Thursday, April 10, 2014

Loquacious

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A tiny, talkative tongue

A conversation with my dad (GrandpaDahling) about language development in toddlers:

GrandpaDahling: Genevieve is very verbal because you talk to her all the time. Most parents don't talk to their kids as much as you talk to her.

Me: Most people don't talk as much as I do, period.

Mom: [Evil cackling]

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

The Fingernail Fairy

Sometimes, I just NAIL this parenting thing.

Mostly because I steal good ideas from my mother. They say plagarism is the sincerest form of flattery, and - with a few small ideas of my own - we're raising Genevieve the way I was raised.

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"Quick, grab the camera!" - Mom

I like to try to overcome challenges with Genevieve creatively, kindly, and most importantly, in a way where I can turn a problem into something fun. (This works best after I've had my coffee, and a good night's sleep. I'm only human.)

One of the challenges I've had is clipping nails. I started doing it while she was sleeping when she was a baby, and once she got older, I became The Fingernail Fairy.

Like the Tooth Fairy, the Fingernail Fairy comes in the dead of the night, clips fingernails (and toenails) and - if all goes well - nobody wakes up, and we all get the gift of a DangerMouse who doesn't have Wolverine claws.

The Fingernail Fairy doesn't get the same excellent PR that the Tooth Fairy gets. There. I've said it.

In any case, now that Genevieve is becoming a Big Girl, I've been able to rebrand some previously problematic things as "Big Girl" activities. (I don't bandy the term about all willy-nilly, just for important stuff.)

I happened to be tidying our bathroom counter, when Genevieve noticed the row of nail polish bottles, all lovely, colorful, and most importantly, sparkly, along the edge of the mirror.

"What's that?" she asked.

"Nail polish," I answered, and then - BAM! - my mother's genius kicked in, "You know, Gramzie used to paint my toenails when I was little. If you let me clip your toenails- and you're cooperative - I'll paint your toenails."

"Okay."

Be cool, be cool, I thought to myself, rushing to grab the tiny toenail clippers. You haven't clipped them yet.

I grabbed my own clippers as well, and modeled how easy and painless it is, and then she cheerfully and cooperatively let me clip hers. And then her fingernails. LIKE IT WAS NOTHING.

[This is a big deal. Genevieve has been fine *pretending* to clip nails, but as soon as it was time to get down to business, based on the crying and shrieking, you'd think I was trying to do surgery without anesthetics on her instead of *just attempting* to clip her nails. Hence the necessity of the aforementioned Fingernail Fairy.]

"Great job! That was very cooperative!" I said, positively brimming with enthusiasm, "Pick your color! Let's go paint your toenails."

She picked and we went to the living room, where I parked her in the glider and turned on an episode of Sesame Street (as a treat, and also to guarantee she would sit still until the nail polish dried).

In typical toddler fashion, the thrill was in the chase, and as soon as I went to paint her toenails she was *immediately* suspicious of the whole process. So, what's a mom to do? I modeled on my own feet.

It's been more than two years since I've had a pedicure- in fact, the last time was my 29th birthday, with my friends Jen and Laura, just before Genevieve was born. I worked quickly, and by the end of the episode, Genevieve still wasn't ready. No big deal. Sometimes it's the getting, sometimes it's the having. Whatever works.

Mom came over, and Genevieve greeted her the usual way ("AAAAAAAAAVIIII!" ["Gramzie" for the uninitiated], and *then* was ready to have her nails painted.

"Paint mine toes, peeease, Mommy?" 

So, we listened to some music while I gave her a tiny pedicure.

"Now," I told her, "You need to sit Very Still so that your nail polish can dry. Let's read a couple of books, and you keep your legs straight out on mine."

One pass through The Very Hungry Caterpillar and Happy St. Patrick's Day, Curious George, and her toes were dry.


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Matchy-matchy!
The funniest thing is that once she was off of my lap, (and her nail polish was dry) she was doing the heel-walk that *everyone* does with wet toenail polish. It was the funniest thing I've seen in ages.

All evening, she was admiring her pedicure, "Mine toes preeeeeddy, Mommy. You toes preeeeeddy, too. Match!"

