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

My Hero (all over again)

I'm reposting this blog entry from last year because it pretty much sums up how I feel. Happy Veteran's Day, my love: 

Today is Veteran's Day and for those of you who don't know, my husband is a veteran. It sounds like a funny thing to call someone who is 31 (almost 32). Growing up, veterans were old men like my grandfather who wore military hats and talked about a war that happened a million years ago and didn't matter all that much anymore. Being a hippy pacifist myself, I never expected to be married to someone who was in the military or who had actually fought in war. And I never expected to have to explain to my daughter what it means to have a dad who is a war hero. Of course, she is too little to understand today, but one day, maybe on a day like today, I will ask her why she has the day off from school and if she knows what it means to be a veteran.

When you think about raising children, you think about how honest you want to be with them. You want them to trust you and to make them feel connected to you, but you also don't want to tell them every last detail about high school, either. You want them to hold on to their innocence for as long as possible, but to also educate them about the reality of life outside of their safe little bubbles. So, the discussion of war is a tricky one then. What does it means to be a veteran? It means that you have fought in a war. And what does that mean, to fight? There is the Hollywood version of war we're all use to, of course, but what does it really look like? It means things like- sleeping in the dirt, carrying an enormous pack for hours on end, writing letters to loved ones, sitting around doing nothing sometimes, being afraid, being tired, and it also means a lot of other ugly things that we don't like to think about.

So what do I want Ella to know about her daddy, the veteran? I want her to know that he did something harder than I could ever imagine. I want her to know that he is brave and strong (though she already knows this). I want her to know that the experience of war changed him, as it changes ever single person who experiences it, and that it isn't something to be taken lightly as I took my own grandfather's service for so many years. I want her to know that being a veteran will always be a part of who he is, but that it is only one part of the man who is her father. And I want her to know that I'm proud of him.

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Blog challenge accepted

So you may have noticed that I've been blogging more than usual lately. (And by "you" of course I mean my Mom and Christina and possibly Arell). Well, friends that's because I decided to take on the NaBloPoMo challenge. The what? Well November has been adopted as National Blog Posting Month, which complements National November Writing Month or (NaNoWriMo) in which a whole bunch of admirable crazies try to write a novel from November 1st to November 30th. I'd love to think I could undertake such a task one day, but until I retire and my kids are all grown up, I see that as highly unlikely. The blogging challenge, on the other hand, is something I really think I can do. Look at it as the difference between running a marathon and doing a 10K. Both require a lot of effort for someone like me, and both offer a sense of accomplishment, but one is a little less, well, insane, so I'm sticking with that one. Basically, I just have to write a blog post everyday for the month of November. It doesn't have to be long, it doesn't have to be about anything in particular. I just have to post.

This sounds pretty easy, but the main reason I wanted to do this is because blogging regularly has become really difficult for me. Between work and Ella and having some semblance of a life, blogging has really been put on the back burner. There are so many things that just have to come before it, and then I'll have these moments where I'll think, "Oh, I should write a blog post about that," and then the day slips by and I don't do it.

I firmly believe that life is about living the moment and not about recording that moment for posterity. If you spend your entire life behind a camera or updating your Facebook status, then you aren't really living your life authentically. Your experiences are real and valuable whether or not anyone sees them on Instagram or anywhere else.

But sometimes I take a moment to go back and read my old posts. I specifically love to read the posts from exactly a year ago to see how much Ella has changed, and I am always amazed by how much I have actually forgotten in the past year. I forgot when she said that word for the first time. I forgot that we went to that place with that person and that I felt that way about it. Memory is a powerful thing, but so is a living record of a growing family, and while blogging is just one more thing I don't have time to do, it's also a great gift to myself and my daughter. So, while I know that this month of daily blogging will annoy and frustrate me, I also know how thrilled I'll be to have all these memories, thoughts, and musings in the future. You're welcome future Jeni.

Oh, and PS, I already screwed it all up. We went to New York City yesterday and I never got a chance to blog. Oh well. In that case, living life was definitely more important than recording it.

Better luck tomorrow.


Thursday, November 8, 2012

First Snow

Yesterday we had an unexpected snow storm. Well, it wasn't totally unexpected, but when it started coming down in gentle wisps around fourth period, I had no idea that it would end up meaning dangerous driving in the afternoon and a snow day today. I also didn't know it would turn into a magical afternoon of snow games for me and Ella B.

