Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Guest Post

Hi, Geek Husband here; I am going to be filing in for this post as Momma Writer is currently unavailable. Now, lest you, dear reader, panic, fear not, for it is highly likely that she shall return. Read on....

One of Momma Writer's not too secret identities, aside from wife, mother, cook, maid, nurse, counselor, chauffeur, writer, business person, teacher, banker, and Boss is nature lover. Unfortunately, this is a problem as she is married to me, Geek Husband. I firmly believe that if God intended us to live outside (on vacation or otherwise) then She would not have invented room service or 1,000 thread count sheets. This means that while under lesser circumstances I will do nearly anything to help bring the kids up "right"; I sadly draw the line at sleeping on the hard ground communing with spiders, beetles, mosquitoes, bees, skunks, raccoons, and other "wonders" of the great outdoors. Especially with a perfectly good house, complete with bed, less than 10 feet away.

Anyway, as a direct result of my incomprehensible lack of appreciation for the wonders of the great outdoors (or something to that effect), every couple of years her "raw nature" level dips to critical levels and need to be replenished NOW.

So Momma Writer is currently in a small tent in the backyard with both Mam and Smunch "sleeping". Now, given the fact that, according to all reports, both children were totally wired today and bouncing off of the celling (walls are just SO passe.) I just can't imagine sleeping (or anything even close) is actually occurring.

So, dear friends, I am sure that Momma Writer will return to us sometime tomorrow with her nature (and small child in a tight enclosed space) levels *totally* refilled. And, while she probably will not be quite as well rested; I am quite sure that she will be happier with many tales to tell.

p.s. from MommaWriter: This is what happens when I leave to go camping mid-post and leave my laptop here!
p.p.s. from Geek Husband. I don't need an "unguarded" laptop to sneak in, but it does help. ;-)


To be perfectly honest, I was a little terrified of today. Smunch's behavior was so abominable yesterday that I wasn't even sure I'd be able to get out of bed this morning. It was one of those days where I just had to think, "What is wrong with this kid??" And I did...many times.

I should have paid my babysitter extra yesterday, but then, Smunch did have speech therapy, so we were gone and gave her a sweet hour and a half with an angelic little Mam. Even though the babysitter was here for 5 hours, I spent at least an hour and a half downstairs trying to placate Smunch into some kind of behavior than resembled a human being. It didn't work. He was a demon right up 'til dinner time...and then he magically became a nice little boy again.

So, yesterday was rough and I had a babysitter for 5 hours.

Today, on a whim, I decided to excavate my old tent from the storage shed. I say "old" tent, but in truth, this tent has only been used twice...both times for one-night car camping trips long before there were children in the picture. It's a very nice tent and it's in great shape.

The kids were thrilled. I decided to take them camping...in the backyard. After we all hung out in the tent for a little while this morning, we left it up, had lunch and went off to swimming class. Both kids were awesome the whole time, so we stopped for frozen yogurt while getting a prescription refilled and went to Safeway for camping supplies.

It turns out that camping supplies consist of hotdogs, graham crackers, Hershey bars and marshmallows.

Somewhere between Safeway and Curious George, there was a lot of bad behavior, including sand throwing, Lego structure-destroying and some shrill screaming. The tent came down and got packed away. The level of screaming and crying increased exponentially. In the end, I promised if they could help each other right the damages to the other's property, I'd reinstate their camping privileges.

Yeah. The kids still watched Curious George at 4:30, but at 6 o'clock the campfire (aka, barbeque) was roaring and Daddy showed the kids how to cook their own hot dogs. We moved from the campfire to the...uh...patio table. There was a good deal of screaming and crying after Mam was reassured that yes, indeed, she did have to eat all her carrots before she'd be allowed to roast marshmallows, but Smunch was so anxious to get on with the s'mores that he stood there and fed her most of the carrots.

The tent went back up.

We had our s'mores, the kids had their bath. They couldn't wait to jump in the tent and go to sleep.

