Archive for December, 2013

Christmas people

Thursday, December 26th, 2013

We’ve been reading Clement Moore’s, ‘Twas the night before Christmas, as illustrated by Tomie dePaola, and Olive, the other reindeer, for about ten days. We also watched “Rudolph, the red-nosed reindeer” a couple of times.

We never said that Santa would come here. But we did point out that Tuesday night *really was* the night before Christmas.

Regardless, the girls made some connection. When they woke Wednesday morning, instead of agreeing to go to the potty, Cate said she wanted “to go out front.”

Once we insisted, both girls pottied promptly (which isn’t always the case) and when we opened the bedroom door, they went straight to the living room. On the coffee table, next to our little balsam fir tree, they were delighted to find a pair of plush baby elephants from the Zoo, and 8-10 new “brick” (Duplo) people.

[All of the brick people that have come with their sets are male, which is limiting. So we sucked it up and paid for an all-people-all-the-time 20-piece set, that included 7 female figures. That’s still a dismal gender ratio, but we’ll make do.]

We also opened stockings, which held chocolate “Crisp Kringle”s, chocolate coins, mandarins, and tiny peppermint canes.

After a few pieces of chocolate, some quick frozen waffles and chicken maple sausage for the girls, and coffee for us grown ups, we pottied again. We swapped jammies for red snowmen dresses and set forth to Conroe.

Bill’s niece, Charlotte, and her new husband, Steve, drove in from Virginia for the holiday. Sam and Cate enjoyed meeting and playing with their daughter, Justice, who’s just 5 months younger.

After opening and sharing presents, the three toddler girls ran around on the golf course, while cousin Sarah, Bill, and I tagged along. Sam then asked Gram Nancy to take them riding in her golf cart again, please, and Cate insisted that the go all the way to Gran’s playground. Much swinging and climbing ensued.

[photos to follow]

Back at the house, two overtired girls convinced me that they wanted to stay and nap at Gram’s, instead of driving home. However, after half an hour of lying on the mattress, the floor, a pillow, a big kid bed, the mattress again, (lather, rinse, repeat), I decided that we should bail and take them home. I was sad to miss dinner with the Odales, but two unslept toddlers were likely to make things tough all around.

Forty-five minutes later, I woke to find us somewhere along IH-610, with Dad at the wheel, in the midst of a fine circuitous rolling nap operation. Girls slept another 45 minutes and were chipper by the time we got home.

Once home, Cate and Sam fell immediately into playing with their new toys. They sat at the little table (thanks, Gram!), and played with their new people, both Duplo and Fisher Price. Here’s some video to capture that interaction:

Get the Flash Player to see this video.


Saturday, December 21st, 2013

Curse this blasted WordPress iPhone app!

It replaced the final version of my ice skating blog post from December 18, which took me 90 minutes to craft, with the 4-line draft from the night before.


* * *
My thanks to Baba Jean, Gram Nancy, and Auntie Em’ for each checking your browser caches to see if you could rescue the original version. I appreciate it!

Now, a week later, the girls are in the midst of a good, long nap which has given me an hour to rewrite and post a new variation of Downtown on ice!. Enjoy!

Downtown on ice!

Wednesday, December 18th, 2013

Sometime last summer, Auntie Em’ traveled to Chicago to present at a conference. She returned with a marvelous board book called, Hello, Chicago!.

At first, Sam and Cate enjoyed the cute bear protagonists and the rhyme and meter of the story. But this book became a primer of new experiences:

  • holding balloons,
  • riding rail transit,
  • seeing fireworks,
  • sipping hot cocoa, and
  • ice skating!

After several readings and attempting to describe how ice skating works, I was delighted to get an invitation to my office holiday party. The same folks who enabled our “VIP” access to the Thanksgiving Day parade, and told me what time to look for fireworks downtown, rented out the entire seasonal ice rink at Discovery Green downtown.

The girls were so excited by the prospect of skating that they spent most of a week practicing sliding across the hardwood floor in the dining room with plastic Rubbermaid containers on their feet.

The night of the party was perfect: clear skies and a lovely 63 degrees. We all brought jackets but we didn’t wear them. There were chili dogs and Rice Krispie treats and hot cocoa. And Auntie Em’ — who works for Central Houston, too — came along with us to help shepherd our girls.

We had so much fun!

We started in the toddler rink.

Bill held up Sam

The littlest skates were size 8, so we layered extra socks on the girls’ size 6/7 feet.

