Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Our couch got a makeover.....

....with fingernail polish handprints.

You know how when you're little ones are quiet it's never a good thing? I do.

While I was in the middle of my Danish lesson (more on that later) Anna, my instructor, says, "Do you smell that? It smells like alcohol?"

I took the first couple of moments to recall whether or not I'd been drinking this morning. No....I hardly drink at all let alone in the morning. Then I suddenly realized I had forgotten one small detail when I picked up the house this morning in a last minute attempt to make the place somewhat presentable for company.......THE BAG OF FINGERNAIL POLISH!

After passing out from the panic attack, I scrambled into the living room in the same fashion the Road Runner escapes Wile E. Coyote, legs spinning in that blurry circle. Yet, it must have been slow motion because I had time to envision the wood floors covered in a kaleidescope of colors...and the walls...and the furniture (some of which doesn't belong to us)...and many other unpleasant scenarios.

When I got into the living room I first looked down at the floor. Whew, not a drop. Then I saw Emma, both hands stiffened and pinker than usual. And the couch. Ohhhhhh, the couch. It's a good thing we never gave in to that crazy impulse to buy new furniture. We decided it was best to wait until the kids were done with sippy cups and poopy diapers and the like, all of which don't mix well with lovely new furniture. Good call!

Emma's self portraits

I went to upload some photos from the camera today and found some extra creative pictures that I didn't remember taking. Obviously, Emma got a hold of the camera and decided to take some self portraits. I thought I'd share them with you.

This one reminds me of those 3D ultrasound pictures, just not as crisp.

I believe these are lips.

...and these are Muppet lips

sideways sunset?


Well, there you have it. Emma's artsy fartsy eye for....reddish, blurry things.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Emma's haircut

Emma has such cute curly hair. Unfortunately these beautiful curls have a downside. They get really matted up on the backside of her head. And it isn't very fun to try and comb the snarls out. I usually have to suit up in my animal handling apparatus (protective gloves, helmet, face shield, impregnable full body suit), wrangle her in with the ketch-all pole and strap her to the chair. Needless to say, most of the time we just let it go. She looks like Carrot Top minus the biceps. (did anyone realize this guy had a bod like that? anyhoo....)

Well, I decided maybe it was time to try out my hair cutting skills on her. When her hair is actually groomed it is very sweet so thinking about chopping it all off made me a little sad. Also, the thought of trying to get her to sit still whilst I'm hacking away with a sharp scissors in close proximity to delicate eyeballs wasn't really high on my list of fun things to do either. But, I put in a favorite DVD (not Cars, oddly enough), sat her on the couch and worked my mojo. I didn't realize I possessed hair cutting mojo until I was finished. Amazing! I've never cut hair other than an occasional bang trim or when I'd give Barbie a shorter 'do' as a child, but I pulled it off. I'm not one to brag but HELL-O cute shaggy bob!

It went off without a hitch. She sat incredibly still and still has both eyeballs.
Here's the old Emma:

And the new Emma:

See? How cute is that? I might have to start thinking of a career change. Okay, maybe not. But I did good, no?

Monday, October 27, 2008

Update on Cars

We've lost Cars...I repeat, we have LOST Cars. Oh crap, what am I gonna do? Emma is going to demand to watch Cars. I can't find it. There will be screaming, throwing stuff, more screaming, crying - no, wet snotty bawling, more screaming, and maybe some hitting and kicking. Oh bloody hell, somebody help me! I hear her, she's coming! Tiny footsteps, they're getting louder. My heart is pounding, my mouth just went dry.

"Oh, hi Emma! that you darling?...sweetheart? Eh hem....whatcha got there?"

"Watch Veggies, Mamma? Watch Veggies?"

(sigh, unloading 500 pounds of pressure) "Oh SURE, honey. You bet! I'll put in Veggie Tales for you!"

Safe for now. Thank you, Lord!

oh oh, what's that? Footsteps.....oh God....

Happy 11th Birthday, Hanna!!

It's been 11 years since the day you were born. Into this world you came, 3 months too soon. I remember it like it was yesterday. I wished I could have held you or heard you cry. The delicate skin covering your tiny body was almost purplish and transparent. Your eyes weren't open yet and your feet weren't even as big as my thumb. Your head was almost completely covered in a knitted cap and tape from the ventilator hid your face. When I saw you for the first time in the NICU, the severity of your prematurity really hit me. I was immediately overcome with immense fear. Seeing you hooked up to those machines, wires and tubes everywhere, was the scariest thing I'd ever experienced. These machines were keeping you alive! Knowing you couldn't survive without them was horrible. And I had to trust all these strangers, doctors and nurses, to protect you and to keep you alive and well. We were told of all the possible problems you could encounter during these first fragile weeks and also what might happen as a result in the years to come.

