Friday, July 27, 2007

Question re: Spiders

Like many ladies, I'm terrified of spiders. When I see one that is too menacing for me to squish with my sh-mop I have been known to call my husband home from work to take care of it. He used to do it cheerfully, but I think this act of valor has lost its charm. If a spider is on the small side I make sure to rescue it, which I hope makes up in some small way for all the spiders I've smooshed over the years.

I won't even tell you about the giant spider hanging out on the ceiling over our bed on our honeymoon in Italy. Oh wait. I just did. What a fiasco. Nothing says romance like a big Tuscan spider staring down at you. Buongiorno!

Penn and I have just started taking a looksie to see what kind of job opportunities might be out there for him. Some of the best options are in places with big spiders. And other pests, which don't bother me so much. Snake? "Shoo!" Beetle? "Ick!" (But not scary.) Rat/Mouse? "We'll get one of those traps and release it in a field somewhere." Armadillo? "Aw, cute." Lizard? "Let's give it a name and keep it as a pet."

I'm the kind of person who feeds the backyard raccoon cat food, sticks up for pigeons and crows, and would be delighted to find a deer or rabbit devouring her garden. I love frogs and turtles. I think slugs are cute. Penn and I once took a field mouse left by a stray cat to our vet, who was kind enough to put it to sleep because it had a broken back. Don't even get me started about the giant fuss and half a day my mother and I once spent to rescue a trapped bird at Macy's. We drove to Home Depot to find a two story ladder! (Luckily someone finally came and freed the bird.) My point is that I just love critters. Even the ugly ones who, after all, can't help it that they aren't cute and fuzzy. So why doesn't this apply to spiders? I guess am just too frightened to be tenderhearted toward them.

My question is for all of you ladies who live in buggy places. I have heard that exterminators can't keep eight-leggers out of a house. Is this true? Please, oh please, someone from someplace with spiders tell me you have a relatively arachnid-free household.

Or maybe you could assure me that a person gets used to Harry Potter-sized spiders dancing across her floor? Kind of like how people in towns with pulp mills supposedly stop noticing the unpleasantness? I would love to think it possible that one day I might spy a large spider in my home and not hyperventilate. I'd calmly capture it in a jar, wish it a good day, and send it on its merry way in the backyard.

I really don't want to let something as silly as my fear and loathing of spiders prevent my husband from taking a wonderful new job!

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Hello? Poison Control?

Don't worry, I didn't really have to call Poison Control this evening. I was just thinking about what I would say to Poison Control, had I needed their assistance.

I was giving Nicknack his bath. He was still in the early stages of soaking and playing, when the bath is still fun for both of us. The moment the first sign of the rinse cup (just to get his hair wet, pre shampoo) rears its ugly head the bath is over - at least in his mind. He doesn't fuss or cry, he just stands up and starts trying to climb out, to escape. Repeatedly. It becomes pretty difficult to lather and rinse him properly (forget about the "repeat" step), but we've gotten the hang of it over the past few months.

I was tossing in various bath toys when I noticed Nicknack blowing bubbles. Only I hadn't put any bubble bath. Strange. Then I noticed this, in Nicknack's hands. And some dunderhead had left it not quite closed.

I had no way to determine how much he had consumed. He was making unhappy faces, coughing, and sputtering. But that could have been from all the lukewarm bath water I'd splashed into his mouth, while trying to rinse out the soap. I sat there for a minute reading the ingredients on the side of the bottle. Finally, I did the only thing that made sense. I poured a tablespoon of the body wash in my hand and drank it. I figured that if it started to burn my throat or caused it to swell I would have time to call for help. How I would explain to the Poison Control operator why I needed an ambulance for both of us, I don't exactly know.

