us four

Anual Holiday Letter

us

Once again, December finds us with a year of memories behind us, stacks of photos (over 1,400 uploaded to our Flickr photo account this year alone!), a mess of stories (about 300 of them posted on Elaine's web log WannabeHippie this year alone), countless birthday parties, art projects, outings with playgroups, park days, trips to the zoo and museums, visits to the beach, walks... you know, life. We've been lucky enough to be able to spend a lot of time together - neither one of us forced to work full time - just enjoying our kids, our home and the life we've managed to put together for our family. Mark continues to do some freelance carpentry as well as working gigs here and there with corporate theatre companies as well as local theatre groups. Elaine mostly takes care of kids but has also taken on the title of "Tupperware Lady", making a few extra dollars doing Tuppertini Parties (Tupperware and Martini's) as 1950's house wife, Bitsy Bunting (photos and product available at Bitsy Bunting). Our daughters, Lily (3.5-years-old) and Anya (1.5-years-old) continue their very important work of growing and learning and pushing the limits. They are a constant source of joy and frustration.

We spent a good chunk of the year on the road, visiting friends and family, taking grand adventures and seeing the world with two small children in tow. We flew across country in February for Mark's work, landing in Orlando, Florida. After a few days of working a gig while Elaine wandered around town with the girls we enjoyed some true family vacation time. While there we celebrated Mark's 38th birthday at the Kennedy Space Center and then visited for a few days with friends near Tampa. We took the girls camping with one of our playgroups in June and Mark and his brother did some grown-up camping on their own in August. In September Elaine abandoned Mark and the girls to visit Allyn in the Bay Area, a trip that is becoming a birthday tradition. October put everyone back on a plane, this time flying down to La Paz, Mexico with Elaine's mom and Step-dad for a week with friends Milton and Susu and their daughter Michelle. Our friends have a beautiful bed and breakfast there and with Grandma along to help with the kids, we easily had one of the best vacations of our lives, soaking up the sun, playing on private beaches and talking late into the night with old friends we so rarely get to see. November allowed us some time to spend with family, seeing Elaine's brother, his wife and their adorable son for one night and then continuing on to stay with Mark's mom in Northern California for Thanksgiving. The car ride home was less than pleasant as both Mark and Anya got the stomach flu and suffered the whole way back. We had planned to make one final trip in December but after that experience, we've decided to stay put for the month! Instead we look forward to enjoying a visit from Mark's brother, Steve, throwing another Solstice Party, rising early on the 22nd to see the sunrise and open Solstice gifts, and spending time with the extended family for Christmas.

Other activities and highlights include:

* Elaine learned to knit and ran off weekly for a Monday evening knitting group with friends.

* Our container garden continued to grow and we enjoyed the added produce from joining a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture - you sign up for deliveries of fresh, organic produce, which is simultaneously delicious, affordable and environmentally conscious! YAY!).

* Elaine formed a walking group with other moms, promptly pulling her piriformis muscle and causing her to limp around enjoying sciatic pain for months. It still hurts when under stress. But yes, she's still walking with friends, just less aggressively now.

* We had such a hot summer that Mark went out and bought an above ground pool, allowing the four of us to leap in and cool off as needed. The girls are still a bit afraid of the water, but the summer gave them plenty of time to get used to it.

* Lily started her first rec center classes this year with gymnastics (one class in July and another this fall with her Grandma Janis), dance (which she is devoted to) and drama (which she hated... I guess she's unaware her parents are theatre junkies).

* Along the same lines, we took Lily to see a performance of Dr. Seuss' How the Grinch Stole Christmas! this November. She didn't enjoy that either, finding the lights and music and overall experience overwhelming. Seriously, kid!

All in all, another exhausting and wonderful year, full of the expected ups and downs. We hope this post finds you enjoying a happy holiday and a really excellent new year. Many blessings to you and yours; we'll be thinking of you!

