Thursday, December 31, 2009

2009 in Review

Aside from the exciting events in August, 2009 was a year in which we celebrated the ordinary. Excitement can come in good ways and sorrowful ways so, for this year, I am thankful for the pedestrian everydayness of 2009.

January passed in a blur of morning sickness and fatigue. I have successfully blocked out memories of the month which I know entailed slogging through schoolwork with the kids and frantic phone calls to Joe around suppertime too many times to count since I often felt too awful to prepare any dinner.

February the fog lifted a bit or, more probably, I became more adept at dealing with the ever persistent early pregnancy symptoms. I know we made a trip to Door County and for the first time since I started my blog I went one whole month without one single post. Joe and I celebrated our ninth wedding anniversary on the 12th with a wonderful night out at our favorite restaurant with a steak I enjoyed more than I thought the in utero Caroline would allow and Madeleine participated in a piano competition.

March brought the delightful news that Elisabeth had been accepted into the Nature Preschool she now attends and also the now familiar end-of-winter blues where each day I hopefully search for signs of spring and the end of the ever-present glum, winter days. I don't exactly remember, but I do think I also started my second trimester of pregnancy which brought the stereotypical pep and energy I had so looked forward to since morning sickness (read: all day sickness) had set in early in my pregnancy.

April brought the news that Caroline was a Caroline and not a Charles. Elisabeth became officially potty trained and for the first time since Madeleine's birth our home was completely diaper free. We celebrated Easter with family and good friends.

I took time to relax and spend time with the soon-to-be usurped baby of the family.

May brought a weekend trip to Oshkosh for a home-schooling conference. We celebrated my birthday. We basked in the warm weather May brought and spent as much time outside as possible.

June brought rhubarb. Lots and lots of rhubarb. Rhubarb this, rhubarb that. It also brought the end of soccer season for Hank and the beginning of baseball. June also brought my iPhone, the single greatest electronic device I have ever owned.

July brought lazy days. Playing at the beach with friends.

Tennis lessons for Madeleine. Forming new friendships.

July also took Madeleine to a week away at camp, which was an adjustment for our whole family, especially the adults.

August was the highlight month of 2009, of course. The month began celebrating the ninth anniversary of the birth of one child and ended with the birth of another. Welcoming Caroline Marcelle into our family on the 29th was easily the most exciting time of the year.

September was easy and relaxing, as we took time to get to know Caroline. September was notable for the blessing of her baptism.

We also started school, Elisabeth started preschool and Joe, Hank, Caroline and I attended a Packer game at Lambeau. Elisabeth sprained her wrist and we celebrated Joe's birthday.

So I guess September wasn't relaxing at all, but it was fun.

October's highlight was a trip to Door County to celebrate Hank's 7th and Elisabeth's 4th birthdays. Towards the end of the month, we also captured one of Caroline's smiles for posterity.

November was notable, for me, for the improving play of the Packers and the thin whisper of hope that we might be playoff-bound. Hockey began.

And December. Busy, busy December. Still though, lots of good, everyday types of memories: baking cookies, visiting with friends, decorating our Christmas tree, our annual stomach viruses. That's December every year, and there is comfort in familiarity.

Happy New Year, one and all! I wish everyone a blessed 2010!

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Christmas Vacation

Some home-schoolers school even when most public and private school kids are off of school. For a variety of reasons we take the time off. Mostly I find it impossible to get my kids to concentrate when their friends are running around outside and calling to arrange times to get together.

I confess I like the time home with the kids where nothing is on the agenda. I like sleeping past 8 a.m. I like that we can run down to Silver Lake today to spend a few more hours with my brother before he has to catch an airplane back home.

So, for this week, we loaf. We relax. We decompress.

Kids that are not mine play here, kids that are mine play elsewhere. We stay in our pajamas if we want to (though if I were to be forthright I would have to admit we do that frequently) and daily routine and chores are minimal. And all this we do guilt free because, after all, it's Christmas vacation. What else are we supposed to do but lose ourselves in delightful fiction for an entire day if for no other reason than the idea is appealing?

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Four Months

Monday, December 28, 2009

A New Cinderella Story

Today Elisabeth and I played Cinderella. Elisabeth said I was to be the stepmother, and she Cinderella.

"Cinderella, wash the floors!" I barked. In response I received an irritated look. "Cinderella, I am going to the ball now and you may not come." I said.

