Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Happy New Year

It's 10:30 and we just got back from a wonderful New Year's Eve party at Marsha's home. Marsha, (of Marsha's Music Together fame,) is the most amazing person. Children love her, including my own. Nourit couldn't wait to go to her party, eat, sing and dance, which is just what we did. (Okay, we ate, sang, and lounged on couches and car seats, but Nourit grabbed Marsha from behind and danced with her a bit!) I have been such a grouch for the past few months of 2008 that I couldn't imagine having fun at a party with two girls after 6pm. It was a relaxed and fun time, though, and the best part was singing along to piano and guitar - and I'm not talking about a Wii Rock Band.

So in an hour and a half, we'll say goodbye to 2008. Hopefully Nourit will be sleeping by then (she's on her third or fourth book with her dad right now) and so will I. For the past few years at Christmas, many friends send letters outlining their activities from the past year. We've done that, too, the past year or so. This year, I had no such inclination. It's not that it was a terrible year - it was just fatiguing. And I'm too tired to look backward. So forward it is - into 2009!

Although I love lists, I've refrained from listing any New Year's Resolutions for quite awhile. I guess I just don't want to be disappointed when I can't even make it out of the gate on any of them. This year, however, I'm so in need of a change -a change in my energy level, a change in my mental state, a change in my attitude - that I just want to write down all the things I'm looking forward to revamping as a sort of hopeful gesture. I know our circumstances aren't about to change much. It's going to be another busy, frantic year, just trying to make deadlines, making sure the babies are taken care of properly, and making ends meet. So here is a list I will publish for all the world to see (or at least my dad), and hopefully it will make me a little more accountable, or serve as a reminder to be hopeful and forward-looking, at the very least.

1) Pray without ceasing. And try to snatch some quiet time whenever possible. This one is a continuation of, well, my entire life's aim. I wrote about it in a season of expectancy this past year, but the quiet time always seems to elude me. I have no problem praying continually. The problem is my prayer is more like a constant drone. With two little girls, a job, and a husband who is busy, time is at a premium. If I can be successful at this one thing, I think it will a) contribute to success at the rest of my list, and b) be directly from God.

2) Go slow. er. I always feel like there is too much to do to slow down. The reality is, there is too much to do. If I go slow, though, and spend more time and attention on the project at hand, then maybe the things that go un-done will end up not mattering quite so much. If it's the housework that goes undone, though, I'm not sure I will be able to function. So now it's time to look for a new cleaning person.

I'll have to refrain from scheduling too much, as well, which is difficult. I really have cut way back on as much as possible, at the expense of things I really enjoy. It's hard to cut back on visiting friends and making playdates, though, because I need the support (and commiseration) of other moms, and Nourit is definitely at a social stage in her life. But when I have to go from bible study to work, and I'm yelling at Nourit to get going, something has to give.

3) Play the piano and listen to more music. This has gone the way of my yoga practicing intentions as well. I need to exercise to feel whole. I also need to make music to feel whole. Unfortunately, those things get short shrift and it's always, "Later, later." Later hasn't arrived yet. I may have to work out a time once or twice a week to have the babysitter stay so I can start working out my fingers again and remember what it is that I'd like to do in this lifetime.

4) Love my husband more. I love my husband more than the day I married him. But all the things I vowed when we were first married to always do; kiss him passionately every day, always make him my ally and be his ally, put him first before our kids; all these things have gone by the wayside in the midst of our "life." We spend so much time, energy, and affection on our children that sometimes, there's not a whole lot left to give to each other. We did make an attempt at date night this past quarter, and have one planned for next Friday, so we've got a start!

5) Criticize and judge less. Not to sound selfish, but I mean this about myself. I'm probably the most self-reflective person you'll meet. You may not know it though, because even though I'm the first to recognize my faults, it doesn't necessarily mean I'm good at correcting them. I think, though, that if I can love myself a little more, give myself a break, and try to really see myself as God sees me, then I'll be less prone to hold others to this impossible yard-stick I wield.

I think five is enough for now. There are a few others, like 'Send Christmas Cards Next Year', or 'Take a Family Picture,' or 'Finish Knitting Hats for the Girls.' But that will be another list, for another post. A more fun post. In the meantime, here's to an ambitious 2009!

