The Relatives Came

My sister and her family are visiting from Pittsburgh, and everyone is ecstatic about it.  Liz is a extrovert, who loves being around as many people as possible, so of course everyone loves being around her.  We had a big family dinner last week, and there was a big bocce tournament in my parents’ backyard afterwards.

My brother, Pat, is big on the bocce:

And isn’t my parents’ garden gorgeous?  I don’t have a garden; I have a yard, which is best for little kids to play in and get muddy.  So it’s nice to enjoy my mom’s flowers on our visits.

And the cousins!  Yay for Cousin Sarah!  She is just between Eleanor and William in age, which makes her the perfect playmate.  Cousin Abby, at age two, is still a little too small for most of the action, but she’ll catch up soon.

It was a really windy day on this afternoon, so I took the kids kite flying when bocce got boring.  My parents have a big dragon kite which is unfortunately very difficult to fly.  I kept crashing it into the ground after just a few minutes of airtime.  Eleanor and Sarah would rush across the field to “rescue” it, Sarah speaking to the kite the entire time as if it were alive.

“Don’t worry, boy,” she’d say, patting the dragon’s nose, “you’ll do better next time.”

Eleanor loved making dramatic arm gestures whenever she launched the kite into the air.  Abby was unfortunately scared of the dragon, and William comforted her whenever it took off.

Poor Jeffrey, though.  He’s a little too old to enjoy playing with so many little girls, and Uncle Alex was in a mood to be alone, so he was kind of the odd man out for the evening.  Rats!

Wimmy and the Usurper

The day little Katie was born, Brian spent time talking to the kids about how our family had changed.

“William, you now have a little sister,” he explained to them.  “And Eleanor has a little brother and a little sister.”

Eleanor, who has always been intrigued by the technicalities of family relationships, took it one stop further.

“Yeah, William.  Now you are a middle child, like me, instead of the youngest,” she said excitedly.  “Baby Katie has REPLACED YOU!”

Brian and I found this statement hilarious.  But William has been taking his status change a little hard.  He doesn’t take it out on his baby sister — he is as fond of her as the rest of the kids (although he did admit briefly that he “liked Baby Katie when she was in Mommy’s tummy”).  But his frustration at the changes in his life have come out in other ways.  He’s more likely to throw a temper tantrum, especially when it comes to leaving the house for church or preschool.  His usually hearty appetite has diminished, and he hasn’t been sleeping as well (although this is in large part to sharing a room with Jeffrey).

The rest of our children were too little to really register a change in lifestyle when their new sibling came along.  Jeffrey and Eleanor were just 2 1/2 or 2, and didn’t have the long-term memory to remember life before the new baby.  William’s the first to notice and be upset that he’s not getting as much one-on-one Mom Time as he used to.

We know it’s a phase, and he’ll grow out of it eventually.  But in the meantime, it’s hard not to feel for the little guy.

Countdown to Katie

The whiteboard on our fridge is keeping track for us.  I’ve been counting down since day 100.  This picture was taken yesterday, so it’s a little out of date.  It’s seven days to baby.  Accuracy is everything.

As Jeffrey puts it, my body is “just putting the finishing touches on Baby Katie so she’ll look like a human being.”  Everybody is predicting she’ll come tomorrow (Jan. 13), since so far everyone in my family has their birthday either on the 26th of the month (me, Jeff, Wimmy) or the 13th (Brian, Eleanor) — a coincidence that is cool but gets confusing whenever I have to fill out a form that requires me to write down everyone’s birthdates.

The nursery is all gussied up and ready.  Mucho props to my sister-in-law, Deb, who helped us pick the paint colors for the wall.  The browns are soothing and delicious, like walking into a giant candy bar.

Best of all, Brian helped the kids spend time creating art for Katie’s room.  He had a bunch of old canvases from old high school art projects that his parents recently handed over to us.  Brian painted three of them a pale yellow, then let the kids do what they wanted.

Brian helped William create this sweet number.  Can you see the foot- and handprints hidden among the flowers?  I love love love it.

Eleanor also went the flowery route, although she included mini portraits of Katie at different ages (“the one with longer hair shows Katie when she’s five years old like me”) and a self-contained landscape in the upper left hand corner.  Because, why not?

