Friday, February 29, 2008

A Little Extra (from Connor's World)

At three, Connor is picking up new words and phrases practically every day. I keep thinking that a few of them will make good entries, but there are so many that I don't think I will ever find the time to do separate entries for all of them. In honor of leap year (since I've technically met my quota of at least one post per day, two on Fridays if you count the Photo Flashback), I offer the following collection of Connor-speak:

  • "I'b foun it!" which translates to "I found it!" Connor is very big on "finding" things lately. He gets one toy or item stuck in his mind and must have it, especially the things Mommy puts away because brothers fight over them (like James and Henry, two trains from his Thomas the Tank collection). So he goes in search until he "finds" it, and claims credit even if someone else actually produces said item.

  • "Nuffin." which translates to "Nothing." It's his standard response when you ask him what he's doing, and occasionally, when you ask him how he's doing. Another wonderful habit he's picked up from his mother, because that is her one word answer to being asked for the millionth time each day "Doin' Mommy?"

  • "Eyes. Other Eyes. Ears. Hair. Nose. Mowf. Chin . . . " Connor loves to learn new words. He's constantly asking "What's this?" and "What's that?" One of his favorite games right now, mostly because it's gets attention and he knows that he's now mastered the right words, is to point to all the features of your face and tell you what they are. He even knows a few random body parts, like "knee" and "bow" (translated elbow) and "foot" and "hand". He even knows that some have two, which are always "other" and then the word, as in "other hand." He can usually count his ten fingers, though he needs help with the last two or three numbers.

  • "Onnor's soap. Mommy's ocean." translated "Connor's soap. Mommy's lotion." Now that we're potty training, we spend a lot of time in the bathroom. Connor knows that we need soap to wash our hands after we attempt to potty, and he's also discovered that Mommy keeps a bottle of lotion on the vanity for her hands (they get really dry after all those diaper changes and hand washings). So every time we potty, I get to hear all about "Onnor's soap" and "Mommy's ocean." I think the soap is actually one of the reasons he likes to "potty" now - he loves to get his own soap to wash his hands. He sometimes talks about it before he's even attempted to potty.

  • "Sshh, Baby!" Connor loves to be a little parent to his brothers. He's constantly telling them to "Sshh!" and "Hush!", which are apparently two of Mommy's favorite words. I think it actually began because that's the command I usually give Buster when he starts to bark at people walking on the sidewalk in front of our house (and Connor reprimands him too - no one is immune from his dominance). He's even been known on occasion to tell Mommy or Daddy to "Hush!", but this quickly earns him a seat in the naughty chair. He's not a fan of the show or the chair.

  • "Hi MommyDaddy!" This is how Josh is usually greeted at the end of the day. You'd think he's expecting it to be me opening the garage door, because I take dirty diapers and recycling stuff out to the garage throughout the day. But when he hears Josh's diesel truck pull in the garage, he knows it's him. Still, Josh gets the combination name. Not "Hi Daddy!" but "Hi MommyDaddy!" Of course, this one isn't as bad as what he often calls his Aunt Kelly. For some reason, instead of being "Keddy", which she has been since he started talking, she's now become "Grandma." Imagine the looks they get when they're out to lunch or when she takes him to the pool!

As I've mentioned before, out of the mouths of babes . . . (who probably learn a little too much of the bad from their mothers!)

Photo Flashback

Back when they were small - Xander & Sawyer. (March 02, 2006)

Quoted & Noted

"No want these!" shouted Connor, causing several people nearby to turn and look with a smile.

My little man is definitely forming some serious opinions lately. He doesn't merely say "No," or better yet, "No, thank you." This was his commentary at the store yesterday when I picked up what I thought was a cute pair of dark blue Levi corduroy pants that were on winter clearance. Connor could wear them the rest of this season (they would match so well with his dark blue and grey tennis shoes), and the little guys would inherit them next year. Alas, after such a rebuff, they remained on the store shelf. Perhaps Josh is teaching my son how to "shop" with Mommy!

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Quoted & Noted

"Do you want to go for a ride?"

"Mommy's truck?"

"Yes, Mommy's truck. We need to go to the store."


Well, yes, we'll get some of those too. It's amazing the way children's minds work, and how by doing something a few times it becomes an automatic expectation. My kids have learned to associate our weekly trip to Sam's with stopping at McDonald's on the way home for a fries and nuggets (and a cheeseburger and Coke for Mommy). It was not always a guaranteed event, but it cannot be avoided now without three little meltdowns.

How do I know, you might ask. Well, we've tried not going. Connor, the oldest and wisest, actually knows if Mommy turns the wrong direction out of the Sam's parking lot - you know, the way that leads home instead of the way that leads to the golden arches. He does not yet understand that the fries come from a place called McDonald's, but he knows when he sees the red and yellow sign and building that this is absolutely the place. Every time we drive past one, even on other errands and trips, he points out his window and screams "Fries!"

So today was our weekly trip to Sam's for the essentials - more milk, bread, grapes, bananas, goldfish crackers, cereal, and of course "Fries!"

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Just For Fun

How do you hold two needy twins? Simple, let one lay on top of the other one. Now normally this wouldn't work, but on Sunday night Sawyer was too sleepy to wake up from his afternoon nap, much less care if his brother decided to lay right on top of him. We had brought him downstairs anyway, knowing that he shouldn't go to bed at 2 p.m. and stay asleep past 7 p.m. if we wanted him to go back to bed. Here he was sleeping on Mommy when Alexander came over and wanted to be held too. It was getting late and he had played through his nap time of the day while brother slept. If they weren't sleepy, this certainly would never do. Because both of them are prone to pushing one another aside, even throwing an elbow or two, to get their share of Mommy's cuddle time. Of course, I'm not sure how well this will work as they get older (and bigger!) They already weigh a combined 70 plus lbs.

