Friday, June 30, 2017

Nutso the Dougnut

A brand new book by Julia, written for her father as a birthday gift.  The author herself reads aloud to us:

That was an exhilarating adventure with Nutso the Dougnut!  What will happen next?  Will someone make him SAD???  Or excited?  Or embarrassed?  Will someone accidentally call him "Utso?"  The possibilities for a sequel are endless!!

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Two Little Bunnies

Madeleine made up a little song about bunnies a few weeks ago, and it has quickly become a family classic.  Despite its tame subject matter, this song is pretty adventurous, both musically and lyrically.  Not only does it NOT rhyme at all, but it doesn't even really have much of a melody; Madeleine relies on an avant garde sprechtstimme style of singing, rather than a lyrically sung tune.  She even has accompanying hand and/or body motions!:

She has decided that I *must* teach this song to my preschool class.  Not just the words, but maybe even the movements.

MADELEINE: Mommy!  You could *try* having them stand up and act it out.  But...if it gets to be a RUCKUS, they can just sit down and go back to puppets or hand movements.

Excellent idea, Madeleine!  Maybe if my girls ever come into school with me next year, I can have Madeleine teach it to them herself!

Monday, June 26, 2017

Madeleine's Input

Madeleine's input on a variety of topics:

On getting the house ready for a get-together we were hosting with a bunch of friends in town:

MADELEINE: Mommy?  Wanna know the FIRST THING I did when I woke up this morning?  The first thing I did was -- well, I *breathed* -- but then the first thing I did was CLEAN UP MY DOLLS!

I'm glad she cleared that up.  I was worried she started cleaning her room while holding her breath.

On Ethan's birthday gifts from family members, which included a sweatshirt, a piano book, a CD, and homemade books and crafts from the kids:

MADELEINE: Hmm. This year, nobody bought Daddy BEER for his birthday.  I guess maybe they thought he was getting tired of beer.  That's what *I* thought, so that's why I didn't buy it for him.

It's a good thing that the thought of Ethan getting tired of beer is THE REASON WHY A SEVEN-YEAR-OLD DIDN'T TRY AND BUY SOME.  Good thinking, Madeleine.

On Ethan changing his mind and joining us at the pool when he had no interest in swimming:

ME: Madeleine, was it just the highlight of your day that Daddy went swimming with you?
MADELEINE: Mmm-hmm!  (thoughtful silence) Well Mommy.  The highlight of my day was doing GYMNASTICS.  Doing gymnastics at home AND at my class.

Good thing we have Honest Abe here to make Ethan feel extra good about his decision to swim in order to please the kids.  Madeleine couldn't even bother to make his swimming a *tie* for highlight of her day, huh?

And finally, another item from school; Madeleine's input on what makes her sad:

"I feel sad when my mom is sad, when my sister is crabby, when I can't find my stuffys, when I can't have the dessert I want and when I try to take something back that's already been dicided.  That's when I feel sad."

Those are pretty good reasons, Madeleine, and I'm touched by your empathy.  However, uh, not having the dessert you want is kind of not on the same tier as the other things.  Remember that whole video you made about first world problems??

Friday, June 23, 2017

All About Me

As I was going through the piles of classwork the children brought home on their last day of school, I came across Madeleine's fill-in-the-blank reflections on her year of first grade.  Can you tell she LOVED her teachers?  And it certainly wouldn't be in true Madeleine fashion if there wasn't some brutal honesty:

Yes, sorry, teachers, that your math choices just weren't up to snuff.

If I could change one thing about my first grade year, it would be makeing the boreing math choices fun.

She's a tough critic.  Her teachers are lucky that everything else passed muster and that she had nothing but glowing things to say about them as people!

Thursday, June 22, 2017

Piano Improvisation

Madeleine decided to give an impromptu, completely improvised piano performance today, and asked me to video it.  Check it out:

She definitely takes after her daddy when it comes to sitting at the piano and improvising on the spot.  Madeleine adds a little extra theatrical flair to her piano noodling, however: she's a born entertainer!

