Monday, December 31, 2012

2012: A Year in Review

I have a bunch of Christmas related posts to get up, but I figure that is going to take me until April anyway, so I might as well do our annual wrap-up.  Like usual, it was a crazy year.  New jobs, new schools, new house, new lots of things.  I am very much looking forward to 2013 being a little calmer.  Maybe a lot calmer.

At any rate:

January: Louis is sick for pretty much the entire month.  He forgets how to sleep.  It does not seem to phase him and he keeps on going from baby to toddler in what seems like a nano-second.  We find as many parks around us as possible because it is 75 degrees in Texas.  Norah gets frustrated by the fact that Lou now actually moves and takes her stuff, but starts to come up with all of the ways that she can make him do her bidding.  Norah is increasingly interested in all things reading and writing but won't let anyone help her figure it out.  We start house hunting in earnest.

February: Lou starts to walk and takes about 10 headers a day.  He continues to suffer from back to back ear infections.  GG and Aunt Vanessa come to visit and I am completely incapacitated from kid cooties.  BVZ works a lot and I start going into the office several days a week.  Louis turns ONE and has a great Hungry Caterpillar birthday.  Most weekends are spent looking at houses.  We get frustrated because we aren't finding what we want for what we want to spend.

March:  Lou goes to the ENT and his hearing is just fine.  The doctor recommends a steroid and then ear tubes if the medication does not work.  The steroid is a wonder drug and for the first time in over six months, Lou goes for a week without being sick.  We start to think there is a light at the end of the cootie tunnel.  He gets his first haircut and his baby curls are gone forever.  Norah continues to be awesome, despite the fact that she refers to a character from a book as a 'butt hole' while on a play date.

April: We make an offer on a house and it gets outright rejected.  I do some internet sleuthing and find out the sellers are moving to Australia.  We wait two weeks and offer again, this time it's accepted.  Louis becomes a toddler nightmare and starts to throw tantrums the size of Australia.  BVZ and I consider getting divorced just so that we each only have to spend half our time with him.  Norah continues to be cute and funny, but suffers for weeks from bad stomach aches.  She is diagnosed with celiac disease and eating as we know it changes forever.

May:  Norah has a dance recital and I kill a giant Texas centipede in the bath tub.  BVZ works a lot.  I pack a lot.  Ruby, her mom, and baby Ella come and visit for five days--pretty much the best five days of Norah's life.

June:  We move into our new house.  We host Norah's birthday party approximately 48 hours after the movers leave.  I stop blogging because of all the moving.  BVZ gets a movie screen and projector installed in the media room--pretty much the best day of his life.  Norah turns FOUR and starts a new school.

July: It gets very, very hot in Texas.  I give up on unpacking.  GG and Aunt Vanessa come for Fourth of July.  We spend a lot of time in the pool.  Norah gets over her fear and starts to love the pool.  We swim after Lou goes to bed because swim diapers are the worst thing ever invented.  Lou gets a stomach virus and barfs all over his new room.

August:  I start working a lot more and things get a little crazy.  Okay, a lot crazy.  We almost burn down the new house.  I start a new cooking club here in Austin.  Louis becomes more and more physically agile every day and gets into trouble every five minutes or so.  Norah has pneumonia (unbeknownst to us).  She recovers and starts a new dance class.  Norah officially starts pre-K and Louis starts school two days a week.  Shockingly he bites no one and becomes the darling of all the teachers and staff.

September:  Both kids start soccer.  Lou is a natural.  Norah tries really hard and is a great listener.  Norah becomes obsessed with chapter books and will have nothing to do with anything else.  I work like a crazy person.  So does BVZ. I travel alone to Santa Barbara for the weekend.  I get to see favorite friends and celebrate a big birthday.  And pee by myself.

October: Norah develops some severe separation anxiety that coincides with me working a lot.  We give up and let her sleep with us (an on-going battle).  Even though Lou won't eat, his brain continues to grow and he has a vocabulary explosion.  We celebrate Halloween with lots of gluten free candy and scary decorations.  BVZ and I work a lot.

