Thursday, December 29, 2005

Quote of the Week - Gemma, age 4

"Santa visits the Pagans first. Then he goes to the Christians."

-Gemma, age 4, to her preschool teacher while describing some Solstice traditions

Friday, December 23, 2005

Quote of the Week - Anne McCaffrey

"Make no judgements where you have no compassion."

-- Anne McCaffrey
fantasy and science-fiction writer

Happy Winter Solstice and Seasons Greetings to All

Girls With Santa on Solstice

Hello and Happy Holidays!!!

This is been a wildly busy week, with lots and lots of memorable moments. I'm sure I'll post about some of these in more detail and with more reflection after the holidays.

Rowan has a great sense of humor. Can you read the sign?

Our week included:

  • a Solstice gathering at our home over the weekend with friends and chosen family in attendance.
  • experiencing a performance of the Nutcracker on Sunday afternoon.
  • a continuing process in regard to Jani's request for Solstice as a religious holiday which may end up in Federal court as a religious discrimination suit..time time tell.
  • a wonderful Solstice eve candle-lit dinner and a viewing of the movie, The Polar Express.
  • a gorgeous Solstice day, begun with a sunrise walk out on the frozen lake with the kids and a "sunny" brunch of all yellow foods with a dear friend.
  • Gemma's ballet recital, the 4-5 year old version of the Nutcracker.
  • a visit to Rowan's classroom to share about Solstice and do a comparative analysis with the kids about Christmas, Solstice, Chanukah and Kwanzaa.
  • dinner out with the wonderful partner..kidless!
  • tommow we are off to Jani's folks for Christmas Eve and Christmas day and plan to take the kids to see Narnia.

Here are some pictures to enjoy.

Warm Wishes to All.

Gemma, post recital, dressed as Claira from the Nutcracker.

The girls at the beach on Solstice morning. We weren't greated with a sunrise, though the frozen lake was stunningly beautiful.

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Gemma's Endocrinology Appointment

Gemma had her six month endocrinology appointment yesterday. She was happy that it was a "just talking" appointment, no blood work, she just had to get measured a zillion times.

She's still growing, but at a slower rate than we'd hoped, so even on the growth hormone she's slowing down again. So, the doc asked us to up her dose. He reviewed her blood work that we had done prior to the visit and that coupled with her slowed growth, showed that she could use a bit more of a boost to keep t hings going. She is still making progress though, so that is really good.

For her, this won't mean any changes. We dose her injection pen each night by clicking a certain number of clicks, each click signifies .1 mg of hormone. She'll go from 3 clicks to 4 and could get headaches for the first couple of days, but after that there should be nothing. It just means "we" have to remember the new dose and it means running for refills every 15 days, instead of every 20..not a big deal.

So her "official" stats (and boy are they official..they take each measurement several times for accuracy) are...

At age 4 years 4 months she stands 37.75 inches tall and weighs 29 lbs and 13 oz, which is 5th percentile for height and 3rd percentile for weight.

And in personality and energetic height she stands about 6 foot 8 inches and fills the room!!!

Monday, December 19, 2005

You Know You're Experiencing Perimenopause When...

The ouside air temperature is below zero (not counting the wind chill), the "after-bedtime" set-back temperature in the house is 60 degrees and you dream that we are experiencing a bizzare December heat wave of 90 degrees and wake up sweaty with the blankets kicked off.

Saturday, December 17, 2005


This morning when the phone rang, I picked it up while upstairs and Gemma grabbed it at the same time downstairs. She loves to talk on the phone. After finishing the conversation with the caller, I hung up and could hear that Gemma was having difficulty hanging up her phone, so I went downstairs to help her.

As I entered the playroom I heard the automated sound of the operator saying "if you wish to make a call, please hang up and try again." I next hear Gemma say to herself, "Who is that lady? She always talks to me."

Hm, makes me wonder how many times Gemma attempts to make calls!!

Friday, December 16, 2005

Quote of the Week - Marion Wright Edelman

Yesterday, as I was preparing for our women's spirituality group (we celebrated our 13th anniversary of traveling a shared journey together this fall!!), I ran across an outstanding collection of quotes by influential women at the National Women's History Museum, at

After reading the quotes I felt inspired to share one here each Friday. I'll begin with the one I chose to read last night, one which really rang true for me and is part of my on-going spiritual work about being an agent of change without having to control the outcomes.

