Monday, December 21, 2009

Decorating for Christmas

This year, we decided to decorate for Christmas on what would have been my mom's 70th birthday, December 13th. Considering her love for Christmas and for decorating, I think it was a fitting remembrance. Kate and I also made a Grammy-inspired meal of Chicken Florentine, rice, broccoli--and of course, Christmas cookies.

Here's what Izzy and Truman did while taking a break from decorating:


Well, it's been a hundred years. All I can say's been an eventful 6 months. I changed jobs (making a tour of the government contractors that start with U, I'm now at USIS instead of Unisys), Carroll took a new job and then laid himself off and then went to Copenhagen for the climate talks as a consultant. Truman started preschool, Izzy is in Pre-K (and LOVING it), Kate continues to excel at Washington Latin (great at writing, Latin, drama, science, math...crazy!).

Anyway, as you may have heard, we had a bit of snow this past weekend. The kids loved it. Here are a few pictures so you can see for yourselves.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Work-cation in Minneapolis

Thanks to a business trip in Minneapolis, Izzy, Truman and I got to spend a lovely week in Minneapolis, staying with old friends and their daughter (who is almost exactly Izzy's age) and seeing several other much-beloved friends from Minnesota, who definitely top my "What I Miss About the Twin Cities" list. Truman and I also spent several lovely mornings running around Lake Nokomis and Lake Hiawatha in the beautiful, cool Minnesota weather (my husband would disagree, but I always loved the Minnesota summer weather--just don't get me started on the winters!).

Despite one of the worst travel days ever (actually, two of them eventually), the high (or low) point of which was me ending up in the Charlotte airport with no money, no ID, no luggage, two tired little kids, and no flights back to DC (US Airways did give me a place to stay and--woo hoo!--$10 in food money...grrr), it was still a great trip. Truman was in the midst of girl heaven, but he took it in stride. Here are a couple of videos to give you a flavor of the entertainment available during the trip.

There has been some talk since our return of running away to Uncle Chris's house (clearly, Uncle Chris was a hit!), if only his house were not in the sky (air travel seems to still be a bit of a mystery to Izzy).

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Off to Camp!

Last Sunday, we delivered Kate to Washington College on the eastern shore of Maryland, where she will spend the first three weeks of her seven weeks away from home at sleep away camp this summer. Just as we were getting ready to leave, I caught her on the floor with Izzy and Truman--the first evidence that maybe her insistence that she "...would NOT miss THOSE TWO!" might be all show. Sure enough, on her second day on campus at the Johns Hopkins' Center for Talented Youth math camp, she called home wanting to talk to her little brother and sister because she was missing them fiercely.

This year, with the CTY camp, Kate has the new experience of living in a college dorm with a roommate and being responsible for things like doing her own laundry. I wonder why we sometimes forget that she is just about to turn 11?! She is so often amazingly mature, but then the next moment, she is the little girl that she has so recently been. It's been tough for her to learn to be the big sister, since she was an only child just four short years ago, but she's grown into the role pretty well (despite the fact that the fact that they were all constantly telling us that everyone was touching them and leaning on them precipitated the recent purchase of our Mazda5 microvan!).

Anyway, we all miss her--especially Izzy who was sad that Kate could not come back last Thursday to come to her performance at the end of "Twinkle Toes" dance camp.
Here's a picture of Miss Iz running around on campus as we dropped Kate off for camp:

Saturday, June 13, 2009

The Sleepover Birthday Party

Twilight-themed T-shirts and favors for 8 11 year-old girls: $130
Balloons in red, black, gold and silver: $21
Pizza for 8 girls, 3 grown-ups and 2 little siblings: $40
Movie admission, popcorn and drinks for 2 adults, 8 girls and a little sister: $180
Having to storm upstairs 6 times between 12:30 and 2 am and eventually threaten that there would never be another sleepover party: Priceless

Saturday, May 9, 2009

This past week, Kate joined with other kids to deliver signed petitions to the Department of the Interior. I gotta say, it's pretty cool to be Kate--but it's even cooler to get to be her mom. ;>

Here's the YouTube video of the kids talking to a representative from Salazar's office:


Monday, April 27, 2009

A Little Video

Kate is getting pretty good with the Flip video camera and she took a few videos of Izzy and Truman lately. This is a little glimpse into a day in our lives. Izzy's teacher says she's like a little juke box: just give her a topic and you've got a song. Also, the video provides a rare glimpse of Mommy yelling at Truman.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Long Days and Short Years

Last week at church, a woman in her late 50s or early 60s came up to me, clearly responding to my exhausted attempts to chase down my children and told me I should keep in mind that this is the time of "long days and short years." I have to say, I haven't heard too many phrases that were more on the mark.