It was truly horrid tasting and I'd clearly consumed a lot more than he had. By this time Nicknack was happily splashing away, the whole unpleasant incident all but forgotten. Meanwhile, I've made repeated trips to the sink to scrub my tongue with a washcloth. Apparently having my mouth washed out with soap would have been a highly effective punishment for me, had my mother needed it. Nicknack, on the other hand, has taken several bites out of our bathroom bar soap. Which Penn wants to somehow preserve because the teeth marks are so cute. But Penn also (seriously!) wants to replace Nicknack's beloved Taggie blanket so we can vacuum seal the original and forever capture Nicknack's baby smell. It does smell exactly like him. I think he smells like syrup. Penn says he smells like pineapple. We both agree it is a very sweet smell. I would almost go for the blanket preservation idea except for the fact that we would only get to open it once. Penn suggests we save it for an emergency. You know, like the day Nicknack heads off to college or gets married? I suppose we could just unseal it on special, extra sentimental occasions and then reseal it. Hmm. Maybe the idea is growing on me.

Anyhoo. Back to Nicknack's bath. It was a disaster. He also bonked his eye on the faucet and when he went to lay his head down to cry about his boo boo he stuck his face right in the water and inhaled. Poor baby.

Speaking of Poison Control, this evening I cooked the worst dinner I have ever made in my entire life. Which is saying a lot. As someone in my family used to say, "I've tasted worse... And you made it." Jokingly, of course. But in my case, it's appropriate. My cooking usually tends to be either quite good or quite terrible. This evening I tried to recreate something I've made a few times, Sesame Chicken/Tofu stir fry. I was out of sesame oil, so I just substituted olive oil. I didn't have any Thai noodles on hand, so I used Japanese. And I had some leftover grilled chicken in the fridge, which I used instead of a new breast. I don't know how to describe my creation. It was bland. It was oily. It was MUSH. Mostly, it was bizarre.

Let's put it this way. Penn took one bite and started laughing. That's right, laughing. For two solid minutes. It was so bad it really was comical. I'm making my mother's chicken pot pie recipe tomorrow night, in an effort to redeem myself.

I'm excited because my ladies Bible study small group is meeting for a picnic at the park tomorrow. We take the summer off from our study, so we hardly see each other. I am dying to catch up with the ladies and Nicknack will have fun at the park.

Talk to you soon!

Monday, July 23, 2007



I hope you had a lovely weekend.

I spent most of my free time (okay, all of my free time) on Saturday and Sunday reading the newest and last Harry Potter book. I was like a child at Christmas when my UPS driver delivered it to my front door on Saturday afternoon. I won't say anything about it, for those of you who haven't read it yet. I will just say that I enjoyed it. A lot.

I'd like to say that all this Harry Potter business is behind me and I can now go back to my usual schedule. But I can't because Penn and I are going to see the latest HP movie at the IMAX theater this afternoon! My sister-in-law has kindly offered her babysitting services.

It kind of bugs me that Penn hasn't read any of the HP books. He's not a reader. I don't mean this in a disparaging way, but his family are TV people, not book people. But he did grow up earning his spending money as a paperboy, so he is an avid newspaper reader. If only someone would print my books in the newpaper, he would be set. It kind of hurts my heart a little to think of the things he hasn't read. I'm not talking about Faulkner or Joyce. I mean the classics that we groan about having to read in Junior/Senior High, but end up loving. Like
The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn or The Great Gatsby or Animal Farm. When Penn was in school he relied upon Cliff Notes or just did a little skimming. Something about reading the first and last page of every chapter. Of course, he has seen the movie versions of lots of good books. :)

It is really important to him that his kids read, however. He is almost as happy as I am that Nicknack's favorite pasttime is "reading" his books. One of the things I am most looking forward to as my child gets older is reading chapter books together. I've already collected dozens that I think he would especially enjoy. From the Mixed Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler. The People of Pineapple Place. The Indian in the Cupboard. The Little House Series. What is neat is that as we read these aloud together Penn will get to experience them for the first time, too! Including Harry Potter, which we'll start when Nicknack turns eleven. Some of the later books are a little dark, scary, and sad. I don't want to start him on the lighter books when he's, say, eight and then tell him he has to wait a few years before he can continue the series.

I realize that a big part of what I love about being a parent is living vicariously through my little one. I just love sharing his new experiences with him. His accomplishments, little joys, and little hurts. As he learns new concepts or I realize he understands something I didn't expect. As he finds new ways to play with his toys. As he does something new and then turns to catch my eye and bask in the applause. As he becomes a more confident walker and toddles across the living room, clapping. Some day it will be bigger things like studying for and doing well on a difficult test, or making a soccer goal, or heading off to summer camp. Or college. (Gulp.)

