Friday, October 28, 2011

Thursday, October 27, 2011

It's almost Halloween!

So let's talk about Christmas! And some other stuff.

Cold November pain

Is anyone signing up for NaBloPoMo this year? I've done it every year since it was invented so I sort of feel like I have to do it, but for the first time ever I'm really not sure I can pull it off. It wasn't that bad the year I was pregnant and was surprisingly easy last year, but this year…I dunno, man.

And then I rolled my eyes.

I was on YouTube last night to watch the trailer for the badass-looking upcoming SyFy miniseries Neverland and clicked through afterward to watch two allegedly "official" trailers for The Hobbit. The first was more of a teaser than a trailer, since more than half of the footage used came from the existing Lord of the Rings films. The second had more original content, but started with a narrator intoning, "Everyone knows the legend, but no one knows how it all began." Except, yeah, we do, because it was a book first. And I will grant that many fans of the LOTR movies didn't read the books and that many who did read the trilogy didn't read The Hobbit, but still. Hold the hyperbole there, Mr. Movie Announcer.


I tore out a couple of things from the Toys R Us holiday ad mini-catalog thing as possible Christmas gifts for Nico and then looked them up online to see if they'd be appropriate for his age, worth the money, etc. One that I was really tempted by was this Imaginarium brand firehouse / police station playset:

Then I read the description, which includes the following:  "This exciting new Imaginarium Police Station & Firehouse Play Set combines a Police Station and a Firehouse all in one! Ring the working fire alarm bell, slide a fireman down the firehouse pole & watch as prison inmates work out in the jail gym." Wait…what? So, cross that one off the list.

Lame segue

Speaking of Christmas and gifts, how do those of you with young kids handle the whole thing? Do you set a monetary limit and then buy whatever you can get for that amount, or do you set a limit on how many items each kid receives, or some combination of both strategies? Do you have some kind of traditional plan for gifts? I saw a forum post at some point where a woman said that for Christmas every year, her kids get something they need, something to wear, and something to read…so each kid gets a nice but utilitarian item, a new pair of pajamas, and a new book. I liked that idea, but also kind of like the idea of our kid(s) getting one big item for Christmas each year that we wouldn't normally shell out to buy (plus some small items in a Christmas stocking). I'm definitely going to do a new book under the tree "from Santa" each year and already can tell the hard part will be narrowing it down to one book (okay, or two).

Thus far this year, we've set a budgeted amount of money for gifts for Nico (which we'll probably exceed a bit, but that's how Christmas budgets go) which is not extravagant but which I can definitely stretch pretty far using my bargain-shopping wiles. There's not really anything coming to mind to get Nico as his one big gift, and I have a pretty long list of smallish to medium things that I suspect he'd love. Because of this I'm having some debate with myself over how many items equals too many items for Nico at not-quite two. On the one hand, he might be too little to know the difference or remember later how much stuff he got, so maybe it doesn't matter if we go a bit overboard with the number of gifts. On the other, I consider it one of my sworn parenting duties to not spoil the child utterly rotten. Oh, and since MB and I are generally the ones who have to pick up the toys, that also weighs into the decision.

Our issue is complicated by the fact that Nico's birthday is three weeks after Christmas, and he'll almost certainly be receiving a half-dozen new toys from family and close friends at that time. Last year we got him his play kitchen and the Little People Noah's Ark set for Christmas, and other than some books under the tree from Santa and his stocking, that's all we bought. I don't recall buying him anything for his birthday, though I might be mistaken. Advise me, wise internet types…what is your plan, or what do you think mine should be?

While we're on the subject

What are you putting on your Christmas list this year? I have the worst time making Christmas lists for myself, I swear. I can never think of anything I want other than boring, lame stuff like new bras and new trainers and casserole dishes. (Seriously, last year I asked for a casserole dish with a carrier and a rolling pin.) I think my list so far this year is a new pair of small plain silver hoop earrings and a book light. I'm so dull I bore myself!

Obligatory baby picture

After posting those photos of Nico with his crazy hair I finally caved and let MB give him another haircut last Sunday. I was a bit angsty but it turned out really cute (even if he does look way too big now):

(Fret not…the curls came back.)