But, of course, what they did was jump in the tent, get in their sleeping bags and wiggle...and giggle...and wiggle some more. "Mam woke me up!" "This is a nice tent!" "Why is it blue?" "What is that light?" "What was that sound?" And at 9:45pm, our camping trip was over. Both kids were moved, of their own accord, to their beds and I was free at last!

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Mam-a-rina Ballerina

First, I guess I ought to say that I've never taken a moment of ballet class in my entire life. I don't know if I was just underprivileged in this regard or if I really never showed any interest. Of course, it's hard to show interest in something you've never even seen. So, when a friend of mine told me about this 3-day ballet workshop at one of the local dance schools...and she told me that Mam's Sarah would be enrolling, I just couldn't resist.

I'm still not sure whether ballet class is just an expensive excuse to dress little girls up in cute little dance outfits and beam over how lovely they look. Because they do. They look positively adorable. And if I may say so myself, our Mam was no exception.

I have never seen Mam quite so excited to do anything. No arguments when it came time to get dressed. And then she pranced around saying "I'm a ballerina!"

She busted out a few moves I'd never seen before...like this one on the left. O.K., it doesn't look much like ballet, but she hadn't even been to her first class yet! I'm not sure she quite had the distinction between dancing and gymnastics nailed down yet. On the right, here she is "balancing" and declaring that ballerinas do balancing. I guess they do. It just rarely looks like this.

And when it came down to the ballet class, not a hesitation in the world, although Mam's mommy had a complete brain freeze and thought we had arrived 15 minutes early, when we were actually 15 minutes late. She had so much fun with the whole thing that her enthusiasm lasted right through to the swim lesson we sprinted to as soon as I picked her up. Too bad this isn't likely to translate into an afternoon nap!

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Harry Potter Arrives!

Our little town ranked #77 in the nation on Amazon's list of Harry Potter-est towns. It's kind of hard to imagine our little community being that into books that are ostensibly for children. Even though it prides itself on having an excellent school district, it still maintains a slightly-too-upscale downtown for doing any real shopping and restaurants too pricey for a casual dinner. Then again, despite the prices, some folks around here seem to think they're just fine for casual dining. Must be something about the slightly-too-high average income around here. But check this out... Know what this picture is?

This is Main Street on Friday, June 20th and yes, that's a movie screen in the middle of the street. And if you look carefully, you can see rows of folding chairs set up in front of it. The movie doesn't start for another hour or two. And what would it be on this particular date besides Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone. It was just a little entertainment to help pass the time as the crowd waited for our local bookstore to open at midnight to get the latest and final installment in the best-selling series from Britain.

Not only did they shut down Main Street for the movie, but there was a big inflatable slide (with Smunch) and there were two bouncy houses. There was face painting (for $7 a pop) and there were fake tattoos. There was Bertie Bott's Ice Cream (a poorly disguised Baskin Robbin's booth).

And everywhere there were people...regular ol' people from a slightly snooty little town...dressed as wizards and witches. They had brooms (no doubt emblazoned with 'Nimbus 2000') and lighting bolts drawn on their foreheads.

Smunch and Mam were only slightly amused once the fun with the slide and bouncy houses were done, so we took them to the real Baskin Robbins for some ice cream (Bertie Bott's sold only sundaes with vanilla ice cream) and headed home. I tried to explain to Smunch why this was a big day and how excited all these people were. I don't think he really got it.

I got it. I secretly wish to be a child again so I could go to these midnight parties and stay up all night reading Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. But no. I get to go home and perform...yet again...our elaborate bedtime ritual, mercifully cut short since we were out past bedtime.

I ordered my own copy of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows back in...uh...(should I admit this?)...April. Although I passed up Amazon's offer to guarantee a Saturday delivery if I wanted to pay for shipping, I secretly hoped that the Owl Post would magically arrive on Saturday and deposit my book in the mailbox. What do you know? Those owls are really something. I was so excited to get my book that I actually believe it's a pity no one saw me bouncing back to the house with my box.