I can't help but notice that I was thinking exactly the same thing.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Thematic madness

I saw on Facebook this morning that The Very Hungry Caterpillar turns 45 years old today. Once I tell Genevieve, she will insist that the Caterpillar needs a cake, to blow out candles, and sing "Happy Birthday" because now she gets the Birthday Protocol. (That is also in order of importance to her, by the way. Cake, candles, sing.)

KidBrotherSam and I both loved The Very Hungry Caterpillar as kids (and The Very Busy Spider, as well, for the record).

[Fun fact: for YEARS, KidBrotherSam would say "ca-li-pitter". SO CUTE.]

One of my favorite things about being a parent is sharing things that I loved as a kid with Genevieve. Specifically, books. I come from a family of "readers"- we had bought a library of books for Genevieve before we had clothes, diapers, or furniture. Reading is, obviously, a priority for us.

Ever since Genevieve has become independently mobile, we have had a rule: if someone is reading to you, you need to sit on their lap. (Or snuggle up next to them.) This works on a number of levels: we get the (increasingly rare) snuggle time, and she learns to sit and focus on one thing at a time. Also, snuggles.

[We have her give us kisses before reading a story, as a sort of payment. With toddlers, it's important to get payment up front. Toddlers have terrible credit.]

We are mostly moved out of board books, which makes me both sad and glad; sad that she's not a little baby anymore, glad because I don't find myself saying things like "Books are for reading. Let's get you a chewie for your teeth."

(Seriously. Our copy of "But Not the Hippopotamus" is so chewed that THERE IS NO ARMADILLO.)

And I, like one Mouse who is Given a Cookie, can not resist the logical progression of thematic madness. So, here we go:

If you read a DangerMouse "The Very Hungry Caterpillar", you might find Cascade Greenland on sale, in a nice, leafy green.

Once you have nice, leafy green yarn, you will find the pattern for a sweater with a leafy buttonband.

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Cascade, by Raya Budrevich

Once you knit the sweater with the leafy buttonband, you'll block the sweater.

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Because blocking is important.

Once you block the sweater, you'll need matching grosgrain ribbon to back it with.

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From TheRibbonSupply on Etsy

Once you have applied the grosgrain ribbon, you'll need thematic buttons to match.

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I know that he didn't eat grapes.
Once you find those buttons, you'll have an AMAZINGLY talented listener make you special buttons which blow the other ones out of the water, so you'll put those on instead.

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Yes, they were a gift. No, she won't make more. (I asked, sorry.)

Once you apply the Special Buttons, you wait for the weather to accommodate the wearing of a sweater, and then stealthily snap a couple of pictures of a DangerMouse in her Hungry Caterpillar sweater.

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The holes are great for counting. And sticking fingers in.
And it's not a picture, if you don't Gopher Grin.

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And if you knit a Very Hungry Caterpillar sweater...

...You might need to knit an "If You Give a Mouse a Cookie" sweater.

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

These boots were made for splashin'

During the day, we have a rule: if you want a grown-up to read to you, you have to sit in their lap. This solves - what I affectionately refer to as - the Wiggly Toddler Conundrum. (The issue being, wiggly toddlers snuggle less, and that's sad.)

At night, Genevieve has the option of snuggling up next to her reader (usually, but not always, me), or sitting in the "Mommy Seat". The Mommy Seat is created by [me] sitting cross-legged, and Genevieve sitting in the space, leaning against me, her legs over my legs. I love the Mommy Seat.

We have a regular stack of books that Genevieve likes to read at bedtime. Among them is I Love You, Good Night. I mostly bought it because it was a bedtime book with mice in it, but it quickly became one of my favorite bedtime books.

It's short, sweet, and gives lots of opportunities for extra kisses and hugs at bedtime. (Pro-tip from Gramzie: If there are kisses and/or hugs in the book, there are kisses and/or hugs to illustrate the point in person.) The book employs simile, which I love, and it just gives me all the oxytocin-filled warm fuzzies to read it with Genevieve.

There's a page in the book, showing the little mouse wearing boots and a raincoat, and enthusiastically splashing in puddles. The text reads, "I love you like boots love splashing in puddles." Genevieve has been OBSESSED with this page.

As it happens, in preparation for rainy weather - which has yet to *really* make its debut - we bought her a yellow raincoat and matching rain boots.

In October.