"If you don't like the way the world is, you change it. You have an obligation to change it. You just do it one step at a time.""You're not obligated to win. You're obligated to keep trying to do the best you can every day."
Marion Wright Edelman (1939- ),
Attorney, civil rights advocate and
Founder of the Children's Defense Fund

Thursday, December 15, 2005

Rowan's World

Rowan with her teacher, Ms. Jackson who she just adores!!

Rowan has had quite the busy week. We are so proud of her. She's growing into quite the older and more centered/grounded kid!!

One of the rites of passage at her school (a primary K-2) is for the second graders to have the opportunity to join choir or the drama club. Rowan chose choir. In the past week, the choir has been called into service a lot. They had two concerts, one in the afternoo and the other in the evening (during yet another snow storm) for full concerts and they sang at the school's annual Holiday Luncheon on Tuesday. Rowan's school has a music teacher extraordinaire!!! The kids love her and she is able to guide them to find their best voices!!

Another "rite of passage" is for the second graders to make the centerpieces for the holiday luncheon tables. They are ceramic, glazed, adorable!!! The school's art teacher is also wonderful!!

Rowan was also Star of the Week in her classroom, which involved inviting Jani and I to school while she shared parts of her life with her class through pictures. She opted to just bring a picture of Gemma to the event, knowing full well that her little sister will do just about anything for an audience. Smart move on Rowan's part to not be upstaged by her little sister.

Last evening, in yet ANOTHER snow storm, her Girl Scout troop took off for a local retirment community to decorate cookies and sing with the residents. One leader said she was so proud of the girls for all of their kindness and openess to the el

Monday, December 12, 2005

Wisconsin Volleyball Season Ends on Saturday

For anyone who's been following my women's volleyball updates, I'm sorry to say that the Badgers lost on Saturday night. Us fans are darn proud of these young women for playing well and making it to the Elite Eight!

Really Awesome Thing

Saturday night we attended the 13th birthday for dear friends' daughter. There was a large mix of aged kids from Gemma being the youngest to the 13 year old (later a nearly 15 year old arrived). All of these kids have known each other as long as they can remember. All of us moms are in a women's group together, some of the kids have gone to daycare together, etc. However, rarely do all the kids get together at the same time.

The chemistry between them as a group was pure magic!! Within a short while, they had woven together a "movie" and asked an adult to video tape them. They did an improv of a murder mystery and every single kid had a role. It was just unbelievable to watch them figure out how to collaborate together across ages, personalities and levels of introverted to extrovertedness.

Gemma was in her glory, decked out in a Belle dress, playing both a princess who was locked in a closet by the murderer (played by the birthday girl) and a young judge, serving over the trial. Rowan played more of a backgroud set of roles, as the dead body in the murder and the jailer. Hilarious stuff!!

Saturday, December 10, 2005


Wisconsin Volleyball Women Beat Norte Dame and Advance to the Elite Eight!!!!!!

Need I say more..the Badger cheer is running high around here!!

Friday, December 09, 2005

To Humidify or Not to Humidify

As I was going around the house today refilling all of our humidifers, I thought,

What a strange place the upper midwest is. We spend our summers removing too much water from the air with de-himidifiers. Then in the winter we desperately try to put water into the air with humidfiers.

And Rowan's got a nasty chest cold and I've got stopped up sinuses, so I've added Vicks Vapor Steam to all of the humidifiers and wow, the smell of Vicks wafts through every room today.

Thursday, December 08, 2005

Announcing Her Majesty Rowan, The Sudoku Queen

This was the honor bestowed upon Rowan on Tuesday by her teacher at the second school-wide awards assembly.

As part of a math lesson, Rowan's teacher introduced the Sudoku puzzles and Rowan was the first to figure out how to solve them. She just loves them. I believe a book of kid puzzles may be bound for her stocking this year!!

If you've never done one of these, give it a try. You can't use the same number twice in any row, column, diagonal line or in any matrix.


Wednesday, December 07, 2005

A Daily Dose of Religious Discrimination

We're having such a "fun" week in our family. First, the amendment, then sick kids, now Jani's school district has denied her taking Solstice as a religious holiday.

