Sunday, December 19, 2010

Annalise at nineteen months

The 19th of the month really snuck up on me this time.  I almost missed it, with Christmas right around the corner.  So what's new with Annie..?

She's going through another little phase of separation anxiety.  She doesn't like to be taken to people's homes, and she clings to me thinking I'll leave her there.  She also didn't like it when I left her at the church nursery during Delaney's Christmas program, but she only cried for a few seconds.  I peeked in on her a few minutes later, and she was contentedly playing with some dolls.  When Tim went to pick her up later, the babysitter brought her to the window to hand her over, and as soon as she saw Tim, she burst into tears.  I gave her lots of hugs and kisses.  Maybe I should've just let her squirm on my lap through the Christmas program.

Guess what?  She finally got a couple new teeth!  She now has one more bottom tooth, and another tooth coming in farther back.  I try to remember to brush them at least twice a day.  I don't know if I mentioned in her last update, but she's got bad teeth.  If you look closely, her enamel is thin, and there are some dark spots on her teeth.  It looks like baby bottle rot, but she's never taken a bottle.  I have an appointment for her to see a pediatric dentist next month, and I'm worried about what they'll say.  I look at Delaney's pearly whites, and I wonder what went wrong?  I treated them both the same, same (sometimes lax) tooth-brushing habits, same food and drink.  I've never put either of them to bed with juice or milk.  But Delaney has good teeth and Annie has bad teeth.  The nurse-practitioner at the naval health clinic told me that I wasn't taking good enough care of her teeth and that's why they were the way they were.
My smile is pretty, but if you look closely, you'll see trouble.
I called my mom for reassurance, because I know she didn't follow us around with a toothbrush all day, and I didn't have a cavity until I was 28.  She said she thought that nurse-practitioner had some nerve telling me that.  That made me feel a little better, but I've still got a kid who has British teeth and I don't know how it happened.  My next thought was fluoride.  Maybe they're not getting enough of it.  But when I called the naval clinic asking for a prescription for the same sodium fluoride drops that had been prescribed for Delaney over a year ago (different pediatrician, different state), they acted like I was trying to poison my kids.  They said that since we have city water, they get enough fluoride.  When I said they don't drink very much water -- mostly milk or juice -- they said that nevertheless they get enough fluoride through the water we cook with.  (Nevermind that these kids barely eat anything most days..)  I will definitely feel better after talking to the pediatric dentist.  I just wish I could get her in sooner.  Yes, I know I'm a bad mommy for not having taken her when she turned a year.  I just didn't think a kid needed to go to the dentist until 2 at the earliest.  But rotting teeth are another matter.  Tim and I are about to have some huge dental bills, between Delaney and her future braces and Annie's tooth decay.  We'd better start a dental fund right along with the college fund.

She continues to talk more and more, and says, "Yeah" a lot in that deep, breathy voice that is so funny.  She loves to talk on the phone and on Skype, although she doesn't like to talk as much as smile a lot, so Skype is really best.  Here are the girls and their daddy Skyping with Grandpa.  At the end of that conversation, she waved and said, "Bye, Grandpa."  (At Tim's prompting) she said, "I love you."  It melted my heart.
She has been having some temper flare-ups lately.  When she decides she doesn't want to be strapped into her carseat this time, she'll arch her whole body and cry, making it very difficult for me to wrestle her in.  She throws little fits sometimes when she's tired and in need of a nap.  But they're very seldom and short-lived.  Still, I know that 2 is coming in a few months, and when that happens, she'll probably do some things to appall me.  What will it be?  Poop on the walls?  Full-blown tantrums in public?  Tim thinks that she will be a real trouble-maker, way worse than Delaney ever was.  I don't know if I agree with that.  We will both see.

I will leave you with this photo of her taken by Delaney.  It is not a view of her that is normally photographed, but I think it's beautiful.
A year ago today: Annalise at seven months
Also: White Christmas  All told, we ended up seeing 30 plus inches of snow last year in Quantico.  Incredible!

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Christmas card and stuff

I am quite pleased with how our Christmas card turned out.  It was a joy to put together.  I was not quite so pleased with how the girls' recent photo shoot went (picky mom that I am), but not to worry -- I had plenty of awesome photos to choose from, that my sister Grace took at Cape Cod.  Thanks again, Grace!

And thanks to Shutterfly for the great deal I got.  I am hoping for a return of that deal next year.

Now the cards are all mailed, and Christmas is getting closer.  I love how our own little traditions are starting to take shape.  Almost every night, we sit down on the couch in the glow of the Christmas lights (multi-colored this year, per Delaney's request) and watch a Christmas movie together.  I need to browse Netflix today and add to our repertoire, because lately it's just been either Merry Madagascar or Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, both of which we recorded from TV.  But it's so much fun to watch with these kids, especially when Delaney gets scared of the Abominable Snow Monster, and hides behind her dad.

We all trimmed the tree together, even though it was a little crazy with Annalise.  She only broke one ornament, though, and it wasn't an important one.  Yesterday our Elf on the Shelf arrived.  So far, Delaney is a little weirded out by it and Annie doesn't even notice it, but I thought it could still be a fun tradition eventually.  Maybe next year.

This Saturday we're going to Raleigh to see Disney on Ice Toy Story 3, and I'm looking forward to that.  I think the girls are going to love it.  We're leaving early in the morning so we can be there when a real mall opens its doors, and hopefully we'll find the girls some cozy Christmas pajamas and somewhat festive dresses.  Good times!

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Delaney at three years, five months

Pretending is Delaney's  favorite thing to do.  She never misses an opportunity to play pretend.  One time, she  was on the potty going number 2, and I asked her if she was done.  She said, "No, this poopy needs some family."  "He does?"  "Yeah, here come some babies... and here comes the daddy...  Mama, why are you laughing?"

