Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Poor, sweet kitty

After living 14 years as a fat cat, (the photo below is from healthier days) Maddie is now just eight pounds. She's lost almost half her body weight in the last 18 months. She has a large growth on her side, which is being tested to determine if it's cancer. If it is, the vet has warned, she won't live much longer. Even if it's not, it's clearly affecting her appetite and is causing a rear leg to shake as she walks. We should have results back on Monday.

Meanwhile, she's also developed a urinary track infection, which we're treating with an antibiotic. And if that's not enough, the vet found glucose in her urine, which means she likely has feline diabetes.

If it's possible to have a bright note to this story, it's this: If Maddie is, in fact, on her ninth life, she is making the most of it! All the treats and table scraps we've been denying her for years because of her weight – she is enjoying them now in abundance. She still tends to hide in the basement when the kids are awake. But in the morning before they're awake, she is constantly under my feet, especially when I'm in the kitchen.

Monday, December 29, 2008

Aaahhh... the memories

I hate deadlines. But I have to admit that a lack of a deadline is even worse. Back in July, I convinced a local editor to allow me to write a story about our trip to Mackinaw. There was no set date when the article would run, thus no set due date.

So how quickly do you suppose I got around to writing that article? Luckily, I took good notes last summer about feelings and observations I'd had during the trip. Combine that with the photos from the trip, and it wasn't too hard to get back in my "Mackinaw mind-set".

Enjoying the beach while Daddy played with his metal detector.

Marching with the band during a free outdoor concert. The kids had so much fun, and the setting (sunset, with Lake Huron in the background) was awesome!

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Deceptively tolerable

I wouldn't quite use the word "delicious" to describe my rookie effort at hiding vegetables in our supper. But at least it worked.
For supper last night, we had homemade mac and cheese with ham and peas, and a half cup of pureed squash mixed into the sauce. I wasn't wild about the sauce, but I blame that more on the cream that the recipe called for, which was too sweet. I couldn't taste the squash at all.
Sydney avoided the peas on her plate like the plague, but she gobbled up the noodles and sauce, totally unaware that she was getting a serving of veggies in her meal.
This could become an obsession for me. I now have pureed sweet potatoes and two kinds of pureed squashes in my freezer, plus cauliflower and yellow squash waiting to be steamed and pureed.
It's also an easy way to mess with Jeff. As I brought dinner to the table, he stared at me intently as if looking for clues, before finally asking, "so what's in here?"
I'll never tell.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

It's a jungle in here

We just can't wait to host the next playdate. We have so many cool new toys to keep the kids busy.

This "Playhut" is temporarily filling a huge portion of our living room. It will hopefully move to its permanent home in the basement later today, once we pick up some more foam flooring tiles to put underneath it. When Grandma Elouise described the dimensions, I knew it was going to be long, but somehow didn't grasp how wide it was.

Sydney pretty much lived in it for about a half hour yesterday. AJ, meanwhile, likes the accompanying golf club best of all. Why? Because it's like a sword, of course.

Friday, December 26, 2008

The morning after

The wrapping paper has mostly been picked up, but that's about it. Our living room, kitchen, dining room and just about everywhere else we normally can walk through, are all now cluttered with something: gifts, packaging, fiberfill from Maggie's now-disemboweled chew toy, you name it.

I don't even know where to start to clean, so instead I'm sitting with my back to it all, at the computer in the office.

How good was Christmas this year? What does this tell you: AJ slept until after 8, and Sydney until almost 9. And the TV remained off until Daddy turned it on at 9:30. The kids are too busy playing with all their new toys.

AJ spent about 45 minutes being an archaelogist like his cousin, Jonathon. Santa left a "dinosaur egg" in his stocking, which AJ needed to chip open to find the baby T-rex inside. Perhaps Santa should have paid better attention to the "for ages 5+" that was printed on the package, because AJ needed help hammering and chiseling. It wasn't too bad until Daddy started making up new lyrics to "If I had a hammer..."

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Merry Christmas to all

...and to all a short night.

Despite being up until 10 last night, both kids were awake bright and early this morning. I'm sure it had nothing to do with all the new toys they unwrapped last night.

We celebrated Christmas a night early, rather than haul all the presents to other houses to be opened. (Does that make it Christmas Eve Eve?)

The unwrapping was amazingly orderly, with AJ wanting to stop each time to play with the newest toy. Sydney, meanwhile, seemed a bit overwhelmed by it all. It took a couple of presents before she finally figured out how - with help - to rip the paper. With a flourish, she'd tear a strip and then hold it high in the air, exclaiming, "Ta dah!"

