Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Harper Was There, Too

I wasn't the only one who enjoyed the day at the arboretum. Harper had a pretty good time herself. She liked seeing the flowers, turtles, and coy fish in the ponds. She liked walking up and down on the bridges and high-stepping in the grass. But what did Harper enjoy most about our day there? The gravel. She was especially perplexed by the paved paths. She could see the little tiny stones, but, darn it, couldn't pick them up.

She sure tried!

Eventually we found one large rock that Harper could carry around. When I was ready to move faster, I plopped her back in the stroller and she banged away on the tray, happy as could be. As long I let her hold the rock, she even deigned to sit still and be photographed amid the spring splendor.

Awwwww. . .

So, if you're keeping track, Harper likes animals and slides. But she loves dirt, mulch, wood chips, and rocks of all sizes. Maybe I'm raising a landscape architect? Geologist? Sculptor of natural materials? Stay tuned.

Cox Arboretum

I think I've mentioned before how we live in an area with a wonderful park system. One of my favorite local (free!) places is Cox Arboretum. It is doesn't have a playground, but it is a terrific place to be on a beautiful day. There's no charge for admission or parking, even field trips there are free. It is truly a local treasure. Monday was glorious day and we hit the arboretum right after storytime at the library. I was glad we were able to make it, I don't think the beautiful tulips there are long for this world. Turtles sunning themselves, gorgeous flowers, what more could a person ask for?

Spring Flinging

Last weekend we stopped by the Spring Fling at Auntie M's school. It was a chance to get out and be among the people, and. . . there was a pony!!! The pony ride was four tickets, and you could buy five tickets for a dollar. Now what kind of mother would I be if I denied my child an $.80 pony ride?

So we headed on down to the school, bought our tickets, and went out to the playground to see the ponies. Harper was all excited to see the ponies. Harper practically convulsed with joy when she got to pet the ponies. But when I put Harper on the pony. . . Was she able, I think she just might have crawled right back into the womb. She did not want to be stranded atop that beast of burden, no sir! All the farther we got with the pony was Harper sitting on it and clinging to me for dear life. Oh well. I didn't want to giver her a horse phobia, on top of the guitar phobia we recently conquered.

The pony man was kind enough to take our picture, and didn't even accept the tickets, since Harper didn't actually ride the pony. At least I have photo proof that I let her sit on the pony. Then, when she comes to me in a few years and tells me she will die if she can't have a pony, I will simply remind her that I offered to let her ride a pony once and she didn't like it.

I used the tickets we hadn't spent on the pony ride to have a clown make Harper a balloon shaped like a dog. She dismantled it on the way to the car. The last I saw of it, it was just a long balloon with eyes.

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Easter, Part 3

. . . In which everyone hunts for eggs in the soggy yard.

Our final stop on Easter was at my dad's parents' house. This is the highlight of the Easter festivities because of the grand scale Easter Egg Hunt. The picture below shows nearly all of my grandparents' grandchildren and great grandchildren. My two cousins from Kansas City were the only ones absent. This picture does not include the spouses or significant others. Every year we all gather in that space between my grandparents' house and garage and wait, with plastic shopping bags in hand, for the taking of the pictures. At long last, someone will say, "Go!" and the masses descend upon the backyard in a mad hunt for eggs.

To make sure all's fair in love and egg hunting, the eggs are labeled with each person's name. The difficulty level of the hiding places is determined by the finder's age. After years and years of egg hunting, we pretty much know where to look. Finding eggs isn't too difficult, but finding all of your own eggs can be a challenge. Since I'm married and have a child, I don't get my own eggs any more, but Harper had three to find this year.

Just like Easter morning, Harper had lots of people shouting and pointing, which made her eggs easy for her to find. After giving each egg a good shake, she'd march right over and put them in the bag I was holding for her.

Being the determined little one that she is, Harper didn't really accept the fact that she'd found all her eggs. She wanted to keep looking. I worried she wouldn't quite comprehend the part about the eggs having names on them, and want to collect eggs that didn't belong to her. So I did what any thinking mother would do. I pulled one of her plastic eggs out of the grocery bag, threw it toward the middle of the yard and yelled, "Look, Harper! There's another egg for you." And she would dutifully trot after it, pick it up, and bring it to me to bag, each time with as much enthusiasm as when she found the first egg. After a minute I realized that I was actually playing fetch with my daughter!