So, here it is. THE BOOK. I like having it. It makes me feel like a true fan, despite missing out on the midnight parties. I'm in the middle of another book right now, so I'm not going to start it right away. But I have it and it makes me feel all warm inside. There's a teeny little part of me that doesn't really want to read it. I don't know what happens. (Don't you dare tell me.) But I know Harry Potter lives again in that book. And once it's over? Who knows?

On a side note, Daddy is now reading a little bit of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone to Smunch every night. Smunch seems to like it. I just wish he'd been old enough to take him to the midnight party on Friday. If I can't be a kid again, I'd at least like to see Smunch excited that he's got a mom cool enough to take him to these things. Hopefully, J.K. Rowling, or some equally talented writer, has something else awesome in store for us in the next few years.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Blowing It

After yesterday's heartwarming post, the title on this one sounds a little ominous, but I didn't actually screw anything up today. We started our day by going to a glass-blowing demonstration in San Jose. the kids were pretty captivated and it gave us a fun and oh-so-educational way to start the day. It sure beat playing another game of Candyland...or Mam's favorite, "Cat in the Hat" (aka The Dr. Suess Game).

And really, what could be cooler than a big furnace that heats molten glass to 2200 degrees? There was lots of very, very hot glass to be seen. And the two guys at the Bay Area Glass Institute did an impressive job of creating pitcher and vase for us to see. Unfortunately, like all worthwhile art, glass blowing is a process and that means nothing happened instantaneously...which means that despite their fascination with glass blowing, the kids were pretty bored after half an hour. And we were in the back row, so there was a lot of standing on Mommy and insisting on being picked up. Mommy got pretty bored of that, even if the demonstration was pretty fun.

Still, it makes me feel like maybe I'm not such a slouch as a mom when I actually bother to pack up the kids, including a lunch and all their swim gear for their lesson just after lunchtime and take them to a place they might enjoy and might actually, possibly learn something in the process. They may not be begging to go to another glass blowing demo anytime soon, but hopefully they won't be forgetting this one in the near future either!

Monday, July 16, 2007

On the Downside of Up

Honestly, I don't remember which song the title of this post comes from, but is seemed appropriate...wait, no....oh, I almost had it. "What it's Like" That's the song and a quick web search reveals it's by a band called Everlast. So there you go.

Anyhoo...I generally reserve my blog space for the happy, positive stuff going on in our lives. I justify this post by saying that I want to be able to look back at it in a year and smile at how far we've come. That's the optimism speaking.

Pessimistically, maybe I just have a few things I need to unload off my mind. A friend recently asked me if I have a compulsion to write. With the amount of writing I do, I'm not all that compelled to blog. But MommieN, this one's for you...a blog post born entirely out of compulsion to purge my suffering brain.

Today was a big day for us. It was the day we officially gave up on Smuch's first speech therapist (although I'd argue she sorta gave up on him months ago) and hired a new one.

Our first therapist came highly recommended. Her offices in Palo Alto are nice. Parents can watch sessions on closed circuit TV in the waiting room. The receptionist is friendly and exceptionally kind and both "Teacher Pat" and her colleague "Teacher Donna" are wonderful. They have a ton of experience with speech therapy, but in the end, they knew they were failing to help our son.

In what I heard as a last desperate suggestion, they said they'd talked to our pediatrician and that our pediatrician was interested in taking another look at Smunch. They didn't tell me why and our pediatrician wasn't all that forthcoming either. When we went in, she said she didn't think there was a problem, but she'd talk to the neurologist. She called back within a couple of hours and finally cleared up the mystery. Pat was concerned that maybe Smunch had Tourette's Syndrome and that the stuttering was caused by tics. The only way to know for sure would be to put him on medication to see if his stuttering improves.

