OK, first off: why, oh why, does she ask me questions she already knows the answers to?
And, second: huh?
I tried a few follow-up questions to try to follow her reasoning, but she was finished with the subject. We've been reading a book about transplants lately, and I always explain that she had a transplant, too, and she got a new liver and it saved her life. Then I always show her her scar. Is that where this came from?
Anyway, for the 2 of you out there that might be interested in seeing Anni and Frankie open presents, here you go! This movie is pretty short (and dark and not very well shot, but hey I don't actually have a real videocamera!), but you can at least get an idea.
I started to write this entry last night, but when I came up to use the computer at 9pm, I found Anni still awake in her room. So we snuggled in the rocking chair by the computer and watched Sugarplum Mary and her friends, Shinny and Santa, approximately 100 times until she was finally feeling drowsy. By that time my brain was too numbed to write.
We enjoyed our two days of Christmas (Germans celebrate Christmas on the 24th), runny noses, coughs, diarrhea, and all. On the 24th, I reached up to smooth back a stray hair, and found a huge glob of snot on my ear. I ran screaming to the store to buy 10 boxes of tissues. OK, I'm just kidding--about the screaming, I mean. I really did buy 10 boxes of tissues. It takes a lot more than snot to gross me out. A LOT MORE. [Edited to remove graphic content after realizing nobody really wants to hear about that stuff.]
Actually, it's only Annika that is hit really hard--Frankie and I are just nasal congestion monsters. It would be completely insane of me to voice even the tiniest complaint, however. We are nearly 1 year past the beginning of our PTLD nightmare with Annika, and the ensuing looooong rejection episode. It's been about 6 months since Anni has had to be hospitalized, and so we couldn't be happier with simply fighting off viral bugs in the comfort of our own home. I finally unpacked all our "hospital bags" yesterday. The hospital bags are these little cotton totes that I keep filled with little bags of markers, crayons, scissors, glue, glitter, foam shapes, beads for necklaces, play-doh, new books, etc. They come in handy when you find yourself suddenly packing for a 2-hour drive up to Chicago for another hospital stay of indefinite length, and you need some quick, portable entertainment for a pre-schooler. I had 4 of these bags ready, with different stuff inside, all stored away in the top of our coat closet. I had moved them to the basement when I decided I needed that space to store Anni's growing collection of games and puzzles, and finally yesterday I decided it was time to give them a permanent home. On the one hand, the fact that it took me so long to unpack them is a sign of how busy we've been these past few months, but on the other hand it's also a sign of how long it takes to feel "safe" after a scary time. Not to feel like you need to be ready to leave for the hospital in 10 minutes time while caring for a vomiting child and a baby. So I finally put all the markers, glue, glitter, and other fun stuff in drawers where Anni can play with them here at home.
I hope I haven't jinxed things now by doing this. Yes, there's a hefty amount of superstition involved here. Like our observation that whenever we come to clinic without any suitcases packed, those are always the times that they find something that they need to admit Annika for. She can seem to us just fine all the way up there, but if the trunk of our car is empty, that's when she will spike a fever completely out of the blue as Dr. Alonso examines her. So fill that trunk with at least 3 days of clothes, please, no matter whether it seems warranted or not. The beauty part is this: if we get sent back home again, then we say--"Yup, always gotta keep those bags packed if you want to get back home again!" But, now, if for some reason our Samsonite Good Luck charm doesn't work, and she has to be admitted despite our best packing efforts, well then we're still happy to have those suitcases in the trunk, because who wants a surprise admit on only 1 pair of underwear??
So, back to Christmas and Annika's contribution to the Christmas tree... Actually, the hanger was not her only contribution. She made several actual ornaments, which she proudly hung, too.
We call the snowflake, "Mr. Demento Snow Guy"
Her handiwork also adorns our fireplace mantel, including the stockings she decorated for herself and Frankie.
You'll notice that googly eyes are all the rage in the preschool set. Also note that the Gingerbread boy is missing 2 cheerios where his feet should be. Appropriately enough, Frankie ate them (but we stopped her before she finished him off, obviously). Frankie is always on the hunt for any food source that she might happen upon.
Frankie is getting more picky about her food. She's acquired a taste for steak and prime rib (our Christmas dinner), but throws broccoli right back at me when I put it on her plate. On the plus side, she's developing quite an arm. I have to be careful with her, though. If I put something on her plate that she really likes (steak or salmon, for example), she'll simply poke every single bit of it into her mouth at once, like a starving baby wolf. I don't have a picture of her doing this, for safety reasons, but here's a good approximation:
After she gets her mouth stuffed, a look somewhere between terror and frustration crosses her face as she realizes her mouth is too full to chew. So then I have to hold out my hand for her to spit it out and try again (after I remove a good portion of it). So now I just cut off a piece designated for her, and then dole out tiny bits to her just a few at a time. As she finishes her 3 or 4 bits, she shoves her empty plate over to me with a little grunt, which is not hard to interpret.
