Wednesday, March 30, 2011

... shaking all over....

... or, How I Learned to Miss Saddle Club!

Something momentous has happened at our house. When offered the chance between Saddle Club and another video, the girls chose door number 2. That "other video?" The Wiggles on Safari.

The Wiggles. I'd heard of 'em, but never seen them. M&L found this at the library and brought it home. And for some reason that eludes me, K&L love it. This particular one is set in the Australian Zoo, which is apparently run by Steve Irwin (or was), who makes a large number of guest appearances, along with his wife and daughter.

I watched it once with the girls, and I have to say, I don't quite "get" the Wiggles. Often it felt like I was watching a (bad) hybrid music video made by ex-members of the Village People and the Presidents of the United States. And don't get me wrong, I've got a couple PotUS albums, and wave my arms along with everyone else at the ballpark when YMCA plays, but this is *not* what I'd call great music coming out of Australia.

I can't shake the notion that these 40-somethings are guys who never quite made it in a band of their own. So they're left to (creepily) mimic playing guitars and sing songs for and to children. Simple songs. Really simple songs.

And yet, the girls seem to like it fine. I hear them laughing when someone jumps into the mud, or when the snakes scare the various Wiggles. IIt's not something I am going to need to watch again. And, luckily, it's a library copy, so it'll go back (it was supposed to go back last week, but oddly enough, no one else was waiting for it, so M and L renewed it for another week).

It's enough to make a guy miss his Saddle Club! Speaking of which, here are the girls, decorating "Prancer's" stall, otherwise known as our garden:

So they haven't given up entirely on horses. They're just branching out a bit.... I hope.

Monday, March 28, 2011

... another pleasant valley sunday...

... or, "if I'm doing your nails, you're going to have to listen to the Monkees Greatest Hits with me.*"

Index finger, with too much polish
(see below for proper corrective measure)

Sunday morning M went to the gym.

Which normally is not worth noting in a blog post, but this time she went just as the girls were agitating for some new nail polish. I've never done nail polish before and in fact am not officially qualified to do. But as M was leaving she called back reassuringly to K&L that "Daddy will do your nail polish." And that was that.

This left the girls and me staring dumbly at each other, all trying to figure out how we'd gotten ourselves into this pickle, and wondering how we were going to get out of it.

After a bit of staring, there was nothing left for us to do but get to work. They got me the nail polish (St. Patrick's Day green) and I had L sit down on the window seat with her little fingers spread out on the kitchen table. I armed myself with a kleenex, and was unnerved when L chortled: "A kleenex?!? K, Daddy is using a kleenex!!!" I refused to let them know how clueless I was (what should I be using? a paper towel? a mop and bucket? a haz-mat suit?) and just plowed ahead, ignoring all doubts, at which point I realized I was going to need my reading glasses if I wanted to be able to see what the hell I was doing. They make little girl fingernails very small these days! Plus, we probably didn't have good lighting, due to living in the Pacific Northwest and all. I'm sure it was raining and gray and dreary....

After I got my glasses, I opened the polish and took a whiff, just to prime myself, and then we got down to business. And overall, it went... fine. In fact I discovered that I was much more of a perfectionist about it than the girls were.

L wanted both fingers and toes done. K only wanted fingers. The biggest problems we ran into were L's impatience with the drying process, and K's desire to wear my glasses. We had to redo several of L's fingers (and one toe), and in the process I learned that adding polish to polish doesn't always fix a problem (see photo above).

When M came home and found L in tears about .... something, I don't remember what because we were running at speeds of up to 3 breakdowns per quarter hour... she looked at L's index finger and said, "Let's take that off and redo it." One problem solved!

I did manage to get a couple of pictures to prove that there were moments of not-tears:

In fact, K was in a good mood the entire time. (She's still in that stage where she seems to believe I can do just about anything. Foolish her!) It was her sister who found reasons to doubt me and an endless variety of catastrophes about which to wail.

But I didn't take any pictures of that. Instead, I asked the girls to pose so I could document our successes:

*At some point, K asked if it was a girl or a boy singing, and I told her it was all men. She put up with a few more songs and then wanted me to change to some women singers, so we switched to ABBA, and danced our way through the rest of her fingernails.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

... you keep me hanging on the telephone...

