Friday, September 28, 2012

What's Wrong With These Photos Photos

Have you ever gone somewhere, and upon arrival realized that you had no recollection of driving there?  Wednesday was one of those days, although I didn't leave the house.

Lately I have been avoiding the computer and the inevitable vortex that forms when I click on the very first Ellen clip on You Tube.  It's really a gateway drug, because one clip leads to two, two lead to six, and before you know it, it's 4pm, you don't know where your children are, and you have an overwhelming urge for brownies.

Photo credit here.
I know better, too.  I really do.  But her clips are so funny and sometimes I just need a pick-me-up after I've been spat on and wiped up four diapers containing what could only be described as nuclear waste. 

Plus, she makes Cael bust out his moves.

I just love videos and pictures just like that.  And taking two hundred pictures each day produces some great gems, but sometimes I notice things that aren't quite right after the fact.  Most of these don't relate to the topic at hand and therefore don't make it on the blog, but today is in honor of Ellen, so I thought I'd feature my own installment of "What's Wrong With These Photos Photos?".

Graham might have been the easiest baby that ever existed, but I think even he knew that his brother would give him a run for his money.

Trying to corral the kids while shopping is an incredibly difficult task, but apparently not as difficult as math for the employees of Dick's Sporting Goods.

What a deal.

Lastly, Graham was very happy with his birthday gifts.  The gifts seemed even happier than Graham.

So have a great weekend, everybody!  And don't forget to dance!

PS-- Also, stay away from YouTube.  You can get lost in there.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Ism of the Week

Don't you just love it when your child learns a new word?

"Mommy, what does 'awkward' mean?"

"'Awkward' is when something is weird or uncomfortable.  Not just a feeling, but sometimes a situation."

"A sitation?"

"Situation.  What's happening to you.  Maybe something weird happens and you don't know what to say.  That can be 'awkward'."

"Oh, okay."

"Do you understand now?" 

"Yeah.  Awkward.  Like your hair.  Right, Mommy?"

"Hey!  That's not nice."

"But Mommy, you said 'when something is weird'."

Now THIS is awkward...

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Share Warfare

Graham raked in some good loot for his birthday.  And naturally, I expect him to share his new toys with his brother who, in dramatic fashion, whined over his bum luck at being born 16 days too late.  I tried to make him realize that he was actually born 349 days earlier, but his vision and thoughts were already focused on a candy apple red remote-controlled car and the plethora of ways he could break it.  Or at least scrape up the walls a little. 

That's the worst part about birthdays.  At least at Christmas time, I can hint to Santa to label certain gifts to "Cael AND Graham" so that I can avoid the share warfare that inevitably accompanies new toys to my home.  And as much as I hate the bickering, I do have to admit that the boys are getting a little more clever in their quest for toy domination.

A little more vindictive, too, but we'll ignore that for the sake of humor, okay?  Okay.

"Mommy!  Graham has the animals and I wanted them!"

"Well, they were a birthday gift for him.  Why don't you give him five minutes and then trade?"

"No, no that won't work.  He's three."

"Yeah, that's kind of the point.  It was a birthday gift for him because he turned three."

"No, see you can't play with this toy if you're three.  Four year-olds can play, but three year-olds can't.  He's just too little.  Bummer, Graham."

"Where did you get that idea?"

"Everybody knows that, Mommy."

Just as I was about to gear up for a bigger argument, Graham proved that he grew some chutzpa when he turned a year older.

"Mommy, no!  I can play because I'm a big boy.  Cael can't play because he is wearing a red shirt."

"But so are you, Graham."

"Oh.  Well he can't wear a red shirt and brown shoes."

Is it wrongly that I'm strangely proud of his budding interest in fashion rules?  His may not be very accurate, but I refuse to put red with pink, so I'll let it slide.

"I think we should forget about how old you are and what you're both wearing.  I'm gonna set the timer for five minutes, and when it beeps, it will be Cael's turn."

"NO!"  "Ugh, no Mommy!"

