Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Year-End-Questionaire

1. What did you do in 2008 that you've never done before?

I think spending a month on bed rest counts. I also attempted to mother two children simultaneously!

We also sent Harper to school for the first time.

2. Did you keep your new year's resolutions, and will you make more for next year?


I love Christine's Kane's idea about choosing a word to commit to, rather than a list of unrealistic and lofty expectations. Unfortunately life was pretty derailed in early '08 and I don't even remember what my word for last year was.

I am going to choose a new word for '09, but I haven't made my final choice just yet (I have things narrowed down).

3. Did anyone close to you give birth?


So many people! We are definitely in the age of babies.

4. Did anyone close to you die?


I don't think so. . . which probably seems like an odd answer. People who are close to me lost people who were close to them, which makes me feel vaguely like the answer should be yes.

5. What countries did you visit?


None, and no international travel planned for the near future, but I guess you never know.

6. What would you like to have in 2009 that you lacked in 2008?


More alone time with Matt - this has not been a good year for being together without the children.


7. What dates from 2008 will stay etched in your memory, and why?


February 8th, my friend Erin's birthday, and the day I first went to the doctor because something seemed wrong with my pregnancy.

February 10th, the day I drove myself to the hospital because things still didn't seem right, and ended up on bed rest for the next month.

March 9th, the day Michael was born, nine weeks early.

April 8th, the day we brought Michael home from the hospital.

May 6th, my original due date.

8. What was your biggest achievement of the year?


Staying mostly positive during that month of bed rest, followed by a month of having Michael in the NICU. Staying a little bit sane, period. Life with a baby is hard, especially when the baby is not the only child.

9. What was your biggest failure?


Oh, there were so many, it is hard to choose the biggest. One huge failure was answering email, at all, I have been horrible this year. And it's a shame because when our family needed support many friends, and friends of friends, reached out to me that way. I'm so grateful and totally failed to acknowledge many of them.

I'm also lousy at keeping up with the laundry/housework/and preparing decent dinners for Matt.

10. Did you suffer illness or injury?


The big ones were the partial placental abruption and the kidney infection that sent me to the ER.

11. What was the best thing you bought?


I can't think of anything! We switched our TV service to U-verse and are really happy about that.

12. Whose behavior merited celebration?


Our family, especially Matt, my mother, and my mother-in-law who really had to step up when I was on bed rest and Michael was in the NICU. We are really fortunate to have such supportive relatives who are willing/able to drop everything to help us. Can't imagine how we'd have gotten through without them.

13. Whose behavior made you appalled and depressed?


I won't point fingers, but I think we all need to figure out how to judge less and make decisions that consider the greater good.

14. Where did most of your money go?


Medical bills, mortgage, etc. Aside from normal monthly expenses, I'd say a fair amount of our money went to Hallmark, the post office, and Amazon.com.

15. What did you get really, really, really excited about?


The presidential election.

16. What song will always remind you of 2008?


"Hello Neighbor" a song Harper learned in preschool or "You are My Sunshine" which emerged as an early favorite of Michael's.

17. Compared to this time last year are you:

a) happier or sadder?

Probably a little sadder, but still pretty happy.

b) thinner or fatter?


No comment.

c) richer or poorer?

Probably poorer, but richer because of the way our family grew this year.

18. What do you wish you'd done more of?


Read and wrote.

19. What do you wish you'd done less of?


Watched TV.

20. How did you spend Christmas?


Christmas Day was spent opening gifts with the kids at home, then going to Nana and Dziatku's for breakfast, then driving to Matt's Aunt Patty's for more gifting and dinnner. But our Christmas goes on and on - we are still celebrating in Wisconsin.

21. Did you fall in love in 2008?


Of course, with Michael. And I definitely love Matt more deeply after all we've been through this year.

22. What was your favorite TV program?


I like a lot of them, but the one I most hated to miss was LOST.

23. Do you hate anyone now that you didn't hate this time last year?


No. There are lots of people who frustrated me, and people I don't like, but I really try not to hate - it's a waste of energy.

24. What was the best book you read?


I didn't read as much as usual this year. I'm having trouble coming up with any titles at all! I think the most enjoyable book I read this year was Certain Girls by Jennifer Weiner.

25. What was your greatest musical discovery?


I know this isn't what the question means, but it has to be baby storytime at the library. This did not exist when Harper was a baby, but the program is awesome and I've learned a bunch of little songs/rhymes to do with Michael which he LOVES.


26. What did you want and get?


A healthy baby, a year free of severe allergic reactions, several great massages, a Nintendo DS - that covers a lot of bases.

27. What did you want and not get?

A full-term pregnancy. A minivan. A cure for food allergies.


28. What was your favorite film of this year?


We just saw Marley and Me which I thoroughly enjoyed, and seeing Mama Mia made me really happy. (Though the word "film" makes me feel as though I should be choosing something with more substance.)

29. What did you do on your birthday, and how old were you?

I turned 32 and I threw a party for Harper, who turned four two days later. My birthday happened to be on a Saturday this year.


30. What one thing would have made your year immeasurably more satisfying?


Having a personal chef.

31. How would you describe your personal fashion concept in 2008?

Does this shirt cover my stomach?

32. What kept you sane?

Family support, incredible friends (who manage to be incredible even from far away) and the great community I've found through this blog and others like it.


33. What celebrity/public figure did you fancy the most?


I have been fascinated by Tina Fey this year. Obama is pretty interesting too.

34. What political issue stirred you the most?

The election in general - although I get really worked up about education issues.