Out in the yard, she'll say, "You can see dinosaurs in your imagination."  Pointing to the trees, she'll say, "Look, it's a brachiosaurus!"  Brachiosaurus is her favorite.  In the children's section of the library, I chuckled when I heard her tell another kid, "I'll be back in a jiffy.  I gotta track some dinosaurs!"  She's still on her dinosaur kick.  Santa will certainly be bringing dinosaurs this year.

We had Delaney's first ever parent-teacher conference this month.  Ms. Melissa showed us the work Delaney's been doing with letters.  We got to see where she traced the first couple letters in the row well, and then just started scribbling.  She loses interest quickly, which is to be expected.  They described Delaney in her progress report as a sweet and loving child who recognizes all the letters, numbers and shapes they've covered so far.

Tim and I were told that sometimes Delaney has trouble with listening and following instructions, especially when it comes to -- ahem -- clean up time.  We said, "No way, not our kid!":)  But at least it's not just Delaney.  One day I walked in to pick Delaney up and Ms. Mary was telling all the kids they'd better help clean up or there'd be no toys on Thursday.  I don't know why I thought preschool teachers have special techniques for getting kids to cooperate, and they didn't have to resort to using the same threats I do.

Rarely is Delaney fully dressed if she's at home.  She just loses her clothes gradually while running around the house -- a shoe here, a sock there, and on and on until she's in just her underwear.  Our thermostat is only set to 68.  It makes me cold just to look at her!

Delaney will happily play with her sister in the playroom for a long time, but she always invites me to come up and "stay for a little while."  We'll play with puzzles together, they'll dance to the tune of one of the music-making toys, or maybe have a little game of hide-and-seek.  I might have other things that need to be done, but I try to remember how important it is to drop everything else and just be with them sometimes.  A co-worker of mine told me when I was pregnant with Delaney to remember to have fun with them when they still want to have fun with me.  I revisited that long-ago conversation recently while reading through Delaney's pregnancy journal, and that advice meant so much more to me now than it did when I was in the nursery-planning stage.  I made a little promise to myself to play more often when Delaney asks me to.

A year ago today: Delaney at two years, five months

Friday, November 19, 2010

Annalise at eighteen months

Our little Annie is halfway between 1 and 2 already.  I can't believe how much she's changed in just a few short months!

 A wonderful change this month is that she is starting to use words to make her wishes known.  "Teeth," if she wants to brush her teeth.  "Brush" if she wants me to give her a brush.  "Off" if she needs help taking off her jacket.  "Book" if she wants me to read to her.  My favorite is when Delaney asks for a treat, and Annie shouts "Cheat!" while pointing at the candy-filled pumpkin on top of the fridge.  We're working on 'please' and 'thank you', both of which she'll say when prompted.  I'm not holding my breath for the time when she says it without prompting, because we're still not quite there with Delaney!  I praise the heck out of her for using a word because it means less guessing for me.  She is shaping up to be a little chatterbox like her sister.
She loves being read to, and her favorite book is a beat-up old Elmo book that plays music.  The pages used to have things that popped-up, but those kinds of books never stay intact for long at our house.  I press the button that plays the little tune, I sing the words, and she dances around in circles grinning ear to ear.  Then Delaney joins in and it's a dance party.  Lately, one read-through of that book is not enough, and she signs "again" as she picks it up and hands it to me.  I might read again once or twice.  Then she shrieks with anger if I won't read it again.
This photo was taken by a photographer.  I love how it shows her blue eyes.
She still just loves to help unload the dishwasher.  As soon as she hears the clanking of dishes, she comes running, saying, "Help.  Help."  If I'm finishing up, I put some plates and silverware back in for her to pull out.  This will one day be her job, so I'm happy to let her practice.

We keep asking her, "Annie, where are the rest of your teeth?"  She still only has six, and I really thought a couple times recently she was getting another tooth.  I thought once I even felt the edge of a tooth.  I even think I can see the shapes of her teeth through her gums.  We really think one morning we're going to go in there and she'll be grinning at us with a whole head full of teeth.

It's hard to find clothes that fit Annie these days, so most of the time she runs around in ill-fitting clothes.  She's at an awkward stage -- too big for 12-18 month clothes, but 18-24 hangs on her.  I've been doing some shoddy alterations on her pants to make them stay on.  She'll have her 18-month checkup on the 23rd, and we'll find out just how big she is.  She looks pretty average-sized to me.
Mama, my pants are too small!
She has constipation issues all the time, and she will not eat any of the fresh fruits I put in front of her.  She only wants the processed snacks that get her into this trouble in the first place.  We've tried to substitute All Bran crackers, but she's not fooled by those.  She might eat a few black beans at dinner, and each bean I see her consume is a little victory.  I have found that a teaspoonful of Karo syrup helps, and she will take it right off the spoon so I don't have to dilute it anything and hope she finishes it.

In the morning she calls out loudly until I come in for her.  I say 'good morning' and open the blinds.  When I go to pick her up, she squeals and falls down on the mattress.  She won't let me get her, but then if I say, "OK, you can stay, I'm leaving," she'll whimper.  Then I come back and it starts all over again.  She loves to play these little games from morning to night.

She amazes me with all the little things she's learning.  Just the other day she pointed at my ring and said, "Bockle."  Sparkle.  I had taught her that word, and now she was using it.   She gives us all such joy.  We love our Annie.

Update: On 11/24, we had Annie's 18 month checkup.  She's 33 inches tall and 25 pounds.  She's at the 59th percentile for weight, and the 82nd percentile for height.  She and Delaney got their flu vaccines.  All was well for our first pediatric visit at the Naval Health Clinic.  The only thing I have to worry about is the nurse-practitioner told me there was already some decay on Annie's teeth.  I'm supposed to be brushing her teeth "several" times a day, not just once or twice.  So now I have to follow her around all day with a toothbrush, to make sure she gets to keep those teeth for at least another four or five years!

