Monday, March 31, 2008

Tales from the Potty

Potty training clearly takes up a lot of our time and focus as parents lately. In the interest of those who do not wish to read such "tales," I will attempt to include the word "Potty" in every title so that you may choose to skip over them if you wish, because somewhat vulgar children's potty language always follows.

Here are the fun comments that we've heard this week . . .

"Onnor no sit down!" He's finally discovered the joy of peeing while standing up. We're still working a little on the aim.

"No poot in the pants! Poot on the potty!" He has the concept down in theory, but not in practice, unfortunately. He's doing extremely well with going "pee-pee in the potty" but not so much with the other. And I'm not sure when it became "poot" instead of poo-poo, but the change has been made and there appears to be no going back, despite Mommy's best efforts.

"Onnor yucky!" he says, waddling towards me. This is never a good sign.

"Ouchie. No touch it! Hurts!" he says, as you attempt to clean him up after an "accident" has occurred.

"Yucky poot." he says, watching as Mommy washes out the rather disgusting big boy underwear yet again. "No poot in the pants!"

If only that were the case . . . most of the stuff that I've read has told me that I face several obstacles, as boys are typically slower to potty train and since he is my first attempt I'm having to train myself as much as I am him. Here's hoping we both improve in the near future, and that it will be easier the second (and third) time around with his brothers.


As infants, they slept side by side in the same crib until they were about four months old because they never moved and they seemed most content when they were close (and, as our house only had two bedrooms upstairs and big brother occupied the other one, they were in a single crib in our bedroom). Later they were moved into separate cribs, though still in the same room.

When they too, as big brother before them, started climbing in their cribs, they were moved well before their second birthday into big boy beds. The bed rails have long been gone, but one thing remains. Despite having two full-size beds in their shared room, they can always be found sleeping side by side, sometimes tangled up with each other, sometimes on opposite ends, but always in the same bed.

Of late, Sawyer has been perching himself on the pillows we wedge under the headboard, where they used to find themselves getting stuck fairly often. He seems to like the raised platform the pillows make. Xander usually likes the footboard end of the bed, but wanders all over it depending on the night. Neither, apparently, like the other bed.

Sunday, March 30, 2008

Brotherly Love

Brotherly love, or something like that. The two little guys were enjoying trains again today (Connor is out with Daddy, helping to spring clean the yard at Great Grandma JoAnn's house with the rest of the Elam side of the family).

How quickly it all broke down into fighting and tears. There simply are not enough Thomas trains to go around - they each want them all for themselves and cannot stand to share! Here, Xander (hand on the right) is holding Gordon rather carelessly, while Sawyer (hand on the left) is attempting to steal him.

Crying and screaming ensued. The trains are now safely back in Connor's room, Sawyer is stacking blocks in the window, Xander is playing with Little People, and all is well in the world again, at least for now.

Snapshot Sunday

Connor is very proud of his new "big boy" Thomas the Tank underwear. Here, he is attempting to point out James, who is on his butt. Nice.

Return of the Nap (and Mommy's Sanity)

After my first real weekend away from my children, where Josh kept the boys at the house, he told me that he had let them stay up all weekend without naps and that they had done just fine. I'm not sure what constitutes "fine" for him, but the weeks that have followed have not been "fine" to me.

Our boys are outgrowing their need for long afternoon naps, I will grant you. The twins once slept nearly 14 hours at night and usually took a 3 hour nap during the day as well. Those days are indeed gone. But we have yet to reach the point where they can stay awake from morning until night without ill effects. Even Connor needs an occasional nap, though certainly not every day unless you want him to stay awake until well past midnight. But no naps for anyone was turning into a big disaster.

You know . . . the excessive whining that lasts for the last three hours the kids are awake. Or doing things like falling asleep standing up at the pool table or even sitting down at the dinner table. Or the extreme irritability where every little affront turns into a major meltdown. These are the days when my three toddlers don't take naps.

So, we are still working on our "schedule," trying to figure out something that works for everyone. Mommy likes to sleep in, but has conceded sleeping in until 9 or 9:30 a.m. may be too much, especially in light of the oldest attempting to potty train. She is working toward an 8 to 8:30 wake-up time, which seems to be in line with Connor's internal clock. The twins are still like Mommy, laying in bed until after 9 doesn't bother them, but then they fight taking a nap until almost four, when you absolutely don't want to put them down (unless you like to be awake all night). So I figure if I get them up just a little earlier, then I can put them down for a short nap just after lunch and then have them in bed by 9 p.m.

This is what we're trying right now. But as with most parenting issues, it's absolutely a work in progress.

Saturday, March 29, 2008

When Brother Is Away . . .

When Connor is away, Xander will play.

As I mentioned earlier this week, the little guys didn't seem too impressed with their little Thomas trains that the Easter Bunny brought them (you know, the five dollar travel size ones), so we added them to Connor's collection.

Well, it seems Xander has more expensive tastes, as he's fond of Henry and Gordon, two of the engines that cost $20 (each). He picked them out this morning to bring downstairs (Connor is gone today with Uncle Luke up to visit the aquarium, so we thought it was safe to allow him to play with them). And these are the same two that he had a death grip on a few nights ago when Cousins Katie and Josh were watching the little guys while Mommy and Daddy were out for dinner - the ones I found the next morning clutched in his hands again.

OCS (Only Child Syndrome)

Some children want constant attention from those around them, while others are most content when they are simply left alone to play in their own little world. With three kids, including one set of identical twins, we are constantly amazed by the small differences in their personalities.

Connor falls into the first group. He loves attention, and will go to great lengths to secure it. He is full of energy, and rarely stops doing or talking. If someone comes over to visit, he is first to tug on their hands and try to pull them into the floor for a game or to play toys. If someone he knows comes over to visit, he is first to volunteer himself to go with that person when they leave. He always wants to be included and cannot stand to be left out of anything. Just the other day, he cried terribly when Sawyer went on his first special afternoon with Grammy. You see, Connor has always been the one to go on those trips, the one who LOVES to go on those trips.

Sawyer is definitely in the latter group. He likes to be left alone to his own world. He likes to dance without interruption or distraction in front of his favorite movies. He likes to stack blocks or line up cars without brothers messing things up. He doesn't particularly like to be held anymore, unless you're helping him over the baby gate into the office - his favorite area of the house. And he will usually come to see who is visiting, but he is yet to be impressed by other people.

Xander is a bit of a mix. When Mommy is holding or doing something with one of his brothers, he will usually come over and want a quick hug or kiss, but then he's content to go back and play on his own. And then there are times when he will bring you a toy and want you to play with him, whether it's rolling a truck or pushing beads back and forth on the beaded rail toy. He likes to see what's going on and be included for a moment, but does not usually care to stay for any length of time. He will come see who visitors are, but does not particularly engage with them.

And both of the twins can spend hours playing side by side with each other (not so much with Connor, who cannot help but torment them as most big brothers surely do). They don't usually interact with one another either, but they can coexist peacefully, possibly because it's all they've ever known. But there are moments, usually when they are going down or just waking up from naps, when you can stand outside their bedroom door and hear what sounds like conversation - not in a language you or I could understand - but that back and forth volley of sounds and even the occasional burst of laughter from one after the other has said something. It's adorable to watch, but you have no idea what's really going on.

Connor, on the other hand, probably remembers some of being an only child, though he was but 14 months when brothers came home. And he's certainly had lots of weekends away, with just him and the grandparents, and lots of days away with just Mommy or Daddy for company. I wonder if having been an only child, even for a short time, is what fuels his need for attention, his constant activity and chatter, or if it's just a character trait he was born to have.

For those who are wondering, Josh and I also joke that our puppy has some of the OCS, since he was truly the first baby of the family. He came along several years before Connor and was spoiled terribly, especially by Mommy who had never had a puppy before. He's definitely a needy puppy - whining when he's left out, especially when visitors come, wanting to be included every time you get in Mommy's truck, always wanting someone to rub on him, and pouting when he's been excluded or neglected. But don't worry - he's definitely not abused. He gets near-daily walks, lots of play time and tummy rubs, good food with table scraps, pepperoni treats, has his own climate controlled room with a doggie door and even a ceiling fan during the summer.

Friday, March 28, 2008

Photo Flashback

The Brothers Elam - Sawyer, Connor and Alexander. (March 20, 2006)

Attachment Issues

All the books and magazines tell you that your child will most likely have a special toy that they cling to for comfort and support. I think they call it a "lovey," but the term just sounds ridiculous to me. Our boys haven't really shown attachment to much of anything, save Connor and his trains lately (but that's more of a want than a need issue).

