Thursday, December 31, 2009


Nick's been practicing the 'da' syllable off and on for a few weeks. In the last few days, he's said, "A-da," a lot. Today we really had him practicing and he repeated after us, "Da. Da. A-da." He leaned against Erik's shins and said, "Da, da, da, da, da." It was sweet.

Then it came! "Da-da." We were excited but it could have been a fluke, so we kept encouraging him. "A-da." Not close enough, not anymore. "Da-da." There it was again! And again, right after it, clear as a bell, "Dada."

Erik was beaming.

Meanwhile, I glanced at Xander who was, as usual, the last to leave the dinner table, and he was filching strawberries out of the serving bowl. Like mother, like son.

New Traditions for a New Year

Erik and I tried to think of some New Year's Eve traditions for our family that would work equally well whether we stayed in or went out. This year we made no plans whatsoever and are staying in with the kids and possibly some TV.

Here's what we came up with this year. We'll test it out and see what we want to do next year.

1. Eat black-eyed peas (bacon-seasoned) with collard greens and cornbread. It just has to be done down here.
2. Drink Tom and Jerrys--eggnog for Xander. We never got around to making Tom and Jerrys during Christmas since it was so busy, so maybe we'll make it a New Year's tradition.
3. Buy a lottery ticket.
4. Decide on a new midnight-hour that can be celebrated by Xander, too. Around 7:30, we'll turn out the lights, light the candles, and share our thoughts about:
5. What we would do with the lottery money if we won with our ticket. (Erik and I think it is very fun to talk about this subject, but suspect it would be a headache and a nightmare if we ever actually won.) A couple wishes or hopes we have for ourselves in the coming year, and a wish or hope we have for each other member of the family for the coming year.
6. We'll fill out pages in our brand-new Time Capsule notebook. I plan to bring this book out every New Year's. There's a page for every member of the family to record things like height, weight, special skills, characteristics, funny stories, physical characteristics, and hobbies. We can help each other fill out everyone's page.
7. Countdown to 8:00, turn on the lights, and celebrate the new year!
8. Bedtime for Xander and Nick. Maybe some TV for Kristy and Erik, since it's our TV Night.

I also have an idea for a New Year's Day tradition, but doubt that Erik will be on board. Buffy the Vampire Slayer marathon! Or Lord of the Rings marathon! Even if I get Erik on board, those particular DVDs will have to be saved for when Xander's a bit older. So just keep it in mind, family...

Wednesday, December 30, 2009


Nick's really using his teething rings and the giraffe teether he got for Christmas from Uncle Jeremy and Aunt Leslie. Poor thing must be truly on the cusp this time. He's been desperate to get things in his mouth but reluctant to nurse. He also likes the Fisher Price Schoolhouse that he and Xander are supposed to be sharing. He can take items out of the lunchbox/schoolhouse and put them in his mouth because they are big enough to be safe.

Xander has been loving his Magical Creatures tube of toys and the book that came with them, and his cars. He got interested in the cars again because I decided he could have all of them out at once as long as his other toys were picked up. It's like a whole new set of toys! Today he is also dragging around the tissue paper/paper plate turtle he made with his daddy at Storytime. It's tied to a string so he takes it around with him and helps it up and down steps. This is a pet we can approve of. Xander is also kind of obsessed with the big tugboat bath toy Grandma Bonnie got him. It includes stacking cups with holes on the bottom so he can give himself a "shower." I love it because he happily let me wash his hair so he could play with the boat and all its accessories afterward.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

We Did Feed Him Today, We Really Did

Have you ever seen Cookie Monster eat a plate of cookies? Then you have an idea of what Nick did this evening. I started pouring Puffs out of the container onto his tray. He caught the first handful out of midair and slammed them into his mouth. As Puffs scattered on the tray, he grabbed them up in his fists and shoveled them in as if he was in fast forward. I was so shocked I could only yell, "Oh my god, look at what Nick is doing! Look at what Nick is doing!" The word that came to mind later was demon.

This came half an hour after we caught him peeling off strips of a warning sticker from the side of his carseat. He already had a piece the size of a folded moist towelette on the roof of his mouth.

At the dinner table, I said to Erik, "I'm afraid of Nick," thinking he would laugh at me for exaggerating again. Instead, he solemnly agreed.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Morning Playtime 2

Nick: (cough)
Foster: (laughs)
Nick: Hah!
Foster: Hah.
Nick: Blah Dah dah!
Foster: (laughs)
Nick: (claws at Foster's face)
(Uncle Jeremy moves him back.)
Nick: Bahhhh.
Foster: (laughs) (burps)

Morning Playtime

Bailey: (screams many times)
Xander: Don't worry! I'm a knight, will KILL the shark!
Bailey: (screams)

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Christmas at the Meng Homestead

We are at Jeremy and Leslie's for Christmas. I can't imagine it any other way. The kids got lots of presents and a little too much sugar and had the usual heated moments, but they have such precious moments, too. Xander comes away from every visit with Bailey with a new expression that she uses. This time it seems to be, "I love you, too," nice and clear. What a great one to pick up!

Xander, Nick, and I are kind of sick and Erik and Leslie have bad allergies. Nick has been screaming instead of sleeping at night. These are the things that happen, though.

Grandpa Larry and Grandma Alla's gifts were popular again. Xander has carried his noise-making, stomping Triceratops around the house almost continuously. He's gotten three or four pairs of pants dirty in the space of two days, so it's a good thing grandmas and aunts gave him new pants. (One way he figured out to get dirty was shoveling dirt on top of the dog's head--she didn't mind at all.) Bailey had a very girly Christmas with a Tinkerbell doll, Barbie, life-size doll, and many Tinkerbell/ fairy/ magical/ princess dress-up clothes. Xander got a sword, helmet, shield, and handmade cape from Aunt Leslie (and Uncle Jeremy) and he didn't take off the helmet for about a day and a half. Today he took his chance to get into the girly stuff, too. Bailey is so into Tinkerbell, she's got to be onto something, right? So he wore a fairy tutu for a while. Then he changed into a tiara and said he was Princess Xander. He's also very interested in Bailey's little Tinkerbell doll, but I have a feeling if he had all this stuff at home he wouldn't be so interested.

Xander and Bailey really got into the Santa stuff. They inspected the half-eaten cookies and the empty milk glass and thank you note from Santa, and the ashy boot marks Santa made on the butcher paper in front of the fireplace. Bailey was a little disappointed she didn't get to give Santa hugs and kisses. Xander had mentioned he would give Santa a really great gift for Christmas, but I think he forgot all about it.

Nick and Foster love each other. They look into each other's faces and laugh and try to grab the other one's eyeballs (okay, that's just Nick) and act like the world is a very charming place.

We adults talked about Christmas traditions. We've already made a few among our two growing families but we also talked about things we don't do that either we've done in the past or might like to do in the future. Leslie suggested we make a list of all the traditions we'd like to do and we can pick and choose each year, trying different ones for variety or choosing according to the things appropriate for the kids' ages. I'll work on my part of that sometime soon. I'd like to do the Santa Lucia celebration again one day. Not to mention the card-opening ceremony on Christmas Eve with champagne and Christmas cookies. And then there's the tea ring... I actually did that one last year.

Nick is sleeping. So are all the other kids, and Bonnie and Koa, but Nick's the only one that's big news. I'd better get some rest while I can.

I'll sign off with a conversation between the older kids. You know, they must secretly get a kick out of this, or they would stop.

Xander: Merry Christmas!
Bailey: Happy Christmas!
Xander: No! I said Merry Christmas!
Bailey: Happy Christmas to all!
Xander: No!! I said Merry Christmas!
Bailey: Merry Christmas!
Xander: That's right.
Bailey: Happy Christmas!
Xander: No!!!!!!!

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

See Ya, We're Out of Here

Nick had a great time today crawling around. He got a nice blue pile of thread in his mouth that Mommy miraculously saw and rescued. His outfits, combined with the drool faucet that is his mouth, are mopping up all the dirt on our floors. Xander even chose to crawl with Nick for a while, which made Nick squeal with delight.

Then Nick stood up on his own clutching Mommy's pants. He did it leaning on the coffee table to show it wasn't a fluke. Xander and Mommy were excited for him, and Daddy was impressed when he got home from work and heard about it.

Handmade ornaments from Grandma Lucy arrived in the mail today. Xander did a great job of hanging them...all in one corner of the tree, low to the ground.

Ooh, now I spy out the window that Daddy took Xander outside to ride his Big Wheel. About time he learned how to pedal it. Daddy is now home for a week and a half vacation. Xander will hate it when he goes back to work.

Tomorrow is the early morning drive to Charleston. We expect it to go smoothly, keeping in mind that we might, even after two children, be a little naive.

Friday, December 18, 2009

How Beautiful

Xander just came running into the room saying, "Look Mommy, I found the robot one!" He was carrying his cheap little paperback Transformers book. Then he said, "It's really beautiful," touching the book cover.

Another hint about his aesthetic sense: He also thought his Spiderman Band-Aid was beautiful--as long as it's the red Spiderman, of course.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Oh Goodness Gracious, Says Mommy

Oh goodness gracious--another thing I noticed today is that Nick can get to our coffee table in the time it takes a vampire to go from one spot to another in the movies. Suddenly--flash!--he's there underneath the coffee table sucking on the crossbar that is painted with lead paint, I'm sure.

