Tuesday, December 15, 2009

This isn't good

Here's Penny on the couch watching television.

That's right. She's eating her breakfast on a tray in her pajamas at 10:20 a.m. while I scramble to finish my interviews for a story. I'm not sure how this happened, but I hate to see life at my house on the day before a big test. I might just be tossing her handfuls of Skittles while Dora plays on a loop.

Wednesday, December 09, 2009

A change in direction

Here's my thoughts about parenting about four years ago;
Hard is an all-day meeting after a night binge drinking. It's an hour commute. It's trying not to listen to your co-workers personal phone conversations.
Hard is NOT staying home with your children. The modern world has taken all the struggle out of this noble endeavor.
Here's a daily log of how my life got so easy and ways I try to complicate things.
I stand by this. I do think that most of the difficulties in staying at home to raise children are self inflicted. Sure it's boring building a block tower for two consecutive hours. And who doesn't hate Dora. She's totally creepy. Staying home is filled with lots of little annoyances, but what job isn't annoying at times?

My difficulties mainly revolved around my complete and utter lack of self-confidence.

"Ooooh... (whiny me) I don't fit in. Suburban moms are bitches. They just don't get me."

Give me a break. People are mostly just people, no matter what they do or where they live. There are bitches pretty much everywhere. I just didn't feel like I fit in, so therefore I didn't.

But as I felt more sure in my role, even without the minivan or the minimansion, these problems just took care of themselves. Life has become unbelievable easy and carefree.

So in my best effort to remain an outcast not only in my circles but in all of society, I'm going back to school. Competent parenting is so much less funny than the days when I felt like complete-and-utter failure most of the time. So I think the days of this parenting blog are at an end.

That's not to say I won't completely relapse as the kids enter the teen years and they begin hating me with every fiber of their being, but they are not the most pathetically interesting thing in my life right now.

Right now, that's reserved for going back to school.

So I think I might start writing occasionally about that. Who knows. Perhaps there are other SAHMs turned overaged college coed out there just waiting to relate to my rantings and ravings. Maybe I just feel better after I publicly confess my feelings of inadequacy. Whatever. From now on, my Dirty Little Secret will dwell mostly on my new adventure.

NURSING SCHOOL (said in echoy type voice).

But because I love it so, and it's not even relevant anymore, here's my Top 5 list of staying home with your kids. It's always been one of my favorites.

Top five reasons staying home is easier than working.
5. Power naps are near impossible on the oddly stained couch in the ladies lounge.
4. No chance of being fired.
3. A working women couldn't be this tan without a sunlamp.
2. Never hearing your child cry when she has to leave daycare.
And 1. It's never necessary for you to buy an outfit on the way to the office because the laundry is just not a priority.
That's gold. Comic gold. And really more true than I realized when I wrote it. Here's to realizing the last four years have been the best gift I could have ever received.


Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Twinkle, Twinkle

OK. One more, just because this also is the cutest thing in the whole wide world. I think in this video Carolyn had just turned 2. We hadn't even put our pictures on the wall yet so it must have been right after we moved into this house.

And now: Twinkle, twinkle

When spaghetti was so much more than food

I was cleaning off my laptop a few days ago when I found a bunch of old videos from when Carolyn was a baby. It is seriously hard to remember when she was this little, but I thought it was the cutest thing in the whole wide world.

And now for our feature presentation: Messy Spaghetti.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

An end to the Top 5 list

I knew it wouldn't last forever.

In January, I return to what I'll call "the real world." Not that my world isn't "real," but it does have a very flexible nap plan. That's because I'll be returning to school as a full-time student. Actually, a full/full-time student as I will be completing 62 credit hours in 12 months. Yes, you read that right.

I'm pretty sure that's not the "real" world either, but I do think naps will not be included. I'm returning to school to be a nurse, which is really a lifelong dream of mine. It's pretty exciting, but panic-inducing.

That's because it's an accelerated nursing program for people with a bachelor's degree, a CNA license and a crapload of science classes. Even mothers of 4-year-old girls – who have never been in daycare and don't really have any idea of how drastically life will change and will probably cry everyday because it is just not right to get dropped off at some strange lady's house – can be admitted.

So now, I spend my days trying to figure out if I'm immunized to rubella, paying hundreds of dollars for ugly white pants and shoes, researching how to scam money from the government (help in this area would be helpful) and trying to find a strange lady to care for my poor, sweet, adorable 4-year-old.

Did I mention that I'm a horrible parent? Oh, well, Penny will be ready to fill you in for the next 18 years or so.

Monday, November 02, 2009

Halloween, part 3

Here it is. An end to the month-long Halloween celebration at our house. Sure it's been fun endlessly planning the outfits Penelope will where, when she will wear them, how cute she will look wearing them and if maybe she shouldn't wear some other costume. But it's over, at least for the next 11 months.

Even Steve and I got into the spirit. The girls said I should be a rock star, like Hannah Montana. I tried to tell them gently that Hannah Montana was not a look I could achieve, but I could do a mildly interesting rocker girl with spiky mohawk. The problem was, my wardrobe errs more on the side of soccer mom than rock star, so it was just a barely passable rendition, which the girls kept saying looked JUST like Hannah Montana (they have never actually seen the show, so I guess I should have just nodded politely and said thanks).

