Sunday, December 30, 2007

On Aging

Nana and her twin sister were born four days after Christmas. Most years we head to Pennsylvania a few days after Christmas so that the twins can celebrate their special day together. This year was no exception. The twins turned 71, and both are in good health, for which we are thankful.

Unfortunately my 87-year-old Aunt Ruth, who had to go into a nursing home this fall because one of my other aunts could no longer care for her, is rapidly deteriorating and likely will die in the next month. She has pulmonary fibrosis and has to use oxygen to breathe. She sometimes sleeps through several days and can become confused when she is awake. We tried to visit her during our trip, but we were unable to wake her (we and the staff tried for about 30 minutes). I regret taking the girls to the nursing home. They both were deeply shocked at how small and frail their aunt looks, and Tootle in particular clung to me and kept asking for reassurance that I won't look that old and frail anytime soon. I took the girls because my aunt has recently talked about them a lot, and I thought a visit from them would cheer her up. I too am haunted by my aunt's condition (last night I lay awake worrying that she will starve to death if she sleeps for increasingly long periods; she asked for no feeding treatments, etc.) and I'm so sorry that I didn't let the girls' last memory of their aunt be one of her sitting in a chair in her home in September. I just pray that she will be pain free and at peace when she dies. My mom and I will probably try to visit again in a week or two, but I'll leave the girls with other relatives.

Friday, December 28, 2007

Rock On

The girls both got learn to play electric guitars for Christmas. The competing sounds can be a bit grating at times, but they're having a blast.

Monday, December 24, 2007

Holiday Quiz

A few years ago I replaced the annual holiday letter with a more light-hearted holiday quiz. Here is the 2007 edition:

1. Doodle loves to have jam sessions where she accompanies a CD on her flute. Her favorite to get down to is:
A. Mozart
B. Twelve Girl Band
C. High School Musical 2
D. Carrie Underwood

2. Tootle broke her right wrist in two places and had a cast for five weeks this fall. Her motto during this time was:
A. Have Sharpie, Please Sign
B. So Glad I’m a Leftie
C. What Do You Mean No Monkey Bars?
D. All of the above

3. Tootle loves kindergarten. Her favorite school activity is:
A. Computer station (even if she can’t log on to Webkinz)
B. Recess (even if she can’t swing on the monkey bars)
C. Reading
D. All of the above

4. Doodle, now a 4th grader, played on a soccer team this fall for the first time since she was 4. The Dynamites were division champions, and Doodle can’t wait to play again in the spring. The teammates try every position and Doodle’s favorite was
A. Goalie (nobody scored against her)
B. Defender (it’s hard to get past her)
C. Midfielder (she assisted in a goal)
D. All of the above

5. Donna played in the end of season parent-Dynamites game even though she had never played soccer before. She played defender and:
A. Had some nice passes to teammates
B. Kicked the ball straight into the stomach of a 6 year old opponent
C. Fell after kicking the ball, but only once
D. All of the above

6. Nana has much more free time now that Tootle is in kindergarten. She fills her time:
A. Reading
B. Shopping
C. Cleaning and cooking and making the family’s life much easier
D. Volunteering at school
E. All of the above

7. Tootle loves soccer and ice skating. Tootle wants to learn how to spin on the ice but right now she is learning
A. Snowplow stops
B. Crossovers
C. Both A & B

8. Doodle had a poem published in a coffeetable book about adoption from China. Her poem is titled:
A. Ode to a Ladybug
B. My Sister
C. Stop Copying Me

Answers: C, D, D, D, D, E, C, B

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Conversations with Tootle: Saturday Edition

Today Tootle said, "Mommy, write this down. I want to be an elf when I grow up."

"An elf? Why do you want to be an elf?" I asked.

"Because I'd get to be with Santa," Tootle replied.

When we went skating this morning, also on the ice was one of Tootle's best friends, who was afraid to let go of her parents' hands so she could learn to skate on her own. Tootle joined in the fun, continually telling her friend to "step, step, glide." Eventually Tootle came over to me and said, "I've been thinking. E. really should take lessons." I advised her to tell her friend because I knew that her parents are trying to convince her to take lessons since everyone else in the family loves to skate. Tootle thought about that for a nanosecond and then said, "No, I can't. She wouldn't want to be my friend anymore." E.'s mom later confirmed Tootle's assessment.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Nine Years Ago

Nine years ago today, Doodle and I became a family. In many ways Doodle hasn't changed much in 9 years:
  • In China Doodle would pat the crib bumpers, vigorously shake her head, and tug at her ears to keep from falling asleep. Her techniques have become more sophisticated, but she still doesn't like to sleep and requires less sleep than the average kid her age.
  • Seven month old Doodle kicked her legs in excitement when we went shopping in Guangzhou. She still loves to shop and is a savvy consumer. She only buys sale items.
  • Baby Doodle loved to cuddle and give awesome sloppy wet kisses. Fortunately the kisses are no longer sloppy, but Doodle continues to like to cuddle occasionally. I'm savoring this now because I know it won't last much longer.
  • Baby Doodle loved music and could sing 2-3 word phrases before she could say them. Today she sings in the church choir and plays piano and flute.

