Saturday, April 26, 2008

one week of Anni-free adventures

We are packed and ready to head to Florida and then Mexico. We got home tonight from dropping Annikah off at Grandma and Grandpa Engstrom's house so we can enjoy our first vacation as a couple since having Anni!! Like a crazy paranoid mama I had my moments of wondering if she could handle it, like she may spontaneously combust once she realized we were not there but I am so over it. After a near tearful goodbye (on my part- Anni was totally fine and said "bye-bye" numerous times as if to usher us out so she could begin getting spoiled by her grandparents, I also attribute her good attitude to the prepping we have been doing for a week plus the fact that she took an almost 3 hour nap today) we made a quick get away and started the drive home. Can I just say it was a blissful drive: we listened to whatever station we wanted, we talked without being interrupted, I actually sat in the front seat next to my husband without handing goldfish crackers to anyone in the backseat, and in general there was magnificent quiet. Every once in a while one of us would say "Anni is so cute when.....(fill in numerous adorable things she does right now)" but overall I must say I am stinkin' excited to enjoy some grown-up time with my hubby. It is our last hurrah and relaxing getaway before the big move and I for one am going to enjoy it!!! I also heard that it may snow here on Monday so I want to be far far away from this evil, cruel joke.
Anni will have a blast hanging out with her grandparents, cousins Joel and Silas, Auntie Jorie, Uncle Mark, and Uncle Justin. Thanks Grandma Rho & Grandpa Jim : it is safe to pronounce you the Rock Star Award recipients for the next week.
Will post when I have a tan and at least 3 hours of doing absolutely nothing but laying on a beach reading a book......I was thinking something other than Dr. Seuss.

hot wings with extra ranch, cupcakes, & "special" cool ranch doritoes...reflections on urban ministry

Wednesday night was my last night at the Family Empowerment Center. The kids in my class were so sweet as they planned and put together a "party" for me. It is so funny the ways kids scheme and think. Last week they were reminded that the next week was my last night and at the end of the night before dismissal I could hear a few of the kids whispering about doing something for me. An adorable and full of energy boy named Levy said loudly "we should bring stuff really Cool Ranch Doritos." How precious is that? One of the leaders made cupcakes and some of the kids brought cookies to share. Many of the kids also made me cards and signs chalked full of warm wishes, funny drawings, and misspellings. My favorite is pictured and includes me with the blue scarf I always wear and my new haircut.

A few weeks back the kids in my small group (about 12 of them) earned a reward for completing a challenge that had lasted for about 3 months. The reward was that they all got to vote for what treat myself and the other leaders would bring in for them. I was thinking cupcakes, cookies, pizza, ice cream sundaes even. No, the kids all enthusiastically cast votes for hot wings with "extra ranch" as Levy and Giovanni added: gotta love urban ministry!! They happily devoured their hot wings and celebrated their achievements. They even decided to share with another class (an added bonus that made me so proud of them!).

Jason and Annikah joined me for my last night to finally meet the kids I had been hanging out with every Wednesday night. Anni was predictably enraptured with the older girls walking around holding their hands most of the night and protested loudly when it came time to leave.

Being there every Wednesday required work, preparation, prayer, patience, and getting over my laziness and apathy many nights but I am so glad I was committed and made it a priority. It is such a blessing to think I was able to impact these kids lives in such a small way and in return they blessed me a ton! here is to hot wings with extra ranch, cupcakes, and cool ranch Doritos!

