Annelise is Four!

Birthdays are a balance.  Wanting to make someone feel special without going overboard.  I decided long ago that I wasn’t going to do a big birthday party every year, but I do want the day to be special for her.

This year felt extra challenging.  Lately I’ve felt like I’m a student first and a parent second.  I know that’s not really the case, but school has a lot of my focus.  I didn’t have the mental space to form much of a plan until right before her birthday.  Annelise also wasn’t much help.  As sweet as it was the only thing she told me she wanted for her birthday was me.  Had I not been so occupied with classes I would have like to plan something special for us to do together, as it was I was having a difficult time finding time to shop for a gift.  Thank you Amazon Prime for coming through at the last minute.

When I asked about her cake, she told me she wanted a Bambi cake.  At some point I’ll give in and just order her cakes, but for now I enjoy doing them myself.  I thought a Bambi cake would be easy enough but a quick google search revealed a lot of fancy fondant and I just wasn’t going to have time for that.  Thankfully Wilton did make a Bambi cake mold back in 1976 and it was surprisingly easy to find a used one online.  This was the hardest cake I’ve ever done, but it turned out okay.

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It was only an eight inch cake so we also made cupcakes.  That worked out perfect because I wanted to surprise her with the Bambi cake but she insisted on helping me make her cake.  So we worked on the cupcakes together and then after she went to bed I made the Bambi cake.

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We didn’t do a big party.  She hasn’t had a friend birthday yet.  Originally I thought this was the year we would do that, but with the move and my being in school it just didn’t seem like a good idea.  We had family over and ordered pizza followed by cake, ice cream and presents.

I think she had a great day.  I had some guilt associated with school and not being able to do the party I wanted, but as I watched her play with her cousins, exclaim over the cake, and get excited about her gifts I know that for her it was a magical day.

One of her gifts was a camera.  I’ve been wanting to get one for her for awhile.  I thought it was something she would like and I also thought it would be a good way for us to stay connected on the days I’m away all day.  I love to talk her about her day, but she often doesn’t “remember” what she did.  If she can take pictures throughout her day we can talk about them.  It was a big hit.  She’s taking pictures of everything.

Overall I think it was a birthday success.  I would still like to plan a special day for us to do something together.  I’m contemplating taking her skiing, since she loves the snow and I thinks she’s ready to learn.  Now I just need to find a day that I can make it happen.

When Annelise was younger I use to keep track of what she was like at different stages.  I got out of the habit as she got older and the stages were further apart.  On her birthday we do sit down and have an “interview” which I record.  But I thought I would give a quick run down of what she’s like at four.

  • She’s about 37 1/2 inches tall, and approximately 32lbs.
  • Still wearing some 3t but mostly 4t.  Size 8 shoes (although a couple of her 7s still fit).
  • Still has not had her hair cut, ever!  (Mama knows it’s getting time, but just can’t bring myself to do it).
  • Still takes an afternoon nap, although sometimes she’s allowed to skip it for special occasions.
  • Attends Head Start at Hart Public Schools.
  • She can count to 20 (mostly) occasionally she gets in a hurry and skips a few teens.  She can recite the alphabet and is starting to work on letter sounds.  She can recognize several letters (A,D,S,Z,T,B,L,M -I’m sure there are a few more but those are the ones she gets consistently). And can write an ‘A’ for her name.
  • For how concerned I was with her speech delay she has more than made up for it.  She can be very wordy.  Why use one word when you can use ten?  I’m learning to be patient but sometimes she forgets what I asked her by the time she gets done giving an answer.
  • She likes to do “school work” which involves sitting at her desk coloring and cutting paper.  She also likes to paint.  And when she paints she as adamant about covering every square inch of the paper so there is no white.
  • She has several friends.  Her school friend is D’Anna.  John Henry is her BFF.  And she talks frequently about Buck and Heys.  Her favorite playmates are her cousins, Lincoln, Miles and Henry.
  • Her favorite books are Clifford the Big Red Dog
  • Her favorite movie is Bambi
  • She likes to have “game and puzzle night.”  We have popcorn and orange pop while building puzzles and playing games.
  • She also loves Rudolph the Red Nose Reindeer and penguins
  • Her favorite things are her “animals.”  She has a collection of stuffed animals.  I call them her menagerie but she refers to them as “my club.”  And like all good clubs she talks about reading books with them but so far I haven’t seen it happen.
  • She doesn’t have imaginary friends but rather imaginary pets.  Mostly puppies, but a few tigers also.  Sometimes she lets them sleep in my room.
  • She has a couple of dolls that she will play with occasionally (she named them Buck, John Henry and Annelise).  Thankful she hasn’t shown any interest in Barbie type dolls.  She prefers trains and match box cars.
  • She likes to play baseball and ride her bike.  She can pedal a two wheeler without training wheels but prefers her Strider because she’s more confident on it and can therefore go faster.
  • She likes to do the “happy feet dance.”  When I asked if she would be interested in taking dance classes she said, “No because I already know how.”
  • She loves the snow.
  • She wants to be a Mom when she grows up and for her job she wants to be “a teacher that teaches children to fight fires.” (Her Aunt Bethany teaches fire safety to third graders, and she wants to do that too).
  • She prefers jeans to dresses.  And likes to wear “cow boots.”  She is very particular about her clothes and I’ve learned that simple is best (so much for having a little girl I can dress up).
  • Red is currently her favorite color.
  • She asks “why” a lot.  Which I know is normal but she has taken it one step farther.  When I give her an answer she often asks. “How do you know?”  It’s to the point I have to cite sources to her.