Annika has had to call a halt to her experiments for the time being. Two days ago an experiment commenced while Joerg and I were finishing lunch.
Joerg: "What are doing in there, Anni?"
Anni: "I'm not making a mess, Dad!"
(does the girl know how to answer questions or what?)
Joerg decided to accept this answer, but several minutes later his parental instincts led him to investigate. At which point he discovers Anni standing in the sink, carefully covering the entire wall mirror in Vaseline Intensive Care lotion.
Joerg: "Anni, you are making a mess!"
Anni (flustered and more than a bit surprised at this assessment): "Well, uuuuummmmm.... TA-DA!!!"
Anyway, Christmas went very well. Both girls love their own toys, and also each other's. All Anni wanted for Christmas was a Baby Annabell, which she got along with a few other books and a new sled. Frankie and Anni both love Frankie's new Little People garage, and Frankie danced Christmas morning to her new Laurie Berkner CD. The girls also each got their own photo album with some of their favorite pictures from the past year. They both especially love the pictures of all of us wearing Anni's Mr. Potato Head glasses (her choice of prize after her dentist's visit). Those are the pictures featured on our Christmas letter. Even Joerg liked that particular photo concept, because, as he observed when he saw his own picture, "Nothing says 'Ph.D' like Mr. Potato Head Glasses."
Annika's only disappointment has been the lack of snow to go use her new snow tube. Really, it's too cold for her to go out with her nasty cough. The wind is so cold it hurts to breathe it in right now. Instead of going outside, we decided today to make Anni's favorite muffins. Here's the recipe, in case you're feeling culinary:
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup whole-wheat flour
1 1/2 cups sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
lots of cinnamon
1 cup mashed banana
1/2 cup plain yogurt
1/2 cup shortening
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup walnuts
1/2 cup milk-chocolate chips
1/2 cup semi-sweet chips (mini-morsels are the best)
In a bowl combine flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. (Anni enjoys levelling the cups, and then pouring in). Add cinnamon. I can't tell you exactly how much cinnamon goes into these muffins, because this is strictly up to Annika. She just shakes the container until it feels right. I will tell you that there is usually an awful lot of cinnamon used. If it starts looking like you've got more cinnamon than flour, then you've gone too far.
Mash the banana (Anni gets out the bananas and smashes by herself. Don't worry if it's still pretty lumpy. That's what mixers are for, I say.) Add banana, yogurt, shortening, eggs, and vanilla. (Yes, Anni cracks the eggs herself. I try to remember to have her do it in a separate bowl in case any shell gets in there, but even if I forget the extra bowl and the muffins are a bit eggshell "crunchy" I always just pass it off as extra nuts. I also let Anni measure the vanilla herself, because if a little extra spills in we just call it a "bonus".) Beat with an electric mixer on low speed until combined. Beat on medium speed for 3 minutes. (Anni now gets to handle the hand mixer by herself, with me right there of course. Is there any greater power rush for a 4-yr-old than eating up eggs and shortening with the whirring tines of a Braun mixer? I think not.) Add nuts and chocolate chips. The amounts given above are also approximate, increase or decrease depending upon how nutty/chippy you're feeling.
Pour batter into greased muffin cups, or use paper liners, filling 2/3 full. We always use liners because peeling them off is half the fun of eating the muffin, right? Bake in a 350 degree oven for 22-25 minutes, or until nice and brown. Makes about 30 muffins.
OK, so here's a distraction: a new game called "Guess the Question!" I'll set up a real-life, yes-it-really-happened situation, and you guess what question Anni asked me at that point.
OK, now you have to guess what question Anni asked at this point. You can email me your guesses, if you are feeling creative (email addy at end of post--my name is a link to my email).
Anni's query: "Is the plant going to eat it?"
OK, guess again.
Anni's query: "Are my pajamas pretend clothes?
Go for it!
Anni's query: "How much do you suppose the pinky punch costs?"
Recently I read an update of another child who has also had 2 transplants and now has the same post-transplant complication as Annika (portal vein thrombosis), which just caused a major bleed for him. He's currently on a ventilator in the PICU. I'm worried for him, and worried that this could happen to Annika at any time, too. A bleed could have happened pre-transplant, too, and I knew it, but geez it is frustrating to have this be a threat to her after two transplants, for goodness' sake. Meanwhile, I'm thinking about this poor boy and his family and staying awake when I should be asleep, just to listen to Annika breathe.
