Friday, November 30, 2012

My apologies to Charlie Brown

My apologies to Charlie Brown

While we all know Christmas is not just about the gifts, I don't think I'm alone in enjoying the thrill of the search for just the right presents for people. Other than for Christmas and the kid(s) I don't shop much these days, so I've been enjoying myself lately. I'm trying to keep things reasonable due to budget, but I've had some fun. I've also been frustrated by companies hyping the Biggest! Sale! Ever! until I order something, and then they immediately offer a better price the very next day. So far Kohls and Land's End are on my shit list for sending me significant coupons within a day or two of me ordering something online. Both times I decided the level of pain-in-the-assness of returning the item and reordering with the coupon would not be worth it, but I'm still cranky. Just for the record.

Most of Nico's Christmas things were bought months ago, and I got quite a few secondhand but in perfect condition. Now I just have to figure out what's coming out for Christmas, what's waiting for his birthday three weeks later, and what (if anything) is going to be saved for future gift-giving occasions. His big Christmas gift is a kid's easel with a chalkboard on one side and a dry-erase board on the other, which I bought off a former coworker for the princely sum of $15. I still have no idea where we're going to put the thing, but it was too good to pass up. I'm really looking forward to him finding that on Christmas morning. He's also getting two fantastic Melissa & Doug trucks (Craigslist), for-keeps copies of a few of his favorite library books (used from Amazon since they're all out of print), and an alligator xylophone (Craigslist again). Every year I think that we haven't bought him enough and then by the end of the holiday MB are looking at each other and wondering if we should just sneak his gifts from us back upstairs unopened. The same thing will happen on his birthday, too. It's hard to exercise restraint, though, when he's so cute and I'm constantly seeing things in the stores that I suspect he'd love.

Anyway, scores of the week, just for fun:

Nico is starting to outgrow his current pajamas, so I bought him several pairs in the next size up. He'll be getting dinosaurs, fire trucks, and some fantastic excavator pjs that I didn't see online at all until after I spotted them at the store and snapped them up.

His school backpack came in the mail and it is many times more adorable in person, just because it is so freaking small and cute.

The owl clothes I've been coveting from Gymboree since Saly alerted me to their presence finally went on cheap-enough sale for me to consider them, plus I had a coupon for a free bodysuit with $10 purchase, so I ordered three onesies for the trilobite. Other than a secondhand glider and dresser for his room, I think I've only bought him a pair of footie pjs from Goodwill, a clearance onesie from BRU, and a stuffed animal, so I'm not feeling too profligate.

How about everyone else? How's the shopping going, and what are your best scores of late?

Reading:  Dodger by Terry Pratchett

Playing:  Mumford & Sons and some Christmas music, of course

Thursday, November 29, 2012



Christmas has always been my favorite holiday, and I've looked forward to sharing it with Nico more and more every year. He's still not really sure what the whole thing is about and now that it's getting so close and we're talking about it more, I can tell he's curious if a bit mystified. I suspect he thinks Christmas is a place, because the times I've said we'll do something at Christmas, he accepts rather calmly, then asks, "We go to Christmas now?"

I wondered if this would be the year he started to get the whole Santa thing, but since he hasn't watched many Christmas movies or been around other kids, it doesn't seem to be on his radar yet. I introduced the concept in a sort of half-committed way at Rural King the other day when he was eyeballing all the (admittedly awesome) toy trucks and construction equipment and asked for a few. When I told him no, Christmas was coming up, he changed tactics. "I need them," he informed me, very seriously. I told him he'd have to talk to Santa about that. "What's Santa?" he asked, and that's where I sort of ended up in the weeds. We're big on explaining things (and trust me, Nico is VERY BIG on asking), and usually we do our best to be as accurate and truthful as we can within the limits of his understanding. So how do you explain Santa in a kid-level way without epically lying? It's a conundrum. I sort of trailed off and changed the subject and left it at that. I want Nico to have the magic of Christmas and all that entails, but I don't want to straight-up lie to his face, you know? I don't want to push it too hard, but I am also keenly aware that we only have so many years when he'll believe in Santa anyway. I'll have to ponder it.

In the meantime, Nico is all about Christmas decorations this year and it's awesome. He spent ten minutes watching a tiny Christmas village carousel at Lowe's a week or two ago, then asked to go back and watch it again. Every time we go to a store with a seasonal section, we go over and look at all the light displays. When we drive home from Grandma and Grandpa's house, he comments on all the lighted houses -- even the ones with a few strands of plain white lights tossed on the bushes usually merit a "Wow!" There's a house a few blocks away from my parents that always has a huge light display, so we drive by there every day now. MB and I are planning to take him on a carriage ride through the big light display at the park next week, too.

I put up our Christmas tree on Saturday and (finally) got the decorations on it Tuesday evening. Nico wasn't too interested in helping decorate, but he seems to like the tree. Today he noticed a Pooh ornament ("There's Winnie the Pooh! There's a Winnie the Pooh on the Christmas tree!") and informed me that we needed a star for the top. I left ours off since it's old and glass and dearly beloved, but luckily my parents had a very pretty silver metal one they didn't need for their tree, so I borrowed that and added it tonight. Nico seemed to approve. I don't know how the Santa thing will shake out, but I suspect the rest of the holiday season is going to be awesome.

watching the village carousel

Wednesday, November 28, 2012



I'm running out of it. We've all had a cold all week and I'm tired of my nose being stopped up / gross stuff coming out of my face. That strained ligament in my delicate area is playing up like a sonofabitch. My kid was a total shit at swimming lessons and we had to leave early, after I didn't even want to go in the first place. *footstomp*