Em’y held up Cate

The toddler rink was reserved for the 4-and-under set.


Sam, Cate, Mama Bob

Em’y holding up Sam and Bob holding up Cate

Cate enjoyed skating, but when she got to a stopping point, Cate declared that she was “all done!” and ready to drink hot cocoa instead.

Cate with Bill

Bob and Sam skated all the way around the big rink…

… and made it back without falling!

Sam skated and skated and skated. After a turn around the big rink with Mom — and concertedly watching how the big people skated — she was determined to try skating some more. By the end of the night — sometime after 8 pm — Sam was skating solo!

Sam skates more while Cate sips (a whole cup of) hot cocoa.

Sam skating solo!

Jingle bell rock!

Monday, December 16th, 2013

Somewhere along the way, I realized that when all of one’s days are undifferentiated, the days and weeks blur into months and years, and time just seems to run together. That was true for Bill and me as a childless couple, and again, during the endless year and a half of unrelenting sleep deprivation.

With that in mind, I’ve been making a deliberate effort to break out of routines so that all of us, and especially the girls, can experience and remember the passage of time. I’m hoping to give them a multi-layered, multi-sensory set of experiences.

This December, we’ve enjoyed bundling to be out Doing Stuff in genuinely cold weather, and wearing slippers inside. We’ve been eating a lot of citrus, and Cate and Sam have enjoyed their first hot cocoa and hot apple cider.

We’ve been reading “Twas the night before Christmas” and singing “cold” songs, like “Winter Wonderland,” “Jingle Bells,” and “Frosty the Snowman.” We’ve even watched “Rudolph, the Red-Nosed Reindeer” twice.

Saturday afternoon, Auntie Em’ came over to play with the girls, which freed me to unearth our long-unused holiday decorations,set up our little Christmas tree, and hang a wreath on our door. The living room smells deliciously of balsam fir needles.

I found jingle bells for Sam and Cate, and we decided to turn on some Christmas music. Here they are dancing (jumping) around the living room as Randy Travis sings, “Jingle Bell Rock.” Enjoy!

Get the Flash Player to see this video.

Cate jingling the green bell

Sam regarding our little balsam fir tree

Fireworks boom!

Monday, December 16th, 2013

As I mentioned earlier, I’m now working for the office that, among many other things, coordinates most of the big city events that occur in Downtown Houston, like the Thanksgiving Day Parade. Late on Friday evening, Dec 6, I heard my boss talking one of the admins through the play-by-play timeline for Mayor Parker’s Tree Lighting Ceremony, scheduled to take place that evening.

The weather that day was COLD for Houston — 35 and windy — and I was not inclined to spend 90 minutes outside with our girls. But then I heard Bob Eury tell Briana that the fireworks display would occur between 7:05 and 7:09 pm. In Houston, the fireworks displays for Rice Graduation each May, and the Fourth of July, always occur at 9:00 pm or later, well after girl bedtime. But 7:05 pm was a timeframe that we could work with.

When Bill and I got home from work, we decided to make a tactical strike to show Sam and Cate their first fireworks. We bundled the girls, visited the nearby McFranchise for a low-quality-but-very-fast dinner, and headed Downtown.

Bill proposed that we head to the Hobby Center parking garage. It’s close enough to City Hall to see the fireworks display, and vehicle-enabled so that we could linger inside our warm van right up until the fireworks started.

We paid $10 for parking to a TUTS employee dressed like an Elf, and headed up to the roof. The display started a bit later than scheduled, which allowed time for Sam and Cate to scramble around inside the van pushing buttons, switching levers, and playing “operator” and “navigator.” When the fireworks started, here’s what we saw:

Get the Flash Player to see this video.

Yay, fireworks!

Samanthaism #17: Watch out, Rana!

Thursday, December 12th, 2013

Em brought the girls a really cool book of action rhymes, meaning, nursery rhymes that have accompanying movements of various types. The girls enjoy lots of these:

  • “Where is Thumbkin?”
  • “Open, shut them”
  • “Five little monkeys, and”
  • “Head, shoulders, knees, and toes.”

The girls especially like bouncing on my lap to this one:

Trot, trot to Boston, trot, trot to Lynn.
Watch out, Baby, or you might fall in!

Trot, trot to London, trot, trot to Dover.
Watch out, Baby, or you might tip over!

They like this rhyme so much that they act it out on their own laps with their bears, the Platypus, and other friends.