When I picked her up from daycare, she had just woken up from her nap and didn't know that it was snowing yet. When I told her she lit up and ran to the window. I don't know how this is possible, but I am positive that this girl remembers last winter, and since the summer she has been asking me when it is going to be "snow time" again. We haven't talked much about snow time lately, so it was a totally unepxected way to wake up.

The whole (treacherous) drive home she was enthralled with the snow and couldn't wait to get home and build a snowman. When we got there, I realized I had no idea where any of her snow clothes were, and we were lucky enough to at least find her boots. I threw on Mike's snowboarding clothes and we headed out the door. 

Once we got down to this whole snowman business, I realized that I actually have no idea how to make a snowman. It turns out I'm completely inept when it comes to snowman building. I guess I'd never attempted to do it on my own, and really, I should never be allowed to do it again. Ella insisted that our decrepit snowblob have a face, so I ran inside and grabbed the first thing I could find, some multicolored goldfish, and set about giving old Frosty a mouth, button nose, and two eyes made out of, well, like I said, goldfish.

This all happened while the storm was actually going on, so it was windy and cold and wet and both of us were actually pretty miserable, but that stubborn little girl refused to admit it. I finally coaxed her inside with the promise of hot chocolate, but once we got in there she kept asking for more snow. So, I scooped a bunch of snow into a plastic cup and handed it to her with a spoon. She couldn't have been happier. She went and sat in the living room and finished every last drop of snow. She kept yelling into the kitchen, "Mom! This tastes like water!"as if this was very surprising.

This morning she decided to wake up at 4:30 am, so we spent a few hours snuggled on the couch and watched as the sun slowly illuminated the front yard. And whether you're two or thirty-one, or ninety-five, there is nothing so beautiful as a blanket of snow on a New England town.

Happy Snow Day.



Cold, wet, and loving every minute
Our sad, sad, snowman

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Trampoline girl



There are some things that Ella inherited from me: her silliness, her haminess, her stubbornness, but this thing you see above you, the desire to jump and flip and do just about anything dangerous, that she got from her Auntie Candy.

I am constantly amazed by her athleticism. At 2 1/2, she already has an awareness of her body way beyond her years. She is physically strong, fearless to a fault, and skilled at how to move her legs, and arms, and how to use her stomach muscles, and all of that. I guarantee that this girl is going to be winning some sort of trophy, or medal, or whatever, and hopefully some sort of scholarship too. Here's hoping. 

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Election Day

Today I brought Ella to vote. This is her very first presidential election, so I was trying to explain things to her beforehand. Here's how the conversation went.

"El, we're going to vote for the new president."

"What's a president?"

"It's sort of like the king."

"The king of all wild things?!"

"Well, sort of..."

She was a little disappointed that neither Max nor any wild things were actually at the polling place, but she was pretty excited to get a sticker. She was also very excited to pee in the potty there, but just about lost it when the automatic flusher went off. Oh well, at least we cast our vote.

She spent the rest of the evening running around the house yelling, "Go Barack Obama! Go Barack Obama!"

That's my girl.

Monday, November 5, 2012

All my hopes and fears

Normally I am the last person to write a political blog post. Truth be told, I have no idea how to lower the unemployment rate and no clue what to do about Libya. I'm a teacher, so I care about education, but Romney and Obama have pretty similar views when it comes to more accountability for teachers and higher expectations for student achievement. These are big issues: the economy, foreign affairs, education, but these are not the things that keep me up at night.

I define myself in a lot of ways: I'm a teacher, a woman, a writer, a feminist, a wife, a pretty good friend, a chocoholic, a lover of all things Princess Bride, but what I am more than anything else is a mother of a little girl. It is thoughts of her that dominate my mind on this election eve, and not in terms of whether or not she'll be able to find a job in twenty years (though of course I hope for that), or whether or not war will have obliterated the earth by the time she's fifteen (though I pray it won't have).

What I think about most is whether or not she'll be able to live her life the way she wants to, regardless of whether or not people approve of it. I want her to live in a world where she has control over two basic things: her own body and her own family.

It really doesn't feel like I'm asking for a lot here. To me, these feel like really basic rights. They feel like things I really shouldn't have to ask for. I hope that Ella will always be healthy and smart about her body, but I also hope that she will never be forced to have a child she doesn't want to have. I hope that she will grow up in a world where a difficult situation like that wouldn't be made worse by hopelessness of having no choice, and I can't understand why people want to take that right away from her.

