Monday, November 30, 2009

The Green Lantern

When we were little, we typically were given an ornament by our grandparents or our parents each Christmas. I believe it was a tradition with my grandparents, actually, so we have all of these neat ornaments now of whatever we were into at the time -- ballet, cheerleading, porcelain masks (yes), Mary Poppins.

But one year my mom and dad took us to Franks or Michaels or some hobby-type store and let us choose our own ornaments. My sister was maybe six and that would make me nine. I don't remember what I chose, but Andrea picked a green lantern, like the kind you take camping, that was about three inches tall with a rusty brown top and maybe even a spot to put a tree light in the candle part but we never did.

My parents tried to show her other ornaments that would more appropriately suit a six-year-old girl, but she was firm about the lantern. And let me tell you, each year that we hung that lantern, we talked about that story, and about Andrea and her wonderful, positive personality that found a dull camp lantern to be beautiful.

Now 28, she is still that person -- she finds goodness in all and devotes herself almost completely to caring for others. I think, if given the chance, she would pick that green lantern again today. There was something secret about it that was charming to her, that the average person couldn't see. And she picks this out in everyone she meets.

A few weeks ago Trevor mentioned to me that he thought we should get the girls exciting ornaments that they'd like to hang on the Christmas tree this year. At first I was into the idea of Berit opening a ballerina or Cinderella ornament, or Marta ripping apart a box containing a piglet or doggie ornament.

But then I remembered the green lantern, and we decided to let them choose for themselves.

Doublestein Family, November 2009

Berit, 3 1/2 Years Old

Marta, 23 Months

Family Photos

Monday, November 23, 2009

Compassion Without Judgement: Berit

I am not very good with the elderly.

I know I'm supposed to be, as a girl (ahem. woman.), a mother, a daughter, a granddaughter. And I hope I come off as nice, which sometimes makes you think that person might be helpful and positive and cheery most of the time. Well, it makes me think so. So maybe I'm just not very smart.

So there's my secret: I'm not good with my grandparents. My mother's parents, to be technical. Growing up, we were very close -- they took us on vacations and to dance class and they came to all of our recitals and school parties and were basically an extension of my parents. In fact, during the years just before and after my parents' divorce, they stepped in and helped us more than anyone else (that I know of). They were very, very involved.

As we got older they began traveling and we moved north and we started seeing each other on holidays and baptisms. But still -- grandparents.

Then they started to get sick. Grandma got sick first, I guess. While my grandpa has diabetes and high blood pressure (and a lifelong smoking habit), he did take care of himself, mostly, or enough at least to stay involved in the Democratic Club and the school board and generally telling people what they should do, when, and how. Grandma sort of gave up. We weren't sure what was wrong, besides eye problems. We assumed dementia, and a doctor or two said yes, another doctor or two said no. That's how she acted, and my mom moved them up to live near her in Greenville.

Long story short, over the past few weeks my grandpa has nearly died various times and was finally moved to a nursing home in Ohio with my grandmother. My grandma has been there for a few years, near my aunt who is dedicated to caring for her, and has had one major stroke, several mini strokes, and has a condition where her muscles are tight all the time, and she can barely talk or move.

My family has, over the past few years, insisted she was about to die. My grandpa, too. I think they were right at that moment, that it really did seem like they wouldn't make it through what they were going through. But they did. Makes me feel good to be part of such hearty stock.

Now that my grandparents are both at the same nursing home, and since they're both seeming weaker than they've ever been, I booked flights for Berit and me to visit them over the weekend.

My grandma tries to talk, and though she's never met Berit that I can remember, she's been calling for her. Berit looks like my mom when my mom was little, and I think my grandma truly connects with her through the pictures we send and the stories we tell her.

I was nervous about how Berit would react. My grandparents are sick, and they look sick. My grandma in particular is pulled up and wails and cries a lot. Her eyes are half-closed and her mouth is open in a way that makes her teeth sort of stick out.

And I was not a good helper. I tried and I didn't back away, but I have to say that I was disappointed that when someone needed help, I took a second to let another one of my more comfortable family members (read: My sister, who is amazing in these situations and might be one of the most selfless people on earth, truly) step up.

However. Berit jumped right in, singing and laughing and even pushing in front of everyone to hold my grandma's hand, and when my grandma's roommate called out and no one went to her, and so I did and she was scared because she didn't know where she was or how she got there and I tried to tell her, but she couldn't hear me and I was trying to be reassuring, Berit wiggled in front of me and touched her arm. The woman couldn't see Berit, but Berit just knew what to do. I was so surprised and proud of her.

