Saturday, January 30, 2010

Afternoon Crafting

Since I love accessories for Katie's hair-dos, my mom suggested the other day that we make some hairbows/hairclips for Katie. Hairbows can run about $6.00 at Gymboree, though they are very often on sale as Buy 1-Get 1 free deal. At Janie and Jack, hairbows range from $10.00 to $12.00. My mom also noticed that, on eBay, the simple addition of a pair of hairbows to a toddler's outfit can double the price that people are willing to bid.

So why not make some for much less money?

We experimented a bit today, and it was fun! I think making hairbows is one of my new favorite hobbies...

One of my mom's creations: pink and green hairbows with rosettes in the middle. The bows are attached to a small clip that can fit into Katie's hair.

One of mine: a multi-colored pair of clips for springtime.

One from Mom: blue and white motif with gingham and polka dots.

Another of mine: dark blue satin ribbon with butterfly buttons in the middle.

I am so glad I have a crafty-skills mom with whom to do fun things like this, since I love to craft also. My mind is already zooming along with more ideas for hairbows. I wonder what other kinds of accessories we could make...hmmm...

Also, I rarely do this, but: I would love to recommend the movie Gran Torino to anyone who hasn't yet seen it. This is reportedly going to be Clint Eastwood's last acting role, and he is fabulous in it. I am a bit overly-sensitive to violence or realistic conflict in movies, and therefore there are many movies I tend to avoid---and so I am surprised that Gran Torino resonates with me as much as it does. There is violence and heartache, and one scene in particular is very painful to be a part of, but there are inspiring messages of learning to see people as human beings and redemption and change even when it seems like someone is beyond hope. I cried at the end, and I really view this film as an important work of art. It is a difficult film to digest at points, especially in terms of language---but then I think of the reasons we teach To Kill a Mockingbird or The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn and I realize that this film uses some of those same devices. Clint Eastwood's character is no Atticus, but he might be a bit of a variation on Boo Radley. And Boo is one of my favorite characters of all time...

I watched Gran Torino yesterday while Katie napped. Definitely not a film for the younger set, for sure!

Hope everyone has had a peaceful Saturday!

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Wild Animal Park

Waking up earlier than usual this morning, Katie and I thought, "Why not take advantage of a beautiful warm winter day with nothing scheduled and have an adventure at the San Diego Wild Animal Park?" The idea came to me first, and after thinking about it a moment and checking the weather forecast, I proposed the trip to Katie. Even though we haven't been for several months, she exclaimed, "We can see the balloon!" (There is a big balloon for balloon rides there).

So we dressed in a flash, ate breakfast, packed our lunches, and wound our way to the park. We have a yearlong membership, so with free parking, no entrance fee, and packed lunches, the only cost we incurred today was gas. Our membership had already paid for itself one trip ago, so it felt good to be doing something beautiful, outdoors, and without having to buy anything.
When we entered the park, I asked Katie what she wanted to see first, and she said happily, "The gorillas!" and then, "They're my favorite!" They are also my favorite, so we walked around the lagoon and to the gorilla encampment. Katie pretended that she was a baby gorilla and I was a mommy gorilla most of the day. Even during dinner and bathtime moments ago, we are still in those roles. She knows that many mommy gorillas carry their babies on their backs, and she has a little gorilla mommy and baby figurine that shows this. She loves how much they are like us. Over the course of the day, she asked to visit the gorillas twice, and she loved watching them eat leaves from branches and also apples. There are so many teachable moments at the Wild Animal Park.
She also found a mommy and baby gorilla statue elsewhere in the park, and we visited that twice as well. She loved pretending to get food for them, and she loved them with her pure innocence.

Hi, Mommy and Baby Gorilla!

Sitting with the mommy gorilla was all Katie's idea...

She loved them and wanted to visit them twice....

Here, she was holding onto the baby the way it was holding onto its mommy... Again, her idea.
We walked most of the Safari trail, and we had the good fortune of seeing a lionness very much up close today. She was right by the glass, and we saw her tongue and teeth and beautiful yellow eyes. We also ran around on the grassy area by the giraffes. Katie saw a baby giraffe, which fascinated her. The Sumatran tigers were also out, and of course we visited the elephants and the gibbons.

Watching the giraffes... We got lucky today: they got pretty close....

Looking at the flamingos.

Katie has always adored ducks...

Katie probably liked the flamingos second-best to the gorillas, though. She also wanted to visit them twice, along with the meerkats.

We ate our packed lunches at a table. I brought a whole apple, and used my teeth to peel it and bite off pieces for Katie since I didn't want to pack a knife. I pondered how very mother-animal-like that was, and how fitting it was that we were among the wild animals. Our mothering instincts are not that far from theirs. We groom and feed and protect our children---and would die doing it. Even Katie, walking along, said (and we've tried to teach her this), "I am an animal!"

Since the park was not at all busy this morning, I gave Katie a little more leeway than I ever have. Usually she is in her stroller or a cart anywhere, but lately I have noticed she desires a little more autonomy. She has been asking, for example, to help me in the produce section out of the cart at the store, and yesterday at Joann's, she wanted to pick out her own buttons while walking around. So today was the perfect chance to give her more freedom in a very uncrowded place. I gave her a set of guidelines beforehand: we had to walk holding hands when lots of people were around; otherwise she could walk right beside me or holding onto the stroller if we were in an area with just us. If she got tired of walking, I would push her in the stroller, and she had to stop if I called out "freeze" or "wait for Mommy" if she got too far ahead.
Katie did an AWESOME job. She was mindful of staying with me, and when we approached people, she would hold hands. We narrated our way through the park with respect to these new parameters, reinforcing the rules and/or how well she was meeting them as new situations arose. I praised her often for her moments of good judgment, and I could tell she felt proud of herself for being able to walk on her own like a big girl. She climbed inclines, took only a couple of stroller rides, and seemed to enjoy her freedom. She seemed to have sensible approach about it and did not try to wander away. Only a couple of times did I have to ask her to wait, and once was going down a hill: she was running and heading for a curve out of sight. When I called, she stopped immediately. We talked about trust and how well she did earning trust to walk beside me safely.

We had a really, really fun day, and at the end we went to the petting kraal to pet the deer. Katie loved this, too, and was so gentle with them. They reminded her of Santa's reindeer, actually. :-)

Delighting in the deer...

She was so gentle and sweet...

We were home by 2:30, and Katie napped for awhile. When she woke up, Baby and Mommy Gorilla made rice krispie treats and dinner.

It has been an amazing day!

J.D. Salinger

J.D. Salinger died today, and as one whose soul is bound to part of his mind through my love for Catcher in the Rye, I feel that I should pay an homage to the man who gave the world Holden Caulfield.

Warning: there are spoilers below. This post is intended for A) people who have finished reading Catcher in the Rye, B) people who never intend to read it, or C) who intend to read it but don't mind having that experience knowing background information.

