Tuesday, November 30, 2010

A Few Words on Gratitude

I believe it's time to discard the pumpkins when they catch their first snow. But, a certain little man refused to go to bed last night, so before we move those pumpkins to the compost bin and ourselves onto the Christmas season, humor me as I take a few minutes to write what I meant to post last night.

During the Thanksgiving season, I can't help but notice all the preparations happening around me (or by me and the members of my own household): the stocked carts of groceries; the composing of wish lists and lines of souls, braver than I, lined up outside of stores on the eve of Black Friday; cars being serviced and prepped for snow (okay, I haven't seen this done at our house, but I have thought about it). Thanksgiving, at times, also allows us to delight in abundance as we stuff ourselves with too much turkey and multiple desserts that look too good to pass us, and give thanks for those "scrapbook moments" - the new baby, that award at work, or family traveling from far and wide to be in the same room at once.

But, last night, during our last few hours of November, I found myself curled up on the couch with a sleepless boy and and ball of yarn, thinking about pizza sauce. Yes, pizza sauce. Monday night, I had planned on making a dish we call Tamale Pie. But somewhere along the way, I got this crazy notion that I might take a shower. I took both kids and a small pile of toys into the bathroom and told them they could play while I showered. I thought things were going swimmingly. In fact, if I had the ability to whistle what-so-ever, I would have been, right out of the shower and across the bathroom floor until I opened the closet door. Where I found Audrey, sprawled out on a pile of clothes, as if she had just raked them up into a huge jumping pile. Every shelf on Jason's side of the closet was clear, knocked to the floor. Ties, hats, shorts, and out-grown baby clothes that I had organized by size (well, somewhat) amassed from one corner to another. I was still refolding and sorting the mess when Jason let me know he was on his way home and asked about my plans for dinner. I told him that I planned to start making it after I finished reordering the closet. He offered to stop off for pizza on his drive home.

By the time he got home, that side of the closet was more organized than it's been in months (or since I began using those shelves for baby clothes storage). Jason dropped the pizza box onto the counter and I opened it to start plating dinner. That's when I saw the container of pizza sauce. The pizza usually comes with a container of garlic sauce, which I don't like. But I do like to eat my crusts and breadsticks with pizza sauce. Jason prefers cheese sauce. But there it was in the corner of the box, the garlic sauce swapped out for pizza sauce - a little moment of thoughtfulness. You won't see a picture of pizza sauce in my scrapbook (if I ever got around to finishing or beginning a scrapbook, that is), but perhaps, you should. Those little containers, and the thoughtfulness they stand for, make me smile every time. It's not quite the same as the blessing of a new baby. I'll grant you that. When everyone goes around the Thanksgiving table saying what they're thankful for, you're not going to get the same reaction from "pizza sauce" as you would for saying, "Aunt Rita being able to travel 1000 miles to be with us." (That is, if you have an Aunt Rita, if not, you might be better off saying pizza sauce, the looks you get will be just as odd). But sometimes, while calming a restless baby or preparing to enter a season known for joyous chaos, it's just as good to remember the little blessings. After all, what is life but a sum of all its little parts? So here's to pizza sauce and a season of Thanks followed by one of Joy. And, here's to you, and those little things that make you smile (even if it's the garlic sauce).

Monday, November 29, 2010

A Little Catching Up

We had a successful Thanksgiving break, the kind that involves days of productivity and days of relaxation, as well as a day of having others cook for us. In fact, I felt so successful following the break that Sunday night a wrote out a to-do list of all the tasks I planned to accomplish today. I felt confident in my Monday abilities. Until I woke up. It's not that I couldn't have pressed on - there's nothing wrong with me. But you see, somewhere in the middle of last night a slumber party ensued (it's been happening the last several nights, truth be told). It began around eleven when Nathan woke up crying and Jason tucked him between the two of us to settle him down. His sister joined the party, sidling up to my other side around five in the morning. And, well, their little bodies are just so warm, definitely not the incentive one needs for starting the day early.

So, we didn't. We lingered in our pajamas until the hour when I hope I won't be embarrassed by needing to open the door to my UPS man. The to-do list sat untouched on the counter and I renewed the library books online. It's not as if the library or post office are going anywhere, or growing faster than their mamas can keep up with, anyway. And so, we took our cue from the morning and introduced ourselves into this week slowly, with cookies. Audrey donned her apron (sans pants, since the moment she gets jelly on them she considers them "wet") and we got down to serious, non-to-do list work. The cookies we made seemed just right (banana oatmeal, if you're curious), the ingredients tossed together in one bowl with no need to dirty the mixer. Dough dropped by the lumpy misshapen spoonful onto a cookie sheet and sent to the oven to make the whole downstairs smell like cinnamon and blankets on rainy days. It was just that sort of day.

