Thursday, January 28, 2010

Please tell me these are the Terrible Twos

WARNING: This post contains graphic details, the likes of which may be considered TMI (too much information) for some. Proceed with caution, and consider yourself warned.

Hope is in a stage. A little bit of a rough stage, I think. She is charming and fun and sweet and silly sometimes. And my mom recently marvelled at how "Hope is so easily redirected," for whatever that is worth. But then sometimes she is anything but fun. She is in the "No, I'll do it myself," stage. She is also in the I'm-so-frustrated-with-my-situation-that-I'll-HIT-you stage, and the I-don't-always-feel-like-taking-an-afternoon-nap stage too. She loves to use her whiny voice, and when we won't have it any more, she acts as though one of her constitutional rights has been violated and she's rioting on the steps of the capitol building, loud screeches and little feet kicking. It's really fun, folks. And although she's still Hope, and therefore often snugly, compassionate, and easy going, she is basically really, really egocentric right now. It's all about her (and truthfully, I'd love to have a day like that too... wouldn't you?!?).

Today was a pretty good day for her, overall. She went to preschool with Eva and then we were running errands. Aside from refusing her nap with loud screaming and tantrum throwing, it was easy to get along with her. It was a good day until the Terrible Twos took us down an untraveled and horrifying side street shortly after the nap that was not to be.

I was absent mindedly working in the kitchen, when Hope wandered in, wearing nothing but her birthday suit. She smiled down at Esther sitting in the bouncy seat, then squatted near her to give a little love. A moment later she loudly demanded that I wipe her butt. No "please" was offered.

We marched off to the bathroom where I found a very large quantity of defecation of the most ripe variety in the toilette. I also found that she was in dire need of help with wiping after this excretion. We wiped and clothed her, and I went back to the kitchen.

Moments later Hope was fiddling with the laptop sitting on the kitchen table. She accidentally popped off one of the keys, so I told her to get down on the floor to find it, please. The next thing out of her mouth was, "Mommy!!!! WHAT'S THAT???? Poopy?????"

As she walked toward me holding out her thumb and pointer finger, several things confirmed her finding. First, the seriously foul odor that was coming closer and closer to me by the nano-second. Second, the light brown, chunky smear on her fingers. Third, the open mouth, tongue sticking out, appearance of just eating a mouthful of oreos. Only it wasn't oreos darkening the spaces between her sharp little teeth. Yes, my daughter ate her own poo.

Thankfully there was no hitting, screeching, or resistance of any kind as I rushed her into the bathroom to do something about this. What does one do about poop in the mouth???

Forgive my little tangent here, but we have a major issue with eating non-food items around here. No, the pediatrician(s) do not believe that my girls have pica. Nonetheless, if there is someway to taste any new substance they come in contact with, they will. There is no end to the list of things they have tasted or eaten. Thankfully, kids art supplies are all non-toxic. I know from experience that large quantities of Rolaids are not harmful to two year olds. Salt on the sides of cars is not tasty like table salt. Magnets (yes, magnets!) can be chewed and swallowed. Polly Pocket shoes come through the digestive track in one piece, but really, really stink afterward. Oil based paint doesn't come off of teeth very quickly. Cod liver oil capsules by the handful leave a very strong odor. Sidewalk chalk? It's practically a food group. Paper? It can easily be mistaken as gum. After two or three years of Eva's tendency, I decided to turn a blind eye to eating any form of organic matter (besides POOP!), declaring to myself that I have bigger fish to fry and I was not going to spend my life spanking and giving time outs for eating dirt (or bugs or whatever). End tangent.

This was a new one, and the above tangent explains the motivation. Apparently for my first two offspring, if you don't know what it is, the only way to find out is to taste it. I receive a big fat F minus for my ability to train discerning palettes.

There was thorough hand washing and brushing of teeth. Hopefully, all is well that ends well. To be honest, I was relieved to see that -finally- eating some non-food item actually grossed Hope out. She thought it was disgusting. There was much weeping and gnashing of teeth on her part. And I am glad. She's already immune to Hepatitis A, so she's in the clear for that one. She directed me straight to the little spot on the kitchen floor where her naked butt had perched, leaving the evidence of a big trip to the bathroom. She was very bossy in delegating the clean up task to me, and I was happy to be her Cinderella.

The end.
(My apologies for such poor manners in sharing this bathroom adventure.)

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Colorado Christmas: Hodgepodge

This is just a jumble of photos from our Christmas vacation in Colorado. We visited my mom's side of the family, and were plenty busy with a very eclectic collection of activities, as you'll soon see.

