Saturday, January 31, 2009

Take That, To-Do List!

Accomplished this week:
  • had new carpet installed in A's room, touched up paint
  • bought paint to transform dining/living wall from banged-up to fashionable accent wall
  • swept and thoroughly mopped wood floors for the first time in...never mind
  • washed rugs
  • dusted and changed lightbulbs in crazy-high ceiling fans
  • removed paint spatters on outside of crazy-high window
  • changed look of high ceiling corners and high window from Haunted Mansion to non-embarrassing
  • scraped half-inch dust coating from top of kitchen cupboards
  • took down glassware that was stashed up high and boxed up rarely-used glassware
  • moved seasonal and storage boxes out of closet
  • taped up boxes ready to store and put them in garage
  • wrote deposit check to Western Theological Seminary

Holy crap. I think we are actually moving and going to seminary.


Thursday, January 29, 2009

We Pffffft!

Along with tackling my To-Do List of Doom--yes, I have created an actual document with this title--I have been working on putting some structure back into my life so I can meet some personal goals and generally life the kind of healthy, balanced life I say I want to live.

I intended to get some goals written in time to make January 20 my "new year" day, since I was so far from thinking about the upcoming year on the 1st and the 20th seemed like a fresh start, new beginning, yada yada yada kind of a day, but of course I didn't have my goals list to tell me to do this by then, so it didn't get done. I have to write it down to cross it off, you know. I'm like Frog. Or was it Toad? Whichever.

But last week I did start ramping up my Fit in Four program.

Also known as Yes We Can Be in Better Shape Four Years from Now Than We Are Today.

Also known as logging off and standing up and stretching, walking, dancing, or otherwise putting my lazy booty in motion a few times a week.

Yesterday I had to make an unscheduled trip to BigPort to get a large screw removed from Aaron's flat tire. But the inconvenience was worth it because I was able to procure our Wii Fit! I'd seen them in the store right before Christmas but not since. Regardless, merry Christmas to us (and thank you Christmas money-givers)!

With my Little White Thing You Stand On I can now entertain myself with such amazing new games as Standing On One Foot On A Board, Imagining Skiing Down A Hill While Actually Standing On a Board, and Running In Place With Imaginary Friends. All are sure to help my friends burn many calories as they laugh uncontrollably at how much my "moves" resemble uncontrolled full-body muscle spasms.

In all seriousness, though, do not believe the Wii Fit BMI Lies! The Wii Fit is notoriously prone to wildly swinging measurements, and BMI is not necessarily a good measurement of health anyway. Case in point: we have a friend who is training for a bodybuilding competition. He could beat me up with one pinky and has about 4 percent body fat. The Wii Fit says he's morbidly obese. Come on now. Is he insane for eating only chicken and potatoes for five months so some people can judge his buffness? Maybe. (If I ever do something like that, you should check me in somewhere, because I'll have lost my mind.) Is he in any way fat? NO. BMI should be called B.S. Lie!

So while I'll probably check my stats out of curiosity from time to time, I'm not going to put too much stock in them. This thing is a game, not a doctor. And the last thing I want is my little girl stepping on there and internalizing the insult of this inanimate object treating her like she's an object that should be resized to match some one-size-fits-all standard, especially while she her body is still developing (which is why BMI shouldn't be applied to kids). I'm sad to think how many young people may feel even worse after trying something that's just supposed to be about making moving a bit fun.

Wii Fit? Yay! We fat, according to you? We say pffft!

Time for me to give it a try, before Aaron gets home to laugh at me, and then make some brownies to go with our CSI-watching. One can't overhaul a lifestyle too completely!

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Monday, January 26, 2009

Wordless Wetzel: Our Tiny Mime

As I alluded to in my she's-two update post, Anna seems to have something funny going on with her speech. Namely, she seems to think it's more fun to not talk. She's big on charades, not so much into speechifying. The question is whether this is something truly wrong with her ability to speak or she is one of those kids just holding back until she can bust out in full-on Shakespearean monologues.

She does communicate. Like crazy. She told me at dinner, using only the word "woof," that she wanted to clean off her tray and get down the big pad of paper with the dog on it and draw. She constantly gestures for things she wants (dance music, basketball) or wants you to do (sit here, draw, put ketchup all over my carrots). She's much more into motions than words--for instance, an O-mouthed silent "blub blub blub" impression means fish or Goldfish crackers. She knows the word well but won't even try to say it. Why should she when she can act it out? It's like living with a tiny mime. Or being trapped inside a game of Guesstures.

I mean, she just started saying no, instead of just shaking her head, about two weeks ago. A toddler who doesn't say no! Well, maybe I should enjoy that while it lasts . . .

It was suspect #3--'that one'!

