Monday, December 31, 2007

Two Quotes of the Week

(Interchange between Lucy and Ryne, my nephew)

Lucy: I like your spy kit you got. Tomorrow in the morning will you come and wake me up with it?

Ryne: Sure!

Me: Well, that probably won't work out. Why don't both of you play with it after you get up?

[Pause...with no reaction whatsoever to the killjoy mother in the room]

Lucy: Are you an early riser?

------
Christmas morning when Elaine decided to wake up at 5:30 a.m. aka the middle of the freakin' night

Me (in a whisper; getting into the guestroom bed yet again): Shhhhh. Lie down here. Go back to sleep. It's still night-night time.

(Lots of thrashing and flailing about as she gets into position)

Elaine (in her chainsmoker voice, after ginormous hawking cough one millimeter from my face): HI MOMMY!

Me: Hi.

Elaine: "MEET ME IN ST. LOOOEEEE LOOOOEEEE, MEET ME AT THE FAIR!"

Friday, December 28, 2007

Ready, Set....

So, I certainly don't want this to be one of those blogs that constantly talks about how our family is sick. One of my favorite blogs (which shall remain nameless for now) has at least one annual column about how everyone in the family gets the barfing flu. Since I've been reading the blog since I've been pregnant with Lucy, I've been reading about the barfing flu, oh, for five years now. (Yes, I know. I should just skip those columns.)

But....we were sick over Christmas. We had been sick before and soldiered on through all the Christmas and birthday activities, then got somewhat better, then suffered a relapse. The night before Christmas Eve, I stayed up until after midnight wrapping all the presents, then went to bed--only to be told by Darren at 2 a.m. that it was my turn now to deal with Elaine who was doing her personal non-stop rendition of Dogs Singing Jingle Bells, except it was all barking and no Jingle Bells. He'd done the 10 to 2 shift, so I got the remainder. I got into the guest bed with her while she thrashed and coughed and cried the entire night, and I felt my own sinuses gradually filling up until I could no longer breathe except through my mouth as I drifted in and out of sleep-deprived halluncinations.

She finally decided to get up for the day around 6, and I went back to our bed and collapsed and just let her potter around, riffling through my bedside table and running her doll stroller around the room. Then Lucy got up, so they decided to play together. The last thing I remember was hearing Lucy say, "It's Christmas, Elaine! It's Jesus's birthday!" I thought, how sweet, and drifted off.

Then, I felt a poke in my shoulder and a little voice saying excitedly in my ear, "Mommy, look what I found!" I opened my eyes and stared into the face of Molly, An American Girl. An American Girl doll. That I had wrapped up the night before. I leaped up out of bed and shrieked "Where did you get that?" to which she immediately started to wail. The uproar brought Darren up all standing, and he rushed downstairs to see all the detritus of Christmas spread throughout our living room.

Yup. They opened up all their presents. By themselves. On Christmas Eve morning.

Of course, saintly mother that I am, I simply hugged them and said, "It's OK, girls. You weren't to know. Let's wrap them up together and they'll still be a fun surprise tomorrow!" I absolutely did not sit down on the top step and begin to cry and say, "Christmas is ruined!"

But...if I had, then Lucy sat by me and cried and cried and kept saying, "But they were so beautiful, those presents were so beautiful!" Then she said, "It's Christmas today, Mom, and we even got Baby Jesus out and put Him on the table so you wouldn't forget about putting him in the stable.....waaaahahhhhhhhhhhhh....." And I might have said something like "....up all night....just wrapped.....no sleep....can't breathe.....Christmas Eve not Christmas......whose kids open presents without asking....waaahhhaaaaaaaahhhhhhh...."

Darren said it was like watching a Carol Burnett skit.

It will be gratifying to know that I finally did pull myself together and apologize right away for saying Christmas is ruined. I said that Daddy and I had some nice surprises that we had wanted to give them ourselves, but that Christmas is about celebrating Jesus' birthday and nobody can ever ruin that.

We mopped our tears and had an OK rest of the day. I spent most of it on the couch being miserable (with my cold, not with the opened presents) and holding Elaine. Darren took Lucy to church later on in the evening, while we stayed home. I did make scrambled eggs, bacon, and monkey bread so that we could have a picnic on the living room floor like I had promised earlier. And after the girls went to bed, I sat and rewrapped all of their presents.

Christmas morning was lovely, and they were suitably surprised at their new Sunday coats and hats, American Girl dolls (the mini ones lest anyone think we shelled out $100+ each on dolls for a 4-year-old and 2-year-old), and Lyle the Crocodile books even though they had seen them all 24 hours previously.

We spent the rest of the day with my family where I spent the day curled up in a chair and drank approximately 72 cups of wassail. The next day we headed down to Darren's family where, among other festive holiday activities, I scratched my cornea. AGAIN.

We got home yesterday and promptly took down the tree and all the Christmas decorations. I always love that day. Christmas is wonderful while it lasts, but I'm always glad when it's over. A snowstorm came, and the girls have been busy indoors playing with their new toys and alternately fighting and making up.

Right after the great Premature Present Opening of 2007, Darren said, "Hey, at least you'll have something memorable to write about on the blog!" and laughed. I said, "I think I'm going to need a little bit more distance for me to be able to laugh about this."

So...it's the 28th and I'm writing. And laughing. I guess my sense of humour heals faster than my cornea.

And for that, I am thankful.

Friday, December 21, 2007

Well-worn and well-loved

One of my favorite books of all time is Charlotte's Web. I have loved it ever since I was a child, and I love it even more as an adult (it's funnier when you read it as an adult). I have a worn, battered copy of it that I think my mom had when she lived in the West Indies before she was married. (And she's been married almost 42 years, so...hi Mom! No, I'm not telling everyone how old you are!) Anyway, I'm one of those horrible readers who dogears the corner of books to save my place, and if it's any indication how much this copy of Charlotte's Web has been read, there's a dogeared corner on almost every page in the book. And I have to confess--I never pass a spider's web without double-checking to see if it says, "Some Pig" on it.

Those adults who haven't read this book or haven't read it since elementary school, do yourself a favor and get a copy now. It's filled with the most marvelous quotes, which I try to work into everyday life as much as possible. Here's a sampling:

"This is the most terrible case of injustice I ever heard of."

"I only distribute pigs to early risers. Fern was up at daylight, trying to rid the world of injustice. As a result she now has a pig…It just shows what can happen if a person gets out of bed promptly."

"An hour of freedom is worth a barrel of slops."

"'Will the party who addressed me at bedtime last night, kindly make himself or herself known by giving an appropriate sign of signal!' 'Stop your nonsense, Wilbur,' said the oldest sheep. 'If you have a new friend here, you are probably disturbing his rest; and the quickest way to spoil a friendship is to wake somebody up in the morning before he is ready.'"

"'I am sure,' she said, 'that every one of us here will be gratified to learn that after four weeks of unremitting effort and patience on the part of our friend the goose, she now has something to show for it. The goslings have arrived. May I offer my sincere congratulations!'"

"'Well,' said the spider, plucking thoughtfully at her web, 'the old sheep has been around this barn a long time. She has seen many a spring pig come and go. If she says they plan to kill you, I’m sure it’s true. It’s also the dirtiest trick I ever heard of. What people don’t think of!'”

"I am going to save you, and I want you to quiet down immediately. You’re carrying on in a childish way. Stop your crying! I can’t stand hysterics.”

"'Let Wilbur alone!' she said. 'He has a perfect right to smell, considering his surroundings. You’re no bundle of sweet peas yourself. Furthermore, you are interrupting a very pleasant conversation. What were we talking about, Wilbur, when we were so rudely interrupted?'"

"'If I can fool a bug,' thought Charlotte, 'I can surely fool a man. People are not as smart as bugs.'"

“'But Charlotte,' said Wilbur, 'I’m not terrific.' 'That doesn’t make a particle of difference,' replied Charlotte. 'Not a particle. People believe almost anything they see in print. Does anybody here know how to spell ‘terrific’?'”

"Templeton poked his head up through the straw. 'Struggle if you must, said he, 'but kindly remember that I’m hiding down here in this crate and I don’t want to be stepped on, or kicked in the face, or pummeled, or crushed in any way, or squashed, or buffeted about, or bruised, or lacerated, or scarred, or biffed. Just watch what you’re doing, Mr. Radiant, when they get shoving you in!'” [You'd be amazed how many times you can use this one!]

“One thing is certain, he has a most unattractive personality. He is too familiar, too noisy, and he cracks weak jokes. Also, he’s not anywhere near as clean as you are, nor as pleasant. I took quite a dislike to him in our brief interview.” [ha, this one too!]

When Elaine was still an infant, I got a number of books on CD to listen to while I was feeding her. One of them was Charlotte's Web, read incomparably by the author himself, E.B.White. He reads it in a soothing, emotionless, almost-monotone voice, and I have to say that I was late to work one day because I just had to sit and hear the end of it without interruption.

Every night when Lucy goes to bed, she likes to listen to an audio book. She's worked her way through Henry Huggins, Little House in the Big Woods, two All-of-a-Kind-Family books, plus quite a few others. Someone had given us the DVD of Charlotte's Web as a gift, but I held onto it because she really needed to experience the text first. She started listening a couple of weeks ago and loved it. This week, I let her watch the movie for the first time. When it got near the end, I came in and watched the rest with her. When it was finished, she got off her chair without any expression on her face, came over, buried her face in my lap, and began to cry. She cried and cried and cried and cried.

We talked a lot about it, and she seemed OK after a while. Later on when I was giving the girls supper, she asked me, "Mom, when Wilbur got to be an old, old pig, did he go back to the fair and die where Charlotte did?" She barely finished the sentence before she put her head down on the table and began to sob again.

