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Thursday, September 30, 2010

half

A half of something seems like it should be small.  Or at least smaller. 

But I guess when you halve 26, you're still left with 13. 

Which, no matter how you slice that cake, it's a whole bunch of cake.

I decided, since I was out sick for the MDI half a couple of weekends ago, that I would do the Hampden Half Marathon- a self-proclaimed non-race with nary a spectator, cheerleader, water stop or finish line.  You see, it's hard to train for something and not do it so I just decided I would do it.  It was in this spirit that I first started running and I ran my first half marathon as a 13.1 mile loop from home and back to home.

This would be a worthwhile place to insert that our shared family sickness of a few weeks ago took a while to truly leave my body and I have been left feeling fatigued, needing extra sleep, and dragging during workouts.  I postponed the Hampden Half from Monday to Thursday for this very reason.

I was still on the fence yesterday afternoon about running it today.  But, this is one of the those parts of myself that I love and admire and which makes me certifiably insane.  I ran today feeling like I would rather be walking, rather be sitting on the couch, rather be in jury duty, rather, gasp, be taking care of kids.  In other words, today's run was not unlike my marathon run when I had to work hard for every mile.  Today was work.  And yet I ran, marveling that I have the balls to make my body go out and do something it might not be entirely on board with.

I intentionally walked the big hills and found it hard every time to get running again.  I made it hard for myself by squeezing the half in between school drop offs and work so walking too much, although greatly desired, wasn't too much of a choice.  I have never planned walking into a run and in fact think I have only ever walked in a run from sheer exhaustion during the marathon. But I knew that I had to budget my energy and that I was out there to do it, not to get a PR, but just going for completion.

In the end, I think that my lungs are still just a little to vulnerable from that virus.  No matter.  I did it anyway and I am proud that I finished it having run 95% of it.  I must be maturing because I kind of feel like being proud instead of disappointed.  Will maturity know no ends?

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

morning visitors

One of the best parts of our new found schoolhood is our Tuesday/Thursday mornings with Skyler. Her dad drops her off, the kids play for a while and then board the bus (the soccer mom mini-van bus) to commence the school drop offs for Maya and then for Skyler and Ella.

(As Sandi said when we were coming and going at the school, "Oh, my goodness.  We are our parents."  I always think this when I get in and out of a minivan.  I must say, the 26.2 sticker does make it a tad bit cooler.  I think it is totally worth it to run a marathon just to make your minivan a little less lame.)

Sometimes the girls play upstairs. Sometimes they play school in the office.



Sometimes I get really lucky and I get to be part of their most extraordinary conversations.

I have been asking Skyler for the past two weeks what she wants for her upcoming birthday.  I suggested a baby elephant.  She deemed this inappropriate.  Today I suggested 10 reindeer.

Ella: "I know exactly where we can get 10 reindeer!  Santa's Village!  Right, Mom?"
Skyler: "Umm. Okay. But only if they can be flying reindeer."
Me: "You got it."
Ella: "Oh, we can go pick them out at Santa's Village!"
Maya: "I want to go to Santa's Billage!"
Skyler: "Actually, come to think of it, I think 10 reindeer might be too many for me to take care of.  It sounds like too much work. Okay, let me tell you the acceptable pets I can get.  I can have a baby puppy, a baby kitten or a bird."
Ella: "Well, Skyler, do you know that baby kittens don't last forever?"
Skyler: "Yes, I know that."
Me: "How about a genie in a bottle?"
Skyler: "No thank you.  Too much work."
Me: "A genie?  But he will live in the bottle!"
Ella: "And you can get wishes."
Skyler: "Yes, but only 3."
Me: "How about a magic wand."
Skyler: "Maybe..."
Me: "If you had a magic wand what would be the first magic you would perform?"
Skyler: "I would make my brother stop jumping on me in the morning."  (And then world peace?)

We all then ponder the genie in the bottle (my argument:  you can just make one of your wishes that you get unlimited wishes.  Duh!) versus the magic wand.  Ella puts in her two cents about fairy dust.

Skyler: "Actually, I think I know what I want.  I've been wanting to get some things to take care of my (stuffed animal) mouse.  Like a bottle and a blanket.  Then my brother will think he is real and will come over to kiss him and I will make the mouse puppet snap up and get his nose."
Ella: (seriously)  "It isn't very nice to play a trick on your brother."
Skyler: "That's true.  Okay, but I still want that so I can take care of my mouse."
Brief pause in the conversation.
Skyler: "I wish I had some quiet time. You're so lucky Suzanne. You drop us off and get to have quiet time all day."
I sputtered.
Finally, before they got out of the car, as they continued on the merits of various gifts for Skyler Ella said, "I will talk to you more about this on the playground if you want to Skyler."

