Sunday, December 27, 2009

Christmas = Success!

Someday I will again post something besides a series of photos...


Our Christmas celebrations have been one rousing success after another. I was pleasantly surprised by how pleased Harper was with even her small and not-initially-fun-looking gifts. She did as much delighted shrieking as talking on Christmas Day.


Michael didn't know what to think of all the presents under the tree, but he caught on quickly once we started opening. He was such a trooper, even without a nap! Compared to last year, when Harper was sick and Michael was so little, this Christmas was both easier and more fun.


The children even slept until 7:30 Christmas morning, which was the best gift they could have given us. (Especially considering Harper was up at 5 a.m. on Christmas Eve.)




The above picture was not posed at all, Harper was really that taken with the Strawberry Shortcake Cafe Santa brought for her.


Michael's favorite gift was a new copy of Goodnight Moon. Our original copy was literally loved to pieces (over the last five years) and finally bit the dust a few weeks ago. He was thrilled to get a new one and showed no interest in any more presents for a good twenty minutes after opening the book.


What is the word for a large group of princesses? A parade? A pack? A party? Whatever it is, Harper now has one!


Hope you all had happy and safe holiday celebrations. Tomorrow we head north, through the snow, to Wisconsin, where we will celebrate Christmas (again!) and my dad's birthday before returning to face 2010.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Not a Creature Was Stirring

Wherever you find yourself this Christmas, and however you celebrate, I wish you joy and peace.




Let the Christmas chaos begin!

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Honestly, Couldn't Say it Better

My friend Erin is a truly gifted writer. I am envious of her talent, more than I care to admit, but even my envy cannot keep me from directing you here - if, that is, you haven't already seen it for yourself. You're welcome.


Sometimes, dear friend, I think you are doing the wrong job! (Although of course not, because yours suits you so perfectly and often, I believe, provides inspiration...)

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Snapshots of Busy Days

Harper is enjoying her role as resident cookie helper...


Mostly because it means she gets to be chief leftover frosting eater.


For her birthday next year she is wondering if I couldn't just put her candles into a big bowl of frosting and forget the cake.

*****

Michael got his first big boy haircut. I did give him one home haircut in August, which was so questionable I'm pretty sure we skipped the before and after pictures here at Midwest Mom.


He was uncertain at first but a lollipop helped. (Oh my gosh, there were rivers of watermelon drool running down that cape!)

*****

Aaaaaand we went to see Santa!

Michael sat on his lap for approximately 1.2 seconds. Harper stayed a little longer and actually spoke in multiple complete sentences. I wonder if we have one or two more years before we're finished with the screaming Santa pictures?


Oh, and I think I got a job? Details later this week, or in the new year!

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Videos!

Michael feeds the dog:

video

Kids in pajamas being kids:

video

I also have a six second video of Michael attempting to bounce on an exercise ball and then falling off and smacking his head on the computer desk. It's about three seconds bouncing, one second falling, and then a nice big gasp from me after I hear the sound of his head making contact - er, oops. Don't worry he's fine.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Favorite Photo Series

On our fifth day visiting the Disney parks, the tea cup ride was an early stop. By day five Harper was tired, and there were several near melt-downs that day. After one of them I told her she needed to decide to pull it together or we'd just head back to the condo for the evening to which she replied, "Mom, I think it all started with the tea cups."

The first picture is Harper telling Matt to go as fast as he did the first night... Matt thought she said to spin us as fast as he could and, well, the pictures tell the rest of the story:


Monday, December 14, 2009

Legitimate Reasons

Okay, so, I'm not necessarily feeling all pre-Christmas cranky - not quite. BUT if I were in a bah-humbug sort of mood these would be legitimate reasons:

1) So much unpacking/sorting/putting away to do! The bad thing about going away for nine days in DECEMBER is that you miss out on some of that Christmas prep time. Our shopping is pretty much done, but I haven't had any time to, say, read a book by Christmas tree light. And at this rate I'll maybe get to do that January 5. Note to future self: Disney World is pretty all done-up for the holidays, but maybe don't travel in December again.

2) The week before we left we had a fraud issue with the main credit card we use. The card had to be canceled. This was not a HUGE problem, but was annoying, especially the week before vacation. Fortunately Matt and I both have back up cards - he has a card from our grocery store and I still have the card I got when I was a senior in college. I mostly use it for times when I'm buying Matt a gift and I don't want him to see the charge. However, with our other cards temporarily out of commission, I've used it more in the last two weeks. Today I got a phone call that someone had been using that credit card number! TWO different cards in a matter of two weeks, seriously??? Of course Matt now thinks it's my fault that both numbers were stolen! I think I was a little sassy with the lady who called to report the fraud on my card because I just couldn't believe it was happening. Crazy!

3) I have to make an allergy free cupcake for Harper because one of the parents in her class insists on bringing cupcakes as a birthday treat on Wednesday - not such a big deal, but then I also have to bake cookies for their holiday party on Thursday so she'll have something safe to eat. I don't really mind the baking, but normally I'd do it over a weekend (which I don't have!). Of course Harper wants frosted cookies for the holiday treats, which I normally avoid because they are a giant PIMA. I finally decided to make the reindeer cookies we've done in the past - they are easier than cut-outs. Unfortunately the store did not have cinnamon candies or holiday colored Kissables to use for the noses - the best we could come up with was using red Skittles. I suppose it will be fine, but that's not really a complimentary taste, is it?

4) Michael has developed a troubling sounding grunt/cough that will hopefully get some attention at the doctor tomorrow - I'll have to call in the morning to try to get an appointment. It is exactly how he sounded the entire car-ride up to Wisconsin last December, when we ended up taking him to the ER. At least I can be thankful it's happening now and not next week.

