Monday, April 30, 2012

Two, going on teenager

Jewel, earlier today, to Mama: I don't love you. I love Daddy!


Jewel, five minutes ago, to Mama: No, Mommy! I don't want Daddy to read me a bedtime story! I don't like Daddy.

...and in 12 years, she'll be all up in our grill about how we love 3B more than we love her and are always playing favorites and how life's not fair.

Indeed.


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Frankie says...

What did Mama and I do without the kids for 24 hours? Pretty much the same thing we did on our honeymoon.


That's right, we lay in bed and read books.

Why? What were you thinking?

OK, we did do other things on our honeymoon like lie on the red sand beach and read books. And lie on the white sand beach and read books. Of course we rode our bikes around too. Oh sure, we also went out to eat and drink. And drink some more. And send some drunken postcards...no, kids, there was no twitter back then. Oh the horror, right?

At any rate, this weekend was wonderful. We went to a wedding of a friend and colleague and decided to stay overnight after the reception, so the kids got a sleepover with their babysitter, which they were psyched about. The wedding was beautiful, and they even got all their photos in before the rain came.

And then Mama and I got to sleep in...all the way until 8. Seriously, if you'd told me when I was 16 that I'd consider sleeping until 8 a.m. sleeping in, I'd have punched you in the face. But now, anybody who lets me sleep in until 8 is on my Christmas card and birthday party lists.

While we were driving back home, we realized that we felt a little strange. Maybe we'd slept too long? Perhaps three whole drinks at the reception was too much? What if finishing a chapter in one sitting was too much for our brains? Maybe it was allergies? A spring cold? Avian flu?

And then we figured it out: we were relaxed.

No wonder we didn't recognize the feeling; it has been almost six years since we last felt it. Fortunately for us, the kids immediately recognized our discomfort and within the first two minutes in the car erased that feeling entirely.



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Friday, April 20, 2012

Making everything as simple as possible. But not simpler.

Jewel in the bathroom, yesterday:

First, I put the stool there. Then, I get on the stool. Then, I turn on the light. Then, I turn on the water. Then I get the soap and wash my hands. Then I turn off the water. Then I go over here and wipe my hands on all these towels. That's my system.
Mama:
What's a system?
Jewel:
A system is...[pause]...a really tasty candy.
As Mama said, she obviously knows what a system is, but can't explain it yet. Also...you're two and you already have a system for washing your hands. I believe there's a school that's interested in you already.



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Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Space Shuttle Discovery buzzes DC


Created with Admarket's flickrSLiDR.

In case you live under a rock, or outside the Beltway, which appear the same to most people in D.C., let me be the first to tell you that the Space Shuttle Discovery flew over Washington, D.C. piggybacked on its 747 carrier.

If you don't follow me on twitter or had to work or aren't fascinated by every thought that flits through my tiny brain, which all appear the same to me, let me be the first to tell you that we went out to watch it.

We started off with the best intentions of leaving at 8.30 to get to our first choice of viewing area at 9. Unfortunately for us, half on Northern Virginia left at about 6.30 to get there, so by the time we left at 9 and arrived a 9.30, it was already overflowing. Once we were there, the next exit was to DC, so rather than double back toward home, which was our original fallback plan, we mushed on into DC.

Mush describes the traffic we hit pretty accurately.

We thought that we'd have to watch the flyover from our car, stuck on 14th Street. Mama suggested we roll back the sunroof and push the kids up through it so they could see it. However, we made it through in time to park at the Reagan Building, run over to the Mall and spread our blankets at the foot of the Washington Monument. As soon as our blankets were down, people started pointing north, toward a rather large speck in the sky.

By then I'd figured out that our power inverter in the car hadn't charged the battery for our real camera enough for it to take pictures, so I pulled out my iPhone and started...waiting for the camera app to load...then to switch to camera from video...then to focus...right!...as I was saying, I then started to take pictures.

As I did, applause, cheers and joyful whoops rang out across the Mall. Looking around, everyone was as delighted and amazed as my kids would be to walk into Dunkin Donuts with a $10 bill. In fact, 3B and Jewel were both that delighted and amazed to see the Space Shuttle as well.

For each of the passes overhead, the fascination and excitement continued. It seemed that for a long moment, DC paused. Everyone appeared to be outside, looking up at the sky, grinning. The Mall was not body-to-body, but it was crowded. Sidewalks were full of people going nowhere, standing and gazing skyward. Rooftops all around us crawled with the silhouettes of people who had emerged from their offices to stand under the sun and become part of the crowd far below.