In that same vein, before moving on with the details of this season, I thought I'd do a bit of catching up by sharing a few small things that happened around here in the last few months - items I meant to blog about at the time, but due to morning sickness and the busyness that has no regard for morning sickness, I never got around to.

First, I finally got around to lengthening the curtains (you can see the before picture above with the orange chair). It's a project that's been on my list since I bought them. I purposely bought the shorter panels when I realized how wide the hem was on each one, thinking I could save myself fifteen bucks a panel by lengthening them once I got them home. Sadly, they stayed in their short stature state for months before I got around to introducing them to my sewing machine. But, let's just focus on the finished product, shall we? Ahh, that's better.

This fall, Audrey took to watching birds, so much so that she (and Jason) decided she must have a birdhouse. So they made, I mean, bought one. One afternoon they traveled all over town looking for birdhouse kits to make their own. Unable to find a kit, they found this little abode, to which Audrey quickly added graffiti "to let the birds know it's their house."

They also brought home a feeder, which Audrey quickly hung from a tree next to the garden (I'm slightly concerned about what this will mean next year when the birds come to that spot looking for food). The feeder and house were hung so late in the season that we weren't sure they'd have any visitors this year, but the feeder has already been emptied once and Audrey was so happy to see this little guy above (one of the first visitors) that she quickly, accidentally ran him off. I have to admit, I understand the excitement. After my grandfather passed away, each grandchild was given something like $25 or $50 of his to do with what we pleased (I was a bit older than Audrey, but apparently young enough that I'm too old now to recall what my age would have been). I wanted to get something with mine that would last and remind me of my grandparents, so I bought a bird feeder (a large one that stood on a post), which my father very graciously put front and center in the backyard.

Finally, we captured some handprints before they do what handprints do and get abilities and minds of their own, and grow faster than any mama thinks they should. These handprints were captured during a meeting of my moms' club onto an apron. I love that once the apron is of no use, I can cut the handprints out and the canvas fabric can be framed or stretched like a picture. Of course, Audrey informed me that this is actually her apron, since she made it. Luckily, she's allowing me to wear it. At least while we make cookies.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

For Posterity's Sake: Week in Review 97

Time, and the season, have definitely marched on. The winter coats shrugged onto our shoulders before leaving the house feel right. The Christmas tree found its way out of its box (we bought it at the end of the season last year after deciding that, perhaps, fresh stray pine needles weren't baby-friendly) and into the corner of the family room. Audrey's most frequent request is that the Christmas tree lights be turned on, no matter the time of day. Holiday decorating and gift preparations are underway. And, one little man's birthday is just around the corner.

Almost as frequently as Audrey asks for seasonal mood lighting, Jason and I turn to one another and utter some form of, Can you believe Nate's almost one? As stubborn as we are to believe it, Nathan is more than willing to offer the proof. He is also marching on. Literally. Thanksgiving, with its celebration of blessings, brought on one more. Nathan's first steps. Daily, he makes us laugh as he communicates more, plays more, and becomes more of the little boy that he's determined to be:

On Sunday, while holding Nate, I began beating my chest with my flattened palm (in a sorry attempt to break up some of my congestion) as I stood coughing. Nathan watched me for a minute before shaking his head "no" and beating my chest with his own flattened palm.

Monday morning, Nathan was sleeping soundly when Audrey woke him up. After she walked downstairs, I told Jason, "He was out. He would have slept til eight." As soon as I finished my sentence, Nate looked at Jason and shook his head "no."

On Tuesday, Nathan initiated a game of peek-a-boo by hiding behind a column and peeking out at Jason, laughing and ducking behind it again.

Audrey's new favorite spot is sitting in her rocking chair a foot from the Christmas tree admiring its lights. It sticks in my head as an image of a new phase - one where any lingering baby tendencies fade and those of a little girl are all that remain. She has spent the week serenading us with her version of "Jeremiah was a Bullfrog" (she and Jason have had several impromptu dance parties during his vacation, with this being their song of choice), teaching Nathan how to pull every pot and pan out of the cabinets, and keeping things interesting, as always:

Sunday, during the Colts game, Jason let out a sound resembling "ugh," following a disappointing play. "What happened?" asked Audrey. "Did they hurt you?"

