Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Teeny Tiny Ponytails

When Madeline was a wee tater tot, she was in the care of a nice lady named Ms. Sarah who ran the baby room at daycare.  Among Ms. Sarah's many talents was the ability to create pigtails on the baldest of babies.  

The first time I saw Maddie's teeny-tiny pigtails when I picked her up in the afternoon, I cocked my head to the side in confusion.  How was it even possible to put rubber bands in such fine hair?  

Somehow it worked, and the pigtails were there to stay.  When I think back to toddler Madeline, I always envision her with teeny tiny ponies.  

This morning, in the spirit of Ms. Sarah, I gave Vivi her first teeny tiny ponies.  She's officially a toddler now.  

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Lament for the Big Sister

"Oh, look at Vivi!  Isn't she cute?  Isn't she clever?  Isn't she funny?" 

Those words pour through our house and hover in the air around our heads as Vivi learns a new skill, a new way to thrill and delight us, on a daily basis.  We "Oooh" and "Ahh" over her.  We praise and cuddle her.  Vivi takes up a lot of our time.  She takes up a lot of attention.

 A few weeks ago, I wrote about some of the drama that exists between my two girls as they grow together as sisters.  Vivi, even at fifteen months, can cut a look at Madeline harsh enough to freeze water.  But as it turns out, Madeline has a few looks of her own:

Doesn't her face just seem to be saying, "What the heck is her problem?"

I didn't notice Madeline's facial expression until I looked back at these pictures on my phone several days after they were taken, at which point  Eric and I had a laugh.  Then I looked again, and again, and the picture started to make me sad.  

We captured Madeline's feelings through the lens of my phone, but nobody noticed her in real life because all eyes were on her little sister.  This has become her life as the big sister.  Stories get interrupted.  Games get destroyed.  Her needs sometimes get ignored.

We fawned over Madeline once, perhaps even more so than Vivi since she was the only star in our sky.  We remind her of this, but of course she doesn't remember.

Meanwhile, the list of offenses grows longer.  

Vivi picks up a canister of markers and dumps it across the floor.  We laugh.  Maddie sees the attention, and dumps the canister of crayons, a giant grin in her face.  We scold.  She's a big kid.  She knows better.  

Maddie climbs the banister, "Look what I can do, Mumma!"  I don't mind until her littler sister tries to follow her up.  The game is over, and Madeline is told to get down.  She has to set a good example.  

Maddie wants me to play Play-Dough with her. She's been asking for a week, but there's little time for us to be alone.  We give it a try, with Vivi in my lap.  Two minutes in, Vivi eats a chunk of the pink.  I put her down, and she claws at my leg in tears.  Maddie ends up playing alone.  

Maddie's new magazine arrives in the mail, and she's eager to read it.  Vivi wants to see too, and so I lay the pages on the floor for them to share.  Vivi keeps sitting on the pages so Maddie can't see.  Madeline gets frustrated and head-butts her sister.  Madeline gets in trouble.  

There's a pile of toys that need to be cleaned up before bedtime.  "Vivi played with them too!  She has to help," Madeline argues.  I tell her that Vivi doesn't know how to clean up yet, and that we have to show her how.  Maddie carefully sorts the toys into separate baskets, and as soon as she rounds up all the blocks, her little sisters dumps them back out.  

We had to leave Madeline's field trip to the athletic center early last week to make it to one of Vivi's doctor's appointments.  She missed pajama day last month because Vivi had conjunctivitis and I was worried Madeline would infect the whole school.  She never did end up getting it.  

It's all so unfair being the big sister.  Sometimes I see it.  Sometimes I don't.

There's a delicate balance between ensuring Madeline feels important, and teaching her to make room in her world for others.  Sometimes I manage to make it work, and sometimes I fail miserably.

Besides, as the baby of the family, Vivi has a growing list of injustices too.  That's a post for another day.

I must say, Madeline handles her role as big sister beautifully.  She doesn't complain much.  She doesn't throw tantrums or stomp her feet.  She protests quietly with those secret dirty looks and occasional tattles.  

I just want you to know, Madeline, that I see you, and that I'm trying my best.  