Elaine, Mark, Lily and Anya

Our end of the year photo card

Solstice Morning

Solstice Hike

On Solstice morning we got up while it was still very dark out and took our kids and some friends up a local mountain. Ok, we tried to take everyone up a mountain but we only made it about 3/4 of the way up. When the rain started pelting us and the kids started crying, we looked around us to see total cloud coverage and accepted that we would not actually be seeing the sun rise this morning. So we turned back, soaked but happy to all be together and broke into a huge grin when we heard someone announce the moment of sunrise with a conch shell, the low, triumphant horn sounding across the rocks and rolling into the valley. We said our good mornings to other hikers, we stopped so a woman could tell us we were raising our children right and we posed to the bottom for a group shot.

Once we made it back to the cars we all came back to our house to open presents and share a meal. It was actually really fun having friends with us as we opened presents (although next year I'll have a few extras on hand so nobody gets left out) and we spent hours together while our kids played, we talked and we all just enjoyed being together on the first day of the light.

watching

It was a blast and a tradition we fully intend to continue, come rain or shine.

In need

Today the part of Lily was played by an insolent, disobeying, spastic three-year-old girl who would not listen no matter how loudly I yelled.

Anya was played by a cranky little think who wanted only to nurse.

Maya (the dog) started shaking rather violently and shortly thereafter her right rear leg simply quit working. She’s only six.

Mark worked all day doing two different jobs while nothing went as it should have and his emotions ran high.

And I? I almost feel asleep driving the car.

Tomorrow we climb a mountain at 6am. We’ll watch the sunrise on the longest night of the year from a sacred spot. Then we’ll come home and break fresh baked bread with friends, open presents and laugh a little too loud. We’ll spend the day in a puppy pile of naps and not worry about where we need to be (nowhere... all day long).

Tomorrow everything is new. And right now, I really need new.

Happy Solstice, everybody. May this new year bring you light.

damn

I had a whole witty post written in my head.

That was 12 hours and nine vomits ago. Anya that is. She's thrown up nine times since we headed for home. She can't even keep breastmilk down.

We're home now. Exhausted and feeling terrible. Lily is the only one not feeling badly... she's downright spirited.

Someone come take her away and let the rest of us sleep? Anyone?

Bah.

ETA: make that eleven vomits.

sick

family score

My husband is a hummer. No, not the big gas guzzling ridiculous monsters passing for vehicles on the road these days; as in he hums. ALL THE FREAKING TIME. Sometimes, for variety, he whistles. I’ve grown used to it over the years. In fact, I often don’t even realize he’s even doing it anymore. I can’t even tell you how many times I’ve caught myself singing some random song, like the theme for Bonanza and turned to Mark to ask, “You do this to me?” only to have him snicker and reply, “Yep.”

Now the girls are starting to do this. Just today I caught Lily humming some classical bit she heard on Little Einsteins. Even Anya will hum little tunes, her head bobbing comically and her little fingers twirling. The truth is, I love listening to my little family make music, especially when they are all humming something different and wander together to make a new string of music, discordant at times and unexpectedly melodic at others.

This is how I picture our future as we learn and grow as a family. I see us coming together to make music or discord and drifting away at other times to make our own tunes. I see sheets and sheets of music, written and rewritten to reflect our paths, together and apart, frequently losing our pages and running amuck as we try to find the right notes. Mostly I see so much beautiful music it makes my heart ache. Especially because the beauty will be made so much sweeter by the vast quantity of sour notes we’ll undoubtedly hit.

And so I once again find myself with music in my head, unaware if one of my family members put the tune there or if it was one from my own memory. And I can’t help but hum while I type, thinking about what song would be formed if only the kids were awake; waiting for morning so we can make music again.

