Sunday, March 28, 2010

Bird Feeder Project

Non-stop busy this week, our family focused on having a day of rest today, working on creative projects to nurture ourselves.

When we awoke, I asked Katie what she wanted to make for our family breakfast. She chose scrambled eggs, turkey bacon, and orange rolls. She was a bit torn between pancakes and orange rolls, but the orange rolls prevailed. Ever my little helper, she greased the pan and helped to pull the rolls apart and put them in. We all sat down at our dining room table and let the morning light and time together make us happy. We plotted our upcoming trip to Disneyland (in about a week and a half).

After breakfast, Daddy and Katie read a bit while I did the dishes, and then I took over the reading session, and we read together for about an hour more. A few weeks ago, Katie said, "Reading is love" and I am so filled with joy that she equates our reading time with heart-nourishment and comfort. I hope that reading will always feel that way to her, the way it does to me.

We then got dressed and decided to work on an art project outdoors in the beautiful springtime sunshine. Amie and Boppa gave me a wooden bird feeder with acrylic paints for Christmas, thinking correctly that it would be a fun project for me to do with Katie. I love receiving presents that involve something creative I can do with my daughter, as such projects are now my main hobby. They also gave me a mosaic stepping stone kit. I have a couple of other such gifts as well. But today was perfect for the bird feeder.

We each painted part of it, and some parts we did together. I would paint a base color and then Katie would embellish once the paint dried. We are pleased with how it turned out, and Katie wanted to hang it specifically by the fountain Boppa made. When we finished the bird feeder, we still had some paint left, and Katie asked if she could paint a rock. Of course I said yes, and she went to town decorating her rock. We have a book that talks about a boy who paints rocks with berries and ground pebbles and makes toys from animal hide and is not inclined to be a warrior or hunter like his people. Little Gopher receives a dream vision that his destiny is to paint great scenes for his people, and the remainder of the book is about him fulfilling his destiny. As she painted her rock, Katie said, "I am Little Gopher! I am an artist!"

Katie paints her rock as the finished bird feeder sits nearby...

Working on her rock...

Holding up the bird feeder....

Though difficult to see in this picture, we wrote "Katie" and "Sarah" on the bird feeder...

More work on her rock...

After painting, we ate some lunch, Katie napped, and I worked on her Year 3 scrapbook while watching North by Northwest. I definitely need to make sure I have all the pages designed and ready for pictures all the way through to her birthday next fall, since Eric is due in August. I actually have just a few more pages to finish designing, and on some of the earlier pages, I am ready to start attaching pictures (each scrapbook spans from one of Katie's birthdays to the next).
We also cleaned out Katie's backpack today, as some ants were exploring it. It feels so good to tidy it every once in awhile.
It was a fun day with my sweet daughter!

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Egg Hunt Day!

We enjoyed one of our favorite events this morning: the neighborhood Easter egg hunt! Katie remembers this well from last year, and everytime this year that we have passed the park where it is held, she has thought about meeting the Mr. and Mrs. Easter Bunny there last year.

I cannot emphasize enough how much Katie adores the Easter Bunny. The Easter Bunny is more significant to her than Santa Claus, by several orders of magnitude. We spent much of our time this morning enjoying the two bunnies, watching them, hugging them, kissing them. At one point she offered to be their child because they don't have any, she said. (She thought twice about it when I asked, "Will you still be my child, though?) In fact, after our egg hunt, we were happily sampling chocolate treats on a bench several yards away, when Daddy spied Mr. and Mrs. Bunny in the distance and said, "The Easter Bunnies are here!" Katie dropped her chocolate (she LOVES chocolate) and took off in a dash without any care in the world about where Bill and I might be (and this is my sweet girl who sometimes grows very concerned if I go around the corner in our house to the laundry room away from her). We kept up right behind her, of course, but we could see how special the Easter Bunny is to her.

Katie is ready with her Easter basket...
Playing on a bouncy jump

Waving bye bye to the Easter bunnies...

A big hug for the Easter Bunny....

She is so delighted to see them that she has her hands clasped tightly in excitement.

Daddy and Katie after the egg hunt...

Collecting eggs for her basket...

Katie is very much our daughter. Her strategy for the egg hunt would have been ours, completely. She started off in a clump of children, hovering around the first eggs they all encountered. Then she considered her position, looked at me, and pointed to a patch of eggs far away from where anyone else was looking. She didn't want to scramble around in a crowd and thought it made the most sense to have a smaller area to herself where no one else was than to try to dominate the big patch where EVERYONE was. On the video we have, you can hear Bill chuckling, and we both discuss how we both would have done the same thing: removed ourselves from the bustle and found a solution that would involve being on our own and taking a path no one else was taking---to great reward. We felt Katie played it smart, and she was able to collect a TON of eggs this way. We love that she took the time, even in the excitement, to look around her and to develop a rational strategy, that she didn't just get sucked into the crowd or stay where everyone was without thinking about it. She made us proud.
After the egg hunt, we came home and played outside for awhile and then started preparations for our Saturday Dinner with my parents. We used to have these dinners weekly but it has been more infrequent since we moved because we see my parents all the time. I would love to revive the tradition, however.

