Wednesday, December 31, 2014

End of the Year

It's hard to believe it's already the last day of 2014!! 

Although it could be more grim than that, and let's be happy it's not.

ME: Madeleine, can you believe that after today, it will be a new year?
MADELEINE: And then you and Daddy will DIE.
ME: I hope not!
MADELEINE: (gravely) Well, Mama, Daddy told me that after tomorrow it's the END OF THE WORLD.
ETHAN: (piping up from the other room) The end of the YEAR, honey.  The end of the YEAR.

Well, that's a cheerful thought.  Thanks, Madeleine, for always keeping it light and jolly.

We Rowes spent the day at the First Night festivities in our town, as is tradition.  We started off with a magic show, followed by a storyteller.  We then had some time to kill so we headed to the Town Hall common to take a look at the festive Chinese Lanterns on display:

To warm up, we then headed across the street for a snack for the kids and a coffee for the grown-ups.  The kids each chose a shortbread cookie in a different shape: for Julia, a Christmas tree, and for Madeleine, a turtle.

Madeleine decided to name her turtle, and then loudly announce his name to everyone who would listen.

MADELEINE: (running up to the cashier as Ethan paid for our goodies) This is TURDY!  It's TURDY!  TURDY THE TURTLE!


After our snack and caffeine break, we headed to a performance by the Tanglewood Marionettes:

I had actually seen this performance once before, back when Julia was barely three, and I took her out for a special mommy-daughter afternoon in Brookline.  While Julia doesn't remember the outing, I certainly do, and I specifically remembere how much Julia had liked the fact that one of the mean stepsisters wiggles her bum around when she walks.

Turns out someone else liked that too.  Madeleine couldn't get ENOUGH of the bum-wiggling.  She insisted on walking that way all the way to our car after the performance.  Furthermore, Madeleine insisted on REMINDING us all of the bum-wiggling stepsister.

MADELEINE: (walking along shimmying her hips and sticking her butt out) Hey Mommy.  Remember the puppet that was WIGGLING HER BUM?
ME: No, I forgot.
MADELEINE: Mama!  There was a puppet that kept wiggling her BUM!
ME: I know, honey.  I'm joking.
MADELEINE: Hey Julia!  Remember that puppet that was WIGGLING HER BUM?
JULIA: (annoyed) I knooooow, Madeleine.

Ten seconds later:

MADELEINE: Hey Julia!  Mama!  Daddy!  Remember that puppet that was WIGGLING HER BUM?

This was threatening to become the new "Heaven isn't a candy!!"

This evening, we went out to dinner at our traditional New Year's Eve Mexican restaurant, and both girls ate every last bite on their plates.  Madeleine felt the burning desire to shout out joyfully "Happy NEW YEAR!" to every person who offered us any kind of service, from the person who seated us to our waiter to the person re-filling our waters.  But I say go for it!  When you feel the spirit, share it!  Especially when it's the last night of the year.  Share the love!

And in that vein, let me wish all of you readers a HAAAAPPY NEEEEW YEEEEEAR!!!

(As long as tonight isn't really the last day of the world, you can catch my next blog post in 2015!)

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

The Things We Parents Do...

The kinds of ridiculous things we have to do for our children.

1.) Bother their teachers over school vacation week to fend off a spiraling anxiety attack

JULIA: (in the middle of working on one of her creative writing endeavors) Mom?  At school, I was writing a fiction story, before our teacher said to write a "small moments" story, and I was writing about this girl who had a sleepover, and her mean stepmother made all her friends go home and then she put the girl in a chokey.  But is that violent?
ME: Mmm...maybe.
JULIA: So should I erase it?
ME: Why?
JULIA: Well, we're not allowed to write anything VIOLENT in our writing journals.
ME: Well, if you're worried about it, then you can erase it if you want.

