Friday, December 25, 2009

Merry Christmas and a milestone

It's here, it's really here. And I'm not talking about Christmas.

Our sweet little girl is one year old today. It seems like just yesterday that Chip and I were spending Christmas eve at St. John's, me strapped up to every conceivable monitor and Chip dozing in the chair while we waited for our baby to arrive. I can still remember lying on my side, with Chip just inches from my face, reciting our two girl names slow, fast, backwards and forwards until we decided on one because, as I said to Chip, you never know, it could be a girl. It still makes me smile that we were both completely convinced we were having a boy. And now I don't know what I would do if I didn't have a little girl who needs -- yes, needs -- all those hair bows and shoes I just can't seem to stop buying.

What a truly delightful year it has been. All of those milestones and firsts flew by, and each new accomplishment makes me happier than the next. The tantrums and squirming I could do without, but the smiles, hand claps and nuzzles more than make up for the drama Mary Clare brings. And boy, can she bring it. The child is not one to suffer silently. Or do anything silently, for that matter. Even when she's tearing bits of toilet paper off the roll or taunting Buddy with a toy, she squawks her way through the entire event. We're hearing more and more mama and dada business, as well as lots of yeahs, all which seem to apply to the conversation at hand, of course. She's still our good little sleeper and eater, and let's all say a prayer that that doesn't change anytime soon. She is getting better with the spoon and sippy cup, which just kills me. I mean, she looks so old drinking out of a sippy cup, I might as well just transition her to a wine glass, for heaven's sake. But no matter the age she's acting at the moment -- baby, toddler or teen, we love her to bits.

I'm clearly beyond sappy this fine Christmas morning, but gosh darned it, I just feel so grateful. And happy. And loved. Here's wishing you all these same things this Christmas and in the year ahead. Merry Christmas, and happy first birthday to our sweet Mary Clare!

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Monday, December 14, 2009

No to the nose

Before we had Mary Clare, I remember looking at little kids with runny or crusty little noses and thinking, "Ugh, gross. I would never let my child look like that in public."

And now, after engaging in countless nose wiping battles with Mary Clare, my standards most definitely changed. Runny noses are always wiped, and she must go to school with a clean nose, but I've learned to tolerate the little crusties when we're out where no one knows us. And when we're home, all bets are off. Basically, as long as she can breathe, I don't care what's going on beneath that nose. It's just not worth it. I take quick swipes as needed and then spend the rest of the time gearing up for the bedtime battle, the result of which is a peeved baby with a clean nose and an exhausted mother with ringing ears.

Oh, and she may be small, but that girl is strong. Like mad badger strong. And she fights dirty.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Ready for St. Nick

St. Nick's Day* is December 6. Growing up, this was one of my favorite days. It kicked off the holiday season and offered a tiny little taste of what was to come on December 25. The night before, I would excitedly put a pair of shoes outside the front door, careful not to select the ones I had to wear the next day because those babies got cold. The next morning, our shoes would have small gifts like a book, fun socks (I still remember the E.T. socks I received one year) or a Christmas ornament. The tradition continued even after Sherri and I stopped believing in Santa Claus, and stretched into college as well. My mom would ship a box to my roommate who would dutifully fill the shoes I left outside my room door the night of December 5. A box continued to appear once I lived on my own, and one now shows up on our doorstep around December 4 with strict instructions not to open it until December 6. Over the years St. Nick has fine-tuned his offerings, and we typically receive a Christmas ornament that is in some way indicative of a major life event or experience from the past year. So, as you can see, St. Nick's is kind of a big deal in my family.

In addition to what my mom sends, St. Louis St. Nick also leaves a little something for Chip and Buddy as well. And now that Mary Clare is here, her little shoes get to join the line-up. I know she doesn't get it, and probably won't for quite a few years, but when have I ever let a little thing like practicality stand in my way?

Happy St. Nick's day to you. Here's hoping you don't find coal in your shoes.

*For anyone unfamiliar with the St. Nick's day tradition, here's a link to the always reputable Wikipedia, and here's a blurb about the tradition in the United States:
While feasts of Saint Nicholas are not observed nationally, cities with strong German influences like Milwaukee, Cincinnati, Cleveland, and St. Louis celebrate St. Nick's Day on a scale similar to the German custom.[5] On December 5, the Eve of St. Nicholas Day, each child puts one empty shoe outside their bedroom door or on a staircase before they go to sleep. The following morning of December 6, the children awake to find that St. Nick has filled their footwear with candy and small presents (if the children have been good) or coal (if not). For these children, the relationship between St. Nick and Santa Claus is not clearly defined, although St. Nick is usually explained to be a helper of Santa. The tradition of St. Nick's Day is firmly established in the Milwaukee, Cincinnati, Cleveland and St. Louis communities, with parents often continuing to observe the day with their adult children. Widespread adoption of observing the tradition has spread among the German, Polish, Belgian and Dutch communities throughout Wisconsin, and is carried out through modern times.