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Birth Year Confusion

JULIA: Mommy?  If you were fourteen, would you be born in 2004?
ME: Like, if you're fourteen right now?
JULIA: Yeah.
ME: Well, if you were already fourteen right now, you'd have been born in 2003.
JULIA: But what if it turned in January?
ME: What if what turned in January?  You mean, like you turn fourteen when it's January 2018?
JULIA: No, like...(seeming at a loss for words to explain what she means)
ME: So if you were born in 2004, you'd be 13.
JULIA: But *could* you be 14?
ME: What month?
JULIA: What?
ME: What month do you turn 14?
JULIA: (suddenly evasive) I dunno...

Then it dawned on me.

ME: All right.  Which Mintz is 14?
JULIA: (a self-conscious smile spreading across her face) LILLY Mintz!

Lucky for me, I know Lilly Mintz's birthday!  (This is a bit sad.  I actively can recall the birthday of an imaginary person from an imaginary family that my daughter made up and still imagines about.  I might need to get more of a life.)

ME: Okay.  So September 1, if Lilly was born in 2004: on September 1, 2014, she would be 10.  On September 1, 2015, she would be 11.  On September 1, 2016, she would be 12.  And on September 1, 2017, she would be 13.
JULIA: But what about someone born in January?
ME: They would still be 13.
ME: What is it you need to figure out?
JULIA: I just need to figure out what YEAR Lilly and two of her FRIENDS needed to be born because they're 14 now!!

Sheesh.  She coulda just led with that.  It would have made this whole confusing conversation go much more smoothly.

After the clarification, we figured out that Lilly was born in 2002 and her friends friends with January birthdays were born in 2003.  Phew.  Glad we got that one solved.

Monday, June 19, 2017

Um, Madeleine Drew This Stuff at School

Today, Madeleine brought home all of her writing work from school, including three composition books.  One was a writing journal, one a poetry journal, and the other one was mostly filled with drawings that...umm... probably creeped the heck out of her teachers.

Some of the most disturbing include:

Whatever demonic nightmare this is supposed to be.

Flattened corpse head, angry ogre, and mentally unstable cat-eared girl (who is also growing a mummy out of her head)

Um, these terrifying faces.

The soul-searching spirit of malevolence about to devour an innocent girl.

Just a friendly, helper boy pushing an injured girl in a wheelchair up to the castle of doom.  At least the other girl can walk, so I guess that's why she's going in first.

Oh, fun.  A torture chamber.

And finally:

OMG.  No.

Sunday, June 18, 2017

School Challenge and More

Madeleine had a group project at school called an "Airplane Challenge."  She and several classmates had to create an airplane using five pennies, four paper clips, three pieces of paper, eight pieces of tape, and their own brains.  While Madeleine's group succeeded in getting their airplane to fly, she herself clearly wasn't feeling too confident about their chances:

How did you feel about this challenge?
terrified and maybe even petrified.

Wow.  Those are some heavy feelings for a first grade in-class project.  I'm glad it all worked out in the end.  It's not like they had to design an ACTUAL airplane that people were going to ride on.  The cost of failure would have been a LOT higher in that case.  I guess Madeleine is gonna take her perfectionist attitudes with her wherever she goes.

While she may be afraid to fail on an airplane challenge, Madeleine isn't too worried about being wrong at home.  And Julia isn't hesitant to point out Madeleine's shortcomings.

ME: Julia, look at this! (pointing to an ad in the newspaper about Hamilton coming to Boston)
JULIA: (nearly hyperventilating with excitement) Can we see Hamilton when it comes to Boston???
MADELEINE: Uh, Julia...what know.
JULIA: What?
MADELEINE: Alexander Hamilton?  He DIED?
JULIA: (scathingly) Madeleine, it's not the REAL Alexander Hamilton that sings on the soundtrack.
MADELEINE: Oh.  Is it, like, someone named Hamilton Alexander?

I guess all this time Madeleine thought we had a rare historical recording of in-the-flesh Alexander Hamilton singing hip hop about his current life situation.  Once Burr shot him dead, hopes of anyone ever seeing the musical just flew out the window.

Hmm.  Do you think Madeleine thinks it's really Jesus singing on our CD of "Jesus Christ, Superstar?"  I'll have to find out!