The school district's policy for years has been that if one's religious holy days fall during scheduled school time, the employee may get written permission beforehand to take the day and must "make up" the lost work time through other activities.

Apparently, unbenounced to anyone, the policy has now changed and this is the email that Jani received today.

I am in receipt of the religious absence request form for Janet toobserve Winter Solstice on 12/21/05. I am not able to grant thisrequest. The religious holiday has to be one in which the religious doctrine prohibits the employee from working on that date.

So here are my questions.
1. When did the administrator who sent the email become well-schooled in pagan teachings to know whether working on a sabbat is or is not part of the doctrine?

2. Could someone please point me to the passage in the Bible that declares that Christians shall not work on Christmas?

Jani immediately forwarded the message to her union. They are attending to it immediately and have a meeting scheduled with the district on Friday.

Meanwhile, we've filed for an excused absence for Rowan for Solstice and her school's secretary has already logged it on the calendar. Poor Rowan is bummng though, because she will be marked as absent and won't be able to get the "perfect attendance" certificates that the principal hands out at the end of the semester.

Rowan's very insightful observation was that kids who celebrate Christmas aren't penalized with being marked absent, because that day is marked as a "day off" from school for everyone.

I know this is an on-going battle that other religious groups have been fighting for years. Sad, sad, sad..that one form of "sacredness" gets to control expectations and calendars for us all. I'm completely in support of anyone taking their religious and secular holidays..tradition is what helps keep our souls fed. Just how do we create a "win/win" with this is the age-old question.

Monday, December 05, 2005

Help Stop The Constitutional Ban on Gay/Lesbian Marriage

The following is an email I sent to friends and family in the Madison area yesterday. I decided to post it on my blog for two reasons.

First, to help spread the word and ask for support in getting the word out state-wide about this frightening amendment.

Second, as a "national" heads-up for folks outside Wisconsin to keep a careful eye for such movement in your own states and on a national level.

You can learn more about Wisconsin's proposed constitutional ban at the following blog sponsored by Action Wisconsin,

Here's the post.

Hello Madison-Area Friends and Family,

As you may know the Wisconsin legislature has re-introduced a proposed constitutional ban on same-sex marriages, civil unions and domestic partnerships. Last year, the ban handily passed in both houses, but was vetoed by Gov. Doyle. The bill has once again been introduced with the hope of moving it rapidly through the legislature and having it on the November 2006 general ballot for the citizens to vote on a constitutional change.

This is really scary stuff for our family personal and for the citizens of the state of Wisconsin in general, b/c it really sets us back in time in our state's civil rights laws and our progressive history.

While the state representatives and senators for the Madison area have pledged to vote against the constitutional ban, there are many other representatives state-wide who are prepared to vote in favor of it, both as part of "partisan politics" and out of fear of retribution from their peers and assumed fear of retribution from their constituents. The authors of this bill are also attempting to gather enough support to over-ride another veto from the governor. Lastly, if this bill passes and the governor's veto is over-ruled, it will be on the ballot in November of 2006 when many of us are headed to the polls to vote for governor, amongst other things. In Wisconsin, it only take a majority vote (51%) of the citizens to amend the state's constitution.

So, civil rights groups are asking each of us to contact friends and relatives around the state (outside of Madison particularly) to ask them to vote "no" on the constitutional ban. As our friends and allies, I would like to ask for your help in this effort. I believe that the more these legislators understand that Wisconsin's citizens do not want to actively legislate hate, perhaps this will influence their vote or at least hold them ore accountable to all of their constituents, just a vocal and destrictive minority.

If you need some information for "talking points" with friends and family, you can go to for ideas, sample email notices and general information about the ban. Additionally, here are some of the talking points I have been using.

*Our state is continuing to face many challenges, including budget short-falls, school funding crises, loss of valuable state, county and local services. These are amongst the issues that our state legislators really need to attend and issues which impact the well-being of most of the state's citizens. Taking up valuable legislative time to deal with a ban on one group's civil rights does not show wise leadership.

*It is already illegal for gay men and lesbians (and bi folks in same gender relationships) to marry. So, actively writing this into the state's constitution is redundant legislation.

