Sunday, December 19, 2004

Welcome to sunny California

We flew into Sacramento last night for our two week vacation in CA. We took a later flight, we left Michigan at 7pm and got into Sac at 11pm, which is 2 am our time. Needless to say, we were exhausted. The girls & I were able to sleep on the plane a little bit, but Jeff wasn't so lucky. Jeff's brother Tim & his daughter Ariel also flew in last night, at roughly the same time as us. The kids got a little rambunchous and the boys (Jeff, Tim & Tim's friend Justin) wanted to show off all their new toys and such. We didn't get to bed until around 1:30am. Sarah then kept us up practically all night, and then got up for good at around 7am.
We pretty much lounged around all day, with Ariel & Emma going in the spa. They got along pretty well, only Emma's not used to sharing toys & stuff with someone who's Ariel's age. She knows Sarah can't actively play with her stuff, but Ariel can, and it's been an adjustment for Emma. She keeps referring to Ariel as "sister" which is funny. She has no concept of "cousin".
We went to go see my mom and all the renovations she's been doing for the past month. Sarah got to show off all her new tricks, such as sitting up & laughing.
Jeff's been hanging out with his brother, Tim, along with Tim's friends Mario & Justin. Whenever the boys get together, their collective ages dwindle down to about 5 years old. They tell fart jokes & oogle over computer & video game stuff, and tackle each other to the ground. Tim will be in town until Monday night so Jeff's getting as much time as he can with him before he flies back home with Ariel.

Wednesday, December 15, 2004

Behold the Leper

Just a quick note to say, I hate cold sores. I woke up yesterday with 2, count 'em, TWO of them. One on each side of my lower lip. Argh. I'm a beauty, that's for sure. I must have been stressed out. Or not drinking enough water. Or both. Emma's birthday party (well, the planning & last minute driving around for stuff) stressed me out. And I definitely haven't been sleeping very well. That could be a big part of it.
Last night, I think I got maybe 2 full hours of sleep. Sarah was just up constantly. I don't even think she's hungry. I just think she doesn't know how to put herself back to sleep. Jeff thinks it's too cold for her. I think she needs more room to stretch out. So, I promised myself, my tired, dragging my butt through the dirt self, that I would get her crib finished, finally and put together. We'll see how that goes.

Tuesday, December 14, 2004

Fixed at last!

We finally got our broken window in the living room downstairs fixed. It's taken over 2 months. I guess it's a good thing the rock that hit it didn't go through both panes otherwise we'd have rain & snow in our living room. But now our garage door is broken (well, bending) again. We leave on Friday afternoon, and I don't like the idea of leaving with it not being fixed. It's a real safety issue. Before we got the opener installed, we had to put a screwdriver through a couple of holes in the door & the frame in order to keep it from opening.
It's always something with houses, isn't it? And this place is brand new, so apparently we get more problems than normal. You'd think it would be otherwise, but oh well.
Jeff had 3 of his 4 finals yesterday, and the only one remaining is a cakewalk, since it's in his computer class. He thinks he did pretty well, and I'm sure he did, since he studying his bootie off. Now he doesn't know what to do with himself. It's been practically 4 months since he hasn't had to do homework or study for a test. But I know he'll figure something out.
I got one of my Christmas gifts early. I had bought a video game for Jeff, with the intention that I would play it, too. I told him, because I was afraid he wouldn't want it, only to have him tell me that he'd been planning on getting ME that exact same game. So, we decided, since I already knew, that we would just open it & play it. It's called "Katamari Damachy" and it's probably one of the strangest games you'll ever see. It's a Japanese import game, so that alone gives you mental images of weird stuff. You play this Prince, and your dad is the "King of All Cosmos". Basically, he's gets wasted & knocks all the stars out of the sky. It's your job to put them back. And how you do that is roll up everything you can on this giant ball called a Katamari. It's like a giant sticky vacuum. The more you roll up on it, the bigger the ball gets, thus you can roll up bigger & bigger things, like shoes, cars, people & ultimately buildings. Every katamari you finish gets booted into the sky to create a star. Weird, yes, but entertaining. They even have a 2 player version where you go against someone. Jeff kicked my tail last night, but I finally beat him twice in a row, and then I quit while I was (somewhat) ahead. He even rolled ME up and I had to scramble to get away. Not amusing.
Emma was supposed to have her Parent-Teacher conference this afternoon, but for some reason, it was cancelled. I'm hoping they can get it in before we leave. I would really like to hear from the teacher how Emma's doing. I know she's had some issues, mostly having to do with sharing and learning she can't always get what she wants, so I'm hoping she's made some progress in that area.

