Sunday, August 31, 2014

Happy Birthday, Mome!

What a treasure trove of gifts I received from my darling daughters for my birthday!

From Julia, this card:

These pictures:

(Apparently Julia thinks it's not actually my birthday, but instead it's Halloween.)

And this BRAND NEW book!:

Alley Goes Everywhere
By Julia Rowe

"Alley walked to the grocery store.  She was going everywhere."
(I *never* would have guessed that from the title of the book.)

"I'll get some apples and bananas along with the grapes.'  Alley walked into the toy store and skipped along the eisles."

"I'll get a toy space shuttle and a flotty along with a necklace.'  Alley walked into a resterunt and smelled a delicus smell."
(BTW, I thought the object on the left was going to be a pink frosted donut, but I guess it must be the flotty.  Clearly it was NOT the source of the delicus smell after all.  The middle toy, yet another instance of phallic drawings by my children, must be the space shuttle.  And apparently Alley wants to buy a square-shaped necklace.)

"I'll get a nice big pizza, along with meatballs and noodles.'  Alley walked into the donut shop and went to look at them."
(Aha!  NOW we're getting to the donuts.)

"I'll get a chocolate donut with a cinimmin one too!'  Alley stepped into her house."
(Sheesh, Alley.  Pig out much??)

"And now I'll fall on my bed."
(No wonder!  After going EVERYWHERE, not to mention the food coma Alley must be in at this point!  Nighty-night, Alley!)

From Madeleine:
A princess card for me!  I am simply the luckiest mome in the world.  (Speaking of, according to Ethan, Madeleine attempted to sound out the word "Mommy" all on her own.  I'm like WALL-E.  MOM-E.)

Aww, what a sweet picture of Madeleine and I holding arm-stubs.  We may not have hands, but we have ALL the love in the world!

Thanks, my wonderful daughters, for making today so special!!

Saturday, August 30, 2014

In Style and the Mintz

This morning, after breakfast, Julia spent some time flipping through Auntie Caitlyn's "In Style" fashion magazine at the dining room table.

JULIA: Auntie Caitlyn?  Auntie Shannon told me that you used to WORK at this magazine.
CAITLYN: I did!  My name used to be listed at the front.
JULIA: Really??  (thoughtful) What kind of POSES did you do?

Auntie Caitlyn tried to explain that she had been a writer for the magazine, not one of the models.  Julia didn't quite seem to grasp the concept.

JULIA: (pointing at the cover photo) So were you kind of like Julia Roberts??

Perhaps Auntie Caitlyn should have explained it like this: "Julia, I wasn't famous for being, like, a pop star, I was famous for being, like, Abigail Adams or the Underground Railroad or something."

I'm surprised that Julia didn't quickly understand that Auntie Caitlyn had been employed as a writer for the magazine, seeing as Julia herself is quite the author.  Today she started a brand new book, and has already written up to chapter 2.  To pique your interest, I will give you a sneak peak at the introduction to this book:


Chapter One: The Mintz
"Before you read this book you must meet the Mintz. 
Maz is the kind of boy who loves everyone.  Jastina can always be trusted (But can be funny sometimes!)  Jessica is eighteen and can be trusted.  Lilly is the same as Jastina."

"Julianna is cute and funny in the same way.  Zoie, who is three, is awflly cute.  Astr Mintz, who's real name is Astred, loves knowing exactly what her kids are doing.  And Jasper Mintz is all fun.  Now you know the Mintz.  Now you can begin this storey."

Okay, blog readers.  Admit it.  You are SUCKED IN already and can't wait to learn more about the Mintz family.  I can assure you that the author continues to work hard writing further chapters of this delightful book!  Place your advance orders now!

Friday, August 29, 2014

Singing Barbies

Julia's Barbie dolls got musical again today, performing one song after another under the dining room table.  I managed to capture a few of the songs on video; Julia was quickly wise to the fact that I was recording her, but at least this time she didn't freak out about becoming famous.  Speaking of, the reason why Julia is so appalled at the idea of fame for her singing is because, in her words, "If I ever got famous I would want it to be for, like, the Underground Railroad, or, like, being Abigail Adams, or, like, being PRESIDENT or something.  I would never want to be famous for just, like, being a POP star!"

Well, okay then.

I still think Julia's made up Barbie songs are pretty fun to listen to, despite her contempt for the idea of being a pop star.  Take a listen:

The above was performed by Julia's doll Luna, who is actually marketed as a pop singer and came with a guitar and microphone.  Next up to sing was Rapunzel; don't be confused by the double voices you hear in this video.  Rapunzel does not actually have the ability to Tuvan thoat sing two different tones at once.  The other voice you hear is that of Anna (played by Madeleine) warming up and practicing for her big turn on the stage:

And for those of you who didn't see this on facebook, Madeleine got busy making music on her own today:

I don't know, girls.  You're both pretty capable of music-making.  If I had to hedge my bets on what Julia and Madeleine might be famous for someday, I think I'd have to pick the possibility of a musical future over being Abigail Adams.  What do you all think??

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Stubbornness Runs in the Family

Madeleine may be the queen of melting down over things that really, really don't matter, but Julia can be just as ridiculously stubborn in her own way.  She unfortunately takes after her mother in getting her heart set on one particular idea and then absolutely failing to find a happy medium when she doesn't get her way.  Better to suffer completely than to compromise an inch!

Such was the case today, when, after a perfectly lovely afternoon at the town pool, Julia started asking if she could take a hot shower when we got home because she was cold.

Now, normally I would be more flexible on this issue, but we JUST had cleaners come to our house yesterday to help get our place ready for market.  And both girls ALREADY took showers last night.  So I felt it was neither necessary to a) further dirty our newly cleaned tub with the sand that clung to the kids' feet, nor to b) soap and shampoo all over again within less than 24 hours.  I instead suggested that we use the showers at the pool to rinse off the sand and warm up under the hot water.

Nuh-uh.  No way, José.  Not good enough for Julia.  After Madeleine had rinsed off and warmed up, Julia dared to TURN THE SHOWER OFF when it was her turn to go in.  It was SHOWER AT HOME or bust.  (So, bust, because there was NO WAY I was going to give in and let her shower at home.)  In fact, I insisted she rinse off in the shower to get the sand off, and she did so with an extreme effort to avoid any unnecessary contact with the water.  She basically stuck her feet under the stream and declared herself good to go.  This kid will CUT OFF HER NOSE TO SPITE HER FACE.

On the drive home, I launched into a long, stern lecture to Julia about how such behavior was completely disrespectful and how if I can't trust her to be a good listener on the little things, there's no way I can trust her to listen on the big, important issues.  I probably lectured on much longer than was appropriate, but I was thoroughly irritated.  When I had finished my rant, there was a moment of silence in the car before someone decided to pipe up.

MADELEINE: Mama.  I have a GREAT idea!
ME: What is it?
MADELEINE: When we get home, I'm gonna draw a picture in the book I'm making AMERICAN POLE!

Another moment of silence.

ME: An American pole?? 
MADELEINE: (delighted) Yes!
ME: What's an American pole?
MADELEINE: (talking to me like I'm a dunce) Mama.  Come on.  YOU know.  It's the pole that has a big American FLAG hanging on it.
ME:'re gonna draw a picture of an American flag?
MADELEINE: (cheerfully) Yes!  On an American pole!

By this logic, would a totem pole then be called a NATIVE American pole??

Leave it to Madeleine to stay completely on topic.  At least she broke the stony silence that followed my talking-to, although Julia herself refused to say a word the rest of the ride back.  Don't worry, though: Madeleine was sure to address Julia's attitude in a completely helpful way.

MADELEINE: Julia.  *I'm* not complaining.  Why are YOU complaining?

At any rate, Julia has been handed her consequence of no dessert tonight ("I didn't WANT dessert anyway!") and we have moved on to happier things.  In fact, Julia is busy dreaming away about Labor Day weekend.

JULIA: Mom?  You know how I sometimes MAKE UP people that aren't real when I'm doing my THINKING time?
ME: Um, yeah.
JULIA: So.  I made up a girl who was born on LABOR DAY, and she's going into SIXTH GRADE, and on the first day of school on September 1st, she says "Hi!  I'm TWELVE today!"

This is the sort of stuff she spends time imagining when she's galloping?!?  Good thing she makes sure to fit in several Gallop Time episodes a day!  Otherwise her imagination might explode from its need to create all these interesting made-up people!