And I shit you not, as I was finishing the last sentence, a big splort of blood came out of one nostril and went right down my cleavage. I had to scuttle off to the bathroom and wipe the grody noseblood off of my boobs so I am back just to say OKAY, FACEHOLES, YOU WIN. FUCK OFF. GAH. AM GOING TO BED.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Three things

Three things

1. Even though this pregnancy has been super low-key and easy, my body definitely isn't as forgiving as it was last time. My ligaments and muscles are already all twangy and cranky, and I thought I pulled something in my crotchular region yesterday when I lifted Nico into his carseat. Also, shaving my legs gives me Braxton-Hicks and a backache. It's probably a really good thing that we only have two more weeks of Mommy & Me swimming lessons so I can give up on shaving until my pants-off OB appointments start. Pregnancy: bringing sexy back!

2. I only bought one thing over Black Friday weekend, which was pajamas for Nico. I put a pair in my cart from Kohls online, then left it for two hours to help MB clean the house. When I came back, the pjs were sold out in his size and yanked from my cart. It's hilarious how bitter I am about this. Apparently I hold a grudge. I'm also cranky that I went to the actual Kohls store yesterday and bought him two pairs of almost-as-good pajamas, only to receive a 25% off coupon in the mail today. Of course. I'm wondering how big of a douchebag I'd be if I took the pajamas back and asked if I could return them and re-buy them with the coupon. Like, on a scale of 1 - 10, how big of an asshole would that make me? I think I could live with up to a five.

3. Speaking of the cleaning, MB got a burst of motivation on Sunday and spent three hours reconfiguring our entertainment center area. I once again failed to take any before pictures, so you'll just have to trust me that it looks better. I suspect we're doing the pre-baby semi-nesting thing we did when I was pregnant with Nico, where all of a sudden we got semi-frantic about getting projects done around the house before the baby arrived. I'm hoping to roll this momentum into getting the baby's room ready sometime prior to a week before his due date.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Things I never thought I'd say, number 5

Things I never thought I'd say, number 5

"Can you please take Mr. Potato Head's potty out of the kitchen?"

Friday, November 23, 2012

someone needs to invent memory-to-DVD transfer

someone needs to invent memory-to-DVD transfer

Seriously. Cute things that happened yesterday and today that I wish I could play back anytime I want:

I took Nico to the zoo yesterday morning because it was a gorgeous day and the place is open 365 days a year, so why not? When we got there, I asked him what animal he wanted to see first and he surprised me by asking to see the "pink birds." We went to the jungle exhibit to see the roseate spoonbills and scarlet ibises and two of the spoonbills were having a spat of some kind. Nico didn't really notice, but I saw that one was chasing the other around and pestering it. Eventually one of them flew out over the rails of the exhibit and settled down onto the walkway around the bend from where we were. I saw it but Nico didn't, so when he headed that way I warned him that one of the pink birds was on the sidewalk. He didn't really listen, but instead went ahead of me around the corner. He immediately came trotting back, eyes huge and round. A few minutes later I saw the bird fly back over the rail into the exhibit, so I started to head down past where it had been. "No, Mama!" Nico cried. "Do not go that way!"

We went to Thanksgiving dinner at my aunt's house last night. Nico wasn't feeling his best and spent most of the evening hanging out with us and with my parents, but toward the end of the evening he ventured off on his own and went upstairs to find the other kids. We found him in the youngest cousin's room, sitting in the middle of this giant round rotating chair with a look of wonderment on his face as the five bigger kids spun him around and around.

I ordered Nico's school backpack today and decided to ask him if he had a preference between red and blue. I didn't want to show him the backpack online lest he change his mind between ordering and receiving, but I figured it was safe to just ask him his general opinion. So I asked, "Red or blue, which do you like best?" Without a moment's hesitation, he answered, "Milk!" (I ordered him the red one.)

P.S. You have until midnight Saturday to leave a comment over on my review blog for a chance to win my Melissa & Doug giveaway. Odds of winning are REALLY good right now!

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Sick baby

Sick baby

Nico was chipper enough through a trip to the zoo and a nice family Thanksgiving dinner, but he's definitely sick now. I'm off to bed to grab a rest before he needs me again. More tomorrow!

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Fun & Games

Fun & Games

I have found over time that I'm not much for traditional board games. I do like other kinds of games quite a lot, though, and here are a few I have particularly enjoyed in recent times in case anyone else is looking for something new to try.


This is a great game to keep hands busy while people are hanging out and talking, which is incidentally one of my favorite things to do with friends anyway. There's a bit of strategy involved in trying to connect seven cards of your element before anyone else accomplishes the same. It's usually fairly easy to figure out who has which element and react accordingly, but the game often doesn't last long regardless. My favorite part of Aquarius is the pretty artwork on the cards, and I'm also looking forward to trying out the preschool-age rule variation with Nico.

Seven Card Samurai

This is another good game for casual play while hanging out and chatting. There's some strategy involved (and I will admit I have only won once), but it's not too taxing. It's a card game with an extra element - each player is trying to build the highest scoring run of seven samurai cards while also earning points from stealing or protecting stones representing rice crops. Points are awarded based on the combination of colors of your samurai cards, plus how many rice tokens you have left when the round ends. There are only five rounds, so the game moves fairly quickly. Some of our friends like it and some have vowed never to play it again, but I think that has more to do with their tolerance for not winning rather than the quality of the game.


