Saturday, December 3, 2011

Tinselly loveliness

Oh, I love tinsel. And not even in an ironic way.
Alas, our tinsel did not make it to the tree this year. I just forgot about it. It was all I could do to get the lights up before Anna attacked the tree, arms laden with ornaments. She was really into decorating this year, and did a great job. She even took a fast shower (in lieu of the plodding bath) so that we could put up the little tree as well.
Yah, that's right. Two trees. The big one is in the front room, where we have the space. But the fireplace is in the back room, and that's we'd rather open gifts on a chilly Christmas morning. So there's a little Alberta Spruce on the shelf, which brings a touch of home to mind whenever I see it.

We put the trees up on Thursday, since it was a snowy day. And as I write this, it is snowing again. That makes four snow falls this season, which is about double all of last winter. For me, snow makes all the difference when it comes to Christmas cheer. Last year, while my parents and brother basked in the glow of a snow-free holiday, I found it hard to get into the spirit of it all. I need snow and cold.

So it's gently snowing out there, the Christmas lights are on, and it's around 6:00 a.m. Everyone else is asleep. I wish I was too, but our Little Man had other plans. Thinking of the past month, I can count on one hand the number of times he's slept through the night without crying and making his way to our bed. Luckily, Isaac's a fairly affable co-sleeper. But he does have a couple of bad habits that are starting to wear us down. First, he sleeps horizontally with his head by Jon (ideally, ON Jon's ear; go figure) and his feet pressing into me. I've been trying to sleep on my side, pretending I'm getting a back rub or something. Eventually my leg falls asleep and I roll over, subsequently getting kicked in the side or belly. One night he managed to punch me in the eye and almost knock the wind out of me with his feet. I think he has a future as a hockey player.
Anyway, once I get tired of this and get out of bed his second bad habit emerges. I call this the Knowledge of Absence. Little Dude just knows when I'm gone and wakes up, negating my quiet morning coffee. Today I'm testing an idea: can I swap myself for a soft pillow? So far so good.

This weekend will be relatively mellow, unlike the (American) Thanksgiving holiday. I threw Anna's fifth birthday party on that Saturday, which took up the whole weekend. Of course I was glad to do it, and Anna really appreciated the celebration of it all, but the weekend wasn't what I would call relaxing. I felt bad about that for Jon's sake since he had just finished up a stressful project at work. There was also the usual run of illnesses that weekend which didn't help. Fever, nausea, serious mucous, coughs, aches, sore throats in various combinations in various people. Despite it all, the party was fun and warrants it's own post, I think. Stay tuned.

In other Decembery news, I report that I am about done with Christmas shopping. This year I did 90% of it online. You know those magazines that come in the mail in November every year? I actually took a chance and ordered from them. Hearth Song and Chinaberry to be exact. I haven't opened the H.S. box yet, but I am impressed with Chinaberry. Among other things we got an Advent calendar which I quite like.
Despite this great shopping accomplishment, I still found myself at the mall last night, right before dinner, with both kids. Why? Why?! For myself, of course. Jon met us there and while the kids played around I purchased actual clothes. I even tried them on first. I have no excuse for this indulgence other than to say that it's a bit chilly to wear threadbare clothes with holes in them. As you recall, it's actually snowing out there.

Sunday, November 6, 2011


We did something this weekend that I never expected to do: we had Anna tested using the WPPSI-III. I won't know the results for awhile, and I'm not sure her actual score is even relevant. I find IQ tests to be both fascinating and annoying. It's easy to focus on the number, which is supposed to be an accurate assessment of intelligence (whatever that is). But let's face it - Anna already has an advantage over many children in that she comes from a stable home, gets enough rest (theoretically), and a healthy diet. And as far as I know, IQ isn't terribly correlated with future success or happiness. So what were we doing there?

It started this past August as I was chatting with a neighbor about the charter school her child attends. This was similar to other conversations I'd had with other parents: hearing the pros and cons of this school, the application process, why this school was chosen, how much her child enjoyed it, etc. Previously, my reactions went something like this: "I do not wish to drive that far," or "I just want Anna to have friends," or "Anna will do just fine no matter where she ends up," or "I'm more concerned about which high school she attends." But this time a switch flipped in my brain. I felt like the Holy Spirit whispered: "Just look into some other schools, already!"

And, heaven help me, I did.

Turns out, parents have quite a few options around here. There are charter schools, magnate schools, and choice schools. There are gifted schools, STEM schools, and schools teaching core knowledge. Schools with half-day kindergarten or full-day only. Schools near, schools far, schools old, schools new, and schools about to move. Schools schools schools!
In the midst of this chaos, Jon suggested I make a list (he often suggests I make a list) of our priorities for the kids' education. So here are a few, in no particular order:

1) Friends. I want Anna and Isaac to have friends at school. They don't need to be popular, but one or two close friends can make the difference in any school at any age. Anna's highly social personality makes it critical for her, I think.
2) A love of learning. This statement has become cliched, but I feel it deeply. In retrospect, I do think the traditional school system and my own anxieties were a bad mix, and I suspect that the kids' learning styles are similar to my own. For Anna, I think a love of learning will be fostered through personal interactions with caring teachers, hand-on activities, and practical applications. If I can find an option that emphasizes such things, I'd like to take advantage of it.
3) Proximity. Realistically, nothing is really within walking distance. But I would rather not drive very far.
4) Recess, physical education, arts, science. Kids need to move, create, and explore.

None of this directly explains why Anna was taking the WPPSI - III. What I can say is that we're less interested in whether she meets the "gifted and talented" criterion, than in gaining a better picture of who she is intellectually. Her strengths, her weaknesses, things like that. She's obviously verbally precocious, and I'd wager she's gifted in an emotional sense (very empathetic, encouraging, etc.), and possibly in a dramatic sense. But were we missing something? And don't we owe it to her to get as much information as we can? There are many aspects of my daughter that remain an enigma to me, and I'm hoping that her scores offer insight into her and guide our educational choices. In short, I know about the schools and now it was time to know more about my daughter.

The irony is, after all of these tests and applications and parent information nights and general data collection.... after all of this it comes down to a lottery selection. I apply to these schools and they pick names out of hat. Which means it's quite possible she'll end up going to the local school. Will that be frustrating, after all this angst and thought? I hope not. I'm prepared to admit that the whisper from the H.S. that sent us on this adventure may have been for my own benefit. So that eventually I could say that we at least looked into other options. So now we "cast lots" and let God do what He does best - His own thing. And hopefully I did what I do best - listen.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Sugar High

It's All Saints Day, and approaching 7:30 a.m. Usually by this time, Isaac has been up about 1.5 hours and Anna is groggily lounging on the couch waiting for the warm milk to hit her blood stream. But today they are barely stirring. The excitement (or the sugar?) kept them up past 9 last night, and now they are sleeping it off.
Part of the excitement was that we had another family over for dinner and trick-or-treating. I made a yummy pinto bean and mole chili and a baked pumpkin filled with rice, raisins, apples, and cinnamon. Almost a dessert, really. Our guests brought an excellent chicken soup and bread, which was very fortunate since neither Jon nor the kids actually liked the chili. Was it the kale I snuck in there? The kids didn't eat much anyway -- too excited. So after the grown-ups quickly ate we headed out the door.
The actual trick-or-treating was good fun, as always. We know a lot of the kids on our block, and it's great to see all the costumes and wander around with everyone. Anna's Winter Queen outfit was lovely and sparkly and served as a nice contrast to Isaac's deep and dark Darth Vader. Jon also wore a Vader costume, so they were a funny pair.