On Monday, Audrey was drawing pictures on thank you notes. She likes to write on the cards, as well. Not knowing how to write her entire name, she prefers to write any combination of letters that she does know. I looked down to find her hard at work on a card that had "Pay" written very distinctly across one page. It's being sent to some friends who I think will get a good laugh from it. I couldn't help but add a little caption, "Thanks for coming to my birthday party, now pay up."

Later that afternoon she was trying to convince Nathan to play with her. "Nate, come! I'm boring! Nate come! I'm boring!" (I'm sure she meant that she was bored, not boring.)

On Wednesday, she created a wish list for Santa, with Jason playing the role of recorder. The number one item on her list? "A trumpet - or something loud."

One night this week while Jason was putting Audrey to bed, he noticed that Curious George had been quarantined to one side of the bed while Audrey's other animals were clumped together on the other side (she sleeps with roughly 5 stuffed animals a night). He found this a bit odd, but didn't say anything. As Audrey said her prayers, she prayed for George, asking the he get better soon so he could play with his friends again and not get anyone sick. Hmm, perhaps, this little family of ours was sick a little too long. But, I'm telling you, it's a new week. New adventures await. We're marching on.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Avocado Blessings

Lately, we find ourselves a bit of a mixed bag. Christmas lights in 65-degree weather. Christmas lights on before Thanksgiving (the four-year-old, and four-year-old in the rest of us, can't help herself). Contemplating carving pumpkins the week of Thanksgiving (we never managed to work in that family pumpkin carving night before Halloween this year). And, avocados in late fall. Yes, it's not really the time for avocados. But we've been hoarding a little avocado at our house. Actually, I've been told he or she may be closer to the size of a turnip now, but we tend to grow our babies small (and we discovered in California that Nate likes avocados) so we have our minds set on avocados. And spring, when this little turnip will be joining us. (Right now, some of you are remembering all those days I missed writing posts in the last few months and things are becoming a little more clear - see, I did have an excuse).

We have been spending the last several months with one foot planted firmly in the present and the season, scents, tastes, and joys around us and one foot stepping forward, dreaming of spring and our family to come. But both feet are wearing shoes of gratitude, for the blessings of today and those of tomorrow. Happy Thanksgiving to all of you. I'll be back in a couple days.

Monday, November 22, 2010


Yesterday, we walked out the front door to be hugged by the balmy weather and get down to business: the business of hanging Christmas lights, planting tulip and crocus bulbs, and, ahem, sledding pumpkins (our little girl is a bit between seasons, not that our activities aren't confusing her even more). It was an afternoon for getting our hands dirty, watching Audrey race down the sidewalk on her bike, and daydreaming of the season to come while enjoying what felt like remnants of the season past. Little hands, little bulbs, both bursting with big potential just waiting to bloom.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

For Posterity's Sake: Week in Review 96

Some items in the dress up suitcase have had some, um, interesting uses.

Today has been an unseasonably warm day in November. I overdressed the children before heading out, trowel in hand. They stripped off the unnecessary layers, losing hats and (in Nathan's case) socks for gloves. Amidst the backdrop of Jason hanging the Christmas lights, we played spring, pulling up the earth and tucking bulbs inside. All bets are off. We are following suite, building our days from the weather, the fevers, and circumstances that come. And, taking advantage of those days of unexpected warmth (both inside and out) every chance we get.

We're hoping Nathan's fever has finally broken after holding tight all week. Most days, as I work in the kitchen, Nathan crawls over and head butts my leg when he wants picked up. I'll feel the bump against my leg and then watch as he sits back, waiting patiently. This week, he followed each bump with a tug on my jeans, as if to let me know that this week he was serious. He needed picked up right away. So I did, happy to see the little guy had this persistent side to him.

Audrey, as always, spent the week showing us another side as well: the four-year-old analytical side.

On Sunday, Audrey was playing a computer game that teaches phonics and how to trace letters. She was asked to make a "ph" sound. She made the sound by blowing air through her nose rather than using her mouth. "That's hard!" she said.

Monday, Audrey asked why a little boy wasn't playing with her. I explained that he was shy. "Boys aren't supposed to be shy," she said.
"Why not?" I asked.
"Because they're too silly."

Later that afternoon, she told me, "Sometimes, Rebecca (a friend of hers) tells me to do things I don't want to do."
"Like what?" I asked.
"She tells me to stop being crazy and I like to be crazy."

