Thursday, December 18, 2008

Golden Days

Nature's first green is gold,
Her hardest hue to hold.
Her early leaf's a flower;
But only so an hour.
Then leaf subsides to leaf.
So Eden sank to grief,
So dawn goes down to day.
Nothing gold can stay.
~Robert Frost
These newborn days are going by oh, so fast.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Life Today

In my kitchen:

  • Cranberry Cornmeal Biscotti
  • Trader Joe's Panettone
  • Liberally Decorated Sugar Cookies
  • Cinnamon Bread
On my nightstand:

On my to-do list:

  • so many thank you notes
  • so many birth announcements (it's not too late, right? She's only ten weeks old...)
  • wrap, wrap, wrap

On my mind:

  • my brother spending his second consecutive Christmas in Iraq
  • anyone in the Seattle area who is without shelter in this bitter cold weather
  • friends spending their first Christmas away from loved ones, in a foreign country, where Christmas is not celebrated

The Comings and Goings of a Two Month Old

While her activities have not been as varied as her sister's, the Little One has been quite busy herself. Mostly she has been doing a lot of this:

Being super cute.

The Comings and Goings of a Three Year Old

The blog has been quiet, I know, but life has not been. Here is a glimpse of what our three year old has been up to these past few months. (In reverse chronological order.)

Her first "gingerbread" house.

Sorting the Christmas ornaments. What, you don't wear a fairy/angel/princess/ballerina costume while you decorate?

Thanksgiving hugs with her cousin.

Helping Grandpa rake the leaves...over and over and over again.

Ready for the Pumpkin Party at preschool.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Christmas Cheer

Most of you have probably already seen this, but just in case you missed it, check out Straight No Chaser's 12 Days of Christmas. It is sure to bring a smile to your face. Thanks to Bob for originally posting about it last year.

Friday, December 12, 2008

12 Days of Christmas Giveaway

The Lil' Peanut Patch

It's a little late to mention it, but...The Lil Peanut Patch is having a fun 12 Days of Christmas contest, highlighting quite a few (twelve to be exact) unique businesses. The drawing is tomorrow, so hurry up! I found some great gift ideas that I've tagged for future reference.

Monday, December 08, 2008

O Little Town

Last week my daughter learned, "And Jesus grew in wisdom" as part of her Cubbies memory verse.

Today, as we were reading a Christmas story, I asked her if she knew where Jesus was born. She didn't hesitate.

"In Wisdom."

Monday, December 01, 2008


[Above: two of my greatest reasons to give thanks.]

Ah, Thanksgiving. What a magnificent holiday. The food, the family, the friends, the food, the laughter, the memories, and the food - what's not to love? (According to my sister and husband, what's not to love is all the pumpkin. Too bad for them that they are wrong!) We spent the weekend in Oregon with my four younger sisters and their families, and we had a great time.

About a week before Thanksgiving, I started writing in a journal again. I just finished this particular journal. I started it on November 20, 2000. An eight year journal. My first entry documents that "Andy and I are dating". The last entry, November 22, 2008, documents that "Andy and I have two children". Wow.

So I finally finished up the last few pages of my eight-year journal. I had been thinking a lot about gratitude, and was thinking in terms of New Year's resolutions and how to show more gratitude in 2009. Then I realized that it was ridiculous to wait until the calendar turned before beginning my personal gratitude challenge. Why not start now? So I did. I started keeping myself awake for a few minutes longer each night (sleep is a precious commodity right now) and writing down some of the events of the day that had blessed me in one way or another. I have found this little exercise to be so uplifting and clarifying. Here are some of the things that came to mind as I was reminded of just how blessed I really am:

11/19/08. Today I was blessed by: friend sending a bag of her pumpkin cookies home for me; daughter reciting her Cubbies verse and earning her patch; baby sleeping for seven hours and then going back to sleep quickly.

11/20/08. Today I was blessed by: a cheerful traffic flagger; Caffe Ladro coffee and barista; daughter's preschool teacher calling her "Angel"; daughter's Cubbies leader telling me that daughter was very well-behaved at Cubbies last night; daughter drawing a picture of her "sad feeling"; baby smiling as she fell asleep; receiving order of children's books from preschool; finding a funny CD that Andy left in daughter's CD player as a gag; dinner out with my family, both girls happy throughout meal.

11/21/08. Today I was blessed by: friendly staff at doctor's office; vision & hearing [I was struck by how horrid it would be to lose either sense]; an apologetic flagger; daughter wanting to learn all of her Cubbies verses, and wanting to know how to spell all the words; daughter spelling "apple" with no prompting [we had told her how to spell it several days prior]; daughter recognizing by sight only her memory verse from last week; Andy cleaning out the pantry; thinking about the love represented by the many items handmade by loved ones in our home; looking through photos of our trip to Austria a few years ago.

11/22/08. Today I was blessed by: girls collecting food outside the grocery store; Andy making a detailed grocery list; pre-mixed formula and having a clean bottle in the car; my sister's invitation to stay with her over Thanksgiving, saving us the cost of a hotel; teaching daughter the "I've Got the Joy" song; clean diapers; a good latte.

I continued this exercise in a new journal, which I haven't been able to find since we returned home from Thanksgiving weekend. A few other blessings, written in the missing book, are: the baby sleeping for nine hours one night (the first time she has truly slept through the night); a person very dear to me very ecstaticly sharing the news of her pregnancy; a friend driving sixty miles one way to bring us a "new baby" meal; a great Christmas tree farm; and an unexpected note in the mail from someone I barely know.