It really is amazing to get a second childhood, isn't it?

Reading was such a big part of my childhood - it would be hard for me to overestimate the importance of books in my early life. Especially since I was an only child, I think. I fervently hope that my children will love reading and that it will bring them the same joy that it still brings me. Nicknack will probably be a bookworm because I'm a bookworm. I'm probably a bookworm because my mother was/is a bookworm. In fact, she would have finished her own copy of Harry by now, had she not had houseguests this weekend. Have you finished yet, mother? I can't wait to chat!

Happy reading, whatever you're reading this week.

Saturday, July 21, 2007

38 Never Looked So Good...

Yesterday was my husband's 38th birthday. He was born the day man landed on the moon. Here is the list I sent him yesterday, which I have his permission to share:

Here are 38 things I love about you:

1. I love that you are big and strong.
2. I love your broad shoulders and back.
3. I love the way you think I am pretty and tell me so a LOT. I love that if you had your way I would never wear any clothing. I love how you tell me "nice nose!" because you know I'm sensitive about it.
4. I love that you are smart. And especially in ways that I'm not smart.
5. I love that you think I'm smart and could make a million dollars, if I was so inclined, as easy as pie.
6. I love that you work as hard as anyone I know. For our family.
7. I love you as a Dad. You couldn't be any better at it. Nicholas and I are so unbelievably lucky to have you.
8. I love that you are the other charter member of the Nicholas Lane fan club.
9. I love that you made me belly laugh twice this morning before I even rolled out of bed. And with a headache.
10. I love that you are an amazingly giving person and that you shower me with undeserved affection, attention, and backrubs. With no expectation of reciprocation.
11. I love that you are always sending money to some person or organization that needs it.
12. I love how good you are to your folks.
13. I love that you always make sure we have the right drinks for visitors and houseguests. Because you like to take care of everyone in your life.
14. I love your sense of humor and taste in comedies. "Nerds!" "It's a Walk Off." "Painful to the bitter end."
15. I love the way you say it best when you say nothing at all. You make the every day ordinary stuff fun.
16. I love how much you love God's creatures and creation. Mountains, lakes, hills, creeks, the coast, etc.
17. I love that you are the lead singer in Jeanines garage, with Bruce and Dylan.
18. I love that you are the baby of your family. It means you are a little bit hammy and constantly entertain me. I especially love your dances, songs, marches, etc.
19. I love your values and priorities.
20. I love that when I'm sad you always manage to cheer me up! It's a gift.
21. I love that you are a family man.
22. I love sitting beside you at church. I like hearing your voice when we sing. I love the times we've prayed together.
23. I love walking with you, holding hands or when you put your arm around me. Pals, but romantic.
24. I love your arms and legs - you could be a limb model. You also have beautiful hands and very nice feet, for a man.
25. I love that your face and body remind me of a Greek or Roman statue. You are a classic.
26. I love all our inside jokes, words, song, Daisy faces, etc.
27. I love that we don't bicker.
28. I love that I've known you for eight years and that those have been the happiest eight years of my life.
29. I love riding in Mossy with you and I like that you always drive. You are a good driver.
30. I love when we say, think, or dream the same thing at the same time. Or when I can read your mind and know what you are going to say.
31. I love that you have common sense and street smarts. I like that you could take care of us, in a survival situation.
32. I love how you have to read your paper every Sunday, after church. And that you watch all the boring channel. And the news.
33. I love that you care about politics and people and animals and the state of the world.
34. I love that the evil of the world gets you down. We are too gentle for this world. That's as it should be.
35. I love that you aren't a chauvinist. Or racist. That you don't hunt. But I also love that you aren't totally PC, either.
36. I love that you aren't a metrosexual. I like your manly ways. It would really bug me if you wanted an equal say in decorating or bought trendy clothes or started getting manicures. Men should be a little rough around the edges.
37. I love watching football with you and I love that you don't make me watch baseball or basketball or golf or bowling.
38. I love that the women in my family think you are the bee's knees because you are such a neat guy and treat me so well. They know you deserve a metal for putting up with me and letting me be myself.

