Monday, July 30, 2007

"I feel like I'm Cinderella and you're the mean stepmother!"

That's what Ella said to me the other day during one of our battles over cleaning her room. I pointed out that if she was actually Cinderella she'd be cleaning up everyone's mess and not just her own. She didn't like that point. Another time she started in on how she didn't like to clean up her room, how it was boring, how it took too long. My response was that I didn't like cooking for everyone or washing and folding everyone's clothes and that maybe I should just stop doing it. She wasn't sure what to make of that either and fled the battle field.

But honestly, I'm tired of the same old fights with her over cleaning up and doing some minor chores - dusting, folding towels, vacuuming the kitchen. That's all I ask her to do, other than cleaning up her own messes. But each time it's this huge struggle to get her to do anything. I'm treated to lots of whining and protests about how her sister doesn't have to do chores. My answer that when her sister is 6 she'll start doing chores, too, doesn't help. Offering her an allowance worked at first, but then she got tired of the novelty and decided she was willing to forego allowance if it meant she didn't have to do chores.

I've tried apealing to what little logic she has, and that has fallen flat as well. I explained that in a family everyone has jobs to do - daddy has his work, plus he takes care of things around the house like lightbulbs and the garage and the trash. I have my job plus I cook and clean and fold laundry. Ella's job is to be 6 (which made her giggle), but she also has her own responsibilities like dusting and vacuuming and folding towels. She stopped giggling when I said that.

Despite my frustration, I'll keep pressing on with the lesson. I don't want her to grow up thinking that there will always be someone around to pick up after her and provide for her every need. I don't want her to be one of those spoiled bimbos on My Super Sweet 16 who pitches a fit when her mommy and daddy cut off her credit cards, not that Ella will ever have her own credit cards, but you get the point.

I want to raise a neat, respectful, responsible daughter, but she's making it so hard!

Sunday, July 29, 2007

Blogging at the beach

Hello from the beach. Isn't modern technology amazing? I'm sitting here blogging while listening to the waves, which are threatening to swamp my feet, and watching the sun peek in and out from behind the storm clouds off shore that are threatening to rain, but so far haven't done more than threaten. This is about as close to a perfect way to spend a morning as I can think of.

As much as I love bringing the kids to the beach and watching them splash in the waves and body surf and build sand castles and dig huge holes, it's wonderful to only be responsible for myself. Yesterday, B and I came to the beach for the afternoon and read and napped and swam without having to entertain anyone or play lifeguard or provide endless snacks and drinks. It was divine.

I fully admit I was pretty hostile at being forced to go to the beach and leave the kids, actually leaving Campbell was the only real problem, but I am so glad B made me do this. I needed this break in the worst way. I'm not exagerrating in the least when I say I was on the verge of a complete and total breakdown. Brandon found me curled up in the shower crying one night - that was a bad night. At dinner last night we talked about my last trip away from the kids and realized it was in January of 2006 when I went to New York with Lisa and Heidi. The last time B and I went away together, just the two of us, was in January of 2004 when we went to San Antonio for a night. That is just ridiculous that it's been that long. We need to take better care of our marriage.

But now I feel like I can go back to Austin and face daily life again. I can get everyone up and dressed and out the door tomorrow with a smile, or at least without screaming in frustration, because I had this break. Life won't seem so dreary.

Plus, we're all headed to the beach in three weeks with the Roes, Krells and Scanlons. I'll have had three beach trips this summer, which is wonderful. The beach is my favorite place to be. I love the salt air, the sound of the waves. I'm quite content to just sit and watch the world go by with my toes in the sand. So I'm going to sign off and do just that.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

But I'm not ready yet

B announced last night during dinner that he and I are going away for the weekend. His dad noticed that B had put a weekend trip on his calendar ages ago and asked if we had ever managed to go away. When B told him that we hadn't, his dad got upset. He reminded B that it's important for us to have time together and gave B the key to the condo in Corpus. So Steve is staying here Friday night with the kids, and my m-i-l is staying Saturday night.

I'm not sure I'm ready though. We're just now getting Campbell on a good sleep schedule, and I'm worried that having grandparents who are willing to get up with him in the middle of the night will set us back. Plus, I stopped trying to pump milk weeks ago, and I don't have any left in the freezer. Campbell still won't take formula, so he could end up being one hungry baby by the time we get home on Sunday. I also worry that after a weekend without nursing, Campbell won't want to anymore. And while I'm looking ahead to the weaning process, this isn't how I wanted to do it. The silver lining in this is that I'll have to pump while I'm gone, so I'll have a supply of milk in the freezer again.

The odd thing is that I'm not at all worried about my f-i-l taking care of the three kids. Steve isn't prone to panic, and he's pretty good about winging it if he needs to. Ever since my m-i-l left him, he's really stepped up as a grandfather, taking the girls to his house for overnights, even giving them baths and washing their hair. I'm not sure my father would be up for such activities, and he was a much more hands-on father than Steve was.

