Sunday, March 27, 2011

About Anna - 2011....

My little girl turned four years old last week.  Anna is growing up before my eyes and every day I am overwhelmed to witness and be a part of who she is becoming.

Over the last few years, I’ve written an annual letter about each of my kids, recapping the year prior.  Sort of a recorded snapshot of "the right now."  So here is my darling daughter at four….

A dozen things I know about Anna


1) Anna’s sense of style has blossomed this year.  She loves to pick out her own clothes.  Well, more than "loves it."  She demands it.  After navigating a few tough weeks, we figured out how to avoid the battles.  Basically, Anna won.  And I loosened my idea of what should go together.  Anna has a strong preference for layers.  Lots of layers.  And a wild eye for mix and match.  To Anna, stripes, prints and polka dots in bright colors - - well they all go together perfectly.  Of course!  In fact, the more the merrier.  And really, I’ve started to love her crazy combinations.  (Now, I might even encourage her a bit... :)

Anna also discovered accessories this year.  You know, I think this world would be a happier place if we could all wear a tiara and “Super Girl” cape on a daily basis.

Four year old perfect!


2) Anna sings and dances her way through most days.  She’s great at making up her own songs, or repeating songs that she’s heard elsewhere.  And this girl has got the dance moves. Really.  At first, I had hesitated (worried about stereotypes and crazy costumes), but I think we will enroll her in dance classes next fall.  Anna needs the chance to shake it out!

My darling girl also loves books, books, books.  Her room is filled with them. And she is usually toting around 4 or 5 favorites of the moment.  Of course, going to the library is a huge treat.  Only thing is that I can barely get her out of the building without a dozen books in her arms.  But really, I'm not complaining.  Not at all!

3) Anna has a love/hate relationship with food at the moment.  She LOVES black olives and pickles, ice cream with chocolate sauce, coffee (well really, she loves warm sweet milk with a splash of coffee), sweets of all varieties and dairy products.  Yes, all dairy, in all forms.  Milk, butter, sour cream, yogurt, cheese, you name it….In fact, when I’m setting the table for dinner, I have to be careful of what I put out ahead of time.  Unsupervised, Anna would indulge herself with spoonful’s of sour cream or butter, before the rest of us ever sat down. The "hate" part is not so much about food, but rather about sitting down and eating a meal at the table.  Dinner is almost always a battle. (and I know I am probably the one to blame for bad habits).  But regardless, Anna is growing faster than I can keep up buying new clothes.  So clearly she is getting something nutritious, even if it isn't sitting at the dinner table. I don't think olives and pickles alone could result in her 2 inch growth spurt these last months. 

4) Anna is my social girl.  Although she left Tonya’s daycare months ago, she still talks about her friends Emily and Cedra and Ava every day.  Fortunately, she has transitioned well to her new daycare at Tami’s.  So now the list of friends is simply longer, adding Nina, Evie, Cora, Katie and Alice.  Although sometimes she is a bit hesitant at first, Anna warms up quickly and loves to be with other people.  She wants to be part of the action.  To go places and do things.

Anna loves her Papa dearly, and I love seeing them together.  She loves to sit on his lap and be tickled and cuddle up during a movie.  But these days, I must admit that Anna is mama’s girl.  When we are together, she doesn’t leave my side. If I go to get a drink of water, Anna holds my hand as we walk up the stairs.  If I run to pick up groceries, Anna is at the door with her boots on, ready to go with me.  Sometimes I roll my eyes, but then I catch myself.  This kind of mama-love is fleeting.  I know it.  And I’ll cherish this time while I’ve got it.


5) Anna is such a physical kid.  So much more than Henry at four.   She rarely sits still.  Moving, moving, moving.  She’s always running and jumping, skipping and leaping off something.  Anna is also so independent.  She’ll play by herself for a long time….puzzles, art projects, coloring (really well, I might add), and “reading.”  Anna will page through books and tell the story she imagines is on the pages.  She really doesn’t care if anyone is listening or not.  She just wants to tell her stories.

6) Although Anna is still hard to understand at times, overall her language skills have really improved this past year. And regardless of what we understand, this kid is a talker.  I’ve been assured (as per her pre-school screening last fall) that her skills are right on par with her age.  And I must admit that the last of her little Anna-ism’s are so endearing.  She still adds her own little twist to her “oo” words.  So, for food, she’ll pronounce it “fued.”  Moon is “muen” and spoon is “spuen.”  So cute.  So Anna.  