Just read these words and imagine all of them thrown at you as possible future scenarios your newborn could experience:
Apnea (pauses in breathing), Anemia (low red blood cells), Respitory Distress Syndrome (difficulty breathing), Bradycardia (slow heart rate), Bronchopulmonay Dysplasia (lung disease), infections, sepsis, Retinopathy of Prematurity (abnormal growth of blood vessels in the eye), Hyrocephalus "water on the brain", Intraventricular Hemorrhage (bleeding in the brain), Necrotizing Enterocolitis (intestinal condition) name a few. Talk about scary, huh?

It was an emotional roller coaster. You had good days and not so good days but you managed to come home sooner than expected. You had no major setbacks and you continued to grow and develop so smoothly, we were very VERY lucky. So many children born at your weight (1 lb. 8 oz) experience heartbreaking problems and have to endure many surgeries. You had surgery on one eye to prevent a detached retina (common among preemies) but that was it. What a miracle baby you were! Today, other than being a little on the short side, you look and act like any other 11 year old girl. It's an amazing thing. I am so grateful to the NICU staff at Merit Care in Fargo. They are truly gifted individuals and I will be indebted to them forever.

You are my first born, my miracle, my very special girl. I love you so much and I'm so lucky to have a loving, funny sweet girl like you for a daughter. Happy birthday, Hamster!!

March of Dimes - dedicated to improving the health of babies by preventing birth defects, premature birth and infant mortality.

Click on the link below to donate, they help save the lives of children like Hanna.

Friday, October 24, 2008


My little Emma has got to be Disney Pixar's biggest fan. She discovered we had the movie 'Cars' in our collection of DVDs and for the past, oh, I'd say 2 or 3 weeks, she will watch nothing else. In the morning as soon as she is changed and is drinking the milk she ever so politely demands, it starts. Cars-o-rama, Cars-a-thon, Cars-fest, Cars-a-palooza, Cars-mania, Cars-fever, Cars, Cars, get the idea. She'd watch this show over and over without much break in between if I'd let her. I don't know what it is about this movie. I mean, it's a great movie. I saw it in the theater and the detail in this animation is amazing. The scenery is stunning. The plot is fantastic. It must have won tons of awards. If it didn't, it should have. But for a 2 year old girl to fall in love with it the way Emma has is kind of funny. Sure we went through other phases. There was the Dora DVD, and Scruff ("hi I'm Scruff, happy as can be, whatever the time is I'm always full of beans........"). But we're going for a record with this one. I wonder what the current record is for number of times a person has watched the same movie in a 3 week period. She's gotta be close. Kachow!!

Big ball of garbage

I'm not one to complain........oh wait, I guess I am and apparently I'm rather good at it. It's what I do. I'm sorry I'm not perfect like all you optimistic non-complainers out there. When life sucks, I complain about it. Anyway....

Garbage. It never used to be an issue that caused me stress. That was in Fargo. Here, it's a whole different story. Let me explain...

Our garbage bags are roughly the size of plastic Hornbacher's grocery bags, without the handles and not as sturdy. Needless to say, they fill up pretty fast even though we crush and fold everything into oblivion. Now, it wouldn't necessarily be that terrible if there were an unlimited quantity we could throw away each week. But that isn't the case. We have one skinny trash container outside we can fill each week. This container holds about 5 or 6 tiny garbage bags. We go through one a day, at least. (don't forget, we still have diapers to throw away) It seems like we are always stressing about not producing so much garbage. We wouldn't want to overfill the trash container. This was a lesson learned the second week here. On a wild impulse Andreas decided to sneak one more bag in the garbage bin and this prevented the handy dandy lid from closing all the way. Garbage day rolls around and since the trash bin was full beyond 'capacity', Mr. Garbage man didn't take it. He just threw a new grey garbage bag for the container on top. Sweet, that certainly helps our garbage problem. Our garbage container is overflowing, we have more garbage we could have thrown away since we just moved in and all, but let's just NOT take what's in the bin because the lid won't shut. Makes sense. Garbage men got it easy over here, let me tell you. I didn't think I would survive the garbage issue when my honey discovered that you can purchase EXTRA trash bags and you are allowed to set one of these special extra bags along side the regular trash bin each week. We are saved!

This experience is definitely teaching me to be more conscious of how much garbage we produce and we are taking steps to reduce it. We recycle all our plastic bottles. I burn everything I can in our wood stove (I've discovered my inner pyromaniac). And like I said before, we fold our milk cartons and everything else I can't burn. We're doing pretty good. Sometimes we don't even need that extra bag. I'm sure Oprah will be calling one of these days to invite us to her show.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Big sister reads to little sisters


Theme Dinners

A while ago I discovered a fun way to jazz up dinner time at the Arff household. I really like decorating and cooking for parties and holidays so I decided we shouldn't only get to do fun stuff like that on those occasions, but simply to celebrate a Wednesday or whatever day it happens to be.....just because. Since tonight I'm doing Famous Dave's night for my honey, I wanted to dig up some old pictures of a theme night. These photos are of Fiesta Night that I introduced to the girls last August. (kids love this kind of stuff) Notice in the picture my little Senoritas are wearing Spanish dresses, too cute! I can't get as creative here since I'm a bit out of my element when there is no Party America or Michael's craft store in the area to help out with the decorating. Just getting all the ingredients I need at the grocery store is a chore. (don't get me started on that) Oh, and it's very important to have background music to really get you in the spirit. I LOVE LOVE LOVE having an iPOD, I can download songs from any genre to have playing in the background. It's glorious! I'll blog again later with pictures from tonight's theme.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Halloween is creeping in...

