Thursday, October 8, 2009

The Answer is a Waffle -- a breakfast poem by Gregory K. Pincus

The Answer is a Waffle
What’s my favorite breakfast food?
That’s easy to decide.
It’s eggs cooked over easy with some bacon on the side.

Although, it might be cereal.
Or maybe jam and toast.
Actually, it’s cream of wheat that I enjoy most.

Or maybe, come to think of it,
It’s bagels with some lox.
Or maybe pancakes. No, it’s fruit, cut up in bite size blocks.

Or wait a second. Let me think:
A restaurant buffet!
Or maybe it’s, well, I don’t know...
I guess I just can’t say.
--Gregory K. Pincus

I went looking for a breakfast poem with little hope of finding something good. I mean, I'm sure that there are good poems out there, by famous poets even, but a Google search for "Breakfast Poem" isn't always the most effective way to go about finding them. I do tend to get some interesting hits by lesser known poets this way though, so I generally give it a try before resoritng to more complicated searches. This time it paid off with this fun little poem from Gregory K. Pincus. On first skim, I thought it was merely adequate -- decent rhyme and meter, but not much to say...until I read the title again, and saw that the whole poem was a clever little pun.

The day after Heather posted some deeply cute breakfast conversations with her daughter Anna, Elizabeth decided to deliver up some breakfast cuteness of her own. I ran to get my camera, and this is the result.

I don't have much more to say. I've been pretty exhausted lately, since my thyroid seems to have quit doing its job, but I hope to do lots of small blog posts in the future rather than a couple big long ones.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Eencey Weencey Spider by Anonymous

Eencey Weencey Spider
Eencey Weencey spider Climbed up the waterspout;
Down came the rain And washed the spider out;
Up came the sun And dried up all the rain;
And the Eencey Weencey spider
Climbed up the spout again.

I had never thought about the authorship of this song before today, so I went and looked it up. According to Wikipedia, this song appeared in the early part of the 20th century in books of camp and folk songs, already having lost all attribution. I generally sing Itsy Bitsy spider rather than Eency Weency unless I'm doing Robert Fulghrum's idea and singing it to the tune of Ode to Joy.

Yesterday in church, all four of the little girls in nursery were really participating well in the singing. Even Elizabeth who is about a year and a half younger than the other three was trying to do all the actions -- even when she'd never seen them before. This is representative of everything she's been doing lately -- she's mimicing everything people around her do and say.

I'm sorry that I haven't been posting frequently in the last few months (OK, I think there have been 11 posts total this year) so that you could have vicariously have watched her progress, but it's been amazing. Sometime in May, she decided that she was going to get ready for Kindergarten. Having mastered the shapes by reading her sparkly shapes book, she up and decided to learn the letters. She started with the obvious round O and the very useful B (for ball and blanket) then spent hours demanding that we tell her which magnet she was pointing to. A lucky find at a garage sale got her foam numbers for the bath, and she learned them too. She's currently working on colors and grammar.

Meanwhile, she was picking up two, three, five, then up to ten new words a day. Eventually, she just started repeating any word that was unfamiliar, and we stopped counting. Sometimes this gave very cute results. The other day, we were coming home late, and as we came in the door, Grandpa Roly noticed that he hadn't turned on the front porch light for us. "Nuts!" he said, as he helped us inside. Elizabeth, who had finally falllen asleep a block from home, perked up and said "Nuts. Eat it." and wouldn't settle down again until I gave her some cashews.

It sometimes amazes me how much she listens. I can be listening to an NPR story about Blue Dog Democrats, and she'll say, "Rowf rowf" which is what dogs are currently saying in her world. Because of that, I've cut way back on listening to news, and started playing a lot more songs in the car. When she hears one she likes, she'll say, "'Gin!" and I'll play it a few more times. Her current favorites (which she'll sing along with sometimes) are the "Dig Dig Dig" song from Snow White, and several from Sesame Street: One Fine Face, Elmo's Song, C is for Cookie, and I Love Trash.

She also picks up phrases. She says, "I see you!" when she wants to play peekaboo. She also likes "Oh, I see!" and "Happy to YOU!" (leaving out the word Birthday for some reason).

She's participating in reading books more and more. Last night we got a video of her reading Worms Wiggle with me and she could read every other word. It's also fun to hear her read Moo, Baa, La la la

On the grammar front, she's been putting words together into phrases like "Daddy's Shoes" for quite some time now. Nouns get some kind of adjective applied to them on the second or third repetition of a sentence (She's serious about practicing). Favorite adjectives include Big, Little, Mommy's, Daddy's, Roly's, Nice, Happy, Sad, Same, or a guess at what color it is. Whenever we hear a baby cry, she will comment that the baby or boy or girl is sad, and she loves to find happy faces on all the pumpkins around this time of year. (She also loves to find happy faces in her collection of balls, and one day, when there weren't enough, she had us draw happy faces on most of the plain golf balls).

She's making complete sentences now, when she has something to communicate other than "Look, there's a _______!" Usually, the object of the verb is "it" as in "Get it" or "Mama do it" but more and more often, she has a real subject verb and object in the sentence. The order isn't always the way I would say it -- Last night she said, "Kitty bag in" -- but it still got the point across.

She's also trying to conjugate and decline words. She noticed that Dog was sometimes Doggy, so for a while she tried putting a Y on the end of many words to see which ones we responded to. Recently, she's been doing the same thing with -ing. It works fine when she puts it on verbs, but it's terribly cute when she puts it on nouns and we hear about kittying.

Most of the time she pronounces things very carefully, and gets them just right. She has no problem with tricky sounds like the ir in Girl and Bird. She doesn't leave off the ending sounds -- on the contrary, she says them very deliberately, and sometimes with too much stress, but that's cute too. She does get R and L sounds mixed up occasionally, and she'll throw an extra sound in to some words (for instance, Fish is Firsh). She rarely will leave off the initial sound of a word like sanke, but I think that that shows a problem with the way she was taught the word. "Snake goes sssssss ssssssnake" she very understandably thought that nake was the animal, and sssss was the sound.

Generally, I try to do as my Language Development teacher in college suggested: When the child makes a "mistake" (usually by overextending a rule that they're learning, or mispronouncing a word) you shouldn't correct them as if they're wrong, or they'll be hesitant to try again. on the other hand, you should model the correct way to say it. To take one of the examples above, in response to "Kitty bag in" I said, "OK, we'll put the kitty in the bag." Or, if I point to an animal and say, "What's that?" and she answers "Meow mow" instead of saying, "No, it's called a kitty" I'll say, "That's right, a kitty says meow meow."

I like the geneal idea of this, but sometimes I think it works too well. The adorable mispronounciations and baby talk are fleeing far too fast. I treasure the few that I do get. One of my favorites is "Cakoo" (which sounds like cukoo with an ah sound) meaning crocodile. She has a little pop up book with a crocodile eating everything in sight, which she can recite about half the words to while reading it to herself:

Crocodile wakes, his jaws go crunch. -- Cakoo crunch
Down goes breakfast -- Bekfast
Later lunch -- La'er lurch
Later still and feeling thinner he eats his grandmmother for dinner -- Gamma
He sighs, Now what am I to do?" -- Doooo
And grinning wide he looks at you -- at yooooooou!

One final thing I want to mention is names. She discovered recently that other people have names. She figured out without any prompting that Daddy was also known as Peter and Mama was Karen. She can identify several people in pictures, especially Grandma (Gamma) and Grandpa (Gmpa). She loves to come and tell me about the picture of herself with her friend Joel that's currently my desktop wallpaper, and that's how I discovered one other mispronounciation that I had been missing. She came up to me, climbed up on my lap and pointed to the computer screen. "Joel!" she said. "Weee!" (the picture is of the two of them on a double glider swing) "Leefun!" (What?) "Leefun." (There's no elephant in this picture. There's a slide, but she can say slide.) "Leefun Joel wheeee!" At that point, I realized that Leefun was her way of saying "Lizbeth" I think it's odd that a girl who can say Trampoline without trouble can't say the word she hears most often -- her own name! And yet, in the week that has elapsed since then, it's already evolved to Leesun which is not too far from Lisa which is not to far from Lisabeth.

Well, to end, I'll give you an idea of how much she's talking with this video of a typical ten minutes of her playing in the basement.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Home by Edgar Guest

It takes a heap o' livin' in a house t' make it home,
A heap o' sun an' shadder, an' ye sometimes have t' roam
Afore ye really 'preciate the things ye lef' behind,
An' hunger fer 'em somehow, with 'em allus on yer mind.
It don't make any differunce how rich ye get t' be,
How much yer chairs an' tables cost, how great yer luxury;
I ain't home t' ye, though it be the palace of a king,
Until somehow yer soul is sort o' wrapped round everything.