Friday, April 25, 2008

Anni loves on baby Gavin

Last week we visited the McGowans and their brand new baby boy Gavin at home. We came bearing Mexican takeout and got to chat a bit about life as parents (in between changing newborn diapers and feeding Anni refried beans). Annikah LOVED baby boy Gavin. She wanted to hold him and liked rubbing his sweet new baby head. Here are a few pictures of her nurturing her new little friend.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

already trying to fill my shoes

I suppose every little girl at some point tries to be "like mommy." Annikah has definitely hit this phase. She wants to put face powder on when she sees me do it, I must blow dry the 6 hairs on her head as I dry my hair, and today she waddled into the living room wearing my shoes. Here is hoping she mimics the good and ditches the not so fab!

the artist...part 2

As I posted before Annikah is a true artist. I really think this is part of who she is becoming. Her creative juices at work make her giddy and cause me to smile. Making pictures is her favorite activity and she will do almost anything I ask if I promise either A. the park or B. to make a picture.

A few weeks ago I decided to take the ever growing pile of original Anni Joys and make a little gallery on the side of our pantry. I taped them all up one by one and she gasped in excitement to see her work so proudly displayed. It was as if she felt her tedious efforts being celebrated for the masterpieces they are. At least once a day she will pass by her "gallery" of art work and make an "awe" sound or gasp and point to various creations. I usually then comment on the "form" or "use of violet" or the "amazing aesthetic her use of ovals and feathers foster". Good for me she buys all my pretend artsy babble that I vaguely remember from Art History 101 (Beck- I need a real artists help on my art appreciation lingo!!). Annikah just smiles and beams with pride as I describe with great animation how amazing her work is. It it so precious and a reminder to me as a Mama how important it is to celebrate what your child revels in and be excited about what they love.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

how we are doing with potty training

well, I guess it is actually how Anni is doing since Jason and I are pretty consistently using the potty and have been for some time (me for since I was two and Jason well, at least since we married seven years ago :)

Since I posted last Anni has used the potty ZERO times. Of course I attribute this to the fact that I bragged and posted about her pooping in the potty. She has graduated to telling me every time she needs a new diaper by saying "poo-poo" or pee-pee" when asked and although she occasionally seems to want to sit on the potty just for the heck of it she shows no signs of being potty trained in the near future.
She has been placing various stuffed beings that reside around here on the potty and making the "ssssss" peeing noise as if they are peeing. We then clap for the lil' guy or gal and say a big Hurrah! for their valiant efforts. For now she seems to be happy to celebrate others using the potty. Today I walked in the bathroom to dry my hair and found her precious baby IN her potty, she took out the little bowl part and stuffed poor baby inside. I rescued her but could not resist snapping a quick photo of the only little girl using the potty around here.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008


Today I had an encounter that left me feeling icky.

Jason worked from home to handle our flat tire scenario (last night as I jumped in the good ol' Blazer after a friend's jewelry show across town and attempted to pull away I knew something was terrible wrong and it was confirmed when I realized my tire was completely flat). After a friend husband volunteered to put my spare on for me I made it home safe. As an aside I usually tend to think of myself as an independent strong woman but anything involving cars breaking down (or electronics) I seem to revert to the dumb blondie stereotype and "need" a man to help me with my automobile woes- why is that? Perhaps this is a deeper serious, perhaps even systemic issue I need to address at a later date but for now back to my story....
Since we need to drive to Cedar Rapids on Friday we knew the tire had to be fixed asap and since I am babysitting for the next few days Jason volunteered to work from home today and thus be able to steal away to get the tire fixed so that I would not have to haul Anni with me and wait the hour while it was repaired. This act secured his ranks among the Awesome Hubbies of the Universe.
So before he left I made Annikah lunch and quick darted out to run an errand close by. As I was returning home I was stopped at a red light on Sheridan and was applying chap stick (an addiction of mine that in and of itself remains a topic for another time). As I was closing the overhead mirror I became acutely aware that I was being starred at so I quickly turned and looked out my open window (hallelujah for warm weather!!). There was a Chicago Police van-truck thing (again with my car idiot-ness) with two very stereotypical large Chicago police officers (picture "Da Bears: SNL skit here). The officer in the passenger seat leaned out his window and said "hey, baby, you look great." Immediately my skin began to crawl and I felt dirty, uncomfortable was not the word. It took every once of self control not to say something equally rude back to him but I decided in that instance to breathe a heavy audible exhale of disgust and ignore the behavior. We were only sitting next to each other at the light for probably 45 seconds but it felt forever as I knew they were sharing "thatta boys" and probably an array of other abhorrent comments. He continued to try to get my attention by again saying "you look so good...hey baby." I wish I could better describe the way he said it but I was keenly aware of my gender in a way that made me feel small. Why do men do this? Did they not have mothers who raised them to respect women? Do they really think we as women will suddenly feel an overwhelming desire to reply "hey I am YOUR baby, I have all my life been waiting for a man to say that to me....wanna go back to my place?" Are they completely delusional?What is it?
I should have gotten the truck number but I was too busy speeding away from them as soon as the light turned green. It also made me upset with myself that I would even allow this jerk to make me feel bad or uncomfortable. I know there are many great, heroic even police officers out there so by no means am I characterising the police force by these 2 "ickos" but my dealings with Chicago's finest today left me wondering who exactly they serve and protect.

