Friday, December 30, 2011

Blue Christmas

Christmas was rough this year.

I take that back. It was horrible. There, I've said it. It only took me a week to say. It was horrible.

We seem to be in a .... complaining phase .... around our house. Grace whines every time she doesn't get precisely what she wants within 30 seconds of asking for it (or within 30 seconds of her thinking about it but forgetting to ask), and Clare says NO! to everything.

A friend and I once had a conversation about how much harder it is to be a calm parent than one that yells and hits. These last few weeks have been a challenge. I have never (and will never) hit either of the girls, but I find myself yelling so much more that I want to, in a primitive attempt to raise my volume over theirs in an emotional (nonsensical) attempt to have my desires heard too.

It is soul crushing, this new feeling of parenting failure. I keep oscillating between thinking it is just two and four year old growing pains, and wondering if we are to blame for the constant poor behavior and we are doing our jobs wrong.

Maybe it is both.

And in admitting that, comes new stomach churning worries that the behaviorisms of our parents that haunt us and are constantly fought against are seeping into our girls lives too. Are we expecting too much of them? Are we too quick to take out our frustrations with frowns and sharply spoken orders? Are we too quick to drown those frustrations in an extra large glass of wine?

The answer is probably yes to all three, but how do we change that? How do you teach a two year old that it is not OK to climb on the kitchen table during dinner without frowns and sharp words? How do you teach a four year old about patience after the same request has been made 10 times in a row without frowns and sharp words?

Matt and I have spent a lot of time taking about the future lately. Four months from now, 12 months from now, three years from now. How our future will be brighter, relaxed and secure. For now though, I am worried about the now.

Tomorrow starts another three day weekend.

Friday, December 23, 2011

White (House) Christmas

Matt is always one for new adventures.

His latest started at the end of October. It was an ego boost of an adventure, for he was recruited. Was explicitly told that his name was one on a very short list of people that have their sought after skill set. It would be a commute heavy detail of six months, but would yield experience (and prestige) that would be unattainable any other way in his current position.

Plus, there seems to be other seasonal perks they forgot to mention.


You know, like making the list to receive a White House Christmas card.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Tree

I love our annual Christmas tree hunt.

I will buy a fake tree before visiting a pre-cut a lot. There is something about the smell of the pine in the air and the rush that indicates the start of the season that makes the whole ordeal worth while.

And it really is an ordeal. Figuring out proper shoes and clothing is a pain and I never seem to get it right. We always forget to bring our own saw. And the cookies sold in the barn were sub-par this year. (You know there is a problem with your sugar cookies when a sugar crazed toddler throws it on the ground.)

But, we hunted and we found. Clare was a helper and Grace once again absconded with my phone and took pictures the whole time.



And Gracie took what I think is one of my all time favorite photos of Clare.


Monday, November 28, 2011

3' 3"

I let Grace use my camera at her Thanksgiving program. My real camera with the nice lens that makes me cringe at the sight of grubby fingers wandering towards the magical moving toy.

Now, she fancies herself as a photographer. She wanted to use the real camera again. I compromised and showed her how to use the camera on my iPhone. I have almost 200 new pictures added to the collection from this weekend. So it seems a waste to let them go undocumented. (Because you can bet once this posts, I am hitting the delete button on the camera.)

The weekend from 3' 3":












Thursday, November 24, 2011

Run Turkey Run

We went for a walk this morning. Some penitence for what would be coming later today.

Daddy, I like the hills!, she said. I think it would be a lot more fun for you if you ran down them. I will cheer.

So he ran.


Faster, faster daddy! Wheeeeeeeeee! Faster daddy, faster! I know you can go faster than that! Wheeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee!

I am Thankful for a husband who loves his family more than he loves himself, and is willing to take a beating to prove it.

Happy Thanksgiving all!

Saturday, October 29, 2011

The Burbs

For the metro-DC crowd, we live in the boonies. The Wilds of Maryland, where there are still lots of u-pick farms minutes away, cows a-plenty, and a decent segment of the population that wear flannel shirts by choice and trade. It is very Republican in these parts.

I love our neighborhood with it's neurotically manicured laws, big green open parks and neighbors that wave to every car that drives by. Our next door neighbors are like family to us. They have a set of keys to our house and will always help if you need it. It is a quiet, friendly, safe place to live.

This images keep haunting me.

I was putting Clare down for bed. I kept thinking, What is that noise? The neighbors must be having a party. Thank goodness Clare is a heavy sleeper.

