Thursday, March 26, 2009

Not just another tea party

Buzz was telling me on the way home from preschool today about how they were studying what happened on the first Easter. Apparently she is under the impression that after Jesus died, he got arrested.

Been offline again for a while...kinda lost the last few weeks in a blur of the usual events plus taxes, the end of the Girl Scout cookie sale (whew!) and several sessions of Cub Scout training. No, that's not a typo. I was recently asked to chair the pack committee for our local Cub unit, which involves a big learning curve for a woman with four daughters. Until last week my only personal experience with the BSA consisted of the fact that my dad did a stint as my older brother's den parent when I was about five or six, which I remember only because of the time they did a candle-making activity which ended in my father's setting the kitchen floor on fire. After about six hours of introductory training, though, I have to admit being grudgingly impressed with the organization, and I am sure that if I go at it with the right attitude I will get a lot out of the experience.

Anyway, getting back to the fun of life with four daughters, I thought I'd put up this little piece of performance art created by Buzz and Aslan a few days ago. I think they are doing a nice job of not allowing themselves to be pigeonholed into conventional stereotypes of princess behavior. Enjoy!

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Splitting Heirs

Well, Mom has been asking for more pictures, so here goes. Last week Bookworm requested a short haircut, which suited her father and me as it also seemed to be the only way to keep her from chewing on her hair. I told her I'd take her to the Hair Cuttery as the poor kid has inherited my straight, impossible-to-do-anything-with locks, but she protested that she hated their shampoos and begged me to do it. Flattering, yes, but also nerve-wracking. Anyway, here is the transformation:

And in the grand tradition of keeping up with your big sister, I immediately had two more haircut requests from the peanut gallery:

So I guess if the teaching thing doesn't pan out for me, I can always go to work for the Hair Cuttery. As a shampooer.

Thursday, March 12, 2009


I think one of the reasons I put off answering letters and emails from friends is that I always feel like I have to start them with an explanapology for the length of time it has been since the last time I wrote. Frankly, I feel that part of the problem is that I have been privileged to travel and live in a number of different places in my nearly four decades, and in so doing have been blessed with a large number of really wonderful people with whom I would like to remain in touch. I just don’t manage my time well enough to write that many letters. My mom is quick to point out that I have four young children, and certainly my family takes up the lion’s share of my time, but the bottom line is that I just don’t get around to it.

This blog is already starting to fall into a similar pattern. Some days it just seems more important to go to the gym, do laundry, or even sleep instead of writing during what little time I have without interruptions. I’m not intending any judgments here on the relative merits of these activities. I have noticed, however, that in a few short weeks blogging has become one of the things I miss when I don’t get to it. I find the writing itself satisfying, but in a way that is very different from the journaling I’ve done in the past. The fact that these words are written to be hung out in cyberspace for anyone to read, even if not many actually bother, makes each post feel a little like a letter to the many friends to whom I so rarely manage even an email update, but of whom I think frequently and often miss fiercely.

The above paragraphs, for what it’s worth, have nothing whatsoever to do with anything I was planning to write when I sat down, or with the number of entries I have composed in my head over the course of the last few days but have not yet managed to commit to electrons. But suddenly I can’t stop. And I have to add here that the pair of eyes that today I feel reading over my shoulder belong to one correspondent with whom I have had pathetically few exchanges in the ten years since he left this mortal existence. I thought of him quite a bit this afternoon as I sat in a college classroom for the first time in years, wondering what this veteran of some thirty-three Ph.D. defenses would have thought of my husband’s performance today as he successfully presented his case for the completion of his own. Dad never got to meet my husband—I found him just weeks too late for that—though I’ve always been sure they’d have liked each other. Quite aside from the shared penchant for bad puns and the hard-luck Cleveland Indians (makes me feel sympathy for Ron Weasley’s loyalty to the Chudley Cannons), they also had in common a passion for music that runs deeply. My last conversation with Dad, the evening after our first date, featured a fair amount of gushing about my new cellist beau’s musical talent. When I went home for Dad’s funeral four days later, I found in his CD changer a two-disc set of Pablo Casals playing the Bach cello suites.

My mother and in-laws have always been awesome and attentive grandparents, and over the eight years since I became a mother the moments of poignancy when I regret that my dad has never gotten to play and sing with my daughters have gotten a little rarer. Today has been the first time in a while that it hit me again how much I miss getting to share my husband with him as well. All three parents remaining here with us were lavish with their praise when we called this afternoon with the news that the dissertation was accepted, the five-year journey almost over. Mom was quick to add that she was sure Dad was bragging to all the angels about the accomplishment of his hardworking son-in-law, who managed this feat while working full-time as a high-school administrator and busy father. I know that she’s right. When the Doc’s advisor commented on how quickly he always turned around requests for revisions (eight hours after the defense ended, he is already done with the few changes the committee told him to make before final submission), I could just hear Dad muttering under his breath about some of the students he’d advised who were, shall we say, less prompt. Dad would understand on every level the blood and sweat that went into this unrelenting document. As someone for whom teaching was a true vocation, I know Dad would have been incredibly proud of my husband, as I am, and would probably by now have been well underway to memorializing the occasion in doggerel verse. I wish that the Doc could hear him, as I do, chuckling under his breath as he composes it.

