30 October 2005

Calm Babies

We've heard a lot of compliments as to how calm/easygoing/happy our babies are. Not tht Ralph doesn't have his two-year-old tantrums, or Kaycie those bouts when she wakes up oh-so-hungry and can't wait another minute for mama to turn over and feed her. But overall, they ARE happy kids. A few of those complimenting the babies have also complimented us, saying that we the parents must be the reason those kids are happy. It's difficult for us to take credit for that. Not that we aren't generally happy people, but we're no happier than anyone else, as far as I can tell. And you really don't want to hear about OUR tempers.

But I noticed something last week. First, there was this meeting at our house of some of Ralph's E.I. ladies. Ralph, in the middle of us all, picked up something marginally dangerous. A pencil, maybe? Nothing SUPER dangerous, just something that could conceivably be something you didn't want your two year old to be walking around with unsupervised. One of the ladies (who has a son a little older than Ralph) burst out with some loud exclamation (it all happened so quickly - something like, "OH NO, NO, RALPHIE!"), leaped at him and grabbed it from his hand in the flash of an eye. EVERYONE jumped - especially poor Ralph! He fell screaming to the floor, scared half to death just for picking up a pencil! As I calmed him down, somewhat mystified by her panic, I told her what I do if I see him with something I don't want him to have...I ask him to give it to me. Which he then does. (Isn't there a better chance that he'll hurt himself with whatever it is if he startled and jumps or runs, than if he calmly passes it to his mama??) And I wondered about her overreaction.

But then, I had another mama over at my house with her son a day or two later. At some point, Ralph was trying to step past someone and tripped over the steps to the loft. He's been walking independently all of 6 months now - very late walker, by the charts - so though he now walks well, he does hit the floor sometimes. Especially when we've got extra stuff and extra people about. This is NOT a big house. So whenever I see him go down, or hear the thud of little knees hitting the carpet, I ask, "You okay, Ralpha?" He generally ignores my inquiry, since by then he's already up and on to the next thing. But this time, as soon as his knees hit the ground, my friend literally SHRIEKED, jumped up and raced to him, pulled him into her arms tightly and made a big fuss over him. It was really kind of sweet...but definitely not the reaction he's used to! Later on, she also did an exclamation-jump-and-grab when she noticed that the baby had a C battery in her hand (to her nearly nine month old mind, just the right size for a little teething relief...and often in her reach, now that big brother learned how to get into the fridge and take the batteries out of the drawer). Kaycie startled, but recovered quickly, very happy to have my friend's full attention after we'd been talking over her for a while.

I have no idea what the implications are for any of us in the long term. Some things work for some kids, everything becomes clear only in hindsight - you know, when those kids have kids of their own. So I'm not going to (and wouldn't care to anyway) try making judgments on any of it.

But I AM actually starting to think that those people who attribute calm babies to a particular style or personality of parenting may actually have something there. And just for me...I *like* having calm babies. I don't scare them, they don't scare me -- a system I can live with.

17 October 2005

That's Medieval!

A number of years ago, as a starving grad student, I attended my first SCA event. I had just joined about a month earlier, after a friend finally convinced me to go to a meeting. Lisa was the group's Chronicler, and as she handed out the newsletter at that meeting, someone made fun of it. She got mad, quit, turned to me, said, "YOU'RE an English major. YOU be Chronicler." And threw the rest of the issues in my lap. All of my commonsense reasons for refusing were completely ineffectual, and so I became an officer. And I still didn't know what SCA exactly DID.

Did I mention that my first SCA event was Pennsic War? Tent city of 10,000 people. I had about $20 bucks on me for the week, after I paid admission, and was told, "don't worry. People will feed you." And they did.

I only mention this because I'm starting to suspect parallels with my relatively new involvement in Mensa. I joined on the books a few months ago, volunteered as the NEw Jersey sub-group coordinator last month, and attended my first event this past weekend. With a name like "That's Medieval," how could I resist? I packed up all the garb I could find and headed to King of Prussia, PA, for the Delaware Valley Mensa Regional Gathering. I had more than $20 this time, as well as two babies, a dog and my lord. Uh, my husband.

I hadn't been able to resist the call for presenters, and ended up presenting the program I had volunteered to do (Silly Shakespeare for kids) as well as one on a subject I love that I had declined to do (The Medieval Bestiary). I'm not even sure I ever agreed to do that one. Those Mensans are tricky people.