Reading:  The Name of the Star by Maureen Johnson

Playing:  an old mix CD

Saturday, October 22, 2011


Sometimes almost-two is transcendent, like yesterday when I took advantage of a morning off work to take Nico for a walk in the sunshine. He takes walks with my dad almost every nice-weather day, but I don't know how far they go. I figured we'd just set out and wander until he got tired, and we meandered through the neighborhood for about 45 minutes. He stomped through the leaves piled along curbs and at the bottoms of front walk steps, announcing "Nico walk leaves!" He observed with great interest as I showed him how small acorns crunched under our shoes, then collected a handful of large acorn caps which he stowed in the pocket of my jacket rather than his own. He carried a large capless acorn in his small fist for blocks and blocks, his other hand wrapped tightly around my index finger. We crossed the street to investigate a parked school bus, walked across the grassy medians, stepped up and down at curbs. When our across-the-street neighbor came out as we were passing by to put out the mail, Nico -- usually shy and clinging to my legs in the presence of strangers and near-strangers -- marched right over to her and presented the acorn. We spent a bit of time at the playground down the block, then walked back home and had grilled cheese sandwiches for lunch. I was left feeling like this toddler thing maybe isn't so hard.

But sometimes, almost-two laughs in my face. Like tonight, when we took Nico to a really cool fall-themed event and then had to literally carry him kicking and screaming out to the car after he had a giant meltdown in the middle of it (because we are leavers to the core). He seemed so happy to be there at first, and I tried to get him excited about going on the hayrides and seeing a real owl. But once we started walking around, all he wanted to do was walk. If we stopped, he didn't waste time asking us to continue, he simply started thrashing and whining and, if we didn't hustle him quickly onward, would eventually fling himself to the ground. There were cute moments, like seeing him wade hip-deep into a gigantic leaf pile with a look of determination on his face, or how he climbed into the sandbox full of seed corn and walked around in it rather than just digging through it with his hands. And I know that he doesn't know he missed out, that I'm the only one who's sad about the fact that during our hasty exit we lost the tiny plastic snake he got as a prize for pulling five acorns out of the seed corn, but it was so disappointing. I should know by now to keep my expectations in check when taking a toddler into any kind of new experience, but it's hard. It's not that I'm disappointed in him; I'm just sad because I know he would've loved all of it if he'd just stopped being so damn two long enough to try it.

It's not quite best of times / worst of times, but almost-two is kind of kicking my ass.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Saturday, October 15, 2011


We ended up going to the geology club reunion on Saturday, and even though I was having social-anxiety second thoughts off and on the whole way there, it was fine. Better than fine, really. I had finally decided to approach it with the same mentality as I did my 10-year high school reunion: I'd go because if I didn't, I'd always wonder what I missed. Except this time I was left feeling regretful that we didn't opt in for the entire weekend. We'll definitely be doing that next time the reunion is held within driving distance. We were only there for about three hours total and didn't do a lot of mingling, but we did spend about an hour and a half fossil hunting on a road cut.

We didn't find anything spectacular but it was nice to be out under a perfect October sky, chatting with people who really get something I enjoy in the same way I get it. The fossil hunting is so easy there that you can literally just sit for a moment and you'll start seeing all these little bits and pieces lying on the ground in plain sight. I had forgotten the simple pleasure of sitting and waiting for the fossils to reveal themselves, and the first time I tried, there was this perfect tiny little blastoid lying right there at my feet. MB didn't know what it was, but he recognized the marvel of something that once was alive at the bottom of the sea being forever preserved in stone.

We also took Nico to the fall party that we were invited to, and that was almost a disaster but was more or less redeemed by the end. He fell asleep in the car on the way there and then woke up on the wrong side of the couch about half an hour after we arrived. He ended up staggering around crying for at least half an hour, and it was fairly awful. Nothing we tried to cheer him up worked in the least. He hated the glow bracelets that he loved last month on our camping trip. He didn't want a snack, didn't want to hold his flashlight, didn't want to look at trucks in the driveway. We skipped the hayride because I didn't want to ruin it for everyone by dragging my screaming toddler along for the trip. Eventually he acquiesced to a walk around the campfire and that calmed him down. By the end of the party he seemed to be having a good time, so I'm going to count the excursion as at least partially successful. Right before we left I was pointing out some constellations to MB and noticed that Nico was looking up at the stars, too. I don't know if he's ever noticed them before. I didn't take any pictures because by the time he stopped flipping out, it was dark. Believe me when I tell you that he was wearing a very cute hat.

