Friday, October 30, 2009

Friday Fashion Ramblings: What Other Me Would Wear

It was so fun to play pretend-dress-up last week, I thought I'd do it again.

I like to think of this ruffly navy number as something Other Me would wear. With a great big white handbag and a really simple necklace.

Other Me is someone I invented last weekend, while I was shopping with a friend in a store that catered to six-foot women who don't mind showing a bit of...well, everything. All the clothes were ones that would look good on a really slutty supermodel. They were dirt-cheap (both in price and in quality) and not really my style. For some reason, I fell in love with a pair of really inappropriate-for-me shoes (let's put it this way: they would've been totally at home on a dominatrix, whereas I trip over my own feet even in sneakers) and my friend looked at me like I was nuts.

"They're not for me," I said. "They're for Other Me. You know, the me that isn't married and isn't chasing a two-year-old around," I panted as I dashed around the store trying to prevent Piper from leaving with merchandise or knocking anything over. "The me that's a famous writer or fashion-magazine editor and lives in the imaginary New York City of the movies, where everybody wanders around dressed in $500 shoes and you can always afford a cab if you don't feel like walking."

Her eyes lit up. "Aaaaahhh," she said. "I gotcha."

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Moral Fiber

So, the second part of Cookie Girl's visit involves more moral dilemmas (and moral failings) on my part: After we established that we would not be ordering cookies without more information, it was getting late. It was past dinner time; the meal I had been working on when she rang the doorbell was cooling in its pans on the stove. I now faced another problem: either invite her to dinner, or find a way to shoo her out the door. I told her it was 7:00, and asked her when her mother told her to be home.

"Oh, she didn't give me a time," came the sunny, cheery answer. "She never tells me when I have to be back. She never tells me when to come home."

She could have been fibbing, of course, but since she had previously spent almost seven hours at our house and nobody came looking for her, I doubted it. I didn't think this kid had much in the way of adult supervision. I wanted to be a good person, but I didn't exactly want to invite her to dinner. I tried to tell myself it was because we didn't have enough to go around or she might have food allergies, but really it was because I wasn't sure if I could handle this kid. She's not my kid, so I couldn't exactly put her in the corner if she refused to eat her nutritious meal and asked for more candy, you know? It already makes me mad when my own kid won't eat what I cook and demands other things; how would I handle it if someone else's child did it to me? She'd already gotten a Popsicle and a handful of the mints she saw in a kitchen drawer and then pretended not to know about but specifically asked for. I didn't think she'd be the kind to eat all her vegetables without a fight, and something told me they weren't big on quiet family dinners at her house.

It was also, I am somewhat ashamed to admit, because I didn't want to encourage her.

When I was growing up, my family were always the ones who had extra kids around. My parents fed everybody who showed up at our door, no matter how little we had. We never worried about bringing extra people home or inviting them to dinner. Our friends with less-than-stellar home lives always had a haven at our house; day or night, if someone needed a place to go, they could come to us. My parents treated everybody like their own kids, be it hugs or curfews that needed handing out. And I really do believe that they helped a lot of the kids who hung around. Some of those kids, now grown (and some with kids of their own!) will tell you that for themselves.

I always thought that I possessed this generosity of body and spirit. I thought that I had taken to heart their lessons about helping people because it is the right thing to do. But standing in my kitchen, setting the burners to low in an attempt to re-heat the dinner I'd spent 45 minutes cooking earlier, I knew I had not. Because I didn't want this kid. I didn't want to feed her, and have her show up at my door every other day expecting to be fed, the way she now zooms in and asks for treats because of the one time I gave her banana bread and Capri-Sun. I wanted to pretend that we could be a kind presence in her life, stepping in for her mostly-absentee parents, providing a different perspective and a little direction. I knew the reality would simply involve her showing up at our door randomly asking for cake and Kool-Aid, dragging out all Piper's toys, and forgetting to say thank-you.

And I couldn't do it.

I couldn't invite this kid to dinner, couldn't watch her pass up the healthy foods that I work so hard to make and even harder to get Piper to eat. I couldn't invite her in to occupy my daughter's made-for-tiny-kids furniture and possibly break it in the process; I couldn't watch her boss my kid around and eye Piper's toys with envy. I was not at all the good person I wanted to be, ready and willing to feed and entertain some stranger's child just because my daughter didn't mind (and maybe even liked) playing with her.