I love the Catcher in the Rye. Those who find it unappealing usually don't like Holden's initial negativity or cussing, and some of the exposition can seem meandering. Holden positions himself as an unreliable narrator: "I am the most terrific liar you ever saw." (Which, interestingly, is in direct opposition to Fitzgerald's narrator Nick Carraway: "I am one of the few honest people I have ever known." Oh how I love thinking about Catcher and Gatsby together---they are two sides of the same thematic coin: alientation, loss of innocence, loss of the ideal, etc). So we know Holden is unstable. To me, that makes the book more exciting: Salinger, through Holden, draws our attention to the instability of creating personal or fictional narratives. Why should we, as audience or reader, trust the narratives of another?

The whole telos and mystery of the novel is this: why is Holden unstable? Why has he been kicked out of so many schools? Why does he feel "lousy" and "crumby?" Why does his head hurt so much?

We learn quickly enough that Holden's little brother died in the recent past. That begins to explain some of Holden's behaviors, but it doesn't quite reveal Holden's full psychology. Patient readers have to wait until the end to discover all of the layers about this character. I love that Salinger waits and waits to reveal crucial information. In the last few pages, we realize that Holden's whole narrative has been given to us from a mental institution---that he has gone insane, by someone's standards, although he insists that he is not crazy to feel the way he does about humanity.

Salinger is brilliant. He has put his readers in the role of psychoanalyst, and my first desire upon reaching the end was to re-read the book from start to finish again, now knowing what I knew about Holden's location.

Is Holden crazy? Or is he more sane than all of us? He goes to meet his little sister, Phoebe, at her school, and when he does, he sees graffiti on the wall (omission of the full curse word is my notation):

"But while I was sitting down, I saw something that drove me crazy. Somebody'd written'F--- you' on the wall. It drove me damn near crazy. I thought how Phoebe and all the other little kids would see it, and how they'd wonder what the hell it meant, and then finally some dirty kid would tell them---all cockeyed, naturally---what it meant, and how they'd all think about it and maybe even worry about it for a couple of days..."

Holden goes on to say that he wishes he could punish the creep who wrote the slur or even rub it off with his own hand, but he finds himself gutless to do either---and this makes him feel, in his own words, depressed.

Shortly thereafter, he goes to a museum and has a similar experince:

"I was the only one left in the tomb then. I sort of liked it, in a way. It was so nice and peaceful. Then, all of a sudden, you'd never guess what I saw on the wall. Another 'F--- you.' It was written with a red crayon or something.... That's the whole trouble. You can't ever find a place that's nice and peaceful, because there isn't any. You may think there is, but once you get there, when you're not looking, somebody'll sneak up and write 'F--- you.'"

I felt the same way today at the Wild Animal Park with Katie (post to come later tonight). We were looking at a gorilla and baby gorilla statue together, and Katie was pretending to feed them and was hugging them and loving them in all her innocent delight. Two separate times when we were visiting, two groups of 4th-5th grade boys came up and started making lewd comments about the mother gorilla's breasts. So different from Katie's pure joy... It made me feel sick to my stomach. The first time it happened, I wanted to cry... That such disrespect and vulgarity and lack of oneness with nature and beauty could intrude on us that way. I felt exactly like Holden. Exactly. I was reminded of him, before I came home and knew that Salinger had died.

So is Holden insane? Or is he right to feel depressed about human nature? He is probably the most pure character in the novel, and this is one reason why he suffers from alienation. We, being acculturated to the world around us, view Holden as extremely troubled in the beginning of the novel---but is Salinger making the point that, by expecting Holden to start fitting in a little more, we are the ones who are most troubled?

Phoebe asks Holden what he wants to be when he grows up. Holden misremembers a line from a Robert Burns poem:

"I thought it was 'If a body catch a body,' I said. Anyway, I keep picturing all these little kids playing some game in this big field of rye and all. Thousands of little kids, and nobody's around---nobody big, I mean---except me. And I'm standing on the edge of some crazy cliff. What I have to do, I have catch everybody if they start to go over the cliff....That's all I'd do all day. I'd just be the catcher in the rye and all. I know it's crazy, but that's the only thing I'd really like to be. I know it's crazy."

Holden wishes he could spare children "the fall"---the loss of their innocence. He wants to preserve purity in the world, but he knows he cannot. He begins to think like the rest of us: that he is crazy. In a world that thrives on drama and heartache, maybe he is crazy. Or is he? Salinger criticizes the baseness of human nature very roundly here. We're willing to lock Holden in a mental institution because he expects more of human nature than we can ever give him. He wants to save innocence from the intrusions of those who would seek to corrupt it, but like he discovers with being unable to rub out the graffiti on the wall, he is not powerful or courageous enough to do so. Society is too strong; the expectations of conformity weaken and condemn him.

Holden is one of my favorite characters in all of literature. So often I feel I could be him and let myself be overwhelmed by the forces of despair and animosity and perverseness. Unlike Holden, though, I have realized that while no physical place might be a place of complete peacefulness, there are places in your mind and heart that are unassailable if you put certain mental gateways in place.

I have learned, especially this past year, that no one can stop hateful people from entering her sanctuary---whether through physical trespass or through merely trespassing with hateful or untrue words. But the fact is, Holden is not crazy---and nor are the rest of us who really champion the beautiful and the good. Let the negative people believe that everyone thinks and operates as they do, or that we are all schemers or would use others. The problem with being a person like that is that you assume the rest of us operate like you do. Salinger shows us a character who takes more of a stand than any other character from the realism literature genre I have ever met.

Not everyone is in it for just himself, and as Salinger shows us, to the rest of the world, being true in heart, or trying to be a good person, might appear to be insanity.

Salinger was a genius.

When I first started teaching, I taught the third level of the three English 11s. There was AP, advanced, and regular. I taught regular. Lots of people had given up on those kids. Over the year, they would reveal much to me about that. Perhaps I was partly naive, and perhaps I had guts of steel, but I walked into those classes with many of the same expectations I would later have for my AP students. They were never "throw-away" kids to me. I did a horrible job teaching them The Crucible, but as I began to understand more about the craft of teaching, I taught them Gatsby and Catcher in the second semester. They could give presentations and analyze motif with the best of them. It helped that I loved both books, like really loved them. And it helped that we had a very luxurious pace.

I will never forget one of my students, Mike. In the beginning, he came in everyday with his hoody on, didn't want to make eye contact, didn't want to be there. I have a personal philosophy that you cannot teach a child that you don't treat like a human, so I would stand at my door everyday and say hello to every student. He didn't meet my gaze for a whole semester.

And didn't meet it for most of second semester. That's okay: as a teacher, you keep going. Finally we started reading Catcher, and something clicked for him. He started responding "Hello" back at me. At the end of Catcher, he asked me if he had to return it to the school library and if not, what would happen to him. The next day, I gave him his own copy to keep, and he said it was the first book he'd ever really read and that he loved it.

But that wasn't me... That was the gift of the author Salinger, who died today. Thank you for touching us all with your words.

Monday, January 25, 2010

First Green

"Nothing Gold Can Stay" by the American poet Robert Frost is one of my favorite poems. I return to it periodically:

Nature's first green is gold,
Her hardest hue to hold.
Her early leaf's a flower,
But only so an hour.
Then leaf subsides to leaf.
So Eden sank to grief.
So dawn goes down to day.
Nothing gold can stay.

