Friday, May 31, 2013

Out of the mouth of my babe

A few things Biscuit has said recently:

Lookin' good: The overhaul we had done on our master bathroom went really smoothly until right at the end. There was a problem with the glass that goes around the shower. So the tile was down, the tub was in, the walls and ceiling were painted, but the shower didn't have a surround.

The glass finally arrived, and our contractor got it installed. That evening, Jeff and I walked in the front door and went straight into our bathroom to see how it looked. You wouldn't believe what a difference some glass around a shower can make.

Biscuit started looking around with his hands on his hips, then he started nodding his head.

"It looks pretty good indeed," he said and kept nodding his head.

That boy should've been born in an earlier decade because he is an old, old soul.

Word play: When Jeff and I were in Charleston, we went to a minor league baseball game. They were having $1 beer night, and the group of guys in front of us was not being shy about getting refills.

Late in the game, the batter hit the ball toward third base. The third baseman reached for the ball, but missed it. The ball went out of bounds, the ump called it a foul, and the batter came back to try again.

Somehow or another, the guys in front of us decided that the third baseman actually used his glove to knock the ball out of bounds. So they started yelling insults at the third baseman.

One guy, who was clearly too drunk to come up with a decent insult, said, "You ... you ... you ball-toucher with your big hand!"

Jeff and I laughed and laughed at the fact that the guy couldn't come up with anything better to say.

When we got home, Biscuit overheard me telling someone what the guy said. He giggled about it and from time to time, he repeats it for no good reason.

Last night, we were shopping for my niece's birthday present, and the store we were in was at least 1,000 degrees. It was so hot! I had already been to three stores, it was past dinnertime, and I was ready to go home. And yes, I was grumpy, too.

Jeff came up behind me, put his hand on my lower back and said, "Is there anything I can do to help?"

"Yes," I said. "You can get your hot hand off my back." He was being sweet, but I swear, there was heat radiating off his hand.

Biscuit looked up at Jeff and with a completely straight face said, "DAD! You shirt-toucher with your hot hand!"

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Out of the mouth of my babe

A few things Biscuit has said recently:

Name that teamer: "Mom, we're playing baseball. I'm the Yankees, and Dad is the white team," Biscuit said.

"Why doesn't Dad's team get a name?" I asked him.

"He DOES have a name," Biscuit said. "He's the white team."

A minute went by, then Biscuit said, "Mom, what are the Yankees teamers' names?"

"George and Henry," I said.

"Mooooom," Biscuit said, in his best mom-you're-crazy voice. "They can't just be George and Henry. Everyone knows there's 10 of 'em."

"Well, you tell me what their names are," I said.

"Well, let's see ... there's George and Henry, and George and Henry, and George and Henry, and George and Henry, and George and Henry," Biscuit said.

He said five sets of George and Henry to make 10. That sounds like higher math to me.

Secret agent man: Biscuit watched a cartoon movie with a car who was a secret agent. Ever since then, he's been asking questions and talking about them.

"Mom, are secret agents real?" Biscuit asked.

"Yes, there are real secret agents," I told him.

"Where do they live?" Biscuit asked.

"Well, there are secret agents all over the world, but I guess where they live is a secret," I said. "That way, no bad guys can find them."

"Do they have a house AND a secret hideout?" Biscuit asked.

"Probably," I said. "They probably live with their family in their house, but they do their work in their secret hideout." I was getting worried by this point because these questions were getting harder, and I was running out of answers.

"Mom, how do you become a secret agent?" Biscuit asked.

"They get lots of special training," I said.

"Is their special training about how to hide well?" Biscuit asked.

"I think they get training in lots of different things, including hiding well," I said.

"Can I be a secret agent?" Biscuit asked.

"Well, that's something you'll have to decide once you're a grownup," I said.

"Would that be my career, Mom?" Biscuit asked. They talked about careers at day care the previous week.

"Yes, if you choose to be a secret agent as your job, that will be your career," I said.

"But Mom, I think I'd rather be a Ninja Turtle as my career," Biscuit said.

"Well, remember that Ninja Turtles are just characters," I told him.