I'd already been looking into other varieties of speech therapy. I'd heard some good things, and some bad, about the Lidcombe Program for preschoolers who stutter. Through a worldwide support group for parents of children who stutter, I fortuitously met a local mom whose daughter went through the Lidcombe Program and now stutters very little. Her therapist is here, in Menlo Park. I talked to her last week and we went for our first Lidcombe appointment today.

I liked the therapist, Mercedes, but the appointment wasn't exactly encouraging. She talked to us about the Lidcombe program and what we would need to do to make it work. We already knew this program included a lot of parental involvement, so it was mostly old news. Smunch played with Play Doh quietly while we talked about him. Then she interacted with him for a little while and went back to talking to us.

The most alarming part of the meeting was how her suggested approach changed after talking to Smunch. There was a significant feeling of "holy crap, this is BAD" hanging in the air. She started talking about how some of his coping strategies would make for clinical challenges. She asked us to rate the stuttering on a scale of 1 to 10. We agreed that, for him, it was a 7 or 8. "Really?" she said. "I would have said 9 or even 10." This is a woman who stutters (although I couldn't tell) and comes from a long line of stutterers herself.

We're to start his therapy by getting him to repeat one syllable words without stuttering. For a kid who loves to talk and speaks in long, complex sentences, this is going to be torture. Of course, trying to interpret his long sentences is also torture right now. There is no win here.

I got home and called his previous therapist's office to cancel our appointments from here on out. Instead of feeling relieved to have a new avenue to pursue, I felt sad. It's so hard to find good people who take a real interest in your child. When you do, they sort of become an extension of your family...the team working to help your child have a normal childhood. It was like breaking up with a boyfriend I still cared about just because I knew the relationship wasn't going anywhere. Awful.

Although many of our friends have said that Smuch's speech doesn't sound bad, we knew it was a big problem. We'd already had speech therapists confirm that suspicion, but there's nothing nice about having it confirmed again and again. And it's hard to think back to the time, just a little over a year ago, when this wasn't even a problem. It's like a monster came and latched onto our little boy and won't let him go.

Little Wonders

I had a thought the other day, while listening to the radio, that Rob Thomas' song "Little Wonders" would be a great theme song for my blog. For those of you who have known me for a long time...we're talking since high school...I've always been a little obsessed with song lyrics. I was one of those kids who scribbled words all over her binders. Some of those lyrics probably had more significance to me than they did for the people who wrote them!

Anyway, my thought for the day...

"Our lives are made
in these small hours
these little wonders
these twists and turns of fate
Time falls away
but these small hours
these small hours still remain..."

So, here's to a blog all about the small hours and little wonders of our life.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Take THAT, nasty ol' school photos!

A few months back, I wrote a post about the lousy photos I'd gotten of my children this year. Mam's school photos were abysmal. Smuch's were nonexistent and his Little League photos were passable. I promised to take them both to Sears Portrait Studio and get something decent of them. I took them last month, along with their cousin, Spencer. You may remember that was a little bit of an adventure too.

Today, I picked up our photos from Sears. For comparison, Mam's school photo is on the right. The one from Sears, purchased with a killer coupon for about $3 is on the left. I know it's just Sears and the photos aren't the highest quality you'll find anywhere in the world. I could've paid a lot more, but I LOVE these photos!...especially this one of Mam. Many, many thanks to Puja, the photographer at Sears Portrait Studio in Cupertino for these photos. She was awesome.

The photos of all three kid together turned out pretty great too. I'm especially thrilled with our eventual choice of clothing for the kids. It's sort of like interior decorating. I get the idea, so it's a mystery to me why it often turns out looking pretty crappy. This one, I love. I love that I went and spent the money on that cute little checkered dress at Gymboree. I love how it looks with the boys in matching jeans and white shirts. And, I love that the kids are barefoot...even though I forced that decision by forgetting Mam's shoes. I also love that in my joy over having such terrific photos, I've completely forgotten what a pain it was to get all the kids there and happy. I don't miss that lovely red bow that was supposed to be in Mam's hair. It looked great, but you know what? Her hair looks fine anyway.