Genevieve LOVED the boots- she could put them on and take them off easily, by herself, and stomp around in them. What's not to love?

She has been DYING to wear them out and splash in puddles. So when the weather teased us with the promise of a thunderstorm, I told Genevieve that we would go splashing in puddles after her nap.

Our "storm" lasted maybe fifteen minutes. But, a promise is a promise, so when she woke up, we suited up in our raincoats and rainboots, and went on the hunt for puddles to splash in.

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It's not the size of the puddles that matters.
You can see in the photo that the street isn't even wet. We found four "puddles" in gutters- which were likely to be more mud, antifreeze, and motor oil (given the color). But, I didn't split hairs and I let Genevieve splash away. She was THRILLED.

Of course, I wore my boots, and raincoat, too.

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These are Skacel Peek-a-Boots. I got mine at Purlescence.
(Obviously, a photo from a much wetter day.)

Genevieve also loves playing in *my* rain boots.
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Rainboots and flannel. She pulls it off.
[The boots don't come with the green Superfeet insoles, though I'll likely replace them with the black ones at some point. (What can I say? I'm a woman who likes - nay -  requires good arch support.)]

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"What do you MEAN these don't come in my size?!"

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"I'll just borrow yours. We'll wear the same size soon enough."
We've been promised more rain, and I'm hoping the weather delivers. I'm not looking forward to another drought (soooooo cliché, California!). 
What *am* I looking forward to? Some epic puddle splashing with my favorite Mouse.

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

How I beat kale

Once upon a time, we were part of a CSA. Week after week, we would get a glut of strange greens (like kale or chard) and week after week, it would end up feeding the earthworms in our compost. The worms were thrilled; I was not.

I looked for recipes in my usual places, but I wasn't a very accomplished cook at that point, and my shelf of cookbooks was anemic, at best. The internet yielded a number of unsuccessful attempts, and really, how nutritious are kale chips, really? (Compared to ice cream, probably very nutritious. But still.)

What we ended up with was - what I estimate - was about $200 in wasted kale.

... and then came Pinterest.

Recipes! Parenting ideas! Arts and crafts! Is there anything this miraculous site *doesn't* have? (Answer: no.)

While on one of my initial pinning binges, I tripped across this recipe for Kale salad. Ever the optimist, I added the ingredients to my shopping list, and enthusiastically told SuperAndrew about this miraculous kale salad that I just *knew* we were going to love, and we would finally *get* why everyone but us thought kale was so great.

SuperAndrew didn't share my enthusiasm.

"So this is Sunk Cost Kale salad?" he asked me, SMIRKILY. (I know "smirkily" isn't a word. IT SHOULD BE.)

"Yes. And it is going to make all that wasted kale WORTH IT."

It was. We've had it (about) once a week for the last couple of years, and I have a few regulars over for dinner who specifically request it. And my variations on the recipe. Which I will now share with you.

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"Sunk Cost" Kale Salad, from originally from Melomeals, with my adaptations.

Mix in a REALLY big bowl (I use a 9 qt. stainless steel mixing bowl):

    •    4 cups kale (baby kale is my preference, but you use the stems, the leaves, all of it)
    •    1/2 a green cabbage
    •    2 cups shredded carrots
    •    1/2 a red onion, diced
    •    1 teaspoon kosher salt
    •   a generous splash of lemon juice
    •   a generous splash of olive oil

Massage together for 5 minutes or until the veggies start to break down. (Set a timer, five minutes feels much longer than it should. If you don't do the full five minutes and/or skimp on the lemon juice and olive oil, the kale will not chemically cook, and it will taste weird.)

Post massage,  I add *another* good splash of olive oil and lemon juice at this stage. Then, add:
    •    1/4 cup roasted sesame seeds
    •    3/4 cup sunflower seeds
    •    1/4 cup nutritional yeast
    •    3/4 cup Pumpkin Seeds

Salt to taste.

    •    Make sure your hands are VERY clean before making this salad. I also wear vinyl gloves for the “massage” portion of the salad.
    •    This will keep (as long as you NEVER double dip or use the same tasting spoon) for up to 4 days in the fridge. KidBrother Sam thinks it improves by sitting overnight in the fridge, SuperAndrew prefers it fresh.


Bon apétit!

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Twooooo!

