Thursday, July 28, 2016

A Family Travel Journal

Every spring I like to imagine the places we'll go when summer comes.  We could return to St. Louis and catch another Cardinals game.  We could save our pennies and visit Joel's family in Seattle.  Or we could even get adventurous and check out a new city within driving distance, like Kansas City or Omaha.

Decidedly not the Riviera Maya, but we have three kids.  Any Midwestern city with a children's museum or a restaurant we haven't eaten at 126 times will do.

But the reality of vacations in our household is a bit different.  Between basketball camp, baseball games and clinics, Joel's summer lesson schedule, orthodontic consultations (and the accompanying promise to pay thousands of dollars and/or lop off several limbs in exchange for Cael getting a straight smile), we can often only squeeze out one or two days to get out of the house.

In those times, we usually opt to spend the time in Des Moines.

Photo credit here.
My sister, who lives in nearby Ankeny, likes to remind me that Des Moines isn't that different from Cedar Rapids.  There's truth there.  But they have a Bass Pro Shops for Joel and a Williams Sonoma for me, so we decided to seek out something entertaining for the boys.

In past trips we'd checked out the Science Museum and glow-in-the-dark mini golf, so with a trip to Adventureland upcoming, we crossed all of those ideas off to make a short but entertaining list of activities for our one-night getaway.  When time for Adler's nap had arrived and I'd secretly stashed our bags in the van, we told the boys we were going to run to the store and set out.

I jotted down my thoughts as we enjoyed our time away.


I can't imagine making this two hour drive without the iPads.  How did the settlers travel west without Minecraft?  Manifest destiny?  I'd rather manifest silence.

Thank goodness Adler is finally asleep.  Isn't he sweet?  I love to look at him when he's resting.  He has the softest skin and the tiniest feet.  I had better fix his blanket so that he doesn't get cold.  Maybe I should pull down the shade so that the sun isn't in his eyes.  Oops, it looks like Bunny might fall, and his sock is drooping a bit.

Crap.  Adler's awake.

Time for our first stop, Trainland USA.  Wow, there are a lot of trains here.  Look at all of these trains.    Each of these cases has more trains than the last.  

I can believe that this is one of the largest displays of Lionel trains in the world, because there are definitely a lot of trains here.  I bet Cael and Graham will not stop asking for a toy train for weeks.  Man... trains.

Time for the next stop.  

I hope the kids like the Neal Smith National Wildlife refuge.  We should be able to drive through and see wild buffalo grazing!

That was a really long drive just to see a football-sized pile of buffalo poop.

We're finally at the waterpark hotel... the boys will be so excited!  Wait, why is the carpet outside our room soaking wet?  Why is the carpet INSIDE our room soaking wet?  I'm glad Joel is calling the front desk-- I don't want to deal with musty carpet.  What's that?  The phone isn't even plugged into the wall?  This hotel is awful; I don't want to stay here.

A free upgrade to a two-room suite?  I love this hotel; I can't wait to stay here.

Photo credit here.

The water is freezing.  The boys are having a good time.  Cael has suddenly figured out how to swim! The waterslide shot water up my nose so hard that I think I have chlorine in my cerebral-spinal fluid.

Time for bed.  I hope Adler settles down quickly and goes to sleep.  

9:45pm.  I wish Adler would settle down quickly and go to sleep.

10:25pm.  Dear God, Adler, settle down and go to sleep.

11:00pm.  I blame the trains.


A Cracker Barrel!  I love Cracker Barrel!  Only now that I limit carbohydrates, I can't eat my favorite sourdough french toast.  Or any french toast, for that matter.  Can't have toast, either, pancakes, waffles, biscuits, hash browns, much fruit, or syrup of any kind.  I guess Cracker Barrel is just a warehouse full of food I want but can't eat, and junk I don't want but will probably buy.

Yeah, these incessantly barking dogs are better than a vintage model train!  Said no mother ever.

I'm glad we're headed over to Jordan Creek Mall.  That place is huge, and I can finally peruse the copper and stainless steel paradise that is Williams Sonoma.  Maybe I'll get myself a wood slab lazy susan, or a-- Ooh!  Stainless steel corn holders!

It's almost time to surprise the boys with a movie.  I know that Cael and Graham will be happy, but I hope Adler can behave himself.  

Ten minutes in, and Adler is asleep on top of me.  I'm not going to make the same mistake I did in the car-- I'm not moving an inch until the movie is done.

Spinal damage,  Muscle atrophy.  Bladder prolapse!

I'm glad we have a chance to meet up with my sister while Joel gets a haircut.  We can meet back up with Joel and my brother-in-law for dinner after a time-out for the Oscar Mayer WienerMobile.

Time to head home.  iPads out, howling toddler, bad traffic... sounds like a great family vacation.

Next time, I'll just buy the train.

Sunday, July 24, 2016

Faith and Phases and Chocolate

I've often heard it said that you can see the innocence and purity of God in the face of a child.