This year, we noticed that Anna and Isaac have very different approaches to candy collection. I believe Anna's stream of thought went something like this:
"I am a beautiful Winter Queen! I am skipping/floating along to each house, I love seeing my friends, and enjoying the wonder that is this annual candy-coated event. I AM EXCITED!"
Isaac's stream of thought was more like this: "It is time to go to work. I have donned my costume and am ready to receive the candy that is due me. This is my job. This is what I do. This is what I was born for. I am serious about this endeavor."

All that to say Anna loved the event-aspect, whereas Isaac loved the candy-aspect. To further illustrate this point: Once we returned home, Anna delayed candy consumption in favor of drawing in a little notebook she got at one house. Meanwhile, Isaac held on to his candy basket like a drowning man holding a life raft, yelling in protest if anyone came too near. "I got it FIRST!" he would announce.

Over the course of the week we also managed to carve four pumpkins, including the mega-squash, which we proudly displayed. The two little ones ended up as Minnie Mouse and a Storm Trooper, while the big guys were a little harder to recognize. One was the classic Snoopy sillouette, as he rises up out of the pumpkin patch. The other was Pumpkin Pi: a pumpkin outline with pi carved in the middle. I wonder how many people "got" that one? Anyway, Jon did a great job carving the big guys with the saw - I didn't need to do much detail work after he got through with them. I'd post pictures, but that's just one step too many today. Maybe tomorrow. In the meantime, I have some chili to heat up for dinner (because it literally took all day to write this post). And they all better like it. (But if not, I saved some of the soup.)

Friday, October 28, 2011

Has it been that long?

I guess my last post was in September, which does not seem that long ago. In truth, I am not a natural journal-keeper, so blogging has been more of a discipline than a hobby. But I think it's important to document this little slice of life for the kiddos sake, for my sanity's sake, and because I know you're reading this, Mom.
Usually at this time - the time that Anna is at preschool and Isaac is napping - I am madly cleaning something. But I had some minor oral surgery on Wednesday ("subepithelial gum grafts") which are more painful than expected. So here I am, slightly strung out on Vicodin, sporting jowls like Ron Perlman, trying to ignore my mouth. I'm such a wimp about these things. The worst part is that I'll have to do this twice more over the next 16 months. Ack! Anyway, enough complaining. Before you know it I'll be moaning about my sciatica (whatever that is) and then there's no turning back.

It's been a busy few weeks (is it ever not busy? of course not!) so I haven't been keeping up. Jon's been on multiple trips (is he ever not traveling? of course not!) and during his last one I just gave up and stopped cleaning, stopped cooking, and tried to take a step back. By the time Jon returned much catch up was, and still is, needed. At the same time, I'm trying to adopt a more zen-like attitude towards home-keeping. This entails an increase in playtime with the kids (to the detriment of cleaning), and a decrease in apologizing for the concomitant mess that our guests encounter. I report that follow-through on this plan has been intermittent.

In other news, we've been engaging in many autumn activities. Heading out to the pumpkin patch is always a big deal. Anna picked out a few pumpkins immediately, but found it difficult to narrow things down. Isaac took a more circuitous approach, unable to settle on anything, overwhelmed by the selection. Like snowflakes, all pumpkins are wonderfully individual when you're a toddler. Anna did her best to guide him, helping him select a little Isaac-sized one. We also bought a pie pumpkin which I'm going to stuff with rice, raisins, apples, and nuts, and bake to yummy perfection on Monday. A perfect Halloween dinner.

Jon also picked up two pumpkins, these grown by his coworker with a talent for gargantuan squash. They will be carved by sawzall on Saturday. Last year we used our giant pumpkins to make a snowman. This year perhaps a "Pumpkins Crossing" theme, or maybe something princess-ish. We could use our Yugoslavian finger squash as a crown. (Our CSA gave us the finger... squash. Ha! That joke will never get old. Right? Right?! Never mind.)

One thing we did not do this year is a Fall Walk. Previously, the kids and I loved to meander through our subdivision and look at the autumn decorations, the colorful trees, and enjoy the crispness of fall. This year, both kids have been getting nightmares just from the innocuous decor on our street. Isaac won't go to bed without the light on, and says everything is too scary. "Ghosties! Ghosties!" he says. Anna has been doing better, but was on a bad run of nightmares in early October. So, thanks to the houses that go a little too far with their Halloween decorations, we've been keeping it close to home. Our house sticks with scarecrows and pumpkins, thank you very much.

Some good news: Anna and I were able to come to a compromise on her costume. I wanted something easy to put together, warm, and inexpensive. Anna wanted something magical, pretty, and didn't want to wear anything over or under her costume. The winner was "Winter Queen" or "Winter Fairy Queen" depending on whether she's wearing her wings. We started with the wedding dress my mom made a couple of years ago, and added a belt fashioned from leftover silver material. Silver stars and hearts (made from cardboard and aluminum foil) hang from the belt, and the rest of the material can be used as a shawl. The dress is short-sleeved, so we bought some white leggings and use them to cover Anna's arms. Finally, aluminum foil to make the wings and crown sparkle. Voila! Winter Queen!
I wanted Isaac to be a tiger again, but he's really into Darth Vader. So I spent $20 and got him a costume. They only had a medium, so he should be able to wear it for... 6-10 years. I call that an investment! It's warm, but all black. He's practically Invisible Pedestrian. Maybe I can convince him that a flashlight makes a good light saber.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

On your mark, get set....

So much for blogging once a week. I was almost able to keep up in August, but everything begins in September and it's been a little hairy around here.
Now when I say "everything" begins, I mean Everything. Let's do a little review of the month, shall we? The good, the bad, and the ugly.

(1) Preschool. Yay preschool! We all love preschool. Anna goes in the afternoon, ostensibly during Isaac's nap, so it gives me a solid two hours to clean. I gave up cleaning in August, so it felt good to give the house a good once over during those early weeks. As for the school girl, she seems to be enjoying herself. It's hard to get much information out of her, but I can at least find out what "job" she had, what the snack was, and some loose outlines about what pretend game she played outside. I can hardly wait for parent-teacher interviews, to find out the inside scoop.

(2) Bible studies: Since the kiddos have come along, it's been difficult to work biblical study into my day. So I've appreciated a return to group study, providing that extra motivation to delve daily into the Word. There's a women's study I've been attending which has become invaluable to me. Unlike other aspects of our church involvement, all I need to do for this group is show up. I'm not involved in child care or logistics or even snacks. While I enjoy helping out with junior church and organizing the logistics for our couple's study, everyone needs a time where all you do is "get fed."

(3) Gymnastics: Both Anna and Isaac are enrolled in classes. This has been a great activity for both of them, and many thanks to my friend Michelle for getting the ball rolling on that. Anna's class is small, meaning less time waiting in line. She's also with a friend, improving her experience ten-fold. Isaac and I take a parent-tot class, and it's super fun! There's an obstacle course, trampoline, and a foam pit. He likes these just fine, but I think his favorite activity is running around in circles on the soft floor. Ahhh... two year olds.