"Yeah, I remember," Biscuit said. "But just for today, we'll pretend that they're real. Okay?"

"Okay," I said. "That sounds like a good plan."

Big brain boy: "Dad, what's a genius?" Biscuit asked.

"A genius, boy, is somebody who's super-super smart," Jeff told him.

"Dad, are you a genius?" Biscuit asked.

"No. I'm pretty smart, but I'm not a genius," Jeff said. "Geniuses are super smart."

Biscuit thought about it for a couple of seconds, and said, "Dad, I'm a genius!"

And he's humble, too.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Talking with the teacher

We had a parent-teacher conference with Biscuit's teacher this morning.

I still find it odd to have parent-teacher conferences for kids who aren't even in school yet. And apparently, some other parents feel that way even more than I do because they don't even show up.

The teacher Biscuit had when he started this day care had to leave the school for personal reasons. So the "floating" teacher, at least for right now, is Biscuit's classroom teacher. Because he hasn't been Biscuit's teacher that long, it was hard for him to offer a lot of detail. But he didn't tell us anything that surprised or shocked us anyway.

He said Biscuit is one of the brightest kids they have there, which was very nice to hear. But I almost giggled at how he told us.

"Academically, he's well above where he should be at this age," his teacher said.

Academically? He's 4. How academic can he be?!

The teacher told us all the things they've been working on in class, and how Biscuit is doing with each thing. He said Biscuit has adapted well socially. He plays with a lot of different kids instead of latching on to just one or two.

And then he worked his way around to his area of concern. And this is when he became really awkward.

We haven't spent a lot of time with this teacher, so he doesn't really know mine or Jeff's temperament or personalities. And I can imagine that if some parents felt like he was criticizing their kids, they could get nasty. So for the second time, I had a hard time not giggling.

"He ... um, well ... he ... sometimes he can be a little sensitive or fragile," the teacher said.

"You mean he's a bad sport, hates to be wrong and cries when you fuss at him?" I said, smiling at the teacher.

He realized I wasn't going to bite his head off, and I saw him visibly relax.

The bad sport thing and the hating to be wrong thing are typical for kids his age. And he's not like that every time. Sometimes when we play games, he shrugs off losing and says, "Oh well. Maybe I'll win next time." Then the very next game, he can realize he's losing and want to quit before the game is over.

I do worry, though, about how sensitive he can be sometimes.

One night recently, I told Biscuit to pick up his toys. And he didn't do it. So I said it again, a little bit louder. And he still didn't do it. I was distracted and wasn't really paying that much attention.

Finally, I turned around and realized that he hadn't done what I told him to do ... TWICE. So I raised my voice and told him that was the last time I was going to tell him.

He finally picked up his toys, teary-eyed the whole time. He walked over to me when he was done and said, "Mom, are you still mad?"

"Yes," I said. "I am still mad. It frustrates me when I have to tell you to do something more than once."

"Do you still love me, Mom?" Biscuit asked.

That makes me want to shake him and say, "No. I stopped loving you because you didn't put away your firetruck."

I don't want him to think he can just say he's sorry and cry a little and that makes everything better. But at the same time, I don't want him to think that just because I'm mad at him, I don't love him anymore.

I think it would be easier if Biscuit were playing me. I could call him on it and let him know that Mama don't play that. But the child is genuinely concerned about being in trouble. He really does worry about disappointing Jeff and me and his teachers.

Biscuit also struggles with other kids being mean to him. Kids are just mean little snots in general, and when one of them says something mean to him or calls him a name or makes fun of him, he gets really upset. 

We've been trying to say to him, "If John calls you a donkey, does that mean you're a donkey?" And he'll shake his head no. "Then it doesn't matter what John thinks. You KNOW that you're not a donkey. Tell John it's not nice to call names, then go play with somebody else."

It's all growing up stuff, and as a former sensitive kid, I get it. My goal, of course, is to help Biscuit become his own person and not to put a lot of stock into what other people think of him. Sadly, I still struggle with that as an adult, so anything I can do to help Biscuit with it now, I'll do.

