Monday, November 30, 2009

Christmas Chain

After our Sunday pancakes around the family table together, Katie and I played with some blocks and puzzles and then worked on another Christmas project in her playroom while listening to Christmas carols. We lit her pink tree, and although I had a different outfit in mind, Katie asked to wear her "candy cane dress" (as she calls it).

So we settled in to make our Christmas paper chain. About a two weeks ago, I cut twelve strips each of red and green construction paper. I found a pack of 60 Christmas stickers for $1.00 at Target, and since I know Katie loves stickers, I thought she would enjoy putting them onto the paper strips and that it would sustain her interest more than if we colored and drew and wrote on the paper strips this year.

The stickers sure worked well! I had her chose each sticker and she loved putting them on!

Katie affixes a wreath to one of the green strips...

As soon as we had put the chain together, Katie began to dance with it all over the playroom and her room.

The finished paper chain!

Right now we have him hung up in Mr. Pumpkin's old spot, above the kitchen table. It works for right now, but as the chain grows shorter as Christmas approaches, I might need to move it down where she will be better able to reach it.

Every morning when I take her downstairs, I lead her over to our mistletoe ball and say, "Kissing ball! Mistletoe kisses!" and cover her with kisses. Tomorrow, we will add to our morning tradition: we will start opening our advent calendar and taking rings off our paper chain.

In the afternoon, I put up all of our external Christmas lights. At our house, I am in charge of all things Christmas. Katie helped for part of the time, ate lunch with Daddy for part of the time, and napped for part of the time. The lights were fairly easy this year, as the previous owner already had the nails in the wood trim ready for use. The main challenge was hauling the ladder from nail to nail---my arms are sore this morning (I actually am one of those people who loves the feeling of sore muscles, though). And of course, there was the unexpected mud puddle in the grass that both my feet sank into when I was adorning one of the pepper trees. I also had to make a decision early in the process not to be intimidated by the man across the street, whose light display this year includes lawn ornaments and something else he seems to be making with a skilsaw. I'm not that hardcore, although there have been times when I would like to do some woodworking. I miss my retro C7 lights this year, but last year they overheated and started popping...and I made a decision to use the mini lights this year. Replacement bulbs are a little easier to find and not as expensive. Overall, I am pleased with our lights. I have part of them set on a timer (I only have one timer), and part of them running on a different outlet (I had to run a green extension cord from one of the back outlets to the front yard for the pepper tree), so the only issue is that I will need to turn those off manually if I want them to be off. The most important thing is that Katie takes joy out of seeing them!

I was thinking that I would get our tree next week, but as I thought about it last night, I think I have decided to get our tree this week so that the Christmas decorating is complete and so that we can enjoy the tree for the maximum time.

Today we have our toddler class, then the market, then a sourdough bread making session, then a Michael's run if we feel we energetic by then.

Happy first week of December!

Saturday, November 28, 2009

'Tis the Season!

As I write, Katie is napping downstairs as her daddy watches a football game and the rain patters the windowpanes. Several of our smaller Christmas trees twinkle with light, and the familiar decorations of my childhood and adult life bring gladness to my heart. The house is clean, the piles straightened. We've even been out for a walk during a break in the rain. Tonight we have Thanksgiving Part II at my mom and dad's house. After I blog, I will get dressed and lay out Katie's clothes.

We have our McGaugh Christmas Party coming up, and so Katie and I started decorating yesterday. We still have one more dedicated solely to the outside lights, and a third day has been marked for picking out our live tree and trimming it. We love how our familiar decorations look in our new home. Our new home has necessitated changing the location of some of our Christmas things, but the changes are largely for the better. I know it sounds almost a little nuts, but when I chose the color palette for the house, part of my consideration was how it would look at Christmastime---my favorite time of year. Everything just feels so cozy...

Katie seemed to enjoy helping with the decorating this year, especially the part where she got to pull things out of boxes. And she really loved decorating her pink tree this year! It is beautiful to watch her delight in everything, from the lighted snowman on the mantle, to the tree in our kitchen, to the garland on the staircase, to her snowflakes. It will be so much fun to pick out our live tree with her this year!

Here are some pictures of our decorating fest yesterday:

Katie helps with the ribbon for the staircase garland.

We put on Christmas music and she dances! She loves to sing, "Santa Claus is Coming to Town."

Katie prepares to hang an ornament on her pink tree.

Trimming the tree. We put the tree in the playroom (instead of her room) this year. We spend so much more time in the playroom and the outlet was more accessible. We can enjoy it more during bathtime, and it is cozy to have on when we come upstairs and see it first thing.

We also put her snowflakes above her table instead of her bed. Again, we like to be at the table and it seemed cozy with the tree right there. She calls this area her "snowflake palace."

In her pink candy cane pajamas after bath last night, Katie smiles at her tree.

Today we wrote our letter to Santa Claus. Katie drew him a picture while we conversed about her wishlist.

Drawing a picture.

We put the picture and the letter into an envelope, addressed it, and stamped it.

Katie mailed her letter in our mailbox. When she wasn't looking, I took it back out and am going to save it for her until she is much older.

Katie and her letter.

To write the letter, I had a conversation with her and wrote down what she said in quotes. We wrote an introduction together, and then made the list. Here are the things Katie hopes for this year, in her own words:
- "a train set"
- "more Peters" (as in Peter Rabbits)
- "I hate the Barbie"
- "a kitty purse I saw with a happy mouth"
- "a mermaid"
- "colored pencils"
- "some more blocks"
- "lipstick and chapstick"
- "more hot dogs"
- "more Legos"
- "a couple books"
- "alligators"
- "I want Santa's mommy to come over"
- "more dolphins"
- "a bouncy swing like the baby does" (I think she was referring to a story we read)
- "I want some more candles"

She is so sweet! I am not sure about having alligators at the house, though. That might get a little awkward when they get hungry. ;-)

Wednesday, November 25, 2009


Happy Thanksgiving to all! I love this time of year, being around lots of family, eating delicious food, crafting, baking, planning parties...

We set the date for the McGaugh Christmas party today, and I officially started work on the Christmas presents I'm making this year. I worked on straightening the house to prep it for Christmas decorations. Life is beautiful and good as we head into the December season. I can't wait!

Then again, I am savoring this week and remembering to take the time for gratitude. I keep a daily gratitude journal, because my heart is always thankful---both for blessings and for the trials that help us to grow and become more who we are meant to be. This is the time of year to make some of our thankfulness more public; November represents the virtue of thankfulness that we strive to keep in our hearts all year long.