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Camp Winniaugwamauk

I just found this post among drafts that haven't yet been posted. These are pictures from July when we spent a few days volunteering at Camp Winniaugwamauk, a very lovely and open- minded camp for kids that Sandi's sister Trish runs. Sandi was, in an official capacity, camp nurse.  We were also "camp family" and brought the ruckus. 





Tricia, director extraordinaire, superstar auntie.












































This was the girl Maya adored, Suzy, or "Thuzy" as Maya called her.  Here, Maya is trying to feed Thuzy pasta, a major act of love in Maya's world.



I can't resist posting this picutre:







Sandi and Trish hugging the incomparable Kim Giggy. Officially the camp pastor, this is woman walking around in normal shoes, but really is simply sunshine contained in a human body.

It is startling to realize how much the girls have changed in these few short months!  It makes me long for summer and long for fall all at the same time. 

If only fall didn't also mean loading 3 cord of fire wood, taking the air conditioners out, installing pellet stoves and getting the yard ready for a winter's sleep. 

P.S. on the fruit flies.  I've tried the traps and having the most luck with Gretchen's jars with detergent and vinegar.  The traps are catching a lot of flies but there are still a lot flying around.  Hmmmm.....

P.P.S.  on the sickess- day 11 I think and finally coming out of the woods.  No joke.  Going to try to run tomorrow and see if my body will be strong enough.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

issues

We are currently having some technical difficulties with blogger so the format looks a little weird.  Check back often for who knows what the blog will look like today!  We lost, and are trying to retrieve the side bar and the blog archive contents.  They are at the bottom of the blog in case anyone can't live without them. 

Ange told me today that when she pulled up the blog she only got pink and "The Carvers" but no text or pictures.  My thought? "Oh, no!  What will my readers do?"

And then I laughed and said to myself, "Get a hold of yourself woman.  The world will still turn."

Unrelated but on the topic of issues, we have a MAJOR fruit fly problem in our house.  This usually happens at the end of summer and lasts a few weeks but this is off the hook.  They are EVERYWHERE.  They are in the bathroom, upstairs and down, on the detergent over the washer, on the mirror, on the toilet, in the pantry, on the sink, in the office on the computer screen, even flying out of the refrigerator. Forget fruit, these flies don't limit themselves to such pedestrian matters.  It is freaking me out. 

Someone suggested lemongrass oil.  We've sprayed it, burned it in a diffuser, and I've thought about snorting it.  It works but only for a short period.  Any one have any ideas??

Humorously speaking:

Ella has been putting together some (FINALLY!) really cool outfits lately.  I told her that my favorite part of the day is seeing what she will come down the stairs wearing.  She told me her favorite part of the day is seeing what kids pull out of their lunchboxes at school.  Fair enough.

This morning Maya was obsessed with going to work with Sandi.  After she left, Maya kept saying, "I go to work with Mommy."  She packed her bag, put on some jeans (with her PJ top) and donned some shoes.  "You take me to Mommy's work now,"  she instructed.  I told her I needed her to stay home with me, wanted to spend time with her- "But I will go to Mommy's work and then I will come back to you," she promised.  I told her maybe later.  She persisted.  Finally, after 30 minutes of back and forth I told her I couldn't.  "Yes you can!  There are cars everywhere out there!" she said, pointing outside.

We made zucchini bread this afternoon and she watched me peel the zucchini to get the tough skin off it.  "You getting the trash off it, Momma?" she asked.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

don't whine...wine

Our friend Angela inspired us to make wine.



She made one batch that was super yummy and then another which she was about to drink when she went and got herself pregnant despite having 25 bottles of wine in her basement. Talk about poor planning. (KIDDING Ange.)



We felt the best act of friendship would be to take over the wine making for now (and by "we" I mean Sandi. I mostly photographed, oohed and aaahed and, only when absolutely necessary, complained.)



Making wine, which you do from a kit, isn't really as romantic as it sounds. There is no Tuscan sun setting, no pasta boiling on the stove, no Italian opera playing, no french-kissing going on. Although I suppose perhaps that is just because we didn't plan well...



Basically, you get a kit with all your basic stuff- grape juice concentrate specific to the kind of wine you want to make and some things to add in to make it all go well and then you sit and wait and then you move the wine around from container to container until it eventually goes into bottles and you feel less like an alcoholic with a gargantuan vat of wine in your house.



