Tuesday, June 28, 2011

This Girl

Oh, this girl.

Although I didn't really know what to expect from my second child and a daughter, I kind of thought her infancy would be a breeze compared to Pacey's. Ha! Ha! Ha! Her birth was fairly uneventful (well, beyond the enormity of becoming a mother again) and she was perfectly developed and healthy. She had a very tight tongue-tie, however, that was corrected at two months and until this time she had a hard time eating. She also developed terrible colic shortly thereafter and was ultimately diagnosed with a milk protein allergy. Finally, around 4 months, we started her on an uber-expensive hypoallergenic formula and she stopped screaming all the time.

After such a laid-back first baby, I wasn't prepared for a little creature that was so...well, high maintenance. She was just never very happy until she was 11 months old and started walking. I think she just always wanted to be part of the action and was frustrated until she was physically able.

I also didn't expect quite the mini-Chris that Brighton has turned out to be. When I imagined a daughter, I pictured a petite, dark-eyed little girl that looked a lot more like me. Instead? She is so her father's daughter. Quite a robust baby she was, and even now although she is well proportioned and not chubby anymore, she's noticeably tall for her age. I'll be posting, at some point, some baby pictures of Chris because although he has very dark hair now, he had blond curls as a baby and the resemblance between him and Brighton is amazing.

Brighton was 15 months or so when we moved here and I started staying home full time with her. Four mornings a week when Pacey went off to school we hung out together...shopping, library time, house cleaning together, listening to tunes. It was such a welcome chance to get to know my daughter. She is such a kid of extremes. When she's happy, she just bubbles over with it. She's silly and giddy and throws her arms around me exclaiming "Mahdi, Mahdi!" (uh, yeah, that's what she calls me right now)

And when she is mad, well. Look out world. She dissolves into some of the most epic tantrums I have ever witnessed. Sometimes I get it...who wants to stop playing in order to change a wet diaper? But sometimes she flips her little lid about things like my inability to make the wind blow. Truth. She is so incredibly demanding but also loves me FIERCELY. She was always kind of a mama's girl, but at this point she wants next to nothing to do her with poor daddy who would REALLY like to have a relationship with his little girl. I feel bad for him, sure, but I tell you what...it's lovely to be adored.

And in return, I love her fiercely right back. I love her silliness, her strong nature and her love of roughhousing with her brother. I love that she will get down in the dirt and play with bugs and then later ask to wear her tutu and fairy wings. She will grow to be a strong, opinionated young woman which I can imagine will be very (very, very, very) trying at times, but I foresee lots to be proud of in her life.

I never thought I'd feel wistful about babyhood ending, but I do a bit with Brighton. I still put her to bed while Chris puts Pacey to bed and we sit in her armchair, with her water cup and her blankie. "Read book," she requests, then "bed, mama." And I lay her in her crib with her Cinderella pillow, fourteen thousand other stuffed animals and she blows me a kiss. Gone are the days of rocking her to sleep and easing out of the room without waking her. And thank god, mostly, because that could get reallllly frustrating. But interspersed more and more with her hugs and pleas to be picked up during the day are new demands: "Let go Mama." "Put down Mama." "Go 'way Mama." Sigh.

Sunday, June 26, 2011


I figured a quick post about our vacation was probably warranted, mainly so that one day I can prove to the kids that we did fun stuff with them when they were young.

We headed to the Dells in Wisconsin, an area that randomly has multiple large indoor and outdoor waterpark resorts. It's about a four hour drive from here and we got a great deal on a condo for 4 days/3 nights. Sounds perfect right? Indeed, for the three members of our family that don't mind being wet and cold for hours on end. Spoiler: I am not one of those three members. I definitely win some take-one-for-the-team points on this vacation. The kids had a fantastic time though, and are only maybe a year off being pretty independent so I don't have to spend all MY time ducking under lukewarm water sprays and submerging myself in kiddie pools full of...well, yeah.