I gave them a 30-minute time limit and let them keep playing. It was 7:45 when I finally got the little girl convinced that Piper needed to eat dinner and go to bed. I wondered again where this girls parents were, that she could be in someone else's home at nearly 8:00 on a school night and nobody would come looking for her, or apparently even expect her to be home.

I re-warmed the dinner, and we ate quietly. I felt a pang of guilt with every bite I took, knowing I should've invited her to to stay. I guess I'm pretty far from the good person I want to be, because despite the guilt, a teeny tiny part of me was glad I wouldn't have to share my bacon.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Monday, October 26, 2009

Guilt-Chip Cookies

There's a little girl in our neighborhood who loves Piper. This is great, except this girl is six years old and seems to think of Piper as an overgrown baby doll. She tries to pick her up and haul her around, and while Piper is remarkably tolerant of her attentions, it makes me uneasy to have her staggering around carrying my kid, dangerously close to dropping her on the massive anthills and upthrust tree roots that populate the dirt around here.

This little girl also likes to hang out and play with Piper...which is again, great, except that this means she takes Piper's toys right out of her hands and breaks them and bosses Piper around. She pesters us to bring more and more toys out into the yard. She climbs, sits, and swings on Piper's built-for-kids-under-3-years-old-or-less-than-45-lbs swing set. I wince and try to gently tell her that it's built for little kids, as the plastic swing sags and its support beams start to buckle. The little girl sometimes complies, but a lot of the time, she tells me "No, it's okay, see?" and swings harder, her butt in the swing hovering three inches off the ground. The whole swing set rocks and tips and thumps with every movement.

She is constantly asking for food, candy, or any other consumables she thinks I may have around. I gave out juice boxes and banana bread one day for helping us in the yard when she, her sister, and some other neighborhood kids helped us bury Chick and ever since then she asks for more every time she comes over. It's not a casual request, either; she peers around the back door and scans the kitchen counters for signs of recent baking. If I tell her no, I don't have any today, she asks "Well, do you have something else?" She asks for a drink and I give her water. She looks disdainfully at the plastic cup and says "Don't you have any juice?" If I tell her not today, she will try to look into the refrigerator to prove me wrong.

This little girl came over one day last week selling cookies. Cookie dough, to be more specific, one of those godawful fundraiser things that have kids hawking crap nobody needs to make pennies per item for their school. I wanted to help her out; I really did. But she came to our door first asking if Piper could come out and play, and then absently asked us if we wanted to buy some cookies. We said we'd take a look and she invited herself inside. Piper was finishing up a Popsicle, and the little neighborhood girl asked for one (and when she'd finished it, another). We gave her a Popsicle and while we looked over her sales materials, she started playing with Piper.

She had handed us a three-page brochure and order form for frozen cookie dough which cost $14 or $16 per box. That is a lot of cash for us to be dropping on cookies sold by six-year-olds, and I started to get a sinking feeling. Closer inspection revealed that the envelope into which we were supposed to place our form of payment had no information on it. There were merely blank lines where her school, classroom, and teacher's name should've been written. In fact, all the lines on everything were blank, except for the first line of the order form where someone had half-filled in an order and then crossed it out. The only other sheet she had handed us was a glossy one-page flyer showing all the really! great! prizes! a kid could get if they sold enough cookie dough to feed Western Europe for a year.

We asked her what school she went to, and she told us the name, which was unsurprisingly the school right up the road. When quizzed about her teacher's name, she mumbled something and went back to playing. We asked her when we'd get the cookie dough - there was absolutely nothing on any of the materials about when this "gourmet" cookie dough would arrive - and she said we had to pick it up. We asked her when and where and she said "I think at the school sometime...I don't really know." She couldn't tell us anything else about the cookie sale.

I had been mentally berating the person who had started an order and then crossed out their name, but suddenly I understood their position very well. I did not particularly want to turn this girl loose with a check or cash which may or may not make it to the teacher, for some cookies which may or may not ever arrive, which we might have to possibly go pick up "sometime" from some part of her school.

