28 November 2009


Thanksgiving morning, Katrina went to school as usual. Although the Brits don't celebrate Thanksgiving, the school does a lot of cross-cultural activities. Katrina's teacher has family in the States, so her class puts on a Thanksgiving play every year. The kids chose whether they wished to be a Pilgrim or a Native American. Our girl was but one of the blonde-haired Indians.

Two kids read the Thanksgiving story, with long pauses for the rest of the class to pantomime the Native Americans teaching the Pilgrims to plant crops, for example.

The blonde braids totally make the costume.

We went to a friend's house for Thanksgiving dinner that evening. The food and company were great, but all Annika wanted to do was stalk their cat. Which would streak through the living room and then up the stairs. So we spent quality time going up and down and up and down and up and down the first five stairs.

OMG Stairs! Must go up stairs! CAT on stairs! EE-YOW! EE-Yow!

The gunk around her eye is the remains of mashed yams with marshmallows on top, which was quite a hit with her. But not as exciting as the cat.

24 November 2009

Fun With Cooking

Every few years, someone gets you a Christmas present that is...inspired. My mother-in-law really wowed my husband last year with an original 1961 Betty Crocker cookbook. She found it on eBay, as I recall. She has had the same cookbook since hubby was a child, and it's still sitting on her shelf. You can tell which recipes are family favorites by which pages are stained and warped.

Now we have the same cookbook, but with the unknown history of another family in its pages. Judging by the big red star by "spaghetti, how to cook" in the index, I'm guessing that it was originally a wedding present to a novice cook.

Today I opened it to find the stuffing recipe that hubby can't live without on Thanksgiving. While I was paging through, I came across this:

How cool! I thought. I wonder what recipes the mysterious former owner deemed important enough to tape in the cookbook. The top one is cooking instructions for...spaghetti, clipped from a Skinner's brand spaghetti box. The one under that is for "Baked Chicken Salad". But the one on the bottom, taped carefully to the page itself, is the best of all.

And what is that note on the tissue paper?

Well! I take back my original assessment. This lady knew how to cook.

21 November 2009

You Know You’re the Parent of a Toddler When…

  • you enter a beautifully decorated house and wince at the swathe of destruction that is surely imminent.
  • you breathe a sigh of relief when your host whisks the lovely runner and basket of flowers off the coffee table.
  • Saturdays are the highlight of your week because you get to go to the bathroom alone, with the door shut.
  • a ten-minute shower in the morning seems absolutely luxurious.
  • the bottom two shelves of your bookcase are empty.
  • the toilet paper is on the window sill instead of on the holder.
  • you have to wrestle with child locks to get a dish out of the cupboard.
  • you have to wrestle with a baby gate to go up the stairs.
  • no trip out of the house is complete without a diaper bag.
  • the diapers are the least important things in the diaper bag…heaven forbid you are caught without snacks or small toys in a public place.
  • you can accurately interpret various grunts, screeches, and gestures—but only for your own child, as every toddler invents their own “language.”
  • you compose long mental lists of everything you will do during The Nap, but when the time actually comes, you’re too worn out to do any of it.
  • it’s been so long since you had an uninterrupted conversation that you wonder if you’ve forgotten how.
  • you can’t believe how sweet her smile is, and you’re convinced you’ve never heard a more infectious giggle.

Have I missed anything? Add your own!


We call her Destructo-Baby.

10 November 2009

Just Dancing in my Underwear

In the car yesterday afternoon, I asked Katrina what she did in school that day. “I…POOPED on the CARPET!” she crowed, and then started laughing hysterically. She cracked herself up so much she had to repeat it about five times, whooping each time.

I thought only boys found scatological remarks hilarious, but apparently I was mistaken.

The audience of Herself, and Annika, who was laughing because big sis was laughing, wanted more. “And then I WEE-ED on the floor! Ahahahaha!”

“Ha, ha, well, um, interesting, so what did you do for real?”

“I, I, I, ran around in my PANTIES!” [ed. note: HI, Wendy!]

By this time, I thought I might as well join in the hilarity. “What a COINCIDENCE! That’s what I did today, too! Danced around with my underwear on my head!”

