Sunday, February 28, 2010


My life this week:

Baking oatmeal chocolate chip cookies with Katie, reacquainting myself with Abraham Lincoln, planning a strategy for teaching The Great Gatsby with Sandy (and therefore remembering how much I love that novel and how much I truly will always love teaching), laughing over a "free pre-paid cremation" solicitation notice sent to Bill, reading more Steven Pinker, taking Katie to the bookstore this afternoon to pick out a few Berenstain Bear books (some of her favorites right now), finishing several loads of laundry, bringing out the springtime decorations, watching Katie revel in her gymnastics class, having fun with Katie during her music class, journeying to Fullerton for lunch with Nana (and Uncle Ross, Aunt Debbie, Fon, Violet, Jed, and my parents), spending time with my husband and enjoying our conversations, listening to Simon and Garfunkel, working with our new CPA, taking a walk to lunch with my dad and Katie, cuddling with my daughter in the rain, experiencing a revived intellectual life (which has been somewhat out of balance), fitting in some studying for my real estate exam, making homemade tacos from the family recipe, pondering, eating strawberries, looking at the bright moon, looking forward...

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

The Quest for Authenticity

I've been a little out of touch with my authentic self the past few days, probably because I haven't been taking the time to do a little writing... I was a bit behind on my gratitude journal, I haven't blogged in a few days, and I haven't even jotted any lines of poetry. Personal writing is a way to make a daily connection with that true inner voice that helps to keep me centered. That voice always speaks words of who I hope to be, and only when I connect with that part of myself do I feel truly whole. When I don't write, I feel more tired, more disconnected with my energy source. I need to feel the fire of my deepest words---even if I don't share all of them in this space---that fire that burns up fear and consumes uncertainty.

The writing I had done most recently was for my 5th Toastmasters speech. My first drafts could hardly be counted as real writing: I had so much doubt about the 5th assignment (body movement) that I did not throw my heart totally into the project and held part of myself in reserve when doing the initial drafting. I should know better than to write half-heartedly, but I also knew it was due today... The only thing worse than not writing is writing something that is fake: not only was I not renewing my energy, but also I was draining it by trying to torture words into something contived and perfunctory. It is a really personal thing to me when my writing isn't ringing true or when words aren't working for me; in fact, it makes me feel downtrodden and out of sorts, like part of my life-force is gone.
I thought I was going to be doomed to deliver a disappointing (to myself) speech today, that the words just wouldn't come in time. It's been sitting heavy on my heart all weekend. I wasn't proud of it at all. There is no victory, personal or otherwise, in representing yourself or your words as something without soul, without passion. It was breaking my heart this weekend to think I would have to present something devoid of my voice, and I wasn't sure if my voice would come back.
Last night, a fortunate event happened. When I sat down to revise my speech, I realized that I can only be me. I thought about my philosophical truths, and I thought about how I would explain my topic without pretense. I could feel my authentic voice returning, and it returned in full when I decided not to be in fear of the assignment, but to meet the challenge with honesty and vulnerability.
I think that happy turn of events, and Bill suggesting without any form of irony or sarcasm that I have a handful of chocolate chips, has revitalized me. I felt reinvigorated last night, like a weight had been lifted. One of the greatest burdens in life is trying to achieve something without an authentic passion. Nothing is worth doing if it isn't authentic. I may not always be certain about everything I think on every subject, but I know what rings true for me and what doesn't.

Anyway, I was able to deliver a speech of which I was proud, although I was also nervous today. I love to make gestures when I speak, but trying to make exaggerated gestures choreographed for a speech is difficult for me. I am demonstrative in many ways, I suppose: I love to dance in public, sing, be silly, show affection, etc., but when I speak I like to use body movements that feel very sincere and organic. So this was new for me. I did it, but I am relieved to be going to the next assignment. One of the critiques for my speech today was that some of my gestures weren't exaggerated and dramatic enough, and I agree...but that's okay. I long ago decided that I have a quieter but very sincere kind of intensity and life-power, and despite all evidence of my 1st grade slumber party to the contrary, it is difficult for me to be overt and very over-the-top loud (in either tone or body).

My evaluator did notice this, though, when he said that some of my movements of opening my arms in the beginning felt like more naturally me, and that he could tell that I am an open and welcoming person, who wanted to welcome all of them into my "miraculous world" as he called it. I loved that description... Our time is wasted if we don't create little magical worlds for ourselves and others, so I was pleased that he recognized that a) I do live in my own world; and b) that it is a very happy one most of the time; and c) that I love to bring others into my world in order to nurture them.

What people may forget so often, though, is that I am very lucky to have married a husband who protects the world in my head. He vowed to do so, and he has not let me down. He keeps me from cynacism as much as I keep myself from it. He likes to come with me into my little happy world. He never minds when I make up holidays or take an abundance of joy out of the smallest thing.

We're kind of like the wolf and her doggy-friend we encountered at the San Diego Zoo's sea lion show on Sunday. The trainer explained that the wolf is by nature inward and likes to keep to itself, extremely clever and discerning, but hasn't too much use for company. So the trainers decided to get the wolf a little social doggy friend when both animals were three months old. The dog, Nahla, tends to be more carefree and, well, you all know how dogs are. Together, both the wolf and the dog are happier and are best friends. I think Bill is the wolf, and I am Nahla.
Katie loved the zoo. We had a bit of rain, but we got to see gorillas and our new favorite, hippos!!!! They were swimming under water. We also saw the pandas, but not the newborn. I love family outings so much.