I'm also pretty pleased with these two photos of Smunch. I know the first one shows more personality and may even be more true to Smunch than the second one. But I'm in love with the second one anyway. Because that's how I think of my beautiful little boy. He's got big, gorgeous blue eyes, a sweet smile and beautiful, unblemished skin...because, unlike his sister, he's timid and careful and his face is relatively scar-free. And something about this picture makes me actually believe my son is an angel, regardless of the fact that he's been extraordinarily difficult and is always making us worry about something or other. It's hard to imagine when I look at that picture. He looks like the sweetest little boy in the world...even if it's a rather institutional-looking shot. Don't get me wrong. Sometimes is really is a sweet little boy. But those moments usually pale in comparison to the moments when I'm struggling to pry him off the ceiling.

This last photo is one I almost didn't purchase. I don't know why. I just loved that other picture of Mam so much that this one looked a little silly. But I'm glad I've got it. Even though this photo is totallyposed, it says a lot about Mam's personality. Even though she's three and very, very...very opininated (latest quote: "Read my rules!"), she's still silly and hysterical...and really awfully cute.

Monday, July 9, 2007

Let's Go Fly a Kite...

We had a little free time on Saturday, so we decided to take the kids for their very first kite-flying trip. I bought them a kite a little while ago, but it got lost in the shuffle (also known as the bottom of the linen cabinet) and somewhat forgotten. It was a perfect day for kite-flying...sunny and breezy, especially out by the Bay.

It turns out this was also a terrific way to bribe the kids into a trip to Costco, 'cause it turns out that shopping...well...it's really boring! But after our fun little kite-flying adventure, we managed to get them through the store and home without incident...and just in time too 'cause Mam wasn't going to make it another day without more strawberry jam. And goodness knows we've got to buy that stuff in bulk!

Our 4th of July

It's only been since we moved to our current house that I've felt like we're really living the American Dream. And nothing illustrates that like our neighborhood on Independence Day. It's kind of surreal to have our own little slice of Americana, right here on our own street. Each year, our little cul-de-sac has a block party. We all bring our own meat to barbeque...although a lot of sharing goes on...and we bring something to share. This year, I brought fresh squeezed lemonade and a rather patriotic spinach, strawberry, and blueberry salad with feta cheese.

Our neighbor, Bob, introduced the kids to making ice cream the old-fashioned way...in a hand-cranked ice cream freezer. As you can see, they were enthralled! Since it's a pretty laid back affair, I also invited Kirsten, my friend since kindergarten and maid of honor in our wedding. The kids had a great time hanging out with her too!

We left the block party a little early for our annual pilgrammage to Cupertino for their fireworks display. We arrived just before dark and had about an hour to wait. The kids passed the time by running around like maniacs in their pajamas. Smunch waits for this night for the entire year. Sometimes I'm not sure that even Christmas compares to fireworks in his mind.

Smunch and Mam were both absolutely thrilled with the show. They both spent the entire time with wide eyes, exclaiming about the size and colors and noises. Interestingly, Smunch was completely fluent the entire time. We've noticed that's usually the case when he's excited and speaking almost accidentally.

It was a fun night and after all the food, racing around and excitement of fireworks, neither of the kids made it home awake. It was the easiest bedtime we've had in ages!

Overheard on IM

This absolutely fascinating conversation occurred between my husband and me this afternoon right after the FedEx guy dropped off a package for him. You have to understand that these midday conversations happen almost exclusively over instant messenger...

Me: What'd you order?

Husband: That's my/your new free phone.

Me: Oh, right. It's here.

Husband: Cool.

Me: So, you had to get this phone so you could swap the SIM with the one in your new iPhone?

Husband: Yes.

OMG. I couldn't believe it. I spouted a big long line of something that sounded just like gibberish and my husband responded as though I knew exactly what I'm talking about. Maybe I'll be able to fake it as a recent transplant to Silicon Valley yet!