Monday, December 13, 2004

Sole Survivor

Last night was the finale for Survivor. It's sad that Jeff & I like this show so much. We really only watch 2 reality shows, Survivor & The Amazing Race. We're not into the Bachelor and other shows like that. We like shows that test people's physical, mental & social skills, not just who catches the eye of some doof who can't get a girlfriend.
I've been seriously contemplating trying out for the next Survivor. But I think that right now would not be the best time to go. First of all, Jeff would have to fly someone out here to take care of the kids while I'm gone. Secondly, I'd probably miss Sarah's 1st birthday & I would never be able to forgive myself if I did that. We both think we'd kick some butt in The Amazing Race, but that would require us BOTH to be gone, and that might be hard on the kids right now. Plus, I'm thinking, what would make me stand out from all the other people trying out? Jeff would most likely get on if he tried out. He's an ex-Navy sailor, who's been all around the world, he's practically the smartest person I know, and he won't take crap from anyone. The only down side is he wouldn't eat bugs, or anything else that was gross. The good thing about The Amazing Race would be that we could play off each other's strengths. I could do all the eating of nasty stuff and all the stunts that required doing something crazy, like jumping off a building (cause I'm nuts like that) and he could do all the other stuff, like anything that requires directions. LOL We always quiz each other about what the other would do in a certain situation. Most of the time we're right on with each other, but there are definitely times when we each have our own opinion about something. We just sit & watch & laugh at some of the people on these shows. There's this one couple on The Amazing Race this season. They're married and the husband is CONSTANTLY yelling at his wife. He treats her like she's a moron. I told Jeff if he did that me, I'd smack him. I felt really bad for this one team, two friends, because neither of them could drive a stick shift. And most of the cars in Europe are stick shifts. So this poor girl kept stalling the car they were in and holding everyone up who was behind them. I know that if we ever did that together, there would definitely be some things that we would study up on. I want to become fluent in French...again. I wasn't really fluent before, but I could have a decent conversation with someone. You have to go into something like that prepared, not just automatically thinking they can deal with anything they come across.
So maybe one day Jeff & I will do one of those shows. It would be fun.