Here's where it starts in the non-glamorous 6 gallon bucket:


Sandi, manipulating the "oak bag" which is to replicate the conditions when wine is left to ferment in oak barrels. I think there are oak chips in said "oak bag" and you basically leave it to steep. (Can you use the word "steep" in wine making?)


Then you use a hydrometer to check whatever it is that a hydrometer checks. (As this post goes on, I realize I should have had Sandi write it.)

Now, because you want everything to be completely sterile (and you NEVER want Maya doing anything crazy like dropping my Gatorade bottle into the open bucket of wine while she is helping. Yes, you heard me right- our two-year-old was HELPING make the wine) so when it is time to "rack" the wine (move it) from the bucket to the giant glass carboy, you should never do so by syphoning.


Unless you have to.
And if you do, you pray that you at least get a buzz.




Wait a while. Specifically wait until you have only had 5 hours of sleep, have taken a 23 mile bike ride, worked and gone to a dinner and movie with friends and it is 10:30 p.m. Then, and only then, should you bottle your wine.
This is when you try to remember that it is "wine" you are making and NOT "whine." AND try as hard as possibly not to lay your head on the counter in disgust because then you will look unsupportive and like a crybaby.

If at all possible, use the willy nilly system we had going so you can enjoy beautiful sprays of wine all over your kitchen. They were splatter patterns that would make any CSI agent or coroner proud.

Best to put corks in the bottles to keep yourself from drinking them all in one night.
Then stand back proudly, and show off your work.
We bottled 27 in all. I stayed up for the first 25. Yup, you heard me right. I pooped out for the last 2. I tell you, I had no staying power that night.


Now, for those of you who don't know, Sandi is not one to do anything half-assed. She likes the best and she likes things to be classy. I now understand this about her and so when she says, "I'm thinking about getting real wine labels" to me I know my line is, "What a great idea!" rather than, "Can't we just make them on Print Shop?"


And so, we had labels made.

Our line of wines (there will be line- she has already started a peach Chardonnay) is called "Duo Ragazze" or "two girls." Get it?



So now we have 27 bottles of newborn wine that must age until sometime in December. All in all, with the purchase of the bottles, the starter kit (which you have to buy for each batch of wine) and the start-up supplies, it still only comes out to $6 a bottle to make 2 batches. And the per bottle cost will decrease now with each batch now that we don't have to pay for the start-up supplies.


If you don't hear from us for a while, come a-knocking. We will probably be sitting in our hallway in unwashed clothes, drinking wine, thinking we are in Tuscany.

Monday, September 20, 2010

OMG

We have had the sickness that won't end.

It started with Ella last Wednesday and then ya'll know about Maya's oxygen plight on Friday and then Sandi and I were sick all weekend (and I missed my half marathon) and only this afternoon do I NOT feel like I am dragging my body around. We've kept ourselves in quarantine, cancelling all plans, watching an excess of movies, living on hearty vegetable and rice soup and trying to maintain our sanity.

Has anyone ever told you that one of the hardest things about being a parent (aside from Kindergarten) is being sick and having sick children to care for?

Well, let me tell you. It sucks.

On top of all of it, we found an injured bird, a sweet steel gray with whisps of lime green flightless cutie, on the walkway to our back door Saturday. We were all enchanted with her and made her a bed in a cardboard box with some wood shavings, water and birdseed, covering it enough so flight would not be attempted and Coconut the cat would be denied entry. Ella named her "Tweety Time."

She made it through the first night and we took her outside to see if she could fly (she still could not) and then read up on caring for a bird with a broken wing. Sandi got out her nursey equipment (housed in a converted tackle box and really super cool) and we attempted to immobilize the wing. This is not anything I recommend for the avian inexperienced. A meek cry from the bird had us putting our hands up in prompt surrender. We upgraded her to a former hamster cage and put her in a quiet room for the night.

This morning I was thrilled and slightly overwhelmed (after all we still hadn't given her medical care) to see she had made it through another night, but this afternoon when Ella came home (sick) from school she discovered the deceased Tweety Time in her minature food bowl.

"She's laying on her side with her eyes open. I think she's dead." Ella's' big round eyes said even more than her words.

(Maya just kept saying "She's takin' a NAP! The bird is takin' a NAP!")