Monday, November 30, 2009

Second birthday soiree

Brennan turned two -- two! -- on November 15, but Sherri postponed the big family birthday bash until this past weekend when everyone would be home for the Thanksgiving holiday. The Jones family was kind enough to host everyone in Springfield, and Brennan was kind enough to put on quite a show. He really got into opening the presents this year, but it really burned his little butt that we wouldn't let him play with the gifts once they were opened. At one point he just walked out of the room. What's the point of unwrapping gifts if they're just going to take them away, right? B finally got through all of the presents, and then followed that up by passionately blowing out the No. 2 candle on his cake. Three times. He would blow it out, gleefully smile at all of us and matter-of-factly state, "Again." It wasn't really so much a request as a demand. But none of us could deny his impish grin, least of all Grandma Pat, who was in charge of the matches.

And really, how can you deny a little guy who spent a good chunk of the day profusely thanking us and shouting "love you!" I will be certain to demand he make the same declarations of thanks and love when he turns 13. Because that's just the kind of aunt I am.

Click here for the full birthday set.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Thankful

This Thanksgiving, I'm thankful for what you see below, and so much more.

We are lucky enough to have two sets of parents who not only dote on Mary Clare, but are supportive, helpful and, most of all, incredibly talented and hard working. The things they have done to our house these past months ... bless them and their patience. Mary Clare has four loving aunts, uncles and a bevy of cousins, all of whom are healthy and happy. Our house is cozy and warm, thanks to Steve, my brother-in-law Brian's dad, who not only sent the most delightful furnace repair guy our way, but helped with the installation of our new furnace. Our network of friends never ceases to entertain us, and really, what more could you want from friends but to know that you are in for high-spirited fun anytime you see them? And while no one likes to talk about work, I am thankful that both Chip and I have jobs where we are still reasonably happy to trot off to everyday.

Here's wishing you a Thanksgiving that is full of family, friends, laughter and all those special treats that only come around once per year. Personally, I am already dreaming of my Grandma Thole's dressing and pecan pie. Ah, heaven.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Eleven months

Stunned. Stunned is the best way to describe how I felt last night when I asked Chip, "Is tomorrow the 25th?" and he confirmed that yes, in fact, our girl would be 11 months old in a few short hours.

It should come as no surprise, really. While she can still squeeze her skinny heinie into some three-six month outfits, she's growing like a weed (upwards, at least), and she seems to master a new skill every day. This past Sunday she took three steps for Chip and I. She won't do it again, of course, but my word ... it was amazing. Of course, with each new delight comes increased defiance. When we say, "Mary Clare, don't bang on the mirror," she pauses, smirks and then goes about pounding the hell out of the mirror. Same goes for Buddy's water bowl, the one kitchen cabinet we don't keep locked and the area under the desk with all of the routers, modems and cables that are simply too tempting for words. She also shakes her head "no," which is hilarious, because half of the time she inevitably wants what you are offering her. Hair bows rarely stay in anymore, and once she's extricated it from her hair, she spends a good amount of time patting her head to make sure we didn't sneak one in when she was distracted.

Charming, coy and a clapping machine, she is a constant delight. Walking, however, will certainly be the death of me. And Buddy. Oh, poor Buddy. He is in for a world of hurt.

Click here for a few -- and yes, I mean a few -- photos from this past month.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Adios

Should you happen to be looking for me, I am one day into a vacation here:

Drinking these:
With this guy:

See you next week.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Year three

To my husband,

Today marks year three of this happily ever after gig, and while the past year has changed our lives in more ways than I could ever even imagine, I'm terribly happy. I love you. I love our beautiful daughter. I even love that crazy Lab of ours who is on the furniture more than we are.

Life is good. Really good. Thank you for making it that way.

With love,

Your wife

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Bringing the pain

Our morning routine varies based on what time Chip has to leave each morning, but more often that not he gets Mary Clare dressed in the nursery while I finish getting ready. As I was finishing up this morning, I heard Mary Clare let out one of her disgruntled cries, to which Chip responded:

"Oh? You don't like having your hair brushed? Well, just wait until I get the boogie sucker out. Then you'll know what real pain is."


Monday, November 2, 2009

A real treat

Our girl survived her first Halloween, and I daresay she even had a little bit of fun during the two week process. The festivities started off with Boo at the Zoo on October 24, which was chilly but a good time. The next big event was her school party on October 30. It was so funny to see all the infants and toddlers in their costumes and Halloween gear. Of course Mary Clare ruled the costume contest. When Grandma Thole makes a Halloween costume, she sews to win. She even sewed a tag into the seam that says "Mary Clare Bear." In the same font as the Care Bears logo, no less. I'm telling you, when it comes to the Singer, the woman knows how to bring it.

Saturday afternoon we hustled Mary Clare into her costume and did a quick visit with Gramps and Gram Lindh, and then headed over to the Hehmeyers for a little trick-or-treating fete at their house. So fun. Mary Clare was a real trooper and sat bundled up on our laps outside watching everyone come and go. The next day Grandpa and Grandma Thole came over, and back in the costume she went. By this time she was seriously starting to hate the hood and ears, and who can blame her? That was probably round eight in the costume.

All in all, she was a terrific sport for letting us play dress up with her over and over again. Click here for more photos of our good little Mary Clare Bear.

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Boo-eautiful

Happy Halloween from the Mary Clare Bear!

More pics to follow after tonight's trick-or-treating event with our friends. Enjoy the day!

