Wednesday, December 31, 2008

From The Mouth of B

General play is interrupted by a loud, ripping, toot from Berit.

Lisa: "What was that?"
Berit, breathlessly and awestruck: "It was an ANGEL."


********

A few nights ago Berit came into our bed, afraid of "That Bad, Scary Man," who was unexplainable at the time and unknown to Trevor and me. However, today, as we were heading downstairs into the basement, while passing a few of Trevor's records that are face-out, Berit nonchalantly said, "There's that Bad, Scary Man." 

It seems that Willie Nelson is haunting the dreams of our oldest.

Monday, December 29, 2008

Birthday Babies

Our Little One turned one on December 18, to be followed three days later on December 21 by her buddy Brennan Dart. (Sidenote: Brennan's brother Liam and Berit are the best of friends, and his mom Ellen and I sure had fun being pregnant at the same time. In fact, I moved out of my hospital room and she moved into the very same one -- we had, of course, fantasized that we'd be having our babies together, kicking our feet up and eating Jell-O and nursing in the hospital side-by-side, but maybe next time. :) )

We had a little party with our two families at the Bob-In Again. Here are a few highlights...

The kids having a rollicking good time banging on the table in unison (Berit, Marta, Liam and Brennan).

The hats only stayed on for moments; hence, this blurry photo was the only one I got.

Brenski. Doesn't he have a cuddly, sweet, melt-your-heart smile?

At our house on Marta's birthday, opening presents with Mimi and Grandpa. (Slight difference from Berit's 30-person first birthday party, but still fun.)

This salty girl didn't care about her cake, and only ate one bite.

More Santa Photos and Christmas Memories


Not so impressed with Santa that she stops licking the dessert stuck on her cheek. 

Borrowing a technique from my sister-in-law's blog (and because Trevor keeps asking if I'm going to get ready for bed any time soon, or will I just sit on the computer all night?), here's a list of things I don't want to forget about this Christmas:

1. Since Halloween (roughly the time we started talking up Christmas), Berit has wanted a drum. After Christmas morning when she received a drum at our house from Santa, after Christmas with her Mimi and Grandpa and aunt, uncle and cousins, after Christmas with her Grandma and Pop and aunt and uncles, we came back home and asked her what her favorite gift was: "My drum."

2. Marta told us regularly that Santa said "grunt grunt grunt," or "ho ho ho" in her language.

3. I splurged on velvet dresses with tights and mary janes for both girls this year, and they wore their way too pricey outfits exactly two times: To church, and to be photographed in them. 

4. On Christmas Eve Berit was fighting with Marta. When we told her she needed to stop, she said in a nervous, worried voice, "Is Santa watching???"

5. True to form, Trevor is continuing to refuse to take the tree down, even though its branches are matted down and it basically looks like a dead tree standing in our living room. He also played Christmas music today. Although I did notice our creepy  1 1/2 foot tall Santa that turns back and forth in our entryway holding a candle is missing.

6. This is the year Berit, along with the rest of us, discovered the song "I Want A Hippopotamus For Christmas." She sang it repeatedly, along with "Jingle Bells," "Have A Holly Jolly Christmas" and "Rudolph The Red-Nosed Reindeer" constantly in the month before Christmas, for everybody who came to the house, on the phone to my mom daily and on speakerphone to my mom's friends and my grandmother's nursing home.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Mind Your Manners

After opening a zillion (literally) gifts from Santa and my parents at my parents' house...

Me: "Berit, what do you say to Grandma and Pop?"

Berit: "May I please have some more presents?"

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Merry Christmas 2008

It's so strange -- and funny -- to be the parent at Christmastime. Even when I was grown and not yet a parent, Christmas at my parents' house was thrilling from Christmas Eve until we left town. 

And last night we did our third Christmas as parents, at a significantly less exciting pace, but no less joyful or merry. We took the girls to the 5 o'clock Mass in their adorable velvet Christmas dresses with the cute tights and patent leather shoes. Marta fussed all the way home, letting us know that she's usually sleeping at that time, and Berit dallied to get to bed after we made it through the snowstorm to our sleepy Christmas house. 

We packed the car, cleaned the house, washed the dishes, took showers. It was a lot like every other night of our lives, and it was funny to us. Time passed in a normal way, instead of the electric minutes we lived as kids on Christmas Eve. And when we set out the presents, I have to admit that they looked a little... puny. I mentioned this and Trevor said, "It's more presents than I ever got." And I thought, "Oh no, this is going to be a thing with us every year." Because when I was growing up, even when my mom was single and working a handful of jobs and we ate cereal for dinner, we still had amazing Christmases. I mean, the gifts spilled down the sides of the tree and filled the entire room. Balloons  guided our way to the Christmas tree, and our stockings were plump with fruit and small presents. So I was a little disappointed to see the few gifts we had gotten the girls sitting under the tree, on the tree skirt. 

But before you get all "materialism is killing imagination" on me, we rearranged things a little and they looked better. I just wanted Berit to come downstairs and be really excited, because at not quite three, how often has she seen a huge pile of presents, made in a workshop especially for her by a giant magical Santa Claus, placed under a glowing tree? Certainly never in her memory. (It did not escape me that she just may remember this Christmas, so I wanted it to make an impression.)

Anyway, Trevor and I went to bed wondering how the morning would go -- who would wake first? How would we deal with one if the other was still sleeping? 

As it turned out, Marta woke at 4:50 (a result of her going to bed so late, because with her, sleep begets sleep) and she largely ignored the presents because I let her play with Berit's dollhouse, which is off-limits when B's awake. At 6 I finally woke Trevor and Berit up, to the smell of coffee and cinnamon rolls. Berit was suitably amazed and delighted and, to my surprise, tore right into the present situation. I expected her to thoughtfully move from one to the next, pausing to play with each one, but no -- she was about quantity, and even said "Look, a book for Marta" or "Santa brought Marta a doggie" when she opened a gift (hers) that she was lukewarm about. Marta was getting cranky and was only minorly into her gifts, but is now pleased to have a few new books and animals to play with, post-nap. 

Berit said, while eating breakfast, "I wish Santa would come back and bring more presents!" Lucky girl, we still have both sets of grandparents to visit today. 

Monday, December 22, 2008

Because I'm The Mom

A friend sent this my way; enjoy!



And on a different emotional plane, but mom-related all the same, a piece that makes me thankful for all of my friends, sent from my sister-in-law:

Oh Nurse!

Routine suits us. It makes life so much easier, and the kids thrive on it. I know I sound like all the parenting books, but really, everyone knows what to expect and isn't that handy? So tonight, while nursing Marta, I realized that soon there'll be a change in our routine, and I actually got scared. She's one. And speaking of parenting books, they all recommend starting the weaning process when your kid is one. I've barely given it any thought at all, and now I'm supposed to come up with a way to throw a wrench into our well-oiled machine. It's just not very appealing.

When Berit was almost one, I was chomping at the bit to wean her. I did love nursing, but that little one would have nursed all day if she could have. In fact, she kind of did. She nursed every hour -- every hour! -- well into her first birthday. (This goes for nighttime, too, friends.) I tried all the tricks, I read every book, I cried on the phone to the lactation specialist. She ended up nursing until she was 18 months old, and I was only able to wean her out of panic because I was 5 months pregnant, throwing up every three seconds and really, because I could explain things to her. I remember thinking that it was kind of a good thing I waited so long, because she understood so much, and weaning was more of a talk-it-out thing than a crying, mourning process. 

Now I know there are plenty of women who nurse their children until they're, like 12, and I'm not saying that's wrong. But when Berit was nursing, I was exhausted by it. I wanted to be done so badly. I obsessed over it for 7 or 8 months. 

And here we are with Marta, and I'm reluctant. Not because I love nursing -- I do, but I don't feel like I really need it to be close with my child or anything like that. I'd be OK without it in my life, even if this does end up being our last child and I never nurse again. (I'd be sad, admittedly, but I'd make it.)