I've been looking for it in my boys' faces, but so far all I've seen is boogers and chocolate frosting.  And lately it seems like I have to try the hardest to see it at church, of all places.

Not only are we currently between churches ever since the outreach ministry my husband worked for came to an end, but thanks to Adler, we are also between those two blissful church stages-- the sleeping infant stage and the old-enough-for-sunday-school stage.

Sure, we could take our wily two year-old to the nursery, but staying at home with me every day has made him resistant to being left with anyone he doesn't recognize.  And while I understand that exposing him to his fears is the best way to overcome them, my biggest sympathies go to the adult manning the nursery with a handful of emotionally stable children and one screaming, red-faced, runny-nosed tyrant with a penchant for yanking on earrings.

For now, he stays with me.

My husband is the praise/worship leader and adult choir director at the Cedar Rapids church we currently attend, so during the majority of the service, I am on my own to corral all three of my boys.  Cael and Graham are usually well-behaved despite the occasional noisy outburst, but this Sunday, as we were supposed to be worshiping and devoting time to praising God, the Foreman family was putting on another show altogether.

Normally I try to distract Adler with paper and crayons during the service, but we arrived to find a new arrangement of chairs with no tables, and I could almost feel the change in pressure in the room.  This would be ugly.

Adler quickly got to work rearranging the rows of chairs while the people around us were sitting in them.  I followed behind him, trying to stop him but slowed by the string of apologies I had to make for my toddler ramming the congregants in the knees with steel chair legs.  Once I scooped him up, he rattled off a diatribe of infantile profanity laced with "Mommy!" and "Poop!" thrown in for good measure.

When the music started, Cael and Graham staged a UFC-style street fight between two of the stuffed animals they'd brought along and the turtle went flying two rows behind of us.

Adler yelled "Tuddle!" and then belched really loudly when the room got quiet.

The next 25 minutes were a blur of crayons whizzing by my face, dislodging an R2-D2 toy from Cael's shoe, breaking up a mini chocolate doughnut into as many pieces as possible to keep Adler busy, crafting a pair of bifocals for "Monkey" from a pink pipe cleaner, ripping up a napkin into as many pieces as possible for Adler to throw away (and stay busy), and above all else, not hearing anything at all that was happening in the service.

Then Adler got away from me and flipped the nozzle on a water dispenser and dumped out the toddler equivalent of a gallon of water on the floor.  I closed my eyes and said a prayer.

Dear God,
Sorry for disrupting church.  Please remind me of this day when I get baby fever.

Sometimes there are no fixes for tricky parenting problems, and on Sunday mornings I have to remind myself that this phase, too, shall pass.


And while I still search for that innocence in Adler's face, at least I know where the chocolate frosting came from.

Wednesday, July 13, 2016


We have a little magician in our midst.

Since his arrival, Adler has made quick work of disappearing items around our house.  Even when he was new, his tiny preemie outfits would vanish into the Land of Missing Socks or get balled up in the pockets of other, larger clothing.

I thought the washing machine was to blame.  Turns out it was Adler all along.

When Adler became mobile, he loved to steal Joel's cologne from our bathroom and hide it in the silverware drawer or in other locations in the kitchen.  Even now, although he is smart enough to understand concept like, "If I feed my sippy cup to the dog, he'll chew it up and I can't have milk", things still go missing daily.

Things like sippy cups, mostly.

Lest you think Adler's abilities are limited to the physical realm, let me reassure you that his talents extend much further.  Since birth, I have also mysteriously lost track of countless hours of sleep, my motivation to lose weight, any semblance of an alcohol tolerance, and my ability to say the right name when addressing any of my boys.

Cael-- Grah-- Ummm, Osc-- ADLER!  I mean Joel.  

Adler's most recent accomplishment, however, is disappearing himself.  My tiny two year old has figured out how to open the locks on two of the four exterior doors of our home and likes to go on the toddler equivalent of an Australian walkabout-- just him, nature, and the challenge of surviving on one's own against the elements within our fenced in yard.

The problem is that he has figured out how to open the fence gates as well, so what was once my last line of defense is now just a brief pause in Adler's quest for freedom.

I tried placing tension rods at the top of the sliding doors to prevent them from opening, but that method only works when Oscar and Joel (I mean Cael and Graham) don't pull the rods down to go play basketball in the yard or let the dog out to pee without replacing them.

Because of this lapse in our admittedly basic security system, I have an ever-present fear brewing inside me whenever Adler is out of my sight in our own home.  I'm constantly afraid that I will look out my front door to find my tiny one wandering about near the street in front of my house, or worse yet, that I won't.  That nervousness just never ceases.

I guess Adler has given me some things, too.

So from my current perspective, there are only two options to guarantee my little one's safety.  Either I wrap my entire fence in thick-gauge chain so that he is (at least) contained by our fence, or I invest in a straightjacket so that his hands aren't free to pick any more locks.

Adler contemplating escape, 2015.
He is Houdini, after all.