Wednesday, September 28, 2011


My children have their own beds. They have always had their own beds (although Little Dude's consisted of a Pack'n'play when his older sister refused to give up her crib for the new baby). But they have always found Mommy and Daddy's bed irresistible.

Granted, Mommy and Daddy have always had a lush bed. The original was a pillow-top that puffed up to almost as tall as I am, although it has shrunk a bit over the years, seeing as it is almost 10 years old. Nevertheless, it is still quite pillowy.

The little princess would look at her flat little Ikea mattress, that was all of 5 inches thick, and end up in our bed most nights.

Until Mommy and Daddy upgraded. Rather than get rid of the grand old queen, we transferred it to the Princess's room. It takes up the entire room, but she hasn't been in our bed since. Well, maybe once or twice for a bad dream, but that doesn't really count since she departed back to her own cozy bed after some reassuring cuddles.

Little Dude is another matter. He, too, has started to develop bed envy. He will lie on our new bed, cooing "So cozy!", and when prompted to sleep in his toddler bed, will declare "I am not sleepy for Isaac's bed!"

He is, in fact, sleepy for Mommy's bed, and will march into my bedroom with his Lightning McQueen pillow in tow, ready to nestle himself in the middle of our king-size bed.

And when Mommy and Daddy are sneaky enough - and awake enough - to transfer him to his little bed before we go to sleep, I can generally be assured to hear a little voice at the side of my bed at around 4 in the morning:

"Sleep in Mommy's bed?"

He is so polite that he always asks rather than just climbing in with us, but I know that he doesn't plan for rejection because he has started bringing that Lightning McQueen pillow along with him.

He's so cute, it's really not hard to resist.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Yucky Brown Chocolate

As I was getting ready in the morning, Little Dude came in to my bedroom to inform me that he wanted milk. I usually offer him two options - chocolate or strawberry, which we call brown chocolate or pink chocolate.

Accuracy in descriptions does not hold high precedence in the life of a pre-schooler or his mommy.

So I asked him which kind he wanted.

"Not the yucky brown chocolate."

That was a different description. He'd never called it that before. I clarified with him, and determined that he did not in fact want the yucky brown chocolate but did want brown chocolate milk.

I finished what I was doing and went out to the kitchen to prepare his milk.

I always put his milk in a little cup with a lid and a straw. As I passed by the coffee table in the living room, I saw a discarded, nearly empty, milk cup, probably from the day before, sitting on the table.

Ah, the yucky brown chocolate milk. Oops.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Goon Squad

Oddly, even though one little one is in school, we've been busier than we were during the summer. I think it must be that running around with one little one is less daunting than running around with two.

That and the weather has improved so we aren't hiding in the house fearing immediate combustion upon entrance to the 100+ degree weather.

Of course, interesting things happen inside:

When not playing with little dude, I'm reading Jennifer Egan's A Visit from the Goon Squad. It has won all sorts of awards and Ms. Egan was listed as one of The New Yorker's top young writers under 40, so it's my type of book.

I tend to filter my reading material through a small, narrow field that usually centers around one of the following: Booker Prize winner or nominee (I just finished The Finkler Question, the most recent Booker Prize winner, and I was reading The Sea on my Kindle before I picked up Goon Squad. I first became aware of the Booker Prize in college with my infatuation of A. S. Byatt), a favorable review in The Times or The New Yorker, literary buzz, and that intangible "Oh, that sounds like an interesting story", which differs from person to person and from book to book.

The Goon Squad is a series of interconnected vignettes. In fact, each chapter comprises a near complete short story, so much that as I was reading the book, several chapters felt so familiar that it occurred to me that I had probably read them as short stories in The New Yorker. This also happened to me with Jonathan Franzen's Freedom. That creates quite a deja vu reading experience.

The interconnectedness - so far, since I haven't finished the book - doesn't recall experiences like the movie Crash, where everything is mysteriously connected to one greater end. Instead, it follows different periods of time of different people who were connected at one point: groupies of a garage band in their teens, the assistant of the grown-up band member, a family trip of the record producer who befriended the band members.

The short story aspect is really intriguing, and as the book progresses, the author starts to take a few more liberties with her style, including adding footnotes (this must be a modern thing, since I just encountered this for the first time in a novel in Junot Diaz's The Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao), and making the voice changes much more prominent.

But when my husband asked what the book was about, I couldn't quite say since there isn't necessarily a linear story. I'll follow up on that when I finish the book.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Ants, Ants everywhere

We live on a somewhat recently reclaimed field. The neighborhood is around five years old, our lot was just a tangle of brush and weeds three years ago, and when we moved in we had to register as a rural address at the local post office.

Of course, we weren't here first. The bugs were.

We've had a variety of bug visitors, nothing ever too frightening. Earwigs, fruit flies, small black ants. You can't fault them since this used to be their land.

I made good friends with our bug control guy the first few months we lived here. After a while, we finally settled into a quarterly routine, and bug sightings became a lot less frequent.

Then this summer came, with its drought and its heat. The city set a record of 109 degrees a few days ago. The kids and I hid indoors most of the summer, and it turned out that's what the bugs wanted to do, too.

Not just any bugs, though. Crazy ants.

