Thursday, January 31, 2008

Is she cold?

We dressed Margaret this morning in a long-sleeved onesie and fleece pants. She's usually a bit cold so we added the matching fleece top, too. Later in the morning she brought me a zip-up fleece jacket and wanted me to put it on her. Shortly after that she came toddling over with Joseph's down vest. I didn't think she could get any more layers over that but when she spied her purple parka hanging on the door she begged to put that on as well. I'm amazed that it zipped over the vest. You probably can't appreciate how fat she was from this picture but she sure looks happy

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

This one is for Uncle Paul . . .

Joseph said to me last night,

"Mommy I'm going to use this to buy a firetruck. A fire truck is a beautiful thing to buy . . ."

I wonder where he got that idea?

Uncle Paul took us to see "his" fire trucks last week. He predicted that Joseph would last less than five minutes and he was right. But we let Joseph leave as soon as he wanted to and he emerged unscarred from the experience of seeing fire trucks up close and personal. He has NOT STOPPED talking about it since.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Margaret and her Dollies

I made Margaret a doll for Christmas this year. I'm not really all that crafty but I had low expectations. Basically I wanted a stuffed rag doll. I didn't finish it in time to bring it along on our Christmas trip so we saved it for Epiphany. But I confess that I was a little worried that someone else in the family would give her a doll and mine would get relegated to second place. My fears were confirmed Christmas morning when Margaret opened her gift from Grandma Marga. It's a cute little baby doll with blinky eyes. Margaret held it sort of at arm's length, flicked each eyelid, and tossed it aside. Joseph loved it and called it "Mr. Dolly."

My doll met a slightly warmer welcome. It got a hug and lots of dragging around by the hair. As things have settled, both dollies are about equally tied for Margaret's affections. She's doing this weird thing lately where she insists on filling her arms with as many things as she can carry before walking around the apartment. This might explain why our place usually looks like a tornado hit: Margaret is always carrying five things and Margaret is always moving around.

Often her arms are filled with both dollies and a pink-trimmed blanket made by Eric's great-great-grandmother (I think). But mostly we see a lot of this:

Joseph likes to strip the little pajamas off the first dolly and I'm thinking of making a couple more outfits for it. I gave the rag doll loose, wild hair to match Margaret's.

Saturday, January 26, 2008


Almost as soon as Joseph was born we decided that we wanted him to play the violin. We hope all of our kids are musical but especially for Joseph we wanted to give him an activity that could be special for him, that he could excel at, and that he could start at an early age. We've been researching methods of musical training and talking to various musicians for a couple years and we settled on the Suzuki method of instruction. The Suzuki method works on the premise that very young children can learn how to easily play an instrument the same way they learn language--by listening and imitation.

Unfortunately, lessons and instruments aren't cheap. This is a high priority for our family but after looking into local teachers we decided last fall to wait a year. But for months Joseph has been obsessed with the violin. He turns half his toys into violins. He knows his left hand from his right and has long known which is his bow hand and which holds the violin. He has a tiny violin puzzle piece that he is always asking to play. He can pick out the violin (and many other instruments) by ear from recordings and from the radio. It was a little heartbreaking to have all this enthusiasm and no vehicle for it.

At Christmas we spent a lot of time with Eric's family, many of whom are or were music teachers. They convinced Eric that he could teach Joseph himself. Eric does not know how to play the violin, but he does play several instruments and just has a lot of innate musical sense and ability (far more than I do, despite my music degree). When we got home from our travels we looked into violin rentals and we were surprised at how inexpensive two instrument rentals would be. Eric went out at the beginning of the month--in time for our Epiphany celebration--and got a full-size violin for himself and a 1/16 size for Joseph (even then, it's a bit too big). We already had the books in place.

Joseph was so excited when he opened it. He pulled it out of the case, asked for the bow, and started "playing" immediately. The top picture is that time. Eric let him just play with it for a little while and later (bottom picture) they had their first lesson.

They try to have a short lesson together most evenings after dinner. I'm always putting Margaret to bed (she is not a help to the lessons!) so I typically miss them but I got to see the tail end last night. We are so proud of Joseph. He has learned the proper, very particular way to hold the bow and is working on placing his left hand correctly on the neck of the violin. He loves to work on his good violin posture and he is learning to draw the bow nice and straight across the strings. He's still a long way from "Twinkle, Twinkle" but he takes his playing very seriously and is always ready for a lesson. Eric is really enjoying being the teacher and is studying hard himself so as not to pass on any bad habits. He's finding that playing is a great break from dissertation-writing and job-hunting.

Saturday, January 5, 2008

The best thing about celebrating Christmas just a little different from all your neighbors:

Free Christmas trees.

We all had a really wonderful Christmas tour of New England this year. I was too busy to blog much about it but it didn't matter because we saw almost every reader of this blog in person. Thirty-seven relatives (including the surprise visit from GI Grandpa and Stephanie). We miss our family every Christmas so it was nice to share the holiday with everyone this time around.

Despite that, we did also really miss our own Christmas traditions that we've begun to cultivate over the last four years. We didn't do much by way of decoration, we didn't get to finish setting out our Nativity and, for various reasons, we didn't even exchange gifts with each other. We decided just before leaving on our trip to give gifts amongst ourselves on Epiphany, the Feast of the Three Kings, which is tomorrow.

Our family really likes to follow the liturgical rhythm of the Church year, especially at Christmas. We try to save Christmas activities and celebrations for Christmas itself and focus on Advent until December 24th. Then we put our tree up on Christmas Eve, decorate it and everything else, and break out the Christmas cookies. Last year we tried to stretch the celebrating through all twelve days of Christmas. This year was no trouble as we've had lots of family to see and gifts to open. But it was a little sad to come home to our undecorated apartment earlier this week and still be waiting for our own family's small celebration tonight and tomorrow.

Then we were out for a walk last night and Behold! Christmas trees everywhere! We joked several weeks ago about stealing one off the curb when we got back to DC but we weren't serious. Most of the trees are wet, dead or huge. But outside an apartment building just five blocks from here we found a perfectly healthy, perfectly little tree and we dragged it home. In no time at all we crammed two strings of lights on it and hung all our ornaments. It's a bit "Charlie Brown" but, hey, it was free. I love it.