*A constitutional ban would revoke any domestic partner benefits currently offered to couples. It would also make it impossible (unless the constitution was amended again) for the state to create any civil union policies similar to those in Vermont.

*If the ban were to pass, our family would be seriously impacted financially, because the Madison Public Schools could no longer legally offer Jani domestic partner insurance. I would be uninsured and have to seek insurance, most likely out of the provider network that the rest of my family uses. Also, it is unclear if Jani could still cover Gemma under her insurance since she has legal guardianship of Gemma under a special co-guardianship process, offered only in a couple counties around the state (Dane being one of them). With Gemma's medical needs, we would be in a tough space if her parent was not legally allowed to cover her health insurance.

*In general, we would have fewer protections and Wisconsin would likely become a less safe place for gay, lesbian, bisexual and trans people and our children. When the government openly sets "hate" legislation into place, we've seen over our history, in many other instances, that a greater intolerance for the targeted group of people can erupt. I fear for the safety and well-being of our daughters, my family and friends and other LGBT families throughout the state.

I know that many of us are busily engaged in our holiday preparations and our day-to-day lives. Unfortunately, our call to action is now with getting out the word to ask for legislators state-wide to vote "no." The folks behind this legislation have craftily taken advantage of this busy time of year to move this legislation through the Senate as quickly as possible, hoping to have it pass both houses before the end of the year. So, please take a moment to write en email or have a conversation with friends and family around the state and ask them to contact their legislators.

Thank you so much in advance for you help,

Sunday, December 04, 2005

Badgers Head into the Sweet Sixteen!!

After winning three quick games against Layola University on Friday night in Round One of the NCAA tournament play, they went on to win against more closely ranked Cal State in a 3 games to 0 match!! This mean they head into the Sweet Sixteen play-offs!! Go Badgers!!!

The four Badger fans in this household headed out into the bitter cold night on Friday and the snowy night on Saturday to see the women play some great ball.

No game is complete without hugging Bucky Badger. Gemma even made it onto the 10:00 news on Saturday night. The camera caught her mid-hug with Bucky and the two were a featured shot, amongst the game highlights with the sportcaster even commenting about the hug.

You might have noticed that Gemma is wearing a velvet dress to the game, over her usual Wisconsin Cheerleaders outfit. Friday night the Layola coach was decked out in a black cocktail dress and heels!! Something none of us had ever witnessed a coach doing before. Anyway, Gemma was quite inspired, so wanted to glam up for the big game.

And, if you ever wondered why we never have a picture of Rowan with Bucky Badger, well, she really doesn't like "Big Heads" (you know people dressed in costumes where their faces are obscured. So, unless she conquers her "big head issues" really soon, no pictures will be had of her and Bucky together.

Here are my three favorite Badgers fans in the stands post-game, before suiting up in snowpants and boots to walk the three blocks to the car in the still-falling snow.


Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Gemma STory

As anyone who knows Gemma well (or even just a little big) knows, she has a knack for the dramatic. I guess that is what happens when you choose a Theater and Drama major for a sperm donor!!

While we were at Jani's folks for Thanksgiving, she got very angry with Grandma. She and her cousin were caught jumping on Grandma's bed. Grandma handled the situation wonderfully; a firm boundary was set with a reason given for why jumping on the bed was not allowable.

Gemma came to find me, very disgruntled with Grandma and declaring that she "wanted to leave this house this instant!" I told her that I supported Grandma's decision and in her shoes, I would have said the exact same thing. She next headed off to Jani to see if she could garner support there. None given. She looked for a moment at Aunt Cindy, but let it go.

Her next line of defense was to engage her cousin, who is six months her senior. Apparently she told Alyssa to tell Grandma that she was mad at her, because the next thing we all heard was Alyssa saying "Grandma, Gemma told me to tell you she's mad at you."

Grandma again did an outstanding job, addressing Gemma directly, who of course was standing right next to Alyssa. She validated Gemma's feelings and reinforced why jumping on the bed wasnt' ok and offered other ideas of things to do.

Gemma came back to me, looking sour at not being properly vindicated. When I suggested that she move and let it go, her reply was "you know mom, that I hold onto stuff for a long time. I'm not ready to let go of ;this yet."