I also hope that by the time she's all grown up she'll be incredulous over the same-sex marriage debate. I hope it will be so far in the past that she'll laugh at how old fashioned we were and say, "Really? Even in 2012 people cared about stuff like that?" I don't know whether my daughter is gay or straight, and it honestly makes no difference to me either way. My fear is that depending on this election, and the next, and the next, and the next, she might find herself in a country even more divided than this one, that we might become less accepting instead of more accepting. Is it possible that we could really move backwards instead of forwards? I don't know, but all I can think of is a thirty-year-old version of my daughter who wonders why she isn't allowed to marry the love of her life. How could I vote for someone who doesn't want that for her?

Maybe other people don't sit around thinking about these things, maybe you assume that your daughter will never make a stupid decision, or maybe you think she'll grow up to be just like you and none of these issues will matter in your life, but I don't have that kind of certainty. I have no idea whether or not Ella will share my values, share my "lifestyle," or make the same decisions I have made. What I hope is that I'm raising a daughter who will think for herself and who'll know that I support her, accept her, and love her no matter what. I can only hope that she'll grow up in a country that feels the same way.

Sunday, November 4, 2012

RIP Crabby the Hermit Crab

There comes a point in every parent's life when he or she has to make that the dreaded announcement about the death of a pet. It's one of those awful moments, like coming clean about Santa, where you feel obligated to tell the truth, but you also feel like you're stealing a little bit of your child's innocence at the same time. You can choose to go the route of, "Spot went to live at a farm in upstate New York," or you can biet the bullet and tell the truth. A few days ago, Mike and I were faced with this decision for the first time.

For two years we were a decidedly pet-free house, not because we don't love pets, but for a variety of reasons. One is that we really don't need any more mouths to feed, or doctor's visits to attend, another is that we are busy and don't need something else to take care of. But the biggest reason for me is that until Ella was three months old we had the most amazing dog on the planet named Niko, and when he passed away I knew there was no way we could replace him.

Then, in the fall, Mike's dad asked if he could buy Ella some fish. We agreed and a few days later "Ronin and Phoenix" showed up at our house much to Ella's delight. A few more days passed, and when Ella realized that she wasn't allowed to touch or snuggle or throw those fish around, she lost interest. A month or so ago my parents decided to buy her a hermit crab. We figured this would be a much better source of entertainment. She could actually take "Crabby" out of his cage. She could hold him in her hands and touch his shell. The only problem was she is 2 1/2 and the idea of being "gentle" is still a work in progress. She didn't understand why crabby curled into his shell every time she picked him up, or why he really didn't want to sit in a tiny baby carriage in her dollhouse, or sleep in a tiny plastic bed with a blanket over him. Crabby became a source of arguments because she always wanted to take him out, and she always promised to be gentle, and she always wasn't. Soon, we stopped taking Crabby out when Ella was awake because he seemed to be showing signs of PTSD- a few eyeball twitches, a loose temper, the excessive drinking. Okay, maybe he didn't have PTSD, but he did have CTTD or "Current Toddler Terrorism Disorder" and frankly, Crabby was starting to get depressed.

For the past few weeks he hasn't really seemed to eat much or ever come out of his shell and there were several times that Mike and I checked to make sure he was still alive. Then, a few days ago when Mike was doing one of these routine checks, he touched Crabby's leg to get him to move and his claw just fell straight off. We knew then that Crabby was finally at peace in crab heaven, a place free of tiny human fingers and fake plastic palm trees.

When we decided to tell Ella, we were both a little nervous about her reaction. Mike even suggested we get a new crab right away instead of telling her, but I knew she could handle it. We sat her down and explained that Crabby got sick and died. She asked the usual why and how questions. She asked if Crabby was at the doctor's, or if he would be coming back, and we did our best to explain the finality of the situation, and after a minute she went back to play with a final, "Now we can get a new pet?"

Mike looked at me and saw the unnecessary tears in my eyes and chuckled a little. It seems that out of all of us, I remain the most easily traumatized. Well, after Crabby of course.

RIP Crabby. I hope Heaven is filled with really wet sponges and lots of sand.