38 never looked so good... I love you!

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Baby's First Fever

My baby is sick. He's had a few colds before but he's never really been sick. You know, fever and throw up sick? He's held out almost 14 months without catching a bug, even when Penn and I were super sick last fall. I knew it had to happen sometime and it is just as sad as I expected. Poor baby.

It started yesterday when he woke up a little bit on the cranky side. Both of his naps were short. Then as the afternoon progressed, I noticed he felt a little warm. Pretty soon he was downright hot. At 8pm the ralphing started. It was pitiful.

I felt so guilty for taking him to the mall (the mall!) yesterday, although he was strapped into his stroller the entire time so I don't know how he caught germs. Some lady did touch his feet (because he, of course, took off his shoes at the Apple store - did I mention I was there four times last week?). And then I bought some board books at our local consignment store because he's eaten half his books. So maybe those were germy?

Whatever the cause, I'm sure it is all my fault. But the worst part? I told him to "Stop!" (twice!) in my "I-mean-business" voice when he was shrieking in his high chair at lunchtime. Then it occured to me that he wasn't eating a bite and was cranky and had a short nap and hey! maybe he's sick. And strict Mom was out the door and "Oh-you-poor-sick-little-thing" Mama took over. It's a lot more fun to be indulgent and fawning, isn't it?

On the telephone this morning my mother reminded me of how quickly sick little ones adapt to their new lifestyles and expect the same treatment all the time, regardless of their wellbeing. This was after I told her that I was going to let him watch tv and have unlimited access to his gigi (pacifier) all the livelong day.

And I have. Even though she's right. Because if she was here in person to see his sick little self she would be the first person to coddle and cuddle him. In fact she was wishing she could come for a visit just to rock him. He's not the kind of little guy who normally will consent to be rocked. He's either too busy and wiggly or is ready for his crib. I think we all (especially me) were a little too careful to make sure he would become an independent sleeper. We didn't want him to turn out like my cousin's elementary school aged children who end up in her bed at night while her husband shares a bunkbed with their youngest! But to be honest, rarely does a night that goes by that I don't wish he was sleeping between us. Just because it would be our only chance to snuggle with him! Penn and I have discussed relaxing our sleep standards for the next baby.

Anyway, the silver lining to the sad sick cloud hanging over our home is Nicknack's clinginess. For the first time in months and months he'll lay his head on our shoulder and let us rock him. This morning he snuggled in bed with us while he watched his bff Eebee Baby. This afternoon he sat on my lap for thirty whole minutes doing nothing but eating Saltines and drinking Pedialite. This is just so unlike him. He usually has to be busy at all times. I didn't know some children like to be held (a lot) until I worked at the VBS nursery last week. Several little ones wanted to be held the entire time! I think we're going to keep having or adopting children until we get a cuddler. I'm kidding. Only, not really.

I don't think this bug that bit Nicknack is particularly harsh. He's still managed to make a bit of mischief today. He removed the floor vent grate, then dropped it on its side down the vent. I had to reach my hand way down into a cobweb to retrieve it. Eek! Later, while he sat on the bathroom counter so I could wash his face, he ate some soap. The teethprints in the bar are so cute! Also, he's thrown a half dozen mini tantrums over very little or even absolutely nothing.

I hope he'll be back to his old happy, well rested self very soon. In the meantime, I'm going to soak up the temporary Mama's Boy behavior while I can!

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Having a Day


Sorry for the unplanned hiatus! My Mac powercord died. The good people at Apple are mostly very helpful and I just love my MacBook Pro. So don't get the impression that I'm complaining about McHenry. (That's the name of my laptop. It probably should be MacHenry, but McHenry is a family name and it just seemed wrong to spell it differently.) So I'd like to stress that it was not McHenry's fault that my powercord blew up. You can blame that on the faulty wiring of our 1959 home. Do you remember that line from Revenge of the Nerds? "Thanks to faulty wiring, we have no place to live! Right? Right! While these freshmen - freshman! - are sitting pretty in there!" Or something to that effect.

