Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Another Christmas ended

So the family and I had a fine day. We opened all the presents in the morning, including from Julia's gifts that arrived TODAY, and enjoyed playing and cleaning. Then we went to Chinese buffet for lunch, where I ate my weight in sushi and Steve ate an octopus. We tried to get Penny to eat a crawfish, but she kept moving it off the plate saying, "bug."
Later, we went for a walk and enjoyed some whiskey one of Steve's workers got for him. The we watched "Looney Tunes," a gift from Aunt Sandy to the girls, but really, a gift for me.
Here are some pics from today.
This is a totally cool "My Mom's Tote" bag. Steve said it's his favorite because he could see Carolyn playing with it quietly, for like an hour. Babysitting capacity — The true mark of a great toy.

This letter train spells "Gardner." Isn't that cool...

My Christmas girls

Bunny love.

Mmmmm. Bug.

Steve bought me a whole case of Estee Lauder makeup, so I made myself up to look like a French whore to go to the Chinese buffet. See how pretty.

Two more Christmas videos

Santa's cookies

And yes... I see what she did with her hands. I think that's what it means when people say, "It was cooked with love."

Christmas wishes

Monday, December 24, 2007

And on Earth, Peace. Good Will Toward Men

We're here. Finally. Christmas Eve.
I've been a real scrooge this year, even comically so as the family and I hosted our own Christmas party at an empty pizza parlor with pinball, a juke box and beer by the pitcher. Oh, and the festive bus ride, of course.
But I wanted to wish the folks I know a very Merry Christmas and lots of happiness in the New Year. Yes, even scrooges have a heart. Tiny shriveled hearts, like old raisins, but just enough.
Now, almost time to take down this crooked tree... Finally.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

A story... in photos

Carolyn and I went to visit my mom in Michigan for her birthday. Here's what happened...

I took Carolyn out to eat on the drive there. I took her picture.

Then she took mine.

We got to Michigan. We played. We ate. We had cake.

Then this happened.
It snowed and snowed and snowed some more. But we decided to give going home a try.
And we made it.

And a few days later, we made a snowwoman. Isn't she pretty.

It's good to be home.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007


Just a few updates from Team Gardner headquarters.

Penelope had her annual exam. She's great, still huge (almost 100 percent on height and head circumference) and not a big fan of Dr. Tillman. You should have seen the icy stare Penny gave. Also, the nurse asked me if I had her hair highlighted : )

School ended for me with an A. I didn't even have to take the final because I did so well on the five regular exams. This comes after taking Anatomy and Physiology TWICE in college, performing poorly (D and C-) both times. Steve said it's amazing considering I'm much busier now. I pointed out that I was actually busier back then, just not busy with anything all that important. Heroin addicts, after all, are busy... But anyway, I'm super excited about the A.

And finally, Steve read this article in the Washington Post that pretty much summed up why I hate Christmas. It says people with low self-esteem do not like being praised for the sake of praising, a holiday attitude that can cause much stress for this type of person. Instead, they prefer accurate and deserved praise.

Managers who offer inaccurately glowing reports in the hope of encouraging employee loyalty may discover that employees with low self-esteem feel less loyal afterward, And high expectations of goodwill, charity and bonhomie at Christmastime can cause these types of people not to feel better about themselves, but worse.

I do take offense at the phrase "low self-esteem," which I believe to have a negative connotation. I believe seeing oneself accurately, flaws and all, is a good personality trait and shouldn't be labeled as negative, just as so-called "high self-esteem" shouldn't be the gold standard. Why can't both be seen as acceptable views of the world and of self? Why should society deem one better than the other?

Actually, the article sort of addresses this. I'm off to sit on the couch and think about all the tasks I won't accomplish today. Busy, busy...

Monday, December 10, 2007

Here come Santa Claus. Bah...

The family and I braved the cold and icy weather this weekend to go to the community Christmas event. I was reminded, once again, of all the reasons I hate this holiday so much.

Every event. Every cookie. Every trip to Target. It's always a huge letdown. Except for it's a "Charlie Brown Christmas," which remains the best cartoon ever made.

Anyhow, the girls liked it OK. Carolyn asked Santa, rather shyly, for a clock. That's right. Girlie's got her heart set on a clock for her room. So hard to please. (FYI.. Do NOT buy a clock for Carolyn. That's Santa's job.)

Penelope seemed excited, only to realize Santa is actually pretty scary (big hairy guy in a bright red suit....Um, yeah...) so no lap time this year. We also waited in seriously cold and windy conditions to ride the horse carriage (about eight people at a time can ride), only to realize the guy ahead of us was holding the place in line for about 30 kids.