It's my m-i-l I'm worried about. First, I'm going to have to clean the house, top to bottom, so that she doesn't have anything to make her pinchy face or snide comments about. Debbie came over a few weeks ago at the end of a looonnng, rainy day and commented that the girls' room was far messier than B's had ever been as a child. I wanted to scream. Second, she's prone to panicing about things. I just know we're going to get some phone call at some point. Like the time Ella managed to lock herself IN Debbie's apartment, and Debbie couldn't figure out how to get her back out again. I had to drive up and talk to Ella through the back window. It took me 15 seconds to get Ella to unlock the door, but Debbie had been reduced to sitting on the stairs crying. Or the time she left us 3 messages in 15 minutes about how Lily had climbed into the porta-crib and was refusing to get out. Debbie had had her mastectomy two months earlier and still couldn't lift things, especially not kids, but Lily was more than capable of climbing in and out on her own. By the time we called Debbie back, Lily was already out of the crib, but Debbie was still in tears. So there's precedent for my concern about phone calls.

Then there's the worry that she just won't be able to figure things out. Last weekend she took all three kids to B's grandmother's house for the day. Before she left I told her THREE times how to mix Campbell's cereal, and she still managed to do it wrong. How hard could it have been - add water to the cereal until it's a thick paste, then stir in some fruit or sweet potatoes. She forgot the bit about the water and just mixed it with sweet potatoes. Not surprisingly, Campbell refused to eat it.

When B talked to his parents last night about arangements, his dad said, "Just leave me instructions. I'll figure it all out." Debbie wouldn't get off the phone, asking question after question. B kept saying, "Mom, we'll leave instructions. You can send me an e-mail with all your questions, and we'll answer them." She still kept asking for instructions, like she was going to remember anything at that point. I wouldn't have.

So my challenge will be to relax while we are gone and not worry about what is happening here. Campbell may refuse to drink formula, but at least he eats other food and drinks water from a sippy cup. He's not going to starve or get dehydrated while we're gone. And as Heidi pointed out, if he gets really hungry, he'll probably take the formula. The girls, of course, will be just fine. Steve will feed them "Old MacDonald's" for lunch and dinner if they ask, and pancakes with chocolate syrup for breakfast. Debbie will do whatever she does with them. Everyone will survive. And I'll get to spend the weekend at the beach.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

I may have blogged too soon

I've received several e-mails congratulating me on my success with Campbell's sleeping. It turns out I was a tad premature in claiming victory; Campbell has been up partying the last two nights.

Sunday night he woke up at midnight but went right back to sleep after I patted him on the back for a minute. He woke up again at 3 am, and I had to do Ferber for 5 and 10 minutes before he conked out. Then Lily woke up with a wet, leaking pull-up, so I had to clean her up and strip her bed. In the process, Campbell woke up, and I had to start the Ferber routine again. That time I had to go in after 5, 10 and 15 minutes before he fell asleep.

I thought last night would be better because Campbell didn't wake up at midnight like he had the night before. I was wrong; it was much, much worse. He woke up again at 3 and jabbered in his crib for a while. I ignored him until he started crying. I went in and patted him and then waiting another 5 minutes before going back in. He settled down, and I went back to bed thinking he had fallen asleep. But he started jabbering again, and I ignored him until he started crying again. We went through that routine until 5 am - two freaking hours of listening to him alternate between playing and crying. I was ready to cry.

So who knows what tonight holds. I am proud of myself for staying strong, though. It would have been very easy to pull him out of the crib at 4 this morning and nurse him to sleep. But that would have set me back in the whole process. I know he's capable of sleeping through the night; I just have to convince him of it.

The wait is over

No worries, no spoilers about Harry Potter here, even though I am going to talk about the book.

I had pre-ordered my book from Amazon with guaranteed delivery on Saturday. But then I decided I just couldn't wait, and I went to the bookstore at 9:15 and picked up a copy. I'm glad I went. It was really cool to see the steady stream of people going in empty handed and coming out with their copy of the book. One of the clerks said that she thought it was really amazing that pretty much everyone everywhere was reading the new book that morning. I hadn't thought of it that way, but she was right. It was like a big read-in scattered throughout Austin.

I was a bit nervous when I first opened the book. There has been so much speculation and so much anticipation leading up to its publication, how could it ever live up to the hype? After waiting so long to find out how it all ends, it would be horrible if the book was a disappointment.

I was also a bit sad; this was the last time to open a new Harry Potter book and enter Rowling's world, not knowing what was going to happen. This series was amazing in that it held everyone's interest and attention over so many books and so many years. It will be a miracle if another series of books is able to come close to equaling it. The "Series of Unfortunate Events" books got lots of media play for a while, but there were never any lines of people, adults and children, standing outside bookstores waiting for the next installment.

At least B and I will be able to keep the magic alive in our house for a while longer. Ella is in love with the books, and we're reading them with her. Or I should say that Brandon is reading them with her. They're only on the third book, so they have a long way to go together.

Next week I'll do my review of the book, once everyone I know has read it.

