Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Brace Yourself

It is the end of an era. Noodle learned to say "No" last week.
She emphasizes it with a shake of her head that pulls her entire little body into a drunken sway. "Nuh."

The kids are both launched into nice phases at the moment. Noodle has a fleet of words that pop out only at her discretion. "Horse" for example. I had decided that I had imagined that she'd ever said it. But Saturday we went to a (free) show at the Essex Train Station featuring Lomax the Melody Hound Dog (read: puppet), which is a new show on PBS. A mule appeared in the show and Noodle chimed right in with a "Huss."

My favorite new word is "Backpack," which she says as she steals Q's backpack, turning for the door and waving, "Byyyeee!" Another new word, perhaps her favorite.

Also this week, Q started drawing stick figures. With faces. And, you know, limbs. Six months ago I wouldn't have said he could draw anything representational. Three months ago I saw him draw a rocket, which promptly was scribbled over because the rocket was moving. I don't see anything for months and now he can draw people? What is this preschool teaching him?

(Q's Quarry on Formal Friday)

He's also fascinated again with what letters/sounds start words. After putting the kids to bed tonight, I heard the normal chattering between the kids for a while, then a "MOM! MOM! DAD STARTS WITH A "D"!" Yes. Yes it does. And I'm excited that you're excited. But could you maybe keep it down so you don't wake up your sister? "DAD STARTS WITH A "D"!"

The kids are sharing bedtime beautifully most nights. I think they love having company as they fall asleep.

Sunday night I heard Noodle chirping away to herself for about an hour after Q fell quiet. Then the screaming started. She's teething. Again. I gave up and brought her downstairs so she wouldn't wake Q. Any more than she had. She stayed awake till ten. Both kids were, well, difficult the next day.

I think one aspect of their relationship that J and I are most amazed by is how much they like each other. Q is ridiculously sweet to her, not just to suck up to the grown ups. When he leaves the room in the morning, leaving Noodle trapped in her crib, she starts to wail. He pauses, "I'll be right back Noodle, I just have to use the potty."

(note the boots)

For anyone concerned, the odd, migrating rash turned out to be hives. Evidently when you get a virus (as Q had the week previous) it sometimes can result in hives which appear, disappear, reappear. I haven't seen any in the past 48 hours, so I think he's done with it.

Also, to update you on the cleaning the bathroom daily crusade, I have, you won't believe this, cleaned the bathroom every day except for two. I can't believe it myself. It's addictive. Not the cleaning, mind you, but the clean bathroom. I'm really looking forward to the end of the bathroom renovation downstairs.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Unintended Consequences of Cleaning

I'm still on my personal challenge to clean the bathroom daily. But I've noticed a few things. First, the chemicals I use to clean this bathroom are kind of nasty. They're burning the skin off of my hands (yes, I should use gloves) and are pretty harsh on the lungs. So I've backed off on leaving the tub to soak in chemical juice for hours to bleach it clean. At least not every night. Just sometimes. I'm also watering the stuff down for use on the sink and toilet. Nothing fancy, just not spraying so much of it, and using a wet washcloth to apply it.

I've noticed that I like having a clean bathroom. It is easier to clean. Although it's surprising the amount of dust that arises in 24 hours.

But a more disturbing thing is going on. Ever since I started this effort in cleaning, Q has developed a migrating, disappearing, reappearing rash. I think it's simply coincidence, not causation, but since I cannot figure out what is going on, I'm leaving it as a possibility: Q may be allergic to clean.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Returning to Normal

We're home. We have a computer, although not much of the data that formerly resided on it. We were resuming our regular, albeit new, routine for preschool, work, and music classes. And now, to throw a bit of excitement into our not very organized lives, J has been cast in another play, MacBeth this time, which is terrific since people have heard of it. He will be playing the Doctor (who knew?) and Murderer No. 3. I'm thinking perhaps Q does not need to see this one either...

Because our life will evidently not be busy enough, I'm trying out a new challenge.

I'm not unusual when I say that I hate cleaning. Who doesn't? Well, in the The New York Times I read about a recently married couple (Tess Taylor and Taylor Schreiner, there's no mention of the odd name combination, I hope he takes hers), who are described in a lovely piece about their romance and wedding. I quote, "They boiled water to wash dishes, discovering that they share an affinity for chores." That makes more sense in context, but my point is that they evidently like chores. That's just wrong. No one likes chores unless they don't have to do them. If there is a mutant gene that has created someone who likes housework, it is unfair of the universe to pair them up with the one lone other person who also likes housework. Spread that kind of goodness around some.

Back to my challenge.

I was cleaning the toilet yesterday and I got this idea. What if I cleaned the bathroom every single day?

Anyone who has ever been to my house has become aware of how much I loathe cleaning. Cleaning makes me mean. Even after I clean the house still feels unclean to me. If anyone ever said of my home the lovely adage, "It was untidy, but clean" I would weep with pleasure.

So why does this masochistic idea appeal to me?

When Q was a toddler, he took an aversion to bath time. He would scream and tantrum if we tried to wash him. Our solution was to integrate bath time into our daily bed time ritual, rather than every two or three days, figuring that familiarity would take the edge off his hatred. Now he reserves screaming to nights when we wash his hair.