Of course anyone knows it makes you feel terrible when your children are sad. But part of me also loved that she had fallen under the spell of this story of the greatest sort of friendship and was broken-hearted that an old gray spider had given her life for a little pig she loved.

The last lines of the book nearly finish me off every time I read them: "Wilbur never forgot Charlotte. Although he loved her children and grandchildren dearly, none of the new spiders ever quite took her place in his heart. She was in a class by herself. It is not often that someone comes along who is a true friend and a good writer. Charlotte was both."

That night when I tucked Lucy into bed, I asked her the question I always do, "What do you want to listen to tonight, Baby?"

She whispered, "Charlotte's Web, Mom. Start it again at the beginning."

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Quote of the Day

"Today at school, we were going to watch this movie about bugs and I didn't say 'Yuck!', but Michael said, 'This movie is just for boys. No girls allowed!'"

"Then what did you say?"

"Nobody said anything. We just looked daggers at him."

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

"They had mismatched manger scenes at incredibly low prices..."*

We finally packed the kids off to bed, and I sat downstairs, watching NCIS and eating a sandwich and Doritos (that sentence holds a lot of nostalgia value. I've basically turned back into a 16-year-old babysitter. With extra wrinkles.) Anyway, Lucy came down and said in a stage whisper (I think she's afraid to talk after bedtime), "Mom. I need to go potty. And I need an adult to go with me."

So, we did that, and then she said, "Close your eyes, I've got to show you something." She ran into her room and got one of her Groovy Girl dolls in whose hair she had placed a lot of random ponytails. She said, "I was just thinking in my heart, Mom. I was thinking that Groovy Girl's hair looked kind of snouty. I thought she'd look better with some ponytails and a bun. In my heart I thought that, I really did."

When I went back downstairs, I saw our nativity scene in the hallway. Each night, we put a different figure in and talk about what part they played in the Christmas narrative. I bought an extra set so we could have more animals, more than one shepherd (why is there always only one?), and an angel.

Here's what I saw:

Apparently the shepherds are tired and need a lie-down. And the smaller cow and donkey aren't feigning indifference, in case you were wondering. They prefer to turn toward their husbands so they can see them better.

*Bonus points for anyone who knows what movie this line is from. I thought everyone (at least every woman) knew this movie by heart. Then I mentioned it to the girl who does my hair (major clueing!), and she had never ever seen it. I was shocked, until I realized it came out around the time she was born. And then I was sad.

Girls Live Here

Here is a teeny tiny miniscule fraction of the shoe collection at our house--basically only what our newly-placed back hall mat (which only appears after the first snow) can hold. (Though now that I'm looking at the picture again? I'm sure we can squeeze a few more pairs on there.)

Nary a pair of Dad's shoes in sight...


Saturday, December 15, 2007

Some Winter Days

In addition to Elaine's birthday, Lucy had her Christmas program at church on Wednesday night. All the kids did a great job. They did an overview of what they've learned in Kids4Truth since September. They recited verses, sang hymns, and sang Christmas carols.


There must have been too much activity (and sugar) on Wednesday, because both girls were up and crying Wednesday night. They got to bed about 2 hours later than usual, and Elaine woke up crying at 2:30. Since I had to work the next day, Darren got the responsibility of her. Just as I was starting to possibly drift off again, Lucy came in my room sobbing because she couldn't find Rabbie. She had turned on all the lights, yet somehow missed him at the foot of her bed. She wanted me to rock her back to sleep, but we compromised with her just getting in bed with me (since Darren was in the guest bed with Elaine). We have strict policies about not having our kids sleep with us. Except for sometimes. It just gets to the point where you're too tired to soothe and rock them, so...I read somewhere that everybody's kids sleep with them, it's just a matter of how much in denial about it the parents are. And somehow that made me feel a lot better. So, with my alarm going off at 4:30 a.m., I got the big 3 1/2 hours of sleep that night.

However, on Thursday/Friday, I got the greatest Christmas present ever. Thursday after work, I dropped the girls off at my parents' for an overnight. Then Darren and I went out. To a restaurant. By ourselves. It was incredible. Then we went home and fell asleep. It was about 10:30. I did not get up until 10 o'clock the next morning. 10! It was fantastic. We spent a leisurely time getting ready without it being punctuated by the usual statements made during our getting-ready time when the girls are around. "Stop slamming that door! Are you allowed to play with doors?" "Please make your bed" and "I'd really prefer that my toothbrush not be on the floor by the toilet." Then we went Christmas shopping, then picked the girls back up (oh wait, after eating lunch together again at another restaurant!).

Saturday we were up early and at the mall for the Christmas sales (this is my idea of purgatory, but sometimes it just has to be done). Shopping with toddlers and preschoolers is virtually impossible, no matter how good they try to be, so Darren took them home and I headed back to the mall and actually got the shopping done.

It's been snowing all day, that pretty pre-Christmas snow, so Darren and the girls bundled up in the afternoon and went out to make snow angels and a snowman. Elaine had never played in the snow before, and she wasn't a big fan of it. After a few minutes, Darren deposited her on the back porch, and she came in the house moaning, "No thank you snow!" and "I got snot!" I took her outdoor clothes off, wiped her nose, and she's happily taking her new dolls on an indoor stroller ride around and around the house.

So, snow is here, the Christmas shopping is basically done, the Christmas cards are mailed, and Elaine's birthday went off successfully. Lucy's school program is this week, and the rest of the time before Christmas can just be enjoyed!





The Birthday Party

On Wednesday morning, Elaine woke up and opened some presents. (I think it's important to spread the presents out over the day. And is there anything more fun than opening up at least one present the morning of your birthday?) She got a book, a movie, and a CD from Uncle Scott, Aunt Denise, Drew, Ryne, and Joseph. Then she opened a baby doll in a raincoat, hat, and boots from Daddy and Mommy (as we talked on the phone on Monday afternoon, we realized we had forgotten to buy our child a birthday present. This is the plight of having a baby born close to Christmas, I think. So I ran out to Target that night and bought her a doll.) She was thrilled. We named the baby Jackie, after her favorite teacher at daycare.



She took a good nap in the afternoon while Dad and Lucy ran errands and I got ready for her party that night. Then she woke up, and I got her dressed in her party clothes.


"Her people" ("She has 'people'?!" our friend Michele likes to say) started arriving at around 4:30 for appetizers. Earlier in the day, my mom had called and asked what I was doing. "Making an igloo out of vegetable dip to go with the penguins I made out of black olives, cream cheese, and carrot pieces," I said. She just laughed at me. Then we had her favorite dinner (well, besides Happy Joe's pizza)--Daniels chicken, mashed potatoes (she and Lucy had brown rice because they don't like mashed potatoes. Yes, that sentence I just wrote is true. My girls prefer brown rice--BROWN RICE--to mashed potatoes.), sugar snap peas, and crescent rolls. Then we brought in her Maisy cake. She was a little overwhelmed and wasn't sure what to do with the candles, so I helped her blow them out. She loved Maisy though and tried to take a swipe at the frosting. We served it with eggnog ice cream (a perk of having a December birthday).


Then Lucy led her into the living room where there was a new Maisy rocking chair (from MiMi and PaPa), and in it sat a stuffed Maisy and a Maisy book (from Lucy). She went straight for the book, climbed up on Packa's lap, and asked him to read it. She got more books and clothes from Tia and Tio, a set of Christmas CDs from MiMi and PaPa, an Adidas sweatsuit and a new doll wearing a matching sweatsuit from Aunt Kimmie and Megan, and her own little robe made by Manga.

So, she successfully turned 2. I'm excited to have a 2-year-old in the house. I love 2. Really. I do.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Twelfth Night

The month of December always reminds me of two things: light and babies. I guess there are a number of obvious reasons for that! I know Jesus probably wasn't really born in December but rather the spring, but I love the idea of the Light of the World arriving at the darkest part of the year. I just finished a seven-month study on the I AM statements of Jesus (and I say "finished" because I completed the study, not because I've discovered everything there is to know about it because it is inexhaustible--in fact, I just found out some more stuff the other day). Each of the individual statements was so fascinating to study in its own right, but today I'm thinking about "I AM the Light of the world."

Thousands and thousands of human years after standing in the void and declaring “Let there be light,” the closing of the first day of the Feast of the Tabernacles had arrived, and Jesus was teaching in the Temple in the Court of the Women in Jerusalem. Great candelabra, with great golden bowls of oil, were prepared for the celebration. These were to represent the ancient cloud and the pillar of fire that had led the Israelites out of Egypt and through the wilderness to the Promised Land. As the evening approached, a large crowd of people arrived at the temple for the lighting of the candelabra. When darkness fell, young men in line for the priesthood climbed on ladders and lit the great torches. The blaze was so immense that suddenly the darkness was pierced with such a light that it is said to have illuminated every street and square in the city of Jerusalem. The light could be seen for miles around the city. It is in this very court, possibly the very moment of the lighting that Jesus cried out: "I AM the Light of the world." In effect, Jesus was saying, "You have seen the blaze of the Temple illumination piercing the darkness of the night. I am the Light of the world. The light in the Temple is a brilliant light, but in the end it flickers and dies. I am the Light that lasts forever." He declared, "I am the Light of the world; he who follows Me will not walk in the darkness, but will have the Light of life" (John 8:12).

In June 2005, I was 5 or 6 weeks pregnant. I was at my office, and, every expectant mother's worst nightmare, I started bleeding. I remember driving to the doctor's office for an injection and sonogram, tears running down my face, just praying, "Please let her be OK" over and over (for I knew even then I was carrying my little girl). I lay on the table as the technician put the cold gel over my abdomen and then began to press down with the ultrasound equipment.

She searched for a few moments, some of the longest moments of my life, and then said, "There!" As I looked at the screen, I saw a tiny light, flickering on and off, steadily. "See that light? That's the heartbeat. Your baby looks just fine."