I've also been studying for my real estate license exam. The practice tests are going well but could be better. It is rare to get quiet time to study, and some of my studying is done with about half my brain if I try to sneak some in when Katie is doing something else. I need a better and more efficient system for studying, and it is weighing on me. If I really want to know the material, I don't believe that multi-tasking and paying half-attention is the way to do it. I've come far (finished three courses) with this method, but the test is a bigger deal. I want to make sure I put in the right kind of time really to know it. Doing things half-way is not my style.
I have been used to staying up late and cutting sleep to get things done since Katie's birth, but I have needed more sleep now that I am pregnant. I need to figure out another plan, other than not getting enough rest.

Anyway, we have some pictures from the past few days:
Bill and Katie watching the sea lions...
Katie, in her helmet, is ready for some tricycling.

My big girl, or as she has dubbed herself, my "Big Girl Baby."

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Happy Days

This week has been zooming along in its superduper busy way! I love that each day is its own blend of adventure and productivity, but I can feel myself needing to slow the pace down a bit soon. Katie noticed I was dragging a bit this morning, and so she sweetly cuddled with me in bed so I could sleep just a bit more (she ended up falling back asleep, too). Then we read books for awhile and ate breakfast before going on errands (UPS store, the bank, and the market). I have allergies for some reason, and Katie has been sweet all day, saying she would itch my nose for me and giving me kisses, saying she hopes I feel better. She thinks it is pretty funny when I sneeze, though!

On Tuesday, we had our final art class in the first six-week series. Katie greeted Miss Meaghan with a big hug. We are excited that we'll be back in class after another six weeks.

Also on Tuesday, I was Toastmaster at our meeting, which means I got to conduct the meeting. I chose the theme of "Political and Personal Revolution" to correspond with celebrating President Washington this month. I opened with a line from a Beatles song, then talked about the right to revolution in the U.S. Declaration, and then tied that into a personal right to overthrow the tyranny our own minds can sometimes exact upon us. My message was that we must rid ourselves of the fear and lack of reason that holds us back from being the best version of ourselves that we can be...and that we must embrace our freedom to be exactly who we are. Only then, by changing ourselves and holding ourselves to high standards, can we hope to change the world. We had a great meeting, and I loved leading it. I was reminded of aspects of teaching, and I know that part of me will always be called toward teaching. I do miss it at times, but I know the simple truth is that I would miss Katie MORE if I went back to it. We can't always have everything in life coexisting at one time. I am just thankful I did get to be a teacher for so many years.

On Wednesday, then, Katie and I began her gymnastics course. She has a natural love for very physical things. We worked on balance beams, very low vaults, bars (she held on and the instructor helped her to touch her toes to the bar), a climbing wall, trampolines, air-filled bouncy mats...all kinds of things. She was really enthusiastic about it and was eager to try everything. Katie has been talking about her class today, too, which tells me that she really connected with it. We'll see if gymnastics becomes an ultimate passion of hers, though it is exciting to watch her explore. I did dance growing up, and I was thinking of leading Katie in the same direction. However, although Katie loves to dance at home, she has been direct with me about not wanting to take a dance course right now. I have asked her a few times, and without prompting, she told me that she does not want to dance in front of other people. Gymnastics, though, really seems to excite her. So maybe we will find ourselves heading toward that path. In our child-rearing plan, Bill and I would love for Katie to have a sport if we can find one she loves.

After gymnastics on Wednesday, we drove with my mom to Newport to visit Grandpa Yoder. Aunt Debbie brought us the fixings for a BLT...delicious! We ate them with ice cold milk and an Oreo cookie. A perfect lunch, and Grandpa Yoder's favorite. We talked about going to Idyllwild, and also about gymnastics (Grandpa Yoder was a gymnast, actually). We had a pleasant day.

And finally, finally, I have all of my tax information sent to our new CPA. She really is awesome, so on top of everything. What a smart woman. Her questions are thorough and well-researched, especially about some of our more complex issues. She is great about using e-mail, and so fast in her responses. My dad really found someone competent and professional. And now I think I will just need to sit back and wait for the news about our returns. Hurrah.

So life is good, but I have been pushing myself a little too much. I have been negligent on the exercise this week, and as a result I can feel my energy slipping. I'm feeling good with Little Sib, though. I have the strangest cravings, but I realized most of them fall into the category of breakfast foods. Consequently, Bill has been getting some really odd dinner combinations: fish filets, tortellinis, and fresh-baked muffins, for example. Or tonight: chicken breast, waffles, and pineapple. (Actually, chicken and waffles is a well known dish, except usually it is done with fried chicken). And that's if he really gets much of a dinner at all. Yesterday it was just chicken and beans for him. Most dinner foods do not sound good at all to me, and by that time of day, my energy is at its lowest point. But you know what? He never, ever, ever complains. Bill is such a good, good man: peaceful and supportive even when he sees the chicken breasts making an appearance or even on the nights (more frequent this month) when he is left to his own devices, as the thought of smelling dinner food while cooking it sounds revolting to me (sometimes if Katie asks for a turkey dog, I wince because the smell turns my stomach over). I love my husband so much.

Anyway, I think I need to slow down a bit this weekend and take some walks with my girl. Talking with Katie while walking is super peaceful to me, and I love spending time with her in that way. Bill has another three-day weekend, too, so maybe we'll take some time out to go somewhere natural and beautiful as a family.

It is time to remember balance...

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Valentine's Day!

All day I kept thinking about how lucky I am in this life to be Bill's wife and Katie's mommy and my parents' daughter and my Nana's great-granddaughter, and on and on. I felt so loved today, and I feel very fortunate to have so many people to love in return, people who love to absorb and feel magic, to make themselves in harmony with the parts of life that are beautiful.

This Valentine's Day weekend has been one of the best in my life. After a day in the snow with my loves yesterday, my heart was already filled to contentment.