That set off fresh gales of laughter, and increasingly ridiculous scenarios from Katrina. 

I am a comic genius.

That is, if you’re 7 and in a silly mood because it’s been raining for a week.


We used to have sun, and then it went away. Forecast for the rest of this week: rain, clouds, rain, rain.

07 November 2009

04 November 2009

How to Cook With One Hand

I don’t read many food blogs (though I do think Gluten-Free Girl is about the best writing you’re going to see, whether you’re a foodie or not), but every so often a few of the blogs I read post favorite recipes. Often they include lovely photos of each step of the process.

For me, reading these kinds of posts are like reading a fantasy novel. One reason is the rather unique demands of my family: my gluten-free diet; my husband’s and daughter’s pickiness (and are they picky about the same things? of course not!); and now, Katrina’s recent diagnosis of fructose malabsorption.

The other reason is my darling baby. Annika is 16 months now. I love this stage. Until I try to actually DO anything—like cook dinner. Without further ado, here is my step-by-step version of Burgundy Chicken…a dish the whole family enjoys, which is a rarity.

  1. Set baby down and attempt to distract her with toys so you can sneak into the kitchen.
  2. Get out 2 onions, 3 carrots, some celery if you think you can sneak it in without someone complaining, the olive oil, and the garlic.
  3. Pick up baby and haul her out of the pantry, into which she crawled while you were getting the onions. Close the door to the pantry and step over her while she throws herself to the floor and wails at the closed door.
  4. Get out the cutting board—quickly, before baby notices and comes to rummage in the cabinet.
  5. Chop the onions, carrots, and celery while baby worms her way between your legs and the cabinet, pulls herself up by grabbing around your knees, looks up at you, and screams to be picked up.
  6. Croon, “It’s okay, baby,” while bending at an odd angle to keep from knocking her against the cabinet and continuing to chop carrots.
  7. Curse self for not doing chopping during naptime.
  8. Finish chopping, rinse off hands, and pick up baby.
  9. Set her down on the kitchen floor with a big bowl of wrapped Halloween candy and a paper bag. Hope that putting candy into and out of bag and bowl will keep her occupied for a few minutes, like it did yesterday.
  10. Yeah, right. Wailing again.
  11. Get out big frying pan—quick, before baby gets to the cabinet door.
  12. Pour in some olive oil, then add carrots, onions, celery, and some garlic. While that is sautéing, open the freezer and get out the chicken.
  13. Move baby’s hands out of the freezer.
  14. Pick up baby and move across the floor (as she wails) so you can close the freezer door without knocking her over.
  15. Try to give baby a snack and/or a sippy cup of milk. Anything to stop the wailing.
  16. Baby takes two sips of milk and then flings sippy cup across the floor and starts wailing again.
  17. Put the tea kettle on to boil, because you need to make some chicken bouillon broth.
  18. Pick up wailing baby and settle her on your right hip. Grab a spatula with your left hand and stir the carrot mix. Angle body so that baby cannot touch hot pan, no matter how far she bends forward, going “eh! eh! eh!”
  19. When the carrots et al., are softened, open the little bag of diced ham (hold baby on hip with right arm, grasp bag with right hand, and pull out the ham with left hand.) Add ham to frying pan with left hand while keeping it out of reach of baby’s hands.
  20. Set baby down on kitchen floor (WAH!) to reach up to spice cabinet over the fridge. Grab chicken bouillon and bay leaf. Oh, wait, can’t find the bouillon. Need stepstool in pantry. Open door to pantry, pull stepstool out, and close door before baby gets there. Climb up one step, and find what you need.
  21. Baby is still crying on kitchen floor. Pick her up again.
  22. Carrot/ham mix is done. Debate relative merits of putting baby down to pick up hot pan versus spooning the food into the bowl with the spatula. Stand for several minutes with baby on right hip while spooning sautéed carrots into dish with left hand. Give up and put baby down (WAH!) so you can pick up hot pan and scrape out the rest.
  23. Put more olive oil in pan, and then add four skinless, boneless chicken thighs. Brown on both sides.
  24. Baby has opened cabinet with plastic storage containers and is pulling them out onto the floor. Let her do it because at least she has stopped wailing.
  25. Tea kettle is whistling. Add one cup water to the chicken bouillion and let it dissolve.
  26. Baby has lost interest in Tupperware cupboard and is wailing again. Pick her up and wonder why the hell hubby is not home yet. Then realize it’s only 5:01 pm.
  27. Once chicken is browned, add half the chicken broth, half a bay leaf, and round about half a cup of red cooking wine. Add a few extra glugs…it takes two hands to measure and only one hand to pour straight from the bottle.
  28. Turn down heat and cover. Let chicken simmer. Carry baby to family room and put her down (WAH!). Sit on floor with her and play with her sorter (giggle! smiles! cuteness!). Ask older daughter to TURN DOWN the TV!
  29. Remember that you need to cook the noodles.
  30. Get up and go back into the kitchen. Ignore crawling, wailing baby as she follows you (WAH!slap, WAH!slap, WAH!slap).
  31. Get out two saucepans and fill with water. Put on stove to bring to a boil.
  32. Wrestle baby to close the cabinet door before she gets to the glass lids.
  33. Decide you have a beef with Gluten-Free Girl, who has a toddler just a few months younger than yours and yet makes cooking sound relaxing. Take picture of kitchen while holding baby on hip.
  34. Carry baby on hip into pantry to get two kinds of noodles—regular and gluten-free.
  35. Hubby is home! Everyone says “hi,” and baby waves charmingly from her perch on your right hip.
  36. Start ordering hubby around, as it is easier on everybody’s ears than putting baby down and doing it yourself.
  37. Hubby checks chicken and deems it sufficiently cooked. He adds the noodles to the boiling water and adds the carrot/ham mix back into chicken pan.
  38. Ask older child to set table. Ask again. Go over and turn off TV yourself and then TELL her to set table.
  39. Put baby in high chair (WAH!) and scoop some carrot mixture onto her tray. (The wailing stops!) Go in search of milk cup that baby threw earlier. Rinse off and give back to baby.
  40. Finish setting table and serving food with hubby’s help.
  41. Decide that you would really, REALLY like a glass of wine with dinner.