Katie helped me make a bolognese ragu for a new lasagne recipe, as well as a bechamel sauce. She was patient as I diced the mirepoix components fine, and I got to teach her some new terms. Katie helped to stir a little, and we did some other things together while the bolognese sauce reduced (in several stages) to a ragu all afternoon. Katie loved the finished entree, another new item to add to her ever-growing list. We also made a lemon vinaigrette for some romaine and arugula leaves, buttered some French bread, and then worked on dessert: a strawberry chocolate meringue torte. I love meringues and forget how easy they are to make. They always help to make a dessert a little lighter, and we loved the strawberries today...
We set the formal table, and Katie (and Bill actually---who helped to interpret a diagram) helped me to fold the napkins into bunnies.

A long time ago, when I was in college and then right after, as I dreamed of a family, I made a binder full of recipes and ideas from various magazines and newspapers and so on that I one day wanted to try with, and for, my future family. The binder has so many different ideas in there, from a mosaic table (which my mom and I both did), to making pom pom animals, to a recipe for sticky buns, to outfits and clothes I liked at the time, to decorating ideas, and on and on. I go for long periods during which I kind of forget about my binder, and then I will rediscover it and feel inspired. It is surreal to have a husband and children now and to think about making the binder and wanting them all so much...and now they are here. Anyway, both the new lasagne recipe and the instructions for folding bunny napkins were part of my binder, and now I have done them! It is weird, a little, to think about being in my early twenties when I clipped those items out and pasted them in there... and to know that the happiness I hoped for is now coming true and that I get to live out the dreams I had when I thought about being a wife and mommy.

I hope everyone is having a beautiful weekend!

Thursday, March 25, 2010

It's a BOY!!!!!

We had our gender ultrasound this morning and our appointment with Dr. Elfelt this afternoon....

Katie is going to have a LITTLE BROTHER! We are so, so, so excited, and I cannot wait to experience the best of both worlds with my two children. Little Eric William is growing well, and all of his organs look great! I am so excited at the thought of holding and loving and meeting our son in August. I love that Katie will be a big sister, just like I am, to a little brother.

Kate and Eric. Eric and Katie. The bond between them will be forever. My two children.

We are naming our son "Eric" after a beloved uncle of mine that died too soon, one who embodied a youthful and childlike spirit and who filled my childhood with magic and his larger-than-life persona. "William" of course honors my husband, the true love of my heart and mind. The surname of "McGaugh" will also now live on, as Bill will be the first (and very likely the only) of his four brothers to have a boy.

It has been a beautiful day...

I love my Katie, now Eric's big sister as well as our daughter, forever...

We are ready to head to Temecula Valley OB/GYN for our ultrasound...

We love you, little Eric William... We hope you are having a peaceful and comfortable time in there! Can't wait to meet you in person!

Now it is time to start planning his room and gathering some baby boy clothing and blankies! Let the nesting commence!

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

The Adventures of the Edison Stalkers

What do people do for fun when Southern California Edison has a scheduled power outage for the day?

Well, baking is out: no Kitchen Aid mixer and no electric ovens. So, too, is any cooking: opening the refridgerator isn't the best idea, when one wants to conserve a cool temperature for the food inside. Obviously, we cannot watch television. Computers don't work. Not even my iPod Touch works for Internet access: our wireless router plugs into the wall. We can't dance to music (other than what we sing or make-up on our own). Even vacuuming, the world's most fun chore (seriously) is impossible. And forget ironing!

To start the day, Katie and I played with her puzzles and read books.

Then we met our CPA and picked up our tax returns (refunds this year---yay!)

After that, we had an appointment with Amie to taste cakes for my brother's wedding. Amie offered to be responsible for the cupcakes, and she was going to make all ten dozen. She is an excellent baker, and I have learned everything I know about baking and cooking from her. When we really thought about it, though, we realized that icing 120 cupcakes the morning of the wedding would be quite hectic! So she has desired to hire it out. We met with Baby Cakes today, and we loved Janet and Trish, and moreso, we loved their cupcakes. My brother and his fiancee Ashley want three different kinds of cupcakes, and all were delicious: dense and yet moist and not overly filling. In particular, the red velvet cupcake achieved the perfect balance between the cake and the cream cheese icing. The icing did not overpower the cake. The chocolate cupcake obviously used several different intensities of high-quality chocolate. Katie went along to the tasting, of course, and she loved each cupcake. My mom decided on the spot to hire the ladies, and I think she made a great choice. So delicious!

Home again, we noticed the power still wasn't on... So we decided to drive around the neighborhood with Amie and look for the electric company's ultility trucks to see if they were still around and working, at least. That is to say, we started out innocently enough. ;-) We didn't see any on the first pass, but then we sighted one. Being so awesome and cool, (ha ha) we decided it would be fun to follow this truck around and see what it was doing. We kept a little ways behind it and watched it travel from box to box with some kind of long orange rod. At one point it turned left, and then made a u-turn and started going the other way. We made a joke about how the men inside were probably trying to shake us (the crazies following them) off their trail. It was one of those situations where were we cracking ourselves up...especially since we knew that stalking the Edison truck was a little close to being weird. But, hey, what else were we going to do for sheer entertainment with a dark house? We were really laughing by the time we decided to call it quits. That's one reason I love family and my friends-like-family: you can do random and bizarre things with them and they get it and it's totally funny.