For the 18 years that these words have been part of my soul, this poem has epitomized nostalgia and a desperate longing for the past. I am Gatsby-esque in my longing for the past: because I fall in love with so ardently with whatever phase of life I am in, changing and moving forward---even to further delights and beauties---always entails poignancy for me. I am the narrator in Trace Adkin's country song: "You're gonna miss this/You're gonna want this back/You're gonna wish these days/Hadn't gone by so fast." {Aside: does this make me a line-dancing Fitzgerald character? Now that's a scary thought}. I constantly look backward with sentimentality, and only through experience have I learned how important it is to put most of my focus on the present. I realized long ago how I could very easily live my life in constant sadness at all the precious moments that slip away each second that I will want to relive and relive; so I had to decide that I would live my life with the mission to trust that happiness and magic always awaits me if I work to create it.

As I was walking with Kate this past Saturday, however, we were looking at the light on the trees and I recited this poem to her down Meadows Parkway. As we talked, I suddenly had an epiphany: what if this poem is not a poem of fatal longing at all and is instead a message of hope?

Perhaps because we are soon to enter spring, I realized: even though nothing gold can stay, the first line of Frost's poem promises us that "nature's first green is gold." Nature constantly has a first green, every year. Nature is remade new, a new green, a new treasure...even when what we have loved has perhaps run its course, it is only a matter of time before that love has the opporunity for a re-creation. The Universe promises us the return of love and happiness and Life with the turn of the seasons. "Dawn goes down to day" but then the cycle of the Earth assures us of constant new dawns and break of light, if only we are patient enough to wait.

There may be no better personal example of the reward of patience and the promise of "first green" than the time we are able to spend, even in these late years, with my Grandpa Yoder. A recounting of the particulars of the past is not as important here as it is for my readers to realize that, for most of my life, circumstances were such that quality time with my mom's dad was quite rare. There really never was a chance for the meeting of our minds, or a chance to enjoy the humdrum of daily life together. I think truly beautiful relationships consist of being able to eat a peanut butter and honey sandwich together and watch the sky, or sip hot cocoa and watch TV together, or have any other time together without formality or a holiday to guide it. Some years ago, I thought that a chance to spend a normal, no frills, have-your-jeans-on day with him would pass me by, that I might never see the real him. It bothers me when I think I don't know someone on an authentic level whom I would like to know.

Yet over the past couple of years some significant changes happened in Grandpa Yoder's life, and as seasons change, we have been given a miraculous springtime in our relationship. On maternity leave with Kate after she was first born, I started going with my mom and my aunt and cousins to his house for bi-weekly visits. For the first time, we had some real conversations, and he listened and gave advice as I pondered continuing with my career. Instead of going to the barber, he had my mom cut his hair outside as we overlooked the water. We brought lunches and had picnics on the family room floor. Katie took her second series of steps in his house. I discovered that he likes an oreo cookie everyday with lunch. I discovered an old Bible from one of my Amish ancestors who lived in 1905 upstairs. I realized that who I thought he was, he may have well been... but that he, at this older point in his life, harkens back to a childhood that was more about simplicity and family.

We went to visit Grandpa Yoder today. The girls---Katie and Violet---toddled around and looked at the mallard ducks on the dock and cavorted. Katie will only know one version---this one---of her great-grandfather, and I want that. Her heart is merry and light, and he doesn't mind that she likes to do somersaults on his bed (which is in the family room now), and I see him smile at the bustle and the vitality. I grew up thinking that we had to be as quiet as mice in that house---but that was never true from his perspective. He seems to like the happy family dynamic around him, the spills and giggles, the kisses and jokes. I never knew...but at 30 I now know, and what a gift to have in my life before he goes. When he leaves us, I now know that I will forget most of the rest, and I will choose to remember only this time, a time when we were miraculously given a first green before it was too late.

Do we often receive from Life the gift of a first green with someone who is important to us? Are the opportunities there, and we simply miss them because we are either think that person hasn't changed or because we are unwilling to change ourselves? Must we embrace the grief of a fallen idol (represented by Eden in the poem) in order to meet that person as he really is? And what of the role of forgiveness? Is forgiveness really a formal pardoning, or is it actually the ability to accept Life as it comes, to apprehend a moment as just a single moment that may be bad or good, and to accept that our human nature may render us in struggle with one another from time to time?

Questions for a Monday night.

Now to the frivolous: almost time for....The Bachelor! (Guilty, guilty, guilty pleasure alert).

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Wordsworth once spoke of "emotion recollected in tranquility"

Under clouds wreathed in sun,
We walked until we reached a run,
Feeling hearts lift joyfully
In noontime.

The big slides called to Katie June
Above us sighed the shadow moon
As chill and sunlight
Met in happy glory.

We took new paths along the way,
An adventure on a Saturday.
We walked for hours,
Breathing in the winter.

And once our footprints had been laid,
A stop for frozen yogurt we made,
A treat before some
Books and then her naptime.

Quietly the nighttime stole,
And we kneaded our naan in the yellow bowl
To eat with fragrant, yummy
Chana masala.

An now we end where we began:
The heart must have a master plan
To find delight in every
Simple beauty.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

"Follow Every Rainbow..."

Katie accompanied me to the dentist for the first time yesterday morning, as I wanted her to observe the cleaning process in preparation for her own visits (probably next year). Usually she stays with Amie while I go, but she is old enough now to sit quietly and watch and to understand the procedure. Indeed, she sat on a little padded window seat the whole time, and she seemed to enjoy herself. I am determined that Katie will not share my anxiety with respect to dental visits, and I am also determined that she will realize that routine doctor and dental exams are part of caring for one's well-being and that they are appointments to look forward to. My dental hygienist, Jan, even gave Katie her own new toothbrush and let her pick out a toy. Katie absolutely LOVES her new toothbrush. She loves brushing her teeth anyway, and always asks to do it. Going upstairs last night and tonight, she proudly was talking about "the new toothbrush my dentist gave me." I was teasing her yesterday on the car ride home that she got to pick out a toy---I teased, good-naturedly: "You even got a toy! I was the one who got my teeth cleaned and I didn't even get a toy!" Katie chuckled a little and replied, "But you got floss." My daughter often has a response for everything. :-) I love her so much.

I wasn't sure how she would do in terms of me being occupied with my mouth open much of the time, but she really handled herself and the situation wonderfully. This is my 5th cleaning since her birth, and I loved having her with me for the first time. I was scheduled for x-rays but asked to postpone them until next year due to my pregnancy. Jan poked around though and said my teeth are looking hopefully there is no cavity festering that we weren't able to catch. Let's hope not.
After the dentist, we came home and the rain began to woosh outside. I have a little thing I do every January to remember my Uncle Eric, who passed away in 2007. He and I share a favorite film, The Sound of Music, and so I always watch it within a week or so of the anniversary of his passing. Some of my mom's side of the family actually went to Austria before I was born---lucky!!!! It is my dream to visit Austria and to take the official Sound of Music tour and to buy my own dirndl (a traditional Austrian dress) and so forth. Maybe someday... So The Sound of Music is one of many passions in life we share. We played "So Long, Farewell" at his memorial service, and every time I even begin to hear the song I cry. I sing every song from the score to Katie except for that one, because my throat chokes up too much every time.