95 years of living.....

This past weekend we drove out to Milwaukee to visit Jason's Grandparents (Engstrom side). We wanted to make sure to see them before we head out of the country. It is approaching so fast as we have a firm leave date of June 23rd. Something that has been in the works for over 2 years, finally we are almost there. It feels so surreal to be saying "goodbye for now" to family and friends.

Jason's parents were also were there visiting so we all got to catch up and hang out. Jason's Grandfather turns 95 this month and his grandparents have been married over 70 years. What an amazing accomplishment in this age where I think I read the average marriage lasts 5 or 6 years. I cannot imagine what living for 95 years is like and he is still going strong! It makes me think about what my contribution to this world will be if God grants me 95 years while at the same time feeling blessed for every day I do have as none of us are guaranteed tomorrow.

Annikah enjoyed the swimming pool in their activity center and we all loved spending time outside in the beautiful weather. She also impressed Great Grandma by showing off her new words with her flashcards. Great Grandpa sang some hymns for us. He sings twice a week, once for church and once for the "old folks" home as he put it :)

We all had lunch and before we left they prayed for us. It was a reminder of the rich heritage and blessings we take with us as we go.

Monday, April 21, 2008

like father.... Anni. I FINALLY got around to putting the Mii family iron-on onto a shirt for Annikah. I found the iron-on transfer Beck had given me while we were in the midst of packing, cleaning, and organizing yesterday and made this little onesie for her. She was very excited that she matches Papa and we were happy to have her happy for a bit as most of the day was spent in molar teething HELL. Here is hoping for more smiles today...

Thursday, April 17, 2008

sidewalk chalk, water tables, & all things glorious

There has been a noticeable absence in my posts as of late. Mostly because this week we have been really starting to get ready to leave for Tanzania- crazy!! (more on that later). But also in great part due to the glorious and all together smile inducing warm weather around these parts. We have been outside as much as possible (is going to the park 4 times in one day overkill? Not if you are Anni!!). Jason even played hooky today and joined us in our escapades around town.
Anni & I spent yesterday afternoon in a friend's backyard area breaking in Elliot's new water table. There were snacks and sidewalk chalk, wet shoes and dirty bare feet, dogs and sunblock, and lots of chatting and smiles. Again, I am reminded of the blessing of friends I have in this neighborhood (happy b-day Michelle!!).
We have all gotten to witness these amazing little people grow and develop and see each other adjust to all the changes of motherhood. It is pretty awesome and for this I am grateful. Sun: Shine on!!!