There are just so many things for which to be thankful. They're everywhere! I have read that, once basic needs are met, money and possessions have nothing to do with happiness. Neither do status, education, appearance, or career success. The factor that happy people have in common is gratitude. That in itself is something for which to be grateful! Anyone, anywhere, at any time, can cultivate gratitude. This is a tremendous gift.

I hope you all had a wonderful Thanksgiving!

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Faith Development

My daughter's understanding of religion is budding. When saying grace at dinner, she either thanks God for everything under the sun, or she thanks Him for the elephants at the zoo. We find this both sweet and amusing. Some of her other recently expressed thoughts on religion include:

She and I were looking at pictures in her child's encyclopedia, and we came across a drawing of Thomas Edison working on a light bulb prototype. She asked for details. I said:
"That's Thomas Edison. He figured out how to make light bulbs, so now we can have lights in our house."
Daughter: "Oh. He makes lights for us? Oh! Just like God makes lights!"
Me: "Um...yes. God also makes light."
Daughter: (pointing to picture of Edison) "Mommy? Is that God?"

This morning we visited a nearby Lutheran church. My daughter enjoyed the colorful banners and stained glass windows, neither of which we have at our church. She found one banner depicting the sacrament of communion. Pointing to the chalice on the banner, she whispered reverently (we were, after all, in church): "Mommy? Is that an ice cream cone?"

In the car recently, my daughter was playing with an old set of keys. She dropped them on the floor of the backseat, and I twisted and stretched from the front seat to get them for her. I warned her to be careful, because I would not pick them up if she dropped them again. Naturally, she dropped them again. My husband reminded her of my warning and she seemed to resign herself to not getting her keys until we got home. She sighed and said: "Maybe God will help me get my keys. He's here, you just can't see Him." Then she prayed that God would help her. Yeah...needless to say, she got her keys back.

At the Lutheran church this morning, my daughter enjoyed "reading" the bulletin. It was a good 15 pages long. The front cover had a picture of a stained glass window depicting the parable of the master who entrusts his servants with his talents. It was a very traditional picture, white beards, long robes, fiercely authoritative figures. At one point my daughter couldn't find the bulletin amongst her other papers, and she asked, "Where is my God magazine?"

I find her understanding of God to be sweet and sincere. Is her understanding really much less than mine? I have, after all, only 25 more years of learning than she does. In the matter of eternity, how much difference does 25 years make? Perhaps her understanding is better than mine. She accepts God's love for her without question, without shame, without guilt. She is not afraid to question that which she does not understand. Faith like a child. I hope God smiles at my understanding of Him, feeble as it is. I hope He finds it to be sweet and sincere.

photo by woowoowoo

Friday, November 07, 2008

Lady Grey and Sew Mama Sew

Andy and I are discovering how precious few moments there are during the day when one or the other child does not need our immediate and focused attention. Precious few. Right now our oldest is having her afternoon Quiet Time and our youngest is (gasp!) sleeping. I know this moment is fleeting. There are three loads of laundry ready to be folded, two more ready to be washed. There are scads of thank you notes to write, and there are birth announcements to design. There are maternity clothes to be sorted, stored, and returned to friends (do you hear the Hallelujah Chorus? No? Just me? Huh.), and toddler clothes to be washed and stored. There are many neglected friends awaiting email responses.

There are things to do.

Naturally, then, I sat down with a piping hot cup of Lady Grey tea and started browsing Sew Mama Sew's Handmade Holidays Flickr pool. Ahhh. Relaxation. I don't know how many handmade Christmas gifts will come from our home this year - realistically not very many - but it's fun to see what other people are making and giving.

Okay, break's over.

Tuesday, November 04, 2008


Did you?

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Domestic Therapy

I'm all for formal counseling when the occasion calls for it, but I think there are times when less expensive forms of therapy can be substituted. Like cleaning the shower.

During our oldest daughter's quiet time and our youngest daughter's cat nap yesterday afternoon, I cleaned the shower. It was awesome. It was one of those times when experts would have advised me to "sleep while the baby's sleeping", and indeed that is the advice I would likely have given to another mother. My need for sleep is very real right now*, but yesterday afternoon I had a greater need. The need to clean. It wasn't even so much a need to have a clean shower (although there was that). It was a need to clean the shower. Asking my husband or mother-in-law or a friend to do it, which I know I could have done, wouldn't have fulfilled the real need. I should mention that I generally loathe cleaning the shower. It's just about my least favorite chore. Yesterday, though, it was just what the doctor ordered.

Tomorrow I hope the doctor orders Starbucks.

*Not as great as my husband's need for sleep, which is going largely unmet as he insists that I sleep during the baby's most wide awake hours, 12:00-2:00 am. I might be spoiled.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008


After having been told for probably two years that she should not drink bath water, my daughter arrived at an inquiry. As I was washing her hair during her bath the other day, she asked quite indignantly:

"Mommy, why are you putting the water that is yucky for me to drink on my hair?"

