Thursday, March 31, 2011

30DOB #8

Day 8: Describe your childhood in sounds and smells.

  • "Remain seated please. Permanecer sentados por favor."
  • Night-blooming jasmine, which grew in our neighborhood in Moorpark.
  • School bells, buzzers, and intercom beeps.
  • Overwarm electronics in the 3rd grade computer lab.
  • "Nick-nick-nick-nick, ni-nick-nick-nick, Nickelodeon!"
  • Sawdust from one or another of Dad's building projects.
  • The theme music from Bubble Bobble.
  • The cellulose acetate that Breyer horses are made of.
  • Gunshots from the Sportsman's Park shooting range, across the freeway from our first rental house in Grants Pass.
  • Horse poop, hay, oats, molasses, shavings.
  • Whinnying, nickering, snorting, sneezing, and other various horsey noises.
  • Wet ground after rain.

Updated to add: I don't know how I forgot to include the soundtrack of my youth. Dan Crow and Raffi early on, Beatles and Phantom of the Opera in the car, Wilson Phillips and Phil Collins/Genesis whenever we had to clean the house, Debbie Gibson/Paula Abdul/Whitney Houston with friends, Garth Brooks a little later on.

30DOB #7

Day 7: Write about the meaning behind your blog name.

The Turn of the Sue is a reference to the Henry James novella, The Turn of the Screw, which I read in high school. To be perfectly honest, I don't really remember much about the plot of the book. Little boy, little girl, country estate, creepiness, ghost(s). Back when I was starting the blog, I was looking for a name that was sort of a pun/play on a book title. Admittedly, I was going for kind of an in-joke that would demonstrate that I'm at least moderately well-read. (Snob! Nerdy, nerdy snob!) This was the best I could come up with. ;) I wasn't super thrilled with it at first, but it's grown on me over the years. And of course there's the double meaning (this blog is my turn to speak).

So yeah, there you have it.

30DOB #6

Day 6: Write about an art piece (painting, drawing, sculpture, etc.)

This past Saturday, we went to visit our friend Alice at Janelia Farm, where she's been living and working. Janelia Farm is a research facility for the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, and it kind of looks like something out of Gattaca. The campus has futuristic-looking buildings and several neat sculptures, one of which is Red Nessie, pictured above. Delos Van Earl is the name of the artist. Here's the official blurb about the piece from Van Earl's website:
"Red Nessie" stems from the concept that we only see that which is on the surface, or above ground. The truth of life is that what we do not see or cannot understand, we imagine. This concept takes the floating, spiraling, serpentine and ribbon-like line of the sculpture that is above ground and lets it be graceful and playful and light. The other half of "Red Nessie", the underground, unseen half that is imagined, is solid, heavy and mysterious. The juxtaposition of one half against the other is the intrigue.
(Typos fixed by me. Leaving them in just seemed mean.)

I don't know that I necessarily imagine the nonexistent underground portion of Red Nessie to be "solid, heavy and mysterious," but I still think it's an amusing piece. If it hasn't been done already, I think someone (*cough*Alice*cough*) definitely needs to put a Santa hat on Nessie next year at Christmastime.

Aside from getting to meet Red Nessie, we did some other fun things on our visit to Janelia Farm. We made breakfast pizzas with Alice, Max & Agnes. We fed Alice's worms. The kids played on the playground right outside Alice's townhouse. And we all took a nice walk around the grounds.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

30DOB #5

Day 5: Write about each of the places you've called "home."

I've lived lots of places. Eleven houses (5 of which were short-term or summer-only type things), three college dorm rooms, six apartments. I've resided in ten different cities or towns, in four U.S. States and one other country (England). But I'd say as far as places I've called "home," it's just down to these five.

Southern California
SoCal has been "home" twice in my life thus far. As Tom never hesitates to point out, I was indeed born there. We lived in Thousand Oaks/Newbury Park until I was 6 and then Moorpark until I was 10. Then we moved to Oregon. I returned to California (Pasadena) after I graduated from college, to live with Tom.

I don't have any memories of the Thousand Oaks house (we moved away before I turned 2, I think), and my memories from Newbury Park are spotty. My dad has always been Mr. Videographer, so my childhood was pretty thoroughly documented. I am sure that many of the things I think I "remember" are actually images from countless home movies, but there are certainly some genuine memories mixed in there.

Southern California in the '80s was smoggy. I remember spending a day at the beach or at an amusement park and feeling my lungs burning by afternoon. I also remember the one time that we saw actual snow falling from the sky, when we were living in Moorpark, and what a thrill and a novelty that was. I remember walking to and from my elementary school, sans parents, in 5th grade. I remember walking down to the community pool (with parents) many times during the summer. Playing baseball in the cul-de-sac, running around with the neighbor kids, taking the "long way" home from school one day with my friend and completely freaking out both her parents and mine. Driving to the barn for riding lessons, and then later to see Kakki who was boarded there. Quesadillas and Paper Boy at Chuy's, weekend swap meets at the local drive-in, visiting Yaya at the beach.