Did Someone Say Eat?

Clearly my children don't miss many meals. After all, they have hovered in the 90-something percentile since birth. Connor is even currently "off the charts" according to our pediatrician. And though we know that means very little in terms of what they'll look like later in life, it seems to be a good judge of whether or not they're getting enough nutrition now as they grow up.

On average, the kids have three meals a day and one pretty large snack. Typically they have breakfast after we get up and get moving (usuallly around 9:30 a.m). Breakfast consists of dry cereal and a full sippy cup of milk to start, while Mommy gets whatever we're having ready. It can be toast with butter (each child can pack away at least three full pieces), pancakes (the twins can eat one whole one each and Connor can eat up to 2 pancakes, all at about 6 inches in diameter), or simply fruit and yogurt, or any combination of the above depending on how ravenous, I mean hungry, they are.

Lunch is usually about 1:00 p.m., before nap time for those who are tired. Typical lunch items are pizza, pasta, cut up hot dogs (except Alexander who thinks these are yucky), peanut butter and jelly or marshmallow sandwiches, club cracker sticks with peanut butter, chips, and fruit. The three of them can eat an entire can of fruit in one sitting and still want more, even with other items included in the meal. Unfortunately, my children take after me, and have not yet found a love of vegetables. Carrots, celery and even snap peas have all been rejected numerous times, despite offering cool dipping sauces to tempt them. Connor will occasionally eat part of a salad, if it's covered in dressing and shredded cheese - one of his favorite food groups.

Nap time can be as much as four hours for the little guys, so depending on when they had lunch, they either get dinner or a snack when they wake up, and then they have the other (whichever they didn't get after nap time) when Josh and I have our dinner about 7 p.m. The snack is typically a bowl of goldfish crackers and some cut up grapes or banana. Dinner is much the same as lunch, though we sometimes pull things from our meal if we think they might eat them - green beans, corn, bread, or an occasional meat for Connor (he loves steak, which we find odd).

Each meal and / or snack comes with a full sippy cup of milk, and sometimes another one at some point during the day. As I've mentioned before, about seven gallons of milk a week are consumed in our house. Juice is rare, unless someone isn't feeling well. Water sometimes mixes in, especially in the summer. But that's about it. Clearly we're feeding our children plenty of food and giving them enough to drink.

But you would never know it by them.

My first example is Connor's recent development of saying "Onnor hun-gree!" every 20 minutes. Of course, one would think he's just simply learned saying this gets a reaction, not that he's really hungry. The scary part is he will absolutely eat every 20 minutes if you produce something for him. His current favorite is a bowl of cereal with milk and his child-size spoon to eat with - he had five bowls in one day earlier this week, in addition to regular meals.

Example number two, which is perhaps the cutest and, at the same time, the most annoying. My children think that if you simply walk into or through the kitchen, it's time to eat. They will come dance at your feet the entire time you're there and will cry if nothing is produced. If you happen to be there to fix something to eat, they expect it to be ready right that moment. The minute a pan or food item is pulled from the cabinets, three little boys go running to the table, pull out their chairs, and begin climbing into them. Clearly the explanation that "cooking" takes a little while, despite being offered numerous times, has not sunk in. So out come chips or marshmallows or fruit snacks, or some other little something to occupy them until their next meal is ready to eat (we won't even begin to discuss their impatience at the fact that some foods need to "cool" before they can be eaten).

Stay-at-home mom. Short-order cook, among other things.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

The Right Way

For a while now, I have suspected that I have a mild case of OCD. People who once worked with me would rave to you about my organizational skills and my reliability. They probably have no idea it was such a compulsion! I get it naturally, of course, from my mother who knows very well that there is a "right" way and a "right" place for everything. Here are just a few of the humorous examples I find myself noticing more and more in my own life:

  • Anything that uses numbers must be an even number. Our thermostat is always on 72 degrees in the winter and 76 degrees in the summer. It cannot be an odd number. Our television volume must also be even. We usually watch it at 28.0 according to our receiver - not 27.5 or even 28.5. And when I use the remote to check what's on television with the on-screen guide, I must begin at 2 (the first channel we get). It doesn't matter if I'm on channel 60, I cannot go up and then back down, I must scroll all the way to the beginning and start from 2.

  • Monday is the day that I clean the floors, every week, without fail. If for some reason I don't - say cousin Louie (whose housetraining lacks something to be desired as of yet) comes to visit or I'm not feeling well - then it throws the entire week off. Perhaps I just like to start my week with a little less dog hair, less muddy footprints, and less food crumbs scattered all over the house.

  • I must have a full tank of gas before I take any trip that leaves Lexington. It doesn't matter if I have three-quarters of a tank, it must be full. My husband routinely drives with the gas light flashing. I don't think I've ever seen it in my car (we will not mention the time we nearly ran out of gas on our New Orleans trip, when I listened to my husband who said we could wait for the next exit to stop - we ran out of gas on the "next exit" ramp, lost the power steering, and barely made it into a gas station after coasting through a major four-lane highway intersection). Perhaps that's my motivation.

  • Our pantry is ridiculous. People will tell you it's very organized and complete. I will fully admit it's ridiculous. I feel the need to stockpile things, because I cannot stand to run out of anything. Point of fact, we have not been to the regular grocery store in over a month. We've, of course, been to Sam's a few times - milk, bread, fruit and diapers are essential needs - but no actual grocery trips. I have yet to run out of anything and already have a "full" list for my next grocery trip. I will not begin to tell you the number of soft drinks that currently exist in our walk-in pantry (much less how many more are on the list to be bought!).