I am continually amazed by how grown up my children are, especially as I try to remember to savor the last bits of "baby-ness" of Truman, who I expect to be my last. But even that is getting tough, now that he is speaking in full sentences and becoming more and more capable by the day. Of course, the fact that one of his favorite full sentences is, "I snuggle my mama" makes that a little easier to take. Still, the amazement of the gymnastics instructors yesterday at his strength and ability makes me both proud and a little sad. And when I look at him in his little white tuxedo from his christening on Easter eve, it nearly takes my breath away, he is such a little man.

Izzy is getting big too, stretching out of the bottoms of all of her pants and begging to go to ballet camp this summer. She still likes to come into our bed and snuggle at night, but she's already picking up her sister's preteen attitude a little more than I'd like. It even makes Kate laugh and comment, "wow, Izzy is 3 going on 14!" For instance, a couple of weeks ago, Izzy was angry at me (I can't recall the exact reason now...I'm sure it was for some terrible affront like making her wear shoes or be strapped into her carseat) so once she got in the car, she put on her sunglasses and "called" Angelina (that would be the storybook character, Angelina Ballerina - a mouse dancer), and started chatting with her as if we weren't there, saying, "You are joking! Don't joke me like that! Don't worry, I'll be there at 10:30...ok, ok...I'm coming. I'll be there!" Kate and I were both in stitches, which got us a stern talking to by Miss Iz.

And Kate...well, she's going off to 7 straight weeks of sleepaway summer camp this summer. Need I say more? I really was not sure I could cope with it (and still am not sure about it, to be honest), because I know how much I missed her last year when she was gone for 4 weeks. She thinks this is funny and tells me that she will be just fine. The thing is, I know she'll be fine. She's so amazingly independent and self-sufficient. So now, I'm working on not taking it personally that she can't wait to be grown up and away from me. It was this very thing that was at the heart of the most difficult time my mother and I had, so I guess it's best if we start working it out now, one summer at a time.

Saturday, February 28, 2009


I do vaguely remember a time when nights were just a deep hole in time. I am one of those people who sleeps easily and deeply, without remembering many dreams. There was a time when I was sort of infamous for falling asleep on floors or other surfaces if a party went on a little too long, and when I was a little girl, I slept through a tree falling on the roof above my head and sliding its way down the window and wall just inches from my pillow.

But that's a long time ago. Now, night is an endless series of up and down, crying and shifting beds, needing water or cough drops, or wanting to be taken out of jammies that are too hot and sweaty. It's been worse lately, since Kate (or "Patient Zero" as I like to call her) got sick about a month ago (you may recall from my last post!) and then her flu made the rounds of everyone, ultimately landing with a thud on me. I can usually weather an illness pretty well, but this one knocked me out. I came home from work last Thursday evening and went straight to bed, finally got up Sunday morning, dragged myself to work on Monday (mistake), back to bed for two days, then to work on Thursday (another mistake), then back to bed yesterday.

Anyway, maybe it was my extended illness and inability to get up at 3 and give Truman whatever it is that he feels he needs at 3 each and every night, but he seems to have stopped waking up (knock on wood). Of course, that doesn't mean I necessarily get to sleep. First of all, I have a cruel inner clock that wakes me up at 3 now no matter what (even if I'm too sick to get out of bed) there's the fact that we have chosen to live with 4 nocturnal beasts (the cats, not the children--there are only 3 of those).

Last night, while I was waiting for my internal alarm to turn off, there was a battle royale raging. One of the cats was clearly murdering some vermin and it was giving him a good chase through all the rooms of the second floor (where our bedroom is). I assumed it was probably a cricket, but started to worry that maybe it was a mouse or worse. That was when the cat in question brought its prize onto the bed! Well, I had to get up and see because there was a night when I was a girl when my cat cornered a bat under my bed and I really didn't want to repeat that experience. I turned the light on to find the worthy foe--a Polly Pocket doll.

Am doomed to never sleep a whole night again?

Friday, January 30, 2009

A little light in a long, dark week...