We stayed to ourselves some of the time, socialized some of the time, and ate a lot! I won the King's Own Baking Contest on the second night with my Treasure House cookies. (Yes, that was the night I was the only entry.) My family won a costume contest, too, even though I had only entered Ralph and Kaycie, for their heraldic display - we won for 'best family group' and 'most vocal.' Vocal was little lord Ralph, who was very tired and not at all interested in being carried up and down the aisle to show off the adorable tunic I'd pasted together the night before with felt scraps from Squires and Scribes banners of years past.

Oh, and did I mention that I ended up halfway to proctor certification, which I had never even considered, after chancing to hear a comment about nametags and innocently asking how many potential Mensans would be taking the qualifying test that afternoon?

It was a good time, though. Lots of Dunkin' Donuts, garb, baked goods, smart friendly people, bottles of water, and things to do. A media swap, where I got to ditch a few books we no longer wanted, and pick up a few new things to look at. Organizers smart enough to choose a hotel (the Sheraton) that not only allowed dogs, but gave them their own goodie bags upon check in, water bowls, and even dog beds on request (though we did not).

Looking forward to seeing what the theme will be next year!

01 October 2005

SCCC Fall Festival

The kids and I were on our own Saturday, while Dad was working in New York. I decided to head where we'd have gone if we'd had him with us: to the Sussex County Community College's Fall Festival.

I don't know what I expected beyond knowing that home sales companies like Pampered Chef were going to have booths. Besides commercial booths, they had a healthy living booth that gave us a free bottle of water and free apples (good thing, since I had $1.11 on me and it turned out to be a much warmer day than I'd expected!), a petting zoo with everything from a pot-bellied pig to a tiny kangaroo, and games for the children.

Not just any games, though. They had games that even Ralph could play! There were two we spent most of our time playing. The first involved a pair of salad tongs, and a set of small plastic balls with a bucket to match. Lanes had been set up on the grass, and the red, yellow or blue balls were spread out along the lane. The game involved using the salad tongs to fetch a ball, run the ball back to the bucket, then race out again to get another ball with the tongs. Ralph gave those tongs a good try, netting a couple of balls with it (two-handed) before tossing it down and running willy-nilly down the lane grabbing at the balls! He brought them back by the armload, dumping them in the appropriate bucket (he used both red and yellow lanes) or handing them off to Kaycie...who had a ball (so to speak) playing with them herself. She even explored one of the buckets when Ralph brought it over to her. Ralph earned a ribbon for playing!

We then found a booth with hula-hoops. We'd just learned how to play with these at Mommy and Me at the dance studio in Sparta, so Ralph knew just what to do! First, he held hoops up for himself and stepped through them, feet over the bottom, then head ducked under the top of the hoop. Then, we spread them out on the ground and he took turns walking the 'obstacle course' and jumping it. Jumping, for Ralph, means bending his knees deeply, then looking up at me until I come over and lift him up and onward! He understands the concept, but doesn't *quite* have the mechanics of it down. I can't imagine it will be long, now. He kicked a ball at the festival, first time I'd ever seen him do it, and now he gets his kicks in every day. When he got tired of stepping and jumping, he brought a selection of hoops over to Kaycie for her to enjoy. He then got to pick his own ribbon for playing with the hula hoops.

We visited the petting zoo area, where a gentleman with a fanny pack full of food for the animals doled it out to the children handful by handful. Ralph fed a donkey and a sheep, and tried to feed the thoroughly uninterested calf. He then ran over to watch the hopping kangaroo and glance at the pot-bellied pig, who probably weighed twice what he did.

28 September 2005

Things Found Whilst Cleaning Out the Attic

Technically, a loft. But no better than an attic till we empty it!

I have been having an AMAZING time emptying boxes and boxes of STUFF. Some of this stuff is GOOD stuff, some is BAD stuff (you know..the mouse turds..), and some is really ODD or TIMELY stuff.

1) Color copies of some scrolls I illuminated while serving as a scribe in the SCA. PERFECT TIMING! I have 'princess' themed scrapbooking papers to review, some of which are appropriate for medieval, not just fantasy...woohoo!

2) A new-looking toothbrush of unknown origin. Again with the weirdly good timing! I posted just last night on Scrap Friends asking about cleaning mini bundt pans which aren't as non stick as they claim to be (ok..aren't non stick at ALL)...and the answer my friends gave was 'an old toothbrush'. Time to boil up this old-new toothbrush and put her to work!