Here's my Grandma, Jane Knudtsen (I'm forgoing all Internet privacy concerns here, obviously. I wonder where I would get if I googled her name. Hmmm, now I'm curious!). This is one rugged lady. She is out at the tubing run with us here, but she decided not to tube since she had already been to the pool and cross country skiing that day. Or maybe she decided against tubing because she's almost 80 years old and has earned every bit of wisdom that is hers!These little people went tubing though. This is Eva and my youngest cousin, Drew (their birthdays are less than a week apart). They wedged their bums together in one tube while Kathrine Rachel (9 yrs.) held onto their feet to make a train. Wahoo!

Esther spent the week being held by many loving arms. She was in a I'm-not-napping-in-my-bed-on-vacation mood, but happy for her, there were plenty of people who wanted to cuddle a snoozing babe. This is Aunt Nancy, intense lover of all babies.
Esther also was held by my dad, her Grandpa.Uncle Andy got to hold Esther too. Back at the tubing run, Eva and I took a few turns together. It was fun! But my tailbone and groin really hurt the next day. Eva is hiding behind her mittens here, but don't worry, her courage built through the afternoon and she did peek out once or twice. There is my fearless (read: reckless) sister, "willing to sacrifice Levi's lunch" (as Grandma observed). After her crash landing at the bottom, I'm surprised Levi has any lunch left! "Yep," Grandma says, "There goes Levi's lunch."
Oh, look! There's my beautiful sister. And proof that Levi's lunch survived. Back at the ranch, there were many board games to be played. A few favorites were Chinese Checkers, Apples to Apples, Scrabble, and Settlers of Catan.
(L-R) Dalton, Anna Grace, Peter, Jon, Jonathan, and David. I told you there was an eclectic mix of activities. In this picture, a group of my relatives are singing Russian Orthodox chants, which is a new addition to our family gatherings.
(L-R) Grandma, Mom, Aunt Mary, Anna Grace, Uncle Steve, Eric, Dad, and Jonathan.
With this cold-blooded family (I'm not kidding... you've never seen so many Scandinavians layered in wool, polar fleece, and slippers before!), I was surprised to see the outdoor hot tub get so much attention. Then, even more surprising, the kids were able to goad the grandparents into doing Polar Bear runs. (FYI: Polar Bear runs involve hopping out of a sauna or hot tub and rolling in the snow.) It is electrifying and makes a person happy. Not kidding.

The kids started it, except for Hope (because she's too little) and Kathrine Jane (because she is wise). Soon, they were chanting for my mom and her brother (the most cold-blooded of them all) to make the run. Sure enough, they did, with lots of hooting and hollaring to go along with it. Eva and I also made a special mommy-daughter run to make snow angels. I don't reccomend running around when you're three months postpardum and wearing your high school speedo, but I'll do anything for a little fun with my girl, even galavant in my three sizes too small swim suit.

(L-R) Mom, Hope (2), James (7), Eva (4), Drew (4), Becca, Kathrine Jane (7), Uncle Andy, Kathrine Rachel (9).
This concludes my series of Colorado Christmas pictures and stories. Lord willing and the creek don't rise, we'll be back with another installment in two years!

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

While quietly lounging on the couch

Eva says, "I can't wait 'til we have a bunch of kids. Then we can watch movies together. And if the little ones miss Mommy, I'll let them sit on my lap."

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Colorado Christmas: Skiing

My mom's whole entire family (minus one sickie) settled in at a lodge at the base of Pike's Peak for three days between Christmas and New Year's. We are so blessed by the generosity of my grandparents who provided the whole experience, and golly did we enjoy ourselves!

There was much snow fun to be found, but the thing I had looked forward to the most was skiing with Eva. She's at that magical age of four and a half, when most Knudtsen descendants begin their love-hate relationship with skinny skis. Cross country skiing is the cheapest form of skiing, and it allows you to really savour some of the high, remote places that downhill skiing doesn't. Plus, there are no lift lines, no crowds, and no near-fatal injuries (usually). Even though, as a kid, I much preferred adrenaline-packed downhill skiing, we all learn to cross country ski, and by the time we're adults I think most probably prefer it. Though, they're so different, it's hard to judge which is more fun.