Monday, October 26, 2009

Weaves

Every fall when the leaves change, I can't help but think of my cousin Trevor. When he was a little guy, Trevor had a bit of a problem with L words, so a lion was a wion, a lamb was a wamb and so forth. One particular time, I remember his dad asked him what hangs on trees. Weaves! was the prompt response. Close, but do what the teacher told you and try it again. So Trevor screwed up his little face and said, "la, la, la, la ... weaves!"

I love that story. And I love Trevor, who is still just as terribly sweet at 14 as he was when he was three. So he will surely forgive me for throwing him under the bus simply so I could have a somewhat related story to go along with these photos of Mary Clare with some leaves.
Click here for a few more in the la, la, la, la ... weaves.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Ten months

As I made my dandy little sign this morning, I realized that Ack! I only have two of these left to make. My face must have given me away, because Chip asked, "This ends after 12 months, right?"

Nope, sorry. I'm not sure I'll be able to let it go that easily. Maybe quarterly updates. That seems reasonable.

But enough about my need to bind Mary Clare to me with apron strings, and on to what our girl's been up to this past month.

In an nutshell: holy mobility. The girl is everywhere. Crawling, cruising along furniture, walking behind toys and pulling herself up on everyone and everything. And if it's a mirror or stainless steel appliance that I recently cleaned, she's there in double time. She's on to our little "redirection" plan as well, and the second you move her away from the dog's water bowl or the mirror that could crush her, she looks at you, squawks and heads right back. Oh, and don't even try to give her a board book or rattle in place of the magazine or remote she really wants. Clearly we underestimate her fine taste in playthings, as she makes it known these are shoddy substitutions. Also, the girl is strong. Last week at school she put all 19 pounds to work and pushed a toddler around the playground in one of the play cars until the little boy said, "No, baby, no! Stop!" and exited the car when it became evident the baby would not stop. And yesterday I spotted her lifting a granite door stop over her head. Yes, clear over her head. I was so fascinated, I didn't even think to grab it from her. Or take a picture. Along with her brute strength, it would appear that Mary Clare is, in fact, a bit of a brute. Just this month alone we had two incident reports stapled to her "my day" sheet at school; apparently, Mary Clare scratched two of her little friends while playing. I keep her nails trimmed, but the girl has a grip. And she just loves a little too much. Ask Buddy.

So, as much as I bemoan the fact that my baby is becoming less and less of a baby each day, Chip and I both love every new development. We're certain her "mamamamama" and "dadadadadada" babbling is directed at us, and every once in awhile Mary Clare throws us a bone and gives the sign for "more." Best of all, when we pick her up from school, her face lights up and she crawls over to us as fast as she can. Be still, my melting heart.

Click here for more of the 10 month fun.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

The food, it is messy

After realizing that I can't actually freeze time and keep Mary Clare like this forever, I have finally accepted that yes, my baby is growing up. Which means she needs to be eating real food, and not just bottles and the vegetable and fruit purees I lovingly make for her. And according to my friends, Mary Clare's teachers, our Parents as Teachers instructor and pretty much anyone you meet on the street, she also needs to be feeding herself with not just her hands, but a spoon. And she should be drinking out of a sippy cup.

Seriously! I honestly wouldn't be surprised if someone gasped and said, "What? You still cut Mary Clare's
Ch√Ęteaubriand for her? What? She's ten months old and she hasn't had
Ch√Ęteaubriand yet? Shame. Now she'll never develop a taste for it."

It's never enough for some people, I tell you. They say it's for your child's development, but really, you and I both know that they just want your baby to be grown up like their baby so we can all moan "what happened to my sweet little bitty baby?" in unison. Yeah, that's right. I'm on to you people.

Anyway, after fighting the inevitable for a few weeks, I finally heeded the call of table food and Mary Clare is now trying new things left and right. Peas, bananas, bread, grapes, graham crackers, noodles, cheese, chicken and goldfish crackers have all found their way into her mouth and hair. And, because Mary Clare now has cut two teeth, we gave her a teething biscuit. That's right, a teething biscuit. If you have to ask why she's only had one, I shall now present to you photographic evidence of the process that takes place when a baby comes into contact with a teething biscuit.

Step One: Get after it. Show that biscuit you mean business.

Step Two: Stop and contemplate your next move. Getting after it is hard work.

Step Three: Pay a visit to your friend the bath tub. Smile because you don't yet know the force with which mom will have to scrub at your face.

Step Four: Gloat. You are clean, smell delightful and won the battle of the hair brush. And you totally owned that teething biscuit.

Sigh. My baby is all growns up.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Here's Brennan

Oh, Brennan. Where do I begin? You have been such a hoot these days, it seems like every time I talk to Sherri she has another funny little tidbit to share. It is my pleasure to offer you a list of my favorite Brennan stories to date:
  • The "lock up your daughters" shirt I gave Brennan last year still happens to fit. I know, right? Usually he's in and out of clothes in a few months time, so it's astounding that what fit last winter fits almost a year later. (Keep in mind that I haven't seen Brennan in the shirt this year, so who knows, he may be using it to show off his ripped abs and sweet pecs.) Anyway, Brennan wore said shirt to daycare the other day, and upon arrival he sidled over to his teacher Penny, put his head on her shoulder, patted her leg and said, "You look nice." Penny's husband happened to be sitting right next to her at the time. Marital boundaries mean nothing to Brennan.
  • Speaking of Penny's husband, his name is Jake. Brennan, however, calls him Guy. And often.
  • Being the venerable leader that he is, Brennan took it upon himself to mentor two of the other little boys at daycare. To date, he has taught them how to operate both the ice and the water feature on Penny's refrigerator. A grateful Penny salutes you, B.
  • Kisses. He totally comes right at you with a kiss of steel that leaves you with either a bruised face or a whole mess of slobber.