I fully realize that none of these things are even remotely tragic but they are getting in the way of the pre-Christmas high I prefer to maintain this time of year.



I will leave you with one non-crabby thing: Semi-Desperate Housewife won the music giveaway! Hooray! Hopefully we'll get in touch before the end of the week and I can get a fun CD off to her just in time for Christmas.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

We're Home!

Whew! That type of "vacation" always takes a little out of you, you know?

There is so much to say, but right now I'm happy and grateful to be home and reunited with Michael (and Rebound). The trip was wonderful and this photo pretty much sums up how Harper felt about things:



I haven't had computer access (but for a short time last night) in 9 days so you can imagine the state of my email and google reader. I'll slowly catch up this week, while I also finish getting ready for Christmas and prepare for a job interview. Perhaps I should start by going to be early tonight...

Friday, December 04, 2009

Buh-Bye!

Hi! We're leaving for Florida ten minutes ago - I have to load the car, but I'm waiting for something to print! Michael is safely in Wisconsin - here is a picture of him "helping" me pack!

I don't have time to link it right now, but you have time to enter the holiday music giveaway - it's about four posts ago!

Maybe blogging from Florida, maybe not - if not I'll see ya in ten days! Waa-hoo!

Monday, November 30, 2009

So Long NaBloPoMo

Ah November, one of my favorite months of the year - it seems this one has been a little extra crazy and things won't get better before we leave on Friday.

I have over 300 posts sitting in my own Google Reader and whatever I don't catch up on before vacation is going to be disappeared because there will likely be that many more sitting there when we get back! (Note to self: read fewer blogs?)

I have no idea what our internet connectivity will be like on vacation. I don't like to go without but I am really looking forward to some face time with Harper and Matt! Matt and I have been planning some games and things to take with us to use when Harper's in bed. Since we're going in December none of the Disney parks are open very late. Our hope is to get up and go early each morning and then get to bed at a decent hour.

I've been really distracted this month and feel like the blogging has suffered a bit - if December isn't better there's always 2010 to look forward to.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

They're Out

After three more hours at the ER Michael's stitches are out! Wow was that a l-o-n-g afternoon. The doc who'd stitched him up last week asked us to come back to the ER to have them removed, instead of going to our pediatrician. After seeing how difficult they were to get out I guess I understand, but our ER copay is five times that for a doctor visit. Kind of frustrating!

All's well that end's well. Our only instructions were to put plenty of sunscreen on it this summer and to try to keep him from re-injuring the area - well he's a toddler but we'll do our best.

I feel like, despite posting frequently, I've kind of been lazy about the blog this month. This week won't be much better, since we have to finish the preparations for our big trip. Hopefully our day will be a little more calm tomorrow. Good night!

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Big Night Out

Guess what we did tonight? We went to a wedding with no children! There was fancy dinner, and drinks, and many wonderful people. Here we are with two of them, Matt's sister Meaghan and her boyfriend Stephen.


We stressed a little about this wedding because it was an hour away and it was a family wedding so none of our usual family babysitters could watch the kids. We ended up asking a former student of mine to babysit; her family goes to our church so we still know her well despite the fact that I was her teacher nearly ten years ago. It is a little mind-boggling that she is old enough to babysit my children. I am excited to hear all about it from Harper tomorrow. When we got home the kids were sleeping and it looked like dinner had been eaten, so I am calling the night a success!

I'm bushed from the drinks! and dinner and long ride home. Good night!

P.S. Don't forget to enter the music giveaway!

Friday, November 27, 2009

Deck the Halls!

It's the day after Thanksgiving, which means I'm finally free to unleash Christmas in our household! Hooray!

We started small today by bringing up the Christmas books, CDs, and movies. For family night tonight we watched The Polar Express, which I love despite the facts that a) it pales in comparison to the book and b) the animation is slightly creepy. I just love the story and part of it make me cry every. single. time. I totally buy into the whole "Christmas is a magical time" scene and am a sucker for anything that has to do with belief - on many levels.

In celebration of the Christmas media reemerging from the basement, I thought it would be fun to do another Christmas Mix CD Giveaway.

Unfortunately I don't think I can have it done before we leave for Florida (in a week!) but I can do it as soon as we get back. So you'll have until December 13th to enter. Leave a comment on this post to enter. If you're stuck about what to write, tell me about your favorite holiday tradition.

After the winner is chosen via random number generator I'll contact that person to get some idea of his/her musical preferences and we'll be off to the races. Feel free to direct your holiday music loving friends to this giveaway - the more the merrier. If I have over twenty entries (unlikely) I'll select two winners. (Oh and if your comment won't send me back to your own blog, make sure you leave an email address so I can reach you if you win!)

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Not Your Usual Thankful List

Let's just assume that we're all thankful for our friends and families. If you ask Harper, that's what she'll tell you she's thankful for, but she does it in the most cheesy way possible. How is it that she's five and already learned to give pat answers to those kind of questions?

Here are some less conventional things that have made me really happy lately, in no particular order:

1. I survived the Turkey Trot this morning! I feel very proud of myself that I walked the five miles without feeling like I was going to die, never mind that I walked at a snail's pace, it felt like a little accomplishment. And the best part of my (slow) walk was several hours to spend with Cindy, she is at the top of the list of people that I don't connect with very much. It's good to refill the face-time account now and again. I love her and I hope she knows it! (it didn't actually take us several hours to walk five miles - we had to get there early and pick up race packets, etc.)

2. One of the CDs I got for my birthday is Sutton Foster's Wish. It is awesome. I have been intrigued ever since seeing a Today Show segment where she was singing the part of Fiona from the musical version of Shrek. Now I know Broadway style music isn't everyone's cup of tea, but if you like that sort of thing I can't imagine you won't enjoy this recording. Every time I have listened to it this week it has made me so happy. Harper is a fan, but has asked me to stop singing all the time.

