Friday, July 29, 2011

Seasonal Anxieties

It's summertime in Iowa.

One of the things I love most about the Midwest is that all of the seasons are beautiful and so distinctly different.  Winter brings crystals of frost clinging to the trees, spring brings budding flowers and the magic of the world waking up again after a long dormancy.  Fall, being my favorite and the favorite of just about every other woman on Earth, brings the crunch of leaves underfoot and just enough of a crisp chill in the air to cuddle under a blanket and snuggle close to the ones I love.

But summer is a little different.  Aside from the freedom of time-crunching schedules, I find myself feeling oppressed by the stifling heat and humidity.  The hot sun beats down on the ground, causing the grass to turn brown and the only things that seems to thrive are the weeds.  And what was once a dramatic and exciting feature of summer, the thunderstorms, are now an ever-present concern.  I used to stand outside and watch the storm clouds as they would roll in over the farmland; the unpredictability of nature intriguing and humbling.  But with two little souls in my home that I have vowed to protect, I find myself constantly nervous about what each and every storm will bring.  When thunder and lightening wake me up in the night I lie awake, willing away a tornado and replaying in my mind how I will gather my boys from their respective rooms and get them to safety.

But as anxious as I get and as much concern as I have, it will never compare to the cowering, whining puddle of fear that is my dog, Oscar.  I've told you all about him before, with his neediness and unique ability to ruin any sentimental or otherwise significant moment by canoodling with the cat.  Oscar has another side, however, and that other side is completely phobic of thunderstorms.

After a 2-3 week stretch of little to no rain, we've had a handful of somewhat severe storms that have downed trees and dumped several inches of rain on the already saturated ground.  Each and every time, at the first darkening of the sky and before the first grumble of thunder, his tail tucks between his legs and he begins circling under my feet.  God forbid I should choose to walk anywhere, as the dog must stay within a 2" radius of me at all times.  I'm looking into a restraining order.

On Wednesday morning, we all awoke to a dark and gloomy day with such intense humidity that it was physically difficult to breathe.  The potential for storms was high, and within only a couple of hours the thunder began and Oscar found his place at my feet.  The boys were finishing up breakfast and after I'd wiped the last of the syrup dripping from the table, the power went out, spiraling Oscar into a new dimension of anxiety.

I walked to the laundry room to gather some candles as my house, although full of windows, seems to be rather dark during the day, no less during a power outage.  I lit three candles, gathered some construction paper and crayons, and sat at the table to draw with my kids.  As I drew my 2,437th train of the week, I felt something warm and wet on my feet.  Freakishly enough, this is not that unusual as that furry white canine has a bit of a foot fetish and is contanstly attempting to lick my toes.  But this was different, and as I scooted my chair back to check out what freak show was taking place under the table, I was able to watch Oscar finish emptying his bladder right there, on my feet.

"Oscar!!!  NO!  You go potty outside!"

I literally had to pull the little critter out the door and down the stairs and stand in the rain while he peed a little more in the thirsty grass.  Once finished, he beat me up the stairs and clawed at the door while the sky boomed above us.

Back inside, Cael had shredded two sheets of perfectly good construction paper, so I resorted to Play-Doh.  The boys were both begging me to go downstairs and play, but the basement was almost completely black and with my town's reputation for poor electrical stability, there was no telling how long the power would be out of service.  Graham quickly got to work making what looked like shriveled bananas with the yellow dough.  Cael made a train, or a serious of small white globs conveniently placed in a row.  After turning down the repeated suggestion that I sculpt a train, I decided to attempt a horse.  We were all happily molding while Oscar whimpered relentlessly under the table.  I'd cleaned up the urine, and the enticing scent of Resolve along with Oscar's tender melody created a magical moment by candlelight.


The dog would not be quiet.  I put him on my lap.  Still whining.  I put him on the couch.  Still whining.  I put him in laundry room and closed the door.  Barking full force.  I put him back at my feet.  Still whining and now shaking.

I tolerated his neediness as long as I could, and once I had completed my anatomically incorrect Play-Doh horse, I put the colors back in their respective cups and headed to the laundry room to put them back in the craft cabinet.  My leech followed me closely, and when I almost tripped over him while exiting the laundry room, he promptly squatted and pooped on the floor.

Question for all of you readers:  Does locking my dog outside during an electrical storm and laughing at him from inside the house constitute animal abuse?

When the power kicked back on almost an hour after the storm had passed, I promptly got on the internet and researched treatments for storm anxiety.  I'd rather not tranquilize him, as they take some time to kick in and I am not always able to predict a storm early enough in advance.  The other item we considered is known as a Thundershirt.  The shirt compresses his midsection and, through some miracle of science, calms his nerves by putting pressure on his central nervous system.  I think it might calm my nerves if I could just squeeze him really hard.  Or tie a towel around him like a cape.

Whether or not I order the Thundershirt, something has to be done.  I love the dog, but in the storm-riddled summertime, he is more of a burden than a companion.  So I have turned my focus to autumn and the promise of better days.  I am anxious for pumpkins and burning leaves, apple cider and butternut squash.

And for my dog to shut the heck up.  See ya later, summertime.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

"Sorry, Roger"

It's a bad omen when your day starts like mine did yesterday.

Tuesday night, we made sure the TV was set to our streaming Netflix so that Cael, upon waking up waaay too early, could watch a Thomas the Train episode until the rest of us were awake.  But those plans backfired, and at 6:02am he was on the side of my bed, poking me in the eyes.

"Mommy!  I want to watch Curious George!"

Can you put it on downstairs?  It's too early!"

"Noooooo, I want to watch it here!"

"Fine, but you have to be quiet, okay?"


And truth be told, he was quiet.  So quiet, in fact, that I didn't hear it coming when his large plastic train came down and hit me in the back of the head full force.  Twice.  I considered the first to be an accident, but when the second made me yell out in pain, I questioned the possibility that my son was pulling a Menendez and attempting to kill me for requiring that he eat his vegetables.  But that hypothesis assigned too much consideration to this incident, while the truth was that he just wasn't thinking.

"Cael, you know that you can't have toys in our new bed!"

"I don't have any toys, Mommy.  Just my train."

"What do you think your train is?" 

"A toy."

Uh-huh.  Trying to reason with him is pointless at this time of the day, because he is too stubborn and I am too sleepy to think clearly.  I took the train away, started another Curious George and went to sleep after Cael promised, yet again, to keep it quiet.  And assault-free.