Is there anything cuter than a baby looking up at you through a glass table top with his mouth around a painted crossbar? Yes, I'm sure there is.

I have a weakness for trying to capture these funny things in photo or in words first, and getting the baby later. Nick and Xander both have pictures in which their little feet are flying up in the air and the rest of them is missing in action.

On that note, I will go get the baby.

Doing the Frankenstein

Nick now loves looking at pictures of animals and hearing people make the animal sounds for him. He always wants to get to my book if I read around him. When he lies on his tummy playing, he kicks his feet down so you can always hear a somewhat rhythmic tapping. These are just little things I can never remember to put in the bland baby book but they are part of the whole experience that I don't want to forget.

I helped him stand up just now by holding his hands. He loves standing up tall and doesn't sway or bend or fall usually. He stood looking at his feet for a few moments. He's lost the ability to pick up his feet and walk, I guess, because what he did instead was to buck his whole body. I didn't get it at first, just thought, What crazy thing is he doing? Then I realized it's the same movement that has helped him crawl. Get his arms and legs down on a hard surface and he can kind of do the Worm to get around. He tried the buck a few times but it didn't get him anywhere. So he resorted to leaning his whole body forward. He would have gone somewhere then if I hadn't been holding his hands! It was interesting to see him try a movement that he had already discovered would move him forward when he's on hands and knees.

Getting Somewhere

Xander went with me to my silent meeting yesterday. We've been practicing at home where he stays on a blanket or chair in the living room and plays with the toys and books in his Quiet Bag. We started with a game to see how long he could be silent. Now we don't even need the game. He can be almost silent for up to an hour, but I don't have him do that at home anymore. I just wanted to know he could before I took him back to the meeting. At the meeting, he spent most of the time in a corner on a beanbag playing silently. Part of the time, he stayed in my lap curled up like a baby and I thought he might even go to sleep...but no. I was proud of him for making it the whole hour with just one episode of singing the ABCs very sweetly in the corner. He even came up to me silently and mouthed the words, I have to go to the bathroom, in the middle, so we went outside and up stairs to a bathroom, took care of business, and went back into the silent meeting. Afterward, when it was chatting time, he put his toys in the middle of the circle and talked to everyone about his animals and what they were doing. When I said it was time to clean up and go, he said, "I have to play with my toys, and they have to watch me!" We've known this since he was an infant, but he is no shy guy. Then we went to Sonny's BBQ, just Mommy and Xander, since he and I don't get as many one-on-one outings anymore.

Xander used to come with me to the silent meeting when we lived in Maryland. There was another girl of the same age who came, too, and they played together, less than silently. They were about a year and a half old at the time. One day they ran around and around the meeting room. I will always remember the little girl running down the aisle, her brown curls flapping in the wind, proclaiming, "I running! I running! I running!" That is the spirit of childhood to me.

Nick seems to have a lot of the same traits Xander does, only more so. Xander is very social and skipped the separation anxiety phase. Nick seems to be doing the same thing so far. He will smile for and go to anyone right now. When we go on an outing, he doesn't usually sleep. He wants to see everyone and everything and reach out his hands to try to touch it all.

Xander was physically active from babyhood, always bouncing up and down on someone's lap. Nick does that plus crawls. He has been able to get out of his infant chairs (slithering down to the floor) for months. Today I set him down on his activity mat to do some chores. Xander was sitting playing on the couch. When I came back, Nick had gotten halfway over to Xander but was blocked by the bottom portion of the coffee table. I don't think Xander is quite as enthusiastic to "play" together as Nick is. Maybe when Nick stops drooling all over everything Xander will feel better about it. He's kind of grossed out by all the fluids now--just like his daddy.

Speaking of his daddy, Erik printed out nice pictures for each step of the going-to-the-bathroom routine and posted the chart in front of the toilet for Xander. Xander has been potty trained to go in the potty or toilet for over 6 months now, but it's the details we have to work on. That, and actually taking the time to go. With this chart, Xander is 90% better than before. He likes to look at it and follow it, from pulling down pants and underwear (not too low, not too high, as either one can cause problems ;) to wiping to washing hands with soap. Not least important is the concept of waiting to get into the bathroom before shedding all the clothing. Today at preschool he did not have an accident and he did not pull down his pants in front of everyone. Victory!

Friday, December 11, 2009

Being Helpful

Xander and I studied being helpful this week for "H" week. A half hour ago I told him he could stay in his room and play with his train tracks and trains. I had to go get the trains from another room. Xander said, "Mommy, you brought me the rest of my trains for me to play. That was so helpful!"

Thank you for noticing, Xander.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Moving, Moving, Moving

I forgot already: What do you do with a crawler??

Luckily, Nick still likes his rainforest play mat and will lie there for a while and play without moving too far away. But almost total freedom of movement is coming soon!

Xander has been (almost) a little angel today. It's what happens when I get strict with him. Too many choices makes Xander a cranky boy.

One activity we can all do together that is a delight at this time is read My Big Animal Book. I already mentioned this, but Xander likes to do the animal noises for each picture and Nick cranks his head around to look and see if those are really the sounds he hears coming out of Mommy's or Xander's mouths. He loves it. (Just like the books say he will at this age.)

Nick still turned up his nose a little at oatmeal and prunes this morning but he ate peas like a pro for lunch. Hurray! It was his first time with them. Poor baby has a bad diaper rash from diarrhea which came from the antibiotic which was given because of his ear infection which was a result of the cold he caught. I don't like that chain of events! Xander had a big ol' turkey sandwich with lettuce for lunch. He doesn't realize it yet, but for snack he will be having the green beans he didn't eat with lunch.

He and I started back up with learning activities yesterday. We skipped them for a while due to Thanksgiving festivities and illness. We're on "H" week still. He gets so excited when we sing "If You're Happy and You Know It." It's a delight to watch his face while we sing and do the motions. Today I did some little kid exercises with him that I found on a blog and he had great fun with that. We'll have to do that again. Mommy got really tired and hungry afterward, but Xander didn't! We did things like roll-backs, hopping, jumping jacks, stork stands, and crabwalking. I've been borrowing kid exercise videos from the library so Xander could get out more energy since he seems to sit around and play when he goes outside. He would just sit on the couch and watch them. Even when I did the exercises, he just watched and said he couldn't do them. I didn't realize until weeks later that he remembers the exercises. Today he said, "I'm doing triceps," and worked his arms up and back. He remembers some of the muscle group names, too. He did the downward-facing dog from YogaKids yesterday. So all that couch time was not wasted time.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

More on Nick

I have to add that Nick seems to have suddenly woken up to a whole new level of awareness. He is laughing at everything. Or giving me the disgusted face (for formula). He is really, really present with us at this age.

Sibling Playtime

I have to write what our first official sibling playtime looks like. They're both supposed to stay on the large blanket I set out. There are toys of Nick's out that Xander likes--My Big Animal Book and stacking bowls--and toys of Xander's that are okay for Nick--the Fisher-Price animal barn. Nick has become quite mobile and I have to keep putting him back on the blanket. Xander tries to keep the stacking bowls away from Nick but I insist he share in some way. Xander gives Nick two of the bowls so he can play in peace with the others.  Nick moves forward. Xander goes to the very edge of the blanket and reads the animal book with his back against Nick. This is not exactly sibling play-together paradise. Nick grabs the back of Xander's pajama shirt while Xander tells him, "Nick, let go!" Nick laughs. This is hilarious. Xander moves to the other edge of the blanket.

Now we're getting it. Xander notices that Nick is all over his barn and waits at the edge, trying to figure out a way to get in there and play with it himself. I ask him to find a way they can both play with it, and I will help by moving Nick back a little bit. Xander tells Nick he can have these four animals while Xander plays with the other ones.

"Don't eat that cow, Nick," says Xander.

Nick inadvertently pushes a toy animal in Xander's direction.

"Thank you, Nick!" says Xander. "Can I play with those?"

He takes the rest of the animals back. After my feedback, he gives Nick some bowls to play with. Nick laughs. Xander turns his back again to play with the animals by himself.

This is kind of fun but I can see it's going to take some work on Mommy's part for quite a while. However, this is Mission Accomplished because Xander has shared happily with Nick and Nick has had a marvelous time.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Nick's Half-Birthday

It's Nick's 6-month birthday today! We (Xander, Erik, and I) had chocolates tonight after dinner and sang "Happy Half-Birthday" to Nick. He had his well visit at the doctor's today, too, and got three shots and one drinkable vaccine. Unfortunately either that or his pushing teeth are bothering him. He wouldn't even do his before-bed nurse tonight. I gave him Tylenol and then in desperation, one hour later, gave him Motrin. From what I've read, this is okay to do in dire circumstances but important not to do regularly. I hate to feel like I'm overmedicating a child, so I regret doing it. However, he has been comfortable since.

I tried giving him shredded pieces of bread tonight while the rest of us ate dinner. It was a big hit. I told Erik it doesn't seem like the right road to go down because it puts control in Nick's hands...but that's exactly why he liked it so much. Sigh.