(4) Business travel: Not my travel of course, but Jon's travel. I suppose it's no surprise that his trips were curtailed in the summer months, but it made his three September trips a bit of a shock. None of them were terribly long: just two or three days. I feel like a baby complaining about them, but we were pretty out of practice. And creating new weekly routines hard enough without haphazard Daddy absences. I remind myself that the alternative is living in D.C., and then I feel better.

(5) The End of Naps: They're not totally gone, but Isaac skips naps about twice a week now. He is not a happy awake toddler, but instead a cranky pants sensitive awake toddler. So these days get a little rough around the edges. On the bright side, he will actually go to sleep a little earlier on these days. Sometimes.

(6) Illness: And with the beginning of Everything we have the onslaught of virus season. Isaac was our canary, coming down with a cold the first week of September and it has not gone away. He was on antibiotics for an ear infection, which I would have normally tried to avoid. However, given #4 I was not about to risk a sleepless night. Fat lot of good it did. The day after his last dose the nose started running and he complained of ear pain. I'm trying to wait it out this time, but it's a been a week...
In other news, Anna is on her second cold. Those flu shots can't come soon enough.

So that pretty much sums up the month. Things I'm looking forward to, during this last week of September:
A girl's night out to Ikea (how suburban is that?)
Jon not traveling
Maybe saying goodbye to the mid 80s temps? I'm so done with hot weather. So. Very. Done.
Healthy kids?

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Last Hurrah

We've just completed a mini-vacation, our last hurrah before preschool and classes and bible studies and other fall what-nots. We spent two nights tenting at Union Reservoir. Our first camping trip as a family! You see, after Anna arrived we limited our camp outs to those with my parents and their RV. After all, grandparents and an RV are handy when kiddos are small and need a lot of stuff and a lot of sleep. Now that the kids are a bit older, we decided to break out the tent and give it a try on our own. I have great memories of camping in a tent trailer with my family when I was a kid, and wanted to expose the kiddos early. I also wanted to camp by a lake, since our Canadian forays involve mountains.

I was nervous about it, but thanks to a good amount of planning and some creative packing we had a lot of fun. Not a lot of sleep, but a lot of fun. Anna loved loved loved being in the water, and could not get enough of the waves on one windy afternoon. Isaac was less enthralled by the whole beach experience. Instead, he was happy to just be outside, running around the camp site kicking his ball and playing cars. We cooked dinners over the campfire, which is what I love to do. Fire roasted food is just sooo yummy. The simple hamburger becomes a different creature when cooked to smoky perfection. Marshmallows were roasted, of course. This is one tradition I can do without. There are few foods I will spit out of my mouth, but the bloated marshmallows is one of them (blue cheese is another, but that's a different story).

Our biggest challenge was settling down Isaac in the evenings. Apparently, running and jumping around in a tent is super-fun and incredibly stimulating when you're two. It is also stimulating when you're four, but four knows when enough is enough. Two just keeps going and going and going until Daddy must speak firmly and said two year collapses in a sad heap and cries himself to sleep. I suppose it didn't help that the tent was rather warm, owing to the unusually hot August we've been experiencing. I am so done with August and 90 degree weather.

One thing we learned is the need for more sleeping mattresses. We cobbled something together for each of us, but let me say that a yoga mat really is not for sleeping on. It just really is not. We also learned that we don't physically have room in the car to camp for more than two nights. At least, not at a beach. Beach stuff takes up some serious room. A good excuse to get a bigger vehicle? Perhaps! Overall, it was a fantastic time. I'm not sure we'll camp at Union Reservoir again - little shade, "generator friendly," and kinda noisy - but I'm looking forward to our next outing. Whenever and wherever that may be.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

It's Still August

What to do with a single small turnip from my CSA? Creamy turnip hash! Too bad no one likes creamy turnip hash.

Observation: Jon's family eats more salad than any family anywhere ever.

What I have learned from musicians in my family: Isaac should avoid trumpet and Anna should avoid clarinet and bassoon. Oboe, harp, piano, and guitar are a go.

What I have recently learned from going on a walk with my children: I should not go on a walk with my children. No, wait. That's too harsh. Rather, here are the conditions under which we shall not walk: (1) with a side-by-side double stroller, (2) when it is too hot and/or too sunny and/or too cold and/or too windy, (3) when someone has the smallest inkling of being tired, (4) when we have a destination in mind, (5) when there is not a fourth person to aid in divide-and-conquer strategies, (6) when I have not packed a six course meal into twelve separate-but-equal containers, (7) when we are not at the zoo.

We went to the zoo and had fun! By which I mean there were no melt downs, animals were viewed, and no children were misplaced at any point. Fluke or result of my new zoo strategy? We'll find out this coming week, as the end of August appears to be a sweet spot for zoo visits. School is in but it's too early for large school groups to begin wandering around. So what is my new strategy? The two main elements are: immediate and large amounts of food upon arrival, and no stroller. The former eliminates constant stopping and rooting for food every 5 minutes, and the latter ensures greater flexibility as I sprint to prevent Isaac from diving into the polar bear enclosure.

My father-in-law is on Facebook. Surely the end is nigh.

Isaac peed on the bathroom rug. And yah, that rug really tied the room together.

Actual rain during an actual afternoon last week. Autumn, you are on the way!

Next time I'm mixing a mojito, I will finish making it before I turn to other things, lest I again dump cornstarch into the concoction.

Starting to think about this year's Christmas country: Tibet. Just thinking. Haven't actually researched anything yet.

Other things of which I'm thinking, but doing very little about: Anna's kindergarten, Halloween costumes, shrubs, reorganizing various drawers and cupboards, swim and piano lessons for Anna. There's a few other things, but it's Sunday so I'm going to go take a nap.

Monday, August 15, 2011

August: The Sunday of Summer

August seems like the last day of a long weekend: sweet and mildly depressing. With schools beginning mid-August in CO (what the #!*@&??), this feeling grows more profound the older my kids become. I don't remember this sensation growing up, I suppose because school ended in June. Thus the beginning of August felt like Saturday night, and the end more like Sunday afternoon. I'll stop the analogy there.
A nice aspect of this month has been visiting with family that have come through our area. Anna and Isaac had loads of time to play with their cousins, and we've been fortunate to have Jon's cousin stay with us for a couple of days and join in the fun. These times remind me why we moved here in the first place, and reinforce our confidence in the decision. Family is so very important.

Sleep is also very important, and we continue to struggle on that front. The party-like atmosphere has made bedtimes even more of a battle, and naps are all over the place when they happen at all. So it's no wonder that the kids spent the last 24 hours fussing and bickering and flat-out fighting. But Isaac's asleep now, and Anna's had a decent rest, so everyone is in better spirits. Even me!

In other news, I'm already debating whether to rejoin our CSA next year. I like the fresh veggies and the variety and the "oh, what's in the box this week?" anticipation. [Kohlrabi! Amazing space alien vegetable!] But in truth it's a lot of effort for very little consumption by anyone other than myself. I do count it a victory that Jon ate a good amount of kale cous cous salad (among his least favourite foods), and even Anna had a helping. I'm alternating weeks with another family, so maybe if we do the same thing next year it will be doable. And maybe the kids will eat more greens as they get older. Maybe even Jon will eat more greens. I am skeptically optimistic.