Another good chat and play game, this one is super simple and not strategy-heavy, yet not so basic as to be boring. Each player tries to collect the highest-scoring arrangements of cards representing French nobles lined up at the Revolutionary guillotine. Action cards allow for shuffling of the line to better pad your collection (or to prevent your opponents from doing the same). Other cards add extra points to cards you already have.

Settlers of Catan

This is definitely a game that favors the strategically-minded, though I enjoy it and definitely am not a strong strategizer. Tiles representing land-use types are laid out at random, then players build settlements and roads to lay claim to the resources produced. Resources - lumber, bricks, ore, wool, wheat - can be used to purchase / build more settlements and roads, or to buy development cards which can give additional point boosts. The first player to ten victory points is the winner. The only downside to this (other than being walloped by one's exceedingly strategy-minded husband) is that gameplay tends to take quite a long time. Okay, and small children seem to be strongly attracted to the tiny colorful wooden pieces and may repeatedly ask to play with them.


My brain has categorized Carcassonne as sort of a lite version of Settlers of Catan, but that's not quite right. Given the choice, I would probably pick Carcassonne over Catan, though I don't want that to come across as a knock against Catan. I just really like Carcassonne. For this one, the game board is more or less unique every time, as it's constructed tile-by-tile via luck of the draw. Players take turns drawing a tile and placing it on the map / board wherever it legally can be placed and wherever best benefits them. Once a tile is placed, the placing player can choose to lay claim to part of what is depicted on the tile - usually part of a city and / or farmland and / or a piece of road. Rules about when you can and can't claim are pretty simple (you can't claim a city piece if it's directly connected to another city piece someone else has taken; two players farming the same land cancel each other out; contiguous roads can only be claimed by one player). When the final tile is laid, points are counted up for cities and roads claimed and how many completed cities are being served by each farmer. The player with the most points wins. I don't always lose this game! Gameplay moves a bit faster than Catan, and we can usually play two rounds in a post-dinner pre-kid-witching-hour game night.

Hero Quest

This is a board game that doesn't appear to be available any more. I had never heard of it until I met MB, and he had a set from childhood that had lost a bunch of pieces and basically become unplayable. At some point he vaguely mentioned being bummed that the game was ruined, so when someone posted a set on freecycle years later, I snapped it up. MB dusted the game off for the first time at a game night earlier this month and I really enjoyed it. Sort of a board game version of a traditional roleplaying game, Hero Quest has players choose a character token (dwarf, barbarian, elf, wizard) and then move around the board fighting monsters and looking for treasure. Arrangement of monsters and availability of treasure is pre-determined and somewhat known only to the "game master" in charge of placing the bad guys and rolling their attack / defense dice. Players roll for attack and defense and to move around the board. My favorite part of this game was the intricate props that went into each dungeon room - tiny paper bookcases and desks with perfect little plastic skulls on them…what's not to love?

Tuesday, November 20, 2012



While Nico's transition to the big boy bed has gone very well overall, there's been one hitch - he no longer sleeps through the night. In his crib, he was reliably going down around 8:30 PM and sleeping until at least 7:30 AM. Once we got him into the big boy bed, he started waking up at least once, usually between 3 and 5 in the morning. I suspect he did this in the crib, too, but knew to just roll over and go back to sleep. In the big bed, not so much. In an effort to keep him in his room, at first I'd latch the baby gate every night. This resulted in him standing at the baby gate and crying for me at 3 AM and also sometimes 5 AM, until I dragged myself in there. He'd usually request that I lay down with him in his bed, which is sort of an okay solution, but after dozing off in there I'd usually wake up ridiculously stiff and not well-rested.

One night I forgot to latch the baby gate and so upon waking, Nico quietly came into our room and crawled up into our bed. There was so little fuss and drama that I decided maybe this was a better solution and started leaving the gate unlatched on purpose. I know eventually I'm going to need to deal with this nighttime bed-hopping, but I just keep hoping it's a phase that'll pass. So far all his other weird / maddening sleep issues have turned out to be passing phases, so I have a bit of hope. Anyway, this usually works out great because Nico will join us in bed around 5:00, MB will get up around 5:45, and then N and I sleep on until whatever time we get up for me to go to work. Except sometimes Nico wakes up before me and I'm a heavy enough sleeper that he can slip out of bed mostly unnoticed and go about his toddler business. The first few times he did this, it worked out okay. I woke up to him carrying around toys that he'd brought up from downstairs, or once to a pile of books he'd brought up and tossed onto the bed in an apparent attempt to coax me to read them.

Today when I half-woke and noticed he'd left the bed, I foolishly assumed he was off on a toy-procuring mission and went back to sleep. Some time later, he came into the bedroom and presented me with a long ragged scrap of thick paper. Rudely awakened, terribly nearsighted without my glasses, I frowned at this out-of-place thing. "What is this?" I asked Nico. It felt like wallpaper, and I had a sudden horrible thought that he'd pulled a big strip of wallpaper off the wall in the downstairs bathroom. Panicking slightly, I demanded, "Where did you get this?"

"Downstairs," Nico answered. "With the others." I got out of bed and got my glasses on, and then I realized the scrap wasn't wallpaper. It was a scrap of ancient, sun-brittle window blind. Oh.

My best guess is that Nico was trying to see out the staircase window and was a little too vigorous with our ancient roll-up blind. When a huge portion of it ripped free in his hands, he proceeded to shred it into little bitty pieces. As one does, I suppose.