She sat with my grandpa and answered his questions and listened to his stories that were a little over her head but she just nodded and colored in her book and showed him her pictures. She was playing with a red balloon and made a point to tap it to everyone in our family, even my grandma and grandpa, never once assuming they shouldn't get a turn because she's nearly immobile or he's weak and in a wheelchair, and they both got right into it.

I was so glad to see that she Got It. She understood that, even though she didn't know these people, that they were family and even if people around her looked sick (she did notice that; she asked my sister if everyone "had a fever"), she could comfort them.

This might seem like, "Oh how nice, mm-hmm, good for her." But I was shocked, because I am not that way. If it were my own mom or dad, or husband or brother or sister or of course my kids -- and even my sister's husband -- I could handle it, would jump right in, wouldn't think twice. But Berit knew what to do, and it was fascinating to watch a natural characteristic come out for the first time. She became a bit more of her own person then, and less of an extension of me.

In school one day one of the moms who was helping told me, "Berit is a very thoughtful girl. She always makes sure everyone is happy." And I was happy, more than happy, to hear this, because school can be a busy, noisy place, and Berit must do this on her own, as part of her personality, because there's not always time to purposely be polite.

I was so touched that she gave my grandparents the gift of family, of great-grandchildren, for probably the last time we'll ever see them. They never took her out to sell candy at the bowling alley for school, they never swam in a too-cold pool with her because they cared enough about her to brave goosebumps. She didn't drive over the Ambassador Bridge or through the tunnel to Canada with them every few weekends. She doesn't know the smell of their house, sausage and cigarettes and cats, by heart. But she loved them anyway. And they loved her.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Snapshots Of Their Development

Yesterday was one of those perfect days I'll want to refer to when my children have children and I can say, "Little kids are just sunshine and laughter all day. I never felt like it was work." (Lucky for them they have this blog and they'll be able to refer to all of my missteps and flailings with textbook accuracy.)

But still. Yesterday. Trevor let me sleep in until nearly 8 a.m., and after a very big rush (WE HAVE TO BE AT SCHOOL AT 8:45 WHAT WERE YOU THINKING?), Berit and I set off to school to spend the morning there together. One of the good things about her preschool is that every day two parents work in the school with the teacher, so the teacher has extra hands and eyes, and the kids really get to know the parents (and vice-versa). Lots of the parents in the class have become good friends of ours, so it's especially nice that both we and the kids have a common story.

Yesterday was one of my days to volunteer, and it was so good to be with Berit and her classmates for the morning. I'll admit that being "play parent" is a bit of a sleepy role. You are tasked with playing with the kids, which sounds like it could be adventurous but really the kids tend to play well and with each other, and you're left standing around like, really, couldn't I file something for you?

Standing around gave me the chance to really scope out the kids in Berit's class. You know, to compare Berit's skill level at, say, connecting train tracks, to that of the other kids' skill levels. I don't know about you, but at home we get a whole lot of "Ohmygoshshe'ssosmart" from my mom and sister, and I tend to think so, too. But I have to say that I got a reality check at preschool, because she really is acting her age. She's still 3 1/2 and she's in the "age 4" class, so most of the kids are either 4 or 4 1/2, and the difference between them is obvious. She's very well-behaved and joins in on everything and answers just as many questions and plays just as many games. But, for example, she and I were playing a board game with a 4-year-old boy, and when we rolled the dice he could look at it and say, "six." Berit had to count the dots on the dice before she knew it was six. Another student and I were building train tracks and the little girl was determined to figure out a way to make them all connect, and Berit couldn't last that long. Little things, but it was important for me to see because we've been wondering what to do with her next year. Do we send her to another year of preschool at age 4 1/2, or do we send her to developmental kindergarten? Most days we know she'd be happy going to school all week, and she truly does thrive in a preschool environment. That's why we considered DK -- five days of basically preschool with an emphasis on learning, which was appealing to us. But maybe she won't be ready -- probably she won't be ready. And I know the trend lately is to keep children back a year if you have the option, and I understand the reasoning behind that. We simply thought she might be able to handle it and, most importantly, we thought she might enjoy it more than a third year of preschool. We'll see.

