Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Day 85

My Grandma Mary was a rockstar. No, she wasn't really a musician but call your grandma "special" and you risk people thinking she was just an older lady who read you books and baked you cookies. Which she did. And really delicious cinnamon rolls. But that's besides the point. 

Aunt Cora, Grandma Mary
 and Mom (with the cute cat-eye glasses).

Mary Mickler was my grandmother, yes, and Cora/Bill/Kathie/Melinda/John's mother. She also took care of her mother and her father, who had Alzheimer's. (I think.) She helped her brother, who had ALS and played nurse to my Grandpa Bill who had multiple multiple bypass surgeries. (And, no, the repeated word is not a typo.) She worked as a psych nurse at St. E's. There was no shortage of folks for Mary Mickler to take care of, including me, Angelo and Kate. She lived down the street and watched us all the time, encouraging impromptu dance shows and other dramatic play. She was sort of like a big-sister figure: responsible and manners-demanding but fun. In, second or third grade, I opted to have my birthday sleepover at her house instead of at my own because she was, I believed at the time, much cooler than my mom. (As it turns out, my mom is pretty cool.) Grandma Mary taught me how to drive. 

In her early 20s, she lived in Washington, DC. I need to learn more about this time in her life and generally more about her from others who knew a different Mary Mickler than I did. Like my mom and my Uncle Bill. And definitely my great-Uncle Frank, Grandma's youngest brother, a brilliant and hilarious, art-loving, politically astute man who lives in Costa Rica. But here's what I remember about Mary Mickler, separate from her various caretaking roles: she read lots of novels, drank coffee (light, with sugar) and wore snakeskin pumps. She liked modern design. She loved to travel. She wanted to visit Alaska but, alas, never made it.

My grandmother passed away 20 years ago this month--a couple of weeks after sustaining what turned out to be fatal injuries in a car accident, just a few days shy of her birthday. She would have been 17. Happy (Leap Year) Birthday, Grandma Mary. I so wish you were here to have a cupcake (and a cup of coffee) with me and Jon, Jules and Kai. You'd love the Olin boys and they'd love you.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Day 80 - 84

I despise being micromanaged. I simmer when someone underestimates me or blindly insists that his or her way is better. And, yet, lately, I've found myself smothering J and K with help, with (some totally unnecessary) rules and with imposing questions thinly veiled as "suggestions."

Julian snapped this shot in the woods with my phone.
All my himself.
Like, the other day when Jules was making a birthday card for his friend Zoe and I was handing him the stamps I wanted him to use... Despite my attempts to control his art he produced something brilliant with all the stamps I didn't push in his direction--and then wanted to put on the finishing touch: a snowman sticker. It wasn't what I'd consider a retro-cool snowman sticker; it was a boring-looking snow guy sticker that came in a pack of 1,000 for $1. (Not that there's anything wrong with a good bargain.)

"Do you really want to put that sticker on your really cool card?"
"Are you sure? I like it without the sticker." What the hell is wrong with me?


Then there's my insisting on picking up Kai and shuttling him down the stairs through his protests: "No, Mum. Kai's turn! Kai's turn!" The dude is almost two. Yes, he's wearing slippery footed PJs and could easily topple down our steep carpeted stairway, built in 1949, that would never pass code today. But walking down in front of him to break a fall down the entire flight would suffice. It does suffice. And while my leading his parade might be a good precaution, it's probably an unnecessary one, I realize as Kai carefully and competently makes his way down.

The other day, I told Jules I was going to teach him to peel a carrot. "I already know how to peel a carrot, Mom. We did it in school." I handed him the peeler and he proceeded to perfectly peel the three pounds himself. I diced and together we made vegan carrot bisque. And then I promised myself that I'm not only going to stop squashing Julian's creativity by offering unsolicited feedback on his masterpieces (still annoyed with myself for doing that) but I'm also going to try really hard to stop thinking "little" with my little guys. I want them to do big things, to reach, to explore and to repeatedly experience that awesome rush you get when you rock something for the first time. That euphoria that drips from Kai's dimples when he shouts, "I did it!" And to feel that, to really feel that, you have to fail first. And sometimes you have to fall. Literally. Luckily, I know first-hand that Burlington has some pretty awesome ER docs.

UPDATE: Just in! Photos of Julian's card for Zoe. Thanks, Elisa! xo

Friday, February 24, 2012

Day 78 - 79

Dear Kai (age 21 months),

Over the last couple of days, I've come to the realization that you're a pretty wise little dude with an impressive emotional IQ. When life's got you a down, you know exactly what you need to boost your mood. And let's face, most often, it's your left thumb.

Life is good, dudes.

But sometimes, you need a little loving from your posse. And when that's the case you reach out and grab it, without haste. When you wipe out or Jules snatches your toy lion or pries the purple ukelele from your fingers, you run over to Dad, arms outstretched and pointedly request a "Hug." If I try to lay you down in your crib before you're ready, you gesture toward the chair and ask to "Rock," repeatedly, until we settle back in. Then you murmur "Snuggle." Sometimes if, like tonight, I can convince you to lie down in your crib (by lowering myself to the floor next to it and resting my head on your dolphin Pillow Pet), you make it abundantly clear that this sleep thing isn't gonna happen unless I hold your "Hand." 

Oh, Kai Guy, I'm quite in awe of such emotional maturity so early in life... that coming from a 36-year-old woman who cries herself in circles over the littlest things when a hug or a snuggle could easily make it all better. Duly noted, tiny teacher.

Your mom

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Day 75 - 77

Awesome Adirondack weekend. Watching Jon's BFF from childhood's daughters become BFFs with our sons was pretty freaking awesome. That's all. Brain dead. Long day capped off with a completely out of control Pinterest session. (I felt I needed to be in the loop... and, now, a freaking hour later...OY.)

Friday, February 17, 2012

Day 73 - 74

This week, I learned that we got a 5-person relay spot in the Vermont City Marathon. Woot! Woot! So I celebrated by making running mix. These things take time and I spent more than I should have on this and it's still not perfect but it did power me through 4.6 miles on the treadmill today (at a 8:27 min/mile pace!)

A few notes:
1. If you're offended by four letter words, you probably won't like my mix. (I guess the red "explicit" call-outs would indicate that.)

2. If you're about to call Social Services, I can assure you that I don't play this mix in the car with my kids. (We play rhyming games and listen to NPR so there!) Oh, yeah, I guess Kai does know Pumped Up Kicks.

3. I do love female artists... and feel a little guilty that none are represented here. Your suggestions? (Think more Missy Elliott than Lady Gaga remixes.)

What do you like to listen to while you workout?

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Day 72

Jon went out to watch the Knicks game tonight. Oh, Jeremy Lin...

Flying solo with the boys at bedtime always drags out the get-to-sleep routine--but, truth be told, I love the one-on-two time I get with them. (Normally, one of us reads to and puts Kai to bed; the other of us reads to/tucks in Jules - we alternate the match-ups each night.)

But when it's just me doing the nighttime routine, all three of us (me, Jules, Kai) snuggle into Jon's and my bed and read books together. Then I take Kai into his room for a little rocking and encourage Jules to go "read" books until I get Kai sleepy enough to stick him into his crib. This is usually unsuccessful - Jules doesn't like to stay in his room while I'm (right next door) with Kai and he flings the already-cracked-a-tad door to Kai's room wide open, runs in and starts asking questions. Completely random, arguably absurd questions. (I did this, too, as a kid and, if you ask Jon, he'll say that I still do it now when I can't fall asleep). This Q&A session, of course, rouses Kai, who pops up and joins in, repeating everything Jules says. It's cute and funny - but it's also frustrating.

But tonight, I rocked Kai until he murmured "crib" and then I went back into my room where Jules had decided he wanted to wait. Then we had this conversation:

Jules: "Mom I was waiting so quietly in here."

Me: "Yes, Jules you are getting so big."

Jules: "Yes, Mama. I am learning."

Me: "How are you learning so much?"

Jules: "Everyone is learning me. I'm learning from my cousins." (Whom Jules loves but sees like three times a year.) Cute.

..."I'm learning from my teachers. And the people across the street." The people across the street? 
I'm learning from everyone in the whole wide world." Oh, yes, it takes a village. Is he quoting Sesame Street or something?

"And I'm learning from candy." Um, ok. You were on a roll... until this.

Then he ran into his room and jumped in to bed.

~ Fast forward 20 minutes or so. ~

I hear the gate upstairs creaking. We leave it open when Kai is in his crib. Jules is lying on the floor just behind it. "I can't sleep," Julian tells me. "My brain won't shut off." These are my words. I've lent them to him because I know just how he feels when he can't fall asleep. Except I know where my brain is. Jules apparently is still working on that. "Feel how fast my brain is moving." And with that he puts is his little hand on his chest, over his heart.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Day 71

This morning, close-reading Cairn pointed out a funny typo on one of my previous entries. (Particularly as an editor), I'd like to say that this is a rare oversight on my part. But that's not even close to the truth. I'm a sloppy blogger. You could probably go through lots of my posts and find loads of errors; unfortunately, most are just plain wrong and not at all entertaining like, say, "auto-correct errors" on the iPhone which I sometimes leave on purpose, for giggles. 

Happy Valentine's Day!
This little Danmade monkey always has some love for me.

I have a theory on my sloppy blogging: I write this thing mostly at night when my brain is tired (excuses, excuses, yeah, yeah - but hear me out)... I find that when my brain is tired, it processes words in the most interesting ways. I think I wrote "downtown" instead of "downton" because, come on, how often do I write "downton"? (Um, never.) But I write downtown (which Pittsburgh Dad most certainly would pronounce "dahn tahn") sort of a lot ("let's just meet downtown..."). 

Similarly, when I'm tired, I find I struggle with homophones (think: to/too/two or there/their/they're). This is so fascinating because even though I write the wrong word, I always know the correct choice. It's like my brain just goes on autopilot and plucks whatever same-sounding word it finds first. I've asked my sister--a speech language pathologist--if sleep deprivation could cause this and she said that it's quite plausible. I think that this would make fascinating research for some grad student, don't you?

On a positive note, here's a cool bit on why you might think better when you're sleepy--or drunk

Monday, February 13, 2012

Day 70

Given that I've worked at a food magazine for nearly six years and I fancy myself as someone who knows quite a bit about food, I'm a little embarrassed to admit that I thought that this popcorn--purchased yesterday at Healthy Living as a treat for me and Jon--would pop up in a variety of vivid colors. Alas, I was wrong. Must be some sort of fancy "heirloom popcorn." (Smile.) In any case, it was quite tasty.

From this... to fluffy white (with a couple of yellow) poofs.
Can you believe it?

And here's a secret: You needn't have an air popper to make delicious popcorn. All you need to do is stick 1/3 cup of unpopped kernels into a brown paper lunch bag, roll it down once or twice and secure it with a piece of masking tape and then hit the "popcorn" button on your microwave (assuming there is one). If not, just popcorn it the way you would the packaged microwave popcorn, the kind of the fake buttery smell. When the pops slow down, it's done. Dump it into a bowl. Sprinkle it with a little water and shake in a tiny bit of salt. Mmmm... 20 calories per cup, my friends.

I had this nice little snack (a whole grain, it is!) after returning home from a relaxing evening with Lisa and Ri. We "watched" The Bachelor and I got my first taste of Courtney, who sure does make for obnoxiously great TV. But you know what? Put me on that show with those sharks and I would have created fabulous drama. If there's anything I fear more than driving, it's sharks--you know, growing up in Western Pennsylvania and all. I know it doesn't make sense so I'm blaming Marcy the babysitter who let me watch Jaws when I was 5. 

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Day 67 - 69

A few things I learned this weekend:

1. Jon and I love making valentines at LEAST as much as Jules does. While poor Kai was napping on Saturday, Jon and I took care of Kai's whole classroom while Jules glittered his own glam cards. I hope we don't end like up these crazy helicopter parents who CALL THEIR ADULT KIDS' BOSSES. Seriously, people? How can you even pretend that might be ok?

2. It's good to get outside for a run with a friend, even if it's 20 degrees. 

3. It's good to get outside for a bit, even if it's 9 degrees.

4. Don't get the Greek pizza at Papa Frank's. Stick with the meatballs.

5. (But) I still aspire to be a vegan. Or at least a little more veganish. (I have a bunch of well-loved vegan cookbooks actually and I'm psyched to start cooking from this website Vegan Yum Yum, recommended by my friend Shannon who is vegan).

6. Like running, reading quiets my ruminating.  

7. Jon is a HUGE Downtown Abbey fan. Who knew?

Update: Thanks to a close-reading friend, I'm aware of the error in #7. ("You're an editor, Nicci! How did this happen?" Well, I have a theory.) But it's sort of funny--and really funny when you read Cairn's comment (below)--so I'm leaving it. Enjoy! 

What did you learn this weekend? 

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Day 66

I am not one to wax poetic on the virtues of Vermont, particularly in February. In fact, two weeks ago, I literally told Jon, "I will have lived here for 10 years come June, and if I'm lucky to live a long 80 or 90 years that's way too much of my life spent in Vermont." Harsh but I meant it.

I still miss New York. It's loud and in your face, like me. In the city, you're constantly meeting quirky people who, like me, don't feel 100 percent (or let's face it 17 percent) comfortable on skis or mountain bikes. And here's what I really miss: Walking to work really early in the morning (that's about 8 a.m. if you're in publishing) and passing by the deli guys who are rolling up gates, hosing off sidewalks and putting out fresh flowers while the scents of coffee and egg sandwiches waft out from inside. Lately, I've even been fantasizing about Pittsburgh. It's close to my fam. People don't all look alike. It's a city. I like cities.

