July 17, 2012

Catching up.

I have this distant memory of it being early May and me thinking "Wow, we are going to be pretty busy for the next few weeks." Now it's July. I guess I was right. (EDIT: The original version of this post, when I started writing it, read "Now it's late June." So apparently that month got away from me too.) So here is a quick catch-all post on what in the world we've been doing. I might be able to catch us up through June. July will have to be another post, probably written in October. I'm just being realistic.

Back in April, our friends Cody and Erika drove all the way from Albuquerque to come and see us here in San Antonio. As people who routinely load up our kids and travel long distances, we really appreciate it when someone does that work for us, so major props to them for braving West Texas and coming all the way out. We tried to make it worth their while. We took the kids to Sea World:

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And to our favorite local park:

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And to Freebirds, which is pretty much our best shot at convincing people to move to Texas. It's addictive. I am not sure they were ready to pack it up and come (one state) east, but they did admit that it beats the pants off of Chipotle, and Erika made a really cool rose with the leftover foil from her burrito:

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Then the rest of the time we sat in the house letting the kids run around in a screaming pack while we ignored them and enjoyed catching up. Cody and Erika are some of our oldest friends as a couple. We met when we had all been married less than a year, and we have kids almost the same ages. Since we moved away, Erika has Skyped with me every Wednesday afternoon and we've gotten the kids in on the action too, so while it's been hard not to be able to spend time with them it hasn't felt like they are gone from our lives. We are very thankful for their faithful friendship to us -- and their hours on the road!

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Once April was over, we moved on to May, or as I now think of it, Ballet Month. Kate has been in a ballet class this year and since about February we have been stopping in the lobby every day before class so she can view the picture of the butterfly costume for her recital. Last year Kate went to a great small class that met at a church and they had a recital, but it was very low-key. This was our first year at a larger studio with students of all ages and I'll spare you the suspense: It was not low-key. Well, it was up until Ballet Month and then it was extra classes, photo day, dress rehearsals and a handout detailing the steps of her dance so that we could practice at home. Not that I need to make Kate practice. Starting during Ballet Month the moms were invited into class at the end to watch the girls perform their dance so they could get practice in front of an audience. Kate never missed a step. I'm not bragging -- I have nothing to do with her dancing abilities and I probably shouldn't admit this, but I never made her practice at home. She just loves to dance, so she did it.

But since I wasn't a dancer growing up, the entire Ballet Month experience was pretty intimidating for me, starting with when we were handed the costumes and given instructions on the care and keeping of tutus that were lengthier and more complicated than the instructions I was given before we took Kate home from the hospital. And they didn't even give us the butterfly wings to take home at first, just the costumes! Because we couldn't be trusted with the wings.

It's a good thing there were some moms for Kate's class who weren't in their first rodeo/recital. They gave me crash courses in Ballet Buns and Stage Makeup on the side and overall I think I managed to avoid any major faux pas other than being a total nervous wreck backstage and making Kate eager to bid me farewell at the first possible opportunity. The next time we saw her was out on stage, and she did beautifully even in front of so many people. She did refuse to wear her ballerina costume after the recital was over (apparently all that tulle is itchy) but here are a few photos from before and after, when she greeted her admiring public.

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With Grammy and Grandpa Wachdorf, who had the ballet recital on their calendar months in advance thanks to Kate's vigilant reminders starting in about February:
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And with Gam, Geez and Uncle Ryan:

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As you can see from the pictures, my mom and dad paid us a visit and attended the big recital and we really appreciate them coming so far. My brother Ryan was also very insistent that he would drive down from Austin for the privilege of watching a couple of hours of ballet on a Saturday afternoon, which was really sweet. I am not sure if Kate completely understands how big an effort her cheering section had to make to be there that afternoon, but I do, and I know we are really blessed.

The other big excitement in June was Dan's birthday, for which we did what we always do: Eat good food and order an ice cream cake. The kids love that tradition.

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As for Gam and Geez, we will see them again soon, when the kids and I hit the road for one of our epic journeys to Mississippi. Because I like to wait until it's blazing hot to undertake 12 hour road trips. Stay tuned.

May 24, 2012

Poker face.

A couple of months ago I got a great new laptop, which kicked off a lengthy round of very glamorous and exciting file transferring. The upside of this tedious process was that it gave us the opportunity to look through hundreds if not thousands of photos of the kids as they were being copied. It's a strange thing to look back on a photo taken less than a year ago and see a completely different child. Watching the photos in rapid succession was like watching a film of them actually growing up before my eyes.

While we were looking at the photos we noticed a funny thing about pictures of Isaac. In photos taken of him during the most exciting activities imaginable in the life of a toddler, he consistently wears an expression that would lead you to believe that he was watching paint dry. He'll be jumping up and down with anticipation seconds before climbing on the train or getting on the carousel at Sea World, but the minute the ride starts his face is a blank slate. My theory is that he is actually concentrating so hard on the experience that he doesn't want to spend any energy on generating a facial expression to match his enthuiasm. But it makes for hilarious photos of what we have come to refer to as the Isaac Face of Extreme Enjoyment. I want you all to see it so that if you are ever trying to entertain him you will know whether you are succeeding. This face would certainly not give it away.