Saturday, June 17, 2017

The Rowe Parents Take a Trip

Over the past few days, Ethan and I have been celebrating our 15th anniversary in Chicago, while the girls have been home with Auntie Shannon.  Some of the things we did are remarkably similar to what the girls were up to:

Ethan and I gorging ourselves over a pancake breakfast

The girls gorging themselves over a pancake breakfast

While others were quite different:

The girls relaxing in bed

Ethan and I taking a 4+ mile walk along Lake Michigan

Regardless of differences, it seems that both sets of Rowes had a great time.  The kids were thoroughly convinced that they couldn't live without us and were going to miss us SOOOO much.  I guess that lasted until Auntie Shannon dropped us off at the train station, because after frantically kissing us good-bye and shouting their love and waving fervidly at us, they were totally over it.  As Auntie Shannon tells it, the moment the car door shut Madeleine jubilantly announced, "Let the adventure BEGIN!"

Ethan and I visited the Chicago Field Museum, which had various elements to remind us of both kids.  I couldn't stop thinking about how much Julia would have enjoyed the Ancient Americans exhibit, with so many Native American artifacts and re-enactments:

Meanwhile, I discovered that Madeleine's creepily surreal artistic style proves she's just an ancient Chinese mask-maker, reincarnated:

Mask from Ancient China

At any rate, we are now home and reunited with the girls, although their reactions to us were as wildly different as their personalities.

JULIA: (arriving home from dropping Madeleine at a birthday party with Auntie Shannon) Mommy!  Daddy!  You're home!  I *missed* you!!

MADELEINE: (at the birthday party, when Ethan and I went to pick her up) ....
ME AND ETHAN: Where's Madeleine??
ME: (to kids at the cake table) Has anyone seen Madeleine?
MADELEINE: (turning around) I'm right here!
ME: Oh!  I couldn't find you!  We've been looking for you!
MADELEINE: Yeah, I know.  I saw Daddy.
ME: But you didn't come say hi to us??

Nope.  She didn't.

Furthermore, Julia sat, enraptured, looking through our photos of our trip, exclaiming upon the things she'd like to see in person.  Madeleine, on the other hand, couldn't even be bothered to focus on one single sentence I shared.

ME: So Madeleine, guess what?
ME: For breakfast one day, I had THREE turkey sausage the size of mini turkey burgers, and FIVE chocolate chip pancakes!
MADELEINE: (silence)
ME: (waiting)
MADELEINE: Wait, you had WHAT?  I wasn't really paying attention.

Oh well.  We're all happy to see each other again, and Ethan and I loved the chance to explore an unfamiliar city and get some time to ourselves, so whether or not both kids actually care what we were up to doesn't really matter much!  Now we are back for more adventures within the Rowe household!

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

School Affairs

Well, ever since I got out of work at my preschool, I have been a regular presence at the girls' elementary school.  Relax and enjoy the days I have off before the kids are done with school?  Naahh.  Let the guilt of having been less present during the school year because of my job push me into volunteer overdrive?  Yup!

Friday, as you readers know, I chaperoned Madeleine's zoo field trip.  Monday was Field Day, and did I volunteer to run various outdoor stations?  Yes I did!  It was 95 degrees outside and there is NO shade on the field.  I'm not gonna lie; it was brutal.  Plus I got to jog home and get Madeleine's media books, which she had forgotten, and jog back, during the five minute break between grades 1 & 2 going in and grades 3 & 4 coming out.  I was so gross and sweaty that Madeleine didn't even want to give me a hug.

ME: (upon seeing her come over to my station) Hi, sweetie!
MADELEINE: (arms out, running forward) Hi Mommy!  (stopping in suspicion) Uh, are you sweaty?
ME: Yeah, sorry.
MADELEINE: I thought so.  (blowing me a kiss instead.)

Today I was finally not a volunteer, but an audience, as the 4th Grade Insect Fair took place.  Julia has worked on her insect project over the past month, and I foolishly assumed the fair would simply be a chance for parents to browse the home-made bugs that kids had made.  Boy, was I underestimating things.  This Insect Fair was a to-do, complete with poems, chorus songs, and various kids dressed as insects performing a little skit.