* * *
I’ve started researching preschools to evaluate educational opportunities for the girls. I fell in love with the first school I visited, the Becker Early Childhood Center at Congregation Emanu El. We’re on their wait list for next fall and the earliest we’ll hear anything is February or March.

In the meantime, my friend, Thy, whose son Greyson is just 10 months old, invited me to go with her to tour Esperanza School yesterday. It’s near Washington Ave and a Rice classmate, Chuck Kuffner, happily sent his daughters there for several years.

I admit that I was underwhelmed. On the one hand, it has a really cool little campus warren of indoor and outdoor spaces for a variety of preschool ages, and even has bunnies and hens on site for nature walks. On the other hand, it seemed to have a lot of young, inexperienced, and/or part-time teachers with significant turnover. It also felt institutional, with 22-24 toddlers and 4 teachers crammed into classrooms that accommodate just 12 kids at other schools. Ugh.

One moment particularly struck me. Lauren, the Admissions Coordinator, had explained to me several times that because our girls had October birthdays, they aren’t old enough to join a “Twos” class and would have to join a “Toddlers” class. She talked about how they group kids into classes with similar developmental abilities. She then asked me if they were talking?

I said, “sure.” I guess she thought my answer was noncommittal or something because she pressed on, “Do they have 10 words each?”


Dude. At 18 months, Sam had more than 60 words and Cate had 100. At two, they both speak in more-or-less complete sentences.

On further reflection, Thy and I saw lots of infants riding silently around in big strollers, several toddlers babbling, and a few kids talking. I’m unlikely to get excited about a school that’s not doing more for language development.

* * *
Sam is teething in earnest again, complete with hand-gnawing and stinky poo. At bed time tonight, she was a little agitated. She had picked up her turtle light and was waving him back and forth against the crib bars noisily — clunk clunk clunk clunk clunk… clunk clunk clunk clunk clunk… — and saying, “Swim, turtle, like a fish!” over and over.

I went in to remind Sam that Cate was trying to sleep, too, and said the turtle was sleepy, and asked her to please cuddle quietly and try to sleep. I helped her lie down again and asked if she’d like a blanket.

Sam said, “si,” gathered her frog blanket close to her face and then exclaimed, “Watch out, Rana, Mama put Baba Jean Blanket on!”

That’s only 9 words, but they’re all in the same sentence.

Regarding Santa…

Wednesday, December 11th, 2013

Two years ago, I joined BAMOM, or, the Bellaire Area Mothers of Multiples club. I’ve both read and posted in their online forum, and I’ve both bought and sold through their online classifieds, but I haven’t yet been to a meeting.

For Halloween, they hosted a really nice, simple party at the City of Southside Place club house. There were snacks, crafts, and a photo shoot with a giant spider. There were also other twins and triplets in cute costumes.

However, the girls especially enjoyed the state of the art playground outside. When BAMOM announced their holiday party would be the same format at the same venue, we knew we’d enjoy it.

Auntie Em even brought the girls cute snowman dresses! So on December 1st, we got dressed for the occasion and went to check out Santa. Sam and Cate were so eager to party that they barely sat still for photos, and not at the same time:

Cate in her snowman dress

Sam in her snowman dress

Both girls were eager to check out the party. But after a quick circuit and pausing just long enough to enjoy a two-bite brownie, or in Cate’s case, lick the minty icing off the top, they took off to the playground.

And they’re off!

Tether swings




Sam resolutely contemplating sliding



“Santa” with Lorelei and her family

Sam and Cate were amenable to sitting and having a snack while watching the proceedings, but neither had any interest in meeting the man in the red suit.

Sam climbed all the way up, and then, all the way back down this ladder, barefoot.

Sam enjoyed spinning “dizzy” on the flower stamen-like spinner.

Cate spent a long time swinging really high. Later, when Sam was ready to swing, Cate wanted to push her.

Sleigh ride!

Sunday, December 8th, 2013

Last Sunday, we drove home through River Oaks to show girls some of the fanciest holiday decorations in town. We saw polar bears, Santas, reindeer, teddy bears, and LOTS of twinkle lights. The girls clamored for more “t’inkle lights” all the way home and much of this week.

This afternoon, we decided to go look again, but without pesky windows in the way. By 5 pm when we headed out, the temp was 48 and falling, so we bundled well. (As always, click for larger.)

