Friday, February 28, 2014

Ism of the Week

Graham is getting more excited about the prospect of becoming a big brother.  He asks many more questions about what the baby does in my belly and whether he can see or hear.  Once I mentioned that he can hear from inside, Graham got very enthusiastic about the idea of talking to his little brother.

 "What do you want to tell him?"

"I'm gonna tell him about our house and our dog.  And I want to tell him about my preschool."

"That's nice, Bubba.  What else?"

"I can tell him about all of our toys!  And I'll tell him about the playset in our backyard and all of the stuff we can do when he's born."

"Perfect.  Okay, I'm laying down now, you can talk to my belly."


"Graham?  Are you going to tell your brother all of those things?  Graham?"


"Wait, that's it?"

"That part is important."

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Seasonal Perspectives

I've learned in the last couple of weeks that I am something of a hypocrite when it comes to the weather.  Growing up in Iowa, we get a sick sense of pride out of being able to handle the weather without too much fuss; we go about our business, drive (more or less) normally and don't bat an eyelash at dropping temperatures and falling snowflakes.

But we also do something I really hate.  When I see footage of people in California or Florida bundled up in down coats because the temperature dips below 65, I can't help but roll my eyes and laugh at their exaggerated response to a temperature swing that would feel just fabulous around these parts.  I shouldn't be too critical, though, because we do the exact opposite.

While today is utterly frigid, we did have a few days in the last two weeks where the temperature hit 40 degrees.  Forty degrees-- warm enough to melt some snow and force all of us Iowans outside without coats, and those die-hard runners to be frolicking around in Spandex shorts and tank tops.  I even opened my windows, not because it was really warm enough, but because that tiny taste was enough to change my perspective from "winter" to "spring".

For their part, the boys were actually able to play outside in the melting snow, sledding in our yard and probably cataloging the locations of all of Oscar's dog poop caches for me to pick up in mid-April.

I stood on the patio and shot several photos of them playing, if for no other reason than to document this unseasonably warm and sunny day.  They raced up and down the hill, rolling on each other and laughing like boys playing in the snow.  Bad simile, I know, but they'd pretty much forgotten what it was like to be outside, and I'd forgotten what it was like not to have them in the house.

As it turns out, the air is fresher, the house is quieter, no one uses the bathroom without flushing (probably why the air is fresher), and I feel a little more human.

Cael shouted to me to go to the deck and check out his "work", and I knew then that this warmer snap was doing me good because I didn't immediately assume he'd strung his brother up by the snowpants.  Instead, I climbed to the deck to see that Cael had written his name in the snow.

Can't see it?  Let me help.

Even my six year old felt the need to sign his name to this day and claim it as his own.  I guess the change in perspective did us all good.  Too bad it won't last; maybe I need to change my perspective to one from Tahiti...

Monday, February 24, 2014

Unique Gifts

Cael has always had many unique gifts.  He can destroy a clean toy room in seconds flat.  He can melt my resolve to be firm with one crooked smile.  But his latest gift, and most dangerously weilded, is his ability to remain gratingly positive while making you feel like taking a steep nosedive off a high bridge at the same time.

"Daddy, you're, like, magical.  Your beard has so many gray hairs that you actually sparkle!"

He's so intuitive, in fact, that I would have guessed him to possess some extrasensory abilities if I didn't know that his real secret is that he is listening.  Not all the time, of course, but just when you mention your fears or frustrations with life.  When he's not supposed to hear something, his radar goes off.

"Mom, you should sit down.  You've been doing all of the work while we're just sitting here.  Why don't you take a bath or something after you're done cleaning?  Oh, but first you missed a spot there.  And there.  You really should vacuum this room again.  And why aren't you cleaning the basement, too?  I mean, since it's your job and all."

It's okay.  I dish it out as well as take it.  But recently, Cael started directing his gift outward, and my sister and her beloved Weimaraner, Gus, were the latest targets. 

"Amy, you're really lucky that you have such a big dog, because he'll die sooner."

Where is that high bridge, again?  I'm ready to jump...

Friday, February 21, 2014

Pros vs. Conferences

My little social buzzard has been having some trouble controlling his talking at school lately, and after a series of consequences have done very little to halt his speaking out of turn, I was pinning all of my hope on his last day of school prior to conferences.

Cael boarding the bus last fall.  It was too cold for my brain or my camera today.
 "Cael, you know that I have your conference tonight, right?"

"Yeah, I know."

"You know what would make me happy, then?  If you came home from school today with a great report for me, and I could go to your conference tonight and hear good news from your teacher."

"Don't worry about it, Mom."

"I can't help but worry about you, Cael.  It's what I do.  Now can you behave today?"

"Yeah, I'll try."

"Please don't try, just don't talk unless it is allowed.  Now have a good day... I love you!"

"I love you too."