It was great to see the kids get more comfortable in the water; Pacey, especially, had been very timid to this point and he really gained a lot of confidence. Chris is pretty motivated to keep their swimming skills coming along because we have a deal that he can't have a fishing boat until the kids can swim unaided.

We were persuaded (well, bribed actually) to listen to the timeshare sales pitch, and in exchange for 60 only partially excruciating minutes of our time we received another free vacation package to go back.

Oh goody.

One more thing before the photos. Have you ever wondered what's between Minnesota and Wisconsin? I can now tell you: lots of farms, countless cheese shops and, inexplicably, a disproportionate number of *adult* stores. My favorite of which advertised discount adult accessories and a bakery. Didn't spend too much time trying to figure that one out...

The World's Least Comfortable Sofa Bed (no, really)

Climbing up to the water slide

Very annoyed about enforced break/snack time out of the water

Rare photo of my husband smiling

Perhaps my favorite part of the day...(yes, of course we were

Once they got a little braver they went up together, hands
tightly clasped

As a break from the wet fun, I entered this four story, thousand
degree indoor rat maze hell with P, B and about a million other
small beasts. Had we not been on our way back home at this
point I'd be BEGGING to get back in the water.

Friday, June 24, 2011


I hear him before I see him, making his slightly snuffly way up the stairs.

His little fuzzy head appears: "Hey Mom."

I greet him and he walks over to me, face upturned and says "Eeess Mom." His way of saying he wants to give me a kiss.

I bend and he plants a sweet little boy kiss on my lips.

"I love you, Bud."

"Yeah," he agrees, and goes on his way.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Life in Cell Phone Pictures

Well, we survived our "vacation" with the kids and are now in the painful re-entry process whereby the kids scream for DVDs every time we get in the car for 5 minute drives and think that french fries will be part of every meal.

While we all get re-acquainted with life and routine, I didn't want to lose momentum so thought I would post some of my recent cell phone pictures. Naturally the quality isn't great, but the phone camera is so handy it allows me to capture some amusing moments I wouldn't otherwise. Enjoy!

Pacey's last day of school. We celebrated with
giant chocolate chip cookies and he fell asleep
as he swallowed the last bite

Little helper

She insisted on the boots despite the fact it was
nearly 100 degrees

The kids love it when I take silly pictures of them
with my phone and then show them

I hated 100+ degree days in California....now,
when it appears the summer alternative is 60
and drizzing, I say BRING THE HEAT

Yes, I feed my kids McDonalds once a week. It makes them
ridiculously happy.


Pacey can entertain himself with almost anything.
This was at our vacation condo - rocks from the
landscaping and an ash tray kept him busy for quite

This is the face of a mother realizing that she
was naive to think the kids would go to sleep
in the same room in an entirely unfamiliar

Sometimes restaurants just get it right

This is an arcade toy Chris won for Brighton
our last day in Wisconsin. It has been dubbed
Puppy and Brighton is mortified if he leaves her

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Who's Your Daddy - Last But Certainly Not Least

I'm going to try to keep the schmoop to a reasonable level so as not to embarrass Chris...

I don't think he'd mind me saying that he grew into fatherhood over time. Neither of us was prepared to become parents (how can you be??) and certainly not under the unusual circumstances of Pacey's birth.

However, today Chris is one of the best fathers I have ever had the pleasure of knowing. He is the ultimate Papa Bear Protector and I have no doubt that he would stand in front of a train for either of our kids.

For someone who is as ambitious and career-focused as he is, Chris does a really remarkable job of balancing out his work and home life. He chooses to be at home as often as possible by the kids' bedtime and puts Pacey to bed every night (after a ritual involving hugs, kisses and telling him how proud he is of him). He is conscious of including the kids in his leisure activities and has made a point of taking Pacey fishing and to various sporting events. He'd take Brighton too if she would consent to be more than two feet away from me.