Genevieve was born on the first business day of 2012. One of my blog readers warned me to be careful not to let the holidays eclipse Genevieve's birthday, mainly from her own experience of having her New Year's Day birthday eclipsed every. Single. Year.

"I won't do that," I promised myself. "What kind of mother lets the holidays overshadow her baby?"

Well.

In the whirlwind of the Thanksgiving/Christmas/New Year's madness (now with more madness! One less week!), I didn't realize that Genevieve's birthday was a mere TWO DAYS after New Year. As we say around these parts: Oops.

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"Peeeem!" [Cream]

[For her "real" birthday, I whipped up some cream and put some candles in it. Fact: she liked this even more than the cake she got at her party.]

So, I let all of our family (and closest friends) know that we would be celebrating the following weekend.

"To give everyone a short break from all the holiday business," I said, flexing the truth, just the tiniest bit.

Then, I promptly went to Pinterest, my favorite source for finding other people's brilliant, creative, marvelous ideas. I searched "Two year old birthday party."

Pinterest is also where some of us go (myself included) to see the beautiful things parents do for their children. Clothes, creative ways of serving food, beautiful cakes, elaborate party games. I get vicarious joy from these things, and also, more than a little bit of that horrible Mommy GuiltTM. And envy. Oooooh, the envy. (Pinterest Moms, I admire you. Really, really, really.)

Instead of wallowing in the "I barely remembered the day," guilt, and the "There is no way I have the time or energy to do ANY of this," I thought about what the most important part of Genevieve's birthday celebration should be: Genevieve.

When we were younger, my mom would say, "I can do things FOR you, or I can do things WITH you." Meaning, if she spent all of her time doing laundry, dishes, cooking, cleaning, etc, then she wouldn't have time to do fun things with us. [My mother is a GENIUS.]

The same applies to a child's party that takes twenty hours of prep time. Twenty hours of doing things *for* Genevieve, when really, she'd prefer to read with me, or play together on the floor, or do anything other than play by herself while I work myself mad.

I really feel like an important part of parenting is recognizing what your kids *really* want and need. I could do the elaborate stuff, but Genevieve would get maaaaaaybe ten minutes of fun out of it. Not a great return on the time invested.

So, I thought about what Genevieve loves to do. Play at the park. Read books. Play with balloons- BINGO! We would fill the living room with balloons, and she could play with them as much as her fuzzy little heart desired.

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Having fun together

We took her to Affordable Treasures, where they have (what I affectionately call) a balloon bar, where you can pick from a kajillion kinds of balloons. We let Genevieve pick as many balloons as she wanted, got some Sesame Street party plates, cups, and whatnot, and brought it home. (The total for the balloons was in the neighborhood of about $15. Tops.)

(I would like to point out that Genevieve was *exquisitely* well-behaved in a store full of tiny, fun, grabbable things. She held my hand or the shopping basket the whole time, said "thank you" to the checker, and helped carry the reusable Sesame Street shopping bags out to the car. These bags have been a fantastic investment, since she always wants to help carry them. Full hands = helpful = well-behaved. Another of my mother's brilliant ideas.)

We served crudités for snacks (Genevieve's favorites, of course), and did a build-your-own sandwich bar for lunch. We got a couple of different cakes from Bijan's (our favorite bakery), and part of the entertainment was blowing up the balloons, of course.
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Hours of fun for the whole family!
(By the way, if you have a bunch of balloons to blow up, I highly recommend this Balloon Pump.)

We scheduled the party from 10-1, so that naptime could be observed without interruption and that all parties involved would have a great day. And after playing in the balloons all morning, I can tell you that she went down for that nap HARD.

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When she woke up the BALLOONS WERE STILL THERE. So, we played in them some more.

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There was crazed laughter.

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Crazy hair.

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Enormous smiles.

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And joyous arms!

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Wiped out.

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Balloons are fun. But exhausting.

Since we're all about returns on investment, and getting a good value? The balloons are still in the living room, and as they lose their oomph, they slowly disappear.

Which is why our Christmas tree is still up. We're maximizing the return on our investment.

(That's my story, and I'm sticking to it.)

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Sympathy, Empathy, Elphie

When we adopted Elphie, all those years ago, she came to us with some serious baggage. She had been horribly abused, and was found wandering the streets with a pack of wild dogs.

