Friday, February 27, 2015

Studying Hard

At the times in my life when I've imagined having school-age children, I've always thought I'd have the sort of job that would allow me to be home with them in the afternoons.  I had this sort of dream, that we'd come home, and all sit down at the table and spend an hour working on homework together.  I'm aware that this is the sort of pipe dream that people without school-age children indulge in, but there it was.

Anyway, although I got home at 4:45 yesterday, a little late to be starting homework (if the children had homework, which thankfully they don't), they wanted to play at being in school, and they congregated around the table in a tableau that made the cockles of my heart very warm.*

Margaret wrote a story, as is usual, about her family.  It began "My cousin Nathan is my favorite" and Ellie wrote a list.  It was a series of vertical lines, but she gave it to me to take to the grocery store, because that's where you need lists.

It was all very sweet and wholesome and made me wonder where my real children were.

*This was good, because the temperature was exceptionally low, and my cockles were rather chilled.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015


One of Margaret and Ellie's favorite pastimes at the moment involves playing a game called "jump fort" which involves removing all of the cushions from the couches in the living room (heaven forbid that one of the adults in the house dares to sit on the couches; that's not why they are there) and jumping on them.  They usually just pile them, but the other night Ellie came up with a game that she called hotscoptch.  I think it must be related to hopscotch, in that it sounds like it, and is somewhat linearly organized, but really, it just involves her running up and down on a row of cushions.

I'm sure that this is contributing to the length of the couch's life.  At any rate, they seem to enjoy it very much, and it's mostly harmless.

Monday, February 23, 2015

At the Zoo

There was a moment this weekend when the boreal blasts momentarily ceased, and the mercury* climbed out of its basement accommodations.  So we did what we do when the weather is passable outside, but not so pleasant that people actually want to be outside: we went to the zoo.**

 Margaret managed the zoo map (because despite the fact that they can navigate without the map, our children feel it necessary to pick up the paper ones when they come in), and Ellie brought her small globe so that they could check where in the world the animals came from.

We went to the sea lions and seals, where Ellie had a fit when it became clear that Margaret wanted to share in the globe transport responsibilities, but Margaret accepted that Ellie was small and just learning to share, so we moved on.  At the apes, Margaret stopped to stick her fingers in the nose of a statue.

You really haven't visited the zoo until you've done that.

Then she stared excitedly at the baby orangutan which you couldn't see very well because it was completely camouflaged by its mother.

And then they rode the statue.

We went to both the reptile house and the butterfly house after this picture was taken, but they had passed me the globe and the maps and their coats, and so my hands were too full for picture-taking.  This means that I missed a picture of a shirt-sleeve-clad Ellie striding through the cold, shouting "the cold never bothered me anyway" over and over and over and over.  It amused me, and particularly amused the crowd of teenage girls who witnessed it.

*Not that we use any mercury-based thermometers, but I've been given to understand that this is an idiomatic way of referring to the temperature.

** We don't go to the zoo when it is actually nice outside, because that's when everyone goes to the zoo, and we feel that the company of our fellow human beings causes the experience to degenerate quickly.

A Tidy Pachyderm

One of the things that is most notable about Ellie is that she seems to be inherently tidy.  We're a little flummoxed as to where she got this -- we think that it might be a recessive trait, and it does appear that there are people who have it in both our families, so that's a reasonable hypothesis.  It's not that she always puts her toys away or anything, but she seems to have some sort of innate sense of order, and a desire that things be in the right places.

Not, sadly, an overwhelming desire to put things in the right places, but a desire for other people to fall in with her sense of what is right.

Sometimes, though, the people around her are unresponsive, and she does have to take things into her own hands.  This happened Saturday.  After playing for quite some time that she was swimming in the living room in her new swimsuit (which she adores), she decided that she was done with that game, and so she asked me to put her away.

I was confused.  I mean, I assumed that she didn't want a lengthy jail sentence (though you never know, with Ellies), and I couldn't think what else she would mean.*

She got tired of explaining it to me over and over at increasingly high volumes, and so decided to do it herself.

Margaret also helped, as she has an interest in Ellie being put away.

*Leo and I do occasionally refer to putting the children to bed as putting them away, but rarely in their hearing, and Ellie is not known these days for begging to take a nap.