Connor has had a few things that we've seen in this special light, things that we think help him sleep or that we think will make him more comfortable on nights away from home. First, there is the fleece blanket we've always used with him - it matched his baby crib bedding, so it was navy blue with white and red stars. He slept with this until sometime late last year, when he finally learned to sleep under normal bed covers and it was put away. We still take it on overnight trips a lot, but he doesn't ask for it if it's not there. We even purchased two in case we lost one, since that's what the books recommended (since we've managed to hold on to it, it's simply been convenient to be able to wash one and leave one out). He also had a little blue Carter's "Baby's First" bear that he loved, but it eventually got replaced with an even softer plush dog. He still sleeps with this one, though he doesn't seem to mind when he gets lost under the bed or doesn't make it into the overnight bag when he's visiting with either set of grandparents. So he doesn't appear terribly attached to any of them.

The twins seem to be attached to nothing. They have several sets of baby blankets (most are gifts from the family shower my mother-in-law and Josh's aunt finally convinced me to have). They have never liked sleeping with them and usually toss them on the floor before you can get out of their rooms at night. Even on overnight trips away from home, they usually toss them around. And this past Christmas, Josh and I tried to introduce a plush toy, since Connor seemed to like sleeping with his. They sit on the dresser in their room, never touched except to be tossed around just like the blanket if you put them in their bed.

Perhaps all Sawyer and Alexander need to feel comfortable is each other. We've yet to separate them for any length of time (other than the occasional mixed up nap schedule), and would probably be a little hesitant to do so at this age. They have never been apart. They eat every meal right beside each other, play in the same rooms all day, and are usually cuddled up next to each other every night. They share the same full size bed and have resisted any of our attempts to place one of them in the other full size bed that's also in their room. And last night, when I checked on them before bed, Sawyer was laying curled up with his head resting against Alexander's stomach. Both were sound asleep and practically laying on top of each other. They didn't look comfortable to me, but they were sleeping peacefully and seemed totally fine with it.

Today, for the first time, Sawyer is going to spend the afternoon with Grammy and Pappy. They have long been wanting to treat each of our kids with the special days and nights that Connor has long enjoyed, but even Grammy is a little afraid to traumatize the twins too much by keeping one overnight. I think Sawyer would be okay, but I don't know. I'm neither a twin nor someone who speaks their language (just yet). We'll keep taking it day by day, trying to figure out what works best for each of our boys.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Everyone's a Critic

Another rainy day. What better way to spend it than curled up on the couch with a good movie and some popcorn? Okay, there are probably better, more educational ways, but with three little boys sometimes this one is the least noisy and least annoying (I mean how often can we crash trucks together, really?)

Our children, we've noticed, have very discriminating tastes when it comes to movies. They love to watch them, but only certain ones. It's actually quite amusing, especially Sawyer. If it's a movie that he likes, like Toy Story, he will stand in front of our very large 65" widescreen television and dance for the entire hour and a half. Sometimes he stands, but most of the time he dances and waves his little arms in the air.

And we've discovered that they're not fans of "old school" animation. Put in Disney classics like The Little Mermaid or Jungle Book, and they do one of two things - start whining (really annoying) or they walk away to their play area (fine by me, they probably watch a little more television than we like). I will grant you that The Little Mermaid might be a bit girlish for three little rough and tumble boys, but what about Jungle Book. It's got jungle animals and adventure. My kids are unimpressed.

Pixar rules. They love the two Toy Story movies. They really, really love Cars, though we've seen it so many times it's not quite as magical, even to them, as it once was. They're huge Chicken Little fans (Sawyer dances throughout all of this one). Ratatouille, A Bug's Life and Finding Nemo are not big hits, though Connor will watch them at times. Monsters, Inc. they watch, but they cover their eyes during the "scary" moments and sometimes lose interest. The Incredibles, which Connor loved as a toddler (and saw a lot of right after the babies came home), doesn't do much for them anymore.

DreamWorks is kind of hit or miss. They love the Shrek movies. They're huge Open Season fans, though Connor is tired of it and always says "Not Boog!" (one of the main characters). Madagascar is okay, but doesn't usually keep them there for the whole movie. Shark Tale was a no, none of the boys will watch it. And Over the Hedge was only interesting the first couple of times they saw it (the opening scene still terrifies the little guys with the big, mean bear). And as for Mommy, she despises the fact that DreamWorks feels the need to make their DVDs where you cannot fast-forward to the main menu - you must scan through each preview individually (and there's usually at least three of them).

Another random favorite is Hoodwinked from the Weinstein Company, and Mommy is a big fan of this one too, as far as animated movies go. Ice Age and Happy Feet were definite misses with our boys, as was Disney's The Wild.

In fact, there hasn't been a real hit with them since Cars came out. Our most recent selection (from the Easter Bunny), the Bee Movie by DreamWorks, didn't go over well either. Connor sat through it, but he will watch just about anything that's new at least once. Only time will tell if he wants to keep watching it. Of course, with Connor, there's nothing better than watching a little Thomas the Tank. Everything else is just second rate.

The twins would disagree, they prefer Teletubbies as well as anything, though a few Pixar movies might top their list. It's hard to know, since they don't speak. I have to judge on how much they dance right now.

Have I mentioned how glad I am that the weather is starting to improve? I can't wait to get all of us outside and into something other than the television.

Big Boy Adventures

With three little boys, I am constantly amazed at the turns of their minds. Connor recently graduated to being allowed downstairs by himself in the morning while Mommy is getting brothers up and dressed (usually about thirty minutes). We finally got that double-key deadlock that allowed me to be comfortable leaving him downstairs alone for short periods of time. You see, he's friendly and prone to opening the front door any time someone rings the doorbell or knocks, or at least he was until the installation of this wonderful device. Now Mommy has to unlock it with a key.

So now he's safely downstairs in the morning, usually watching whatever educational show happens to be on PBS, drinking a sippy cup of milk and munching on dry cereal. I actually used to let him sit at the table enjoying cereal with milk, since he loves eating like a big boy with a spoon and cereal has been his new favorite good group of late. But after a few rather large messes that stretched from the dining room to the living room and everywhere in between (imagine a milk trail, if you will, with a few big puddles scattered around), that had to stop. Apparently he liked eating and walking and playing at the same time. So dry cereal returned.

But how quickly he's lost even that privilege. Imagine my surprise when I came down one morning to find another milk mess when I had only given him dry cereal to begin with. But of course, I had given him his usual sippy cup of milk. And these are good sippy cups, with three boys you have to find the ones that don't leak at all, so he didn't just turn it upside down and get milk to pour into the cereal bowl. What, you ask, did he do? Simple, he took a big gulp, held it in his mouth, and then spit it into his cereal bowl. He did this repeatedly until it was full of milk and cereal. And with no spoon, because who needs a spoon for dry cereal, he had to make due with his fingers. So there are not only milk spills everywhere, there are wet and sticky fingerprints all over the place too.

Welcome to my world.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Brothers at Play

The day has finally come. Connor spent about 15 minutes playing with Alexander today. And not in the typical, here let me chase you around and torture you kind of way, that usually ends with Connor either sitting on top of him or Connor holding a blanket over his head trying to smother him (fun, right?). That kind always ends in Xander crying and Connor running away screaming (because he knows he's about to get in trouble).

Today, the boys actually played together. They rolled one of their trucks back and forth across the room for about fifteen minutes. Connor was even being nice about it.

"Come on Xander, roll it over here," he would say. And imagine it in the sing-song voice you use to a small child, because that's what it sounded like. Apparently all the "big boy" talk and praise associated with potty sessions has gone to his head.

But what truly put a smile on my face while watching them, was the fact that Xander was smiling and laughing with Connor when he did. For once they weren't at odds with each other, where one is happy and the other is not.

And ever the polite child, Connor kept saying "Good job, Xander!" when he would successfully roll the truck back across the room. If it didn't make it far enough, Connor would walk and get it, then walk it over to Xander and tell him to "Try 'gain."

Where was Sawyer during all this, you ask? In the office, of course, organizing markers and pens. And I'm NOT joking. I think he would stay in there all day, if you let him. Perhaps he'd like to get our tax stuff ready for us?

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Black & Whites

For those who haven't noticed, I love black and white photos. And since we haven't been taking the kids to get professional photos as often, I've taken to creating my own snapshots to hang up around the house. I recently redid our "photo wall" at our house, because the ones hanging up have been up there forever. I picked some of my favorite snapshots of the kids at various ages and turned them into black and white portraits, and thought I would share them here for those of you who don't get to visit us at the house very often . . .