I don't know WHAT Mama is complaining about. Does this face look difficult to you?

12 September 2009

How We Spent Our Summer Vacation

Visiting with family


Renewing friendships

Learning new skills

Taking a trip to Venice

Eating lots of pizza

And gelato

Mugging for the camera

Buying stuff

Exploring our new neighborhood

Getting very dirty

02 August 2009


Limited posting because I'm on vacation in the States, but I had to post this:

Annika pulled herself up for the first time yesterday, on the first step of my parents' staircase. Today, she commenced practicing and perfecting her new skill. And then falling on her butt and crying. And then trying again. The tenacity of babies (and toddlers *sob*) is amazing to watch.

13 July 2009

Paying Attention

Sometimes in the crush of the everyday, I forget to appreciate my children. Katrina, especially, because weekdays begin with get up, get dressed, did you remember to go to the bathroom? are you dressed yet?, just a minute let me get the baby, hold on, packing your lunch, aren't you dressed YET? come on, it's been twenty minutes, here, choose your cereal, you don't want cereal, you want toaster waffles. whatever, just eat, hurry up we have to leave in thirty minutes, come on, no, you can't play your DS, you have to get ready for school, come on, brush your teeth, let's get your hair done, will you HURRY already we must leave in ten minutes, SHOES! where are your SHOES! No, you don't have time to go through every stuffed animal you have to find the one you want to take on the bus, get in the car Get In the Car, GET IN THE CAR!

And then we get to the bus stop and I give her a hug and kiss and she gets on the bus and I collapse in relief at having pulled it off again.

After school is a bit better, sometimes. Often, though, she's in tears before she hits the house because we don't have the right kind of snack or the neighbor girl's not home, or any one of a million "reasons" to have a meltdown. Transitions are hard for her, and weekdays are nothing but transitions. And late afternoon is still a fussy time for the baby, who can play pretty independently at most times of the day, but needs mom's complete attention at the exact same time dinner preparations are underway. And I have the schedule tick, tick, ticking in the back of my head all day...almost time to start dinner, so we can get baths on time, so we can get to bed on time...along with all the other and sundry details that make up a family's life, including our move starting this Wednesday when the packers come and "ending" in our new house on Friday.