Here is Isaac on the train at the zoo, which I promise you he was thrilled beyond belief to ride:

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Another one on a ride at Chuck E. Cheese. Look at the joy! The excitement! The total blank staring!

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And on the Christmas merry-go-round at Bass Pro Shop. Some people take their kids to department stores to wait in line and visit Santa. We take ours to a hunting gear store. Isaac is clearly very impressed with us.

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At the rodeo with Grammy back in February. He was totally fascinated by his first up-close view of horses and cows. Can't you tell?

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So there you have it, the Isaac Face of Extreme Enjoyment. Any day now we will teach him to play poker. He will be unstoppable.

A brief administrative note: I have closed comments on my blog due to a massive spam comment attack. I am probably going to leave them closed since most people now leave their comments on Facebook. If you want to friend me there you are welcomed to do so or you can always send me feedback via my email address, which I will now give to you in clever code: It's my first name@my last name.com. You can figure that out, right?

May 7, 2012

My little dental patients.

At the end of this somewhat lengthy post I promise you a cute kid photo and a funny story but first you will have to suffer through a not-very-funny story and some whining from me. If you're up for it, keep reading.

Last week during a visit to a park near our house Kate tripped on her way up some stairs to a slide and hit her mouth when she fell. I will leave to your imagination the amount of blood and screaming that resulted but whatever you are picturing, picture more of it. Being the ultra-prepared mom that I am, all I had on hand in the minivan to deal with this emergency was baby wipes. Somehow that worked to stop the bleeding (what can't you do with baby wipes, really?) and then we went home, where a string of phone calls between me and our pediatric dentist ensued. Kate by this time was acting totally fine and not bleeding and if you just looked at her in passing you wouldn't have thought anything was wrong. But on her gums up above her two front teeth there was this wince-inducing cut and as her mom I felt that it was my duty to look at it every few minutes to determine if it was better, worse or the same. Mostly it was the same. It was a fun way to spend an afternoon.

Our dentist advised me to bring her in for X-rays in the morning, so at 8 a.m. the next day we were sitting in an exam room. Within minutes of our arrival Kate was kicked back watching a Barbie movie on a screen mounted on the ceiling and I was sitting in the corner wishing I had brought a paper bag into which I could breathe slowly. Or puke.

I think almost everyone who knows me in real life knows the following biographical fact because I bring it up any time the subject of sports, teeth, dentists or crippling phobias are mentioned. But for anyone who has somehow missed it, here's a story: When I was 11 I was on the playground at my school and I got hit in the face with a baseball. As I remember it, I wasn't even playing baseball. I just happened to be standing behind a kid who was supposed to catch a ball but didn't. Not that this is his fault. Kids are pretty unreliable at catching balls, as my embarrassing youth softball career demonstrates. Unfortunately, the ball hit me in the mouth and the damage was pretty serious. To date I have had a total of four root canals on two front teeth that were injured plus several incarnations of cosmetic work to cover up the gradual discoloring of those teeth. It was very generous of my parents to pay for my college considering that by the time I was 18 they had probably shelled out an entire college degree's worth of money on dental procedures, plus braces. Thanks to them and my wonderful childhood dentist, (Hey, Dr. Amzi!) I had great dental care. But something about the amount of dental care I have had in my relatively young life has left me with some heavy-duty anxiety about going to the dentist. They take X-rays and I spend the entire time trying to guess what giant problem will be uncovered. I pretty much feel like happy gas should be mandatory for dental cleanings, but that seems to be frowned upon for some reason.

So while Kate was blissfully spacing out with Barbie I was envisioning 20 years of dental procedures resulting from this one slip on the playground. The X-rays were much less dire than I had imagined. There aren't any clear fractures or problems but we'll go back to the dentist several times this summer for followup X-rays to make sure her teeth don't suffer any ill effects from the trauma. These are her baby teeth and while it wouldn't be great to lose them early, it won't be the end of the world either. The gum gash will heal on its own with proper care and already looks much better than it did a few days ago. Most importantly Kate hasn't been in a lot of pain and she seems completely unfazed by her brush with dental trauma. Which brings me to the actual reason I wrote this post in the first place -- so I could show you a picture.

At the dentist office they took two sets of X-rays, one where Kate sat in a chair and held the film in her mouth, and one where the dentist aimed a handheld superhero gun-looking contraption at Kate's face and took X-rays from a different angle. During all of this I would have sworn Kate was paying no attention she was so fascinated by the movie. The next day I came upon her and Isaac playing a new game in my bathroom. Kate kept telling Isaac to lie down. Then she would put a washcloth over his shirt and tell him she was going to "take some pictures." Next she would point my hairdryer at his face very seriously, make a beeping sound, and say "Good job! Let's take another one!" I have no idea what Isaac was getting out of this game but he was extremely compliant. That may be because he recently had his first dental checkup and got about ten pounds of prizes and loot at the end. He's probably still waiting for a balloon.