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Rowe Girls at the Pool

With the return of hot weather this week, we Rowe girls have spent a LOT of time at the town pool.  Today we had another female from our family join us, as Auntie Caitlyn came along to swim. 

Apparently Auntie Caitlyn's sole existence at the pool was to give Madeleine her undivided attention.  It was simply UNACCEPTABLE for Auntie Caitlyn to give anybody else a moment of her time.  As Caitlyn and I stood in the shallow end, chatting, Madeleine became increasingly irritated.

MADELEINE: Auntie Caitlyn!  Try and find my GOGGLES! 
MADELEINE: No, try and FIND them!

It is, of course, EXTREMELY difficult to find a pair of goggles on the ground of the pool right by Madeleine's feet in completely see-through water.

AUNTIE CAITLYN: I see them!  Right there.  (turning back to me)
MADELEINE: No.  Auntie Caitlyn.  You're supposed to be HELPING me find them.
AUNTIE CAITLYN: Oh.  Okay.  (scooping up the goggles with her foot and handing them to Madeleine, then turning back to me.)
MADELEINE: No.  Auntie Caitlyn!  I need you to HELP ME.  And helping me means you're NOT TALKING TO MOMMY.

Auntie Caitlyn went and dutifully helped Madeleine "find" her goggles.  I remarked upon the ridiculousness of the fact that Madeleine didn't want Caitlyn talking to me.  Caitlyn then responded to me.

MADELEINE: (immediately intervening) Uh, Auntie Caitlyn, you can talk to Mommy at HOME.

SHEESH.  How dare my sister and I try to exchange a word or two when Madeleine is in such desperate need of help in finding her very visible goggles??

It turns out that Auntie Caitlyn and I weren't the only ones committing grievous sins in Madeleine's eyes. 

After having drawn a picture of a bunny in the sand with her finger, Madeleine felt the entire pool crowd needed to recognize her artwork as the masterpiece that it was.  Unfortunately for her, the pool-goers were instead completely oblivious of the sand drawing and proceeded to use the sand beach as a means for walking from one end of the pool to the other.  Madeleine repeatedly chastised her sister and her friend when they inadvertently stepped over one part of the bunny drawing, but the worst insult to Madeleine's heart came from a complete stranger.  This particular woman happened to walk along the beach in exactly the spot where Madeleine had drawn her bunny, and smoothed the sand with her foot as she walked over the bunny, marring the beautiful artwork.

ME: Madeleine.  Stop.  Calm down.
MADELEINE: (on the verge of tears) But Mama!  Did you see what that PERSON did ON PURPOSE??

It's a tough world to live in when you're a poor, young, unappreciated sand illustrator.

Monday, August 25, 2014

I Will Take a Walk

Julia frequently has her Barbie dolls put on singing performances as she plays with them, with dolls like Elsa or Rapunzel singing songs from their own Disney movies.  The dolls who don't actually come from a movie perform songs that Julia makes up on the spot, or, in the case of one Barbie, a recurring original composition.  I actually didn't realize that Julia had written this particular song, because it sounded legitimate enough to me that I assumed it was an actual pop song.  Julia was simply THRILLED that I had mistaken her own artistic work for that of a famous singer/songwriter.

ME: Julia, who is that song by?
JULIA: Mom.  I made it up!
ME: You did??
JULIA: Yes!  It's the song I *always* make Luna sing!
ME: Wow, I thought it must have been a song by Taylor Swift or Katy Perry or something.
JULIA: (beaming) Well Mom.  Why did you think it was by Taylor Swift or Katy Perry?
ME: Because, the melody sounded like an actual song you'd hear on the radio.

Julia continued to ask me, throughout the day, "But Mom, why DID you think that song was by Taylor Swift or Katy Perry??"  No amount of praise seemed to satisfy her desire to hear more about what I thought of her song, so I came up with the perfect idea.

ME: Julia, why don't I video you singing your song and then you can hear how it sounds?
JULIA: Uh, okay.

And then Auntie Shannon said something that would set off a massive spiralling melt-down.

AUNTIE SHANNON: Yeah, you should put it on YouTube, and then Julia will get famous!

As I attempted to casually record Julia singing her song, I was unable to get her to even start singing.  Instead, she squirmed around uncomfortably, making all kinds of whiny sounds that verged on panic.  I tried everything: having her turn her back to me while she sang, assuring her that I would let her listen to the recording and give me her okay before let anyone else hear it, closing my own eyes while recording her so that I wasn't looking at her, and what not.  Julia was not having any of it, and was on the absolute verge of freaking out; however, in typical Julia fashion, EVERY SINGLE TIME I tried to turn my camera off and suggest we not try and record her song, she would frantically insist that "No!  We HAVE to!" 

What on earth was causing her to be so camera shy?  The answer finally came out as Julia burst into frenzied sobs.

ME: Honey, what's wrong?  Why are you feeling so nervous about singing?
JULIA: BECAUSE!  Auntie Shannon said you'll put it on YouTube and then I'll get famous, and I don't WAAAAAAAANT to be famooooous!
ME: Honey, you don't have to worry about that. 
JULIA: Yes I do!  Because I just KNOW I'm gonna become FAMOUS!  (spastic crying.)

So.  Today, when she was in a more rational mood, Julia had a change of heart and decided she wanted to sing her song for me so I could record it.  And I did as promised and let her listen to the recording before I put it up on the blog or anywhere.  (And I'll have you know that she was tickled pink to hear her own singing and is now a proponent of letting me share it with you all.)  But: I have a promise I need to extract from all of you blog-readers.  When you watch this video, DON'T send it to all your talent scout friends, your A-list Hollywood actor or musician buddies, or your record-company owners.  Julia does NOT want to become famous, and since she is certain that allowing this video to be viewed will UNDENIABLY bring her fame, I need to ask you blog readers NOT TO LET JULIA GET FAMOUS.  Yes, yes, I know that my blog reading audience consists of only a small handful of family members, but I know you people have connections to the world of fame and fortune.  So don't let this video get into the hands of ANYONE who will make Julia the star that she is bound to become if her music is heard by the masses.

Okay, you've been warned.  Now, for your listening pleasure, I present "I Will Take a Walk" by Julia!:

I know she doesn't want to gain fame from her music video, but I do have to admit that Julia will ALWAYS be a star in her mommy's heart!

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Back to the Doctor

For the second time in the past few months, Madeleine had to go to the Urgent Care clinic for a skin infection.  This one was more painful but less worrisome than the last, as it was a localised area filled with pus, rather than a staph infection requiring oral antibiotics.  However, the spot was so painful for poor Madeleine that we decided not to wait until the regular doctor's office opens during the week, and took her in this morning.

As we walked to the clinic, Madeleine told me her brilliant strategy for avoiding the danger of cars when we crossed the street:

MADELEINE: So.  Mama.  If we're crossing the street, and I feel like I want to LET GO of your hand, I will just LET GO and then run SUPER FAST across the street so I can go FASTER than the cars.

I, personally, think her idea is about as fool-hardy as it gets.  I suggested an alternative idea.

ME: Well, you know what?  You can run really fast on the sidewalk if you'd like, but when we cross the street, we HAVE to hold hands, for safety.

We tested out my idea as we crossed at one of the worst intersections in town, me firmly clutching her hand even as I sensed her wanting to let go and dash across.

ME: Honey, we absolutely have to hold hands when we're crossing the street on a busy road like this.
MADELEINE: (cheerfully) Yeah!  Because.  Mama.  This is kind of like a MANGER road.

I will admit that I would have potentially allowed her to simply walk beside me if it had been a quiet road instead.  But there's no ifs ands or buts about holding hands when we cross a manger road. 

When we got to the clinic, Madeleine decided to be a chatterbox to every single person we encountered.

Signing in:

DESK CLERK: Okay, and has Madeleine been here before?
ME: Yes.
DESK CLERK: Okay, then we should-
MADELEINE: (loudly, to the desk clerk) And GUESS WHAT?  This time, I'm gonna pick a DIFFERENT flavor that I like, because I didn't LIKE the one I got last time.
DESK CLERK: She's talking about a lollipop?
ME: Yep.

