Saturday, October 31, 2009

Halloween 2009

A lovely Sleeping Beauty, no?

With BFF Snow White, aka Lucy.

Annie and Jemma the Ghost at 5:00 p.m., just before the Halloweenie Roast begins.

Jemma as Cinderella at 5:20 during the Halloweenie Roast.

The neighborhood kids, in various states of understanding that they are meant to be having a group photo taken.

Annie, Jason, and Jemma the bunny just before setting out to trick-or-treat at 6:00 p.m.

Back inside counting their loot in front of a fire. (That's three costumes in three hours for Jemma!)

Anticipating Halloween

Somehow, Halloween has turned into an almost-week-long event at our house this year, complete with scary-snack-making, pumpkin-carving, wearing costumes both inside and outside days before the actual holiday, wearing costumes to dance, creating new costumes out of various clothing items and hats, school parties, and, finally tonight, our block's annual Halloweenie Roast and trick-or-treating.

Weeks ago, our neighbor Kate knocked on our front door one afternoon, holding a sweet, fluffy, white bunny costume. She wondered if Jemma wanted to wear it this year. Did Jemma? Yes! She did! She wanted to wear it to walk Annie's playdate home. She wanted to wear it to sleep. She wanted to wear it to dance on Thursday when Annie was supposed to wear a costume. She wore it everywhere.

Then, mid-week this week, Jason (for reasons some of us cannot imagine) wondered aloud if Jemma might look cute as a ghost for Halloween. You know, old-school, with just a ghetto sheet with some eye holes cut out. And Yes! She does! Even though I attempted a heart-to-heart with her on the couch yesterday afternoon about how being a bunny would be so cute and fuzzy and warm, she woke up this morning 1. asking for Ghost Peeps and 2. wanting to be a ghost for tonight's trick-or-treating. So Jason spent part of today fashioning a ghost costume out of a sheet. It turned out pretty cute, actually.

Annie, on the other hand, has been firm in her conviction that she wants to be Sleeping Beauty for Halloween. It's her latest princess obsession, and we luckily have the dress, the shoes, and the crown from Annie's birthday weeks ago. She remained firm in her conviction, and wore Sleeping Beauty to dance on Thursday. Thursday night, however, as I was helping her pack her costume in her backpack for Friday morning's school party, she changed her tune.

"But I don't waaaaaaaaant to be Sleeping Beauty! I want to be CINDERELLA!" Luckily, we have that one, too, so she went as Cinderella at school yesterday, where I helped at the class party and remembered with instant clarity just why Halloween is a teacher's worst nightmare. Sugar! Candy! Costumes! Crappy weather! A zillion parents milling around snapping pictures in your face!

This morning, Annie decided she'd go back to being Sleeping Beauty for tonight's trick-or-treating. She got busy in the playroom, laying out each piece of the costume on the floor so it will be ready when she gets up from quiet time. Jemma saw her doing this. And guess what Jemma said? "I want to be a PRINCESS for Halloween!!!!!!" And started gathering a whole, new (this would be the third in 24 hours, for those of you playing along at home) costume for tonight's events.

At 5:00 p.m., we'll stroll down the street to eat hot dogs, popcorn, and ghost cupcakes (cute, if I do say so myself) with the neighbors. We'll take pictures and the adults will self-medicate with alcohol while the kids fuel up on sugar. Then, we'll go trick-or-treating. But who can say which costumes they'll have on. Not me.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

So Far This Morning

Things Annie has cried about:

1. Last night at some point, unbeknownst to us, Annie woke up and decided that, instead of wearing a Pull-Up while she slept, she felt more like wearing underwear. So she changed, fell back asleep, and promptly wet the bed. Jason (God bless him) went in to deal with it at 3:00 a.m. (pulled sheets off, replaced with sleeping bag, put new Pull-Up on), and we were completely low-key about it at breakfast this morning, just mentioning that it was fine to get up and, you know, pee in the toilet in the middle of the night or else, you know, just keep the Pull-Up on. This did not stop Annie from crying about the situation, not really because she felt bad, but because HER UNDERWEAR, THEY GOT ALL WET. And no amount of "But they're in the washing machine right now" could make it better.

2. I asked Annie, "Who do you want to walk you to school, me or Daddy?" "You," she replied. Then, ten minutes later, as we were literally walking down the stairs to the door, she yelled out, "But I want DADDYYYYYYY!" And cried most of the way to school about it.

Things Jemma has cried about this morning:

1. Not wanting Jason to take a shower. This went on for nearly fifteen minutes at the bottom of the stairs while Jason was, indeed, upstairs taking a shower.

2. She asked me for fruit, and I replied that she and Jason had split a pear for part of breakfast. "But a pear isn't fruit!" she said. "Yes, it is." And again with the crying.

3. Not wanting Jason to go to work.

4. Wanting to be "wrapped up in a blanket like a baby and sucking on a bottle."

In a few minutes, we're leaving to pick Annie up early from school and go see Jason at his office for cleanings. I'm sure that's going to be a total party, too.

Sunday, October 25, 2009


I went running this morning and mostly looked down at my feet, because that's where all the gorgeous beauty was. I swear, I am about to crash my car, just driving around town distracted by the leaves. This afternoon, we played freeze tag on the front lawn and the girls rode their bikes through big, glossy piles of yellow and red that the neighbor was trying to organize near the curb. Then we came inside and made a fire, which is one of my favorite things to do on a fall Sunday evening. I can't believe Halloween is this week, or that soon the rest of the leaves will be off the trees and sucked up by the leaf truck.


Kevin came to visit today. He knocked on the front door while Jemma and I were folding and sorting her clean laundry in her bedroom. While Annie looked for someplace to hide, Jemma perked right up, ran out of her bedroom mid-sock-matching, answered the door, and gave him a big hug. Then she helped Annie out of her shyness by announcing, "Hi! This is my friend, Annie."


Annie had a classmate come home from school on Friday. All three girls were sitting around the dining room table, eating their grilled cheese and tomato soup. Jemma looked up and announced, "Kate Beeney, I am going to be a bunny rabbit for Halloween!"


Jason forgot he was a dentist for one minute at the grocery store (and forgot that I try to keep junk food out of the house, though who has been eating all that candy corn this week?) and bought the girls a pack of Fruity Snacks. I like to call them Sugar Gel. Or just Sugar. But anyway, he bought them, the girls love them, and I let them have a package each on our way to Meijer Gardens the other day. When we got there, Annie hadn't finished her whole package, and she looked at me with a gleam in her eye.

"Mom, I'm going to try to forget that I have these fruity snacks left and leave them in the car. I'll go play at Meijer Gardens, and then, when I get back to the car, the fruity snacks will be a SURPRISE!" It worked. She was pleased.

It's the little things. It's the one-liners. It's the forgotten fruity snacks. It's the leaves.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Week in Review

Even though this week, in retrospect, blurs together into one cold, rainy, non-napping grouchy children mess, it turns out there were a lot of good things, too. Let's focus on those, shall we? Here, it must be Monday. I can tell because Jemma has Nap Hair, and Monday was the only day this week she napped. I would prefer to transition into this phase a little at a time (I believe it has been well-documented that I do not like change and require a good, long time to get used to it), but Jemma appears to have other ideas. So here, Monday, I was pretending to take pictures of the girls eating zucchini bread they helped to make, but actually I was taking a picture of Jemma's Nap Hair. Little did I know it might be one of the last ones . . .

Also Monday, I made this butternut squash and cheddar (and kale, and shallots) bread pudding. I roasted a chicken to go with it, and it was probably one of the better meals we'll have this fall. The girls hated it, OF COURSE.

On Wednesday afternoon, it was gorgeous - partly sunny, low 60's - so we went to Meijer Gardens. We try to go at least once a season, usually more in the summer, and we hadn't been since before school started. Between soccer and ballet and play dates and gymnastics and school and weekend trips and Sunday School, I feel like whole weeks go by when I hardly have any down time with them, just the three of us. Wednesday was perfect.

Jemma loved this sculpture. She walked all around the base of it, touching each letter she could read and naming it. She knows almost all of them. Annie helped her with the ones she doesn't know.

The girls found a fuzzy caterpillar on the ground and stopped for about ten minutes to watch it. It was not moving. There was much discussion about this.

Yesterday afternoon was one of the longest EVER, and suffice to say that two out of three people in our house were in tears when Jason got home (late) for dinner. The cabbage salad I made did not go over well, and the potstickers stuck to the pan. After the girls went to bed, I had to get in the car and just . . . drive around. I had to remember that this task, this giant, enormous, humbling task of raising small people and, as a friend likes to say, molding young lives, is not easy. Then I had to get chocolate pudding and bring it home to eat in front of good television.

Today was better. It was rainy, but we were happier. We tried harder. We ate chocolate chip pancakes for breakfast. I went to the coffee shop to work, Annie brought a friend home and they colored happily and ate grilled cheese and tomato soup, I attacked the treadmill at the gym, and Jason painted twenty little fingernails. Today was the kind of day that's just right for soup, so I made some. Chicken rice, just like my mom makes. Annie peeled the carrots. The girls loved it.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009


It is so, so gorgeous out right now that it's almost a crime to be inside. After days of cold, it's unexpectedly sunny and warm (though I think the cold and rain are returning tomorrow). I went running early this morning and savored what might be one of my last non-treadmill runs of the season.

Annie went home from school with a friend, and Jemma is on day two of not-napping. The concept of "quiet time" does not quite compute with her yet, either; yesterday, she spent the entire time in her room yelling statements and questions to me as I TRIED to catch up on e-mail and write one coherent sentence on the laptop. "Mommy, come in and sing to me!!!!" "Mommy, where are youuuuuuuuu???" "Mommy, I am UUUUUPPPPP!" I let it go on for an hour, then went to get her and resigned myself to an afternoon of breakdowns and meltdowns. If she keeps it up, I might reconfigure our days, abandon rest time, and get everyone to power through until (an earlier) bedtime. I would probably miss the quiet time more than the girls.

It's crazy to think about, but we're already making plans for things into November and December: getting babysitters for parties, trying to figure out our holiday schedules, starting Christmas lists, signing up for snow-plowing. (Ick.) As the days get shorter and colder, I'm making an effort to seek solace in the small things. Baking zucchini bread with Jemma in the morning. My upcoming girls' weekend in North Carolina with five of my favorite people. Annie's hilarious Christmas list. Eating a late dinner with Jason. My favorite cinnamon-cider candle. Watching the girls giggle and giggle and giggle as they rake leaves into a pile and throw them up in the air, over and over. There's a niggling fear in the back of my mind as flu season swings into high gear all around us, but so far, we're healthy, and I'm counting that as a blessing right now, too.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Could We Cram Any More into One Day? I Don't Think So.

Soccer game? Check.

Grand Rapids Kid's Marathon? Check.

Pass kids off to my parents in the YMCA parking lot so Jason and I can drive directly up north and throw his mom a surprise 60th birthday party? CHECK.

Yes, she was very, very surprised. And we are very, very tired.

We've Been Boo-ed!

It was so, so good to pull into the driveway tonight and reunite with the girls. We've been gone from them too much, lately. My parents left, and the four of us spied a bag of treats hanging on our front door. We'd been boo-ed! So we put our sign on the front door and set out to spread the Halloween cheer.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009


"She had just learned that afternoon that she was pregnant . . . She was twenty-five then. How can she be seventy-nine now? It occurs to her that she thought she would always be . . . oh, thirty-two. She would grow older, but she would be thirty-two. She could be ninety, but she would still be thirty-two; and she would set the table and all her family would come when she called, the children bumping into one another as they came through the kitchen door . . ."

That's from Ordinary Life: A Love Story by Elizabeth Berg. I read it while I was lying by the pool in Hawaii, and it brought tears to my eyes. Suddenly, painfully, and probably especially since I was so far away from my children at the moment I read those words, I had an awful sense of how soon I am going to feel that way - assuming, hoping, that I am one of the lucky ones who lives to seventy-nine.

It's been a series of cold, gray days in the week since we've returned, and though there have been some definite high points (my 10-year Hope reunion, another hilarious 5-year-old soccer game, an equally hilarious book club meeting), I'm ashamed to say that I'm a little depressed. A little . . . slow. A little too aware of how immediately I'm right back into the tedium of the everyday, of how, already, the vacation seems like a distant memory. How it's hard to picture my life being any other way than it is right now.

Yesterday, Annie actually spit in my face when I went down the sidewalk to re-re-remind her of the boundaries for riding her bike and scooter. Today, she had a little friend over in the afternoon and they spent two solid hours bickering and not-sharing. Jemma's begun doing this THING where she jumps/thrashes her legs up and down in frantic motion to threaten an impending tantrum and it drives me crazy. I can't quite get the rhythm of this fall. I'm one step behind with the house, the groceries, the non-stop flow of paperwork that comes into this house on a daily basis. Already, the skin on our hands is cracking and our lips are chapped. I need to get all the winter coats out, and I just haven't. I need . . . a vacation after my vacation.

I come back to that passage, though, and instead of letting it frighten me, I take it as a rebuke: to remember, again, that each cold, gray day is fleeting; to notice the high points; to realize that I will not, indeed, every be thirty-two again.

So I notice Jemma's smile of great joy and awe as we do The Hokey Pokey at gymnastics this morning. I make sure to record her idiosyncrasy of the moment: her inability to conjugate verbs in the past tense, and her creative solution of adding the word "did" in front of the present-tense verb. "I did eat that all gone." "I did give Annie her shoes." "I did fell (smell) that flower."

I go outside and take pictures of Annie riding down the sidewalk in all her no-training-wheels glory. She doesn't fall once. I curl her hair for her school pictures and walk her to school in the crisp air. And when she asks random question #4986 and #4987 ("Would I still be able to walk if I didn't have one leg?" "Would I still be able to walk if I broke my neck?"), I tell her it's complicated, but when she looks in my eyes and says, "Try to explain it to me," I take a deep breath, and I sit back in my chair, and I do.

I guess this is thirty-two.

Friday, October 9, 2009


We're back. The trip was just as amazing as I thought it would be, and I can't even think of any moments I didn't wholeheartedly love. Even when it started pouring in the middle of our drive to Hana and it took us fully 20 minutes to figure out how to put the damn top up on the Jeep. We were soaked, and we didn't even care, because we were in HAWAII and hey, since we're wearing our bathing suits and already drenched, let's just finish up our just-roasted-over-an-open-fire macadamia nuts and the passionfruit we're eating out of hand and go swim in that natural pool with a waterfall.

Seriously, I was pinching myself the whole time, wondering why anyone would ever go anywhere else, planning even before we left when we could go back again. The conference is there every ten years, so for sure we'll take the girls next time. They'll be 12 and 15 (!) - a great age to do all the fun, adventurous stuff - and that way, we won't have to miss them while we're gone. We did miss them plenty, of course, but all the same, it was such a treat to have all that TIME to ourselves. Reading whole books on the plane, listening to our own music, talking, writing, eating, drinking, swimming, biking, running, hiking, walking on the beach all on our own schedule, without having to tie a shoe or pack wipes or settle an argument. We saw a few couples there with small kids, and it didn't look like a party. The time change alone (6 hours) and the shitty travel (a 12 hour flight is no fun, no matter which snacks you pack) would kill the trip. Like I said, next time.

THIS TIME, though. This time, it was magical. We toured the Pearl Harbor Arizona Memorial. We hiked Diamond Head. We climbed down cliffs to the ocean, then swam (briefly!) at beaches where the waves were the biggest I'd ever seen and the lifeguard came marching right over to lecture us about the spinal cord injuries he sees every month. (By swim, I mean that we would stand in the water, calf-deep, and then a gigantic wave would come and knock us completely over and send us tumbling underwater so we had salt water up our noses for the rest of the night. Good times.) We ate almost every single meal outside, and the one we ate inside was some of the best sushi I've ever had. We met a group of friends for dinner one night and sat drinking Mai Tais under a banyan tree, looking out over the crashing waves, while fireworks went off in the distance. We stopped at roadside stands for coconut shave ice. Sarah and I had two-hour spa treatments involving seaweed and hot clay being smeared all over our bodies. Sarah and I had a two-hour lunch at The Pineapple Room with fancy drinks and dessert and Kona coffee.

We got up at 2:30 a.m. to watch the sunrise from the top of the Haleakala Crater on Maui, then biked down the mountain to the beach through eucalyptus trees, plumeria, pineapple fields, and sugarcane. We hiked two miles in the rainforest through bamboo forests and across rocky streams to see the tallest waterfall I've ever seen. We swam at Kaanapali Beach and let the waves push us back and forth, back and forth. We drank champagne and watched the sunset from our balcony. We took a private yoga class in an open-air studio with a view of the ocean. We ate huge breakfasts of papaya and guava juice, eggs benedict and miso soup, bacon and smoothies. We drank lychee martinis, coconut porter, mojitos, lava flows and mai tais. We ate fish every day. We went running on Waikiki Beach at 4:30 in the morning. We woke up every morning no later than 6:30. We drove with the top down, listening to reggae and Hawaiian music. We sent pictures to the girls. We went to bed every night tired and happy.