There's simply no arguing with the microwave buzzer.  It operates using science and math and all of those things I couldn't grasp in school, while Cael and Graham revolve around rules and impossible standards.  They are SO acting like middle school girls.

Good thing they don't know about Justin Bieber yet. 

When the buzzer went off, Graham begrudgingly handed over the animals.  I was relieved that they gave in and shared, because when Cael's birthday comes around in a couple of weeks, there may be another load of toys to dominate.

"Mommy, when my five minutes is up, I'm not going to give these back to Graham."

"And why not?"

"Because his name starts with a 'G'.  And you can't do anything to change that, Mommy..."

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Happy Birthday, Graham!

Those of you who have been with me for over a year may remember my last real attempt at cake decorating.  Graham, knee-deep in his Mickey Mouse phase (which hasn't really ended) had requested a Mickey cake, and I did what I could to deliver. 

At that time I wasn't very confident with the fondant, so I iced the whole sucker with regular frosting and slapped on Mickey's face and some strategically placed stars.  He was turning two, after all, and I'm no Cake Boss.

But a few things have changed in the last year.  First, Graham's interests have expanded to include Toy Story 3, and second, I got a little braver.  Since his Mickey cake and my acceleration of his age to 22, I've made Cael's 4th birthday cake, a Hunger Games-themed cake for my nephew Keaton, and successfully tackled the mini-cake atop Amy's wedding cupcake tree, covering it with fondant and stretching it to fit.  So you can't blame me for thinking I was qualified to construct a scale model of the Taj Mahal from flour, eggs and water.

Fortunately for me, Graham wasn't interested in iconic tourist attractions.  First he asked for a purple cake with flowers.  And considering that there are clearly no baby girls in my future, I was tempted to give in.  But I knew that when he saw the cake, he'd think it looked "girly", so I urged him to make another choice.  When he mentioned a Toy Story 3 theme, I jumped at the opportunity and began drawing up plans in my mind.

I knew I wanted to incorporate Woody's cow print vest into the design, and when I saw another cake that had coupled the cow print with the fluffy clouds on the title screen, I knew I had my main backdrop.  Those basic patterns were really pretty simple and shouldn't have taken too long, but because I was still borderline-comatose from the wedding and the all-nighters I'd been pulling, I was only capable of 4-5 minutes of solid work before my eyes began to drift to a small cobweb in the corner of the kitchen.  It was only when my "Sex and the City" marathon would cut to commercial that I would come to and start working again.  Within three episodes' time, the second tier was covered and in position.

Though I was tired, I was NOT going to make a mistake like last time and age my son beyond his years.  This cake would be accurate.  This cake would be impressive.

This cake was sinking.

So much for not making mistakes, huh?  I was so busy stewing over how to decorate the cake that I overlooked how to support the cake.  As I rushed to complete the last details, the top tier began crushing the bottom at an alarming pace, so I quickly snapped some photos so I could show my family what I'd tried to accomplish, should they find themselves eating only ice cream while singing "Happy Birthday".

After a brief birthday photo shoot because, well, you know me, it was time to eat, open presents and feast on the cake I had so marginally assembled.

And you know what?  Graham didn't care that his cake was slowly crushing itself.  He was flitting around from one gift to another, pretending to be Batman and just as quickly abandoning his cape to scoop up toys with a bulldozer and race his remote-controlled car around the wrapping paper debris.

We ate the cake, and it tasted just fine.  What matters most is that my sweet little Bubba had a happy birthday filled with family, food and fun.

But don't you think for one second that I won't pull an all-nighter to make sure Cael's cake is the best yet.  When is "Sex and the City" on again?...

Monday, September 24, 2012

Something Old, Something New

Today is Monday, right?  I think it is.  I'm not really sure, of course, because I have been in a perpetual state of panic and/or an adrenaline-induced stupor since Wednesday.  And now that all of the festivities are over, I can step back and say that all of the effort was completely worthwhile.

When my sister Amy first got married, I was eleven years old and as equipped to be her maid of honor as Cael would be to dole out tax advice.  When it was time for my toast, I stared out at the crowd and froze up, managing only to repeat a few words that Amy herself was feeding me from the head table.