Here's a glimpse of what the parents got to enjoy BEFORE even browsing the home-made insects:

After performing several songs and poems, the 4th graders went to their insect stations and parents finally got a chance to look at the many projects.  There were a LOT of very artistic insects.  I hadn't realized what a big deal this was going to be when Julia was working on her bug at home.  It came out with...uh...a little less flair than some of the other kids':

The Bacteria Bug

The Entymologist responsible for the discovery of the Bacteria Bug.  Also its Creator.  She's kind of like God.

Tomorrow I will be relaxing at home and enjoying my time off.  JUST KIDDING!  I'll be at Madeleine's End-of-Year party because parents are invited!  If I can't spend time relaxing at home, though, there's no one I'd rather hang out with than my girls!

Monday, June 12, 2017

Writing Workshop Work

Madeleine came home with a packet of Writer's Workshop poems and narratives today.  Among the work was this three-paged story with no words and pictures.  I invite all blog readers to come up with their own words to fit the illustrations!

Here's my crack at it:

A stick-figured girl is FREAKING OUT thinking about a shirt that floated away on the breeze and left her stick body naked.

A benign fairy godmother appeared holding a basket. What's inside is anybody's guess. The stick-figured girl, now dressed once again, is STILL FREAKING OUT.  I'm not sure why.  Maybe the fairy godmother's appearance scared her.  The stick-figured girl is also holding a basket for some reason.

Suddenly, the fairy godmother disappeared and in her place appeared a stick-mommy whose hands were recently amputated, a stick daddy whose hands double as garden rakes, and some other one-handed person with a large protruberance coming out of her head.  The stick girl also appears to have lost a hand, but gosh darn it, she's still got her basket, and that's what counts, right?

Actually, I'm not really sure what counts in this story.  I'm still a little foggy on the details.  Anyone else want to give it a whirl?

Friday, June 9, 2017

Zoo Field Trip

Yesterday I officially finished my school year as a teacher, so naturally today I chaperoned a field trip with Madeleine's first grade class.  It was the annual trip to the zoo, and after an ever-changing weather forecast, the day dawned with blue skies and sunshine.  Madeleine was so excited to have me along with her for the day, although she clearly felt the need to keep her mommy's weirdness under wraps.

ME: (singing, as the school bus started off) We're going to the zoo, zoo, zoo, how about you, you, you?  You can-
MADELEINE: Shhh!  Mommy!
ME: Oh.  Am I embarrassing you?
MADELEINE: (nodding vehemently)

Apparently, it's only embarrassing when *I* sing, however, because Madeleine spent the majority of the bus ride clutching my arm singing, "I love mommy's aaaaaarm, I love mommy's aaaaarm!"

ME: How come you're allowed to sing and I'm not?
MADELEINE: Because.  Mommy.  You were, like, singing a preschool song.
ME: Oh, so preschool songs are embarrassing?
MADELEINE: (nodding vehemently)

I guess made-up, highly repetitive songs are cool, though.

We had a busy day at the zoo and managed to see pretty much every exhibit there, even circling back to our favorite spot before heading back to the buses again.  With five kids under my supervision, it was kind of a miracle that we managed to do as much as we did, since it took a LOT of coordination to get everyone moving from one area to another at the same time.

Some of the highlights of the zoo:

-Seeing the zebras up close

(I honestly think this is the closest the zebras have ever come to us)

-Madeleine feeding and petting the goats
-Getting to watch the adult gorilla using his fingers to manipulate objects
-Watching two horses nuzzling
-Getting to watch red pandas climbing trees

When I asked Madeleine what her favorite part of the field trip was, however, she picked this:

Going in the "cave" and pretending to be a prairie dog

Imaginative play beats real, live animals any day, I guess.

When we got back to school, Madeleine had an hour before dismissal.  Some chaperones opted to take their children home early, but Madeleine wasn't game.

ME: Madeleine, do you want to come home with me now, or stay at school?
MADELEINE: (looking at me as if I'm too simple to understand the obvious) Stay!!

So I went home, did a quick run, and headed back to pick the kids up.  Ethan came with me, as he had worked from home today so as to see Julia's class Monologue Performance, which I had to miss.  As we gathered Madeleine, Julia, and two of Julia's friends and began walking home, the sky suddenly opened up and it began to downpour so hard that we were drenched within seconds.  Ethan suggested we make a dash for home, but then it thundered.  And Julia completely fell apart.