You wouldn't know it from the above photo, but we cleaned the living room right before we pulled out the presents. I love the fact that all the "kids" in the picture, including Maggie, are engrossed in their favorite new toys. AJ is playing with little knights and pirates. Sydney has cups and a doll's bottle. And Maggie is destroying her new squeaky toy. By morning, there was fiberfill everywhere!

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Just another day at the office

I love this picture. Sydney pulled her favorite little chair up to the coffee table, then set up her "computer". Someday, if she decides to pursue a career that puts her behind a desk, we'll have to share this photo of her first "office".

A note about her headwear. Sydney has decided she likes cashmere. In particular, she likes Mommy's pink cashmere hat. During a recent venture outdoors, I couldn't find her hat, and so let her wear one of mine. Now she doesn't want to take it off. Even after we found her hat, she still wants this one.

This little girl better hope her desk job is a high-paying one, because she's already developing expensive tastes.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Never a dull moment

If God were a vengeful sort, I'd swear he was getting even with me for complaining that church sometimes is boring.

As we walked into the sanctuary Sunday, AJ looked around for the pastor and asked, "Where's the boss?"

Several people around us snickered, prompting AJ to protest, "The boss isn't funny. Only clowns are funny."

With a few minutes to go until church started, I decided to check out the nursery. I didn't think either of the kids would stay there without me, but amazingly, both quickly started playing with toys, so out the door I went.

Jeff and I actually got to pay attention to about 30 seconds of the service. And then we heard Sydney's wail. We turned to look and there was the lady from the nursery trying to juggle a squirmy Sydney under one arm, and her own baby in the other.

And so the service progressed, with Sydney now glued to me. As the children's sermon began, I felt a small twinge of guilt that AJ wasn't able to go up for it. Then, a little later, just as communion began, AJ suddenly appeared, carrying some of the toy dishes from the nursery. "I brought you some tea, Mom," he announced. He never really made it into the pew, before turning and dashing, "I have to go back." And then, a minute later, he was back again with more toy cups.

We kept AJ with us after that, and soon headed up front for communion. AJ kneeled quietly as the pastor blessed him, which was a relief because he's starting to question why he doesn't get "juice" like Mommy and Daddy do. And then it was our turn to go back to our seats. But wait! AJ, who had missed his chance to talk to "the boss" during the children's sermon, wasn't going to pass up this moment with him.

"I have to tell him something!" He insisted.

The pastor leaned over the railing. "What's that?"

AJ began telling him about the presents under his Christmas tree, and that Santa was bringing him knights and dinosaurs. AJ may have said more, but I didn't hear. Grateful that I was in charge of carrying Sydney, I abandoned Jeff to try and drag AJ away from the pastor, who was clearly amused by the unexpected conversation.

Mercifully, the service at last ended. It would have been nice to simply shake hands with each pastor and leave the church in an uneventful manner. But no. Pastor Tom kneeled down to AJ's level, "So you had more to tell me..."

Dear God, will it never end?

AJ this time decided to launch into the gory details of the "sharks and sea creatures" book he's been eyeing at Barnes and Noble, telling about his new favorite underwater monsters, the sea snake and sawfish, which is shown in the book slicing through a young man's leg. By this point, both pastors were laughing and assuring us how delightful this is.

Sure. Easy for them to say.

One positive note : AJ pointed to the stained glass window that depicts a nativity scene, announcing, "Look, there's baby Jesus." So we're making progress on that point.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Let it snow!

We've had more than a foot of snow dumped on us in the last week. But then it got so cold, we couldn't go outside to enjoy it.

Finally, on Friday, conditions created "The Perfect Storm". Temperatures climbed into the mid-teens and the winds died down on Mommy's day off. So outside we went to play!

Sydney, we quickly learned, does not like boots. She doesn't want to walk in them, and if she trips, she can't get back up. She's fine with the snowsuit, and is more than happy to be pulled around in the sled. Just don't expect her to do anything else.

AJ, meanwhile, had a blast sledding down the hill at the end of the driveway. It's not a very steep hill, but the snowbank created by plowing, makes it a little better. This is the first year he's been big enough to zip down the hill on his own. Of course, that also means he now has to trek back up on his own.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

The real meaning of Christmas

I have not done a good job teaching my children the true meaning of Christmas. AJ just does not want to know that Christmas is about more than getting presents. Ask him whose birthday is on Christmas, and he's as likely to answer "Uncle Steve" as he is to remember "Jesus".

So I decided to try using props to make the story more real. I bought a small nativity set. As AJ pulled the pieces from the box, he noted the sheep and a cow. He then asked, "Is there a bear?"
"No, I don't think there were any bears in Bethlehem," I answered.
He next grabbed the three wise men and used them to start a wrestling match.
"What are you doing?" I asked.
"These are the bad guys." He exclaimed.