35. Who do you miss?

My family in Wisconsin (though not right now, because we're in Wisconsin). Far-away friends, especially those who've just had babies this year - I always wish I were nearby to share in that experience. The women I got to know well as I went through grad school.

36. Who was the best new person you met?

Define "met". I got to know some great new people online this year, especially Sam, who had pregnancy/bed rest drama while I did and was a great sounding board. We totally bonded.

37. Tell us a valuable life lesson you learned in 2008.


It's one I should have learned many times over by now. . . things don't always go the way you'd like.

38. Quote a song lyric that sums up your year.

It's a sad and a strange thing.
But it's time and I am changing.
Into something good or bad, well that's your guess.
I'm my own sovereign nation,
Dedicated to a transformation,
Marching on with this target on my chest, oh yes,
And it's alright, it's alright, it's alright.

-Dar Williams

Still Christmassing

Hello Internets!

The problem with taking a bloggy break, even a short and unintended one, is that it can sometimes be very difficult to get rolling again. That's why I like doing NaBloPoMo, I feel like it gives me some momentum.

We had sort of a predictable Christmas Day with small children. Things started off well, Harper being pleased and grateful for her (way too many) gifts, including the one we'd pretty much convinced her she wouldn't be getting. Which was true, until a couple of weeks before Christmas when various circumstances led me to cave completely. So Santa brought her a Little Mommy Gotta Go doll (a "pee pee goes the potty" doll, in Harper language) and all is right in her four-year-old world.

After our house we went to have breakfast and open another round of gifts at Nana and Dziatku's house. The winners here were a My Little Pony remote controlled scooter (which the dog is hilariously freaked out by) and an Ariel doll. Michael also got a nice stash of new clothes, which was a relief as he is outgrowing his current wardrobe at an alarming rate.

Both kids were battling horrendous colds and we debated not going to Matt's Aunt Patty's for dinner and more gifts, but we called and Patty said to bring 'em anyway, so we did. For the record there were no other kids there, or I NEVER would have brought my sickly ones, and Harper wasn't acting sick at all. Michael was cranky and we completely failed to build in any naptime for him (you'd think we'd never done this before!) but ended up cooperating well enough. Then he screamed the entire car ride home, and Harper cried from the time we got home until we managed to wrangle her into bed about half an hour later. And Matt declared we will never again do three things on Christmas Day. BUT we probably will, as we usually have, and next year the kids will be older and maybe not sick. . .

We had one calm-ish day to regroup before getting in the car bright and early Saturday morning to drive to my parents' home in Wisconsin. Michael coughed and wheezed and made a disturbing grunting sound most of the 8 hour journey, so instead of opening gifts (or even eating dinner) Saturday night, my mom and I headed to the children's hospital in Milwaukee. There we went though the rounds of nurses and doctors, a couple of nebulizer treatments, some discussion of whether steriods were to be prescribed (decision, no, as they would not help with the viral nature of the problem), and we eventually left several hours later with instructions and an inhaler. Yes, an inhaler for the nine-month-old, which is just about as much fun as you'd imagine. Incidentally, Michael is one of the most good-natured babies in the history of the world. He hardly fussed at all during the entire ordeal, and he must have been feeling miserable.

Oh! I almost forgot. Michael's first tooth popped through during the car ride (miserably sick and teething and still a mostly happy guy!) and he's got four more currently competing for second place. Can you imagine?

Sunday my brother, sister, dad, and husband headed up to Green Bay for the Packer-Lion game. I opted to stay back with my mom and help with the sickos, especially since her back had been bothering her and Michael is a fairly, um, dense child.

So now it's New Year's Eve. We'll have a family dinner and play board games tonight. It is one of my favorite nights of the year. Tomorrow we'll eat and relax and watch football and prepare for the many family members who will be coming on January 2 for an add on holiday celebration, to see my kids, and to ring in the new year. Then back to Ohio for us!

If, as usual, I am the last one awake tonight, I may come back and post some end of the year thoughts. But just in case I don't:

Happy New Year all, I'm looking forward to sharing 2009 with you.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Christmas Eve: P.M. Edition

First of all, Happy Birthday Dad!!!

There are probably lots of crummy things about sharing your birthday with Christmas Eve, but at least we never forget when it is!

(I hope the crummy part has gotten easier for my dad, since he isn't, I don't know, nine years old any more.)

Love you Dad!

*****

Christmas morning will be great, but there is nothing quite like sneaking around the quiet house, after the children are sleeping, making everything look just right for when they wake up in the morning.







There are only a handful of years in which we'll have the pleasure of pulling off this level of magic for the children. I love it and I want to savor every moment of the anticipation.

Happy holidays to all of you, readers, wherever you are. I wish you all many moments of joy and peace in the year ahead.

Christmas Eve: A.M. Edition

It is cold and grey and rainy today - a wet Christmas, but at least we shouldn't have too much trouble on the roads.

Here are a few random Christmas preparation photos, well except for the first one, which is just funny.

Money may not grow on trees, but apparently it grows on our refrigerator. Harper was getting creative with her piggy bank loot.

The chicken soup "base" is not pictured, but the rest of this,

this,

and this made really yummy soup we'll eat tonight.

Peppermint bark, candy cane cookies, spritz cookies, sugar cookies, and a bowl of dipped pretzels. Bring on the dentist!

Sure, the pack n' play is useful for containing small children, but it is also useful for keeping children (and wrapping paper obsessed dogs) from getting into the presents.

These are just the presents for our siblings, parents, and gift exchanges at our extended family gatherings. Still hidden away are all the presents for Matt and the kids.

