Saturday, September 24, 2011

Happy 2nd Birthday to Alec.

Dear Alec,

Two years ago from this very moment, I was in the throws of hard and fast labor, about to start pushing you and your seemingly enormous head out. At this moment two years ago, I had a vague idea about what it would be like to have you, our first son, what you might look like, how you would fit into our family, and how much we would love you.

And it turns out that we underestimated everything: because you, indeed, are better than I ever could have imagined.

You are more handsome, more loving, a better fit, more loving and snuggly, and better tempered than my wildest dreams. We love you more than seemed possible.

(I mean, come on... look at that face.)

Your second year has been a great one, watching you grow and grow and grow some more, even though you seem to not need to really eat any real food. I always say that you live on love and strawberries and goldfish crackers. You are tall and big, and people are always startled at how young you are when they stop me in the store. "Oh! Wow! I thought he was three!" is something I've heard over and over. You have slept through the night for most of the year, except when you were teething, and that certainly made me love you more each morning when I woke up well-rested.

You are growing a little more Jenna-esque in your personality, as for the last month or two you have only accepted me as a suitable person to get up with you in the morning, take you out of your crib, put in a DVD, or pour you a bottle. One morning a few weeks ago, Daddy got a bottle for you, and you fussed until I got up off the couch, poured the milk back into the jug, repoured it into the bottle and handed it to you. And that made your fussing stop. You have also shown the true colors of your impending two-ness by throwing, approximately every other day (sometimes more, sometimes less, sometimes three in one day) a colossal fit in which you just stand there and scream the most ear-splitting high-pitched scream, over and over. You did it once because you didn't want to wear pajama pants. You did it today because you wanted to ride in your stroller at Michaela's soccer game. Being third time parents, we sigh and say, "Alec's having a fit" and try to figure out what has gotten you so upset in the first place.

Now, this would all be easier if you would talk to us, but that just hasn't happened yet. We have gotten better and better at deciphering your grunts and points, and your many uses of the syllable "ba". Time will fix this and soon you'll be bending our ear non-stop.

This year coming up is my last one with you all to myself: this time next year you will be in preschool two mornings a week, playing and laughing and learning with some new friends. I have not one worry about you going to preschool; you are lovely and not at all grabby or rough. Just a gentle, sweet, fun-loving kid.

I baked cupcakes for your birthday and made the mistake of leaving them on the counter where you could see them when you woke up. So, of course, you wanted one for breakfast.

And, being the third child, you got what you wanted.

We got you a GeoTrax train for your birthday and you are deeply in love. So are your sisters, by the way- they play with it as much as you do.

After lunch we sang "Happy Birthday" and lit a candle for you and Mimi helped you blow it out. You clapped, very appropriately, though I'm fairly certain you have no idea what this fuss is all about. But everyone around you is smiling, so you smile, too. That's just the way you are.

Happy birthday to my big, beautiful, happy boy Alec. You are loved and cherished and celebrated today and every day.



Thursday, September 22, 2011

Wait. What? What! Whaaaaat!

I am writing this post in honor of my big girl, who at this moment has been whisked away from me by her school and brought to a neighboring state for four days. It's the Nature's Classroom program, and so good for them and they have so much fun and bonding and yeah, yeah, yeah... But this is my BABY! And it's FOUR DAYS! No phone calls, no visits, nothing.
I brought her to school early on Tuesday and she gets home tomorrow at about 1:45pm. She was thrilled to be going, spending the last few days before her departure pinging off the walls, while I packed and labeled and strategized and planned and folded and purchased the few missing things from the Suggested List. ("Mom, it says here I need a robe. You need to buy me one." Ah, no. You can do without the robe. But I will buy you waterproof boots, the disposable camera and a sleeping bag.) I was a nervous wreck but only showed excitement to Michaela. Now that she's been gone a few days, the lead-up to departure was definitely worse than actually having her gone. The hardest part of having her away is that it is the only place she has stayed overnight without me that I can't visualize: I have no idea what the place looks like, who she is bunking with, what their activities are, what they are eating, all that kind of stuff. I'm sure she will return with stories and pictures galore.
Her teacher (The Thoroughly Amazing Mrs. R.) gave us some words of advice at Open House last week, including making sure your child knows where things are packed. She had a student a few years ago not realize that the warmer clothes were at the bottom of the duffel bag, so the student was cold for days unneccesarily. So as a (typical) overcorrection, I barked orders and directions to Michaela for hours before she left: "This is where the ponchos are! This is where I put your boots! Short sleeved shirts are on this side, long sleeved shirts are on this side! I labeled the sleeping bag on the end, so look for your name here! This is a zipper- grasp this rectangle and pull to open the duffel bag!" Okay, I made that last one up, but you get my point. I was pretty ridiculous. Dan just smiled and shook his head at me.