I just love the routine of it all. I know she'll go to sleep with a full belly. I know it's her signal to rest. I don't know how I'll calm her down without nursing. I don't know how I'll sit in the rocking chair and do our routine and not have it happen. It's the key ingredient in our routine. I feel sort of blank -- like, when I think about how to wean her, absolutely nothing comes to mind. 

It's going to be waaaay easier than with Berit, I do know that. Marta only nurses before bed, and she doesn't nurse to sleep. But when Trevor has had her for the afternoon and I've asked him to try putting her down for her nap, she just doesn't go to sleep. She waits until I get home, she nurses, I lay her down and then she goes to sleep. Even if he does every other step, and fills in a little milk in a cup for the nursing, she still won't go to sleep. So, any thoughts, my mom brigade? 

Friday, December 19, 2008

And Many More...

Last night, when I posted about Marta's birthday, I forgot to write a couple of things I know I'll forget over a lifetime and want Marta to know about her little self. 

1. She forces me to walk her around and around and around the house all day long, which is tedious enough in itself, but her favorite thing to do is climb stairs while walking (not actually climbing). I dislike it because a) It is stair climbing, and therefore working out, b) Detours us completely from even the possibility that I may pick up something along our path and put it away when we reach the appropriate place further down our path, and c) She can't even reach the next stair from the stair preceding it, so it's mostly me pulling her up by her hands and placing her on each stair. We go up seven, stop at Mosey's "perch," go up the next seven and then go down them all. Repeat. Repeat. Repeat.

However... her stair climbing, or stair climbing attempts, are absolutely adorable. She leads me over there and tries with all her baby might to lift her foot up as high as the stair. When she just barely makes the top, she rounds her chubby bare foot down to grip the carpeting, and sort of snuggles her toes into it for balance. Then she swings her left foot/leg up around (as I'm pulling her up, of course), straight out in the air to the side and all willy-nilly, and shoots her foot around rooting for the perfect place to set it down. 

2. The technical stuff: She's 22 pounds, and 29 inches long. 65th percentile, down from the 98th when she was about 6 months old. Her heart murmur is getting quieter and we're going to a new doc in GR at Spectrum Health/Helen DeVos Children's Heart Center for her valve. She's (and I quote) "far beyond a 1-year-old in intelligence." Well, duh.

3. She knows body parts, animal sounds and terrorizes her sister's many, many dollhouse setups that litter our house like Baby Godzilla.

4. Her hair, which started out a little bit dark and turned white-blond, is starting to look a little more ash blond. I note this because having two very blond, blue-eyed daughters is the main topic of conversation when Mom has dark brown hair and eyes. 

5. She loves, loves, loves dogs. It's ridiculously funny how much she loves dogs. And it's not because we have such a stellar dog ourselves -- Berit's a tiny bit terrified of Mosey. Marta just needs to read about, look at and sound like a dog during most of her days.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Marta Is 1

Last night, as I was nursing Marta in the rocking chair, I looked down at her and realized that in the morning, she'd be one year old. It seems funny, because she's such a baby still. I know that one isn't 30 or anything, but still -- it's a year, where yesterday her age was measured in months. (Technically I'll be measuring her age in months until she's two, but at least we have the option now.)

Right now she's sleeping. Last year -- just last year! -- at this exact time, she and I were getting to know each other. She was born at 7:59 p.m. -- it went so quickly -- and unlike when Berit was born, Marta just hung out with me, nursed, dozed and basically became my full-time baby immediately. 

I had gone in for my final OB appointment (assuming I went into labor at 40 weeks), and just out of coincidence, Trevor met me there (you know, second baby and all... he came to the appointments when he could). My appointment was at 3:30 p.m. Cathy, Trevor's mom, had come to our house to watch Berit while I went (at this point, she was still not away from me for very long. Berit, not Cathy.).

Something sounded funny on the doppler, and with the trouble we had had with Berit's heart, our nurse and OB (both amazing, wonderful people) pulled out the ultrasound machine to check on our baby girl. And as it turned out, she was in a breech position. 

"Looks like we're having a baby," said our OB. It was a week-and-a-half early, and his father had died the night before. He'd be in his hometown by morning, and if I went into labor in that condition we'd all be in trouble.

"Meet me at the hospital at 7," he said.

I cried all the way home. Berit's labor was nice and eventful in a productive way. I had thought I'd have to have a C-section with her, and I didn't, so I felt powerful. And now, through no fault of my own powers, I was having one in an hour-and-a-half. 

And sooner rather than later, Marta was screaming, and Trevor was saying, "She's perfect! She's so cute!"

Oh, she is. 

She's got a smile that's bigger than anything and she's a book worm times a hundred. She's no shrinking violet, even in the face of Big Sister, and is determined to have her way at all times. She throws proper baby fits (the kind of which we'd never known with Berit) and all day, every day, my job is to walk, walk, walk her around the house. No cleaning, no cooking, no anything but catering to her every whim. When she spies something that could be a phone, she holds it to her ear and says, "HI! HI! HI!" She talks up a storm and laughs at everything. She snuggles -- I love a snuggly baby. When I put her to bed at night, she lays her head on my shoulder, pats my back and says "baby, baby," like I do to her. 

She is a joy. She takes naps. I love when she naps. She is one.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Organic Is Code For "Freak Out About Everything Your Child Touches"

When Berit was born, we decided to go organic. Actually, I decided to go organic for everyone, since I get the groceries, clothes, bedding and all other Things We Need. Trevor is more of the "My parents gave it to me, and I'm just fine" mindset. Ahem.

I, however, read every drop of material regarding children that crosses my path, and in every article that covered organic food, I learned about how eating organic could reduce serious illness and disease in children even when Mom is pregnant for them. I feel my soapbox creeping underfoot right now, so I'll just cut to the chase and say that organics, for me, were safer, healthier and the right choice for my kids. I know lots of people say organic is marketing, marketing, marketing and that it really doesn't make a difference as long as you eat healthy, but I just believe otherwise. And I'm not just hopping onto the organic lifestyle bandwagon because trendy people are on it -- it's darn expensive, and here in Northern Michigan, hard to come by. It's not the simpler choice (though technically it is, but I digress). 

So now we've got organic food, bedding, soaps, etc. etc. But what I haven't done is upgrade my kids' clothing. I hadn't really thought about it. Last night, however, has got me surfing the web during babysitter time hoping to find cost effective organic sleepwear. Marta would not go to sleep. She started out OK, and slept like a dream from 6-10 p.m. But just after 10, she started yelping and hollaring -- not in an "I'm sick" or "I'm scared" way, but persistent nonetheless. I let it go but soon enough I was rocking her back to sleep. I started to lay her in her bed and she woke up and freaked out. And that was how it was all night, until the very early hours of this morning, when I just made her scream herself to sleep (after checking her pjs, mattress, sheets, dipe, etc.). And then, when she woke up this morning and I sat down to nurse her (still in the dark), I noticed that HER PAJAMAS WERE SPARKING. They're those synthetic fabric Carter's footies blanket sleepers, and when she moved around they created such static that they were sparking.

Now, I know that it's winter and dry and we're pulling out our humidifier, but come on. No wonder she was freaking out! The poor baby was sparking all night in her bed. Today after I dressed her in clothes she napped wonderfully, albeit a but apprehensively about her bed itself. 

So now I'm wondering if anyone knows where I can buy warm footed organic cotton sleepers. I'm so far going with Hanna Andersson because I trust them, but they're not footed and Marta takes her socks off. Thanks for any tips!

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Potty Faking

How many women in the history of blogging have posted about potty training trials? Oh, count me in. 