Do you know which one I am? (Sawyer)

How about me? (Xander)

And me? (Connor)

Me? (also Connor)

Splashin' in the water bucket. (Connor)

Layin' around (Xander back, Sawyer front)

All smiles. (Sawyer)

All smiles. (Xander)

Splashin' with Daddy in the ocean. (Connor)

Hangin' out. (Xander and Sawyer)

A New Favorite

With tax time just around the corner, Josh has been spending a lot more time at home doing office work and trying to get our papers in order to meet with the accountant. And he has a new best friend and office assistant.

Our middle son LOVES to play in the office. He particularly likes to play with and organize some markers we keep in one of the open desk drawers. Because our little OCD son is so consumed by playing with these markers, he's actually no trouble to have in the office with you. He doesn't play with stacks of papers or color on desks with Sharpies, not like big brother Connor, who's been known to do such things.

So, the last few days, Sawyer has been allowed into the office for hours at a time while Daddy is working. And he simply plays with his markers, occasionally nudging Daddy on the leg when he wants him to help him stand them up on their ends (he's not very skilled at that yet). But all in all, he's spent hours "helping" Daddy without getting in the way, and he loves it.

And he loves Daddy even more for letting him inside. He's started reaching his arms up for Daddy to pick him up now, instead of Mommy. Perhaps it's because he thinks they might be going to the fun place, but we tell ourselves it's because Daddy is the new favorite (at least until tax time is over)!

Monday, March 24, 2008

Quoted & Noted

"No, No, Baby! No touch it. Mine. My truck. My nandies!"

It doesn't really get much clearer than that, now does it? Connor, sitting on the couch and watching Sesame Street this morning, noticed that Xander had found "his" truck and trailer with candies on it, and even though he (Connor) did not want the candies at that moment, brother was absolutely not supposed to have it either.

Clearly we are giving Connor too many candies for all of his successful potty trips. He loves getting them out of the wooden dispenser, but often doesn't want to eat them right then. He tries to save them for later, but brothers are usually good at finding where he's "hidden" them.

Just another day in the life . . .

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Snapshot Sunday, Part II

The Easter Bunny came to visit this morning.

Snapshot Sunday

The OCD games we play - Sawyer lining up his HotWheels cars.

Another Fun Trick

As if dancing on the dining room table wasn't bad enough, my twins have now discovered a new annoying thing to do every (and I mean EVERY) single time Mommy has to leave the room. It's especially fun to do while Mommy is spending quality "potty time" with big brother.

Now, my little angels like to push a dining room table chair (one with the tall booster seat in it) up to the back of the couch, which conveniently enough, happens to be right next to the light switches and the wall remote that controls the ceiling fan in the living room. You see where this is going, don't you?

So, typically I come back in and find two little boys up to no good. One is up in the chair (standing) and the other is holding on to the chair (for support, perhaps). And this is a somewhat fancy fan - it has two lights and several different fan speeds all with their own special button on the wall remote. Usually, the up light and the down light are both on, and the fan is turning at the highest speed possible. Good fun.

Of course, part of me secretly wonders who's garage door is going up and down with their mischief. You see, occasionally in the evenings, the down light just magically turns on and we're guessing it's on the same frequency as a garage door for someone nearby, since it happens at almost the same time every time it occurs. Even better fun!

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Thomas on the Brain

If you didn't know him better, you might think my three-year old has some sort of speaking disorder. Tourettes comes to mind, in that it's often quick, random bursts. The fact is, in the last few months, he's become quite the chatterbox. He talks and talks and talks, whether anyone is listening to him or whether he's just having a conversation with himself (or any imaginary friends he might have made up).

Here's a little sample . . .

"Thomas. Percy. Toby. Rusty. Salty." A moment's pause. "Harvey. Cranky. Henry. James." Another pause. "Molly. Emily (pronounced Am-ah-lee). Rosie." And usually ending with, "Gordon's pullin' the 'spress!"

The child definitely has Thomas the Tank on the brain. If we're getting a DVD out of the cabinet, his first response is always "Watch Thomas?" If we're in a store and we see toys, "Onnor's Thomas?" When we're getting ready for bed, "Thomas?" Because, you see, we must have all of our trains in bed with us before we can sleep. Sounds comfy, right?

So I guess it's only natural that these short burst of speech are also about Thomas. You see, they are all characters in the movies and the books. And Connor knows them all by sight. He even likes to tease you, by telling you it's one engine to see if you will agree so that he can tell you you're wrong. "It's not Am-ah-lee, it's Mol-lee!" And we have to draw out the correct name, as if to say "Duh, how stupid are you?"

Perhaps I'm wrong to want my twins to start speaking. They're already fascinated by the "special toys" in Connor's room (we keep them there to stop the kicking and screaming and fighting that erupted the ONE time we tried to ALL play trains). Alexander runs in there every morning on his way downstairs. Will they be as into it as Connor is? And guess what the Easter Bunny is bringing each of our boys tomorrow - more Thomas stuff!

When I officially lose my mind one of these days, I'm sure I will be found on the back steps rocking back and forth and whispering, "Thomas. Percy. Am-ah-lee." and other assorted train names.

The "Potty Sessions"

Perhaps it's just me, because I'm new to the whole potty-training game. My oldest, who turned three last fall, is just now starting to train (and pretty successfully, so far). The two-year olds are no where near it since they don't really speak yet. But I am constantly amused by the conversations that occur during our "potty sessions" together.

(CAUTION, somewhat vulgar children's potty language follows.)

Here's a typical session, and by typical I mean here's pretty much what happens every single time:

"Onnor go pee-pee in the potty." This is my signal that a potty session is about to begin. Sometimes he volunteers (especially when brothers are getting too much attention from Mommy), but more often than not I have to ask, "Does Connor need to go potty?"

"It's hard." I'm not sure what genius decided little boys needed a button fly on their pants, but my son doesn't think too much of it. It is indeed too hard for his little fingers to do. Of course, the snap fly is not much better, so maybe it's just him.

"On." He always acts like he wants to leave his pants and big boy underwear on when you sit him on the potty, but it quickly turns to "Off." This, I'm sure, will be lots of fun in the public restrooms.

"No shirt wet." Mommy told him this once, because his shirt was hanging too low, so now we must say it every time as we hike it up almost to our neck!

"Onnor go pee-pee. Good job Onnor!" We must announce when we start to pee, we must congratulate ourselves, and we must talk in the third-person.

"Nandies and soap?" We must have our priorities straight - candies for the good job and then soap to wash our hands. He doesn't get things his way on this one, and besides, we still have some work to do.

"Wipe off the weenie." I have no idea where this one came from, but it must be done every time. I think he misunderstood that Mommy was getting toilet paper to wipe off the toddler potty seat, but he loves to play with the toilet paper roll and has taken to doing this every time and then throwing the paper in.

"Flush and let go." At first, he had a bad habit of holding down on the flush handle, so we had to learn to let go. Now we must say it every time. It's usually followed with a "Bye-bye, paper!" or "Bye-bye, potty!"

"No hurt the weenie." To my eternal shame, this is one of his new favorite words, and I'm not even sure where he heard it from in the first place. It didn't start with Mommy, I assure you. But he's taken his favorite word and yet again confused something Mommy said and turned it into this mantra. It was actually, "Be careful, close the lid easy so it doesn't hurt you." It became "No hurt the weenie." Your guess is as good as mine.

"Good job, Onnor." We must congratulate ourselves yet again, in third person.

"Soap." Squirt enough soap to wash your entire upper body onto one little hand, then rinse it off before it's done any good. This is how he views "washing your hands." Mommy is working with him on getting soap, scrubbing and then rinsing with just a little water. Baby steps, right?

"Onnor's nandies." Yes, he finally gets his candies.

What's really fun, is we go through this about 10 times a day. Going potty is apparently all the rage with my three-year old son. Full attention from Mommy? Check. No brothers allowed. Check. Playing in the water. Check. Nandies. Double check. What could be better?

Friday, March 21, 2008

Take a Stand

Finally, something that my middle child (by all of two minutes, I know) is passionate about! Sawyer is like his parents, laid back to the extreme. If brothers steal a toy, which is pretty often, he usually just kind of shrugs it off and finds another one. But, we've finally found his weakness - foam blocks. Our little OCD child had several meltdown moments today, most notably when his twin brother tried to steal two of "his" stacking blocks, and also when big brother came over and unceremoniously knocked over his tower of stacking blocks (about five high, all on his own).

There was screaming. There were tears. And there was even a little hitting and kicking and toy stealing. Alexander didn't know what to think when Sawyer walked up and stole the blocks right out of his hands, it's so out of character for him. Connor was shocked that Sawyer tried to hit him when he knocked his blocks over. Part of me knows it was a little bit of the situation and a lot of the rough transition we're having this week on sleeping schedules, but it was still fun to watch. Sawyer took a stand.