Home ain't a place that gold can buy or get up in a minute;
Afore it's home there's got t' be a heap o' livin' in it;
Within the walls there's got t' be some babies born, and then
Right there ye've got t' bring 'em up t' women good, an' men;
And gradjerly, as time goes on, ye find ye wouldn't part
With anything they ever used -- they've grown into yer heart:
The old high chairs, the playthings, too, the little shoes they wore
Ye hoard; an' if ye could ye'd keep the thumb marks on the door.

Ye've got t' weep t' make it home, ye've got t' sit an' sigh
An' watch beside a loved one's bed, an' know that Death is nigh;
An' in the stillness o' the night t' see Death's angel come,
An' close the eyes o' her that smiled,
an' leave her sweet voice dumb.
Fer these are scenes that grip the heart,
an' when yer tears are dried,
Ye find the home is dearer than it was, an' sanctified;
An' tuggin' at ye always are the pleasant memories
O' her that was an' is no more -- ye can't escape from these.

Ye've got t' sing an' dance fer years, ye've got t' romp an' play,
An' learn t' love the things ye have by usin' 'em each day;
Even the roses 'round the porch must blossom year by year
Afore they 'come a part o' ye, suggestin' someone dear
Who used t' love 'em long ago, an' trained 'em jes' t' run
The way they do, so's they would get the early mornin' sun;
Ye've got t' love each brick an' stone from cellar up t' dome:
It takes a heap o' livin' in a house t' make it home.
--Edgar Guest

I hesitate to post this poem by Edgar Guest, mostly because he is one of the few authors Lemony Snicket seems to dislike in the Series of Unfortunate Events. In the Grim Grotto, the narrator says, “every noble reader in the world agrees that the poet represented on Fiona’s uniform was a writer of limited skill, who wrote awkward, tedious poetry on hopelessly sentimental topics.” A few people seem to have trouble with this judgement. While looking for the quote above, I found an An Open Letter to Lemony Snicket (and Robert Bork) in Modest Defense of Edgar Guest In one of the footnotes, he cites somebody else who says, "Yes, most of his poetry is undistinguished, but some is charming and enjoyable. What did he do to be held up (as it seems in this book) as a symbol of evil mediocrity?"

I personally don't think he deserves quite the treatment he got from Snicket (who, after the introduction quoted above, hammered his point home every chance he got through the rest of the book), but on the other hand, I don't think that just saying that your father's favorite poem was "It Couldn't Be Done" is a cogent argument proving that Guest was a great poet worthy of the world's respect and honor (that seems more like a reflection on said Grandpa's taste in poetry than on Guest's merits as a poet).

All in all, I'd put Guest's poems above the level of moralizing tripe, but I definitely agree that the words tedious, sentimental, and mediocre apply to much of what he's written. That's not to say that his poems don't have their place. We were talking the other night at the monthly meeting of the Utah Valley Nerds Group, and all agreed that the Nancy Drew and Hardy Boys (and Three Investigators and Trixie Belden, and Animorphs, et cetera) books have an important place in the development of reading skills. Because they're easy to read, and have predictable plots, and most importantly, they're comfortable for kids, reading a whole bunch of them in a row increases fluency and encourages a love of reading in general. I know I certainly went through a Nancy Drew and Babysitter's club phase myself. If Guest's poetry, with its comforting sentiments and dtrong rhyme and meter can draw a certain group of people into reading poetry at all, that's a success (though as with Eragon -- which I've heard the same argument used to defend -- being successfull doesn't mean it's not also mediocre).

Well enough with the introduction, on to the news. I would like to announce that although it takes a heap of unpacking to make a house a home, I have finally finished moving us in to the Salem house! There are no more things sitting in boxes waiting to be unpacked. There are pictures on the walls. There is a place for everything, and at least for the time it took me to take these pictures, everything was in its place!!!!!

Because this post is so long already, I won't embed every photo. I'll just give you a link to the album in Picasa and let you go from there. Each photo has a description on it, so I figure if you put them all together, it's kind of like a blog post. I only have pictures of the finished basement area since the upstairs is still kind of a work in (interrupted) progress with Mom and Dad back in Ohio. Just to refresh your memory and give you a sense of perspective, here is a floorplan of the house (the album that's from has shots of the house from before we moved in, if you never saw those).

Of course, just because we've moved in, doesn't mean there's nothing left to do. It just means that I can feel good about just keeping house for a while before starting in on the repairing, repainting, and remodeling that still really needs to be done.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Bless This House by Helen Taylor

Bless This House

Bless this house, Oh Lord we pray
Make it safe by night and day.
Bless these walls so firm and stout
Keeping want and trouble out.

Bless the roof and chimneys tall.
Let thy peace lie over all.
Bless this door that it may prove
Ever open to joy and love.

Bless these windows shining bright
Letting in God’s heavenly light.
Bless the hearth, a-blazing there
With smoke ascending like a prayer.

Bless the people here within.
Keep them pure and free from sin.
Bless us all that we may be
Fit Oh Lord to dwell with thee.

Bless us all that one day we
May dwell O Lord with thee.
--Helen Taylor

Daddy asked me to find a copy of this song to play at our housewarming/ home dedication on August 23rd. I had an instrumental version in my collection, but Daddy said he'd get too emotional if he tried to actually sing it, so Peter found a youtube video, transferred it to his iPhone, plugged that into the auxiliary port on the Bose radio upstairs, and played it that way. Isn't technology wonderful?

At the housewarming, we had a huge crowd of relatives. Uncle Doug was in town, as were Maryanne, James, and their son. Martha was there with Isabella and Sam (Aaron was in the hospital after a followup procedure on his heart). Uncle Steve, Aunt Sue, TJ and Carter all came. Ryan and Trudy, brought their boys Ethan and Caleb. Adam was there with his wife and daughter. Aunt Shirley even came, and of course, Mom, Dad, Grandpa Roly, Elizabeth, Peter and I were all here to begin with. In all, we counted 26 people! Grandpa Roly said it had been a long time since nearly his whole family was together and happy, and was very touched.

Of course, before the party, there was a LOT of work to get the house ready. The first POD arrived on Tuesday, August 11th. That day we worked ourselves to the point of exhaustion hauling the literal TONS of stuff, furniture and boxes inside, and then when the POD was empty, beginning to unpack so that we'd have room for more boxes the next day. We fell into bed, and woke up the next morning to do it again on Wednesday, and yet again on Thursday. On Friday, we had a break of sorts (they didn't deliver another POD) so we cleaned and emptied the Provo apartment, then went to Grandpa's house in West Jordan and hauled all my stuff up from the basement and boxed up the things Grandpa decided to bring. Saturday, we loaded it all into a Uhaul truck (Which was a huge hassle to get -- I'll have to devote an entire post to that ordeal), drove back down to Salem, and unloaded it all. Sunday, we got a true Day of Rest, and were thankful for it, but then we had to start all over again with three more PODS on Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday.

Each of the PODS was stuffed to capacity -- not always space wise, but certainly always weight wise. The official limit of what the machine can lift is 6000 lbs (three TONS!!), and Mom and Dad were always at or over the limit. With six pods and a truck, we figure we had about twenty tons of stuff to haul into the house and put away.

We did have some things to help us though. Daddy rigged up a ramp going up the front steps, and with the dollies that Tim and a neighbor loaned us, we could haul heavy furniture, stacks of boxes, or even (heaven forbid) refrigerators and full filing cabinets up the stairs without having to lift them straight up. We also had lots of help. The neighbors/ward members pitched in day after day with Elder's Quorum, High Priest's Group, and Young Men all cycling through to do some of the worst lifting (we even had one of the Young Women come and play with Elizabeth and keep her entertained while I couldn't give her the attention and comfort she wanted).

The lifting help was most important because Mom couldn't lift anything with her back in such bad shape (it went out again a few weeks ago), and Grandpa shouldn't lift anything (because of his heart -- and his balance isn't too good either these days). I could carry in a lot of light loads, but I quickly found that if I wanted to keep being able to work at all, I had to know my limit and stick to it. That left Daddy as the only one who could physically do most of the work, and he had spent the last several weeks loading it all IN to the PODS!

