Sunday, August 31, 2014

Labor Day weekend

The drive up to the in-laws' was better than usual, even though the kids stayed awake for most of it. Ted called the toll booths "toad boots" and kept asking me to turn around by saying, "Mommy, put your face to me, please!" (Which reminded me of how he used to ask, "Who's going to put me to school today?" Also of Russian folk tales: "Little hut, little hut, turn your back to the trees and your face to me, please.")  JW yelled at the boys for punching each other in the back seat. I leaned over and whispered, "Isn't it a time-honored tradition to punch your brother in the back seat?" He replied, "And isn't it a time-honored tradition for Dad to yell at you to knock it off? I didn't even threaten to turn the car around."

Yesterday we went for an idyllic boat ride and spent the afternoon playing trucks in the backyard. I organized my in-laws' junk drawer during Ted's nap. At night we had a bonfire with s'mores: Ted's first fire ever, since he's always been in bed by dark. He took one bite each of a s'more and a toasted marshmallow, and ate almost all the chocolate before we could stop him. 

Tonight we're going to have dinner with the extended family. My MIL mentioned that she had been asked to bring mac and cheese, and I immediately offered to make it. I spent several hours boiling two pounds of pasta, grating two pounds of cheese, making a roux, whisking in the milk, making the cheese sauce, mixing in the pasta... only to realize at the end that the scorched smell I had started to notice halfway through had permeated the entire double batch, even though I had been careful not to scrape up the bottom of the pan. I had wasted half the day and probably $30 of ingredients. And I had a huge kitchen failure in front of my MIL, who is the sweetest person and would never say anything but still... you know? I drove half an hour to the nearest store and stood there staring at the boxes of pasta, then went straight to the frozen aisle and grabbed two boxes of Stouffer's. I drove home listening to "My Tears Dry On Their Own" by Amy Winehouse and repeating to myself, "This is funny. I can laugh about this."

Tomorrow... hopefully the rain will dry up and we'll have more lake time, then home again.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Technological advances

Bill likes to tell his friends how I was around at the dawn of the personal computer. He cannot believe that there was a time, when I was alive, that people did not have computers in their homes.

Bill has also been amazed and appalled at my other tales of technology that we acquired for the first time at some point during my childhood:
  • Garage door opener
  • Microwave
  • Cassette tapes (and later, CDs)
  • Transition from black and white TV with a dial to a color TV with a remote
  • VCR (and much later, DVD player and eventually TiVo)
Here's a new one from this week: a friend who was sleeping over said, while we were inflating the Aerobed, that he would NEVER sleep on the floor. I remarked that I used to sleep on the floor a lot as a kid, when we traveled or had guests (who would invariably get MY bed). Bill whispered to his friend, "Her parents were not so nice." "But there were no air mattresses when I was a kid." Both of their jaws dropped.

Bill has a hard time with the concept of radio, or any entertainment that is not on demand. He cannot imagine life without handheld devices. Earlier today he asked me if he could have our old first-generation iPhone. I said maybe, but he wouldn't be able to use it as a phone. "What do you mean?" I explained the concept of a phone plan, and said that phone didn't have one. "So I can't play games on it?" "No, you can play games, but you can't use it as a phone." "What do you mean, use it as a phone? So I can't get to the Internet on it?" We went around and around like this several times before I finally realized -- to him, a phone is a mini-computer. He does not think of a phone as something on which you make and receive voice calls.

Friday, August 22, 2014

Kitty-cat, math walks, and first-time teaching

Ted is always asking, "Can I be a kitty-cat?" Then he spends the next half hour meowing plaintively.

Ted also wants to be picked up and carried all the time, which is nothing new. The relatively new part is that I've been discouraging this for months (and JW, who is much less of a softie, has been refusing). He's getting too heavy. ("But I'm a kitty-cat. Kitty-cats are very small.") Yesterday he kept whining on the way home from school that his foot hurt. He's been whining a lot about minor physical discomfort lately (like, he runs up and tries to hug me while I'm carrying a big stack of library books, and then complains, "OW!! You POKED me!") so I ignored it at first. But he kept insisting that it hurt, and that he was having trouble walking. After ten minutes of this, during which time we had walked half a block, I finally gave in and picked him up. Told you I was a softie. I kept thinking, what if we get home and he takes off his shoes and his foot is all red, then I'll feel terrible that I didn't listen to him. I carried him the rest of the block, then after we crossed the street he ran the rest of the way home.

Bill and I have been taking long walks after dinner this week. When we get outside, he says, "Are you ready to talk about m...", "a..." I supply, "t...", "h...", "exclamation point!" And then he wants to keep walking and walking while I give him math problems and try to get him to figure out rules (like, if a*b=c, then c/a=b and c/b=a, or if you want to multiply something by 10, just add a 0 at the end). He likes it! And when we get home, I write down the rules we learned in his notebook while he gets ready for bed. Last year he kept saying he hated math (even though he never really seemed to) so this is a positive development, even though I don't expect it to last.