And finally, continuing to make the case that I must learn to edit in 2009, a lunch time video:


video

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Jolly Old St. Nicholas

The way my parents tell it, we didn't always celebrate St. Nick's Day. In fact there are many people who don't celebrate St. Nick's Day at all (like those of you scratching your heads right now, wondering what the heck I'm talking about). A little bit of research suggests that St. Nick's Day celebrations are common only in very specific parts of the country, like Milwaukee (near my childhood home). Apparently I came home from my (Catholic) grade school one night and told my mom and dad the good news that we should put our shoes out because St. Nick was coming! And so we started recognizing the feast day of St. Nicholas.


The stories about St. Nick are actually pretty neat - for some St. Nick history, go here - how do you not like a guy known for helping the poor and protecting the children?


St. Nick's Day always brought some small gifts as we were growing up, including our yearly ornaments for the Christmas tree. Many years my parents managed to provide ornaments which signified something important that had occurred that year or just reflected some aspect of our personalities. I am so happy to have these ornaments now, walking through a little of my own history as I decorate my tree. This year Harper was old enough to be interested in some of the ornaments and hear their stories. Among others I have a piano from the year I started lessons, a volleyball playing reindeer from the year I first made the high school team, and a compass from the year I went away to college (which makes me well up a bit every year).


For my children St. Nick has gotten in the habit of bringing them an ornament and a holiday book or two. While not the point of St. Nick's Day at all I have found that it serves as a nice Christmas warm up for little kids - reminding them how much fun it is to open presents! :-)

(Rebound LOVES wrapping paper and was practically salivating while waiting for the children to open their gifts.)

Someday Harper is going to ask me about St. Nick and his relation to Santa Claus, which may be hard to satisfactorily explain without blowing Santa's cover. . . for now she has worked out that St. Nick is some sort of helper for Santa and we're letting it go at that.


When I was growing up, St. Nick's Day was how I knew Christmas was REALLY getting close - it's a simple celebration, but one I hope my children will also look back on with a smile someday.

Do any of you put your shoes out for St. Nick?

Edited to add: I had a formatting problem and republished this post about eight times, hopefully it didn't show up eight times in anyone's feed reader!

Monday, December 22, 2008

Some Holiday Whine

I had been feeling pretty good about the state of my holiday preparations, but there are some things you just can't do very far in advance - and life rarely cooperates well enough to make the last minute items go smoothly.

Last night I was up really late wrapping our gifts to the kids, Santa's gifts, and stocking stuffers. I don't feel like we spent all that much (not more than we normally would) but there are lots and LOTS of packages for the kiddos. The tree will look awesome Christmas morning, and I'm glad, but whew the wrapping took me forever. Especially since so much of the kids' stuff is odd shaped or packaged in only half a box - what's with that?

I saved the wrapping longer than I needed to on purpose, it is one of my favorite holiday tasks and I always feel a bit sad when I'm finished. Before the gifts are wrapped I like to sneak looks into the hide-y places where things are stashed and think about how much the children will love them.

Today I have been working here and there on ahead-of-time tasks I can do for the soups I'll prepare for Christmas Eve. And I've been baking. I also like baking. The trouble (as with the wrapping) is that it is quite difficult to get started before the kids are in bed so I end up being awake far too late in the night.

Harper's had a sniffle that suddenly turned into an ugly cold today. She was up coughing so hard she nearly threw up, then she was screaming in between coughing fits and woke the baby. In the meantime I had a batch of cookies half put together in the kitchen so things were starting to feel very grinchy. Of course I don't want Harper to be sick and then I worry about who else will get sick and how it will change our holiday plans. She is supposed to spend the evening at Nana and Dziatku's tomorrow, sleep over, and even help make some desserts on Wednesday morning - all of this planned so I could go man-to-man with Michael and maybe get a thing or two accomplished before bedtime. I will admit that I am not thrilled at the prospect of cancelling that arrangement. Bah humbug.

How about a few less groucy pictures?


Please notice how much more heavy-handed Harper got with the sprinkles as the cookie-making progressed.



My dad purchased a bunch of holiday-themed wall-clings for Harper to use in her room. Do you think there are enough?


I kept trying to get her to spread them out a bit (her concept of negative space is a little underdeveloped I guess) but she kept insisting she couldn't because they were, "telling a story."

Finally we have (Uncle) Jamie and his girlfriend, Molly, at his college graduation. It was a little surreal because I still feel like he ought to be about nine years old. Please note the two diplomas - they are both his. That's what happens when you double major and the majors are in different schools. Congratuations Jamie!

Friday, December 19, 2008

Meet Snowy

We recently added a new member to our family - Snowy the Elf!


I'm sure many of you have heard of or seen The Elf on the Shelf. . . I first heard about it last year. I thought it sounded like fun, but I was too lazy to do anything about it. This year my mom and dad sent an elf to Harper and Michael for St. Nick's Day (more about that in another post). In the box was the elf and a book that told all about how the elf would sit quietly and watch to see if the children were good and then would fly back to the North Pole while they slept and report to Santa. Each morning the elf has returned and can be found in a different place in our house. We already do the Santa thing and Harper really buys into all the magical elements of Christmas, so I was not too surprised when she got excited about the elf.

We read the accompanying book and found some great rules/information about Snowy: you can talk to him, but he's not allowed to talk to you - only to Santa, you can't touch him our his magic will disappear (genius!), he uses magic to get back and forth from the North Pole, he'll leave on Christmas Eve and not return until next year, etc. Whoever wrote the book clearly had children because I felt things were neatly explained and the "story" covered all the bases.