Moving back to the area some 13 years after we'd left was kind of a strange experience. Driving on roads, actually piloting the car down streets I'd only previously traveled as a passenger with my nose stuck in a book, was a bit surreal at first. I definitely got a much better sense of where exactly things in that area were located, in relation to one another. And every once in a while I'd be driving somewhere and be struck with some serious deja vu. But ultimately, the Southern California where I lived as an adult had a different feel from the one where I lived as a kid. No great surprise, of course, but there it is. In spite of the general awfulness of Los Angeles, Pasadena was actually quite pleasant overall. I'm glad we're not still there, but I've got plenty of pleasant memories from my 4.5 years there post-college. Diving in the Pacific? Win. Strolling baby Soren around Caltech? Win. Days off between grad school classes in San Diego? Well, except for the time I busted open my chin, those were pretty nice too.

Grants Pass, Oregon
We moved "up north" when I was 10. Or possibly just after I turned 11. It was that summer, anyway. We'd been vacationing there for a few years, and my parents did a really great job talking the place up and getting us excited about moving. I remember being a little sad about leaving friends in California, but that sadness was outweighed by the excitement of being able to keep Kakki right in the backyard.

Grants Pass was home until I left for college. I don't care what Tom says; I will always consider it my hometown. It's not a big town, and we lived well outside the city limits. Moving to a very rural area after spending many years in various L.A. suburbs was hard on my mom, but I think it was a great place to grow up. The skies in Oregon are the most beautiful skies I've ever known. It was quiet, fairly safe, maybe a little boring sometimes for a teenager too straight-laced to make her own "fun," but I wouldn't trade the experience of living there during my formative years.

Of course, the area is also quite economically depressed. We certainly couldn't live there now (not many job opportunities in our respective fields). But it's always wonderful to visit, and I hope we're able to get back there more often.

Painesville, Ohio
I don't think back on Painesville as one of my "homes" since I was only there for a year, for college. But when I moved out there, I fully intended to spend my entire college career there, so I definitely thought of it as "home" at the time. Living in the midwest was strange. Very flat, very cold in the winter (thanks to the dreaded "lake effect"). Greeting everyone I passed on the sidewalk, rather than hurrying by with averted glances, took some getting used to, but then it was weird not to do it when I moved away again.

Corvallis, Oregon
I only lived there for 3 years for college, but I still find myself a little homesick for Corvallis from time to time. It's kind of in the middle of nowhere, nearly half an hour to the nearest freeway, but that never really bothered me much. It's a pretty little college town, with plenty going on. It was the place I had my first apartment (and second apartment). If Grants Pass is where I grew up, Corvallis is where I became an adult.

I got to see a fair bit of the city riding shotgun in a cop car, as part of the local PD's cadet program. I did most of my ride-alongs during swing shift, and while there were definitely some sketchy areas, things were usually pretty quiet. Cops see the worst a place has to offer, on a daily basis, so if the worst things I saw were a few out-of-control frat parties, the odd drunk and disorderly or domestic dispute call, I'd say that speaks fairly well of the city.

Alexandria, Virginia
Home for the past two years has been an apartment in Alexandria, suburb of Washington, D.C. It's the farthest east (in the U.S.) that I've ever lived, with different foliage and critters than were familiar to me on the west coast. Fireflies and cicadas abound here, along with poison ivy (rather than the poison oak I'm used to) and many colorful deciduous trees (rather than the conifers of the Pacific northwest or the palms of SoCal). D.C. is a cool city, with so much to offer. The free museums, the history, the neat colonial architecture. Virginia's also kind of...southern. It's a little weird to see statues or landmarks celebrating Confederate generals.

In an odd turn of events, several of our Caltech friends ended up moving out to this area around the same time we did. This has made for a strange mix of new and familiar. Different setting, (mostly) same crowd of folks gathering for dinner. If we ever have to move someplace unfamiliar again, I'd like the option of importing a chunk of our social circle with us. That said, it is tough sometimes, living so far away from family. I wish the kids got to see their grandparents more than once or twice a year.

Oregon still feels like home when we go back there, and I suppose it probably always will. On a smaller scale though, home is really wherever Tom, Soren, Eleri & I are together. Cheesy, but true.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

30DOB #4 (And what we've been up to, lately)

Day 4: Tell a joke.

Not to toot my own horn or anything, but I think I am reasonably consistently funny. I crack wise on a regular basis. But it's not hard to play off amusing comments from other people, especially people as hilarious as the ones I tend to pal around with.

I am not very good at straight up joke-telling.

So there are these two fish sitting in a tank, and one of them looks over at the other and says, "Well, do you know how to drive this thing?"

(See what I mean? And no, I didn't write that joke.)


We spent the better part of last week hanging around with some very fun and funny people. Our friends Jake & Auna were in town from California, staying with other friends of ours, Chris & Sarah (and their new little daughter), so we had everyone over for dinner at our place on Wednesday evening. I made homemade black bean burgers - tasty but much too big - along with rosemary-garlic sweet potato fries and a beet/red onion/goat cheese salad. Thursday afternoon, the kids & I took the metro into the city after Soren's last Zoom class to meet Jake & Auna for a walk around the Tidal Basin.

After dealing with the Cherry Blossom Festival crowds the last two years, I can say with complete confidence that the very very best time to go check out the cherry blossoms at the Tidal Basin is the week before the start of the festival. The trees were all in bloom, and aside from a few busloads of marauding tourists at the Jefferson Memorial, there were hardly any people out and about.

We walked around a while, then met up with Tom and another friend, Heather, when they were done with work, and we all went out to dinner. The kids both ate some calimari, and we all had a good laugh at the silly faces Eleri was making while eating her applesauce.