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When I told my mom this story, she said maybe Kate would be a dentist and that we surely could use one in the family. So if Kate ever does become a dentist I know what photos I can get out for her graduation dinner.

A brief administrative note: I have closed comments on my blog due to a massive spam comment attack. I am probably going to leave them closed since most people now leave their comments on Facebook. If you want to friend me there you are welcomed to do so or you can always send me feedback via my email address, which I will now give to you in clever code: It's my first name@my last name.com. You can figure that out, right?

April 25, 2012

Kate's literary debut.

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I would like to say that I take my kids to the library every week, but the truth is that we make it in maybe once a month. Since books can only be checked out for three weeks at a time this means that on average our last batch of books is at least a week overdue. So even though we are relatively infrequent fliers at the library I am probably still on the top of their list of regular financial contributors/library criminals. Any day now I expect to see my face on a WANTED poster, if not because of our fines then because of Isaac's penchant for exiting the library while throwing a level of tantrum that he never achieves when we are not in a public space specifically dedicated to quiet and order. (Seriously. It never fails.)

Kate loves it when we bring home new books. In the last year what was her nap time has been transitioning into more of a semi-quiet rest time. It goes better some days than others. On good days she stays in her room and looks at books or plays with her puzzles or dresses up and sings her original narrative songs. Even though she doesn't sleep much anymore it seems to help her be more refreshed in the second half of the day. So on a recent library trip I was brainstorming for new books to keep her interested when I stumbled on a book that gave me a flashback to my own childhood reading. Shel Silverstein's "Where the Sidewalk Ends" and "A Light in the Attic" were some of my absolute favorite books for years. I read them so many times that they fell apart. Something about the silly poems and simple pen-and-ink drawings kept me coming back even though I know I couldn't have understood some of the plays on words that the poems hinge on. It was just a little over my head but I think that made me like it more, like the poems were little word puzzles to figure out. For that reason I wasn't sure Kate was old enough to enjoy it yet. In the past I've gotten all excited about reading some book to her ("The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe" comes to mind) only to have her space out within the first few pages. So I'm learning that I need to be patient and wait for her to be old enough to enjoy something rather than forcing it on her. But she does like Silverstein's classic "The Giving Tree," so I checked out "Where the Sidewalk Ends" anyway and we read a few of the poems before rest time. Two hours later Kate came out of her room carrying the book and asking to have certain poems read to her, and I knew she was hooked. We read through that one and went back for "A Light in the Attic." A couple of weeks later when I was shopping for the kids Easter baskets I found a 30th anniversary edition of "Where the Sidewalk Ends" and got it for Kate. She was thrilled to have a copy of her own.

So now to the story I actually wanted to tell: Several times yesterday Kate told me that she and Dan were going to write a poem when he got home. I wasn't really sure what she was talking about but she was very insistent that they were going to write a poem and it was going to be called "The Girl Who Brushed Her Eye." Ummm, OK. I blogged earlier about how Kate has been working on learning to tell jokes but her punch lines leave much to be desired. So given the non-sensical nature of her chosen poem title I thought maybe she was just trying to make me laugh, which I obligingly did and then I forgot about it.

Last night Dan came home from work for dinner but then headed out again to get together with some friends from church. While I put Isaac down he got Kate ready for bed and spent some time with her and when I came out of Isaac's room he had just left. On the coffee table were two pieces of paper with Kate's drawings and Dan's handwriting -- and the poem! They actually did write a poem! Later Dan told me that Kate had started talking about wanting to do this the night before and he was surprised she was still talking about it the next night. I think it was a very collaborative effort since Kate doesn't know how to read yet, and I assume Dan helped her rhyme the endings but the basic idea was hers. So here is Kate's first poem, with assistance from Dan:

The Girl Who Brushed Her Eye:

The girl who brushed her eye
It made her start to cry
She was sad
It hurt bad
She'll brush her teeth next time.

This was accompanied by a drawing of a stick figure poking herself in the eye with a hairbrush. It was a joke poem! And it was actually funny! This is huge progress. The poem is on the Refrigerator of Honor right now, but I think I will keep it. It is her first poem, and I hope it won't be her last.

One more great memory, courtesy of Shel Silverstein.

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April 23, 2012

Dear Isaac: Two years old.

Dear Isaac,

Today you are two years old, and I have to start this letter off by informing you that you are breaking my heart. You recently starting pronouncing your name correctly. HOW COULD YOU? I realize that in the rational world of developmental milestones this is a good thing, but in my world of being completely addicted to you and wanting to freeze you at whatever your current age is all the time, it was devastating. Your name is a little hard to pronounce and when you first started trying it came out as "I-ick." You called yourself that for most of the last year and your dad and I thought it was so cute that we would actually call you I-ick when we were talking to each other. Then we went to Hawaii for a week and one morning shortly after we came back you looked at me and said "Isaac have yogurt?" And I almost broke down and cried on the spot. I am still upset about it and I try to trick you into saying I-ick, but it is gone and now you are two and next week you will learn to drive and go away to college. Excuse me while I cry some more.

