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.

Sunday, October 31, 2004

October officially declared "too much fun" month

After all the birthdays, various parties, and now, finally, halloween to top it all off, Annika wants October to go on forever! Last Friday she had a halloween party at her pre-school. She went as Blue from Blue's Clues: The party kicked off with a costume parade. Then they went back inside to trick-or-treat around the building, and then lined up and compared costumes and treats. Frankie lounged in her stroller, taking in all the action--ever the relaxed baby. Then they formed a circle and sang several songs, followed by a rousing game of "pumpkin, pumpkin, ghost!" (German readers, please drop me a line if you'd like the game explained--suffice it to say there is suspense, head tapping, running, and chasing) Here they are waiting to see who gets tapped as the "ghost" next. After that game, Annika got out her camera that the Cochrans sent her for her birthday and ran around snapping pictures of all her classmates. She did a great job of not getting her fingers in front of the lens, but often she ended up snapping her friend's backside. So I told her to wait until she had their attention and then ask if she could take their picture. She thought this was a great idea, but of course she had to get up really close to ask them, and then she neglected to stand back to shoot the picture. So she'll probably get back some great pictures of her friends' necks, left eyes, and maybe some chins. I will of course post some of her pics when they get back next week. Annika loved being able to take her own photos, but since it was a disposable camera the whole apparatus had to go into the film mailer. When she saw her beloved camera disappear down the film chute, she was inconsolable. I think I'm going to have to find her another to present to her when her film comes back, or the sight of her first photographic effort will be bittersweet. For halloween itself, Anni decided to be a cheetah (we had both outfits, due to some fortuitous garage sale shopping over the summer).

We dressed Frankie as a clown First, daddy needed some new shoes ("Why do you need new shoes, daddy? Are your old shoes broken? Why are they broken?" etc.) So we went to the mall, where they also had some early trick-or-treating going on. We managed to get there before the crowds hit, and Annika's eyes widened with each Tootsie Roll dropped into her bag.


Then we headed home to get ready for the big adventure--wandering the neighborhood after dark. Daddy stayed home to pass out candy with Frankie the clown, and Anni and I headed out with her bag. I told her that we could only go to houses with lights on. Every time we passed a dark house, she turned to me and asked, "Is that where the ghosts live?" We went to one house that was particularly decked out for the evening, with huge inflatable pumpkin towers and a Frankenstein, plus scary sounds/music and the entire porch was covered with "spider webs" including a huge spider crouched right over the front door. As we stepped onto the porch, Anni grabbed my hand and said, "I'm not afraid, Mommy..." inching a bit closer to me as she said it, of course. About halfway through the outing, she realized that none of the older kids had their parents going up to the door with them, so she told me at the bottom of the driveway, "You stay there, Mommy. I'll go up by myself, OK?" She marched up to the door, only to realize that she couldn't reach the doorbell! Luckily, a tall cowgirl happened by, and saved her from the embarrassment of having to resort to mommy help. She definitely had the routine down: "Trick or Treat" to get her candy, and then "Thank you! Happy Halloween!" once she got it. Of course, the girl doesn't even like candy all that much, but the whole experience of running around after dark with a bunch of other kids, all in costumes was just thrilling. We made it home in a little over an hour, and Anni ran into the house to tell Daddy all about it. With her bag completely full of candy, she headed straight for the kitchen and grabbed a slice of red pepper left over from that evening's salad for dinner. "Hooray!" all the dentists of the world cheer. All in all, one happy little Cheetah Girl.

More everyday from Annika

Anni has come up with yet another new nickname for Frankie. That girl loves coming up with nicknames more than G.W. Bush does. So her latest for Frankie, is "Frank-o" or, sometimes, "Frank-o Bank-o." To date, her original nicknames have been "Frank", "Francie", and "Frank-o." She also calls her "Frankster" pretty often, but she did get that one from us! Anni has taken to making up her own songs to express herself during the day. She's written a "Stop crying, baby" song and an "I don't want to play" song and a "I DO want to play" song. Yesterday she was singing a song evidently titled, "I'm gonna save the world." I didn't catch all the lyrics, but it did somehow involve squirrels in a cave.

Thursday, October 28, 2004

Some random stuff

Annika's new favorite song: "Rawhide" (This revealed to me after she spent a good 10 minutes in the car singing "Rollin' rollin' rollin' " over and over again) Annika's new favorite phrase: "What a bunch of human errors!" (Ours is not to question why...) Annika has tried to convince me everyday since her party that I really should wear my queen dress. Frankie has been cruising since 8 months or so, at which point everyone said, "Oh, she'll be walking soon". Frankie, evidently, overheard them and decided to prove them wrong. The child has shown absolutely no interest whatsoever in going uprightly mobile. She has, however, become a little huggy monkey, who loves to be held and cling tightly to your neck. Finally, in the past few days she has been making some new progress--taking steps while her daddy holds her hands, and even standing alone with no support. These stand-alone efforts are hilarious. She holds her arms up in the air, like a teenager headed down a hill on roller-coaster. And with the same expression of terrified joy on her face. Grandma Bond came for a visit last week, while Joerg was at his father's and stepmother's birthday celebrations in Germany. We had lots of fun stuff planned to do, but both girls got sick for a few days--mainly Frankie, surprisingly enough, but then we realized that she was right on time for her reaction to the MMR and varicella vaccines. She was over it in a few days. Anni loved having her grandma here, but she did miss her daddy. Everytime we saw something neat, or she did something that earned praise, she would say, "I wish my whole family could see it! My daddy is missing!" And she assured her grandma several times that next time she was going to get to go to Germany with her daddy and her whole family (yes, "whole family" is another of her fave phrases lately).

Wednesday, October 20, 2004

and finally...happy b-day Joerg

It's the end of the Tiede family birthday marathon. Joerg enjoyed his birthday song from Annika, who is so wound up about all the birthdays this month that I keep catching her whispering "Happy Birthday, Happy Birthday, Happy Birthday..." over and over again to herself. The concept of passing time seems to be finally dawning on Annika, and she is taking it hard. On her birthday, her daddy congratulated her on being 4 years old. She asked, "I'm not 3 anymore?" "No." "When will I be 3 again?" "Never again!" And...cue tears. She has calmed down about the whole issue a bit. This morning she asked me, "Can I be 3 again just for a moment?" "No, I'm sorry, sweetie." "Well, how about you use your pretend magic wand to make me 3 again just for a moment?" So, that's what I did. I mean, what good is a pretend magic wand if you don't get to use it sometimes?

Saturday, October 16, 2004

Anni's birthday in the sparkle house

Annika is now 4 years old!
It's the end of a long few days of preparation, and we have glitter over every square inch of our house. And ourselves. So here was Annika's day: She started the day with birthday phone conversations with Grandma Elke in Germany, and then Grandma and Grandpa Bond in Kansas City. Then Anni and I made a huge bowl of cake batter together, and made chocolate cupcakes for the party. Annika got to crack her first egg, as she is now a very mature 4 years old, and deemed old enough for this important responsibility. I did veto her suggestion that we put the frosting straight into the cake batter, so as to save time frosting them later on. Clever girl, though. After we had the cupcakes in the oven, it was time to open presents from family. I think her favorite was the noisy puppy we got her. Still, it's less work than a real puppy. However, Hepburn is truly freaked out by this little guy. He barks, wags his tail, and rolls around the house in a manner truly offensive to the grande dame. After the presents were opened, I got busy transforming our dining room into the princess party room. Although you can't really see them in these pictures, I strung Christmas lights on the ceiling. The really ridiculous thing is that I now have a sore thumb--I guess from pushing in too many thumbtacks. I also draped the ceiling with tulle, and created a little curtain for framing the room. Plus, I hung crepe and satin Princess Jasmine ribbon down, which Anni loved walking through. I meant to have a lot more balloons than this, but I just ran out of time. I also planned to hang artificial flowers from the ceiling, but again no time so I just crammed them in the vase. All the girls tried sniffing them (repeatedly) and seemed so thrilled with their smell that eventually we parents had to lean for a sniff, too, even knowing full well they were artificial. They smelled like...Wal-mart, of course. Rubber shoes and cardboard. Each girl had a name tag at her place, with a velvet rose, a bottle of fairy dust, and a "gold" jewel box. I put Anni in one of her pink ballet outfits, and I dressed as the queen mother in a completely over-the-top blue dress with poufs and bows galore. Needless to say, Anni adored it. I even swooshed way too much blue eyeshadow on, to add to the glamourous effect. Oh, did I mention the glitter hairspray? Yup. As the girls arrived (there were 8 altogether), we dressed them as princesses, using some frilly material draped and elasticed together. Then they sat down to decorate their crowns, wands, and jewelry boxes. Amazingly, no glue spills, but this was the first activity to introduce our friend glitter to the floors. The crowns and wands looked really great, and I have enough jewels, glitter, and sequins left over for Frankie's princess party in 3 years. Annika was just so excited to see her friends. She had been waiting all week for this party. Here she is giving a big hug to Kiley, Jillian's baby sister. OK, so Kiley doesn't look so happy about it, but she actually didn't mind it all too much. Frankie, on the other hand was delighted with the sudden onslaught of noise, activity, and general party merriment. As the girls finished, they headed over to choose some Princess coloring pages. I had about 100 for them to choose from, all downloaded and printed from the internet while I was waiting for my students to finish their exams on Tuesday. This activity kept me from contemplating the amount of work those same students were about to hand me, and thusly avoided a public fit of panic. At this point, I had to go download the pics off my digital camera, so I took it upstairs. Then, being the sleep-deprived queen mother, I promptly forgot where I had put my camera. Sigh. No pictorial record. Sigh. Next the girls played "Kiss the Frog." This was essentially "pin the tail on the donkey," exept I had drawn a huge frog prince, which Annika colored in last night, and cut out gigantic lips for them to try to place on the frog. Blindfolded, of course. Then we played Cinderella's Magic Slipper: they sat in a circle and I played music while they passed around my one and only high-heeled pump (from my wedding eons ago). I rang a little bell to announce midnight, and stopped the music, and the girl left holding the shoe went into the middle of the circle, where she closed her eyes and was given the bell to ring midnight next. And so on. Next came story time. Here was the story: Once upon a time there was a beautiful princess named Annika. She lived with her mother, the queen, and her father, the king, and her baby sister, cute baby princess Frankie. One day, Princess Annika had a birthday party and invited all her princess friends. An evil witch was passing through the kingdom, and became very mad that she had not been invited to the party. at this point, there was an interruption to the story as one of the girls asked, "Who's the evil witch?" Quickly one of the other girls looked over at her mom and volunteeered, "You can be the evil witch, mommy!" To which the mom said, with only a hint of sarcasm, "Thanks!" So the evil witch came to the castle and turned the king into a grumpy old ogre. The grumpy old ogre said, "You girls are having too much fun and being waaaaay too noisy!" So he took all the princesses' jewelry and ran off to hide it. Now, there is one thing that can turn the grumpy old ogre back into the king: fairy dust! Luckily, all the princesses had brought their supply of fairy dust to the party, so they decided to go hunt for their jewelry, and save the king. Then we gave the girls their fairy dust (glitter in a baby food jar with gold lid and ribbons), and we went on the hunt. Joerg had placed foot steps on the floor for the girls to follow, and they led down to the basement. There, they discovered that the ogre had hidden their jewelry in a box full of worms (cooked spaghetti). They had to reach in to pull out their jewelry. Then they went on the hunt for the ogre. Joerg came out in a bathrobe and mask sounding grumpy, and the girls threw their glitter all over him. Thus transforming him back into the king. This part amazed Annika. Even after cleaning off, Joerg still has a little extra sparkle to him tonight. Then we went back upstairs, put on the jewelry and broke out the makeup. The girls each got a mini-lipstick to put on themselves, effectively transforming the celebration into a clown princess party. We put glitter face make-up hearts and stars on their cheeks. I had glitter nail polish, but they were all much too hungry for that. And finally the princess cupcakes we made were served. Anni's guests were: Jillian Sarah Anna Grace Demi Kelsey Sabrina Then it was time to open gifts. Annika was overwhelmed. "Are all these presents for me?" Then a few last rounds of "Kiss the Frog" and "Cinderella's Slipper" and the fun was over. Happy Birthday, sweet Annika. We love you.

Wednesday, October 13, 2004

Obsessive party mom strikes again

I'm in a mad flurry of preparation for Anni's birthday party on Saturday. Yes, I'm covering the ceiling in tulle, and stringing Christmas lights for ambience, and hanging artificial flowers from the ceiling, along with streamers and balloons, of course. And we will be outfitting the girls in "princess dresses" (all-girl princess theme). And they will be making their own crowns, wands, and jewelery boxes. And having a treasure hunt, playing "kiss the frog," and having a princess makeover (glitter hairspray and all). Am I insane? I believe so. Somehow I just can't let an idea that strikes me as fun pass on by. We'll see how it goes. I do know, somewhere in my addled brain, that 4-year-olds are made insanely happy just by having balloons around, so is the tulle necessary? Probably not. But it was on a great sale at just 40 cents a yard... It doesn't look like Joerg and I will be getting the flu shot this year, unless some doses miraculously appear. We are hopping mad at the university, which actually did get its shipment of vaccine, and was blithely injecting perfectly healthy students, even after the government bulletin was issued asking that the doses be reserved for high-risk patients. I even called them, and they told me that they were giving them out only to students. This, when Joerg's colleague in CS is currently undergoing chemo, and needs to find one desperately. When his boss, who has major heart disease, was searching around everywhere. It is quite apparent that the university does cater to the students quite a bit, and they do pay a pretty penny to attend so it does make sense, but it seems that they definitely went overboard this time.

Saturday, October 09, 2004

Happy Birthday, Frankie!

click here for her birthday song

Friday, October 08, 2004

you know you're a mom when...

you bake your own birthday cake. --Jennifer's comment to me today as I stood in the kitchen, mixer in hand Annika sang "Happy Birthday" to me today, and it just made my day. Singing, "happy birthday, dear mommy..." she gave me that adoring look that mommies everywhere try desperately to imprint forever on their brains. Lovely. I guess it could have been because I had just given her a chocolate cupcake to frost and decorate herself. Still Lovely. Jennifer, Riley, and Shelby came up for a visit yesterday and spent the night. The girls had their usual good times together, and Frankie tried her darnedest to plop herself into the middle of all the action. Annika was so impatient, waiting for them to arrive yesterday. Here was the conversation at 8 in the morning yesterday: "When are they going to be here, mommy?" "After dinner." Short pause... "Mommy, can we have dinner now?" Every meal/snack for the rest of the day was declared to be "Dinner" by Annika. In preparation for their arrival, I was upstairs clearing out some of the more kid-unfriendly stuff from the guest room (paper shredder, for instance). Annika had to come "help" me, but soon she made her way over to the computer, or "the kid magnet" as I like to call it. I turned to see her busily throwing things into the trash can (which, unfortunately, is set to auto-empty on a regular basis--must change that). Conversation: "Anni, please don't mess with the computer." "It's OK, mom, I'm just looking for Riley-and-Shelby dot com..." The girls had a huge paint party downstairs in our newly clean basement, played some indoor golf (again, basement), and had a great time frosting and decorating the cupcakes we made. It's unbelievable how fast Riley and Shelby are growing. Frankie now has 3 "words"--Mama, Dada, and Hepburn ("pebuh"). She danced for Jennifer, played drums with Shelby, and tried to eat Riley's drawings. All in all, a good visit for Frankie, too. We waved goodbye from the window, and as Annika watched their minivan head down the street she intoned mournfully, "I miss Riley and Shelby."

Tuesday, October 05, 2004

It's only going to get harder...

So, the other morning Anni turns to me as she's eating her yogurt and says, "Mommy, I don't want to die." What?!? I have no idea of what to say to that. At. All. I mumble something about, "Of course not, but everybody does die at some time..." And kind of let my voice trail off, just not sure what she was looking for from me at that moment. Thankfully, she didn't pursue the issue because I was flat out not ready to discuss that particular topic at the moment. I guess these are times that being of a religious bent would come in handy. But I see that I am going to have to do some thinking and decide what it is that we are going to say to her about this. Especially as death and mortal illness have been swirling around her from an age entirely too young. I will never ever forget the morning that I learned that Andrea and Tony had lost Jayli. I was sitting on the floor, having just (optimistically) placed Annika on the potty. Joerg was in checking our email when I heard him, "Oh, no, oh no..." And when he told me, I just started to cry, right there in front of Anni. She got a very concerned look on her face, and asked me, "Mommy, are you sad?" And she said the word, "sad", like it was a foreign term she was trying out for the first time. I realized it was the first time I had cried in front of her, ever. Not that I hadn't done a lot of crying, especially in those months leading up to transplant, but I always did it away from Anni, in an effort to keep from upsetting her. But as we spent months and months in the hospital, too sick for her to go home to wait, my alone moments became few and far between. So no wonder I became such a mess--going through an incredibly stressful time with no private opportunity to just cry and get it out. It was such a feeling of helplessness, wanting to do something to make your child better and having absolutely no power to do that at all. I mean, when you're hospitalized, you even have to request a lousy syringe of Tylenol when your child has a fever, which can sometimes take a long, frustrating while to get sent to you. So there you are, with a child feeling awful and you can't even provide her immediately with a silly dose of pain-reliever, and let's not even talk about not being able to provide her a new liver. One evening, her fever was particularly high (105) and I had asked for the Tylenol, and then stripped off her clothes and sponged her with lukewarm water, all to no avail. 25 minutes later, and still no Tylenol, and Anni was burning up with fever and screaming. So I marched out to the nurses' desk, and I don't even remember the next part very clearly because I was just soooo angry, but I do remember that at some point I shouted, "Just give me some stinkin' Tylenol, people. She is dying here!" And that was followed by complete silence (and there were probably some 25 people at the station--nurses, doctors, aides). The weird thing was that I was somehow thinking that I said it by mistake--you know, the way a comedian might say, "Help me out here, people, I'm dying up here." But, of course, at a hospital on a floor like the transplant floor, saying a child is dying really means something. It's not just an expression. I was really embarrassed. But then upon further reflection, which is something I do waaaay too much of, I realized that it was more like a Freudian slip. I really was terrified that she was dying right in front of me. That's certainly what it felt like, as she even lost the energy to scream and slept more and more. But I do know that I never ever even contemplated or imagined that she really would die. I don't even know what to make of death, and so I certainly don't know what to tell Annika about it. So, change of topic: the girls are both back to healthy again. Luckily, both have already gotten their flu shots, given the shortage they are predicting this year, although Frankie still needs her booster in two weeks. I am pulling Anni from ballet for the winter, because I fear having her exposed to too many different kids during the week. We're going to stick with pre-school (8 kids) and gymnastics (4 kids) and hope that nothing too nasty crosses her path this season.

Friday, October 01, 2004

Two small children on steroids...

equals mad chaos and impending insanity. Yes, now both my kids are on steroids. Frankie caught Anni's bug, and she has gotten quite sick, so our doctor also put her on steroids to help reduce the inflammation that was causing her breathing to be so labored. What a nasty illness. Frankie is one irritated baby right now, and the steroids are not helping her mood any at all. However, they have led to a very quick improvement in her breathing. Actually, Anni is back to her usual dose of steroids and feeling quite fine (although she has gotten an ear infection as usual). We will all be happy when Frankie has her last dose of prednisone tomorrow (Frankie most especially). I have been thinking of buying this shirt for Annika (you can click on it to go to a larger picture):
My little laugh to myself is that the drawing is actually of the mommy... Annika just loves to sing to herself (see audio posts below for short examples of her vocal talent). Like most kids her versions are often a bit mangled. So, for example, we have "Claustrophobic Old MacDonald" (And on his farm he had a pig, EIEIO. With an Oink Oink HERE and an Oink Oink HERE, HERE an Oink, HERE an Oink, Everywhere an Oink Oink). And then there's the way she's picked up on the strange psychological possession mentality of "I'm a Little Teapot" (I'm a little teapot, short and stout, TAKE me over and pour me out).