Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Grow Fish!

This is the top of my stove (yeah, don't really look that closely, please!)

In the plastic dish, we are currently growing an orange dinosaur and two tropical fish. These are the little novelty items that you can put in water and they double, triple, NO! quadruple! in size before your very eyes!!!!

This, they have done. The package says that after 48 hours, you can take them out of the water and watch them shrink back down to normal, but Jabber doesn't think that sounds like a good idea. He swears that the creatures are still growing. So...there they sit. It's science, right?

Monday, November 24, 2008

Terrible Twos!

The Temper Tantrums have arrived!

This morning I committed a grievous error when attempting to dress my toddler. That is, I attempted to dress my toddler. In a shirt, which apparently was not the right shirt; in fact, it was the wrong shirt entirely.

Instantly, he threw himself back on the changing table--weeping, screeching, gnashing his teeth, and, most dramatically, banging his head against the wall. The entire time, he tried to rip his clothes off, just as I tried to put them on him. Now, normally I would let him choose another shirt, but as it happens, all of the clean clothing is currently in laundry baskets on the living room floor, not folded neatly in his drawers, where I could access them. So...cruel, lazy woman that I am, I subjected my poor child to the evil of the dreaded Star Wars shirt (that he loved last time he wore it, by the way!).

Due to the dreadful tribulation of being forced into this garment, Monkey further decided that every article of clothing that I attempted to put him in was clearly an affront to his tiny toddler dignity. He tore at his jeans with desperate fingers, kicking his feet as quickly as he could to keep me from snaring them in the legs. Alas for him, I was speedy and strong--worse, I kept on singing this ridiculous version of "Old MacDonald" that distracted him from his wrath and sometimes even made him forget himself and laugh.

Downstairs, though, the trials continued with the horrors of jacket, hat, mittens, and boots. Monkey had had enough! Once again, the only reasonable solution seemed to be a complete and total collapse, accompanied by impressive sound effects.

After several unsuccessful rounds of silly songs and lots of sweet cajoling, I decided that I would capture the tantrum on video, for posterity. Wasn't I just saying that poor Monkey didn't get his share of the spotlight in terms of proper childhood documentation? This seems a little cruel and mocking, maybe--to videotape your child's obvious anguish--but the happy little side effect was that, when the video was done, I played it for the little Monkey, and he was fascinated! He held the camera tightly, staring at the video.

"Dat me? Dat baby? Me cry? Me cry oh no!" he said, absorbed in the pictures. Dutifully, he switched the camera to the other hand and held out his arm to be stuffed into his jacket.

"DAT ME!" he exclaimed, allowing me to strap the formerly hateful boots onto his feet.

"AGAIN!" he demanded, after holding out his hands to accept mittens and lifting his chin to let me tie his hat on.

"All done!" I said, putting the camera back up on the bookcase. "Baby all done crying! YAY!"

We clapped. We cheered. We got out the door on time.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Language Love!

I was editing a friend's personal statement for her grad school admissions, and I laughed as I read this part of her statement: "...my life-long lust for language..." Laughed, not because I thought it was silly for someone to describe herself as lusting after language, but because not so very long ago I wrote a cover letter for a job that included the phrase, "I have always been in love with language." (Lust, I daresay, has more of a place in a MFA program than in a middle school teaching position!)

It's true, though...lust, love, passion, obsession...language is a huge part of my life. And possibly one of the most amazing parts of having children has been watching the language acquisition process firsthand.

Way back as an undergrad writing research papers for my linguistics classes, I was already fascinated enough to almost make linguistics my fifth major, if having five majors were allowed. (this would have been in addition to English, Spanish, philosophy, and women's studies, just to be clear...and I really only majored in English, teaching English at that, but with unlimited time and money, I would have gone for all five! Ooh, and Creative Writing, of course, though I don't think my university had that as a major....)

*wanders back to the topic at hand*

Yeah, so kids and language--fascinating! I remember that when Jabberwock was first learning to speak, which he did quite early, I kept very precise notes about his language development in this amazing, practically-daily journal I kept about his every dimple, every sigh, every sneeze or burp or bowel movement--the journal I can't ever show to him because then Monkey will ask where is *his* childhood recorded instant-by-instant, and then I will have to tell him that he just wasn't as interesting.

So I remember writing things like, "Today Jabber used coordinating conjunctions for the first time!!!!!" Yes, I was really that geeky. But really, how amazing is it when the little one who yesterday would point at a picture of a bowl of fruit and say, "Ap-Ap, Nana, Gapes!" suddenly comes out with, "Ap-Ap AND Nana AND Gapes!"

Or participles, oh for joy! The day I marched into Jabber's room and said, "What are you doing?" and he replied, "JumpING!" How exciting! Definite articles! Correct subject pronouns! Trust me, it's all in the journal.