Yet Bill, being the perfect husband for me, continued to make my Valentine's Day magical. He gave me another amazing gift today: time to meet with my philosophers group in Murrieta. A couple of months ago, a fellow Toastmaster invited me to become a part of another group that meets once a month. The group is conducted like an 18th century salon, structured yet informal at Gene's house. Bill watched Katie this morning for a few hours while I went to exercise my mind and to see if I want to make the salon a regular activity. I am the youngest in the group by ten years. Then there is one 40-year-old, and then a few people in their 50s, and the remainder are well over 60 and into their 80s. I was one of three females there today, and sixteen people came. I have not enjoyed a conversation in a group like the one I had today since my university days. I felt so much at home. I would have thought I would have been nervous or even intimidated, but for some reason, I had no fear and was able to jump right in. I just really loved being there. I have always felt more at home with people much much older than I (ha ha obviously, see my husband choice), with a few important exceptions. Today we talked about the role of love in human progress. We began with trying to define love and then to decide whether love was integral to being human and how love relates or does not relate to the role of logic in our lives. The topics diverged to forgiveness (a theme I have been pondering in depth for a couple of months now) and then musical and philosophical dissonance vs. harmony. Every member of the group brought a different approach to the topic, and many were witty and told some hilarious jokes. I do not really go out anywhere by myself---ever. I do not ever do girls' nights out, or even run down to Starbucks alone. I love being with others, but I loved the moment of independence today, of driving somewhere to an adventure that was like a little treasure just for me. I haven't experienced that for a long, long time. And I loved being able to come home and tell Bill all about it, about all the people I met today, and what we thought about.

I could not have asked for a better or more thoughtful gift today. This weekend Bill gave me a snow day and a philosopher's salon...Bill really knows me so well, and I love that he chose unique presents. I told him that I didn't even need a card or anything else, but he surprised me at dinner with a music card and a heart-shaped box of chocolates. He is so sweet and chooses experiences as gifts that remind me of the best parts of myself. These two days have helped to put me back in touch with some of my essence, which I lose touch with now and then in the busy day to day tasks of running a home and caring for others. He gave me the gifts of playtime and intellectual vitality this year. Probably the two gifts I needed in my life the most right at this moment...

I love Bill so much, and I love that he often knows me better than I know myself. To really put the icing on the cake, I discovered when I got home that he and Katie made videos for me on his iPhone and e-mailed them to me while I was gone. One video was of Katie saying, "I love you, Mommy" and the other was Katie saying, "Happy Valentine's Day." Seriously, how tremendously lucky I am to have Bill as my husband and valentine? This man knows how to celebrate...

In the afternoon, my parents came over for a fondue party! I made cheese fondue (emmantaler and gruyere) with: bread chunks, potatoes, chicken and apple sausage, apple slices, and blanched broccoli. And then we had chocolate fondue with: pineapple chunks, banana slices, strawberries, pound cake, and marshmallows. I love fondue, and it seems to fit well into a Valentine's Day celebration. With sparkling apple cider and lighted candles, our little party was complete. The afternoon air was perfectly soft and warm drifting in through the windows, and the sound of the waterfall outside added extra ambiance.

I could not have asked for a more perfect weekend!!!

Here are some pictures from today's celebration:

Katie opens her valentine from Mommy and Daddy...

Mommy and her little valentine girl....

Fondue party!!!!

Katie dances in her room, having just put on her dress for the party. She was twirling about and looking at her dress in the mirror.

Cheese fondue and accompaniments.

Chocolate fondue and Katie eating a strawberry with Amie.

My valentine husband.

I am so lucky to be married to this amazing and loving man. I know that everyday, and I know no other potential mate could ever have loved me the that way he truly does...

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Katie's First Snow Day

Idyllwild is such a special place for us. Bill and I have spent a couple of Valentine's celebrations up there, and of course we honeymooned there and occasionally return to our favorite B&B for anniversarymoons. We love the mountain air, the slower pace, the beauty of nature surrounding us, the lack of franchises and prominence of mom-and-pops, and the interesting people we meet there, like Bubba, who was back at his used bookstore today (we thought something had happened to him when he wasn't there last May) and the opera-singing waiter at one of our favorite eateries.

Bill suggested that we take Katie this weekend to see snow for the first time and to celebrate Valentine's Day in one of our favorite places. I have been so excited about the trip, and we had the most beautiful day.

Although we could see that some of the snow had melted as we climbed up the mountain to 5000 feet, when we got to Idyllwild itself there was still an abundance of snow. Bill and I both had the same idea: we thought that the most snowy place would be in the shady valley by the Strawberry Creek, next to our inn. Plus we wanted Katie to play in a place where we as her parents have spent some special moments. Sure enough, pure white snow, most of it relatively untouched, lay blanketing the creekside for miles. Katie knew that she was about to go play in snow, and she was so tremendously excited to get out of the car. As we walked along the creek with the scent of thick wet pine all around us and the rushing peal of burbling water next to us, Katie giggled and squealed in delight. Several times she said, "This is fun! This is fun!"

I never knew how beautiful Katie could be in the snow and crisp mountain air. Her whole face grew more radiantly ivory and soft while her cheeks reddened with warmth and exertion. She was in her element as she climbed and ran along and stomped and hiked. Her most favorite activity was something she came up with herself: throwing snowballs at Daddy! He was definitely her favorite target and she would giggle as she threw. Of course, we threw some back at her, which made her laugh even more.

We also found an untouched clearing and made snow angels together. In another place, we made a snowman. Bill and I took her to our favorite spot along the creek, and Bill had a loving idea: he drew a heart in the snow and we all put our handprints in the heart together. That is the best valentine I think I could ever receive.