Along with the Ward members mentioned before, we also had help from the Utah Valley Nerds group. They were supposed to come help us load Saturday morning, but they all decided they were too lazy to get up that early on a weekend (these are Nerds we're talking about, you know) so they decided to hire us some help in the morning, then come down and unload in the afternoon instead. We got pizza (and it took the delivery guy about an hour to find the house which was less than a mile from the pizza place, and even in the same town (which, after all only has 5000 people, so how hard can it be???)) and everybody sat around and talked in the shady room under the willow tree for a couple of hours after we finished. Heidi (Lesli's sister) is a part of that group, but couldn't make it that day, so she came another day and helped to unpack and break down boxes (we have really felt the love from Lesli's siblings in our moving -- Mark, if you'll remember, went far above and beyond helping us unload the POD from California in April). Ryan and Steve also worked hard on Saturday, bringing first one, then the other refrigerator from West Jordan (the first one's door was so wide it hit the kitchen counter and wouldn't open all the way).

After all the unloading, we still had to work 12-14 hour days unpacking and finding homes for everything. There were, you'll remember, TONS of books, that Dad and I assembled shelves for, and Mom sorted and shelved. I can easily believe there was another thousand pounds of games and toys to find shelves for and put away in the basement playroom. Then there was the food storage, and suitcases, boxes and bins of baby clothes, Christmas decorations, and various gifts and such to build shelves for and arrange in the storage room, and then there was all the fabric and American Girl stuff that went into the fabric room, not to mention the clothes, beds, dressers, and dishes that had to find homes in other parts of the house.

By the time Saturday the 22nd rolled around, we had made incredible progress, but when Mom announced the size of the party we were having, we realized that we had a lot of work left to do. There were boxes that still needed to be emptied, more boxes to break down and dispose of (thank you Craigslist and Freecycle), and even more boxes to hide in the fabric room, storage room, and office (which were designated as official uncompleted projects). Then we had to decorate by finding, and then arranging art and other knickknacks. Then, of course, there was the cleaning and vacuuming (moving in is VERY messy work), and the cooking of enough food to feed 26 people. We got the place looking presentable, and had a lovely evening with the family. All the kids were thrilled with the big playroom, and aside from a few arguments over what constitutes a turn on the rope swing (your feet can touch the floor three times, unless the other person isn't watching, and then you take as many swings as you can manage, but if you walk away for any purpose other than getting a running start, then you forfeit the rest of you turn, etc) and a frantic few minutes when they thought there was only one foam sword in the house (little did those children know who they were dealing with), they mostly got along.

After the party, there was several hours' worth of cleanup, and then even more unpacking to do the next week. Daddy also spent a lot of time fixing all those little things that have to be done when moving into a home. For instance, he changed six light fixtures for me, and took apart my toilet so that I could give it a really good cleaning in places where the sun doesn't figuratively shine. Mom did a lot of cleaning in her bathroom as well, and painted some of the places in most dire need of it (including my kitchenette downstairs).

Well, it's after 11:00, and I have to go to sleep, so I'll leave more for another day. I know that you want photos, and a full tour of the house, and an update on how Elizabeth is progressing (two words: leaps and bounds!), and how we like the ward and the neighborhood etc, but there simply isn't room in one post. So because I'm lazy and tired, I'll just give you the one shot that Peter took with his iPhone and sent out to the family lists already.

Monday, July 27, 2009

The Day Before Moving by Tom Atkins

The Day Before Moving

One by one the boxes fill,
books, lamps, pictures,
the arcana of your every day life

carefully put away, packed
with care, packed and marked,
then piled one on the other

in a great mass of cardboard
in the room you used to call the library.

Each day less and less
of a lifetime of accumulation
is still accessible, and yet

you miss far less of it than you imagined.
You are comfortable with a few pans,
a few books, your desk

and your thoughts,
thoughts not of leaving this place
you have lived all your life,

but rather, of where you go,
for your past is always with you,

a warm blanket of memories,
of people you love and who love you
beyond distance, beyond time,

never really left behind.
But what lies ahead! Adventure,
a new place to live,

not just a house, but a heart
whose nooks and crannies await
exploration of the tenderest love.
--Tom Atkins

This picture is of the play structure in the basement living room of the house we'll be moving into next week.
Here's an email I sent out to various people today.:
OK, we have more details about moving in August. For anyone who hasn't heard, we (Karen, Peter and Elizabeth Ahlstrom) will be moving in with my parents (Randy and Rebecca Stay) and my Grandpa (Roland Holt) in a house they're buying in Salem, UT. We'll be able to move in (I think) starting August 7th.

My parents are shipping their containers from Ohio to Salem, UT and they will arrive probably on the 10th of August. There's a LOT of stuff coming, and we'll need help unloading. If anyone is available to help at any time of day or night between the 10th and 15th (or help arranging and unpacking boxes later) in Salem, we'd love to see you.

We need to move several carloads of stuff (and a few larger items that'll need a pickup truck) from our apartment in Provo down to Salem sometime before the 21st, and clean the Provo apartment to check out.

On the 15th, we'll have a moving truck at my Grandpa Roly's house in West Jordan at about 8:30 am and will be filling it until about noon with stuff that Peter and I have stored there for the last few months, and stuff my Grandpa wants to bring down to Salem. That afternoon, we'll be unloading that truck in Salem -- we have to return the truck that night, so we'll need help to get it finished in time. If you can help in either location that day, we'd really appreciate it.

If you can provide babysitting or on site entertainment for my daughter Elizabeth (18 months old) and/or other helpers' children, either on the 15th or for a couple of hours on any of the other days we'll be working, that would allow me to work and direct where my things ought to go without worying about safety for little ones.

If you can help any of these days for any amount of time, please either email or call me so that I can get a count.

Thanks SOOOOOO much!

-Karen Ahlstrom
and Peter, Elizabeth Randy, Becky, and Roland too!

It's been kind of crazy the last few months trying to figure out what the living situation is going to be when we have to leave our apartment in August. When we rented this place in April, we were pretty sure we'd be moving into Grandpa Roly's basement when he returned home after resolving all the details of nursing home bills and such in Ohio. That would give my cousins (who are currently living at Grandpa's house) time to find somewhere new, and give Grandpa time to make sure he really wanted to have us living with him, and give Dad time to finish the basement so it's more than bare concrete with insulation falling from the ceiling.

Then Daddy found a house online and it looked like we'd all be moving to a ginormous duplex style home up on the hill in North Provo. Then he realized that there might be foundation issues that could cause the house to fall down the mountain, so he went looking for other houses. After rejecting an old 1800's chateau and an unfinshed cookie cutter house out in Saratoga Springs, he settled on the Salem house. So after saying they'd move west eventually for 20 years or so, they finally are!

So that meant that we would only be living at Grandpa's house with him until he deciided to sell it (perhaps in the spring). And if we're not going to be living there long, we might just finish one or two rooms instead of the whole basement. And then, maybe we don't have to finish the basement at all -- for a couple of months we could all live upstairs. And finally, let's let the cousins stay at Grandpa's house, and we'll all move in together in Salem!

I'll admit, it's a little scary how fast everything has moved, but I'm glad to know what the plan is for now at least. I've also been frustrated hearing about all the packing and sorting they're doing in Ohio (and how much work there is left to do), while I'm twiddling my thumbs out here trying to fill my days by going to DI and garage sales to find stuff to repair and/or sell on ebay so that I can keep buying more junk. Ah well, there'll be plenty for me to sort and help with next week. If you want to come help too, give me a call!

Monday, July 13, 2009

My Shadow by Robert Louis Stevenson

My Shadow

I have a little shadow that goes in and out with me,
And what can be the use of him is more than I can see.
He is very, very like me from the heels up to the head;
And I see him jump before me, when I jump into my bed.

The funniest thing about him is the way he likes to grow--
Not at all like proper children, which is always very slow;
For he sometimes shoots up taller like an india-rubber ball,
And he sometimes goes so little that there's none of him at all.

He hasn't got a notion of how children ought to play,
And can only make a fool of me in every sort of way.
He stays so close behind me, he's a coward you can see;
I'd think shame to stick to nursie as that shadow sticks to me!

One morning, very early, before the sun was up,
I rose and found the shining dew on every buttercup;
But my lazy little shadow, like an arrant sleepy-head,
Had stayed at home behind me and was fast asleep in bed.
--Robert Louis Stevenson

I didn't have much success finding a ball poem in the amount of time Elizabeth was willing to let me look, so I went to my backup list, and found this poem that at least mentions balls.