Friday the kids & I returned to the city once more to meet Jake & Auna at the Natural History Museum for a last bit of visiting before they had to head on their way out of town. It was the first time I've seen Soren become fully absorbed by a museum exhibit (the animal skeletons). He wanted to look at each one and wanted Jake (but only Jake) to tell him what animal each skeleton was from. We moved on to the Insect Zoo next, and the lad was pretty jazzed to hold a big ol' cockroach on his arm.

After saying our goodbyes, the kids and I continued on to the Building Museum. We're taking the playschoolers there in a couple of weeks to check out the Lego Exhibit (finally), so we wanted to get the tickets bought in advance. So Soren got to play at the museum for a bit while Eleri napped. Then we made our way home once more.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Ups and downs in Sleepsville

Eleri has been amazing and delighting us, in the past week or so, with her ability to put herself to bed, both at naptime and at night. We had several nights in a row, also, where Soren slept in his own room for most or all of the night. Things were looking up! (Even if the night weaning still wasn't fully taking hold. Baby steps are okay.)

Then last night we had two very restless kids in our bed for most of the night. And at naptime today, Eleri yelled and cried and fought sleep even though she was very clearly tired. I was really really hoping to avoid the whole "absolutely must scream myself to sleep each and every time" thing that Soren did, for months, starting right around this age, but I'm starting to fear we will not be so lucky. I know so many moms who have complained about this very phase, so I'm sure it must just be one of those delightful developmental things we'll just have to go through, but man. It's no fun.

As for Soren, I don't even mind the nights when he climbs in our bed and goes right back to sleep. Sometimes I don't even wake up when he comes in; he's just there in the morning, all cute and snuggly. But the nights when he flops and flails around, kicking and punching the rest of us in his sleep? Those I could do without. Blessedly, they are relatively few and far between, these days. I just have to keep reminding myself that it will get better, and I will get to sleep solidly again someday. ;)

Now if you'll excuse me, I have to try and convince Eleri that it's bedtime, not party time, and that she'd be much happier if she just relaxed, closed her eyes, and drifted off to sleep quietly instead of screaming in outrage until she's too tired to keep it up. I suspect my chances of success tonight are pretty slim.

30DOB #3

Day 3: Write about your favorite dessert.

Picking just one favorite dessert is tough. Different kinds of desserts are particularly suited to different occasions, y'know? Relaxing with the family on a weeknight? Turkey Hill Extreme Cookies 'n Cream ice cream, without a doubt.

(I'd also like to give a shout-out to Trader Joe's Bon Bons - I like the vanilla ice cream ones even better than the chocolate ones - but when we have those around, I am basically incapable of saving them for a "dessert" item. In fact, I frequently eat one before I even have breakfast. Hehe.)

If pie is called for, I've got to go with key lime. I almost wrote this whole post about my love for key lime pie, actually, because damn do I love key lime pie, but then I thought about some of the desserts we've made when we get together with friends for dinner. How does key lime pie stack up, for example, against the delectable combination of ML's amazing lava cakes and mint chip ice cream?

And then I thought about the stuffed puff pastry dessert we've made several times. It's surprisingly simple - cut puff pastry into little squares, plop some filling in the middle (chocolate, jam, goat cheese, or some combination thereof), fold em up, bake em, voila! Little packets of warm deliciousness that are both sweet and savory. Plus, just thinking about them fills me with warm fuzzy feelings, bringing to mind fun dinners with good friends, so it's hard not to harbor a little extra affection for them.

So that's my answer. Stuffed puff pastry treats of awesome are my favorite dessert.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Hurry, hurry, drive the fire truck

This morning we took the playschoolers to Fairfax County Fire Station #26. They had such a great time climbing in the trucks and looking at all the equipment. They were also super excited to get to see where the fire fighters sleep when they're on duty. A squished car out behind the fire house, used for training purposes, was also a big hit.

After we'd been home a while, this afternoon, Soren asked if we could go back for another tour. Hehe.

Eleri took an epic nap in the afternoon, which unfortunately meant that we missed out on the fantastic weather late in the day. We did take our first family walk of the year though, after dinner. It started raining on us quite suddenly, just as we were getting back to our building.

No big plans for tomorrow. We'll have friends visiting from California later in the week though, so we'll probably have some fun adventures in the city with them. Yay!

30DOB #2

Day 2: Put your ipod on shuffle: List the first 10 songs that play.

I only have a couple of hundred songs on my iPod right now, and 62 of them are by Liz Phair. Hence, she shows up rather a lot when my 'pod's on shuffle.

1. Vitamins - Supernova
2. Nashville - Liz Phair
3. Blue Eyes - Cary Brothers
4. Winding Road - Bonnie Somerville
5. Transatlanticism - Death Cab For Cutie
6. Alice Springs - Liz Phair
7. G.O.D. (Good Old Days) - Fastball
8. Highroyds - Kaiser Chiefs
9. Never Said - Liz Phair
10. Caring is Creepy - The Shins

By contrast, here are the first 10 that play when I shuffle what's stored on the computer (1,368 total, currently).

1. The Prize - Semisonic
2. Clean Getaway - Caviar
3. Michael - Franz Ferdinand
4. Let's Pretend We're Bunny Rabbits - The Magnetic Fields
5. Nice Car, Boy - Jack Johnson
6. Another Brick in the Wall - Pink Floyd
7. I'm Looking Through You - The Beatles
8. Let's Get it Up - Hayseed Dixie
9. Big Tall Man - Liz Phair
10. Winter Time - Steve Miller Band

And just for fun, here's the sort of stuff I listen to when I'm at the gym.