Tuesday, while leaving school, one of Audrey's friends gave her a hug, linebacker-style, that brought her head to the floor with a smack. That night, she asked Jason if he knew what "Bubby" had done to her at school. Jason rattled off a series of creative answers, each receiving a unique response. The end of the conversation went a little like this:
"Did he did a hole to China with a spoon?"
"No, that's silly. The floor is too hard."
"Did he teleport you?"
"No. What is teleport? I don't even know what that is."

Friday after lunch, I was trying to get both kids cleaned up and in coats to head out to the doctor's office following another spike of Nathan's fever. I buttoned Audrey's coat and told her I needed her to put her shoes on.
"I need you to go fast as fast can be, little one."
"Okay, big one," she said.

Saturday morning, the whole family was snuggled together in bed after each child had found their way into our bed at some point during the night. Nate crawled over to Jason. "Someone smells like pee," Jason said.
"Why did you call me smokin' pee?" Audrey said.

Saturday afternoon, Audrey and Jason were playing hide n' seek. It was Jason's turn to hide. He chose to hide under a sheet. Audrey quickly found him.
"I saw a big bump," she said.
"Are you calling me a big bump?"
"No, you're not a big bump. You just make a big bump."

After a week of Audrey running around at full speed while the rest of us kept putting on the brakes, we began to feel a bit bad for our girl. She was bored to tears, almost literally. In an attempt to do something special for her and recognize her lack of one-on-one time with any of us, we called in reinforcements to watch Nathan (in the form of Mamaw) and took Audrey to see her first musical, a middle school production of The Wizard of Oz. We sat away from the rest of the crowd, keeping our germs at bay, and let Audrey pull her chair into the center aisle so she could see all the action taking place on stage. She was fascinated by the songs, the changing set designs, and the characters. At one point she began to ask questions about characters in the play. "It's all pretend," we informed her.
"Is she real?" Audrey asked, pointing to Dorothy.

This week we've been a bit short on energy, and plans. We're taking the days as they come, throat drops and infant Tylenol in hand, making up the days as we go. But, come what may, there's a few things we've come to expect: to be surprised by the spontaneous laughs, awed by each stage of growth, and comforted by warmth in unexpected places.

Sorry for those of you who may have already read part of this in an incomplete form, Nate published it before I was ready. Oops.

Friday, November 19, 2010

On a Roll

I love when a project comes to completion: that moment of holding your work in your hands and seeing an actual something with purpose and function. I love it even more when the that purpose and function is meant to find its way into the hands of creative little ones. A few such somethings found their way onto my sewing machine this week.

These are felt pencil rolls, based off of a pattern out of Amanda Blake Soule's The Creative Family. I attached a design on the front of each one using embroidery floss and more felt. Inside are slots to fit 15 pencils and a flap on the top to keep the tops of the pencils secured. Once the pencils are tucked inside, it can be rolled up and kept closed by a couple ribbons attached to the side.

The four in these pictures were made for birthday presents. I think I might have to crank out a few more for Christmas. But for tonight, I'm going to smile thinking of four finished projects and four budding artists.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

A Walk With Four

We have jumped into four, Audrey approaching it much as she does a summer pool: no hesitating before launching feet first, intent on making a splash. It only seemed right to begin this week with a celebratory field trip to the Indiana Art Museum to visit the gardens and take a look at just what we're getting ourselves into - up close and personal, and in huge block form. Then, in true four-year-old fashion, Audrey went on a treasure hunt of sorts, finding a large scattering of acorns and amassing a nice collection of seeds and caps (not that she didn't have a bit of grown-up help - what can I say, I love a seed that comes with its own beret), before adding some sticks and leaves in for good measure. We took in the colors holding fast and the others that have become, and befriended a groundskeeper spreading mulch who Audrey addressed as "the girl with the hard work." Each fall, as we add another candle to her cake, something about celebrating Audrey during this season seems fitting, as the world around us transitions in blazes of brilliant color and loud crisp crunches underfoot, every plant we pass revealing her seeds - a promise of the growth to come.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

A Birthday Celebration Recap

Between our trip to California and battling a few minor health issues, some of you might be wondering if we decided to forego a birthday party for Audrey this year. Nope. We just decided to keep things on the simple side this year - no mama-made circus tents or elaborate cakes. Knowing we'd be out of town right before the party, I aimed for an occasion that could be prepped ahead of time. The idea for the party began with the gift. Audrey, so true to her fall season, loves to dress up and attempts to revisit Halloween as often as possible. I've been wanting to begin a dress up collection for her, and her birthday seemed like the perfect excuse. My idea was to collect items and make items throughout the year, so I wouldn't feel rushed at the last minute to find the perfect gift. While I only managed to finish a couple mama-made costumes to include, I love how the gift became somewhat of a family and friends project. The veil my older sister wore for her wedding, along with a little opera jacket my grandmother made, the new ballerina skirt my younger sister gave her, and an amazing cape one of the party guests made found their way inside. When I couldn't find the trunk I originally envisioned tossing all the costumes into, I went shopping in my closet. I found a suitcase I had been given while in high school by a grandmotherly family friend. It's burgundy with tiny wheels, and perfect for the job.