On Sunday I took him to get his 21-month / Halloween photos done, and he had a ball running around in the photographer's backyard, kicking through leaves and running up a grassy incline while announcing "Nico walk uphill!" He's getting so big, you guys. So big. We're so lucky to know a great photographer who likes to take Nico's picture.

After our photo appointment, we picked up MB and went out to lunch. Nico spotted the boom of an excavator sticking up above the tops of the cars in the parking lot and was very keen to point it out to us. On our way out, MB told me to go pull the car around and walked with Nico over to the edge of the vacant lot next to the restaurant so that he could get a better look at the excavator. It was just a small, simple moment, but it was one of those moments where you think maybe we're doing this parenting thing right. We don't get to spend as much time with Nico as we'd like, but maybe the key is to always be willing to take ten minutes out of a busy day to go check out a dump truck.

Reading:  State of Wonder by Ann Patchett

Playing:  the Nightmare Before Christmas soundtrack

Friday, October 14, 2011

Photo Friday

a beautiful Argiope spider, sadly deceased when photographed

View the entire Photo Friday collection on Flickr.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Smartass in diapers

When Nico is doing something dangerous or Strongly Forbidden, I make a sharp "ah-ah-ah!" sound at him instead of shouting "No!" I don't know why, other than I want something very distinct and I mean business. I don't remember saying it tonight, but Nico was walking around earlier going "Mama ah-ah-ah. Mama ah-ah-ah." And okay, it was funny, but also kind of made me feel like a jerk because dammit, I don't even say it that often. So MB decided to help.

Nico: Mama ah-ah-ah.

MB: Say "Mama love-love-love"

Nico: Mama ah-ah-ah.

MB: Mama love-love-love

Me: Mama does love you.

Nico: Daddy love-love-love.

Me: Well, you can get your milk from Daddy's boobs tonight, buddy. See how that works out for you.

(Still accepting advice, too!)

Monday, October 10, 2011

A series of dilemmas

1. the mascot

I was on the English academic super bowl team in high school, an fact that should surprise exactly no one. My cousin, who was a senior when I was a freshman, was also on the English team. In her day, the team made it to the state meet one year. On the way, they stopped at one of those gas stations with the random souvenir section and found a giant stuffed fish on a styrofoam tray, wrapped in cellophane like a fish at the grocery. They bought it and treated it as a team mascot of sorts for a few years. Then the bibliophile and I found it in the back of a cabinet in our team coach's classroom at the end of our senior year and ended up taking it to college with us because we knew the kids coming up after us wouldn't have any idea what its significance was.

Now it's 12 years later, the fish is at my house, and I'm in the midst of my Year of Decluttering. So what do I do with it? I really don't need it, but I feel bad just tossing it out. In a perfect world I could post a detailed Craigslist ad and send it on to be someone else's mascot, but in reality I suspect no one on Craigslist would even get it. I've thought about sending it to the current English team at my old high school (which wouldn't be totally insane since I have a friend who teaches there), but they probably won't get it, either. So what…just send it to Goodwill? Put it up in the attic? Poor old fish. What would you do?

2. the reunion

There is a geology club reunion this weekend that I'm on the fence about attending. The core group that's attending are all older than I am, and the version of the club that they reminisce about is one that I just caught the tail end of, before they all graduated and moved on to other things. I haven't been to a reunion since about…2005, I think. They're usually on weekends I have to work or they're five hours away and it's just not feasible to go. This year it's only about an hour and a half away and I'm off on Saturday, so I've been thinking about driving up just for the day. There are a few people there I'd really like to see again, but I'm concerned that I'll get there and everyone will be hungover and sleeping late and I'll just be sitting around, or that I'll go and just feel all peripheral and not in on the inside jokes and it'll be awkward. Further complication - Nico and I got invited to a bonfire and hayride thing at a friend's house on Saturday night, so I'll have to leave the reunion around 3:30 to drive home and change and get Nico ready to go. So, go to the reunion, or chill at home and go to the bonfire and have a more relaxed time of it?