Anyway. In the bazaar way that all things in life are cyclical and amazingly repetitive, we arrived in Colorado at the exact time that Eva was four and a half, that my uncle Steve (former CSU ski team member) was without a small child of his own (first time in 20 years), and that there was good snow. Just like 24 years ago when the stars aligned in the exact same way, allowing me my first skiing experience. I still remember the drudgery of attempting to make those skinny, slippery, extra long feet go somewhere. And the relief and joy of being perfectly clutched between my uncle's long legs while he did all the work. He would ski with me between his legs, allowing me to work on only the basics: getting the skis on and balancing on them.

For Eva's first run at it, I told her we only had two goals: learning how to get up when she fell down, and balancing long enough to go forward. Simple.

As a former ski coach myself, I know that Eva had a very typical first skiing experience. This is what it looked like:
andand then
and againAnd then finally...

then, yay! You're doin' it, Eva! Keep it up! Nice job, girl! Eventually, to my relief, we saw Uncle Steve and Daddy pop up over a ridge. Steve's happy-go-lucky, infectiously optimistic voice hollered, "Yahoo, Eva! That's right!"Then, with his downright incredible sense of balance, he took over.
That is, until Eva wriggled herself free (ever the independent one...) and was plowed over by her truest aid and ally.
The entire experience lasted less than an hour, which is plenty of exposure for a first timer. For me, it was priceless to be on skis for the first time with one of my own kids. I didn't even mind the grunting, groaning, being pulled down into the snow, moaning, coaxing, and (yes) tears of the first 75% of the ordeal. I was just happy to be at 9,000 feet above sea level, lungs burning, staring at the back side of Pike's Peak. Invigorating !
And Eva says she liked skiing and wants to go again. So another generation of skinny-skiers begins...

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Fear (and relief)

It's January 12th, exactly one month after Esther was hospitalized for meningitis. Prior to actually experiencing meningitis, my only reference was that my friend Jen, a medical student and mom, would occasionally mention really scary childhood diseases in our mom talks. And she always mentioned meningitis. And she used the words "messy" and "scary". Well, it was Jen who strongly encouraged me that night to get into the ER (again). She thought this sounded like meningitis. Our pediatrician was saying the same thing in a different conversation Eric was having on his cell phone.

We had been out of town at a family Christmas gathering, so we had a two hour car ride back to downtown Minneapolis to the University Children's Hospital. And boy did I feel fear. My baby was riding next to me, with a fever pushing 104 degrees, a rash, and completely lethargic. I imagined her brain might be fried at the end of this ordeal. And the two people who's advice I was taking most seriously were talking meningitis, and not flippantly. And although I didn't know what meningitis was all about, those words "messy" and "scary" were lodged in my brain for such a time as this. I was so afraid that I felt like throwing up. I wanted to cry every time one of the other girls would ask me a question or Eric would ask me to give him directions. I wanted to sit silently and hold my baby to me.

Frankly, my fears quickly subsided when I got into the ER where they whisked us into a room and quickly began testing. Before they even had the tests back, Esther was started on an antibiotic IV and I felt strangely comforted that at least we were doing something for her. And her fever started to creep back down towards normal. The doctors didn't seem freaked out and gave a very optimistic forecast for her recovery.

Mercifully, her recovery was as fast and complete as we could have hoped for. We were allowed to leave the hospital as soon as was possible, and Esther went back to normal eating and sleeping patterns quickly. I was filled with gratitude to God for answering the prayers of our friends and family. I was filled with relief and thankfulness that this illness didn't take a bad turn. I was exhausted and grateful.

But, I should have known it would happen. Fear gradually crept back in. The doctors told me that there was about a 5% chance that Esther would experience hearing loss from this. They said it was unlikely, but that I should keep an eye on her developing verbal skills. They wouldn't do any testing unless I requested it, around 18 months. Well, I felt a tinge of fear when they told me that, but that little tingle in my tummy of fear has been growing over the last month. I have a hard time fighting the fear, having self-control to dismiss it and go on with life. I pray for Esther's complete healing, but I don't feel like that's enough. As a quite laid-back mom, I have grown ridiculously protective of my baby, the little, sweet one. Of course, she has sustained more bumps and "beatings" than either of the other two did, just by virtue of being the third born and loved by her sisters.

It is ridiculous, really. I've fought this battle before (and by God's grace, won it) when Eva was born with holes in her heart and when Hope was diagnosed with potentially life threatening allergies. But Emmanuel, God with us, has been with us. He graciously healed Eva's heart sometime around her third birthday. And He has kindly protected Hope from serious egg-eating-induced catastrophe. He is true, and He is faithfully with us.