I know our wiring was the culprit because my powercord plugs into the same outlet that we used to power our Christmas tree lights. You know how much fun it is to put the lights on a giant Christmas tree, right? (Ha!) I hate the task so one year I delegated the chore to Penn. Alas, he isn't quite as persnickety as I am. Plus he was a tree lighting novice. I spent the entire month of December kicking myself every time I looked at our tree. You can be sure that the following Christmas, the first spent in this house, I resumed my post as the family's designated tree trimmer and hall decker. And I went all out. My personal philosophy regarding tree lights is that more is more. And I carefully wove every strand around the branches - just SO - to hide the wires. I made sure that each branch had a variety of lights, in terms of depth. After the lights were strung I went around switching bulbs so that no two colors were too close together. And I replaced each fuschia light with the individual white bulbs I'd purchased. I prefer the festive look of colored lights, but I don't think some of the colors are at all Christmas-y. Like purple, orange, and electric blue. I was finally ready to stand back and admire my work. My hands were sticky with sap, my arms were quite scratched up, and I was uncharacteristically sweaty. I mean, perspirant. I mean, glowing. But it was totally worth it when I turned out the living room lights. Gorgeous!

Until a strand went out. I replaced the fuse and breathed a sight of relief when the lights flickered on again. But a minute later they burned out again, accompanied by another strand (or two). So I swapped out those fuses, crossed my finges, and held my breath. They came back on. Briefly. Then the entire tree was out. Every light on every strand. "Noooooo!"

I was so mad that I could have cursed. So I used my special phrase which is saved for such occasions. "Fricken-FRACK!" I don't know where it came from or what it means, but it is quite satisfying when used sparingly. It's especially comforting when one stomps their foot on the last syllable.

After my outburst I drove my angry little self to the hardware store and bought a dozen packages of lights and new white bulbs. I came home, stripped the tree, and started the whole thing over. It never occured to me that the lights weren't the problem. Duh. I was a little less exact this time but I figured the end result would be good enough. I was not in a jolly holiday mood at all, at this point. I didn't even get the last strand on the tree before the lights started to blow, one by one. And then it dawned on us. "Oh."

We briefly considered having an unlit tree. But have you ever seen anything more depressing than that? We thought about moving the tree to a new part of the living room, but it wouldn't have been visible from the sofa. Also it was doubtful that any outlet in the "old wing" of our home would be any better. We discussed getting a table top tree, but we'd already shelled out way too much for our beautiful Noble Fir. We debated the merits of stringing a looooong extension cord from the tree all the way to the first outlet in the "new wing" of the house. But the only long extension cord we had was bright orange and the hardware store was now closed. And I wanted to be finished with that tree that very night. So we gathered a whole bunch of extension cords and plugged each individual strand into it's own extension cord and then plugged those into two power strips. We tried to keep the cords (which were brown) toward the back of the tree and hid them with ornaments and bows, as much as possible. But it wasn't exactly what you might call a decorator's dream. Had there only have been some need for duct tape on that tree, I'm certain Jeff Foxworthy would have popped out and declared us rednecks.

Now the unbelievable part was that this was two Christmases ago and we must have blocked the traumatic memories from our minds, because last Christmas we totally forgot about the outlet problem and did it again! I strung three quarters of the (albeit smaller) tree with lights, only to have two strands blow out. "Oh yeaaaaaaah." It all came rushing back to us and Penn and I couldn't believe we'd forgotten about "the Christmas tree light debacle of 2005." We quickly unplugged the lights, before they all went out. Then we dug out the extension cords and power strips and did the same thing as the year prior. And we had a good laugh. Which proves that you really will laugh later about things that make you more mad than you've ever been, at the time! Which is a good thing to keep in mind the next time you get really frustrated about something.

So that's what I was telling myself as I drove for the FOURTH time to the Apple store at our local mall. Because the first time I didn't have an appointment. And the second time I got the new cord, but when I got it home it was missing a component. And the third time, when I went back to exchange it for a new cord (with said component), the clerk convinced me that it probably was back home in the packaging. But then when I got home and discussed it with Penn he reported that he had noticed the moment it came out of the wrapper that it looked funny, and so had inspected the packaging for the missing piece. So I went down a fourth time to exchange it for a cord with the component. And I know all of this must be extremely boring to read about, but venting makes it less frustrating.