A year ago today: Annalise at six months

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Life on my little island (Wah Part 2)

I wanted to update you on my situation as far as making connections on my little island in suburbia.  It is a very tiresome subject, but this post has been brewing in my mind for a couple days now, and it's my blog so I can whine if I want to.

Soon after I wrote my this, I did a little bit of research and found a Meetup group for moms and young kids.  I became a member.  I get a month free, and after that I have to pay dues, something like $5 or $10 for the year.  People post different activities that you can go to.  There's open play at a gymnastics place once a month, there are trips to petting zoos, and whatnot.  Tim said to me when I joined, "You're paying for friends."  "Yup," I said.  "I guess that's the way it's done in North Carolina," he said.  "Guess so."  [This isn't actually the first time I've paid for friends.  I've done StrollerStrides and Gymboree, and those are far more expensive.]  So far that has gone.. OK.  Most of the Meetups are either jewelry parties which I won't go to, or things that take place on Tuesday or Thursday, when I have to take Delaney to school.  I did go to the gymnastics thing last month, and I'll go again tomorrow.  The kids love it.  I find it a little awkward for myself.  I'm uncomfortable around a bunch of people I don't know, and I have the strange feeling I crashed their party.  But I'll go anyway.

Every Friday morning, there is a terrific little story time at the New Bern library, and I did meet another mom there who seems friendly and outgoing.  That is good, because as a shy person, it is nearly impossible to make friends with other shy people!  She is also a member of the aforementioned Meetup group, and she is going to be at the gymnastics place tomorrow.  I will have to stalk her.  I have a toy cellphone that she gave to Annalise after she fell down and cried during the puppet show.

Meanwhile, I take the girls outside often, hoping to strike up a conversation with someone walking by.  Or when Tim and I are walking around the neighborhood to cool down after our run, we're both on the lookout.  We hardly ever see a soul.  Usually, but not always, the driver of a passing car will wave.  The other day, we walked past someone's house as she was pulling out of her driveway, and we waved.  She didn't even look at us.  "Well, hi, neighbor," I said.  Tim said he thinks it's a generational thing.  His parents knew almost everybody in their little suburban neighborhood.  Tim theorized it's because back in the day, people were outside interacting with one another all the time.  Now they're inside on the Internet or watching TV, and their kids are playing video games.

Another time, the girls were playing on the driveway after we'd returned from a run, and I saw a woman my age pushing a running stroller by my house.  I had never seen her before, and I waved and smiled and said, "Hi."  She waved back and said, "How are you?"  "Good, how are you?"  And she continued on, and I thought, please stop and talk to me!  Would it kill you to introduce yourself?  I have no diseases and I don't bite!  Please, don't leave me alone on this island!

On the preschool front, it's going no better.  I met up with another mom for coffee one morning.  Her kid isn't in Delaney's class, but we met at the fall festival.  But it felt like a first date.  We said, "I'll call you," and neither one of us really meant it.  I think we each found the other a bit dull.

On the Marine family front, I'm faring only little better.  I have old friends who have a 7-year-old daughter, and we get together from time to time.  They'd be my first choice for Thanksgiving dinner, but guess where they're going for Thanksgiving?  Cincinnati.  There was another Marine family we had over for pizza one night, and I had a playdate a couple weeks later with the wife and one of her daughters.  Recently, she emailed me asking if I'd like to get together this week at her house, and I replied soon after that I'd love to.  Then .. nothing.  It's been six days.  Tim said I should call her, and I said, "Why should I have to follow up her invitation?"  If you email someone, why don't you check your email to see if they reply?  Especially if you have an iPhone and you take your email everywhere.  Then again, I have no idea what her life is like, and perhaps she really doesn't have a second to spare.  Not like me, with obviously too much time.

Sometimes I wonder if I am subconsciously keeping people at a distance because a part of me prefers it this way.  I hold back a little bit when I could make more effort.  I am sensitive and feel easily slighted by others.  I have this (unfortunate) tendency to want to sit back and wait for the world come to me.  I kind of like sitting out front watching the girls play, seeing their curiosity and happiness over simple things, feeling the sun on my face, and not having to work at making a good impression on someone else.  It's so much effort.

That leads me to another theory about why I'm in my predicament.  I come from a long line of people who stick to their clan and rarely become close to anyone else.  I remember a long time ago, my mom did become close friends with a woman who lived across the street from us.  She explained to me even then that it was because Sue needed a friend.  Mom didn't.  She preferred being around people with whom she shared a long history.  We had aunts and uncles coming through the door all the time, and our kitchen was filled with laughter and rehashing of old stories.  No need to impress the person you know once decided to take a bath with her pet turtle and ended up getting sick.  So that's where I came from.  Then, in Massachusetts, I got to enjoy being part of a clan once again.  And now I am clan-less and inept at forming bonds with other people.

At times, I realize how very blessed I am to live on my little island with the three people who are dearest to me, with everything I need, and most of what I want.  I am grateful, I really am.  And then sometimes, I am terribly lonely, bored and frustrated.

I will continue to look for ways to cope with life on my suburban island, which is only 10 minutes away from anything, but a world away from anything and anybody familiar.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Delaney at three years, four months

Delaney is not getting much of an update written about her this month.  And no pictures, due to technical difficulties.  (Our wretched PC is on the fritz again.)

The way she phrases things continues to amuse me.  She thinks it's acceptable to substitute
 "How 'bout ______?" for the polite way of asking for things.  I say, "Um, how about using your manners to ask for that?"

If I'm stressed out about something, she'll say, "It will be fine, Mama," or "Just take a deep breath."  Another time, I was irritated at something Annie had done, and Delaney said, "OK, just settle down, settle down."  That's exactly what I always needed, a little voice telling me everything's going to be alright.  Thanks for that, Delaney!