The sick and frustrating thing about fear, is that it has a nasty habit of multiplying itself. You let it take hold for a moment, and suddenly there are many more things to fear. And fear manifests itself in the most surprising ways. I have given into fear about my baby, and suddenly I am also unable to manage my home. Unable to formulate a menu plan. Unable to fold laundry. Unable to roll with my two year old's ever-changing emotions. Unable to enjoy my husband. Fear gives Satan a stronghold, and tears down one's ability to function. Ugh.

I've been thinking on this for a good week now. I started thinking about it because the fear started to subside. In the last two weeks, Esther has had some significant developmental changes. She has some new "words", she can stand (supported) on her feet, she is examining her hands and finding things to do with them, her tummy time has improved a ton! So, my fears (particularly about her hearing) have started to depart, giving me space to actually examine them with objectivity. And giving me a few days of inspiration towards being normal again. I laughed with my two year old, and I made a new daily routine to help me be more effective in my home. Things are looking up, I think. So, today as I badgered the Lord with my frustrations, questions, disappointments, these two verses came to mind:

John 10:10b - I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.

Isaiah 41:10 - Do not fear, for I am with you. Do not look anxiously about you, for I am your God. I will strengthen you, surely I will help you. Surely I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.

Although I know I will be tempted to fear again, by this and other unforeseen circumstances, I think I have some powerful ammunition. These two verses are a banner for me, and since we're at the start of a new year, these might be a weapon specific to this new year. I sense that this is God's gift to me for this year. Maybe I'll be coming back to these verses a lot, and I hope that the Holy Spirit will use them to transform my heart. I don't want to fear. I want to know instead that "Surely I will help you."
***I'm including these pictures since I hadn't posted any of the hospital stay yet, and because I like to remember. Yes, the good, the bad, and the ugly.***

But, I'm still saying no to fear. :)

Friday, January 08, 2010

THAT Season

"The hap-hapiest season of all" has departed, and now we are left with that season. If you're from the Northern (or Southern) reaches of the globe, this will make sense to you. A few reasons why I know it is that season again-

1. I can easily sit on the couch and stare blankly out the window for half of every day, without being sure what I saw or thought about.

2. When "C'mon April!" burst out of my mouth, I wasn't talking about my long-lost college roommate.
2.5. I was shocked when Eric replied, "For once I'm with ya on that."

3. The sidewalks resemble mazes, or better yet, tunnels.

4. The streets are two feet narrower than they were six months ago, thanks to the piles of snow lining the sides.

5. When Eric came home from work he assumed we hadn't gone anywhere today based on the lack of footprints in the huge drifts of snow on the sidewalk. But, we'd made several treks out... lugging three kids through those blasted drifts.

6. I instinctively sleep as late as possible. Hibernation. Wait, I do that in the summer too! :)

7. I feel a gravitational pull to the library. Must check out travel books and gardening guides.

8. I will spend hours of my day pouring over garden designs and bulb catalogs. Green!

9. As a non-TV watcher, I'm actually really, really excited for the final season of LOST. It takes place on a tropical island, after all.

10. The temperature reading in the van yesterday was 7 degrees at noon. Eva insisted on not wearing a coat, hat, or mittens. And she didn't feel cold. We're all in denial.

11. Bethany starts texting me about swapping kids to go cross country skiing. We hardly ever do, but it is an all important sign to Old Man Winter that we won't take this lying down.

12. I start to explore uncharted waters on the Internet. I'm now a big Pioneer Woman fan, folks.

13. I think about what a great time of year this would be to do some deep cleaning. But I probably won't lift a finger until spring; morale is down.

14. We are all pasty and pale looking... and not at all in the precious China doll way.

15. In contrast to #10, Hope insists on wearing every piece of outerwear available. And she still complains that her hands are cold!

16. Eva bounces between headstands and somersaults on the couch as I read to her. We really need a physical outlet these days.

17. Esther frantically gasps for air every time we step out the door. She doesn't remember that the biting cold was here yesterday too.

18. I wipe more noses than butts throughout the day. (sorry, everyone.)

19. We cannot drive up our driveway due to the freezing rain that mortared 10 inches of snow to the cement.

And my personal favorite... the most telling sign that we are in the THAT season...

20. We attend church as a family approximately 50% of any given month. The other 50%, we send the parent who has Sunday responsibilities (or has the worst cabin fever) with the contingent of children who are not exhibiting obnoxious signs of viral illness (aka: colds and influenza).

Can you relate???