And have you ever had one of those days?

Say for example that you're driving home from the Apple store. For the fourth time. Just hypothetically speaking. And say you're irked. And stressed because your husband called this morning and started complaining (legitimately) about something and you decided to just hang up on him. So you have that to deal with at some point. So you turn on your praise CD. And one of your favorite song comes on, so you crank the CD up even louder. And you're just minding your own business, singing with all the gusto you can muster. At the top of your lungs. And, truth be told, you don't have an especially lovely singing voice. And you're more of an alto, but that lady from Hillsong is singing very very high notes. So you are, too. And you come to a stoplight and continue singing your squeaky little heart out. When suddenly you think to yourself, "Hey, where is that breeze coming from?" So you glance over your right shoulder and realize that, not only is your back window halfway down, but you are stopped in front of a bus stop. Where a variety of strangers are waiting for their bus, staring at you. And you don't want to totally stop singing all of a sudden, because that would just emphasize how embarassed and uncool you are. So you pipe down a little, but keep singing. Just counting the seconds until the light turns green, so you can leave those poor, unsuspecting bystanders in the dust.

Has that ever happened to you? Just wondering.

Holiday fiascos. Computer malfunctions. Cross words with husband. Unintentional concert solos. Sometimes we all just have a day, and this is one of them.

But after a week, McHenry and I are finally reunited. I will smooth things over with Penn when he gets home from work. And I will never see any of my bus stop victims again.

I hope you are having a good kind of day. Especially you, Mumsy!

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Things I LOVE!

Gosh, I know I haven't posted in a while. My mother and stepdad visited this past weekend and this week I'm working in the nursery at our church's VBS. If you're reading this, Mother, we miss you. And we also miss Maddy! I didn't notice how much vacuuming she was saving me from until I glanced at the floor under the highchair this morning. Maybe we need a dog...

I'm going to cheat and respond to a meme from Robin at Robinznest's blog.

Ten Things I Love

1. Old sitcoms from the eighties. I especially love Who's the Boss and the Facts of Life. I always wanted to be Blair. Alas, I'm more of a Natalie. Although with a set of hot rollers I can create Blair-worthy hair. In fact, I really think the hot rollered look should always be in style.

2. Driving around looking at houses. Especially big old houses with character. Don't you wish you could turn yourself invisible so you could see what other people's houses look like on the inside? I think the occupants of every charming home should be required to sign up for their local Tour of Homes.

3. Houseplan magazines. I like to imagine just how I would arrange our furniture in each plan. I also rank various houseplans according to whether or not they possess certain qualities that I consider ideal for our family.

4. Making lists. And spreadsheets. I do this whenever I have free time. "Oh goodie, I think I'll make a list!" It's very relaxing.

5. The smell of Baby Soft, that perfume for young girls. I still remember the advertisement from my Teen magazine, back in junior high school. Picture a hunky guy with late 80s hair (you know kind of spikey on top and a little too long in the back), wearing a denim jacket. "You know what I like best about lending Nicole my jean jacket? The way it smells when she gives it back." Apparently this guy likes his coat to smell like a girl. Go figure.

6. The Theme from Masterpiece Theater.

7. Visiting with my mother, aunts, and girl cousins. I love how we can talk ourselves blue into the wee hours of the night and never run out of things to say.

8. New books. Hearing the delivery driver pull into the driveway and knowing that it's a package from Amazon! Oh, Amazon. How I love you.

9. The way my hair looks when I leave the salon. It's something I can't replicate on my own.

10. Farmer's markets. I love coming home with a fresh bouquet of flowers, a sack of heirloom tomatoes, and a flat of blackberries.

What are a few of your favorite things? You know, things you just LOVE? I'm dying to know, so please feel free to share by leaving a comment or responding to this meme on your own blog!

Thursday, July 5, 2007

Eating Crow

I'll admit it. I used to look down my (regrettably large) nose at parents with DVD players in their vehicles. I'd think something smug like, "Come ON! Whatever happened to family togetherness? You know, sing-a-longs, road games, and deep conversation?" (Can you tell I was an only child and this is what I envisioned was taking place in the cars of my friends with siblings?) I have Clark Griswold ideals when it comes to family vacations and major holidays.