We had a lovely birdy funeral, placing the delicate corpse in a portion of an egg carton and placing flower blossoms and greens all around her. I dug a hole (wearing my heeled sandles, no less-all in a day's work) and Ella said the eulogy: "We really tried to take good care of you. I hope you had a good life. And I hope you come back as something beautiful."

So despite having a sick family for 6 days, we also found and lost an enchanting bird. Oh, and our dog who is having hormone issues, peed all over our couch and our bed while she was sleeping without even realizing it.

I think I need a vacation. Schoodic anyone?

Saturday, September 18, 2010

plain 'ol funny

It is a beautiful day for a 13.1 mile run but instead I am home sick, all of us recuperating from a week of illness.

In light of that, here is some levity:


Ella got a hand-me-down toy. One of those giant Barbie heads that is more like a bust. You can decorate the hands and nails and do its hair. It's kind of freaky. She LOVES it.


The day after she got it, at breakfast she nonchalantly says, "I've never had a neck of my very own to decorate before."




When we saw Sandi's seven-year-old cousin Noah a few weeks ago, he had a few questions for her.


Noah: "Where do you live?"
Sandi: "In Hampden."
Noah: "Where does Auntie Suz live?"
Sandi: "In Hampden. In our house. We live together."
Noah: "Is she your bride?"



Maya's new expression: "Momma, can you get me a snack." "Yes, Maya." "Then do it."



Ella and I were painting the playset last weekend. I told her to please watch out for drips and what portion of the brush to dip into the paint so she wouldn't have paint dripping down her arm. She said, "I'm just a little kid. What do I know about painting?"

Ella told me that she has a different way of speaking at school- an accent as she calls it. "I talk differently at school," she says. "It sounds funny when it comes out. I try to talk my normal way but I just can't. It doesn't happen. Then when I come home I go back to my regular way of speaking." I asked her to show me but she couldn't. Naturally, she must be at school for the accent. People in Hampden probably think she is British, or maybe of the pig Latin descent.


This morning Maya, Ella and I took the dog for a walk. Ella spent 20 minutes preparing wardrobe and accessories for the outing up the street. Maya gathered a baby and book to carry. As we walked, Ella said, "Why does Maya need all that stuff just for a walk. Oh, wait. Why do I need all this makeup and jewelry for a walk either?"

Friday, September 17, 2010

for the love of air

We've had some nasty and crazy bugs going around our house. Ella was down for two days with a fever, body aches and sore throat. Sandi has been under the weather all week with some fever and extensive body aches (at one point she said, "My joints hurt, my muscles hurt and my skin feels sunburned.") and stayed home sick a day from work. I've been fighting off all of the same all week and am supposed to run a half marathon in less than 24 hours.

Then there is Maya who does everything in a big way.

She started with a cold. A cough, some snot, some general fussiness, and some fever. Then last night she coughed all night. All. Night. Long. Right beside me. I spent the night volleying between our bed with Maya and squeezed alongside Ella in her twin bed. Did I mention I am supposed to run 13 miles tomorrow?

This morning, Maya developed a wheeze with her cough and I pulled out the in-case-of-emergency Albuterol nebulizer. She was initially better and then much worse so that she was wheezing constantly and seemed to be struggling. Ella said, "I think she's having trouble breathing."

Fast forward to yet another visit with Maya to walk-in care, add in some steroids, both inhaled and in liquid form, a diagnosis of asthma bronchitis (she's never been diagnosed with asthma but has a respiratory vulnerability for sure) and possibly pneumonia (I declined the chest x-ray since the treatment was the same) and a round of antibiotics.

Here we are a few hours later, Maya has finally crashed from all the crazy of the Albuterol and I lay next to her riddled with anxiety about how she is still breathing. She is working so hard. The doctor told me what to look for and said, "If she is in distress, don't wait. Call the ambulance. You don't have much time." Just what every mom wants to hear.

It is one of the most difficult things I've done to watch my child struggle for air.

Half marathon? I think this Momma needs a nap instead.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

disconnecting

There are some things in life that should be difficult: death, running a marathon, leaving behind a crying child, passing up a piece of chocolate cake, childbirth, qualifying for a mortgage, obtaining a license to have children (oh, wait that doesn't exist...), turning the last page of a really good book, mending a broken heart or having an overactive bladder.



Disconnecting your cable shouldn't be one of them.



This is a true story.



Sandi and I have been tossing around the idea of getting rid of our cable for some time now, with me being the bigger hold out. What would I do without re-runs of Sex in the City on DVR when Maya and I woke up at 4 a.m. in the dead of winter for the day?



