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.

Thursday, March 31, 2005

Sometimes I am so in awe of the people surrounding me

So many family members of kids with medical/physical/social difficulties find themselves formulating a response to Emily Perl Kingsley's Welcome to Holland. Tonight a brand new member of Postcards from Holland responded as a mother who lost her child after a long battle with liver disease (actually, the same disease as Annika's). She wrote it after a trip to Holland, Texas and it's an incredibly moving read - better than anything I might rattle off tonight. Library update later.

Monday, March 28, 2005

maybe I'm wrong

I'm a little sad. April is National Donate Life month to promote awareness of organ and tissue donation. Naturally, this is a cause dear to my heart and I've volunteered to help out at a few events. When I found out that one of our local libraries would have a display in their front case for the month, I offered to contact them to see if I could put together a story hour for older kids on the topic of transplants. Of course I realized that this is perhaps not a topic best broached by a stranger with very young children, but I do assume that by 10 or 12 most kids are mentally equipped to deal with a matter-of-fact and non-gory talk about organ donation and transplants. And if they aren't, I suppose that their parents would simply not bring them. I even have several books written on the subject and aimed at kids as young as 7 or 8 (one written by a kindergarten teacher who received a heart transplant and one by a 12-year-old who received a liver transplant). Along with the story, I told the librarian that I had some songs written and performed by a girl waiting for a transplant (Haley, again), and also some bookmarks and balloons for the kids. I wondered about the type of questions I might get, but thought I would be able to handle them in a reassuring fashion. After a long wait to hear back from the library, they finally called me to tell me that they could not do it. The official reason given was that they could not justify staff time put into an event that might have such low turnout. When I assured her that I would be happy to do the work putting it together, she pointed out that advertising it would still require staff hours. Ahem. I thought of offering to take the 5 minutes it might take to zip off a letter or email to the paper to get it publicized, but I was beginning to realize that the staffing hours probably weren't the issue. The problem was that they didn't really want to talk about this issue, at least not with kids, even older kids. Don't get me wrong on this. I don't think that the library staff are anti-organ-donation. But it seems that, while it's OK to throw up a few signs about it, actually talking about it is imagined to be like negotiating a minefield. Maybe they're right, and it was a crazy idea to think that you could talk to kids about this stuff. But my daughter is going to be going to school with kids like these in a few years. I don't think it will take very long for a classmate to ask about her swollen belly or her scars dotting both arms, her neck, and outlining the strange and shifted topography of an abdomen opened and contents rearranged 5 times. And I can't help but feel that the idea of transplant still has the aura of the unnatural and taboo. Some sort of witchcraft that is miraculous in its results, but best not mentioned in friendly conversation. I would so love it if I felt like we could talk to kids about stuff like this because I fear not talking about it will leave my little girl feeling strange and excluded someday in the not so distant future. I'll call the other library tomorrow.

about those archives

My archives go back relatively far, but they are somewhat different than my recent posts. Originally, I sent my friends and family email updates about Annika's latest and greatest feats, and also about her medical struggles. Eventually, I began to feel a little bad clogging up people's email boxes ("Read this! It's all about my kid! And her poop! And hospital junk and stuff!"), so I decided to make it a bit more voluntary. That is, if people really wanted to know about what was up with Annika, they could go to a website instead of having it shoved down their throats. So, originally this website was called "Anni Stories" and was written the same as if I were shooting off an email update. Meaning that there were probably a few too many exclamation points and relatively little thought given to readability. At some point I noticed that not many in my family, and really just a few friends, were still reading. Rather than stopping the website, I decided that this freed me up to make it my own space. I still write 95% of the time about our kids and what they are up to. But nowadays I feel free to throw more of myself into the mix. Plus, I began to try to really write the entries, so they would be something I would enjoy re-reading. And then I started a new group blog postcards from holland, for those times I felt like writing more general stuff about the strangeness of the medically obsessed life. Having written this post (and linking to it on the sidebar for all eternity) saves me from having to go back through and rewrite all those earlier entries to make this blog more cohesive. At least now I've given an explanation.

Sunday, March 27, 2005

movie time!

It's too late for words, but I did make a movie about our Easter Day. Keep in mind that this is only our little digital camera, which does movies on the side, so no cinematography awards. We haven't yet worked a real camcorder into the budget. Here it is! I'll post with pictures soon, for those without a high-speed connection.

ambitious? yes. DELUDED? definitely!