We also get a big kick out of watching him stack and organize the blocks (like the photo above). He loves to put them all in a nice, neat straight line. When I get the blocks out, he immediately starts organizing. Alexander always wants two long cylinder blocks to wave around, and also has a big time kicking them everywhere. Connor, the "older" brother, likes to kick them too, but today had a big time pretending they were trains from the Thomas the Tank series by lining them up and telling me who was pulling the express (Henry or Gordon, I'm sure). They even had to go potty with us a time or two.

Best $25 gift card we ever spent at Toys 'R Us (thanks Aunt Kelly for their birthday gift card!)

Although, picking them up at the end of the day - all 100 of them - is difficult for the OCD mother. They have to be stacked and organized to fit back into the plastic carrying case, and one's still missing (the same tiny yellow one that always ends up missing). And that's driving me crazy!

Photo Flashback

Connor with the Easter Bunny. (April 2005)

Hiding Out

How do you know when my three-year old has done something that he KNOWS is wrong? Well, it's quite easy actually, you simply look underneath our pool table.

You know, that really big toy in the front room of our house that no one ever uses as it was intended, which more often than not is covered with preschool toys. In fact, right now it's covered with a shake and go race track and several assorted cars, trucks, trains and even a few airplanes. Good luck shooting pool on it, unless shooting a truck in the corner pocket counts.

But I digress. It's actually quite amusing to watch Connor do something wrong, then run across the room and slide underneath. Apparently he thinks that you either cannot see him or cannot get to him to deliver the punishment he knows that he deserves. Usually, this is reserved for his more sever offenses, you know - hitting your little brother for no reason, or stealing his toy just because you can (not because you really want it), or worse, for screaming after Mommy has told you several times to play a little quieter. This one sometimes draws the most severe time out, because it wears Mommy out.

So, if you see Connor under the pool table, you can make a pretty safe bet that he'll soon be sitting in his time out chair. I'm surprised he hasn't just started running there instead. It would save us all the time and trouble of having to carry him there kicking and screaming instead.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

A Day at the Park

Finally, a nice day of sunshine has come to our part of the world. And, conveniently enough, Grammy didn't get called in to work today at the hospital, so she came over to visit with us for a while. We decided to take advantage of the break in the weather and take the boys over to the local neighborhood park.

Connor, though a bit confused at first, was thrilled to be going to visit the slides. You see, he gets confused when you mention the word slide, thinking that you mean the large inflatable bouncy slide we have (thanks to some credit card reward points). But once he realized which slides we were going to, he was extremely excited to be going!

The little guys have not had much park time yet - the difficulty of taking three little people with only one set of hands (or even two, at times) can be intimidating to say the least. But they made it today, and did pretty well. Alexander had a big time crawling up and down a set of block stairs and then found a stick and a piece of grass that amused him most of the afternoon. Sawyer played a little while with Mommy on the see saw and then fell asleep in Mommy's arms. But that was expected, since he woke up not feeling too well this morning (translated - he got sick all over him, his chair at the table, the neighboring chairs at the table, the floor and Mommy!). In fairness, he did seem to be in better spirits after some of Daddy's Sprite was put in his sippy cup, so Mommy thought a little fresh air might help.

Connor played on everything - the slides, the see saw, the swings, the little digging machine. You name it, he tried it, at least once. Xander liked the block stairs the best, but once the stick was found, all he cared about was poking it in the holes of the play equipment.
It was a nice afternoon. Warm sunshine, though still a little cool with the wind. Lots of slides and swings and sticks to keep little boys occupied. Some nice adult conversation for Mommy, and some much coveted Grammy attention for the boys. And, of course, the requisite trip to McDonald's on the way home for lunch (Sawyer will get his for dinner!). Is it summer time yet, because we're definitely ready for it!

Quoted & Noted

"Mommy socks?" asks my very smart and inquisitive three-year old as he points to my bare feet.

"No socks." I tell him.

"Onnor socks." he says, pointing to his rather dirty (once white) socks.

And off he goes to do something else. But a few minutes later I notice that "Onnor's socks" have disappeared. When I dare to ask him about this, he looks glaringly again at my bare feet and asks, "Mommy's socks?"

Clearly this is one of those "Do as I say, not as I do" moments. You see, I cannot stand to wear socks, even in the dead of winter when the laminate wood floor is freezing and when I'm taking puppies out to potty in the rain and / or snow in flip flops. I'm one of those people. I had tried rather hard to wear socks this winter, even going so far as to purchase some cool striped slipper socks from Target (one of my favorite stores). But at the first signs of spring, I ditched them and haven't looked back even though it's turned cold and wet yet again.

Clearly my son has noticed and is (unfortunately) following my lead. And to my eternal shame, Alexander has started the same bad habit as well. I've tried to keep their socks on them, picking them back up and even going upstairs to get new ones after they somehow manage to get the original ones wet (are they chewing on them or what?). But at the end of the day, I just give up and put them in the hamper with the dirty bibs and let it go.

If they all get sick again, I'll have to kick myself with my own bare feet.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

A Different Kind of Kiss

In a recent post, I mentioned that two of my three boys give very special kisses. Connor is the affectionate but quick "Gimme hug, gimme kiss, see you later!" variety, and Xander is the wet, sloppy open-mouth kiss on the lips kind. Sawyer, I thought, was just a big clutcher and not much on kissing.

Well, he's informed me differently. His kiss is a bit different, it's the kind that involves teeth and hurts. Though I think he has all of his baby teeth in already, he seems to be in another biting phase. The stretch of skin between my neck and shoulder has long been a favorite spot of his to mark (and it's not a light nip, either, if you were wondering).

Well, yesterday brought a new version - he leaned in like he was going to give one of the big hugs Mommy likes so well, and instead took a rather large and nasty bite of Mommy's cheek. It was swollen and purple for a few hours, and earned him a few minutes in time out. Seems like "Jaws Jason" may have some competition (for those who know our good cousin)!

What I've Learned

After three kids, you'd think I'd be more of an expert at this parenting thing, but that's not really the case. There are still moments when I lose my temper and moments when I have no idea what I'm doing. After spending a weekend with good friends who are expecting and who thought I might have some good advice to offer from my experience, I started thinking about what I might be able to share. Here are some of my favorite "lessons," in no particular order . . .

Strapped down. When kids are strapped into their booster seats (or high chairs or car seats or whatever), you can accomplish things that are otherwise extremely difficult. I like to cut my kids fingernails and toenails (something each one of them hates) after they've finished a meal at the table while the Teletubbies or some other children's programming is keeping them occupied. It's not like that floor is clean after the meal, so a few clippings aren't going to hurt. This also works for combing their hair (which my boys also hate). Sitting on the couch with a movie sometimes works too, but then you have to hold them down yourself.

Butt Paste. That one's just fun to say, but it also works wonders on a bad diaper rash. It's the big yellow box or tube at the store and it's made by Boudreaux. It's messy and stains (a light brown color), but it has cleared up even the worst rash (you know, the ones that are so bad they actually bleed). And for nighttime (which lasts about 12 to 14 hours in our house), we've learned that Baby Vasoline and cornstarch powder (not baby powder) works wonders on keeping the rashes at bay. Of course, our kids have sensitive skin that they've inherited from their mother, so other kids may not have this problem.

Dry Ears. This is the secret to a pleasant bath with our twins. They do NOT like to have their ears wet, more particularly, they despise having their ears submerged in bath water. So we've learned to put just a small amount of water in the tub, enough where we can lean them back all the way without water going into their ears, so that we can wash and shampoo easily without screaming and flailing arms (and getting drenched ourselves). Connor, our water baby, likes lots of water and doesn't care about his ears getting wet, so this one never applied to him.

Shots. Everyone dreads taking their kids to the pediatrician for shots, and it happens a lot the first few years. I'll pass on my pediatrician's advice - give them a single dose of Tylenol a few hours before they come in. It helps with the pain and the crankiness. My other learned tricks include taking slightly hungry babies (especially really young ones), and sticking a bottle (or nipple) in their mouth just after the shots. Eating (at least with my boys), trumps all other needs and hurts. With older kids, I'm a big fan of suckers. Sticky, but no more tears. And you can always wash the clothes and the stroller seats.

Colds. We've used a couple of things, including Infant and/or Children's Tylenol (our kids love this one) and Children's Motrin (our kids spit this one out). Both seem to make them feel better, but absolutely nothing works better than Baby VapoRub on stuffy noses (though we did use Little Noses saline drops as infants, per our pediatrician's recommendation). VapoRub smells terrible, poor things (and poor you if you're rocking them), but it helps them sleep through the night, and who isn't in favor of that?