Monday, March 23, 2015

Vivi: Fifteen Months

Dear Vivienne,

You are quite the toddler now.  You're constantly on the go.  You zoom around the house from dawn to dusk.  We should put a pedometer on you.  I bet your little legs walk miles around this house before the day is out.  

Taking you places is becoming harder because you want to get down to explore.  You only last so long in restaurants, and you try to climb out of the grocery cart at the supermarket.  For a baby who spent most of her life hiding from strangers, you aren't worried about staying with us either.  You're off without so much as a backward glance to make sure we're following you.  In fact, you think it's all so hilarious when Mumma has to chase after you.  The aisles at the library are endless fun because you can run ahead of me without me worrying about losing you in the crowds.

The stranger danger phase is over.  You might be a little wary of new people, but you warm up quickly.  Madeline had a field trip to a local indoor sports center last week, and you ran around with the big kids like a champ.  You had no problem demanding balls to play with from kids and grownups alike.   

You are demanding at home too.  You point and grunt with great persistence.  You cry when you don't get what you want.  No is a tough lesson to learn, but you're starting to get the hang of it.   

When you want a snack, you know where to go.  You run to the kitchen and point at the cabinet door until I find you a cracker to munch.   

Even with a spill-proof container, you find a way to dump your cereal on the floor.
You nod and say, "Yeah" in response to a lot of our questions.  Sometimes it's obvious that you know what we're talking about.

 "Vivi, do you want a snack?"
"Yeah, yeah!" head nod.  "Mmmmm."

At other times, you clearly have no idea what we're talking about, but you're willing to give it a try anyhow.    

"Vivi, do you like snakes?" Dada will ask.
"Yeah, yeah!" you nod.

Along with "Yeah," you've picked up some other new words.  Mumma and Dada are down.  But you also say, bubba, belly, baby, and juice.  You try to say Madeline.  Sometimes it's "Duh" sometimes it's "Mah-Duh"  sometimes it's "Ine-ine-ine."   

Poor Madeline.  You've started terrorizing your big sister a bit more.  The other afternoon I heard a terrible whining noise from where you two were playing.  Maddie was sitting at the dining room table with her guys, and you were tugging roughly on her arms and screeching loudly to get her attention.  Maddie, good big sister that she is, tried her best to ignore you, only letting out an occasional grunt of annoyance.  Yesterday, you pulled her hair pretty hard when she wouldn't let you see her Lego castle.  I understand that it's frustrating, Vivi, but you can not pull your sister's hair.  Ouch.   I'm waiting for the day that big sister turns around and slugs you.   

You had a follow-up with GI last week, and everything is looking great.  You weigh 18 lbs, 4 oz, which puts you in the 10th percentile.  You're curving upwards!  Your skin is clear.  There's very little rash remaining on your body.  I'm interested to see how you do this summer because that's when your skin really gave us trouble last year.  The sweaty creases of your body were a mess.   You still get bad BMs on occasion, but we know how to manage them now to keep the discomfort minimal.

The limitations in your diet is starting to get a bit more tricky because you're starting to notice that you're getting different foods than the rest of us.  We try to eat the same thing, or at least close to it, for dinner.  But if you see Madeline with a treat you can't have, it drives you crazy.  I've started stocking the pantry with Vivi-friendly treats to make up for it.

You love fruit and pasta.  You LOVE bread.  Dinner rolls are where it's at.  I still can't get you to eat any veggies unless they are mixed in a puree with fruit.  The only meat we've been able to get you to eat was in a taco, which is the same for Madeline.  My girls love tacos.  Go figure!  And, you're warming up to almond milk.

Above all, you're such a sweet, happy, plucky little thing that we all simply adore you.


Tuesday, March 17, 2015

St. Patty's Day Tip

Did you know that if you give your toddler a handful of her sister's Lucky Charms for breakfast, she will actually turn into a leprechaun? 


The effects only last a few minutes...

Happy St. Patrick's Day!  Eat those Lucky Charms with caution...