So tonight I give thanks. I am thankful for:

* My husband, who protects our marriage, love, and life in our home. He works hard everyday so that I can stay home with our baby. He makes choices that keep peace and stability around us. He makes sure that I have a little personal time each evening. He shields us from drama, conflict, and strife. He has given me the hope of growing our family, and I am hopeful that maybe we will have the gift of another child this year. He makes sensible decisions and is allowing me to live the life I had always dreamed of living.

* My daughter, who everyday is sweeter and sweeter and full of song, jokes, thoughts, laughter, and a helping heart. She loves her family and shows true concern for our feelings. She develops authentic relationships with those around her. I love her sense of humor and her sweetness and her growing ability to reason. We love to sing, talk, cook, and bake together. I love our classes together. I love everything about her, even times when she is having a harder kind of day.

* My family as a whole: Mom, Dad, Uncle David, aunts, uncles, cousins, etc. With a couple of notable exceptions, my family members are peaceful and non-contentious, unique and thoughtful, productive and goal-oriented. I can't imagine any family but them! And they put up with me, so thank goodness!

* My best friends, who have always taught me about true friendship and around whom I can totally be myself.

* Toastmasters, which has given me an expressive intellectual outlet this year and a place to push myself to grow in confidence and skill.

* Our move to Temecula, for which I am daily very thankful. I feel so much more at home and less worried about safety here. I love being right around the corner from my generous, loving, awesome parents, and I love that I am able to nourish Katie's relationship with them. I love the trees that grow here, the beautiful backyard, the space in which to grow our own family. When we bought this house, we bought the extra bedroom in the hopes of a younger sibling for Katie. But if that doesn't happen, Katie is truly everything I could ever want. Moreso, I really want to give her the joy of a younger sibling. I love my own little brother so much, and I want her to experience that same kind of love and delight. I love being on this side of town, and I love our home---which is just exactly decorated and appointed as I would want it to be. I would give it up if I could have my Grandpa Don back, as it was his legacy that has enabled this Matics investment...but I try to bring the kind of joy to this house that he would have celebrated. In fact, if you walk into my family room, "J O Y" is in big wooden letters on the wall, as our creed, a daily reminder to try to be a better person than I am. This house is all about my personal growth as a mother and wife, and about our growth now as a family together. I have never been happier than I am right now, except when I was a young child. This house represents that happiness, to me.

* Music, the primary language through which I communicate with Katie. And without which, I could not be whole... Music and song keeps me rolling, eases my stresses. I don't really sing too much around anyone other than Bill or Katie (unless I am in a class or something like that), but when it is just the three of us, I sing almost all day long. I sing my thoughts sometimes more than I just speak them, even something basic like "Breakfast is ready." I didn't realize that I did this until fairly recently. It's pretty weird, maybe, but it is really me. Bill has always made me feel so comfortable about that, and I trust him completely not to judge me. That kind of trust/confidence is pretty rare, for me.

* My blog, which is my primary outlet for my writing, which I also need to do to stay whole and in tune with myself.

* Coffee---need I say more? Each sip is a stolen moment to myself in the morning, even when the morning is hectic. Just the smell of it feels like my own private space in which I can finish waking up even when I am already busy being mommy.

* Naptime: my time to work on real estate courses, cross-stitch, work on my scrapbook, craft, watch a movie, or read.

* All of life's simple beauties...

One of my fellow toastmasters gave a speech yesterday about the importance of becoming a master of investing in people. Taking the time to send the cards on birthdays and anniversaries, maybe sending clippings, organizing get-togethers, taking time to listen to others and make people feel special. I am thankful for the people that do this for me... and this coming year, I am going to work more on investing in others. In the end, the happiness we create with others is part of the legacy we leave behind. I am thankful for all the people who create happiness in my life and who keep their eyes on what is good and beautiful, moral and productive, non-materialistic and inspirational.

I hope everyone has a beautiful feast tomorrow and time with those you love.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Playing Santa Claus

Bill watched Katie this afternoon while I finished up Christmas shopping for her presents. They seemed to have an awesome time together, and Katie still wanted to be his buddy even when I returned. I had so much fun picking out gifts for her!

These are leaner times for us, mainly because I am not working. Fortunately we seem to have everything that is important in abundance and want for nothing significant. I mean, it's not like I can go out and buy a Starbucks everyday, and I don't buy clothes as much as I used to. We economize more on our weekly groceries, and we don't treat ourselves to as many concerts, dinners out, or weekend getaways as we used to. There have definitely been things we have traded in order for me to stay at home; we work within a budget. But we are right where we want to be, and what we have given up we do not miss. We planned and knew that we could support the three of us...and should life give one to us in these coming months, we know we could support one more child. Yet we are realistic about what we can and cannot do and we do economize.

I knew years ago that if I stayed home and didn't work, we would be on a budget. So I saved up some gift cards---for years. I knew I might want to use them to ride out a holiday and help offset cost.

So, I am very pleased to report that today, I bought about $250 worth of Christmas presents for $24.95. I spent about $100 at another store for Katie's Christmas, so added together, I have only spent $125 or so on our daughter's Christmas. The Lego set I bought today was $58.00 alone. Yet we were able to afford a set of tinker toys, a purse, wallet, puzzles, books, a robot, magnadoodle, stocking stuffers, and several other things. I am pleased because not only did I find many of the presents she was hoping for the most, but also the relatively little cash output was the direct result of careful advance planning and years of thinking---so we're actually going to come out more ahead this Christmas than we normally do, I think. That's a big relief, and I loved the challenge.

Katie has been really, really wanting a Thomas the Train Wooden Railway set. It is a little expensive to start it (you need a couple rail sets and some trains), but I was able to get a free water tower since I went to Toys R Us during a promotional, and I also got her the mine set so the trains have a destination. I am so excited for her to open it. She talks about wanting a train set almost everyday.

She was also very explicit: no Barbies this year, and no other dolls. She was clear about that. I asked her a few times, and she definitely doesn't. We looked through a toy catalogue together. Instead, she said she wanted a robot. She also wants an easel (which she is getting from Amie) and art supplies. She seems to want lots of arty stuff and things to build with on her list. She did also want a purse (check) and lip gloss and chapstick (check, check). I did go past the Barbie aisle and did pine a little (I loved my Barbies and still do), but maybe some other year.