3. I don't mean to get all materialistic here, but another birthday gift I am really enjoying is the DS game my brother gave me. Professor Layton and the Curious Village - so much fun, especially since I'm a big puzzle dork.

4. Tonight we had a very small (but delicious) family dinner at Mike and Ann's, then came back to our house to have dessert and play cards. That is my favorite kind of night. I love playing cards and games and the comfort and fun of sitting together around the table and doing something that everyone enjoys.

I hope that happy turkey days were had, far and wide, and that none of you get trampled at four a.m. sales.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

My Kids and Food

I have it pretty easy this Thanksgiving. We're having a small dinner at Mike and Ann's and I'm bringing a broccoli dish (mostly because I don't like the green bean casserole that everyone else will eat!) and crock pot turkey, which I made today. It was heavenly to smell the turkey roasting in the oven and then even better to smell the gravy. Harper, who claims not to like turkey and gravy, certainly enjoyed helping me make it.


She kept taking these deep, satisfied whiffs, then reminding me that even though it smelled good, she still wasn't planning on eating any.


I use my mom's turkey and gravy recipe, which involves cooking a turkey breast and then immediately shredding it and plopping it into the gravy. It's good over rice, potatoes, noodles, or on sandwiches. It is my favorite way to eat turkey -skipping straight to the leftovers. I cannot wait for tomorrow; the turkey will have been sitting in that gravy overnight and will heat up beautifully. There will be a traditionally cooked turkey as well - the best of both worlds.

*****

Tonight Harper is having dinner and a sleepover with Aunt Meaghan at Nana and Dziatku's house. On his way home, Matt stopped to get Chipotle for the rest of us. We've only eaten it once before, almost exactly two weeks ago (they just opened one right down the street), but I swear Michael remembered what the soft taco was because he got all squirmy and squealy when he saw one tonight.


He happily devoured it and probably would have eaten four more.


It's unlikely you've ever seen a child eat the way Michael does. No wonder he weighs nearly thirty pounds!


*****
Tomorrow I'm getting up at o-dark-thirty to head to the Turkey Trot with one of my dearest college friends, Cindy. We don't get to spend much time together so I'm dragging my rump out of bed to go walk five miles with her in the cold and possibly also in the rain. THAT is devotion. I know we aren't running, but I'm still a wee bit concerned about the five miles part, it isn't like hopping out of bed and taking a stroll around the block. Wish me luck!

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

More Video?

Since Michael is currently sporting stitches, here's a game we might not play for a while:


video

And for a random Harper quote, it was really foggy on the way to school this morning and she said, "Well, I guess the clouds are upon us!"

Who talks like that?

Monday, November 23, 2009

Weekend Update

So overall we had a lovely weekend full of friends and family and birthday celebrating. However, am I the only one that finds that sort of thing both wonderful and exhausting?

I was so happy to get home from dinner with Mike and Ann on Sunday. Matt had a meeting, but it wasn't a big deal because I was just going to put the kids to bed, make cookies for Harper's Thanksgiving party at school today, and chat with Matt's Uncle Joe, who wasn't leaving until this morning. When we got home Michael followed me into the bathroom (as per usual, SIGH) and, after pretending to wash and dry his hands, tripped on the way out of the bathroom, glancing his forehead on the drawer pull.

I heard his head hit and he started crying right away and at first I was thinking it was just a run-of-the-mill head bonk - after all, Michael is a toddler, you'd think falling was his job. As soon as I picked him up I saw a big, big bloody area on his forehead. I grabbed some tissues and applied pressure right away. The bleeding was definitely not too bad, but the cut was WIDE OPEN. In fact, I'm pretty sure the first thing out of my mouth was, "I think we're going to need stitches."

I called for reinforcements and pretty soon Mike, Ann, and Matt's sister Meaghan arrived. We decided Ann would come with me to the hospital and the other three adults would stay at our house and attempt to get Harper in bed. While we waited for Matt's family to arrive, I tried to take a couple of before pictures of Michael's head:



Michael was SUCH a trooper at the hospital. He did cry when they initially took his vitals, but the poor kid was already up past his bed time by nearly an hour. We were sent back to a room pretty quickly and Michael was happy as a clam to look at books. Then a volunteer brought him some crayons and paper on a clipboard. I'm not kidding when I say that he colored happily for over half an hour before getting his stitches and another twenty minutes or so while we were waiting to be discharged. He is such a good boy.

The stitching part was as horrible as you might imagine. They strapped him into a "papoose" which he hated, especially since he sucks his thumb for comfort and couldn't get to it. I tried to comfort him, but I doubt he could hear me over his screaming. Once in a while his eyes would lock with mine and he would be momentarily quiet, then get distracted by the doctor stitching his forehead and start screaming all over again. I could see his lips and mouth getting dry, he was screaming so hard. When they were finally finished and we released him, his hair was wet with sweat and tears. Fortunately my lap and a cup of juice calmed him down almost immediately.

Now we just have to keep the area from getting to crusty/dry and take him back next weekend to get the stitches out.

Today he was tired, but didn't show any other signs of being in pain or discomfort of any kind. His head is only a tiny bit swollen and barely bruised. I guess if you have to have a stitch-requiring injury, this one wasn't too bad.



Oh, Harper was complaining of all kinds of aches and pains last night, had a terrible time getting to sleep, and has had a really pesky ongoing cough. So today I took her to the pediatrician and guess what - ear infection! I was shocked when the doctor told me, because I'm almost certain she's never had one before. Hopefully we'll get it cleared up before we leave for Florida in ten days.

On the Disney front, I found a random pile of underpants in Harper's room today. When I asked her about it, it turned out she'd pulled out all her Disney character briefs and set them aside for our trip.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Which Kid?