It's been a long week or two, punctuated by the flu (M and me) and the flu or something similar (K) and just being 3 years old (L).

And this morning was particularly "challenging" with K who slept late and woke up as angry as a hungry bear in spring. I was heading out the door when the exciting stuff really started. So I've had home on my mind all day.

When I got out of a meeting this afternoon I had a message.

M: Hey, it's about 4.15 and I don't know if you're still at work, but if you are, give me a call. We're all fine, but we're going to need a new washer.

So I called of course, and asked about the washer, and it sounds like we're going to need a new washer. Ok. And while M was giving me the details, I got this:

L (picking up on the other line and yelling): Are you Daddy?!?
me: Hi L. Yeah, I'm Daddy.
L (laughing): Oh yeah, I forgot! (hangs up and runs over to M to tell her about the conversation)
M (overheard): Yeah, I heard. I was on this phone.

Which, combined with knowing everyone is fine, makes the sunshine this afternoon a little bit sunnier.

She looks so calm, doesn't she?

Thursday, March 17, 2011

before the deluge...

L, before the flood

Pretty peaceful, huh? This is the scene that every parent dreams about, the sweet, sleeping child.

This is L sleeping on her mom (who is buried somewhere beneath her) on Monday afternoon. I snapped this (and the second photo on this page) just before running off to get K at school.

But you shouldn't necessarily judge this book by its cover.

This is actually a picture of sickness. The whole adult household was sick. L wasn't sick, she was just tired. M was sick. I was sick too, but not quite as sick as M, so her's trumped mine. I got the crud a day or so before her, and never got it quite as badly (maybe because I had my flu shot this winter?). But as of Sunday morning, we were both wanting to just crawl into bed and sleep, snorffle and toss. Not an option, not with kids. I even took the girls down to the beach on Saturday, walking carefully so as not to disturb my throbbing head too much. And come Monday I took K to school in the morning and picked her up that afternoon, and in the car on the way home I told her that we were going to go in through the kitchen because I'd left her mom and sister asleep in the living room.

But when we slipped in the back door, everyone was awake.

L comes dancing up to me with a big grin: Dada! Dada!! I peed in my pantsies!
me: You did? (I glance over at M, who's just come up from the basement. the basement, where our washing machine lives. she's shaking her head with a wry smile).
L (leading the way to the living room): Yeah! Come and thee the couth!!
K: What?

Later I learn from M that she woke up to the sudden feeling of dampness, realizes what is happening, and lifts L up and off her, onto the floor. L opens her eyes, looks up, and then goes straight back to sleep. M (she's really sick, remember) strips off the couch cushion covers and starts laundry. Probably the thing she most wanted to do right then. After changing her clothes. Later, L wanted to "thee my wet clotheth!"

But when I left, things were quiet, peaceful, nearly angelic:

They don't stay that way....

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

definition: teeter-saw

after a long hiatus, it's once again, it's double-definition tuesday! only with a single definition. beggars can't be choosers.....

teeter-saw - noun, a playground device for two (or more) children to use to knock each other's teeth out.


K: Mom, look at that teeter-saw!
M: Wha...? Oh, yeah.

sisters, 1/22/11
(not a teeter-saw, but close enough....)

Thursday, March 10, 2011

... (s)he's still a gorilla...

Last Thursday I took a "vacation day" to stay home to with L while M went in to work.

L is now at a stage that requires a lot of attention. Not because she needs help doing much of anything (she's quite resourceful and willing to try just about anything necessary, whether it's going to the potty or getting some candy or cleaning up a spill. Except when she's not. No, she needs attention because she's constantly wanting to share things, to talk, to show us something.

We can be busy with cooking dinner, chopping onions or deboning chicken, and L will yell "Daddy! Daddy!!" like the living room rug has caught fire. "What L?" "I want to thow you thomthing!!!" And generally that "thomthing" is how her 2 inch horse Pranther can zump over a pillow.

It can be wearing, if you are trying to get anything done. If you're not, it can be quite entertaining. Until you're worn out.