The cheeks are much thinner now and the curls are gone, but Doodle remains an exceptionally beautiful girl, both inside and out. This is the message that I posted on the CCAI yahoo list in celebration of our one year anniversary in 1999 (gotta love the archives):

One year ago today, Long Fuzhong came into my life, 12 hours after arriving in Guangzhou with 38 other expectant CCAI families. We all had a single goal—to bring our daughters home for Christmas. Within several hours of arriving in China, we were on the ground at the new Fuzhou airport, where we were met by our guides. As word spread that the airport had Western toilets, we all headed off for a visit to the restroom before collecting our luggage and starting on our 45 minute trip to the Lakeside Hotel. While in the bathroom, someone breathlessly reported that we would get the babies that night. The excitement level in the small space rose tremendously and the story was confirmed by Mr. Gu while we waited for the luggage.

Around dinnertime, the crib arrived and my impatience level grew by the minute as I paced my room, unpacked, and arranged the baby supplies. A short while later I poked my head out of my door when I heard noise. The babies from Changting had arrived and they were being introduced to their new families outside of Mr. Gu's room, only a few doors down from my room. I watched with awe and a bit of impatience as the babies were placed in their parents' arms. I remember Brynne wailing as she met Debbie (and how quickly they later bonded), which led to tears from each subsequent baby. The families with babies from Changting received bean curd as a gift from the orphanage and I recall thinking, “Am I really going to have to carry bean curd around in my suitcase?” After the last child was introduced to her parents, I went back to my room to wait some more. About an hour later, mostly spent waiting in my doorway, I was rewarded with the sight I had been waiting for—the group of nine children from Longyan parading down the hall, four on foot (two rather unsteady) and the other five being carried by nannies. I quickly spotted my curly haired, chubby cheeked daughter and began to follow the parade. Mr. Gu sent me, and the other anxious parents away, but only for a moment. When I returned, the children were being photographed together in Mr. Gu’s room. As they began to line up in the room to be presented to us, Doodle was at the front of the line, red faced and sobbing uncontrollably (and immortalized on videotape). It took all of my willpower to stop myself from grabbing her at that moment to comfort her.Fortunately, by the time we met about five to ten minutes later, she was composed and simply stared into my face as I first held her. Mr. Gu presented me with formula and cereal from CCAI and a precious gift from the nannies of photos of Longyan and the orphanage. It was over too quickly and I didn’t have enough hands to carry it all as well as Doodle. I was instructed to go directly back to my room with no care and feeding instructions. Questions would be answered the next day. Doodle and I then spent an hour getting to know each other and removing her six shirts. The shirt removal process was painfully slow since she cried every time I removed a piece of clothing and I then had to spend time comforting her before moving on to the next layer. Once Doodle was finally in her blanket sleeper, she drank about half a bottle and then conked out. I wanted to rouse her so we could continue to get acquainted, but I let her sleep and prepared for bed myself.

Tonight 19 month old Doodle laughed and chattered as I pulled her shirt over her head. As I put on her pajamas, she began to sing the part of “Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star” she learned today: “Up above the da da da.” The curls are gone (sniff) and the cheeks are much slimmer, and my baby is becoming a little girl. When she says “happy” or “mama home,” my heart bursts with joy. I am truly blessed.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Family Recipes

I'm getting little sleep in recent days as I try to finish a Shutterfly book of my grandmother's recipes to give to my mom and her twin sister as Christmas gifts. Their birthday is four days after Christmas, so if I miss one deadline, I should hit the other one. The book includes many family favorites, but I'm most pleased with the inclusion of a recipe that I've never made (although I remember that my grandfather made it when I was young). The special recipe: Dandelion Wine.

According to the recipe, you soak 6 quarts dandelion flowers in 4 quarts of cold water for 3 days and 3 nights.Strain through cloth and add to the liquid 4 pounds of white sugar, 2 slices of lemon, and 2 tablespoons of yeast. Let stand for 4 days and 4 nights. Strain again, then bottle for use.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007


As the girls grow older, some of our holiday traditions may be ending in the next year or two. I don't know how much longer Doodle will sit on Santa's lap; she does it for her sister's sake. Another tradition that likely will end in the next year or two is our annual outing to a walk through holiday lights display with our China Moms group. Saturday night's outing included 9 kids, ranging in age from 10 to 5. Several of our regulars couldn't make it this year. The 10 year old (who is almost as tall as I am) and an 8 year old repeatedly declared that they were bored. Oddly, the three 9 year olds seemed to have a fabulous time, perhaps because they were spending more time chatting than looking at the lights. Tootle, the youngest in the group, didn't want to leave McDonald's, where we all grabbed dinner after seeing the lights, because she had just made a "new best friend." Our China Moms group formed 10 years ago, when some of us were waiting for our referrals. We've had fairly regular playdates ever since. When Doodle was young, these girls were her best friends (one stayed with us while her mom was in China for her second daughter, and several have vacationed with us). The girls all go to different schools and have diffrent interests, so they don't consider these friends to be their very best friends anymore (Tootle's overstatement notwithstanding), but the bonds are still strong. We moms agreed on Saturday that we'll have to come up with some activities that will keep the older kids amused. We've made tentative plans to go ice skating on Disco Night. Whatever we end up doing, I'm committed to staying connected with these friends as Doodle, and later Tootle, make their way through the tween and teen years. These friends understand what it's like to be adopted by/live with a single parent and be removed from your birth culture. I always tell the girls that they can tell me anything, but if they ever feel that they can't because it would hurt me, I hope that they will have these friends who understand them and can listen.