As we walked along, I told her how special Strawberry Creek is to our family. I told her how Daddy and I walked there the morning after we were married, and how, the next year, I walked along the same spot pregnant with her thinking about how much I wanted her. We showed her the gazebo where Daddy and I sat just outside the inn and talked about baby names (we didn't yet know whether she was a boy or a girl).

Taking her by our inn and along the creek and to Idyllwild in general was incredibly significant to me today. Probably just about the best present Bill could give to me this weekend...

After playing in the snow for awhile, we all went to JoAnn's---the restaurant where Bill and I ate dinner on the first night of our marriage. Then we explored the town, played with some more snow, and had a cherry snow cone.

There was more we wanted to do or could have done, but we had stayed for a few hours and we knew Katie would fall asleep on the ride home so we didn't want to leave too late. Katie really, really didn't want to leave. And honestly, part of me didn't either. It was a magical day. To comfort her and myself I talked about how this day would always be part of our hearts forever and that it is good to leave a place still longing for it...and that we would return.

I could have played in the snow with my daughter and my husband all day long. I love them both so much, and tucked away in the little creek valley, I felt at times as though we were away from all the world in a little secret, wonderful place, a place of dreams.

Now for our pictures:

We began the day with a special breakfast: Katie and I made heart-shaped pancakes together, along with bacon and eggs.

Yum, yum! Katie loved the strawberries this morning, especially.

Exploring the creekside valley of beautiful...

Throwing a snowball at Daddy (if you look, you can see it mid-air in this picture).

Katie looks at the Strawberry Creek Inn...

My snowy little angel....

Sheer elation...she loved everything about the snow...

A picture of snow day when it first began...

Daddy and Katie order some lunch...

A jubilant Katie stands on a tree stump with a view of the snow-covered mountain in the distance...

With my little girl in the snow amidst the fir trees...

Katie bends down to make another snowball...

Reflecting as she looks at the creek. We let her touch the creek, and it was COLD! We explained that it was melted snow from the mountaintop.

Katie's snowman. She wanted a carrot for the nose, but when we explained that we didn't have one, she came up with the idea to use a pine needle.


Friday, February 12, 2010

Music and Crafts

After our absence from music last week due to Katie's bout with the stomach virus, she was so happy to see her music teacher, Miss Kara, that she went and gave her a hug at the start of class! Katie doesn't hug many people, so it was touching to see that Miss Kara got one. It shows me how much Katie loves her and our music class. I knew she did, but I can see a little glimpse of how much that time means to her.
We had an awesome class and then, once back in Temecula, we picked up our supplies for our Valentine's Day fondue party. Home again, it was time for lunch and some cleaning. We also made some chocolate cupcakes (Katie has been asking for a few days), dancing around to "Friday I'm in Love" by The Cure.
This afternoon we had a Valentine's Day crafting session at our Vintage Hills clubhouse. There was a cupcake decorating station and an abundance of supplies for making several different kinds of valentines. Katie loved decorating her cupcake, and we made three valentines! She said she had fun and she was smiling the whole time with delight radiating from her eyes. In fact, one of the high school helpers said that Katie was the cutest little girl she's ever seen. What mother wouldn't want to hear that? However, I know from experience that there are many, many adorable toddlers and babies in the world. I think moreso that the young lady was reacting to Katie's joy---and that makes me feel even better than an assessment of outer appearances. True joy in the heart is infectious, and I want to cultivate it in Katie. When I meet people, I try to assess if they have that, if they have a passion for being alive, if they make their own magic. One of my favorite teachers and friends, Mrs. Dutton, is one of those people.

Anyway, Katie had a joyful afternoon. Here are some pictures (as I scramble to finish this entry before the Olympic opening ceremony):
Katie and her puppy, now named "Lady," are ready to go to our crafting session. Lady went everywhere with us today.
Katie has so much fun coloring and pasting. She even helped me to cut a little today!

Hard at work...

Concentrating on decorating her cupcake (in front of her). She placed everything on top in her own arrangement. Then she ate some of it when we got home!

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Valentine's Day Week!

I love Valentine's Day, and I love celebrating all week long. Valentine's Weekend is one of my favorite weekends of the year. I love celebrating love. Yes, love is to be celebrated daily all through the year, but I love having a day to wear hearts, pink and red, eat goodies, give and receive little happy cards, everything. Romantic love, platonic love, baby love, friend love---why not have a day when these are the values most forefront in everyone's mind?

This weekend is going to be so awesome---we have quite a bit planned. Today, though, I decided we should start the celebration officially by taking a trip to Build-a-Bear. We have never been, but I just knew we'd love it!

Katie absolutely adores dogs, so she decided to make a doggy. We picked out a brown and white doggy body with a red collar and stuffed her. Katie picked out a heart, and we put the heart inside her doggy before sewing her up. Then Katie got to give her new friend an air bath and a fur-brushing---this was Katie's favorite part. Afterward, we picked out an outfit. Katie liked the denim skirt and the pink hoodie with hearts on it---very appropriate for Valentine's Day!

Her new doggy has been by her side all the rest of the day, and she is cuddling with her as she sleeps. We even took her with us to Costco for Katie's favorite meal: cheese pizza and a berry smoothie. We had a fun mother-daughter date today.

Katie's next request is for us to bake some chocolate cupcakes. We didn't quite get to it this afternoon as I thought we might. Maybe tomorrow... We've got music class tomorrow morning as well as a Valentine's Day crafting session through our homeowner's association clubhouse tomorrow afternoon---and we have to get all of our ingredients for our fondue party!

Life is so beautiful that we celebrate in some degree every day, but there's nothing like a little holiday here and there as an excuse to make life extra abundant and fun and magical. I never need much of a reason and have been known to make up my own holidays here and there. I am so excited that this weekend has a little extra dazzle to it and that Bill has a three-day weekend to celebrate with us.