I'm not going to give up. Meanwhile, I've found someone who's absolutely fascinated by the little people.

Ask her where's the baby, the sheep, the angel, the mommy, etc. She's knows them all!

'Tis the season of miracles. We'll get AJ to come around.
P.S. My baby is a year and a half today. Take a look at how much she's changed!

Friday, December 19, 2008

The shredder game

This probably won't win me too many points with those mother-of-the-year award judges, but I have to share AJ's latest favorite game: shredding paper.

I'm not sure if his fascination is due to the sound the machine makes, the knowledge that he's destroying something, or maybe just the name "Shredder", which also happens to be the name of a bad guy in Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. Whatever the reason, AJ loves to send paper through the teeth of death.

It gets a little annoying at times when I'm busy with something and he comes asking for more paper to shred. (Note to judges: I do stay with him when he's using the shredder and watch to make sure he's being careful, to prevent any fingers/clothes from getting caught) But when you've got a messy stack of old, unneeded statements piling up on and falling off of the counter, and a husband who's very paranoid about identity theft, AJ's love of shredding really creates a win-win situation.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Going green

Lately, I've been teasing a certain cheesehead friend of mine, questioning her true team loyalties. It seems a bit suspicious to me that in the land of green and gold, both of her daughters wear purple coats.

Confession time. My first born loves to wear green right now. He'd cover himself head-to-toe in green if possible. It has nothing to do with Packers, however. Rather, it's his way of pretending to be Peter Pan.

This is how much attention to detail AJ is paying in trying to mimic his favorite character. Notice the "Little Dipper" baby utensil he's clutching? That's his Peter Pan sword. In the movie, Peter Pan always uses a small knife when dueling with Captain Hook, who has a much longer sword.

I guess I should be grateful that he's finally found a use for the Little Dipper. Neither he nor Sydney ever were interested in using it for its intended purpose to feed themselves.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Oh Christmas Tree - the cats' perspective

Spike and Maddie love Christmas. True, the hooks where their stockings once hung are now filled with AJ's and Sydney's. But what other time of year allows them to hide under a real tree and pretend they're brave cats - all from the warmth and security of their own house.

There is one thing I'm curious about, however. These are the same picky felines who yowl and even push the water dish around the kitchen if it's not filled to an acceptable level, or if perhaps the water temperature has dropped to room temperature. And yet, despite these high standards, they LOVE to push aside the tree skirt and drink the scummy water at the base of the tree.

Monday, December 15, 2008

The name of the game is...

Who knows? But Sydney sure had fun playing it.

Insisting on wearing her winter hat, a beaded necklace and her shoes, Sydney carried her glass of milk and a small decorative chair around the living room. Over and over and over again.

Each time she'd catch us watching her, she'd giggle out loud and walk a little faster. Every so often, she'd stop and take a break. Lucky for her, she always had a small decorative chair within arm's length to sit on. Or maybe she planned it that way.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Snow day

Let's hear it for blizzards - at least the ones that hit on a weekend when everyone is safe at home. This snow came as a blessing in disguise. After being sick Friday, and about half strength on Saturday, I'm finally feeling good today - so being snowed in has given me lots of time to work on the projects I didn't have the energy to do earlier in the weekend.

Another blessing came late this evening - in the form of a pickup truck with a plow on the front. Thank goodness for wonderful neighbors. Cory was able to clear our driveway in about two minutes, something that I bet would have taken us an hour with the snowblower. Meanwhile, our neighbor on the other side called earlier in the day to make sure Jeff had made it home safely from Ripley. Otherwise, she was all set to send her husband over to help plow. There's nothing like 9-inches of snow (as of 6 p.m.) to remind me of what awesome neighbors we have.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Illness update

No photo today. The big computer is getting fixed this weekend, and I don't have the energy to figure out how to load photos into the laptop.

I think I'm mostly over whatever bug made me miserable yesterday. Unfortunately, it seems to have moved on to Sydney. She threw up a little after 4 this morning. She then slept until 8:30, and woke up wanting to eat. The fact that she has any kind of apetite is hopefully a good sign that the worst is past for her now, too.

The only problem for AJ, meanwhile, is he's getting too smart for his own good. Sitting on the couch watching cartoons this morning, he asked me for a hug, which of course I was happy to give. After a few seconds, he pulled away, announcing, "That's enough. I don't want your germs."

A little while later, as I was reading the paper, I could see Maggie on the back step. I asked AJ to let her inside.