But then, within the last couple of months, it had begun to feel ridiculous. I didn't like writing out a giant check to the cable company every month for something we barely used. I had lots of shows on DVR and found it almost stressful to find time to watch them. Ella was really the only one that watched the TV and before we knew it, we had most of her favorite shows on the iPod for her portable viewing. And with her spending so much time at school it didn't make sense that we would want her home time spent in front of the TV.



So we got rid of the TV.



Not literally. It is still in our living room, but the only things to watch would be through the DVD player or through the iPod if you dock it on the little contraption Sandi bought to broadcast it on the TV.



(Author's note: this decision was made possible due to the presence of Netflix and their extensive library and http://www.hulu.com/ through which we can still watch Grey's Anatomy.)



Big decision, simple to execute.



Or not.



I called Time Warner Cable and asked them to please disconnect our cable.



"Why would you want to do that?" was the overwhelming reception I got from the "customer service" agent on the other end of the line.

"Because we don't watch it and we don't want to pay for something we don't use."

"I have another option for you."

"I don't want another option. Please just cancel it. I'm in a bit of a hurry." (translation: my kids are going to start screaming in 5 seconds.)

"Please listen carefully. You can keep all your local channels for a mere $40 per month. So you can still watch the news and such."

"We don't watch the news."

"You don't watch the morning news?"

"No we don't. Now, can you please cancel our service?"

"No, I cannot."

"What? Why?"

"I'm afraid I cannot disconnect your service while you still have our equipment. You will need to bring it in to your local office and cancel it in person."



Ey yi yi.



I decided this was merely a test of my resolve so I went in the very next day with my DVR box and cancelled the service. I am not joking when I say that people were STARING at me when I stated my business.



In the end, we don't miss the TV at all. We read more, we talk more. We (try) to go to bed earlier. We still watch re-runs of Friends because we own them and we get movies from Netflix but no live streaming TV.



And, I can't say with complete assurance that the loss of the TV is the reason, but our electric bill dropped dramatically. Our overall usage dropped even from last month. The DVR box was always running and it was always warm to the touch and getting rid of it is really the only thing we've changed.



But, please promise me if some huge national warning of impending disaster is in effect, will someone please call and let us know? But not on our home phone because we got rid of THAT too!

got a fridge full of cucs?

We did.

I made gazpacho, bread and butter pickles, served sliced cucumbers with a variety of dips for anyone who dared step foot in the house and STILL there they would be smiling up at me every damn time I opened the fridge.

Until now.

I searched for some recipes on http://www.allrecipes.com/ and found 2 I liked, both of which I modified before I made them.

The first one I choose partly because I had fennel I needed to use up from our farm share.

Fennel Cucumber Salsa
2 garden cucumbers, diced
1 large fennel bulb, diced (not the feathery greens, just the bulb)
1 avocado- peeled, pitted and diced
1/2 red onion, chopped
1/2 c. yellow or orange pepper, diced
2 TBSP honey
3 TBSP fresh lemon juice
salt and pepper, taste

Combine everything in bowl. Let it sit for 20 minutes before serving with pita chips or tortilla chips.

Cool Cucumber and Avocado Salad
2-3 garden cucumbers
1 tsp. salt
1/2 c. diced red onion
1 small red pepper, diced
2 limes, zested and juiced
1 TBSP sugar
1/2 tsp. curry powder
4 dashed hot pepper sauce
2 avocados, peeled pitted and diced

- Place cucs in a colander, toss with salt and allow to drain in sink.
-In a medium-sized bowl mix onion, pepper, limes zest and juice, sugar, curry powder and hot sauce until sugar is dissolved. Add cucumbers and gently stir in avocado.

Both of these could be served on warm bread, chips, on grilled fish or just plain. I've made both in the past 3 days and I like the combination of fennel, cucumber and avocado as well as the cucumber/lime/curry/avocado theme.

And, hurray I'm low on the cucs until farm share tomorrow afternoon...

religious texts I can make work

We all have our issues. Fear of heights, type A personalities, control issues, OCD, perfectionism, fear of failing, lack of assertiveness or self-confidence...

And the inability to make pie crust.

This has been a problem for me most of my life and I have coped with avoidance. I don't make pies. I don't eat pies. I only make them, and show my flaws, for those who love me most. If you've ever gotten pie from me, consider yourself in the inner circle. (If you haven't please don't take it personally.)

I've tried store-bought dough, Sandi's grandmother's "secret" dough recipe, I've asked for tutorials but been too embarrassed to go, I've sworn off pie crust forever.

