Sunday, July 27, 2008

Bits 'N' Pieces

Several interesting stories from the weekend.

1. Jenna overheard my mom and I discussing my last post about my mother's dislike of Chutes and Ladders. This has apparently made a HUGE impression on her and has told at least three people:"Guess what? My grandma HATES Chutes and Ladders!" She says it with a sense of wonder and amazement as if she's saying, "My grandma HATES breathing!". I mean, who could be against Chutes and Ladders?? or breathing??
Being three, she also has not provided a whole lot of context about the story so the people she's told have really no idea what she's talking about. Or why my mom HATES a simple board game.

2. Michaela brought me to my knees in frustration this morning while getting ready for church. Literally. She was carrying on, whining and crying about the shoes Jenna was wearing... "I want a pair like them! I want to go right now to Target and get them!" and I was trying to reason with her and finally fell to my knees in front of her and said, "WHAT DO YOU WANT ME TO DO??? TELL ME PLEASE! I have to work in the nursery at church in ten minutes and I am not ready and I cannot take you this moment to the store!!" and we both just whimpered and tried to calm down. She and I are locking into this terrible dynamic and I am just freaking out because she has in the last six weeks turned into an eye rolling, arms crossing, door slamming 16 year old. At six and a half. I am desperately trying to stay on top of this roller coaster ride she and I are on and hold on to my girl... I am calmly correcting her behavior, pointing out what is and is not allowed behavior-wise, and spending lots of time with her. But whatever I do it is never enough: never enough time, enough stuff, enough treats, enough clothing, enough love, enough kisses. She is a terrific manipulator and knows at six exactly which buttons to push with me. She is just so whip-smart and so first-born.
Stay tuned on that one.

3. Jenna has recovered beautifully from her dental work and I am just tickled pink by looking at her shiny white front teeth. I swear she started talking clearer and thought it was just my imagination until my very smart friend Angel pointed out that maybe her tooth was hurting her when she pressed her tongue against it to make a sound so she improvised. I asked Jenna if her tooth used to hurt when she talked and she said yes, but I'm not putting any money on how accurate a medical historian my three year old is. I'm just glad she's talking better. And her teeth are beautiful.

4. We are a huge nickname family. Dan and I have called each other many names over the years and have settled on Friend for each other. (You know, because we're best friends...) Jenna christened Michaela to be Mimi which has spawned all kinds of derivatives: Miminator, Meemster, Meem. Jenna called herself Nenna for the longest time and we call her that and ran with it, too: Nen, Nenster, Nensterama, and Jennadiski. My dad, who often coins new nicknames for people, came up with a new one for Jenna this weekend and it makes me smile each time I say it: Jennarator. Like generator.

5. Michaela has shown to various playdates and dinner guests we've had over videos of herself when she was a baby. It is amazing to see these pictures from five and six years ago and I am struck by how I remember almost every moment so clearly and yet it feels like another lifetime away (see #2 above).
I am consistently amazed at how looking at pictures of her is so familiar to me: it is as comfortable as looking at pictures of my own face. I can't even guess how many hours I have stared at her gorgeous chocolate brown eyes , wide set and huge, and looked at her broad face. She is so foreign to me- her rich, dark coloring and most of her facial features are nothing like mine- yet achingly familiar at the same time. She is an exotic being in my heart and in my home, and I am amazed by her. She is my baby, my life, my love.
It is different with Jenna because looking at her is like looking in the mirror: same coloring, same face, same behaviors. I know my parents are tickled to watch Jenna grow up because to them it is like raising their daughter all over again. She is familiar, I get her, and for all of her moments of difficulty, she is remarkably easy.

Such an interesting process, having kids and raising them the best you can.