I probably should've been more stern about this, but I wasn't sure how to react. On the one hand, destroying stuff in the house is Bad and should be Heavily Discouraged. On the other, it was a half-falling-apart old blind and it could've been worse and as peeved as I was, it was also kind of funny. I finally decided to make him sit on his time-out chair while I cleaned up the mess, but didn't make too much of a big deal out of it. I guess I'm going to have to start latching the baby gate again. Or getting up early with Nico to supervise his shenanigans. Or maybe I can just sew cat bells into the hems of all his pajamas.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Kids are weird, sometimes slightly embarrassing

Kids are weird, sometimes slightly embarrassing

First there was the months-long phase of Nico regarding anyone who deigned to greet him in public with a fierce expression of "You could easily be a child-murderer, madam" skepticism. I suppose most people who've had contact with kids know that they tend to be shy and even inadvertently rude at some ages. Now, though, we've swung completely the other way. Nico is going through a supremely chatty phase. Someone will walk by us in public and he'll chirp a bright little "Hi!" As soon as the person acknowledges him, he'll approach with whatever toy he's carrying held out and announce "This is my Bee / truck / ambulance!" Then he'll usually either actually hand the toy over or start telling her (or him) about it. Often the object of his greeting is a lady who seems happy to chat back a bit (and seriously…little old ladies really LOVE the chatty redheaded child). But sometimes, it's the poor checker at the grocery who obviously just wants to work, or (most hilariously) the brawny country kid who was charged with carrying our box of deer meat from the butcher shop to the car as my toddler waved a plastic pickup truck at him and said, "It's a red truck! With a trailer!" I do think it's really cute, but I also harbor no illusions that the whole world thinks my kid is the best thing since sliced bread. I try to gauge the person's reaction and hurry Nico along when needed. I definitely don't want to quash his newfound friendliness, but I'm also acutely aware that some people aren't into kids and just want to go about their business. (It was pretty awesome, though, when a woman sneezed at the grocery last week and Nico hollered "Bless you!" across the aisles at her.)


Speaking of Nico, I've been acutely aware lately of how he's at once baby and little boy. I think it's a combination of where he's at right now, the impending start of preschool (preeeeschoooool), and the ever-more-present reality that before long there will be a teeny helpless baby joining us. I think my back-and-forth over what school to send him to and my tendency to exclaim over the fact that my first teeny baby is big enough for preschool has given people the impression that I'm angsty or woeful about sending him off to school. I'm a little wistful over how fast the time has gone, but I'm really okay with this. He's ready, and I'm not going to hold him back just because I can't believe he's leaving his baby days behind already. I could be wrong, but I don't even expect to cry on his first day. I worry that he might, though, poor duck. He might surprise me, though. He's getting pretty good at that.


I finally got my hands on a library copy of Gone Girl, which everyone on Twitter was raving about a month or two ago. Late to every party! Holy crap, though, this book. I think I started it Saturday and I'm just about finished. It's a serious page-turner, though so far I find both characters pretty unlikeable. I don't think I'm really rooting for anyone, but I am crazy curious to see how it ends.

Friday, November 16, 2012

Cop out!

Cop out!

Okay, I've been trying to put something together for over an hour and I'm too tired to keep up the pretense. And so please to enjoy some goofy-ass animals.

Thursday, November 15, 2012



Holy cow, November is half over…and so is NaBloPoMo. So far so good, though admittedly nothing momentous has been written. Around this time last year, Jennie over at She Likes Purple posted a Christmas To Do List for herself. I loved that idea and planned to do one for myself this year. Now seems like a good time since some of my items need to be handled by the first week or two of December. And so, my Christmas / December To Do List, which will probably be expanded upon in weeks to come. Keep me accountable, little blog!

1. Set up Christmas photo session

2. Obtain Christmas photo shirt for Nico and try not to be horrified at the price of little boys' dressy clothes Done, though I was scandalized by the pre-sale, pre-coupon price tag.

3. Obtain or make some kind of Christmas photo prop for Indy so he can be included on the Christmas card

4. Set date for Thanksmas party

5. Make Nico's wish list for family kid gift exchange

6. Look around for patterns for Thanksmas exchange ornaments, obtain supplies, make ornaments

7. Set up Advent calendar with Nico

8. Send in Nico's preschool enrollment form and deposit, attempt to find tiny school backpack that doesn't cost a frillion dollars

9. Lean on contractor to get old downspouts sealed before holiday parties start, in the hopes that will take care of the super gross sewer-y smell we keep getting in the bathroom and front closet

10. Work with awesome graphic designer friend to get Nico's birthday invitations made

11. Count up Christmas card recipient list. Buy stamps.

12. Order photo cards and prints of favorite photo from Christmas photo session on or before December 14. (coupons must be used by then) Leaving myself a breadcrumb for next year, when I'm sure I'll look at this list for reminders: order 4x8 cards next year or use different vendor.

13. Make date with MB to see The Hobbit

14. Sign Nico up for next session of swimming lessons and buy a small reusable wet bag for his towel and trunks

15. Obtain birthday / Christmas wish list from MB and purchase gifts.

16. Set budget for family gifts and order / purchase Christmas gifts for parents and siblings.

17. Purchase gift for our family exchange kid

18. Find a Christmas charity to participate in / donate to

19. Take Nico to see the "enchanted forest" Christmas tree setup at Menard's

20. Take Nico to the local Christmas light display at the park

21. Set up cookie decorating party (or parties) with Nico's toddler buddies

22. Assemble holiday treat bags for toddler buddies

23. Decide on list of Christmas cookies to bake this year and then actually bake them - chocolate with mint chips, regular with mint chips, peppermint meltaways, skillet cookies?