She is crazy about dinosaurs of late, and watches Dino Dan every day.  Her current favorite animal is a toy triceratops.  She tells me, "I'm Dino Dan, you're Mama Dino Dan, Dada's Dada Dino Dan, and Annie's Annie Dino Dan."  And she'll correct me all day long when I call her Delaney.  "No, I'm Dino Dan, remember?"

A year ago today: Delaney at two years, four months

Sunday, November 7, 2010

I'm having a cup of chai green tea, listening to the tinkling of the wind chimes, the distant drone of the football game on in the living room, and the happy babbling of Delaney who is in her room for nap but rarely naps anymore.  I'm thinking about what a great weekend this has been.

Yesterday morning I took the girls for their appointment with the new photographer, at a park next to her house on base.  Watching them romp around in the leaves made my heart swell with love and pride.

Back home, we had lunch and naps and another lazy afternoon.  Tim's and my one cause for annoyance was a babysitter who would not return my calls, emails or texts even though earlier in the week she had agreed to watch the kids Saturday.  This resulted in our inability to plan our evening because, for all we knew, she would show up at 5.  I was compelled to prepare as if she were going to show up, and make myself look presentable for going out, all the while the two of us are getting more irritated by the minute.

It turns out that our fabulous new babysitter Brittney was just not that into us.  Our first clue came on Tuesday morning, when she texted me to let me know that she was in Charlotte and would not be back in time to watch the kiddos at 3.  Yesterday at around 10 after 5, after a whole day of no communication, I had the most awkward task of calling her and leaving a message on her voicemail that we had changed our plans and she would no longer be needed.  It was like saying, "You're fired," but not in those exact words.  I'm pretty sure she knows we won't be calling her again!  Thank goodness we hadn't made any real plans.

Tim was not surprised at all at this turn of events.  In recruiting, he dealt with 19-year-olds every day and knows how flaky they can be.  He'd warned me in advance not to be disappointed if it didn't work out.  But after what a great first impression she made, I was pretty shocked.  I didn't see it coming at all.  At least we still have my friend Aimee, who will be watching the girls while we go to the Ball on Tuesday.  I've known Aimee for years and she's very trustworthy.  I just didn't want her to be my go-to babysitter, first of all, because she's a friend, and second of all, because she works in daycare.  She needs a break from kids!

Tim was upset last night on my account.  He said, "You're all dressed up, you look pretty, and I'm sorry I can't take you anywhere."

I said, "You don't have to feel sorry for me.  I'm not that dressed up.  This is something I'd wear to church.  And anyway, I love our 'come as you are' date nights in.  Those are good nights too, and we can still salvage this one!"

Later, after the girls had been tucked into bed, we feasted on takeout sushi and a $7 bottle of wine, saying, "What are we missing out on, anyway?"  A car ride, a noisy restaurant, only one of getting to enjoy a $7 glass of wine, hoping everything's going well at home, returning later to pay the babysitter..  I had never been happier to just be sitting in the peace and quiet of our own kitchen, and no other people to deal with all night long, and I know Tim felt the same way.  Maybe this makes us boring old farts (maybe "curmudgeon" is a better word) but it's what works for right now and we are content.  Life is good.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Christmas card fun

I'm wishing extra hard for good weather and healthy, cooperative children for this weekend.  I'm having my little girls' pictures taken professionally at a park, and the plan is to make our Christmas cards with them.  This is one of the most fun aspects of the holiday season, as far as I'm concerned.  Every year since Delaney was born, I've wasted so many happy hours designing photo cards for our friends and family.  This year, I believe, I'll be going to Shutterfly.

It's a natural choice for me.  I love giving Shutterfly gifts and I love receiving them.  Here is the photo book Delaney and Annalise gave Tim last year.  I enjoyed every minute I spent putting it together, and when he opened it, he said it was his favorite gift.
Last Christmas, I was presented with not one, but two Shutterfly wall calendars -- one from Tim and one from my mom.  I love the daily reminders of places I've been and people who love me.  My mom told me how much she enjoyed selecting her favorite pictures from the year and thinking of the inspirational quotes that went with them.
As far as Christmas cards go, here is my favorite one so far: Good Blessings.  I love it because Delaney and Annalise are such gifts and Tim and I are constantly telling each other how lucky we are.  They light up our life.
Here's another one I like: Peppermint Bliss.  I can just see my little girls on there.  Maybe one of them individually on either side, and then one of them together in the middle.  I just don't see there being that many photos of them together to choose from.  But you never know.
Then again, there's this one, that will allow me to choose a whole bunch of my favorite family photos: With Love Chartreuse. I love the quote, "What a wonderful world."
We shall see.  I will be sure to post my final choice on here.  Until then, I'm keeping my fingers crossed for good pictures this weekend!

I am participating in Shutterfly's 2010 Holiday Card Collection promotion where bloggers contribute a blog post about Shutterfly and receive 50 free holiday cards.  To learn more, click here.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

We took the leap

We finally did it!  We left our kids with a non-relative babysitter!  We found Brittney on Sittercity, and I loved her from the minute she walked in our door yesterday.  She is 18, and lives with her grandparents and their cats a few miles away.  She is going to a community college here, but the bad news is that she plans to transfer to a college in Wilmington next fall.

It was hard for Tim and I to do this, for a couple reasons.  I discussed it at length several months ago.  For me, it was, 'How do I justify paying someone else to watch our kids?  That's MY job.  I don't earn any income.  So now I'm going from not only NOT earning, but now costing our family money.  My butt ought to be with these kids 24/7.' Another thing is, how do you really trust someone you've only talked to a couple times to watch your kids?  Lastly, we don't really need babysitters.  We get by without them just fine until something like the Marine Corps Birthday Ball comes up.  We have date nights in that we enjoy.  And we're lame.  We don't really do anything, so why start now?  What it is, we decided, is an investment we make now, for a time later when we really need a babysitter, and want to be able to call someone the girls know and we trust.  The idea of having no one I can call to watch my kids ever, is scary.  Especially once Tim deploys next summer and I'm a single mom.  I will definitely be needing some help now and then when it's just me.  The thing is, if we want to have a babysitter when we need one, then we have to be using them at times when we don't really need one, so that we can get to know them and our girls can too.