As my very wise mother says: Kids will kill ya.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Throwback Thursday

At a recent trip to the bookstore, I bought Blueberries for Sal for Jenna.
I have terrifically fond memories of this book, in all of its inky-blue illustrated glory. I babysat the two young boys who lived next door to me as a teenager (who are now in their early 20's) and must have read this book to them a million times.
It is a captivating story; gentle, sweet, rhythmically written and though it isn't short, it moves quickly and I have not tired of reading it every night to Jenna. I love hearing Jenna ask for it: "Can we read Blueberries per Sal?" (She's still working on the 'f' sound.)
Lord knows I've read the Dora the Explorer books til my eyes have fallen out, and they are very repetitive and can get irritating. But not my Blueberries per Sal.
I love the mother character in the book: soft and gentle, she is wearing a modest cardigan sweater all buttoned up and knee length skirt and never loses her patience with adventurous Sal. No sunglasses perched on top of her head and no spaghetti strap tank top for her- and certainly no tattoos- and she looks somewhat young and fresh but confident. My favorite part is the drawing at the end of the book where Sal and her mom have returned to their 1948 kitchen and are canning the blueberries together.
Homemaking at its finest.
Sidenote: One of the cutest things about having a three year old who doesn't say the letter F is looking for fireflies while driving in the car at night. "Look, Mommy," Jenna says, "look at all the pireplies!!"
Along the same throwback theme, I played the game Perfection with the girls tonight. We had a great time and did three rounds of play and we tried to beat our own score of how many we got into the little shape spaces before the timer went off. We all improved from round to round and it was a lot of fun.
I played this game as a kid with my mom, who has possibly the most sensitive startle reflex a human being can have. She would SCREAM when the timer went off and all the pieces went flying up in the air, yet she still soldiered on. 'Cause that's just the kind of awesome Mom she is.
We finished the night here by playing a short and tear-ful game of Chutes and Ladders. I was always fascinated as a kid by the board of this game with all of its little morality plays: reading comics instead of studying history? Down the chute you go! Bandaging an injured kitten's paw? Climb up the ladder!! Eating too many cookies? Slide on down! Then there was that HUGE ladder in the middle of the board that you always prayed you'd land on. I would beg my mom and grandma to play with me but they always gently distracted me to another game and finally as I got a little older they confessed that the game just took too long. And they are right. We played for 20 minutes tonight and barely got out of the 30's.
Toward the end, Michaela was losing steam, Jenna was getting punchy and speaking in funny voices, Michaela yelled at Jenna, I yelled at Michaela, Michaela started crying and saying, "I'm having a tough day."
...and it was another fun family game night at the Libuttis.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