November: I file my first habeas application in Texas.  It's a big deal.  At the exact same time, BVZ has a hearing in Dallas.  Bubby basically saves our asses.  We celebrate by taking an awesome trip to Disneyland.  We win best parents of the year by surprising Norah with a visit at Disneyland from Ruby.  She may never recover.  GG and Aunt Vanessa fly out for Thanksgiving and VZ Christmas.

December: Things slow down.  Lou learns to communicate like an actual human being.  Overnight he stops being an asshole and becomes the best toddler there ever was.  We spend an inordinate amount of time enjoying holiday lights.  Grandpa Gene comes to Texas and celebrates Christmas with us.

We are settling in.  2013 promises to bring big things--professional milestones for both BVZ and myself, the end of baby jail, and... kindergarten.  I hope there is a vacation thrown in there somewhere and some spectacular birthday celebrations (hint, hint).

Cheers to the end of one chapter and the beginning of something new!

Sunday, December 30, 2012


Lou's school had a Christmas program a few weeks ago.  He's a little hard to see (red shirt, front row) and the program itself is not that interesting because he was a deer-in-headlights.  He didn't even shake his jingle bells.  The reason to watch, however, is to hear Reid yelling for his cousin from the audience.  Makes me laugh every time.


Like a lot of people, we have an Elf on the Shelf.  We have had it for a couple of years and each holiday season Norah gets more and more into it.  The idea is simple--an elf comes to your house on December 1 (or in our case, December 7 when I finally found it in a still-packed box in the spare room), checks you out during the day, and then travels back to the North Pole at night and reports your good (or bad) behavior to Santa.  In the morning, your elf is supposed to be in a different place to show you that he or she did in fact leave and report back to Santa that night.  Norah named our elf two years ago when he arrived at our house, hence why his name is "Elfie."

Some parents up the ante and have their Elf set up in funny, naughty or precarious positions in the morning.  With the proliferation of ideas on Facebook and Pinterest, I have seen elves drinking from beer bottles, noshing on a bag of marshmallows, fishing for goldfish crackers in the sink, etc.  It's all very cute and I admire their tenacity.  My kids, however, are lucky that Elfie just shows up in a different place every morning.  On more nights than I would like to admit I woke in a cold sweat at 2:00 am, elbowing BVZ in the ribs and whispering, "did you remember to move that f'ing elf?"  

The very first thing Norah would say upon waking every single morning was, "let's go find the elf." She threatened on many occasions to report my bad behavior to the elf.  She would have long conversations with the elf in which she would express her desire for a gluten free make up kit and ask the elf to ask Santa what kind of cookies he preferred. 

It's a sweet tradition and the twinkle in Norah's eye (and eventually Louis's, I imagine) is worth the 2:00 am cold sweats, no questions asked.  

Everything's Bigger in Texas

We live in a great neighborhood and people go all out with holiday decorations.  Our neighborhood has saved my ass many nights this past month when the kids were melting down post-dinner but it was not quite bedtime.  Because it was still 70+ degrees, I would take them on a long walk to look at all the lights, and then wham.  It would be bath and bedtime and my sanity would remain somewhat intact.

People don't mess around here and we have seen some of the most elaborately lit houses in town.  There are a few places that set their light show to music and this one in particular became a huge hit.  I think we visited this house about 15 times over the month of December.  I am surprised we didn't get asked to contribute to the electricity bill.

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Thanksgiving 2012

I know, I know, we are three days away from Christmas.  But I could not miss out on the opportunity to post this gem from turkey day.

GG and Aunt Vanessa blew into Austin for the holiday and brought their usual spirit, merriment, and bottles of Chardonnay.  Our new tradition is to celebrate a VZ Christmas the day after Thanksgiving, which Norah thinks is the coolest thing ever.  I don't disagree.  Along with being fun and generous, GG and Aunt Vanessa spent the better part of their vacation watching Disney movies, chasing a toddler, and playing twelve-thousand card games with a preschooler.  That's love, people.  Love.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012


I have written and then deleted about ten different posts regarding my feelings on the Sandy Hook tragedy.  Written because what happened matters, those kids matter.  Deleted because I do not really have anything to say that hasn't already been said.  And I don't want to offend or piss anyone off (despite the millions of tears I have spilled for the victims, remember my actual job is as an advocate for the perpetrator of these types of horrible crimes).  But mostly I don't want to just write something trite and self-serving, something all about me and how much I love my kids.  But that is exactly what I have been thinking about most.  How much I love my kids.  And my niece and nephews.  And my friends' kids.  And if anything like this happened to any of them, life as I know it would cease to exist.