That's what I love most about the holidays — the jerkiness.

Yet again, disappointed. And this time, really, really cold. Here are the pics.

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Snow, snow, snow

We had our first dusting of snow last night, so we just had to get the girls all dressed up to go outside. Then we got them undressed to come inside. Then we got them redressed to go to swimming practice. Then we got them undressed at the pool, redressed at the pool and, finally, undressed just in time for lunch.

Later, we hit the stores for boots and mittens. What excitement our lives have.

On a more annoying note, Penelope refuses to sleep in her bed. After I decided to let her do whatever the hell she wanted this afternoon, this (see below) resulted. Give me strength. Scratch that.

Give me alcohol!!!!

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Busy, busy, busy

I'm much too busy to bore everybody (yes, even you mom) with the mundane details of my life, and trust me, they are mundane, but I had to take a minute to share some exciting news.

Penelope pooped in the potty.

Say that five times fast. Unless you're at a restaurant or some kind of food court where people might not appreciate it.

After nap today, she locked herself in Carolyn's room for her 3 p.m. poop behind closed doors. I caught her and was like, "No you don't," took off her diaper and showed her the seat. Then she was like, "You don't own me, mother. Take this," as she hurled said potty chair over her head.

After a few distractions and just leaving her alone, she sat on the chair — on her own — and used it for the very first time. She had never so much as tinkled in the thing before today. It was pretty awesome. Here's a picture...

Kidding. Not even I am that much a stickler for posterity. But please let this be the road to a diaper-free household.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Penelope is 2!!!

Here are some pics of my birthday girl. She is so beautiful.

It's hard to believe that two years ago, about this time, she had just been born and I was all doped up on morphine.

I think I should get that experience every year on her birthday. The morphine, that is, not the birthing.

And even though it IS Penny's day, Carolyn had her first swim lesson at her fancy-shamcy swim school today (I say fancy even though, and I swear this is true, a centipede attacked me in the locker room) and I can hear Penelope, a 28-year-old art student shacking up with her loser boyfriend as Swimmer Carolyn wins her fourth gold medal...

"I might have been something too if you had cared enough to let me get into the pool on my second birthday instead of making me watch my sister have the time of her life swimming."

Kids. They're never grateful.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Thankful for non-hill dwelling

The family and I had a fantastic Thanksgiving. I especially enjoyed my fourth annual Black Friday shopfest accompanied by my sister-in-law Monica. It was the most fun I ever had shopping at 5 a.m., in part because Monica didn't seem to mind my tunnel-vision attitude toward nonsensical purchases.

About 6:30 at Macy's. Monica: I saw you looking at kid's stuff and then you were gone. The next time I saw you, you had an arm full of towels.

On the way home from Tulsa, Steve, the girls and I did a little hiking to stretch our legs. Returning to the freeway, we got lost on top of a Missouri hill where little boys with guns roamed freely. It made West Virginia look like New York City. We escaped without squealing like a pig, thankfully, and came home safe and sound.

Here are some pics of our outdoor adventure, along with the girls and their cousins, the beloved Jeremiah and his sister Isabella.

Monday, November 26, 2007

A swimming lesson foretold

You may remember such fantastic Carolyn-terrifies-parents stunts from such videos as this:

So today, when we missed the bus and instead walked over to the nearby swim club to check out what all the fuss is about. All the parents who go there rave about the program, despite the fact that it looks as though Freddy Kruger might jump behind one from one of the creepy rooms at any moment.

We went in and haggled about the day and time. At first, I got the not-so-hot Mon/Wed night class, but the owner was there and she said somebody had just backed out of the Mon/Wed morning class.

So if we had made the bus, none of this excellent timing would have happened. And Carolyn starts on Wednesday!

I know I'm one of those parents who are like, "Kids today are in too much stuff. Just let them be kids." And now I have Carolyn in activities Monday through Thursday. Yes I know, but did you see the video?

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Rock stars

My girls are rock stars. They're not going to let the quality of their music interrupt their mojo.

Friday, November 16, 2007

Carolyn picks a toy

And I'm totally not buying it.
It's from the Little People collection, from which we have eight billion pieces. It's a Fisher Price, made in China item. It's at Toys R Us.
But none of those are the reason I'm refusing to buy this perfectly good, cheap toy that she asked for specifically.
No, the reason is this. She picked out the toy in the Toys R Us ad today, the same ad that displayed a sale for Aqua Dots, a toy recently recalled because it contains the same chemical as the infamous date rape drug.
Toys R Us didn't think enough to yank the ad? Steve pointed out its the equivalent of the "F" word getting through in a headline and the copy editor's shrugging their shoulders and saying, "Oh well."
Oh well. I guess Toys R Us is off our Christmas list.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Do this... NOW!!!