The scene in the film in which the Von Trapp children sing "So Long, Farewell" is so poignant to me now.

Many of you know from either attending or reading about Katie's first birthday party that the theme was "My Favorite Things"---also a song from The Sound of Music. That was the first song I ever sang to her that first night in the hospital together, and I wanted her to feel covered in a philosophy of optimism and positive, happy thinking.

We watched The Sound of Music together yesterday. This was Katie's first official viewing. She has napped other times or not been too aware, but she followed along yesterday. It is a long film, so we took a break to make some peanut butter cookies and we also colored for part of the time. We brought out Uncle Eric's picture from the bookshelf and we talked a little about him. We set the picture on the coffee table so that he could watch it with us, in a manner of speaking.
Today we had an extraordinarily lazy morning listening to the rain and wind. I finished My Life in France, taking the time to read in bed about Julia Child while Katie finished her night's sleep.

Around noon we dressed, played a bit in the rain in our boots and went over to Amie and Boppa's for a cooking session. My mom was working on a split pea and leek soup with tomato pistou, and then we both made a banana cake together. Soups have been sounding so tasty, and my mom has been finding some absolutely delicious recipes. I took some home, and it was excellent.

Katie and I like to learn words on her magna-doodle. We have been teaching her to sight-read some words, and she can now read: "Katie" "Mommy" "Daddy" "No" "Joy" and "Amie." We have tested her many times, and she definitely knows them. She has also proved that she can spell some of those without seeing the word in front of her. We think she can also read "Yes" but for some reason she sometimes claims not to know it, so we aren't counting it as a word she can read yet. We are also working on the following words: cozy, pa, Boppa, sippy. She seems to know these inconsistently, so we hope to firm them up by next week. It appears she may know other words as we pause and let her fill in words as we point to them when we read to her, and she always fills them in. However, she may have just memorized the stories---and to be valid, testing the words has to be done out of context.
I can't wait to give her instruction in phonics, which, to me, is much more of a legitimate reading skill than is sight-reading. Only a background in phonics (coupled with some knowledge of roots) allows someone to figure out a totally new word in context---and that, to me, is true reading ability. However, sight-reading is an important start, and I am proud of her accomplishment for sure. Some words in English can only be known through sheer recognition, and so word-memory ability is also a significant step in her education. I'm just chomping at the bit to give her all the fun stuff. :-)
No doubt it will be interesting for her to grow up with two teachers, and more importantly, two people who absolutely love to learn and read and study new subjects just for fun. We hope that we always make learning fun for her... We really believe that if learning can be creative and fun, she will develop a lifelong love of studying, reading, and seeking out things to challenge her mind, just like we do. We don't want her to feel that learning is any kind of drudgery, even though we will in time let her know how high our expectations are with respect to her development of a personal work ethic. There are so many learning strategies we want to use with her that, as teachers, we were not able (for various reasons) to use in our classrooms, and that is the truly thrilling part of homeschooling!

Monday, January 18, 2010

Splashing in the Rain

This afternoon:

Surrounded by grey and icy whiteness as the rat-a-tat rain both misted and pelted, we snugged ourselves in by a roaring fire. The family room and the kitchen glowed around us. Amie visited and brought me a bowl of her rustic minestrone soup and homemade rosemary garlic and romano flatbread. Total deliciousness, warming for body and soul. We sat around the coffee table, near the fire, and Amie, Katie, and I worked on several of Katie's puzzles. Puzzles and a fire on a rainy day is my idea of cozy joy.

Right before dinner I had an idea. I asked Katie if she would like to go outside and splash around and stomp in puddles with me. I wish I could adequately describe the look of wonder on her face as she considered and realized how much fun that would be, as if I had just said something so incredible as to be the stuff of toddler dreams. She was so excited. We played outside for almost an hour, stomping and kicking around in absolutely every puddle we could find---in both the back and front yards. We were drenched, as some light rain was still coming down. We have an absolutely ginormous puddle in our backyard that comes right up to the patio, and Katie exclaimed, "We have our own beach!!!!!!" We ran back and forth holding hands, looked at raindrops on trees and leaves, caught in our hands the rain falling from the eaves, and danced and sang. She said, "This is so much fun!" Eventually we came in, and I gave Katie a warm bubble bath and put on her coziest jammies. Bill wrapped her up in all her blankets on the couch while I made dinner.

A moment of absolutely perfect happiness...

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Good Thoughts and My Children

Katie is my darling love, and I am so excited to give her the joy of a little sibling. I love my own little brother so much, and Bill cherishes his collection of younger brothers---and we wanted to give her the same gift of a little sibling that we have treasured in our lives.

As of this moment, Katie is still unsure, however, about the arrival of a little brother or sister. When asked what we should do with Little Sib when he or she comes home, Katie's response is that we should put him/her in the laundry room, or even outside. :-) She tells me she wants to be my only baby, and when questioned further this morning, she revealed that she worries I will give all of my love to the new baby and won't spend time with her anymore. At least she is able to verbalize this. As all mothers know, however, our love is infinite and multiplying... I reassure her daily that I will always love her forever, that she will always be my favorite firstborn daughter, and that we will still have our special moments between just the two of us sometimes. She is so sweet, and refers to me as "my mommy." I think our challenge will be leading her to the understanding that I can be her mommy, as well as another person's mommy, and that my love will keep growing for both.

So far my pregnancy with Little Sib has been fairly easy. I was tired for a few weeks, seemingly more tired than I was with Katie---but then, when I was pregnant with Katie, I didn't already have a two-year-old to keep up with. ;-) I have recovered most of my energy, though, and so I am feeling great! I've had hardly any sickness. I get little waves of queasiness now and then in the morning, but it almost always passes without incident and this week it seems to clear up quickly. So in those two aspects---tiredness and queasiness---this pregnancy seems very different than my pregnancy with Katie.

I also have much more pronounced food cravings with Little Sib, and earlier in the pregnancy, too. With Katie, I craved only one item: red grapes. Bunches and bunches of red grapes, everyday, beginning later in the second trimester and extending through the third trimester. With Little Sib, though, I find myself flat-out obsessed with Honey Bunches of Oats (a cereal I haven't eaten in YEARS---I tend to eat hot oatmeal). I am also craving legumes: lentils, kidney beans, black beans, garbanzo beans, you name it. My mom gave me a lunch of wheat pasta prepared with cream cheese, lentils, onion, kale, and red pepper flakes today and it was heavenly.

And milk. One of the reasons I am craving cold cereals is partly due to the milk. I didn't crave milk as much with Katie.