Matt and Grace weren't home. It was the first time in... well, ever ... that they were gone at 7:30 at night. He took her to a town all meeting to voice his support for a bike trail near our house.

When I went downstairs, the noise was louder. I walked right past the front windows and into the kitchen to clear the dinner dishes. Through the water I caught snippets of words.

Come out with your hands up.

Holy shit. Wait, what???

I immediately called next door. Across the street, a neighbor was being arrested. I saw it. I stood like a statue, though shaking slightly at the thought of what might come, with all the lights turned off and the front window open. I saw him come out after an hour; I saw him remove the gun from his waistband; I saw him put it on the car; I saw him kneel down and put his hands on his head; I saw the police take him away.

It was horrible. For the family, the neighborhood and for us.

We don't know the family very well, their post college aged children don't mesh much with our preschool demographic. But Gracie loved the family dog, and the kindness the man who was just taken away always showed her.

We were never afraid of him. Should we have been?

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Chicken Feed

Grace has been at her new school for two and a half months now, and its been..... fantastic.
We love the school. We love the curriculum, the teachers and the families. We knew it would be a great fit from the first week.

I was worried though. I was worried about the change and how it would effect her, which was silly because I was the one who cried on her last day of school at her old daycare, not Grace. I tried writing about a fantastic party the school held in honor of the end of summer West African Yam Festival, but Clare threw up all over me after eating about 1lb of rice, and I didn't feel much like talking about it.

So one of the things that we love about the school is that they spend A LOT of time outdoors. The kids eat lunch outdoors whenever possible, they do yard work (raking leaves, pine needles and gathering branches), they garden (planting, watering, harvesting and spreading hay), they being afternoon recess at 3pm and stay outdoors until pickup and they care for their chickens.

Yeah, you heard me, they have chickens. Some of the (even more liberal than us) parents seem to raised concerns that the chickens being kept in the coop over weekends was cruel, so beginning last weekend families were asked to sign up for a weekend day to care for the birds.

We, of course, were the first family to enroll.

The coop, will there be eggs?
Of course not.

Release of the birds. I only stayed in the pen for 30 seconds after that.

If your on chicken duty you have to feed them, right?
Luckily we'd been saving egg shells and strawberry tops for a week.

Clare under the impression that the little beasties wanted to play with her instead of peck her.
Thank goodness for the upgrade of two layers of chicken wire.
We all escaped the good deed unscathed, next up, the Thanksgiving Picnic.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Four

You are four now. No more of this almost business.


This morning when you came downstairs, there was a demure batting of the eyelashes at the birthday paraphernalia hanging from the ceiling, and you whispered a sincere Thank You.

You will be a brilliant four.

In the last year you have grown so much. So full of life, beauty, kindness and empathy. So full of creativity, curiosity and chutzpah (at times). You reason and love more than you fight and cry. You hug with your whole body and snuggle with your whole heart.

 We love everything you are and all that you will be. Happy 4th Birthday Gracie!

Monday, October 10, 2011

Almost Four

Sunday was Gracie's birthday party. It's been under discussion for the last 10 months. She was very specific in her wishes.

One, a princess cake:



These cakes are how you know I love my children. A weekend of test cake making and then a full Friday/Saturday combo of baking and decorating went into this beast.

Two, a pinata:


Carefully selected with the inspection given to dozens before this unicorn was chosen. On the way home from the store, she hugged it and whispered how it was beautiful, but she was going to whack it with a stick and it wasn't personal.

Three, the ability to dress up:


So do you see what Sugar and Spice in all their Princess Glory are holding in this picture? Yep, the head of the unicorn. There is a whole series of photos where they entertained themselves by pummeling the broken paper-mache carcass.


The irony of it though? Grace was REALLY upset when I through the bits into the dumpster.

The best part of the party for me? A concentrated mass of mom's from her new school telling me how sweet, well mannered and kind she is.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Savage

2011 SavageMan Triathlon - Westernport Wall #6
(Fast forward to 27:40 on the video. Matt is the guy powering up the hill wearing a white Old Style jersey)


 
Race Type - 1/2 Ironman
Total Time - 7h 14m 21s
Overall Rank - 250/390
Age Group - 35-39
Age Group Rank - 35/53

Race Report:
Headed to Deep Creek Saturday morning, with a quick stop in Westernport to see if I could make it up the Wall with the recently installed 11/28 cassette (I failed last month with a 25), made it fairly easily, so I had much more confidence going into Sunday. Packet pickup and racking were uneventful, and by the time I went and checked in at Wisp, it was time to head up to the Carb Dinner. The whole reception and dinner was great, good food, lots of friendly people, and Dave Scott was really down to earth and fun to talked too. I congratulated him on his upcoming victory over me. I didn't sleep very well, and was pretty much awake at 3:30, not cool when your race doesn't start until 8:45.