On our way home from vacation (six hours each way) a couple of weeks ago, our son decided to spend the last solid hour of the drive alternating between shrieks and wails. Penn says he must be part Bee Gee. When he's unhappy he squeaks "Ah! Ah! Ah!" in an ear splittingly high key and it seems as if someone should finish the stanza with, "...Stayin' Alive! Stayin' Alive!" To be fair to Nicknack, it had been a big week. And he'd been a trooper for the vast majority of it. Plus, he'd been receiving a lot of reinforcement for every little peep, what with four adults at his beck and call. Including two unbelievably doting grandparents. He came home positively spoiled.

The whining really began to grate on the driver's nerves, who actually instructed Nicknack to "Pipe down!" Which are the only semi-harsh words Penn has ever spoken to him. But he was driving in heavy 70mph traffic (next to a weaving, tailgating VW van with a death wish), white knuckled, in the pouring rain. Meanwhile, my Father-in-law's take on the commotion was, "Would you listen to that happy little guy singing his happy little song?" That man does more than see the glass half full. He's sees the empty glass as full. He's really quite a guy. But in Penn's defense, his Dad didn't have the burden of shuttling everyone safely to and fro for a week. So it was easier for him to be chipper.

When Nicknack's complaints reached melt down level even his grandparents had to admit he was unhappy. So my Mother-in-law set out to entertain him. By singing. Songs from old movies I've never heard of. And obscure show tunes. I know I was the one wishing for a sing-a-long but I was imagining my favorite ditties, not hers. And actually, she wasn't in the car at all, in my little imaginings. It might have been just ducky except this was day eight of quality time with my elderly in-laws and I was ready to go back to being a family of three.

It was about this time that I began to long for Sesame Street. Eebie Baby. Between the Lions. Any of Nicknack's favorites would do. I think even Barney (which Nicknack has never seen and will never see, if I can help it!) would have been better than the combination of Nicknack's piercing screams and my Mother-in-law's cheerful and hearty attempt to sing over said screams. God bless her, she has a heart of gold. But I would have paid top dollar had there been a roadside automobile-DVD-player-stand somewhere along the way.

So to those of you with movie theaters in your cars, minivans, and SUVS, I apologize. I get it now. I'll still never have one because I plan to force all manner of family togetherness on my unsuspecting co-passengers. And driver. Poor Penn. He has none of the delusions of an only child. He was the youngest of four and has vivid memories of several trips from Washington to Southern California, in the heat of summer, with no air conditioning, squished in the front seat between his parents in some big American automobile. But come to think of it, those memories are all pleasant, shared with a wistful voice and big smile. I knew it! Despite little annoyances families have fun when forced together (for many many miles) in a vehicle with no obvious source of entertainment. Because they have no alternative other than to bond and love each other a little bit more.

Oh, let me live in my little dream world. You and I both know that when all heck breaks loose I'll be coveting your car's DVD player.

Happy Fourth of July!

July is my husband's favorite month (his birthday month) and The Fourth of July is his favorite day of the year. He gets as excited about it as I do about Thanksgiving and Christmas. Among his most cherished childhood memories are Independence Days at his parents' lake house surrounded by dozens of extended family members, relishing his mom's home cooking, swimming for hours, and setting off hundreds of noisy explosives. Penn is a fireworks aficianado.

For a few years I got to be part of the celebration, although I know a great deal of the specialness of it all was lost on me. I loved the amazing fireworks show the "boy cousins" put on in the evening. But the previous eight or so hours of constant booming, popping, and screaming of the lesser fireworks (you know the really loud and annoying kind that they throw in the bag as a bonus when one spends a lot of money at fireworks stands?) did get a bit tedious. :)

When Nicknack was born Penn and I agreed that we'd have to excuse ourselves from the fun for a few years. The hours and hours of deafening noise just aren't appropriate for new ears.