Later that afternoon Carrie Novak came over -- to my girls' complete delight -- to take our family photos. You know how some people have a knack with children, even if they're just sitting on the floor? Well she does, and even Marta's sour mood disappeared the minute she walked in the door. Both girls performed for her, and she never even got the chance to get out a backdrop. It was all twirl, grin, leap, show off, change clothes, pose, jump, look adorable. We had a great time and when she left, Trevor and I looked at each other (relatively nicely dressed, considering how we usually look/feel at 4:30 p.m.) and at the girls (impossibly cute in their thick new sweaters and neat hair -- Marta's second day pulling off pigtails!) and decided to take the party to dinner at the Chinese restaurant in Boyne City.

The girls were fantastic, eating rice with giant soup spoons and munching on sweet-and-sour vegetables. They got a kick out of their fortunes which were giggly appropriate for them (Berit's: You should continue the conversation you're currently having. She takes forever to make a point. Marta: You would prosper in the medical field. We often say she'll need to be a doctor to stitch herself up after an adventure).

We drove home with Mary Poppins playing behind us, completely satisfied that we had had a Great Day.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009


At dinner tonight the waitress said to Marta, "Aren't you cute?!?" And Marta said, "My daddy's a prince."

Sunday, November 15, 2009


While packing up the armoire two weeks ago, I came across a little note that said:

BERIT - 23 months
You have given up naps entirely.

Marta will be 23 months old in three days, and we are on day three of not napping.

Friday, November 13, 2009


"LOOK! A garbage truck! It's soooooo beautiful!" - Marta

"Oh, sure." - Marta, any time you ask her to do something or if she wants something.

Overheard from the back seat:
Berit: "Marta, have you ever been to Africa?"
Marta: "Ummmm, no."
B: "Well, let me tell you about Africa. When I was in Africa, I found a great treasure."
M: "Treasure!"
B: "I was looking and looking around Africa, and I SAW something. Do you know what it was?"
M: "No."
B: "This!" holds up one plastic Cinderella's glass slipper
M: "Huh."
B: "Yes. They have glass slippers in Africa."

In the middle of the night:
B: In fits of terror "MOMMMMMMMMMY! MommyMommyMommy!"
I run in. "It's OK, Mommy's right here. What's the matter, sweetheart?"
"MOMMY MOMMY MOMMY" (thrash, thrash) "MOMMY MOMMY -- throws open eyes and is immediately calm but doesn't miss a beat -- Jasmine wore a purple dress and Cinderella has a blue dress and Jasmine told Cinderella that she liked her dress and Cinderella liked Jasmine's flower. Goodnight."

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Post #879 About Moving

Everything from the old house has been moved into the Lake House or into "storage" (a garage, a spare corner of Trevor's parents' house, etc.). While I was packing up the boxes last week, I opened the top drawer of the armoire we kept in the living room to hold the TV and realized that I hadn't cleaned it out yet, and I was charmed by its contents so much that I pulled a box of books over and sat down to inspect each item.

When Berit was a baby I did a pretty good job of scrapbooking, though I've never been the crafty type. She has two giant, un-closable books detailing every moment of her first 18 months, and thank God because I truly remember about 20 percent of it.

Marta, oh Marta. She technically has a scrapbook, but it only has a few pages inside with my thoughts of her before she was born. When she was about seven months old I started this blog and called it fair. I also make a photo book for them each year on their birthdays, and a family one as well (ahem. I haven't exactly printed a family book, but I am filing photos for it).

The armoire drawer was filled with little scraps of paper that I jotted on before my blog, with "can't forget" moments:
When we drove past the statue of Mary you said, "Hi there, sweetie pie."
You talk so much at 23 months! Here's what you've said today...
Marta ate her first solids today. Didn't like them!
At church you thought the statue of Mary was playing air guitar.

I feel a bit guilty that these won't end up well documented, but I think the girls will enjoy rummaging through their keepsake boxes when they're older, finding little surprise messages from their early childhoods.

Looking at those memories made me realize how happy I am to have this blog, and reminded me to be sure to write in it more often. These days are hectic, with the boxes waiting to be unloaded all over the house and a few new projects I've picked up (that I'm "working on" right now, actually). We're also exploring some exciting new avenues for the business that are just out of our reach, and we're scampering to try to find a way to make them happen. I'm refusing to think we can't do them, simply because we're a small, family-operated business, and yet, how will we do them? It's on my mind constantly.

Poor Marta. She's in her bed bathed in sunlight from these new windows that lack her proper darkening shade (there's no place for a shade to be hung, and as this isn't our house, we're hesitant to rig one), listening to the leaf-blowing and construction happening outside, yet her instructions were to take a nap. Instead, she's sitting up in bed shouting, "I. Want. To. Play. Toys!"