I am so excited for Santa to come this year!! I also have the official "gift closet" this year, just like my mom had. I haven't had to worry about hiding the gifts so well before, but Katie is so alert right now that I am trying to keep it all a big surprise. I have always wanted to be a mommy and to have fun Christmas shopping and writing letters to Santa...and it is all coming true just like I hoped...

I love my husband and our daughter so much... This is going to be a magical Christmas season for us! I have been busy prepping crafts this week (we're starting the weekend strong with making our paper chain, and we also have a Dear Santa letter planned, and we're going to make "reindeer food"...we also have our gingerbread house to do, plus several other crafts). Like I've said, I've always waited until December 1 or later to start my Christmas season, but this year, the day after Thanksgiving is fair game. We begin on Friday!

Sunday, November 22, 2009


Except for Stanford's Big Game defeat, yesterday was a perfect day! Bill and I had a date to watch Big Game together, and he went out and got In-N-Out for us so that dinner would be easy and tasty. Katie was actually asleep for the first half, and when she woke up, we all sat on the couch together and then did some building with our blocks. Even Katie got into the game: "Bad Cal! Bad Cal!" she would chime.

The day began with our H1N1 vaccine appointments at the one-day clinic at TVHS. Vax America really had the operation running smoothly. They looked as though they were set up to vaccinate the whole community. When we went at 10:00, we filled out our paperwork and went right to an open station. There hardly seemed to be any lines... I hope more people found out about the clinic during the day and received their vaccines. The vaccine yesterday was in shot form---which was good. I can deal with a shot. Katie was so sweet: right as I was about to receive my poke, she held out her little hand to me so that I could hold it. Very sweet. She watched the shot take place while I looked away. I actually squeezed her hand just a little because this shot did hurt. The seasonal flu shots at Ralph's tend not to hurt much at all, but this one must have hit a tender spot. Oh well. You must do what you must do. Later I had Katie help me take off my band-aid. She smiled proudly when I told her how gentle she was and how she helped me.

In the bath last night, Katie achieved something else that amazed me. I asked her, "How do you spell your name?"

She replied very articulately, "K. A. T. I. E." Each letter was distinct and paced and assertive. My jaw just about dropped off of my face. We've been working with her on this, of course. A few days ago, I finally made up a song about her name using the "B-I-N-G-O" tune.

So, spelling here we come!

I hope everyone has a beautiful Sunday!

Friday, November 20, 2009

The Little Moments

Five years ago tomorrow, on November 21, 2004, Temecula experienced its only snow fall in recent memory. Of all the many little actions of love that Bill has brought to our relationship and marriage, there are some that stand out above the rest---some that I will long remember and press to my heart even after he is gone. I'll never forget that he woke me up that morning, knowing that I wouldn't want to miss a single moment of the snow and all its magic. He knew me well enough to know that I would want to capture such a moment forever. We took pictures and made snowballs, and then he drove me around wherever I wanted to go that morning---so that I could see it all, breathe it all in, explore the whole valley and see it in snow. I will never forget that little action which meant so much, because he wanted to see my delight and that delight made him happy.
It is hard to believe that our one snow happened five years ago. We are reminded of what magic passes us in the blink of an eye. And should we neglect to make it immortal---whether through written words, or a sign on the heart---that magic might forever leave us. So tonight I dedicate my words to a few small moments these past few days, moments that I hope will live forever with me.
Here are some beauties of today:
* Katie waving to the gigantic Christmas tree on Fallbrook's Main Street. We ran over to it after Music Together class, and she wanted to stand underneath it. She called, "Hello to Christmas tree/So glad to see you!"
* Playing hide-n-seek before bathtime. Katie was pretending to be a mouse, actually, and as I searched for her, I made up lyrics about my search to the melody of one of the songs from Phantom of the Opera. When I would find her, she would giggle and squeal with happiness. We played for awhile: hide-n-seek is one of our favorite games.
* When I came downstairs from my nighttime routine, Katie and Daddy were watching Meet Me in St. Louis, one of Katie's favorites. Judy Garland and Margaret O'Brien were in the middle of their cakewalk duet "Under the Bamboo Tree" and all of a sudden, Katie started singing with them and even doing some of their dance motions, most notably making her arms into a tree! Very adorable! I think it would be very fun if Katie and I could learn the whole dance together...
* Going upstairs tonight, Katie said to me, "You're my best friend."
Music class was such a joy today. It usually is, and I really look forward to it every week, but I really thought Kara organized her lessons and transitions exceptionally well today---and she is a great teacher as it is (she would be amazing to have on staff anywhere). The flow of music and skill sets, however, seemed exceptional today. Katie was also delighted and as usual, she was such a helper in picking up instruments. She loved playing the bells today, and she danced with the gossamer scarves and even sang a little of one of the songs in class. (She sings them ALL the time at home, but in class her style is to listen and observe more often than not). So Katie was feeling the comfortable vibe, too.
When we got home, Boppa helped us repair part of our fence. Katie loves to help Boppa, and Boppa is so good at explaining what he is doing and sharing his tools.
Boppa and Katie ponder the fence project.
And here is a piece of lumber for you!

Katie uses Boppa's carpenter pencil to mark some wood.

We made a balance beam out of some scraps...


We really have had a fun week, all around.

Here, Katie is ready for lunch after our Monday toddler class.

Katie is excited for class! We are all ready to go!

A purposeful walk toward the car...

We made a turkey from Katie's hand tracings, and we traced her shoe to make the turkey's body. I let her hang it wherever she wanted at home, and she chose the downstairs bathroom door.