Since I have a wide computer screen, I've been showing Elizabeth Youtube videos on one half to keep her happy while I check email on the other half. I have several playlists full of old Sesame Street clips, and songs from Disney movies, but what she's especially fascinated by are random videos of Doggies, Kitties and Balls. Dogs and cats are pretty safe to search for on youtube, but balls are more problematic, if you catch my drift.

Thinking about a solution made me remember that my old computer had AfterDark installed, so I hooked it up on the spare desk, and turned on the Marbles! module where marbles drop from the sky and bounce off pegs before settling. When I showed Elizabeth, this was her reaction:

While I'm on the subject, here are a few other fun videos of Elizabeth's ball obsession.

Roll the Ball:

Elizabeth's first strike:

Elizabeth and I played a fun game where she'd roll balls from my knee to my toes where they'd ski jump. In this video, she only does it once before deciding she'd rather kick her legs like the kids doing karate on Sesame Street

Later that day, we found that the chair made an even better ski jump for the balls than my legs do.

So if you'd like to support her addiction, send me links to your favorite youtube videos of Balls, Kitties, Dogs, Nursery rhymes, Finger plays, Vintage Children's Television, and whatever else you think Elizabeth would like to see. Also, if you know of any baby appropriate games (see has some examples of what I'm talking about here) that can be played offline, you can send me those links too!

Friday, June 19, 2009

Handprints by T. Lambert, Jr.


Sometimes you get discouraged
Because I am so small
And always leave my handprint
On furniture and wall

But everyday I'm growing
(I'll be all grown someday)
And all those tiny hand prints
Will surely fade away.

So here's a final handprint
Just so you can recall
Exactly how my fingers looked
When they were very small.
--T. Lambert, Jr.

I remember the first time I heard this poem. My brother David (or maybe it was Steve) made a little handprint art in nursery school to give to Mom for Mother's Day. I thought it was really cute then, and I still like it a lot. I intend to do something like that with each of my kids.

Elizabeth has been making such great strides with talking lately, I thought I'd do one more "First Words" list before there are too many for me to remember. I did another one back in March as an email to my sister-in-law Marcelle, and I was surprised today to find out that I hadn't posted it to my blog. When typing it up, I've put the actual word first, and then if necessary, I've included her pronunciation of it. Finally, I give a short explanation of how the word is used. Since I didn't put her pronunciations is a consistent place, I've bolded the word as she says it the first time it appears in the entry.

When writing out the baby talk, I ran into some typographical issues. How, for instance, should I represent the way she says the word dog? She pretty much leaves off the g sound at the end, so "dog" sounds more like "do'" (though with the correct short o sound from "dog" rather than the oo/u sound in "do"). I decided to put in apostrophes for missing letters so that you can tell that I'm not just writing a shorter word that already exists with a different pronunciation.

With animals, sometimes she knows the name of the animal, and sometimes the sound it makes. She uses either one interchangeably at this point to label what she sees.

Toys and other nouns
  • Ball - "BaaAAllll" (at least three syllables). She LOVES balls right now, and so whenever she sees anything even vaguely round (logos on TV, pictures in books, blueberries, peas, some beads, etc), she says this word. When we went bowling in Ohio, she said it about every three seconds the whole time we were there. She also uses it generically for anything that catches her interest.
  • Balloon - "B'loon" Elizabeth often asks for balloons when we're at the grocery or dollar stores that sell them. She also likes to look for the red balloon in the Goodnight Moon book.
  • Bath - "Baaaa'" This generally means that she wants to take a bath, though last week, she said it while looking longingly at the spot where the wading pool had been in the front yard at Grandma Kathey's house.
  • Bead - This refers to the large scale beads for stringing, smaller ones on bead maze toys, and tiny ones on necklaces.
  • Beep beep - I put this one in toys because she says it with her toy car (When you push the horn, it has a human voice saying "beep beep" rather than just a beeping noise.)
  • Book - "Boo'" Again, she leaves off the last sound, but gets the vowel right. She never did quite figure out how to do the sign for book without my hands pushing hers together, so it didn't surprise me when she learned the word instead.
  • Bubbles - "Buh Buh" This word is used to refer to pictures of bubbles in bathtubs in books. She'll sometimes say it if I blow bubbles for her when she's in the tub, but never when she's outside. More often, she just makes a blowing noise to indicate that she wants me to blow some more.
  • Car - "Caaaarrr" She likes going for a ride in the car, and if I suggest it, she'll go wait impatiently by the door until I get my shoes and bag ready. She also has a Fisher Price ride-on car that talks and sings to her, and several car/bus shaped toys.
  • Cart - "Car'" I can only tell the difference between this and "car" by context. This word generally refers to shopping carts that she wants to ride in, including the one that lives at our apartment complex. It can also refer to laundry carts, and her little toy shopping cart (which she has found is just the right size for giving her little people toys a ride in).
  • Shoes - "Sshhooz" Like the "ch" sound in "Cheese", the "sh" sound in "Shoes" gets said very carefully.
  • Slide - "Sliii'" She generally just says "wheee", but lately, the actual word "slide" has been creeping in to her vocabulary.
  • Train - "Too too" is her version of Choo-choo. She uses it to talk about her Thomas the Tank Engine books, which she loves, and insists on reading even though I think they're boring or dumb. Peter thinks it's Thomas's round face that interests her.
  • Vroom - Grandpa Randy taught her the word Vroom when giving her rides on Great Grandpa Jesse's red walker/seat. Now, it refers to anything with wheels that goes including: bikes, motorcycles, scooters, cars, ride-on toys, tricycles, etc.
  • Wheee - This could be the noise you make as you go on a swing or slide, or it could mean, "I see a swing or slide and I want to go play on it."

  • ABC's - "bee dee tee bee" She can't really say her ABC's, but she does recognize the song when her car sings it, and she'll sing along with syllables ending in the long ee sound
  • Baby - "Bay-bee" or "Bee-bee" This can refer to her dolls, a real baby (like her cousins Andy and Hazel last week), pictures of babies in books or on packaging (like cereal or diaper boxes), or to herself when she's feeling like she needs extra loving attention.
  • Bye - Repeats it when somebody says bye bye. Also when Daddy leaves for work, whether he actually says bye or not.
  • Daddy - "Da-da" is Peter.
  • Fix it - She doesn't say anything like these words, but she has a very distinctive squeal that means, "I'm very distresses or frustrated with this thing, come fix it for me!" She will stop squealing when I offer to fix it, and will often even bring whatever it is over to me. Common things that need to be fixed are her toy stroller, which collapses far too easily; her stool, which is too top heavy for her to right it after she pushes it over (it doesn't fall when she's standing on it, only when she deliberately tips it while standing on the floor); and when things are stuck going into or out of other things (one of her favorite games at the moment is putting-things-into-other-things)
  • Hi - generally used when pretending to talk on a cell phone (or anything vaguely cellphone shaped).
  • I Love You - "Ayeee la" After we say family prayers, Peter says, "Give Daddy hugs!" and holds his arms out wide. Elizabeth approaches warily, and is enveloped in a big bear hug, while Peter says, "Oh! I love you! I love you! I love you!" Once she's released, Elizabeth tries to say "I love you!" back, but she's only got the first part down so far.
  • It's a - "'tsa" this syllable often precedes her labeling of something else--especially when I ask, "What is it?" or "What do you see?" for example: "'tsa Baaaalllll"
  • La la la - Sometimes when we're singing to her, or a group of people is singing in church, she'll join in with "la la la." (She also likes to wave her arm like the music director)
  • Mama - That's me.
  • Round and Round - "Roun' roun'" Elizabeth uses this phrase when her car sings its "wheels on the bus" song, and also when doing the "round and round the garden" finger play. She also likes me to say it when talking about her dizzy dance, and what fans do.
  • No - "Noonoononono" The first couple of sounds in this word are more like "new" than "no." I almost hesitate to put this word on the list since she uses it so infrequently. I try very hard not to forbid things unless they're dangerous, and even then, I say things like, "Not right now" or "That's not for you" or "That's not a good game" or "That will hurt you" rather than simply "No." I don't want that to be one of the most important words in her life. I also try to notice what she's doing, and frequently say, "Oh! That's a good game!" or "That looks like fun" or "What a good job you did stacking those up" so that she hears at least as many positives as negatives.
  • Tickle - "Deedle deedle". almost any word with "le" at the end becomes a variation of deedle or doodle. See also: turtle, noodle, and cock-a-doodle-doo.
  • Uh-oh - This is what we say when something falls on the floor - generally at mealtimes or when she's throwing things from the shopping cart or stroller.
  • Yes - She doesn't really say "yes" but when we're trying to figure out what she wants and we list several things, she has a particular nervous/relieved laugh that says, "Heh heh heh you guessed it! That's right! Now give it to me quick!"