Ten minutes later:

JULIA: (coming up to me, looking white as a ghost, as I put laundry away) Mom?  I'm gonna erase it.
ME: Okay. 
JULIA: As soon as I get back to school I'll erase it.  (looking panicked)
ME: Honey, what's wrong?
JULIA: Well, I just don't know if it's VIOLENT, and I'm afraid I'm gonna get in TROUBLE.
ME: Well, tell me more about what you wrote.
JULIA: Well, her stepmother puts her in a CHOKEY.
ME: What's a chokey?
JULIA: It's from "Matilda."  And it's, like, a closet with broken glass and stuff.  But I was making my chokey be just a closed DOOR.
ME: That doesn't sound violent, then.
JULIA: But I didn't do a definition of what my kind of chokey is.
ME: Well, you can always just add a definition when you get back to school.
JULIA: (becoming more and more tense and panicked) Well I think I should just ERASE it.  Well, I'm just not SURE if it's violent.  I'm just gonna erase it.  I don't know if I'm going to get in TROUBLE about it.  (tears prickling in her eyes)
ME: Honey, don't worry about it.  If you want, I can mention to your teacher that you're concerned about this.
JULIA: (looking like the weight of the world has been lifted from her shoulders) Okay, can you?  And just tell her that I'm not sure if I should erase it?

Ten minutes later:

JULIA: Mom? Did you tell her?
ME: Tell what?
JULIA: My teacher, about the chokey.
ME: Well, why don't I write her on the first day back to school, because she's probably enjoying her vacation with her family.
JULIA: (starting to get freak-out tears) Well, Mommy...well...well, I just feel more COMFORTABLE if you write to her right now.

So I was THAT MOM.  Who writes the teacher over the HOLIDAY BREAK to say that if she has "any concerns about Julia's writing," she should let me know.  I tried *very* hard to make it clear that I do not think this is urgent, nor do I expect her to respond until school begins, but I can't help but feel like I am now the big pain-in-the-butt helicopter mom who is unable to even give the teacher one week of peace.

2.) Shatter a kid's sweet childhood fantasy

Madeleine lost a tooth yesterday:

After I gently coaxed the tooth out of her mouth, I put it on the table so we wouldn't lose it.  Except we DID lose it.  Hours later, when Daddy was home from work, Madeleine wanted to show him the extracted tooth.  And it wasn't there.  And it was MY FAULT.  And Madeleine was inconsolable.

MADELEINE: (sobbing hysterically) Now the TOOTH FAIRY won't COME TONIIIIIIGHT!
JULIA: Madeleine!  I swallowed a ton of my teeth, and *I* still got my dollar!
ME: It doesn't matter if you have a tooth under your pillow, honey.  The tooth fairy will still know to come.
MADELEINE: (still sobbing hysterically) NO SHE WOOOOOON'T!  I NEED MY TOOOOOOOOTH!  Now I'll NEVER EVER get the tooth fairy to COOOOOOME!

No amount of words or snuggles could calm her down.  And, let's face it folks, it was nearly bedtime and I was kind of reaching my melt-down limit for the day.

ME: (charging into Madeleine's room, wherein she was sobbing in Daddy's arms) Madeleine.  There is no tooth fairy in real life.  It's just Mommy and Daddy.  And WE know you lost a tooth, so we'll make sure to put the money under your pillow.
MADELEINE: (eyeing me warily, still crying softly, but dramatically)
JULIA: (who has known the truth about the Tooth Fairy for years) Yeah, Madeleine, it's just Mommy or Daddy who puts the money under, and sometimes they BOTH put a dollar under by accident!
ME: Yeah.  And sometimes we forget.  One time Julia woke up and said, "Daddy?  You forgot to put the dollar under my pillow last night."
MADELEINE: (cracking up, forgetting her tears)

And so all was well once again.  Except for the fact that I had to crush my child's notion of the benevolent tooth fairy flitting into her bedroom at night, all for the purpose of getting her to QUIET.  THE.  HECK.  UP.  about her - literally - lost tooth.

And finally:

3.) Be brutally honest with your child for the sake of education

MADELEINE: Mama!  Look!  I drew Elsa and Anna!  And Mama, look.  It says "DISNEY!"
ME: Great!

MADELEINE: But Mama?  Does it say "Disney?"
ME: No, honey.  It says "Goko."

I mean, what else was I supposed to do?  I already spilled the beans about the Tooth Fairy.  I might as well just be honest about everything from here on out, right??