He is absolutely useless at discipline or telling the kids "no." I have no doubt that they will very shortly discover which parent they should ask for things. I'm not sure this makes him a particularly *good* father, but he sure is popular! :)

Chris is dedicated to making sure that our kids have everything they need to succeed in their lives, which goes far beyond material items. He gives them support, self-esteem and is generous with his affection. I don't think anyone that knows him could ever question his love or devotion to Pacey and Brighton.

Perhaps best of all - at their current ages - he knows how to be silly and has a great time playing with the kids.

It's been very gratifying to watch him grow into such a great father and I couldn't be happier to have him in my fox-hole through all the ups and downs of the craziness that is parenting.

Happy Father's Day babe, we love you.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Who's Your Daddy - Volume 2

Next up, my dad.

Here's where I would put a photo of my dad and I...if I had even a single one!! The combination of only seeing him a couple of times a year and the fact that 99% of the time I am the photographer means that of our thousands of photos I couldn't find any of the two of us together. I do, however, have a lot of great shots of him with the kids! I'll intersperse the photos with this list of fun facts about Tod...

* He passed on his sweet tooth directly to me (and my sister). To this day, I have candy stashed in at least four different locations in the house. Ok, in my car too.

* He doesn't give himself enough credit for all the ways he was/is a good dad.

* He looks like Albert Einstein first thing in the morning.

* He taught me how to change a tire, mow the lawn and paint. Unfortunately, he taught me those last two so well that I've pretty much landed those jobs exclusively in my own house now.

* He makes an effort to keep his own father, who is elderly and disabled from multiple health conditions, involved in the family.

* He can be incredibly stubborn (might have gotten a little of that along with the sweet tooth...thanks dad!).

* He can play the guitar and is the only member of my immediate family who can carry a tune.

* He balanced out my mom's efforts to feed us healthy food with the occasional Lucky Wishbone lunch, complete with milkshake.

* He once offered to pay me $20 to eat a bite of salmon. I declined (famously, my sister ate it for $10 and was pissed when he raised the offer for me).

* He was the official Tooth Puller in our house and once tried to disguise a pair of pliers underneath a paper towel.

* He has a very neat signature which made it easy to forge in high school :)

* He's a really excellent Papa to his grandkids, who miss him very much.

Happy Father's Day dad. If you were here I'd make you a pan of brownies to celebrate. We love you.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Who's Your Daddy - Volume 1

We're actually going to be out of town for Father's Day - we decided to take a little mini-trip with the kids to the Wisconsin Dells. So I wanted to spend the next few days giving a little recognition to the various dads in my life.

I thought I'd start with Chris's dad, David. David unfortunately passed away several years ago and so never got to meet the kids in person. My comments, therefore, are mainly about David as a father-in-law and his involvement with Pacey from afar (both he and Pacey were too sick to travel the long distance between us during the time after Pacey's birth and before David's death).

It was really no secret that David was a little skeptical when I came on the scene. I think it's fair to say that all our parents were a little surprised by our relationship, but I had two particular strikes against me where David was concerned: American and Vegetarian. I don't think he was super anti-American or anything, but I imagine he, like all our parents, could see that if our relationship continued we would have to live far away from somebody and Chris made no secret of the fact he'd wanted to live outside England for quite some time.

Anyway, I like to think that David came around to me, especially when it became clear that Chris and I were serious and intended to stay together. He never did understand the vegetarianism and if I had to guess, I'd say one of his favorite moments with me was the lunch we had at a rural French restaurant that pretty much offered one option for the meal. Acknowledging that it was either eat what was offered or be really hungry, I gritted my teeth and ate as much as I could of a chicken leg/thigh (oh god, I don't even know exactly what it was but it had a big bone in it). Thank god drinking wine with lunch is acceptable in France!