Last night I had a dream that I was teaching my first (probably law school) class on intellectual property licensing. It was a disaster. I was in a huge auditorium that had sections of seats all over the place, in front of me, behind me, up in a balcony that was tucked into a corner. I kept turning around and discovering more students. I couldn't possibly see them all at once. The students kept talking and giggling, and trying to make each other laugh. I had absolutely nothing planned. After a long time, I managed to get the room over control and start talking about licensing, and that part went pretty well. But then when I was trying to walk over to another section of students, I ended up leaving and that was the end of class. Afterwards, I thought, um, I probably should have had a lesson plan, and given some homework, and what's that thing called, a syllabus. What kind of school is this where they don't give a first-time professor any resources or advice about teaching? When I woke up, I thought it was funny that instead of the traditional "final exam, never went to class" anxiety dream, I had a dream where I was the professor. And instead of feeling anxious about failing, I felt annoyed that the school hadn't given me what I needed. But now that I type this all out, it doesn't seem so strange because it pretty much mirrors my experience teaching at an academic summer program back when I was in college, and I was just thinking about that yesterday. That was the experience that convinced me I should not be a teacher.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Books with awesome girls

To balance out yesterday's post about the appallingly sexist Smurfette origin story, here are some series we've enjoyed that feature girls as the main characters -- and not just any girls, but girls who are adventurous, outspoken, and independent. All of these books feature kids around the same age as Bill, who is starting second grade.

Ramona Quimby by Beverly Cleary. These classic books cover Ramona's life from around ages four through ten. While they are a lot of fun, they also deal with a lot of "real life" issues like sibling relationships and changes in the family.

Clementine by Sara Pennypacker. Clementine is irrepressible. She means well, but she's always getting into trouble. Luckily, she has understanding parents, even though her teachers and neighbors aren't always so thrilled with her.

Ivy + Bean by Annie Barrows. Ivy and Bean are quirky, and they're the only team in this group of books about solo girls. In one of my favorites, they decide to go on an archaeological dig in Bean's backyard and are so confident about their results that they invite their entire class to see the assembled dinosaur.

Gooney Bird by Lois Lowry. We've only read one of these so far, but I can't wait to read more! Gooney Bird wears whatever she wants, says whatever she wants, and never EVER gets embarrassed. She is the coolest.

Junie B. Jones by Barbara Park. Junie B. can be kind of obnoxious, but that makes these books a lot more relatable than books about kids who are naturally angelic. She has a grammar all her own and cares about things that kids this age actually care about, like losing a tooth and acquiring enough money to buy the best gift at the holiday fair.

Happy reading!

Monday, August 18, 2014

The Smurfette

I know Bill is my child because he loves libraries and, when he walks into an unfamiliar one, heads straight for the shelves and starts looking for hidden treasures.

I noticed he had parked himself on the library couch with a thick book, and was surprised to see that it was an anthology of the original Smurfs comics from the 1960s. I didn't even know the cartoon was based on comics.

We requested the Smurfs books from our home library, and Bill spent several happy days with his nose buried in them. He asked me to read one to him at bedtime. We finished a silly story about the Smurfs finding a magic wish-granting egg, and the next story was "The Smurfette."

The Smurfette was created by Gargamel, who wanted to wreak havoc on the Smurf village. She looked like an ordinary Smurf, except with stringy black hair. When she arrived at the Smurf village, she immediately began terrorizing all the Smurfs with her womanly ways. She nagged them, exploded at them, burst into tears with little provocation, insisted she knew the right ways to do things, and generally got in the way and ruined everything. The Smurfs hated Smurfette and hatched a plot to get rid of her: they talked behind her back (but making sure she could hear) about how fat and ugly she was. She went to Papa Smurf in tears. He spent hours in his hut with her, working his magic, until she emerged as the familiar cartoon Smurfette: blond, curvy, and teetering on high heels. Her personality was exactly the same, except that her blond hair had made her stupid. All the Smurfs fell instantly in love with her, and fell over each other trying to do everything she said. Just as Gargamel had hoped, there was chaos in the Smurf village. The Smurfs fought over the Smurfette and spent their time painting the dam pink to please her instead of gathering food and doing chores. Eventually, the Smurfette actually did something useful: she sneaked out of the village, leaving a note saying that she was leaving because there could be no peace among the Smurfs while she was there. The story ends with Papa Smurf getting his revenge on Gargamel -- he fashions a human woman out of clay, and the last panel shows Gargamel's horrified face upon seeing her.

I only managed to get through about half of this story with Bill at bedtime. Then I closed the book and explained how incredibly sexist it was, and why that was a problem. We moved on to the next story.