Monday, December 29, 2014

New Blank Books

The girls are delighted by the new blank books, colored pencils, and crayons that they received for Christmas from their aunt, uncle, and cousin.  Today they sat down together to write their own chapter books.

MADELEINE: Julia.  This is gonna be SO great.  This book is gonna be called "No, No, No."
JULIA: (silence)
MADELEINE: (reading aloud to herself what she's written) "No, no, no."  Julia?  How do you spell "Made From Madeleine?"
MADELEINE: No! No!  Julia, "MADE FROM Madeleine."
ME: Honey, "M-A-D-E" is how you spell "made."  It just also happens to be the first letters of your name.

As I stood by the garbage sharpening some of Julia's colored pencils for her, I overheard this:

MADELEINE: Julia?  Why am I writing a book where the Mom is SMOKING and the little kid is saying "No, Mommy, No"??

Oh.  My.  God.

This is just disturbing on so many levels.  The mom smiling in contentment while she exposes her daughter to second-hand smoke?  The fact that the daughter has blue hair and a blue nose, probably because her mother was smoking when the daughter was in utero?  THE WHOLE CONCEPT OF THIS PAGE?  Madeleine.  I repeat.  Oh.  My.  God.

And speaking of God, here's how Julia dedicated her work-in-progress:

For God.


Luckily, Madeleine's book does not seem to be following any sort of thematic plot.  After the smoking mother page, Madeleine drew a Christmas tree with gifts underneath and made me dictate this to her: "On Christmas I ran over to the tree.  I found Pictionary."  This amount of text was too much to fit around her illustration; however, Madeleine staunchly REFUSED to carry over any text onto the next blank page.  Apparently 30 pages of blank paper were too precious to waste in any way, and she simply HAD to fit the entire amount of words on this one particular page.  Therefore, she was forced to get a little creative with the placement of the words, so in reality, it reads more like: "On Christmas I ran to over the I found tree Pictionary."  But we all know what she means, right??

The next page was a Madeleine classic.  A Madeleine book just wouldn't be a Madeleine book without an all-black page, am I right??:


Julia, meanwhile, is very hard at work on her book about Ashley Omada, a young girl living with her aunt, uncle, and cousin in the 1800s, who so very desperately wants to meet the Ice Princess.  To make this book as authentic as possible, Julia is even decorating the back cover with a description of the book.  Or, as she put it, looking up and beaming proudly, "Mom?  I'm writing a BLURB!"

Julia's blurb

I cannot wait to read each kid's 30 pages in their entirety.  Stay tuned!

Saturday, December 27, 2014

Julia's Christmas Present for Madeleine

Julia was certainly a busy bee in the month before Christmas.  Here is her wonderful gem of a book for Madeleine:

Danny and the Suculante Strawberry
By Julia Rowe

For my sister
A play I made up with her

"Once upon a time there was a girl named Danny.  She alwayes wore purpule pajamas and a pink tutu."

(Apparently this "play" was a pretend game that Julia and Madeleine had done together, because Madeleine totally recognized the title and the plot.  "Oh, yeah, the succulent strawberry!" she exclaimed when I sat down to read it to her.)

"One day, when Danny was out walking, she came upon a suculante strawberry.  She sniffed it, and fell asleep.  The next morning, there was a purple bear in front of her.  She ran all the way home.  'Please,' the little bear said.  'I just want to be your friend.'  'All right,' said Danny.  They played often, untill one day, they came upon the succulante strawberry.  She sniffed it, and fell asleep."

"The next day, when Danny woke up, she was face to face with an orange bear.  'Will you be my friend?'  'Yes,' said Danny.  Until they came to the suculante strawberry.  She snif- Oh!  You know what she did! And when she woke up the
next day, there was a green bear staring at her.  They became friends, but they came axross the suculante strawberry.  (Don't make me say what Danny did.)"

"And when she woke up there was a monkey face to face with her.  'I will be your friend because I love monkeys,' Danny said.  'And I will too!' said the monkey.  They came upon the suculante strawberry again.  But this time..."

"She picked it up and through it into the river.  And they all lived happily ever after.  THE END."