And truth be told, he was quiet.  So quiet, in fact, that I heard nothing from him until he was waking me up to the news that he wanted to watch Toy Story 3 in my bed.  But where had he been?  I looked around the room and seeing that Joel was off to work, I knew that some time had passed.  But how much?  I looked at the alarm clock.  Turned off.  I looked at Graham's monitor.  Unplugged.  I looked at my phone for the time.  Missing.  "Here we go again," I thought as Cael scampered off to continue whatever mischief he had started.

Morning disasters are somewhat common in my house, since Cael has a limited amount of freedom while we are sleeping.  I trust him not to leave the house, or to turn on the oven-- he knows better than to do those things.  And every other day, I wake up to the monitors telling me that one or both of them is awake.  But this morning, it seemed that every piece of electronics in my room was malfunctioning.  Was the power out?  Nope, the television was still quietly displaying an old episode of Curious George.  There was only one other explanation.  Hurricane Cael-trina.

I jumped out of bed and plugged in Graham's alarm first to hear that he was whimpering and sniffling due to an incoming summer cold.  How long had my Bubba been sad?  I plugged in Cael's alarm and heard extremely loud static, indicating that he'd been messing with the base unit of his monitor, and likely his stereo as well.  Lastly, I plugged in my alarm clock.  Looking to Joel's clock so that I could reset mine, I finally see the time.


Seriously?  I got 10 HOURS of sleep last night?  That's unheard of!  I feel so refre--

--WAIT.  That means that Graham has probably been awake for two hours.  And it's been over three hours since Cael begged for a show.  So I threw in my contacts and took the walk of shame.  Not the college "I-stayed-overnight-in-someone-else's-room-and-I-have-to-walk-home-in-my-clothes-from-yesterday" walk of shame, but the even more shameful "I'm-a-terrible-mother-and-can't-monitor-my-own-small-children-in-my-own-home" walk.

I slowly opened the door and peeked around the corner.  No Cael.  I crept down the stairs.  No Cael.  I saw the light on under the bathroom door and slowly turned the knob.

"Mommy!  I'm pooping... can you close the door puh-leeze?"

"Oh, sorry Cael."

I closed the door.  Has it been 3 three hours or 13 years and three hours?  I found my iPhone on the couch and after verifying that he hadn't deleted anything or bought any new apps, I tucked it in his pocket and headed back upstairs.  Once in Graham's room, I confirmed that he was completely fine but very smelly and had one arm out of his pajama shirt.

"Buh poo."

"Big poo?"

"Huh."  (Yes)

When I was up to my elbows in "buh poo", my cell began to ring.  I pulled out with my least smelly hand and saw that it was not a number I knew.  Not knowing whether this call was from a doctor's office or an emergency call or a call from a publisher (hint, hint) I decided to answer.


"Yes, this is Roger.  I had a missed call and voicemail from you this morning."

Prayer time.  Oh, dear Lord, please don't let this man tell me that my son asked him about his nuts, poop, or told him to pump his pistons.  Amen.

"I'm so sorry.  I think that was my son... he got ahold of my phone somehow."

"I figured it was a kid.  There was a lot of jabbering and whistling."

Yep, my son phoned a stranger and left a train whistle message on his voicemail. Typical.  And I wish I could tell you that things turned around from there, but that just wasn't (and usually isn't) in the cards for me.  Instead we struggled through a slow, boring day and night.  But in our world, slow means that no one went to prison, and boring means that no one required emergnecy medical treatment.  I'll call it a victory.

Now I'm off to password protect my phone.  Sorry, Roger.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Caelism of the Day

"Mommy?  When I was a tiny baby in your tummy, did I eat all of your food?"

"No, Cael, because you weren't in my stomach, you were in another place that's just for growing babies."

"How did I get there?"

Oh, no, no, no.  He's only 3.  Can I get away with "because I ate a Cael seed"?

"Daddy and I made you." 


"Well that's a long story.  And I'll tell you more about it when you're a little older.  But let's just say that when mommies and daddies love each other a lot, they can make babies.

"Oh, okay.  But why did you make my hair so curly?"

"God made your hair curly.  He must like you a lot."

"Yep.  I guess he doesn't like Graham because his hair is straight and his bottom is stinky."  

The Camera Never Lies

I think we can all agree that my children are beautiful.  "Nuff said.

Oh, you wanted more than that?  Well, although both Cael and Graham have seemingly inherited the best possible combination of genes from their Mom and Dad, it's what they do with those good looks that seems to grab at one's heartstrings.  Or, in my case, causes that ache in my uterus for another baby.  I wonder if TUMS would make that go away...

I often kick myself for not paying better attention when they were babies, because both of them were showing me what type of people they would become.  Cael kept us up for hours on end, giggled with reckless abandon and battled Daddy for the "Raspberry Champion of the World".  He was as sweet as could be, but he also looked at us with a twinkle in his eye that I now know meant "I'm gonna push you to the edge of sanity!"  At that time I just thought that look was gas.

As they say, "a picture is worth a thousand words".  And "they", those jerks, are always right.  Where are they getting their info?  Must be Wikipedia.  Each photo I have of each of my boys tells a story of who he now is and who he will become.  Don't believe me?  See for yourself.

How many two month-old babies can wink?  This baby-- Cael that is-- is as transparent as can be.  He's clearly thinking, "I've got you around my finger already.  You won't even care when I pee on you, yell at you and ask to see your nuts.  Watch out, Mommy.  It's gonna be a bumpy life!"  But what about Graham?

Graham's photos are just as telling.  His sweet little face says "I'm going to love you and make your life easier.  I'm an easy baby."  And he was right.  The first two years of Graham's life have been a love-fest of snuggles and kisses.  But now he's turning two, and he looks more like this:

This is Graham's "Angry Face", which began as a funny curiosity of Graham's and something that was entertaining for guests and in photos.  But lately, he's learned the appropriate context for his face, and the look now accompanies an unwillingness to clean up, eat, follow directions and more.  My baby is growing up, and he's growing fiesty.

Cael has an angry face too, but one that also correctly identifies aspects of his personality.  When Graham gets frustrated, it turns to sadness.  But when Cael gets frustrated, he looks like this:

When Cael was about a year old, he had a cheap t-shirt that read, "I look like Mom, but I act like Dad".  Truer words were never spoken.  Daddy has that stubborn streak that made it into our oldest's genetic code.  Graham is the opposite; a visual carbon copy of Joel but with my personality.  I think he promises to be extremely successful and loved by all.  Right?  ...Right?