Elisabeth glared at me. "Mom," she began, "I want to play the movie version of Cinderella."

"Isn't that how it goes?" I asked.

"No, the stepmother is nice in the beginning." News to me, but OK.

"OK, Cinderella, let's go to the ball together." And then, as an aside, "When should I turn mean?"

"Oh, how about you be nice the whole time," Elisabeth responded. So, hand in hand, off to the ball Cinderella and the stepsister-less stepmother went.

"Cinderella, it's midnight! You simply must stop dancing with the prince and return home!" I trilled.

"OK, but how 'bout I keep my glass slippers," Elisabeth suggested.

"Well, if you don't lose a glass slipper, how will the prince find you?"

Elisabeth is exasperated. "But I don't want the prince to find me!"

Sunday, December 27, 2009

The Christmas in which the little girl gets the pony

Do you remember being a little kid and asking for a pony or a puppy or whatever every single year for Christmas? I remember. I knew I wanted that pony and I knew I would never, ever get it, not in a million years. But that didn't stop me from asking each and every year. Gradually I grew up and realized I was never actually going to get a pony so I stopped asking and instead focused on narrowing my wish list to items I might actually receive.

About four or five years ago I realized the pony was back on my wish list in the form of a Nikon D40x. I've been begging and pleading and trying to convince Joe that a DSLR of that caliber would benefit our whole family for years now. I asked and explained and begged in such a way that I knew I would never actually get it, but I sure hoped I would.

I relented a bit the past few years. Until this year I never even really asked for one for Christmas because one costs way, way, WAY (did I mention WAAAAAAY!) more than Joe or I ever spend on each other for Christmas.

But this year I got my pony. The Nikon D40x has been phased out, but sitting under the tree this year, wrapped with a pretty red bow, was a Nikon D5000. I'm not kidding, after I opened it I actually cried. This is my anniversary present this year and my birthday present too and I am still beyond excited. JUST beyond.

Look at this picture:

I could never have done that with my old Canon point and shoot. Never.

I have been pinching myself constantly since Christmas to remind myself that it's true. That and taking a LOT of pictures.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Disjointed Stuff

Today dawned a new day. Good thing, because being sick really stinks. Seriously. But by dinnertime I knew I was going to be OK and by this morning I felt just fine. So, yay.

I got to do lots of fun stuff today, like bake cookies, watch the kids decorate those cookies, watch Madeleine bake her first solo batch of cookies (they're excellent!) and a few not so fun things like go to Sendiks, our local grocery store. A pox on them for having the best meat in town thus forcing me to patronize the because that small store the day before Christmas Eve was IN-SANE.

But anyway, I'm back, physically, but electronically not so much since I still want to whip of a batch of zimtsterne and I want to re-read Alton Brown's advice roasting tenderloin which varies from most conventional cookbooks (like the Joy of Cooking, etc.). Lots of fun, cooking decisions to make tonight. And tomorrow Joe will be home to do un-fun things like vacuum while I get to spend the whole day in the kitchen cooking. I can't wait! I love solo days in the kitchen!

Anyway, if I don't get back on, Merry Christmas, everyone!!!

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Five Out of Six

We had a few hours of a sickness-free home last night. And then, at about 3 a.m. last night the spell was broken and first I got sick and an hour later Joe.

Whatever. We'll be fine; the kids all had this for a relatively short period of time, but what has me worried is Caroline. I could keep the kids away from her but, obviously, I can't stay away from her; the poor babe needs to eat.

If you could spare some prayers for Caroline, I would appreciate it. Things will get pretty miserable in a hurry if she gets this.

Monday, December 21, 2009

First Day of Winter

Elisabeth got herself dressed this morning.

Can you tell?

I tried to explain to her that today is the first day of winter. In Wisconsin. *sigh*

Saturday, December 19, 2009

It's Back

Almost as sure as the sun rises each day is the knowledge that if you have multiple kids and one child gets sick the others will follow. I should have remembered this following Elisabeth's bout with a stomach virus. But I forgot. I ignored that certainty and when no one else fell ill immediately after Elisabeth was sick I assumed we had dodged a bullet.

Sadly, it was not to be. Madeleine and Hank have both come down with what I assume is the same stomach virus. It's fast, it's furious and it's disgusting.

