Monthly Archives: February 2008

Guinea Pigs Strike Again!

Laurel had the class guinea pigs again last weekend.  Wow, those things can get pretty foul pretty quickly.  They love nothing better than using a freshly mopped floor as a toilet.

Laurel had to scrub their cage, so she deposited the girls in their play ball for safekeeping.  I was tasked with watching them while cooking dinner and knew I was on duty when I heard, ‘WOW!!!  Whuss dat?’ followed by malicious toddler laughter, then ‘Guinea igs?  GUINEA IGS!’.  Ethan was awake.

The truth is, he did quite well — I think he was a little frightened by them.  He’s pretty cautious in new situations, and I guess he didn’t remember the last time we had them.

ethanwithguineas1 laurelwithguineas

A Presidential Weekend.

As is often the case with nerdly parents like us, we decided to take Laurel to Springfield, Illinois for Presidents Day for Lincoln immersion.  We only stayed one night but had a great time and are nearly Lincolned out.  Ethan stayed home with Grandma Smith because, well, he’s two — which means he is not very enjoyable when subjected to grownup ideas of fun.

We started off Saturday morning with the drive, of course, followed by cozy dogs at the Cozy Dog Drive In on Route 66.  Laurel had her first of several weekend root beers while there.

Outside view:


Mm.  Corn dogs and dippin’ utensils:


Cozy dogs and Laurel with “Route” Beer:

cozydogsign1 laurelwithroutebeer


The next stop was the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum.  Wow.  This was a really great museum.  We couldn’t take photos inside other than in the lobby area itself, but I recommend it to anyone who hasn’t been.

 abelincolnmuseum3 abelincolnmuseum2

Laurel received a lesson on the dulcimer, wherein she learned to play ‘Are you Sleeping?’.  The nice gentleman, in an effort to impress, told Laurel he was on an episode of Hannah Montana.  Laurel responded, ‘Yeah…I hate Hannah Montana.’  So much for that.  Boys, take heed — if you want to impress Laurel you’ll have to come up with something better than appearing on a TV show most pre-teen girls love.


After the museum, we stopped at the Old State Capitol.  Very cool, lots of history, sweet old architecture, smelled like a library, took a photo of Laurel under the rotunda.  Later, we stopped to pick up popcorn and candy for the evening and went to the Lincoln-Herndon Law Office, where we viewed a desk upon which Lincoln is supposed to have written his inauguration speech:

laureloldcapitolrotunda abelincolninaugurationspeechdesk lincolnlawoffice1

That evening, we ate at D’Arcy’s Pint.  Greg and I have a family history of being overlooked when on a waiting list, and sure enough it happened yet again.  I put our name in, I SAW the girl write it down, and they just skipped us.  Or marked us off without calling us, or something.  We were eventually seated and treated ourselves to a cornucopia of the most artery-clogging food I’ve eaten in a long time.  We had chili-cheese dip and buffalo chicken horseshoes.  My god.   It was soooooooo good.  By the way, don’t tell Laurel I just linked to a Wikipedia page, lest I incur her scorn.

Back at the hotel, we went swimming (indoor pool, thankyouverymuch, no polar bear plunges for me).  I sat in the hot tub until I became convinced I would succumb to a nasty bacterial infection, whereupon I fled back to the main pool.

After breakfast the next morning, we went to Lincoln’s home and tomb.  Greg was enthralled over the strange parking meter and the five-step process to pay for parking at the home.  We took several photos of it, but in the interest of brevity (which is lost at this po
int anyway), I’ll only post one of them — if he wants to say more about it, he can.  We also noted that those of the 19th century had a very different idea of interior design than we do:

gregwithparkingmachine lincolnhome1

 lincolnhome2 lincolndesk


For good luck, we rubbed Lincoln’s nose at his tomb:

laurelrubbingnose lincolnheadstone

statues2 lincolntomb statues1

Exhausted and ready for home, we hopped in the car and immediately ran into train.  Torrential rain:


I don’t know about the rest of the family, but I had a great time.  I thought it was all very interesting, but when I asked Laurel which part she found the most interesting, she didn’t mention the original artifacts, nor walking on the same flooring as a great president, nor viewing Mary Todd Lincoln’s jewelry, or Abraham Lincoln’s own handwriting.  No, Laurel said, “When Lincoln got kicked in the head by a horse.”

Well, there you go.

This is What We Endure.


[5 full minutes pass on a morning when we’re trying to get out the door in a hurry]

[door opens, Laurel emerges]

Me:  “Laurel, seriously, what took you so long after flushing?”

Laurel:  “I was washing my hands.”

Me:  “Forever?!”

