Monday, January 30, 2012

Catch Up Day

So I have finally finished posting about our fall trip. Blogger has a cool feature that allows me post on previous dates, so I've posted these back in November 2011 following the other posts about our fall trip.  Go here and here and here  and here and here.  Oh, and don't miss Joseph and Marc's duet debut here.

Sunday, January 29, 2012

A mother's vacation

The children are peacefully sleeping all tucked in their beds. Abigail took a long nap today and is sleeping soundly tonight after a couple days of fever and restless sleep.  I'm sitting with both of my parents next to the wood burning stove, warm and toasty. I'm reading and thoroughly enjoying The Dirty Life: On Farming, Food, and Love by Kristin Kimball.

Simply heaven.

Friday, January 27, 2012

The Magic House

We had another fantastic day at the Magic House.

Joseph in the water works exhibit

Abigail had an absolute ball!

Train engineer Joseph

Going for a ride in the Magic Treehouse book exhibit

January 24, 2012

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Joseph at Bedtime

My mom does it all and always has!  I don't know how she does it, but I'm enjoying her labors while I'm home. She does all the planning, shopping, cooking ,cleaning up of meals while I'm here. She says I'm doing enough mothering the children, and wouldn't it be nice if every mother could have a cook and maid so we could focus on the children. Indeed. Although mom certainly never had that with her eight children.
With the extra time in my evening, I have been savoring the bedtime routine instead of marching everyone through it.  Tonight Joseph and I read a couple books as we snuggled up in Grandma and Grandpa's library room.  Joseph put his head on my shoulder and said, "You're so fun to read with."  One of the books I read was one of my childhood favorites, Gertie and Gus by Lisl Weil. I also stayed with him in bed as he drifted off, but more importantly listened to his questions:
  • "Mom, why is Greenland named Greenland if it is mostly ice? I would think Greenland should have a lot of grass."  He explained he had been looking through a book What I Eat that Marc had checked out from the library. There was an entry from Greenland; it did not look green to him.
  • "Mom, do you think I should apologize to Ms. Schiffano when I get back to school?"   On the last day of school before we left on our trip, Joseph's teacher's aide was telling me that the teacher had sent some books in Joseph's back pack for him to read while we were gone. In the course of the short interchange, Joseph disagreed with the teacher--there were four books, not two.  I was concerned that he was being disrespectful and corrected him.   I guess he's been thinking about it and thinks maybe he should apologize to Ms. S.  
  • "Mom, one last thing I want to tell you.  One day we were playing on the blacktop and there is a glass door to the 1st grade class. They were watching a Brain Pop and we watched it through the door." 
I've really missed Joseph since he started school.  Since he and Abigail share a room, I don't lay by him while he goes to sleep anymore. We read and sing in our bedroom and then send him tiptoeing into his bed. So, I miss those "chats" he and I used to have at bedtime.  One of my favorite parts of this trip has been bedtime with Joseph.  Thanks, Mom, for giving me this time with my boy.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012


Bald eagles migrate down the Mississippi River and nest in Missouri and neighboring Illinois during the winter.  Uncle John and Aunt Catherine suggested we check out the eagles this year. 

Luckily, the National Great Rivers Museum had a captive eagle on display because we didn't catch a sighting in the wild. It turned out to be a rather gray, dreary day. The kind of thick sky that borders on foggy and is all too common in my memories of St. Louis winters.  But, the museum was really fantastic, the real-life eagle was pretty impressive, and Joseph and I learned a lot watching a short film on eagles.  I'm looking forward to visiting the museum again to learn about life on the Mississippi, and to tour the massive lock and dam adjacent to the museum.  

Joseph has announced he would like to be an eagle because they have such great eyesight; he was so impressed that they don't have to go under water to snatch out a fish--their vision is so keen they can see under the water from above.

The museum had some eagle-themed crafts for the kids. We brought them home and worked on them the next day.  I told Joseph this was like homeschooling; he still isn't buying that idea.

Eagle Joseph

Joseph pretending to be an eagle with his talons catching a fish in the water.
January 22, 2012

Monday, January 23, 2012

Making ourselves right at home

The kids were a dream on the flight. Abigail flirted with everyone she could see on the plane and entertained everyone out of her sight with her infectious giggles. Joseph was helpful and patient and quite independent--he even went to the restroom on the plane by himself.