Swim: 38:41 | 1931 meters | 02m / 100meters
I pretty much focused my swim training on being comfortable for the distance, and not setting the world on fire. I wouldn't say it felt great getting in the water, but it was sure as hell better than standing out in the air.

Normal tumbling at the start, also, realized about five minutes in that I had forgotten to start my watch. Oops. Made it to the turtle turnaround much faster than I had expected, then coming back to the second turnaround at the Swan there was some chop that was a little distracting, but nothing serious.
What would you do differently?: I did the required distances in training, however I've never really done the training sets that make you a faster swimmer. I really should if I want to stop being a back of pack swimmer.
T1:06:49
So running out of the water I had the first of many silly conversations with myself. I was so numb from the water, I actually thought I might be warm enough to avoid most of the extra clothing I had for the bike. Fortuantely, the small part of my brain that contains intelligence said, "Hey, see that smoke coming out of your mouth? That means it is still cold dummy." Hence the long transition time, drying off as much as possible, putting on bike pants and jersey over my trisuit, and finally arm warmers and gloves. I did not regret using any of these items.
What would you do differently?: Maybe just bring a Snuggie to wear and avoid clothing volume?
Bike: 04:01:59 | 56 miles | 13.89 mile/hr
You would think that as hard as the bike course is, any nerves or excitement would be concerning all of the hills, not just one of them. But I'm a guy, and thus, inherently dumb, so all I could think about was the Wall. What if I don't make it? Will that ruin my day? Will I curse the poor volunteers for their grievous sin of helping me get up? Despite all of these thoughts, I managed to multitask and pedal the bike at the same time. Those first 18 miles are downright pleasant, except for that Wall voice in my head.

So, here we go. Passed into Westernport and headed up the small ramp a block or two before the start of the Wall. I shifted to my small front chainring, and of course, the chain wouldn't catch. Panic time. Fumbled blindly with my shifters, and thankfully, somehow, it caught. Then you turn the corner, and it's time for the four block adventure. If they don't already, I think they should have someone recording expressions as riders get their first look up the Wall. Audio might be nice too. I did the first three blocks with a couple gears to spare, then put it into the 28 for the final part. I could hear the noise, and part of me noticed the crowd, but for the most part I just talked/screamed at myself. Here's what the conversation was like over the last block:

Voice 1:"Okay dummy, spin real fast now and stay to the right."
Voice 2:"I don't think I can do this."
Voice 1:"Shut up. Look, that guy that fell to your left, he's blocking everyone else from getting in your way."
Voice 2:"Thanks Voice 1, I think we might do this!"
Voice 1:"Crap, that other guy just fell in your preferred line, veer left right here towards the top and go over that big pothole!"
Voice 2:"WHAT?!?"

And then I was at the top. The race is over, right? I pumped my fist to the crowd and everything, so it's time to go home.

No, not exactly. But I will say, it was an awesome feeling, and I'm really looking forward to seeing the video to see if it really was as crazy as it seemed at the time.

Now it was time to assess things. The clothing drop was just ahead, but honestly the sun hadn't come out and it was chilly enough that my lungs were burning pretty good. I decided to keep everything with me, and it ended up being a good decision. Then, the long slog up Big Savage. Nothing memorable, other than the repeated conversations everyone had on the way up asking whether you had gotten your brick.

I made my biggest mistake of the day at the top of the climb. At the aid station, I got a bottle of water and some salt pills. In juggling both I managed to lose the water bottle, which went spiraling back down the hill. Winning the "Worst Idea Ever" award, I decided I should just keep going and stick it out to the next aid station. It's only 14 miles, right? Never mind there are three really nasty climbs in between. Fortunately (not that I deserved it) I was saved by Ronna, who I talked to for all while on the gentle climb before McAndrew. Besides being really nice in general, she gave me one of her bottles. I suppose now I have to do something nice for someone someday. Although I didn't get to see Ronna finish, I did manage to sneak into her transition area to return the bottle afterwards (it was a nicer, fancy one).