Gift idea underway, we stuck with a dress up theme for the party. Guests came in costume and Audrey took advantage by wearing her Halloween costume again (she lost her wings early in the afternoon before the cake was cut or gifts were open). I took advantage of the theme to make the cake as simple as possible. Audrey and I made some cupcakes (and a small cake), which she insisted be decorated with the sprinkles of her choosing (I opted for a banana cake with white icing, although for her birthday dinner, Audrey opted for this chocolate cake). The day of the party, I popped some paper dolls on top that I had printed and colored days before the party. You can find them here. They doubled as party favors. A few simple appetizers and a handmade invitation featuring a picture of Audrey in her Halloween costume, and we were set.

Audrey didn't seem to mind the simplicity. The dress up suitcase (and clown costume) was a hit. After all, it is a four-year-old's prerogative to change her mind, and her outfit.

*Sorry for the lack of pictures, we were a little too busy celebrating to get many decent shots.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

For Posterity's Sake: Week in Review 95

Lately, our days have been much like this morning. I leave the house with a nearly empty gas tank, a feverish boy, and a deadline. We make it to our destination on time and then to a gas station just minutes after the "check gauge" light has flicked on (I swear, a few weeks ago - or months, who can be sure - I was doing a brilliant job at filling my tank when it reached the halfway level). I reach for my purse and fiddle around in every pocket before remembering I consolidated my belongings to one bag the day before at the art museum in an attempt to make my load lighter. I have no wallet, which means, I should have no money and a certain little feverish boy and I are going to, most likely, end up walking or hitching a ride home when our car does indeed run out of gas. This is what our morning would have looked like, had it not been for the most fortunate incident of having to, unfortunately, use a port-a-potty last week.

Last week, upon leaving school, the kids and I were invited to an impromptu play date at a park. It's a fairly new space with no bathrooms, except for two lonely green port-a-potties at the end of a long gravel parking lot. As soon as I pulled into the park, Audrey announced she had to potty. Were I to compose a list of things I attempt to avoid using, port-a-potties would be on it. But when a four-year-old has to go, I book it to the little green boxes. Sadly, I'm not one of those together mothers who stocks her car with wet wipes and antibacterial hand sanitizer (although, after returning to the car with Audrey, I double-checked on the off-chance there's a fairy cleansing God mother who does go about stocking one's car with such items). I also use cloth wipes for Nate, which means that there weren't any wet wipes in my purse, either. But, I do have a first aid kit stashed in my car, and first aid kits contain sterile wipes. Yahtzee! I unzipped the kit and was surprised to stumble upon ten dollars that I forgot I had tossed inside, just in case. I put the ten dollars back, retrieved the sterile wipe (said a silent thank you to my mom's group for putting me in charge of giving the safety/emergency presentation last April - seriously, you thought I wasn't together enough to carry wet wipes but somehow on top of my game enough to have a first aid kit hanging around without some outside influence?), and wiped my daughter's hands.

We went about our week, and right into the next one until I found myself at a gas station with a tease of gas and no wallet. Normally, this is when I'd begin having visions of drudging my sick boy home through the rain (did I mention it had started sprinkling?). But not today. Today, I had visions of a lucky spur-of-the-moment play date and a pair of beautiful kelly green port-a-potties. I grabbed that first aid kit, rummaged for my ten bucks, and got us home with gas to spare.

Our days have been like that lately, we're not running on full tanks, but magically, there always seems to be a port-a-potty standing by when we need one. And, of course, there are these, the moments of last week:

Nathan is a boy of few words, but his actions are building his story. Last week, I caught him picking something off the floor and popping it into his mouth. "No, Nathan," I said, "what do you have?" He responded by taking the object out of his mouth, crawling the five feet to get to me, and holding it out to me. I took it, right after I picked my jaw up from the floor. He's continued this unique behavior (and yes, yes I should probably vacuum my floor).