Kale is not the only thing in season around here: Legos have arrived in our home. For some time Anna had expressed interest in Jon's Star Wars Lego sets so the other day I finally sprang for some pinkish blocks. (Pink to balance out the large number of Star Wars and Halo-themed sets that we already have. And she just likes pink. And why do I feel like I have to justify this, anyway?!) She enjoys creating amazing little structures and houses and castles and vehicles and will sit there for literally one or two hours working on stuff. Nothing else has ever held her attention like that. Pretty cool. So far, no Lego pieces have been spotted in the toddler's mouth, which is even cooler. Now if only it wasn't so horribly expensive.

Monday, August 8, 2011

Sleepytime Bird

One of the gadgets my parents own is a record-to-CD converter. You remember records, right? Like CDs, only huge and double sided. I love this device since I'm able to pass on some of my childhood musical memories to my own kids. Like Sesame Street's Sleepytime Bird, Music Machine, Little Marcy (whose voice drives Jon up the wall - tee hee!), and various stories. It was a little weird to find out that we owned about 6 Smurf recordings (but possibly timely, given the recent movie), and even weirder to try to explain to Anna what Smurfs are.
We were listening to one of my newly minted CDs driving home last night, and I found it sweet that Anna fell asleep listening to songs with which I was so familiar. Truth is, we've been using CDs (mostly audible books) a lot to help Anna fall asleep. She seems to be following the same pattern of sleep disturbances that I had as a child, which makes me sad. Sleep and I have never satisfactorily connected, and I really wanted things to be different for Anna. But try as I might to control the "nurture" of things, "nature" is just a little stronger than I in some areas. And so it is that we've had two horrible horrible nights of sleep recently, and there is something a little depressing about starting off the week as a zombie.

On the bright side, we managed to eke out some fun events recently. Jon and I managed to get it together enough to see the latest Harry Potter movie. Against my advice, he mentally tallied up the cost of this movie (which was an IMAX, since that was the only showing that fit our schedule) including babysitter, etc. And it was a whopping $80! No wonder we rarely go out to movies. But I'm glad we did - some movies (like this one, and Super 8 which we saw while in Canada - I just love suspenseful alien movies) really do best on a big screen and the costs are easier to justify. That's what I tell myself, anyway.

We've also done quite a bit of swimming, and I love seeing Anna improve dramatically in this area. She's always been water shy (no water in the face, please!) but is at least tolerating the discomfort more and more. And she adores the pool, so that counts for a lot. Isaac is less comfortable, so taking them both swimming is nearly impossible for one person. I've been lucky to have some help from family and friends on these last trips, and we have one more swim outing planned this week. It will be just me and Anna and I'm glad to get some one-on-one time.

That's it for now. Isaac decided not to nap this afternoon, so I have to do some extra domestic juggling today. Thank goodness for television! I need them distracted while I make a grocery list. Joining a CSA was fun, but requires a little extra time on the planning front.

I'll sign off with this modified quote from Jon. Can you name the movie?
"I must not fear.
Fuss is the mind-killer.
Whining is the little-death that brings total obliteration.
I will face my children.
I will permit their fuss to pass over me and through me.
And when it has gone past I will turn the inner eye to see its path.
Where the fuss has gone there will be nothing.
Only I will remain."

Friday, July 29, 2011

Catching Up

It's about five days since we returned from Calgary, and I'm slowly catching up on my life. Some of the catching up is stuff that I was supposed to have time for in Canada (like, say, blog posts) but somehow, every time I got on Mom's computer, I ended up playing a few rounds of Jewel of Atlantis. I think this befuddles Jon since I am NOT a gamer in any sense of the word. The only time I play is at my parent's house. It seems this is the only time I read, as well. I went through four books in three weeks. Usually it's one book over four months.

We drove up (over three days) and the kids reacted as expected. Anna is a great traveler and has recently taken to coloring IN the lines, which she finds great enjoyment in. Meanwhile, Isaac is very much a two year old boy. A couple of novel toy cars aided the trip, but by the end of each day he was near melt-down. A few things that helped smooth the bumps: (a) hotels with suites, pools, and free breakfasts, (b) a map listing rest stops, (c) eating only in the car so that rest stops were purely active time, (d) novel toys. Even so, this is not a drive we will repeat soon.

We were in Canada about three weeks (Jon joined us for the last week, having flown back down post-drive). I tried to keep things low key, since it's simply nice to be elsewhere for awhile. Highlights included Calaway Park, Heritage Park, and play dates with the grandkids of Mom's friends. I was also blessed to spend some time with some old friends who happened to be in the area. People I haven't seen in years, but still miss. There's something so relaxing about visiting with people who have known you forever.

We also spent time camping in Kananaskis Country, which is a lovely and somewhat undiscovered part of Alberta. So, while YOU are welcome to come, please do not tell your friends about it. We like it unpopulated. It rained a lot and the nights were gloriously frigid, but our tent was cozy and Anna slept quite well. Isaac slept in the RV with my folks and brother (who was gracious enough to spend a whole week of vacation time with his sister and her slightly manic children), because I'm no glutton for punishment. He'll have to sleep in the tent with us on our next camping adventure at the end of the summer, and that's enough for me.

Speaking of sleep, that was probably the hardest part of the whole vacation. The nights are short, even as far south as Calgary. It stays light until sometime between 10 and 10:30 p.m., which had a large effect on the kid's melatonin. A 9:30 bedtime became the norm. We're still struggling (REALLY struggling) to re-adapt.

Oh, and I almost forgot. I shook hands with the Duke of Cambridge! I was able to attend a reception with my Dad (his politicking paid off) where the prince and princess gave an appearance and short speech. Poor William looked haggard at the end of his long day, but still retained that regal air. (And yes, the Duchess is as thin as she looks on TV. This is the one question that everyone asks. I figure she looks like what she is: a 27 year old with a penchant for running who has never had kids.)

Some of the adventures took place while the kids and I were gone. While working on the yard, Jon noticed movement among the rocks. There lay a 5 foot snake tangled in some netting. Seemed like a rattler, but research revealed it to be a bullsnake. After consulting with someone at Fish & Wildlife, Jon hosed it down with cold water and removed the netting from its head. With his bare hands! Eeek!!! I'm glad he found it instead of the kids. I didn't know the snakes could grow so large around here.

So now we're home and I'm making a dent in the jungle that has become our backyard, attacking the virtual pile of emails, and the actual pile of snail mail. We appear to be snake-free, as evidenced by the small rabbit who breached my back yard defenses. Maybe we should have kept the snake a little longer.