I am absolutely panicked. I've been washing my hands like a madwoman and keeping Caroline far, far away from the infected, which is no easy feat in our home.

If we make it through this week with no one else falling ill I will be so, SO thankful.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Christmas Preparations

I remember years walking through a shopping mall on December 23-- or worse-- December 24 doing my Christmas shopping. Granted, this was pre-kids, but still. Having shopping to do that late into the season is stressful, to say the least.

Since having kids I have made it a goal to be done with all the aspects of Christmas preparations that I don't love, love, love, like shopping, wrapping and writing Christmas cards.

So. Three more days to go. I am almost done shopping, I have not started wrapping yet and I am about halfway through my Christmas cards. Will I make my goal of being done with those three things by Sunday so that next week I can do fun things like bake cookies with the kids and plan my menu for Christmas Eve? We shall see, we shall see...

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Christmas Tree, 2009

Missing out on a tradition, even one you have professed to dislike, is never fun. Once something becomes a tradition it just feels like something you should do and the routine of it all makes it fun.

For the past four or five years we've bought and put up our Christmas tree the same way. The steps are unchanging and suggesting even a slight alteration to the routine is usually met with no small amount of angst from some member of the family. These are the steps: 1) eat breakfast at some greasy spoon, 2) spend an absurd amount of time at a Christmas tree farm scoping out different trees, marking some, comparing others and trekking back and forth between finalists before finally choosing one and 3) take the tree home and spend the rest of the day decorating it.

It's a fun day and while I'm not overly fond of step two, I enjoy the day. It's worth noting that step two is Joe's favorite step.

Well, this year we had to change the tradition a bit. Poor Elisabeth Jane was still sick and, so, I stayed home with Caroline and Elisabeth while Joe took Madeleine and Hank out for steps one and two.

Madeleine and Hank pulling the newly chosen tree towards the car.

Caroline watching us decorate the tree.

Poor Elisabeth sleeping while we decorated the tree.

The final step, the placement of the star (we actually have a note in our star box telling us which kid's turn it is the next year).

And, finally, the finished tree.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009


Whine. Whine, whine, whine, whine, whine. I feel like every Facebook status I've had the past few days have been all complain-y and stupid. Which is really ridiculous because despite the fact that I still have way too much to do before Christmas and despite the fact that I have a mildly sick kid (that's easily going to get better) I really have nothing to complain about. Nothing. Life is good. I have an abundance of all the things in life that are very, very nice, but not essential to survival. And, oh yeah, I don't want for anything in the survival department either.

It's always easier to whine than to say something grateful. What is going wrong is easier to focus on that what's going right category, isn't it? Ugh. I hate that.

Ack! That was a whine too! A whine about whining too much!

Seriously. I am done. If you're my Facebook friend (and if you're not, friend me!) I am happy to report the coffee came off the sofa. Or, mostly, anyway. And I am annoyed with myself for not preparing for Christmas earlier than now but hey, who wants to bake Christmas cookies in October anyway.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Parenting Lessons Learned in the Trenches

Last night I learned four, important lessons.

One. If a child throws up all over him or herself in the car it's best to just keep on driving. Getting cleaned up at home is easier than trying to do so in a car littered with all kinds of imaginable weird kid stuff, miscellaneous hats and mittens and random garbage and yet, somehow, not a napkin to be found (Note to self: clean that blasted car already!).

Two. It's better to finish the drive with the windows open, despite the cold, because that smell in a small enclosed space is just extra not good, and that's all I will say about that.

Three. A pathetically helpless, tired and sick four-year-old can still muster the energy to fight, quite vociferously, about stupid, inconsequential things. Who knew.

Four. A sick four-year-old and mess after disgusting mess still do not mar the enjoyableness of a fun night spent with good friends. You'd think it might, but it doesn't.

And that's all. Elisabeth is still sick this morning, but I've dealt with sick kids before. In fact, I think E comes down with some sort of tummy bug around this time of year every year, so this part of it? The being at home, having a whiney, pathetic kid is all old hat. I've already learned these lessons.

Friday, December 11, 2009


Today I am thinking about distraction.

