Friday, December 25, 2009

Two conversations

I don't often play the "I'm going to tell Daddy" card with my kids. Mainly because he doesn't do much disciplining. Dan telling the girls that he's going to tell Mommy brings a much more repentant reaction.

The girls do not like it when Daddy is upset though, and if they actually think he will get mad they usually snap back to their senses pretty quickly. One night last week while giving Anna a bath I had to use the threat: "I'm going to tell Daddy and he is not going to be happy."

Anna's head bobbed up over the side of the tub with a total Anna response: "Then why are you telling him?"

*******

Dan was cuddling with Rachel on the couch when she suddenly asked him: "Daddy, are you thinking what I'm thinking?"

Stifling surprised laughter, he answered: "I don't know, what are you thinking?"

"I'm thinking about... Hannah Montana."

"Then, no."

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

A Jewish daughter at Christmastime

"Mommy, I can't WAIT til Christmas."
"Ok, well you know we don't celebrate that, right?"
"Well it's still going to happen."

Sunday night we had a family Hanukkah party at Dan's cousin's house. His cousin's husband isn't Jewish and their gorgeous home is covered with a really nice mix of both Hanukkah and Christmas decorations. Anna came upon the stockings hanging above the fireplace and asked Dan, "why are those socks so BIG?!"

The girls represented nicely, chatting about Santa - they really like him, even though they don't believe he's real and they know he doesn't come to our house - and saying the prayers over the Hanukkah candles along with everyone else.

It's been really nice holiday season so far. Of course we haven't been to my side of the family's celebration yet. I might have a totally different post after tomorrow night!

Tuesday, December 08, 2009

Moment of clarity

I'm in the car running errands with the girls in tow when up ahead I spot my old apartment building. I point it out to the girls and completely blow their minds by mentioning that I lived there before I even met Daddy. Anna can't believe that I lived alone and asks if I was lonely.

Immediately my mind flashes to the days when I had no one to take care of but myself. Beautiful quiet evenings spent eating what I wanted and choosing my own television programming. My bed all to myself and no one asking me for anything.

As I stop at the red light in front of the building I assure Anna that it wasn't so bad and that I even enjoyed living by myself. She ponders this for a moment before posing her next question.

"Are you happier now that you have a family?"

Still stopped at the light, I turn and look at the faces of my children. The answer is obvious but the strength with which I feel it hits me hard. "Absolutely," I say. "A million times happier. Nothing makes me happier than our family."

My daughters beam at me and Anna points out that the traffic light is green. The girls crane their necks to see the building as we pass and we continue on our way to the bank.

Monday, November 30, 2009

Looking at the stars

On December 1, 2004, Dan and I became a family.

Anna Frances was a good sleeper, a terrible eater and sounded like a baby pig when she cried. When she was awake, she was incredibly alert and took in everything she saw with clear eyes and a thoughtful face. Her daddy was the first person to ever hold her and without a doubt she always knew who he was.

As a new mother I reached new levels of sleep deprivation and learned all kinds of important lessons about nursing and pumping and crib safety and baby reflux. Also? Nothing ever felt more awesome than having my newborn baby sleep on my chest.

Anna's feeding and reflux issues made her a pretty high-maintenance child for those first few months. The one saving grace is that she slept amazingly well. Usually all we had to do was get her to lay her head down on us for more than ten seconds and she'd fall asleep for pretty much as long as we'd let her stay comfy.

Five years later one of my favorite things about Anna is that she is still that cuddly. All those hours snuggled up on the couch in her early days must have stuck with her because at least once a day I am ordered to the couch so that she can lay down on (yes, "on" and not "with") me. I know full well that one day she won't want me in the same room and so while my laundry piles up and that funny smell in my kitchen may not have been resolved yet, Anna can have me.

My labor with Anna was not easy and by the time I finally delivered her I was completely exhausted and barely conscious but I remember straining to hear some comment about her condition. One of my clearest memories of that moment is hearing one of the nurses comment that Anna was face up. "She was born looking at the stars, she'll spend her life looking at the stars."

Let's hope so.

Happy birthday Anna!

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Forty-eight months later

Four years ago today my Rachel was born. I had a repeat c-section after a good 24-hour fight against preterm labor that just would not stop. Even though she was six weeks early she was a good size and appeared healthy.

Turns out Rachel's lungs weren't inflating and so she was whisked off to the special care nursery where she spent the first six days of her life. Not having her in my hospital room with me was awful. Postpartum hormones plus no baby to hold equals one especially emotional mommy.

Leaving the hospital without my baby was heart-wrenching. But after a frantic week, finally taking her home and introducing her to her big sister was glorious. This is the first picture ever taken of our family of four (disclaimer: that's breastmilk in that bottle!):

Anna loved Rachel the minute she laid eyes on her. All she wanted to do was touch her and stare at her. It was the sweetest thing I'd ever seen. She took her role as big sister pretty seriously from the start.

I am sometimes asked if Dan and I will ever "try for a boy" or if I am ever going to have another one of these babies I adore so much. But we are done and while I might love on my friends babies and wonder out loud what life might be like with more children, I really am ok with that. Because my family? It's complete. And kind of awesome.

Forty-eight months after her early arrival Rachel continues to surprise me every single day. She is dramatic and hilarious and affectionate and the most snuggly girl ever. And today she is four.

Happy birthday Rachel!

Saturday, November 14, 2009

The one about my dog

What's that? You didn't know I had a dog? Well that is because I actually do not.

What I do have is a medium-sized creature who runs around on all fours and pants and barks and yips with excitement and howls when upset and eats food out of a bowl on the floor.

Unfortunately that creature is my four-year-old daughter. Several long months ago she decided that she wanted to be a dog. At first I went along with it because why not? Pretend play, the imagination at work, what a creative child!

As she does with everything, Anna took this business very seriously and her commitment to her new game was complete. She carefully studied how dogs position their legs when they lay down and the way their ears move. She didn't want to act like a dog, she wanted to BE a dog and she repeated this distinction to anyone who would listen.

See?


Behold my pride and joy BEING a dog at... wait, where was this photo taken again? Oh, heh heh, right, ummm, at SCHOOL. Yeah, I waited for weeks for the lynch mob of parents to show up at my door after she had like a whole pack of them going.

So this commitment I mention, this focus, this clear intention to BE a dog includes my child actually barking. BARKING. Loud, sudden, eardrum-rupturing barks. The canine version of the atmosphere-disrupting shrieks that used to cause strangers to crane their necks to see what I must be doing to the poor child to make her sound like that.

The barks were startling my 90-year-old grandmother so severely that we had to put a doggie ban in place when Grandma Edie is around. I'm seriously considering moving that woman in with us.

Because it's not only the elderly that can't handle Anna the dog. I can't handle Anna the dog. And let me be clear, Anna's love of and connection to animals is one of the many things I adore about my oldest child. It warms my heart to see it in action.

But I can't get through an hour of any day without encountering the dog behavior. Meal time, bath time, grocery store, swim class - it is nonstop. She was a Border Collie for Halloween and she obsessed over the details of the costume with such intensity that I had to wonder if it was completely healthy.

The truth is that I don't believe the dog behavior is unhealthy, at least not yet. And I feel guilty saying it - though I've long ago accepted that guilt just comes with the territory of having children - but more than anything the behavior is annoying. I'm just tired of her putting her hands down on dirty public floors and getting food in her hair because she's eating with her face in her bowl. And I'm completely over the noise.

I feel bad when I have to tell her to stop playing because it's making me insane. But I have done it. It is hard to balance fostering my child's creativity with maintaining my own mental health. I suppose that is one of the most basic struggles of motherhood.

It could be worse. She could have a drum set.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

One more reason

Rachel just came to me with a folded up tissue pressed to her chin and told me, "This is my beard. My man name is... Mr. Pete!"

Oh this child. Four is going to be fun.

Monday, November 09, 2009

Observation

Bath time around here is no longer fun. What used to be the most joyous time of the day - giggling children, silly shampoo hairdos, oh my goodness the divine smell of a freshly lotioned baby! - has turned into a nightmarish routine of whining and fighting.

I can almost set my watch by the complaining. First Rachel starts her "I'm very very cold" song before her toes even touch the water. Then they fight over who gets to sit in the front of the tub. Then Rachel complains about having to rinse the shampoo out of her hair. Then Anna yells at Rachel for any reason she can find. Then the kicking starts, the kicking of as much water as possible out of the tub and onto the floor.

By the time the water starts flying I am at the end of my rope. Which admittedly isn't that long to begin with. As the girls get out of the tub and start fighting over the lotion and pushing each other for space in front of the mirror, my voice gets louder and soon I'm barking orders at them like a drill seargant, only meaner.

And now I'm pulling them apart and reminding Rachel not to put lotion in her hair and warning Anna to stop screaming and lamenting the fact that every single night it's the same frustrating scene. Then suddenly Anna stops shrieking to make an observation:

"Hmmm, my snot tastes like coconut milk."

The three of us freeze for a second before dissolving into laughter and I get to enjoy the moment before Rachel decides to express her joy by shoving Anna in the chest for no apparent reason. And I'm back to the battle.

Monday, November 02, 2009

True story - even the part with the bunnies

June 22, 2001, was a Friday and like we did most weeks, Dan and I had dinner with his parents. We were back at our apartment for a good twenty minutes and settled in front of the television when Dan suddenly suggested going out for ice cream.

We headed up the street to an ice cream shop we both grew up with but were met by a sign announcing that the shop was closed for remodeling. Dan seemed disproportionately unnerved by this information and we sat in the car for a long minute deciding our next move. I finally suggested getting milkshakes from a fast food chain nearby and he reluctantly agreed.

Huge takeout milkshakes in hand, Dan drove to a small local park where we stood and watched the sunset as a family of bunny rabbits played in the grass. I am not making this up, I distinctly remember these rabbits. And they were playing. But I digress.

In this park, watching those rabbits, drinking those enormous milkshakes, Dan asked me to marry him. And I said yes of course and then I got mascara on the shoulder of his polo shirt because I cried. A lot. I was happy.

We married the following November. November 2, 2002. Seven years ago today. It's been quite a roller coaster, this marriage thing, but we've decided to stay on the ride.

Happy Anniversary honey!

(Photo taken on Day 3 of our awesome Vegas honeymoon)

Sunday, November 01, 2009

Restraint

As I've written about before, my girls go to an orthodox Jewish preschool and therefore have no school friends with which to share the joy of Halloween. This year I reminded the girls to try not to talk about Halloween at school so that they don't make anyone else feel left out.

I realize that it is virtually impossible for children this age to keep secrets but aside from trying to do a little damage control, I sort of wanted to see what would happen when they tried to keep this topic out of their everyday conversation.

Thursday night as we set off on our trick or treating adventure we walked through a particularly large pile of leaves on the sidewalk and enjoyed the crunchiness under our feet. The rest of the night easily overshadowed that pile of leaves in the excitement category but sure enough on Friday morning Rachel's memory was triggered.

At circle time Rachel's teacher talked about walking in leaves and Rachel was eager to contribute. "You know what?" she reported, "Last night, my mommy and my sister Anna and me and well Daddy was at work but my mommy and my big sister..." I held my breath and waited for her to mention costumes, candy or the dreaded H word. "We walked through the leaves and it crunched!" She finished with a beaming smile.

I exhaled as she turned and looked at me with pride. "Mommy, I didn't talk about Halloween!"

Because I can't resist

Before:

During:


After:
I was so proud of the girls for being polite and gracious during their trick or treating. They said thank you at every house without any prompting and Rachel kept shouting "Happy Halloween!" over her shoulder as she pranced back down the driveways.

The high points: Rachel deciding that she wasn't afraid of the costumes or dogs that she saw and announcing that fact to anyone who would listen, "because princesses are brave!"; Anna naming the breed of every dog she saw along the way and stunning their owners with her accuracy; gorgeous weather.

Definitely the best Halloween with the girls yet.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

That's my girl

I'm in the kitchen making dinner while the girls play in the next room under Dan's supervision. The vent over the stove keeps me from hearing too much of what is going on but eventually I recognize the unmistakable sounds of my girls dissatisfaction: Rachel's foot stomping and Anna's screech.

I assume it has something to do with the mermaid Barbie outfit that has been causing familial strife for two days now and I inch closer to the melee to see how the girls are working things out. Almost anything short of physical violence is preferable to their normal course of action, which is to run screaming to Mommy.

As I peer around the corner I see Anna defiantly facing off against her sister. Rachel is standing with her hands on her hips, leaning forward as she yells, "Anna! You have to be NICE TO ME!"

Anna turns and walks away as she declares, "I don't want to be nice."

She may have muttered it but she was heard loud and clear.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Take Us Back In Time Tuesday - 10/13/09

My photo this week for Mrs. Schmitty's Take Us Back In Time Tuesday project was taken on December 4, 2005.



Seriously, are words even needed? Rachel was twenty days old. Anna was one year, three days. We were admittedly lucky that either one of them was sleeping at all, let alone both at the same time. Dan had been holding Rachel when Anna fell asleep on the couch and he placed the baby next to her "big" sister. You can see how Rachel's knees are still pulled up in the position she'd been in on her Daddy's chest. Dan took the picture and called me over and I do believe that I burst into tears at the sight.

This photo is pure love and joy. I would totally wallpaper the house with it if my husband would let me. But he won't. Heartless, right? So for now I'll just post it forever on my little corner of the interwebs.


If you would like to take part in this project - come on, do it, you know you want to - the participation rules are here and the Mr. Linky link can be found here.

Friday, October 09, 2009

Sometimes it really is the little things

The other day Anna fell asleep on the couch while I was preparing dinner and I had to wake her up or risk a very late, frustrating night.

As expected, she woke up cranky - who doesn't after only being allowed a 20 minute nap? - and as I already had a headache I tried to soothe her with, well, bribery. Luckily it only took a lemon popsicle and I watched as she ate it, bleary eyed and still mildly offended at being woken up.

When a few drops of popsicle melted onto her shirt I got one of her favorite nightgowns for her to change into, a brown and pink polka dot number. With ruffles. "I wish you washed this," she told me.

I was confused. "I did wash this honey, it's from your dresser, it's clean."

"But I wish you put it in the dryer."

I smiled. I've been known to pop the towels in the dryer before bathtime because I'm awesome like that. "Do you want me to make it warm, honey?" I asked. Her smile was my answer.

So I put it into the dryer and we chatted for a few minutes in the laundry room. When I retrieved the warm mass of fleece and started to pull it over her head I heard a sharp, high-pitched shriek and feared for a moment that I'd caught the fabric on her earring.

But then her head appeared, all pink cheeked and smiling and she immediately squirmed her body around inside the nightgown. "I LOVE warm!" she announced and ran off to advise her sister to do the same with her nightgown. She does love to share the wisdom.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

I'm huge with the preschool crowd

Last year I worked in Anna's classroom and got to eat lunch with her every day. This year is different and so when I was packing her lunch for the first day of school I got a little sappy and put a note in her bag, written on a paper towel and printed as neatly as I could manage.

I hope you are having a great first day of school! I love you, Mommy. She liked it so much she refused to throw it away and kept it tucked into a pocket of her lunch bag for two weeks.

I didn't want to start doing it for every lunch - too much pressure. Like I need one more thing to remember to do every day. So I've made it an occasional thing, once every week or so. Sometimes I include a little reminder, like swimming lessons tonight! or play date tomorrow! She always keeps them.

Yesterday after school I was cleaning out the lunch bags and found the note I'd written that morning. I called Anna over to see if she could read it to me.

"Dear Anna," she read slowly with a tiny bit of assistance. "I love you so much! I hope you are having a good day. Love, Mommy."

"And what about this down here?" I asked, pointing to another line of writing next to a silly sketch of a fairy.

Anna smiled and rolled her eyes. "Eat your lunch!" she quoted. "The kids in my class LOVED that! They really laughed."

What can I say? I know my audience.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Take Us Back In Time Tuesday - 9/29/09

I sort of can't believe I haven't already used this picture for Mrs. Schmitty's Take Us Back In Time Tuesday project.

Because it quite simply is one of my all time favorite pictures, ever.



There are so many things that make me smile when I look at this picture, which was taken in the summer of 2007. Anna's bedhead, Rachel's toddler potbelly, those sweet little jammies with the tiny satin bows at the necks.

Mostly I love that Rachel is watching her big sister's tearful reaction to this odd scene with a curious expression, like "What, he totally had it coming. Plus, he fits."

In later months I'd begin to worry that Rachel had some hostility issues with Elmo as I came across several other gruesome scenes, including a near-suffocation with her overturned snack bowl but it must have just been a phase. I'm pleased to report that Elmo is well and still residing - now peacefully - with our family.



If you would like to take part in this project - and I highly recommend that you do - the participation rules are
here and the Mr. Linky link can be found here.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Then and now

While looking through my archives I discovered further proof of my whack blogging skillz. Specifically, I never posted anything at all about my girls first-ever day of school. LAST YEAR. Not one word or picture. How awful am I?

Of course I love to find the silver lining and I quickly realized that this is a perfect opportunity for a comparison photo situation and everyone knows how much I love that. And so I give you First Day of School 2008:


The apprehension in Anna's eyes is palpable. She loves adventure and new experiences but is very cautious in the transition phase. She's just waiting to see what this preschool thing is all about exactly. When I look at her careful little face my heart just swells a bit.

And when I look at Rachel I just want to giggle. Not even three yet, so little with her unruly pigtails and experiencing another milestone with her big sister. Just happy.

It was an awesome school year. It took about three months for Rachel to stop screaming every time I got more than two inches away from her but once we got past that little bump in the road it was golden.

By comparison we have here First Day of School 2009:


Sometimes I wonder why they have to get bigger at all. But then the universe drops me a nice little reminder that the getting bigger part - getting to watch our helpless little babies grow and gain confidence and overcome fears - that might be the best part of all. Even if it occasionally makes you cry.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Take Us Back In Time Tuesday - 9/22/09

This week's entry for Mrs. Schmitty's Take Us Back In Time Tuesday project features four generations of women from my mother's side of the family. In a good way.




Rachel was several days old and still in the NICU but Grandma Edith was not waiting until we took her home to get her hands on her newest great-grandchild. So she and my mom came to visit and I swear we did not plan the blue-gray color scheme. I'll blame genetics on that fabulous style choice.


If you would like to take part in this project, the participation rules are here and the Mr. Linky link can be found here.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Awe

The preschool my girls attend - and where I work - is part of an orthodox Jewish synagogue. Out of respect, Orthodox Jews traditionally do not speak or write God's name (which is why you will sometimes see it written as "G-d") and in our synagogue we teach the children to say "Ha-shem" (literally, "the name").

Over the weekend our synagogue had a big fancy event and when we arrived on Monday there were several large exotic flower arrangements left over from the centerpieces. I was practically ordered to take one home.

It looked kind of silly on my cluttered kitchen table, surrounded by baskets of laundry and lunch bags waiting to be cleaned out and re-packed. It held Anna's fascination though and she sat gently touching the long fronds and brightly colored petals as the usual litany of questions spewed forth. I did my best to answer but I know very little about plants and flowers. I really was an awful biology student.

Finally Anna declares that the plants feel fake. I reminded her that they were not fake and that is why we put water in the vase.

"Are they really real Mommy?"
"Yes."
"REALLY real? NOT fake?"
"Really real honey."
"Wow. Hashem is good!"


Sunday, September 13, 2009

First Five

I could seriously make this a daily post but I barely have the strength to live through it every morning, let alone write about it. These are the first five questions Anna asked me today. All asked before I was out of bed. Of course.

Why are fairies the only people who have wings?

Why when people get married do they have to have kids?
(Note: it doesn't seem to matter if we have discussed a particular question and its answer at length or how many times we have done so. In Anna's world all questions are up for re-presentation to Mommy.)

Are these drawings of sparkles or real sparkles on my pajama shirt?

Why does Rachel always come to your bed in the middle of the night?

Did I get bigger today?

And now for Mommy's question: where is my coffee? I'm going to need my strength today.

Tuesday, September 08, 2009

A rule with many applications

I am sitting in my chair with the computer on my lap trying my very hardest to finish an article I am reading. The four-year-old sits beside me on a little ottoman pulled right up to the arm of my chair. Although the term "sits" is wholly inappropriate because this child does not sit. If she has even half an ounce of energy left in her gangly body she is squirming and bouncing and wiggling and finding some way to get one of her razor-sharp elbows into my side.

At any rate she's there, sitting and yet not sitting, giggling and trying to catch a small leather ball that is being tossed erratically in her direction. The pitcher? The three-year-old of course. This one seems to think that yelling "catch" at the top of her lungs is a substitute for actually aiming her throw.

The two of them crack each other up. Rachel gets louder and Anna gets higher-pitched. It's a brain-piercing combination. After about five minutes of this, the little leather ball goes whizzing past my laptop screen and I open my mouth to try to move this scene to another part of the house.

Before I can speak a word my brain does me a favor (this is banner news as it does not happen often, particularly before words leave my mouth). I mentally flash through the next few minutes: request, resistance, insistence, whining... enough said. I stopped at whining. I closed my mouth (more banner news) and repositioned the laptop.

When Anna was a very fussy colicky six-week-old baby, Dan got some excellent advice from his best friend, himself a father of two girls. This piece of advice came with a title: The Happy Baby Rule. In any given situation we were to ask ourselves, is the baby happy? If the answer was yes then we as parents should sit down, shut up and do nothing to change the situation. Period. It didn't matter if it was time for the baby to eat or she should be napping. Happy baby equals happy parents.

I hereby adopt this rule for my preschoolers. Maybe it is due to the temporary (ha! I hope so) increase in bickering that occurred when Anna came back from her vacation (there will be more on that soon) (and by the way can I use any more parentheses in this post?) or the fact that school started again today and I am now surrounded by many more preschoolers every day but I just do not have the energy to try to run the show right now.

So now I am living by the Happy Kid Rule. Are they happy? Are they safe? Then they can be as annoying as they want.

You can drop that parenting award in the mail at your convenience.

Take Us Back In Time Tuesday - 9/8/09

I missed a week but I am back in the saddle!

Continuing with Mrs. Schmitty's Take Us Back In Time Tuesday project, I give you this sweet little gem:



July 1, 2006 and Rachel was in the jumpy seat for only the second or third time. This is the kind of seat that attaches to the door jamb and gives a good jumper some serious air. I remember Anna giggling like crazy as she watched her oh-so-recently-immobile sister fly into the air and back down again, her chubby little thighs working to go higher.

Even as an infant Anna would never fall asleep if there was anything around to grab her attention. She never dozed off in her highchair or under her play gym. She most certainly would not fall asleep in a jumpy seat. So I was slightly stunned to realize that Rachel had just jumped herself to sleep.


If you would like to take part in this project, the participation rules are here and the Mr. Linky link can be found here.

Friday, September 04, 2009

Rachel's chart

Our Anna-less week ends tomorrow and we are all excited for the Muffin's return. In the meantime I thought I'd share a little tool we used for Rachel to keep track of the week.

By day three Rachel was complaining that she "thought Anna would be home already." I almost pulled out a calendar for her but I only had a monthly one and I thought it might be too overwhelming to see all of those boxes, even if I highlighted the ones that signified Anna's vacation. So instead I drew eight boxes on a piece of paper to represent each day Anna would be gone, including the two travel days.



No mocking my lack of art skills please! At the end of each day Rachel and I put something in the box to represent what we did that day and then write a description. She is then able to get excited about her week as well and see that she got to do some special things too. And it's an easy way for her count down to her sister's return.

This picture was obviously taken before last night, so for the record: we baked oatmeal raisin cookies yesterday. This is especially significant because Rachel loves raisins and Anna usually won't eat them. I almost took another picture but my cookie drawing really was pathetic.


Wednesday, September 02, 2009

Passing the halfway mark

Anna has been gone for five days now and won't be back for another three. Not surprisingly the adults are taking the separation harder than the children.

I spent the first two days marveling at how quiet my house was and the third day an emotional teary mess. Luckily for everyone I was much too busy yesterday to go running into bathrooms for sixty-second cry breaks.

Staying occupied does seem to be the key to resisting the inclination to mope, for both me and Rachel. While we have gotten plenty of quality relaxation and cuddle time together, I seem to feel calmer and less anxious - and yes, less sad - when I am actually doing something.

Of course Anna is everywhere and I've still had a few moments where the intensity with which I miss my first born hits me full force. Like when I came across this:



Pingu. By Anna. I've never seen this before, which really surprised me because Anna usully announces it when she starts drawing something new and when she's perfected her new subject she demands recognition and finds a place for it on the refrigerator (where Rachel will move it or change the magnets and generally drive my little OCD 4-year-old nuts, but that is another post I suppose).

I found this guy in Anna's sketch pad near several other tries to get her favorite penguin just right. I took one look at the yellow outlining the white belly and all the other details she worked so hard on and I fell apart again. Dan and I just looked at each other and smiled as the tears welled up in my eyes and I was glad Rachel was in bed.

I tore the drawing out of her sketch pad and put it on the fridge for her return. Which cannot come soon enough. At least I have this to keep me company in the meantime:



And really, how sad can you be with that smile nearby?

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Separation anxiety

School starts up again in two weeks but before we get to that milestone I have one more huge summer hurdle to clear: I'm losing my oldest child for a week.

A few weeks ago my mom invited the girls and I to join her and her girlfriend on a trip to North Carolina. For several reasons I just can't go but they invited Anna to join them.

I immediately spiraled into a mess of motherhood anxiety. I've never been away from my children for more than three nights and that was only this past spring. And that was hard.

My mind raced through the pros and cons:

Anna IS in a very adventurous phase right now and I know she would have a blast.

But at some point she will undoubtedly become terribly homesick and probably have some sort of emotional meltdown. And Anna's meltdowns can be intense.

However my mother of all people is excellent at soothing and distracting Anna and helping her get past her more difficult moods. And goodness knows Anna surprises us every day, I might not be giving her enough credit.

What am I talking about? How can I send my baby away for that long, I would miss her like crazy! Not to mention her father and sister, who are kind of attached to the kid. And dealing with the father and sister missing Anna could be as hard as missing her myself.

On the other hand, Rachel has been absolutely loving one-on-one time with her favorite adults lately so it might be the perfect time for the girls to have some separation.

And on that note, with school starting in two weeks it is actually a really good time for the ever-clingy-Anna to get some separation from ME.

At the end of the day - or the five seconds it took for all of these thoughts to flash through my mind - it boiled down to two questions for me: would she have fun and would she be well taken care of? The answers to those two questions were yes. The rest of it, well I just would have to suck it up and not be selfish.

Like all Jewish children Anna was given a Hebrew name as well as her English one. Anna Frances is also Chana Fayga, which means "graceful bird."

She leaves me early Saturday morning and will be gone a whole week if all goes as planned. Rachel and I have several "special things" planned throughout the week to keep me - I mean Rachel - occupied.

I will try not to engage in weepy blogging. But forgive me if I do.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Take Us Back In Time Tuesday - 8/25/09

This week's entry in Mrs. Schmitty's Take Us Back In Time Tuesday project is simultaneously one of my favorite pictures of all time and one of the worst photos ever taken of me.



This was taken November 16, 2005, the day after Rachel was born. An eleven-month-old Anna could not have possibly understood why Mommy went to work Monday morning and never picked her up. Tuesday afternoon, after 24 hours of trying to stop my premature labor, Rachel was born and taken to the NICU. On Wednesday I was finally out of bed and recovering from my second c-section in twelve months. By Wednesday evening I was still unshowered and in pain, my face still red and itchy from the medication in the spinal, but I needed my Anna. My mom brought her up to see me in her little red sleeper and I don't know who was happier to see whom. I couldn't hold her in my lap because of the incision but someone perched her on the arm of my chair so we could snuggle. In typical determined Anna fashion she wiggled herself around until she could assume her sleepy position - right thumb in mouth, left hand touching her hair. She still does this when she gets tired. I have a million pictures of her in this position, but this is by far my favorite.

If you would like to take part in this awesome project, the participation rules are here and the Mr. Linky link can be found here.

Monday, August 24, 2009

A rare moment

Confession: I am an intensely political person. This may surprise some because I rarely speak about politics. I avoid discussion because I get so emotional about the subject that it usually just ruins my day.

There have been several political events in my lifetime that stand out as moments that changed my world view, or at least my view of American politics. One of these events was the Clarence Thomas confirmation hearings. Another was the Clinton impeachment and all of the events that surrounded that time. I still have a hard time discussing those things because of the profound effect they had on me.

Those two situations pale in comparison to what is going on with our health care system right now. I am so angry that I can barely listen to the current debates.

I take one daily medication. It is nobody's business what that medication is but suffice it to say that I can not function without it. This medication does not come in generic form because some drug company can make much more money keeping it under a name brand. It costs me about $50 per month, with my insurance and only if I fill it through mail order. If I try to use my local pharmacy it costs me closer to $80 per month. Between our insurance premiums, our deductibles, our prescriptions and our copays we spend more money on health care expenses than our grocery, drug store and utility bills combined. And we are one of the lucky families who actually have insurance. And we still aren't getting what we need - my husband chose to eliminate one of his necessary medications because it was outrageously expensive and we very simply cannot afford it. When my daughter broke her arm last year she required an emergency visit with an x-ray and a sling, then two trips to the orthopedist with x-rays each time. Do you know how much of that my insurance paid for? Come on, guess. I will give you a minute.







Did you guess? Was your guess $15.86 (yes, that is a period, not a comma)? Because that is the exact amount my insurance company paid for that whole ordeal. Apparently Anna hadn't met her deductible yet for the year, plus some of that stuff wasn't covered for some reason that I still cannot get anyone to explain to me sufficiently. I am still paying off that broken arm.

My family is far from being the worst off in this country. We are struggling mightily but we do have employer provided insurance, ineffective though it is. When we were on COBRA our premiums were higher than our mortgage payment, coming in every month at $1500. And we were just a family of three back then, so I guess I should be thankful. But I'm not. I'm so incredibly angry that it's probably a good thing I don't live closer to Washington.

Mostly I just want to know: how in the name of everything good and holy is this acceptable?

How is it ok that the US ranks so low in the world's healthcare systems?

How is it ok that educated, informed adults are going all over the county telling outright lies - LIES! Just making stuff up! - to the American public?

Why is the American public not pissed off about being lied to?

Why do so many Americans just believe the garbage being shoveled over their heads without doing some actual research of their own?

Why does my husband have to go without a necessary medication so that we can feed our kids?

Why aren't doctors more vocal in the debate? Doesn't it make a doctor's job more difficult when the patient waits until they are very sick to come in because they can't afford preventative care? Or when a patient stops taking a medication for financial reasons?

Why don't more people see health care as a social necessity and not a privilege?

Why aren't more people as angry as I am?

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Girl knows what she's doing

I often jokingly call Anna "Danna" because of her resemblance - in looks and in personality - to her father. She truly is a miniature version of my husband, down the smallest idiosyncratic tics and the spot on her back she likes me to scratch. Sometimes I actually have to call Dan in to handle Anna situations when I get frustrated. "I don't get her," I shamefully admit to him. "I do," is his response and more often than not he really does. Dan just GETS Anna, understands the way her mind works and why she needs things to be just so. The same way I GET Rachel.

This is not to lessen the connection I have with my oldest daughter. It certainly is a special one and every once in a while I get to really see what is going in that head. And those moments are sort of awesome.

A few nights ago I give the fifteen minute bedtime warning and both girls scrambled for my lap. Anna wins the initial tussle and stretches across my legs, leaving no room for her sister. Rachel protests loudly and I suggest she go cuddle with Daddy on the couch. She refuses, choosing instead to battle it out with Anna, who is totally gloating.

"Rachel, Daddy needs hugs, look how sad he is!" I try again. Dan pouts appropriately, playing along.

"No! I want Mommy!"

"Fine," Anna announces. "I will go cuddle with Daddy." And she starts to get up.

"NOOOOOOO!" Rachel shouts and flies at her father with such force that I hear the "ooomph" as she lands on his chest.

I look at Anna, fearing that the next round of complaining is about to start. Instead she glances at me over her shoulder with such a knowing look and a tiny smirk that I can't help but stare back at her in awe.

That girl is no fool.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Thirty eight

It's my birthday today and other than the fact that I know I will be able to take a lengthy nap later with no one complaining about it, I find it hard to get excited. As a couple Dan and I have never gone all out on birthdays with huge presents or surprise trips or anything. We usually opt for a nice dinner somewhere and a small gift.

My favorite birthday ever? Turning 30. I had sort of dreaded it for no real reason other than I was sort of supposed to. But then Dan took me to Ruth's Chris Steakhouse and I looked at him and burst into happy tears, realizing that I really had everything I'd ever wanted to have by the time I was thirty. We were planning our wedding and I was filled with joy and excitement for the life we were about to make together.



While I'm dragging out the old pictures, here are a few I found on photobucket of me as a toddler. Click to view them larger, if you dare.

Photobucket

I like this one in particular, if only because it proves that I just may really be Anna's birth mother.

Photobucket

And further proof that I've never once in my life had a good hair day.

Photobucket

I plan on spending some time alone today and taking that nap. My mom will be taking the girls and allowing them to help make dinner and cake and then Dan and I will head over there to enjoy the goodies. Because that is my present to my husband - letting him off the "where do I take her for dinner" hook.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Take Us Back In Time Tuesday - 8/18/09

Continuing my participation in Mrs. Schmitty's Take Us Back In Time Tuesday project, I present to you this - gasp - completely not-child-related photo. In fact, this week's entry predates my children completely, predates my marriage even. It may even predate some of the common sense I've attained since my early twenties. Behold:



That would be me, rappelling in northern Israel in the spring of 1994. I was completely terrified. See my right hand, how it's holding onto the rope in a death grip? I was supposed to be loosely holding that rope while allowing it to slide through my fingers as I gracefully descended the side of the mountain. Instead, I wound up with a palm full of bloody rope burns. Whatever, I did it and I was so glad I did. I'm also glad I gave a friend my camera because looking at the sheer terror in my face brings me back to that moment every single time.

If you would like to take part in this wonderfully nostalgic project, the participation rules are here and the Mr. Linky link can be found here.


Monday, August 17, 2009

Not so wild herd

I might not have teams of gorgeous mustangs on my property like The Pioneer Woman, but I do have this exotic herd:



Did you know that these ponies have magnetic feet? I didn't. At least not until the girls went to bed a few nights ago and I walked into my kitchen only to find this scene on my refrigerator door. I love finding little surprises like this. I consider it one of motherhood's bonuses.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

A little mother-daughter bonding

It has been a long, busy weekend. A lot of errands, new people, animals and heat. Anna is tired. She is stretched on the couch watching her current favorite movie and trying her best not to suck her thumb. I gaze at her newest freckles and the legs that seem to have grown since this morning.

"Hey Anna, guess what?"
"What?"
"I love you."
"That's not exciting."

Friday, August 14, 2009

I am not entirely sure she's mine

Last night I baked snickerdoodles. I allowed myself a moment to be the cool mom by bringing a plate of them outside to treat the neighborhood kids who were playing with Anna. I'm not going to lie, I completely reveled in the "ooohs" and "aaahs" as they gathered around to thank me and praise my baking skills. But I digress.

Today after lunch I allowed the girls to each take a cookie out of the jar and a few minutes later Anna came over to me and explained that she was finished - and then she handed me half a snickerdoodle. "I'm full," she told me. Too full for half a cookie? Half of a soft, delicious, cinnamon-coated treat? I don't think I've ever thrown away half a cookie. In fact I've been known on more than one occasion to complain of how stuffed I am while polishing off dessert.

I stared at the cookie piece sitting in my palm, wondering if this child is seriously mine. And then Rachel wandered along and plucked it out of my hand, shoving it into her mouth before she was even done chewing the first one. Now THAT is my child.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Snapshots

One of my favorite bloggers The New Girl posted recently about the snapshots strangers get of our kids on any given day. It's a great post (go read it!) and maybe I am just way self-centered but it made me think about the snapshots those same strangers get of my parenting.

I am proud to have kids who are usually quite well-behaved in public. I like to think that most of that can be chalked up to good parenting but I know they also love a spotlight. Their red hair and bright smiles, coupled with the fact that they look so much like twins garners them a lot of attention. As soon as anyone so much as smiles at her Anna usually launches into her routine, introducing herself and her sister and bragging about whatever is going on in her little life. Rachel smiles and bats her eyelashes at the bakery for free cookies. I love being the mom with the sweet little girls who dutifully hold on to the cart as we cross the parking lot. I enjoy giving the impression that I've got it all together.

A few weeks ago a good friend did me a huge favor and took me grocery shopping. I had no car at my disposal that day and this friend packed up her own four-year-old daughter and accompanied me and the girls to the store. I had a list and a budget and I figured it would be a pretty quick trip. Until we got the grocery carts. My girls are huge fans of the carts where they can sit in the "car" next to each other and "drive." But with the friend came the inevitable fight over who got to sit next to her. Two seats, three girls, lots of screaming. They agreed to take turns but both girls wanted to be first and nothing in my rather large and well-stocked purse would bribe them into submission. So much noise, so many witnesses. I finally decided that if they were going to scream, they could do so while I shopped. I took off down one aisle with one loud and unhappy child only to suddenly realize that my favorite store's remodeling project had apparently hit a new stage and nothing was where it used to be. Anxiety hit as the the one child who was happy started to yell at me for something and I started to sweat. This is so not the impression I enjoy giving the neighborhood grocery store. I want to be the calm, happy, proud mother, not the frazzled, sweaty, sniping mess.

But of course I am both of those women. Just as I occasionally wonder if my girls have multiple personalities I know that I am just as changeable. And when I can manage to remain calm and happy I am just as proud of myself as I am of my children. Of course good planning can help too - which is why I will never again approach grocery cart seating without a strategy.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Take Us Back In Time Tuesday

Because I am a sucker for photos of all kinds, especially photos of my children, especially especially photos of my children when they were tiny, I decided to participate in Take Us Back In Time Tuesday, a project started by It's a Schmitty Life.

So without further ado, here is my first Take Us Back In Time Tuesday (TUBITT?) post:



This photo was taken six days after Rachel came home from the hospital. Which was also nine days before Anna turned one. Anna took one look at her new little sister and decided that it was the coolest doll we'd ever bought her. She had this inexplicable need to constantly have Rachel in her line of sight, to touch her and babble to her and to try to share her toys. We'd find Rachel in the swing with a pile of offerings sitting at her feet, placed there by a big sister who instantly loved her unconditionally.

In this photo Anna is standing on the little shelf on the bottom of the bassinet to get a better view of Rachel. I remember constantly scolding Anna to get down but nothing would keep her from checking on her baby sister.

If you want to participate in TUBITT (hee) - and you totally should - the participation rules are here and the Mr. Linky link can be found here.

Sunday, August 09, 2009

I just have no idea

You know those big metal tins that Tinkertoys used to come in? Like this?



Well we found something similar in our basement, filled with some old wooden blocks from my husband's childhood. The girls both liked the blocks, but Rachel really loved the tin. She did some expected things with it - marched around beating the bottom like a drum, put it over her head, filled it with various and assorted random items.

And then she did something I did not expect. She set a big pink ball in it so that the top half of the ball was poking out of the tin. Then she put a pink head band on the ball and called the whole thing her baby. She carried it around and told us all about her baby. She gave her baby kisses and a blanket. Then she announced, "She's stupid. My baby is stupid." She said it with a smile and then went on hugging it.

Dan and I looked at each other, speechless. I guess that's another game we're hoping doesn't come up at school.

Saturday, August 08, 2009

Security

When Rachel was nine months old she used her brand new crawling skills to reach a stack of clean blankets I had folded and placed on a chair. She pulled them down one at a time, examining each one closely, running it through her fingers and touching it to her face. When she had thoroughly experienced the blanket, she tossed it aside and reached for the next one. She continued this process until she reached the plainest, least embellished blanket we had, a gift she had received from a family friend. A simple purple crocheted number with no pictures, ribbons or special features. When she got to this one she stuck her thumb in her mouth and proceeded to roll around on the floor until she was wrapped up in the purple blanket. Dan turned to me and said, "I guess Rachel has a blankey." Indeed.


[Photo taken January 2007 when Rachel was about 14 months old. Oh man do I miss her being that small.]

This was unfamiliar territory for us because Anna never had a security item other than her thumb. But from the moment she chose that blanket she had to have it at all times. She had a very specific routine with it, as seen above. She would clutch a corner of the blanket in her right hand while she sucked her right thumb. With her left hand she felt along the wavy edges and sometimes stuck her fingers through the crochet holes. Sometimes I'd play a game with her and find the other corners and show them to her. She'd smile behind the thumb and gather all the corners together in her hand.

And when she was really feeling affectionate, when she really wanted to show some love, she would hold out a part of the blanket and rub it against my cheek. It would absolutely melt my heart.

This was all well and good until Rachel started walking. She waited until she was 15 months old to do so but when it finally happened she dragged the blankey everywhere. At which point my mother the crocheting master decided to recreate the blankey in smaller form. This project was completed in the summer of 2007 and when it was presented to her I cautiously explained that the original blankey would now stay in her bed while this new one would be the one she could carry around. I held my breath, waiting for what was surely to be some form of resistance. She inspected it, sucked her thumb with it, felt along the edges and I swear she almost shrugged. Not a single complaint came forth from her sweet face. She even found some new ways to enjoy blankey.