Her comprehension is even better than her charades ability. You can have a whole conversation with her and she'll nod and make expressions and point to what you're talking about to let you know she's following you. She can point out almost anything you ask her to in her books. She knows a ton of body parts but only says "teeth." She loves animals but prefers to call them by their noises rather than names. And her memory is ridiculous: she'll go find things where she left them ages ago, and yesterday at church she pulled a friend of ours over to a certain spot to do a little pretending game she'd thought was funny--a month ago.

So like most parents, we think our kid is dang smart, but that's also because other people keep saying to us, "She is so smart!" I mean, I think she is too, but I also know she's not saying as much as other people's even younger kids are saying--so it's been a bit of a nagging worry. I know, but . . . why won't you talk, child?!

Still, at Thanksgiving we made a list of all the words she'd said (with meaning and some regularity) it was almost 50, which is about where an 18-24 month old should be, so I decided we could wait until she turned two and see if she would start putting two words together by then. But she hasn't, other than sort of getting lucky a couple times. Of course, she can put two gestures together like nobody's business.

So our pediatrician told us to call Early Intervention for an evaluation and whatever magical powers they possess. Apparently this is all free (well, prepaid through your taxes, thank you) no matter your income and they even come to your house. I should get a call back from them tomorrow to find out more.

As stupid as I know it is, I can't help feeling like maybe I/we should have been or should be doing something more or different. Are we letting her off the hook with her gestures too much? Not enough reading? (Doesn't seem possible.) Too much TV? (Uh, are you counting football?) White noise machine scrambling her brain? (Oops, now my mom's worried about that.)

Or is it in part because she had 9 months in the womb and 7 months in Ethiopia hearing only Amharic, not English?

Or maybe it just is what it is, and worrying about why will not add one hour to my life or one word to her vocabulary. I'm trying to remember that as I wait for the Early Intervention cavalry to arrive. And I'm remembering to be grateful to have access to such a resource here in the U.S.

And I'm enjoying the sweet sounds from downstairs which will all too soon be gone--the beautiful, mysterious poetry of "Dab be! Abb beee! Dabyee abbayae abbyeeeeeeeeee!"

Friday, January 23, 2009

Et Two, Bebe?

Anna is now officially--not just behaviorally--a two-year-old. After she got her eyes uncrossed, she wished for a pony, a helicopter, a sixteen-year moratorium on naps, and a lifetime supply of bananas and Goldfish crackers.

Last week she checked out at the doctor's office at a little over 27 pounds, 34 inches ("36 with the afro," for you Fletch lovers). People often think she seems tall and is older than she is, but she's right in the middle of the growth curve at around the 50th percentile for height and weight. Big change from her 10th percentile days! She still has a big head, though. Developmentally she is on track with the exception of speech--more on that in another post.

Some of her favorite things right now are anything that makes noise, like the little piano she got for Christmas; she mostly likes to push the button that makes it play "ABC" by the Jackson Five. So often that I had a dream about the dumb song! She also likes her little laptop with learning games, but they are really for older kids, so she mostly likes to hold down the volume button that makes a little monkey say EEH-EEH! EEH-EEH! EEH-EEH! a hundred times consecutively. So often that I threatened to smash the thing into a pulp with her precious bananas. Or maybe with the similarly charming birthday card with the dying singing cats.

For Christmas she also got play food from us and from my parents, plus plastic pots and a shopping cart (the cart is still en route from Michigan), all of which she loves. Some of the food velcroes together so you can slice it and stack it into sandwiches and burgers.

She will gladly pay you Tuesday for a hamburger today!

Anna also loves her baby doll, balloons from the grocery store produce guy, telephones, Sesame Street, Mr. Potato Head, and the music between Wii Sports games. She's learned to take off her diaper and open certain doors, including, I'm pretty sure, the baby gate cutting her off from the Spiral Staircase of Doom. We are so screwed.

Sharing is . . . not something she has mastered.

Her favorite word is currently "bye." If you appear to be leaving the house (or simply the room), she will shout "Bye! Byeeeeeee!" She sometimes puts one of her little bags over her shoulder like a purse and heads for the door, announcing "Bye! Bye!" And when former President Bush's helicopter took off, she waved frantically at the TV and yelled "BYEEEEEEEEE! BYEEEEE! BYE!" But he shouldn't take it personally because she kept doing it to Wolf Blitzer too. That guy can not take a hint.

Food-wise she's doing just what the doctor said two-year-olds do: being picky and eating nothing sometimes, then at other times eating to rival her father. I'm glad to have her past the two mark so she can eat everything and anything and doesn't need whole milk anymore. Please, please let her quickly develop a love for the economical protein wonder that is peanut butter...

After we cut out milk before naps and bed, I realized I should move her nap up earlier in the afternoon since she's mellow after lunch. I started putting her down before 1:00 instead of at 2:00 and she slept three full hours five days in a row! Why didn't someone tell me this before?