I had nine items on my to-do list yesterday and yet, somehow, only finishing seven of those items took me all day. Somehow item #6-- calling my dad about synching schedules and getting my car into his mechanic-- took fifteen minutes to complete. Item #7-- copying Hank's ice schedule onto my calendar-- ended up taking who knows how long because I kept getting distracted by my in-box pinging and telling me I had a new email. Item #9-- figure out food to take to a friend's house on Sunday-- took forever because I used it as an excuse to pour over my favorite cookbooks in a more leisurely manner than I usually allow myself and before I knew it, I had forgotten what I was supposed to be looking for and instead I was dog earring pages and tearing out recipes that had nothing to do with what I had set out to do.

I am OK with this. If I hadn't let myself become distracted I would have missed out on a few laughs in my inbox that came at opportune times. Or I would not have taken the time to discover some new recipes that look really yummy.

Right now I'm supposed to be looking at different homemade candy ideas. Hmm.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Fun in the Snow

Photo credit to Dad.

Wednesday, December 09, 2009

The End of an Era

Children grow up. They get bigger. Duh. We all know that.

But that doesn't mean that as parents we always realize it. We're with our kids every day; their growth is so gradual that it's rare that we think to ourselves, "Wow, my baby is really growing up fast!"

I think every parent has their own varying milestones that makes them realize their kids are getting big, and fast. One of mine is always the first jump in clothing size. My babies have always come out of the womb small and swimming in size 0-3 months infant clothes. So when each made the jump from 0-3 month clothing to 3-6 month clothing it was like being hit upside the head with the realization that I no longer had an infant.

I changed out Caroline's clothes last night. Last night in my empty house with the wind screaming outside, I crawled up into the attic and packed away Caroline's first clothes and pulled out the next larger size.

Somehow, in some weird way, she looks older to me today.

Tuesday, December 08, 2009

First Snow

In my opinion, nothing can take a person back to childhood faster than a good snowstorm. As soon as that first, thin layer of snow hits the ground memories of canceled school, hot cocoa and sledding start whirring around in my head. Those feelings of safety, comfort and warmth that we all felt after coming inside after a long day of playing outside are right there again, as if it were yesterday.

The first, thin blanket is down, with promises of more (much more!) to come. The older kids tore through their lessons this morning with a zeal and interest I haven't seen in awhile and rushed out to make the snowman pictured above. He'll be covered shortly with the promised 12-18 inches of snow on its way, but he lives for a few more short hours as an ode to the excitement of the first snow and a tangible reminder of an all too fleeting days of our youth when we too had nothing on our plates but the creation and construction of a snowman.

Thursday, December 03, 2009


Laundry! Cooking! Grocery shopping! Order Christmas cards! More laundry! Email so-and-so back! Check your voicemail! Take someone somewhere!

Your to-do list probably looks different than mine, but we all have them, either on paper or in our heads. We all have things we need to do each day and sometimes the list grows too long and stress comes creeping in.

On days like today-- a busy yet good and productive day-- I am so thankful for the things I have in my life that help me relax. When I take the first sip of coffee in the morning or that first sip of wine in the evening I can feel all the tenseness leaving my body. I guard those sips jealously and usually devise a way to have those few moments alone by either getting up before the kids or by letting them watch some television program while I prepare dinner.

My to-do list for today is almost entirely checked off. I have told the kids to just be quiet already for ten minutes and I have a nice shiraz breathing in one of our Reidel wine glasses that Joe and I splurged on when we were first married and couldn't afford them. I am very much looking forward to that first sip.

Wednesday, December 02, 2009

The Height Wall

I love this wall in my house.

If we ever move I am sure we will cut the drywall out and take it with us.


Why is it so fun to see what the kids' heights have been over the years?

I love seeing that Hank was taller at three-years-old than Elisabeth is at four. Or that Madeleine had her biggest growth spurt between the ages of six and seven years.

I'm such a sentimental old sap; this really is one of my favorite things about our home.

Tuesday, December 01, 2009

Learning by Teaching

It's an old joke among home-schoolers that we are all addicted to buying books and other things that might assist us in educating our children. Often those materials prove useful. However, very often they aren't what we thought they might be and they sit on a bookshelf somewhere collecting dust.

Madeleine asked the other day if she could use a few of those unused books to teach Lexie, her favorite doll. What Madeleine doesn't know-- and what I am not going to tell her-- is that the grammar book she's using to teach Lexie is the same level that Madeleine herself would be using were we still using that grammar text; so while she's teaching Lexie she's actually teaching herself as well.