HELP! Can you imagine this child at 14!!! Funny what the world dishes out..I get to use every single skill I every learned about child developent, dealing with conflict, communication differences, etc. with this child. She provides my daily practice in patience and centered thinking/responding.

Denise, who is "sure" she was "never" as head-strong as a small child.

Monday, November 28, 2005

Wisconsin Velleyball


Hey Badger Fans! Wisconsin has been awarded the hosting for rounds 1 & 2 of the NCAA Women's Volleyball Tournament. So, guess where our family will be on Friday night?!

Pictures to come post game. Keep your fingers crossed for the Wisconsin Women to advance in the play-offs.

Thanksgiving 2005

Happy Thanksgiving!

Our Thanksgiving weekend was packed with lots of time with family and friends.

We headed to Freeport, IL to spend a couple of days with Jani's folks. This is their first year back in the cuontry, so they wanted to host this year's gathering. The girls had a ball playing with their younger cousins, Marissa age 11 and Alyssa age 4 (nearly 5).

We did some fun holiday baking too. I love this picture of Alyssa and Rowan. Alyssa is sneaking a little taste of the batter, only to find out that what she was tasting was a big bite of Crisco. The look on her face is incredibly cute.

We even got some snow!!! We failed to get pictures of the kids playing in it though. Jani was up to her eyebrows in cutting out pictures for our annual photo calendar and I was up to my elbows in flour making candy cane cookies. Even Grandma was busy at her sewing machine, hemmng pants for Gemma and Alyssa.

And, according to the Thanksgiving meal calorie counter at

I only need to walk 13.75 miles to work off the Thanksgiving Day meal. (-:

Monday, November 21, 2005

A Busy Day in November

I posted new pictures in a photo album at The link is below if you'd like to see more shots from our busy weekend.

So here it goes..All about our busy day...well, I should say weekend!

My folks came into Madison on Friday on their way to Naples, Florida for the winter, staying just Friday night and leaving early Saturday morning. My aunt and uncle (mom’s brother) came to dinner on Friday night to visit with everyone.

In the first picture, my Aunt Pat, a sixth grade math teacher, is enjoying time with Rowan and Gemma.

In the second picture, Rowan did the honor of cutting the pies for dessert under Grandma and Gemma’s supervision.

The third picture show the napkin rings the girls made to adore our table and in the fourth, you can see Gemma getting her nightly injection of growth hormone.

Early the next morning, after breakfast, the girls could hardly wait to play on the hide-a-bed sofa with the air mattress where Grandma and Grandpa had slept. It didn’t take long before 90% of their stuffed animal collection seemed to be sharing the bed with them.

Then we were off to a benefit concert for Gemma’s school, performed by Macaroni Soup, a duo from Chicago. Despite not knowing a thing about them pre-concert, we all had a great time.

You can see Gemma and her friend Z were happily dancing together.

Too cool to sit in the first couple of rows with her sister, but still enjoying the concert thoroughly, Rowan sat mid-way back from the stage, keeping her more refined second-grade cool and not dancing in the aisles.

When the main singer invited the 4 and 5 year old kids onto the stage to dance the Hokie Pokie, Gemma was on stage in a flash, not wanting to mis her stage debut!! Look carefully, she’s not in her customary foo-foo outfits, she’s wearing a plaid shirt and jeans. Later when the guitarist mistakenly took her for a boy, she was appalled and has vowed never to wear this shirt again!!!

No concert is complete without getting signed CDs from the artists!!!

Next we were off to an art show, held at Gemma’s preschool, another fund-raiser, with local fine artists showing their wears. No pictures here, though it was lots of fun.

Later our friend Marsha joined us for supper and then we met up with our volleyball crew for the final UW Women’s Volleyball home game of the season. We’ll find out next week if UW will be hosting an NCAA play-off game; let’s hope so!!!

The girls are pictured with two friends from piano lessons, sisters J & Q. Their season tickets just happen to be a couple of rows behind ours!!! The girls happily are looking through a program, pointing out their favorite players on the team and noting stats.

After the game, they ran down to the court to ask a couple of favorite players for photographs; first with Maria Carlini and second with Rowan’s most beloved player, senior Sheila Shaw. Such gracious and kind young women, I was very impressed!!!

