Finding calm in the chaos

Finding calm in the chaos

Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Henry's 10 month bear pictures

Dear Henry,
You are ten months old and the bear is getting smaller. You are a mobile whirlwind of activity wherever you go, tearing up paper, chewing on toys, banging on pots and pans, unrolling toilet paper. Schatzi--poor Schatzi--is an endless source of fascination and you crawl after her, harassing her mercilessly until she finally has to go outside to get some peace.
 Nothing is safe and your Dad and I are woefully unprepared for this next phase of babyhood. We've managed to put a gate in at the top of our stairs; unfortunately, we learned the hard way that we need to remember to check that it is closed. One morning, Natalie calmly told me, "Henry is crawling down the stairs." I walked over to close the gate, just in time to see you fall head over heels over and over and over down all fifteen stairs. Thank God you weren't hurt--just mad and scared.
 You have two teeth and we are pretty sure more are on the way. You are constantly chewing on your fingers and toys. You are more interested in feeding yourself than being fed. You can't really manage a whole lot of table food with only two teeth, but if we give you a spoon or a cracker to humor you, you let us shovel in whatever puree is on the menu. You have nearly weaned...partly due to your penchant for biting...but still nurse a bit in the morning and at bedtime. You went for a two day stretch without nursing all together and I thought we might be completely done, but you seem to like the snuggle time and honestly, I am not ready to give that up yet either.

You've grown a bit more demanding. You don't have words yet, but you shout to make yourself noticed. If you want picked up, you reach your arms up and shout. You shout when you want a toy. You flip through books and shout.
There's nothing wrong with your understanding of language. In fact, I am pretty sure you are a genius. Tonight, I asked you what you were doing with a sock and you started to try to put it on your foot. Then I invited you into the bathroom for a bath and you crawled excitedly toward the bathtub. (You do love your baths).

 You've started to give kisses. You reach out and grab our faces and hit us with a big open mouthed kiss. Sometimes, you use your new teeth, which makes ND and Sam leary about letting you show them any affection. Still, we all love you and your siblings are very patient and kind to you.
 You've moved classes at daycare and we are pleasantly surprised that you have survived the transition. You had quite a bond with your teacher Alaine (she's pretty awesome and made you the onesie you are wearing in these pictures), but you are learning to like your new teachers Annie and Rowene. You stopped sleeping for awhile in protest but now we are getting on a new rhythm. You have somehow worked yourself down to one measly nap a day, but you sleep fairly well at night time, getting up once or twice. Now that you take a bottle fairly well, Dad is helping with night duty and Mom is thankful!

 We've started a weekly family date at the Aquatic Center. You love splashing in the zero depth pool and crawling around. You've taken a few unexpected dunks but have fared well for the most part.

I can't believe you are ten months old. I know years from now when you look back at this blog, you will wonder why there are not as many pictures of you as there are of Sam and Natalie. I promise that if you sleep more and crawl less, I will start snapping some more! In the meantime, our time is spent keeping up with you three Kaufman kiddos. I hope you know how much we all love you and how much joy you add to our family.
Love, Mom and Dad

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

BELIZE: Rough waters

I'd been sea kayaking once ten years before (on Lopez Island as a pre-wedding outing with Deanna) and loved it, so we dedicated one day to renting kayaks and paddling around the peninsula and across the strait to the caye. We hadn't really done much exercise and I was looking forward to the mindless rhythm of paddling--sort of like that same mindless rhythm of running that clears your mind and leaves you feeling exhausted and refreshed.
Besides, kayaking in a double kayak was a beautiful metaphor for marriage. Two people, working together toward one common goal, overcoming rough waters to make it to sandy beaches...yada yada yada. I could write a Hallmark card about it. What a great way to celebrate ten years of marriage.
Except it almost ended our marriage.
About two minutes into our trip, Joe was vexed by my "mindless paddling", which was making it difficult for him to steer. Our paddles kept knocking into each other. He started giving me pointers on how to paddle, which I found uber-annoying, given that I had kayaked twice as much as him (exactly one time ten years ago, remember?).
About halfway through the trip, Joe was proclaiming he never wanted to kayak with me again and I was ready to knock him out of the kayak and let him swim back to shore. It was not pretty.
Meanwhile, the Gemmers were happily paddling out that beautiful marriage metaphor.
Fortunately, ten years of marriage have taught us that fights always end and we will weather the proverbial storm. Plus, we were on the opposite side of the caye and either had to make up and paddle together or drift out to sea. We took notice of the Gemmers' technique and changed our own.
The rest of our trip was fabulous. The water was so clear I didn't even have to put on my snorkel mask to see sea stars and coral. We saw a few small fish as well. My arms were so pleasantly exhausted it was hard to pull myself onto the dock when we got back to the house. Joe and I made lunch while we waited for the Gemmers to join us.
After lunch, we all got back into the kayaks and went back to the mainland to return them. As a peace offering, Joe bought me some gelato.
We may go kayaking again...give it ten years or so.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