Come to think of it, maybe Cael would have been a better choice. 

So when the opportunity presented itself for me to take a more active role in her second wedding, I jumped at the chance.  Since it was a very small, private ceremony and there was no "bridal party", I didn't have to worry about speeches or bridesmaid's dresses or the which-groomsman-did-I-get-stuck-with fear.  Instead, I offered my services wherever possible, agreeing to make the programs, cook several of the menu items, help to decorate the sweet cupcakes that she'd selected rather than a full wedding cake, and most importantly, try my very best to take good photos and not make either Amy and Gabriel look like they were ten years late for the senior prom.

She didn't wear a wrist corsage, so I was already ahead.

My anxiety level didn't really get out of hand until Wednesday night, when I found myself compulsively making lists.  Things to Do, Don't Forget to Buy, Foods to Prepare, Bring to the Lodge, Food Cook Times, Supply Lists, etc.  I managed to maintain a pretty impressive work speed for several hours until midnight came and passed, when my older sister Sarah and I wrapped green bean bundles in bacon and bonded over our mutual love of making to-do lists of things we've already done just so that we can cross them off.  It's a sickness.

When the last beans were bundled, I thanked her for all of her help.

"Thanks so much.  It's amazing how much faster the work goes when you have two hands."

"You're welcome, but we had four."

I should have put "remember to sleep" on the to-do list.  I'd love to cross that off.

Finally, Thursday was upon us.  We spent the day getting Amy's hair done and preparing the beautiful park lodge for the big day, stringing up Christmas lights and placing candles to create a romantic atmosphere without risking a Cael or Graham-induced forest fire.

There were a few mishaps, of course, like when I completely forgot to bring the coffee maker, but it was made better by the fact that my Dad completely forgot to bring the coffee.  I guess his lists got less accurate after midnight, too.

But when my sister stepped out in her dress, the coffee didn't matter.  Or the green beans.

What mattered was that I was able to be a part of their special day.  Not only were Gabi and Amy joined, but Ethan and Keaton both received rings as well and we all applauded this new happy family.  No one remembered that there was supposed to be coffee.

The ceremony was beautiful, with soft music and candlelight and the laughter of family.  And at the end of the night, as we sent the happy couple off for a surprise night away, I threw myself down in a chair and finally exhaled.  It all went off without a hitch, and I could finally relax.

Until, that is, I realized that Graham's birthday was in two days, and I had no cake, no gifts wrapped and no clue what I'd be making for his party.

Gabriel and Amy were married, but Graham might have to stay two years old for another year...

Congratulations to Gabi and Amy!

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Ism of the Week

Well, tomorrow is the day that my sister gets married, and our entire family is bustling around in an effort to get ready for the big day.  I will be taking a few days off for the festivities and will be back on Monday with stories of the event.

But before I sign off...

"Mommy, why are Amy and Gabi (Gabriel) getting married?"

"Because they love each other."

"But you love me.  Are we getting married?"

"Nope.  That's for grown up men and women that want to spend the rest of their lives together."

"We aren't gonna be together?"

"Of course we will, Cael.  But someday you'll want to live in your own house and you'll find a nice lady that you want to live with."

"I'll have to pick out a new Mommy to live with?!?"

"Not a new Mommy, just a lady that you love and want to make a family with.  And then if you want, you can have kids and you can be the Daddy."

"But if I'm the Daddy, what will my Daddy be?"

"The Grandpa."

"Okay.  But I don't like that.  If I can't marry you, I think I'll marry Amy.  And then Gabi can marry you, and Daddy can just be the Grandpa.  Or he can marry Papa."

"Whatever you say, dude."  (Why even argue?) 

"Yes, I say.  Oh, I'm getting married!!  Can we have a dinosaur wedding?"

Congrats, Amy and Cael.  I hope you walk claw-in-claw together forever.  See you Monday!