Exercise playlist on shuffle:
1. New Slang - The Shins
2. Modern Way - Kaiser Chiefs
3. Let Go - Frou Frou
4. Killer Hair - my head
5. This Too Shall Pass - OK Go
6. Rainbow Sign - Fruit Bats
7. Broken - Unkle
8. Ruby - Kaiser Chiefs
9. Valley Winter Song - Fountains of Wayne
10. How To Fly - Brian Vogan and His Good Buddies

Sunday, March 20, 2011

The balcony gardeners

After Eleri woke up from her nap this afternoon, the four of us went to Home Depot in search of some more things to plant on our balcony. I felt a little better about patronizing the great orange devil since the kids and I did go to the local nursery yesterday, and there were just a few things they didn't have/were out of that we still wanted to get. Specifically, we wanted tomatoes and some more herbs.

Tomatoes we did indeed find. We bought a couple of Sweet 100 plants, which sounded promising. Alas, Home Depot was also out of basil and cilantro (the two main herbs we wanted), so Tom convinced me, eventually, to try again with growing things from seeds.

I was finally able to coax basil to grow, last year, but for the past two years my cilantro and chives have been utter failures. I think I maybe harvested 5 cilantro leaves last year. But, I didn't try starting any of the plants indoors - citing the obvious hazards posed by cats and small children - so hopefully we will have some more success with seedlings this year. The seed-starter tray we bought is covered, and we're keeping it in the bathroom for now, until stuff starts sprouting and needing sunlight. Then it'll likely be outside during the day and inside (again shut in the safety of the bathroom or a closet) at night. As for what we planted, we've got cilantro, sage, two kinds of basil (sweet and lime), spinach and jalapeƱos. It's tough not to go a little crazy when presented with the many, many opportunities available on the seed racks, but I think we restrained ourselves admirably.

Again today, Soren helped with the plants while Eleri watched from just inside the living room. Then the lass ate a big pile of black beans for a late lunch while we did some chores and watched some soccer.

Tomorrow morning, we've got a firehouse tour planned for the playschoolers! I have to call in the morning to make sure it's a go for sure, so I hope there won't be any snags. I'm sure Soren is absolutely going to flip his lid with the awesomeness of it all. I have to admit, I'm pretty excited to see how excited he's going to be. ;)

30 Days of Blogging (30DOB) - #1

1: Post a recent picture of you and 15 interesting facts about yourself.

That's me. Soren took this picture. It's from late December, but that'll have to be recent enough.

Fifteen interesting facts, eh? I will try not to duplicate things I've written for past memes, but no promises. Also, I warn you that most of these will probably be "interesting" only in the most generous definition of the word.

  • I'm turning 30 this year. I'm still waiting to start feeling like a "real" grownup, instead of a kid doing her best approximation of one.
  • I've lost 10 pounds since the beginning of the year. That doesn't seem like a lot over 3 months, but it puts me below my pre-pregnancy weight for both kids.
  • I've lost that weight while still eating a Chipotle burrito bowl every weekend.
  • I've had gray hairs since high school. I have a lot more of them now.
  • I've tried, twice, to donate my hair. Both times I was told I didn't have enough to cut off, but both times the stylists didn't really believe me about how short I was willing to cut it. I'm growing it out again now, so we'll see if I can tolerate it long enough to try again.
  • I can run 3 miles at 6 mph or better. (On a treadmill. I don't think I could do it outside, with changes in elevation & stuff.)
  • I'm apprehensive about going back to work once the kids are both in school, but I'm possibly even more afraid of not going back.
  • I've only broken two bones (jaw, pinky toe), and both were injuries caused by horses.
  • I wish I'd learned how to skateboard, proficiently, in my youth (instead of just starting to try to learn in college). That would have required a whole lot less clumsiness on my part, though.
  • I also wish I'd tried skydiving before I became a parent. I miss that feeling of invincibility I had in my teens/early twenties.
  • I don't listen to enough music these days. This is made most evident by the fact that I have stupid songs from SuperWhy or Word World stuck in my head more often than actual, you know, songs.
  • I really like red wine. If that makes me a snob, well, that's fine.
  • I appreciate a good pun, and occasionally a bad pun. Yes, there is a difference.
  • I play a lot of different word type games, and my latest obsession is Words With Friends on the iPod. It's Scrabble with just enough minor tweaks to avoid a copyright lawsuit. If anyone wants to play against me, my username is bonsaisue.
  • I am not as pithy as my sister (who is doing the 30DOB thing as well).

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Because I'm a sucker for a meme

I came across this 30 Days of Blogging thing and thought I'd give it a whirl, especially since I've been in kind of a slump lately. I probably won't actually follow a strict one-a-day schedule, but I'm hoping that it'll give me a jumping-off point for the days when I have some trouble getting something written.