However, I have this odd---and basically unresearched---theory. I mean, let's be totally upfront about the lack of true scientific study with respect to what I am about to say. A long time ago after my first miscarriage, I read somewhere online that increasing whole milk/cream/milk fat uptake helps a woman become pregnant. Yes, I confess: I read it exactly ONCE online without cross-checking sources and yet decided to apply the theory. Any former AP students of mine are probably reading this and slapping their hands to their foreheads: Mrs. McGaugh, how could you? Like I said, not very researched and not my usual critical thinking approach...You can't really believe anything you read online, especially just once, unless it is from an ultra-credible and proven source, preferrably sources. So, you probably shouldn't even believe my mere anecdotal account of what follows. I would be highly suspicious myself. :-) But anyway, I have this CREAM CONJECTURE. Both times before getting pregnant, one-two months before conception I switched from 2% milk to whole milk, increased my drinking of milk (I actually don't really like milk at all) and started adding cream to my morning coffee. I swear by it. Many months went by before conceiving Little Sib, and then I decided to add more cream to my diet....and voila!

So Little Sib has been craving milk and Honey Bunches of Oats and legumes.

After a family breakfast and a good ride on the bike today---which felt great at a high resistance---Katie and I walked over the my mom and dad's house for a baking sesh. My mom had already begun two beautifully rising loaves of oatmeal bread and homemade minstrone soup bubbled away on the stovetop. With the leftover cabbage, she made an old-fashioned and simple simmered cabbage recipe with butter, salt, pepper, and sugar that my Great-Grandmother Sadie (the orginal Sarah Matics) used to make. So yummy. I loved cooked cabbage. Once Katie and I arrived, we made the more decadent recipe: chocolate donuts. We chose to bake them and not fry them, and they were yummy little cakes indeed. But my favorite item of the day was definitely my mom's homemade bread. Few pleasures in life compare, truly, to a thick slice of homemade bread just warm from the oven. My mom sent me home with a loaf, and boy oh boy, do I have grand plans for that thing. Grand, grand plans. Those plans may involve a pat of golden melting butter and thick hot chocolate over the stovetop, but we'll see...

As an added treat, Bill took care of dinner tonight. I was prepared to make a little something, but he took care of us and so I had a free night without dishes. I so much appreciate that.

It has been a cozy, happy day, and I hope each reader has found the magic within herself or himself today and found a way to let your joy radiate out into the world in ripples that will bring camaraderie and happiness to you in reciprocation.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Adventures of Katie and Mommy (and Daddy the Mouse)

Snuggling together this morning, Katie and I decided to have an adventure to "Big Park" today. We like to give special names to all of the parks we frequent, and we even have a "Secret Park." Big Park is in the center of Paloma del Sol, and since we live in a different housing development, it is a bit of a trek to get there. All the pathways are delightful, though, and we pass a few different schools. We converse the whole time, and so the walk is pleasant and full of learning and language opportunities.

We spent a little over an hour at Big Park, playing and climbing and sliding, blowing bubbles, bouncing our ball, and playing with Katie's bag of figurines. She was so interested in all of the other children there, and we watched some of the bigger kids use their bikes. Katie has a tricycle waiting for her, and I suggested that it would be fun to try it at Big Park sometime. She loves climbing and is always so proud of herself. We also watched leaves blowing and spinning in the wind.

Katie suddenly began using figurative language today, specifically similes. When we were eating breakfast, we listened to Daddy taking his bath upstairs. The master bed and bath is right over the kitchen, so we can hear the pipes. Something made a high-pitched noise up there, and Katie stated, "He's squeaking like a little mouse."

Now, I am sure that she didn't use this expression knowing it was poetic or anything (although I praised her right away and told her about similes using "like/as" and that I really liked how she chose to express her thought). But I also thought it was really, really, really cool that she is thinking figuratively and using complicated language to express herself.

So that single sentence was awesome in itself, but then later we were dancing and, referencing the leaves we had watched at the park earlier, Katie described, "I am dancing like the leaf."

I do know this is technically less of a simile than the previous example. Since leaves don't inherently dance, she is actually assuming a personification of the leaf that isn't as intrinsic as a squeak is to a mouse. However, because of the implied personification, there is actually a figurative quality to this sentence as well. And anyway, I just really like imagining her as a swirling leaf. :-)

So I am pretty excited. And not just because I love English and literature and writing (which I do!!!!), but because she is showing higher order thought. Developing her higher order thought is one of the reasons we read to her constantly, and we have always had the approach that we would talk to her like an adult and not like a child. We try to make ideas accessible to her without diminishing the complexity of expression too much. When she asks questions about things, we try to give her as elevated and as complete an answer as possible for her processing. We also try to be as precise as we can in our word choice with her, no matter how big the word might be. Fortunately Amie and Boppa are of this philosophy as well, which is probably why it feels natural to me and of course they approach her in this way as well.

After we returned from the park, we made lunch and then read some books in our cozy chair and dozed off for a nap. I woke up and worked on Katie's Year 3 scrapbook while watching one of the X-Men (I love X-Men) movies. My mom gave me a bunch of scrapbooking materials again this year for Christmas/birthday, and I love them. It is now a January/February/March tradition to scrapbook and prepare the pages and mounts and accessories. I design all the pages before I start affixing pictures, so that all the mounts are ready throughout the rest of the year. Every year I have made it a goal to have Katie's scrapbook done by her birthday. So far, so good. I don't know what I will do after this year, though. Will I do a combo scrapbook of both children? Or continue to make them individual books? Hmmmm...

So we have had a lovely Saturday! Hope everyone's weekend is beautiful so far!

Oh, and there is some pistachio pudding in our near future... Better wrap this up!

Friday, January 15, 2010

Sunlight on the Grape Vines

Katie and I drove to Fallbrook this morning, super-excited for our music class to resume! We had such an awesome time: Katie remembered the songs and sang along a little, was excited when the instruments and scarves came out, played her shaker eggs in beat today, and was incredibly helpful in picking up. When the teacher thanked her, Katie got the biggest surge of pride and happiness through her whole body. She loves to please, and her smile was a mile wide. Katie was genuinely excited to see Miss Kara, and returning to class after the holiday hiatus was a happy event for my daughter. I love that she loves class.

After ten weeks of studying variations on fiddle-based compositions, our next course of study is the use of drums. We received our new CDs and sheet music today, and so the studying begins. Our task is get to know all 25 songs as quickly and thoroughly as possible so that we can participate fully in our classes. I so very much love the Music Together structure; I cannot recommend it highly enough. Katie has grown musically right before my eyes, and I am so excited for this new drum course!

Back home, we played in the backyard for an hour or so. We found some "swords" and pretended to vanquish goblins that were drifting into the yard on clouds. Katie said they might try to take our (pretend) ice cream and milkshakes. We would hold hands and hit our swords on bushes and trees and the play structure, fighting the goblins. We made an encampment that we christened "River Base" behind our little waterfall/lake. Katie said that goblins can't swim, and so we reasoned that we would be protected by the water in back of us. I taught her a couple of She-Ra moves, and eventually we were able to drive the goblins from our land.

A little while later, my mom came over to watch Katie until Bill got home, and I went out to lunch with some good friends at Ponte Winery, specifically the Smokehouse Restaurant. Oh, I felt like I was somewhere in Tuscany, with the sunlight breaking through some of the misty day and falling on the grape leaves. Six of us ladies talked about life and did a little catching up. I loved my pizza of the day: an unexpected combination of four cheeses, spicy spicy peppers, pineapple, tomato, and very thinly sliced potatoes. Another revelation in flavor-layering. Delicious! It was certainly a treat to be a little off the beaten path, looking out at sprawls of land, savoring food as art, and sharing time with women I love. Many of us remarked that we felt like we were in another country somewhere. Magical.