Well, it's been a good run, but it's nearly over. My mom has been here since Tuesday evening, but she's leaving Monday morning and then I'll have to get back to full-time mom status. And, just to be clear, that's full-time mom to two young ones that do not appreciate seeing their mom at the computer during their waking hours. So the posts will once again slow to every few days, and although I still get to read many blogs while nursing, my 1-handed typing skills are such that commenting will be more difficult. Now, if Frankie did not prove to be such a grump every time I try using caffeine as an alternative to sleep, well then I might be able to replace some sleeping hours with more productive and enjoyable activities. Here is my big big list of things I wanted to get done while she was here:
  • paint the basement playroom (OK, who was I kidding? That so was not going to get done. Still, it drives me nuts that the former owners of this house felt that gray was an appropriate color for a basement. Talk about your depression chamber...)
  • cut down the overgrowth from the garden that I did not get done last Fall (Who really does garden clean-up in the Fall? Isn't everybody just completely burned out with all the gardening stuff by the time cooler weather rolls around?)
  • mail off the donations for care packages for C.L.A.S.S. (Yes, they were asked for at the end of January, and they've just been sitting there in my laundry room since then, accusing me every time I hurried past without boxing them up and sending them on their way. If I didn't get this one done, I was going to have to give myself a swift kick.)
  • mail off stuff for Haley (Haley's a girl waiting for a liver transplant, while simultaneously dealing with Lupus. If you've not clicked the sidebar link to hear her singing her own self-composed song Dirty Rotten Liver Blues, then you are really missing something.)
  • finish gift for our good friends, Riley and Shelby and family. (This one is about halfway done, hence the halfway strikethrough.)
  • take a trip to the zoo in Chicago, and maybe manage to arrange a visit with Mary and Anna and family. (This one was actually a general "during Spring Break" kind of activity. So it might still get done if Joerg decides to take a day off from research/preparing the tenure case and just have fun with us.)
  • finish tribute essay for donor family (Done, and I'm fairly happy with the results. Now I'm trying to find someplace to publish it for National Donate Life Month in April.)
  • get everything prepared for next month's photo caption contest, again over at C.L.A.S.S. (This was a hugely fun project, although very time-consuming. Actually, I have to admit that composing the soundtrack for the slideshow movie I made to commemorate the event was the most time-consuming factor. And, really, I didn't have to do that. And, really, a different song probably would have been cuter. But, really, I worry about putting things in my University account that have even the whiff of copyright violation. So I'll either have to buy myself a public account with more space, or else continue to tinker out my own music with the prerecorded loops on GarageBand. If you're curious about the caption contest, here's the slideshow for March's event, featuring Brooke, transplanted 1 year ago. The slideshow even captures the little political tiff we liver parents had over the use of John Kerry for humorous purposes--like the rest of the country, the liver families were split on this issue.).
  • do laundry (should I even include this? I mean, it is actually an "every weekend" kind of thing. I guess I will because I need more things to be actually crossed off.)
I'll post a special Easter update tonight, complete with pictures (consider yourself warned!)

Friday, March 25, 2005

Victory is Mine!

WooHoo! I won a Gold Medal over at Phantom Scribbler for throwing out a bunch of funny place names. This is the first time I've won something since the exciting evening 15 years ago that I won the soundtrack to Louis Malle's May Fools, which served as my introduction to the rolling-along-geniality of Stephane Grappelli. But I guess maybe that one doesn't count since the only thing I did for that prize was buy a movie ticket, and still have it in my pocket during the drawing.

Thursday, March 24, 2005

Ah, Youth

I had hoped to lose my baby pounds before we headed off to Germany to visit Joerg's friends and family for the first time since Annika came into our lives with all her beauty, joy, and drama. I have finally realized that this is not going to happen, so I went out today and bought two pairs of pants that actually fit me (and do not involve elastic) to prepare myself psychologically to meet people who last saw me 35 pounds ago. Of course, the 35 pounds is not the whole story. There is also the 20 pounds I gained when I quit smoking with my lupus diagnosis 8 years ago (and which was mild enough to go into complete remission with a few years of drugs and lifestyle changes and so is a non-issue nowadays). And then there were the 15 hospital pounds that seems to come to all long-term hospital stay caregivers. There is no more sedentary lifestyle than that of the hospital parent, plus CMH in Chicago has the most glorious, huge chocolate chip cookies in the world--source of much blissful escapism on bad days. Joerg, lucky bastard, actually resumed smoking to deal with the stress of those days, but breastfeeding mommy did not have that option. Especially not breastfeeding mommy to a little girl with a fragile liver and generally precarious health. All those gains are all looking pretty big, now that I see them there in front of me, but I'm sticking with the assertion that I'm only 35 pounds above where I actually think of myself. I mean, who really goes back to 115 pounds after having two kids and passing 30? That's just crazy. Anyway, on the way home I began reminiscing about the way I used to dress, which was 100% thrift store chic. Heavy on the thrift store and light on the chic. Let's just say that I was not afraid of color. All of which reminded me of my very favorite sartorial compliment I have ever received. When I was a senior in college I got a job as a preceptor for a teaching tour of Kenya. I had written an independent study on African philosophy and literature (huge category, I know, but that's what those undergraduate independent studies are for, right?), and also had some experience in travelling off the beaten path, and thus stumbled into the best job, ever. The semester before we were to leave, I made friends with a Kenyan exchange student, who gave me a few pointers on the upcoming trip. One day in Wal-mart, I spotted this shirt--polyester, I think, although it felt like the cheap silk some pajamas are made of--which was covered in some sort of farmer's market theme. Vegetables, fruits, hand-lettered signs. It was one BUSY piece of business. But it was only $2 (I wonder why?) and I knew I could make it work. In fact, I had been looking for something to wear over my super-comfortable black leggings, which I could not wear without a very large shirt to cover my thighs. Remember, I was a whopping 115 pounds at that time. I wore that shirt, with leggings, on the day we loaded the bus to head to the airport. My Kenyan friend was there to see us off. He took one look at me, up and down, gave me a huge smile and said, "They are going to love you over there!" I bought lots of stuff on that trip, even bartering my tennis shoes for some soapstone statues I liked, but the stuff I loved the most was the fabric. It was cotton, with sayings written in Swahili at the bottom that said things like, "Step off, now! We both know you're not all that." And I actually wore that fabric when I returned, wrapped around me in all sorts of creative fashions that I had learned there. So that's where my mind wandered as I returned home with my shopping bag, Khaki pants inside. That's where I am now. But, Annika and Frankie, I want you girls to know that your mama was once a Kanga-wearing woman.