Sunday, August 17, 2014


Every year for our anniversary, we go away for an overnight trip, just the two of us. This year my parents came up for the week to watch the kids, and we were gone for a blissful four days and three nights.

Wednesday we drove in the pouring rain to Burlington, Vermont. But first, we made our pilgrimage to the King Arthur Flour cafe and retail store in Norwich, VT. As a baking nerd, I had been looking forward to this forever. We ate delicious sandwiches on their homemade bread. I spent at least an hour looking at every single thing in the store, and watched the bakers shaping loaves. I bought a new half-sheet pan, which I've been needing for a while; some flat sheets of precut parchment paper; Fiori di Sicilia, which is sort of like a floral/Creamsicle-flavored version of vanilla extract; and Swedish pearl sugar. Today I made these ricotta cookies with the Fiori di Sicilia and everyone went crazy over them. (Of course, being me, I will tinker with them next time, and I will be the only one who prefers my version.)

We stayed at a cute B&B, the Sinclair Inn, about half an hour from Burlington. As we soon discovered, one of the owners of the inn grew up in the restaurant business and was an amazing cook and baker. He was taking his first batch of cookies out of the oven when we arrived.

Over the next few days, we developed a pattern: eat an enormous three-course breakfast at the inn; go for a long hike; wander around the city. Our first hike, recommended by a fellow traveler at the inn, was two miles straight up Mount Mansfield, through mud and across streams. I hadn't packed appropriately for all the hiking we did, and in fact had forgotten my hiking boots at home. The only shoes I had were sandals and my leather ankle boots that I wear to work. So most of my hiking was done in a blouse, jeans, and my trusty Clarks boots. One hiker who we passed commented that I looked like I was ready to go to a club. My shoes are now in need of repair, but they did the job.

We drank a lot of beer on our trip. Vermont is big on craft beer. We toured the Magic Hat and Switchback breweries, had a few drinks at the Farmhouse Tap & Grill, and got to try the elusive Heady Topper (beloved by beer snobs, but nearly impossible to find outside Vermont).

We also got to take a tour of Lake Champlain Chocolates. Around here in Massachusetts, I see these chocolates everywhere. It turns out they're all produced in one little factory, where we saw workers decorating the chocolates by hand, and in the rest of the country you can pretty much only find them at Whole Foods.

We ate an amazing, perfect anniversary dinner at Hen of the Wood in Burlington. We also ate at A Single Pebble, a Chinese place that I didn't think lived up to the hype, even though it was interesting -- they had this weird "mock eel" dish made out of shiitake mushrooms that reminded me of the Indian dessert jelabi, and some special dumplings that were basically deep-fried slices of stuffed bread. We had crepes at the Skinny Pancake, which was great, and small plates at Misery Loves Company, which I didn't like.

The one thing we did that wasn't hyper-local was seeing "Guardians of the Galaxy." Since going out to the movies is ordinarily a luxury, we made sure to include it in our child-free itinerary.

By the end of our trip, I was ready to head home and see the kids again. And then about an hour after returning home, with both kids jumping on me and MOMMY MOMMYing me and LOOK AT ME and I HAVE TO GO TO THE POTTY and HE HIT ME and PLAY WITH ME, I was already nostalgic for our vacation. I was feeling pretty happy and content with my life before we left. That taste of freedom was dangerous.

Sunday, August 10, 2014

More the kids

Ted injects nonsense into every conversation and wanders off into long discursive stories. Nearly all of his sentences end with an exclamation point. "And we will go to... BED! And we will read... BOOKS!" He does grand arm gestures to match. If you  watched him from afar, you would think that he was repeatedly exclaiming "Ta-da!" and presenting some amazing trick.

Ted is always shouting, "Let's do it!" and "Go for it!" When we go to the potty, no matter how much of an emergency it is, he wants me to first say, "Let it out!"

Ted talks to strangers constantly. He will walk up to anybody he sees and demand to know, "Why you're doing that?" So far they like it.

Bill has fallen prey to the curse of kids who read too much. There are lots of words that he knows, but has no idea how to pronounce. I only correct him sometimes, because it's cute. I also kept my mouth shut when he started telling me how he and his friend "fighted" at camp, but sadly, he quickly corrected himself. That rarely happens these days.

Bill came home from camp one day singing "Beat It," and I've heard him singing it for a few days in a row since then. Of course, it's now stuck in my head too.

Bill has been wearing mismatched socks as a fashion statement. I haven't said anything about that either. But every time he catches me glancing at his socks, he smirks, like he's stickin' it to the man.

Saturday, August 09, 2014

A little sick

I'm detecting a pattern here -- Ted gets sick, then at the tail end I get sick. It's an unsurprising pattern given that Ted's sickness usually requires round-the-clock medical treatments. We're well into toddlerhood. I'm no longer conditioned for that kind of sleep deprivation.