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Picture Day

This time of year is killer.  September owns the excitement of Graham's birthday, October brings Cael's a couple of weeks later, Joel's birthday is in November, and what seems like a nearly daily slew of birthdays in December, three of which piggy-back on the glory of New Year's Eve and the coattails of Christmas.

As if this wasn't enough, last Tuesday was Cael's picture day at school.  I know what you're thinking... isn't every day "picture day" in your house?  My iPhoto library and it's 17,000+ photos would agree, but any mom of an elementary-aged child will understand that picture day is not like any other day.

Perhaps if Cael were lower-maintenance or if he had no opinion about his appearance, I could pull out my favorite of his ensembles, wriggle it onto his skinny self and drop him off at school with all of the confidence in the world that he would not flip off the camera, share his best T-Rex impression at the worst possible time (tiny, ineffective claws and all) or even ask the photographer for permission to drop his trousers and photograph his bits. 

Alas, Cael is not low-maintenance.

So I did everything I could to prepare him for the day before it came around.  We picked out outfits and discussed how not to roll in the mud.  We practiced wiping his nose on a tissue and not on his sleeve.  Lastly, we staged a mock photo sesh, and Cael gave me a preview of his picture-ready smile.

Or something like that.

The face he made would have fit right in amidst a group of Kramer impersonators, but it was not appropriate for his school photo.

And the next was no better.

Before we were done,  I felt that there was no hope for a sweet portrait of my son, and I mentally prepared myself for a phone call from the principal or the very real possibility that I'd be paying for a retake later in the year.

But just as I began to put the camera away, I muttered to Cael that he was a "mugwump" and his face lit up like a Christmas tree.

"Use that smile for your picture, okay?"


All things considered, our first photo day went off without a hitch.  And although I won't know for certain until those photos arrive, I think it's safe to say we dodged a serious "say cheese" bullet.

But there's always Graham...

Monday, September 17, 2012

Navigation Aberration

Kids don't listen.  Graham is a kid.  Ergo, Graham doesn't listen. 

But the thing is, Graham does hear.  I speak and he hears every word I say.  And then, after I've given myself a congratulatory pat on the back for imparting such wisdom upon my young son who will inevitably go on to will the Nobel Peace Prize or at the very least, an enviable check-out position at our local WalMart, he will turn to me and ask, "What?"

Every trip is the same, regardless of the destination.

"Mommy, where are we going?"

"To a store."


"To a store, Graham."

"Where, Mommy?"

"To Target, Graham." 

"I love Tardet.  Where is Tardet?"

Is there ever an appropriate answer to this question?  The kid has no concept of distance, no directional skills to speak of, and if asked where he has misplaced/broken/ritually burned an item in the house, he universally responds with, "What, Mommy?".

"It's down the road, Graham."  

"What is down the road?"


"I love Tardet!  Where is it?"

"Ugh.  We are going to Target, and it is down this road.  We'll be there soon."

"Be where, Mommy?"




"Target.  Target, target, target." 

"We is going to Tardet?"


"Which way is it?"

"Down this road and to the left."

"To the left?"


"To the left, Mommy?"

"YES, GRAHAM.  To the left."

"What store is it?"


"Oh, I love Tardet."

"Yeah, I've heard that before." 

"Tardet is to the left?"

He's lucky I love him so much.  Because from my driver's seat, I can have his door sliding open at the touch of a button.  I'm sure his carseat would protect him from the fall, right?

"Graham, I need you to listen and not repeat anything, okay?  Just hear my words and then wait patiently.  We are going to Target so that Mommy can do some shopping.  And before you ask, no I don't know exactly what I'm going to buy, but you will see it when we are in the store.  Target is down the street, but we will be there soon.  I know that you like Target.  I do too, and that's why I'd like to go look around there and not argue over directions in the car with you.   

"What, Mommy?"

"Hold on to your seat, Graham, I'm gonna open your door..."

Friday, September 14, 2012

Ism of the Week

"Mommy, look.  I made a boat with those blocks."

"Look again, Mommy.  It's a bird."

"See it now?  This is a sandwich."

"And what about this big one, Graham?  What's this?"