McAndrew and Otto were not bad at all, just grinding out the climb, and then I saw my favorite sign of the day, already mentioned in another race report, "Don't Look Left!". On my training ride last month I didn't think Killer Miller was too bad. Not the case today. Several people were walking their bikes up, and my quads were starting to get that special tingle that meant I was on the verge of serious cramps. There were some good crowds on the ascent though, and that really helped keep me going. Made it to the aid station and actually managed to hang on to the bottle this time. Yay team.

Maynardier wasn't too much of a problem, and I felt I was pretty good to go, until mile 47 when I hit this tiny little hill, and decided to stand in the pedals for just a second or two to stretch things out. Oops. Both quads seized at once. It was bad. "Might not finish the race" kind of bad. Somehow the cramps eased up, and I didn't have to walk the rest of the bike and half marathon doing a double peg-leg stumblefest. I had been hoping to finish the bike leg under 4 hours, but especially given the scare towards the end, I was just glad to get through in one piece.
What would you do differently?: Not a thing.
T2: 02:21
That's more like it. Since I had already put my arm warmers and gloves in my jersey, I just had to take the jersey and bike pants off, change shoes, and out the door I went.
What would you do differently?: Wait a week before coming back to do the half marathon.
Run: 02:24:34 | 13.1 miles | 11m 02s  min/mile
I saw coming in that two break seven hours I'd have to do better than 10 minute miles. I knew it was possible, I just didn't know if it was possible today. I felt great the first two miles, and then my legs started playing a game called "Guess Which Part Will Hurt Next?". Nothing consistent, just roving aches and pains throughout, with an occassional back spasm for good measure. At the aid stations I took on salt, alternated water and Heed, even had some pretzels at one point. I think I was averaging under 10 minute miles for the first half of the loop, but then I hit the fire road. I really did plan on running up it, I swear I did. But when there is someone walking up ahead of you, and you're not catching them while "running", you kinda need to reassess priorities. So, I walked up the last half, then started running again. One funny moment just before mile 6, a spectator shouted (encouragingly) that I was almost done, and her friend chastised her, since you never know if someone is on their first or second lap. I just smiled and said I'd see them in an hour or so. I finished my first loop in about 1:08, so I knew sub-seven hours wasn't happening. Oh well.

Second lap was pretty consistent with the first, although a little slower. This is primarily since I now walked up 3/4 of the fire road. I was feeling ok, and actually passed some people those last few miles. I tried to stay lighthearted, saying goodbye to everyone I'd seen the first time around, and letting that girl (now at mile 12) that it was ok to tell me I'm almost done now. Happily the last mile or so of the run is flat, which was a huge relief at that point since you never get completely comfortable with giant hills that want to destroy your soul. Crossed the finish line, feeling really spent, sore, but overall ok. Nice touch that they had the finish line tape up for me, makes us slow folks feel a little bit prouder.
What would you do differently?: It was what it was. As you'll read below, there is a likely reason I wasn't as fast as I could have been.
Post race
Warm down: Right after finishing BT'r SBRDave found me, having finished well before I did and hearing my name coming down the finish chute. We talked for a bit while I ate a sandwich (great post race food and ice cream by the way). I even got to take a shower after packing up to head home, so I didn't have to drive for three hours feeling like a dirty salt lick.
What limited your ability to perform faster: Yeah, this is the real fun part. I arrived home at around 8PM, and shortly thereafter my wife started exhibiting symptoms of a stomach bug. Same symptoms hit me at 1AM, and it was party one from there, so I assume it was something we caught Friday or Saturday that blew up Sunday night. Did it affect me? No idea, but either way I don't think it kept me from that podium spot.
Event comments: Simply the best supported, organized, and fun race I have ever done. My biggest regret is that I didn't get to fully take in the weekend and enjoy the area. I think I'll do the 70.0 again, but what I really think would be fun would be to run the Olympic on Saturday and then volunteer on Sunday. I've become a bit complacent in my race reporting over the last year or two, this is the first race report in a while that I was excited about writing.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Remembering

I hate all of the 'Where were you?' September 11th posts.
'How did you feel? What were you doing?'

I suppose I was lucky that day, I was safely ensconsed in suburban Chicagoland. I knew nobody in New York or at the Pentagon. But today still riddles me with sorrow.... guilt.

'How did you feel? What were you doing?'
I rarely join in on the conversations. I listen, and smile sympathetically, but I don't contribute. I still feel so guilty about my response to those questions. I guess I should just go ahead and tell my story. Maybe my shoulders will lighten a little bit.

*******************

On September 11, 2001, I was working for a stockbroker.