We also put him down on the bare floor in his birthday suit to watch his crawling progress. He can get up high on his knees and go really far in one scooch, but I haven't seen him quite get up off those elbows yet. So I don't think I would call it crawling yet, except I wanted to say he started crawling on his 6-month birthday. :) He can definitely travel places. From What to Expect the First Year, I guess I would call it crawling. They define creeping as getting around on the belly and crawling as getting around on hands and knees. So what is it when he gets around on knees and elbows?

He has thinned out to percentiles like the ones Xander used to get: 25th percentile weight, 75th percentile height. (Now Xander's at 10th percentile weight and somewhere over average height! He's shot up like a weed in the last few weeks.) I wouldn't be surprised if he had teeth tomorrow. But I guess I've thought that for a long while now. The doctor even saw the bumps. Nick also started saying the syllable "ma" more often. It's just like I remembered with Xander: They like to yell out "Ma!" whenever something's really wrong, as the start to their cry. Daddy gets all the smiles. Nick stares at Erik like he's looking at Bono or the pope or something.

One of Nick's absolute favorite things to do is to stand up from lying down. Every time I finish changing his diaper, I take hold of his hands and say, "Time to get up!" and pull him up to sitting. From there he always pushes up to standing with a huge grin on his face. He laughs and everything. Every time.

Yikes. By the end of this month, What to Expect the First Year says baby may even be able to walk holding on to furniture. Although it would be exciting, I hope not! I'm not sure I'm ready to have two kids that know how to walk. On the other hand, it would be really interesting if he did that over Christmas at Leslie and Jeremy's because that's where Xander first did it, during his first Christmas. Of course he was almost 9 months old then.

And now turning to the other boy...Xander says he's going to show Santa Claus his dinosaur toys. He doesn't get that he can actually ask for toys. I'd like to keep it that way for a while. ;)

He likes to argue with Erik and me a lot. "Yes, but..." Or, "Mommy, don't say no to Xander!" I've found that if I keep him to a pretty strict schedule during the day, he is so much more obedient. Then if he asks for something that I don't want to allow, I can just say, "It's not time for that. It's time for _____." It's a lot of work to keep him moving from activity to activity, but it pays off big. We do chore time, room time when he plays with (usually) building toys in his room, table time when he does things like puzzles at a table, outside play time, free play time, TV time, learning activities time, and even Quiet Bag time when we practice silence and playing with his bag of quiet activities that are meant for things like doctors' offices and meetings. Now I just need to get the basics down!! We have to work really hard on bathroom stuff, meal times, and sleep times. Double sigh.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Stay Little

Nick has metamorphosed into a baby kid. He's lost all traces of infanthood. He is strong, alert, and friendly, eats solid food, sits up to nurse and tries to take control of the situation, pulls hair, grabs things on purpose, flirts, gets up on hands and knees to rock, creeps, pushes his tongue into the place where he will soon have teeth, blows raspberries, talks to us, recognizes his family, sometimes looks at Xander when I ask where Xander is, gets out of all his chairs whether buckled in or not, snickers, plays by himself for long periods of time, soothes himself back to sleep, and, of course, clamps down when nursing just because he can. Despite everyone saying he looks just like his daddy and brother, I still think he's really cute. Just joking, Erik and Xander.

I know Xander has grown up almost as much in this time period. When he went back to preschool this morning, the director confirmed it. She said he had shot up like a weed. He speaks more like an adult these days and, to his grandmothers' delight (and relief?), he can be understood over the phone. There are plenty of things to work on. He had an accident at preschool, after trying to pull down his pants in the middle of the room to get ready to go to the bathroom. Oops. I guess we have to work harder at teaching him to keep his clothes on until he gets to the bathroom. Silly Xander. It's like the niceties of these things are beneath him. If he's so potty trained, why are Erik and I scrubbing the bathroom every day? Xander has many big-deal strengths and I am so proud of him, but solo hygiene is not one of them. Now that I'm done complaining about that, how do I keep them this young forever? ;)

I feel joy thinking about all the milestones they will reach in their lives. I can't wait to see how they handle life as they grow older. But it's pretty sweet having two very little ones at home.

Friday, December 4, 2009

Baby Hands

Nick is grabby. That's his baby mode of expression. Xander stood and bounced up and down in our laps from a newborn--that was his mode of expression. Nick likes to do that, too, but his little hand is always reaching, his fingers curling up, around, closing, up, around, closing, until he gets hold of something. Even when I hold his wrist back away from me so he can't grab my hair, his hands twists and his fingers curl, up, around, closing, up, around, closing.

I mentioned this to Erik and he smiled and said, "His toes do it, too."

Yes, indeed. Not only did I have to tell Nick, "Hands down while I'm feeding you!" I also had to start, "Feet down! No feet in mouth while I'm feeding you!"

It will be very interesting to see how Nick's personality unfolds as he learns to sit, crawl, walk, and talk. This Christmas we are getting Xander and Nick a toy that they will have to share. I think they are at the point where they can begin to have playtime with each other. I'll have to be there, of course, but they both like toys, each other's toys, in fact, and they can definitely play with and next to each other. Exciting!

Nick is putting us to some trouble these days. He caught my cold and turned it into an ear infection and he hasn't slept to speak of in two nights. So neither have I. Erik has taken long middle-of-the-night shifts, too. It's awful when you decide you'll do anything to comfort your baby and then none of it works! He has Amoxicillin now so we hope he will be back to normal very soon.

Xander is going back to La Petite on Monday morning for his once-a-week visits. It will be great for him and I'm not worried about his health but, sheesh, hardly anything is worse than a sick baby, especially one who will start catching things from his older brother.

With that said, how lucky and blessed we are that Nick has an ear infection and not something chronic like cancer or... I can't type the list of things I'm thinking of. I'm too superstitious, or something.

Monday, November 30, 2009

October Pictures

Okay, done with National Novel Writing Month. Here are pictures of Nick and Xander in October. You see how scholarly Nick is.

Sorry about the sideways picture. If I spent time trying to rotate it correctly, I would be here for another hour. I'm not kidding.

Sir Reddy and Sir Pants Decide On Something and It Is Time for the End

Sir Reddy said to Sir Pants, "We've had a lot of strange and silly adventures together."

Sir Pants said, "They were fun."

"Yes, fun," said Sir Reddy. "Even when they didn't make much sense."

"Especially when they didn't make much sense," said Sir Pants.

"Oh," said Sir Reddy. "Yes, I suppose you're right. I really liked the adventure where we met the

"I liked the colored owls," said Sir Pants.

"Of course," said Sir Reddy. "Who wouldn't? And it was so nice meeting Nella the magician, wasn't it?"

"Yes!" said Sir Pants. "It was fun to make her a gift."

"Remember the day when we both got a cold and couldn't go out and didn't do anything but blow our noses and wash our hands?"

"Yes," said Sir Pants. "There isn't much to say about that day."

"No," said Sir Reddy. "There isn't. I'm glad I don't have to blow my nose every minute today."

"Me, too," said Sir Pants. "And my lips aren't chapped. It's a good day."

"Oh, I almost forgot!" said Sir Reddy. "We saw Princess Pieplate on one of our adventures. That wasn't so bad."

"It was pretty nice," agreed Sir Pants. "And Prince Pastepot. He's always good for a laugh."

Sir Reddy nodded.

"There was one thing I didn't get to say to you during our adventures," said Sir Pants.

"What is it?" asked Sir Reddy.

"You are my best friend and I like you."

Sir Reddy smiled. "I like you and you are my best friend!"

"Well, that's settled," said Sir Pants.

The End

Sunday, November 29, 2009

The Owl Song

Nella liked her bird feeder, even though she had to keep it locked in her closet, because whenever any other birds came close to her room, her owl got grumpy.

But she said it was her favorite, and Sir Reddy and Sir Pants were happy she liked it.

Nella sang a song to them:

"One owl went flying out the door,
One more than there was before.

Two owls went flying right past me,
The second one green as a willow tree,
The first one was as blue as blue can be.

Three owls went flying in the sky,
The third one, a red one, went right by.
The second one green as a key lime pie,
The first one blue like a dragonfly.

Four owls flew into evening dusk,
The fourth one black as a walnut husk
The third one red like a fire truck,
The second one green like rainforest muck,
The first one blue as a blue-dyed tusk.

Five owls flew and said, "Hoo, hoo,"
The fifth one was purple to tell the truth,
The fourth one as black as a big to-do,
The third one red as a bright caboose,
The second one green, green like goo,
The first one you know by now was blue.

Six owls decided to land in a barn,
The sixth one yellower than foamy barm,
The fifth one as purple as thread on a garn,
The fourth one black as if to warn
Of coming night the owl red like yarn,
The second one green as a sick schoolmarm,
And the first one as deep blue as a tarn.

All six of them wanted to rest before hunting,
The yellow and purple on old and torn bunting,
The black and the red ones on bales of hay hunching,
The green one thought rest sounded like a fun thing,
The blue one was already dreaming of punting.

Such an owl coterie was never seen before
And people believe they came straight from lore.
But I saw them with my own eyes that bored
Into the sight of them and remembered evermore.

If you see them don't hurry to tell the tale;
The owls I speak of won't leave any trail.
If you try to prove it you'll most likely fail.