Monkey has, in general, been much slower to speak than his older brother. Some have suggested it's because Jabber speaks for him/never shuts up. This may be partially true, although Monkey's personality is such that I've always been pretty sure that when he has something to say, he'll say it, regardless of who may be bigger or more articulate. I think the real reason he has been generally less verbal is that he has been expending an extraordinary amount of energy on keeping up with his brother (and surpassing him, on some fronts) physically. Already he climbs higher, runs faster, and fights with more passion than Jabber, the docile older child who didn't go to daycare until he was two years old, ever did.

Monkey also has some other, more intellectual, skills that Jabber didn't quite grasp as quickly, such as figuring out puzzles, even when he has to rotate a piece to make it fit properly. While Jabber would give up quickly and get frustrated when a piece didn't slide right in, Monkey seems to have a very strong sense spatially of how the piece needs to be turned before getting it close. He also seems to have a lot more enthusiasm for coloring and artwork than his older brother did at this age.

Suddenly, though, in the space of two weeks, both boys have made amazing language leaps. For Jabber, it's all about pronunciation. I have long been assuring people that his /w/ sound for the letters 'r' and 'l' is normal for a four-year-old and that he would learn how to say those sounds without intervention. Sure enough, in the last week or so, he has suddenly nailed both sounds in the middle of words and about half the time at the beginning of words, too. He'll be talking away, and then he'll say a word with an 'r' in it, and he'll take a little extra time to move his mouth and tongue just rrrrrrright. It's great!

And Monkey. He went from only using a few isolated words and a lot of pointing, grunting and physically pushing us toward what he wants to using three or four words together in a string, repeating everything we say, and singing his own adorable versions of his favorite songs. Just this morning, I watched him playing with two little action figures ("bad guys," he calls them), moving them around and making them talk to each other.

Badguy 1: looove you!
BG 2: no! fall down! (BG2 kicks BG1)
BG1: no fall down! kiss kiss! niiiiice baybee! (BG1 smooches BG2)

So I may not be keeping track of every grammatical advance of baybee number two, but I'm still just as fascinated by this process of language acquisition--maybe even moreso now that I'm seeing how it goes differently for different children!

Wednesday, November 19, 2008


GAH. Only reason I'm posting this? Because my kiddo erupted like Mt. Vesuvius last night (five times) and forced me to concoct a sub plan at 11:30 p.m. in between dashes up the stairs to try to catch some of the mess in a plastic mixing bowl lined with a dish towel and then the alternating dashes down to the basement to shuffle our bedding, towels, and several sets of clothing from washer to dryer and then back upstairs to the bed, ready to take the next round. Then back downstairs with the new load of ick. Rinse and repeat. Until 2 AM.

So when I started this blog, my goal was to get writing again. I had finished my first novel, spent a couple months querying it to agents (with no positive responses, frustrating because the rejections aren't even based on someone reading the novel!) and then got sucked into the bog of motherhood and teacherdom and, well, real life. So mired was I that I didn't write a single thing other than stuff for work. Maybe an email or two, I'll admit. Oh, and okay, fine, maybe a post or a thousand on a certain natural family living forum. But writing on a regular basis--something that has been a part of me since I was in elementary school--had virtually disappeared from my life since having children.

This blog was my resolve to keep a journal, something I had tried eight thousand times since Jabber was born, with very sporadic results. I decided to write once a week about my kids and their shenanigans, my thoughts on being a parent in this crazy world, my process of becoming a writer/remaining a writer/succeeding as a writer, random bits of creative writing that I hoped might trickle out of me, and maintain some kind of regularity to the whole thing. All last spring and summer I had the most terrific routine, too. I had a gym membership, and I would go work out after the boys went to bed (David included, since he works suuuuuuper early in the morning and goes to bed, ideally, right around the time that Jabber and Monkey do), and while I jogged around the track or slogged along on the elliptical machine, I would think of things to write about. Then I came home and made them happen.

At the end of summer, my gym membership ran out. There was no money for a renewal, sadly, since we are all tightening our belts (haha, yeah, try loosening the drawstring on my sweatpants now!) and stuff since apparently the economoy is awful and times are tough. (This, so far, is not any different from my life before the economic crisis, but whatever. I have lost exactly zero dollars on the stock market. :P Still, it is nice that David and I are still both employed...knock on wood.) Oh, dear, I digress.

Since school started, I've been terrible about this blog, even though I'm doing a nice job at writing itself. The kids...what could I write about them? I feel like I barely see them, to be honest.

