Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Water Babies



Sawyer might even like it more than big brother, which we didn't think was possible.



Although, he looks pretty happy, too!



And Xander was back to sleeping on lounge chairs again today!

Mirror Images



Connor and Xander having a big time running on the beach.

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Sand & Water







It's funny how one sensory thing can be so annoying and another can be so enjoyable. Sawyer had both experiences today, one right after the other.

First, we took all the boys down to play at the beach. Connor and Xander loved it - splashing in the water and running in the sand. Sawyer despised it, alternating between his "safe" island on the beach blanket and reaching his arms up for me to hold him. He did not like touching the sand, though he did cautiously pick up a handful and watch it fall - just once - from his little island. Any other time, he either cried or recoiled from the slightest touch of it against his skin. This from the boy who last year was picking up wet handfuls and slinging it with glee (as Xander eventually discovered today). Perhaps it was a bad day for the beach.

But, the pool, on the other hand, was an entirely different story. The boy absolutely loves the water. By the end of the day he was even tentatively swimming (I use the term very loosely, mind you) the few feet from Grandpa to the edge of the pool, so that he could jump in over and over again. He takes after Connor on that one. Even Xander has enjoyed the pool this time around, which is a big turnaround for him - he of the sleeping on lounge chairs at the pool last summer and crying at the sight of the indoor pool this fall.

So today was a sensory day for the boys. Connor loved every minute of all of it. Xander was pretty happy in either place, but probably happiest flinging wet sand on the beach. Sawyer was definitely only happy in the water.

Perhaps tomorrow he and Mommy will visit the pool again while everyone else enjoys the beach. Mommy's not much on sand or saltwater herself. Wonder where my quirky and cool little guy gets that from?

Monday, December 29, 2008

Snapshot Monday*



How much do you hate us right now? It's 70 degrees and sunny at the beach. Of course, it was cloudy and rainy yesterday, so there was no "Snapshot Sunday," if that makes you feel better!

Sunday, December 28, 2008

We Made It!

We left yesterday about 10 a.m. (late, I know) and made it to the beach late last night at about 11:30 p.m. The boys did relatively well, considering the length of the trip and the limited down time from the car seats. Ring pops, good snacks, and the portable DVD player saved the day.



Daddy and the little guys taking in the sights from our tenth floor balcony.



Connor standing in the COLD water!



And all of us (except Grandma, who doesn't swim and doesn't do pictures) in one of the pools.

So, we've seen the beach and the pool and all of the candy Grandma and Grandpa have in the kitchen. As far as the kids are concerned, that's pretty much all it takes for a good vacation!

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Away We Go



It's not enough that we bought the biggest Thule carrier available (three years ago, anyway).



We also manage to fill it entirely full to the point that it's difficult to close - and we add extra tie-down straps, just in case (mostly for added stability at 70 mph plus, but also to make sure it stays closed driving down the road)!

Think of us today, as we will be traveling from our house to the beach - a ten hour drive straight through, which is so not going to happen with three little people in the day time. By the time you add in eating, stopping for gas, and potty breaks, it will be an all-day adventure. We're joining Grandma and Grandpa (from the lake) on their annual holiday beach visit for a week.

We're as prepared as we're going to be - we have our portable DVD player, our diaper bag (unfortunately still a necessity), snacks, toys and a cooler inside. The car-top carrier does make the inside a lot more manageable and open, thank goodness (at least as open as it can be with three full-size car seats)!

Oh, and Mommy has packed her iPod shuffle, just in case the noise is too much to bear for that long. Daddy's on his own. I'm pretty sure he has earplugs. Who's ready for a road trip?

Depending on whether the place at the beach has wireless Internet, we may or may not be posting for the next week. If not, enjoy the rest of the holiday and we'll be back next year!

Friday, December 26, 2008

Oh, the Joy



Possibly one of the most fun toys ever (the boys version).

Possibly one of the most annoying indoor toys ever (Mommy's version).

There are 175 of them - yes, that's not a typo - one hundred seventy-five of them! And they are all over my house. Which on some days, like the days when we're sick of being trapped in the house and need a bit of novelty, when they're going to be lots of fun.

And then there is today, the day I am trying to simultaneously keep three children out of mischief (climbing the outside of the stair rail, dancing on the dining room table, tearing the couch cushions apart and building big slides (don't ask), keeping them out of the kitchen cabinets that they now pull dining room table chairs over to get to - so fun - and out of the freezer) AND get us all packed and ready for our trip to the beach tomorrow. Daddy is working today, so I'm in charge of all of that. Today is not a good day for the balls. Tripping over them every time I take a step is not my idea of fun, despite Connor's laughter at my clumsiness.

And the only reason they are downstairs in the first place is because we had the bright idea of putting them in the little guys room last night. Laugh if you must, but it seemed logical late last night when we were trying to finish cleaning up the house after guests, taking down Christmas decorations because we're leaving early Saturday morning, and trying to organize all the new toys and figure out where to put everything!

We decided to get the inflatable swimming pool out of the garage (the one that's coming in holes on the bottom from a puppy who shall not be named who enjoys "swimming" when no one is looking), and put it into the little guys room (which is huge and open without the extra full size bed these days). We put all 175 balls in there, fully expecting them to be scattered everywhere but inside the pool. But who cares, it's in their upstairs bedroom, where no one ever goes but the family. We thought it would be a fun, quiet toy to have in their room for them to play with in the morning when they're wide awake and the rest of us are still sleepy.

We didn't exactly get to test that theory. What we didn't realize is that they would be so excited by it at night that they wouldn't go to bed - until 11 p.m. when Mommy finally drug the thing out of their room, balls and all, and into the hallway! Sawyer had lined up all the green and yellow ones on their bed and was asleep in the middle of them all. Xander was still jumping around and tossing balls everywhere - at 11 p.m.! The pool is back in storage in the garage, and the balls are in their case in the pantry, reserved for "special" occasions, or at the very least days Mommy is not trying to do something as massively time-consuming as packing for vacation for a family of five!