Carolyn has a bit of a bossy streak. I imagine it comes from having a little sister.

"Penelope do this. No, not like that. Like this. No. Do this in here. Come here Penelope. No. Walk faster Penelope. Now do this, like this."

Whatever. But she's started bossing me around a bit and momma don't play that.

The other day, we had this exchange.

"Mommy. Come here and pull my pants up."

You'll have to wait, I told her. I'm helping Penelope put on her shoes.

"MOMMY. COME HERE and pull my pants up."

I told you to wait.


Silence. I was finishing with the shoes. Then I hear this little voice coming from the bathroom.

"Uh oh. She can't hear me."

Here are some pics of Penelope today on our twice-weekly trip downtown. Today: post office and Coffee Hound for latte and muffin.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

The 2-year-old on the bus goes, "fun, fun, fun"

If you have a 2-year-old, take her on a bus.

I can't think of a birthday or Christmas present for Penny, who changes her desires roughly every 2.3 minutes, but I do know this:

She always, always, always wants to ride the bus. We've started a new Tuesday ritual of taking the bus downtown while Carolyn is in school. Penelope, who can go from monster to angel in roughly 1.8 seconds, and I are like best friends out for coffee. It is so nice to spend that time with her, she's always thrilled by the bus ride and I feel like she's learning so much just by wandering around (saw a bulldozer in action today!).

Today, we went to breakfast, to get my watch repaired and to the library, and still would have had time for the post office had I had something to mail.

Thinking back, Carolyn had the same sort of love of public transit when she was 2. She likes it now, but it's no longer the love of her life. That's why I vow to take as many bus rides as I can before Penelope starts causing noisy scenes, which might get us all the way through winter.

Hey, it's fall by the way

Monday, November 12, 2007

Quick update

We have been so full of vim and vigor during the last week, I forgot to tell everybody about it.

The weather here is amazing. It's in the 60s and 70s every day. This has proved to be a tiny bit of a problem because I'm pretty sure our neighborhood has been invaded by termites (ewww)... IN NOVEMBER! We went for a walk last night and found them all over the place.

But mostly we're having fun.

Like last week, Penelope and I dropped Carolyn off at school. We were standing outside when I said, "Hey. Let's catch the bus downtown for coffee." She was like,"That sounds like a plan" so off we went.

It was the best time ever. I sat and sipped my latte while Penelope ate a muffin and flirted with construction workers. Ever since then, she's been all about the bus.

What's kind of funny is a mom asked me if I walked all over with Penelope while Carolyn was in school. Before I could think, I answered, "Oh, yeah."

Why I didn't tell her I took the bus downtown in the most awesome quick trip ever is beyond me. Steve said I'm secretly embarrassed because of the social-economic stigma that goes along with riding the bus, and maybe he's right, but I still love that the girls and I can get to Target without a minivan.

Monday, November 05, 2007

Dangerous driving

Driving must be one of those things that if you don't do a lot, you start sucking at. I used to be a great driver, especially in the city. I have amazed people with my parallel-parking talents. I had the ability to put on mascara and talk on the phone while merging in between semis. I had an uncanny ability to find Dr. Laura at any time of day.

Well, that's no longer the case. Yesterday, when I drove to Plano, Ill., for my friend Dana's baby shower (pics below. Seriously, nobody should be that pregnant AND that skinny), I crossed a bridge with some construction and I was unable — that is, not physically able — to look to my left or right or go more than 40 mph.

"Carolyn... Shhh... Mommy's trying not plummet over the bridge.

It made me feel just slightly better that Steve tried to take one of my shortcuts with the bike and trailer yesterday while Carolyn and I were gone, and he found the space so tight he had to get off and walk the bike through. I won't mention how I flipped the trailer a few days ago (girls are OK) and realized city driving (i.e., cutting off slow old ladies) only works in a car.

Anywho, Carolyn and I had a lot of fun getting all dressed up and having a mommy/daughter day sans Penelope, a.k.a. Oh, Screaming One. Here are some pics from the day.

Thursday, November 01, 2007

Rock on All Saints Day

Last night, the family and I had a great time trick-or-treating around the neighborhood. The weather was perfect (a little chilly, just like it should be). The girls loved going up to the neighbor's houses. There was this one block with everyone dressed up and a scary haunted house, one that Carolyn did not care for.