24. Put together photo book of Nico's year and watch for free photo book codes in email

25. Mail Christmas cards AT LEAST one full week before Christmas. This was a big fail last year.

26. Mail Nico's birthday invitations immediately after Christmas

27. Make New Year's Eve plans?

28. Start preparing the baby's room!

Wednesday, November 14, 2012



I'm 25 weeks pregnant now, and it continues to take me by surprise every now and then. I'm luckily still in the "feeling cute" stage and not the "oh, God, I'm a planet" stage, so here's hoping that lasts.

I have finally reached the point where I'm going to have to retire any non-maternity shirts that aren't unusually long. I wore a short-ish (well, short-ish for me) long sleeved shirt over a very long maternity tank yesterday and the spot where the hem of the overshirt hit my belly was comically high. I will probably wear my work uniform shirt for the last time tomorrow for the same reason. I'm still making one pair of post-Nico jeans work, though they are getting less comfy by the week, and my underbelly jeans from last pregnancy are fitting okay now. I remembered tonight that I had a pair of super cute, super comfortable corduroy pants that fit me until the end with Nico, so I'm hoping to add those to my rotation immediately.

I need to go through my big-ass bin of maternity clothes - odds and ends thrown together from numerous sources - and pull out things that I will actually wear. I've been able to wear my regular clothes so long this time that I haven't really bothered to inventory what I have, and I suspect I'm missing out on some cute / comfortable stuff. I've decided to go ahead and sell or give away anything that I do not like or that fits funny, because (1) this is probably my last pregnancy and (2) even if it's not, if I'm not wearing them this time, I won't wear them another time either. I suspect I'll need (want) to buy another long sleeved maternity shirt or two, but I don't feel like that's unreasonable. I'm hoping to be set on pants.

All seems to be going well with the passenger, and his kicks and aerobics routines have reached a point where they are starting to get hilarious. It continues to amaze me how obvious it is that I have bony little arms and legs moving around in there. I either didn't notice as much with Nico or I've forgotten. It's not like, "Oh, that little thump must've been a kick!" Instead it's "Holy cow, was that a knee? Maybe an elbow? Or a melee weapon of some kind?"

I continue to be stupidly, gratefully lucky and I feel fine. My pelvic bones and ligaments are a little more creaky and cranky this time around, but it's nothing terrible. So far I don't have the sciatic / low back irritation I had last time, and I'm hoping I didn't just jinx myself by saying so. The need to eat constantly has faded a little bit. I'm alarmingly out of shape already, but that's probably because I quit going to the gym at 6 weeks.

I'm so happy and so excited to have this little guy, but there are also moments of sheer terror when it hits me fully that there will be two kids. A baby and a toddler! A big brother who still needs me quite a lot and a little brother who depends on my boobs for food, all at once! ACK. But mostly, I'm just happy.

We've reached a bit of an impasse with choosing a name. We mostly - or at least kind of mostly - have agreed on a first name, but we can't decide on a middle. I'm worried we'll end up deciding to change the first because of this, and that we'll have to start over. I also don't feel a huge sense of "it's perfect!" about the first name, but there's nothing else I like better, either. I am trying to remind myself that I didn't agree to Nico's name until two weeks before his due date and even then wasn't sure I was sold, and now I love it and can't imagine him being called anything else. Hopefully the same thing will happen with this one.

And probably my favorite milestone - my belly now pokes out enough that Nico can use it as a pillow / head shelf while watching his Kipper episodes:

Tuesday, November 13, 2012



I've been looking at preschool options for Nico over the past month or so. It started as a sort of a whim, just to see what was out there (and because friends from bigger cities warned me that sometimes you have to get on the waiting list a year ahead of time for preschool…that didn't turn out to be the case here). I was thinking we'd start him next August when the new school year starts, but the more I looked and thought about it, the more I started to ponder starting him in January. He'll turn three on January 15th and in a lot of ways, I think he's probably ready. On the one hand, it seems utterly absurd to be contemplating school for a kid who is currently still only two years old, who still uses a sippy cup and wears a diaper. I mean, dude, he's still a baby, right? But baby or not, he knows his ABCs, shapes, and all his colors; he can count to twelve if he feels like it; he is fascinated by letters and words and what letters spell. And he also is an only child in a single-child childcare setup, which gives me another reason to consider starting him in school. My sister and I only went to one year of preschool before we started Kindergarten, but we also had cousins of similar age that we played with two or three times a week. Nico has some friends his age, but we have maybe two or three playdates a month. Learning to share and to interact with kids his age seems like a pretty good reason to go ahead and get him started at school sooner rather than later.

I had some pretty simple requirements when I started looking (or so I thought). I wanted a school that was:

1. not super churchy - I don't mind saying grace before snack or doing Jesus in a manger crafts, but I didn't want Bible lessons or chapel time
2. half day / two day a week option - with him being so young and being in a child care situation that we love, there's no real reason to put him in full-time school, or even half-day every day school
3. kids not required to be fully potty-trained - because as much as I wish I could say that might happen by his birthday, I have no illusions
4. not painfully expensive - obviously

Once I started looking around, I realized that most local preschools are pretty churchy. I found five secular schools. The well-regarded day school and the Montessori school each cost more than our monthly mortgage payment. The Reggio Emilia school requires potty training and is twice as expensive as all the other schools I ended up considering. The cute hippie school that Nico's friend Nathan is probably going to attend starting in August only does four day a week full-day school (and is expensive). The preschool at the childcare center on the campus of my university is fabulous and affordable and highly recommended, but it's a bit of a stupidly long commute. I debated and pondered and expended more angst than is probably practical over a decision as admittedly trivial as where to send my barely-not-a-baby to "school" for two mornings a week. Ultimately, I couldn't figure out a reasonable scenario in which I could get him to school on time in the mornings and still get myself to work on time on the other side of town. My parents probably would've been willing to make the haul twice a school day if there were no other options in town, but with closer options they weren't too excited about it. Plus, they're going to have the small fry along for the ride in the fall semester, so it's not like Mom can just camp out in the car and knit for two hours while Nico's at school.