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Entertain me

During Hurricane Sandy our family was very lucky to have sustained no damage, no power outages, and no injuries. We did, however, deal with the difficulty of spending several days stuck in the house with a 2 1/2 year old who wasn't allowed to go outside. The weather started to turn on Monday morning, and my school, Ella's daycare, and Mike's office all closed in anticipation of the storm. Mike and I both had work to do so we switched on and off between Ella duty and work duty throughout the day. Ella was generally thrilled that we were all home for another day (mostly because it meant she could stay in her pajamas), but also because she had the two of us to interchangably entertain her, and entertain her we did. By 9:30 that morning she had already fingerpainted, played with Playdoh, played catch, changed into a tutu, and ridden her quad in the living room.

At some point she got into her bin of play clothes, and she kept coming into the office to show me her latest costume. She would come in wearing sunglasses, a scarf, and a hat, or her safari outfit, or her waitress outfit and announce what she was about to do. "Mommy, I'm going on a camping trip!"

I wondered how we were going to survive so many hours stuck in the house, but for the most part she surprised me with her new found ability to play by herself. This is a truly magical moment in the life of a parent, when you suddenly realize your child is not pulling at your pant leg, and in looking around realize she isn't even at arms length. You perk up your ears for a moment and hear the quiet nonsense noises of a little girl talking to herself. You quietly peer around the corner and find that there she is, nestled among her dollies, or surrounded by her kitchen supplies playing happily without you. You tiptoe away as quietly as you arrived and bask in the freedom of the next five minutes. You go to the bathroom, have a cup of coffee, watch a few minutes of the Cooking Channel, or make a phone call. You know it will end soon, but after so many years of doing everything with one arm, one eyeball, and one pant leg focused on her, you stop to enjoy this moment of not being pulled in any direction.

Of course, this doesn't last long, and before you know it you hear her yell, "Ready or not! Come and find me!" even though you never agreed to a game of hide and seek. At first, you can't find her, and for the first time you are actually impressed with her hiding abilities. After a minute you start to get a little nervous until you hear that unmistakable giggle coming from the bathroom. You look around until you see a tiny hand peeking out from the cabinet under the sink, and you are reminded once again that a 2 1/2 year old is pretty good at entertaining herself.



Thursday, November 1, 2012

A Super Girl

For the second year in a row Halloween came with a huge storm that threatened to thwart all those long awaited trick-or-treat plans. Last year Halloween was moved to November 5th, but this year our town was lucky enough to emerge from another super storm relatively unscathed, so we had Halloween on October 31st, just like in the good old days.

Last year Ella was only one and a half on Halloween, so she basically sat in a wagon with her friend Violet as we paraded around the neighborhood in the dark. I think she spent most of the night wondering what the hell we were doing and why we were such irresponsible parents.

What a difference a year makes. This time, she couldn't wait for "Pumpkin Day" to arrive and decided on her costume months in advance. Well, she decided on a costume months in advance. Since September she's been telling me that she would be a princess for Halloween. She told her teacher, Miss Meghan, my parents, and even her classmate's mother Kate that she was going to be a princess. Then, all of a sudden, she said she was going to be a ballerina. Fine, whatever. I hadn't bought a costume yet, so it didn't really matter. She stuck with the ballerina thing for quite a while, so as Halloween approached, we headed to Target for some tights and ballet shoes. Somehow we ended up in the Halloween aisle, and that's when Ella spotted the "super girl" costume. She fell in love immediately and said she wanted to be super girl for Halloween. It only cost $18, but I know how fickle toddler/preschoolers can be, so I didn't want to waste the money if she was never going to wear it. We must have stood in that aisle for ten minutes while I asked, "El, are you sure you want to be super girl and not a princess or a ballerina?" until I finally bit the bullet and bought the costume. When we got home, she couldn't wait to put it on and proceeded to wear her costume all day and night. I was pretty sure that we'd never be able to get that costume off. Of course, while having breakfast with my parents the next day I asked her to tell Nene and PopPop what she was going to be for Halloween. Her reply? A ballerina.

Luckily, she forgot all about the princesses and ballerinas by Halloween morning. That afternoon, Mike, Nene, and I went to watch the Halloween parade at school. Then, we headed over to Arlo and Violet's for some Halloween treats, including a witch's brew filled with God knows what and marshmallows. It was a great way to start the evening before we headed out around 5:30. We were definitely the first ones out, but others soon followed.