Sunday, December 12, 2004

Party hard

We had Emma's birthday party yesterday afternoon. It was pretty successful, I think. Nothing got broken & there were only a couple of "selfish" moments, where someone didn't want to share a toy. I think the party went pretty smoothly considering the stress that came before it. I, of course, being the huge procrastinator that I am, waited until the last possible moment to get things I should have gotten earlier this week, leaving Jeff at home with the kids while I went and bought some last minute things. By the time I got back, which was a lot later than I had anticipated, Sarah's screaming and Jeff's running around the house trying to get everything finished. I felt so bad. Poor Jeff had to change his shirt because he was sweating from all the stuff he was doing. But we were able to pull it together before anyone showed up. Everyone came except for one person. I think that they might have had an emergency, but I don't know their phone number, so I'll have to wait until school starts next month before I can find out, unless they call me. I'm going to save the goody bag I made for the little girl & give it to her when I see her next.
The goody bags consisted of a package of hair clips that came with a keychain that had a brush and some lipgloss on it. I don't know how they managed that, but oh well. I also got 30 pairs of stick-on earrings and a butterfly wand. The wands were a big hit. Emma has one from my mom and everyone wanted to play with it, so I gave out the bags early so everyone could have their own. Quite a few parents stayed behind, so we were able to have some nice conversations.
The girls played dress-up with all of Emma's playclothes. Some of them even brought their own. Jeff played a couple games of CandyLand with them. Sarah was a good baby for the party. She was just looking around at everyone and making funny faces at them.
Instead of a cake, I made cupcakes and put frosting on them and the girls were able to decorate them themselves. They had fun with that.
Emma got some really nice gifts. She was excited about all of them, but as soon as the wrapping paper came off, she was like, "What's next?" She wanted to make sure all of them were opened before getting really excited about any of them. She received the My Little Pony Dance Studio, and 2 extra My Little Ponies, 2 ballerina Barbies (different kinds), a Polly Pocket set, a Clickits jewelry set, a Princess Activity set, a Dora computer game, Junior Scrabble, and a Funfoam acitivity set. After she opened them all, we got all the toys out of the packaging so the girls could play with them. Well, all except 3 of them. All of the activity & jewelry sets we didn't open because they all small parts, glue & glitter. I told Emma she could play with those when everyone had left. The kids played with the toys until it was time to go. I think all in all it was a great time, but Jeff's thinking next year we need to hire someone to entertain the kids. I said anyone but a clown. Or maybe we'll just have the part at McDonald's. Emma's friend Ryan had his birthday party there.
I wasn't able to get the Bella Dancerella thing for Emma like I wanted, but oh well. It's a hot ticket item this season, apparently. So I'll have to keep looking once we get to CA. Emma played her Dora the Explorer computer game last night and already beat it. I'm thinking we're going to have to start her on some more advanced stuff in order to keep her mind occupied.
Jeff has finals tomorrow & Tuesday and then he came relax (sorta) until we leave on Friday. We're taking a later flight, getting into Sacramento at 11pm their time. It'll be 2am our time, so hopefully the children will be asleep. It should be fun carrying them both through the airport.
We're finally figured out our itinerary for the 2 weeks we'll be there. We're going to drive down to Southern CA on Christmas Eve to spend Christmas with my dad. Then we're going over to Bakersfield for a couple days, then back up to Sacramento to catch our flight home. It's going to be hectic, but we're hoping to be able to see everyone we can.

Friday, December 10, 2004

Happy Birthday Emma!

Today is Emma's birthday. I can't believe that 5 years have gone by since she was born. It truely doesn't seem that long ago. She was born after 22 hours of labor, and 2 1/2 hours of pushing, most of which I don't remember. She was born at 7:01am, weighing 8 lbs. 10 oz. and was 19 1/2 inches long. She had inch long dark brown hair, which she got from me, and her daddy's nose. Right after she was born, she cried for about a minute, but fell right to sleep after the doctor laid her down on my chest. I could tell that she was going to be a stubborn one, as she was born face-up (thus the 2 1/2 hours of pushing). She had jaundice and her nickname was "spike" after her first bath, as her hair stood straight up and was fuzzy. Her eyes were like mercury, deep, dark pools of blue, which were also a gift from her father.
As I look at pictures from when she was little, she still has the same looks she gives me now. Her eyes have lightened just a little but are still big & blue. Her hair has changed from dark brown to strawberry blonde to light blonde and slowly back to a light brown. She's been through numerous ear infections, colds, coughs, and an episode of Bell's Palsy. She's learned the fine art of sarcasm (thanks Jeff), can draw a family portrait like no other (complete with belly buttons), and is a wonderful big sister to Sarah. She's in preschool, has lots of friends and loves to play dress-up. She's a Disney Princess in training. She loves horses and the colors purple & pink. If it were possible, she'd eat a quesadilla at every meal. Her favorite vegetables are black olives. She's not extraordinarily kind, but takes it personally when someone else's feelings have been bruised. Her only desire is for everyone to be happy and will do her best to make that possible. As one of her teachers from preschool said, "She's just Emma", which is just about the only way to describe her. She's like no one else. She even had her own language "Emma-ese".
Emma brings such immense joy to our family, it's hard to think of what our lives would be like without her.
Happy Birthday, Goober!!!!

Thursday, December 09, 2004

Christmas fun

Holiday Eating Tips:

1. Avoid carrot sticks. Anyone who puts carrots on a holiday buffet table knows nothing of the Christmas spirit. In fact, if you see carrots, leave immediately. Go next door, where they're serving rum balls.

2. Drink as much eggnog as you can. And quickly. Like fine single-malt scotch, it's rare. In fact, it's even rarer than single-malt scotch. You can't find it any other time of year but now. So drink up! Who cares that has 10,000 calories in every sip? It's not as if you're going to turn into
an eggnog-aholic or something. It's a treat. Enjoy it. Have one for me. Have two.