And in that crowd, in between passes, there was plenty of snacking and running about. In fact, after the last pass, a two-year-old boy walking by asked if he could run around with us, so we ended up staying for another half hour or so, tearing around the lawn, playing tag, monster chase and laughing and having a good time.

OK, except that one time Jewel fell and bit her upper lip. That sucked. But five minutes later she was back at it with the rest of us boys.

By the time we got back to the car, I was getting pinged from work to post to our intranet for our employees the photos our photographers had taken of the flyover, so I spent the ride home monitoring email and having Mama send my replies on my iPhone. As soon as we arrived home, I sat straight down and didn't leave that chair until two and a half hours and one unrelated conference call later, I'd gotten everything on our intranet in order.

Perhaps that seems like a long time, but I was working at lightning speed...just with systems that are byzantine, finicky and sluggish. Fortunately for you, my colleague also posted them to our public site via flickr, so you can enjoy for yourself a little of what it looked and felt like here, even if you do live outside the known world Beltway.

(browse the set or view the slideshow)
Close up of the U.S. Capitol Dome and Shuttle Discovery


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Monday, April 16, 2012

Carnies, Civil War, Ricky Nelson, Swings, Kite, Picnic

The weekend started with a visit to our local dead mall to visit the carnies who come through twice a year...well, really to go on their rides and eat their food on a stick. We were successful on all counts. We started on the Dutch Wheel...don't call this one a Ferris Wheel...no, no, no. There was some big sign explaining the name, but I didn't go to the carnival to read a history book, so who knows what it said.

We almost ended on the Dutch Wheel as well, since they left us on it for about 37 hours. Even the kids were begging to get off. I'm not sure how we got off, although there might have been some bribery involved and 3B might have had to go back at midnight Sunday night to help tear down the carnival.


After that there was some climbing, bouncing and sliding in the Indiana Jones adventure and some nose banging in the mirror maze. We also rode the carousel, with Jewel marveling over the cam shaft that made her horse go up and down and 3B congratulating his horse, Old Paint, for doing a great job, even though they came in second. We wrapped up with some pink (for him) and blue (for her) cotton candy. The few pics I took in my twitter feed. Look for April 13.

Since we had the kids good and tired, and since Mama and I were tired and cranky from being bread-deprived, we decided to start off Saturday with a trip to a Civil War battlefield. The kids got in the spirit by sniping at each other the whole way there. Once we arrived, however, they spent a long time talking with some Confederate soldiers who were there...OK, reenactors, but don't tell the kids.

OK, so 3B spent a long time talking to the soldiers while Jewel mostly hid her face and walked away. He got to hold a gun and learned how to load it, learned about their spotted papers, and heard all about the food they ate.

We met friends there who live nearby and they told us that they've never seen reenactors there before, so it was special for all of us, especially at noon when they did a rifle demonstration. Before that, however, we inspected cannons, marched over to the railroad cut and inspected and found sticks and other scientific samples. 3B and our friends' boy were on the same wavelength in regards to science and war...and probably parents, although we didn't hear those discussions.

The two-year-old girls were on the same wavelength about being two.

On our way back to the farmhouse, we hear the rifles, and were able to see a volley through the trees and one up close. Then it was time to have a snack--actually, lunch for the kids and wood chips and small stones for those of us still on the South Beach Diet--and head home for (a late) nap time for Jewel, so she could get rested up for a friend's birthday party. Theoretically, the party was supposed to happen inside, but when we arrived, our friends' kids were outside and we agreed to keep them all out there where we had a fair chance of wearing them down before the did the same to us.

The next morning, after a few running battles between 3B and Jewel, we again packed up the clown car and took our show on the road. This time it was a short trip across town to what we call the sand playground. We met another friend there, tried to fly a kite, successfully swung and generally frolicked about for several hours.

Now that we were all exhausted, especially Mama and I, who were still subsisting on wood chips and small stones, it was time for them to go home and me to go walk through strangers' houses, opening their kitchen drawers and closet doors. Yes, we're looking to move, so I was going through open houses.

On the one hand it's sort of fun to imagine what it would be like to live in a new house, and on the other hand it's terrifying to think of moving. Overall, though, we're all looking forward to having more space and a yard--which means the kids can finally get a dog and a cat.