Eventually we settled for playing outside at our house and picking dandelions and enjoying the grass and the sky. Probably we'd be a little more normal if we had just done this from the beginning. :-)

So tomorrow we have our gender ultrasound! I am so excited. Katie is definite in her opinion that she is having a little sister---we'll see if she is right!

We have been nursing another cold this week---can you believe it?? We're never this sick. It's crazy. I feel like we're in a funhouse. However, we are constantly around other toddlers these days---with our classes and time at the big park and so on. Toddlers pass viruses around like nobody's business. Thank goodness we're vaccinated against the really dangerous ailments. I can totally see now how quickly and surely certain viruses can spread---and all we're talking about here is a little cold, not even the measles or mumps or anything as potent as that. Both of us feel better now, though. I was down for a couple of days, and so was my mom, but Katie had this one for only a day. My dad came over yesterday and brought chicken soup and played with Katie outside so I could sleep and so that she could have some better stimulation. Bill and I have been seriously talking about doing fewer children-based activities with Katie. We'd keep her music class, of course...but here's the thing. Until we started all her classes with toddlers this year she was never sick. Being around other children has its advantages, but staying perfectly healthy (as she was hitherto) is not one of them. Anyway, we have six more weeks of gymnastics and art classes, and then we'll have to do some real thinking. You see, Katie can handle a virus now and then and so can I (although let me tell you, being pregnant and sick ranks as one of the most mentally challenging things I've been asked to do, since I don't believe in taking anything to help with symptoms). But a newborn baby certainly doesn't need a cold. Katie was insulated for most of her young life, but we have to make a decision about whether we want to take the risk of introduing a virus into the house via Katie or me when Little Sib is born.

But would it be right to ask Katie to sacrifice some of her extracurriculars in order to keep Little Sib as protected as Katie was as a newborn? Ah, the balance of having more than one child...and having to make the best decisions for both of them at once. How do we weigh it?

In other good news, I was able to keep to my eye exam appointment before I knew I was virus-ridden. My prescription is holding steady. That makes four years of no changes for the worse, thank goodness. Dr. Yazdan also took pictures of my retinas and said they "look perfect." Hurray!

Katie's newest favorite movie is South Pacific. I love that she has the Mitchell/Yoder gene for loving musicals. After her very first viewing, she internalized Nelly Forbush's song, "I'm Gonna Wash That Man Right Outa My Hair" and has been singing it when she dances in water outside (as we water our flowers) or in the tub. She only saw it once, but she does some of the dance moves as well. It's supercute. I am sure I sang this song a couple of times in her newborn days when I went through my whole musical repetoire, but I am still impressed with what she gleaned from watching the scene once. We've since watched it a couple of more times, and she likes to pretend that she is Nelly. Rodgers and Hammerstein forever! ;-)

So that's what we've been up to these days... Hope everyone has been having an awesome Spring or Spring Break!

I will post tomorrow with news about Little Sib!

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Bluegrass and Pizza

Happy first day of Spring!

Katie and I spent a beautiful--and quite warm---morning at Temecula's Old Town bluegrass festival. Old Town was bustling and humming with people and music and motorcycles, and I loved the energy and activity. We did have a bit of a time finding parking, though eventually we did, and we began to explore. Small and larger bluegrass bands were everywhere, some impromptu jammers tucked behind stores or little alleyways. At the larger outdoor stage we ran into friends from work, although we didn't linger long at that venue given the heat. I figured it was better to take Katie to the theater and to stay near some of the shade of the storefronts.

A man playing a harmonica and spoons intrigued Katie particularly. When we got home, we played around with our own spoons and used some kitchen items to make instruments. At the bluegrass festival we got to sing along to some songs we knew. I loved the Irish sound in one of the groups. Bluegrass, folk, country, and Irish music are all big enthusiasms of mine musically, and I just love that Temecula celebrates such music---and mostly for free (there are one or two paid performances, but the rest are totally free).

I also took Katie to see the Old Town jail, which, in some respects, made a bigger impression on her than the rest of the festival, especially with the two lifesize male dummies inside of it.

We also made a stop for gelato, which was thick, rich, creamy, and absolutely delicious on such a hot day. We ordered one scoop of spumoni and one scoop of vanilla caramel and shared them both.

Katie relaxes during the bluegrass festival and eats some gelato...

Quite tasty!

Home again, we began work on our dinner, making a double batch of homemade pizza dough for two pizzas. Katie helped with all aspects of the pizza making, pulling the dough in the pans and preparing and putting on our toppings. We made a spinach, tomato, mozzarella, and sausage pizza, and we also made a pizza with pear, provolone, proscuitto, and sweet onion topped with chilled arugula and a vinaigrette once it emerged from the oven. Yumminess. Katie enjoys these tastes and has been increasing her willingness to try new foods lately. Healthy and delicious.

We had a busy day yesterday, as well. After our music class, we drove to Orange County with Amie and Boppa to have lunch with Nana, Aunt Jenny and Aunt Anna (visiting from Berkeley), Uncle David and his fiancee Ashley, Fon, Violet, Jed, and Aunt Debbie at Claim Jumper. We also stopped by Nana's so that Katie could visit Aunt Jenny and Aunt Anna's doggies. She loves them so much and loves to pet and kiss them.