My "baby" really looked like the tiniest blob, a small grouping of cells and tissue. But in the center of it, was that light, blinking regularly. The technician took a picture of it and told me to go home and rest. That picture is one of my treasured possessions.

And...on a cold night the following December, a little unexpectedly and kind of in a hurry, that little light joined our family. We named her Elaine, a French name that means "Light." She has lit up our little family for two years now, and we thank God--the author and creator of Light both immense as the Sun and as tiny as a newly formed heartbeat--for our precious girl.


"Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows." James 1:17
Happy birthday, sweet little Elaine. I love you!
Love,
Mommy

Sunday, December 09, 2007

Chatterbox

For awhile now, Lucy's had the corner on the talking market at this house. Not for long though, because Little Sister is catching up. Each day we hear more and more of that froggy voice saying increasing and increasingly complicated words. Darren and I go around thinking up as many "why" questions as we can to ask her just so we can hear her say, "Because." (Or sometimes she steps it up to, "Because why.") Whenever there's trouble and I say, "What's going on, girls?" she comes back quickly with "Lucy did it."

She can say three-word sentences and sometimes will even combine a couple sentences. One of my favorite things is when she sits down and looks through her books. She'll come across Maisy Makes Gingerbread, which she ripped up in boredom one day (apparently the wallpaper had lost its lure that time), and I taped back together. Without fail, she'll hold the book up and say, "Uh-oh. I ripped it. No, No, Laine!"

Usually though, she practices economy with her words. She's kind of like a drill sergeant, or maybe more like a doctor. We're never in doubt about what she wants. Whenever I change her diaper, just picture a surgeon saying, "Scalpel. Clamp. Light" only replace the surgeon with a two-year-old saying, "Wipes. Diaper. Medicine. Powder."

I had a bad night last night and still wasn't feeling steady this morning, so I stayed home. Darren said, "I don't see any reason why Elaine should go to church either if you're at home," so she stayed with me. (Funny, because I could--so I could go back to bed? But...no matter.) As I got her dressed for the day, I said, "Do you want to stay home with Mom?" "No." "Do you want to go to church with Dad and Lucy?" "No."

"Well, if you don't want to stay home with me and you don't want to go with Daddy, what do you want to do?"

"Eat."

Alrighty then.

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

The Golden Compass

I've been getting emails and seeing news articles calling for a boycott on the upcoming movie, "The Golden Compass," based on the book by the same name by Philip Pullman. It is part of Pullman's His Dark Materials trilogy. One thing that discourages me from the outset is that Christians don't usually seem to get outraged unless a movie comes out--books fly under our radar for the most part apparently (Harry Potter notwithstanding). Pullman's books have been out for a number of years. They're well-written. They're not what I believe, obviously, since he's an atheist and the ultimate goal for the children in the books is to kill God, who turns out to be an old imposter who is barely worth killing anyway.

In my personal opinion, mass boycotts are kind of ineffective. Waiting for hysteria and outrage to build and then be told by Christian authority figures what to do--that's not really my style. As well, boycotts just seem to draw more attention to a given movie than it would have garnered in the first place (Exhibit A: 1986's "Last Temptation of Christ"). But...every person has to decide according to the dictates of his or her conscience.

It also surprises me when Christians get enraged and boycott movies dealing with heresy or blasphemy but don't seem to have much problem with other movies loaded with violence, humanism, or other kinds of Godlessness, but I guess that's a different argument.

Personally, we won't be taking our girls to see the movie. First of all, they're way too young and neither Curious George nor Strawberry Shortcake is appearing in it, so it wouldn't hold their interest at all. Secondly, at this age, we still act as the filter and control for most of what goes into their minds, and I just want to give them Bible truth rather than other world views. Time enough for them to find out about some of those later.

But...if they were older and they asked me what I thought personally about Philip Pullman's His Dark Materials trilogy and/or this movie, I guess I'd say the following:

In the last volume of the trilogy, a character known as Dr. Mary Malone explains her discovery to the two children/protagonists, Lyra and Will: "I used to be a nun, you see. I thought physics could be done to the glory of God, till I saw there wasn't any God at all and that physics was more interesting anyway. The Christian religion is a very powerful and convincing mistake, that's all."

A lot of people, intelligent people, believe that way, girls. But in C.S. Lewis's (who Pullman loathes) "The Silver Chair," Puddleglum the Marshwiggle and two children are trapped in a wicked witch’s underground lair, and she is slowly enchanting them, persuading them to believe that there is no world above the ground. They almost fall completely under her spell when Puddleglum stamps out her fire (burning his foot in the process) and says:

“One word, Ma’am” he said coming back from the fire; limping because of the pain. “One word. All you’ve been saying is quite right, I shouldn’t wonder. I’m a chap who always liked to know the worst and then put the best face I can on it. So I won’t deny any of what you said. But there’s one thing more to be said, even so. Suppose we have only dreamed, or made up, all those things - trees and grass and sun and moon and stars and Aslan himself. Suppose we have. Then all I can say is that, in that case, the made-up things seem a good deal more important than the real ones. Suppose this black pit of a kingdom of yours is the only world. Well, it strikes me as a pretty poor one. And that’s a funny thing, when you come to think of it. We’re just babies making up a game, if you’re right. But four babies playing a game can make a play-world which licks your real world hollow. That’s why I’m going to stand by the play-world. I’m on Aslan’s side even if there isn’t any Aslan to lead it. I’m going to live as like a Narnian as I can even if there isn’t any Narnia.”

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Maybe if you put some tinsel on it...

This past Saturday, I took the girls to a KinderMusik demonstration done by two of my friends, Becky and Kathi. Actually on Friday while I was at work, Lucy helped Becky and Kathi set up for it (they assured me that indeed she was a help, and I am choosing to believe them). KinderMusik is a great program, which allows children from 9 mos. to 7 years to join. Their claim is that by 3 years, not only will your child be reading music, they'll be composing. I choose to believe that too, though I would just enroll my kids for fun and hope they learn to sing "Kooka-burra Sits In the Old Gum Tree" because I'm all about low expectations like that. Anyway, they got to try out musical instruments to their hearts' content (cool instruments such as egg shakers, triangles, and sandpaper blocks), identify sounds, listen to a story, sing with motions, and march around the room.
By the time we left, the storm that was promised had started, so we got home quickly. I thought it would be a good afternoon to work on the gingerbread house kit my dad bought the girls at Thanksgiving. Lucy has been begging me every day. It was surprisingly easy. Lucy had a wonderful time decorating it. Elaine was under the mistaken impression that we were opening up a box of cookies and bags of candy so that we could sit down and eat them. So...not as good of a time for her.
The finished product:

And here is Lucy admiring her handiwork and Smoochie plotting one last effort to swipe at least some of the frosting...




Oh, and while I was gone at one point during the weekend, this transformation took place. Here is my mantle as it is currently decorated for Christmas (the picture is a year-round decoration).

And here is my mantle when I came home. (It's deer-hunting season, y'all.)

Nice try, dude. But...back to the basement with that thing.


Friday, November 30, 2007

Brought to you by the letter J

It's "J" week at school, so in addition to learning about jingle bells and Jesus, the kids made bead jewelry yesterday. I went to pick up Lucy from school, and she came flying out, all excited, holding a string of beads.

She said, "Look, Mom! I made you this beautiful necklace! It's your present! Put it on now! And wear it with pride!"

I know all parents say this, but...seriously? "Wear it with pride"?! Where does she get this stuff??

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Oh, THAT'S why...

"Lucy, COME ON. We're going to be late for school! Get in the car. You're movin' like a herd of turtles!"

"Mom, do you know why I'm moving so slow like a turtle? It's because I had a honkin' big lunch."

Uh, does she know something I don't?

Lucy: "Mom, who's your grandpa?"

Me: "My grandpa's in heaven."

Lucy (in a business-like tone): "OK. When you go to heaven, please tell your grandpa how much I love him and tell him all about me."

Me: "Uh....OK."

Lucy: "I mean it, Mom. When you get to heaven, OK? Bye."

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

An Exchange of Letters

Earlier this week, Darren had lunch with Pastor Williquette. On the way out of the restaurant, Pastor grabbed two balloons for Darren to bring home to the girls. They were thrilled (especially since the balloons were from him). Unfortunately, Lucy lost hold of hers, and it sailed into the wild (gray) yonder. When I was tucking her in bed that night, she said, "Mom, I'm writing a thank-you note tomorrow and here's what it will say."

Dear Pastor Williquette:

I love you. Thank you for the red balloon. But...balloons don't last forever.

Love,

Lucy

And here is what he wrote back to her:

Dear Lucy,

You are right balloons don't last forever, and that can make us sad. But God gives us many other things to make us happy besides balloons. He gives us good daddys and mommys. He give us little sisters like Elaine. He gives us people in our church who love us. I am sorry you lost your red balloon, but remember that God has given you many other very good things. And remember most of all the God loves you more than anyone else and that if you are His child, you will never lose Him.

I love you too Lucy,

Pastor Williquette

p.s. Please tell your dad and mom and Elaine I said, "Hi."

Friday, November 16, 2007

In Memorial

We used to have these two dogs, Boo Radley and Gatsby. We got Boo Radley when we first got married. He was the naughtiest dog who ever lived. We could never have toilet paper on the roll where it belongs because he would pull it all off and eat it. He lived to be 12 years old and would still do it (if we occasionally tried to put it on the roll in a burst of optimism) even though he had arthritis. We could never use any wastebasket or garbage can that was not enclosed in some sort of cabinet. We could never leave any food out for any period of time however brief on any surface, including high-up countertops. Once we had some friends over for dinner and then had dessert in the family room. One of our guests couldn't finish his, and put his plate on the coffee table. We sat around and talked for hours, while Boo Radley slept deeply, snoring, on the couch. When our friends left, we of course walked them to the door. In that brief moment of time (he had been awaiting his opportunity all evening--what had we been thinking, talking for so long) he was wide awake, up from the couch, and calmly eating the remaining piece of eclair cake.