On Wednesday, Katie is excited for some errands! We went to the bank and to visit our old park in the old neighborhood. We went on a whim, actually, but I was curious to see if the visit would activate her memory. She hadn't seen our old park since the day before the move, when she was 19 months old.
Sure enough, she remembered it! She ran from the car saying, "I missed you, park!" She played on the slide and in the sand and wanted to go over to her swings. She chose the same swing she always used to choose and asked, "Sing our swing song, Mommy"---the song we had made up last November on those swings. She looked out at the grass and described a memory of dogs playing there and people throwing a football. She said she remembered looking for ladybugs there. Katie has her Daddy's memory, I think. He remembers events from an extremely early age. I tend to have a pretty good memory for many pieces of information, but theirs is better. I think her memory will be an asset to her...
I get nostalgic for our old park. At one point, we were walking there everyday. I definitely associate much of her babyhood with the layout of our old house, yet all of our material objects are here: our cozy chair, our books, our blankies, etc. But we spent so much time outside and especially at that park---if ever I miss aspects of our Azalea house, it is the park and the yards. We have so many memories there together... Time just goes too fast, that's all...
After the park, we went to Joann's, since they are having a sale on Christmas trims. We add one new Christmas decoration a year (and try to limit ourselves to one). Last year it was Katie's pink tree and ornaments for her room. This year, since we now have stairs, it had to be the garland for the banisters. (And a mistletoe ball---but since it was in the same section as the garland, in my mind, I am counting it still as one decoration :-) . So I had Katie help me pick out everything, from the ribbon to tie the garland, to the embellishments in the garland, to the garland itself. I can't say I even steered her decision-making too much. I offered some input, but really, she chose everything I would have chosen when given the choice between two similar items---like two different berries, for example. We had so much fun, and I cannot wait to decorate our stairs with her. Already she has asked four times to look at her bag of decorations...she takes out all of the embellishments and sticks them in chairs and so on. She helped me peel all the tags off already. She is excited. I am telling myself to hold out until at least the day after Thanksgiving (I used to wait until December 1st). But I see decorations in our near is too much fun to wait too long. And Katie is really into it this year...
Well, bedtime for me! The great news in our house today is that Bill, Amie, Boppa, Uncle David (and his girlfriend Ashley), and I all have appointments at 10:00 AM tomorrow to receive our H1N1 vaccine. Katie has had one dose and has to wait a few more weeks for her second one. I am so excited and so relieved. Yes, I want us to protect ourselves, but more importantly, with all of us vaccinated, we will produce the "bubble effect" around Katie. Those closest to her now will not get sick and we will therefore not be conduits of passing it to her (she has been vaccinated partially, but the bubble will help until she is eligible for her last dose). So we have to be on the ball tomorrow morning, rested and ready. The vaccination situation is turning out much better than I ever thought it could... Even Bill is vaccinating himself, which should tell us all something. He doesn't usually find the normal flu vaccine anything to worry about. Although he is not against vaccination, he doesn't usually see much point in the regular seasonal flu shot. And with his healthy constitution (he rarely gets sick), he is probably right that he doesn't need to stress over that. But the fact that he is willing and even initiated the decision to get the H1N1 vaccine indicates to me that yes, vaccination here is a very smart idea.
The funny thing, to me, is that I used to dread shots...I would get knots in my stomach for days beforehand. After all of the prenatal care with Katie (and after birthing her without drugs), I must say a shot is absolutely nothing. It actually makes me laugh, because tonight I am actually feeling excitement about tomorrow---the same as if I were going some place really fun. That's a pretty twisted, and amusing, view from someone who used to get major anxiety about needles.
For those in Temecula, you might still be able to get an appointment: It is a one day flu clinic at TVHS. Walk-ins are welcome, but they will only be dosed after those who have appointments, or so I understand. Each shot is $20 but so worth it. You can make appointments and pre-pay online. Good luck!

Thursday, November 19, 2009

My Sweet Girl

A little while ago, as we were cuddling before bed tonight, Katie and I were reading and talking together. Lately she will say, "I want to talk about..." and then fill in a subject of her choosing. It is one of our favorite activities to do together and, thankfully, plays to my greatest strengths so we can discuss at length.

As we were talking, she says, "I like you, Mommy." I replied, "That is sweet! I like you, too. In fact, I more-than-like you: I love you! I like you AND I love you. I like being with you and love that you are here with me."

Some time passed as we talked more (about the opossum and meeting the new neighbors yesterday and about her birthday parties). I kissed her head again and I said, "I love you so much, Katie."

Well, she reached both her hands behind her and put them right onto my face, and she said, "I love you, too."

And then she started singing, "I love you forever/I love you forever."

After that we talked a little more, and she wasn't sure she wanted to go to sleep. Right after my shower (she stayed with me during my night routine this evening), we both put on vanilla lotion on our hands. At the time, we both smelled our hands and had fun being alike. She talked about it almost all the way downstairs, how we both had "vanilla cream hands." So seeing that she wanted to be sure of our togetherness even during the night, I had us smell our hands again and I told her, "I have an idea: whenever either of us starts to wake up tonight, let's smell our vanilla cream hands and think about each other, okay?"

She smiled so much and settled in...

The past couple of weeks have marked another jump for Katie, one that has been obvious to us even before her absolute sweetness this evening. She has shifted now into thinking more about others, offering things like, "Do you want...?" and predicting what we MIGHT want and bringing it to us before we ask. I often call her, "my girl" and sometimes "my darling" when I speak to her, and she has started using these pet names as well, like to me: "Do you want this pen, my darling?" It's cute... Today she even appended "my mommy" to a clause directly addressing me.

She is also showing more reasoning ability---and we, in turn, are figuring out how to explain things to her even more effectively to help at transition moments during the day. She does best when everything and every reason is given to her, knowing why I ask her to do something or what my reasoning is if I need to say "no" to something. The "you will do this/not do this because I am the parent" strategy does not work with her---and really, even though it worked with me as a child, I must applaud Katie for sensing that that the fundamental premise of that logic is flawed. :-) I have always tried to explain my reasoning to her a little, but I think I am doing a better job now at pinpointing the best and most efficient explanations for everything...and she is able to handle more complexity as well. At times when our transitions are fast---say, Friday mornings when we have to wake up, get dressed, eat, and get in the car almost immediately to get to our class in Fallbrook---I have learned to forewarn her about the pace, such as: "Today is Friday and we remember on Fridays that our mornings move a little faster because we have to be to our class on time. Let's work as a team to get dressed and get to our music class." With Katie, it is all about front-loading her with information. The more she knows in advance, the better. Ultimately, I do tell her this: that there may be some things we decide with which she will not agree, but that we will try to explain them to her---and in the end, even though we recognize her intelligence, Mommy and Daddy have lived longer than she has so we have more information. In the past few months when she has tried negotiating on certain points, (after I have explained), I do also have no problem telling her that, "This cannot be negotiated" which, actually and amazingly, usually makes her stop arguing the decision.

It definitely seemed like some of the behavior associated with most two-year-olds befell us early (mainly this summer and early fall---before she turned two), and I really think we are moving now beyond it. Everyone who knows Katie best has each remarked independently of my assessment that she seems to have reached a new maturity lately. This seemed to coincide with her new "I want to talk about..." Perhaps her ever-increasing verbal abilities are helping to ease the frustration of communication all people must feel at some point in their development. She has enough verbal ability now to routinely make jokes, come up with original lyrics to familiar melodies, to idiomatic language ("out of place," for example), and to use synonyms to describe her feelings or words we don't understand.