Ah, and now she's saying, "Put the dog poop down there." While visiting my parents' house over the weekend, my mom was getting a bath ready for Marta and let her wander around the girls' room naked. Of course, Marta pooped. She pointed at it and said, "Eeeeew, look! Dog poop!"

Anyway, the move was a big deal for me. I'm not into major change, now that the girls are here and I'm a protective mother hen, especially when we're going to build our own home. Not, of course, that I have any doubt in the actual builder, he being my husband. But I do fear the building process -- it's my first one -- and the inevitable delays, the squabbles between us and who? someone, telling us that what we want isn't what they would choose, or something like that. But opening that little drawer was such a neat thing, because we're doing this for them. We bought the last house for them. We're planning another house for them. We're wondering what they'll be like in five years -- will a claw-foot tub be fun? will they have bigger beds? will they want a basement playroom anymore? -- and it seems both impossible and simple to predict. Simple because, well, I think I know everything about my children and naturally because Marta ate two eggs for lunch today she'll continue to eat two eggs for lunch when she's seven. But completely impossible because of that darn drawer, showing me that they are so different and so similar to their little baby selves and that I had no big hand in making those changes. They are growing, is what I'm trying to say. They are growing and aren't stopping. And if we don't grow with them, we are holding them back.

(Insert long debate with self regarding adding more children to our family here.)

And they will dig it all, I think. Because I am the one who sees the sun coming in the cute but inefficient wood blinds in Marta's room as a hazard to her sleep development, and she sees it as sunshine. (Insert weepy sentence about Marta being my sunshine here.)

Truly, we are loving this move. If I step away from being an organizational and control freak, it's so obvious that it's easier to move and breathe and enjoy life here at the Lake House. So much so that I shun new writing projects (which I enjoy) to feel as if I'm on vacation all day, blogging with the sun beaming around our living room, reflecting off the lake that is STEPS from where I am sitting. Have I mentioned that it's documented as one of the most beautiful lakes in the world? I believe it. After all, it's changed our lives.

Monday, November 2, 2009

The Lake House Is A Sick House

We packed. We moved. We are here.

The children woke up on Friday morning feeling a bit under the weather but in good spirits. As we had heard we would need to be cleared out of the house entirely by the end of this week, we decided to push ahead with our moving plans on Friday and left the girls with Trevor's parents. We made it into the "new" house (temporary living quarters, which we've dubbed the "Lake House") just in time for the girls to come home that evening with full-blown H1N1. (Am I 100 percent sure it's H1N1? No. They haven't been tested. But their symptoms are spot on with those kids who have been tested, and the pediatrician's after-hours nurse says it sounds like it, so we think that's what they have.)

Marta is pretty sick, but not nearly as bad (yet?) as Berit. Berit can't go for a minute, truly, without having a coughing fit, and is therefore not sleeping well at all. She's drawn and pale and barely eats anything. I think Marta's rallying because of her habit of constantly eating, and while she's not taking in as much as usual, she's at least getting nourishment. I bought them a big pile of soy bars and other yummy protein-packed "snacks," along with those fortified milk drinks that are crazy expensive, so when they do snack they're getting a punch of vitamins. I feel just awful for Berit, who keeps saying things like "I'll never get better. NEVER!" and, alternatively (in the middle of the night when she's just a limp little child with a constant hacking cough), "I know I'll feel better soon, Mommy." Tiny Tim, eat your heart out.

To help matters, I spent the day reading all about the viruses that are expected to mutate into veritable plagues over the next few months. So, that was helpful.

Also: I have two deadlines next week.
And: The majority of our house still needs to be moved into storage and our house cleaned inside and out to prepare for the appraisal AT THE END OF THIS WEEK.
Plus: Trevor still needs to finish putting the ceiling up at the old house (part of the purchase agreement). THIS WEEK.
In addition: We haven't technically closed on our house yet, so, you know, we might have to move back if these people change their minds.
Bonus: The dog is sick with a mysterious throwing-up illness in this house that costs more than five of my houses. Think of the rugs. Think of me following him with towels.

The underlying current here, though, is happy and excited to be living in this amazing house (and a bit of terror in how comfortably we fit in these many thousand square feet) for the next several months, and anticipation for the ground-breaking on our land. We also have a meeting next week that is pretty exciting, and I'll write more about it after it happens.

Poor Berit. She's awake again, chanting a random "a-da, a-da," which she's been doing these nights when she can't sleep but isn't entirely awake. I think that means I should get to bed myself.