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Speaking of driving cars, you got so much Cars movie related loot for your birthday that I think we may be on some kind of Disney platinum customers list now. You'll probably get invited to shareholders meetings soon. Please take your daddy with you. He is really into cars too, or at least he is really excited that you are into them. I think inside grown men there is always a little boy right under the surface that still just wants to play with cool toys, and since you have gotten old enough to like toys I have been trying to keep your dad's inner child from maxing out our credit cards. This has its advantages. I didn't do any of the shopping for your birthday at all. Your dad took care of that -- in February. Christmas was barely over and your dad was online bookmarking ideas for your birthday. In the future I am going to have to pay a little more attention to what he's buying for you. We were on a trip to visit my side of the family in Mississippi when your dad found what he assured me would be the perfect birthday gift for you. I was up to my elbows in cooking a meal for everyone and was only halfway listening to what he was saying. Something about a 12-car set and a carrier plane. I was pouring boiling water out of a giant pot of pasta and saying "Uh huh?" which I apparently continued saying when your dad asked if it was OK with me if he went ahead and ordered whatever it was.

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A week later we were home in Texas and the doorbell rang. I opened the door to see the Fed-Ex truck driving away and found a box the size of a dishwasher on our front porch. The Disney logo was on the side which sent your sister, who can spot a Disney logo at 50 yards, into a frenzy. She was sorely disappointed to learn that it was not for her. While dragging this thing inside I called your dad at work to ask him to explain to me again what precisely he had ordered for you and if it might have been an actual working airplane given how huge the box was. He said he hadn't exactly (cough, throat clear) looked to see how big it was, which was not reassuring. Here's what was in the box:

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I am glad to say that the items inside weren't as big as the GIANT box led me to believe, but they are still going to require some reshuffling of our toy storage systems. I would be annoyed except that you love this ridiculous thing, which allows you to put a car inside a plane and then fly it around in the air while making whooshing sounds. More importantly it allows your dad to making whooshing sounds, so everyone is happy.

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One of the best things about this last year with you has been seeing you and Kate develop a relationship. This has not been a process without ups and downs. I now spend what I would estimate to be 75 percent of every day refereeing your various disputes over toys and what games to play, but y'all are capable of playing very happily together at times. And you really are good little friends. You ask about Kate first thing when you wake up after your nap every day, and you are a good sport about playing along with the somewhat complicated games she devises for the two of you. In this photo you are playing "going to grandma's," which is a game where you each pack backpacks and pretend to board airplanes on a long trip. I think this was your connecting flight to Africa, which is one of your most frequent destinations.

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In the last few months the fact that you are a boy has been coming to the forefront. Specifically it is showing up as a need to tackle everything. This is great when you take it out on your dad, and not as great when you try it on your sister. Neither of you are especially big kids but somehow you can pin her in no time and you sit there grinning while she screams. You genuinely seem to mean this in a spirit of good fun and are confused when she doesn't enjoy your game. After spending all day with two girls you are so ready to wrestle that when Dan gets home he can barely get in the door before you are wrapping yourself around his knees.

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I expected the tough-guy aspect of having a little boy, but what I didn't anticipate was that you are also very affectionate and tender-hearted. You have always loved to snuggle. When you hurt Kate with your romping around you readily tell her you are sorry and give her a big hug. This morning you gave me and Kate two kisses each after I asked you for a birthday kiss. You are basically just a sweet baby pretending to be a big tough boy.
I love this about you and I am trying to soak it up because I know it can't last forever.

While I am shocked to find that you are two years old I am also somehow surprised that it has only been that long. This I think is because it really is almost impossible any more to remember our family without you. We have been so blessed by the joy and laughter you bring to our lives. Just try to stop growing up so fast, OK? I'll buy you a thousand toy cars.

I love you,
Mama

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Isaac's birth story is here, for people who find that kind of thing interesting.

April 19, 2012

We are nine.

Today is mine and Dan's ninth wedding anniversary. The other day when I was thinking about this a memory came back to me that I haven't thought about in some time.

The night before our wedding my aunt Lisa very graciously hosted a get-together for me and my bridesmaids at her house. They gave me some gifts and we drank champagne and sat out by the pool and talked. Most of my bridesmaids had just met Dan for the first time that day at the rehearsal since we had been dating for less than a year and I had been living in New Mexico during our relationship, so there were a lot of questions about us. Then one of my friends asked me an excellent question that pulled me up short. I can't remember the exact wording but she basically asked me if there was anything Dan or I did that bothered the other one -- like annoying habits or things we might have to work out as a couple. I had no idea what to say, not because I minded the question but because I just genuinely didn't have an answer. We hadn't been together long enough to start driving each other crazy yet.

Now we will take a pause so that all the married people can laugh until tears roll down their faces.

