Sunday, August 24, 2008

Saturday, August 23, 2008

A Post of Pictures

Too much going on these days to really describe everything. Here are random pictures of my lovely little girls.

Future violin soloist with her piano accompaniment
Practicing their duet
Ava's new Michigan State gear...
...and the diaper she was wearing under it. (It's blue and yellow. You do the math.)
Papa was SO PLEASED with Ava's new outfit!
The big cousins playing play-dough and hamming it up
Zach, 6-1/2; Liesl, 2-3/4; and Alex, 11Watching golf with Papa. Ava is usually not a "sit on your lap and hang" kind of baby. But with Papa C., she'll sit for hours...and she did. She and Papa hung out watching golf for a good 45 minutes. Papa has a way with babies, and Ava knows it (and loves it.)
(If he plans on developing a love of golf within Ava, he darn well better plan on financing her involvement with the sport when she gets older.)
Just happy about lunch time.
Flowers in my garden :-)
Pretty baby
At the park
Our first corn on the cob harvest, 8-23-08
She dug it!
Liesl picked this pepper...she is so proud of how she helps us in our gardens. It is only right that she get to participate in the harvests!

Waiting to have it cooked and served to her, I guess...
I found this picnic table on someone's curb, they were going to throw it away. Like a dork, I knocked on their door and asked them if I could take it. They agreed, and Tom power-washed it for Liesl today. Liesl is so pleased with the table, too. I wish I had had my video camera rolling when she first saw it, she exclaimed: "My very own picnic table!" with such awe and wonder in her voice. Tom and I just cracked up.

Update on Whinnie

Thank you all for the kind words and prayers. Whinnie is feeling better. Canceling our trip to spend time with her and take care of her was a good idea. With daily subcutaneous fluids, kidney medication, and plenty of TLC, she perked up quite a bit. We have stopped asking each other every day if this is the day we make that last appointment for her at the vet. We are aware that our time with her is extremely limited, but we are relieved that the end is not as near as we may have thought. I will post updates and pictures periodically.

Thank you all again for the emails and prayers, they mean a lot to us, and Whinnie too.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Praying for Whinnie

We were all going to go up north this weekend to spend time with my parents at their cottage. I had been looking forward to running the Rubber Ducky 5K race in Bellaire, Michigan this weekend. However, we decided to cancel our trip at the last minute. My 19 year-old cat, Whinnie, has not been in the best health lately. In the last two weeks, she has declined rapidly. We decided we didn't want to leave her in the house alone this weekend. Our house sitter is wonderful and would have given Whinnie excellent care and attention...but something moved us to cancel our trip and stay home. She is happy, and while we know she isn't feeling very well, she's not suffering. However, it is obvious that she will not be with us much longer.

I have had this sweet little kitty since I was 15 years old. She got me through some really difficult times in my life. She slept on my bed almost every morning while I was in high school. She lived with me through most of my college years as well, and "adopted" Tom as part of her family when we married. Her brother, Tigger, passed away 2 years ago, and it's been rough for her to be the "only cat" after being attached to him since birth. The addition of two small kids hasn't been particularly peaceful for her either. However, she is incredibly patient and gentle with both girls, and they (naturally) adore her.

Please pray for Whinnie, and our family. Those of you who are reading this and are animal lovers will understand how tough of a time we are having with this. She is a sweet cat and has been such a blessing on all of our lives.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Happy Birthday Tom!

Today we celebrated Tom's birthday. Tom insisted he didn't want any fuss, and instead of having a cake, he wanted chocolate chip cookies. To me, birthdays aren't birthdays without cake and a little bit of fuss, but he did really want those we improvised. We? Yes, "we." Anyone who cooks will tell you it's important to get your kids in the kitchen as often as possible, from your top-notch TV celebrity chef right down to your average everyday cook. So, while we honored Tom's request for chocolate chip cookies, we decided to up the ante a bit and make something a bit more festive out of them. It was a work in progress, we just sort of made it up as we went along. And every step of the way, I had "help." Liesl stirred, poured, mixed, measured, chopped and provided her standard brand of running commentary during the entire process. Cooking with a "helpful" toddler can be a little bit stressful, but it is also a lot of fun. It may take 3 times as long to prepare the food (and 10 times as long to clean it up), but isn't this the point of being a full-time mom?