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Dr. Ferber, I salute you

I have been struggling for weeks with Campbell's sleep problems. He had gone from bad to worse in the course of a week - from waking up one time a night to every two hours Thursday night. Plus he's been waking up at 5:00 and refusing to go back to sleep. I felt like I was back in newborn phase. So I borrowed a page from Liz and did some research, pulling out books she had given me when Campbell was born. I had stashed them away thinking that being a mother of three I was seasoned enough to never need a baby book. Ha!

One book was by Sears, who wasn't helpful at all. He's a big proponent of letting babies sleep in bed with parents. I'm fine with that when they're tiny. Ella slept with us for her first three months - it was the only way she would sleep. But I wasn't about to put Campbell in bed with us at 10 months old. It seemed like that was a path that would just lead to more problems.

Another book had a table with information on all the different sleep training philosophies, from Ferber to Baby Whisperer to Baby Wise. The table was just what I needed. It gave a nice recap of Ferber, which I used with Ella and Lily with great success. It contained information I had forgotten - like increasing the time between visits to the crib by 5 minutes each time. It also reassured me that the baby wasn't going to calm down when I went in to check on him. I had been trying to do Ferber last week, but I kept getting freaked out that Campbell cried harder each time I went in. I thought I was doing something wrong. The book reassured me that it was normal for him to sound "possessed" while he was screaming.

Armed with this knowledge, I decided Friday night was the night. Campbell went to bed without a problem as usual, but then he woke up at 9:30. I knew he wasn't hungry, so I went in and patted him and talked to him for a few moments and left. I went back after 5 minutes, 10 minutes and 15 minutes. Each time he cried harder after I left him. I sat on the sofa, grinding my teeth in agony. But then, 10 minutes after my last visit and 10 minutes before I was supposed to go in again, Campbell stopped crying. The silence worried me. What if he had suffocated on his lovey? What if? What if? What if? B kept me from going in to check, and I went off to bed, so tired I was shaking.

The next thing I knew, it was 4 am and the dog was whining at the back bedroom door because it was pouring. I let her in and realized I hadn't been up with Campbell. I resisted the temptation to go check on him and went back to sleep. Campbell slept through until 6:30! That's the latest he's slept in weeks. And he woke up happy and chattering, rather than screaming, as usual.

Last night I put him down at 6:30 and crossed my fingers. He slept through until 6:30 again! Actually, that's not quite true. I heard him jabbering at one point over the monitor, but he didn't start crying and fell back asleep on his own.


So now I know he's capable of sleeping through, and I know that I can tough it out and do the Ferber method again if I need to. And I'm feeling more rested than I have in months and months.

Friday, July 20, 2007

See! I knew it.

I did relatively well with my self-imposed Internet ban yesterday. I only checked CNN once when I was online for work-related stuff. No accidental Harry Potter spoils anywhere.

But at 2:00 am, after putting Campbell to bed for the third time, I couldn't go back to sleep so I decided to check the headlines. After scanning CNN, I switched to The lead article? "Is Harry Potter's ending what everyone has been hoping for." I didn't read the artile. Instead, I cured Salon's editors and shut down the Internet. I know the article wouldn't have had any spoilers, but I still didn't want to read everyone's theories about what is going to happen.

So I've learned my lesson - no more middle-of-the-night surfing for me.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Spoil sports

As of today, and until I finish the new Harry Potter book, I'm taking a break from the Internet. There are some spoil sports out there who have supposedly posted the entire new book online. Obviously I'm not going to visit any of those sites. Waiting for the new book to come out, standing at the front window waiting for the mailman to deliver my copy is all part of the fun. The people who have posted the book are ruining the whole spirit of the process.

But it's not those sites that worry me. I'm more concerned that one of the news sites I read - or and the like - will accidentally spoil it. I could just see them saying something like, "According to the book posted on such-and-such site, So-and-so dies. But this site says something different." I don't want to stumble on a spoiler like that.

This Internet break will be hard, for sure. I've developed a new addiction - reading blogs. For the past two years I've had a small handful of blogs I've read on a regular basis, but in the past few weeks, the handful has exploded. I can't even count how many work hours I've wasted wandering through the ether reading postings of random writers all over the country. Plus, I've sucked other people into the abyss with me. I've sent links to my mom, who retaliates by sending me other links. I've sent links to my neighbor, which is dangerous given her eBay problem a while back.

But now I'm going cold turkey. No more Internet until Monday. I'll limit myself to computer Scrabble if I need something to do instead of working.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

"Bye-bye Flutter!"

Our callipidder had turned himself into a chrysalis about two weeks ago, and I'd almost given up hope that we were going to get a butterfly out of the deal. Each day we'd check on him, and the girls would ask how much longer it was going to take. I tried to look up information the other night, but for the first time ever, Google failed me. My search led to lots of arts and crafts projects and classroom-style lessons for homeschooling parents. I gave up after half an hour of fruitless clicking.

This morning the little guy was still in his chrysalis, but I happened to look up as I was stirring the girls' lunch and noticed that there was a beautiful butterfly in the little cage. We all were so thrilled. I carried the cage outside very carefully, while the butterfly slowly flapped his wings. They were so beautiful - pale greens and browns with big eye spots. I wanted to take a picture, but my camera would only focus on the mesh of the cage, not the butterfly. I'm sure there's some way to override the auto focus, but I don't know how and I didn't have time to research it.