When her time at the Humane Society in Tracy had run out, they called local a no-kill rescue. Amanda, who ran the rescue, took Elphie in and posted her on Petfinder for us to find and adopt. Elphie was five months old when we she joined our family.

That was in May of 2005, and we've worked hard to socialize her and make her feel comfortable, safe, and loved. For the most part, she's pretty chill, but specific things just set. Her. Off.

Like fireworks.

We had *six weeks* of fireworks every night before and after the fourth of July. Six weeks. Under the supervision of our vet, we had tranquilizers for her, and on the recommendation of a friend, Thundershirts for both dogs. We put white noise on loud in the bathroom in our bedroom (where she likes to curl up sometimes), and did our best to drown out the noise.

(We are also trying Through a dog's ear for fireworks, on the enthusiastic endorsement of our incredible dog trainer. Results tbd.)

Life has a way of throwing curveballs to keep things interesting, and while the Fireworks Bonanza of 2013 was a MASSIVE pain, that was five months ago. So many developmental milestones have come and gone, and Genevieve is still a cheerful, happy, great, well-behaved kid- but she's not always 100% cooperative.

I was anxious about the fireworks, and I was anxious about Elphie, and Genevieve noticed that Elphie was getting more attention than normal and started to act out. Yelling. Crying. Completely out of Genevieve's character.

Thanks to Positive Discipline: The First Three Years, I had the tools to calmly collect Genevieve into my lap, and really communicate with her. The book focuses on communication, understanding, and educating in a kind way. (They have a HUGE age range in their books. You want to read these books.)

I asked her if she was upset because Elphie was getting more attention than normal. [Yes.] I told her that the loud noises were scaring Elphie.

"When you're scared, do you like it when Mommy snuggles you close?"
"Yes."

"When you're scared, do you like it when Mommy gives you hugs and kisses?"
"Yes."

"Do the snuggles and hugs and kisses make you feel better?"
"Yes."

"Elphie is really scared right now, and I need you to be cooperative and helpful tonight. I need you to help me take care of Elphie."
"Ok."

Once both dogs were suited up in their Thundershirts (Niki isn't a huge fireworks fan, either), and Elphie had been medicated, we were waiting for the meds to kick in. At this point in the process, I give the dogs some peanut butter as a special treat because (a) they really like it and (b) Elphie forgets to freak out while she's eating peanut butter.

I started with a tablespoon of peanut butter for the dogs, and Genevieve on my hot on my heels. The dogs polished it off pretty quickly, and Genevieve spoke up.

She asked for more peanut butter for Elphie. Specifically, signing while she was speaking so that I would understand what she was saying right away, "More, PEEEEASE. HEPP Effie."


My heart nearly burst out of my chest. I was so proud of her. So, I told her. 

"Thank you for being so cooperative and helping take care of Elphie. Let's help her now," I said, and we did.

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This kid totally gets it.
Other than being INSANELY proud of Genevieve,  it's important to tell this story for another reason. I was at a book signing for an *incredibly* popular children's author when Genevieve was less than a year old.
I forget the context of the discussion, but the author pointedly and factually told me that children under the age of three simply *aren't developmentally capable* of either sympathy OR empathy. I thanked her for signing Genevieve's books, and left knowing in my gut that she was wrong.

In the bigger picture, it's not about being right or wrong. I think it's recognizing that sympathy and empathy look different on a toddler than they do on an adult. Not to compare children to dogs, but there are also people who believe that dogs don't have souls, or personalities. If you've ever loved a dog (or two, in our case), you know they're just wrong.

I really feel like Genevieve has learned that we all take care of each other because we love each other. Sometimes we "hepp Effie", and sometimes Elphie helps us.

Monday, December 9, 2013

'ween

We have had a lot of change over the last few months around here. Andrew started a new job, and it is very different from his last, including the hours. What this boils down to is that he gets twice as many "awake hours" (as we call them) with Genevieve as he did with his last work schedule.

... and then he got LASIK surgery on his eyes. (You'll notice that he goes from Andrew to SuperAndrew in the pictures that come after this post.)

It's great, and I'm flexible, but it's taken me a while to find my comfortable rhythm. So here we are!