Truthfully, it turned out to be more sleazy barfly than rock star, if there's actually a difference.

The girls were Princess Penelope and Rapunzel, which I felt sort of proud to tell people because it's a character from literature, and not Disney literature but the good old-fashioned kind. But I would have paid cash for something not princessy. Skeleton. Witch. Slutty cheerleader. Anything without a tiara.

But princess it was, and of course, they were adorable. We got just enough (too much) candy. And mostly good chocolate stuff. For the first time, the girls actually went up to the doors by themselves. And we had fun hanging out together. And eating candy.

The good chocolate kind.

Friday, October 30, 2009

Cowgirl Carolyn

Halloween party -- part two.

Actually, the kids in Carolyn's school aren't allowed to go in costume. I have a feeling some kids (and maybe parents) might get a tiny bit carried away. But it's totally fine, because for Fall Festival kids can dress as a farmer or cowboy(girl).

And that means two costumes for Halloween. Yipee Yahoo!!!!!

I went to Farm and Fleet yesterday just to buy a red paisley bandana to tie around Carolyn's neck. I had very low standards of farmer/ cowgirl-ness. But then I saw these very cute, very pink overalls and I said, "We only live once."

Totally the right decision. There will come a day when it won't be cool to wear pink overalls and a giant cowboy hat.

Today is not that day : )

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Princess Penelope

And the parade of princesses begins.

Today Penny had her Halloween party. She was so excited, she got ready and informed us that she would sit on the couch until it was time to go. Then we left for school 20 minutes early, walking slowly through the neighborhood, meandered around the school and finally went inside a solid five minutes before the next person arrived.

And the next person was Cinderella. And then Sleeping Beauty. Finally... Ariel.

Did I mention Penny was Belle.

It seems these 3-year-old's got to talking and made sure that all the major princesses were represented, and none duplicated. Pretty impressive if you ask me.

And they were all super cute. Especially Princess Penelope Belle.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

A new church activity

I took Carolyn and Penny to church today by myself. It helps to bribe them with candy I leave waiting in the car. Even so, I was delighted at how well-behaved they were.

But there is this one thing Carolyn likes to do that's sort of disturbing. She likes to take the church bulletin and cross out the faces of everybody in it. So as I sit there listening to Monseigneur address frivolous prayer (a homily that, for once, really spoke to me and didn't make me raging mad like his rants about health care or politics), Carolyn quietly x's the faces of fellow parishioners.

I just asked her why she likes to do this. "Just for fun." I think there's some things that are better left not said.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

The New Energy Czar (of our house)

Carolyn has discovered eco-friendliness. Sure I've been nearly car free for two years. Sure I line dry all our clothes. Sure I make my own laundry detergent.

But go ahead and guess where she learned it. Go ahead. Guess.

That's right. pbskids.org. Because nothing can teach a child like the loving touch of the Internet.

This games she plays has the character walking around the house, answering questions about what's more energy efficient. Regular light bulbs v. florescent light bulbs. (Carolyn actually informed me that we needed to change all our light bulbs because we weren't using the right kind, which we are.) Hybrid v. regular car. (hahahahaha.) Front loading dryer v. top loading dryer.

When I was printing work off the computer yesterday, Carolyn started screaming, "You're wasting. You're wasting."

And nothing tops off a good eco-lashing like a trip to the recycling center when she "discovers" all her precious homework pages (all 100 pages of them) in the recycling bin. Good thing she was there to rescue all that precious paper.

Monday, October 12, 2009

The other night at dinner, Carolyn excused herself to use the bathroom. Before she left, she told me.

"When I get back to the table, I'd like some bread on my plate. With butter."

She didn't actually SAY "or else..." but I could see it in her eyes.

Thursday, October 08, 2009

Competitive parenting

Remember when your baby was first born and he/she was perfect? Nobody could match the perfection of this tiny, perfect child.

And then, like, a week later, you started listening to the "milestones" about smiling, rolling over, sitting up, saying mama, walking, talking, doing advanced math, spotting major constellations, identifying the ingredients in mole, blah, blah, blah.

Well, if you happen to be a comparer, let me tell you, it doesn't get any better. Now I'm in major overdrive of comparing Carolyn to every single kid she comes into contact with. I do it at swimming. At school. At the playground.

I am deeply engrossed in the sport of competitive parenting, and there really is no winner. Which sort of sucks, because competitive people like to win.

This is so totally not the fault of Carolyn, who is awesome, and I fully acknowledge this fact. But when her handwriting is less than perfect and her swimming is downright horrible, I cast blame and look for fault in my own parenting. Her failings become my failings and that makes me angry.

But who wants to be an angry person. Or worse, an angry mom. And I am fully aware that this will not improve in the coming years. Competition will only get worse, and pretty soon, even Carolyn might come to realize it.

This blog really has no point other than to admit my shortcoming and try to work on it. Children are not direct reflections of their parents. They have their own road to walk, most of the time without a grownup to hold their hands. And instead of being ultra-critical (my very best specialty) I will work on being ultra-supportive and only give a push every once in a while, because I'm not about to give up altogether.

But since she's only 5, and not trying out for the Olympics next year or applying to Harvard the year after next, I'll give her a break and let her enjoy all these new things in her life.

I will try very, very hard.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Just another lazy Tuesday morning

I have tasted freedom and it is yummy.