Michaela expressed her excitement about going to Nature's Classroom by punctuating every sentence she said with, "What! WHAAAAT!" at the end, said very quickly and forcefully. She used to pound herself on the chest (thump, thump) with an open palm while saying it but I banned that action pretty quickly after declaring it horrifyingly unladylike. So this is what living with her was like last week:
"Goin' to Nature's Classroom Tuesday... What! Whaaaat!"
"I hope I'm bunking with Anna... we'd have SUCH a good time! What! Whaaat!"
"What's for dinner? Tacos? I LOVE tacos! What! Whaaat!"
"No homework tonight! What! Whaaaat!"

So you get the point. Thankfully, because I am her mother and gave birth to her, I can tolerate this longer than the average bear. Plus her energy and enthusiasm for life is so infectious and endearing, I can't help but laugh as it slowly drives me crazy.
The jury is still out on whether the What! Whaaat! is better or worse than the summer's catchphrase, which was "Wait. What?" Anytime you said anything to her, that was her response.
"You have a dentist appointment next Monday."
"Wait. What?"
"I said you have a dentist appointment on Monday."
It was like any time you gave her a piece of information, her brain had to stop and process it seperately from everything else that was going on around her. She said the "Wait." part much like pundits and politicians say, "Look." at the beginning of their answers when being interviewed. Authoritatively. In command.
Dan and I started answering her by saying "Wait." So we would say, "Would you like more green beans?" and she'd answer, "Wait. What?" and then we'd say back, "Wait. Do you want more green beans?" And then she'd realize she had said it again and smile.

I'm thinking it's better than what she'll be saying to us in a few years. If she's talking to us at all. Wait. What?

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Bits and Pieces from Libutti Land.

All systems are go at Eagle Elementary. The girls both seem to like their teachers and are happy to be reunited with their friends, despite having most of them at our house once or twice or a billion times over the summer break. I am pleasantly surprised by how smoothly we have slipped back into the school morning routine. Now its all about what the weather is going to be and how it will affect their outfit choices, what the special of the day is (library, music, P.E., art) and do I really, truly, HAVE TO brush my teeth before school? And is there ANY wiggle room in the whole "clearing your plate and cup from the table" routine? And my answers are always the same: yes to the first and no to the second. Just do it.

Bedtime continues to be a ridiculous struggle; so much so that I finally had an epiphany a few weeks ago while brushing Jenna's teeth and asking her for the 20th time to please stop looking in the mirror at herself and OPEN HER MOUTH SO I CAN MOVE THE TOOTHBRUSH.
"Jenna," I told her, "guess what?"
"What?" she asked.
"Tomorrow night, you are going to be me and I am going to be you and you are going to get me ready for bed. You are going to brush my teeth, and comb my hair and get my jammies on. And I'm going to be you and I'm going to stall and whine and do all the things you do that make Mommy crazy."
"Ohhhhh! I can't WAIT!" says Jenna, beaming.
So the next night we did just that: I played the part of Jenna and she was me. And I did all the things that she does: stalling, laying down on the bed when she should be getting her pajamas on, taking a ridiculous amount of time to pick out pajamas, dropping the dirty clothes on the floor instead of putting them in the hamper, asking WHY DO I HAVE TO GO? when I was told to go potty, saying, I CAN'T DO IT! IT'S TOO DIFFICULT! when asked to brush my teeth, looking at myself in the mirror when Jenna was brushing my teeth, clamping down on the toothbrush, spitting and making a mess in the sink, wanting them to lay down with me before I go to sleep, complaining about bug bites itching, and then after they finally go me tucked into bed, a few moments later I got up and told them I wasn't really tired.
Michaela got such a kick out of watching me that she made Dan play her (minus the getting jammies on). And he played it to the hilt. It was brilliant.
After we were all done, I talked to both of them. "So, what do you think?" I asked them.
And they smiled.
"That was hard," they said. (AHA! Understanding! Victory is MINE!)
And then Michaela added:
"But we want to do it again tomorrow!"

Alec has had some steady gains in the language development department. His receptive vocab is pretty impressive, he has started to say an approximation of his own name (which sounds like a open-mouthed version of the word AWK), and is babbling a lot. His articulation is not great and he really seems to struggle in that area. He has learned to say "Aw, man!" from Dora and will put up his little hand and garble something to the effect of "Swiper, no swiping!" (Michaela said, "Shep, no shep!" for years and we still say it to her every once in a while.) He loves pointing to the trucks and airplanes and motorcycles in one of his books and has consistent sounds for each that are single syllables.

Alec has learned the connection between DVDs and the DVD player and now constantly hands me DVDs to put in. He then watches the first 10-15 minutes of a movie and then gets another one for me to put in. In heavy rotation are Yogi Bear, Tangled, The Backyardigans' Surf's Up, and Diego's Animal Rescue. When he watches Diego, and the camera in the show asks, "Is THIS the pygmy marmoset?" Alec always answers, "Noooooo!" He says that to no matter what question Click asks. It's very cute if you're his mom.

Michaela started another soccer season this past Saturday. She picked out awesome new cleats that are neon yellow and bright purple and look very professional. They look great. She's excited to play again after a break last season and is playing for her usual coach, The Incomparable Coach Tim, who has coached her every season but one since she was 4 years old. Her team color is lime green and looks great with her cleats.