3. If something comes with gravy, use it. That's the whole point of gravy. Gravy does not stand alone. Pour it on. Make a volcano out of your mashed potatoes. Fill it with gravy. Eat the volcano. Repeat.

4. As for mashed potatoes, always ask if they're made with skim milk or whole milk. If it's skim, pass. Why bother? It's like buying a sports car with an automatic transmission.

5. Do not have a snack before going to a party in an effort to control your eating. The whole point of going to a Christmas party is to eat other people's food for free. Lots of it. Hello?

6. Under no circumstances should you exercise between now and New Year's. You can do that in January when you have nothing else to do. This is the time for long naps, which you'll need after circling the buffet table while carrying a 10-pound plate of food and that vat of eggnog.

7. If you come across something really good at a buffet table, like frosted Christmas cookies in the shape and size of Santa, position yourself near them and don't budge. Have as many as you can before becoming the center of attention. They're like a beautiful pair of shoes. If you leave them behind, you're never going to see them again.

8. Same for pies. Apple. Pumpkin. Mincemeat. Have a slice of each. Or, if you don't like mincemeat, have two apples and one pumpkin. Always have three. When else do you get to have more than one dessert? Labor Day?

9. Did someone mention fruitcake? Granted, it's loaded with the mandatory celebratory calories, but avoid it at all cost. I mean, have some standards.

10. One final tip: If you don't feel terrible when you leave the party or get up from the table, you haven't been paying attention. Reread tips; start over, but hurry, January is just around the corner.

Remember this motto to live by:
"Life should NOT be a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in an attractive and well preserved body, but rather to skid in sideways, chocolate in one hand, martini in the other, body thoroughly used up, totally worn out and screaming "WOO HOO what a ride!!!!"

Tuesday, December 07, 2004

Rainy days & fire alarms

Oh the joys of going to preschool at a college. After getting about 5 inches of snow 2 days ago, it started raining last night, which pretty much melted most of the snow. That's the way it is around here. It wasn't bad, just enough to be a nuisance. I dropped Emma off at school & went home. When I drove back to the school to pick her up, I noticed that a lot of the students from Wightman Hall, where the preschool is located, were outside the building, milling around the sidewalks & parking lots. I parked, got out of the car, and only then realized that I heard the faint buzzing noise of a fire alarm. It didn't really hit me until I was walking up the stairs to the classroom that that probably meant the kids weren't there. I turned around & saw a teacher running towards me, telling me that the kids were at the back of the parking lot. I walked over there, and saw about 10 kids in a huddle, being surrounded by the teachers & assistants, trying to keep them warm. Because this wasn't a drill, and was completely unexpected, the kids hadn't been able to grab their coats on the way out. So they were stuck out there, in the rain and cold, until they determined if the alarm was warranted, just a mistake, or a prank. Poor kids. I took off my coat & wrapped it around Emma to walk back to the car. Then we had to sit & wait for the teachers to be allowed back into the classroom in order to get Emma's jacket & backpack. So, it was an exciting day.
So far, we have 5 kids coming to Emma's birthday party on Saturday. I even got an RSVP via a teletype, with someone transcribing my words for the person on the other end. Apparently, one of the girls' mom is either deaf or very hearing-impaired. I know a few of the other parents are staying, as well, so it should be fun.
Sarah will be getting her 2nd flu shot tomorrow. Because she's so young, she needed to get it in 2 doses. Of course, I have to pay $20/each, which seems pointless, especially since she's getting the same shot as older people, just 1/2 & 1/2. Oh well.
School ends this week for both Emma & Jeff. We have a pizza party to go to on Thursday evening for Emma's preschool & we have a parent-teacher conference next week. I'm really nervous about this. I'm afraid they're going to tell me what a hellion Emma is and how they don't want her coming back next semester. Either that or they're going to tell me, I think Emma needs to be in preschool for another year, as she isn't ready for Kindergarden. Either way, I'd feel like a failure as a mother.
Jeff has finals next Monday & Tuesday. Then he can relax until we fly to California on the 17th. We're still trying to figure out when & how we're getting to Southern California to visit everyone there. We're looking into renting a car one-way for each leg of the trip, but not sure if that would be cost-effective. It's nice that both Jeff & I are 25, so we don't have to pay that extra "you're under 25 & therefore must be a terrible driver" fee. When we came out here last year to check out the job at CMU, I was the only one who could drive because I was the only one who was 25. So hopefully we'll be able to find a way down south to visit everyone.