Eating Out. Perhaps one of the most dreaded things for parents with several toddlers is eating out at a sit-down restaurant. Our trick, other than inviting grandparents or other adults to help even out the ratio, is a well-stocked diaper bag. This includes canned fruit (which our kids love) and empty Gladware to pour the excess juice into (and also any leftover fruit, though that rarely happens), plus goldfish or snack crackers. We usually try to keep them amused while we order and wait for the food to arrive, otherwise they will finish eating and return to their wild and crazy selves before we even take a bite, and then no one (including those around our table) enjoys their meal. We also hide the juice until the end, or they will certainly drink it all and not want to eat anything. And if all else fails, we also always have fruit snacks and DumDum suckers. Sticky and messy, but at least quiet. And besides, that's what you pack the extra wipes for, right?

Car Trips. Whether it's a 10 minute ride or a 2 hour ride, we've found that keeping one special "car seat toy" in the truck for each little guy can work wonders. For us, it's little Tonka Chuck trucks. We certainly have enough that leaving these in the car is no real loss at home, and the true trick is that the kids cannot take them in when you get where you're going. They have to be left in the seats, otherwise they'll get lost (and yes, this was learned by experience, when Connor lost his coveted Thomas the Tank engine somewhere).

Shopping. Though I don't recommend it often, certainly not if you need to get a lot of things, you can shop with a toddler. The trick that has worked for me, usually on grocery trips to Wal-Mart, is to go the toy section first and pick up a small item (under $5 is usually my rule, but a $1 HotWheels car also works too) that Connor can hold while we shop. He knows that we must leave it in the box until we get out to Mommy's truck, but is relatively content to hold it while Mommy shops for what she needs.

Car Diaper Bag. With three kids, sometimes getting ready to go is half the battle. I used one of the freebie diaper bags from the hospital and just loaded it and kept it in the car. It has a few diapers, re-sealable wipes, butt paste, unopened juice bottles and sippy cups, fruit snacks and suckers, and $20. Grant you, mine is bigger than most people's, because I have to pack for three toddlers. But I just keep it in the cargo area of my Tahoe, and any time I'm running errands in town, I don't have to worry about putting a diaper bag together or making sure one is fully stocked. The one in the car always is, because any time I have to use something out of it, I bring it in to the house, restock it and return it. When our kids were smaller, I did have an extra outfit for each (usually the ones I liked least and our kids didn't wear often), but thankfully that time has passed.

Nice Outfits. If you're going somewhere, say Easter dinner with the family, you can never get the kids dressed before they eat. They will ALWAYS get something on the very nice dress shirt or pants, no matter how many bibs they are wearing or how far up you have pushed the sleeves. Leave them in their pajamas, feed them, and then get them ready to leave. I promise it will save your sanity later.

Stains. Kids are extremely messy. We have taken to buying the really large Shout that has a three foot extended nozzle (found at Sam's). It's relatively inexpensive and works wonders on everyday stains like food and candy. It can also be sprayed on as soon as you take the clothes off, thrown in the hamper and washed whenever you want. It won't discolor the clothes. Spray-n-Wash, which is my best for tough stains like ink or marker, works well but must be washed within five minutes or it will take the color out of the clothes and leave a light spot on the clothes. General soaking with warm water and laundry detergent also helps on big messes, like leaky diapers or potty training accidents and doesn't make your laundry room smell like pee!

Basic Bibs. When our kids were really small, I loved buying all those cute baby bibs that said things like "World's Greatest Grandma" or "Future Slugger" or whatever. They were adorable, and many matched well with little outfits. They don't look quite so good stained with squash or other baby food. These are best used for babies who are on the milk only diet. When they advance to food, put away the cute ones (except for teething droolers) and buy some basic dark colored ones. It will save your sanity and your money.

Clearance. When kids are small and grow one size each year, this works really well. Not so much when they slow down on growth. But, I've had pretty good luck with buying clothes at the end of each season in the next size up. I get really nice name brand clothes at half the price or less, so I can buy twice as much (not what my husband would like to hear). Of course, I am not above paying full price for one or two really cute outfits that I fall in love with, because you absolutely know they will not be around come clearance time.

Roomba. This is our robot vacuum cleaner. Love this very expensive little item. For about $300, you too can clean your house without lifting a finger. It works pretty well on our laminate wood floors, but is a dream come true for our carpeted bedrooms upstairs. I just put it in a room, close the door, and leave it for half and hour and my vacuuming is done. Nice. You just move it from room to room (it will do about three before you have to charge it back up), then empty at the end of the day. It's so nice to clean upstairs while I'm downstairs with the boys, or to clean downstairs at night while we're all sleeping (you can program it just like the dishwasher!).

Sippy Cups. With three boys, we often have problems with someone stealing someone else's cup. So I went out and bought enough cups so that each one has two exactly alike - this is their cup and no one else's. That way one is always available, even if the other is in the dishwasher. And, it helps me know at quick glance if someone has stolen someone else's cup. Connor's is green Shrek, Sawyer's is green Lightning McQueen and Xander's is red Lightning McQueen.

Special Toy or Movie. There will eventually come a time when you absolutely need to get something done or have a telephone conversation or something where you need the kids to be good for a little while. It used to be breastfeeding a baby with a toddler (Connor had a wooden puzzle then), and now it's amusing two toddlers while the oldest has "potty" time. You have to save a special toy (blocks at our house) or a special movie (depends on the kid) that isn't overused. It has to be something you can pull out that the kids think is special because they don't usually get to have it. It will save your sanity, I promise.

Time Out. Sometimes your kids will drive you seriously crazy and they need a time-out. Connor's been getting one for quite a while now, and the little guys are just starting to use it. They have to be able to know the difference between right and wrong for it to truly work and it has to be in short increments at this young age. And sometimes, parents are the ones in need of a time out. I'm a big proponent of parents time out. My sister-in-law used to find it hilarious that I would talk about sitting outside for five minute intervals on the steps (the back ones, otherwise your neighbors will think you're crazy). And I absolutely would. Just put your child (or children) in a safe place like a crib or swing or even a child-safe room, and take a break. It's much better than screaming at defenseless children who are probably just tired or hungry or a little of both. Kids definitely aren't the only ones who need a little time out every once in a while. As the kids get older, even some "quiet time" in their rooms with books or other quiet toys for an hour or so (especially once they give up afternoon naps, like my boys have just started to do) will work wonders on keeping everyone in the house sane.

Help! If you need it, at any point during your child rearing days, ask for it. There are probably grandparents or friends or other family members just dying to watch your child (or even two, or, if you're really lucky like us, your three) for a few hours. Go to a quiet movie, go out to eat or just go anywhere that doesn't revolve around children. It will save your sanity more than you can imagine.

And finally . . .

Never Say Never. If someone had told me I would be taking my three boys out to Sam's once a week by myself, I would have laughed in their faces. I most certainly would not be taking three little people anywhere by myself, thank you. Well, sometimes you just have to. The first time I took them, the twins were probably about four months old, still in carrier car seats. I was dying to get out of the house after a while and we were in need of more diapers. I told myself I just had to try it and see how it went. Hundreds of trips later, it's working just fine. You live, you try, you learn. Some things work, others don't. I've taken the kids to more things by myself than I ever would have imagined - three boys to get shots, three boys to Meijer for groceries, three boys to the baseball field to watch their cousin play. You just can't be afraid to try or you'll never know. It sure beats going to the grocery at 10 p.m. after everyone is in bed when I'd rather be spending time with my husband or just unwinding myself, or worse, spending all of your days trapped in your house with little or no adult interaction!

So, that's my "expert" advice. Take it for what it is, one mother's tips (or tricks, depending on your frame of mind) for staying sane during the early years with three little boys. Any future thoughts along the same lines will be labeled Lessons Learned.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Say It Ain't So

Though blessed with late sleepers, I think the day has finally come when my two-year old twins are ready to give up their afternoon nap (their big brother gave his up long ago). Of course, they usually get 12 to 14 hours of sleep each night, so asking for a nap on top of that just seems downright greedy. Connor, alas, was also early to give up his midday nap.

I've seen it coming for a while. They will go down for a nap still, but if they do, they don't want to go to sleep until midnight. And that just isn't going to work. So, there goes another small piece of Mommy's sanity. I wonder how much is actually left now?

Potty Sessions

Another first today, for our big boy who's finally (thank goodness) beginning to potty train. Today was our weekly trip to Sam's for the grocery essentials (you know, those seven gallons of milk and two loaves of bread we go through every week). So Mommy had a dilemma - to let Connor go in the big boy underwear we've been experimenting with for a few weeks, or to put him back in the safety of a pull-up. He's still not fond of going number two on the potty, so this could be a little dicey.