I'll be adding links to other liver kids pages, too, very soon, with their parents' permission.
So we're waiting to hear back her lab results, but suspecting that this just another common viral thingamajiggy that is hitting her hard, thanks to her immunosuppression. She felt good enough, though, to sing along to her Kim Possible CD in the car ("I'm your basic average girl, and I'm here to save the world. You can't stop me 'cause I'm Kim-Pos-si-ble") in her hoarse little voice. It's either heartbreaking or inspiring, depending on your mood, I guess.
Annika has lately been conducting "experiments" in the bathroom. These mainly consist of rubbing different objects around the house with a mixture of lotion, hand sanitizer, and soap. And then dunking them in water and also doing something with toilet paper. I don't know exactly, as she requires complete privacy in order to concentrate properly on the work at hand. Well, I do make her leave the bathroom door open. I value my plumbing too much to let her scientific bent go completely unsupervised.
Frankie also shows a budding curiosity for the world around her. Tonight while nursing she popped off the breast and stared at it cross-eyed so intently for such a long time--"Why, hello there! 14 months of nutrition and comfort and I don't believe we've ever been properly introduced." Of course, I had to go and laugh at her sudden contemplation of my boob, and so of course now she keeps doing it for laughs, which is not exactly great, as a baby with a mouth full of teeth just suddenly popping off from complete latch-on position is not exactly comfortable. I wonder if this is the beginning of the end of nursing for her, as she finally stops taking the breast for granted, and somehow it hits her that they are part of me rather than somehow just there for her. Or am I reading too much into this? Oooo, it's so tempting to try to analyze baby-think. They're such strange little unknowable creatures.
And then there's Hepburn, the old lady of the house. Have I mentioned that Anni calls her "The Old Lady" now, too? What a hoot. Lately that cat has been a total affection, love-me love-me machine. It's taken a while for Hepburn to pay any attention to me since we all returned from the hospital. Really, I lived with Anni away from home in the hospital for nearly a year, and Joerg was gone for a lot of that time, too. Thank goodness we adopted the second cat, Red, just before moving or Hepburn might have gone batty from loneliness. It looks like she has finally forgiven me for that long absence, and also there's the matter of bringing small children into her home. It's clear that she has accepted the kids with all their noise and sudden movements. Even Frankie gets to pet her, with me admonishing "Gentle, gentle" the whole time. Which one am I talking to? Not always entirely clear. But Hepburn purrs at Frankie's touch, and doesn't bring out her claws for her warning bats when Frankie finds her tail a bit too interesting. Recently, Frankie was playing with one of Annika's Magic Wands, waving it around in the air. Which was when Hepburn spotted it and pounced like the good hunter she used to be. As the wand smashed to the ground, with Frankie's hand still attached to the other end, Frankie freaked. But then Hepburn bounded back up again with her back arched and hair standing on end, just like a halloween cat silhouette, and that turned the situation right around for the baby, who decided to play a bit more. Then Annika said, "But does Frankie have to be careful? Because Hepburn has sharp claws?" And that's also classic Annika lately, who seems to feel that all her observations about the world, even the ones she knows to be absolutely true (from experience in this case), should be phrased in the form of a question. Yes, it's like living with a little junior Jeapardy contestant. "Mom, is it cold outside and do I have to wear my coat and my hat and boots in case it snows or rains? Are we going to the store to ride in a cart but only a cart that has one seat for Frankie and not for me because I have to walk? Are we going to the store to buy food to eat? And will there be lots of cars in the parking lot so I have to be careful and always hold your hand? Did you slow the car so you would not drive over a squirrel? Is that squirrel silly for walking in the road right in front of our car?")
I am working on a revamp of the site, and once we get Christmas taken care of, I should be able to actually get it done--new spiffier design, links, and other fun stuff. Well, fun for me anyway.
Today we had two parties to go to--Anni's preschool open house, and then this evening a colleague of Joerg's from the university was having a housewarming party whose invitations bravely proclaimed, "Kids welcome." Just before we were supposed to leave for the adult function, I ran upstairs to get Frankie up from her nap, leaving Anni alone in the basement. When I returned 3 minutes later, Anni had once again covered herself in one of her famous ink designs. So we were off to the party with our little junior Maori warrior.
When Anni was just a baby a friend of ours from the university had a running joke that involved discussing Anni's future tattoos. Are babies really that impressionable? How could she have understood? I hope she realizes that she's going to have to do some serious preventive antibiotics if she really wants to get some crazy body art. Actually, I don't even think her docs would approve it anyhow. Holy smokes, I am so freaked about her teen years and my imagination has another 9 years to run wild before she even gets there.