On Poetry and Book Reports

The 3rd and 4th graders at Doodle's school give monthly oral presentations, alternating between giving book reports and reciting memorized poetry. The teachers are kind enough to make this chaotic/short month a poetry one, so next week Doodle will be presenting "Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening" by Robert Frost. Last night we went on You Tube and found an audio recording of Robert Frost reading the poem. This simple but haunting poem has always been one of my favorites.

Doodle literally "rocked" her book report presentation last month, earning an A+ (one of only two in her class) for her nonfiction report on rocks and gems. January's book report is an autobiography. At last report, Doodle is planning to start reading Jane Goodall's My Life with the Chimpanzees over the holiday break. I'm glad Doodle's school puts emphasis on oral presentations at an early age. She'll be thankful for all the practice when she's out in the business world.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Proud Mommy Moment

Tootle's marvelous kindergarten class welcomed a new student a few weeks ago, one who has introduced chaos to the classroom. The new boy is autistic and has been placed in Tootle's class full time without his individualized education plan being worked out. For the first few weeks, until parents starting calling the principal and the district administration, the classroom teacher had no additional assistance, even though A would dart out of the classroom, stick his hands in paint, etc. Now there is a full-time paraeducator for A, so there are far fewer classroom disruptions. Most of the kids in the class have reacted by complaining about, laughing at, or ignoring A. Tootle, however, has truly welcomed him and encourages him to participate. Both the teacher and volunteering parents have reported that Tootle is by far the most accepting child of A. Tootle had a mildly autistic boy in her pre-K class, which may have paved the way for her ability to be encouraging and helpful. I hope the school provides A with the resources that he needs and that A thrives in his new school. I think all the kids can learn some valuable lessons from having him in their class; Tootle appears to be well on her way to absorbing some important life lessons.

Saturday, December 8, 2007


I should be getting some items checked off my holiday "to do" list, but instead I'm amusing myself by elfing the girls:

Friday, December 7, 2007

Dashing Through the Parking Lot

A horse-driven carriage ride, hot cider, cookies, goodie bags with candy and rubber duckies, balloons, and caroling, all courtesy of a shopping center. The setting for the carriage ride, a parking lot, was less than scenic, but it was still a lot of fun.

Thursday, December 6, 2007

Black and White World

Last night Doodle and I spent some time looking through her Junior Girl Scouts badge book, planning which badges she will work on over the next few months. I mentioned that some of the badges are the same ones that I earned at her age and that I still have my sash/badges packed away in a box somewhere. Doodle then asked, "Are your badges black and white?" No, sweetie, some of the earliest pictures of your mom may be in black and white, but we did have color in our world. Too funny.

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

First Snow of the Season

We had just enough snow to make a petite snowman and sled down the hill up the street. We packed a lot of fun into the short period between my arrival home from work and dinnertime.

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Fa la la la la

Tis the season. My shopping is nearly done, but we've done very little decorating. On Saturday morning I scrambled to locate our two advent calendars, our advent wreath, our advent candle, and of course the advent chocolate. Advent is the period of expectant waiting and preparation for the Christmas season, but this year it simply seems to be showing how very unprepared I am. I may have an advent wreath but there are no candles for it, so week 1 of advent went by without lighting the first candle. One nativity is in place, but I haven't displayed the bigger one yet, and I'm not sure where the Playmobil one is. Tootle was thrilled that I found this Playmobil house, and she has been playing with it daily. I'm stressing out that our cards haven't arrived yet; I want to get them in the mail soon. At least the girls are excited about the countdown to Christmas. They often consume their chocolate before breakfast each day! Perhaps I need to take a deep breath and start to see the season through their eyes. I think the view is a lot better from there.

Monday, December 3, 2007


We went to a local high school musical production on Sunday. As the actors sang their final lines, Tootle leaned over and whispered, "Is this the end, mommy? Is this the happily ever after?"

