Saturday, June 27, 2015

half is a four-letter word

Ten days later than last year, I have come to post my annual lamentation and reminder that half-ages are kind of awful. Nico's back-and-forth mind changing, defiance, and generally ugly behavior have returned to keep our summer from being too perfect. It's very much like a switch flipped and transformed my strong-minded but generally pleasant child overnight, but at least this year my reaction was less "WHY IS THIS HAPPENING?" and more "Oh. This again. Time to eat some chocolate." I've been reminding myself a lot lately that the tags in his clothes still have a T on them, as in toddler, as in he was a little baby dude not that long ago. As one of my coworkers puts it quite aptly, great big emotions, very small body. It seems being five and a half is really damn hard. The horrible half-ness was at its peak so far this week, probably exacerbated by some serious fun tax owed for Nico spending all week at his first full-day summer day camp. But I'm happy to report that he was only terribly whiny and cranky on Tuesday, and only during and following my appearance at camp to lead an activity. Camp staff reported that he was otherwise quite pleasant and willing to try things, so I spent most of the the remainder of the week staying quite far away. This strategy worked out great, and I was even able to lead some activities Friday afternoon without a resulting meltdown from Nico. After work I did make a ridiculous tactical error and stopped by Dairy Queen to eat with both kids after some errands. We didn't even sit down until 7:00, when Elliott usually goes to bed. I left them at the table to go get my drink and while I was gone they had a huge throwdown over the table number. Nico almost knocked a chair over and Elliott screamed so loud everyone stopped talking and stared at us. I am surprised to say it wasn't even was just really tired kids being really tired kids, you know? I talked to them quietly but firmly and very seriously about how unacceptable it was, and they ended up being fine for the rest of the time we were there. I can't even tell if two and a half just isn't that bad for Elliott or if it is but I can't tell because it's eclipsed by the ridiculous strife of five and a half.

At the same time, though, five and a half is really great. Nico did so well overall at his week of camp that I'm sending him for another full week in July. He's finally starting to make progress in his swimming lessons. He can read now, which is just spectacular. He's more inquisitive than ever and wants to know everything about everything. He's sweet and loving and shares his toys most of the time and he loves babies and toddlers. MB took him to a monster truck show last weekend and I wish I could remember for the rest of my life the look on his face as he was telling me about it later. And two and a half! Elliott started talking later than Nico, and has just had his biggest language burst to date. He's so chatty and adorable and I want to eat him up on the regular. It's such a cliche, but these children, they are my heart.

(Bruhbuh is Grandma. We aren't sure why.)

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Stuff I like this week

1. Do all Targets have the same things in their dollar spot section, or does it vary by region? I suppose there's no way to know unless we conduct a carefully-timed reconnaissance survey. I bring it up because some of you may have children who use water bottles frequently, like mine. We have a bunch of plain colored plastic bottles we bought at Michaels, which are a pleasing color variety, size, and spout shape, but they leak if they lay sideways in the diaper bag or lunch box, even with the spouts completely closed. We also have two Zak brand bottles which don't leak from the spout, but which have started to not close correctly where the lid snaps (or doesn't snap, anymore) onto the bottle. Recently I spotted licensed character bottles with screw-on sport-spout lids in the $1 section at Target and decided to give them a try. I bought one Paw Patrol and one Ninja Turtles even though my kids don't watch either. The bottles will spill if the spout is left open and the bottle falls over (or the child upends the bottle on purpose and shakes it, ELLIOTT GLENN), but so far they are great if the spout is clicked closed correctly before stowing. I like them so much that I went back and got one with the little alien guy from Home and one with a Despicable Me minion, even though we haven't seen those movies either. The kids don't care, and are happy to claim the bottles by color (Nico wanted the green Ninja Turtles and the lavender Home alien, so Elliott got the blue Paw Patrol and yellow Minion). Overly long story short - if your kids like / use water bottles, I recommend the one dollar character bottles from Target, if your Target carries said one dollar character bottles.

2. After a long absence, I went to Goodwill on Saturday with the hope of finding a pair of jeans, since I'm down to one nice pair that I can wear to work. The location Nico and I went to is the largest one in town and used to have the best stuff, but in recent years the clothing has typically been very iffy. However it was apparently my lucky day because I found a pair of jeans, a pair of really nice Gap pants in a light olive green fabric that is corduroy-like but not as textured, plus a lightweight sporty zip-up jacket and two yoga-type long-sleeve tops that I love. Nico wanted a toy and initially asked for a super cheap plastic car on big wheels. It was only a dollar and I was going to let him get it even though it had peeling stickers and is similar in size to a dozen other toys he already has and therefore would probably get played with for a day and then forgotten. But then I noticed a big blue Jeep that I knew he'd like and suspected he'd play with a lot more. As I was getting it off the shelf to show him, I realized it was a Barbie Jeep and mused that it was a bummer he didn't have any toys that could fit in it...but a moment later it hit me that of course, two of his very favorite tiny stuffed dogs would fit just fine. Well worth three dollars, I'd say.

(Semi-related - my mom went to Goodwill a week or so ago and found a really cute plastic dollhouse that opens in the middle and she got it for the boys to play with at her house. They have a whole pack of small stuffed dogs that live in the various houses, garages, and barns and they love them. It makes me a little sad I didn't know they'd like a dollhouse back when I saw a super nice Plan toys one on clearance after Christmas.)