Back home again, I gave Katie a quick bath and then freshened up for a Toastmasters competition with Dad. We weren't competing, but we wanted to see what competitive speeches (both prepared and extemporaneous) looked and sounded like. It was an "area" competition, so we met members of other clubs. We had a fairly large delegation from our chapter, Toast of the Valley, there. I loved the chance to spend time with our chapter outside of our regular meeting and to support our contestants, Sonya and Daryl. I had so much fun experiencing that competition, and someday I would love to compete as well. I returned home about 9:30, and then cuddled with Katie and went to bed.

So I have had a beautiful and full weekend so far. Tomorrow might be more mellow and directed at accomplishing some chores at home and savoring the spring in our backyard.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Happy St. Patrick's Day

"There's no need to fear the wind if your haystacks are tied down."

- Irish proverb

Katie and I dressed in our green today and headed to gymnastics class first thing this morning. She has such a good time in that class, and she loved the bar flips, in particular, today. At one point she gave Miss Nikki a hug and said, "Happy St. Patrick's Day!" I just love how affectionate Katie is with people, especially her teachers, and how she wants to give happiness to others. She is such a sweetheart, really. I am a very lucky mommy.

I also love her approach to her classes. She is so attentive, wants to try everything, has an eager and willing mind. And when she accomplishes something, like doing a forward tumble all on her own today, she makes these pure sounds and laughs of delight and happiness with herself. I hope she never, ever loses that. I love that she is proud of what she does well. I love coaching her and being her teacher when we do one-on-one activities in her classes. She has such unbounded enthusiasm... Bill and I take very seriously our responsibility to cultivate that in her and to help her keep it for life. Passion for a wide variety of disciplines and hobbies sustains the heart and mind through all phases of life.

Not to be a downer, but there have been a few times in my life in which my love for learning and questing for knowledge has been the source of my strength to put my chin up and get through. The library was my haven after my miscarriage, along with hours and hours spent on one of my favorite hobbies---music history. We have to look at the bigger picture than our immediate selves and lives: having passions in life helps us to do that when we need it the most, and sometimes just for fun.

So, I want Katie to have within her the sense of curiosity and love for developing her heart and mind, no matter what life brings her.

After gymnastics, we had a late breakfast at Starbucks. We haven't been in awhile, and Katie wanted to eat by the fountain. Excuse me: not "by the fountain." I used that preposition today in our conversation, and she corrected me, "On the fountain, Mommy." She is technically correct: we do definitely eat on the ledge of the fountain. I often think I am a stickler for precise diction, but she may have me beaten. :-)

Anyway, she was eager to eat outside; as she put it, "It is the perfect day for eating on the fountain." So we watched the water burble and shared a sandwich and a fruit and granola yogurt parfait. She noticed all the pennies in the fountain, and she asked why they were there. The Bill McGaugh family is not the gambling sort and nor are we prone to superstitions, and I did consider this---but it is St. Patrick's Day after all, and the copper pennies are hardly worth themselves at all anymore, and I have good memories of throwing pennies to make wishes, and wishing never hurt a child or anyone. So I gave her some pennies, and I told her that legend has it that throwing a penny in a fountain can help a wish to come true. So we threw in five pennies: one for Mommy and Katie together, and then one each for Mommy, Katie, Daddy, and Little Sib. She loved it, and magic is important to the imagination, so I am glad.

But first Santa and now this. Oh, and the Easter Bunny. I just hope she forgives me when she figures it all out... I swore I would never, ever lead my children into false ideas about the world, but when I see her little two-year-old eyes light up, I can't help myself. One would think Bill would have had stronger ideas about this than I did, but actually he has been fine with the idea of doing Santa for quite some time. I also mentioned four-leaf clovers today, as well... Sigh.

When we finished at the fountain, we went to the park and blew bubbles and played around for awhile. The weather was pretty summery today, though, so we drank water and took time in the shade. We left a bit sooner than I would have wanted to, but we have cooler areas outside at our home, and I thought we should play here instead.

Home again, we made a finger painting for Daddy and left it on his desk as a surprise for when he came home. We also watered our flowers, made new hummingbird food, and filled up our finch feeder with nyjer seed. It is time to welcome spring.

Then we did some chores, made lime jello (I need to wrap up this entry to start the broccoli soup---green foods!), and I studied real estate a bit, and Katie fell asleep into a fairly late nap. Oh, and before that, when Bill got home, Katie assessed him for green on his clothes, and finding he had none...she gave him a pinch! She is so funny!

It has been a beautiful day, full of nature and greenery---my favorite way to celebrate the Celts!

Monday, March 15, 2010

Easter Bunny Day!!

This morning I surprised Katie with a trip to see our friend the Easter Bunny! Ever since we decorated our house for Easter/spring, she has been asking about him, remembering from last year how much she loved meeting him. He officially started sitting at our mall on Friday, so I thought it would be fun to take her today.

When we got there, we didn't have a line, and as soon as I took her out of the stroller, she made a beeline for the Easter Bunny. Sitting on his lap, she wanted to hold his hand, and she would lean back periodically and give him kisses. We took pictures, and she hugged him a few times. After we were done, he gave her a strawberry lollipop---which she enjoyed and which she loved to talk about, "He gave me a lollipop, Mommy!"

We had to come back to pick up our pictures, and when we did, she asked (since there was still no line) if she could hug him again. She ran up to him and pet his paw, gave his knee a kiss, and then a great big hug. As we left, I wheeled her backwards in the stroller, and she kept blowing him kisses...