Fall's in full swing with Carolyn in school and just Penny at home. This is proving to be a lovely way to live. Everybody kept asking me, "Doesn't Penny miss Carolyn? I bet she's really lonely without her."

To this I answer "Hahahahahahaha." Penny is not lonely. Penny is realizing her fantasy to be an only child, at least part of the time.

And also, Penny is busy. We have activities every day. But two days a week, for two hours, I have no children. Let me tell you, this is a thing of beauty. Without kids, I didn't realize the morning hours, when most normal people are at work or busy with something, are magical. You can do what you want. Everything is open so you can shop, or run errands, or get coffee. You can run or take a long shower. You can sit on the couch.

When I was a just-married reporter working evenings, I had no idea what I had. I sort of felt like a loser when everybody else was at work and I basically had nothing to do. Let me tell you, I don't feel like a loser anymore. I feel liberated.

It's not just the freedom that's got me so upbeat these days. My plate is just full enough. I'm going to start volunteering at Carolyn's school and through my church. I have some freelance work. Carolyn has started swimming again. A mom's group asked me to join.

It's enough to make me think staying home doesn't really start showing its rewards until both kids are in school. Maybe I should just ditch nursing school and start being a full-time do-gooder (just kidding Steve : ).

But right now, still home tending to the family, I feel like I've got it pretty good. Oooh... Gotta go. My shows are on.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Enough with the second child stuff

Sooooo... It appears Penny started preschool.

It was about four weeks ago. And yet, it goes un-noted. There are, for sure, lots of reasons why. Grandpa's dying. Umm... well... I guess that was the main reason.

That and Penny was born the second, more unloved child. Poor Steve forgot the camera the first day of school and took this rather abrupt picture after class.

So yes, it's a case of the "done that/been there" parenting style.

But here's a little insight into our dear Penelope, beginning with an anecdote about her sister (of course). We still need to grill Carolyn daily on her comings and goings. I really have no idea what kindergarten is like for her.

For Penny, she openly recounts every detail of her day. A little mishap with a boy, who took all the baby dolls when she decided to take one anyway, could end up into a 10-minute story. I'm thinking this openness might be a result of asking more educated questions, but I'm positive Penny is more of a storyteller than her older sister.

Since I'm negligent about recording the history of my second child, I'm definitely making up for it by over-enrolling her in activities. We spend most of our mornings attending various activities (swimming, music, preschool) and are pretty worn out come the end of the week.

But on the plus side, Penny knows what a "glissando" is.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Another bummer

I haven't blogged lately because my grandpa died recently, and it's a total bummer.

He was 94 years old, probably knows where Hoffa was buried, once became a train hobo to D.C. to watch a president get inaugurated, was bald for as long as I've known him, always sent a card and check punctually for your birthday, didn't care much for Democrats (but loved the discussion), always seemed to keep it together even when times got tough – which they did a lot for him, including the death of two of his four children – and was an all-around interesting, great guy.

He also used to tell me "I was born 10,000 years ago, and there's nothing in this world that I don't know." I heard that often enough while I was a kid that I sort of believed it.

Here's a picture of him and Penny when she was a baby. Who knows, maybe he was telling her the same thing. Who knows... Maybe it was true.

Thursday, September 03, 2009

Kitten fever

Meet Charlie Brown...
He's our new kitten. Since he woke me up at 5:30 this morning (and also at 2 and 4, but lastly and finally at 5:30) the reason for getting a kitten eludes me. But he's super cute, and already letting the girls play with him and hanging out in the same room as Fife. He seems both nice and fearless, which are good qualities to have in a house with two children under the age of 6.

I think Charlie fits in pretty nicely. Maybe this year for my birthday, I'll resume coffee drinking.

Friday, August 28, 2009

Don't ask me about my business

Penny is no dummy. She got this board game as a prize at Wendy's this week. It's a pretty straightforward game that has you picking a number card and moving your piece along the board to the finish.

But the game also included two Lose Your Turn cards. Penny does not like losing her turn. She also pretty much hates losing, but I digress.

So for nap, she found those two cards and said she was going to take them to bed with her. Later that day, when she wanted to play the game for the 10th time that day, I asked her where the cards went.

"Don't ask me about that," was her answer, complete with very sly, evil grin.

So I guess she no longer has to lose her turn. But she still sometimes loses. Maybe she'll figure out how to end that next.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

First day of school

I'd be remiss for not blogging today, Carolyn's first full day of kindergarten. It's sort of a new chapter for us, one that takes Carolyn away from us for six full hours every day.

Truth is, I don't really feel like blogging about it. I sort of hate it. I feel sad and a tiny bit pissed off. It sort of feels like the end of something. Once school starts, that's it. There's no going back. Unlike preschool or swimming or library story hour, we can't just decide not to go. It's like having a job, one she'll keep for 16 or more years.

But I'll just go ahead and hide this little disappointment from Carolyn, who feels just about as happy as one little girl can. She's enthusiastic and excited. She could hardly contain herself last night.

So, I'll just post some pictures, so it looks like I'm excited too. Because Carolyn can't read yet (although, she is in school now so maybe she'll be able to read tonight), I'll just tell her this blog is about her great new adventure.

Here's Carolyn with her teacher, Mrs. Newton.
First day of school. Ready to go!