Eventually we told her to have her teacher fill out the envelope with the correct info or give her an information sheet so we'd know what to do, then bring it to us and we would order cookies. By now I had spent 45 minutes agonizing over this terrible moral dilemma and feeling like an ass for not buying any cookies. The little girl, who didn't seem to care if we bought 50 cases of cookies or none at all, had spent the time nosing around our house, playing with Piper, and rifling through our kitchen drawers looking for candy.

She got a handful of starlight mints, and I ended the day feeling as though I needed to go to confession for not buying some overpriced cookie dough.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Friday Fashion Ramblings: Forever 21 Dresses

Kathleen at The Tumtum Tree made a rather alarming (or is it amazing?) discovery recently. And oh, Dude, it's even on sale! This prompted me to go poking around on Forever 21's website, because I always forget that I like to shop there. Er, rather, I like to shop there for some things, since not a lot of their clothes are built to accommodate my extremely generous bustline.

I guess that is part of the appeal of online window-shopping; I can sit here at home in my jammies and browse page after page of lovely frocks without going into the store and actually having to face the fact that there is no way I could ever, ever squeeze my, um, ladies into one. But from here, I can pretend all I want (for free).

Take this dress for example. I luuuuurrrrve it. It's so 1920's to me, I would need to curl my hair just to wear it. I would have to get a perfect cloche hat, or a sparkly headband with a feather, and a long bunch of pearls and some gorgeous button-strap mary janes. Then I would walk around pretending to be Marion Davies, partying it up with Charlie Chaplin and WRH on board that yacht with poor doomed Tom Ince. I would have to watch The Cat's Meow for inspiration. And probably Citizen Kane, too.

Look at this dress. It's in that azure/aquamarine blue that I find myself crazy for right now (two knitting projects and counting in that color) and would not go amiss with my Cat's Meow look described above. Or I could put on a choker with a big white flower, don a pair of strappy metallic sandals (like, oh, I don't know, maybe these), and pretend to be Carrie Bradshaw for the day. I could do it in this dress, too.

This dress is simple yet dramatic and it sort of reminds me of Jennifer Garner's style in 13 Going on 30 (I love that movie). I think it would be a really adaptable piece...even if it does look a little like lingerie from Frederick's of Hollywood.

I am not, however, so sure about this thing. Or this one. Or this dress either. They all look like bad 1980's couches, the sort of upholstery you see on the neglected furniture occupying college-house front porches.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Little Boxes (Of Vegetables)

Three weeks ago, we picked up our last produce box of the season. They're still doing the boxes for a little while longer, just not at our usual pickup spot. The logistics of getting all the way downtown (sorry, I mean Uptown) once a week have recently gotten quite complex, and as much as we love the boxes, we have not been able to figure out how to get to the other drop point at the appointed time.

This means that for the first time in several months, I have to go to the grocery store. It's not that I didn't go before; we needed bread and milk every week or so. But this? This roaming the aisles, half-assed list in hand, struggling to figure out what I'm supposed to be buying in order to keep us from eating our shoes some time during the week? It's HORRIBLE.

I had gotten used to starting with ingredients first - looking at our weekly box and going "Okay, I have 6 ears of corn, 2 butternut squash, 4 tomatoes..." and figuring out what to make of them. Now I have to start with an idea or (worse yet) a recipe, tracking down ingredients and trying to use the stuff I bought before it goes bad. Which, since it's no longer the super-fresh local things we had been getting, means I have about ten minutes before it starts to grow fur and bite my hand when I reach into the produce drawer of our fridge.

I find the produce department at the grocery store sort of revolting now - all those piles of over-waxed apples, irradiated avocados, sickly, pale tomatoes, strawberries the size of ping-pong balls (with about as much flavor). All that stuff which seemed tolerable before but is utterly disgusting now that I've had the real thing. All that stuff that has traveled so far to get to us, sprayed with God-knows-what to keep the bugs out, all picked far too green yet it still spoils a day or two after I get it home. It's one thing to be making do with tasteless, grainy trucked-in produce; it's even more irritating to have it rot practically on the drive home.

Monday, October 19, 2009

That's My Girl

Piper dragged a huge bucket across the living room.