  • Aaaah - As in, "Say Aaaah!" to get her to open her mouth to put food in. She often will say it to me to indicate that I should open my mouth and let her put food in (which I may or may not consent to do depending on how gross the bit of food or her fingers have gotten in the course of the meal).
  • Bean - An early favorite food and easy word to say.
  • Beef - When I prompt her with a list of options, she'll repeat this word to tell us what she's wanting at dinner.
  • Bottle - "Baa'll" (often hard to differentiate from Ball, we get this one mostly by context, and the fact that it's generally shorter in duration with a bit of a glottal stop)
  • Cheese - "Cchheeez" It takes a lot of effort for her to say the "Ch" sound, so she puts a lot of emphasis on that part of the word. This generally refers to string cheese, which is one of the things she looks for when I open the fridge, but can also refer to her other favorites: cheddar, American, or parmesan.
  • Cup - "Cu'" This can refer to her sippy cup at the table, but she uses her sign for drink more often. She uses "cup" to refer to stacking cups, and the cups she sees in the bathroom for storing toothbrushes, pouring water in the bath, and the paper ones I use to get water to help me swallow my pills.
  • Orange - "Rrrrr" It doesn't sound much like "orange" to me either, but it's the sound she makes while pointing impatiently at oranges, either fresh or mandarin in a can.
  • Pea - "Peez" Because they're shaped like little balls, frozen peas are the perfect snack for Elizabeth.
  • Noodle - "Noodle doodle" this is for any kind of pasta, which she really enjoys eating (especially rotini, spaghetti, and ramen).

  • Baa - This is what sheep say. She also uses this word when she puts on her lamb-ears headband.
  • Bee - she started noticing these in several of her books about other animals. She likes to play a game where she points to one of the bees on the page, then I go "Bzzzzz" and poke/tickle her with one finger.
  • Dog - "Do'" She still uses signs a lot for this one, but the word is starting to creep into her spoken vocabulary. Of course, she's also just as likely to make an excited kind of yelping sound, which may be her attempt at a bark, or may just mean, "Look Mama! I see a real live dog (or cat)! Isn't that exciting?! I wanna touch it!"
  • Cock-a-doodle-doo - "Doodle Doo" is what roosters say.
  • Duck - She sees lots of ducks: at the pond, in her books, and especially in the bath. She generally says the word in groups of three "Duk duk duk"
  • Kitty - This was one of her earliest words. It's generally said with a VERY high pitch, and more of a glottal stop than actual "tt" sounds. She's pretty excited, so it's about all she can do to squeak out "Key!" She also uses the excited yelp from "dog" to tell me about kitties.
  • Ook ook - "Oo oo ee ee" is what monkeys say
  • Moo - This is what cows say.
  • Roar - "Raar" is what lions say.
  • Turtle - "Deedle" See the explanation on tickle.

Elizabeth still uses a lot of signs as well.

  • Ball (make hand into ball shape and twist back and forth) - This is only used for emphasis these days since she can say the actual word now.
  • Fan or pinwheel (fwoosh noise like blowing on something) - She also sometimes traces a circle in the air with her finger to be sure we understand.
  • Flower (breathe heavily or sniff) - it's supposed to be sniffing, but she was chronically congested for a while, and is only now trying to say flower with her nose. She notices these when we're out for walks, and often when they're in the background of pictures in books.
  • Hat (pat head) - Elizabeth has a box of hats and a mirror in her room. She likes to put them on and look at herself in the mirror.
  • Light (Flick fingers like popcorn song) - This used to be one of her favorite words, but she hardly ever says it anymore.
  • Rain (hands downward like rain falling) - I've been impressed at how well she has transferred this from the Itsy Bitsy Spider song to real life rain, especially since we had so little of it in California.
  • Toothbrush (finger across teeth) - Elizabeth loves brushing her teeth, and often when I'm having trouble getting her to stop playing and get ready for bed, I'll suggest brushing her teeth, and she'll drop whatever she's doing for this special treat. She likes to run the toothbrush under the water to rinse it, then tap tap tap it on the sink before putting it away in the cup. She hasn't quite figured out how to spit, but she's trying.

  • Amen (two hands together like praying, then move them up and down) - She has also learned how to fold her hands at the beginning of a prayer. Sometimes she even interlocks her fingers. She doesn't always keep them folded through the whole prayer, but we're making progress.
  • Bounce with me (bounces body) - We were at Young's Jersey Dairy, and they had a moon bounce set up. Elizabeth saw it, and told me quite excitedly several times that she thought that bouncing in it would be fun. I didn't let her go in because I couldn't go in with her to pick her up when she fell over which I'm certain would happen every time somebody else jumped (which is what happens on a trampoline).
  • Bye Bye (wave) - She waves when prompted, but usually says the word "Bye." It takes her a while though, and the person is often already gone before she gets it out.
  • Clap your hands (Clap very carefully) - She took a long time to learn how to clap, and I think that she thinks it mostly means "Happy" since we finally got her to do it by singing the "Happy and You Know It" song. She can also stomp her feet and shout hooray.
  • Dance (turn around in a circle) - I'm not sure why she started dancing this way, but she does it often, and likes to move to music.
  • Hooray or Reaching high (two arms up high) - This action came from the "All About Me" book from Heather, and got transferred to the "Happy and You Know It" song. Elizabeth does indeed do this spontaneously when she's happy, and when I understand what she's saying, she claps her hands.
  • Peekaboo (hide behind hat or blanket and then peek out) - There's not much cuter than a game of peekaboo initiated by your toddler.
  • Please (rub chest) - She mostly says this only when prompted. Last week, her four year old cousin Kate kept asking her to do things and saying "please please please!" to convince her. Elizabeth usually didn't understand the requests, but obligingly said "Please" whenever Kate asked.
  • Thank You (Hand to mouth, then down) - This is another one the often takes prompting, but sometimes she'll surprise me by doing it spontaneously. Her version looks more like a salute since she often misses her mouth, and just moves her hand away from whatever part of her face it happened to hit.
  • Sleepy (Rub eyes) - This isn't something she chooses to say specifically, but I treat it like a sign in my interaction with her so that she might start using it as a sign, and so she'll associate that feeling with wanting to go to bed.

  • All done (Wave hand from elbow in a dismissive gesture) - This was meant to have two hands, almost like an umpire saying "safe!" but Elizabeth chooses to use just one.
  • Applesauce (twist knuckle on cheek) - She just started using this one in the last week or two, though I've been signing it to her for months now. She also surprised me by using it to label the Apple inside on of her Fisher Price blocks.
  • Drink (finger in mouth with hand upside down like it's lifting a cup or bottle) -I use my thumb at my lips with a fist, but Elizabeth uses her pointer finger, and turns her whole hand upside down so we don't get confused and think she means "eat" She asks for drinks throughout the day as well as at meals, so I got her a water bottle that she can drink from whenever she's thirsty.
  • Eat (fingers to mouth) - When she starts eating dirt or books or toys, I know she's probably hungry as well. She doesn't often ask for food unless she sees something specific that she wants. Trying to climb into her high chair is another good sign that it's mealtime.
  • Goldfish (Make fish lips with a bit of a "pop pop" sound) - This is the same as the sign for fish in an aquarium or a tilapia fillet.
  • More (pointing to open palm) - I've finally got her using this one. At most meals, when she starts getting antsy, spitting out food, or throwing it on the floor, I ask, "Are you all done? or do you want more?" I used to have to assume the second, if she didn't sign "all done," but now I'm more confident that I'm giving her what she wants.
  • My cup or bottle is empty (Shake offending cup or bottle so that Mama can see that there's nothing left) - This one implies that she also wants a refill.
  • No, I don't want to eat that (shake head like no while avoiding the spoon) - This is where she says "No" most often. Since I generally keep giving her food until she makes it clear that she's done, this is an important thing to be able to indicate.