Sooo, change of plans: Ethan and Madeleine ran home to get the car, while Julia had a very loud and screamy panic attack.  So there I was, with not just the two but a THIRD of Julia's friends (whose mother was late to pick her up) standing in the torrential rain waiting for Ethan to come with the car, when we would have probably actually been in the rain for LESS time if we'd just run home.  By the time Ethan arrived, Julia's friend's mother still had not come, so we ALL piled into the car: Ethan in the driver's seat, me in the passenger seat, Madeleine in the back in her car seat, the friend whose mother was late in the middle, Julia on the end with another friend on her lap, and the final friend in the hatchback trunk.  We drove the .25 miles to our house like champions and got inside to change clothes and get dry.  The mother running late was notified of the new pick-up spot, and Julia is now settled down with her other two friends, all in dry pajamas and drinking hot chocolate.

If only we'd had a prairie dog cave to hide in while it rained, we could have stayed dry AND had fun!

Tuesday, June 6, 2017


OMG.  We are all SO overbooked and SO tired here in the Rowe household.  Every single one of us has thrown a temper tantrum at some point over the past few days.  Ethan's and mine were both traffic/road delay-related, while the girls' were WAY more irrational.

Here's a glimpse of how much stuff we've had - and have - going on.

This past weekend, Madeleine and Julia both had birthday parties to go to, Madeleine had gymnastics class AND her Year-End Show, Julia had a sleepover at her friend's house, at which she stayed up until 11:30pm, we all had church (choir duties for Ethan and I, Sunday School for the kids), the girls had swim team practice for the Y team, and Ethan and I had a rehearsal and then performance with our vocal quartet.

If it was just a busy weekend, it would be one thing.  However, we are all somehow double-booked.  The girls started practice for the town swim team last night, not to be confused with the Y swim team, WHOSE SEASON IS STILL GOING.  They will be swimming for both teams until the end of June, at which point the Y goes on recess.  Ethan and I have been rehearsing and performing with our quartet, as well as with a collection of mostly professional singers for a premiere performance of an opera, set for this coming weekend.  (Which means week night rehearsals, until 10pm, in a not-neighboring town.)  I am wrapping up both my school year at preschool this week, as well as my piano teaching.  The girls seem to have only befriended kids whose birthdays (or parties, at least) fall in June.  And because of the time of year, there is Year-End EVERYTHING.  Madeleine's Year-End Gymnastics Show.  My year-end preschool class party, followed by ANOTHER year-end all-school party that I have to miss in order to go to my own kids' year-end elementary school picnic.  My piano students are doing their end-of-year performances  for their families (my compromise this year, given that I was just too darn overloaded to host a formal recital.)  Both kids have a year-end class party to which parents are invited, and today Julia had her year-end chorus concert in the middle of the school day.  (Luckily, I was able to attend, as it took place shortly after my work day ends.)

OH MY GOODNESS.  No one is getting nearly enough sleep, and tempers are flaring around here.

Here are some examples of the ridiculous things the kids have melted down about lately:

-Julia couldn't get dressed for school because the forecast was for cold rain and she didn't WANT to wear pants or capris.

-Madeleine couldn't watch a show because Julia was watching "My Little Pony" and Madeleine could ONLY watch "Moana" in order to screen-write her own "Moana"-esque home movie.

-Madeleine was singing a few words to "White Coral Bells" incorrectly and Julia COULD.  NOT.  HANDLE.  IT:

MADELEINE: (singing) Lily of the valley deck my garden wall...
JULIA: (snapping) Madeleine!  It's "GARDEN WALK!"  Madeleine!  Can you just SING THE RIGHT WORDS?!?

In fact, the incapacity to cope with life in general made this past Sunday's church an adventure in mood swings for us.  Upon arriving at church, Julia and Madeleine were at odds about whether to sit alone in the front pew (as there were no Sunday School teachers there yet) or to come up to the choir with me.  Madeleine loves coming up to the choir, because that means she can sit down and draw pictures instead of stand up and pay attention.  Julia likes going to the pews because she's Julia.  Madeleine had brought two pieces of blank paper in anticipation of drawing, and Julia announced, as we entered the church, that she wanted to go to the pews but didn't want to sit alone.

Madeleine's response was to crumple up both papers.