Berit is three in February, and really, completely, totally understands the potty concept. She wears "big girl panties" at home, holds it for hours and when she's ready to "go," she changes herself into a Pull-Up. Yes, you read that right.

And yes, we've given her tons of time, attention and access on the potty. She knows it well (though we don't dare pressure her, parents of the New Millennium that we are). She sits on it often. She even says, with a gleam in her eye and excitement in her voice, "Here it comes!" "I can hear it!" "I'm doing it!" But she knows she's not. She's teasing us. Really -- I'm not being cynical. She's really, really, messing with us. She laughs and rolls her eyes. She gets up and puts on a Pull-Up, pees, and takes it off to put on her "big girl panties" again. 

Sometimes she goes. Never Number Two, which is already an issue for her with Pull-Ups (she's sworn off diapers altogether), so God only knows how she'll put that business in the potty. But occasionally she'll pee where she's supposed to -- I've even allowed the potty chair to be in the living room (I know) so she can be social while she waits. It makes music when she goes, which was exciting at first, but now the music goes off even when she moves around, so it's lost its luster and just taunts us.

I get tips. I get so many tips from people who just don't understand. The 24-hour potty training, the naked week, the guilt trip. These tips are not for Berit, our sensitive child who could really take something like the potty to her therapist two decades from now.

Yet I beg for tips. Somebody tell me the right way to do it. I want her to go to gymnastics. I hate waiting and waiting, sitting by the chair. I want preschool. I want life beyond Pull-Ups.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Braggity Brag Brag Brag

After refusing to crawl until very, very recently, Little One started walking around the house today, literally following in her big sister's footsteps by crawling and walking in the same month. (Berit at 11 months, Marta at 12 months.) She's thrilled she's walking, and makes excited squeals and has the goofiest face the whole time she's upright. I predict full-on walking by Christmas. 

Marta is not like Berit was at this age in that Berit wasn't too curious about what was in cupboards and on floors, and about how anything and everything might taste. As soon as Marta gets a pair of fingers in her hands, she walks us over to all the cupboards at her level and opens, closes, opens, closes them, inspects their contents and wants everything to do with Berit's tiny treasures laying around the house. She walks over to electric outlets, touches them, tries to put things in them, and when she sees us eyeing her she says "NO!", mimicking our scorns. 

I'm getting excited for her birthday on Thursday, because finally something is all about her and not overshadowed by (deservingly cute and precocious) Berit. She's such a sweetie, and I couldn't be more pleased that there is a light at the end of the "hold her hands and walk her around the house hunched over all day" tunnel.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

The Result of Too Much Bragging

It seems that one too many times I've casually slipped into a conversation how Marta can recite the Preamble or that she taught Berit to count in Spanish. OK, maybe not those things specifically, but I've definitely mentioned on more than one occasion that our Little One is a talker. She's been saying actual words since at least six months of age. And not tiny grunts of words, but annunciating appropriate word parts, like "Mar-ta" and "dog-gie." She has known her animal sounds for what seems like an hilariously long time -- I mean, she was meowing before her eyes could fully focus on a picture of a cat. Of course we thought she was a genius. 

And now it's all coming around to bite us in the butt because she's started only saying very basic words, like Mama and Daddy (though the Daddy bit continues to be an adorable DA-DEEEE!!!), smacking her lips for drink, asking to eat with "Num-Num," etc. The rest of her words are lumped into three general-use terms: Ball, Baby and Maaa (this final word being the sound all animals make). 

Just in time for her one-year checkup!

Saturday, December 13, 2008

As Of Late

We've been living a pretty normal life these past couple of days, save for Marta's all-nighter last night, getting her and me to bed at exactly 5:09 a.m. and waking us up at exactly 7:44 a.m. She's stuffy and has a little cold, so I thought that was it, but as I discovered in the morning, she was hiding a bit of a surprise in her dipe. Whoops. I would've been upset all night, too, if my parents tried to shush me when I was trying to tell them something. 

Anyway, today Berit and I left Trev and Marta to sniffle at home and went on a "date." I took her to American Spoon Foods cafe where she ordered juice to drink with a questioning look, and I allowed it since she did it so politely and because we were on a special outing together. She also ordered macaroni and cheese, tomato bisque soup and chose chocolate and candy cane gelato. Such a little lady! We then walked over to The Rocking Horse Toy Co. to pick out Christmas gifts for Trevor and Marta from her. Marta's getting a little doggy and Trevor's gift is so funny, but I can't divulge it here because sometimes, when the moon is just right and he has absolutely nothing else on earth to do, Trevor reads this blog and I wouldn't want to spoil the surprise. He loves surprises way more than anyone I know. But it's good, because before we got married I never wanted surprises, and now I'm learning to like them. Although I always know what I'm getting from him, because guys are so obvious. Anyway.

Miss Important with her violin case that is in backpack form; genius. She loves her violin and carries it around very patiently and lovingly. It's adorable. I'm not pushing it and it's working, because she asks me questions about it and is learning all about its parts.


Doesn't Trevor look cute and official? (I mean, handsome and smart.:) I love watching him work. He's so casual about it and I'm always astounded by what he knows. He builds houses that people live in. Big ones. If I did that they'd come crashing down.

No, this isn't a picture of a light dusting on our deck after we cut the legs off our furniture. This is the snow before Trevor plowed it the other night. It's not even Christmas!

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Domesticated Sophistication

I've just come home from Book Club, for which I made Trevor stay home from his work party (he's the boss). Don't worry Kelly Kaatz, he's there now, making it, I'm sure, for a final round of drinks. I write this because I love Book Club (you'll notice I'm capitalizing it now), even though we've only had two meetings including tonight. We spent a whopping five or 10 minutes chatting about the book Tender At The Bone by Ruth Reichl (interesting, light, a nice read) and then moved onto very important topics like preschool, the lack of anything really great to do indoors with kids in the winter in Petoskey (and how someone should do something about this), the city council, the Catholic Church's take on certain intimate actions within marriage and potty training. (Notice I snuck that one in the middle there.) Trevor actually called the house we were at to remind me to come home. I love Book Club.

I was going to head straight to bed but I needed to write about this lovely song Berit's been singing, with Trevor's ever-prompting. The song is originally sung by Boots the Monkey from Dora the Explorer. 

Boots sings: "I speak Spanish. And English, too. I like them both, how about you?"

And Berit sings: "I speak Spanish. And It-squish, too. I like to poop, how about you?"

I find no need to correct this.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

I've Been Tagged

When I first heard about the game Blog Tag, I thought, "I'll never think of six things about myself that don't involve my kids!" But as my sister-in-law, Stephanie (who tagged me) explained, those six things don't have to be about my current life. And once I started thinking about interesting things in my pre-kids life, I was enjoying remembering all the fun I used to have (now, of course, it's that "different kind of fun" that I wouldn't trade for a second. OK, maybe a second). So here are my six:

1. I have two tattoos, one done during a spring break trip to Mexico with my two best friends when I was 19 by a man who called himself the Poison Devil (now I'm just waiting for good ol' Hepatitis to show up), and another done soon after returning home from said trip, because once you get a tattoo you want another one. When you're 19.

2. I played the violin for 18 years. (This isn't as impressive as it sounds.)

3. A college boyfriend once told me a mutual friend had died (untrue) in hopes of reconnecting over "shared" grief. It worked, briefly.

4. In the late 90s I was crowned both Miss Danish Festival and Miss Montcalm County, competed at Miss Michigan and attended Miss America, just for fun. And the thrill of hardcore pageantry at its, ahem, finest.

5. I have personally interviewed: Jack Kevorkian, James Earl Jones, Katie Brown, Jeff Corwin, Bruce Campbell, Chris Dickey, a former Mrs. Ernest Hemingway, Jimmy Hoffa Jr., Bob and Tom, Elizabeth Pantley, Coach Ken Carter (Coach Carter), Soledad O'Brien and Arun Gandhi (Mahatma Gandhi's grandson). I also did an independent study for Time Magazine in college. And I've won nine awards for excellence in journalism in the state of Michigan. Not to brag or anything.