Since it's usually only about an hour and a half trip, Mommy opted to try it out with the big boy underwear. We went potty just before we left (okay, about thirty minutes, since it takes at least that long to get everyone changed, into shoes and jackets and buckled into the truck). Then we made our trip to Sam's, stopped to fill up the truck with gas, and made the mandatory stop at "Donal's" for our fries and nuggets (and they were out of ice cream, of all the nerve - no chocolate shakes today!).

On the ride home, Connor begin mentioning potty, so we rushed him inside as soon as the garage door closed (babies were still in the truck, you see) and got him started. And my big boy even ushered me out the door this time, saying "Onnor do it. Babies get out."

Where did that come from? He usually wants Mommy to sit in the floor with him and make the "psssss" noise to help him potty. Apparently he's progressing, because by the time I got brothers inside, strapped into booster seats, and snacking on their french fries, he was flushing and washing his own hands. By the time I came in, all that was left was to get "nandies" from the candy jar.

"Onnor go pee-pee. Good job, Onnor!" he tells me, as I put the candies into his little hand and he walks out.

Of course, he was still naked from the shirt down. Perhaps we need to work on not being such an exhibitionist while we're learning to potty. Yes, he - the boy who likes to stand in his bedroom window absolutely naked in the mornings while waving at passing cars - definitely needs some work on that!

Monday, March 17, 2008

Another Thing that Saves My Sanity

Almost all of us value the importance of family relationships, but few of us recognize the importance of our relationships with our girlfriends. Very much a tomboy growing up, I am perhaps later than most to appreciate these friendships. Most of my companions were boys - my cousins, my brother and his friends, and my boy pals in high school.

It wasn't until college and work that I truly made some lasting friendships with girls, and it wasn't until babies came along that I realized how little value I had placed on them. Always a little too independent for my own good, I wasn't one to socialize much. A few girls night out dinners here and there, a girl movie or two (Matthew McConaughey anyone?), Ally McBeal night with friends, or other little moments. Now that I'm at home surrounded by five boys (yes, I count the dog), I appreciate them all so much more. They are one of the few things that saves my sanity in a world dominated by toddlers.

This weekend, I was in West Virginia, where I drove several hours to attend a baby shower for my first-year college roommate and one of my best friends from college. That random computer selection certainly knew what it was doing - even though we don't see each other nearly as often as we once did (we live six hours apart now, instead of 15 minutes), it's still a relationship I value. And even the friendships formed at early jobs and late in college when we got into our specialized classes, which have scattered one just an hour across the state, one just across town, one in Pittsburgh, and another as far away as Denmark (check out her fun blog These Choices). And then there's the group of girls (and a few guys) I got to know and love at my last job, before babies became my full-time job. And all of us have busy lives (several even have a baby, or two, or three), but I still value the relationships we have - even if it is just an occasional e-mail or a phone call every few months.

As our lives have moved in different directions, we've even picked up new girlfriends to add to the mix. People who live closer. People who attend things with our kids. Or even people who work with our spouses. Life changes, it keeps moving forward. But never forget the important people in your life, even if their roles have changed because of time or distance or circumstance. Keep sending those e-mails and keep calling every once in a while. Remember how important girlfriends are in your life. It will make both of you smile, I promise.

I'm still smiling after my fun weekend, even as my three little boys remind me (rather loudly) that I am back at home and have another role to play for a while.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Snapshot Sunday

Pool tables make great race tracks, and brothers make good play buddies (most of the time). Sawyer in jeans. Xander in khakis.

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Quoted & Noted

"Onnor ouchie. Chair hurt. Mommy kiss ut butter?"

Who could resist such a request? Of course, Mommy stops what she is doing, leans down to the aforementioned ouchie (Connor's right ear, which he hurt a few days ago by falling out of one dining room table chair directly onto the corner of another with said ear), and begins to kiss it. Note the word begins, because before I even get close to him, I am assaulted with . . .

"NO TOUCH IT MOMMY!" he tells me in the loudest voice possible. "Hurts," he says, a little more calmly.

Ah yes. Two conflicting principles for my three-year old. All ouchies must be kissed better, but things that really hurt cannot be touched at all. So, what we've learned is he'd like a nice little air kiss at a safe distance or a kiss on top of the head. Either one will get you a satisfied . . .

"S'butter." And then off he goes, back to playing or whatever he was doing before. Until the next time his ouchie crosses his mind, and then we start back at the beginning.

Life with a toddler. There's rarely a dull moment, but there seems to be a whole lot of repetition.

Friday, March 14, 2008

Photo Flashback

Connor at 4 months. (March 07, 2005)

Five More Minutes

Though one of the lucky ones, blessed with children who are usually willing to sleep late and stay in their rooms until about 9 a.m., today was not one of those days. At shortly before 8 a.m., my oldest decided it was time to wake up. Like normal, we heard him in his room, rolling his Thomas and Friends trains in the window sill and having pretend conversations with himself. Normally this can last for an hour or more before he gets impatient to be free. Not today.

Of course, this would be the day after Mommy went out with some old friends she used to work with on a girls night out, when Mommy got to bed later than usual and then had trouble falling asleep because her twins were still wide awake well past midnight and playing (loudly) in their room. And it would be on a day when it's raining and dreary outside, when Mommy's room was nice and dark and she wanted nothing more than to curl into the covers and sleep for another hour.

No such luck. My advanced child, who's progressed over the years from kicking the door (as his brothers still do), to banging on the door with both fists, to politely knocking on the door, has developed yet another technique. First, he starts by calling out "Mom-mee? Mom-mee?" in that sing-song way that is questioning whether Mommy is indeed outside the door somewhere or even in the house. And then, when all patience is lost, he finally resorts to, "Open door, Onnor 'wake!" and says it over and over and over again until someone comes to get him up.

I can't wait to remind him of this in a few years (probably high school), when he's the one ready to sleep in and begging for five more minutes. Rise and shine kiddo, Mommy's 'wake and it's time to go!

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Signs of Spring

Perhaps I'm expecting too much when I take my toddlers outside to play, but I was surprised at how little they seemed to enjoy it yesterday. After being trapped in the house for months by cold and rain (lots and lots of rain), I was thrilled to see the sun and semi-warm temperatures. My kids, a little less so.

Connor has always been an outdoor kind of kid - he loves to go out and play "colors" on the sidewalk (translation - make messes with chalk) or ride his PowerWheels car in circles for hours. He loves to take Buster on walks or play rings with him in the yard. He's happy to go out and kick a soccer ball around or throw a football with you. And we won't even discuss his love of swimming in the small backyard inflatable pool here - there isn't nearly enough room.

So then there's my two-year old twins. They're excited to go out the sliding glass doors on the deck, and seem pretty excited just to be out on the deck even. But you walk them down the stairs and into the fenced side yard and close the gate behind them (we have separate parts of the yard for the kids and for Buster, just for our sanity, though we do let Buster in to play with us when we're outside). Both of the twins will kind of walk around for a few minutes, examining the newness, then they inevitably turn and look for Mommy. Then they proceed to follow me around with their arms held up, wanting to be carried and taken away from this horrible place.

These surely are not my children. I love to be outside, especially in Spring and Fall before the humidity kicks in. I grew up at the lake, camping and swimming and hiking and enjoying being outside. I loved spending afternoons reading under the big shade tree or in the back yard swing, and sometimes riding the three-wheeler I shared with my brother around our five-acre yard. Perhaps the city's not quite as condusive to such things, but I still loved the first signs of Spring and the chance to get outside.

Sawyer, perhaps sensing my dismay at their lack of enthusiasm, did condescend to kick the soccer ball around with me for a few minutes. Alexander even followed Connor in a little game of stomping on the what little snow and ice remained in the shady corners near the fence. But then the arms inevitably came back up. Even Connor kind of looked at me, like "Okay, this is enough."
Time to go back inside. The TV is waiting to make us dance, and blocks are waiting to be organized.

Perhaps I didn't love the outdoors much at their ages either, so we'll keep trying. A little less TV, a few more adventures . . .

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Who Are You Again?

Sometimes my oldest son is such a contradiction that I just look at him, and feel like asking, "Who are you and where is my real son?" Connor, he of the "Mine!" and "No touch it!" and "Onnor's (insert any toy we own here)!" varieties, has developed a new trait lately that amazes me.

As I've mentioned before, we're bribing the poor child into potty training - M&Ms are in a candy jar in the bathroom. He is three and a half already, and it actually seems to be going pretty well with the bribery. He's even in big boy underwear during the day this week with no accidents (so far, knock on wood). But the amazing thing is that he's started SHARING his candy with his brothers after each successful potty session.

No, you didn't misread that last statement. It's like I said . . . "Who are you and where is my son?" Now grant you, brothers only get one M&M each, and Connor usually ends up with two or three (the dispenser usually grants anywhere from three to five per pull), but still.