The first morning, after we opened Snowy, Harper was going to be gone with Matt for a couple of hours. I told her I would leave the box open on the counter when I went to take a shower and we'd see if Snowy (which is the name Harper chose) would find a place to perch.

Here is Harper "finding" Snowy when she arrived home:


He was in the wreath above our fireplace.


I can imagine that the elf thing would not work with every kid/family. It has been a really fun experiment for us. If anyone comes to our house they immediately receive a briefing on the no touching rule from a very serious Harper. It's pretty funny. Dziatku almost touched him the first day he saw Snowy and I thought Harper's head was going to explode. She is a firm believer - it's awesome.

One of my favorite things is catching her talking to Snowy - she'll tell him something she's proud about or mention what she'd like for Christmas. I think she's at the perfect age for something like this - completely open to it. Though I can imagine some children might be a little creeped out at the idea of this elf coming and going and traipsing around the house at night.

I have had a lot of fun finding new places for Snowy to rest, usually an elevated spot, just in case someone finds the touching rule too difficult to follow. . . Here are some of the other places Snowy has been found:

On top of the entertainment center,


on the branches of the Christmas tree,


and sitting in the "secretary."


I have had fun taking pictures of the places Snowy has landed - there's a whole set here.

My only problem with Snowy is that I obviously can't move him before Harper has fallen asleep, but I sometimes forget to move him before I go to bed. Harper will come in my room in the morning and ask, "Mom! Have you seen Snowy yet?!" And then I'll panic and jump up and mumble that I need to get something, could she please wait for me right there. And I'll go rearrange the elf. This has only happened a couple of times and I haven't been caught yet, knock on wood. She believes so whole-heartedly that she never looks in the place where Snowy had been the day before.

Thankfully we only have a few more days with Snowy, because I am running out of new places to put him. This is a new tradition, not one of the many we are continuing from when Matt or I were little - it will be interesting to see how long it lasts and whether it is something Harper wants to do with her own family someday. With Michael three and a half years behind her, we're looking forward to quite a few Christmases with Snowy.

Have any of you got elves on your shelves?

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Departure

We've really been wrapped up in holiday happenings here - preparations and traditions from baking to reading to Rankin-Bass specials on TV. I'm having as hard a time as anyone getting over to the blog.

I don't have much to offer tonight, but I found a couple of clips on You Tube from the Ellis Paul show I attended earlier this month and I thought I would share.

Let's call it a Christmas gift. . .






Sunday, December 14, 2008

Photos with Santa: A Retrospecitve

2004: Harper at about six weeks, blissfully unaware!

2005: Harper at one year - stranger danger!

2006: Harper, age two, trying to be brave.

2007: Harper at three years says, "Santa isn't scary as long as I don't make eye contact."

2008: Michael at nine months thinks he likes Santa's beard.


2008: Harper, age four, and Michael - a Santa picture with no tears, pouts, or avoiding Santa's gaze!

Harper wasn't quite her chatty self on Santa's lap this year, but she did answer his questions with audible words. For three days before our visit she told me, "I will try to be brave about Santa. I really want to tell him what I want, but I'm a little shy of him." Afterward she told me how proud she was of herself for talking to Santa. Now she's really really excited about Christmas!

Friday, December 12, 2008

Grown Up Conversations

Today Harper was eating lunch and said, "Mom I know babies grow in mommies' tummies, but how do they get in there?"

After a long pause during which my brain was frantically whirring with all the advice I'd ever heard/given on answering these kinds of questions (Answer ONLY the question asked, you can be truthful and vague, move forward cautiously and question the child to find out what they're REALLY asking about...) I said, "Well woman have eggs in their ovaries and if the eggs get the right things they can grow into babies." I also said something about seeds, though I can no longer recall exactly what.

Harper asked, "Like the way seeds need water?"

I said, "Yes," and that was the end of that.

Judge all you want, but I'm not telling her the stork brings babies.

*****

Later this afternoon she was playing in her little kitchen area and talking to her dolls about Christmas presents. Then she started frantically rushing around. I asked her what she was doing and she said, "I have to get presents and pretend they're from Santa because Santa isn't real!"

I think my jaw hit the floor. I tried to remain calm but I was all, "What do you MEAN Santa isn't REAL????!!!!"

Harper kind of laughed at me and said, "Mo-om, I know Santa's real, but he isn't real to my dolls."

*****

Each night when we say prayers with Harper we ask her what she is thankful for. Usually it is something like being the napkin helper at school or the movie we watched for family night. Tonight she added that she was also thankful for God and Jesus and our family and the earth (pronounced earf) and the shephards and said, "Sometimes I'm thankful for that kind of important stuff too, Mom."

*****
That's a lot to go through a little person's head in one day!

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Video Wednesday

Okay, so we got a new video camera a YEAR ago and I still haven't figured out the editing software. Which means I can't post many of our videos because they are too long/big for Blogger and could stand to be trimmed so that you only get the best bits. I've been trying to capture some shorter clips lately - in order to have a few to share here.

I know the world isn't out there clamoring for videos of my children, but I believe the relatives appreciate them. For those of you who aren't grandparents (to my children), how do you feel about movies? Are they slow? Do you see videos and just skip past them? Is there any interest in a regular video feature (like once a week or two)? I'm just testing the waters here.

Video the First: In Which Harper Sings a Holiday Song

video

Video the Second: In Which Harper Tells About her New Friendship Bracelet

video

Video the Third: In Which I Play One-Handed Peek-a-Boo with Michael and Fail to Hold the Camera Straight

video

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Nine Months

Today Michael is nine months old.


