Friday, May 30, 2008

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Tootle and Her Turtle (FFFF)

Meet Fluffster.

Tootle made him at a friend's Build a Bear birthday party on Monday. Since then Tootle and Fluffster have been virtually inseparable.

Fluffster even goes on bike rides with us. Good thing that he comes with his own shell/bike helmet. To see other cute kids' favorite toys, go here.

Word Cloud

I tried this after seeing it here. Go here to make one for your blog.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Simply Sad

I'm having a hard time coping with several recent tragedies that have touched me deeply and left me feeling like I'm not able to do nearly enough to help:
  • My next door neighbor's five month old son has needed two heart surgeries since his birth and has spent about half of his life so far in a hospital. Last week it looked like he would need an immediate heart transplant but he seems to have turned around and should be home within two weeks (he's at a hospital several hours from home). Still I think the road ahead will not be an easy one. We've helped this family by maintaining their yard, but it feels so inadequate.
  • Neither of my girls are from the region in China that has been rocked by the earthquake and aftershocks, but my heart aches for the countless families who have been left childless and the children who have been left without parents. Tootle has been moved by the media coverage and has agreed to ask for donations to Half the Sky's earthquake fund in lieu of presents at her upcoming birthday party. I wish we could go to China to help in the relief efforts.
  • Most mornings when I leave for work, the girls are also leaving with Nana to walk to Doodle's bus stop. I am always very cautious as I leave the driveway to make sure that Tootle is not behind my station wagon, but now I ensure that they have already headed down the street before I go and Maria Chapman's sweet face flashes before my eyes. I also make sure that I head in the opposite direction because if I drive the same route as the rest of the family, Tootle runs after the car and makes me very nervous. I am continuing to pray for the wonderful Chapman family, but again it feels inadequate.
Later this week we celebrate the third anniversary of Tootle joining our family, and next week is Tootle's sixth birthday, so I hope these joyous events will lift me out of my funk.

Monday, May 26, 2008

Bayside Again

Ever since Doodle failed to find a fossilized shark tooth on her field trip to the Chesapeake Bay last fall, she has been begging to go back to the bay ISO a few old teeth. The fossils are from the Miocene era and are millions of years old. They wash up on the beach from the Calvert Cliffs. In a little more than two hours, and with breaks for swimming, both girls hit pay dirt. Doodle found 74 teeth and Tootle found 52 (with my help). What a fun way to start the long weekend.


My girls love to hug each other, anytime, anywhere. Here they are in the Chesapeake Bay on Saturday. We went in search of fossilized shark teeth and without swimming suits because I thought the water would be too cold. Fortunately I had brought extra clothes so the girls swam fully clothed in the warmer than expected water. They had a blast. More photos to come. Click here to see other hugging kids.

Friday, May 23, 2008

View from a Tree

Tootle has mastered the art of climbing the kid friendly tree across the street from our house. All the neighborhood kids love to hang out there.

Mission Possible

The instrumental music teacher at Doodle's school is phenomenal. He molds the fourth graders into musicians in eight short months. The 100-member band and 50-member orchestra, made up of 4th to 6th graders, presented its spring concert this week, and they played well above the level of an elementary school band (in my totally biased opinion). I ordered a CD of the performance, so I'll try to post a snippet here when I get the CD. My favorite numbers were Mission Impossible and Rock and Roll Part 2, for which the kids donned shades. Bravo.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Dancing with Cinderella

This morning started out as a terrible, no good, rotten, horrible day, with Tootle waking up at 5 a.m. and being unwilling/unable to go back to sleep. When I got up at 6:30, I ordered her not to get out of bed and to sleep some more and then headed downstairs to feed the cats and do my other usual morning chores. Nana had turned on the Today show, and as I scurried around, I suddenly stopped as I heard that Steven Curtis Chapman's daughter Maria was killed yesterday when her brother accidentally ran her over in their driveway. What heart wrenching news. (Maria, 5, was one of three girls that the Chapman family adopted from China, and through the family's foundation they have done much good for China's orphans.) I immediately went upstairs, where I knew that Tootle likely wasn't sleeping. She was lying there with her eyes open, so I scooped her up, said I was sorry, and hugged her for a few minutes.