Family dinner somewhere in France...I think perhaps we had
had a bottle or two by this point!
Because he and his wife had restored a farmhouse in northern France and turned it into a B&B, we had lots of opportunities to travel across the channel and hang out there, memories of which I will always be grateful for. David, his wife Debbie and Chris and I took a road trip to Normandy to visit the D-Day Landing beaches and some of the cemeteries and memorials; it was one of the most interesting and moving trips I have taken.

I will always be sad that David didn't get to meet our kids (or even know of Brighton's existence). He was supportive and immediately accepting of Pacey when we received his diagnosis and asked thoughtful questions. He chose really touching gifts for Pacey; for his second Christmas (just after Pacey turned one), he sent a stride-to-ride lion walker for toddlers learning to walk. I don't know why I appreciated that gift so much, other than he chose something age-appropriate that reflected his assumption that Pacey would walk and enjoy a toy just like other kids his age.

Obviously I can't speak for David as a father, but I do know that Chris attributes many of his good qualities to his father's example and support growing up. It'll be fun to hear Chris tell our kids about him when they're older - although I may have to provide some censorship :)

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

A Couple of Unrelated Things

As I mentioned before, every week (twice now that it's summer) Brighton and I hang out for 30 minutes while Pacey does his speech therapy. Last week it was raining so we couldn't do our usual walk down to the creek; there are several indoor gyms at the therapy facility and one was empty so we were able to play. There was a dad in there with his daughter - I'd seen the little girl before as her older sister has therapy at the same time as Pacey. I chatted to the dad a little, exchanged names/ages of our kids and then sat back to supervise the girls playing. A few minutes later, the little girl picked up a small soft toy and said to her dad "it looks like a *mumbled word*!" Her dad replied hastily, "you think it looks like a peanut, honey?"

"No Dad," she replied, "it looks like a PENIS!!" I'm pretty sure that dad wanted to die a fiery death right then, but I tell you what, the look on that poor guy's face has kept me going all week.


As is typical with most two-year-olds, Brighton is a pretty finicky eater. She's perfectly healthy and average-sized, but definitely not into food right now. She's usually pretty reliable with fruit, but recently she decided that strawberries are utterly offensive and won't touch them. Until! We planted a topsy turvy strawberry planter and, despite the slow start to spring here, it has produced several red berries. I sampled one and it was unpleasantly sour so I didn't draw the kids' attention to the fact we'd had fruit appear.

Haha, as if that would stop them noticing. We spent an evening out on the deck before dinner one night and Pacey and Brighton discovered the plant and deceptively ripe-looking berries. Before I could stop them, they had plucked the fruit and started sampling. Wouldn't you know it, the girl who turns up her nose at sweet, sun-ripened strawberries smacked her lips and devoured every berry she could find.

So here is my question: If I tied some carrots and broccoli onto that planter, do you think the kids would eat those too?

We like to put our kids to work early...
uniforms optional

In the time-honored tradition of the oldest sibling, Pacey
works on his supervisory skills

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Case Study

I took a photo of this quote, which appears on a wall at the Children's Museum in St. Paul, because my first thought was that there is no way Ms. Gopnik can possibly ever have had a toddler. I am 100% sure that my toddler's main goal in life is to drive me crazy. And frankly, the preschooler appears to have the same goal. I submit to you the following evidence:

Exhibit 1: Yesterday, we had to go to the pediatrician for a follow-up visit for Pacey. I really like our pediatrician, but she tends to spend a lot of time with each of her patients so we often have a wait before we see her. So, tempers and moods were a bit frayed by the time we needed to collect a urine sample. I gave Brighton a paintbrush to "paint" things with while I helped Pacey. We finished up and I was helping Pacey wash his hands when I turned around just in time to see Brighton dip the paintbrush IN THE TOILET and proceed to (oh god) PUT IT IN HER MOUTH. Seriously, what could possibly compel a child to do that besides a desire to drive her mother crazy??