This year, Ella walked around the block all by herself (mostly) and couldn't wait to ring the doorbell. I had to nudge her a little to say "trick-or-treat," but she did it, and even mumbled an obligatory "thank you" now and then.

We collected a fair share of candy and Michael and I made sure to snag a few peanut butter cups for ourselves. We even got some pumpkin vodka and chocolate liqueur from our very generous neighbors. Before she went to bed, I had to wrestle her candy bag out of her hands. We decided to hide it in the guest room, or "Auntie Jessica's room" as Ella calls it, so "nobody takes it." Unfortunately, somebody did take a few pieces after she went to bed. How many years are you allowed to steal Halloween candy from your children?

Hope you all had a "super" Halloween!




Sunday, October 28, 2012

Apple picking, one year later

Last weekend we went apple picking again, almost exactly one year later with the same awesome neighbors and the addition of my parents. I was looking at these two pictures of us from last year and this year and I started thinking about all the changes that have happened to Ella in the past year. Obviously 0-1 marks the biggest change in terms of physically going from being a crying, gelatinous blog, to learning to walk and talk, but really, the changes that happen from one to two are nothing short of miraculous. I was looking at some blog posts from a year ago, and I realized that last year at this time she was just learning to put words together to form sentences. She was saying "yesth" instead of "yes" and calling a blanket a "nanight." Now, she uses words like "actually" and "definitely" and requires me to "tell the truth." When I pick her up from daycare and ask her about her day, she says, "I don't want to talk about it." She tells Mike that he is her boyfriend, and when she finally gets in the bathtub after fighting us about it, she says, "See, that wasn't so bad." Now she has hair that streams down her back when she's in that tub, and when I look at her little body, I can already see it slimming out. She's getting those "kid legs" that come from spending days running and jumping like a real kid, not a baby, or even a toddler. She has cuts and scrapes now that I've never even kissed, and she knows what it means to pinky promise. She knows how to remember things, and when I first told her we were going apple picking, she said, "With Arlo and Violet? Like last year? Remember, Mom?" Yeah, buddy, I do remember. I'll try to always remember all of it, but when I don't, please remind me.





Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Who was that kid?

Back in the days when I had a fussy baby, it was easy to look at everyone else's children and only see how perfect they were and how imperfect my baby was. Other people's children didn't scream at the grocery store. Other people's children liked sitting in car seats and strollers. Other people's children were actually enjoyable to be around. Mike would try to tell me that when we saw those other babies, we were only seeing a moment of their days. We didn't know what the other 24 hours and 59 minutes looked like, and though I knew this was true, it was a hard truth to accept when it seemed like everyone's baby was happier, more content, and more relaxed than mine.

Fast forward two years to when Ella and I are sitting in Quest Diagnostics for an hour and a half on a Saturday morning. The whole idea was a recipe for disaster, and yet, somehow, it worked out. Ella woke up at 4:45 for some godforsaken reason, and by 6 a.m. we were on our way out the door. She was thrilled that she actually got to see the stars and the moon and she still likes to talk about the "crescent" she saw that morning. We stopped at Ami's Crispy Bagel in Waterbury (because they are the best bagels ever, and you are crazy if you don't go there). Then, we headed over to Quest and arrived at 7:05. I was feeling pretty confident that we were going to be in and out of there....until we walked in and saw an already full waiting room. At 7:05. On Saturday morning. But, there was no turning back, so we grabbed a number (20) and squeezed our way in between a very large man, and a very smelly older woman and began reading the one book we'd brought with us.

This is the part where I am supposed to describe the disaster that was Saturday morning at Quest. Except, well, it wasn't a disaster. For an hour and a half, that girl sat or stood quietly, read The Old Lady who Swallowed a Fly, ate gold fish, got really excited when a new number was called, and was just...well...a really good girl. I never had to tell her to be quiet. She never said anything about how large the man sitting next to us was. Hell, she never even pooped. Even when we went in to actually have my blood drawn, she just stood there and watched like it was no big deal.

I kept telling her over and over again what a good girl she was, and she just kept looking at me like, "Yeah. Mom. Duh. I'm a good girl."