A Break from Being Carefree

Today was quite an adventure... and not a real fun one, either. But it all worked out better than I thought.
Jenna had extensive dental work done today under what they somewhat euphemistically call "Conscious Sedation". She is not unconscious but pretty well asleep so they can really get in there and fix things. We discovered several months ago that Jenna's front tooth, which has had a band of discoloration since it erupted, was developing cavities at both sides of the tooth where the discoloration was. To say I was horrified by the fact of my two year old having cavities is an understatement. But we saw the dentist, he tried to fix it and Jenna started freaking out so he recommended a pediatric dentist, we had a consult with a pediatric dentist, and today was the day to get it all fixed.
She had to take an anti-nausea medication last night and not eat or drink anything after midnight until her appointment at 8:40am...which I was particularly dreading because it meant not nursing her in the morning when she woke up as she has done since birth. Thankfully she is old enough to understand my simple explanations of what was going to happen so she was actually pretty cool about the whole thing.
Dan, who I roped into being with us through this whole adventure, volunteered to be with her in the morning when she woke up to keep her mind off things and he did a fantastic job. We got ready, went to the dentist's office and got the ball rolling. They give her a sedative and you wait with your child in a side room with padded benches and comfy chairs and pillows and blankets and low lighting for the 45 minutes it takes to kick in. I was nervous about this whole process on many levels, as you can imagine, but mostly because the dentist said there is a small percentage of children who don't respond to the sedative and the only option you have left is to bring them to a hospital and give them general anesthesia and that was just something I really, really didn't want to do.
But Jenna started acting kind of drunk after about 30 minutes and blinking realllly sloooowly. She was asking for something to eat and drink ("I hun-gy!!") and right before she passed out cold asked me, abnormally loudly, "Whadda they got to eat here???" And that was good comic relief.
The nurse took her and they brought her to the treatment room and sent someone out every 15 minutes or so to tell us everything was going fine. We got her back after about an hour and she slept off the medicine the whole day and is now in good spirits and has a beautiful, restored set of healthy teeth.
I am wiped out from the day and my neck is hurting from wearing my Scarlett N around my neck for Negligent Mother. Because for every time I think about putting poor Jenna through this, I think of all the times I have nursed her to sleep, bathing her teeth in sugar, and took the easy way out when she fought me about brushing her teeth. At the appointment with the pediatric dentist, I told her how terrible I feel about the whole thing and just how incredibly white trash it is for my two year old to have cavities. Everyone I've confided in about this has been more than gracious and my mom pointed out that the real white trash thing would be to do nothing about it. So here is my confession for the whole world to read and now it is over and I can, as they say in the soap operas, move on with the rest of my life.
But of course I cannot end without telling you about the encounters we had with other parents whose children were also going through the conscious sedation thing. The first mom we talked to was near tears the whole time and I felt bad for her. She was really freaked out about the process and I'm not sure she had a spouse there for moral support.
The other family, however, was totally blog-worthy.
They came in to the quiet side room with their children right before Jenna went to the treatment room. Their daughter was also named Jenna, so we exchanged pleasantries about that. I was reading a book and trying to just quietly slog through the morning, Scarlett N firmly in place, but not this family. They were ready to talk! To us! About everything! Cheerfully!
We learned alot about this family. And got a good glimpse of their parenting style when the dad blissfully ignored the multiple signs posted around the office prohibiting cell phone use and started talking loudly into his wireless cellphone earpiece to someone and telling them how this was their second time doing this- while the poor four year old girl is laying down, waiting for her meds to kick in and trying to relax- and then got annoyed with the four year old when she wanted his attention.
I wanted to ask him, Where is your sense of humility? Where is your sense of decorum? We should all be sitting in here quietly thinking about what we can do as parents to make sure this never, ever has to happen again to our babies. At least that's what I was thinking.
Our last encounter with the mom, who cheerfully! announced she had just had her appendix out this weekend, was watching her take out a wireless laptop in the waiting room and asking us if we were familiar with Excel because she has a homework assignment and her teacher didn't really explain it too well. Dan and I said, No, sorry, we're not really able to help, and then she started looking at things on her computer and providing us with a running commentary on the things she was reading. Like, "What does that mean?" and "Holy Cow!" and "Ohhhh, boy..."and "Harummph!"
I know you're smiling now because you know the type of person I am talking about.
Well, enough cattiness... I am going to see how my sleepy baby is doing. And to admire her beautiful teeth.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Mother Nature: Pros and Cons

I was raised, much to my dad's chagrin, by two women (my mom and grandmother) who told me from a young age: "Outside ba-ba!" while shaking their heads. Translation: the outside is bad and dirty and yucky and why don't we just stay inside and play instead? (Hey- they were two chicks from Queens.)

So as a result, I am not a HUGE fan of outdoor activities but I guess my dad had enough of an influence to counteract the chicks. I do love camping and an occasional hike. If it's not too hot. And I have water. And take lots of breaks.

So we headed out last weekend with my dad and Dan and the girls for a little hike at a nearby state park. They have a beautiful trail called Indian Ladder Trail which goes underneath a huge bluff of rock where water has worn away a pathway and the "Indians" used it way back when. We packed a picnic lunch to enjoy at the end of the hike. The whole thing only took about an hour and really was very fun and very, very pretty. Here are some pictures from the day:

Contrast that peace and tranquility with what happened this weekend: a powerful storm ripped through our neighborhood and did this.

And this.

It was so exciting that the local news showed up while we were there gawking and interviewed the man who lived in the house.

The reporter, who we're familiar with on Newschannel 13, could not have been more pleasant and lovely. She introduced herself to Michaela and invited her to watch as they set up the camera and talked to the man from the house.

