Monday, September 30, 2013

The Cat in the Hat Comes Back

I have just recently informed you, dear reader, of Ellie's fascination with The Cat in the Hat, but I have not, perhaps, sufficiently impressed upon you the extent to which said story has permeated our existence.


She can't read that well; she's just reciting it.  And if someone (Leo or I, but probably Ellie on occasion) will feed her a line or two, she can get to the place where the Cat is standing on the ball and balancing ridiculous numbers of things.

I feel that this is excessive.

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Practice, Practice, Practice

Ellie apparently wants to do a Carnegie Hall performance of her planned Halloween costume of The Cat in the Hat.  Actually, it strikes me that since I have been bad at blogging for the last few months (I have excuses -- really I do), my faithful reading public has not been inundated with descriptions of Ellie's slavish devotion to the works of Dr. Seuss, and particularly, to The Cat in the Hat.

She calls it "The Hat" and she would, if she were allowed to, carry it with her everywhere.  She identifies deeply with the fish, who is the source of adult authority in the story, and she constantly asks the name of the male protagonist.  (We don't know.  He is never named.  He's the narrator, and he never identifies himself.  We've decided that his name is Ted).

Margaret thought that they should both be Madeline, but it was proving difficult to assemble the requisite costume in Ellie sizes, so we have opted for Ellie's literary idol.  I ordered a hat.  I have many skills, and probably, in extreme cases, I could make a Cat in the Hat hat, but it would probably cost 20 or 30 dollars by the end, for equipment, and screwing up, and refinishing the table after I let hot glue dribble on it.  But there was a lovely one for sale on amazon, and amazon delivers things right to the door, and I don't have to brave Michael's 2 days before Halloween, which is, just between you, me, and the internet, the sort of thing that Dante, were he writing today, would have made one of the deeper circles of Hell.

So I ordered a hat.  And it came yesterday.  When I opened it up, Ellie gleefully shouted "The Hat the hat!  The Hat the hat."  It was very cute.  And she grabbed it, stuck it on her head, and trotted off to find her copy of The Cat in the Hat.  

She's very dedicated, is our Ellie.  And she reads with you.  It is endlessly amusing to ask her what the fish says, to get her to say "No, no!"

Margaret is also fond of hats in all their various iterations, and so once Ellie had been haled off to bed (and more Cat in the Hat reading, because that is what she does before bed every night, if not being fobbed off with Roar Book, known in most circles as Where the Wild Things Are) she tried it on.

But she was too busy watching White Christmas (her choice -- she likes the dresses and dancing and thinks that she and Ellie have a lucrative career ahead of them singing about being sisters) to look at the camera.

Completely Competent

I'm not sure how it happened (probably time, but let's not dwell on that to much, tempus edax and all that), but Ellie has turned into a well-organized and independent young woman child toddler.  I'm comfortable with toddler.  Anyway, when I take her to school in the morning, she gets out of the car, grabs her bag full of clean diapers and breakfast, tries to run across the parking lot (we've entered that stage, and I am not a fan, but more on that another day), tromps into school, waves genially at all the young men clustered around the door, says "'cuse 'e" to anyone in her way (I'm just going to assume that she's also learning Italian somewhere), and goes to the elevator.

Frequently, she requests that she be allowed to "push butts," which -- before any grandparents worry about what that might mean -- is merely how she says "push buttons."

She's got it all together.  Let's hope we can keep up.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

And Now, A Message from Our Sponsor. Er, Content. Whatever.

Margaret has something she would like to say.

Unfortunately, the explanation of where Frank was included the word "hospital," so I had to defuse expectations that she was going to end up with another aunt or uncle.  In Margaret's world, the only reason to go to the hospital is to acquire babies, so Mom, Dad, you might want to be careful you don't get one.

Ain't No Party Like A Margaret Party

There's a story here.  I don't know what it is; I don't know if I should be telling it here.  But this daughter of mine looks like Eric in these pictures, and I can't tell if it's a trick of genetics, or just that she's in a situation that I could imagine Eric getting himself into.

At any rate, I wasn't invited to this party, and I think that that shows rare good sense on her part.


I'm not sure what it is about my children, but they seem to have some sort of mad attraction to porthole-type assemblages in playgrounds.  If there's a place where they can play peek-a-boo, they will.  Sometimes by force.  Passersby need to approach them carefully, lest they be drafted into emergency peekabooing.

And then they go and try to play on playground equipment which they are not old enough for.  Rock climbing.  Humph.  Ideas above her station.

Ellie Cooks. Margaret Eats. There are Toads.