In the examining room, to the nurse:

MADELEINE: Um, I like your SHOES! 
NURSE: Thank you!  (turning to me) So, no allergies, no medications-
MADELEINE: And...and...the LAST time I came here, the doctor drew a SILLY man on my leg!
ME: That's right.  She was here once before for a skin infection.  No, no medications or allergies.
NURSE: And is she-
MADELEINE: pillow doesn't LOOK like a pillow.  It just looks like a BLANKET that's SHAPED like a pillow!
NURSE: (to me) She's a talkative one, huh?

I guess by the time the doctor came in, Madeleine was all talked-out, because she was able to lie quietly and VERY bravely while the doctor drained the pus from her infected skin.  She offered nary a whimper, and I praised her repeatedly for her courage.  On the second to last draining attempt, Madeleine decided to announce loudly to me, "Mama?  Um...the doctor was pushing on my skin a little TOO hard."  The doctor and I assured her it was almost done, and soon afterwards she had a band-aid on, a lollipop in her mouth, and a skip back in her step.

On our walk home, I commended Madeleine on her bravery.

ME: Honey, you were SO brave at the doctor's!  I know that it hurt, but you didn't even cry!
MADELEINE: (matter-of factly) Well Mama.  Did you know that I DON'T EVEN CRY at things that only hurt a LITTLE bit?  Yeah.  I only cry at things that hurt MUCH WORSE than that.
ME: Oh, really?
MADELEINE: Yeah.  And Mama. I don't even cry when I fall down!

I decided to let Madeleine go along with her delusion that she doesn't cry over things that don't hurt, but I know BS when I see it.  This kid cries over the most minor of matters, as we all know.  I mean, this is the child who was sobbing hysterically to her preschool teachers because I had packed her a different pair of mittens than her usual ones.  (Or, as she put it to her teachers, "Mommy packed me the WRONG MITTENS.  ON.  PURPOSE!") But, hey, she deserves to feel proud of her behavior today, so I figured I'd refrain from reminding her about just how often she actually does cry.

Speaking of, shortly after we returned home from the clinic, Julia arrived back from running errands with Auntie Shannon, and in her excitement to run upstairs and show Madeleine the cupcake treats they'd bought, she wiped out on the stairs and cut her leg.  And sobbed hysterically.  So while I may have dodged a bullet with Madeleine on the crying front, I got more than my daily dose of sobbing-child-cuddles with Julia.  Now we have TWO kiddos with bandages!

At least they have some cupcakes for dessert tonight to make up for the pain they endured during the day!

Friday, August 22, 2014

Home Improvement Efforts

I have spent the past few days making any minor improvements I can to our house as we prepare to put it on the market.  Among my attempts to better the looks of things:  scrubbing walls with "Magic Eraser" sponges, clearing and re-organizing the contents of the kitchen cabinets, and doing a bunch of touch-up painting.  Today I spent an hour painting in the stairwell, and when I was finally done, I was disappointed to see that it doesn't actually look that much better.  White paint over old white paint on a ragged, imperfect surface can only do so much, after all.

The kids were divided in their reaction to my so-called improvements.

JULIA: Mom?  What are you doing?
ME: I'm just looking at the painting I just did.  I don't feel like it looks any different.
JULIA: (taking a look) Wow!  It think it looks a LOT different!  It looks so much better!

A minute later Madeleine joined in to knock me down a few notches.

MADELEINE: Mommy, I miss our OLD door.  Julia, don't you miss our old door?
JULIA: What's our "old door" supposed to mean?
MADELEINE: The door before Mommy PAINTED it.  Our old door looked MUCH better.

Julia, my ever faithful cheerleader, wasn't about to let me get discouraged about wasted efforts, however.  She continued to pump me up about my accomplishment.

JULIA: Mommy!  I think it looks so much better now, because there's not, like, COFFEE STAINS and stuff all over the wall!
ME: Yeah, that's because I painted over the coffee stains.  But I still don't think it's that much better.  I just keep looking at the walls and feeling like all I can see are spots where it still looks bad.
MADELEINE: (cheerfully) Well Mama, the DOORKNOB looks REALLY bad.  You should use the Magic Eraser on the doorknob, because it looks so BAD!

I can always count on Madeleine to be brutally honest with me.

And in case you're wondering why there were coffee stains on the walls to begin with, it's because I once dropped my entire coffee mug down the stairs and it splattered the walls and then I didn't do a good enough job wiping up the spill.  The hallway walls are, of course, only one of many surfaces upon which I have spilled coffee.  And I wonder how Madeleine could possibly be such a klutz.

I attempted to understand exactly what Madeleine doesn't appreciate about the after-effect of my painting.

ME: So Madeleine, you don't think I did a very good job painting, huh?
MADELEINE: I think you did a good job!
ME: Oh.  But what do you think looks bad about my painting?
MADELEINE: Um, the PAINT, because I liked the paint when it was our OLD door.  (Forlornly) And now it's our NEW door.

Okay.  So she thinks I did a good job painting, except for the painting part.  So basically she is giving me an A for effort and an F for achievement.

Sigh.  Oh well.  Haters gonna hate.  At least I will always have Julia to fluff me up when I need it!

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Dinner Conversations

Just normal old dinner time conversation:

MADELEINE: Mama?  Pinky swit?
ME: What?
MADELEINE: (holding up her pinky) Pinky swit?
ME: You mean "pinky swear?"
MADELEINE: Pinky promise?
ME: Yes, "pinky promise" and "pinky swear" mean the same thing.
MADELEINE: (holding up her pinky) Pinky promise?
ME: What am I pinky promising?
MADELEINE: That you'll ALWAYS love me forever, EVEN after I die.
ME: Of course!  But hopefully, I'll already be dead by the time you die.
MADELEINE: Mama.  You said "ARDERY."
ME: I said "already."
MADELEINE: But Mama.  I said even when *I* die.
ME: And I said hopefully I'll already be dead by then, since I'm older than you.
JULIA: (walking into the room) Why do I hear Madeleine talking about something about DYING?
ME: She made me pinky promise that I'll love her forever, even when she dies, and I told her hopefully I'll already be dead by the time she dies.
MADELEINE: Mama.  You said "ARDERY."
ME: Honey, I said "already."
JULIA: (speaking with the wisdom of experience) Mom?  The thing is, you feel really PROUD of your kids when they learn the REAL way to say something, but then, like, THREE DAYS LATER, you're like, "Awww, I miss 'bam cracker!"

We then moved onto this conversation about bread:

JULIA: (after having eaten her dinner and dessert, while I was still eating my dinner) Mommy?  Can I have BREAD?
ME: Uh...give me a few minutes.
JULIA: Okay!
ME: (slicing some bread and putting it in the toaster) Okay, Jules, it's toasting.  (going to sit back down at my dinner plate.)
MADELEINE: Mama!  Can I have BREAD?
ME: (sighing) I really wish everybody could ask for things at the same time.  (handing Madeleine a slice of bread, not bothering to toast it.)
MADELEINE: (groaning) Uggh.  Why do I always have to eat it FRESH?
JULIA: (wisely) Because.  It saves ENERGY if you just eat it fresh.  Because...otherwise you have to, like, open the FRIDGE to get jam, or pumpkin butter, or whatever you want...

Yes.  That is the part of eating the bread "fresh" that saves energy.  It has nothing to do with not running the toaster.

What can I say?  Do these kids just totally know the ways of the world or what?  They have wisdom BEYOND THEIR YEARS!

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Magnetic Fairies SHAKE IT!

This morning, Madeleine was deeply invested in a pretend-play musical adventure with her magnet fairies.  And let me tell you: the fairies' songs were so sensational that even *I* felt like I wanted to shake it!:

After several dazzling musical performances, the fairies took a break from their singing to segregate themselves within the tiles of our dining room table top.  How were they segregated?  By hairstyle.  Madeleine explains:

MADELEINE: This square is for everyone that has REGULAR hair.

 MADELEINE: This square is for everyone that has WINDY hair.

I kind of feel bad for this poor, wind-swept fairy because she's stuck in a square all by herself.

MADELEINE: This square is for everyone that has STICKING-DOWN hair but they put it UP.

Another loner.  Maybe she should have let the wind blow her sticking-down hair that she put up.  At least that way she could have been in a square with windy-haired fairy up above.

MADELEINE: This square is for everyone that has pigtails and ponytails.

Aha.  The POPULAR square.  I see what's going on here; this is the COOL FAIRIES' club.

The fairies eventually left their square and congregated back inside the magnetic book in which they truly belong.  I sure hope they make another appearance later today because I am totally hankering for another chance to shake it!