It's Yoguriffic Around Here

Today I did a little solo shopping (aaaahhhhh, what a feeling). When I returned home, Frankie screamed a little mommy scream (sounds like "Ma-Mia!!!" in case you were wondering) while doing a little stomping dance. But it was Annika who stopped me in my tracks with her enthusiastic greeting: "Fuckaroo!!!" I looked at my mom, who had been entrusted with the delicate minds of my two kids for the past 2 hours. You must understand that my mom is not even the type of woman who would utter "butt" aloud, and then you will understand my mom's mortal embarrassment at Annika's new cheer. "Fuckaroo! Fuckaroo! Fuckaroo!" A bit of probing, amidst helpless giggling from me, revealed the answer to all our questions. And there was more... We are great believers in the power of yogurt around here, with all its lovely, wiggly live cultures. "See?" I said to my mom this morning, "Frankie's already a yogurt girl like Annika!" "Yes," Annika added solemnly, "She's Yoguriffic." Naturally, after mom and I laughed a good laugh at that, we were treated to all its endless variations for the rest of the morning. Frankie needs a clean diaper? "She's diaperiffic!" Frankie's grumpy? "She's grumperiffic!" And so on...

just a little nugget that I want to remember...

but perhaps not so interesting to the world at large. I'm just all full of the Mommy Love. Today Annika had her very first swimming lesson. Mind you, she's only been in a "big pool" 3 times in her life before today. At the end of the 30-minute lesson, the teacher asked them to jump into the pool by themselves (with her standing there obviously). Annika did it, with gusto, and went all the way under. She came up wide-eyed, sputtering, and slightly shocked, but proud. My girl's got guts.

Wednesday, March 23, 2005

It's happened. I've lost her.

I need to put a smiley face or something after that title; to my ears it sounds way too melodramatic to be taken in the least bit seriously, but coming after our huge sick-fest, I should be careful not to scare anyone. Our poop and puke extravaganza is over. May it ever be forgotten. At least I can rest assured that Rota will never again be as violent for Frankie, as a normal immune system develops antibodies that are useful against any future reinfection. Annika has no such luck, but, still, this bout lasted about one week less than her first bout a few years ago. But, now, on to that title. Grandma is here, as Joerg is off for a few days to give a talk at Indiana University, our graduate alma mater. He's staying for a few days after that to work on some articles with his former advisor. I hate being at home alone with the two girls, as we never know when Annika will hit a bad patch and need to be hospitalized. Now that we have another little one to care for, getting Anni to the hospital when she's sick has become that much more complicated, given that she usually has to go all the way to Chicago for her care, complicated little medical wonder that she is. With my mom here, I know that I have someone to take care of Frankie at a moment's notice, although I know that some kind-hearted soul somewhere would surely take her in for me. It's not the same as Grandma, though. Of course not. Annika has been in Super Duper Hyper Overdrive Excited Mode ever since Grandma's impending visit was made known. She couldn't go to sleep the night before she was to arrive on the train, and kept herself awake listing all the great things she and Grandma were going to do together. The next morning she came downstairs at 6 a.m. with her crazy bed-hair and that beautiful puffy-faced, wide-eyed look of the barely awake preschooler. Her first words, in her scratchy morning voice, were, "Are we ready to go to the station?" We had a brief talk about time, and I attempted to teach her some shortcut time-telling skills to avoid hearing that question all day long, but you all know that that was an exercise in futility. Grandma did finally arrive, to great fanfare and lots of hugs and exclamations. This morning Annika watched as Joerg packed his suitcase into the car. "Is Daddy leaving now?" "Yes, in a few minutes." "Are you going, too, mommy?" (With a big hug from me) "No, sweetie. I'm going to stay here with you and Frankie and Grandma." (Anni wiggles out of the hug and fixes me with a bright look) "Hey! I have an idea! Why don't YOU go with Daddy? And grandma can stay here with us alone?" (big dreamy smile at that glorious thought) So I guess we have passed some crucial point in Annika's maturity process. That point at which she's having fantasies of being completely parent-free. Yes, a bittersweet moment. Frankie, on the other hand, has become a clingy mess since her bout with Rota. My attempts to wean the child have crashed into a fiery disaster (a milky disaster?). I've had to bring the sling back out into regular use just to accomplish the smallest tasks without a constant soundtrack of toddler wails. And sleeping through the night? That, evidently, is for the weak-willed, who aren't prepared to cry beyond their parent's breaking point. So that's it here for now. I'm a bit sad watching one pull away from me with such enthusiasm, and (what in the world is wrong with me?) also frustrated as the other throws herself back toward me with the unrelenting single-mindedness of the newborn. Ah, the endless contradictions of motherhood.