While Harper was in school this morning I took him to his nine month well visit. I am thrilled to announce that he has finally landed on the charts!

Height: 27 inches, 10%

Weight: 19 lbs., 5 oz., 25%

Head Circumference: 46 cm, 75% (!!!!)


Charm: Heart-stopping, 99%

(I can't believe I just typed that, and yet I can't bring myself to remove it. . . )


That last photo just cracks me right up, he looks like he's making a very important point, or maybe just getting to the punchline. I cannot wait to hear what the little man will have to say to us.

Or maybe I can, he is already growing up much too quickly.

Monday, December 08, 2008

The Antler Sessions

Last weekend Matt's parents took Harper to see a children's production of Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer. She loved the whole thing and was lucky enough to bring home her very own antlers for good measure.


Of course it was only right that we try the antlers on every member of the family once Harper arrived home!




Let's just say it wasn't easy to keep the antlers on Rebound long enough to snap a photo - we might need to start thinking about a camera with less of a delay!


Both Rebound and Michael tried to eat the antlers as well as wear them. They are a fun accessory, to be sure, but I have my doubts as to whether they'll survive until Christmas!

Sunday, December 07, 2008

  • Astarte won the holiday music giveaway! Based on my follow-up email I think we have similar-ish taste in Christmas music so I'm hoping she'll enjoy her CDs.

  • My dear friend, Hillary, won one of my pay-it-forward contests and is now paying-it-forward on her blog with some holiday goodies. Check it out! She gets extra points for hosting a pay-it-forward with a brand new baby in the house. I am sorry I didn't write about this sooner, but her contest is open through midnight on Monday, December 8th, so you still have time to enter.

  • I went with my brother and his girlfriend, Molly, to see Ellis Paul perform on Friday night. If he is playing anywhere near you I highly suggest checking it out - he puts on a great show. My only complaint was that the music didn't even begin until 9:30. I subbed Friday morning so I was up early and staying at the bar until 1:00 a.m. was a little rough. I didn't mind while Ellis was playing, but I think I'm still recovering from that late night. I'm an old lady!

  • The Ellis Paul concert also interrupted my daily blogging streak, but I will try to keep updating frequently. There are plenty of holiday happenings to discuss.

  • Here's something I've been turning over in my head lately. . . there are a lot of difficult things happening right now: war, the economy, people losing jobs left and right, things are generally sort of bleak. Is this changing how you are able to experience the holiday season? If this is generally a joyful time for you, is it still joyful this year? I am finding lots of joyful moments but then starting to feel guilty - like it is wrong for me to be joyful when so many people are having a difficult time. (Maybe this topic should be its own post, but there you go.) What do you think?

Thursday, December 04, 2008

Twilight

I feel like I ought to apologize for those of you who come here for the content about the kiddos, because it's been a little light on the cute stories lately. And today isn't going to be much better, but I will share this. . .

We have a wreath in our bedroom which is made from dried flowers from my wedding bouquet. Today Harper asked if a magician turned my flowers into a wreath. But she misspoke and said, "mag-ni-tion."

So I have to ask about the Twilight books (don't get angry Shannon, I know you've already told me to read them). Are they worth it? I like to think I have a finger on what is happening in the world of young adult literature and it feels like I'm sidestepping a huge phenomenon by not having read these books. And I even like fantasy, but I don't like vampires. I have never been drawn to vampire books, television, or movies. Which is saying a lot because I'll read/watch almost anything I'm remotely intrigued by. I think this goes back to a time when I learned (I have no idea how) that vampires didn't have reflections and I spent many tooth brushing sessions with my back to the bathroom wall to make sure there weren't any lurking behind me that I couldn't see in the mirror. Sadly, that is a true story.

If you have read the saga please tell me what you think - we'll just pretend I am not capable of making decisions about what to read on my own.

*One day left to enter the holiday music giveaway - click the linky on the upper right!

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Blurry

I don't know why I'm so tired tonight, but I am, and the computer screen is looking a little blurry, which is probably a signal that I ought to get some sleep already!

It seems like the right time of year to link back to the post I wrote about teacher gifts a while back. My dilemma this year is that Harper has a fair number of people who work in her classroom. When I was a teacher I always noticed which families (if they gave gifts at all) thought to include some of the teachers who are on the periphery of things; the music teacher, gym teacher, etc. Harper has a main classroom teacher, an assistant, and another assistant who travels between the two preschool classrooms. There is also a speech therapist who regularly works with her class. So all four of those women will get a little something, with the biggest/nicest gift going to her main classroom teacher since she is the one who does all the planning and most of the behind the scenes work. There may be other people who work with the children from time to time, but I think I've covered my bases. I will be sending a note of thanks to the school nurse who really helped us, especially at the beginning of the year, to make sure we had everything in place for handling Harper's peanut allergy.

I think the most important part of any teacher gift is a sincere note of thanks - especially the way things are right now I don't think any teachers are expecting any kind of extravagant gifts! It is always a little hit or miss anyway, whether you get a teacher something he or she really likes. The kind words from parents and students are what truly stand out in my mind. I like to have Harper dictate thank you notes - she doesn't need much guidance in this department anymore and I get a kick out of what she thinks to say. A couple of people sent her money for her birthday and most of those thank you notes said she was saving up to buy a horse friend for Rebound!

I'm going to head to bed before I go blind over here - don't forget to enter the holiday music giveaway, if you're interested in holiday music that is, you have two days left!

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Back to Work?

One of the questions I was asked recently had to do with whether I intended to go back to work, what kind of work I might do, and when I thought that might happen.