I was considering the preschool where my sister and I went as our backup to the university preschool. It's just a few blocks from our house, it's affordable, and I was impressed with the teachers when they brought their classes to a field trip at my workplace last season. But I was starting to wonder about their level of churchiness, they require full potty training, and then when I called to check about his options for staring in January, it turned out they were full and don't really like to start kids until they're closer to 3 1/2. Luckily, one of the volunteers at work recommended the school where her kids go, and it's cheap, close, and has a setup that I really like. If Nico starts there in January, he'll be in the middle of the class by age rather than the very youngest, since they do a twos turning three / threes turning four / fours turning five class division. They focus mostly on social interaction and classroom readiness and the day is set up with very short bursts of structured activity mixed in with free play. For a kid who doesn't even want to sit on my lap through a 30 minute story time, this is encouraging. I took Nico in for a visit last week after the class had let out for the day, and he was not shy at all about getting into the toys or saying hello to the teacher. He was extremely interested in the little playground.

We haven't made a solid decision yet, but I suspect we're going to go for it. I filled out his application (though I haven't sent it in yet) and he's on their class list for a January start. I'm not waffling on it nearly as much as I was. And on Saturday, Nico read his first word. He's been reciting bits of books from memory for a while and recognizing sight words that we show him over and over in familiar books or on his magnet board, but nothing that actually counts as independent reading. But Saturday we took him to a children's museum for the afternoon, and he walked by a sign there which he'd never seen before and said, "B-i-g…big!" without any adult prompting. I think he's ready. I think we are, too.

Monday, November 12, 2012

this / that

this / that


Last year I bought a bag of these on a whim and then kept buying and devouring them until the grocery store stopped stocking them, a disappointing several WEEKS before Christmas. When I saw them back on the shelves last week, I bought four bags. I probably should've bought four more.


I haven't been reading as much as usual lately, but I did just rip through Maggie Stiefvater's The Raven Boys this past weekend. While it wasn't as fantastic as The Scorpio Races, that one's going to be hard to match. It was at least as good as her werewolf series (Shiver, Linger, Forever). My only complaint was that she crammed in a few too many unlikely character names. I could buy the female protagonist being called Blue, but thought that psychics named Calla, Persephone, and Neeve were a bit much. Plus Blue's random coworker called Cialina. Save a few for the next series! Overall, though, it was an enjoyable and quick read.


During my pregnancy with Nico I listed to the Decemberists album Hazards of Love on repeat for weeks on end. This time, the baby's soundtrack seems to be the new Mumford & Sons album, Babel. It took a while to grow on me and while I still don't love it as immensely as Sigh No More, I have been playing it in the car as much as Nico will allow. I don't know that I have a favorite track, but this one's pretty great:


I discovered this weekend that a long "boyfriend tee" I bought at Target ages ago fits great right now over a long maternity tank and inexplicably makes me feel cute and skinny. The second part is absurd because (a) I'm not a skinny person and (b) BELLEH:

PS Excellent odds to win my Melissa & Doug giveaway over here. All you need to do is a leave a comment by midnight on November 24th.

Friday, November 09, 2012

A conversation

A conversation

about the neighbor's truck

Nico: It's the big brown truck!

me: Yes, it is!

Nico: It's parked there.

me: Yep.

Nico: I think it's an F-150.

me: It's actually a Chevy Silverado, buddy.

Nico: It's big!

me: It is big.

Nico: A Chevy Silverado.

me: Yep!

Nico: It's not silver.

Thursday, November 08, 2012

Officer, I can explain

Officer, I can explain

Over the course of my current job and the past one, I have carried some odd things in my car. I often wonder what I would say if a cop pulled me over and then wanted to know why I had said weird things in the car. Things such as:

>> eleven cases of empty wine bottles

>> a cow skull

>> a fifteen-pound snake in a plastic storage tub

>> assorted box turtles

>> a set of deer antlers in a bag

What about you guys…what's the weirdest thing you've ever hauled around in your car?

Wednesday, November 07, 2012

bump in the night

bump in the night

We moved Nico into a big boy bed in mid-September and the transition has been remarkably smooth. I was worried he'd resist the change, but he adjusted very quickly and has pretty much been exclusively in the new bed for over a month now. He loves his special "mighty machines sheets" that we bought him, he loves having his own "pie-yo" (pillow), and he loves for the three of us to sit on the bed to read his bedtime stories.

I scoured Craigslist all summer but we never found a frame we liked enough to justify the asking price, so we ended up using a twin bed frame we've had at the house for years, one that was old when my parents bought it secondhand during my childhood. The only downside to this is that the built-in metal support / spring grid on the frame is pretty shot. Because of this, we bought a mattress and box spring to make sure Nico's bed would be firm and non-saggy, which worked great other than raising the bed so high that Nico actually can't climb into it by himself. This wasn't expected to be too much of an issue since Nico's not in and out of the bed to use the potty yet (alas!) but it turns out it's been a problem because N has been falling out of bed.