Lastly, please meet one of Gemma’s many, many, many alter-egos, Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer!!


Tuesday, August 30, 2005

Pictures from Gemma's Birthday

Gemma was decked out in her favorite dress for her birthday celebration, wearing some of her new jewelry.

Here she is early on at the party, wearing her crown. Each guest got to make her or his own crown out of fun-foam and jewels, affixed with Zots.

Rowan was our body paint artist. Here she is giving Safi a tattoo.

We were quite blessed to have free entertainment in the park on Gemma's birthday. Here is the local Madison aerial dance troope, Cycropia practicing for an upcoming performance.

Here are a majority of the youthful party-goers.

Welcome to Being Four Gemma Rose!

Well, I "think" I will love this blogging thing once I'm into it. It's now nearly a week past Gemma's birthday and I have finally found a moment to post about the event. How anyone does this everyday is beyond me!

Anyway, I can hardly believe this little gal is 4 years old. Four seems like a real "passage" birthday from baby and toddlerhood into the land of being a "big girl." Her physical features have changed, no physical needs are shfiting, her way of seeing the world is so much more complex. She's an amazing little fireball.

We have a picture taken six days after her birth, 4 years ago today, that sits here on my desk. It's one of Rowan holding her, with me supporting Gemma's head, so their faces are side-by-side. Rowan is wearing a big "proud sister" smile with her soul-ful blue eyes peering out at anyone viewing the picture. Gemma, with her tiny, apple-sized head and her little 3 lbs+ self, looks out with her intense and wise blue eyes. While each girl has made her growth in these last four years, their eyes still hold their soulfulness, wisdom and magic.

Gemma's birthday "celebration" (her term for her party..and it really does say it all) was pure magic. This little girl loves people and knows how to maneuver amongst them with an ease that still stuns me. While I can do it now and really enjoy it, extrovert that I am, I know I didn't have the awarness of how to do is so well as a small child. She amazes me with her social dextarity.

We held the celebration at a park in our neighborhood, one of our favorites with ancient trees that have seen many celebrations well before Gemma's time and will hopefully see many to come, a gazebo, perfect for a self-proclaimed princess and play structures extrordinaire.

By luck or fate, we had "live" entertainment for the festivities..and I don't mean the yellow jacket bees which seem quite unruley this year (they had the good graces to stay away on G's celebration day). Two performance groups were in the park that day, preparing for the Orton Park Festival, held this past weekend. One was Cycropia, an aerial dance troope (you can check them out at spectacular to watch and perfect for our acrobatic ballerina daughter. The other was a local band called The Reptil Palace Orchestra ( which is like some wild East European/Balkan rock band..totally funky stuff. The lead singer and trumpet player was very pregnant a bit more than 4 years ago, when they were performing for a friend's 50th birthday and she was totally taken with meeting Gemma and seeing me dance with Gemma in the sling. So how awesome to have them providing "background" music during Gemma's celebration.

Gemma was torn about whether to make this a "drop and go" party, meaning that her friends would be dropped off by the parents for a pre-determined amount of time and Jani and I would be managing a multitude of energetic 4 and 5 year olds or whether this was to be a family party. She finally settled on "family stay", but then after the invites had gone out changed her mind. We had to work through many feelings on this one and were a bit nervous that she'd balk as everyone arrived, but the worries were for naught. She was in her glory. We were happy to have it be a big ole' gathering of the masses, as we adore the parents of Gemma's friends (most are long-term friends and chosen family). So the day was as much about Gemma's celebration as bearing witness to the wonderful connections amongst our adult and child friends.

Gemma's theme, Ariel. Of course, how could we have possible have a princess-feee event? Each attendee got to create a fun-foam crown to wear during the party. Us "wise-women" mothers and goddess mothers decided we would place jewels on our "third eye" points and we wore those rather then crowns. We all figured that given the intensity of our collective children, tapping into our inner third-eye wisdom would be a very smart move (-:

Rowan offered to do body art on any takers. She'd been practicing on all of us for weeks. I was quite thrilled to see several voluteers at her "station" receiving hand-done artistry on their faces, hands and arms.