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Our Newest Someone

Last Wednesday evening we welcomed our beautiful Baby Girl into the world. She is practically perfect in every way. (Movie reference? Anyone?) Delivery was wonderful - no, truly. Is it weird to say that I enjoyed it? It was quiet and peaceful and not nearly as difficult as I thought it would be, and really rather pleasant. (Yes, I've delivered before, but by c-section, so this birth was a totally new experience for me.) And yes, I was heavily medicated. I don't know if I would use words like "enjoy" and "pleasant" if I had not been. Anyway...we are all healthy and doing fine and very, very happy. The proud Big Sister is so gentle and sweet with Baby. It is clear that her world is a little shaky right now as she is pretty sensitive and emotional (much like her mama), but that just means that we have all the more reason to snuggle with her.

Lest you think we mindlessly dress our children in the tackiest clothes possible, I will explain the picture. In preparation for Baby, we read The Baby Sister by Tomie dePaola many times over. When Tommy learns that his mother is going to have a baby, he requests a baby sister with a red ribbon in her hair. When his parents bring the baby home, sure enough she is a girl and she has a red ribbon in her hair. When my oldest daughter heard that, she immediately requested that her baby sister have a green ribbon in her hair. Green is my girl's favorite color. The request stayed consistent, and so we decided to make an effort to accomodate it.'s challenging to put a ribbon in the hair of a newborn. Baby has a fair amount of hair, but it is still newborn fine, and we didn't want to tie a bow around her head (strangulation hazard and all). So we finally decided that we would attach a green ribbon to her hat. It worked wonderfully. Her big sister was pleased.

We're home now. Life is really good. We're just taking things slowly, easing into the life of a family of four. Our girls are beautiful and fascinating, and while we are still working through some challenges that come with parenting two (surely we'll be working through those challenges for many years to come), we are finding that the girls bring us tremendous joy and delight. I am incandescently happy. (Movie reference? Anyone?)

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Miscellany from daily life

Sometimes our daughter says things that keep my husband and I in stitches. My favorites of her recent quotes are:

  • "My Daddy is a good finder, is he? Yeah, he is. He is a good big pepperoni finder."

  • "Mommy? Could you do me a favor? Could you please pick up Mommy and Daddy's room for me?"


It's time for a new purse. I'm not a big fan of shopping for accessories. Shoes, purses, jewelry, makeup, belts - it's not that I don't like the items, it's that I don't enjoy shopping for them. But my purse has had it. I've thought about getting a new one for quite some time. Mine is pretty small and I am not able to carry some things that I would like to carry with me. A bigger one would be nice, but I guess that preference alone was not enough to make me shop for a new one. Then the purse fell into the toilet. That's right. It was a very clean toilet, but a toilet nonetheless. Still I did not feel entirely compelled to replace the purse. Then I managed to set the purse into a pool of blue paint. Yep. A brown suede purse with a brown leather base that is now sky blue. That should do it, right? I should go get a new one. But I did not. I carried around a too small, water damaged, blue painted purse. Yesterday, fate stepped in. The strap of the purse broke. I can no longer carry it on my shoulder, and clutching it while also clutching my preschooler's hand is not a feasible option. I suppose I could pin the strap, but I'm not quite that stubborn. I will get a new purse. I'm thinking Etsy.


I have two and a half weeks left until my baby is due. This morning I received a phone call from my OB's office. My OB has had an accident and has broken both of her arms. Needless to say, having two broken arms is quite inconvenient in her line of work. (I can't say that I can think of too many occupations that would accomodate two broken arms easily.) She was the only reason my husband and I chose the particular hospital that we did. She is a fantastic doctor. She delivered our older daughter in what turned out to be an unexpectedly traumatic and dangerous situation, and she did a stellar job. Now we have to decide whether to simply see her medical partner for our remaining two weeks, or to find a new doctor altogether. So far I have cried at the frustration caused by this turn of events, and I have laughed at the utter ridiculousness of it all.


I have joined my husband in playing Fantasy Football this year. This fact might lead you to believe that I am a big football fan. Not so. I don't dislike football. I just don't know much about it. I grew up in a Big Ten basketball household. No, I joined Fantasy Football out of a desire to understand this sport about which my husband is so passionate, and to spend Sunday afternoons with my husband. And you know what? So far it has been fun! Of course I haven't had to do anything. Mid-morning Sunday I ask, "Was I supposed to change any injured players this week?", and he says, "I took care of it." This is a very good thing for me, since I can correctly match all of eight NFL players with their respective positions, and seven of those are quarterbacks. Yeah, I'm savvy that way.


Today I am envying my friends who have delivered their children a bit early, which seems to be most of them. Most of the babies I know have decided to arrive before 40 weeks. All of my sisters delivered early. I have five friends who have delivered babies this year, and every one of them went early. I probably shouldn't complain yet, though, since I have two weeks to go and therefore cannot say that I myself will not go early. I suppose I should pray that I actually do not go into labor just yet, not until this whole finding a doctor with functional arms thing is resolved. I'm also fighting resentment over the "second births are so much easier" standard that I keep hearing, since my doctor told me that my body will not recognize this as a second birth, given circumstances surrounding my first birth. Kind of makes me feel like that first labor was wasted - except for, you know, the beautiful child who resulted from it.

I'm not bitter.


Coffee time.

Welcoming Autumn

Autumn is here! I feel fortunate that, in the Pacific Northwest, autumn usually arrives right around the time the calendar says it will, give or take a week or two. When my daughter and I woke up yesterday morning, I decided that we would pay attention to the changing of the seasons.

We started the day with oatmeal and maple syrup. "Porridge", my daughter calls it. So good.