Here are the topics (collected from a few different sources and then randomized):

Day 1: Post a recent picture of you and 15 interesting facts about yourself.
Day 2: Put your ipod on shuffle: List the first 10 songs that play.
Day 3: Write about your favorite dessert.
Day 4: Tell a joke.
Day 5: Write about each of the places you've called "home."
Day 6: Write about an art piece (painting, drawing, sculpture, etc.)
Day 7: Write about the meaning behind your blog name.
Day 8: Describe your childhood in sounds and smells.
Day 9: Write about your most embarrassing moment.
Day 10: Write about something in the last 24 hours that made you happy.
Day 11: List 10 things that you are thankful for.
Day 12: Write about your mother’s advice.
Day 13: Write about the top search engine keywords that bring people to your blog.
Day 14: Write about 5 favorite quotes.
Day 15: Write about a habit that you wish you didn’t have.
Day 16: Share your favorite recipe.
Day 17: Post an old picture and some commentary.
Day 18: List songs you listen to when you are happy, sad, bored, hyped, mad.
Day 19: List 5 movies you can watch again and again.
Day 20: Cartoon yourself (using some avatar creators).
Day 21: Write about a sweet memory from your past.
Day 22: Cruise a thesaurus and pick out 10 words you like the sound of.
Day 23: List your 5 favorite TV shows and why you like them.
Day 24: Post a picture of something that makes you happy.
Day 25: Write about something you're proud of from the past few days.
Day 26: Post a picture of somewhere you've been.
Day 27: List short term goals for this month and why.
Day 28: Post (and write about) a picture of you as a child.
Day 29: Whom would want to switch lives with for one day and why?
Day 30: Write a letter to yourself. Answer it a year later.

It's already getting pretty late tonight, so I'll probably start with the first item tomorrow.

As for today, Tom unfortunately had to work, so the kids & I got to enjoy the nice weather, running some errands about town. We picked up some plants for our balcony garden - brussels sprouts, strawberries, rosemary & garlic chives - and made plans to get more things tomorrow. Soren & I got everything planted while Eleri watched from the play pen. For dinner, I made a couple of tasty pizzas (Thai red curry pizza with chicken, spinach, onion, orange bell pepper, mushrooms & mozzarella, and BBQ pizza with chicken, onions, cherry pepper & cheddar cheese), and then we watched some soccer all together.

The past two nights, Eleri has actually put herself to sleep. I snuggled her and held her until she was basically sleeping in my arms, but when I tried to put her in her crib, she'd wake up and cry. After a few attempts, I decided to see what would happen if I just left her in the crib and walked away for a couple of minutes. I was pleasantly shocked when she stopped crying after about a minute and a half and fell asleep all on her own! Soren never did that as a baby. Never. If we tried to just let him cry, he would just escalate, escalate, escalate, until he was a hiccuping, gasping mess who then took another hour to calm back down. So, yeah, color me jazzed as heck about this. The middle-of-the-night wakings have still been a little hit & miss; very occasionally she will resettle on her own, but more often she's needed to come in our bed and actually nurse back to sleep. But progress is progress, and I really can't complain too much.

Speaking of sleep, tis bedtime! Have a good one.

Friday, March 18, 2011

The mediocrity of mommyblogging

It's been a little tougher to summon up the desire to commit my petty gripes to paper screen. What right do I have to whine about the difficulties of night-weaning when truly horrible shit is going down in Japan? I know, horrible shit goes down all around the world every single day, but the compounded awfulness of freaky-huge earthquake and devastating tsunami and nuclear peril is hard not to keep thinking about.

I haven't even been reading that much about what's going on over there (and watching the news on TV is right out). I kind of can't deal. The earthquake in Haiti had much the same effect on me, keeping me up nights, projecting. Eleri had just been born, and I couldn't stop thinking about how many women there must be, there, also with brand new babies, trying to survive, living in a makeshift shelter or worse. What kind of monster am I if I do less than cherish every moment of my incredible good fortune, griping about toddlers who don't want to listen or babies who don't want to sleep?


I can't dwell on it.

Today was a fun day. We took the playschool kids to Whole Foods for a tour, and they had a great time. They got to touch fish and taste brie and eat pizza and cupcakes. It was also a fantastically nice day outside, so after we got home from the tour, the kids and I went outside to play at the playground. They played in the sand and slid on the slide and had a grand old time. Poor Soren, though, wanted desperately to go up to the field where a small group of 12(ish) year-olds were kicking a soccer ball around. When I told him those kids were too big for him to play with, he just said, "But I'm a big boy too, Mommy." Hehe, sorry, little man.

In the evening, Soren and I read Pickle Things together for the first time in quite a while. Six months, at least. It was the first time, ever, that he really got the humor of the book. A pickle ear?! Hilarious! Pickle boat?! I thought he was going to bust a gut laughing. It was great. Eleri's getting more into books too, which of course I love. Just a big snuggly ball of awesome, those two.

All right, I'm going to get some sleep. More pictures coming soon!

Sunday, March 13, 2011

47-hour Weekend

Day 338

Day 63

Day 339

Day 64

Hey, look at that. A standard-issue photos-and-text blog post. How long has it been since I did one of these? A while, that's for sure.

Not that I've much, specifically, to recount from our (shortened! a pox on thee, DST!) weekend. Family grocery and Chipotle outing yesterday. Time spent today narrowly winning a battle with the calculus book. Lots of cuteness as the kiddos played together and engaged in some astronaut training with Tom. Eleri's started doing a lot more babbly narrating, like Soren used to do, before he figured out English. She seems to be a pretty good mimic, too. The kids were kicking the soccer ball around today, and at one point she very clearly repeated, "Good kicking!" though I'm certain she's just copying the sounds. She's also been doing this exceedingly adorable thing where she recites part of the I'm a Little Cuckoo Clock nursery rhyme (I assure you it's much cuter than the linked video makes it seem), where she'll rock back & forth a little while saying "tick-tock, tick-tock" and then in the sweetest little girlo voice say, "Cuckoo!" Gah, I'm gushing, but it's frickin' darling. I know, I know, I will try to catch it on video sometime soon.