6. Long before meeting or even knowing the same people, Trevor and I were in the same place at the same time. He worked at a skateboard shop in Chicago; my girlfriend and I went in to try on bathing suits. He rang up our purchases. We realized this during idle chat one night years later, after we were married. 

And two more, just for fun...

7. I earned a trophy for Highest Handicap in downhill skiing in 2002, at Nub's Nob. I beat out hundreds of people. (For those of you who might not know, that means I was the worst skier in the beer league.)

8. I have my CCW permit. (Concealed weapons. Might I be carrying even as I blog??)

You're supposed to "tag" six people, but I only know four others who have blogs who haven't already been tagged. So I'm throwing this to:
1. My girlfriend Liza, who was there for the tattoos and has the very same ones as I do.
2. My neighbor Mandy, who became my friend far too long after we moved onto the block (just think of all the wine that could have been consumed on the front porch during the first two years).
3. My friend Candace, who, along with hub and daughter went to Vail with us this past summer and had a much better time than we did.
and 4. My friend Kallie, who I never see anymore but still love.

A Girl Needs A Life

Is it wrong that I'm making Trevor miss his work party to watch the girls while I go to book club? 

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Captured: The Holly Jolly Merry Berry Joyful Song Unto The Christmas Season That Is Our Family

Marta: "I have released myself from the bonds of shoes yet again! Victory!"

Berit: "I'll only pose angelically when I know the photo won't be used to represent our family on a Christmas card -- like, say, when Marta looks like sumo-baby. Go ahead and try to cut me out and use this picture as if the photographer just took it of me. I know you're not that crafty or steady-handed."


A photo of our girls performing one of our favorite Christmas rituals: Baptizing Santa into the season of Crazy.

Monday, December 1, 2008

Afternoon Delight

Today, when Trevor ran home in the middle of the day unannounced, he found me hooking up the vacuum with the dishwasher going, the laundry going, the kitchen clean and the clutter cleared. Berit was on the potty (going) and Marta was down for a nap. I had showered, put on make-up and blown-dry my hair. I was so secretly pleased that he walked in at just that moment, because really I could have been: Surfing the internet trying to find Marta a new snowsuit; laying on the floor trying to get Berit interested in games to play without me; leaning my head into the fridge searching for leftover Thanksgiving tidbits; thinking about how the house really needed to be picked up and making a plan to do it later; or playing with Berit while ignoring the mess in the house.

Not that I'm not usually on top of things, but you understand.

Sunday, November 30, 2008

We're Thankful For... Long Weekends

I love bedtime. We eat dinner, we do baths, I nurse Marta and Trevor reads to Berit. Goodnight! It didn't used to be so easy. When Berit was a baby she slept in our bed and I would have to lay in there with her while she nursed laying down, then drifted off to sleep. I then snuck out at roughly 9:30 p.m. and tried to be awake for an hour or so of cleaning and visiting with the husband. When she moved to her own room, the whole "I'm falling asleep with you" charade continued well past her second birthday. I remember reading a book during those two sleepless years (I read lots, lots, lots of books regarding babies and sleep around that time. I should really publish my own book that says: "If you have a child who doesn't sleep, put this book down and go get some sleep while you can.") that said, in essence, if we did all the stuff we were doing (laying with her, going to her at every whimper, etc.), she MIGHT sleep well by age three. I laughed, because surely a full night's rest was right around the corner. But here we are, nearly at Berit's third birthday, and she's just falling into an easy sleep routine. Ah well, live and learn. I just typed the entire above paragraph while I listened to Marta cry herself to sleep. 

Bedtime has nothing to do with this blog, besides allowing me the time to actually type a post uninterrupted (save for the fussing coming from Marta's monitor). 

We had a super-duper ally-ooper fun weekend. My sister (Aunt Andrea, the Greatest Person In The World), her husband (Uncle Nick, the Biggest Person Known To Children Under 3 and Therefore Wonderful for Climbing Upon, Acrobatics and General Goofiness) and my brother (Uncle David, Animal Lover Extraordinaire and Person Of Hugely Impressive Height) came on Friday and stayed till today, Sunday. While we always love having my parents here, too, this was the first time we ever hung out with just the "kids," and it was tons of fun. Sledding, Christmas shopping, cooking, eating with reckless abandon and game-playing long into the wee hours of the morning. My girls were in heaven and we "adults" had a blast.


Didn't I swear I'd never let my children watch TV? (I didn't know about Dora the Explorer yet.)

Happy holidays!

Tights be damned. Let those legs be seen!

Grandma Doublestein (Great-Grandma) brought us her famous poppyseed bread, and the girls loved it as much as we do. It lasted less than 12 hours in our house. So delicious.

Every time we take Mosey to the vet they eye the kids and say, "It's so strange; he keeps gaining weight every year." 

The boots I had to buy, which are not at all the type of boots I thought I'd be buying for my kids, before I had kids. Yet here they are, and K-Mart, Disney and cheap boot manufacturers everywhere win.

Blowing in the breeze with Daddy-o.

"It was Saucy who made that big mess behind me..."
(P.S. Berit and Saucy have to wear matching hair ties every day.)

Doing a fun project sent up by good friend Kim Reed. There was far more eating of the project than making the turkey cookies, but when you put Oreos, frosting, candy corn and whoppers in front of a kid, what do you expect?

The tree's up, the stockings are hung, the Christmas music is playing. We're ready!

Friday, November 28, 2008

A Bunch of Turkeys

It's a Thanksgiving miracle! Marta's crawling. Not all over, not exploring her newfound freedom, but crawling nonetheless, at 11 months old. Hooray! No awkward explaining needed at her 12-month appointment. 

"Here's a raisin for you -- no, wait, it looks too yummy. I'll just take that back and eat it myself. I don't mind a little dog drool."

Doesn't she look so feminine and lovely with her "Go Bears" hat on? If you ask me, we need to invest in a snowsuit for Saucy.

Marta...

And two years ago, ever-serious Berit.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Two Boys In Need. We Can Help Them Find A Home.

Dear friends,

This is a very unusual letter to send out to all of you, but I hope you read it to the end and send it to everyone you know. Maybe you know, or maybe someone else knows, how we can help these boys.

My sister Andrea is a special needs teacher in the Detroit area. She regularly tells me heartbreaking stories about the children in her class. She has worked in several public school systems and never has she seen such obvious abuse and neglect as she has with the two boys she describes below. She has tried calling protective services numerous times, until they told her to STOP CALLING because there was nowhere for these boys to go. She asked them what she could do to help in any way, and protective services told her to find someone to take the boys, so she is on a mission. She called me because she knows that Trevor and I have a wonderful faith and friends community, who in turn have wonderful friends. Maybe one of you can help, or maybe someone you know can help. Let's rally around these boys so they don't spend 2009 living in terror and abuse.

A key point: the boys go together. They check in on each other several times a day, they are united in fear and love, they need each other and absolutely should not be split up. The family who takes them in must be very special indeed.

Here is what Andrea wrote to me, to send to all of you:



J is 7 years old. His father is a foster child to Beverly and Robert and I don’t THINK is married to his mother. A few years ago, Protective Services took J and his 3-year-old brother, C, away from their parents because of too many abusive reports. All that he has told me is that they would throw him on the ground and against the walls and hit and kick him. He feels that it is his fault that he was taken away because he told people at his school and they came and took him the next day. He still feels a lot of guilt from this. Once PS took him and his brother away from their family, they were sent to Detroit, where they were placed in a foster home and attended Detroit Public Schools. J has shared numerous stories about this time in his life, but it is very difficult for him to talk about without shutting down. The boys were strapped to the toilets and beaten, had to play a game called “Scorpion” were they were forced to lay on their backs while they were molested and abused, they were hit, kicked and flat out abused. I am not sure how often mom and dad were in the picture at this point, but they did not have custody. I do know that they have been in and out of drug rehab quite a bit and that dad has been in and out of jail. After, I’m sure another PS call, the boys went to “next of kin,” Beverly and Robert.