Also, she helped to make dinner last night, as she normally does. We made bee-bim bop, a favorite dish. There are probably many ways to make it, but we like to do ours with rice, marinated filet mignon (nice and tender for everyone), steamed carrots, steamed spinach, and egg. Katie loves it. She really, really loves to eat meat, and she finished almost all of her beef filet. Anyway, after we had the bowls prepped, we called Daddy for dinner. As he received his bee-bim bop, Katie stated proudly, "I made dinner for my daddy!"

She is so sweet!

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Sunday Life

Sunday mornings are relaxing in our house. We stay in our jammies for awhile, savor breakfast, read, and play.

Just like her Daddy and I love to do, Katie usually loves to begin her days with reading. I try to wake up before she does in the morning so that I can read even a little. One of the luxuries I miss most in my life is the glorious feeling of reading in bed in the morning for hours, maybe falling back asleep...I think in two years, I've maybe done that a couple of times when Bill has played with Katie in the morning. I really do miss it sometimes...but then again I know a day will come when Katie will have left our home and I will have hours on end to read in bed, and I will miss her. So I just enjoy life as it is right now.

And we can continue the morning reading tradition together! On days when our schedule is more free (as on Sundays), we read for 45 minutes to an hour before starting breakfast. Sometimes we read in Katie's room, and other times we go downstairs and read on the couch.

In this picture, Katie is reading one of her favorite books while I refill my coffee.

After breakfast today, we watched a Disney sing-along and I cross-stitched a little while we sang together. Katie helps to pull the needle through, sometimes. I don't often indulge in my cross-stitch when she is awake, but sometimes on Sundays I allow myself the pleasure of a little time to work it. I love to cross-stitch and I love the sampler pattern my mom drew. When I am done, we will each have the same sampler, but in different colors. Maybe one day I can pass the tradition to Katie.

We like to order our home a bit on Sundays, readying it for the busy week ahead. While I was sweeping, Katie asked for her Halloween bucket. Since she had eaten a good breakfast, there was no harm. Well, this little girl has grown quite adept at unwrapping Hershey's kisses. I saw her unwrap two and pop them into her mouth. I said that two was plenty and I removed what I thought were the rest of the kisses from her bucket so that she could continue to play with the other candy. Several minutes later as I was finishing up sweeping around the corner, I heard Katie become totally silent.

Parents, if there is one thing we know it is that when our children become totally silent, they are up to something. It is almost as if the silence takes on a different isn't just being quiet... So I go around the corner and peek at her and see that she has found a third Hershey's kiss and has unwrapped it. I sneak over to her and put my face right by hers very quietly, and laugh and ask, "What are you doing?" She turns to me with a big smile, and says very precisely, "I'm just fine!" She makes me laugh so much. Then she held up her kiss and said, "It's a chocolate chip for a mouse!" I love the way she thinks...

A little bit of laundry later, we decided to play outside for awhile and to have lunch in the swingset fort. Katie loved playing with Grover (who used to be mine long ago) this afternoon.

Katie and Grover in the fort. Katie helped Grover go down the slide a few times.

Then Katie pushed Grover in the swing for a bit.

We got the idea to take Grover for a walk in Katie's stroller. Katie pulled out her walking hat and wanted to put it on Grover so that the sun wouldn't get into his eyes. She also made sure he had water (all her own ideas, by the way) because sometimes we get thirsty when we go out for long walks. She is a thoughtful little soul.

I love my beautiful daughter.

After lunch I had some time to work on my real estate studies a bit more. I am now finished with all of the work and quizzes and studying for the second course and am ready to take my final as soon as I can schedule it. And then I will have just one course---Escrows---left before I can sit for my license exam!

Friday, November 13, 2009

Mama on a Mission

Katie, thankfully, had her first dose of H1N1 vaccine today. The rest of this blog tells how that came about and my opinions about how the flu vaccine is being distributed.

You know me: as much as I can throw myself wholeheartedly and unabashedly into celebrating the abundance and excitement of this world's natural beauty, I can also be highly reserved and skeptical when processing any kind of information disseminated through human channels, especially visual media such as news programs. I am a born skeptic when it comes to all human affairs and human intercession into any matter.

So naturally many months ago, I very much thought that talk of the "swine flu" and all of the hype with it was bordering on rubbish: I thought, perhaps, the media was making it a big deal as a mere exercise, much like when they call a few sprinkles a "storm watch." I am not one to jump on any bandwagon. In fact, things that are popular always put me off a little simply because they are so popular. Everyone, for example, said that the novel The Lovely Bones was absolutely amazing. It actually is---but I waited years for the hype to die down before I would actually read it. I am weird this way with all sorts of pop culture, though over time I have found there are people whose taste I trust. If Rosa, for example, recommends something, it probably is going to be good. Therefore, since I am a intrinsic skeptic when it comes to most anything seemingly promulgated by the masses.

Yet as I began to educate myself about "swine flu" from objective sources, I learned that actually, yes, this current strain of H1N1 is extremely serious---and that we need to enact every possible precaution. The 2009 H1N1 strain is genetically related to the very deadly 1918 Spanish flu virus. (All of this is online, by the way). The H1N1 strain is much more likely than the regular seasonal flu to replicate in the lungs and to cause pneumonia. While Tamiflu and Relenza have been used as antivirals for developing cases of H1N1 in the past months, two things have happened that are not comforting: 1) the CDC is now prioritizing the use of antivirals because there are not enough; 2) a new strain of H1N1 has been found in Canada, and it is resistant to Tamiflu.

Although Katie is old enough at 2 to be a little less at risk than children under 1 year old, she is still considered to be in the high risk group for developing swine flu complications, according to the CDC. Even a little bit of a high risk is too much risk for me... And although I know that most cases of swine flu and infants will resolve without issue, I do not want to chance my most precious treasure on this earth.

Fortunately, a little research on outbreak patterns show that Temecula has yet to be hit by the swine flu---well, officially. Without swabbing in every case, it is impossible to know. However, I know that it has not approached our household. We've been lucky to escape this season so far with a couple of colds. While some suggest that certain cases of swine flu may present themselves more gently, much of my research shows that most cases of swine flu present full-fledged flu symptoms: high fever, chills, aches throughout the body, cough, etc.