As we watched the show (which was really impressive for a high school production), I realized that Doodle will be a student at this school in just five years. She informed me afterwards that she'll be in the orchestra pit instead of on stage.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

FFFF: Hair

Both of my girls have beautiful hair that grows quickly. When I met Doodle, her hair was a bit curly and on humid days she had ringlets. Wasn't she a gorgeous baby? Sadly, as her hair grew and was cut, the curls disappeared. In 2005, a few months before traveling to bring Tootle home, Doodle cut off 11 inches to donate to Locks of Love. Today, her hair is once again quite long.
Tootle came to me with elaborately done braids. She often asks for her hair to be braided (she calls it twist) but I only make two, not 10 or so on each side. Her preferred hairstyle today is a small tail to the side to keep her hair out of her eyes.
To see other cute kids and their hairstyles, go here.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Bizarre Bedtime Conversations: The Finger and Taxadermy

Something was in the air tonight. As Tootle and I snuggled in bed, Tootle said, "Doodle says that if I put out just my middle finger it means a bad word. What word does it mean? Is it hate? Is it stupid?"

An hour later as Opal the cat helped to tuck in Doodle, Doodle stroked her beloved cat and asked: "What are we going to do with Opal's fur?" I looked puzzled, so Doodle added, "You know when she dies." It appears that Doodle thinks we should have the cat stuffed, a la Sorrow, the stuffed dog that floats in John Irving's The Hotel New Hampshire. We talked about burial and cremation but Doodle is still in favor of taxidermy. I just did a google search, and it appears that you can freeze dry your dead pet. I hope that Opal is with us for years to come and that Doodle doesn't revisit this topic for some time. Death was probably on Doodle's mind because we learned this afternoon that our former pastor just died, only a few weeks after being diagnosed with pancreatic cancer and four months after leaving our church for a new assignment. He was in his 50s. I hugged the girls extra tight tonight (despite our rather unusual conversations).

On Immigration and Kids and Languages and Commitments

Over the weekend Tootle and I spent quality time at the urgent care center so that we could banish her sinus infection with better antibiotics. As Tootle leaned against me and diligently worked on her Hidden Pictures book, I took note when an Asian girl of about six approached the front desk staff and politely inquired about when her family would be seen. (This place has appointments but an emergency had pushed those times back by 45 minutes or so.) Later when the family's name was called, her father went up to the desk with her. He spoke in his native language and the daughter translated. She was so articulate and poised and confident for one so young. I couldn't imagine one of my girls assuming that role at such a young age. But then I thought: if we had moved to China when I adopted Tootle at age 3, she likely would have retained her Chinese and would have been outgoing enough to assume this role by age 4-5, knowing that I still would have been hopelessly fumbling to communicate (linguistics is not my forte). I know that when young children take on what are typically adult/responsible roles, it is usually out of necessity and they lose a bit of the joy and carefree nature of childhood, but on this day I glimpsed what can be gained: remarkable confidence and poise.

I wish Tootle had been willing to continue to speak Chinese when she came home but she was determined to make English her only language. I have a neighbor who is fluent in Mandarin and a Chinese coworker who were lined up and ready to work with her to retain at least some of her Mandarin but she refused to listen to them or respond when they spoke to her. She is an obstinate child. Today she only uses one Chinese phrase: "bu yao." She says this when she is finished with her dinner without cleaning off her plate or if she tries something and doesn't like it. Doodle, adopted at 7 months, has a larger Chinese vocabulary than Tootle. More than two years later, there is some hope, however. Tootle has expressed interest in taking the once a week Chinese class offered at her school starting in January. I think she'll pick it up easily and the tones will come naturally, so I have my fingers crossed that we'll be turning in the registration form. I don't believe in forcing my kids to do things that they don't want to do (I may push a bit but I don't bulldoze) so Tootle will have to agree to the class. Conversely, once committed she will attend until the end of the year whether she likes it or not. I don't allow the girls to bail out of things that they've committed to do.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Holiday Card Bloopers

We headed to the mall today for a visit and picture with Santa. As I often do, I brought along my camera and used Santa's set as the backdrop for our holiday card photos. I got enough good shots to create a card with three photos, but I also managed to capture some rather unattractive looks...

Did the girl get any sleep last night, and what about Santa?

Put that camera down right now or else I'm going to blow.

On the Ice

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Cast Off

When the nurse sawed off Tootle's cast this afternoon, I was struck by how fragile and small her arm looks. She's still like an injured baby bird. She was very cautious about using her right arm all night although she says that it doesn't hurt at all when she does use it. By Thursday she likely will throw caution to the wind and it will be like her broken wrist never happened. The doctor said that the wrist is fully healed and only gave her one restriction: no monkey bars for another month. She can go ice skating so we likely will head to a rink this weekend. I ordered ice skates for her tonight from LL Bean. They are supposed to be more comfortable than regular skates and are described as being like sneakers. They have to be better than the rental skates, and how can we go wrong with pink.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Two Hershey Bars

We're considering an excursion to Hersheypark's Christmas Candylane when we're in Pennsylvania later this week visiting relatives. The possibility led two excited girls to ask me to measure them. In our household height is measured according to Hersheypark's candy bar coded ride restriction guidelines. This summer Tootle was a Reeses (able to ride the Comet wooden rollercoaster) and Doodle a Hershey bar (cleared for various steel rollercoasters and bumper cars). Tootle desperately wants to be a Hershey Bar and Doodle a Twizzler (cleared for the kind of rollercoasters that I probably won't let her ride). As of this morning, Tootle stands at 48 inches in her shoes, officially a Hershey bar. Doodle, at 53 inches, is still an inch shy of her goal. She should become a Twizzler in time for next summer's trip to Hersheypark. Very few of the thrilling rides are open in the winter (the rollercoasters can't run in the cold weather) so falling short shouldn't matter too much. Doodle, who didn't become a Hershey bar until she was 7, is amazed that Tootle has reached this milestone at age 5. My tall girl is likely to tower over her older sister in a few short years.