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Snow Day!

I hate snow pants.

I hate gloves.

I hate hats and coats and wooly things of all kinds.

Also, I'm rapidly becoming convinced that I hate the snow.

Boots I'm giving a tentative pass, but they should watch it; I may rescind that at any point.

In other news, we had a lot of snow yesterday, snow which is still on the ground and making me feel twitchy about things.

My school was cancelled, and Margaret and Ellie were off anyway because of President's Day.  My plan for the day was that we would spend it calmly inside, in quiet, decorous indoor pursuits, like building block castles which we would then immediately clean up, and having tea parties with toy elephants, and reading stories.

Ellie, who is recovering from a nasty cold, was on board with this idea, but Margaret wanted to spend all day out in the snow.  Ellie wanted to spend all day indoors.  This was the source of some tension.  I think I spend all day putting on and taking off other people's snow pants.

It was, however, enjoyable once we were out, and before anyone decided that they were freezing.

Ellie took on shoveling the already-shoveled walk.  She did a good job, too, once she got started.  She was very grateful to me that I was willing to share my shovel with her, and also very angry that I wasn't willing to let her shovel the stairs with an adult-sized shovel.  I managed to convince her that she should stay outside even if she wasn't going to be allowed to fall down the steps, but she was rather sniffly after that point.

Margaret came out to sled and sledded with a will.  Not with very much sense of self-preservation, because after a while she got the snow packed hard and slick enough that she was sliding out into the street.  I put a stop to it, first by standing at the bottom of the hill and blocking her, and then when my shins began to feel bruised, by confiscating her sled.  She didn't see the point in this.

She was not pleased with her sledding being curtailed, so I hauled one screaming (Margaret) and one sadly whimpering (Ellie) child into the house, where I stripped them down and threw their clothes into the dryer.  I coveted my mother's ground-floor utility room at that moment, or our neighbor's basement laundry/mud room, which put the taking off of the clothes and the snow in the same place as the dryer.  Luckily for Margaret, Leo took her sledding on a big hill after work, so that worked out for her.  I was rather glad to get back to work today, where I am not responsible for preventing frostbite.

Sunday, February 15, 2015

Breaking the News

On Friday, I went and had the mid-pregnancy ultrasound that checks for all sorts of health and well-being things, but more importantly tells us whether the small person currently in residence is a boy or a girl.

Margaret and Ellie had both been saying for a while that they wanted a little sister, and Margaret had gone so far as to demand that I not tell her that it was a boy.  She wanted to be told that it was a girl, though, so I'm not sure how she thought the secret would be kept.

I stopped on the way home to grab a onesie that would convey the news to them.

Margaret got hung up on awesome, but figured out the rest of it, and then, more in sorrow than in anger, told me that she had wanted a baby sister, so shouldn't I do something about that?  Ellie insisted on trying to put the onesie on, and then, when it wouldn't go over her head, cast herself on the floor sobbing that I wasn't to buy clothes for the baby, I was to buy clothes for her.

Welcome to being the middle child, short stuff.  Welcome to being the middle child.

Anyway, by yesterday morning, Margaret had developed a simple plan to change things.  All we needed was a paper bag, some oil, and a dead girl.

We were to grind up the dead girl in oil, and then plaster the paste over my stomach under a paper bag, and then I needed to drink the oil, and -- as she put it -- "easy-peasy, we have a girl."

Leo and I declined to help her gather the ingredients.

We are happy to have a boy, and Margaret and Ellie have come around to it.  I'm not sure how Ellie feels about clothing purchasing habits (which, I'm afraid, are going to be slanted against her for a long time to come), but she's accepted the idea of a little brother.  Margaret is very excited about the whole thing now, and has given up her gruesome voodoo plans, which is all to the good.

Margaret's Story

One of the things that I find perpetually amusing about Margaret is that she doesn't seem to think that her family is big enough.  Which is, just to be clear, ridiculous, because her family is objectively huge.  Not her immediate family necessarily (though we are pushing up on above average) but her extended family.  Leo's cousins keep having babies, and the family is close-knit enough that Margaret sees them almost as much as she sees her own cousins.  So she has no complaints.