Another example of her new verbal sophistication: today as we were driving home, I turned down flat her suggestion that we go to McDonald's for lunch. Her response? "Mom, you are totally ruining my special holiday mood!"
And can there be any more useful place to try out all these great new turns of phrase than the toy store? "But, Mom, Baby Annabell wants me to buy her. Yes, look, she's stuck in that box. She's saying, 'Take me home and rescue me!' She really needs my help, Mom." But you have to be sure that when you read that last bit that you read it to yourself in a completely sincere, concerned tone of voice and you also have to picture Anni's big blue eyes gazing up at yours with a look that says she is seriously worried about Baby Annabell's welfare. Geez, no wonder I don't take her to toy stores so often anymore. How am I supposed to contend with that?
But back to that whole coolness issue... Today while reading on Dooce.com, I came across a link to a site that translates any web page into Snoop Doggy Dog (Dogg?) speak. So of course I Snooped my own blog, with this result (from my Dec. 14 entry):
And then there are times when they are just downright frightening, know what I'm sayin'? Like this afternoon when Anni 'n I wuz pretending has conversations on her play phone wit Grandma, her cousins, Riley 'n Shelby, 'n her cuz, Poleena, know what I'm sayin'? Frankie knows izzall 'bout phones, as I has given her da receiver a few times let her talk Grandma, know what I'm sayin'? Yes, Grandma 'n Grandpa are bomb diggity--they put up wit holding "conversations" wit da enchanting heavy-breather that is my youngest daughter n' shit. Anyway, Frankie became determined get hold of izzle play phone 'n join in da game, know what I'm sayin'? She yanked da phone from my ear, jammed that shiznit her own ear 'n began demanding in her sweet snuggly neanderthal fashion, " 'lo, know what I'm sayin'? ..'lo, know what I'm sayin'? ..'LO." ..'LO" At which point brizzle became quite disturbed at da phone's stubborn refusal respond, 'n began banging da hell out of that shiznit on da floor! Annika, always happy encourage destructive tendencies, laughed so hard brizzle nearly fell over, which prompted Frankie's instantaneous mood shift from frustrated raging baby bull gleeful jokester ("oh this is funny? well there's mo' where this came from, believe me!"), 'n da phone wuz not destroyed."
Even after being put through Snoop's Shizzolator, my blog still sounds like it's written by a booooring midwestern white chick. I mean, come on, "enchanting"? "neanderthal"? "quite disturbed"? "gleeful jokester"? Even Snoop cannot transform that stuff into anything remotely cool. Fo' shizzle. (See? I just can't pull it off!)
And Annika was just the sweetest kid today. We went over to a friend's house, and she has a 2-yr-old girl, Lia. Annika played so gently with little Lia, following her lead in all her little 2-yr-old games. It helps that Lia does not mind Anni's constant show of affection, the dreaded head pat, which drives some babies insane. I was just so proud of her ability to enjoy playing with someone at a completely different stage of development, not to mention that it gave me some precious time to have some adult chat during the day.
Annika also plays fairly frequently with a girl 2 years her senior, our neighbor Sabrina. It can be hard for Sabrina sometimes, as Anni doesn't always play by the rigid rulebook established by 6-yr-old girls, but all in all she does a great job, and Anni has matured quite a bit just being around Sabrina's example. Occasionally, though, Sabrina will ignore Annika or otherwise hurt her feelings while playing--again another lesson to be learned for Anni, but one parents always hate to witness. Yes, we all know how cruel kids can be and no need to belabor the point. But then there are times when you are just shocked to see how caring kids are for each other. The other day when the girls were playing downstairs in the basement, Annika had one of her huge leg cramps. She gets these sometimes, probably from an electrolyte imbalance (from her liver problems? from her medicines? who knows?), and they are so terribly painful for her. She kind of fell over and started crying her huge tears. I picked her up and put her on the sofa, and Sabrina dropped her play-doh project right away and came and threw her arms around Anni, with tears of her own in her eyes. Sabrina stayed there with her until the cramp went away and Anni could come back and play. Now it may not sound like such a big deal for Sabrina to have left her play-doh project to come to Anni's aid, but it really was because Frankie was at the play-doh table, too, and that Frankie baby can destroy any and all play-doh masterpieces in approximately 2 seconds. So you really have to guard your stuff well around her. When Anni was feeling better, they both came back to the table and repaired the Frankie damage, without even one complaint at having to start over.
She lay on her back
for a few seconds,
at the textured ceiling
with the mysterious
spaghetti sauce stain.
flapping her arms and legs
there on the floor, as if to swish
the imaginary snow
into a snow angel.
"Falling down is also a gift!" says she.