Sooo, yeah. Now the weekend's over, and the week begins anew. We've got not one but two playschool field trips planned for this week. National Postal Museum tomorrow, and a Whole Foods tour on Friday. Should be fun!

They might (still) be related

When Eleri was 7 months old, I put up this post, with month-by-month comparative photos of the kids. I'd intended to do another post when she turned 1, but of course I forgot about it. So here are another 7 months' worth of shots.

Eight Months

Nine Months

Ten Months

Eleven Months

One Year Old

Thirteen Months

Fourteen Months

Saturday, March 12, 2011

President of the SSA Fan Club (Epilogue)

After we dropped Soren off for playschool yesterday, Eleri & I got some breakfast and then steeled ourselves for a return to the Social Security office. I never did hear back from the local Health Department as far as whether the paperwork had actually been filed, so I was just hoping that there was a chance she was already in the system.

Lo and behold, just a short wait later, I was able to talk to someone who confirmed, yes indeed, Eleri had been assigned a Social Security Number! Of course, she still couldn't give me an actual SS card without "proof of identity" for Eleri, but she did at least give me a print-out containing El's number (once I was able to prove my identity, of course). Asinine...never mind that the very fact that she's been issued a SSN means that the requisite proof of identity had been received by the SSA at some point, and that it's not as though I was issued a card and then lost it. I never received the original card! But whatever. The lass exists, as far as the federal government is concerned, and we'll now be able to claim her on our taxes. And the kids' ID cards were in the mailbox later that afternoon, so it shouldn't be difficult now to go back to the SS office one more time, get the card, and put this whole mess to bed once and for all.

So there you have it! Oh, and our good luck from the morning carried over when it was time to leave A's house. Soren only complained a little bit about leaving, but there was nothing like the complete meltdown we've enjoyed the last couple of times. Improvement is improvement, and I shall not take it for granted.

Photos! More of 'em!

Day 326 / Day 51

Day 327

Day 52

Day 328

Day 53

Day 329

Day 54

Day 330

Day 55

Day 331

Day 56

Day 332

Day 57

Day 333

Day 58

Day 334 / Day 59

Day 335

Day 60

Day 336

Day 61

Day 337

Day 62

Wednesday, March 09, 2011

The sound of settling

As a bit of a follow-up to my last post, I'm pleased to share that, though it took her a coon's age to fall asleep at bedtime, Eleri slept in her crib for five solid hours last night, woke up briefly - once - nursed for a few minutes, and then slept the rest of the night quite soundly (in our bed, but soundly). She's gone completely boob-free today, and has just moments ago settled down to sleep after nearly draining a 9 oz bottle of breastmilk. Who's winning weaning? We are!

And yes, now that I've said that, we'll have a miserable day tomorrow. Oh well. Things are great right now.

Switching gears, Soren has been the executor of some high intensity freak-outs, lately. They seem to be very specific as to cause, but they're almost frighteningly unlike him, as far as his behavior goes. All-out kicking and screaming, kind of violent, full-on resistance to the thing he doesn't want to do. And he hasn't wanted to get his hair rinsed in the bathtub or leave A's house after a playdate. It's pretty intense. I'm not really sure what to do about it except try to keep him from hurting himself (or me) and let him work through his emotions. If he were responding this way to everything he didn't like, that would be a different story, but two isolated situations (it's happened 3 times total in the past couple of weeks), I can handle.

Something else I've neglected to mention is that Tom's sleep sacrifice this past Monday paid off. He was able to snag the only open space in a 3-days/wk preschool class at the rec center for Soren. I'm fairly confident the lad is going to love that, so I'm quite excited. Yay!

Real-time weaning update: I botched the bed-to-crib transfer (par for the course, lately), and though I was able to get her to re-settle with the bottle, she drained what was left in there in fairly short order and was still looking for more, so it's back to the status quo for the night. But weaning's generally a gradual sort of thing anyway, so I still think we're making good progress.

Toddler bowling video coming your way soon! And once again, check Flickr for the latest photos. G'night for now.

Tuesday, March 08, 2011

Stop! Weaning time!

Eleri is 14 months old today. We've been going through a bit of a rough patch for a little while now with regard to sleep. For most of her life, she's been really pretty easy to put to sleep and (more awesomely) transfer from Point A to Point B once she had fallen asleep. I'm not counting the first couple of months after birth, when she wanted to party all night long, but once we got over the initial newborn hurdle, it's been pretty smooth sailing. She has certainly always slept way better in the crib than Soren ever did.

But lately, maybe the past 6 or 8 weeks, it's been kind of a different story. She's gotten much harder to transfer, she sleeps less soundly, she wakes up more often, and some days she goes without napping more than 5 or 10 minutes (if that). I have had quite a few very frustrating days, lately, where I'll nurse her down for her nap, she'll sleep on my lap for 4 minutes, and then the moment I try to move her to the crib, she's wide awake again and no amount of holding/patting/nursing/outright begging will get her to go back to sleep. For a while I chalked it up to teething - molars are notoriously brutal, and Soren was certainly no picnic while he was getting his - but they're all in now and things don't seem to be getting much better. She's also spending more nights in our bed (again, transfer issues) which I wouldn't actually mind all that much except for the fact that she's waking up more easily, and more often, and I've fallen into the habit of just nursing her back to sleep each time.