I signed up to be Alec's Toddler Sunday School class teacher, and we were the only ones in the class on Sunday. Made for an easy lesson! My Girl Scout Troop is on it's way and we'll maybe have our first meeting at the end of this month. Half of the girls in the troop are named Emma. I'm not kidding.

I went grocery shopping with only one child this morning for the first time since June. It was heavenly.

I went to Hobby Lobby yesterday with my mom and let me tell you, they have THREE SHELVES OF PILGRIM FIGURINES. And that's all I have to say about that.

Dan is slammed at work with claims from Hurricane Irene. He was supposed to take last week off but had to cancel his vacation because of the amount of work to be done. Now he gets to take a week off almost every month from now until January. He is VERY happy that it is fall and that means he soon will not have to mow the lawn every week. We don't have any leaves to rake, either, so once the grass stops growing, he's done for the season. I am making a long Fall/ Winter Honey-Do list for around the house- things we've lived with for the past year but would like to remedy.

I bought apple crisp topping at the store today. Cant wait to make my first batch.

Speaking of Walmart, let me wrap up with this story:
I shopped for the week and had about $175 in groceries. I bring my own bags, because I love my earth and all that, and I piled them on top of my stuff. About 3/4 of the way through the check out, I realize that my checker has not put any of my items in my bags, instead choosing to stack all of my items (in categories that made sense in her head but not mine) on the carousel where the plastic bags lay. When she was done ringing me up, she applied hand sanitizer and then told me, "I hate reusable bags! I sliced my hand right open on one because someone left a RAZOR BLADE in there!" and then proceeds to tell me that sentence again exactly as she just had. I said very lightly, "Well, my bags are empty! No razor blades in there!" and smiled helpfully. She went on to tell me, as she struggled to pack my bags, that she hates to bag things because "it has to be perfect" and she dislikes "stacking groceries on top of one another." And I again say lightly, "Oh, that's okay, I'm just going right home from here..." and while I'm saying that, she shows me the bag she's packed and says, "See? Everything's STANDING UP!" And I see that my bag is indeed filled on the bottom but only about 20% full with all canned items that are standing up, and while it fit her OCD proclivities, it would have taken about 40 more bags to carry all of my items out of the store. So I took matters into my own hands (after complimenting her for her lovely packing job) and just threw the rest of her piles into my bags. Enough's enough.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

First Day of School: First and Fifth Grade Edition.

Happy First Day of School!

Everything went smooth as silk this morning

and I am thrilled to report that both of our nervously excited girls are

back in their classrooms.

Alec wanted to be in the Back to School Photo Shoot...

and that evil-looking grimace is his "posing for the camera" smile.

New clothes, new sneaks, and a new messenger bag for Michaela.

Here's to an adventure-filled year!

Friday, September 2, 2011

A Suggestion for Brian Williams and John F. Harris.

So here I am, doing one of my least favorite chores: cleaning my bathrooms. It's gross and sweaty and takes a fair amount of time to do it right. Coming face to face with the messy habits of my four favorite people in the world, right in my face, is just something I never look forward to. But I do it and after it's done, I do have a sense of relief and pride that it looks much better than when I started.

As I was cleaning this morning, I was thinking of the humbling act of service that cleaning the toilet is. And how if you don't have to clean toilets, either your own or someone else's, you are missing out on a key experience that grounds and connects us all as humans.

So I am proudly introducing the Libutti Reality Scale, which is an easy question to ask someone running for public office. Sure, you may know if they are Democrat or Republican, liberal or conservative, and where they stand on a number of issues ranging from the economy, security and jobs to immigration, the environment, and social issues.

But when is the last time they've cleaned a bathroom?

Because if it's been over a year, then I'm sorry: you are living in a different reality than I am.

If you want to tell me you understand my issues and my life, and you are going to represent me in a body of government, you'd better have swished and swirled some type of cleaner in the past year. Because if you haven't, than you have not come face to face with the grossness of humans. You have been protected. And that's a luxury.

Just to be clear: I have nothing against people with house cleaners. If I came into a little bit of money, the first thing I would do is hire a maid or housekeeper. But one has to understand that by delegating this job to someone else, one has taken a step (a pleasant step, but a step nonetheless) away from the experience of most Americans. And that puts a little wall between you and me.

Now, maybe that's not a big deal. It certainly doesn't make someone more or less fit to serve. And I am a big believer that I don't want ordinary people representing me, I want extraordinary people representing me.

But I think this can be a helpful tool for those trying to make thoughtful decisions about future leaders.

So I am graciously offering the Libutti Reality Scale as a suggestion to the moderators of the upcoming Republican debate next Wednesday.

For clarity's sake, it is a three-point scale:
Level 1: I have cleaned a bathroom in the past year.
Level 2: I have cleaned a bathroom in the past 10 years.
Level 3: It has been over 10 years OR I have never cleaned a bathroom.

The higher the number, the less you are living the same reality as mine and that of most of your soon-to-be constituents. If you are a Level 1 AND are running for President, that is strongly in your favor.

You are real.