A couple of sample conversations from my day at home:

me (calling into the living room from the kitchen, where I'm trying to clean up the breakfast dishes): Hey monkey, how're you doing?
L (yelling back from the living room): I'm not a monkey!!
me (moving toward the living room door): You're not?
L (still yelling, though I'm now standing about 10 feet from her): No! I'm not. A. Monkey!!!
me: What are you?
L (yelling, while lining up her horses): I'm a chimpanzee!!
me: ---

staring back at you

And then, later in the day:

L (lying on her stomach on the kitchen floor with the barn, trying hard to fit a large horse in a small stall): Dada, I need to figo-ate thith.
me: You need to 'figurate' it?
L: Yeah, because these hortheth need to be checked after the night time in case they aren't...aren't...aren't ready to go.
me (figuring it's only fair that I confuse her as much as she confuses me): Oh, that explains it. Figurate it.
L: Yup, yup. I need to figo-ate it.
me: ???

off topic: does it bother anyone else that Curious George, clearly a chimp, is described as a "monkey?"

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

... here we are now...

... entertain us...

L, by K
(w/ L's cambra - late dec 2010/early 2011)

M & L are reading a book.

L: What'th thith Mama?
M: That's a dinosaur.
L: Doeth it thwim Mama?
M: Swim?
L: Yeah, can it thwim?
M: Some dinosaurs could swim, but they aren't around any more. They're extinct.
L: What?!
M: They're extinct.
L: What Mama?!?
M: They're extinct. They were alive a long time ago.
L: What?! What Mama?!!
M: The dinosaurs. They aren't around any more. They're extinct.
L: They thtinky? You thaid they thtink?!?

Saturday, March 5, 2011

... if i needed you...

bedtime conversation, saturday night, after a friday night of many wakings:

me (kissing K goodnight): Sleep tight love. Do you want me to get you some kleenex?
K: No, if I need some I can just call you.
me: But I might be asleep.
K: Then I can call Mama.
me: She might be asleep too.
K (as if it's obvious): Well then I can just call you.
me: Don't forget, we're all tired tonight. We need our sleep.
K: I will try not to wake up one time.

... bad luck streak... dancing school

K&L have been going to a ballet class at the local community center, where "going" = appearing every Monday in case the teacher, who seems to miss class more than not, happens to show up that week. M told me that it's pretty cute (when the teacher *does* come and class happens) because the girls spin around and run around and generally burn off energy in a quasi-organized way.

I've been meaning to go on a Monday, and this last one I made a point of getting into work early so I could be home in time to take them. Organizing for a 30 minute trip like this takes significant effort (something that won't surprise any stay-at-home parent). And to add to this, the weather is windy, with spitting icy rain at times. Which means that L isn't interested in wearing a coat and in fact wants to have short sleeves. (My inclination, especially when it's for a short exposure, is to just let her do what she wants.)

Anyway, we somehow manage to get out of the house and into the van. L has her baby. K has made her last-minute potty stop. I've got a couple of chocolate chip granola bars and water bottles for after class. And I'm strapping them into car seat/booster.

K: Actually, I want my baby.
me (seriously?!?): You want your baby?
K (nodding): Yeah.
me: L isn't taking hers in. She's leaving it in the car.
K: I know. I'll leave mine in the car.
me (sigh): Ok.

Dash back to the house, unlock the front door, navigate around the dog who either doesn't recognize me and thinks I'm an intruder, or doesn't remember the last time she saw me and is so thrilled I'm home again that she can't stop barking and jumping around, and grab K's dolly. I don't even bother to take off my shoes before crossing the living room!

We actually start to drive toward the community center. We're late, but not that late, and M has told me about a parking lot she uses that's close to the building. I drive down California and get into the turn lane, only to realize I can't get to the parking lot from here. My only option is a lot at the high school, not much farther away, but not what I was expecting.

me: Is this where Mama parks?
K&L: No!
me: Well, we'll have to park here today. Next time I'll go to that other lot.
K: That's where Mama parks. Over there.
L: Yeah, over thea!
me: I know. But I took the wrong road.
L: You took the wrong woad?
me: Yup. Ok, let's get out. L, you sure you don't want your coat?
L: I don't want it!
me: Ok. Come on girls. You have to hold my hand.
K (buffetted by the wind): Why do we have to hold your hand?
L (immediate goosebumps on her bare arms): Why hold your hand, Dada?
me: Because there are cars leaving the parking lot.