So ends the song that I'm singing to you,
I'm stopping it quickly to go to the loo."

Then Nella said, "Excuse me," and ran out the door to go to the bathroom.

"Bye," said Sir Reddy and Sir Pants.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Twelve Colored Birds

It was time to give Nella the gift.

Sir Pants and Sir Reddy climbed the stairs up to her room in the tallest tower of Caraway Castle. They climbed ten steps. An orange owl flew right above their heads.

"What was that?" exclaimed Sir Reddy, who had not been expecting anything to fly over his head.

Sir Pants was a bit shaken himself, but he said, "It was an orange owl," very matter-of-factly.

"Pretty," said Sir Reddy, looking after it.

It was soon gone.

Sir Pants and Sir Reddy climbed twenty steps. A purple owl flew over their heads.

"What was--" said Sir Reddy, but then he realized what it was. "Oh."

"That was a purple one," said Sir Pants.

"Pretty," said Sir Reddy.

The purple owl was soon gone from their sight.

Sir Pants and Sir Reddy climbed thirty more steps. A red owl flew right over their heads, so close they could hear its wings beating the air.

"Whoa!" said Sir Pants.

"A red owl," Sir Pants and Sir Reddy told each other, at the same time.

"Pretty," said Sir Reddy.

It was soon gone in the same direction the other owls had flown.

"Where do you think they're going?" asked Sir Reddy, as he and Sir Pants climbed more steps.

"Who knows?" said Sir Pants. "Maybe the same place we're going." He smiled. He was just joking.

A green owl passed over their heads.

"A green one, now," said Sir Pants.

"Pretty," said Sir Reddy.

After that owl was gone, Sir Reddy said, "Let's try to guess what color the next one will be."

"How do you know there will be a next one?" asked Sir Pants.

"It's likely," said Sir Reddy.

"Brown," guessed Sir Pants.

"Blue," said Sir Reddy.

A blue owl flew over their heads.

"You cheated," said Sir Pants. "You must have seen that one coming."

"I wasn't guessing," said Sir Reddy. "I was telling you what color it was. Not brown."

"Yes," said Sir Pants a little grumpily.

After a pause and a few more steps, Sir Pants said, "Yellow? Do you think the next one will be yellow?"

"Either that or brown like you said, or black," said Sir Reddy.

"That covers a lot of territory," said Sir Pants.

The next owl that flew over them was yellow. Very soon after that a black owl flew by.

"Will there be any more?" Sir Pants wondered.

A white owl flew over them.

Sir Pants and Sir Reddy climbed fifty more steps. A brown owl flew overhead.

"Are...we...almost...there?" asked Sir Reddy, panting. He was very tired from climbing all those steps.

"," said Sir Pants.

Before they could knock on Nella's door, she opened it. Out of the door flew an orange owl, a purple owl, a red owl, a green owl, a blue owl, a yellow owl, a black owl, a white owl, and a brown owl. They flew out the top window of the tower and were gone. Sir Pants and Sir Reddy went into Nella's room. In it sat a gray owl, harrumphing and settling its feathers down. It shook its head back and forth a few times.

"He gets a little territorial," said Nella. "Would you like some tea?"

"We brought you a gift," said Sir Pants. He didn't want to have to look for another tea cup.

"Ooh!' squealed Nella. "What is it?"

Sir Pants and Sir Reddy handed her a bird feeder.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

The Roc Cooks Chicken

chapter by Xander Powers and Kristy Powers

The roc was cooking chicken. It liked chicken.

Sir Pants and Sir Reddy did not know the roc.

So they weren’t invited to eat the chicken with the roc. That was good, because the roc was so hungry and wanted to eat the chicken all by itself.

After it ate all the chicken all by itself, the roc was thirsty for some milk. First, it drank some milk. Then, it ate a whole elephant! A big knight man showed up. Sir Pants and Sir Reddy came with the big knight man. They saw a horse to ride. And then they saw two horses to ride to catch the basilisk.

But only they took away the horses. They needed to find the basilisk and the horses. And the basilisk and the horses were just right there, right over a pillow hill.

And the horses and the basilisk peeked out of the pillow hill. And then the knights scratched the horses. One of the knights scratched the basilisk’s wing. Then they all saw the Astro Boy! He had something he could shoot out of his arm. He was going to shoot the basilisk. He shot it! Oh, and the basilisk was all killed. The basilisk was hurt on one of its corners, and Sir Reddy gave the basilisk a Cars movie Band-Aid. The basilisk tried to lick him.

And then, dinosaurs and monsters and dragons and knights!

Knights Fight and Mythical Beasts and Monsters and Dragons Fight

Sir Pants and Sir Reddy hammered. They hammered, hammered, hammered, and hammered some more. They were making good progress on the gift for Nella.

Then a basilisk swooped in and carried away the gift.

"Oh, no!" shouted Sir Pants. "There goes my gift! That very dangerous basilisk took it away!"

Sir Reddy said, "Strap on your sword. Make sure you've got your helmet and shield. We will chase the basilisk and get your gift back."

"I always have my helmet, shield, and sword," said Sir Pants, insulted. "I am always ready. But aren't you scared of the basilisk?"

"No," said Sir Reddy. "This is what knights do. They chase and fight. And guard things. And give things to nice magicians. We will find the basilisk."

Sir Pants and Sir Reddy ran off after the basilisk. Unfortunately, they did not have horses to ride. But they ran very fast.

They encountered a minotaur.

The minotaur said, "Stop! You may not go past me!"

"We have to go chase a basilisk," explained Sir Pants.

"I am not going to let you," said the minotaur.

"Then let's fight," said Sir Reddy.

"Okay," said the minotaur. "If you can beat me in a fight, I will let you pass to keep chasing the basilisk."

Sir Reddy hit the minotaur over the head with his sword. The minotaur was very dizzy and fell down.

"Okay," he said, "you can go."

Sir Reddy and Sir Pants ran after the basilisk.

Then a chimera ran up to them. It roared and hissed and bleated at them with its lion, serpent, and goat heads.

"You cannot go past me!" said the chimera with a roar, hiss, and bleat.

"We have to go catch that basilisk who carried away my gift for Nella the magician," said Sir Pants.

"No!" thundered the chimera.

"Oh, just fight already, Sir Pants," said Sir Reddy.

They fought. The chimera let them pass.

They could not really see the basilisk anymore, but they knew which direction it had gone. They kept running.

Then they saw a cyclops. He looked scary. Sir Pants got ready to fight so they could pass by the cyclops. He drew his sword. The cyclops raised his hands in the air.

"Hold on," said the cyclops. "Please don't fight me. I just wanted to know if you wanted some stew. I made some in my deep, dark cave and there is too much for me to eat all by myself."

Sir Reddy and Sir Pants were very hungry.

"Okay," they said.

They went to the cyclops's deep, dark cave and sat down on the ground in front of a huge fireplace to eat some stew. The bowls of stew the cyclops gave them were enormous. So were the spoons. Sir Reddy and Sir Pants ended up eating chunks out of the stew with their bare hands. Then they tilted the heavy bowls to drink all the broth.

"Ha ha!" said the cyclops. "I put something in the stew to make you drowsy, so I could tie you up and keep you as prisoners!"

"Oh, no!" exclaimed Sir Reddy. "What was it you put in the stew?"

"It was Galloping Mint," said the cyclops.

"Oh, right," said Sir Pants in a cheerful voice. "I love that stuff in the mornings. Are you sure that was supposed to make us drowsy? It usually wakes me up!"

"All us knights drink that stuff for tea when we camp out during sieges," said Sir Reddy. "I feel quite energetic. Let's go catch that basilisk!"

"Hmmm," said the disgruntled cyclops as Sir Pants and Sir Reddy ran away.

A sphinx caught up with them.

"Whatcha doing?" she asked.

"Trying to catch that basilisk who took my gift," said Sir Pants.

"I know of a faster way to catch it," said the sphinx. "I can fly. You could ride on my back. I'll catch that basilisk in an instant."

"Sounds great," said Sir Reddy.

"Wait, what if it's a trap, like the one the cyclops set for us?" asked Sir Pants.

"Don't worry," said Sir Reddy. "The cyclops's trap didn't even work."

"Oh yeah," said Sir Pants.

They got on the sphinx's back. She flew strong and fast. They could soon see the basilisk in the distance again.

"What do you want me to do to that basilisk once we catch it?" asked the sphinx. "Shall I tear it to little pieces?"

"Um...." Sir Pants thought about her offer.

"No, I don't think so," said Sir Reddy. "That would be not nice."

They saw a hydra down below.

"Oh, that's my best friend the hydra," said the sphinx. "I'm going to stop and say hi."

"No!" said Sir Pants. "We have to catch the basilisk!"

But the sphinx was already landing on the ground. She and the hydra had a lot to talk about. The hydra especially had a lot to say out of its nine mouths.

Sir Pants and Sir Reddy decided to run after the basilisk again while they could still see it. After a while, they heard a loud panting behind them. It was the hydra. The hydra was running with them.

"I want to eat the basilisk," said the hydra, "when you find it."

At that point, they caught up with the basilisk. It was facing off to a very large, green Western dragon. The dragon breathed fire at the basilisk. The basilisk stared at the dragon. The dragon started to whimper.