And then there is the monster that they are together.  Except that they aren't that monstrous at all.  In fact, when they are playing together-- really engaging one another, it's downright awesome.  Ever since Graham's birth, Cael has done his part to show his little brother "bubba" the ways of the world.  From kisses... playtime... lessons in seniority.

But I guess that's what brotherhood is all about.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Saddle Up for Adventure!

I'm always excited for the beginning of the week and the opportunity to share with you the exciting things we did over the weekend.  Except that our plans this past weekend, while exciting by some definitions, did not play out as planned.

In August of 2010, Joel and I took the boys to Adventureland for a weekend getaway.  For those of you not from the area, Adventureland is a local small-but-legit amusement park that is perfect for families with kids as the entire park can be seen in one day.  We stayed overnight in a hotel and hit the park bright and early the next morning.  Even then, with Cael being only two and Graham not yet a year old, they enjoyed the rides and the bright lights.  Cael was limited by suprisingly few rides, and Graham got to eat Cheerios until he passed out in an apparent carbohydrate overdose.

The only problem with our trip, however, was that Joel and I weren't able to enjoy many of the rides ourselves.  A couple of times we traded off and one watched the kids while the other rode a roller coaster, but the Tornado is not quite as thrilling when you're alone in the seat.  The Space Shot will make you pee your pants, however.  I don't care who you are.

So this year as we planned our trip, we decided that it would be better to go with some friends that also had kids and were therefore in the same boat.  We would be able to enjoy the rides together and this time, test out the park's new waterpark, "Adventure Bay".  We decided to share the experience with my wonderful friend Alissa, who I've known as long as I can remember, and her family.  Alissa and I were pregnant together (both times) and our kids have enjoyed a number of get-togethers over the years.  It was a good match.  As the weekend approached, we made arrangements to stay with Alissa's grandparents rather than stay in a hotel.  I didn't know these people, so I was afraid to expose them to my children and their loud/sticky/aggressive/sometimes annoying/any-adjective-you-can-think-of behavior.  As soon as we entered the house, however, we were greeted with a warm welcome and a frosty "Moe-Garita" courtesy of Alissa's grandpa, Moe.  While I am not a fan of tequila, these moe-garitas were sweet, cold, and just what we needed to relax before what promised to be a busy day.  Good thing we all had five of them, too.  The next day was a five-drink kind of day.

We woke up to a light drizzle and the promise of more rain throughout the morning.  The radar showed a storm moving through which would be followed by a break in the storm for several hours.  Even though it was wet to begin with, we decided to forge ahead and hit the park.  We parked, loaded our stroller with our clothes for the adjoining waterpark, and handed over our tickets.  As soon as we passed through the entrance gate, the sky opened up and dumped so much rain on us that we felt like we were being waterboarded but didn't have any secrets to divulge.  Between heavy showers, the kids were able to enjoy some of the smaller rides that were still in operation.

After subjecting ourselves to an hour or so of nonstop rain, we threw in the towel and headed to our cars to enjoy some of the lunch Alissa had prepared in advance.  We snagged a picnic table, spread out our lunch fare, and as we popped the first bites in our mouths, the clouds broke and the sun came out.  Just our luck.  We tried our best to eat quickly, change quickly, and walk quickly across the park to the new waterpark, where we figured we could most take advantage of the brief sunshine.  As we entered the main sitting area of the park, a trillion white lounge chairs dotted the ground like my kitchen after Graham empties a box of uncooked rice all over the floor.  Each chair was occupied with sunbathers, wet towels and half-drunk cocktails, none as good as the "Moe-Garita".  But where would WE go?  What should we do with our strollers, and bags, and our completely drenched "dry" clothes?

Problem solved.

Although the sky was blue, the rain started falling in sheets and almost half of the people in the waterpark snatched up their belongings and ran for the safety of the concession stands and on into the amusement park.  We happily claimed two chairs, all the while wondering why so many people, wet from the water slides and lazy river, felt the need to hide from, well, water?

For the first time all day, we were able to play freely and the kids loved the many slides and fountains.  Alissa and I tested out many of the double inner-tube slides and the guys defied death on the super high water slides.  Although he's pretty leery of water, Cael was getting into the fun and decided that he wanted to try some of the smaller curly water slides as well.  With Joel at the top to give him a little push, I waited at the bottom to catch his slippery little body.  But nothing.  Then a small, whiny sound came from the belly of the slide.


"Cael, are you in there?"


"Come on down, Cael!"

Although I was concerned about him, I could hear his voice so I knew he wasn't drowning or otherwise injured.  But he was stuck.  We all encouraged him to push himself down, and after a few tense moments, he emerged, rowing himself along the track of the slide in the silliest manner possible.

I would so love to share a video of this crazy moment, but like the rest of the trip, I was unable to document any of our adventure because of water, in one form or another.  But to give you an idea of Cael's aquatic descent, check out this video of Joel attempting to slide down our driveway last Christmas.  The similarities are eery.

After freeing him from the captivity of the slide, we nursed his ego and began to pack up.  We enjoyed a few more rides in the main park that we were unable to try because of the threatening weather earlier in the day, and then headed out to get some dinner.  Although exhausted from ping-pong weather patterns all day, we were starving and in need of food before starting the car ride home.  While filling our tanks with greasy appetizers, Graham made his now infamous deposit.  That was but a momentary bright spot in his mood, which had been touchy and grouchy all afternoon due to his lack of a nap.  Once in the car and snuggled up to their stuffed animals, both Cael and Graham were out.  In his final protest to the day's unpredictability, Graham positioned himself like this.

And I knew just what he was thinking.  "Go pump your pistons, Mother Nature!"  Better luck next year.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Graham's Latest Production

Ladies and Gentleman!  I would like you all to know that my not-even-two year-old son just POOPED on the potty!

That is what my husband shouted to a restaurant full of strangers on Saturday night.  I was mortified.  Proud, but mortified.  We were enjoying dinner with friends before heading home after what turned out to be an "interesting" weekend.  The restaurant, a bar and grille style place, had few families with children and several tipsy women and men wearing embroidered leather jackets.  Needless to say, the restaurant patrons did not share the same enthusiasm about Graham's poop as did our little group.

Embarrassment aside, it was a big accomplishment even though Graham had actually gone for the first time at home on Thursday.  That afternoon, after eating most of his lunch, I saw the telltale look on his face, and knowing that he had recently made a connection between the feeling of "needing to go" with "going" I figured it was worth asking,

"Are you going potty?"