  • Bear (scratch chest) - We've been working on this one for a while, and she'll do it if I ask her, but she's not really interested in the bears in her animal books.
  • Bird (two fingers open and close like bird beak) - She doesn't do this one often anymore.
  • Bunny (make hand bounce up and down) - it's supposed to have two fingers up as ears like little bunny foo-foo. She has lots of stuffed bunnies, and makes them jump up and down too.
  • Doggie (pat leg, or anything else handy while panting) - This one looks like it won't last much longer because she's starting to say the actual word.
  • Fish (smack lips together like fish kisses) - This works for fish in an aquarium at the doctor's office, goldfish crackers, and also tuna or tilapia at dinner.
  • Frog (stick out tongue) - This is one of my favorites.
  • Giraffe (Trace your finger down your neck) - I've been signing this one to her for a while, but it wasn't until she got a Fisher Price Roll Arounds ball with a giraffe inside that she started using it herself.
  • Horse (bounce body like Mama is bouncing you on her knee) - This one isn't very frequent. It's another one where she thinks that I have to be involved.
  • Pig (push up on nose to make a piggy snout) - she aims for her nose with an index finger, but usually hits her mouth or cheek.
  • Spider (grab finger of one hand with other hand and twist like itsy bitsy spider) - I'm not sure she actually knows quite what a spider is other than the thing in the song.

Other communicative gestures
  • Get up! (yank on various body parts impatiently until Mama gets out of bed or off the couch) - This one generally happens on days when I haven't gotten much sleep the night before.
  • I want that (point with a whine or grunt)
  • I want to climb up (lifts foot) - Often onto chairs or beds
  • I want to nurse (Yank on Mama's shirt) - I deliberately misunderstood this when I was trying to wean her, and we sort of accidentally developed a game where she puts balls or other toys down my shirt and gets excited when they reappear at the bottom.
  • I want to sit in your lap and be cuddled (insinuate self into lap, often walking backwards) - This one is something she often does when she's uncomfortable, so it might also mean I need you to change my diaper.
  • Keep me safe/I'm scared (Cling to/hide behind Mama's leg) - She's pretty adventurous in general, but for a while she was afraid of the vacuum cleaner, and lately she's been frightened of strange men.
  • Pick me up (arms up or out with a whine or grunt)
  • Put some of that on my hand (Hold out hand expectantly with palm flat) - She usually says this when she sees the bottle of foaming soap in the bathtub or the spray on sunscreen. Sometimes she asks to wash and/or dry her hands when she sees me doing it.
  • Put this on (put piece of clothing near the appropriate body part) - especially shoes, hair clippies and hats.
  • Take this off (yank on clothing and whine) - I've been trying to introduce a new larger set of pajamas, but there's something about the feet that she doesn't like, and every time I put them on, she asks me to take them back off.
  • Take me there (point while being held)

Body Parts - Elizabeth can point to the following body parts on herself, someone else, a doll or a picture when asked. She doesn't have very good proprioception (knowing where a body part is when she can't see it) so she often misses when trying to point to things on her own face.
  • Head
  • Eyes
  • Nose
  • Mouth
  • Ears
  • Cheeks
  • Belly Button
  • Arms
  • Hands
  • Fingers
  • Legs
  • Feet
  • Toes

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Round and Round the Garden by Unknown Author

Round and Round the Garden

Round and round the garden goes the teddy bear (trace a circle on baby's palm with your pointer finger)
One step two steps (walk your fingers up baby's arm)
Tickly under there (tickle baby under chin)

(use same actions on other hand for verse two)

Round and round the garden goes the little mouse
One step two steps
In his little house.

I found this little rhyme in a book of finger plays that I often read to Elizabeth. There are several minor variations out there, and you can find some good videos of it on youtube if you've never seen it done (Actually, as I was preparing this post, I found some great resources for finger plays and other interactive youtube videos that will be fun to do when Elizabeth decides she wants some computer time)

Anyway, we had Elizabeth's cousin Hazel visiting with us today since Barb had a conference at BYU, and needed a babysitter. At one point this afternoon, I did some fingerplays to entertain Hazel, and Elizabeth decided she wanted to join in. At bedtime tonight, she finished nursing before she fell asleep, so I thought I'd give her a little extra loving attention because she was so generous in sharing her Mama and her toys with Hazel today.

Using gestures, she asked me to spread out her Blue Blanket to cover her legs, then she pulled it up so her toes peeked out. I interpreted this as a request for "This Little Piggy," which we did on each foot. Then we did "Itsy Bitsy Spider" and one or two others that we'd also done this afternoon with Hazel. The last one I did was "Round and Round the Garden."

Elizabeth was in her sleepy, snuggly ticklish mood, so she enjoyed it a lot. Then she reached out and grabbed my arm, turned my hand over and started drawing a circle in my palm. She even said "Roun' roun'" which is what she says when her car sings "The wheels on the car go round and round." She was so sweet and cute as she did it! I said the rhyme for her, and showed her how to walk her fingers up my arm, but she didn't need any coaching to do the tickly bits under my chin. She did the whole thing several times, grinning and giggling. It was about the sweetest thing I've seen in my life.

We've been saying family prayers before bedtime. Elizabeth has learned how to fold her hands at the start (though they seldom stay folded for the whole prayer), and sign "amen" at the end. After prayers, we give hugs and kisses all around and say "I love you! I love you! I love you!" Elizabeth has begun to say "Ayeeeee" during hugs, which I think is the start of her own "I love you!"

It's so fun to get a peek into her mind. I taught her "If You're Happy and you Know It" a few weeks ago, and she will now clap her hands, stomp her feet, and shout hooray when I sing. Her face surely shows that she's happy when she does it too. What I really love though is that lately, at unexpected times, she'll put her hands up in the air and make her hooray noise. When I ask if she's happy, she'll grin and very carefully clap her hands.

What more can a mom ask for than a little girl who wants to play fun games, show me the same affection I show her, and spontaneously tell me how happy she is?

Friday, May 15, 2009

A Narrow Fellow in the Grass by Emily Dickenson

A Narrow Fellow in the Grass

A narrow fellow in the grass
Occasionally rides;
You may have met him,—did you not?
His notice sudden is.

The grass divides as with a comb,
A spotted shaft is seen;
And then it closes at your feet
And opens further on.

He likes a boggy acre,
A floor too cool for corn.
Yet when a child, and barefoot,
I more than once, at morn,

Have passed, I thought, a whip-lash
Unbraiding in the sun,—
When, stooping to secure it,
It wrinkled, and was gone.

Several of nature’s people
I know, and they know me;
I feel for them a transport
Of cordiality;

But never met this fellow,
Attended or alone,
Without a tighter breathing,
And zero at the bone.
--Emily Dickenson

I think this was the first Emily Dickenson poem I ever read. I'm posting it today because I feel like I've been spending a lot more time in nature since we moved. I've been working on the landscaping at our new apartment, which needs serious help (though I'm told that they only recently cut down all the giant thorn bushes that were infesting the property, and haven't put anything new in). I've pretty much convinced my landlord to give me a budget for plants and gardening supplies, and he says that now that I've pulled all the rocks out of the dirt they dug up to fix the water main, he can probably get sod in during the next week or two. I haven't seen any snakes, but I have seen a bunch of centipedes, earthworms (which I now realize were missing in California), potato bugs, ants, robins, and quail in our yard.

I finally got a new computer yesterday. My last one was from 2002, and even with upgraded RAM, it simply couldn't keep up with the demands of the Internet and updated software. I've barely been able to check my email for the last couple of months. Our new apartment (along with the rest of Provo) has amazingly fast Internet service (it's a public utility here), so I was able to upload a whole bunch of videos that I've been waiting to share. I'll space them out in this blog post which will catch up on the last 6 months of very erratic posting and general life craziness. Hopefully, I can get back into a regular schedule of posting now that I have a computer worth using.

Let's see, the last time I posted something that wasn't a eulogy for a grandmother, or an email that I dropped into my blog for posterity, was before Christmas. We had a good Christmas, with plenty of presents for everybody.

Elizabeth was not interested in unwrapping packages, but she did enjoy the gifts them selves. She got a bunch of Fisher Price Little People and a sweater set that matches her baby doll's, but her very favorite things were the Busy Bug (a pull toy snail with a drum full of sorting shapes as his shell, and orange drumstick antennas) and her Christmas Orange:

I had never given her oranges before, but she so obviously loved it, that I've given her a lot more since, and they've become her favorite food.

In January, we went to Utah for Grandma Helen's funeral. The defining part of that trip was the enormous blizzard that blew in that weekend. We will miss Grandma Helen, though it was time for her to go home.