Some people have suggested we try to get Biscuit into kindergarten early, but this stuff is the main reason we won't do that. A kid has to be emotionally ready as well as "academically" ready. And Biscuit will get there in his own time.

Charleston, Part 3

Nope, not done yet with the vacation stories and photos.

Jeff and I really enjoyed our walking tour, but we also wanted to spend some time on our own, rambling around the lower peninsula of Charleston. There are so many beautiful houses and gardens and fences and gates, you just can't take it all in while traveling in a car.

I have some foot and leg problems, and by the end of our walking days, I was in a good bit of pain, but even so, it was well worth it to have that time with Jeff. No distractions. No schedule.

One of my favorite memories from the whole trip was sitting with Jeff on a bench at Washington Square Park just watching the people go by. We have such a shorthand about people watching that we don't usually have to say anything. We just look at each other and usually start giggling.

Those moments are the fun ones. And the ones that mean the most when you look back on a trip.

Several old houses in the historic area are open for tours, so we chose one I hadn't been in before - the Nathaniel Russell House. (Here's more information:

The house's main attraction is a three-story cantilevered (or free-flying) staircase. (And of course you can't take pictures inside the house, or I'd be able to show you what we saw.)

Russell liked geometry, so when he built his house in the late 1700s, he made the front rooms (the entryway and his study on the first floor and the keeping room on the second floor) as rectangles, the middle rooms as ovals (the dining room) and the back rooms as squares (bedrooms). Not all the rooms are on the tour, but supposedly, there are two oval rooms and several others that we didn't get to see. They're still in the process of restoring the house. They're taking it one room at a time, and they're doing it right.

When the Russells lived there, all guests would've been greeted in the entryway. Business people would have remained in the entryway or the study until their business was complete. Any relatives or friends of the family would've been moved into the next room, which holds the grand staircase.

At that time, the streets would've been pretty disgusting (horse and even human waste, mud, etc.), so the nicer gathering rooms in the house were on the second floor. That would get them away from the stench of the streets and also give them better breezes from the harbor. So we had to go upstairs to see the dining room and what we'd now call the living room.

The dining room was turquoise. If you're like me, when someone says "Federalist," you think slate blue, hunter green, burgundy, etc., but after tons of research and recovery work done with dental tools, the colors they discovered in the house were nowhere near what I thought you'd find in a home at that time. The master bedroom was Granny Smith Apple green. The music room was pink with burgundy, blue and yellow on the carved plaster cornicework. The hallway that held the staircase was mustard yellow. The keeping room (or living room) was bright blue.

The walls in the dining room were covered in wallpaper with trompe l'oeil trim (a paint effect that is sort of an optical illusion). In those days, squares of wallpaper were pasted together into strips, then pasted onto the wall. THEN it was painted. I was confused because I thought the whole point of wallpaper was NOT to paint. Apparently, that was not the case in those days.

Guests would have a large meal in early evening, then the men would go downstairs to smoke and drink, and the ladies would adjourn to the keeping room for tea and sweets. The Russells were very wealthy, and one sign of that was a small square table made specifically to hold the tea urn. Back then, furniture always had more than one purpose, so if you have a piece that only had one job, it was seen as a sign of affluence.

I can't describe the carvings and moldings in the rooms well enough to do them justice. The window frames and crown moldings both were especially intricate. And the research they did to figure out the original colors of everything was amazing.

Both daughters lived in the house with their husbands, and when one of the sons-in-law was away on a trip, he wrote a letter to his wife talking about how he missed even the little things, like the light shining on the gold-gilded columns in the keeping room. The historians didn't know until they read that letter that the columns that were painted all white when they bought the house had actually been partially gold-gilded. They read diaries and letters and did art-gallery type restorations.

That keeping room was probably my favorite room in the house, followed closely by the music room. The whole room was oval-shaped. They even made the doors curved, so when they were closed, they completed the shape. They had some old musical instruments, which of course appealed to me. They also had this beautiful fainting couch that was way too fancy to actually sit on.