Genevieve helped us carve the pumpkins for Halloween this year, which mostly consisted of squishing pumpkin guts while SuperAndrew, Mom and I all kept the carving implements at a safe distance. (If you like our pumpkins, you can get the carving templates here. I found them via Pinterest.)

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The whole family
She was delighted by the pumpkins, mostly because we had five that were all different sizes, which she would label with our titles. Toddlers LOVE order, especially my toddler.

For the two weeks we had the pumpkins, she couldn't pass them without adjusting their order. Since I know nothing about décor, I let her do her thing. Maybe I could learn something, you know?

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Fung shui-ing the porch.
I spend a lot of time waxing poetic about how much (and how quickly) Genevieve changes, but seriously.

Last year:

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Halloween 2012
You'll notice that the mouse costume is a bit roomy, and she has the footies on- because she's not walking yet. (She took her first steps on Thanksgiving, which was super memorable.) And LOOK AT THOSE BABY CHEEKS.

Brace yourselves. This year:

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Halloween 2013
Walking. Talking. Carrying her Elmo bucket.

The whole night went remarkably well, with the exception of a few small ... hiccups. The first was both major *and* minor. I hadn't remembered to charge my cell phone, and I got the "20% battery life" warning RIGHT as I was about to take pictures of Genevieve in her full mouse-y glory. And then, the screen went black.

[Dear Apple, Inc.; 20% does not equal 0%. Love, Jasmin.]

Fortunately, we were in front of our house, and my camera was ready to go, so I got my pictures.

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Family jack o'lanterns

What I may have been *most* pleased about was that she kept the mouse hood on nearly all night. The hood was more challenging than it should have been, but fortunately, I had Mom doing all the hard work helping me.
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Mouse ears in progress
Fortunately, I brought fun to the party, which as we all know, makes up for any of my sewing shortcomings. Style eclipsing substance and all that.


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Adjusting her ears. Like you do.
Mom stayed at the house with the dogs and handed out the candy (full-sized candy bars; that's how we roll), and SuperAndrew, KidBrotherSam and I took the Mouse from house to house.

It was really fun watching her learn how Halloween works. It took us a few houses, but she got it. She would knock, hold out her bucket and say "Beet!" ["treat" for the uninitiated], sign "thank you" after they put a treat in her bucket, and by the end of the night, would say "'ween!" ["Happy Halloween", again for the uninitiated.] With only the *tiniest* bit of prompting on our part.

The things that were supposed to be scary (rotating saw blades, dismembered body parts, giant spiders) didn't phase her in the slightest. I was feeling really great about how we had done nearly our *whole* street without a panic, and then, two doors down from our house, terror struck.

Our neighbor, dressed in the most *phenomenal* Chewbacca costume, opened the door. Genevieve let out a bloodcurdling scream and tried to -simultaneously- climb up and *through* SuperAndrew. Our incredibly nice neighbor (a father of two middle schoolers), pulled his mask off and tried to make Genevieve feel better.

"It's just me, Genevieve," he said, over and over, in his nicest voice.

Genevieve was having NONE of it. She pointed at the sidewalk, and we apologized profusely to our lovely neighbor (who may have been more traumatized than Genevieve) while we made our way to sidewalk safety.

It was all SuperAndrew and I could do not to laugh. And maybe we did. But there were also a lot of hugs, kisses, and "it's okay, you're okay"s.

[KidBrotherSam chided me about not teaching Genevieve about the classics. I maintain that she's too young for Star Wars. She is barely old enough for the Muppets.]

We took a quick break with some of our other neighbors, whose boys are extremely fond of Genevieve. Fortunately, Genevieve loves them right back, and after we let Genevieve have the packet of pretzels from her haul, we all hit the pavement for a little more trick-or-treating.

The older son, [whom I will call "Mario", since that was his costume] wanted to hold Genevieve's hand while they went door-to-door, and after a couple of houses after the Wookie Trauma of 2013, Genevieve was willing to go with him.

It was one of the sweetest things I've seen in ages; the kindness, the patience. (Halloween is my Christmas, and this was my Halloween miracle.)

I know next year will be 100% different than this year, and that's ok. I know she'll definitely need a new costume, and she'll have opinions about what that costume is.

I'm really looking forward to next 'ween.