I opened the little door in the side of the cage, hoping the butterfly would find his way out, and he did as soon as I turned the cage on end so the door was facing up. He poked his head out, Ella announced that his name was Flutter, and he flew off as she shouted good-bye.

It was a really cool little experience, and I'm glad I was able to share it with the girls. And I'm glad the little callipidder didn't die.

Is it really too much to ask?

Really, is getting one good night's sleep too much to ask for? Campbell is just killing me with his sleep habits, and I don't know what to do. He doesn't really fit into any of the typical categories that baby experts write about.

Most nights he goes to sleep on his own without a problem. I nurse him until he's drowsy and pop him in his crib while he's still awake. I putter around in there for a minute, closing blinds and turning on his white-noise machine before closing the door. Sometimes he'll jabber or sqwak for a minute or two, but then he goes to sleep. Up until a month ago, he would sleep from 6:30 or 7:00 until about 4:30 without a problem. I didn't complain too much because he was sleeping for about 9 hours straight, even if they weren't the 9 hours I would have liked. He'd wake up, nurse and go back to sleep until about 7:30, which was perfect. This schedule allowed me to run at 5:30 and still have time to shower and get dressed before Campbell woke up.

But a month ago it all fell apart. I think he hit his 9-month growth spurt AND started teething all at the same time, which just caused so many problems.

He still goes to bed most nights without a problem, but now I have no idea how long he'll sleep and how many times he'll wake up in the night. Some nights he sleeps through. Some, like last night, he'll wake up twice. Each time he wakes up he nurses like he's starving, so I don't think it's a case of waking up and not knowing how to go back to sleep. Plus, he knows how to go to sleep on his own.

In addition to the middle of the night stuff, Campbell has now been waking up between 5:30 and 6:00 and refusing to go back to sleep. I nurse him and put him back in bed, hoping he'll go back to sleep, but he usually starts screaming after playing quietly for about 15 minutes. At that hour, I hate to let him scream it out because a. it doesn't work, and b. he wakes up the girls. Having one child awake at the crack of dawn is bad enough, three is awful.

So I'm stumped. Do I Ferberize him? Do I let him cry it out in the middle of the night? I've got to do something, though. I'm as tired now as I was when he was just weeks old. Suggestions anyone?

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Order of the Pheonix

**Spoiler Alert** Don't read this if you haven't yet seen the movie. It gives away some details.

When I compared notes on the new HP movie with my good friend O'Pine, he said that he had left the theater thrilled with the movie but then started thinking about things he would have liked to have seen in it. I've had the very same experience. Last night when I wrote my birthday post, I was still just gushing about the movie. But then I started thinking about what I would have like to seen included or changed.

I would have loved for St. Mungo's to have been included, just to see what the director thought it looked like. That part of the book is so rich in detail that it would have been neat to see on screen. I think the director should have also kept the subplot about Rita Skeeter publishing Harry's story in the paper, if for no other reason than to have Rita back again. However, I didn't mind that they cut out all the Quidditch scenes. They're fun, but they don't really move the story along. The other change that really bothered me was that they made Cho the one who gave away the secret about Dumbledore's Army. I know they exonerated her in the end, but I still didn't think that was right. I guess they didn't want to introduce yet another character.

But those few things aside, I still think it's the best film of the group. I'm already trying to figure out when I can see it again. Maybe I'll spring for the IMAX 3D version for my second viewing!

Monday, July 16, 2007

Happy birthday to me

Today is my birthday, but I haven't been feeling very birthdayish. Usually I love my birthday, love it to the point that I've been known to throw myself birthday parties. But not this year. I'm going out to dinner with friends tomorrow night, and one of the women going was going to call it my birthday dinner until I asked her not to even mention it. She still did, but sort of in a round-about way. She said it was to celebrate the birthday of a friend who has tres ninos. Since I'm the only one in the group with three kids, it's an easy guess.

I'm not sure what my problem is. Maybe it's the idea of turning, sigh, 37. And all you reading this who are older than me, please don't say, "Oh but you're so young!" I don't feel young at all. Maybe it's all the stress of work. My projects at Holt have been far more time-consuming than anyone anticipated, and with Ella at loose ends because of the summer, my work time is so limited. I feel the pressure to cram work into every free moment I can, but this means I don't have a lot of down time. Then again, it could just be the three kids running loose in the house. Amazingly, despite Campbell's new found mobility, he's not the hard part of my day. To say that Ella and Lily are in challenging stages of their lives would be an understatement. Ella is testing limits and defying us every chance she gets; Lily is playing the drama queen with all her might. Campbell's eating stale Cheerios off the floor is the least of my difficulties during the day.

But back to my birthday. I woke up and decided that I needed to suck it up and have a good day for the sake of the girls if not for myself. I started out by going for a run with Campbell, who now doesn't sleep past 6:00, in his stroller. Despite having to push him and despite the humidity, I had a pretty good 40-minute roll through the 'hood. I walked in the door from the run to have Ella and Lily launch themselves at me yelling, "Happy Birthday Mama!"