So we had a long conversation about how often should we have a babysitter over in order to keep her in the girls' lives, but not break the bank.  That's a tough one.  We settled on about 10 to 15 hours a month, and even that hurts me because like I said, this is my only job!  Tim says I should relax about that, because we do well enough to be able to pay a babysitter 10 to 15 hours a month.  And I do feel good about helping a student make easy money watching my little angels:).

Yesterday, Brittney came over and we chatted for a few minutes, and then we left to go fart around at Lowe's and the New Bern (excuse for a) Mall.  We were gone for an hour and a half, and we paid her $15.  When we came back, we were happy to find them all playing dress-up in the playroom.  Brittney is like one of their aunties.  She will be coming back next Tuesday afternoon for a couple hours, and then the following Saturday night she will put the kiddos to bed while we have a date night out.  She is very sweet with the girls and they seem to like her too.

But of course, we're not done looking, because she's leaving next summer or fall.  But for now we have one babysitter, and I am looking forward to next Saturday night.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Just one of many things I love about having two little girls:

Getting to use my favorite clothes again!
10/18/08: Delaney, 15 months.  We had to cuff the jeans for this peanut.
10/23/10: Annalise, 17 months
10/18/08: Delaney, 15 months
10/5/10: Annalise, 16 months

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Annalise at seventeen months

If this month had a theme song, it would be "Anything you do I can do better; I can do anything better than you!"  Annie is always trying to show us what a big girl she is.  Look, she even helps wash the car -- with her bare hands!  Today, I had to dig in the girls' bathroom trash for some cute hair things after I had knocked over the big basket filled with them.  She was watching with rapt attention, and I know she can't wait to look through the trash herself.  She will be an expert trash-picker.  She is already an expert at throwing things away.

In the last couple weeks or so, she's become more interested in talking.  She may have said a couple words a couple months ago, but for whatever reason, lost all interest up until this month.  I love her words, and I make a big deal every time she uses one.  Here are some of her new ones that I can think of:
- Shish-ee.  Sissy.  She said it once when I was putting a dress on her that was just like Delaney's.  Other times, she will just say it as she follows her around.
- Eye.  She says it as she's trying to poke me in the eye.
- Gock.  She points to her Mr. Clock and says it.
- Beh-yee.  Belly.  She pulls up her shirt and points to it.
- Joosh.  Juice
- Shoes.
- Socks.
- Baby.  She said it clear as day when I asked her to.
- No.  She said that for the very first time on 10/14.
- She shakes her head emphatically "yes" and will sometimes say "Yeah" if you ask her questions like, "Do you want a snack?"  "Do you want to go bye-bye?"
- Bump.  She likes to say this on every step as she goes down the stairs.
- Bampa.
If I ask her to say a word, she'll say it.  She'll go through a list.  Grandma.  Grandpa.  Dog.  Cat.  Fish.  But she usually doesn't use a word unless I ask her to.
She is so affectionate sometimes, and I don't know what's sweeter than hugs and kisses from a baby.  When that little face leans in for a kiss, eyes closed, and her lower lip protruding in that funny little kid way of puckering up, it's priceless!

She's obsessed with the buckles on her carseat and her booster seat at the table.  She wants to do it herself.  After she eats, I unbuckle her, but then she just buckles the straps again.  Then she grunts until I come over and unbuckle them again.  She'll keep doing that until I finally yank her out of the chair and tell her to go play.

She's an adventurer.  She's been known to take a few stairs the fast way from time to time.  Her antics on the living room couch sometimes almost give me a heart attack.  A couple weeks ago, she rode a pony with wheels off a coffee table in the play room.  We heard the loud thump and sprinted up there to find her lying in a heap.  She got right up, though, and was fine.
Owie.  This is one of her most common injuries -- she slips and falls, usually on the stairs, and then bites somewhere in her mouth with her sharp little teeth.
She wants to do everything like her big sis.  She doesn't want to go down the stairs backward anymore.  She wants to walk down like Delaney, which is scary.  I take her hand and help her do that, and she's so pleased.  When Delaney's standing on the step stool brushing her teeth, Annie gets up there and squeezes in alongside her on that step, and "brushes" her teeth too.  Whatever Delaney has, she wants.  When we got Delaney a backpack for school, Annie was upset that she didn't have one too.  She loves to try on that backpack when Delaney's generous enough to let her.  When she has it on, she laughs and runs around.  One time when Tim had taken Delaney out, and Delaney had forgotten her backpack (she likes to bring it everywhere), Annie walked up and handed me the backpack so I'd put it on her.  I said, "Yeah, you'd better get your backpack fix while she's not here!"

She's all but given up her morning nap this month.  I remember last month saying she was nowhere near ready to give it up, but that's how quickly things change.  She will still nap occasionally in the morning.  If she looks sleepy, I'll lay her down.  She may or may not sleep.  It makes me a little sad to see this big part of her babyhood falling by the wayside.  Why is she in such a big hurry to grow up?

A year ago today:  Annalise at five months

Thursday, October 14, 2010


It's been a month, more or less, since we our crazy summer ended and we were done traveling, and ready to start living in our new house in our new surroundings.  In that month, we've gotten a lot done, a few fun little projects, and we've re-established normalcy.  But I have to be honest here.  Since the dust has settled and Tim's gone back to work, I have to admit that I'm experiencing some loneliness and isolation.