Tuesday, we were packing to return to Indiana. Audrey came downstairs in her pajamas and stood next to one of the suitcases. "Look Dad, if I stand really still, I look like a suitcase."

One of Audrey's favorite pastimes is listening to stories. Almost daily, she asks me to make up stories for her (most involving Franklin and Bear). I have begun to ask for her help in creating the stories (she refuses to tell me stories) to get her more involved. Tuesday morning, while driving to the airport, she asked for a story. We asked her what it should be about and she began spinning the yarn. By the time she finished, we were almost at the airport. "I didn't know I could say it that long!" she said.

Wednesday, while feeding the dog, she dropped some of the food on the floor. As she gathered it, she said, "I just need to grab a handfew."

I hadn't been feeling well much of the week. Audrey knew my stomach had been bothering me. Wednesday, during dinner, she asked, " Do you think the baby growing in your belly's tummy hurts when your tummy hurts?" (Ahem, I have a little explaining to do. More on that later this week.)

Friday, Audrey put her debate skills to work. I was her first challenge. Upon pulling out of the grocery store parking lot, I didn't see a van pull up behind me. I pulled back into my spot, waving and saying "sorry." "Why did you say 'sorry'? Audrey asked. I began to explain when she continued, "Why did you say you're sorry? Your window is up. Her window is up. She can't hear you. Why did you say you're sorry?" Seeing her logic defeated mine, I quickly dropped out of the debate.

She didn't fare so well with Jason. That evening, he put her stuffed dog on his head and asked how she liked his hat.
"That's not a hat," she said.
"Yes it is," he countered.
She ran to the closet and pulled out one of her winter hats.
"See, this is a hat. That is not a hat."
"Why isn't it a hat," he asked.
"Because it has a tail. Hats don't have tails."
Unfortunately, the hat she had chosen from her collection was a bunny hat, with a tail. Jason pointed this out. The debate turned ugly. Neither would concede their point (of course, Jason was laughing during his portion while Audrey was yelling and growing close to tears, she was so passionate about proving that dog was not a hat). The high school debate team better watch out, this one's getting in some early practice.

I'm not much of a planner. I've found that the biggest gifts of my life and best moments of my days are those I couldn't have planned. I've found that some of the most frustrating moments are those that I try to control only to realize I can't. Luckily, someone seems to be looking out for me, creating good from the bad and moments of laughter when we most need them. I'm taking these busy days of November and counting my blessings (that, and replacing that ten dollars with a twenty - just in case).

Saturday, November 13, 2010

California Dreamin': Part 2

Some things should not be ignored. Ever. Regardless of temperature, illness, or age. They should be sought out, appreciated, engaged head on. When born and raised in a landlocked state, the ocean is one of those things. It should be smelled, heard, and touched (sat in, even, if you're four and immune to freezing water). It should be beheld, and possessed in any way possible (through deep salty breaths or rubbing the smooth stones that the waves cough up on shore between your forefinger and thumb), in any way it allows. You should stay a while, long enough to collect some sand in the folds of your clothes and a handful of rocks in your empty shoes (I'm not sure what we're going to do with that little collection yet). When it's time to go, it may be best to linger a few minutes more, to guide your eyes to the textures of sand and seaweed, bird feather and wave ripple, before you lift your toes from the chilly foam and return to the cracked pavement you know. You can always tell the tourists, can't you?

Thursday, November 11, 2010

California Dreamin'

It wasn't all sickness and lying low during our vacation. We took advantage of the times we could, those days when we weren't feeling as under the weather as the rest. Our first full day of vacation (before we actually realized Audrey was sick and hadn't just eaten something bad the day before) we made a trip to Disneyland, (thanks for the tickets, Kristen!) - the first for all of us, big and small. Audrey, of course, chose to dress the part wearing her ballerina/princess skirt minus the tights. While Disney World holds the tag line "the most magical place on earth" (Disneyland is known as "the happiest place on earth"), it definitely seemed as if some pixie dust had been reserved for Disneyland as well. After all, that much happiness is a bit magical. We saw adults standing in line in the hot sun, serving as coat racks or junk drawers for their children, not minding a bit. We were among them. I think the happiness (and the magic) lies in the fact that it's not a self-serving day for a parent. You enter the park knowing your role. You will stand in line. You will serve as a coat rack. You will ride the same ride ten times if your child asks. You will not complain. Today is a scavenger hunt and you are not the leader. If you can relinquish your desire to be in charge (or continually peek at the scavenger list) there are treasures to behold. The magical part is, the park turns out to be a bit of a wonder for the adults, too (especially if you let it, and your smaller companions, take you where it will). At some point during our day, each of the adults in our party commented on the artistry of the rides, the attention to detail, the amazing craftsmanship. Not to mention the magical transformation that overcame our once-lackluster girl when she saw Mickey Mouse's house and got to meet him. Audrey talked about Disney for days (still is). But, perhaps, the best part was after we arrived home and Audrey told me that she couldn't wait to tell her friends she had been to Disneyland. Why? "Because not everyone gets to go to Disneyland." As a member of a generation often known for our sense of entitlement, and as a parent who spends a lot of time discussing with her spouse how to guarantee that our children won't grow up feeling entitled, that little phrase felt like a gift - sprinkled with fairy dust. Yes, we're in a happy place.