I felt that I had gathered enough information to pursue doggedly the vaccine for Katie. I have been trying to secure one for weeks. I did manage to get on the wait list at our pediatrician's office, and I have been calling other places in Temecula to see if they have any and if we can get it. I have met wall after wall, vague responses, whispers about priority lists, etc. It's been frustrating to say the least. While it has been easy to gather every shred of information about the serious nature of the H1N1 virus, its history, its symptoms, its riskiness, it has been likewise nearly impossible to find any information about where the vaccine is, how the priority lists are actually working (technically, Katie is in a priority group---though not first priority). Special day clinics that have the vaccine have been cancelled. The amount of energy and time spent worrying has been taxing, to say the least.

I have been so frustrated with the lack of transparency as to how the vaccine is being distributed. I am relieved to see in the news tonight that, contrary to initial reports, detainees at Guantanamo will likely not be receiving the 300 doses sent there. Let's vaccinate all the children first before we think about vaccinating prisoners, hm? The other issue is that I think if there are priority lists, everyone given first priority should have 2 weeks to get their vaccine. If they decline it or don't get around to getting it when they have a chance to get it, it should be given to someone else who wants it more, for his or her children. This business about reserving vaccines for an indefinite time for people who are on the priority list but are taking their time about it is absurd. So my idea is: you get 2 weeks to get it when you are up for priority, and after it defaults to the next group. After priority list people have had their chance, it should be given on a first come, first served basis. No group of people (other than children, the chronically ill, and the elderly---all high risk) should be given any kind of special treatment over anyone else. That means we don't vaccinate skid row (on the news last night) first, and we don't focus on just the inner city. The vaccine should be sent to locations spaced equally apart with the locations disclosed---and you line up. No discrimination---of any sort.

Which doesn't seem to be how the vaccine is being distributed right now.

After California declared its state of emergency regarding the swine flu vaccine yesterday, and after new numbers from the CDC indicate a higher death toll so far than originally thought, I was spurred on today to reinvigorate my search for the vaccine for Katie. There are ten clinics in Riverside County that are administering H1N1 on a daily basis right now. I called several this morning, as well as the automated scheduling system---and received automatic messages that phone calls would not be going through to the clinics today. So I took my chance on a walk-in. They are out of adult vaccine. But there was one for Katie. I could choose inactivated (shot) or live (nasal), and I chose the shot. She needs a second dose, which they could not guarantee---they could run out. But now that she has had one dose, I might be able to use the immunization card as leverage for a pediatric office in town if the clinic runs out---though of course I will try all 10. Hopefully there will be a prevailing philosophy among pediatricians in town that the vaccine series needs to be finished, and I might be able to move up on the wait list. By the time she needs a second dose, the school district may also be administering to employees and their families. That will happen in December. Since she needs two doses, I am glad I started now, so that she will be finished by the time flu season gets really bad. If I waited to do the first dose in December, she would not have been finished until January---and I think in many cases, that would probably be too late.

What I have learned is that mothers are very powerful when we're on a mission. I hardly could eat lately, and I am worn out. Adrenaline has been pushing me through. After her shot, I could feel my adrenaline crashing. I am ready to drive anywhere, wait anywhere, do anything to get my daughter protected. Today was the culminating reward of weeks of pursuit---and I am very relieved that I know I have done my best for my daughter today and that she is FINALLY (partially) protected.

This has been a longer road for me than I have even let on to those closest to me. Much worry has been temporarily lifted today... (of course, I am eager for the final dose). I have shed tears worrying about her in this flu season, and I have been ready to declare our withdrawal from all crowd contact if I couldn't vaccinate her within one week from today. That would have meant no classes, no store runs together, nothing at all which involves groups of people. Maybe not even the big Thanksgiving. Just a small handful of people I really trust not to be sick or to be carriers, people who don't go into big crowds themselves. Even Bill has been concerned about transmission from school to home---he knows how potentially serious this flu really is. We have been using Purell EVERYWHERE.

I just hope the current strain continues to mutate into something less potent. Most flu strains do---over time, the virus "realizes" that it is not beneficial to attack to the point of fatality. Most flu viruses evolve so that they don't kill the host population---after all, think about it: the virus is dependent upon having hosts in order to survive and replicate. But right now, the swine flu is not at that point. I would not want to enter this flu season without a vaccine for my child.

I actually would like one, too, but I know I probably won't come close to being prioritized...and although I am healthy and know I could fight it, I also truly believe that, of the two of us, I don't care if something happens to me: I am expendable. Katie is not.

Sunday, November 8, 2009


After breakfast with David, Ashley, and my dad at the Original Pancake House yesterday, Katie and I came home and decided to have a "eucalyptus leaf" hunt in our yard. I showed her examples of the leaves, and then we got a pail and began collecting. Although the gardeners raked up most of the windfall last week, there were just enough eucalyptus leaves to make the search exciting---finding them wasn't terribly difficult, but nor was it simply a matter of picking up big handfuls.

When we gathered a little over half of a pail, we brought them in to clean and sort them. As they dried, we went back outside and chose a supple little branch from one of the sturdier bushes, cut it, cleaned off the leaves, and wove it into a circle.

Then we glued on our leaves. Isn't it amazing how eucalyptus leaves have so many beautiful variations? Some are completely sage green, while others have gorgeous garnet streaks. Some are spotted. Some are long and thin, and some are short and rounder. I have always loved eucalyptus trees, yet studying the leaves up close gave me a new appreciation for the infinite beauty in a single tree. After the leaves had been placed and glued onto the woven branch, we cut out six little cards, and Katie, Bill, and I were each responsible for two of them. We wrote down what we love, or that for which we are most thankful this year. Katie asked me to write, "I love going to the pumpkin patch" and "I love Amie and Boppa." While Bill and I wrote our cards, Katie embellished hers with a felt pen. Then I glued all the cards around the wreath, and I added a sheer sage green ribbon.

Katie and I decided to hang it by the family table in the nook, right near her high chair and also near her play kitchen.

One of the most rewarding parts of this craft is that it was totally free and made of "found" materials (including the ribbon that I had saved from a package, the paper which I cut from scraps of scrapbook paper, and the hot glue which we always have). We didn't have to buy anything special to do this craft; we could celebrate the natural abundance around us.

Our thankfulness wreath, made of eucalyptus.

Katie has been especially thankful for Boppa these past few days. They love harvesting tomatoes together, and they love to have little conversations together about all kinds topics.

Katie and Boppa visit during a break from painting the patio.

Katie gets ready for an evening wagon ride with Boppa.

We had a barbecue last night for David and Ashley, and it was a cozy and chilly night. We even lit the fire pit for awhile. I made a chocolate pudding, raspberry, heavy whipped cream and chocolate crust pie; Boppa was in charge of the all the barbecue items. We had a good visit!