I'm treating this tragedy as a wake up call to spend more time playing with and appreciating my girls (there's always time for the work crises or cleaning or laundry after they go to bed at night); in other words to "dance with Cinderella" as Steven Chapman wrote and sings so beautifully:

She spins and she sways
To whatever song plays
Without a care in the world
And I'm sitting here wearing
The weight of the world on my shoulders

It's been a long day
And there's still work to do
She's pulling at me
Saying "Dad, I need you

There's a ball at the castle
And I've been invited
And I need to practice my dancing
Oh, please, Daddy, please?"

So I will dance with Cinderella
While she is here in my arms
'Cause I know something the prince never knew
Oh, I will dance with Cinderella
I don't want to miss even one song
'Cause all too soon the clock will strike midnight
And she'll be gone...

Tuesday, May 20, 2008


Doodle uses two phones to register her votes for David Archuleta as the next American Idol.

The soccer skills evaluation that would have prevented her from watching the show live was postponed due to standing water on the field.

Testing 1-2-3

Doodle has a big day with three tests:
  • The last spelling quiz of the year (not a big deal, she's a terrific speller)
  • A science quiz that she is somewhat unprepared for (she thought it wasn't until Friday)
  • A soccer skills evaluation this evening. Her coach wants to move the team up to the next level of competition next year, and the kids need to pass a test in order to be able to play at that level. I'm a bit nervous because Doodle has only been playing for two seasons. Recently she has really accelerated her game, so I hope it shows this evening. Supposedly the key to passing the test, done as a 4 on 4 scrimmage, is to keep moving and to be aggressive. I think her coach and I have drilled that into her head enough, but in general she's better at the aggressive part than the moving part. There will be about 150 kids at the evaluation, including six of her teammates. I'll have my fingers and toes crossed and will be bundled up (it's only supposed to be about 60 degrees today).

Monday, May 19, 2008

Mei Mei, or Poor Tootle

Sometimes I think Tootle gets the short end of the stick because she is the mei mei, or little sister. She often gets dragged along to Doodle's activities, forced to watch soccer games because the playground is too far from the field, and to sit still for concerts. When Doodle was younger, I took her to lots of shows at the puppet theater; Tootle has been to one. We also spent more time at playgrounds; now we ride bikes to the closest one, but spend more of our time getting there than playing on the equipment.

Last night this disparity was brought sharply into focus. We went to a goodbye dinner for one of our China Moms who is moving to Shanghai for a few years with her two daughters. Doodle had an important soccer practice, so it was just Tootle and me (and 24 other moms and kids). Doodle has grown up with many of these girls, so usually when we are together, my attention is focused on getting caught up with the older girls (who we've known for up to 9 years), and Tootle wants to hang with her sister so she plays with the big girls too. Last night, both Tootle and I discovered that there are girls her age in the group too, and she had a blast playing with them. She sounded so happy when she came running up to me and announced, "I've made a new friend!" Then she went running back to her new friend and asked, "What's your name again?" By the end of the evening she could remember the name and she chatted excitedly on the way home about her friend and her little sister and the other kindergartner who brought Pokemon cards with her.

What an eye opener. While I do a good job of arranging playdates for Tootle and making sure she can pursue her passions (pretty much any sport), I haven't been doing a very good job of planning family activities that are geared to her. I'm going to pay a bit more attention to balancing the scorecard, although I expect that the older kid with more varied interests pretty much always gets a somewhat greater share of family time.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Dear Diary

Doodle recently got a new diary as a birthday present. When she kept a diary in the past, she tended to focus on where we went/what we did ; in other words, pretty boring stuff. When she opened the present, I encouraged her to write about her thoughts and feelings. Tonight at bedtime we had the following conversation about the diary.