The girls getting ready to head out to Carolyn's first full day of school. It's about an eight minute trip on the bike. Slightly less coming home with 50 fewer pounds.

Carolyn waiting in line to go into school for her first full day. Backpack? Check. Lunchbox? Check. Giant smile? Of course...

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Poop in the public pool

Hey, if you want to read more about this, you'll have to visit my new blog, The Worst. It's just a fun thing my gal pal K-Carr and I are doing to pass the time. It's about thing that are "The Worst..."

It's here, worstlist.blogspot.com

Come on... You know you want to.

Kitten fever

We've all got it. Talk at our house has turned to kittens, and the girls have the worst of it.

This is because I decided I want a kitten for my birthday. My big girl is headed off to school, there's no more babies arriving and Fife is much too old to deal with a new puppy.

Plus, I sort of love cats.

Anyhow, the girls are all about helping me out in this endeavor. We got books from the library about taking care of kittens, and then we flip through the books and give each of the kitties a name. We talk about how cute kittens are and think about what it'll be like to have our very own super cute kitten living right here with us.

It's all very exciting.

Penelope, in particular, has come down hard with the kitten fever. Yesterday, before we went to the shelter to look at the dozens of kittens just waiting to be taken home (I now realize that any thoughts we had about maybe getting a kitten were killed by this visit), we were talking about the "possibility" of maybe getting me a kitten for my birthday.

"But Daddy," Penny says. "You don't want a kitten."

Well, he says, maybe it's not such a horrible idea.

"Well, if you want, we can go get you a kitten today."

Then she looks at me and give me a secret "thumbs up" sign to let me know she's taken care of the Daddy factor. She's got him.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Loving these fading summer days

The girls and I had the best time yesterday. We went to the zoo, and for the first time ever, all the animals were totally entertaining. Then a picnic lunch. Then the playground. Then the hair salon, because you can't start school without a cute new cut.

I even took some pictures. See....

Sunday, August 09, 2009

Warren Dunes 09

The family first camping trip. And by first, I mean first ever... Steve and I had always meant to try camping, but we really lacked any sort of knowledge or courage or equipment to make such a daring venture.

Turns out, modern amenities have really helped out the non-campers among us. There are showers! And if you forget something, there's this little overpriced store. And there's an electrical outlet for Pete's sake.

But there was still a touch of nature. Mosquitoes, for instance, didn't know this was a modern campsite. And there was still plenty of sand.

But overall, just the best vacation ever. We climbed this giant sand dune known as Tower Hill, which **towers** 240 feet above Lake Michigan and the nearby park. Climbing up 240 feet of sand is not only not easy, it really is a test of the human spirit, especially for Steve who helped our 3-year-old Penny reach the top. The water and weather were both lovely, thank goodness, and we even stopped nearby on the way home to pick our own blueberries. And let's not forget about the most wonderful Lake Perch.

In addition to the outdoorsy goodness, we also stopped by Battle Creek and went up to mom's farm to visit her and great-grandpa. Those trips were also full of fun, except for a two-day fever that put Penny out of commission. But no trip is perfect, right...

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Summer lovliness, summer eeekkkk

I think one of my favorite parts of summer is the fresh food. The sweet corn. The melons. The cucumbers. I think I could eat cucumbers every day for the rest of my life.

Today I made just the tastiest corn chowder because, really, there's only so much corn on the cob one person should eat. Fresh corn and onions and garlic. Thyme and parsley from my garden.

Now I'm waiting for those giant tomatoes in my garden to turn red before I make a ratatouille with only fresh ingredients, including the eggplant and zucchini piling up on kitchen counter.

Just a lovely way to live.

And then there's Carolyn, queen girl of the tomboys.

Today while cleaning up from lunch, Carolyn called me out, yet again, to tell me she's found a slug. I went out only to see that slimy, yuckiness crawling around her arm trailing slime and ughhhh. Sort of like when she picked up that centipede we saw at the Redwood forest in California.

Ugh...I don't know where she gets that. It's not from me. I suspect it's not from her father. She just loves dirt and bugs and mud and all things icky.

Also, since I haven't mentioned it before, Carolyn's become a little passive aggressive. Instead of mentioning she'd like to do something, "Can we watch a cartoon?" "Can I eat a bowl of ice cream at 8 o'clock in the morning?" "Can I whack my sister on the head for being such a little pest?" are not questions she regularly asks anymore.

Instead, they go something like this: "I can't watch TV right now, can I?" or "We can't have ice cream for breakfast, can we?" She actually will just go ahead and whack Penny on the head without asking, so I guess that's something.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Poor, neglected second child

Sure, when Carolyn got her brand-new big girl bed, it was all I talked about. I made a big deal about the great garage sale find. I took a billion pictures. I let Fife try it out.

And sure, Penny got her very own bed yesterday. We had the headboard for — oh... I don't know — a year gathering dust and spider egg sacs in the garage. And I took this quicky picture...

... just before nap today mostly because I felt bad.

So, Penny got a new bed. And then we went to the pool where Carolyn went down the slide, like, a billion time and swam across the pool without...

Oh wait. I'm doing it again. And sure, Penny went down the big slide for the first time, but so do a lot of other kids. Sheesh.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Swimming season ends swimmingly

Carolyn had her final swim meet of the year. It's the B-Invite meet, which is basically for the slower, smaller kids. Even though Carolyn's a very slow, small swimmer, she pulled out two wins today out of three races.