So far, we've narrowed our search from the tri-state area down to a few neighborhoods that have the commute time and the quality schools we want. Now we're looking more closely at what kinds of homes are in each 'hood and what sub-hood exist within each. We're hoping that when Mom's place sells, we'll be locked and loaded and ready to buy that dream house when it finally does appear before us.

Or, you know, the one next door that needs some work, but that we can afford.

While I was out chatting about square feet and nearby grocery stores, Mama packed the kids up and took them out for a picnic dinner. What can I say? She has far more energy than I do. Then again, she's much younger. And while they were finishing that off, I bought some suits, which was also probably a punishment for sins of a past life, although this was a mercifully short trip.

Now I just have to wait three weeks while they tailor them. Three weeks? Can't you just tweet them to me?

After that we all took a nice long winter's spring's nap...until midnight, when I had to drive 3B over to help tear down the carnival.



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Friday, April 13, 2012

Flat on my face, learning how to walk

I love taking advice from people who have made mistakes, because anyone who has never fallen down can't really teach you how to walk.


I'd like to offer some advice in that vein. Please bear in mind that free advice is worth what you pay for it and is not as much fun as free love or free beer (although with those you sometimes end up paying quite a bit later, so perhaps the comparison isn't fair).

My favorite bit of free advice comes from the woman who said that if you don't know what soap tastes like, you've never bathed a dog, and my first bit of free advice is along the same lines

If you want to stay dry, don't allow your kids to shower together when they're both in a mood to take on the world. Last night's shower went from howling laughter to bawling tears and back again in under 20 seconds. So, I guess the advice also holds that if you don't want emotional whiplash, don't do this either.

On the upside, the kids mostly had a blast, and are continuing to figure out both how to play with each other and how to push each other's buttons. Not like they needed much help with the latter, but they did hone some skills.

OK, did I just compare my kids to our former dog? Sure, with the one difference being that they don't shed as much. OK, and they don't stand sullen in the tub, tail tucked between their legs, whining until the bath is over when they leap out of the tub, sprint around the room and spray water on everything while drying off.

OK, there are a few differences. On to my second bit of free advice.

If you don't want to get nauseous and exhausted, don't start the South Beach Diet while riding your bike 125 miles per week. Not without some modifications, that is.

Although I'm heavier than I'd like to be, I didn't start--restart, since Mama and I went through this wringer five or so years ago--the SBD to lose weight. I did it to get myself back to basics: less sugar, less processed food, more fruits and veggies, more whole grain and more attention to what I eat in general.

Some parts of my diet haven't changed a bit. I still have an egg for breakfast, although I add spinach to it now, and I have a large salad for lunch, although in phase 1, without berries. For dinner we've been eating different dishes than we typically do, but the contents aren't radically different.

What's changed is that there's, for example, no rice to go with that entree at dinner. No apple with that salad. No bagel with that egg. And it turns out that when you're exercising as much as I am, those little bits of sugar add up into something your body calls energy.

A few nights ago, after reading 3B his bedtime stories at about 7.30, he asked me to snuggle up with him. At about 10.30 I crawled off his bed and into my own. I had crashed and felt like I couldn't move. Then, on top of the fatigue, I started to get bouts of nausea during the afternoon and evening.

Finally, at work yesterday morning, just so I could lift my head off the desk and perform basic functions like keeping my eyes open, I ate an apple, which made a world of difference almost immediately.

Then I did what anyone serious about their health will do--googled around for an answer (we got rid of the original book years ago, keeping only the recipe book). Searching on "SBD phase 1 exercise" did the trick. I learned that it's OK to eat some oatmeal or yogurt before a workout to get that sugar into my system. And that has made all the difference. I'm still somewhat tired and get twinges of the nausea, but I can basically function.

All thanks to someone who went before me and made the same mistake I did of exercising regularly while in phase 1 of the South Beach Diet. So I should be able to make it through this next week and into phase 2 without stealing bagels from my kids' plates.

Although I might throw those bagels at those kids if they behave that way in the shower again.



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Thursday, April 12, 2012

If you give a cat a book...he might learn something


3B has long been fascinated by war. Well, war-related topics, really.

It started back when we took him to a local farm-team baseball game, which started, of course, with the Star-Spangled Banner. He'd been to other events that did too, but in the smaller venue of the farm team bleachers, it was much more striking to him. And he asked, innocently enough, "What's the Star-Spangled Banner?"