Nine years later I guarantee you that if you put Dan and I in separate rooms and asked us the same question, we could produce bullet point lists of the many ways we have found to get under one another's skin in nine years of marriage and parenting. No, I am not going to give you that list here. And in fairness to Dan, he would probably sit there and swear that he loves everything about me because he is such a loyal, sweet man. But oh, people. I am all special kinds of difficult that no one but Dan will ever know about and that he definitely did not comprehend that day in April when we stood up at the front of a church and got married in front of God and 200 witnesses, most of whom probably could have easily rattled off their own lists about the person sitting next to them in the pew had we asked them.

This, I think is the great mystery of marriage. After nine years of getting to know each others' faults and slogging through the very high highs and the very low lows that come with average daily life as a family, we really do know one another. And yet we somehow love each other better than we ever did at the start. Nine years into my marriage, I know enough to understand that this is a sort of miracle, and it's one I definitely don't deserve.

This year we have celebrated our anniversary in very grand style. A few weeks ago we left the kids with Dan's folks who are very brave and agreed to entertain the kids beyond their wildest dreams for days and days while we went back to Hawaii, where we spent our honeymoon. It was actually a better trip than our honeymoon because after nine years, we knew exactly what we wanted to do: Nothing. We didn't sightsee much. We didn't do any of the activities at the resort. We didn't feel conflicted about it either. We just puttered around at the beach and the pool and read our books and talked. Doing nothing is super romantic when you have two small kids. It helps if you really like being together, too.

Here's to nine years and miles and miles of God's grace. I hope we are still driving each other crazy on our 50th wedding anniversary.

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March 24, 2012

Dear Kate, 4.5 years old.

Dear Kate,

A few days ago I was making a grocery list and I asked you what you would like to eat this week. When I ask you this, you pretty much always choose some kind of pasta "with butter, and special pasta cheese" (your name for Parmesan). But that day you surprised me by saying "Oh! Can we make pizza and I can help you roll the dough and sprinkle the cheese? I like to help you with that SO! MUCH! But I only want cheese on mine, mama, OK? Cheese and sauce." It made me smile to hear you say that you love to do something with me. And you can say it really clearly and very endearingly because you are four and a half, as hard as that is to believe.

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You have always been a talker, but in the last six months you have taken another giant leap forward in your ability to express yourself and there are days when I have to remind myself that I am not, in fact, talking to a miniature adult. Your little baby phrases and grammatical mistakes are mostly gone and that breaks my heart. But in their place is a growing habit of using your words to build up other people. I am really starting to recognize this as a gift you have.

Back in December when your cousins on the Wachdorf side of the family were in town, a bunch of the adults loaded up all seven kids and we took y'all bowling. Since the oldest child of that group is five years old, it was a pretty hilarious outing. The toddlers were waddling off off towards the lanes, and bowling ball safety was an issue requiring constant vigilance. We set up bumpers and a little ramp to guide the bowling balls on the lane the kids were using, got everyone outfitted with shoes and lurched through a game.

It will not surprise anyone who knows me to learn that I am a terrible bowler. You could modify that sentence by inserting any sport on the face of the planet and it would still be just as true. If you and your brother inherit the athletic abilities of your Dad and I then I sincerely advise you to focus on winning an academic scholarship for college. I am seriously worried about my ability to guide you through the team sports participation that makes up an average childhood. I may have to hire some kind of sports surrogate or parental coach just so I don't screw it up.

On the day in question my final score was somewhere in the double digits. The toddlers bowling with bumpers had higher scores than me. But every time I got up to humiliate myself by bowling again, you cheered and clapped and jumped up and down and told me "Good job, Mom! Woohoo! Three pins!" Actually you did that for everyone who bowled, even as the game dragged on and the toddlers got restless and we rushed through the final frames to get home for nap time. People in other lanes were staring at us. But I was really proud of how much you wanted everyone else to be encouraged and how you paid attention to their games and not just your own.

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That wasn't an isolated incident. Last month when I was sick, you told me over and over "I'm so sorry you are sick, Mom. It's no fun to be sick." You encourage your brother and clap for him when he is learning to do something "SELF!" which is his way of saying that he will do it by himSELF. (At almost two, SELF! is a big thing for Isaac.) And several times a day, usually for no apparent reason, you tell all of us "I love you!"

This is all so encouraging after the Year That Was Three. I loved the third year of your life but there were times when it felt like one long unreasonable tantrum. You still have some moments like that, believe me. But you are also maturing and developing the ability to think of others first, rein yourself in before your emotions get the better of you, and do things because they make other people feel important and loved. Whenever I see that in you I feel like I am getting a little glimpse at the grownup you will be one day. I think you will be a wonderful person to know.