Doodle: Too bad I haven't had time to write in my diary the last couple of days.

Me: Give me a hint about what you've written about so far (the diary is locked).

Doodle: My first entry is about the lice comb and magnifying glass that you bought and what a waste of time and money it was. (I suspected she had lice in her hair because she was scratching her scalp and there have been recent cases in her class, but it was a false alarm.) I can't believe you spent so much money on the comb ($10) and how much time you wasted looking at my hair. But I also wrote, "At least my mom cares enough about me to do this."

Me: That's very sweet.

I think she's taking my advice. As she becomes freer about expressing her feelings in writing and she gets closer to the teen years, I suspect that I won't always be portrayed quite as favorably.

Monday, May 12, 2008

FFFF Spring

In our house, spring means blossoms, soccer, baseball, birthdays, and bikes. Too bad I couldn't think of a "b" word for soccer.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Mothers Day

I was greeted by a chorus of "Happy Mothers Day" and a stack of cards, presents, and drawings as soon as I woke up this morning, followed by the rush to get ready for church. The girls both sang in church and then we headed to the new Nationals Stadium for a slightly damp and exciting game. Doodle badly wanted to catch a foul ball but the closest one came about two rows in front of us. Tootle loved the stadium playground, and we all enjoyed the Curly W pretzels and Five Guys burgers.

After the game, the rain got much heavier, and now I'm keeping a close eye on our basement because we've had so much rain in the last few days that water is starting to slowly seep in.

Thursday, May 8, 2008

Fake Spade

Doodle loves to carry a purse when we go shopping. Since her "go to" purse is black velvet, I decided to get her a colorful bag for her birthday. In running errands at lunch last week, I spotted the perfect bag for a 10-year old girl hanging from a street vendor's display. I asked to see it (it was hanging too high for me to reach it), bartered a bit as I noticed a few spots of dirt on the bag (the vendor removed them with Windex), and then agreed to buy it. The vendor said that he would "fix it up" for me, and turned toward his truck as I dug for the correct money in my wallet. He then presented the bag to me, and I went on my way. When I got back to the office and showed my purchase to a colleague, I noticed right away that he had added a "Kate Spade" label to the bag. My daughter is now the proud owner of a knockoff, and she adores it even though she isn't fashion conscious and doesn't know Kate Spade from Nine West. Doodle does love a bargain, though, so she was thrilled to hear that I got the bag for less than the price listed.
My colleague told me that she bought a knockoff Coach Signature Stripe bag from the same guy; the bag wasn't on display and had to be retrieved from the truck. I wonder what other brand knockoffs he carries.

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Memory, or A Conversation with Tootle

I forgot to do something fairly minor, which led Tootle to ask: Don't you have any memory?

Me: Sometimes I have Mommy Brain.

Tootle: My memory is for 8 days. That's why my memory card has an 8 on it and I can remember to do math and read and...

Me: You have a memory card in your brain?

Tootle: Yes. Don't you?

Thursday, May 1, 2008

To Be or Not to Be...

This is the question: is fourth grade too early to study Shakespeare? Doodle's class is finishing up a unit on the Bard. I don't recall delving into Shakespeare until 9th or 10th grade.
The kids had an assignment to do a Shakespeare scavenger hunt online and put items in a decorated shoebox (pictures of Globe Theater, a swordfight, Shakespeare himself, characters from a play, etc.); the hardest part of the assignment was conducting an interview with someone who had seen a Shakespeare play about their experience. Doodle interviewed me; I chose to speak with her about seeing Hamlet with Tom Hulce at the Shakespeare Theater in DC in the early 1990s; I haven't seen too many plays (except on business trips) since she came into my life.
Doodle really enjoyed this unit, especially the day that the kids spewed Shakespearean insults and compliments at each other, and I don't think the class read anything except short scenes from several plays, so I probably shouldn't be questioning whether they are too young to grasp the content. I probably should just latch on to her interest and take her to the Free for All in DC this summer. I will decide anon.