3. the reception

I'll be going to a reception for a friend's wedding next month, but not the wedding itself as it was a private family-only affair. I went to her bridal shower and brought a gift from her registry then, so I'm unclear if etiquette indicates a second gift in this situation. Normally I wouldn't think twice, but holiday-related budgetary insanity is coming.

4. Hallowean

I'm thinking seriously about weaning Nico by the end of the month. I was hoping he'd just lose interest on his own so I didn't have to push it, but no luck so far. I love the idea of "the baby will let you know when he's ready to wean," but not if it means I'm nursing until he starts preschool. Not to be graphic, but I don't think he's really getting much out of the deal these days anyway, and we'll still snuggle and have bedtime stories and songs, so I don't feel like it's going to matter much to him once it's done. I just don't know quite how to initiate the process. A friend of mine had a chat with her son about it being the last time and then had her husband put the kid to bed a few nights, but Nico historically doesn't go to bed well for MB. Maybe a chat and extra cuddles and after a few days he'll get used to it? Ugh. I told myself I would not feel guilty about this, but now I kind of feel guilty. I shouldn't, I don't think…I almost didn't get to nurse him at all so getting to 20 months is pretty damn good, right?

Reading:  The Language of Flowers by Vanessa Diffenbaugh

Playing  Nightmare Revisited

Friday, October 07, 2011

Tuesday, October 04, 2011

Falling for you

Is it really October already? Cliché ahoy, but Jesus, this year is flying. Fall is my favorite season by far, so I'm loving the crisp mornings, cooler weather, and perfect blue skies. After the brutal summer we had, Fall is just a little bit more wonderful than usual. I get to spend about half of my workdays outside this month and I'm really looking forward to it. The stars have been so clear at night over our backyard this past week or so, too. I didn't think I would, but it makes me miss teaching astronomy at my old job. Last night I stopped to look up at the Summer Triangle on my way back from taking out the trash and saw a meteor. I just hope I don't lose track of all the constellations I knew before Nico is old enough to share them with me.

October is apple cider season around here and man, I don't know what it is about that stuff. I could take or leave apple juice, but I have to have at least one jug of cider every autumn. I took Noah out for a street festival lunch this week and it was pretty great if not super healthy. I decided to pretend that sweet potato fries count as almost-healthy, mostly because it was so cute hearing him ask "Fwy? More fwy?" Apparently Nico is also VERY EXCITED about pumpkins this year. I didn't even know he was aware of the existence of pumpkins, but he was quite adamant about pointing them out to us at the grocery this past weekend. MB and I ended up taking turns walking up and down the produce section with Nico while he declared, "Yay, pum!" and pointed at all the pumpkins lining the aisle.

I was hesitant to spend five bucks on a smallish one when I'm hoping to take Nico to a pumpkin patch this year to acquire one from its natural habitat, but he was so very excited. I ended up letting him pick out a perfect little pie pumpkin for $2.50, and you guys. He was so happy. He carried it proudly to the cart, announcing "Nico een pum!" (Nico's orange pumpkin) and chucked it rather unceremoniously into the baby seat. Once we got home, I put the pumpkin on the dining room table so he gets to see it at meals. He continues to greet it cheerfully, so I think we're getting our money's worth.

October is apparently the crazy month at my new job. I thought May was pretty insane, seeing as we had 2100 kids go through on field trips alone that month, but my work friend told me, "If you don't quit in October, you won't quit." I do like a bit of action, so I'm not too scared, but I have to admit...four days in and it is pretty nuts around there. Ask me again in November, I guess.

Other than work, we've got a few fun Fall things planned. There will be hayrides at the park, possibly a pet parade, a trip to a pumpkin patch, and of course, Halloween. I have always loved Halloween, and Shauna's post over at Pickles & Dimes today has got me looking forward to it already. What about you guys...any fun autumnal plans?