And then there’s Jeffey’s painting.  Can you guess what it is?

Time’s up — it’s Yoda.  Brian and I tried to encourage Jeffrey to think about what would match a pink-and-brown baby girl’s room, but he insisted on Yoda.  “Someone has to make sure to teach Baby Katie to go towards the Light Side of the Force instead of the Dark Side,” he told me.  “Yoda will help her do that.”  Later, Brian tried to get Jeffery to compromise.  Maybe Yoda could stand near some flowers?  Jeffrey balked at this.  “There are no FLOWERS on DAGOBAH!”

In the meanwhile, I’m scrambling to finish knitting a little pink baby sweater.  It’s made from the softest yarn, with a little cabled rib all over.  All I have to do at this point is finish sewing the buttonhole band and weave in all the loose ends (ack, a job I dislike.  Weaving in loose ends is tedious).  I feel like the girl in “The Wild Swans,” which was my favorite fairy tale in fourth grade.  In it, the princess’ brothers have been turned to swans.  She can only free them by collecting nettles from graveyards and then using them to knit (or is it weave?) into shirts for each of them — and she can’t say a single word until she’s finished.  During this labor, a handsome prince marries her, and then she’s accused of witchcraft and condemned to burn (since she can’t talk, she can’t defend herself).  On the way to the pyre, the swans come and chase the executioner away.  The princess throws the shirts on her brothers, and they become human again — except that she didn’t have time to finish one of the sleeves for the youngest brother, so he is left with one human arm and one swan’s wing.

I may not be awaiting an execution, but I’m still working under a rather unpredictable deadline (as of this writing, I’m already dilated to 3 1/2 and 75% effaced.  Labor could come at any minute).  Instead of knitting my way to a witchcraft trial, I can easily see myself knitting in a wheelchair on the way to labor & delivery, trying to finish at the very last minute.  Hopefully, it won’t come to that.

Big News

About six weeks ago Brian and I took the kids on a popular hike up Little Cottonwood Canyon to a place called Cecret Lake.

Alpine spring was at its peak; as Eleanor put it, “Mom, there are dillions of flowers here!”  The trail was busy, but the lake was still peaceful.  Jeffrey had fun watching some other kids catch salamanders.

But, on our way back down, the weather changed from sunny to cloudy, and it began to rain.

And then hail.

As we scurried to take cover under some trees, Jeffrey turned back towards me.  “You’d better keep that BABY warm!” he shouted, all concern.

Jeffrey wasn’t worried about William, but the baby in my tummy.  For those of you who haven’t heard, I’m expecting a baby on January 19.

Yes!  Number four, our winter baby (since we’ve already had spring, summer, and autumn babies).  We just found out this week that it’s a girl!  Eleanor was so excited that she hopped up and down at the news.

“Mom, don’t worry, I know all the best baby games, like Peek-a-Boo and This Little Piggy,” she said.

All three of them enjoy singing songs to my tummy, and William will frequently give the baby hugs.  If I put my arms around him during a baby hug, he gets annoyed.  “No, Mom.  It’s the baby’s hug.”

I’ve been feeling fine — oddly, I haven’t experienced much morning sickness with this pregnancy, just extreme fatigue.  (My current motto is “Napping Towards Glory.”)  Although most of my summer was spent crumpled up in a state of continual exhaustion, I suppose I’d rather get hit with the Fatigue Stick than the Nausea Stick, anytime.

My attitude towards the baby is kind of mixed — I’m happy and excited to have another person in the family, but I dread, dread, dread that first year of infancy.  I had recurring breast infections with all three of my other kids, and I was just getting used to not having to drag a stroller with me everywhere I go.  Augh, and doctor and dentist appointments.  I won’t be able to do them during the daytime anymore.  But let’s not ruminate on this stuff.  A baby girl is a great thing to snuggle, cuddle and watch grow. This is what I wanted — I certainly had to jump through enough medical hoops (what with my heart and all) to get this far.  Enough with the whining.

Unless she’s a blonde.  Then I won’t have the foggiest idea what to do.

(There are no blonde women in my immediate family.  Or my mother’s family.  And so on.  Augh.)

Third Annual Backyard Circus!