She adores the Easter Bunny...

Afterwards, we had a mommy-daughter lunch date at Costco to share a slice of pizza and sip berry smoothies (one of her favorite meals).

So much fun!

Katie holds hands with the Easter Bunny...

This was taken right before we left for the mall... She was very excited!

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Awesome Day

Why was this day so awesome? Well, for starters, it is Pi Day!!! Yay for 3.14159...etc. forever! As one of the numbers that recurs in the universe, it is pretty special. Bill and I celebrated with a kiss.

I also met with my philosophy group this morning. Bill is such a loving husband, watching Katie for several hours while my brain indulged in absolute playtime. Bill cherishes my mind, and I am lucky that he truly sees every dimension of me, including the need for my mind to absorb itself in meaningful analysis. I love my little group. Gene had Girl Scout cookies for us this morning (it has been years since I've had a tag-along...or whatever they are called now). He is so warm and welcoming, and I love getting to know him at 84 years old. To spend quality time with older people and to benefit from their years of pondering life is really a gift. However, when we are all talking, I tend to forget about all of our ages as our minds become engaged in real ideas. And I love also that they show by example that being in your 70s and 80s can still be a vigorous, robust, thoughtful time. My own grandparents are the same way, especially my Nana. Her mind is still youthful and her body still willing.

Our group was a bit smaller today than it was last month. The focus of today's topics was a bit more political, as we pondered the health care bill, the need for taxes, social contracts, prioritizing the way government spends its money, true intentions of the Founding Fathers, and how we decide how resources are allocated. We examined a thought-experiment about a hypothetical heart transplant, and we wandered into other scarce resources like water. We also talked about the recent changes the Texas state school board has made to its textbooks. Even though several of us are likeminded---or at least, tend toward similar points of view---I do enjoy that most people will play devil's advocate and that we will put opposing points of view up for examination. A couple of the members, in particular, are good about not letting the group make generalizations, and this pushes us all to think more deeply. I love that there is an expectation of me, and of every member, that we are current on all events and that we know our accurate history and that we are able to converse widely across all disciplines. Everyone knows I was an English teacher, but no one there pigeonholes me into just knowing English. We expect each other to be educated in many disciplines. It is so refreshing. So often we subscribe to a myth in our society that we are either "English people" or "science people" or "math people" or whatever---like we can only be one thing. I've heard it a million times. Yet I have known many people, myself and Bill included, who have a true passion for studying everything. Stanford wouldn't let me major in everything, so I had to pick one---and study the rest on my own or by treating myself to a fun class here or there. I love being with my philosophy group, because they seem to value, for themselves, being knowledgeable about a range of subjects---and that is very stimulating to me. I leave the group, like today, with fresh motivation to learn more and to push myself to read up on some of their pet topics. I am reminded of how much I have still to learn, and I love that feeling of chasing knowledge and making it my own. Learning is addicting.

When I came home, Bill and Katie were playing outside, and I joined them for a bit. We had the waterfall running, and the sun felt so beautiful. I debriefed Bill on the meeting, and then I made Katie some lunch. We painted with our watercolors and picked up a bit.

Then she helped me make dinner: tortilla-black bean cassarole. She supervised my chopping, and then helped measure out the ingredients. After I cooked the filling, we worked together to layer the dish. I put some bean mixture down, and she covered it with the tortillas and then sprinkled on the jack cheese. We repeated this step, and she put the finished touches on it. I told her what a perfect little helper she is, and she replied, "I'm a chef!" Very true. I am impressed by what she knows how to do in the kitchen at age two. I love finding tasks for her to do and watching her figure them out.

She loved the dinner, and it was so healthy and yummy: black beans, fresh tomatoes, salsa, onion, green pepper (she tried them, but doesn't care for them), tortillas, cheese, and we even put a dollop of sour cream on top (she liked that, too). She devoured it. Yay for discovering another healthy item that Katie likes! That was one of the best parts of the whole day! She has been getting better and better about trying new foods, and I am especially joyful that we can put this cassarole on our rotation.

So it was a lovely and productive day, and there are many fun activities planned for this week as well----can't wait!

Saturday, March 13, 2010

March Delights

Ah, we are finally starting to feel less congested and less cough-ridden. Although we are still mending, Katie and I have more energy as we enter and enjoy the weekend.

Bill had a furlough day yesterday, and the extra time with him this weekend has been wonderful. After music class yesterday, Katie and I played around the house, cleaned our pond/waterfall, pittered around the garden, wandered barefoot in the sunlight, and blew bubbles on the grass. She took a long nap on me, and after I dozed a bit, I had a solid two hours to just read. Ah. Reading. I have always been a voracious reader, but one never realizes just how much reading is part of one's lifeblood until she has almost no time to do it. I love letting my mind ponder and wander and become part of the words and ideas. I am reading one of the books most influential in Bill's intellectual journey, and not only am I loving it, but also it is providing such amazing fodder for philosophical conversations---which has always been a hallmark of our marriage. Our intellectual intimacy is as important to us as other forms of affection. Reading connects us.

I have also managed to find time to crosstitch this weekend. Katie helps me or entertains herself nearby. I don't work my project in long stretches, of course, but thankfully crosstitching can yield rapid results in short times. I am making the same sampler my mom has in her house (only with my color palette), and I want to finish it before Little Sib is born.