Home again, Bill and I shared stories about the day, and I played chase/tickle with Katie upstairs before her bath.

I am thankful to life for another beautiful day, and I think constantly about how blessed I am to share time with those I love and who love me in return. I am a lucky, lucky person and I don't take any of it for granted.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Nesting and Working

Balanced with storytime, a rollicking time outdoors, and a visit and playtime with Amie, Katie and I spent quite a bit of the day paying some much-needed attention to our home and little details therein that weren't quite the priority over the holiday. I have been fortunate this week to feel a return of some of my normal energy, which has been a godsend if ever there was one. I hope that as I continue into my second trimester my energy will keep returning, as there is ever so much to be done...and to be done with all due efficiency.

Katie helped me clean the entire upper story, singing and playing alongside me and occasionally helping out with her scrub brush. I also devoted some time to fixing a drain that has recently been pesky. I wasn't sure I could do it myself, but with Katie cheering me on I found a solution, and after quite a bit of work, she gave me a high five when we finished. She is so sweet and my best helper.

We also made progess on our laundry, although some of it still needs to be put away---which I should be doing right now, but what the heck, blogging is more soul-nourishing.

For dinner, we made breakfast: french toast with keilbasa and pineapple. It seemed comforting, and everyone liked it.

I also just finished drafting the membership letter for potential new Toastmasters members and sent it to our President and VP of Membership to read/comment upon.

So it has been a productive day with moments of play and a quantity of mirth giving it value. I think the secret to real and lasting happiness is to find joy in being in the present moment, whether one is at work or play. We must give value and love to our own lives and celebrate the abundance of our own soul and the simple beauties within our own lives. No one was ever happy who compared his life to that of another. Happiness comes only from within. No one else can create that happiness for you. Unlike almost everything else, happiness is not a zero-sum proposition. Whereas many resources (food, fuel, gold, etc) are finite, happiness is one spiritual resource that never runs dry. If you are unhappy, that is not because someone else does have joy. I believe unhappy people are unhappy because they have a part of their spirit out of alignment or are not seeing life with the whole perspective available to them. If they are told, or if they tell themselves, constantly that they are miserable or that they are in competition with others, then they will be miserable. Truly joyful people never have gotten that way by wishing unhappiness on others. We must exault all souls, including our own, and wish goodness onto everyone.

My friend, Lauren, pointed me toward an excellent quote the other day. For those of my readers who may oppose the Bible as a source of wisdom (and I know I have at least two---hi, guys!), I understand your arguments and respect your position, but I also know for sure that there are truths in there about how to be a good person. If I am concerned about becoming a good person, I must overlook no nook and cranny and be open to wisdom in the many places I find it. Philippians 4:8 says, "Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable---if anything is excellent or praiseworthy---think about such things." The passage concludes with the idea that only by fixing our mind on such things can we attain transcendent peace.

I do get so frustrated with myself when I focus on petty or base things, and I always have felt like it is such a waste of time. There is so much in life that we should spend time celebrating, and it does no good to get caught up in someone else's negative vibe. I struggle with that, still, though. However, the world will never totally lack negative people. I think the key is just to cultivate an ear and frequency that tunes them out and replaces their sound with the harmony of those who speak in loveliness.

So, anyway, tomorrow is a fun day: music class resumes and I have lunch with some friends. Then the weekend, and I think my mom and I have some baking plans in the works---maybe homemade donuts? Yum yum yum!

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Cozy Rainy Day in the Kitchen

Katie and I spent a cozy day together in the kitchen, the rain swirling in grey mists outside. Aunt Jenny and Aunt Anna recently gave us some recipes to try: a vegetarian black bean chili, jalepeno biscuits, and in a Winnie-the-Pooh birthday card for my 30th, a recipe for honey cake. Today was the perfect the day to fill our home with homecooked, soul-satisfying yummy yums.

We began with the honey cake, which was a revelation to me in the flavors it layered: honey, cinnamon, coffee (I used decaf of course, being pregnant), and orange. I could predict various combinations of those flavors working well together, but could not have imagined them harmonizing so well all at once. Our whole house smelled of honey and citrus as Katie and I sang and played.

The black bean chili may well be one of my new favorite dishes. I love black beans, for starters. There is barely any fat (a few tablespoons of good olive oil) at all in the chili. All of the flavor derives from cumin, cinnamon, and chili powder, along with seasonal orange zest and juice from two lovely ripe oranges. Some diced tomatoes, garlic, and onion round out the flavor profile. I served it with a dollop of lowfat plain yogurt on top, the coolness a welcome juxtaposition to the hot and spicy chili. Katie liked it, as well. She loves complex flavors. And I loved the aroma of orange cooking on the stove and complementing the notes of the honey cake.

As an accompaniment, we made biscuits laced with jalepeno cheese. The liquid in the biscuits is supposed to be half and half, but I had some heavy whipping cream remaining from another recent use, and so I went all for it. Flaky, golden, rich, and delicious, the biscuits were melt-away tender with just a hint of bite.

Oh how I adore good, savory, heartfelt, nourishing food. I made Bill a chicken breast to go with his dinner as he needs different proteins. But for me, the vegetarian chili---hearty, robust, healthy---is just what my body has been craving. Thank you to Aunt Jenny and Aunt Anna for sending along such delicious recipes!!!

Before heading to the market this morning, we took joy in finding all the evidence we could find of an early morning rain. Katie found wet streets, mud, water droplets on leaves, a puddle, and grey sky. We also looked at the footprints our shoes made on the driveway after being on the wet grass. Nature has so many lesson plans already built-in: I love it!

I have never suggested these carts to Katie, because I love being able to see, kiss, touch, and talk with her directly as we traverse the market and so I always put her in the front of the cart. However, Katie saw a row of these on our way into the store, and entirely of her own initiation, she asked to drive one around today. I never would have predicted that she would want to, but she loved it. Such a cart is good for multiple children, as I realized, so they might be handy in the future. :-) Difficult to manuever though, for the mommy.

The honey cake recipe is inside the birthday card from Aunt Jenny and Aunt Anna. I was showing it to Katie, and then we continued our measurements.

Well, time to get this wrapped up and to get myself ready for American Idol. Was it just me, or was the premiere really hilarious? I laughed out loud several times...
Hope all have had a beautiful day and found happiness within.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Visual and Language Arts

Katie and I started our new art class this morning, and the program is fabulous. We are taking an Abrakadoodle class through the City of Temecula at the CRC. Abrakadoodle is a franchised program, , and I was very pleased with the lesson structure. Our young teacher, Miss Megan, had just the right pacing and tone, transitions were smooth and quick, and art history and storytime were integrated with a kinesthetic laboratory situation for the children. The class is a small class of six.