I thought of talking over with the reporter their new slogan ("NewsChannel 13... Covering and Uncovering your News") which drives me absolutely batty because it sort of sounds like you're making your bed and tucking your news inside the sheets and blankets... I get what they're trying to say, obviously, but it strikes me as somehow unparallel and as a daughter of a grammar teacher, unparallel sentence structure grinds on me like fingernails on a chalkboard.

But I refrained.

Friday, July 18, 2008

Michaela E. Libutti, Esq.

Just to give y'all a little insight into how things work around here:

Michaela and I had a 15 minute heated verbal discussion on July 16th about whether she was going to be a black or orange kitty for Halloween this year.

No mattter what I say, she has a counterargument.

And I guess for my part, I can't let things go sometimes.

My mom finally couldn't take it anymore and begged us to stop.

Dan and I tell her if she doesn't become a lawyer then she's truly missed her calling.

More Michaela (and her sister, too)

Dan took the week after Fourth of July off and we tried to fill it with fun, stay at home local activities. We did a little work around the house on Monday, went to Great Escape of Tuesday, went to see WALL*E on Wednesday, went to McDonald's on Thursday, and mixed in lots of swimming, and trips to the ice cream stand and playgrounds.

By Friday, Michaela was BEGGING US to stop having fun... "I just want to stay home and REST!!! It's TOO MUCH!!"

Which we thought was pretty funny.

Here are a few pics from Great Escape. The girls got a little hot from the humidity and really enjoyed the water areas.

Getting wet and cooling off

The girls love posing with the characters because it shows how brave they are... the first time we brought Michaela here, we had to carry her in and out guerrilla- style as if we were kidnapping her because she was so incredibly freaked out by the costumed characters at the entrance and exit.

While the stuffed animal ones were okay this time, they did warily eye the Joker we saw walking around.

This is Jenna riding in Cinderella's pumpkin. By herself. With a stranger.

Miracles DO happen.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

All Michaela, All the Time

Here's another installment of the Adventures of Michaela... her moving up ceremony from Brownies. We had a small gathering to commemorate the end of another wonderful year of Girl Scouts with my friend Dana at the helm. Michaela has really enjoyed the program, with the crafts, the field trips, the interesting topics they cover and of course, the snacks at every meeting. The end of the year was a very sweet presentation by the girls and culminated with each Brownie getting some special pins. Then we all ate ice cream.

Without further ado, some pictures from the night.

Shaking Dana's hand as she gets her pins from her co-leader, who is also wonderful!

Michaela and Erin- Brownie and soccer buddies

Monday, July 14, 2008

Out and About with Cheryl

I know I promised a few posts about Michaela, but I didn't want to forget these stories of my latest encounters with the outside world. And besides, it's my blog. I'll post about her next time... I promise.

1. Dan was off this week and we went one day to Great Escape for lots of Family Fun. It was a great trip and we saw tons of manager-looking type people walking around, talking into walkie-talkies. We saw in the paper a few days later that the CEO of Six Flags had visited Great Escape that day. Needless to say, the whole place was sparkling and the attendants couldn't have been nicer. We got some fun pictures from the day which I'll post soon.

Because there is a water park attached to Great Escape, there was lots of interesting, colorful people to look at as we were walking around. Add to that it was a pretty toasty day, and I came to these two conclusions:
1. Lots of women have tattoos. And some of them are not very good tattoos. Like they have unicorns in them.
2. Lots of women do not look at themselves in a full length mirror wearing a bathing suit and honestly assess the state of their person before going to an amusement park/water park.

Walking around we spied several groups of older teenagers. We passed a nice-looking, fairly well put together girl who was about 17. She wore a t-shirt that read "GET ME DRUNK AND WATCH THE SHOW" in huge neon letters.
Double wow.
Hopefully every single one of those shirts ever produced is somehow burned by the time my girls are 15.

On the way out of the park, you have to walk through the obligatory gift shop. Available for purchase was a shirt which read, "Mess with me and you mess with the whole trailer park".