It sounds pathetic, I know.  But I'm racking my brain trying to think of a way to meet new friends.  Tim warned me that life here would be different from Quantico, and I would have to "cast my net" wider, if I wanted to make friends.  Living on base at Quantico was a situation that would probably never happen again --so many families in such a small space with so much in common.  We knew when we chose to live off base that this might be an issue.  As we knew would be the case, now that we live in the middle of nowhere, gone are the days of putting the girls in the BOB stroller and pushing them to a friend's house for a playdate.  We live 10 minutes from the back gate of Cherry Point, and about 10 minutes from New Bern.  Technically, we're not that far from anything, but I feel like I'm on an island.  These days, I might take the girls out in the BOB, or just out into the yard to play (if I dare!!), and all I hear are frogs croaking and crickets chirping.  If I walk them or run them around the neighborhood, I might exchange a wave with a nice old retiree every now and then.

When Delaney started preschool last week, I hoped that this would provide a new opportunity to meet other moms.  Yes, there are other moms, and yes, I see them every morning waiting for the doors to open, while I stand there with my girls.  But I don't know how to break the ice.  I am so shy, it's ridiculous.  What am I supposed to say, "Is anyone in the market for new friends, because I've just moved here and I don't know anybody?"  "Shut up, weirdo!"  My shyness is probably mistaken for aloofness, and it's high school all over again.

There is an upside to this: my house is consistently cleaner.  When I'm not farting around on the Internet, or playing with my little girlfriends, I'm cleaning something, dusting something, vacuuming something.  But I know that winter will come and it will get cold, and I'll feel the walls close in.  If I don't have anyone to laugh and commiserate with by then, my husband and children will have a tiresome grouch on their hands.

Friday, October 8, 2010

Delaney at three and a quarter

Delaney's getting more and more observant all the time, and her memory has far surpassed mine in power.  Thank goodness for that.  She doesn't need to have Mama's swiss cheese memory to go through life with.  She tells me things like, "At our old house, we all slept upstairs."  "At our old house, the playroom was in the living room."  And she calls herself a "super finder", because she usually knows where things are.

She is also showing a nurturing side.  One day I went into her room after nap, and found all the little storage baskets had been taken out of her armoire.  Nestled inside the baskets were stuffed animals dressed in pajamas.  Delaney had been in there playing little mommy, and I thought it was the sweetest thing ever.
Sometimes she's a little mischievous.  For example, she'll be chasing Annie around in circles, and then give her a little bump, causing Annie to lose her balance and fall down.  You'd think it was an accident, but then you see that little smile.  Sometimes it's frustrating having a little sister who wants to be into everything she's into.  Now and then she loses her temper when she has to give Annie a turn with a toy, and she'd rather not.  She starts crying and slapping at her.  When I stop her and tell her, "We don't hit," she quickly apologizes and calms down, but keeps crying for a few minutes.  Sharing is not easy.  Within a couple minutes, I'm containing a kicking and screaming Annie while Delaney has a turn.

On Thursday, after I'd brought her home from her second day at school, she said, "Annie missed me."  I said, "Yes, she did."  Then she gave her a hug and said, "I love you, Annie."  I guess absence really does make the heart grow fonder.

She got the second haircut of her life this month.  I don't even think the first one counted; it was more of a formality, so I could get a few snips of hair in an envelope and call it a first haircut.  That was about a year ago.  This time she had a good three to four inches taken off, and now it's all nice and even at the bottom, and so much easier for me to work with.  Before, it was down to her lower back and getting pretty scraggly at the ends.
While he was visiting, Tim Sr brought up all the expressions she uses in conversation all the time: "Well, actually.." "How about..?"  And my favorite, "Does that sound like a deal?"  Her daddy uses that one a lot with her.  And then if we're telling her to do something she doesn't want to do (i.e., eat your dinner, then you can have a treat), she whimpers, "That's not a good deal."  It always makes me laugh when I hear her use a new grownup-sounding expression.
She started preschool on the 5th.  She goes on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 8:30 to noon.  She is thrilled to be going to school.  A few days before her first day, I gave her her backpack, and she and that backpack have been inseparable ever since.  I was worried she'd get cold feet on her actual first day, but she couldn't wait.  I left her in her classroom with a wave goodbye that she barely acknowledged because she was already off checking out the room.  When I came to pick her up, she told me she didn't want to go and started to cry.  Her teacher, Miss Melissa, offered her a Hello Kitty stuffed animal that she could borrow until Thursday.  That saved us from having to make a scene.  I thought kids were supposed to throw a fit when their parents leave them there the first day!

Later, when I asked her what she did at school, she said they'd had "circle time."  I asked her what you do at circle time.  "We just sit there," she said.  "Then I got up and my teacher said, 'You've got to sit back down so we can have circle time.'"  When I woke her up on Thursday (strangely, the only times she's slept in of late have been her two days of school) and told her it was time to get ready for school, the first thing she said was, "Circle time!"

A year ago today: Family pictures

Monday, October 4, 2010

Annie's room makeover

Finally, the Annie's room post.  First I had to wait on her vinyl decal to arrive, and then after that, I had to wait for a sunny afternoon for the best lighting to take the pictures.  I couldn't believe how long that took.  Finally, the sun broke through the clouds this evening, and we could take some pictures.  It was still a challenge, and they aren't the greatest photos, but they'll have to do. 

Once Delaney's room was done, our euphoria was short-lived.  Annie's was next, and we had no idea what to do with it.  We argued discussed, went to Lowe's, came back and talked some more.  I got so sick of talking about it that I started to not even care -- I just wanted it done!

We had made a half-hearted attempt at a nursery for her in Quantico, and bought a few things for her with a "Goodnight, Sleep Tight" motif.  Moon, stars, sheep, bunnies rubbing their eyes, all set against a twilight sky.  (I know, very cheesy, but this is the one time in their lives I get away with this.)  I wanted to keep those things, but I was no longer happy with the main colors of blue, yellow, and green.  It was as if we had picked them out while we were pregnant, and not knowing what they were having.  If we were to stick with those same colors for paint and everything, then we would have  a blah unisex nursery for our little girly-girl who is already trying on high heels and brushing her hair.  For awhile I was stumped and frustrated, thinking I either keep the whole theme with all the pieces we'd already acquired, or throw them out altogether in favor of something more feminine.