Monday, March 16, 2015

Letters to Maddie Bear: 4.5

Dear Maddie Bear,

You are now officially four and a half.  In six short months you will be five, and that's such a hard concept to wrap my brain around that I may never believe it.

A part of me wishes I could keep you four in my mind forever, but that's impossible.  Every few months I stop to realize that the younger version of you has vanished, and you have become a completely different person.  I can see it when I look at old pictures, some just taken a few months ago, and I'm startled to see how much you've grown.  Then I realize that there are funny little games you used to play that no longer amuse you.  Words you used to say wrong get corrected and replaced.  Memories of places we went or things we did vanish from your mind.  Finally, I accept that the little girl in the photograph is gone forever, and I get a bit sad.  I understand, for a brief second, why every old lady in the grocery store stops to remind me of how fast it flies by.

Luckily, though you change so fast, the new versions of you just keep getting better and better.    

You're such a great kid, Madeline.  You really are.  You're funny, smart, and considerate of others.  You're curious about everything.  Your imagination astounds me.  And you're just so, so lovely.  Three was a tough age full of doubt and drama and tantrums.  Four, so far, has been just wonderful.

You started dance lessons again this winter, and you love it.  Your class is a combination of ballet and tap, but you like tap better.  You listen to the teacher and follow along beautifully.  Watching you dance every Saturday morning is one of the highlights of my week because you have such fun with it.

You're reserved around other children and adults.  While the other little ballerinas hold hands and chat away at the teacher, you mostly keep to yourself.  It's not that your shy.  You're friendly, and you ask the teacher for help when you need it.  You just tend to keep your distance.

I've noticed the same pattern at school.  You love your teachers.  You love your friends.  You come home with a million stories of the games you played.  But, while the other kids run to give the teacher a hug as soon as they enter the room, I have to prod you to even say hello.  By the time I pick you up, you've warmed up and are bouncing around with the rest of the kids.  It seems like you'd just rather observe the situation carefully before diving in for the fun.

Meanwhile, you never stop talking at home.  In the car, the random questions and observations sometimes come so fast that I don't have a chance to even reply.  There's just a steady stream of Maddie Bear chattering from the backseat.

You've become quite the Taylor Swift fan.  We listen to her in the car, and you know all the lyrics to all of her songs.  If we're tired of Taylor Swift, you request Disney music.  You still like classical music and show tunes.  You do not like the Beatles, which is sad.

It's been a long winter of being couped up indoors.  You've developed the habit of running around in circles every evening around 5 pm.  It's as if all the energy in your little body can no longer be contained, and you just have to run.

You're a great big sister.  You help me take care of Vivienne.  You give her hugs and hold her hand at the library so that she can't run away from Mumma.  Sometimes you get upset when you have to share your toys or when she tries to eat your food.  It's understandable.  We're working on ways to distract her from your toys instead of shrieking at her when you get frustrated.  You still like to treat her like a dog sometimes by making her play fetch or trying to trap her in a box/ doghouse.  But mostly, you guys are great together.

You ask for alone time most days, and we try our best to give it to you.  You can shut yourself in the playroom where Vivi can't bother you.  The entire time you're in there, we hear high-pitched talking from the other side of the door as you play with your dolls.  Vivi lays on her belly and tries to peer under the door at you.

We let you stay up late to play games or watch a movie with Mumma and Dada every now and again.  We watched Big Hero 6 last week.  Toward the end, you looked a little scared, so I asked if you wanted to stop the movie.  You said yes and climbed right into bed with your eyes open wide in fright.  I felt like a terrible mother.  We traumatized you by forcing you to watch a superhero cartoon with us.

You're still working on your letters and how to write.  You were reluctant to learn for a long time.  I think you sometimes have trouble figuring out which hand to write with.  You're a lefty when you write, but a righty for almost everything else.  I downloaded a preschool app that lets you practice writing, but you use your right hand on the screen instead of your left.  It's very interesting to watch.

Meanwhile, you're drawing like a fiend all of a sudden.  For the longest time, you would just scribble colors without trying to make any pictures.  Now, you draw people and houses and dogs.  I love it.  Last week you drew me the solar system and some black holes because you're learning about space at school.  Then you drew a picture of the two of us, complete with "sun kisses" (freckles).  It's awesome.