  • Brennan is now the official gatekeeper to the dogs. When Hunter and Holly want to go outside, B opens up the patio door, closes it behind them and then keeps vigil as they romp about the yard. When Brennan decides they've been gone long enough, he opens the door and yells, "Hunter, Holly, treats! Hunter, Holly, treats!"
  • This will come as no surprise, but Brennan is a total daredevil. He stands on his chair, Harley-Davidson rocking toy, four-wheeler or what have you, puts out his arms and says, "Ta-da!"
  • An advocate of good dental hygiene, Brennan is infatuated with brushing his teeth. In fact, potty training has fallen by the wayside in favor of teeth brushing. In the morning he stands by his sink and yells "Teeth! Teeth! TEETH!" until Sherri comes to help him.
  • Best of all, Brennan is totally getting into people's names. You can point at people and say, "Who's this? And who's this?" and listen to him take a pass at your name. And when you point at him, he says, "Bee-bee" in this hilarious, drawn-out way that makes him sound like he's an old Italian man. Who possibly belongs in the mob. And is known for his killer meatballs.

That boy. I love him.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Mademoiselle

I have a lot of things to post, but this week's been a week. And it's Wednesday. Basically, Chip had the stomach flu last week, and I took my turn with it this week. So far, Mary Clare remains unscathed. Unscathed from the bug, but not from me dressing her up like a little Parisian doll. (Chip says she looks more like a gondolier, but I'm having fun imagining her speaking with a haughty French accent. So it's Parisian.)

Domestic brie? Surely you jest.

A croissant and cafe au lait, si'l vous plait!

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

It's tough playing second fiddle

Clearly, Buddy has taken a backseat since Mary Clare hit the scene. For the most part, he's handled his second-class citizen status with gentleness and grace. (Well, as much gentleness and grace as you can expect from a 70-pound Lab who chases floaters and is constantly underfoot.) Despite the rare walks and tennis ball games cut short by a crying baby, he still cuddles up by us and makes sure he's in the car when we leave my parents' house in the country.

In addition to our lack of attention, Buddy now has to deal with Mary Clare's increasing attention. She swipes at his tail, grabs his fur and frequently uses him as a climbing toy. Which is why, when I promised Buddy a treat last night, you can imagine how guilty I felt when I went to the treat jar and it was completely empty. I fished around in his toy basket hoping for a stale Scooby snack and came up short as well. As I fumbled around inside the cabinet, Buddy patiently sat, tail swooshing on the floor and a slow trail of drool gathering at the corner of his mouth. I couldn't bring myself to disappoint him once again.

Chip, of course, was laughing at my attempts to scrounge up a treat. But I was determined. I marched over to the pantry and started rifling through the dry goods.

"Croutons? You're going to give Buddy croutons?"

I did. And he loved them. And hopefully us, too, for one more day.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

I want candy

Brian and Sherri took Brennan to the pumpkin patch a few weeks ago, and in addition to getting a big fat pumpkin, Brennan also had his first encounter with a big fat puff of cotton candy. Yep, why not give an almost-two-year-old boy a wand of spun sugar? Pumpkin patch trips only come but once a year.

I asked Sherri about her choice of snacks, and she said, "Please. Who do you think came back from the concession stand with that?" Now, I would normally challenge her on this, as Sherri does have quite the sweet tooth, but I guess even she has her limits. Brian, however, does not. But hey, that's why they make wet wipes, right?

Click here for the entire set of sticky-fingered fun.

Friday, October 2, 2009

I love a good mood

At the risk of jinxing myself, I'm going to go on the record and say Friday, October 2, you are alright by me. Case in point:
  • It's a good hair day. I caught sight of myself on the way out of Mary Clare's school this morning, and I thought, damn, that Danielle does good work.
  • My dress has pockets. Pockets! I love that.
  • I powered through two executive summaries and had three proposals out the door by 2 p.m. Kapow. I am an editing and alliteration wizard.
  • The noise level at my new desk is high. High and annoying. At first, I thought this would be the death of me. Then I rediscovered slacker.com radio. In a mere 30 minutes, Todd Rundgren radio treated me to Tiny Dancer, I Saw the Light, Do Ya and a few others I haven't heard in years. I think this musical goodness had a direct effect on the excessive efficiency previously referenced.
  • The Jones family is heading into St. Louis for a quick visit, so the extended Thole clan is gathering tonight at our place for cocktails, Black Thorn pizza and Ted Drewes frozen custard. And hopefully some peaceful, photogenic moments between the cousins.
  • The weather outside is gorgeous. Windy, but gorgeous. I love the fall.

I plan to toast the greatness that is today with a glass of bubbly the second I walk through the door tonight. Here's hoping that your Friday is equally effervescent.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Pretty little pumpkin

Mary Clare made her first trip to the Klostermann-Landmann family farm this past weekend. My cousin Kris grows these amazing pumpkins and gourds -- seriously, I never knew there were so many varieties -- and she was nice enough to let my mom, Mary Clare and I pop in for a visit. And a photo shoot, of course. There was a torrential downpour moments before we arrived, but never fear, Kris had tucked an entire wagon of pumpkins away in the machine shed so everyone remained dry and happy.