I'm sure he was listening.  At least he really seemed to be listening.  Okay, he probably wasn't listening.

"So how was school today?"


"Did you lose any of your smiley faces?"

"Yes, I lost one for talking on the rug."

"Oh, Cael.  I really thought you were going to try to control your talking today."

"I was.  But it's what I do, Mom."

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Gone Viral

When Cael was very small and Graham was little more than a wriggling, pink bundle, I would tell my friends and family about Cael's antics and the amazing (and often unbelievable) predicaments he created for himself.  I heard time and time again, "you should start a blog" or "why don't you write a book?", which I would laugh and brush off, because the internet needed another "mom blog" like our yard needs more snow.

But as time went on, and some of those early stories grew hazy in my memory, I realized that a blog would not only be a creative outlet for me at a point in my life when I was feeling tired and often not especially useful, but also a great way to preserve those memories and share them with our friends and family.  A living, changing, evolving online memory book, if you will.

In the beginning I thought a lot about whether or not to post photos of my children on the website, but knowing that I was sharing with a group of friends of my choosing (mainly on Facebook), I wasn't too concerned, and turned my attention to the thousands of other photos of children posted by their parents.  I vowed to be vigilant about keeping their modesty in photos, and careful to never give out too much information that could be used against us in a negative way.

As I saw that more people were reading and enjoying the stories, I reconsidered my position on photos of the boys.  I have always asked Cael if he likes me sharing pictures and stories of him with people we know as well as people we don't know, and he has always been impressed by the idea that he was so special.  I'm not sure how he could be surprised-- Cael was special from the first day he entered this world and continues to stun me (in one way or another) as he grows.  I decided that if a day came when he was no longer comfortable with the blog, I would respect his decision and honor his privacy.

No, that day is not today.  Cael and Graham both continue to love the idea of the spotlight.  But last night, I got a message from a friend that said "Isn't this Cael?  Did you do this?" with a link to an internet meme using one of Cael's baby photos.  One of my favorite baby photos, at that.  And in big, bold letters across the top and bottom was a pretty crass joke about breastfeeding that made me cringe.  

I won't share it here, because my son's beautiful face was meant to be smiled at, not used for inappropriate jokes.  (Or at least ones not make by me.)  But when I saw that where it was posted on a parenting Facebook page, it had received over 13,000 likes and more than 1500 comments, it was not a time for smiling.

I always knew that there would be some theft of photos, and on a small blog like mine, I lack the ability or the know-how to lock my photos from downloading.  But the worst part is knowing that this is all my fault.  I have chosen to put my sweet boy out there for all to see, knowing that those photos could be misused, but hoping that the people viewing my blog would be respectful and at the very least, ask permission to use my photos and credit them appropriately, as I have always made sure to do myself.

So what happens now?  I thought a lot about this last night, during a very low moment made lower by pregnancy hormones that nearly forced me to burrow into a snowy hole in the backyard.  I talked a lot with Joel about whether I am being irresponsible by sharing my sons with the world in this way.  Am I knowingly putting them in danger, despite the safeguards I set for myself?  Or am I ready to throw in the towel, and delete this blog despite the happiness it has brought to my family?

Here is what I have decided.  For now, I will continue.  I have contacted the Facebook pages where the meme is posted and asked for it to be removed, and some already have done so.  I am trying to track down the site where it originated to have it taken down as well, but I have to accept that, at this point, I may not be able to undo what has been done.  From now on, there will be disclaimers on my site that my photos cannot be used without permission, and any photos that I deem worthy or desirable will be watermarked in an effort to protect them from being stolen.  

Will this work?  I don't know, and I guess only time will tell.  And, if in time, I find that this problem continues, I will discontinue the site to protect my children.  I don't want to give up on something that has brought us all joy, but ignoring it and my kids' safety would be a much bigger offense.

If you see any photos of Cael or Graham on another blog or a website, please contact me.  If you have any suggestions for ways I can further secure the site, I am open to those as well.  I so look forward to sharing the silly, frustrating, sometimes inane but often outlandish details of our life with those of you that care about us, and hope that I can continue to do so.


Monday, February 17, 2014

Body Modification

Cael, blacked out in 2010.
It has been said that a mother would know her child anywhere, and on an instinctive level I'm sure this is fact.  But if you have small kids, or more specifically, if you have kids that behave like mine, you never know what you will see when you lay eyes on them each morning.
There are always bumps and scrapes.  If you're Cael, there is an endless string of self-induced black eyes.  If you're Graham, your perpetual cold means red noses and cheeks popping up without warning.  But lately they've both been changing their appearance in different but equally strange ways.

Although Graham has never seen an episode of FRIENDS, he has begun near daily reenactments of Joey's "could I be wearing any more clothes?" scene by emerging for breakfast in four shirts and three pairs of pants. 