As it turns out, I'm kind of done with nursing. It's not physically painful, like it was when Soren was this age and I was somewhat newly pregnant with Eleri, so the extra incentive to get the weaning done and over with hasn't really been there this time. But Soren was weaned between 14 and 15 months, and this sleep situation is really starting to be a drag, so it's time. I am totally ready for her to be weaned, but at the same time, I'm not ready at all to deal with the weaning process.

Let me be clear. I'm not particularly sentimental about nursing. I'm 100% glad I was able to do it for both kids, and sure, there's some part of me that will miss aspects of it, but I don't really feel the need to hold on to my "babies" for as long as possible. As infuriating as he can be sometimes, Soren is an incredibly fun little dude, and I love watching him continue to grow and mature develop. (Let's not get ahead of ourselves.) I also totally dig that Eleri is starting to talk more; she's becoming more expressive and interactive every day. I am fully ready to embrace the next phase. And she's actually more or less completely daytime-weaned; we're basically just down to naptime/bedtime/occasional last resort when she's upset and nothing else is working. More often than not, it's about getting her to go to sleep or stay asleep.

Is it a crutch? You bet. It's just that the boob can be such a convenient soothing mechanism. (There's a joke or a t-shirt idea in there somewhere.) Get the kid back to sleep in the middle of the night in under 5 minutes with minimal crying? Yes, please! Half the time I'm almost back to sleep before she is.

Which is fine if she's only waking up once a night, like she used to. Now that the convenience factor is going away, the benefits have begun to be outweighed by the annoyances. But the alternative? Several minutes of sustained yelling several times a night, with the added danger of waking up Soren and then having to deal with two sad and wakeful children? Significantly less appealing.

I've never been a fan of sleep training/cry-it-out/whatever you want to call it. Mostly because it was completely counterproductive with Soren. Eleri, at least, doesn't seem to work herself up into more and more of a fit when left by herself for short periods of time. She's actually probably a pretty good candidate for that method, but I'm still not comfortable with it. And Soren did eventually learn to fall asleep on his own, so I don't think we've done him a huge disservice or anything by not "sleep training" him from early on. Likewise, I don't feel like it's necessary to try it with Eleri. The problem, ultimately, is going to be the fact that she's going to protest mightily, even while being held and cuddled, if her preferred method of pacification is not offered to her. And yes, she'll get over it eventually, and she'll learn to be soothed back to sleep without nursing, but ugh. The interim is going to be kind of a bitch.

We'll get through it, though.

(And then we can start working on getting her to sleep in Soren's room, which will be a whole different challenge, but ultimately very rewarding!)

Monday, March 07, 2011

President of the SSA Fan Club

When Soren was born, we filled out paperwork in the hospital for him to get a Social Security number. A few weeks later, his card arrived in the mail, and that was that. When Eleri was born, I remember signing a form indicating that we intended to get her a SSN, but I thought it was up to us to tend to the actual application process. Ever the procrastinator that I am, I never quite got around to dealing with it until, with tax time rapidly approaching, it's become necessary to get a number assigned to her so that we can claim her as a dependent on our taxes.

The local Social Security Office is right down the road from our apartment, so that's convenient. Less convenient is that they share parking with several other large offices (one of which seems to be a temp agency or job corps center or somesuch), so it can be very difficult to find a parking space. Early last week I tried to go to the office and could not find a single free space. So I decided I'd try again on Thursday, aiming to get there right when they opened for business.

We made it about 15 minutes after opening, and even then we had to park waaaay down the lot. We got inside, waited in the first line just to get a number (so we could wait some more, later on, for our turn to be processed) and before too hideously long, we got up to the counter. I whipped out the completed application and Eleri's birth certificate, which is required for "evidence of age." I was quickly and somewhat snarkily informed, however, that a birth certificate is not sufficient for use as "evidence of identity." Even for a baby. Acceptable options would have been hospital birth records (which we obviously don't have), an insurance card with her name on it (sorry, policy holder's name is no good, even if it's the same name as one of the parents listed on her birth certificate), a state ID card, or notarized copies of medical or vaccination records. Okaaaay. I grumpily stalked out of there and set about considering the options.

I concluded that the simplest course of action would probably be (now don't laugh) to go to the DMV (Hey, I said no laughing!) and get her an ID card. I remembered getting my driver's license printed right there, so I thought we'd probably be able to get the ID, then return to the SSA and still get everything wrapped up that very day. So off we went to the DMV, where we waited in line for a number, then waited for our number to be called, then processed the paperwork and got the kids' pictures taken for ID cards (decided to get Soren one too, since we were there). After all that was said and done, the DMV employee informed me that the cards would be arriving in the mail, 7-10 days hence. Curses! Tom says he remembers getting a temporary paper license when we moved here and then having his actual driver's license mailed, but I swear they were printed on the spot. Oh well.

Hey, fun fact. The required items to obtain a state ID card: birth certificate, and proof of residency (my VA driver's license). That's it! Why oh why, Social Security Administration, can't those same items suffice to prove one's identity in your application process?! It makes no sense. Grr.