  • Everything must be neat and clean. While this has slipped quite a bit since I brought the big, hairy dog and the three messy toddlers into my life, it's still there. In the mornings, beds must be made and dirty clothes put away. Even empty hangers must be taken to the laundry room for my daily load of laundry. Because every thing has a color-coded hanger - kids are by size and our clothes are by type. After meals, the stove top must always be cleaned (first with soap, and then with Windex). The dishes are practically spotless before they even hit the dishwasher, because they must be rinsed immediately after use. Toys must be picked up every night after the kids are in bed. Order must be restored!

Like I said, a few examples. I'm sure there are many, many more. So, my children will inherit this naturally as well. I can already see a little of it in Sawyer, who loves to organize pens in the office and chalk on the sidewalk (instead of actually coloring with it). I see it in Alexander who likes to line up cars, only facing the correct direction (no bumpers first, please). And I see it in Connor who has learned from his mother that you cannot leave your room without putting things "back" in the morning - toys on the dresser, pillows on the bed, dirty pajamas in the laundry room. And of course, the empty color-coded shirt hanger too. Poor kids, what else are they going to learn from Mommy?

Monday, February 25, 2008

Tales from the Tub

Depending on the type of day we've had, bath time can be one of the more enjoyable moments with toddlers. Our kids all love the water (not always the case, but definitely so now), and enjoy spending time in the tub just playing. They're not so crazy about washing their hair, but we're working on that.

We have several toys that are permanent fixtures in the upstairs hallway bathroom - a Little People boat and captain (complete with purple dinosaur life raft even) and a set of colorful letters and numbers (a long ago gift from cousin Katie that is still a big hit, despite numerous teeth marks and the fact that the "K" is more of an "I" now). Connor in particular can spend hours playing with these if you well let him, well after his hands and feet have wrinkled and the water has turned ice cold. I'm pretty sure this is a big part of where he learned all his colors. The little guys mostly like to splash around and throw the letters on the sides of the tub to see if they will stick (yes, some of them do if you throw them just right - and I know this because I am, of course, expected to join in the game too).

Tonight Josh was out visiting his family with Connor, so it was just me and the two little guys, which usually means even more fun. Connor seriously does not like to wait his turn for the bath and can be rather annoying and quite whiny while he's waiting. We usually give the twins a bath at the same time, since it's easier and quicker and they don't seem to mind at all.

And I'm sure most of you know the story that little kids, especially little boys, love to pee in warm bath water. Alexander is usually guilty of this most every night. Sawyer is less predictable. Well, tonight was perhaps one of the funniest moments ever with them. I had just put Alexander in the tub, and he was looking back to see what I was doing (getting ready to put Sawyer in). As soon as they were both in the tub, they kind of looked at each other, grinned and then both started peeing at the exact same time. Twice the fun, right? It makes you wonder what goes through their little minds when they smile at each other. Do they know what they're doing, or is it just random?

At least the parenting articles tell me that taking a bath with pee in it occasionally can't hurt them. Otherwise, I'm not sure they would ever get a bath at all. Showers at two years old, perhaps?

Little Bit of This, Little Bit of That

With identical twins, you expect a lot of sameness (or at least I did). It's actually really amazing to see two different personalities developing despite the fact that they look so much alike. One of the best examples is something I see every single morning.

As I've mentioned before, we keep our children in their rooms via child safety knobs. In the mornings, I come in and get them dressed (with the door still closed, to keep escapees from running up or down stairs or from playing in the bathroom or the laundry room).

As soon as that door opens, Xander takes off running down the hallway and starts inch-worming his way down the first three stairs to the landing. He looks down the front set of steps to see if brother is awake and what toys are waiting for them. Then he puts one hand on the rail of the back set of steps and starts the rest of the way down, putting one foot on the first step and the other on the second. There's no moment's pause, no need to wait for Mommy or for help. He has absolutely no fear of the stairs or of doing something on his own. He's just impatient when he gets down there, and he doesn't have his milk first thing!

Sawyer, on the other hand, is a different story. He doesn't go running. In fact, he's usually still hovering near the bed and waiting on Mommy to finish putting away wipes and dirty clothes and straightening up the room. He sometimes even closes the door to shut us back in. When my hands are finally free of stuff, he comes running up and wants to be carried down the hall and down the stairs. He will walk, holding your hand, but only if you prompt him to. And even then, he goes very slowly. Sometimes he inch-worms all the way down, other times he takes one tentative step at a time while holding onto the rail and your hand for dear life. And of course, his first instinct is to reach those arms up to safety. And it's usually what he gets, if you must know. It takes longer to make him walk, and there are usually already two little boys downstairs getting into mischief.

It's just one of the many ways we're starting to see our little boys head in different directions. I can't wait to see where the rest of the road will lead . . .

(Oh, and in case you were curious, Connor was more of a charge down the stairs at top speed without bothering to even hold onto the rails much less wait for help - some of you may remember this memorable photo (May 12, 2006) that made its rounds back in the days of PowerPoint updates - that nasty bruise, cut and large knot are from missing a step and hitting the sharp corner of the wood rail).

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Snapshot Sunday

Why there are no more bathroom breaks or quick laundry runs for Mommy during the day. Alexander is watching, and Sawyer is swinging!

Knock-Out Roses, Indeed

Though it's a little hard to tell in this photo, two of our once very pretty knock-out rosebushes that line the semi-circle drive in front of our house were destroyed in the icy mess that was this week. It's not what you're thinking, I'm sure. Heavy ice did not snap these branches.