Oh well, on the bright side, after their late night adventure both boys took a very early, very long afternoon nap. Mommy managed to get everything packed and loaded into the truck except the last minute essentials (on my list, for those who know me and my OCD-ness). And whether or not the naps will be a good thing the day before our all-day drive to the beach, well that remains to be seen . . .

Photo Flashback



In honor of our upcoming (tomorrow, if you're counting, as Connor is) trip to the beach. Here, little man was about eight weeks old on his first ever trip to the beach - and he slept right through it! (December 2004)

Thursday, December 25, 2008

The Big Day



Mr. Pitiful, after seeing that "Santa" hadn't wrapped their very small "gifts" - which would be some arts and crafts supplies that Mommy had stashed in the pantry and simply set out under the tree. Since Connor kept asking about "Santa" and being a "good boy," we decided he might like a surprise on Christmas morning. Apparently Santa is supposed to wrap them up next year.



Best inexpensive gift ever - balloons. Xander left (with his and Connor's balloons, since Connor was still sleeping) and Sawyer right.



Connor, Xander and Louie opening up a gift from Aunt Kelly - an outdoor soccer goal.



Connor and Sawyer opening the first gift of the day.



It's not a good day unless you're wrestling with your cousins. Connor and Ryleigh had a big time playing.

Merry Christmas!

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Christmas at Home

Today we celebrated the holiday with one branch of the family tree, and tomorrow will bring some from two different branches to our home to celebrate. It's so easy to get lost in the glitter and gold of the season (yes, that's even coming from a former marketing professional), but we are certainly glad that our children are learning that holidays mean family first.

The boys did remarkably well today in an unfamiliar house with a lot of unfamiliar (to them, at least) people. At the very least, nothing was broken! It was just a chance for everyone to get together and share a meal and some company. There were no presents exchanged, just words and memories and warm wishes. And those are the best gifts of all.

Tomorrow will be a bit of both, with people coming together for a meal and each other's company. We will also exchange gifts, mostly small things for the little people in the family and also the fun Secret Santa game where it actually pays to have the last number! But again, it will mostly be about the family coming together and making memories. It's a Christmas tradition for Josh's side of the family, and one we're happy to carry on.

Because the boys get so much from all the people who know and love them, Josh and I didn't even get presents this year (besides the Keepsake ornaments). The little guys don't understand, and last year our house was overrun with all the new toys that arrived from us, from Santa, and from all the other family members who enjoy shopping for little people. Of course, this year Connor has been asking about Santa, so Daddy may just have to stop and pick up one little something on his way home from work tonight, just so he doesn't think Santa has forgotten him.

But the big thing that our boys are getting for Christmas this year, is simply Christmas itself - a day to celebrate family and home and all the wonderful people and things we have in our life already. Here's hoping your Christmas is just as wonderful and memorable.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

A Little Bit about Quirky and Cool

Early this year, when I began to think that Sawyer was showing signs of autism, I started doing a lot of research. Mostly online, but I also picked up books at the library and the book store. At first, I'm sure I was trying to talk myself out of it. It was too ambiguous and too scary. But the more I read, the more I saw explanations for quirks and behaviors. It also helped me get more comfortable with his diagnosis when it came a few months ago. It still wasn't easy, but at least it made much more sense. And it's also been really helpful in terms of finding little ways to help make his life easier, or at least more enjoyable.

For instance, we've learned that he needs preparation for transitions. Turning a favorite program or movie off without warning is not good. Explaining that it's time to do something else, like eat or go for a ride in Mommy's truck, before it's turned off, is the difference between a meltdown and a reluctant agreement. Same for getting ready for nap time or bed time. Tell him about it while he's doing something else, then let him have time to finish or wrap it up, before you try to get him to do it. There will still be resistance at times, because he likes to do things in his own way and in his own time, but it's much better if you prepare him for what's coming next.

There are also some fun things. A lot of kids with autism are very sensory-oriented, and one of the things many of these kids like is pressure. Sawyer is no different. For quite some time now, he has resisted a traditional hug. If you tried to just walk up and give him one, he would push and pull away in an instant. His preferred method it to walk up behind you and wrap his arms around really tight and squeeze. But, having read and learned a little, I've come to understand that if I fold him into my arms and squeeze really tightly, he not only likes it enough to show that adorable grin of his, but it usually also makes him laugh! And, he's also started initiating these forward-type hugs (even if they are on his terms), which Mommy loves!

And as much as mothers enjoy just watching or gazing at their children, especially little ones, that can be difficult for a child who doesn't like eye contact. Sawyer has gotten much better about looking at people, albeit briefly, but he still hates continual eye contact. His eyes always dart away and back, and you can just see how incredibly uncomfortable it is for him. I've found a way around it for us. I love to look at him and have him look at me. So, during diaper changes (yes, they're still in pull-ups, unfortunately), I put my face really close to his. He actually reaches out to pull me closer, sometimes pulling me down for a kiss and other times running his hands over my face, much in the way I imagine a blind person might do to someone he or she knows and loves and wants to "see" well. He also rubs on my cheeks or sometimes squeezes (that pressure thing again). The key is that I have to close my eyes. I can't see him in a traditional sense, but I can feel him. And I can "see" his smile, simply because I know it so well, and I know that what I'm doing is making him happy.

Slowly but surely, we are making our way along this journey of his. We're finding the things that work and putting aside the things that don't. And we're enjoying every moment of watching him grow up and become the person he was meant to be, just as we are both of his brothers. With each step and each day, we learn just a little bit more . . .

Speech!