Abigail looked a little confused when we arrived in St. Louis and I tried to tell her this was Grandma and Grandpa. But she gave them her generous smiles and waves anyway. However, she is quickly catching on--toys, treats, and Joseph's obvious adoration of my parents have convinced Abigail.  The morning after we arrived she was happy to climb into their bed (at 5:30 am) and give them hugs, giggles, and peek-a-boo.

Immediately, upon arrival, the kids dug into the toys have haven't surfaced yet.

January 21, 2012

Friday, January 20, 2012

Happy Birthday Marc

Where I come from, birthdays are a big deal.  You celebrate all day--and often long before and long after.  Marc does not subscribe to this philosophy. He wanted to spend his day soberly reflecting on the past year.  Yikes!  Soberly reflecting inside my own little head is a recipe for disaster for me, but it works for Marc.  I respected his wishes, though it pains me to ignore a birthday all day long. I shouldn't complain, though, because during all of his reflecting, he cleaned out the shed, the backporch, and the car!

It wasn't all somber, though:
  • Marc and I went to see the new Sherlock Holmes movie while Grandma Donna stayed with J & A.
  • On Sunday, Marc's parents' had us over for lunch.  We had Joseph's cake and Marc let us sing "Happy Birthday" and blew out the candles (he probably didn't make a wish, though!) 

Joseph made Marc a birthday cake as well as a larger than life drawing of a chocolate cake with 32 candles on top!

At Grandma and Grandpa's house before blowing out the candles
January 7, 2012

Thursday, January 19, 2012

My girl

Abigail is so cute I can hardly stand it!  Her latest thing?  She loves to sit with her back against the front door--surveying the whole house from her vantage point--and she places the little bunny, "Carrots", right next to her to keep her company.

As I write this, she is also doing a new trick, blowing raspberries onto the leather couch. Gotta love this girl!

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Give me your Opinion!

I'm heading to Missouri this weekend. I always get my hair cut by the fabulous Tracy B. while I'm there. Marc teases me that I'm like Bill Clinton who had to travel to Arkansas to get his hair cut.  However, Tracy B. doesn't charge a $400 haircut (Am I confusing politicians?)
Anyhow, Tracy, a former Aveda stylist who has opened her own salon, gives me a screaming deal. If you live in Missouri, or you ever travel there, let me know, and I'll give you her contact info!

Decisions, decisions! What should I do with my hair?


Or long with bangs?

Long without bangs (which usually means pulled back)

 Chin length?

Please, tell me what you think! Vote here or leave me a comment with an altogether different idea!

Thursday, January 12, 2012

A New Day

So between the visit to the doctor and the rain, yesterday was a down day--ever have one of those?

But don't worry, I washed those blues away with some oreos and milk (if only I could pass that coping mechanism on to Abigail--it might actually be considered healthy in her case).

Today is already looking brighter. A young mother always thinks everything looks better after 4 and a half hours of sleep, right?

Plus, I'm attending the national conference for the Society for Social Work and Research. My angel mother-in-law is watching my children while I try to get in the social work research game. This is the conference with all the big shots--rock stars in the social work world (oxymoron?). Anyhow, the theme of the conference is "Research that Makes a Difference: Advancing Practice and Shaping Public Policy."

I might be a lowly doctoral student, but I have a few ideas for them--and I don't think it takes a national conference to talk about these ideas. For starters, stop accepting presentations and papers with names like, "Attenuation of Cortisol Across Development for Victims of Sexual Abuse" or "Instrumental Support and Its Impact on Self-Rated Health Over time Among Older Adults in Rural China: An Application of Bivariate Latent Change Score Structural Equation Modeling." I'm sure the research is solid and the findings valuable, but the first step in making a difference with our research is putting the results in language that is accessible to everyone. We're social workers for heaven's sake. We should be including people, not excluding everyone who doesn't have a research background.

Okay, off my soapbox for now.

I hope your day is looking up, too. If not, I highly recommend the oreos.   

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Grow baby!

I just got home from taking Abigail in for another weight check.  17.3 pounds. She has gained one pound in two months.  Of course, Abigail charmed the doctor and the nurses, but she can't charm that darn scale!  The pediatrician said it is time to send Abigail to a specialist. Up to this point, the battery of tests have come back normal, but we're going to explore more. The doctor is sweet and tells me that she has a hard time sending Abigail to a specialist because she looks fantastic and is developmentally right on, but thinks it is time since she just doesn't gain weight like she should. We're also going to start Abigail on Pediasure. If we can get her to drink it, I think that will practically double her caloric intake.

