Saturday, February 27, 2010

Small Spaces

In recent days, Miss Mouse has developed a fondness for confined spaces. It started when she discovered she could go behind the couch, wedging in between the wall and the back of the couch. She'd fling a stuffed animal back there, then go rescue him, giggling from her hiding space.

Then we threw a blanket over her little red table, and her first fort was born. She delights in scampering underneath and periodically peeking back out. And, of course, there's the entertainment center.

So I suppose I really shouldn't be surprised that her newest love is Riley's dog crates. What enjoyment can be derived from cramming oneself into a small space that smells very strongly of dog is a mystery to me, but she is in heaven.

Yesterday morning, I had to retrieve her from various crates three times over the course of the half an hour she was up before we left for school. And it's not as easy as it sounds. They're pretty big crates and she goes all the way to the far end and balls up. I have to actually get my head and shoulders inside in order to get enough of a grip on her to extract her.

We don't want the crates to be acceptable play areas because we're working hard to teach her manners with regards to the dog. And the crate is the doggie's "private time" area where he can go when he's tired of being harassed by a small shrieking creature that wants to pull his fur. So we brave the tantrums and continue to remove her, again and again, from her new favorite place, ignoring her assertions that we are terrible parents who relish making her life miserable.

Riley in the meantime, looks utterly bewildered each time he arrives at his crate to find it already occupied. Poor dear.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

In the Moment

I am a multi-tasker. It's what I do. I quilt while I watch TV and talk on the phone while I drive (causing my mother great anxiety until my folks bought me a GPS with hands-free). As a mother, I can operate a credit swipe pad at the grocery store while entertaining a toddler in a grocery cart. And I will confess to having read a board book to my child while using the restroom. Yup, I can read aloud and pee at the same time.


As a mother, I'm trying hard not to multi-task my daughter's childhood away. Because I think it could be remarkably easy to do. I don't want to be so busy doing ten things at once that I don't appreciate the individual moments. And so I make a conscious effort to be present in the moment with her.

Like tonight. Tonight I had/have a million things to do in advance of heading to Florida tomorrow afternoon. I needed to bake a quiche so Mouse would have something to eat this weekend, pack my suitcase, clean the kitchen, iron one of my outfits, and sneak in a phone call to a dear friend in California.

I was tempted to knock the quiche out right before dinner and let Miss Mouse entertain herself with the potholders in the kitchen. But she seemed to want to interact more with me and I decided that playing "this little piggie" with her toes for twenty minutes was more important than getting the quiche done before she went to bed.

We had a great time together -- with daddy chiming in and playing along -- and after she went to bed, I flew into preparation mode. I even managed to talk to my friend using the magic of bluetooth while baking a vegetable quiche. Now, if you'll excuse me, I need to go pack my suitcase while brushing my teeth.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Animal Planet

In her spare time, when not busy climbing into cupboards, flinging food on the floor, and learning the gestures to "Head, Shoulders, Knees and Toes," Miss Mouse occasionally moonlights as a host on Animal Planet.

In this video clip, she can be seen documenting the noises made by various members of the animal kingdom.


Monday, February 22, 2010

The Growth Curve

Why, oh why did nobody warn me that my child would abruptly stop growing shortly after her first birthday?

In her first year of life, Miss Mouse blew through clothing sizes at an alarming rate. It was not unusual for her to only get one or to wears out of an outfit before the legs were too short, the neck too tight, or the fabric stretching from neck to crotch insufficient in length.

Several weeks before her first birthday, Miss Mouse was firmly entrenched in size 18 month clothing. Assuming (I think reasonably!) that she would keep growing like a weed, I suggested to any would-be gift buyers that they lean toward the next size up, lest their gifts go under-worn.

And now, here we are, four months later, and the child is still firmly entrenched in size 18 month clothing. A beautiful wardrobe rotation of fabulous sweaters, fleecey things, and corduroy pants languishes in her closet, comically too big, as I nervously eye the calendar and count the weeks til Spring.

I have serious fears that she won't grow into some of those outfits before the weather renders them inappropriate. And for someone who loves clothes and lives out her fashion dreams vicariously through her offspring, this is a sad sad realization.

Saturday, February 20, 2010


It really was just a matter of time before Miss Mouse realized she could climb inside the cupboards of the entertainment center...

Friday, February 19, 2010


Over the past week, Miss Mouse has had some bad habits to unlearn, following our week of urban camping. Let's just say that the rules regarding bedtime and sleeping were somewhat relaxed while we were homeless. Miss Mouse enjoyed such luxuries as being rocked to sleep every night and, when she woke up in the night, snuggling up in bed with Mom for the duration of the night.

She was living the good life. But then we came home, and the good times were over.