So, Xander apparently had an amazing speech therapy session today. We've talked about how much fun he's been having with letters and numbers lately, even saying them OUT LOUD, which is huge for him. He actually knows quite a few, which is impressive for a kid who doesn't really speak.

But back to today. He apparently engaged with the Miss Lisa for the entire session, also rare. He can be a bit stand-offish at times, depending on his mood. He also talked, A LOT. He said a few colors - blue, green and yellow - without prompting while playing with some toys. He also said letters while playing with the MagnaDoodle and with the little wooden blocks (both gifts from early Christmas at the lake). He even talked about his "car" and made it go "crash."

A lot of his words are still tentative and hard to understand if you're not familiar with him and what he's trying to say. Consonants usually drop off the end of words and whole parts sometimes get skipped. But, it's still a huge step forward for him. He's been largely non-verbal since very early this year, when his twin brother also slowly stopped talking.

Of course, the only down side is how obsessed he is with it at the moment. We want to encourage him, obviously, every chance that we get. But seriously, do I want to be stalked by a three-year old dragging his MagnaDoodle by the pen on a string? Because that's him right now, from the moment he wakes up until the moment he falls asleep. Trying to eat a meal, be prepared for it to be stuck under your nose (and probably in your food, if you're not fast enough). Playing with someone else (how dare you), then be prepared to have it shoved in your face and likely hitting at least one person in the head on it's way there. He's a tad bit insistent, to say the least.

But, despite the down side, it's still one of the best toys ever. He's actually talking again, for the first time in nearly a year, and that is nothing short of amazing!

The Winter Collection



Connor already has enough art work to fill one pretty good size Rubbermaid tote. And he's only in preschool . . . for about 6 hours a week minus holidays and special party days. Mommy is going to have to start taking digital photos and "keep-saking" that way, or our house is going to be taken over by his collection. Xander won't be far behind, he loves to paint already!

Monday, December 22, 2008

Up Close & Personal



A rare smile from Connor, who was surprised to find Mommy with the camera. He immediately jumped up and wanted me to "chase" him with the camera, trying to get a good shot. He definitely makes Mommy work for it these days.



I'm not sleepy, at least that's what Sawyer wants you to believe. He's alternately dancing and watching one of his favorite PBS shows, Super Why.



A rare in-focus shot from my constantly moving little man, Xander - and an even more rare smile for the camera. This was a little while after he got sick all over Mommy and the floor. Clearly he's feeling better.

Just another day in the life . . .

Too Much?

There was a time when I could put up each cute new phrase or thing Connor was doing. That time has long passed, as he comes up with something new practically every day. I will share with you one that I think is really cute and that he does on a regular basis these days.

Here lately, he's been grappling with the concepts of time and measurement. So today in the car as we're running errands for Mommy's freelance job, he's talking (as usual) a mile a minute. We pass the interstate, and he of course points out that it goes to Grandpa's house at the lake (south) and Grammy's house (north). And yes, if you're wondering, he always knows which one is which way, which is a whole other story!

We've slowly been talking about our upcoming trip to the beach, letting him know it was still a ways off but also preparing him for the fact that it would be soon after Christmas. Today he pointed south on the interstate and matter-of-factly told me,

"That's the way to the beach. We put carry-it (his word for our luggage carrier) on top of Mommy's truck, put in beach towels and shovel, and go that way to the beach."

"Yes, baby, that's right. We'll go soon." (And love how he has his priorities in order about what to pack!)

"When?" he wanted to know.

"In five days," I tell him, counting on my fingers to make sure I'm right. If I'm not, he will most certainly call me on it on that fifth day. I'm right, we leave Saturday which is five days away.

"We drive a little bit or too much?" he asks, in the only two measurements he knows. Everything we talk about lately is in those terms. Food items, how long until the next day of school, how much longer is left in a television show or movie, and, yes, how far we're driving in the car. There doesn't appear to be a "just enough" category, as far as he's concerned.

"It's a long way away, baby," I tell him. "We'll be in the car all day."

"It's way far away," he says, satisfied that he understands. "We drive too much then."

I'm sure he'll really think "too much" after 12 hours in the car! I know I will. Did I mention that the child never stops talking, ever? Because he really doesn't.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Snapshot Sunday



Our good cousin Katie getting ready to walk down the aisle with her father (Daniel). A beautiful ceremony, a beautiful day. And many thanks to Uncle Brian and cousins Austin and Kyndal for watching and playing with all the boys all day long so Josh & I could attend and enjoy!

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Taste & Smell

Let's just say that I really hope that our twins never get very sick. Because if they do, I have no idea how we're going to get them to take the medicine. Shots or IV, perhaps.

Both of the little guys have always been picky eaters, Xander even more so than Sawyer. New things are not good, and usually end up tossed across the table or onto the floor. Both seem a bit sensitive to smells, or least able to determine if something is out of their range of acceptable foods.

Medicine is no different. If it's not Cherry Tylenol, they're not taking it. And that's really not an overstatement. Berry Motrin, which is actually supposed to be better for small fevers, gets spit out on contact (every single time).

And don't even think about stronger prescription medication. During Sawyer's clinical evaluation about a month ago, the developmental pediatrician noticed he had an ear infection and prescribed some antibiotics. We filled the prescription and watched him spit it out about four different times. We tried hiding it in juice and milk and food, with the same result.

At our recent M&M adventure at the pediatrician, she thought both boys sounded a bit congested with those bad colds that are going around, so she prescribed a decongestant and cough suppressant combination. It's cherry flavored, and it still gets spit out. Last night and today, hidden in juice or food, it doesn't matter. They can smell it a mile away and won't go near it.

And I can't say that I blame them. I can smell it a mile away, too. But still, it would be nice if we could get them to take the things that will help them feel better and not be wasting money that could be better spent on other things. Like Cherry Tylenol, apparently.