I have to confess, I feel helpless. I'm trying, really I am. I have to recite to the doctor what I feed Abigail in a day, and it feels like an test in mothering--one I am miserably failing. Like I am starving my child. Some days, parenthood is harder than others.

How about a big puffy coat to add some pounds? 
December 31, 2011
Outer Banks, North Carolina

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

The magic of snow

Yesterday it started snowing in the afternoon. The first snow of the season.  Not long after the magical flakes started falling, it was time to pick Joseph up from school. Abigail was awed. She looked around with questioning eyes, but a hint of a smile as if she knew it was a good thing. I told her "snow" and she thought I was saying "nose" and kept pointing to hers, then mine. 

When I arrived at the elementary school, I found Joseph's kindergarten class running wild on the enclosed blacktop area they use for short recesses.  His teacher had brought them all out to play in the first snow.  Now that is a good kindergarten teacher, in my book. There was electricity in the air, and more children than I can count with their faces upturned and their tongues sticking out--trying to catch a snowflake.  I found Joseph--the green pom pom bouncing atop his hat --as he played chase. His cheeks were red and shiny from melted snow, his eyes were bright as he told me, "It's snowing!" 

We headed home where he insisted on pulling out boots, snowpants, and a sled. He plopped right down in the grass that had a dusting of snow and made a snow angel, and miraculously, he and his dad were able to gather enough snow (from yards up and down the street?) to make a snowman.

For his bedtime song, I chose"Once there was a snowman." I love that Joseph still hops out of bed to do the actions as I sing.  Stay sweet and young forever, my little man.

January 9, 2012

Monday, January 09, 2012


I love goals and check lists and fresh starts. My roommate in college used to tease me by stealing my planner and writing random things on my to-do list because I was slightly obsessive about checking everything on my list.  I'm that kind of girl.

But this year, I'm not feeling up to a big list of shiny new goals. I'm tired. Last semester-- did I mention it was my final, last, ultimate semester of coursework for my PhD?--- was a doozy. I don't know how else to explain it.  It wore me out. It wore my whole family out, I think. 

This semester they asked me to teach a research and statistics class to the master's students. I'm too tired. A professor I really admire asked me to be her research assistant for a really interesting study she is conducting. I'm too tired. Of course I didn't say that I was just too tired. I couched my answer in needing to balance my time between studying for my comprehensive exams and still focusing enough time on my young family. True enough. But the real truth is I'm just plain tired! I'm afraid that once I get any motivation back, all the great opportunities are going to have already passed me by. But sometimes, you just have to take a break.

I want to set goals.  I really do. I want 2012 to be a year of fresh starts and measured improvements.
  • I want to set a resolution to try new recipes and delve deeper into vegetarian meals.
  • I want to set a resolution to start running and complete a half marathon with my sporty little sister.
  • I want to set a resolution to follow a disciplined schedule for the family so piano practicing, bed making, and healthy eating become ingrained habits for my kids. 
  • I want to set a resolution to prepare clever and entertaining family home evening lessons, activities, and treats on a weekly basis.
But I'm tired.  Keeping the house {relatively} orderly, cooking {sometimes healthy} meals, keeping everyone in {mostly} clean clothes, and teaching {sometimes just showing up} for our Primary teaching gig seems like a big enough mountain to climb this year. Oh, and passing comprehensive exams and starting a dissertation. 

So, while I do want--theoretically--to set those worthy resolutions, I'm not going to. It's not what I really, really want. Instead:

I want to travel to St. Louis to my parents' house and sit by the fire while my children play in the never tiresome playroom. I want to sit and admire Abigail's method of walking around the house on her knees and cheer with her when she stands by herself.

I want to travel to see friends that I haven't seen in too long. I want to meet their babies that have already grown into children. I want to laugh late into the night and eat at all our favorite old spots. I want to visit friends in new places that I haven't been yet so they can show me all their new favorite spots.

I want to visit the sites in Washington, D.C. that have eluded me in my years here. I want to go to lunch with my husband just because I want to see him in the middle of the day.

I want to rest so that next year I'm not quite so tired; maybe then I can tackle that list of resolutions.

How about you? Tell me what you really, really want!

Abigail at the Outer Banks, January 1, 2011

Thursday, January 05, 2012

Abigail Walks!