So, I fall into the trap of not really looking at her, not really paying attention to the moment, because the next thing is pressing in so urgently. I'm thinking about her a lot, in that thrumming, mom-anxiety way: she's been watching too much TV, time to get her outside, what do I have for a healthy snack? does she have homework? how can I help her with homework with the baby crying and dinner cooking, and hubby has a conference call at 6 so we need to hurry things along...

On Thursday, the school had a musical production. The whole school participated. A Victorian Music Hall. And in a way, it had become just one more thing on my list for these frantic few weeks of the end of school, moving, and then traveling to the States for a long visit. Find Katrina a costume that looks vaguely Victorian--check. Get her fed early so she could get to the school by 5:15 pm--check. Pack snacks and quiet toys for the baby and hope that we could keep her quiet for the two-hour spectacular. Camera! Don't forget the camera! Good heavens, I must change out of jeans and a milk-stained T-shirt--check.

The baby behaved beautifully for the whole two hours. It helped that we stuck snacks in her mouth every time she opened it. And that the floor was carpeted so she could sit on it and look at/chew on a board book.

When Katrina's class went on stage to do their thing, I looked at her probably for the first time that day without that little agenda ticking through my head. And remembered how beautiful she is. And that I need to step back a bit more and just appreciate. There was a time when I thought I would never have children. And now look.

Just look.

I need to pay better attention to how blessed I am. How blessed this whole family is. How fast my "big girl" is growing. I was teasing her in the car the other day...that she was not allowed to get any older or grow any taller. And she said, "But then I won't be able to grow up and have babies!" My girl has problems with transitions, and the transition from only child to big sister was incredibly hard for her, I think. Now, though, a year on, and she is planning to have her own babies. "I wish Annika were my baby," she has said.

But that day in the car, she sounded so adult. "You want to grow up and have a baby? Would you want a girl baby or a boy baby?" "Oh, it doesn't matter. Either one is fine," she said. And I wanted to say again, Don't grow up so fast. But I didn't. Instead, I resolved to pay better attention.

26 June 2009

Things I Have Pulled Out of Annika's Mouth While She Screams Like a Starving Child Chewing on Her Last Bread Crust

1. Small pebble
2. Piece of bark (at the playground)
3. Piece of blue yarn (from the debris of one of Katrina's many art projects)
4. Small square of Scotch tape (ditto)
5. Desiccated cherry pit with stem still attached (cherry tree + brick patio = cherries tracked in on bottoms of shoes)
6. Little tangle of hair
7. Dirt
8. Dried-up scrap of green bean that she evidently scraped from the tile floor with her fingernails
9. Scrap of paper napkin from under kitchen table
10. Pieces of board book that she chewed on until wet and then apparently peeled off and put in mouth (I thought board books were meant to be relatively immune to chewing? Isn't that the point?)
11. Lint and fuzz of every description
12. Paper of every description
13. A pink fabric star with white bead in the middle that fell off one of Katrina's hair thingies
14. Fake plastic coin from Katrina's play cash register (I'm sensing a theme here. Soon they will be banning older siblings as choking hazards.)
15. An inch-long broken-off stick of some sort. I still don't know what it was from or how it came to be on my kitchen floor.
16. Her glasses

Things I Have Given Up On

1. Food that she threw or dropped from her high chair in a fit of disdain--whyever would you think I wanted more of this, this, SLOP?--looks pretty tasty lying there on the floor under the table. Eh, at least it's food. I'm thinking of putting a bowl on the floor for her when she gets fussy sitting at the table.

Thing That I DIDN'T Pull Out of Her Mouth in Time--I Know, Because I Saw It, er, LATER

1. Purple sequin (from aforementioned art projects). Still glittering amidst the, well, you get the picture.

Random Cuteness to Get Your Mind Off the Sequin

Who needs TV when you have a frontloading washing machine with see-through door?

The real question is, Mama, can I eat that?

How about that?

Yay keys! I wonder what THEY taste like?