Backyard Circus 2009 group

Last week, in order to celebrate my birthday, we held a backyard circus.  What’s that, you say?  Our backyard is always a circus?  Well, you can just keep your snarky comments to yourself, Mr. Smarty-Pants Reader.

This event works thusly: we invite friends with kids over for a barbecue, and afterwards the kids put on a circus routine in the backyard before a makeshift “stage” (read: sheet clothespinned to a rope).  Costumes are makeshift, usually involving lots of swimsuits, and enthusiastically performed.  This is the first time we’ve held such an event since we moved from Pittsburgh; in years past we’ve had a dancing bear act that involved an old Winnie-the-Pooh costume, and a rather awesome Tattoo Man created with body crayons.

This year Jeffrey was a magician, using my old Fisher Price Magic Set that my parents gave me when I was seven.  He was SO EXCITED to be able to wave his wand over the little plastic dove and make its egg disappear.

Backyard Circus 2009 Jeffrey

Eleanor was a bareback horse rider.  She bounced on stage, did a leap across its back, and then did a flip (with my help).

Backyard Circus 2009 ella

William was supposed to be a strongman, with barbells Brian made by attatching black balloons to the ends of empty paper tower tubes.  We had practiced with him, teaching him to pick up a “barbell” in each hand and give a mighty grunt.  But at performance time, he must have been rather enthralled with the kids who had been acrobats and tumblers, because he simply marched up to the stage and did this:

Backyard Circus 2009 wimmy

Some kinda yoga pose?  Brian brought out the barbells, but Wimmy waved them away (“No no no!”) and went right back to his odd little position, on all fours with one leg stretched out behind him.  Everybody just about died laughing, especially when the kids who had done a juggling routine picked up the barbells and began tossing them into the air.

Perhaps next year he should be a contortionist.

The Adventures Continue!

The day after Wimmy celebrated his spiffing first birthday, he woke up with a series of big red spots all over his face, arms, and legs.

Allergies? Bug bites? Chicken Pox?


We still don’t know — they’re fading slowly away, and didn’t seem to bother him — but we are pleased to say that the event has inspired yet another title in the growing catalog of “Jack Norris” imaginary novels.

Didja miss the original “Jack Norris” explanation? Go back here and check it out. Since Jeffrey bestowed this strange little moniker on his baby brother, we’ve been collecting titles in the series based on events in William’s life. The concept is that it’s an action/spy series of novels, a la James Bond or — dare we presume to aspire to it — Christopher Cool, TEEN AGENT.*

So, the “chicken pox” have been labeled as The Enigmatic Spots of Jack Norris!

Watching William slowly reach up from his car seat to grab a cracker:

The Floating Hand of Jack Norris!

In Which William Tosses a Rubber Duckie Into His Father’s Bath:

The Mysterious Duck of Jack Norris!

Remember how Wimmy got a toy wolf puppet at Yellowstone? And it always managed to wind up in the small of his back?

The Vanishing Wolf of Jack Norris!

After trying to feed William while he sleepily pushed everything away, my sister-in-law also contributed

The Creeping Ennui of Jack Norris!

Although really — does this match the Super Secret Spy Agent-type nonstop action that readers have come to expect when picking up a Jack Norris title? I’m not sure. Perhaps this volume comes late in the series, when Jack Norris has retired from the international intrigue business and is coping with boredom on his island villa.

Just one more thing — if you haven’t seen the gorgeous cover art Penguin has commissioned for its reissues of the James Bond novels, GO SEE THEM NOW. They are groovaliciously AWESOME.

*Oh yes, it exists. Go over to Fuse #8 and read the full description of this luscious series. Should I mention that the books include a sassy redheaded “co-ed” whose name is Spice Carter?

What’s in a Name?

William has a new nickname.

Jack Norris!

Yes, it’s a little bizarre. Here’s the story:

Jeffrey gave it to him on Memorial Day. We in the car with the windows rolled down, on the way to a picnic. The wind was blowing William’s hair around, and he was gurgling and cooing in his lovable Wimmy-way.

“Mom,” said Jeffrey, “when the wind is in Wimmy’s hair, he looks just like Jack Norris.”


“Jack Norris,” he repeated. “He’s a guy who looks just like Wimmy.”