Friday, April 11, 2008

kids are quirky

I know this because Miss Annikah is a quirk-ster. The more you get to know kids I have found that pretty much all kids (like all adults) have their idiosyncrasies. I cannot talk here as I too have plenty of my own like carrying hot sauce in my purse, a habit I picked up living in Atlanta.
One of Anni's little quirks is that she thinks that whenever you wear sunglasses you must also don a hat. This has now become a strong belief of hers as evidence by her complete outrage if she puts her sunglasses on and there is no hat in site. I am sure she got this impression because when she was littler I would usually cover her bald head with a sunhat and that happened to be when she also wore sunglasses on our long stroller escapades throughout Rogers Park. Here is her today in the living room insisting on wearing both.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Anni is ready...

..for any cheesy wedding she happens to get invited to in the near or distance future. If the DJ should happen to select the timeless, embarrassing, and ridiculous chicken dance Annikah will happily bust a move on the floor. See video for evidence.

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

boys, boys, boys

So far this week Annikah has been surrounded with boys and more boys! We helped welcome to the world Gavin Peter with a visit to the hospital on Saturday. He is so tiny and sweet and his glowing parents made new parenting look good. Although Anni had to stay in the waiting room she happily joined a siblings class in progress by usurping one of the baby dolls (she does not need that class anytime soon) while Jason and I took turns holding little man Gavin.

On Sunday we drove out to visit the Carters (college friends) and their new baby Isaiah Luke. Anni liked the baby but really loved his new toys and we shared a chili lunch and chat about how different life is now versus our carefree college days. It was awesome to see them again.
Even though I must say I am grateful to be out of the newborn phase seeing a new baby is such an amazing experience and it is a blessing to share the joy of a new baby with friends.

On Tuesday Anni hung out with Miles (friends' son) and Jonah while I babysat for most of the day. I took both Miles and Annikah to Anni's "jump, jump!" class more commonly known as Tiny Tot Tumbling (more on that later). Having boys running around all day is tiring! Annikah managed to steal tons of attention, hugs, kisses, (and some toys) from the boys in her life this week. Whew! Tons of testosterone around these parts....back to my estrogen filled, drama queen little girl :)

Sunday, April 6, 2008

coming out of hibernation

This was the break out weekend folks, the end of cruel winter, promise of spring, and the lifting of my spirits and general sense of "weeeee" as Anni would describe it. If you were stuck inside I am soooo sorry! and if you chose to be inside for more than 2 hours I "fart in your general direction" (sorry for the Monty reference- I had to!). It was fabulous outside, it was warm, sunny, and smelled of crispness, life, and hope. We were outside every possible second.

We rode bikes, walked the lakefront path, and hit at least 3 parks all to Annikah's delight (me too!). It seemed as though everyone was out as if the punishment of winter has ended and the bright sunlight was drawing and pulling bodies to anywhere you could feel the warmth on your skin (we were at one park and there were literally busy children and adults in every space on the park equipment and it made me smile (see photo)). Anni actually enjoyed wearing her helmet this year (as opposed to last summer when it was akin to pulling off her toenails) and I could hear giggles from behind me while I rode the bike to the lakefront.
She kept repeating "mama, papa, Anni, park, weeeee" as if she was reflecting on her pleasure at having all things she treasured in one place. She thrives on being outside just as I do which is a huge blessing to me.
I appreciate so much the simple joy of walking outside and seeing small bursts of green breaking forth against all odds, running into families we know from the neighborhood, seeing dogs run free in the sand, catching up with great friends, and taking quiet while at the same time chaotic moments of our life in while feeling the breeze on my skin. Yeah and "weeeee" for spring and outside!!! This last picture sums up my feelings about the weekend.

Friday, April 4, 2008

artsy- fartsy fun

My fab friend Beck had her art displayed at the Plein Air Painter's of Chicago open house today and I went to cheer her on and peruse all the amazing works of art while munching swanky snacks. She worked so hard to make the gallery a roaring success! Congrats Beck! You inspire me chase after my passions with reckless abandon.