Friday, December 26, 2008

Post Christmas Post

Life seemed to get in the way of blogging during the weeks leading up to Christmas, so here is the quick and dirty version. Mike popped his knee out (OUCH!), he spent 8 hours in ER without seeing a doctor, we bought some crutches for him, he visited the doctor and is scheduled for surgery on January 5th. We said goodbye to all of our babysitters for the holiday, and spent alot of time inside while the weather got colder, our car got snowed/iced in, and Mike's knee and work kept him from venturing out too much. I did not send Christmas cards this year and fully regret it, although I'm not sure where I would have fit that in without going completely insane. I'm ready to begin working on them for next year, though. (That will probably be in my New Year's Resolution list.) Despite all this, we did fit a few fun things in.

Here's me with a potent cup of Gluhwein in my hand at Christkindlemarkt. Finally, a year where I'm not pregnant or breastfeeding and I can imbibe. Oh, wait. I guess I'm still breastfeeding...well, Avi enjoyed it, too.

Going to visit Santa at the market was priceless. Nourit was talking the talk for days before. "I'm gonna go see Santa. I'm gonna sit on his lap, and give him a kiss, and tell him I want a bell for Christmas. I looooove Santa." The moment she walked in and saw him, she froze, turned to me, and buried her head in my legs. Granted, the Santa was no more than 25 years old and a little creepy. Avi definitely didn't care for the Santa experience, either. But, Nourit was happy to eat the free candy cane!
Amazingly, with Mike on crutches and me pushing two little ones in the big stroller, we took a bus downtown in the middle of all the slush and snow, braved the cold and ice, and ate sausage and sauerkraut, potato pancakes, and candied nuts and Stollen. Yum, yum!
One of Nourit's favorite poses these days.

The snow has been wonderful this December, except when we need to drive in it. But we have done our best to take advantage and play. One day, after a heavy snow, I put Avi in the Moby wrap and pulled Nourit on the sled to run errands on campus. The stroller never would have made it through the snow, so it worked out perfectly. And I got a work out, too! I can't count how many people asked for a ride!
Christmas Eve, our church was closed, so we went the the 4pm service at Holy Trinity. It was a welcome change from all the work and headaches of the past quarter to focus on Christ's birth and God's gift of love to us. We sang carols, lit candles, and recalibrated ourselves for an hour. Then, we braved the cold (okay, I wasn't so brave, and despite the recalibration, was swearing under my breath at the cold) and went to Chinatown for dinner, in the tradition of the Jews and the Lews.
The girls are definitely getting more and more interested in each other. Of course, there is still sibling rivalry, but I'm getting glimpses of better days ahead!
Christmas morning!! Although Nourit was ready to start the day at 3:30 am, we began opening our stockings at around 8:30. She could hardly contain her excitement over the organic fruit leather and the new toothbrushes. We could have stopped there and she would have been perfectly content. In 10 years, though, I'm guessing it won't be so easy!
Avi, of course, just wanted to eat the wrapping paper.

This gift from Auntie Michelle was the hit of the day.
Crazy Forts has taken over our home.
Easy to please, Avi has a great time with mama's pajamas. No fancy gifts for her!
So the festivities are over (for a day, at least.) Nourit's birthday has passed, the snow is gone, and Mike is back to working on his piece. Today, with the weather almost up to 60 degrees, I took the girls out for a walk in the rain. Avi stayed snug and dry in the stroller, while Nourit splashed happily through every single puddle on the Midway. If she gets sick, I'll feel terrible. But she was really very happy just walking in the rain, splashing as much as she could.

Meet my 3 Year Old

This is Nourit. She's 3 today. I'm so thankful that 3 years ago, we went to the hospital and met her face to face. Since then she's grown into such a funny, smart, sweet and interesting little girl. She's definitely a normal child. She refuses to give goodbye kisses, pushes her little sister out of the way, and sometimes pushes the limit. At the same time, she has an amazing capacity to surprise me with her tenderness and sensitive heart. 3 years have gone by in a flash. I can almost glimpse the little girl she will be in another 3 years.