19 June 2009

7 Quick Takes

We're moving in...oh, about two or three weeks. Yikes! We found a house closer to Katrina's school and to the base. It's a duplex with four bedrooms on the same floor; a smallish kitchen (true of nearly all German houses, though); a nice-sized family/dining room area; big windows that look out onto a grassy backyard with climb-able trees and some woods beyond; and a finished loft-like attic. We're looking forward to living in a place with a more reasonable layout than the one we've got. I will be sad to leave the little town we're in now, which has a playground around the corner and a wonderful woodsy park with a lake just up the hill. We're only 10 minutes away, though, so we can always drive to Baerenloch.

Annika finally started crawling a few days ago. It's been a very frustrating month or so for her. She could get up on her hands and knees and rock, but she couldn't figure out how to go anywhere. Or she would push herself backward with her hands while trying to go forward. Much frustrated screaming ensued. She's still tentative and slow, dragging her knees slightly, but she can go forward, as well as go from sitting position to crawling position and back again. About four hours after she crawled for the first time, she tried to pull herself up on the coffee table.

I was so proud of Katrina on Annika's birthday. Katrina was VERY excited (to the point of us telling her to CALM DOWN, for the love of Pete) for her sister. There was no evidence of jealousy, only being happy for her. Of course, Katrina DID get to open all of Annika's presents for her, so that might have helped.

Also, Katrina had it in her head that Annika would magically be able to say "mama" and "papa" when she turned one. So her greeting to Annika Wednesday morning was "Annika! It's your first birthday today! You can say Mama and Papa now! Can you say Mama? Mama?" And Annika obediently said, "mama," and Katrina applauded.

Of course, Annika's been saying "mama" for weeks. She doesn't appear to attach any particular meaning to it, though. But hey, she's not saying "papa" yet. Katrina said "papa" first, so I guess it's my turn in the sun.

When you have a sensitive, intense child, it is hard to know if the other kids are truly picking on her, or if it is just her interpretation of events. The other day, Katrina complained that another girl called her a "crybaby." Why did she call you that? we asked. "Because I was crying," she said in an injured tone. Why were you crying? "Because [two of the boys] were singing really LOUD and it hurt my ears so I was crying a little bit and then she called me a crybaby."

And then we tried to figure out how to put it to her gently that, maybe she should have walked away from the loudness and NOT cried.

I'm a little worried about her little heart being regularly broken because she has no "armor". No concept of self-defense socially. I don't know how to teach her that, though.

I'm a bit addicted to Bejeweled Blitz on Facebook. I figured out why...it's fast-moving, and totally absorbing. An ideal way to forget about the laundry that needs folded, the stack of I-don't-know-what on the coffee table, the insanity that is moving, the planning of Katrina's birthday party, the insanity that is traveling with a 7-yr-old and a 1-yr-old on a transatlantic flight in a month...

I put it off as long as I could.

We picked them up yesterday. She's smiling here, but she is not pleased with the glasses. If I can get them on her and then distract her right away, she'll keep them on for a while. Until she tries to rub her eyes. Then she starts crying and pulling them off. They hit the kitchen floor this morning while she was eating breakfast. Good thing they're plastic.

Time to go wake the bespectacled one and take her for her well-baby check-up. Let's see...cake on Wednesday, glasses on Thursday, shots on Friday. Turning 1 is so fun! I wouldn't blame her if she were mighty suspicious the next time we give her cake.

Cake? What diabolical plan are you hatching NOW, mother?

For more quick takes, go to Conversion Diary.

17 June 2009

First Birthday

I've been writing two posts...in my head. So, looking back at the past year will have to wait. But here's what happened today!

This is at 6:50 am. Annika woke up at 5:30, Katrina at 6:15. Katrina has been looking at Annika's birthday packages for a week. She begged to open "just one" this morning, so I let her.

After dinner, we opened the others. Or, rather, Katrina did.


She wasn't too sure about the squishy icing at first. But all it took was one taste.

Oops. Dropped some. Must squish it in my lap.

Yay, cake!!

Ew! She's all messy!

Wait a minute! Where'd the cake go? I want more cake!