I have started telling Katie more about Santa Claus, and she is really excited about him right now! I need to figure out more ways to celebrate November with crafts and food first, though... It seems like November is zooming right along. Our lessons this month are going to focus particularly on being thankful and what it means to show gratitude to others and to life on a daily basis.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Katie Has a Big-Girl Day

Katie received some money from Nana for Halloween, and she also received a Barnes and Noble gift card from Aunt Diane for her birthday. I decided it would be a treat for her today to use those gifts and to pick out some toys and books for herself. I did discuss the possibility of saving the $20.00, but I also told her that Nana probably intended for her to spend it on herself now.

Well, Katie wanted to go to Target. We put her $20.00 in her purse, along with her gift card. She held onto her purse in the car the whole way. I told her that we would go down each toy aisle and that she could pick whatever she wanted, as long as it was $20.00 or less. I wanted her to have an exercise in both immense freedom but also in limitation, so I knew I would hold firm and not be tempted to supplement if the price was over $20.00. As we went up and down the aisles, we talked about prices and what was within her range (nearly everything at Target, which was awesome). At first she thought she might want a Barbie, and we put a Barbie with dogs set in our cart and then I encouraged her to keep looking and compare. Well, then she saw a dog that plays music and talks (and can be programmed to say her name) that reminded her of Jingle Bell dog. She had to deliberate and really choose... So she chose the dog that makes music. She had a few dollars left, so she got two sets of four large Play-Dohs (so eight big jars of Play-Doh altogether).

When we got up to the register, I helped her unzip her purse, and we took out the $20.00. She handed it to the cashier herself and was incredibly proud. Even the cashier commented on what a big girl she was to be paying for her toys herself. Katie was beaming and beaming.

We then went to Barnes and Noble and Katie got to explore the children's section in its entirety. This was her first experience in the bookstore without her stroller. We have several new books (I did supplement just a little)... And we can't wait to enjoy our treasures...

On the way home, Katie asked to go to Starbucks. We did, and I had my first gingebread latte of the season. While we were there, whom should we meet but Uncle David!

Now Katie is napping and I am watching Tristan and Isolde (again), trying to rejuvenate myself (I've been feeling a bit under the weather, like I could be getting sick---although the thickness in my throat doesn't seem to change into anything, so who knows?).

I hope everyone is having a beautiful day!


Once again, life has been richly generous with us through our friend Mr. Dempster. A fellow teacher from TVHS, Mr. Dempster has let us borrow indefinitely a xylophone! Bill had been talking with Dave about Katie's love for her music class and for singing and instruments, and so Dave brought the xylophone to work yesterday.

Katie absolutely loves it so much! She was running to it last night, saying, "I want to play my xylophone!"

She seemed to figure out on her own that it is played with both mallets at once, generally.

Her Uncle David is a percussionist, so he might be able to teach us a few tricks...

A very enthusiastic Katie is eager to play notes...

She did some nice work... It was cute. Bill and I were eating a late dinner, and she went to play her xylophone while we were still at the table. She kept checking, kind of shyly but with happiness on her face, to see what we thought. I would look at her and say, "Oh that was very good! Will you play us some more dinner music?" And her expression would light up. I could tell that she was feeling as I do when I love something so much: kind of shy to reveal the depth of how much it means to you. She would play a little and look at us again, almost seeking reassurance that it was okay to delve into her feeling of loving it so.

Yesterday was a big day for Katie, actually. Last night she had her first live theater experience at the Valley Winds concert at the Old Town theater. My brother has returned to his music, and last night was the first time Katie has heard him play so that was particularly special.

Oh, she was so happy and proud to be a big girl at the theater. She got to wear a nice dress, and even though she was a free admit, the box office gave her a "student" ticket so that she could have and hold one of her own. Waiting on the benches to go inside, she held her ticket proudly as I explained the procedure and how we each had one and the ticket takers would tear part of it and let her keep part of it.
Then inside she worked hard on being silent, though it was a little difficult at points for her to remember. I explained that it was like the library. On a couple of pieces that she really liked, being quiet was easier for her. We watched the horns and we talked about the conductor.
My parents made sure that my brother and I both knew the beauty of live theater growing up and how to conduct ourselves properly. I think theater experiences are part of being educated, actually. Nothing compares to seeing music or drama performed live; there is an authenticity to it and a way that live performers and the audience create an energy together that cannot be replicated in other forms. Live theater experiences are essential, in my mind, to understanding the dynamic between artist and audience that exists to varying degrees in all works of art. There are also behavioral formalities that are expected (or used to be expected, in the past---more and more some of the art of seeing theater is dying) of the audience that, I think, underscores a sense of true respect for the arts. Dressing up, silencing phones, sitting quietly, etc. The fact that we have to be the best version of ourselves in the theater seems to emphasize what a privilege it is to interact with artistry---and that is a value I want Katie to have. For only by respecting and feeling humbled by true art can we fully learn and take hold of ideas, from antiquity to the modern age.
It was a good first experience for Katie, with room to grow as she learns the importance of silence and sustained attentiveness without distraction. We stayed through intermission---I wanted her to see that concept in action: a break and then a return. But we only listened to one more piece, because I could tell that she wanted a bath and snack and cuddle time. So Bill and I and Katie said goodbye to Amie and Boppa and were on our way.
I hope watching the performers play their instruments live will help Katie connect even more to what we do in our music class. Katie has had several breakthroughs in her singing career lately, though. We are singing all the time together, her little voice mixed with mine. Yesterday morning, she made up her own song:
"Peekaboo, peekaboo/A-peekaboo-boo-boo..." She had her own melody and everything. It was definitely a jazz composition, and she sang it several times upstairs. When we went downstairs, I got out the video camera and sang it---I don't know how to notate music, and I wanted her to know what her first original composition was someday. So I sang it so that she will know what notes to write down in the future. I tried to get her to sing it for the camera again, but by then she was ready to play "market."
She received a cash register for her birthday, so we put all the play coins in her purse and then she took her list we wrote and went shopping. She brought selections of her play food to me, and I pretended to scan them---"beep!"---and then I would tell her what to pay. When I say, "That will be 25 cents" she knows it is the red coin. We are working on adding up different values together. Then she took her play food to the kitchen where we pretended to make dinner for everyone. She loved that game and we played for awhile...
So life is beautiful and saturated with amazing learning experiences everyday. I love the thrill of figuring out what beautiful thing to share next with her... My goal is to fill her little heart up the to brim with as many of life's happy things as I can, to last her throughout her life and to show her how fun it is to learn about everything!