Good choice, Danny!  Way to not get fooled by the suculante strawberry yet again!  And sticking with the monkey is a wise option.  I'd take a monkey over a bear as a friend any day.  Mainly for the fact that the bear might eat me and the monkey probably wouldn't.

And good job, Julia, on yet another amazing read!

Friday, December 26, 2014

Christmas Book for Yiayia

Madeleine's Christmas present to Yiayia was EMPIC. 

Check out this brand new book, authored and illustrated by Madeleine herself:

Penny's First Christmas Movie
by Madeleine Rowe

"Penny was walking along down the street.  Then she saw a blue Christmas tree.  Her big sister said 'Come on, Penny!'  Penny's big sister Kelly was such a mean sister when Penny was slowing up.  Kelly's face was turning bright red."

Well, no wonder Kelly is a mean sister.  Seriously, Penny, stop slowing up!  Sheesh.  We're on a mission here.

"Come on!  The Christmas movie!  We're going right now!' Kelly said.  But Penny almost missed it.  It was before too long when the sky of the whole entire earth turned dark, dark, dark black."

Okay, this is definitely a Madeleine book.  Apocalyptic doom, a page colored all with black.  Totally signature.

"Off and in Australia, Penny saw an amazing star.  She just couldn't believe her eyes!  She shook her head.  It was a HUGE star!  'Why, then, it's the star of JESUS!' said Penny.

Okay.  Penny looks thoroughly FREAKED here.  But no wonder.  If she's suddenly in Australia, and beholding the Jesus star at that - not to mention after just seeing a blue Christmas tree - she must be like What.  A.  Heck.

"Penny found out that she was really in Bethlehem and up ahead she saw a manger with a daddy, but no mommy!  And she also found out that Penny was really Mary, and she went and took care of the baby for years.  She decided she would name it Baby Jesus.  She hugged and hugged and kissed Jesus but she didn't know that his name was Jesus before!"

Okay.  Now things are REALLY getting weird.  Penny is really the Virgin Mary?  She's been suddenly transported from Australia to Bethlehem??  Whatever happened to just going to see a Christmas movie?  I'm telling you, be very wary of blue Christmas trees, folks.  Just one glimpse of a blue tree and you may find your entire world - no, your entire IDENTITY - turned upside down.  Next thing you know, you may be in a barn, cradling the baby Jesus!

Okay, let's see how this story wraps up:
"Back at home, I told my parents and my naughty sister about my story, and THEN what happened: I looked down and - GASP! - My clothes!  It turned into a fancy dress!  'Oh, oh, I'm so excited!"

Wait.  What??  Penny is no longer Mary?  She's suddenly back home?  And the story has made a last-minute shift into first-person?  Wait a minute.  Is this some kind of crazy "It was all a dream" twist??  Way to fool your reader, Madeleine.  Bravo!

And with that completely random story shift, Madeleine bids us adieu:


All I can say is that Yiayia is one lucky lady to own the one and only original copy of this amazing book!

Thursday, December 25, 2014

Merry Christmas to All!

These are the gifts that make Christmas really matter:

From Julia to Madeleine:
Danny and the Suculante Strawberry

From Madeleine to mommy:
Evil snowman Santa

From Madeleine to Mommy:
 Holly "cherries," smiley baby Santa, frowny reindeer

From Julia to Mommy:
Celebrateing Christmas
by  Julia Rowe

(Is this person a giant or does she just have a really small tree?)

Celebrateing Christmas pg. 1:
My family celebrates: Christmas
Some words that make me think of the holiday: Christmas tree, wreath, Christmas lights, Bethlahem

(Interesting that Bethlahem made it into the mix of what is otherwise a list of Christmas decorations.)

During this holiday my family likes to: listen to Christmas music, bake Christmas cookies, and watch Christmas movies.

Celebrateing Christmas page 3:
My favorite part of the holiday is: going to Connecticut to see my family and haveing an early Christmas with my Nana and Gramps.
My best memory of this holiday is: seeing my mom so happy when I wrote her a book.

Oh, Julia, you melt my heart with your understanding of the true Christmas spirit!