Friday, December 19, 2008

The M&M Adventure

So, last night as I was getting ready to leave for a girls night with a few other moms in the neighborhood, we had a little adventure. Sawyer, who has never done anything with small pieces of food but actually eat them, decided it was time to try to fit a regular M&M up his nose. Sounds fun, right?

He did this, of course, as I was upstairs getting Xander up from his afternoon nap. I came downstairs to find him sitting on the couch (unusual in and of itself), with an rather odd expression on his face. He wasn't upset, but it was just a curious kind of look. And he was also attempting to suck a lot of air in through his nose, you know, as though something was clogging it. Thinking this was really odd, I quickly set Xander down and went over to check him out. He had red running down from one side of his nose. It appeared to be red M&M candy stain, which was the first bad sign. The second was that I thought I saw something inside his nose that looked like a hard white candy shell, you know, after all the red had run down his face. But by the time I could get the flashlight and the tweezers, whatever I saw was gone.

Realizing it would be useless to try to get something I couldn't see, I simply stuck the handle end of the tweezers inside his nose, trying to get a sense of whether that red was a little blood from either a scratch or random nosebleed, or whether it had indeed been red candy stain. The handle came back out with chocolate and red. It was also bleeding rather badly and continued to do so for about twenty minutes. And then . . . nothing. He appeared perfectly fine.

We decided an ER visit last night was unnecessary, as he was playing and breathing fine and even went to sleep without any trouble. We did turn the monitor on in their room for the first time in a long time, and he slept through the night and woke up in pretty good spirits this morning. There was a bit of dark mucus on the side in question, which made me wonder. We decided to play it safe and have him checked out by the pediatrician this afternoon.

Long story short, he appears perfectly fine. The pediatrician said it was extremely irritated and had a pretty good cut inside, which made her believe something had been in there but wasn't any longer - he either scratched himself getting it out last night or it had already drained through his sinuses. She didn't see anything with her magnified tool, and his breathing was good despite the congestion from a common cold that all three boys have right now - so we're just going to keep an eye out for any unusual drainage (dark green on one side only, is apparently the clue for a lodged object in the nose) and operate on the assumption that he's perfectly fine.

So, I was that mother today - the one who just couldn't be sure if her nearly three-year old had stuffed a piece of candy up his nose, and if he had, where it had gone to. At least we could bring a little holiday cheer to the pediatrician's office on a Friday afternoon, right?

Photo Flashback



Little Saint Connor, dressed in his Santa outfit from Grandma & Grandpa while visiting at their house. (December 2004)

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Letters Out Loud

Would you believe that one of my nearly three-year old twins actually knows some of his letters. Yes, that would be one of the very same twins who are largely non-verbal and who rarely use the sign language that they know and understand perfectly well. Those twins, but I digress . . .

Xander has been fascinated by letters and numbers lately. He loves to point at them, one at a time, and have you tell him what they are. We've been handed books and magazines and anything else with letters for weeks now, with that little stubborn (and insistent) finger pointing to things and that cute little face turned up in expectation. He does not like to be denied either, if you're wondering. His usual tantrum (angry sound and/or angry sign, and then running away to beat on something, like the door, in frustration) follows.

But, back to the progress. Today, we were sitting in our usual corner spot with Miss Kellie, who actually comes to work with Sawyer, and he was requesting his new favorite game - Mommy writes letters on the MagnaDoodle and then he points to them and Mommy tells him what they are (best gift ever, he says, with a big thanks to Uncle Brian, Aunt Andrea, and cousins Austin and Kyndal for his early Christmas present).

I mentioned the stinker mouthing the letters under his breath last time Miss April was over, but today with Miss Kellie he actually said the letters out loud! And they were mostly correct! He started with the MagnaDoodle, but actually did better with the wooden blocks that Sawyer got from Grandma and Grandpa at early Christmas. He said about 12 different letters as he picked up the individual blocks, only confusing the "B" and the "D" - which even Connor does at times! And when he got to one he didn't know, "W," Miss Kellie whispered it behind him and he actually repeated it! Letters and sounds - that are correct!

Of course, it could be fleeting, as many of his words are. He will say a complicated word or phrase once, usually under his breath or away from you, and then you cannot make it reappear. No amount of prompting, pleading or even bribing will work. He's stubborn and adamant in his refusal. But today he was vocal, receptive to encouragement and modeling, and even repeating things on request. He even asked for "juice" numerous times with the word!

Today was a good day . . . right up until Sawyer stuck the M&M in his nose. That story will come tomorrow.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Is It Nap Time Yet?

What time did you get up this morning? It's been a long time since I've seen the world before 6 a.m. - yes, long before sunrise 6 a.m. - but see it I did. Today was the big day at preschool - preregistration for next school year. According to the schedule, numbered enrollment forms were to be handed out beginning at 7:30 a.m. and then turned in - in number order - at exactly 9:15 a.m. If you wanted your first choice - either on days of the week or specific teachers, you had to arrive early.

It's kind of like the lottery for the local college basketball tickets, if you've ever done that. Only this is preschool. And yes, it's that competitive to get in. We called last summer and were wait listed, fully expecting to not get in. We lucked out, there was a lot of movement in the 3 year-old program, and Connor actually began on the second day of classes for the semester. The little guys, who we also wait listed, were no where close to getting in (which turns out for the best, since they will be eligible for early start through the local county school system after they turn three in a few months, but that's another story for another day).

Back to the wonderful (and therefore very competitive) preschool we have found that Connor enjoys and we are thankful to have him in . I arrived a few minutes past six and was number 20 in line. Number 20, an hour and a half before registration officially began! Though the first person in line wasn't telling (he said his wife told him not to, for next year!), he was probably there about 5 a.m. as best we can tell by talking to others in line ahead of us - they arrived between 5:15 and 5:30 a.m.!