"You need to poo?" (I wanted to clarify if he needed to go or had already gone)

"Huh."  (Yes)

So off we hurried to the tiny potty that just last November produced Cael's first diaper-less dump.  Knowing that it was early for him to be potty training, I wasn't expecting much, but low and behold, after only a few moments of practice pushing, Graham delivered what looked (and smelled) like an 8lb, 7oz poop. 

And this is the point at which you should stop reading if you find this stuff disgusting.  Frankly, I find it disgusting as well, but having children changes a person.  I think there is a shift that takes place at the genetic level; one that causes mothers to hoard hair clippings and belly button stubs.  It is this shift that, through no fault of my own, caused me to take pictures of my sons with their first "potty poops".

I'm seeking treatment.

Back in November, after what felt like years of potty training and little success, Cael finally used the potty for number two.  He'd been peeing semi-regularly for a couple of months but had always managed to sneak away to his favorite potty spot (three steps down the stairs) where he'd brace himself against the railing and do his thing.  Since he was three, he was very aware of what a milestone this was and knew exactly what this accomplishment meant.  After no other tactic worked, Joel and I resorted to bribery, and purchased a new Buzz Lightyear toy for Cael.  We placed Buzz on the mantle in what looked like a Pixar shrine, and urged him to use the potty if he wanted to play with that new Buzz.  To our surprise, he wasn't especially interested in dethroning the toy-- the prize he required to produce that poop was a giant campfire marshmallow.  So after his first success, he ate an entire marshmallow and promptly went to attempt another poop in exchange for more sugar.

With Cael's new-found understanding of cause and effect, he very quickly adjusted to using the potty full-time.  Meanwhile, Graham was watching and soaking up the process as he simultaneously soaked his Huggies.  I assumed his transition would take place at approximately the same pace as Cael's, who didn't even start training until last October.  "He's just too young", I thought to myself.  So when Graham happily accompanied me to the bathroom and made good on his word, he himself couldn't believe it had happened.  He looked at his masterpiece in the potty and after a moment said,

"Buh poo."  (Big poo)

"Yes, that's right!!  You did a big poo on the potty!  What a big boy!"

"No!  Buh POO!"

"Excuse me!   Alright then-- not a big BOY, a big POO!"

After he'd been cleaned up and I said a quiet prayer of thanks for digital cameras and no more need to show the photo developers my son's excrement, it was time to dish out the reward.  Because his achievement was unexpected and ahead of schedule, there was no Toy Story toy and no giant marshmallows.  Just a few animal cookies and a big, wet kiss were all the encouragement he seemed to need.  Typical second child.

So when Saturday night rolled around and I saw that same anticipatory look on Graham's little face, I all but ignored it, thinking that Thursday's production was just a fluke.  But knowing that no progress can ever be made without a little effort, I swooped him up and rushed him to the restroom.  Amazingly and unexpectedly, he did it again.  I was floored that he would be so unafraid of using a public toilet, as it took Cael much longer to go in public than in our home.

And that is why, when I returned to the table with my little over-achiever in my arms, Joel clinked his glass with his fork and decided to toast to my son's poop.  Completely embarrassed, I sunk down in my chair and polished off the rest of my onion rings.  After I finished off the spinach and artichoke dip, that is.  But that's just like life, isn't it?  Right as Graham starts the process of ditching the diapers, I start eating in a manner that will lead me back to them.

But don't worry-- I won't share those photos.

PS- Want to know what "interesting" thing we were doing this weekend?  Check back tomorrow to find out!

Friday, July 22, 2011

Vortex of Weirdness

My home is like a vortex... and you can be sucked in without a moment's notice.  But rather than a vortex of air or water, ours is vortex of weirdness.

It is often said that "kids say the strangest things" but I think that could be expanded to, "kids do the strangest things" or even more accurately, "kids ARE the strangest things".  My boys are constantly creating their own trouble fun by beating themselves with a spatula, or competing to see who can lick the sofa the fastest.

Have you ever looked around a room and thought, "I am the only sane person here."?

I have.

Cael's newest "game" is to mount his plastic zebra (intended for a much smaller child) and spin as fast as possible for great lengths of time.  He bounces and giggles his free-spirited giggle, and then throws himself off, often crashing into the couch or wood floor.  Sometimes he hurts himself, sometimes not, but he always goes back for more.  During his first of such rides, he spun until he'd reached the cusp of nausea, then tried to walk away but landed on the floor with a THUD.

"Mommy, I fell."

"That you did."

(He laid there so silently I was afraid he'd hurt himself.)

"Are you okay?"

"Yes, Mommy, but I'm still falling."

Now I know that children explore their world in unusual ways, but other than a lesson in why to avoid parking lot carnival rides, what could he possibly learn from this?  Why is Graham headed into work with only one boot?  And why didn't I think that was strange?

Because I'm being sucked in, too.

Graham finds ways to entertain himself that make me question his competency as well.  In addition to grabbing random items that he considers to be "work-related" and saying "Bye-Bye!", he has a Rain-Man like obsession with his stacking buckets. Stack them up, nest them together... stack them upside down, then right side up.  Knock them down, stack them again.  Point to the buckets.  Knock them over and nest them inside one another.  Put them on the shelf.  Take them down again and stack them up.  Lay them on the floor in a line and point to each one.  Put them back together and on the shelf.  Strange, but good for hand-eye coordination.  But why, oh why, does he not realize that the balls on the retaining wall just won't stay?

This oddness is so pervasive that it oozes into every aspect of our day.  Even at mealtime, we aren't safe.

I've heard that children who are "nerdy" in school grow up to be the smartest and most successful.  But what about the goofy kids... the ones that wear mismatched clothes and eat their hair?  Do they grow up and live in their parents' basements?  Or do they grow up and work for Google?

Whatever comes of them, one thing is certain.  Their lives won't be dull.  And I can't wait to watch it all happen because, as you know, I've been sucked into our vortex, too.

Have a great weekend, everyone.  "Stinky mark chocolate" and dog food are calling my name...

Thursday, July 21, 2011

9 to 5

I've mentioned before that I try to keep my kids on a schedule.  I don't think anyone would dispute that structure and routine are best for a child's well being.  Knowing the parameters of their day and life in general give them enough stability to focus on fun and learning.

Okay, I'm full of it.

I do think all of that stuff I said up there is true, but I'm no parent of the year, and Lord knows I mess up a lot.  On days when I have other children to watch, we are all dressed and ready by 7:15am in an effort to perpetuate the image that I have it all together.  If either of those moms were to show up at 7:15am on any other day, they would likely find me snoring in bed, Cael rifling through tax documents and eating dog food, and Graham jabbering happily in his crib with a lot of junk in the trunk.  And I'm not referring to an ample behind, although he does have that.