After a long day of working in the cold and wet, Josh came home and pulled his work truck and trailer into the curve of our driveway, as usual. He typically unhooks and locks the trailer and then pulls his truck into our garage. Of course, what my husband didn't realize on this day is that our driveway was a solid sheet of ice at this point. His full-size, four-wheel drive truck and the 16-foot trailer slid about five feet, right over the top of my rosebushes, and then down almost to the sidewalk. Good fun.

Damage done, Josh went ahead and moved the truck and trailer again, this time pulling into the grass of our side yard, and using concrete blocks to help secure it on the slope. Of course, parking was only half the battle. We still had to get back into the house, where our children were happily watching an afternoon movie (or perhaps peering out the front windows and wondering what the heck Mommy and Daddy were doing outside).

When I say solid sheet of ice, I truly mean solid. I took one tentative step onto the driveway to help Josh, and slid completely down into the bushes myself (standing up, thankfully). My Nike shoes were no match for the ice either. So, we eventually took to the grass. There's a small patch of concrete on that side of the house. We had to hold onto a down spout to even cross this, and into the second garage dooor. Whew, safe at last.

And I think somebody owes me some new roses come spring!

Saturday, February 23, 2008

By the Numbers

One of the things you probably don't think about when you decide (or life helps you decide) to have your children close in age is the amout of gear you will accumulate. You just think, hey, they'll be close in age so they'll be good friends (later, at least) and they'll be in the same stages together (diapers, school, activities, etc.).

After putting away some clothes in the attic that our kids have outgrown, I realized just how much we have accumulated over the years. Of course, we did have three boys in a little over two years - twins fourteen months after we had our oldest, so our story is a little different.

Here's our life by the numbers:

Seven. Total number of car seats we own. Two infant carriers with detachable bases (wonderful things up until about 25 lbs.). Two mid-size seats for when they outgrew the infant seats. Three full-size convertible booster seats, currently residing in my Tahoe. They barely fit in your average car, they're so big and bulky, but our kids have outgrown all the others (95th percentile for our boys).

Five. Total number of strollers we own. The one that matches the infant seat (totally worthless, in my opinion, because when they're that small you're much more likely to just pick up the seat and carry it than put it into the stroller and push it). The double stroller, for when we were expecting a second child so quickly after the first. The two umbrella strollers, small enough to fit in normal size cars (which the double stroller is not). And finally, the triple stroller that was purchased when I was tired of being trapped in the house with three little people (the wheels are practically wearing off of this one after only two years - love it).

Four. Number of high chairs and / or booster seats we own. The high chair is in the attic, but the three booster seats are still in use. We might have gotten more high chairs when the twins were smaller, but it was just as easy to feed them in their swings until they were old enough to sit up more. So now we have a table that seats six, but booster chairs take up three of the seats. If I had it to do all over again, I might just buy the booster seat from the beginning.

Four. Number of baby gates currently in our house. Of course, we have already taken down the big one that enclosed our play area - the kids were finally smarter than the velcro that attached the fabric to the gate. We still have four, two of which are the expensive ones that have openings. You have to step over the others! We also have one that travels, so a total of six are actually owned.

Four. Number of potty seats in our house. Of course, this was us being silly. We needed two, one for a bathroom upstairs and one for a bathroom downstairs, but we couldn't get Connor interested in the toddler seats that attach to the regular potty, so we then went out and bought two children's potty chairs that sit on the floor (again, one for each level). He loved playing with the seat and fake flush handle, but never once pottied on it! My advice is stick with the toddler seats (less mess), and just wait till your kids are ready.

Four. Number of ride-on cars that circle our house daily. We started with one, for Connor, which played a hideously annoying "muffin man" song all the time and whose batteries NEVER died (thanks, Aunt Kelly!), but it finally cracked and became a hazard. We still have three - two Lightning McQueen cars and one Big Wheel.

Seven. Number of beds for our kids have gone through. They now have three full-size beds (thanks to my parents who donated the ones from their house when they built a new one). Of course, only two are currently in use because the twins always sleep in the same bed and leave the other one empty. We also have two cribs, and two travel beds (otherwise known as pack-and-plays). These last four are taking up space in our attic.

Six. Number of sippy cups we use in any given day. Three for milk, and three more identical cups for juice and / or water. I won't tell you how many we own, it might scare you. Let's just say there's a whole kitchen cabinet dedicated to just their cups, and another one to just their plates and bowls.

Fifteen. Number of diapers and / or pull-ups we STILL go through on any given day. When the twins were smaller, it was about 25 a day for three boys in diapers. Lots of fun!

One. Number of loads of laundry that is done every day, at least. Usually two, since in my house there are only two loads - whites and absolutely everything else!

And finally, just for fun . . .

Eighty-Five. The number of child safety locks that have been installed on cabinets and furniture. I won't even begin to count the outlet covers, door knob covers, safety covers for blind cords, or other various child safety stuff. I only know the cabinets because I remember how many packages we bought. Child safety stuff becomes essential when you realize that you're outnumbered three to one by toddlers!

And we won't talk about all the stuff they've outgrown. The carriers - one Baby Bjorn (wonderful for a single child), one backpack carrier (not worth the money; it will break your back by the time your child is big enough to hold his head that steady). And of course the bouncy seats and exersaucers and swings.

All I can say (if you have kids close in age like we do and you like to shop at Babies 'R Us) is you should apply for one of their Mastercards. We switched when Connor was a newborn, and we've gotten I don't know how many hundreds of dollars in gift card rewards back. You earn 1 percent on all purchases, and up to 5 percent on Babies 'R Us and Toys 'R Us purchases. It helped buy a few of those car seats and strollers and other gear that we felt obligated to have.

Friday, February 22, 2008

Photo Flashback

Mommy watching Connor sleep. (March 7, 2005)

Quoted & Noted

As the only one really talking, Connor seems to be featured a lot more on the blog than the little guys, but that's just how it goes right now. One of my favorite phrases at the moment shows my equally sweet and active son.