Who would have thought, that for two-, three- and four-year olds, we would be standing in line lottery style for open slots at preschool - and this is just preregistration for existing students. Poor general public, they won't even get a chance until January!

And I make fun, but I would absolutely do it again. Connor loves his school and his class. We couldn't be happier with it either - everyone tells us what a great program it is and how much they're kids have enjoyed it. We can already see from the changes in Connor how helpful it's been for him. He loves to read, has discovered pretend play and gets to do so much I can't do for him at home with two little brothers to take care of too. He always talks about Miss Julie and Miss Crystal and the kids in his class. He would probably enjoy going every day if we would let him.

And we thought about it, pretty seriously, but then decided three days (MWF, instead of the TR schedule he has this year) would be enough. After all, this is the last year we will have him at home. Thirteen years and beyond of school will follow. Mommy wants a little more time to enjoy childhood with her big boy . . . you know, trips to the "boat school" children's museum downtown, to the park or the pool, even just playing at the house or going to lunch together. His little brothers will be going every day (if they don't mutiny), so it will give us some of that one-on-one time he craves so much.

So it's all settled. He's in the school we like and the classes we wanted for his final year of preschool. Hopefully we've picked the right balance of school and home time, since we're not sure how brothers will transition into theirs early next year. We'll cross that bridge when we get to it.

Now, who's ready for a nap? I know I am.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Lesson Learned

If you're like us, and you travel much with your kids (or you have one child who is the "have suitcase, will travel" with anyone child), then you probably have a kid's travel bag that's mostly ready. Not a diaper bag, but an overnight bag with essentials that other people (without small children) probably don't have at their houses.

The one we use for the boys is an old Clinique bonus bag of Mommy's (a nice boyish purple and orange, no less) that has worked out well - it includes essentials like wipes, lotion, baby wash, shampoo, toothbrushes and toothpaste, butt paste (best stuff ever), children's Tylenol, fingernail clippers - well, you get the idea. It's a toddler bathroom bag, so to speak. And that's where we keep it - under the sink in their bathroom - within easy reach when packing suitcases in their bedrooms or unpacking in the laundry room.

But it also comes in handy at other times. Like tonight, when Sawyer decided to fall dead asleep at 6 p.m. Have I mentioned that the boy fights sleep with every ounce of his being - all day, every day - until he just literally crashes. He started crying in the kitchen as I was starting dinner. I picked him up for a minute (maybe two) and started to sway a little to try to calm him down. And he fell dead asleep, eyes closed and limp in my arms. So off to bed he went - at 6 p.m.! Of course, he had been awake since before 6 a.m. Not out of his room, mind you, but awake none the less.

So, back to my lesson. That overnight bag comes in handy when one of the co-sleeping brothers goes to bed early. We keep most of the night time stuff in a cabinet in the little guys room, where it's in easy reach as we're getting ready in the morning and as we're going to bed each night. Rather than go in and hope Sawyer has not gotten his nap out (he's known to sleep a few hours and then be ready to get back up at, say, midnight), I can pull out the overnight bag from the bathroom and have everything I need to get Xander ready for bed in the hallway. Then all I have to do is carry him in to bed, get him settled, and sneak back out.

That's it . . . nothing magical, just convenient in more ways than one. It's there when Connor gets invited on a moment's notice for an overnight visit or when Sawyer crashes and Xander isn't ready for bed or Xander is taking an afternoon nap and Sawyer needs something from their cabinet.

Toddler Proofing

There was a time when I thought that I might be done "child" proofing my house at some point - you know, like when the boys were old enough to know better and to understand the difference between right and wrong. They're there in some ways, especially Connor, but not so much in others.

And some might argue that all this toddler proofing is only making it harder on them when they're not at home. It's a valid point, one I might concede. But, truthfully, as the one who spends as much as 12 hours each day at home with them (you know, pretty much all day every day), often trying to accomplish a few things here and there between meeting their needs and spending some quality time with them, well their everyday safety and my convenience is just going to win. Sorry.

Here are just a few of the things we've had to do recently, on top of all the gates and outlet covers and other safety features that have long been a part of our home decor.

Raising the light fixture over the dining room table. You know, the one Sawyer is notorious for dangling and trying to swing from - that one. Josh noticed after one of his swinging adventures that the light had actually come off of the base and was hanging up by only the bare wire, not even by the pretty, decorative chain that is supposed to support it. So up it went, pinned to the highest point where our little climber can't reach it (at least not yet).

Locking the refrigerator and freezer via bungee cord. It sounds and is ridiculous, but my quirky and cool little guy also happens to be quite determined. Trying to do something (anything) in another room is near impossible when he's determined to line up ice cubes on the counter. He apparently LOVES this more than anything, because it's the first thing he does when your back is turned (which just goes to show that whole knowing better theory). We also have a smaller problem of Connor helping himself to drinks - his milk cup is fine, but Mommy's Mountain Dew is another thing entirely.

Turning off the light and fan in the little guys room (as in the switch is now useless, and you have to have a large step ladder to turn on the light or the fan). Sawyer is not much of a sleep fan, and his newest trick is to climb on top of the dresser and play with the light switches - for hours, if you will let him. I know what you're thinking - just move the dresser. Well, we could, but the switches are low because of a half wall in that room and moving it will only solve half the problem. He can reach them standing up, without even going to tip-toes. So at 6 a.m. when he decides it's time to be up, he starts playing with switches. Sometimes it's 2 a.m or 4 a.m. You know, whenever the mood strikes him. Sometimes it's even fun at night, when he's not ready to go to bed and it's near midnight - which, of course, is not so much fun for Xander. And lest you think he's completely innocent, I must add that he also likes to play with them when he's not in the mood for an afternoon nap.