Ella and I had a mellow morning. She worked on art projects while Campbell napped and I flopped on the sofa and watched 12 different programs. We finally settled on SpongeBob. Our sitter came this afternoon, and B and I went to see the new Harry Potter.

It was the best one yet, in my humble opinion. The screenwriters/directors have made plot changes in all of the movies, and I haven't liked or agreed with many of them. But in this one, all the changes worked - some even enhanced the story. Rowling does tend to go on a bit, and the movie cut back in some important areas. The actors have also gotten so much better - I didn't cringe once at any of their deliveries. I especially like the boys who play the Weasley twins and the boy who plays Neville. I think Neville is going to figure prominently in the last book - 5 days and counting.

When we got home from the movie, Ella and B went out so Ella could buy me a present with her own money. She informed me before they left that she was going to spend $2.50 on my gift! She bought me a mood ring made of interlocked dolphins. Each dolphin has a mood stone in its torso. She was so thrilled that she bought the ring with her own money that she even included the four cents she got back as change. Then she blew the surprise with my present from B. He told her to go out to the car to get my gift and she said, "I can't. You got her the chairs she wanted, and a table!" A local store has these cool Adirondack chairs in different colors. B got me two bright red ones with a table to match. Now we have to figure out where to put them. I'd like them to go on the front porch, but B likes the chairs we already have out there.

We ended the celebrations with coconut ice box cake from Heidi and Easy-Bake cake from Ella. Lily was momentarily distraught that we weren't having a big party. She asked at one point when the guests were going to arrive and then started crying because she wanted her friends from preschool and Gran (my mom) to be at the house for cake. I had to explain that grown-ups don't always have big parties, but that we do still have cake.

I'm going to finish the day by turning in early with a new book. Campbell has reverted to not sleeping through the night, so I want to get a head start on sleep.

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Paying our respects

I've been discussing Lady Bird Johnson with the girls, especially with Lily, far more than I anticipated. While we were driving to school on Wednesday, Lily noticed that flags were "only halfway up." I explained that a very kind woman named Lady Bird had died and talked about some of the wonderful things she had done - the Wildflower Center, which we visited in the fall, the Hike and Bike Trail, where we go to feed ducks, etc. Every time Lily heard Mrs. Johnson's name on the radio she would say, "It's Lady Bird, the lady who died!"

I have been in tears more times than I can count during the past week while reading tributes to Mrs. Johnson or watching coverage on the news. The tears may be more a symptom of my fragile mental and emotional state than a true sign of mourning, but whatever the cause, I felt the need to do something to show my respect to Mrs. Johnson and her life. I knew there was no way I was going to make it to the library on Friday afternoon or Saturday morning for the public viewing, and I'm not connected enough to garner an invite to the funeral. So when someone posted on the RunTex site that a good way to honor Mrs. Johnson was to plan a run on the Town Lake Trail on Sunday morning and pause as her funeral cortege went past, I decided to do just that.

But after all of my talks with the girls about Mrs. Johnson and everything she's done, I decided I should take them with me. We made a bit of an adventure of it, parking on the south side at Zach Scott and walking across the Lamar Pedestrian Bridge. The girls loved looking at the water and the flooded trail at Lamar. We saw a heron stalking fish in two feet of water on what is usually a sidewalk. The girls did get a bit sweaty and bored while waiting for the "parade," and Ella sulked under a tree after I told her to stop climbing on her brother's stroller. But I'm glad we went. Luci Baines Johnson, who has been the public face of the family throughout the week, thanked people for coming as she drove past, and it was so nice to see all of the folks who came out to say thank you to a woman who has done so much to make our town the wonderful place it is.

As we walked back across the bridge, with the girls begging for water, I cried a little more, this time truly out of sadness. Too many great Texas women have died this past year - Lady Bird, Ann Richard, Molly Ivins. I've regarded them all as examples and role models, and it makes me wonder who my daughters will have to look up to as they grow up.

Friday, July 13, 2007

LIttle Miss Organizer

Turns out Lily may have inherited my bossing, I mean coaching, genes. I worked in her class yesterday for the second time all year and learned something new about my daughter.

First, it's fun to see her interacting with her peers. Most of the time Lily is just tagging along behind Ella and her friends - the pesty little sister doing whatever the big kids tell her to because she's thrilled they're paying attention to her.

It turns out that at school she's the one leading the others in their playtime. Yesterday she was playing ball with one little girl, E, and another girl, M, wanted to join them. M's little sister wanted to play ball, too. E had a bit of a fit at M's joining the game, but Lily rearranged everyone into a triangle and gave instructions on how they could all play together. E walked off in a huff, with Lily behind her saying, "But we can all play together." I intervened and told Lily that she needed to let M and her sister play, and she said that E didn't want to let them. I explained to E that if she didn't want to play ball she could go find something else. After that, E played along and Lily got everyone organized for some good catching.

I commented on it to the teacher, who told me that Lily is frequently the one who gets the kids set up for games. Jennie said that the kids sometimes tell Lily she is bossy, but mostly they follow her directions because they've figured out she can get things organized.