I get them over to the track that M tells me they like to run along. The wind is probably about 10-15 mph but feels like something you'd have to battle to get to the top of Everest. Or Rainier. Oddly, neither one of the girls has any interest in running along the track in this weather. I'll have to check with M about this.

We go into the building and hurry upstairs. I'm already a tiny bit stressed because 1) we're running late, 2) we're going to a dance class, 3) M has warned me to expect K to need to pee before and after class (at a minimum) and that means either taking her to the men's room, or letting her go into the women's room on her own, and neither option is particularly appealing to me, and 4) did I mention this was a dance class, moms and daughters, big guy feeling out of place....

At the top of the steps K announces that she needs to go potty.

me (I can see the open door of the women's room at the end of the short hallway): Ok. We'll wait here.
K: Daddy, can you stand next to the door?
me (moving with her toward the bathroom): Ok.
K: Daddy? Can you close the door?
me (looking at the door - it's got a flip-down door stop holding it open): Ok.

(I flip the stop up and the door closes. My oldest daughter is now on her own in a public restroom. In the interest of full disclosure, I have to add that this is a two-stall restroom, entirely empty except for her, in a back hallway of the community center, unlikely to be used by anyone else in the next 24-48 hours)

L and I wait, L wandering back and forth along the hall, interested in the water fountain, the open Men's room, the stairway, the open door to the dance class room....

K (through the door): Daddy!
me (also through the door): Yes K?
K: I need help!
me (nightmares coming true, pushing the door open slightly while waiting for some just-arriving woman to begin screaming "pervert" behind me): Yeah K?
K (in her closed stall): I need help ripping the paper.
me (!!! - pushing the stall door): You need to unlock the door if you want me to help you.
K (comes and unlocks the door, her tights down around her knees): Daddy?
me (ripping off a length of toilet paper): Yeah?
K: If I need to go to the bathroom again, can I?
me (backing away and out the bathroom): Of course. Are you almost finished?

She finishes up, then needs to wash her hands and isn't sure where the soap is. I end up helping her, now fully committed to a father-daughter experience in a public women's room. And at last we're on our way back toward the dance class.

As we walk in, K remarks that none of the other (3) girls "is the same ones" they've danced with before. "Uh huh," I mutter, pushing the girls ahead of me and wondering which of the women is the teacher.

K (loud whisper): It's not the same teacher!
me (distractedly): No?
K: No Daddy.
me: Well maybe the other one is sick.

We take our stuff to the stage, which is where stuff gets put and where parents sit during the class. And I try to sit down, but the girls are in full-blown "shy mode" and cling to my legs, pressing their faces into my jeans. I take stock of the class. There are 3 women and 3 other girls. Everyone is milling about, no one taking charge. Over the course of several suspiciously confused minutes it becomes clear that none of the women present is, in fact, the teacher. Everyone is wondering where the teacher is. We wait. We mill (or hide our faces). At least once another girl comes over to check K&L out, but they aren't particularly friendly or welcoming. I start to get more stressed, wishing the girls would open up a bit, be friendly, maybe mill about with the others. Then L tells me *she* has to go potty.

K insists that she does as well, though it's been all of... 10? minutes since she last did.

I take them out, and this time we go to the Men's room.

K: Why 'men's room' Daddy?
me: Because I'm not supposed to go into the other bathroom. And L isn't big enough to go by herself.
K: You not supposed to go into the anana bathroom?
me: No.
K: Why?
me: Well... because... everyone wants privacy. And women don't want men around when they are going to the bathroom. (it sounds somewhat hollow, given our more lackadaisical approach to pottying privacy when in-house, but it's what I can offer in the heat of the moment).

We're all now in the men's room, and this one has a single stall and a urinal. I've closed the door and locked it, just in case. I'm helping L off with her tights and lifting her up onto the toilet, wondering just how clean everything is. K touches and knocks off a toddler seat that was precariously balanced on the handicap rail (me: Don't touch that! Don't. Touch. Anything!!!) , and now L wants to use that. I sit her on it, she pees and finishes up, then it's K's turn and she wants to use the seat as well. And amazingly (to me), she pees significantly, just minutes after the last time. Next, it's hand washing - L wants to do the soap herself, but can't reach it. K wants to get a paper towel herself, but can't reach them.... I'm guessing my blood pressure is up above normal. I finally manage to herd them back out and into the dance room, where someone from the community center is now telling us that she's left messages for the teacher and she's usually punctual and and and....