*Sorry for the lack of pictures. My camera stayed holstered much of the day while I busied myself with taking it all in.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

For Posterity's Sake: Week in Review 94

Or, Getting to the Other Side:

Lately, our lives have seemed like a two-sided coin. We keep waiting to flip - to get to the other side - or finding that suddenly, without notice, we have. It began with the moment, quick as a coin toss, that turned Sunday to Monday and our little girl into a big four-year old. It continued on Thursday as we boarded a plane on one side of the country (well, closer to one side of the country) and touched down seven hours later on the other side. We had woken up in winter and found ourselves back firmly in summer by the afternoon. We had traveled with a healthy girl by our side (albeit, one that took an uncharacteristic and long nap) and found ourselves with a sick little one by early morning. The trip we had planned, the experiences envisioned, turned on a dime. By Sunday, Audrey was running around my sister's house in California, twirling about in her new ballerina skirt (thanks, Aunt Ashley and Uncle Joe!), hitching a stroller ride to the park, and requesting gummy bears on her ice cream while I had taken her spot in bed. (I'm still not ready for my tutu and gummy worms). Part of me wanted to grieve the trip that could have been, but the other part, the side that hitches up her big-girl pants or ponders sticking her head in the freezer to shake herself out of it, knew better. My life has been filled with fortunate coin tosses. My children have strong immune systems and even stronger spirits. We've been blessed with the resources to save up enough money to finally make such a trip. We live in a place with the materials and manpower to make such a trip possible, let alone, affordable (not to mention, both kids were incredible on the plane). When I became sick, my sister very willingly took it upon herself to take advantage of the time with Audrey and whisk her away to the park and on an ice cream date. Most of all, we had a better reason for visiting California than the beach or the weather or Disneyland. We had family (and one very cute nephew, to boot) who luckily, didn't seem to care that we weren't at our best.

And, of course, we had these, the moments of last week:

Our growing boy's fifth tooth broke the surface last week. As if in show of just how much he's growing, he also began letting us know just how he plans on testing the limits - with a wide smile on his face. Each time he reached the non-gated stairs at my sister's he looked back to see if we were watching. No Nate, we'd warn. He'd smile, put a hand on the first step, and throw a glance back our way. We'd pick him up, he'd laugh, and try again (or stick his hand in the dogs' water bowl).

On Monday, I asked Audrey if we should go get balloons (envisioning helium balloons) to celebrate her birthday. She pointed to a cabinet housing a package of latex balloons. "There are balloons up there, you silly goose."

That night we sat down for dinner. I had gotten in the habit of lighting a candle before dinner. During dinner, Jason and I ask Audrey what her saddest and favorite parts of the day were and take turns sharing ours. The wax of the candle I had been using had run out and I hadn't searched out a replacement. As we began dinner, Audrey ran over and grabbed her music box. She set it on the table and opened it so the music played. Then she turned to me and asked what the worst part of my day was. Jason laughed. "Do you see what just happened there? She just took your job."

Thursday morning as we drove to the airport, I asked Audrey if she wanted a bite of the apple I was eating. "No," she said, "it's got your smell on it."

As we drove from the airport to my sister's house, Audrey pointed to the palm trees lining the streets. "Beach trees!" she said, and referred to them as such all week.

On Friday, I watched my nephew as my sister ran an errand. At one point, he began to cry. "I think he's crying because he wants his mother," she said. "His mother isn't here, only my mother. I think he's freaked out."

We have found ourselves on both sides of the coin lately. But we're only hanging onto a few moments - those we find heads-side up.

Thursday, November 4, 2010


We've been a bit distracted here, welcoming in the age of four (How did we get here so fast?). Four began sweet and easy, a small celebration at home - just the four of us - featuring a meal of Audrey's choosing (pancakes and chocolate cake); four helium balloons to mark the occasion (all the rage among the preschool crowd), the colors specifically chosen by the birthday girl; and a gift of a matching game (which led to a family game night).