Tuesday, May 31, 2011


  • Isaac hands me Barbie, and chooses the Ken doll for himself. Will we act out a primitive play date? Will they have a toddleresque conversation? No. Ken crashes into Barbie, as a bus crashes into a semi-trailer. Complete with sound effects. Ah, boys.
  • Anna, upon seeing Isaac spit out his food: "Isaac, don't do that. That's what babies do. I don't want to see that." Someone has been listening to her mommy!
  • Which songs shall we listen to? Wiggles? Veggie Tales? Rafi? None of the above. Isaac wants to hear Darth Vader's Theme while Anna pleads for the jazzy sounds of the Cantina. Alas, neither tune can be heard over the tantrum of the disappointed child. Nevertheless it is worth the noise just to see Isaac's slow-motion interpretative pantomime of a villain he has never seen, but somehow feels exists.
  • The baby gate at the foot of the stairs is gone, the dining room booster seat is gone, bibs are fazing out, and sippy cups' days are numbered. Mommy sniffs and smiles. 
  • Lots of rain outside the house: Very good! Grass grows! Flowers grow! Pond is no longer dry! Rain leaking into the house: Not good. Insurance agent who claims it's a freak accident and will never happen again: Very not good.
  • A nature walk. Sun. Happy children exploring. Pooh Sticks at the creek. A hidden path. Excitement at exploration. Off trail, a toddler trips. Into cacti. Needles, tears, tweezers, shrieks. New rule: long pants mandatory on nature walks. 
  • Preschool is suddenly over. And so sad that Anna missed her last day due to illness. There is some symmetry here, however, as she missed the first day due to illness. 
  • End-of-preschool positives: one less thing to rush to, no longer have to wake up Isaac from his nap to pick up Anna, a break from tuition payments. Negatives: Anna LOVES preschool, loss of a solid 2 hours of house-cleaning time, no more Skinny Cow ice cream sandwiches on the sly.
  • What not to say to a stay-at-home parent who has been at home with sick kids all day during rainy weather: Why don't you play with the kids while I clean up dinner?

Projects and Plans

Is there any day lonelier than the day after a long weekend, when that day is a home day and you have no plans? No, there is not. Which isn't to say we are not keeping busy over here, because there is much to do. In fact, I have not posted in awhile, in the name of Getting Things Done. This has been mostly successful, although I have not gotten Everything Done. Then again, does one ever get Everything Done? No, one does not. So here I am.

One of the projects nearing completion is the horrid digging out of the rock border in our backyard. The new tarp is now laid and I've been trying to put the rocks back, sans dirt and detritus. This is unexpectedly problematic, since it seems the centers of my rock piles have turned into heavy black dirt. Dirt which will not wash away, but instead turns to mud and stubbornly clings to the rocks from which it has come. Stupid dirt. Maybe I can train Isaac to start throwing individual rocks onto the tarp.

Other than moving rocks to and fro, we did have time for some fun stuff over the long weekend. We went to the Denver Aquarium, which is strangely owned by a restaurant. We saw some interesting creatures, a fun demonstration of a flash flood, and animals both in the water (lungfish! sea turtles! Nemo!) and out of the water (otters! a tiger!). Isaac caught glimpses of animalia here and there, but spent most of the time tearing through the crowd, pushing his umbrella stroller and yelling "beep! beep!" whenever he ran into someone or something. He appeared both terrified and intrigued, existing in a state of heightened arousal. Needless to say we did not stay for dinner, but collapsed at McDonald's and engaged in Happy Meal therapy.

Our zoo trip last week was a similar experience. Isaac spent the whole time at 100 mph, while Anna was mostly at 0 mph. What I'm learning from these experiences is that I need to rethink my plan for the summer. I have a mental list of fun things to do in the area, and was going to do one a week. Unfortunately, unless I leash Isaac I'm almost guaranteed to lose him in the crowd. Or lose Anna while I chase Isaac. I need to think of events that are in more small-scale, enclosed spaces. Oh well. Those are cheaper, anyway.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Eleven Ways Parenthood is Similar to Graduate School

1. Although people try to explain to you what it's like, you really have no idea until you're there.
2. Many meetings with doctors.
3. Many sleepless nights.
4. A lack of obvious markers that reveal how well you're doing.
5. An initial sense that you are way out of your league.
6. You can't get over the feeling that you are not doing as well as so-and-so who constantly has it all together and was obviously born to do this.
7. For a time, everything else fades to black.
8. Reduced discretionary funds.
9. Increased caffeine.
10. Encounters with a lot of literature by a lot of experts, only some of whom are truly competent.
11. To some people, the end result may look quite similar to the end result produced by others. But you see the subtle nuances and exceptional uniqueness that is your baby (be it a dissertation or an actual baby).


Sunday, May 1, 2011

Terrific Two

Isaac! You turned two years old this week! Wow! I feel that many exclamation marks are in order!!!
Here is a brief snapshot of you at two:

   Song: "Wheels on the Bus," hands down. This must be sung before every nap and bedtime. Your favorite bus guests include babies, grandparents, Anna, Daddy, snacks, dogs, and emergency vehicles.
   Activity: Anything with wheels, particularly buses and fire trucks. You often line up your vehicles with great precision, and intently study the motion of the wheels. You seem surprised that they rotate similarly regardless of the terrain. You also enjoy chucking these cars, attempting to mimic crashes and general mayhem.
   Location: You are an outdoors guy. Come rain, sleet, hail, wind, snow, or sun you stand at the door demanding to go out.
   Food: Yogurt, blueberries, and ice cream. Also, Daddy's coke and chips, and anything on Mommy's plate. This is why Mommy eats breakfast and lunch at the counter, and why on weekends Mommy wishes Daddy would also eat lunch at the counter.
   Lovey: Almost anything soft and fuzzy will do, but top of the list are Tiger, Monkey, Blankie (the green one with brown spots), Mommy's robe, and whatever Anna is holding.
   Books: Lately, those involving potties and poop (a good sign, right?) Also, "Don't Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus" by Mo Willems which is a brilliant read and now overdue at the library.
   Shows: Pingu! Wiggles! A youtube video from the BBC's Top Gear involving a car chase in Albania. Recently, the first five minutes of Fast and Furious Four.  

Things you can do
Now that you are two, there are many things you can do. You may not always do these things quickly, but that is okay since Mommy needs to learn patience. And watching a toddler take 10 minutes to get himself into the car seat when we are late for preschool certainly increases Mommy's patience. Among other things.
   Buckles: Any buckle that is unbuckled should consider itself buckled once you've caught sight of it.
   Balls: You've got a good arm and decent aim. It's just a shame our yard is sloped, for I fear you're getting a skewed idea of the laws of motion.
   Beatings: This is one thing I wish you didn't do. On one hand, you won't take any grief from anyone. On the other hand, you need not smack Anna for no reason. In fact, you should not smack her for any reason. Where did you learn this behavior? Anna doesn't hit you - not even to defend herself. Is this a boy thing? Sometimes you scream at children who simply look at you. I hope you grow out of this.
   Boogie Down: You love to sing and dance, and nobody does a better interpretation of the Jaws theme song than you. You play a mean shark, Little Man.
   Burlesque: Not really, but this is the closest thing to pretend that begins with a "B," and I'm on a roll with the whole "B" thing. Anyway, you've begun taking on different personas, such a "doggy" or "kitty." This shows development in the area of Theory of Mind, and as a psychologist I find it rather interesting. Also just crazy super cute.
   Bedtime: You are a reliable sleeper. Generally 13-14 hours per day, including naps.
   Burrowing: You are such a cuddler, and I adore that about you. I love when you ask for hugs and nestle into my arms. And not just when you're tired or sick, but for the mere joy of cuddling.

Isaac-English Dictionary
Many of these Isaac-isms are disappearing as your language explodes and your vocabulary and diction improve. I will be sad to see them go. 
   cah-cah = car
   my do = I will do [insert action] myself or you will reap the whirlwind
   dump-cah = dump truck, pick-up truck, general construction equipment
   IO = Isaac. This nick name was coined by Bobi from your initials. It is similar to the Armenian word for yes. I find this ironic, considering...
   no = yes, no, maybe
   uh-huh = a tentative, slightly confused yes
   gummy bum = gummy worm
   bidah! = spider and things with spider-like qualities, including but not limited to lint, cracks, and dirt
   pingu = penguin
   gin (hard g) = again
   yard = I want to go outside right now!

