Anna was lucky enough to be taken to the circus with Grandpa Rob and Grandma Kay a few weeks ago, and she LOVED it. Elephants and baby elephants pretending to sleep? Check. Trapeze artists and juggling? Check. Alone time with Grandpa and Grandma? Double check!
Apparently it still stands out in her mind, because while she was playing with her dollhouse a few days ago, this is what I found. Note the little pink doll (named “Baby Gosie”).
I walked in, Anna looked up at me and said, “Baby Gosie is an acrobat!”
Since we haven’t made the time to create posts lately, I thought I’d at least give you a few photos to view. We are healthy and happy and excitedly waiting for spring to arrive!
I haven’t made the time to post much lately, but Kay took this cute video of the girls and their cousin Genevieve last week and I just had to share it. (I am sure Mari will be joining the fun in a few short months.) If someone wants to put some music behind it, go right ahead – it looks to me like they’re on stage!
With the season of Advent last month, our family tried really hard to make it more meaningful and, particularly, to take it at a slower pace than in past years. I have to say, looking back, we were actually – very surprisingly – successful!
With the holiday season, December is full of preparations: putting up a tree and other decorations, buying and wrapping gifts, and making delicious, only-eaten-for-one-month-of-the-year treats. Although that is all fun too, Advent is meant to be a different kind of preparation: getting ourselves ready to meet Jesus someday. Somehow, only by the grace of God, we managed to get most of the typical Christmas to-do’s done by early December, leaving much more time this season for family, friends, and faith. Just a few high points of our joy-filled month:
Anna loved playing with her Nativity set and was visited by St. Nicholas on December 6.
We spent an entire day with John’s family: after attending Mass together for the feast of the Immaculate Conception, the girls (including the four little girls under 2 1/2) baked Christmas goodies while the men brewed beer, then we all dressed up and went out for our yearly dinner at the Oak Grill in downtown Minneapolis. John’s parents started this tradition over 30 years ago, and this year had two new attendees (yay babies!). Also, we’d like to point out that even with all the little ones, we were able to enjoy a nice sit-down dinner: good conversation, great food, and not a single tantrum or even minor meltdown. It was beyond wonderful! Thank you, Rob and Kay!
John and I had a nice date night which included lots of Christmas lights; some of the best we’ve seen in years, actually! We also fit in a few fun, glamorous (for us) Christmas parties and dinners.
And now, the moments when we actually remembered to take pictures:
Josie turned 8 months old…
…and became much, much more mobile. (Please ignore the spit-up on her sleeve… editing photos is not something I made time for last month!)
Anna helped decorate our Christmas tree for the first time.
We had a huge snowstorm and it was just nice enough to go out and play in the snow for the first time this year. She loves it, like a true Minnesotan!
After playing outside, we decided we needed something to warm us up, so we devoured a cup of hot chocolate together.
Josie really wanted to play outside too, but those mean parents of hers just haven’t gotten around to finding a water-resistant snowsuit yet.
In early December we had the chance to explore the Children’s Museum for free (free parking, even!) as a benefit of being part of the National Children’s Study. It was AMAZING! There were maybe 20 other families there, tops, and Anna could play with whatever she wanted, whenever she wanted. We even got to enjoy the night as a little date with just our Sweetest Pea, as Kay and Rob came over to babysit Josie.
As we start the new year, we hope you were able to relax a bit during the busy holiday season and enjoy time with your family and friends as well!
Here are just a few quick pictures we took of Anna in September. First: our art projects. Anna and I made finger paints using this recipe, and it was awesome. The only downside was waiting for it to cool off. She really loved squeezing it in her fingers and she painted three pictures.
The next week we made a mask from a grocery bag.
In late September we also went to homecoming for John’s (work) school. Anna wasn’t sure about the fireworks at first, but she ended up really liking them – as long as we were a little farther away. The football was mildly entertaining to her, but the biggest hit was the band, as they played and moved around in formation, both before the game and at halftime. I hope we can make it to more games as the girls get older.
Our Sweetest Pea is now past two years old. She did really, really well at the doctor’s office last week, which I suppose is encouraged by the fact that there are no more shots for a few years! She is definitely a growing girl; her height and weight are both at right about the 50th percentile (34 inches and 26.4 lbs, respectively), and if you do the “times two” method (see #2 in this link), she will be approximately 5 feet, 8 inches when she’s grown up. (I was curious!)
Her head remains in the 70th percentile. She has come a long way since the tiny 4 lb., 8 oz baby I delivered two years ago! She now can sing a few songs, count to 10 (if you make her do it “for real” – and sometimes to 13), knows most of the basic colors, and pretty much doesn’t stop talking. She is such a ham and is turning into a very sweet little girl who likes to give hugs and kisses; we really enjoy her antics!