In the afternoon, I called the birth center to ask what home birthers normally do when it's time to get their offspring recognized by the SSA. I was informed that the process is actually virtually identical to that of a hospital birth. The midwife issues a certification of live birth, which is submitted to the local health department, which passes on the necessary info to the SSA. A quick look in my chart revealed that, indeed, the certification had been sent to the health department, the health department had sent back a notice acknowledging receipt of said certification, and we should have received Eleri's Social Security card in the mail months ago! *headslap*

My last order of business, then, was to call the local health department to try and track down the necessary papers and see where the process got stalled out. I called twice, and both times it went straight to voice mail. I'll try again this week, and probably also try again from the SSA side of things to see if it's possible that she's already been issued a number and they can just look it up for me (provided, of course, that I can show sufficient proof of my identity, and possibly perform some sort of DNA test so I can prove I'm actually Eleri's mother).

Way to operate intelligently, Social Security Administration. Way to fricking go.

Sunday, March 06, 2011


Not doing much better so far with the daily-blogging in March. I did, however, run 5k today on the treadmill, for the first time this year. It was my slowest time yet (30:09), but I don't mind. The fact that I can just hop on the 'mill and run for half an hour without stopping is pretty good, as far as I'm concerned.

New word for Eleri in the past few days: shoe.

Tomorrow morning is the big preschool registration day at the rec center. I'm up late blogging because the rest of the house has long been asleep because Tom will be the one going to wait in line ass-early tomorrow, instead of me. Work's busy for him right now, so a day off was out of the question, and this was the way for him to miss the least amount of time possible in the morning. I feel bad, since I know he'll be extra tired tomorrow, but he doesn't seem to think it will be too horrible. I hope he's right.

More pictures are up on Flickr. Check em out. I hope to have more of substance up on the blog again soon. For example I have something of a rant about the Social Security Administration to post, possibly tomorrow. For now, though, I'm off to bed.

Wednesday, March 02, 2011

Book Review: Made By Hand, by Mark Frauenfelder

Made By Hand: Searching for Meaning in a Throwaway World was a vary interesting read. The author, Mark Frauenfelder, founded Boing Boing and is the editor in chief of Make Magazine. He writes candidly about feeling kind of bogged down by technology, spinning his metaphorical wheels without really going anywhere. It's not an uncommon phenomenon. (I linked before to this series of posts about the Slate writer who decided to go on a complete Internet fast.) Anyway, Frauenfelder's attempts to shake off his digital ennui lead him - and his family - first to a failed experiment in living largely off the grid on Rarotonga, an island in the South Pacific. When that doesn't work out, an opportunity comes along for him to work for Make, which leads him to start becoming involved in a number of DIY type projects.

Frauenfelder soon discovers that stepping away from the computer monitor and actually doing things with his hands - designing, making, building, retrofitting, customizing - can be extremely rewarding. Emotionally, psychologically, monetarily, etc. This isn't an earthshaking revelation of course, but it's nice to be reminded that, sometimes, doing something yourself, even if you make mistakes, is ultimately more valuable than farming out the task to "a professional."

His chapter about killing his front lawn and setting up a garden had me itching for warmer weather so I can start trying to grow plants on our balcony again. Later chapters, about beekeeping, instrument-building and spoon-whittling made me start thinking about projects I'd like to take on. (You know, in my copious spare time.) I'll admit it, I'm pretty easily inspired by that sort of thing. I can barely walk into a craft store without coming up with half a dozen projects I'd love to start if only I had the time.

I kind of wish Frauenfelder had waited to write the book until after he'd had a bit more DIY experience under his belt. I get it, sure, he had book material and wanted to use it for a payday; can't fault him for that. But as of the writing he'd only been doing this stuff for about a year and a half. He'd only just started keeping bees. (I wanted to know how that endeavor turned out.) I guess I'd like to see a second book, five, ten years down the road. This book was good for what it was - Hey! Doing stuff yourself is fun and not insurmountably difficult! - so I suppose that's all I can ask of it.

Definitely give it a read. It won't take you long (it wouldn't have taken me long at all if I hadn't set it aside for several weeks after reading the first chapter), and it's certainly very interesting.

Fun with MS Paint.

I draw words on-screen for him, and he sounds them out. He's getting pretty good at it!

Tuesday, March 01, 2011

Yet more photos

Hey! It's March! Maybe I'll be able to shake off the February funk and get back to regular blogging. For now though, here are more pictures.

Day 320

Day 45

Day 321

Day 46

Day 322

Day 47

Day 323

Day 48

Day 324

Day 49

Day 325

Day 50

What's going on these days? Eleri's on some kind of nap strike. I suppose, more accurately, she's on some sort of "staying asleep when transferred to bed from the comfortable arms/lap of Mom/Dad" strike. It's not my favorite thing ever. But she is "talking" more; a couple of new words and a lot of babbling. "Cup" has entered her vocabulary, and I'm pretty sure she said "baby" today (after Soren said it to her a few times).

Soren's a reading machine. He's really pretty amazing. And he's been completely diaper-free - day and night - for over a week now! (Of course, now that I've committed that to writing, he'll have a massive accident tonight, right after we've settled into a nice REM sleep state. ;)

Mostly I've been getting a huge kick out of the kids interacting together. Oh my goodness they're cute. Yesterday Soren was helping Eleri put her socks on. (Trying to help, really. But he was making a good effort at it.) And they've started giving each other high fives. So that's freaking awesome.

Coming soon! Book review! And more stuff! Good night for now.