Now for a few pictures:

Katie hugs her new puppy at Build-a-Bear. She was kissing her and after she was stuffed, Katie said, "I love you, doggy."

Giving her friend a bath...

Cuddling with her puppy after her bath...

Katie in her room with her doggy....

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Faeries in the Rain

Katie is feeling much better, for which I am so thankful. Now we just have to work on making sure my mom gets well...

We had our art class this morning, with a focus on Georgie O'Keefe. We used a watercolor gradient wash technique to make flowers. We learned about warm color tones and cool color tones. This was probably Katie's best project so far. She really had a knack for the technique and didn't need too much assistance from me at all. It helped, probably, that we use watercolors frequently. Katie loves our teacher, Miss Meagan. Katie gave her the biggest smile when we entered class today, and Miss Meagan commented on how good it made her feel. I have been so satisfied with the Abrakadoodle experience. We have one more class and then our original plan was to take gymnastics for the next six weeks. Then we are signed up for the art class again. I want to see what Katie loves most: art, music, gymnastics, or all three? She has connected with music and art for sure, so we'll see what else catches her passion. I think one of our biggest responsibilities as parents is guiding our children through the process of discovering their passions in life. Bill and I don't believe in pushing children into anything they don't love---except maybe to try it and see and to make informed decisions. Yet we also want to expose our children to many different hobbies and interests and then nuture those enthusiasms. We do not believe in the concept of boredom or in being bored with life; we never understand people who say they are bored, as neither of us have ever felt that way...there is so much to read, learn, and do that living well is a matter of finding what inspires you and following it.

We came home for a moment after art class and finished addressing all of our valentines so that we could swing them by the post office on the way to some errands. Boppa stopped by, and we made plans to meet with a new CPA tomorrow. It is a long story---and not one appropriate for a blog to be sure---but we are no longer going to retain the services of our current CPA. He made a huge mistake, a HUGE mistake on something incredibly important. Anyway, I had to gather up the last three years worth of my returns and she is going to review all the family stuff tomorrow. I want to meet her before I totally engage her services.

Then Katie and I went to the Paperback Shack and really got lucky!!! We found several Berenstain Bear books and not ones I saw recently at Barnes and Noble. In fact, we found all of my favorites. We scored big also on an Eloise Wilkin book. Each book is only a couple of dollars at most. Awesome!

We made a quick dash into CVS in the pouring rain, then came home and splashed around in our raincoat and rainboots.

Later we read all of our new books, cuddling on the couch as the rain poured outside. We watched a bit of The Sound of Music and Katie discovered that, yes, she actually does like peanut butter. Such a perfect food...I knew I just had to be patient. ;-) Katie loves The Sound of Music and likes to sing along. We only watched the first half and then played some more.

We put together some puzzles, worked on our sewing cards, and dressed up as faeries.

Katie and I had several excellent conversations today. During lunch we were discussing our extended family, as we often do, sorting out the relationships. We talk about how people are related to other people, who is a brother and sister, who is married, and how generations work. When I quiz her on the relationships, Katie shows that she understands the complexity of it.

At one point I asked her, "And who is Violet's mommy?"

Katie correctly answered, "Fon."

I asked, "And who is Violet's Daddy?"

Katie said, "Jed."

Then I started asking about Amie's siblings. I said at one point, "Who is Amie's older sister?"

She said, "Aunt Debbie." Then she paused and said, "Sometimes she's Grandma."

I said, "Yes, you are right. Sometimes Aunt Debbie is Grandma. Whose Grandma is she?"

Katie said correctly, "Violet's Grandma."

I sometimes bring out the pictures of people who have passed, as I did today. Katie identified Uncle Eric as Amie's older brother. We talked quite a bit about Grandpa Don today, too. She seemed to make the connection, in particular today, that he is Boppa's daddy. We talked about how he lived at Valley Center part of the time and I said, "Guess what he liked to pick at Valley Center?" Katie's eyes lit up when I reminded her that Grandpa Don liked to pick avocadoes at Valley Center.

We talk about how Amie was Nana's baby and then grew up and married Boppa. Then they had a baby, and I said, "And who was their first baby?" Katie knew it was me. Then I asked her who Amie and Boppa's second baby was, and she knew it was Uncle David. I talked about how I grew up and married Daddy and then we had Katie. And then I said, "And now Uncle David is grown up, and it is his turn to get married. Who is Uncle David going to marry?"

And Katie knew: "Ashley."

Not only do I want Katie to love and appreciate her family, old and new, but also this kind of review and exercise is so good and natural for holding many moving parts and relationships in her head. She is building a whole schema and needing to hold it in her mind as we negotiate different people and how they relate. What I am really asking her to do is almost like a logic puzzle, and I am asking her to visualize all of the elements/people in her mind and connect them in her own way. I love doing this with our family structure, because then the importance of family is likewise impressed upon her.

She also used another simile today, which I loved. As I was cutting her waffles this morning before class, two pieces were still somewhat attached, and one dangled from the other as she picked it up. Katie described, "It is hanging like a windchime." Very cool.

I have some pics to post with this entry, but I might have to do it later! It is getting a bit late!

Monday, February 8, 2010

Joys from the Past Week

Thankfully, Katie seems much improved today (so far as we can tell). We've had great success with our diet today, and she was able to move back to soy milk without a problem. A reprieve from lactose (all three of us do not tolerate too well, and my side of the family has an extensive history of lactose intolerance) seems to have helped her a bit, giving her intestines a respite.