AJ responded by wrapping his arms around his mid-section and saying, "I can't. My tummy's starting to hurt."

I was concerned until a few minutes later - after I'd already gotten up to get Maggie - when he started bouncing around with a character on a cartoon. I said, "I thought you didn't feel good."

He responded, "I'm better now."

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Finger food

One more story to share from our pancake breakfast with Santa last weekend. Sydney displayed a new level of pickiness at the breakfast.

She wasn't too excited by the pancakes or the sausage, but she was thrilled with the toppings. We'd poured syrup on the side of her plate to use as "dip" - something that usually works to get her to eat pancakes. But on this day, all she wanted to do was dip her fingers in the syrup and then lick them off. That is, until she discovered the butter packet. Yum!

Butter and syrup... the breakfast of champions.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

A lesson in giving

Boy, oh boy, did we have a busy weekend. It's given me enough blog material to last for days.

AJ made me very proud on Saturday. While at the mall to get his glasses fixed, we let the kids climb on one of the coin-operated rides. As the kids were playing, I could hear in the distance the ringing of a Salvation Army bell. I've always tried to give a little at each bucket I pass, and so I thought it would be a good idea to teach AJ to do the same.

As his ride came to a stop, I handed him two quarters and suggested he "go give them to the lady ringing the bell."

You should have seen the look on his face. He was standing in a coin-operated ride, with coins that could make the ride go again. And I was asking him give the quarters to someone else! (I hadn't thought about how tempting the timing would be for him, but in retrospect, it was a fabulous lesson.)

"Why, Mommy?" he asked me.

"Because when you put money in the red bucket, it goes to someone who doesn't have as many nice things as we have. There are kids out there whose mommies and daddies don't have enough money to give them good food or buy them nice presents. This money will help those kids so they can have presents, too."

That explanation clearly satisfied him. Nodding, AJ announced, "Okay!" and hopped down from the ride, then walked over to drop the money in the kettle.

A little later, shopping at a different store, we encountered another bell ringer. AJ noticed him first, grabbed my hand and said, "Mommy, we didn't give him money!"

Reaching into my pocket, I found a dollar, which he happily slipped into the slot.

I have a feeling this could get expensive. But if it encourages a lifetime of compassion and generosity to the less fortunate, then I'd say it's money very well spent.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Sydney's style tips II

Look closely at Sydney's hair. No, that's not weird lighting. Her hair briefly featured green highlights one day last week. I suspect in the near future we'll be seeing some sort of Christmas craft project come home from daycare involving that same shade of green.

I suppose I should be grateful that she's coming home with green hair at age 17 months rather than at 17 years.

Monday, December 8, 2008

Oh Christmas tree

Aaahhh... the hunt for the perfect Christmas tree. It should be the source of great childhood memories. We figure we'll wait a few more years before attempting a trip into the woods to cut down our own tree. But I still wanted the kids - especially AJ - to remember helping us pick this year's perfect tree.

Alas, it was not to be. We apparently packed in a few too many activities on Saturday. By the time we stopped for the tree, our two little elves were off to the place where visions of sugarplums could dance in their heads.

One funny note about buying the tree. For the last couple years, we've gotten our tree from a place just a few blocks from our church. This year, the guy who normally helps us was busy with another customer, so his wife came out to help. She wasn't able to help lift the tree onto the Explorer, so Jeff did it himself. As he was tying it down, the husband finally was freed up to help us. He looked at what Jeff had done, which apparently was not too aerodynamic, and said, "How far do you have to go? I normally try to tie the tree in the opposite direction."

We told him we lived less than two miles away, to which he replied, "Well then, you should be okay. At least you'll be able to get rid of all the dead needles that way."

That's looking on the bright side! I'm happy to report that we, and the tree, made it home safely.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Who needs glasses?

Notice who isn't wearing glasses in the photo below?

The local school hosted a pancake breakfast with Santa. While waiting in line for pancakes, I realized that one of the lenses was missing from AJ's glasses. We searched the cafeteria and retraced our steps in the hallway. We left our name and number in case the lens turned up. On the way out, we looked in the parking lot and in the car. Nothing.

Luckily, we did find the lens at last - at home on the headboard of AJ's bed. That means Mommy and Daddy hadn't noticed the missing lens for over two hours, including when I put his patch on his glasses and took it off, which means I was holding the glasses in my hands.

So the good news is - the glasses have been fixed. We also finally bought a "back up" pair, something we've been talking about doing for two months, since the last time he broke a pair.

Back to the photo opp with Santa. AJ was quite excited to see jolly old St. Nick. Sydney, however, shook her head when she got close. As long as Daddy was holding her, she agreed to get this close:

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Oh the guilt!