Then we made a seasonal necklace. I had originally picked up this little bead kit to throw in the special "Big Sister" activity box that we'll be bringing to the hospital with us. We want our oldest daughter to come and meet her sister in the hospital, but we also know that she will only be interested in looking at the baby for so long. Thus her very own special box.
Unfortunately, I neglected to pack the bead kit right away, and she found it. That's okay, though. It turned out to be a great first day of fall activity. She was a lot more successful at stringing the beads than I thought she would be. Just look at that concentration.
Success! She was one proud three year old.
After beading, we took a trip to the library to stock up on fall books. Apparently some parents plan these things in advance (not I), because most of the seasonal books were checked out. We did manage to find these middle three books, and then we added the classic stories on the top and bottom of the stack. We also stopped by the local fruit market and picked up a bunch of miniature pumpkins. For the rest of the day the pumpkins were arranged, rearranged, stacked, scattered, and played with. At one point they became a family of pumpkins, all with their own voices, traits and identities. Later in the evening they became a gift that she "maked-ed" for her baby sister. Right now they are all in individual gift bags, in a row in the corner of the living room, apparently awaiting the arrival of baby sister.

The idea of making a gift for her sister originated with this dual shower that some friends threw for us last night. Another friend is expecting her child during the same week that we expect ours, so our mutual friends held a shower for both of us. I was afraid that my daughter would not quite understand that the gifts were for the baby, or that she would understand and would be upset by it, but she was fine. Thus her sudden urge to make her own gift for her sister, which we encouraged. All in all, we had a great first day of autumn. Summer passed quickly, but this year I was ready for fall. I just might have to pick up some more miniature pumpkins for seasonal decor, though, since my original bunch are now in gift bags.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Secondhand Pregnancy

It is fairly commonly known that pregnancy can affect a woman's mind. Unusual forgetfulness, confusion, and distraction can all make appearances during pregnancy. This is sometimes referred to (by the mothers themselves) as "Mommy Brain", "Baby Brain", or "Pregnancy Brain".

But can pregnancy affect the minds of those who are not pregnant? I think it might. Tonight I encountered two gentlemen who seemed to have lost their ability to speak sensibly.

The first gentleman tried to help by picking up a bottle of water for me. Would not let me pick it up myself. I do lift a 29.5 lb. child many times each day, but apparently the water bottle (and I'm talking Aquafina, not an office water cooler) was too much. I thanked him. Then he made an attempt at polite conversation. I think. It went like this:

Man: Well, you already have a girl, so this one must be a boy.
Me: Oh, no, we're having another girl.
Man: Oh. Well, the important thing is that you're able to praise the Lord no matter what happens.
Me: [trying to connect his two statements] Yes, I suppose that's true.
Man: We had three girls and then we had our boy.
Me: Huh. He was pretty outnumbered then.
Man: Yeah. We decided to go ahead and have him circumcised.
Me: [blink. blink. Certain that my own brain missed a synapsis. Did not compute.] Is that right? I'd better get this water to my daughter.

I'm still not sure how that conversation even happened.

Then just a few minutes later, an acquaintance approached me and said, "I didn't know you were expecting! When are you due?" I replied, "In about 3 1/2 weeks." A man standing near us had apparently overheard our conversation. I did not know him at all. He leaned over, looked at my belly, and said, "Whoa! Have you been working out? Because you are about to lose some weight!"

What does that mean? Can anyone tell me what that means? Did he say "Whoa!" because I am mammoth, or because he was surprised that I only have 3 1/2 weeks to go? And the rest of his statement...I...what?

It is at times like these when I am grateful that my mother taught me to smile and be polite.

T - 25 Days

With 25 days remaining until Baby is due (not that the due date means much), I find myself falling asleep and waking up with the question, "What do I need to do to be ready to leave for the hospital today?" on my mind. I'd really rather not leave with the house a wreck, the laundry undone, or job tasks unfinished.

This past weekend, the answer to my question was peaches. As my husband mentioned, we bought a couple of boxes of peaches at a local fruit market. About 50 pounds of peaches. Peaches are at their prime for about one day. If we were to leave 50 pounds of peaches on the counter - or even in the fridge, on the unlikely chance that we had that much room in there - for two or three days while we took care of other matters, such as giving birth, we would likely return home to mushy, potentially moldy peaches covered in fruit flies. Appetizing, yes? So we processed them as fast as we could.

They were turned into peach crisp:
They were turned into jam:

They were frozen:

They were canned:
And of course they were eaten. Delicious.

There are still 36 peaches in the refrigerator, awaiting one more full canning session. I am determined that we will not lose a single peach of our 50 lbs. I don't like throwing away food. So tomorrow, somewhere between morning preschool and an afternoon doctor's appointment, canning will happen.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