These are a few bits and pieces of who you are right now. I love seeing you grow every day, and look forward to seeing who you will be at this time next year.
Happy Birthday, Little Man.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Fun, Food, and Family... Fast

My parents left for home a over a week ago. I was going to write prose about their stay, but given the shortness of time, and the quantity of things to do this week (new windows! clean the house! get ready for Easter!) I shall descend into bullet points.

  •  Jon and I got away for a whole 24 hour! We stayed at a hotel! We ate fantastic food (including Rioja)! We visited Denver's Art Museum! I had fun, can you tell?! For 24 hours I felt like my pre-mommy self. It was freeing refreshing, and when we got back I had renewed energy for my kids. Result: Will increase frequency of date nights/ afternoons.
  • New favorite cocktail: French 75 
  • Caribbean cooking class with my mom and various female in-laws. Result: Shark and Bake (tilapia, mango chutney, pita), chicken skewers, callaloo (greens, squash, coconut milk), mango and jicima salad, coconut rum cake, rum punch.
  • Chocolate cheesecake versus caramel cheesecake. Jury is out.
  • Total pounds gained: 1.5     Totally worth it.
  • After much thought and discussion, Anna and Isaac were baptized. My parents, Jon's mom, and his aunt were able to attend the service, and it was quite lovely. Jon read a lovely passage of scripture, and it was all quite meaningful. Most importantly, no child cried or had a tantrum or swatted the pastor.
  • Trip to the aquarium was a bust. Isaac came down with a horrid stomach bug. Instead, Anna went on a special outing with her grandparents to the mall. Result: lunch and Cinderella p.j.s.
  • Colored my hair grey & blue. I wanted thick silver stripes, but after talking to the stylist it seemed that a "flash" was the best way to go (i.e., it would be cheaper and faster). The silver turned out light blue, but I think the effect is rather nice. Waiting on dark blue for the fall.
  • My teeth are falling out. Well, ten of the bottom ones according to the periodontist whom I finally had time to visit. It will cost many thousands of dollars to fix them, since my dental insurance runs out after the first three. Maybe I can do three teeth a year, but I have to call the insurance company, and the dentist, and blah blah blah. Result: Loss of money, loss of time, and general impression that dentures may be the way to go.
  • Getting two new windows. A grown up decision, because what I really want is a gas range. Which I suppose is also grown up kind of desire. This means I am boring.
  •  Saying goodbye to grandma and grandpa sucks. Anna cried and Isaac still asks for them. The transition was made harder by Jon's concomitant overnight absence at a church retreat. Everyone was here one minute, and gone the next. And then Jon was gone again this last week, not returning until midnight on Friday. A very last-minute, I-guess-I'm-going-to-D.C.-tomorrow kind of trip.
  • Jon has upcoming tripa to San Francisco and Florida on business. I am not sad than I will not be joining him. Not one little bit. *sniff*
To sum up: We love my parents and we love it when they come. We're all excited about visiting them in Calgary this summer. Goodbyes are hard, but the hellos make it worthwhile.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Palm Sunday and a Minor Easter Conundrum

In my religious experience, Palm Sunday is generally heralded as the beginning of the Happy Happy Easter Season. Churches take the opportunity to give the kiddos palm branches (or some equivalent) and there is much rejoicing and heralding of the King of Kings. Myself, I enjoyed watching the children of our church singing, waving their unidentified vegetation, jumping up and down, and singing about the coming of Jesus.
But what has always struck me, and what our pastor wisely pointed out today, was the superficiality of the original celebration. The people shouting Hosanna as Jesus rode by on a donkey were the same ones that condemned him to death a few (just a few!) days later. How fickle are our hearts; how easily we change alliances.
This is why I greatly appreciated sharing the Lord's Supper after the sermon today. It gave me a chance to tie things together for Anna: the symbolism of communion, importance of Easter, the warning that Palm Sunday provides. We should celebrate the coming of Jesus, we should wave palm branches, we should shout Hosanna. Every single day.

Which brings me to my next thought: what to do about the Easter Bunny? I decided to let Santa Claus in, since he's viewed here as something akin to a fairy. [We fervently believe in fairies.] In contrast, the Easter Bunny is a large mammal in pastels which provides chocolate and hides eggs.
I dunno. When I write it out like that, he/she/it doesn't seem much different than St. Nick. He just feels faker, if that's a word. I think I'm going to skip the bunny. We (okay, I) dislike rabbits, anyway. The local ones eat my tulip bulbs and day lilies.

Thursday, March 31, 2011

Just in Time

My parents drove down from Calgary, arriving Tuesday afternoon. We all love it when they visit, and the kids have been glued to them since they drove up. Generally, the first moments of Grandma and Grandpa's arrival are akin to Christmas. My Mom loves bringing presents and yummy home-made goodies. Anna squealed with delight over every new find, and Isaac took it upon himself to update Grandpa on his favorite cars. It was a chaotic, fun scene.
For me, a visit from the folks is a chance to Get Things Done. For example, I had the highlights in my hair redone, which always takes longer than I expect (3 1/2 hours - yikes!). I went with silver highlights over gray toner, although it looks more like blue highlights over whitish-blondish toner.  As long as it isn't green I'm happy.
I also managed to bake wolverines. These are a crusty sourdough roll filled with dried fruit and nuts, which are made by The Cheese Board in Berkeley, CA. It takes almost two weeks to make the sourdough starter, and then the rise time for the dough is a combined minimum of 8 hours. The baking of the rolls is also a bit persnickity, what with the need for ice water in the oven and all. But they're super tasty, and just how I remember them. Next time, of course, I shall alter the recipe. More whole wheat flour and a dash of cardamom? Maybe some dried mangoes to add a bit of tropical allure? Mmmm.....

Jon is taking a day off of work to get Even More Things Done, both inside and outside the house. But it isn't all drudgery. There shall be a visit to the aquarium, as well as a Caribbean cooking class for Mom and I. Jon and I also get to spend a night in the city, complete with dinner and a jaunt to the art museum (the DAM, as Jon takes pleasure in saying). While we're doing that, the kids will enjoy the fine dining experience at MacDonald's, which is considered a huge treat over here. That's what grandparents are for: spoiling the grandkids!

It's so fun to see everyone play together, and a much needed break for me. I'm ashamed to admit that I haven't been handling my kiddos very well of late. Their combined pokiness, defiance, violence, and sensitivity had become almost more than I could bear. Since these things seem to come to a head whenever we need to leave the house, I've decided to take a break from almost everything this summer. That is, no classes, minimal child-sitting at the gym (i.e., getting up early to run/bike. Ugh.), and minimal outings.
That's the plan, and I wonder if I can follow through. We all like outings (once we're there), and I really look forward to the various activities we do during the week. Sometimes, these outings are all that gets me through. I wish I could say I was one of those moms that just enjoyed staying at home and playing with her kids, but it is very hard for me. I love to read books to them, play board games, do puzzles, play catch.... and they would rather play made-up games and pretend stories and play chase, and do other exciting things that I just can't seem to enjoy. They are doing exactly what they were meant to do at this age, and I can't handle joining them as much as they deserve. Some days I think I should leave child rearing to the professionals. Other days I think a mildly disengaged mom is better than no mom at all. Most days, I just have this vague sense that I'm blowing it. I suppose that means the grandparents arrived just in time.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Spring has Sprung, but not in my yard

It is a very dry spring, after a very dry winter, and the air is cloudy with smoke from nearby fires. It seems we went from autumn to spring, skipping winter almost entirely. And now everything is brown (or golden, if I'm in the right mood). It just feels wrong to water one's perennials in March. And to add insult to injury, the ubiquitous rabbits ate each and every one of my tulip and daffodil bulbs. They dug them up! Each one! And ate them! Bah!