I hated the job. It was a two man shop, me and him. He was hardly ever in the office, often out playing golf with clients. He was maybe two or three years older than me. I never asked him how old he was, I really didn't want to know. He talked constantly about how much money he was making, knowing that more than a few of his big ticket customers were there because I charmed them while he was out playing golf. I hated the job.

I mostly worked an 8 am - 4pm schedule, skipping lunch so I could leave early. The New York Stock Excahnge opened at 9:30 am which usually gave me an hour and a half to open the office and sort all the voice mail messages and faxes that had come through overnight.

Around 8:50 am a fax came through from headquarters. To my recollection, it said 'The Market will be delayed in opening. It has been reported that a small prop plane as struck a building in downtown NYC.'

And I laughed.

That is my guilt, my sorrow. I was glad for a delay to the start of my day. I laughed for a solid 5 minutes.

Until the next fax came through. And the one after that. And the one after that.

Details came through slowly, or so it felt. The handful of minutes between updates felt like hours. We didn't have a TV in the office and I don't know why it didn't dawn on me to turn on the radio. I just read the supply of faxes that started pouring in, each with an increasing about of information and horror. I started flinching every time I heard the machine kick on.

Per his normal schedule, my stockbroker flew into the parking lot a few minutes after 9:30.

'Have you heard what happened?' he asked,  'This will be bad for buisness. I need to think.' He shut himself in his office behind me.  I sat in shock and read the flow of faxes.

I had laughed.

Around 10am he emerged with a pile of printouts. 'We have to do something. We have to tell people that their money is OK,' he announced. He handed me a stack of papers. It was a list of clients and phone numbers, A-M. 'People need to hear from us. We need to personally call everyone and reassure them their investments are safe.'

My stomach flip-flopped but I didn't say anything outside of saying that I wasn't comforatable with it. I should have screamed at him, told him what an asshole he was. People were dying and he was worried about money. I didn't say it though. I sat at my desk for 10 minutes and then picked up the phone.

A few numbers in, somebody answered. She answered with a shakey, tear filled voice. I followed my script. She screamed at me. Screamed the things that I should have screamed at my stockbroker. She knew people in those buildings. I deserved those words. The full impact of what was happending and what I had just done fully hit me. I wept uncontrolably.

That is the second fold of my sorrow, my guilt. I blindly followed instructions that I knew weren't right. That I knew were crass and careless.

After I told the stockbroker what happened, he sent me home for the day. And he changed his tactic. He narrowed this list to just his biggest clients and rang with concern about their families and connections on the East Coast.

****************

That is my story, my remembering. It isn't as horrible as it could be, as many are. But, it could be so much easier to tell, if only my actions that day were more thought out, more careful. I made someone's life worse that day, their heart ache more.

And you know what?  10 years later, I don't feel a shred better for having written this.

Friday, August 26, 2011

A Little Bit of Disney

Robin has become my fairy blogmother. She raises her wand (or hits forward, whatever) and adds my name to the list. Yes, Shannon from Make Time For Love would be interested.

Do you recognize this face?


Not Grace's, because, you know, I try not to actually show her face on the blog. But the ears in front of here should be a giveaway of where we were.


The fine folks in Orlando, brought a little bit of Disney world to Baltimore yesterday.

I made them mistake of not doing by bloggey research on the Disney Summer Social, and billed it as a princess party to Grace. While it was in no way princesses-ey, it still was filled with enough Mickey Mouse and princess paraphernalia to satisfy her. Particularly when I declared that Grace was the princess at the party.

Hurray Princess Crown!
There was food and toys abound, along with an artist decorating the kids with their favorite Disney characters.


But what I thought was the best thing about this event?

It really wasn't about the kids. It was about the moms. I seemed to be one of the few people in the room that wasn't already connected to the rest of the crowd, but it was still nice. It was a safe, comfortable, environment to let you kid play while you talked to other moms. Disney, you got the Summer Social right.


Grace and I both went home happy. I can't wait until the girls are old enough for our first trip to Disney World!

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Eyes Wide Open

I like my natural disasters to be straight forward. To give some sort of warning.

I grew up in a Chicagoland tornado alley, so honestly, those whipping columns of wind hardly even phase me. I'm like a human radar. I look at the sky patterns and color, sniff the wind and then head back inside.
       Meh, it's fine. Let's finish dinner.
Most of the time it's a false alarm. Either way, you've had plenty of warning if something is going down.