I thought about that a lot for the rest of the day and realized that I've been seeing that side of Lily at home without realizing it. When Lily and Molly from next door play, Lily is always leading the way with Molly right behind. I thought it was Lily enjoying being the big girl for a change and Molly enjoying playing with the big girl. But thinking about it more, I realized that Lily isn't being bossy, she's just organizing their activities.

I've been surprised a lot by Lily lately. It's taken me a while to realize how big she is. I still tend to think of her as my baby, despite the arrival of the new baby. But she really is a big girl with her own sweet, funny, bossy personality.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

"Isn't this the best day EVER?"

That's what Lily asked me while we were in the bathroom at the Dell Diamond on Sunday for our very first Express game. Actually, it had been a pretty lousy day for me. I hadn't slept well the night before, I was fending off my third migraine in as many days, and I hadn't gotten a lick of work done. I had sucked it up big time and gone to the game in the spirit of family time, and I ended up having a good time despite everything.

But that's not the point.

The point is Lily's enthusiasm. Any fun activity, such as going to the pool, or exciting event, like a baseball game, and she's likely to give us a hug and proclaim the day just the best ever. It's one of the things I absolutely love about her. Everthing is an adventure; everything is interesting.

The eight-minute trip to school in the morning is usually an eight-minute stream of consciousness narration about everything she sees - Look mom, it's the sign that changes. Look, they have monkeys painted on the wall. Look, there's someone riding a bike. I wonder where he's going on his bike. Do you know?

Sometimes my ears hurt.

There is a flip side to this enthusiasm, though. As dramatic as Ella can be when things are wrong, Lily is ten times more so. She can and will burst into tears on cue about the slightest things, even things that seem so minor to me. Up until a few months ago, I thought she was really upset and would rush to soothe her and make her feel better. But I've slowly come to realize it's all an act. If I ignore the tears or offer a distraction, she stops crying like a switch has been flipped. Usually, there aren't even any real tears; she's quite the little actor.

Lily even fooled my mom on her last visit. Mom had taken the girls to Terra Toys - one of three stores she knows how to get to - and said each could pick out two things. Well Lily of course found three things, one of which was a Hello Kitty luggage tag. Mom told her that she had to put one thing back, and Lily burst into tear, sobbing that she really wanted to get the luggage tag for me because I'd love it. Of course, mom caved as any good grandmother would, and Lily turned off the waterworks instantly. And she never gave me the luggage tag. Lily said she'd hold onto it for me by putting it on her new lunchbox.

When mom came back with the girls and told me about the scene, I just had to laugh. I'd been conned the same way too many times to count.

As I've started ignoring the crying fits, they've decreased in frequency and intensity. But I realized the other day that they go hand-in-hand with Lily's enthusiasm about life. Everything is very dramatic to her - both good and bad - and I don't want her to lose the talent for drama. Tearful scenes aside, her enthusiasm is part of what makes her so wonderful. She reminds me on a regular basis, without knowing it, took look for the wonder and joy around us - even when we're in a bathroom at a baseball stadium.

Monday, July 09, 2007


So our wonderful, odd little neighborhood has a listserv for its residents. Most of the time it's limited to e-mails announcing lost and found pets, requests for recommendations for contractors or lawn guys or a/c repair. Pretty harmless and most of the time helpful stuff.

But once a year, everyone who posts loses their freaking minds, and those of us who subscribe but never post are treated to day after day of rantings and personal attacks. After the moderator receives enough complaints and/or unsubscribe requests, he brings down the hammer and reviews each post before it gets sent out. B's cousin Ty spent hours setting up a great forum where neighbors could have personal conversations about various issues without cluttering inboxes, but he took it down due to a lack of use.

Past issues that have cause people to go insane? One year it was helicopters buzzing the neighborhood. Some people on the list were convinced it was a plot by the police. Others thought maybe it was the Men In Black. Some bitched that it was nothing more than harassment and were sure that richer neighborhoods didn't have to put up with the same noise. Another year it was about a restaurant moving into the HEB shopping center applying for a permit to serve liquor late at night. It's a pretty common request for a restaurant or bar to make, but it sure got everyone around here up in arms. One particularly curmudgeonly neighbor got himself forever banned from the listserv by calling the employer of a man who had posted a message the crank didn't agree with. Sheesh.

I unsubscribed during these rounds of upheaval because I was tired of coming home from a morning of errands to find 25 e-mails in my box that were nothing more than people yelling at each other.

But it's happened again, and this time I decided to ride it out, mostly because I wanted to see how it all ended. It started when one resident posted a warning that she had caught a man dressed like a meter reader peering in her neighbor's window. She called the utility company and found out that no meter readers were scheduled for our hood that day and that what the guy was wearing didn't match their uniforms. So she posted a helpful message describing the man, including his clothes, hair color, and ethnicity, and warning people to keep an eye out. We've had a number of break-ins in the hood of late, and I felt her message was a good one. Someone else then posted about how she had confronted a man who turned out to really be a meter reader. Her point was that we shouldn't be afraid to go out and ask folks what they're up to, that we all need to look out for each other.