She keeps, however, bringing bits of paper home on which she details her desires for a larger and more exotic family.

The text reads "My Ant Rosie* is in Japan to see her mommy.  She is going to moov acros the oshin to North America."  Here it is with her picture of the exceptionally colorful airplane on which she intends Aunt Rosie to move to North America.

*Margaret has no Aunt Rosie, formiciform or no.  She has invented her, along with a cousin Lucy who lives in Morocco.  When pressed, she says that Rosie is a great-aunt, so we wouldn't know about her.

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

A Very Exotic Cow

Our trip to the Botanical Garden this weekend included a stop we don't usually make.  Ellie strode out in front, and veered off our usual pathway to the Temperate House (which I like better than the Climatron, because the Climatron is kept hot and humid, and I spend most of my life trying to avoid places that are hot and humid).  She went in the door, and picked a route through down the stairs.  She seemed to have it all planned out, and I began to think that other, less firm people had been bringing her to the Botanical Garden.  As it turns out, I was completely right.  She led us unerringly to the play area in the bottom of the Climatron and made a beeline for the cow costume.  Because of course there was a cow costume.

Then she wanted art materials.  Lots and lots of art materials.  So she muddled around with those for a while, and then she needed to go to the bathroom.  Leo suggested that I finish adorning her mask, because we were going to move on, and she would be mad of Margaret had a finished product and all Ellie had was a mask with a few flowers on it.

So I did.  Quickly.  Symmetrically.  In a rigid pattern.  Because that's the way I am, and I can't change.

It was supposed to be a bird mask, but I suppose cows like to adorn themselves too.

Anyway, she hated my embellishments.  Every so often on our stroll around the garden, she would mention how she wished that I hadn't done that to her mask because she liked it before.  She wasn't angry, you understand, just a little hurt.

I'm blaming Leo.

When we got back to the car, she ripped all embellishments off the mask until it was a blank white plate half, and then asked me sweetly if I didn't agree that it looked nicer now.


Monday, February 9, 2015

Teaching the Geese Manners

This weekend, the weather broke out of it's miserable pattern (which is how I am choosing to describe winter, because I don't want to admit that it's a seasonal thing and not a malicious aberration in nature).

We took immediate advantage; we had planned to go to the Botanical Garden last weekend as part of my exceptionally lazy birthday party, and we had gotten rained and snowed out, meaning that I had to do actual work on the party.  So when the weather was favorable, we jumped at the chance.  For the first time since winter set in, there were birds at the bridge where the fish are, and although we're supposed to be feeding the fish, the birds are far more gratifying to feed.  So that was exciting.

Margaret and Ellie tried to cast themselves off the bridge in various ways, as is their wont.

They also kept up a constant demand for food to give to the ducks, as merely looking at ducks is entirely passé and watching them peck the water after food pellets is the best entertainment ever.  Also, Ellie was not as grumpy as she looks here.

And then Margaret decided that she needed to go off by herself down to the water to feed the geese.  As a side note, I find geese some of the most repellent birds I've ever met; as far as I can tell, they fulfill no redeeming social purpose, and they annoy me with their snaky necks and nippiness.  This may be unfair, as I think my brain categorizes them as dirty swans, and I dislike swans.

Anyway, Margaret went down to the edge of the water, sat down, and began trying to teach the swans to eat nicely.  I'm not sure how she was planning to accomplish this, because her methods were somewhat opaque to me, but she told me that she was doing it by clever placement of food.

My guess is that hiding her eyes under her hat played into her plans.  Because if the geese can see where you're looking, they'll pounce on the food.  You have to be careful with geese.  They're tricky.

Friday, February 6, 2015

Airplane Pose

At night, Leo and the children engage in a bizarre ritual wherein he throws them about the living room and turns them upside down and balances them on his feet in the air and they squeal with glee and clamor for more.

They call it "playing."

Last night, Leo was assembling some dinner and they realized that I was a no go for this kind of entertainment, and so they took matters into their own hands (and feet!).

Sometimes it's an airplane, and sometimes it's an accident, depending on who is on top.  On the bright side, it seemed to produce the requisite number of hysterical squeals, so maybe they are finally becoming self-sufficient.  We can hope.