To those friends I never write: I haven’t forgotten you guys either.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Snow Daze

Words to live by from the dinner table this evening:
Buzz (to Bookworm): Hey, I’m going to whisper something in your ear.
Bookworm: Finish chewing your broccoli first.


I’m not terribly surprised by the fact that I didn’t find time to write this weekend. I went to the gym on Saturday, cleaned house, and went to a concert with the Doc. Sunday is always a full day, and with church in the afternoon now it feels like it goes by even faster. But I wish I knew what happened to the two snow days!

Wouldn’t you know it would take until March to get our first real snowfall this season? Bookworm watches weather reports avidly, and is quick to flush an ice cube at the first sign there might be some wintry precip. She also does a mean snow dance. She used to wear her pajamas inside out—all of this was inspired by her bus driver, who was probably almost as eager for a snow day as the kids—but that must have been too irritating even for a chance at snow angels. Anyway, the weather wasn’t her doing this time. She was actually quite put out, as Monday was Dr. Seuss’s birthday, and was therefore to have been a “Reading Day,” when the kids were invited to wear comfy clothes, bring a stuffed animal and their favorite books, and have a carpet picnic while spending the day immersed in the printed word. This is Bookworm’s idea of a great day at school. Not even the promise of possible snow playtime really reconciled her to missing Reading Day until we also promised to have a picnic in the living room. So she spent a good part of the morning reading to her sisters, and lunchtime found us on a beach blanket, with sandwiches (egg and soy free), apple slices and popcorn. Since I had my hands full keeping them from knocking over drink glasses, we didn’t have any books at the picnic; instead, Bookworm suggested we could tell picnic stories. Hers was remarkably autobiographical, but with character names artfully borrowed from a book she was reading that morning. Of course, once she told one, everyone else had to have a turn too. Small wonder that we whiled away a fair amount of the remaining afternoon.

Somehow the rest of the time vanished among an assortment of other small projects. With four kids in the house we always have projects, and with four kids in the house we’ve learned it helps to keep them small. Spot’s was learning to scoot. With three older sisters in constant orbit, she’s always been pretty motivated to move, beginning with barrel rolls at about three months. Now she does some rocking an all fours, but not having yet quite figured out what to do with her legs, she generally resorts to a reverse army crawl across any open space until she hitches up against a sofa or family member.

Buzz’s project was changing clothes about three times an hour. I’ve heard friends complain about having kids with this impulse, but only recently has it really hit home. Buzz has always been my most fashion conscious—one of the aides at her preschool told me that the day isn’t complete until she gets a chance to see the outfit Buzz has come up with this time—but lately, after going through and trying on half the outfits she can reach (and depositing the unfit in a heap on the floor) she tends to end up wearing one of the same two or three things anyway. Since even at my best I’m not doing laundry every other day (though it can be close), this means that more often than not she is digging through the hamper to retrieve the red floral leggings she wore yesterday, her only concession being that she will wear a different shirt. Worse, she’s figured out that if she puts on something else in the morning, then changes right after lunch while I’m getting the baby ready to drive her to preschool, I don’t have the time to bully her into changing without the risk of missing the kiss-and-ride window. She knows that as long as it’s not her Tinker Bell nightgown, I’ll cave rather than have to park, get everybody out of their car seats, and march all three musketeers across the parking lot. One of Monday morning’s projects for me was swapping out some increasingly snug items from each of the girls’ drawers with others that had been too big last fall. Buzz, going to her dresser to answer a midday whim strike, found a shirt she’d never seen before (except on Bookworm two years ago, but who remembers that) and went into an ecstasy of gratitude for her new adornment. I was pleased that she said thanks without being prompted, but I knew I was in trouble when at dinner time she glowed aloud again and then exclaimed, “Mom, I want to wear this to school tomorrow and show all my friends and teachers my beautiful new shirt!” Undeterred by my pointing out that she’d worn it all afternoon and that it now had rice stuck to it, she brushed it off and promised to be more careful. With preschoolers like this, who needs teenagers?

Aslan, aside from shadowing Buzz anytime a change in wardrobe involved a fairy tale she felt like being involved in, also whittled away at my remaining energy and nerves by once more resisting any attempt to get her to use the toilet. While she mastered the mechanics of using the potty more than a year ago, has done so successfully on many occasions, and is now tall enough that she doesn’t even need the stepstool to reach the seat, she has made it clear that she sees no real reason to bother. I have reached the point of simply removing the diaper and letting her notice the consequences—the only way her predecessor was finally convinced at very nearly four years old—but unfortunately for me, those consequences are far more frustrating for me than for her. We’ll get there, but it’s hard to miss the irony when we still have to work pretty hard to get her to remember to use her manners at meals or snack time, but anytime someone asks if she needs to go to the potty, she chirps a ready, “No, thank you!”

My projects? Well, more of them were started than finished, as usual. And as usual, I have stayed up too late writing this. Mom, I promise I’ll add pictures soon. For now, my project had better be getting to bed so that I have a better chance of keeping up with them tomorrow.