...tripped and fell in the bathroom this evening, got a small but impressively deep forehead gash, and required a trip to the children's ER and eight (two internal, six external) stitches?

Does it help if I say that crayons and paper with a clipboard kept said child remarkably happy, even three hours past bedtime?

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Big Birthday Surprise

The big surprise went over like a lead balloon - which is what we were sort of afraid might happen. I think Harper was disappointed that there wasn't a toy in the box! Oh well - someday we'll all laugh about it. I think she just didn't grasp what was happening. A few moments into the video I laugh like a crazy person because Matt signed, "Matt," instead of, "Dad," on Harper's card - he was distracted and in a hurry. At the very end of the video Matt is asking Harper if she wants to go to Disney World and she says, "Not yet."



Despite the initial poor reaction to the gift we had a really fun afternoon/evening with family and friends. There were tears when people left (Harper's) which is the sign of a great party.

They cake, by the way, did come out completely lopsided, but, eh, cake is cake and it still tasted delicious!

Friday, November 20, 2009

Can't Post - Cake Crisis

I'm sure I had a plan for what I would write tonight, but instead I've been freaking out in the kitchen trying to frost an angel food cake with a huge hole in one side. The thing is seriously lop-sided. Why oh why do cakes hate me so??? Harper's birthday cake turns into an ordeal every stinkin' year.

I think I should hire a baker and cake decorator and open my own nut-free bakery so I can outsource this job. I don't mind doing it, I even like it, in theory, but man my results are always kind of a mess.

Must go reassemble cake with massive amounts of frosting...

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Defense and Details

Well! First of all, I have to take issue with the comment my DAD left on my previous post.

For the record: I have no trouble whatsoever keeping big secrets, things that people confide in me. I also have no trouble keeping a surprise from the person the surprise is meant for. NO PROBLEM.

I simply get really, really excited about a good surprise, and yes, I like to share. It's one of my more endearing qualities. Ahem.

I wanted to share some of the thought process that went into the planning of this trip.

1) I have felt pretty firmly that, for me, I never want to take a child who needs a stroller or a diaper bag to Disney World. People do it all the time, but it just doesn't look fun to me. We figured at age five Harper would be old enough to really enjoy it (and to deal with waiting in line a bit, and some of the less pleasant aspects) and young enough to find the entire thing incredibly magical.

2) When Matt and I went two Septembers ago, he declared he would never come back during the summer when Florida is too hot and too crowded. We're not delusional, we know we won't be the only people there, but going during an off-peak time was key for us.

3) Harper is young enough that I don't feel too badly about pulling her out of school for vacation. Normally I am totally against that, but we aren't going to do this every year and missing a week of preschool is not the same as missing a week of grade school.

4) We have access to a nice, but very inexpensive, place to stay for the week. Because of Harper's peanut allergy we feel it is essential for us to have a kitchen to cook in when we're away from home for so long. We can't assume we'll be able to find safe places to eat (although Disney has a reputation for being excellent about food allergies), especially outside the parks. I feel a little guilty about taking what is a pretty extravagant vacation when economic times are so difficult. Our hotel/condo situation makes me feel a little less guilty. And we'll eat at least one meal a day from our kitchen, further reducing the costs.

5) We are DRIVING - I'm too nervous to fly with Harper - and I think Harper is old enough to deal w/ being in the car that long. (About 13 hours, we think, but we plan to break it up.)

6) Another good thing about Harper's current age for Disney-going is that she really doesn't need a nap. No daylight hours wasted!

7) Michael is going to spend 95% of the time we're gone at my parents' house in Wisconsin. They are SO EXCITED to get to spend the time with him and I don't think he'll miss us much. He is still young enough that he's pretty content as long as someone is feeding him.

8) We're going to be gone from a Friday to the following Sunday, so we'll be missing Michael like crazy, but not enough to wish we were dragging him around Disney.

9) We do plan on doing the same thing for Michael when he turns five. And we'll probably go during an off-peak time again, and we'll probably leave Harper back in school She'll be old enough to remember that she did the same thing. This, of course, is subject to change.

10) One more reason this comes at a good time - we feel like Harper's been kind of struggling lately with all the attention Michael gets and feeling a little left out. Part of me says, "Well, that's life." But I'm really pleased to be able to offer her this special time with us that is just going to be about what she wants to do.

I have no idea how she'll react to the surprise on Saturday - Matt and I both think that the reality of what she's going to get to do won't really sink in right away. It'll be interesting.

If anyone has been to Disney lately, or been there with a five-year-old, we're open to any suggestions you'd like to share!

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Surprise!

We ARE taking Harper to Disney World! And we're doing it in about two weeks! And I'm practically going crazy with excitement!

When she opens her gift from Matt and I on Saturday (during our family party) she'll find this:



You should be able to click to enlarge it, but if not, it says, "This certificate is good for one trip to Disney World with Mom and Dad." It also says, "Mickey Mouse is so excited to meet you!"


The box also contains a paper chain of how many days until we go, a Disney autograph book, and a Minnie Mouse Ears headband.

We've been mentally planning this since Matt and I went just over two years ago - all we could talk about most of the time was how much Harper was going to love the place. We made our hotel reservation about a year ago. And now the trip is almost here!

Nice birthday gift, huh?

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Five!

Dear Harper,

Today you turn five years old. Five! Which is baffling, because I'm pretty sure it was just yesterday that I was looking at you, swaddled in your crib, wondering just what I was going to do with you all winter.

You are a big girl today, in so many ways. I marvel at all you have learned this year, making huge strides in everything from gymnastics to coloring, from swimming to reading. You write by yourself, you read and spell simple words, you swim underwater, you memorize show tunes! You are so capable it is almost heartbreaking because I can see all the ways that you are learning to do for yourself the very things that you used to count on me to do for you. It is bittersweet indeed.