Hurricane's too. While I do not claim to be an expert on this weather phenom, you can see them coming. There have been days and days of incessant news stories and time to prep. And you'd better prep early because everyone now has the fear of Katrina in them. I never see the downside of buying extra milk and canned goods though. There is never any such thing as too much milk in our house. In fact, I think we will be stocking up for Irene this Friday.

Earthquakes though, those are tricky things. No warning. No odd goings-on in the sky or newscasters instilling panic in us. Just BAM: Shooka-shooka-shooka.

Yesterday's earthquake only lasted 36 seconds. It was 36 seconds of quiet panic though. In the metro DC area a person's mind tends to wander towards man-made causes of a shaking building, not Random Acts of God.

It was 36 seconds of panic and then a few minutes of:
Where are my babies? What do I need to grab to leave? Do I have time to tweet this? Does Matt feel this too? Is this an earthquake? Yes, it is an earthquake. No, I don't know what magnitude it is, I am using my phone to tweet. Make sure you grab your stuff, who knows if we'll be let back in. What if the parking garage collapses? What if this building collapses; lowest bidder you know. No, I don't know the magnitude yet, I'm texting.

After an hour of sitting outside with Clare (relatively) in my arms, solidified with confirmation that we did indeed part of the East Coast earthquake and feeding a miraculously found sleeve of Ritz crackers that were in my purse to hungry children, we were sent home so building assessments could be preformed.

While there has been reports of damage to buildings, including the disheartening indefinite closure of the Washington Monument, our house remained unscathed.


Unless you find shifted books and photographs upsetting.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Shannon and the Bean Stalk

At the beginning of summer, I planted three string-bean plants. They were small, scrawny little things. I was positive that they wouldn't grow, but Grace was on a bean kick and who am I to deny her green vegetables?

It took a long time for them to grow. We were producing red tomatoes before the plants had even climbed to the top of their trellis. Then, suddenly, they sprung to life. I added a second cage to the trellis. Up, up, up they went.


I was so proud.

Alas, there were no beans. Shouldn't we have beans by mid-July? I saw a cousin facebook about here bean bounty weeks earlier. Our plants kept growing and growing though. The weight of the plants became too much. It toppled over onto our wood pile. The creeping vines overtook two of  the cherry tomato plants. That was the end of July.


While surveying the damage of our structural collapse, I noticed these. Yea!


And over the next few weeks, it seems we have more little flowers than leaves on this monster of a plant.

And we have our first real bounty of home grown string-beans.


Grace at two and Clare threw hers on the floor. Matt ate them because he knows what is good for him. Me? I savored every bite.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Family Circles

It’s funny how you can love babies before they are even born. How you know you will protect and love them in every way you can before you even see eyes fluttering to look at you. How it doesn’t even matter that they are not part of your flesh and a product of your womb.

I have added another boy to my ranks of children today.

I raced to claim the status of the first outside of the family to caress him. I rocked my swaddled bundle for an hour before I relinquished my hold on his warm little body. I can still smell the sweet, blessed odor of newborn on my skin.

R.K.M.
Welcome to this world little man. You come into with so much more love waiting for you than you can possibly realize.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Up Where the Air is Clear

Clare has been walking for a week now.

One whole week. Only one week. It's like she came out of the womb toddling along.

It's how this kid does everything though. We she crawled, she crawled. There was little wiggle-worm shimmying involved. Same with her steps. Although I take that back, she's been cruising for months. But always with a death grip on something like the Earth would swallow her whole if she let go.

Clare with her boa(constrictor) boa
Last weekend (while I was away) she finally let go. And hasn't looked back.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Me. My. Mine.

I’ve been thinking about this post a lot. I know what I want to say, I just don’t want it to be misconstrued. So let me start off with this:

I LOVED BlogHer. (As a whole), I had a fantastic time. I would will do it again in a heartbeat.

I read a lot of posts from other bloggers before I left denouncing it as a ‘girls weekend’ before I left last week though. For me, that is exactly what it was though. I am completely unapologetic for that. I was there for the sunshine and parties. Contrary to what I felt was a common theme at BlogHer, blogging is not my Business. I was there for four days of being child-free. I registered on a whim and didn’t even look at the session agendas until a few days before. I went into the conference promising that my enjoyment was paramount as was being true to myself.

What does that mean?
It means I had every intention of walking out of seminars that I found lack-luster.
It means that my idea of good times at the parties was an abundance of free drinks and swag.
It means that I wasn’t going to put pressure on myself to network when all I wanted to do was look at palm trees.

So that is what I did. And I had a wonderful time being true to myself.

Monday, August 1, 2011

Come Talk to Me @ BlogHer

So I’m about to go on an adventure.