At one point, I realized there was a young woman watching us, and I wondered if she was thinking, "Man, I could never take my child here. I can't believe how good that little girl is." I almost wanted to go up to her and say, "She's never like this." But, the truth is, sometimes, however few and far between those sometimes are, she is like that, and she still has the power to surprise me. Thanks Beezer.

Sunday, September 30, 2012

Ella B in NYC (the remix)

This weekend, Ella B took her second trip to NYC and this time she got to sleep over. The anticipation of this almost destroyed her. When I told her we were going to stay at Aunty Jessica's apartment and sleep in Aunty Jessica's bed, she just about died. I, of course, was dying to know how this was all going to work out.

We made plans to run/walk/stroll in this charity event for Big Brothers Big Sisters that Jessica's boyfriend, Alan, is apart of. I decided it would be easier to go in Friday night and sleep at Jess's than to take the train Saturday morning. Of course, this meant that Ella would have to sleep somewhere other than her crib. It also meant she would have to sleep in a regular bed in an apartment that is about the size of her bedroom. There were some very real fears about how this was going to work out.

We decided that it was best if she and I slept in the bed and Mike took the couch. The problem was how to get her to bed and whether or not I would be able to get up again once she was down. Luckily, she went down pretty easily. We took a bath, read a few books, had a bottle (I mean, what? My two-year-old doesn't drink out of a bottle. That's ridiculous. Anyway...), and then I shut out the lights and pretended to go to sleep. We told her that daddy had to "go to work" so he wouldn't be forced to lie down, too. This meant, however, that he had to sit in the living room/ non-functioning kitchen and occupy himself while remaining fairly silent. Every time Ella heard him clear his throat, she'd say:

"I think daddy's downstairs."

"There is no downstairs El, go to sleep."

She also kept putting her hand on my face and whispering, "Mommy, open your eyes."

Eventually, she gave up, rolled over and fell asleep. I was able to stealthily sneak out and sneak back in undetected. She slept through the night with no problems. I, on the other hand, kept waking up to find a tiny hand draped across my face, or a foot in my crotch. Now I know why she always wakes up with a huge knot in her hair. That girl doesn't stop moving.

In the morning, we headed over to Alan's apartment where Ella couldn't wait to tell Jess, "I slept in your bed last night." We went to Riverside Park and got ready for the race. Ella was especially excited that Dora was there and we got to take a picture with her. Mike narrowly avoided a traumatizing moment when he and Ella were following Dora as she went into a little tent. Suddenly, Dora started to remove her head, and Mike quickly turned around telling Ella, "Dora has to go potty right now."

We ran/walked/and strolled our way around the park and ate a few Whole Foods sandwiches at the end. Ella was excited to see "a lot of Franklins" which were really just Ninja Turtles, but she didn't know the difference.

The highlight for her was probably when we started and impromptu parachute party. She desperately wanted to hold up the parachute lying on the ground, but with only the three of us, it was pretty difficult. A few people joined us and before we knew it, we had formed a group and the kids were running and laughing underneath the parachute every time we lifted it up. Ella was afraid at first, but soon she was running underneath between Mike and I, laughing the whole way.

She never napped, so we called it a day soon after that. She fell asleep in the car on the way home and went to bed pretty early. All in all, it was a successful trip to the city, and Ella had another first. Her first sleepover in NYC, something I didn't do until I was probably 18. Ella B, you are so much cooler than me.




Friday, September 21, 2012

My muse

 Yesterday in Creative Writing I asked my students to write a poem in the style of Gertrude Stein. If you know anything about Stein, then you know what a difficult task this is. If you don't know anything about her, then, well, you aren't really missing much. The overall point was to write a poem that was experimental in form and word choice and didn't follow the usual conventions of what we think a "poem" is supposed to be.I asked them to write about someone or something that seems indescribable. They grew increasingly frustrated, so I decided to write a poem about the person in my life who cannot really be defined by words alone, Miss Ella B. I think you'll see that even though this poem doesn't technically make sense, it sums up Ella B quite well.



Ella B Let her be and be and b

Ella B let her be and be and believe and live and buzz yellow wind
Let her swift run electricity
Carbonated lightning
Let her be of a squeal squawk run
Let her be zipper clang and scream of trumpets blaring
Ella B Ella B Ella B be be beat thump crash and swish splash
Be bathtub and belly down and up and down and up
Let her be a heat in winter a ship dives deeper
A wild thunderclap will be her and b and b and b
Believe and Live and Ella B