Pizza day

Why do we always forget how much fun it is to make pizza? I found a nice recipe for Whole Wheat and Honey Pizza Dough and made a few modifications namely, I added a little more water to the yeast, added about a cup of white flour to keep the dough light and I may have been a wee bit generous with the honey, OH and I let it rise for an hour or so, netting me enough dough to make four small pizzas. I cut up a bunch of toppings, Lily helped me shape the dough, got her own spoon to help spread the sauce, added the toppings between eating them (stop it!) and then jumped up and down while I put it in the oven. We ended up making three savory pizzas and one with cinnamon and sugar and a layer of pears. Warm pears are just about the best thing in the world, by the way. TRY IT, you’ll totally thank me later!

Did I take any pictures? Nope. I was having too much fun. Does that mean I’m leaving you photo deprived? Heck no! Would I do that to you beautiful people living inside my computer? Maybe, but not today. We’ve had a fun couple of days at the park so I give you my favorite: watch out, she’s gonna get ya!

reach

PS My blogging time has become severally limited. I need to spend more time with my family rather than sitting here staring at the screen and telling my daughters to “hold on a minute.” Forgive me while I adjust!

R-U-N-N O-F-T

Mark took off for a couple of days camping with his brother and I am already dreading this time without him. Anya has been crying ever since he left; she must know how much I suck at parenting when I’m on my own. See, I’m one of those people that LOVE my time with my children... up to a point. Around about twilight, if I haven’t had any down time I start to transform into the evil lady of the canyon, howling in rage at any little slight or uttered “NO.” It’s not pretty. I’m not proud of my behavior but I don’t seem to have a lot of control, my fuse just gets too short. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t harm my kids. We just don’t jive, yo.

At this moment, I can just barely see my kids as they sit up on the landing and I sit here at the dining room table. All I can see is Lily’s hands moving towards Anya’s face and there is something she’s holding but I can’t quite make out what. There is no screaming. Not even a sound. I know I should be concerned, but I am so enjoying this moment of peace, I just can’t bring myself to get up, walk over there and discover what they’ve done to each other.

Ah, damn.

Anya is now covered in sunblock. Not the cheap stuff either.

OK, cleaned her up. NOW Lily is laying on the couch screaming “WHY?” over and over again as though she is auditioning for a really bad John Woo movie scene where bodies fly all over the battle field and the protagonist agonizes as his best friend dies in his arms dramatically, followed by the most insipid dialogue known to man, so bad in fact that you look over at your husband and beg him to turn it off, my GOD just make it stop. Not that I’m thinking of any specific movie or anything.

Anya, on the other hand, is emptying the cupboard of all the little bowls, plates, cups, sippy cups and utensils that belong to the girls. Because they just look better all over the kitchen floor, I guess. I don’t know!

He’ll be back before I know it, right? RIGHT?

Lie to me

A summer cold has hit my family with the wrath of... the uh... summer cold god, Solstitialis Aeger. What? I made it up. Sue me. Just do it in person so you can watch my kids for a couple of hours. I’ll take the paperwork and go study it very closely from the comfort of my bedroom. NO! That’s not snoring you hear in there, it’s studying. Pinky swear.

ANYWAY, we’re all sick. And it sucks. Last night I slept on the couch, getting up every 30-90 minutes to comfort or nurse a congested baby. Mark slept with Lily’s face smashed into his own, the two of them tucked into our bed. Around six am, we tagged teamed out. He went upstairs to take care of Anya and I let Lily smash my face with hers. Lucky me, Lily decided to get up about an hour later and go upstairs while I slept for another couple hours ALONE. Ahhhhhh!

Strangely, the three solid hours of sleep has left me unrefreshed? HA! Spell check wants to correct “unrefreshed” to “unrepressed.” There’s something terribly funny in that, I just can’t get my mind to wade through the snot to lay it out for you all. Someone else make the joke, please.

Where was I? Right: unrefreshed. I’m pretty sure that this whole lack of sleep thing is going to drive me insane. Anya’s been having a hard time for weeks and while I know it’s just a phase followed by an illness, I’m starting to loose my mind, just a little. I can’t seem to hold a thought in my head for more than a few seconds. I keep stumbling into rooms and cursing, annoyed that I have no idea what I came to get. Mark and I keep having conversations where I concentrate intently on his mouth, trying to catch what he’s telling me and then, when my mind ends up in Africa, having to ask him to repeat. I dare not use the burning implements in the kitchen for fear of killing us all. It's just not pretty, folks.