2. Yesterday I brought the girls to the library for a quick visit. Look at the fish, pick out some books, play on the computer- it's a great place. We went to the circulation desk and an older man, a little funky in a "I'm comfortable about being a guy and working at a library" type way (let's face it... the place doesn't exactly reek of testosterone) and we had a conversation that went something like this:

Library Guy: (to Michaela) So how's life in big sister land?
Michaela: Good.
Me: She has it so good she doesn't even know how good she's got it.
Library Guy: That's a good place to be. It's hard to know when things are good.
Me: (Thinking this is actually a pleasant interchange) Yeah, (honestly agreeing with him) it takes a fair amount of insight to realize life is pretty good. (I mean it's hard to see your life objectively and to be grateful for what you have.)

(This is where the whole thing falls apart.)

Library Guy: Yeah, I mean, do you realize how rarely two people are really in love with one another at the same time??
Me: (Speechless) Yeah.
Library Guy: Usually one person is into another but the other doesn't really like the other, you know? It's just so rare.
Me:(Not making eye contact anymore) Yeah. That's true.

I was just so stunned by this turn. It doesn't read as weird when I'm writing it, but at the moment it was such a strange leap from a very casual adult talking to a kid to a deep discussion about unrequited love. Very strange.

3. Ahhh, now to my favorite. I'm shopping in Walmart (do I go anywhere else?) last week and honest to goodness overheard this question posed by a Hispanic female shopper to a Walmart Associate near the meat section.

"Do you have any other pig's feet? 'Cause you only got one out and they don't look pretty."

Friday, July 11, 2008

All About Michaela... Oh, the Drama

Michaela has made the horrifying revelation that all year, while she was going off to school, I was spending all my time with Jenna. Together. Just us. Doing lots of fun stuff without Michaela.
This apparently was not so troubling when she had an interesting bus ride, a great teacher, lots of friends, good books to read, gym class, projects to work on, art class, and a really fun music teacher. But now that all those things have been stripped away, she is seeing how we really do things around here (you know, trips to the bank and WalMart, straightening up, making meals, doing laundry) and can't believe she has missed out on all the fun. She in turn has interpreted this to mean that clearly I love Jenna more since I am with her all day and this is another true injustice.

In order to help right this wrong, I will be putting up some cute pics of Michaela and her numerous activities in the next few postings. Not because I don't love Jenna, but because life is so unfair when you're six and bored of being at home with your dorky mom and little sister.
(The copious use of italics is to mimic the intense level of whining and drama going on in the house by Miss Michaela.)

So here is Michaela the soccer star, member of the Black Hawks team this year. This soccer season was tough because she was not on her usual team and really missed her buddies. (Mommy and Daddy missed their soccer friends, too!) Overall, we chalked it up to the Life Lesson of You Can't Always Get What You Want... a bitter pill to swallow when you're six.

I'm open! I'm open!

Michaela and the girls from her team enjoy their mid-game oranges.

The players all got Olympic-type medals and

Bethelehem Soccer Club hats at the end of the last game.

Even though it was tough, we were proud that Michaela stuck it out and played her best. Great job!

Thursday, July 10, 2008

And now for something completely different...

From the Fourth of July:

When you're three and six, everything about butts, farts, burps, armpits and poop is absolutely hilarious.

The girls are wearing matching shirts that I made for them, thank you very much, and of course Jenna refused to wear hers for the rest of the day. She told me, "Everyone will say you have a dirty girl!" with such vehemence that I didn't make her wear it. I didn't understand what she meant by it but she really, really didn't want to wear the shirt, which was fine. I guess other people thinking I have dirty children was the worst insult she could throw at me. Or maybe she just made that up.

It actually made for a fascinating parenting dilemma: do I force her to wear the shirt or let it go? I could see both sides and I'm pretty sure entire parenting books have been written arguing one style of parenting over another. I came to the conclusion to let it go because 1) I had a picture of her wearing it; 2) I didn't have the energy to argue with her about it all day and 3) I didn't want her to rip the shirt as she was trying to pry it off.

Michaela, on the other hand, loved her shirt, wore it all day and looked gorgeous in it.

Hooray for 6 year olds!