Katie and I finished our weekly marketing today so that we are free Monday for a surprise (to Katie) Easter Bunny activity. She has been asking and asking about the Easter Bunny, so Monday will be special for us.

All day long, Katie has been saying such cute and humorous things. This morning we made a family breakfast together. Unprompted, she started carrying things (like her sippy) into the dining room. She explained that she was setting the table, "So that you don't have to do it by yourself, Mommy." Such a sweetheart and so thoughtful. I love watching her empathy and theory of mind develop. She has been more conscientious lately, and I can see her becoming more aware of how her behaviors affect others.

Upstairs as we dressed for the day, Katie was looking in her bedroom mirror when she said, "I am looking at my beautiful eyes." This made me smile. I hope she never loses that sense of self-contentment and knowing that she is beautiful, and that her intelligent, sparkly eyes deserve never to lose their twinkle or to diminish in their vitality.

Finally, we were talking about my growing baby bump for Little Sib. It seems like my womb has doubled in size over night. I am definitely showing now. In fact, I've been wearing maternity tops here and there. I still technically fit into some of my jeans, but I have to wear them low, and it is a squeeze. Today I wore a full maternity outfit, pants and top. It was much more comfortable, I have to say.

Anyway, I was telling Katie that we have two more weeks to wait until the gender ultrasound when we can find out if she is having a little brother or little sister. She started talking about sisters, and about the sisters in White Christmas in particular. We started singing their famous song. I then told her that one nice thing would be for her to share her outgrown clothes with a little sister. Katie responded, "I am not going to share my clothes. Of course not." The matter-of-fact, non-hostile tone in which she said this made me laugh. It is such a stereotypically Big Sister type of thing to say, in some ways. Of course I am sure they will grow to the point of sharing clothes and loving it, and I know I will enjoy watching Katie navigate and evolve into her Big Sister role.

My intution does suggest we are having a girl, though I must admit that Dr. Elfelt probably put this into my head with his initial heartrate analysis. We shall see, though. I can't wait to find out. I know for sure that I can imagine a little sister or a little brother for Katie, and either way, that relationship is going to be so special. A sibling is the best gift we can give to Katie (along with, we believe, a true love for life, a passion for learning, and a rigorous formal education).

So that is all we've been up to the past couple of days. March is shaping up to be a delightful month now that we're past the illness. We have family coming down from Berkeley this next week, St. Patrick's Day (we don't drink alcohol ever, so it is a weird holiday for us in some ways, but we do g-rated things), Easter Bunny time, an egg hunt, getting ready for Easter, and maybe (finally) a Disneyland day over Bill's Spring Break...and of course, finding out more about the person growing inside of me!

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Day of Play

Katie and I are starting to both feel a little better, but boy oh boy, has this illness lingered. I have never been one to get very sick, nor to talk about sickness. I've always been wary, in fact, of people who always seem sick (excluding those with a legitimate and diagnosed chronic illness). I'm a pick-yourself-up-by-the-bootstraps kind of girl. Complaining, especially about health, is not my style.

Still, I must say, these have been difficult days over the past week. Katie contracted whatever I have had, and hers presented with a high fever (spiking twice to 103.7). We are so protective of her precious little brain that, of course, my maternal instinct declared utter war on the virus responsible for Katie's discomfort. Fortunately, Katie likes her grape medicine. My best friend Rosa suggested we try grape flavor a few months ago, and she was right. Katie was able to take her doses with relative ease---pretty impressive at age two. I gave tepid baths and made cold compresses. It was a long two days, with vigils taking place at night to work the fever down. Sleep has been here and there. Katie threw the virus off rather quickly, but is still draining fluid. Because I lost so much sleep, my cold and scratchy throat is lingering even today. So far, superimmune Bill has dodged this bullet. How, one may only guess. He has had to navigate a veritable minefield of tissues, sneezes, coughs right nearby him, etc. I can't wait for total health to return to our house. Any day now.

However, we have been having happy moments in all of our relaxing and non-busy days. We cancelled absolutely every activity this week, and while we missed gymnastics and Toastmasters, we took pleasure in staying in soft clothes and feeling the freedom of not following a schedule for a change. I think that we will be able to make it to music class tomorrow, though.

We've been cooking more, again, and have made some yummy dinners and treats.

On one of her semi-sick-but-better-with-a-less-than-101-degree temp days, Katie and I took a shoebox and made a collage of pictures all over it. She told me which pictures to cut out of some magazines (dogs, balloons, mac and cheese, nail polish, oatmeal, pumpkin, etc) and then I let her glue them on with the gluestick. We call it her treasure box. It was an effective low-key sick day activity that still engaged her but was restful. She really loves the box, actually.

Today we had a total play day until about 2:00 this afternoon. We stayed in jammies in the playroom/her room area. We played blocks, did an alphabet puzzle, dressed Barbies, read books, sang songs, worked on phonics a bit on her chalkboard, cuddled and tickled in the bed, and talked about all kinds of things. We ate a late lunch outside, and then Amie came over for a bit. We meant to make oatmeal biscotti today, but I think that can wait until tomorrow or this weekend. Then Katie helped me crosstitch a little.

So, I guess, we haven't been up to all that much. But Sometimes "not much" is totally rejuvenating, and in its own way, highly productive!