In the manner of If You Give a Cat a Cupcake... the questions followed...
  • Why did we fight the British?
  • Who won? (Well, we don't speak English today, do we? Er...waitaminnit.)
  • Who was George Washington? (I have to admit that initially I told him it described the Revolutionary War before I remembered it was from the War of 1812.)
  • Who was the British General?
  • Why didn't we want a king? (Also related to my Revolutionary War misinformation)
  • Why did we want a president? (See previous)
  • Why did the British burn our Capitol?
  • ...and our White House?
  • Where's Fort McHenry?
And with that last one, we were off to Fort McHenry. (Yes, we did also visit the actual banner at the Smithsonian, but c'mon, that doesn't hold a candle to a fort with cannons and guns and soldiers...OK, reenactors dressed as soldiers.)

That, of course, brought on more questions about cannons, forts and so forth.

Just two nights ago, 3B picked out for a bedtime story a book that is an illustrated version of the Star-Spangled Banner--every verse of it. The illustrations also, of course, lead to more questions about the items and places pictured: boats, Bunker Hill, British soldiers, etc.

Along the way, we've explained that war means killing, but that hasn't really sunk in with 3B. First, death is hard to understand. Second, trying to kill someone else is likely incomprehensible to him. Finally, killing at that scale is definitely incomprehensible to him. But, we don't want to sugarcoat it, so when the conversation leads there, we explain it. That plants a seed that will later grow into more questions.

But sometimes what's incomprehensible at a baseball game or a fort or in a game of 20 questions with your parents is made all too clear through a narrative. 3B's recently been really into the Magic Treehouse books, and the last time we went to the library he picked out another dozen or so to read. Two nights ago, Mama read through the book on the Civil War with him.

In that book, Jack and Annie end up at a Civil War battlefield, helping Clara Barton and the other nurses and doctors tend to the wounded and dying. Jack, who had always thought war was cool, learns that it's not...and so did 3B. Last night, when I asked him which book he wanted to read at bedtime, I offered the Civil War book up, and he replied to the effect that war is cruel and bloody and terrible.

So he chose to read the Magic Treehouse book about knights and castles...oh man, we may never go to the Renaissance Faire again.



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Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Cough drops = love

Jewel loves cough drops.


Before you call child protective services, screaming about choking hazards, inappropriate medication and an over-mentholated child, let me explain.

This allergy season has been a terrible one for me for some reason. Perhaps because spring came during winter and everything that normally blooms from April through June bloomed in March. Whatever the reason, I've been congested and sniffling and hacking for weeks now, especially at night.

Since Jewel still sleeps in our room, on my side of the bed, which puts her about 36 inches from my stuffed head, that means that any night I spend coughing, I spend on the couch.

As much as I love our couch, I'd much rather go to a bed when I go to bed. So, just before bedtime, I dose myself up and then spread out a half dozen cough drops on my bedside table. This is the same table that Jewel lies next to when we change her out of her nighttime diaper in the morning and after her nap, change her into her diaper before her nap and bedtime, and read her stories before bedtime.

If I've left any cough drops there, Jewel immediately grabs them and starts to unwrap them to offer them to me. "Daddy, here's your medicine," she'll say, extending a sticky hand with a cough drop in the middle of it. We've told her they're medicine and will make her sick, so she doesn't gobble them all up as candy.

See...we can be good parents sometimes.

While it's sometimes nice to have her distracted by the unwrapping when we want her to lay still, we do end up with cough drops stuck around the house, so I've learned to scoop them all off the bedside table when I get up...in the dark, an hour and a half before she does so as not to wake her prematurely.

Ah...the things we do for love.

The other night, however, she managed to find a cough drop somewhere and was trying to unwrap it while I was trying to convince her to lie down for her bottle and stories at bedtime. Without looking up, she said, "Wait. I'm concentrating."

Well, then.

I'm not sure which required more concentration--the unwrapping or the word "concentrating." Although, the word did roll off her tongue pretty easily.

Of course I waited for her to unwrap it, toss the wrapper onto our sheets, then stretch out her hand with the cough drop stuck to the middle of it, a proud smile stretched across her face. "Here you go, Daddy. Here's your medicine."

The things she does for love.



Papa Bradstein will ride 200 miles across Massachusetts in two days to help fight cancer. Please support his ride.

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