22 June 2009


Me bairn, courtesy of Golriz, Devon, and Wide-angley Wonder.

P.S. How does one spell "drooley"? I'm sitting up at midnight pondering this. I should probably get to bed...

21 June 2009


It's a general rule that babies can't talk. That's part of the deal: you get a wee baby with no real skills whatsoever except to eat and sleep. Pooping, even, is a learned skill that one must acquire out of the womb.

But of course, mothers & fathers have been able to understand their babies' wants one way or another - some listen for certain frequencies in the baby's cry, others look for gestures, and there are those enterprising parents who wish to teach their children language as early as possible. We take more of a laissez-faire approach - maybe that's the beauty of the second child - but we can still determine to some extent the needs of wee Elsie.

How, you may ask? By a quick glance at her toes.

She is a very physically-centered baby (most babies are, I suppose, but Elsie seems to be moreso than Olivia was), and loves to flail her appendages about. When she sees something that she likes or wants, particularly at this point something she wants to chomp on, her body flexes - her fists fist up more (I would say hands, but they're generally fists in the first place), her eyes get big, her legs straighten out and her toes - therein lies the secret - her toes stretch out as far as they everly can.

We call it toe-rometer, although that is a rather clumsy name. If you've got a better one, let me know.

EXCITEMENT: Toes and their accompanying feet move about with great alactrity. Toes are stretched out, and

TIRED EXCITEMENT: Same as "excitement" but accompanied by crying.

RELAXED: Toes are relaxed and wiggly. Sometimes toes are in mouth.

BUSY WITH PLUMBING: Toes are curled up, legs extended. Usually accompanied by grunts.

Of course, this doesn't begin the cover the gamut of a baby's emotions, but it's certainly a beginning. Look for a forthcoming dictionary. Or not.

18 June 2009

12 June 2009


As mentioned in the last post, we've been learning about real vs. imaginary. Olivia's been spouting off phrases like "Eloise is a character" and "let's pretend I can eat this" and asking things like "what does 'real' mean?" While you are pondering that latter bit, I will elaborate on some of Miss Olivia's favorite pretend games:

(From Frog & Toad are Friends and other books by Arnold Lobel)
Olivia is Toad. So is Mommy. Daddy is Frog. So is Elsie. Except when Elsie & Olivia are Toads, and Mommy & Daddy are Frogs.

Here are some of Toad's favorite things to do: be worried about where Frog is, be grumpy about lost buttons, sleep in until half-past May (which I think makes Nate a good candidate for Toad), clean things later ("I will do it tomorrow."), and eat cookies. Frog likes to have will-power, tell shivery stories, be a helper to Toad, have alone time to think, and eat chocolate ice cream.

(From Caillou, on PBS)
We don't play this one so much anymore, as we've stopped watching tv proper (although we do watch videos), but Olivia sometimes calls me "Red Mommy." After a brief silence (during which my gears are whirring trying to figure out what she means), I finally get it and say, "Yes, Caillou?"

I should stop here and elaborate on Olivia's rules for pretend play. The funnest part is to call people by their pretend names. So usually the game starts out with Olivia challenging whichever parent is around by calling them a character name. If you get it wrong, you hear the retort, "Oh, I mean [insert correct answer here]." At which point you must repeat this statement verbatim. Then Olivia says, "[your name], what is [whatever the name is for Elsie or Daddy or Mommy] doing?" The goal is to use the character names as many times and with as much emphasis as possible.

For example, using the characters from CURIOUS GEORGE it would go like this:

Olivia: Mrs. Needleman?
Me: Yes, Olivia?
Olivia: Oh, I mean Curious George!"
Me: Oh, I mean, 'yes, Curious George?'"
Olivia: Mrs. Needleman, what is The Man with the Yellow Hat doing?"
Me: Well, Curious George, The Man with the Yellow Hat is at work.
Olivia: Oh. Mrs. Needleman, what is Betsy doing?
Me: She is chewing on her teething ring.
Olivia: Oh, I mean Curious George.
Me: Yes. I mean, Curious George, Betsy is chewing on her teething ring.

(From Super Readers on PBS)
Olivia is Super Why. She can sing the song and do the dance, and she is learning how to read. Daddy is Alpha Pig. Whenever we watched the show, and Alpha Pig came to sing the alphabet, Olivia would turn excitedly to me and say "DADDY will help!" I am Wonder Red (I can rhyme), and Elsie is Princess Pea (she can spell... someday). This is one of my favorites, as there is a theme song and a dance number.

(From Stanly & Rhoda, by Rosemary Wells)
Stanley & Rhoda are brother and sister mice. Rhoda has been stung by a bee. She has also taken a bath with her clothes on. Olivia has done likewise. So Olivia is Rhoda. Stanley is whichever parent is around. Sometimes, everyone who is not Rhoda is Stanley. But that gets confusing.