Then the hydra jumped in between them, and the dragon stopped whimpering. It flew away, breathing a little smoke out its nostrils just to prove that it still could.

"I want to eat you," the hydra said to the basilisk.

Sir Pants noticed that his gift for the magician was lying on the ground between the basilisk's clawed feet.

The basilisk hissed and stared at the hydra meaningfully. The hydra shrugged.

"Doesn't hurt me," said the hydra. "I've got nine heads to share the sting."

The basilisk grunted in disgust and turned away. It left the gift that Sir Pants and Sir Reddy had been hammering for the magician. Sir Pants ran up and retrieved it.

"Let's go home quick, while we can," he said to Sir Reddy.

Sir Reddy nodded eagerly.

They started home. Eventually, they met a harpy. The harpy offered to fly them home so they could get back quicker. They were a little suspicious, but when a chupacabra walked up and offered good references for the harpy, they agreed to ride her back home.

As they flew, they saw a leviathan in some dark waters below. Later, they saw a gorgon hanging out by an open fire with the legendary cerberus, who was barking quite loudly. The gorgon laughed. At some point, a red-colored Western dragon passed them.

"Hello," it said to them.

"Hello," they said back.

"Sir Pants, maybe some other time we can come back and meet the rest of these creatures," said Sir Reddy.

"Agreed," said Sir Pants.

They went home and went to sleep.

Friday, November 13, 2009

I Can't Think of Titles While A Baby Is Crying

Couple of things that interest me:

It was Erik's idea recently for us to have nights of the week when we do particular things after the kids are in bed. It has worked out fantastically so far. We do Business slash Sustainable Practices Night (everything that needs to be discussed, scheduled, budgeted, or done plus brainstorming about little projects we can do around the house to live more sustainably); Golf Night for Erik when I stay home with the kids; Library Night for me when Erik stays home with the kids; TV Night (Thursdays for The Office, of course); Board Game Night; Night Off, otherwise known as the Gator Game in football season; and Date Night At Home. I love how we anticipate the different nights, and not for the TV shows that come on. Except for Thursdays. I believe it's important for the kids to see that their parents love each other, have fun together, and do things for each other sometimes that don't involve the kids. Xander notices when we have game nights and sounds excited when he asks, "Do you play game with Daddy?" "Daddy, do you play game with Mommy?" This is on his way to the bathroom for the fifth time that night, of course. He likes the games we play with him (Candy Land, Word Bingo, Dora Dominoes, the Minotaur's Maze game that's a bit above his head) and we intend to include him in the more interesting family and adult games as soon as he's able. I've seen some pretty cool looking strategy games for very young kids that I am itching to get for him, like Gulo Gulo. A couple of the euro games we have now could be played by an 8-year-old. Only four and a half years to go! I'd like to keep the game playing exciting so it's something the whole family wants to do together as an alternative to watching TV. Don't get me wrong, we do plenty of that, too, but I want other things in our lives. Xander loves to watch Nature with Erik or home improvement shows with me and that's pretty nice, too. TV relieves stress well and promotes cuddling. But I am off track.

The other thing I wanted to mention, particularly to any grandparents reading this, is that our children are fortunate to have lots and lots of toys and books, so please don't feel the need to go all out for them for Christmas. Now it is at least half my doing that they have so many toys and books, so I understand the allure of buying things for them. Make yourself happy. Just know that they don't need anything. Trains, cars, trucks, stuffed animals, blocks, crayons, pirates, mythical beasts, dress-up clothes, dinosaurs, cozy quilts, puzzles, games, books for all ages, knights, stacking cups, pictures, lacing beads, hanging monkeys, movies...they've got all that and more. I'm trying to make all our holidays about happiness, and for us a lot of times that means simplicity. But happiness comes from a lot of different places, as long as there's love, so do what you do.

Nick is crying angrily and that's my cue to go. I guess one thing he would put on his Christmas list is a 24-hour IV of milk. That might make him happy.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Sir Pants and Sir Reddy Finally See a Mirror

Sir Pants and Sir Reddy stared into the mirror in the hidden closet in the magician's room. There they saw murky, shadowy versions of themselves. (It wasn't a very good, flat mirror, so they looked a little bit wavier than their normal selves.)

Sir Reddy waved and said hello. At the exact same moment, the murky, wavy version of himself waved and said hello. Sir Pants jumped up and down once. The Sir Pants in the mirror did the same thing at the same time.

"I see," said Sir Pants. "I think I understand now."

Nella the magician nodded encouragingly.

"The doubles of ourselves do what we do as soon as they see us doing it," said Sir Pants. "Can they come out of the closet?"

He backed up and pulled Sir Reddy back by his arm, to give the doubles space to come out. But as they backed away from the mirror, the strange doubles of Sir Reddy and Sir Pants disappeared.

"Where did they go?" asked Sir Reddy. His eyes were open wide. He was worried about what had happened to their doubles.

Nella closed her eyes for a moment. When she opened them, she put a smile back on her face.

"Walk up to the mirror again," she suggested.

They did. Their doubles reappeared in the mirror!

Sir Reddy and Sir Pants stared. They tried backing away again. The doubles disappeared. They walked back up to the mirror. They reappeared. They tried this again and again, sometimes waving and shouting and jumping at their doubles, and sometimes not. Their doubles did all the same things they did.

Finally Nella said, "Stop! Arrgh. Let me help you."

She took up a red crayon that was hidden behind a tower of dried leaves and drew a red dot on both Sir Reddy's and Sir Pants's noses.

"Go look in the mirror again," she said.

They did. The mirror versions of Sir Reddy and Sir Pants also had red dots on their noses.

"How did that happen?" asked Sir Pants.

Sir Reddy, while looking in the mirror,  carefullly touched the red dot on his nose. The Mirror Sir Reddy did the same thing. Sir Reddy touched the dot five times in a row, quickly. So did the Mirror Sir Reddy. He touched the dot five times in a row, slowly. The Mirror Sir Reddy touched the dot five times slowly. Sir Reddy hit himself hard in the chest, as did the Mirror Sir Reddy, and yelled, "Ow!" The Mirror Sir Reddy did all of the same things at the same time.

"That is Sir Reddy!" shouted Sir Pants, who almost understood now.

"That is a reflection of Sir Reddy in the mirror," corrected the magician.

"So the mirror..." said Sir Pants, looking questioningly at Nella.

"...shows you a reflection of yourself when you are standing in front of it," Nella said.

"These guys are boring," announced Sir Reddy. "Can we go now?"

"Come back and see me some other time," said Nella. "Maybe I will find another tea cup when you come."

"Goodbye," said Sir Reddy and Sir Pants.

They left the magician's room at the top of the Castle Caraway tower.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Sir Pants and Sir Reddy Talk to the Magician

The magician asked Sir Pants and Sir Reddy to please come in. They went into the magician's room. It was small. There was a table in one corner, a stool near the door, a wooden bed frame and mattress in another corner, and one small window. The table, stool, bed, and floor were all heaped with piles of things. It was hard to tell what the things were because they were lying all on top of and tangled around one another. The window showed them just how high up they were in the magician's room at the top of the castle tower. Sir Reddy almost fell over looking at how far it was down to the ground.

"I know it's here somewhere," mumbled the magician, meanwhile. The magician was throwing things from the piles up in the air in order to see what was underneath them. The magician was looking for something.

"May I help you?" asked Sir Pants politely.

"Oh, I was just looking for my tea cup so I could offer at least one of you a cup of tea. But I don't see it anywhere."

"May I?" asked Sir Pants again, reaching toward the magician's scraggly hair.

"Yes," said the magician.

Sir Pants pulled the china cup out of the magician's nest of hair and wiped it off with a hanky he carried in his pocket. Although Sir Pants often looked dirty because of the strange dark bronzy color of his armor, he liked to clean things up. So he always kept a hanky with him in case it were needed.

"Thank you!" said the magician delightedly.

Sir Reddy stood up again. It had taken him a while to get up because, while he was laying on the floor, he could see the most fascinating kind of fluorescent green and black striped spider spinning a web on the ceiling. Eventually, that got boring.

He got up and said, "Who are you? I know you're a magician, but what's your name?"

"Sir Reddy!" said Sir Pants. "That's not very good manners. Excuse him," he said to the magician. "I am Sir Pants and this is Sir Reddy. And you are...?"

"Nellawellabella," said the magician. "But everyone calls me Nella."

The magician thought for a minute.

"Actually, that's not true," the magician said. "Not everyone calls me Nella. I think only two people know who I am. And now you two. So about four, total. If you'll call me Nella, then I can say that all the people who know about me call me Nella."

"Certainly," said Sir Pants in his deepest, most self-conscious polite voice, "Nella."

"My mom used to call me Red," said Sir Reddy. "It was shorter, you know."

Nella nodded.

"We're looking for a mirror," said Sir Reddy. "By the way. Have you got one?"

"Sir Reddy!" said Sir Pants again.

"I have a mirror," said Nella.

Sir Pants gasped. "You have a doubler?"

Nella pursed her lips. (The magician was a woman.) After a while, she said, "Not sure. What's a doubler?"

