Saturday, January 30, 2010

Elisabeth, Creepy, Annie and Lucy

Many of you may have noticed that yesterday's pictures of Caroline were taken in my bathroom. Yes, that's right. My bathroom.

On sunny days the light in that room is just glorious; it spills in through the one, small window as if that window were of infinite size. The light warms the small space and flashes and shines off of every surface making it an ideal place to capture natural light for picture taking.

And, really, Elisabeth was taking a bath so I had to be in there anyway.

But while I was in there taking an absurd number of pictures of Caroline and playing around with shutter speeds, aperture settings, ISO settings and trying to figure out how they are interrelated, Elisabeth suggested that she might want the lens of my attention focused on her, and not her baby sister. I am nothing if not a dutiful mother, so I obliged.

I don't know why, but I really ended up liking this picture of Elisabeth. Maybe it's because I love how vibrant the yellow and pink ducks (pink ducks?!) look. Or maybe it's because I love the unmanageable knot of hair that was arranged so perfectly while sweet Elisabeth slept. Really, though, I think it's because in this picture Elisabeth is talking. Not to me, mind you, but to her ducks, Creepy, Annie and Lucy.

Whatever the reason, I like it. And because I do and because it's my blog, I share it, with you who graciously choose to read this blog.

Friday, January 29, 2010

Five Months

Five months old, today. Still breastfeeding, still in that cute cooing, not moving phase, but I see the end of all the cute, tiny baby-ness coming.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Flashback: July 28, 2002

We all have those days; days that aren't great, but not bad, either. Things go right, things go wrong. Still, though, who wouldn't trade the things that go right on this bitterly cold day (high of 7, I think, and windy!) for the dog days of summer. Specifically I am thinking--dreaming-- of the day pictured below. A hot, July day swimming in Mom and Bob's pool with my almost two-year-old daughter. I had just quit my job and become a stay-at-home-mom after (almost!) two years of wishing to do so. Joe was a law student, summering at the firm where he now works. The pool water was a perfect eighty degrees. Family was around. Mom was still alive. Hank was kicking happily inside me, eager to come out in just a few short months.

And, did I mention, it was hot?

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Stupid Sears

This kitchen brought to you courtesy of the idiots at Sears who were supposed to haul away our old oven and install a new, working oven today but instead brought the wrong oven and then, when questioned about it, said it was our fault, not theirs.

Thank you, Sears. Unless the manager at the store where we bought our new stove (who hasn't even called me BACK yet!) is able to pull his head out of his you-know-what and get us our stove before next Wednesday or make this financially OK I have bought my last appliance from your store. Ever.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Sweet Pass, Brett!

Two things have given me great, great happiness within the last twenty-four hours. One, the moment Brett Favre launched that terrible pass that ended up being intercepted in the waning moments of the NFC Championship game and, ultimately, sealing the Vikings defeat and the other being the Vikings ultimate elimination from the playoffs. No Superbowl ring for Mr. Liar-liar-pants on fire-Favre.

I no longer have a horse in the race, so to speak, so I can watch the Superbowl as a disinterested spectator. I like Drew Brees and the Saints. I like the team that Tony Dungy built in the Colts.


Brett Favre is headed back to Mississippi. Vikings fans can deal with the will-he-or-won't-he-retire nonsense.

From a sports perspective, all is right with the world.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

My Mini-Me is...

A lot of people have said to Joe or me over the course of the years, "Wow, (insert child's name) looks just like you!"

Here is a picture of me when I was about two-years-old.

And here are a picture of all three older kids at around two-years-old.

Madeleine, December 2002:

Hank, December 2004:

Elisabeth, October 2007:

I don't think any of the kids look just like either of us. The closest contender, in my opinion, for my mini-me is Elisabeth, but Hank's face isn't too far off. Madeleine looks the least like me, I think.

What do you all think?