Laurel:  [scorn]

Me:  “No, really, what were you doing while washing your hands that took so long?”

Laurel:  “Wiggling my ears.”


Of course.  Sigh.


We’re going to Springfield, IL this weekend, in honor of Presidents Day — setting this post to post while we’re enjoying the festivities.  See you later!

Substitute Teacher Orientation, a Spectator Sport.

Tonight I attended substitute teacher orientation, which was fascinating not because of the subject matter but because of my fellow attendees.  For the purpose of serving the public good, I have developed a list of commandments for those applying to be and attending employment orientation for substitute teachers.

  1. Thou shalt not wear jeans.  I sat across from Michael Stipe (complete with one of those earrings that makes a big hole in the ear) and an uber-casual Jim Halpert, both of whom were wearing raggedy, ill-fitting jeans to what was in effect a job interview — albeit a cattle-call-esque one (which is the norm for substitute teachers).  They weren’t the only ones, but they stuck out the most.  Folks, do not wear jeans to an orientation when you know jeans are not acceptable in the classroom.  Sigh.
  2. Thou shalt not ask if ye shall be expected to undergo drug testing.  This should be obvious.  Could there be a bigger giveaway than asking that question of an assistant superintendent?  You must be deranged.  Please do not sub in my child’s classroom.
  3. Thou shalt not ask if thy DUI (to which ye pled guilty last year) should be reported on thy sheet of criminal history.  Take extraordinary care not to ask this if you already violated commandment #2, which you just did. 

An Observation.

The only thing worse than calling the Social Security Administration . . .


. . . is calling the Internal Revenue Service.


And I’m doing both today.  Hot dog!

To My Husband, on Valentine’s Day.

I don’t know how you do it.

I don’t know how you manage to keep so many people happy.

I like that we don’t make a huge deal over Valentine’s Day.  Many husbands show up at the last minute one day each year with a wilted rose, a box of crummy chocolates, and a four-dollar card, but not you.  You do it up right, loving me and proving it to me all year long.

That, and sometimes giving me fresh flowers and good chocolates for no good reason at all. 

Thank you, Greg.  I need you and the kids need you.  You’re always there for us, and you are the best.

I love you.  We love you.

Happy Valentine’s Day.

Girl, You Have No Faith in Financial Institutions.

Greg and I recently had occasion to ask E*Trade for a simple account change. I’m not sure what kind of knuckle-draggers are working there.  Hell, I faxed them my letter, my driver license, my SSN, my DOB, and my firstborn.  What’s the problem?

This reminds me of the hassle we had with U.S. Bank several years ago which caused us to remove almost all association with them.

After E*Trade made multiple promises to get the job done, they have still failed to do so; hence, my electronic message to E*Trade this morning:

Dear E*Trade:

It is now February 13, 2008.  This request has still not been processed.  We fail to see why E*Trade cannot process these requests in a timely fashion.  We have been patient, but at this point if our request is not completed by 5:00 p.m. CST tomorrow, February 14, 2008, we will be forced to remove all the funds from this account and another we hold with E*Trade and redeposit them with a more responsive institution.  Our first request was made January 28, 2008.  It has now been 12, TWELVE, business days.

Please update me as soon as possible on the status of this request.  Thank you.

I almost added “Happy Valentine’s Day” to the end, but the truth is I was writing this in Greg’s stead and he wouldn’t have said that.  He’s not nearly as caustic as I am. 

I’m just plain pissed off today for no reason at all, so today is my day to deal with customer service.

Most definitely.


P.S. — can someone please tell me why there are virtually zero non-chain restaurants in Springfield, Illinois open on Sundays?  Good god.

Wanted: Bedtime Books.

I was so proud of myself.  Both my kids were good sleepers and I thought it was one thing I’d done right.  Neither of them woke during the night after 6 months of age or gave me any problems going to sleep.  I fully credited the Ferber method of training children for sleeping through the night and the fact is, I still do.  We employed a more Draconian version of the Ferber method because we just never went in after putting them down to sleep.  I mean, c’mon, you’re not going to traumatize a 4-month-old for the rest of its life if you don’t go in and pat the baby — the baby doesn’t remember. 

Unfortunately, we’ve hit a speed bump in the road to restful sleep.

For the past couple of weeks, Ethan has been fighting sleep.  He fights it during his daytime nap; he fights it at night; he falls out of bed at 2 a.m., gets scared of the dark, and comes bounding through the house.  He refuses to stay in bed when put down for a nap.  Even Greg, Mr. Even Keel, has nearly ejected himself from our balcony in frustration.