We celebrated her birthday with immediate family and some close friends who live nearby. It was a beautiful evening, and although she had a few meltdowns during the afternoon before the party, she was the perfect party hostess that night in her cute pigtails and pretty dress. She didn’t even bat an eye when her friend Lucian blew out her candles for her! We did relight them and she “helped” me blow them out again. She really enjoyed the balloons, the family, the friends, the brats, the puppy cake, the candles, the presents… pretty much everything! We couldn’t have asked for a better way to celebrate her birthday. Thank you so much to all of you who came – we love you all and were so glad to have everyone there!
(Click on a picture to view a larger image and to go through the gallery.)
For Anna’s birthday and just because, my parents took her to a Twins game. (Yes, she’s been to more games than I have in the past year. If the Twins were doing a lot better, I’d be complaining a lot more, but… they’re not.) From what they told me, she had a GREAT time. Even in the really warm weather, she wanted to keep going back to their seats outside in the sun, while it sounds like Grandpa and Grandma were pretty much dragging her indoors to cool off every so often. We have trained her well, though; every player was “Goe Mauer” and she even got Tony Oliva to say hi to her, even if she wasn’t too excited to talk back to him! She also really enjoyed the light rail ride and is still, a month later, talking about the train in conjunction with Grandpa and Grandma.
Thanks for taking her to the game, Mom and Dad – we hope she grows up to enjoy the Twins as much as we do!
We had a beautiful summer and are sad to see it end, even if the new school year has brought some fun and exciting changes: a new niece is about to be born, and John started teaching theology classes this fall, which I’m sure will lead to some great dinnertime conversations as he reveals what 17 year old boys think about Christ and His Church. We realized that although we did manage to post a few times this summer, we just couldn’t catch everything. Here are a few things we missed that we’d like to share with you.
Anna truly had a birthday “week” this year, as she had many opportunities to celebrate turning two. Here are a few highlights from last Wednesday, her actual birthday.
Even though all she talks about is “cake and candles,” she got a little scared of the candle this time. Thankfully she handled it like a pro at her actual birthday party a few days later. And yes, that is a banana – the cake would wait until her party a few days later, and the popsicle treat to come wasn’t exactly candle-friendly.
We happened to get a package in the mail that day, and after Anna identified it as presents, we let her open them that night. Anna loved her new dress and the new book which came with a magic wand. Thanks, Great Grandpa and Sandy!
The biggest surprise for the day was Anna’s “big girl” room, including a newly painted dresser, nightstand, and a big girl bed with “layleebugs,” flowers, and hearts. She made the transition to a big bed really, really easily, and one week later she still gets excited to sleep in that bed. I sure hope that lasts… but in the meantime, we were happy to make our special girl, our “miracle baby,” so thrilled with her new room.
More on Anna’s birthday, as well as the room redecorating, to come in future posts!
We had our attic re-insulated a few weeks ago (okay… so maybe more like 6 or 7 weeks…), so while the dust was heavy in the air, the girls and I escaped down to my parents’ home near Rochester. We had a great time just hanging out around the house, while Anna of course loved playing with, terrorizing, and giving treats to the puppies. (Both Copper and Sparky were there, as my sister and brother-in-law were living with my parents for a month before moving out of town.) This trip also explains our recent deluge of blog posts; I finally had some downtime to put together the pictures and videos I wanted to share.
The highlight of our trip happened the first morning we were there. Viola Gopher Count is the second oldest continuously running town celebration in the US, and I attended some part of it probably every year until I went to college. I hadn’t been there in oh, about ten years, but this was a great year to go again! The weather was great, and Anna got to really enjoy the parade, while Josie – who already loves to be outside – smiled and cooed for us all afternoon.
We of course had another fun time visiting my family. Thanks for letting us hide out for a few days, Mom and Dad! We love you!
The month long heat wave here in MN finally abated today, so Anna and I spent some time playing the yard after I got home from work. Although it was cool and cloudy, she insisted on wearing her glasses, which led to me taking some photos of her. Strangely enough, when I looked at them later, they all sort of looked like album art photos from a mid-90s rap album. So, without further ado, I give you…
Lil’ MC Sweetpea
We have had some fancy nails around our house lately. Anna wanted her toenails painted when I painted mine, so she got some pretty polish (or “paint,” as Anna always calls it) on hers.