This is where the boys are now. Beverly and Robert are their foster grandparents and currently have 9 other foster children in the house, 11 total, all who have some form of severe mental and/or emotional impairment. Beverly is approximately 400lbs and rarely leaves the house and Robert is thought to be on the Autism Spectrum. They are clearly unfit parents. Beverly has a way of brainwashing and convincing people of crazy things. PS has been called over 11 times on this family and they SOMEHOW still have all of these children. J and C have been living with them for approximately 9 months. J is very aware of what is happening in his life and will occasionally express his emotions to me, in a subtle way. He has mentioned numerous times that his grandpa is an alcoholic and does bad things to the kids. Over the summer, one of the foster girls was sexually touching the other foster kids. J has to clean the bathrooms with the same toothbrush that he brushes his teeth with. The boys sleep under the bed together because they are scared to be in the house. When they do sleep in the bed, if they are punished or if they are sick, they are chained in the bed. There has been mention that they get locked in a room with no doorknob on the other side. A few weeks ago, J came to school upset and eventually told me that grandpa was drunk again in the morning and threw a beer bottle at him and swore at him all morning. J was covered in beer. This Monday, he came to school with a black eye.

Occurrences such as these continue, daily. After the beer bottle incident, I made a phone call to PS. They said that it was the 11th call made on them and they just don’t have anywhere for these kids to go. Nobody wants to put work into them. They are so worthy of work.

The next day, after the PS call, J came to school and would not talk to me. He is usually happy to see me, but this day was obviously angry. He went through the day this way and finally at the end of the day, when I tried to make conversation, he broke out in tears and said that he thought that he could trust me and that I lied to him. He said that his grandma told him that if he talks to me anymore that he would be sent back to Detroit. He said that PS came to his house and they were the same people that took him away from his mom and dad.

It is heartbreaking and not right. J is a wonderful boy with a huge heart. He has not had a chance in life. All he needs is love and guidance. He needs to feel that he is safe and worth something. He will be a very difficult child to take care of for a while and exhibits many disruptive behaviors, but they are all behaviors that can be turned around and changed. His brother does have some acting out behaviors, but they are not at all like J. C just wants to have fun and adjusts well, where J is always trying to protect and is very untrusting.

I do know that their mother still has some kind of visitation rights, but she does not get along with the grandparents, so it has to be supervised, during our school day. She has only come once and after she left, J could barely control himself. He blamed himself for all that has happened and started shouting out all of the terrible things that have happened to him in the past. I truly think that the only reason that mom is in the picture is to get back at the grandparents. She threatens Beverly. She is just using them. I really think that she would walk away if she had the chance and knew that the boys were with a new family.

I really feel like I could go on and on about this situation. Thank you for caring about children like J. You don’t even know him and yet are investing in him. If only you knew him, you would not think twice about helping! Please let me know if you need any other specifics. I didn’t describe Josh much or his behaviors and those things are important, but let’s just start somewhere!

Sunday, November 23, 2008

At The Expense of a Snowman

Today I had the pure pleasure of playing outside in the snow with the kids. Which was strange, because I hate the snow. I hate cold weather even more. But we were having such a good time, I could have stayed out all day.

The first round of fun came when I bundled Marta up in Berit's old snowsuit and hat and plopped her in the red sled with a strap and a little seat so she didn't tip over. I couldn't stop laughing as I pulled her along the street (because already our street is covered in packed snow). While she never really reminds me of Berit, she looked exactly like our toddler just two years ago. She could have been Berit, all big smiles and rosy cheeks. She even leaned over the sled and dragged her mittened hand along the ground, just like Berit used to do. 

Then Berit and Trevor joined us, and I carried Berit while we ran around and slid on the ice, and put her in the sled and swung her around in circles and ran really fast so she was sliding along at a good pace. Trevor took Marta inside and Berit and I got to work on the mini snowman Trevor had made earlier in the day, putting a carrot nose (a proper carrot, not one of those baby carros), prune eyes, stone mouth and stick arms on him. Then Mosey came over and tried to jump up and eat the carrot, which if you know Mosey, our basset hound, you know he doesn't jump. It was more like a thrust of his body in an upward motion while his front paws hung down. Berit cracked up. He got half of the carrot, ate it, then went back for more. He did the same for the stick arms, and finally, while trying to get a stick I had stuck on the snowman's head as bait, he put his paws on the snowman's head like he was giving him a good push and down they both went. Berit could not stop laughing. We threw snowballs and I pushed her on her tire swing, her with rolling laughter and me with both fear and respect that she had not yet thrown up from all the spinning. She helped me cut down the brown hydrangeas and we went inside to warm up. 

Lately we've been lamenting our lack of freedom -- we wish we could linger over dinner, we wish we could have a cleaner house, we wish we could have a date once a week, etc. -- but today was just plain sweet and wonderful and all the good words I can't think of right now. Nothing beats having kids.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

"My Tummy's Grumpin.'"


At three months shy of 3, Berit suddenly has solid views regarding age limits for booster chairs, she wonders if I love her 20 times a day, and she has lots of "great ideas," which usually involve me carrying her/putting Marta down/going to a park where it's warm. She emotes about the weather ("Mommy, I DON'T love the cold.") and thinks that Santa is coming to her house any moment now to bring her a drum. (He will.)

I had thought she'd passed by the dreaded "WHY?" phase without getting hooked on asking the infamous toddler question a thousand times a day, but it turns out she was just waiting until she could string more words onto said question. Now when I do something, anything, this is what happens:

Me, pouring her cereal.

B: "Mom, why did you get me Puffins?"
Me: "Because I know how much you like them."
B: "Ooh. Why did you know that?"
Me: "Because last time we had Puffins, you ate them all up!"
B: "AH! I did eat them all up! Why did I eat them all up like that?"
Me: "You must have been very hungry."
B: "I was. When do we get hungry?"
Me: "When our bellies are empty."
B: "How do our bellies get empty?"
Me: "Our food turns into energy."
B: "What can I do with energy? Can I do this? Can I pick that up? Why can't I pick that up? Who can pick that up?"
And on and on.

She has also found a use for every moment of my day. Here's a snapshot of today:

Me, thinking: "Marta's finally napping. Now I can start to clean up."
Berit: "Mommy, I want to sit on the potty!"
Me: "Great job, Berit! Here you go."
B: "Now get me a book."
Me: "Be right back."
B: "Now read it to me."
Me: "No, you're big enough to sit on the potty, so you can read it yourself. I have to stand right outside the door and clean."
B: "OK Mama. Hey Mama? Could you fix my hair?"
"Hey Mama? Could you fix the potty so it's not sticking on my legs?"
"Hey Mama? Could you go get Saucy? (her doll)"
"Hey Mama? Look at all the toilet paper I put on the floor."
"Hey Mama? I want to potty in my diaper."
"Hey Mama? Come here, I want to tell you something. (Holding out fingers for each item she lists...) We potty on the potty, we potty in dipes, we pee-pee in Pull-Ups, we DON'T potty in big girl panties."
And so on. 

So these are fun things happening in our lives lately. But nothing comes close to the game we must play at all hours of the day: Pretend We're A Different Family. 

Every 3 seconds Berit tells me, "Mama, you're Ellen, I'm Liam, Daddy's Will, Marta is Brennan and Mosey is Roxy. Hi Ellen! Hey Ellen, what're you doing? Hey Ellen, play with me. Hey Ellen, are you makin' lunch?"