Regardless of the day, however, certain things stay the same.  Once both boys are out of bed and all sharp objects are accounted for, we eat breakfast.  My kids are HUGE breakfast eaters; a trend that began back when Cael was introduced to solid foods.  He would gorge himself on bananas, apples or whatever the "purée du jour" happened to be, and would fast for the duration of the day.  Graham would follow the same pattern if I didn't limit their early-morning intake.  Four packs of oatmeal for two picky children is overkill in my book.

Once their stomachs are at capacity, I begin the daunting task of wiping all syrup/jelly/cheese from all accessible crevices.  On a particularly stick and/or greasy day, they may take a "morning bath".  The novelty of a bath during daytime has become one of their greatest treats, forcing me to wonder why they are so easy to please with some things and so alarmingly high-maintenance with others.  There's no way they picked that up from me.  I'm anything but high-maintenance.  Ahem.  Excuse me.

Down the stairs they bound to play with their toys; Cael listing the hundreds of things he's going to do when he gets his still-sticky paws on his loot.

"I'm gonna make a train downstairs, Mommy!"

"I'm gonna play with that music puzzle!"

"I get to drive the car first, Graham!"

But when their little feet hit the bottom step, it is two short steps to the couch where they sit and blink at me, willing me to turn the TV on so that they can watch whatever show they're into at that moment.  The battle has begun, and until lunch the whiny requests continue to well up like labor pains.

"Can we watch something now?" 

"Is it time for my show?"

I try to distract them with toys I've stashed away in the closet or with promises of reading as many books as they want, and sometimes it works, but often not.  I do let them watch some television, because let's face it-- I would probably have been institutionalized by now if I didn't get a few minutes of peace everyday, but I still want them to be able to entertain themselves and not forget how to pretend.

At noon we tromp upstairs and, for an hour or so, debate the merits of eating peas vs. suckers alongside our chicken.  While his argument is completely incoherant, I have to give Cael points for tenacity.  Unfortunately, I also have to take points away for, you guessed it-- tenacity.  As I (once again) pick chunks of corn out of their ears and hair and and waistbands, the tension is mounting.  The boys know that naptime is coming, but don't want to mention it for fear of it being confirmed.  I'm afraid to utter the words and unleash the onslaught of whining and complaints that will make the process take even longer.  So there we are; staring and pacing one another as if we were in a duel in a really cheesy Western film.  Sadly, for Cael, his gun is firing blanks while my gun is firing seniority and Mommy awesomeness, just in general.

While they nap, I am free to do all of the things I'm so frequently instructing them NOT to do, like zone out on the couch or drink from an open glass outside of the kitchen.  And it is glorious.  I should be on the treadmill, and God willing I will get myself back on it soon, but until that time I am enjoying my 35 minutes of peace.  That's about how long Cael has been sleeping for the last few weeks; a medical marvel in my opinion as he is clearly using more energy throughout the day than he is able to regenerate in 35 minutes of sleep.  Sometimes I think he has Red Bulls stashed under his mattress, or perhaps he had developed a nasty speed habit, picked up from the other kids in the church nursery.

One positive of his brief rest is that, when he emerges from his room, he is allowed to watch an episode of "Thomas the Train", and he always wants to snuggle while he gets his train fix.  He squirms up onto my lap and puts his head back against my chest, and I can breathe in the intoxicating smell of my first baby.  And while he's still and quiet, it almost feels like he's the little baby I held just 3 short years ago.

And then he farts on me.  It's a whole different kind of intoxicating smell. 

Once both are awake, it's time to play again.  In the afternoons, I let them run loose in our fenced backyard; free to pick up sticks and dog poop at will.  On the days when the weather is uncooperative, we will color or do a craft project, sculpt some Play-Doh or simply play while I work on dinner.

I used to love to cook, and while I still do, attempting to create a meal with one child yelling at you for a snack while the other is hanging on your left leg is not a very effective culinary environment.  This, among other reasons, is why we so love to dine out, and as a result my children are well-versed in restaurant ettiquette.  They know that one is to repeatedly ask, "What's that awful smell?" at full volume while the other grunts at an incoming poop.  They know that the restaurant management really appreciates ground up food all over the floor and in inaccessible crannies of the high chair.  And lastly, they have adopted a very European attitude toward burping at the table-- shouldn't every cook view that as a compliment?

Once fed and exhausted from the day, we button them into their faded pajamas and toss them into bed.  In the interest of honesty, I must admit that I spend much of the day awaiting the calm and relief of bedtime, but once they are asleep I almost immediately miss them and long for their sticky kisses.  What is it about motherhood that can tug your heart in two directions? 

Sometimes feel like each day is a carbon copy of the last, as if I'm trapped in my own version of "Groundhog's Day", but without the witty script and A-list actors.  Rather it's just me, changing diapers and dishing out applesauce.  But I win in the end, because I get to create and see who my children will become, while Bill Murray goes on to make "Lost in Translation".  I really think I win that duel.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Sleep Deprivation

Ever since I started this blog, I've been getting much less sleep.  Not because I'm stressed or worried, but because my only opportunity to write is at night after the kids are in bed.  I get Graham dressed, allow him his one allotted drink of milk before bed, brush his teeth and begin our requisite nighttime snuggle.

Cael is a different animal altogether.  Something in the weasel family, I'm guessing.  Putting him to bed is easy as he's completely willing to go, but each of the steps become individual battles that comprise the "war" that is bedtime. 

Once they're both stashed away, and after I've finished whatever fun activities I had planned for myself, like laundry or dishes, I settle into my computer chair to write the next day's post.  That frequently turns into a marathon computer session (as evident by my pasty summer skin and increasing waistline) that can take several hours away from my already limited sleep.  It would take much less time if I wasn't constantly distracted by the trinity-- the Internet trinity, that is: Yahoo, Facebook and Pinterest, but what is life without pinning pictures of stuff I want but will never have?

So last night, after working for three hours and having only two good paragraphs to show for it, I gave up and went to bed, knowing that today would have to be an off-the-cuff writing day.  I thought to myself that it would be good if something interesting happened this morning so that I would have material for today's post.  (Not to worry, I've sufficiently beaten myself up about this.)  A quick soak in the tub and a bit of an episode of Hoarders later, I was asleep.

"Psst... Mommy.  Mommy!"