Thursday, January 21, 2010

My Hank

I suppose every parent has one. You know, that kid you makes you want to grab him and hug him because he is so sweet but the next second has you so mad you're locking yourself in the kitchen with a glass of wine so that you don't lose your temper. Every parent has one of those kids, right? Right?!

Hank. My paradox. Of my four, he's probably the nicest, most thoughtful of my children. Among his siblings and friends, he is selfless and considerate. He's genuine too; his spirit of generosity is not for show or for accolades. No, he feels his peers happiness and disappointments acutely and cannot bear their distress.

Hank might also be the most self-centered of my four children. When he is at fault in any situation he is guaranteed to shift the blame, to paint a picture where anyone and everyone but him is to blame. That dirty underwear that didn't make it down the laundry chute? Well, that's my fault for not giving him enough time to get dressed that morning. Or Elisabeth's for distracting him.

Hank and I had one of those days again today. One of those days where I want to scream and rage and somehow just make him understand how ridiculous and frustrating he can be. One of those days where every word out of my mouth is met with shrieks and whining about this and that. A day in which going to the larger of our two local libraries was cause enough to merit a temper tantrum.

A seven-year-old throwing a temper tantrum is almost enough to push me over the edge. Some days it does. Today, blessedly, it did not.

It is now supper time. Dinner will come and go and tonight, after pajamas are on and books are being read I know, beyond any shadow of a doubt, that Hank will smile at me, and he will mean it completely, and he will snuggle in and hug me, not as a peace offering of a little boy that almost pushed him mom over the edge, but as a little boy who loves his mom and doesn't really realize just how perilously close to the edge he walks each and every freaking day.

And you know what? Like yesterday and the day before and every other day before that, I will hug him back, and I too will mean it completely. Because as easy as it is for him to make me angry, he also can remind me in the flash of a second, how much I love him.

So, does every parent have a child like that? I dunno, but I hope they do.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

The Sun King

We have been in a history groove this week. I have to admit, I am most interested in European history and tend to want to read more and more and more, just like the kids do.

Today we read about King Louis XIV of France or, as he's otherwise known, the Sun King and the uber-elegant Palace of Versailles. The kids and I had a fabulous time pouring over pictures of the palace on-line and imagining all the grand balls and celebrations.

In honor of King Louis XIV's decadence, we decided to make face masks for an imaginary ball we were to attend at the palace. Here are the kids' creations.

Mademoiselle Madeleine,

Monsieur Henry

and, finally, Mademoiselle Elisabeth.

Elisabeth looks so horrified because she knows that kind of wealth and decadence can't be maintained on the backs of peasants. She's concerned about the upcoming French Revolution.

Or something like that.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Great Fire of London

Today's history lesson was the Great Fire of London in 1666. After our last history lesson we enacted a play but for today's lesson the kids chose to create some sort of an art project based on what they were hearing.

Even Elisabeth participated.

Madeleine made multiple pictures and all the kids are excited to share the exciting story with Joe when he gets home.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Recent Riding Pictures

I cannot remember a time in my childhood when I didn't beg and plead for horseback riding lessons. I have loved horses since I knew what the animal was. I never took an actual horseback riding lesson until I was sixteen years old (or seventeen?) and, as I had always imagined, I loved it. I loved every aspect of riding and caring for horses from the obvious fun of jumping and learning how to sit the different gaits right down to mucking out stalls.

However, my time as a rider was short-lived. Soon after starting I went to college and then marriage, babies and all the rest of it. I haven't been on a horse in years.

I should not have been surprised when Madeleine starting talking about wanting to learn to ride; she's the child who's most like me, personality-wise. It should not have shocked me that she has loved every aspect of riding and horse care since she started riding a year and a half ago. I no longer marvel that my little girly-girl who shrieks when she merely catches a glimpse of a worm doesn't mind getting all mucky and dirty as long as the dirt comes from leading a horse out to pasture or picking a horse hoof.