(Ellen, Will, Liam, Brennan and Roxy are our very dear friends. Roxy is a dog.)

If it's not the above-mentioned Dart family, it's my brother-in-law and his family ("Hey Mama, you're Aunt Stephanie, I'm Annie, Marta is Jemma and Daddy is Uncle Jason. Hi Stephanie! What're you doing, Stephanie?") or it's my friend Kelly and her family, Emma, Andrew and Emma's Daddy (who is also Andrew's Daddy, for the record).

It was cute at first. Now it's just ridiculous. We'll be in the middle of a great bonding moment and all of a sudden I'm Ellen or Stephanie or Kelly and we have to talk in very high voices (apparently this is what my friends sound like to her) and I have to be overly sweet (thanks, friends, for being so gosh darn sweet to Berit. Maybe next time you'd like to give her a time out or two for good measure). 

I'm sure it has something to do with understanding that 1) We live parallel lives with Ellen and Kelly, and for all she knows Jason and Stephanie (who live in East Grand Rapids); 2) Those people exist without her being there to witness their existence; and 3) Those people just seem like a whole lot more fun than Mom when I'm carrying on with our daily life.

Is this a stepping stone to playing house? Does it sound as annoying as it really is?

 I am looking forward to Age 3. There are a lot of exciting things that I really think she's ready for, like gymnastics and preschool. And every day she tells us the funniest things -- we love listening to her carry on long conversations about her thoughts or listening to what she dreamt about the night before. "We went outside and played on my tire swing!" (Yesterday.)

I'm a little shocked that this is the time when I'm supposed to be introducing reading and other very important skills. She's interested in Dora the Explorer, and already repeats a list of Spanish words I don't understand... Looks like I get to add learning a new language to my To Do list. I feel a little like someone official will come to my door one day to appraise my mothering skills and tell me what to do next. There's no more just getting through each day; some of our time needs to be devoted to learning play to help her develop preschool skills. 

One thing's for sure. From now on I'm going to encourage my friends to do a lot more cleaning, napping and shopping around her.


Monday, November 17, 2008

Weekend + Weekdays + Weak From Eating So Much

There's never anything to play with at Grandma's...

Marta: "My teeth huuuuurt! You can't make me craaaawl!" 


Berit and new best friend Ella.


Happiest girl in the world, with Aunt Andrea and Uncle Nick.

*****

I'm currently sitting on the couch under a blanket, watching Mosey lay on the floor shivering after I forgot to let him in, and it's snowing outside. Snowing in a real way, with big snowflakes that have stuck around for the past 24 hours, and everything outside is covered, including our halloween pumpkins. 

Mosey is wearing a green neckerchief. 

But truly, as much as I don't like snow and the cold that ushers it in, we had such a lovely fall that I don't mind this snow as much. And it's nice that I don't have an infant to worry about in the chill. Tomorrow I'm taking the girls to town to buy a second sled. 

On Monday nights in the fall and winter, Trevor and I split up and watch different shows at 9 p.m. on different TVs. He watches Heroes and I watch Jon & Kate + 8. Anyway, tonight while I watch I keep sneaking into the kitchen and taking bites of what honestly is my best lasagna ever, cold, out of the refrigerator. I write sneaking because our friend Kasper Friis from Denmark is staying with us and is downstairs with Trevor, and he eats slowly and sparsely in a very Eurochic kind of way, and I don't want him popping upstairs to use the bathroom and finding this typical American with a mouthful of deliciousness. I already ate the bulk of the chocolate cherry fudge (smudge) I brought home to show him what tourists love in Petoskey. (He had one bite and made a squinty face and said, "Hm, tastes like Turkish candy." He didn't eat anymore.)

Kasper came home with us (meaning the girls and me) yesterday from my parents' house. I was there because Trevor was at deer camp, and I was hoping for a hand and some fun with my mom. I was able to get together with my college girlfriend Liza who has three fun, sweet, adorable children, and it was so fun to meet up with our kids and talk about life then and now. We're forever connected by matching tattoos we got together when we were wild and free (and in Mexico, I might add, so we're also both waiting for good ol' hepatitis), but I think we'll also be connected through our daughters, who at ages almost 3 (B) and 5 (Ella), instantly bonded and spent the entire visit closed up in my brother's bedroom playing Barbies. Berit's never played like that before, and I loved it.

I missed seeing my high school friend Monique, who's recently pregnant and is surely adorable. But we needed to get on the road early, because the snow had started falling and I had a sinking feeling it was going to get heavy. It did. And dark. And the girls were s-c-r-e-a-m-i-n-g. So I got in the back, Kasper drove, I sang kid songs in a crazy loud, shrieky voice that got increasingly shrill as Marta became more and more uncomfortable and as the snow got deeper and deeper. Kasper drove 35 miles per hour. It took us 4 1/2 hours to get home. 

So now we're officially snowed in, as far as I'm concerned. We're not driving anywhere more than 20 miles away until March. 

Did I mention Mosey is wearing a neckerchief?

Friday, November 7, 2008

Family Jewels

I have a very large jewelry box given to me on a Christmas some years ago, that's filled with jewelry from some years ago. By that I mean the jewelry I wore before kids -- long earrings, glittery necklaces, baubly bracelets -- things kids would rip off, chew on and pull at all day long if they could. I've never actually been much of a jewelry kind of girl -- I have my standards; my wedding and engagement rings, my tiny diamond studs, my pretty watch my parents gave me for college graduation. I also have a few thin necklaces that I occasionally wear, and an eternity band Trevor gave me when I delivered Berit, a black onyx bracelet he gave me for my 30th birthday, and, for fancy occasions, a huge blue zircon necklace from Trevor when Marta was born (her birthstone). So now that I write it all down, I guess it sounds like a lot, but I don't wear it all at once. And now you know what I own in case you were thinking about robbing me.

Anyway, those are the only things Berit ever sees me wear. But today, when Marta was sleeping, I took her into the bedroom and took out my giant jewelry box. I said, "Berit, now that you're a very big girl, you can look in this special box. This is not for babies, this is for big girls. I know you're going to take care of the things in here." She was very serious. I opened the top, the side doors, the big drawers, and watched her face light up in awe and joy. "Can I play with them?" she asked. I took a big breath as she looked at me with pure hope -- "Yes."

So while she touched every single piece and laid them all out carefully for inspection, I got dressed, pleased that I found busy work for her that made her so happy. And when I walked by her she said, "Mommy, these are GORGEOUS and WONDERFUL."

I let her wear a necklace all day, and she loves it. She was impressed that the necklaces and bracelets were "cold, very cold, and very-very cold!" And when I called her to come get ready to go, she took a few minutes then came out very casually and said, "Mom, I cleaned it all up." And she did -- hung the necklaces, put bracelets with bracelets and earrings with earrings. I'm so happy to have found something new to bond with her over -- something that no grandmas are doing; something that makes me a little different for the next few days, at least. 

Things We Keep



Our Christmas stockings came in the mail yesterday. They had been on my mind for weeks -- do I buy new stockings or just make do with the old ones? Such a small matter, but I couldn't let it go. It became a thing.

I had made stockings for Trevor, Mosey and me before we had kids. They are cute, but not very sturdy and may not last long. I thought about reinforcing them and making new ones for the girls, but really I didn't want to put forth the effort. But what if doing so would be special for my children some day?

On the other hand, nice, professionally done stockings would be so much prettier, hold up better, and would be, for lack of a better word, classier. 

I asked people about it, it became such a thing to me. And most people said to make the stockings. But my mom said "Just buy them." And so I did.