Pretty much from birth, you've had a mind of your own. Yet over the last year your independence has become a thing both awful and wonderful to behold. It can be so frustrating, your absolute belief that the world and all the people in it should bend to your will. One of my biggest challenges as a parent is to allow your free spirit to flourish at the same time as I try to help you, at times more gently than others, understand that your wants and whims aren't actually the most important in the world. For the rest of your life you will be part of our family, part of a classroom or workplace, part of a community, and, much to your dismay, you won't always be the one in charge.

It's a good thing that homeschooling isn't part of our long term plan because whenever I try to correct or help you with something these days, you respond by telling me that you're just doing it your own way. If I try to clarify song lyrics, for example, you'll say, "Well, that's not how I sing it!"

You are acting like such a grown up girl now. At school there is a little boy, T, who sometimes has trouble walking in line or sitting in circle but he will do it if you hold his hand. Your teacher is a little worried that you are going to feel like taking care of T is your job, she doesn't want you to feel burdened by a responsibility that isn't yours. But when I talk with you about it, I can tell how much you like to help T, you are proud that he will stand and sit with you. You are a nurturer, Harper, it is the soft and pleasant side of your take-charge personality. I am happy that you are in this world to help take care of the lives you touch.

One of the new experiences you've had this year is seeing plays and musicals. We've taken you to some local children's theater and you just love it. I adore musicals and I'm so happy that we will be able to share them as you grow. Right now your favorite part is meeting the actors and getting autographs after the show. You are so proud to come home with your playbill all signed. Daddy and I suspect that you'll want to be the one in the play, sooner than later, and I know you'll also be thrilled to greet your audience after your performances, signing your name like a pro.

Your amazing imagination remains one of your most delightful qualities. You continue to create intricate worlds and games with your toys, as well as with pieces of string and rocks and leaves and pretty much anything else you can get your hands on. Right now Michael drives you crazy by moving your stuff and disrupting your play, but soon enough he will be a happy co-conspirator in your games, and so lucky to have a mater storyteller like you running the show.

We have high expectations for you Harper, sometimes unreasonably high, and one of my biggest worries as a parent is that you will look back at your childhood and only remember the bickering and the nagging and feel, somehow, not good enough - when nothing, nothing, could be further from the truth. You are creative and caring and smart and funny and beautiful my girl. You are a truly amazing creature and I don't know how I got so lucky as to be the one who gets to witness your growing and learning. I am humbled by the chance to help you become the person you are meant to be.

I know that I get it wrong a lot of the time, in big ways and small ones, that there is an awful lot of learning as I go, but I also know how fiercely I love you. And I think you know it, too.

There are big things in store for you this year Harper, and I'm so very happy to be the one who gets to share them with you. I love you.

Love,
Mom

Monday, November 16, 2009

Michael is Still Here!

I feel like my writing has been, with fair reason, a little Harper-centric lately, so I thought I would share a quick story about Michael.


(That's how Michael looked while Harper's party was going on around him.)

Have I ever mentioned how much Michael loves a bath? We have to spell it - because if you say bath he's down the hall and climbing into the tub before we can blink. Which is funny, because he used to HATE it. One of these days I'll upload the video we took of him trundling down the hall and climbing into a running bath with all his clothes on - eh, it's just water!

Sunday, November 15, 2009

They Say It's My Birthday

We're not really celebrating with presents (Yipee!) until next Friday, but here are my birthday highlights for this year:

1. The Packers won! Their season cannot be written off. And it was over the Cowboys - always a bonus.

2. I had a two hour birthday nap after church. Can I get an Amen?

3. We had a lovely and allergy incident free visit to Cincinnati. Matt's grandmother also has a birthday today and we went down to celebrate. Michael had fun mooching cheese puffs from Nana and Aunt Patty and Harper was in Polly Pocket heaven. Matt's aunt and uncle, Kathy and Dave, hosted a really nice dinner. I'm so fortunate that our families are so accommodating with Harper's allergy.

4. Matt and I went out last night to dinner and a movie. The dinner was delicious (at a place we'd tried before but not liked our meals much the first time, I'm glad we gave it a second chance). Then we saw Where the Wild Things Are which was a huge gift from Matt to me because I know that movie was not on the top of his list. I really, really enjoyed it, but wow, that is not a movie I would take Harper to... There were a couple of scenes that were dark, loud, and intense in a way I know she would have found scary, and the rest of it was sort of deliberate and melancholy in a way I think would have completely bored her. I would give it a try with her on DVD but we've decided it is a definite no go for her in the theater. I thought it was visually amazing and I LOVED the music, so even if the plot wasn't earth-shattering it worked for me.

5. I'm really excited about next weekend when lots of family will be here and we'll celebrate Harper (and me, but mostly Harper), and we'll be able to give her the birthday surprise we've been planning for, oh, about two years now. That's a clue! It's so nice when your birthday is over, but it isn't really over yet. :-) That happens to us at Christmas, too, we celebrate it here and then celebrate again up in Wisconsin... not a bad deal!

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Lessons Learned

First of all, we WERE able to have Harper's party last night. I did have a fever Thursday night, but I did not medicate it because I wanted to know for sure if it had gone away. I woke up Friday morning feeling fine so we went forward as planned. (And fortunately the fever did not come back Friday night!)

If you'd asked me two months ago whether we'd be having a "friend" party for Harper this year I would have said no. Here's why:

1. We have a family party every year that involves both sets of grandparents, several aunts and uncles, and a couple of adult family friends. Even without extra children there are plenty of people and plenty of presents.