We gave her a one day grace period, but then it was time to start getting back into a routine. Man, was she mad. She was still waking up several times a night which wasn't fun for anyone. We quickly determined that the heart of the issue was bedtime.

So, one night, I sucked it up, put her in her crib, and walked out the door. Sadly, I caught a look at her face before I left and it may haunt me the rest of my life. The betrayal etched there was heart-rending.

But, happily, the waterworks only lasted a couple minutes that night and a few minutes the next night. By last night, I set her down in her crib and gave her a smooch and she grinned up at me and waved "buh-bye" as I walked out the door.

Whew. All is well with the world again.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

NPR Nerd

I'm something of a public radio nerd. I listen to Morning Edition on the drive into work and Fresh Air or All Things Considered on the way home. Religiously. I have favorite reporters and know their beats well enough to predict who will be covering a topic if I hear about it (If it's in France, it's Eleanor Beardsley. If Italy, Sylvia Poggioli.* China? That sounds like a job for Louisa Lim.) And if I miss the introduction, I can sometimes recognize their voices.

But that's not what makes me a nerd. That's just a loyal listener. Even the fact that I can (and do) hum along with the segment theme songs (and not just the main ones. Want to hear me do the bit for "All Tech Considered?") doesn't make me a true nerd.

No, the defining attribute in dorkdom is that I actually derive some enjoyment from the pledge drives.

Yup, that's right. I don't switch off during pledge drive season. Granted, once day seven or eight rolls around, I'm weary. But those first few days are fun.

Part of my interest is professional. I'm a fundraiser, but my work is way different from a marathon phone-based pledge drive and I have to admire the skills it takes to host one well. Plus, I think the vignettes they do to advertise their thank you gifts are funny. I mean, the Nina Tote-n-bag? Complete with dramatic kettle drum introduction? It kills me.

And then there's the bits recorded by the big NPR personalities. Terry Gross is firm and tends to try to shame you into pledging. Robert Siegal is earnest and talks about the value of public radio. And Ira Glass? Well, Ira Glass makes me laugh so hard I worry about losing control of my vehicle.

Seriously, the man is a hoot. Last drive, he was calling people up (allegedly cold-calling real listeners) whose loved ones had turned them in as "people who listen but aren't members." And he would call and demand to know why they weren't members. This time, it was a piece where he called one of NPRs equipment vendors and tried to convince him to give the station the same "deal" that listeners get - he wanted to receive all the equipment, use it as much as he wanted for as long as he wanted, pay nothing unless he felt like it (on a whim), and then, when he did pay, he wanted a coffee mug from the company as a thank you. It was hysterical.

And if none of those things secures my place as an NPR nerd, the simple fact that I've now devoted more than 400 words to the topic... Well... Yeah.

*NPR names are the best. Check this funny blog post about how to find your NPR name. Mine would be Kajte (pronounced Kahj-tea) Mussoorie. Or something like that. Not bad!

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Be My Valentine

There she is, my Valentine sweetie. Looking particular smoochable with her dashing new haircut, compliments of Salon de Mom. I think did a bang-up job (if you'll pardon the pun). And the checked dress? Yes, please!

If you'll look closely -- or not that closely, really -- at the second photo, you'll see a line above her left eye. That is her battle wound from her first major fall. At church on Sunday, I was striving to photograph my wee Valentine. She was resisting. I set her on the couch. She leaped off...

...catching her forehead squarely on the edge of a honking marble coffee table lurking nearby.

Oh My God. Tears. Squawks. Head dents. It wasn't pretty. We spent the rest of the afternoon watching her for symptoms of concussion, but she apparently has a pretty hard head and there was no sign of lasting damage.

Monday, February 15, 2010

The Fridge

The one good thing about losing power in the winter is that your food is less likely to go bad. We managed to salvage pretty much everything in our big chest freezer in the garage, which was a blessing. Something went bad in my fridge though, and in somewhat frenetic over-response, I opted to chuck everything and begin again.

Once I got all the food out, I realized how nasty the refrigerator was, and gave it a thorough scrubbing (to the amazement of my husband, who claimed not to know I was aware of the location of cleaning products).

As I went through, chucking and cleaning, I kept a running list of items that needed to be replaced immediately.

And you know what? That list wasn't very long. We had a whole lot of totally random food in our fridge. Miscellaneous half-used jars of condiments. A jar of pickles (which we don't eat) left over from a cook-out when we felt we would be poor hosts if we didn't provide pickles to go with burgers. A very old and very frozen block of cheese.

A lot of it probably should have been thrown away months ago. Talk about wasteful. I'm bad like that. If a recipe calls for an ingredient, I buy it, even if I only need a teaspoon out of a gallon container, and I know I'll never use it for anything else. Then it sits quietly in the fridge until I finally acknowledge that it's beyond salvage and throw it away.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Home at Last

Yowza. What a week. We're home (at last) but our Internet is squirrely so the updates may be spotty for a couple days.

The short version is thus. We lost power at midnight last Friday night. We got it back Thursday afternoon. At which point we discovered a broken water pipe. The plumber fixed it Friday morning and we were back in our own house Friday night. Whew.

I am not going to lie. It was a tough week. And it got me thinking about homelessness. The agency I work for has a variety of homeless programs, but when most people think about homelessness, they picture the shaggy-bearded guy living in a box on the street. In all honesty, that's mostly the picture I still have too.

But the true definition of homelessness is much broader. It includes people who are bunking up with friends and family. People who stay with a friend as long as they can, then rotate on to another house, then another, then another.

That type of homelessness doesn't get all that much attention, but it really struck me last week just how hard it would be to live like that. It's emotionally draining to be a perpetual guest, particularly one under adverse conditions. You feel like you're imposing on people. You don't have any space of your own. You're on edge all the time lest your toddler or big dog destroy something. It's exhausting.

And you can't have much stuff. We carted the bare necessities around with us (at least our definition of bare necessities!) and it still filled our car and required a couple trips back and forth to unload it all. And even that didn't feel like much and we were constantly asking - "do we have the X?" and realizing we didn't. Imagine if you had to carry your whole life around with you and cram it into someone else's space?

We're grateful to be home and I'm feeling particularly sympathetic for those who don't have a home to return to.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

The Daring Escape

Irony (n): A power failure at the swanky hotel to which you and your family fled in an attempt to escape the interminable lack of electricity at your own home.

Happily, one of many differences between the Embassy Suites and Our House is that the former has an excellent backup power grid so we were only in the dark for about ten minutes as opposed to the...let's see...116 hours that we're going on at home.

But let me back up.

Yesterday afternoon, after three days of staying with our neighbors, we needed to get out. They're lovely people who will occupy a special suite in heaven for opening their doors to us for what was supposed to be "a couple hours so you can warm up" Saturday afternoon. But you can only take so much close proximity with people you don't know, and I lived in constant fear that they were really tired of us.

So we booked a hotel room. If we'd had the proper soundtrack, our departure could really have been quite exciting. More snow was on its way, and my work had sent everyone home early. I met up with Josh, packed some things, grabbed the dog, and we headed up the street...

...right as the snow arrived. There was a fine layer down and it was touch and go with much tire spinning before we made it up the hill. From there, we retrieved Miss Mouse and checked into the Embassy Suites.

That's where we are now. Miss Mouse likes the swimming pool. I like the free hot breakfast. Josh likes the fact that the only people living with him are his family. Only Riley is sad, missing our neighbors' two feisty dogs.

But tomorrow we press on again. Two nights is about all we can afford here. Theoretically, the power should be fixed by tomorrow night, but if not, we've got an offer to stay at a friend's house. Stay tuned...

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

An Update

A stream of consciousness ramble from Yours Truly.

It's 8:52 am. I'm at work -- it took me an hour and a half (usually takes 35 minutes). The roads suck and people are dumb. Sigh.

Speaking of dumb people, I just got off the phone with the electric company who says they "hope" to have our power back tomorrow. Seriously?? TOMORROW??? As in, five days after it went off?

Oh, and we're supposed to get up to another foot of snow today and tomorrow. So the odds of the power truck coming are... Anybody? Anybody?

Miss Mouse has an ear infection and isn't sleeping well. The last two nights, she's woken shrieking at about 9:30 and spent the rest of the night in bed with me. Let's just say that this is not an ideal sleeping arrangement for me. That silly creature turns like an egg beater in her sleep. She twists. She turns. She kicks. She takes up way more space than anything weighing 23 pounds should because she always winds up perpendicular to me.

On the other hand, she also burrows up next to me, hold my shirt in her fist, and is about the cutest thing in the universe. So there's that.

She's also been on Super Good Baby Behavior throughout our adventure of staying at the neighbors. Seriously, the Rat Baby has made virtually no appearances. She did throw a small tantrum this morning, sparked by (get this) the fact that she couldn't have more of her Amoxicillin. She slurped up her dose, clapped her hands for more, and then was furious when it wasn't forthcoming.

And now, a short poem.

Mouse is sick
Roads are slick
Pittsburgh weather, ick ick ick

Sunday, February 7, 2010

My Weekend

A few numbers that are illustrative of my weekend thus far.

24 -- inches of snow we got Friday night.

45 (and counting) -- hours our home has been without power.

34 -- temperature in our living room at last check (no, we're not staying there. We're at the neighbors').