Thursday, April 3, 2008

Anni & the Park: a true love story

Annikah and I have been to the park 5 times in two days. Mostly because it has been sunny (can I get an AMEN!) but also because Anni learned a new word this week; pronounced "pahk" and she loves to work it any chance she gets. She asks for "pahk" from her crib in the morning and anytime we pass one in the car she screams it so I had to acquiesce to her sweet request. Her park experiences usually includes swing ADD, starring &/or laughing at other kids, sliding backwards (a new trick she learned from Jonah), yelling "Weeee!," laughing at me as I chase after her like a crazy, saying good-bye to the park, and lamenting all the way home about leaving said park (no tears usually just sad little utterances..."Anni, park, bye") and the occasional giggle of remembrance. All are included in the following video montage.

*i realize many do not find nearly 4 minutes of Anni at the park exhilarating but Anni LOVES watching these videos so thus here it is: Let it inspire you to have fun doing something you love today!

little girls

Annikah just loves little girls. She is mesmerized by their every word and action. She is often seen at church holding hands with the elementary age girls and leading them around. One of her fav gals is Emmy. This week after school Emmy babysat for Anni while I got some work done around the house. It was fabulous to have an extra 2 hours to work on lesson plans, catch up with email, and prepare a crazy lesson for Awana. It was a special blessing to hear Anni giggling with joy while playing with her new friend in the next room. Having a younger gal babysit is actually really fun because she is so engaging and wants to play and amuse Annikah. Anni also turns into a little comedian when little girls are around. We drove Emmy home and as soon as she exited the car Anni put her head in her hands and sobbed. It was precious. She is looking forward to her new friend coming over again soon.

Tuesday, April 1, 2008


Last night I was reminded of the awesome power of God that lives in me. About 3:30AM I was awoken by a loud and shrieking cry. I immediately jumped up, threw off my covers, and bolted down the hallway. Usually when we hear Annikah in the middle of the night we wait it out a few minutes and see if she goes back to sleep on her own but this cry was different and I was up and taking action before even one minute went by. I opened her bedroom door and surveyed the scene to try to discern what was going on. I found her standing in the corner of her crib shaking and crying, like she was terrified. I was armed with baby Motrin but something told me she was not in pain but scared. I recognized this because I had (and still occasionally have) night terrors. I picked her up and told her it was ok and that Mama was here. She continued to cry and whimper like she was still scared. I did not think something was wrong medically but had this feeling that I needed to pray out loud for her right then. I prayed something like "Lord, please in the name of Jesus take away any fear or attack that Anni is feeling right now, help her to feel your love and comfort at this moment."
What happened next was nothing short of amazing. Almost instantaneously her little body relaxed and she stopped crying. She hugged my neck tight and I sat down in the glider to rock her. Not even a minute later she was fast sleep in my arms. I would be skeptical if I was not there myself but God gave her peace right at that moment. It was a reminder to me that God is in control and He is all powerful. This power cannot be manipulated nor was I the one that did something "magical" to allow Anni to feel comforted but it was God. As a follower of Jesus this power is available to me and too often I try my own way first or doubt but He does desire to answer our prayers and He is faithful. I am sure some would explain away this incident as being coincidence but I felt the power of God calming her and me. I do not like to over-spiritualize things; case in point, "these cute pants I want are on sale so it must be a sign from God!" (although if your hubby would buy it I say go for it :). At the same time I do think sometimes I over complicate things that God has in His control. Too often I turn to the Motrin first without even giving a thought to praying or asking God to intervene. Of course, God uses medicine, others, circumstances, etc but the importance of seeking Him is what I was reminded of last night. I rocked Annikah for a few brief moments and in the silence I thought about Christ's victory over everything in this world. This verse came to mind:
Colossians 2:15 (New International Version)
15And having disarmed the powers and authorities, he made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them by the cross."
At the time of Jesus' death the cross represented failure and defeat to the people, authorities, and even some of His followers but even a few days later the symbol of the cross would be proven to be the source of true, powerful, and all encompassing love.
I am thankful for this small reminder that God is in control and His power to love, heal, and give peace in the midst of daily life.