All in all, a Halloween success. Only Penny still refused to put on the Lion costume. I told a bunch of people that a leopard was as close as we could get to a cowardly lion. In fact, I couldn't even get Penelope to wear the ears at first and I was never able to get on the tail.

Oh well.

What Penny should have been was a tiny little monster. We wouldn't have even needed a costume.

These pics are actually from the night before Halloween at the downtown Normal trick-or-treat thing. There's one photo the girls waiting for the bus and then Penelope on the bus, going a little overboard on "CHEESE."

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Halloween Eve II

I predicted it last Halloween Eve and it's true. Penelope will likely be a leopard this year.

This is a long and tragic tale of the toddler who would not wear the super fantastic lion costume her great-aunt Sandy spent two weeks making, not to mention driving it to Illinois, so that Carolyn's Dorothy, complete with Toto and ruby-red slippers, could have some company. Penelope is on my list, although I'm including a picture of Carolyn so you can see the scope of this costume.

While today is not actually Halloween, Carolyn had her party at school (pictured below with her class. How cute!)and we're going downtown (uptown) Normal tonight for the business trick or treating while picking up our CSA veggies from farmer Henry. Only three more weeks after tonight. I am so sad.

So here are some preview pictures. If you want to see what Penelope will look like, just look at last year's pictures of Carolyn, who was a kitty cat, not a leopard.

I've certainly gotten my money's out of Carolyn's $40 Gymboree-jumper/cheetah costume.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

The wrath of cable

I'm in the kitchen making a feast. For who? Well my 90-pound Aunt Sandy. Anyhow, I'm in the midst of making the frosting for my one-day-to-be-famous butter cream frosting cake (OK, it's a Cook's Illustrated recipe, but it'll be famous in my family with its POUND AND A HALF of butter) when I hear laughing in the living room

What? The girls aren't trying to murder each other. I let it go... Turns out, Carolyn had found her new favorite show on our cable-accessible television — America's Funniest Home Videos. The LOVE it. I don't so much mind the laughter, but I kind of cringe at the-applause.

Earlier today, I put a dress on Carolyn my mother-in-law got her a few weeks ago. Carolyn's dress shoes had outgrown her (she complained about them the last time she wore a dress) so I got out these shoes I bought last Spring at Meijer. They were originally $22, but I got two pair for $5 (buy one pair, get the other free, or something like that) and I had kind of forgotten what they looked like, only that they were brown.

Tell me these shoes weren't made for this dress... Amazing.

Also, here's a picture of Penelope. I just told my mom today that I'm ready to cut her hair, but when I see pictures of her, I just don't know if I can do it.

Monday, October 22, 2007

People are stupid

The family and I went to this fall festival over the weekend at a nearby nature preserve. The preserve is pretty rockin', but the festival was kind of lame. They did have a country band, which was fun, but it was about 80 degrees outside, much too warm to enjoy hot cider.

Anyhow, while we were listening to a band, Steve found some liter. It was ORGANIC chocolate bars, wrapped in a plastic bag and thrown to the ground. If you're going to go through the trouble of buying organic dove bars, shouldn't you at least pick up your trash??

I've been photo deficient lately, so here's a picture of the girls riding the wagon to the festival. Also, here's an older pic of Jeremiah during his last visit. We totally miss him.

Monday, October 15, 2007

Oh so busy

I just can't get caught up. On top of the kids and cooking and school and work and traveling (thankfully over now) and oh-how-I-hate-you laundry, Steve and I went and got cable.
So now I'm forced to catch up on three missing years of the Comedy Channel. Did you know South Park is still funny?
We've been without cable for about three years now, and frankly, I'm a little disappointed it's back. For one, not having cable gave us this great "oh, we're so sophisticated we don't need television" one-up over other people. And two, we don't use cable to give us access to the history channel or book review channel or anything even mildly intellectual.
No. I like the Soap Network. And music videos. Basically anything where hot people are prancing around saying stupid things. That's my idea of prime entertainment.
So we've gone from pretension to jaw-dropping morons in one-fell swoop.
But I will say this for paid television. It's so much clearer than the little rabbit ears on top of the TV. I can't tell you how many times it took me the better part of a first half to get an acceptable view of a football game.
So there you have it. If you call me in the next few weeks and I don't answer the phone, know that I'm catching up on the new reality show where some woman named tequila tries to find true love with a straight man or a lesbian woman. Seriously, you can't get that on network.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Get off my boat

Carolyn is so funny. Today, she told off a popular, cute high school boy, and he took it...