BELIZE: A hike in the jungle

We drove by a banana farm and snapped a picture for our banana-eating girl, Natalie
We spent one day hiking at the Jaguar Reserve. While I love hiking and backpacking, I was quickly reminded that I hate bugs. Hate them. In fact, I would taking hiking in the freezing cold over hiking in nice weather and being eaten alive by bugs any day. The day started with a stop at the Mayan Women's Center, where we picked up a few local crafts, paid our park admission and used the restroom. As one would expect, the restroom in a third world country is always a bit rustic. There was a polite sign asking us to flip over the mirror when we were done using it to prevent birds from flying into it.
After Deanna finished, I took a turn and when I reached for the roll of toilet paper sitting on the back of the toilet, I was horrified to find a large, hairy brown spider living inside the tube. I flung that toilet paper across the small bathroom, where the spider landed with an audible thud. (Yes, it was that big). Like any arachnophobe would do, I stood up with my pants around my ankles and screamed a blood-curdling scream.
Joe, sure someone was carrying me off to my doom, came running and Deanna, who was still standing outside the door, kept asking, "Are you okay? Are you okay?"
Still speechless from horror, staring across the room into the eyes of the hairy brown spider, I couldn't answer. I could only keep screaming. Eventually, I got it together, literally pulled up my big girl panties and unlocked the bathroom door. Both Deanna and Joe were relieved to see I was still alive. The Mayan women at the Center were unperturbed. I went to point out the stupid spider and it, of course, had vanished, making my loyal friends and husband skeptical about my claims.

We loaded up into the Jeep and drove up the muddy road to the trailhead. We'd planned to flat the river down and then hike up a trail that ended in a waterfall with a pool. When we went to sign in at the ranger's station, though, I quickly nixed that plan. Sitting on the desk was a jar, which contained a large dead snake called a jumping viper. The jar was plastered with a warning about the jungle's venomous snakes. I honed in on the line about this snake being "aggressive" which I interpreted as "will hunt you down in your sleep".

Deanna and Darin persisted in their plan to float down their river to their doom while Joe and I planned to hike the river trail and meet them at the exit point. We had a short, easy hike, stopping frequently to take pictures. We saw soldier ants industriously carrying leaves along paths and tried to follow a small deer we'd spotted.

Eventually, we met up with the Gemmers, who were quickly taking off their lifejackets and spraying themselves vigorously with insect repellant. We headed away from the river and its angry army of mosquitos, hking up the mountain to the waterfall. The ranger had talked about water snakes, reassuring me they were not venomous, but I did not want to get in the water at all. However, it was so stinkin' hot and I'd just climbed up a small mountain, so it only took a little bit of cajoling from my friends and husband for me to strip down to my swimsuit and jump into the water.
Then they all had to step it up a notch and swim under the waterfall to the cave behind it. Oh, my. That just seemed like a bad idea. There was no way I was going to do that.

If all my friends jumped off a bridge, would I jump, too?

The answer is apparently, yes, because after all three of them swam under and a) told me how amazing it was, b) mocked my reluctance and c) warned me I would regret missing out THE REST OF MY LIFE, I took a breath and swam over.

It was pretty incredible and I was glad I did it...until a small fish bit Deanna's leg and then I hightailed it out of there.
We drove home, hungry and scratching our bug bites. Everyone was happy with our hike. Me, I was happy with the experience...and was relieved to have survived the day.

Deanna's Facebook post summarized our day: "Floated down a river in the middle of the jungle in the Jaguar Reserve today then swam under a waterfall in a beautiful natural pool. Magical and unforgettable."

Mine? "I saw a huge spider today, hiked in the jungle and swam under a waterfall. My fear of creepy-crawlies has been stretched today."

Monday, December 16, 2013

BELIZE: Snorkeling

I tend to be cautious. My professional experience in nursing has made me all too aware of potential injuries and my personal experience in motherhood has just confirmed that. (Think about it--in five short years, we've had two broken arms, a broken leg, countless elbow dislocations and a seizure).