Removing the hanging blinds from the sliding glass doors. These things have been annoying since day one. The boys, even when crawling, have loved to play with them and pull them down. They're expensive to replace over and over again and no amount of hand-slapping or time-out really seemed to do any good. They're just gone, and we're not putting anything back up. Feel free to look in our windows at night - you'll see a wall and a staircase that rarely gets used.

Hiding the blind cords on top of the blinds and removing the handle to open and close them. Sawyer was driving us crazy standing on the dining room chairs and just swinging those handles back and forth, back and forth. Tell him no and send him on his way, and he would be back five minutes later. He loves that motion. So we just took them down, and now we twist the little metal hook at the top to open and close them. A little more work for us, a lot less annoyance on a daily basis.

Fruit snacks removed from the counter and put in the pantry. It was bound to happen sooner or later. Sawyer - he of the "have chair, will climb and get whatever I want" mentality - finally pulled a chair over to the counter and started pulling down fruit snacks. He can't open them himself yet (or we haven't waited to find out, anyway), but we decided the safest bet was to put them out of reach. It's also had the bonus effect of being out of sight, out of mind. Xander, who's known to request fruit snacks every 10 minutes with his adorable "eat" sign, has been a little less obsessed with them.

Sometimes I wonder what it would be like to live in a normal house again, where furniture isn't bolted into the walls and there aren't child safety locks on every cabinet. But, I also know that I like being able to do something in another room and not worrying about three rough and tumble little boys getting into trouble every five seconds. That's the trade off.

Snow Day



Who would have thought it - with kids four and under - that we would have our first snow day! With the rain and ice and snow of last night and this morning, Connor had his first snow day from preschool and the little guys had their first snow day from speech therapy!

Mommy is just thankful it was today and not tomorrow. Hopefully most of it will be gone by tomorrow, as that's the big day of preschool registration for next school year - you know, with early morning arrivals, waiting in long lines, numbering systems, and lots of luck trying to get your kid back into the school they (and you) love and into the class schedule (days of the week) that you want.

Good times . . . wish me luck!

Monday, December 15, 2008

Wet & Wild Adventure

With rain in the forecast all week and tons of things going on (the usual preschool and therapy routine with some miscellaneous pre-wedding stuff for our cousins Josh & Katie and some Christmas things, too), I decided today was my best bet to take the boys out for our weekly Sam's visit. We missed last week because we didn't need much, but we were down to our last gallon of milk!

So, I checked the radar online and managed to get us there and back without getting too wet. The only thing I didn't plan on was one of my little boys being too tired to make it through the trip. It was 11 a.m., but apparently it was still too late in the day for Xander. As I'm pushing the cart through the store, his eyes start getting heavy and closing. He falls asleep - sitting straight up in the cart! As we keep going, he starts leaning on Sawyer, who's none to happy about that and pushes him back over to his side. So, Mommy takes off her rain jacket (thankfully not wet) and makes a makeshift pillow on the push bar of the cart and leans him forward. He stays that way the entire time we're in there - about 40 minutes - and even stays asleep during checkout and when I pick him up and put him into his car seat in the truck.

He's still sleeping right now. As are all of the boys. Sawyer fell asleep while I was unloading groceries. You know, so I could actually get to the kids to get them out of their seats. Connor made it until after lunch and even tried to fight me on going upstairs (but was asleep in minutes). A long weekend at Grandma and Grandpa's will apparently do that for you.

Now, will Mommy sleep too, or will she work on one of the thousand things that needs to be done between now and Christmas? That's the question . . .

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Snapshot Sunday



Sawyer, trying to get one of the many things he wasn't supposed to have this weekend. Bright, shiny ornaments to line up were pretty high on his list - the ones in the glass bowl and the ones on the tree!

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Weekend at the Lake





Christmas comes early to the lake this year, before Grandma & Grandpa head to Florida for (hopefully) warmer weather - and where we will join them after Christmas!

Our family and my brother's family (Uncle Brian, Aunt Andrea, and cousins Austin & Kyndal) traveled to the lake to have dinner and exchange gifts a few weeks early. How nice is it that the Christmas tree overlooks the lake? And the tree was so large, I had to go up to the second floor balcony to take the picture!

Friday, December 12, 2008

Jingle Bells (Instrumental)

The video of him NOT SINGING at the school Christmas program.

Jingle Bells

The video of him actually singing at home, where no one was watching!

Photo Flashback

Okay, so I couldn't pick. There were actually about 5 photos in this group that I wanted to include because they were so cute . . . but here are my favorites of each of the twins from that day in history.



Sawyer, fascinated by shadows and light, even at 11 months. They still captivate him.



Xander's smile has always been infectious - big and happy and mischievous!

(December 10, 2006)

Thursday, December 11, 2008

The Official Greeting . . .



The cards went out at the beginning of the week . . . hopefully everyone has actually received theirs by now. If not, well, here you go . . .

How much do we love the fruit snacks in the photo? We tried those and even suckers, and this was the best we could do. I won't mention the PhotoShop-ing either, as in Xander actually being from a totally different outtake picture. I like how the finished photo looks like Connor and Xander are eyeing Sawyer, wondering if he's going to start screaming again. This was his year to HATE the Christmas card photo session. Connor's turn is next. Oh, the joy . . .

The Magic



Connor is at that really, really fun age right now . . .



where Christmas trees, lights, and ornaments . . .



and candy canes and thoughts of presents are all he can think about.

I love to see his eyes light up and hear the excitement in his voice. He's so excited about Christmas this year. As soon as we got home from preschool today, we had to put the ornament that his teachers Miss Julie and Miss Crystal made for him. The first thing he does in the mornings, before even coming into our room or calling out for us, is to run downstairs and plug in the lights on the Christmas tree - even sometimes going back upstairs and climbing back into bed!