Until, among my friend Martha's cookbooks, I found Rose Levy Beranbaum's "The Pie and Pastry Bible."

I swear her basic pie crust recipe is really for her own entertainment to see if she can get people to freeze their flour ahead of time, individually wrap butter chunks to chill, count the pulses on the Cuisinart AND still manage to shape dough into beautiful works of art.

But in the end... all the swearing and threatening to throw marble rolling pins aside...


in the end I made a pie!

Monday, September 13, 2010

all backed up

The sewer backed up in our basement.

Go ahead, you can say it. Ewwwwwwwwwwww.

The real kicker is that this is the second time it's happened.

We kept noticing the house smelled bad. I went in the basement yesterday to get something and said out loud to myself, "It smells like...SEWER." I ran for the door that separates the new basement from the old (hard to explain but there is a cement knee wall on top of which sits a wooden wall because the old basement is half as high as the new basement and is mostly unusable) and turned the light onto every homeowner's worst nightmare. Raw sewage.

The upside of the poop in our basement...huh?? There is no upside! We tried to find one and all we could come up with was that we made fast work of cleaning out the new basement for the workers to come (because when you have sewage you will inevitably have workers) which meant we are now ready to start stacking some of the 3 cord of wood we have waiting in our driveway.

I'm sure I don't even have to go into the downside.

The plumber came and unplugged the drain (some roots had grown into the pipe 20 feet from the house) and charged us an exorbitant $619 for 2 hours of work. Perhaps I feel so bitter because he said, "We can justify the bill because I am working in sewage." I wanted to tell him to get lost, that we would find someone else, but that is like refusing to pay an outrageous $20 for a glass of water when you're dying of thirst.

"Sure! Charge us what you will! Fix our sewage drain so we can flush the toilet and shower!" (Those were not my exact words but you get the idea- our backs were up against a wall.)

Last time this happened we paid a crazy amount for cleaners to come and sanitize the basement. Tonight I decided that I would do it myself and save us hundreds more dollars.

I donned plastic bags secured with rubber bands around my old sneakers and trudged down with totes and garbage cans full of water, to which I then added bleach and slogged around in the mostly drained sewage for an hour, barely able to stand due to the low ceilings and never again wanting to consume food lest it make me poop, compelling me to flush the toilet into our basement.

The now bleached remainder of sewer water is currently sitting on top of the non-draining drain and I, showered and still shuddering, am wondering just how tough I want to be.

the lunch lady

I have a cure for the kindergarten blues.

It's called the lunch volunteer.

Maya and I are now the Monday kindergarten lunch volunteers. We (I) even have a name tag. We went in today and Maya sat right down at the table with her big sister and pulled her food out of her backpack with a perma-grin on her little dimpled face. Ella was so proud to have her there and pleased as punch to see me.

First off, it was easy to see how it is that Ella comes home having eaten barely a morsel of her lunch. She just sits there and looks around at everyone. Numerous times I had to prompt her just to get her food out of her bag and open it. I am pleased to say she ate her whole sandwich and about half of her other food today. And yes, this would be my indoctrination into the pushy mom club.

So there I was, making rounds with my ketchup bottle, waiting for little hands to raise in the air indicating their need for my assigned condiment, and I joke not when I say I felt a bit like a rockstar. I knew kids at 3/4 of the tables. I was chatting it up with them like I was making the rounds of a cocktail party, except I was wielding a ketchup bottle instead of a martini and helping to open milk cartons, yogurts and granola bars. I learned the names of all the girls in Ella's class and some of the boys too. I met moms and school staff and got to see the inner workings of Ella's day.

Aside from watching my girls sit together in Ella's school cafeteria, my favorite part was watching Skyler's eyes get huge when she saw me. "What are you doing HERE?" she asked. She kept waving me over, not for assistance, but to talk. On the playground she said, "Mondays are my new favorite day because Suzanne comes to school!" She showed me how she can do the monkey bars, hang upside by her legs, and just how soft her new fleece sweatshirt with the cool zip pocket is. She didn't want to play with any kids- she just wanted to follow me around.

We even got to go out for recess, much to our girls delight. I was so taken by just how much kids want positive adult attention. They surrounded me, asking me questions, telling me about the ache in their ear, showing me their new shoes, asking me to watch this or that. It was quite something to watch Ella, our little girl I was afraid to send out into the world, flanked in other pink-clad little girls. I watched her chase the boys that she always complains chase her. She had told me this year the boys are slower and can't catch her as well as they could at preschool. I told her I thought it was because she was faster and a dawning awareness came over her face as she entertained that possibility.