27 -- hours after the snow had completely stopped that it took the snow plow to get to our street.

Friday, February 5, 2010

Mostly Non-Violent Protest

Miss Mouse has decided to take up a political cause. She is currently protesting the continued use of that most-inhumane of devices: the high chair. Her cruel parents insist on attempting to restrain her in this abomination several times a day, but our heroine is fighting the good fight.


I don't really know how it started. I suspect the Mouse's fixation on routine has something to do with it. There were a couple times where she fussed at being strapped in so I'd let her eat breakfast on my lap. Big Mistake. For the last couple days, she has vehemently objected to eating in the high chair.

We're talking screaming, food flinging, snot-dripping-down-your-beet-red-face hysterics. It's actually been pretty alarming. Two nights ago we gave up and just took her out, after which she deigned to eat several handfuls of pretzels in the midst of careening around the living room. Yesterday morning, I caved and let her sit in my lap, from whence she proceeded to mooch half my bowl of Cheerios.

But last night I was having none of it. We compromised by digging out her travel booster seat and pulling it up to the table. She responded initially with screams of protest and many handfuls of food flung to the ground (much to the dog's delight).

We calmly ate our dinner, pretending to be oblivious to the whirlwind in the booster seat. And darned if she didn't eventually calm down. Granted she still only consented to eat cornbread for dinner and started to fuss whenever anything else was offered. But I'll take that as progress.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Listening Comprehension

Miss Mouse is a babe of few words. (She has three, to be precise). But I am constantly amazed, and occasionally wigged out, by how much she understands.

Mention the word "snack" in her presence, and she beelines for the kitchen.

Ask for a stuffed animal by name, and she'll track down the beast in question and bring it to you.

Inform her that it's bath time, and she charges up the stairs and into the bathroom.

Question her as to the location of characters in her books, and she scours the page until she can triumphantly point to the baby or mouse or bunny or whoever is starring in that particular tome.

Request her assistance in putting away her toys and she'll bring them over one, by one, to put in the toy bin.

It's pretty neat, really. And certainly a good reminder to watch what you say. I've already found myself spelling things -- like d-i-n-n-e-r -- when I don't want her to know what's in the works just yet!

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Morning Routines

Miss Mouse is nothing if not a creature of habit. She recognizes and adheres to routines with amazing rapidity. Do something the same way twice and be prepared for that to be The New Way which is now set in stone.

The mouseling has several important routines at day care in the morning. Upon arrival, we wash her hands. If I forget that this is the first item on the agenda, she helpfully takes up a post by the sink and grunts imperiously at me until I come over to help her up onto the stool.

Then, she and her teacher select music to play and rock out with various shakers and rattles.

I learned this morning of another routine that takes place later in the morning -- Crackers with Rebecca. Rebecca is a slightly older baby who has apparently taken a shine to Miss Mouse. Each morning, Rebecca arrives with her mother with a bag of crackers in hand.

According to Miss Mouse's teacher, each day, once she sees that Miss Mouse is there, Rebecca turns to her mother and says "Crackers, Miss Mouse?" At which point, she receives an extra bag of crackers and the two girls sit down at the table together for a morning snack. Every Day. Without Fail. (Except Monday when Miss Mouse came to school late, much to the consternation of poor Rebecca who was very sad not to see her cracker buddy.)

Apparently, Miss Mouse isn't the only one who likes her routines Just So!

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Free Will

When Miss Mouse was an infant, she was universally hailed as the sweetest baby ever. I'm not just saying that because I'm her smitten mother. Everywhere we went, people commented on how chill she was and how happy she always seemed to be with her surroundings. No fussing, no crying, just a cheerful smiling baby.

But that was then. Now, Miss Mouse is a toddler and is reveling in that greatest of gifts -- Free Will. She wants to do things Her Way and lord have mercy upon you if you thwart her intentions.

Don't get me wrong, she's still a great baby and 90% of the time, she saves her tantrums for when she's at home. So most of the world is unaware of the increasing appearances of her alter ego, Rat Baby.

The transformation can be instantaneous. One minute, Miss Mouse is playing with her stuffed animals. The next moment (after mommy suggests that it's time to get dressed for school), Rat Baby is flinging the stuffed animals, shrieking at the top of her longs, and flailing about on the ground.

Other triggers for impressive rat-like behavior include:
  • Being told she can't "pet" the doggie with her feet...
  • My refusal to read "Goodnight Moon" for the 57th time in a row...
  • Daddy's poor judgment in picking her up for a smooch when she was occupied with her blocks...
  • My offer of blueberries instead of banana at breakfast...
  • Attempting to put in her earplugs in the bathtub...

I could go on, but I think you get the picture.

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