Today, I took Nourit to the ice-skating rink for the first time. I put her new double blade skates on and out we went to the rink. The weather was perfect. Not too cold. I was so proud of her. From the moment we stepped on the rink, she had no hesitation. She would fall, but would laugh and get right back up. I skated behind her for the first little while, holding both of her hands in mine, and keeping her steady with my body. But then she broke away, preferring to hold onto the side and skate more independently. She expected to go fast, "like rabbits" she said earlier in the day. At the rink, she kept observing how fast everyone was skating. I told her she had to go slowly before she could go fast. I think she accepted that because she didn't seem to get frustrated. After awhile, we went home.
This morning, Nourit helped Mike bake her 3rd birthday cake. It was the cake she requested, chocolate with raspberry. As always, Mike did an amazing job, spending an entire day on his creation. Because we've been so reticent to plan anything this break, we hadn't invited anyone for a party. Nourit was expecting alot of kids to be here on her birthday, I guess because that's been her experience of birthdays thus far. Not wanting to disappoint, (and not wanting to eat the cake all by ourselves!) we invited our neighbors who were still in town (Emma and her mom, Scarlett and her parents and Nana, Kyla and the gang), and her good little friends that we hadn't seen in awhile (Claire and Jacob, and my dear friend, Viola). We had quite a houseful at 4:30 pm! Lots of little ones, lots of chocolate cake, and lots of joy in Nourit's eyes.

And for all our family members who called to wish Nourit a Happy Birthday? Although she put her hands over her ears and wouldn't talk to you on the real phone, I did overhear her calling each of you and talking to you on her new play cell phone. She said she loves you.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Avi, What Are You Doing To Us??

Oh, Avi. You are such a small person, but make such an impact on us. Sometimes destructive, sometimes painful, but always with a smile!

This week, Avi's favorite pastime is pulling every single book, CD, tupperware, whatever, off the shelves. I'm kind of getting sick of picking up the same books 5 times a day.

Avi, who also puts anything that's not nailed down into her mouth, recently started to attempt to pick the hair around Mike's belly button and put it in her mouth. I am happy to report she was not successful in that one.

Speaking of eating, she insists on ignoring the signs we've taught her for 'food' and 'more' (and I know she knows them!) and resorts to screeching like a banshee if you don't give her food fast enough. Gone are the days of snacking on something sugary/salty/non-nutritious in front of her.

To read more about Avi's recent risque behavior, check out my recent blog on Chicago Mom's Blog, 'Take Your Hand Off My Breast.'

Monday, December 15, 2008

"When I'm Bigger, I Can Kill One, Too!"

Nourit is all about the things she'll do 'when she's bigger.' She'll wear earrings like mama when she's bigger. She'll like to eat mushrooms when she's bigger. This morning, she hopped up from playing on the floor and jumped up on the piano bench shouting, "There's an ant!" It wasn't an ant, but a HUGE centipede, which I quickly smooshed with a paper towel. Fascinated, Nourit asked if I'd killed it. When I nodded affirmatively she excitedly said, "When I'm bigger, I can kill one, too!"

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Quoting our Children's Books

Since the only books either of us are reading lately are for the 3 and under crowd, we're trying to find ways of identifying. Surprisingly, quite a few apply to our life this week.

Dr. Suess: "Sad Dad Bad Had - Dad is sad. Very, very sad. He had a bad day. Oh, what a bad day dad had."

Jill Murphy: "Because I want 5 minutes peace from all of you!"

Mo Willems: "Where's KNUFFLE BUNNY?" (Insert DODO. 10 x per day.)

Ian Falconer: "Olivia (Nourit), time for your you-know-what!" But Olivia's (Nourit's) not tired.

Sandra Boynton: "We'reveryverybusyandwe'vegotalottodoandwehaven'tgotamomenttoexplain

Friday, December 5, 2008

Noah, Santa and God

Often, Nourit will say to me, "God is here." Or God is in the car, or on the swingset, but essentially I think she's beginning to comprehend his omnipresence. Tonight, Santa became omnipresent when she said, out of the blue, "Santa is here." "Kinda like God?" I queried. "Yes," she said. I then made a passing comment about how Santa is a good old man, but he's just pretend. God is for real, but Santa is just for fun. It was a strange moment for me. Mike and I had vaguely discussed the idea of Santa, and agreed we would downplay his "realness." When I told my 2.5 year old that Santa was just pretend, I felt like I might be robbing her of some childhood mystery. I'm sure it won't affect her negatively one way or the other - Santa's real for 4 years or not. It's still fun to have your picture taken with him downtown. But it was one of those moments that I wasn't quite prepared for. I might just need to make a chart with Noah, God and Santa all in a row, and explain the difference between all the kind looking old men with white beards.