The next day, when I was putting a clear coat on my toes, Anna wanted more paint, so I painted her fingernails. I was amazed she let me do her feet the night before, and I was even more amazed she let me paint her fingernails. Let me rephrase that: I wasn’t so surprised she let me paint them, but I was very surprised that she managed to keep the polish on her nails and not on her shirt, the floors, or wherever else she may have touched.
Even Josie got in on the fun! Auntie Beth painted her nails while we were down visiting my family a few weekends ago. Considering how tiny Josie’s toesies are, I’d say she did a pretty good job!
Anna loves to dance to any music or, for that matter, anything with a beat. This even includes dancing to the tractor noises as a bunch of them passed by in a parade we went to recently. We’ve managed to capture a few videos recently, so enjoy! (For those of you who are my Facebook friends, you’ve probably already seen the first two.)
Anna at a recent wedding:
Josie spits up amidst the next dance party. Makes me laugh every time. Also, sorry for the crazy angle mid-video.
And finally, just some simple “singing” and “dancing” with one of her toys:
To celebrate Josie’s birth, a friend (whose kids are big swim team competitors) gave us some sunscreen, sun hats for both girls, and a little kiddie pool. A week ago I had some time to finally set the pool up in the backyard, get Anna in her swimsuit, and generally prepare my girls and myself for the outdoors. This took me all morning. (I’m not kidding. I still need to work on getting both girls ready to go anywhere in less than, oh, about four hours.)
We did eventually make it outside, with the help of Grandma Kay (Ming Bears), who also brought some squirty pool toys for Anna. And finally, Anna was able to swim! I use the term “swim” lightly – she didn’t even sit in the pool. But she did at least walk around in it, and loved splashing with her feet. Honestly, I don’t blame her for standing – the water was pretty chilly!
Having Ming there was not only helpful but simply made it possible for me to get Anna in the pool and still take care of Josie. Thank you for coming over to play with us, Grandma Kay! We all had a lot of fun and hope to spend a lot of time in the water this summer!
Ming Arf-Arf = Grandma with the puppy
Bapa Arf-Arf = Grandpa with the puppy
These are Anna’s names for her grandparents (John’s parents are Ming and Bapa bears – because they have stuffed bears she plays with there), although the “arf-arf” has since evolved into “puppy” and “Cah-poo” (Copper – their puppy’s name). We visited them twice in the last month, the first for a family wedding in mid-May. Anna enjoyed her time with her aunties and uncle, as well as all the dancing at the wedding, and, of course, the puppies.
In June we visited again for another wedding reception and then a belated housewarming-slash-50th birthday party for my parents. Once again the dancing and puppies were a hit with Anna, while Josie enjoyed being passed around from person to person on what turned out to be a beautiful but very warm day. John and I got to play a few rounds of Beersby (a frisbee-related backyard game my sister and brother-in-law set up) and enjoy a little bit of baby-free time.
Thanks, Ming and Bapa, for having us down and for some great memories! (Oh… and for all the pictures!)
Anna had a rough day.
I went in to her room this morning to find her sitting up, staring at me with those beautiful blue eyes with long, dark lashes… and gunk. Lots and lots of gunk, along with a bright red right eye. Pink eye has struck our house again, for the fourth time in as many months, and this one has started out looking much worse than the others. Thanks to our awesome doctor, we had an extra bottle of prescription eye drops on hand, and Anna should be free of pink eye – or at least not as contagious – by tomorrow morning.
But that wasn’t the end of trauma for our Sweetest Pea today. Around lunchtime she was playing in the “basik” – translated into the modern American English “basket,” for which the technical term is “laundry basket.” How she managed to get in it without it tipping over is beyond me, but when she tried to get out, she did indeed tip and caught both hands on something (I’m still not really sure what). This led to a few tears and a bleeding knuckle, which I didn’t even notice until a few minutes later. She was a very brave girl and didn’t cry at all while we cleaned it and put her first-ever band-aid on the scrape. I don’t know that she cared that the band-aid had a picture on it of the Little Mermaid, but it made me feel nice!
Finally, we went on a nice long family walk this evening and when we got back, Anna was walking to the house when she fell on the sidewalk and… you guessed it… scraped up her knee. We have been surprised it hadn’t happened yet, as she falls over a lot and seems to really enjoy running up and down our sidewalk, but this was her first skinned knee. (20 months and one skinned knee? I’ll take it!) Not too terrible, but definitely a decent scrape. This actually didn’t bother her too much at all until her evil mother decided to use an alcohol swab on it, and the rest of the evening she would randomly burst into tears and say, “Knees! Knees! Anna sad!” It was really quite adorable (but also heartbreaking, of course).
Hopefully tomorrow will be a bit easier on her. Unfortunately, it’s looking more and more like she’s got my klutzy genes.