2. Do four-turning-five-year-olds really need a social birthday party?

3. I have gift anxiety about children's parties. Whether it's awful of me or not, there are certain toys I just don't want Harper playing with. I also think lots of families tend to buy things that children are truly too young for. I worry about her receiving gifts I'm uncomfortable with her having. I know I could take them away, but it's not like I can honestly expect her NOT to mention something like that at school.

4. Parties are often out of control expensive, and we aren't going there.

BUT THEN

Harper was asking for a friend party. And I was feeling a little guilty about the parties that she's been invited to that we've never reciprocated. And I had what I thought was a simple and fun idea for a party. And I figured we'd limit it to just a few friends, no problem.

I thought it would be fun to have a pajama party, on a weekend evening, and do some things you might do at a sleepover, but not actually have the children sleepover (um, obviously!). AND since Harper is pretty jazzed about Tinkerbell these days I thought we'd have a Tinkerbell pajama party. How fun is that?

We were going to invite her best girl friend from school last year, a neighborhood friend that Harper's known since babyhood, and the two girls in her current class that she's closest to; that would have been four friends, a good number. Then, as I thought about it, I decided I shouldn't count out the one little boy who is pretty good friends with Harper, a friend she's also know since babyhood, just because it was a Tinkerbell party. I decided he should be invited and I talked to his parents about whether they minded that it would be all girls (they did not). AND THEN I decided (after consulting w/ the preschool teacher) that it might be kind of cruel to invite two of Harper's female classmates and not the other two - it isn't like she's in a class of a dozen girls. So then we had SEVEN children invited to the party.

My original plan was to have the children come over, play a Tinkerbell bingo game, do a small treat and gifts, and watch the new Tinkerbell movie and have popcorn. We'd put out cushions and beanbags and let the kids sprawl on the living room floor to watch the movie, just like a slumber party!

(Are you laughing yet?)

Fortunately Matt and I had been discussing things a couple of weeks ago and thought of some other game ideas for the party - we didn't end up using the bingo game at all.

Here are the things I didn't especially consider in my party-planning:

1. The children in Harper's class range in age from three to five. I sort of forgot that some of the party guests were potentially MUCH younger than Harper.

2. Not all the children might have Harper's number recognition skills - rendering even a simple number bingo game not a good idea.

3. Not all the children might be as inclined as Harper (who the TV has successfully zombified on command since about 18 months) to sit quietly and watch a movie.

4. Two-and-a-half hours is a really long time for a preschool birthday party. (You: DUH!)


SO we played games. We started with "Fairy, Fairy, Tinkerbell" (like Duck, Duck, Goose), which was a big hit. Then we played "Pin the Fairy on the Flower" with little Tinkerbell cutouts - this was also fun and hilarious for the observing adults when one child repeatedly tried to stick her Tinkerbell (they had double-sided tape on them) to the doorknob. The games were a success.


Then we we had birthday Rice Krispie treats (because I'm not a baker and didn't want to do cake two weekends in a row). Harper blew out her candles and then I discovered that two or three of the children (read: nearly half) don't like Rice Krispie treats (huh?). So we offered pretzels as an alternative and then everyone had a few pretzels and some also had a Rice Krispie treat.

Then Harper opened gifts. All the children were surprisingly attentive during this portion of events. She LOVED her gifts* and didn't receive anything inappropriate (score one for the other parents).


(Somewhere in this first part of the festivities we also had a mass bathroom break.)

THEN we got out the beanbags and turned on the movie. Here is where things started to unravel. Can you imagine what six preschoolers (two little girls couldn't come, in case you were counting) did with two huge beanbags in the middle of our living room floor?

They watched (or rather rolled around on the floor/danced/played with Michael's baby toys) the movie for about ten minutes and I decided the popcorn might help everyone sit still and watch. Which it did, for about ten more minutes, and then they were asking for more juice (because the popcorn made them thirsty) but I had only planned one juice box per child. In hindsight, providing identical plastic cups of water was probably not the best idea because then we spent the next several minutes trying to make sure none of the germ-ridden children drank out of another's cup.

When one of the little girls started wandering around I quietly asked her if she needed anything and she replied, "I need some toys." So I showed her where some of Michael's toys were and before I knew it three or four children were playing with his Fisher Price farm.

I had allotted slightly more than an hour for the children to quietly watch the movie so there was still a lot of party left when I (finally, oh my gosh I'm sure the other mother who was there was DYING) realized that we needed to do something different. I called Harper over and asked if she wanted to take her friends down to the basement rec room to play. She thought that was a great idea and we took them downstairs for a forty minute free for all.

There were tears (Harper's) when some children went into Harper's tent, which had apparently been specially set up for her dog and horse. Then more tears (again, Harper's) when a dress up knight's helmet was broken. I told her we'd fix it tomorrow and asked why she was so upset and she responded, "I'm just tired!"

So, yeah, the party was too late for non-movie watching preschoolers. The other parents must have thought I was insane!

With about ten minutes left we headed back upstairs and I read a couple of stories as the children's parents arrived to pick them up.

Despite the craziness I think the children all had fun. Today Harper said repeatedly today that her party was great. I suppose all's well that ends well.


Incidentally, I win the prize for the longest party-wrap-up post EVER. Sheesh!

P.S. Harper's HUGE SURPRISE wont' be revealed to her until her family party next Saturday, but I might tell you guys before that...

*During the first few minutes of the movie watching Harper just sat and STARED at her pile of gifts - so funny!

Friday, November 13, 2009

Did We?


We did!

I know that's a terrible picture, but I figured I probably can't show you any of the in-focus shots that feature children who aren't mine.

I'm exhausted - meet me back here for details tomorrow?

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Uh Oh...