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Beautiful November Days

We went to visit our friend Sandy at TVHS this afternoon. I love Sandy so much; she has such a good heart and light spirit. Every once in awhile, I have dreams at night about still team-teaching with her. I got to meet two of the newer English teachers, and everything about the visit made me yen for the classroom again. If I could clone myself, I would do everything: be at home with Katie, teach, etc. But life is about choices, and I would never trade the time I have had with Katie. I get to be her teacher, and that is the best thing in the world. There is a time and phase for everything in life... We must love the phase of life we're in while we're in it; only through truly savoring the moment may we make it part of us forever.

Katie wore her birthday outfit from Nana, Great-Uncle Ross, and Aunt Jenny and Aunt Anna today.

My beautiful November girl.

Tap-dancing with Boppa on plywood. She loved it!

My little old-fashioned dancing girl.

Smiling at Boppa as he helps us with some work on the patio cover.

Katie and Peter Rabbit play together before we visit our friend.

Yesterday we went for a walk before Toastmasters.

Katie took her Cinderella.

Katie wanted to eat breakfast in her fort from the Horne Family. She loves that fort so much!

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Happy November!

After a magical October, we are ready to embrace the month of Thanksgiving! We're going to start making some of our Christmas presents this month, and of course Katie and I will be spending much time in the kitchen savoring autumn and winter flavors.

Katie has been loving her play kitchen this past week. We play together with it daily, and as far as imagination play goes, creating scenarios with her in the play kitchen fortunately comes a little more easily for me than some other forms of imagination play that we do. I most enjoy Katie's sense of humor with the play kitchen: she was microwaving a dwarf the other day and pretending to serve him in a bowl. Other times, we put the turkey to roast in her oven, and she prepares the potatoes for boiling on her stove. She loves her play measuring spoons, and she pretends to measure spices. I am seeing her act out many of the tasks we have done in our real kitchen, and so I can see that she has been truly learning with me and that makes me happy.

Katie boils something on the stove.

Time to sautee!

Katie puts something in the microwave.

My little cook!

Yesterday we had our Toddler Time class. I have been vascillating with respect to whether or not we should continue with two classes or just focus on our music class, but after watching Katie in class yesterday, I think I probably will continue with both.
During circle time, the teacher of our Toddler Time class always review shapes and colors with the children. Usually we all just say them aloud together as mommies as Mrs. Russo cues us. Yesterday, Mrs. Russo decided to give the students a pop quiz! She called on toddlers at random, from all around the circle. She would point to a color and say, "Isaac, what color is this?" Well, to my surprise Katie started answering for the other children when they paused. I mean, I have known that Katie has known her colors since 15 months or so. She knew "blue" and "green" as soon as she began talking, but she had all the main colors articulated by 15 months or so. But I didn't know that she would participate outloud in the quiz so much! Mrs. Russo gave Katie her own turn, with the color "orange" and Katie aced her first school quiz ever!
I told her repeatedly how proud I was of her for having the confidence to speak up in her class and the intelligence to know the answers. I have never pushed her to be extroverted in class: I have encouraged her to share what she knows (especially in music class), but I have never made a big deal of it when she has declined. I always just hug her and tell her that I know she knows what to do/how to hit the drum/the next line of the song/etc. I always say, "That's alright, maybe next time" and move on. A favorite teacher of mine once acknowledged that there are many kinds of participation in class. Some people prefer to participate in an extroverted way, and others like to listen and observe---and it doesn't mean necessarily that they know less. I have kept this in mind especially since Bill definitely falls into the category of being silent in class, and since we have had many discussions about what torture it can be for an introverted person to be put on the spot in public like that. And we all know how intelligent Bill is---he knows every answer. He would rather prove himself on a test than outloud. I, of course, am highly extroverted in academic settings. He and I are complete opposites in that respect---so who knows what Katie might prefer? I want her to know that I love her and am proud of her no matter how she learns... I have tried not to label her as "shy" or anything else and have tried to play up how proud I am of how well she listens in her classes.
At the same time, I know for a fact (and Bill would agree) that there are huge advantages to being an extrovert in class. Teachers tend to notice extroverts more and to develop relationships more quickly with them. We have seen it time and again at our high school campus: extroverts tend to garner more of the big awards than the introverts, even if those extroverts aren't necessarily more deserving (maybe equally so). Introverted students tend to be passed over for important things and may even have issues with rec letters for colleges. To biased people, intoversion can look like a lack of knowledge, or a lack of care about the course, even when it's not. Because I am sensitive to this issue through my husband, I tried to make it a point to make even the more introverted students feel valued in my class and not passed over. At the same time, I am a big believer in putting people on the spot in class---it keeps people engaged and gives the extroverts a break from doing all the oral participation. I used to make it a point to get as many different students to talk in a day as I could, but a couple of times there were some students who, I knew, would be so tortured by it that I worked out something different with them.
Anyway, I am pleased to see Katie participating orally in her class. I will never judge her if she prefers to keep her knowledge quiet, but I also know that this world favors extroversion to a large extent, whether or not that is "fair." So part of me wants to help her foster that side of her, because I know she will need it.
Before class, I like to treat her (and myself) to Starbucks! She loves to eat by the fountain.

Katie in the morning light by the fountain. She is ready for Toddler Time class!

Playing and ready for the day!

Katie opens her egg sandwich. I let her carry it out of Starbucks this time, and it was just the cutest thing...she held it like a dainty treasure. A gentleman opened the door for each of us, and she brought it right over the fountain and started opening it.

The white in the middle of the bodice of the dress is her initials, an "M" in the middle with a "K" and a "J" on either side.

After we finished our sandwich and scone, we came over to the chairs for awhile as I finished my coffee. We played one of our favorite "anywhere" games: "I See Something." I would describe something I saw, and then Katie would find it. It is a good way to emphasize descriptive language, and, being around storefronts, we could also emphasize number recall ("I see the number 3").

Speaking of fostering extroversion, I go to Toastmasters today. (In fact, maintaining my extroverted side is one reason I joined---I need to keep that part of me in practice, or it can diminish and then it might be harder later to develop it again). I am the designated "backup speaker" in case one of the other speakers doesn't show, so I don't know if I am giving a speech yet or not. I have one ready. I actually am excited about this speech, so I would kind of like to give it today if it works out that way. I am also the "humorist" today, so we'll see if the joke I am bringing is funny...
Have a good day, everyone!