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Quiet Days

Every once in awhile, I am given a reminder to slow down and simplify life a bit. I have been trying to cram thirty-six hours worth of tasks into twenty-four hour days, and while that works for awhile, ultimately the body and mind reach exhaustion. With this past week, life seemed to move from hectic to almost chaotic: with taxes, vehicle recalls, insurance phone calls, social visits, Katie's classes, prepping Toastmaster speeches, etc. my evening routine with Katie has been growing later and later. Dinners have been slapdash and not as full of vegetables as I need; I've been feeling like my time management plan has collapsed and that time is running me, instead of me running my own time.

So, I am not surprised that a virus took this opportunity to root itself in my compromised body. I fought something off a couple months ago in about a day, but this little virus has come to play for awhile. It's a doozy: three days of headache and lower back pain, sore legs, sinus congestion (not stuffiness per se, but you know, the congestion that makes your whole face feel like it is in a vice), eyeballs that feel ready to pop out of their sockets, and a killer sore (not scratchy but muscle sore) throat. The worst symptom has been a total sense of weariness. I move a few steps and feel out of breath or like my body won't support me. It's been a bummer. I used to get colds now and then as a casualty of being a teacher, but I rarely ever get put down for the count.

I am reminded of other times in my life at which I have not paid attention to balance and left myself especially susceptible to viral pathology. When the body is weary, it cannot fight as it should.

The added bonus: I have not taken a single medicine for this, as yet. I did see my OB and he gave me conditions under which taking Tylenol would be definitely necessary for the health of my baby (like if I had a fever over 100 degrees), but for the most part Bill and I do not believe we should introduce a drug into my system while pregnant. I was sick twice with Katie (colds while teaching) and never took a thing. Those were pretty gory moments, but no where near as difficult as it has been with this illness. So many moments over the past days and nights I have so much wanted to go have some Tylenol (nighttime especially) or even some coffee (during the day). This has been an exercise in resisting temptation, for sure.

Anyway, I think as of tonight I am over the worst. I actually thought that last night, too, and it turned out that the headache came back at 2 AM with a vengeance. But I can hope.

My mom has been totally helpful. She came over for the past two days and has done everything: cook, bathe Katie, clean dishes, watch Katie so I could rest and not feel guilty about not stimulating her mind, etc. Thank goodness for moms. Katie and my mom made a delicious meatloaf, with mashed potatoes, and roasted broccoli, cauliflower, and carrots. She also served me chicken noodle soup with big yummy noodles and big bright carrot chunks. I think getting proper nutrition has helped me, as well.

Today, Katie and I watched movies and then Bill played with Katie outside for awhile so I could doze. Katie has loved using her medical play kit with me (especially giving me shots), and she has been a total sweetheart. I have felt beyond guilty that I have no real energy to give to her, but even on the worst nights, I have made it a point to read with her and cuddle her before bed. Tonight I got to give her her bath again, and we enjoyed that.

So, looking forward: it is the moment to make sure my time and life are prioritized properly. I need to get back to a good routine, one that includes an early enough wake-up time to take our walks. I need to minimize bustling around during the day and focus on prepping healthy dinners in the early afternoon, so that they are ready to be heated at an early dinnertime. I need to take enough time to strategize my errands so that I don't have to go out so much. Even little things need to be considered, like: commiting to checking Facebook or other correspondence just once a day, laying out and/or ironing clothes the night before during bathtime, planning a week's worth of meals in advance. These are all strategies I have used in the past, and they help keep life flowing along efficiently.

Anyway, so in a strange way, this illness has not been all bad: it has forced me to reevaluate my time management and to slow down and breathe and recenter. I often worry as a mother about overscheduling Katie: is it too much to have gymnastics, music, and art classes? Children need free unstructured time, too. But I should also be giving thought to overscheduling myself, as we adults need just as much unstructured time. Okay, so maybe I won't be able to vacuum every couple of days or get the daily sweeping done, but maybe that's all right. Maybe I don't need to sign up for a speech every few weeks in Toastmasters. I love speaking, but maybe I should slow down to savor the speech writing process more, instead of trying to churn out ideas. I need to alllow my hobbies to be pleasures, because that is what hobbies are supposed to be. I have a tendency to want to turn everything into a opportunity for perfectionism, and some moments in life need to remain opportunities for being imperfect and free and organic.

How many times I will need to relearn this, I cannot say.

Anyway, I hope you are all staying healthier and more balanced than I have been this week! Here is a wish that we all remember to have some playtime next week, without worrying what we think we are SUPPOSED to be doing. Play in life can be just as important, if not more, than the work.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

And Reality Creeps In...

Most of the time I dwell in my own fanciful world of cookie baking, made-up holidays, time with family, children's books, arts and crafts with Katie, loving time with my husband, song, and playtime and reveries in nature.

But every once in awhile, real life creeps in. And by real life I mean: dealing with taxes, insurance bureaucracies, and Toyota recalls. This week has had its abundant dose of business, phone calls, and tying up loose ends. While I am good at managing business, enjoy getting things done, and feel accomplished after navigating complex (overly complex) systems, sometimes real life is a bit of headache and not very much fun.

Our insurance was due to switch yesterday, March 1st. (Our district renegotiated a new package with Blue Cross. Actually, they negotiated with SISC, an investment pool that buys insurance and sells it to schools---this is an important difference). Bill signed up for our new PPO weeks ago, and we have been awaiting our new insurance cards.