Abigail turned 15 months today and took her first "real" steps. It couldn't have been more perfect because Marc was home from work and we were all together in the dining room.  Marc held out his arms and Abigail took about four steps to him. We all cheered and smiled and laughed--and Abigail was so proud of herself. Joseph ran over and hugged me--he couldn't contain his excitement. When going to bed, he prayed that his sister would keep learning to walk and not get hurt. 

Abigail kept doing it over and over--taking four or five steps to Marc and then to me.  She got bolder and is just so pleased with herself.

All month, she has been steadily getting more brave in standing. Most recently, she would stand and then lift her arms up in victory and open her mouth in a big "Oh" and revel in her standing accomplishment. I have not been able to capture this on camera; however, because she loves cameras (and computers and cell phones) and will immediately reach for the camera instead of standing.

She also is now going up full flights of stairs on her own!  Another favorite trick is to climb up on a little plastic storage container we have--she'll sit up there and play or sing for quite a while.  She is saying baby, night night, bye-bye, and Grandma very distinctly now. Tonight Marc asked her where her baby was, and she crawled over to the toy area, found her doll and started giving it loves and saying baby.  She also is really into stacking right now--she has stacking cups and boxes. She really focuses on putting them inside each other. It is fun to see her little mind at work.  She still likes to sit in my lap to read, which I love.  She is a great dancer and will start leading the music when it starts (especially on slow songs).  When I put her to bed in her crib she tucks her arms under the length of her body, but must wiggle around after I leave because she never stays under a blanket.

15 months and ready to start blogging

January 5, 2012

Tuesday, January 03, 2012

Welcome, 2012

Thankfully, 2011 was a quieter year at our house than 2010.

Abigail is on the move--crawling and climbing, but not walking quite yet.  She loves to sing, dance, look through books, pull plastic cups out of the cupboard, smile, and wave.  I can't seem to get enough of this little girl.  I love her smile that scrunches up her whole face and her spontaneous bursts of singing.  She has become my little friend who keeps me company while Joseph is at school. I love this stage where she is able to communicate more and more each day.  I'm looking forward to this year when she'll learn to walk (so her clothes won't keep telling everyone how long it has been since I mopped) and when she'll learn--and want-- to feed herself (I still follow her around the house to spoon feed her babyfood). I've given up hope for sleeping through the night.

Just this month I realized that Joseph has grown into a well-behaved child, not a little kid, but a full fledged boy.  I don't know exactly when it happened.  But somewhere between the stages of spitting in my face, running straight into the street, loud, dramatic, carry-him-flailing-arms-and-legs meltdowns everytime we left the park or library, and epic fights over naps and bedtime--somewhere-- we transitioned into a sweet boy. Now he often comes up and gives me a hug out of the blue, tells me he's tired and goes to get ready for bed, and loves to quietly draw at the kitchen table for hours on end! He is still the tender hearted boy he's always been--always right there to comfort if someone is hurt.  And, he hasn't lost his passion, but I think he's really learning to channel it. (And, lest you worry, he is a normal five-year-old who loves bathroom humor and burping).  

I was heartbroken when Joseph started kindergarten--I mourned the upcoming event all summer. Not that I didn't want him to grow up, but I miss him so much when he is gone. I miss his smile, his unpredictable questions, his excitement for life that just infuses into eveything we do.  But, I sacrificed and let him go, and all of Patrick Henry Elementary is glad I did. He makes friends with everyone from the crossing guard to the 5th grader who reads the morning news.  He is learning Spanish and loving art class.  He loves "chatting and eating" at lunch time and gives me the class discipline report every afternoon. He rides his bike to school as Abigail and I walking along behind.

Marc started a new position with the Navy this year, still at the Navy Yard location so he can continue biking to work. He is still my Renaissance man--constantly with a "hold list" at the library that is miles long. I'll have to ask him to give me a top ten list of books for 2011.    He and I teach Primary at church--and he is the peaceful soul who keeps me from wringing the dear childrens' little necks! 

I finished my coursework for my PhD just a couple weeks ago!  There is so much still to go, but it feels good to hit this mark. I admit I've considered letting this milestone be the end of the road for my PhD path. It has been a great hobby for me, but I have some new things I really want to do--homeschooling, writing, buying a house, travelling--that are time and energy-consuming.  But for now, maybe I'll keep mulling those ideas in my mind while I finish my degree.

I'm grateful for a safe and healthy 2011.  Now, bring on 2012!

How about you?  What are you looking forward to in 2012?

Januay 1, 2012
Outer Banks, North Carolina