The holidays themselves are always sort of an invitation for my soul to freak out. We start with "Deer Camp," the three weekends in November that we all go to the in-laws' so David can hunt. We have a great time, although I think my children have just about worn out their welcome after two weekends. They are certainly energetic, to say the least. That's three weekends in a row that I don't get laundry done, groceries shopped, toys picked up, whatever needs to be done. Then we have Thanksgiving, a family get-together the weekend after that, and wow! That brings us to the boys' birthdays. Wow, it's so nice to have their birthdays only one day away from each other. And just two weeks from Christmas!

*Elissa dies of overwhelmedness*

I've done my complaining about all of this...to anyone who will listen, honestly. But I haven't really come to terms with exactly how lame of a person I really feel at the moment. My mom, trying to reassure me over the telephone, said something like, "Well, you know, you need to let things slide. Who cares if the house doesn't get dusted today."

Uh, Mom? I don't think it's been dusted since 2005. That's the least of my worries.

There are so many things I should be getting done at any given time; I get lost in all the little details. I should be doing a craft project with my children to make little gifts so that they can give something nice to everyone in the family. Instead, I can't even manage to find time to give Jabber a haircut and search through the winter gear in the basement to find Monkey some boots before there's actually snow on the ground. I should be baking cookies with them, writing out greeting cards, shopping for Santa, and I dunno...buying a turkey for Thanksgiving, since I am pretty sure we somehow agreed to having the in-laws over here for Turkey Day? I can't even manage to get the checkbook balanced or buy toothpaste for the baby or change all my clocks over from daylight savings time.

So I'm lame. And my blog is lame. And my house is messy. And my bedroom smells like sick baby. And I haven't said even a little hello to any of my friends in over a month. (Hello, friends! I really do love you, honest!) And...I complain too much. I promise, the next entry will be either witty or endearing or, at the very least, mildly interesting. :)

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Election Thoughts

As it looks like Senator Barack Obama will be our next president, I thought I'd share a conversation Jabberwock and I had earlier this evening while watching the votes come in.

Jabber: Wooo! Barack Obama!

Me: So if you were voting, who would you vote for?

J: Barack Obama!!!

Me: Why do you like him?

J: Because...he has a good name. He also just seems like a good guy. AND I like the way he looks.

Me: What do you like about the way he looks?

J: I like it that he has a black face. Isn't that just really interesting that some people have black faces and some people have white faces? (this is the first time I have heard him say a single thing about race, btw)

Me: You would like to see a black man become president.

J: Yes.

Me: Well, it's not really a good enough reason to vote for him, just because you like the color of his face, though, right?

J: Well, I also don't really agree with what John McCain stands on.

Me: What he stands on?

J: Yeah. Like, when he stands on a rock overlooking the river. That's like...weird. And he says he won't fall, but I don't know. He's awful old.


Monday, November 3, 2008


Our seventh wedding anniversary was on Saturday, so instead of being the kind of parents who sew homemade costumes and make Halloween cupcakes (thanks, M! we'll enjoy our party-in-a-box in January or so!) and take the children out trick-or-treating and hand out intricate little baggies full of special treats, we were the kind of parents who drop their children off at Grammy and Papa's house so we could go out.

And we did go out, something we haven't done in years and years. We dressed up in loosely organized costumes (I was the light; David was the dark), went to a bar, paid an enormous cover charge to listen to several bands play, even danced a little. Then, suddenly, in the middle of this slightly annoying band playing, the power went out. We were plunged into darkness. A while later, when it became apparent that the lights were out for real, we got a refund for the cover charge and continued on, settling for a while at a slightly excitement-challenged venue on the other side of the street.

This evening, we decided to look at some photos that David and I had taken with our webcam as we were getting dressed up. Jabber looked over my shoulder.

J: Ooh, Mama, is that a picture of you when you were...when you were a grown up?
Me: Yes, that is a picture of me taken just the other night, on Halloween, when you were at Grammy's house.
J: So. You just dressed up like yourself, then?
Me: No. See, I'm wearing a rainbow. I was the spectrum, like all the colors of light.
David: Mama went as light, and I went as dark.
(a bit of a pause)
J: You went as Dark? Dark what?
D: Just Dark. Like Darkness.
(longer pause)
J: Not much of a costume, really.
D: What? Just because you're scared of the dark, you don't think it's a good costume?
J: No.

(several minutes and conversations later, we are now discussing the power outage, which was caused by an exploding transformer several blocks from where we were)

D: So that transformer blowing up was really something. I guess there were pieces of sidewalk raining down and stuff.
J: A TRANSFORMER? (envisions exploding robots-that-turn-into-vehicles)
D: Well, yeah, but like an electrical transformer. It made the power go out, and all the lights went out. Mama and I were listening to a band play, but they had to stop because there was no more electricity.
J: And did they get mad at you for coming?
D: ...
J: (as though it is excruciatingly obvious) Because you were dressed up as DARKNESS???