MADELEINE: Mommy?  Where should I THROW these?
ME: Madeleine!  Why did you crumple them?  That's wasting paper!
MADELEINE: (in biting accusation) Because JULIA said she wants to sit in the pews!
ME: Well, you can come up to the choir with me, don't worry about it.

So we went up to the choir.  Madeleine plopped down on the ground in pouting protest.  I un-crumpled the papers, smoothed them out as best I could, and put them in front of Madeleine, along with a pen from my purse.

Madeleine's response was to scribble blackly across the paper.

Refusing to lose my cool, I let Madeleine pout for about 15 minutes.  Then I took the piece of paper on which was printed the schedule of music for that day's service, flipped it over to the blank side, and put it in front of Madeleine.

She drew this:

I guess she just needed a little art therapy, because shortly afterwards, her mood had swung back to happy.

Sigh.  It's going to be a long and exhausting week.
I will leave you with this picture of Julia being grumpy for no logical reason at her orthodontist appointment this afternoon:

Is it summer yet!?!?

Sunday, June 4, 2017

Year-End Show

Yesterday was Madeleine's Year-End Show for gymnastics, which was comprised of lots of beginning gymnasts looking confused about what they were supposed to be doing as they completed various activity circuits.  Madeleine followed along as best she could, with momentary bewildered wanderings between apparatuses, and got to "perform" on the floor, bars, balance beam, and vault.  Here are a few videos of some of the routines and circuits in which she partook:

Despite the look of insecurity on her face throughout most of her routines, Madeleine had the time of her life at the show, and left in buoyant spirits.  All participants got a gymnastics medal and got to step on a "podium" for a photo op.  I tried my best to get a decent picture of her in various locations with her medal, but my results do not match my efforts:

I'm glad that she had so much fun and that she is slowly developing better coordination than she had when she was younger.  For fans of the old Madeleine-the-klutz days, however, don't you worry: despite her growing balance in the gymnastics arena, Madeleine still managed to trip over her flip-flops as we walked to the car and nearly face-plant on the sidewalk.  Maybe a few more sessions of gymnastics will enable her to make it down the sidewalk with nary a stumble, but that's some wishful thinking!!

Friday, June 2, 2017

Zero O'Clock

I woke up this morning to find Madeleine playing with a long chain link made out of paper.

MADELEINE: Mommy!  These are my streamers!  I'm getting ALL ready for the zero o'clock celebration of the twenty-fifth that me and Daddy are planning!
ME: Uh...okay.
MADELEINE: And I finished my poem about the zero o'clock celebration!  And it has the parts where the GIRLS chorus to the boys.
ME: Oh, okay.
ETHAN: (entering the room) Madeleine, why don't you put your streamers away for now so you can have breakfast?
MADELEINE: Okay.  I'll just...hang them on this chair here (draping them across a dining room chair that she had carried into the living room)
ETHAN: I don't know if that's the best place to put them...
MADELEINE: But we need them for the zero o'clock celebration!
ME: I don't understand.  What exactly is the zero o'clock celebration?
MADELEINE: The twenty-fifth!
ME: That doesn't really answer my question.
ETHAN: You decide when it's zero o'clock and then you have the celebration.

Wait.  Ethan knows what the zero o'clock celebration is?  How did I get so out of the loop??

Here are her streamers:

And here is her poem:

"Celabrate zero o'clock celabrate.
Zero o'clock is a time to celabrate.  It's midnhit and noon.  Twelve o'clock, as some peapole call it.  We cheer out, 'Zero o'clock!  It's time!  It's time!  Evryone, go to bed!  Evryone, eat lunch!  Zero o'clock!  Zero o'clock!  Zero o'clock!"

So.  That's what zero o'clock is.  It's midnhit and noon.  It's a time to celabrate.

It's hard to say which is more random: this poem, or another Madeleine creation I found on the table today.  Take a look:

"Trip to save the univeres."

I mean, I guess I shouldn't be puzzled by this one, because it's TOTALLY obvious that the combination of me, box with star inside, and the ungreat Whitney is exactly what one needs to save the univeres.  Forget the Paris Climate Agreement.  This trio is destined to not just preserve our planet, but the entire univeres!  Hooray!