Er, I'm not really feeling well. In fact I'm feeling like I might be growing feverish (you know how you can sometimes feel it coming?). I am going to bed early in hopes I wake up and feel wonderful and lovely in the morning. Because if not...

PANICPANICPANICPANICPANCIPANICPANIC

What do I do about Harper's birthday party tomorrow night????? I guess cancel it, but oh the horror, she will be devastated. Do I reschedule? Do we just apologize and give the goody bags to her friends anyway?

Let's all hope that I am fretting over nothing, 'mkay?

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Confessions

1. I adore Taylor Swift, I can't help myself. Apparently I'm a fifteen year old girl.

2. I'm currently reading a book about the women who wrote Nancy Drew. And I'm really, really enjoying it.

3. I'm addicted to America's Next Top Model. I think that show is fascinating.

4. America's Next Top Model is probably not the most embarrassing thing I watch on television. I'm not telling you what is.

5. Despite the America's Next Top Model thing, my favorite radio station is NPR.

6. I'm probably never going to catch up on my email.

7. I have fleeting moments of confidence as a parent but I mostly feel like I'm winging it and barely hanging on to my sanity. I often worry that I'm doing a terrible job.

8. I own three seasons of Fraggle Rock on DVD, and I asked for the fourth season for my birthday/Christmas. I am a child of the 80's.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Good Things, Bad Things

Bad thing:
Harper woke up a little after 5 a.m. with a headache and a fever. She got some Motrin and went back to sleep for a bit. She wasn't feeling well this morning, but perked up by the evening/afternoon. I think it was just a mild reaction to all the shots and not the beginning of another illness. We'll see what tomorrow brings.

Bad thing:
I'm totally not prepared for the birthday party we're having this weekend. Harper's first "friend " party. What was I thinking??? Are stickers, a mini playdough container, a plastic ring, a glitter pen, and pouch of Tinkerbell fruit snacks sufficient for a goody bag?

Bad thing:
The portrait studio we use normally has their holiday cards discounted 50% in November; this year it's only 20%. Boo!

Good thing:
I managed to snap a couple of cute holiday shots of the kids tonight and ordered our holiday cards on Shutterfly for about 1/2 the cost of the portrait studio. They aren't professional, but I think they came out well.

Good thing:
Matt is off work because of the holiday tomorrow, so I have a mommy coffee date schedule while Harper is at school.

Good thing:
We have a HUGE surprise planned for Harper's birthday present this year. HUGE! And I'm practically bursting with the excitement. Since it isn't a surprise for you guys I think I might be able to share it here before Harper knows about it. Maybe. It probably won't be as exciting for you as it is for me, but still, any guesses?

Rebound's Bad thing:


(He doesn't like the Santa hat!)

Monday, November 09, 2009

Ouch!

Today was a rough day for Harper.

She has the first dose of H1N1 at school. I went in to help with the preschoolers. I ended up taking six children from her class down to the gym to get their vaccinations.

Her teachers gave the children who were to be vaccinated name tags and permission forms, then they lined up and followed me down to the gym. When we got there we had to wait a minute, and Harper looked up at me, obviously pleased that I was helping her friends, and asked, "What are we doing here?"

Imagine her batting those big eyes at me. Oops! I thought she knew about the vaccination but she'd obviously forgotten. I told her we were there for a vaccine. She asked me to clarify and I said, "Well, some of our friends are going to get a squirt up their noses and some friends will get a shot."

Actually only Harper was getting a shot (asthma means no nasal spray vaccine) but I didn't want to emphasize that. I guess I should have been more specific because one of the little boys burst into tears and howled, "I don't want to get a shot!" Um, oops. I quickly calmed him down and all was well.

I think Harper was so stunned by the news that she barely had time to process it - before she knew it she was on my lap getting her injection and it was over. She whimpered, but didn't cry - hooray!

Unfortunately we had her five -year well check at the pediatrician this afternoon and she needed four shots there.

I'm a little miffed because the doctor told her she could choose whether to get the shots in her arm or leg - Harper chose two in the arm and two in the leg - but then the nurse said they all had to be in her legs. I think giving her that illusion of control and then taking it away sort of undid her - especially after we had to wait twenty minutes for the nurse to come back with the shots. I basically had to pin her down and I guess the last shot (the MMR) really hurt and she screamed loud enough for the entire office to hear.

Five shots before lunch - that's a rough morning. Nana and Dziatku took her out to McDonald's for a Happy Meal afterward, which helped her feel significantly better.

****
In other news, OMG Michael is twenty months old today! I cannot believe he is so close to turning two. Where has my baby gone?

Sunday, November 08, 2009

So Long Spotty

Harper spent half the afternoon in the garage playing with Spotty. We found out over dinner conversation that she let Spotty try out her bike, but apparently he didn't stay on the pedals very well, just kept flipping off. If there is such a thing as frog therapy someone better find out whether Spotty's insurance covers it. Poor frog!

Harper kept referring to the frog as, "Froggy," even though she named him, "Spotty." She informed us that Froggy was the special name only she could call him.

She put off the release as long as possible, insisting she be all ready for bed before setting him free. Harper (in her pajamas), Matt and I went out to the front yard to place Spotty's bucket on its side. We'd already made a deal with Harper that if Spotty was still there in the morning, she could keep him for a couple more days. She picked him up one last time, told him she loved him, and (shudder) gave him a kiss on the head. As soon as she set him back down he started to hop out of the bucket.

Harper cried over Spotty as she fell asleep tonight. If only this would be the worst heartbreak life has to offer her...

Saturday, November 07, 2009

A Prince Perhaps?

I went out to run a few errands this morning and when I returned, Harper had a surprise for me - a frog!

Matt found it when he was cleaning out the basement window wells. He reported that at first he thought it was a snake and jumped out of the well. I'm a little sorry I wasn't here to witness that.