We went to get your haircut last week. You decided that you wanted bangs like your cousin, so we gave it a try,  and you look so much older.  The shorter hair is a bit curlier and unruly, but you look adorable.

I brought you to see Cinderella over the weekend to celebrate your half birthday.  It was a long movie, and you got a little fidgety toward the middle, but you were a good girl and stayed in your seat the whole time.  It's always a treat to have time just with you.

You've been playing Cinderella since we saw the movie, but you like to pretend to be the stepsisters.  You made Vivi be Cinderella the other day and bossed her around.  Vivi obviously didn't mind, and I think you were having fun being bratty to your sister.

You're the best, Miss Madeline.  The best four-and-a-half-year-old kiddo in the whole universe.

 I love you!


Thursday, March 12, 2015

The Girls' Bedroom

The last time I mentioned the girls' bedroom on the blog was back in the summer of 2013 when we were getting it spruced up for Vivi's arrival.  It's changed a lot since then, so I thought I'd post some pictures.  

There's still more to be done.  I think there will always be more to be done.  And, on the off chance that I do ever "finish" their room, they will probably be old enough to want to change everything about it anyhow.  The room is very pink because it's Madeline's favorite, but we joke that someday Vivi will paint her half black in protest.  In the meantime, I get to have fun and do what I want in there.  

There is only one window in the room.  It lets in a lot of light though.  My iPhone pictures are a little washed out, but the removable polka dots on the wall are metallic gold.  The walls are a very pale pink/peach.  I love that color.  I would paint the whole house that color if Eric could stomach it.    

As you can see, the ceiling is sloped on Madeline's side of the room under the eaves of the house, which makes fitting furniture a little awkward.  Still, I think Madeline feels cozy nestled into the corner at night.  Her bed is pretty high off the ground, so she uses a rail to hold her in.  

There isn't enough space between her bed and the radiator for a nightstand, so I have plans to add some small book racks on the wall.  When I check on her at night, she always has piles and piles of books surrounding her, so maybe she'll be more comfortable if she has someplace to keep them.  

Madeline's dresser and bookshelf are at the foot of her bed.  The dressers are from Ikea.  I painted them a shade darker than the walls.   

The bookshelf fits perfectly under the eaves and behind the closet door.  We keep our oversized books, hair ribbons, and a piggy bank on the top.  The shade on the lamp broke, so that needs to be replaced.  There's also an embroidery sampler that I found at a thrift store hanging on the wall that reads, "Love is Awesome."  

Madeline's banner is left over from her first birthday party.  They are printable letters from Martha Stewart's website. The mushroom nightlight was a present for Maddie's first Christmas.  

See that yellow spot on the ceiling next to the closet door in the photo below ?  That's some recent water damage resulting from the winter from hell.  The ice dams on that side of the house were pretty bad since it never gets any sun and is too high for Eric to reach.  I'm not sure how to fix that spot, but it's on the list.  

This wall faces the window.  There's a random rectangular column in the middle of it that encases our chimney.  The shelves house an old iPod dock that we use as a sound machine, their snowglobe collection, and some delicate toys.  My sister passed that glider along to us when Madeline was born.  I still use it to rock Vivi to sleep.  When we're done with it, that space will be perfect for a desk or some bean bag chairs.  

This corner of the room is rarely neat as it is usually covered in books, shoes from the closet, (my girls have a thing about trying on ALL the shoes) and stuffed animals from the basket.  Vivi is working on taking out some books in this very picture. About two minutes after this it was taken, this corner was a mess again. 

Vivi's name banner is hanging from the shelves temporarily.  We had it above her dresser, but she kept pulling it off the wall.  Babies.

Vivi's side of the room is still rather bare.  We use Viv's dresser as her changing table, although the older she gets, the less we actually change her diaper up there.  Vivi uses the same blue crib from the old apartment that Madeline used.  It converts into a toddler bed, so she'll be in it for a while.  Eventually we'll either get a bed to match Madeline's, or we're considering bunk beds along that wall.  