Well those two postings started the firestorm. One woman, who is a minority, blasted the entire neighborhood as racist, saying that of course everyone who is white and who lives in this area automatically believes that anyone who is black or Hispanic is up to no good or is a nanny or maid. All this because the original posting listed the man's race, just as it listed his hair color and clothing type and shoes. Things disintegrated from there, with lots of messages saying "We aren't racist, we're just cautious." And the same woman e-mailing back with, "Yes you are. Everyone in the neighborhood should be apologizing to the guy who really was a meter reader for assuming he was a crook." From there it just got more and more rude, to the point where there were e-mails telling people to just shut up and move if they didn't like being here.

In the end, I wish I had unsubscribed before it got to that point. I had been feeling really good about our little corner of Austin after the kids' lemonade stand this weekend. Without exception, all of the neighbors who stopped, friends and strangers alike, were so friendly and so supportive of the kids. Even the people who didn't stop at least slowed down, smiled, and waved. I was so proud of our little community. But then I went inside and read all of the hateful e-mails and felt miserable. I thought about posting a nice friendly message complimenting our neighborhood on its support, but then I figured I'd just get blasted by the woman who was accusing everyone of being racist for being, in her opinion, one of the rich, white folks who have moved in and ruined things.

Fortunately the moderator has gone back to vetting messages before they hit the listserv, so we'll go back to it just being postings about garage sales and lost pets. But it all left such a bad taste in my mouth that I may have to unsubscribe again.

Saturday, July 07, 2007

Lemonade and cupcakes

On the 4th, Ella and Luke came up with this plan to have a lemonade stand. On Thursday, it changed from a lemonade stand to a restaurant with daily specials. Ella was drawing up menus with lots of items listed. At one point, she came in to raid the refrigerator for food to sell on the corner. I talked her and Luke into waiting until today when we could do it right and offered to help her make cupcakes to sell.

We made cupcakes last night, and I let Ella do most of the work, including frosting them. I think I managed to keep her and Lily from licking them too much. Of course, the first question out of her mouth when she woke up this morning was when were we going to set up the stand. She and Brandon spent the morning printing up flyers that I helped her and her friend Jacqueline deliver to a few chosen neighbors.

Once we got the stand set up, I was concerned that no one would show up. Turns out I needn't have worried. The neighbors we invited all came and bought stuff. The guy mowing the lawn across the street paid $5 for two cups of lemonade. Lily spent pretty much everything in her piggy bank on cupcakes drinks. Our wonderful mailman bought a cup and left a tip. Aunt Ali and puppy Enzo came by and bought a cup or two. Strangers passing by on bikes stopped in for a drink. It was great to see everyone come out and visit. In the end, the kids made $46! When Ella and Luke told me that, I was sure they had made a mistake in counting, but they both said that Lisa had double checked their figures. They've already divied up the money. But Brandon is talking about having them pay parents back for supplies and marketing and graphic design services.

There were a few hiccups. Lily had a meltdown because she wanted her own lemonade stand. But I pacified her by letting her use my camera to take pictures - and she got a lot of cute ones. It also got really, really hot. The cupcakes melted by the end of the day, and Russell and I got sunburned sitting out there chaperoning.

It was a great experience for the kids, and I know we'll get hectored into doing it again, and that's just fine. It's one of those childhood memories they'll look back on fondly, at least they better!

Friday, July 06, 2007

The Fourth

Well we survived the 4th of July. It wasn't my best one ever, but thanks to the Roes, it wasn't my worst, although it did come close.

The day started out well enough. I ran at 5:45 with Liz and Shelly. In all my months of not running, I forgot how much I really, really enjoy running with friends, especially those two. I started running regularly with Liz and Shelly back in 1999; I can't believe it's been that long. And even though I struggle a bit to keep up, I have so much fun running with them that the suffering is worth it.

But the day went downhill from there. Brandon woke up sick and promptly went back to bed. The weather was miserable, so the girls started climbing the walls shortly after the SpongeBob SquarePants marathon ended at 9:30 am. Campbell pulled his trick of pooping 45 minutes into his nap and refusing to go back to sleep. So I was left to quietly entertain three kids for several hours. I was ready to pull my hair out at about noontime.

After lunch I told Ella to put her skates on so she could do a lap around the block. Lily never made it out of the front yard. She melted down over whether to ride her bike or walk, so she got carried back in the house and put down for a nap. Ella, Campbell (who was in his stroller) and I made it to the far end of the block before it started raining. By the time we got turned around and back home, it was pouring. Campbell wasn't sure what to make of all the water.

We went in through the garage, and Ella forgot to shut the door to the house behind her when she came in. I walked out of my room just in time to see Campbell fall headfirst down the steps into the garage. Amazingly, there wasn't a scratch on him. The rug at the bottom of the steps must have softened the blow. After reassuring Ella that we weren't mad and that her brother was OK, I took Campbell back to my room to nurse him. I sat there in tears thinking about everything bad that could have happened as a result of the fall. I told Brandon later that it was our one free pass.