When they didn't arrive, we didn't panic. Some friends at work have them, but as of last Friday, several had not yet received them. Saturday came and went... Monday, I reasoned, they would certainly be in the mail. With Aetna ending on February 28, everyone needs his or her new insurance ID number. I mean, right? :-)

Of course I have an OB appointment this week, as well.

So yesterday I checked the mail and no insurance cards had arrived. I left VMs and e-mail messages at the D.O. asking for our ID and group number info. I know the D.O. doesn't issue the cards, but they know how to access that information. While I awaited their response, I researched and found a number for Blue Cross online, and I called them. Surprise, surprise: there was no trace of Bill's social security number in their system.

Therefore, as of 1:00 yesterday, we really didn't have any insurance. I am a HUGE believer in health insurance. I have never been without insurance. I think it has to be a priority in one's budget. I started having flashes of random emergencies involving Katie or Bill, and having no insurance...

Getting nowhere, I tried to reason the problem through. When Bill had brought home the packet containing the new insurance choices (HMO, Anthem PPO, etc) I looked at it for only a couple of seconds. We knew we wanted a PPO, and Bill had already researched which plan would let us keep our OB before presenting the information to me. I had no need to look at the packet. However, yesterday I suddenly remembered seeing an acronym (SISC) on the PPO plan.

I realized from studying brokerages and real estate and financial systems in general that SISC might be some kind of insurance brokerage...or something... I then remembered that Bill mentioned casually something about a SISC rep signing him up, not a Blue Cross rep.

So I researched and found online a number for SISC. Finally, when I called their office, I began to make headway. An extremely helpful woman discovered that there had been an entry error with respect to our information. She had to call a Blue Cross technician and input us manually. Once this was done, I was able to obtain our proper information and even register online to print out temporary cards for our family. I wonder how many of the employees who hadn't received cards yet are in the same boat but don't know it. When the D.O. contacted me back last night, I told them what I had discovered, so hopefully the glitch will be rectified for everyone.

However, the scary part was that the SISC administrator explained (when I asked) that if we had had to receive medical care before this error was caught, we would have been stuck paying out of pocket until the error was corrected. Even then, we technically would have had a dubious claim to insurance. Yikes. I am just so glad I figured out a direct way to the source, instead of having to wait around a few days. It was a long process yesterday, though, especially since I was on the phone with Blue Cross for awhile before discovering they had no record of us. However, I learned this: tenacity pays off. Tenacity, and also being non-confrontational but direct on the phone. The key is to get people on your side when you call. My mom and dad both taught me this. Questions like, "How can you help me?" and "What should you and I do about this?" can really be helpful. If you can get people on your side, they will be more likely to follow your problem through to the end.

Anyway, we have our insurance info, and I already called my OB to have them pre-run it for me before Thursday so that everything runs efficiently for my appointment. I think, if everything happens as I expect it to, that I will learn on Thursday that we will be getting money back from our OB office---since Blue Cross PPO coverage is better than the Aetna PPO.

Ah, the realities of life.

I have been working on taxes, too. We've got a new CPA who is competent, thorough, clear, and in every way someone whom I think is really an asset. She is looking through the past three years of returns and getting up to date with the complexities therein, making sure our former CPA did not make errors. To this end, she has been asking me for a thorough accounting of several documents and items from three years ago. I love it, because she is giving me such an education and I love to learn. She is asking questions I never would have thought to ask, and I love that. Tax season, however, has been quite a bit of work for me this year---even more than in years' past. It needs to be that way, and I am learning so much more about the family companies. Dad and I often empathize with each other as we search in files and boxes for our past documents, and we have had some good chuckles about aspects involving record-keeping. Our goal is that we both learn Quickbooks to help with taxes next year.

Finally, I have an appointment tomorrow after Katie's gymnastics to have our Toyota RAV 4 fixed. I mean, it needs to be done and I am glad our recall notice finally arrived, to be sure, but I am not one who enjoys little appointments here and there about town for tasks that are inherently not very entertaining or fun. Fortunately my mom is helping out and rescuing us (since she also has a car seat) from the waiting room tomorrow. The recall letter said it will take 30 minutes, but the service man today told me it is more like 1.5 hours. Bill bets that it will be two hours, and I am betting 45 minutes. We'll see what actually happens.

So, business. Part of life, I know. With Bill working hard for us everyday outside the home for hours, he has not the time, nor would it be appropriate, to ask him to deal with all of these tasks, too. Yet I am reminded of how much a stay-at-home-mom (SAHM) really is the CEO of her household. We negotiate with children, we negotiate with insurance companies, we keep the tax documents, we manage the grocery money, we draw up employee inspiration plans (okay, okay---maybe just an art lesson or a family day trip), and throw "company parties" periodically. We even clean all of our own offices. ;-) I am two years into being a SAHM, and I am still learning. Balance is difficult. I love my new job and its responsibilities, but every once in awhile I am reminded (like this week) that it can be truly work. I work all the time, but most of the time it comes very naturally. I am actually strange enough to like cleaning (well, most of the time), and I love being with Katie (though I do occasionally rue my freedom to nap whenever), and I love to cook (except for the nights when I don't like it). So, balance, balance.

I hope next week is truly one of those carefree and very whimsical and fun weeks!