Saturday, March 19, 2005

I don't have two entries in me tonight

I've posted a new ramble over at Postcards from Holland.

Friday, March 18, 2005

Insult to Injury

The cat puked today. If Joerg so much as burps in my direction, I may run screaming from our house of stinky bodily fluids. (I kid. We are so happy to be home from the hospital with Annika. Today the girls stared into each other's eyes and engaged in the long, happy hugs of best friends reunited after a separation by miles of ocean across many years. Although I frequently had to grab Frankie back to my lap before she could puke all over Anni's shiny face.)

Thursday, March 17, 2005

I crack myself up

I just posted a comment over on Jay's site that we were celebrating St. Patrick's Day with neon green poop. See, there's a lot of humour to be found in the lowly Rotavirus.

mostly better

Annika is home--on probation. We had to go have labs drawn today to make sure that her electrolytes were still improving, even without the I.V. supplementation. Anni had been on lab draws every 4 hours at one point in the hospital, and these were not pleasant blood draws. They were great believers in the use of numbing cream, but they used a different brand than we usually use, and they didn't use as much of it. The net result was that the draws were painful, especially as her veins were all shot from so much poking, and when the nurse came to put on the cream, she simply freaked out and had a whole 45 minutes to contemplate that something painful was about to happen. Not pretty when you're 4 and have an imagination on overdrive anyway. This hospital is also the only one we've ever been in that leaves blood draw duty to the nurses, which I think is a terrible practice. The nurses at this particular hospital already seem to be way overbooked (judging from the response lag time when the call button is hit). Now add doing blood draws on all their patients on to that, and the result is not good. The phlebotomists and lab techs just do a much better at finding the veins on the first poke (and you can quote me, Angela Marie). So I was expecting a bit of a fight today when I told Annika we needed to go for a blood draw. I was quick to assure her that we were going to see our friends at our usual lab before she could register any protest, and, amazingly, she came along quite happily. The familiar is definitely reassuring. On the downside, Frankie now has the Rota curse. She woke up this morning in a pool of puke and poo with a raging fever and little cry designed to break your heart. Sweet little baby that she is, though, she managed (somehow) to only get the aforementioned puke and poo on herself and her crib sheet--completely missing the hard-to-clean items in the crib with her, such as the blanket and assorted small, stuffed, night cuddlies. Wow. I'm telling you, she even knows how to get sick in the easiest, most agreeable manner.

Tuesday, March 15, 2005

And also, thank you!

I forgot to give a big "thanks!" to everyone who's left wishes for Annika's speedy return to health. I really appreciate them!

Point of Pride

Anni's having trouble taking her meds. She takes all her medicine in capsule form, which is not usually a problem, but her gag reflex is, naturally, heightened right now. So this morning she wanted some yogurt to help her swallow the bigger pills. Yes, I could have asked patient food service to send it, but that would have taken several hours (I do not exaggerate), so I just ran to the visitor cafeteria to buy some. That, and some coffee to get me through the day on the 2 hours of sleep I got last night in 30-minute increments. The residents began making rounds as I left, and when I returned I found Anni regaling two (incredibly young! oy! Doogie Howser is beginning to look less far-fetched every day) residents with whatever tales she tells to total strangers. As I walked through the door, this is what I heard: "My mommy ALWAYS poops in the potty!" The doctors turned to look at me, frozen right there by the room's bathroom entrance. "What can I say?" I replied raising my arms in a victory salute, "I'm good with poop!" So Annika spiked fevers again all last night, and she was pooping on average of once every hour, even through the night. Her electrolytes are still slipping, despite getting replacements through her I.V., so they are considering giving her a dose of IVIG. That should effectively stop the rota in its tracks, but it's kind of a big gun to bring out for a case of simple rotavirus. Annika is already sick of being in the hospital. I thought her heart was going to break when I left and took Frankie with me. She just wanted to come home, too. Last night she turned her tired little face to me and said, "I'm homesick. I want to be with Daddy and Frankie." I know she'll be home soon, though.

