At My House (For Sara and Dune)

This is my house

At my house I can hear…BAM BAM
See saw see
Rap rap rap
Ssss Ssss
Clunkety clunk clunk

At my house I can smell…Ooooo
Sniffy sniff sniff
Mmmm Mmmm

At my house I can taste…Yum, yum

At my house I can see…Up up up
Down, down, down
Green, yellow, brown

At my house I can feel…Fluffy

This is my house

At My House
By Claire Clark and Susan James Frye

June got this book (along with a couple more books, a few cds and a pretty rosewood xylophone) in her take-home kit for the fall session of Kindermusik, which just started up again last week. The session theme is Milk & Cookies. It’s all about domestic routine. During the first class we pretended to be clothes in a washing machine and at one point we were all issued dust rags, which we pretended to use. I’m pretty sure she got what we were doing in the washing machine but that whole dusting thing might have been a bit perplexing to her. It’s possible she’s never seen anyone dust.

Anyway, this book really captivates June. I read it to her over and over and she delights in finding the stuffed kangaroo on each page. Extended exposure has gotten me to thinking about our own domestic routines. Here’s what that kangaroo might have seen (and smelled and tasted and heard and felt) at our house over the past few days.

Friday: At my house I can smell… Italian frosted cookies.

“Do you still want to make cookies this afternoon?” I asked Noah when he got off the school bus.

He nodded his head enthusiastically and did a Cookie Monster imitation, “Cookies!”

After we’d read a few chapters of Dragon Slayers’ Academy #13 (Beware! It’s Friday the 13th) and he’d watched his allotted hour of television, we got started. One of June’s Kindermusik books has recipes for cookies from around the world and Noah had been paging through the book and asked if we could make the Italian frosted cookies. I said sure, though I was a little dismayed to note it looked like the most complicated recipe of the lot. The dough has to be kneaded and shaped into rings, baked, glazed and sprinkled with candy.

I put one of June’s new Kindermusik cds on in the living room to keep her occupied while Noah and I measured and mixed the ingredients. I wanted to include her later in the process, but this looked like it would take longer than whipping up a batch of chocolate chip cookies and her attention span is about what you’d expect from a two and a half year old.

At one point she wandered into the kitchen and almost immediately, the kids were fighting over who would stand on the stool we use to reach high shelves. I folded it up and said no one could stand on it. Noah accepted this, but June sobbed and sobbed and I wondered if this was going to derail the whole baking project. Then, all of a sudden, she was finished crying and went back to playing.

By the next time she came in, we were rolling the dough out on a floured board on the dining room table. I gave her a lump of it to knead and she was a happy, happy girl. Both kids sank their fingers in the dough and poked and squished and giggled. We let June keep kneading an ever-diminishing ball as Noah and I formed the rings and placed them on the baking sheets. I wondered if she’d have trouble relinquishing that last little bit, but she gave it up readily when I let her (and Noah) have a taste. I realized that all the extra steps I had seen as a hassle were really the fun of the project.

Beth got home early, around six, because we were going out for pizza. I was proud of myself for having timed everything perfectly. She got home right as the cookies were coming out of the oven. Except when I checked on them they looked like dough, not cookies. Come to think of it, I’d never smelled them baking. The oven was not turned on. I must have turned it off inadvertently when I’d turned on the oven light early in the baking. I consulted quickly with Beth. Should we wait to heat up the oven and bake the cookies or just leave? We decided to go ahead and bake them.

Twenty minutes later, as I headed to the oven to retrieve the cookies, Beth said, “Now that smells like cookies.” The rich smell greeted us again when we came home from our dinner.

At my house I can smell…the sweet smell of an hour’s play.

Saturday: At my house I can taste…homemade pesto

Saturday was a busy day. I folded and put away three loads of laundry, mowed the back yard, glazed the cookies and sprinkled colored sugar on them, attended a meeting at June’s school, read more four more chapters of DSA #13 to Noah and The Tale of Peter Rabbit to June (at least six times) and made dinner.

Five o’clock found me in the garden, cool in the growing shade of a late September afternoon, snipping basil stems off near the ground and putting the leaves in a measuring cup. I’d read online that if you leave a little stem and a couple leaves the basil will keep growing. I wasn’t certain we had a cup’s worth of leaves and sure enough I came up a little short. I wondered if I should just pick everything, but in the end I left two leaves on almost every stem. I‘d surveyed the garden: the cilantro, cucumbers and spinach were finished; the second planting of lettuce was getting sparse and all but a couple carrots were gone. We had eight tomatoes in varying stages of ripeness on the vine, but there hadn’t been any new green ones in a long while. I wanted to stretch the bounty of the garden out a little longer if I could.

An hour and twenty minutes later I took my first bite of whole-wheat penne with pesto. It was just right. Even Beth, who had a cold, said she could taste it.

At my house I can taste… a rich, green, fleeting moment of summer.

Sunday: At my house I can hear…Noah reading.