Click here for all the pumpkin shots you can handle.

Comment away, my friends

I've had some friends mention that there were times they wanted to comment on a particular post, but they either didn't have a Google ID or the Open ID process didn't work for them. I'll be honest, I looked into it, but wasn't sure what to do, so I kind of let it drop. And then I saw another friend's fancy customized Wordpress blog, so I was all on board with that. Until I looked into that and quickly realized I was in over my head. So then another week or two passed. And then I decided to look again at the settings on this old blog, and realized there is an "anonymous" option that should let you comment without signing in to anything. So, there you go. Comment away.

The only thing I ask is that if you elect to use the anonymous option, please include your name at the end of the comment. Not only is signing your name the polite thing to do, but it will make it loads easier for me to thank you after you compliment me on my beautiful daughter and/or wicked sense of humor.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Nine months

Mary Clare's monthly updates seem to be coming faster and faster each month. Time has passed at warp speed since her arrival, which means yet another child-related cliche is suddenly ringing true for me. Kids really do grow ridiculously fast. Some mornings we are certain Mary Clare grew overnight.

Our girl is cracking through milestones like nobody's business. To date, she will only make three or four crawling movements on her hands and knees, which means she still travels by pulling her little body across the floor. Upon arrival, she goes into this finger tips-and-toes position before planting her tush where she pleases. I am still clinging to the hope that she might one day crawl, as seeing my sweet girl with a dirt- and dog hair-covered tummy is a serious bummer. Oh, and I'm sure it's an important part of her development as well. But mostly I'm tired of coating her soiled shirts with Fels-Naptha laundry soap. Then again, she might go straight to walking, as she likes to hold our hands and clomp around the house. She's set her sights on loftier heights as well, and will know pull herself to a standing position using our legs, the ottoman or whatever happens to be handy, including Buddy. At yesterday's nine-month check-up, Mary Clare weighed in at 17 lbs., 11 oz. and measured 27 inches, putting her in the 25th and 50th percentiles, respectively. Most importantly, I am pleased to report that she has, indeed, cut a tooth. Chip spotted the tiny little bugger yesterday at the doctor as she voiced her displeasure at getting two shots.

Mary Clare is just as noisy as ever, and we are starting to notice some consonant sounds as well as the vowel-laden noises she loves so much. In fact, the peanut is so noisy, she and another little classmate must now be separated at nap time because they make such a racket squawking back and forth between their respective cribs. As if waking everyone during nap time isn't bad enough, Mary Clare has also taken to mocking kids when they cry by bellowing back at them. Apparently she believes there's no crying at daycare.

Lest you think Mary Clare is shaping up to be an obnoxious brute, she does make little kissing noises, and she waves hello and good-bye to anyone willing to greet her. She claps her hands on occasion, but only after doing something particularly astute, such as making a noise with her wiggly-giggly toy.

Overall, our little girl is just as happy as ever, and well, that makes us happy. Which, in turn, should make you happy as well. So get click happy and go
here to experience the nine month happiness for yourself. And have a happy day.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Pretty, and a good sport

Personally, I found Mary Clare to be most photogenic this weekend. Even when she wasn't wearing a homemade pirate's eye patch.

Despite what my camera's memory card might say, I did not, in fact, spend the entire weekend staging various photo ops of Mary Clare. No, I actually managed to grab a lot of shots during a mere two-hour time span on Saturday. I found that if I cram my photo sessions into short bursts on just one day, Mary Clare forgets the camera is there and Chip is willing to forgive my madness if it means we can enjoy some Mary Clare moments sans camera.

When I wasn't testing Mary Clare's good nature by taking pictures or fashioning pirate eye patches out of card stock and ribbon, we managed to have a jolly good weekend. Friday night found us at Onesto, a cute little pizza spot that's fairly close to the house and offers just the right amount of kid friendliness. Saturday was, of course, International Talk Like A Pirate Day, so Mary Clare donned her eye patch after a marathon three-hour nap, making her not only the friendliest, but the most well rested pirate I've ever met. We hit Emma Lackey's third birthday party Saturday afternoon, and let me just say that it's never a good thing when you walk into a circus-themed party and the first thing the hostess says to you is, "Oh my gosh! Thanks for dressing to go with the theme!" What can I say, I like primary colors. That evening my parents and a family friend joined us for a leisurely dinner at Mangia Italiano. Sunday found us working on various house projects, including the great built-in bookshelf project of 2009, which is coming along quite nicely thanks to the Georges II and III.


Want more photos and less talky-talky? Click here to see Mary Clare sproting not only a pirate eye patch, but a red clown nose as well. Like I said, she's a good sport.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Ahoy, me mates

Captain MC Lindh would like to wish all her Team Botanical scalawags a very merry International Talk Like A Pirate Day! Arrr!

Monday, September 14, 2009

So, tell me more about this sharing thing

We're now reaching the point where the cousins have to share on occasion. They still don't interact all that much -- unless you count Brennan blatantly ignoring Mary Clare as a form of interaction -- but at one point over the Labor Day weekend Mary Clare sidled over to Brennan and started playing with one of his toys. His very favorite toy, no less. It went about as well as you would expect.