Monday, March 14, 2005

So, Rota...We meet again.

Yup, it's our old archenemy, Rotavirus. We're all pretty happy, though, that it was diagnosed so quickly. Since the docs in Peoria know what they're dealing with, it's unlikely that they'll need to move her to Chicago, as has so often happened with her. This means that it's much easier for Joerg and I to just trade off shifts staying with Annika. Our plan so far is that I will stay with her evenings and nights, while Joerg will stay mornings and days. Frankie and I will be driving to Peoria (about 45 minutes, so not too bad) around 4 p.m. It's a great thing not to have to go all the way to Chicago, so we're all in a pretty celebratory mood, considering how much poop we're going to be seeing in the next few days. As soon as Joerg and Annika left this morning for the E.R., I swept into high gear--five loads of incredibly stinky laundry (isn't it funny to realize that learning to vomit is really something you have to learn to do? She's getting better about anticipating it, and we made it to the bowl several times, anyway.), and then out came my little bottle of bleach cleaner. I used half of it up before the morning was done. When I think of my Grandma, I remember the smell of her homemade bread baking in the oven. When I think of my mom, I remember the smell of the chocolate-chip-coconut-peanut-butter cookies we made together nearly every weekend. When my kids think of me, they'll be fondly remembering the smell of clorox and the feel of my unnaturally red and rough hands, bleach-chapped, but loving. Last night before the vomiting and diarrhea hit, Annika was screaming and crying with the pain in her tummy. I tried every possible position to help relieve it, but nothing helped. At one point she was sitting in my lap, and she arched her back and began beating on her stomach yelling, "Out! Out, mean hurty tummy! No! You stop! Shoo! Shoo!" Once the stinky fountain started flowing, she began to feel better and was even able to sleep a bit (although this meant that she slept through several diarrhea outbursts, which left the bedsheets none too lovely). She took a lot of baths last night. After the second bath, she climbed onto the potty and leaned her exhausted head onto my thighs as I stood in front of her, stroking her head. "I very, very, very, very love you," she said. Rota is bad news, but not so very terrible if you've got someone to stroke your hair while you poop.

of course

we're off to the hospital. Anni pooped and puked all night and woke with a fever of 105.2. If experience is any guide, she'll need a few days to maybe a week of i.v. fluids to get her back on track.

Sunday, March 13, 2005

a hard habit to break

And here's how we are when Annika shows the slightest sign of getting sick:
  • Temperature taken every hour. Or every 20 minutes, depending on how optimistic we're feeling.
  • Long discussions of whether "low energy" is the same as "lethargic".
  • And what do you mean by "low", anyway?
  • Logging poop frequency.
  • And its consistency.
  • Long discussions of whether there's been any dietary change, med change, or inadvertent exposure to some nasty germ that will haunt our next few weeks.
  • Even more discussion of the fact that said germs and viral bugs are impossible to avoid, should we wish our daughter to thrive in the social atmosphere she craves.
So last night I went in to recheck Anni's temperature while she slept, and she was covered in a cool sheen of sweat. But her temperature had lowered to 99 degrees. Still I stayed up late again. Forever unable to sleep when Annika is sick. Don't feel sorry for me, though, as I inevitably end up finding something fun to occupy my insomnia. Last night I ended up finally noodling around with my Mac's GarageBand program, and created an original soundtrack for a little movie I'm making as part of a photo caption contest over at C.L.A.S.S.. I finally went to bed at 1:30 a.m., and at 5:40 Annika woke up all cheerful sweetness, turned on the bedroom light and said, "It's morting time already!" (yes, she says "morting time" for "morning time") "Argh, Ack! Light off!" I mumbled, covering my eyes. Much to her credit, she knows it's best not to argue with the first words out of my mouth in the morning (NOT a morting person), and so she did, and then clambered happily up next to me in bed. That is, until she found the plastic bag of jewelry that I collected from spots hither and yon around the house yesterday, and had shamefully neglected to put away in a very high place. Thus, she happily occupied herself for the next 15 minutes with trying on the various plastic rings, bracelets, and necklaces, as well as modelling the results in the bathroom mirror while Joerg and I slumbered blissfully on for a blessed few more minutes. So, yes, the jewelry is scattered hither and yon again. You might take this to mean that the 15 minutes I spent hunting it all down and carefully collecting it yesterday were a waste of time. But, no, I always take 15 minutes more sleep as a treasure highly valued. Thinking that last night was simply a false alarm, we decided to go to the zoo in Peoria today. Annika cheered the idea. But a mere half an hour later, after I was all dressed and ready to go, she suddenly threw a fit at the idea of leaving her snuggly warm blanket on the couch where she was watching SpongeBob cavort (ambiguously) on the T.V. Yup, the fever was back. So we've settled in to have a day inside, with lots of fluids and rest. Annika has a new board game that she's itching to play, and I've got more laundry to do, anyway. Of course we called her docs in Chicago, but they're OK with waiting until tomorrow to decide if labwork or a doctor visit is called for. A little Late Winter normal childhood bug, with a semi-normal immune response on Annika's part would be a welcome event. But watching with fearful eyes is a hard habit to break.