3) My passport..which expired in 1994. Ah, the memories.

4) MY LOCK BOX!! MY LOCK BOX!! This thing was misplaced TWO moves ago...and it holds birth certificates, vehicle titles, ALL of the ID I need to get my NJ plates etc...woohoo! WOOHOO I SAY!!

5) Some kind of brand new combo bottle opener/can opener whatchamajiggy. I guess it was DH's? I like the separate ones I have - the bottle opener is magnetic, so I can always find it on the fridge, and my can opener has a comfortable grip...so this one's on the curb near the other stuff, with the "FREE PLEASE TAKE" sign. Who wants to wait for a garage sale? Let's get it out now!!

6) DH's resumes. Again, good timing! These haven't been updated in 6 or so years.

7) PRESCRIPTION SUNGLASSES! Mine! Current Prescription! Brand new! I completely forgot I owned these! Got 'em right before we went to the Crawfish Festival for IMC's birthday...which would be about 5 years ago. Found it in a backpack with other items from the Crawfish Fest. Hot DOG!

8) Ground Ginger. I *told* DH I knew I had ground ginger somewhere! How the heck it got UPstairs I don't know...but now I feel justified for not having purchased a replacement for so long!

To be continued..as I clear out more STUFF.

27 September 2005

Wish List

The little things that would just make my life...prettier. That I always forget to pick up for myself until I really could use them...then forget about again till next time. Maybe writing them here will make them come true :)

1) New, beautiful kitchen set: hot mitts, towels, potholders. Mine are sooo ratty (or partially blackened)!
2) Set of Flylady featherdusters
3) New covered garbage cans for outside. 3 of 'em.

26 September 2005

Wendys. (Plural.)

I pulled out my Wendy Bucklew CD tonight, and it's playing now. For the second time in a row. I bought it after seeing her play at a little coffeehouse type place in Atlanta, one that I'd heard the Indigo Girls frequented when they were in town. There was a mini music festival of sorts, a handful of local singer-songwriters there, and though I couldn't tell you who else played that night, Wendy stood out.

First of all, there was the hair. You really weren't quite sure what her face looked like, because she wore a gigantic mane of thick, coarse-looking, curly-as-all-getout hair, and she had this way of ducking her head over her acoustic guitar so that her face was perpetually obscured.

Then of course, there were the songs. Her voice was...throaty? Soulful. She had a funny, self-depracating sense of humor, fully revealed in her witty but heartwarming lyrics, her playful melodies. They spoke to me. There's something refreshing, funky-in-a-good-way, alive, about them. My second favorite song is "My Heart Might..." ("I would never dance with two left feet...but my heart might.") But my first is this:

I Know the Feeling

Is there a love in your life
Your lucky charm
Your secret vice
Who touches you in all the right places
One who takes their time
One who takes your breath
And sends you up, up, up, up high?
I know
I know the feeling well
I know
I know the feeling well

There's a love in my life
My other wing
My tunnel's light
Who reads to me from all the best pages
One who takes their time
One who takes my breah
And sends me up, up, up, up high
I know
I know the feeling well
I know
I know the feeling well
Let all the love inside come out to play
Tag! You're "it"!
But don't run away
_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _
Wish I could put the melody in your head as you read this. I tried finding a Wendy Bucklew homepage to link here, but the only one I can find currently reads, "Under Construction."
_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _

So it's listening to these songs again that got me thinking about Wendys. It seems to me that I haven't known too many Wendys over the years, but the ones I remember have been a pretty darned talented bunch. I remember a Wendy that I bowled with in high school. Kuipers. I think she was in my Saturday classic league at interstate, and I think I ran into her during Varsity bowling meets, too. But what I remember about her is mostly this: she had talent. She had the highest average I knew of for a girl our age - I think she was a year older than I - and but gosh was I intimidated by her. She was on the All American bowling team in college, and I know the JBT (Junior Bowlers Tour) has her ranked among the highest ranking bowlers ever. I wouldn't be surprised to find her bowling on the women's pro bowling tour now. Oh, and I think she aced her SAT's or something too. Wendy.

Then there's another Wendy I know, if only virtually. Wendy Price. Not that I know her well, or even know much ABOUT her. But I run into her on scrapbooking boards now and again, where she goes by WendyP, and she's on the Memory Villa design team with me. What I know about her is: the girl can scrap! Take a look at her layouts: http://www.mvlayouts.com/gallery/Wendy-Price See what I mean?