One time, at our previous house, Darren left the basement door open (unusual for him). Keep in mind that our previous house was huge. Cavernous. 3,000+ square feet with 11-foot ceilings. We had three living rooms and two bathrooms the size of living rooms. We had a full English walk-out basement. The basement was dark and used only for storage. At the far end of the basement, Darren had a cluttered work bench. On the bench, he had put the remainder of a bag of unshelled, salted peanuts he had gotten at a Kane County Cougars game. Boo Radley had never eaten peanuts. To my knowledge, he had hardly ever been in the basement and had no interest in going.

Yet, when we got home and went up to our bedroom on the third floor, our bed held the remains of an empty plastic peanut bag and all sorts of peanut shells. So. In our absence, Boo Radley had gone to the dark basement, gone to the farthest corner of said basement, rummaged through the various detritus in the dark basement, found the bag of peanuts, carried the bag in his mouth up not one, but two very long flights of stairs, hopped up onto our high, Victorian bed and eaten them. In comfort.

How I miss that dog.

But, this week, Darren and I have decided that Boo's spirit lives on. He has been reincarnated, if you will, into our youngest daughter. All of a sudden, in addition to her infamous wallpaper-ripping activities (and Boo so would have done that if he could have) Elaine can leave no roll of toilet paper left unrolled.

Every time I sit down to eat, even if she's just eaten a large meal herself, she will climb up on my lap, push her face by my plate, and insist, "Mine. Mine," until I give her a little tidbit. And on Wednesday, I left a garbage bag of trash just inside the kitchen door for one of us to take out on our way to church that night. I came down and found her sitting by the (now open) bag of trash with a good portion of the contents strewn around her on the floor and an empty Sprite bottle in her hand as she attempted to drink from it. I'd have pictures of it, but I guess you understand that the first thing on my mind when I saw that wasn't grabbing the camera.

Boo Radley. RIP, buddy. Or...maybe not.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Quote of the Day...

I went to get Elaine out of her crib one morning earlier this week. She had been at her wallpaper removal project again. She pointed at the wall and said, "Paper." I said, "Yes, I see you've been ripping the paper off again." She lowered her head and said, "Naughty." I said, "You're right. It is naughty. You're not supposed to rip paper."

Then she popped her head back up again with a big smile and said, "Fun!"

First Birthday Party

After the Fall Fest (and staying until 10 p.m. to clean up), I went home. Darren had left around 8:30 with the girls in order to put them to bed. When I pulled in the driveway, every light in the house was on. Bad sign. The girls were wandering around in their pajamas with sticky faces, teeth unbrushed, and bawling. Mama was not happy. I got them in bed finally and crashed too at about 11. At 2 a.m. I was awakened by piercing shrieks. I ran into Elaine's room--she was twisting and flailing and screaming. In the pandemonium, her shirt lifted and I could see she was covered with hives. I rocked her, soothed her, and finally took her downstairs to play. I realized at about 3 a.m. that I didn't feel much like continuing to sit up in the bright light and read "Ten Apples Up on Top," so I told her we should go back to bed. That didn't sit well. Darren left to go hunting in Peoria around 4, and I think I might have gotten Elaine calmed back down at around 5:30 or 6. (This included a repetitive prayer that went something like, "Dear God, please let her go to sleep, please let her go to sleep, please let her go to sleep.") She finally did, cross-wise in the middle of my bed. That really didn't leave much space for me, so I flopped cross-wise at the bottom of the bed.

At 7, I was awakened again, this time by a loud whisper about an inch from my face. "MOM. IS IT TIME TO PUT ON MY DRESS FOR THE PARTY YET?" I opened one eye and said, "No, and you better have some sort of caffeine with you, little missy." By now they were both awake and asking for breakfast.

At 10:45, I had Lucy bathed, dressed, and ready for her friend Isabella's birthday party at Lucile's Tea Room. She's been talking about it for weeks, her first real birthday party. I was nervous because I knew there would be 18 other girls there, none of whom she knew. I wanted her to have fun and feel secure and be nice. All those mom things. She looked so sweet and was so excited. We got to the tea room, and it was already filled with little girls. I was so glad I had bought her a new dress and shoes. She held onto my hand tightly, but she eventually let go and said, "'Bye, Mommy." When I left she had this little anxious look on her face that looked as though she wanted to be happy, but was also frightened and not sure how.

Elaine and I left and both started to cry on the way home. I think she was just mad though. She went down for a nap, and I started to clean up the house. Then I called my mom and told her everything from how annoyed I was that Darren left my crockpot full of chili sitting in the front seat of the car overnight and how my house was a mess and how I hardly had any sleep and how I just left my 4-year-old with a roomful of strangers and that I hoped I had sent her with the right kind of present and did I mention how tired I was and Darren was gone? Sometimes you've just got to have your mama to talk to, that's all.

I picked up Lucy at 1, and of course she had a fantastic time. She had her nails painted orange and her mouth covered in purple lip gloss. She was full of tales of the party, how they had had pigs-in-a-blanket, cucumber sandwiches, tea, and pink candle birthday cake (something might have gotten a little garbled there).

By the time evening rolled around, I had a clean house, two tired girls in bed, and Darren came home and we shared a pizza together. He had called a little earlier to say he was on his way and said, "I was thinking of Lucy most of today and hoping she had a good time at the party." The thought of him out there in his camo gear with his bow and arrow, thinking about his daughter and anxious that she was fine at a party made me completely forgive the crockpot-filled-with-chili-left-on-my-front-seat-overnight incident.

And...here she is. Doesn't she look just fine?


Halloween and Fall Fest

Here are Glinda and Dorothy. Darren took them around to a few of the neighbors' houses, and came away with more loot than they should have for the number of houses they went to. Our neighbors behind us, Keith and Linda, gave them large, frosted bakery cookies. Fortunately, the girls are still at an age where they don't really remember all they've gotten. Lucy ate her cookie over a number of days, but Darren and I shared Elaine's. Hey, I come by this honestly. My mom used to examine our bags when my brother and I were done trick-or-treating and take all the Hershey and Hershey's with almond bars so she could "cook" with them. Now, we never tasted anything she cooked with them, but she was able to successfully run this scam every year.

Friday night after Halloween was the church's Fall Fest. Along with my friend Sarah, I was in charge of putting it together. We had a great time. We worked at the church a good portion of Friday, decorating. There was a ring-of-pop toss, basketball hoop, beanbag toss, donut-eating contest, duck pond, face-painting booth, cookie-decorating booth, cake walk, and I don't remember what all. There was a men's chili cook-off as well, and hot dogs for anyone who wasn't a chili fan. There was a costume contest too. No one in my family took away any prizes, but we still had a great time.

Monday, October 29, 2007

Overheard...

Yesterday after church was over, I was trying, on my own, to get the girls organized and into the car. Yeah. That's pretty much like a herding a bunch of cats. They were running around, chasing each other and squealing, and at one point when I turned my head for a nanosecond, Elaine ended up in the pastor's study. (Let me just digress here a moment and say, this is why I have only two kids. That way there's one hand to grab each back of the collar.) I finally got them into their coats and I said to Lucy, "We need to find Dad. Do you know where he is?"

She gave a big, patient sigh and said, "I don't know, Mom. I'm sure he'll turn up."

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Weekly wrap-up

Last Thursday was Darren's birthday. He took the day off and got to take Lucy to swimming class for the first time in months. He hasn't seen her in this new class before--now she's out in the middle of the pool, getting real coaching. No more sitting on the shallow side of the pool, playing with toys and learning to put her face in the water. He had a class at night, so we ended up celebrating on Saturday. That could have been more fun than it was, honestly. We went to his favorite pizza place and had cake at our house afterward. But in order to accommodate everyone's schedules, we had to do it at noon instead of evening. That didn't really accommodate Elaine's schedule, so I spent most of the time at the restaurant, keeping her away from the table and letting her climb on the benches outside. He did enjoy his cake--Lucy picked out the design and decorated it.
If you can't already tell, it's a camping cake. The center is a pretzel campfire, there are some marshmallow/cereal trees, and frosted graham cracker sleeping bags (Daddy in the middle, Lucy and Elaine on either side. Lucy said, "But where are you, Mom?" and I said, "Upstairs--sleeping in my own bed.")
This week at school was community helper week. I basically consider these almost-weekly dress-up days as a thrown-down gauntlet to my creativity. I put Lucy in some cotton pants and a pajama top, with a stethoscope around her neck.


I think she looks very professional. She told everyone at school she was a nurse, just like Aunt Kimmie. (However to be honest, she did drag her feet on the way out the door and say, "I just don't like my costume very much." Seriously? I dream of being able to wear scrubs to work.)


Also this week was Elaine's first trip to the salon. As you can see, it was more than necessary.
[Note the wallpaper behind her head. She currently sleeps in our guestroom--when she is ready for a big girl bed, she and Lucy will share a room. We decided to redo the guestroom as soon as she's out of her crib. It was done by the previous owners; it was their teenage son's room. It's nice for a teenage boy but kind of dark for our taste. About a week or so again, Elaine began an independent project of stripping the wallpaper. Always trying to help her parents, that one.]

Here she is at the salon, reading a magazine. She instinctively knew to do that, I'm proud to say. She was particularly interested in an article featuring Queen Latifah called "Black Biker Chicks." She wasn't sure what to make of the haircut, but I let her sit on my lap throughout and she did a great job. Afterward, she said good-bye and blew kisses to the girls at the salon.
A blurry pic of girls with twin haircuts...A better shot, while eating a strawberry...