The Power Of Words

photo by Windy Angels
I've been thinking about words lately. Powerful little creatures, words. I think words are among the most misused of our resources. We use too many of them, we use the wrong ones, we use them carelessly. It's a shame. Here are some things I've noticed about words recently:
  • Excuses and explanations. I have a friend who does not make excuses. She does not seem to have a need for explaining herself. Last week she and I were both part of a group that had been asked to provide one volunteer for an ongoing job. Nobody wanted to do it. We all provided reasons for why we could not take the job - except this friend. She just said, "No" and left it at that. She and I serve on another team together. We had a meeting recently. When asked if she would be able to attend, she said, "Yes, but I have to leave at 8:00." No explanation as to why. She just had to leave at 8:00. The end. I love that. I love that she doesn't try to explain herself. She just gives her answer and leaves it at that. No outs. No maybes. Her word is true, and she doesn't need to explain her reasons to anybody. This is not just true of her "no", either. If she says, "Yes", then you can just know that she means it. She'll be where she says she'll be, she'll do what she says she'll do. She doesn't need to justify her decisions. It's refreshing.
  • Lyrics. Trying to describe a song when one does not know the lyrics is difficult, somewhat pointless, and frustrating to both parties. My sister recently tried to describe a song to me. She thought that I would like it, since I am the mother of a young child and am expecting another child soon. But she didn't know the name of the artist or the song, and she couldn't remember the lyrics or melody. These are all key components of songs. She said, "It's something about golden ringlets cute they are when they're fast they grow up. It's so sweet!" I'm sure the song is lovely and touching, but I simply couldn't relate to my sister's level of emotion when discussing the song, because - well, I'll admit, just the phrase "golden ringlets" doesn't leave me in a state of great emotional vulnerability. So there we were, she so excited and emotional about the song, and all I could say was, "Huh. That sounds nice."
  • Language development. My daughter brought a crafted foam frog home from church today, the kind of preschool craft that hangs over a doorknob. I asked her what her frog's name was. She said it was George Eastman. Then she corrected herself and said the frog's name was George Eastfrog. He is not a man, you see, but a frog, so he couldn't have the name Eastman.
  • Meaning. Have you ever noticed how often we say things that we don't mean? I'm starving. That is the ugliest thing I've ever seen. I hate this computer. We don't really speak plainly. Plain speech, like a true and simple "yes" or "no", is refreshing. One thing I catch myself saying frequently is, "I can't believe..." I can't believe how big she's getting. I can't believe we graduated so long ago. I can't believe how many times that telemarketer has called. Not true. I can believe all those things. When I am intentional about my speech, I try to say, "I can hardly believe..." or "It is hard to believe..." I think this implies that belief is still attainable, but that the object of belief has somehow amazed me or caused me to reflect upon the quick passage of time.

Speaking of the power of words, I'm hearing a plaintive "Mom-mYYYYYYY!" from the other room, so I had better respond to it.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

September 11

I received this email from my brother, who is a 1st Lieutenant serving in Iraq. I share this with his permission.

"Well it is September 11th, and I have been deployed for 10 months. We have a flag in our compound here and we lowered it to half staff this morning. Over here we take each day one at a time, but days like today make what we are doing even more important.

I work with building the new Iraqi Army. We are trying to build an Iraqi military that can take the fight to insurgents, which they are doing more and more. We also are training them to treat the people right. This country was ruled by an iron fist for thirty years and it is difficult to get them to take personal responsibility or to take charge in the absence of orders. We are getting there slowly but surely.

In the spring I met a young Iraqi private, his name was Joseph Najim Abdullah. He was a bright kid, he said he was 18 but likely he was no more than 16, not much older than our Joe [our youngest brother]. He was one of our basic trainees, and when we did our testing he scored well. He scored high enough that he was going to be placed in the communications school. That was until violence flaired up in the Baghdad neighborhood of Sadr City. Half of that basic training class was pulled from training 3 weeks into their 5 weeks of training, sent to an Iraqi division given a rifle and sent into the fight. In April Joseph was killed by a sniper in Sadr City. Joseph represents what is good about this country, young men not much different than us, standing up and volunteering to fight for what they believe in. Our mission is to train them and prepare them for the worst they might face. Sometimes we do it in spite of bad decisions from the Iraqi govenment, like the choice to take soldiers not even through basic training and throwing them into the worst neighborhood of Baghdad against a determined, experienced insurgent force.

I don't usually reflect, but today is a special day. I am sure for those back home it is easy to get wrapped up in the election coverage and who is right or wrong. For those of us over here it really doesn't matter who is President, it is about the people serving next to you."

As so many have said, regardless of what you think about the war, you must - you must - support the warrior. Please don't forget.

Photo by jbdjbdjbd

Thursday, September 04, 2008

The Worst First Day

Today is a very important day in our home. Today was the first day of school (unless you count this, of course). And, if I may be so bold as to say so, it was a disaster. I don't even have any pictures to show you. That's how bad it was. No pictures of the first day of school.

My Munchkin started preschool this morning. It's just preschool. She's just three. It's two mornings a week for two hours each morning. It's not a big deal. Right?

It really started last night at the parent orientation meeting. My husband and I found it ironic that the literature we were given stressed that young children need plenty of sleep, about eleven hours a night - but we were kept in the meeting until 8:30. After picking our daughter up from the home of the friends who were watching her, and then going through our regular bedtime routine, this meant that our daughter was not in bed until 10:00. Yeah. That's late for a three year old.

This morning she woke up at 6:00, distraught and tired. She climbed into bed with us. Knowing that she was exhausted, I let her sleep as long as I dared: 8:00. Then we had to wake her up. If you have kids, you no doubt have experienced the phenomenon of being awakened by an exuberant child earlier than you would like on every morning, except those mornings when you have to be somewhere. Then the child wants to sleep. That's just how it works. So we woke her up at 8:00, and she was cranky and slow-moving. I brushed her hair while she ate her yogurt. That went well. That is the only thing that went well. She finished her breakfast and we told her to try to use the bathroom. She didn't want to. We made her anyway. She tried, crying the whole time. She didn't go. Since she woke up dry, this did not bode well. (You know what's coming, don't you?)