Then I had this great idea.  We have this book sitting on her hutch.  Ta-da! as Delaney says.
With this as our inspiration, we got to work picking paint colors for Annie's feminine lullaby-themed room.  This required several trips to Lowe's.  Tim would say to me, "Would you quit saying 'periwinkle'?"  He'd never heard of 'periwinkle', and when I showed it to him, he said, "It looks like blue to me."  We settled on a darker shade and a lighter shade.  I think once the colors were on the wall, they looked more purple than blue.  As you'll see in the pictures below, the room looks more blue or more purple depending on the lighting and the setting on the camera.  We almost decided the darker color would be the color right under the title of the book, and we found a good match.  I'm glad I decided against it, because it was too bold and too bright.

I was in favor of keeping it simple, with maybe three lighter colored walls and a darker accent wall; but Tim wanted to make sure he put has much sweat into her room as he had into Delaney's.  Otherwise, he would have felt guilty.  To assuage that guilt, he decided to paint the bottom half of the room one color, the top half the other, and put up a white chair rail.  What a difference that made!  I think his appreciation for chair rails first happened when he looked at our master bedroom here.  It is painted floor to ceiling "restless seas,"* which is a blue-gray that does look just like the ocean.  We love the color, but without the white chair rail in the middle, it would be really be too much.

Here is a 'before' picture:
This room was a spare room, I believe, so it's pretty dreary.  "Roasted garlic" was the wall color here.

And here are the after pictures.  I think we accomplished what we set out to do.  Mostly.
Tim showed me how to make the letters with Mod Podge, and I did them myself.  My big contribution!
Another vinyl decal found on Etsy.  "Twinkle Twinkle, Little Star.  Do you know how loved you are?"  Took its sweet time getting here, and in our haste to put it up, we stuck it on there a slightly crooked.  I wish I could have a do-over.
You can't tell, but the pink curtains are gingham, inspired by the gingham on the book cover.
I'm not completely happy with this last wall.  I agreed with Tim's idea to put up the shelves instead of just hanging up the wall art, in order to "break up" the pastel-ness of the whole thing.  However, something is bothering me here.  Not so much the gigantic wicker basket, supposedly to put toys in, but really just to take up empty space.  I don't know if I like it, but something has to go there, right?  Maybe the small pink "Prayer for a Little Girl" needs to move..?  

There was this whole other idea I had for this wall, and that was to take four or five pages out of Sleep, Baby, Sleep, and frame them and hang them there.  I love the pictures that are currently on the wall, but they're not working, for some reason.  I'd rather use what I have, and not go out buying new frames to hang up different things.  I'm stumped and open to suggestions.

*If you're wondering how I know that, it's because our landlords left us a "turnover binder" for the house.  Mr. Landlord is a Marine lieutenant colonel, and Marines like turnover binders.  The binder contains lots of helpful information, such as trash and recycling pickup days, important phone numbers, and manuals for the appliances.  I love this binder, and I find myself referring to it a lot.  What did we do as renters before we had something like this?  It also has a page of paint colors for every room, complete with paint cards.  I have noted the changes we've made so far in the binder, carefully taping our paint cards over theirs.:)

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Grandpa's visit and Tim's promotion

Tim Sr arrived here on Tuesday, the day that torrential rain started and did not let up for four long days.  The girls were in pajamas almost the entire time, I was in sweats, and we weren't going anywhere.  Fortunately, we hadn't made any big outdoor plans.  Delaney and Annie handled being stuck in the house a lot better with Grandpa around to play with them.  They weren't in my hair so much, and I did not descend into a pit of despair the way I normally do after many consecutive days of terrible weather.
Making Grandpa's hair pretty
We kept him pretty busy.  When he wasn't playing with our rambunctious little girls, he was out in the garage helping Tim finish our desk.  Tim has never built anything (at least not since wood shop in 7th grade), and he built this desk from scratch.  It started as a pencil diagram and now here it is sitting in our office.  He spent his last two weeks of leave working on it day and night.  It is beautiful, and so special to me.
The primary reason for his visit was Tim's promotion to major, which happened Friday morning.  Here's a picture Tim Sr took of the girls right before we left the house.  I love this picture.  They're growing up so fast.
Here we are pinning on his new rank.
After the promotion, The CO told us that they will be keeping Tim very busy.  He will be taking out the MEU (Marine Expeditionary Unit) detachment sometime late spring.  He will be on a ship for about seven months.  Between now and then he'll be doing a lot of preparation for that, so our days of seeing Tim walk in the door promptly at 4:30 every day are about to be over.  Tim gave a speech of his own in which he said that we're ready to "pay the piper" after four years of the good life in Boston and Quantico.  I don't know if I'm exactly ready, but ready or not, here it comes.  Tim's definitely ready -- he was hoping he'd get the MEU, so I'm happy for him.  The good news was Tim got the rest of Friday off!

The next morning it was time to say goodbye to Grandpa.  Like all visits, it went by too fast.  

A year ago today: A fun Saturday morning

Sunday, September 26, 2010

The best dinner in the history of dinners

Cincinnati has two of the best Indian restaurants I've ever been to.  They were where I had my first taste of Indian food, and nothing else has ever quite measured up.  Several months ago, Tim came across a recipe called Pastor Ryan's Chicken Tikka Masala, and made it for us one night.  It instantly became a date night in favorite and we have had it several times since, most recently last night.  I always look forward to the carnival of smells in our kitchen -- onions, garlic, ginger, and all those herbs and spices.