PS) After posting this, I'm fully expecting a few "email interventions" in which you all tell me to fight for my life and hang on for summer. Don't worry, I will. As my mom always said, "This too shall pass."

Thursday, January 07, 2010

Come on over, it's...

NOT CHRISTMAS ANYMORE! I "shouted" that part, not because I'm glad that Christmas is over, but because apparently I didn't get the memo that the month of December f-l-i-e-s by way too fast. I started this post (again) back in December, but I just haven't had time to throw it up on the board, so to speak.

Anyway, it may be the 7th of January, but my house still looks like it's Christmas. Only maybe a little more picked up and cleaner, since I'm not spending every spare moment baking, shopping, wrapping gifts, or overnighting at the hospital. :)

So, let's say it was Christmas. I would say, "Please, come hang out with us!" And this is what you would get (plus some noisy little girls running around trying to impress you and woo you to their room):
A wreath is a "must have" for me each year. And it must be real too.
Somehow along the way, we've accumulated a grand collection of over sized snowman ornaments. Of course they don't match, but they cheerfully hang from most of the interior door knobs.
The buffet is my main Christmas display, housing the nativity scene and other "seasonal" exhibits, including this flashified little gal's face.
My grandpa made these nativity sets years ago, and since I am the oldest grandchild, I was lucky enough to get one too. He loves wood working and is always looking for a new, unique project. On first glance you might think this is a pretty simple nativity scene, but on second glance, you realize that it is a puzzle that is anything but simple! And even if it weren't a tricky puzzle, it would be up front and center since my grandpa made it and it is therefore very, very special to me.The stockings (our mismatched, home style collection that they are) are hung by the buffet with care. December wouldn't feel right without the window trim and the cabinets in the kitchen covered with the greetings of friends and family. Don't Christmas cards make your heart swell with joy???I can't leave out this guy. For some reason this thrift shop find has found a special place in my heart. Sometimes I light up it's rusty frame inside, sometimes on the front stoop.
Believe it or not, we've only had a Christmas tree four times in our 8 Christmases together. The other four times we were dissuaded by little terrorizing toddlers or laziness or the fact that we would be out of town too long. This year, however, the Christmas tree was a main priority. The girls were downright stoked to get out the decorations and make the tree "pretty". I'm sure all mothers out there understand the different kinds of pretty you experience when the kiddos decorate the tree...It was so fun to have ornaments made by Eva this year! She made this angel in preschool and a star of David also. I love getting out the ornaments from my childhood. I made this adorable little cookie sheet in preschool when I was four.We have a sizable collection of antique (or maybe vintage?) ornaments that my Grandma Knudtsen's deceased neighbor gave us (from her attic) as our wedding gift. It might have been an unusual gift (especially since I never met her), but I think old ornaments are super cool, so I happily place them on the tree each year. The girls each have several special ornaments. Here's Hope's "Welcome" ornament.And Esther's.And Eva's. It is noteworthy that Eva very strategically placed that shiny candy cane by her ornament. Let no one confuse who's candy cane that is, come January when we get to eat the candy canes!This is my favorite of the vintage ornaments. They are really fragile, so it seems we lose one each year. It will be interesting to see which ones actually make it for the long haul.

That's the end of our Christmas tour. Now, we'd finish our game of Scrabble or Wii Sports Resort, feed you some thing rich and fatty, and send you out the door. As you look back to wave goodbye, you'd notice these pretty luminaries lighting up the dark walkway.The End. And Merry Christmas!

Tuesday, January 05, 2010

Colorado Christmas: Day 2

Highlight of Day 2 at 1905 Manor Lane: playing in the yard. I have an endless reserve of nostalgia for this yard, this place, making it was pure pleasure to watch my little ones explore this wild spot in the middle of a city.
After traipsing along the half frozen creek, we stumbled upon this outpost. I know that my cousin's kids (from the other side of the family) played here a few months ago, but I'm not sure who else has called this spot "home". Just a few logs, stumps, and boards ignite the imagination. We were Indians in a blizzard... Hungry Indians, apparently...The old and wise ones share knowledge handed down through generations via oral tradition...
The view of civilization from the Indian encampment...
It's back to the present tense to do some swinging. Although, this might have been 10, 20, 30 years ago or more, as the setting has changed very little according to my memory.
Later on, inside, Grandma has some cuddle time with Baby Esther and Hope in her childhood home.
I love sharing my grandparents' place with my girls. There is no place on earth that I find myself more relaxed than here. What a fun day!