"I'm going to drink my pumpkin latte," she announced as she picked it up and carted into her room. "I be right back."

She wandered out a minute later, pretending to drink out of the bucket and smacking her lips. "Aaaah," she said. "That's good latte."

You betcha, kiddo.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Conversations With Piper: Ketchup

Our lunch today included generous portions of diced, fried potatoes, which Piper turned her nose up at. I was frustrated and resigned myself to her lunch consisting of 3 bites of tortilla and the half-glass of my orange soda she'd guzzled before I could stop her.

Then I got out the ketchup for something else I was cooking, and she perked right up.

"I would like some ketchup," she said, her eyes focused like little lazer beams on the red bottle.
"You can't just eat ketchup," I said, "you have to have it on something."
"I want ketchup on my fries," she said, hopping up and down.
"Fries?" I asked, having forgotten all about the cast-off potatoes.
She ran to the little table where she eats most of her meals and picked up the kid-size bowl of potatoes she had refused earlier. "On these potatoes," she said patiently. I squeezed a generous dollop of ketchup on one side of the bowl and she ran back to her table and started to chow down.
Pleased, I returned to the tomato sauce I was simmering.
"I want some more ketchup!" she called three minutes later.
"You need more ketchup already?" I was suspicious. I looked in her bowl, and sure enough, most of her ketchup was gone. I gave her some more, and she requested a third helping less than five minutes later.
"What are you doing over here?" I asked as I brought the bottle over. I gave her some more.
"I'm just eating my ketchup," she answered, dipping a chunk of potato into the puddle of red I'd just dropped into her bowl.
"You're eating just the ketchup?"
"Yeah." She licked the ketchup off the potato and dunked it again.
"Are you actually eating any potato?" I asked her.
"No," she said, licking the ketchup off the fork and potato again. "I'm just eating ketchup."

I guess I did ask.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Cute Tricky Fun

That is what my kid is these days. She still has her whine-a-thons, but most of the time she's pretty fun to hang out with. She's very, very talkative and the things that come out of her mouth just keep getting funnier as her vocabulary expands. She is an excellent mimic. She repeats things we've said and even has our inflection down pat. Sometimes it's almost creepy how well she can remember and repeat precisely what we've said.

She was splashing in the bath last night and called out in a truly eerie imitation of my voice, "Ryan? Ryan? Hey Ryan? Can you see what's on HBO tonight?" Then she went back to dunking her bathtub toys under the bubbles. From the living room came the sound of my husband laughing his ass off.

She was trying to drink out of a cup with a straw in it, and kept tipping it up so that nothing got to the straw and the drink ran out the top. "Tip it down," we told her. "It's a straw, you have to tip it down." "Tip it doowwwwn?" she repeated, drawing out the word in a pitch-perfect impression of a friend's little boy we had played with months earlier. "Did you tip it down?" She giggled and repeated it over and over, sounding exactly like her little friend each time.

Earlier this week, I didn't feel good so I spent some time vegging out watching, per Piper's request, episode after episode of Doctor Who. Eventually I turned off the tv and dragged my ass off the couch. "I would like to watch another Doctor Who," said Piper. "I would really like it." I told her no, we were done for today and we had to find some fun stuff that didn't involve the tv. She sighed. "Alright," she said, resigned to an evening devoid of the Doctor and Rose Tyler. "Maybe watch Doctor Who tomorrow," she said in a concilatory tone.

I handed her a PB & J for lunch (she only started liking them recently). "A drink would be nice," she commented before taking a bite. "I would like some chocolate milk."

She can drink a LOT of chocolate milk. Even though I cut it with 60% white skim milk, a gallon jug of chocolate milk lasts less than a week. That is a serious amount of liquid to pour into one little girl.