And you know what I think of Wendy from Peter Pan? There's a chick who has her head screwed on right.

There's just something about that name. Wendy.

22 September 2005

Tonight's Menu

Monday September 26:
Just me and the babies tonight. Corn on the cob, rice, Gorton's fish sticks, Bush's vegetarian baked beans. Fresh baked rice muffins.

Sunday September 25:
Fresh honeydew melon; Pan Fried Chicken Livers with olive oil, garlic, salt and pepper; egg noodles with chicken gravy (defrosted leftover from chicken paprikash last week); peas.

Saturday, September 24
Garlic London Broil, onions and mushrooms sauteed with garlic and rosemary, fresh baked sesame-topped chalah with honey.

Friday, September 23, 2005
Perch fillets baked with oregano, thyme, pepper and lemon juice; leftover potato soup.

Thursday, September 22, 2005
Tomato-mushroom salad with onions and homemade avocado-mustard-dill dressing, crockpot potato soup (thanks to my friend Nancy, who posted it at http://forum.scrapfriends.us), Gorton's fish sticks, fresh greenbeans and (leftover) steamed cauliflower. Fresh melon for dessert.

Ralph's Words

Ralph's first (purposefully) spoken word was EGG. "aaah"...said very gently, often while holding the refrigerator door. He's been using 'egg' the last couple of weeks. Now his vocabulary acquisition is picking up pace:

1) egg (a favorite food - no yolk, please!)
2) apple (Ralph got to pick up the apples in grandma's yard in Wisconsin while
we visited there, and had so much fun throwing them and
putting them in grandma's bucket!)
2) out (said slowly and gently, asking politely, while standing at the front door)
3) popcorn (puh-BATA!)
4) hat
5) ball
6) bubbles
7) MAMA!

Tonight's menu: rib steak with Iron Chef sesame garlic sauce, fresh steamed cauliflower, Healthy Harvest pasta. Last night's apple cake for dessert.

21 September 2005

Memories: The Creek at Red Rock

Oh, how I love cleaning out the loft. Find from this morning:

The Creek at Red Rock

I took my sister down to the creek sometimes. She objected to crunching through the twigs and dead leaves covering the forest floor on the way there, and she was afraid of snakes,though we never did see any. My little brown poodle Co-Co came sometimes too, sniffing around the woods, trying to smell everything he couldn't smell in the suburbs. Never able to make it down the steep embankment to the water, he would bark at me from the edge of the woods, guarding me from ashore. The adults didn't come at all.
"My" creek is actually the thirty yards or so of it that touches my grandparents' land. Downstream, it crosses the street under a bridge and widens out on someone else's land. Upstream, I only know that it keeps on going, further into the woods, and onto someone else's property. One bank of the creek lines the side of the farm, edged by a strip of woods a good fifteen feet thick. The incline here is so steep that I used to rely on the young saplings to keep me from tumbling to the rocky water beneath. The other bank is very narrow and even steeper, leading directly up to the street. That unclimbable bank is covered with goldenrod, prickly shrubs, stalky pink and violet flowers, and ant-covered Queen Anne's lace.
I never missed a trip to this place when we visited Red Rock; I always brought a spare set of clothing 'just in case.' Once when I was ten, I made one last trip to the water right before we left for home. Two men were fishing way upstream, a father and a son, I guessed, standing on the bank and talking loudly. I wanted to show these men that this was my place; I wanted them to admire how easily I crossed over the rocks. I was also proud because I was wearing a brand new outfit that day -- black black jeans, a shiny red blouse with a butterfly collar, and a velvety black vest with rhinestones on it. The shoes I don't remember, but they weren't sneakers, and they weren't meant for climbing slippery rocks. One moment I was proudly crossing the creek, and the next I was sitting in a foot and a half of cold water. At first I was mortified that the fishermen had heard the gigantic splash, but they didn't even notice me.
Most of my journeys were less adventurous. I had to find a safe place to cross the narrow stream. The banks were too steep to sit on, so I either perched on the largest of the boulders or crouched in whatever dry sand I could find. I looked for the two-inch silver fish that swam in the middle of the widest parts. Sometimes I threw pebbles into the midst of them, just to see them dart away.
If I was lucky, and it was a sunny day, I would fin tiny frogs sunning themselves on the rocks. I didn't want to disturb them; I just wanted to touch them. But the frogs didn't like my friendly gestures, and soon they were scrambling for cover under the larger rocks, where they lived. I could have spent hours trying to coax them back out into the sun, but usually I got bored and left. If I returned after a while, though, there they would be, taking in the sun as if I had never been by.
My biggest challenge, however, lay under the bridge. The creek was wider there than at any other place I knew of, maybe six or seven feet across. There were no rocks there, and the only way to get under the bridge was to shuffle along the foot-wide ledges on either side of the water. The water wasn't deep, but my fear of water snakes and stepping on something I couldn't see kept me out of it whenever possible. The underside of the bridge was only about five feet from the surface, and the ledge began a few inches above that, so the taller I got, the more I had to duck. The sun didn't penetrate here. It was another world. It always felt ten degrees colder under here, no matter how hot it was outside, and the cement walls were clammy to the touch. The grid-like ceiling was covered with layer upon layer of cobwebs. Sometimes I would run into one, or a spider would suddenly drop in front of me, stratling me so that I would slip into the water and run out into the sun, yelling and frantically waving my arms about my head.
A gigantic fish lived beneath this bridge. This was the fish that the smaller fish swam near whenever they were threatened. Now this fish might have been all of six inches long, but it was the largest fish I had ever seen swimming in my creek. It was shimmering silver, like a larger version of the tiny ones that darted around my toes upstream, but much thicker. The way that fish looked at me, with contempt and challenge in its eyes, convinced me that this fish was not only intelligent but arrogant. I had to show it that I was both smarter and faster. He never left that bridge, however, and that made him extremely hard to catch. The ledge was slippery and narrow, and it was hard to see in the murky darkness.
My chance came one day when I found him dozing only a few inches under the bridge. I crept up behind him, trying to keep my balance on the gravelly, steep bank. He saw me. I splashed my foot down into the water to keep him from going further under the bridge, thrust my arms into the water, and grabbed wildly. My palms closed around the slippery flesh. I was so surprised to feel his violent wriggling in my hands that I instinctively flung him away from me. The fish was no less surprised than I was, and as he raced downstream I imagined him trying to smooth his ruffled scales and regain whatever dignity a fish has.
Last spring I went to Red Rock again, and visited the creek. What I saw of it still looked the same; the water was still running, goldenrod still bloomed on the far bank, and a couple of frogs were sunning on a rock. But now a six-foot barbed wire fence, put up to keep my aunt's dog, Shadow, out of the street, kept me from my little creek. For now, I am content to watch from a distance. One day, though, I just might be found in jeans and a torn tee shirt, trying to get a foothold amidst the burrs and prickles on the nearly perpendicular far bank, scrambling down from the street to see if that fish is still there.

c. 1991
Lynn Anne Christie

20 September 2005

Conversation with Ralph

After dinner conversation with my 27&1/2 month old son, Ralph:

Me: "Who's your favorite person in the whole world?"
Ralph: "MAMA!"
Me: "Who's the prettiest girl in the whole world?"
Ralph: "MAMA!"
Me: "Who's the smartest lady in the whole world?"
Ralph: "MAMA!"
Me: "Who loves you more than anybody?"
Ralph: "MAMA!"

Say it and it's True

You're reading it in my blog, so it must be true: I live an organized life in my lovely home.

When you walk in my front door, the welcoming colors on my painted walls and the beautiful homemade decorations and family photos make you feel instantly at home. A faint yeasty scent from the bread I baked earlier this morning underlies the sweet cinnamon smell wafting from my oven, as the pie finishes baking and the crockpot on the counter completes its day-long work on a hearty lamb and garlic stew. I have just finished arranging stems of brightly colored gladiolas, straight from the flower patch on the hill next to my house, in a gleaming Lenox vase on the table. You settle into a polished chair at the kitchen table as I pour a fresh cup of cinnamon coffee to go with the tin of mandel bread waiting at the table for unexpected drop-in visitors like yourself. I quickly rinse off some fresh strawberries and pour a dollop of cream over them before bringing them over too. Since Ralph is napping, Kaycie is happily exploring a toy on the carpet, and my daily chores are done, you and I have a leisurely conversation over coffee, fruit and mandel bread. We pause, occasionally, to smile at Kaycie as she laughs and engages us the charming brand of conversation only a seven month old can bring to the table.

Welcome to my world!

Menu for tonight: steelhead trout, rice with carmelized onions, dill and garlic. Baking fresh apple cake for later tonight (thanks to my friend Janell for the recipe..she posted it on Scrap Friends this morning).