I get it.  It's cold.  And if I thought that multiple layers would make him more comfortable, I'd be all for it.  But when he's so padded that he can't use the bathroom without assistance, I draw the line.  And that line looks like a pair of size four carpenter jeans.

Cael, on the other hand, can't get enough of his own skin.  Maybe he's hot-blooded like his father, but given his penchant for decorating his own skin a la do-it-yourself prison tattoos, I think he's just in love with his own skin. 

I get it.  He is very soft, and if I was that petite and looked so adorable sans clothes,  I might be running around in my birthday suit, too.  But alas, my neighbors' windows aren't that far away, and the problem isn't his nakedness.  It's what he does with that cute skin when the clothes are off.

It started with a quick note on his hand.  I didn't think much of it, because many people write quick reminders on their hands so they won't forget milk at the store or to pick up their dry cleaning.  But when I ruled out a trip to the post office and any pressing grocery items (and when I remembered that his writing skills are still pretty primitive) I simply had to ask.

"What's written on your hand, man?"


"What math?" 

"4,000 + 4,000 = 8,000."

"Why did you write that on your hand?"

"Because it's awesome."

I guess I can't argue with that.  I remember when I thought $100 was enough to make a grown-up rich, so an equation pushing close to 10,000 must seem gargantuan to his brain.  And if my kids are going to be changing their appearance, I guess I should be grateful they've both chosen something temporary and not too grand.  There's nothing worse than a huge, garish display marring your child's beautiful body. 

"2+5 = 7", written from Cael's perspective.

Then again, 7 is a pretty awesome number, too.

Friday, February 14, 2014

Happy V-Day!

"Happy Vanentime's Day, Mom."

"You too, Bubba.  Are you going to be my valentine this year?  Give me hugs and kisses?"

"Nope.  But I'll shake your hand."

"Why won't you be my valentine?"

"I think I'm too little for you.  And you smell like pizza."

Love you too, Grammy.

Happy Valentine's Day, everyone!

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

My Funny Valentines

We've never been big on Valentine's Day in my house.  If the kids are lucky, I'll fix them something for lunch that is shaped like a heart, and if I'm lucky, Joel and I will get away for a nice dinner out without the kids. 

Last year was an unusual case, however.  Because Cael's teacher had requested homemade valentines for his preschool class and used words like "unique" and "non-commercial", I went into full perfectionist mode and spent the better part of a week on photo shoots, testing different mustache styles, and enduring painful envelope-decorating sessions that left us both covered in enough pink and purple marker to look like crash test dummies.

I knew I couldn't handle another exhaustive art project, especially with my current state leaving me with about as much energy as a lethargic housecat.  (FYI, get ready for me to start blaming just about everything on my "current state".)  I also had an extra boy in need of Valentines this year, so I took a quick trip to Michael's in hope of finding some inspiration.

I developed a few ideas that were marginal or labor-intensive, so I threw them all out when I came across a small mesh bag of googly-eyed rings.  I knew right away that it was just the type of toy that my kids would love and my dog would love to systematically chew and disassemble, so with everyone appeased, I bought several bags of the rings.  I wasn't sure exactly what I'd do, but I envisioned the phrase "I only have eyes for you" coming into play.  It would be perfect-- something easily printed on cardstock, still homemade and not totally impersonal, with opportunity for Cael and Graham to write their names for good measure. 

Major props go to Persia Lou for making my life easier!
I'd hit this one out of the park.

A few days later when I went to design the card portion of the valentine, I struggled a bit with how to affix the ring.  Originally I had planned to cut two holes in the card so that a bit of ribbon could be slipped through and tied around the ring, but the knowledge that I would be tying nearly 50 rings to relatively thin cardstock gave me hallucinations of mustaches, so I took to the internet for ideas.  And then I saw it.

Someone had stolen my idea.  Or rather, I'd unknowingly stolen hers.  And what's worse, she'd done it so much better.

Persia Lou's craft blog included step-by-step instructions for making an "I Only Have Eyes for You" ring valentine with convenient cut-outs and a PDF printout for the card itself.  I was simultaneously irritated and relieved for this portion of the work to be done for me, so I quickly printed out one sheet of the cards only to find that my printer's bias caused the colors not to match, and the cards to print out too small for the rings to stay affixed to the paper. 

So I might have had to help Graham keep his letters in a row, but I was proud of my big boy for making his name so neat!

Cael was also not a fan of the gray background, so with the example provided for me, I quickly made up my own version of someone else's originality, and spent what felt like hours cutting paper for the duration of the night.  But when it was time to assemble, the boys had a great time writing their names, accidentally tearing up the paper, watching me reprint and re-cut the cards, butchering the names of kids in their classes, and loving every minute of it.