Chocolate milk is not the only sugary thing she sucks down. We tried our best to keep refined sugars out of the house, but my husband's sweet tooth and my weakness for breakfast bread items combined with well-meaning grandparents and friends to introduce our child to a host of corn-syrup vehicles. She loves ice cream and popsicles; I buy the "Mighty Mini" slow-melt pops and she can eat a box of 24 in just three days. It used to be easy to keep her out of them, becuase we'd just say "NO, YOU HAVE HAD 7 POPSICLES IN THREE HOURS YOU ARE NOT GETTING ANY MORE TODAY PLEASE STOP ASKING OR I WILL THROW THE GODDAMNED THINGS IN THE TRASH" and that was the end of it. This happy era came to an end when she learned not only how to open the fridge & freezer doors, but also how to climb the shelves, grab the box off the top shelf, and tear it open to help herself to cold fruity goodness whenever we cut her off. We tied the doors shut with a scarf and she untied it. I tried a belt and she unbuckled it. Pretty much all we can do is yell "Get OUT of the FRIDGE!" every 10 minutes and listen closely for the crinkle of plastic wrappers.

Her problem-solving skills have cranked up a notch in past months, so she has figured out now that when she wants something on the counter, she can get a stockpot out of the cabinet, flip it upside down, and stand on it to reach higher. There used to be a once-inch margin at the edge of our countertops; now the never-ending clutter on top of them keeps getting pushed back farther and farther. She can reach into the kitchen drawers without help, so I find her rummaging for forks, pulling out dishcloths, or getting into the batteries. We've had to have several conversations about Why Sharp Things Are Bad and Things That Should Never Go In Your Mouth.

Ryan has been home more lately, and he's making an extra effort to spend time with her; as a result, they are buddies and I find myself not necessarily the go-to parent in times of crisis. He has even put her to bed several nights this week, which is almost unheard-of. Usually I am the one who has to sit in her darkened room for 20-60 minutes at bedtime, snuggling her and singing and getting drinks of water and finding favorite toys and answering questions and telling her to settle down and lay still and stop fidgeting and quit kicking and would you please for the love of God go to sleep? She still does not sleep through the night, but at least I get an occasional break from the long, drawn-out bedtime wind-down.

Friday, October 09, 2009

Conversations With Piper: Halloween Costume

As so often happens when I am trying to get her to sleep, at naptime today she requested "You want Mommy snuggle you? Mommy snuggle in the bed? Piper scoot it over, Mommy snuggle in the bed." She scooted closer to the back of her crib-turned-daybed and I clambered onto the tiny mattress and curled myself around her. This is something I do most times when I'm putting her to sleep, and my husband finds it hilarious to see me scrunched into the tiny bed with her.

Today I was trying to get her to settle down, and I brought up a timely topic, hoping that if she got to talking she'd forget to keep herself awake by thrashing, kicking, and turning over and over in a pretty good imitation of the Human Washing Machine.

"What do you want to be for Halloween?" I asked, tucking her fuzzy purple blanket around her.
"I would like to be a bampire," she said.
"You want to be a vampire for Halloween?"
"Uhh...yes," she said. "I like to look at the Halloweens. I would like to be a bampire."
"A vampire, huh? You're sure that's the costume you want?"
"I want to be a lobster."
"You want to be a lobster and a vampire?"
"You want to be a lobster vampire?"
"I would like to go trick-or-treat."
"Okay, so you want to wear a lobster vampire costume to go trick-or-treating?"
"I would like to be a vampire."
"Just a vampire? Just the one thing? You want to dress up as a vampire for Halloween?"
"Yes. I would like dress up bampire."
"Okay, well, what would a vampire costume look like?"
"It looks like a snowman." She giggled. "Like a snowman." Then she started to talk about wanting to wear a witch's hat and go trick-or-treating.

So, if you'll excuse me, I have to go make a lobster-vampire-snowman costume with a witch's hat on top, so she can go trick-or-treating.

Thursday, October 08, 2009

Joy in the Rain

Playing in the rain, March 2009.

That raincoat doesn't even fit her anymore. It barely fit this spring, and I was too late to grab one when the spring clothing hit the stores. Pretty soon it'll be too cold to go coatless like she has been, and I don't know what we'll do then. She has TWO pairs of rain boots, but no coat!

Thursday, October 01, 2009

Two Years Ago

Two years ago this week, we went on a weekend-away trip to visit some friends. We were still living in Michigan, and this was our first overnight with our new baby. I think we packed almost every single baby thing we owned, just in case. The car was stuffed full. But we had a great time, visiting with two sets of college pals, and Piper had a good time being passed around and having everyone play with her, since she was the only kid there:

Look at that little bald head!