When Sir Reddy and Sir Pants had taken turns interrupting each other to tell Nella their ideas about mirrors, she nodded her head slowly up and down.

"I think I understand," she said. "Well, come here and look."

She opened a door that neither Sir Pants nor Sir Reddy had seen before.

to be continued...

Best Friend

Yesterday at breakfast Xander said, "Where's my best friend Bailey?"


Sunday, November 8, 2009

Nick's Playtime

Xander has wanted to get into Nick's toys so bad since I put them out. Most of them were Xander's toys at some point but he has FAR outgrown them. One would think. He wanted to play with Nick's (Xander's old) animal blocks when I said it was Nick's playtime, so I let him get them out with Nick.

I said, "Nick, aren't you lucky that Xander's going to play with you!"

Xander handed him a few animal blocks. Nick held the zebra in two hands for a while--very cute. Then he started putting it in his mouth and dropping it over the side. I guess Xander made an executive decision that Nick wasn't playing right. He told Nick to just watch him. Now he is playing with all the blocks entirely on his own in front of Nick's chair. As Nick fusses now and then, Xander says, "Nick, you watch me."

Time for Mommy to let Nick play in a little bit different way. Off to the bassinet with the mirror, still his favorite.

Friday, November 6, 2009

Sir Pants and Sir Reddy Still Don't See a Mirror, But They Learn About Cleanliness

Just as Sir Reddy was about to turn around and let himself tumble all the way back down the stone stairs because it would be easier than continuing to climb, they reached the top of the castle. There was a door.

"I will open the door," announced Sir Pants.

"Yes, of course," said Sir Reddy faintly. He was still trying to breathe and his legs were shaking from the long climb. "Aren't you going to knock first?"

Sir Pants thought for a minute.

"Yes," he said. "Here I go."

Sir Reddy said, "Aren't you tired at all?"

"Yes," said Sir Pants. "It doesn't matter. Don't let your body fool you. You are perfectly fine."

"But my body is saying that it's about to sit down," said Sir Reddy.

His legs buckled and Sir Reddy caught himself by slapping his palms up against the cold stone wall of the stair way.

"Oh well sit down then, by all means," said Sir Pants.

Sir Reddy's body collapsed on the floor into a position that looked a little bit like sitting, only it was lying down.

The door opened.

Sir Reddy gasped. "Sir Pants, the magician knows we're here even before you knocked!"

Sir Pants glared at Sir Reddy. "Only because he heard us talk to each other outside the door."

"I'm not a he," said the magician.

Sir Pants and Sir Reddy stared at the figure standing just inside the door of the room at the very tip top of Castle Caraway. They could tell it was a magician because of the long shapeless cloth draped all over it and the tall conical hat that slumped over on top of its head. It was a dark material, either navy blue, or gray, or black, or a dirty brown, or something else that was dark. The hair coming from the magician's head was wispy and long as it should be, but it was hard to tell what was hair and what were other things that had gotten caught in the hair. Sir Reddy thought he saw a tiny china bowl up near the shoulder area and Sir Pants was in the middle of counting spider webs, although it was very hard to do because the webs were partly made out of the magician's hair and so they were all sort of connected.

To be continued...

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Sir Pants and Sir Reddy Still Quest for a Mirror

As they climbed the stone stairs, they passed someone else. This someone was called Prince Pastepot, and he was Princess Pieplate’s younger brother.

“Hello!” he said to Sir Pants and Sir Reddy.

“He…llo,” said Sir Pants and Sir Reddy. They had to pause a bit because they were running out of breath after climbing all those stairs.

“What are you going to do?” asked Prince Pastepot. He was a very curious boy.

“We…’re go…ing to…” began Sir Reddy.

“Oh,” said Prince Pastepot. “Guess what I am going to do!”

“What…” began Sir Pants.

“I’m going to a birthday party!” said Prince Pastepot. “Guess what I’m going to give the birthday boy?”

“What…” began Sir Reddy.

“I’m going to give him this collage I made all by myself!” said Prince Pastepot. He held up a paper that was covered with strips of different colors of paper and large globs of paste.

Then he ran away.

Sir Reddy looked at Sir Pants as if to say that Prince Pastepot had trouble paying attention, too. Sir Pants looked back at him as if to say that he had noticed. They kept walking.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Sir Pants and Sir Reddy Quest for a Mirror

Sir Pants and Sir Reddy stood around a lot. Part of the job of being a knight was to stand around guarding things. It took up a lot of their time.

People usually don't realize how boring it is to stand around guarding things until they have to do it themselves. When Sir Pants and Sir Reddy discovered how boring it was, they put their money together and bought a book that they could read out loud to each other to pass the time. It was called Frog and Toad Together. In it was a story about being brave. Frog and Toad looked in a mirror to see if they looked brave. Sir Reddy and Sir Pants thought it would be a good idea to look in a mirror to see if they looked brave. People were always telling them they looked brave, but they weren't even sure how they did it. If they could find a mirror to look in, maybe they could find out what looking brave was and how one went about doing it.

"What is a mirror anyway?" asked Sir Reddy. He asked because Sir Pants knew a lot about how things worked. Sir Reddy only knew a lot about how flags worked. To be precise, he knew a lot about how his flag worked. It had a heavy pole that Sir Reddy had to prop against his body to get just the right balance and it waved in the wind or whenever Sir Reddy had the energy to move the whole ensemble back and forth.

Sir Pants shrugged his shoulders. "I don't know. But look at the picture. There are two Frogs and two Toads. Maybe a mirror is something that makes one person into two, and two people into four."

"It doubles things," suggested Sir Reddy.

"Yes," said Sir Pants. "Maybe it doubles things. How did you know that word?"

"Well," said Sir Reddy, "when Princess Pieplate asked me if I wanted one big piece of pie or if I wanted her to double it by slicing it into two pieces, I told her right away I wanted it doubled. Two pieces of pie are better than one piece of pie."

"Well, actually..." said Sir Pants, but he let the words trail off when he saw the indignant look on Sir Reddy's face.

'How could anyone ever think that two pieces of pie are not better than one piece of pie?' Sir Reddy was thinking. 'I'm not sure I can even listen to this.' He opened his mouth to say something.

"Never mind that," said Sir Pants quickly. "We want to find a mirror, so who is the best person to ask for help?"

"Princess Pieplate?" said Sir Reddy.

"I suppose we could start there," said Sir Pants doubtfully. "I was thinking of the magician up at the top of Caraway Castle, but we will probably pass Princess Pieplate on the way."

As soon as two more knights came to take up the guard, Sir Reddy and Sir Pants started up the winding stairs to the top of Caraway Castle, which was the castle they had been guarding. They did pass Princess Pieplate on the way. Princess Pieplate was on the way to nearly everything. She loved to bake pies so that she could pass them out to everyone she met. As she passed pies to people, she stopped to talk to them to find out any news they might have. Then she passed that news on to the next person along with her pie. It was a hobby of hers, and really the only thing she did at all. After bringing the magician up at the top of the castle one pie a day for many months, she had gathered a lot of useful information. The magician had told her she wanted to be a journalist. When Princess Pieplate asked what was a journalist, the magician said, "Well, you'd have to be born in the twentieth century at least, and even then you could end up as a nosy parker instead." Princess Pieplate asked many, many more questions about all this but in the end all she really got out of it was the word. Journalist. What a beautiful word it was.

But this has almost nothing to do with Sir Pants and Sir Reddy, who were still climbing up stone steps that spiraled upward until you could get dizzy just by looking up.

To be continued...

Sir Pants Tries to Tell A Story

Sir Pants said to Sir Reddy one day, "I want to tell you a story."

Sir Reddy said, "Great, great." He waved his red flag at a passing bird. Sir Reddy was quite proud of his bright red flag because it was new and not faded like the flags of lots of other knights he knew.

Sir Pants sighed. Trying not to use a whiny voice, he said, "I don't think you're really listening to me."

"Yes, a story, great," said Sir Reddy. He was still waving his bright red flag at the bird. It did not show any sign of stopping to admire his flag. But maybe if he waved harder, it would come back to take a look.

"I want to tell you the story of how I got to be this bronze color all over," said Sir Pants.

"Hello!" shouted Sir Reddy.

"Hello," said Sir Pants, but Sir Reddy was not talking to him after all. Sir Reddy's face was pointed straight up at the sky.

Sir Pants sighed again. "I have to go get my lunch very soon, so I'm going to tell you the story now. Please pay attention to me."

"Okay," said Sir Reddy. He smiled at Sir Pants to encourage him to go on.

Sir Pants said, "Once, I was a little boy."

Sir Reddy looked back up at the sky. If he squinted his eyes, he could just barely see a black dot in the sky that was the bird. It had flown very far very fast. It didn't seem to think much of Sir Reddy's new red flag.

"...and my papa said there was no way to get another one and I would have to do without," said Sir Pants.

"Oh, that's too bad," murmured Sir Reddy. He realized he had missed part of the story. He had no idea what Sir Pants was talking about.

Sir Pants frowned.

"Why are you always frowning?" asked Sir Reddy. "We have the best job in the world. We dress up in armor and wave flags around and get free meals and everyone thinks we're pretty neat. Just relax and enjoy it. I always do."

"I don't always frown," said Sir Pants, looking sad.