I LOVE this time of year! Anticipating Halloween night makes the weather turning colder a little more bearable. What else could possible bring a person more joy than an excuse to scare the pants off some poor unsuspecting children? One Halloween a few years ago I had a table set up in the foyer. It was one of those pull-apart tables where you could add a section if you wanted. We pulled it apart just enough so that a hand could fit through, then we draped it in an old black sheet (with a hole just big enough for a hand....teeheehee, I'm getting giddy just thinking about it). Then, we set a big plastic candy bowl on top with, you guessed it, a hole in it just big enough for a hand. Then, I hid underneath the table so that when the kids came in to help themselves from our fantastic candy bowl, filled to the brim with all the best candy, I popped my hand out to grab them. It got the best screams in the neighborhood! My goal was to get better and better each year until our house was known around town and kids would come from miles around to see what we'd do next. And no spook house would be complete without spooky sound effects bellowing from our lower level window, some smoke and a strobe light. There are just way too many fun things you can do.

The next year I had another fantastic idea. Why not buy a big old pumpkin, hollow it out and set it on my head. I'd dress up in Andreas' clothes so they would be big and baggy enough to stuff newspapers in. Then I would sit outside on a lawn chair and pretend to be a fake pumpkin person. It was fun listening to people's comments as they approached our door. "Wow, that pumpkin man sure looks real". Little did they know....muahhahahahaha! Once they got their candy and were leaving I would jump up and scare them, or just casually get up and follow them. It was a blast!

Sadly, Halloween isn't celebrated here. Not like it is in America anyway. I was telling my brother, Jeff, that maybe I should inspire the town to get into it by jazzing up our house with oozing blood and saw-like buzzing accompanied by screams. But he thought maybe I'd wake up to burning crosses on my lawn and I've decided to just go door to door demanding candy instead.

I see ads in the papers now and then for costumes and a few decorations like pumpkin candle holders or little witch figurines but that's about the extent of it. Then, last week, Andreas found a gold mine, FAKE SPIDER WEBS! Could this be true? Do they actually sell this here? Yep, indeed. I was super excited. But still, I'm not going to have any trick-or-treaters ringing my doorbell this year. It just gives me more time to plan the mother of all Halloween tricks for future fright nights in the US. Arff neighbors, BEWARE!

You have to check out this website for the SCARIEST Halloween food for a great party

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Daily Gripe

So tonight I made enchiladas (or as Andreas calls them, Danechiladas) and I was curious to know how much fiber/protein/fat/carbs/cal/etc. was in my whole wheat tortilla. But, did you know that the nutrition labels on ALL foods are listed by the 100g here? So no matter what you are eating, whether or not you would even consider eating 100g of something in one sitting (think butter), or whether or not there is even 100g of the food in the package, you are faced with a nutrition label describing the facts per 100g. I was arguing with Andreas about how silly I thought it was. No, not silly, down right ANNOYING that instead of being able to look at the package and find out what one freakin' tortilla was going to set me back, I have to weigh it and get the calculator to find out. Because clearly Danes have more time on their hands than Americans, what with shops not opening until 10am and closing at 3pm, they have plenty of time to do nutrion fact calculating. Andreas' argument is that it's easier to differentiate between two brands which is the healthier version. Also he argues that you can't LEGALLY define what a portion size is. And that McDonald's is going to start claiming that 5 hamburgers is a portion, because we idiots can't tell the difference anyway. Now, here's MY SMARTER argument. Since I'm just a stupid American, it's a heck of a lot easier for me to visualize 1 cup of something verses 100g of something. I can see a cup of oatmeal or a cup of milk or a cup of butter. All different consistencies, different weights, yet I can SEE the volume in my head. Now, ask me what 100g of oatmeal, milk or butter looks like and I don't have a clue. It makes WAY more sense to me to look on a package and be able to read what one tortilla or one bun or 1 slice of bread or 1 slice of cheese is(because of that nice nutrition label). I can imagine what 17 potato chips looks like OR better yet I can count them as I eat. But here, unless I weigh them, I'm not going to know how many chips are in 100g. In America, I can look on the label and see that 17 chips might be 140 calories. Or that 1 tortilla might be 110 calories. But here I have to take out the 2 tortillas that I will eat, weigh them, find out they are only 75g and whip out my handy dandy calculator that I now set on the table with every meal like a knife and fork, to find out what's in a dang tortilla! True, it's not rocket science, the math isn't difficult but it's a time consuming nuisance. I just don't understand why they do it this way. Health or weight conscious people that like to keep track of calories/protein/fat/fiber will have a bugger of a time with this. It's probably the biggest pain in the ass I've encountered since arriving here. I think I should continue this "daily gripe", I have enough to keep me going strong for a least 3 weeks.