Here’s where I need someone to lie to me; preferably someone with older kids. I don’t want advice, I just want someone to say, “HEY! Just wait a couple of months and it’ll be SO easy! And when Anya is two? CAKE!” I don’t care that it’s a lie, I just need to hear it. So who’s gonna give? Anyone?

Please?

I'll be here in the corner, nursing this baby, wiping snot and just thinking about September.

Little red...

Last week I noticed a listing on Craigslist posting about a little red wagon with big tires for only $5. Its paint was peeling off, but since I’m married to a handy guy, I figured what the heck and we drove out to pick it up. The four of us got to work peeling off the paint in big red sheets (strangely therapeutic for this mama) and once we stripped it, Mark cut off the bolts since they were too rusty to remove. Then he got to work with a sander, obliterating all the rust. A coat of primer, a shiny coat of red (I suggested purple, but Lily wanted the traditional red), reattach the wheels and viola, we have a brand new looking wagon. Lily dragged Anya around for a spell, then both girls climbed inside and I dragged them around the parking lot, big smiles all around. Not so bad for $5 and a little work!

Check out the photo set by clicking on the shot below.

waiting

push and pull

I just spent an hour under a fidgety non-sleeping toddler. One who didn’t want to sleep in the crib, heavens no. Lying next to me wasn’t enough either, shut yo mouth. On top of me? That’s apparently the place to be when you’re one and you don’t want to sleep. She even treated me to the wandering hand. You know the one: where she rubs her hand all over my upper torso, works her way up to my face and then jams a finger up my nose. It’s a delight, let me tell you. I finally gave up and came back upstairs where she currently sits on my lap showing me how exhausted she is, yet not even blinking for fear she’ll accidentally fall asleep. It’s a bitch being one.

It’s been a stellar day, complete with crying all around. We finally have a name for what I hurt: turns out I pulled my piriformis muscle. To put it bluntly, I hurt my ass. I am only mildly comforted by the fact that it’s a common sports injury. I damaged it with the stroller hike from hell and then sealed the deal when I got lost in the woods. After a night of rest, mornings are excruciatingly painful and you can often find me eating ibuprofen by the handful while sobbing. Once my ass the piriformis muscle warms up my day is tolerable, but until then, I find myself wishing for a quick death.

Understandably, this has been really hard on the girls. Lily came and sat next to me the other day as I lay on the floor in tears and gently put her hand on my shoulder. She slowly leaned in and whispered, “Don’t whine, Mommy. Just ask!” Clearly she’s listening to us about the incessant whining, she just didn’t realize that the phrase didn’t apply in this situation.

This morning, with Mark out of town and Lily choosing 4:30 am as wake up time, things got real ugly, real fast. Anya was clinging to me and crying, Lily was pushing, kicking and yelling. I was lying on the floor with Anya sitting next to me sobbing and Lily kept trying to tickle me; you know, by jabbing her fingers into my face? Because isn’t that they way YOU like to be tickled? Anyway, I loudly told her to knock it off and that’s when she busted out with a big fat “NO”, yelled right into my face. My instincts gave me two options: push her away and yell some more OR grab her little body and hug her with all my might. I chose the later and when I enfolded her in my arms, she struggled and let out another “NO.” I hung on. Within seconds, I felt her body relax a little and then she was crying, hugging me back, desperately needing my arms around her even though she wanted to fight. We lay there, everyone crying and I just held her, whispering words of comfort in her ear, telling her how I was sorry that we were all hurting so much, that I loved her, that life was just hard sometimes but I was never going to stop loving her, no matter how angry she got.