But hope, in the form of blossoms, springs eternal and I'm looking forward to the buds that will appear on our ash tree (at least, I think it's an ash tree), apple, and peach trees. I'm thinking about adding a plum tree (Anna's request), some blueberries, and a few grape vines along the back fence. We love fruit here, can you tell?

What I'd really like is a vegetable garden, but on account of our sloping back yard that would require a lot of effort (i.e., terracing of some sort). I tried container gardening, but that was only successful for the tomatoes. Nonetheless my urge to dig in the earth must be satisfied somehow, so I'm removing the rocks that border our yard with a mind to replace the tarp that underlies it. I let the weeds and detritus get away from me, and now I'm paying the price. [I'm told these rocks are part of the french drain which keeps water from our home's foundation. But just as likely is that the rocks are there for aesthetic purposes. Coloradans seem to have a thing for rocks.]

But back to vegetables... We joined a CSA, and I'm quite excited. I love trying new recipes and experimenting with food. We're splitting a share with someone since I'm not sure we're ready to go it alone. I'm the biggest veggie eater around here, and certainly the most adventurous, but I'm hopeful that I can find some recipes that everyone will enjoy. Or at least tolerate. Suggestions welcome.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Skiing, sledding, and snowshoeing

We just got back from a ski vacation with Jon's family. This is something they do every year, but it's the first time that Isaac and I went long. It was a lot of fun! The resort is geared towards families, and there is a great little ski school where Anna took her first lesson. She loved the school and the little practice hill, and was excited to go skiing the next couple of days. I wasn't sure how she'd take to the sport, but she has shown no fear. After practicing on the bunny slope Jon took her on the ride (her term for the ski lift) to the top of the "big hill" and they went down a few times. He holds her between his legs, and off they go. They even did a few jumps in the terrain park, at her request. As a bonus, she also went skiing with her auntie and grandpa, using a harness. I'm so glad she enjoys this most Colorado of sports, and next year I'd really like her to learn how to stop.

Jon spent a day a different resort with more challenging runs. He's a fantastic skier and I was happy that he could go. I'm told the weather was perfect and the views were great. He hasn't had a chance to really ski since we moved here so this was a perfect opportunity.

The accommodations were comfortable with a hot tub* in each room. The latter was quite useful for getting the kids to wind down after a fun day with the cousins. [Alas, while it may have helped the kids fall asleep, it did nothing for keeping Isaac asleep. He hated the pack 'n play and either Jon or I ended up "sleeping" with him in the adjacent big bed. By "sleeping" I mean he got up every hour to scream, kick, play, pull hair, cry, giggle, or wiggle himself dangerously close to the edge of the bed. At home we were finally able to let him cry it out. After 45 minutes of sobbing (both him and me), he zonked out. And slept until 7 a.m. Nice.] Our socialite daughter wanted to spend all her time with the cousins, and considered this event a giant sleepover. The only difficulty was that she was unable to understand why her older cousins (all boys) declined to play "princess."

Isaac also liked all the people and excitement, and especially the two Hot Wheels school buses that he promptly found and hugged to him for the duration of our stay. He loves wheels, that boy. I can only imagine what madness the age of Lego will bring.
In the mornings, while everyone else was out skiing, I would take Isaac to the sledding hill. The resort keeps a nice little slope with some tubes and sleds, and near that is a huge pile of snow with tunnels, a.k.a. large pipes, that kids can climb through. Isaac enjoyed sledding, until Mommy made the mistake of turning the sled by putting down her boots. After a face full of snow, he decided that the little snow mountain was more his speed. Actually, I think his favorite thing was just to wander around looking at all the skiers, the lifts, and the people. He was quite the picture of cool, in his Laplander hat, snow suit, and sun glasses. This is a little man who seems to be biding his time, planning his one day assault on the slopes.

Myself, I was able to go snowshoeing a few times, which is a few more times than I expected. Between the odd trail marker and some guess work we forged a trail through the trees, on the outskirts of the runs. Although snowshoeing on groomed trails is okay, I prefer a bit of powder and an incline. Otherwise it feels more like hiking than shoeing. I look forward to the next time, which at this rate will be next year.

The one unfortunate thing was that Jon's skis de-laminated, which means the two planes came apart. I think that's the term. Anyway, they broke. He took great joy in tossing them in the dumpster while remarking to onlookers, "We're supposed to return the skiis after renting?"
So the question is whether he buys new gear, and it's a big question because of the implications. Ski gear isn't cheap, and if he buys new stuff it will be because we've decided that skiing is one of our family "things." That is, it's an activity and a skill set that we will invest in as a family and take time to do. And make no mistake, it is an investment in terms of money and time. If you ski, you already know this.
It would also be a sacrifice on my part. I don't really enjoy downhill. I did it from the time I was in junior high school until mid-way during graduate school. I've skied in warm weather with the sun on my face and in bone chilling cold down to -25 C. I've skied on glorified hills, in Canadian Rockies, and in the Sierra mountains. One day I just realized I didn't like it. Maybe it was the cold, maybe I just didn't learn properly, maybe I hated waiting in line for ski rentals, or maybe it was the adrenaline (I have so much running through my veins already). Whatever the reason, I stopped skiing and started snowshoeing.

So here's the plan. I will take a lesson with Anna and we will (re-)learn together. In a decade or so, once the kids are up to Jon's level, I will again don my snowshoes and take off into the trees while they scream down the chutes and moguls. Or maybe by then I will enjoy downhill again. After all, it can be a family activity. I mean, how many sports can grandparents do with their grandchildren? Not many. So yes, I will get with the program. We live in Colorado, after all. Skiing may even be a law here.

[Mom: I feel I should assure you that the tub is cleaned between occupants, otherwise I agree that it would be gross.]

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

No longer bored

Last January, I wrote about the winter doldrums and how January is the longest month. This year I've barely noticed January and now February is half-way through. How times have changed! Between preschool, Anna's class at the rec center (which she hated), her drama class (which she loves), my woman's bible study, and working out at the gym, the time has passed way to quickly. Somewhere in there I also managed to host a Super Bowl party, organize a family Valentine's Dance at our church, and geared up to host a workshop (in the spring) on preventing childhood sexual abuse. Meanwhile, Jon is coming home late today after his third business trip in four weeks.
In short, this is why I have not been posting with any frequency of late. And by all rights I should be cleaning up the dishes or sweeping the floor or folding the laundry or unpacking the Target bags or dealing with the swimming stuff from this morning or answering the myriad e-mails that need attention.
But instead I had a chocolate caramel and sat down here - aren't you glad?

Yes, I am feeling a little burned out and tired. All the things we've been doing are good and/or fun, but I do need a minute now and again.