Monday, August 18, 2014

The Winners Are...

The girls had some note-worthy remarks throughout the day today.  I present to you the award-winning comments in each category:

Most ridiculous way to ask me for something:

MADELEINE: Mama?  I'm STILL thirsty.  So please may you get me a drink?

JULIA: (sweetly) Mommy?  If you WANT, if you'd like to, can you do me a Mad Libs?

Oh, yes, I want, I want!  How kind of her to offer for me to do something for her.

Best innocent object getting blamed for a kid's frustration:

MADELEINE: (at the piano) UGH! 
ME: What's wrong, honey?
MADELEINE: I'm trying to play my SCALE with both hands!
ME: And you're having trouble?
MADELEINE: Yes.  (scowling) Because...the piano is MEAN!

I hate it when the piano is mean.  What a jerk.

Genius of the year award:

JULIA: (while doing a celebrity word search) Oh!  Wait, Mommy.  I think I know who this is!  So, I know Mark Twain was a famous person, so is this his wife?  (pointing to the name "Shania Twain.")

Well, they're only separated by, like, 130 years, so I can see how she would think they might be husband and wife. 

MADELEINE: Mama?  There used to be an ANIMAL in the tub, but I forget what it was called.
ETHAN:  A centipede.
MADELEINE: Oh yeah!  Mama, there used to be a CENTIPEE in the tub.
ME: A centipede is a bug.
MADELEINE: A bug??  A centipee?  It's a BUG?
ME: Yeah, it's an insect.
MADELEINE: (brightly) Oh!  I thought it was an ANIMAL.
ETHAN: It is, honey.  It's an insect.
MADELEINE: (staring in blank befuddlement)

I wonder if the centipee has chicken pops.

Most creative description of what DIDN'T happen to a lost object:

MADELEINE: (bemoaning her missing piano book)  I wonder where it WENT.  I had it on the piano.
ME: I know, honey.

Apparently this description wasn't good enough for Madeleine, because she decided to become more elaborate.

MADELEINE: It couldn't just...go into a RIVER and night a STORM comes...and...and...and it goes into a WATERFALL.

True.  I *highly* doubt that's what happened to her piano book.

Most ambitious desire:

JULIA: Mommy?  Next time you buy paper, can you buy ONE pack for Madeleine and one pack for me?
ME: Uh...sure.
JULIA: Yeah.  Because I'd really like to write, like, a HARRY POTTER-length book sometime.

I can't wait to try and staple that together.

And finally:
Most random comment:

MADELEINE: (after several minutes of silence as we lay snuggling at bedtime) Mama?  I've ATEN a cooked mushroom before.
ME: You have?
MADELEINE: Yeah.  A COOKED one.  So...I've aten a mushroom.  (thoughtful silence) It was brown.
ME: Oh.  Okay.
MADELEINE: (lapsing back into quiet and falling asleep shortly thereafter.)

What sorts of wacky words will tomorrow bring?  Stay tuned!

Friday, August 15, 2014

Piano Play

Now that I'm teaching Madeleine how to play the piano, we seem to be a family that's a little chock-heavy on musicans and a little light on pianos.  As is the case with our bathroom, one piano just doesn't seem to be enough to serve four users.  Or, perhaps I should say, some of the little budding pianists don't understand that OTHER PEOPLE IN THE HOUSE need to get access to the piano, too.  Yesterday my practice time was usurped by Madeleine, who decided to sit down and pound out C major scales over and over and over again while I was trying to work on the music for my upcoming choral season.  Furthermore, the kids themselves are frequently fighting over who gets to use the piano to practice. (Or trying to practice their songs at the same time while elbow-nudging each other out of the way.)

Yes, I know that I shouldn't be complaining that two of my piano students are fighting over who gets to practice first. 

Anyway, when we ARE actually taking our turns properly, it's fun to hear the various songs the girls are working on.  Today I got Madeleine on video, playing a new song she just started learning two days ago.  Complete with piano lapses and filler buzzing-lip trill noises and everything!:

Of course, Julia was eager to play after Madeleine was done, so I videoed one of her songs, as well.  And like the totally with-it Mom that I am, I forgot to turn the video off when Julia was done so you get some nice, dizzying sideways-camera footage of me walking back through the dining room before I realized it was still recording!:

You know what they say: the family that makes music together stays together!

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Chicken Pox Play

While Madeleine and Julia were playing with their American Girl dolls in Madeleine's room, I hung out in my bedroom next door, reading.  Julia had requested that I stay upstairs with them while they play, so as I read I kept my bedroom door open so the girls and I could talk to each other if need be.  Hence, I got to overhear some of the pretend play that was going on.

JULIA: What's the matter, Saige?
JULIA: (scathingly) You shouldn't sound so EXCITED about that. 
MADELEINE: (as Saige) You better tell my mom I have chicken pops.
JULIA: Mrs. Copeland!  Saige has CHICKEN POX!
MADELEINE: (as Mrs. Copeland) Well, you can tell her to take a WARM BATH to help with the itching!
JULIA: Okay, Madeleine, we have to make it so that NONE of the other American Girls can touch Saige.
MADELEINE: Uh, Julia?  Baby Lily ARDERY touched Saige, so now Baby Lily has chicken pops too!
JULIA: Oh, great.
MADELEINE: (as Saige) You better go tell my mom that Baby Lily touched me and she has chicken pops.  And: Lily got them too.
[Side note: Lily is actually different from Baby Lily, who is an American Girl Bitty Baby.  Lily is not an American Girl doll, but rather Madeleine's Cinderella doll, who is apparently no longer Cinderella.]
JULIA: Mrs. Copeland!  LOTS of people are getting chicken pox!  Baby Lily AND Lily both touched Saige and now they have chicken pox too!
MADELEINE: (as Mrs. Copeland) Wow, three people have chicken pops!
JULIA: (scolding) Madeleine.  You don't have to sound so HAPPY about it.
MADELEINE: Well Julia.  Saige is better so she can't get it again.
JULIA: Madeleine.  Why are you making everybody get chicken pox?
MADELEINE: Well Julia. Mommy told me that if you get chicken pops, you can't ever get them again.  And Mommy also told me that if you get a chicken pops SHOT, then you can't ever get chicken pops.
JULIA: Madeleine!  Why do you have to be acting like such a SMARTY PANTS like you know EVERYTHING?
ME: (intervening) Julia, what she's saying is correct.  We just talked about it the other day so she's just telling you what I told her.
JULIA: I *know*, but she's acting like she knows EVERYTHING about chicken pox and she doesn't know that *I* already KNOW this stuff TOO. She just thinks SHE'S the smartest!

Uh, correction.  Madeleine was actually acting like she knows everything about CHICKEN POPS.  So Julia, you remain the chicken pox expert.

The Barbie dolls have now come down with chicken pops as well.  So far, Cinderella, Grace, and Pinkie Pie have been afflicted, although Julia's brave grad school Barbies are still heading off to school.  In a completely typical demonstration of the fact that Madeleine lives in her own world even when playing along with Julia, the girls just had this exchange:

JULIA: (as Rapunzel) Ugh, I still have to finish my LETTER for Mrs. Concovich!
MADELEINE: (as Pinkie Pie) But I *always* wake up by a ROOSTER!

Maybe the rooster will actually let Pinkie Pie get some sleep tonight, seeing as she has chicken pops and all.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Earrings and Swimming

Today Julia lost one of her beloved sterling silver heart earrings, and despite our search through the house, we were unable to find it.  I suggested she put her birthstone earrings in for the time being, until we can either locate the heart earrings OR a birthday or holiday comes upon which she receives new earrings.

The only problem was that Julia keeps her pajama drawer stuffed full of not only pajamas, but various jewelry boxes which are themselves stuffed full of ALL SORTS OF TRINKETS.  Silly bandz, erasers, Rainbow Loom bracelets, necklaces, Harry Potter rings, you name it.  Finding her birthstone earrings was a feat in and of itself. 

As Auntie Shannon, Julia, Madeleine and I all joined in the search for the earrings, we remarked upon the various bric-a-brac we found in Julia's pajama drawer.  Madeleine was especially befuddled by one item in particular.

MADELEINE: (pulling out a Happy Massager) Huh?  Uh, Mama? What's THIS?
ME: That's a Happy Massager.  Julia, why do you have a Happy Massager in your pajama drawer?
JULIA: (distressed) I don't know!  Everything keeps CHANGING where it's getting PUT!