So they may not have been completely original, and not the product of weeks of effort, but the boys liked them, and that's all that matters.  It's probably the best I can do anyway.  You know, in my current state...

Monday, February 10, 2014

Winter Boycott

No, I haven't disappeared.  I haven't give up on the blog, or forgotten my password again, I am simply finished with winter, and have no appropriate outlet for my frustration other than watching You Tube videos and pinning summer-related items on Pinterest.

That's right.  I'm mad as hell, and I'm not gonna take it anymore!

I haven't quite figured out what I can do yet, but you can rest assured that as soon as I do, you'llbe the first to know.

I've spent every winter of my life in Iowa, and while I remember a few that had bigger blizzards, more frequent snow or more severe ice storms, I can not remember a single season during which we had more late starts, consistently dangerous wind chills, or a time when I wanted so badly to relocate my entire family to Brazil.

I'm sick of not being able to open my windows, and the musty smell that has settled in as a result.  I'm sick of being too pregnant to shovel, and forcing my family members to pick up the slack.  I'm sick of telling Cael that he can't go out to play.  I'm sick of my wood floors being covered in wet slush and driveway salt.  I'm sick of late starts and snow days.  I'm sick of packing winter gear in my son's bag.  I'm sick of the digestive bug that my family keeps passing around and not fighting off.  (And has subsequently kept them both home today.)  I'm sick of needing sunglasses just to look outside, and I'm sick of scouring the yard for my white dog in the white snow, who only appears as three black dots in an equilateral triangle.

I'm sick of it.

I have no control of the weather, of course, but I've seriously reached my limit.  I don't think the snow is pretty anymore and I'm willing to sacrifice water in my basement for one day above 80 degrees to melt it all off. 

And when I'm about to burst in June, and feeling sick of summer, remind me of this rant.

Now who's with me?!?

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Snow Angel

"Mom, did you see how much it snowed last night?  There's so much snow.  There's too much snow."

"Yeah, there is a lot.  I thought you'd be happy, though-- you always like it when it snows."

"I know, but I want to play outside.  I'm tired of winter.  Tell God to fix that."

"Well he would be the right one to ask, but I'm pretty sure our planet needs winter.  And I'm pretty sure you don't tell God what to do."

"Oh, yeah."
"But you could ask him anyway, I suppose."

"Okay.  Dear God, can you make it warmer?  I want to go outside and I want Graham to leave me alone.  My hat is itchy and I don't want to wear my snow pants anymore because they feel weird on my butt.  I want to play on my playset-- it is so cool-- and my Dad put a baseball field in my yard but Mom thinks it's ugly but you can't even see it because there is way too much snow and I don't know if it is even there anymore.  So, yeah.  NO MORE SNOW.  Got it?"


"I mean, please?  Thanks, God, Amen."

"There, Mom.  That should fix things."

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Supermarket Sabotage

As of late, I have been trying to better involve the boys in our household chores.  There are, of course, certain things that are beyond their abilities, but many tasks like laundry, etc. are completely reasonable.  The only problem is that their brand of help seems less like help, and more like sabotage.

When I ask Graham to help me load or unload the laundry, it in inevitable that certain articles of clothing will end up in the dog's water bowl.  Similarly, when Cael is charged to put away those clean clothes, he has little regard for where they actually belong, and I spend additional hours pulling tiny Fruit of the Looms from the ceiling fan.

I have always been one of those if-you-want-it-done-right-do-it-yourself kinds of people, and having kids has only worsened my resolve in that area.  So I was particularly proud of myself when I came up with the perfect task for Cael.  As I was mentally compiling a grocery list, I thought that I'd recite the items for him to put on paper.  Not only would it be helpful to me, but Cael would get some valuable writing practice. 

I've really got this parenting thing down.

"Cael, can you help me with something?"


"I need to make a grocery list.  Can you help me write the items on the paper?"

"I don't know how to spell all the words, Mom."

"I can help with the spelling.  Get a paper, okay?"


Since I'd noticed our dwindling breakfast options, I started by listing milk, french toast sticks, bananas and the whole grain English muffins I love to have for breakfast.  Then I asked Cael to list bread, soda, and my favorite pineapple-orange-banana juice.  He was writing furiously at the table and didn't seem inclined to stop, so I included the toiletry and cosmetic items I wanted, I asked him to hand over the paper so I could see how well he did.

Maybe this wasn't such a good idea after all.

"Cael, what is this?"

"Your grocery list."

"All you wrote was 'french toast sticks'."

"I wrote 'milk' too."

"Why didn't you list the other things?"

"I only wanted the french toast sticks."

"And what are all the brown lines?"

"French toast sticks!"

And another great idea bites the dust.  Clearly I would have to go back to the drawing board to come up with another chore idea that my kids could handle.  But until then, I didn't even know what to say.

Cael did, of course.

"Um, Mom...  you're welcome."