"Gimme hug." Big bear hug ensues. "Gimme kiss." Quick kiss on the lips. "Okay, see you later." And off he goes.

The entire transaction takes five seconds, and it happens on average about 15 times a day. Like I said, sweet (but very active).

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Traveling with Toddlers

As a stay-at-home parent, it's nice to get away from home once in a while. Even short trips to visit my parents are a nice break in our same-old, everyday routine (overnight, because they live two hours away). The kids love to get all that extra attention, I love to visit and have adult conversation (and some extra help with the kids, too), and my parents are always happy to see us. There's new toys for the boys to play with, and they aren't transfixed by the television - they're busy playing with Grandma and Grandpa. It's good for all of us.

The thing I don't like about traveling at this stage of our lives is all the stuff that you have to take. And we're even out of the baby stage, thank goodness, so the big, bulky pack-and-plays stay at home. An air mattress, a sheet and a pump fit much better in my SUV anyway. Especially since it's crowded in with the other stuff that still has to go (three full-size car seats take up much of the room as it is). Two booster seats with trays, since our twins are not yet table-ready. Ditto on the sippy cups and children's tablewear, because we don't want spills on Grandma's floor or any stab marks on brothers with real tablewear. Then there are clothes that fill up two huge travel bags, including extras because they will inevitably spill something or have an accident that soaks all the way through. Shoes and winter coats and hats and gloves, just in case (because they actually didn't put any of this on even once). Diapers, lots of diapers, and some wipes. Bathroom bag with baby shampoo, baby lotion, little ducky, and children's Tylenol. All essential, still. Then there's also the children's potty, for the older one who's attempting to be potty trained at the moment (though Mommy went off and forgot it - it's a new addition to the list, after all!). Add to that the toys that must be had for the two-hour car ride. And that doesn't even mention the very small overnight bag that I bring for myself.

It will be nice to just pack an overnight bag of clothes, make sure the kids have strapped themselves in, and hit the road. One of these days . . . of course, by then, I will miss the cute little boys who sleep most of the ride with their little heads at ridiculously awkward angles without complaint, and I will curse the smart-mouth teenagers who have replaced them and who complain about everything.

"Bye-Bye, Moon"

Our kids, like most small children, don't sleep very well away from home. They tend to get up earlier and take shorter (if any) naps in strange rooms and unfamiliar beds. My kids did pretty well on their trip to Grandma and Pa's cabin, but still had less sleep than normal. Connor, however, wore himself out playing and running around, so he took a very long nap just before we started the drive back home. And that meant Mommy didn't have the nice, quiet, peaceful drive home she was looking for. It wasn't bad, just not quiet. Connor likes to talk to keep himself awake. So he liked to point out all the houses, lights, trees, barns, and big trucks (there are lots of these on the interstate) and just about anything else you can think of on our two-hour drive back home.

One of the cutest moments was late into the drive, when we were almost back home. The moon had finally come out from behind all the clouds, but it was disappearing from last night's lunar eclipse. Connor had been watching the moon faithfully all night on our drive - beginning out his window, and changing from the sunroof and back to his window, as we changed directions in our drive. As the eclipse progressed, he kept saying "Bye-bye, moon!" And then finally, he kept saying over and over, "He's gone, where'd he go?" It's one of his favorite phrases of the moment, wondering where something is when he can't see it or find it, like his James train (from Thomas the Tank) that he carries around everywhere. "It's gone, gone," Mommy explained, to which he thought for a moment and then replied "He be back." And that's when he fell asleep, just minutes before I pulled into the driveway.

Not a quiet drive home, but a quiet morning instead. They're all still asleep, and it's nearly 10 a.m.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

"No Touch It"

My oldest son has some of the cutest (and rudest) phrases that he loves to say to his brothers. Today, we drove down to the lake to visit Grandma and Pa at their cabin. They have a lot of old toys from when my brother and I were small that they pull out for our boys to play with. Connor loves to play with the old Fisher Price parking garage (much better made than the newer version, obviously, since it's lasted nearly 30 years without breaking and our new one purchased at Christmas is already starting to show some serious wear and tear). He likes to play with this garage and the other toys, but for some reason known only to older brothers around the world, these toys are supposed to be for him only. He hoards them all as close as he can, eyes his brothers wearily when they come close, and finally bursts out with "No touch it! It's mine!" I'm told he gets this honestly, as his mother was apparently very fond of the word "mine" when she was young too.

Monday, February 18, 2008

Push to Activate

The twins don't say very much at all yet, but they're beginning to "speak" in other ways. Sawyer's newest trick is really quite amusing. As the clutchy Mommy's boy that he is, he always wants to be picked up and carried around. Two little chubby arms reaching upward is his way of saying "pick me up." Just as standing outside the office, leaning over the baby gate is his way of saying "get off that computer and come play." But now he's added a new dimension. When he wants me to go in a certain direction after I've picked him up, he leans as hard as he can in the way that he wants to go. If it's behind me, then he stretches both arms back as far as he can in an attempt to move me the right way. As he's getting heavier these days, he's not getting picked up nearly as much as he would like (or he is used to). So he's had to adapt. Now, when he wants something, he gets behind me, turns me in the right direction, and then places both of his hands on the backs of my legs and pushes me in the appropriate direction. Some days, it's over to the kitchen countertop where we keep fruit snacks in a dish. Once he gets me there, he points up and looks at me expectantly. And other days, it's a trip into the office that he wants, for his current favorite game of organizing pens and markers (we keep them in a tray in our open shelf desk, and he loves to move them back and forth from the tray to the top of the desk). So now he pushes Mommy to the baby gate, and then he lifts up his chubby arms. He needs to be picked up to get over the baby gate, you see, and he figures Mommy will do at least this much of the work. Who needs to speak, when clearly you can get all you want by simply pushing and pointing? Just because they don't talk much yet, doesn't mean they're not smart little boys!