–As an aside, I am constantly reminded my children are polar opposites.  Laurel has always been a good sleeper and a good traveler and has been known to fall asleep in shopping carts more than once; Ethan won’t even fall asleep in his car seat, so our family drives must be planned around him.  While we have never worried about taking Laurel out to dinner, don’t even attempt a family night out with Ethan.  Laurel has always been in a great mood upon awakening in the morning; Ethan is loaded for bear no matter how long he has slept, and damn the sun if it shines in his eyes when he walks out of his bedroom.–

Anyway, we have instituted The Bedtime Routine with some success.  The Bedtime Routine includes the following steps:

  1. 15 minutes before bedtime:  Ensure you know Ducky’s location (more on that later).  Force child into pajamas and dry diaper while enduring kicking protests at the very humiliation of pajamas and dry diapers. 
  2. 12 minutes before bedtime (provided the kicking and screaming pajama change hasn’t delayed bedtime further):  Fill Dora cup with milk.  Only the Dora cup.  Do not deviate from the Dora cup, for one never knows what might cause unrest.
  3. Find Harold and the Purple Crayon.  This does not mean you will read Harold first in the impending book carousel, or that you will read Harold last, but know this:  you will read HaroldThis is actually okay with me, because Harold and the Purple Crayon contains one of the best lines in children’s literature:  “When Harold finished his picnic there was quite a lot left.  He hated to see so much delicious pie go to waste.  So Harold left a very hungry moose and a deserving porcupine to finish it up.”  A “deserving porcupine.”  I love that.  It is also a great book because (spoiler alert — if you are a toddler, stop reading now because this will ruin the book) Harold falls asleep in the end.  Voluntarily!  In fact, he ‘makes’ his bed and ‘draws up’ the covers with his crayon.  Perfect!  And it gets Ethan in the mood; ergo, we try to read this book last.
  4. Sit in the rocker-recliner with the Dora cup of milk and the chosen book.  Read the book in a near-monotone, for inflection is the enemy of your mission.  Endure at least 10 minutes of book roulette, likely including Itchy Itchy Chicken Pox which Ethan adores and has memorized but will likely never experience and which ends not with our protagonist falling asleep but expressing exuberance over his return to school (also good, but not a great bedtime ending).  Perhaps Ethan’s obsession with disease will follow in the footsteps of his sister Laurel, with her savant-like, somewhat disturbing knowledge of Kuru (for another post).
  5. This step is vital:  Before reading the last book, tell Ethan that when this book is finished, it is time to give kisses and go night-night.
  6. Read the last book.  Optimally this will be a book which ends with someone going to bed.  DO NOT ASK him if it is time to give kisses, because that gives room for a negative answer.  Just say, “Okay, that’s it.  Let’s go give kisses.”  Give kisses to Mommy, Daddy, Laurel, the dog (after Mommy forces him to sit because Vinnie is scared of Ethan), to Itchy Itchy Chicken Pox, and to Harold and the Purple Crayon.
  7. Wander into Ethan’s bedroom.  Turn on the fan for white noise while Ethan crawls into bed.  Give him his previously-located stuffed duck, “Ducky.”  He will not sleep without Ducky, but this is good because Ducky can be used as a bargaining chip in an emergency.  Cover him with all three blankets.  Not two, not one, but all three, no matter how warm it is in the room.  Three is a magic number.
  8. Encourage Ethan to find his thumb (he’s a thumb-sucker and maybe we shouldn’t encourage this but WHATEVER WORKS, OKAY PEOPLE?) and sing ‘Baa, Baa, Black Sheep,’ his favorite song.  He will probably sing along at the top of his lungs and that is acceptable, but DO NOT let him bounce to the music.  Stop the song if you must until he collects himself.  Bouncing, like voice inflection, is the enemy of your mission.  If you allow him to bounce, he will surely bounce along behind you as you try to leave the room.
  9. When the song is over, rub his back and soothingly remind him he is to go to night-night.  Tell him Ducky is going night-night, Laurel is going night-night, Vinnie is going night-night, Daddy and Mommy are going night-night, the cars are night-night, and by god if he gets out of bed, Ducky will sleep with the fishes (remember:  soothing).
  10. Flee from the room and scramble around turning off lights as quickly and silently as possible so it looks as though Mommy, Daddy, Laurel, and all the other characters really DID go to bed.  Granted, you just lied to your child, but remind yourself that if he gets enough sleep he will be smarter and someday earn enough to pay psychiatrists to listen as he moans about how his parents lied to him as a toddler, scarring him for life.
  11. Hold your breath for several seconds while listening for the tell-tale thump of toddler feet hitting the floor.  If you haven’t heard that within 30 seconds, you may have survived The Bedtime Routine.


Didn’t work?  Go back at least as far as step 8 and repeat through the end.  Better luck next time.