Saturday, March 12, 2005

holding our (collective) breath

Annika was clearly working on a fever tonight at bedtime. She was only 101, though, not at the magical 101.5 that we call an "actual" fever, so we put her to bed and crossed our fingers and toes. We did arm her with a "throw-up bowl", though, just in case. This has never actually worked out in practice, but it reassures her to know that the stuff has an appropriate place to go if the urge should hit. She does like to be prepared. I hope we don't have yet another middle of the night drive to CHOI's E.R. There must be some biological reason to explain why illnesses always seem to sweep in with their greatest fury in the night-time hours. Feel free to enlighten me if you know.

Wednesday, March 09, 2005

Attack of the Photos!

One day of warm(-ish) weather, and our entire town floods the parks, the zoo, anywhere to be outside to give Spring the moral support she needs to stop flirting with us and just sit down and stay a while. Of course, "the entire town" includes our little family, and we chose to head to the local zoo. It takes about the 100th visit in the summer months before Annika starts to tire of our itsy-bitsy little zoo, and after so many months away, the place has regained the sheen of a new and exciting adventure. And for Frankie, it really is all brand new and almost overwhelmingly fantabulous. The great thing about going fun places with kids is that they can't wait to show you every little thing that is right there in front of you, but really, do you really see it?. How is it that kids' fingers don't just turn into these monstrously muscular appendages, with all that constant use that they get? And here's Frankie, just so darned excited that she can't decide which way to point: This is the first time that Frankie has traversed the zoo on her own locomotion, and she was thrilled with all the new independent explorer possibilities that walking opened up to her. So much like her big sister, she kept up a running monologue describing every single last thing that she saw, or imagined she saw. The best part of the experience for Frankie was seing the goats, which she insisted on calling "doggies." Even better, if I asked her what sound they made, she shouted out loud and proud, "MOOOOOO!" Eventually we got her to moo-goats, and then finally baaaa-goats. But I think that secretly she still wanted them to be very large dogs that said "moo".
At the entrance to the zoo there was a new sign with a map of the zoo. Annika was pretty thrilled when she spotted it, and went right over to examine it. But then, in a voice either confused or indignant, she asked, "Where is Germany on this map?" Yes, the girl loves her maps, and is getting pretty good at identifying certain states and certain European countries and her most beloved of all, Antarctica. Another new map near the wolf habitat, allowed her to show off her "identifying Illinois" skills.
We sat on a bench near the merry-go-round in the glorious sun, enjoying goldfish crackers and teddy grahams. Well, most of us sat. Frankie was too excited about walking walking walking!! on her own!! to sit, and I had to give her her snack one piece at a time as she wandered in excited circles around us. Annika, on the other hand, knows how to kick back. By the very next day, the temperature had plummeted again to well below freezing. It's hard not to get impatient, though, with the forced Hyacinth bulbs already filling our house with the scent of Spring.

And then there's Annika, who insists on dressing like a Tropical Beach Babe, despite the occasional snow flurries outside.