She also napped for a sitter yesterday, which frankly I didn't think she'd do. She was cranky as heck all evening and wailing at bedtime, though--perhaps letting me know she did not appreciate that disruption to our daytime routine? She usually only has a sitter during evening play hours, and she is always fine with it. Still, I'm glad to know we could leave her with someone over naptime or bedtime and she would probably go to sleep fine. Maybe someday we will do something crazy like go to the movies . . . ah, who am I kidding? Crazy for us is staying up late enough to watch CSI and American Idol!

And that's life with Little Miss Two!

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Day of Possibility, Once Again

God bless America, whose children make its possibility possible.

We walk into that which we cannot yet see.
Say it plain, that many have died for this day....

Praise song for struggle. Praise song for the day....

In today's sharp sparkle, this winter air, anything can be made, any sentence begun. On the brink, on the brim, on the cusp, praise song for walking forward in that light.

excerpts from Elizabeth Alexander, "Praise Song for the Day,"
Inaugural Poem, January 20, 2009
(transcript from the Chicago Sun-Times)

Make your Shepard Fairey-inspired icon at Obamicon.Me

Monday, January 19, 2009

Remembering: In the Name of Love

Power at its best is love implementing the demands of justice. Justice at its best is love correcting everything that stands against love.

Martin Luther King, Jr., Where Do We Go from Here: Chaos or Community?

Friday, January 16, 2009

Our Irish Rumbler

Here she is in the full court debut of her favorite cheer . . . our little Irish rumbler!

She can actually shake her hips a lot more than that...although I'm not sure I want her to. She was a bit baffled to be standing down there, I think.

Sorry the quality is so bad--perhaps we'll try again soon.

Ahh, That New Coach Smell

It's that time of every-three-years again: a new coach for the Detroit Lions is announced!

The lucky daring soul this time was the Tennessee Titans' defensive coordinator, Jim Schwartz. [Insert Spaceballs joke here.] I must have been pondering this the other night before bed, because I had a vivid and hilarious dream involving Titans coach Jeff Fisher showing me around a "training camp" which looked like a summer camp--while I was wearing pajamas. I asked him about the possibility of getting a job since I knew I'd be cut from the team (ya think?). I love my crazy dreams.

Coach Schwartzbewithyou is certainly saying all the right things to impress me so far. Then again, don't they all? I am just glad they pulled the trigger on who they wanted so they can get on with hiring assistants and scouting for the draft. Can we interest anyone in a really expensive #1 pick? Please? Nope, we are probably stuck with it. Let the great QB vs. O-line vs. defense debate commence. After all, the fans have been anticipating this #1 pick since, well, the disastrous first play of the regular season. It's all we have to what we look forward to. As the saying goes, "We're the Lions. The draft is our Super Bowl."

But hope springs eternal even, or especially, in beaten-down Detroit. Mitch Albom wrote a great (if a tad schmaltzy) article called "The Courage of Detroit" which captures this spirit. It's almost enough to make a person want to move to Michigan. (Okay, maybe not quite to the eastern part though.)

Coach Schwartzbewithyou, we wish you luck, perseverance, a sharp shovel, and the wisdom to not take the wind.

Who do you think the Lions should draft #1? And clearly a different question: who do you think they will draft?

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

The Weeklong Reentry

I think I am finally coming out of my post-vacation reentry fog. It always takes a few days after a long trip for me to unpack and unstack (because when I unpack, I stack, but eventually all the piles are in the way too), get back into a routine, and feel un-fogged enough to actually comprehend what people are paying me to read. Considering we got home last Wednesday night, I'm not setting any records for getting right back to it this time.

Thursday we kicked the tree to the curb porch; Friday I organized toys and we had the downstairs of this house spotless highly presentable. Then we celebrated Anna's birthday with friends, and inevitably there were presents, which meant more toys and paper strewn about for days (because that's how we roll). And dishes--who does dishes? Okay, we should. More often. So downstairs had to get re-cleaned-up over the last couple days too. Totally worth it for birthday fun, of course!

Meanwhile, upstairs? No clear path to, well, anywhere--suitcases and laundry and piles of Christmas goodies and wrapping paper were all standing around like Stonehenge reorganized itself into an obstacle course. Only today did I finish emptying the suitcases and put them and the wrapping paper away. I still have piles, but at least they're all in the office half of the room, where they're being made to feel at home by all the permanent resident piles of paper.

The sad thing is that this feels like a metaphor for my life sometimes--an obstacle course of messes I can't get motivated to start dealing with. Well, okay, that's a bit over the top. But until today's improved productivity, I have been dragging pretty hard since we got home. Tired. Unmotivated. Sugar addicted and sugar crashing. Unable to remove butt from couch in front of football. Depressed by thoughts of job and housing markets. Really depressed by thoughts of health insurance costs.