7) I’ve been amazed at how much Anna is learning these days.  She is a sponge.  Much of it, thanks to Tami and the preschool program at her daycare.  Anna comes home every day with a project to share or a new letter or song or color to talk about.  She’s been writing her name for months now.  Upper and lower case.  Yesterday, Anna matched numbers 1-8 with pictures representing the same number.  I was so impressed.  She is so smart.  She is ready for preschool next fall.  (Already?  How did that happen?)

8) Anna clearly is her brother’s keeper.  She adores Henry.  And the feeling is mutual.  Anna is first to Henry’s defense if he gets in trouble.  “Mama, leave Henry alone.”  Of course, they have their moments too.  Often in the car, and yes, I’ve said the words “If I have to pull this car over….”  But mostly, they are sweet and kind to one another.  Randomly, she’ll look at me and say “Mama, I love Henry so much. He is my big brother.”  Be still, my mama heart….


9) Okay, we had to get there eventually… I've recounted before, Anna has quite the dynamic and energetic spirit.  Of course, this is something we nurture and adore.  But, the flip side can result in a sassy, back talking little girl who is prone to extended tantrums and too many timeouts.  “Mama, I’m in charge. Not you!” she'll yell.  Oh my!  Anna pushes our buttons.  She makes want to scream and pull our hair out.  But, as I’ve said elsewhere, Anna challenges Ray and I to be at our best for her.  And that’s what every kid should demand.  The best from their parents.

Eventually, after showing us a little of her "dark side," Anna will pull it together, usually with a few big deep breaths (she’s learning….) and a sweet “I’m sorry mama.”  We’re learning together.  We’re trying to be our best.  For each other.  And I find that in her worst moments, when I am on the edge of the parenting abyss and ready to jump....Anna teaches me the most about how to be a good mom.  It is a gift. (Really, a gift.  If I tilt my head and squint my eyes a little, I can see it).     

Anna and her Great-Grandpa.  Clearly the twinkle in Anna's eye is genetic.

10) Anna has always been a lousy sleeper.  Things have gotten better through the years.  But still, Anna will wake up in the middle of the night to go to the bathroom, and then she’ll crawl into bed with us. Usually it isn’t a big deal.  But, every week or two, she’ll have a bad night.  She’ll wake up (although we’re still not sure if she’s really awake or not).  She’ll yell at Ray and I, kick and thrash and cry.  Nothing will console her.  Eventually, after 15 minutes or so, she’ll just lie back down and zonk out again.  Almost instantly.  Night before last was one of those nights.  Ray fell asleep with his arms covering his face to protect himself from the night ninja.  Really.  

11) Regardless of what she likes these days (or how many timeouts may be necessary), the bottom line is that Anna is an extraordinary little girl.  She is so kind-hearted and funny and silly and yes - more than a little dramatic.  She has a spirit as big as the life swirling around her.

Anna loves her family and her friends unconditionally.  She is constantly drawing pictures and wrapping them to give as gifts.  We have dozens of these wrapped treasures all around our house.  She randomly offers “I love you’s” during the course of the day.  Before I leave ever her side for work or an errand, Anna offers me five hugs and five kisses.  It's her thing.  And when I return, the running hug I get as a welcome - well that is about as good as it could get.


12) For better or worse, I've gotten into the habit of lying down with the kids at bedtime until they fall asleep.  Although I may complain about it from time to time, bedtime is one of the sweetest times with my little ones.  Me next to Anna on the bottom bunk, and Henry on the top bunk.  Henry, Anna and I will chat and wrap up our day together.  Anna may tell a story or two, then she'll flip over her pillow to find the cold spot.  Lots of "I love you's" later, when she’s finally ready to settle in, she will offer a few final kisses on my cheeks. “ Just little one’s Mama.”  Anna will hold my hand between her two little hands, and tuck the hand sandwich under her cheek.  She’ll gaze into my eyes until she can’t keep her eyes open any longer.  And in a few moments, Anna will drift off to sleep.  Another day is done for this sweet girl.  And I had the privilege to be her mom the entire time. 


I adore my girl. I adore everything about her.  From her wild-crazy-curly hair, to her independent sense of style and humor, to her exuberant spirit that sparkles in the sunshine.  

I am so grateful for all of our days together.

And I can’t wait to see what is next.

Saturday, March 26, 2011


Thursday night, before my uncle's wake, Henry noticed that all four of us were dressed up at the same time. Clearly, if my six year old noticed, this doesn't happen very often.  Thankfully, at Henry's suggestion (he's a wise one for his years....), we set up the tripod and snapped a family picture.


This morning, as I uploaded pictures to my computer, Anna walked by just as I had this particular photo on my screen.  She stopped in her tracks and said, "Mommy - - We. Are. Wonderful...."