And, as most four-year olds will do, he's focusing mostly on the bright and shiny. But, we're working hard to make sure he still gets the other aspects, too. I let him help put stamps on the Christmas cards, talking about how much people he doesn't get to see very often will enjoy seeing him and his brothers on the card and how it's a fun way to keep in touch with everyone. When it was time to shop for the other kids in our extended family, I took him along and we talked about how picking out a fun gift to make someone else smile at Christmas time is even better than getting one (yeah, probably not getting through on that point just yet). And his Christian preschool is working on the religious history of the holiday, teaching him the story of the first Christmas and helping him learn carols that are both religious (Happy Birthday, Jesus!) and fun (Jingle Bells, anyone - he sings this one non-stop of late).

It's just going to be a fun year, watching him discover the magic. Tomorrow is his first-ever Christmas program at preschool (there will be pictures, of course)! I'm not sure if his excitement can make it two more weeks, but we're going to try . . .

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

S-T-U-B-B-O-R-N



Look at him, with that tongue sticking out, he just looks like he's up to no good. And it's not deceptive, because he is mischievous.

In the last few weeks, Xander has developed a fascination with letters and numbers. He loves to run his fingers over them while you either count them or tell him what they are. Today was an extra fun session, because in addition to following along with us (Miss April was here for developmental therapy), he was also mouthing the correct letters. Yes, that's right, he actually knew what the letters were and was making the sound to himself. And if that's not bad enough, he also spoke several of them out loud. Not to us, mind you, but in his oh-s0-typical way of muttering to himself under his breath. He said "Em," "Eee" and "Oh" all at the appropriate time. I have even heard "R" and "Y" from him, though not today.

I think it's time to start getting out crayons and paper and working with him on his letters. The first word I'm going to ask him to spell is "stubborn." I have a feeling he knows it well. Who knows, maybe he already knows how to write, too, and he just doesn't want to yet.

Routines & Rituals

Sometimes I forget how upsetting changes in routine can be, especially for one of our boys. It makes things like going out to dinner or even over to someone's house a challenge, because it's not typical. Sometimes it works out okay, other times not so much.

Tonight was Grammy's birthday, and we had planned for a while to pick up some food and take it over to their house for a simple dinner. Us planning and the kids actually understanding are two very different things. Connor knows and understands, even if he does get dates and times confused. He's more likely to drive you crazy with asking about "when" we're going to go than to not understand you. Explaining it to the twins is another story all together. Perhaps they know and understand what we're saying. Perhaps they don't. It's hard to tell since they're not talking. I'm pretty sure they understand the concept of "going to Grammy's house," but as far as being prepared for that event happening in the near future, well that's anyone's guess.

And judging by tonight's response, Sawyer was not in on tonight's game plan. He was tired, which was problem number one. He avoids nap time like the plague, even when he's exhausted after nights of sleeplessness. But put him in the car seat and start moving, and he will fall asleep, almost instantaneously. So, he of course fell asleep not long into our drive and was quite pissed to wake up at Grammy's house (he would have been pissed to be anywhere but his house, if you're wondering). Begin the clutching on to Mommy for dear life, the screaming and the tears. And nothing, not even french fries or chicken nuggets or suckers or apple juice or toys, would stop it. The only thing that stopped it was clutching on to Mommy and being rocked or taken into a quiet room (where Mommy had to stay in sight, because he was absolutely not being left there by himself - probably his biggest fear). This was, after all, a potential babysitter's house, and he knew it.

As Pappy joked, it's one of the reasons Mommy stays so skinny. I had my meal long after everyone else had finished, and even then was busy spoon-feeding the twins their applesauce between every bite I tried to take. Oh, and Sawyer stood beside me and whimpered the entire time, too, clutching on to one of my hands and trying to drag me away from the table (or to the back door to leave, which he does often in places he's decided he doesn't want to be).

Changes in routine, unexpected people and places (especially ones where he's been left before by Mommy), are not good things. He wasn't happy until several hours after we arrived, when he finally started playing with the toy blocks and wandering around. It took him that long to realize that Mommy wasn't leaving him there, that we were just there for a little visit. And even then, he was still first in line when we mentioned going home.

And you should have seen the smile on his face as he climbed into his own bed . . . back home, to the familiar and the comfortable. Tonight, he's actually sleeping instead of playing with light switches and dancing around his room , at least for now . . .

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Christmas Traditions



Christmas has come to our house. Connor and Daddy got the tree last week, which meant that our huge box of decorations came out of the attic and took over our downstairs. The kids have been relatively good so far about leaving stuff alone, minus the ornament incident that Xander and Connor both had a hand in - Xander likely pulling the ornament off the tree and Connor, in his haste to tattle and return said ornament, breaking pieces off of it in his hands. Daddy glued it back together and it got hung high up on the tree the second time around.

And that brings us to one of our traditions. With three little guys, there aren't many things you can do yet. They wouldn't sit still for a Christmas church service or event. They aren't interested in seeing light displays or decorating (at least not yet). Connor is just now beginning to understand the concept of Santa and presents, but the little guys are still a long way off on even that. There are no cookies or letters for Santa. It's just some decorations and a little bit of talk about presents, at least so far. Oh, and Connor helped Mommy with the Christmas cards a few days ago - so don't be surprised if your stamp is on upside down, if it's hanging off the envelope or if it's closer to the address than the corner. He had fun and hopefully they'll all make it to the right places!

But I digress. The one thing we've started doing for the boys is something they probably won't appreciate until later - though they do like to look at them on the tree - it's their ornament collection. Every year we pick one up, usually from the Hallmark Keepsake Collection. Each of the boys has his very own box to keep the ornaments, and one day they will take with them to their own homes. Grammy did this for Josh, and we thought it would be a fun tradition for our boys. Our tree has a lot of the ornaments he made throughout school as well as ones that were purchased for him over the years. It makes it so much more interesting than just a bunch of store-bought decorations.