Dashing down the road,
in a one-bike open sleigh,
toward River Oaks we roll,
panting all the way:
huh! huh! huh!

Lights on our vests blink,
making cars pass wide,
what fun it is to roll and sing
a sleighing song tonight!

Jingle bells, jingle bells,
jingle all the way!
Oh, what fun it is to ride
in a one-bike open sleigh. Hey!

Jingle bells, jingle bells,
jingle all the way!
Oh, what fun it is to ride
in a one-bike open sleigh!

Daddy Bill and our “sleigh”

Cotton clothes+microfleece with hoodies+coats+Baba Jean blankets. Every time I asked the girls about the temperature, they said, “just right!”

Mama Bob bundled to ride

Blinky bike and twinkle lights

Santa, some reindeer, and Rudolph, amid several well-lit live oak trees

Cate regarding a snowman and four penguins

Sam itching to go check out the snowman

John Williams conducts the Houston Symphony!

Sunday, December 8th, 2013

Huge thanks to my mom for including me in Thursday night’s marvelous Houston Symphony performance. John Williams conducted one of his classical cello concertos, with Yo Yo Ma soloing, as well as excerpts from Close Encounters, the theme from Far and Away, Hedwig’s theme and two others from Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, a piece from Lincoln, and the final scene from ET. I’ve wanted to hear ET performed live since I was 11.

The Houston audience gave Williams and the Symphony a standing ovation, and were rewarded with an encore that featured the theme from Schindler’s List and the *main theme from Star Wars*. The symphony audience surged to a thunderous, hooting, hollering, arm-waving standing ovation. In a second encore, they played Yoda’s theme and Darth Vader’s theme.

That. Was. Awesome.
Thank you, Mom.

The walk from the Hobby Center garage was blustery!

Bob with Jean in her favorite mezzanine seats

John Williams told stories about working with his friends, Steven [Spielberg], and George [Lucas]

Final scene from E.T., the Extra Terrestrial. Note at far stage right the keyed celeste, which voices “Hedwig’s Theme” in the Harry Potter score.

Main theme from Star Wars

Taking time for girls

Tuesday, December 3rd, 2013

One morning a couple of weeks ago, Cate woke with a giant grin on her face.

I asked her if she’d “seen something” while she was sleeping, and she confirmed, “si!” When I asked her what she saw, she replied dreamily, “bici ride!”

These girls do love bike rides. But now that both Bill and I are working, and with fall weather turning to winter, we haven’t ridden much lately.

I just finished and submitted my first invoice to Central Houston, for 110 hours of work. On the one hand, I’m excited because I like the work and this one invoice already represents more income than I’ve generated in the last ten years. On the other hand, I also feel acutely those 110 hours plus travel time spent away from the girls.

This morning, when I carried the cat’s litter to the curb, I was struck by how balmy and bright the day was. Knowing that I worked late last night, and expecting to work late again tonight, I made an executive decision to spend the morning out with the girls.

I also wanted to get some much-needed exercise, but didn’t want to walk again to West Gray Super Slidey park, because that’s the girls oft-visited option on the days when I take the car. Where to go?

I seriously considered pushing the stroller all the way to Ervan Chew park, but with 50 pounds of girls in a 34-pound stroller, that was too far me to walk today. Then it occurred to me: I could try our bike trailer on my bike.

It took me a few minutes to air up my front tire, and another few to secure the trailer to my bike frame. It took a few more minutes to get helmets on everyone, and then we were off!

Pulling an additional 85 pounds was both easier and harder than I expected, and the trailer exerted some interesting forces on my bike. But it only took me 12-15 minutes to get us to Ervan Chew. Nané drove my van and met us there.

The girls had a great time at the park. Cate wanted to swing really, really high. Sam wanted to hang from the rings and high bars.

We also stopped at HEB to recycle bags, use potties, and pick up some treats, including super-sweet honey mandarins. We even saw a big HFD ladder truck, a dump truck, a working excavator, and some Christmas dinosaurs.

Along our ride home, a lone monarch butterfly flew across Mandell in front of me. My thoughts turned to Gran’mom, and what she might have thought of our outing.

On the one hand, Gran’mom was a very disciplined person, choosing to maintain excellent posture, exercising regularly, and continuing to work until she was nearly 90. On the other hand, she argued that work was best in moderation, and chose to indulge life’s little pleasures like tea and cookies daily.

I feel certain that she would have approved of my deferring work to go ride with Cate and Sam. And thinking about her made me happy.