I Tried to Cancel Netflix or How Mike and I Watch a Movie

A few weeks ago, I finally decided to cancel our Netflix subscription since a movie typically sits in our desk drawer for a month before we get a chance to watch it. I sent the last in a long line of bad picks back (we had a string of rather boring Spanish films) and canceled the membership online. Too late. The next day we received 'Cache' in our mailbox, a French psychological thriller starring Juliette Binoche that didn't sound remotely interesting to me. The last time I watched a French thriller, the babysitter ended up slaughtering everyone at the end. Gross.

'Cache' lay buried underneath a week's worth of unopened mail until I received a late notice from Netflix. I immediately dropped it into a mailbox and let them know it was on it's way. Then, it showed up back in my mailbox because I forgot to take it out of the original envelope (addressed to me, of course.) 'Cache' just wouldn't go away!

Last night, we put Nourit to bed 3 hours early since she was a crazed wild-child after no nap, and Mike's knee injury had exhausted him to the point he couldn't write anymore. And me, well, all I had waiting for me was a pile of dishes that could keep. So we sat down to watch this movie.

During the first five minutes, we rewound the dvd at least 3 times. The movie seemed to click to fast-forward mode at the same place and we thought I had sat on the remote or that Avi had kicked it. Finally, we figured out that what we were watching was a fast-forward of the movie the characters were watching. Good start.

The movie was interesting enough for me to stay awake, but as soon as blood was shed (about 3/4 of the way through) I was having second thoughts. The entire movie centered around this couple receiving threatening video tapes and pictures, and just after a character died, I was expecting to learn the sender's identity. We watched a final scene where I witnessed an entire conversation between two of the main characters while Mike saw only a group of people without any distinguishable characters. Then, right when I thought we'd find out who the perpetrator was, the credits rolled. Aaaaaaah!

I was confused and annoyed that it was not an obvious ending. Mike was perfectly accepting of the fact that there was no conclusion. We saw things the other didn't. Were we watching two different movies?

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Memory Loss

Last night, I had the enviable task of snuggling with Nourit in the Ikea chair in her bedroom. Now that Mike is gone from the apartment most days, she stays up later to spend time snuggling with him and they end up having some pretty interesting conversations while I'm in the kitchen doing the dishes, or trying to put Avi to bed. But Mike injured his knee yesterday, rendering him unable to sink into the depths of the chair to snuggle, so the job fell to me.

As we were sitting there, I tried desperately to recall what it was like to hold her there as a baby. I tried to remember how she would look at me while she was nursing, or how she would pull on my long hair (something she still does.) I tried, but all I could come up with were images of photos we'd taken of her when she was an infant, or an articulation of those things - but not the actual memory. I remember in general that she was an easy baby, that I loved our time together when she was nursing, but I can't connect her babyhood looks and actions to her ever-emerging personality at 1 1/2, or 2, or now almost 3 years of age. There's a disconnect somehow. Why can't I recall something I was physically and emotional present for almost constantly?

I look at Avi and am so conscious of the fact that the baby I'm getting to know now might be a completely different little girl. How much of her tenacity in getting my attention, or getting mobile will translate into her character later on? Will I see as many smiles on her face at 3 years of age as I do now? How can I hold on to a moment or two of this evolving and growing person's life?

On a whim, I asked Nourit about memories during her, thus far, short life. Her answer made me laugh to myself, and although I doubt she really remembers things from her infancy, I still have to wonder if a little of it is true.

"Nourit, do you remember being a baby?"

"Yes, I cried because I wanted to eat big-girl food. I cried because I didn't want breastmilk, but I wanted big-girl food."

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Ruminating on Thanksgiving 2008

Toddlers - Teenagers - Two A.M. - Turkey - wii Tennis - Tinker Toys - Twenty-eight people for dinner - Turkey again - Tummy ache - kniTTing - southwesT on Time - Time alone to Tinkle the old ivories - TicTacs - Tattoos