"Nuffing, Mommy.  Just a big messy pile of blocks that you will have to pick up when I want to eat lunch."

At least he speaks the truth.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Minivan Confessions

When I was pregnant for the first time, I compulsively Googled every symptom I experienced, just to make sure what I was feeling was normal.  It usually was, of course, and despite the fact that Google wasn't able to forewarn me of the whirlwind that would accompany that future baby, I still returned to research each ache and flutter in my stomach.

One day, I stumbled across a forum on the "What to Expect" website for women having babies in October of 2007, and I quickly found myself getting acquainted with the women in my situation.  Over the next nine months, we compared notes, exchanged names and began a tradition that would continue for years to come by confessing the less-than-desirable behaviors we'd exhibited while pregnant.

I drank a soda today.
I caved and ate sushi.
I got freaked out and called my OB at home.

We would occasionally revisit these confessions as the kids grew, and even though our group is still thriving on Facebook, we haven't had a confessional in a while.

Here's where you come in.

You see, yesterday was a parenting low for me.  I'm not sure if it was the complete and utter destruction of my basement, Cael's mental lapse and humor at peeing on the carpet in the house or the way Graham looked at me and laughed when I literally started crying at what they'd done while I cooked their lunch.  At the end of the day, I think I referred to my experience as "my most painful day as a parent since I pushed a baby out". 

I still stand by that comparison.

So I think it's time I have another public confessional, because venting is so much more socially acceptable than spiking my apple cider at ten in the morning while I'm being paid to watch other people's children.  And since I'm not Catholic, what better way to cleanse my conscience than to air my dirty laundry on the internet?  Let's face it-- I live in Iowa.  There's not much chance for me being unwittingly chosen for a taxicab confession.  So here we go.

1.  My kids watch too much TV. 

I'm really pretty good about limiting it in the morning and while I have other children in my house.  But by the time dinner rolls around and I feel that my dwindling patience will cause me to rip my hair out with metal tongs if I don't get a few minutes of silence, you can bet I'm all too willing to switch on the television.  Sometimes it's better that way.  My hair, the tongs, and the sanity of my offspring agree.

2.  I love a 5-point harness.

Kids are hard to contain.  Kids are also hard to quiet down.  Two noisy, boisterous and difficult-to-contain boys are more than twice as difficult to handle.  So what is my favorite thing to do?  Drive, baby.  Why can't a trip down the street to pick my son up from school take 50 minutes?  They learn things along the way, so it is just as educational as time spent at home.  For example, they learn that the trains heading east generally move faster than the trains heading west because they are empty of coal.  They also learn that when  Mommy goes out without makeup and contacts, she is seven times as likely to see someone on the street that she knows.  Lastly, they learn that it is okay to have an obsession with 80's power ballads and that REO Speedwagon is so, like, totally awesome.

Fifty minutes well spent, and no one peed on the floor.

3.  Yesterday, I snapped.

I really try not to yell.  Sure, sometimes I have to raise my voice to be heard above the fray, but yesterday was different.  Yesterday, when I pulled Cael and Graham into their room, I unloaded a verbal diarrhea of complaints upon them in language far above their level and in a volume that was totally unnecessary because I'd hit my limit of patience and they were far from reaching their limit of naughtiness.  I've always felt that I could command the same respect from my boys without raising my voice, but I learned that when they choose to rip the paper-like outer layer from the exposed sheet rock in their play closet, they are going to hear it from me.  And it might be loud.

4.  I'm ready to close up the baby shop for good.

There's certainly nothing shocking about feeling that one's family is complete.  But that's the thing--  I'm not closing up shop because I don't want more kids, or I don't feel that I was meant to have more kids.  I'm closing up shop because of the kids I have.  If they were more manageable, perhaps calmer, or if I had access to a limitless supply of Ritalin and a less rigid conscience, I'd be trying for a third.  And I think it's against the Mommy Code to blame your parenting shortcomings on the kids you do have.  But I have to say, as much as I love them...  I'm tired, I'm impatient, and I'm totally overwhelmed.