Those are the highlights of this week at the Daniels' house. Tuesday night I had dinner with Judy and Michele, Thursday night I had dinner with Sarah, and Friday I had lunch with Becky and Kathi. Consequently, I'll be eating cereal each meal for the next several days. And currently, it's Saturday morning, and I'm letting the girls watch The Muppet Show while I sit in my robe and write in my blog. That's a sentence I know my mother has never said!


Tuesday, October 16, 2007

I'm sure she is....

I recently ordered the unabridged version of "Betsy-Tacy" on CD for Lucy. She's been listening and enjoying, and today she showed me the cover and asked me "Who's that?"

I told her, "That's the lady who is reading the story to you."

"What's her name?"

"Let's see...her name is Sutton Foster." [I'm envious]

"Sutton FLOSS-ter? I don't like that name at all, Mom. But I'm sure she's a very nice person anyway."

Whatever

Monday I had kind of a low day. I think I possibly read too many blogs--that might be what started it. I've always liked to take walks in the early evening when you can catch a glimpse into people's houses--they're getting supper ready or watching the news...It's fascinating to get a little look into other's people's lives. Blogs let you do that. I read some great ones. However, it seems that in addition to being great and funny writers, these women I read somehow homeschool all their children, sew all their clothes from vintage fabrics, knit, set up elaborate home organization and cooking systems to follow, take fabulous photos, dispense fashion advice, grow organic vegetables...it's so overwhelming. Then I tell myself, "But...Self! You work!" Yeah, I do. So do some of them. They're lawyers and professors and people obtaining their PhDs while I'm sitting at my desk sifting through 10th-grade science rubrics for hours on end, making sure the grammar and punctuation is correct. Then I go home and am so tired I give my kids Chex mix for dinner and let them watch Madeline.

Lately too Elaine has been waking up at night. I think she's napping too long and too late during the day (oh good. I get to shorten her naps!), and then by 2:30 a.m. she's ready to be up. It also could be the approximately 72 ounces of bathwater she ingests right before bedtime, so she's waterlogged and wants a change. Plus another drink so she can be waterlogged again by the true time to get up. So I'm dragging myself out of bed, changing her, then she commands, "Blanket. Rock." We get her blanket and settle ourselves in the rocking chair. I sit there in the dark, holding her dead weight on my lap. Then she'll bring her little face right up to me, push her nose against mine, smile her huge smile, and say "HI!" in her loud, raspy, chain-smoker's voice. Then she'll fling her arms around me, bury her face in my neck, and whisper to herself, "Mommy!"as she snuggles up to me as tight as she can.

Then as I sniff the little dandelion fluff that is her hair and rock her in the peaceful dark, I think, "I get this. I get her." And I think about those other women and go, so what? Whatever.

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Garden Celebrity

I remember when Darren and I brought Lucy home from the hospital. I said to him, "Can you imagine that someday she'll have her own little personality? Someday she'll tell us what kind of ice cream she likes." It completely blew both our minds; we couldn't even imagine that.

Now, every two weeks in Mrs. Hogan's class, there is a new "garden celebrity." She sends a poster board home with the would-be celebrity and they (read: their mother) are supposed to make a collage of themself, which will then be posted in the classroom.



This is a project I can get behind. I stayed up late both Friday and Saturday night working on "our" poster. (I let Lucy help me color the fence.) Here's what we wrote:

"This is my house. I live there with my dad, my mom, my sister, Elaine, and Rabbie. I was born on June 7, 2003.
I love my sister. We like to read together, play dolls, and try on shoes."

"My favorite color is yellow."

"I love music! I love Selah, Keith Green, and Meredith Andrews. Elaine and I sing along to Strawberry Shortcake and Winnie-the-Pooh."

"I like to play dress-up."

"I love to swim."


"I like to drink tea every day. I have tea parties with my Manga."

"I like to play outside with Elaine. Best of all, I love to read! I have lots of favorites. I love 'Lyle, Lyle Crocodile.' I listen to books on CD, too."


"My dad and I go to baseball and football games. We like to take bike rides and stop for ice cream. We like to eat at Happy Joe's. My mom and I like to read and cook and sing hymns together. We take walks together, too."

"My favorite food is scones."
"This is me with Rabbie and Bittie as a flower girl at my Tia and Tio's wedding."
"I like to do art projects."
"I go to First Baptist Church. I go to Sunday School, Children's Church, and Kids4Truth. I like hearing Bible stories and singing best!"

"I'd like to be a cook. I can make poppyseed bread, banana bread, apple bread, cookies, and potato casserole. Rabbie likes to cook with me."



So...that's our little garden celebrity. I couldn't have imagined it...

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Why, Si, si it is...

[last night before bedtime]

"Mom, do you want to know how to say 'I'm sorry' in Spanish?"

"Sure, how do you say 'I'm sorry' in Spanish?"

"It's 'Ioweyouanapology.'"

Friday, September 28, 2007

Wardrobe Malfunctions

For anyone seeing those Wednesday pictures, one might think those weren't all taken on the same day since there was a wide variety of outfits. But...one would be wrong. The first outfits were morning playclothes. Then Lucy had to wear different clothes to school in the afternoon. She was, for some reason, supposed to dress in cowgirl costume again, but I had exhausted all our options with the bandana the day before. So she wore a jean skirt and flowered shirt, which looked country to me, but Darren said was decidedly more Groovy Girl. Then she didn't want to wear the bandana around her neck but rather around her hair like Cinderella (giving her an actual odd combination between hip-hop and Aunt Jemima before she got her new PC hairdo). Then Elaine had to change her dress because she spilled milk on it, and everyone knows spilled milk is possibly one of the worst smells in the world.

That's usually how our days go. The day before, Lucy forgot to go to the bathroom before she went to the park with my mom and ended up having to go behind a tree. Another wardrobe change, including wet shoes.

These changes extend to me as well. They're well past the formula/nursing stage, yet I still regularly sport dried food, tears, and other bodily fluids on my clothes. The other day at the park, I suddenly realized that, though it was only 9 a.m., I already had dried blood all over the shoulder of my new white t-shirt.

In other news, Darren, in one of his several calls to me at work this morning, said that he was trying to come up with a way to keep Elaine from eating during the 10 seconds or so it takes to say a blessing for the food. (She likes to hold one of your hands and eat with the other.) This morning he decided to outwit her and hold both her hands. He said, "The problem was that I had a little bit of banana smushed on my hand. So while I was praying, she leaned down and licked my thumb."

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Perfect Fall Day: A Pictorial


Welcoming Mr. FiberOptic Pumpkin.....


A funeral and sand burial for a dearly-departed, just-met ladybug....


One of the mourners....

















Tuesday, September 25, 2007

"...and you can be my cowgirl"




When I was little, my mom signed me up for ballet lessons. It was in order to strengthen my left leg, plus I was interested in ballet and not interested in sports. I remember going to the ballet supply store on the ground floor of a ballet studio...seeing would-be ballerinas running around in their leotards and tights. My mom bought me the shoes (which I still have). The first day of lessons, she showed me my leotard. It was a hand-me-down from someone, and I think it was for gymnastics. It was two-tone green--lime and forest--and had a zipper. Also, there were no tights. But I knew better than to say anything because the money was there for the appropriate shoes and the lessons, and that was it. A perfectly serviceable leotard was there for me to wear, too.

So, I did, every week. No one ever said anything to me either, even though I was the only one not in a black leotard (with no zipper) and pink tights. But you know what? It was completely fine. Sure, I felt a little out of place and self-concious. But there was no permanent damage.

Today at Lucy's school, it was cowboy/cowgirl day. Now, I've lived in northern Illinois my whole life. And I only rarely listen to country music. So, the whole western look is kind of baffling to me. There's really not a lot of call for cowboy boots (are they called "ropers"?) and hats. So, here was my solution to dress-up day. Lucy wore her jeans and a white shirt. I bought a red bandana and tied it around her neck. She wore white gym shoes. She was so thrilled with herself. She kept running and looking in the mirror and saying, "I look like a real cowgirl, don't I, Mom? What's a cowgirl? Why do they wear these bandanas?"

Then when I got her to school....oh my. These kids were fully kitted out. Boots and hats and chaps and leather dusters and vests...you name it. Immediately I was transported back to the ballet studio, circa 1978. And there was my Lucy, waiting expectantly in her carseat, wearing a $.94 bandana from Wal-Mart.

It's walking a fine line, being a mom. I have to nurture that little coccoon and keep it warm and dry and safe from bad weather and predators. But I can't smother it, and I can't force it to come out, and I can't decide exactly what the butterfly will look like when it appears.

I think it'll be just fine. No permanent damage. Maybe even no damage at all--she didn't seem to realize there was any difference between her and anyone else.

But I still feel just a little bit self-conscious.


Monday, September 24, 2007

"That is such a scam! She just wants to go surfing!"

Remember that so-bad-it-was-good movie with Mark Harmon and Kirstie Alley (before she went all cuckoo) called "Summer School"? It was about a bunch of slacker high school students and their even moreso slacker teacher (Mark Harmon) in summer school? Oh, you don't? Well, that's it. That's the basic plot. But anyway, there's one student (Courtney Thorne-Smith before she got famous) who says she has to leave class because she's sick, but she really just wants to go outside. (This is quality writing, people, nothing but the classics watched here!)

Well, that's Elaine today. I think it's the last day of summer (despite the fact that it's late September). It's supposed to be in the 90s, and it's sunny. Now, she does have a fever that's fluctuating between 100 and 102 and she does have some light hives, but I think they've all been spectacularly produced in order to stay home from daycare today.