Years ago I heard a story from a man who spent a lot of time working with women in a federal correctional facility (it might have been at a work conference, it might have been on NPR...I can't remember).  Anyway, this guy said that when it was visiting day at the prison and the women would get to see and hold their children, they spent a significant amount of time smelling their kids.  Sitting and smelling.  Breathing in the scent of their kids, taking it with them.  I have thought about that story lots over the past four and a half years, especially while spending many a night with a sick or sleepless kid.  Smelling them.  Breathing in their scent.  Taking it with me.  I have done an inordinate amount of smelling Norah and Louis over the past several days, my face nestled in their necks.

Norah is salty sweet.  She smells a lot like shampoo and a little like sweaty kid.  A little like strawberry yogurt and a lot like cinnamon chex.  Lou is sweetly salt.  He smells a lot like the lotion I put on his eczema spots and a little like shampoo.  A little like dirt and a lot like ketchup.  I pretty much can't get enough of either one of them.  And while it sounds so cliched, so banal...I want to hold on to every bit of them, suffocate myself with their scent.

My kids know nothing of what happened at Sandy Hook.  Louis has no comprehension of anything beyond his world of Cheerios and fire trucks.  Although Norah obviously understands a reality outside of her immediate wants and needs, she is still far too young to be able to process what happened in any meaningful way.  Allowing her access to any information about the shootings would do nothing but invite terror and trauma. In the days following the tragedy, there has been a lot of discussion regarding how to talk to kids about scary things that happen in the world.  I have seen this quote from Fred Rogers all over the place:

"When I was a boy and would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, 'Look for the helpers.  You will always find people who are helping.' To this day, especially in the time of disaster, I remember my mother's words and am comforted by realizing that there are still so many helpers--so many caring people in the world."

I think the sentiment is important.  That there is a common thread that connects us as human beings.  We understand and empathize with suffering.  We do not want our fellow man to suffer.  We search out those who will help to alleviate the suffering.  While it is certainly a concept I want my kids to understand when the time is right, I do not think it can stop there.

We failed those kids in Connecticut, those families, that community.  Thoughts and prayers and acts of kindness are important, but at the end of the day we have to make the necessary changes to do better.  We have failed to implement effective and safe control of firearms.  We have failed to provide effective and safe mental health care and treatment for the most susceptible and dangerous of our citizens.  We have failed to provide a community that recognizes the needs of the most vulnerable and equips our parents, teachers, and fellow citizens with tools by which to actually do something.  We have failed to be real helpers.

It is not enough to just seek out the helpers.  I think I am a helper.  (I know some may disagree, but at the end of the day my hope is that I can not only help my clients, but also help others to see the world in not such a black and white kind of way.  I promise you, there is no such thing as pure good or pure evil).  I want my kids to understand that they have a responsibility to be helpers too.  To understand that the world is complex and sometimes scary, but they have been given the tools to make a significant difference in our social consciousness, and they have an obligation to use them.  I do not know what form this will take--obviously that will be up to them--but I only hope that will be actively engaged in a professional or personal life that gives back, that seeks to alleviate suffering, that tries to make the world a safer place to be.

Until then I will do whatever I can to stop the madness from happening again.  I have written my congressman, I have donated to the Sandy Hook school support fund.  I will never forget those young and precious lives.  I will advocate loudly for reform and participate in the process any way that I can.  I will tell teachers how much I appreciate them.  I will do my job and I will do it well.  And I will smell my kids.  Every day.  Again and again.  And again.

Monday, December 17, 2012

Santa Baby

Pictures with Santa are more fun (and way cheaper) when you bring a cousin.

Tuesday, December 04, 2012

Louis at 21 Months

Lou has been a tough kid to live with for the past couple of months.  For whatever reason, growing pains I suppose, he went through a period of not sleeping well (ie, waking up multiple times a night) and I am convinced it effected every other part of his life.  His sleep was crap, so his eating was crap, and his mood a lot of the time was shockingly--crap.