And not only does she love to do it, but she's able to do it all on her own. When she arrives at the stables for lesson night she runs to check which horse she's been assigned to and is able to retrieve him or her from their stall, brush them down, pick their hooves, find their tack and put everything on all by herself.

She is still supervised when putting the bit on the bridle into the horse's mouth, but even that she's learned to do with confidence.

I'm not going to lie, the whole deal is a huge pain in the you-know-what. The stables are far away. It's cold there. All the kids have to be properly attired (you can't wear flip-flops around horses!). But I love all that Madeleine is learning and the responsibility she's learning by taking care of something other than herself.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Good Tired

If I were to compose a blog post right now the theme would most definitely be "I am tired."

In a good way, though. In a way that only a fun, truly relaxing time with my family and good friends can be. Less than twenty-four hours ago we packed up our van, pointed the van north for about an hour and unloaded in a spacious four-bedroom condo at a waterpark resort that we shared with some good friends of ours. Everyone gets along well, kids, adults, and everyone feels comfortable with each other. It made for a fun and relaxing time of trips down the water slides, corralling kids in baby pools and talking and chatting with one another.

I took nary a picture, save a few of a few of the kids in a post-swimming bath, but I'm not going to post those. I feel exhausted right now from staying up too late talking and laughing, but I also feel mentally recharged and really ready to get back into the swing of laundry, cleaning the house and schooling the children.

A mini-vacation was just what the doctor ordered, I think-- though after I get a good night's sleep!

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Ice Volcanoes

Ice volcanoes, or ice-canoes as they're sometimes called, were in full bloom at Elisabeth's preschool yesterday. After her teachers told me they were going to take the kids down to the beach to see the ice formations during class, the big kids and I plotted a hike down to the beach as well to witness them in all their glory after we picked Elisabeth up from school.

First off, Elisabeth is a real trooper. She is only four-years-old, and she's short, so that means she has short little legs. The hike down to the beach from her preschool building is a quarter of a mile, minimum, depending on which trail you take. By the time we picked her up she had already made trek there and back once and then Madeleine, Hank, Caroline and I were asked her to do it again. She was game for it, though, as long as she could have a quick rest and lunch first. So, off to the main area of the building where we staked out a table next to the (unlit-- boo-hoo!) fireplace to eat our sandwiches and clementines and pour over the trail map and decide which path we wanted to use to travel to the beach.

After we ate our fill, we put on our snow pants, boots, etc. and prepared to head out into the sunny, high twenty degree day for Caroline's first hike!

We made it down to the shores of Lake Michigan without incident and spent a long time down there exploring the ice formations on the beach and discovering the perfectly preserved layer of snow under the sand-- how cool! Doesn't it look like the kids are walking on the moon?

And, just because, here is a picture of Madeleine. I believe the technical term for what's wrong with this picture is "it's too bright." In all seriousness, I was playing with a new lens and trying out different aperture settings and shutter speeds and even though I think I had the aperture set too low for the bright day (or maybe the shutter speed too high? Or neither?) I still like the picture.

Our relatively short hike down took twice as long (or more!) on the way back up because we decided to walk down the length of the beach and come up the other end. We didn't realize that what a looooooooong trail that was. Poor little Elisabeth was exhausted by the time we made it back to the main building, and so was I!

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Sweet Caroline

I just can't stop myself from taking picture upon picture of little Caroline. It's almost as if she is lying there whispering, "Mama, Mama, take my picture!"

And, so, I do.


And again.

And again.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Madeleine's Take on Tough Times

The other night I had the privilege of hearing Joe's aunt, the oldest of eight children, six who are still living (two died as babies) recount some fascinating stories from her childhood. This aunt was born in Europe to Ukrainian parents and was about four or five-years-old when her parents brought her to America. They spent some time in New York and eventually she and her two younger brothers and her parents made it to Milwaukee.

Shortly after they arrived in Milwaukee the younger of those two brothers died. He was an infant. She described renting a small house with four other families at this time. She remembered her parents not speaking English. She remembered her baby brother being taken to the hospital and she remembered being left in that house all by herself, not knowing where her parents and baby brother were.