Saturday, November 17, 2007

FFFF: Dressing for the Weather

There's a chill in the air and a bit of a breeze so we donned fleece jackets and sweatshirts to rake leaves this afternoon. The poem is one that Doodle recited for a poetry presentation last year. To see other adorable kids dressed for the weather where they live click here.

Friday, November 16, 2007

Recalls and Holiday Shopping

This morning I got an e-mail from Toys R Us assuring me of their "commitment to safety." The company has implemented more product testing, and is demanding that their manufacturers do the same. Somehow I still feel a bit uneasy, perhaps because I have Aqua Dots sitting on a closet shelf waiting to be returned to Spin Master in a prepaid envelope. While I'm waiting for this envelope to arrive, I go back and forth about whether I am going to trust the replacement product that they send. I've already decided not to buy Tootle any Dora the Explorer toys for Christmas because I think that she will soon outgrow Dora, and why take a chance. Under the tree on Christmas morning, Tootle will find a Polly Pocket cruise ship (there are no magnets), a V-tech Nitro notebook, a few puzzles and games, and the American Girl Ivy doll. Doodle no longer plays with the types of things that have been recalled. She will get the Ivy doll, a rock tumbler, some games, and a few books. Most of these items have already been purchased online or in stores, so I'll be able to call this holiday shopping season a wrap soon. Time to move on to the holiday card.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Dynamites, 3, Parents, 2

I played in my first soccer game ever today, and I had fun and avoided injury. I'm actually looking forward to the rematch at the end of the spring season. When I told the girls that there were no soccer leagues when and where I grew up, they looked at me incredulously. Girls at the time could choose field hockey, basketball, or softball. I didn't excel at any of them. Based on today's performance, I might have been better at soccer. Or perhaps my performance was boosted by five minutes of pregame instruction from Doodle. I hope I'm not sore in the morning.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

The Little Goalie That Could

Until today Doodle had played every position in her first soccer season except goalie. Today she played goalie in the first half and revealed to everyone that she may be small but she is mighty. The Dynamites led 1-0 at the half (in the bottom right photo Coach Mike is giving Doodle a high five for her efforts). Unfortunately the team lost their lead in the second half and didn't have time to come back, so they lost their last game of the season. The teammates weren't down for long because they found out that they won their division and got trophies. I'm proud of Doodle for how hard she played this fall; she's looking forward to the spring. Tomorrow: the dreaded parent/girl game.

Friday, November 9, 2007

Friday Funk

I'm feeling sorry for myself tonight for several reasons:

  • In working with a colleague on a book that we are coediting, I am feeling jealous of her life. She has homes in Manhattan and the Jersey shore, a fulfilling career, and adult kids who are out doing good in the world. I don't want the girls to leave the nest yet (and maybe never), and my friend is a bit older than me, but I do want her life in 10-15 years.
  • Doodle has a more exciting social life than I do. Tonight she went to dinner at a friend's house and then to see The Bee Movie with the friend's family. Tootle and I stopped at McDonald's for dinner and then went to the grocery store to pick up snacks for tomorrow morning's soccer game in 40 degree weather.
  • I have to put away/recycle the girls' spring/summer clothes and organize the piled up fall/winter stuff in drawers. I loathe this job. I think I'll make Doodle my apprentice so she can be responsible for her own stuff in the spring.
  • I am facing certain humiliation on Sunday. Doodle's soccer team caps off their season with a girls vs. parents game. I've never played soccer in my life, but my precious daughter expects me to do it. One friend is planning to send in her teenage son as her substitute. I can't copy her idea because even though Tootle would definitely play better than I can, she's on the injured list for another week. Doesn't Doodle realize that I'm certain to embarrass her?

Time to raid the Halloween candy stash.

Thursday, November 8, 2007

Elephants, I Think

In advising someone about Disney World highlights for a two-year-old, I was reminded of one of my favorite Doodle stories. In October 2000, when Doodle was 2, we went to Disney World as part of a giant CCAI reunion. We had a blast catching up with our travel group and taking advantage of all the special character meet and greets CCAI arranged (Doodle loved hugging the characters and even let the Genie from Aladdin hold her). Doodle's favorite ride, and she loved them all, was It's a Small World, AKA "the boat ride" in two-year-old Doodle speak.

A few days after coming home, I told her that we were going to vote in the presidential election that day and that we might have to stand in line. The following exchange occurred:

Doodle: Boat ride? (said the veteran of Magic Kingdom lines)

Me: No, we're not going back to Disney World today (as that infernal song started to play in my head yet again). But there are elephants and donkeys.