Five minutes later, everyone is back to playing and the screaming starts all over again. Alexander has tried to take one of "Onnor's" trucks, which isn't going over so well with Onnor. "No touch it, baby! It's mine!"

Ah, there he is again. I almost lost him for a second.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Tasty Treats (for Later)

7:30 p.m.

This is how you know our kids are tired. After an early dinner, Josh and I loaded the kids up in the truck to get some tasty treats (milkshakes from Steak-n-Shake - thanks Grammy and Pappy for our giftcards!).

Sawyer was asleep within five minutes of driving. Connor held out until just after we pulled away from the drive-thru window. Two out of three were sleeping. Neither of the two wanted to wake back up when we got home, even Connor who had witnessed the chocolate shakes and said "Onnor's shake!" just before passing out. Alexander was the only one who got a taste before it went into the freezer - tomorrow's treat apparently (and he wasn't happy about that, in case you were wondering).

It's the thought that counts, right? Besides, now Mommy can sip on hers (and actually get more than one drink) and watch American Idol in peace! There is a reward for making it through the day with no nap time after all.

Kisses & Hugs

Perhaps one of the sweetest moments for mothers and their children are when they learn to give kisses.

Connor, my oldest at three, has been doing this for a while. He used to do it only at prompting, like, "Connor please give hugs and kisses, Grammy has to go." But here lately, he has turned the tables on us and is almost always prompting us. It's nothing to hear "Mommy kiss. Mommy hug. See you later!" from him dozens of time each day. Or if someone is leaving (or he's ready for them to leave), he'll usher them to the door and give a quick hug and then kiss and tell them see you later (and try to slam the door on them for good measure). He's equal parts sweetness and attitude.

But in the last few weeks, Alexander has started to give real kisses too. He used to just kind of lean in and slobber all over you, which was cute in its own little way. But now, he leans in and kisses your lips. He's especially likely to do this when he's feeling tired and therefor more cuddly than usual, which means he's also usually sucking his thumb and actually has to pull out his thumb, lean in, give you a kiss, and then put the thumb back it. It's quite adorable. I much prefer this version to the screaming one I talked about earlier this week.

Sawyer is not in to kissing. He's into clutching and being carried around. I do get nice big bear hugs from him though, especially when I'm trying to leave the house. You know, the "No, Mommy, please don't go, I love you so much and I swear I'll be good if you'll just stay with me!" clutching on for dear life kind of thing. Also cute, at least some of the time.

Three boys, three very different little personalities. I can't wait to see the many other surprises they have in store for me.

Monday, March 10, 2008

Clean, But Not For Long

There was a time when my home was spotless. Ask anyone. It looked brand-new from the day I moved into it until the day I moved out of it. It actually bordered on the crazy side of clean (OCD does that to a person). That was the house I lived in during college, by myself. Several things have changed. I got married, got a cute little furball puppy (who turned into a cute but very large and hairy dog), and then we started having kids. Sometimes it's surprising that I even remember what a clean house looks like.

Today is Monday, the day I typically clean the floors in my house. But I'm beginning to wonder why I even bother. It's not like anyone, myself included, gets to see them for very long. Typically, I'll set the kids down in front of the television with some Teletubbies or a Pixar movie (because long gone are the days when they all actually took a nap together), and start with vaccuuming up the countless dog hair and crumbs that cover our laminate wood floors. Next, I get out the soap and water.

It takes nearly two and a half hours to clean the entire first floor (all wood laminate, of course - what was I thinking?) When it's done, I usually take a wistful look around and think how nice the house looks for a change. Toys are put away; there are no drool marks or muddy pawprints; the dusty boot prints are gone; and no sticky unknown substances glare mockingly back at me. But I know it won't last.

In fact, it takes only seconds to make it looks just like it did before. The puppy is let back in the house (even after getting a dose of the vaccuum pet brush to suck the loose hair off of him). The kids are released from their seats, and the crumbs just start to appear. They must hide in the folds of their clothes or something, because the crumbs appear without even feeding the kids. And then, worst of all, is the first meal at the table after cleaning. Oranges or pineapples are dropped, juices running everywhere. Or sticky marshmallows fall out of busy little mouths poking them in much too fast. Or chips, my kids' favorite food group, crumble between bites.

For the first day at least, I usually try really hard to clean the mess back up, getting down on hands and knees with a wet dish towel to wipe up all the crumbs and juices and stickiness. As the week goes on, my motivation loses a little something. It's absolutely a losing battle. Three kids. One dog. A husband who works in construction. Clean is not something that will be happening in our near future.

But the good news is, I wouldn't trade a single crumb. Those boys are priceless (and yes, even the big hairy puppy is included in that).

Little But Loud

Being the youngest brother must be hard. At least you would think so, to hear Alexander tell it lately. Though he doesn't speak, per se, he definitely makes his opinion known and heard. He's developed into a little screamer of late. We're not sure where it's coming from, but we're definitely hoping (and trying) to make it go away.

For quite some time, he's been the more assertive one. If Connor tries to bully him, he's first to shove back or scream at him (Sawyer is more likely to walk away and do something else). But Alexander even quickly learned that screaming when brother took a toy meant Mommy would come in to set things right. And lately, his response to just about everything that doesn't suit him is to scream. Sometimes it breaks all the way down to screaming, tears and flinging himself onto the ground kicking and beating the ground with his arms. Tantrum, anyone?

And what's not good is that sometimes it erupts not from someone taking a toy he has away, but simply from someone having a toy that he wants, and he wants it RIGHT NOW! He clearly has some of Mommy's patience and anger management issues.

Of course, I should have expected this of the child who kicked me non-stop the last two months of my pregnancy. And the child who quickly stuck his fist up in the air on the operating table during my c-section because the doctor delivered Sawyer first (my obsetrician still jokes with me about this when I go in for annual visits - apparently it's not all that common).

Looks like we're in for a wild ride with our little man.

Sunday, March 9, 2008

Snapshot Sunday

"Try again!" Connor loves playing this game with Daddy. Every time he sets him down, he says "Try again!" Sawyer likes it too, as you can tell, since he's dancing at his feet with arms held up.

Connor's World

With new words and phrases popping up every day, I cannot begin to document them all. Here's a sample of the ones that have amused me this week . . .

  • "Onnor's pups" (translated "Connor's chips). For some reason he always has trouble with the words that end in "P" and they usually end up beginning with the letter instead. This one gets both.

  • "Pullin' the 'spress!" (translated "Pulling the Express!"). And while this is usually prefaced with Gordon, as previously documented, it's sometimes prefaced with Henry or James, and here lately, "Onnor" - when he's riding around on his Lightning McQueen truck and pulling another little truck behind him.

  • "Donal's" (translated "McDonald's). Only last week he didn't know this one as anything but "Fries!" But this week he's learned the name, and he says it every time we get in Mommy's truck.
  • "Hush!" (no translation needed). This one he likes to shout at his brothers. Clearly he's picking up more bad habits from Mommy.

And finally, my favorite one of all . . .

  • "Good job, Mommy!" he says, also patting me on the back of my leg (since that's as far as he can reach right now). You see, Mommy cannot go to the bathroom downstairs without three little sets of eyes peering underneath the two doorways - usually with little hands and fingers also sticking underneath begging to be touched. On this day, Connor decided to congratulate me afterward, for going potty. Sometimes I'm not sure who is training who anymore!

Saturday, March 8, 2008

Saturday Night Live

It's nearly 9:30 p.m. on a Saturday night. Once upon a time, Josh and I might have been out eating at a sit-down restaurant or even catching a movie. Who am I kidding, we were more likely curled up on the couch with a rented movie after some takeout. But that was a long time ago . . . before three little boys and one giant puppy took over our life.

Tonight I'm learning an important lesson, several actually. (1) You don't sleep in until 10 a.m. with three children under the age of four who are also forced to sleep in (or at least rest in). (2) You don't put your children down for late naps after you've made them sleep in. (3) You absolutely don't let them sleep for nearly five hours on said late naps. Needless to say our kids are still awake and wild tonight because we broke all three of the cardinal rules above. I won't even begin to mention the fact that tonight is "Spring Forward" and they will probably be up earlier than ever in the morning!

And bed time still seems a ways off at the moment. Sawyer was only recently standing beside me organizing pens and paper clips, before he touched the forbidden fax machine and was banished (as he was trying to send a fax to who knows where since I heard the dialtone pick up and then automated dialing). Now all three of them are dancing around Daddy, who's trying to enjoy a late night snack (strawberry ice cream). Probably not going to happen, but at least they're quiet enough to hear the basketball game now. The trucks have stopped rolling and crashing, between bites anyway!