I decided in that moment, dressed up or not, we need to take pictures of us as a family more often.  There is no excuse not to.

Last year, my favorite photographer Tara Whitney started a personal project called "six people/twelve times."  Basically, she committed to take a family picture every month.  Mostly informal and casual.  It didn't matter where they were or what anyone was wearing.  The point was to get everyone together in a single frame and SNAP.  Each time, it took maybe five minutes to accomplish.  Simple as that.  But what a treasure to have.....

I'm in.

I think the sad events of the past week only helped to reaffirm how important photographs are to me.  To all of us.  (Not that I really needed reminding, though....).  All week, my family was surrounded by pictures, some from 70 years ago, and some from last week.  We talked and laughed and told stories and cried.  All prompted by the memories held in the images.  Our memories will live on through these photos. And now, they are more precious than ever.

So, here is my March installment of  "four people/twelve times."

Tara, Uncle Joe and Henry, thank you for the inspiration.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Well lived....

My Uncle Joe passed away on Tuesday. His death is a great loss to all of us.

The entire time I was growing up, my family lived next to Uncle Joe's family (with Grandma and Grandpa in-between). Some summers, I'd spend more time there on the farm, than I did at my own house.

Uncle Joe was a good man. He will be missed by so many.

l to r on the couch: My Uncle Donald, Grandpa, Grandma holding my Aunt Gail.  l to r on the floor: My dad Tom and Uncle Joe.

I always loved the photo above.  Such an iconic 1950's family.  And the wonderful thing is they really lived the iconic life too.  Strong loving family.  Hard work and solid values.  Passed down to their own families...

l to r: My dad, Uncle Joe and Uncle Donald.

l to r: Dad and Uncle Joe.  Homemade ice cream on a warm summer day!

Everyday, Uncle Joe showed us what was most important to him, not so much with words, but by how he lived his life.  Family first.  Always first.  Then friends, the community, the farm.   All so much a part of who he was.  He taught his family well.

Rest in peace....

Friday, March 18, 2011

Four years old....

My dear Anna turns four today. My sweet baby girl.

Never could I have imagined the little girl who came into our lives four years ago. Anna has a spirit like no one I've known. Our home is filled with crazy laughter and singing and dancing, thanks to Anna. She brings out the silly and the joy in all of us. She lives with gusto and great energy. She also pushes and challenges us and demands that we are at our best for her. (as we should be!) Everyday, Anna is generous and full of life and she gives her love to everyone around her in a big big way.

Each year on Anna's birthday, we re-live the day she was born. Anna arrived very quickly, and in quite the dramatic fashion. She arrived so quickly in fact, that had we not been at the hospital (and in the process of being sent home for "lack of progress" I might add...), I am sure that Anna would have been born on our bedroom floor. Or in the car. Then, over the course of the next six weeks, there was more drama and more complications. Fortunately though, nothing too traumatic or long-lasting. But certainly enough for Ray and I to still recount the story each year. And still catch our breath a little, these four years later.

Ray and I are also pretty sure that Anna's remarkable arrival made a permanent mark on her remarkable self. Before she drew her first breath, Anna was all about making a dramatic entrance.

And I wouldn't change a single moment.

So here is my dear Anna on her fourth birthday....


This is not the picture I had planned to share. With Henry and Ray both at school today, Anna and I were going to have a full day of fun together. Just the two of us. But life intervened....

After a very restless night (and now I know why), Anna woke up with her little body covered in hives and welts. Turns out she is allergic to amoxicillin, which she started taking for an ear infection over a week ago. Poor thing.

So, this picture is of Anna, taking a Bendryl-induced nap, and trying to sleep off the hives. Bummer.

True to form, Anna added a little drama to her birthday, just like she did four years ago.

If parenthood has taught me anything, it is that we have so little control over life. And for me (control freak that I am), that is a big (and hard!) lesson. But, I'm doing my best to roll with the waves....

So, if we can't celebrate Anna's birthday today, we'll celebrate tomorrow. And we'll keep on celebrating, day after day. Certainly at our house, there is much worth celebrating. Birthday or not.

Happy birthday Anna.

Thank you for filling my heart with boundless joy and love and life.


Update: With doses of Benedryl and Claritin, Anna recovered well enough for the celebration to go on as planned. Let's hear it for four year old resilience (especially when cake and presents are involved!)



Thursday, March 17, 2011

Not so patient...

Around here, we've been waiting for spring to arrive.  And we're not being very patient anymore.  So yesterday, with the thermometer barely hitting 47 degrees (which actually is pretty warm), the kids took matters into their own hands....