After marketing with Amie, we came home, had lunch, and worked on our homemade valentines this year. I am very happy with what we created with what we had around the house. I will probably put up pictures later, after our family members receive them this week. Katie helped to color, glue, and draw, and the valentines really represent a dual effort. We each had creative freedom, and yet the final product looks like a unified whole aesthetically. We're sending them to aunts, uncles, cousins, even great-aunts and great-uncles. It's nice to put a little love out there, and we sure had fun crafting together to our love-song themed playlist on our iPod. Tomorrow we'll decorate a little more and finalize our menu for our Valentine's Day fondue party! I can't wait! Bill has a three day weekend, too, so I know we'll do something extra special as a family on one of those days. We're trying to figure out exactly what...

We played outside for awhile as our valentines dried. Katie asked to practice riding her tricycle, and she is improving. She was even able to pedal herself forward just a little bit.

Katie gets ready to practice riding her tricycle...

She was able to pedal herself forward a little on the sidewalk...

We also played our Goblin Game (we have a very elaborate fantasy tale going at this point, with River Base and Berry Base and an oracle and swords of truth and healing bark, etc.). We also ran around and were just silly. I love ending the day with some fresh air.

Other happy news: my brother David and my future sister-in-law Ashley asked me to be the officiant at their wedding on June 5th! How awesome is that? I am so excited that I will be performing their ceremony. What a totally meaningful memory with them. I will have to find something very maternity-chic to wear that day!

Their wedding planning is really shaping up well. Ashley is absolutely the most organized bride-to-be I've ever known, outside of Carol (one of my best friends Steve's wife). I was looking at her wedding binder, which is indexed and color coded. They are getting married in a beautiful venue in Temecula. We got to see Ashley in her dress, and she looks gorgeous. Of course, she would look beautiful in any dress because she is so svelte and lithe...but I can tell that she will make a stunning bride. I love, too, that I can see that they are putting their own personal touches on many of the elements: the wedding will really be suited and personalized to them.

My brother's wedding is only four months away! By the time it is here, I will have only a handful of weeks before Little Sib is here. This year is zooming by so fast.
Here are a few other pictures I've been meaning to post:
Amie gave Katie some rainboots, which she loved!!

Katie stomped around in the rain before visiting Uncle David and Ashley on Saturday...

Katie and Amie waited with me to hear Little Sib's heartbeat last Thursday....

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Not So Easy

Life has been not so easy this weekend, but I can't really complain because there have been many joys even amidst various trials.

Katie is still sick with gastroenteritis (stomach virus). While she seemed to be recovering a couple of days ago, last night her symptoms were back in full force. Her intestines are obviously very irritated, and I was worried for awhile last night that we would not be able to keep even fluid down. She does not have a fever: last night she measured 98.2 and this morning 97.6. Her pediatric office said a fever might return right about now, but so far so good.

She isn't particularly lethargic and thankfully exhibits none of the signs of dehydration. In fact, she is downstairs playing with Amie and seems to be having a grand time.

The biggest challenge, for me, has been coaxing her to take the right fluids and to eat the white, bland diet prescribed to her. Katie doesn't particularly crave juice (and normally, that's great---because juice can be so full of extra sugar that I'd rather she have her 2% milk or water), but in this case, she MUST have juice if solids don't sit well in her intestinal tract. So we have been doing the "take two sips of juice and then a sip of water" routine every few minutes. She is listening and being good about it, but it takes quite a bit of gentle coaxing, logical reasoning, and patience---when really inside my mind, my tendency is to feel panicked about her being the slightest bit ill, especially with an ailment that can lead so quickly to dehydration without vigilance.

As I mentioned before, we don't eat much bland, white food. Even getting her to eat white bread made into toast has been met with extremely limited success. We have also been trying to avoid heavy meats (she has had some boiled chicken), but this is a child who loves spicy tacos and flavorful turkey sausage. Thankfully Katie loves fruit...although some of her favorites like pineapple and oranges are not options right now (too much acid). We've been eating applesauce and pears, which she enjoys. She loves whole grain crackers, and she is not very impressed by the saltines (although I love them). She does not really want to try the cream of chicken soup I bought. Some of her favorite vegetables are also off-limits right now. And Katie has always had (from the moment we started rice cereal it seemed) about what she wants to eat and how much she wants to eat it. The more she senses my urgency in wanting her to eat something, the more she looks askance at it. That has been the single biggest challenge of motherhood for me: trusting that she will not starve herself and knowing when to be kind but firm in offering her food without making a dozen different dishes. It has been easy to lose patience at times, but I continue to learn that showing emotion about it only makes her eat less. So now with a restricted diet, too,'s been rough going (but mostly just in my own head as I fret and fret and fret). She hasn't eaten much today, but I figure the reprieve from many solids will give her intestines a chance to rest, anyway.

We have been trying to give her pedialyte, of course. She can detect the unflavored version in water and will have nothing to do with it---it is way too sugary, even I think so. The grape flavor is also not to her liking. Thank GOODNESS Bill found apple flavored pedialyte last night. I have been mixing it with apple juice, and she doesn't seem to be able to tell. My child is very difficult to fool---with respect to anything. Even when I talk extremely obliquely on the phone with Amie about how things are going, Katie will talk in the background about how she doesn't want to go see the doctor about this. ;-)

I am so thankful that Katie slept well last night and after 8:00 PM, she was able to keep all fluids on board. I can hear everything sloshing in her guts when we cuddle, but she has not vomited again today---now we're back to loose bowels, which today seem to be firming up sligtly. I am really hoping she feels better again soon... Tomorrow will be Day 7, and her pediatrician said that was the approximate outer limit. Please, please, please be better. There is nothing harder in life, I think, than to see my child feeling ill. I would rather it be me a thousand times over than her.