From Madeleine to Mommy:
Banjo with a creepy cryptographic message

And the very best present of all, from Julia to Mom and Dad:
Dear Mom and Dad,
I love you so much and I could never want any other mom and dad.  You are the best parents ever!  Lots of love, Julia


Merry Christmas, everyone!

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Trip to the Boston Ballet

Today, the Rowes took the train into Boston together so that we ladies could attend the Boston Ballet "Nutcracker" near Ethan's work.  The girls were all dressed up and excited to see the show:

As we rode the train, Julia engaged us in a family game of "I'm Thinking of Something."

We had a few stumpers along the way:

JULIA: Okay, I'm thinking of something that begins with the letter "T," and none of us like it.
ME: Tornadoes?
JULIA: No, not tornadoes.
ETHAN: Tarantulas?
ME: Traveling for a long time.
JULIA: Nope.
ETHAN: Terrible toys.
JULIA: No.  Here, I'll give you a hint.  The SECOND letter is "r."
ME: Trouble?
ETHAN: It's something that none of us like?
JULIA: It's something that none of us like.  I think NOBODY likes this thing.
ETHAN: And it begins with "tr?"
MADELEINE: Asparagus??
ETHAN: Treacherous trickery?
ETHAN AND I: (stumped, sitting in silent contemplation)
MADELEINE: Traffic??
JULIA: Yes!  Madeleine got it!

Of course the kid who guessed "asparagus" as a "tr" word also wound up being the one to get the correct answer when her parents couldn't figure it out.

Next up, Madeleine had a turn.

MADELEINE: I'm thinking of something that begins with the letter "D," and nobody likes it.
ME: Dying?
ETHAN: Destruction?
JULIA: Dysentery?
ME: Danger?  Damage?
MADELEINE: Uh, ACTUALLY, it begins with the letter "M."
ME: Oh.  Not "D"??
MADELEINE: Here, I'll just TELL you what it is.  Mud!

I don't really think she gave us a fair chance to guess once we knew what the correct starting letter was.  But since "D" and "M" are practically the same thing, anyway, we should have known the answer to a thing nobody likes beginning with "d" was "mud."

Julia took another turn soon after.

JULIA: Okay, I'm thinking of something that begins with the letter "H" and it's a candy AND a place.
ME: Wait, it's a candy and also the name of a place?  Heaven?
ME: Yes?  I didn't know-
JULIA: Wait!  (bursting into laughter) Heaven isn't a CANDY!!
ME: I know.  But the answer is Heaven even though it's not a candy?
JULIA: No!  I was saying "yes" to your FIRST question!
ME: I didn't think "Heaven" was a candy, but I just took a random guess and I was confused when you said "yes!"

For some reason, this conversation CRACKED MADELEINE UP.  She could NOT stop giggling about it for the next few rounds of "I'm Thinking of Something."  And then this really fun, not annoying, not at ALL predictable pattern started when Madeleine was thinking of something.

MADELEINE: I'm thinking of something that begins with the letter "B" and it comes on Easter!
ME: Bunny?

MADELEINE: I'm thinking of something that we're going to see.
ETHAN: The Nutcracker?

MADELEINE: I'm thinking of something that begins with the letter "J" and Mommy's wearing one.
ETHAN: Jacket?

It was a loooong train ride into Boston from that point forward.

Once we got to the opera house, however, Madeleine was over the candy joke and the girls were in full-out Nutcracker mode.

Both kids were really well-behaved and quiet throughout the entire performance, although Madeleine couldn't help herself from doing some port-de-bras ballet arms along with the ballerinas as we sat in our audience seats.  And Julia felt it urgent to lean over and whisper to me, after the Nutcracker fist came out to dance, "Mommy, his tights are so light that you can see his whole BUTT through them!"  (Fair enough point, however; I had been thinking the same thing.)

During intermission, as we went to the bathroom, Madeleine decided to demonstrate just how much of an impression the classical ballet music was making on her by singing Drake's "Started From the Bottom" while she washed her hands.  That's okay, though, because she did, somewhat loudly, sing some of the ballet music on the crowded train ride home so I guess it just took both acts of the show to get the music stuck in her head!