She continued to cry as we dressed her. This, by the way, is not normal for our child. She's usually pretty easy going and happy, especially in the morning. We suspected that she was acting out of nervousness, which made it a little difficult to know how to react. She cried until she was buckled into her carseat...and then she was fine. I was a mess by that point, feeling angry and disappointed, but not wanting to display those emotions to my daughter and make her any more anxious about the day.

We arrived at the school just on time and entered the classroom with the other families. Today's class was only one hour, and parents were to stay with their child. We met the teachers and some of the other families. One of my daughter's friends from church is in her class, and the two of them promptly settled themselves at the puzzle table together. She decorated a crayon-shaped name tag, writing her own name. She was thrilled to find a toy kitchen and probably would have spent the rest of the morning there, had circumstances allowed it. We were feeling pretty good about the whole thing at that point. I had calmed down and decided to forget the challenges that we had faced at home. Then...she turned around and gave me the "uh-oh" look. It was too late. She was wet. She was clearly not pleased about this happening, and neither were we.

She's not completely potty-trained. We know this. I spoke with the preschool director last week and was very open with her about this fact. She was kind and helpful. But, despite being not quite completely trained, our daughter has never had an accident away from home, not since she started wearing regular underpants. Plenty of accidents at home, but never away from home. For this reason, we have not been too worried about her potential success at preschool. But today, on the first day of school, she stood in her classroom and had an accident. We again stayed calm, trying to make this day as happy as possible for her. Andy ran home to get a change of clothes. I know...we should have had one with us. We have had a change of clothes in the car for weeks. I brought it inside earlier this week. My daughter and I waited in the hallway of the school until Andy returned. This would have been okay if we had been alone. We weren't. The preschool director and another mom were in the hall, and when the director asked if she could help with anything, I lost it. The whole frustrating morning - the exhausted child, the fight to get her ready, the way everything went exactly opposite of the way I had pictured it, and then the accident - I was unable to juggle it all in my heart any longer. I cried. The director tried to comfort me, no doubt thinking I was an emotional mom who couldn't handle her child's first day of school. I guess that is technically correct, although it really wasn't about my daughter growing up or gaining independence or not needing me or anything like that. Or if it was about that, it was not at a conscious level. For me, it was about having a rotten morning. It was about feeling angry and disappointed and embarrassed. It was about sitting out 25 minutes of a one hour class session. The director was so kind, but when I feel like that, I don't want to be comforted, at least not in public and by a stranger. I want to be left alone. Left alone, I can compose myself. Being "ooh"-ed and "there, there"-ed over simply opens the floodgates. It was terrible. At one point I managed to say that I really was fine, and the director said, "Oh, I know, you're just hormonal"...which sounds condescending, but it wasn't. She's right. I'm 35 weeks pregnant and haven't slept a comfortable, uninterrupted eight hours in weeks. I'm tired and, truly, hormonal. I was not this emotional during my first pregnancy, but this time around...well, my husband is a wonderfully patient man.

My husband got back with the change of clothes, we changed said clothes, and we joined the rest of the class for the closing circle time. Well...Andy and my daughter joined the class, I took a few minutes alone in the restroom to finish my cry and make myself presentable. Then we were fine. My daughter was happy and interacted with her teachers and the other students just fine. They had all the parents leave the room at the end of class, a sort of strange attempt to practice the usual pick-up routine and to find out which children would react poorly to having their parents leave. One poor little boy ran out of the room wailing. I felt so badly for him. During the entire hour, he had clung to his mother, who kept trying to push him away and make him play with the other children, saying things like, "All of the other children are good, and you are bad. You need to be good like the other children". Yikes. Poor kid. Anyway, our daughter had no problem with us leaving, never has, so at least we had reassurance about that.

She has been fine ever since then. Happy. Dry. Obedient. I'm sure she was tired and anxious, and I want to be sensitive to that. One of these days, I'll look back on today and laugh...right? Well, maybe not. Maybe this morning was just a life lesson, teaching me once again that the best-laid plans of mice and moms often go awry. Of all the lessons my children have taught and are teaching me, this is the one that is reviewed most often. Some days it is easier to accept than others.

The bottom line is that today was the first day of preschool, and my daughter enjoyed herself and is excited to go back. And that's what matters. And to make the day brighter for both of us, I baked sugar cookies when we got home. The dough was not homemade, and I don't care.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

How To Make Mama's Day

We're sitting at the breakfast table, my little ("I'm not cute, Mommy, I'm a big girl") girl and I. We're eating real cereal and grapefruit, pretend eggs and hotdogs, drinking real chocolate milk and coffee (respectively), and real water from tiny china cups. We are surrounded by the contents of her "hair things" tin, a collection of ponytail holders, barrettes, and clips. The smallest of the ponytail holders, used when she had just barely enough hair to hold any sort of accessory, are now our rings. Pastel blue, purple and pink elastic rings. She is wearing her cute yellow and pink pajamas, her hair in complete disarray. I'm wearing shorts and my husband's tshirt (because I never bothered to buy maternity pajamas...maybe next time), no makeup, hair not even brushed yet. It's a typical family scene, one that I would never allow an outsider to see, but still comfortable and normal and right.