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Snapshot Sunday

Happy 3rd Birthday, Cousin Ryleigh! Connor having a big time at Chuck E. Cheese with Daddy and the rest of the Elam crew.

Knock, Knock; Bang, Bang

Like most parents, I wake up every morning to the sound of my children. Now I must admit here that I am one of the lucky ones, our children don't usually start making much noise until about 9 a.m. (yes, feel free to hate me now, because the two little ones also take three hour naps, and everyone is usually in bed by 9 p.m. if not earlier). And some days we sleep in even later, like yesterday when Aunt Kelly woke us up at 10 a.m. when she stopped in for a visit (I know, I know - it was time for us to get up anyway - and we love visitors any time of day!).

What's perhaps a little unusual is the way that our children wake us up. We keep them contained in their rooms for their own safety (and our sanity). We already have four baby gates in the house (one at each of the two staircases up, and one in each of the two open doorways to our downstairs office), so we decided not to put one at the top of the stairs (because in that same hallway there is also a bathroom, a laundry room and another set of open stairs up to the third floor). We would either have to keep all of these rooms locked and add two more baby gates, or we could simply do what we do - essentially lock the kids in their rooms at night. The little guys still have a child safety knob which keeps them in, and Connor has a reversed lock (because he's become smarter than the child safety gear).

You can sometimes hear them simply playing with the toys they keep in their rooms. Connor likes to roll his trains on the window sill and watch traffic drive in front of the house. Alexander and Sawyer will sometimes be heard laughing (who knows at what) or playing with their old car seat toys - two hanging animals that rattle. But you definitely know when they're ready to get up. There are two very distinct noises. For the twins (usually Alexander is the worst), they like to lay in the floor in front of their door and kick it as hard as they possibly can - over and over and over until their lazy parents get out of bed! Connor used this trick for a while too, but now that he's older and wiser, he has a more refined technique. He knocks, softly at first and louder if you aren't as quick about it as he would like. This is my alarm clock, every single day - knock, knock; bang, bang! Good morning to you, too.

Saturday, February 16, 2008

A Different Perspective

For some time, our twins have been fascinted by seeing the world upside down. I'm told this is a normal thing for kids this age, but it's quite amusing to watch. It's nothing for one or both of them to be playing and all of the sudden stop, then stand, bend over and look between their legs for a few minutes, often resting their head on the ground even (wouldn't we all love to be that limber still?). And apparently it's even more fascinating to do this when you're up off the ground, because no matter who it is that I've picked up to carry, they inevitably let go and fall backward to try to get upside down. Sawyer is probably my worst culprit, maybe because he's usually the one trying hardest to get picked up and carried around. Perhaps they know something we don't. Or perhaps they're just like Mommy, getting tired of the same view from inside the house during the cold weather (and with sick brothers). Isn't it time for Spring yet?

Friday, February 15, 2008

Quoted & Noted

"No watch Shrek, watch Thomas!" screamed Connor.

The boy is definitely learning to voice his opinion. He's fallen in love with Thomas the Tank Engine and Friends, but unfortunately for him, his brothers don't share his enthusiasm. So when the brothers are awake, there's very little Thomas. And poor sick fellow that he's been, Connor hasn't been awake much while they've been sleeping this week, so there's been very little Thomas at all. And would you believe, that the three-year old can name the trains in the series - almost ALL of them. Thomas (To-mas). Henry (Hun-ree). Gordon (Gor-ton). James. Percy. Emily (eM-a-lee). Molly. Rosie. Toby. And the list goes on, and on, and on, and on. Of course, before long I'm going to be cringing at the catch-phrases from the show that he's going to start repeating, things like "Cinders and ashes!" (when something goes wrong), and "You have caused confusion and delay!" (which is what the station master says when the trains have been bad). Josh is already using them, and he despises the show!

Photo Flashback

First week home. Sawyer left, Alexander right. (January 28, 2006)

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Adventures in Potty Training

At three, Connor is a little late in the potty training game for most kids this stage. I like to chalk it up to the fact that he has two younger brothers still in diapers (well pull-ups actually, but only because I got tired of buying all the separate things and now have all the kids in 2-3T pull-ups). It probably also has a little to do with the fact that his mother doesn't have the patience to remind him to potty every hour or the ability to keep two other toddlers off the top of the dining room table while we spend twenty minutes "going potty." But we are making progress, however slowly, despite our issues.

Connor has been going "pee-pee in potty" for a while now, but only recently graduated to going "poo-poo on potty." I'm not sure why one phrase uses "in" and one uses "on," you'll have to get that explanation from him. And more often than not, he simply walks up to me, wrinkles his nose and says "Onnor stinky." I've come to learn that this is code for "I need to go" instead of code for "change my diaper." And most of the time, he does just fine. And I cannot help but laugh as I mention that the child cannot do either, without happily jumping up to flush while waving and saying "Bye-bye potty!"

I do have a sneaking suspicion that my bribery has paid off - we keep an M&M candy dispenser in the bathroom downstairs. While we're going potty, Connor loves to point out everything in the room. "Buster's shower" (the walk-in shower in this bathroom is where we give Buster his bath in the winter), "Onnor's papers" (the toilet paper he's yet to use), "One, two, three doors" (because that's how many there are in the bathroom, and we must count them every time), and last but certainly not least, "Onnor's nandies." This one is mentioned about ten times during the entire potty process, and is apparently the most crucial part of the whole ordeal.

