Monday, November 10, 2014


Here are Maria and Louisa ready to go out trick-or-treating.  Maria is a ghost in a teapot.  True to form, she decided this many weeks ago.  She specified that the teapot should be decorated with "a vine, flowers, pumpkins, and cherries." When Maria's mother heard this, a nit-picky voice in her mind said, "but cherries and pumpkins aren't seasonally consistent!" But lo and behold, it turned out rather lovely.  Maria's mother now wishes she had a real teapot with this vine, pumpkin, cherry pattern.

Louisa wanted to be a ballerina.  Louisa wants to be a ballerina every Halloween from now on.  Maria, Queen of Halloween, declared that Louisa would be a cat ballerina.  Mami had a lion costume, and insufficient mindshare to make cat ears.  Louisa became a lion ballerina.  Louisa was happy.  She just wanted to wear her swimsuit with the tutu skirt.

Here is Pippa, squinting at the paparazzi.  She was was a Red Snow Queen.  (No, it's not a real thing.)

Halloween this year coincided with the Fall Workshop in Computational Geometry, which Donnie organized and hosted this year.  I wish that I were the type of pioneer wife who keeps the farm running smoothly while Pa is away selling the season's harvest, but alas I'm not.  We all get a bit out of kilter when Daddy is putting in long hours.  Maybe next year, we'll have our costumes ready more than fifteen minutes before it's time to go!

Still, our tea pot ghost was very ghosty and our dancing lion was awfully cute, and the Red Queen was happy in her carrier.

The neighborhood kids went out en masse.  That made it safer and more fun for everyone.  Our street is a favorite shortcut for people getting on and off of campus.  One parent, a veteran of many Halloweens in the neighborhood, had the good sense to bring a kerosene lamp.  The group of kids was flanked by parents who carried lights and shouted at cars to slow down.    Maria ran ahead to keep up with the older kids.  Loulou, Pippa and I trailed behind.  Loulou was a little daunted by the unfamiliarity of the ritual.  With the darkness, the wind rattling through the leaves of the tree, the  lights of the flashlights bobbing on the pavement, the strangers handing out candy, and Maria's disconcerting absence (she was safe, but out of sight with the group ahead of us)  I shared Louisa's mood.  It began to rain as we rounded in on our  house.  We were happy return home, ditch the costumes and break out the Snickers.

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Homely House

Two weeks ago, Donnie and I became the owners of this pretty property. Here are some photos--before we paint the walls and disturb its serenity by actually moving in:

Living Room

Downstairs bathroom

View from kitchen into dining area

dining area

Loulou, okay, despite run in with electrical socket.  Ritual fast food.

Master bedroom

Girl's room

Upstairs bathroom

"sewing" or baby room
I've come to think of it, affectionately, as "Homely House," after Rivendell in the Lord of the Rings.   Rivendell is the "Last Homely House of the Western Wood".   I dare not call our homely house the last homely house, lest I insult our neighbors, but it is homely, in the best sense of the word--cozy and comfortable, and just right for us.

We're excited that it's a mere twelve minute walk to Donnie's office.  It also shares the University's water and sewer system--no septic tank!   It has three bed rooms, a den and a tiny sewing room that we plan to use for the baby.  It fits our family beautifully, with a little room to grow.  The house is in very good shape, but there are a few things to do before we move in---some electrical work, and some painting.  (My hat goes off to all you diy-ers.  just choosing the right white for the living room walls has proven to be a drawn-out, multi-step process. )

Though we are very happy with the house, our tenure as homeowners had a rocky start.  Loulou stuck a paper clip into an electric socket at the lawyers office during the closing, resulting in two burned fingers (fortunately not serious).  We went to visit the house after the closing, and in the rush to get Maria onto the potty, I broke the key in the deadbolt.  Maria ended up marking the territory in the front yard--sort of fitting, don't you think?

This marking of territory was followed by a ritual survey of the domain.  We wandered from room to room, coming to grip with the fact of ownership.   "Look, I never noticed that old, cloudy mirror.  Well, I guess it's now our cloudy mirror. The wood grain on that door looks like a gargoyle face.  Now it's our door, our gargoyle face.  That cracked switch plate is ours to replace.  The stuck door is ours to fix." 

I found my mind rushing to establish whether these things were friend or foe--will the mirror need to be removed?  Will the gargoyle become a source of irritation or a friendly sentinel?  Ah, these new decisions.   The switch place must be replaced, the door fixed.  The house is owned, but not yet won.  We will wage a campaign of Spackle and paint, and send box after box of our possessions to settle the territory.

Hopefully the result of the conquest will be a house like Rivendell:

"That house was, as Bilbo had long ago reported, 'a perfect house, whether you like food or sleep, or story-telling or singing, or just sitting and thinking best, or a pleasant mixture of them all'. Merely to be there was a cure for weariness, fear, and sadness."

Here's to our very own Homely House!

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Some Color

Here is a little bit of color to start the day.  We've had some gray days--but the increasing temperatures outside have our spirits up.  This week, we've been spending time at the playground after Maria's pickup from school.  It's muddy, and has lead to some sleep disruption by delaying L's afternoon nap, but we are grateful for the vitamin D. 

Pippa's blue eyes still surprise me.  That baby knows how to mesmerize her Mama!  She makes the most delightful coos and gurgles lately.  She seems so intent to communicate---I keep expecting her to come out with a word.   She's also doing a lot of hand-sucking these days, and with the drool comes the need for frequent costume changes.  This puts new strain on our already faltering laundry routine, but leads to some more colorful ensembles like the one above.