One of Ella's new friends came up to me and said, "I'm sad. I can't find my friends." I asked her who her friends were. "Her name is Ella," she said. "Well, I'm Ella's mom and I happen to know she is right there." I pointed.

"How are you her mom?" she wanted to know. Then, "Oh, she is busy running and I can't run as fast as she does. " Sad for her, SO happy for Ella.

"I bet you can if you practice," I said. So she took off, making me promise to watch her.

You gotta love little kids.

The school day may be long, the mainstreaming still may feel a bit like a sell out, BUT, our girl is flourishing in school. It was plain as day. Her newly long legs, wider smile and more confident place in the world shows. She has friends. She has fun. It was a strange moment to step back and look at her, knowing that she was in the right place, knowing I couldn't tuck her back into my belly and keep her shielded from the world and, finally feeling like I no longer wanted to. She is her own person and she belongs out in the world.

And thankfully she comes home to us everyday at 2:55.

So I finally pried Maya away and as we drove past the grocery store she asked, "Can we go in there?" "We don't need to," I answered. "But they have cookies in there!!" she told me.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Maya papaya

Here's what it's like to live with Maya lately:


For about an hour of the nearly 2 hour drive to Beals Island (until she fell asleep), Maya aggravated. She kicked the cord to the DVD player. She violated the noise pollution ordinance of the car. She threw food much to the dog's delight.

When we were getting ready to leave the 65th (!!) wedding anniversary of Sandi's grandparents (and thus our reason for traveling to Beals), Maya smacked her great-grandmother (and woman of the hour) in the face as a substitute for the intended kiss.

She put her hand through the screen door. She peed on the floor right in front of her potty instead of on it when I told her she had to pee before we left the house. She swirls toilet paper in the toilet and then pulls it out to examine it. When asked to return the toothpaste to me, she asserts her will by squeezing it with all her might and getting smug satisfaction watching toothpaste drool all over the counter.

We try letting her chew gum like Ella and every few times, despite our stern warnings, she swallows it. When asked about its location she points to her open mouth and says, "It's way down there."


She tells us she loves us as a preamble to any request. "I love you Mommy. Can I have a juice box?" or "I love you Momma. Can I have some plutonium and attempt to build a remote detonating system in the garage?"


You get the idea.


Whenever she touches things she knows she isn't supposed to, she says, "I'm lubbing (loving) it." Such as, "lubbing" a handcrafted pottery mug or a sharp, serrated knife.

She takes ice cubes out of the freezer and then puts them in Tupperware containers and hides them in the house. She fills plastic bags with board books and stashes these too. She hides our remotes and puts our (clean) underwear on her head.



And here she is having her teeth cleaned last week:















And yet...with Ella at school all day Maya has been a like a different kid. Still independent and willful, she is also less defensive of her place and seems to relish having ALL the parental attention. She is, as usual, completely hilarious and very affectionate. She tells us 100 times a day, without prompting, that she loves us and gives big hugs and kisses. (But if you set a limit with her you can forget any of that for at least an hour.)

Saturday, September 11, 2010

gotta get garmin

Have I failed to mention that I am running the Mount Desert Island Half-Marathon a week from today?


Maybe that is because I kind of forgot until a couple of weeks ago.

I was supposed to have been on Hal Higdon's intermediate half-marathon schedule since early July. Which means that I have still run a lot (because remember I have to for my sanity?) but not with any sort of plan.

Enter in the Garmin Forerunner 405.

Thank you Sandi for an AWESOME birthday present.

I shall preface by saying that I am no techy. I only like the computer if it does exactly what I want but I don't want to take the time to figure out how to make that happen. As Sandi wants to encourage me into electronic synced schedules, I long to go back to a spiral bound paper calendar and a pen. I only like the camera when it is easy and acts according to my wishes and I have just really gotten to know the full potential (ok, really probably only 25%) of my iPod Nano.

But this puppy is worth learning about.

It tells me my pace, my time, my distance, my heart rate, my splits, my calories burned (1482 for my 12 mile run yesterday!) and a whole host of other things that I have no idea about. It is like having a friend to run with. Or, perhaps more accurately, my inner competitive voice manifested on my wrist and prodding me along.

And by on my wrist, I mean ON MY WRIST. There is nothing subtle about this watch.


It actually kind of hurts t0 wear but I don't even care. I am blinded by love.