You have got to be kidding me.

Whoops! How'd this toy get in my hand? Son of a gun.

Sorry, Mary Clare. Maybe you can play with the barn toy when I'm not here. Or, you know, when hell freezes over.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

It's electric

As I mentioned last week, Mary Clare went mobile on us a few weeks ago. It sent me into full-on cleaning mode and Chip into full-on safety mode. He dropped her crib mattress to the lowest setting, and then placed socket covers in every single electrical outlet. And I'm not exaggerating when I say every single outlet. Even the ones behind doors and large, heavy objects got hit. No outlet was left unplugged. This, to say the least, put a serious cramp into my marathon vacuuming sessions, as those buggers are hard to remove.

Anyway, I thought Chip was being a little overzealous, as Mary Clare isn't really doing all that much upward exploring yet, but then well, the little stinker went ahead and proved her dad right. I swear he bribed her with a new binkie.


Electrical socket? What electrical socket? Is this the face of someone who would mess with an electrical socket?

Fine, fine. I'll stop. Besides, who needs electrical sockets when there are cords and dust bunnies waiting for me under the desk?

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Friday, September 4, 2009

Crawl already

So, Mary Clare is mobile, and has been for a few weeks now. This is great and all, and everyone, even Buddy, has adjusted to the new threat that is a mobile baby. However, I have but one request. If the child insists on being mobile, it would be ever so nice if she would crawl on all fours, as opposed to this army belly crawl/slithering thing she's been doing of late. Because, seriously, when I pick Mary Clare up, her sweet little Buddha belly is covered in dog hair. And that is after I vacuum. Which I now do daily. With a Dyson. (A Dyson that is quickly making me grow disillusioned with its once almighty power, but a Dyson nonetheless.)

So, come on, Mary Clare. Get up on all fours. You're breaking my heart here.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Let's hope she didn't get my finance skills

I finally set up a 529 college savings account for Mary Clare last Friday, and well, I have two things to say about that.

First, I can't believe how much it bothered me that we hadn't saved anything for her college yet and hello, she can't even crawl. Secondly, in case anyone thought otherwise, I am not a financial wizard. In the two days since activating her account, my investment selections lost us $10. So apparently there's more to this financial advisor thing than just, "Vanguard! I've heard of that. Yes, let's invest aggressively, shall we?"

Clearly, it's time to call in the experts. This is Mary Clare's future, people, and I can't be responsible for shattering all of her hopes and dreams. At least not with my poor investment skills, anyway.

Bob Fleming, you can expect to hear from me.

Monday, August 31, 2009

It gets worse before it gets better

Let me begin this post by saying that anyone with a low gross-out threshold should stop reading now. Seriously.

So, Chip, Mary Clare and Buddy made it to the vet this morning without anyone running away or dropping the deuce at an inopportune time. Nevertheless, Chip was still traumatized by the entire episode. But not by either of the kids. Oh, no. It was the vet who got him. After explaining all of Buddy's symptoms, the extremely thorough Dr. Betsy turned to Chip and asked him in her ever-so-earnest way, "Chip, how familiar are you with anal glands?"

Needless to say, the guy who has an answer for everything was rendered speechless.

After explaining that she thought one or both of Buddy's glands were blocked, Dr. Betsy went on to take care of our little guy. The good news is that Buddy doesn't have worms and the antibiotics should be able to take care of any other issues.

I don't know what we're going to do about Chip, though.

Questionable co-pilot

Chip’s Monday morning was shaping up to be well, less desirable than most Monday mornings.

Late last week we noticed that Buddy was snapping around his heinie quite a bit. Chip religiously gives him his Frontline each month and we didn’t see anything, so we ruled out fleas. However, it would bother him to the point that he would stop eating mid-snarf, so we knew this was more than just one of his little tics. My farm girl mother finally diagnosed worms, and after a few Internet searches we determined that this could be the case. So we planned to snag a stool sample and get him over to the vet as soon as possible. Unfortunately, Hillside Animal Hospital couldn’t get us in until Monday morning, which posed a bit of a problem as that is Mary Clare’s day with my mom.

I had a busy day at work, so it was pretty much all on Chip. Eventually we decided that the best thing would be for Chip to take Mary Clare with him to the vet, run Buddy home after the appointment and then zip over to Illinois to meet my mom and do the hand-off. Our plan was flawless, but when you’re dealing with an ailing dog and an eight-month-old child, well, there can be hiccups along the way. Mary Clare might need to be fed, and given Buddy’s symptoms, there was a good chance that both he and Mary Clare might drop the deuce at any given time.

As evidenced by this morning's discussion, preparing for all the different scenarios was clearly taking its toll on the boy.

Chip: So, while I was shaving I was running through all the different things that could go wrong this morning.
Me: Mary Clare ate well and she’s in a good mood. It will be fine.
[Mary Clare begins to cry. Chip gives me a pointed look.]
Chip: Yeah, I’ve got a cranky baby, a sick dog and a bag of shit riding shotgun. What could go wrong?