Friday, December 03, 2004

Food for thought

Creed for babies with Down syndrome
My face may be different
But my feelings the same
I laugh and I cry
And I take pride in my gains
I was sent here among you
To teach you to love
As God in the Heavens
Looks down from above
To Him I'm no different
His love knows no bounds
It's those here among you
In cities and towns
That judge me by standards
That man has imparted
But this family I've chosen
Will help me get started
For I'm one of the children
So special and few
That came here to learn
The same lessons as you
That love is acceptance
It must come from the heart
We all have the same purpose
Though not the same start
The Lord gave me life
To live and embrace
And I'll do as you do
But at my own pace
Welcome to Holland
By Emily Perl Kingsley
I am often asked to describe the experience of raising a child with a disability - to try to help people who have not shared that unique experience to understand it, to imagine how it would feel. It's like this......
When you're going to have a baby, it's like planning a fabulous vacation trip - to Italy. You buy a bunch of guide books and make your wonderful plans. The Coliseum. Michelangelo's David. The gondolas in Venice. You may learn some handy phrases in Italian. It's all very exciting.
After months of eager anticipation, the day finally arrives. You pack your bags and off you go. Several hours later, the plane lands. The stewardess comes in and says, "Welcome to Holland."
"Holland?!?" you say. "What do you mean Holland?? I signed up for Italy! I'm supposed to be in Italy. All my life I've dreamed of going to Italy."
But there's been a change in the flight plan. They've landed in Holland and there you must stay.
The important thing is that they haven't taken you to a horrible, disgusting, filthy place, full of pestilence, famine and disease. It's just a different place.
So you must go out and buy new guide books. And you must learn a whole new language. And you will meet a whole new group of people you would never have met.
It's just a different place. It's slower-paced than Italy, less flashy than Italy. But after you've been there for a while and you catch your breath, you look around.... and you begin to notice that Holland has windmills....and Holland has tulips. Holland even has Rembrandts.
But everyone you know is busy coming and going from Italy... and they're all bragging about what a wonderful time they had there. And for the rest of your life, you will say "Yes, that's where I was supposed to go. That's what I had planned."
And the pain of that will never, ever, ever, ever go away... because the loss of that dream is a very very significant loss.
But... if you spend your life mourning the fact that you didn't get to Italy, you may never be free to enjoy the very special, the very lovely things ... about Holland.

Thursday, December 02, 2004

Girls only

Well, we passed out the invitations to Emma's birthday party next week. We decided that it was going to be a "Girls Only" party because 1) there are too many kids in her class to invite everyone, including all the boys & the party's here & 2) I figured everyone would end up playing dress-up and I doubted any boys would want to do that with all the frilly, pink stuff Emma has. But, forgetful me, accidently left out one girl, so I printed out another invite & will put it in her cubby when I pick Emma up from school. I'll have to double check that I didn't forget anyone else, but I think I got everyone.
At first, I was thinking about a party at "Let's Do the Dishes", a ceramics place in town. The kids could paint their own piece of pottery & have it firebaked and take it home, in place of goodie bags. Well, that would have worked but they said it would take a week to get everything firebaked & then I'd have to come back & pick everyone's pottery up and deliver it to them. Too much hassle. We don't have a Chuck E. Cheese's around here or any other cool place to have a party. Plus, there's snow on the ground, so an outdoor thing at a park was out of the question. Even though I'm not thrilled with the idea of clean-up, at least here they can play with Emma's toys and hopefully not fight over anything.
Now all I have to do is figure out decorations and something for a goodie bag. I'm going to bake cupcakes and have the girls decorate them themselves with frosting & stuff. I already have Emma's gifts, I just have to wrap them.
Even if only a couple girls out of the 8-10 we invited show up, that would still be great. I'm letting the parents know that they're welcome to stay if they want. That way we can get to know each other a little better.