Doodle: Elephants, I think.

My little prognosticator accurately forecast the election results.

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Two More Weeks

Poor Tootle. She woke up this morning looking flushed and declaring that she didn't feel well. My instant diagnosis was sinus infection, so I called the doctor's office for an appointment. Two hours later, the doctor confirmed my amateur diagnosis, and we headed to CVS to fill the prescription. After lunch at home I loaded her back in the car for an appointment with the orthopedist. She fell asleep on the way there and cried loudly as the nurse sawed off the cast. The doctor decided that we need to protect the wrist bones for a bit longer (probably a good call for a kid who loves the monkey bars) so she got a new cast and a promise that it will come off in two weeks. When we got home, Doodle and her friend raced to sign the new cast. This cast is thankfully blue, so it won't show the dirt nearly as much as the glow in the dark one. The new cast also stops below Tootle's elbow so she has more mobility. Tootle went to bed early. I hope she has a better day tomorrow.

Monday, November 5, 2007


At Tootle's school classes are awarded rainbows for good behavior at lunch, walking in the hallways, at music, art or PE class, etc. The class with the most rainbows at the end of the month gets a prize. Tootle and her classmates may be in their first year of school, but they keep close track of their rainbows and work hard to earn them. Over the weekend, the girls and I went out to dinner. Service was very slow, but the time went fairly quickly as we talked and played games. As we finally finished our meal, the patrons at two separate nearby tables complimented the girls on how well behaved they are. Tootle turned to me and said, "Mom, we just earned two rainbows!"

Sunday, November 4, 2007

The Ice Tour Cometh

Going to a Disney ice show is a lot like going to Disney World: the money is sucked out of your wallet, but everyone is thoroughly entertained. Tootle's glasses light up, and the hat was "free" with cotton candy. Doodle opted for a diary; she has already written a top secret entry and secured the diary's lock.

Saturday, November 3, 2007

On Art and Mothering

Tootle's inner artist has emerged in the past few months. I had no idea that she could draw such a good horse, and the sheep is pretty cute too. The donkey is a bit squished at the edge of the paper, and she didn't put much effort into the floating house. Tootle's kindergarten class is reading Margaret Wise Brown books right now, so she decided to illustrate The Big Red Barn. Doodle wrote the title and felt bad that she messed up on the "g" in "Big."
Doodle asked to keep the drawing and then proudly declared "Our Boo Boo is growing up." Sometimes Doodle thinks she is a coparent and other times she regresses to her sister's level.

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Trick or Treat

Best Costume of the Night

So Medusa, M&M, and a bee bump into a strolling toilet on Halloween night... Our neighborhood has lots and lots of young families, and we routinely get 130-150 trick or treaters. (Tootle is one of six kindergartners on our street, and there are six more on the next street over. Doodle is one of eight girls her age in the neighborhood.) We hit the high end of the trick or treater range tonight, actually running out of candy by 8:30: perfect weather and lots of fun as we saw lots of friends going from house to house. The best costume I saw tonight had a built in place to put the candy. Just open the toilet seat and deposit the candy. Very clever.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Where's George?

In removing a dollar bill from my pocket last night, I noticed some red text at the bottom of the bill. It reads "Track this bill at" I've heard of Where's George but had never received, or more accurately hadn't noticed if I received, a marked bill before. Doodle wanted to rush to the computer, but it was her bedtime and I put her off for a day. Tonight after Tootle went to bed and It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown ended, Doodle and I registered on the site and recorded our bill's information. Unfortunately we were the first to register this bill so it has only traveled six miles, but we quickly discovered that we could look at the travel routes of all the registered bills that passed through our zip code. We spent 30 minutes on the site, discovering bills that have gone coast to coast and one that has been to Aruba. I know that we will be going back again to check on our bill. We will also be examining our bills a bit closer. Doodle and I are still deciding where and on what we will use the bill. She wants me to take it on a business trip, but I don't have one scheduled for a while.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Playing by Ear

From the time that she started to play the piano, Doodle has shown some talent for playing by ear and for writing her own compositions. She also can take a simple tune and translate it to an instrument that she has never played before, like her friends' violas or cellos. But what she did last night left me awestruck. While listening to the High School Musical 2 CD, Doodle took out her flute, whispered "This one starts with F," and began to jam. In most parts of the two songs that she chose to accompany (You Are the Music in Me and What Time Is It?), she played all the same notes as those in the song. In other parts, she improvised, and it sounded terrific. The kid has only been playing flute for a month, about the same amount of time that I played the clarinet in fourth grade before giving up in frustration. I know Doodle won't be giving up, although it's likely that she will add other instruments to her arsenal. She already wants to learn guitar next summer. Play on, Doodle, play on.

Monday, October 22, 2007

Weekend Update

This weekend I realized that I can get a lot more accomplished when only one kid is home. Doodle spent the weekend camping with her Girl Scouts troop. Not only did Tootle and I decorate for Halloween, but we also cleaned the garage, decluttered the den, and shopped for winter clothes and part of Tootle's Halloween costume.

