Sunday, February 28, 2010

Busting My Buttons

I'm just so proud of the whole family this week, so I've gotta share.

Daisy has been her usual charming self, showing off her keen powers of observation and complete unwillingness to be left out of anything. This week, she has shown up all her sisters by becoming the youngest of our children (by, like, two years!) to learn the value of a very important word. I'm sure all parents can relate to the challenge in teaching children to be polite while still at the age when the world revolves around them. Daisy has learned, though, that when her sisters ask for something, they get a glare from Mom until they remember to add the word, "please." Daisy's working vocabulary still consists of only a few easily recognizable words: mama, dada, hi, bear, ball, and uh-oh. When she wants a snack, lacking the words for "juice" or "goldfish," she still mostly whines, points, and stomps her feet. But now, when she gets the reflexive glare from Mom, she adds, "beese." This has worked so well that she is starting to come up and tug on my leg and say "beese" without the whining. I know that our communication issues are far from over, but still, I'm pretty excited about the development!

Oh, and here's the picture I promised of the first ponytail. This is also a good illustration of her attitude about food, which may explain her motivation to master "please" when it gets her snacks faster.

Aslan has just been a trooper this week. She finally got to return to school for the first time in two weeks, and she celebrated by painstakingly signing her name to each of the seventeen Valentine cards for her classmates and teachers. OK, so she had to ask me to spell it almost every time. She still did all the writing herself!

She also helped entertain kids of friends who stayed with us this week for various reasons, as well as helping distract her baby sister while Mom helped out with the Daisy Scouts' weekly meeting (the troop leader was late because the school at which she works had its roof cave in under the snow, so she's stuck in alternative sites for the rest of the year. Puts my driveway shoveling gripes in perspective!). And last but not least, she also provided cheerful company as we waited in the line to pick up our troop's 83 cases of Girl Scout cookies. This is especially noteworthy when you consider that due to her food allergies, the only variety she can now eat are Thin Mints, and she doesn't care for those.

Buzz had a good week too. Report cards came out, and she was awarded a writing award for her grade level this quarter. She also continues to make reading progress. But the accomplishment I'm most grateful for came early Friday morning when she fell victim to a stomach bug and proved that she has now reached the point where she can recognize she's about to throw up, navigate the bunkbed ladder, and get to the toilet in time. Of course I was sorry she felt sick, but believe me, at 3:00 am, this was still a big favor for Mom.

And let's not forget Bookworm, who not only made the new honor roll this quarter, but also spent Saturday being my right-hand woman at the National Air & Space Museum where I was volunteering to help out with a family event. We were helping run a station where kids of all ages were assembling and decorating some fairly snazzy paper airplanes, complete with fuselage, wings, tail fins, and propellers. At first she was a little worried when I told her we would be there for three hours, but after finishing her own "Valentine airplane" (completely covered in little hearts), she really got into assisting the other kids, prompting a visitor with three little girls to comment to me how good she was in relating to them. When I told her it was time to go, she begged me to stay longer. So hopefully she'll want to come with me again sometime; the volunteer coordinator was delighted to have her.

Side note: we had lunch with my former boss from the museum, who asked Bookworm what she wants to do when she grows up. Bookworm's answer surprised me, as it's a change from the former librarian. Now she wants to be an inventor. My boss chuckled and told her she could still spend plenty of time in a library that way. (At last check: Buzz still wants to be a ballerina, and Aslan, a mermaid. Daisy doesn't yet have an opinion on record.)

Wednesday, February 17, 2010


Lots of "finallys" happening this week:

FINALLY the kids are going back to school today, at least on a 2-hour delay. If there are no more missed days this month, they will have had all of 9 school days in February. At least they're glad to be going back; Buzz actually burst into tears Monday night at the news it had been called again for yesterday. Poor kid has had her class Valentines ready for days. You're only in kindergarten once.

Finally--Daisy has, this past week, actually gotten the hang of using a spoon. In typical fashion, for her: I've just been letting her use her fingers lately, as I got tired of picking it all up off the floor. But once she realized that everybody else was getting to eat with a toy that she didn't have, she started to rebel at eating even foods she liked until I gave her one too. We're going to have to watch out for this one.

Oh, and I tried pulling her lengthening bangs back in her first ponytail yesterday. Unfortunately they are not thickening, just lengthening, but it was still pretty cute. I'll post a picture as soon as I download them.

And not least...finally I may have to break down and join Facebook. Went looking for the date to my upcoming high school reunion recently, and apparently it's been set for six months, but no word from anyone...except on a Facebook page, with a link to join an email list. So if I want an invite to my own reunion, I guess I have to saddle up. Sigh. I'll find the time somehow.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Reflections on Snow

Thursday, February 4: The tendency of Mid-Atlantic residents to go on a stockpiling binge any time a weather forecast calls for freezing precip has been a mostly humorous quirk over the years. It is rare to have more than part of a day pass before we’d be able to get out if we had to, and since I try not to let the most basic necessities get that low in the first place, I can usually just chuckle and, with the luxury of a stay-home-mom’s schedule, pick up an extra gallon of milk and get home early. This time, I was not so lucky; with the car’s abysmal timing in springing a transmission gasket, I didn’t get to hit the stores until Doc returned from work Thursday evening. I usually do an end-of week shopping run to feed the family for the weekend anyway, so I had a fairly long list…I was fortunate that the things I was looking for were not, for the most part, popular items for Super Bowl parties. Though I did have to go to four different stores to find everything I wanted, and only at the last one did I find one lonely little package of hot dog buns stuck in between things on a display where it had been discarded by an indecisive earlier shopper. Their change of mind rescued our lunch the next day, as Bookworm and Doc don’t consider a hot dog to be a hot dog without a proper bun.