Today our focus was on Van Gogh. The lesson began with "circle time" in which Miss Megan introduced the children to Van Gogh and her helper doggy named Splat. The children then learned a little about Starry Night, and Miss Megan demonstrated the project the students would then complete. The multi-step instructions were so clear that, once we had our aprons on, Katie went over to the table and began using her paints in the method instructed to create yellow and silvery white stars on her black paper without needing me to re-tell her the instructions. We then glued rectangles and small squares together to create a city scene. When the project was finished, Katie took it to the teacher to be framed, and all the students created a gallery by the circle time area.

Miss Megan then read a touch and feel book about Van Gogh which featured many of his works, and the children were able to touch different parts of his paintings, like "sand" and the fur of a peach.

After storytime, each child was called up to get his or her work of art and show it to the class.

I am very pleased with the class, and Katie really seemed to enjoy it. And it is really neat that she will be getting systematic instruction in many of the classical and modern painters.

After our morning class, we went over to Amie and Boppa's, and my dad and I left early for the library in order to meet with Marie, the VP of Toastmasters membership. She has asked me to help draft some materials for potential new members and also for members once they commit. I will be working on the first half of the project this week, and we sat down for a confab about what that should entail. We had six guests at our meeting today, and I hope we are able to retain them and build our club's membership.

Toastmasters was really fun today. My dad gave the impromptu topics, and our Toastmaster John really led the meeting well. Daryl, in making a metaphor for his speech, showed us how to peel a banana upside down like monkeys do, and this entertained us all to no end. I am sure it will be an inside joke with our club. Steve J. gave a remarkable presentation of Brutus' speech in Shakespeare's Julius Caeser and then used it for dissecting some of the speech's rhetorical effectiveness. I served as the General Evaluator today, a role in which I manage the evaluation team and comment on the overall flow of the meeting. I absolutely love Toastmasters and building connections with these awesome people. It is a beautiful gift my mom has given me, to watch Katie for part of every Tuesday, so that I can keep myself in balance and open new opportunities to myself. And I love spending that quality time with my dad so much. I know we will never forget this adventure we are having together.

Katie is snoozing right a totally new place. Aunt Diane and Uncle Brad Lambert gave her a sleeping bag with a water bottle and flashlight for Christmas. We were trying it out before bath and she LOVES it. She was talking about how safe she feels in there, all zipped in. She told me that she likes it because if she hears a noise, she can hide in there. Because she knows that Aunt Diane and Uncle Brad are Skya's family, she also was saying how Skya the doggy gave it to her also. So after our bath just now, and after getting all cozy in jammies, Katie begged for me to alter our routine (which is me taking her downstairs for time with Daddy) and to zip her up in her sleeping bag. She said something amazing, "I want to sleep in there, please." She said she likes it better than her crib, because if she hears a noise in her crib she can't hide herself. She has never asked to sleep anywhere other than with me and she usually doesn't fall asleep without a cuddle session. So now she is sound asleep in her sleeping bag on the playroom floor. I zipped her up and she fell asleep all by herself. I am in awe of this sleeping bag!

And Bill will appreciate this: as she was climbing in and getting her cozy blanket, she also reached out for her nearest Rubik's cube and said, "I want this in my sleeping bag, for comfort." Seriously. Our daughter is cuddling with her Rubik's cube. :-)

Monday, January 11, 2010

Roses and Rememberance

It was fitting that we ate our lunch by Nana's roses today, as two new pink buds bloomed in the warm winter weather. Three years ago, we planted Uncle Eric's ashes there, to become part of something living and beautiful again. I wish Katie could have known him, but they were souls passing in the night: she was conceived a month after he passed away from us. He invented so many of our family expressions/neologisms, and I will make sure she knows that and knows of him, a larger-than-life character who brought so much joy to my childhood. We miss you, Uncle Eric, but I promise you will never be forgotten.

Aunt Debbie and my cousins were also there with us, and we spent time in the front yard playing tag and tickle. Katie also had fun pretending to be Nana's cat, Boxer. She has such a vivid imagination!

So it was a beautiful day...

Mommy and Katie ready for a trip to Nana's...

Playing on Nana's front lawn...

Katie playing in one of my favorite childhood spots...

Amie gives Katie a flight...

Happy Katie and her Great-Aunt Debbie...

Saturday, January 9, 2010

An Afternoon with Friends

Katie and I took the morning easy, as I slept rather poorly last night. We colored a little, and she astounds me with how she is already starting to pay attention to coloring in the lines. We also pratice writing with pens and pencils, and her details are so precise. Her nimble fingers help me cross-stitch and she also has a new set of lacing boards on which to practice her own sewing, which she does well. She is quite dextrous and has such excellent fine motor skill. She walked at 9.5 months, so I know that she has always had pretty great control of her body---in both fine and gross motor skill---but still, it is amazing to see.

After a relaxing morning, we got dressed and met a group of awesome friends at Sweet Lumpy's in Old Town (they moved to a new location on 3rd Street). I had such a great time with Meline, Lauren, and Sameera. I am so lucky to have such intelligent, passionate, thoughtful people as friends. Really. I loved the ease of conversing with all of them, and I wish we could get together more often.

Katie had an awesome time in the relaxed atmosphere of Sweet Lumpy's. We ate outside, and Katie explored the hay bales, said hello to some dogs, and danced on the little wooden outdoor stage and loved the pumpkins out and about. Madeleine was, as always, an angel. She smiles all the time and is beginning to do the cutest wave EVER! Lauren is such a great mommy, and she impresses me to no end by making all of Madeleine's baby food herself. Meline is working hard as usual to make life a better place for everyone, and part of our lunch was discussing the business of promoting a fundraiser she is coordinating as a philanthropy for local soup kitchens. Sameera is doing well at Berkeley, and is taking the time to explore the beauty of that campus and its environs.

I love Old Town Temecula. I often forget how much I really love it. It has an easy atmosphere, and I need to make it a point to go down there to people-watch more often. It bustles with a relaxed activity, if that makes sense. No one seems in a particular hurry, yet there is such energy there.

After our hours-long lunch, I came home and make a quick visit with Katie to Mom and Dad's. It was getting really dark by then, but we played in their backyard and replenished bird feeders, fed the fish, and observed a stunning magenta and light pink sunset. The simple beauties of life...

Friday, January 8, 2010

Loving January

Usually I have a bit of sadness once the Christmas season is over, and I remember thinking many times this December that I would feel that way more intensely this year. Once the decorations came down last week, though, I definitely felt ready to move forward and to embrace a year of changes and meeting goals. 2010 is going to be quite a year!

I am so excited about my pregnancy, and the image of Little Sib's heart beating yesterday is permanently in the fiber of my heart and mind. We're still in the first trimester, and already Little Sib is such a person. I cherish that little heart beat. Already a person in there... and was from the start. And to know that person will keep developing, all the way through birth and then to Katie's age now and beyond...well, life is nothing short of miraculous. Katie was once at this stage of her life, and now look at who she is...

I often discuss with Katie her beginnings in my womb, and when I do I run into a failure of our language and measuring system. She is technically, from the date of her birth, 2 years old and 2 months plus some days. But when I discuss her WHOLE life with her, she really is 2 years old and 2 months and some days PLUS the 8 months and 1 week she was in my womb. We need some way of denoting that for our children, for those of us who feel strongly about the origin of life. I tell her all the time about how she went to Crater Lake with me and her daddy...and to Bodega Bay and all around the Bay area and to Ashland... I mean, to me, she was there. She went to Disneyland with me when she was just a few weeks old (in my womb). If I wrote that sentence without appending "in my womb" people would think I meant a few weeks old after birth.