Since she seemed to be feeling better yesterday, we went to visit my brother and his fiancee in Culver City. We had a lovely visit and I enjoyed myself, but I do feel bad because I wonder if the exertion of the trip contributed to Katie's relapse.

Today we stayed in our pajamas all day and have mainy been working on our fluids, nibbles of solid foods, and cuddling. We watched Cinderella together and played house with her dollhouse. I have been working on laundry, and Amie came over so I could take my last final for my last real estate course (escrows). Now I am ready to devote time fully to study/review for the license exam in San Diego. I am very excited that this goal has almost been met. I considered pushing off my final to another day, but I thought I should get it done. Next week I am hoping to have a more mild week, focused on Valentine's Day prep and fun with Katie, who I hope will feel better.

So this weekend has been filled on the one hand with: taxes, final exams, illness, loads of daily laundry (related to illness), and worry

But on the other hand: family time and supportive members, cozy rain, the bookstore, airplanes up close as they landed at LAX yesterday, cuddling, homemade bread, and the promise that not all weekends will be as stressful as this one.

Katie and I also watched Groundhog Day together over the course of two evenings, so yay for that, too!

Friday, February 5, 2010

Making My Day

At some point as I sat on the floor working on tax paperwork in my old college sweatshirt sans make-up and watching a Clint Eastwood movie, I began to wonder: at what point today did I become a boy?

The good news is that our tax packet is almost ready to be sent to our CPA and most everything is filled out. We have some complex property issues, and so we send them off to our family guy. He is actually my second or third cousin or something like that, a nice man who works in Huntington Beach. The tax packet is pretty thorough and there are lots of documents and numbers we're accounting for. It takes me awhile to fill out all the paperwork every year, but I have a system of record keeping now that has reduced the time significantly.

I am just glad that my time on our taxes this year has almost come to a close. Outside of raising Katie and managing our household, I am also in the midst of studying for my real estate license exam, growing a second child, etc. Sometimes I do feel the pressure from so many responsibilities all at one time, I admit. Yet I still buy into the overachiever psychology that Stanford used to warn us about: various dorm programs brought up the idea that many of us work harder than it seems to other people, because we believe we also have to make it all appear easy to observers. It has been said that Stanford students are like ducks on water: we're kicking, kicking, kicking beneath the surface, but to the outward eye we try to cultivate the appearance of gliding without struggle. I am not sure it is always healthy for me to pretend as though nothing is difficult---I do have difficult days when the amount of work I have before me seems like more than I can ever really do, and do well. Yet I have this obsession (a symptom of perfectionism, I guess) about trying to appear as though I am constantly on top of everything and that nothing is hard. That kind of mentality gets exhausting, sometimes.

Anyway, the best part of the day was this morning and early afternoon. Katie and I danced in her room (she likes to pretend to do ballet moves), and then we ate breakfast, played outside a bit, and then went to the bookstore. We love Blueberries for Sal (Robert McCloskey), connecting with it when we checked it out from the library. Since we go blueberry picking every year, it is meaningful to us. We also picked up another Caldecott winner: The Island (written by Margaret Wise Brown under a psuedonym. And The Berenstain Bears were on sale for buy 2-get 1 free, so we got a few of those. I love classics for Katie. It seems so many of the books from the 1940s and 1950s really focus on the beauty of narration, treating children as intelligent readers who can think about complex ideas, and building positive character.

After the bookstore, Katie asked to go to Starbucks. We haven't been there in awhile, both to tighten up our budget in anticipation of Little Sib's needs, and to acknowledge that I don't drink coffee anymore. However, today, I indulged in a delicious hot chocolate, while we shared a coffee cake and a sandwich. I love taking my daughter out, because she is always sweet and well-behaved. She didn't want to use the stroller in the bookstore today, and she was super good about holding my hand and staying right nearby me. She really listens, and so going on excursions with her is a joy.

We did miss our music class today because Katie is recovering from her stomach virus. She is getting better but still has a bit of a symptom. We thought it best to stay somewhat close to home today. I think she will be totally better by tomorrow or Sunday.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Katie and Her Little Sib

Even though Little Sib is still happily growing inside of me, I began to learn the art of balancing the needs of two children today.

I had an early appointment with Dr. Elfelt this morning, and right as we were getting ready to go, Katie had a bout of very loose bowels (to put it euphemistically). This necessitated a bath, and so we were about five minutes behind schedule though still on time. Katie had a fever (100.4 and then 100.2) on Tuesday after Toastmasters and so I was worried; then all seemed to pass yesterday (no fever, no other symptoms) and so I thought she had a small bug she threw off quickly. With both the fever and the loose bowels, however, I realized a call to her pediatrician was in order. I was so worried about her during my appointment for Little Sib that my blood pressure went up to 118/70 when last time it was 90/60.

So I wanted to focus on Little Sib's appointment, but as a mother of two I am quickly realizing that both children will always be equally on my mind at the same time. This is good because I already love them both, yet as each of them age and have specific needs and moments when they want to have me alone, it will require me to teach them how to be generous siblings.

Still, my worry about Katie did not fully detract from the utter joy of hearing Little Sib's heartbeat on the doppler. Dr. Elfelt is amazing: he found the heartbeat absolutely immediately. He landed right on the spot just after measuring me and feeling me with his hand. I am fairly enamored of my OB, and it is almost like he has the presence of a medical rockstar to me. I love that I get to have the reassurance of a competent doctor every few weeks, and I love that he is one of the best in his field and he is right here in my own backyard.