Here are this year's picks for the boys . . . perhaps one day they'll get to pick their own, but right now Mommy and Daddy just find something that speaks to their individual personalities or current fascinations.



Connor the little helper got his favorite tool man and tool set - Handy Manny.



Our television bug Sawyer got another set from one of his all-time favorite movies - Cars. There was no Chicken Little, believe me, I looked.



And Xander got the cutest one of all this year - a Crayola bear who's actually coloring. He's not much on crayons yet, but he loves finger paint and I can see him eventually enjoying coloring too. He's our little artist in training (gets that from his Mommy)!

Monday, December 8, 2008

Shadows



For those of you who have ever wondered what it's like to live a day in my shoes with three little boys running around the house and shadowing my every move, here is a glimpse. In this particular photo, Sawyer is clutching on for dear life from his favorite position, hiding between my legs as I try to walk (and snap photos, clearly).

And, you'll also note, that I have on house shoes! In an attempt to set a better example for the boys - two of whom still prefer to be barefoot like their mother in the dead of winter - and to stop being sick (two weeks of stomach virus and bronchitis is more than enough, thank you) - I have purchased the dreaded shoes. I'm not crazy about them, but I'm getting used to them. My feet are definitely warmer, so perhaps they're doing their job.

Now, time to find some that the boys might actually wear . . . because striped ballet slippers probably aren't going to do it for them! I'm sure they have some Thomas or Cars ones, right?

Sleepless Nights

Poor Xander is having a rough couple of days. Of all the boys, he seems to have the worst of the colds in the house at the moment - the sniffles and a little bit of a cough. If that isn't enough, he also shares a room with Sawyer, who's had a sleepless couple of nights - which means Xander's also had a couple of sleepless nights.

For the last two or three nights, Sawyer has spent the majority of the night awake. We're relatively lucky, in that he's a happy little guy and that night-time waking is not a major ordeal. We pretty well trained all of the boys that Mommy and Daddy don't do middle of the night unless there's special circumstances, like sickness or accidents. We, of course, did this before we had any idea just how quirky and cool Sawyer was and how he came with a completely different set of rules. But, as it turns out, his night-time adventures are not bad. He's just up, usually dancing around their room and doing a bit of happy screaming or laughing. Which, of course, can wake up his twin brother who shares a room and a bed with him - especially if he's not feeling all that well and probably not sleeping all that soundly.

Today, it finally caught up with Xander. Sawyer had him up and awake around 6 a.m this morning (if not before), and though they stayed in their room until close to 8 a.m., it couldn't have been that peaceful. So this afternoon at lunch time, Xander finally gave out. He was actually sitting at the table, strapped into his booster chair, with his plate of food in front of him. He just put his head down and fell asleep - right on top of his plate and his yogurt. I had to wipe it off of his forehead before I carried him upstairs and put him in bed for a much-needed and much-deserved nap.

Poor little guy. Sick and tired, in more ways that one, probably.

Sawyer, of course, is still happily bouncing around the living room between his toys and Connor's new movie of choice - Pixar's Wall-E. He's averaged maybe five or six hours of sleep the last three nights. How he manages on such little sleep, I'll never understand. Mommy requires a good 10 to 12 hours a night, and her other two children are just the same. Daddy would like it too, though with work he rarely gets to enjoy it except on a Saturday or Sunday here and there. When it comes to sleep, he's definitely odd man out around our house.

Here's hoping Sawyer decided to sleep again soon . . . for everyone's sake!

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Snapshot Sunday



Christmas comes to our house . . . Josh and Connor spent one afternoon this week at the tree farm down the street from our house, picking out and cutting down our Christmas tree. Actually, to hear Josh tell it, Connor spent the time running around the tree farm while he cut down the tree! Connor and Xander have been fascinated by it, trying to "play" with all of the ornaments when they think you're not watching. Sawyer, after eyeing it suspiciously the first morning after it was decorated, has largely ignored it. Perhaps it will be better when there are actually presents under it - you know, the morning of - because I certainly don't trust my other two sneaky little boys to leave them alone!

Friday, December 5, 2008

Thursday, December 4, 2008

School Days



Today's preschool project - Connor was very proud.

"You no eat my candy," he said, as he watched me carry it out of school with a suspicious eye. "That's Connor's!"

No, baby, Mommy won't eat your candy.

And just for fun, you have to imagine Mommy carrying this fragile little gingerbread house outside of school while being chastised by the four-year old - all while pushing the twins in the double stroller, carrying Connor's preschool bag in one hand, and holding onto Connor's hand with the other - and having to navigate the double-door exit (with no automatic button). Talk about a fun walk to the truck! We're lucky everyone made it home in one piece!

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Quoted & Noted

"But Grandma does it like this . . . " he pouts, sticking out his lower lip.

It doesn't matter what it is, Grandma apparently does it different - and by different, clearly he means better. This is my four-year old son, on the second day after spending a long weekend with Grandma and Grandpa at the lake. I've heard it a lot. Even being sick, and not really listening all that much, I've still heard it a lot.

Round and Round

Did I mention it was going to be a bad winter? We've all been sick the last week or so, and it just seems to keep going around and around. Stomach virus, runny noses and head colds, you name and we've had it - sometimes both at the same time! Our second round of the dreaded stomach virus has struck this week, so don't be alarmed at the lack of posting. I barely surfaced from bed yesterday, and today Josh is following in my footsteps. The kids, thankfully, just have a case of the runny nose. We're just a little under the weather and staying closer to the couch than the office these days. Hopefully we'll be back soon . . .