A brother and siter team (teenager and pre-teen..children of a dear friend), ran the Ariel's Ocean Game. Despite the windy day, we'd manage to hang a sheet between two trees (aka the Ocean) with Angeliah and Isaac positioned behind. The little ones tossed a fishing line into the ocean to have the hook baited with prizes, including beanbag replicas of Ariel or the Starfish from Finding Nemo or a whale (how great it is to find a clearance sale of these little items last June!).

Next it was on to cake, fruit and the ever-popular goldfish crackers..what else would Ariel eat? Present-openning came next. Gemma was a very gracious recipent of her gifts, giving each guest a thank-you hug after opening the gift. My, my, my do her loved ones know her well. Gifts ranged from a Wisconsin cheerleaders outfit (we have season tickets to the Women's Volleyball games..POINT WISCONSIN), to a tinkerbelle outfit, pink fluffy stuff galore!!..the pink quotient went way up post birthday party!! The celebration drew to a close with the Ariel pinata and time to play on the playstructures.

We went out to diinner at Applebees because the thought of food prep after sucha busy day was more than I wanted to wrap my mnd around. Gemma was clear to inform the hostess that it was her celebration day and that she wanted the wait staff to sing for her. No problem with "this" child asking for what she wants. They were more than happy to oblige. She sat there with a huge grin on her face throughout the vocals.

We are truly blessed to have this lovely child and her wonderful big sister in our lives. As much as she can grey our hairs and frazzle our nerves with her firey spirit, I don't think I'd want it anyother way.

Happy Birthday G-Force!

Love, Mama D

Monday, August 22, 2005

What I Did on my Summer Vacation

Wow, our summer is whirling by with nearly the speed, twists and turns of the 26 tornadoes that broke out across our state last Thursday, albeit with far less drama and devastation than the real twisters.

We spent the first two weeks in August enjoying ourselves thoroughly. We had had grand plans of spending a week with the girls someplace and then venturing off on our own to the dessert southwest to celebrate our 15th Anniversary. With the hectic summer we've had though, sticking close to home had quite a bit of appeal.

Our first adventure was to the Bristol Renassaince Faire, which was a huge hit all around. It's been about 10 years since we've gone and they've added fairy folk and other winged creatures, a huge hit with Gemma Rose. Whenever she'd see a winged creature, she'd take off running to catch up with the magical one to introduce herself and comment on the fairy's costume. She was also quite taken with the queen, commenting that her favorite part of the day was the queen's formal feast. Rowan was taken with the crafts, the physical challenge games offered to kids of all ages and with watching the jousting. The lude washer woman show was quite fun for her too, all except for the "talk about boy body parts." (-: Jani and I enjoyed going, both to see the magic in the eyes of our girls and as a fond remembrance of a place we'd been to pre-kids. In comparison, the two trips are dramatically different experiences, but equally magical.

We touched base at home long enough to enjoy an afternoon swimming with friends, whose daughter, one of our most beloved babysitters, is heading to Arizona State for school this fall. We will miss her fun-loving, competent energy and the great art projects she liked to do with the girls.

Then it was off to the Wisconsin Dells. If you've never been to or heard of the Dells, its an incredibly beautiful area of land and water that over time has become one of the world's largest tourist traps. I recall 20 or more years ago swearing up and down that I would "never" go to the Wisconsin Dells in the summer time..but alas, "nver" is a long time. The girls, especially Rowan, have been itching to go to the Dells and partake in their many water/amusement parks. So, we were off to three days of fun. It really was enjoyable for a short dose, I suspose rather like I would view DisneyWorld, fun for a short visit and then its time to get the heck out of there.

We stayed at Camelot, a castle-loking hotel, complete with a mini indoor and outdoor waterpark. Gemma was ecstatic with the notion of staying in a "real" castle. The next days were spent hitting the infamous Dells attractions like the amphibious duck rides in and out of the Wisconsin River, a day spent at Family Land/Mt Olympus, playing in the water rides and rollercoasters. The Pegasus Rollercoaster was a huge hit with Rowan, who coerced Jani and I into riding it NINE times. Jani wins the "Super Mother Award" for riding it the greatest number of times with her, including a stretch of five rides right in a row.