Just as I was really about to lose it, Lisa called and asked if the girls could come play with her kids. I pushed them out the door before Lisa had even finished speaking. While the girls were entertained next door, I went off in search of pyrotechnics. I bought $10 worth of stuff and headed home. Lisa had ordered pizza for everyone, so we ate dinner and watched a fun movie.

After dinner we headed outside and made lots of noise and smoke with our sparklers and worms and pinwheels. Ella and Luke had a minor freakout when I set off a couple of bottle rockets. Russell had pointed out that they were illegal in the city, so the kids were in the tree convinced the cops were going to come arrest me for setting them off. Once Luke got over that fear, he was very interested in the proceedings.

It ended up being a great evening. Brandon staggered out after a while, and we all hung out in the front yard until after 9:30. The kids were having so much fun running around and watching other neighbors' fireworks that we hated to make them go in, but eventually they just got too tired to go on.

So yet again, our outstanding neighbors saved the day! We can never move, even though we desperately need the space.

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Rain, rain go away . . .

First, a note. I learned an important lesson yesterday - I shouldn't mix Sudafed and coffee. When I woke up yesterday morning, my head was completely clogged, so I took one Sudafed, which is half the recommended dose, along with my usual half cup of coffee. I spent most of the morning buzzing around the house like a hummingbird. Twelve hours later, at bed time, I was still wired. My writings yesterday reflect my amped up condition. I'm over all that now, though.

Now on to my real post. I never, ever thought I'd complain about rain in the summer. Usually by this point in the summer I'm bitching and moaning about the heat and drought. I loathe summers here and each year long to be back in Albany, NY, where it's cool and green and lush. By the time August rolls around, I have full-on seasonal depressive disorder. The unending days of white-hot skies and blast oven tempteratures just about push me over the edge.

This year, however, we've had day after day after day of rain. It rained 14 out of 30 days in June, but it seemed like more than that. The lakes are overflowing, the running trail is under water, our yard is a mosquito haven, the kids are all stir crazy from cabin fever. It rained again today - so much so that at one point I almost had to pull off the road because I couldn't see.

Yes, it's much cooler than usual and the ground isn't baked dry. But now it feels like we're living in a swamp. It's cool but so, so humid. I tried to walk around the grounds at Laguna Gloria today with Ella after her art class and was dripping after five minutes. Ick.

When all the rain first started, I promised myself that I wouldn't complain. But here I am, complaining. I think I'm justified at this point, though.

Monday, July 02, 2007


In response to my earlier posting today I've had several people send me links to their blogs and to other blogs they read. I've done a lot of thinking about blogging and why I do it since.

I started blogging as a way to force myself to write something. My goal was to write every day; I figured that if at least one other person was reading what I wrote, I'd be more regular about it and I'd try to write well. I'm less likely to be whiny about my life if other people are reading my words - I've burned most of my journals because they ended up being a listing of what was wrong with my miserable life. Plus if other people are reading my writing, I think about how I write. I have a reputation as a "professional writer," earned or not, and I need to live up to it.

I also started blogging to record and share stories about the kids. Brandon gave me the best compliment about my writing. After reading a few entries, he said, "It's so cool that you do this. The kids will be able to read these when they're older and learn so much about what they were like as kids and what you were like. They'll learn who you are." That really means something to me. I want them to know that I'm not always just "mom."

But the more I read other blogs the more I wonder if we're all just a bunch of introspective navel gazers, focusing inwards on our lives and ignoring everything else that goes on. Plus, all the blogs I read seem to be about marriage and kids. Is there really anything new under the sun that I can contribute to those topics? All mothers have cute, disgusting and heartbreaking stories about their kids.

And my inferiority complex is kicking into high gear as a result of reading other blogs. The writers all seem to be hipper, cooler, wittier, funnier and smarter than I. Plus their kids are all better behaved and smarter than mine.

So now I'm off to bed, resisting the urge to get on a political soapbox about Bush commuting Scooter's sentence. That's a posting for another time.

Blogger envy

So I'm beginning to feel a bit inadequate with my blog. I've been trolling the blogosphere, reading blogs of friends and acquaintances, and boy oh boy is mine lacking. Theirs have links to other blogs, links to product reviews they've written, links to pictures (really odd pictures in some cases), and lots of labels. One blog I read even has an index of postings by category. How the heck does she do that? And then there are the ads - for blog sites, for products, for services. Do they get paid for this? Can I get paid to have ad? And if so, HOW? I'd love to have my little postings earn me some dough.

The most amazing thing is the number of comments these other bloggers get. How do that many people know about these blogs? I've shared the link to my blog with about 8 people, three of whom are either related or married to me, and they never leave comments.

But I'm torn - do I really want that many people reading my random musings? (Which is what I think of my postings as ever since watching the King of the Hill episode where Peggy takes out ads in the Arlen paper and publishes her little comments in them.) And if people do read my postings, do I really want lots of comments. After seeing some of the flame wars on other blogs, I'm not so sure I do.

Here's a few of the blogs I read:


I realize that in sharing the links with my few readers, I'm showing just how inadequate and unfancy my blog is. But I'm fine with that. Really.