Sunday, August 28, 2011

Stupid natural disasters

Clearly someone hates New Jersey. I mean, someone besides the usual. Because why else would we get an earthquake, a hurricane and a tornado warning in the same week?

Right, I know, the earthquake wasn't too bad up here and West Coasters are mocking us for being wusses. (Oh yeah? Well ... you have bad pizza!) Irene was slightly worse, in that one person died and there's flooding all over the state. And since I have basically lived all over the state at some point or another -- south, central, north, northwest -- it upsets me to see streets flooded and towns damaged. But where we are now, the power is on, my garden is still intact (though the tomato plants appear to be doing the downward dog) and only a little water seeped into the basement, so really we can't complain. I have no idea what the rest of the town looks like and I have no intention of finding out until tomorrow. Way too windy.

I could've sworn we were leaving all this behind when we left Florida. In 2004. The year four hurricanes hit Florida, one right after the other. And we thought, man, are we making the right decision.

Poor DH had to suffer through the one that most directly hit Broward, where we were. I'd already gone back north to start the new job. Our apartment complex (pink. The whole exterior. Not kidding) had storm shutters available for the sliding balcony doors, and our downstairs neighbors were nice enough to help him put them on. And then they lost power during the storm. So he had to sit there, in the pitch dark -- those storm shutters are seriously thick -- with the cat, all five thousand of my orchids he'd hauled in from the balcony, the metal chairs and table he'd also hauled in from the balcony, and a non-working fridge. For more than 24 hours. He kept calling me for storm info, since he had no way of looking it up himself.

A few weeks later, I came back. For the cat. Because I knew he wouldn't be able to bring her to a shelter if there were another hurricane. Shockingly, he did not divorce me on the spot.

So things this time were a bit of an improvement, I guess. I was even able to get the usual milk/bread/produce on Thursday night and avoid the apocalyptic madness that is the supermarket right before any kind of weather happens. I couldn't find flashlights anywhere, though.

We got worried about the tornado warning, since if there really was one coming we'd have to get the kids out of bed and hide with them in the bathroom. So we stayed up, in shifts, watching News 12 and making sure no tornado happened. Today we're both a wreck and the kids, having had the best night's sleep ever, are running circles around us. Now they are napping and it is blessed silence, except for the wind outside.

But definitely, could've been worse.

I look forward to the locusts and fiery hailstorms next week.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Come on with the rain, there's a smile on my face

Okay, no, not me personally. I dislike rain. I'm fine with it if I'm inside at the time. Best-case rain scenario: comfy chair, cup of tea, good book, warm fireplace. Cat purring on lap. Ideally not dislodging tea. (Bit of a moot point since I'm catless at the moment.)

Outside in rain is bad. It's wet. It feels clammy. It frizzes out my hair and then I flip because I hate when my hair frizzes. You have to be careful when you have curly hair. Why yes, my name is Frieda, how did you know?

So having a picnic in the rain did not seem like the most fabulous idea to me. Except that we were meeting up with, among other people, friends who were visiting from across the country, and this was the only day to see them, and who knew when we'd see them next. Last time we'd seen them? I was still pregnant with kiddette, who is almost 2.

So I made my bean dip and we headed south. Hoping that maybe the rain would let up.

It did not. It became ark-worthy. Fortunately the park had a fairly sturdy pavilion that we were able to hide under. And by "we" of course I mean the parents. The kids, nearly all 19ish of them, gleefully dashed out into the rain. They puddle-jumped. They chased each other. They played in mud. Kiddo made his toy truck go swimming. Kiddette happily wandered the park path, raincoat hood down, hair soaked.

Some of them had raincoats. Some of them had boots. Some just had T-shirts and shorts on. All were equally drenched, and none of them cared, including the barely-walking toddler who was following kiddette around. We watched them from under the pavilion, occasionally shrugging at each other.

I do realize that letting one's kids play in the rain non-stop for a couple hours would probably raise a few eyebrows in the antibacterial playdate era. But you know, they had a blast. I keep forgetting: Kids don't think like grownups. They think, I'm not supposed to be doing this and it's awesome!

And hey, I can remember going down to the neighborhood beach as a kid and jumping into the water fully clothed with my friends, because we didn't have our bathing suits, and because it was fun. And our parents let us. Even though we'd drip all over the car seats on the way home.

(As our Pacific Northwest friends pointed out, if they kept their kids inside every time it rained, they'd never get outside at all. So everyone does everything in the rain there. In other words, we are East Coast wusses.)

So despite all appearances, the party was a success. And I got a reminder that sometimes the best thing a parent can do for their kids is lighten up. Even if the kids' shoes take four days to dry out afterward.

Totally wrecked my hair, of course. What did you expect?

Sunday, August 14, 2011

And it's nature over nurture, by a mile!

I'm really fairly sure we've been treating kiddette the same way we treated kiddo at her age. Same foods. Same bed/bath routine. Same more-or-less unstructured playtime. The three major differences: Pink clothes (with an occasional side of purple). Full-time daycare at an earlier age. And full-on exposure to Boy World.

Thomas. Planes. Trucks. Running. Throwing. Climbing. The absolute preference for sneakers over any other type of shoe. The sheer joy of running around the house shrieking at the top of your lungs. (Which they do every night. Earplugs. Someone buy me earplugs.)