Once all the eggs have been found, including Harper's three which had each been found about eighteen times, we head back inside the house for the next part of the egg hunting process. Immediately upon reentering the house, each child finds the Ziploc bag with his or her name on it, empties the contents of his or her plastic eggs into the bag, and promptly returns the empty eggs to the bag Grandpa has on the kitchen table. The eggs will be carefully stored until next Easter. Lord help you if you don't return your plastic eggs, you will be hunted down and, frankly, I don't want to know what would happen next.

I would like to add this family trivia fact: In modern times, we hunt for colorful plastic eggs, the kind you can buy 5 for $1 at the grocery or drug store. When I was a child, the eggs we hunted were the type that pantyhose came in. Which is why it was originally a big deal to return the eggs, because they stopped putting pantyhose in plastic eggs and started putting them in cardboard containers shaped like eggs. While fine for packaging pantyhose, they made lousy containers to hid candy and loose change in.

Loose change? You ask. Yes, loose change. Every year, when each grandchild or great grandchild takes inventory of his or her egg contents, he or she finds assorted candy treats and $1.25 in small change. Making sure each person has his/her $1.25, split among the eggs he/she has to find, is a job my grandmother takes very seriously. I have a sneaking suspicion that Easter preparations begin around February 15 in my grandparents' house! I would like to point out that they have accounted for inflation over the years. I can remember when the loose change only added up to $.85.

On top of all the Easter excitement, Harper provided a little extra entertainment. On the suggestion of one of his sisters, my father bought Harper some "squeaky shoes" on a business trip to China. He gave them to us a while ago, but they were too big and Harper wasn't walking yet. Now they fit her just fine. They are literally shoes will little squeakers in the heels, like you'd hear in a dog's chew toy. They "eek" with each step Harper takes. This makes her either cuter or more annoying, depending on your perspective. Shoes like this would be a preschool teacher's nightmare.

Harper was a social butterfly all day long, enjoying the company of all my cousins. And when we finally settled into the car for the ride home, she passed the time by playing with the hole in her tights. Whatever makes you happy. . .

Monday, April 24, 2006

Easter, Part 2

. . . In which we all meet the new baby, Aiden, and no one hunts for anything.

Well there were no hidden baskets, or eggs, to my knowledge, at Harper's Great Grandma Siehoff's house. But there was no shortage of fun. My youngest cousin on that side of the family is nearly 8-years-old, so it's been a while since there's been a toddler in the mix. It brought back lots of memories to hear shouts of, "Make sure to close the basement door!" This used to be the chorus at holiday times, lest a toddler tumble down the stairs. The difference this time is that I was the one shouting it.

After the monumental meltdowns Harper had in the midst of my family at Christmas, she surprised us this time around. She was fairly social and didn't cling to me at all. There was even one point when I couldn't find her for a few minutes. It turned out she was upstairs playing games with Auntie Shannon. As you can see, this suited them both just fine:

It looks like they're actually playing the game, doesn't it? Sorry folks, we think Harper's bright, but she's not there yet.

Easter also turned into a baby shower for my cousin Christopher's wife, Beth. When their son Aiden was born nearly two months early, it sort of derailed baby shower plans. I'm happy to report all are happy and healthy. Since we were all at my grandmother's house anyway, we just doubled up. Harper had a little trouble understanding why those gifts weren't exactly for her. I was impressed that she didn't tear any open. My dad distracted her with M&Ms, which helped a little!

(This is a good point to take a break and thank Nana for the beautiful Easter dress!)

The highlight of Easter at Grandma's was meeting Aiden for the first time. He was a real sweetie and even let Harper hold him on her lap. Don't be fooled, we were excited to get the photo, but it was a swift operation. I got the camera ready, we positioned Harper on the couch, someone (Beth?) placed Aiden in Harper's lap as I took the photo, and he was quickly removed, before anyone got hurt! You can see a hand hovering at the edge of the couch, ready just in case Harper had some kind of averse reaction to baby-holding.

I love that it looks like Harper has no idea what she should be doing with her hands. Harper was not so sure what she should think of this baby actually being place on her lap. A definite sign that we aren't ready for any more babies in this house just yet!

Easter, Part 1

. . .In which everyone hunts for hidden treasure.