Anna has welcomed Josephine into our family by giving kisses and snuggles, but she had not been interested in holding her… at least until yesterday. She held her a few times and we managed to get some recorded:
In case you’re wondering, yes, Anna does say “Josie,” although you would never know it by the sound of it unless you’re her parents. And if you’re curious, at the beginning of the video Anna points to my hand and says “uh oh,” which is her way of telling the story that Josie spit up on herself and then on my hand. Anna likes telling stories, and a lot of them now involve the baby, which we enjoy! Time will tell if her sister will follow in her (very talkative and entertaining) footsteps.
My sister-in-law and I were talking a few days ago about our first children. She mentioned that when your first kid is born, your whole world shrinks down until it just includes you, your spouse, and your child. Well, I’m here to say that the same is true of Josie’s arrival, although it has not been nearly as stressful. Sara and I both feel much more sure of ourselves, and we are enjoying our time at home together. Little Josephine is already weighing in at 4 pounds, 9 ounces, gaining 1-2 ounces a day. She is a good eater and it’s a real joy watching Anna get to know her. (She likes watching her get changed, enjoys shaking her bottles, and pointing out her body parts.)
It will be hard to go back to work on Thursday. Until then, I’m enjoying every moment spent in our tiny world.
As I write this, Josephine is now about 100 hours old and doing pretty well, all things considered. She was under UV lights for a while to stave off jaundice, a nice little gift from two parents with bloodtype O+ and the fine Minnesota climate. She was taken out from under the lights and the isolation chamber this morning. This means she is still hanging out in the special care nursery because of her feeding tube, but she’s now in a bassinet at least.
Yesterday I busted Sara out of the hospital where she’s boarding and took her to lunch at Great Waters in downtown St. Paul; it was nice to have a burger and just be a couple for an hour or two in the middle of all that’s going on. Then today we had Easter at our house with grandmas and grandpas from both sides of the family and Sara’s sisters. Again Sara got to take a few hours off to help Anna hunt for Easter eggs.
It’s hard to say what the near future will bring for our family. Josie is five weeks premature and needs to learn how to eat properly. Once her suck reflex has fully kicked in, we will be able to take her home. If you are reading this, please say a prayer for our family, and especially for little Josie that she grows strong quickly so our family can all be home together. Also please ask Josie’s patron saints, Joseph and Mary, to pray for her too!
It’s been a difficult past few days for me as a dad; I want nothing more than to have all my girls home with me. But we are connected by love, prayers, and the support of our wonderful family and friends, and I can’t ask for much more than that.
And now, some photos:
(If you made it this far, you get one last story.)
Last night I had given Anna a bath and was putting her PJs on in her room. She kept asking for a song, but after I started each one of her favorites, she shouted, “All done!” Confused, I asked her, “What song do you want?” at which point she began saying “Night night” in a deep voice and following it up with “Picka picka!” (her version of birdies tweeting.)
I eventually deduced that she wanted me to sing “Goodnight Ladies” from The Music Man, which you can watch here. This evolved into me exchanging the word “Anna” for “ladies.” Then she shouted out, “Baby! Baby!” So I sang “Goodnight, Baby…” and she began to wiggle, grin, and clap.
What a sweet big sister. I was a proud poppa last night.
I was on Spring Break this past week, which meant lots of fun time with one of my three favorite girls, Anna. On Thursday Sara, Anna, Baby Girl, and I headed to the Como Zoo together. We were expecting to get a nice parking spot near the entrance 15 minutes after the doors opened, but we had forgotten that pretty much every schoolkid in St. Paul is also on vacation right now, so the zoo was a madhouse of strollers, kids, and parents. Yay! We still had a lot of fun, however.
Anna really enjoyed checking out the monkies (“mong”), fish (“fich”), penguins (“la la,” which means “waddle, waddle”), lions (“rawr!”), and giraffes (she is silent and points to her neck). Her favorite animal by far is the mighty polar bear. And Como Zoo has a new polar bear exhibit, which is quite impressive. When we arrived inside, one of the bears was swimming in his pool right next to the glassed-in viewing area. He was trying to get a red ball out of a floating barrel, and he kept pushing up against the glass, diving underwater, nudging the barrel, and coming back up for air again. Anna was just giggling in delight watching all of this:
For months after her last visit in November, Anna would tell everyone she met about bears including how they jump and eat snow, which is what she observed back then. Now whenever anyone asks her about animals, she shouts out “Bear!” and then says “baw, baw!” (ball), followed by “pash!” (splash). It’s quite cute.
She also visited the Minnesota Zoo yesterday with Baba and Ming (Grandpa and Grandma R). She enjoyed herself very much as she got to hug a bear statue and dress up in a bee costume.