I’m sure there are many more little things that I could share.  She’s very much a little girl now and not a baby or toddler.  Her personality is developing and she’s becoming a very distinct individual.

Michigan Winter

Winter was a little slow to start this year.  But now its in full swing and Annelise and I are adjusting, or readjusting in my case to winter in Michigan.  When we moved to Michigan Annelise was very excited about having snow and was slightly disappointed that there wasn’t any upon our arrival in June.  I reassured her it was coming, but as November and then December rolled on without any significant snow I began to wonder if we had jinxed winter.  But it arrived in full force after Christmas.

At first it caused some confusion for Annelise.  She had never experienced snow that stuck around for more than a couple of days. She was amazed that the snow we got on a Monday was still there on Friday.  She was also baffled as to why she was going to school when there was snow.

I use to mock how unprepared and helpless Southerners were when it came to snow, but on the night of our first real snow as I drove to work in near white out conditions all I could think was how I would love to have a “Southern Winter.”  When it snows in Virginia you better be where you want to be because you aren’t going anywhere until it’s over.  Everyone just settles in and waits it out.  Schools close, people don’t go to work and everyone just hangs out in their neighborhood.  And it’s eerily quiet for a Michigan girl who was use to plow trucks running 24/7 and the constant hum of snowblowers.  No one in my neighbor had a snowblower and the plows didn’t come out until the snow stopped falling.

My first few years in Virginia I was very critical of how they handled (or didn’t handle) snow.  But over time I realized that for the one or two times a year it snowed snowblowers and plow weren’t economical.   Shutting down and waiting it out had it’s advantages.  And because it was a rare occurrence snow days were special and slightly magical.  I have great memories of building an igloo in Elmwood park, skiing through the neighborhood and gathering at the Community Inn for a hot meal and a beer.

But here in Michigan when it snows its business as usual.  You just dig yourself out and keep going.

I wasn’t quite prepared for a Michigan winter.  While it can get cold in Virginia, it’s temporary.  I very rarely had to bundle up in Virginia.  My wardrobe wasn’t quite prepared for single digit temperatures.  Boots are a must, along with hats, mittens and scarves even if I’m just running a quick errand, because most likely I’m going to spend several minutes just scraping off the car.  That’s the other thing… you can’t get anywhere fast especially when you’re taking a preschooler with you.  Just preparing to leave the house takes effort.  Layer after layer.  And then I need to scrape off the van and get it running so that it will be warm enough for Annelise to remove her coat to fit in her car seat.  So after all the bundling we get in the car and start to take layers off so that we can sit safely in our seats, and then rebundle when we get to are destination.

My commute which was already long has gotten longer.  Some days it can take 2 hours to get to work.  And when the roads are covered in snow I’m always a little nervous.  I make sure I have boots, extra gloves and snow pants in the van in case I end up in a ditch and need to dig myself out.