Loulou has been become opinionated about her clothing  and is becoming ever bolder about "borrowing" her sister's clothing.  Here she wears Maria's down vest, which goes down to her calves.  She is also going through stocking phase---"I wanna see my legs."  Do I see wardrobe wars in the future?    I have given up trying to alter her choices, since they are often more attractive and interesting that what I would have chosen.  I also realize that everyone loves to see a little person acting with such freedom.

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Give Us a (Paint-Covered) Hand

Auntie Colleen needed pictures of kids with paint-covered hands for her website. I did  a couple paint and photo sessions with the kids, and they were bemused to find their mother painting their hands instead of wiping them.  These are the best.   The ones with Maria didn't come out.   It's surprisingly tricky to get a kid to look cheerful, sit in good light, and point her palm at the camera!  The smile comes from looking at the paint on the palm, I suppose.  In the first picture of Loulou, she's doing the "Here is the church, here is the steeple" hand game.  I'm glad to have caught it on camera.

Sunday, March 9, 2014

Life at Nine Weeks

Truth to tell, these pictures are already a little old, Pippa is quite a bit bigger and chubbier!

When I talk to people who are about to have their first baby, there is something I always like to tell them. It's not uncommon knowledge--but it's a phenomenon I was woefully unaware of during the first weeks with Maria.  I'll write it here for good measure:

Dear First Time Parent,

It is normal to feel like you've fallen down a rabbit hole during the first months with a new baby.  You may discover, as I did, that your offspring finds life to be a "stern, solemn" thing.  She cries a lot!  Is it gas? Is it colic?  Is it deep disappointment at not being been born into a hunter gatherer Eden?  Whatever it is, the baby wants to be nursed and carried day and night, and nothing in your education will have quite prepared you for the physical and mental challenge of it.   Take comfort, first-time parent!  Know that you just have to muddle through for a while.  Around three months, things will  somehow--almost inexplicably--become easier.

Recent weeks have found me clinging to my own words, looking for signs that the muddling stage will give way to a new order.  We may be less bewildered than were were during Maria's early infancy--we've learned a few valuable tricks, and  I've been toughened by four years of nursing--but the chaos has scaled to fill a four bedroom house and the lives of two additional little people. Our home is a whirl of laundry, play food, and  pieces of wood debris (we rely on daily wood fires keep the house comfortable).  Many's the time that Donnie or I have raised our hands to the heavens and exclaimed "Squalor!   Squalor!" in lament of the piteous state of housekeeping. 

That I'm writing this now is a sign that a new order may be emerging.  Pippa is asleep downstairs, having been put to bed awake. Yes, she seems to be learning the trick of falling asleep on her own.  What a mercy that is, after two babies who only learned the trick after many nights of ninety minute scream sessions!  And now, in this blessed, scream-free calm, I'll write of the incredible sweetness of having  a little baby in the house again.

It is lovely how older girls have taken to their new sister.  From the start, Maria has cast herself in the roll of teacher, seeking an intellectual connection with her youngest sibling:

"Pippa, I'm Maria.  You're Pippa.  That's Mommy. This Place you're in is called a house.  Everything outside the house is called the World.  The World is on a Planet called Earth.  One, day, you'll come to my school and  I will show it to you---but it won't be the real thing, it will be a Globe."  

She ties string to popsicle sticks to make "magic wands" for the baby to grasp and decorates the baby in felt jewelry.  When Pippa is upset, she says, "Pippa, Mommy is here!  Sister is here!"  And when that fails, she waltzes away and occupies herself elsewhere, seemingly unconcerned by the crying.

Loulou, true to style and age, takes a more physical approach.   When we introduced Pippa to a pacifier, Louisa, decided that it was her job to put the binkie back into the Baby's mouth when the baby let go of it.  Loulou became the guardian of the binkie,  , running across the room to replace the pacifier and shrieking in protest when anyone else performed the function.  (Over the last weeks, we've managed to misplace the pacifiers, and haven't gotten around replacing them, so this isn't so much of a thing now).  Loulou is more apt to join in  the chorus when the baby cries.  Her overtures to Pippa take the form of nearly crushing hugs, which the baby seems to mind only a little.   Pippa isn't in the room, Loulou will ask where she is.

There are outbreaks of jealousy and lap wars.  There are plenty of screamy moments and sighs of  relief when all littles are in bed, but they don't overshadow the convivial side of  life with three little girls.

Of course there is the sweetness of the baby herself: those plummy, soft cheeks and the perfect curve of eyelashes closed in sleep; the way she seems to be longer and plumper after each nap; the kaleidoscopic expressions of concentration and those elusive, incandescent smiles.   Pippa an excellent nurser (gained three pounds last month).  Temperment-wise, she seems to resemble Maria more than Louisa (though I have a hard time articulating why--and life may well prove me wrong).   She is the first of the girls to have blue eyes (M and L both had slate gray eyes that looked from the get go like they were heading for brown).  We have genes for blue, hazel, and brown eyes  floating in the family gene pool, and it will be exciting to see which color emerges.  But those light eyes seem to project a question mark. What will this baby become?  A newborn's potential is a terrible in the old sense of the word, as is her dependency.  When I think on this, I grow a little wobbly in the knees.  But mostly, we just enjoy this funny, cuddly, and sometime difficult nine-week old.  She already has a collection of nicknames--Pipsqueak, Cutie-kins, Snort-buckets--but my favorite is a souvenir from a wedding we went to in St. Louis--it's Billikin