My views on this have changed drastically since I've had children. I used to think I would always be a stay at home mom. I'm not necessarily proud of this, but I used to believe that any family could have one parent stay at home, if they were willing to make sacrifices to make it happen. I used to think that the best thing for any family was to have one stay at home parent. This is one of many things I've changed my mind about since actually having my own kids. I think that different things work for different families, that stay at home parenting is not the right thing for every mother (or father), and that the cost of living these days makes it pretty darn difficult for every family to have a stay at home parent, no matter how badly they might want to.

For now it makes sense for us to have me stay at home. I know how fortunate we are to be able to swing it on Matt's salary alone. At the same time, it doesn't feel like we'll be able to manage this way forever. Like many families I wouldn't say we are struggling to put food on the table, we have plenty of things we could live without (although where do you draw the line - I can't imagine downgrading or eliminating our internet service, though it certainly isn't required for us to survive), but my returning to work would afford us some breathing room in the future.

When I started working on my master's degree, back in the summer of 2006, it was with the intent that I would return to work someday. During the summer of 2007 I even interviewed for a teaching position. I fully intend to return to work, and it will likely be before both children are in school all day.

In a perfect world I might start working part-time as early as next school year. I would LOVE for my children to attend the private school I taught at before becoming a stay at home mom, but the tuition is s-t-e-e-p and they will only be able to attend if I return to work at that school. To me it would be worth the changes we'd have to make in our family life for me to return to work and the children to attend school in that environment. If that scenario doesn't play out (and it's likely not to, because we all know life doesn't always go the way you wish) it may be a little longer before I return to work. We don't know yet whether Michael will have the food allergy issues Harper has - that really complicates any childcare/school situation for her.

Also in a perfect world, when I go back to work, I will work in a school library - which is what I got my master's degree for. But I am not entirely ruling out a return to classroom teaching, especially in the right environment.

Some things which will completely upend these plans:

1) We win the lottery and neither of us needs to work.

2) Matt gets a job in another city - we would only move away if Matt's new job would mean that I truly didn't have to go back to work for our financial stability, for a long time - we could not both work without the family support we have here.

3) The unknown - if some circumstance dictated that one of us HAD to be home full time, we would find a way to make it work as long as we needed to.

So I suppose that sort of answers the question about my return to work - though there is much, much more which could be said on the subject. Including asking the question, "What do I want to be when I grow up?" Which I think we'll save for another time.

Monday, December 01, 2008

Thank Goodness for Slippers!

First a gross poop story, then some thoughts on commercials of late. If you want to skip the poo part, read the text below the picture of the adorable smiling baby.

You've been warned.

So Michael has always been a kicker - ever since his NICU days those little legs have been flailing, pedaling his imaginary bicycle. When he is on the floor or laying in his bed (On that FIRM crib mattress, how do they sleep on those?) the sound of his heels hitting the floor/mattress could be mistaken for someone knocking on the door.

thumpthumpthumpthump

The kicking intensifies if he is especially amused/excited. I was changing Michael's poopy diaper this evening and I did what I always do, remove the dirty diaper, set it at the edge of the changing table, and work on getting the clean one in place. Of course I was talking and playing with Michael as I made the diaper swap and either his legs must be longer or his kicking reached new levels of enthusiasm because, before I could stop it, he was merrily kicking his heels into the poopy diaper. Ew! Right? But that's not the end of it. . .

So I was trying to grab his now poopy feet and contain the damage as Michael was gleefully avoiding my grasp, poop was getting all over my hands, and I was trying to access the wipes while keeping the mess from spreading even furthur. At some point in all that chaos I totally failed to notice the hunk of poo Michael's feet had flung to the floor.

Until I stepped in it.

Thank goodness I was wearing slippers.


And now a couple of thoughts on commercials. . .

I may have mentioned this last year, as it is a perennial holiday annoyance of mine, but I really dislike the commercials where one spouse surprises another with a new car. Who does that? I mean, I suppose people in a certain income bracket might, but the masses are not going to wake up on Christmas morning to a brand-new (usually luxury) vehicle with a red bow the size of Texas on it in their driveways. ESPECIALLY in the current economy. You think we might have taken a pass on those commericals this year. Thanks for another heap of unrealistic expectations Media! Matt came home with a Wii the other day and I was aghast that he'd made that big a purchase without consulting me, I would probably have a panic attack if there was suddenly a new car in the driveway. (Incidentally, the Wii was/is for an auction, it's not ours, nor did we pay for it, and he just made it look like that because he knew it would freak me out.)

Moving on -

Have you seen the ATT commercial which shows people's hands texting and the thumbs have faces on them so they look like little people? That is just plain creepy.

Finally -

There is some new vitamin (can't recall the brand at the moment) being marketed to teenagers. The hook is that there is a formula for boys and a formula for girls. Now I would buy into the fact that boys and girls might have different body chemistry/hormone things going on and might benefit from different formulations of vitamins. . . but here's the part that troubles me - in the commercial they suggest that the girl formula promotes clear skin and the boy formula promotes strong muscles. So boys don't want clear skin and girls don't want strong muscles? Really? I know I should just ignore the relatively harmless commercial, but it makes me crazy every time I see it!

Whew, I'm glad to have those things off my chest. Perhaps I should just watch less commercial television. . .

Sunday, November 30, 2008

So Long NaBloPoMo

Well in the end November went by more quickly than I'd anticipated. I still feel full of things to write about. With our birthday celebrations and Thanksgiving behind us, I think it may not be too difficult to keep this blogging up right into December. Not every single day in December, but I'm going to try to flow with this momentum.