At Tom's request, we had a nice dinner of steaks on the grill, baked potatoes, veggies, and garlic bread. And then Tom's cookie "cake." Daddy just loved his dessert surprise, but I think he loves the little hands that helped to make it even more.

Happy birthday to my husband, my best friend, my red-hot stack of man waffles. I love you to pieces. Even though we have our difficult times, I can't imagine life without you, and I love our life and the little family we've built together.
The birthday treat

The commentary of the chef-in-training

Gravity works...

She really did a great job helping

Kids in the kitchen
(The photo doesn't do justice to the mess...but
the memories are precious, and messes are easily cleaned.)

Enjoying the sugars fruits of our labor

Two of the loves of my life
This photo was actually taken (by me) last Thursday on my birthday
We went to Olga's favorite restaraunt :-)

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Got millet? Mill it. *

Ava's journey with solid foods continues. Today she had her first taste of cereal. Instead of buying commercial baby cereal, we choose to grind our own grains and make homemade baby cereal. It is ridiculously easy to do, it is much cheaper, it is far less refined than commercial baby cereal, and it really opens up the repertoire of grains. Processed, commercial baby cereals are only offered as oatmeal or rice; we choose to use a variety of grains instead.

The first grain for Ava was millet. She really dug it. For a baby who's not really into eating, millet porridge earns a 4.5 on the "Ava Likability" scale. (Range of 1-5, 1 being "yuck" and 5 being "no resistance, I'll eat it if I have to.")

Ava was also introduced to bananas a few days prior to the cereal event. When Liesl was a baby, I had one hard and fast rule with solids: Absolutely no spoon-feeding at breakfast. Mornings are crazy enough in our household without additional work, so I made it a point when Liesl was a baby to only give her "finger foods," things she would be able to pick up and eat with minimal or no intervention from Mommy and Daddy. The tradition continues--Ava gets pieces of soft banana diced into very tiny chunks placed before her. Her input is good--about 15% of what goes on the tray makes it into her mouth. Not bad for someone with very immature fine motor skills!

Besides waiting a few extra months, the only difference between Liesl's introduction to solids and Ava's is that Ava has entertainment during her meals. In the form of an older sibling. When you dine with Liesl, every meal is a party. Dinner and a show: You can't argue with that.

(* I acknowledge that the title of this post is a horrible pun and that I will be mocked.)

Sunday, August 10, 2008


Wednesday, August 6, 2008

The Honeymoon's Over

Liesl transitioned into her big girl bed about 2 weeks ago. I bought the bedding and accessories months ago, washed them and stored them in her closet. She has been "ready" for a while, but Daddy and I have been dragging our feet for several reasons: 1) our little baby is growing up, and while we are thrilled that she is becoming such a fun little girl, I don't want to admit that the time has flown fast enough that she's ready to be out of her crib, and 2) I don't want her to get out of bed on her own.

Fear #2 has proven to be valid. After a week of being very obedient and staying in bed for naps and staying in bed in the morning if she wakes up before we do, she is deciding to test their boundaries. A lot. I have received countless tips and advice on keeping her in her bed (some of it welcome, some of it completely NOT), but the greatest tip I have received is that most kids do this. And to be consistent. I now see why so many parents give up and say, "Fine, do whatever you want" when their kids test them...being consistent is EXHAUSTING! We are committed to doing so, but again, I understand now why some parents just throw in the towel when it comes to discipline.

At first she would only get up on her bed with the step stool. I was pretty proud of myself for coming up with this idea, until, a week later, I noticed she had learned to get up on the bed with just a running start and a huge hop. Back to the drawing board. I guess we'll have to rely on good 'ole consistency, and the comforting thought that this is "normal" and that most parents go through it with their toddlers.

So, we've fired up the batteries on the baby monitor, and we now listen for the pitter-patter of tiny feet. It is going well--that is to say, normally--and we are thrilled with the strong, confident little girl that our baby is becoming.

(Not that I still don't shed a few tears, missing that tiny baby that was placed in my arms 2-1/2 years ago!)