Oh, regret.  I was so tired and SO deeply asleep that I was having a hard time even talking to him.

"I want to watch Thomas!"  (In the mornings, Cael wakes up and watches Thomas the Train on Netflix so that the rest of us don't have to be up at a quarter to six).

"Is the tv not working?"

"No, and I want to watch Thomas!"

"Okay, go watch Thomas."

"...But MOMMY!  The tv isn't working!!

Logically I knew I had to get up and deal with the situation, but my body, which so desperately needed sleep, tried to talk me out of it.  How bad could it be if I let him roam around by himself?  Unfortunately, I know how bad it can be.  I'm still airing out the laundry room.  Sitting on the couch in the family room, I tried to coerce the tv into cooperation.  But with just one small light on to see in the dark, I was having trouble pushing the right buttons.  Do I need AV1?  HDMI?  What was it exactly?

But wait... In the dark?

Looking at the clock with a sense of dread normally reserved for blowout diapers and camping trips, I saw the time... 2:14am. 

I'd been asleep for 47 minutes.

And back to bed we went.  I put Cael back into his bed with a reminder that he was not to leave until the sun was up.  He promised that he would sleep, and with a kiss I left his room and climbed back into my gigantic bed.

"Mommy!  Wake up, Mommy!" (Are you sensing a theme here?)

"Cael!  What are you doing?  It's still dark out!"

I put on my glasses and with trepidation, looked at my alarm clock.  3:42am.  Only another 65 minutes since I fell asleep after our last rendezvous. 

"There's a bug in the bathroom!"

"There probably is.  I'll take care of it in the morning, okay?  Just go potty and go to bed." 

"But there are bugs ALL OVER MY ROOM, too!"

With mounting impatience, I grabbed his hand and marched him back to his room to show him that there were no bugs.  I almost hoped there were bugs everywhere, because then at least there would be an explanation for his ridiculous sleeplessness.  Turning on the light, I could see that he had emptied all of the shirts from the third drawer of his dresser.

"What on earth are you doing?  It's the middle of the night!!  Did you ever go back to sleep?"

"No, I was looking for the bugs."

Was he dreaming?  If I tried to wake him up would the sun crash into the moon?  Once I'd determined that he was, in fact, awake, I made him put the shirts back in the closet.  I climbed in bed with him and planned to stay until he was in a deep enough sleep for me to leave.  He closed his eyes, and I closed my eyes, and he started breathing pretty......    heavily.....

"Mommy!  Why are you here, Mommy?!"

"What?  What's wrong?"

"You're in my bed.  You have your own bed.  Go to bed.  I need to sleep!"

If it was anyone else's kid, there was a good chance I would have kicked the little creep out of bed.  But, pushing my overwhelming irritation aside, I climbed the stairs and shimmied under the covers.  Before removing my glasses, I glanced at the alarm clock.  4:58.  Only one hour left.

Lying in bed, trying to calculate the highest non-lethal dose of Bendryl one can give a child, I thought about how I would possibly function with my boys plus another to watch today.  I was dreading that 6:06am alarm that would signal the end to my oh-so-restful slumber.  As I frequently do, I tossed and turned, worrying so much about my lack of sleep that it caused, well, a lack of sleep.  I saw 5:10, 5:32, 5:49 and, when I watched my clock strike 6:06, I flinched in anticipation of the alarm.  But nothing happened.

It's Wednesday, and no one is coming.  I'm free to "sleep" in.  I'm also an idiot.

I literally smacked myself upside the head and rolled back over, with the covers tight under my chin.  At least I would get a few more minutes before that little imp would disturb me again.


Tuesday, July 19, 2011

I'm moving!!

Well, not really.  

There are few things in the world I hate more than moving, and my children have glued macaroni to all of the boxes in my house.

But this site is movin' on up!  I've ditched the "" for a newer and glitzier URL.  Please come visit me at:

If you clicked on a link to see this posting, you're already here!  But if you are wise and loyal, you may have set a bookmark.  If you don't, you will still see new content, but you might miss out on some new features that will really bring Cael and Graham's antics to life.  And mine.  I can get crazy from time to time.

And thank you for reading...

Therapeutic Escape

I could see the headlines for Sunday...  

"Mother, 28, Beats Self Over Head with Frying Pan - Children Removed From Home"

...but luckily, it was still Saturday night, and I had time to change the future.

No, this wasn't some rejected sci-fi drama, it was the scene in my house prior to my potential breakdown.  You see, my oh-so-wonderful and popular children have a multitude of talents, one being an exacting ability to make me want to shave my head and beat people off with an umbrella.

 Oh, wait... that's not me.  I'd never shave my head.  But even still, I'd been feeling on-edge all week, and I could sense that impending crash coming if I didn't get a break from them.  Not a "let me take pictures for an hour" kind of break, but the kind where my husband and I get out of the house and let someone less impatient and better paid suffer through the evening. 

So how did I get to that point?  In a surprising and unfortunate turn of events, my littlest tyrant was (mostly) to blame.  Graham, being the second child that he is, was tired of being in the shadows of his older brother.  Ever since Father's Day weekend, we've been seeing small glimmers of his new personality-- one that I am expecting he will fully unveil right around his second birthday-- and those glimmers have been very bombastic. 

Sometimes funny, frequently naughty, and always bombastic.

My chief complaint is that he has bypassed the whining stage altogether.  When Graham scans a room and decides he wants something that is out of his reach or otherwise unavailable, he immediately explodes into a fit of tears and stomping feet.  Forget asking, pointing, or getting a stool; Graham uses the newest tool at his disposal, and that tool is the tantrum.

After several days of attempting to block it out, I could feel my own tantrum welling up, and I said to Joel, "I need to get out of here.  I need a night away from them very soon."

Three cheers for husbands that can foreshadow.

I was told not to make plans for the evening, and a few hours later a babysitter came knocking on our door.  I slopped a kiss on one wiggly three year-old, wiped tears away from a toddler in the middle of an early-life crisis and jumped in the van.  And for the first time in quite some time, I let my brain think about something else.

And that something was sushi.

Joel and I, being newbies (yet complete addicts) to sushi, take more time to order than it takes us to eat.

"Do we get sashimi?
"Which one is which?"
"Did you like the red snapper?"
"Or was it the tuna?"
"Should we get a roll?"
To the server, "No, we're not quite ready yet!"
"Are we?"
"Should we start over?"
"Don't forget the Alaska roll!"
"Does your pen work?"

I feel like a capable person in the rest of my life, but when it comes to sushi I'm like a nervous teenager kissing a boy for the first time.