Eventually, when I figure out how to troubleshoot my computer malfunctions to get the software to work to download the info from my watch, I will get a whole bunch more cool information about my runs. (So maybe when pigs fly?) I can also wear it when I bike which I did Thursday and it was so fun to not plot a course but just go out and peddle and let my Garmin tell me how far I'd gone.

Biting my tongue to NOT discuss hopes of a PR (personal record) for the half next week, I will say that the Garmin does put a spring in my step and is a great positive reinforcer when I am have good speed to want to maintain it.

I do have to say that I like the half marathon 13.1 mile distance. It is not NEARLY as daunting as its double, the full marathon. No leg injuries and a faster pace with these miles. Also...a friend of mine (who is an occasional runner) said to me, "I have no right thinking this, given that I run so little but when I see the 13.1 stickers on people's cars I can't help but think, 'Wuss. You should have gone for the full.'"

And for this reason, I will always be proud of the 26.2 sticker on my car and totally love the half-marathon for the fun of it.

the things you don't want to hear

Ella has been doing well at school but has been struggling more when she comes home. Whiny, tired, argumentative and impatient, she takes out her frustrations on those who love her the most, particularly poor Maya who misses her during the day and asks about her often.

Today, Saturday, she woke up particularly moody and irritable with Maya, fussing and complaining about Maya's every look, comment and movement. Eventually, their conflict turned physical with someone hitting someone else, who cares in what order, and bruises and red skin marks were made. I spoke to her, yet again, about it-how much we miss her and are happy to have her home, how lucky she is to have a sister and that it isn't okay to treat her like that.

She began to cry and said, "I used to have you and Mommy all to myself! And I was happy! And then Maya came and ruined everything! I wish she wasn't here!"

Gulp.

Friday, September 10, 2010

monkey business

Maya- more monkey than child.








I have no idea how she and Mindy ended up matching but it was too cute not to capture.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

a kindergarten party

We thought it would be fun to celebrate our kindergartner's who'd had a bit of a tough transition to school, but in the end pulled through like true champs.

So, we had a party. Just the Smith's and the Carver's but that is all that is needed for a party, I've found.



We had party hats, ballons, noise makers, dinner, blueberry pie and ice cream sundaes.





We are so very proud of our big kids, perhaps more than anything proud (and a bit teary) that in the end, they are still themselves. Happy to be together, laughing, screeching and carrying on.

There are some things kindergarten can't touch.


And, as always, as soon as the Smith's pull out of the driveway, Ella asks, "When are we going to see them again?"

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Labor (of love) Day

I tried to explain to Ella over breakfast yesterday what Labor Day meant (other than just "you don't have school") but it all got kind of confusing, as things do, when we had to explain that Sandi had to work on Labor Day.

It's not as difficult, but it is close up there with "Mommy has to work on Christmas" (which she does this year, and Christmas Eve AND Thanksgiving, thank you very much) or "Yes, we know you are sick but Mommy has to go take care of OTHER sick people today.)

So, the girls and I motored on down to Camden to hang out with my family for the day.

First stop- the best playground ever: Cedarworks front lawn.


Cedarworks (http://www.cedarworks.com/) builds these GORGEOUS playsets out of 100% cedar and they let kids come and "try them out." It is a popular stop.


Our playset in the backyard is loosely fashioned after these amazing, but pricey (average is about $10,000) structures that seem almost to have been plucked right out of a child's imagination.

There was a lot of fun to be had.








This is a funky, almost accidental picture of Maya that I just love.

There was this pretty awesome slide that had a deep dip and made the girls squeal.






And there was a plain 'ol tunnel which captivated the little ones. Ten thousand or $100? It matters not to little kids.















Then on to Lucia Beach (Birch Point State Park in Owl's Head) for a picnic.


And some playing in the mud.

Whenever we take our kids to the beach, they always have fun but at times seem confounded by what to DO to play and will often ask for help. I will admit it- sometimes I want to just sit and want them to know how to entertain themselves.
Well, all I needed to do all along was taken my niece Micheala.
She had the four of them set up like industrious little beavers, hunting for heart shaped rocks, shoveling mud to and fro and piling seaweed wherever she indicated. I started calling her "The Captain." She is the oldest and they all idolize her. If you can convince her, you can convince the lot of them.
It was heaven.

I sat on the beach thinking, these are the days. These are the lucky, blessed days. We are all here. We are all healthy. We are still (relatively) young. Our kids are healthy and happy and the world is before their feet.
My family may be small. But it is mighty.