I've heard this story before, but from Joe's grandmother. Hearing her describe her confusion, her infant son being taken away in an ambulance and not being able to understand where he was being taken, let alone trying to understand the doctors once she finally figured it out, are heart wrenchingly interesting.

So, as Joe's aunt described these events Madeleine sat and listened. She was riveted and as the tale was recounted Madeleine's eyes grew wider and wider. When the story finally concluded Madeleine enthusiastically remarked, "Wow, that sounds so exciting! My life is so dull!"

And Joe's response?

"You're welcome."

Friday, January 08, 2010

Joe's Ornament

Every year Joe saves part of the trunk of our Christmas tree and makes an ornament for each person in our family out of it. Someday I really should photographically chronicle each ornament, but they're all put away right now, so that will have to wait until December 2010.

For now, though, here is the ornament he made this year out of our family's 2008 Christmas tree.

Wednesday, January 06, 2010

Office Tour

As much time as Joe spends at work, he and I realized a few weeks ago that Dad and Diana had never seen his office. It's fun to see someone where they work, so on New Year's Eve we arranged a tour.

Here is Joe at his desk, where all the magic happens.

Here are Dad and Diana enjoying my kids' favorite room-- the break room. There is hot chocolate and a TV in there.

Here is a picture of his firm's lobby, all decked out for Christmas. Isn't it pretty?

Here is Joe surveying the view from the window in his firm's lobby.

The next hard-nosed litigator in the family?

Or, maybe not.

The girls take their turn running a deposition.

Obviously they're so good they need no notes, no paperwork, nothin'. I'm quaking in my boots just looking at them.

Fun day. We all appreciated the tour whether it was our first or thirty-first trip.

Tuesday, January 05, 2010

It's the Little Things

It's amazing to me how happy a simple, seemingly meaningless, change can make me.

Joe and his friends at work finally finished up a bottle of twelve-year-old doublewood Balvenie single malt Scotch Joe had at work. As soon as it was gone, I swiped the bottle and filled it up with with canola oil and threw the ugly, plastic Roundy's bottle away. Since my oft-used olive and canola oils sit out on the counter, this pleases me to no end.

Next up? As soon as Joe works his way through a half empty bottle of twelve-year-old Elijah Craig bourbon my olive oil will find a new, pretty home.

Monday, January 04, 2010

Return to Routine

A break from the routine of life for too long makes getting back into the swing of things difficult. When you've been sleeping until 9 a.m. it's not easy to rouse yourself earlier. When your days have been spent humming Christmas carols and baking cookies, it's not fun to return to learning about topic sentences (Madeleine) and nouns (Hank).

We eased back in today. Grammar. Reading. Playing Cribbage for math. Reading aloud from our history text, but performing a play about King Charles I of England's beheading instead of writing a summary of the execution. Slow. Easy.

We are calling it quits now at 3:16 p.m. Only half of my to-do list for today is crossed out and yet, despite the more relaxed day of schoolwork, I feel good, as if we accomplished something, as if a today were a success, and not a failure. Sometimes success and failure can't be quantified from items ticked off a to-do list. Sometimes it's those intangibles, like the absence of weeping and hysterics when we started reading aloud from The Treasury of Daily Prayer this morning and the realization set in that today was, *shudder*, a school day. Or that when I got out of the shower this morning, yes, I tripped over the eight gazillion toys littering our stairwell, but Madeleine and Hank had also taken it upon themselves and start and watch the next lesson on their Latin DVD and were halfway done with the workbook assignment.

So, for today, we rest. I will straighten up. I will cook. I will run Hank to hockey practice. All the while I will acknowledge, happily, that the first day back from Christmas vacation was a lot less painful than I anticipated.

Saturday, January 02, 2010

On the Road

One episode of "Olivia" on iTunes? $1.99.

The peace and solitude that episode provides on long car rides? Priceless.