And when they arrived, I showed them to the family and they were impressed. I meant to put them away, but there they sat, on the kitchen table. Trevor moved them to the couch; they stayed there, too. They're still there. I keep going over and picking them up, feeling the embroidery, looking at them. I can't stop thinking about the stockings hanging on the shelf that looks like a mantle in our living room this Christmas, and the mantles we'll have each Christmas from now on. I think about adding to the stockings -- will the store still carry this design, or will future children have different stockings? They'll show up in our happiest pictures, they'll cause joy in our kids, they'll be held in pajama-covered laps while each child waits their turn to investigate their own. They'll be loved in the way of something you know belongs to you, personally, but also to your family, for happiness, in a way that if it wasn't there, you'd miss it terribly. 

And there they were, brand new, the first showing, looking, meeting.

They cropped back into my mind this morning while Berit was washing potatoes and I was making frosting. The potatoes had been in a big white bowl -- they had already been washed, but she loves washing things for me and they were handy. I thought about the stockings again when I saw the bowl. It had been a wedding gift; one of two special pieces that our guests had signed in lieu of a guestbook. People wrote funny, kind and loving sentiments on this bowl and a platter, then the pieces had been fired and now we used them all the time. Whenever I get them out I glance at the phrases most visible ("The honeymoon's the best part!", "Eat, drink and be married!", "Welcome to the family!", "Hug every day and kiss each other, too!") and I smile. Sometimes I look underneath to the hidden signatures, and other times I wonder who the heck that person is, or I wish (meanly, I know) that so-and-so, that date of that guest who had too many drinks and was out-of-control at the wedding, hadn't signed it so visibly. 

And now my daughter was rewashing potatoes in it. I definitely wasn't thinking about that possibility when I put it in my cupboard for the first time as a newlywed. 

I remember when Marta was born, and we had all of Berit's old clothes, crib (that she never slept in), high chair and other gear ready for Marta to use. And a few times I thought, "Don't you know whose sweater that was?" "Don't you know how I found that sweater in a catalog that was way out of my price league, but it was the perfect shade of blue to match her eyes, so I splurged and she wore it every day she could fit into it?" And Marta wore the sweater, or shoes, or whatever, and spit up on it, or slept on it funny and made a wrinkle, and basically didn't care if it had belonged to the Queen of England. And whenever that happened, or happens, I think about how funny it is that we attach such value, such personal value, to things. 

And I can see how, if we never have another girl, I won't be able to give away a few items of Marta's, and especially not some of the things that the girls shared. 

I just had a flash into the future, of my girls reading this blog when they're grown, and laughing about the stockings. "Those old things?" Or maybe a yet-unknown child will say, "I'm the only one with a different stocking!" (Or maybe three or four kids will say that. Eek.)

I'm understanding, though, why my mom keeps bringing my sister and me a pile of junk when we get together. She's not a pack rat, and neither am I (my sister is questionable), but there's this stuff that she brings to us, and we laugh and poke fun at her, and say things like "Mom, why in the world would I want that gold clown charm for a necklace I wore when I was 14?" Or "Thanks for bringing me your tassel from your high school graduation, but really, no thanks." But maybe I won't make such a fuss over that stuff anymore. Because just watching my 2 1/2 year old pick wet potatoes out of a wedding gift is making me misty-eyed. Imagine the waterworks when I can thump a Rubbermaid bin of junk on my girls' doorsteps someday, and try to explain that that itty-bitty polka-dotted sweater was the perfect shade of blue, back when they were my babies.



Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Date

Since Berit has come home from my parents' house, we've been busy and haven't had much time for bonding. You'll know from reading my previous posts that I'm in perpetual guilty-mom mode for not spending much quality time with my oldest daughter, so this wasn't sitting well with me. In fact, it was making me do ridiculously high and chipper voices and goofy stunts during the few minutes we had together each day, to somehow distract her from my rushed cleaning/laundry folding/bill paying that I simultaneously tried to do while Marta napped. I just couldn't get into a good groove.

This morning, while we hung out on the kitchen counter together and had a snack of apples and crackers ("Mom, I LOVE apples), while she flaunted her leotard/tutu combo and I lingered in my pjs thinking, "I'm going to neglect any and all work during this hour so we can just be," my mother-in-law called and asked to take her for the morning. Marta was bound to wake up sooner or later, and there we'd be, back in our normal routine, and this would make her happy, so I agreed. (Cue getting dressed, cover-up on VERY dark undereye circles, cleaning of house and putting on of proper clothes for the B in 5.3 minutes.)

While I was changing Berit's clothes into park attire, I was telling her how much fun she'd have with "Mimi." She said, "But Mama, can't you come with me?" Heart. Break.

So circumstances being in our favor that day, we had already scheduled a sitter for the afternoon so I could work. I decided that when B came home from the park, she and I would go on a date together and I'd blow off work.

But when she arrived home, she was conked out. Surprise! She woke up. Happy day. I took her to the waterfront where we inspected ponds, climbed down to the bay, threw rocks, felt the water and just hung out. She asked if I would carry her and I did, and she laid her head on my shoulder. She said, "Mom, your arms won't fall off like Grandma's or Mimi's." I said, fully knowing my deviousness (so sorry Grandma or Mimi), "Mommy's arms would never fall off from carrying you."

While walking over the rocks, she said, "Want to hear a story?" And said, "All these rocks just came and came and came and came over here, and now they're here." Genius. 

We got ice cream and I let her eat most of mine, too, and get Superman flavor all over her shirt. We had a blast. I loved it, and since we've come home, she's been my buddy and actually came over to me unprompted with a kiss, hug and "I love you, Mom!"

Much needed. Very grateful. 

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Smile! I SAID SMILE!

I have such fun, goofy girls who shine in the spotlight and melt hearts with their cuteness. You won't believe me when you get our Christmas card this year, though, because today was family picture day, and it. did. not. go. well.

Our friend Randy Goss came once again to do our photos. We love Randy. I worked with him at the newspaper back when I had a career that didn't involve changing diapers, and we were lucky to have him shoot our wedding as well. He did our friends' wedding, and he photographically chronicled my pregnancy when we were expecting Berit. He did our family pictures when Marta was born, and he came today to capture another year of growth for the Doublesteins. He's easy going, thank goodness, because last time he came the kiddos were tough cookies, and again, today, they weren't giving anybody a break. 

Berit had fallen asleep in the car and was finishing a nap when Randy arrived. Marta had recently woken up and was in good spirits, but that wasn't surprising, because she's typically a happy girl. Really. I know when you see the pictures you'll come back to this post and comment, "I don't believe you!" but honestly, she's a smile a second most days.

After Randy had gotten set up, Berit came downstairs and was happy to see "Mr. Goss," who she had been expecting with excitement all day, so that she could "laugh and smile and dance" while he took pictures. Her words. I guess by laugh, smile and dance, she really meant whine, turn around and run away. Anyway, we got the girls dressed in their Christmas dresses: black velvet tiered dresses from Hanna Andersson, with bloomers for M and cute patterned tights for B. Black mary janes all around. Berit's hair was doing a funny unruly thing that rarely happens, and her dress was too big in the neck, so I kept having to jump in to pull it down in the back. Marta immediately took off her socks and shoes that had been so carefully picked out and tucked away for safekeeping for weeks (she refuses to keep either on for any length of time). Her hair bow came off the moment it went on. 

I had set out silver jingle bells for the girls to play with so they didn't get bored, and they ended up: not sharing them and dangling several at a time in front of her face while Randy tried to take her picture (B), and throwing them across the room, repeatedly (M). 

We took as many pictures as we could but Marta simply wouldn't break a smile. I did all sorts of acrobatics, crazy voices and ridiculous faces, but still, whiney and weepy. Berit kept turning her back and creeping away, or mauling her sister to get attention. Hell-o! We've hired a photographer to showcase your every move! Attention granted, please do something cute!