She woke up at 5:45, which of course is far too early, so I brought her in bed with us. She laid back on my pillow and flipped through the book on my bedside table. She petted Darren's face and whispered, "Daddy." She giggled while he snored. She wiggled a lot. Then she leaned close so her nose was touching mine and whispered loudly, "Blocks!" Oh-kay. Guess it was time to get up.

So far this morning she has played with blocks, played with her dollhouse, played out in the backyard, eaten a large breakfast and part of mine, got up in the wing chair in the living room and said, "Moo-ee. Peas." So I put in a Strawberry Shortcake (or "Buh-buh cake" as she calls her) movie for her. Then she indicated that she would like the footrest up on the chair, regardless of the fact that her feet don't even reach to the edge, let alone the footrest. Then she decided she wanted to take a walk. She came upstairs and riffled through the books on Lucy's shelf. Now she's gotten out the Strawberry Shortcake dolls and is playing with them while singing along to the soundtrack to Piglet's Big Movie. Pretty soon I can see her snapping her fingers a la Snoopy and asking me for a pepperoni pizza and a root beer.

All this by 11:15. Isn't she about ready to take a nap yet? I am.

Friday, September 21, 2007

Hey, I still live here too!

Don't think Elaine has just gotten pushed to the side lately (and if you knew her? You'd realize that that is virtually impossible). It's just that school has opened up a lot of venues of conversation and is a source of new quotes. Rest assured that ol' Tootlebug, as she is also known, is still going strong.

Yesterday she was going down the basement stairs, and I said, "Scoot over so you're near the wall, not near the railing."

She looked at me and said, "No."

I said, "Excuse me? I'm sorry, I didn't quite hear that--what did you just say to me?"

Then she put her hands on her hips and said, somewhat garbled, but in an exact imitation, "You don't say 'No' to Mommy!"

Then she scooted over.

Yeah, she's a lot like me...

[In the car, on the way to school]

"Mom, do you know what Gabby said to me?"

"What?"

"She said, 'Why didn't you say hi to my big sister?' Wasn't that rude? It hurt my feelings."

"You should just tell her, 'I don't know your sister. Why don't you introduce me?'"

"She's not very nice to me. She doesn't really play with me. I like Paige better."

"Well, honey, let's just do what Jesus would want us to do. Just let it roll off you. Forgive her; it's no big deal. Start fresh again today and try to be friends with her."


[pause]


"Actually, Mom? I just want to complain about it some more."

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Maybe she has a sister named Chakra...

Today was "B" day at school, and everyone had to bring something in their backpack that begins with the letter B. In a Burst of Brilliance, I let Lucy bring the little metal bell from the kitchen windowsill that is shaped like a bird.

When she came home I asked her how it went and she said, "Mrs. Hogan put my bird with all the other things that begin with B. Paige brought a B...B...B...Barbie doll. Gabby brought her B...B...B...baby. A.J. brought a B....B....B...banana. Brendan brought a B...B...B...ball. Michael brought a box of B...B...B... blocks. And Rachel came with her daddy because he was the mystery guest today an' you know what they brought?"

"What?"

"A real live B...B...B...bunny. We all got to pet it. You know what the bunny's name is?"

"No, what's her name?"

"Crystal Harmony."

Monday Wrap-up

"How was your day today, Lucy; did you have fun?"

"Yes, Mrs. Pope (babysitter) and I colored and read and we went and took care of Miss Ruth's cat. I stepped on her paw and she went "Rowr!" but Mrs. Pope said that's OK, it was an accident. And Mrs. Pope and I went to Wal-Mart."

"You and Mrs. Pope are good friends, aren't you?"

"Yes, I made her my best friend. She's just so sweet, isn't she, Mom? Mom, I'm going to marry Michael."

"Who's Michael?"

"He's a boy at my school. He's nice, so I'm going to get married to him. Mom, Mrs. Pope believes in the untrue god. I'm just teasing, she believes in the one true God!"

"I know, she does."

"I got 'Cat in the Hat' as my library book today. I don't have 'Cat in the Hat' at home, only at Manga's house. Will you read it to me? Mrs. Pope read to me; she read 'The Snow Party' and 'Make Way for Ducklings.' I saw where you taped the pages that were falling out. I ate that lunch you gave me too, thank you, Mom! I liked it and also the stickers you put in there. I gave one to Mrs. Pope."

"That's nice. What did you say at Buzzy Time today?"

"I forgot. Oh, actually I said that Mrs. Pope and I colored together."

"Mom, do you know who doesn't believe in the one true God? Nero. [The Roman emperor in A.D. 54 in case you were wondering.] He doesn't believe in God, he said that HE is God. Mom, that's not 'cceptable to me and it makes me tired. I don't like that Nero. You know who does believe in the true God? Michael. That's why I'm going to marry him."

Friday, September 14, 2007

A snapshot

Whew. Summer flew by in some ways, and in other ways it was almost endless. Apparently a common metaphysical dichotomy of living with little people.

Lucy is in pre-school now. All summer long her anxiety heightened. She told me, "Mom, I don't want to go to school. I just want to stay home with you and Elaine." One morning when she woke up, she brushed the hair out of her face and said immediately, "Is today the day I go to that new school?" Me: "No." Lucy: "Oh good. Because I'm a little nervous about that new school."

But of course when the time came, she was all ready with her big kid backpack, and she totally loves it. She can't wait to go see Mrs. Hogan and Mrs. Gottfred and all her little friends. Every day when they sit in a circle, they pass around a stuffed bee, and whoever is holding the bee gets to talk. This is called "Buzzy Time." (My friend Ann and I have instituted Buzzy Time now for ourselves, via email.) The whole pre-school room is decorated in a garden theme. She came home the other day after having made applesauce, wearing a paper Johnny Appleseed hat. It's all a great success.

And let's not leave old Smoochie out. She's begun being 2 several months before she actually will be. People need only to see a picture of her to say, "That one's got someplace to go, doesn't she?" Last night after devotions and story time, I told Lucy to get in bed. Then I said to Elaine, "It's night-night time." She said, "Nope" and headed downstairs (she doesn't say "yes" and "no." She says, "yup" and "nope." It's defiance--in slang form!) I found her in the kitchen, pushing a chair around, and pointing out the patio window at Daddy.

My girls are both always on the move. My goal for this blog was to write thoughtful entries, a la Catherine Newman. But it all slips by me too fast, I forget to write in the blog, then the guilt sets in (really? I need more guilt in my life, especially over something I've imposed on myself?) So, now I'm going to try and write twice a month. It may be long, it may be short--however, the spirit moves. The ultimate goal is not to flex my dubious writing skills but to have an enjoyable record to read over at a later time.

That being said: fall's here, the girls are more energetic than ever, and I'm still writing, albeit intermittently and abbreviated.

Personalitites in a Nutshell

Last night the girls were taking their bath, and I gave Lucy her toothbrush and toothpaste and told her I wanted her to brush her teeth really well. Then the phone rang (it was Darren) and I asked them both to be really quiet. Of course they were completely loud and wild, and I had to abruptly hang up. Then when I was getting them out, I found the toothbrush just floating idly in the water. I asked Lucy if she brushed her teeth at all and she said, "No, Mama, I'm sorry." So, I was sort of mad and was like, "OK, I asked you to brush your teeth and you didn't. I asked you to be quiet while I was on the phone with Daddy, and instead you were really noisy. I'm really disappointed in you! Now just go in your room and put your clean underwear and pajamas on right now."

I went and got Elaine ready for bed and came into Lucy's room and she threw her arms around me and said (kind of teary), "Mama, I'm SO sorry I did all those bad things. Will you please have mercy on me?"

Then this morning when I was leaving for work (at 5:30 a.m.), I walked past Elaine's room. She was lying in her crib, singing a little song. Here's how it went, "Mommy, mommy, moooommmeee. No way no way no way."

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

At the breakfast table

On Tuesdays, my mom comes to watch the girls while I work. The dear woman gets here at 7:10 in the morning and plays exhaustively with them until after lunch, so she knows exactly how hard this job can be sometimes. Of course, they mutually adore each other though. And I freely admit that she does this far better than I do. On the days when Manga comes, you might get to do anything from making molasses cookies to going on a nature walk (and she lets you a) get out of the stroller as much as you want to pick as many clover and dandelions as you want, or even better b) doesn't make you get in the stroller at all, but lets you take your dolly stroller with and walk along beside her, going as slowly and/or stopping as many times as you want). She'll let you finger paint and will teach you how to turn somersaults. She'll play tag and hide-and-seek. She'll even help you make an exact replica of Thumbelina--the size of a child's thumb--including her little walnut shell bed and tiny bedding (I'm so not kidding).

But today I heard Elaine screaming at the top of her lungs all during breakfast, and when Lucy came upstairs I asked her what was wrong. Here's what she said: "Smoochie's being a brat. She won't eat any of your nice food. She won't eat your yogurt or your toast or your fruit or your nice waffles. She's bawling her head off. She just wants you, Mom."

But...that was over in a few minutes, and now I hear them all preparing to get the various dolls and strollers out.

Monday, June 25, 2007

Another year

This weekend was my birthday. I'm officially 38. I can't even say I'm in my mid-thirties anymore. It's definitely late 30s. I figure the birthdays are gonna come no matter what, and I can be depressed and sad or happy and eat cake. I'm always up for cake, so I go with happy every single time.

Also, this year my birthday fell on Sunday, so in my book, the celebrating really starts at least on Saturday, if not Friday night. Saturday morning my big present was that I got to sleep until 8:00 a.m. Sort of. I didn't get to bed until 1:00 a.m. anyway, and Lucy wandered in at her usual early hour and blew into my face. I pretended I didn't know that happened and rolled over, and wonder of wonders, she climbed in next to me and was actually quiet for about 17 whole minutes. Then she started talking and I moaned to Darren, "You've got to get those girls out of here, it's my birthday and I need quiet for a present." So he took them downstairs and gave them breakfast.

Then in the afternoon, we went over to my parents' house because no matter how old you are, nothing beats having your mom bake you a birthday cake. Last year Darren bought me a Baskin Robbins ice cream pie, and while I loved it and it was great, it was all WRONG if you know what I mean. On the way into their house, Lucy whispered up to me, "Mom, I have a special surprise for your birthday! But it's a secret! It's a pin cushion. I made it for you all by myself with Manga! It has pins and needles in it so if you rip your shirt you can put one of my pins in it. But you can't tell anyone about it, OK?"

Later in the day, I took her back to the bathroom off of Mom and Dad's bedroom and she said, "Oh! You can't go in Manga's closet there, because that's where I hided your present. It's wrapped in paper that's Dad's favorite color, but I can't tell you what it is!"

Then we had lunch, which I got to request and my parents totally indulge me (because that's how it should always be on your birthday, right?!) My dad made his famous fried chicken (the only time in the entire year I let myself eat fried chicken), and we had potatoes and peas and fruit salad and Mom's homemade cinnamon rolls with it. [Side note about the cinnamon rolls: These appear at everyone's birthday no matter what. One year, Mom forgot to make them for my brother (who is now 40.) The cinnamon roll-less birthday that will never be forgotten might have been for year 27 or something. But he's never let her forget it.] Then she made my favorite poppyseed cake with caramel frosting and toasted walnuts on it. Everyone toasted me and my good health, and Darren gave a special toast for how thankful he was that it's my birthday 'cuz we get to have fried chicken.

I got lots of good presents, such as cheongsams (that fit! a long story for another time) that Mom made, DVDs, great books, and of course, the famous pincushion. It's the cutest thing. It's pink with little green frogs on it. Lucy stuffed it all herself, and it's set up in a little box. On the bottom of the box she wrote a message that my mom translated, "You're the best Mommy" and signed it herself.

One book that I got from Mom I sat and read all yesterday until I finally finished last night. I'll write more about that tomorrow because the book is at home, and I want to write down quotes from it. Darren was going to get me an MP3 player, but then I decided against it, so I'm still deciding what he's going to get me. I like to spin these birthdays out as long as possible, as I've said.

And...what else...nice friends and family members called me and sang and other nice friends sent me cards and e-cards, and really, what more could anyone ask for? How could I be sad to be 38?

Plus, if my shirt rips, I'm all set now.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Ode to Dad

This past Sunday while we were getting ready I said to Darren, "Do you remember your first Father's Day? I do. Because I couldn't walk yet at that point." Lucy was 8 days old. More than that first Father's Day, I remember him being in the LDR, being absolutely silent because that's what I required of him. I remember her delivery and him spooning ice into my mouth and cheering me on. I remember that he was unofficially voted Most Excited Dad ever by the doctor and nurses.

When I came home from the hospital, he bought me a porch swing and a necklace with the baby's birthstone in it. In those first few nights when we were wondering what we'd gotten ourselves into and she was screaming her head off and I couldn't figure out how to nurse her for the life of me and was bawling my head off too, he said, "You lie down and get some good sleep; I'll take her." And he walked up and down the halls and all around the house with her while I slept for at least 4 hours.

When Elaine was born, I can pretty much just say, "Lather, rinse, repeat."

He's been to countless doctor appointments, changed countless diapers, given countless bottles, and been thrown up on with the best of them.

He's the dad who works far more than a 40-hour work week in 4 days so that he can take care of the girls on Friday, rather than have them go to daycare.

He makes pancakes for breakfast and grilled cheese with ham for lunch.

He gives baths, takes temperatures, and runs out late at night to get Pedialyte/Motrin/amoxycillin.

He takes a little girl to ball games, and they eat nachos and drink Dr. Pepper. He goes on bike rides and takes her to band concerts.

He does bedtime devotions and reads untold number of books. He plays all the characters in "Curious George Makes Pancakes" and "Lyle, Lyle Crocodile" and talks in all the different voices.

He teaches and disciplines and gives lots of hugs and a few spankings.

He goes to swimming lessons and Christmas programs and Kids' Club.

Last Friday night, he woke Lucy up and got her out of bed. They got some books, went to the convenience store and got some supplies, then they camped out together in the tent in the backyard. He had set the tent up with a great air mattress, both their pillows, and a little table. They laid out there and drank grape pop and read stories and went to sleep.

He worries, cries, prays, and laughs over his girls.

That's just the kind of dad he is.

Happy Father's Day, Scooby. You're the best! I love you!

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Overheard in the bathroom...

"Mom, I'm going to wash my hands with just water, not soap."

"No, you need to use soap."

"OK, I'll put on this honeysuckle soap here. Why is it called honeysuckle soap?"

"Because it smells like honeysuckle."

"Why does it smell like honeysuckle?"

"Because that's what flavor of soap it is."

" Why is there a picture of honeysuckle on the bottle?"

"So people will know what kind it is."

"Why is it what kind it is?"

"Because it just is."

"Why is it just is?"

>long pause< >sniff<

"Here Mom, smell my hands. They smell like dead honeysuckle."

Friday, June 08, 2007

The birthday girl

Whew. I'm tired. The last 2 1/2 days have been filled with feverish preparations for Lucy's 4th. I'm not a mom who can handle having huge "kid" birthday parties; we just have family. But since family is usually at least 13 of us, it's still a fairly significant production. Lucy and I made empanaditas and cinnamon chips and pineapple salsa for appetizers (we had regular chips and salsa too, but she missed out on that prep). She had a great time smearing tortillas with butter, cinnamon, and sugar, which I then cut with a pizza cutter and broiled. And not to be left out, Elaine clambered up on a kitchen stool, smeared her hands in cinnamon and sugar, and ate it.

The morning of her birthday, I was too excited to sleep and woke up around 5. I got the Strawberry Shortcake dollhouse and dolls (that I spent weeks on ebay trying to get) and set the house and furniture up in the living room. Then I put a doll and pet on each of the steps leading downstairs. I packed Elaine's Strawberry Shortcake-themed gifts that she had "picked" out in the dollar section of Target into a gift bag and put that outside Lucy's door. She got up at 6:45 despite going to be at 10 p.m. the night before because she had gone to Kids' Club, then to Wendy's for a Daddy/daughter outing. (Side note: She got a little cat on rollers with her happy meal, which she brought home, sneaked into Elaine's room, and put it in her crib so she would have it when she woke up in the morning.)

All four of us were in our bedroom while Lucy opened Elaine's bag. That would have been enough to make her day. She got flip flops, sunglasses, lip balm, a Strawberry CD, barrettes, and a headband. She hugged and kissed Elaine and told her thank you. Then in an unprecendented move, Elaine toddled (I say "toddled" but when she walks it looks sort of like a tiny blond Frankenstein lumbering around) over to Lucy and gave her a big hug. Of course both our cameras missed that moment. Darren tried to get them to recreate it. Hahahahahahahaha. Amateur. Screeching and unhappiness ensued.

Then we went downstairs. Lucy discovered a doll on each stair, and that too, would have been enough. I could not have asked for a more gratifying response when she saw all of them and then the house (fortunately, we do have all that on video). Suffice it to say, she spent the rest of the day playing with it and taking all of the dolls' clothes off and having them interchange outfits. Later on in the morning when I checked on her, she looked up and said, "Mom, I was never happy before until I got this Strawberry house!"

Family started arriving around 5, and everyone loved our appetizers. Lucy had asked for tacos for her party (read: lots of chopping preparation), and people seemed pretty happy about that too. After working hard in the yard all day and simultaneously watching the girls so I could do all the chopping preparation, Darren showered and changed into his hospital scrub shirt that has Lucy's teeny tiny baby footprints on it. He prayed a really sweet prayer for her and got a little choked up too (see Reason 7,685 why I love him).

Sometimes when you get family together it can be a volatile mix, but everything went really well. After dinner, I brought out her princess cake (she decided she wanted a princess cake the day after her third birthday), and she was thrilled. I was pretty happy myself--it didn't look as good as the picture (of course), but I had ordered the doll part from Wilton and it came with long hair. As a lifelong short-haired person with two short-haired girls, it was a major accomplishment that I put this thing's hair in an updo and even fashioned her a crown out of some of my old earrings.

After cake and ice cream, Lucy ran to the living room, then rushed back to the patio and said, "Everyone needs to come inside for presents!" Wow. Our families consistently overwhelm us. Chuck and Rome gave her the hardback collected stories of Eloise and a Strawberry Shortcake fairytale book (which we had to read 3 times to her before bed). Aunt Kimmie and Megan bought her a pair of Crocs with princesses. Then just to blow her mind, Mimi and Papa bought her sandals with princesses (that light up!), so she spent her present opening time changing back and forth between the pairs of shoes. She also got a lot of beautiful clothes and a pool with a canopy that both she and Elaine can play an advanced version of "Water" in. My mom made her an adorable dress and a matching one with a bonnet for one of her dolls.

Speaking of my mom, as I sat out on the patio with her, I said, "Mom, I thought of you these two days as I worked round-the-clock to put this together! I can't BELIEVE you used to do all this for us!" She just laughed it off. I'll say it again, I never knew how much my parents loved me until I became a parent. At least I have a six-month reprieve until I do this all over again for Elaine. My mom used to have to do it three weeks apart every summer.

So, now I am the mom of a four-year-old. I can't believe it. It's a happy-sad thing. Mostly happy, though. This morning Lucy called me at work (where I'm resting). She chattered on about how she stayed dry all night and how she's wearing her new, "What are they called again, Mom?" Crocs, and when I said, "I better go now, Baby" she exclaimed, "Not yet! I haven't asked you 14 questions!" My great big girl.

I'm figuring out exactly what "bittersweet" means.

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Four Years Ago

Four years ago this week, this is what I was doing. While I had contractions every five minutes 24 hours a day, I spent my time alternately walking around the neighborhood by myself--it was eerily quiet since most everyone was at work--and sitting in the glider rocker in the nursery, emailing my friends and listening to John Mellencamp's "Trouble No More." The highlight of the week was Wednesday, my OB appointment. She said, "It's actually hurting me to look at you. Let's put you out of your misery." She set me up for Saturday (earliest available bed), and I spent the rest of the week waiting, but happy knowing the end was in sight.

Friday night we rented a Harry Potter movie, I'm not sure which one, and I don't remember anything about it. I couldn't sit still or lie still. Too jittery. I brought the ironing board in front of the TV and ironed every single thing we would be wearing in the morning (and those of you who know me know how rare that is) and checked and rechecked everything in my suitcase. I was bringing a lot of DVDs. I'm not sure when I thought I'd be able to watch "Sliding Doors" and "Four Weddings and a Funeral," but...I was optimistic. I might have fallen asleep for an hour or two.

I was up at 4:30 and in the shower. I said one last prayer. Not, "please let me be OK" or "please let it not hurt too bad" or "please let the baby be healthy." I just prayed, "Dear God, please let this baby be a girl." We got in the car around 5:00, and Darren had to stop at Dunkin Donuts to get his coffee. Someday I want to be in a commercial for Dunkin Donuts as the only couple who stopped on their way to the hospital to have a baby because Dad had to have his DD coffee. I saw a suspicious-looking guy walk in in a hooded sweatshirt with his hands in the pockets and was sure he would shoot everyone in there. I was so mad at Darren. How could he get killed on the morning his first child was supposed to be born? But I guess Mr. Sweatshirt was just chilly and wanted his coffee too.

It was foggy all the way to the hospital.

We got there without incident, parked, and walked in. Right outside the doors, near a bush, was a tiny baby bunny. We'd been calling the baby "Puppy-Bunny" (Puppy for a boy, Bunny for a girl). We looked at each other and said, "It's a sign!" I got all checked in and hooked up and monitored. Boring. Uncomfortable. The nurse kept asking me, "From 1 to 10, what's your pain level?" and I kept saying, "2" until I finally thought as I was dozing off, "Next time I'm going to say 3 1/2" when...Bang! Darren rushed out to the nurses station and said, "Her water broke! Her water broke!" They were a lot less excited about this than we were. Oh, and the next time she asked me about pain I almost punched her and said, "Five hundred thirty seven. Get.my.epidural."

The epidural man came around 12:30, and life got a lot better. I told him I loved him. I bet he's heard that a lot. I fell asleep. At 4:00, the nurse gently woke me and said, "Honey, it's time."

It's time.

An hour and twenty minutes later, the doctor said it's time for a C-section. She'd try with a vacuum, but the baby's heart rate is slowing. She said, "Give me everything you've got!" After an entire week of contractions, a day of Pitocin, and an hour and twenty minutes of pushing, I didn't have much left. But I thought, not "I can't wait to see the baby!" but: "After all this, you better believe I'm not having a C-section!" and I gave it everything I had and the next thing I heard was, "It's a GIRL!"

It's a girl.

Thank you, God.

Happy birthday, sweet girl. I love you even more today.

Love,

Mama

Too Busy Living

It's pretty bad when Darren points out to me that it's been almost two months since I've written in the blog (the blog he didn't like in the first place!) I can't believe it. I think it's just a combination of writer's block and just the craziness of life. We've been too busy enjoying the outdoors and walking and playing "Water" (this is when I fill the watering can up approximately 800 times while the girls pour it out into their sand toys and all over their feet and each other's heads). We've been working and visiting and going to the park and having fun.

I feel like our family has finally, finally hit cruising altitude. That doesn't mean certainly that we don't run into turbulence at times, but the lynchpin in this whole setup is that...and I'm afraid to even write this in case somehow my printed words will somehow fling themselves out into the cosmos and come hurtling back into our littlest one's brain but...shhh...Elaine sleeps through the night. She sleeps all the way through the night. We put her to bed at 7, and she sleeps until at least 6 a.m. Without waking up. Without needing a midnight bottle.

Right now you're probably saying, "Wait, isn't Elaine, like, a year and a half old?" Yes! She is! She'll be 18 months in a few days. She started sleeping through the night at 15 months. It must be some sort of world record! Good job, Mom! Almost as good as the milestone of potty training Lucy by age 4! Somewhere someone is thinking of nominating me for the Nobel Peace Prize, I'm sure of it. I aim high, people, I aim high.

The thing is, (in my defense), it's not like I didn't TRY at either of these two (apparently) Herculean tasks. With Lucy I tried potty training for two years. I read every book and article and scoured the Internet and asked anyone who would care to listen and got every single person's opinion and saw two pediatricians and knelt down by the side of my bed and PRAYED that my kid could go to the bathroom. For real. Oh, and saw a child psychologist, did I mention that? So, it's not like no effort was put forth. And for all those people who said, "Don't WORRY. It'll happen." Thanks. Thanks a lot. Because...that's exactly pretty much what happend.

And as for Elaine sleeping through the night, they don't call me the "Sleep Nazi" for nothing. Before Lucy was born, I read Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child, and The Happiest Baby on the Block, and The Baby Whisperer, and I felt quite smug and successful when she slept through the night sporadically at 7 weeks and continuously at 15 weeks. We could go in her room, pick her up out of her crib, love on and talk to her, lay her back down, and she'd never wake up. Not old Smoochie. We started calling her "The Princess and the Pea." If one of us got up in the night to go to the bathroom, we couldn't even flush the toilet for fear of waking her. I logged her sleep patterns and tried all sorts of methods and even tried in desperation to let her cry it out (note to all: Elaine Frances does NOT "cry it out.") She finally just...did it. No more waking.

And I have delved in the glorious long-lost land of a full night's sleep. Eight hours and sometimes nine. Nine! Kah-razy. I feel rested and sooo much more patient with and loving of everybody. It's fascinating how much sleep affects all of us because, to use a well-worn but certainly true saying, "If Mama ain't happy, ain't nobody happy."

So, lots and lots and lots has happened. I've completely skipped over the fact that Elaine walks, runs, and climbs now (sleeping was much more important). She talks too. Lucy has probably said and done a thousand cute and funny things, and sadly, they'll be lost in the mists of time because I didn't bother to write them down. But...I'm hoping to do better. With the exception of periodic bumps here and there, this family is cruising now and it's all good.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Much Has Happened...Sort Of

It seems like a lot has happened in the last two weeks, but really then when I think about it, not so much. It seems as though at the end of March/beginning of April each year, we all give winter a big farewell by getting sick as dogs. Lucy and I both got the flu. Elaine got something that hung on for weeks. We were all supposed to go to dinner at the Aniol's house. (Lucy adores them.) About five minutes before we were supposed to leave (and as I had just gotten home from work), I took Elaine upstairs to change her. She felt a little warm. Then when I lifted up her shirt, I saw she was covered in little red spots. I yelled, "And...you didn't notice that the baby has chicken pox?" You can imagine how well that went down.

Turns out, it was hives. And a sinus infection that dragged on for weeks. We took her twice to the pediatrician--once to the on-call Saturday doctor and once to our new ped., Dr. Sroka. When Dr. Sroka was examining her, she turned and threw her arms around my neck and tried to climb up me like a frantic monkey. A howler monkey that is, because she roared deafingly into my ear as well. He did the best he could with her, and Lucy told him kindly, "Well, actually, I think she just likes Dr. Perryman better."

Then came birthday parties. My dad turned 75, and my mom threw him a grand party--filling the house with their good old Wheaton friends. Everyone laughed and talked and stuffed themselves, and he was in his element. We left that party and drove to Peoria to Aunt Kimmie's 40th. That was fun too, except that both girls were partied out and Elaine decided to stay up all night and cough and cry. And by all night? I truly mean all night. We took turns with her until around 5:30 a.m., when my sainted mother-in-law, who we are planning to put forward for canonization any time now, said she would take her so that we could rest. I planned to lay down on the bed for just maybe 30 minutes but actually woke with the sun streaming in the windows and Darren shaking me saying, "Al, Al. It's 8:30." We drove home, bleary-eyed, leaving the girls in their pajamas, and that was our auspicious start to Holy Week.

I'm not sure what else I did then, it's a blur. But on Thursday we had our first Seder dinner. It was modified of course, but really nice. Elaine went to bed early on, and then we could enjoy it more (sorry, Smoochie, you'll understand when you're reading this, I promise.) Lucy found the hidden afikomen, opened the door for Elijah, and asked Darren, "Father, why is this night different from other nights?"

Easter Sunday stood out as actually being colder than Christmas. The girls had gotten Easter haircuts (Elaine looks like a boy! It's the cutest thing ever) and put on their Easter dresses and bonnets (with winter coats over). We had a nice day with brunch at our house with friends from church afterward. Finally at about 4:30, after completing what felt like a 4-day cycle of cleaning / entertaining / cleaning / entertaining oh and then some more cleanup, I pulled on some pajamas, got a cup of tea, and sat down in the rocking chair, only to have Lucy come up with a glass of ice water, stumble, dump it all over me, and then start crying. (The other day when she did one of her ultra-early wake-ups, I said grumpily, "Dad and I are going on vacation soon. We're just going to sleep our heads off and never stop." She put her face close to mine and said tearily, "Don't tease! We want to go on baykayshun with you!" It's cute while I'm writing it, but man. I could totally write a scary Twilight Zone episode out of it.) Sometimes I don't feel cut out for motherhood.

But all in all...we're well. Sickness is lingering but slowly giving up. We got to do a lot of nice, meaningful things for Easter as well as see family and friends. And maybe someday we'll get that vacation.