Last year was our first Fourth of July in this house. Nicknack was about five weeks old. Penn and I made a date to sit in the backyard at five til ten, when darkness begins to set in, to catch the surrounding fireworks displays. But Nicknack had other ideas. He and I were still struggling tremendously with nursing, and wouldn't you know it - he chose that exact time to begin a very lengthy and productive nursing session. Believe me, when nursing went well it was such a relief that I dropped everything else. So Penn stood outside by himself for an hour, watching the fireworks and sharing a running commentary of it all through our bedroom's screen windows. (He thinks everyone is as interested in fireworks as he is and I don't do anything to shatter this delusion.)

This year we had a quiet, but fun Fourth. We took Nicknack swimming in Penn's boss's pool (He lets us use it when he is out of town) and had a wonderful time in our own backyard for most of the afternoon. The weather couldn't have been more perfect. Hot enough for Nicknack to splash in his little pool and toddle around the yard nakey. We stayed comfortably cool with the help of our hose's mist feature. :)

This year Nicknack was soundly asleep when ten o'clock rolled around. The 360 degree fireworks noise was incredibly loud and went on for hours. I kept checking on him (and turning up his bedroom white noise machine), but he was blissfully unaware. What a difference a year makes! Penn and I were able to take in all the surrounding fireworks together. We live on a cliff, on the Sound. So it's pretty neat to see the hundreds and hundreds of blasts all along Vashon and Bainbridge Island. Best of all we have good view of the Normandy Park and Tacoma fireworks shows. The latter goes on for nearly an hour and is a pretty impressive display.

Honestly, I enjoyed watching Penn as much as the fireworks. I sat in a lounge chair, but he was too excited to sit. He found the exact spot in the yard where you can see the two simultaneous shows and their reflections on the water. So, of course, eventually I had to stand there too. He oohed and aahed for thirty solid minutes. "Look at that one!" He'd point. "WHOAAA!" He'd shout.

I felt bad that he missed another Fourth of July famiy gathering and the opportunity to put on his own fireworks shows. (Although our budget is thanking us.) Maybe next year. Nicknack can wear earplugs. Or maybe next year we'll do the same thing as this year. Only we'll wake Nicknack at ten so we can bring him out and show him fireworks. Or maybe we'll live in another (smaller) town and we'll go to see some kind of community fireworks show. Who knows. Really, I think Penn will be happy as long as there are fireworks to be enjoyed. I can't think of much that he would appreciate more than sharing his love of fireworks with his little guy. (And I can't think of much that would worry me more, so I hope he is happy watching them and not lighting them!)

At about midnight we finally crawled into bed. We left the bedroom windows open for a while, to enjoy all the booms and blasts for a bit longer. In a dreamy voice Penn asked me the same question he asks every Fourth of July and New Year's Eve. "Someday can we go to the World Fireworks Championship?"

Of course we will. And it will be great.

Happy Fourth of July!

Monday, July 2, 2007


I have a very important (to me) question for all of you parents.

How old were your children when they got their first haircut (including at-home trims)?

I had less hair than Nicknack, so I wasn't expecting him to look so shaggy at thirteen months. I was hoping to put off his first haircut until he was at least two. Last week someone called him a "she" and Penn has been not-so-subtly hinting about a haircut ever since. Although his parents and mine agree that, although he does look a little unkempt, we should put it off as long as possible (because we all like to live under the delusion that he is still an itsy bitsy baby).

When his hair is wet the mullet in the back is shoulder length! And his bangs are just starting to get in his eyes. I like to brush it off to the side in a style my husband fondly calls "young Republican." But lately it's looking a little "young Donald Trump."

These photos (which were taken a couple of days ago) are to show you the quantity of hair he has so you have all the facts you need to formulate your opinion.

Yes, he is still wearing pajamas at noon. At least he's eating salad. Although, in the interest of full disclosure, I feel compelled to admit that after the salad he consumed something that rhymes with Bef Choyardee. Shameful? Probably. But it's one of the few foods he actually eats, rather than nibbles. I'm desperate, my friends.

He loves the baby in the mirror. I have no idea if he knows the true identity of that baby. If so, his self esteem seems to be quite healthy, as he likes to kiss the reflection.

Thanks in advance for your help on this most important dilemma!