Frankly, I am a ninny. I have successfully avoided downhill skiing, scuba diving and high ropes courses so far. I don't even bicycle too fast if I can help it.

But, this sort of caution limits your vacation experience, so it was good I had the peer pressure of the adventurous Gemmers and Joe to gently push me into trying new activities.

One of our first adventures was a snorkeling tour to the Silk Cayes. I'd been snorkeling before, but hated the suffocating feeling I got with the mask, so we practiced awhile just off the dock before we actually went on a snorkeling tour. The practice was time well spent and I felt much more comfortable on the tour the next day. We spent the day sunburning our backs while we followed our guide, Kimani, around the small island, looking at coral, fish, nurse sharks, sting rays and sea turtles. It was excellent exercise and we treated ourselves to a nap when we returned home that afternoon.

Sunday, December 15, 2013

BELIZE: To each his own...

It soon became apparent that among the four of us, we had different styles of vacation. I think we all view vacation as an opportunity to do things we can't do at home. For me, that meant sleeping. Eating local food. Reading novels. I would be happy spending the entire week lying on a beach, drinking rum and stuffing my face with fresh tropical fruit.
Darin falls at the opposite end of the spectrum. While Deanna, Joe and I lazed about the beautiful house reading, Darin could not stand wasting a moment of his Belize experience. This turned out well for the rest of us since, while we lazed about, Darin would catch up with Edwin (the caretaker) and industriously catch us fish or lobster for dinner!
Our crew compromised well. We had some adventures snorkeling, hiking and sea kayaking (more on that later). In the evenings, we were wonderfully low-tech, having no TV or Internet, so we played cards or board games. We had two lazy days of sleeping in and reading. Deanna and I took a quick stroll on around the little caye, shooting a few pictures and visiting with Poppy, another caretaker, and his dog TinTin.
Deanna and her fancy camera

Tin Tin

Tin Tin
 On one of our lazy days, Deanna and I got Thai massages, which was one of the most acrobatic massages I'd ever experienced. A hefty Samoan massage therapist alternately pushed on pressure points and then bent/stretched my limbs as far as they would go. A few times, I thought I might break, but at the end of the massage, I was deliciously relaxed.
Edwin's young daughter showing us the fish Edwin and Darin had caught for bait.

And "Girl", Edwin's dog, was always close by

Food was the only thing Darin was a bit cautious about while I would happily eat anything and everything. Our first morning there, we stepped off the dock and walked right into the welcoming arms of Brenda, a local Creole cook, who had a little shack on the beach. She quickly ushered us to her small table and proceeded to make us a delicious breakfast of fish, rice and beans with fresh pineapple. The food was delicious, but would be the last time we ate there...when we got back to the house and read our guidebook, we were surprised to find Brenda got special mention--as a hustler to be avoided!
We discovered a little gelateria just a short walk from the dock, which led to my development of two daily indulgences: gelato and PantyRippas (a cocktail of pineapple juice and coconut rum).

The seafood was, of course, abundant and the Creole cooking was delicious. I remembered how much I loved conch ceviche and discovered a new love of seaweed smoothies.

Saturday, December 14, 2013

BELIZE: Getting there

Sometime last year, I was huge and pregnant and feeling sorry for myself when I realized that our tenth wedding anniversary was on the horizon. I wanted to do something bigger than a dinner out to celebrate and started thinking about a fun tri. The Gemmers had gotten married on Lopez Island just a few months before us and so they were celebrating their tenth anniversary as well. I emailed Deanna and proposed we take a joint family vacation--perhaps visiting Lopez Island--with our collective brood. She emailed back, mentioning "we" might have some more exciting a trip to Belize! I'd been to Belize twice before, staying in Belize City while in nursing school and working at a local hospital and orphanage during spring break, and then returning to Caye Caulker with Joe on our honeymoon. Great climate, friendly people and cheap rum. What a great place to celebrate our anniversary.

 (Later, on the trip, it came out that I had misinterpreted her reply as an invitation to join Darin and her and had inadvertently just invited ourselves along. Good thing we have the sort of friendship that just rolls with the punches, but let that be a lesson to all of you out there--keep your vacation plans to yourselves unless you want the Kaufmans to tag along!)
 During the next few months, we picked dates, planned childcare and accrued frequent flier milds to make ti all come together. The Gemmers had an acquaintance who owned a home in Belize and generously offered to let us use it during our stay. So, in early November, Sam went to stay at Grandma Dori's. We drove Natalie and Henry to Team Eddys'...
 ...and we were on our way!