Fortunately, Auntie Shannon was able to retrieve the birthstone earrings, and Julia once again has a matching pair of studs in her ears.  Madeleine headed off to her own bedroom, and Julia and Auntie Shannon began organizing Julia's jewelry in a more logical fashion. 

And then:

MADELEINE: (bursting into Julia's bedroom) Uh, Julia?  About the Happy Massager.  I just TOOK it out of your drawer that you don't have so many STUFF to put in there.
AUNTIE SHANNON: Yeah, because you *definitely* need more trinkets in your room, Madeleine.
MADELEINE: Well, I do need a Happy Massager, in case I...I...I...I have some BUMPS that are GRUMBLING under my skin.

I mean, that's what *I* use the Happy Massager for; those bumps grumbling under my skin are constantly driving me crazy.

On a different subject entirely, the girls are LOVING their new levels of Swim Lessons.  Almost too much so; yesterday I had to get into the water to command Madeleine to stop interrupting her teacher to tell and show her things unrelated to the swim lesson; after the lesson, in fact, I had to instruct Madeleine that she is allowed to give her teacher ONE hug when the lesson ends, but that she can't be continually swimming over to hug her teacher throughout the lesson.

The girls have made great progress in their lessons, with Julia taking on the challenge of flip turns and Madeleine working on her front crawl and breast stroke.  I got a short video of a few of Madeleine's stroke attempts at Free Swim today:

Keep up the great work, girls!

Monday, August 11, 2014

Blog-Reader Poll

Okay, blog-readers: which of today's drawings by Madeleine gives you the BIGGEST dose of the heebie-jeebies?

The Queen of the Undead Surveying Her Stockpile of Corpses

The Poor Frowny-Faced Lightning-Strike Victim

The New Prophet, Surrounded by Golden Light, Lays Out His Scroll of Commandments

The Blessed Zombie Couple in Bed Together

Alice In Wonderland on LSD

Zombie Dad and His Boneless Ghoul Daughter Hanging Out in Prison

The "Special" Child Who Hears a Secret Gibberish Language of Scribbles

Frankenstein's Bride Getting a Touch-Up In the Manufacturing Lab

The Eternal Nothingness

Cast your votes now!!

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Vermont for the Weekend

The Rowe family was on the road again this weekend, heading up to Vermont to visit with Nana, Gramps, the uncles, and cousin.  Beyond that, we got to see all sorts of Rowe relatives and family friends at a great big celebration of the life of the girls' Great-Grammy, who died back in April, just shy of 100!  The girls loved doing all their favorite Vermont activities, including boat rides on Lake Champlain, buying fresh donuts, and exploring outdoors at Nana and Gramps' house. 

Now, the girls are ALWAYS naturally curious, but a weekend trip allows much more car ride - and other - time for asking lots of questions. 

Some completely random:

MADELEINE: (as we rode in the to Grammy's service) Mama?  Why do sneakers have to go in BOXES?
ME: Uh...

Some questions were more relevant to the situation and people at hand:

JULIA: Mom?  Are people allowed to marry their cousins?
ME: Well, first cousins aren't allowed to get married, but second cousins can. 
JULIA: What does first and second cousin mean?
ME: Your first cousin is the child of your mom or dad's brother or sister.  Your second cousin is the child of your mom or dad's cousin.  So you CAN'T marry any of Uncle Mike or Uncle Dave's kids.  The main reason why is that to make a healthy baby, you need genes from two different sets of people.  But because first cousins share some of the same genes, it can cause problems for a baby as it grows.  But second cousins don't have as many of the same genes.
JULIA: Well Mom. Is it also that you can marry your second cousins because you DON'T have the same last name as them?

Yes, Julia, that's it.  You have unlocked the key to rules of incest.  Just as Julia insists that she and Madeleine can't get married because they share the same last name, she seems to apply the same assumption to which cousins can and can't marry.  Julia seems convinced that sharing the same last name is what can make for a sticky situation, rather than, you know, the whole in-breeding factor.

Anyway, the most ridiculous set of questions came from Madeleine at bedtime.  On our first night in Vermont, as I was putting Madeleine to bed, she asked for the book with "that crazy cat and the bumblebee."  Of course, I had no idea what she was talking about, because I don't tend to remember specific books I have read to our kids on only one occasion, many months ago.  But Madeleine sure remembered; she was referring to a book I had read her during our last visit to see Nana and Gramps, and after some hunting through the bookshelf, I was able to locate "Skippyjonjones."

This book, for those who haven't read it, is basically the same story as "Where the Wild Things Are."  In the case of Skippyjonjones, he is a Siamese cat who dreams of being some other sort of animal, and thus winds up in time-out in his room.  His mom tells Skippyjonjones that when he is ready to recognize that he is, indeed, a Siamese cat, he may come out of his room.  While in time-out, Skippyjonjones imagines he is a chihuahua, and travels through his closet to a land of Mexican dogs whose arch-nemesis is a bumblebee.  Skippyjonjones is, of course, the hero, who pops open the bumblebee, unleashing all of the various sorts of Mexican beans the dogs are looking to reclaim.  Suddenly, the story cuts back to Skippyjonjones' room, wherein all the toys of his closet, including a bumblebee pinata full of candy, are all over his floor.  His mother grudgingly accepts his eccentric side and he is lovingly put to bed.

After I read the book to Madeleine for the third time, she piped up with a question.

MADELEINE: Mama?  WHY did the animals in Skippyjonjones' closet not hear his mom when she said: "You are a Siamese CAT?"
ME: Well, I think the animals in his closet were actually just toys.  I think Skippyjonjones was just PRETENDING to travel to Mexico.

Madeleine was NOT having any of that.  It was seriously as if I had cracked the surface of her sphere of reality.  She couldn't handle my interpretation, as it apparently questioned the entire world as she knew it.

MADELEINE: But Mama?  If he's PRETENDING, then WHY do you see all the EYES peeking out of his closet?
ME: Well, I don't know.  Maybe they're just the eyes of his toys.  Or maybe he's pretending to see them.  Okay, honey, it's time to stop talking and get to sleep.
MADELEINE: (lapsing into sleepy silence, yawning and fluttering her eyes)

Five minutes later:

MADELEINE: But Mama?  I need to get the book because I need to SHOW you something in the picture.
ME: No, honey, we're not going to get the book right now.  It's time to go to sleep.
MADELEINE: But Mama, I need to SHOW you all the eyes.
ME: I remember the eyes, honey.  I think he was imagining that his toys were peeking out of his closet.  Go to sleep now.
MADELEINE: (lapsing back into sleepy silence)

Five minutes later:

MADELEINE: Mama?  But WHY do you think that Skippyjonjones is PRETENDING?
ME: Well, just because all his toys are on the floor at the end of the book.  So I think he was using his imagination.
MADELEINE: But Mama, I need to show you something.
ME: No, honey, we need to go to sleep now.
ME: Shhh.  Time to sleep.
MADELEINE: (once again lapsing into sleepy silence)

Five minutes later:

MADELEINE: But Mama?  Why does Skippyjonjones have EYES peeking out of his closet if he's PRETENDING?
ME: Honey, don't worry about it.  Maybe you're right.  Maybe he really did have a real passage to Mexico in his closet.  Go to sleep now.
MADELEINE: (settling back into quiet)

Five minutes later:

MADELEINE: But Mama?  Maybe there are TWO Skippyjonjones books, and in ONE book, he's just PRETENDING that he's a chihuahua, and in-
ME: Shhh.  Go to sleep.  Don't worry about Skippyjonjones.
MADELEINE: (settling down again)

Five minutes later:

MADELEINE: But Mama?  Skippyjonjones-
ME: Okay honey.  No more talking.  You're right.  He DIDN'T imagine it.  I made a mistake.  It wasn't all just pretend.  Now you need to stop asking questions and go to sleep.

Why.  Why.  Why did I open my big fat mouth about Skippyjonjones in the first place??  Sheesh.  I'm pretty sure I delayed Madeleine's ability to fall asleep by about a half hour because she was having such an existential crisis about Skippyjonjones.

At any rate, after a weekend of fun in the Vermont sun, we are now back home and hopefully ready to get a good night's sleep!