Am I doing it right?  
Will he laugh at me?  
Do I have seaweed in my teeth? 

But using what we've learned from previous experiences, (like the fact that I would eat white tuna sashimi out of a trash can as long as it was fresh), we managed to pick out what we wanted.  Listed individually on a long paper, our choices seemed sparse on the sheet and like a smorgasbord on the table.

Halfway through, we were getting full and sensing a Triptophan-like sushi coma coming on.  But as long as there was white tuna on the plate and I was out on the town sans children, we weren't jumping ship.  We ate it all, and Joel collapsed against the wall in surrender. 

We waited for our check, and when it was delivered by our less-than-friendly waitress (who was probably incensed way back when it took us almost half an hour to order our food) we signed on the line and dug into our fortune cookies.  Now, I'm not a superstitious person, but I do enjoy seeing what bizarre or inaccurate wisdom the cookie gods choose to impart upon me.  Opening our cookies, we discovered that we had hit the fortune jackpot.  While only one was truly a "fortune", the two papers in our flavorless cookies were specifically tailored to our individual characteristics and desires.

But we picked the wrong cookie. 

I looked sideways at Joel when I opened my fortune and read this:

And Joel was less than inspired when he read his fortune:

So it looks like a future in writing isn't in the cards for me, but at least people will be upbeat in my presence.  That's just as good, right?

We got back in the car and, contrary to what I was expecting, drove to the movie theater for a showing of "Horrible Bosses".  Nothing can make you feel far away from your problems like going to the movies.  I paused momentarily before entering the theater, visions of multi-colored candy throw-up in my bra, but entered anyway.  We opted to pass on the concessions, though, so as not to tempt fate.  Fate might not mix well with raw fish. 

"Horrible Bosses" was everything it was cracked up to be.  I laughed from start to finish; the kind of laugh that relieves stress and cures ailments.  Sure, it's unbelievably crass and full of the obscenities my son would like to shout at me in code, but it made me feel better.  It was just what I needed.

To cap off the night, we turned to our dessert tradition.  For most of the six years we've been married, we've celebrated anniversaries and Valentine's Day with fancy meals out and desserts at Cold Stone.  We tried ordering gourmet desserts a time or two, but quickly found that they were spoiled by one of the following:  a serious size deficiency typical of really fancy food, a serious lack of sufficient chocolate/caramel/nuts/fruit/sugar/salt/you-name-it (also typical of fancy food), or a road block caused by my food-snobbism.  Any dessert I really want to try, I will learn to make myself, and any dessert I don't make isn't interesting to me.  And that's where Cold Stone and their creamy "cake batter" ice cream come in to play. I can't make that at home-- my chilled marble slab is in the shop.  Having somewhat recovered from our sushi-palooza at dinner, we found enough room to pack away our ice cream. 

I felt refreshed. 
I felt relieved. 

I tried to take a picture of the two of us and laughed so hard when Joel made goofy faces that I couldn't hold the camera still.  It was the perfect end to the evening; the perfect remedy for my mental state.  I'm so glad I could spend it with my favorite person, too.

He's an accomplished writer, you know...

Monday, July 18, 2011

Four-Letter Words

Thomas the Train has invaded our home.

The show, with it's unusual script and careful pronunciation of words, has simultaneously improved Cael's vocabulary and provided him with a new collection of words and phrases to use inappropriately.  Initially, I was impressed with his ability to infer the meaning of some of the words, but then others started to be taken seriously out of context.

"Mommy, this pizza is really daft!"

"Uhh, okay. Thank you?"

Most of his Thomas adaptations have been harmless up until last week, when some cosmic shift changed everything.  After allowing him to watch an episode of Thomas while Graham continued to nap, it was time to turn the TV off and go upstairs.  The mere suggestion of cutting off his source of dry English "humour" caused my son to lash out in a way very reminiscent of the Calliou debacle of 2010.  Not feeling like arguing about the issue, I turned off the show and headed upstairs.  As soon as I'd turned my back, I was hit with,


EXCUSE ME?!?  If he'd said it in any other context I'd be more forgiving, but these words were spoken with such hatred and wrath that his motive was clear-- my three year-old son was telling me to "go #&$% myself" without actually saying it.

That move has been done before, and if he thinks he can pull the wool over my eyes, he's got another thing coming.  I've seen "FRIENDS", after all.

This is a hard problem to tackle, because Cael doesn't actually know any expletives (save for a two-week stretch when he was two years old and kept calling me a certain donkey-related name that he accidentally picked up from a certain relative... you know who you are!) and I don't want to introduce any truly offensive phrases in the process.

"Cael, we need to talk.  That's not a nice thing to say to me."

"Why?  Thomas says it."

"Because you said it to me in an angry way.  It's not nice to yell at me like that-- it makes me think you're trying to say something even naughtier."

"What's even naughtier?"

Uh-oh.  This is what I was trying to avoid.  Just as I was carefully crafting a response that wouldn't require me to provide any examples, Cael came up with some of his own. 

"Mommy, what's naughtier than pumping my pistons?
"Buffer to buffer?"
"Fizzling fireboxes?"

 Holy cow, he's redefined the four-letter word.

"Cael, those aren't naughty words, but you have to be careful not to say them in a naughty way.  That hurts my feelings.  Okay?"

"Okay.  But I wanted to watch more Thomas!"

"I know, and you'll have a another chance later.  What do need to you say to me?"

"Cinders and ashes, Mommy.  I'm sorry."

"Thanks... I think."

So maybe Thomas isn't a good influence after all.  Or maybe it doesn't matter what he watches, because I think that with the proper delivery, any phrase can be lethal.  (Leave it to Cael to watch the news and tell me later that night, "I don't want to brush my teeth, Mommy.  And I don't have to... this is 20/20!"  I really wouldn't put it past him.)  If he's already demanding I pump my pistons at age three, I'm afraid to think of what he'll say ten years from now when he's thirteen.  But it's okay... I'm prepared.

"Go bust your boilers, Cael."

Caelism of the Day

While getting dressed for church on Sunday morning...

"Mommy, I like your shirt!"

"Thanks, Cael!  I like your shirt, too."

"And Mommy?  I like your hair.  It's really pretty."

"Thank you, sweetie.  You have very pretty hair too."

"But what's wrong with your FACE?"

"Nothing is wrong with my face, Cael.  What's wrong with your attitude?"

"Nothing, Mommy.  Don't be rude!"