If I clean the bathroom every single day, maybe I won't hate cleaning so much. It'll go faster, in theory, because the dirt will have had less time to accumulate. I recall at summer camp, we had daily chores, including cleaning the bathroom, and the grime simply never got as bad because we kept it under control on a daily basis.

I'm on day two of the cleaning every day challenge. I have cleaned the sink, the toilet, the floor. I'll spray the tub down after Q is done with his bath and then rinse it when I go to bed. (I hate scrubbing the tub and feel it makes far less impact than the chemicals do, so this also is my attempt to see if repeat application of tub cleaner might take off that semi-permanent layer of grime.)

If this works to reduce my cleaning stress and actually improve cleanliness, I'll consider what implications this has for the rest of my life. I mean, could I clean the kitchen floor every day? Could I vacuum every day?

And now for gratuitous cute photos of the kids:

Q and Excavator. I'm not sure if it's possible to see in this particular photo, but he's sitting on the edge of his construction site, which looks like a miniature rock quarry.

Noodle had been wandering around the kitchen repeating, "hot, hot, hot," which is Noodle speak for "I'm hungry, would you feed me already?" She tried to hint further by getting into her eating chair. But the eating chair had the tray attached, and you can see what the result was. Obviously she wasn't too distressed. This is fairly typical of the lass.

And here you can see that progress is being made on the bathroom. J is giving Q a tour of the developments. Actually, Q is saying things like, "I see you put up a new shelf." Very Seriously. Noodle is exhausted and just wants to sit in Daddy's lap.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Dear Mr. Sendak,

I read a lovely article about you in the NY Times this week. I would like to say Happy Birthday. But I would also like to say that I am a bit angry with you after reading the article. I hope that perhaps the article did not accurately portray your attitude towards your legacy. I know that sometimes a person can say something casually that is interpreted to heavily. But still.

I grew up reading your books. Or, perhaps more accurately, having them read to me. I know that 'Where the Wild Things Are' is not your favorite book. But it is one of mine. And now that I have a little boy of my own, there are layers to the book that I appreciate even more. My not-so-wolf-like boy even dressed up in a Max costume for his second Halloween.

When I was a bit older, I had your illustrated version of George MacDonald's 'The Light Princess,' on my bookshelf. Even before I could read, I would browse the pictures. I was very disappointed because the baby was so very homely. I felt the same way with 'Outside Over There'. I mean, it's a *baby* for pete's sake. Why do it have to look so troll like?

Then I had my second child. And perhaps, perhaps just because of you and your illustrations, when I saw how funny and homely she was, I could laugh and rejoice rather than wonder what mash of genes this poor child was cursed with to look so much like a troll. I could tell people with a smile, "She looks like a Sendak baby." And perhaps just because of this, she has a mischievious smile herself.

You want to leave a legacy like Keats? Mr. Sendak, I have to say that I was an English literature major and I was no academic flop, but all I can recall of Keats is something about a vase and beauty.

You? You influence my daily thoughts and references. I will never forget you.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Sinister Issues

I should say simply, technical difficulties. Specifically, our hard drive went down last week. Went down with a vengeance it would seem. And we, being naive slackers, well, we've never backed it up. Ever. So in addition to simply having an issue with hardware, there is now the significant likelihood that we have just lost nearly 2.5 years of photos, writing, and music (I admit, only J cares about the music, but I think he's not that moved by my loss of writing drafts). Sorry Mom. No photo update of the kids for you.

I admit that I would feel totally justified in abandoning our home and camping out in my mil's home until the situation can be rectified and my computer induced depression has eased off. But truthfully, this was the week we had already agreed to move in with her so that J could work on the downstairs bathroom renovation without fear of Q giving himself a home study course on power tools. Not to mention that Noodle has no fear of climbing anything, especially if Q has ever climbed it in her presence. Ladders, insulation, power tools, if it needs to be left unguarded for more than 30 seconds, it's better to remove the kids from the house entirely.

Staying at Grandma's house has been very educational for me. I have come to realize that two kids can wreck havoc on any home, no matter how beautifully managed, organized, styled, clean. It's their persistence that really makes a difference. If they're only here for a day, the house is restored, almost magically, by the next time I visit. If they're here for a week, all the things that drive me crazy start to emerge here too. Unnecessary kitchen utensils wander into the living room. Construction vehicles, some shedding parts, trip and gouge the unsuspecting bare feet. Food emerges in the toddler's hand, and I recognize it as food, but I have no recollection of having fed her that particular food in the past 12 hours.

While I am reassured that Grandma's house isn't quite as fabulous when the children keep coming back, I am thoroughly enjoying our mini-vacation in her home. Why is it a mini-vacation? Because of Grandma. Grandma is great at distracting one child while I deal with the other. Grandma is great at lending a hand with bedtime. Grandma thinks of meals and cooks them. Most lovely of all, Grandma is excellent company for me. More and more I'm realizing how little time J and I coparent. Mostly we toss the children like batons in a relay race, checking in with each other regularly, but not often able to give support during the long stretches that are the hallmark of parenting.

I am going to have to be drug from Grandma's house.