Thursday, August 7, 2014

The Bathroom and What Happened In It

So, after a ridiculous series of bungled attempts to get our new bathroom vanity delivered and installed, we finally have it up and running, as of this morning.  It looks like this:

Of course, because we have only one bathroom, I had been holding my pee with greater and greater desperation as the plumber completed his job.  In fact, when he asked for a dustpan to sweep up the sawdust and debris from the removal of our old vanity, I hurriedly assured him I would deal with the mess.  As soon as he was out of there, I ran into the bathroom and attempted to simultaneously use the toilet (which you can see in the corner of the above picture) and admire our new vanity.

Apparently I am incapable of doing both things at once.  I wondered what on earth I felt spattering my feet, when I looked down to see that I wasn't seated well enough on the toilet seat and was in fact peeing OVER the seat edge and all over the floor, and, humiliatingly, my own feet.

My sudden exclamation of "Oh my God!" alerted the whole household to the fact that something was amiss in the bathroom.

JULIA AND AUNTIE SHANNON: (in alarm) What's wrong?!?
ME: Uh, nothing, I just peed on the floor by accident.

Yeah, so that was my shining moment of the day.  Little did I know it was about to get better!:

Julia decided to tell her swim teacher what had happened.  Like, apropos of NOTHING, she just decided to announce, "My mom peed on the floor today!"  What's even more awesome is that the lifeguard was not alone, but instead in the company of other pool staff.  Julia gaily told me, "I just told them you peed on the floor today!" as we were exiting the pool after Free Swim. 

Wow.  I am SO GLAD that everyone knows about my little misadventure.  In fact, in case Julia has *forgotten* to tell anyone else, here I am blogging about it: I PEED ON THE FLOOR AND ON MY FOOT TODAY.

I'm so classy.

Now, I know, we all have our little embarrassing bathroom failures from time to time.  Even Madeleine, who is, at long last, pretty much past the potty-accident phase, has a few slip-ups. 

Like the one she had earlier this week.  She had an "underwear problem."  By which I mean:

MADELEINE: Mamaaaa!  I have an underweeeear problem!
ME: What is it?
MADELEINE: Uh, look. (pointing to her underwear, on the floor, with a big plop of poop inside them.)
ME: (incredulous) You pooped in your underwear??
MADELEINE: (non-commitally) Uh, I guess so.

I just LOVE it when people leave poop-filled undies on the floor for me to pick up and deal with.  That way, we ALL get to share!  Their underwear problem becomes MY underwear problem!

I don't know which is the better experience: cleaning up Madeleine's "underwear problem," or peeing all over my foot and having Julia tell young adults that I barely know ALL about it.

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

More Books!

Julia was hard at work on her third book of the Lydia series today, "Merry Christmas, Lydia."  In fact, she got into such a writing frenzy that she managed to compose her LONGEST CHAPTER EVER!

JULIA: Mom!  Mom!  Let me show you how long the last chapter is.
ME: Okay.  How long?
JULIA: Wait.  You have to watch.  I'm gonna show you.  So.  It's this page, and this page, (turning) and this page and this page, (turning) and this page and this page, (turning) and this page and this page, (turning) and this page and this page, (turning) and this page and this page, (turning) and this page and this page, (turning) and this page and THIS page.
ME: Wow!  That's sixteen pages!
JULIA: I know it's sixteen pages.  I already COUNTED them!

Apparently just *telling* me her chapter was sixteen pages long was not nearly as exciting as showing me each individual page so I could literally see the chapter's length.  Way to go, Jules!  Sixteen hand-written pages in a spiral-bound notebook: that's no slacker feat!

Madeleine has continued with her illustrated pages, as well.  I took a good guess as to what was going on in each drawing before having Madeleine give me the formal explanation.

My guess: It's a clown, all decked out for a parade.  Or trick-or-treating.  Or some such foolery.

MADELEINE: Okay.  So, it's Kit.  She's on her bus.  She gets to be the LEADER of the cheer-leaders.

Oh.  I guess this is still tying back into the one random page of her "Julia Tells the Truth" book, in which Kit and her famous cheerleader mother are hard at work passing on the cheer-leading tradition.  Clearly they succeeded!  Kit is the LEADER of the cheer-leaders now!

My guess: some spotted leper is sitting at a table while the angel of death hovers in the sky just above.

MADELEINE: So, um, Kit's working on the piano she also gets to do.  And the little girl fairy up there is sprinkling PIXIE DUST in Kit's hair.  Even though she's being a BUTTERFLY.  And down here is Kit.  She's trying to play on the piano, but she STARTLED her by having the pixie dust in her hair.

Oh.  That's what I meant.  Pixie, angel of death, leper, Kit with inexplicable spots on her head, whatever.

My guess: A little girl sees a ghost coming out of a door and screams "AAAAAHHHH!"  It also looks like she either has ghosts in a thought bubble, or there is a conglomeration of ghosts floating right above her head.

MADELEINE: So, um, in this picture, so, like, um, so, like, you see THAT thing?  That's a ghost lying in her BED.  And Kit SCREAMS.  She's thinking about a ghost!

All right!  I'm giving myself a congratulatory pat on the back for getting so close to the REAL story shown in this illustration.

My guess: An O-mouth ghost is slowly floating away from a bunch of falling pumpkins that threaten to roll over him.  Except that they would probably just roll THROUGH him, right?

MADELEINE: Um, so it's's a picture with them getting SUCKED UP by the ghost.

Oh.  Um.  Okay.  That's a lot more macabre than what I interpreted.

My guess: It's a ferris wheel!  With a dazzling light on top.

MADELEINE: Um, so it's like...a PICTURE with the cheerleaders saying "Five, Six, Seven, Eight!  Kit saved the day!" cause she shouted to her dad that she HAD to do it.  Get frozen like the other girls had to get frozen.

Wow.  I was WAY off.  I definitely did NOT see the concept of frozen cheerleaders in this illustration.

My guess: The girl is either painting at an easel or putting a shirt on a pair of legs that have no arms or head attached.

MADELEINE: It's a picture of her doing art.  She's painting a SUN.

Oh.  My first guess was the better one.

My guess: The girl is at a spinning class with her headphones on, ready to pick her bike and rock out to her workout, when a sheep and a bunch of bunnies wander into the gym.

MADELEINE: So, like, um, Kit's mom gets pets for Kit.  Um, so, THREE twin bunnies, and one doggie.

Well, I got the bunnies right.  But what are the things with unicycle wheels on them?  Are those bunnies too?  I'm so confused.

My guess: The girl is triumphantly, albeit hands-lessly, standing atop a reindeer with a bunch of bunnies keeping her company.

MADELEINE: It's a doggie, and the little bunnies, and the doggie gets her skipper ripper so it could TAG a bunny.
ME: What's a skipper ripper?
MADELEINE: So, like, a skipper ripper is one of the DEAD DOGS' legs, and -
ME: Is this a real thing, like from a movie, or did you make it up?
MADELEINE: Uh, I made it up.  So, like, was dead cause someone ACCIDENTALLY dropped a knife on a doggie that was walking by, and it made a hole, and the doggie's, um...and when...and it STARTLED the dog, and he fell over, and he was dead, and one of its legs came off so the other doggie that came by found it and put TWO batteries in the hole, and it made the leg TAG bunnies.

Oh my God.  My child is a sociopath.

And finally:

My guess: It's a bunny woman, with striped tights, and horse hoofs for feet.

MADELEINE: Okay.  So.  It's Ruthie and Kit's...uh, it's Kit's mom, and the little baby is named Harry, and there's a glowing light, and it turns the mom and baby into BUNNIES.  And Mama? You see that?  That was the GLOOMING light.

Yeah.  Or it's that.  I was close.

Holy cow, Madeleine.  What the heck goes through your brain!?!?

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Julia Tells the Truth

In her ongoing quest to be just like her big sister, Madeleine sat down and wrote a "chapter book" today.  While you'll notice the words on each page are no more than a series of squiggles, with an occasional one-syllable word that Madeleine knows how to spell, you can rest assured that I got the REAL DEAL from the author herself on what is actually going on from page to page.

Take a look at:

Julia Tells the Truth
by Madeleine Rowe

(I'm sure that Julia's recent book, "Lydia Tells the Truth," had NO INFLUENCE WHATSOEVER over Madeleine choice of title.)

Pg. 1:
The way Madeleine "read" this page to me is as follows:
MADELEINE: (gasping sound), (release of air in a big sigh).  "Huh?"  I mean!: "What?"

We're off to a RIVETING start.