Then, we got adventurous. We took a long-awaited trip, two thousand miles away, and took celebrating to a whole other level - until Audrey came down with what appeared to be the stomach flu. Our little girl has weathered her condition as best as can be expected. She's slowly beginning to ask for food and make observations as only she can. We're hoping she's over the worst, and that the rest of us can fight off whatever she's had. For now, we're going to take a little more time to recuperate and be thankful for little comforts: patient and helpful family, sunshine during cloudy health conditions, the resilience of children, and the sweet milestone that is four.

We'll catch up with you more in a couple days.

Monday, November 1, 2010

For Posterity's Sake: Week in Review 93

It may be the onset of what I refer to as their birthday season, perhaps, it's the spirit of Halloween and the ability to turn oneself into anything one wishes to be. Whatever the cause, the two youngest members of our family are oozing confidence. Nathan has begun testing his legs, letting go of the coffee table or cabinets to see how long he can keep his balance before toppling over. He has also begun testing his boundaries, glancing at me sheepishly before tossing his food over his tray to a begging Emmy. It's hard to tell this little guy "no" with any real authority (or straight face): this sweet boy who lightens our days with his laugh and crawls underfoot as I make dinner, bumping my leg with his head until I stop and pick him up (he gives his father the same treatment each night when Jason comes home from work).

Audrey has been sporting her own confidence, displaying it in words and play and all the spaces in between:

On the 23rd (yes, I'm beginning this review a day early), I asked her to pick up her playroom, a request that comes with heavy objections. After much cajoling, she did complete the task, proudly showing me the clean room. "Mom, will you send Dad upstairs to see how great I am?"

On Sunday, Audrey went to the front of the church to listen to the children's sermon, during which the pastor showed a picture of Michael Phelps and explained that whether you have eight gold medals or none, God loves everyone regardless of their gifts. Audrey asked him where Michael Phelps lived. Then, possibly as a way of asking if he was wrapping things up, she asked when they were going to sing. Later, as we were sitting around the table, she said,"Mom, I love you better than Daddy, but I love Daddy, too. Just like God loves all the little children."

Jason looked over at me. "You're Michael Phelps," he said.

On Monday, Audrey developed a new favorite pastime, building castles or tents (the name changes daily) using the kitchen cabinets and their contents (cutting boards for roofs, aprons and burp clothes tossed over doors, pitchers and pots and pans scattered every which way). This new activity began when Audrey took her water bottle out of a cabinet and realized she could hang it from the cabinet hardware using a twisty tie. She got it adjusted just right (the picture at the top) and stepped back to admire her work. "That's so impressive," she said.

Wednesday morning she woke up and informed me she had dreamt that she drank soda poison (what Jason calls soda since he knows I'm hoping to keep her from drinking it until she's a teenager).

Later, while working on a project at the table, she said, "Mom, you're so nice to me. Mom, are I so thankful?"

That afternoon I began work on Nathan's bumblebee wings for his Halloween costume. Audrey ran over to my supplies. "Mom, I can help you because I'm great."

Audrey spent much of Wednesday "flying" about the house, displaying her super powers. She snuck up behind me as I did dishes and told me she would give me my own super power. She poked her finger into my side and "pumped" a super power into me.

"What super power did you give me?"

"Chocolate." (I think she's been talking to her grandmother).

Later, while outside with Jason, she told him about her super powers. He asked if he could have one. She told him that she would give him a chocolate super power, too.

"That's what you gave Mama," he said.

"Okay, you can be banilla [vanilla]. But we're just playing a game. We're just pretending."

"But I want a real super power," he said.

"If I give you one, I won't have enough in my belly for me." (Apparently, super powers are stored in one's stomach. This might explain why they're named after flavors).

On Friday, Audrey escorted Jason to the store. When they came home, they informed me they had had a fight on the drive back but Jason wasn't allowed to talk about it. After several minutes, Audrey finally gave her permission. Apparently, she informed him that she didn't think I was a monster, but that he wasn't allowed to tell me she felt this way.

"Can I tell her I agree with you that she's not a monster?" he asked.

She told him no, realizing this would implicate her in the process. He attempted several versions of this question, which she thoughtfully considered but shot down each time once she realized what he was implying. Maybe she does have super powers after all. I mean, she'll tell you herself, she's pretty great. So is that little brother of hers.