Deanna, relaxing in the hammock on the porch

Friday, December 13, 2013

Sam's Advent Concert

Even though I had a great time at the Grand Ol Opry, what I'd really wanted to see was this concert back in Lewiston:

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

The Grand Ol Opry

While we were in Nashville for the American College of Gastroenterology Southern Regional Meeting, Joe got us some pretty good seats at the Grand Ol Opry, which was playing at the Ryman Auditorium. When I say "pretty good", I mean my neck is still stiff from looking up for 2 hours straight. We were so close I could see Vince Gill's nose hairs! Since I am not as interested in country music as Joe, I expected to have a decent time, but was pleasantly surprised that I had an AMAZING time. The performers were all very talented and I was thrilled to see members of the cast of Nashville sing!
On Broadway

Kathy Mattea

Will and Layla from Nashville (those are their characters' names)

Lennon & Maisy from Nashville
 Our experience was somewhat tempered (or enhanced...depending on how you look at it) by the couple sitting next to us. They were on the far side of middle aged and had obviously had more drinks that we'd had that evening. The woman was Nashville's equivalent of my Aunt Becca*.
A few snip-its of the evening:
Joe started singing along with Connie Smith's "Once a Day" and Nashville Aunt Becca leaned over and hugged him, squealing, "Oh, you have such a great voice! I just LOOVE your singing voice!"
"Where y'all from? Idaho?? What are y'all doing out here? Gastroenterology?? I have a kid who has that."
She went on to say she thought we were a cute couple and when Joe put his arm around me, she spied my muffin top and gushed, "Oh, are y'all havin' a baby?" Nope. These are just leftovers from the last baby.
She was so embarrassed by her mistake, she spent the remainder of the evening profusely apologizing, occasionally offering to buy me something.
Until Vince Gill arrived.
If you listen to the radio broadcast of the 7pm show of December 7, you will hear Vince responding to Nashville Aunt Becca. When he took the stage, she was so overwhelmed, she stood up, but words failed her. She could only moan, "Oh! Oh!" over and over again, causing Vince to say, "Slow down, honey. My wife's here."
When the show concluded, she was sad to see us go. We spent a few minutes visiting...until security kicked us.
Quintessential Aunt Becca.
*For those of you who know and love my Aunt Becca, you know exactly what I am talking about. For those of you who don't, my Aunt Becca has a warm, colorful personality that is best in small frequent doses. She is never afraid of talking to strangers and making new friends. The world is a more interesting place with her in it. God must agree...that's why He made another one of her and put her in Nashville.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013


For a long time now, Natalie's hair has deserved a blog post, or perhaps, even a column of its own. Long, thick and beautiful, people would routinely stop me when we were out running errands or at church and shower her with compliments about her hair. How beautiful it was. How nicely it was braided. How lucky she was to have so much of it. Oh, and natural highlights too! How did she get so much of it? Did thick hair run in our family? I must have had a lot of heartburn when I was pregnant with her.
(Which, in fact, I DID).
I would politely thank them. Natalie would give them her usual stink eye. We would be on our way.
But what those people weren't seeing behind our closed doors was the hours spent NEGOTIATING with Natalie to PERSUADE her to just comb her hair…then the hours spent detangling, combing and braiding that mass of tangles. Most days, she would just refuse, emphatically yelling, "I JUST LIKE IT TANGLED, OKAY??".
A mom only has so much patience…and a tired mom of three has even less. So, I began my propaganda campaign to brainwash her into getting a haircut. I would casually comment on how I loved my short hair without any tangles. How cool Sam's head must be since he didn't have long hair. How we never got peanut butter or Play-Doh in our short hair. Short hair is a dream come true.
Unfortunately, the seed I'd planted sprouted in full force a few weeks before Lala and Dan's wedding, when she wanted to buzz her hair off "just like Sam's". I bribed her to wait until after the wedding and then we spent weeks trying to persuade her to get a bob instead of a buzz cut. It all seemed futile since she wanted to go all GI Jane and no amount of arguing would resolve this agreement.
So, we dealt with the long hair.
Until she was staying with Team Eddy and Kate, Glory and Natalie ALL got hair cuts. Anything the Eddys are doing is automatically awesome. The Eddys sent us a picture while we were in Belize.
A cute bob, short and sassy, just like Little Miss herself. She thinks she looks like Tangled's Rapunzel (post-haircut, of course) and couldn't be happier. Short hair takes 2 minutes to spray some detangler in and brush out. I have an extra half hour a day now to twiddle my thumbs and eat bon bons.
Short hair is a dream come true.