Pg. 2:
MADELEINE: It's Julia, and her hair grows LONGER.  (shouting) "Juliaaa!  Are you done organizing your bedroom?"  "In a miiiinute!"

I can see that the plot is going to unfold awfully slowly in this book.  Two pages in and we still have no idea what the heck is going on.

Pg. 3:
Madeleine forgot to make her swirly squiggles for words on this page.
MADELEINE: Oh!  Mama.  I forgot to write words.  So...this page is just a PICTURE.
ME: Well, can you just tell me what's going on so I understand what happens next in the story?
MADELEINE: So, Julia and Liza's mom, she's carrying her a pancake and bowl together, and she's looking at it, and she's smiling, and then she's like: (making an "O" mouth) and she says to Julia: "You're gonna need a make-over."  And she really does.  And she runs over and looks in the mirror and says: "AAAAAHHHHH!"

Okay.  NOW we're getting somewhere!  Julia needs a make-over.  What, oh what, will happen next??

Pg. 4:
MADELEINE: "Oooh, there's one, Mom!"  (Gasping) "Yeah!  There's one!  And it's carrying another one on its back!"
Mama?  Um, so, Mama?  This is Kit (pointing to the yellow girl) and that's her mom (pointing to the blue girl) and she put her clean dry wash-cloth over her hair and head so people wouldn't know it was her.

Oh.  Okay.  Apparently we're taking a momentary diversion away from Julia and her much-needed makeover to visit Kit and her Mom.  I'm not sure exactly what they're pointing out to each other, but whatever it is looks to be up in a tree, so I'm gonna guess squirrels?  Still not sure how this connects to Julia and her hair, but let's keep reading.

Pg. 5:
MADELEINE: So.  "Tell me the TRUTH!"  "So I used the Twitsie-Twits, and it grew my hair SO long it touched the ground!"  (sternly) "Tell the truth." (sighing in resignation) "Ooookay.  I think it just grew super-duper long when I wasn't looking, and when I looked back, it was all super-duper long.  I was just TOUCHING my hair."  (breaking out some sound effects): "Tk-tk-tk-tk-tk-tk-tk."  It's cause that was her MOM cutting her hair off, so she could have her hair more, like, shorter.

Ah-ha!  We are finally at the crux of the story, where Julia tells the truth just like the title suggests.  Who would have EVER thought it was so important to tell the truth about how her hair grew so long.  And to think that the truth was just that her hair grew long when she wasn't looking.  That's not a particularly exciting secret, if you ask me.  In fact, I would have to say Julia's mom is kind of a dunderhead if she doesn't understand that hair just grows unless you cut it.  I mean, when we were getting all into the Twitsie-Twit explanation, I thought, "ooh, here's something exciting.  What are Twitsie-Twits??  Are they magic??"  But then Julia went and revealed that to be a lie, and when she told the truth, the explanation was not nearly as exciting as Twitsie-Twits.

But there's still hope for this story to take off.  We have more pages yet to explore!

Pg. 6:
MADELEINE: Chapter Ten.  "Hi, this is me, Julia.  I know I'm just a kid, but I have a WHOLE BIG family!"  "Hi!"  "This is my sister Liza.  She knows a lot of things.  But who's CLEVERER is our sister Lily.  She's the oldest."  "Hi.  I'm Lily.  I have really curly hair, but everybody thinks I am really UGLY.  But who thinks I'm the prettiest is Julia."  (At this point Madeleine broke into a triumphant wordless tune, before resuming her narrative.)  Then a big rainbow happens ABOVE them!

Wow.  Things are really getting wild and crazy now.  Julia looks much better with her haircut, I must say.  And her footless sisters are a nice new addition to the story.  I'm especially intrigued by the fact that, miraculously, a rainbow suddenly appeared above them.  Is this an allegory?  I'm sure Madeleine would NEVER add some random plot piece just because it happened to pop into her head, right?

Pg. 7:
Oooh!  I can tell this page is going to be rich in dialogue!
MADELEINE: "AAAAAAAAHHHHHHHHHH!"  That's all of it.   Then everybody screams.  Wait.  Mama.  I didn't finish all of it.  "AAAAAAHHH!"   "AAAAAAHHHH!"  "AAAAHHHH!"  Cause EVERYBODY sees the ghost.  And Mama?  There's Lily screaming.  That's all of it!

Woah.  My mind is blown here.  Who IS this mysterious ghost?  Is Madeleine going to neatly wrap everything together by making the ghost be Kit?  Or Kit's mother?  Or the squirrels they saw in the tree??

Pg. 8:
MADELEINE: BOOM BOOM BOOM BOOM BOOM BOOM.  (spit swishing sounds)  "Hey!  Guess what, Julia?  We're moving today!"  "Mmmmm.  NO!  NO!  NO!  Waaaaah-aaaaaaaah!"  (The crying sounds seriously went on forever.)ME: Okay.  Then what?
MADELEINE: And that's it!

So.  The story ends with Julia crying inconsolably after her mother announces the family's plans to move that very day.  Hmmm.  Well, that was macabre.  I think we need to give a nod to Madeleine here, folks.  Even though she's a novice in the world of chapter-book writing, she didn't feel the need to fall into the trite and predictable "happily ever after" ending.  No, this young author dared to take a dark turn with her plot, and end with an unresolved wailing lament instead.  WOAH.  I gotta say it, readers.  THAT.  WAS.  AMAZING.

I can't wait to read what this promising child-author turns out next.


Monday, August 4, 2014

New Swim Levels

Now that we're back to the real world, the usual summer routine resumes.  Today the girls had swim lessons, and although they've been swimming all summer, today's lessons were a new experience for both kids.  Julia has been promoted to Level 5, the highest level, while Madeleine was moved up to Level 2.  Not only did they both have new teachers, but they began working on new skills as well.  Madeleine seemed to hold her own in her class, although her ability to stay focused could use a little work.  She apparently thought the swim class was a mix of actual swimming with social chit-chat.

SWIM TEACHER: Madeleine, can you show me your backfloat?
MADELEINE: Uh, first I need to tell you something.  (looking intently at her teacher as if needing to say something urgent) Two nights ago, I got TOOTHPASTE in my eye, and my eye got ALL RED!
SWIM TEACHER: Oh.  Ick.  (re-directing her) Okay, can you show me your backfloat?

Hopefully after a few days back in our routine Madeleine will feel less of a need to tell completely irrelevant stories to her teacher.

Julia spent her lesson doing laps nearly the entire time; this kid has stepped up into the world of true swim workouts.  I loved getting to watch her making her way down the lap lanes using various strokes, and she seemed to be pleased with her first day in Level 5 when she was finished, albeit pretty tired out.

Madeleine also seemed pleased with herself, exclaiming, "Mama.  I *loved* it!" after her lesson ended.  Furthermore, she seemed to understand the fact that in Level 2 she is actually practicing "real" swimming instead of water games designed to get kids used to the arm and leg motions required to swim.  Or, as she put it:

MADELEINE: Mama?  Guess what.  I think I'm getting out of LITTLE KID strokes, and kind of doing more of BIG KID strokes.

I think she was doing big kid strokes, indeed!

I asked the girls what they thought of their new level class, and here's what they had to say:

JULIA: I thought it was fun and it would make you exhausted because you had to do a bunch of laps, and I thought it was fun when, like, we did it, like, we swam for one 25 and then we swam for another 25, and then we swam the whole length of the pool the second time, because that I got less tired.  

MADELEINE: What I thought of swim is I was really SHY when we went to swim.  SUPER shy, because...I just didn't FEEL right if I was in a different level, but when I was doing it more OFTEN, I felt better, cause it felt GOOD swimming around for so long, I started to feel like, "This is so much fun!  I'm gonna keep doing it!"  And, um, I loved doing pizza kick and I loved doing kneeling dives with my teacher. 

So it sounds like, on the whole, today's lessons were a giant success!

Saturday, August 2, 2014

Resuming the Book-Writing

Now that we are back home, Julia has wasted no time getting back to work on her historical fiction book, "Lydia Tells the Truth."

I must admit that I had forgotten the name of this book, which was in the works BEFORE we left on vacation.  Last week, Julia had dutifully listed the names of all the books in her next American Girl-esque series, and like the complete nincompoop that I am, I totally forgot which book comes after the completed "Meet Lydia." 