Anyway, Katie and I, awake at 6:00 AM, spent most of the day in our jammies, eventually emerging in exercise clothes to take a walk. I am feeling great (a little tired here and there) but GREAT with this pregnancy and am excited about training for another natural labor (and increasing stamina for caring for two small children at once).

After our walk, Katie slept, and I plowed through 6 chapters of "escrows" for my final real estate course. I am not much for making resolutions: in the words of fellow Toastmaster Bob Freels, now is the time to make actual goals, not resolutions.

My goals (outside of those that daily center on Bill and Katie) are many before birth:

1) Finish my last real estate course this month, test prep for one or two months, and sit for the licensing exam. Definitely needs to be done, and will be done, before labor.

2) Finish my first Toastmasters manual (6 more speeches + the 4 I've given) to earn my Competent Communicator distinction

3) Make Katie's 3rd year scrapbook and have it ready to go (I always have them designed and filled with mounts and doodads by Feb or March and then finish filling in all her pics by her birthday)

4) Finish my cross-stitch sampler (on hold during the season of making Christmas gifts)

5) Continue my nightly studies/meditations/gratitude journal

6) Give time to the planning and celebration of David's wedding to Ashley (in May, and very likely in my backyard---but they want to check a few more venues first)

7) Build and nurture friendships and relationships with good people: set up lunches and activities, be more open to going out, initiate.

These are not necessarily in order of priority...

Life is full and busy and beautiful, with a balance of productivity and relaxation. I am loving January this much always going on! Can't wait to see friends tomorrow for lunch, too! FUN!

Thursday, January 7, 2010

First OB Visit for Little Sib

I have been really looking forward to my first OB visit for Katie's Little Sib! Being back at Temecula Valley OBGYN with Katie is a beautiful experience, recalling many months of our visits together when she was in my womb. I love being able to show her everything, the place where I sat on my last visit before her birth... She got to meet Dr. Elfelt, the doctor who cared for her and we saw Dr. Glaser (who was on-call to deliver her) pass by. It is a widely-reported phenomenon that women tend to become a bit enamored of their OBs, and I am no exception. For me, it was like seeing old trusted friends who helped to bring into the world my most precious treasure. I have so much appreciation for Dr. Elfelt's expertise and skill and the way he projects a friendly authoritative confidence in his explanation of everything. I know we are in extremely capable hands at TV OBGYN.

With a first child, so much of the medical process is myserious, but now that I have been through all of the procedures once, I feel so comfortable and sure of myself. It really is fun to experience it all again, like some form of happy nostalgia. I even liked having my blood drawn today. Everything reminds me of Katie and I also feel joy to be experiencing it with Little Sib---so it is like my delight is a thousandfold.

I took Katie with me, of course, and Amie came along to help watch Katie during parts when I was being examined. I did take her through every step of my exam, though, so she could be part of the process with me. Katie even got to see Little Sib on the ultrasound monitor, which was really cool... She can see her brother or sister developing right in front of her eyes. She got to watch my doctor use his stethoscope and the nurse use the blood pressure cuff (90/60)---she has both tools in her toy medical kit at home. This pregnancy is an opportunity to teach Katie so many things---about the development of life, about the medical profession, about becoming a mommy. I am so excited!

Our appointment was lengthy. I actually moved from task to task with hardly any real waiting, but there was so much to do, including the onsite lab and a consultation with Dr. Elfelt in his office before the exam. But it is so exciting to have the process rolling along again... After I was all through, we went out for Costco pizza and berry smoothies, Katie's favorite. I am pretty tired this afternoon, and Katie has been such a good little girl all day long. I am just so thankul for both of my children and for Bill.

I can't wait to meet Little Sib in person in August!

Saturday, January 2, 2010

Blue Moon New Year

2010 sailed in with the blue moon moonlight, through the avocado trees, touching ground on my grandpa's land. I spent New Year's Eve around the warmth of an outdoor fire, coyotes howling in the distance, Katie bundled up on my lap. Toward midnight, she and I crawled into our bed and I gave her a kiss and reminded her that she is the 5th generation of the Matics line to sleep on that land.

Katie loves to run on the land, and we play games with the citrus fruits. I had her help me build the fire, gathering kindling for the one of the most fundamental of human tasks. She and I walked the first tier of the grove together---crunch, crunch, crunch in the fallen leaves. We played hide-n-seek, letting the mountain air fill our lungs.

A small group of us spent the night, but we were joined by the rest of our extended family the following day. In the morning, my dad barbecued/grilled sausage, eggs, and toast. Katie and I shared a banana and a chocolate donut: my grandpa always had a chocolate donut and coffee on New Year's day. Katie and I ate ours and looked for birds and avocadoes just like Grandpa and I used to do. Then we hunted for avocadoes in the northwest part of the grove.

As more people arrived, we played games and ran the dogs. Katie loves Aunt Diane and Uncle Brad's dog Skya. ("See my new shirt, Skya?" "You are my favorite." "How was your day, Skya?") We also hiked to Grandpa's rock and told some of our favorite family stories there. After the hike, about 30 people all sat down to a huge prime rib feast. My dad did an exceptional cooking job on the prime rib this year, I thought. While Katie napped, a group of us cousins played a raucus and laugh-filled game of Catch Phrase, which involved all kinds of cheering. I love games with big groups of people---so much fun! Dessert followed, with Hannah's (Brandon's wife) delicious apple pie and several other treats.

Then we played our white elephant game, which is really fun with so many people. The gifts seem to be getting better and better, though every now and then there are a few clunkers. We ended up with some bath toilettries (Bill), a sock puppet kit (me), and a Santa candle (Katie). There is so much teasing and cheering going on as we play the game, so much mirth. It is one of my favorite traditions each year, but this year it was even more fun than usual.

I missed Grandpa, of course, and I spent some time sitting in his chair trying to think of him being there. In a thought experiment, I tried to release my mind from all sense of linear time (a human construct) and imagine us coexisting in the chair: him in the past and me now. Somewhere in the past, he is still sitting there... All that we think of as time is just a series of continous moments...

Anyway, it was a beautiful New Year's: full of family and nature and being out semi-far from civilization (though not as much as his land used to be). I love that we can focus on just each other with no technology (well, we do have cell phones): no internet, no working TV, nothing to distract us from what our thoughts and from talking with each other.

Katie loves it there. She said that taking a bath there was her favorite. She wants to spend the night again!

Yesterday also marked the one-year anniversary of my Gratitude Journal. Everyday for a year I have written down my thanks for several good and beautiful moments or experiences in that day. Even on days that have been harder, there are many parts of that day for which I have gratitude and I have learned better how to keep my mind trained on what is good and true and to let other things leave me. It is a good tool for me. I realize how many thousands of moments and memories I have been thankful for in 2009---and those were just the ones I wrote down. It is a powerful lesson for me. I began a new volume of the Gratitude Journal yesterday...

Happy 2010, readers!