Our trip ended with a boat ride on the Upper Dells where we walked through Witch's Gulch, truly one of the most spiritual and beautiful plces I've ever been. But somehow the mood was broken by the consentation stand at the end of the walk. Seeing flourescent lighting up ahead, I knew in that moment I was done with the Dells.

Next it was time for a little "Mama Alone Time" to celebrate my and Jani's 15 years together. The girls stayed with Jani's folks in Freeport, IL for four days. Jani's folks have spent many years living in Papua, Indonesia, just coming home for short visits. They're back in the United States permanantly now (or so they say) so it has been just great to get the girls reconnected with them. I think Grandma, in particular, was excited to have the girls around, with no other cousins in a vacinity. They had a fun-filled week, playing at the park, minature golfing, helping Grandpa paint a picnic table and having their aunt's cat walk through the wet paint (they're still talking about that event) and building an awesome sheet fort, using a quilting frame in Grandma's livingroom. Grandma and Grandpa were pretty exhausted by the end of the week, though they said they had a lot of fun. The princess Gemma only seemed to give Grandma a run for her money a couple of times. At one point, Grandma asked her to do something and Gemma started to complain and ask for her mommies. Grandma told her mommies weren't there and she needed to do what Grandma had asked. Hands on hips for emphasis, Gemma replied "its my body and I'm in charge of it." I think they managed though just fine.

After dropping the girls off for their Grandparents Vacation, we headed into Chicago. We met Madison friends in the Loop for lunch and then headed up to the Lincoln Park area to the guest house where we'd made reservations. We'd found this place through Purple Roofs, so we'd hoped that we didn't get any weird vibes about being a alesbian couple. The hostess was great; very warm and friendly. Our short encounters with the other guests, typically at breakfast were very sweet.

Our next days were spent making tracks all over Chicago, generally on foot, in a trolley or sometimes a cab. We had dinner our first night in a fabulous Thai restaurant I'd remembered from 20 years ago when a college roommate had moved to the Windy City. We hung out for quite a bit of time after that in a coffee shop, sitting side-by-side reading our books. I can hardly tell you how long its been since I've sat uninterupted, reading a book, drinking coffee. Typically any pleasure reading I manage to do is after the kids are in bed, though I'm usually exhausted myself and read for only a short bit before my eyes tell me its time to stop.

We enjoyed an architectural boat tour on the Chicago river, very imformative and interesting. We spent time, including lunch, in Milenium Park and then shopped the Miracle Mile, something I haven't done in about 20 years. Of course the greatest benefactors of our shopping expedition were those two girls of ours. Our day ended with a lake cruise in the evening, complete with a fireworks display.

Navy Pier was our destination the next day, including taking in a theater production with their Shakespeare theater guild. Jani said while we were in Chicago she really wanted Chicago-style pizza, so that was our dinner at one of Chicago's infamous pizza places. Tasty stuff. Given Rowan's dairy allergy and the high calories, carb and fat content of pizza, not much of it gets consumed around here, so even though it was simple food, it was a big treat.

Again that day, any time our feet grew weary, we'd park ourselves in a coffee shop to read. This felt completely decident. (-:

Our last day we ventured to the Adler Planetarium, the only museum on the Chicago Museum Campus that neither of us had visited. We loved it for both our own enjoyment and felt that it would be a great place to bring the girls.

All in all, the time in Chicago was great reconnection time for us both.

The girls were more than happy to see us return to Freeport where we spent another couple of nights hanging out with family.

Last week brought us back into reality. Jani is back to school, spending time in the homeless shelters and various inexpensive hotels, finding new homeless families to get them registered for school. I had to travel out of town for work last week, driving home on Thursday, dodging some of the 26 tornadoes. We had the good sense to pull of the road and hang tight for awhile, but it was a stressful trip.

I think the girls, while they had a great time, are glad to be home, to sleep in their own beds, eat off of their own dishes and not restaurant food and play with their own toys. They've been quite the homebodies since we've gotten home, preferring to hang out with each other at home than go off on an adventure. Ms. Gemma is still dealing with the "vcation hangover" coupled with birthday excitement, so she's been a bit of a handful, especially at bedtime. Hopefully, as we get past the birthday extravoganza and into a regular routine, she can turn her intensity dial down a few notches. Ms. Rowan, our child more capable of going with the flow, is settled back in well.