It was super exciting. She really gave it her all, and was rewarded with "heat bags" or bags filled with suckers, pencils, coupons from local businesses and other promotional material. Basically, the best bag that ever existed.

We won't go to conference this year. So this was Carolyn's "conference" and she really did her best. I was so proud of her, not for winning (although that part was very exciting) but because she spent all summer working very hard on her swimming and she gave it all she had today.

She won on freestyle and butterfly. The race I posted, the fly, was the closer of the two. It's not really her strongest stroke and it's the most difficult stroke (in my very humble opinion), but she struggled her way to first place.

And now we can begin our carefree summer, as my job at ISU didn't exactly pan out according to the rejection letter I got in the mail today.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

What Carolyn loves

Carolyn loves her bestest swimming pal, Nellie.

She also loves sandwiches.

Thursday, July 09, 2009

Memo to the Gardner family

cc: Anybody who might come in contact with said family.

I am implementing a strict zero tolerance policy regarding toys and fighting. Toys that are the subject of a fight between children are automatically placed in toy death camp consisting of a plastic bag to be held in Storage Room A (otherwise known as the basement closet). This is a non-negotiable rule that is to begin immediately. No toy or child has any right to due process. Toy status is not to be considered.

These toys will be kept separately from other toys for two purposes. 1. These toys can never resume full-play status upstairs and 2. We will show this bounty to the girls in their pre-teen years to let them know we have no qualms about removing all their electronic devices for bad behavior.

Thanks you for your cooperation in these matters. I am sure this policy will eventually lead to household harmony and a peaceful co-existence.

Friday, June 26, 2009

Oh Penny

I love this blog for any number of reasons. It's read by at least two people who aren't family, making me way more popular than I am in my real life. It's a great way to publicly admit embarrassing moments without revealing them to any more than two people. And because it's a collection of thoughts, I find it infinitely better than the random brain farts people (including me) are posting on Facebook.

In fact, what I love most are the diary-like qualities. For instance, Penelope, at this moment, is almost unbearable. She would disagree with ice cream and puppies if I thought it was something she should have. And speaking of puppies, she's trying to convince us that Fife would be better off with a new family so she can have her very own, totally cute, girlie-girl puppy.

She's just rotten. I know. I'm a horrible parent for saying that, but it's almost completely true.

So I went looking back on the blog and found a similar entry for my dear, lovely, well-behaved, 5-year-old Carolyn. It's not very detailed, as my summer posts usually don't contain the details of the bored-out-of-my-mind winter rants, but I sort of remember a time when maybe spanking didn't sound as horrible as I first thought.

Turns out, 3 can equal 2. It's slightly different. I think 2 is so maddening because it's so random and irrational. But 3 is very rational. It just also happens to be evil, sometimes.

But it ends. And something new begins. And then that ends and something new follows. Turns out, children are great for the ADD stricken among us.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Could somebody lend me a copy of proper parent-to-parent behavior

Because as much as I enjoy feeling like a jackass, and believe me, I've had plenty of practice, I find some behavior among parents baffling.

You're probably wondering what I'm talking about. That's fair. I'm not all that great at explaining myself or communicating with other humans.

This mom from Carolyn's swimming just gave the girls about a half dozen princess dresses, complete with crowns, wands and oh-so-many shoes. I have never seen the girls go so bananas from a set of toys. They disappear for hours (not exaggerating, or maybe just a little) to dress up as a fairy or a disney princess or (Julia, you'll love this per our happily ever after discussion) a tiny blushing bride.

I know moms like to clean out their closets, but this was such a wonderful hand-me-down I wanted to show my utter appreciation. So I got a $10 gift certificate for ice cream.

And here is where everything went wrong. She seemed offended by the gesture. My intention was to show how much we really liked it, not to make somebody feel bad. And now I feel bad. Wrong and bad.

It figures that as soon as the girls reached an age where I stopped feeling incompetent at all times, I would make up that feeling in other areas of my life. Inability to have normal conversations or act appropriately around other moms — check. Feelings of complete loserdom — check. Suddenly worried I'm turning my girls into social pariahs — check, check (because there are two of them).

Not being able to eat ice cream or clean up the constant flow of princess dresses off the floor without feeling like a jackass. That's right... check.

Friday, June 19, 2009

A vacation to remember

Nothing is quite as much fun as flying on Southwest with a 5-year-old after you learn that a) you have about the last boarding pass available and b) only families with children 4 and under get to pre-board. Oh Southwest, this is the moment (the one where I thought Carolyn and I would be sitting in different aisles of the same 5 hour plane ride... stress level rising, rising...) I began to hate you.

So really, the only annoying experience on this trip with Carolyn to San Francisco was the plane. Oh, and the trolley car, which was overpriced, crowded, dropped us off four blocks from the Wharf and completely frightening to children.

But why mention these inconveniences (other than that's sort of what I do) when we did so many great things. It actually would be boring to list them here, but I'll try anyway. We hiked a redwood forest. We ate in a super cool pub. We sat on the beach of the ocean and took a zillion pictures in front of Golden Gate Bridge. We ate in a garden. Carolyn sustained for a full day solely on a diet of ice cream and an eclair I thought was made my Alice Waters. We watched lovely young (mostly gay) couples frolic in the Mission District. We had famous Berkeley pizza. We went to Chinatown. We saw sea lions. We walked in a rose garden.