I'm starting to regret the whole holiday CD contest. . . I'm about 2/3 to 3/4 of the way through putting my Christmas CDs into iTunes and there are already over 400 songs on the Christmas play list. How on earth will I narrow that to 20 or so to put on a CD??? I am going to have some very specific questions for the winner, which will hopefully help me figure out which version of Jingle Bells will suit her/him best.

I thought this would be as good a time as any to write a few follow-up thoughts to guessing game from a couple of weeks ago. Owning a ferret was the untrue item. I have never personally owned a ferret. We did have ferrets in the nature centure a couple of summers at the camp I worked at/attended, which is where I came up with the ferret idea. So I have held, played with, and even named a ferret, but never had one of my very own. And, while the camp ferrets were fun we also had rats at camp and I have no desire ever to own either!

I realized, after the fact, that the bungee jumping was kind of a freebie because I listed that on a six (or seven?) things meme a while ago. So many of you guessed that I wasn't a risk-taker, or life-risker, and I have to say that those weren't bad instincts. I went bungee jumping with my dad during a family vacation the summer I was fifteen. I remember because I used that as my something interesting during classroom introductions in our high school public speaking class. I enjoyed the bungee jumping and I think at one point you might have even convinced me to jump out of an airplane. HOWEVER, I would probably not do either of those things now that I have children. Not that they are any less safe than they ever were, but I feel a little differently toward them these days. Maybe when the kids are grown I'll jump out of an airplane or go bungee jumping to celebrate, but probably not.

It's sweet that so many of you didn't find the poem thing hard to believe. When I was fourteen or fifteen (I think) I had a poem published in Teen magazine, which may not even be a magazine anymore. They published readers' work every issue and I actually remember reading the poems and thinking they weren't so impressive. I fancied myself more of a serious and dark poet (ha ha ha, ahem) at the time. The poems were all kind of gooey love poems (Love poems by teenagers, great!) and I recall thinking that I could probably write a poem they would publish. So I did. And they did. The poem was called, "The One." Doesn't that just ooze originality? Ugh, gag me.

I'm pretty sure I have a copy of the poem somewhere, but I am equally sure I no longer have a copy of the magazine. I think I got rid of it when I was cleaning my room out, without realizing I'd thrown away that issue. Despite the less than stellar poem, it was pretty cool to see my name in print like that. I save EVERYTHING (found a sixth grade volleyball trophy when recently cleaning out the basement) and I can't believe I don't have that magazine.

So, um, if anyone has back issues of Teen magazine from the early 90's, let me know!

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Conversations with a 4 Year Old

We went out to lunch today with Matt's mom and sister. Harper had spent the night with Matt's parents, having a pajama party with her Aunt Meaghan. We were discussing ham because Harper had eaten some with her breakfast.

Matt said to her, "You know what? I like ham and you like ham, but Mommy doesn't like ham."

To which Harper replied, "I don't know what's up with her!"

*****

I was eating dinner with Harper tonight. Somehow we got to talking about mistakes and how it's okay to do something wrong before you know it's wrong, but then you try not to do it anymore. And we were also talking about bad words, like "stupid" which is a bad word for our purposes, and how sometimes we might read a book or watch a move that uses one of those words. I told Harper it's okay (especially when "stupid" is the kind of bad word I'm talking about) to watch/read those things, as long as we know enough not to repeat the words when we speak.

She looked at me very seriously, put a hand on my shoulder, and said, "But sometimes grownups forget, right Mom? And they use a bad word? Because one time we were driving in the car home from Nana and Dziatku's house and you said, 'stupid,' remember? And that wasn't a nice thing to say. But that's okay Mom, you can always try again not to say it. Just don't say that word again, okay?"

Friday, November 28, 2008

Forgetful

I accompanied a friend of mine to a surprise birthday party this evening, returning home a few minutes ago, and just now realized that I hadn't written a blog post today. And now I'm tired. Blah. I can't believe I almost forgot about this. Here are a few items of business:

1) People in my immediate family can stop entering the Christmas CD contest - silly gooses. CALL ME and I will just make one for you.

2) There were many good questions asked earlier this month when I didn't know what to write about, as well as many intriguing questions in recent comments - I do intend to post about those things, but not on nights that I'm still at the computer at 11:30.

3) I have a new question for you tonight. What would you want for Christmas if money were no object? Something for yourself that you would love and use, but that is too expensive for current practical purposes. And let's just assume that the world is perfect and no one need answer like a beauty pageant contestant and say they only want world peace. (I think we can all agree that world peace is on the top of the list.)

If money were no object I would hope to wake up Christmas morning and find a brand new minivan (with all the bells and whistles) in my driveway. Honda Odyssey, I covet thou more than diamonds.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Phew!

Tonight I am grateful for a happy and successful Thanksgiving shindig, right here in our own home. There was eating, drinking, merriment, and a wonderful family to be thankful for. The only difficult part was not being with all my other family members in Wisconsin. I have to say, it isn't a bad thing, when you have small children, to be the holiday host because they can so easily be whisked off to their own rooms when necessary.

I have to give a lot of credit to Ann, mother-in-law extraordinaire, for bringing the turkey, stuffing, potatoes, and a cheesecake. While I did contribute plenty of other foods to our feast, I felt that she had all the high pressure menu items and I did not sweat my apple pie, jellos, or veggie sides too much.

The only pictures I managed to take were these of Harper "playing" Pictionary. She was drawing Rudolph.



I hope all of you had a wonderful Thanksgiving!

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

How About a Giveaway?