And then, in the midst of this quiet mess, knowing that my appearance is quite unpresentable to the rest of the world, my girl looks up at me and smiles for a moment. She says, with the newly developed stutter, "Y-y-y-y-y-y-you are so pretty." I smile back, tell her that she is beautiful, and reach out to touch her face. She grabs my hand and hugs it. And life is perfect.

Monday, August 25, 2008

My (Half) Productive Weekend

Lately I've been noticing that the number of days until Baby's arrival are fewer and fewer, but somehow the number of things to do before she arrives keeps growing. Hm. So this past weekend, my husband and I went to work. I still can't really cross anything off the "Pre-Baby To Do List", but at least several items have been started. This weekend we:

  • acquired a dresser for Baby (but it is still empty)
  • acquired and washed fabric for Baby's valances (but haven't started sewing)
  • washed Baby's clothes (but haven't folded or put away)
  • picked out diapers* (but haven't ordered them)
  • registered for Baby stuff (but this one was never on the To Do list, so I can't cross it off. We decided at the last minute to register because so many people were asking what we needed, and all we could come up with on the spot was "pacifiers"...and we didn't really want to end up with 57 pacifiers.)

Now I just need to keep the momentum going and get these jobs finished. With just over six weeks to go, I'm feeling the crunch of preparing for Baby, keeping up with things at home so we don't end up leaving for the hospital with piles of laundry or dishes undone, and the slightly sad, nagging feeling that these are the last few precious weeks we will have alone with our oldest daughter, weeks that we should cherish and not waste. And over all these things is the umbrella of excitement and joy. In just over six weeks, our daughter will be here! We will finally meet this child for whom we have hoped and waited, prayed and cried. I know there are many, many people out there who have been hoping, waiting, praying and crying for their child for much longer than we have, and my heart goes out to you.

Six weeks. If my husband and daughter can live with me in my crazy emotional state for that long, then we'll be good!

*We're going cloth this time, people! Say a prayer for us...

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Kid-Friendly Summer: The Zoo

The zoo is a fantastic summer activity for the whole family. When I was a kid, we lived about 100 miles from the nearest real zoo. I seem to remember going every few years, which means we were only there a handful of times. Now I am fortunate enough to live pretty close to a great zoo, and we try to visit at least once a year.

My husband's company picnic was at the zoo this year, which means that we got free parking and admission, as well as lunch. This made for a very frugal day trip. Even if you don't get in free, though, the zoo can be a pretty inexpensive activity. At our zoo, you can park on the street instead of the pay-to-park lot. We found $2.00 off admission coupons on the zoo brochure at a tourist brochure kiosk. Packing your own lunch (and water!) would be a cost-saving way to go as well. For our trip this year, we paid only for a child's wagon rental (because we were silly and didn't think to bring a stroller) and for a ride on the carousel.

Hippos crack me up. They are so ugly. Truly. And they look so blubbery and clumsy and slow - and then they open their enormous mouths and you realize that they could snap you in half with one bite. Wild animals leave me with the same sense of awe as does the ocean. They are amazing, they are intriguing, they are (sometimes) beautiful (not hippos). But they are wild. I think a respectful and reasonable fear of wild animals is healthy.

At our zoo, there is an enclosed area wherein visitors may hand feed giraffes. The giraffes come right up and eat out of your hand. It's pretty cool. These animals, for as big and fast as they are, are amazingly mild. I don't really know if all giraffes are mild-mannered, or if these zoo inhabitants are unusually so due to their captivity and constant exposure to humans.

My daughter loved the butterfly exhibit. The butterflies are housed in a huge greenhouse full of aromatic plants. There are dozens of varieties of butterflies. As you enter the exhibit, there is a sign that reads, "If a butterfly lands on you, enjoy the moment!" A zoo employee inspects visitors before the visitors leave the exhibit, just to make sure there are no stowaway butterflies attached somewhere.

The carousel provided a nice, shady break from walking on a hot day.
The zoo offers so many interesting things to look at. Like rocks, for instance. I believe this photo was taken at the tiger exhibit. More than any other exhibit, this one made my mother's heart beat a little faster, remembering the tragedy at the San Francisco Zoo last winter.
The flamingo exhibit was the last on our zoo circuit, and the most anticipated by our daughter. Her requests for the day were to see the butterflies (check), the pandas (our zoo doesn't have them), and the flamingos. I was surprised to learn that these flamingos are not native to lush tropical beaches, but to barren Chilean regions ranging from high altitude lakes that drop to temperatures as low as -22 degrees F, to equally barren coastlines. No warm beaches and lush palm trees for these birds. We spent about 2 1/2 hours at the zoo and I would say we saw about 75% of the exhibits. We also had lunch. Renting the wagon was a good move for us as it allowed us to move at an adult's walking pace, not a three-year-old's pace. It also meant that we didn't have to carry all our stuff, and my daughter didn't tire nearly as quickly as she would have if she had been walking the entire time. A word to the wise: If you are seven months pregnant and you decide to visit the zoo on one of the hottest days of the year, be sure to bring plenty of water.

Monday, August 18, 2008

The Birthday - Party

It's official. She's three.

Andy and I knew for months that we wanted to get a little kitchen as the third birthday gift. We searched high and low. I really didn't want plastic. I wasn't pleased with any of the department/discount store options. There are some amazing wooden kitchen options online, but they were entirely too expensive. Then we found this one locally on craigslist. It is in great condition, was not too expensive, and (we realized after we purchased it) is the same kitchen that our church has in our daughter's Sunday School classroom. It was a great middle of the road option for us.