But, today, well, today was a great Vermont day. I think it helps that I really like my new job. (Oh and the fact that it's been almost 40 degrees). And on my way to work, I was sort of sad that while our office move to Shelburne in two weeks will save me 5 minutes of my 40-minute commute it will also eliminate the best part of my drive (aside from the part where Jules, and now Kai, say "Hi, Mr. Buddha!" with such great enthusiasm): that turn in Charlotte.  If you drive south on 7 you know the one, the one where--BOOM!--suddenly it's all lake and mountains and gorgeousness. And if you look to the right you'll see a golden hay bale–studded field where, if it's the right season, you might see wild turkeys roaming. And then there's more lake, more trees, more mountains. I dig cities, remember? But this vista gets me every time.

And then there are the "new" friends (whom I saw tonight) who aren't new any more: I've attended their bridal and baby showers, danced with them on stages, and with them shared much wine and many vegan desserts. We've swapped clothes and baby gear, crazy stories of adventures past and our pithy (or apathetic) impressions of books. Yes, a decade spent in Vermont means 10 years of not living somewhere else. But it also means a lot of awesomeness. And for that, I am grateful.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Day 60 - 65

60: Pizza, wine, cool women AND pizza, cupcakes, drums + crazy kids.

61: More pizza, more cupcakes + a bouncy castle. Happy #4 Ava! "Family" dinner with Ri, Chris and crew. (Miss them next door... know anyone cool looking to buy a place in the Burlington's NNE? Give me a shout!)

62: Swimming, snoozing, Super Bowling. Go GIANTS! 
"Go, GIANTS!" (again and again) - Kai Guy

63: Back to work! (Loving my new job...)

64: Writing, writing, writing. Cooking, cooking... quick run. Dancing Elmo. A Purple Honker (definitely the most skilled dancer of the bunch.) Ernie. Bert--who was dressed as a scuba diver in one scene, which prompted Jules to ask on the ride home:

"Why was Bert a sea swimmer?"

A sea swimmer? Ah... a scuba diver. But doesn't "sea swimmer" make perfect sense? And doesn't it sound just so perfectly... British? I love these little JuJu Bean phrases. And I know they won't be around forever: Jules will learn the "right" words and he'll use them instead. Julian's "last day" will fade into "yesterday"...  sigh. Or maybe, just maybe, he'll just keep calling things like he sees them...  my little poet. 

65: A friend suggested I connect with the woman who writes this AWESOME blog.

And this will be a long day. In part because I am writing this blog instead of the copy that is due first thing tomorrow a.m. But that's OK. I like to write at night. 

Friday, February 3, 2012

Day 59

Asked what his favorite thing in the whole world is, Jules responded "costumes." 
Come again? Costumes?

Well... I'd say that donning matching apres-ski outfits just "apres" you've woken up and are about to go to school sort of counts as dressing up in costumes. I aim to please.  

And looking at the photo below I feel grateful for...  
... the cuteness of little-boy bed head (honestly, I think bed head is cute on boys of all ages)
... the sweetness of brothers who like to sit close
... the television that (clearly) mesmerizes them in the morning while I finish packing lunches. Bad mommy!

Fact: The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends
television before age two.  Really, none?

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Day 58

Part of my new job is to develop products that help people improve their health. In brainstorming these solutions, questions about how to remind someone to do healthy things (like log her lunch in a food diary or go for a walk) come up... Should we use SMS messages? Emails? Push notifications?

I say let's bundle a 3 1/2 year old into the platform. In the last two days alone, I've had the following consults with Jules, my pint-sized health coach:

This morning, pulling apart after a hug, we discussed the importance of regular skin checks. 
Jules, pointing to a skin tag on my neck (one that I probably should get checked out): "I don't like that, Mom. You should get it off.
Me: "You're right. I should probably have the doctor check it out."
Jules: "Yes, Mom. The doctor could take that off for you. Go to the doctor. Get it off."

Hey Mom! You forgot your helmet.

Today, driving to school, we covered the dangers of eating on the go and distracted driving... 
Jules: "Mom, what are you eating?"
Me: "A bagel."
Jules: "Can I have some?"
Me (putting it away because I didn't want to share, I was starving): "I should probably put this away while I'm driving."
Jules: "Yes, you could choke." and then... "What if you spilled the coffee all over the car, Mom? Would we need to get help from a policeman or a fireman?"
Um... no... unless we it caused me to wreck. Aha! Another safety reminder. 

Yesterday, while helping him to brush his teeth, we discussed my dental hygiene.
Jules: "Mom! You need to brush your teeth right now. You're going to get holes in them."
Hmm... Maybe I should reprogram him to deliver the "floss" reminder. I am a very good brusher. But I am admittedly a non-compliant flosser.

And in addition to delivering simple health reminders, this "prescriptive preschooler" feature could also push you to do better, to set your aims higher... Last night, hearing me tell Jon that I squeezed in a few miles on the treadmill, Jules asked, with great enthusiasm: "Did you put on your Santa suit and run a marathon today?" Um, no, honey, not today...

So that's not quite as crazy as it sounds. (But it was only a 5K)