We put up our Christmas decorations early this year - normally everything goes up the weekend after Thanksgiving. In fact I usually abide by a very strict no Christmas before Thanksgiving rule. However, this year, we're hosting Thanksgiving and we decided it might be festive to have the house decorated already. We don't usually have guests over the Christmas holidays and we thought it would be fun to share the decorations with someone! Also, Harper heard us talking about putting up the Christmas decorations and there was pretty much no turning back.

Pulling out the Christmas decorations also means pulling out the books and movies and music that are part of our holiday tradition. This year I decided to import my Christmas CDs (of which there are, um, many) into iTunes so I can have a Christmas mix on the iPod. Importing the Chrismtas CDs got me thinking that it would be fun to give away a Christmas mix. So I'm offering a Christmas CD package - one grown-up CD and one for the kiddos, should you want a kiddo version. I will attempt to customize the grown-up CD for the winner, if the winner is willing to answer some questions about his/her taste in holiday music.

This is not necessarily a pay-it-forward contest, but there are plenty of opportunities to share during the holiday season so you could certainly pay-it-forward in spirit anyway. To enter just leave a comment on this post. If you don't know what to say how about letting me know what your favorite Christmas song is and if there is any holiday tune that you absolutely cannot stand (even if it is only a specific version of one song).

I'll leave this open until noon, December 5. I'm thinking I could choose a winner and get CDs out by December 10.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Harper-isms

Here are some of the things that are making me laugh lately:

Things were suspiciously quiet earlier today. I called Harper into the room where I was feeding Michael and asked her what she was doing. She said, "Don't worry Mom, I'm not doing anything naughty!"

Auntie M gave us some extra Christmas decorations last year, including a very durable nativity set and some small Santas. Harper has the pieces on her bookshelf. She is having trouble remembering the word nativity so she'll say she is playing with her Jesus stuff, or her church stuff, or her activity set. One of the Santas opens on a hinge at the waist. Today she showed me that one of the nativity set sheep fits inside the Santa. Then she said, "That Santa has a bad case of goats in the belly!"

I can't remember if I've shared these already, but Harper still has a few words that she reliably mispronounces. One is "flavor," she says, "flavorite." As in, "I really like the flavorite of this lollipop!"

She also misses "usually," and says, "lusually." As in, "I lusually like to eat crackers in the morning." It is pronounced exactly the same as usually with an l-sound added to the beginning. We try to get her to say it as often as possible.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Short and Sweet

Tonight I am grateful for:

- Great shopping deals. (50% off deals + 20% early bird discount + 15% off coupon = Christmas presents for practically nothing!)

- Bright white Christmas lights in a dark room.

- This conversation - go on and add your two cents, please!

- The chicken casserole we had for dinner.

- These two (and the fact that they're sleeping):

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Blogging About Blogging

I will wait a couple of days to share the answers for the last post, go ahead and guess if you'd like to!

So today I have some questions about blogging for all of you. Here are questions I've been thinking about:

1) How do you decide which blogs to read? Do you read (regularly) every blog written by someone who comments on your blog?

2) How do you decide when to comment?

3) Do you ever email a blog-writer to say something you don't want to say in the comments?

4) Do you plan what your blog posts will look/sound like ahead of time? Do you just sit down and wing it?

In fairness, here are my answers:

1) I read some blogs because they are just so well-written I can't resist, even if I don't personally know the author. I read others because I've come to know and care about the people they feature. I do not necessarily read every single blog of every single person who ever comments here. I'm trying to keep my blog-addiction under control. I'm afraid to count how many blogs I now have in my Google reader and I have to feel strongly compelled to add to the list.

2) I comment when I really have something to say, but I often DON'T comment if I feel like I can't properly formulate my thoughts on a particular subject. I also try to leave pretty regular comments on blogs I read all the time, even if I don't have sometime earth-shattering to say. I feel like I want to let people know I'm reading. Sometimes I feel badly about leaving those sorts of comments because I worry that it will seem like I don't really CARE about what the person was writing about. I also tend not to comment on blogs that receive LOTS of comments on a regular basis. I guess I figure that it might not matter what someone says, after you've already read 50 or more comments. (Not that I would know!)

3) I do occasionally email a blog's author if I'm uncomfortable sharing something in the comments. This is usually because I feel silly about the comment I want to leave, or I want to share something personal, or I have a question to ask.

4) This is probably obvious, but I usually wing it over here! I do often find myself "composing" blog posts in my mind throughout the day, but I rarely remember those eloquent musings when I actually sit down to type. And I'm often too lazy to reread my own posts for typos - which is why I so often find misspellings or poorly chosen words in old posts. Argh!

Your turn. . .

Friday, November 21, 2008

Game Time

I've been bungee jumping.

I've owned a ferret.

I've had a poem published in a national teen magazine.

Which two are true???

(I've often thought of doing something like this on a regular basis, maybe once a month, on this blog. However I think I would too quickly run out of interesting/weird things I've actually done.)

Thursday, November 20, 2008

"It Snowed for Real!"

That's what Harper said about the lovely snowfall we had today. It snowed a little last weekend, when we celebrated her birthday. I asked why that wasn't real snow. Her answer? "Because it was too early." Oh, okay dear.

I"m hesitant to post anything new today, in fact, if it weren't for NaBloPoMo, I wouldn't because I am having too much fun reading everyone's comments on the Santa post. So if you haven't shared there yet, will you please go and add your two cents? Pretty please?

Since I have to post something today, here are a couple of shots of the dusting of snow.




What will we do to keep ourselves occupied during the long, snowy winter?

Well, apparently our self-portrait skills could use some work: