Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Favorite Snack

We've found a new favorite snack, and we've been making it once a week or so. They're called Powerballs, and the recipe is from the Wondertime website. I can't remember anymore where I first saw them referenced, but everyone in my family LOVES them. I make a half batch at a time and make the balls tiny (just typing that phrase makes me instantly think of the Schweaty Balls sketch from SNL . . . classic!) so we can pop one in our mouth whole without holding on to the sticky, peanut-butter-honey concoction for more than a second or two. Jemma and I highly recommend making them on a sunny morning with some Patty Griffin playing in the background.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Jemma, 40 Months

I never know what the date is, but today I noticed that it's the 27th, counted the months, and realized that Jemma is now 40 months old. When she was smaller, I used to write monthly entries about her development, but I've stopped doing that in addition to completely neglecting her baby book. Sorry, Jemma!

These days, she eats almost nothing for dinner every night (because I refuse to make her an alternate meal) but begs for snacks all morning. She has a big, generous heart and is always trying to make people feel better - bringing them a favorite item, drawing them a picture, giving spontaneous kisses and saying, "Your cheeks are good to kiss, Mama." She loves puzzles, Sesame Street, princesses, blowing bubbles, glitter glue, and babies - both real and doll-versions. She does an amazing job in church: sitting quietly with us while Annie's in Sunday School, looking at books and finding certain letters in the bulletin, winking at grown-ups she knows, eating her Cheerios happily. She worships her sister, except when they are fighting. She must wear a dress every single day. When she has to use the bathroom, she takes off anything below the waist (tights and underwear, usually), then runs half-naked into the bathroom, yelling, "Privacy!"

I love to put her to bed at night. We read in her rocking chair, then she turns around to face me and tucks her head into the crook above my left shoulder, lifts up her jammies so her bare back is exposed, and says, "Snuggle me" while waiting for me to scratch her back. She puts her arms around my neck. We sit like that, usually for three or five or ten minutes, rocking, scratching, and then she says, "That's enough" and I sing her the same song I've been singing her since the day she was born and tuck her into bed, forty months gone by in a blink.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Earth Day 2010

I received an e-mail from Heifer International yesterday with the subject line: "Save the Earth and everyone on it." We support Heifer and all, but I thought that was a little overly ambitious for one Earth Day. Annie had talked about it at school, plus we had coincidentally watched a Yo Gabba Gabba episode called "Green," so Annie and I spent part of yesterday walking around with a Target bag and picking up trash.

Where was Jemma during all this do-goodery? AT HER FIRST PLAY DATE. It was just an hour or so, right down the street with her little friend Phoebe, but still. Annie and I enjoyed our "Mommy-Annie time," picking up litter in the sunshine and working on a school project we had been procrastinating.

On Wednesday, the day before Earth Day, we were playing out in the front yard (well, the girls were playing and I was reading The Pioneer Woman Cooks in a chair) when they came running over to me, all "Look what we found" and "Mom! Mom!" In Annie's little cupped hand was a bright blue robin's egg, still intact, that they'd found on the ground. I didn't have the heart to tell them that it was probably not going to hatch into a bird, so I let them run around the yard, gathering sticks and leaves for a nest. We assembled the little nest, stuck the egg in it, and nestled it behind our bushes.

Then they put Jemma's Mama Duck on it. To keep it warm. Obviously. Before bedtime we covered it with a garbage bag, so it wouldn't get wet in case it rained, and this is where it spent the night.

Yesterday morning, Annie woke up filled with the conviction that the egg must come inside. She filled a wooden heart-shaped box with straw and grass and leaves, then rescued the egg from its outdoor nest. It now sits, adorned with a robin sticker and occasionally covered with an orange sock, on top of the antique metal cabinet in our living room. Jemma drew pictures of robin eggs on her Magnadoodle (to keep it company), and Annie had a long conversation on the way home from school with Lucy about what we'll do with the bird eventually hatches.

"It might wake you up early in the morning," warned Lucy.

"Yeah," said Annie. "We might have to keep it in a cage."

"You don't want it just flying around your house," said Lucy.

"Yeah, because then it might just poop on your head!" said Annie.

Lucy nodded seriously. "You should probably put newspaper in the cage. For the poop."

So despite my gentle warnings that this egg probably fell from a great height, and then was touched by little girls, and is likely not warm enough to grow well, Annie persists in hoping that we, like Mother Bear of the Little Bear books, will one day have a baby robin crack out of its bright blue egg and become our pet.

Between picking up trash and caring for nature's creatures, I think we're right on track with the spirit of Earth Day, even if we didn't manage to "save the Earth and everyone on it."

Miss Susie Had a Baby . . .

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Annie's First Novel

To: Mom. Illustrated by Anna D . . .

In a small world there was a small horse.

It was sad.

It was lonely.

And then the horse met a new friend. The End.

She conceived, assembled, wrote, and illustrated this completely and entirely on her own. She put it together at school during Free Choice Time, did the cover and first page there, then finished it at home during quiet time. It is going in the Keep Forever box.

Additionally this week, she made me a big sign that said, "Hi MoM. WOR SORRe THAT You'Re SiCe. LOVe AnnIe DAD JeMMA. We LoVe YoU." (The "sick" referencing my continued ridiculous sneezing/nose-blowing every. single. morning.) How does she know how to use and write "you're" correctly??? (I feel this puts her ahead of about 20% of the adult population.) She also lectured Jemma one day at lunch: "Jemma, there are three ways to spell the word 'to.' T-o, t-o-o, and t-w-o, which is the number." When I ask her how she knows these things, if her teacher has been talking about them at school, she says, no, she just knows.

The English major in me is rejoicing.

Sunday, April 18, 2010


I love those square card and magnets they sell at good bookstores, the ones that have short, inspirational quotes on them. I have one on my fridge. It's a quote by Emerson that says, "To laugh often and much, to win the respect of intelligent people and the affection of children, to earn the appreciation of honest critics and endure the betrayal of false friends, to appreciate beauty, to find the best in others, to leave the world a bit better, whether by a healthy child, a garden patch . . . to know even one life has breathed easier because you have lived. This is to have succeeded!"

There is another quote on those cards and magnets, though, that I have seen hundreds of times but would never buy and put on my fridge. It scares me a little. Which is ironic, because the quote on that card goes, "Do one thing every day that scares you." And that's not really how I live my life. I am cautious, conservative, measured. I don't throw caution to the wind, I don't dance outside naked in the moonlight wearing a red hat, and I don't take big risks. All throughout my growing-up years, whenever my mom would drop me off someplace (school, soccer, a birthday party, youth group), she would yell "Be careful!" at me as I got out of the mini-van. So I am.

But last week I did something that scares me a little. I signed up to attend the Bear River Writer's Conference in June. It scares me because I am going to be among a bunch of WRITERS, and I don't really think of myself that way. (Yet.) I think of myself as someone who spends 95% of her time and energy being a mom and 5% of her time and energy writing things. I mean, I feel like I might become a writer, someday, if I work at it more and carve out some time and if my brain doesn't completely turn to mush after going on six years of sleep deprivation and wiping butts. It scares me because I am going to be surrounded by actual published writers - names that you probably know, if you read - and expected to produce work and read it aloud to strangers and . . . gaaaaaaah.

So I am scared. But I am also encouraged. Every time that a friend sends me an e-mail to compliment an article I wrote, it helps. Every time a reader writes to say that a post made her cry (or laugh, or read it aloud to her spouse in bed), it helps me believe that it might be possible one day for me to legitimately call myself a writer. If you have done that, I am grateful. It gives me hope, and the courage to tote my computer and my muddled brain to a writer's conference for a weekend this summer.

For now, I'm off to a book club field trip to have dinner downtown and see David Sedaris. Nerdy fun at its best!

Cousin Weekend

Weeks ago, out of nowhere, Jason asked Annie what sorts of things she'd like to do more of, anticipating, I think, that she'd say "swimming" or "art projects" or, most likely, "eating candy." She thought a minute, then said, "seeing my cousins."

So after a few weeks of planning, that's just what we did this past weekend. We went up to stay for two nights, and the weather was cold and nasty, which did not bother the girls at all. They filled the days with dress-up, watching Dora, puzzles, eating meals and snacks all lined up at the kitchen island barstools. We took them to Avalanche Bay, where they squealed around and summoned all their bravery for the real-deal water slides and ate together afterwards, smushed together all one one side of a little picnic table. They got donut holes at the bookstore and sat at a little table reading books. They giggled and fought a little and hugged and talked about unicorns.

They seriously love every second they spend together, and we seriously love to see it.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

A For Effort

A year ago this week I walked up to the high school and sat through some p.c. "Welcome to Our School District" meeting with a pit in my stomach. We STILL didn't know if we wanted to send Annie to Kindergarten or to Young Five's, and the meeting was no help at all.