I hope and think it has been mostly due to getting back into the groove and caught up on sleep and urgent tasks. I did feel better and get more done today, and once I get some work off my plate I hope to take some time to take stock of what needs to be done before the Great Uprooting of 2009 and, more importantly, what my life should look like now.

There was a time when an inspiring yet practical friend and I got together quarterly to make and share goals: spiritual, relational, physical, and practical to-do list goals. I am badly in need of such an inventory. And an accompanying butt-kicker to make me accomplish all roughly 40 percent of them.

As much as there is to do, I think my biggest problem is figuring out where to start. But also I think I know the answer: I need to start by not trying to do it all. I need to start by stopping, by sabbathing. By taking time each day to listen to and love and be loved by my Lord again instead of always milling around in the aimlessness of figuring out how I can do and figure out all the things that I can never do or know.

All I need is everything.

Here's to grace in 2009.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Hair Article of the Day

Am I obsessed with Malia Obama's hair? You might think so from the links around here. But hey, I just started trying to master two-strand twists, and she's my inspiration!

Sunday, January 11, 2009


Be exalted, O God, above the heavens;
let your glory be over all the earth. . . .

For great is your love, reaching to the heavens;
your faithfulness reaches to the skies.

Friday, January 09, 2009

Stay Classy, SmallPort

A view of my front porch:

Every time I open my door (and run into my dead tree), I am compelled to sing a snippet of Elvis: "In the ghettoooo . . . "

And I don't even like Elvis that much.

But I guess I know what to name the tree.

Stay classy, SmallPort.

Thursday, January 08, 2009

Home Stink Home

On the twelfth day of Christmas/Epiphany/Ethiopian Christmas (Genna)/Anna's birthday, we gave her . . . a long journey home. It began with snow and traffic and proceeded through carseat installation problems, missing cash, inability to procure coffee, and blustery bridge crossings. Anna slept in the car (as did Aaron, aka Vicodin Man) but was happy to run around for a while as we unpacked some things before a reasonable bedtime which got her back on our time zone pretty well. She didn't even seem to notice the terrible bitter stench of our twelve-foot memorial to the death of Christmas, or whatever you want to call that stinking dry botanical taking up half our living room. I owe our dog-watcher an apology. And maybe another hundred bucks or two or three.

I was really just glad we got home without any sickness from either end of the girl. That was more than Aaron was able to do on Saturday--she had been sick earlier in the morning and then when he was bringing her home she threw up all over herself and the carseat in the car a couple miles from my parents' house. Upon his frantic arrival as my mom and I were babysitting my nephew, what would have been hilarity if it hadn't been so nasty ensued. It was equally unfunny when I fell for her apparently improved health act and had milk barfed over my shoulder across our bedroom floor. Such a lovely smell for an enclosed space.

Anna was restricted to the BRAT diet for most of the next few days. This was a handy way to suddenly stop giving her milk before naps and bed, just in time for her two-year checkup. Now I don't even have to lie to the doctor (about that...).

Our trip was quieter in some ways, since we were not able to see as many relatives. My grandparents and aunt stayed in Florida this year, and my other aunt and grandmother were not able to come across the state because my grandma actually went into the hospital the day we arrived. She is doing better now and has moved into a rehab place. Traditions changed on Aaron's side too, without the big Christmas day gathering at his grandparents' house, although most of the family made it to his parents' the day we did our Christmas there. I was actually too lazy to make a lot of plans with friends, but a highlight was a breakfast gathering that turned into a downright raucous reunion.

Nonetheless the trip still seemed full and fast, mostly because six adults, a sleep-resistant two-year-old, and a fitful-sleeper nine-month-old in a three-bedroom, one-bathroom house is a lot of fun but not exactly what you'd call a zen-like spa atmosphere. More like a rousing game of baby hot potato, aka "One Up, One Down--Who's Eating and Sleeping Now?" My nephew kind of likes to torture his parents by restarting bedtime a few times per evening. My daughter likes to torture my nephew's parents by making them think she's being tortured as she screams her head off for a handful a dozen an hour of minutes before falling asleep. Whether or not you consider this sleep method cruel, for the record, it is unusual--she fell asleep in all of about thirty seconds tonight.

In comparison, our day today was lazy: three loads of laundry, get groceries, remove scary things from fridge, do dishes, go through mail, take horribly smelly dead Christmas tree down, vacuum, move giant-ass TV and furniture, put away toys, vacuum more, move giant-ass TV and furniture again, wonder why we have giant-ass TV, put away more toys, wonder why we have so many toys, make salsa, watch football. Okay, that football part was pretty nice, though it brought no clarity to the Lions #1 draft pick dilemma.

Can I interest anyone in a smelly, dead, twelve-foot fir tree?

Friday, January 02, 2009

New Year Flashback

Christmas 2007

Christmas 2008