When I looked up the recipe and read the article, I was interested but not too surprised to see that this Pastor Ryan created this recipe with his favorite Indian restaurant in Cincinnati as inspiration (maybe the same one as mine!).  I don't know how he managed to steal their closely guarded secrets, but somehow he did.  I am grateful to Pastor Ryan for stealing the secrets, and to Tim for doing such a good job cooking it up.

It can be as mild or as spicy as you prefer.  The first time Tim made it, he used half a bottle of garam masala, and it was pretty intense.  This last time, he used only a little garam masala, and it was mild enough to share with Annie today at lunch.  We agreed it needed to be taken up a couple notches next time.  But still, I told him while we were eating it, "This is the best dinner in the history of dinners."  I decided I must share it with you.  You're welcome.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Fire Ants!

In our yard, we have three fire ant mounds that I can think of right off the top of my head.  I knew that we had a problem, but until I did a little research last night, I didn't know jack diddly about fire ants.

I thought that if I stepped on a fire ant mound, they would swarm on me and bite me, and it would burn.  Then I would scream and run to the nearest sink, or hose, or shower -- or if it was my child, I would run with her screaming to the nearest sink, hose or shower.  Then I would douse her or myself.  Turns out I was wrong on both counts.

If you step on a fire ant mound -- or just happen to be too close for their liking -- or happen to be standing between them and a food source -- first they will swarm you.  But here comes the part that's really disturbing.  They don't bite.  They use their mandibles to grab your skin and hold on tight.  Then, with the stinger in their abdomen, they stick you and release their venom.  Then they pull the stinger out, pivot while still attached, and do it again.  Then again and again in a circle.  Each  individual sting is a world of burning pain.  Just one ant will sting you numerous times.  But more likely, you will have 20 ants doing this simultaneously.

Running to a water source, even jumping into a pool, would  be a waste of time.  These are very tough bugs.  The only way to remove them is to wipe them off.  Then wash the skin with soap and water.  After that, you manage the pain, and then severe itching, as best you can with ice, benadryl, aloe, whatever it takes.  The stings are not deadly unless you are allergic.  You do not itch the pustules that have formed.  If it is your child, you do whatever it takes to make sure they don't itch it, because that will lead to infection.

Fire ants are among the hardest pests to get rid of.  They have no natural predator, and they can survive pretty much anything.  It takes 8 to 12 hours to drown them in a bucket.  They are native to almost nowhere, but can be found in almost all 50 states because as goods and people move around, so do they.  Just like bed bugs.

I know the Orkin man came to our house while we were traveling, because he called us and talked to us.  He left and they're still here.  That's what we're dealing with.

I am practically shaking because, for the last month we've been here, we've been letting our little girls run around in that yard, just telling them to stay away from the mounds.  How about nobody's allowed in the yard until these fire ants have been dealt with!  I thank God that we have all avoided run-ins with the ants so far.

My research has yielded so many suggestions for how to rid the yard of fire ants, that it's hard to know what to do.  Pour grits on the mounds.  Don't bother pouring grits on the mounds.  Tuck your pants into your socks and pour the whole ant mound into a bucket sprinkled with cornstarch.  Don't get too close to the mound, because you don't even know what too close is.

We'll have to figure something out.  I'll keep you posted.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Delaney's room makeover

First off, I want to say how thrilling it is to be making changes in this house.  We didn't make any changes in the Quantico house because it was base housing and we were only there a year.  It was really frustrating living in a house that was painter's beige all throughout, and hardly anything on the walls because why bother?  I think we've both been  looking forward to having a place for long enough to be able to make it our own.  There wasn't much we need to do paint-wise in this house -- just the little girls' rooms.

Delaney's room was item number one on the agenda when we got back from Massachusetts.  I love this room with the high ceiling and the big pretty window.  Before we came along, this room belonged to a set of two-and-a-half-year-old boy/girl twins.  The soft blue color worked for them, but we knew we wouldn't be keeping it around for long.


This was several days in the making, and truly a labor of love for Tim.  We decided to stick with the ladybug theme, since we still have all the pieces for it, and we still think it's so fitting.  Tim thought stripes would add a new twist, and I agreed.  The plan was to do three of the walls with stripes on the bottom and a pale green on top, with a painted pink border in lieu of the ladybug wallpaper border that we'd used for her nursery in Massachusetts.  The fourth wall, with the bed, would just be solid green from top to bottom.

Yikes, sorry about the dirty window.  We cleaned the inside, but I guess the outside needs it too.
The stripes were very time-consuming.  Tim got so sick of taping.    The colors worked out well, but we found that the pink border looked awkward somehow.  Tim got the idea to use a thin pine molding painted white on the edges of the border to break it up a little.  He had never done anything like that before, so he had to learn as he went.  From time to time he laments that he was 32 years old before he ever picked up any kind of tool.  I think he's catching up quick, though.  It was a lot of work, and there were a few mistakes along the way (like bang!  bang!  crack!  uh-oh!), but when he was done it looked really good.  We thought about stenciling something in the pink area, but after we'd put the rest of the room together, we concluded that would be overkill.
These are my baby shoes.
The letters over her bed are the same ones Tim made for the original nursery, with wooden letters from Michael's, scrapbook sheets, and Mod Podge.

The vinyl tree decal is something completely new.  I just decided I wanted a tree for Delaney's room, so I looked online and I found this one on Etsy.  It was a little departure from the theme, with its owls and orange butterflies, but I love it.  I spent Annie's morning nap putting on all those leaves individually.  Delaney's not as impressed as I thought she'd be, but she likes it.

All in all, I think this is the perfect bright and sunny little girl's room that fits Delaney to a T.  It's still kind of a nursery too, I realize, with the baby shoes and other baby-ish details.  She'll be 6 by the time we leave here, and I don't know if she still needs to have an ultrasound photo hanging up in her room when she's that old.  But those are small changes.

We're waiting on a couple finishing details for Annie's room, but otherwise it's finished, and I can't wait to show you what we did there too.