"To me you always look mad or sad," said Sir Reddy. "You should smile more."

"Easy to say," said Sir Pants.

"Hard to do?" guessed Sir Reddy.

"No, actually," said Sir Pants, "it's pretty easy to do. I smile when I'm happy."

"I guess you're not happy now," said Sir Reddy. "Your forehead has lines in it."

"No, I'm not very happy now," said Sir Pants. "I wanted to tell you a story about my bronzeness but you didn't listen to me. I asked you to pay attention, but instead you paid attention to the bird flying by."

"Oh," said Sir Reddy. "Yes, I paid a lot of attention to that bird. It didn't pay any attention to me, though." He frowned.

"You see," said Sir Pants, "you are frowning yourself, now."

"Yes," said Sir Reddy. "I didn't like it when I couldn't get the bird's attention."

"And I didn't like it when I couldn't get your attention," said Sir Pants.

"I'm sorry," said Sir Reddy. "I don't want you to be unhappy. I want you to be happy. I didn't pay attention to you today, but I'll never do that again."

"Let's not get carried away," said Sir Pants. Then he smiled.

By Car, Boat, and Train

Grandma visited from Thursday night until yesterday morning. It was wonderful. Xander played monsters, dragons, knights, and pirates with her about eight hours a day. Now he has new phrases and ideas that he got from all that play with Great-Grandma. Nick loved her. When she first held him, he looked at her for a minute uncertainly, almost cried, and then decided to smile instead. The rest of the visit he just watched her adoringly.

We went to downtown Jacksonville one day she was here and took the riverboat taxi across the St. Johns to the huge downtown library. We had coffee, browsed an interesting book shop that had lots of old editions of children's books, took a tour of the children's section in the library, listened to Xander read his daddy some words out of books he had never seen before, and then took the overhead train back to the car. On the way, a fire engine pulled up next to us and the firefighters got out to help an injured man in the plaza. It must have been Xander's best day ever. We never heard a peep from Nick, but he didn't sleep the whole time.

Friday, October 30, 2009

Oh No

This is Sir Pants on the right.

On the left is Sir Reddy.

They are knights at the Castle Caraway.

The reason this matters is that National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) is coming in November. I have always done it since the year I found out about it in 2005. This year I said I was definitely not going to do it. Write 50,000 words in one month with a 5-month-old baby? No way. Well, there is still no way I will write 50,000 words in November, but I am going to participate. For 15 minutes a day in November, I am going to write stories about Sir Pants and Sir Reddy instead of stories about what Nick and Xander are doing. Xander can read the stories and maybe he will even like them.

Great-Grandma is visiting so Xander is happy as a cat in cream and so is Nick. Except for now, when he is crying from his bassinet because he wants to join the fun out here in the living room. All right, I'm coming.

More tomorrow.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Goodnight, Moon....I Said Good Night!

I am sitting with Xander for the first part of his rest time and it dawns on me how similar this room is to the room in Goodnight Moon by Margaret Wise Brown. Part of this is for a good reason: I adore the calm coziness of the room in that book and I've wanted to replicate it in Xander's room. But not all of it is practical (dollhouse, kittens, real fireplace) and not all of it is easy (the green and orange striped color scheme, the perpetual red balloon, kittens, a couple of nice clocks.) So I haven't copied the room for Xander.

But sitting here I realize that Xander does have a very large room like the one in Goodnight Moon. In place of the two large nursery rhyme framed pictures, he has a print of Christina's World and the animal mural Mom drew years ago (and dozens of paintings and drawings by Xander and Mom and Erik's contribution, the Tim Tebow and Florida Gators posters). In place of the dollhouse, he has a handmade school bus toybox. He has the bookcase of neat books, beloved stuffed animals, a bedside table, his own alarm clock. In place of the rocking chair he has a bean bag and Boppy pillow. For today, he has a knitting mom sitting there in place of the quiet knitting old lady (telling him hush). No bowl full of mush, comb, or brush. For reasons of cleanliness, those are in other rooms. A hamper in place of the drying rack with mittens and socks. Let's go ahead and say a nice ceiling fan in place of the fireplace. He even has an animal skin rug that matches the one in the book! It is temporarily hidden, though, because I discovered it's the perfect home for mites, dust, and other things not to be named here.

If only the little boy in this room matched the calm demeanor of that wonderful bookland room.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Just Another Busy Day

Today Xander and I have golfed, played baseball, dressed him up as a gnome, gorgon, monster, and pirate, made a treasure chest for the pirate (a shoebox filled with beads, a headband, and kaleidoscopes), and conducted a treasure hunt for 10 pennies to put in the chest. Now he is quietly and happily listening to Frog and Toad and following along in all the books. Sweet Frog and Toad! They make Mommy very happy.

Nick had a nice few minutes on the porch while Xander and I did outdoor things. He's needing more and more stimulation during his wake times. Boy oh boy, does he love his thumb!

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Things Not to Buy

Xander put on a long knitted "cape" which had been intended for a blanket (but I messed up on it and gave it to Xander) and I fastened it for him with a twist tie from a bread bag. He wanted to be, alternately, a superhero and a bat. When he was a superhero, he took the tube that holds his mythical creatures and waved it around for a weapon to fight monsters.

I've been reading about all kinds of wonderful toys and dramatic play props in the last few days that Xander would just love, like pirate dress-up props and fairy tale finger puppets and a book of heroes. Today I am smiling realizing that he doesn't need dress-up props or any of those other things. Besides, I found patterns to knit and crochet cute finger puppets and the book of heroes is available at our library. Hooray to nonconsumerism! (It's a challenge for me, especially when it comes to books and educational toys. Sometimes I have to ask myself, How many books do we need to own?!?!?)

I decided Nick is going to pop out four teeth all at one time. One day he will wake up with a bottom row of teeth and he will be all smiles and coos from then on. Yesterday I caught him gagging himself with his fingers THREE TIMES IN A ROW. It's a strange feeling to admonish your child not to hurt himself. We have to do it with both children. Nick has also been trying to put his entire fist in his mouth.

Saturday, October 17, 2009


Look at these darlings!

Friday, October 16, 2009

Knights and A Castle

I can't resist posting some pictures of what Xander and I did this afternoon.

Hearing Things

I recorded audio of Nick babbling (and sneezing and laughing) today on my phone. When I played it back, he showed expressions, in this order, of: surprise, intense concentration, and excitement. Very fun times.

It got me thinking about uploading audio and/or video to this blog, but I don't really know how. I can't get that audio off my phone because, um, there is no way that I know of to get it on my computer. I could probably record video with iMovie and upload it to a post. Anyone done this before? I'm talking to you, Jeff and Rieko. And Erik.

Wow. Xander's asleep right now, I'm right next to him, and either he breathes like a ninja or he really does have sleep apnea--bad. I better listen more closely. Duty calls.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Movie Morning

Today we had Movie Morning. I pulled out the couch and put a sheet and blanket on it. Added some toys for Xander, a book for me, a glass of water, cell phone, and Kleenex on the coffee table, and put on Dora's Halloween. We pretended like the couch bed was a boat and rowed very fast along with Dora and Isa and Boots. Even Nick had fun practicing rolling uphill on it.

Now we are listening to Frog and Toad stories and following along in the books I got from the library last night.

Some days you just have to give up and pull out the couch bed.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Party in the Castle

Xander is having fun decorating his wooden playset with chalk. This is called "making a party" in his "castle."

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Going to the Doctor

Nick had his 4-month appointment today, and Xander came to get checked for allergies. Both now have prescriptions, poor weaklings. Just kidding. We have extremely healthy children, but I gave Xander my GIGANTIC tonsils and Erik and I both gave him seasonal allergies, and I'll pin Nick's reflux on Erik. Nick is not a giant like we suspected for a while. His weight is now evened out to 50th percentile although he is still about 95th in height. He acted the sweet baby for the doctor. He's always had fun at the doctor's so far and they love holding him for a little while longer than they have to.

Xander had a fear of getting his heartbeat checked, poor guy. From what I've been able to gather, I think he associates heartbeat with all my prenatal appointments where they slathered my belly with goop and used a sonogram or whatever that's called to listen to Baby Nick's heartbeat. He started to cry when the doctor wanted to check him but then she listened to his heartbeat over top of his shirt so that was perfectly fine. Maybe Xander just doesn't want to have a baby. Who can blame him?

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Don't Forget to Remember

One thing I never want to forget is how Xander sometimes closes his eyes and shakes his head back and forth and says, "Mm mm mm," when he's eating.

I never want to forget Nick's wide-open toothless smile. He tilts his head back and opens his mouth as wide as it can go to show his delight. Today he laughed when I moved my head back and forth in time to the song Erik was singing. He laughed, too, when I put him on my shins and moved him up and down. He is a very happy appreciative baby, but his laugh more often than not comes out as an abrupt "Egh!" and it is adorable when he does a real baby giggle.

Today Xander stared open-mouthed at the TV instead of eating lunch because Erik had it on a crocodile special on PBS. Afterward I think he was a little excited. He ran back and forth across the living room moving his arms up and down as fast as he could and making cawing noises, saying, "I'm a bird, I'm an owl!" We could tell by the frowning intense look on his face that he was trying to go faster than his body would let him.