Everyday, I stop teaching at 2:45, rush upstairs, whisk Ellie away from her entertainments, pack her into the car, drive to pick Margaret up, take Ellie out of the car, loiter around the entrance to a preschool for a few minutes, hoping that Ellie behaves near the stairs, put the children back in the car, run any errands that need running, go home, give the children a snack, and then start to think about dinner.

One slight hitch is that both Margaret and Ellie are tired turnips by this point, and they want to have undivided attention and be doing 7 or 8 things that they are not supposed to, and on top of that, they want dinner to be ready yesterday, but we can't eat until Leo gets home, because family dinner prevents teen pregnancy, and darn it, we're going to have a family dinner.*

Anyway, it makes for a frenetic afternoon, where I am trying to be at least 2 and frequently 3 places in the house all at once.

Recently, small Ellie has decided that her job in this afternoon maelstrom of activity is to help me with dinner.  I really appreciate the impulse, and in a year or two, it may actually be help, since she is a tidy and biddable child (sometimes) who does things like pick up after herself.  But right now, she is a terrifying liability in the kitchen.

The other night, I made Toad in the Hole.  I like Toad in the Hole.  All decent, right-thinking people like Toad in the Hole.  No one thinks that it's what you would call healthy, but it tastes marvelous.  It's a sort of crispy, sausagey bliss on your plate, and it's easy to make, and after eating it, no one could ever think that they were hungry, possibly for weeks.  It's the sort of food that you feed to a man who goes every day to work in a mine, because it tastes like meat all through without having very much meat in it, by means of trapping every possibly calorie that might have made a break for freedom in a greasy, fluffy, crispy shell.  It is amazing.

And Ellie helped.  She stood under my feet while I fried the sausages, saying "Up.  Up.  Up. Up. Up. Up. Up. Up. Up. Up. Up. Up. Up. Up."  I tried to explain that I was cooking sausages, which occasionally get mad at me because I am burning them, and retaliate in a suicidal manner by squirting fat at me.  But she didn't listen.  So I picked her up and twisted away from the stove and stirred with my arm stretched out as far as I could.

And then she stirred the batter.  Not well, but she stirred.  With a 'poon, I need 'poon.

Then I banished her (oh, the weeping and wailing and gnashing of teeths) while I put the parts together because it involves very hot grease and a very hot oven.  These things do not, if I get to choose, mix with Ellies.

Finally, she watched it cook.  First she had to see where it was.

Then she had to push the stool into position, and climb aboard.

And then she watched.


Finally, we served it.  Margaret was dubious, because "Mommy, I don't want to eat toads.  Frog would be sad."

Ellie was just squirrelly, and was certainly not going to eat this with a fork.  Which she told us about.  At great length.  Which is impressive, when you consider how few words she knows.

But then she told us what she really thought of Toad in the Hole.  Not much, as it happens.

*I'm not sure what the causal connection is, but I'm assuming that having dinner with your parents every night has a dampening effect on adolescent libido. That's probably it.

All. By. Myself. With Sheep.

We've been trying to take the children out on weekends, for family fun outings.  You know, the type of outings where the parents provide interesting and educational opportunities for their children, and the children roll their eyes and drag their feet and ask if they're done yet so they can go home and watch television.

Actually, our children haven't yet realized that we're boring, so that's nice.  We're sort of working up to it.  I figure Margaret will soon discover exactly how uncool our outings are, but at the moment, seeing her name on a plaque, getting to pretend to ride concrete sheep, and feeding some ducks sets her up for the day.

We had Ellie at the sheep, particularly now that she is big enough that she can climb on and off all by herself.

Of course, one thing that she is certain about, our Ellie who has decided that her sister is a person to be watched, and -- as far as she is able given her diminutive stature -- thwarted, is that Margaret should stick to the large-scale sheep, and Ellie should be allowed to have the small ones.

Unfortunately, Ellie is not yet old enough to realize that the proper strategy for removing her sister from the sheep would be to push the sister, not the sheep.  And I'm not in any particular hurry for her to learn to push her sister any more than she already knows, since I think the sister in question would meet violence with violence, and has height, weight, and reach on small Ellie.

My Trendy Urban Organic Baby

This is not a picture post, because although I took a picture this morning before I dropped Ellie off at the daycare, I did not bring my camera cable with me to school, and I am in an unaccustomed classroom at the moment (teaching ACT prep in a computer lab), and although the sounds of pencils scratching on scantron sheets is soothing in the extreme, I am not in my classroom where I have a cable somewhere, I think.

So there is not picture.

There is, however, a very cute story.