Thursday, August 27, 2009

And the training begins

I have reports out of Kansas City saying that Brennan went on the big boy potty last night. TWICE. Sherri said she made such a big fuss that Brennan started clapping for himself as well. But the applause must wait until he's finished flushing. There are processes to be followed here, people.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Eight is great

My, what a difference mobility makes. Gone are the days when we could leave Mary Clare on her play mat and trust that she would be there when we returned. She's not crawling yet -- I'd call it more of a pre-army crawl -- but the girl gets around. She slides on her little belly to chase her binkie across the floor, and if she spies Buddy she does a spin the bottle move with her body and takes off in his direction. In the spirit of onward, upward, Mary Clare now uses anything that's handy -- a box, Buddy -- to pull herself from a sitting to kneeling or standing position. The only thing that keeps this from being a total disaster is that she's still pretty lightweight and most of her crashes resemble gentle rolls.

As far as other developments go, she's got the puffs thing down pat, and she's accrued a rather impressive list of first foods: mangoes, peaches, nectarines, plums, pears, apricots, apples, cantaloupe, watermelon, carrots, sweet potatoes, broccoli (against my mom's better judgment), peas, zucchini, squash, green beans and russet potatoes. Chip is confident that the food goes straight to her cheeks, and last week he asked me if I thought her head was getting more square. It is. But in only the most cute way, of course. And while she's not quite the perfect sleeper she once was, doing one bink pop per night isn't too bad. Still no teeth, and still no firm decision on eye color.

As you can clearly see, we're eight months into this gig and still just as smitten as ever. Can you blame us? Look at that face!

Click here for the complete eight month set.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Crocodile rock

Chip makes fun of my big Jackie O. sunglasses all the time. Keep in mind that this is coming from the guy who doesn't wear sunglasses when we go for walks because "they make him dizzy," and will instead squint his way through the park. So, you can understand why I listened to his comments, disregarded them and then went out and bought Mary Clare the biggest pair of sunglasses I could find for her as well. Only blue. And with polka dots. Hell yeah.

So now whenever Mary Clare and I wear our big sunglasses, Chip calls me Jackie O. and Mary Clare -- poor, sweet, innocent Mary Clare -- gets called Elton John. Which Chip follows up with a rousing rendition of "Crocodile Rock." Because we're just that lucky.

And yet, I keep putting those blue polka dotted bad boys on Mary Clare.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Frugal chic

So, I started reading this Gourmet magazine writer's weekly updates on his family's attempts at cutting back on their living expenses, the series of which is aptly titled Serious Frugality. While I enjoy each story, I nevertheless thank my lucky stars that it's him and not me who is keeping chickens, chopping firewood and forgoing all use of the clothes dryer. Oh, and wine doesn't fit in their budget, either. Can you imagine? The horror.

Anyway, wine habits aside, I'm all for saving a buck*. And as I've said before, I'm all for the environment when being green doesn't pose too much of an inconvenience to my daily way of life. Mary Clare's bum, after all, is cozily ensconced in a Pampers disposable** at this very moment. However, I do the recycling, we casually compost and I do mix up some of my own household cleaners. True environmentalists would laugh at how little we do, but hey, it's something, right? Well, now I'm ready to take it to the next level and am seriously considering making my own laundry detergent. Seriously, we go through the stuff like gangbusters. And while Mary Clare is old enough that I could safely move us from the more expensive, but chemical-free, Seventh Generation back to our usual Tide, I am intrigued by the concept of spending $5 vs. $15 for all the laundry detergent I can handle. I am currently researching options, and if I can find a way to add Seventh Generation's glorious lavender and blue eucalyptus scent to my homemade batch, well, it's on like Donkey Kong.

Stay tuned.

*Chip laughs because I religiously clip coupons and then proudly announce, "I saved us $5 at Schnucks today!" yet am quick to say, "Whatever, it was only $5." when justifying a frivolous purchase.

**It should be noted that I tried both the G diaper and Seventh Generation options, but Chip wasn't having it. If it wasn't a Pamper, he didn't want to see it. So I gave up. Sorry, Mother Earth.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Notes on a garage sale

Saturday's garage sale was a huge success. Amanda made a killing (in garage sale terms), I made more than I expected and the husbands were made happy by the fact that anything left went to the St. Paul Kirchenfest flea market. Cash and clean basements ... it's enough to make any marriage a happy marriage.

There were, of course, some hiccups along the way, most of which came at the hands of our valued customers. Needless to say, garage sales bring out some of the more interesting individuals in the world, such as the lady who knocked on Amanda's door Friday evening asking for a sneak peek, only to be perturbed that everything wasn't priced. While most of the shoppers were nice and several complimented Amanda on having such a nice garage sale (seriously!), there were of course a few characters. Here are a few of my favorite encounters and individuals from the day:

*Please do not offer $1 for six nicely framed prints reasonably priced at $3 and up and act as if you are doing us a favor. Do I look like I need this money for crack? Be serious, people.

*Thanks to the woman who pulled $1 out of her bra to pay Amanda. I am still sorry I missed that.

*Dear lady who didn't take her meds: Thank you for spending $50. You stressed us out, but at least you didn't try to write a personal check.

*Shaking clearly priced items at me and asking, "How much?!? How much?!?" is not any way to make friends. Oh, and following it up with a surprised "So expensive!" is not any way to get me to negotiate with you. Especially when you do this with every item that catches your eye.