Exhibit 2: We took the kids and dogs to the park this morning so everyone could have a little run around. It rained a little last night so the slides were wet (a spare disposable diaper took care of that) and there were puddles on the sidewalk that rings the park. Anyway, the dogs had a good run and then stopped for a drink in one of the muddy-filled-with-worms puddles. Pacey, having watched this, decided that he too would lie down, stick his face in the puddle and have a good drink too. I suppose we should just be happy that he didn't attempt to lift his leg like the dogs!

I feel I should point out a couple of things here. My kids have plenty to drink at all times and are therefore not so desperate for water that they need to turn to TOILETS (I can't type that without caps) or mud puddles. Nor, I promise you, have we ever demonstrated or condoned drinking from either of these sources!

Conclusion? My kids do indeed want to drive me crazy.

Friday, June 10, 2011

The One We Get to Keep

After Pacey was born and I went back to work, I kept feeling the need to tell people about him. Partly, I guess, because my world had been so soundly rocked by his early and somewhat traumatic birth and it felt almost impossible that the rest of the world was business as usual. But also partly because I wanted to protect myself...give people a heads up that there was a new way they could offend me without meaning to. There is a disheartening number of educated and generally kind, good people that include the words "retard" and "retarded" as derogatory terms in their everyday language (more on that in another post), and I regularly hear people make jokes about being "special." Particularly in those early days, before I'd had a chance to thicken my skin, these jokes and references hit hard.

As much as it was on the forefront of my brain and tip of my tongue though, it felt strange to just blurt out that I had a tiny new son who happened to have Down syndrome. One day during the time period in question, I was meeting with a doctor, an obstetrician who was...eccentric shall we say. He was a well-trained physician and clearly cared about his patients but he had little social filter and regularly said mildly offensive things on a range of topics. I was on edge for much of our meeting and towards the end, he started telling a story about a patient he'd had with six children, the last of whom was diagnosed in utero with Down syndrome. My stomach dropped and I thought "here it comes." I expected the worst from this anecdote, but instead he told us about seeing this mother at a post-partum visit and checking in with her about the baby and how things were going. Rather than express disappointment or fear, this mother said to him "I've got five children who will grow up and leave me. But this one, this one I get to keep."

It was entirely coincidental, because I hadn't ever said anything to this doctor about Pacey; inadvertently he had provided me with a new perspective, one I hadn't considered. And while both Chris and I hope and believe that Pacey will achieve a level of independence, we expect that he will always live close to, if not with us, and in some ways he will be the one we get to keep.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011


We had a visit this week from the kids' great-grandparents (my mom's dad and his partner, Vicki). I was lucky enough to get to spend a pretty good amount of time with my great-grandparents as a kid and it meant a lot that Papo and Vicki made the long drive over from Wisconsin to see us. Pacey and Brighton were thrilled to have two more people to give them attention - not to mention, I think they know when I am a little distracted by guests and they can get away with more!

We really only had one day to plan an activity so we went to the Landscape Arboretum in nearby Chaska, MN. Amazingly, considering that it's only really been summer for a week or two, the temperature topped out at 104 degrees while we were there. Thankfully there was a good amount of shade and lots of fountains so we were able to stay cool enough to enjoy the gardens.

The only downer of the day was that I (stupidly) allowed Brighton to bring Number One blankie (NOB) out with her. I usually try to bring only a back-up blankie with us to prevent any ill-fortune to NOB. However, see earlier comment about being a little distracted and she got away with her prized possession. Well, fast forward to about 3/4 the way through our wander and B started crying for her blankie, which was nowhere to be seen. We re-traced our steps (did I mention it was 104 degrees?!?) and no blankie. Panicking a little, I dragged everyone back to the car where THANKFULLY we found NOB in the trunk where I had put it while I slathered on the sunscreen. Reminder to self: do not take chances with Number One Blankie!!!

Here are some pictures from the visit:

Thanks Papo and Vicki, we look forward to our next visit!