AJ was quite excited earlier this week to get to wear his Superman pajamas to school. It was "pajama and teddy bear" day. Or so I thought. I could have sworn I'd seen it on a schedule that had been sent home from daycare a few weeks earlier. I'd even written it on our calendar as a reminder.
Turns out I was wrong. Where I read that remains a mystery. None of the other kids were in pajamas, and the teacher looked quite confused by AJ's pj's.
If he were any older, this could be the start of counseling for us. Luckily, he's still so enamored with his Superman pajamas, that he couldn't have cared less.
Instead, he found a different reason to send me on a guilt trip. For the last few weeks, I've been very busy with freelance writing, so I haven't been able to snuggle with him at bedtime as much as usual. I always explain to him that I'll just be in the next room working on the computer. So one evening last week, as I was kissing him goodnight, he gave me a big hug and asked, "Mommy, when you're done computering, then will you come back and snuggle?"

Friday, December 5, 2008

Hidden treasures

This is why I put up with the cold and snow of living in Minnesota. While searching under the couch for a missing library book, I found this.

A million thoughts flashed through my mind in roughly a split second. But none of them involved a fear that this was poisonous.

AJ's toy snake has been missing for months. How exciting that I was able to find it for him! Between lifting cushions and actually moving the entire couch, I didn't find the missing book, but I did discover all sorts of other treasures: 14 cents, four combs, two "hair pretties", a spoon, a fork, two toy mice (one of which Maddie proudly brought to us - howling - at 5 a.m. How nice!), a plastic spider, three other books, a small knight, about a half dozen legos, the camera's lens cap and enough animal fur to form a small pet. I am pretty excited about finding the lens cap. It's been missing for weeks.

And the missing library book? I finally found it about two hours later. It was in a bag of toys inside AJ's closet. Of course! I can't imagine why I didn't think to look there first.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

How many can you handle?

Have I mentioned Sydney's latest obsession? It's anything with a handle. Last night she took her love of purses to a new level. I looked over as she was walking around with a firm grasp on a purse, a little box of books and two different electronic toys - all at the same time.

AJ, who was either trying to help, or perhaps has already figured out how to mess with his little sister, pulled out a small tote bag from the toy box and offered it to her. There was no way she could carry five things at once, so instead she started walking laps of sort. She'd carry a couple items from the fireplace to the couch, where she'd find some of the other items with handless. She'd switch up her loot a little, then walk back to the fireplace, to switch up again.

This kid's ready to go places. Just so long as her luggage has handles.

How many more days?

I always thought these Advent chains were good for teachers looking for a simple craft idea to keep their young students busy. Now I understand the value they offer to parents of impatient preschoolers.

I believe it was the third time within just a few hours that AJ asked, "Is Santa coming today?"... that I decided he needed a visual tool to help him understand just how long he would be waiting for the Big Guy to arrive.

Of course I couldn't stop there. I do, after all, have way too many stamping/scrapbooking supplies that have been gathering dust in the last year. So I added decorations for "special" days. For instance, I know AJ will have two opportunities to see Santa before Christmas. So I stamped a Santa hat and stuck it on those days' links on the chain. Just for fun, I stamped candy canes and treats on a couple of days, so he can have an extra treat on those days, like the reindeer cookie he's happy to show off in this photo.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Picky in pink

My little pink darling is such a study in contrasts. She loves getting her hands washed, almost as much as she loves getting them dirty.

While shopping over the weekend, she picked out the pink sweatsuit she's wearing (under the pink coat) in this photo. She gave me a decisive "noooooo" when I showed her an outfit I wanted to buy for her, then lunged at the pink one on the next rack, excitedly clapping her hands when I pulled it down for her to hold. At another store, when I picked up the pink hat that you see her wearing, she squealed with delight. She'd wear the hat all day if we let her.

Yet, she's not all frills and fluff. That glass in her hands is covered with superheroes. It's a reject from AJ (the holes in the top are too small, so milk comes out too slowly) so she quickly claimed it for herself.

Oh boy are we going to have fun!

Monday, December 1, 2008

Santa's helpers

How does that song go?
'Cause we need a little Christmas, right this very minute...

How lucky am I to have TWO little elves who are more than happy to help me pull out our Christmas decorations. That little stuffed dog Sydney's playing with? It may not make it 'til Christmas. As she quickly figured out, if you squeeze its ear, it barks to the tune of Jingle Bells. What a special gift that was - I believe from the same family that gave us the red gorilla.
Thankfully, my two little helpers haven't broken anything. Yet. Though they came close during their tug of war game with a string of beads. And we'll get a tree next weekend. So there's still time...