(From the best cartoon ever in the world, Little Bill is little Bill Cosby)
Olivia is Little Bill. I am Mama. Nate is Big Bill/Dad. And Elsie can be either April or Bobby, Little Bill's older siblings. Sometimes, Elsie can be Baby Jamal, too.

These two characters are exceptions. Mr. Elephant (originally a character from The Fantastic Mr. Wani) is a stuffed animal that Nathan does the voice for. Bunny is a puppet for whom I do the voice. Mr. Elephant and Bunny are counselors and advocates for Olivia. When things are too scary or sad, she asks to speak to these two friends, and they help her calm herself. Sometimes, we stick a flashlight inside Bunny for a nice snuggly night light.

Our characters have helped us when scary things like bee bites and falling happen (see the excerpt on Mr. Wani here). They also help explain things which may be hard to also give us permission to do silly things we may not have thought of, like taking a bath with our clothes on.

11 June 2009

MY Neighbor Totoro

It seems we have a new neighbor. Or at least, I do.

A few months ago, while searching around for ways to sell the excitement of a new sister to Olivia, we came across Hayao Miyazaki's amazing film My Neighbor Totoro. It is the story of the big sister Satsuki ("sat-ski") and her little sister Mei ("may") and their adventures with the forest spirit Totoro, which resembles a big round mouse-bunny. Here is a picture of Totoro:

It's a great film - beautiful & quiet with only a little benign peril - and it's about sisters! Woot!

It seems that at the beginning, there was some confusion about the title - "My Neighbor Totoro" - which, as I was usually the one introducing it, Olivia interpreted as "Mommy's Neighbor Totoro." So now, whenever she asks to watch it, she says, "Mommy, can I watch your neighbor?"

This wonderful film has also found its way into my three year-old's imagination. First of all, she likes to pretend she can speak Japanese (we watch it in the original language). But, more frequently, she likes to pretend to be in the movie. She is the big sister, Satsuki. Elsie is Mei. Nathan is, of course, Totoro. And who am I, you ask? Well, I will tell you.

I AM CATBUS!!!!!!!Catbus is the yowly favorite transportation of Totoro, who comes whenever Totoro bellows. Catbus takes Satsuki to find Mei when she is lost. I especially like Catbus's legs - the more legs, the more speed, right? Brilliant! (Even now, as I am typing this, Olivia has come in and seen the above photo. "Hey mom, that's you!" she says.)

I can't think of anything else to say at the moment, and, as Satsuki needs some attention, it is my Catbus duty to go play. Before she bellows and wakes up Mei.

08 June 2009

Morning Routine

As mentioned before in an earlier post (see Sleeping Bear Dunes), I at one point wished that our second baby (now known as Elsie) would be on my team, as both Olivia & Nathan seem to have the same measured demeanor. Well, I got my wish, and it's manifested itself in a number of ways, although nothing so clearly as in our morning routine.

Here's how it usually goes:

4:00-5:00 AM - At some point, Olivia will wake up with a great line from her current dream (see the carnitas post for one such example), and then promptly go back to sleep.

5:30 AM - Elsie wakes up to nurse. "Wakes up" is really a misnomer, as she mostly just shuffles around in the bed until she finds something warm - sometimes it's me, sometimes it's Nathan's elbow, at which point she actually does wake up a bit to protest.

5:45 AM - Wide awake after a morning feeding, I get out of bed, turn on the monitor, and put my heavy feather pillow between Elsie and the edge. Then I sneak off to do clandestine things, like check email or eat some breakfast. Sometimes I even get to brush my teeth!

7:30 AM - I hear Miss Elsie in the monitor talking away to the morning spirits. Again, "talking" is a misnomer here as well, because it's more like balking or yelling "bah!" or "aah-ah!" over and over.

7:40 AM - I hear Nathan calling for help - Elsie has found his elbow again and is voraciously trying to nurse it.

8:00 AM - Miss Olivia sits up straight in bed and says in a sing-songy voice, "Good morning, everybody!"

Now the fun ensues - with all the girls awake, Nathan fights to stay asleep for as long as possible. It sometimes works, except for those fiesty mornings when Olivia jumps in bed with us and crawls all over Nathan, which is almost every morning (at this point, the similarity between father and daughter #1 ends, as, even though she's a night owl, she still manages to be a morning sparrow, too!). Then follows a period of loud songs and questions and prayers all mixed into one, at which I am amazed at Nathan's abilty to sleep through. Sometimes I take pity on him and shepherd the girls out into the other rooms of the house so that he can catch a few more precious moments of sleep.