Other Tidbits

  1. Frankie told her first joke on Tuesday. She found her sister's floppy bunny and was hugging it around the house. Suddenly a light bulb glowed above her head, and she lifted its foot to her ear like a phone and said, "'lo? 'lo?" Then she giggled like crazy.
  2. We finally got Annika a Medic Alert bracelet, and she's pretty pleased with it. The first couple of days, she played with it non-stop. Fidget, pull, twist, turn but she seems to have gotten used to it already.
  3. Annika got into the lipstick again, and chose a very becoming shade.
  4. On a stroll through a local store, I bent down to sniff the Easter lilies and somehow got huge globs of yellow pollen all over my nose, mouth, and most of my forehead. Bright, bright, bright yellow pollen. And, unknowing, I walked around for the rest of the morning like that. Why do I not have a picture of this? I can only blame it on the reflexive urge to wash like a obsessive-compulsive raccoon with a tasty bit of fruit upon finally glimpsing myself in the bathroom mirror at home. The really sad part is that I had even taken the time to put on makeup that morning, so I had been strutting around smiling and nodding like the Queen of Fashion with my new haircut and mascara on my lashes.
  5. Although I did not document my experiments in natural cosmetic wear, I did manage to capture this additional embarrassment on the same day. Having slightly burned the chicken for Frankie, or the newly picky eater who shall not eat overcooked chicken nuggets as they are just too dry thank you very much, I patiently put in a new batch for her. Which came out like this: Frankie ate yogurt for lunch.
  6. Annika has finally started drawing people with BODIES!!!! Previously, all her people have looked like giant egg face people, with legs attached right where the neck would be. Sometimes they had arms, sometimes not. But they always had bottoms. Always. She would carefully draw a little line right under their chins, and say, "There! There's his bottom!" So this magna-doodle picture, with a teeny-tiny body for the very first time ever, was awfully exciting. Exciting for me, anyway. But that just about sums it all up anyway, doesn't it?

Sunday, March 06, 2005

the single and fabulous come for a visit

A few weekends ago we had a couple of our single friends visiting us. Lauren, our former babysitter, tore herself away from her fabulous life as a cool tech chick at Discover in Chicago (I'm not exactly sure what she does, but she has a "team" and they've gone on boating expeditions so it must be super-cool). Annika was so happy to see her again and reminisce about those wonderful days of wandering around the university cafeteria, inviting herself to join the football players' table (Annika did, not Lauren, although I don't think Lauren minded). Frankie and Annika had a great time competing to see who got to spend the most time in Lauren's lap. The following day our friend, Nicole, came for a visit. Also tearing herself away from a fabulous life in Chicago as a cool, single woman. Nicole has decided to enter the world of politics (in a supporting role, although I think she would have great appeal as a candidate herself) and meanwhile is using her amazing knowledge of all things food and wine at some of Chicago's amazing restaurants. Our own culinary tastes have fallen far since the birth of our two little ones, and I was slightly hesitant to reveal the contents of our kitchen cabinets to her. Case in point: I opened the base cabinet to find the bottle of olive oil that I had to stash away when Anni discovered that most things could be pounded on our tile kitchen floor to make "music." I completely forgot about our little epicurean embarrassment hidden away there until Nicole exclaimed, "Holy Marshmallow Stash, Batman!" Yes, we had 4 huge bags of marshmallows down there. What can I say? Annika loves those things. There's not much I can't get her to do with the promise of just one little sweet, soft, heavenly cloud marshmallow. Also, there was a little miscommunication concerning bag sizes on the shopping list with Joerg when I was making all that Christmas fudge. In any case, Nicole seemed to have a good time, even with Annika doing her usual conversation dominatrix act. The main problem with Annika's conversational style is that when she runs out of things to say, she just enters this surreal stream-of-consciousness monologue that is really only meant to make sure that she still has the floor in case something that she really does want to say ever enters her head. After several episodes listening to mumblings about some sort of present for Christmas that had to do with carrots and party hats, giving her the full attention and respect that we have been trying to teach her to give when someone else is speaking, we finally had to draw the line. Luckily, our kids have early bedtimes (between 6:30 and 7), so we still had lots of opportunity to chat without Annika's amusing interjections. Really, though, I think my girls are pretty charming, and Nicole charmed them right back. After the girls went to bed, we had the kind of great conversation that only happens when you realize that it's not all about your kids all the time. I was so happy (relieved) to discover that I could still converse on political and current events (thank you New Yorker and Atlantic Monthly). Eventually, we also wound around to the topic of relationships, marriage, and all that stuff that Joerg and I have completely started to take for granted. Nicole asked us how we knew that we were "it" for each other, that this relationship was the one worth betting on. Joerg and I looked at one another, shrugged our shoulders, and agreed that we couldn't remember anymore. And that sounds so terrible now. And I think it sounded terrible then, too. But it's the God's Honest Truth. The fact of the matter is that when you've been married for a while and you're in a marriage that is working, you don't give much thought anymore to how it started, to what else could have been, to what keeps it going. And that's not always a good thing. Case in point: A few days after Nicole left, we had a huge fight after the girls went to bed. We both knew that it was a fight over the most petty and stupid thing in the world, which is why we both thought that our mutual stubborness was a harbinger of some major rift, pointing to deeper problems that were completely inconsistent with harmonious coexistence. We talked and talked and talked some more, and then came to a sort of solution that left neither of us completely happy, but here we are a few weeks later and we find that a few exchanges of responsibilities has left us both feeling much better. So I suppose it's really not a good idea to take it all for granted, or you might find yourself consulting lawyers regarding the placement of a few trash bags. In the end, then, I guess you know you've got "it" when you can talk to that person even when you really really don't feel like talking; when you just know that what you're about to say will make you sound like a terrible, evil, self-centered person and you can say it anyway. That's as close as my unromantic little heart can get to a summary of working companionship. That, and knowing when you're spending too much time on the computer.