Yesterday I was off work but had a dentist appointment in the morning, so E was at my parents' house and N was at morning dinosaur camp. After my appointment finished, I had an hour left before I needed to pick up N, so I drove over to the Goodwill closest to the university, which typically has the best selection of clothes. I ended up finding two more pairs of jeans I really like, another pair that I plan to chop into capris / shorts, and three pairs of pants for Nico. One was a pair of brand new jeans from Children's Place, so that alone was probably worth the drive. I'm pleased to have more jeans to wear, and to have spent only $5 per pair on them.

3. For any fans of Terry Pratchett, I am almost finished with a short story collection of his that just came out, A Blink of the Screen, and have really enjoyed it. There's a really nice Granny Weatherwax story that I particularly liked. And! And! I found out that there is going to be another Tiffany Aching book, coming out in August. I may spring for the hardcover, which I never do, because of all the stories lost when he died, her rumored final book was the one I was most sad about. And now it's not lost, it was finished after all. I will admit that I actually teared up a little when I found out. If you haven't read the Tiffany books, I wholeheartedly recommend them. I also wish I could buy a set for every ten-year-old girl in the world. They're so great. I also recently read and liked a Neil Gaiman short story collection, Trigger Warning.

4. We saw Jurassic World with friends on Sunday night and I loved it. I'm not going to tell you it was a brilliant piece of cinema or a perfect film, but I loved it. I have loved dinosaurs literally as long as I can remember, and my mom took me to see Jurassic Park at the theater when it came out, and this one did not disappoint. We went with two other couples, the ladies of which are dinosaur fans like me, and we were all pleased. I'm even glad we spent extra to see it in IMAX 3D, which we've never done. When it comes to the second-run theater in town, I may pay to see it on the big screen again.

5. Spray parks are probably one of the greatest things to happen to childhood since I don't know what. The one at the Y where Nico has his swim lesson also includes big umbrellas for the parents to sit under, and it may end up being our favorite summer hangout spot this year.

Monday, June 08, 2015

Hey, June

1. Fun tax

On days that I have the kids, we usually stay busy. I used to worry that I was overscheduling them, but Nico always asks me what we're doing and if I only list two things he'll say "What else? Is that all? That's not very many." so I think they're okay. I suppose they get four low-key days a week with my parents, who don't do Outings, so perhaps that balance is what makes it work. This past Saturday, we only had a half a day scheduled. In our half a day, we went to the Home Depot to build little wooden trucks, ate a hilariously early lunch at Panera because we were all hungry, went to the mall to get a birthday gift and ride the carousel, went to the toy store so Nico could spend his piggy bank money, and ran another quick errand. After that we went home and the kids crashed out and napped since we'd been out until 11 PM the night before visiting friends. After the nappage, Nico and I went to a birthday cookout dinner. Just another Saturday!

The prior Saturday, I took the kids to a tiny farmers market in the next town over in the morning. There wasn't much to buy, but they had fun walking around and playing down by the river. We met MB for lunch and then went to the Y, where they played in the pool and splash pad for four hours. Once we got home they were acting like cranky little jerks, and I was also a cranky jerk, and suddenly it dawned on me, something so obvious I felt dumb for never putting it into words before: we were paying the Fun Tax. My kids weren't being whiny jerks because they were ungrateful for the big fun day we had; they were being whiny jerks because we had a big fun day and they were TIRED. And I was being less-tolerant than usual of their whiny jerkiness because I was also TIRED. It's all so clear now: you have the fun, you pay the tax, and the tax is worth it because you got to have the fun. I think our summer - indeed our lives - will be easier for having had this small epiphany.

2. Garden reclamation

The long-neglected / half-assed garden finally reached the point where we needed to either reclaim it fully or let it go back to grass again once and for all. I'd put too much work into building the beds to want to tear it all out, plus I do still want to have a garden with the kids as they get older, so I decided on reclamation. It's slow going since I pretty much only have time to work out there on rare weekend afternoons when we are home and in the evenings after the kids are both in bed. One night I built two whole raised beds in the dark, which turned out surprisingly square. Another night I laid cardboard as the daylight failed and then shoveled and moved seven wheelbarrows of mulch in the dark. There hasn't really been much drawback to working in the dark, honestly - it's cooler and so far the mosquitoes haven't been unbearable. It's quiet and the stars are really nice even here in the city and I feel righteous and slightly exercised afterward. I don't think I'll get done in time to really plant anything this year, but I'm hoping my new strategy of laying cardboard and then covering it with six inches of wo od chips will finally keep the grass at bay. And the scrawny blueberry bushes I planted when Nico was a baby and then benignly neglected have fruited this year! I'm STUPIDLY excited over this.

As usual, I can't find a true "before" photo. The first one here is after MB spent a few hours de-grassing the left side of the garden with a hoe. The second one is what it looks like now - almost half recovered, I think!

3. Muffins

The children suckered me into buying a pound of strawberries at the farmers market which they immediately decided they didn't want to eat, then MB came home from work with a big bowl of more strawberries from his coworker's garden. In an effort to not waste all the strawberries, I baked these muffins on Saturday afternoon. They are very tasty, and I think I'll make them again (though I may try pulverizing the strawberries in the food processor rather than chopping them into bits by hand next time. Be warned, however, that the predicted yield of 16 - 18 muffins is ridiculously inaccurate. I suspected it had to be a typo going into the venture, since the recipe does call for three cups of flour. It made 5 mini muffin trays plus another dozen. I don't think it would be too tricky to halve the recipe if you want strawberry muffins but don't want to be eating them for weeks.