Carolyn was just fantastic. What a wonderful age to travel with a child. She's into everything, and even when she wasn't, she never broke down or had a tantrum (expect for when she cried after she got off that god-damned trolley car). If she was pissed or bored, she'd just pout and tune out the constant conversation of Julia and I, who talked and talked and talked. Then we talked some more and never ran out of things to say.

It was just about the best trip ever. Half because it was California. Half because of Carolyn. Half because of Julia and about a tenth because we drank and ate freely. These are completely accurate percentages, and you can trust that because I'm taking an entry-level stat class at a community college.

It has always been my intention to do this same trip with Penelope the summer before she starts kindergarten. And it's a good thing, because she's suddenly taken a strong interest in the San Francisco landmarks. I just hope Julia (check out her travel blog, which hasn't gotten much action lately but gives great descriptions of what it's like to travel in Eastern Europe) is there when this time comes around. There's a good chance she could be in Moscow, and while I'm all for world travel, I'm not prepared to take a small child to Russia.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

California teaser

Here are just a few photos of our trip. I'll write more later, but for now, the pool is beckoning.

Here's my favorite pic of Carolyn and Julia. They're standing in front of some bridge.

Carolyn and the sea lions at Fisherman's Wharf. They are smelly, and noisy, but oh so entertaining.
Chris and Julia on some vintage city bus. Much better than that evil trolley car. Much, much better.
Carolyn climbs her very first tree at Golden Gate Park while Julia and I drink beer. OK. It was mostly me.
This was Carolyn's expression for the entire time we were at the ocean. Pure glee.

Carolyn takes this awesome picture at Muir Woods among the redwood trees. Pictures just cannot convey what they were like, but they were fantastic.
Carolyn and mom on a fallen redwood.
Now, to the pool.

Craziness all around

It has been just a crazy couple of weeks.

I drove my grandpa to Michigan two weekends ago and took the train home the next day. While there, I caught up with some friends, a few I hadn't seen in almost five years.

Then there was Carolyn's first swim meet. We just got her ribbons today. She got two fourths and two fifths. But really, it was just a victory getting to the other end of the pool. Despite my nailbiting on the sidelines (which kind of reminded me of my own childhood, watching horses approach the finish line and I sort of wanted to snap my fingers the way old men in fidoras do, but I held back), Carolyn just loved it. The swimming. The three thousand kids. The cheering. Everything.

And finally, but not lastly, there was a five-day trip to California. Carolyn and I had the very bestest of times with Aunt Julia, but I'll write more on that later (this is not your only shout out Julie ; ). For now, enjoy this team picture of Carolyn.

Friday, June 05, 2009

It's summer. That's why

Why I don't blog more often. In case you ever wondered how long it takes a 3-year-old to say Grace, it's 19 seconds. And here it is from the most pious 3-year-old I know.

Penny is actually turning out to be the house clown. She says the funniest stuff. Things that sort of sound right, but that make it pretty obvious that she doesn't know the meaning of the words. I'd give an example but I just can't think of one right this second. Anyway, we're always laughing at these little Penny-isms. Steve theorized second children often become the clowns because they have a much bigger vocabulary, having an older sibling, but not the language skills to put everything together. This garners laughter. This garners more ridiculous sayings. Pretty soon she's shaking her naked butt at us in a brand new version of the butt dance.

It's a vicious circle.

Carolyn just lost her first tooth. It's exciting and sad all at the same time. I was not expecting this to happen so early. I also wasn't expecting the tooth fairy to pay $5, but I guess that's the going rate. Here she is today, minus one baby tooth.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

baptism photos

Because I know you just can't get enough of the matching outfits.

Monday, May 25, 2009

The funnest day ever

This is Carolyn's synopsis after a trip to .... Meijer!

And it was the funnest day ever. It was the kind of day I always get about two days after a vacation. We've had enough time to rest. The girls have played with all their toys. We're just about back in our groove and, suddenly, the girls turn into complete angels.

So on a trip to Meijer, when I got everything on my list but apple juice, and we learned Meijer had brought back both the free cookies and the free horsey ride, well, that indeed was something to be celebrated.

So we did. With ice cream bars, a good old-fashioned driveway car washin' and some sprinkler time.

Funnest day ever!

Friday, May 22, 2009

Doin' da butt

My mother-in-law is right — my kids spend way too much time talking about their butts.

I guess part of the problem is that Steve and I find butt jokes infinitely funny. Yes, we are adults. No, we never progressed past fourth grade humor. Whatever. Don't tell me you laugh the tiniest bit during a good fart scene in a sophomoric Seth Rogen movie.

Just saying the word "butt" is enough to send the girls into hysterics. They love to do the "shake your butt" dance. And the problem is coupled by the inside, family joke of spanking. It's used to substitute for any other word, such as, "I love you," becoming "I love spanking," or asking "What do you want for lunch," and receiving the answer, "Spanking."

This is all well and good until we visit grandma's house. Or until Carolyn starts kindergarten and tells her teacher daddy is always spanking her.