At first I insisted that it was just the sniffles. It seemed entirely unconnected that I was getting tired so easily, and I wondered if my fitness level had suddenly dropped dramatically. I'd get sweaty from just walking down the street. My exercise regimen has slipped a little since Ted got sick, but I didn't think I could get out of shape that quickly. Then on Friday I felt like I was having hot flashes, and started fanning myself with a draft contract on my desk. F i n a l l y it sunk in that I had a fever. It took me another couple of hours to remember that medicine can help with that, and I opened up my desk drawer and popped some Advil. Within minutes, I felt the air conditioning on my skin.

It's a good thing I'm better at taking care of my kids than I am at taking care of myself. Also, the kids are good at complaining when something is wrong.

This morning JW took the kids to the science museum and I've been napping and reading and watching the finale of "The Mindy Project" yet again. Usually on a Saturday I'm grocery shopping, doing laundry, cleaning up. Today I'm allowing myself to be lazy.

Monday, August 04, 2014

The kids

Ted is sick, which is nothing new. We've been home with him for the past week. The fun wrinkle this time was that it took us several days to realize his inhaler wasn't working. On the upside, shortest ER trip ever. Also, during his time at home, he's become almost completely potty trained. He's even woken up dry in the morning a few times.

A few Ted-isms of late:
  • "Flat it up" -- applicable in many situations, such as when describing what bulldozers do, the proper way to spread a blanket, or how to handle too many bubbles in the tub.
  • For a while he kept insisting that when he grows up, he wants to be a "tree cutter-downer." Thanks to Doc McStuffins, he currently wants to be a doctor. (I like the show, but it always makes me think of Ron Swanson on "Parks and Rec" after he becomes a stepfather to two little girls: "There is no more silence. There is only 'Doc McStuffins.'")
  • "I don't like being a kid. I want to be a grownup." He's always liked pretending that we switch places and he's me and I'm him, and saying that I'm a kid and he's a grownup. This is the latest variation.
  • When we hung out with all the cousins, he kept insisting, "My name is kid." The big kids got a kick out of this and kept nudging each other to ask Ted his name.
He also continues to talk about his office in Arctic City.

Bill has also been talking a lot about Arctic City, home of Johnny's Tacos. They make the best tacos and doughnuts, but they don't get a lot of business because unless you're Ted, the only way to get to Arctic City is to go through a wormhole that opens up once every million years.

Bill has had three sleepovers in the past few months. All were with friends who invited him to sleep over, but ended up sleeping at our house. Bill likes his bedtime routine, including reading out loud and Mommy singing "Rainbow Connection," and he wants to keep it exactly the same even when he has friends over. One of his friends, after I was two verses into our bedtime song, groaned, "I feel like this song is going to last forever."

He plays Minecraft every chance he gets. He talks Minecraft all day long with his friends, with his dad, with Aunt CT. He tries to talk about it with me. I think it's a good activity for him, but I just don't care that much. I listen politely for a few minutes and that's my limit.

This is Bill's last week of day camp. Then he'll have a week off with my parents, who are coming here; a week at art camp; and then a week and a half of I know not what. It seemed like a good idea at the time, but given how much time I've taken off lately and my upcoming vacation (anniversary getaway! woohoo!) it's seeming less like a good idea. I should start trying to line up all-day playdates.

Monday, July 28, 2014

MILP Roundup #357

The weekly Mothers In the Legal Profession Roundup is hosted on a rotating basis at the Butterflyfish, Grace, BJJ, Law, and Living, Mommy and the Sin City, Magic Cookie, The Reluctant Grownup, and Perspectives of a Hard Boiled Egg blogs.

This edition of the Roundup covers posts from July 21 - July 27. The theme is Dr. Seuss... which turned out to be better in theory than in practice, but here it is. See if you can guess all the books.

Be her name Buxbaum or Bixby or Bray or Mordecai Ali Van Allen O'Shea, Frenchie's future daughter is off to Great Places! 19 more weeks until her day!
Alice had a bad day. What a day Alice had.
The Reluctant Grownup is going to feed her family clams and ham, and for dessert a dusty old jar of sour gooseberry jam. But first, it's time to take care of herself for a change.
The Queen of Hats is reminded that she has troubles of more than one kind, and could use a few good bats.
Full of the Dickens is in pretty good shape for the shape she is in, and encourages Jacob to join her.
The Lag Liv family says cheese, and confirms that not only are teeth very much in style, they are also very much worthwhile.
The more that I read, the more things I will know.
Portia of Fumbling for Truth is working on un-slumping herself, which is not easily done.
The Hard Boiled Egg family doesn't need to go by fish. They can go in their new Crunk-Car if they wish.
Grace is working too hard pre-vacation, but at least she's not like poor Ali Sard who mows quick growing hay for piffulous pay of two dooklas a day.