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.


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


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


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.