Brian and I were puzzled by this. Who in the world is Jack Norris? How on earth did Jeffrey learn about him? We immediately thought of Chuck Norris, but Jeffrey has never seen any of his films (and hopefully, he never will).

“Jeffrey, can you tell me what Jack Norris does?” I ask.

“He’s a guy who runs around really fast,” he replies. “And he’s a dwarf.”


This was ALL we’ve been able to get out of Jeffrey about who this Jack Norris person is. He looks like William. He runs fast. And he’s a dwarf. Once Jeffrey even sang a song about it.

Jack Norris runs around,

He saves the people all around

And he’s a dwarf!

He’s a dwarf, he’s a dwarf, he’s a dwaaaaaaaarf!

Nowadays, it’s become a family running gag. Whenever William is being especially, ah, intrepid — say, stuffing styrofoam peanuts in his mouth, or tipping a bowl of freshly folded clothes over on himself — we punch our fists in the air and say, “Jack Norris is on the case!”

Especially if the wind is in his hair.


Last Sunday, Jeffrey and William spent a long time playing together on the living room floor.  I had to get a shot of them together:


Let me tell you, Jeffrey is WONDERFUL with his baby brother when he’s in the mood.  He had set a variety of toys out for William to play with, and spent about twenty minutes playing peek-a-boo and singing songs.  Jeffrey even dragged out his big Star Wars book from the library and spent time “reading” it to Wimmy, who was busy chewing on his own wooden baby-book.

“Look, Mom!” Jeffrey called.  “William and I both love books!”

Oh, happiness!

Later, Brian jumped down for another sweet photo op.  Eleanor was napping during all this, in case you’re wondering:


Bun Not in the Oven

baby-brother-onesie.jpgJeffrey is continually under the impression that I’m pregnant.

I mean, can you blame him? During the five years of his life, I’ve been pregnant for 1 1/2 of them. That’s, like, a third of his life. That’s like me knowing someone who was continually pregnant for TEN YEARS.

He keeps saying thing like this:

“Mom, when is the baby brother in your tummy going to come out?”

Or, during prayers:

“Please bless my toys and Eleanor and my next baby brother that’s coming,”

Or, during playtime:

“I’m going for a ride in a boat. Just me, William, and my next baby brother.”

What baby brother was that?

“The one in your tummy, Mom.”

He wasn’t all that fazed when we explained that Mommy’s tummy was, alas, unoccupied. Then we gave him a hypothetical choice.

“Which would you rather have, Jeffrey,” Brian asked. “A new baby brother, or a boat?”

Oh, he answered immedately.

“A boat. A big one.”

Regarding new siblings:


My Baby Brother Has Ten Tiny Toes by Laura Leuck, illustrated by Clara Vulliamy. So many “new baby” stories choose the “jealous older sibling dislikes baby” plotline that this book is positively refreshing. Here we have Big Sister proudly boasting about all the things she loves about her baby brother, from banging spoons to backyard tea parties to the twirly ring mobile above his bed. Really, though, anybody would fall in love with a baby as depicted in Vuilliamy’s watercolors. Twinkly blue eyes! Chubby pink cheeks! Darling curly moppety hair! Mmmmm, now who’s baby hungry?*

(*Oh, so not me. Hah.)

Neighbors as Well as Siblings

bunk-bed.jpgEleanor officially moved out of her crib and into the bottom of the bunk bed this month.  It’s been interesting and stressful, although the transition from bed-to-crib has been WAY smoother than Jeffrey’s was.

(Let’s just say that when Jeff made the transition, he spent quite a few nights sleeping on the floor behind his locked bedroom door.  It was THE ONLY WAY TO KEEP HIM IN.)

Ella, on the other hand, will gladly stay wherever it is her big brother stays — and that means that we frequently find her curled up on the top bunk with her brother.  She tries to reassure us that she’s safe as she’s climbing up there (“Don’t worry!” she shouts.  “I’m still lying down!”)

Tonight, however, we discovered a switch: Jeffrey had dragged his pillow, blankets, and required reading (Lego catalog) down to Ella’s bunk.  When we ordered him back on top, he protested.

“But I’m doing my Visiting Teaching,” he explained.  Clever fellow.