Anna seems to be enjoying these many adventures. She is always up for an outing, although perhaps not getting ready for that outing. She has declared a hatred for winter due to the necessity of outerwear. I also abhor the outerwear, simply because it is yet another thing she must do before we head out the door. Anna has become quite the daydreamer, and if she isn't spending time making faces in the bathroom mirror, she is singing a made-up song about shoes, or perhaps exploring different ways of putting on her jacket. Lovely, funny, and a little frustrating if it is Time To Go. I think I've hit upon a solution, though. I set a timer by the door and give her some amount of time to get ready to go. If she takes less than 5 minutes, she gets to dress a princess on the computer. If it takes 5-10 minutes, she breaks even. Longer than 10 minutes and she loses dessert at dinner time. She hasn't taken more than 5 minutes to get ready, all week! And then she makes faces or sings songs for the remaining time. Win-win.

Isaac continues to be the tough nut these days. At 21 months he is frustrated in a way that Anna never was, due to his lack of verbosity. He's not behind, she was just that much ahead. So I feel under-experienced here. I suppose it's also annoying for him that our adventures are Anna-focused. Yes, he gets to run around the community center during Anna's drama class, but the novelty is wearing thin and he doesn't quite remember why I'm shoving him into the car to begin with. Diaper changes are another challenge. Each one becomes a wrestling match, and he feels it's a wrestle to the death. I'm hoping his anger at the change table will somehow translate into early potty-readiness. Time will tell.

At the same time, 21 months is so adorable. That elfish grin! The way he says "dump-cah" instead of dump-truck. The extreme love he has for all things with wheels and all stuffed animals everywhere. His ability to play by himself (!!). The cute way he says "bite" whenever he wants to taste my food. (Well, that was cute. Now it prevents me from eating breakfast or lunch at the table.) Watching him admire and emulate his sister. His interpretive dance and ability to execute a mean pirouette. How he soaks up a cuddle, melting into your arms.
Yummy yummy toddler.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Sooo.... I guess we're here then.

For our entire married life (and truthfully, a long time before that), there has been "something" on the horizon for Jon and I. The nature of that something varied, whether it be finishing graduate school, getting a job, having a baby (or two), or buying a house. The one constancy was the impermanence of the present. There was always something new, some big change, to look forward to.

Well, we had those babies. We bought a house. Jon has a job that looks to be stable for the near future. We are here.

The thing is, I haven't really been here before. And lately, I've found myself thinking about what it would be like if Jon went back into academia or I went back to school. As I was packing up maternity clothes, I felt sad that I would not be wearing them again. (And yah, I won't be wearing them again. That ship has sailed.) There are upcoming events and challenges on the horizon, of course. Like our upcoming drive to see my parents this summer (18 hours! in an Accord! ack!). Or like solving The Mysterious Case of Anna's Allergies. But these are not big things. They are medium-sized regular-life things.

I'm not discontented. I like my life and I like staying at home with the kiddos. I feel strongly that God has put us here and has blessed us immensely and I am happy to be where He wants us to be. And lest Betty Friedan haunt me, I do have a sense of purpose and meaning in my life. What I'm saying is that the underpinnings of my occasional desires for a third child and/or a paying job and/or going back to school are resulting from the desire for another "big thing" in the distance. I've gotten used to the stress and framework that upcoming life changes bring with them. It's staying put that I am unschooled in.

So that's my challenge. I need to learn how to be where I am. To think more about the present and not the unknowable future. To enjoy my kids where they are right now, instead of thinking about how things will be when they're older. To think about painting my walls instead of changing my house. To use the education I have to serve the people around me, instead of going back to school for more. To embrace my home as my office (to use a friend's phrase) instead looking for employment.

What I'm NOT saying is that I will never do these things. Maybe we will adopt. Maybe I will get a job. Maybe Jon will change jobs. Maybe we will move to another city or even another country. But I'm not going to look for those things or expect them for awhile. First, I need to learn how to be here and now. I need to find contentment in this place in this time, because sometimes further growth and maturity can only happen when we're standing still. Just ask a tree.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Springtime in January

It's in the upper 50s today, the snow is melting, it's windy, and the air has the smell of springtime about it. But of course it isn't spring time, it's still winter and snow could happen anytime. [Theoretically. I am not holding my breath for snow.] These freeze-thaw cycles are still something I'm getting used to; the thawing always messes up my seasonal mind.

I actually have a few resolutions for this season, but first I wanted to take stock of the ones I made in the fall. The biggest success has been making my own bread. It's fun to experiment, and is a good way to introduce more complex tastes to my kids, in a somewhat subversive way. Cardamom raisin bread went over well. Orange cumin bread, not so well.
The rest of my autumn resolutions have been a mixed bag. I was going to cook one leafy green each week for the kids, but there's only so much rejection a person can take. I at least try to introduce a novel veggie, but that's been up and down. Thank goodness for frozen peas.
Instead of eschewing child sitting at my gym, in favor of getting up early, I got a family pass and the kids are there at least twice a week. BOTH of them have been getting up at night ($*@*?!), so I'm just too wasted for that 6 a.m. bugle.
Isaac's scrapbook documenting his first year is completely and utterly not finished, and only occasionally do I pull off the "not bag lady" look. What's a girl to do when it's chilly outside and those warm fleece pants beckon?
I've been better about being hydrated, and my knuckles have only cracked a couple of times. Sanity has also been maintained, although I did have Anna tested for whopping a cough. In my defense, she had been exposed, was coughing, and her preschool asked that all kids who tested positive (regardless of immunizations) go on antibiotics. Getting the test was yet another odyssey into the hell that is health care. We had to go next door to the hospital, went to three different departments before we were directed to the correct one, and no one at any point knew how much this was going to cost. The best answer I got was "The billing department will be able to help you after the test is complete." No kidding. We are still waiting for the bill.

Isaac continues to climb on everything, but hasn't really fallen. He has a great sense of personal space and fantastic balance. Anna went three weeks without a cold, but has contracted something once again. We've been giving her Zyrtec for allergies, which seems to be effective, but also knocks her flat at full dosage. She's down to a quarter dose, but I can't tell if it's still effective in reducing her congestion, because of the aforementioned cold. I suppose it would behoove us to figure out exactly what she's allergic to. Eventually.

Moving on to Winter/Spring resolutions....
(1) Having Anna pick out her clothes in the evening and get dressed before coming downstairs in the morning. We've done this for a couple of weeks now, and things certainly go more smoothly.
(2) Isaac's scrapbook. I have just got to get that done.
(3) Trying new hair colors. Streaking it with gray worked pretty well (although the texture isn't great). Going to try dark blue in a couple of months.
(4) Reading my bible more consistently. Last semester I wasn't very good with keeping up with the readings for our community group bible study, or my women's bible study. I want to do a better job at reading, retaining, and mulling the passages over. I also think it's important for the kids to see me read scripture.
(5) Date nights. More are needed. Many more.

Isaac resolves to do more talking. He is entering the verbal explosion stage, and is thrilled to be able to say Anna's name. A new past time is walking around, holding objects up, and declaring ownership. "Daddy!" "Mama!", "Annnnaaaa!!!!" He is also into stuffed animals: hugging them, throwing them, occasionally feeding them. This week, Anna's panda bear is the object of choice, which does not always go down well with Anna.
Anna resolves to do more crafts. Her coloring and drawing have improved, and she has a greater desire to complete specific projects. This is good news to me, since make believe is soooo hard.
We are doing play-doh right now, so I am off to create an imaginary devil's food cake with pink candles. Yummy! In an imaginary sense, of course.