He got the frog from the window well and Harper named it Spotty. She's been keeping Spotty in a bucket on our front porch with leaves and dirt. We did tell her she's going to have to set Spotty free tomorrow - I'm not sure that's going to go over well. We had to go out to the porch with a flashlight three times between dinner and bedtime to be sure Spotty was okay, and also to give him some water.


You guys, I put the water in a Tupperware lid and then couldn't bring myself to put my hand into that bucket. I was afraid (yes, afraid of the frog my four-year-old had been handling all afternoon) that Spotty would jump at me if I stuck my hand in there with him. So, naturally, I made Harper do it under the guise of making her take care of her frog. Ahem.

(When I taught first grade I used to "let" the kids scoop bugs into a cup and release them on the playground when we found them in the classroom.)

Harper, who freaks out about gnats, wondered why we couldn't just read a book about how to take care of frogs and keep him.

Friday, November 06, 2009

Flashback Friday

Whew! I seem to enjoy cutting the daily deadline a little close.

My original idea was to have Friday be a flashback day and share an old photo with you, along with the story behind it. However, our scanner isn't cooperating right now so the furthest back I could take you would be the month before Harper was born - not exactly the type of flashback I was imagining...

Instead I thought I'd offer you a real treat and share the poem of mine that was published in Teen Magazine in 1992. I would like to remind you that

a) I had been trying to write a poem that I thought they would publish, hence the cheese

b) I understand that this isn't what one would call a good poem

c) In 1992 we thought bathing suits should have leg openings cut approximately as high as one's armpits.

And now, my poem:

"The One"

We sit on the beach so close in the sand,
we're watching the waves
and you reach for my hand.
You turn to me and look in my eyes,
the kiss you give is no surprise.
As we sit watching the setting sun,
I'm wondering if you are the one.
The waves lick the shore
brought on by the tide,
we laugh and joke as they chase us inside.

We enjoy the warmth of a newly built fire,
we sit in the glow as the tide becomes higher.
We remember our day, recall the fun,
and the whole time I'm wondering
if you are the one.


Wow, was I good or what? (I laughed so hard as I typed that I'm practically crying.)

Thursday, November 05, 2009

Squirrel? (Now with NEWS)

Have you seen the movie Up? I was just thinking how I was especially distracted tonight and the dogs from that movie popped into my head - how they would be going along and suddenly just turn their heads and say,"Squirrel?"

I am distracted because, as I type, one of my best and oldest friends in the whole wide world is having a baby!!! Erin, from MO Mommy, went to the hospital this afternoon to have her baby girl. And mentally I'm whipping my head around every few minutes internally yelling, "Baby?"

Technology is great, because I think I'll know about the birth pretty shortly when the new little one makes her arrival - but it is also sort of agonizing because I'm dying for my phone to ring with news. AND as much as our blogs and email and phone conversations make me feel very close to Erin in a general sense, I feel very, very, very far away right now.

Baby?!

Edited to add:

She's here!!!! She's here!!!! Erin and Brett are now proud parents to two wonderful boys and a brand new baby girl!!! They are good good good and Erin will share all the details as soon as she's reconnected. Hooray!!!

Wednesday, November 04, 2009

Gratitude

I need to start posting earlier in the day or all of these blog posts are going to be short and pathetic.

Boring as it may be I just wanted to say tonight that I am thankful for Matt.

I'm not feeling well and I have been an especially horrible cook/laundress/housekeeper lately and he has been very, very patient.

This is also a good time to point out that 95% of the time he gets Harper out of bed and gets her breakfast going in the morning so I can sleep for at least an extra half hour, and let me tell you, every minute counts.

Love you Matt!

Tuesday, November 03, 2009

It's so Easy to Forget

Harper is a bright child, and she is FULL of attitude. I think she quite often acts/speaks/thinks older than her actual age. When she's acting out or not living up to my (admittedly sometimes too lofty) expectations, I frequently have to stop and remind myself that she is only four years old. And yes, she'll be five in a couple of weeks, but still, FOUR. I need to stop being surprised/appalled when she acts like a child because, Oh look! She is one.


(Looking "sad" in this picture because she was pretending those trees were her jail.)

I had plans to roast pumpkin seeds this afternoon. It makes the first year I've actually followed through on this plan. Last year or the year before we separated and rinsed the seeds and then I left them damp in a container on the counter top until they got moldy. Classy!

Anyway I let Harper help me mix the oil and salt into this year's bowl of non-moldy seeds and then she asked, "Can I push the lever?"

I looked over at the oven and could not for the life of me figure out what she was talking about. So I asked, "What lever honey?"

"This one!" she exclaimed, gesturing wildly to the lever on the toaster.

She thought that we were going to toast the pumpkin seeds!

See? Only four.

Monday, November 02, 2009

Day Two

So I'm in a slightly better mood today, but I couldn't tell you why. Michael now has Harper's cold and can't sleep well - I'm so grateful we've not had ongoing sleep issues with our kids. One night of bad sleep and I feel like I'm about to go off the deep end. I cannot deal. One of the most excruciating things about Michael's early babyhood was that we had to wake up to feed him in three hour intervals, even if he didn't wake on his own. It is not right to set your alarm for 2:30 a.m. unless you are being paid in the six figures to host a national morning show.

The only thing that is even remotely good about a sick toddler is that they are almost forced to cuddle. Michael is by far my more cuddly child, but doesn't have much patience for it since he found his feet. This afternoon I couldn't do a darn thing because Michael would only settle down when held tightly in my lap. Before too long he won't fit on my lap.

I want Michael to feel better (he'll probably wake up screaming as soon as I try to go to bed) but I'll happily take advantage of any chance to hold him on my lap and smell his hair before he is a head taller than me.