I will now present our Easter Sunday in three parts. These parts have nothing to do with Holy Days, just the fact that we ended up celebrating in three separate locations in one day.

The day began at my parents' condo in Wisconsin. Matt and I got up early to go to church. The rest of the fam had gone the night before, but the Easter Vigil Mass was too late to take Harper to. Anyway, we walked in to see Harper in her booster seat eating a frosted Easter cookie! My mom said, "It's only the third one she's had," which, fortunately, wasn't true. Grandma only gave her the cookie after she ate cereal, yogurt, and a banana (can you say bottomless pit?). It would not be the last sweet food of the day.

Once Harper finished eating, we made her hunt for her Easter basket, which the bunny hid beneath the coffee table. To make it a little difficult, the case for her pack-n-play was covering it a little. We didn't let her struggle much, there were six adults in the room shouting encouragement and flat out telling her where to look. Since the Easter Bunny knew she wouldn't eat a bunch of candy, she got a Baby Einstein DVD, a set of Kevin Henkes books featuring various sweet treats, and three plastic bunnies with Gerber fruit snacks inside them.

As soon as Harper finished opening her goodies, we whisked her off for a nap, in hopes of insuring a little happiness during the rest of the crazy day.

Then the real fun began. My mom and dad filled little plastic eggs with money, but our initials on them, and hid them. So, even though we ranged in age from 20 to 29, we got to have our own Easter egg hunt. It was hilarious. My parents thoroughly enjoyed embarrassing us and laughed heartily while our frustration grew. Shannon found all her eggs first and therefore received the bonus egg, which nearly doubled her monetary treasure. It was good for her, since she's still trying to pay off medical bills from tearing her achilles.

After we all finished our hunting and napping activities, we dressed in our Easter finest and got ready to head to Burlington, to visit all the aunts, uncles, cousins, and great grandparents!

Doesn't Harper look lovely in her Easter dress, sweater, tights, and dress shoes? It is about a 45 minute car ride to my grandmother's house, where we were having lunch. Guess what Harper did on the way there. . . picked and pulled at her tights until she had a great big hole in them! So much for all that primping. At least the longer dress covered it most of the day.

Why Dads Don't Do Hair

Okay, okay, before I get a bunch of comments from my readers (all four of you!) who find this statement offensive, I'd just like to show you what happens when I leave Matt alone with Harper's hair. Some of these pictures are a little hard to see because of the background, but the mohawk is there, in every one of them!

These are moments we can be grateful that Harper doesn't have more hair. A friend recently told me that kids either do hair or teeth at this age. I don't know if I buy that, but Harper's almost finished with all the teeth we'd expect her to have now. Pigtails here we come!

Matt is in charge of Harper's baths. Her ultra dry/sensitive skin dictates that we usually only bathe her twice a week. Although I think that is going to change as we spend more time outside this summer. We may be at nightly baths before we know it.

Sunday, April 23, 2006

If I Could Talk With the Animals. . .

I always loved the zoo as a kid. I even love it as an adult. I loved taking my first-graders there when I taught. Now I can enjoy it all over again with Harper. My mom and I first took Harper to the zoo when we were visiting in Wisconsin last August. Harper was too little to notice a lot of it, but I think she just enjoyed the fresh air.

Since then, Harper has grown into quite the animal lover, marveling over everything from our dog to the birds in the yard. Lately, when she's excited about something, she lets out an enthusiastic, "Wow!" I thought for sure the zoo would be one "wow" after another for her this year. Let's just say I was half-right.

The Friday before Easter we had an unbelievably warm day for April in Wisconsin. It was actually about 80 degrees outside and perfectly sunny. Harper and I headed to the zoo with Uncle Jamie and Auntie Shannon. Grandma, whose birthday it was, opted to stay home and take a nap with all the kids out of the house. Harper did enjoy being at the zoo, but her favorite parts had little to do with the zoo animals.

She liked climbing on the planters and rocks surrounding the exhibits. She liked the geese, which wandered everywhere and are exactly like the geese we see all the time here in Ohio. She liked watching the bazillion other children who were at the zoo. She mostly liked running freely toward the nearest open space. Harper was not a fan of her stroller during out zoo outing. I love zoo pictures about as much as playground pictures, but as Harper mostly refused to be still during this outing, these aren't very good. Of course, I'm posting them anyway!