The school district is in the process of switching insurance from Aetna to Anthem Blue Cross this month. We signed up again for the PPO so that we could keep our doctors, and I already know I will be able to stay on as a patient at TV OB/GYN. We have talked about other options, especially when Bill retires, but for right now we want to keep our pediatrician and our OB because we trust how capable they are. The best part is that Anthem Blue Cross PPO will cover us far better for the pregnancy than our Aetna PPO ever did, so while we thought the pregnancy might cost us thousands of dollars this year (PPOs are great for choosing the most competent doctors but they can actually cost a bit more than other options), now it will cost us a little bit less. ;-) Switching insurance is a bit of a hassle, but in this case, it is a blessing in disguise.

Anyway, based on the heartrate of Little Sib---which was 160 bpm---Dr. Elfelt proclaimed, "Another girl!" I didn't ask him to predict or anything, but now I am more curious than EVER! We will see if he is right in a couple of months. Since he predicted without my asking, he might be pretty sure... and because he is generally amazing, he has a likelihood of being right. Regardless, all day my mind has been singing "Sisters, sisters/There were never such devoted sisters..." from White Christmas. I have no preference about gender and can imagine both children. I already have names picked out for both (which I put on Facebook today), and I will be ecstatic no matter what. I know we are given the gift of the children we are destined and meant to have, and I don't question destiny. If we do have a girl, the two sisters will be exactly the same years apart as my mom and my Aunt Debbie, and they are soooooooooo close. I would love Katie to experience that kind of relationship---with a sister or with a brother.

Oh, and I also found out that I've actually LOST a little weight so far in the pregnancy---not enough to be unhealthy, but I'm redistributing and getting in shape. I gained way too much weight with Katie, and so I am approaching this pregnancy differently. I also want to be healthy and in shape for another natural labor.

After my appointment for Little Sib, I called Katie pediatrician. Basically, there is a stomach virus going around with the exact symptomology Katie is exhibiting. The incubation time is right, too: two days prior to her fever we went to several germy hotbeds, including the library and the park. The pediatrician's office told me to keep her on a diet of only white foods today, but no dairy and to give her some pedialyte. We've been doing fairly well, though Katie hasn't had much of an appetite today in general. I went to the store and stocked up on comfort foods. We don't eat many white foods, actually, so it is a complete shift. I actually bought white bread today---I usually buy wheaty whole grains. Fortunately, Katie seems to have a light case of whatever it is: the office reported that some children are having between 10-15 loose bowel events a day. Yikes! I would be beside myself with worry at that point. The good news is that Katie has been playing all day, has good color in her face, and doesn't seem lethargic or otherwise ill. I hope her immune system shakes this off quickly.

I did have some awesome news today from the school district. I thought my leave of absence might be up after this year, but they are going to renew it and so I have another year of knowing that, if I found myself called to go back to teaching, I could do so with ease. I thought they would make me decide to teach or quit this year, but with the budget I am not surprised. If I went back to teaching, I am a pretty expensive teacher for them---it is in their best interest right now if they encourage me to stay home, encourage veterans at the top of the pay scale to retire (like Bill), and retain less expensive teachers on the salary schedule. So in a way, I got a little lucky. Now I can phase into the real estate business with my dad and still have other doors and options wide open to me. That sort of freedom is incredibly peaceful and stress-reducing.

Right now Bill is working incredibly hard outside of the home, and I am working incredibly hard inside of it. We determined that the traditional model would be a benefit to Katie and her development, and it has been---by both objective and subjective measures. I love that I provide for my daughter in our home, but I also love that I have the options and abilities to provide for her financially, too. That hasn't been part of Bill's plan for these past two years: he was a huge supporter and advocate of me staying home because he knows how important it is, but I know he would also support my decision to work externally if I want to. I do have a need to feel like I can provide for my daughter and Little Sib no matter what happens to Bill in the far, far, far, far future. I want our children to have all the doors open for their future that we can give them, and so does Bill. We know how important college is, and I want to make sure (as does Bill) that we pave the way for them to attend the college of their choosing.

Well, time to finish up some laundry now!

Hope everyone is having a good week.

Monday, February 1, 2010

Chasing Ducks

On a day of errands around town, Mom went with Katie and me to the grocery store and then to Babies R Us and the duck pond in the Harveston development. I haven't been to Babies R Us for over half a year, but with Little Sib growing happily, I wanted to find him or her a blankie.

I had a specific blanket in mind---a dark blue---that I have wanted ever since Katie was born. It was at Babies R Us for a couple of years, but it doesn't seem to be there I need to search around online. I want the dark blue blanket whether I have a boy or a girl. If I am having a boy, I want to do dark greens and blues and plaids, very classic decor. If I have a girl, I want to use dark blue (maybe a wallpaper with a cream background and blue old-fashioned roses or flowers) and light pink.

At Babies R Us, Katie took a ride in the automated Elmo car, her first such experience. She loved it.

After Babies R Us, we went to the duck park with some bread. Katie had a delighted time. She loves to feed the ducks, and a bunch of them swam across the lake when they realized she had food. She takes such joy from nature and radiates beauty. Today she loved chasing the ducks on the grass, explaining, "They love to be chased, Mommy" and "We're exercising!"

Katie sits on a rock while pondering the beautiful afternoon.

My little girl, I love you forever.

"They loved to be chased, Mommy!"

Tonight we made Katie's favorite dinner: bee bim bop, a mix of rice, marinated beef filet, steamed carrots, steamed spinach, and egg. We also made vanilla pudding for dessert. As we were eating our bee bim bop, she gave me a hug and said, "You're the best Mommy." She is so sweet. As mothers know, we expect nothing for our work---and our work is constant, requiring full physical and emotional energy. We love unconditionally, and so we do the work purely as a labor of love even on the many days when we aren't thanked directly. But just one "You're the best Mommy" every once in awhile is music to the ears and heart.

So that was our happy day. Not too much out of the ordinary to report, but I am thankful for all we experienced today.