Noah was sprawled out on our bed, his math worksheet in front of him. He was alternately staring into the middle distance and playing with his pencil. Beth and June were at the farmers’ market and I’d come into the room for a book. I checked his progress. Three problems left on the sheet plus one more page and he’d be done his ten pages of math homework for the week.

I decided to forget my book and said, “Do you want to take a break and read some DSA after you finish that page?” He agreed readily. It’s always more fun to read to him when June’s out of the house and not interrupting us every few minutes and he and I are so rarely alone when I don’t have pressing chores. I prodded him into finishing the last three addition problems and we got started. I read the last four chapters of the book. It took about twenty-five minutes, five more than he needed for his reading log. I was getting up when he said he wanted to read the DSA newsletter at the back of the book.

I hesitated, but then he offered to read it to me, so I said yes. Noah’s a good reader but he still prefers for us to read to him. He read the whole nine-page newsletter, occasionally misidentifying a word (“community” for “committee”), reading other hard words (“evidence”) with ease, and laughing over and over at the jokes: “Why was Cinderella so bad at sports? Because her coach was a pumpkin!”

At my house I can hear…the written word coming alive in my son’s voice.

Monday: At my house I can feel…sick

Beth and I have been trading a couple of separate illnesses back and forth. She had the stomach bug first and then the cold. I got the cold first and then yesterday morning around 4:15 I woke feeling decidedly queasy. I will spare you the details, but it was bad enough that Beth decided to stay home and watch June today so I could rest. The worst of it was over by 9:30 in the morning, but I spent a lot of the day on the couch, cuddling with June and watching Sesame Street, or in bed– sleeping, reading the most undemanding thing I could find in the house ( or reading to June.

I found my favorite white cotton long underwear bottoms I haven’t worn since spring and spent the day in them and I swiped the comfy fleece throw from Noah’s room. Beth bathed June, read to her, took her on a couple of outings and brought me back an almond latte. When Noah got home from school, she read to him.

At one point, June climbed into bed with me and said, “We’re cozy, aren’t we?”

Even though I did two loads of laundry and made a simple dinner while Beth supervised Noah’s homework, it still felt like staying home from school and having my mom watch over me.

At my house I can feel…nurtured.

Tuesday: At my house I can see…two and a half candles on a cupcake.

“How ‘bout we give her a half present?” Noah said on his way out the front door this morning. We’d been discussing plans to go to the supermarket after school and get cupcakes for June’s half-birthday.

June is two and a half today. Now that we’re at the halfway point, I can say her twos haven’t been terrible, at least so far. She can throw a decent tantrum (she threw one this afternoon at Starbucks as a matter of fact) and we hear “Give it back! It’s mine!” quite a lot (more often when the object is not in fact hers), but her fits, while intense, pass pretty quickly. She can usually be distracted or jollied out of them. They are nothing like the tantrums Noah had when he was three and half to four and a half (one of which led me to sit down next to him on the sidewalk outside the Takoma Metro stop and cry). Maybe she’s still warming up, but if not, I feel like we’ve gotten off pretty easy.

I know we did with her transition to school. She has loved it from day one, with no period of adjustment. On Thursday and Friday mornings she’s so excited to leave the house that more often than not we leave earlier than we need to. We’ve taken to walking instead of using the stroller. As I watch her run down the sidewalk, tiny behind her huge backpack, I wonder where my baby went and where this little girl came from, the one who calls Beth and me “You guys” and who sometimes says “No problem” (it comes out sounding more like “No pwobwem”) instead of “Yes.”

Beth called around 6:20 to say there were delays on the Red Line and that she’d be late getting home. We ate without her. June dug into her whole-wheat spaghetti with fresh tomatoes, cheese, olives and veggie meatballs. I didn’t make her a salad because she hasn’t been eating them recently but she asked for one when she saw mine and so I got her some spinach leaves and garbanzo beans and she ate those, too. After dinner she climbed up on the kitchen stool to peek at her cupcakes on the counter.

“What are my cupcakes doing?” she asked. I’d promised she could have one after dinner. I told her we were waiting for Beth to come home and eat her dinner first. June went to the living room and sat down in her rocker with a stuffed bunny in one arm and a copy of Babybug ( in the other.

When Beth walked in the door at 7:10, June informed her she was reading to the bunny and then told her we had cupcakes.

Finally, it was time to eat the cupcakes. We lit two and a half candles and sang “Happy Birthday” and “Feliz Cumpleaños.” I helped June blow out the candles and then I pulled them out. June attempted to count them. “One, two, three, four, five!” she said. June can count up to twelve or so, but when she’s counting actual objects she tends to go too fast and come up with an inflated total. She examined the sprinkles on the frosting carefully before she ate. “All different colors of my birthday!” she said.

After she’d finished, she said, “It’s not my half birthday, it’s my five birthday.”

“Some day,” I said, thinking she’s already halfway there.

At my house I can see…a girl who charges ahead and doesn’t look back.

This is my house.

Note: While all this was going on, my sister Sara and her gentleman friend Dune bought their first house. May it be full of yummy smells and tastes, joyful sounds and sights, and feelings of love and celebration.