Perhaps he was finally ready to start, or perhaps I finally found the right motivation (his sweet tooth). One down (or at least on the road to), and two more to go . . .

And for those who are interested, our first "potty" investment has proven the most successful. We use a Baby Bjorn seat that fits on the regular potty with a matching Baby Bjorn stool. The talking, singing and really annoying child potty is in the closet (two actually, since we felt the need to outfit an upstairs and downstairs bathroom with our gear).

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Where's the Love?

Buster, our English Mastiff, is the first baby of the family. He'll be five next month, and enjoyed nearly two years of being spoiled before our kids entered the picture. He's a good dog with children, in that he's always gentle and has taken quite a bit in terms of tail pulling, rough patting on the head and even abrupt pats on the back that he wasn't really expecting (or wanting, for that matter). But as an older, mostly calm dog, he doesn't have a lot to do with our kids. They don't play with him, and he's content to be away from them when they are noisy and active (most of the morning and afternoon). He loves to come in at night, after the kids have had their baths and have gone to bed. And though our kids don't interact with him much, other than Connor who will copy Mommy when she's patting him or throwing ball with him outside, I never really took it to mean that they didn't like him. Just that he was a little big and scary to small kids (he is about 165 pounds and rather tall for a Mastiff), so they kept their distance. But recently, I've noticed that all three of our kids cannot go past Buster's room when the door is open without closing it. Perhaps it's simply their fascination with opening and closing doors (which they very much love right now). Or perhaps they're trying to tell me something - like competing with two brothers for attention is enough without a big dog who sheds and drools and usually gets Mommy's attention, at least for a moment, when he comes into the room. He is the first baby, after all. And besides, sometimes Mommy needs a little bit of that calm in the middle of three often loud and always active toddlers!

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Clearly Not Well

For those of you who know my oldest son, you will understand when I tell you that he is clearly not feeling well. First, he has barely spoken more than ten words today. This from the boy who never stops talking, EVER. Second, he let me carry him upstairs for an afternoon nap without so much as a single protest. He even gave me a kiss and almost pushed me off the bed to roll over. He, the boy of "Onnor no nigh-nigh" (translated "Connor no night-night") and "No Nap!" at even the mention of the word sleep. And perhaps most telling was last night, as we were sitting in the family room after dinner. The boys were finishing up their afternoon movie (because what else do you do when it's cold, snowy and no one seems to feel that great). Alexander was busy playing and watching the movie, and Connor and Sawyer were content simply lying on the couch watching the movie. Connor turns to me, and for the first time EVER in his life, says "Onnor tired, Onnor bed." He then proceeds to scoot himself off the couch, walk over to the stairs, open the baby gate and head up to his room for bed. And his brothers were still awake, even poor Sawyer who was feeling the worst of all yesterday. It was only 7 o'clock, and he usually manages to stay up until at least 8 if not 9. Clearly, Connor is not feeling all that well either.

I will simply say anyone who enters our house does so at their own risk at the moment. All the cleaning (and I mean ALL the cleaning - every scrap of bedding in the whole house, the bathrooms, the floors, even opening the windows for a few hours in 30 degree temperatures for some fresh air, and quite a few cans of Lysol later) doesn't seem to help whatever it is we're sharing at the moment!

Monday, February 11, 2008

Sharing the Good and the Not So Good

For the second time in as many weeks, I once again found myself in a darkened room rocking a sick child, too pitiful for words, to sleep. Sawyer is this week's victim, his immune system unable to withstand the cold/flu that we have been passing around our house like candy. It was almost expected, living in as close proximity as he does to Alexander, the most recently recovered victim.

Of course, they are twin brothers, so perhaps they had to share this too. You know, like they share the same full-size bed, even though there are two in their room, and sippy cups, even though they know that the red one is Alexander's and the green one is Sawyer's (because they will actually reach for their cup in the morning when I'm holding both of the cups in my hands). But, anything is fair game if it's on the floor, right? Especially if it's juice. So, inevitably the germs have been shared too, and Sawyer is now the one not feeling well.

As a parent, there is nothing that makes you feel as helpless as a sick child - they just seem so defenseless and vulnerable. You just want to absorb all that hurt, so that they don't have to feel it. But life doesn't work that way.

And to be honest, we've been really lucky with our children. Other than the sniffles here and there, they've never really been sick. But still, even a bad cold seems awful when it's a two-year old who doesn't have a voice or words to explain what's wrong or what will make him feel better. Poor kid has a terrible fever - his skin is hot to the touch. Cherry Tylenol seems to help, but who knows how much. He still has cold chills that shake his little body (relatively speaking), and a runny nose that annoys him during the day and keeps him from sleeping at night. He's not eating, which isn't like him at all, and won't go near a glass of milk, which is saying a lot in our gallon-a-day household. And Sawyer is my clutcher, who loves to be held on a good day, but who grabs on for dear life when he's feeling the least bit off. Poor little man.

Here's hoping the cherry Tylenol works on the last victim, and that the cycle doesn't start all over again.

"Kiss Ut Butter"

Toddler speak can be one of the cutest and one of the most frustrating things about parenting. It's cute, especially the first few times you hear something. It becomes frustrating when it gets repeated over and over again, as many toddlers love to do. Some days it's all I can do not to scream after hearing "HI MOMMY!" in the loudest voice possible for what feels like the thousandth time - a clear cry for some attention. Connor's cute phrase of the week - cute because it's relatively new - is "kiss ut butter," which translates to "kiss it better." He's learned that when he comes to Mommy with an "ouchie," he can hold it out and Mommy will kiss it and say "all better." So now he comes to me, holds out the ouchie, and says "kiss ut butter," followed by a "thank-ew Mommy" and a "See ew later." If only all of life's problems were that simple . . .