Tonight we are headed to church for the Christmas pageant, and the girls are so excited to go that Madeleine has been asking since before 3pm if it's time to leave yet.  I suspect that what she's most excited for is just getting this day over with so that she can wake up to Christmas surprises!

Merry Christmas Eve, all!

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Dance of Excitement

Madeleine has documented her increasing excitement as each day passes, bringing us closer to Christmas, with interpretive dance:

How about you?  How does YOUR Christmas happy dance match up to Madeleine's??

Monday, December 22, 2014

Fashion Drawings and a Party

Today Madeleine made all kinds of drawings for her so-called "fashion pictures," including these:

 A Cowboy Jesus-Star Fashion Picture

"My first Jesus Fashion Picture!"

You may notice the Jesus theme here.  Madeleine has been on a total Jesus kick today.  In fact, when she came to cuddle with me on the couch, she insisted on getting her stuffed Jesus so He could join the snuggles too.

Even though Jesus was snuggling with us, Madeleine decided that she still has a special place in her heart for her dear old mom too.

MADELEINE: Mama, I love you.  I just LOVE snuggling with my favorite person!
ME: I'm your favorite person?  Awww.
MADELEINE: Yeah.  Mama.  It goes Heaven, to TOYS, to Christmas tree, to Jesus, to China.
ME: What does?

I can't believe she even loves me all the way to Christmas tree!

After our snuggles, Madeleine decided that even though Christmas is Jesus' birthday, He opted to have His party today.  She even made a cake and set Jesus up in the place of honor at the dining room table:

MADELEINE: And Mama?  Because His mouth is STITCHES, uh, *I* will have to blow out the candle for Him.

After the candle was blown out, we were all able to dig into our cake.

It turns out Jesus does NOT have very good table manners. He was gobbling up the contents of His black cauldron so ravenously that the cauldron was practically covering His face:

Things ALMOST turned into a disaster when Madeleine couldn't seem to balance all four ice cream scoops on a cone without everything falling over.  After the umpteenth time of spilling plastic ice cream scoops all over the floor, Madeleine was ready to give up.

MADELEINE: ARRRGGGHHH!  This is Jesus' WORST birthday EVER!  (resigned and sorrowful) I'm sorry, everybody, but we're going to have to cancel the party.  A party just ISN'T a party without dessert.

Aw HAILS no.  I was not gonna let Jesus miss out on His birthday party.  In I swooped, to the rescue, and balanced the ice cream scoops for Madeleine and Jesus.  All was once again right with the party and the world. 

To quote Madeleine, who has given Jesus a new nickname: Happy Birthday, Jeezy!

Saturday, December 20, 2014

Early Christmas

This weekend we are celebrating early Christmas with Nana and Gramps, and the girls couldn't be more excited!

In fact, Madeleine felt the need to broadcast her early Christmas celebration to the world, including to Julia's best friend as we carpooled to another friend's birthday party.

MADELEINE: Uh, can I tell you this?  Even though you don't celebrate Christmas because you celebrate Hannukah because you're JEWISH?  Uh, I got to celebrate EARLY CHRISTMAS with my GRANDPARENTS!
JULIA: (seriously annoyed) Madeleine!!  Stop TELLING everyone that!

Aside from exchanging gifts, we got to enjoy a nice family meal this evening, and Julia assisted in making the table EXTRA special.  Not only did she set out the china plates and glasses, but she made place cards for each dinner guest, complete with a personal chocolate and an inspiring Christmas message:

Ethan: Best Wishes
Julia: Jolly Holly Joy!

Madeleine: Happy Holidays!
Nana: Love, Joy, Peace!

Gramps: Giveing!

Shannon got an extra special place card, written on Christmas wrapping paper!:
Shannon: It is better to give then to reseive

What a magical Christmas meal!

Madeleine, for her part, decided to make an extra home-made gift for Julia to give to her at early Christmas.  Julia was the extremely lucky recipient of a book called:


By the way, this cover image ranks way up high in the list of phallic drawings the kids have made.

Aside from a bunch of backwards Ds, this book also includes some real English text:



Those zombie women are kind of terrifying.

But it's the spirit of giveing that counts.  What a sweet gesture, Madeleine!

Jolly Holly Joy, everyone!