Our daughter immediately went to work preparing a feast for us. Hamburgers and tea, anyone?
Later in the morning, our party guests arrived. Blowing out the candles on the cake was a group effort. And yes, there is a Cars candle on an otherwise non-themed, girly cake.

This year she got into opening gifts. Last year...not so much.
Some super cute friends joined in the festivities.

I love this wrapping paper. I loved it so much, in fact, that we copied the idea as we were wrapping outgoing birthday gifts that very evening.

Three year olds can do so many special things that two year olds cannot do. For instance, three year olds can put on and snap their raincoats without help. She might be four before she realizes that wearing a long rubber coat indoors in the middle of August is not the most comfortable option. We (and she) had a great time. And now my baby is three.

Thursday, August 07, 2008

Kid-Friendly Summer: VBS

A great (and inexpensive) summer activity for kids is VBS (Vacation Bible School). Most churches offer some sort of VBS. In an effort to draw in more of the neighborhood children in addition to the kids from the congregation, our church has put on a sports camp in lieu of VBS for the past four years.
This was the first year that my daughter was old enough to attend. Sports camp is for K-6th grade, but a group of very talented teenagers run a "mini camp" for 3-5 year olds at the same time. My daughter was a few weeks shy of three at the time, but she was deemed "close enough".

The mini-campers played simple versions of basketball, soccer, and football. They also participated in other outdoor activities, such as the giant parachute.

No VBS would be complete without song time, including motions, of course.

The bouncy house was a huge hit with the little kids. My daughter talked about it every day.

The older kids got to choose between soccer, basketball, and cheerleading. They had real coaches who provided instruction, assisted by volunteer coaches from the congregation. On the last night of sports camp, the kids play a game against their coaches. Amazingly, the kids always win.

Every VBS I have ever experienced has included snack time and some sort of story time. Our mini-campers learned about "All creatures great and small" this year. The older kids had a weeklong theme of "Undefeated". I didn't sit in on any of their devotional times this year, but in years past the nightly devotionals have included an inspirational story of a real-life athlete and a personal story from one of the coaches, all tied in to a Christian principle.

And of course there is always some sort of program for the parents. Here are the mini-campers doing their "cheer". "God made sky, God made the sea, God made everything, He even made me!"

VBS is a great way to spend a week of summer. The environment is fun, community-oriented, and safe. Parents typically have the option of staying to help or of dropping their kids off. Some churches have VBS during the day; others offer it in the evening. In our area I have found that evening programs are more common; when I was growing up, we always went during the day. You can find local VBS programs by visiting the websites of churches in your areas, or by searching online for your town/state+Vacation Bible School. Not only does VBS provide your kids with great activities and time with friends, but it also has the potential to give you a break. My husband and I ran errands (efficiently!), prepared for a garage sale, and even went to dinner with friends (whose kids were in the same VBS) during our free evenings. And our daughter slept amazingly well that week!

The Birthday - Invitations

My daughter's third birthday is coming up in just a few days. How did that happen? She was due three years ago today. She did not arrive three years ago today. I remember those few extra days felt like an eternity.

My husband and I decided to keep birthday party preparations simple and inexpensive. I had originally planned on using the watercolor notecards as invitations, but then I came across Wordle. It's really a fun (and rather addictive) program. My husband tells me that the technology is very simple and is used frequently to sort words, searches, and categories by popularity. Indeed, since being introduced to this technique, I have noticed its use all over the Internet. As soon as I started playing with it, I knew we had found our invitations.

I fiddled with it for quite a while, trying to find the right colors and configuration. You can choose font and palette on Wordle, but the word order is randomized, so I had to click through a lot of options before finding one that looked right. I typed in my daughter's name and the word "Birthday" multiple times and every other word only once. That made "_____'s Birthday" prominent.

Once I found a configuration that I liked, I turned it over to my husband. He found a photo from the 4th of July (our girl making silly faces and holding her first sparkler while wearing her pajamas), edited out the background, and put it together with the Wordle cloud in Photoshop. He printed it on 4"x6" photo paper, I printed party details on plain copy paper and used double-sided tape to attach it to the back of the photo, and...we were done. It was really easy (except, I will say, the Photoshop editing. I don't know that it was really difficult, but it was time consuming. Thanks, sweetheart.)

These were fun to make. My daughter loves them. She has her own copy and she calls it her "picture of me with the words".

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Easiest Notecards Ever

I don't know if other parents struggle with this, but I have a hard time throwing away my daughter's artwork. I know I can't keep it all, especially now that she is producing several pages each day. So last night I decided to repurpose some of her art.

I started with a giant watercolor painting, similar to this one, that had been sitting around the house for days. We have a roll of butcher paper for large art projects, and when the paints come out, the kitchen table is pretty well covered in the butcher paper. This makes for large works of art.

My paper cutter, glue stick and I spent some quality time together, and the result was these notecards. One painting yielded seventeen cards.

These will be used for my daughter's personal correspondence - thank you notes, birthday greetings to her friends, letters to grandparents, etc.

The only supplies I used were a stack of plain white notecards that I've had for years, a glue stick, a paper cutter, and my girl's watercoloring. And now we have an easy way to send both greetings and her artwork to grandparents who never seem to have enough of those things.