Saturday, August 2, 2008

Not enough (quiet) hours in the day

I am so utterly behind with everything that I don't know what to do with myself. When both girls are asleep or with their Daddy, and I have a few minutes of free time, there is so much to be done that I feel overwhelmed and often try to work on 5 different tasks at the same time, often accomplishing nothing. How would I like to spend my time?

* Read up on child development and other issues
* Read for FUN...I miss feeling like I have time to just sit on the couch and read quietly
* Catch up on bills, filing, or other paperwork (which is not easy to do now that my office has been demoted to the basement, and the basement is not really kid-friendly, so therefor I have to work down there when both children are asleep)
* Work on my home business (teaching Sign2Me classes, I actually did get certified last November and purchased my curriculum materials, I just don't feel organized or centered enough to actually start up my business)
* Catch up on work-related reading so that I can work on getting my NIC certification sometime before I die
* Work on some crafts...beading, polymer clay, or other things that I am trying to do for relaxation (yeah, right)
* SLEEP (yeah, right)
* Plan activities for Liesl and I to do at home
* Watch a movie or a TV show
* Work on some home improvement projects...many of which are desperately needed in our 35 year-old house
* Pull some weeds in the gardens and flowerbeds
* Figure out how to budget for said home improvement projects
* Set up pictures for a post for my blog, which I am sure takes longer than most people, because I am still not used to the funky Blogger interface that doesn't let me format as easily as I would like
* Just sit and BE. "Be still and know that I am God." Psalm 46:10)
* Etc., etc., etc., there are probably 100 more things on here that I could be doing

The list overwhelms me! Often I sit here doing one thing, but wondering if I should have devoted my time to others, and usually nothing gets accomplished.

When both girls are awake, I try to balance things out by doing some fun things (playgroups and outings with my very amazing Mom's club, trips to parks, the library, etc.); some necessary but interesting things (going to the Post Office is really exciting for a 2-1/2 year-old, believe it or not); and some just plain "girl time," where the girls and I stay home but I don't work on chores or other responsibilities--I really just slow down, be with my kids and let them take the lead on what we'd like to do for an hour or so. Those are fun times...but eventually, the house must get cleaned, the groceries must get purchased, and the bills must get paid.

Several friends remind me that I now have more than one kid, so that more than doubles the work. They're right, but I still see lots of people with more kids than I have accomplishing far more than I do...and their houses are cleaner and neater mine, too. I don't know if they are just more focused than I am, or getting more help with things, or what. I have found lots of products and tips that free up my hands and make my busy life just a little easier--a hands-free headset for my cell phone, slings and baby carriers, a backpack-style purse instead of my old over-the-shoulder model. But still...I am overwhelmed. There was a time when it was just Liesl and I in the house and I got an amazing amount of work done--but still managed to spend lots of quality time with my daughter and, oh yeah, myself. It boggles the mind how much easier this all was with only one kid.

I look back and realize how tough things were when Liesl was a baby, though--I was a new mother, learning on the job, getting 5,000 pieces of advice from 5,000 people that all contradicted and debated endlessly with each other. Now I laugh at myself--babies are EASY. It's older children and balancing family life that is tough. Ava is such an easy baby to take care of, but I am sure that is because I am so much more used to babies. I try to remind myself that these are special times, that the girls won't be so little and hands-on forever, and while they are, I should accept it and enjoy them, because this time will pass all too quickly. Yes, it is passing quickly, but if I slacked off and put off annoyances like paying the bills, the mortgage company probably won't buy that excuse.

Last weekend, I was up north with just the girls--I left Tom at home to catch up on sleep and projects. My parents took both girls out and left me alone in their cottage. It is a very small, tidy, peaceful place, so after I had picked up our bedrooms and made the beds, I just...sat. I looked at the lake. Then I got up and got the small Bible that I keep at their cottage, and just sat and read. I never do that, and I know I should. It was remarkably peaceful and calming. I know if I could just make myself sit down and read my Bible every day, God would provide for me the time and patience that I need to complete my other tasks. But I seldom actually take Him up on His generous offer, you know?

I'd like to come up with a snappy conclusion to end this post with, but you see, even though it is Saturday morning and I have the morning "off," as in, Tom take care of the girls...I have to get my shopping list ready for Meijer, I have to get ready to run as soon as I get home, and I have to prepare for a birthday party we are going to this afternoon.