This picture was taken in front of the lion exhibit in the feline house at the Milwaukee County Zoo. Yes, there was an actual, grown, male lion behind the glass. Huge mane and all. Did Harper care? Not so much. But she did think the decorative rocks made a pretty nifty seat:

This one's actually a pretty good picture, even though you can't tell what Harper is looking at. We took it in the reptile house/aquarium of the zoo. She actually got pretty excited about the fish, or "sish," as she calls them:

I think the Milwaukee County Zoo is actually pretty great, as far as zoos go. The building with the reptiles and fish is, in my humble opinion, one of its best features. Even though this picture is blurry, taken with no flash, I thought it was great for getting an idea of the scale of the tanks in there. They are full of these huge fish, some nearly as big as Harper. She stood in front of it, totally mesmerized, as they swam right in front of her nose:

I remember standing in front of those same tanks as a child, and the dizzy feeling I would get if I stood right up to the glass and looked down. It felt like I'd slip right into the water. I also remember how easy it was to be startled if I was looking at something toward the back of the tank and a fish would swim past me from the side. It was thrilling. The freshwater tanks also make me a little scared of swimming in lakes.

Being very thrifty, we packed our lunch and ate in one of the group picnic areas. By then we were all pooped from chasing Harper for a few hours. After lunch we made one quick stop in the little working dairy. That's Wisconsin for you, there is an honest-to-goodness dairy in the zoo, complete with milking presentations throughout the day and homemade ice cream. Seeing (and smelling) those cows up close may have been the best part of Harper's day. We were only about a foot from several large cows, just munching away on hay (the cows munched, not us). And yes, Harper did "moo" at them.

All in all it was a great day, if not what I expected. We're hoping to take a trip to the Cincinnati Zoo when Aunt Meaghan visits us in May, I can't wait. (I'm sure Harper is also counting the days.)


Okay, so we've already established that Harper loves being outside. Spring has been very good to us in Ohio and we are loving balmy days and blooming flowers. The joy of simply being outside is eclipsed only by the joy of a great park. We are really lucky to have many terrific playgrounds in the area and, trust me, before summer is through we'll have hit them all. Harper likes climbing, crawling, sliding, hiding, and -oh yes- digging in the mulch. We were fortunate to have my mom visit us for a few days before we traveled up north for Easter. It's always a bonus to have two adults to go to the park with Harper because:
a) you have a person stationed both at the top and bottom of the slides
b) I can freely take pictures while the other adult keeps Harper from falling from high playground places.

Running across the bridge between my mom and I provided a solid fifteen minutes of delight.

The fun of peeking through the tunnel slide is only surpassed by going down the tunnel slide! This is the short one. We did send Harper down the big one once, but it was a little fast. Maybe we'll hit that one again in the fall.

The short slides at a couple local playgrounds are designed perfectly. Harper can actually get to the top by herself, and scoot herself right down them. They slow her enough that I don't have to be waiting at the bottom, which is good to know for the inevitable days when we'll be all alone at the park!

This one is actually of picture of my mom sliding down the fire pole at the park. I think I found that even more entertaining than Harper did.

On this particular day in the park we discovered that wood chips are on the top ten list of Harper's favorite things. First, she carefully made a mountain of them on this picnic table bench. Then, she sat down in them and pushed them aside until she came to the damp earth underneath. Finally, she scratched at the dirt with her hands until there was so much dirt under her fingernails it would take a week's worth of baths to get it out. Throughout the process she made sure to take part in playground cuisine, sampling both the wood chips and the dirt.

These last two pictures were taken at the playground near my parents' home in Wisconsin. Their new place is literally across the street from a library with a beautiful children's area. Behind the library is a terrific playground, complete with a huge sandbox and a bridge over a little creek. It's perfect. We have both playgrounds and libraries very near our home in Ohio, but not across the street. It's heavenly.

Harper is not quite as big a fan of the swings as she is of the slide and general climbing aspects of a good playground. She enjoys it as long as we don't move the swing too quickly. I think the dangling feet element freaks her out a little.

If you look closely, you can see the place above her left eye where she fell and nailed her forehead on the hard plastic playground edging. Oops. That happened about .2 seconds after we got her out of the stroller. There was much screaming, snot, and tears, but she recovered nicely in the end.