8:30 AM - After running around and trying to catch Olivia long enough to wrangle her into clothes, nevermind combing her hair, I am able to sit her in her chair to eat breakfast. Elsie is earnestly chomping at whatever is in graspable distance, and Nathan finally gets out of bed so that he can get to work by 9 AM (ideally).

Then of course comes the usual melee that precedes leaving the house, with all the running into, almost tripping on, and stepping over each other! We finally get Nathan to work and come home again, only to get home again and want to sleep.

The best, however, are those sleep-in days!

07 June 2009


If you're familiar at all with Craigslist, then you may have heard of Freecycle. Both are networks at which you can seek & find everyday items - with Craigslist, you can buy & sell, but with Freecycle, everything has to be free. You can offer a free item or post a wanted ad for something you'd like. Of course, there is no guarantee that anyone will offer you that (I recently saw an ad lookin for 3-4 Cubs tickets, which, if I know my Chicagoans, will be hard to part from), but it's a pretty fun time, either way.

The other day, I was making a health plan for myself, and I decided that it would be a good idea to get a bike trailer to tote the tots in. I feel silly going to the grocery store (which is 4 blocks away ) or the beach (10 blocks) in the car, especially on beautiful days!

So I posted on our local Freecycle and here is the fruit:

I don't think I'm going to keep Elsie in it yet, as we've just picked up a seat for her that sits on the bike itself, but Olivia loves it, as you can see! Now all we need are helmets!

06 June 2009

They're called carnitas!

Just a quick post of two funny things:

1. We received in the mail a package from my brother & his talented photographer friend person girl sweetie (I never know what to call people in relationships - "girlfriend" seems so high school). In it was a sweet photo album full of photos Jessica (the aforementioned sweetie) had taken during our recent trip to Ohio. Olivia immediately claimed it as hers, attracted at first to the pink ribbon & bow on the front, but most strongly to the pictures inside. And, as a testament to how much time I spend on the internet, she lovingly calls it her "Facebook." Oy veh!

2. This morning, as I silently prance around the house getting ready for the day whilst my tired family sleeps soundly away, I overhear Miss Olivia talking in her sleep. I walk into the bedroom to see if she needs attention just in time to hear her say, in a rather firm tone, "They're called carnitas!" Somebody just got told.

02 June 2009

"And Bombur, who was fat..."

Nicknames arise for various reasons. Some are shortened versions of given names - Elizabeth, for instance, can beget any number of wee names: Betty, Liz, Beth, Liza, Elsie. Others are reminiscent of sweet edibles - "Sugar," "Candy," "Muffin." And still others result from the naming of some personal trait - "Bright Eyes," "Whiskers," "Flash." Whatever the root, it is safe to say that the nicknamer - that is, the person who does the naming - reveals much about her/his true character when bestowing a name on another.

Which is why nicknames & pet names are a bit embarrassing to share sometimes. Nevertheless...

Elsie loves to nurse. When she was first born, she was all tummy, with the appropriate number of appendages spaced evenly on her little body - but that tummy was amazing. And she did her best to fill it. Now that she's on a roll, she's a pro, and we've got a good system down - sometimes I'll sneak out of bed early in the morning to get ready, and I'll hear her stirring, ready for her morning repast. When she sees me, she wiggles with glee, and promptly rolls over onto her side, arms stretched out and mouth open, in the ready position. Brilliant!

And so, not too long after her birth, Elsie was nursing (which is, of course, a baby's job - to eat!). She was wearing one of those little baby gowns, which are great for fast diaper changes in the middle of the night. Nathan comes in at some point to sat hello to his voraciously eating offspring, and picks her up, calling her, appropriately, a "Milk Sack." This impression, aided of course, by her apparel - a "Bag of Baby", it would seem.

Later, upon further reflection (and in reference to one of the favorite authors, J. R. R. Tolkien), this name was amended and redubbed "Sackville-Bagginses" who, if you are not familiar with the Tolkien stories, were of questionable character and always trying to mooch off of their more industrious and reputable relatives.

And then later again, upon even more reflection, this name prompted the name "Fatty Lumpkin," which was another Tolkien reference - Fatty Lumpkin was the big fat pony of Tom Bombadil. This one was my doing, I must admit, and I rather like it.

But the culmination I think, of this line of nicknaming came when Nathan, who was weaned, appropriately, on The Hobbit, reflected back on his dwarf names and recalled dear old Bombur, who was fat. Not only was Bombur fat, but he was only mentioned, it seems, by Tolkien in reference to his weight. He was "immensely fat and heavy" and loved his vittles: "To the food requests of the others, Bombur added pork-pie and salad." He "counted for two" and in later years had grown so fat it took six Dwarves to lift him. Brilliant again!

So now our dear sweet brown baby is called Bombur.

Although, I must say, there's a bit of difference in appearance between the two. Primarily the beard: