Saturday, November 27, 2004
Thursday, November 25, 2004
Happy Thanksgiving!Thanksgiving card made by Annika in preschool. She's all about her own handprint right now.
Wednesday, November 24, 2004
Falling down is also a giftFile under: The Poetry of Childhood Tonight Anni was holding the ribbon of a balloon left over from her party and twirling around the kitchen. She was singing another of her little made-up songs, interrupting herself every once in a while to proclaim, "It's my gift!" Dizziness finally set in and she kerplopped onto the floor, where she dramatically flung herself onto her back and began flapping her arms and legs like she was making a snow angel. Which was when she observed, "Falling down is also a gift." Oh, I love it. Today we went over to the house of a new friend from preschool, Poleena. Poleena has a little sister, Anita, and they are both as sweet as can be. Their mom is Russian, and we had some nice talk in between attempts by the 4 girls to make sure that our undivided attention was focussed like a bright shiny light on their every movement. It turns out that she was a doctor back home in Russia, so we talked a bit about Anni's transplant. Annika had insisted upon bringing along her latest fave toy, baby Jack Jack--a McDonald's Happy Meal toy gotten during our weekend excursion to the apple farm. To my surprise when we were getting ready to leave, she decided that she wanted to let Poleena "borrow" baby Jack Jack. This toy was a big hit with the 2 sisters, so they were pretty psyched. I was sooo impressed at my little one's giving spirit. Of course when we hit the car, Anni decided that the "borrowing time" had been quite long enough and she had to have it back. And....cue tears. Smart mommy figured that hunger had a lot to do with the latest emotional breakdown, and sure enough a few goldfish were all it took to dam the floodgates. It probably didn't help that we were leaving a fun time to head to the Dentist, but again her behavior was exemplary when it counted. She held perfectly still for the whole session, and her teeth were again declared 100% healthy. By the time we got out of the dentist, the weather had turned truly nasty, with one of those horizontal non-stop winds that we have around here sometimes, blowing snow like sharp little spikes into our faces. The car was already covered with snow after our quick 20 minutes in the office. Driving home we saw an electrical transformer ahead of us explode with a blinding flash and hum of current that we could feel through our chests. Why oh why do we run our power lines above ground in this country? Electricity is some scary stuff. Back home we settled in to watch the storm, and count the seconds each time our electricity flickered off, wondering if it would come back. It did every time. Half of our neighbor's beautiful pear tree blew down, and then the other half joined it on the grass an hour later. Anni and I went out to explore the new snowy terrain, and threw a few celebratory snowballs, and then came back in to bake our favorite whole-wheat banana chocolate chip walnut muffins, the ones that Anni loves to make because she gets to go crazy with the cinnamon. I just let her shake the bottle like a monkey with a rattle until she decides it's "enough." They are some seriously cinnamon-y muffins. Frankie said "Anni" for the first time tonight. Previously, she's called her something that sounded like "NaNa." Tonight was a perfectly clear "Anni" as she stretched up her arms to her sis, who was running past to go jump in bed after bathtime. Frankie will also say "Thank you" when you hand her something, which sounds like "Dink doo." Annika has already declared that she is uninterested in Thanksgiving tomorrow. She's ready to get to the weekend so that she can at last see her friends Riley and Shelby, which is our trip planned for Saturday. Anni probably won't try most of the food tomorrow, picky little eater, but Frankie will get her first taste of red cabbage. We'll see what our little eat-anything baby makes of that, if maybe the German genes will kick in.
Tuesday, November 23, 2004
Trying for perspectiveI went ahead and had Anni's labs drawn last night, as her weird mood continued, and then developed by late afternoon into some serious tummy discomfort. Anni, always aware that being sick means missing preschool and not getting to play with friends, insisted that she felt fine, even as she made little grunting sounds, refused to get off her tummy (pressure seems to help her), and walked with her muscles clenched and legs contorted into some strange little hobbling gait. The blood draw went perfectly, as always. Since we went in the evening instead of our usual morning time, she had a lab tech who had never drawn her before. She kept up this endless stream of babble, evidently trying to distract Annika from the needle and the blood and all that, but Anni just sat quietly, craning her head a bit so that she wouldn't miss seeing the blood shoot through the tubing into the vacutainer, her favorite part. Pretty clearly the tech was far more nervous than Annika about the whole situation. We got some of the results back today, and they aren't great, but at least they aren't a lot worse, either. Joerg talked on the phone to one of our transplant nurses about the results. It was noted that Anni's best labs for a while happened when she was on the huge dose of steroids to combat the croupy cough she had several weeks ago. Although we were really really really hoping that we could begin tapering Anni's steroids, it just doesn't look like that's going to happen. In fact, Joerg asked if we should maybe increase the steroids, since that seemed to make her liver happier. Dave's reply was a bit shocking. OK, maybe not so shocking, but just not what we wanted to hear. He said that increasing the steroids would increase her risk of infection, which might sometimes be worth it to protect the liver, but probably not in this case because there is a real possibility that she might need another transplant anyway due to the vascular problems she has (the portal vein blockage). I know we knew that the portal vein thrombosis was bad news, and that maybe another transplant was going to be needed (Oh geez louise we don't don't don't want to go there again), but it seemed like a very distant thought somewhere out there on the unlikely horizon. Joerg told me that to hear it mentioned so matter-of-factly and so casually, was just a blow. Having calmed down and talked it through with one another, we decided that it is probably just that the transplant nurse deals with liver transplants every single working day, and so mentioning a transplant casually just doesn't have all those heart-stopping, head-spinning, gut-dropping connotations that it does to the parents of a child who's been there twice. You just hate to see the child you love more than you ever thought you could ever ever love have to face anymore. Anymore of all that. And so it's time to get a little perspective...which is to say I have to remember how much fun Annika has with nearly every single day of her exuberant life, and how lucky we are that she has these glorious days, even if everything is not going perfectly. Last week, I took Anni and Frankie to a park on the other side of town, because it has her favorite play equipment. This park is newly built right next to a development of rather pricey houses (in the range of 275k-500k). I have heard rumours that some of the families close by resent incursions in their parks by inhabitants of "the other side of town" (that's us). I hate to buy into this because it does begin to feel rather like high school, and who wants to be reminded of that whole painful adolescent era? So here's what happened. (I freely admit that I may be a bit defensive here and reading it all wrong, as my social skills are sorely lacking.) We got there at 3 and the place was pretty empty, but then 4 o'clock hit, and suddenly the park was filled with all the moms and all their kids from the neighborhood. I was helping Frankie to walk over to the equipment where Anni was playing when one of the moms I know from a playgroup called to me that Anni had had an accident. Sure enough, there was Anni on one of the climbing decks, looking stricken as she gazed down at a big puddle of urine. Naturally, I was a bit embarassed. I grabbed Anni off the deck and took the girls back to the car, where I discreetly stripped off her wet pants and underwear and loaded her into the car. I grabbed some paper towels from the car and ran back to clean off the play set. The mom I know doesn't say anything else to me--I guess I would expect some sort of commiserating remark or some sort of reassurance or at least acknowledgment that accidents happen, just because she knows me and it seems the nice thing to do. Instead there is a mom with a red Tommy Hilfiger sweater there saying "Thank God you brought paper towels!" I said, "Well, it's the least I could do since it was my kid who made the mess..." At which point her manner became distinctly frosty as she commented, "Well, we've been doing our best to keep fingers out of mouths." Perhaps I did not take this comment the right way because I was blinded by the Tommy Hilfiger sweater. At the risk of offending any readers, there aren't too many of you anyway and I'm supposing I've already offended quite enough in earlier posts, I have to say that Tommy Hilfiger on anyone past the age of 18 just makes no sense to me. I remember well my teen years, and that having the right label on my clothes meant a huge amount, and I have some fuzzy ideas that that had to do with adolescent identity-forming by group belonging and the incredibly hierarchical nature of adolescent relationships. So, you know, the label-conscious stuff made some sense in those years, painful as those years were, and it was also especially important that the label was conspicuous, since it was mostly all for the benefit of everyone else. But now, how does that whole conspicuous and expensive label-loving lifestyle fit into the 30-yr-old mother thing? I don't get it. Now, not that I'm getting all self-righteous about the expense issue. My sister recently sent me a Land's End coat that her youngest had outgrown for Frankie to wear. Her daughter wore it for 2 winters, and if I know energetic Rayna, that girl was wearing it. But yet the coat looks perfectly new. Now those are the kind of expensive clothes that seem worthwhile. OK, maybe Tommy Hilfiger clothes are really well-made, but that whole "label as style" approach reminds me just a bit too much of those long walks down the halls of Sumner Academy, wondering if my OP shirt and Jordache jeans made my butt look big. Now to top it all off, these are the same moms that bring their runny-nosed, coughing kids to parks and playgroups, with evidently little concern about spreading those germs. But a little pee on the playground and they're suddenly all hygiene-conscious. Urine, I will add, is really relatively sterile, unlike all the stuff flying toward my child from their children's coughs and sneezes. OK, so I wouldn't want Anni rolling around in someone else's piss, either, but come on. Some priorities, please. Which finally brings me back to my own good look at myself and my own priorities. It's so hard to keep them in mind when you're in the midst of everyday parenting. Tonight when I came back from teaching, I was so exhausted and Annika was in one of her "tired so I'm hyper" moods. After several requests to settle down, Annika suddenly grabbed hold of my neck and flung herself backwards. I have absolutely no idea what she was trying to do, but she managed to yank out a whole handful of my hair in the process. At which point, I pushed her away from me and said "No, Anni, that hurt." Again, her stricken look and she tried to come back to me, but I put my hand up and said, "No." And the heartbreak on her face just made me feel terrible, as she said "But I want to kiss it and make it feel better." It can be so hard to remember that they are just kids and are still trying to figure things out. Obviously, she had figured out that she had made a mistake, and I needed to give her the chance to make up for it. Really, realizing that she had done wrong and being sorry is a huge step forward toward maturity. But those realizations don't just appear on a flashing sign above your child's head in the moment that they happen. But, yes, she did get to give my throbbing, hairless neck a kiss. After that, the evening went relatively smoothly. We decided that Anni was so tired that a 6 pm bedtime was called for, and she went right to sleep. I hope she's feeling better tomorrow. It sure is hard to be a mom. I guess it's hard to be 4, too.
Sunday, November 21, 2004
Obsessive Party Mom ruins the dining roomI finally removed all the party decorations from our house. Yes, 5 weeks after the party and our house is back to normal. Actually, it's not quite back to normal because it turns out that all those 1000's of pushpins I used left behind 1000's of holes. After Joerg pointed out that I was creating 1000's of holes with the pins I wised up and used tape instead to hang the princess coloring pages the girls created. At least, I thought I had wised up, but when I went to remove them last week, it turns out that either the duct tape I used was veeeerrrry strong, or the paint on the walls was veeeeerrrry weak. It's even worse than it sounds--not only did the paint come off, but it left behind little ragged bits of exposed cardboardy stuff which I guess is what drywall looks like when it's all messed up. Luckily, I had been planning on painting the walls anyway this summer and a little drywall patching can certainly be worked into those plans. --------------------- Annika now has her own computer to use, as I moved our old Mac downstairs and set it up in the new basement playroom. Thrilled is really just doesn't do justice to the joy she finds in being in charge of the mouse all by herself. Don't expect any emails any time soon, though. All of the games ask her to enter her name, which usually goes something like this: AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA(oops, too many)NNNNNNNNNN(oh, mommy, I did it again. giggle)ik(oh so carefully hitting each button gingerly gingerly)AAAAAAAAAAAAA(oh, sorry--not sounding sorry at all). Anni's preschool had its holiday program last week. Of course I brought my camera and would post pictures, but trying to photograph this event was a lost cause. First, we arrived at the church sanctuary at the appointed hour, only to find that it was already standing room only. We finally did manage to finagle a seat, but we were pretty far back, and 3-4 year olds are so darn short. If I kind of half-stood I could see the tippy top of her curly blonde head above the heads of all the other parents half-standing. I was worried that she would just decide in a fit of overstimulated independence to run around in circles rather than sticking to the program. However, she was wedged in with 40 other kids and therefore had very little wiggle room. Not that she wasn't wiggling, though. Yes, you may have caught that I said 40 kids. It was a "whole school" thing, not just her small class of 8. Therefore, well over half of the program consisted of kid shifting. One class in, one class out, now all classes together, etc. Still, it was fun seeing her participate in such a normal, silly, ritualistic childhood event. Here's to many more hours spent waiting for Anni's 2 minutes of glory. --------------------- It seems like I should now be announcing that Frankie has taken her first steps, but no. That child really believes in the power of practice. Slow and easy wins the race, she says, as she again goes over and over step step step step, always clinging to my hands. Although walking is still progressing slowly, she is really gunning for the power of speech. She now says "Daddy" so clearly (not "Dada" but "Daddy"). She will say "baby" and she uses the sign for "more," which Anni has been using again now, too, in solidarity with her little sis. Frankie also says "Dat" when she wants something, although she hasn't quite got pointing down yet so it's still pretty much anybody's guess what she's referring to. The best thing, though, is that she now nods "yes" and shakes "no" in response to questions. Actually, she's been nodding "yes" to questions for some time now, but now that she's got a "no", too, the "yes" just feels more meaningful. Do all babies learn to say "yes" before "no"? Or is this some sign that she is going to be an extremely agreeable child? I choose to believe the latter. Finally, I must admit that she does not say "Mommy", and still uses "Mama" mainly to register complaints with me. I guess I am the complaint taker in the house. Good that my role is well-defined with her. --------------------- After weeks of shockingly angelic behavior, Anni has been showing her shall we call it "trying" side the past couple of days. You know the one that disagrees with absolutely everything I say for no apparent reason, and backs it up with tears to show she really really means it even if it makes no sense? Yeah, that one. I hesitate to even note it, because, hey, it's so much nicer to remember the fun stuff, isn't it? But I'm wondering if Anni's bad moods coincide with the onset of illness or a swing in her med levels. So I'm writing this down really just to help myself remember the date of onset to see if any patterns emerge for me. Given the powerful drugs she's on, I wouldn't be surprised if shifts in the levels could cause a few days of rotten mood. I'm thinking of having labs drawn to check them out it she continues in this vein for too much longer. On the other hand, I guess kids are entitled to rotten mood days, too. --------------------- Frankie is still nursing away, although she has completely mastered the sippy cup. Hooray we managed to skip bottles altogether. She is such a dedicated nurser that she has discovered that she can lift up my shirt to indicate her wishes--a skill that is pretty amusing at home, and I'm sure will be less so in any public place. Luckily, though, she is down to nursing just maybe 5 times a day and usually when we're out she is too busy checking out the world to want to obstruct her view with a breast in her face. OK, that didn't sound right but I can't think of a better way to put it. Anyway, while I'm nursing Frankie at home, especially when I'm putting her to sleep, I rock her and hop on-line to check out the fascinating world of weblogs of people I do not know at all. Perhaps it sounds a bit creepy, but really it's not. I think. Some of the journals are really well-written and funny to boot, and I found them at a website where people can list their journals. Sort of advertising them--so I guess they must be looking for total strangers to be reading them, right? Anyway, as the keeper of an on-line journal myself, I could not help but be a bit intimidated by these people managing to enter in a well-written, well-thought-out 1000 word entry every 2-3 days for years on end. Even with jobs, kids, and finding time to watch TV, at least enough to pop in a slyly witty reference once in a while. How in the world do they do it? But digging back through their archives I invariably come across an entry about how they cannot sleep and all the crazy things they do while not sleeping. So there it is: I just love sleep too much. And speaking of which...
Wednesday, November 10, 2004
keep walking down memory laneAhhh, reminiscing about the past, as I've been doing lately. Remember those glory days as a young student, living in old rental houses with mice in the cellar, drafty windows, and of course no dishwasher? Oh, you don't? Need a refresher? So a few nights ago Joerg and I were awakened by a loud bang. Joerg--"What was that?" Me (too sleepy to come up with a serious answer)--"The sound of the dishwasher dying. 'Night." Joerg went to investigate, but assured me that the dishwasher was fine. The next morning, though, revealed that while the dishwasher had continued to make its usual dishwasher-y sounds through the night, no actual dishwashing had taken place. And in the cold light of morning, it could not even muster the energy to make any more of its usual whirring noises. After looking it over, Joerg headed out to buy a new dishwasher. And thus we went from celebrating our nearing the end of debtedness, to right back in it. So then the dishwasher's neighbor, the garbage disposal, decided that retirement looked good. And back to Sears goes Joerg, after some time hunched under the sink. You would think that would be enough, right? However, no story of an appliance breaking is complete without some flooding. Sump pump broke--flood, Air Conditioner--flood, Scanner--flood. OK, I made that last one up, but I guess I could have forgotten to turn off the bath tub water in my agitation at losing my ability to put pictures on the web. After the lousy day we had with the kitchen falling apart, we decided to spend a lovely afternoon at the zoo altogether, ignoring the piles of laundry pleading with me to please please please get those stains out. We came home to a little puddle on the floor, one touch on the dishwasher to investigate the source of the water and suddenly water is spewing everywhere. Joerg did some speed drilling to disconnect the dishwasher and we pushed it out the back door. Kind of fun, actually. Then we got lots of towels and started mopping. Annika thought it was hilarious--she put a towel underneath each foot and skated around in the water. So until we get our new dishwasher and garbage disposal, I can only use half the kitchen sink, and there's no hot water. We have to boil water to do dishes, sniffle sniffle. Yes, I'm feeling sorry for myself, but simultaneously making fun of myself for it, so don't think I'm too terrible. The first night I put on a CD that I haven't listened to since my younger days, and I swear putting my hands in dishwater again made me feel like a footloose youngster again. OK, until I had to dig dried green beans out of the tiniest little crevice of Frankie's booster seat (who designs these things?) and go on the nightly scavenger hunt to locate various sippy cups (stuffed behind the sofa cushion of course).
We were driving in the car the other day when Anni, out of nowhere, sighed and said, "What a mess!" "What are you talking about, Anni? Where's a mess?" me, imagining yet more goldfish crackers smushed into the various upholstered crevices. "This world is a mess, mommy." Viewing this as my chance to get philosophical with her (what good is an undergraduate degree in philosophy if you can't misuse it in the most Hallmark-y kind of way) I replied, "Yes, you're right Annika, it is a mess. But that's also what makes it interesting." Surprisingly enough, that answer seemed to satisfy her. Usually she is my little follow-up question girl. This time she just nodded sagely, and stared out the window. Not to say that Annika is a Gloomy Gus. Just the opposite in fact. She gallops everywhere like a racehorse on steroids--except she's just a preschooler on steroids, an altogether more hyper creature. Tonight after dinner we went for a walk around the neighborhood, delivering thank you cards that Anni had made for the girls at her birthday party. The weather was so lovely that we took a few scenic detours, and ended up walking by a house that had a lot of new landscaping, including a long line of tiny evergreens planted in a row for an eventual privacy screen. As we walked past them, Anni patted each one gently on its top boughs and said to each one, "Bless you, my gosling." OK, what in the world??! We aren't catholic, and her preschool is Lutheran, so I don't think she's seeing a lot of blessing going on anywhere. And gosling?? I didn't even know that she knew that word, although I seem to remember that it is mentioned on the Elmo's World Babies episode. Lauren visited Anni over the weekend, which made Annika very very happy. I think she misses hanging out with the older college girls at IWU. Lauren used to take her to breakfast with her at the university, and I think Annika still daydreams about how much fun that was. Anyway, that night after Lauren left she told me that she was going to go to Chicago to see Lauren's house. Furthermore, she was going to go by herself (italics hers, vocally at least), and while she was there she was going to check if she could be Lauren's best friend. The girls are both currently in gooberville. Snot snot snot everywhere, but no fevers and they are feeling just fine. In fact, today Frankie climbed on top of Anni and they were both so delighted with this arrangement that they turned their smiling faces to me, to be sure I had noticed. And there they were, both happy girls, glistening with nose goo smeared across their faces. As I had no pockets, I spent the day with tissues stuck in my bra, at the ready. This is especially important with Frankie. Anni will eventually wipe it with her sleeve, or my sleeve, or whatever is handy, including maybe a tissue if she thinks of it, if I don't notice it right away. Frankie, however, will happily leave the snot to dry into a hard crust all around her mouth and cheeks, and by the time it's reached that point we're talking hard as a cement and just as much fun to remove. Frankie, never much of one for the baby food anyway, has decided that she is sooo beyond the Gerber diet. She wants to eat whatever it is that I am eating. So far, her very favorite meal has been chicken chili. She wasn't too hot on the grapefruit I had for breakfast recently, but otherwise she is only happy if she's munching on whatever's on my plate. Talk about the complete opposite of Annika...she wouldn't even try my ice cream for over a year, seeming to believe that if I'm enjoying it, then it must be nasty. She's going to make one interesting teen-ager, isn't she?