I am sure these won't be the last pictures from parks this season. Matt and I were amazed, the first time we took her, at how she loved the slides. She has very little fear, this one. Maybe by the time winter rolls around this year I'll be happy to curl up in the house and not have anywhere to go.

But, for now, what's cuter than a kid at a park? Except, perhaps, the fact that Harper now says "wee!" whenever she sees a playground.

Did You Miss Us?

Hello Internet friends! Yes, I've been away from the blog since we returned from Wisconsin. Once again I find myself with so many things I want to post about that it totally overwhelms me and I don't do it at all! There's Easter, a zoo trip, Harper in the great outdoors, l-o-n-g car rides, and many other tidbits to pass along. I will try to break them up into a few smaller posts and, of course, add lots of pictures. Sit back and enjoy!

Friday, April 14, 2006


We officially welcome spring to Kettering, Ohio! As the weather warms and we spend more time outdoors, we are discovering that Harper loves being outside. Last year we had a very hot summer in Ohio. Being so little, I worried that Harper shouldn't be outside too long. This year is going to be very, VERY different. And a lot of fun.

When we're not outside, Harper wants to stand at a window or door and look outside. I think we'll be needing lots and lots of sunscreen this summer. These pictures are not all from the same day, but I wanted to give you a glimpse of what spring is looking like in our little corner of the world:

Yes, Harper is wearing a Strawberry Shortcake track suit in the above pictures. And yes, the sled from our one, sad winter outing is still on the front lawn. Oops. Pretend I was going for some kind of irony in the photos.

See how the child loves to be outside?

Happy Spring to you, wherever you are!!!

Great Birthdays

April is a big month around here. Both my mom and Matt's mom celebrate birthdays in April. We celebrated Nana's birthday right before my St. Louis trip. It seemed like it would be the last get together we'd have with Nana and Dziatku before Easter, so it was also the night they gave Harper Easter gifts. Yes Easter gifts, how lucky is our kid? Her grandparents, both sets, are unbelievably generous with us. Even though it was Nana's birthday celebration, Harper was the one doing most of the celebrating:

Harper enjoyed the gifts and treats, but even more, she enjoyed the Easter grass. In fact, she made it her personal mission to distribute it evenly about the living room. She also shared with Rebound. She's a good kid.

So essentially Nana celebrated her birthday by helping us clean up the Easter grass after Harper was in bed! At least we went to a nice dinner first.

Today is Grandma's birthday. Since Harper and I came up to Wisconsin for Easter early, and Matt isn't joining us until tomorrow, we're celebrating with my mom then. Plus it's a Friday in Lent, if we celebrate tomorrow, we can all eat meat!

4/6 a Cup of Happiness

This post is mostly not about Harper.

It is about:

Erin and Calum



Erin, Me, Tracy, and Dotto!

Together we are 4/6 of a fabulous group known as the 101ers. 101 was our address our last, and finest, year of college. The other two members of the group are Julie and Cindy. They were sadly missing from the 101 mini-reunion held in St. Louis last weekend. That is part of the reason for the extreme lack of posts in the past week or so. (We hope to remedy this situation with a full-fledged reunion in Dayton, this September.)

Last Friday, Dotto and drove to the Lou from Dayton. On the way, we saw an armadillo crossing the freeway in Illinois. We were very excited about this. Until Erin, the conservation biologist, told us all about how armadillos are moving north and she gets calls about sightings all the time. I tell you, it's good to be in with a biologist. She also told me that hanging a fake wasp nest in a tree won't actually keep real wasps from living in your yard. See, when you reunite with old friends, you learn things!

We had a fantastic time including, but not limited to:
1. a Dar Williams concert
2. lunch with Erin's parents in their remodeled home
3. a super-delicious pasta dinner at Tracy's
4. margaritas and a game called ladder golf (which is going to take the country by storm)
5. dictionary balderdash

Harper had been left behind with her dad, Nana, and Dziatku. She had a fun weekend of eating out, playing in the park, and watching her dad coach basketball. It was fun to have kind of a freewheeling weekend with my girlfriends, but I did miss Harper. I even misted up a couple of times.

Being with those women is always a wonderful and refreshing experience. I have many wonderful friends now, I am blessed to have lots of loving people in my life. Still, I don't think I'll ever again find friendship the way it is with those women. Cindy and Julie, if you read this, we missed you!