One day Anni was twirling and singing one of her original compositions.
"It's my gift!" she declared.
Dizzy, she fell with spectacular gracelessness.
Laying on her back on the tile floor she began flapping her arms and legs
as if she were making a snow angel.
"Falling down is also a gift!" says she.

Saturday, August 23, 2003

At long last, new pictures! As you may know, Anni accidentally broke my scanner last January (or perhaps it was time for it to die anyway...) and we just finally replaced it this summer. The new ones are the last four (November 2002, December 2002, May 2003, June 2003). I also have some pictures taken in July and August, which I will post soon, too. If you're pressed for time and don't feel like looking at them all, May 03 and June 03 are pretty short (and some of my favorites). So here's also the latest Anni update: (also at 8/19/03 Anni's language skills are progressing at an amazing rate. She no longer just uses language to tell us what she wants, but also to amuse herself and express empathy for others. Last week, Joerg met us for my doctor's appointment, and they left early to go get some lunch. They came to an intersection as they were walking to the car, and a big truck pulled up beside them. For some reason, this scared Anni, although she normally loves trucks, and she began to cry. Joerg reassured her, and she calmed down. Then she looked at him and asked, "Are *you* OK, daddy?" At bedtimes, I always read several stories to Annika, about 20 minutes worth. She tends to go through phases where we read the same books every night for several weeks. She always has certain passages in the book that she loves, and so when we get to her favorite parts I stop reading and let her "read" that passage. After she's finished, I always say "Good job, Annika!" One night, as I was reading along and paused to turn the page, she told me, "Good job, Mommy!" She also makes up things, evidently to amuse herself. As she was climbing up the stairs yesterday afternoon, I overheard her saying to herself repeatedly, "I'm going to eat a big jar of poopy." Given the family history of poopy-eating (if you haven't heard the story before, my sister Monica will be delighted to regale you with the tale of my gastronomic exploits), I thought I'd better nip this little thought-experiment in the bud, and so I took quite a bit of time explaining that poopy was not to be eaten, as it was yucky. Of course, Anni turned to me as we were walking through the library today and informed me in a very loud voice, "DON'T eat poopy, mommy." Along those same lines, Annika now greets every unfamiliar noise that she hears by turning to me and shouting, "Mommy farted!" Anni's summer has just been too much fun. We had to go to Chicago for a check-up this month, and Joerg managed to get a good seat for the Bruce Springsteen show the night before, also in Chicago. So we decided to make a trip of it, and called it our summer vacation. We went to Chicago first thing in the morning, and went straight for the Brookfield zoo, which Anni loved. Then Anni's beloved babysitter, Lauren, who now works in Chicago since graduation, met us at the hotel and took Annika swimming in the big pool. Actually all day long, every time we asked Anni what she wanted to go see next at the zoo, she answered, "Go see Lauren!" We had a hard time making her wait for 4:30, even at the zoo! Lauren was amazed at Anni's adventurous spirit; she had a hard time keeping Annika from leaping from her arms, even though the water was way over Anni's head. She also seems to have the swimming motion down pat already, and doesn't mind getting water in her eyes. She has put her head underwater at our little pool at home, but only accidentally when she jumps into the pool a bit too enthusiastically. Joerg is trying to get Anni into a toddler swim class at his university, which he would take her to every week. We're still waiting to hear if there are enough kids to run it. Anyhow, we went to the hospital the next morning and saw her docs there. They have completely given up trying to figure out why Anni's liver numbers are still not normal, why her spleen is so big, and why her blood isn't clotting normally. The latest theory is that she must have suffered some injury to her liver sometime after transplant, and that it's just healing very slowly. She did have what seemed like 200 viral infections in the months right after transplant, so maybe one of those caused the injury. The main thing is that it's definitely not getting any worse, so it *must* eventually get better. Meanwhile, they took Anni off of 2 more medications, meaning that I only have to give her medicine 2 times a day now, rather than 6! Yeah!! Also, she is now completely off of the steroids, which is another celebratory milestone. Just before we left for Chicago, some friends that we met in Chicago came for a visit. Their youngest daughter, Shelby, has the same disease Anni was born with and has just been listed for transplant. It was a great day, and Annika thought that Shelby was the cutest thing she had ever seen (she's 18 months, but still relatively small) and her big sister, Riley, who's 3 1/2, was practically Annika's twin personality-wise, so they really had a great time together. Annika is already looking forward to her birthday party, and has asked me about it repeatedly. She wants to make sure that I realize that she should have a birthday cake. She hasn't really been asking for any presents--I think the idea of having a party is exciting enough for her! Of course, considered yourselves invited to attend, if anyone feels like a visit to central Illinois. I'm thinking of having the party on a Saturday in the first week of October, as her actual birthday is the same as Frankie's due date.

Monday, August 04, 2003

8/1/03 Again, I haven't updated in a while, but that's certainly not for lack of Annika doing new and entertaining things. I have been taking a little "vacation at home" in preparation for the new baby coming, realizing that I won't have a minute to myself once I have a newborn plus the ever-demanding of attention Annika. My vacation has mainly consisted of staying up late drinking orange and lemon tea and reading lots and lots of books. Also, Joerg has been taking Anni to the local zoo every weekend to give me the luxury of cleaning house without Anni underfoot. I'm not being sarcastic when I say "luxury"-- I crank up my music and thoroughly enjoy the possibility of starting and finishing a task with no interruptions or detours to keep Anni entertained while I work. So, here's what's new. Anni has gotten very good at counting. She can go very easily up to 14 now, but past 14 she tends to get a little overexcited and starts to just spout all the rest of the numbers she can think of in any old order ("12, 13, 14... 18! 16! 17! 15! 14! 14! 14! 20!!!!!!!!!!!). Reaching 20 is always cause for celebration, though, no matter how she got there. She shouts 20 as loud as she can, and gives me a big smile like she just Her linguistic feats continue unabated. She now talks mainly in complete sentences, although she is still pretty hard to understand. The other evening I was completely stumped when she came over to me and started demanding "Go make fuzzy balls! Go make fuzzy balls!" I told her I had no idea what she was talking about, but she was unrelenting. Finally, I realized that she was telling me that it was time to go stir the vegetables ("fuzzy balls") that I was sauteing on the stove for dinner. She also continues in her cool word inventions. She mastered the plural a couple of months ago, and was pretty proud of herself for it. Lately, she's been having trouble with nosebleeds at night so I've been using saline nose spray on her. She thinks that it's really fun to get a Kleenex afterward to wipe her nose. So a couple of weeks ago, I sprayed her nose and then she said, "I need a Kleeneck!" Yup, she had decided that obviously the singular form of "Kleenex" should be "Kleeneck." Makes perfect sense. Anni has started to enjoy watching movies, and we often watch one right before her nap time to get her calmed down and ready to sleep. Her favorites tend to be movies with monkeys in them (Jungle Book, Jungle Book II, Tarzan, George of the Jungle, The Lion King), but she also likes Pooh movies. Her favorite part of the Pooh movies is watching Tigger and Roo bounce around. The other evening she climbed up on the sofa and started jumping up and down, shouting "I'm bouncing like Tigger!" Joerg saw her, and told her to stop because she could fall. Anni looked at him, and said, in her sweetest little voice, "Don't worry, Daddy!" I told him that she had just mastered the sentence that he was going to be hearing the most from her for the next 20-30 years. Anni's linguistic abilities now include negotiating skills. We have found some milk-free cookies that she can have from our local health food store, and she loves them. I have been trying to make sure that she only gets a couple each day, though, to make sure that she continues to eat food that is healthy for her. Generally, my rule is that she can't have any cookies until she eats her vegetables. So she asks for a cookie halfway through eating her lunch and I tell her, "No, you have to finish your chicken and green beans." So she finishes her green beans and tells me again that she wants a cookie. So I ask her "What kind of cookie do you want?" Realizing that she is actually going to get a cookie, she presses her advantage and answers, "2 cookies!" To emphasize her point, she carefully holds up 2 fingers to show me exactly what she means. If I give in, and say "OK, 2 cookies. What kind of cookies do you want?" She'll answer immediately, "3 cookies!" Annika has been having a lot of fun this summer. She has a new friend, Sarah, who lives just down the street from us. Sarah is really very sweet and has come over to play several times. We got out the little inflatable pool during the hot weather, and Annika and Sarah had so much fun splashing around in it. Anni is quite the little dare-devil in the pool--jumping and landing with her face pretty much submerged under water. She happily pours water over her own head, and doesn't mind getting splashed in the face one little bit. She goes to the zoo at least once a week, often more than once, and can name all the animals she sees (including the alpaca and the wallabies). We also went to the county fair this past week, and Anni had a lot of fun seeing all the animals. I had trouble keeping her from barging into the middle of the cow holding area; she seemed oblivious to their size. Her favorite, though, was when she got to feed the little horses that were going to be used later in the day for pony rides. She would pick up a handful of hay and call, "Here you go, horsie!" I had to watch very carefully to make sure that her fingers were well out of the way of their teeth, as she kept wanting to make sure that they took every last bit of hay out of her hand. We had so much fun that day that we had to go back for a second time later in the week. On her second trip, she was all about the horses. We fed them, and fed them again. Then we went to the show area and watched one of the horse competitions. She sat still and watched them for much longer than any other kid her age (and shouted enthusiastically, "Oh, look, mommy! A *brown* horse! Oh, look, mommy! A *white* horse!" etc. -- much to the amusement of those around us. Luckily, it wasn't a competition where silence mattered.) Then came the high point of her day: she got to ride a horse! I thought she would be scared, as they were relatively tall for a kid her age, but she loved it.
Date below is correct, catching up on old posts. 6/9/03 Anni is really into counting lately. She practices her numbers to herself all the time. The other day she was a really good eater at lunch time, downing all her chicken, potatoes, and green beans pretty quickly. She even asked for more green beans (well, she asked for more chicken, but I told her that there wasn't any, so she took green beans instead). So she was definitely getting a cookie when she asked for it, having eaten so well. It so happened that I also needed to do a little work around the kitchen, so instead of just giving her 1 or 2 cookies, I gave her 4 so that she would be occupied a little longer while I finished up my work. Since she never gets that many cookies, her eyes got really really big and she shouted in a very excited voice, "Oh! TEN cookies!!" I guess 10 was the biggest number she could come up with! Then she started to count them, but had to stop at 3 to start eating! Or else she just forgot what comes next. I've actually heard her count 1-9 with no mistakes, although she doesn't do that consistently. But, hey, she's only 2 1/2! She definitely likes the numbers better than the alphabet, though. Maybe it's all the time she spent looking through her daddy's theoretical math books when she was little. And, of course, her beloved babysitter, Lauren, was a Math/CS major, who sometimes took Anni along to visits with her professors to discuss her more difficult mathematical assignments. Anni has recently started to sing. Actually, she would occassionally do something like singing sometimes (Enya was a favorite), but now she's really getting into the whole words and melody thing. She loves reading this big Mother Goose book that the Snell family sent her as a baby gift (Lauren, her babysitter, was in charge of putting her down for her nap one day last Spring, and when she described to me everything Anni had done while I was gone, she let me know that Anni wanted to read the "longest book *ever*" and I knew exactly which one she was talking about--Mother Goose!). Lately, though, Annika has been insisting that I make up songs for all the rhymes rather than just reading them. Of course, a lot of them have well-known tunes already, but she wants *every single one* sung to her. Motherhood definitely brings out your creative side! Anni has also started to sing along with some of her favorite songs ("C is for cookie", "Elmo's World", "Apples and Bananas", and "Rock-a-bye Baby"). Daddy has his own set of made-up songs that he sings with her (The Grandma and Annika song, the Daddy and Annika song, the Mommy and Hepburn song, etc.)
Again, the date below is correct, as I'm catching up on old posts. 6/5/03 Annika is at such a cute age, 2 1/2. We love how she is beginning to play with language. The other day she finished lunch early, so we snuggled up on the couch to watch an Elmo video together before nap-time. When it was over, I said, "Okay, let's go upstairs." Annika shook her head and said, "Nokay!" I laughed pretty hard at that, so that's become her new thing, rather than saying "No" to something, she says "Nokay." Repeatedly. I often call Annika "Anni," much more than her daddy does. But when she is getting into trouble I usually say, "Anni! Annika!" really stretching out every syllable, and emphasizing the last one. So one day when Anni was trying to convince her daddy to come upstairs and play, she stood at the top of the stairs and yelled, "Daddy! Daddyka!" I guess I didn't laugh hard enough at that (I was in the other room), so she hasn't continued that habit. Besides the cute things that she does as she plays with language like she plays with everything else in her world, it is interesting to see the things she does that let you know what are the really hard parts of language. For instance, pronouns are really giving her fits. During our recent trip to the hospital, Anni was feeling very bad one night and she kept saying "Hold you! Hold you!" which I figured out was a request for me to hold her (as I would ask her, "do you want me to hold you?") She is just starting to use "I" properly, rather than referring to herself as "Annika" or "The baby." For example, she came down to breakfast recently and looked at me with wide, serious eyes and said, "I need a cookie." Another language difficulty is the definite article, "the." One of her favorite requests nowadays is to "Ride the mommy!" meaning that she wants a piggyback ride from me. She also asks to "Pet the Hepburn," which Hepburn has not yet learned is the signal to run away fast. Anni is still a force of destruction to be reckoned with. She still loves removing all the cushions from every single piece of furniture in the house. But she is also still touchingly affectionate. When she dragged the throw blanket from the living room into the kitchen, straight to the table (I think she was planning on sitting on it on the table for a picnic-style lunch), I decided it was enough. I asked her to take the blanket back to the sofa, and, amazingly, she complied right away. As Annika's strong point is not obedience, I praised her high and low for obeying right away. Then I crouched down and said, "Come get a hug for being such a good girl!" She turned around and ran straight into my arms, with a huge smile and shiny eyes, like a hug from mommy was the very best thing in the whole world that she could ever think of. Turns a mommy all gooey inside! As I mentioned, obedience is not Annika's strong point. I've had a chance to spend time with other 2 1/2 year olds lately and compare behaviors. Anni certainly does not follow commands as well as her fellow toddlers. However, she is much more laidback and easygoing than any of them. I was worried about Annika's temper tantrums, but have discovered that her maybe one big temper tantrum a week is nothing compared to the 3 a day (or an hour!) that I've seen in almost all others her age. That's not to say that she doesn't get upset pretty frequently when I tell her "no," but she doesn't get *as* upset, and she gets over it really quickly. One of Anni's new playmates has thrown a major major fit every time she and Anni have gotten together (only for an hour at a time), and Anni just looks at her curiously like, "what is *that* all about?" Annika is also the best at sharing of all her age. She is also much more cooperative than any of the other kids. She'll stand still for her sunscreen, take her medicine 4 times a day, put on her shoes, take off her shoes, wear her hat, all the things that I see other kids fight tooth and nail. She even does a pretty good job with me brushing her teeth, as long as I give her a turn to do it, too. I guess once you've trained a kid to hold still for an i.v. insertion, all the other stuff is no big deal! When Anni was in a particularly snuggly mood last week, I looked down at her and said "I love you!" Then I asked her, "Who else loves you?" She said "Daddy!" And I said, "Right! Who else loves you?" "Grandma!" "Right, who else loves you?" I was expecting her to say, "Grandpa!" as that is the extent of the family members for whom she uses names regularly. Instead, she looked very thoughtful, wrinkling her brow, and then said proudly, "Cliff!" I told her, "Yes, Cliff definitely loves you!" and she looked pretty happy about that.
Yeah! Copy and Paste is finally working again, so ignore the "official" dates. The dates listed on the journal entry below are correct, as I'm catching up with old posts that I sent out over email. 5/16/03 Anni will have a little sister next October! The tech at the ultrasound yesterday told me that she thought it was a girl, but then the big doc came in to check things over himself and told me that it was absolutely a girl. It was so funny. You know how they can stop the motion when they want to look at something more closely? Well, he stopped it and the screen was filled with just this white blob and he said, "see, right there-- you've got another girl" like it was the most obvious thing in the world. We have a name picked out already, suprisingly enough. We're going to call her "Franciska" (Franciska and Annika has a nice ring, doesn't it?), and "Frankie" for short. The middle name has not been decided yet, but the first name was the real obstacle. Anni has been her usual loveable self lately, calling herself "big sister," although I'm pretty sure that she has no idea what this entails. Joerg and I will never need marriage counseling as long as we have Anni around! We affectionately call her "our little 2-parent girl." She loves Mommy, and she loves Daddy, but she really loves it when she has *both* Mommy and Daddy together. Sometimes during the school year, Anni and I would meet Joerg for lunch at the university, especially on his long workdays. Anni would run to his office calling, "Daddy! Daddy!" But when we left to go to the cafeteria, she would insist that Daddy hold one hand and Mommy the other. We would walk along, a threesome, all the way to the cafeteria, and Anni would just trot along with the biggest, proudest grin on her face. Anni has also learned to ask for a kiss and a hug from Daddy every morning before he goes to work, but she also insists that Daddy give a hug and kiss to Mommy before he goes, too. "Kiss Mommy!" she shouts if he forgets. Annika has definitely learned the power of a kiss. Today at lunch she finished off her chicken and her carrots, but she still had lots of green beans left. She scooted over, and planted a big kiss on my cheek without any warning. I looked at her and smiled and said, "Thank you!" And then Anni looked at me with her big, blue eyes and said, "Cookie?" Of course, she got it. I have put pictures of Annika on the computer as a slideshow that plays automatically with fun music, and Anni is now addicted to her "Annika movies." Her favorite is the one of her birthday, and I think she's already looking forward to next year's party. I'm going to have to do my best to hold baby Frankie in until *after* Anni gets her big party. Or else we'll just have to have a late birthday celebration for her this year. Lauren, you figure prominently in last year's birthday photos, and your presence for next year has already been requested! The "Annika movies" have also been good for teaching her names, especially of family and friends that she doesn't see that often. She's got Cliff's name down, now, as he's pictured with her in her beloved swing! However, I really need to get a slideshow just of friends and family to really help her out. I'm stuck until my scanner gets fixed, though (it is currently being worked on--hooray!), but if anyone has the time to email me a photo of yourself (and your family, too), that would be great. Anni would love it!