Within a few moments we all stopped crying. Lily lay next to me, sucking her thumb with one hand and holding me with the other; Anya nursed and gripped my hand tightly. I felt like a very leaky life-boat: damaged but still afloat. My girlfriend Allyn (Hi, Allyn!), a massage therapist, tells me that injury’s in the ass region usually have some sort of emotional element. “What are you dealing with, Hon?” she asked me when I got her one the phone today to complain. “Figure that out and you’ll feel at least a little better. I mean, come on, the phrase 'tight ass' exsists for a reason.”

We lay there like that for a long time, me and my girls, just floating in emotions. When we finally got off the floor, I felt a little less heavy, a little less tight. There’s still a whole lot of emotion wrapped into what’s happening with my family right now, but at least I feel like I’ve pulled the loose string on the issue. Hopefully, in time, we can unravel this bitch. In the meantime, I’m going to do my best to hold on.

Dry run

We took the girls to an egg hunt today at the home of a playgroup friend. Lily had a blast running around with her friends and discovering the little treasures all over the tri-tiered yard. With the swings, slides, kids, food, activity and her ever precious Daddy, Lily pretty much thought she was in heaven. Anya wasn’t quite sure what all the fuss was about and when plopped in the grass mere feet from an egg, just looked at me blankly and then giggled. Maybe next week when we bring the girls over to the big family get together, Lily will be a pro and Anya will at least try to crawl after an egg or two. And maybe, just maybe, Lily will wear an outfit that reflects the correct holiday. I'm not holding my breath on that one, though.

As always, you can check out the photo set on Flickr; just click on the photo below.

Where's an egg?

A drive-in virgin no more

NO, it’s not what you think.

I’ve never been to a drive-in movie and tonight all that was changed. A friend at playgroup mentioned that she and her family would be attending the 6:30 showing of The Chronicles of Narnia tonight and did anyone want to join them. Lily’s only been to one movie in her life and that didn’t go so well. Anya doesn’t like loud noises, so I’ve never even tried to bring her. BUT with Lily being able to talk all she wants in the car and with us having control of the volume, we figured what the heck.

It was freaking AWESOME. Both girls were asleep when got there and Mark and I climbed into the way back of the van with a chicken dinner to share and munched for the first 15 minutes with only each other to giggle at. Then Lil woke up and we all bundled up in the back of our van, piled under blankets. About 30 minutes after that, Anya awoke and I nursed her there with the moon peaking in the window to my right and my toddler and husband to my left. Lily was enthralled. This did not keep her from talking incessantly, but her chatter was purposeful, asking questions or pointing out that the lion was on the screen again and my GOD he still had a tail. We covered her eyes and tickled her during the scary parts and made eyes at each other over her curly head as she gasped in wonder and clapped in glee… and that was just when she discovered we had brought food. Seriously though, it was a magical experience and I totally fell in love with the whole thing. AND we saw an actual movie BEFORE it came out on DVD. How’s that for brilliant!

I told Mark we were doing this every week. It was almost better than… well, you know.

Christmas Morning

Open that one Lily. Ohhhh! Nice! Can you wipe the baby’s nose, hon? Lily, don’t wipe your nose on your dress. Lily open one? It’s Daddy’s turn, Lil. Wait. YAY! Underwear! Stop sitting on your sister. Anya, don’t eat tissue paper. Nose! That’s MINE! Not Mommy’s turn, LILY’S TURN! Do you need to go back to sleep? I hungry. Lily, don’t take that away from your sister! Press the button. LILY, don’t wipe your nose on your dress. YAY, kitty get it! Nose! Gah! Cat eating ribbon! Oh yeah, Old School. Let’s play Mommy’s new CD! Hey, that’s Daddy’s new CD! Jingle Bells, Jingle Bells, Jingle Bells, Jingle Bells, Jingle Bells, Jingle Bells. Lily’s open that one? Where’s Sister? For goodness sake kid, stop wiping your nose on your dress! Get off Anya! Open the box, Daddy! No picture me, Mommy! Press the button. Waaaaa! Nap? NO NAP! No more presents? All done. YAY!