I probably posted my Friday photo challenge too quickly. On Sunday, after picking Doodle up in the boonies, we went to a nearly farm and took a hayride to pick our pumpkins. It was a glorious day: good company (one of Doodle's friends and her mom accompanied us), beautiful skies and scenery, and perfect weather. I love fall.

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Family FotoFun Friday Challenge: Fall Fun

Our fall fun is a bit tamer than usual this year. We won't be jumping in the hayloft, climbing on the bales of hay, and sliding down the giant hills because of Tootle's broken wrist. It's hard enough to keep her from reinjuring herself at home; the temptation to fly through the air would be too great at the pumpkin festival. Today Tootle enjoyed helping me to put out the Halloween decorations. She found a stash of plastic pumpkins that I wasn't planning to use and designed her own display. The pumpkins are in a "nest" so they won't blow away. If they do get carried away by a strong gust, I'll have to remind her of the conclusion to The Five Little Pumpkins: "Whoosh went the wind and out went the lights. And the five little pumpkins rolled out of sight."

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Glow in the Dark Cast

I need to figure out how to turn off my flash to capture the cast's glow. There are lots of hearts on this cast; must mean Tootle is well loved.

Miss Manners

Tootle has been a bit more subdued than usual since her accident; just last night her spark started to reignite. At dinner last night, Doodle pinpointed the biggest change in Tootle. As Doodle said, "She got manners." Tootle has always done a good job with her "pleases" and "thank yous" and "excuse mes" in public, but at home, I constantly have to remind her to ask nicely rather than in a bossy tone, especially at the dinner table. Since the injury, Tootle's demands have been voiced in a quiet, well mannered voice. I hope this change sticks.

When Tootle went to the orthopedist yesterday, she chose a glow in the dark cast, just the thing for Halloween. She's excited about having her classmates sign it today. I'll post a picture tonight.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Fractured Tootle Tale

Tootle got through her first day well with no complaints about pain. Two things have surprised me about Tootle's reaction to her injury. When we left the soccer field, Tootle pleaded to go home rather than to the hospital. She begged so much that I decided to call the urgent care facility to alert them that we were on the way there. They let me know that five x-rays were pending ahead of ours and that they wouldn't be able to see us for two hours, so I decided to go to the ER despite Tootle's protests. That move saved us several hours because the urgent care facility wasn't equipped to do sedation or the reduction procedure so we would have ended up at the ER anyway. While she was brave, Tootle whimpered throughout the ER visit that she wanted to go home. Tootle has handled her cleft palate surgery hospitalization and ear tube surgeries well, but clearly they have left a mark on her. She never protests visits to the doctor's office but she now seems to be terrified of hospitals. It will be interesting to see how she reacts the next time she needs ear tube surgery.

The other surprise is that Tootle doesn't like being in the spotlight despite her outgoing, exuberant personality. Tootle became upset at tonight's soccer practice as I answered lots of questions from parents and Doodle's teammates about her condition. Tootle had the same reaction earlier in the day as I talked with neighbors and even to friends on the phone. Even when the well wishes came from Doodle's friends, Tootle clammed up, and I had to answer for her. She doesn't want to go to school tomorrow because she knows that her classmates and friends in other classes will want to know what happened. I tell her that it's a good thing because it shows that people care about her, but I don't think I've convinced her.


Tootle's monkey bars/calluses dilemma has been solved. She won't be on the monkey bars for at least a month because she broke her wrist in two places on Saturday. While playing soccer on the sidelines during Doodle's game, Tootle fell as she chased the ball up a hill. In putting her hand out to stop her fall, she managed to break two bones. I was chatting with two of the other moms and watching the game, so I only saw the aftermath: Tootle lying on her stomach and crying harder than I've ever heard her cry. I scooped her up, got her to tell me where it hurt, assessed the situation with a soccer mom/nurse, and quickly headed to the emergency room, located about 5 minutes away. We spent five hours at the emergency room, mainly because they wanted her stomach to empty before putting her under sedation to reset the bone. Fortunately the hospital has a pediatric ER wing, so the experience was as pleasant as it could be and a Dora DVD distracted Tootle for at least an hour or so. The arm is in a splint and will be put in a cast as early as Tuesday. They don't cast it right away because it will be swollen for the next few days.

Doodle was already scheduled to go home with one of her teammates for a playdate so she arrived home shortly after we did, much more concerned about her sister than her team's first loss. Tootle knew that Doodle would want to mother her and that a hug might hurt, so she greeted Doodle with "Don't hug me." That didn't stop Doodle from fawning over her sister until she went to bed about 30 minutes later. I woke Tootle at 2 a.m. for more Ibuprofen and icing and haven't been able to get back to sleep. Tootle is sleeping comfortably and it's probably time for me to try again.