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Lately when I ponder the adult Kate I also find myself hoping that she isn't featured on an episode of "Hoarders: Buried Alive." I can't say that your love of collecting, well, anything, surprises me. I'm not going to name names, but we have some collectors in the genetic line that leads to you. I just never expected it to have any real manifestations in my own life because I am of the school of thought that loves nothing more than to do a big junk purge and then make a run to Goodwill. Thus, it is not without irony that you form deep emotional attachments to every object that comes into your possession and are never, ever willing to part with them knowingly. Key word: Knowingly. Since you can't read yet I can still get away with spilling my parenting secrets here and you'll never be the wiser, so I admit that every couple of months when you are at school or on an outing with your Dad or grandparents, I go into your room with a big trash bag and run through your many junk stashes like a controlled burn through a stand of pine. (Hi, Dad! I used a forester analogy! Aren't you proud?)

I did that just today and it never ceases to amaze me how many separate pockets of stuff you have managed to accrue in a few short weeks. Every box, purse and shelf in your room yields up a new snarl of broken beads, crumpled stickers and those awful low grade plastic toys that seem to accumulate in our lives no matter how much I try to avoid them. I also find things that belong to me, to your brother, to your dad. Spoons and random socks and letter refrigerator magnets that have lost their magnets. I try to toss only the most useless of trash at one time so that you don't detect the missing items. I would seriously throw it all out in one fell swoop if it were only about me but you really do have a hard time letting stuff go. Last month after spending a week down with The Great Flu, I got totally creeped out thinking of all the flu germs that must still be in our home and decided that I would not be able to rest easy until we tossed our old toothbrushes and got new ones. You were thrilled to pick out a new Tinkerbell toothbrush but I didn't exactly do a good job of explaining to you that it would be replacing the four other toothbrushes that you have held on to since your babyhood. When you realized those were headed for the trash, you were devastated. You actually cried. These are the moments when I see your future on a television show about people who set world records with the toothbrush collections and have names for all of them. I have to try to take a deep breath and remember that some things are just a phase. And then I hope that one day you have a house with big, big closets.

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You're getting really tall and looking more and more like a big kid every day. Last month when we were getting ready to take a trip to Gam and Geez's house I was packing your clothes and realized that most of your pants were much too short. A couple of Sundays ago you put on a church dress that had fit just fine the last time you wore it and it was up above your knees. New clothes have been acquired for you and now I am in the process of gradually smuggling out the ones that are too small lest you insist on keeping them. (See: Hoarding.)

It is perhaps not a coincidence that around this same time you snapped out of your LIFELONG apathy toward food and started eating like an Olympic swimmer. I am in total shock. Just last summer your dad and I had to institute this whole set of rules and procedures all geared toward requiring you to consume just the bare minimum of food that would allow us to sleep at night as your parents. Now all day long you are hungry. It is like having someone else's kid in the house and I cannot get over it. It's kind of a novelty in my world to put food down in front of a child and watch them actually consume it, so I am enjoying it while it lasts.

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You are in the process of growing a sense of humor and at the moment it is ... awkward. Your current favorite thing to do is to attempt to tell a joke and then laugh deliriously at your own punch line, which invariably makes no sense. Here is an example of how all your jokes are structured:

Kate: What did the chicken say to the cow?
Me: I don't know.
Kate: What are you doing, cow? AHHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!

Knock knock jokes are even worse and I hope you get them figured out soon. Right now it's hard to tell when you're done and I am supposed to laugh and you are really offended when I don't laugh at the right time. I'm sorry. I'm doing my best. Your humor is clearly above my comprehension level. Try to be patient.

Here is a photo of you and Isaac Skyping with your friends Lily and Owen. Since people may be noticing a common theme in these pictures I will point out that yes, you do wear that headband every single day of your life without fail.
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The other big development of the last few months is that you are in a pre-ballet class. It will surprise no one to learn that you are loving it. We started in the middle of the year for a variety of reasons and on the first class in January you were measured for costumes for the June recital, sealing your belief that you have hit the big time and are now well on your way to being a true ballerina. There is a picture of your recital costume posted on the wall of the business office of the studio. You will be a butterfly, and every time we pass the picture we have to stop and look at it in adoration for a minute. Then you are all business, putting on your shoes and waiting for your teacher to come and take you to class. Every time I see you walk off with the other dancers, so confident and so excited to go and do what you love, I get another one of those little glimpses of what it will be like to watch you walk away and do whatever it is that God has called you to do in your life. And I feel an odd mixture of pride and joy and heartbreak knowing that these are just small rehearsals for a time when I will let you go into the big world for good.

But today we are going to make pizza together. With just cheese for you. Cheese and sauce. I love the simplicity of this time in our lives together. And I love you at four-and-a-half years old more than I can say.

Mama

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March 19, 2012

Real life.

Actual transcript of a conversation the kids had tonight in the car while we were on our way to get frozen yogurt after dinner:

Kate: A!
Isaac: A!
Kate: B!
Isaac: B!
Kate: C!
Isaac: C!
Kate: D!
Isaac: .....No!
Kate: Yes!
Isaac: (screaming) NOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!!!
Kate: (Queen of the screamers) YEEEEEEEESSSSSS!!!!!!!!