So be gentle.  I know I'm not confessing to any great crimes here, but I am a mother and we all belong to the same club.  And while the initiation is killer, the benefits are amazing.  But more than anything else, we all want to be good.  We want to know that we are building our kids up instead of breaking them down.  We want to know that we will be remembered as kindly as we remember our own mothers and we want to raise children that will grow up to respect and love their families as fiercely as we strive to love our own.

But sometimes our kids pee on the floor, and we just need to vent.  And in the eternal words of REO Speedwagon, I can't fight this feeling anymore...

What do you need to confess?  Here's your judgment-free zone to vent away.  I'm not alone, right?

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Delayed Reaction

Something huge happened this week.  Something that was about thirteen months in the making.  No, we haven't decided to purchase an entire fleet of Airstream trailers.  (At least I haven't.) 

Graham pooped on the potty.

Graham post-potty, July 2011.
Do you have déjà vu?  I know I do.  That is because we began the potty training process in July of 2011 and took a year-long hiatus before seeing any additional progress.  I have to admit that the toilet activity we saw last summer was incredibly early and probably merely coincidental, but after the third consecutive diaper-free poop, I got my hopes up.  And despite absolutely no action for over a year, my hopes stayed up through Saturday night, when Graham made a great developmental leap and told me that he needed to poop.

Before he actually pooped.

After he unloaded on the potty, I got all giddy and unloaded a big pile of treats on him since I was not prepared enough to have a gift or reward ready.  Joel threatened to throw up, so I charged him with calling our close relatives who congratulated Graham as if his bowel movements were typical fodder for conversation.  They don't live with us.  They don't know how much that topic comes up.

Graham pottying, September 2012.
But since then we've been at a stand-still.  Every time I see that glazed over look in his eyes, I ask Graham if he's preparing to go and each time he replies that, no, he either doesn't want to or already has.  I have repeatedly planted him on the potty with a show or movie on in the hopes that when he pees he will make some brilliant connection in his mind and rid us of diapers forever.

No such luck.

Aside from one small yellow puddle in the training potty, all I've gotten is a warning about an incoming toot and a mangled knock-knock joke about a poop.

Poop who?  Stinky poop in his diaper.  Bummer.

So I guess we're back where we started in July of 2011, only without the dream of a diaper-free existence before Graham's third birthday.  At the rate he's going, thirteen might be a more attainable goal...

Monday, September 10, 2012

Communicable Diseases

I was MIA on Friday.  Sorry about that.  But along with my presence, my energy, health, voice and will to live went missing as well, and they're still not quite back. 

See, I am one of those people that catches whatever is going around.  I used to think I just had a weak immune system, but the more likely culprit is that I have a school-age child, a husband that works in a public school and that I invite other day-care aged children into my home throughout the week.  To top it all off, I have been known to let my children run free at the McDonald's Playland, so perhaps I should thank my lucky stars that they've not yet contracted Hepatitis or a nasty french fry habit.

Graham tunneling his way through the Playland.
I am praying that we come out of it quickly, because next week is sure to be a whirlwind of activity between my sister Amy's wedding on Thursday night and Graham's 3rd birthday on Sunday evening. 

Come to think of it, each time my whole family has passed around an illness, it has centered around a holiday or major event.  For example, last November, you learned about the Thanksgiving Stomach Flu Fairy that strikes some member of my extended family who then, generously, shares it with the rest of us. 

Our private Thanksgiving dinner in quarantine.
It isn't just Thanksgiving, though.  I spent a chunk of Valentine's Day 2011 in the hospital with Graham who was battling dehydration.

Sweet Bubba in the hospital.

Even last Halloween saw me staring at my feet after I threw my back out.  And although that isn't technically a communicable illness, the doctor wrote me a prescription that made me feel much better, so I say it counts.  The meds also made me feel like I could hear colors, but we'll just keep that quiet. 

The other moms at the McDonald's Playland would be jealous.

So bear with me as I get back into the swing of things, because although I've been silent, I've also been busy.  Stick around and you'll find out why...