And when this happens, I'll just blame Steve. After all, it is pretty much all his {spanking}. Trust me. It's funny.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Home at last

We just returned from a week-long trip to Tulsa. It was kind of a crazy trip because I ran my first half marathon (2:16:47, which isn't super fast but was faster than I had expected to run). We finally got the girls baptized. Steve and I celebrated our 8th anniversary with a night at the casino, where I won $100!

But what really sticks out is the fiasco.

That's right. What Gardner family trip doesn't end in fiasco? It would actually be kind of disappointing if everything went perfectly. Well, maybe not disappointing, but shocking to the point of suspecting a slip in the time/space continuum.

Anyway, we stayed in St. Louis last night. It wasn't like the 11-hour ride to Tulsa wasn't super fun, what with the sibling fighting and all, but we thought we'd break up the trip home. And, just to set the record straight, the girls were very well behaved and delightful for most of the trip.

So we decided to take the girls to the hotel pool this morning. Our hotel pool is a closed outdoor pool but there was another Sheraton on the property with an indoor pool that we could use. We opted to drive because it was kind of far away.

Fiasco starter #1: I misunderstood the lady at the desk and thought the pool was only open from 7 until 10 a.m. Turns out she meant 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. We were sort of rushing over there around 9, not wanting the girls to miss out on valuable swimming time because, obviously, they didn't get enough of that at grandma's house, with her pool.

Fiasco starter #2 : Steve hits a curb and took out a huge portion of our tire. It wasn't flat or leaking, but the 180-mile trip home made is sort of worrisome.

Fiasco starter #3: The first dealer we took it to said they could get the $300 tire, but it wouldn't be ready until the next day and they would charge us $100 "overnight delivery fee." On top of another night hotel. And dinner. And tequila.

We decided to ride home on the spare.

But... I did finally find another dealer who found us an equally good tire. Total bill: $114. Thank you.

Fiasco ender #4: I left our iPod cord at the hotel so we had to take one last stop to pick up the cord. It's not huge fiasco or anything, but after 6 hours of getting a single tire fixed, it was not not something we felt like doing.

But we're home. The girls are in bed. We turned the air on.

Trips are fun. But nothing beats coming home, especially when after learning ants had not invaded the kitchen and our basement was not flooded. It's the best!

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Happy Mother's Day

It's come to my attention (thanks Steve) that my last blog was, well, on the sad side. You might have grinned, or even laughed a little, but it was probably out of pity.

But today I'm returned to gleefully lament that I have the best kids ever. Steve took the girls to the mall yesterday to pick out my Mother's Day. When he asked Carolyn what she wanted to get me, she said, "Something for her running. Maybe a running wallet."

A running wallet! It's genius. I'm always trying to figure out ways to carry stuff with me on my run (which nearly totaled 12 miles today. Go me!) Gu. A credit card. Bus money. And though I've never mentioned needing something like that, she must have really paid attention to what I've been saying and came up with the idea. Just that she thought I might like some new running stuff is enough to make me feel extra warm and fuzzy.

Apparently, she's alone. They went into every running store in the mall and nobody carried anything like that. Sounds like maybe we've got an inventor in the making. Anyway, since there were no running wallets, she settled on buying me hand soap. It smells really nice.

One out of two isn't bad. Penny, on the other hand, got candies for us to "share." She practically yanked the the package out of my hands as I tried to open it this morning.

They were tasty.

Here's an old picture of my girls. My favorite...

Saturday, May 09, 2009

The graduating class of 2021

That's Carolyn. I'll pause if you need a tissue. No? Well, I never thought I'd need one either, but I about lost it when I learned this little tidbit from her new principal.

Because, it just dawned on me at that moment, now I guess she has a principal. And a school mascot. And she needs to know how to open her own milk carton and tie her own shoes. I can't even listen to the White Stripes song, "We're Going to be Friends," without resorting to a sort of blubbering that should be reserved for real problems like death, divorce and "Steel Magnolias."

It never dawned on me that I'd be tired from all this growing up crap.

Initally, I really went into this kindergarten registration thing excited. I'm excited because Carolyn is excited. She really wants to go to school, which I guess is awesome. But at some point Thursday, everything turned around on itself.

Like when Principal Shaw said our tiny little 5-year-olds will be so happy when we walk them to class and help them with their backpacks and put them in their little seats. They'll be happy on that first day, he said. In fact, they'll be happy for about a week until they realize it's better to do it by themselves. Finally they'll say, "Mom... Stop holding my hand in the hallway."

Not only that, but it got way worse for me when she did a stupid little craft at school and the teaching assistant wrote on a little piece of paper, "Carolyn: Struggled with cutting along the lines." Are you kidding me! She's already stigmatized and she hasn't actually started school yet. It's probably nothing, but what parent doesn't think their kid is the best. The best at everything.

I do. After all, she started as a lump in my belly, evolving into a totally helpless blob of person that couldn't do anything. And now she can write her name and swing across the monkey bars and ride (sort of) her bike. It's totally a miracle.

Pretty soon, it won't matter that I think everything she does is pure gold. It just crushes me to think it's starting to matter what other people think. People that don't even know her and her perfectness. It's not enough that she'll join swim team this summer and probably come in last at every race, now she's in a race of who can read the best, or who can sing the best, or who can cut the best, most accurate lines with kiddy scissors.