I am happy to report (knock on wood) that I think he's finally moved past whatever was bugging him. We've seen quite the transformation in the past several weeks and not only is he logging a solid 12+ hours every night, but he's an all around happier kid.  We haven't done anything differently, whatever he did he did on his own.  Some wayward teeth finally made their way into his mouth, so maybe that's it.  He's also had quite a language explosion as of late, so I imagine the increased ability to communicate has contributed to his mellowing out a bit.  Tantrums are few and far between (again, knock on wood) and the kisses are plentiful.  

Lou has never shown a strong preference for me.  (Norah, on the other hand, would climb back in my uterus most days if given the option).  I mean, he's likes me just fine but other people were just as successful at soothing Lou when he was a baby as me--he has always responded really well to BVZ and Bubby (especially Bubby)--and that hasn't really changed as he's gotten older.  But along with this improved disposition has come a newly discovered fondness for me.  He's all over me.  ALL OVER ME.  And I love it.  

A few things about Lou right now that I want to remember:

He is very, very particular about food and how it is served.  He has a limited palate and will pretty much only eat chicken, noodles, avocado, cheese, and beans.  Oh, and hot dogs.  He will, however, eat any kind of bread/carb product ever made.  Strangely enough, he will eat broccoli by the handful and loves it either cooked or frozen solid.  He also really enjoys whipped cream sprayed directly into his mouth.  We figured out that he takes a really long time to eat and sometimes likes to take a break before he's actually done with a meal.  This is pretty much exactly what BVZ does.  (It takes me 4.5 seconds to eat dinner.  BVZ will often take over an hour).  Lou's ability to tell me when he's actually "all done" has changed everything.  

He is still a string bean.  He is barely cracking 23 lbs, which is at like the 5th percentile for weight.  He is still well above average for height.  Clothes that fit are hard to find, and he usually ends up in 12 month pants that look like high waters.  

He knows the color green and likes to point it out frequently.  Everything else he thinks is purple.  He can identify most animals (and their sounds) by name, including the zebra and flamingo on the wall of his classroom at school.  Speaking of school, he totally digs it.  The teachers love him and think he's a flirt.  He hasn't bitten anyone.  We've gotten glowing reports with only two exceptions--one afternoon he took a header into a train table and another day he refused to give up the rock he was carrying around. In his mouth.  He's very, very mischievous and will do naughty things only when he knows I am looking.  Like carry rocks around in his mouth.  Or drink a bucketful of soapy bathwater.

He can identify all of his body parts and likes to point them out.  His butt is his favorite.  We are making absolutely no headway on the potty training front--he refuses to even look at the little potty.  He  will tell me when he's pooped, but only if I ask.  He still thinks cutting the cheese is hilarious.  He eats broccoli every day.  He cuts a lot of cheese.  

He still loves all things train, car, truck, and construction.  School buses and garbage trucks are by far his favorite.  He's incredibly agile and physical.  I think he'd probably be a really good gymnast.  There is a lot of running and a lot of jumping.  He isn't the climber that I feared he would be, but there's still time.  He loves music and dances a lot.  He is starting to be interested in puzzles and games.  He is mostly interested in destroying puzzles and games that Norah is working on.  The holiday lights currently up around the neighborhood are rocking his world. 

He still gets sick a lot.  He is currently finishing up another round of antibiotics for another sinus and ear infection.  I don't think we are going to do tubes anytime soon, unless it gets a lot worse.  His hearing hasn't been affected and the ear infections aren't delaying his language at all--two things which are major considerations.  When he turns two we are going to experiment with having him go dairy free to see if that helps.  I am not willing to give up the major source of fat in his diet right now, but in a few months I am hoping that will be a realistic option.

He has always liked books but would never sit through story after story like Norah would.  Lately though he will demand book after book after book, especially at bedtime.  10 Little Ladybugs is his favorite, as is anything with a truck on the cover.  He still really likes Norah.  He is very physical with her and pushes her around a lot.  She's finally started to push back a bit.  She is so bossy with him and he's finally started to push a bit back on her.  The other day she was making him mad and he finally just yelled, "Nany, SIT DOWN."  She was so surprised she actually sat down.  

He's really fun right now.  I hope it lasts. 

(This is his school picture.  The cuteness kills me.)