All by myself.

Well, not really all by myself. Robin and Denise are coming with me.

But right now, I feel all by myself.

I tried packing my bag all weekend long. I put things in, I took things out. Grace put things in and took things out. I’ve analyzed if I have enough room to bring my own pillow like a child because I just don’t sleep right without it.

And now? My stomach is churning. The calendar has flipped and it is officially August and I am officially leaving in 2 days for San Diego.

Posts like this have really been helping, but still…. I get it is OK to be awkward. In my mind though, it is fine for other people to be awkward, but aren’t I supposed to have my shit together and fully embrace the idea of freedom and adventure for five very long days. Part of me relishes the idea of seeing this computer based life in person, but another part of me feels like such a fraud.

You know, you read me. You’ve noticed that my posts have dropped off significantly in the last year or so. Am I a blogger, just because I have a url? Well, I guess I did have business cards made to that effect.

Once I get on the plane I know I will be fine. We have invites to parties galore, and lot of free booze will make all my worries go away, right?

So really, come talk to me. Because I think I will really need it.

Have I mentioned that my stomach is churning?

Friday, July 29, 2011

First of the Lasts

Yesterday, for the first time, the realization that she is leaving friends that she has known since infancy behind for new adventure. With reassurances that since their mama’s were friends, they would of course still see each other, her panic was short lived.

For me, it was one long, ongoing battle. There was lots of tears.

Today is the first of the lasts.

I have drove to work with two children in my car for the last time.

*****
I entered with her for the last time.
I unpacked her for the last time.
I signed her in for the last time.
I asked for my push out the door for the last time.
*****
I packed her up for the last time.
I collected her things for the last time.
I signed her out for the last time.
I exited with her for the last time.
*****

I left work with two children in my car for the last time.

Upon her departure there were heartfelt hugs and gifts. A box covered with glitter and filled with love. Drawings, messages, feelings. When we got home, she carefully went through the box picture by picture, giving each a hug and declarations of friendship.
The countdown calendar still says three days until her starts her new school. I think we planned it wrong. I think today should have said zero yesterday. To me, that was the benchmark. The Last.
The last picture of Grace with her class

Monday, July 18, 2011

The Potty Trained Princess

Lately, Grace’s whole world has revolved around princesses.

In her world, princesses are the ultimate super hero. They dance and twirl and fly, always help those in need. Oh, and the best thing about being a princess? The clothes.

A few months ago, I found a cache of princess dresses and they became out potty training prizes. You peed in the potty? Pick a prize! What will it be? A dress, a wand, some sparkly shoes??

I don’t know if the dresses have really had anything to do with it (she had announced to me that she would no longer need diapers when she went to her new school ages ago), but Grace has been potty-trained for 2 full weeks now.

The feat required one more dress, the one dress that is missing from her extensive collection. The Princess and the Frog Tiana costume. And through the wonder that is the internet, we were gifted* a dress for her final reward from Wholesale Halloween Costumes.

It fit the bill perfectly. Twirly, girly and sparkly. It was everything I had hoped for and more than what Grace expected. She celebrated by watching the movie while wearing the costume.


And then, sly as a fox, edged over to ask what else she could to do earn more princess costumes.

Just keep smiling like this kiddo.

* Wholesalehalloweencostumes.com sent us the Princess and The Frog Tiana dress in exchange for the inclusion of the links you see above. Thank you!

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Capitol Fourth

When we do something, we do it big time.
(Sometimes I wonder if it is a fundamental fault of ours.)
Day trips turn into overnights with us all the time.

We live close enough to Washington, DC, to take advantage of the city semi-regularly. However, we live just far enough away from it to make it a pain in the ass to get to. When my work put out an all call memo a few weeks ago asking for volunteers to walk with our float in the DC Forth of July parade, I submitted my name. I never expected to be selected.

When I was, it turned into an all out adventure.
This was our day:

9:30 am: Start the trek to Washington, DC

9:45 am: Get a flat tire

9:50 am: Fix flat tire (*totally wanted to take pictures, but I knew that was a bad idea)

9:57 am: Drive to gas station to put air in the spare tire

10:15 am: Leave gas station, but realize that there is no way get there by 11am

10:50 am: Call parade organizer and announce late arrival
  
What says "America" more than an
inflatable Uncle Sam?
11:20 am: Arrive at parade

11:45 am: Walk in parade

12:00 pm: Wave at family as I pass by
 
I love the Where's Waldo quality of the picture.
Can you find my family?