Friday, October 12, 2007

Family FotoFun Friday Challenge: Sweet Tooth

Tootle is an ice cream fiend. She would eat it three times a day if I let her, and she has been known to ask for it for breakfast. Doodle prefers gummy candies and popcorn, the things that she can't have while she's in braces. They both like chocolate but not quite as much as I do. To see other adorable kids with sweet teeth, go here.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Spelling Bee

Tootle has caught the reading bug and is very interested in learning to read. Unlike Doodle, who entered kindergarten as a reader, Tootle has been disinterested until now. She particularly loves learning new sight words, and this morning she decided to quiz me:

Tootle: What does s-e-e spell?

Me: See.

Tootle: Very good, mommy! How about l-i-k-e?

Me: Like.

Tootle: That's right! How about y-o-u?

Me: You. You've learned a lot of sight words in the last few weeks. I'm proud of you.

Tootle beamed and then went off to brush her teeth. She's going to be a bee for Halloween. Perhaps she'll be a spelling bee.

Sunday, October 7, 2007


Everyone is in bed, getting a good night's sleep in anticipation of another week of school. Tootle's kindergarten teacher recently reported that she will start giving the kids homework this week. Tootle can finally stop complaining about the lack of homework (she doesn't know what she wishes for). The teacher promises that the work will seldom be worksheets and is really designed to get the class used to homework so that they are prepared for first grade. It is supposed to take about 10 minutes a night to complete.

Doodle doesn't complain about homework too much, but both she and I wish that there wasn't quite so much of it in fourth grade. She seems to be spending about 90 minutes a night on homework, not because she is struggling, but because of the volume of the work. Here is her typical week:

Monday: piano lesson, math homework, study for spelling quiz, science or social studies homework, read for 15 minutes, write in reading journal (the assignment is to write at least three sentences about what they read but Doodle usually writes about a page), practice flute

Tuesday: Girl Scouts, math homework, science or social studies homework, read for 15 minutes, write in reading journal, practice piano and flute

Wednesday: soccer practice, math homework, come up with five spelling words to add to the standard list of 12 words for the class, science or social studies homework, read for 15 minutes, write in reading journal, practice piano and flute

Thursday: playdate, math homework, write sentences for each of the spelling words, study for science quiz, read for 15 minutes, write in reading journal, practice piano and flute

Friday: playdate, practice piano and flute

Saturday: soccer game, work on monthly poetry presentation or book report, practice piano and flute

Sunday: church, soccer practice, practice piano and flute

I'd like Doodle to take yoga to help her deal with stress but ironically there just isn't time. Maybe when soccer is over, although thus far she is handling the stress of her workload better than she did last year. She loves music and writing so at least some of the work is enjoyable, and the science curriculum this year is a lot of fun. If she could get over her aversion to math (one that I share, unfortunately), she probably wouldn't need yoga.

Thursday, October 4, 2007

Down by the Bay

I can't get that kid's song out of my head after spending yesterday with Doodle and her classmates on a glorious all-day (7 a.m. to 5 p.m.) field trip to the Chesapeake Bay. The kids spent part of the day at an archaeological museum and the rest of their time seining in the bay (fishing in waders with a big net) and collecting fossilized shells and shark teeth. I didn't even need to take Tylenol because I did not get a spot on the buses so I rode in a car with three other parents. Those bus rides are noisy and don't involve a stop at Starbucks.

Sunday, September 30, 2007

Playtime Comp

Tootle loves swinging on the monkey bars. She must spend most of recess on the monkey bars and she has been obsessed with mastering the tougher bars on the new playground equipment (check, accomplished last week). Her obsession has now come with a price: calluses. She spent the weekend debating whether the bothersome calluses are worth it or whether she should give up the beloved bars. The decision appears to have been made for her, at least temporarily: several of the calluses have opened up and it is now too painful to grip the bars, at least for a few days. I feel bad for her so she may get an extra treat as a sort of workers' comp for the playground set.

Friday, September 28, 2007

Breakfast of Champions

Ever since school started, more than a month ago already, Tootle has consistently wanted the same breakfast: french toast. Her love affair with french toast began less than a week before school started; before then she always turned up her nose at it. While french toast takes a bit more effort than I want to spend on breakfast on a weekday, I'm happy that she is eating well (she always cleans her plate), especially since she finds it a challenge to finish her lunch in the time allowed.

Tootle's penchant for french toast may be beginning to fade a bit. This week she requested soup one morning and hard boiled eggs another day; today it was back to french toast. On the day that she had hard boiled eggs, Tootle's kindergarten teacher surveyed the class about what they had for breakfast (they are doing a social studies unit on grocery stores). Tootle was the only one who had eggs. The most popular choices were cereal, followed by waffles, Tootle reported. One girl had oatmeal, which led Tootle to ask to have it someday soon. Perhaps oatmeal will become the next breakfast obsession.

I'm glad Doodle hasn't been surveyed. She is an unconventional breakfast eater. This week she has had pizza, ramen noodles, chicken nuggets, fries, and today cereal. She doesn't love breakfast foods so she frequently has dinner for breakfast.

Sunday, September 23, 2007