*When Amanda says she's keeping the hanger, she's keeping the hanger. You got a brand-new children's outfit with tags on on it for $2. Be happy with that.

Like I said, the garage sale was a success. But then again, a garage sale with ribbon-adorned baskets can't be anything but a success.


Click here for a few -- and I mean a few -- shots from the day.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Totally pea-ved

We had some serious dinner drama go down at the house tonight.

Peas and sweet potatoes were on the menu and oh my word, Mary Clare was angry. But hungry! No, angry! Wait, make that happy! Hungry! Angry! Happy! When she wasn't screaming at me, blowing pea-infused raspberries all over her tray, demanding another bite or rubbing her face in frustration (hello, Grandpa Thole!), she was busy looking for Jeff Tweedy. Yep, Jeff Tweedy, lead singer of Wilco. I thought playing some Wilco on the iPod would make for nice dinner music, but all it did was thoroughly confuse her. Every time a new song started Mary Clare would whip her head to the side and stare at the dining room door, as if expecting Jeff Tweedy to stroll through it at any minute. The fact that this mysterious singer never produced himself really hacked her off good and proper.

After finishing the vegetable course, I redeemed myself by producing a lovely dessert of mashed banana and cantaloupe. Even Buddy was pleased with that selection, as he always gets the end chunk of banana. (The banana butt, if you will.) Mary Clare snarfed down her fruit as if the pea incident had never happened. After a serious scrubbing in the bath, all was right in the world again.

Oh, and lest you doting aunts and grandmothers think I'm exaggerating, I have photographic proof.

I'm seriously pea-ssed about tonight's dinner.
And don't even get me started on all the bad "pea" puns.


I know you're in there, Jeff Tweedy. I can hear you.
I demand you show your face!

Yes, yes. I'm quite pleased with tonight's performance. Let's plan to do this again soon. Oh, and see if that nice Ray LaMontagne can join us next time. That Jeff Tweedy was a real jerk.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Cousin competition

This past weekend we loaded up Mary Clare and Buddy in my parents' car and took off to visit the Jones family in Kansas City. Now that Brennan is talking more, we were all so excited to see what he would have to say about Mary Clare. Ha! What fools we were. He wouldn't look at her, much less talk to her.

When we arrived Friday night, Brennan had zero interest in Mary Clare until he caught my mom holding her. He didn't fuss, but his expression made it quite clear that if grandma knew what was good for her, there would be no more associating with the enemy. Breakfast the next morning proved equally stressful for B, as Mary Clare decided to start playing with his new jackhammer toy. Again, he didn't fuss and he didn't grab it away -- he just stared at her and slowly began to rub his forehead and head in a frustrated fashion. (This is a classic Denis Thole move, so apparently B inherited more than just his love for John Deere tractors from his grandpa.) Later on Saturday Sherri brought out Brennan's old jumperoo for Mary Clare. Of course she was delighted by all the neighs and galloping noises, and well, that just about killed Brennan. Not only had his mom betrayed him by hiding this fabulous toy from him, but then she went ahead and put her in it. Chip and I gave B a break on Sunday morning when went to the Clifford's house for breakfast so Mary Clare could spend some time with her Uncle Arthur and Aunt Kerstin. Before leaving on Sunday, we tormented ourselves and the kids by trying to take a picture of Mary Clare and Brennan together, the best of which you see above.

All in all, it was a great weekend, and I think even Brennan managed to have fun. While I'm confident there are epic B and MC battles to come, I'll take it as a good sign that we're seven months in and both kids are scar-free.

Click here for more photos from the weekend.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Martha's garage sale

So, the Hehmeyers are hosting a garage sale this Saturday. Bless them, as this allows me to unload some of the junk Chip and I unearthed from the Rubbermaid bins that occupy our basement. Aside from the grime and griping that goes with putting together a garage sale, I must say that Amanda has made this process most entertaining. This morning we fired a few bulleted lists back and forth, as well as some inane emails about ladders that would make our husbands cry from shame. Just moments ago, I received this message:

I am in the kitchen giggling because I am tying bows on the baskets of stuff for the garage sale.

Honestly, this doesn't surprise me in the least. This is Amanda we're talking about, people. I can also guarantee you that the garage sale signs will be beautifully lettered, and possibly backed by a nice 80# linen card stock in a rich summer hue. Tethered to each sign will be balloons in complementary shades. It should be noted that Amanda will only use balloons after Rob quashes her plans of placing a bouquet of fresh flowers at the base of each sign. Guests of the sale -- not garage salers, mind you -- will likely be greeted by a linen-covered table with heaping baskets of homemade muffins for guests to nosh on while they peruse our wares. Oh, and everyone leaving the garage salon (sale is such a tacky word, no?) will leave with one of Amanda's famous hand-dipped chocolate- and caramel-covered pretzel sticks.

Price of hosting a garage sale? $250. Only breaking even, but putting on a garage sale that will have the neighbors talking for years? Priceless.

It's good to be Amanda's friend.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Make it work

Brennan is becoming quite the little handyman. Last week Sherri sent me a photo of Brennan drilling away on his little house, and now it looks like he's added mechanic to his resume. As much as Brian the engineer loves how Brennan uses his tools to fix toys, mostly I'm sure he's relieved that he's stopped using them as theater props.

Click here for two more of Brennan at work.