12:30 pm: Find family in crowd 
 
Watching the parade march past.
My favorite? The gay cowboys.
1:15 pm: Load hungry, tired, pissed off children into the car

1:45 pm: Arrive at hotel

2:15 pm: Try to make tired, pissed off children take a nap

2:45 pm: Abandon the nap and go swimming instead

3:30 pm: Give the nap one more try

3:50 pm: Clare falls asleep, Grace goes with Matt to buy much needed wine

4:45 pm: Matt returns with wine and we drink ½ the bottle in 10 minutes

5:15 pm: We head to dinner

6:00 pm: We settle on 4th of July sushi and shumai

6:15 pm: Our children start fighting over chop sticks in a fairly not-child-friendly atmosphere

7:00 pm: We leave the restaurant leaving a wake of dumpling scraps and melting ice cubes

7:05 pm: It starts to drizzle

7:30 pm: We decide we’ve made it this far- if we get wet, we get wet- but we are going to watch the fireworks damn-it

9:00 pm: It never does rain more than a pleasant drizzle and over-tired meltdowns are kept to a minimum with a constant stream of ice cream, angel food cake and strawberries

9:15 pm: The fireworks start and the world comes to a standstill

The spectacular view from our hillside perch
9:35 pm: We load the girls back into the stroller

9:40 pm: They are both sound asleep

10:00 pm: We are all sound asleep

Friday, July 1, 2011

Happy Feet

I have a dent in my forehead.

It's only noticeable when I raise my eyebrows, and if I'm raising my eyebrows at you there is probably too much going on to notice an imperfection in my scull. I received it as a consolidation prize for walking / falling into the corner of the dishwasher when I was 3 years old. Shortly after that incident my mom signed me up for dance classes.

I will admit those classes served me well. I am a klutz to the extreme. I tend to look down when I'm walking to avoid tripping. The 10 years of tap-jazz-ballet-pointe, has spared me from a lot of injury that could have been much, much worse.

******
Case in point:

Clare's new hobby is throwing my cookbooks on the floor.

I will admit they are very colorful, ideally located at toddler height and ripe for tossing, so I can't really blame her. On Sunday night, I didn't immediately clean up her thrown book pile. I let it sit until after dinner. Grace was playing on the floor and I was carrying Clare down the single step to our slightly sunken family room. The books lay in our path just on the other side of that step. I was looking down at them. Grace called my name, and suddenly I was no longer looking down at them.

And I stepped on a banana peel book. One foot in motion on the sunken, wooden floored book and one foot stationary on the tile above. While holding a writhing 20lb child.

Was my thunk loud? Yes.
Am I injured? Yes.
Did I have enough grace not to drop the baby? YES!

******
And that, combined with her incessent begging lately, is the reason why Gracie will also be starting to dance classes on Tuesday.

The class is 20 minutes of tap, followed by 20 minutes of ballet, followed by 15 minutes of creative movement where I assume they just let the kids run around in circles and do the alligator on the floor. Her shoes came yesterday. A full test run was required.

Fully outfitted in tights, leotard and ballet slippers, she jumped into her daddy's arms for an impromptu Swan Lake-esque lift.


She then asked me how she actually does ballet, and I showed my little girl how to put her arms and feet into first and second position, complete with pliƩs.

Ahhhhh.

OK, maybe her enrollment in these classes are as much for me as they are her.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Daddy-Daughter

Everyone has things from their childhood that they can’t or won’t let go of. (Right?)

One of mine was the Daddy-Daughter Dance. I was in 4th or 5th grade and I desperately wanted to go. I remember begging my dad nonstop to take me.  He wouldn’t even consider it. He didn’t dance and had no interest in going. He had no interest in going with me.

For weeks it was all anyone talked about at school. I withdrew (even further) from the conversations and into myself those weeks to avoid being asked why I wasn’t going. What would I tell them? The day of the dance I cried in my room. He sat in his favorite chair and watched TV.

My mom loves to tell me how much Matt reminds her of my father sometimes. I vehemently disagree with that statement and it drives a wedge even further between us every time she says it.

This past Saturday, Matt took Grace to our local carnival on one of their frequent ‘dates’.


They rode rides, ate snacks and played games. Gracie almost won a ham and a goldfish. (Neither one would have lasted long in our house.) Matt’s superior college dart skills paid off and he won her princess posters. They rode and snuggled and had the kind of love filled experience Grace has come to expect from him.


And I know Matt will always be the first one in line to dance with his little girl.