This went on for five straight minutes. Some of the time they were really sounding angry, and some of the time they were laughing. Then we got to the yogurt place, ate yogurt and watched the kids dance around with great gusto and no apparent memory of their recent fight to "Girls Just Wanna Have Fun," which was playing on the sound system.

Then we went home. The end.

March 8, 2012

Watching the grass grow.

The house we live in right now is a rental home. We were very blessed to be able to sell our home in Albuquerque, but it wasn't a good time to be a seller and it didn't make us eager to pick up a new mortgage any time soon. And San Antonio is a big place. Since we weren't sure where we would attend church or eventually want to put the kids in school, we figured renting a home would be a good decision for the first couple of years while the dust settled and we figured out where some of those puzzle pieces would fit for us.

San Antonio is big on suburbs. If you drive for 20 minutes in any direction you will pass areas that have their own housing developments, grocery stores, shopping and schools in regular clusters and they never seem to stop coming. Our home in Albuquerque was in what was clearly a preplanned community built by a single construction company -- each house very similar to the next -- but I wouldn't really call it a suburb. I never lived in one of those until we came here. On the whole the experience has been like eating oatmeal. It hasn't been unpleasant and it hasn't been particularly exciting. I seem unable to arrive at any strong feeling about it, good or bad.

Similarly to Albuquerque, our neighbors seem like nice enough people, but I don't see much of them. Between the hours of 8 a.m. and 3 p.m. it is like a ghost town here. But I recently had reason to realize that just because I don't see my neighbors doesn't mean they don't see me.

Diagonally across the street from us is a huge brick house with the nicest yard in the entire neighborhood. Last summer when a severe drought was baking South Texas and restrictions on sprinkler systems were in place the owners of that house, a retired couple, would sit in their lawn chairs once a day and hand-water their grass while the rest of us gave up in June and watched our lawns turn a sickly brown color. Not content with merely making our yards look worse, they eventually took more drastic measures. One day I was getting the mail and saw a truck parked in front of the yard advertising some sort of yard service which, upon closer observation turned out to be a guy spray painting the grass a deep lustrous green.

Around this same time we received a notice in our mailbox from the homeowners association informing us that we were in violation of the neighborhood covenants. Our offense, it seemed, was that we had been leaving our trash can visible from the street. This has never occurred to us as a problem, but according to The Association, we were supposed to be keeping the trash can inside our garage or fenced in the alley. We dutifully complied but then the logical question began to creep into our minds -- who in the world alerted the homeowner's association to our trashiness? A few days later, it hit me: The Grass Painters! Who else has the time to care about my trash can placement?

Once I decided it had to have been them I had a good laugh about it and moved on, now with a more properly disguised trash can. I tell that story mostly so that I can tell this one: One of our next-door neighbors is clearly out of town a lot. I see her maybe once every six weeks and only know she is home if we happen to pass one another in the driveway. But the other reason I know this is because she pretty much never mows her yard. Last summer this didn't matter much since it wasn't like the grass was growing anyway, but this spring we have actually gotten a good bit of rain and we have the weeds to prove it. Neither Dan or I are big outdoors people and one of the main things we learned about ourselves when we owned our first home is that yard work is not one of our spiritual gifts. Our negligence was obvious enough even when we had a yard that was the size of a postage stamp and 85 percent landscaped in rocks. But when we moved to a part of the country that is actually capable of growing grass, we agreed that we would save ourselves the drama and hire a yard guy. (And by "the drama" I mean "The nagging that I would have inflicted on Dan while also not doing anything about the yard myself." Lest you think I am a better wife than I am. Nope.)

So while we might not have been all caught up on trash can etiquette, our neighbors can't fault us on our yard maintenance thanks to the yard guy. Meanwhile the yard next to ours made us look like rock stars. It basically grew six inches deep in weeds, not even grass. The bushes were out of control. And all the while the grass painters were across the street trimming stray blades of grass with nail clippers. I knew that overgrown yard directly across from them had to be making them crazy.

On Friday, as I mentioned before, I took Isaac to the doctor to get treated for the flu. It was a long morning and the first time I had been out of the house since I got sick a few days before. I felt shaky and like I had to squint in the sunlight. The doctor's office is never an easy trip with Isaac, who hates to have his ears checked out and screams and thrashes and has to be restrained. With the need to get the inside of his nose swabbed for the flu test it was even more traumatic than usual. Then we went to the pharmacy and got out minutes before nap time. He was a mess, I was a mess, and I just wanted to get home and lie down. But as I pulled up to the house I saw something that made it worth having gotten out of bed that morning:

The Grass Painter Wife was in the crazy yard mowing the grass! She had her push mower and her rake and her hedge clippers and had filled up four GIANT bags with clippings. She was moving like a person seized with righteous anger who has finally had enough. It was like in her mind, she was beating back the forces of evil right there in that yard. When I pulled into the driveway she was clearly finishing up, and she stacked those bags of clippings in a straight line at the garage door and marched back across the street, triumphant over disorder. I sat in the minivan in the garage and laughed for a minute and a half.