At least five times now, we've heard a horrible gut-punching thud from the second floor and gone sprinting upstairs to find him standing in his darkened bedroom, rumpled and crying and asking us to rub some slighted body part (usually his head). Luckily the thick carpet in his room has saved him from any actual injuries, but with him showing no signs of figuring out how not to fall off the bed, we decided last night that something had to give. He already has a toddler safety rail on each side of the bed, and while I'm not sure since I've never see it happen, I suspect he's falling while trying to climb out of the bed half-asleep rather than rolling off the side.

We took the box spring off tonight to lower the mattress, so we'll see if that solves the problem. I don't like it much at all because of the sag in the mattress but we have a plywood bunky board on our guest room bed (which is actually the other half of the bunk bed set that his bed came from) that we are planning to put on his bed tomorrow. I feel kind of silly that we didn't go that route in the first place and save the money on the box spring, but oh well. If this doesn't help I guess we'll have to try extra-long safety rails or just put his mattress on the floor. I will say that after we took the springs off tonight he was super pleased that he could climb into bed on his own, exclaiming, "Look! I did it myself!" I'm crossing my fingers for an injury-free night.

PS While you're waiting on the edge of your seat for big boy bed updates, you can click over to my review blog and comment for a chance to win a neat wooden truck from Melissa and Doug, if you're so inclined. The giveaway will run through November 24.

Tuesday, November 06, 2012

bullet points will have to do

bullet points will have to do

Election night! Woo! I'm simultaneously keyed up and exhausted and I didn't even watch the returns because my delicate nerves cannot take it. How about some utterly random kid-related bullet points?

>> We went to a musical storytelling thing at the library and while Nico was only kind of half-interested in most of it, he LOVED every bit involving the little handheld drum. I can't remember what it was called, but any time there was a part for the drum, N would perk up and pay attention. At the end of the 45 minute performance, Nico was trotting back and forth in the back of the room when the drummer did a little solo. N stopped in his tracks and stared, mesmerized, then lit up and started clapping. It was so cute. Ever since, he's been tapping things on other things and saying "I'm playing the drum!" I am seriously contemplating getting him a simple little drum for Christmas. That's probably crazy talk, isn't it? He's generally not super into music, so seeing any kind of interest in that direction makes me want to jump to encourage him.

>> I took Nico to visit a preschool on Monday and I think we might be doing this thing. The little classroom was so cute with the miniature chairs and tables and its own tiny bathroom. I really liked the teacher and the style of the class - short and varied structured time blended with plenty of unstructured play, lots of patience for non-pottytrained kids, understanding of the limits of 2-year-olds' "school" abilities. If the budget allows, he may start in January. I cannot believe my first baby is old enough that he might be starting preschool in two months.

>> Nico is now reciting entire picture books. It's not reading, but it's still ridiculously impressive, especially since some of the lines he can recite are things like "A giant dump truck works on the biggest building jobs or in quarries and mines. It carries enormous loads of earth and rock in its body, then tips them out wherever they are needed." Seriously, kid? I don't even have that one memorized. He's been "reading" Old Bear by Kevin Henkes to us for nearly a month, and last night he recited almost the entire Dr Seuss ABC book. I nearly died of the cuteness of "O is very useful / You use it when you say / Oscar's only ostrich / oiled an orange owl today." Here's a video I got of him reading Old Bear:

>> This new one is a rambunctious little nib, just like his brother was. With Nico, though, the placenta was in the front and at this stage I could still barely feel much. With this guy, I can already tell that there are bony little arms and legs in there. It's cool and weird all at once.

I was going to say more, but Nico is awake and having a hard time re-settling so I must away.

Monday, November 05, 2012

Doormat McGee

Doormat McGee

Like probably everyone, I like to think of myself as a strong, confident person. But lately I've been reminded of my somewhat pathological aversion to confrontation, and it's making me think Serious Thoughts. A lot of it is the typical fear of confronting someone and having them behave even worse as a result, which is why many shitty, shitty neighbors of ours got away with a lot of shitty shit when we lived in apartments. I never stand up to people who cut in line at or crowd me in public even though such behavior makes me unreasonably angry and causes me to engage in revenge fantasies. The dumbest thing, though (probably), is how I never complain at restaurants even when something is clearly not right.

Now, MB and I do go out of our way to be polite and easygoing when we eat out, because Lord knows it's not easy being a server and a lot of people are entitled assholes. Unless the server is blatantly ignoring us, we tend to just go with the flow. And I hate to complain about anything that is wrong about my order, lest we seem high maintenance or pushy. Most of the time it's no big deal, like if the dressing is on the salad instead of on the side. But just in the past few days, there have been two incidents that I'm mulling over and pondering.

We went out with my coworkers last Thursday night to what I'd consider a place in the upper-range of not-fancy but nice. It was a chain, but it's someplace more expensive than MB and I would usually go for a casual dinner. I decided to splurge a bit and order salmon even though it was pricey, and then got a piece of fish that was seriously undercooked. The girl sitting next to me even told me to send it back, but I just kept justifying it by telling myself maybe that's just how they cook it there and I'm too unsophisticated to know the difference. Meanwhile, I'm picking at a meal that cost more than I wanted to spend but now I don't want to eat because it's a little gross and plus I'm not sure I'm supposed to eat undercooked fish right now. All because I don't want to cause a fuss. The hell, self? I'm still stewing over it a bit today, not in a pissed-off way but in a why didn't I just say something way. I didn't want to make the server feel bad, and I didn't want it to be a big deal…I wouldn't have wanted to see the manager or anything. But I totally should've asked for something else instead. I am still annoyed that I paid money for something that was basically inedible.

