Monday, September 22, 2008

Good News and Tragedy

Friday--it was the best of times, it was the worst of times...
First, the good news:

Madeline has officially been released from any further check-ups following all the problems she was having with her eyes and cranial pressure from just over a year ago. We are SO glad to finally have all of that completely behind us, and are eternally grateful that all ended well. It was a terrifying, immensely stressful time, but other than a lingering dislike of doctors, Madeline appears to have no lasting ill effects. Her vision is perfectly normal, and there is no sign that there ever even was swelling in her cranial nerves. Here are some pictures from those days, showing what a trooper she was, even in the midst of it all:

After good news like that, our "tragedy" is not actually all that awful, but we are sad to report that we have lost Madeline's beloved "Puppy". Puppy was a gift from Aunt Karen, from before Madeline was even conceived (though we were trying), and has been one of her all-time favorite "friends" for her whole life. He accompanied us on a journey to the store on Friday, and sadly, upon arriving home, was nowhere to be found. We tried calling the store, and customer services checked everywhere we'd been, but to no avail. After returning from our trip to Cambridge to see the doctor, we retraced our steps and checked all the stores again ourselves, but still no luck.
Puppy, we will miss you...

For nostalgia's sake, here are a few pictures from the early days, when he still looked new and fluffy, rather than raggedy and "well-loved" (he can also be seen in the picture above, helping Madeline through the ordeal of her weeks in the hospital...):

Monday, September 15, 2008

Caitlin Elizabeth Olsen

Here are some photos of my adorable new niece:

She was born at 10:44 pm on Sunday, September 14th. She weighed in at 7 pounds and 4.8 ounces and was 21.5 inches long.

I can't wait to hold her, but I have to wait until CHRISTMAS!!! She'll be more than three months old by then! Sigh...

I guess I'd better send her some Packers gear in the meantime... ;-)

Pigeons Farm

We went to Pigeons Farm with our friends Stephanie and Blake today. It was lots of fun! We actually had good weather for it (not too cold and more importantly, not raining!) and we even pretty much had the whole place to ourselves. Madeline and Blake got to pet lots of baby animals, and also got to feed the goats, and just generally had lots of fun playing.

Baby guinea pig...

Madeline and Blake with the baby chicken...

Madeline petting the baby rabbit... Mommy really liked this one--it was so soft and cute she started asking whether or not rabbits make good pets!

Inside the pig pen... Madeline was interested in the pigs, but didn't want to actually get close enough to pet them. We also realized we should have brought "wellies" (boots) for this part--everybody's shoes got quite dirty and smelly.

Fun on the "jumping pillow" with Stephanie...

Madeline was really into the chickens...

Great big sandbox...

Baby cow--less than one month old! We didn't get to pet this one...

Madeline with the "horsie." She did get to pet the horse, but we didn't get a photo of it...

Feeding the goats. The gentleman at the farm brought the leaves over for the kids to feed to them, and told them it was like ice cream to the goats!

It was neat to see Madeline seeing and interacting with real animals--she plays with her toy farm animals at home and makes all the noises, etc., so it was good for her to get to see the real thing and make the connection in her mind. All in all, a fun outing.

I'm an AUNT!!!!!!!

My little sister, Lisa, has made me an aunt!
I don't have many details yet, but here's what I know:
It's a girl! 7 lbs 4 oz in weight, and 21.5 inches long. Her name isn't official yet, but it'll probably be Caitlin Elizabeth Olsen--that's what they'd picked before she was born, anyway.
Lisa's water broke at 2am, and it was a long, difficult labor--they had to give her two doses of her epidural. My mom heard the good news at 11:35pm, so it was almost a full 24 hours of labor.
Lisa and my niece are both OK: both have a slight temperature (apparently that's not unusual when the water breaks so early in labor), but everything seems normal. Caitlin came almost 3 weeks early, so this was all a bit of a surprise!
I'll post more (including pictures) when I can...

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Happy Birthday, Take One...

No, Madeline hasn't actually turned 2 yet. Not for another three weeks. But the package from Grandma and Grandpa VanCleave arrived in the mail, and she was awfully interested in her "Happy Birthday Box." So we Skyped with Grandma and Grandpa on Friday (after the haircut--it was a big day!), and let her open her presents from them a bit early. She got lots of great stuff: new clothes (all of her 2T pants are too short for her now), some purses--one even had real coins in it, some Sesame Street DVDs, a Little People picnic set...but the biggest hit was the present Grandma had gotten for free in the mail: STICKERS!! Figures. (She has rediscovered the other presents by now.)

First Haircut

Bill finally convinced me to get Madeline's hair cut. I've been wanting to let it grow, but it really was getting kind of ridiculous. It was always in her eyes, unless I tried to put pigtails or barrettes in. But she'd just pull those out, along with chunks of her own hair.

So I bowed to the inevitable and we went to a salon in the shopping mall near us on Friday. Here are the before shots:

She was fairly good, but did present a moving target for the poor hairstylist. It was a new experience in a new place, and she just wanted to be able to look at everything all around her! Here are the during shots:

Here's one after shot (she really didn't want to sit still at this point...):

And here's some shots of her thoroughly enjoying her reward for (at least mostly) cooperating:

I'm glad we did it--she's still got her fairly wild n' crazy hair (goes with her personality), but at least now she can see!


It must be genetic. Or instinctive.
I gave Madeline her first Oreo cookie the other day, left for five minutes, and came back to this:

Yep, that's right. Who wants the cookie when there's frosting in the middle?!? Maybe I should try to get her cast in the next Oreo commercial...

Driving Test, Parts 1 and 2: check!

I feel like I'm 15 1/2 again.
As Americans, we are only allowed to drive on our US driver's licenses for 1 year. At the end of that time, we have to have gotten UK driver's licenses. Our year mark is looming ever closer, so we've finally started the process. And by process, I mean epic. Like Homer's Odyssey, only filled with red tape and lots of money being spent.
The first thing we had to do was apply to get a provisional license. That cost 50 pounds per person, plus 4 pounds per person to get the "right" kind of photos for the license. You're not allowed to smile for them. We kind of look like thugs. Bill especially. After filling out all of the paperwork, we had to mail it all in, along with our passports. We were told this could take up to four weeks to get back. Luckily it was closer to one week, but it still made me rather nervous... as if we were being held prisoner in the country...
Once we got the provisional licenses, we could sign up to take the theory test. This is comprised of two parts: a 50 question multiple-choice, and a "hazard perception," which is 14 video clips of driving where you have to click at the right time when you see a hazard. And when I say "right time," I mean that they are extremely picky about this. They were booking three weeks out or more for the theory test. Oh, and it was 30 pounds per person. I finally had mine on last Wednesday, and Bill's was Thursday. We both did lots of studying for it (me more than Bill), and thankfully, we both passed.
Next step: the practical driving exam. This is the actual behind-the-wheel portion, and they are booking nearly six weeks out for it. It lasts about 45 minutes, and includes "show and tell" type questions about your car (like how thick your tire tread has to be, how to check your oil, etc.) as well as the demonstration of good driving. Good driving here includes being able to back into a (very narrow) parking space, back around a corner from a main road into a side road, parallel parking, and some other rather difficult maneuvers. I am NOT looking forward to this. I've got mine on October 16th, Bill's is the 14th. Oh yeah, and this costs 57 pounds per person. And there's a 40% pass rate.
I have my first driving lesson on Tuesday. Yes, lesson. I've been driving for 15 years, and I have to take lessons to be able to pass this silly thing. Oh, and the lessons cost 20 pounds per hour. Sigh.