After the funeral, Mom and Dad came out to California to do their share of cleaning and emptying Grandma's house. That was a fun job, from an organizational perspective, but also very sad because we had to say goodbye to the house and Huntington Beach as well. I don't know if we'll ever go back there -- though I hope we will. Here's a video of Elizabeth enjoying the wonderful sand they have there on Huntington Beach. She really enjoyed knocking down sand castles, and interacting with the wildlife (sea gulls mostly, but also a hermit crab that Daddy caught).

While my parents were at our house, we celebrated Elizabeth's birthday, and she learned how to blow out candles (though we didn't get that part on video).

Happy Birthday Elizabeth! One whole year! It's pretty amazing to think about. I love you lots, and you're such a good clever little girl, you're a joy to be around :)

I had been looking forward to a couple weeks with my parents at the end of their trip west, but because Grandma died before they came, the whole trip got turned backwards and they only had a few days with me before they had to drive off to Mike's house to watch the boys, then visit David and his family.

While they were gone, I tried to stay cheerful by meeting my friends at the park each week. They were a HUGE support to me, and I hope I was to them as well. I will certainly miss Lisa, Susanna, Jen, Julie, Rachel, Christy, Lynne, and all their kids. Elizabeth will miss playing with them too. In this video, she and her friend Ari are having a yelling contest, and enjoying themselves thoroughly.

In this one, she's having a great time on the slide.

I think this is a good spot to put in the partial blog post that I began writing in February, but never finished.
Well, you can guess from my lack of posts that I've had a terrible month.

The last time I posted was around Christmas. I've been in therapy since the economic and family crisis craziness started last June, but even that wasn't enough to keep my spirits up under six months of constant stress and uncertainty. Seeing myself get more and more depressed and anxious, my doctors and I decided it was time to go back on medication. We picked a drug I haven't been on before because it's supposedly the best for breastfeeding. One real problem with it though is that not only does it take several weeks to kick in, but you actually feel worse before you feel better. It's one of the ones that increases suicides in some patients, and I got the full brunt of it. I had no energy, I felt like crying all the time, and some days it was impossible to make myself do even the simplest of tasks. I felt like I was swimming through molasses -- it was so frustrating!

One of the worst parts was that I knew there was no rational reason to be upset most of the time. I honestly couldn't trust, or often even interpret, what I was feeling or why...

...So yeah, I was feeling pretty lousy, and I was very sad that Mom and Dad left so soon. When I get depressed, I stop wanting to eat. I did make myself eat three meals a day, but with breastfeeding Elizabeth, I still wasn't getting enough calories in, and I began to lose a LOT of weight. Then, when my body's defenses were down, I caught some kind of viral tonsilitis, and couldn't swallow even if I wanted to. There's nothing they can do to treat the virus, so I just had to suffer for a week and a half, and boy did I suffer! I was really sure that without some kind of help, I was literally going to die.

With all my complaining, Mom and Dad drove back down the coast from Oregon, and nursed me back to health. Then, a week or two later, I flew out to Ohio for a three week visit. The stated purpose of the visit was to come up with a long term plan for deciding on and cooking meals, and to gain 15 pounds. Mom did her best to stuff me, but I only put on a couple of pounds while I was there. We did get a card file system worked out for choosing dinners, so that part of the trip was a success.

Elizabeth had a hard time learning to sleep in a new place, but when she was awake, she had no shortage of people to dote on her. Grandpa Randy was especially fun. Here, he's pushing her around on a tricycle (her feet can't reach the pedals), which he was willing to do over and over and over again.

It was bitterly cold and/or raining outside for a lot of our trip, so Daddy made a swing for her by tying a laundry basket to a rope hung from the balcony above. I love the noises Grandpa Roly made as he pushed her. She doesn't always look like she's really enjoying the swing, but she certainly objected when we'd try to take her out!

Heather was also feeling the need for some family support, and since I made her cancel her trip to my house that month (I didn't want her or Anna to catch the horrible virus I had), she decided to visit Mom's house while we were there instead. This video shows what the interaction between the two little ones was like most of the time they were together (except, interestingly enough, in the bathtub). Anna has a toy. Elizabeth takes it. Somebody gives Anna another toy before she gets upset. Elizabeth drops the toy she just stole, and takes the new toy. This sort of juggling could go on for 20 minutes at times.

Mom made the dresses, and knitted the sweaters (and even made a matching dress for 'Lizbeth's doll), and we just happened to be at her house together when they were just the right size for the girls. Mom had gotten out the bassinet for Steve and Rachel's baby shower, and we found that when just one of the girls was in it, they both felt a lot more secure.

Elizabeth decided that she liked climbing into things and sitting in confined spaces because it defined her territory, and Anna couldn't get there. Here's one of her favorite places to sit:

That trip was really good for me, and a momentous three weeks for Elizabeth. Soon after her birthday, she figured out how to go from taking a couple of large shaky steps before falling down, to taking several small steps in a row. Pretty soon she could really walk. When we arrived in Ohio, she was still a baby, but while we were there, I watched her turn into a toddler before my eyes. She could suddenly do so many more things, and even her posture changed when her main form of locomotion changed from crawling to walking.

Also on that trip, she got sick with an ear infection that took several courses of antibiotics to clear up. About that time, she also began throwing up on a regular basis, and did it for about five or six weeks. There was at least one night in Ohio that I spent sitting up in bed, holding her so she could sleep upright. I was very happy when dawn came and Daddy offered to do his patented soft talk and bounce walk around the house. He was able to get her to sleep, but he couldn't lay her down either.

One other major reason for the visit to Ohio was to see Grandma Fawnie. She had deteriorated a lot since I saw her in September, and each trip to the nursing home got harder than the last because her condition was frightening to the little girls. I knew, when I left, that I was saying goodbye to her forever, and the day after I got home, she died. I did manage to post a eulogy for her that week, so I'll leave it at that.

Of course, that meant we had to unpack from one trip, and pack and leave on another within less than a week. Elizabeth wasn't recovered from her ear infection yet, and this second trip was quite hard on her. The antibiotics she was taking gave her a horrible yeast infection that was red and sore all the time, and sometimes got so bad it was bleeding. She had to adjust to yet another place to sleep, in a house overcrowded with family, kids, and repressed emotions.

Here's a video of a quiet time we spent one night reading one of her favorite books before giving it to her cousin Anna to enjoy:

It was fun to have the whole family (minus Steve) together, but it was also a very rough time for everybody emotionally. We spent a lot of time remembering Grandma, but I don't think that anybody had the energy to really grieve for her while we were there. There were simply too many things that had to be done, too many schedules that had to be accomodated, just plain too many people for the house, and too many expectations that had to be met to stop and really feel any of it. I know it was especially hard on Mom, who had to organize and coordinate everything.

Back to the fun bits, here are Elizabeth and Jonas jumping on the trampoline at Uncle Steve's house after the funeral.

It was really good for Elizabeth to be in the house with Jonas, because he's big enough that he doesn't have to let her steal his toys. It took just one day to convince him to come tell an adult instead of pushing her down when she took something, but we all spent a lot of time trying to teach little ones to share the toy tools that Ryan's boys had left in the house.

Speaking of Jonas, he was a fun kid to be around because though he's old enough to talk, he still has his pronouns mixed up (a totally normal stage of language development). He thinks that "You" means "Jonas" since that's what people say to him, and "I" means "Other Person" because that's what other people say about themselves. It was a little hard to figure out what he was saying, until I realized that if you imagine he's prompting you with what he wants you to say, then it all makes sense. Nearly every time he'd see me, he'd say, "Hi Jonas!" and I'd reply, "Hi Jonas!" Then he'd say, "I have a flower in my hair!" and I'd reply, "I do, I have a flower in my hair!" and then I'd turn around and show him. There were also variations like, "Where's my flower?" until I realized that he wanted me to wear it all the time since to him, it was my defining feature.

Peter had a specific mission on that trip: find a job -- any job with benefits. He'd wanted to move to Utah so he could have friends to hang out with in person rather than just online, and with finances getting dire after he was laid off from his temp job, we were ready to try anything. He worked really hard, interviewing, and networking with everybody he could think of, and then his friend Brandon offered him a job as his personal assistant! It was the answer to our prayers, and we hurried back home to start packing --but not before visiting his sister Barbie and her daughter Hazel:

Back in California, we celebrated Easter by coloring eggs. I didn't want to chance the mess Elizabeth would make with a cup of dye, so I put her in a bib-shirt, and gave her a marker to draw on the egg with. It's one of the first times she's really figured out what a marker, pen, or even crayon is for, so that was exciting.