The ease of the transition stunned everyone. It was the first time I remember clearly thinking to myself that this child was very different from her sister.

Friday, August 07, 2009

Anna offended

The girls have seen a few new movies lately. Today we screened Coraline and I have never seen Rachel so enthralled by a film on the first viewing. She sat in her favorite spot on the couch and would not be distracted, even insisting on watching the credits. She talked about it on and off for the rest of the day and even asked to watch it again later.

Then came bedtime. As I tucked Rachel in she told me she hoped she wouldn't dream about "that other Mommy who turns mean." I reminded her of the happy ending and tried to turn the conversation to lighter fare, such as a planned trip the park tomorrow. She smiled and snuggled into her covers.

Half an hour later Rachel is in tears and says she's scared but doesn't know why. I'm still hoping to avoid her presence in my bed tonight so I agree to lay down with her in her bed. I settle in and dry Rachel's tears, memories of childhood nightmares flashing in my mind. After a few minutes of silence we hear an exasperated sigh from Anna's side of the room. "Rachel. You do not need Mommy. You have ME."

Tuesday, August 04, 2009

Leave it to a four-year-old to bring the celebration to screeching halt

This is my totally awesome sister-in-law Amy and her boyfriend Eric:



Aren't they completely adorable? Amy is the nicest person you will ever meet and keeps me sane by taking the girls for outings and overnights and just generally rocking in countless ways. If anyone deserves her it's Eric, a kind, patient soul who already handles my in-laws better than I often do. Amy got a diamond ring from Eric last weekend. She called Saturday evening to tell us the news and when I screamed in excitement the girls were understandably curious.

"Aunt Amy is getting married!" I explained, still on the phone with Amy.
"Will she be a bride?" Anna asked.
"Yes!"
"Will she wear a veil?" Rachel asked.
"Maybe, if she wants to."
"What will she name the baby?" asked Anna.
"WHOA!" came the reply from the phone.

Sunday, August 02, 2009

I'm pretty sure Ariel never said that

Rachel is extremely committed to her play. This means that when she is in character we must call her by her fictional name and she often creates different voices to go along with her scenes. One of her favorite places to play is the bathtub and lately every single bath brings the announcement that "I am Ariel, Mommy." All I can do is play along as she explains that it's bedtime and lays down in the water, feet crossed to form her tail.

Her Ariel voice is high-pitched and very breathy. "Look at my tail Mommy," she breathes. "Isn't it beautiful?" I assure her (again) that it is indeed a beautiful green tail. "See my bra Mommy? It's purple. It's a shell bra, isn't it pretty?" Well she is certainly into the details lately. Yes, it's a pretty purple shell bra. "See my boobies Mommy? Don't my boobies look beautiful in the purple bra?"

The look on my face makes Anna laugh and I hide behind a towel before proclaiming bath time over.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Coming clean

Years ago when I was in middle school my family drove from our home in Ohio to my grandparent's house in New York in a rented van. It was a disastrous 12+ hour drive filled with pretty much every automotive disaster you could dream up. At one point going full speed on the Pennsylvania Turnpike the window next to my brother's seat came loose and with reflexes I still today do not understand, he caught it and ended up hanging out the window of the crappy van clinging to the pane.

The story of course became family legend and was repeated by us all, each recounting it from our individual perspectives. He was just sitting there! And the window just came loose! And he grabbed it right out of midair! We would praise my brother's quick movements in one breath and curse the van in the next. Flash forward fifteen or so years and my brother is sitting through another retelling of the story. Out of nowhere he mentions that right before it came loose he had been messing with the little pop-up release thing that opened the window. We all turned and stared at him. "I thought you knew that," he says innocently.

*********

This evening Dan and Anna sat on the couch chatting while Rachel bounced around the room apparently annoying her big sister. Whatever those actions were they led to a conversation about being naughty and telling the truth. Dan asked Anna if she'd ever lied and she very candidly told him yes. When prodded for details she admitted that one time she told me she'd finished her sandwich when in fact she'd thrown it behind the red chair. Dan and I looked at each other and then back at Anna. "Is it still there?" he asked her. She nodded and watched me as I crossed the room and pulled the chair away from the wall. There on the floor was half a slice of muenster cheese and a sandwich bun.



What camera settings work best for fossilized food?

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

This is so totally THEM

Out of nowhere Anna asks me if she's old enough to start cutting things with knives. I think about if for a second, consider a scenario where she uses a butter knife to cut a soft piece of food and decide that she is probably ready to try that. I announce my decision to a stunned Anna and secretly enjoy her surprise. Of course being four-and-a-half she had to ask me over and over again, really? Really she could try to cut food with a knife, really? Could she? Because she's old enough? She's four-and-a-half so she can try to cut food with a knife? Really?

Rachel watches this scene passively, thumb in mouth, blankey clutched in her right hand, big brown eyes taking it all in. Meanwhile, Anna continues her questioning. This knife situation, is it going to take place in the next few minutes or shall we wait for an actual scheduled meal? What about that ice cream you mentioned, does that require a knife? I finally get her to understand that we should just wait for the next time the need for a knife arises and she agrees to stop forcing the situation.

Rachel pops her thumb out of her mouth and stretches casually over the pillows on the couch. "Mommy? Am I old enough to use a knife?" I smile sympathetically and break the news that she is not. Next to her Anna gloats. "Wah! When I am four-and-a-half can I try to use a knife?" "Yes," I tell her. She pauses, then smiles brightly and claps her hands. "YEAY!"

Friday, July 24, 2009

Sometimes you just have to find the joy in the small things

Today was a rare day with nothing on our schedules. Swimming lessons are over for the week, a tentative play date did not happen and we had a nice relaxing day together. The girls were in a good mood and we all laughed a lot. So to spread the joy, here are a few examples of how my children made me smile today.

Thanks to Daddy the girls experienced their very first Pop Tart. There was chocolate involved. I'm not sure they will ever be the same.

They made me lift them up on my feet so they could pretend they were swimming through the air.

They told each other they looked "stylish," which is apparently Anna's new favorite word (I blame Fancy Nancy).

When our awesome next door neighbor stopped by with a plate of chocolate chip cookies Anna grabbed two. Before I could reprimand her, she headed straight for her sister and gave her one.

Anna fell asleep and didn't even wake up when I vacuumed right by her head.

During said nap Rachel kept wandering over to her big sister and kissing her cheek.

They played catch with each other with a big pink ball.

Rachel fell asleep on the couch in her undies.


I hope everyone has a great weekend.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Is that a threat?

I was assembling the ingredients to make dinner when my sister called and as I foolishly tried to begin an adult conversation Rachel expressed her desire to assist in the preparations. Specifically, she began shouting, "I want to help!" I assured her that she'd get a chance to help if she'd just let me get everything ready first. That did not seem to calm her, as evidenced by the fact that she continued to repeat, "I want to help, Mommy! I want to heeellllllp!" I tried to ignore her as I raided my spice cabinet but she only increased in volume. "I want to HELP!"

Finally she changed course. "Mommy. There are going to be tears in a minute!"

Monday, July 20, 2009

Bye bye ballet

As I've written about previously we are in the thick of summer activity season and along the way we are all learning some important lessons. Lessons about preschooler confidence and ego, about letting go as a mother even when you don't realize you were holding on, about knowing when enough is enough.

This last one came crashing down on us last Wednesday in a frustrating scene of music and tears at ballet class. I will be the first to admit - not proudly - that I was the most frustrated of the bunch. But Anna got upset within the first 10 seconds of class, which set Rachel off and once they cried loudly enough to have to leave the room they flatly refused to go back in. When it became apparent that I wanted this class for them more than they wanted it for themselves Dan and I made the decision to just leave. I was embarrassed to have gotten so crazy about it and I realized that my emotions were likely to taint their view of the whole experience. I felt horribly guilty for the rest of the day.

The next day when things had calmed down I talked to the girls. Rachel wanted to continue with ballet but only if Anna would be in the class. But when I told Anna that we could just not do ballet at all, she got such a relieved smile on her face that her view was perfectly clear. It was nice to come to a decision together like that and Anna was visibly happy that she had a say in the matter. We celebrated by using my mother's new Y membership and going swimming.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

When exactly did this guy take over?

Behold the latest obsession of my completely random children:



I have no idea what fancination this little claymation penguin holds for my girls but they could seriously watch this show all day. If you haven't seen it, here is a sample:



I think that because they aren't speaking any kind of real language the girls can sort of experience the story the way they want. Rachel especially loves Pinga, the little sister. She tells me, "Pinga is so cute! When I go in that movie I'm going to hug her like that."


Thursday, July 16, 2009

Together

As part of our ongoing attempt to keep the girls in their own beds at night I decided to move them into one bedroom. They've always had their own rooms but lately when we try to tuck them in at night they have complained that they don't want to be alone in their rooms. I floated the idea of moving them in together a few months ago just to get their reactions and since then they have consistently asked when they can share a room.

So two days ago I moved some furniture and fit Rachel's bed into Anna's room. They reacted by immediately jumping on every surface they could find while singing unintelligible songs celebrating the occasion. Also, I'm the best. In case you were wondering.

Of course the true test came at bedtime and Dan was understandably skeptical. I got them settled in and explained the rules - talking to each other was ok as long as they were quiet and if one girl wanted to be quiet and sleep then her sister must respect that. Above all, and this cannot be stressed enough and let me say it again: stayinyourbed stayinyourbed stayinyourbed. It was all going smoothly until Rachel got a monster case of nervous giggles. She just could not stop and every time Anna made even the slightest noise in response it escalated. I totally understood because I do the same thing and I couldn't help but laugh along with her as she spread both hands across her cheeks and closed her eyes as she let the giggles take over. There is no more beautiful sight really.

It took an hour but Rachel finally calmed down and Anna as always displayed more tolerance with her sister than she does in any other area of life. The result? Rachel still came to our bed around 3am but Anna at least waited until daybreak. More importantly bedtime has been easier the last two nights and they love having their "sisters only" room. Now if only Dan and I could have an adults only room. A mother can dream.

I might be drawing a blank, but someone else wrote something funny

Hysterical Daddy blog post: What We Can Know

Happy reading. Hope to be back with something original very soon.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Scenes from a busy week

Please excuse the recent lag in posting. I've been busy watching my babies grow up. It's been a big week in our household and I believe I've uttered the phrase "I'm so proud of you!" more in seven days than I have in the past year, and I've meant it every single time. The words seem so small next to the sight of one's child overcoming a fear or bursting with new confidence, but other than hugs and high-fives it was the best I could do.

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On day three of soccer camp Anna was lined up with four or five other kids awaiting instructions for the next game. Her counselor was looking the other way consulting another counselor when the two slightly older boys standing next to Anna turned her way. One them suddenly reached out and knocked her ball out of her hand and then the other one kicked it away. I could see that they weren't malicious, they were just bored and they didn't really mean any harm but I watched Anna's confused face. I waited for her to say something but she just stood there glaring at them. Her counselor then directed the kids to another part of the field and I saw her bend down to listen to Anna, who told her "I just want my ball back." Having not seen the incident the counselor simply assured her that she didn't need her ball for this next activity and so Anna shook it off and followed her counselor. It wasn't until that moment that I realized two things: one, I had stood up out of my seat and taken several steps toward the field. Two, she had never once looked my way. I had to take a deep breath before I returned to my seat.

*********

On Wednesday Rachel asked for Grandma to take her to ballet and my mom obliged. After the previous week's debacle of clingy tears I gladly gave in, hoping that Rachel would be more likely to participate if I wasn't there to hang onto. I waited at the soccer field watching Anna and when I saw Rachel return I knew there had been some level of success. She strutted down the hill in her favorite purple dress, a huge smile appearing under her pink flowered hat and sparkly Dora sunglasses. "I did it Mommy!" she announced proudly. "I was brave."

A few minutes later Anna had a water break and she ran over to see if Rachel had a good ballet class. Rachel was so proud to report to her big sister and when it was time for Anna to go back on the field she gave Rachel a hug. "Good job, Rachel!" "Thank you Anna."

*********

Thursday evening when Dan got home from work we gathered around the computer to look at some videos I had taken of Anna in action. One video was her first scrimmage against a boy eventually won the point. We gushed to her about how much she'd improved since the beginning of the week as she and Rachel fought for position on Dan's lap in front of the monitor. The fight escalated until Dan had to intervene and when Anna wanted to storm upstairs to her room (something she very rarely does) I pulled her into the kitchen instead for a talk. When I asked why she was so upset she told me: "Rachel won't let me look at the pictures. Daddy yelled at me. That boy took the ball from me."

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Saturday afternoon and it's raining outside. Leotards and soccer socks are overflowing from laundry baskets and I have no food left in the kitchen because the girls have EATEN IT ALL. Anna lies on the couch with her feet up on the back where Tiger is dozing. She rubs her feet along his fur and he purrs in response. Rachel is curled up in her "little spot," a small ottoman next to my chair where her red curls spill over the edge and almost reach the floor. Thumbs are in mouths and eyelids are drooping. My girls haven't napped regularly since December but it is clear the week has taken its toll. But Anna has one more thing to say before she drifts off. "Mommy? This was the best week ever." I smile and cannot disagree.

Monday, July 06, 2009

I'm just going to say it

Man do I love this kid.



Anna's week-long soccer camp started today. On the way to the field she announced that her tummy was so excited and wondered aloud whether any of the other soccer kids would have pink socks. When we arrived she grabbed her ball and went flying down the hill toward her group, letting out an ecstatic shriek as she blew right by the line of teenage counselors waiting to greet her and headed straight for the group of kids at midfield getting started.



My big girl spent three hours running, dribbling, kicking and working in the occasional hug during water breaks. She did it all with a confidence and unbridled enthusiasm that just floored me.



We definitely got our money's worth with this one, the girl was completely worn out by the end of the morning.



At home she begged to keep on her cleats and spent a good hour showing her grandma what she learned. She can't wait to go back tomorrow. "I just love soccer, Mom!" she explains.