Watching her learn and grow is a treat. I love every minute!
Two weeks ago, we left the house on a bright Friday afternoon with Auntie Beth and Grandma Sherry to head to our regular ultrasound appointment for Baby Girl #2. The sun was shining, the wind was mild, and Anna’s grey friends were happily gnawing at our bonafide Cands Products Squirrelog ™. We nodded pleasantly at them, they nodded back, and then we were in the car and on our way to the ultrasound. (All went well, by the way.)
Afterwards, we stopped for a drink at the Cherokee Tavern, the local watering hole, before picking Anna up from our friend Taryn–the Sweetest Pea was taking a nap, so we wanted to kill a bit of time. (I ordered Alaskan Brewing Black IPA, Sara had a Shirley Temple.) At 4 P.M., with Sweet Pea in the backseat, we arrived home. And then we saw it–or rather, we didn’t see it. The bonafide Cands Products Squirrelog ™ was…gone. It’s hard to even type it. Yes, those thieving squirrel b******s had, during our absence, donned ski masks, picked up wire cutters, hopped into their 1/8 scale pickup, drove it onto our deck, cut the bonafide Cands Products Squirrelog ™ off of its chain, loaded it into their truck, and absconded with the goods. No way it could have been a one-squirrel job. The thing was the size of a baseball on Friday afternoon, when the world was pure and we were friends with the rodents in the back yard. A whole furry clan must have planned it for weeks–no, months.
Now when Anna toddles to the glass door in the dining room, clicks sadly, and makes the sign for “more, please!” I don’t say anything about the squirrels. I don’t know what to say. “Your gray friends betrayed you, Sweetest Pea” just seems too cruel. She’s so young, and it’s better we keep the truth from her…until I find a way to get revenge, that is. Then I can tell her the whole story.
Before she was mobile, Anna loved to rest in my arms while I sat on the living room recliner and watch the wind move the branches of our maple tree. We would listen to the cars go by and just enjoy the view. Eventually she started to notice that our tree was home to a family of squirrels, who nested high in its branches. Later on, she would stand by our front screen door and watch them scamper up and down the tree trunk. Anna would laugh and make the sign for “more, please!” Once we started teaching her animal noises, her first and favorite was the clicking noise we imagine squirrels make. It became shorthand for her favorite animal.
But the seasons changed, the leaves fell from the trees, it grew cold, and our squirrels vanished. From time to time we would catch our Sweetest Pea gazing mournfully out the window, making that clicking noise and making the sign for “more, please!” She would eventually sigh sadly and crawl away. Alas, a tiny toddler tragedy was playing out in our very own home. That is, until Grandpa Rob came to the rescue.
On Christmas morning I put a heavy, brightly-colored package in Anna’s lap. “What is it?” Sara asked our daughter. We both shook our heads and began tearing away the green and red paper together. Then what to our wondering eyes did appear…but this: A bonafide Cands Products Squirrelog. Anna saw the happy cartoon squirrel on the package and squealed with joy. “I got a squirrel!” she likely thought. I knew better. “Feed ‘em, don’t fight ‘em!” the slogan urged us. “Um, okay,” I stammered out loud to no one in particular. And a few days later, I took the large, yellow cornmeal log out of its plastic packaing and suspended it from the lid handle of our grill. We waited. And waited. And waited.
A week later Anna’s gray friends came back. They sniffed suspiciously at the log, stood on their hind legs, and, wonder of wonders, began to gnaw greedily at it. Tears of joy sprang from their beady eyes: food at last. Anna toddled over, saw her friends, and began to applaud. I saw myself purchasing a small-caliber rifle in the near future.
As January has sped by, the squirrels are welcome visitors to our back yard. They approach happily, nibble, and sometimes scamper off if Anna bangs one of her plastic teacups too vigorously against the window. But they’re good guests, and they even provide us with a good laugh on occasion. Now that they’ve gnawed the log to about half size, they can’t reach it from the decking. One now hops up onto the wire rack underneath the grill, leans out, and eats from the top of the log. Eventually he gets too greedy, overbalances, falls six inches or so to the deck, and rushes off in terror. He only comes creeping back once the log is finished swinging crazily. This process will repeat two or three times before he careens off into the alley, done for the day.
Anna is happy to have her furry friends back. I often say that I can’t refuse my oldest anything; we’ll know it’s true when I’m wandering down the isles at Home Depot, asking orange shirts for…ahem…squirrelogs. Just saying it out loud makes me sound like a nutjob.
(Squirrels. Nuts. Get it? Yup, I went there.)