ME: (starting to type this blog post) Julia?  What's the name of the book you're working on?
JULIA: Mooom!  You know what it's called!
ME: Uh...can you remind me?
JULIA: Mom.  "Lydia Tells the Truth."  Remember??

Uh, yes, I did remember.  You told me a week ago, and I had absolutely no reason to forget the name of book two of your series amongst the other thoughts in my brain.

At any rate, Julia was hard at work on this book today, and after completing chapter two, she was ready for a read-aloud.

JULIA: Mommy, Madeleine, want me to read you what I wrote so far?
ME: Uh, sure.

Julia began reading, and I was especially struck by this passage:

"When Lydia got to Father's store, she forgot all about Caroline.  Lydia stopped dead in her tracks and lictened intently to two English girl's haveing a conversation."

ME: Wow, Julia, you're turning into quite an author.
JULIA: (beaming, continuing her reading) "Eliza, well, maybe Mr. Jolliman's daughter knows how much penny's this cost's," said one girl.  "I'll ask," said the other girl.  "Acuse me.  How much does this lace cost?"  "Five pennys.  I'm Lydia Jolliman," said Lydia.  "Thank you.  I'm Eliza Smithens, and this is my sister Mary, Lydia," said Eliza.  "Pleasure to meet you, Mary," said Lydia.  "You two, Lydia," said Mary softly.  "Mother said I could get anything for winter!" said Lydia.  Eliza's eyes grew big.  "My mother did too!"

At this point, Madeleine came running to me as I hung wet laundry on the railing in the hall.

MADELEINE: Mommy.  Julia is SUCH an arthur.  And...Caillou is an arthur, too, because he wrote a book.

I definitely agree.  Julia has most definitely blossomed as an arthur.  Not only is her writing more sophisticated, but she is starting to master the art of punctuation and spelling.  Maybe instead of a waitress or a lifeguard or a historian, Julia should aspire to become a published arthur when she grows up!

Madeleine didn't want to be left behind her sister's success, so she sat down to write a book as well.  And, by "writing a book," she apparently meant drawing pictures and verbalizing the plot behind each picture. 

Here is what she has accomplished so far:

Now, despite the fact that there are words on this page, the characters are not actually talking about the things that appear in their speech bubbles.  Clearly, Madeleine was just writing words she knows how to spell.  "No," "on," "Mom," "you."  (Although the "YOU" coming out of the skeletal mouth of the brown-haired girl makes this picture especially spine-tingling.) 

According to Madeleine, here's what's actually going on in the story.

MADELEINE: So, Julia and Liza are going up to bed, and Julia is more, like, EXCITED, because tomorrow is her birthday, but she doesn't know that she gets sick tomorrow from her mom yet, cause she's too excited.  When she gets sick, her mouth is, just, like, STRAIGHT, because she doesn't FEEL very good, and, like, she's got these SPOTS all over her, cause her mom did when SHE was sick, and she got the same cold as her mom, and it was called MOLLUSCUM.  And she got it all over her body.  They had to skip her birthday onto a different day cause she was sick.

So I guess the "Julia," complete with backwards "J," at the top of the page, is the title of the book, given that one of the main characters is named Julia??

Here's pg. 2:

We haven't seen this character so far in the book.  Here's how she ties in (or doesn't):

MADELEINE: So, her name is Lily, and she loves reading, but she doesn't have very many books, like, LOOK how many books she has.  That's not very much, right?  Um, she's just standing around, waiting, until someone knocks on the door.  Lily's mom comes over and Lily's mom is named Miss Lavondo, and she helps teach them how to cheerlead cause she was a cheerleader when she was a little girl.

Yeah.  So I'm still unclear as to the connection between the Julia/Liza plot and Lily the cheerleader wanna-be.  Maybe as Madeleine put together more pages of her book, things will tie together more securely.  For now, I'm still putting my bets on Julia as future arthur, but Madeleine is not off to a bad start, herself!

Friday, August 1, 2014

Day 5

Today was our last day of vacation, and we were all sad to leave! 

In fact, Madeleine had seemed completely oblivious to the fact that we were ever going to leave New Hampshire.  Yesterday, as we rode in the car, Julia brought up the fact that our vacation was almost over.

JULIA: This vacation just flew by!  I can't believe tomorrow is our last day!
MADELEINE: (alarmed) Of vacation?
MADELEINE: (slightly panicked) We're going home tomorrow??
MADELEINE: (tears filling her eyes, hanging her head droopily in sadness)

At any rate, we decided to make our last day an adventure-packed one.  We planned a trip to Santa's Village, a first for the girls, and they were so excited about it that they could hardly keep still during breakfast at the hotel restaurant.  While we waited for our food, Julia started a game of "Telephone" which quickly turned raucus, with Madeleine loudly "whispering" things like "Pancakes are poopy!" when it was her turn to come up with a message.  Ethan and I decided to try and tone things down a bit.

ME: Okay, that's enough.  No more Telephone and no more potty talk.
MADELEINE: (serenely) Let's play "Show Your Own Creation."  This is my creation: (gesturing down to her knife, fork, and spoon, which she had criss-crossed on top of each other to make an asterisk.)

Before long, Madeleine was trying to make her own creations out of things like ceramic coffee mugs and water glasses, so we had to put a halt to that game as well.

Luckily, it wasn't long before we were off on our drive to Jefferson, and the kids were delighted.  Madeleine, in particular, has been desperate to go to Santa's Village, ever since I picked up a travel brochure of the place back in April on a drive home from visiting Nana and Gramps in Vermont.  I had intended the brochure to be simple entertainment for the bored kiddos in the backseat of the car, thinking they could look at pictures and maps of the park, but instead, Madeleine became obsessed with the place.  Particularly the water play area, which is called "Ho, Ho, H2O," but which, for some reason, Madeleine decided is called "Splashin' Pool Party."  For months, we would have this conversation:

MADELEINE: But Mama.  When is vacation?
ME: At the end of July, honey.
MADELEINE: (with a drooping lip) But Maaaamaaa!  I want to go todaaaay to Splashin' Pool Party!


MADELEINE: Mama?  Is it almost vacation?
ME: Yes, we're going next week!
MADELEINE: (ecstatic) So Mama, we can go to Splashin' Pool Party??

Never fear, the day finally arrived, although we decided to hit the dry amusements before getting wet:

After we spent a few hours riding rides, searching for elves (as part of the Elphabet Challenge; Julia and Madeleine successfully found all 26 elf statues in the park, one for each letter of the alphabet), and climbing on statues, we headed over to:

Splashin' Pool Party!

The girls had the time of their lives in the fountains and waterslides.  They could have stayed all afternoon, but after four hours of Santa's Village fun, it was time to climb into the car and start our drive back to our house.

On the car ride home, Madeleine had a pressing question for Ethan.

MADELEINE: Daddy?  Do you believe in Santa?
ETHAN: Uhhh....uhhh...
ME: (trying to rescue him) I think Daddy definitely believed in Santa when he was a kid like you.
MADELEINE: But do you believe in Santa NOW, Daddy?
ETHAN: Uhhh...well, what do YOU think about Santa, Madeleine?
MADELEINE: I think you don't believe in him.
ETHAN: I think you're very observant.
MADELEINE: Well Daddy.  I believe in angels, AND Jesus, and God, AND Santa.

I guess she's not going to let her non-believer father stand in HER way.

The kids got bored during the drive, which is to be expected, and Julia was especially antsy as we approached Massachusetts.  To keep her entertained, I encouraged her to look out for signs saying we were entering Salem, the first city we'd pass through in MA.

JULIA: Ooooh!  Wait, can we GO to Salem?
ME: Not today, honey.
MADELEINE: Julia?  What's Salem?
JULIA: It's this REALLY cool place that's very Halloweeny!  Because Madeleine.  A long time ago, when they thought people were witches, they would accuse them, then have a trial, and then HANG them.
MADELEINE: Uh, Julia, uh, WHAT would they do with the witches?
JULIA: Hang them.
MADELEINE: Uh, Julia, WHAT would they do with the witches?
JULIA: They would hang them.
MADELEINE: Uh, Julia, uh...WHAT did you say they do to the witches?
JULIA: They would have a trial and then...well, Madeleine, it's just really Halloweeny there.

I'm glad the conversation ended there, because I was not particularly looking forward to explaining what "hanging" means to a four-year-old.

At any rate, we Rowes are safely back home and already missing our lazy days of vacation!  As they say, time flies when you're having fun!!