We were at the playground and Carolyn decided a portion of the playground, only accessible by bridge, was her boat. We were fishing and eating and having a lovely day on the water when Penelope wandered off.

Cute high school boy wanders on. He and his friends (they were all meeting at the playground for track or something) were swinging on the playground equipment and landed on the boat.

Carolyn, walking across the bridge stops. She looks him in the eye and said, clear as day, "Get off my boat."

And he did. I love that.

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Back to Blog

Yes, it's been a while since blogging. But my life has just been crazy the last few months. First the back and forth to Michigan for dad's illness and then his memorial, which is the saddest freakin' thing I'd ever seen. Then, a few days home before heading to Vegas where some old friend and I pretended to be 22 again. And now home, again, where work and girls and school and house are waiting for attention. AND, Penny's sick.

So... blogging? Not so important.

But, for the sake of historical preservation, let's go through a few girl things.

* Carolyn won't pull the stopper out of the bathtub until she takes out the number "1" because she's scared it'll go down with the water.

* Penelope sings ALL the time and can climb almost everything Carolyn can.

* Carolyn can ride a tricycle. Pretty well.

* Penelope loves to pretend she's a lion.

* We finally got cable. Cable!!!!

That's all for now. We won't be leaving Illinois for the next 8, 9, hmmm... years? So please come see us. We have cable!

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Two loads to go

That's how much I have until I'm officially CAUGHT UP. My house. My kids. My school. My writing. Everything has fallen behind.

But I'm almost there. And just in time to be gone for two consecutive weekends. Just enough time to fall behind again.

There isn't much happening. There's this nice lady I always run into, and her kid is in Carolyn's preschool class. But now, our runnings-into-each-other have become more frequent and I'm pretty sure she thinks I'm stalking her. No of course I'm not. But I'd be a little afraid of friendly hellos too if I thought a dead rabbit might end up in my kitchen.

The grocery store by my house is so awesome, I go about every other day. OK. I went twice yesterday. It's just that great.

And the girls are perfect of course. Carolyn's adjusting slowly to preschool and Penelope is not at all interested in potty training. That doesn't stop us from letting her run around naked all afternoon. And she's not pooping on the floor, so that's something.

Enough rambling. Like I said...Nothing interesting is happening.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

The girls rock my world

We're back in Normal, trying to return to some semblance of such, and the one great gift we have are the girls.

Case in point: I caught Carolyn today reading the comic page. I admit, Mary Worth is really good this week.

Pretty impressive, unless you consider this...

Penelope is reading the front page. She'll be able to debate grandpa on the merits of the Democratic candidates in no time.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

My Dad's Life

Thursday afternoon, with my mom and I by his bedside, my dad died.

It's been an incredibly sad time for my entire family, but I will say that I'm thankful to have been his daughter. My dad taught me that you don't need a lot to be happy. He loved me and was proud of me. Simple.

"Blessed are the clean of heart: for they shall see God."

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Happy Days

Well, not really. My dad's health situation continues on its path of grimness, so I wanted to share some very happy moments.

Carolyn started preschool today. Since she attended the summer program, it was pretty anticlimactic but still cool because she's in this program for a full year, they're using the big classroom and Carolyn was an old pro. Penelope and I went to the park (translate: I was once again blowing off work) to enjoy the super nice fallish weather we were having today. This first picture looks like a 3-year-old clone of my sister-in-law Monica.

Also, I received a perfect score on my first anatomy and physiology quiz, which is quite a feat. I was the only person at my lab table to get a 100 percent. I'm queen of the table, I was quick to tell them.

Carolyn and Penelope love each other very much and are best friends.

Schnuck's grocery store just today opened it's new store, which is about a mile from our house and right off the bike trail. I'll be able to take my bike to grocery shopping!!! Hurray. I've been waiting for this for a long time. I can totally shop as I go rather than stock up for a full week or more. My mostly car-free lifestyle is complete.

The girls and I WILL be going this afternoon...

Friday, September 07, 2007

Deal of the century

Carolyn's been ready for a big bed for some time now. Steve and I have been saying we'll get her one, and she keeps asking.

So it was really a stroke of luck that today, when I was checking the classifieds, I found a garage sale ad that included a twin bed. When we went to look at it, we found a the most beautiful girl bed and Sealy mattress set for $125. It's perfect. I even got two identical ballerina quilt sets for another $25.

And the couple, who were so nice, delivered it for us. I tell you this: patience pays off. It's the green parenting trifecta — gorgeous, affordable and recycled.

Here are the girls, and Fife, enjoying the fancy new nighty-night.