I decided to change the girls into their adorable, old school Christmas sweaters that my mom paid an arm and a leg for so they could be captured in "casual attire" (because we let our children run around willy nilly in expensive Christmas sweaters, right?). Berit was furious that she couldn't wear her mary janes and her barrette was all wrong in her messy hair. Marta's sweater went over her wiggly body even though she continuously demanded to have it removed. I had been plying her with snacks (puffs) to keep her going and as soon as the creamy white sweater was secured on her body she stopped wiggling, looked me in the eye and spit out a liquefied puff -- strawberry flavor -- onto the front of her outfit. Now, I don't have a whole lot of Christmas sweaters just laying around our house (despite what our Christmas card may lead you to believe), so she ended up wearing a random shirt and pants that might look fall-ish, certainly not Christmas-y. 

The second round of shooting went worse. I spent the majority of the time promising Randy that my children were really very sweet and lovely. Hah. I was also the picture of a stage mother, swearing aloud when things went sour, sweating, running up and down the stairs, flinging clothes options around, brushing hair and telling kids to "deal with it." Not a good show of my motherly instincts, but NO ONE ELSE WAS HELPING TO MAKE THE KIDS HAPPY OR DRESSED. That's as much as I'll say about that. But do note it, please. 

Randy wrapped up the shoot as I sat my now happy, silly kids in their chairs for dinner. Of course. Now I'm eager as can be to see what he captured, and I don't think I'll be able to wait until Thanksgiving to get the pictures back. So I can pick one, put it on a Christmas card and send it to you, and try to get you to believe that my children are the picture of Christmas fun, all year round. Please pretend to believe me.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

BOO! Oh, That's Just My Mom

We were so happy to have my mom and sister here at our house for Halloween! They were invaluable during our Halloween party, but most of all we reveled in their company. My girls are over-the-moon for their Aunt Andrea, and Grandma is an absolute favorite. Now that they're gone, Marta has actually torn out the pictures of Grandma in our photo album and is playing with them constantly, saying "Pam-ma!"

Berit isn't saying anything to me, because she hit the road with my mom and sister when they left Friday night. She's been staying with my parents and brother since, and she's in heaven. She even left her favorite baby doll at home and hasn't noticed. At their house, she has an amazing room of her own and always asks to stay once it's time to go home. Plus, she's got Pop, who she hasn't seen in a long time, so bonus, bonus, bonus.

My brother, David, Berit and our good friend and David's girlfriend, Katie.

Hm, wonder what they're up to in Grand Rapids?

I wonder if she'll be coming home with all of these treasures?

Hanging out with Pop at the mall.

The Hayes girls, minus a sleeping baby.

Out for a walk with Grandma in the beautiful fall weather on Halloween day.

Our little dragon, a visiting cat, and a little piggy who never wore her piggy costume!

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Quiet, In A Noisy Way

Once again, we are two. Three if you count the dog.

Trevor left early this morning for his annual trip to Chicago to see a Bears game. Somehow this became annual last year -- and even then he called it annual. Can something technically be called annual if it's never been done? I suppose it can, if you're really, really sure you're going to do it each year thereafter. And why shouldn't he decide on an annual trip to Chicago? How about instead of having an annual trip to the hospital to have a baby, I'll take an annual trip to Chicago, too. (Note: No babies scheduled for this year. I'm breaking tradition.)

And Berit left with my mom and sister last night after our super-fun halloween party (dressing up, yummy food, kids' parade, hayride, trick-or-treating -- pics later) to spend the weekend at my parents' house. Sigh. That really made me sad, seeing her go last night. I made my mom call me every hour until she was in bed, asleep. I just crave time with her these days, but she'll have more fun there and I'll get some work done here. And the saddest part? She left her Very Important Doll, Saw-Saw, who even went on the hayride last night with her and has her own potty in the bathroom and her own chair at the dinner table. My mom says she's fine but it makes me want to pack up and take it to her.

I love having the house quiet (besides the baby babbling, dog whining and floors crying out to be washed and vacuumed), but has anyone ever noticed that life with just one little baby is pretty boring? It's pretty much sitting on the floor all day. Yet whenever B's here, I think, "If I could go back to when I had just one, I'd get so much done!" Oh, I'll never be fully satisfied until the children are in that magical phase of lending a hand around the house but not yet filled with teenage angst. 

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Pause Button

I'm currently listening to Berit scream in the bathtub while her dad pours water onto a tiny little boo-boo that caused much drama today. She doesn't whine quietly, she doesn't whimper -- she always, always yells. She opens her mouth really wide, like one of those singers who hits really big, high notes, and s-c-r-e-a-m-s. She did that a lot today. Granted, she's tired. She's tired a lot lately, which is and isn't strange. I mean, she hates taking naps, so we got used to just going with her flow and letting her skip. But then, when we instituted a rigid schedule of dinner at 5, bath at 6, bed by 7, she started getting super drowsy in the middle of the day and sometimes drifting off in a high chair or on the floor. But that's not what this post is about; I could write a book on our sleep struggles with her and I just don't have the time right now (as if it would solve anything, anyway. My shelves are filled with books about "helping" kids learn to sleep, and so far they just make ME more tired from reading them/implementing them).

Back to the more positive topic of whining. She whined a lot this afternoon, and kept asking to do things "with YOU, Mama." And, like I do often enough, I took a look at what I was doing from her point-of-view, and noticed that I was so wrapped up in Marta that really I was letting B play near us, not with us. But I'll tell you what, I don't know what else to do. Marta loses it when I put her down. If we're all sitting on the floor, she has to be on my lap. And I could just make her cry it out, but gosh, that'd mean I'd be sitting on the floor watching my baby sob, trying to lurch herself onto my lap. I can't do it. And I guess we do do stuff together, but really not what Berit wants to do. Later in the day Berit asked, "When we get home, is Marta going to go to sleep or be awake?" And I said, "What do you want her to do?" (You might think the answer would be obvious, but Berit really does love her little sis, so I was unsure.) And she said, "Go to sleep. Then she's a good girl."

And I feel like I just need time. I have a pile of freelance work up to my neck to do, but I don't dare break away when I have time for Berit, because she clearly needs the attention. I need a pause button. I need to pause Marta to play games with Berit. Today Berit picked up a book and paged through it, naming every shape. When I was getting dinner ready, we practiced counting, and she could do to 50 -- she's never gotten that high before, but she can do this stuff, and I'm not nurturing it, expanding on it. 

My mom once told me that she always felt like someday there'd be time to devote all of her attention to my sister, the second child, but in reality it was just too hard to do it, with me, the older, and her job, and running the house as a single mom, etc. And I feel like that, only switch the order of the kids. Like someday I'll be able to focus on Berit again, and do fun things, and take her places, but right now Marta needs me for survival. I have to tell you that I h-a-t-e this. In fact, I'm thinking that paying a babysitter to watch Marta while I play with Berit is sounding waaay better than paying said sitter to watch both girls while I work on that stack of freelance copy.

And Berit seems like the child who will hold this against me, out of the two. Jeez, in writing it all out it seems pretty obvious -- just drop everything to be with her. 

Tomorrow my mom and sister are coming to stay for Halloween, and Trevor is leaving on Saturday to spend a long weekend in Chicago rooting on the Bears. My mom wants to take Berit home with her until Monday, which will be wonderful in many ways -- but I so want her to take Marta instead! I'm insanely jealous that she gets uninterrupted time -- DAYS -- with Berit. That Trevor gets to go do all the fun things with her while I hold/feed/sleep with Marta. That T's mom and dad get to take B on their day-to-day errands and take the time to look at everything she likes. And to be very honest about my craziness, I get terrified whenever she leaves that something awful will happen -- car accident, kidnapping, etc. -- and it will be the last time I see her, and I'll regret that I wasn't there, and that I didn't spend more time with her like they were doing.

Gripe. Moan. Whine. I know, I write about this all the time. I don't even know how to end this! I do know that I'm going upstairs, now that she's out of the tub, and I'm going to read with her tonight. Trevor can have his turn another time.