Nathaniel Russell was about 50 when he got married. His wife was in her early 30s. Nathaniel was rich, but his wife had money, too, before they met. I was very impressed to hear that she had a contract drafted that was essentially a pre-nuptial agreement, saying that if anything should happen to them, she would take with her anything she brought in - meaning that no matter what happened, she'd be taken care of. This was 1788! And this woman asked for and got a prenup. Good for her, I say!

I am freakish about how much I remember from these tours, and I haven't even said anything about their bedroom, how the stairs were constructed, the slaves quarters or the gardens!

We saw lots of pretty houses as we walked around, and of course, I had my camera in hand.

Jeff outside the Nathaniel Russell House.

Having his initials made into the railings was
another sign of how rich Nathaniel Russell was.

A lot of Europeans who moved to Charleston didn't like the looks of brick.
They thought it looked too primitive. So they framed their houses in wood, covered them in brick, then covered them in stucco to give them a more European look.

That's St. Michael's church. It has beautiful carved wood half-walls
that separate the seating areas. Back then, instead of pews,
churches sold little walled-off sections, and families had to bring their own
chairs. The closer to the front you were, the more money you had.

I've heard this told and refuted so many times, I'm not sure if it's
true or not, but supposedly, a lot of homes had two-sided staircases
at their front doors. Men went down one side and ladies went down
the other. That way, there was no chance of any of the men catching
a glimpse of the ladies' ankles as they walked down the steps.

Another shot of St. Michael's with palmetto trees.

This is a city business building, like where you go
to pay bills and stuff. It seems to pretty for that.

The gate around Washington Square Park. Imagine sitting
on the porch of that yellow house with the park as your view.

A palmetto tree. It's the one that's on the S.C. state flag.

That red brick building used to be a warehouse for
cotton or rice or indigo. Now, it's an office building.

This is a live oak tree. The park near the harbor is full of them.
Those long branches meet up with each other to make great shade.

This fountain is at Waterfront Park. And even as afraid
of water as I am, I didn't feel the need for a lifeguard.

The top of the fountain is a
pineapple - a symbol of hospitality.

A walkway covered by live oak trees at Waterfront Park.

Another fountain at Waterfront Park.

I call this my postcard shot. That bird couldn't have flown over at a better time.

This beautiful bridge connects Charleston and Mt. Pleasant.

So much for Southern hospitality.

A living wall surrounds the garden at one house.

The jasmine was in full bloom and smelled heavenly!

Believe it or not, this house is about 27,000 square feet.
The front door has glass inserts that are Tiffany crystal.

I love how they train greenery to fit around
stair rails, doorways and windows.

This house was P.G.T. Beauregard's headquarters. He was in
command of the garrison that shelled Fort Sumter during the Civil War.

A dentist built this house. The story goes that
he painted it the color of healthy gums.

I love the details like the rope trim around the
door and the checkerboard marble stoop.

I have wanted this house since I was a kid, so Jeff took a picture of my car in front of it. That's the closest I'll ever get! This house faces Charleston Harbor and the side with the small black balconies faces the Cooper River. The cannon you see would've been one of many that sat around the edge of what is now a pretty park. The park is the end of the peninsula and would've been the first line of defense. It's said that the people who owned these houses around the harbor sat out on their porches and watched the shelling of Fort Sumter, which would've been a straight shot from this house. Many of the neighboring houses had cannonballs come through the tops of their houses. A few of them still have them as souvenirs.

Sunday, May 26, 2013

A day at home

We didn't leave our house yesterday. And it was great.

We're hoping to have Biscuit in his big-boy room by the end of the summer, but it's one of those things that will have to happen in shifts.

And by that, I mean that we have a cubbyhole bookcase to put together for the room, but it has to be bolted to the wall. So we can't put it in until the walls are painted. And we can't paint the walls until a couple of pieces of furniture are moved out. And we can't move the furniture out until we can sell one piece and move the other into the attic. And we can't move the one piece into the attic until we clean out the attic.

So that's what I started yesterday.

I knew the attic job would be overwhelming, so I planned to do it on this long weekend. Breaking it into three parts made it seem a little more doable.

I got a little more than the first third of it done yesterday. I cleaned up and cleaned out.