So Kate, our 10 year-old, is home sick today from school. It's been a rough week for me because Carroll is away in Europe for work for two weeks and so far:

-Monday was a half day for Kate, so I couldn't go in to the office
-Tuesday it started snowing and after taking 90 minutes to drive to Kate's school and back, I decided maybe I wouldn't drive the 30+ miles to the office
-Wednesday, there was a two-hour delay and then they cancelled after school activities due to ice (I made it to the office for 4 hours and then worked from 9 pm to 3 am)
-Thursday, on my way in for the first full, in-the-office day of work in a week, I went to fill up the car with gas (across the street from the office) and managed to douse myself with gasoline, which required me to go to Ann Taylor and buy a new outfit, then go the gym and take a shower, then go to the dry cleaner's a drop off my clothes!
-And then today, Kate is sick.

So I needed something good to happen today. Kate slept in and when she woke up, she was feeling a lot better. While I took conference calls and did my e-mail, she sat at the kitchen table and wrote a picture book for her siblings. I was so amazed at it that I had to Skype it to Carroll in Europe. And now I have to share it with all of you. I hope you like it as much as I did.


"When the sun was young"
By Kate Muffett

When the sun was young, she was sad. She was lonely, for she had nothing to shine on, for it was when she was small that the universe was empty.

All she shined on was the black sky around her.

The sun was so sad and small in the big, black space that the spirits who created her now helped her regain happiness. So one day, Sun gave birth to nine beautiful children.

The sun was so happy that she gave each of her children a name and a gift.
Her first son, Saturn, she gave a ring.
To her second son, Jupiter, she gave size. He would be the biggest of his brothers.
To Pluto, her smallest son, she gave hope. Hope that he would be like his brothers someday.
To Mercury, she gave speed. He would be the fastest of the brothers.
To Neptune and Uranus, her twins, she gave reason. They would always be reasonable, even when their brothers weren't.
To Venus, her seventh son, she gave responsiblity. He would take care of his brothers and be responsible for what he does.
And to Mars, her youngest son, she gave joy. He would spread it to the other planets when they were sad.

Then the Sun turned to her daughter, Earth, and whispered to her...
"You are my daughter and I shall grant you my love."

And because of her mother's love, forests and oceans sprang up on little Earth
and whales and fish and dolphins played in her waters.
Elephants came to be on her lands.
Birds flew in her skies. Wolves ran on her ground and cats slinked in the tall grass.

Mother Sun was happy and so was little Earth.
But high up in the sky, the spirits decided that Earth was worthy to hold more and be appreciated more.
So the spirits made people.
And the people were to go onto little Earth and little Earth liked it.
Mother Sun told her daughter to love and care for the creatures on her and she did.
She gave them shelter and food and they loved her. She became Mother Earth and all of her people and animals were her children.

All of her brothers were excited and happy for the new creatures and Venus, because of his responsibility, gave Earth a moon.
"Because our mother does not shine all the time, Luna will shine for you at night." And she did.
Luna kept the Earth company at night and shone for them.

All the planets were so happy that they danced around and around and around Mother Sun, and they are still doing the eternal dance today.

And Mother Sun gives light to all who live on her daughter, the Earth.

The End

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Sometimes, it takes a three year-old to tell you how it really is

Things have been a little rough lately. Our fabulous au pair, Ruzica, left us on Thanksgiving Day because her mom was ill in Serbia. We hoped in vain for her return, but finally gave up a few weeks ago. We were very lucky to find a spot for Truman at a local home-based daycare, but it's been pretty hectic, and I found myself recently wishing for JUST ONE MORNING when I did not have to clean up a disgusting mess before 8 am (you know, oatmeal on the floor, Cheerios bowl complete with milk overturned on someone's homework, pee on a rug...stuff like that).

It was one of these mornings when I found myself alone with Izzy and Truman after Kate and Carroll had left on the bus. Izzy and I had been having one of our long conversations about the fact that, unfortunately, all of the underwear does not have Cinderella on it, and inevitably, we reach the point in the week where we have run out of Cinderella underwear (I have since procured about 28 more pair of Disney princess underwear, netting me another 4 Cinderellas.)

Anyway, after a great deal of negotiating, I had Isabel mostly dressed and downstairs, ready to eat breakfast. Of course, on this day, she preferred her cereal in a sandwich bag and honestly, I'd just already had enough arguing that day. So I gave it to her.

Well, Truman the Tornado saw his opportunity right away. He snatched the bag from Izzy's hand and proceeded to shake it all over the kitchen as widely as possible, while Izzy wailed as if she had just been mortally wounded. I swooped in and grabbed Truman, plopped him on the naughty seat and, while counting to 10, got down on my hands and knees to clean up his mess. There was still a little cereal left in Isabel's bag, so she went into the hallway to pout and munch while I cleaned.