That wall needs some artwork and a mirror above Vivi's dresser.  

The old butterfly mobil I made while pregnant with Maddie is hanging above Vivi's crib just out of reach.  She really likes to watch it, but it's kinda out of place there.

 I still want to change the light fixture above Madeline's bed.  We have that same fixture throughout our house.  It's heavy, black, and very Victorian looking.

The curtains have a pink pompom trim that I added to a set of plain Ikea curtains.  Ikea curtains are wicked inexpensive.  Like, you can't buy fabric that cheap.  I was sold.

So that's where my girls sleep, play, and plot future world domination.  

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

I Just Want to Be Clean

 I'm always a little jealous of my coworkers' desks at school.  They are neat and tidy with color-coded folders, tabbed lesson books, and carefully placed figurines that read something like, "Teachers Poop Rainbows on a Cloudy Day."  They look, in short, what an educator's desk should look like.  Neat.  Professional.  Organized.

The only two days my desk looks like that is on the first and last day of the school year.  In the space between, it's almost always covered in piles of paper, student projects, long-forgotten lesson books, and old Tupperware containers.  And I can never find a working pen or the hall passes.  

My desk could be featured in one of those afternoon specials they use as a warning in health class.  My desk chose the wrong path in life, kids.  Don't be like that desk.

It's not that I don't want my desk to be a role model for other desks.  I'm not lazy.  I care.  It's just that my brain doesn't work that way.  My thoughts are not organized and tidy.  As a result, I have a hard time keeping things in order.  

If you had met me in my twenties, my entire life looked like my messy desk.  My car, my purse, my apartment.  It was all a hot mess of laundry piles and Styrofoam coffee cups.  

But I didn't mind.  I didn't even see the mess.  I knew just which pile of papers my bills were tossed in, and I knew which pile of shoes contained the boots I was looking for.  That's all that mattered.  

Then, sometime shortly after giving birth to Madeline, things began to change.  Maybe it was what they call "nesting."  Maybe my new mommy brain was cluttered enough already without adding piles of crafting supplies to the mix.  Maybe being a parent simply means that you choose to not let your offspring grow up in squalor whenever possible.  Whatever the reason, something in my brain snapped.  I see the mess now.  I can't stand living that way any longer.

I want things neat.  I want things organized.  I want to be able to find my damn car keys and phone and boots the second that I need them.  

So if you want to know how motherhood has changed me the most.  This is it.  It's not the capacity to love someone more than myself.  It's the desire to have a color-coded food-storage system in the pantry.

Now, I don't just wash my clothes, but I actually take the time to put the laundry away.  I dust.  I vacuum.  A lot.  I sweep.  A lot. I throw the mail out instead of letting it pile up on all the flat surfaces.  I disinfect.  I sort.  I organize.

Is my life any less cluttered?  Does my world now resemble a Febreze commercial?


Sadly the joke is on me.  Those darn, beautiful children of mine, who pushed me to change my filthy ways in the first place, just keep making more messes.  I follow them around the house wiping blueberry fingerprints off the furniture and nagging Maddie to pick up her puzzle pieces.  

I'm stuck in some sort of Sisyphean hell of my own making where I spend my days cleaning, and cleaning, and cleaning.  Yet, our house never gets any cleaner.
We spent the morning cleaning their room.  Then this happened.  
I've tried staying on top of the mess, but that just means that I do nothing but clean every waking moment of my life.  I've tried ignoring the mess, opting to clean it all in one swift swoop.  That just makes living here unbearable.  I've tried scheduling my cleaning.  Yet, on the days that I'm scheduled to scrub the kitchen floor, I find that the bathroom floor really needs it more.

And my brain!  My disorganized, wandering, cluttered brain!  Why must you decide that the closet needs reorganizing half way through cleaning the living room?

I don't know what the answer is.  I need a maid.  A new brain would be great too.  You know what?  Just send me Martha Stewart.

Meanwhile, I go back to work next fall.  This will give me a reprieve from spending my days cleaning up after two mini mess monsters.  I bet my desk is shaking at the thought of my return though.  It's probably never looked so good than in my absence.  Sorry desk.