I'm sorry, but that's just too much for me to think about. Thank goodness none of this matters to her, at least for now. She's just excited about school. About a new teacher and friends and carrying her own lunch box.

So I'll hold her hand to class until she decides she's rather walk alone. And she'll go to her classroom. And I'll go home and cry in the bathroom, if I can make it to the bathroom. God please let me make it to the bathroom.

Because I guess that's the way it's supposed to be.

Tuesday, May 05, 2009

Please don't call child protective services

Carolyn is going through a bit of an injury phase right now. She's so bruised and hurt other moms are starting to comment on the injuries.

Let's review.

There's the horrible bruise, smack in the middle of her chest. This happened when she wiped out on her bike a few days ago. This is by far the worst injury, and the worst looking. I'm not even sure how she did it, other than that she was going really fast, talking (of course) and looking back at me. My dad used to tell me "It's a long way from your heart" whenever I hurt myself and came crying to him. I would have said this, because I sort of love it, but it was actually dangerously close to her heart. And lungs. And other very vital organs.

Speaking of bike injuries, there was the falling off the bike injury today that will surely result in a black eye. Hopefully, it'll be gone before she's baptized in a week and a half. (Yeah!!! The girls are finally getting baptized. Take that... eternal damnation.)

Later in the morning, she scratched up the side of her face.

Just before school, she was under her bed and re-injured her back by scraping the exact same spot she hurt a few weeks ago at the playground.

Let's just say there are a number of other bumps and bruises throughout. Thankfully, today when she was playing monster tag with her friend at the playground, there was no noticeable injury when she ran smack into a metal pole.

"No bruising? No bleeding? You're totally fine. Go play."

Saturday, May 02, 2009

Why sisters are great

Today at the playground, there was this group of very annoying tweens. Actually, they were about 8 and 9, but they were real jerks. I'd also like to make fun of their physical appearance, but it just doesn't feel right to go quite that low.

Anyway, they wouldn't move for Carolyn to get through and this was making Carolyn very upset. After asking for them to move several times, with no results, she just stood there and stared at them. At one point, the girls started calling each other weird.

Carolyn misunderstood and thought they had called Penny weird.

"Don't call my sister weird," she yelled. She was ready to throw down with these jerky bullies. I was so proud.

And Penny... Sweet lying Penny. That girl doesn't know how to tell the truth.

She spills milk. "It spilled itself." She kicks Fife. "He walked into my foot." She hits Carolyn, three times, IN FRONT of Steve. "No I didn't."

It's so weird because I don't think Carolyn has ever lied. Ever. She just doesn't know how. And now there's Penny, the chronic liar. Like I've said... Sometimes this stuff comes down to hard wiring.

Either that or Penny has already learned, from Carolyn, that telling the truth just doesn't pay.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Comedic genius

I just said Penelope was probably a comic genius in my last post, and now I know it's true. She spent about 15 minutes this morning re-enacting my favorite scene from Steve Martin's "The Jerk," even though she has never heard tell of either the actor/writer/funniest-person-ever and/or movie.

After much debate, Penny decided she would, in fact, agree to go to swimming class later this afternoon. She's been mad at Ms. Connie because, two weeks ago, Ms. Connie told Penny not to climb up the ladder. I know... How dare she.

Anyway, Penny went around the house collecting her items. Her robe, swimsuit, goggles, swim cap and flip flops.

Then, she'd say she needed her new Sleeping Beauty doll.

"That's all I need," she'd say.

Then, she needed a coloring book.

"I got my coloring book," dragging the bag around the house. "That's all I need."

Then she needed a baggie of crayons. Then a giant coloring page. Then a library book. After packing each item, she'd drag the heavier-and-heavier bag around the house.

"And that's all I need."

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Field trip

The family and I returned last night from a whirlwind trip to Chicago. I first went to Michigan to see Michelle, a good friend of mine (and we were lucky enough to be in Holland for the second annual Groove Fest, which was super duper fun). 

The next day, I drove to Chicago while Steve took the train with the girls.We did some of the usual stuff. Go to the Disney store. Eat and drink at great restaurants. Penny, of course, only wanted to eat soup (she actually told me, "No soup for you," which makes me believe she's a comedic genius since she doesn't know what a Seinfeld is) and Carolyn mostly dined on salad. While I love to say they're sort of weird eaters, I'm not-so-secretly proud that they would rather eat Minestrone than chicken nuggets. 

We also walked around for hours. I went running down by the lakeshore and became infatuated with the Westin's "Sleep TV" that causes you to fall asleep within five minutes of turning it on. I also mistakenly made fun of a handicap person. This guy with two bum legs let us go by and I said, "It's fine. We're usually the slow ones." No I really said that. In my defense, I had consumed a fair amount of cheap red wine.  It's folly that Steve finds infinitely hilarious and likes to apply to all sorts of situations.

It's really quite horrible and I am truly sorry to anybody reading this with a bum leg.

Finally, we headed over to the Field Museum to look at dinosaur bones. It was a good trip but Penny was pretty much done by the time we left and slept almost the whole way home, rush hour traffic.  See here, as we leave the museum and Carolyn tries to remove my headband while Penny cries in the corner. That about sums up our departure.

I slept 10 hours last night, even without Sleep TV. I almost feel ready to face the day.