Annelise has had a couple of snow days.  And last week I got called off work because most of the patients had cancelled.  We took advantage of our time off and the fresh snow and went sledding behind my dad’s fire station.   Annelise love’s to play in the snow and the cold doesn’t seem to bother her.  She’s part Indian (Eastern not American).  I’ve always that of India as a hot country but I wonder if she’s inherited DNA from Himalayan sherpas.  She’s oblivious to the cold and would stay outside until she was frostbit.

I’ve been watching the Facebook posts of my Virginia friends the last few days as they prepare to get hit with snow this weekend.  Moms’ are posting where to find boots, snow pants and sleds and there are frequent pictures of empty grocery store shelves.  I find myself slightly jealous as I watch everyone get ready to have a wintry weekend, which is really odd because I’ve had three weeks of it now.  I guess I miss the excitement of it combined with the knowledge that it will be over in less than a week.  Up here its just a way of life.

What will 2016 bring?

I typically take down my Christmas decoration during the first week of the new year.  I remember last year as I was taking them down and packing them away thinking about where we would be when it was time to unpack them again.  I was contemplating a move to Michigan but had not committed to it yet.  And if I did go through with the move I wasn’t sure how long we would stay with my parents once we moved.  Would we be in Michigan?  Would we be in Hart?  Would we be with my parents or in our own place?

I’m not typically a New Year’s Resolution type person, but in the final weeks of a year I typically reflect on the previous year, and reset my focus for the new one.  I may have specific things I want to focus on or it might just be a general refocusing.  This year I didn’t do a lot of reflecting.  I think it was an unwillingness to ruminate.  I was also hesitant to look forward because I was uncertain about what comes next and that was causing me a late of anxiety.

When we moved to Michigan I didn’t have a solid plan for what would come next.  I knew I didn’t want to be “just” a Sleep Tech anymore.  I’ve loved my job and what I do but it has its limits (always working nights is one of them).  I’ve done all I can as a Sleep Tech.  I have no desire to go into Management and even a day shift position isn’t all that appealing.  I’m nearing the top of the pay scale.  Not much more for me to do.  Moving back to Michigan gave me the opportunity to go back to school.  I had been debating RRT vs RN for awhile and had decided on RN, but hadn’t decided on a path yet. It wasn’t until July that I decided the direction I wanted to go with school.  While I knew the direction I still had to figure out the how.  I’m still working on that.

Staying with my parents is no longer working.  It’s not the best situation for me and its not the best situation for my parents.  The only person it seems to be good for is Annelise.  And while I would love to only consider what is best for her I have to consider the effect on my parents and myself.  So I’ve began a search for a place for us.  And with that comes a wide variety of choices all of which could effect my ability to continue school, find a different career and hopefully eventually take us back to Virginia.

Do we stay in Hart?  Do we move to Grand Rapids now or wait a year until I get into the program I want (if I get into the program)?  Should I rent?  Should I buy?  If I have to start paying for housing and childcare will I even be able to afford to continue going to school?  I mean that was the entire point of leaving Roanoke wasn’t it?  Is my biggest fear about leaving Virginia going to come true?  Am I just going to end up in the same situation in a different city?  Maybe I should just pack up and head back to Virginia?  After all if I’m going to have the same struggles shouldn’t I be somewhere I want to be?  And if I do somehow manage to keep going to school without assistance from my parents why can’t I do that in Roanoke?  I even discovered that Jefferson School of Health Sciences has a similar program to Grand Valley (just twice as expensive).  If I can make school work here why can’t I make it work there (albeit with a lot more debt)?

So as I was taking down the decorations this year and boxing them up I was once again wondering where we will be when it comes time to unpack them again.

I don’t like the uncertainty.  Its scary.  I form different plans in my head and work through different scenarios.  I think I’m formulating a plan but then I sit back and think “nothing ever goes as planned so this is obviously not going to work.”  But I guess all I can do is move forward.  I have a couple of classes left at MCC.  Two this coming semester and one this summer.  I’m planning to start classes at GVSU in the fall, part time in the fall and then full time when (if) I get into the accelerated BSN program.  Being in Grand Rapids makes sense, so I’ve stopped looking for a place in Hart and am now looking at Grand Rapids.  So many details to be worked out, the only thing I’m certain of is that I have no idea what things are going to be a like a year from now.

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Welcome 2016!