"We're going outside mom, " Henry yelled as he and Anna headed out the door.

Oh, how I've been waiting 5 long months to hear that sentence!!


In spite of cold toes, Anna couldn't resist wearing her spring rain boots.



The kids also couldn't resist the huge puddle (or "lake" as they called it) in the front yard.







Spring fishing....




Wet clothes, slimey brown dead things, mud and puddles, soaked boots and socks.... Bring it on!  I'll take it all, if it means we're finally heading towards something warm and fresh and green.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Firehouse session...

My Saturday photo shoot was at my local fire station and I was so excited.  I felt like a third-grader, going on a field trip....


This is Katie.  She is eight years old (almost nine - - her May birthday is around the corner!)  Katie's dad is a long-time volunteer firefighter in our community and we were lucky enough to be able to take our pictures at the firehouse.   (A photographers dream - - talk about great light!!)


This is Frank.  He just finished up his hockey season, and is gearing up for baseball soon.  Frank really wasn't too excited about getting his picture taken.  He made me work for every shot....But when I did catch one, I swear he had a smile that would light up a room....


Katie, on the other hand, would have posed for me all day long....And with gorgeous shots like this, why not??


I think this is one of my favorite shots from the day.  I just love these smiles.


Okay, look at that toe point.  Any chance you'd guess Katie is a dancer?  Oh yeah....and a hockey player and a pianist.  Talk about a well-rounded kid!  (and busy parents!!)


Love this one!


Katie decided I needed my picture taken.  Click!


Despite any hesitancy that Frank showed in getting his picture taken, it completely vanished when mom suggested he put on the fire gear.  Just look at that smile.  Clearly, as son to a firefighter, you can just see how proud he was to put on the jacket and hat.  And considering his dad's nearly 20 years of service to our community, I understand why!!



I think this was the ONLY quiet moment I caught the entire session.




Thank you so much Annette, Frank and Katie!  I hope you had as much fun as I did!!

(Just admit it had fun too!  Ha!!)

Friday, March 11, 2011

Old grandpa....

Henry and Anna's great great great grandfather is Eugene Field. 

Hmmm....the name doesn't ring a bell?  Well, it didn't for me either, until I became part of the Cox/Atwood/Field family when I married Ray. I have since learned that Eugene Field was one of the more prolific and well-known poets/writers of the mid to late 19th century.  He was particularly well known for his children's literature and was often referred to as "The Children's Poet." 

Ever hear of the poem "Wynken, Blynken and Nod?"  That is Eugene Field.

Wynken, Blynken, and Nod one night
Sailed off in a wooden shoe---
Sailed on a river of crystal light,
Into a sea of dew....

Or "The Sugar PlumTree"

Have you ever heard of the Sugar-Plum Tree?
Tis a marvel of great renown!

It blooms on the shore of the Lollipop sea
In the garden of Shut-Eye Town....

A few years back, I found Eugene Field's collected works on Ebay. It is a beautiful set of first edition books. Most often, the books sit on the shelves in our living room looking studious and well, bookish. But from time to time, the kids will take them down, mostly so they can look at "Old Grandpa."   





Henry and Anna will stare at the picture of "Old Grandpa" in the front of each volume. They ask questions about his life and his writing, and I tell what I know, as little as that may be.


I can just see how amazing they think it is for one of their own to have written so many books. To have written ALL the words on ALL the pages. To have been famous in his time. They are connected to him. They could be like him. A writer. A poet. Well-known, respected. Doing what he was meant to do.

I try not to push the lesson too hard, but it is always there, each time we pick up the books....I just can't help myself:

Be who you are.
Do what comes natural to you.
Become your best self.


Henry will usually just thumb through the book, and pick up what words he can on the pages. But Anna will recount full-blown stories. Her own interpretation, that is. I'll tell her the title of the book or of a poem, and she will run with it, sharing what she imagines is written. On and on she'll "read," turning the book to her audience (me) from time to time, so I can see the page as well.



I think Old Grandpa would be pleased.




So, I have to share one more amazing thing I learned while I was doing a little Eugene Field research tonight. This is from Wikipedia:

"Field's father, attorney Roswell Martin Field, was famous for his representation of Dred Scott, the slave who sued for his freedom. Field filed the complaint in this famous case (Dred Scott vs. John Sandford [sic], referred to as the lawsuit that started the Civil War) on behalf of Scott in the federal court in St. Louis, Missouri, which is how the case got to the U.S. Supreme Court."

Really? The Dred Scott attorney??? SO cool! Now the kids have even more to live up to!! Tomorrow morning's breakfast conversation just took on a whole new life, for sure.