Crazy ants. Raspberry ants. Nylanderia species near pubens.

They are an invasive species of unknown provenance. They don't respond to pesticide, they have multiple queens so if one queen is killed (as in eradicating red ant colonies) they will simply move to the other queen. And they are known for their erratic movements and interest in electronics.

That, and they like food and water, hence their obsession with my kitchen.

Apparently this is such a big deal that even the Times of London featured an article about Houston's crazy ants. Three years ago.

I should be surprised not that they have taken over my house but that they took so long to get here.

So far, the advice that I've read (since my formerly trusty bug guy is not responding to my phone calls - possibly the crazy ant reference scared him away since he has already unsuccessfully sprayed them once for me) states simply to keep food and water away from them.

Okay, that isn't going to happen in a house with two small children.

Fortunately, they are small, and they stay away from most food except sugary foods. (They found some old honey several days ago, but once I discovered that, it disappeared fast). However, I am pleased to report that I now have the cleanest kitchen I have ever had since I wipe the counter down several times a day.

Maybe I was supposed to be doing that all along.

Bill has suggested that we intentionally leave a little food and water out for them and make them our pets.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

First Day of School!

Actually, the first day was yesterday, but who has time to post anything on the first day of school?

Here she is, excited and ready to be a 1st grader! No tears on Mommy's part this year. I have officially moved into the realm of parenting where I couldn't wait for the school year to start.

Hannah is going to a brand-new school this year. Brand-new as in at this time last year, it was just a field. It's a really pretty new school, and it is the same floor plan as her old school, which I think makes the transition a lot easier for the kids who had to change schools.

One of the biggest perks about living in the suburbs, particularly in new communities, is that there are usually schools nestled within the communities. Our new school is less than half a mile away, which means:

We can walk to school!

Lowering our carbon footprint in one small way. Doesn't negate the fact that Bill has to commute to work or that I have to drive at least three miles to get to the nearest grocery store, but at least we can walk somewhere in one aspect of our lives.

Hannah had a fantastic day. Her new teacher is young and perky - almost the stereotypical elementary school teacher. I think all of the little kids are already in love with her.

And because Hannah is irrepressibly spoiled, we had a First Day of School party, complete with princess cake.

This is obviously after the party, with one missing princess.

Mommy had the brilliant idea of scheduling swim lessons at 4 p.m. on Mondays. School gets out at 3:10. We made it in time, cake included, but after walking to school, pulling Isaac in a wagon in 100 degree heat, that swim lesson time might have to be changed.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Blue Period

The kiddos were watching Olivia this morning. I much prefer the books by Ian Falconer, they are far wittier than the show, but it has its moments.

Such as:

Olivia painting row after row of self-portaits, all the same, all with a blue background. As she hangs the last one on the wall, she announces, "There, I think I'm done with my blue period."

Hannah pipes up, "Mommy, what is a blue period?"

"Well," I explain, "There is a famous artist named Picasso who went through a style of painting he called his 'Blue Period' because it included a lot of blue."

She thought about this for a while, as I was deciding whether or not I should elaborate into cubism.

"I'm working on my pink period," she responded

Friday, August 12, 2011

The 45-minute dress

I'm obviously undergoing a dress-making craze at the moment. I've pretty much made myself a dress a week for the past few weeks. Not with the intention of achieving that Herculean feat, but it seems to take me about that long to cut, sew, adjust, and finish.

I've learned a variety of new techniques, I'm getting closer to figuring out my size and sewing to that size, which is still a work in progress, as well as the more abstract concept of how a piece of fabric will look with a particular style.

But all of these dresses have been pretty involved. I want to make something cute, but simple. I was trying to explain this to my husband - I just want to make a dress that you can seam up and be done.

"That would be a mumu," he replied.

Well, yes, and that is definitely not what I'm going for.

I've been looking for a nice simple sundress to make. You would think a pattern would be easy to find, but I think I possibly am suffering from too many options. It is hard to know where to look - the big pattern companies, the independent pattern companies, and then the morass that is the web, including vintage patterns on Ebay or Etsy.

As an aside, vintage patterns are all the rage right now among seamstresses online. Who knew?

I settled on this pattern:

Vogue 8723. I'd never made a Vogue pattern before. Ooh la la.

Note this:

Very Easy. The main reason for the selection.

After jumping in, I discovered that a Vogue Very Easy pattern involves:

Full Lining.


Convoluted instructions which resulted in what was probably a bit of a non-traditional construction.

Several days into the dress, I started to become concerned about what a regular Vogue pattern would involve.

The dress is very lovely (and I will give it the respect it deserves at a later time). While creating a fully-lined dress basically involves sewing two dresses at once, the final product is very polished.

But after hemming it up, I wanted something simple. Very simple. And truly easy.

So I dug through my fabric scraps and found this:

Just enough fabric to be modest. I seamed the sides to create a tube, folded over the top for an elastic casing, added straps, and I ended up with this:

(photography by resident four-year-old)

The 45-minute dress. Definitely not as refined or fitted as the Vogue dress, but light, and simple, and immediately available to wear.

"You're done already?" my six-year-old commented. "That was quick!"

Why, yes, it was.