Thursday, March 03, 2005

For bragging about my wonderful cheap hairstylist

today I get the eye doctor who dilates my eyes and then leaves me to stew in a tiny waiting room with circa 1953 interior design for one entire hour. That's one entire hour during which my blurry vision did not allow me to read the wonderfully entertaining book I brought with me, but did not stop me from watching the hands of the clock, which was weirdly somehow part of the wood panelling on the walls, slowly click along. But to add to the disorientation, the clock was running just fine, but was apparently set to London time. Not even any muzak piped in. Just me, freaky clock, and 25 other similarly off-kilter people waiting in silence, broken only by the sound of a car alarm, during which time we wriggled uncomfortably wondering if our car was the offending party, but none of us brave enough to expose our delicate pupils to the setting sun over the parking lot long enough to settle the issue once and for all.

Wednesday, March 02, 2005

Day of the Very Special Scissors

As we were headed out of town last Saturday, I realized that I had no ponytail holders on me. Cursing my long(-ish) hair, I actually turned around and went back home for one. Anytime you are willing to add 6 minutes to a 2-hour drive alone with 2 small children with no car DVD player, just to get your hair out of your face...well, then it is time for a haircut of drastic proportions. So when my husband casually observed yesterday that Annika's hair was a bit too much in her face, I hotfooted it over to the phone to set up appointments for us both (my husband rolling his eyes as he notes that I had decided that the call to the physical therapist could wait for the end of the week, but the stylist was needed RIGHT NOW for goodness' sake). Annika was super excited, as she thinks haircuts are the most exciting thing ever. And she adores Julia, our stylist. Julia was just meant to cut our hair. I went to her for the first time just after Annika was born, and loved the cut she gave me. Then all hell broke loose around here, and I didn't think of cutting my hair for the next year or so. When I finally got around to calling for another appointment, I was told that she had left the salon. As any woman in the world can tell you (and really most men, too), this was a major bummer. So I cast about for someplace else to go, finally hitting upon the brilliant idea of asking for recommendations. The first person I asked was our sitter at the time, Lauren, and I told her the whole sad story of losing track of the woman who "got" my hair. Lauren sympathized, but told me she had just the person, a new stylist that she had just discovered, and she just happened to have an extra card from her in her bag. And, of course, the card was Julia's, from her new salon. This story sounds like some sort of sappy movie about finding your soul mate, but it's all true...and soul mate? stylist? Do we really need to split hairs? (pun completely accidental) Even better when your soul mate only charges $15 for a cut, and $20 to do both you and your very talkative 4-yr-old. Yes, eat your hearts out, cityfolk. Anyway, here was my little fuzzy head before we left for our appointment. Do note her fashionable get-up. This girl dresses. And here she is after our session with Julia: We left Frankie with Daddy at the office while Annika and I went for our hour of beauty. When we came to pick Frankie up again, Joerg took one look at my hair and said, "So...I take it you've given up on growing your hair long?" "No...I didn't give up. I did it. It was long. Game over." To his credit, he quickly added, "I like it!" in a tone that sounded quite sincere, although we've been married long enough that I'm sure he knows what tone to take for occasions such as these. So here's my new lack of hair: While I was writing out the check for Julia, Annika was gathering up her stuff, including her new My Little Pony (named Shin-Koh) that Riley and Shelby had given her last weekend. "Oh, mom," she said in a voice of real concern, "Shin-Koh's hair is just too long!" She cut her eyes over at Julia in a totally non-subtle way to see if her hint was being caught, which it completely was (I told you Julia's great). So Shin-Koh got to go to the chair for a quick trim, too. Here's Shin-Koh's sister with some wild, non-Julia-tamed hair: and Shin-Koh's new look of quiet sophistication: Keeping in mind the stories of my wonderful niece, Darcy, going at her hair, frequently, with the scissors, I kept repeating over and over to Annika that Julia was using Very Special Scissors and only Very Special Scissors should be used to cut hair. I felt like a Very Special Idiot repeating this phrase over and over again with plenty of annoying emphasis. But by the understanding looks I got from the all the stylists, I have a feeling that they had been called in to more than one emergency hair rescue situation.

gratuitous Frankie bit

which should probably remain unrevealed. Frankie is bound and determined to wipe my butt every time I take a trip to the toilet. So helpful.