She pulls out a boombox and the moms/daughters decide to free dance as long as they're here. I encourage the girls to join in, but they won't. The moms/daughters switch to follow-the-leader and again I encourage and the girls resist. I saw that if they're not going to do anything, we should just go home and have a dance party there. No movement. I say again that they should go join the follow-the-leader. K says "not unless you do too." My nightmare. But I get up and join the end of the line, hands under my arms, flapping my elbows like a chicken. I glance over and see the girls standing by the stage. L comes to join me, but wants to hold my hand, which inhibits my flapping ability some. It goes on like this a bit longer before we retire to the stage again. K is sitting there, watching the others with a smile on her face. I can tell she'd like to be a part of it, but she refuses to join in.

And here's the kicker. I get exactly where she's coming from. Sadly, I would be doing the exact same thing that she is, if I wasn't expected to set a better example for my daughters. I would sit and watch until I was certain of my place and certain of acceptance, and only then would I join in. K, I'm afraid you're genetically screwed.

Eventually we do leave the moms/daughters to their antics, and on the way out K needs to go to the bathroom again. L and I wait, but this time I don't bother to close the main door. There's no one else around, and she's got her stall door closed anyway. Once again she needs me to help with the paper, and once again I can't get into the stall because it's locked. After all this (and prayers that L doesn't get it into her head that she needs to go again), we head downstairs where I ask at the front desk about makeup sessions. I say that we don't even know how many sessions are left, given the illness of the teacher and the snowdays and.... The woman there tells me that this is the first day of a new session, that all the earlier missed days are supposed to have been credited back to people.

So, it turns out that we aren't even supposed to be here. It's a class we're not signed up for!

We retreat then, out the door to beat our way against the arctic wind, back toward the parking lot, where I plug the girls back into their seats and get into my own. I pause for a moment before starting the van, and K has something to say:

I don't even want to do dance class, ever again!

(I don't tell her, but I'm feeling much the same.)

Friday, March 4, 2011

pictures of ...

... me, taken by L.

me, washington coast
(by L, w/ my cambra, 1/31/11)

I love seeing the girls take an interest in photography. K has had a camera since her 3rd birthday, and she used it a fair amount at first, but hasn't much lately. L on the other hand, was regularly "borrowing" it.

Now L has her own cambra. But she likes to use mine (though she hasn't mastered the art of looking through the viewfinder at whatever it is she's taking a picture of). In the above one, I moved into what I guessed was the frame (there are several "outtakes" from the same string of photos that show clearly how I'm mostly not in the pictures).

I took to photography early. I can still remember my first camera, a Brownie, and still have some pictures that I took with it. It used 110 (I think) roll film, which means that at 7yo I was mastering the challenge of threading a film leader into an empty spool.... Sometimes I impress myself! After that it was borrowing my dad's old asahi pentax (w/o built-in light meter) before graduating to my own pentax (w/ light meter). I took pictures all through junior high and high school, and a bit in college, though being away from home equaled having to pay for film/developing myself, so my output dropped off significantly. And then after college I was broke but still was taking pictures. Some of those rolls I only processed within the last 10 years, some 15 years after I took them. Now I'm mostly taking digital, though sometimes will still haul out the nikon 35mm or pentax 4.25....

None of this matters as much as the fun I have seeing my daughters taking pictures. Here are a couple of representative* shots:

Daddy, by K
(sometime in 2010?)

Daddy, by L
(late 2010/early 2011)

* by "representative" I mean in terms of composition, etc. The exhaustion and bleariness on my face are due entirely to the poor focal qualities of the cameras!

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

...mama tried...

... to nap while L took pictures...

M, by L
(taken, apparently, during a "snatch-nap",
some time between early 12/10 and mid-2/11)

L got a "cambra" for her birthday this last December, and for a bit there was taking a lot of photos. I've now begun taking more pictures with it than she, but I don't get credit for this one.