Who said the suburbs are boring?

March 6, 2012

Wachdorf adventures: The 2012 Flu Edition.

I think I spent the first two years of Kate's life convinced that she was getting sick. Never once was she sick, not really anyway. She got colds and minor stuff like any baby, but it wasn't until she was almost three that we had our first bout of real, scary, acute sickness. And that first time was a doozy: Two months after Isaac was born, Dan went on a business trip for a week, leaving me on my own for the first time with both kids. While he was gone Kate got a cold that morphed into a double ear infection, except I didn't figure out that was what was going on until I had spent two nights shuttling between a hysterical child running an outrageous fever and a newborn waking up to eat every couple of hours. It was horrible. I still break out into a sweat thinking about how scared and overwhelmed I was.

I thought about that experience a lot this week, and not for happy reasons. This week Dan was on a business trip, and we were sick. Specifically, I was sick here in Texas and Dan was sick on his trip. What we didn't know was that we had the flu. We figured that out when Isaac got sick and ran a fever that got my attention more than my own four days of misery had done. So Isaac got taken to the doctor and diagnosed with a case of "We know you had a flu shot in this exact same room not five months ago, but you still totally have the flu."

In the end, only Kate escaped unscathed which was mystifying since she was just as exposed to me and my illness as Isaac, but I'll take a win where I can get one. Usually when Dan is out of town I fill our days with lots of activities to pass the time. But since I was too sick for any of that, instead I had a lot of time to contemplate the subtle art of being sick and being the mom. It is not a good gig. But I do have a few disconnected observations:

1. The all-pervasive guilt that comes with mothering also extends to communicable illness. This fall my kids got flu shots, and I intended to get a flu shot myself. I even went so far as to start filling out the paperwork for one in Target, and then the kids freaked out and I had to go before I could actually get the shot. So for the first time in five years, I forgot. Then I got the flu and passed it on to Isaac. Thus, in my mind there was a very straight line between my failure to get a flu shot and Isaac's suffering. His every cough made me wince. I understand of course that this was ridiculous. There are any number of factors that contribute to a person getting sick, and at any rate it isn't like Isaac's shot worked anyway. But still, I was the weakest link in our family and it just killed me.

2) I really need to go to Vegas soon. Did I mention that I have gotten a flu shot for five consecutive years prior to this? And that we got our official flu diagnosis on March 2, late in the flu season no matter how you look at it? And that a few days earlier I had been reading a news story about how practically no one got the flu this year and it was a miracle of science? And that when the doctor told me Isaac had the flu, his exact words were "Congratulations! He is my first flu case of the year."

We win all the good prizes.

1. TamiFlu is a wonderful thing, and I wish I'd had some when it would have done me any good. Back during the great H1N1 scare of 2009, I read online a pretty hair-raising story from a family in Great Britain whose children had a really bad reaction to TamiFlu and suffered from hallucinations. It did not make me want to have my kids on that drug if I could help it. But when Isaac got sick and was diagnosed within 24 hours of the onset of the illness, our doctor felt like treating him would be the best course of action since he is under two and therefore in a high risk group for complications from the flu. I took his advice, but watched with great trepidation for any negative side effects once I gave him the first dose. And you know what? He was fine. He never seemed bothered at all, and he clearly felt better much faster than I did. Right now, a week later, I am still moving pretty slowly and he is tearing around the house like he's on wheels. As a parent I take very seriously the job of making informed decisions about my kids' health, but sometimes I feel like the Internet means I am living in the age of way too much information. It's good to know what could happen, yes, but it isn't neccesarily always helpful to read a first-hand account from the one person who had a bad experience, all in the name of being informed. And The Google will always make sure you find that one person.

4) It turns out that if you are really incapacitated you can get out of bed only to perform key child care tasks like preparing hot dogs and mac and cheese (yum!), and the rest of the time you can just let your kids do whatever the heck they want. I am pretty sure I read that in a very reputable parenting book. I may be exaggerrating slightly, but our kids surely did watch an obscene amount of television and I don't even know what they were doing that resulted in the kind of messes they made. They also apear to have dug a sizable hole under one of the bushes in our back yard one afternoon when I told them to go outside. But we all survived until Dan got home, and that is what counts.

5) Times like these are when you cannot place a value on having family members nearby. My mother-in-law Lorrae bailed me out so much while Dan was gone. She took the kids off my hands a couple of times, shuttled the very un-sick and very bored Kate to school, and even brought me soup. I owe her big.

6) Taking cold medicine and then falling asleep with the lights on while reading "Into the Wild" on a night when your husband is out of town is a recipe for some weird, fevered, confusing dreams. It was my own little homemade TamiFlu hallucination. I do not recommend it, and I may never be able to finish that book.

We are a lot better this week, if a little weak, and I hope to be able to look forward to a spring featuring a few less trips to the doctor. And on that note, it's a beautiful day outside and I think I will take the kids and soak up some of that lovely sunlight. It's been too long since I've seen any.

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