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Snapshot Sunday

Getting as good as he gives. After pestering Louie for over an hour, Connor gets a little snap back. Love Connor's expression.

The Next Generation

Of all the things we're able to give our children, one of the things that I think means the most is the time that they get to spend with their grandparents. Even in their short lives, our boys have spent so many fun afternoons at the pool, out to lunch, at the playground, down at the lake, or even just running around and spending time together. I love that our kids know what kind of car Grammy drives, or what Pa's truck looks like. They run to the windows in the front of the house and start bouncing around because they're glad to see them come over for a visit. They love going to spend the night with them, getting that one-on-one attention Mommy and Daddy don't always have time to give. I don't ever remember going out and doing things like that with mine, but I guess times have changed a little. Our parents are more active than their parents. I don't remember one of my grandmothers hardly ever leaving her farm. I have different memories - like Sunday afternoons in the summer where the whole family of grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins and even great aunts and uncles gathered together under the big willow tree eating watermelon and drinking homemade lemonade dipped out of a five gallon (probably lard) bucket with a silver ladle. Or games of pickup softball played in an open field while grandparents watched on from their backyard swing. I carefully omit that I managed to back over a tree stump and tear several layers of skin off my legs - that's not part of the good memory. With today's grandparents, the activities may be different, but they're going to have great memories just the same. Just like mine.

Saturday, February 9, 2008

Circumventing the System

What happens when your children become old enough to outsmart the child safety devices? Your sanity loses a little something. No more quick trips upstairs to deal with the laundry or put on a clean shirt. Connor, at three, is quickly breaking down all of our defenses. He can open the main baby gate at the bottom of the stairs at will, and will start to climb until he's told that upstairs is where we go to take naps (you should see how quickly he turns back). He and his brothers had easily figured out the velcro on the big baby gate that used to enclose our toy area, so it has long since been relegated to the attic. He can open the sliding glass door lock, so we had to install a barrel lock on the top where he couldn't reach. And though he can't open the safety knobs on the other doors, he does know how to hit them hard enough to knock them entirely off - they are just plastic after all. We've reverted to reversing the locks on his bedroom door and his closet door. He can't reach the keys (not yet anyway). He's long been adept at pulling out cabinet drawers with safety locks on them, and managing to get his tiny fingers in far enough to pull out all the clothes in the drawers in his room. They've been empty for months and everything is locked safely away in the closet. His newest trick made me laugh out loud. Connor loves Chapstick, probably because Mommy buys the strawberry kind. The other day after a potty session, he proceeded to the bathroom vanity where he opened the top drawer as far as the safety lock would allow, stuck his skinny little hand all the way in and pulled out the Chapstick. He then put some on his lips, tasting some for good measure. Then he recapped it and put it back, closing the drawer behind him saying "All butter," which is his version of "All better" and proceeding to wash his hands as usual. It's the beginning of the end. His brothers can't be far behind.

Friday, February 8, 2008

Photo Flashback

Daddy and Connor (January 22, 2005)

Quoted & Noted

"Mommy no say shut up, no yell Onnor," Connor mumbled as he walked away.

Just another sign that Mommy needs to work a little more on her patience. Connor is clearly learning that there are unacceptable words, but Mommy is still a work in progress.

Of course, context helps. It was the end of a very long day - long week actually - with four sick people in the house. The one well person, Connor, simply could not stop talking in his loudest voice in an attempt to be heard (even when Mommy asked nicely, several times, because she wasn't feeling well and her head really hurt). After the fifth or sixth nice request, Mommy lost it and reverted to the unacceptable words.

Out of the mouths of babes . . .

Thursday, February 7, 2008

Order Up - Literally

What is it about toddlers that makes them love a certain food one day and despise it the next. I'm not talking about disinterest or dislike, I'm talking about hate it so much you feel the need to fling it across the room. Connor, the oldest at three, has actually graduated to telling Mommy what he wants to eat for a meal, or at the very least telling Mommy what he does not want. He's even at the level of actually telling me when he's ready to eat ("Onnor hun-gree" counts, right?). Sawyer and Alexander, on the other hand, don't talk all that much yet at the age of two. So, when I put a peanut butter and jelly sandwich in front of them one day, and they eat it quicker than I can cut it up and get it on their plates, I assume it's a good food choice. Four full sandwiches (yes, eight pieces of bread) for three little boys seems to indicate success. But then, four or five days later, I place the same sandwich in front of them and it gets hurled across the dining room table and onto the floor or the wall (depending on which one is throwing and their relation to each from the table). Not a simple shake of the head or push the plate away, but pick it up by the corner, as if it's toxic, take a tiny little bite or just a little sniff, and then hurl it as far as you can. And people wonder why we don't take our three toddlers out to eat in restaurants more often. Of course, next week it will be back on the approved list and will be eaten quicker than Mommy can get it on the table. I just wish I knew which children I was serving on which days - it would make life (and cleanup) much easier.

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

The Logic of a Three-Year Old

"Don't cry, Baby." This is what my three-year old said to one of his two-year old brothers, as he was lying face down on the floor in the dining room, screaming and crying. It seems cute and sympathetic, right? Actually, it's self-preservation. Connor and Alexander had been running around the house, chasing each other and laughing along the way, until Connor decided to abruptly change directions and charge head-first into his younger brother. The running and the chasing were no longer a novel enough entertainment for him - a little brotherly pain was needed. But when Alexander started crying, Connor was suddenly trying to get his brother to stop. It wasn't because he wanted him to feel better. It was because he didn't want to get in trouble for crashing into his brother and making him cry. No one said he wasn't a smart three-year old.