A Little Humor

When I started this blog, it was with the noble and selfless idea that I was going to be sharing interesting information about our kids with people we know and love but don't get to see often enough - the little details that often get lost in the day-to-day that is our life. However, I've come to realize that I enjoy blogging probably even more than most of you enjoying reading it. I miss writing. I miss being creative and productive. So today's Non-Sequitor comic strip (above) hit home. And though I don't think think I ever would have stood on the streetcorner shouting the information you find here, I hope it's at least fun to read!

Snowy Saturday

We woke up to quite a bit of snow this morning, at least for our part of the world. There was probably four inches (more in the drifts), and Buster had a big time outside playing in it this morning. Though it was cold, with a bitter wind, so even he didn't want to stay out too long - and he loves the stuff!

The kids are too young and have seen too little of it in their lifetimes to care much about it. Connor woke up saying "Snowin' outside," but was soon distracted once more by trucks and trains and Toy Story! Perhaps if it warms up tomorrow we may venture out before it melts, but probably not today. We're too practical to own things like snow boots for three little boys when they outgrow shoes every six months and we get maybe one good snow a year. Not to mention that a house full of sick little boys is still too fresh in my mind to risk the exposure.

We were actually supposed to travel today - to the other side of the state to visit with my Grandmother for her 92nd (I think) birthday dinner with the extended family. It was cancelled yesterday, when the snow started falling early there, and everyone decided it was best not to attempt it. Connor was to have gone home with Grandma and Pa for a few days, but since he's too young to understand the concept of "tommorow" or even "later," I hadn't told him yet. There's no disappointment for him, only perhaps for Grandma and Pa who might have been looking forward to a little boy running around their house and disrupting their normal routine (and little brothers who would have been glad to have the toys and Mommy to themselves for a few days too!).

So it's turned into just another Saturday, albeit with a lot of snow. We slept in until almost 10 a.m. then enjoyed a big breakfast of pancakes, sausage and scrambled eggs. (And yes, for those who are wondering, Connor is still a little eating machine - nearly two pancakes, two pieces of sausage and quite a few eggs too, all after a small bowl of dried cereal and two full sippy cups of milk to start the morning.) Now Josh is working (yes, even in this mess, though he's at least inside, laying wood floor at a house with heat). The boys and I are here, wondering what our next snack will be and which movie will best entertain us on this cold afternoon.

Friday, March 7, 2008

Photo Flashback

For Buster, who turns 5 next week, shown here right after we brought him home. He's gained about 150 lbs. since this photo - he was 12 lbs. when we got him! (April 27, 2003)

Quoted & Noted

"Good job, Onnor!"

This is what our oldest son now tells himself, usually after he's successfully gone pee-pee on the potty. Apparently it's not enough for Mommy and / or Daddy to say it after he does something well, because he's had to take to saying it to himself.

Sometimes I think some of the funniest moments of our lives come from our "potty sessions," which is good since I have two more little boys who'll (hopefully) one day soon be doing the same thing.

Thursday, March 6, 2008

Thomas, Part II

After documenting Connor's obsession with Thomas the Tank just yesterday, last night only made it that much more clear. Our good cousins, Katie and Josh, offered to come over to watch the boys so that Josh and I could have an evening out.

We don't do much on these occasional escapes, usually just a bite to eat at a sit-down restaurant that doesn't have chicken nuggets or playlands, and then we run any errands that need to be done. Last night was no exception. We went to Applebee's for dinner, then stopped by a couple places Josh needed to go for work, then finally drove across town to visit the local Toys 'R Us (we had gift cards, you see, from all the money we spend on our Babies & Toys 'R Us Mastercard). We also stopped for ice cream on the way home - DQ, if you're wondering, chocolate malt for Josh, strawberry sundae for me.

We apparently like to torture ourselves, because at the store we picked up two more Thomas the Tank trains for Connor - the really expensive ones, because we like the wood set best (they make them all - wood, plastic, die-cast metal, you name it, they probably have it). One "Gordon" (one of the larger trains) was $20 alone. The smaller "Harold" the Helicopter was only $10. You would not believe the amount of stuff you can buy (or the price tags attached to some of the bigger items). Someone is clearly living it up on the obsessions of little kids.

(We also picked up a set of color foam blocks for the little guys, since they're both big into stacking and organizing right now, lest you think we were neglecting our other sons in the gift card redemption!)

So we come home with the new toys, and the boys are of course still awake and playing, so we get the Thomas the Tank stuff out, assuming this would be the safest option. I am not crazy enough to open a large new set of blocks that close to bedtime - mass crying and screaming would surely erupt. Well, it did anyway. You see, Connor thinks of the trains as being all his. Brothers are not allowed to look, much less touch, the trains. Even though there were three present, it did not suit him that we wanted everyone to share. He already had his "Henry" that he had brought down from his room. We let Xander have Gordon, because he was the first one to come running. Sawyer got Harold. Connor broke down in tears and could not be consoled. They did not stop until he was safely in his room for bed, with all of the trains tucked in beside him - Thomas, Henry, Gordon, James and Harold the Helicopter.

Clearly, we are just punishing ourselves now . . . because you know there will eventually be an Emily, Molly, Rosie, Toby, Harvey, Cranky, and on, and on, and on . . . (there are at least 50 total)! Ah, the joys of childhood, right?

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

The Thomas Obsession

"Gor-ton's pullin' the 'spress!" (which translates roughly to "Gordon is pulling the Express!")

We hear this phrase about fifty times a day in our house right now. It comes out of no where, usually has no context, but can be heard at all hours of the day. Sometimes it is said as Connor rides his Lightning McQueen truck while pulling behind another truck (he's somehow managed to rig this up to work without having to use his hands, just attaching two toys that were not made to go together to actually work together). More often than not, it's just a random phrase that he says.

For those of you with small little boys, I will caution you in the same way one of our friends did us (and we were too stupid to listen, sorry Ryan, you were right!) - do not willingly purchase any Thomas the Tank merchandise if you can possibly help it, at least not until your son starts to ask for it. Because once it starts, it becomes an obsession that never seems to end.

Any time we watch a DVD, Connor always wants Thomas. "No watch (whatever you pick), wanna watch Thomas!" he will shout. And I'm not sure whether to be upset or overjoyed, but we lost one of our Thomas DVDs yesterday. Daddy, who was watching him while Mommy was doing some office work, swears Connor said "Onnor do it!" which he took to mean that Connor usually puts the DVDs in the player. He does not, at least not when Mommy is around. So Connor did it, and snapped the DVD right in two. No more Thomas and the Treasure at our house. Of course there are at least three or four others.

And if he isn't watching Thomas, then he wants to "read" his Thomas books that he got for Christmas. Or if brothers happen to be sleeping, he may even be lucky enough to play with the wooden train set and battery-operated Thomas that was a long-ago birthday gift.

We won't even begin to discuss the trauma that ensued when we stopped letting Connor bring his "Henry" and "James" trains downstairs from his room. You see, he must have them to sleep with him each night and during any nap times, and we used to let him bring them down to play with during the day too. But brothers are not allowed to touch them (at least according to him), and there was a little bit too much screaming and too much hitting going on involving the trains. Brothers are not yet fascinated by Thomas other than they are relatively novel new toys, so they stay safely in Connor's room (for the moment, I'm sure the day is coming when we will have three of every train imaginable). Heaven help us!

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Everybody Say Dancin'

Now that the weather has forced us back inside, the television is once again on more than I would like it to be. We try to limit the kids to PBS programming (no commercial breaks, just sponsorship messages between half hour programs) and one movie a day (sometimes more, depending on temperments and the weather, and what Mommy is trying to accomplish around the house or the home office that day).

Much to my dismay, there are three happy little boys when the television comes on. Connor always wants to watch Thomas (or Henry, or James, or Gordon or one of the many trains that make up Thomas the Tank and Friends). His brothers are not such big fans, so it only comes on when they're napping. Xander likes certain movies, but isn't a fan of the shows on television (except Teletubbies, which all of our kids love).

But of the three, Sawyer is by far the biggest fan - shows or movies, it doesn't seem to matter. If he sees me move toward either the television (we keep the remote on top of it) or to one of the DVD cabinets, he stops whatever he's doing and comes running. The minute it turns on, he begins a strange little happy dance that has come to mean he's excited (the only other time you see it is when he manages to get into the office and play his favorite game of organizing pens and markers!). Now he gets a little more excited for some of the movies than others (right now it's the Toy Story ones, Shrek, Chicken Little, and Open Season), but the happy dance is always there in some form when the television comes on.

The above photo captures him in action, which is why it's so blurry. He hops up and down and swings his arms around, his right hand always coming back behind his ear and fanning out his long hair. It's quite amusing to watch. Clearly we need to find him a better outlet!