There are so many things I've told myself never to forget about Xander and right now I just can't remember any of the other things.

With Nick, it's just that he's growing up so fast. He can easily roll either direction, is eating solids now that he decided he likes sweet potatoes, can get out of his baby chairs if he wants to, and scoots a tiny bit. Sca-aa-aary.

P.S. I may have gotten the title of this post from my dad. It sounds like him.

Thursday, October 8, 2009


I've been using Brightly Beaming curricula with Xander and even Nick because they're fun and appropriate and free. Some of the books she recommends for the various themes are GREAT children's books that I wouldn't have found otherwise. Here's a quick list of children's books I LOVE for Nick's and Xander's ages.

Treasury of Mother Goose
Guess How Much I Love You
Dr. Seuss's ABCs
How to Make an Apple Pie and See the World
Animals Should Definitely Not Wear Clothing
Goodnight Moon
Three Little Kittens (Paul Galdone)
Mama Cat Has Three Kittens
My First Words: An Educational Lift-A-Flap Book
My Very Own Name (customizable book in which animals spell out a child's full name--we have matching ones for Xander and Nick from my aunt--this is how Xander learned his full name)
and NEVER least, perhaps my very favorite, a book that works for tiny babies all the way up through 5-year-olds: Where the Wild Things Are

Yes, Xander wants to see the movie.

This is a very abbreviated list and I'm sure I will be coming up with new ones every week with our new themes.

A Teddy Bear Lover and a Baller

It is so cute and so wonderful to see Xander being delighted with stuffed bears. At his age, and with all the academic things we've been doing, it's easy to forget what a little child he still is. I borrowed Brown Bear & Friends (an audiobook by Bill Martin Jr. and Eric Carle, read by Gwyneth Paltrow) from the library. From the cover by itself, Xander has been looking forward to listening to it for a day. There's a picture of a brown bear, polar bear, panda bear, and baby bear on the cover. I had a lightbulb moment and went through his stuffed animals right before putting the CD on. We have a teddy bear, Winnie the Pooh bear, polar bear, and panda bear in his collection. He's sitting next to them on the couch listening to the stories. He said, "Mommy, I'm listening with the teddy bear." He just loves it. He can pick up the appropriate bear when it gets to the story about that bear.

Nick's rolling from front to back and from back to front! I know Xander didn't do that for a long time. Nick just wants to get around. Xander always loved jumping up and down and moving around a lot, but Nick seems to have purpose. Maybe he really will be a football player. Although as a protective mother, I'd really rather he didn't. Except that I'm such a believer in team sports. Ah well, just one of the thousand things I'm conflicted about. And not an issue right now. So let me give it a rest.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

To Nick and Xander on This Day

To Nick: I am watching you on a blanket watching me. I think you are trying very hard to crawl, but it could just be tries at rolling over. You do roll from front to back very well now. When I don't swaddle your legs, you like to sleep on your side. (Easy access to your thumb.) You seem to be doing things early, your daddy and I agree. When I hold you upright, I can feel very strong muscles all along your torso and your legs have been capable of holding your weight since birth. I don't know how much you weigh until we go to your 4-month appointment next week, but you can comfortably wear 6-month clothes and #2 diapers and you are somewhere between 25 and 26 inches long. I measured you a couple weeks ago but I forget what the exact number was. I'm sure I wrote it down somewhere. Just now I helped you roll back over from your back to your stomach. I guess you'll be doing that soon. A few days ago I put you on the laminate floor without any slippery pants, socks, or blanket underneath you and you scooted a little bit. You are trying solids once a day but not eating very much of them. Finally, you are napping and sleeping at night pretty well again. You are so cute with your wide-open eyes and dark brown hair with the spiral on the back of your head! Your daddy and I love you and we're having fun watching you go through your baby stages. Even when they're challenging.

To Xander: You are now sitting on the couch for the second hour of quiet time. You finished listening to your books on CD and now I've let you watch Finding Nemo for an hour. I am sorry about the yelling and locking the door and warnings and timeouts that we have to use to get you to sleep for nap and bedtime. You just don't want to be away from us in your own room. But you are cranky and not very healthy without your sleep. Maybe when Nick is older you two will want to share a room and then you won't be alone in your room anymore. And then you will probably want your privacy! I love you very much and I know I get frustrated easily while I'm trying to work through Nick's baby months, but I try to be nice and fun and let you know I love you at the same time. It is so much fun doing learning activities with you, listening to you play, and having conversations with you. You are a fun and smart three-and-a-half-year-old. Daddy and I love you so much.

P.S. Oh, Xander. I had to keep warning you and warning you about staying on the couch. I told you I would get you in 15 minutes after my shower so we could do learning activities and snack. I'm ready! Where are you? On the couch, sleeping.

Monday, October 5, 2009

My Enemy Anxiety

I don't know what to say. Xander has just come to me half-crying because he hurt himself...again. "Yes," we say, "don't do that, please." (His hurts come after he leaps to the ground from a chair or wrestles a pillow down to the hard ground or runs excitedly right into a wall.) His half-crying tends to wake Nick, who is doing the following: napping terribly, convincing me he's at the extreme edge of hunger, eating every two hours, and then spitting up to show me he didn't need the feeding after all.

Like any mom (I think?), I have moments when I feel like screaming. Let me be more honest here. I have minutes at a time when I feel like screaming, and they recur throughout a day. But most of it isn't the little ones' faults. I want to be the best I can be for them, and the number one obstacle to that right now is anxiety. It comes from my need to control things so I can protect my kids from harm, but I don't want to be that person to Nick, Xander, and sometimes especially, Erik. This anxiety begins at sickness and swine flu, but where it ends is up to me. There is no limit to the amount of anxious I could be.

The most helpful thoughts I had yesterday went like this: What is the worst thing that could happen? What is it that I fear so much and so terribly? The answer is, that one of my children would die. But if I think rationally about it, the fact is that they will both die at some point. Every human being dies at some point. So, while I have an extreme and anxious preference that they not die, that does not mean I will get what I want. In fact, I will certainly not get what I want.

If Xander and Nick eventually read this, I want you to know what I am trying not to be, and to apologize because I know sometimes I will let anxiety get the better of me.

Friday, October 2, 2009

What I Want to Teach My Children

-finding joy and love in life
-discipline/work ethic
-thinking of others as much as oneself
-committing to things they choose to be involved in/giving 100%
-continuing to learn all their lives

This list does not necessarily include Erik's goals for them, although I bet I can guess a few he would name: self-reliance, love of life, critical thinking...

Thursday, October 1, 2009


I just listened to Nick cry for about fifteen, twenty minutes when he woke up early from a nap. It's so hard to do. It's physically uncomfortable. I've been trying giving him his pacifier and if that doesn't work, moving him to his swing to nap some more there, but now he doesn't hold on to the pacifier if he's agitated and he doesn't like the swing much anymore. He's too big anyway; it won't swing him! He's started getting up from every nap early and waking every few hours at night. He doesn't need the feeding anymore and I can tell because he eats lazily at those times. So last night Erik helped me out and gave him his pacifier when he started crying in the middle of the night, then left. Nick fell asleep. He woke a few hours later and Erik did the same thing. He woke a little later and I did the same thing. Then I was able to feed him at a reasonable time in the early morning.

Now he is crying again and I think I will get him up. It's already been another half hour just with the crying. He's acting hungry so I'm going to go ahead and hope he eats a full feeding.

Erik reminded me last night how well it worked with Xander to let him cry a bit when he was learning to sleep on his own.

Xander is acting like he needs to sleep today during naptime--tired and prone to cry a little bit and still a smidgen sick. I'm hoping this Dora movie (Dora's Halloween) puts him to sleep eventually. Either he got better at sleeping overnight or the over the counter allergy medicine Leslie suggested is helping. The humidifier might be helping, too. He originally said he was scared of it. Some of these "fears" are just him wanting to explore a topic with Mommy or Daddy's reassurance or explanation.

A boring post, but this is what our days and nights have been filled with. That and my agonizing over the swine (and seasonal) flu.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009


This is how it usually works: after Bailey leaves, Xander's conversation gets a little more "sophisticated." For example, this evening after I gave him part of a chocolate chip scone for dessert, he said, "Cool!" He also cared for his drinking, wetting baby doll for a little while today. She had played with the dolls while she was here but usually Xander is indifferent to them.

He is learning so much. As always. I read a book of nursery rhymes to him today and tonight I hear him reciting parts of some of them. He's been pretty good at Hey, Diddle Diddle for a while, but now he's perfected it. I caught him saying part of a rhyme we hadn't read before today that goes:

Are you coming, Sir? No, Sir. Why, Sir? Because I've got a cold, Sir. Where did you get the cold, Sir? Up at the North Pole, Sir. What were you doing there, Sir? Catching polar bear, Sir. How many did you catch, Sir? One Sir, two Sir, three Sir.

Xander was doing the counting part with Sir after it. Kind of cute to hear.

Nursery rhymes are so nonsensical they're almost annoying to an adult, but kids sure like them. Nick was sitting on my lap today while I read them to Xander and he started talking back to me, smiling like I was making them up just for him. He even laughed, for real! They were just so funny to him.