Ellie, as some of you may know, is not one for calling me Mommy.  She can say Ron, she can say something for Grandma, she can say Daddy, she can say Cat in the Hat, she can say Fox in Socks -- well, she can say something that is clearly meant for Fox in Socks, although it is somewhat more obscene than I hope Dr. Seuss intended -- she can say apple, although she won't eat them, she can say noodles, she can say bath, she can say ketchup and fries and no and yes and don't and dog and duck and cow and ham and orange and mouse and any number of words that aren't mommy.

And, of course, she can say Mommy; she just chooses not to most of the time.

Among the words that Ellie can say is "brioche" (also, croissant, because she is picky about her French breakfast breads).  And she says it all the time.  She loves brioche.  She spent most of dinner at Leo's parents' house Sunday night yelling (and, it has to be admitted, screaming and carrying on) about how she NEEDED brioche.

When I picked her up on Monday, having not given her brioche for TWO WHOLE DAYS, she waited until we were getting in the car, and said "I need joshe.  Go hoe food, mama?" [I need brioche.  Go to Whole Foods, mommy?].

I feel put in my place.  And my place is the place occupied by someone who is not a source of food.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Road Warriors

Neither of the girls are quite to riding two-wheelers yet, but they both like to be in charge of their own locomotion.

Ellie chirked kind of disparagingly at Margaret needing help, but I'm pretty sure that Ellie wouldn't do too well with peddling either, so she needs to be a little more charitable.

Anyway, I think that the allure is that they have special hats, but honestly, most of us would do almost anything if there were really special hats.

Spaceman Spiff

We've been trying to slowly expand Margaret's bedtime reading choices, both because we feel that more complex texts will be more boring to her, and thus more likely to put her to sleep, and also because we want her to be thinking in more complex ways herself.

These are, unfortunately, mutually exclusive.

It's also more fun to read more complex things.  It's not that I don't appreciate the merits of "Richard Scarry's Busytown," but as I am not a preschooler, I don't really like it.

Anyway, a brief tour through our basement bookshelves (yeah, we haven't moved our books upstairs after the remodel last year.  Vive le Kindle!), I came up with an option that Margaret, somewhat to my surprise, liked.

Although I'm pretty sure that she's not going to be signing up for a membership in Get Rid Of Slimy girlS, or G.R.O.S.S. anytime soon.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Fork. Fork. It's FORK.

This isn't actually a post about all the rude words that Ellie says that aren't really rude but are just her mispronunciations.  Let's just say that when she speaks of forks, shirts, spoons, yogurt, Margaret, peaches, or biscuits, it's best if there aren't people around that may judge me and my parenting.

But that's not the point.

The point is that Ellie has entered a stage of "anything she can do, you'd better let me do or there will be weeping and wailing and gnashing of teeth, which I can do really well, because I have my canines now so watch out."

This means that she insists on having all of the silverware that Margaret has, whether she knows how to use it or not.

She is a little bit embarrassed about the looks that she gets because of this, as she should be.  But it doesn't stop her.

Jackson Pollack?

This morning, as I plumbed the depths of our size 2 clothing storehouse, I pulled out the most artistic onesie we have -- a red one emblazoned with pop art pacifiers, a la Andy Warhol.

Apparently this set the mood, but Ellie wanted to channel a different modern artist.  I thought Jackson Pollack, but the more I look at this picture, I wonder if there is a modern artist who ate his paints.  Or her paints.  We are equal opportunity here chez Human.

Anyway, it appears she's having fun, and that's all that matters after all.

Monday, September 9, 2013

Ellie Sees Nature

On many of our outdoor excursions this summer, Ellie rode in the backpack.  I felt sort of bad about that, but Margaret is a two-hand job, and my mother was down a hand, and it was the way to manage the children without doing damage to my mother's poor, fragile tendons.

Anyway, Ellie liked the backpack.

She particularly liked that she could reach forward and grab my hair and pull backwards.  I don't think that she was signifying that she wanted to stop.  I think that she was signifying that she wanted to hear me squawk "Ellie, that's not nice," and watch me ineffectually try to bat her little hands away while still supporting her weight on my shoulders.

Little twerp.

But a cute little twerp, nonetheless.

But Darling . . .

Margaret spent much of the summer looking cool.  I don't know what it was -- well, I do.  It was the sunglasses that I bought her -- but there was something more than that.  I have had innumerable pairs of sunglasses, and I never looked as cool as Margaret.

One night, we went up to Hurricane Ridge for a picnic.  I quite like picnics at Hurricane Ridge, provided the wildlife can be persuaded to be other places.  Margaret got quite stern with a particularly persistent deer, and then all was well.

Ellie enjoyed her dinner from the sling of a hiking backpack.

Notice how she still, with food in her hands and her mouth stuffed to overflowing, manages to say "more."

Margaret ate her dinner, and then posed against the backdrop.