And yet despite all that, kiddette has somehow morphed into ... a girl.

She puts her plush Elmo in her booster seat and gives him a drink from her sippy cup. (I have drawn the line on her sharing food with him.) She brings her blankie over to him on the floor and covers him with it. If she's sitting on my lap while I eat, she monitors my food intake: "Eat? Yes? Good? Yes!" She is instantly drawn to stuffed animals. She proudly wears her fairy wings. She is a serial hugger and insists on goodnight kisses.

Kiddo did none of this. He ignored stuffed animals in favor of toys with wheels and gears and battery-operated noises. He demanded we sit at the train station and wait for a train to go by so he could watch. He figured out how to turn on the Christmas lights at his first daycare provider's house, and then kept turning them on and off over and over again, because he could. He didn't pay much attention to what I was eating, unless he wanted some.

To be fair, he's still a pretty good hugger.

It's kind of amusing to watch, this very boyish boy and this very girlish girl. And kind of reassuring, in that clearly they are wired to be into what they're into and I shouldn't stress about imprisoning them in gender roles or trying to subvert the gender roles or whatever it is we're supposed to be doing these days. They'll be what they'll be.

Of course, toy guns and play makeup are still not allowed in this house, but that's just being reasonable.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Say 'photon torpedoes'

I wasn't planning on deliberately geeking up my kids. Not because I don't enjoy being a geek. Oh, I do. I love Star Trek and Star Wars and Lord of the Rings and comic books and I used to go to conventions. I secretly envy the kids who got to grow up with Harry Potter. I played D&D in college and my friends and I used to write messages to each other in the college paper's Personals section using our characters' names. (I played a thief, even though I am the most goody-two-shoes honest person you will ever meet, because it seemed like less work than being a magic user. All those spells to learn ...) I have all seven seasons of "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" on DVD and the soundtrack to the musical episode on my iPod. And I sing along.

But being a geek is such a specific, niche sort of thing that I didn't want to force the little ones into it. Plus I'd like them to get dates.

So it was purely accidental that I happened to be cleaning out our bedroom closet -- not being able to see the floor is generally a bad sign -- and while going through some old boxes of mine I found some little Star Trek spaceship models. And kiddo immediately claimed them.

There are three -- an Enterprise shuttle, a Klingon ship and a Borg ship. I have no idea anymore who gave them to me, since I was never much of a model (or "toy") collector. Kiddo wanted to know which ones were the bad guys (that would be the latter two) and which was the good guy (the first one). He wanted to know where the guns were on the Klingon ship, because he's a boy. I explained that actually the ship uses photon torpedoes, which I taught him how to say. At this point DH's eyes had rolled up somewhere into the back of his head.

Hey, he knew I was a geek when he married me. Just like I knew he came accessorized with a store's worth of boxed-up baseball cards.

Kiddo was so taken with the ships that he brought the shuttle to school/daycare the next day. He played with the Borg ship at the dinner table (he finds it hilarious that it's a giant cube. That is actually pretty hilarious). Right now I have no idea where the ships are, since toys migrate from room to room on a constant basis no matter how many times I toss everything into the playroom and shut the door. But I expect they'll turn up, probably under my bare feet for maximum ouch.

Kiddo (and kiddette, when she's older) are welcome to whatever leftover geekness I've got lying around. I certainly don't want to hide it from them -- except for the "Sandman" and "100 Bullets" comics, which are vastly age-inappropriate. Already I have a short list of books I can't wait to read to them when they're a little older, including the Narnia books, "The Little Prince," "The Neverending Story" (so much better than the movie. Go read it), the Spiderwick books, "Bridge to Terabithia" and of course, Harry Potter.

But if he decides he's into football stat books, and she goes all American Girl, that's OK by me too.

I mean, they're going to be embarrassed by me anyway when they hit tween years. I might as well give them something to be embarrassed about, right?

Monday, August 1, 2011

How to vacation with small children

1. Cheerios are your friend. And sometimes raisins or Golden Grahams or animal crackers. They serve as car distractions, and they make good hors d'oeuvres while you're waiting for your meal to arrive.

2. If the kids are sleeping in the car, do not stop the car for any reason. Even if you really need something from the Walgreens on the right. Because they will wake up and never, never go back to sleep.

3. You will become intimately familiar with the public bathroom, even though you aren't the one using it. You will also curse out the designer of that bathroom when you realize there isn't a changing table in it.

4. Explain to your children that cranes, wheels, balloon races and other such games of chance are massively rigged, thus steeling them against disappointment when you don't win a single freaking stuffed animal for them.

5. Spray-on sunblock, though convenient, is harder to apply accurately, and you will miss spots.

6. If you split your ice cream with them, you will save money and no one will eat too much ice cream. Plus you still get a sugar crash out of them and, possibly, a quiet ride home.

7. Tantrums average about one an hour. Time outs average about two.

8. Meeting up with Grandma and Grandpa will be the most exciting thing about the children's museum, until they see the gift shop.

9. Most other children will seem less well behaved than your children, even after a time out or two.

10. When your child begins falling asleep at the table in the middle of the restaurant, you have overdone it on day trips. Stay home and relax.