Now, Truman is not so good with the naughty seat concept yet, but I just didn't have the time or the patience to hold him on the seat and count that day. So, of course, he released himself on his own recognizance. As I was down on the kitchen floor in my suit trying not to lose my mind, I heard another wail from behind me. Truman, of course, had grabbed the bag again and spewed the last of the cereal all over the hardwood floor (just in the spot where there are little gaps between the boards), and was dancing on the cereal to crush it really well, gleefully chanting, "Happy, happy, happy!"

At this point, I think there may have been some profanity, and I definitely took Truman by surprise with the way in which his little legs flew out from under him as I hoisted him up and moved him to the dining room. I guess you could say that I came unglued because it was enough for Izzy to stop mid-wail and tell me, "Mommy, he is my baby brother and he loves me and you need to be nice!" When I tried to explain that I was not being mean, I was just a little angry and frustrated, Izzy replied very pointedly, "Well, you LOOK like you're mean." Hmmmm.

As if this was not enough of a reminder from the universe to get it together, I got another little kick in the head about 15 minutes later. We finally got ourselves together and headed out the door. Truman had decided he was big and thought he'd start down the concrete front stairs himself while I was locking up. Yeah, not such a great idea. He skidded down about 4 stairs on his forehead, leaving a nice scrape that I thought might leave a permanent scar (but looks like it won't now).

So, ok, I got it. Chill 0ut. If you look like you're mean, you probably are. And never forget, if the universe wants to mess you up, it can always do worse than it's doing now. So just watch out.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Inauguration Week!

Well, it finally came and went--Inauguration Week!

We did it up--Carroll and I went to the concert at the Lincoln Memorial on Sunday, Kate and I went to the Kids' Concert on Monday night and then the three of us stood outside in the freezing cold on the grounds of the Washington Monument to witness history live. Kate insisted that she didn't *really* see it because she just watched it on the "big TV," but I disabused her of that notion pretty quickly. As it turns out, she was the only kid in her class who actually went down there. We told her that she'd thank us for making her go when she was a grown-up.

I did try to write my way into tickets to see the swearing-in up close, but wasn't chosen as one of the "10 average Americans." Still, I thought I'd share the essay I wrote to try to get those tickets here:

It’s easy to forget the power of your own possibility. We start out thinking we can be anything—an astronaut, a movie star, President of the United States. Soon enough, though, we learn that it’s just not that simple. You don’t always get to be who you might have been. At every turn, you are told to be realistic, to be reasonable, and eventually, slowly, you come to accept things as they are—deeply flawed and not what you expected, but good enough in their own way.
When I was ten years old, before I understood what was reasonable, I came to Washington on a family vacation, all dressed up in my little girls’ business suit. I wrote to Representatives and Senators from my home state of New Jersey and set meetings with them. I rode on the underground transit system beneath the Capitol and watched speeches made on the floor of the House. I wanted to walk those halls one day, make a difference—maybe even become President of the United States.
Somewhere around high school, though, I understood that it wasn’t that easy. We didn’t have money and we had never been in politics. I didn’t go to private school or grow up with the children of Senators. Other dreams came and went. A serious dancer, I took classes with Broadway hopefuls. I earned a Master of Fine Arts and published my poems. But the voices kept up: be reasonable, be realistic. Accept what your life will be.
I did, and to be honest, it hasn’t worked out so badly. I have a good job, beautiful children—but I haven’t set the world on fire like I thought I could.
And that is what this Inauguration means to me. It is a reminder—to me and to us all—that you don’t have to be born into it to make a difference in this world. It reminds us of our own possibility, what we expected of ourselves when the voice in our heads said, “Why not?” instead of, “No way.” It reminds us that there is someone out there who didn’t listen when he was told that he wasn’t the right sort of person, didn’t come from the right kind of family, didn’t hold the right sort of pedigree, or even the right set of convictions and ideals. It reminds us of the power of boldness, the magic that can come from pure and simple stubbornness and an unwillingness to give up on our dreams.
My daughter is ten years old. I want her to see that audacity up close. I want her to know it in her bones. I want her to never give up on the best parts of herself, her best hopes for her future, no matter what anyone says to her. I want her to dream of what she might accomplish and hear her own voice answer, “Why not?”

That's all for now.