I saw my neighbor walking up to this year's meeting on Tuesday night as I was heading to book club, and I couldn't help but think what a different space we're in now. We had Annie's spring conference a few weeks ago, and she could not be doing any better. She is thriving. She is excelling. She is reading far above a level anyone expects for end-of-kindergarten; she is competent and confident with numbers and counting by twos and fives and tens; she stands in line and laughs with friends every morning; she has plenty of playdates and birthday party invitations; she loves her teacher and every single thing about school.

Without us even bringing up the subject, her teacher looked at us across the table and said, "This is the right place for Annie. I really can't imagine having her in this class next year." And I finally - finally! - breathed a sigh of relief. Because even as the year progressed and things seemed to be going well, I would sometimes find myself wondering if we were rushing her to grow up. I found myself loitering in the frozen foods aisle one day at the grocery store, pretending to look at the edamame so I could listen to two moms (both strangers) discuss what they were going to do for their on-the-fence-birthday children this coming year. I found myself wondering, What If . . .

There's no way to know what things would be like if we'd chosen the other option, of course. Even as I feel relieved, validated, encouraged that we made The Right Decision, I know that the other choice would probably have come to seem like The Right Decision, too. There's no control group for life, no way to see what would have happened.

Every day, I try to be the best mom I can to these two little girls, and every day I fail. Even on days when we've painted rocks and made powerballs and cheese cookies for a snack and done a million fun things, there are moments when I lose my patience, when I send Annie to bed because she's lost her little mind and I know a bath and a story are not going to work, when I don't feel like praising every single stroke of a Crayon. I hope they remember the messy, floury moments with the rolling pin and not the yelling; there's no way to tell. But this last year, and the happy ending that's come out of it, has encouraged me to trust myself more with the choices and the decisions. Instead of living as though children come out with the words, "Don't Screw This Up" stamped on their little foreheads, I want to live as though they are branded with the reminder, "Just Love Me the Best You Can."

Monday, April 12, 2010

Balance Sheet

In the "good" column:

  • I conquered Day 5 of The Shred this morning with Jemma next to me using Veggie Straws as her hand weights.
  • I washed, dried, folded and put away three loads of laundry today before lunch. (That last step, the putting-away, usually happens about a week after the first three steps, so this is a big accomplishment.)
  • Also this morning, I got Annie off to school and then got to work making turkey lasagna for tonight's dinner. It was assembled and in the fridge by 9:30 a.m. I love being able to put dinner in the oven at 5:00 and know it will be ready 45 minutes later . . .
  • I have a week of fun events coming up, including book club, a quick trip to see my nieces and frolic at a water park, and David Sedaris at DeVos on Sunday.
  • After YEARS of procrastinating/ignoring the blue Rubbermaid container next to my bedside/being unable to even KNOW what I wanted, much less find it in a store, I purchased a pair of nightstands for our bedroom. I KNOW. It is exciting. Because a bedroom can never really look neat and cute when there's a dusty plastic container holding a stack of books and a clock radio from 1984.
  • I'm working on a new article for Rapid Growth, and I'm so excited to be promoting a very worthwhile and unique project.

In the "bad" column:

  • Jason and I suspect that Jemma recently underwent a personality transplant. For the last week or so, she's been throwing tantrums left and right, culminating in two very special ones today about shoes and a NutriGrain bar, respectively. Each involved several minutes (AT LEAST TWENTY) of jumping, crying, and falling to the ground.
  • My spring allergies have escalated to the point that I blow my nose 87,000 times every morning when I wake up, sneeze constantly throughout the day, and have a strong desire to gouge out my own eyeballs. Zyrtec, you are not cutting it.
  • Bees have made themselves at home in the myrtle that grows along our yard and driveway, causing Annie to FREAK OUT each time she steps foot outside our house.
  • I got my edits for the aforementioned Rapid Growth article back today, and I have not felt so much like a C- student since that single time I received a C- on a paper from Mrs. Bengelink in 9th grade. The last story I wrote was printed exactly as I submitted it. This story? Full of all-caps-highlighted-in-yellow ADD MORE INFORMATION ABOUT THIS and WHERE WILL THIS BE HELD and WAS THERE ANY CAUSE AND EFFECT SO FAR? and THIS STORY HAS NO HEART. Yeah, that last thing isn't making me feel any kind of pressure to go write it completely over right now . . . yeah. That's where I'll be, with my Kleenex and my wounded pride.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Hipstamatic OBSESSED

This morning was about as perfect as any Saturday morning in April can be. Jason let me sleep in until I wandered out just before 8:00 to find him in the kitchen with Annie making applesauce pancakes. I ran around the lake in the sunshine and came home to find the rest of the family cleaning their bedrooms!

Then I did my third day in a row of the 30 Day Shred. This workout video has been all over the internet for months and months, and I finally broke down and bought it because I wanted to see what all the hype was about. My verdict, after three days, is that it is not messing around. It is only twenty minutes long, but I am quite glad that it isn't longer. The cardio sections are fairly easy for me; the strength sections are another story.

This morning, the whole family did it with me, and let me just say that it's pretty hysterical to see Annie and Jemma flailing their arms around during jumping jacks or down on the floor doing crunches. (Because Jemma really needs to lose some of her 25 lbs . . . . please.) Annie gets very into it and takes it pretty seriously. She is going to be a competitor, that one. I have memories of my mom taking me to a neighbor's house so she and the other mom could do Jane Fonda tapes, and now the cycle repeats and the girls will have memories of Jillian Michaels telling them to tough it out. Then . . .

Coffee . . .

starting another batch of bread . . .

and playing around some more with my Hipstamatic app on my iPhone. $1.99 for this kind of camera fun is absurd.

Friday, April 9, 2010

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

On the Third Day

It is raining, and I have pushed back my chair from the dinner table and gotten into bed. The noise machine is on to block out the noise of the girls in the bathtub - splashing, giggling, talking, not-listening to Jason - and Nigella Lawson's Feast (borrowed from the library; checking out cookbooks is my new obsession) is lying next to me.

I am completely out of steam, and I know I am lucky that Jason walked in the door as I was just about to lose it. This is his third week in a row of working 8 to 5, which really means 7 to 6, which really means that I have to hit the ground running in the morning and be 100% on for eleven hours straight. I have taken for granted the many mornings when Jason is around, helping, until 9:00 a.m., and even though he often gets home much later on those days, things are easier, somehow, when he is here for those first bleary breakfast moments.

Annie is on spring break, and we have had fun. On Monday, we walked down to the track and ran laps together, blew bubbles outside, played with neighbors, and met kindergarten friends at the park for the afternoon. Yesterday, we had one of Annie's little friends over for the morning, then went to the pool in the afternoon. We baked my favorite banana bread. We took walks during breaks in the rain and stopped to smell every daffodil, hyacinth, and flowering bush along the path. We sat on the floor and read Olivia and Madeleine and Fancy Nancy. It was good.

Today, though. We had to be out the door early to get Jemma to gymnastics. I packed Annie lots of fun activities for her one-hour wait in the lobby with me, but she chose the moment I tried to call a source for an article I'm writing to start pestering me for a snack. (It was 9:15 a.m.) I planned to bring the girls to a fun kid-geared ballet afterwards, but drove downtown and talked it up to the girls only to discover a sign on the door saying all performances were sold out. We regrouped, headed home for an early lunch, then hit the cheap theater to see The Princess and the Frog. I thought it started at noon. It started at 12:35. So we sat in the theater for an extra 40 minutes, the girls growing more and more ancy, more and more tired. And by the time we got home, it was too late for any semblance of quiet time, so the afternoon devolved into grumping and bickering and rainy-day boredom in spite of the puzzles, board books, cardboard and glitter glue I pulled out in desperation.

I hear them again right now, reading bedtime stories on the couch, and even though I've been sitting here recharging for less than half an hour, I want to go to them, snuggle in to make the threesome a foursome and hear Jason read Stellaluna. It's the catch-22 of parenting: when they're good, you want to be with them, but when they're bad, they need you even more.

Monday, April 5, 2010

Easter 2010

The Easter bunny left his silly white tracks in our house again this year.

Annie woke Jemma up by holding a jelly bean in front of her face and popping it in her mouth when she opened her eyes. Here she is, finding jelly beans, still half-asleep.

After church, we went across the street for a very cute little egg hunt with a bunch of other families. The sun was shining, the daffodils were blooming, the kids were wearing their spring Sunday best, and it looked a little like something out of a Ralph Lauren ad.

Then we made our way to my parent's for dinner, where the girls found YET MORE CANDY lying around the house for them to find. After dinner, we all took naps (yay, naps!) and then went for a hike up Mount Pigsah afterwards. It was windy but warm, and it felt great to feel the beach breeze on our faces. We drove home after dinner, happy and tired and full of sugar.