By Friday morning, schools were canceled and the press was abuzz with polls searching for a catchy name for the storm. I found myself on Twitter for the first time ever, chuckling at my fellow hunkerers’ 140-character takes on the situation. My personal favorite:

Area redefines "calm before the storm" as "panic immediately". #snowmageddon.

President Obama gave his personal endorsement to this title for the storm, using it in his address Saturday to the Democratic National Committee. Apparently the President’s motorcade was also involved in a minor fender bender with an ambulance on the way to the meeting, and had a snow-laden tree branch fall on the same vehicle on the way back. No trace this year of his ribbing area officials for closing schools for a little winter weather, as he evidently did last year in his first winter in office, citing the fact that the schools never close in Chicago. Easy words from someone with his own personal snowplow crew.

Friday’s snow was pretty light, really; there was only about 5 inches on the ground at sunset after coming down all day. It picked up after dark, measuring 9.5” on my driveway at about 11:00 that night. I dug a trench to the street so I could go and get my mail…by 8:30 the next morning, the trench was back to almost 8”, and the untouched part of the driveway had settled to just over 16”. Our neighbors chatted amiably as we met out back several times during the day to try to keep all of our cars from being entombed. When Robert Frost said “Good fences makes good neighbors,” he probably didn’t mean the snow forts we had to erect between our driveways to clear them…but with nowhere else to put all that white stuff, we had a pretty impenetrable wall to a height of about 5’ by Saturday night.

The ice mountains on the street corners, deposited there by the steadfast little Bobcat that trekked up and down to clear an aisle down the center of our street throughout the day (including a stretch from 2:00-5:00 am on Saturday morning, grrr) reached over my head. I guess I’ll keep the complaining to a minimum, though, as I understand that as of this writing two days later, many neighborhood streets have yet to see a single pass of a plow. There are some advantages to having a high-maintenance HOA.

Inside, the two days passed fairly quickly. The house could certainly be cleaner, and there will always be laundry. But we read a few stories, and we broke in Bookworm’s new Easy Bake Oven. I remember being thrilled with mine at about the same age; I don’t remember whether I considered the portion sizes quite as miserly as they now seem to me, but then as a Mom trapped inside with these little sugar mongers, I am grateful for it.

By the time the snow stopped just before 5:00 pm on Saturday, though, I needed both to get outside and to be alone for a few minutes. I decided to go in search of a better depth test than my somewhat sheltered and oft-cleared driveway. I bundled on my boots (relics of my year in Utah…which was not nearly this snowy) and my snow pants (Mom, would you believe I still have the ones we got me for the Santa Fe trip? What year was that? I knew they’d come in handy!), put my camera in an inside pocket to keep the battery warm, and shuffled out.

Thanks to the Bobcat, I didn’t even have to get the tops of my boots wet at first. I just stretched my legs a little, crunching down the still fairly powdery street, enjoying the sight of the really clear sky breaking through the disappearing cloud cover. I waved at the few neighbors who’d ventured out to keep chipping away at their driveways.

Mostly, I was just charmed to be outside. When I’d gone out for the mail the night before, I’d had a flashback to my first winter in St. Petersburg (incidentally, that was ’95-’96, which until tomorrow still holds the #2 all-time snowfall record for the DC area…it was one for the books in Russia, too). I remembered how eerily still it feels when snow is falling, especially if it’s not too windy. I can see why Lewis chose a snowy evening to introduce Lucy to the magic of Narnia. But even more magical for me was the incredibly peaceful lull of the calm after the storm, with a two-foot snowpack muffling the sound of anything daring to move in it, which wasn’t much. We are about half a mile from an interstate and a few hundred yards from a train track; though neither intrudes on my consciousness when I’m inside, the usual noise was conspicuously absent on my walk that evening. It created a rather delicious little illusion of having been transported away from the hectic suburban area we live in.

The illusion grew as I crossed over to the east side of our little subdivision, to an open grassy area that is quite lovely, and to which we have already in our hearts bid an eventual farewell as it is zoned for a retail village. But thanks to the economy, it is still waiting, and under the snowpack it was quite breathtaking, the trees along its fringes positively regal in the changing light as the clouds pulled back from the sunset. The pictures don’t capture the magic I saw. I’ll treasure that walk.

Meanwhile, I finally put the snow pants to the test, and waded out into the open area to stick my bamboo tomato stake (the kids broke my yardstick last year) into the flattest spot I could find. I stuck it in several times over an area of a few square feet in order to try to get a fair average, and came up with about 25”. The NWS spotter for our area reported 27”.

All I can say is, when I took the three older girls out to give their rarely-used snow saucers a little workout the next afternoon, it took some doing to get up the hill through that stuff. I had to take a couple of runs down myself to tamp down the powder enough that the lighter passengers didn’t just get stuck, and then tow Aslan back up each time as it came to nearly her waist in places. The grins at the bottom of the hill were worth it.

I make no promises, though, that I will still be grinning when we have to do it all over again tomorrow. Total seasonal snowfall is not a record I ever had in my sights, at least not since getting out of school. I welcome suggestions for non-electronic pursuits to suggest to bored young ladies waiting for the stuff to stop.