Then we started to pack. Generally, I would fill boxes while Peter entertained Elizabeth. When the PODS container arrived (like a U-Haul that they haul for you), we packed and packed amd packed stuff in. Elizabeth was kind of weirded out as everything she had ever known disappeared one box at a time , and she was left with a few things in the middle of empty rooms and white walls.

It was hard to leave the house that we had put so much time and energy and money into. We had to forclose because since the bottom dropped out of the housing market, the house was worth less than half what we owed. With the space rent so high in the mobile home park where we lived, 1/4 to 1/3 of the people couldn't afford to live there anymore, and every week brought more "For Sale" signs, more "Price Reduced!" fliers, and eventually, more abandoned mobile homes. We'd had it on the market for 10 months, and in the last few, nobody even came to look at it. We weren't allowed to move it, we weren't allowed to sublet, so when Peter found a job elsewhere, we decided we just had to walk away and start over. I felt, for a while, like the universe was telling me that everything I had done there was worthless. Still, before I left, I pulled all the weeds, got plastic put down under the last of the gravel and paving stones, and cleaned the house till it shined. It was silly, but I needed to do it for my own self respect, just like the pioneer women leaving their homes in Nauvoo had to sweep the floor one last time.

We sent the container off on a Thursday, my friends threw me a farewell party, and then we left on Sunday evening. I gave Elizabeth some Benedryl to help her sleep, and we drove all night. We arrived in Provo exhausted, but safe. We unpacked our cars into the new apartment while waiting for the POD to arrive, but after just one or two days, the maintenance problems, and the smell drove us to request a different unit. They let us move next door where we're much happier. Here is Elizabeth doing a Happy Dance she made up. She often just twirls around and around like this till she's dizzy.

When the POD finally arrived on Friday of that week, we went up to Grandpa Roly's house to unpack it. We had asked all sorts of relatives to help, but it wasn't a convenient day or time, so only Lesli's brother Mark was able to be there. We planned to get just the essentials out, then wait until Saturday morning when others might come, but Peter, Mark, and later Ryan, just kept right on hauling stuff to the basement till the POD was empty. Mark really went above and beyond the call of duty. Not only was he not really related to us, but he had also had a medical procedure done under general anesthetic that morning. He was still woozy and queasy from the drugs when he arrived. He was also nearly faint from hunger since he'd had to fast the day before the procedure, and hadn't been able to keep any food down since he'd woken up. We kept asking if he was all right, and telling him he could stop anytime, but he just kept right on going. It was amazing, and terribly kind of him.

We filled our cars with stuff to take to Provo, then on Saturday, I borrowed my cousin Jesse's truck to haul some of the larger pieces like the rocking chair. A week later, I went back to put the basement in order (the guys had just dumped stuff), and get a few necessary odds and ends I'd missed.

So now we're settled in Provo (for a few months anyway), and Elizabeth is enjoying the parks and the apartment building's yard. Once all her favorite things started appearing again, she took to the new house like she'd never lived anywhere else. Here's a video of our FHE activity the other night that shows how cheerful she is.

Well, this post has gone on much too long, but then again, I was trying to catch up on about six months of eventfulness. This summer I plan to: work in the yard, gain some weight, wean Elizabeth, go to Library Story Time a couple of blocks away, hang out at the water park a couple of blocks the other direction, and invite all my cousins over for dinner at least once.

Friday, May 1, 2009

The Germ by Ogden Nash

The Germ

A mighty creature is the germ,
Though smaller than the pachyderm.
His customary dwelling place
Is deep within the human race.
His childish pride he often pleases
By giving people strange diseases.
Do you, my poppet, feel infirm?
You probably contain a germ.
--Ogden Nash

I picked this poem today because I wanted something short and easy to find a picture for. We've been hearing rumblings about the swine flu, and I'm surprised at how close to home it's getting. My mom says that they have confirmed cases at a school in Elyria, Ohio which is in her Ward, and my sister in law says that Park City Utah schools are closed because of suspected cases. Pretty scary.

I wanted to post an update for my friends in California, and anyone else who follows my blog but isn't on my family email lists. Here is an email that Peter and I sent out last night that covers most of the bases:
Our new address is the same as the one we've been handing out, but now it's #3 instead of #4.

Our first apartment had so much broken furniture and such a bad smell that we got them to switch us to the apartment next to it. Its furniture is not broken and the apartment doesn't smell. Hooray! There is the sound of water running constantly somewhere overhead, but presumably this is a problem with an upstairs apartment and can get fixed sooner or later.

Tomorrow the POD is going to be delivered to Grandpa Holt's house in West Jordan between 2:00 and 5:00 p.m. If anyone is around the area near 5:00 Friday or 10:00 Saturday morning and wants to help, call Karen's cell phone for directions! Unpacking it should go a lot more quickly than packing it did, but a couple extra hands will definitely help. We'll probably be moving the heaviest stuff (big
pieces of furniture) Saturday morning.

Elizabeth seems to be adjusting well to our new home(s) but she's waking up a couple more times during the night than usual. Hopefully with a better-smelling room and some of her own furniture she may be able to turn over and go back to sleep. She really enjoys having a large fenced-in grassy yard to walk around in. She likes to pick the dandelion stems once all the seeds have fallen off. We're right by the
big Provo library in the old Academy building, and there's a park a couple blocks away with a large installation of playground equipment. There's also a pool there with a water playground and two ginormous waterslides (like they should be in a commercial water park) that looks like it's getting ready to open up soon, so that should be something fun to do while we're here this summer.

Karen and I are tired from moving and from sleeping on bad mattresses. The air mattress we slept on the last week in our old place took a toll on us as well—Karen says she could not have taken another night of it. We are pleased to have arrived in Utah and that the trip went so well—Elizabeth slept all but about one hour of the drive.

I went to my new job at Brandon's house today and put in a good day's work, which was very satisfying. I started setting up the computer and then inventoried the boxes of books stacked in the basement.

Karen is looking forward to having real dishes, clean clothes, and Elmer's glue to fix the books that Lizbeth has been destroying. It will also be nice to go to our new ward on Sunday and see if we can make friends and find playmates for Elizabeth. says we are in the Provo 4th Ward, and the church building is two half-blocks away.


Peter mentioned the smell, but the words "bad smell" doesn't really do it justice. It smelled like somebody had wet the bed in Elizabeth's room, and probably the carpet underneath. It wasn't so bad when we had the windows open, but when I shut them at night (it gets pretty cold here), the stench was overwhelming. We tried just removing the mattresses, but that just spread the foul odor. The other maintenance problems were kind of overwhelming too. I wrote requests for the most urgent ones, and ended up with 19 workorders. There were holes and peeling paint (reportedly lead based) in the walls and ceilings and the light fixtures were literally falling out of them. The kitchen faucet dripped (and had mold underneath), one toilet wouldn't flush, one tub wouldn't drain, and the other wouldn't hold water in. The shower rod and most of the towel racks were broken or missing. Half of the drawers in the closets had lost their fronts which were sitting around with the sharp screws sticking out of them. Several pieces of furniture were broken in other dangerous ways. The couches had that sticky slightly feel of furniture where college guys have sat, sweated, eaten pizza, and wiped their hands on the cushions. The fluorescent lights in the vanity area buzzed, and the cabinets and drawers there couldn't be counted on to close let alone keep Elizabeth out. Somebody had stuffed a couple of rolls of old carpet and linoleum into the furnace closet making a horrible fire hazard, and on top of all that, there were ants!

The new apartment has obviously had a kitchen remodel recently, and the walls and ceilings have been repaired and painted as well. The furniture is obviously newer, and while the place still reeks of BYU student housing, at least it doesn't literally reek.

The drive went as well as could be hoped. We had to jump my car to get it started before we left Torrance (at about 7:30 pm), but it started up again every time we stopped on the way. I had to push myself to make it to Vegas, but once we were through the city, I had hit my second wind. We did end up stopping for about an hour in Mesquite to nurse Elizabeth and nap, but the cars had so much stuff in them that we couldn't lay the seats down so we didn't stay long. I thought we were going to make it all the way to Provo, but when we were still about an hour south of there, I got VERY drowsy and thought it would be best to stop and wake up. We went to a Burger King, ate some breakfast, and drank some caffeinated energy drink, and walked around a bunch before heading north for the last leg. I did give Elizabeth one dose of Benedryl as we set out from Torrance, but that lasted her the whole night, and though she woke up several times, she generally just fell back to sleep immediately.

Well, it's time to feed Elizabeth some lunch, so I'd better sign off. I want to write sometime about my feelings as we left our home, but I don't have time right now.