Then Sunday morning we took Nico out to breakfast and I ordered him a yogurt. The server brought him a fancy yogurt parfait thing instead with bits of granola and chunks of fruit in it. Which, okay, looked awesome, but was (1) not what I ordered and (2) not something Nico would ever agree to eat. I started to scrape the granola off and made an attempt to get him to eat a bit (which wasn't happening since he'd seen that there was STUFF in his yogurt), and then I thought about the salmon. I thought about how lame I still felt about that and how stupid it was to suffer silently for a mistake that could've been corrected. I asked politely if they had plain yogurt instead, and the server was very nice about it and brought Nico a new bowl. And that was it. No drama, nothing. Now everyone reading this is probably thinking "Duh, that's how it goes," but I was absurdly relieved.

Overall, of course, it's no big deal. So I acted in a doormatty fashion and had a crappy dinner experience…so what? But it makes me worry a bit overall, because I want to raise my kids to stand up for themselves. Not to be douchebags or jerks, but to be confident enough to politely speak up when something isn't right. I don't know why I'm such a wimp about this stuff. I don't remember ever being told not to speak up, and my mom is a bit on the abrasive side of the "say what you think" spectrum. I did experience a lot of bullying in elementary and middle school without ever saying anything or reporting it to anyone, mostly out of fear that speaking up would just make things worse. So naturally it never got better until I left that school after eighth grade to go to public school.

I absolutely don't want my kids to go through anything like that, so I'm pondering now what I need to do and watch for and change to do what I can to prevent it. Sometimes the smallest, dumbest thing can start to feel like a "get your shit together" message from life.

Reading:  The Raven Boys by Maggie Stiefvater

Playing:  Babel by Mumford & Sons

Friday, November 02, 2012



The weekend before our 20-week ultrasound, Nico wanted to wear his big brother shirt, so I took the opportunity to introduce the idea of a baby sibling in what I thought was a gentle way. I asked him what was on his shirt and when he said "Daddy dump truck and baby dump truck!" I told him, "Actually, that's a big brother dump truck You're going to be a big brother!" He looked at me, obviously upset, and forcefully said "NO! Don't wanna be a big brother, NO!" Taken aback, I tried to stay calm and asked him why not, thinking it was a little too late for him to suddenly reveal that he hates babies. Instead, though, he wailed, "I'm not big! I'm yittle!" Oof, kid…just sock me in the heart! I told him of course, buddy, you can be little as long as you want.

From the moms of other kids who are three or nearly-three, I have learned this is somewhat anomalous. All of his friends want to be big and get quite offended if you imply in any way that they are little or babies. Nico, in contrast, seems to have no interest in jumping on the big boy bandwagon. Truthfully, he is still little and I'm in no rush to push him to grow up. But as I watch him learn and do more and more, as I lie with him on his big boy bed at night or sign him up for preschool visits, there's no doubt that he's a little bit big, even if both of us sometimes have a hard time admitting it.

Thursday, November 01, 2012

Pumpkins scream in the dead of night

Pumpkins scream in the dead of night

Where pumpkins = my overtired, overexcited, possibly over-sugared toddler, who woke up crying at 1:30 and 6:30 and then was up for the day and somewhat beastly at 8:30. We did have a nice Halloween, though. Nico wasn't too interested in posing for photos last night, so I don't have any really good ones from actual Halloween, but are some costume pictures from his photo shoot back at the beginning of the month:

Nico has seemed quite enamored of pumpkins and of Halloween decorations in general this year. He and my mom carved one of those foam craft pumpkins into a jack-o-lantern one day a few weeks back (Nico picked the pattern, Grandma did the work). That day when I arrived to pick him up, he excitedly led me into Grandma's hobby room. "Shut the door!" he demanded. "Turn off the lights!" Then, "Look!" as the battery "candle" flickered inside the pumpkin. We didn't carve his pumpkin patch pumpkin, but let it enjoy a peaceful and intact existence on the dining room table. He still has his baby pumpkin from the pumpkin patch and a second one he picked out at the zoo on Monday. He also scored this purple pumpkin bucket by being adorably fascinated by it, behaving at the store, and asking nicely:

He was reluctant to wear the costume back on photo day, so I really tried to talk it up in the days leading up to Halloween. Even so, he balked and had to be coaxed into it. Once dressed he seemed happy enough, though I nearly made a fatal error in choosing a costume with a separate hat rather than a hoodie-style costume like he had last year. Next year, hoodie or hat with no chin strap, I think. He did make it through the hour or so we were out trick-or-treating. He mostly remembered to say "trick or treat" at each house, though once he hesitated and then chirped "Surprise!" instead. He also said "thank you" to nearly everyone without prompting. By far my favorite thing, though, was how every time someone said, "Look! It's Tigger!" Nico responded very seriously, "I'm not Tigger, I'm Nico. I'm kind of like Tigger, but I'm me."

After we'd had enough trick-or-treating we drove over to the library to visit my mom, who was stuck working for the evening. Then we hit Barnes & Noble so I could get a hot drink and Nico spent about 20 minutes playing with the train table. I let him eat one small cookie before bed, which may have contributed to his beastliness this morning. He was recovered by the time I picked him up after work, though, so I'm voting Halloween 2012 as a success.