We had our roof re-shingled a couple of months ago, and I had no idea the amount of debris that would rain down on everything up there. So everything up there had a coating of dust and dirt and little bits of old shingles. It's a messy job. Luckily, we've been pretty good about not being pack rats. I could imagine it be SO much worse.

By the time I got done, Biscuit was getting up from his nap. So we had some playtime.

We've been looking for some kind of storage piece for our remodeled bathroom, so we went to a furniture consignment store. We found a couple of possibilities, but after doing some measuring, nothing worked out quite right. The store has the furniture set up in room vignettes, which is nice because you can see the scale of the pieces and how they work with other things.

They had a kids room set up with bunk beds and a dresser and they had some toys scattered around as well. Among the toys, I spotted a builder set of magnets. I will readily admit that I LOVE these things. I got Biscuit to play with some last fall at a local toy store to see if he might want some for Christmas. And of course, I was thinking how much fun I'd have, too. But he wasn't the least bit interested in them.

These builder sets are pretty expensive, so I wasn't going to take a chance that if I bought one, he would gain some interest. But guess what I found at the consignment store? The box of magnets I priced online at $69.99 was displayed on a table with the price tag of $12.

I grabbed the box and Jeff asked, "Are those for you or the boy?"

"Yes!" I said and smiled at him.

And lucky for me, Biscuit has really taken a liking to them.

Yesterday, I built a castle and a guard tower. And he took pieces and made a princess (whom he perched on the top of the castle because the wicked witch had put her there), a knight with a feather on his hat (because SOMEone has to get the princess down) and of course the wicked witch (who has a mean voice with a nasty cackle).

With my building skills and Biscuit's imagination, we had quite the drama going on.

We played for a long time until we were distracted by wildlife in the backyard. The bunny who ruined my garden last year came hopping across the yard. Imagine his surprise when he got to my garden patch and there was nothing but weeds. That'll show him!

Then we saw a robin digging for worms. It got one, too.

Here are some pictures from our day:

A cookie sheet works great as a
foundation for magnet structures.

The castle is on the left with flags on the top. The guard tower is
on the right. The short pieces in the front are guards. The blue
piece in the front is a knight. The red piece on his head is
a feather on his hat. I can't remember which one is the
witch and which one is the princess.

When he's wearing these things, he's super hero Wolverine.

Why yes, Biscuit, your feet DO stink!

Too bad I have such a grumpy kid!

Friday, May 24, 2013

Comic books, meerkats and dinosaurs

A friend of mine was talking today about Free Comic Book Day, which was a couple of Saturdays ago. Comic book stores give away tons of comic books, including some for little kids, and they have costumed characters, people doing sketches and other stuff.

The most popular comic book store here planned an event at their store and an event at the science center. Biscuit has been getting into super heroes lately, so when we found out about the event at the science center, we decided to go. The only problem was that it was the morning we were supposed to leave for vacation.

I told Biscuit about it and asked if he'd like to go for a little while before we left on our trip. And of course, when he found out there would be heroes there in costume, he was all excited to go.

My friend and her husband went to the comic book store that day, and they said she got some comic books for kids that they thought Biscuit might like.

"Do you know if the comics from the store are any different from the ones they gave away at the science center?" I asked her. "We took Biscuit there."

"I didn't realize you went to the science center event," she said.

"Didn't you see the pictures I posted?" I asked. And then it occurred to me that I never posted any pictures.

So even though it's a couple of weeks late, here are some pictures:

You'd think that among all the worlds Thor
can travel to, he would've found a nicer wig.

Batman, on the other hand, was really cool looking.

Cat Woman and Poison Ivy are villains, so Biscuit
wasn't happy about having his picture taken with them.
I told Jeff he should've said to this
Storm Trooper, "I thought you'd be bigger."

After we saw the super heroes and villains, we went around to see
the animals. Biscuit and this meerkat were staring at each other.

This is a ring-tailed lemur.

This is a red-ruffed lemur.

Don't look now, Biscuit, but I think
that T-rex wants to have you for lunch!

This cool plane would rock back and forth as Biscuit moved the controls.

The lobby of the science center.