 He's lucky he's cute.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Picture This

I'm about to say something shocking.  Are you ready?  Lean in close to your computer or phone so that I can whisper it to you...

I like to do things other than watch my children.  

Or talk about them, or even write to you about them.  The same goes for other people's children as well.  I really love that quiet no-kids-hanging-on-my-ankles "free time" that is so rare and so totally needed.  I don't get much of it, and that is mainly by choice because I genuinely do love being around my family, but I also love my hair and I'd rather not have to start buying Rogaine for Women because I've ripped my already frazzled hair out of my head.

So what do I do, anyway?  I've got so many hobbies and all are passions I've tried at one point or another to turn into a business, but the bottom line is that with small children still at home, I'm not able to put the time and effort into these things that is needed.  My custom cards and invitations are a fun side job but bring in almost nothing for income, and my chocolate/candy business is one of my most favorite things to do but is uber time consuming.  What is left is photography.

I'm sorry.  I think I made a mistake there.  I can hardly call what I am doing photography.  A more accurate categorization would be "pointing and clicking haphazardly while simultaneously avoiding bodily fluids, injuries and lawsuits from concerned parents who have entrusted their children in my care".  Or something like that.  But whatever it is called, I love to take pictures.  I didn't get into it until I was pregnant with Cael, and finally learned my very basic digital Canon.  I loved to take macro photos of flowers in my yard; photos that now make me cringe from their poor megapixels and bad composition.

After Cael was born, however, I learned some new tricks.  I loved taking photos of him at all angles, and thankfully this made for a really unique album of his first year, and probably made him an even more documented child than any of Brangelina's kids.  Here and there I would take photos for friends and family... a birthday photo here, an engagement pic there, but never anything serious.

Last year I received a newer Canon handheld camera, which only served to boost my interest in capturing the individual hairs on my dog's face, or in zooming so close on Cael's feet that his toe lint was a sharp as a kitchen knife.  I carried that camera everywhere (and still do) and face the daily task of narrowing down the several hundred shots I took that day to just the best ones.  My computer's iPhoto program only has 7,573 photos from the last year.  I'm very selective.

I've always wanted to learn more about photography, and would love to someday take senior pictures as a side job when the kids are older, or take family photos out in the park.  I think I could be good at that, and by avoiding weddings I could also avoid the added pressure or embarrassment that would occur at a ceremony if I stood up and had a pair of tiny boy's dinosaur underpants clinging to my skirt.  I just don't have time for fabric softener, people.  I'm too busy taking photos.

Knowing how much I love it, Joel surprised me last spring with another baby.  Not a human baby, or a canine baby that would also ruin tender moments with incestuous feline trysts, but a brand new digital SLR camera, a Canon EOS 7D.  "EOS 7D" is Canonese for "high-powered enough to count your nose hairs".  I was so daunted by it that it sat, unused, in my closet for a few months.  I was frustrated by it's plethora of settings and my brain's inability to process all of them.  It seemed that a simple photo in the automatic setting was neither simple nor automatic, and with a gaggle of toddlers undertoe, I didn't have the patience.

But a few weeks ago, bothered by the large, empty wall above my new bed in my freshly painted room, I was inspired to pull it out again.  Joel has a hang-up about wall art that is meaningless; he wants all of the paintings/photographs/metal art in our home to be taken by someone we know or have a subject that is meaningful to us.  I like that idea too, but it has resulted in shrine for our children that is overwhelming and to some, maybe a little creepy.  But that's okay, because Cael already likes to push social boundaries.  Our creepiness seems personal in that way.

So for the last couple of weeks, while my generous husband has put our children to bed, I have been roaming around town taking photos.  My husband gets ridiculously long back rubs and I get a couple of child-free hours.  And I get to drive my car without listening to "The Wheels on the Bus."  That's worth the back rub right there.

I've been trying to find a photo that will bring together the colors I already have in my room and look nice with a bright matting in an orange tone.  And here's where you come in.  I'm going to show you a few of my favorite photos I've taken with my new camera, and you tell me what you think.  Joel thinks we should frame a large photo of the homemade pizza I made on Monday night.

You see why I'm turning to you.

Until I learn more about my camera and have an opportunity to take a photography class, I'm sticking to landscapes and scenery that I find inspiring.  Earlier this week, we had a beautiful sunset right outside my kitchen window.  I couldn't snap a photo that didn't wash out the sky or blacken the ground, so I gave up and pointed the camera upward.

A few days later, I was able to escape the house and headed over to Lake MacBride.  After chatting for nearly an hour with a very verbose woman about her run-in with a snake, I was able to capture a really pretty sunset over the water.  Snake-free, mind you.

On the way home from the lake, I pulled down a winding gravel road and caught the sun just before it sank behind the cornfields.

Okay, so I seem to have a thing with sunsets.  I just love the colors and thought it might be a really serene image to fall asleep below.  I also snapped this photo of some ditch flowers near Kroul's Farm on Hwy 1.  I stopped and asked a nice farmer if I could take some photos of their field of hay bales, to which I was told that yes, I could traipse through their property, and they were NOT hay bales, but rye bales.  As an Iowa-born and bred woman, I was very ashamed.  Not of my lack of crop knowledge, but of the really pathetic photos I took.  Ouch.  Those won't be going on the wall.

Lastly, I snapped a few of my blue Rose of Sharon that was a birthday gift from my Dad.  Isn't he good?  It's my favorite and right when it was transplanted it was really outstanding.

So what do you think?  Is there any potential there?  Should I keep sneaking away each day in hopes that I'll find something better?  Maybe you need to see some less "earthy" options.  How about this photo of Graham at the parade practicing his "double dream hands" dance while Joel winces in disgust?

No?  Okay, let's see.  Here's a shot of the fireworks display at the kick-off for Heritage Days.  Would this look nice above my bed, perhaps with a plaque that reads, "Where the fireworks happen"?

Too crass, maybe.  Here's a photograph I took that documented a sweet moment with my Cael-bale.  Not a "hay" bale, mind you, but my Cael-bale.  I have to document these moments so I can be sure they really took place and weren't an Inception-like creation of my subconscious.

Cute, but not the right subject matter, I'm guessing.  I also have a wonderfully emotive photo of Oscar howling in protest of my earlier statement regarding his behavior with our cat.  He has a real problem accepting constructive criticism.

But I don't have that problem, so bring on your thoughts.  Is there something here that would be a good addition to my room?  Or maybe you think I should keep practicing, keep shooting and hope for the perfect image to come along.  Either way, I'd love some feedback.

And a masseuse to pay my debts.